The following are some verses we have selected from the Ear-Whispered Mahavairochana Tantra.
I am Mahavairocana, the one Mind
All things arise as me
I am the entirety of space and time
Yet you will not find me there
If you take now and all that occurs as the path
Allowing perceived and perceiver to merge as one
Seeing my face in all that unfolds
Then you forever enter my deathless realm
When you realize that throughout all lifetimes
There has never once been any coming or going
Nothing has ever been accomplished, nothing left undone
You perfect the three kayas in a single instant
With pristine mirror-like cognizance
Relax into the awareness of your intrinsic wakefulness
All things are Mind-born, yet don’t search for that Mind
Noble one, you have been introduced!
Om Mahavairocana Hum
May these words of profound meaning,
ever be protected from corruption by evil or narrow minds.
May they help to point out the way to fortunate beings
(both present and future) of this degenerate age.
Atte [tatte] natte vanatte anade nadi kunadi [svaha]
The state of ‘mindlessness’ is generally considered to be the opposite of the state of ‘mindfulness’. Mindlessness, therefore, refers to a lack of present moment awareness whereby the mind is preoccupied with future (i.e., fantasized) conjectures or past (i.e., bygone) occurrences.
A person who is mindless might be said to be engaging in the ‘non-perceiving of that which is’. There appears to be a strong resemblance between the phenomenon of mindlessness and the phenomenon of hallucination. Rather than ‘not perceiving that which is’ (i.e., mindlessness), hallucination is generally considered to be ‘the perceiving of that which is not’. Given that both states involve an erroneous perception of the ‘here and now’, it could be argued that mindlessness is actually a form of ‘inverted hallucination’.
According to the Buddhist teachings, ‘mindlessness’ is actually assigned as the default disposition of the population en masse. Thus, the majority of individuals considered to be ‘mentally healthy’ by Western conventions (e.g., as defined by the World Health Organization), are regarded as being ‘delusional’ according to Buddhist philosophy. That is to say, those ‘mentally healthy’ individuals are not aware of each and every moment of their lives and are therefore experiencing an hallucinatory reality.
Within Western research settings, interest into the health-related applications of Buddhist and Buddhist-derived meditation techniques is rapidly growing. Indeed, Buddhist meditation has been shown to be effective for treating a large variety of both somatic and psychological health conditions. Examples of such conditions include chronic pain, cancer, fibromyalgia, anxiety, stress, depression, and addiction disorders.
As part of trying to understand Buddhist meditation, scientists have begun to dissect and analyse the various components and processes of meditation. A result of this is that in the research and clinical setting, individual meditative components have been removed from their original context and deployed as standalone clinical techniques.
Consequently, there now exists an entire plethora of Buddhist-derived interventions including (for example): Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, Compassion Focused Therapy, Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (targeting drug and alcohol abuse), Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Therapy, Loving-Kindness Interventions, Vipassana Therapy – and the list goes on. Whilst a number of these interventions have demonstrable efficacy as healthcare interventions, many of them are working with just one element of the overall meditative process.
In their traditional Buddhist setting, rather than standalone techniques, mindfulness, compassion, loving-kindness, vipassana – and all the other individual aspects of meditation – are practiced only as part of a composite and interdependent array of spiritually inclined perspectives and trainings. According to the Buddhist perspective, the development of sustainable meditative realisation arises as a result of the inter-play of three key elements:
(i) wisdom (Sanskrit: prajñā), (ii)ethical discipline or ethical awareness (Sanskrit:śīla), and (iii) meditative concentration (Sanskrit: samādhi). These three elements are known in Buddhism as the ‘three trainings’ (Sanskrit: trishiksha) and provide a stable platform and context for the successful cultivation of meditative proficiency.
Let’s take mindfulness and the Noble Eight Fold Path as an example. The Noble Eight Fold Path represents a fundamental Buddhist teaching and can be practically and theoretically stratified according to the abovementioned threefold division:
1. Right view, 2. Right intention
3. Right speech, 4. Right action, 5. Right livelihood, 6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness, 8. Right concentration or meditation
Thus within Buddhism, mindfulness is taught as only one aspect (i.e., the 7th aspect) of the Noble Eight Fold Path. As part the teachings on the Noble Eight Fold Path, ‘right mindfulness’ arises interdependently with, and in reliance upon, the gradual and simultaneous practice of each of the other seven aspects of the path. In other words, in traditional Buddhist practice, mindfulness enters into a process of ‘cross-fertilisation’ with wisdom, ethical discipline, and concentrative elements. The importance of this ‘cross-fertilisation’ process can be highlighted by the examples of ‘right view’ and ‘right intention’ (that appear as the 1st and 2nd aspects of the Eight Fold Path). ‘Right view’ refers to the realisation of an accurate view of self and reality as a result of intuiting concepts such as impermanence, non-self, and emptiness. According to the Buddhist teachings, it is not possible for a person to become fully mindful of the present moment unless they have a solid understanding of the true and absolute mode in which the present moment exists. The same applies to ‘right intention’ which refers not only to a decisive determination to develop spiritually, but also to the cultivation of an altruistic (i.e., rather than selfish) motivation for practice. Buddhism teaches that a person cannot establish ‘right mindfulness’ of their thoughts, words, and deeds without a profound awareness of how such actions will influence the ‘spiritual happiness’ (Sanskrit: sukha) or suffering (Sanskrit: duhkha) of others.
