A Buddhist life

Aspects of my Buddhist life

March 31st, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Aspects of my Buddhist life)

Welcome. This site reflects different aspects of my Buddhist life. You will find articles on meditation and Buddhism, as well as details of all my books, plus my teaching programme and various other things. Just browse the headings and see what you find….

Wherever in the world you’re from, very best wishes to you,


Retreats in 2017

August 23rd, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in retreats - (Comments Off on Retreats in 2017)

My plans for 2017 are now shaping up. I’ve been commissioned by Windhorse Publications to write a book about some aspects of meditation. Writing requires quite a bit of focus, so I’m reducing the number of retreats that I shall be leading next year. I’m only doing seven, but they include quite a variety of topics.

Sadly, as usual there are hardly any for non-Order members: just a week at Rivendell in June called Love Without Limits, and then a slightly longer retreat at Metta Vihara in Holland over Xmas/New Year. (I’m still mulling over a theme for that one; it isn’t always easy to choose over a year in advance.)

That leaves five retreats for Order members. Since Sangharakshita recently encouraged the Order to return to a focus on the sadhanas (visualization and mantra recitation practice of a buddha or bodhisattva figure) that he received from his teachers, I’m doing three retreats in that area:

  1. An Avalokiteshvara sadhana retreat with Parami and Saddhaloka at Adhisthana at the end of March;
  2. A Green Tara retreat with Khemasiri in October, also at Adhisthana;
  3. I’m pleased that I shall also be returning to Padmaloka to lead a general sadhana retreat for dharmacharis in October.

Probably the biggest gathering of the Order clans will be for a Just Sitting retreat that I shall be leading at Adhisthana in July/August. That will go back into the territory of, and hopefully go deeper than, a retreat in that area that I did there in 2014.

Lastly, I’m doing an Order retreat at Rivendell in June based on a very challenging and inspiring Mind Training text called Flattening All Concepts. It’s one of the texts that I studied on my long retreat in France, and I’ve never tried to share it before, so that should be interesting.

You will find dates and details of all these retreats here on my teaching programme page.

Places on the Rivendell Order Retreat in June.

May 27th, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Places on the Rivendell Order Retreat in June.)

I’ve just heard that there have been some cancellations for the retreat for Order members that I’m doing at Rivendell from the 17 – 24 June. The theme is The Four Immeasurables — so lots about the open heart and positive emotion, as well as exploring how this can lead into insight territory. It would be very good to have a full house. If you’re interested, then please contact Rivendell:


Tel: 01825 733 764  (Monday to Friday, 1.30 pm – 5.30 pm.)

Rivendell Buddhist Retreat Centre,
Chillies Lane,
High Hurstwood,
East Sussex,
TN22 4AB.

Here are details about the retreat from the Rivendell website:

Immeasurables – Order Retreat

with Vessantara

June 17 – 24 | £340/310

Immeasurable love emerged as a theme in the Order retreat Vessantara led at Rivendell in 2015. In this retreat we’ll take things further, exploring all four of the Immeasurables (less commonly known in the Pali Canon as the Brahma Viharas): love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. We’ll look at what holds us back from fully experiencing them, how to set up conditions so that they come more naturally, and how much effort we need to develop them or whether we can simply open our hearts and relax into them. We’ll also look towards the horizon of our practice, to see what’s possible for us in fully experiencing them and living a life based on them. An opportunity, with the support of Rivendell with its beautiful gardens and special atmosphere, to open our hearts as wide as the sky.






Recordings of Cambridge Talks.

April 2nd, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Recordings of Cambridge Talks.)

I recently gave 4 talks on sangha nights at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. They were on Aspects of Going for Refuge, and you can find short descriptions of them and the audio recordings on the Free Buddhist Audio site.  It’s been a while since I’ve given more formal talks like these, and although I missed being able to speak completely spontaneously, I enjoyed crafting them a little, including the stories and imagery about the Pacific Ocean that linked together the Dharma points.

I hope you find them helpful.




Integration retreat 2016.

March 14th, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Integration retreat 2016.)

In February I led the fourth of a series of retreats for Order members at Adhisthana on our System of Spiritual Practice. This theme of this one was Integration, and we focused on deepening motivation and inspiration for practice, and I used meditation on the breath as a golden thread running through the week, using different meditation methods all of which include awareness of the breathing. The retreat was well-attended, with 67 of us. In the natural order of things, you would start a series on the system of spiritual practice with integration, rather than doing it fourth. So it felt a bit like putting in solid foundations after we had already built the house! Still, it worked well, and people got a lot from it.

