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The Ritual of Separation
Today I would like to ask that we ponder on the question, “What is the value and the place of the celibate renunciant community in our modern world?” A number of years ago when I was about to deliver my first public Dhamma talk, a friend mentioned to me by way of encouragement that talking about Dhamma was like contemplating out loud, giving voice to what one does anyway. It is in this spirit that I ask to talk with you today. Ideally, we would have a respected and venerable elder to conduct this ordination ceremony and to address this particularly important subject; but such individuals are rare in the world, so we have to make do with what we have at hand.
We have what we need
If we talk about our path as a Way of Transformation then we can have a feeling that our practice includes all aspects of our lives. Everything that happens is part of our spiritual work; everything is acknowledged, everything is received. I find this wonderful to contemplate. As Buddhists, we regard a heart committed to transforming greed, anger and confusion into generosity, kindness and clarity as a heart that radiates blessings. These blessings are for the benefit of all beings. And because we work at transforming all of our life, we don’t have to be afraid of any part of ourselves. Whatever we find within is O.K. It is all to be recognized as part of thee Way. It is there to be seen. In the words of the Buddha, this Way is about “seeing clearly all the world, in all the world just as it is, and in so seeing finding freedom”.
An Invitation to Truth
Tonight’s talk has been announced as: ‘A Buddhist Perspective on Faith, Hope and Despair’. We have called it ‘a’ perspective because there are as many different perspectives on this as there are Buddhists. And the talk is to be about ‘faith, hope and despair’ because these are concerns that are important to all of us, regardless of what our beliefs might be. I would like to present to you this evening the idea that for us to engage hope with any degree of enthusiasm we must have a sure foundation of faith in our lives. Without real faith we feel like we can’t afford to really hope for anything, out of fear of being disappointed; and that is a great pity – it feels hopeless.
The Freedom to suffer
It can take a long time before we find out what the real point of Buddhist practice is. There are innumerable doctrines, beliefs and techniques in this Way, but none of them is an end in itself. All of them are included in an overall training which is called cittabhavana, or ‘the training of the heart’. The word citta is variously rendered in translation as ‘heart’, ‘awareness’, and sometimes as ‘consciousness’. Bhavana literally means ‘to bring into being’. So cittabhavana can also be translated as ‘cultivation of awareness’. This subject is obviously central both to what you are doing here as psychotherapists and to what we are doing in our monastic training, so I am glad that we have this opportunity to consider it together.
Giving Up Nothing
Each year when Asalha Puja arrives we take time to consider anew the foundation teaching of our tradition; that is, the Four Noble Truths. On this day, the full moon of the seventh month, known as Asalha, we recollect how the Buddha gave the ‘Discourse on the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma’. This monumental event took place at the conclusion of several weeks spent dwelling in the bliss of the liberation that he had attained as he sat under the Bodhi tree in Bodhagaya.
What we are calling heart-matters are real matters; they are universal and personal concerns. We can learn about these matters by listening to ancient teachings and we can also learn from listening to ourselves. I suggest that these two must go together. Thank you for the few minutes we have just spent being quiet together. I am pleased that we have this chance to meet and I am happy that we can begin our meeting in silence. When I’m in an unfamiliar situation with people that I don’t know, it’s helpful to have a few moments to feel where I am, to acknowledge that you’re here too, and generally to become aware that we’re in this together.
The Gift of Well Being, Joy, Sorrow and Renunciation on the Buddha’s Way
The Gift of Well Being, Joy, Sorrow and Renunciation on the Buddha’s Way by Ajahn Munindo, Among the many books about Buddhism that have recently been brought to my attention this one is unique. It is not a text; it neither exhorts, compares nor expounds. Quite simply, it opens a way through the landscape of life, ageing and death. Reading, one joins the author of the Way. It is vivid; it is honest; it is profound. All, all flows naturally, revealing a terrain of trust.
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