Seven Point Mind Training part 2

I am very much looking forward to the second of the 2 retreats I am leading for Order members  at Adhisthana on 7 point mind training, which starts next Thursday, the 18th March. (Although it’s the second of two, you don’t need to have attended the first one. )

In this retreat will be looking more deeply into the wisdom aspect, as well as themes like how to practice at the time of death, how you know your practice is on the right track, and lots more practical pieces of advice on bringing bodhichitta into daily life.

If you would like to join us you can book with Adhisthana by clicking here: seven-point-mind-training-part-2

I hope to see you there!

All good wishes

Vessantara

A Thousand Years of Wisdom


(Geshe Chekawa, compiler of the Seven-Point Mind Training)

I spent the days up to New Year co-leading the online Love Without Limits retreat with Advayasiddhi.  It was great that over 180 of you could join us.  I also really enjoyed our meditation after the retreat to see in the New Year at midnight UK time. It was very good having some Australians, who were already 11 hours into their New Year, coming to join us for a second celebration!

Now I’m doing a few weeks of personal retreat at home. I’ve mainly been meditating, but today I dug out some books and folders of notes on the Seven-Point Mind Training. I’ll be reading a little each day to feed that inspiration into my retreat. It will prepare me for the two online retreats for Order members that I’m leading soon on this material. (Dates are 30 Jan – 04 Feb and 18 – 23 Mar).

The Mind training is a treasure trove of skilful methods for working with your thoughts and emotions, especially in difficult times, which have been used for a thousand years. So it feels very appropriate to be doing retreats on it now.  I’ve practised aspects of it since the 1970s, and at times it has felt like a lifesaver, or a ‘mindsaver’. I also spent the first six months of my three-year retreat working intensively with it, and came to appreciate its subtlety, practicality and power even more.

So I hope to see many friends in the Order (and some of you I haven’t met yet!) on one or both of these retreats.  The retreats will be run from Adhisthana, and if you want to know more or would like to book you’ll find details in their programme.

With all good wishes for your health and Dharma practice,

Vessantara

Kathleen Raine: “Amo Ergo Sum” 

Kathleen Raine:

Amo Ergo Sum 

Because I love

The sun pours out its rays of living gold

Pours out its gold and silver on the sea.

Because I love

The earth upon her astral spindle winds

Her ecstasy-producing dance.

Because I love

Clouds travel on the winds through wide skies,

Skies wide and beautiful, blue and deep.

Because I love

Wind blows white sails,

The wind blows over flowers, the sweet wind blows.

Because I love

The ferns grow green, and green the grass, and green

The transparent sunlit trees.

Because I love

Larks rise up from the grass

And all the leaves are full of singing birds.

Because I love

The summer air quivers with a thousand wings,

Myriads of jewelled eyes burn in the light.

Because I love

The iridescnt shells upon the sand

Takes forms as fine and intricate as thought.

Because I love

There is an invisible way across the sky,

Birds travel by that way, the sun and moon

And all the stars travel that path by night.

Because I love

There is a river flowing all night long.

June Online Retreats for Rivendell

For years now, I’ve spent two very happy weeks each June at Rivendell Retreat Centre in Sussex, with its beautiful garden. Next year, I shall be doing my two weeks for them as usual, but with Covid  and the uncertainty about how things will be next year, even with vaccines being rolled out, I’ve agreed to do them online.

As usual, one of the two retreats will be for experienced meditators, which is one of the very rare opportunities for me to share a retreat with those of you who aren’t Order members.  It will run from the 12th – 17th June, and is called Centre of the Sunlit Sky. For more details, see here.

The other online retreat, for Order members,  will be a new departure for me, taking extracts from a Mahayana sutra as the basis for a meditation retreat.  We’ll be looking at one of the great classics of the Mahayana tradition, the Vimalakirti Nirdesa, on which Sangharakshita gave an important series of lectures in the 1970s, and taking some of its images and insights as deeply as possible into meditation. Dates are 19th – 24th June, and you’ll find full details here.

I’m hoping that I shall be able to go to Rivendell and do the retreat from there. I’m sorry that we won’t have a full house of people there, but it’s great that the catchment area for the retreats is now the whole world…

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

Last Call for the Ocean; Still Time for Limitless Love.

