Texts

Welcome to the Texts page. All text references in the posts will be linked here eventually – a work in progress. You can browse this page any time, simply click on the item in the Contents list, numbered in reverse order. This page will be updated regularly, visit again to see what’s new.

Contents

16. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron

15. Prayer Before Birth by Louis Macneice

14. Religious Convention and Sila Practice, Ajahn Sumedho

13. The World as Will and Representation

12. Death Alone, by Pablo Neruda

11. Anatta, Luangta Maha Boowa

10. The Desire to Have More, Ruben Habito

9. Saffron Days in L.A.

8. Dipa Ma

7. The Real Self

6. Dana: The Practice of Giving

5. The Four Noble Truths

4. Handbook for Humankind, Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

3. Money Sex War Karma, David R. Loy

2. The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts

1. THIS IS IT, Alan Watts

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16. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Gil Scott-Heron, 1970

Gil_Scott-HeronYou will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and
skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Mendel Rivers to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner,
the revolution will not be televised, Brother.
There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
on reports from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the right occasion.
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so god damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally screwed
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.
There will be no highlights on the eleven o’clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb or
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash or Englebert Humperdink.
The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.
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15. Prayer Before Birth, by Louis Macneice

Macneice_longleyI am not yet born; O hear me. 
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the 
club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
 I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, 
with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, 
on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me 
with water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk 
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light 
in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
 for the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words
 when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me,
 my treason engendered by traitors beyond me,
 my life when they murder by means of my
 hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
 in the parts I must play and the cues I must take when 
old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains 
frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white 
waves call me to folly and the desert calls
 me to doom and the beggar refuses 
my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
 Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God
 come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me 
with strength against those who would freeze my
 humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, 
would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with 
one face, a thing, and against all those
 who would dissipate my entirety, would 
blow me like thistledown hither and 
thither or hither and thither
 like water held in the
 hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me. 
Otherwise kill me.

Louis Macneice

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14. Religious Convention and Sila Practice,
Ajahn Sumedho [Cittaviveka 1992]

LP-SumedhoThere is a tendency to think that religious convention and form are no longer necessary. There is a kind of hope that, if you can just be mindful and know yourself, then that is all you need to do. Anyhow, that is how we would like it, isn’t it? Just be mindful throughout the day, throughout the night, whatever you are doing; drinking your whisky, smoking your marijuana cigarette, picking a safe open, mugging someone you met in Soho—if it’s done mindfully, it’s all right.

There is a brilliant Buddhist philosopher in Thailand who is quite old now, but I went to stay at his monastery a few years ago. I was coming from Ajahn Chah’s monastery, so I asked him about the Vinaya—the rules of the monastic order—and how important these were in the practice of mediation and enlightenment.

“Well,” he said, “only mindfulness—that’s all you need. Just be mindful, and everything is all right, you know. Don’t worry about those other things.”

And I thought: “That sounds great, but I wonder why Ajahn Chah emphasizes all these rules?’” I had great respect for Ajahn Chah, so when I went back I told him what the philosopher-bhikkhu had told me. Ajahn Chah said, “That’s ‘true,’ but it’s not ‘right.’”

Now we are prone to having blind attachments, aren’t we? For example, say you’re locked up in a foul, stinking prison cell and the Buddha comes and says, “Here’s the key. All you have to do is take it and put it in the hole there underneath the door handle, turn it to the right, turn the handle, open the door, walk out, and you’re free.” But you might be so used to being locked up in prison that you didn’t quite understand the directions and you say, “Oh, the Lord has given me this key”—and you hang it on the wall and pray to it every day. It might make your stay in prison a little more happy; you might be able to endure all the hardships and the stench of your foul-smelling cell a little better, but you’re still in the cell because you haven’t understood that it wasn’t the key in itself that was going to save you. Due to lack of intelligence and understanding, you just grasped the key blindly. That’s what happens in all religion: we just grasp the key, to worship it, pray to it…but we don’t actually learn to use it.

So then the next time the Buddha comes and says, “Here’s the key,” you might be disillusioned and say, “I don’t believe any of this. I’ve been praying for years to that key and not a thing has happened! That Buddha is a liar!” And you take the key and throw it out of the window. That’s the other extreme, isn’t it? But you’re still in the prison cell—so that hasn’t solved the problem either.Anyway, a few years later the Buddha comes again and says, “Here’s the key,” and this time you’re a little more wise and you recognize the possibility of using it effectively, so you listen a little more closely, do the right thing and get out.

