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Vipassana Fellowship Meditation 20 October - 26 October-Contemplation - Day 22-Day 23-Day 24-Day 25-Day 26-Day 27-Day 28
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Vipassana Fellowship Meditation 20 October - 26 October-Contemplation - Day 22-Day 23-Day 24-Day 25-Day 26-Day 27-Day 28
A Random Image

20 October - 26 October

In
this fourth week we continue to focus mainly on Mettā (lovingkindness)
Meditation. This is the foundation for the other 3 “sublime abode”
practices. If you are able to meditate for more than one sitting each
day, please work with Mettā in one session and Mindfulness of Breathing
in the other.

https://course.org/campus/mod/book/view.php?id=112


Saturday - Phrases and Images

1. Phrases and Images

There
are many valid ways to practise mettā bhāvanā including, for example,
radiating mettā to members of our families. Another way that is commonly
taught involves radiating mettā to the four directions of the compass.
Some people also work in a completely unstructured way, being able to
radiate mettā to whosoever arises in the mind. This is truly boundless
practice.

The
way that we are working has the advantage for some people of not being
tied to particular individuals but allows the flexibility to include
almost anyone. It is based on the method outlined by Buddhaghosa in the
Visuddhimagga (written in Sri Lanka in the 5th Century) and allows
people the freedom to place individuals into each category so that they
can work at a level that is suitable for them. This means that if, for
example, someone has a very difficult relationship with a parent or
relative they are not forced to work on radiating mettā to them until
they are ready to do so - or until their practice has developed
sufficiently to enable them to do so. Not everyone, unfortunately,
enjoys a wholesome relationship with his or her family. The categories
we are using already allow those who wish to include family members to
work in that way - I know that I used to radiate mettā to my father
regularly in the benefactor section and also work with other family
members from time to time in each of the other sections.

A
colour-based method is also sometimes used: representing lovingkindness
with a warm colour is the most usual way. It may be useful for those
who have a keen visual sense. I would caution against allowing the
imagery to become over-elaborate: in real terms a colour (gold, for
example) is not the same as kindness. We are straying off into the realm
of metaphor, association and approximation rather than seeing what is
present. If you do work in this way try not to become dependent on the
imagery - you are only trying to connect with the feeling of mettā and
then allowing that to be shown towards others. Once any tool has done
its job it is no longer useful. This is not creative visualisation - in
the sense of trying to make things happen by thought power - it is more
the expression of your love and kindness directly towards another being.
We are not actively trying to change anyone but to allow ourselves to
offer kindness freely and generously to the beings on which we focus.

Phrases A Hindrance?

With
the phrase-based approach that we are utilising it is important not to
worry too much about the formality of the structure. Use the phrases
only if they have meaning for you and improve your ability to tap into
the resource of lovingkindness. If you have an alternative way of doing
this that is wonderful. I would caution about abandoning the sectional
structure, though, as it is so easy to end up luxuriating in the more
blissful aspects of the practice without facing up to those areas which
are more challenging. The structure I have provided is traditional, but
there are other alternatives - like working in the four directions, or
through particular groups of individuals.

The
important thing is that we maintain a practice that has enough
consistency to ensure that we do not neglect any area. We need to ensure
that we continue to radiate mettā to those of whom we approve and those
who are more difficult; to the people close to us and those from whom
we feel distant.

Sometimes
the phrases are difficult to work with because of their superficial
similarity to affirmations in modern western culture Affirmations are
normally seen as effecting change in the outside world - the old
Cosmopolitan Magazine view that “You can have it all!” if only you are
incredibly upbeat and positive about it. This does not square with the
philosophy with which we are working. We are grounded by the fact of
dukkha - that the nature of conditioned things is inherently
unsatisfactory or broken. It would be futile to ‘look on the bright
side’ because that would be deluding ourselves and would prevent us
working towards the release from suffering.

What
we can do is work on those areas of our psyche which are deficient in
some respect, further developing qualities which change our attitude to
the beings with whom we interact so that by our actions we create less
suffering. It is entirely practical and realistic. There are
indisputable good qualities that we can all develop with the right
amount of determination and solid effort. We are not trying to change
anybody else but rather our own attitude to others; thus allowing us to
operate less egotistically, more altruistically. The cultivation of
these qualities - kindness, compassion, joy in the happiness of others,
equanimity - helps us overcome the usual self-view where we are at the
centre of the universe and everything else must alter itself to be in
concord with us. When we have this healthier - more realistic -
relationship to others we will be more inclined to act skilfully and
less selfishly. We will act informed by our interconnectedness, our
non-separate nature.

Dukkha
needs to be recognised fully and this can be very difficult for many
people. It is the antithesis of the feel good philosophies and what many
of the newer religious movements offer. By accepting its reality we can
begin to operate in ways that mean our actions bring maximum happiness
and minimum suffering. It is only when we re-orientate ourselves to this
view and begin to base our actions on it that we will work with any
degree of urgency.

If
the nature of the phrases used in constructing your mettā meditation
section are a barrier to your practice then there are two options: One
is to change the phrases to something which has more meaning for you,
something which has a truth and resonance in your particular case. The
second option is to work without phrases altogether. If, in any of the
sections, you find it easy to ‘tap in’ to that quality of Lovingkindness
without any of these formal phrases, or by using images, you can begin
to spread that real experience of Lovingkindness outward through the
other sections. For many people it is possible to move away entirely
from the phrases fairly early on.

