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Uncovering Realities: An Interview with Yuval Noah Harari

By | 4/23/2023

Preparing to interview Yuval Noah Harari is no small task. The historian-philosopher-meditator is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, which have been translated into more than 65 languages and have sold more than 35 million copies. Yuval earned a PhD in history from Oxford University and lectures at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in the history of human evolution, global political history, and artificial intelligence. He is one of the most influential public intellectuals in the world. His ability to weave together grand narratives that cover every facet of human life has been a major source of inspiration to me for the last five years, so having the opportunity to speak with this charismatic and compassionate person was a real honour.

In this interview, I asked Yuval, over Zoom, about his spiritual journey and the role meditation played in his life as a public intellectual. We also discussed how meditation and self-reflection might help cut through the illusion of free will, better understand our personal biases, navigate through post-truth society, and shed light on our unwitting complicity in institutional oppression. Our conversation also explored the territories of artificial intelligence, big-data algorithms, and the function of storytelling, all from a contemplative perspective.

Such As It Is

By | 3/19/2023

No more yearning equanimity
such as it is

Thinking is a
sense, a reaction?
While it seems
like a journey
it seems like progress
it seems like
a developing self

The First Year: Reflections of a Getting-Older-Every-Day Student

By | 3/19/2023

“Those who maintain their practice for the first year maintain it easily for their whole lives.”

~ S.N. Goenka

But what's so hard about the first year? Why does it take a strong act of willpower (adhiṭṭhāna) to meditate for two hours a day for a year, after which it becomes easy? The majority of students leave their first ten-day course of Vipassana meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka (in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin) feeling somewhere along a spectrum between inspiration and transformation. These new “old students” feel energized by their ten-day glimpse into a changed way of being in the world. They often see the possibility of a happier life that is less reactive, and less at the mercy of the twists and tugs of their mind, of their "inner monologue." However, Goenkaji, as he was commonly known by his students, was explicit that the first course is merely an introduction. He spent ten days teaching you how to walk on this path, “but the actual benefit you get will be from daily sittings, morning and evening," after the course is over.

Yatra Monks

By | 2/12/2023
Yatra Monks
Andrée François

Inner Purification Leads to Outer Alignment

By | 2/12/2023

The most counter-intuitive and yet brilliantly simple gem emerged in the form of the realization that what’s inside my mind is what manifests in my life outside.

Thus, if my mind is filled with impurities, defilements, worries, anxieties, enmities, fears, superstitions, insecurities, foreboding, that is precisely how my external environment organizes itself and provide me validation for these mentations through my lived experiences. And on the contrary, if my mind is filled with peace, harmony, joy, friendly vibes, equanimity, compassion, empathy, I am gifted in turn with these conditions in the real world.

The Life of a Nun in Myanmar

By | 2/12/2023

The heart is filled with joy and celebration, cradled in the tranquility of equanimity. Nothing is too intense, nor even too happy. The sweetness calms our hearts and lets respect, gratitude and beauty blossom, a beauty straight from the heart of the Dhamma.

Each gate, each building, each stone reminds us that Dhamma has prevailed here for many hundreds of years, and that hearts remember it.

This is the heart of Myanmar, the heart of Dhamma, the heart of the Buddha that beats in each of us.

Suññatā 

By | 12/31/2022
but, still left of self
idle penetralia  
empty, harmony

Wisdom Leaf

By | 12/31/2022
Wisdom Leaf
Andrée François

The Tathāgata

By | 12/31/2022
The famous American Nineteenth Century writer, Henry David Thoreau, said: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Thoreau described an exemplary alternative, by filling his moments and days with a sense of purpose. For several years he lived by himself in a small, hand-built cabin in the woods on the shore of Walden Pond, where he contemplated nature, read classic texts, and communed with local poets, writers, and woodsmen, and in general tried to elevate his thoughts, expand his feelings, and live the philosopher’s life.

No FOMO

By | 12/31/2022

No Fear of Missing Out,

be aware of what’s happening within,

a constant flow of changing cells,

and morphing of the skin.

Nurturing and Supporting Our Practice

By | 12/7/2022
The following is an edited transcript of a talk given at the Annual Old Student Meeting at Dhamma Patapa, Georgia by Center Teacher, Bruce Stewart on November 12, 2022.

Good morning all…it's a joy and pleasure to be sharing this precious space with you. As we look around, we can see and feel that we are in “good company.” Dhamma friends walking on a path together!

My intent is not to talk “at you,” and load you with information. Rather, I look at it like a sharing among friends. And like any good conversation, my motivation here is to stimulate thought and reflection.

Using Fear

By | 11/23/2022
All people feel fear.
Even the Buddha, before his enlightenment, had to struggle.

Golden Buddha

By | 11/23/2022
Golden Buddha
Christine Joly

Tripod of Life

By | 11/23/2022
Through years and years of near incessant effort in progressing my life journey on the basis of academic and professional achievement, I had come to the simple-minded conclusion that my ability and focused effort were the sole determinants enabling my life’s outcomes. Applying a Newtonian approach to the life journey, I believed that the force and energy I apply directly and proportionally propel me forward and thus the greater my effort, so shall the output be.

Removing Fetters

By | 11/23/2022
All arises and passes away
nothing stays the same way,
with this you don’t play
there’s no way to stay.

Why I serve

By | 11/23/2022
I have once again returned home after serving on a 10-day Vipassana meditation course. I arrived at the course a few days after it had begun. On this course I was washing dishes. Doing the dishes for 80 students whom you don’t know, without being paid, probably doesn’t sound very appealing. The task also included waking up at 5:30 am to make their breakfast, working closely with other servers whom I likewise didn’t know, cleaning toilets, and a list of other chores that most people wouldn’t ordinarily find very motivating.

Be Kind

By | 11/7/2022
Watching and reading about the extensive damage from hurricane Ian on the southwest coast of Florida, I admire the compassionate people selflessly helping the residents recover. I also can’t help remembering an incident in 2020 when wisdom gained from Dhamma helped me while on vacation on the very pleasant Sanibel Island.

Contemplating in the Woods

By | 11/7/2022
Contemplating in the Woods
Patrick Given-Wilson

The Quadrants of Life: Learning, Earning, Returning, Renouncing

By | 11/6/2022
Let me add a fourth phase to the frequently cited – learning, earning, returning – cycle amongst the entrepreneurial world and also thus connect this analog to a concept popular in defining the optimal lifespan in the traditional context of living a life that comes full circle.

Renouncing this Gift

By | 11/6/2022
I breathe in I breath out It’s what I have left With all my effort purpose of my stay I surpass obstacles like that of self-importance Lastly I renounce All the pleasures of my existence They never managed to give me a step with

The Path

By | 10/8/2022
The Path
Andrée François

When the student is ready, the teacher appears

By | 10/8/2022
Whether one has the kernel of future development on the inner spiritual path of not, let alone future liberation or self-realization, I have become convinced that the journey towards the final goal simply cannot begin until the “student is ready”. What do I mean by that statement?

Right Effort

By | 10/8/2022
Viriya, effort, is an essential quality for anyone who sincerely seeks liberation. It is one of the Five Friends, one of the seven Factors of Enlightenment, and one of the Ten Paramis which have to be developed by every meditator. However, it must be right effort, otherwise, we may work very hard but without any benefits.

Loka

By | 9/17/2022
Loka
Andrée François

With the fire eyes of samādhi

By | 9/17/2022

With the fire eyes of samādhi,

I feel my body on every part.

With the warm glow of anicca,

I melt the darkness from my heart.

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