Meditation in Brussels

By | 10/10/2021

Unexpected Beginnings – Day 0

By | 10/10/2021
Once through with the rules, the speaker moved on to explain the daily schedule, which was also posted on a huge poster outside both dining halls so there was no ambiguity about it! He went on to explain that we would be woken up at 4 am and that a full day of meditation would start promptly at 4:30 am with a break for breakfast from 6:30 to 8:00 am, group meditation from 8:00 to 9:00 am, followed by instructions, check-in on individual progress and more meditation before breaking for lunch and rest from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.

A Road Trip On and Off the Path

By | 10/10/2021
“What? You can’t be serious. That is completely dumb and dangerous. Who do you think you are? Over my dead body you’re doing that. Just go on your course.”

There is no one like my wife to knock me off a cloud and cut through my bullshit. But we’ll get to that later.

As Spring 2020 approached, it had been a year and a half since I completed my first 10-day Vipassana meditation course and I felt ready to return. I searched for reasons to go. I asked my wife, “Do you want to come with me this time?” NO.

Going to multiple 10-day Vipassana courses is like intentionally throwing yourself into Groundhog Day except in the movie, Phil, a weatherman stuck living the same day repeatedly, occasionally had a lot of fun. Instead of a one-day loop, the course is a ten-day loop. The classes are taught by the same teacher via the same sequence of audio and video recordings regardless of the location and time of the year. But every course is different. We’re in a different place in life. The cast of characters is different. The weather and accommodations vary. Yet, like Phil, if we get it right this time, there might be some form of liberation.

And Passing Away

By | 9/21/2021

Pandemia's Flower

By | 9/21/2021
Reaction roots the mind,
Anxieties left to grow.
Fearful emotives blossom.
Nectars of uncertainty flows,
Attracting humanities resilience,
The mind starts to slow.

Dhamma Practice in the Face of the Coronavirus

By | 9/21/2021
One year ago today my 73-year old mother suddenly passed away from a heart attack while travelling in Mexico. Five days later my 93-year old father died as his vital organs failed. Tragedies in my life continued throughout 2019 as I witnessed my extended family members wage war against one another, my father’s business collapse, one of my siblings agonise from mental illness, several friends and relatives flee wildfires, young friends diagnosed with cancer, my children get hurt from sports injuries and bullies, and intoxicated arsonists mindlessly burn down six barns in my neighbourhood. And now COVID-19 welcomes us into a new decade.

Understanding Pain from a Dhamma Perspective

By | 9/18/2021
For many of us the Coronavirus pandemic has provided a strong confirmation of the importance of having a well-established insight meditation practice. In particular, the ability to face painful vedanās with inner composure and equanimity is such an important asset in many respects, enabling us to face the repercussions of the pandemic on others and on ourselves with equanimity, able to do the needful without becoming overwhelmed.

A Note on The Equanimous Mind

By | 9/7/2021

The Equanimous Mind is a book that will introduce Vipassana to people who may not have been familiar with it, and that will increase buy-in from many people who are already practicing it. The book describes a ten-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S. N. Goenka from the standpoint of someone encountering meditation for the first time. It contains a detailed, journal-like narrative of the rich and complex sequence of events that unrolls during the ten-day retreat that is devoted to learning this form of meditation. The strength of the book is the author’s capacity to recall and sequence vivid details by the hundreds. Dr. Manish Chopra has a mind unusual for its precision. This gives the book the feeling of an experience rather than merely of a recounting. The reader feels as if he or she were right there, accompanying Manish in this breakthrough moment.

Mountain Dreaming

By | 8/29/2021

Ingynbin 2015

By | 8/29/2021
 [1]                                                           Towards Ingynbin,
a train passes—
buffalos bellow

We arrive at the end of the rainy season. It is extremely humid, and the journey is uncomfortable: twenty miles or more on the back of small motorcycle taxis, backpacks between our knees, along potted, dirt roads, scattered trees.

Bhante U Mandala, a senior monk who speaks some English and deals with foreigners, had received our letter and expects us; but he has a new phone and so we couldn’t confirm our time of arrival. He smiles disarmingly. We settle into the same room in which we had spent two nights last year. It’s pleasing to be back—although, as I say, the first week requires making several adjustments. Aside from the weather, there’s no running water in the accommodation for the first week and we must carry buckets filled at the nearby bore-fed tank in order to flush the toilet and to wash ourselves—even then nothing feels particularly clean. Occasionally John douses and soaps himself at the tank.