I
had enormous resistance to mettā meditation for a while (especially
when it seemed to be a group ‘love bombing’ session). I used to think
that antipathy to mettā practice was a male thing; that it just took us a
lot longer to work in any area where the emotions were uppermost. I
recognise now that this is not necessarily the case: many women also
have difficulty with this way of working too.

It
is better, if you are able, to simply memorise the order of the
sections and then to construct your own phrases or images. The script
itself needs to be personalised because its only purpose is to allow us
to connect with the feeling of lovingkindness that exists already within
each of us. We then work with gentle determination to share that
kindness with others and ourselves.

In
the initial sittings most people will need the help of the phrases,
images or memories to ‘tap in’ to the quality of mettā that we are
trying to radiate. For some people images work better than aphorisms but
whatever we use can be discarded once we have identified the pure
feeling and are able to offer it unconditionally to at least some of the
beings on whom we focus.

There
will be gradual changes in attitudes and actions because of the
practice which will allow greater harmony, less fear, more tranquillity.
Within the practice itself you may find that particular individuals no
longer fit the sections you originally planned for them (Mr Nasty may
not be so difficult after all and Ms Neutral may seem a real person
rather than a cipher). We will not, through our practice, have
occasioned any change in them, of course, but only in our own outlook
and attitudes. The mettā bhāvanā practice, like all meditation
techniques, is about developments within the practitioner rather than
the transformation of others. The attitudinal spin off from this in
daily life means that we treat people better, understand them more, and
so fosters harmonious relationships that cause less suffering to those
with whom we interact.

Don’t
worry about the exact form that the meditation takes as laid down in
the outline. It is the general principles that matter. Some people find
the phrases very useful but to others they are a hindrance. If they are a
barrier, then use something else as an alternative. Simple phrases
like, “Be well, be happy” are fine if you want something less complex.
Any phrases will become redundant as you become more used to the mettā
bhāvanā. The sections too can be altered (some people also find
reversing them useful) but the idea should always be to work towards
inclusion - Long term it would not be a good idea to omit ‘difficult’
people or sections, though initially this may be necessary.

The
general idea is that we connect to a resource that is already within us
- real love and kindness - and work at developing our ability to share
that with others. If you currently experience difficulties with several
of the sections then begin with the section that feels most comfortable
to you. If you cannot identify any feeling of mettā at present then try
working with this exercise that can act as a useful preliminary
practice:

Sit
for a few moments remembering a time when the particular person you are
focusing on (maybe yourself, a friend or a relative) was happy or
contented or peaceful. Picture the scene that produced it in some detail
and then narrow the attention to the feeling that the person is
experiencing in that setting. Perhaps warmth, wellness, happiness.
Notice too what is absent: conflict, worry, pain. Look at the quality of
the experience and recognise that it is these moments that we would all
wish to enjoy. Retain that memory of actual harmony and happiness. Try
to stay with the essence of the experience - that moment of pure
happiness or contentedness.

Let
the actual scene fade but try to retain contact with the feeling that
it evoked. Begin now to work with the other sections of the mettā
bhāvanā practice - the sections that seem least difficult at first.
Don’t now try and remember scenes but rather focus on the wish that the
quality that you have just experienced through memory can be shared with
the individuals. If you need to, between the different sections,
reconnect with the memory and the associated feeling before continuing.

Soon
you will be able to work without setting up your meditation in this
way. You will get a familiarity with the feeling of lovingkindness and
have a wish to share that with others. Some sections may come easier
than others but in time you will be able to radiate mettā to everyone.

The
mettā practice is structured in the way that it is to allow us to
develop the ability to share lovingkindness with people and other
sentient beings - whoever or wherever they may be. It is a practice on
non-partiality: we can truly be loving and caring to all. Never forget
these practices are all bhāvanā - they are about development and
cultivation and are part of a gradual path; we are NOT expected to be
able to leap from never having worked in this way to expertise in the
space of a few weeks, months or even years. We must take it at the pace
that is right for us - we all work with different sets of conditions.

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=113


Contemplation - Day 22

129. All
tremble at the rod, all fear death.

In
empathy with others,

one
should not strike,

nor
cause others to strike.

130. All
tremble at the rod, all hold their lives dear.

In
empathy with others,

one
should not strike,

nor
cause others to strike.

131. One
seeking happiness,

taking
a rod to another

who
seeks happiness,

finds
no happiness hereafter.

132. One
seeking happiness,

without
taking a rod to another

who
seeks happiness,

finds
happiness hereafter.

133. Speak
harshly to no one

for
harsh speech will rebound.

Angry
speech is painful,

and
overwhelming when returned.

134. In
silencing oneself,

like
a broken gong,

one
approaches Nibbana:

for
no animosity is found.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:44 PM
https://course.org/campus/mod/book/view.php?id=114


Sunday - Sections and Subjects

1. Sections and Subjects

SECTIONS AND SUBJECTS

Mettā,
and the other brahmavihāra qualities with which we will work in the
coming weeks, should only be directed to living people and other
sentient beings. The reason for this lies in the very different way that
the Buddhist tradition views death and impermanence. We will look at
the Buddhist concept of anattā later when we begin to explore vipassanā
forms of meditation. Anattā is the Pāli word for not-Self or
Soullessness and is a central tenet of Buddhism. As with all theories in
Buddhism, it is not necessary to accept anattā through blind faith, as
evidence of its veracity (or otherwise) will emerge directly through our
meditation practice. Unlike most other belief systems and religions,
Buddhism suggests that we do not have a Soul or Self that is unchanging
and permanent. In view of this, it would not be appropriate to direct
feelings of kindness or compassion towards a being that can no longer be
said to exist in any recognisable or personalised form. If we were to
try to do that, we would need to fix our view of who the person had been
in a particular moment of time, thus negating another demonstrable fact
- that of impermanence. It would almost be like creating a partial or
fictionalised account of who that person had been, and artificially
stopping time, in order that we could relate to him or her. At that
point our practice would have lost its foundation in reality. Buddhist
practice always remains firmly with ‘what is’ rather than being
speculative: we therefore direct mettā to sentient beings as they exist
now, rather than desperately trying to cling to images of them as they
have been in the past or may be in the future.

