Introduction to Meditation, Buddhism, and ceremonies
Buddhist Meditation: a brief guide
Buddhist meditation includes any method of meditation that has Enlightenment as its ultimate aim. Buddhist meditation practices are designed to provide us with a grounding in certain basic human qualities, to help us to become a happy, healthy human being - a necessary foundation for any deeper spiritual practice. From these we can deepen into ‘insight’ meditations. This leaflet summarises two central Buddhist practices: the Mindfulness of Breathing, and the Metta Bhavana, both of which are taught at Triratna Buddhist Community centres worldwide. These lead us naturally into deeper, more reflective, states of mind that may help us develop insight into the true nature of reality. Both go back to the time of the Buddha and have been practised ever since by millions of people of all types across the world. In essence, meditation teaches us to take full responsibility for our own states of mind, and offers us a means of transforming negative and reactive patterns in our minds into positive and creative ones. Such change can have a deeply transformative effect, and lead to new understandings of life. The secret of success for any meditation is good preparation and regular practice. Preparation includes both setting up our meditation posture, finding a suitable place for meditation, and - if we are to go at all deeply into meditation - leading an ethically simple and uncompromised life. To practise regularly we need confidence in the practice and in our own ability to change. As we go on, this confidence becomes more and more deeply rooted in our own personal experience.
The Mindfulness of Breathing: developing calm and concentration This practice helps us to develop a calm and concentrated mind. We learn to pull together the many scattered fragments of our emotional and mental energy into a single unified whole, with the natural consequence that our minds become more energised, focused, and wholehearted, and therefore, that our experience of life becomes clearer and more vivid, our choices more conscious and more meaningful. Some traditions say the Buddha was doing this practice as he became Enlightened.
This practice makes a very good companion to the Metta Bhavana. Both were taught and strongly recommended by the Buddha. We suggest that anyone developing a serious meditation practice alternates them equally. Summary of the four stages of the practice: · Begin by setting up your meditation posture and sitting quietly for a minute or two, to relax and settle yourself. Check your body for tension, and become aware of its general level of energy. Check the overall tone of your energy, emotions, and mental activity, acknowledging these as your starting point for this particular session of meditation.
1 Feel the sensation of the breathing as it flows naturally in and out of the body. Just after each breath leaves the body, mark it with a (mental) count of 'one', then 'two', etc. Count ten breaths, then start again at one. 2 After doing this for a short while (say 4-5 minutes) start counting each breath just before it enters the body, counting in the same way as before. 3 After a few minutes of stage 2, stop counting altogether, and simply follow with your mind the whole flow of your breathing.
4 Finally, direct your attention to the point where you most clearly feel the air entering and leaving the body. Focus your attention on the subtle sensations made by the air stimulating that point. · To end the practice, relax your effort and sit quietly doing nothing for a minute or two, absorbing the effects of the practice, and gradually allowing your attention to expand out again into your surroundings. It is important to end slowly and sensitively. Take time to reflect on how it went.
Throughout the practice, keep an overall perspective on how it is going, and look for ways to move into deeper states of concentration. These include adjusting your posture to balance energy that is too sluggish or too excited, consciously developing interest in your experience, and looking for enjoyment in the practice.
the development of loving-kindness Metta is almost impossible to translate adequately, but refers to strong, even passionate, feelings of love, friendliness, and compassion towards all life - feelings felt equally towards all, and completely free from emotional selfinterest or grasping. It is sometimes referred to as 'universal loving-kindness'. It is a fundamental attitude of positivity and love that will express itself spontaneously and appropriately in action: as compassion towards the suffering, joy at others' good fortune, help where help is needed, generosity towards the needy, and so on. Summary of the five stages of the practice: · Begin as for the Mindfulness of Breathing, checking your overall energy, emotions, and mental activity, acknowledging these as your starting point.
As you become more fully aware of yourself, develop a response of friendliness, interest, and kindness towards yourself, wishing yourself "happiness and the causes of happiness, freedom from suffering and the causes of suffering, growth and development". One approach is to repeat a suitable sentence to yourself over and over, listening for the resonances in your heart. Another way is to remember a time when you felt this way, and feed that memory with awareness, thereby bringing it into life in the present. Another is to imaginatively give yourself a gift - a flower, jewel, or flame, symbolising self-metta. 2 Move the focus of your awareness onto a good friend and work creatively to contact, develop, and deepen metta towards them, using similar methods to stage 1. Avoid choosing someone for whom you feel sexual or parental feelings.