Thus, all of the elements involved in the practice of meditation are intimately and intrinsically interwoven with one another – they are all mutually interdependent. In forthcoming posts, we will explore these elements in more detail and will begin with ethical awareness. Ethical awareness will assist us in living a steady, stable, and centred life that is wholesome for us and for others.
Ven Edo Shonin & Ven William Van Gordon
Chiesa A., & Malinowsko, P. (2011). Mindfulness-based approaches: Are they all the same?
Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 404-424.
Dalai Lama. (2001). Stages of Meditation: Training the Mind for Wisdom. London: Rider.
Dalai Lama. (2005). The Many Ways to Nirvana. London: Mobius.
Nanamoli Bhikkhu. (1979). The Path of Purification: Visuddhi Magga. Kandy (Sri Lanka):
Buddhist Publication Society.
Nhat Hanh, T. (1999). The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into
Peace, Joy and Liberation. New York: Broadway Books
Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2013). Mindfulness-based therapy: A tool for spiritual growth? Thresholds (In Press)
Shonin, E., Van Gordon W., & Griffiths M. D. (2013). Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for improved psychological wellbeing: A qualitative examination of participant experiences. Religion and Health. DOI: 10.1007/s10943-013-9679-0.
Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Sumich, A., Sundin, E., & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) for psychological wellbeing in a sub-clinical sample of university students: A controlled pilot study. Mindfulness. DOI: 10.1007/s12671-012-0191-5.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. These are the words that Jesus Christ is believed to have cried out approximately 2,000 years ago during his crucifixion at Golgotha. We were recently reminded of these words during a relaxing discussion with a friend of ours who is a Christian monk in the Franciscan tradition. According to the Christian teachings, Christ died because he wanted to absolve us of our sins. Whilst there is no doubt some truth in this, it is also true to say that Christ died because the people killed him.
Christ revealed his enlightened presence to the people and deeply touched their hearts and minds. He demonstrated to the people that the Kingdom of God was within them and he presented them with a basic choice. That choice was so primordial, so pure, so black and white, that it was impossible for people to ignore it. The choice they were presented with was to devote themselves to the practice of basic goodness and work towards liberation or to continue living in ignorance. It was as simple and clear cut as that. There was no room for misunderstanding, no room for excuses, and no room for ego’s games. Christ had laid the truth bare.
Although everyone who met Christ recognised the choice they were presented with, few of them had the courage to follow him. Indeed, a few venomous whispers into people’s ears by some of the high priests was all that it took for them to make up their minds and turn their backs on Christ. It is not so much that the people began to doubt Christ, but rather, they began to doubt themselves. They began to doubt what they had seen and experienced with their own eyes and hearts whilst in Christ’s presence.
Of course, the above pattern of events is not just limited to Jesus Christ but appears to repeat itself whenever an enlightened being decides to expound the teachings. For example, once when the Buddha was residing in the Jeta Grove, some jealous ascetics from Savatthi tried to discredit him and his disciples. They instructed a young female ascetic called Sundari to make acquaintance with the Buddha and to request his teachings. On an occasion when the Buddha was the last person to see Sundari, the ascetics killed her and buried her body near to the Buddha’s meditation hut. They then visited the King and accused the Buddha of sexual misconduct and of killing Sundari in order to conceal his misdeed.
There are numerous other accounts within Buddhism of meditation masters whose enlightened presence has provoked hostility in the people. Some examples are: (i) the Mahasidda Padmasambhava who was ordered to be burnt alive in Tibet by King Indrabodhi, (ii) the translator Vairotsana who was banished from Tibet, (iii) the Japanese monk Nichiren Daishonin who, following a failed execution attempt, was exiled to a remote Japanese island, (iv) the Indian Buddhist saint Shantideva who was treated with contempt by the monastic community, and (v) the Japanese Zen master Haquin who was falsely accused of sexual misconduct.