In
popular Buddhism in Theravada countries (and, to some extent, in the
Pāli Canon through later additions to the Khuddaka Nikāya) rituals and
practices have emerged which seek to transfer merit to the departed.
From a doctrinal point of view this is problematic; although it
undoubtedly fulfils a sociological need for those who have recently lost
a loved one. This later idea of Transference of Merit is quite
different from the mettā bhāvanā practice that we are now undertaking:
mettā bhāvanā is described regularly in the very earliest suttas of the
Pāli Canon and its authenticity is acknowledged by all major schools of
Buddhism.

In
practice, most of us will tend to choose from a small repertoire of
people for those sections that require closer knowledge of the
individuals (good friends, benefactors, etc.). It is useful to decide on
whom you are going to focus before beginning the sitting. Try to rotate
the groups of people to whom you direct mettā, so that a single person
does not become an archetype (i.e. the embodiment or symbol) for a
particular quality. It is certainly not a good practice to always focus
exclusively on the same person as difficult; we have to permit the
possibility of changes in our attitude to each individual and fixing the
same person as a problem disallows this flexibility. Direct mettā
towards a different person in the difficult category in your next
sitting. Rotate the groups of people - we don’t need to choose someone
new every time, but try not to always associate the same person with one
section.

OURSELVES

The
preliminary reflection of the mettā bhāvanā practice is often found to
be difficult at first. Reordering the sections is one approach to this
difficulty for some people. Another method would be to spend some time
focusing on what is good in you. What are the qualities you like in
yourself? How have you helped? What contributions have you made? When
were you happiest? This ‘positive remembrance’ can enable us to feel
that we are, indeed, worthy of Lovingkindness. There are aspects of
everyone’s personality and actions which are worthy of praise, worthy of
celebration (just as there are the other aspects which may be blocking
our ability to radiate mettā to ourselves). A period of using this tool
prior to the mettā bhāvanā may be helpful. When you recollect the
incidents of happiness, of worth, of success, it is not the detail that
we are interested in retaining and connecting with, but the emotion of
that moment. That split second of pure warmth in the integrity of that
particular incident. This is the quality we need to recognise in order
that we can thereafter radiate it during the meditation practice itself.

It
is interesting that people so often find the section devoted to
themselves the most difficult. Sometimes our self-image has been damaged
and we feel unworthy of receiving kindness or we may even feel
embarrassed at the supposed vanity of spending time working on ourselves
when we could be helping others. The Buddhist way does not permit the
neglect of our own well-being. It does not believe in sacrificing
anyone, including ourselves, for the good of another - because that
would be tantamount to wishing damage and suffering upon us and is
unskilful action based on wrong view. All sentient beings are worthy of
lovingkindness and all wish to be free from suffering and, of course, we
are sentient beings too. This is why it is important to try to ensure
that equal attention is given to each of the sections used in this
practice. Try to spend as much time on those people to whom mettā flows
easily as on those who currently present some sort of block. With steady
but balanced effort there will be a falling away of any barriers.

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=115


Contemplation - Day 23

135. As
the cowherd’s rod

drives
cattle to pasture,

so
age and death

drive
out the life of beings.

136. A
fool commits evil

without
realising.

Witless,
his deeds torment him,

like
one burned by fire.

137. One
who takes the rod

to
those unarmed,

offending
the inoffensive,

soon
meets one of ten states:

138-140. Acute
pain, disaster,

physical
injury, serious illness,

madness,
trouble from authorities,

grave
charges, loss of family, or of wealth,

the
burning of his home by ravaging fire.

Upon
dissolution of the body,

such
a fool is reborn in hell.

141. Not
nakedness or matted hair,

nor
dirt or fasting;

Not
lying on the ground,

nor
dust and ash

or
sitting on one’s heels;

None
of these can purify one

who
still has doubts.

142. Though
finely dressed

if
one is living the holy life

-
poised, calm, restrained,

having
laid aside the rod -

he
indeed is a true brahman,

a
mendicant, a bhikkhu.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:45 PM
https://course.org/campus/mod/book/view.php?id=116


Monday - Benefactor and Friend

1. Benefactor and Friend

THE BENEFACTOR

The
benefactor section need not necessarily be someone older than us - but
it often is the case that the people from whom we have learnt most or
who have helped us in significant ways tend to be older. Whoever you
choose should be someone to whom you are grateful and perhaps would wish
to emulate in at least one aspect of their lives. This could be a
teacher (spiritual or otherwise), a parent or someone else within your
community for whom you have great respect. If there is no-one at close
range then perhaps you can radiate mettā towards someone whose renown
and reputation is brought to you through a cathode ray tube. The world
is full of people who enrich our lives in some way - perhaps you could
radiate mettā to people who have brought about social or cultural
changes from which you and others have benefited.