3 Bring to mind a 'neutral' person, someone for whom you have no clear like or dislike. Look for ways to contact metta for them and then develop and deepen it. This may mean 'bringing them to life' in your mind, reflecting on what you have most deeply in common, or simply taking an imaginative interest in them. 4 Turn your attention to a 'difficult' person. Experience how you actually feel towards them, and try to cultivate a fresh and more mettaful response, perhaps looking for a deeper understanding of them.
5 Lastly, bring to mind all four people and develop metta equally towards all of them. Broaden out to include those around you, in the local area, the country, the world - other forms of life - all life. Develop strong, impartial, universal metta towards all life.
· To end, as in the Mindfulness of Breathing, relax your effort, and gradually expand your awareness outwards slowly and sensitively.
Working in Meditation: going deeper Once you have learnt the basic practice, there are many ways to take your experience deeper. The art of meditation is always to find a creative way to take your practice one step deeper.
The three keys to a good meditation posture are to be comfortable, relaxed, and alert. Experiment to find what suits you. Your knees should rest firmly on the ground to give you stability, your hands supported in front of you, your buttocks at the correct height, your head balanced, and your muscles relaxed.
Broadly speaking, we may suffer from too little energy available for our meditation or from too much unfocussed and distracted energy. Working with posture is the first thing to try: sitting up straighter or opening our eyes if our energy is low, bringing our attention down into our stomach or relaxing our muscles if it is too high and scattered.
Beyond this we may use the traditional list of the Five Hindrances:
- Sloth and Torpor
- Doubt and Indecision
both states of too little energy: stimulate mind and body
+ Restlessness and Worry
all excess/unfocussed energy;
-reduce distraction, calm the mind Work with these by naming them, thus acquiring a perspective on them; cultivating the opposite; considering the consequences of living forever in them; or - if all else fails - allowing them to pass in their own time by adopting a 'sky-like mind'.
A daily meditation practice is essential for real progress in meditation. Finding a place and time that suit you, meditating with others, keeping a meditation journal, reading and learning more about meditation - all these may help you to develop a regular practice. Keep your practice clear, bright, and creative. Enjoy! ?
a rough guide
Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of life. Buddhist practices are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow such a path - a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent; actions have consequences; change is possible. Thus Buddhism addresses itself to all people irrespective of race, nationality, or gender. Buddhism teaches practical methods (such as meditation) which enable people to realise and utilise its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion.
There are many ways to describe the path of Buddhism; this leaflet presents its teaching of the well-known Noble Eightfold Path in a simple twopart division: the Path of Vision and the Path of Transformation.
The text is based on the first two of the Eight-Fold Path lectures given by Sangharakshita. The Path of Vision:
glimpsing the nature of existence Buddhism begins with a vision of the nature of existence, the Truth or the Reality of things. This is the Path of Vision, darsana-marga in Sanskrit, the first step of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. Perfect Vision represents the phase of initial spiritual insight and experience. This may arise many different ways for different people: personal tragedy and loss; spontaneous mystical experience; by experience of nature or the arts, from deep thought, philosophical study, or meditation; as the result of altruistic activity or our whole experience of life; even in a dream. There is no uniform pattern.
But however it arises, we should be very careful we do not lose or forget it: this so easily happens. Buddhism itself has employed many means to communicate its vision of Truth: images such as the Wheel of Life and the Six Realms, representations of the Buddha himself and later elaborations such as the Mandala of the Five Buddhas, also the very image of the Path itself. All these communicate in some way a vision of our actual present state of spiritual bondage, our future potential state of Enlightenment and the way leading from the one to the other.
Conceptually speaking, Perfect Vision is often explained in terms of experiencing the truth of Buddhist concepts such as the Three Laksanas or Characteristics of Conditioned Existence: these teach that conditioned existence is ‘marked’, or shot through, with dukkha, or unsatisfactoriness; anitya, or impermanence; and anatman, or the absence of any fixed selfhood. Other formulations include the Four Noble Truths, Karma and Rebirth, and the Four Sunyatas or Emptinesses. Buddhist concepts may be compared to a map, whose study can lead us to a glimpse of the mountain itself: however the territory is described, it is important to remember Perfect Vision is a glimpse of Reality that is quite simple, direct, and immediate, and more of the nature of a spiritual experience than intellectual understanding.
After Vision comes Transformation: transformation of one's whole being in all its heights and depths, from top to bottom, in accordance with one’s insight and experience.
The Path of Transformation:
cease to do evil, learn to do good The Path of Transformation is a complete, total, and thoroughgoing transformation of one's emotional life, speech, communication with other people, relationships, livelihood and more. The Path of Transformation aims to enable us to bring the whole of our being on all levels up to the level of the highest moments of our lives. This is what it really means to follow the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Buddhism sees life as a process of constant change, and its practices aim to take advantage of this fact.
