08 February 2016

Insight

Any of you who are keeping track will know I have been on extended retreats quite a bit recently. Then there are all the retreats Ruth and I lead that are very useful personally as well. So what is the point? Why bother? What comes out of all that?


So back home again now, it seems like time to have a go at sharing an insight, but first




         Thought for the day

               Wherever you go
               The only thing that you experience 
               Is this moment
               This self
                                   
                       Hogan – San,   Zen Master




Maybe it is helpful to reflect upon this  …..

Think of an object. Maybe something you can see in front of you like the computer, a book; any object will do.

Now consider this. Commonly we are aware of objects dualistically. There is what we regard as us, and there is what we regard as the object. “I am aware of the computer.” “I am aware of the book.” There is me, and there is the object. Me and it. Two things. Dualistic.

Now, it is possible to be aware of the object non-dualistically. This is what in some circles is known as meditative absorption. The sense of separation between me and it is transcended, and we experience a sense of oneness.

So next consider your thoughts. Commonly we are aware of our thoughts dualistically. There is what we regard as us, and there is what we regard as the thought. “I am aware of the thought.” There is me, and there is the thought. Me and it. Two things. Dualistic.

Now, it is possible to be aware of our thoughts non-dualistically. This is what in some circles is known as meditative absorption. The sense of separation between me and it is transcended, and we experience a sense of oneness.

So here is the kicker. Next consider your awareness. Commonly we are aware of our awareness dualistically. There is what we regard as us, and there is what we regard as our awareness. “I am aware of my awareness.” There is me, and there is the awareness. Me and it. Two things. Dualistic.

Now, it is possible to be aware of our awareness non-dualistically. This is what in some circles is known to be something that is beyond even meditative absorption. The sense of separation between me and it is transcended and there is just pure awareness.

Getting this theoretically could well be useful.

Getting it experientially could well be extra-ordinary.

Going on retreat helps….

RELATED BLOG
The 2 major benefits of meditation – what to expect, and how predictable are they?

NOTICEBOARD
Meditation Retreats
Full details of the meditation retreats Ruth and I will lead in 2016 CLICK HERE

14 January 2016

The 2 major benefits of meditation – what to expect, and how predictable are they?

Unrealistic expectations seem to interfere with many people’s meditation progress and satisfaction levels. Experience tells me that one big group of meditation benefits is reliably predictable – with the more you learn and practice, the more directly you benefit.

But then there is a whole other class of benefits that are far from predictable, and unrealistic expectations in this arena can lead to frustration and disappointment.

So this week, a revisit of meditation’s benefits, what to expect, and how to get the most from your practice, but first




        Thought for the day

As you continue to practice the method,
Then meditation slowly arises. 

Meditation is not something that you can “do”; 
It is something that has to happen spontaneously, 
Only when you have perfected the practice.

                       Sogyal Rinpoche





Heading off for my own personal retreat where I get to be a participant – mostly - do lead a few meditations – caused me to pause and reflect…. Why do I keep going? Why do I keep meditating daily? What is in it for me? And what can you reasonably expect?

When it comes to meditation, it seems there are 2 big classes of benefits. There are the obvious, and the subtle.

The many obvious benefits of meditation
In our modern world, the obvious benefits are being well researched and we can say they are now
reasonably well proven. Without wanting to overstate things, pretty well any area of human activity that has been studied – and there have been a lot – seems to get better when the people doing them meditate.

You are probably familiar with these benefits – relaxation, stress management, better sleep, better performance at work and in sport and education, better resilience and mental state generally. Many healing benefits – accelerated healing with evidence of many diseases including mental health issues being improved in both quality of life and outcome. And on and on….

Now the good news for all these obvious benefits is that they are reasonably predictable. Get good instruction – ideally from a teacher, but many find a book or on-line platform works – apply yourself, and results will follow.

The more you learn and practice, generally speaking, the more the benefits. And these obvious benefits tend to build in a fairly linear fashion. As time passes, as your practice builds, things get steadily better.

The subtle benefits of meditation
Traditionally, people meditated for what we might call subtler, or more esoteric reasons. They were seeking the truth of who they really were, a direct experience of the divine, or of themselves as some traditions would express it.

Experience tells that some people started on this path and almost immediately had profound and life-
changing experiences. However, I personally know quite a few who have put in years of effort, years of study with good teachers and years of diligent practice, and are still searching for some elusive and ephemeral experience.