Just
one point to note: mettā is always directed to sentient beings, so if
one thinks of using the government or a charity as a benefactor one
should actually direct the mettā to individual politicians/members of
these groups rather than at an abstract institution which is not
sentient.

A GOOD FRIEND

In
terms of people in our immediate circle there is no need for any
withholding of love where it already exists. Sometimes people, new to
this form of meditation, think there is some virtue in pulling back from
sharing lovingkindness and other positive qualities with loved ones and
dearest family members. Rather than operating such a lowest common
denominator approach it would be far better to try to raise the other
subjects of your meditation session to the same level. Think of it as a
topping-up of lovingkindness rather than a bottoming-down. Work for
equanimity throughout each of the practices but on the basis of
increasing the flow of these positive qualities to all beings rather
than robbing Peter to pay Paul. We all have the capacity for the
unconditional giving and receiving of these pure qualities. It takes
some work to be able to share them equally but it will come in time.

The
advice not to direct mettā initially to someone to whom you are
sexually attracted concerns the way in which it is likely to complicate
matters. When we are sexually attracted to another person love, of the
pure sort, can easily be confused with all those other feelings such as
lust, the need for possession and control, ownership, jealousy, etc. As
we are beginning a new practice we try to keep it as simple and
straightforward as possible. In time we will be able to include all
sentient beings with our meditation - including our sexual partners -
but that takes a little more experience if we are to avoid the pitfalls.
It may seem a little artificial in these initial stages to exclude
someone about whom we feel a great deal but it is generally seen as
inadvisable to work with them until we are able to radiate mettā in an
even fashion towards the diverse beings with whom we are currently
working. This is a temporary stage in our training - those people are
worthy of mettā too - but the feelings that arise may be too complex and
difficult to handle until we have developed greater clarity and are
able to discern what is mettā and what is not. As we begin this practice
it is wisest to work without extremes, neither focusing on people who
arouse sexual feelings in us nor people who cause us to feel intense
negative feelings, such as hate or loathing. We must ensure that we can
radiate unconditional lovingkindness to all of the beings, in each of
the sections, before moving on to more difficult work - this is a
gradual training.

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=117


Contemplation - Day 24

143. Where
in this world is one

so
restrained by humility

that
he averts reproach

as
a thoroughbred averts the rod?

144. As
a thoroughbred touched by the rod,

be
energetic and determined.

By
conviction and purity,

by
effort and concentration,

investigating
the truth,

rich
in knowledge and virtue,

-
mindful -

one
overcomes suffering.

145. Irrigators
channel water,

fletchers
straighten arrows,

carpenters
shape wood.

The
virtuous control themselves.


146. Why
laughter? Why joy?

for
this world is burning.

Enveloped
in darkness

will
you not seek light?

147. Behold
this body:

a
beautiful image -

a
mass of wounds constructed,

infirm,
demanding,

all
impermanent, all unstable.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:47 PM
https://course.org/campus/mod/book/view.php?id=118


Tuesday - Neutral and Difficult

1. Neutral and Difficult

NEUTRAL PEOPLE

The
neutral person represents a challenge for many meditators but there are
people whom we tend to ignore in daily life. Often they are people who
we see as functionaries rather than as rounded individuals with similar
needs to our own. These may even be people we have worked with for years
but with whom we never meaningfully interact. The ‘grey’ people will
inevitably become a little less so when we pay attention to them. It is
unusual for particular individuals to inhabit this section for long.

Sometimes
the neutral section seems hardest because it is difficult to feel
entirely neutral about someone with whom we truly engage. If you do find
that this is the case then it is often an indication that the process
is working - as you devote the same degree of effort and good intent
towards the person a transformation in your relationship with him or her
occurs - so let’s not fret too much about that! It’s beautiful. Others
find that neutral people, by definition, are harder to flesh out i.e.
they seem less than three dimensional, but with steady work we will all
begin to see them as people rather than ciphers. Remember that the
neutral section can incorporate people from any area of daily life: they
don’t have to be well known to us. People we have barely met or rarely
consider are all worthy recipients of our attention in this section. If a
natural progression has occurred so that a person no longer seems
neutral to you then choose someone else for your next sitting. Unlike
with the sections involving friends and difficult people there is a huge
supply of neutral people we can choose to direct mettā towards - it’s
an opportunity to give more than a second-thought to the many people we
habitually overlook.

DIFFICULT PEOPLE

We
sometimes come across people who, no matter what we do, still act with
unkindness or animosity towards us. Meditation does not prevent us from
trying the more common strategies to tackle these interpersonal
problems. If, for example, there is conflict at work then that should be
tackled in the conventional manner as well as continuing your
meditation. By all means, use any employment procedures that are
available to you to ensure that you are treated fairly. Meditation does
not stop us engaging in working for peace of mind using other methods.
It is amazing how often people are unaware of the hurt they are causing
others because they are unable to express their concerns in a
constructive (rather than destructive) manner. If you feel secure in
your work place, and are strong enough, then broaching the subject with a
supervisor may be an option that will help both you and any difficult
co-worker to move forward to a better understanding of each other.