Most of the sessions were recorded, with the exception of my introduction to the Parinirvana Day celebration, and some of the last day. It is all up on Free Buddhist Audio, although it isn’t immediately obvious how to follow the recordings through the week. The best thing is to go here.. That will give you a listing of the recordings, and then you can just follow the numberings of the days and sessions.

I hope you find them useful!


Talks in Cambridge.

February 4th, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Talks in Cambridge.)

I’ve just finalised details of a series of talks in Cambridge. They’ll be from the 23 Feb – 15 Mar.  They will be part of the  Tuesday sangha night programme at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. Each evening will start at 7.30 with a short meditation, and then my talk.

The context for these talks is that one of the strong emphases of Triratna is on the centrality of going for refuge to the Three Jewels (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha). However, going for refuge is just one vital aspect of a whole number of ways in which spiritual experience unfolds as you follow the Buddhist path. These talks will explore different dimensions of  that unfolding.  The titles are:

Dimensions of Going for Refuge

23 Feb: Wayfinding – How Spiritual Experience Unfolds.

01 Mar: The Empty Boat – the Insight Dimension.

08 Mar: Ferrying Across – the Altruistic Dimension.

15 Mar: Steering to the Deep – the Awareness Dimension.

Helping Order Members in Need.

January 15th, 2016 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Helping Order Members in Need.)

I have just done a short video appeal on behalf of the Abhayaratna Trust. The trust was established to help members of the Triratna Buddhist Order who are in need of financial help. In some cases they may be in very serious financial hardship; in others they may be ‘getting by’ but unable to participate fully in the Order because they don’t have the resources to go on retreat, or attend Order gatherings.

In the video I say a little about the work and current position of the Trust, as well as remembering back 40 years to one of the talks I heard that was crucial in forming my view of the Order and the spirit that underlies it.

The appeal is directed primarily to other members of the Order, as we have the primary responsibility to care for one another. Naturally though, he Trust will be more than happy to receive a donation from anyone who is moved to help.

You can watch the video on Youtube  here, and if you’d like to make a donation then you can do that using this link.


A News Update

October 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on A News Update)

A short look back at the year so far, and some of the highlights, plus a couple of lowlights…

What has had the most impact on me has been the Dharma tour of New Zealand and Australia that I did with Vijayamala from February to May. It had been 15 years since I’d been in that part of the world, and it was a real joy to catch up with old friends, share a lot of Dharma, and to see how things had developed both in Triratna and more widely in society. Vijayamala and I worked hard, but none of it felt like hard work. Out of our 12 weeks in NZ/OZ, we spent 8 or 9 leading retreats. And the rest of our time was mainly taken up with giving talks, meeting groups, and seeing people individually. Everywhere we went, people were very appreciative, hospitable and generous, and we had  an excellent time. I’d had serious misgivings about accepting the invitation, because I’m very concerned about climate change and find long-haul flying very hard to justify. However, it certainly seemed as if a lot of people gained new perspectives and inspiration for their Dharma practice, so that was worth flying across the globe for. Many thanks to the Australian and  New Zealand Triratna centres for inviting us!

Coming back wasn’t much fun, as I hadn’t managed to keep up with things while I was away, so there were an awful lot of messages squatting in my inbox, and a lot to catch up with. it was a relief to go to Rivendell in June to be back on retreat for another two weeks. The first week was for ‘experienced meditators’ and focused on the Root Verses of the Six Bardos  from the Bardo Thodol (or Tibetan Book of the Dead as it’s come to be known). The weather was good; the Rivendell garden was at its lush and fragrant best. It was wonderful. The retreat gelled very quickly, helped by the fact that over half of those present had been on the equivalent retreat the year before. It was great to have that continuity of contact with people, and they formed a core of connections that made it easy for newcomers to engage with the retreat. I enjoyed studying the Root Verses, which are all about keeping a continuity of awareness through all kinds of mental states. The second week was for Order members, and was focused on some meditation instructions given by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. On the second evening we watched Brilliant Moon, a film about his life. That seemed to set everyone up for the week. He was such an extraordinary example of unconditional love! It felt as if we all sat and basked in it for the rest of the week. As usual, Ambaranta’s shrines for the 2 weeks  were a living presence, growing and transforming in dialogue with the Dharma that we were exploring.

