intro to MKMC Snippets – inspiring stuff from the teachings

January is our retreat month and here at Manjushri Buddhist Centre they’ve had several special retreats.

Kadampa Buddhist Temple, UK

Earlier, Kadam Morton guided the Lamrim retreat on the stages of the path to enlightenment,  exploring how meditation can bring change at the level of our hearts.
Gen Tarchin and Gen Jigme are just finishing guiding the Tantra Mahamudra retreat tonight, working with our subtle energy body.

Some of the things that inspired folk have already been posted, and there are more to come… we’d love to hear your thoughts as well 🙂

Enjoy your Dharma (snippets from MKMC)

Now I’m perfecting the art of falling asleep in the vajra posture with a straight back. I ask the monk sitting at the at the PC next to me what helps him meditate.
K Pador:
“Well I thought it was it was really good how Morton was encouraging us to enjoy our Dharma.
You know, we can make it hard work, but it really doesn’t have to be.
Morton told us that we’ve all got a Buddha nature. Before we do any practice we’ve got to connect with our Buddha nature. We do this by settling down with a breathing meditation. Then fully engage with the prayers. It’s not just a sing-along – really pray to the Buddhas to bless your mind.
The peaceful mind we get when we do breathing meditation is our Buddha nature. Connect with that Buddha nature and just abide in that space. That makes it very easy to  receive the blessings of our Spiritual Guide.
Then it’s effortless and joyful, you know?”
Kelsang Pador, at MKMC
Kadampas on the Lamrim Retreat at MKMC

Skillful Meditating, and Kadam Morton (snippets from MKMC)

Jas: That last session was cak. My mind was all over the place.
Sooo  frustrating!
(Kelsang Yogi’s been ordained something like decades, and is a well experienced meditator. He knows his Dharma, and is just so down to earth when he talks about it. He’s also an electrician. And he gives good hugs :~)

Kadam Morton

Yogi: Big smile ”Well that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it. It’s all about getting to know your mind, and its devious little tricks. I liked what Morton said about being skilful. It’s like driving a car. When you’re there, behind the wheel, you know there’s dangers, but you don’t panic, thinking ‘oh my god!! I could die here!’  You know where you’re going, and you just drive there.  You don’t want to speed, or drive like a lunatic, cause you’ll end up hurting yourself, or somebody else. No, what you want is to drive carefully, at a good pace, and get there in one piece.

Brill meditation analogy – don’t push!

When you’re meditating, you have to focus on your object, to the exclusion of all else. It’s no good if you’re trying to get there faster than you can. You can’t push yourself, going all out for goal. That’ll come in time. It’s like Tarchin’s been saying, just relax into the meditation.
Forget everything else. Just relax.

“See, the good thing about Morton is that he meditates. What he’s saying comes straight from experience. He knows what he’s talking about coz he’s done it.”

Kelsang Yogi, at MKMC
Kadampas on the Lamrim Retreat at MKMC

New FB Page for Amitabha Buddhist Centre

Amitabha Buddhist Centre

Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Bristol has new FB page! Click here to go see it. It’s about finding “happiness from a different source – meditation and inner peace in Bristol and the Southwest.” It’s still very new, but has some nice pictures of Geshe La and the  Amitabha photo album, Highlights from 2011.

Meditate gently and easily

Gen Samten once described a good way to meditate, especially on Tantra, as day-dreaming the puja (prayers). “Pushing is a samsaric mind” he’d say, and he’s so blissful he doesn’t walk he floats.
Nor has Samten-la (pictured) got it easy. He’s got epilepsy, and I remember him missing our teachers’ class because of it. But he is so remarkably wise and chilled!
This isn’t to say that we phase out while the prayers go on around us (as if ;~) rather, we relax into the prayers with a focussed and open mind. Geshe la compares it to a child at play – completely engrossed and delighted by the story unfolding around us.
But pushing is something we tend to be good at. If we try to force our mind to meditate, it gets over-exited, goes off a a tangent, and if we’re not careful we can get annoyed at ourselves for not being able to concentrate – especially if there’s a time pressure there.

Pushing gets the opposite of what we want. Our mind just kicks back against being made to meditate, and can go into a right sulk.
Tibetan masters describe the process of meditation as being simililar to training a wild horse. If you tether it to a short rope and try to beat it into submission, you will have a very difficult time taming that horse. But if you give it a large coral to run in and approach the wild animal with kindness and love, you can ride the horse in a short a while. We have to treat ourselves very gently….relax….. don’t push yourself, your body or your mind. Whatever you do, do it for others.” – Ven. Lhundup Nyingje
This is such an important point – even if our motivation for meditation is just to have a calm, peaceful, agile mind, if it’s done with an altruistic motivation, it works 1000 times better 🙂

“Just try, don’t worry” Geshe La says this a lot. Guess he knows what worry-bods we are. And Geshe Chekawa said “Do not hope for results.” That is, if you’re expecting massive and unrealistic change all at once, you’ll be disappointed, and likely to miss the subtle deeper effects that daily meditation has. Meditation naturally pacifies our mind. This, in turn, allows us to feel happier. For me, that’s an excellent result in itself. And daily is good – just whatever you can manage, each day. Like the sea, gradually eroding our negative minds. Going at it hammer and tongs does more harm than good. It’s much more fun ~ and works better ~ if we can keep a straight back, focus, and chill with it.

