http://www.UrbanDharma.org ...Buddhism for Urban America


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... December 31, 2002


In This Issue:

1. Meditation Basics ...http://www.buddhamind.info/
2. Meditation on the Breath ...http://www.buddhamind.info/
3. Loving-Kindness Meditation
4. A Loving Kindness Meditation
...from Kusala's Morning Practice

3. Book Review: Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake: Practicing the Perfections of the Heart-The Buddhist Path of Kindness
...by Sylvia, Ph.D. Boorstein
4. Temple/Center of the Week: The Birmingham Buddhist Vihara


1. Meditation Basics ...http://www.buddhamind.info/

* http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/lifestyl/medi/breath.htm

This item tries to cover the basic principles that apply to meditation - regardless of what kind of meditation or what technique you use.

• The field of cultivation is the mind - this is where the work takes place; and very rarely does it not involve quite a bit of work.

• The fruits of cultivation are peace and wisdom.

Beyond field and fruit - both of these being subject to the three conditions - lies nibbana, the unconditioned. This is the ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations.

What to do with the mind? - assuming you see the need to do something

Contemplate the conditioned nature of the mind.

When we are born, as we grow up as children, all through our lives, we are exposed to a wide range of sensory experience. Much of what we are today is the result of that exposure. If, for example, you were plump as a child and your parents and family members didn't like that and were always calling you fatty, and lard face, and lump, and ... all those unkind things - then it is understandable that in later life you might have a 'complex' about your body weight or shape. You may become anorexic? This is probably nothing new to you and is pretty obvious - the psychology principle that is, not the anorexia.

• Consider a vessel of water as an analogy of the mind. If you pour red powder into the water then surely the water will turn red. The more powder you pour in the more red the water will become. If you only pour in a little bit of powder then the water will only be changed a little. The water is the mind, the vessel is the body, the vessel opening is the sense door and the powder is sense experience.

What we end up with after a few years of this is a mind that is coloured.

Why do I speak with this kind of accent? Because those particular coloured sounds were poured in my ears for many years. Very many of our likes and dislikes, our views and our opinions are inherited, absorbed. This is the process of conditioning and much of it takes place when we are quite young. We do change and form semi-independent views but the new is usually relative to the old. There is nothing good or bad about it but it is important to appreciate the relative nature of our conditioned mind. Also to appreciate that this is going on all the time, right now. If you spend time in a peaceful environment this often conditions a peaceful feeling. If you spend time in a violent environment this can condition fear, aversion, anger, etc.

There is a process of association with most situations. You hear a bell, it reminds you of school, which reminds you of homework, which makes you feel unpleasant, when you are unhappy you often eat something: bell rings = you eat. What is vitally important here is to see that we are not just victims of this - we can observe the process. This is the key to freedom.

There is the object of sense (the bell) there is the sense organ (the ear) there is contact between the two = consciousness. Awareness can be present during all of this - we don't have to do the eating bit. This can be difficult as the links in this chain are often so close together it is hard to see them.

Meditation is a way of strengthening our ability to be aware, and to reflect on this process and our relationship with it. A point to consider here is: 'the process and our relationship with it'. This proposes that the process is not me - too big to discuss here. Nevertheless it is apparent to most that the process can be witnessed to. I can be aware of hearing the bell, aware of the unpleasant feeling as it arises and the inclination to eat. Usually it all happens so quickly that it just melts into the blur that can be our lives and no sense of one thing relating to another is particularly obvious. This brings us to the first stage of meditation - slowing down.

Whatever means you use to slow down is not so important - what matters is that you do. If you can see that wisdom is about understanding the true nature of things then consider how you come to an understanding of anything: by spending time with it, by studying it.

• Consider a work desk as an analogy of the mind. If it's anything like mine there is stuff all over the place. You want to know what a ball pen is and how it is put together. If you open it up on the desk you run the risk of not noticing some pieces as you pull it apart and they will get lost or you won't know where they came from. Clear a nice big space on the desk and lay out the pieces as you slowly and carefully take them out of the pen. It is then much easier to examine each piece and see how it relates to all the other pieces.