The key is like religious convention, like Theravada Buddhism: it’s only a key, only a form—it’s not an end in itself. We have to consider, to contemplate how to use it. What is it for? We also have to expend the energy to get up, walk over to the door, insert the key into the lock, turn it in the right direction, turn the knob, open the door and walk out. The key is not going to do that for us; it’s something we have to comprehend for ourselves. The convention itself cannot do it because it’s not capable of making the effort; it doesn’t have the vigor or anything of its own other than that which you put into it—just like the key can’t do anything for itself. Its usefulness depends on your efforts and wisdom.
Some modern day religious leaders tend to say, “Don’t have anything to do with any religious convention. They’re all like the walls of prison cells”—and they seem to think that maybe the way is to just get rid of the key. Now if you’re already outside the cell, of course you don’t need the key. But if you’re still inside, then it does help a bit!

So I think you have to know whether you’re in or out; then you’ll know what to do. If you still find you’re full of doubt, uncertainty, fear, confusion—mainly doubt is the real sign—if you’re unsure of where you are, what to do or how to do anything; if you’re unsure of how to get out of the prison cell…then the wisest thing to do, rather than throwing away keys, or just collecting them, is to take one key and figure out how to use it. That’s what we mean by meditation practice. The practice of the Dharma is learning to take a particular key and use it to open the door and walk out. Once you’re out, then you know. There’s no more doubt.

Now, we can start from the high kind of attitude that mindfulness is enough—but then what do we mean by that? What is mindfulness, really? Is it actually what we believe it to be? We see people who say, “I’m being very mindful,” and they’re doing something in a very methodical, meticulous way. They’re taking in each bite of food and they’re lifting, lifting, lifting; chewing, chewing, chewing; swallowing, swallowing, swallowing….

So you think, “He eats very mindfully, doesn’t he?” but he may not be mindful at all, actually. He’s just doing it in a very concentrated way: he’s concentrating on lifting, on touching, on chewing and on swallowing. We confuse mindfulness with concentration.

Like robbing a bank: we think, “Well, if you rob a bank mindfully, it’s all right. I’m very mindful when I rob banks, so there’s no karma.” You have to have good powers of concentration to be a good bank robber. You have to have mindfulness in the sense of fear conditions, of being aware of dangers and possibilities—a mind that’s on the alert for any kind of movement or sign of danger or threat…and then concentrating your mind on breaking the safe open and so forth.

But in the Buddhist sense, mindfulness—sati—is always combined with wisdom—panna. Sati-sampajanna and satipanna: they use those two words together in Thailand. They mean, “mindfulness and clear comprehension” and “mindfulness-wisdom.” So I might have an impulse to rob a bank—“I need some money so I’ll go rob the National Westminster Bank”—but the sati-panna says, “No, don’t act on that impulse!” Panna recognizes the bad result if I acted on such an impulse, and karmic result; it confers the understanding that such a thing is wrong, not right to do.
So there’s full comprehension of that impulse, knowing it as just an impulse and not-self; so that even though I might have the desire to rob a bank, I’m not going to make neurotic problems for myself out of worrying about those criminal tendencies. One recognizes that there is just an impulse in the mind that one refrains from acting upon. Then one has a standard of virtue—sila—always as a conventional foundation for living in the human form in this society, with other beings, within this material world—a standard or guideline for both action and non-action.

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13. The World as Will and Representation, 
Arthur Schopenhauer