We
have to accept, however, that there is a minority of people who acts in
ways that are unskilful and whose behaviour is selfish and
inappropriate. These are not happy people - they may be angry for
specific reasons or have a multitude of causes for their need to put
people down. We cannot directly change them by what we do in meditation,
but we can adjust our approach through the qualities that we cultivate
in our practice. This will make for more harmonious relations even where
the other person is not trying to make any change. Our skilful actions
will ensure that the opportunities for conflict and animosity are
minimised. It will also ensure that we begin to learn that it is
sometimes not worthwhile to take the actions of other people personally:
often people act unwisely because they have a generalised anger at the
world or the situation they find themselves in. They flail around in all
directions or perhaps pick on specific people over whom they have
power. This sort of targeting actually has very little to do with us;
almost anyone could fill the role of punch bag.

In
terms of what can be done through meditation: remember that the
brahmavihāra practices have a role in these types of situation. If we
find it difficult to show unconditional love to this person during mettā
practice then it may be a good idea to work specifically on karunā
(compassion) practice instead. We will explore this approach shortly.
Try to see the person’s life in the round. Be aware of how this person,
who is perpetrating this hurt upon you, is also subject to dukkha. She
suffers too, and recognising this may enable you to see why she acts in
this manner. A person’s suffering does not excuse bad behaviour; but
acknowledging it is there can enable us to understand why they have
chosen to act the way they have.

Do
not allow any one individual to block your engagement with the
meditation practices. If your relationship with a co-worker is too
painful to include in mettā practice, then do not feature her just yet.
Continue to build your skills with others and return to consideration of
this more problematic person when you feel ready. In daily interaction
the best approach is to maintain right speech: always ensure that you
are truthful and that your words are designed to help the situation
rather than be a weapon of retaliation. We do not have power over the
actions that others choose to commit, but we can ensure that ours are
always wholesome. Wholesome actions can only produce results that are
positive or neutral; this is the way that kamma works.

Remember
too that it is possible to work with compassion rather than kindness as
a preliminary step when we encounter those people for whom we find the
idea of giving lovingkindness is too difficult. Approach the individual
as a fellow sufferer - whatever they may have done or neglected to do
for us. These are lifetime practices and will not be mastered in an
instant so we must not allow ourselves to be defeated by labelling
particular sections as failed. Build up the work gradually - it is
perfectly permissible to spend entire sittings in one section if
necessary. Edge forward little by little to accommodate the other
individuals and groups but never leap to tackle the impossible.

That
can wait for now! Deal first with those for whom there is already some
empathy and then tackle those who are moderately difficult. The big guys
can wait until you feel more ready to give them the balm of
lovingkindness. This may take some time but it will be come easier with
regular practice.

However
wronged we may feel by our fellow human beings in their sins of
commission and omission the rich practice of not taking things
personally can work wonders. Spend time looking at the individuals as
rounded people. We have a tendency to pigeon-hole people in terms of the
specific acts they have committed against us. Most people are not
wholly vindictive or maliciously and often we allow carelessness, errors
of judgement and lack of consideration to assume the proportions of
heinous crimes. It may not be a particularly poetic phrase, but people
screw up. We have all done it ourselves from time to time and there is
value in considering where our own actions of body, speech and mind have
been less than skilful and the conclusions that others may have drawn
from this. I am not preaching equivalence here - our actions are not
necessarily of the same magnitude as another’s - but if we can hold on
to a realisation and acknowledgement that we too have withheld and
deprived; that on occasion we have taken and chosen not to give; or that
we have sometimes ignored and disrespected people, we can see how easy
it is for us too to become those archetypes which we usually see in
others. In a myriad of different ways there is commonality - both with
those for whom we currently feel empathy and with those from whom we
seek to distance ourselves. It is in the recognition of this that there
is an opportunity to develop. The brahmavihāra practices work at a very
deep level to achieve this. If we pursue them as a necessary part of our
practice we will see that we are not essentially separate. The
practices will gradually bear fruit and will enable us to be free from
the suffering which clinging to separateness can bring.

We
only suffer if we choose to take the hostility and indifference
personally. Through our developing practice we are more likely to be
able to accept that anger and rejection are themselves produced by
people who are suffering; these mental states very often have little to
do with the people against whom they choose to direct them. We can all
accept that at times we have behaved in similar ways (though the
magnitude and target may have varied). When we perpetrated these
unskilful acts against another no doubt they too suffered from the
fallout. As we begin to behave more ethically and mindfully the damage
we will cause for others and ourselves will lessen.

There
is an interesting distinction to be made between the perpetrator of
unskilful acts and the recipient of the action. It can sometimes be
useful to see them as quite separate: In committing an unskilful act I
am generating akusala kamma from which I will see the inevitable result
in my own life as vipāka characterised by suffering. The recipient of
suffering is reaping the vipāka of his or her own akusala kamma. When we
choose to suffer from the barbs that others inflict it may be because
we commit the unskilful act of clinging too strongly to our self-image
and care too much about our public position.

This
is, of course, a simplification of the complex theory of kamma but in
some circumstances it can be useful to contemplate. Remember that we do
not have access to the inner workings of any other person’s mind. We
make assumptions about their intentions and their motivation but we
cannot know. Similarly outward appearances can be deceptive when it
comes to judging whether a perpetrator actually suffers too - kamma
always ripens, sometimes immediately and visibly; at other times it may
take an age of gnawing stress, ill health and guilt. No one gets away
with anything.

Once
you have become established in the brahmavihāra practices you can
adjust the sections as you like, but try to remember to make the
technique inclusive of those people to whom you react warmly, are
repelled or feel neutral. The method will not be effective if one
concentrates purely on those groups and individuals towards whom one is
drawn.

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=119


Contemplation - Day 25

148. Worn
out is this body,

a
nest of diseases, decaying.