It means that one can change for the better. The decisive factor in changing oneself is the mind, and Buddhism has developed many methods for working on the mind - most importantly, the practise of meditation. Meditation is a way of developing more positive states of mind that are characterised by calm, concentration, awareness, and kindness. Using the awareness developed in meditation it is possible to have a deep understanding of oneself, other people, and of life itself.
One aspect of Transformation is a giving up of all that limits us or holds us back. This is the practice of renunciation or nekkhama. This springs naturally from a decrease of craving within us, consequent upon our vision of the true nature of conditioned things. It manifests as stillness, simplicity, and contentment.
The positive aspect of transformation consists in cultivating the remainder of the Eightfold Path: Perfect Emotion,
Perfect Mindfulness, and
To take just the first, the positive aspect of Perfect Emotion consists in developing dana, maitri and karuna: generosity, loving-kindness, and compassion. These are followed by mudita and upeksa: sympathetic joy and tranquillity, and finally sraddha - faith and devotion. The central problem of the spiritual life - for most people at least – is to find emotional equivalents for their intellectual understanding.
This is illustrated in the well-known story of the great Indian teacher Bodhidharma meeting the Emperor of China. The Emperor asked, 'What is the fundamental principle of Buddhism?' Bodhidharma answered 'Cease to do evil, learn to do good, purify the heart'. The Emperor was rather taken back, and said 'Is that all? Even a child of three can understand that!' And Bodhidharma replied: 'Yes your majesty: but even an old man of eighty cannot put it into practice!'.
Introduction to Triratna
Buddhism for the modern world The Triratna Buddhist Community is an international network dedicated to communicating Buddhist truths in ways appropriate to the modern world. Originally known as the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order), it was founded in London in 1968 by Sangharakshita. Having originally taken ordination as a Theravadin Bhikkhu in India, during his twenty years practicing Buddhism on the Indo- Tibetan border he went on to take initiations from a number of the Lamas escaping the Chinese occupation of Tibet. When he returned to England, he experienced first-hand the limited context in which Westerners had to practice the Dharma and his response was to found a new Buddhist movement.
Bringing Buddhism into an entirely new culture implied to Sangharakshita that we needed to go back to basics — to look at the principles underlying all forms of Buddhism and work out how best to apply them in this new context.
So Triratna is based on the principle of ‘critical ecumenicalism’: aligned to no one traditional school, but drawing on the whole stream of Buddhist inspiration. Now that Buddhism has come to the West, Westerners are faced with the task of creating new and viable Buddhist traditions for the modern world. Triratna has pioneered new structures that allow people to live out Buddhist teachings as an authentic Buddhist way of life in the 21st century: team-based right livelihood businesses, communities, socially engaged fundraising projects such as the Karuna Trust, and more.
Over the last forty years the Triratna Buddhist Community has grown to be one of the largest Buddhist movements in the West, with centres and activities in many cities around the world including India. According to Sangharakshita, Triratna has six distinctive features, which constitute its particular individuality - an individuality which has developed as a result of practicing the Dharma under the conditions of modern, industrialised, urbanised, secularised, living; conditions which are fast becoming worldwide.
First, the Triratna Buddhist Community is an ecumenical movement, signifying that in principle it accepts the whole Buddhist tradition as it has developed over the centuries in the East. Specifically it bases itself upon the principle of critical ecumenicalism, trying to understand what the various texts and traditions really mean - and to apply that meaning to the living of our lives as Buddhists.
Secondly, it is a unified movement in the sense that membership of Triratna is open to all regardless of nationality, race, colour, education, class or caste, cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, or age: it seeks to welcome and value all as individuals. More specifically, the Triratna Buddhist Order is open to both men and women on fully equal terms: this is revolutionary compared to traditional Eastern Buddhism, where ordination (or its equivalent) is generally not open to women. Thirdly, it holds the act of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha) to be the central and definitive act of a Buddhist.
Fourthly, Triratna places great on spiritual friendship or kalyana mitrata, and fifthly, on team based right livelihood, where it has been a pioneer in the field. Sixthly and lastly, it emphasises the importance of the Arts for the spiritual life, seeing them as potentially bearers of spiritual values, which can help people to transform their lives. In the last 40 years the Triratna Buddhist Community has grown into a movement with dozens of centres all over the world. And not only in the West — Triratna has a substantial presence in India, as well as Dharma activities in other developing countries.