Microsoft Word - Document2Thus everything lingers only for a moment, and hurries on to death. The plant and the insect die at the end of the summer, the animal and man after a few years; death reaps unweariedly. But despite all this, in fact as if this were not the case at all, everything is always there and in its place, just as if everything were imperishable. The plant always flourishes and blooms, the insect hums, animal and man are there in evergreen youth, and every summer we again have before us the cherries that have already been a thousand times enjoyed. Nations also exist as immortal individuals, though sometimes they change their names. Even their actions, what they do and suffer, are always the same, though history always pretends to relate something different; for it is like the kaleidoscope, that shows us a new configuration at every turn, whereas really we always have the same thing before our eyes. Therefore, what forces itself on us more irresistibly than the thought that that arising and passing away do not concern the real essence of things, but that this remains untouched by them, hence is imperishable, consequently that each and every thing that wills to exist actually does exist continuously and without end? Accordingly, at every given point of time all species of animals, from the gnat to the elephant, exist together complete. They have already renewed themselves many thousands of times, and withal have remained the same. They know nothing of others like them who have lived before them, or who will live after them; it is the species that always lives, and the individuals cheerfully exist in the consciousness of the imperishability of the species and their identity with it. The will-to-live manifests itself in an endless present, because this is the form of the life of the species, which therefore does not grow old, but remains always young. Death is for the species what sleep is for the individual, or winking for the eye; when the Indian gods appear in human form, they are recognized by their not winking. Just as at nightfall the world vanishes, yet does not for a moment cease to exist, so man and animal apparently pass away through death, yet their true inner being continues to exist just as undisturbed. Let us now picture to ourselves that alternation of birth and death in infinitely rapid vibrations, and we have before us the persistent and enduring objectification of the will, the permanent Ideas of beings, standing firm like the rainbow on the waterfall. This is temporal immortality. In consequence of this, in spite of thousands of years of death and decay, there is still nothing lost, no atom of matter, still less anything of the inner being exhibiting itself as nature. Accordingly we can at any moment cheerfully exclaim: “In spite of time, death, and decay, we are still all together!”

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12. Death Alone by Pablo Neruda

Pablo_Neruda_Ricardo_Reyes

There are lone cemeteries, tombs full of soundless bones,
the heart threading a tunnel,
a dark, dark tunnel :
like a wreck we die to the very core,
as if drowning at the heart
or collapsing inwards from skin to soul.

There are corpses,
clammy slabs for feet,
there is death in the bones,
like a pure sound,
a bark without its dog,
out of certain bells, certain tombs
swelling in this humidity like lament or rain.

I see, when alone at times,
coffins under sail
setting out with the pale dead, women in their dead braids,
bakers as white as angels,
thoughtful girls married to notaries,
coffins ascending the vertical river of the dead,
the wine-dark river to its source,
with their sails swollen with the sound of death,
filled with the silent noise of death.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot, a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring, stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth, a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo, hushed like a tree.

I do not know, I am ignorant, I hardly see
but it seems to me that its song has the colour of wet violets,
violets well used to the earth,
since the face of death is green,
and the gaze of death green
with the etched moisture of a violet’s leaf
and its grave colour of exasperated winter.

But death goes about the earth also, riding a broom
lapping the ground in search of the dead –
death is in the broom,
it is the tongue of death looking for the dead,
the needle of death looking for the thread.

Death lies in our beds :
in the lazy mattresses, the black blankets,
lives a full stretch and then suddenly blows,
blows sound unknown filling out the sheets
and there are beds sailing into a harbour
where death is waiting, dressed as an admiral.

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11. Anatta, Luangta Maha Boowa

Luangta Maha BoowaLuangta Maha Boowa relates that the core of an individual’s being and Nibbana are quite distinct in a dhamma talk with a disciple of his, Mae Chee Kaew: ‘When you investigate mental phenomena until you go beyond them completely, the remaining defiling elements of consciousness will be drawn into a radiant nucleus of awareness, which merges with the mind’s naturally radiant essence. This radiance is so majestic and mesmerizing that even transcendent faculties like spontaneous mindfulness and intuitive wisdom invariably fall under its spell. The mind’s brightness and clarity appear to be so extraordinary and awe-inspiring, that nothing can possibly compare. The luminous essence is the epitome of perfect goodness and virtue, the ultimate in spiritual happiness. It is your true, original self – the core of your being. But this true self is also the fundamental source of all attachment to being and becoming. Ultimately it is attachment to the allure of this primordial radiance of mind that causes living beings to wander indefinitely through the world of becoming and ceasing, constantly grasping at birth and enduring death.

