We are most fortunate to have Ajahn Brahmali whose focused tonight’s class on Vipassana meditation. Armadale Mediation Group is designed to teach you about meditation. The classes generally begin with chanting the Metta Sutta, then receiving mediation instructions and meditating together, followed by asking questions and finally if time remains listening to a Dhamma talk. However the layout can vary.
Bhante began his talk by explaining for our beginners ànàpàna-sati, or mindfulness, on in-and-out-breathing. Mindfulness brings us into the present moment leaving the past in the past, where it belongs, and not worrying about the future. Present moment awareness.
Bhante then guided the group in a 30 min meditation well suited to beginners and experienced alike using the breath as our meditation object.
After the meditation Bhante opened to Q&A. Bhante then went on to further his explanation of ànàpàna-sati, or mindfulness, on in-and-out-breathing. Bhante also explained the benefits, or rather mind states, that can and often will occur as we progress in our practice. Such as wisdom and there would be few of us that couldn't use a little more of that.
Bhante Buddharakkhita started the evening by speaking briefly on the current big news items, the rescue of the soccer team from the cave in Thailand and the world cup soccer in Russia. This lead us to a happy or pleasing mind state referred to in Pali as Bhavana. Bhavana was translated in the 18th century to mean meditation, the development or cultivation of the heart/mind. Bhante used this and current events as an object for our meditation to encourage us to see that we are part of a much greater whole. Though we view ourselves as unique, wonderful and special, just as we view our children and loved ones, we are all just a part of a greater community which is just a small part of the entire cosmos.
Bhante guided us in a 30 minute bhavana or meditation well suited to beginners and experienced meditators alike.
After the meditation Bhante asked us how we felt, how the meditation has left us feeling. Bhante then spoke on our concepts of self, to re-enforce that we are part of a whole.
To find the answer to the question above, you'll need to listen to the session.
Ajahn, despite recovering from a bout of "pony virus", regaled us with his presence on a cold night at Club Med. Using humour, jokes, funny stories and common sense Ajahn warmed our hearts and calmed our minds while teaching us how to meditate. Ajahn then led us in a 30 min guided meditation well suited to beginners and experienced alike.
After meditation, Ajahn continued to instruct us using humour, jokes, funny stories and common sense.
Venerable opened the evening with a talk about a not often mentioned subject, preparing for our meditation and what we do as we end our meditation. Venerable used the simile of a gate keeper allowing people to pass. When we start our meditation we need a gate keeper to stop all thoughts but allow only those that are relevant to pass. By doing this we enjoy a much quieter meditation. When we end our meditation we need to take a moment to examine what has occurred during our meditation, look into the reasons such thoughts occur and what effect they may have had. By doing this we slowly but surely build resistance to such thoughts occurring during our meditation.
Venerable then lead the group in a relaxed breath meditation.
After the meditation Venerable talked to us about the tradition of tudong. Tudong is a Thai word used to describe Buddhist Monks when they go wandering or travelling in the wilderness. Venerable then opened to Q&A.
Ajahn Santutthi encouraged us to consider meditation as recharging the batteries of the mind. We are learning how to be passengers in our meditation practice, not dictators. So when random thoughts pop up, just observe, don't engage, let them go. Having present moment awareness isn't impossible, it just takes practice. The result is being right here, right now and gaining a stepping stone to inner peace. Be patient and gentle with yourself.
Ajahn guided us in a thirty minute meditation well suited to both experienced meditators and beginners. Ajahn suggested that we patiently observe our mind and see where it is in this moment. No heavy focus, just gentle observation and notice what we as individuals would like our meditation object to be, rather than making an arbitrary decision. By allowing our minds to be where they want to be as we start to meditate, we remove some of the rigidity. A softer approach. Once our minds are settled and we are just observers, we can then gently change direction and focus on an object such as our breath, as we would normally do.
After meditation Ajahn opened to Q&A.