So too with the mind. Usually it is full of clutter. We need to clear a space. This is done by practicing samatha meditation - by developing some form of concentration technique. Instead of allowing the mind to look here, listen to this, taste that, etc - which is collecting a lot of stuff, clutter - we bring the mind to focus on one (simple) thing.

Once there is a degree of space, of calm in the mind then we can clearly see what is in that space. What we see we can observe, and through that observation we can come to understand, we can have an insight into the nature of that thing; and 'thing' can cover a lot of areas - emotional, perceptual, relational, physical. This is vipassana meditation - the arising of insight.

2. Meditation on the Breath ...http://www.buddhamind.info/

* http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/lifestyl/medi/breath.htm

Breathing is something that we all do. For human beings it is a primary sign of life. We all have a breath so as an object of meditation it is very useful. The curious thing is that most people don't take that much notice or care about their breath. It really only gets any attention when there is either too much - and you are puffing and blowing - or not enough - and you are suffocating. It is important to appreciate that breath meditation is not the same as pranayama as in various yoga exercises; it is the mind that is being developed.

The classic teaching the Buddha gave on breath meditation is the Anapanasati Sutta. It outlines in considerable detail the various stages and levels of this practice.

Using the breath:


Assuming you see the value in taking up a specific object for developing concentration, the breath has many things to recommend itself as the object of choice.

1 - it is portable. Every where you go you have it with you. No need to worry about forgetting your worry beads.

2 - it comes free with every body. No need to buy any special equipment.

3 - it is complete in and of itself. No need for any upgrades or add-ons.

4 - it is 100% natural - they don't come more organic than this.

5 - it is effortless. The body knows how to breathe without you needing to do anything, You just sit back and let it do all the work - while you just watch.

6 - it is a connection with a vital life force.

7- it is calming. There is a simple, natural rhythm the breath follows and following that leads one to peace.


The principles discussed in 'samatha' apply here.

Basically, we take up an object - in this case the breath - and hold it with the mind for an extended period. This is not always so easy as the mind is used to jumping about from object to object. Sustained attention on the breath is a training in stillness; the ability to be content with little and to maintain attention. There are various ways the breath can be used. Here is one possible system using eight steps. It gets a bit cosmic toward the end but you will get the general idea.

1 - Counting: useful for those who have never worked with the breath much before.

Sit down for meditation and fix your attention on the breath at that point where you most easily notice it. Say, at the belly*. If the breath is not clearly seen try a few extended breaths - deeply in, and deeply out - so as to get a good feel of the breath. You could even put your hand on your belly to assist this. Very consciously watch the sequence of in-and-out breaths. Note the breath as it enters, and note the breath as it leaves, watching the movement of the body - the rise and fall of the abdomen. When you have established your awareness of the breath, begin counting each breath. This can be done in several ways. Try just counting on the in-breaths; up to ten. Then start again at one. This is repeated over and over from one to ten. The counting provides a support for the mind; something a little more tangible to hold. If you aren't sure how far you have counted then you know that your mind has wandered; start the counting over again. Meditation is not about getting anything - and particularly, you don't have to get the breath (unless you are dead). Just relax - and watch the show. Do this for about 10 to 30 minutes at one sitting; twice a day for several weeks. What is the result?

2 - Following: used after the mind has been calmed somewhat by using counting.

When the mind is able to stay with the in-breathing and out-breathing, the counting can be stopped and replaced by just mentally following the course of the breath. Note the beginning of an in-breath -- hold your attention at the belly and observe the progress of the in-breath -- note the end of the in-breath -- notice the space, or pause at the end of the in-breath -- note the beginning of the out-breath. There is no thought involved here it is merely paying attention to the physical phenomenon of breathing - in detail. Do this for 30 to 60 minutes; twice a day for several months.

3 - Contact and: 4 - Fixing:

These two aspects of the practice indicate the development of stronger concentration. When mindfulness of breathing is well extablished, the breath becomes more and more subtle - serene and tranquil. The body becomes calm and ceases to feel fatigue. Because the mind and body are so tranquil the breath becomes more and more subtle until it seems that it has ceased. This can be slightly alarming and one thinks the breathing has stopped altogether, but it is not so. It continues, but in a very delicate and subtle form. No matter how subtle it becomes, one must still maintain mindfulness of the contact of the breath in the body, without losing track of it. The mind is at this point free from the five hindrances - sensual desire, anger, drowsiness, restlessness and doubt. One is calm and joyful. Various signs may appear in the mind - pay them no heed. As concentration is further developed four stages of absorption (jhana) can be attained. These stages of deep concentration are called "fixing".

