Friday, May 8, 2009

The Silence of Buddha Space

Ajahn Sumedho has often taught about the sound of silence, by which he means a high-pitched buzzing sound that can be heard when we quieten the mind. This sound never departs, but it appears to because awareness of it is not constant. In meditation, this sound can get pretty loud, or at least appear to do so, again dependent on the level of concentration present. Being awake to the present moment can release the mind from its usual views of the world, and of the apparent self that it mistakes itself to be, allowing it the space – the Buddha Space – to see things as they really are (the Dharma).

It is time to quieten this mind, and to do so extraneous endeavors such as writing this blog need to be curtailed, at least for the time being. So, this post will be the last one for a time, perhaps a long time; we will see. It is a joy to share the Buddhadharma, and I would like to thank all my readers who have given me the opportunity to do so, and also to thank you for sharing your understanding of the Path with me in the wonderful comments that have been left on this site. As the links feature on the right of this page attests, and indeed the links that they contain, there are many great Buddhist blogs out there, and it is to these that I refer any new wayfarers coming here.

Please feel free to continue leaving comments as I will still check in here from time to time as well as surf the Net to see how things are going in the virtual world of Modern Buddhism, something that has much to offer the suffering beings of this planet. But I can hear the silence calling, whispering in between the myriad thoughts that stir in response to this whirlwind world. And it is time to listen more intently to that silence, to focus in on it, and see where it leads to. (Ultimately, to nowhere, of course!) Once again, a big thanks to all of you. Oh, and enjoy seeing your ‘Buddha Space’ on Buddha Day/Wesak!

Be well in the Dharma,


Friday, May 1, 2009

The Sangha Revisted

The third refuge is Sangha, which means a group. ‘Sangha’ may be the Bhikkhu-Sangha [the order of monks] – or the Ariya-Sangha, the group of the Noble Beings, all those who live virtuously, doing good and refraining from evil with bodily action and speech. Here, taking refuge in the Sangha with ‘Sangham saranam gacchami’ means we take refuge in virtue, in that which is good, virtuous, kind, compassionate and generous. We don’t take refuge in those things in our minds that are mean, nasty, cruel, selfish, jealous, hateful, angry – even though admittedly that is what we often tend to do out pf heedlessness, out of not reflecting, not being awake, but just reacting to conditions. Taking refuge in the Sangha means, on the conventional level, doing good and refraining from evil with bodily action and speech.

(‘Now is the Knowing’ by Ajahn Sumedho, p.15*)

Ajahn Sumedho has a wonderful way of explaining things, which often appears very simple, but leads us to reflect more deeply on what he’s talking about. When discussing the Sangha, the venerable monk describes in pretty succinct language what the word means in Theravada Buddhism. He looks at the Pali phrase used to take refuge in the Sangha, but gives it a contemplative interpretation by relating it to certain positive qualities, such as virtue, kindness, and generosity.

Unlike many a guru, Buddhist or otherwise, Ajahn Sumedho does not encourage us to take refuge in him or the ordained Sangha to which he belongs, but instead directs us to reflect on what it actually means to take refuge, and what the word ‘Sangha’ actually points to. And, apart from those ordained & liberated members of the Buddhist fraternity, what is it that this word refers to? It is all that’s positive & inspirational in the spiritual life, leading us to deepen our practice of Buddhism by developing the understanding that virtuous living is the basis for genuine progress towards enlightenment.

On one level, of course, Buddhists take refuge in the Triple Gem, which includes the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha – the Awakened One, the teaching, and the Community of Enlightened & Ordained Buddhists. These three supports can help us to avoid some of the excesses that we humans are prone to, with the Sangha providing examples of how to live a life conducive to spiritual awakening. But, closely related to this, are the very qualities that the Sangha embody for us, such as goodwill, compassion, generosity, and the like. Ajahn Sumedho suggests that taking refuge in these modes of behavior is entering into the Sangha, conducting one’s life in a way that parallels the lifestyles of the awakened ones.

Cultivating awareness of our habits, whether mental, verbal, and physical, can enable us to understand them, letting go of the more harmful modes of behavior and cultivating those assist in our awakening. Reflecting on how we talk with others, for example, can reveal our inner thoughts about them, and what we really think of ourselves, as well. Do we experience other people as completely separate from us, or are they somehow connected to us at a fundamental level of our being? How we interact with them reveals so much, for it’s easy to talk of being one with others, or living in harmony, but to actually live in such ways means that we have experienced the interdependent nature of all people & things. And, as a reader of this blog has previously suggested (see here: Sangha), we can see everyone & everything as belonging to this ‘Sangha’ that includes not only ordained & enlightened Buddhists, but all living beings in the universe.

*To download 'Now is the Knowing' by Ajahn Sumedho, please click here:
Buddhanet E-Book Library