We haven't seen Bhante at Club Med for some years so it was a welcome surprise to see and hear him. Bhante started the evening in an unconventional way which was an unusual but welcome change. Bhante, having been present in areas of the world that have suffered greatly from both natural and man made disasters, replayed a podcast from the US radio station website "This American Life". The podcast documentary tells the story of a phone booth in Japan that attracts thousands of people who lost loved ones in the 2011 tsunami and earthquake. A Japanese TV crew from NHK Sendai filmed people inside the phone booth. The phone line, however, is not connected. The episode by Miki Meek is incorporated into our podcast but can be listened to independently by following the link below.
Bhante thankfully warned us that hankies and tissues would be and were required.
Bhante used this podcast to highlight the need for us to come to terms with ourselves more than anything and in doing so, forgive ourselves. Don’t wait for the forgiveness of those we have trespassed against. Forgive ourselves now - for ourselves.
Immediately after the podcast had concluded, Bhante lead us into a body scan meditation. Toward the middle of the meditation, Bhante used the Metta Sutta as a mantra in and for the rest of the meditation. After the meditation, Bhante continued to talk on forgiveness and why we should forgive ourselves.
Bhante Sujato broke with our normal format and gave us a dharma talk on Dependant Origination prior to the meditation. Dependant Origination is at the core of the Buddha's teachings and is viewed by many as a very difficult, confusing subject. Bhante handled it by using real life examples from his own life, with a good dose of humour, using words and terms that the lay person can understand.
Bhante then asked the group what type or object they would prefer for the meditation. The raised hands were fairly even on all the suggestions, so it was left to Bhante to decide. Bhante having just given a dharma talk on Dependant Origination suggested a meditation on the four elements as recognised by Buddhists. So the meditation object was Earth, Water, Fire, Air and how they relate to everything (our bodies and all things around us) both seen and unseen.
After meditation Bhante opened to Q&A suggesting that anyone who may have been confused by the dharma talk, should now ask.
Venerable Cunda encouraged us to "give ourselves a break". We carry the responsibilities in our daily lives very heavily, from new parents to business, and it affects both our physical and mental health. Our life styles come with a cost. From rushing around in our cars to trying to relax, we over do it all. We need to give ourselves a break. Relax, let it all go and just live in this moment. Leave the past where it is and not focus on a possible future that may never happen.
Venerable Cunda led the group through a very relaxing body scan and breath meditation well suited to both beginners and experienced alike.
After meditation Venerable talked on the benefits of meditation. After we meditate we are more relaxed, more calm and physically relaxed. Venerable then opened to Q&A.
Bhante talked to us about letting go. Just as we would automatically pull our hand out of a fire, so to, with consistent practice, will we naturally let go of our thoughts when meditating.
Bhante then leads us in a guided breath meditation. First encouraging us to relax our bodies and then guiding us to direct our attention to our breathing, to be aware of it, not change it, just watch it. Bhante's meditation is well suited to beginners and experienced meditators alike.
After meditation Bhante opens to Q&A. Bhante then gave a talk on morality, virtue and many of the steps needed by us in order to meditate.
It was Vesak day on Tuesday and Ajahn Cittapalo joined us at AMG. Vesak Day commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition. Ajahn having attended Vesak celebrations at Dhammaloka on Sunday, where many people took refuge by becoming Buddhist, noticed that for many, the five precepts are hard and fast rules. Many of us do the same when we meditate. We try too hard and become disenchanted when we fail.
Ajahn would never say that it is ok to consume alcohol, rather that we consider that we really should try to stop. So it is with our meditations. When random thoughts occur, we should simply let them come and go. Don't get entangled, but don't try too hard and be overly critical that the thoughts continue. Over time the ability to simply stand back in your mind and watch will grow and the thoughts will be come less frequent. The same will happen with alcohol, each time we consume it, we consider it and do it less until we don't do it at all.
Ajahn tells us that our intentions matter more in all things. When we meditate, it is our intention to gain a peaceful mind that matters. Not being overly self critical for having thoughts. Just as with the five precepts, it is our intentions that matter.
Ajahn led us in a body scan to relax us then a very peaceful silent meditation.
After the meditation Ajahn continued his talk on our intentions, cautioning us all to not be too critical of our efforts both in life and meditation. After Ajahn concluded he joined the group in celebrating Vesak day.