Plenty can be said about what helps lead into these deeper experiences – my books and other blogs go into all this – but for now, it seems worthwhile pointing out this difference. The difference between what comes easily, and what seems more unpredictable.

The point is, if one is seeking the essence of meditation – the profound insights and deeper experiences that are definitely there to be had, one does tend to need patience; and perseverance.

Also, paradoxically as many will know, while with the obvious benefits it is quite reasonable and effective to have expectations of benefit, with these subtler benefits, the more we let go of expectations, the more the benefits flow. Tricky

So why go on a meditation retreat?
Speaking personally again, I go on at least one annual, personal retreat for a few reasons - not the least the venue - Myall Lakes north of Sydney.


Firstly the obvious reasons for meditating are highly valuable and are a function of study and practice – it is worth continuing to learn, and taking the opportunity to deepen the practice.


Of course, I teach meditation, so for me this is also a bit like going to a summer school.

There is always more to bring back to those I teach.



But then, for those more subtle benefits, creating conducive circumstances is one of the most reliable ways to experience the more profound benefits. So withdrawing from daily life for a while, having a good teacher, being in like-minded company; all that does make for increased possibilities.

And also, there is the fact of being with those like-minded people each year. It is one of the things Ruth and I enjoy in our own retreats. As the years roll on, it seems more people form friendships at our retreats and come back as groups to renew and deepen those relationships and to enjoy practicing together.

So Happy New Year. Happy meditating and may you feel the obvious and subtle benefits of your own practice.

Related Blog
Meditation retreats - 4 good reasons to go

Resources
Books
Peace of Mind

Meditation – an In-depth Guide

Meditation Retreats
Full details of the meditation retreats Ruth and I will lead in 2016 CLICK HERE

22 December 2015

Christmas ups and downs

Christmas should be a happy time. Tricky word that… “should”. Lots of judgement and expectation. Quite a distance from mindfulness.

In my experience, the truth is that for quite a few, Christmas actually is delightful. However, for many others it can be a difficult time. So this week, how to get the best from the ups and downs of Christmas. Then news of sogyal Rinpoche speaking in Melbourne, Adelaide and Myall Lakes, along with a great New Year's Eve treat for people in Melbourne. but first

Thought for the day

For all its dangers, today’s world is also a very exciting one. 

The modern mind is slowly opening to different visions of reality. 

Great teachers like the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa can be seen on television; 
Many masters from the East now visit and teach in the West and books from all the mystical traditions 
Are winning an increasingly large audience. 

The desperate situation of the planet is slowly waking people up to the necessity for transformation on a global scale.

                    Sogyal Rinpoche
                                Public Talks   :    Melbourne January 5th,     Adelaide January 6th 


Christmas… Religious festival? Welcome holiday at the end of the year? Over-eating? Social get togethers? Family gathering? Presents to enjoy? Excesses? Loneliness? Overwhelmed? Inner peace?

Lots of possibilities….

The real celebration of Christmas is based on the birth of Christ who represents pure love, divine love. There is the real possibility to dwell on, to contemplate, love in our own lives. What we have known of love. What love we have received. What love we have given.

Of course, therein lies the difficulty for some. Christmas can be a time that rekindles thoughts and memories of loves lost; of love’s disappointments.

So there comes the opportunity to consider the cyclical nature of love. It is a force that flows through us. If we want to receive more love, to feel more love, then one sure way to do so, is to be more loving. To consider how we can give more love – without depleting our self.


Simplest way to do this may well be to develop more gratitude. So many people I know have benefited from this.

Really focussing on the practice of gratitude. Starting with developing and feeling gratitude for the simple things, like those things that make your day easier. The saucepans, the chair you sit in, the public transport or the car. Simple things we so often take for granted and only complain about when they do not work or are not there.

Like some of the people in our lives. People who we may well take for granted and only complain about when they do not “work” or are not there.

By contrast, be grateful and energy shifts and flows. There is a natural warmth and openness that flows with gratitude. It is easy for this energy to move into becoming more loving. Worth a Christmas experiment, Give it a go…

And a suggestion for the festive season. Moderation in all things!!!!!!

Don’t you just love clich├ęs? Pardon me, could not resist this one.!!!!!!