Sangharakshita has now handed-on responsibility for the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order’s spiritual vitality to his followers. Triratna is entering a new phase of growth and consolidation, learning from, and building upon its history, and developing into a broad-based, mature and experienced spiritual community. It is playing a significant role in bringing Buddhism to the West.
In India Triratna is known as the Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha, where it has been established for some 30 years. The work in India has two aspects: firstly providing facilities for teaching the Dharma among Buddhists from the communities formerly known as ‘untouchable’, and secondly running social work projects to contribute to the betterment of those communities. Much of this is funded by the Karuna Trust and other Triratna projects in the West.
Basic Triratna texts
The Threefold Puja
We reverence the Buddha,
The Perfectly Enlightened One, The Shower of the Way.
We reverence the Dharma,
The Teaching of the Buddha,
Which leads from darkness to light. We reverence the Sangha,
The fellowship of the Buddha's disciples, That inspires and guides.
Offerings to the Buddha
Reverencing the Buddha, we offer flowers: Flowers that today are fresh and sweetly blooming, Flowers that tomorrow are faded and fallen. Our bodies too, like flowers, will pass away. Reverencing the Buddha, we offer candles: To him who is the light, we offer light. From his greater lamp a lesser lamp we light within us:
The lamp of Bodhi shining within our hearts. Reverencing the Buddha, we offer incense: incense whose fragrance pervades the air. The fragrance of the perfect life, sweeter than incense
Spreads in all directions throughout the world Reverence to the Three Jewels We reverence the Buddha, and aspire to follow him. The Buddha was born as we are born. What the Buddha attained we too can attain What the Buddha overcame we too can overcome. We reverence the Dharma, and aspire to follow it With body, speech and mind, until the end. The truth in all its aspects, the path in all its stages, We aspire to study, practise, realise. We reverence the Sangha, and aspire to follow it; The fellowship of those who tread the way. As, one by one, we make our own commitment, An ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows. The Dedication Ceremony
We dedicate this place to the Three Jewels: To the Buddha, the Ideal of Enlightenment to which we aspire;
To the Dharma, the Path of the Teaching which we follow;
To the Sangha, the spiritual fellowship with one another which we enjoy.
Here may no idle word be spoken; Here may no unquiet thought disturb our minds. To the observance of the Five Precepts We dedicate this place;
To the practice of meditation We dedicate this place;
To the development of wisdom
We dedicate this place;
To the attainment of Enlightenment We dedicate this place.
Though in the world outside there is strife Here may there be peace;
Though in the world outside there is hate Here may there be love;
Though in the world outside there is grief Here may there be joy.
Not by the chanting of the sacred Scriptures, Not by the sprinkling of holy water, But by own efforts towards Enlightenment We dedicate this place.
Around this Mandala, this sacred spot, May the lotus petals of purity open; Around this Mandala, this sacred spot, May the vajra-wall of determination extend; Around this Mandala, this sacred spot, May the flames that transmute Samsara into Nirvana arise.
Here seated, here practising, May our mind become Buddha,
May our thought become Dharma, May our communication with one another be Sangha.
For the happiness of all beings, For the benefit of all beings, With body, speech, and mind,
We dedicate this place.
The Sevenfold Puja
With mandarava, blue lotus and jasmine, With all flowers, pleasing and fragrant, And with garlands skilfully woven, I pay honour to the princes of the sages, So worthy of veneration.
I envelop them in clouds of incense, Sweet and penetrating;
I make them offerings of food, hard and soft, And pleasing kinds of liquids to drink. I offer them lamps encrusted with jewels, Festooned with golden lotus,
On the paving, sprinkled with perfume, I scatter handfuls of beautiful flowers.
Om Mani Padme Hum
As many atoms as there are,
In the thousand million worlds, So many times I make reverent salutation To all the Buddhas of the three eras, To the Saddharma,
And to the excellent Community. I pay homage to all the shrines And places in which the Bodhisattvas have been.
I make profound obeisance to the teachers And those to whom respectful salutation is due.
GOING FOR REFUGE
This very day,
I go for my refuge
To the powerful Protectors,
Whose purpose is to guard the universe, The mighty conquerors who overcome suffering everywhere.
Wholeheartedly also I take my refuge In the Dharma they have ascertained, Which is the abode of security against the rounds of rebirth;
Likewise in the host of Bodhisattvas I take my refuge.
refuges and precepts
CONFESSION OF EVIL
The evil which I have heaped up Through my ignorance and foolishness - Evil in the world of everyday experience, As well as evil in understanding and intelligence -
All that I acknowledge to the Protectors. Standing before them
With hands raised in reverence, And terrified of suffering,
I pay salutations again and again. May the leaders receive this kindly, Just as it is, with its many faults! What is not good, O Protectors, I shall not do again.