In July I went to Greece to attend a course led by Lama Tilmann Lhundrup, who guided me in my long retreat in France. The course coincided with the height of the Greek financial crisis. The banks were all closed, and many Greeks left the course for a day to return to their villages to vote in a referendum to reject the austerity measures being imposed. (A few days later, the Greek prime minister signed up to them regardless.) Angela Merkel and her government were extremely unpopular. It was a difficult time, you might have thought, to run a course consisting mainly of Greeks, but led by a German, and attended by some of his German and Swiss students. In the event, it was great. Lama Tilmann created a very relaxed and easy sense of solidarity between everyone on the retreat. It was friendly and harmonious; people who couldn’t afford to pay for the retreat found themselves quietly being paid for. The whole event was such a contrast to what was happening around us in Greece, with tempers running high, and strong antagonisms. It shows how Dharma practice can bring people together and transcend national and political boundaries and tensions.

I came back from greece expecting to have some quiet time to myself, to write and meditate. But then a few days later, Vijayamala’s father died. He was a celebrated academic, a social anthroplogist and historian. (His obituary in The Times took up a whole page, and nearly as much in Le Monde.) Vijayamala ended up organising a very large funeral, and I needed to rally round. More recently, I’ve had another bout of catching up with correspondence and seeing people. Sitting at a computer doing emails doesn’t seem to agree with me, and my health took a dip for a while. I’ve recently had a scan, which didn’t show up anything, and my health is picking up again, so I don’t think there’s anything to be concerned about.

I’ve just been at Adhisthana, leading another retreat in the series that I’ve been doing there on the Mandala of Spiritual Practice. it went very well, despite me being under the weather with a bit of a virus, and it was a real pleasure to be practising with so many Order members. I’m really loving doing these retreats. I hope to see many of you at Adhisthana next year for the last 2 retreats in the series in February and September. (Details here.)

The plan is that for October and November I’m going to stay put in Cambridge, close my door and meditate. After several very full years, it feels like time to regroup, and see where the creative flow of the Dharma wants to take me next…



Plans for 2016 (2)

October 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on Plans for 2016 (2))

Back in May I wrote saying that I was thinking seriously about how to use my time over the coming years.The last 2 or 3  months have been busier than I expected, so my reflections about the future are still rumbling on, without reaching any final conclusions. This means that for next year I’ll keep my schedule similar to the last few, although not quite so full, giving myself a little more space — as the last few years have been very full indeed. As a result, I won’t be able to be on retreat with all the people that I’d like to see, but unfortunately I haven’t mastered the Tibetan yogic art of producing multiple bodies to work in several places at once…

Here you can see my programme for next year. Sadly, there is virtually nothing for non-Order members, and several of the Order events are already full. (Though do please put yourself on the waiting list — things do change, and people often drop out for one reason or another.)  For Order members, the retreats at Adhisthana in February and September are a good bet, as Adhisthana can hold a lot of people!

So, I hope I can meet many of you on retreat next year, and apologies if you’d like to do one but can’t. I’m plotting and planning to see if things can be better in 2017…


New Pujas and Verses.

October 2nd, 2015 | Posted by Vessantara in Website - (Comments Off on New Pujas and Verses.)

It’s been many moons since I’ve given this site the attention it deserves, but at last I’ve managed to carve out the time to take care of it: fixing broken links and adding material.

In particular, I’ve added a couple of pujas that I use on retreats and that people often want copies of. So now in the Pujas section, you will find both an Amitabha puja and various verses to Padmasambhava. I’ve also included some Morning Verses (sometimes referred to as the ‘Morning Puja’ but they don’t really constitute a puja) which work well before morning meditation, and are very good for motivating you for the day. (Many thanks to Viveka, for producing the original version of these verses!)

Go well,



Plans for 2016

May 26th, 2015 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Plans for 2016)

I’ve recently completed a very intensive period of teaching, and can now turn my mind to planning for next year. I’ve already signed up to do two more retreats for Order members at Adhisthana in 2016, to complete the series of five retreats on The Mandala of Spiritual Practice. You will find details on my Teaching page. In addition, there will be one or two public retreats that I’ll publicise once they’re confirmed.

The issue that I keep reflecting on is: what contexts can I teach in that will bring the most long-term benefit? Over the last few years, since coming back from long retreat, I’ve focused mainly on leading retreats for Order members, with a few others for experienced practitioners, plus some weekends and other events at our public centres. All that has been very good, and the responses I’ve had have been very appreciative. However, my teaching time is running out. I just turned 65, and even if I’m fortunate to stay in reasonably good health, I probably only have at most another 10 years or so of active teaching. Do I keep doing what I’m doing, or for example do I focus on a small group of experienced people and work with them intensively, to pass on a lot of what I’ve learned to them before I die?

