It is Summer 2004, and I am expecting a significant change in my life. However I am now resting at Harnham and am beginning a review of Buddhism and me. This is hard.
To begin I am a Buddhist. How did I start? In this life I have been through a spiritual journey described in the website. Once in Africa I reviewed my life and at that time I started meditating on a regular basis. This regular meditation increased in Oman, and interests in Buddhism started stirring, leading up to a visit to Wat Phra Keau where I was sat in front of the Emerald Buddha (I was not allowed to photograph the Emerald Buddha) and knew I was a Buddhist.
Since then I have visited Harnham pictures and followed an email Dhammasakkacha. And of course studied. But the main thing is the meditation - nourishment of Being.
I want to review to talk about where I am at but I don't know how to start. Firstly let me examine decisions I have made within Buddhism. I am not exactly sure how I first came to Harnham. I wanted to see a monastery, I was in the UK and somehow I came to Harnham via the net.
Harnham is a monastery that is within the Forest Sangha tradition. This is important to me. Firstly it is Theravadan, and that means to me that it holds to the teachings of Lord Buddha only. Because of length of time in history and because the recording of the Lord Buddha's teaching occurred after his death, there appears some doubt as to which are His teachings. It is my understanding that there are certain suttas that are accepted by all Buddhists as being from the Lord Buddha. It is these suttas that the Theravadan tradition is based on, and it is these suttas that are at the basis of the Forest Sangha tradition.
Ajahn Chah is key to the Forest Sangha tradition - some works by Ajahn Chah . [Access to Insight is a tremendous Theravada source, so much work has been done uploading all the texts.]. It is my understanding that Ajahn Chah made a decision to focus on bringing this tradition to the West. Through a monastery, Wat Nanachat, in Thailand, he focussed on educating western monks and then there has been a number of monasteries that have sprung up in the West following his teachings - Harnham is one of them.
I found it important to focus on one tradition. Buddhism has many traditions and revisions and many people who make interpretations so it is hard not to be confused. It is for this reason that I restricted myself into only one tradition.
Recently I went against that. Last Summer I was in Tibet and I was so impressed with the way the people were there with the Buddhism that when I returned to the UK I went to a Tibetan Buddhist Centre. I found the people at this centre were also very good people. Further I participated in one of their services and came out of it feeling elated - something had happened. I continued to go there getting more and more confused as I recited references to Gods and people I did not understand. Although I tried to get to understand the meaning of this there was so much to accept in Faith, and I spoke to people there and they also agreed that it was essential that practitioners have faith in the Tibetan monk that fostered their centre. I could not do that, and have not been since.
I mention this to look at the difficulties of the proliferation of varieties of Buddhism. There is a tendency for an eclectic approach amongst many, an attempt to take parts from all religions or all traditions. This could be a mind-game. As can be seen from my spiritual history I have dabbled - I hope meaningfully. By concentrating on one tradition I hope to gain greater depth, with that depth I would hope to be able to discern.
The Four Noble Truths are accepted in all Buddhisms, and they talk of dukkha and about being attached. Dukkha is often translated as suffering, but recently I read of it being translated as stress. Life is stressful, sadly in life people create problems for each other causing each other stress. I have always wanted to avoid stress in life, and if I have happiness it is because of the avoidance of stress.
I am talking about this as I am in a monastery, and that is a relatively stress-free place. Whilst here as a Buddhist, one asks why is one not taking orders? It is clearly a way of avoiding stress in life, I want to answer this question here - for me at the moment.
Stress has to be avoided. Where does my greatest stress come from? As I am not in a relationship, stress comes from work. Is the work dana? Is the work not stressful? If my answers to these questions are yes, then I can be outside a monastery. I am fortunate that recently I have had a small windfall, and this means I am in the position to say that I will not accept unnecessary stress and can move on, hopefully that independence can translate into a stress-freer environment.
At the same time I must consider the practice. Am I meditating?
In the monastery the community of monks gives, life is not stressful, and the practice is good. To stay out of the monastery I should be giving in a life that is not stressful and continuing with good practice. This balance is the answer to my question - for now.
I described meditation as nourishment for being - this is taken from Ajahn Chah. The Lord Buddha developed an approach to meditation that He called Vipassana - Insight meditation. This book on Vipassana meditation helped me a great deal.
This approach relies on guidance from inside, it nourishes the being which then rewards you with direction. Where I go continually changes, as hopefully I try to better myself. Over the years I will try to record my decisions and study here.
At the moment I have an issue with Anatta - non-self. I began studying The Wings to Awakening, and this led me to thinking of Kamma. I then heard a monk describe death and rebirth as a “momentum of consciousness“, and it seemed to fit in. However the self I am preoccupied with is not whether there is a soul, a life after death, but that in this lifetime I am too preoccupied with selfish comforts and desires.
Now for me at the moment the answer for this lies in practice, dana and dukkha; if these are integrated into my life then the ego's comforts and desires are not important. Comforts and desires should not take away from practice, dana and dukkha.
I want to also mention the four Brahma-Viharas:-
Metta - loving kindness
I have a tendency to end up in conflict situations, and by focussing on these in meditation it helps to present a vehicle (vihara) that limits the opportunity for conflict.
Finished on Tuesday, 01 June 2004
Here are the Buddha Gospels from British Enclassica CD on philosophy has helped. Read the gospels