A little note to remind those of you who are Order members that the 5-day online retreat on The Ocean of True Meaning, starts on Monday. It’s a classic meditation manual from the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition, and we’ll be using extracts from the shamatha and vipashyana sections as the basis for our explorations together. If you want to know more, or you want to book then the details are here.

After that, the next public event I’ll be doing will be an online retreat for experienced meditators in the days leading up to New Year.  I’m really happy to be able to offer something that isn’t just for Order members, and also that Advayasiddhi will be joining me. The theme is Love Without Limits, which feels very appropriate at  this time. Many of us are faced with physical constraints because of Covid, so it’s vital that we discover how our hearts can expand and become increasingly free, whatever the conditions. To find out more about the retreat, go here.

Both retreats are being run on a dana  (donation) basis. I hope to see many of you online!

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

Three Online Retreats

After thoroughly enjoying leading the online retreat on the Bodhicitta Practice last month, I’ve signed up to do 3 more online retreats. There’s one I’ve already advertised here,  for Order members under the auspices of Adhisthana, starting next Saturday. For full details see here.

Then early in December I’ll be exploring sections from The Ocean of True Meaning, one of my favourite Buddhist texts, again for Order members. You can find out more about that here.

And in the period leading up to New Year I’ll be doing the main teaching on a retreat with Advayasiddhi for experienced meditators called Love Without Limits.  (Details here.)

As the UK and other places go back into lockdown, the connecting thread of all 3 retreats is going deeper into our hearts, finding the openness, freedom and connection with others that is always there, even when we’re physically isolated from one another.

I’m really looking forward to these three events, and hope to see many of you there.

With all good wishes,

Vessantara.

 

November Retreat – Arrangements for Aus/NZ

Next month I shall be leading another online retreat for Order members, following on from the very successful one on the Bodhicitta Practice we held last month, which had 135 participants. Dates are the 7th – 12th of November, and we’ll be going deeper into meditation practices on the bodhisattva path. (For full details see here.)

Like last time, we’re making special arrangements for people in Australia and New Zealand.  I’ve shifted one of the teaching sessions to make it easier for you to participate live. And Dharmananda will again be ‘convening’ and helping arrange things so you can meet in groups at times that work for you. Last time, he and Maitripala did it between them, but this time she isn’t available (hope the house move goes well!), so  Dharmananda will have another sidekick.

It was great seeing so many of you on the last retreat,  I hope you’ll make it this time.

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

 

Upcoming Online Order Retreat – November 07-12

In my last post I talked about the online Order retreat that I’d just done at Adhisthana.  I appreciated the retreat so much that I promptly signed up to do another one. So I’ll be back online from Adhisthana , from the 7th – 12th of November, doing a retreat that I think will follow on well from the one last month.

The essence of bodhicitta is learning to escape the prison of narrow self-concern, and find the freedom that comes with wisdom and an open heart.  That involves  learning to fully engage, to give ourselves to life, but without being naive or neglecting ourselves. (We’re part of life too.)  There are   Buddhist meditation practices that are specifically designed to help us do this, and we’ll be exploring some of them over these 6 days. We’ll focus especially on the principles behind them,  because once we’re grounded in those principles we’ll be much freer, more alive and  flowing in how we practise. 

Although the theme of this retreat follows on from the Bodhicitta Practice retreat last month, you don’t need to have been on that one to join and benefit from this one.  Again the retreat will be on a dana basis. And we’ll do our best to do the impossible, and find session timings that work for people from around the world.  Here you will find full details of the theme, and how to book.

All good wishes,

Vessantara 

 

 

 

 

The Bodhicitta Practice Retreat – and Future Plans

Last week I led a 6-day online retreat for members of the Triratna Order, exploring a practice we use for developing bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is the heart of Buddhism, the combination of profound wisdom and great love and compassion that motivates someone to follow the bodhisattva path of gaining Awakening in order to be able to help others become free from suffering.

There were 135 of us on the retreat, scattered over many different time zones from San Francisco, to Europe, India, and Australia and New Zealand. Scheduling teaching sessions was a tricky business! Inevitably some people outside Europe were asleep during some of them, and had to catch up with the video recordings. Nonetheless, it did feel as if all of us in our different bedrooms, living rooms and meditation rooms around the globe were very definitely participating in one shared practice, one meditation on wisdom and compassion.