The most unfortunate thing about all of these examples is that today, many centuries later on, most people don’t seem to have taken the message to heart. People gossip about their friends and neighbours or believe what is written in the newspapers without even caring whether it might be true. They visit the church or temple for social conformity or out of habit rather than to engage in spiritual practice. People wearing religious robes and false smiles attempt to amass large followings whilst inside, their hearts and minds are overrun with corrupt intent. In short, most people choose not to take responsibility for their thoughts, words, and actions and they crucify the enlightened nature that lies in their hearts.
So it is useful to always ask ourselves the following questions: Would I recognise Christ if he walked into my life? Would I truly surrender my heart to the Buddha and allow him to dismantle my ego? Am I suffocating my Buddha nature or my Christ nature? Do I have the courage to follow Christ or do I pretend that I don’t have that choice?
The sad truth of the matter is that if Christ returned today, the majority of people would be too busy or too caught-up in their own selfish pursuits in order to recognise him. In fact, the likelihood is that they would kill Christ all over again. This might not be as brutal as nailing him to a cross, but might take the form of labelling him a charlatan, spreading malicious rumours, or finding some other means to try and exile him from society. If the next time Christ comes and the people choose to kill him again, rather than the words used to open this post, perhaps Christ would say the following: “Father forgive them, for surely by now they know what they do”.
Ven Edo Shonin and Ven William Van Gordon
“Padre, perdonali, perché non sanno quello che fanno”. Si ritiene che queste sono le parole che Gesù Cristo gridò circa 2.000 anni fa, durante la sua crocifissione sul Golgota. Queste parole ci sono state recentemente ricordate nel corso di una discussione rilassante con un nostro amico che è un monaco cristiano nella tradizione francescana. Secondo gli insegnamenti cristiani, Cristo è morto perché voleva assolvere ai noi i nostri peccati. Anche se non vi è alcun dubbio della veritá in questo, ma è anche vero che Cristo è morto perché la gente lo uccise.
Cristo rivelò la sua presenza illuminata al popolo e toccò profondamente i loro cuori e le loro menti. Egli dimostrò alla gente che il Regno di Dio era dentro di loro e li presentò con una scelta di base. Tale scelta era così primordiale, così pura, così bianca e nera, che era impossibile per le persone a ignorarla. La scelta con la quale sono stati presentati era l’invito a dedicarsi alla pratica della bontà fondamentale e proseguire verso la liberazione o l’illuminazione oppure di continuare a vivere nell’ignoranza. È stato così semplice e chiaro. Non c’era spazio per equivoci, nessun spazio per le scuse, e non c’era spazio per i giochi dell’ego. Cristo sottopose a loro la verità nuda.
Sebbene tutti coloro che hanno incontrato Cristo hanno riconosciuto la scelta con la quale sono stati presentati, pochi di loro hanno avuto il coraggio di seguirlo. Infatti, pochi sussurri velenosi nelle orecchie della gente da alcuni dei sacerdoti è stato tutto ciò che ci é voluto per le persone nel prendere una decisione e voltare le spalle a Cristo. Non è tanto che la gente ha cominciato a dubitare di Cristo, ma piuttosto, ha cominciato a dubitare di se stessa. La genta ha cominciato a dubitare di quello che aveva vissuto e visto con i loro occhi e il loro cuore, mentre nella presenza di Cristo.
Naturalmente, il suddetto modello di eventi non si limita solo a Gesù Cristo ma sembra ripetersi ogni volta che un essere illuminato decide di esporre gli insegnamenti. Ad esempio, una volta quando il Buddha risiedeva nel boschetto di Jeta alcuni asceti gelosi da Savatthi cercarono di screditarlo e i suoi discepoli. Essi incaricarono una giovane asceta femminile chiamata Sundari per fare la conoscenza con il Buddha e richiedere i suoi insegnamenti. In un’occasione quando il Buddha fu l’ultima persona a vedere Sundari, gli asceti la uccissero e seppellirono il suo corpo vicino alla capanna di meditazione del Buddha. Poi visitarono il re e accusarono il Buddha di cattiva condotta sessuale accusandolo di aver ucciso Sundari al fine di nascondere il suo misfatto.
Ci sono numerosi altri racconti nel Buddhismo di maestri di meditazione la cui presenza illuminato ha provocato ostilità nelle persone. Alcuni esempi sono (i) il Mahasidda Padmasambhava chi fu ordinato di essere bruciato vivo in Tibet dal re Indrabodhi, (ii) il traduttore Vairotsana che fu bandito dal Tibet, (iii) il Monaco giapponese Nichiren Daishonin che, a seguito di un fallito tentativo alla sua esecuzione, fu esiliato a una remota isola giapponese, (iv) il Shantideva uno santo buddhista indiano che fu trattato con disprezzo da parte della comunità monastica e (v) il Maestro Zen giapponese Haquin che fu falsamente accusato di abusi sessuali.