So I’m mulling over different ways of operating, which may have an impact on what else I do in 2016. Watch this space…


Positive Emotion Retreat – Recordings Available

March 26th, 2015 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Positive Emotion Retreat – Recordings Available)

In late January I led a retreat for Order members at Adhisthana, Triratna’s new(ish) central place in the UK. It was part of a series of 5 retreats that I’m doing there, in which I’m exploring all the aspects of our mandala of spiritual practice. This latest one was on Positive Emotion. In it I explored positive emotion from several angles, including how to connect more deeply with loving-kindness and compassion, the practice of tonglen, and how positive emotion practices can be used to enable us to experience life without the usual tendency to experience everything in terms of a subject/object split.

There were over 90 people on the retreat, and virtually everything was recorded, including the presentations, the guided meditations and the pujas and rituals. You don’t have to be an Order member to listen to the recordings. So if you fancy spending a week on retreat with me, admittedly at one remove, and you’d like a glimpse into how things are when Order members come together to practise meditation and positive emotion, then you can find the recordings here on freebuddhistaudio.

With many thanks to Hattie Johnson for the editing work, and the guys at freebuddhistaudio for making it available. (Do consider giving them a donation, so they can continue to make all this material available.)


Unusual Meditative Experiences

October 8th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Unusual Meditative Experiences)

I’ve just written an article for Shabda looking at how we as an Order respond to unusual meditative experiences, and to people whose main ways of experiencing are non-rational: in terms of imagination, intuition, energy or mysticism. These kinds of people don’t always receive appropriate help and guidance when they present their experiences to Order members. I’ve written the article partly in the form of a quiz. Read it here and see how you do…

Abhayaratna – Helping Order members in Difficulties.

September 11th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Abhayaratna – Helping Order members in Difficulties.)

At the recent European Order Convention at Wymondham I did a short appeal for the Abhayaratna Trust. The Trust is set up to help members of the Triratna Buddhist Order who are in need. Some Order members struggle to meet their basic living costs, while others don’t have enough to enable them to pursue their Dharma practice or to play an active part in the life of the Order.

You can watch the video of what I said on Youtube here.

I think Abhayaratna is a really valuable cause, helping people who in many cases have given their lives to help establish Buddhism in the West. If you’d like to know more then you could visit the Trust’s website.


Spiritual Receptivity Retreat Recordings

July 17th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Spiritual Receptivity Retreat Recordings)

It’s taken a few months, but at last the recordings are available from the  retreat on Spiritual Receptivity that I led for Order members at Adhisthana in February. It was a really good retreat with over 50 people. A lot of my retreats are either for Order members or fully-booked. So here’s your chance to eavesdrop on virtually all the sessions I led on the retreat, over 12 hours of material. 

The theme is spiritual receptivity, which is at the heart of the Order’s mandala of spiritual practice. There were lots of aspects I could have focused on, such as spiritual friendship, but as it was a meditation retreat I concentrated on Just Sitting, which is the meditation (if you can call Just Sitting a meditation practice) that is particularly used to allow our receptivity to unfold.

You’ll find the recordings on FreeBuddhistAudio here.

Greetings from Sweden, where I’m about to lead a retreat for 30 Order members from the Nordic countries.




New-Look Website

May 24th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Website - (Comments Off on New-Look Website)

Over recent weeks Satyadarshin has completely revamped this site – both what you see and some of the behind-the-scenes stuff as well. He has given the site a whole new look, and sorted out various problems and issues. The result is something that is much cleaner and easier to use. One important improvement is that the contact page is working once more, so you can get  in touch with me via this site again.

I’m really grateful to him for all this work. If you need some web design (or graphic design work for that matter) then do take a look at Satyadarshin’s site.

Life is very full…

April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Life is very full…)

Last week I calculated that I was entering a period in which i would only have ten weeks of programmed events in the next twelve. Basically it is one good thing after another, with the occasional two or three days to draw a breath, do some washing, repack and reorganise and then dive into the next event. So if I don’t reply to your email, etc. then please bear with me.

This period started with a week at our place in Cambridge on Emotional Intelligence in Practice, which I enjoyed. Vijayamala and I don’t do much for mitras, so it was particularly good to have Jon and Sarah from the Peterborough group come and join us for a week. The morning that retreat finished we were off to Adhisthana to attend a weekend discussing new development sin the area of insight practice in Triratna, ably facilitated by Achara and Viveka. I found it a very friendly, tiring, creative and frustrating meeting. I loved being with a lot of very old friends in the Order, and struggled with not sleeping much and being in meetings that were pretty much non-stop all day. I appreciated the creativity of Achara’s and Viveka’s facilitation and the way everyone engaged with the theme, and I felt some frustration at how long it takes for new developments to be discussed and decided on in a large international sangha like Triratna.