The fundamental cause of that attachment is the very delusion about your true self. Delusion is responsible for all the defiling elements of consciousness, and its avenue of escape is the ongoing momentum of conscious activity. In this sphere, delusion reigns supreme. But once mindfulness and wisdom are skilled enough to eliminate conscious activity and therefore close this outlet, delusions created by the flow of mental phenomena cease. Severing all of its external outflows leaves delusion no room to maneuver inside the mind, forcing it to gather into the radiant nucleus from which all knowing emanates. That center of knowing appears as a luminous emptiness that truly overwhelms and amazes.

But that radiant emptiness should not be mistaken for the pure emptiness of Nibbana. The two are as different as night and day. The radiant mind is the original mind of the cycle of constant becoming; but it is not the essence of mind which is fully pure and free from birth and death. Radiance is a very subtle, natural condition whose uniform brightness and clarity make it appear empty. This is your original nature beyond name and form. But it is not yet Nibbana. It is the very substance of mind that has been well-cleansed to the point where a mesmerizing and majestic quality of knowing is its outstanding feature. When the mind finally relinquishes all attachment to forms and concepts, the knowing essence assumes exceedingly refined qualities. It has let go of everything – except itself. It remains permeated by a fundamental delusion about its own true nature. Because of that, the radiant essence has turned into a subtle form of self without you realizing it. You end up believing that the subtle feelings of happiness and the shining radiance are the unconditioned essence of mind. Oblivious to your delusion, you accept this majestic mind as the finished product. You believe it to be Nibbana, the transcendent emptiness of pure mind.

But emptiness, radiance, clarity and happiness are all subtle conditions of a mind still bound by delusion. When you observe the emptiness carefully, with sustained attention, you will observe that it is not really uniform, not really constant. The emptiness produced by primal delusion is the result of subtle conditions. Sometimes it changes a little – just a little – but enough for you to know that it’s transient. Subtle variations can be detected, because all conditioned phenomena – no matter how refined, bright and majestic they seem – invariably manifest some irregular symptoms.

If it is truly Nibbāna, why does this refined state of the mind display a variety of subtle conditions? It is not constant and true. Focus on that luminous center to see clearly that its radiance has the same characteristics – of being transient, imperfect and unessential – as all the other phenomena that you have already transcended. The only difference is that the radiance is far more subtle and refined.

Try imagining yourself standing in an empty room. You look around and see only empty space – everywhere. Absolutely nothing occupies that space – except you, standing in the middle of the room. Admiring its emptiness, you forget about yourself. You forget that you occupy a central position in that space. How then can the room be empty? As long as someone remains in the room, it is not truly empty. When you finally realize that the room can never be truly empty until you depart, that is the moment when that fundamental delusion about your true self disintegrates, and the pure, delusion-free mind arises.

Once the mind has let go of phenomena of every sort, the mind appears supremely empty; but the one who admires the emptiness, who is awestruck by the emptiness, that one still survives. The self as reference point which is the essence of all false knowing, remains integrated into the mind’s knowing essence. This self-perspective is the primary delusion. Its presence represents the difference between the subtle emptiness of the radiant mind and the transcendent emptiness of the pure mind, free of all forms of delusion. Self is the real impediment. As soon as it disintegrates and disappears, no more impediments remain. Transcendent emptiness appears. As in the case of a person in an empty room, we can say that the mind is truly empty only when the self leaves for good. This transcendent emptiness is a total and permanent disengagement that requires no further effort to maintain.

Delusion is an intrinsically blind awareness, masquerading as radiance, clarity and happiness. As such, it is the self’s ultimate safe haven. But those treasured qualities are all products of subtle causes and conditions. True emptiness occurs only when every single trace of one’s conditioned reality disappears.

As soon as you turn around and know it for what it is, that false awareness simply disintegrates. Clouding your vision with its splendor, that luminous deception has all along been concealing the mind’s true, natural wonder.’

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10. The Desire to Have More, Ruben Habito

Our pursuit of happiness generally leads us in the direction of wanting to have more of the good things of life. We are bombarded with all sorts of signals by the media and by educational, economic, political institutions, leading us to believe we have to have this or that particular item. And so we are vulnerable to manipulation. We strive with all our efforts to acquire those things that we consider conditions for our attainment of happiness without giving too much thought to the fact that it is this desire to have more that keeps the economy going and the world running.

The human drive to want more comes from a deeply felt sense of lack we feel at the heart of our being. The more we seek to fill this lack, the less we are truly satisfied, and thus continue in a state of unfulfillment and frustration. The more we have, the more we still want. We can never really be satisfied with what we already have. This desire to have more keeps us in a constant state of dissatisfaction. There is always more that we still do not possess.