Happy Christmas and may 2016 be a fulfilling year of peace and happiness and contentment

With love from Ruth and myself, along with gratitude for all those who helped us in our work during 2015.

SPECIAL NOTE
Keeping to moderation in all things over the festive season, this blog will appear fortnightly for the next little while

SOGYAL RINPOCHE IN AUSTRALIA 2016

It is said, "The greatest gift you can give yourself or another is the gift of meditation"

Experiential Wisdom.

In  January, one of the world’s greatest meditation teachers is coming to Melbourne.

Sogyal Rinpoche, who has been teaching for over 40 years, will be sharing the most profound spiritual wisdom which has helped and continues to help so many. A rare gift for oneself and another.

MELBOURNE PUBLIC TALK
Date         Tuesday 5th January at 7.00pm (arrive 6.30)

Venue      Collingwood Town Hall,   140 Hoddle St, Abbotsford

Tickets     From $39 (full), $28 (concession)

On line bookings   CLICK HERE

Event Enquiries     Email: Melbourne@rigpa.org.au          Phone: 0402 586 360

ADELAIDE PUBLIC TALK
Date         Wednesday 6th January at 7.00pm (arrive 6.30)

Venue       PAC, 23 Dequetteville Tce, Kent Town, SA 5065

Tickets      $35 (full), $25 (concession)

On line bookings   CLICK HERE

Event Enquiries     Email: Melbourne@rigpa.org.au  Phone: 0402 586 360

MYALL LAKES RETREAT
Dates         14th January to 24th January

Venue        Tiona Park, Myall Lakes

On line bookings   CLICK HERE

The Rigpa Melbourne Centre is located in Brunswick at 7/200 Sydney Rd. 
The centre is part of a world wide network of over 140 centres and groups founded by Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the highly acclaimed The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. 
Rigpa Melbourne conducts courses, meditation sessions and other events which connect people with authentic Tibetan Buddhist teachings and meditation practices.  

New Year's Eve Chanting and Meditation

Jarek Czechowicz presents a new year celebration of transformation, inner peace and spiritual awakening. Enjoy universal chant, uplifting and healing music, and a midnight meditation of flowing om chants. Each universal chant is followed by a short but deep period of silence. 

You can sit on chairs, relax on floor cushions, or move to the music. 

This event regularly attracts a full house so it might be a good idea to book early. 

7:30 PM, Thursday 31 Dec 2015. Augustine Centre, Uniting Church, 2 Minona St. Hawthorn



14 December 2015

Commentary on a controversy

It is rare that I feel the need to write in a way that could be viewed as being critical of another person or group. Those who know me will know that I have a very inclusive approach. For example, for over 3 decades I have been consistent in advocating an inclusive or integrated approach to health matters generally and cancer management specifically, and I have spoken at many Interfaith gatherings.

However, having been asked regularly to explain why people gather to demonstrate against the Dalai Lama, and why there is another Buddhist public talk scheduled on the same night Sogyal Rinpoche is to speak in Melbourne on January 5th, there may be benefit in me speaking personally, not on behalf of anyone else, and explaining my understanding of the context. To do so, I have quoted heavily from Wikipedia, but first




                Thought for the day

      Do not be idolatrous about or bound to 
     Any doctrine, theory, or ideology, 
     Even Buddhist ones. 
     All systems of thought are guiding means; 
     They are not absolute truth.

                          Thich Nhat Hanh








The Dalai Lama is well known for his inclusive approach. 
He has made major contributions to the Inter-Faith movement, speaking at many major gatherings around the world that promote better understanding and better relationships between people of different faiths.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are four major groups, a bit like the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Church groups in the Christian tradition. The Dalai Lama comes from the Gelugpa group, which in recent times many would regard as the largest and most influential of the four, but again, he has been very inclusive and supportive of the other three. But not so everyone.

The practice of Shugden and where it originated
Back in the 1930s, a very influential teacher, Pabongkha, noting the flourishing “Rime” or ecumenical movement amongst the Tibetan Buddhists of that time, regarded the practice of non-Gelugpa teachings by Gelugpa monks as a threat to the Gelugpa-tradition, and opposed the influence of the other schools, especially the Nyingma – which is Sogyal Rinpoche’s lineage.

