[...] Beth Steff has been practising at the monasteries associated with the traditions of Ajahn Chah in the West now for many years. She spent six years with us at Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California, USA. After returning to her home country of New Zealand, Beth was feeling inspired by the examples of living a life of mindfulness that she experienced in the monasteries and wanted to share that with others. She then started compiling talks by some of the different teachers in the western branches of the Ajahn Chah monasteries. The result is this book, which hopes to convey the techniques and benefits of different perspectives of applying Buddhist practice in our day-to-day life. Hopefully, it will expand the reader’s focus to further understand and integrate the way of practice that the Buddha laid down and give people the... Read more
A GUIDE TO STANDING MEDITATION As standing is something that we do, why not do it with full awareness? After all, standing was one of the positions that the Buddha recommended as a proper basis for mindfulness. Wisely cultivated, it takes strain out of the body, encourages balance and inner stability – and is a support for full liberation. In this guide, Ajahn Sucitto adds practical details to the establishment and development of this practice. It is for beginners and experienced meditators alike.
This little collection was never intended as a ‘collection of teachings.’ It came about in response to a request and a suggestion. The request was from Sarah Wallis who wanted to sponsor a publication in celebration of her sixtieth birthday, and to mark thirty years of the Banbury Buddhist Group. The suggestion, also from Sarah, was to gather together the reflections that had been individually prepared for the twice-yearly editions of our Milntuim Hermitage Newsletter. It was a surprise to find that there are twenty of these – and even more of a surprise to find that the reflections are all quite different. Every time I wrote a reflection, my intention was to offer encouragement for practice with the prevailing conditions; it seemed to me that it was always the same Dhamma1 practice that I pointed to. However, what I had failed to... Read more
"I thought I would begin by offering a few reflections about equanimity or upekkhā. This is one of the most significant psychological, emotional qualities talked about in the Buddhist tradition. However, because we commonly translate the word upekkhā in English as ‘equanimity’, it can easily be overlooked or seen as something a bit insignificant, not so practical or even heartwarming, as the word ‘equanimity’ in English can easily mean ‘indifference’, not really caring – it can be taken to be a switched-off, disconnected and somewhat numb attitude towards things." Based on a talk given at Amaravati – 26-4-2020
"While I was studying at Budapest in 2005, I remember looking for books which could help me get a useful perspective on my confused experiences. There was no lack of explanation and advice, but they were missing a concrete direction: ‘Interesting ideas, but what do I do and how?’ I believe that good instruction should enable one to do more than before, shed light on the ‘what’ and ‘how’, and even on the ‘why’. The first book which gave me a tangible foothold was Ajahn Sumedho’s short book, The Four Noble Truths. It provided an introduction to a practical method of investigation with examples of Ajahn Sumedho’s own struggles. Later, when I was staying at Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in England, I read his other book Mindfulness: the Path to the Deathless and found it illuminating as well. I mention these books here because certain topics... Read more
This book began as an essay to add some guiding notes to the practice of mindfulness of breathing (ānāpānasati). The intention was to be concise, with the understanding that plenty of meditation manuals are available, as are several thorough expositions of the theory and practice of mindfulness of breathing. However, as this meditation is so crucial, it seems useful to contribute any fresh approaches. And I have noticed that the way I understand and approach mindfulness of breathing is both somewhat different from what I was originally taught, and yet can fit the original sutta presentation.
While researching the Pali Canon for my previous book, Working with the Five Hindrances, I occasionally came across an intriguingly cryptic phrase: ‘I-making, mine-making and the underlying disposition to conceit’ (ahaṅkāra-mamaṅkāra-mānānusaya). This phrase was intriguing because it suggests a completely new perspective to the universal inquiry into self and selflessness, and provides a glimpse into the unique realization which the Buddha was awakened. He designated this realization with the Pali term ‘anattā’, which is usually translated as ‘non-self’, ‘not-self’ or ‘no-self’. While the translation is literally correct, it unfortunately fails to convey the correct meaning of what the Buddha is saying. The Buddha did not deny self. What he denied was that self has any permanent, imperishable essence. The Buddha realized that self is... Read more
This book is a substantially revised and expanded version of the 2009 original. It explores the link between external action and mind cultivation – both of which are forms of the kamma that leads to liberation. The book teaches formal meditation practices, the role of devotion, aspects of dependent origination, and the need to establish skilful relationships – kalyānamitta – and the cessation of suffering and stress.
The theme for this Dhamma talk is ‘My way or the Middle Way?’ As people might recognize, the title was borrowed from the famous Frank Sinatra song, written by Paul Anka, ‘My Way’, which is the supreme anthem of self-confidence: Through it all, when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all and I stood tall, And did it my way!’ Confidence is definitely a part of the Buddhist path; having faith, having confidence and resolution, these are all aspects of it. But any of us who have spent much time in life trying to follow that voice of self-assurance, of, ‘Even though there is resistance and it is difficult, I’m just going to keep pushing. I will do it my way.’ Or when we are living in a community, or we are in a role of leadership, if we adopt the attitude of, ‘My way or the highway. Either you do it the way I want or... Read more
This photo-journal records a pilgrimage made in Sri Lanka in November of 2019. I had been invited numerous times to visit this ancient seedbed of Theravāda Buddhism but, prior to this present occasion, had always declined the offers. Thee reason for this was not a disinterest in the country, with its ancient Buddhist traditions and numerous holy places, rather it was that, if I was going to go, I wanted to go quietly as a pilgrim and not on a teaching tour or part of a bustling group of devotees. Sometimes I wondered if I was being too fussy or narrow on this score but, in retrospect, I am very glad to have waited for forty years to make the journey.
