The origin of the Triratna system of practice
Jul25

The origin of the Triratna system of practice

25th July 2016 – Talk on how the spiritual system that is used within the Triratna Buddhist Community has developed throughout Buddhist history.    ...

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West London Buddhist Centre
Jun23

West London Buddhist Centre

Here are some images of the new West London Buddhist Centre, 45a Porchester Road, Royal Oak, London....

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The Dhyanas: the path of skilfulness
Mar09

The Dhyanas: the path of skilfulness

The dhyanas are higher states of consciousness that can be experienced in meditation. Below is a video of a talk I gave on them at the Manchester Buddhist Centre on 9 March 2015. (57 mins)...

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Ethics and ‘non-self’
Mar09

Ethics and ‘non-self’

Article published in April 2015 issue of Shabda, the internal journal of the Triratna Buddhist Order.   I just gave a talk at the Manchester Centre entitled “The Dhyanas: the path of skilfulness” (the video should be available soon on the MBC website and on Video Sangha.) It was quite interesting giving that talk as it pushed my thinking along in relation to how insight (and therefore any realization of ‘non-self’) is inextricably woven together with ethics. I have come to realize that insight in Buddhism is always insight only in the context of an ethical view. The Buddha urged his monks to practise dhyana, and in his early lectures Bhante Sangharakshita talks a lot about dhyana. He focuses particularly on how to get into the dhyanas: he says one has to become integrated, both horizontally – by integrating ones emotion and reason on the conscious level – and vertically – by integrating ones conscious with ones unconscious. He says that when one does that ones’ energies flow together in the same direction and you feel quite naturally happy. He goes on to say that gradually as one ascends the dhyanas a higher element comes in. In the second dhyana ‘the purified, integrated conscious mind is itself integrated with the superconscious. And the energies of the superconscious – energies, that is to say, which are purely spiritual – begin to be tapped.’ And that this higher element gradually dominates ones experience the higher in the dhyanas one goes. We don’t really talk about dhyana very much these days. Perhaps this is because people think of them negatively, in terms of spiritual materialism, or maybe they are just confused as to what they are exactly. So in this thread I want to try to clarify what they are, and how they connect with insight. The Buddhist texts describe Gautama as firstly remembering the rose-apple experience and then as ascending through the dhyanas. There is no account of the practices he must have used to get there. There is nothing, to my knowledge, in the scriptures along the lines of: ‘I practiced loving kindness and so attained the first dhyana.’ So I want to piece together an account of the process Gautama must have gone through to get into the dhyanas. The first dhyana arises ‘in seclusion from sensuality and unskilful mental states.’ In other words it is a skilful mental state. And as the ‘superconscious element’ that Sangharakshita mentions become stronger the higher in the dhyanas one ascends, we can see each dhyana as an intensification of the skilfulness of the one before. There is however a certain danger in...

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The doctrine of ‘non-self’ and the Buddha’s teachers
Feb01

The doctrine of ‘non-self’ and the Buddha’s teachers

Article published in February 2013 edition of Shabda, the journal of the Triratna Buddhist Order.   There has always been a rather confusing fact in the traditional story of the Buddha, which is that he learned the eight dhyanas from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputra but then, upon remembering the rose apple tree experience, he spoke as if he was discovering the first dhyana for the first time. How could this be the case? In a recent book by the Sanskrit scholar Alexander Wynne called The Origin of Buddhist Meditation we get a possible answer to this conundrum, an answer which ties in nicely with the Buddhist doctrine of ‘non-self.’ Wynne proposes that Gautama did not in fact learn the first four dhyanas – the rupa dhyanas – from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputra but instead he learned from them a form of Vedic meditation – which he calls Brahminical yoga – akin to the formless or arupa dhyanas. One reason he gives is that the arupa dhyanas seem to be cosmological in origin, whereas the rupa dhyanas seem to be more personal and experiential in nature. He thinks then that the arupa dhyanas are Brahminical in origin but that the rupa dhyanas are Buddhist in origin. That Gautama evolved for himself the rupa dhyanas as a natural process arising out of his understanding of the rose apple tree experience. To explain how Brahminical yoga works is as follows. At the root of the Vedic religion is the belief in atman, the fixed self or soul that does not change and Brahman, the equivalent ever-present essence in the universe. Wynne explains that Vedic cosmology puts forward the belief was that in the beginning there was just a pure unchanging being or sat. Sat then ‘thought’ to itself: “may I be many; may I grow forth,” and so from sat there then arose fire; and after fire, in the same way; from fire, water; and, in the same way, from water, earth and so on. According to Wynne the aim of Brahminical meditation is to ‘reverse the flow’ of Vedic cosmology in order to realize one’s pure being. One does this by identifying oneself in meditation with the earth element and then dissolving that element, by then identifying oneself with the water element and then dissolving that element, and so on, until one experiences oneself as pure unchanging being – atman – within a pure unchanging cosmos or Brahman: or, as a pure soul in union with God. This would explain why Gautama rejected what he learned from his early teachers. What they taught was based on a wrong view – the Brahminical view – and it...

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‘Curriculums, Exams and Degrees – How Do We Really Learn About Life?’
Mar26

‘Curriculums, Exams and Degrees – How Do We Really Learn About Life?’

A public talk at the Manchester Buddhist Centre in the ‘Buddhism and the Big Questions’ series   26th March 2011   In this talk I begin by briefly exploring two contrasting educational theorists who are influential today: John Locke proposed that the child was a ‘blank slate’ that could be written upon; and Jean Jacques Rousseau was an educationalist for whom the child was like a plant to be grown and nurtured. I then look at the influence on education of the contrasting twentieth century philosophies of Logical Positivism, which influenced the digital revolution, and Heidegger’s philosophy of Phenomenology, which puts a great emphasis on personal experience. I conclude by exploring how three Buddhist scriptures: the Satipatthana Sutta – which contains the Buddha’s main teaching on mindfulness, the Kalama Sutta and the Meghiya Sutta, all shed light on what would be an ideal Buddhist education. Watch video – 65 mins (45 Mb) 133 plays on Vimeo. Audio recording of this talk downloaded 916 times from Internet Archive as of 8 January 2014.                         Use PayPal to donate£5£10£25£100Other Amount: Your Email Address :   Donate here to help me carry on helping others  ...

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