18 March 2019

Bodhgaya and the Bodhi Tree - a visual essay

In India, so much is out in the open. Not so much is hidden. In the streets you see life and death, wealth and poverty, hope and despair, joy and sorrow. In the West often these contrasts are hidden; in India it is all there to see.

So this week, a largely pictorial essay on recent travels in sacred India; starting first in Bodhgaya, place of the Buddha’s enlightenment; in weeks to come Mt Abu and Delhi, but first

              Thought for the day

                         Bliss is Brahman;

                         From bliss beings are born;

                        By bliss, when born, they live;

                        Into bliss they enter at their death. 

                                                The Taittreya Upanishad 


The Buddha started his life as a worldly Prince.

He trained to become the next King, married, had a son and then renounced the lot.

After serious ascetic travails, he ended up under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya and there sat until he attained enlightenment.

Two and a half thousand years later large numbers of pilgrims still flock to this place.




The original Bodhi tree was eventually destroyed by the Moguls. However, a sapling had been taken to Sri Lanka and a sapling from that tree was returned; so, many years later, this is the one you get to sit under if you go these days. Bodhi trees live for a long time!





Next to the Bodhi tree is the Mahabodhi stupa and temple.












Inside is a famous Buddha statue that is too hard to resist when it comes to spiritual tourist photos...















Visiting the great European cathedrals is wonderful, but sadly it seems tourists have virtually overrun many of these places, diminishing their presence and impact.

Bodhgaya is in a remote area and so here the serious practitioners overrun what few tourists there may be.












What stands out at this place is the number of pilgrims and serious practitioners.













They come from all Buddhist traditions.













         Young













 


 And old


















With plenty in their middle years
















Some seem like they might remember the Hippie days












And the place is also venerated by Hindus,
with some sadhus to be seen and talked with












There are many Tibetans doing serious practice.












Last time here - ten years ago - one Tibetan monk was close to finishing 20 million prostrations.

If you have done even one prostration you will have some idea of what that entails…

Almost unbelievable!







Some go for protection from the many mosquitos;

others offer themselves up to the feast :)




Ruth and I went to be a part of a Tibetan group practice and were fortunate to receive 2 days of teachings from one of Tibet’s leading women teachers - Khandro Rinpoche (you can link to one of her many Youtube teachings here where she discusses why there are so few women teachers).









We ended up being part of an international group of around 300













We went a little earlier than some others to make more time just to sit.

The atmosphere was extra-ordinary; that is, well out of the ordinary.










On the one level there was a good deal of activity.

Groups are coming from all traditions and nations, so it was common to have chanting in 3 to 4 languages going on around us at any given time.









Many people circumambulate the stupa - that is walk around it clockwise saying prayers or chanting











While many sit to meditate for a while then get up and move on.

Lots of activity…








But then, it is almost as if the activity and the place overwhelm the active mind and a deep stillness presents. We sat for hours. Sometimes 2 hours at a time. And something deepened.

The memory and the feeling; the experience will travel on with us...







Accommodation is basic, but we enjoyed it …




And at night there is a good deal of activity!














The streets can be confronting.

There are the beggars; often with significant disabilities or deformities













The dogs everywhere














The tailors almost certainly have no union,
but overnight and on the floor
make great kaftans :)









The food is varied and we found it easy to eat well (including no chillies!)






So maybe to finish... a cup of tea???












This is a journey that while not easy in many ways, is well worth making if you have a strong inclination.



RUTH'S NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

RECLAIMING JOY - April 12 - 18 2019, Yarra Valley Living Centre.

Details - call the Foundation - 03 5967 1730 or link here for DETAILS



The legend of Meditation in the Forest lives on!

This classic 7 day meditation retreat is on again for yet another pre-Easter.

In 2019 it will be lead by Ruth Gawler and Melissa Borich.


Some will have had the good fortune to have shared time with Melissa in some of our previous retreats. Melissa is a highly accomplished yoga teacher with a wonderful capacity to tailor yoga for beginners or the advanced. Melissa has also trained with me as a meditation teacher and is one of the people I highly value and recommend.


These two women will present a wonderful retreat - lucky you if you get to be there :)


05 March 2019

Time poor? Need a solution?

We are all “time poor” now, and some of us are getting poorer. What does this actually mean?

It means that we are trying to do too much too quickly, that we try and do two or more things simultaneously, that we do things in a shoddier and less careful way, that we feel a tension in our body, that we are more likely to get a number of stress-related illnesses, that we tend to blame ourselves or someone else for what is happening to us, and all because it feels like we are all trying to find more time or trying to escape from the feeling of being “under the pump”. Even just listing the problems seems exhausting!
So this week, in a guest blog from Ruth - the problem and a potential solution, but first



         Thought for the day

What can we gain by sailing to the moon 
If we are not able to cross the abyss 
That separates us from ourselves? 