Pabongka used a specific spiritual practice, Dorje Shugden, as a central plank in his strong opposition. Pabongka fashioned Shugden as a violent protector of the Gelug school against other traditions, and one who harms any Gelugpa practitioner who blends his practice with non-Gelugpa practices.

The Dalai Lama of those days was opposed to all of this and placed restrictions on the practice of Shugden. Pabongka apologized and promised not to practice Shugden any more.

The practice of Shugden and why the Dalai Lama opposes it
The conflict next reappeared with the publication of the Yellow Book in 1976. The text asserts the pre-eminence of the Gelug school which is symbolised and safeguarded by Dorje Shugden, and presents a stern warning to those within the Gelug whose eclectic tendencies would compromise its purity.

The current Dalai Lama publicly rejected The Yellow Book, stating that it could only damage the common cause of the Tibetan people because of its sectarian divisiveness. Also, after studying the scriptures in-depth, the Dalai Lama concluded that the practice of Shugden did not belong in Tibetan monasteries. He advised everyone against the practice and requested that people who did practice Shugden not come to his talks. Not everyone was happy.

The rise of the New Kadampa Tradition
Next step in all this is the rise to prominence of Kelsang Gyatso, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, monk and scholar from the Gelug Tradition who promoted the practice of Shugden.

Kelsang Gyatso was a contemporary of Lama Yeshe, the founder of the FPMT (Tara House), a Tibetan Gelugpa group that is closely aligned with the Dalai Lama, has centres worldwide and is involved in activities like organizing the very successful Mind and its Potential conferences.

In the late 1970s, Kelsang Gyatso was working closely with Lama Yeshe, but then without consulting Lama Yeshe, he opened up a Buddhist Centre in York under his own spiritual direction. Commentators see this as the beginning of a conflict between Lama Yeshe and Kelsang Gyatso, that led to quite a schism.

In 1991, Kelsang Gyatso founded The New Kadampa Tradition – International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT—IKBU). This is now a global Buddhist organization registered in England as a charitable, or non-profit, company. It currently lists more than 200 centres and around 900 branch classes/study groups in forty countries.

Followers of the NKT—IKBU refer to themselves as Kadampa Buddhists. The temples of the New Kadampa Tradition are referred to as Kadampa Buddhist Temples, and more recently, NKT—IKBU teachers are named Kadampa teachers.

Whereas the NKT-IKBU celebrate Kelsang Gyatso as the one who "is primarily responsible for the worldwide revival of Kadampa Buddhism in our time”, critics have described The New Kadampa Tradition as a breakaway sect or cult and argue it is not part of the ancient Kadampa Tradition but a split from the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Why the protests?
The problem would seem to be that Shugden practitioners are angry that their practice is no longer part of the mainstream of Tibetan Buddhism. They blame the Dalai Lama for this. They want to discredit him and try to force him to reverse his decision through harassment.

Robert Thurman, a leading Tibetan scholar (and yes, father of Uma Thurman), states that the International Shugden Community, which is the main organizer for the demonstrations, is a front group of the New Kadampa Tradition.

Chinese involvement
To complicate matters further, according to Thurman, Shugden activities are financed by the United Front Work Department of the government of China as part of its strategy against the Dalai Lama. Raimondo Bultrini documents the Chinese coordination of Shugden activity in the book The Dalai Lama and the King Demon.

Writing in 2010, Warren Smith claims that within Chinese controlled territory, the Chinese government demands monks to worship Shugden, in conjunction with forcing them to denounce the Dalai Lama and fly the Chinese national flag.

According to the Tibetologist Thierry Dodin, "China had encouraged division among the Tibetans by promoting followers of the Dorje Shugden sect to key positions of authority.

What is happening in Melbourne? 
The New Kadampa Tradition has its Australian headquarters in Monbulk and it has what is called the Kadampa Meditation Centre at 140 Queen St. Meditation groups and other activities are presented at various other locations around the city.

It may well be pure coincidence that a free Kadampa meditation event has been scheduled and highly publicized in Melbourne at the very time Sogyal Rinpoche (a close friend and prominent supporter of the Dalai Lama and another who actively advocates Inter-Faith and inclusive approaches) will be speaking at the Collingwood Town Hall.

Now while it needs to be clear that I am writing personally on my blog and do not do so as a representative of Rigpa or Sogyal Rinpoche, I do know for a fact that it can be categorically stated that the Rigpa organisers of this event had no prior knowledge of the Kadampa plans and again, it is probably just coincidence.