This
foul mass breaks up

for
life ends in death.

149. These
dove-grey bones

scattered
like gourds in autumn.

Having
seen them,

how
can one delight?

150. A
city built of bones,

plastered
with flesh and blood:

home
to pride and deceit,

aging
and death.

151. Even
lavish majestic chariots wear out,

so,
this body will grow old,

but
the Dhamma of the Good endures:

thus
the Good themselves proclaim.

152. An
ignorant one

grows
like an ox:

his
muscles develop,

but
not his wisdom.

153. Through
many births in samsara

have
I searched in vain

for
the builder of this house.

Repeated
birth is indeed suffering.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:50 PM
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Wednesday - All Sentient Beings

1. All Sentient Beings

GROUPS

When
working with the group sections it is very useful to try and see each
group as composed of individuals. If you can see known faces amongst the
group that will help you better relate to the entire group. There can,
in our initial practice, be the need for an imaginative leap - so
knowledge from the media and books can be useful in populating these
sections. After a while this approach will be unnecessary as we will be
more easily able to feel the mettā and be less partial with our ability
to radiate it.

Begin by focusing on particular faces or known characteristics and work from there.

Sometimes
an imaginative leap is required to bring forth the feeling of mettā for
those with whom we have had little contact. This may, at the beginning,
be evoked by approaching the practice on the basis of remembered events
or even of experiences lived vicariously (e.g. through the media of
fiction or television).

NON-HUMAN BEINGS

If,
at present, non-cuddly beings such as cockroaches and mosquitoes are
too problematic then work with other beings for now. Save them for later
when your practice has developed a little further. We all have
boundaries beyond which it is difficult to go - but these practices are
about development and those boundaries are not permanently fixed.

Rats
and roaches are difficult for most of us to feel warmly towards -
especially if you have to live in close proximity to them! I had a
similar response to leeches and snakes (even toy ones had always
terrified me as a child) until I realised that it was possible to treat
them with kindness even though I might not necessarily like to encourage
their sharing of my habitat. It is said that the Lord Buddha gave us
mettā bhāvanā as a way of overcoming fear; and our engagement with the
practice can even help phobias we may have in regard to creepy crawlies
or animals we consider vermin. One way of beginning to appreciate them
is to find out more about them - the fascination with how they survive
and an understanding of their instincts helps us to see the similarities
with our own aspirations and survival instincts. Even a leech wants to
be well, wants to be happy… It’s just that a little of my blood may be
what helps it achieve that!

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=121


Contemplation - Day 26

154. Housebuilder,
you are seen!

No
house shall you build again.

All
your rafters are broken and

the
ridge-pole is shattered.

Attaining
the Unconditioned,

I
achieve the end of craving.

155. Neither
leading the holy life

nor,
in youth, acquiring wealth,

they
grow old like withered cranes

beside
a fishless pond.

156. Neither
leading the holy life

nor,
in youth, acquiring wealth,

they
lie around regretting,

like
spent arrows from a bow misfired.

157. If
you hold yourself dear;

then
protect yourself well.

The
wise keep vigil during any

of
the three watches of the night.

158. Establish
yourself first in propriety,

only
then teach others:

thus,
blameless, the wise shall be.

159. As
one teaches others,

so
should one act.

Controlled
oneself,

so
should one teach:

Training
oneself is hardest.

Last modified: Wednesday, 7 February 2018, 5:17 PM
https://course.org/campus/mod/book/view.php?id=122


Thursday - When There’s No Mettā

1. When There’s No Mettā

WHEN THERE IS NO FEELING OF METTĀ

Focus
for a while on someone (or some being) to whom you feel warmly
disposed. It need not be a strong feeling; but there is usually someone
(or perhaps an animal such as a pet) that you enjoy the company of or
admire in some way. It may help to picture particular scenes featuring
this person which evoke that feeling of warmth - maybe an incident in
which you shared or one which you witnessed and recognised as a time of
happiness for that person. Try to relive the scene as clearly as
possible through memory. Note the feelings that are evoked in you by the
scene and the reaction of the person to the events that are taking
place.

Bring
your attention back to the present moment and call the same person to
mind - but as she or he is now. This is probably a more complex picture.
If you are aware of any difficulties they are facing then note that. If
their image contrasts with the happy incident you have just recalled
then note that too. Recognising that this person, like all of us, would
prefer to be free of any suffering, worry and fear, take the opportunity
to wish them well. You have seen how they react when they are happy;
wish that they are able to enjoy that frame of mind again - maybe see
their face transformed by the glow of happiness. Offer them whatever you
can that will make them happy and contented; allow them the comfort
that your kindness can bring. You may wish to use mental phrases such as
“be well, be happy” or you may like to see an image such as the gradual
transformation of their expression by a smile.

When
you feel more comfortable about working with that one individual
gradually add others to the practice - building up to the several
sections we are using. Mettā can sometimes take a while to flow more
freely but if we work gradually and start slowly with those to whom we
already feel warmly disposed there will be a strengthening of our
ability to extend the same hand of kindness to others. This practice is
about unconditionally caring about the welfare of all beings. It is a
big job and will take practice for this to be feasible… but we can
edge forward step-by-step.

If
lovingkindness cannot be felt and radiated to a particular person can
you approach this through another quality? You could try gratitude, or
compassion, or respect. Understanding the reasons why we may be blocking
the flow of mettā can help us to overcome this inability. Where people
may seem grasping and unloving we can sometimes feel able to include
them in our mettā practice if we consider them as worthy of our
attention, subject to suffering just like us, as three dimensional
beings who aspire and make mistakes. If their interactions with us have
been cold and formal we can choose to consider the warmth they may share
with their immediate family.