On Thursday I leave for a trip to Germany with Vijayamala, to co-lead the first weekend of the Easter retreat at Vimaladhatu retreat centre, to make my annual visit to see Dagyab Rinpoche, and to go to Berlin to lead a retreat for Order members.

Sangharakshita on Just Sitting

March 13th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Sangharakshita on Just Sitting)

During the recent retreat that I led at Adhisthana on Spiritual Receptivity, I discussed how little Sangharakshita has said about Just Sitting (formless meditation) over the years. In the recent compilation of his discussions of meditation, which runs to over 700 pages, there is only a tiny handful of references to it. By and large, he has preferred to leave it as a non-practice, a non-conceptual ice wall without any handholds or footholds for the intellect.

However, he has spelt out in very clear terms what true Just Sitting is about. In a discussion during the seminar on Rechungpa’s Repentance from the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, he gives a clear description of the state of ‘existential relaxation’ that is involved.

I shared the passage with the retreatants and several people said they found it helpful, so I’ve put it up here.


Talk on Rebirth at Adhisthana.

February 17th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on Talk on Rebirth at Adhisthana.)

I recently gave a talk about rebirth at a Men’s Order Weekend at Adhisthana. It’s been uploaded to FBA and to Vimeo.

Available to all.
It’ll be on VideoSangha.net sometime soon.

January News

January 27th, 2014 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on January News)

This month I’ve been staying put in Cambridge, with a couple of forays to London. It has been a busier time than I’d hoped, as I’d wanted to do some writing and have some space before February when I launch into more teaching and events again. Anyway, I’ve managed to complete a couple of articles, both of them follow-ups to articles I wrote last year, one about post-insight practice and the other about rebirth. You can read the new article about Post-Insight Practice and the Khemaka Sutta here, and More on Rebirth here.

My two days in London were very enjoyable. On the first Vijayamala and I had another private Qigong lesson with Master Lam. I’m very impressed with his energy, and he’s made some very helpful changes to my Qigong practice . After that we went to Wimbledon to have dinner with some very old friends of my family.

The second day was for a meeting with Dhammarati, Tejananda and Kamalashila, to talk about the possibility of introducing more direct experience/direct pointing methods into Triratna. These things are coming in anyway, but without yet having any agreed place in our system of practice, and that causes tensions as it disrupts the sense of a commonality of practice within Triratna. I’m hopeful that by the end of this year we shall have widespread agreement on the usefulness of these methods. It’s difficult as, with the speed at which things move on the Internet, new developments can happen very fast, while a large organisation like Triratna moves quite slowly, especially as we like to operate by consensus where possible. However, it’s worth working to get that broad agreement about matters of practice, as that safeguards our sense of unity. Whatever happens, I very much enjoyed spending a day talking about meditation with Dhammarati, Tejananda and Kamalashila.

Lastly, just as Facebook is starting to become rather outdated, with young people moving to other platforms, I’ve finally joined. I have to confess that I’ve only done so because there are some Facebook groups that I want to be part of. So I doubt whether I shall be very active or post much. But if you’re interested you’ll find me here.

I hear from Adhisthana that there are still places left if any of you who are Order members want to come to my retreat on Spiritual Receptivity from the 21st – 27th February. The retreat will focus on the Just Sitting practice.

December News

December 5th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on December News)

Update: Vijayamala and I have now finalised details of two more small retreats for Order members in August and September. One is on Just Sitting and Insight; the other on Training the Mind in Bodhicitta. If you’re interested, you’ll find details here.

I’m now in the middle of leading a series of three small retreats with Vijayamala in Cambridge. The first two went well, and the final one starts tomorrow. That will be my last programmed retreat until February. I’m pleased to be coming to the end of such a full year still feeling energetic and very much enjoying leading things.

If you’re an Order member, then do be aware that I’m leading a retreat on Spiritual Receptivity and Just Sitting at Adhisthana in February. Most of the retreats I lead book up very quickly. However, Adhisthana can take up to 120 people, so if you have ben wanting to come on one of my retreats but have found them all booked up, the Adhisthana retreat is your chance! Unfortunately, as they only opened their doors a few months ago, they are still getting their systems organised, so if you go to their Events page you won’t find a mention of anything in 2014. But the retreat is very definitely happening, from the 21 – 27 February (6 days), and you can book for it now! For booking details go here.

November News

November 4th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on November News)

Update: You will find my five talks for the International Urban retreat, mentioned below, here at thebuddhistcentre.com. You may need to register (it’s free).

