Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Meditation - 'what the Buddha learnt'

'Prayer is talking to God; meditation is listening to God'

Meditation or quiet, contemplative, inner reflection features prominently in all of the worlds great religious movements. Its guise just assumes different forms.

Starting a spiritual journey often entails looking for inspiration, guidance and insights from others who have travelled similar paths.  Once you begin delving into the backgrounds of some of the world’s great prophets, masters, spiritual teachers you discover that almost all accessed a higher Truth, by going within.

On the Buddhist path, battling the ego to liberate the mind through meditation is a fundamental part of the journey and as the Buddha’s life shows, it is a battle and journey worth taking.  For as Prince Siddhartha discovered, only by turning inward are we able to realise our true potential and in doing so, transcend suffering in its entirety.

For years the Prince searched for an answer to this very problem 'why do we suffer and how do we transcend it?'. It was a search that eventually led him to Bodhgaya where he sat beneath a Bodhi tree for seven weeks, absorbed in sustained, contemplative meditation.


During that time he analysed, came to understand and finally experience, the true nature of all existence, including his mind, a vast, stainless, pristine awareness, unencumbered and limitless in potential.

He also discovered he was not unique - everyone was blessed with this same ‘Buddha nature’.  He saw all of his past and future lives, understood how karma worked, recognized the changeable, impermanent, empty nature of all phenomena and that ignorance of this fundamental fact was the root cause of all suffering.

He understood that because we are unaware, don’t know of or recognise that inherent, enlightened aspect at the very core of our being, our entire existence is spent identifying with and through the ego - our false notion of a permanent self or “I“. That it was this delusion that gave rise to all our problems and issues and subsequent suffering.

And, fortunately for us, the Buddha also saw the path that was needed to fully transcended this endless cycle.  When he finally rose from his reverie, the Prince had become a fully enlightened Buddha. Without meditation the Prince’s story would have read very differently, the Buddhist path would not have come into existence.

I have met many people who struggle with meditation. They all say the same thing, “I cant get my mind to stay still long enough to focus”. When I started out on this path, I struggled with it to - at times I still do. It can be a hard thing sitting down with the intention of stilling a monkey mind that would rather be jumping and dashing all over the place.

Quite simply, our minds are not use to being still. Even when we sleep, our minds are engaged, overflowing and immersed in restless dream imagery. From the moment we first draw breath in the world till the time we leave it, our minds are continually bombarded with sensory stimuli. Superficially speaking, satiating our senses and desires is what we are all about. Is it any wonder then that for some of us, meditation can be nothing more than a battle?

And what about peace?   Meditation is suppose to be a peaceful practise which generates great calm. But trying to subdue the mind can be anything but peaceful - it’s not surprising that many people give up in despair.  Is it really possible or even necessary to tame our monkey minds anyway?

If however, like Prince Siddhartha Gotama, you have reached a point in your life where you feel the urgency, the undeniable need to embark on some serious 'soul searching', then as the Buddha’s example clearly shows, mastering the mind through the simple yet often difficult act of meditation is crucial to uncovering great, inner truth.

Meditation allows us to look at ourselves through a microscopic lens with complete and at times raw, honesty. And more often than not, we don’t want to look at ourselves - to do so can be very confronting. Often, we would rather do anything else than turn our attention inward, to closely assess and address our bias, prejudice, hang-ups and issues.   It is much easier to ignore our faults, deny their existence, shift blame to someone else - even the world in general, than to have that hard and honest, much needed internal dialogue with ourselves.

But to fully understand, to discover and learn the truth about who and what we really are, the exact nature of our true potential, we have to go deep inside ourselves. Uncover and sift through the layers, to find and expose the jewel that is buried deep within. 

Perseverance is fundamental to successful meditation. Like anything else, you get better at it the more you do it, so that eventually,

' [...]we create an inner space and clarity that enables us to control our mind regardless of the external circumstances. Gradually we develop mental equilibrium, a balanced mind that is happy all the time, rather than an unbalanced mind that oscillates between the extremes of excitement and despondency.

If we train in meditation systematically, eventually we will be able to eradicate from our mind the delusions that are the causes of all our problems and suffering. In this way, we will come to experience a permanent inner peace, known as "liberation" or "nirvana". Then, day and night in life after life, we will experience only peace and happiness'.

You may also like 'The practise of pure altruism - a Buddhist perspective' in Popular Posts  


Monday, 29 October 2012

Interfaith Reflection - 'HH. Dalai Lama'


Find more wise words and insights from the Dalai Lama in the Archives - see also Advocates for Peace - the Dalai Lama in May Archives.  You may also like Prayers for Peace in the Pages section and the various Peace posts that featured in September.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Interfaith book - 'Seeking the Sacred'


From the moment I first spied this beautiful book I was captivated - the cover itself is a subtle suggestion of the divine at work in it's pages.  Then I opened the book... and fell in love.

First with Iqbal whose poetry entranced,

Who can tell what miracle
Love has in store for us
If only we can find the courage
to become one with it?

Everything we now know
is only the beginning of another knowing
that has no end.

Then with Stephanie Dowrick and her precious book.  Seeking the Sacred: transforming our view of ourselves and one another has become a constant companion of mine. 