Another
way in which to approach the practice is to initially work with seeing
the good in individuals rather than radiating mettā to them. Concentrate
on the aspects of the individuals that are good and wholesome. Forgive
them their faults where these are apparent. We each have strengths; we
each fail. Work through the practice as you would in the mettā bhāvanā,
but acknowledging these strengths and allowing the errors and bad
judgements to be forgiven.

FORGIVENESS

Instead
of working with mettā can you try working with forgiveness? After
working in the following way for a few days gradually reintroduce the
mettā practice, gently, beginning with the sections where mettā flows
easiest first and building to the full sequence.

Forgiveness Practice:

Anchor yourself in ānāpānasati first and then begin this new practice.

Yourself:

Aware of my wish to foster happiness and reduce suffering for myself and for others.

Aware too of the imperfections that may hinder this wish.

Where my actions have caused suffering. May I be forgiven.

Where my actions conflict with those others would choose. May they understand.

Grateful that the next in-breath marks a new beginning.

Your parent:

Aware of my parent’s wish to foster happiness and reduce suffering for him/herself and for others.

Aware too of the imperfections which may hinder this wish.

Where his/her actions have caused suffering. May I forgive.

Where his/her actions are not those I would choose. May I understand.

Grateful that the next in-breath marks a new beginning.

Your child:

Aware of my child’s wish to foster happiness and reduce suffering for him/herself and for others.

Aware too of the imperfections which may hinder this wish.

Where his/her actions have caused suffering. May I forgive.

Where his/her actions are not those I would choose. May I understand.

Grateful that the next in-breath marks a new beginning.

Your friends…

Your parent’s friends…

Your child’s friends…


and then broaden the sequence to take in others in your circle and
community before ending by practising forgiveness towards yourself for a
few minutes.

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=123


Contemplation - Day 27

160. One
protects oneself.

Who
else could be protector?

Fully
in control, one gains

a
protector rare indeed.

161. The
evil he himself has done -

self-born,
self-caused -

grinds
down the fool:

as
a diamond, a hard stone.

162. Just
as the creeper strangles

the
sal tree on which it grows,

so
the fool does to himself

what
only an enemy would wish.

163. Easily
done are actions

bad
and harmful to oneself;

difficult,
indeed, are actions

good
and beneficial.

164. The
fool, who with Wrong View,

scorns
the Dhamma of the arahats,

-
the noble and enlightened -

like
bamboo, he produces offspring

for
his own destruction.

165. By
oneself is evil done

and
is one defiled.

By
oneself one abstains from evil

and
attains purity.

Purity
and defilement are self-owned;

none
can purify another.

166. Never
neglect your own welfare

for
the sake of another, however great.

Comprehending
your welfare,

be
intent upon the good.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 3:38 PM
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Friday - The Fourth Precept

1. The Fourth Precept

THE FOURTH PRECEPT

musāvādā veramani sikkhā padam samādiyāmi

I take the precept to abstain from wrong speech

The
fourth precept at its most basic is an undertaking not to lie, but it
also includes anything which is abusive or designed to hurt others and
to exaggeration, gossip and idle chatter. This precept is an agreement
to engage only in speech conducive to the good of others and ourselves.

The
fourth precept, when one enters into it voluntarily and wholeheartedly,
is a deep and challenging practice. In many ways it is more difficult
to observe than other precepts. So much in our lives revolves around
half-truths and small deceptions. We build layer upon layer of deception
- based on speech which distorts, which is not founded on fact, which
is calculated to cause hurt, which is inconsiderate - and yet we still
expect to be able to discern the truth. We can instead determine to
check our activities in regard to our self-aggrandisement. We can ensure
that others believe us by acting truthfully with consistency. We
inflict wrong on others when we deceive them. It is an unkind and
uncompassionate act, completely at odds with our desire to cultivate the
brahmavihāras. By consistent wrong speech we also blind ourselves - we lose the ability to know what is true and what is not.

Correct
speech also implies correct listening. If we honour other people and
what they tell us we will be able to respond to them appropriately -
with honesty and compassion.

All
of our volitional actions have appropriate results in accord with the
law of Kamma according to the Buddhist tradition. If we choose to act
skilfully then the results will be good; if we act unskilfully then we
can expect an unsatisfactory outcome. The precepts are guidelines as to
what constitutes skilful behaviour. They are not commandments that once
transgressed label us as sinners or which must be ameliorated by a
corresponding good deed. We begin again, in the very next moment, to try
to adhere to the precepts because it is skilful to do so. We will all
fail to uphold the precepts on occasions. This does not make it right;
it’s just how it is. If we intentionally break a precept then we cannot
avoid the result of that action. The result may be apparent immediately
or arise after a long period, but it will surely occur. Perhaps we may
take a decision that, out of compassion for another person, means that
we will tell a lie (or soften a harsh truth). This action is composed of
two elements: one positive (the compassionate intent), another negative
(wrong speech). The outcome of the action will reflect this complexity
and be appropriate to it.