The retreat was hosted by Adhisthana, the centre a few minutes’ drive from where I live. So I was able to travel back and forth between sessions. Adhisthana is a very large retreat centre and inevitably it has been very badly affected financially by the effects of the Covid epidemic. They are set to lose a 6-figure sum this year. So I was delighted that, due to the open-hearted generosity of the participants, we were able to raise over £10k in donations from our retreat.

Many thanks again to all those at Adhisthana who were involved in making the retreat happen, at a very demanding time for them.  And thanks and all good wishes to all those of you who participated. I’ve really appreciated all the stimulating questions you asked during the retreat and the messages of appreciation since!

Although the retreat was for Order members, anyone can watch the recordings. If you’d like to do so, you’ll find links to nearly all the sessions here, along with various materials that I shared with the retreatants.

I enjoyed leading the retreat very much, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy and effective it was to do online. So at the end I announced that I planned to lead another 6-day online retreat for Order members from the 7th – 12th November.  It will be at Adhisthana again, and I hope to announce the theme here by this weekend at the latest. For now, please put the dates in your diary.

Wishing you good health and ever-deepening wisdom and compassion,

Vessantara.

The Bodhicitta Practice – Online Retreat for Order Members

Over the months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bodhicitta Practice has been a powerful cohesive factor for the Triratna Order.  Every Sunday, at 7.30 and 2.30 UK time, Order members from around the world have been meeting online, meditating together to contact the deep power of love and compassion and channel it into the world with all its suffering.  I’ve been moved by this shared practice, and in response I wanted to offer Order members the opportunity to explore the Bodhicitta Practice together more deeply on an online retreat.  So I shall be leading a six-day retreat from Monday 28th September to Saturday 3rd October. 

Over those 6 days, I’ll give presentations on different aspects of the Bodhicitta Practice, do some guided meditations and answer questions. There will also be the chance for breakout discussion groups. The content of the evenings (UK time) will vary, with some guided meditation, mantra recitation and puja.

It’s impossible to schedule things so that Order members all around the world can participate live (without some very sleepless nights!).  We’re in the process of making special arrangements for those of you in Australasia, so you can participate as fully as possible.

I’m very pleased that the idea has been taken up by Adhisthana.  They will be hosting the event, and  we can join their morning meditation session online.  I’ll  be leading the other 3 sessions from their shrineroom, which has a strong atmosphere.  I’m very grateful for all their help in making it possible.

You will find full details  and the opportunity to book for the retreat, which is being offered on a dana basis, on the Adhisthana website here.

I look forward to seeing many of you there!

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

 

 

 

Retreat Plans

I’ve spent nearly the whole of 2020 doing personal retreat at home. I had a personal retreat scheduled anyway for January to March, which went well.  Then I emerged just in time for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce the beginning of the Covid 19 lockdown. My plans to co-lead a 2-month retreat in Sweden in May-July bit the dust. So I decided to make a virtue of necessity and go back into personal retreat. This period will end in the middle of this month, after which I’ll be available until the end of August. During that time, I’ll lead a couple of  online events: for the Nordic Order Region and Buddhafield in the Web. (See here for dates.)

Vijayamala and I are hoping that our next 2-month retreat for Order members will go ahead in Jan-Feb 2021. We’ll make a decision by the beginning of September, and will be consulting beforehand with all those of you who have booked.

If that retreat is happening, then I’ll  probably spend September-November this year in personal retreat as well. It feels strange to be so out of contact this year, after doing so much teaching over the last 8 years. Hopefully it will be worth it, so that next year I can move back into activity from a deeper and richer basis , and teach from the experience I’ve gained through taking time out this year.

My hope is that in 2021 things will become more stable again, and it will be possible to lead face-to-face retreats. I’m now finalising details of a programme of events for next year. I look forward to sharing them with you.

With all good wishes,

Vessantara.

Tales of Freedom for Free!

My good friends at Windhorse Publications are responding to the current pandemic by giving you the chance to download a free book every week, in an initiative they’re calling Free the Dharma. This week’s offering is my book Tales of Freedom.

You can take up the offer by going here.

You can also sign up to receive email notifications about their future weekly free offers here. And finally they also have a special ‘stay-at-home Book Sale on, with up to a third off selected titles and free postage. Enjoy!

Wishing you very good health wherever you are,

Vessantara.

