Late July / August 2012
"If speech has five marks, O monks, it is well spoken, not badly spoken, blameless and above reproach by the wise.
What are these five marks?
It is speech that is timely, true, gentle, purposeful, and spoken with a mind of loving-kindness."
- Well Spoken Words (Anguttara Nikaya 5.198)
Falling into Meditation...
Vipassanā Fellowship's Autumn 12 week online meditation course begins on 15th September. It provides a great opportunity to start learning to meditate - or to develop an existing mindfulness practice in the company of others from around the world. We will focus on developing a fruitful and sustainable meditation practice.
The courses have been offered since 1997 and they have proven helpful to meditators in many countries. The 12 week course serves as a practical introduction to samatha (tranquillity or serenity) and vipassanā (insight) techniques. Intended primarily for beginners, of any faith or none, the course is also suitable for experienced meditators who wish to explore different aspects of the tradition. The emphasis is on building a balanced meditation practice that is compatible with home life.
The course offers daily material for each of the 12 weeks, interaction between participants and support from the tutor. Participants also have access to an audio supplement containing guided meditations and chants to support the online material. The course will be led by Andrew Quernmore, an experienced meditation teacher based in England.
The course begins on September 15th and ends on December 7th. Application details and further information is available here:
Lay Life, Lay Practice - August's topic at Parisā
Our Parisā support community is for former course participants; if you have taken one or more of our online courses you are eligible to subscribe. Parisā provides themed teachings each month, year round, and access to our latest course.
by Ananda Pereira
"Look now, O bhikkhus, I urge you:
Transient innately are all compounds,
With zeal work out your aim."
—Maha Parinibbana Sutta
These were the last words of the dying Buddha. They were plain, simple, direct words, going straight to the heart of things. For countless aeons he had perfected himself in order that he might teach living beings the way to end suffering, once and for all. In his final existence, as a Buddha, He bent all his tremendous power to that one end, never sparing Himself, never postponing for tomorrow that which could be done today. And at last, when that glorious life was at its end, these were the words he spoke. They crystalize the very essence, of His teaching, and may well serve as a motto for all Buddhists,
We Buddhists of today are feeble specimens indeed, in comparison with the Buddha and the mighty Arahants. We, most of us, regard life as desirable on the whole. We mouth the Buddha’s words and profess to follow his teaching, but our actions are sadly lacking in that zeal, that wholehearted endeavour that is necessary for success. We are like people who have queued up and are patiently waiting at a motor bus halting-place. The Gotama Buddha bus has not yet arrived. So we are waiting, kicking our heels and whiling away the time in silly gossip about motor buses and the service they do for the public. We are waiting to pay our few miserable cents for a ticket to Nibbana and to be carried there in comfort by Metteyya Buddha, without the slightest exertion on our part. Nothing on earth will induce us to walk.
But, alas, the dispensation of a Buddha is not a motor bus or any other kind of conveyance in which people are carried to Nibbana. Buddhas are only teachers, though in the highest sense of the word, they teach the Way of Deliverance. Gotama Buddha’s teaching still exists in the world, and if we are unable to profit from it and begin to work for Deliverance now, it is futile to expect that we will achieve that end when we hear the identical teaching from Metteyya Buddha. The teaching is clear enough and cannot possibly be made clearer. If anything is lacking, it is lacking in ourselves.
What then should we do? First of all we must get rid of the halting-place mentality. We must realise that Nibbana is to be attained by our own personal endeavour and that it is not a paradise to which we can be carried by a Buddha. Buddha’s are powerful, more powerful by far than any other living beings. But this is something that even Buddhas cannot do. All beings must work out their own salvation.
Having once realized this, we must get going here and now, following the Buddha’s teaching and making a sincere effort to live the sort of life that leads to Nibbana. "With zeal work out your aim," said the Buddha. Let us take that to heart. With zeal let us observe the precepts of virtue. With zeal let us practise the perfections. With zeal let us endeavour to purify and calm our minds, following the methods that he taught. Let us use the opportunities we have here and now.
Source: BPS Sri Lanka, For Free Distribution. Wheel 45-6 (extract).
"How is it that everything wishes for peace?" someone may ask. "There are many things which take pleasure in being other, different, and distinct, and they would never freely choose to be at rest." This is true, assuming that what is meant here is that being other and being different refer to the individuality of each thing and to the fact that nothing tries to lose its individuality. Yet, as I will try to show, this situation is itself due to the desire for peace. For everything loves to be at peace with itself, to be at one, and never to move or fall away from its own existence and from what it has. And perfect Peace is there as a gift, guarding without confusion the individuality of each, providentially ensuring that all things are quiet and free of confusion within themselves and from without, that all things are unshakably what they are and that they have peace and rest.
- Pseudo-Dionysius (5th/6th Century)
Today is the final day of the meditation course I've been teaching over at Vipassanā Fellowship since April. As always, we've been a very eclectic bunch of meditators from different religious traditions and cultures. We've explored calm and insight techniques from the Theravāda school in the hope that this intensive period of dedicated practice will enrich our individual and collective spiritual journeys. It has been fruitful and so much fun to engage with such a lovely group of enthusiastic meditators.
The wet summer here in England has produced some very lush and overgrown gardens. At a retreat centre the other day, I happened upon an absolutely enchanting spot just after the latest rainfall. The images at the top of this newsletter and below are from this visit.
I head off for my own meditation journey soon and will be away from email during August. There may be occasional blog posts at quernmore.com from my retreat. I’ll see how it goes. You can also follow me on Twitter - @andque - though I hope to be fairly quiet over the next month and should spring back into action in September :-)
I'm looking forward to leading our next online meditation course from September 15th and applications can be submitted over the summer. The course lasts 12 weeks and is intended for both beginners and those looking to refresh their sitting practice. The methods used are, as usual, early Buddhist but applicable to anyone with a contemplative spirit. We’re usually a very varied group of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Agnostics sitting together in a common pursuit from our many different countries. Course Details
I hope to run a new local course in the Autumn here in Southport (NW England). If anyone lives close by and would like to attend please let me know in September. We will meet together for about 6 weeks to explore the Meditative Culture of Compassion and Love. This may later develop into an online version for those of you who can't make the local version.
All the best for the rest of the Summer,
Our Newsletter is Changing
You may have noticed that we've introduced a new logo at the top of our recent newsletters. From late September 2012 the vipassana.com newsletter will broaden its scope to become The Meditation Newsletter - covering a wider range of contemplative and meditation topics. Our circulation is currently about 8,000 copies per month and we'd like to reflect a little of the diversity of our readership. We will still focus on Buddhist meditation in the Theravāda tradition but alongside other complementary practices, creative and cultural reflections, reviews and ideas from other sources. We hope you will like the changes. You will also be able to access the newsletter online at its own dedicated site.
The Meditation Newsletter is published almost monthly and is sent only on request and to previous participants of our courses. Our next mailing will be the September edition. Our main site, with full details of our courses, can be accessed at http://www.vipassana.com
Meditation Newsletter © Copyright 2012, Vipassanā Fellowship Ltd. (Registered in England No. 4730782).