The last couple of months have been rich and full again. After a bit of time at home, in mid-September I launched into another round of leading events: an enjoyable week’s retreat in West Wales with a group of Order members, most of whom I had ordained; a few days in Bristol, catching up with friends and doing a day at the Buddhist centre on working with thought chains in meditation; a week at Dhanakosa with a lovely group of people, exploring reflection and meditation; then two weeks in Spain with the five men who are doing a one-year Order retreat at Uttaraloka. Just at the beginning of all that, I caught a very unpleasant virus, with possibly the worst cough I’ve had in my life. Anyway, I managed to keep going, and my two weeks in the fresh air and sunshine of the Spanish mountains finally saw it off.

During that time I also managed to write a couple of articles for Shabda, the Triratna Order’s monthly communication to itself. One was about the implications for your Buddhist life if you come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as rebirth. The other was about post-insight practice. I’ve very lightly edited them for a wider audience and you will find them here.

Now I’m back in Cambridge, again trying to do something about my correspondence mountain (I’m starting to need oxygen and sherpas…). I’m taking advantage of this period at home to lead a short course for the Cambridge centre. It’s all about strengthening motivation. You can listen to parts of it on freebuddhistaudio here.

I’m also contributing to the Triratna International Urban Retreat, (Nov. 09-17)  which is called Blazing Like the Sun  and is all about loving-kindness. I’ve done five short talks as part of the online resources accompanying the week. I’ll also be answering questions online a couple of times during the week.

Lastly, if you’re an Order member, do consider coming on the retreat at Adhisthana that I’m doing in February. As events I lead all book up very fast (the two weeks I’m doing at Rivendell next September are already fully booked), this retreat at Adhisthana is a very good opportunity. There isn’t any publicity for it on the Adhisthana website yet, but it will run from the 21 – 27 Feb.

September 2013

September 10th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on September 2013)

I have now updated my teaching schedule to include everything currently planned until the end of 2014. In particular I’ve added in a retreat for Order members at Adhisthana in February. It will be on Spiritual Receptivity, with a full exploration of Just Sitting. As I mentioned in my July post, I’ve been finding it hard to meet the demand from people wanting to be on retreat with me. So, for Order members at least, this retreat in a large place should give anyone who wants the chance for us to spend a week together.

Since the Rivendell retreat in June, I’ve been on quite a few more events. There was a week in Greece, catching up with Lama Tilmann Lhundrup, who was a guide during my long retreat in France. It was very good to see him, and also to meet up again with some of his Greek students, who are very friendly and hospitable despite the continuing economic crisis. After Greece, I went to Vajrakuta in North Wales, for the first ever gathering of Order members who do the Chod practice. There were 17 of us, and it was great to be able to exchange experiences and to practise together. We had a lot of sunny weather which was very welcome, as Chod is very suited to practising out in nature.  After that, Vijayamala and I led two small retreats in Cambridge: one on the Seven-Point Mind Training and one on ‘The Unexamined Self’ (i.e. exploring anatta). Finally I went to Wymondham in Norfolk for the European Order Gathering, which was a friendly and relaxed event, and gave me a chance to catch up with several old friends. Since then I’ve had a bit of time in Cambridge, meeting up with people here as well as trying to reduce my correspondence mountain.

Plans for Next Year

July 11th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on Plans for Next Year)

I’m currently finalising my programme for next year.

In 2014 I will continue leading retreats and seminars in Triratna. (You will find the first few confirmed events here.) However, I shall not be doing quite so many events as this year. (In 2013 I am on programmed events for half the year; in 2014 it will be more like a third.) I’m aware that this isn’t great, as all the retreats I am doing this year are full with a waiting list, and ideally I would do more rather than less. However, there are a few factors I’ve had to take into account:

1. I came off my long retreat riding a big wave of energy and inspiration to share the Dharma. It has sustained me over the last year, but it takes a lot of energy to be ‘up front’ so consistently and I can’t rely on that outgoing energy phase lasting indefinitely.

2. I want to have a bit more unprogrammed time, so that I have the possibility of doing some writing.

3. I’d like to reach out to some aspects of Triratna beyond the UK, so I’m looking at visiting Scandinavia, Germany, and Australasia, all of which reduces my time for running events in the UK.

4. I’d also like to do a few more days and weekends at UK centres, and leading so many weeks of retreat doesn’t leave many weekends free for other things.

So in terms of UK retreats in 2014, I shall be doing a week for Order members at Padmaloka in May, 2 weeks at Rivendell in September, and some more small retreats with Vijayamala in Cambridge. As well as our Cambridge retreats, she will also be co-leading two retreats at Taraloka and one at Akashavana.