5 - Observing - 6: Turning Away - 7: Purification - 8: Retrospection:

A person who has attained the four absorptions should not stop there but should go on to develop insight meditation (vipassana). The stages of insight are called "observing". When insight reaches its climax, the meditator attains the supramundane paths. Because these paths turn away the fetters that bind one to the cycle of birth and death, they are called "turning away". The paths are followed by their respective fruitions; this stage is called "purification" because one has been cleansed of defilements. Thereafter one realizes the final stage, reviewing knowledge, called "retrospection" because one looks back upon one's entire path of progress and one's attainments. This is a brief overview of the main stages along the path to Nibbana, based on the meditation of anapana sati.

* There are various theories about where you focus attention. One common alternative to the belly is the tip of the nose. My feeling is that the nose can be a bit 'head' centred and too close to thought. The belly has a much more 'grounding' aspect to it, more closely in touch with emotions and internal energies generally. Do experiment.

On the Buddhist path a fundamental theme is impermanence. You can use the breath as a way to gain insight into this truth.

When you are 'following' the breath - as above - pay close attention to the end points of each phase. The end of the in-breath, the end of the space between in and out breaths, the end of the out-breath. It is obvious, but do reflect on the impermanence of the breath. We may prefer the in-breath to the out-breath but it is impossible to keep either - they must die so that life can continue. So it is with ALL things. The old must give way to the new. This is natures way. Do this as a meditation. Let go of each breath as if it was your last. Contemplate that eventually this will be so. Let go, relax. Life is vital, alive, NOW - with each breath.

Because the breath is so connected with our life it is with us everywhere we go.

In relation to meditation this means that once we have developed anapanasati a bit, and have a good sense of the breath, we can turn to this practise at any time. Because the association with the breath is predominantly a peaceful one you can maintain this relationship in all postures at all times. Say you are in a meeting and things aren't going so well - you can turn to the breath - perhaps take a couple of extended ones - and there you are - in touch with your 'friend' - that symbol of calm and peace. Make your offering to the meeting (life in general) from this space.

The breath is also useful in this way as it acts as a very good indicator of our emotions. This is particularly helpful with regard to negative emotions. When we are in states of anger, fear, anxiety, stress, etc. the quality of the breath is usually far from peaceful. If we have put effort into establishing a relationship with the breath - when it is peaceful and calm - then the early signs of these emotions are easily noticed by contrast, and the breath can either be consciously stablilised (physically) or 'reminded' of how it can easily be peaceful and calm. The ease of both of these methods is relative to how well you have established that point of peace and calm in relation to the breath; how easy can you 'be with' the breath in that way?


• Another way the breath can be used in mediation is as a simile for cleansing or purification. (This has some similarities to a metta meditation.) Instead of focussing on the belly one brings the attention to the area around the heart and imagines that the air is coming in and out through the heart centre; with the heart being the seat of emotion. To begin with, contemplate the physical nature of the air. The in-breath is bringing fresh air into the body. This is new life; vitalising all aspects of the body with this new, clean and pure air. Feel it coursing through the body, bringing new energy and strength. With the out-breath visualise the flow of impure, old and stale air leaving the body. This is no longer needed - you can let this discharge from inside you.

• Do this for a good while. On the in-breath, allow the arising of health and wellbeing. On the out-breath, feel the relief of letting go, the release of impurities from your body.

• Transfer the attention from the physical to the emotional. Keep the attention on the flow of the breath through the heart. On the in-breath see it as a new arising, a new beginning, a fresh start. It comes with goodness, undamaged, pure, without any adgenda, unburdened. On the out-breath see it as the letting go or the release of all your old unwanted emotional 'baggage'. Allow all the worries, the uncertainties, the fears, the stress - allow it all to just flow out with that old, used air. You don't need it.