The internet is another example of the desire to have more. Propelled by the natural human desire to know, the internet has opened new horizons of knowledge, an inherent aspect of our being human.  The desire to know more is constantly being met by the realization that there is always more still left that is unknown. Any problem we face can be resolved by further research. This desire to know presupposes, and accentuates the dichotomy between knower and known. I see the world and other people as “out there,” separate from me, and therefore fundamentally cut off from my field of concern as I seek my own happiness.

Notice the actual realities of our global situation. The gap between the haves and have-nots with hundreds of millions living and dying in subhuman conditions. Armed conflict, ecological destruction, and the extinction of thousands of species. All this indicates that we have not been able to harness our knowledge to provide the wisdom we need to live well and be genuinely happy as a global community.

There is also the relentless pursuit of thrill and pleasure. Reality TV seeks to capture the mass audience with yet another adventure challenge, allowing the ordinary Joe or Jane to become an overnight celebrity. The film industry, video and computer games; the sports industry encourages fans to find their high in the excitement of competitive spectator games. We may find momentary enjoyment in these thrills, but it is followed by an inner emptiness that can only be filled with a new source of pleasure. Again, we come to the realization that our search for thrill keeps us in a perpetually dissatisfied condition.

The desire to have more, to know more, and the desire for more pleasure are components of an acquisitive mode of being which attains not happiness but a chronic state of dissatisfaction. The contemplative mode, instead of pursuing the craving to have more, involves an inner attitude of simply beholding “what there is, just as it is.” Basic systems of meditation, or simply sitting and watching our breath with the inner eye of our mind, may result in glimpses of a realm that can fill our hearts with a sense of fullness; we are able to taste a full awareness of being – a kind of satisfaction not to be gained by the acquisitive or time-and-space-consuming mode of movement.

As we take this stance of “seeing things as they are,” we may come to the discovery that what makes “me”, what I am most truly, is intimately connected to what makes the world what it is. The experiential realization of intimate connectedness is nondual knowing, a sharp contrast to the knowledge-acquiring mind. It is this experience of nonduality that can unleash the powers of wisdom to flow out into acts of compassion.

From the contemplative view, as I look at the world, I realize that I am seeing my own self. The world is no other than what I am. And conversely, what I am is no other than what the world is. To know the world is thus not different from knowing myself. As thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Dogen writes, “I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers, the great earth, the sun, the moon, the stars.” Beholding the mountains and rivers and the wonders of the natural world, I see these as manifestations of mind, the same as my own mind, my own self.

Grounded in the experiential realization that the world is not separate from ourselves, and therefore that the world’s well-being is our own well-being, we can harness our knowledge and technological acumen to uproot the sources of individual and social suffering.

Cultivating the contemplative mode requires  a simple response to an inner voice, a call of the heart to a deeper kind of joy. The dependence on directionless external stimuli for diversion as truly distasteful, depriving us of a deeper pleasure we taste in moments of silence and simple attention to what is going on around us. [Link to original]

This essay is included in the volume: ‘Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume. Edited by Stephanie Kaza

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9. Saffron Days in L.A.

Saffron Days in LATales of a Buddhist Monk in Americaby Bhante Walpola Piyananda. A series of chapters  about Bhante Walpola Piyananda’s experiences in L. A. and other cities in North America. This excerpt is taken from page 70, chapter title: ‘Karmic Ties’. The background to the story is that Bhante is writing about being a student at Northwestern University in Chicago and going to classes with other students but, of course, dressed as a monk and how this attracted some attention from fellow students.

One day a student named Diana asked to speak with him. She had many questions about Buddhism because it was completely new to her. Bhante explained the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold path. And he ends the discussion with Diana by saying: ‘I am glad you so quickly understand the Buddha’s words. I presume that in our mutual cycle of samsara that you have been both a Buddhist and an acquaintance of mine.’ This incident at Northwestern occurred in early 1977. Some years later Diana appears again in the story. Bhante continues:

‘In 1993 I went to the New York Buddhist Vihara in Queens. The International Vesak celebrations were to be held in downtown Manhattan on the following day. We were seated in the front row of folding chairs, and our names were sent to the chairperson so we could be acknowledged as visiting monks. I noticed the chairperson glancing at me a few times, but I paid her no heed. She introduced the monks and explained how she had become a Buddhist.