June 2013

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on June 2013)

Over the last four weeks I’ve led three very enjoyable retreats: one at Vajraloka in North Wales, and two at Rivendell in Sussex to the south of London. The Vajraloka one was for Order members and was called Mirror of the Mind. I had advertised it to make it clear that it was for those who had some interest in Tibetan Buddhism, so that I could put across some material from my long retreat more on its own terms, without having to translate and interpret it for people with no understanding of the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition. The retreat went very well, and I was left with a feeling of great gratitude for all those who had preserved and communicated these wonderful Dharma teachings for a thousand years. I enjoyed being back at Vajraloka, and working with Vijayamala, Bodhananda, Balajit and Rijumitra.

Then, after a few days back in Cambridge reducing my correspondence backlog, I was off to Rivendell. I hadn’t been there for seven years, and was very impressed by all that Nagasiddhi, Mandarava and their team have accomplished over that time. The first week was on Sadhana as a Path to Insight for Order members. The second was a Total Immersion-style silent retreat for experienced meditators. I called it Centre of the Sunlit Sky, and that evocative image set the tone for the retreat. I taught based on images from the Indo-Tibetan tradition. Images work very well for meditation, and I used them in a progressive sequences, associating them with preparation, absorption and insight. I’m very grateful to the participants in all three of these retreats for putting themselves into things so wholeheartedly, and to Vijayamala and Ambaranta for all they did.

May 2013

May 16th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on May 2013)

Another very full two months since I last wrote. Over Easter I was in Germany, seeing Dagyab Rinpoche. In the mid-1980s I asked Sangharakshita for a particular meditation practice, and he passed me on to Dhardo Rinpoche, one of his teachers in India, who in turn recommended Dagyab Rinpoche. So I have now been in contact with him for 25 years. In that time his sangha has grown steadily but gradually, as Rinpoche always wanted a stable group to work with. So when I attended Rinpoche’s Easter Course, I also had the pleasure of meeting friends in his sangha who I have known for 20 years or more.

On my return from Germany, Vijayamala and I launched into leading a series of small retreats in Cambridge – three in four weeks. The first was called Emotional Intelligence in Practice, and was based on teaching we received from Lama Tilmann Lhundrup during our 3-year retreat. It involves working with the kleshas, the ‘mental afflictions’, on deeper and deeper levels. It was a very enjoyable week. In fact it’s amazing how spending a week on the mental afflictions can be both enjoyable and inspiring!

Our second small retreat was on Just Sitting, and was aimed at people who are teaching meditation. On this retreat Spring finally sprang, and we could enjoy doing meditation reviews in the large garden here, as well as going for walks through some of the college gardens, which are very beautiful. It was a particular pleasure working with people who themselves teach meditation, as there’s a sense that whatever benefits they receive from the retreat will be ‘paid forward’ to others in a very tangible way. The last retreat of this series was on ‘Spiritual Death’, which is a term Sangharakshita uses for insight practice. That week also went well, although I don’t think I would give a retreat that title again, as people tend to tense up a little in relation to talk of death, even spiritual death, when what we’re looking for is relaxation and letting go.

On these retreats there was quite a bit of discussion about the topic of insight,  how we discuss it in Triratna, and particularly the issue of making public statements of attainment. As a contribution to the discussion, I wrote an article for Shabda. I have slightly edited it, and you can read it here.

This month two of my books: The Breath and The Heart are featured titles on the Windhorse Publications website. I was recently interviewed about them by Hannah Atkinson from Windhorse. Here is the link to the interview.

In the last few days I have been at Maes Gwyn, Subhuti and Srimala’s place in North Wales, discussing meditation and Dharma teaching in Triratna, with a group of nine of us. It was a useful meeting, and I’m grateful to Dhammarati for inviting me. It was especially good to spend time with Subhuti, as our paths haven’t crossed properly since 2008.

Lastly, a little bit of synchronicity, of a kind that seems to happen a lot these days. Vijayamala and I were in Cambridge, talking about the Dalai Lama. Despite my interest in Tibetan Buddhism, I’ve never seen His Holiness, who will be 78 next month. Out of curiosity, I looked up his schedule on his website. To my complete gobsmackedness, I discovered that he was going to be in Cambridge, giving a talk at Saint John’s College, in two days’ time. When we recovered from the shock, we contacted the college, only to find out that 1400 people had applied for tickets even before the talk date was officially announced. However, Vijayamala’s father is a venerable retired professor at Saint John’s… So two days later we had tickets, and were able to see His Holiness at close range, talking about Educating the Heart. Oh yes, and when we heard we had tickets, we went outside and there was a big double rainbow directly over the chapel of Saint John’s where the talk was to be given. I’m afraid I don’t believe these things are ‘just coincidence…

March 2013

March 22nd, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in News - (Comments Off on March 2013)

It’s coming towards the end of March, and since I last wrote I’ve had another 3 weeks of retreat, plus leading a course in Cambridge and a day in London – and this is the quiet time of the year!