• You can use associated words. On the in-breath: may I be well, may I be happy, my life is blessed, every breath is a new chance. On the out-breath: Relax, let go, I am now free from all 'that', out with the old, not needed, of no use, release. Make your own list to suit your own temperament. The important thing is to stay with the breath - dont' get caught in thinking - and to do it often.

A noisy handle:

• As an alternative to counting the breath you can use the sound of the breath. If you listen you can imagine that it sounds like 'sah' on the in-breath and 'hah' on the out-breath. You can do this silently or make some noise. Breathing in through the nose, allowing the air to vibrate - saaaaH.

Breath out through the mouth (or nose) haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. This can give a bit of a 'handle' on the breath which makes it a bit easier to concentrate on, to stay with.

• This is a nice meditation to do together as a group. It is good to have a leader who sets the pace. Synchronise your breaths with the noise - big breath in - - - - and - long, open-mouthed breath out: haaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Do this for maybe five minutes or more. This is really being alive together. Of the four elements the air is one that we truely do share. It is funny to think that as we breathe in we are literally inhaling each others old air - a burden shared is a trouble halved.

3. Loving-Kindness Meditation ...http://www.buddhamind.info/

* http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/lifestyl/medi/breath.htm

Metta, like many Pali words, has a range of meanings: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and nonviolence - and lots more. It is commonly translated as loving-kindness and is concerned with the well being of all living beings. It is a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.

All living things respond positively to love and kindness. Is this true? Consider plants - as being fairly simple living things. On a physical level they can easily be seen as healthier when they get lots of sunshine and are well watered and fed. One even reads of them responding on an emotional level. This is not so easy to prove. If you have ever had a pet; how does it respond to being kicked and yelled at?

• Good health results from care and kindness and bad health results from indifference and abuse. I hopefully imagine that you agree with this. So, if pets and plants like love and kindness and care and attention then why should we be different? Truth is we aren't, but it often seems as if we are a bit short changed in the loving-kindness department. What to do?

To start with:

be clear in your mind of the bad results of anger, hatred, resentment, indignation, and so forth.

be clear in your mind of the good results of kindness, affection, tolerance, friendliness, good will, etc.

This is not to expect that you will have none of the qualities of the first list and all of those in the second list - just that you see the positive value in loving-kindness.


There are two areas the developing of metta aims at: external and internal.

• External: the aim is to live in the world as harmlessly as possible, both in relation to living and non-living entities. This is to be both ecologically conscious and socially sensitive. It includes things like; being frugal (not using more than one needs, or wasting what one has), being moderate in one's lifestyle (not living excessively in any way), being modest, guarding one's speech, respecting the property and general situation of others, offering help where one can, being generous, performing one's duties well, etc. All of this is very high-minded and saintly and may seem to be beyond your abilities but, we all have some goodness as part of our character and the aims suggested here are a reference point. We always begin from where we are and having a clear aim tends to result in a clear journey.

• Internal: the aim is very simple; to have an unselfish mind / heart. The combination of a concentrated mind and a heart free from hatred, etc. constitutes a state of liberation - enlightenment - freedom from suffering. OK!

Monks, for one who practises metta, eleven benefits can be expected. Which eleven?

One sleeps easily  ~  wakes easily  ~  dreams no evil dreams  ~  is dear to human beings  ~  dear to non-human beings  ~  the devas (forces of goodness) protect one  ~  neither fire, poison, nor weapons can harm one  ~  one's mind concentrates easily  ~  one's complexion is bright  ~  one dies unconfused and - if penetrating no higher  ~  one is born in the Brahma worlds.   [AN: XI.16]

Selfishness is the primary target of the Buddha's teaching.

Practising metta - universal, all-embracing love - is a way to soften our attachment to this self-ishness. The first place to start is with oneself. That's you! This may seem curiously selfish but if we are aiming to radiate this quality throughout the universe we need to do some work on the 'transmitter' first. As our 'signal' gets stronger we can extend our energies outward.