This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, 
And without it, 
All the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.

                         Thomas Merton






The solution? 

Well in the immediate sense, we desire a solution and everyone wants to sell us something.

Some promote a material goods like a machine that can do it all. How about a Thermomix?

Others push the next level App or faster more efficient software that supposedly speeds everything up. Now we can buy things with one tap on the mobile.

Some encourage us to take breaks and escape from it all. How about a cruises or a retreat holiday in some exotic location?

Many opt for what seems like a simple answer and go straight for a drug offering to alleviate the symptoms. Prescription, legal (alcohol, Panadol etc) or elicit??? Others want to teach us to meditate so we can treat the feelings of discomfort more naturally and maybe get some relief.

So, the challenge is this

Desire and capitalism is a very dangerous mixture.

The Buddhists say that this world of ours is actually a manifestation of the desire realm. Capitalism is about making money out of selling something. So we have now got a rapid escalation in all the things we can buy, how we can buy, with what we can buy and ever increasing speed with which we are doing the buying.

On the surface of things there are competing industries – like it looks like the drug companies are competing with the lifestyle industries, and the other sectors like education and housing.

But it is beyond the capability of any individual or community to actually change the direction our world is heading.

In the 40 years since David Suzuki came to Australia and warned of the dire effects of over-population we have had an IVF industry develop which is giving us one baby for every 20 babies born and many more of these babies are surviving better than ever before. We have seen Australia’s population double.

Since Al Gore put out “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006 we regularly hear “climate change” is still being debated as being a worthwhile matter to address.

Even great people cannot seem to stop the addiction of this global civilisation of ours to more speed, more stuff, more people, more rubbish. Even our leaders with integrity seem to be floundering. Leaders with no integrity show no interest in these massive issues which will affect their own offspring.

It takes us back to the prophetic song of Bob Dylan’s Everything is Broken to which I offer another verse :

Broken democracy, broken education,


Broken atmosphere, broken oceans,


Broken traditions, broken families,


People zoned-out from broken drugs,


Ain't no use jiving


Ain't no use joking


Everything is broken

And in the mean time we will keep carrying on as if there is hope on this material level. Maybe it was always like that, but then I am pretty sure there are more people living in appalling conditions than ever before.

We are the lucky ones who are just paddling as fast as we can, and getting some temporary relief from nature, medications, retreats, holidays and the irrepressible optimism that is a requirement for being a decent human being.

Depressing ? Maybe…..

But, not for me. Because I think this may force us to recognise that if we are going to have any chance of living a fulfilling life we need to look to a deeper meaning than just the world we recognise through scientific investigation. That science is unlikely to save the planet, or our schools or our hospitals; that the current trajectory just leads to greater and greater complexity and expense; all necessitating that we work more and speed up.

But we are paddling as fast as we can, aren’t we? Maybe we need some time out ...

Plain logic and common sense tells me the answer to having a better life, a more meaningful life, a more enjoyable life, is to take a real interest in knowing who and what we really are.

And what “on earth” we are doing here on this planet together.

Yes, you and me.

And to dedicate some special time to look into the truth the spiritual traditions offer - that there is in fact a magical and infinite dimension to ourselves that has power to create and transform.

That this truth defies simple instincts and matters of survival , and cannot be bought or sold.

Bigger than us, yet part of us.

 Invisible, and yet can it be known by its impact. A truth so hard to grasp intellectually that it slips our of any description that is offered…and yet the amazing thing is they tell us we can know it more and more, to a depth that is unfathomable.

So, it seems to me that we could at least slow down occasionally, enough to notice, what really matters and take an interest in it. And then when our life is over, we will not be left bewildered, and wondering “what was that all about?”

The real solution is in learning to sit within our own silence ...

And doing that regularly.

All else will follow ...



SPECIAL NOTE

Ruth will lead a seven day meditation retreat pre-Easter with Melissa Borich that is highly recommended. Ruth has asked me to come in one evening for a Q and A session that I am happy to do, so maybe I will see you there?

 Ruth is also leading another meditation retreat at the Living Centre in September as well as two healing based retreats with Prof Sanjay Raghav.

Details are on the Foundation’s website. Do yourself a favour…



RUTH'S NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

RECLAIMING JOY - April 12 - 18 2019, Yarra Valley Living Centre.

Details - call the Foundation - 03 5967 1730 or link here for DETAILS



The legend of Meditation in the Forest lives on!

This classic 7 day meditation retreat is on again for yet another pre-Easter.

In 2019 it will be lead by Ruth Gawler and Melissa Borich.


Some will have had the good fortune to have shared time with Melissa in some of our previous retreats. Melissa is a highly accomplished yoga teacher with a wonderful capacity to tailor yoga for beginners or the advanced. Melissa has also trained with me as a meditation teacher and is one of the people I highly value and recommend.


These two women will present a wonderful retreat - lucky you if you get to be there :)