Last month I spent a week in Norfolk  at Padmaloka on a retreat for private preceptors in Triratna. I really enjoyed it, there were 28 of us altogether, including some good friends. I was asked to give a couple of presentations: one on the lessons that I’d learned from my 3-year retreat, and one on how I introduce a sadhana to a new Order member. There was also a very interesting evening in which Kamalashila introduced discussion on the topic of insight and the Triratna Order. It was fascinating to watch the (friendly) differences of opinion emerge around questions like ‘Is it helpful to acknowledge publicly that you feel you’re on the transcendental path?’ and ‘What ethical standards can you expect of a stream-entrant?’ I have a lot of thoughts in these areas, and hope to be able to turn them into an article before too long.

Back in Cambridge, I led a short course on Wednesday evenings on Just Sitting. This was a follow-up to a course I did in the autumn. Again, a large number of people braved the elements to come and spend three evenings doing nothing… This time we explored the openness, clarity and sensitivity aspects of the practice. I’ve enjoyed doing these two courses very much, and feel sad that my programme for this year is so full that it’s very hard to find enough time when I’m available in Cambridge to do more of them.

I also recently led a day for Order members at the London Buddhist Centre on sadhana and insight. It was part of the excellent series of events put together by Kamalashila. Order members in London are very fortunate that he has managed to persuade several excellent teachers to visit and contribute. I hadn’t been to the LBC for several years, and was pleased to see the work that has been done, both on the reception area and the new downstairs shrine.

Lastly, I’ve just got back from a 2-week stay in Spain. I went out to spend time with the five men who are doing a one-year retreat at Uttaraloka – the new piece of land bought by Guhyaloka, which is our men’s ordination centre in the mountains near Alicante. I felt extremely happy at Uttaraloka. It’s a beautiful place, with stunning views of Campana, the local mountain which is about 4,600 feet (over 1400 metres) high. You can also see the mountain valley of Guhyaloka as well as looking down the coast to Alicante and the sea. The 5 guys are now almost a quarter of the way through their retreat, and getting on well with both their practice and each other. We studied and discussed a number of topics while I was there, including insight, sadhana practice and Chod. I look forward very much to visiting them again in October to see how they’re getting on.

I shall be in Germany over Easter, and then Vijayamala and I start a new series of small retrerats here in Cambridge.

Wishing you all well,


January 2013

January 13th, 2013 | Posted by Vessantara in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on January 2013)

I had a very full time over the last few weeks. Over Xmas/New Year, I led a 2-week retreat for men at Padmaloka retreat centre in Norfolk, on the theme of the Mandala of the Five Buddhas. That went very well. It was very good to lead a retreat at Padmaloka again, where I lived for six years in the 1980s, when I was secretary to Sangharakshita. The Padmaloka team create a very good atmosphere, and the shrine room with its large image of Shakyamuni is a great space for practice. I had Ratnaprabha and Jinapalita supporting me. Ratnaprabha and I gave 11 talks altogether, which will appear in due course on FreeBuddhistAudio. On New Year’s Eve, as part of our ritual Jinapalita unleashed the pyromaniac within, and we had the most fantastic bonfire. There were a great bunch of people on the retreat, including a lot of Order members.

After that I went to Taraloka Retreat Centre  in Wales to attend the Triratna European Chairs’ Assembly meeting. I don’t have that kind of organisational responsibility these days, but I’d been invited to do a day on insight practice and to lead their shrineroom activities. I enjoyed the chance to explore Taraloka, the canal walks and the haunting area of bog nearby; and the Chairs made me very welcome. On the way back from that event, I crossed paths in Birmingham with Vijayamala, and we led a day at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on prapancha – mental proliferation – which is a major issue in meditation, particularly for newer people. When you look deeply into what causes it, you come right to the roots of self-clinging, which is what makes our lives a misery.

Now I’m home in Cambridge for a little while, in semi-retreat: spending more time meditating, but also gradually munching my way through the backlog of work and correspondence that has built up while I’ve been away.

Wishing you all a very healthy, creative and fulfilling year of Dharma practice!


[For earlier news, see the News Archive.]