Further Reading:
‘samsaric’ – of samsara. (the painful illusion we live in) see appendix
Meditators’ Wind Imbalance (Lung) – brill new page on Facebook
8 Steps to Happiness, Geshe Kelsang Gystso
Clear Light of Bliss, Geshe Kelsang Gystso

Breathing Meditation Soothes Stressed Nerves.

Sometimes, like now, I get totally stressed out over nothing, and can get myself into a right state which is totally unrelated to the situation in hand.

 ~ So, a reality check is needed. Stop my frenetic mind doing over-time ~

How much time can I spend worrying about inconsequetialities? And can I really expect to make any clear decisions (or find anything) in a mind all stirred up by mild panic? It’s like my mind’s a pond, and I’ve  waded in with a big stick, stirred up all the muck from the bottom, and freaked the fish out.

So, walk back onto firm ground, put the stick down and sit quietly for awhile.
Now breathe.
I like breathing.
Apart from being dead essential for life, breath is a reliable, neutral and ever-present object of meditation.
Breathing’s easy, too (even if we need an inhaler to get there, there’s not too much effort involved.)
Breathing meditation’s good for beginners to old pros.

I do Tarchin’s  breathing meditation every morning (abridged version to follow). Following our breath is a wonderfully basic and profound practice. We can start by just becoming aware of our breath. Don’t force it or think that you’re not doing it right – it’s just breathing. We’re just noticing it. And just by doing this, our breath naturally slows and becomes deeper as we relax. This is better than TV – we can’t really relax watching TV, our mind’s all over the place. Instead we simply watch our breath.  Let the other thoughts pass on by, we can return to them when we’re done. Re-focus on the breath and to this object, only pay attention.

Luna Kadampa’s ‘short meditations‘ is a great resource too.

Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy (re-mastered as we speak…)

Technology’s ace when it works.

I lost my mobile phone and broadband over Christmas. Most of my friends were away on holiday, and it was surprising how cut off I felt. Julie next door empathised. Thing is, I’m so used to diving into cyberspace to see what’s going on in the world, that it suddenly felt like my little satellite was adrift in vast empty space.
I’ve not spent 40 years on this planet yet, but things have changed so much in my life. Mobile phones, CDs, DVDs, MP3s and the internet have all exploded into life.
Not that the old days were particularly good – Google would’ve been brilliant then – just that I’m not sure that the quality of life has improved.

As Geshe Kelsang says, “In recent years our knowledge of modern technology has increased considerably, and as a result we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness.”

Check out Louis CK’s comedic rant Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy for some good examples.

So would “walking around with a
donkey with pots clanging on the sides
like Louis says make you happy? Probably not. I’d definitely be like our Indian friend here, and want my mobile close by.

I was relieved when technical support were back after Christmas so I could call them from my newly fixed phone and get back on-line.

the Attraction of a Distracted Mind

Does top level communication really make people happier? Or is it just that we’re used to it now. I didn’t really suffer that much without my gadgets for awhile. Though I was relieved to get them working again, and soon let myself get sucked back in.

What they’re offering is most attractive  – distraction from an uncomfortable mind. But it’s not a lasting , nor reliable solution to our discomfort. Basically, we can only really be happy if we’ve got a peaceful mind. A disturbed, or agitated mental state is not a happy one.

We do tend to waste our time looking for happiness in all the wrong places; when all we really need to do is stop where we are. In fact, “happiness and suffering are states of mind, and so their main causes are not to be found outside the mind. If we want to be truly happy and free from suffering, we must transform our mind” Geshe Kelsang.

How To Solve our Human Problems, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
(thanks to Kelsang Oden and Losang Tenpa for remote help with images, and to that mime artist in York.
Photo credit: Jas)

Prayers do Work _/\_Thanks!

Thanks for your prayers ❀ I’ve been feeling better the last few days.
Even managed to unscrew the hair gel lid yesterday (it’s the little things, isn’t it). And the furbies and I have just come back from a race round the park.

Geshe Kelsang

A skeptic would doubt that prayer had much to do with my rapid recovery. (Normally it takes ages for health to creep back in).
It might just be that the virus is going; I was fed-up of looking at a wet rag in the mirror; and the it was really the dogs who were racing about.
But I didn’t have the strength to undo the gel lid at the start of the week.

