'Contemplating Not-Self with Understanding and a Kind Attitude' 'Contemplating Not-Self with Understanding and Determination'
Greetings fellow practitioners, The Teachings on the subject of 'Anatta'– or Not-Self are peculiar to Buddhism, and are possibly the most important component to these Wisdom Teachings, as when understood with penetrative Insight – A realisation of Not-Self leads to release from ignorance and delusion and all the ills which stem from these. Understanding the Teachings on Not-Self can be tricky though. When one really 'gets it' as a concept the teachings are actually quite simple and straight forward and form a great foundation for wise reflection and investigation. But one can misunderstand these things and/or approach the subject with an unskilful attitude. This is where we need experienced teachers and practitioners to give some pointers.
With this in mind I am sharing with you two separate talks which are a reading and commentary upon the Anattalakhana Sutta, which Lord Buddha taught in the Deer Park nearly 2600 years ago. So why share two talks on this subject you might wonder?
I remember Ajahn Anan explaining once that in general he would give two types of Dhamma talk. One which is intended to be an encouragement and a blessing, to uplift and inspire people to practice. And another which is more of an admonishment to stop making excuses, stop wasting time and 'get on with it!' Curiously while editing both of these talks recently I found that they each fell very clearly into one of these separate categories. One is very gentle, loving and warm… while the other is emphatic, firm and rousing. This is not so surprising given that the talks were given in very different places and contexts. One on the 6th day of a 9 day retreat when people's minds were very soft and sensitised. And the other on the second day of a 3 week Pilgrimage to the Holy Sites in India, in the place where Lord Buddha made his Lion's Roar and set the Wheel of Dhamma in motion – which no mara or demon or deva or Brahman could stop! Evidently there's something in the air there!
So I sincerely hope that in sharing both of these talks that you will come understand this central teaching with more clarity, be inspired to practice more diligently, while motivated by the correct compassionate attitude.
Back in February and March earlier this year I had the opportunity and honour to lead a group of four monks, 1 nun and around 35 laypeople on the traditional Buddhist Pilgrimage circuit in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states of India, as well as in Lumbini, Nepal. I have shared both talks and slideshows from previous India Pilgrimages at the Peace Beyond Suffering website before. But this time I am happy to announce that we are able to share something a little more engaging and lively. As many of the pilgrims took pictures (at the allowed time ☺) and mini movies, there was a lot of material that could be shared.
Chooiwan, a Chinese-Malaysian living in Melbourne, Australia and who had joined the Pilgrimage kindly volunteered to select the choicest pictures and splice them together with excerpts of video footage - in the order that we visited the various important sites. The combination of still shots as well as moving footage and sometimes audio from those places, as well as relevant text, helps in bringing the experience more to life than the previous slideshows.
Because doing all of this work takes quite a bit of time we will be releasing the slideshows in two batches. On this occasion however we do have three separate slides.
Varanasi and Sarnath - (First Teaching)
Bodhgaya and Dungeshwari - (Austere striving and Enlightenment)
Rajgir and Nalanda – (First Monastery and Vultures Peak)
The pilgrims and I hope that by sharing these glimpses of our journey, which was undertaken with great faith and commitment by all, that you will feel nourished and inspired to continue in whatever way you can on your cultivation of this noble Path, wherever you are now.
There is also a more serene and simple slideshow that can be used as something of a Pilgrimage Contemplation/meditation (scroll to page bottom) with 350 pictures carefully selected by me. These pictures have a higher resolution so that the wonderful sites and magnificent vistas, as well as the joy on the faces of the pilgrims can be shared in greater detail. With Loving-Kindness
On a recent visit to Sri Lanka I was asked to answer some questions from a group of sincere students of Buddhism. As the occasion was filmed I am able to share it with you now. The questions were of a high quality and were asked in a coherent order so I feel happy to share them. The time constraints of the session forced me to be succinct and to the point... which on this occasion seems to have worked well.
Some examples of the questions asked are...
What is mind?... what is mindfulness?... what is skillful concentration? How does one develop the levels of samadhi progressively? How does one develop Vipassana Insight? How to work with pain?
The entire session is quite long, so feel to listen to the first half in one go and come back to listen to the remainder.
I hope that something contained within this session is useful or encouraging to you.