However, for anyone wondering about the context, hopefully you are better informed and can make up your own mind!

RELATED BLOG
Sliding doors

RESOURCES

https://www.facebook.com/groups/exposingthenkt


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Kadampa_Tradition


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorje_Shugden_controversy


07 December 2015

Sliding doors - moments when life changes

A young woman caught my eye last weekend. Sitting outside the Melbourne Arts Centre, quietly minding my own business as I waited for my wife to join me for The Messiah, this woman was walking by when she turned, noticed me, paused, reflected, and then came over and said “can I sit and talk with you for a while?”

“Sure” says I. She is quite emotional and takes a moment to gather herself. “You came into my life at an important time…. It was one of those sliding door moments”.

Sliding Doors. Remember that great film staring Gwyneth Paltrow. Moments when life could have gone one way or another. Moments of transition. Moments when life changed.

The conversation with the young lady brought me to quite a realization… , but first





           Thought for the day

   No man ever crosses the same river twice, 
   For it is not the same river 
   And he is not the same man.

                                Heraclitus 






So to be frank, and certainly not to be disrespectful, I know of no-one who has been to The Messiah and changed their life. Personally, I go to The Messiah just about every year. Have done so for decades.



I love the music. The majesty of the music, the inspiration that flows from it, the sense of occasion, the atmosphere, the wonderful reminder of my Christian roots, the celebration of the end of the year and of Christmas.

I love this annual ritual. And while I know many people who also love attending, no-one has ever told me they went to The Messiah and their life changed.





By contrast, I know many thousands of people who have been to a public lecture of some sort and changed their life. It has happened for me on numerous occasions throughout my own life. Sliding door moments. Occasions when one could have gone to some entertainment, however inspiring,  but instead went to listen to a speaker, and life changed.

What have those moments been for you? As another year approaches it finale, good time to pause and reflect. Sliding door moments. Who were the catalysts? And maybe a simple sense of gratitude.


Then with a New Year about to start, I am helping to organise the renowned Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche to present a public talk early in January.


This is a rare opportunity to hear the wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism presented by the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. 

Sogyal Rinpoche has a unique ability to attune these teachings to modern life, drawing out their universal message while losing none of their authenticity, purity and power.


I can tell you, I know literally thousands of people whose lives have changed courtesy of attending one of Rinpoche’s talks. Great way to start the New Year – a chance to be inspired, be informed, to reflect, set the tone for 2016. See you there?

And the young lady? Turns out she was in the midst of a difficult cancer situation 5 years ago. A friend heard I was to speak at the Relaxation Centre in Brisbane, so she came along. We talked a little during the event, and as she says, her life changed. A sliding door moment.

And the young lady herself? Looked vibrantly alive. In great health. And she was the second person like that to come up to me that day to share a long-term cancer survival story. Very heart walming….

SOGYAL RINPOCHE IN AUSTRALIA 2016
As well as Melbourne, Sogyal Rinpoche will also be speaking in Adelaide and leading a retreat at Myall Lakes later in January.

MELBOURNE PUBLIC TALK
Date         Tuesday 5th January at 7.00pm (arrive 6.30)

Venue      Collingwood Town Hall,   140 Hoddle St, Abbotsford

Tickets     From $39 (full), $28 (concession)

On line bookings   CLICK HERE
 
Event Enquiries     Email: Melbourne@rigpa.org.au          Phone: 0402 586 360

ADELAIDE PUBLIC TALK
Date         Wednesday 6th January at 7.00pm (arrive 6.30)

Venue       PAC, 23 Dequetteville Tce, Kent Town, SA 5065

Tickets      $35 (full), $25 (concession)

On line bookings   CLICK HERE

Event Enquiries     Email: Melbourne@rigpa.org.au  Phone: 0402 586 360

MYALL LAKES RETREAT
Dates         14th January to 24th January

Venue        Tiona Park, Myall Lakes

On line bookings   CLICK HERE

The Rigpa Melbourne Centre is located in Brunswick at 7/200 Sydney Rd. 
The centre is part of a world wide network of over 140 centres and groups founded by Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the highly acclaimed The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. 
Rigpa Melbourne conducts courses, meditation sessions and other events which connect people with authentic Tibetan Buddhist teachings and meditation practices.