2019, and Future Plans…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any news here, so I’ll give a short overview of last year, which saw some big changes on the material level. It started with getting married on the 2nd of January, mainly for financial reasons, although it was good to have a chance to celebrate my relationship with Vijayamala. Nonetheless, it was it was rather squeezed into a busy time. We went to the Cambridge Registry Office in the morning, had a brunch at home to celebrate with a few family and friends, and then later in the day drove to Wales to prepare to lead a 3-month Order Retreat.

The retreat was held in a hotel we had hired on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. The venue worked very well, and the surrounding area is very beautiful, with woods that were once an old deer park, the sea within easy walking distance, and a ridge from which there were views across to the hills, the Brecon Beacons, as well as down the coast and across the Bristol Channel to Devon and Cornwall.

There were getting on for 40 of us on the retreat, including some old friends. I enjoyed it very much, although it was quite hard work doing such a sustained period of teaching and meditation reviews. It went very well overall, although there are some things I would want to try doing differently next time to see if we can take people even deeper.

Then there was the usual round of shorter retreats at different retreat centres: on bodhicitta, sadhana, breathing meditation, the White Tara practice (which I co-led with Moksanandi), and a weekend for the men I’ve ordained into the Order, plus a couple of friends we’ve taken into the group over the years.

However, I did fewer short retreats last year, as I had made plans to begin a series of 3-month personal retreats at home. I did the first one from September to November. It was a valuable time, although not in ideal circumstances, because in the middle of it Vijayamala and I moved from Cambridge to a place in Herefordshire. We hadn’t planned it to be like that, but buying and selling property in the UK is a very uncertain business…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being in a new environment. Our new house is only a few minutes’ drive from Adhisthana, where I do a lot of events, and I have good friends in the area, as well as being closer to friends in Stroud and Bristol. The place we bought is big enough to run small retreats, for 6 or 7 people, in the future.

Future Plans

Talking of future plans, 2020 and the first half of 2021 will be taken up with doing three more personal retreats of three months each, as well as two Order retreats of two months each. The first of these happens in Sweden from May to July, and a couple of places have recently become available. So I won’t be leading any of the shorter retreats I usually do at retreat centres until the second half of next year. I’m sorry about that, but I hope my time devoted to my own meditation practice will bear fruit in deeper teaching in the future.

As I’m so much on retreat during this time, I also won’t be able to do much keeping up with people. My main periods of unprogrammed time this year are in mid-April to mid-May, August (including attending the Order conventions), and December. In the first half of next year, I’ll have some free time in March to mid-April.

After all this, we’ll see what the future holds, but my current plan is to return to leading some shorter retreats and being more outward-going again.

And while I’m doing these personal retreats I shall be holding in my heart my friends and all those I have personal connections with .

Wishing you all well,

Vessantara.

Two-Month Order Retreat in 2021

This year Vijayamala and I held a 3-month Order retreat in a rented hotel on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. The retreat and venue worked very well, so we are now planning to hold another one, this time for 2 months, in Jan. and Feb. 2021. However, we are still looking for the best solution for the catering (see below). We are about to open bookings for the retreat. We already have a list of people interested from previous years, but there may be places available for others. If you want to know more, or wish to express interest in coming, please contact us at gowerretreats@gmail.com.

Cooks/kitchen overseers needed. We are still looking for someone, or a couple of Order members, who would like to take on the catering. We have had some partial offers, but would like to throw it open to as wide an audience of Order members as possible, to see if there are others interested. The role would involve: 1. either overseeing the kitchen or doing some of the cooking yourself if you prefer, and 2. food ordering. There are likely to be 33 or 34 people to feed. We have menus and suppliers in place from the last retreat, but you can also come with your own ideas. We have had some offers of help, so you would be able to have regular days off over the 2 months.  If necessary, we can give you £2000 in support for performing this role over the 2 months. If you’re interested, or know of someone else who we could ask, please contact us.

Vessantara.

Listening to the Heart

Earlier this year I had the chance to record my book about Loving-Kindness meditation, The Heart, which I wrote as part of Windhorse Publications’ series on The Art of Meditation. Now you can listen to it here on Audible.

The book gives an introduction to ways of meditating to open your heart. Although it is suitable for newcomers, I also aimed to put some depth into it, so even if you’ve been practising this meditation for years hopefully you’ll still learn something and find fresh inspiration for your practice.