An often funny but most of all relaxing evening with Ajahn Brahm. Ajahn asks us to remember why the British Empire lost many of it's colonies. They stopped having "tea breaks". They stopped taking a break, stopped taking a moment to relax both the body and the mind. When we become stressed we become less efficient at everything. Driving, working and even doing our domestic chores. Stop, take 5 minutes and meditate.
It is very difficult to relax the mind if the body isn't relaxed first. So take the time to look deeply into your body, asking silently each part of your body if it is relaxed. If it isn't then focus on it and move it if you need to. Scratch that itch, rub that nose but most of all, relax. Then move onto the mind and simply observe. Don't get tangled up in your thoughts, just let them come and go. Relax. Guess what, you are meditating.
Ajahn reminded us that organisations such as Google and Face Book now have meditation areas set aside for their employees. This allows them to take a break, relax. This improves efficiency greatly. So we should take the time to relax, meditate, even for just 5 minutes a day. Learn our bodies, get physically comfortable, then relax the mind.
Ajahn then guided us through a 30 minute meditation that is well suited to beginners, novice or advanced meditators alike.
After the guided meditation, Ajahn opened to Q&A.
Ajahn tells us that change is inevitable in all things, in all matters. Meditation helps us learn how to deal with the changes in our lives, our
circumstances and ourselves. Such change is not always to our liking or such that we can prevent. Change happens. Deal with it. Rather than
become angry, distressed or sad, we meditate and deal with it in a calm rational fashion.
We had no new meditators on this occasion so rather than a full guided 30 minute meditation, Ajahn and the fifty odd people in attendance simply focused on a breath meditation with occasional guidance from Ajahn. The experienced meditators amongst the group were encouraged to do their own thing.
After meditation Ajahn opened to, and answered well, a number of questions very relevant to meditation.
Ajahn gave a brief description of meditation and then guided us through a body sweep and relaxation meditation.
Although not totally suited to beginners this meditation was easy to follow and a pleasure to do.
After the meditation Ajahn opened to Q&A with some of his frank answers and descriptions making the entire audience laugh. After the Q&A Ajahn gave a brief talk on how he became a monk and what life is like for a monk at Bodhinyana. Again Ajahn had the audience laughing.
When it's done it's finished. Meditation allows us to leave the things that have happened in our busy lives and be peaceful, be calm. Forget about what's happened before and just be in this moment. Sit down, close your eyes and relax. Many of us don't give ourselves that opportunity to let it all go. We wake in the morning full of beans and by the end of the day we are mentally tired. We need to train our minds to let the day go. Meditation allows us to do this.
Ajahn guided us in a thirty minute meditation well suited to people learning to meditate.
After the meditation Ajahn related a story about the growth of a fire tree at Bodhinyana Monastery. He had watched the tree grow for many years and wondered why, given the care it received, that it hadn't seemed to grow. Ajahn continued his training in Wat Buddha Dhamma Buddhist Monastery in Wisemans Ferry, New South Wales for five years. On returning to Bodhinyana Monastery, he was quietly walking past the fire tree and wondered how it was faring. He was surprised to find that it was now an enormous mature tree. Just as Ajahn didn't notice the slight growth of the fire tree, when we begin to meditate, we often don't see or rather, notice any progress. Each time we meditate, be it for five minutes a day or half an hour each week, we are retraining our minds and this has a cumulative effect. One day we will sit down and realise that we can let it all go just as easily as sitting down.
Venerable started the evening by relating an interesting story of events that occurred when receiving dana sometime ago on a particularly hot day. A lady was standing in bare feet on hot concrete, as was Venerable, and they both had to dance to avoid their feet being burnt. Venerable used this story to relate to the way we have rain storms in our minds. Rather than running away and hiding, we need to learn how to dance in the rain of our minds.
"Life is not about waiting for the rain storm to pass but learning to dance in the rain". Venerable Nitho.
Venerable continued by encouraging us to follow the first noble truth in Buddhism; Life is suffering or dukkha. That doesn't mean it is awful, just that we need to learn how to dance in the rain and be happy. Life starts where your comfort zone ends. If you stay in your comfort zone, you don't extend your life.
Venerable then guided us in a body scan meditation ending with five minutes of silent observation of our minds.