• So, the first thing is to get a bit of love going locally - in your heart. A common obstacle is a sense of unworthiness. Self disparagement, self criticism and judgment, a sense of low self esteem - all these seem to be common attitudes. A simple test of where you are at with this: Sit in meditation, bring the concept of metta into the mind and heart, bring one's awareness to one's own being then use the words 'I love you' directed at you. Repeat this over and over for several minutes. What is the resultant feeling? Is it of being cared for and loved? Or of discomfort - even squeamishness? This will give you some idea of what state the 'transmitter' is in.

• I will assume that there are a few 'dodgy diodes' and that you wish to undertake repairs. What really needs establishing very firmly is, that you are basically OK. Not perfect perhaps but there is enough goodness to be getting on with. Contemplate the goodness in your life - allow that there is some. Don't set the standard too high; so things like feeding the neighbours cat, lending someone your pencil, a friendly greeting - these are all good things - give them value as such. It is so important to have an appreciation your goodness, what you already have - there must be a foundation on which to build. Try making a list. Get the help of a friend to make a list. You can do this as a mutual metta exercise.

• As a way of getting in touch with the general feeling of love and kindness you can develop the image of a friend, a loved one, a family member who you have a positive feeling toward. Someone who has offered you some love and kindness in the past. There is always someone. Again, don't set the standard too high. Just pick the best you have. Sit in meditation and bring their image into your heart. Perhaps remember a situation that was particularly loving. Then, let go of the image and try to just experience the feeling in the heart that comes with such an exercise. Practice this often and really get to know the feeling. Make this feeling so familiar that it is easy to find - like touching your nose in the dark. You know where your nose is because you have referred to it a lot over the years. Do the same with this feeling of love in the heart.

• You can use other symbols that might come to mind. These can be visual - like a photograph or a gift you have received; or a piece of music or a tape of a friends voice - whatever helps you to get in touch with the feeling of love and kindness in your heart. Remember that it is the feeling that we are trying to cultivate here and what stimulates it is not so important, and do appreciate the difference between the feeling and the object. You need to be able to turn to the feeling independent of any-thing, any-place, any-time.

• You could experiment with various word combinations. A typical set is: "May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering." Repeat this over and over in the heart. You can do this for 30 seconds while you wait for something. Ten times 30 seconds = five minutes the heart is being healed with metta. The trick is remembering to turn to this practice. Often.

4. A Loving Kindness Meditation ...from Kusala's Morning Practice

* http://kusala.urbandharma.org/revkus/morning.html


May I be......

May my teachers and all teachers of the Truth be......

May my parents, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives be......

From the highest realm of existence to the lowest, may all beings arisen in these realms, with form and without, with perception and without, with consciousness and without, may they be......

(Repeat below after each introduction.)

......happy, peaceful and free from suffering.

May no harm come to me/them.

May no difficulties come to me/them.

May no problems come to me/them.

May I/they always find fulfillment.

May I/they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination, to meet and overcome, the inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.


By the power of Truth found in the Buddha Dharma, may all my misfortunes due to stars, demons, harmful spirits, and ominous planets, be prevented and destroyed. May the rain fall in due time. May there be a rich harvest. May the world be prosperous. May the governments by righteous.

By the power of all the fully-awakened Buddhas, by the power of all the fully-awakened Pacceka-Buddhas, by the power of all the fully-awakened Arahants, by the power of all the fully-awakened Bodhisattvas, may I be secure and protected in every way.

5. Pay Attention, for Goodness' Sake: Practicing the Perfections of the Heart-The Buddhist Path of Kindness ...by Sylvia, Ph.D. Boorstein

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345448103/wwwkusalaorg-20/

From Publishers Weekly

Like that of fellow insight meditation teacher Jack Kornfield, Boorstein's teaching and writing style is like chocolate: what she has to say goes down easily and smoothly, and you want a whole lot more of it. The author of That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist and other books uses clear and simple terms, apt examples drawn from daily life and a liberal lacing of humor to sweeten the lessons. Through traditional Buddhist story and contemporary personal anecdote, practical meditation techniques and a nifty periodic table of virtue that links qualities and practices, she engagingly and clearly lays out the Buddha's teaching of the 10 Paramitas, or perfections of the heart. Her wonderfully self-deprecating teaching tales heighten her point that enlightenment and compassion are always conditions to be realized over and over rather than fixed states enjoyed by the advanced practitioner. Boorstein's fresh interpretations of the Buddha's teachings of renunciation, energy, patience and other heart-perfections make them desirable and, more importantly, highly doable. Showing that the Buddha's Four Noble Truths are a path of practice rather than a set of cognitions, this book of training in the everyday cultivation of virtue is a wonderful complement to books that train the mind through meditation. Even better than chocolate, this book can be savored again and again.