Run Pierre Run: Wallowing in Thought is a Risky Distraction

By | 8/29/2021
Run Lola Run (Lola rennt) is an intriguing 1998 German film. It is composed of three sequences that have the same beginning, but evolve and end in very different ways. A young woman hangs up the phone after a call from her boyfriend, and has 20 minutes to save his life by bringing him a large sum of money, which she hopes to get from her father, a bank manager.

In the opening sequence, Lola runs down the stairs past a man walking his dog, and at the bank gets into an argument with her father who is talking to his mistress. Tragic consequences ensue. In the next sequence, events again start from the moment Lola leaves her house. This time however she trips over the man walking his dog, and the ten-second delay means that she arrives at the bank later, which substantially alters the outcome. In the third sequence Lola also races down the stairs, but this time she leaps over the dog. No ten-second delay, and a completely different ending.

A small but vital distinction produced disparate sequences for Lola, leading to profoundly different conclusions. Similarly, my droll little story involves problems that I created for myself and how, in working through them, different consequences have, over time, played out.

From the Buddha to Us: A Brief History of a Lineage and Tradition

By | 8/11/2021

The Beginning

Historians differ on Gotama the Buddha’s actual birth and death dates. According to one accepted calculation, he was born around 563 BCE and died at the age of 80 in the year 483 BCE. He taught Dhamma for forty-five years, during which time there were other prominent spiritual teachers in India, including Mahāvira, revered by the Jains, and numerous ascetics who were not followers of the Buddha.

Emperor Ashoka

About 260 BCE, the aggressive Indian emperor Ashoka conquered a neighboring Indian kingdom. The extensive loss of innocent lives and widespread destruction filled him with remorse and caused him to repent his misdeeds. In subsequent years he was drawn toward the Buddha-Dhamma and became a devoted lay disciple.

In marked contrast to his previous reign of conquest and cruelty, Ashoka began espousing nonviolence and freedom of religion, and introduced within his empire certain features of a social welfare state, such as medical facilities, rest houses and elder care. Through his proclamations and edicts, often carved on rock outcrops and stone pillars, and the emissaries whom Ashoka sent to promote the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings spread across the Indian subcontinent and beyond, into Central and Southeast Asia, and westward as far as Greece.

The Lamas and the Guru: On the Way to My First Vipassana Course

By | 7/23/2021

On December 10, 1970, I crossed the Pakistan frontier into India at Wagah, having travelled overland from Europe, mostly on local buses. After only a couple of days in Delhi, on Janpath Marg, a main commercial artery, I unexpectedly encountered an Australian man whom I had known only slightly two years before in Frankfurt, Germany. Incredulous, we immediately recognized each other. He invited me to stay with him in the small house he was renting in Arjun Nagar, then a semi-slum in south Delhi―which I did on and off for the next two years.

The Community of Dhamma

By | 7/22/2021

I feel very grateful for the way right companionship among Vipassana meditators has supported my few steps on the path. This companionship springs from many sources, some more unexpected than others – seen and unseen, past and present – and some through the catalyst of living words in an ancient language. Like the uncanny kinship I might feel with a bhikkhunī of 2500 years ago, a few paradoxes come to mind when thinking about the community of Dhamma.

Insight in a Nutshell

By | 7/21/2021

Contemplation of vedanās as a particularly powerful avenue for gaining liberating insight can benefit from a deepening of our understanding in relation to various dimensions of what this term stands for. The relevant translated passages below from a Chinese Āgama are used to present a series of key questions regarding insight into the nature of vedanā. The passage to be taken up below presents a series of key questions regarding insight into the nature of vedanā. The purpose of using these translations of the discourse is to enable the reader to compare it with existing translations of the Pāli discourse, and thereby come to a personal understanding of the often-minor differences between these parallel versions, both of which are the product of centuries of oral transmission.

Nothing Here

By | 7/20/2021
I trained west from Sawai Madhopur
Across the desert, Rajput forts atop mountains,
All and sundry covered in sand storm dust
Train stations in the middle of nowhere
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