I’m not alone in believing the power of prayer isn’t just wishful thinking. Nor are any improvements just a placebo effect due to folk knowing that they were being prayed for.
Studies into the  efficacy of prayer are well documented. Often, the people doing the praying are from various faith groups, so no religious discrimination is indicated. Nor does there need to be – prayer works. Full stop.
Buddhas appear in whatever form will benefit us most. Geshe Kelsang is my Guru. he appears to us as a Tibetan Monk with very kind eyes, because that is the form in which he can be of most help to us.

Anybody can pray. It’s the purity and passion with which we pray that makes a difference. It’s best if our prayers are pure, and mixed with as little wish for self-gain as possible. We’re asking the Buddhas to help someone else; through us, or distantly. It’s not what we say – these are just ‘words from the mouth’. It’s what’s in our hearts that counts.
That’s what powers our prayer to it’s destination.

_/\_ It is worth noting that prayers tend to bring what is needed, rather that what is wanted. And they are restricted by our karma.
But mostly they work like magic.

Scientific Evidence for the Power of Prayer

The Gift of a Sickbed!

Well, a sickbed isn’t really my choice; I wouldn’t choose to spend days in bed.

I’m just not feeling that good.
To put that into context, I’ve got MS anyway, and now i’ve got a bug. So the usual crap is exacerbated,
I’m nauseous, shivery, my bones ache and don’t want to take my weight. The furbys are missing their walks. So not much going on here.

I was getting in training for Tarchin’s Mahamudra retreat in a few weeks time as well. Now I’m thinking through cotton wool 😦

So, the gift in this?

Rejoicing in others’ good qualities and happiness, is a good one for a cosy warm duvet. It’s a feel-good mind, which brings us closer to the qualities we want.

I like offering that snuggly warm safe feeling to the Guru at my heart, and up to all the Buddhas and Holy beings. Also, to all those poor souls who can’t experience such luxury. I want them to be safe and comfortable too.
From a tantric point of view, that feeling of warm snuggliness becomes bliss inseparable from emptiness; offered to myself as the deity for the sake of those who aren’t so fortunate.

Unable to meditate much, I’ve been doing lots of Vajrasattva mantras instead. It’s brilliant purification, and can lift our mind immediately. (Mantras are something you can do in bed, which i like 😉 They’re good for housework too. Not so keen).

The short version of Vajrasattva’s mantra is:

om Vajrasatto sarwa siddhi hum

We repeat this while regretting any bad stuff we’ve done, and being determined not to do it again, (x21, or for at least for as long as you can)
Finish by imagining Vajrasattva’s pure white light flows into us, dissolving all the bad stuff away.  Then imagine our body and mind fills up with this white light, leaving us clean and pure.

OK, the usual headache’s becoming a migraine, so back to my duvet…

nb. This is just a snippet on purification. And there’s more to come on karma.
But see Geshe la’s free ebook Modern Buddhism for more on both.
And thanks to Kelsang Dorje for rapid response mantra verification.

Mindfulness Calms the Mind when you Need it Most (Noisy Neighbours via Thich Nhat Hanh)

OMG! don’t you just love it when you open a page at random and it says just what you needed to hear?

I live in a flat under a baby elephant; which is especially apparent at 3am.
Insomniac that I am, a cup of tea was a more realistic idea than trying to get back to sleep.

Tich Naht Hanh

Opening a book at random, Thich Nhat Hanh’s cooling wisdom pacified my mind:
“If there is a thought like, ‘it is late, but the neighbors are surely making a lot of noise’, simply recognize that that thought has arisen.”
How did he know?!

This is so like ‘the silent watcher’ meditation that Gen Tharchin, a true Kadampa yogi, teaches.
Tich advises us to simply acknowledge the presence of the thought – not to grasp onto it – but to allow it to float on through our mind like a cloud floating through the sky.

SO, if the neighbor continues their drumming practice, causing the thought or feeling to persist; just continue to recognize it.
Try not to follow the troubled line of thinking, because that just fuels the mind of annoyance. Try to resist the temptation to go upstairs with a stun gun or baseball bat, in order to encourage the noisy neighbor to be quiet. This just makes the situation worse.
And who can get to sleep with an angry mind?

Rather, acknowledge ‘there is anger’. Don’t dwell on it ~ let it go.

It helps me to breathe out the anger.
Try practicing a simple breathing meditation, put on on some music of your own, or get lost in something absorbing and uplifting (like writing a blog!)

Whatever, just let the anger go.

This allows the angry thunder-cloud in our mind to diminish to a wispy summer cloud, floating undisturbed through our mind; leaving us calm, clear and peaceful.

mmm, bliss.

‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ Thich Nhat Hanh
Meditation: simple easy instructions for getting started and Short Meditation
The Meditation Challenge

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