“It was during a period of studies at Northwestern University that a saffron-robed Buddhist monk made an indelible impression on my life. This monk had a happy, serene countenance. He was always calm—even at the height of exams when the other students were running amok. He introduced me to Buddhism. That monk, Bhante Walpola Piyananda, is with us today. I welcome you, venerable sir, to our celebration. It is sixteen years since I last saw you, and during that period I have been studying and practicing the great religion you introduced me to. Thank you, Bhante.”

After her introduction, she asked me to deliver a talk on Buddhism. It was an emotional moment for me, especially since I had come unprepared to speak. I humbly walked up to the podium as I recalled my first meeting with Diana. I was happy that she had continued studying the Noble Path of the Buddha, and I was delighted to see her as the president of the New York Buddhist Association.

I delivered a spontaneous speech on karma, as I firmly believed that my karmic ties with Diana were being renewed on that day. The following is a summary of my talk.

Karma means action, our mental, verbal, and bodily behavior. It is an intentional action that is performed deliberately, and every action produces a certain reaction. Actions are considered wholesome if they produce happiness for oneself and others, and unwholesome if they produce suffering. This is the law of cause and effect. The effect of one’s past karma determines to some extent the nature of one’s present situation in life.

The Buddha said, “According to the seed that is sown, so is the fruit that you reap. The doer of goodwill gathers good results. The doer of evil reaps evil results. If you plant a good seed well, then you will enjoy the good fruits.”

In Buddhism, every individual is an architect of his own destiny. What we enjoy today is the combined result of our actions in the past, present, and even in our previous lives through karmic force. This force has been compared to an electric current. A light bulb wears out, but the electrical current will brighten a new bulb when it is replaced. It is the same when a person dies and karma moves the life force from one body to the next.

This process goes through a series of births and deaths until both positive and negative karmas are completely eradicated. Then there is no craving, attachment, or rebirth. What is left is the ultimate bliss of nibbana.

Here, I wish to quote the words of the Buddha again: “All beings are the owners of their actions, the heirs of their actions. Their actions are the womb from which they spring; with their actions they are bound up; their actions are their refuge. Whatever actions they do, good or bad, they will inherit those actions.”

It was sixteen years ago, at Northwestern University, that I planted a seed of Buddhism in the mind of an individual who, I believe, certainly had Buddhist ties in her previous lives. I am sure that Diana will continue her Buddhist work to the best of her ability. I wish her success, and may the Triple Gem guide her in this task.

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8. Dipa Ma

The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master, published by Blue Bridge in 2005: There’s clearly a presence of Dipa Ma as you go through the pages of memories various people have about this remarkable lady. I read this book in 2009 when we were in Bangladesh, the former East Bengal. Dipa Ma was born Nana Bala Barua in the Chittagong region near Burma. The family name Barua is familiar to the Buddhist community in this region. It is said that the Barua family are direct descendants of the Buddha. A couple of years later, I read this book again in India. This time the presence of Dipa Ma was much clearer for some reason. I recognized something, maybe because in the book, there are so many stories from people who never met Dipa Ma having this kind of experience; I see Dipa Ma’s grace, her compassion, kindness, when I think of her it’s like she’s here, by my side. Read the book, you’ll see what I mean.

How can it be possible to get this feeling you are close to Dipa Ma just by reading about her. It’s like this, I think, because it is how she was, always approachable. She had the status of a monastic but she was an ordinary person. With the monastic there’s a respectful distance; there is bowing and offering, etc., but with Dipa Ma there is no distance, we relate to her as an ordinary person, someone committed to the practice. She was not a ‘literate’ person in the sense that she was busy reading on the subject, or writing ‘about’ it – I’m looking for a word: reflection, meditation, contemplative mindfulness? She was able to convey this quality to others with deep insight. It is something quite ordinary yet exceptional. What she had to offer was/is authentic, first-hand experience. Dipa Ma would say everything is feasible; everything is do-able even when we are very busy. She was an ordinary woman householder and also a meditation master teacher in an almost exclusively male monastic lineage.