The idea for the topic and title, ‘The Secret of Happiness’, came about after reflecting on my first meeting with Ajahn Sumedho in 1977, just a few weeks after his arrival in the UK. I had been very impressed by the sense of ease and joy that he seemed to carry with him. That, in itself, it was remarkable. What made it even more remarkable was what I had been told about the monks: that they followed an extremely exacting way of life and a discipline that required them to rise at 4.00 a.m. for meditation, and to eat only one meal a day before noon. They had no money, no entertainment, no sexual contact of any kind. The list of things they had given up was long – and yet… and yet… they seemed deeply happy and at ease.
To honour the auspicious occasion of the 80th birthday of Luang Por Liem Ṭhitadhammo (Phra Thepvajiranyan), a faithful group of disciples has arranged to print his biography. Luang Por Liem is a senior Buddhist monk presently ordained for 60 years in the Thai Forest Tradition of the late Ven. Ajahn Chah (or “Luang Pu Chah”) of Wat Nong Pah Pong in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. This book covers the prominent chapters of Luang Por Liem’s life, beginning from his roots as a simple farmer in Northeast Thailand, to his quest for deeper knowledge and understanding of the Buddha’s teachings as a monk, his life in accordance with the monastic discipline, his meditation practice, the search for the guidance of a teacher, and finally his joining Wat Nong Pah Pong as a disciple of Luang Pu Chah. Presently Luang Por Liem serves as the abbot of Wat... Read more
With a focus on gratitude, Ajahn Munindo reflects back over his life as a Buddhist monk. He particularly contemplates how very different communities have supported his spiritual journey. He concludes by expanding on his ‘source-oriented’ approach to Buddhist practice.
Over the last few years I have led residential retreats specifically on the theme of dependent origination on at least five occasions – at Amaravati in the U.K., in Mae Rim, Thailand, and with Le Refuge, at Monastère de Ségriès, in the south of France. Various aspects of this rich, essential theme of Buddhist teaching have been focused upon in these different situations, according to the interests and needs of the various communities. The booklet entitled ‘Just One More…’ – Appreciative Joy: Jealousy, Selfish Desire and the Buddha’s Teaching on the Cycles of Addiction was based on the material from one of these events, a ten-day retreat held at Amaravati in July 2013. Most of the material gathered in this present book was presented at a retreat in Provence, in April 2018; the remainder is from the Mae Rim retreats of 2016-18. The... Read more
THE TITLE OF THIS BOOK, Mind Is What Matters, brings attention to attitude. It points to the enormous difference our attitude makes as the mind receives and processes experience, and it points to that aspect of Dhamma practice of making everything our teacher. In 2017 at our open retreat at Amaravati Monastery, there were over 400 people attending. Ajahn Sumedho gave teachings every evening, and other visiting ajahns offered instruction and led question-and-answer sessions daily. For some of us, it was a very inspiring time. There were a lot of illuminating and imaginative teachings; for me it was a truly encouraging and beautiful event. But what if someone else’s attitude had been different? Even though they were hearing inspiring teachings, they could have begun to think they were not enough. Or they could have compared one teacher to... Read more
Sunday Talk on the 18th September 2016 Good afternoon to you all. The theme for the Sunday talk this week is ‘Forgiving and Compassion’ so I will offer some reflections around these significant areas of our lives. I will start with forgiving. This is a very important aspect of spiritual training and, as a way of life, it is a counterpoint to the attitude of being unforgiving, the attitude of wanting revenge, carrying grudges around. It’s about working with those attitudes of mind where we are determined to hang onto our negativity and our hurts, and to wear those proudly upon our sleeves – all the wrongs that have been done to me, the things that were unforgivable – that we are habitually conditioned to carry around and make much of. Sometimes people find themselves building their entire lives around wanting revenge, or resenting... Read more
A great variety of forms of religious practice are associated with the word ‘Buddhism’. However, they all take Siddhattha Gotama, who lived and taught in northern India some 2,500 years ago, as their source or inspiration. It was he who became known as the ‘Buddha’ – that is ‘the Awakened One’, one who has attained great wisdom through their own efforts.
The theme for this afternoon’s talk is ‘Less is More – Frugality, Renunciation and Generosity’. I will focus on the frugality and renunciation aspects first of all and then get to generosity later on. First of all, it struck me how, if we say that our usual philosophy in life is ‘more is better’, if ‘less is more’, then ‘less is better’ – if you follow the logic – which is a good way of summarizing this theme. This is an important topic for our times. Probably the kind of people who gather together at a Buddhist monastery on a Sunday afternoon are not those overly committed to consumption (what we call the ‘consumer society’ as if we were just a mouth with legs on) but that doesn’t have to be the way we see ourselves, even though this is often the way that society and our value systems are conditioned to operate. In the very wonderful... Read more