The world needs loving, empathetic people if we’re to meet all the current challenges. So I’m grateful to Jinamitra (Nicolas Soames) for helping to make the book available in audio, including several guided meditations.

Vessantara.

Tonglen – Guided Meditations

Over the years I’ve taught a lot about tonglen – the practice of love and compassion combined with awareness of the breath. Usually I’ve taken the teaching deeper with guided meditations. Now Nagesvara has kindly gone through many of the recordings of these guided meditations made between 2015-17 and indexed them for easy reference.

The index is currently only available to members of the Triratna Buddhist Order. You will find it if you use your Order login to access the free buddhist audio site and then go to this page.

Tonglen is a wonderful way of working with bodhicitta which you can use in any life situation, right up to your last conscious breath. I hope these recordings will give you several helpful ways to approach the practice.

Vessantara.

Talks on Dealing with Overwhelm

I’m just back from leading a 3-month retreat in South Wales. (I’ll aim to post something about that very soon!) For now I want to recommend 2 talks that Taranita gave recently at the Bristol Buddhist Centre. They’re based on my article about ways to avoid overwhelm, and they provoked some lively discussion. You’ll find them on Free Buddhist Audio. The first one and the second one.

I hope you find them useful.

Vessantara.

Padmasambhava – an Insider’s View

Last year I visited the Dublin Buddhist Centre and gave a talk called Padmasambhava Practice – a Personal Unfolding. As the title suggests, it was quite a personal take on the experience of practising visualization and mantra recitation – in this case focusing on Padmasambhava, the great teacher who was instrumental in establishing Buddhism in Tibet, and who is a kind of archetypal guru figure.

The talk was recorded, and is available to stream or download from free buddhist audio.

‘The Breath’ as an Audiobook.

I recently spent a very enjoyable day with my friend Jinamitra (Nicolas Soames). He runs Dharma Audiobooks, which has some very good recordings of Dharma material.

We were making an audio recording of my book The Breath, which is an in-depth introduction to the practice of meditating on the breath.  The result is now up on Audible. You’ll find it here.

Next week we’ll finish recording The Heart, my book on loving-kindness meditation, which is a companion to The Breath. I’ll post here when it becomes available on Audible.

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

Guided Meditations on the System of Practice

There is a lot of audio material that you can listen to online from retreats that I’ve led over the last few years. That includes a set of 5 retreats I did at Adhisthana, exploring the different aspects of the mandala of practice that was outlined in his teaching by Sangharakshita. These are: integration, positive emotion, insight (or ‘spiritual death’), spiritual rebirth, and spiritual receptivity.

The recordings of all 5 retreats are all available on freebuddhistaudio. (The retreat on spiritual rebirth contains a lot of material on sadhana, and is restricted to Triratna Order members only.)

My friend Nagesvara has listened to the audio from all these 5 retreats and kindly put together a list of all the guided meditations from them. So if you don’t want to listen to the entire teaching, or you’re looking for a guided meditation on a particular topic, you can refer to his list.

With many thanks to Nagesvara for putting this together for us!

All good wishes,

Vessantara.

Death of Sangharakshita

31st October 2018.

My teacher and friend since 1973, Sangharakshita died yesterday at the age of 93.

After hearing the news, last night I dreamt that I was in a large garden with several people. I looked around and there was Sangharakshita, walking down a flight of stone steps to the lawn. He looked all of his 93 years, frail, and unsteady on his feet. I was very concerned, as he clearly needed someone to help him down the steps. Before I could get to him, he arrived at the bottom step, tripped, and pitched forward on his face. As he was so frail, I felt at once that he couldn’t have survived the fall.. Several people started moving towards him to help, but I was first to get to where he was lying on his face, unmoving.

Then to my amazement, he got up, unaided. Even his glasses were still in place, unbroken. Not only that, he looked younger. The only negative effect from his fall was a slight bruising on his nose. We began talking in an animated way. He seemed to have more energy than before.

I woke up feeling light-hearted, with a strengthened feeling that for a deep Dharma practitioner the death of the body isn’t such a major event. It’s perhaps one of the reasons why my mind has felt very steady on hearing of Sangharakshita’s illness and death. I was also helped by knowing that he died in a peaceful situation, surrounded by friends who have devoted years of their lives to his care, and they reported that there was an atmosphere of profound peace around him.