After the meditation Venerable opened to Q&A. Several of the questions, relating to things that trip us all over when we begin meditation, needed an in-depth explanation, which Venerable Nitho was able to give.
Rather than describing meditation as a means to an end, or a tool we use to achieve nibbana, Venerable Bodhi describes meditation to us as coming home to stillness and peace. Venerable goes on to describe how we have unlearned the way to enjoy silence, stillness and peace. Venerable tells us that meditation is actually quite easy, it's something that everyone can do. The hard part is to maintain it, to be there and actually prolong that moment and to come back to it when our thought process interrupts. To start again is always difficult for a beginner. Venerable describes all these situations really well and encourages us to persevere and practise.
Venerable then leads the group through a 30 minute guided meditation with the primary focus on our body. The meditation is well suited to beginners and more experienced alike.
After meditation Venerable gives a talk on karuna or caring. Karuna is a Sanskrit word and is used in Buddhism. It is translated to mean any action that is taken to diminish the suffering of others and could also be translated as "compassionate action". Venerable’s talk on karuna is well presented and easy to follow, encouraging us to care for ourselves and others mindfully.
Venerable Mudito tells us that "we come first". You can't give love and kindness [metta] to someone else if you don't give love and kindness [meta] to yourself first. If you don't have anything to give, you cannot give. So we must love ourselves first and foremost in our lives, then we are better positioned to give to others.
Venerable Mudito tells us that meditation should be fun, what a blessing to sit and meditate. Venerable then lead us through a 30 minute body contemplation meditation. Look as closely as you can at each and every part of your body. Just focus on relaxing the whole body. This meditation is well suited to both beginner and experienced a like.
After the meditation Venerable Mudito opened to questions. With everyone so relaxed and spaced out that there were no questions, Venerable related his own experience with beginning meditation and how it can be of great benefit to us. From health issues to anxiety meditation, being kind to ourselves, will benefit us and all those around us.
Ajahn began the night with his own brand of wit and humour making everyone laugh and relax. Ajahn then encouraged us to keep a light heart in meditation, relax to the max, be peaceful and let go. When we let go of the past and the future, we have nothing to bother us, nothing to worry about. As the great philosopher Snoopy once said "worrying about the future never stops bad things happening, whether you worry about them or not they happen, but what it does stop you doing is enjoying the present moment". Like everything else in life we have to practice, we need to train ourselves how to let go. So meditation is our training in how to let go of the future and the past, just live in the present moment. Don't try to improve yourself. Don't try to change yourself. Just care for yourself.
When Ajahn had us all relaxed and had our attention, he led us in a thirty minute guided meditation well suited to beginners and experienced alike.
After the meditation Ajahn then regaled us with more stories and jokes. Leaving us feeling relaxed and in good humour when we then socialised with all present with chocolate cake. A relaxing and enjoyable evening was had by all.
Bhante Sujato has been absent from Australia for 2 1/2 years, so when he arrived at Armadale Meditation Group (AMG) on Tuesday everyone was interested to know where he'd been and what he’d been doing. Therefore, this session is quite different to our normal AMG evenings. Bhante gladly started the evening by recounting his time spent on a tiny island in the South China seas just off the coast of Taiwan for 2 1/2 years, translating the Buddha’s texts into plain English.
To see and read the good work being done by Bhante Sujato and his team, please visit Sutta Central.
Bhante, having spoken very little during his time away, started to lose his voice early in the evening and so the meditation, rather than the usual guided meditation, was a silent one. With the majority of us, on the night, well practised, this was a chance for us to do, as a group, our own favourite meditations. Some prefer breath meditation while others prefer metta meditation. It made for a very pleasant meditation greatly appreciated by all.
After the meditation Bhante opened to questions relating to meditation and gave us a talk on the five hindrances that the Buddha detailed in the very early suttas. Very sadly all too soon we ran out of time. We would all have happily stayed for several more hours. One doubts whether Bhante's voice would have held out that long though. Especially when we consider that since returning to Australia, he has had to speak a great deal. Bhante was recently on ABC Radio National, to listen to or download his interview, please click here.
An excellent evening with Bhante Sujato appreciated by all and one we hope Bhante will be willing and able to to repeat soon.