Reviewer: A reader- This is the first book I've ever read by Sylvia Boorstein, but I doubt it will be the last. In Pay Attention, Boorstein teaches us about the ten Paramitas, or the pefections of the heart. She uses parables and stories from her own life to teach us what the paramitas are about as well as how they are beneficial to us if we put them into practice. She's very open, honest, and kind and writes the book as if you're sitting right there next to her and she's having a conversation with you. She doesn't make anything confusing or get too wordy like many Buddhist authors of today do.. she just tells us what we need to know and offers a few short stories to help get the point across. I personally found this book to be one of the best additions to my spiritual library in quite a while. If you're looking for a good book on Buddhism, spirituality, or just something to lift you up and make you feel better as well as the people around you feel better, I would definitely recommend this book.

Reviewer: Roger E. Herman from Greensboro, NC USA- In all fairness to my readers, I must begin this review by telling you that I typically review business books. This is not a business book. I'm not sure how I got it, but somehow this unusual (for me) book appeared on my shelf of books to review. I took it along on a business trip, more out of curiosity and whimsy than a particular interest in actually reading the book. On the airplane, for some reason, I decided to skim through "Pay Attention, for Goodness Sake" instead of reading a business book I'd also brought along.

This read was refreshing. Good word. It was a refreshing change of pace from my usual fare. But, it was also re-freshing, if I may hyphenate for emphasis. Sylvia Boorstein, both a Jew and a Bhuddist, has written a number of books. Thought I haven't read them, I suspect, like this one, they teach in a conversational, comfortable way. I learned and found some interesting comfort as I read through these pages, like having an interesting discussion with someone who knows more than you do. You want to listen. As I turned page to page, I found myself held to the book. I wanted to read a little more and a little more.

This is a thoughtful book, describing ten "paramitas" or perfections. The organization and flow of the book makes it easy to grasp the author's message and organize it in your own mind. The introduction explains the concepts and their application. Each "perfection" or practices is presented in its own chapter: Generosity, Morality, Renunciation, Wisdom, Energy, Patience, Truthfulness, Determination, Lovingkindness, and Equanimity. I would describe the work as an instructional guide that inspires the reader to think . . . no, to ponder.

This is not a business book in the customary classification of books, but I'd certainly recommend it for current and aspiring business leaders. We all need to pay attention more than we are; we miss so much in today's rush-rush world. Take time to reflect, to ponder. Refresh yourself with this book.

6. The Birmingham Buddhist Vihara

* http://web.ukonline.co.uk/buddhism/vihara.htm


Osler Stret, Ladywood, Birmingham B16 9EU, United Kingdom

Phone: 0121 454 6591/ 455 0650;

Fax: 0121 454 0374;

E-Mail: dhamma@globalnet.co.uk


The Birmingham Buddhist Vihara was originally founded by the Karma Kagyu Trust in 1981, but it was transferred to the Birmingham Buddhist Trust in 1982. It is supported mostly by the Burmese community and local native-born Buddhists. The Vihara itself is used mainly by local people.


The Venerable Dr. Rewata Dhamma, a senior Burmese monk, is the spiritual director and has been traching in England and in the West since 1975. He has a Ph.D. in the Philosophy and Phychology of Buddhism and has published authoritative texts on the subject. Currently, he is the spiritual director of other centres in Britain and Europe. He presently conducts yearly courses of meditation in England, Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France, Czech Republic and Switzerland.


Main Shrine Room

Meditation, ceremonies and discourses are held in the shrine room which is in the Burmese style with a magnificent golden throne and marble statue of the Buddha.


A lending library is situated in the front room where books, mostly of an introductory type, are available to members. There is a reference library in an upstairs shrine room which again is open to members and contains scriptural text-books which are strictly reference and not for lending.