REJOICING IN MERIT
I rejoice with delight
In the good done by all beings, Through which they obtain rest With the end of suffering.
May those who have suffered be happy! I rejoice in the release of beings From the sufferings of the rounds of existence; I rejoice in the nature of the Bodhisattva And the Buddha,
Who are Protectors.
I rejoice in the arising of the Will to Enlightenment,
And the Teaching:
Those oceans which bring happiness to all beings,
And are the abode of welfare of all beings. ENTREATY AND SUPPLICATION
Saluting them with folded hands I entreat the Buddhas in all the quarters: May they make shine the lamp of the Dharma For those wandering in the suffering of delusion!
With hands folded in reverence I implore the conquerors desiring to enter Nirvana:
May they remain here for endless ages, So that life in this world does not grow dark. Reading and the Heart Sutra
May the merit gained
In my acting thus
Go to the alleviation of the suffering of all beings.
My personality throughout my existences, My possessions,
And my merit in all three ways, I give up without regard to myself For the benefit of all beings. Just as the earth and other elements Are serviceable in many ways
To the infinite number of beings, Inhabiting limitless space,
So may I become
That which maintains all beings Situated throughout space,
So long as all have not attained To peace.
om ah hum jetsun guru Padma siddhi hum (Padmasambhava mantra)
om mani padme hum (Avalokitesvara) om a ra pa ca na dhih (Manjusri) om vajrapani hum (Vajrapani)
om tare tuttare ture svaha (Tara) om amideva hrih (Amitabha)
om muni muni maha muni sakyamuni svaha (Sakyamuni Buddha)
om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum (Padmasambhava)
gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha (Prajnaparamita/blue sky)
om santi santi santi
the Refuges and Precepts
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato
Buddham Saranam Gacchami
Dhammam Saranam Gacchami
Sangham Saranam Gacchami
Dutiyampi Buddham Saranam Gacchami Dutiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchami Dutiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchami Tatiyampi Buddham Saranam Gacchami Tatiyampi Dhammam Saranam Gacchami Tatiyampi Sangham Saranam Gacchami translation
Homage to Him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One! (x3) To the Buddha for refuge I go. To the Dharma for refuge I go. To the Sangha for refuge I go. For the second time to the Buddha for refuge I go. For the second time to the Dharma for refuge I go. For the second time to the Sangha for refuge I go. For the third time to the Buddha for refuge I go. For the third time to the Dharma for refuge I go. For the third time to the Sangha for refuge I go. five precepts
Panatipata Veramani Sikkhapadam Samadiyami Adinnadana Veramani Sikkhapadam Samadiyami Kamesu Micchacara Veramani Sikkhapadam Samadiyami
Musavada Veramani Sikkhapadam Samadiyami Surameraya Majja Pamadatthana Veramani Sikkhapadam Samadiyami
sadhu sadhu sadhu
the positive precepts
With deeds of loving kindness, I purify my body. With open-handed generosity, I purify my body. With stillness, simplicity, and contentment, I purify my body.
With truthful communication, I purify my speech. With mindfulness clear and radiant, I purify my mind.
I undertake to abstain from taking life. I undertake to abstain from taking the not-given. I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct. I undertake to abstain from false speech. I undertake to abstain from taking intoxicants.
The Bodhisattva of Compassion, When he meditated deeply,
Saw the emptiness of all five skandhas And sundered the bonds that caused him suffering.
Form is no other than emptiness, Emptiness no other than form. Form is only emptiness,
Emptiness only form.
Feeling, thought, and choice, Consciousness itself,
Are the same as this.
All things are by nature void They are not born or destroyed Nor are they stained or pure
Nor do they wax or wane
So, in emptiness, no form,
No feeling, thought, or choice, Nor is there consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No colour, sound, smell, taste, touch, Or what the mind takes hold of, Nor even act of sensing.
No ignorance or end of it,
Nor all that comes of ignorance; No withering, no death,
No end of them.
Nor is there pain, or cause of pain, Or cease in pain, or noble path To lead from pain;
Not even wisdom to attain!
Attainment too is emptiness.
So know that the Bodhisattva
Holding to nothing whatever,
But dwelling in Prajna wisdom, Is freed of delusive hindrance, Rid of the fear bred by it,
And reaches clearest Nirvana. All Buddhas of past and present, Buddhas of future time,
Using this Prajna wisdom,
Come to full and perfect vision. Hear then the great dharani,
The radiant peerless mantra,
Whose words allay all pain;
Hear and believe its truth!
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha