Monday, 13 July 2009

bare knowledge and repeated mindfulness

Yesterday I went to a dharma day inspired by the Satipatthana Sutra at London Buddhist Centre. It was a really great day, rich inspiration for practice. The previous day i listened to this reading of the Sutra from this page (second one down - also with links to three alternative translations from different scholars) several times. It is really lovely to listen to, and I am listening to it again now. 'New technology' is hardly news, and technology for recording and listening to the human voice has been around for a while, but this access we have now to dharma and meditations is absolutely unparalleled, and I continue to be struck by the astounding implications - you can have world reknowned teachers talking to you in your own home, and if you want to hear the talk again, you can! This is a mutation on the contemplative life which simply could not have existed at all before the last very few years. Of course, this also means there is an active world wide sangha, again, at a previously unimaginable level. We live in very particular times.
All the better to apprehend the very simplicity of teachings. Here, in the Satipatthana Sutra we are assured that with 'bare knowledge and repeated mindfulness' we have enough material to take our practice all the way.

Digham va assasanto digham assasamiti pajanati digham va passasanto digham passasamiti pajanati: = "He, thinking, 'I breathe in long,' understands when he is breathing in long; or thinking, 'I breathe out long,' he understands when he is breathing out long.

Our day was a mixture of talks and practices, I won't attempt to document it all, but there were two things beyond the Sutra itself (yes, still listening to it!) that are particularly in my mind to write about. Ratnachuda led us in an unusual version of Metta Bhavana. In the FWBO we learn and practice Metta Bhavana alternately with mindfulness of breathing from the beginning, it is not seen as either an optional or an advanced meditation, but one to be engaged in from day one (or day two!) Usually we are reminded that we chould choose for our difficult person someone we have a minor irritation with. Being foolish, I had taken a bit of a detour for the past year or so and had chosen to use someone very difficult for me, and had reached a point where it really wasn't Metta i was practicing, but a kind of harmful masochistic clinging. One day recently I simply couldn't engage with it at all. I had reached an impasse. I thought of 'only' doing myself, and then I thought of just taking the instruction to use an easier person more seriously. I am not sure why I had dismissed the idea of working just with myself so quickly, and I am indebted to Ratnacuda for leading the meditation in this way otherwise I might never have experienced it. He suggested thinking of the part of yourself that you find easiest as your easy person, and working through to a part of yourself that you are less happy with as your difficult person. I found it really productive and healing, and I would certainly use it again. What was I doing using someone I find so harmful in my meditation? What does it say about the Metta I have been offering myself?
The whole day went in to the evening, with Mitra ceremonies and a Puja, but I was never going to last that long, and I was really tired (I have fibromyalgia and get very tired) and I was just thinking of going home when Dhammarati arrived. Because of my illness there are lots of order members who I don't know because I rarely go to LBC in the evenings. So, even though I spend a lot of time there, there are still plenty of people I don't know. I have to admit now, that I do not remember the name of the order member I was talking to when he arrived, but they knew each other and she introduced us, and he shook my hand. His presence was of an order that I thought, ok, let me just stay for this one last talk. And I am very glad I did. He talked very plainly about the Sutra, and about practice. Very insightfully. And he brought the day together in it's conceptual simplicity; everything you need to know to practice, you probably already know. You just need to do it deeper.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree about how nice it is to listen to the books or lessons being read through audio. You can really pick up on the authors inflections and its easier to close your eyes and practice instead of holding a book. I have a ton of Dharma books on audio now, probably taking up a lot of space on my ipod. :-)