I’m currently on retreat, which feels like the right place to be. It gives me a chance to absorb the death of my teacher, a friend I’ve known for 45 years, and to have some space to appreciate the fullness of his Dharma life, his practice, and the scale of his achievement. I shall be out of retreat in time to attend the funeral, and hope to see many of you there.

Sending love to all of you around the world, especially those for whom his death feels like a loss.

Vessantara.

Dates for your 2019 Diary

A central principle of mindfulness and meditation is staying in the present and not letting mind speed off into the future. However,  being a meditation teacher involves quite a bit of future planning, in my case up to two years ahead.  So for those of you who also need to organise your lives well in advance, here is my teaching programme until the end of 2019. I’ve also added in details of a couple of smaller events for this year.

As Vijayamala doesn’t have her own website, I’ve included her teaching schedule as well.

As usual, most of these events are for members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.  I do this with regret, as it means that many people who could benefit aren’t able to attend. However, by and large, Order members have the experience to really benefit from them, and to pass on what they learn. Often I’m able to make recordings of the retreats available more widely, so at least others have access to the material. You’ll find a good collection on freebuddhistaudio.

Some of the retreat centres where these events will be held haven’t published their programmes yet, and may not be open for bookings. But you can at least put the dates in your diary…

I look forward to seeing you on an event somewhere.

 

2018 — More Events.

I’ve recently added a couple of weekend events at Buddhist centres to my teaching programme for next year.  Most of my teaching is done within the Triratna Order, so I try to highlight opportunities for mitras and others within Triratna to come along and practise with me.

Also Vijayamala doesn’t have her own website, so I include all her teaching engagements on my site. It’s handy to have them all in one place for reference.  I’ve now put up her 2018 events.

You can find all this in my teaching programme .

Spiritual Receptivity Retreat Recordings

Back in the summer I led another retreat for Order members on Spiritual Receptivity. The retreat focused on formless meditation/just sitting, exploring it from different angles.

The recordings are now all available here.

Many thanks to Padmakumara, Akasajoti and the folks at freebuddhistaudio for making this possible.

Vessantara.

Some Dates for Your Diary

I’ve now updated my teaching schedule with all the retreats of more than a weekend that I have planned for 2018.

As usual, most of what I do is for Order members. I feel sad that I’m not offering more for other people, but at the moment the Order is where I feel I can have the most beneficial effect. However, at least there is a week in June that I’m doing on the Heart Sutra, the classic Buddhist wisdom text, that is open to anyone with a reasonable amount of experience of meditation. Ambaranta and Nagadipa will be my team again for this retreat, and I hope that we shall see several of you who have been on these retreats before. That week will be followed immediately by an Order retreat on The Shepherd’s Search for Mind, a classic story from the life of Milarepa.

I’m pleased to be returning to Vajraloka in North Wales, after a few years’ absence, and excited to be exploring The Ocean of True Meaning. Written by the Ninth Karmapa, it’s my favourite meditation manual, a wonderful collection of advice for teachers and students, with some fantastic quotes from great meditators of the past. I plan to go in depth into the sections on calming the mind and insight — I suspect that it may take me a few years to do, but at least I can make a good start on exploring the text in February.

Once again, I’ll be doing three weeks at Adhisthana, which allows for large numbers. In particular, the retreats I’ve led on different aspects of the mandala of spiritual practice have been very popular. So in May I’ll do another one, exploring the insight aspect of practice. I’m also delighted to have the chance to team up with Saddhanandi in September, for a retreat exploring how dukkha can become a doorway to freedom. In November, I’ll be doing another sadhana retreat, this time on Vajrasattva, and am very pleased to be co-leading it with Punyamala.

In July, I’ll head for Sweden to lead another Nordic Order Retreat, the third one I’ll have attended in recent years. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my friends in that part of the world again. Vijayamala will be coming with me for this. The theme is yet to be decided; let’s see nearer the time what feels appropriate.

 

 

Spiritual Death retreat recordings.

At the end of September, I led a retreat about insight practice, for 90 Order members, at Adhisthana. Most of the sessions were recorded, and they have now been made available on Free Buddhist Audio. (You don’t have to be an Order member to listen to them.) So if you’d like to eavesdrop on my teaching on that retreat you can follow the link here.

Very best wishes,

Vessantara.

 

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.

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:

rivendellbookings@googlemail.com

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

Bookings,
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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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)

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.

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,

Vessantara.

 

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

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

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…