La cosa più sfortunata di tutti questi esempi è che oggi, molti secoli più tardi la maggior parte delle persone non sembrano avere preso a cuore il messaggio. La gente dice dei pettegolezzi sui suoi amici e vicini di casa o crede in ciò che c’è scritto sui giornali senza curarsi che se sia vero o meno Persone che indossano abiti religiosi e hanno falsi sorrisi tentano di accumulare molti seguaci mentre al loro interno, nei loro cuori e nelle loro menti, vi sono intenzioni di corruzzione. In breve, la maggior parte delle persone sceglie di non assumersi la responsabilità dei loro pensieri, le loro parole e le loro azioni ed esse stesse crocifiggono la natura illuminata che si trova nei loro cuori.
Quindi è sempre utile domandarci: riconoscerei Cristo se entra nella mia vita? Sarebbe veramente possibile per me concedere il mio cuore al Buddha e permettergli di smantellare il mio ego? Io sto soffocando la mia natura di Buddha o la mia natura di Cristo? Avrei il coraggio di seguire Cristo o faccio finta che non ho questa scelta?
La triste verità è che se Cristo tornasse oggi, la maggior parte delle persone sarebbe troppo occupato o troppo assorta nei propri inseguimenti egoistici, per riconoscerlo. Infatti, la probabilità è che lo ucciderebbero nuovamente. Questo potrebbe non essere così brutale come inchiodarlo a una croce, ma potrebbe essere di etichettarlo come un ciarlatano, diffondendo voci maligne , o trovare altri mezzi per cercare di escluderlo /emarginarlo dalla società. Se la prossima volta che Cristo viene e la gente sceglie di ucciderlo di nuovo, anzichè utilizzare le parole usate per aprire questo post, forse Cristo direbbe quanto segue: “Padre, perdona loro, perché sicuramente ormai sanno quello che fanno”.
Buddhism originated approximately 2,600 years ago and is based on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama who is said to have been born in Lumbini (near the Nepalese/Indian border). At approximately 29 years of age, Prince Siddartha is believed to have left behind worldly and palatial life (against his parent’s wishes) to become a homeless mendicant who attained ‘enlightenment’ approximately six years later whilst meditating under the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in east India. He henceforth became known as Shakyamuni Buddha who ‘turned the wheel of Dharma’ in Varanasi and taught elsewhere throughout India before passing away in Kushinagar (north India) at approximately 80 years of age.
Although accounts of the Buddha’s life are well-documented, rather than the worship of an historical figure, Buddhist practice is quintessentially concerned with the everyday application of spiritual and meditative principles as a means of transforming suffering and realising the ‘Buddha nature’ (Sanskrit: sugatagarbha) that lies within each and every one of us.
To call ourselves a real Buddhist, we have understood that the Buddhist teachings are just one means of actualising a universal truth. They are a finger pointing to the moon and not the moon itself. For this reason, the Buddhist practitioner should be as comfortable with visiting a church, a synagogue, or a mosque, as they are with visiting a Buddhist Temple. In other words, to call oneself a real Buddhist, one has to let go of any kind of attachment to that label.
Please don’t try to own the Buddhadharma. Please don’t feel the need to retaliate against those who defile it. Please don’t try to make people become Buddhists. Please don’t try to become a great meditation teacher. Just simply be the teachings. Work in harmony with the conditions around you and allow your enlightened presence to grow organically. In time, that presence will be felt by everyone you meet. It will sound throughout the entire universe – like the roar of a lion in full prime.
Life is a very rare and precious happening. On this earth there are seven billion human beings and countless other sentient beings. The life that each being is living is happening uniquely and genuinely only to them. No life is the same.
The blackbird spent many lifetimes perfecting his song just so you could hear him – in that exact moment of time and space. She is singing just for you. Likewise, you spent many lifetimes perfecting yourself so that you could be present at that exact moment to hear what she has to say. The same is true for all of our encounters with all phenomena.
If we allow the mundane mind with its emotions, thoughts, feelings, and wrong views to invade that moment, then that moment will pass completely unacknowledged. The blackbird’s song will be missed and life will take a completely different course, captained by the unruly mind.
Understand that this life is yours to live. So train the mind to sit quietly and invite the mind to join you in this marvellous and wondrous adventure. Stop and sit in stillness. Listen to the colours of life, see the sounds of life, taste the joy of life, breathe, and allow life to breathe you.