Through deep and honest personal reflection, the shared stories of others and beautiful insights drawn from a range of different faith traditions, Stephanie shows how 'the sacred can transform the way we understand and value life, changing forever how we interact with others and care for ourselves'.

There is little doubt that by doing so we are able to go 'beyond cultural divisions and religious cliches to discover what makes our lives sacred, satisfying and meaningful'.   The book offers me much - wisdom, insight, spiritual sustenance, moments for quiet reflection, guidance and inspiration. 

As well as Iqbal's timeless wisdom,  the book contains many more such beautiful reflections, teachings and scriptures from a range of different wisdom and faith traditions, all of which allow us to pause...wonder...and marvel.

Seeking the Sacred is like a chalice of wisdom. It overflows with inspired and inspiring quotes and teachings…Through it all is Stephanie Dowrick’s distinct voice…her empathy for how hard the journey is shines alongside her belief that the sacred can illuminate the way home.… While Seeking the Sacred is about personal transformation, it is a political, even polemical work… a rallying cry that to save the planet we must shed our spiritual and cultural provincialism… - Claire Scobie, Sydney Morning Herald.

Seeking the Sacred is the most profound book for those of us who are exploring in the deepest way through our lives the reality that we are ‘spiritual beings on a human path’. …I have cried and laughed and shared the stories and teachings from this book during the past few days with so many friends and family…It’s a mirror of our inclusive spiritual journeys reaching across many different paths and so needed in the time in our world.Reverend Hilary Star, Auckland, NZ

See Pages for more Great Reads.  You might also like A World of Prayer in August Archives

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Wise words - 'Sister Joan Chittister'


'We are spiritual resources for one another. Every one of those ideas is embedded in the Christian scriptures itself, as far as I’m concerned. But when I see them emphasised, under-lined, lived out with a more startling awareness in others, then I’m brought back, to the fulfilment of my own'.

- Sister Joan Chittister

Sister Joan D. Chittister, O.S.B. is a Benedictine nun, author and speaker. A member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania, where she served as prioress for 12 years, Sister Joan is an author and lecturer.

See Archives for 'wise words' by - Frank Baum, Einstein, Pope Benedict and more

Monday, 22 October 2012

Insight - 'Thomas Berry'

image sourced:freedigitalphotos.net
'If we have powers of imagination, these are activated by the magic display of color and sound, of form and movement, such as we observe in the clouds of the sky, the trees and the bushes and flowers, the water and the wind, the singing birds, and the movement of the great blue whale through the sea. If we have words with which to speak and think and commune, words for the inner experience of the divine, words for the intimacies of life, if we have words for telling stories to our children, words with which we can sing, it is again because of the impressions we have received from the variety of beings about us'.

- Thomas Berry

See 'Archives' for insights by Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama, Luther Standing Bear and more...

Friday, 19 October 2012

Religious Festivals - 'Eid al-Adha'

Blue Mosque

Religious celebrations and holidays or ‘holy’ days are honored and celebrated in all of the world’s faith traditions. In the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha is celebrated on the second day after Hajj – the fifth pillar of Islam and annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

All Muslims are encouraged to make this significant pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime and those who can afford to do so, visit sacred sites and conduct important rituals in and around the Holy Cities of Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia.

As a religious holiday, Eid al Adha is celebrated by Muslims around the globe in recognition of the willingness of Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an ultimate act of obedience to God - God provided Abraham with a sheep to sacrifice instead of his son.

Honoured by all Muslims with deep reverence and in remembrance of Abraham's ultimate submission to God, the day gives Muslims an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices they are also willing to make. Traditional foods, sweets and drinks are prepared for the event and the day is spent in prayer to God, giving thanks, eating and visiting friends. Sacrifice to those in need is also encouraged.

Blue Mosque

This year the Festival of Eid al-Adha is celebrated on Friday 26th October 2012, the 10th day of the Islamic month, Zul-Hijjah. The ‘month of Hajj’ is the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar and is a period of immense annual worship which gives this period a special significance for Muslims.

On the ninth day of Zul-Hijjah - the Day of Arafah, Muslim’s dress in white, gather and perform Hajj at the Mount of Arafah in Makkah.  During this significant part of the Hajj, pilgrims supplicate, give thanks and pray ‘to God for all the blessings bestowed upon them' - those not attending the pilgrimage often spend the day fasting.

I wish all Eid al-Adha pilgrims a safe and uplifting journey

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Hindu Wisdom - 'Castle of Brahman'

The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe.  The heavens and earth are there, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars; the fire and lightening and winds are there; and that now is and all that is not: for the whole universe is Him and He dwells within our heart...This is the real castle of Brahman wherein dwells all the love of the universe.  It is Atman, pure spirit, beyond sorrow, old age, and death; beyond evil and hunger and thirst.  It is Atman whose love is Truth, whose thoughts are Truth.

- Chandogya Upanishad

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Quiet reflection - 'Tariq Ramadan'

Humility is my table, respect is my garment, empathy is my food
and curiosity is my drink.  As for love, it has a thousand names
 and is by my side at every window.

 - Tariq Ramadan

click 'labels' below for reflections by Rumi, Hafiz and more