“Speech
endowed with four characteristics is well-spoken, not poorly spoken -
faultless and not to be faulted by the wise. Which four? There is the
case where a monk says only what is well-spoken, not what is poorly
spoken; only what is just, not what is unjust; only what is endearing,
not what is unendearing; only what is true, not what is false. Speech
endowed with these four characteristics is well-spoken, not poorly
spoken - faultless and not to be faulted by the wise.” - Subhasita Sutta

If
we choose to employ wrong speech for pragmatic reasons then that
intention will reflect in the result we experience. We must remember
that the Buddha’s teaching is not primarily concerned with making the
world an easier place for us - indeed he saw this conditioned world as
inherently unsatisfactory - but in the release from all suffering, which
comes about through realisation of the Four Noble Truths. On mundane
matters, particularly if we do not have the goal of total liberation in
mind, there are not always clearly defined verses to quote in support of
the actions we have chosen. This is not a religion of the book, and
whilst we may extrapolate from the teachings we must continue to test
them against our own experience.

We can choose to behave ethically:

We can refrain from lying

- even the small lies and the white lies

We can stop exaggerating

- exaggeration distorts perception

We can act with consideration

- considerate speech is beneficial to all

We can choose not to gossip or spread rumour

- gossip is often untrue and can hurt others

We can choose to use our time productively

- avoiding idle chatter which brings no lasting happiness

We can listen to the needs of others

- our response can be open and compassionate

https://course.org/campus/mod/page/view.php?id=125


Contemplation - Day 28

167. Do
not serve low ends,

nor
live in heedlessness.

Do
not embrace Wrong View,

nor
cherish worldly existence.

168. Arise!
Do not be heedless!

Live
the Dhamma:

the
virtuous live happily

in
this world and the next.

169. Live
the Dhamma,

do
not live basely:

the
virtuous live happily

in
this world and the next.

170. One
who sees the world

as
a bubble, a mirage,

is
not seen

by
the King of Death.

171. Come,
see this world

as
a bedecked majestic chariot,

wherein
fools flounder,

but
the wise remain detached.

172. Heedless
before,

but
no longer,

one
illumines the world

as
the moon free of cloud.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 3:41 PM
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Chant Workshop 4 (optional)

1. Chant Workshop 4

The
meditation practices we are using are drawn from the Theravāda
tradition which bases its teachings on the words of the Buddha and his
early followers as recorded in the Pāli Canon. Pāli is a written
liturgical language and is often also used for traditional chants that
many meditators find helpful as part of their spiritual practice. During
the course we will introduce a small number of these chants in Pāli or
in translated English form.

Over
the weeks the individual chants build to form the text for a puja, or
dedication ceremony, that some practitioners may wish to use as a way of
periodically rededicating their meditation practice. Please use the
chants if you find them helpful; please ignore them if you prefer.

CHANT 4: The Metta Sutta

Note: This sutta is one of the main texts that has informed the practice of Lovingkindness Meditation.

Karaniya Metta Sutta

karaniyam atthakusalena

yam tam santam padam abhisamecca

sakko ujuca suju ca

suvacco c’assa mudu anatimāni

santussako ca subharo ca

appakicco ca sallahukavutti

santindriyo ca nipako ca

appagabbho kulesu ananugiddho

na ca khuddam samācare kiñci

yena viññu pare upavadeyyum

sukhino vā khemino hontu

sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā

ye keci pānabhutatthi

tasā va thāvarā vā anavasesā

dighā vā ye mahantā vā

majjhimā rassakānukathula

ditthā vā yeva additthā

ye ca dure vasanti avidure

bhuta vā sambavesi vā

sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā

na paro param nikubbetha

nātimaññetha katthacinam kañci

byārosanā patighasaññā

nāññamaññassa dukkham iccheyya

mātā yathā niyam puttam

āyusā ekaputtam anurakkhe

evam pi sabbabhutesu

mānasam bhāvaye aparimānam

mettañ ca sabba lokasmim

mānasam bhāvaye aparimānam

uddham adho ca tiriyañca

asambādham averam asapattam

tittham caram nisinno vā

sayāno vā yāvat’assa vigatamiddho

etam satim adhittheyya

brahmam etam vihāram idha māhu

ditthiñ ca anupagamma silavā

dassanena sampanno

kāmesu vinneya gedham

na hi jātu gabbhaseyyam punareti’ti

The Sutta on Lovingkindness

One who is skilled in wholesomeness

and seeks the calm that is Nibbāna,

should act thus:

Be sincere to oneself, upright and conscientious,

soft of speech, gentle and without conceit.

Contented, living simply, peaceful and unburdened,

with senses calmed, prudent, modest,

and without showing anxiety for support.

One should not commit any slight wrong

for which the wise might censure one.

May all beings be happy and secure,

may their hearts be wholesome.

Whatever living beings there are -

whether mentally feeble or strong,

physically long, stout or medium,

short, small or large,

the seen or unseen; dwelling far or near;

those who are born and those yet to be born -

may they all, without exception, be happy.

Let no one deceive another

nor despise anyone whatsoever in any place;

nor in anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother would risk her life

to protect her only child,

so should one cultivate a boundless

heart towards all beings.

Let thoughts of infinite lovingkindness

pervade the whole world -

above, below and around -

unobstructed, free of hatred or enmity.

Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down,

as long as one is awake, such mindfulness

should be developed:

this, the wise say, is the highest conduct here.

Not embracing false views,

endowed with virtue and insight,

and having given up

attachment to sense desires -

such a person will not come again

to lie in a womb.

Play this chant:

 
-2:59

Download link: https://course.org/mcaudio/c/4-Metta_Sutta.mp3

Last modified: Thursday, 13 September 2018, 4:54 PM

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