Next to the library is a small book stall which carries basic texts. The librarian is happy to order books if needed.


A newsletter is issued quarterly, giving information of past nad future activities. Those wishing to receive a copy are asked to contribute towards its cost by donation. If you wish to be included on our mailing list, please make sure the Vihara has your name and address.

Weekly Activites

Mondays 7:30 pm --- Simple meditation instruction for beginners followed by a meditation session, discourse and discussion, often by a resident monk.

Courses in Meditation

Weekend Courses --- Usually held every second weekend of the month, starting Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. and finishing Sunday afternoon around 4:00 p.m.

Ten-day Courses --- Usually held twice a year at Easter and August.

The Vihara is opne to meditators at virtually all times. If you wish to visit, please phone to make sure someone is available to open the door.

Courses in Buddhism

There are eight week courses in Buddhism for those who want to know about Buddhism. This course consists of eight Wednesday evening sessions as well as a fully day of practical experience in meditation. In this course various schools and traditions will be introduced and examined including Theravada, Tibetan and Zen. The course is usually held twice a year.


The Vihara

A Vihara is a dwelling place for monks and because of the life a monk tries to lead, like any other establishment it has its in house rules. Really, it is just a matter of respecting the rules and styles of life of the monks which the Buddha himself established. Please dress fully, talk quitely and move calmly.

Our Monks

Monks are addressed as Bhante (pronounced bhantay), it is equivalent to Venerable Sir. It is not usual for monks in the East to shake hands. The rule is that monks do not touch women and nuns do no touch men. The manner of greeting is usually Anjali, which is to put two hands together in greeting, but it is not necessary.

In the Shrine Room

We keep to the Eastern custom of taking our shoes off, since we sit on the floor; we try to keep an attitude of calm and quiet. This doesn't stop us from having a lively discussion!; we usualy sit on a cushion on the floor, but those with physical problems can use a chair; it is considered disrespectful to point your feet towards the shrine or another meditator.

The Statue of Buddha

The sitting posture of our statue (Rupa) is common in the East and is called the Bhumisparsa Mudra. It symbolises the moment just after the Buddha's enlightenment, when he touched the Earth as witness to his overcoming illusion, delusion and ignorance. Mara; the other posture more commonly known in the West, is the meditation posture, with hands overlapped on top of a lotus position, called the Padmasana Mudra.


There are three offerings (Puja), usually made to the shrine:

Flowers, which symbolise the passing nature of our lives just as fresh bloom fades

Candles, whose light symbolises the Enlightenment

Incense, which symbolises the effects of good deeds that spread in all directions as does the fragrance of incense.


Many Buddhists practice bowing: out of reverence and gratitude to the Buddhas as their teachers; out of reverance and gratitude for the Teaching itself, the Dhamma; out of reverence and gratitude to the Community to the Noble Ones, the Ariyas including the Arahats and Buddhas; out of reverence to the latent Enlightenment in all beings. This is by no means a compulsory practice, but for those who wish to do so, the traditional way is to kneel with both hands joined (a way of centring heart and


This isn't praying, but calling to mind the words of the Buddha. There are other customs and practices. Please don't be too embarassed to ask. You are always welcome to visit the monastry to talk about Buddhism or to meditate. But please always ring before hand to make sure someone will be there to greet you. There is, of course, much more to cover, but hopefully this is whetted your appetite to read one or more of the books listed below.

Beginner's Booklist

1. The Buddha's Ancient Path, Piyadassi Thera, Buddhist Publication Society

• An easy to read first introduction.

2. What the Buddha Taught, W. Rahula, Gordon Fraser

• A good reference book, very readable.

3. The Experience of Insight, J Golstein, Unity Press

• Buddhism from a meditator's point of view.

4. The Heart of Buddhist Meditation, Nyanaponika Thera, Rider

• A classic on the subject of meditation.

5. A Short History of Buddhism, E. Conze, George Allen & Unwin

• A short interesting account of how Buddhism grew.

6. The Wheel Publications (Buddhist Publication Society).

Pamphlets on various subjects:-

Buddhism in a Nutshell

Buddha the Healer

The Four Noble Truths

Buddhism and Peace

Lay Buddhist Practice


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