*Dipa Ma was a curious entity to Westerners: physically she was almost invisible, a frail little elderly woman poking out of her white sari like a ‘ little bug wrapped up in cotton,’ as one put it. Yet spiritually she was a giant. Entering her presence felt like walking into a force field where magical things could happen: perceptual changes, mind-to-mind communication, and spontaneous states of deep concentration. P.47

*Dipa Ma believed, unconditionally, that enlightenment – total liberation of the mind and heart – is the purpose of human life and the primary reason for meditation practice. ‘You must practice to know at least one stage of enlightenment. Otherwise you have not made use of your human life’. P.73

*Steven Schwartz tells the story about his car had been parked in a New York side street. It was broken into and the radio was stolen. Dipa Ma asked him, ‘what was your reaction when the car was broken into?” “I was really angry because it’s happened so many times. And I thought I had a security system.” She looked at me in amazement. “You mean you didn’t even think about the man who took your radio, how sad his life must be?” She closed her eyes and started chanting quietly to herself, and I know she was saying metta (loving-kindness blessings) for the thief. It was a wonderful lesson for me.” P.92

*When Dipa Ma was about to leave the IMS … she turned to me and put her hands on my hands, looked me right in the eye, remarkably close, and held my hands in silence. She stared at me with utter love, utter emptiness, and utter care. During this minute she gave me a complete, heartfelt transmission of loving-kindness… there was shakti (spiritual energy) just pouring from her. Then she turned around and slowly got in the car. P.98

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7. The Real Self

The real self is frequently referred to as the “innermost” core, preeminently subjective; “the Kingdom of Heaven is within.” Absolute Subjectivity that can never be objectified or conceptualized. Free from the limitations of space and time, it is not subject to life and death; it goes beyond subject and object, and although it lives in an individual, it is not restricted to the individual. Language cannot grasp the nature of it, so the mystics have to show us a Way whereby we may all experience it for ourselves.

The mystics are not describing the real self as being inside you—they are pointing inside you. They are indeed saying to look within, not because the final answer actually resides within you and not without, but because as you carefully and consistently look inside, you sooner or later find outside. You realize, in other words, that the inside and the outside, the subject and the object, the seer and the seen are one, and thus you spontaneously fall into your natural state.

Absolute Subjectivity can never be an object that can be seen, or heard, or known, or perceived. As the absolute Seer, it could never be seen. As the absolute Knower, it could never be known. ‘It can’t be my body, because I can feel and know it, and what can be known is not the absolute Knower. It can’t be my wishes, hopes, fears, and emotions, for I can to some degree see and feel them, and what can be seen is not the absolute Seer. It can’t be my mind, my personality, my thoughts, for those can all be witnessed, and what can be witnessed is not the absolute Witness.’

I used to think of myself as the “little subject” in here who watched all those objects out there. But this “little subject” can be seen as an object. My mind, my body, my thoughts, my desires—these are no more my real Self than the trees, the stars, the clouds, and the mountains, for I can witness all of them as objects. Proceeding in this fashion, I become transparent to my Self, and realize that in some sense what I am goes beyond this isolated, skin-bounded organism.

I can look for the absolute Seer but will not find it as an object because it’s every object! I can’t feel it because it is everything felt, I can’t experience it because it is everything experienced. Anything I can see is not the Seer—because everything I see is the Seer. I realize that the real self within is actually the real world without, and vice versa. The subject and object, the inside and outside, are and always have been nondual. The world is my body, and what I am looking out of is what I am looking at.

The real self resides neither within nor without, because the subject and object are actually not-two. Absolute Subjectivity transcends yet includes both the relative subject and the relative object. The inside world and the outside world are just two different names for the single, ever-present state of no-boundary awareness. [No Boundary: 54-59]

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6. Dana: The Practice of Giving

[Text from the Introduction by Bhikku Bodhi] The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. In the teaching of the Buddha, too, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development. In the Pali suttas we read time and again that “talk on giving” (danakatha) was invariably the first topic to be discussed by the Buddha in his “graduated exposition” of the Dhamma. Whenever the Buddha delivered a discourse to an audience of people who had not yet come to regard him as their teacher, he would start by emphasizing the value of giving. Only after his audience had come to appreciate this virtue would he introduce other aspects of his teaching, such as morality, the law of kamma, and the benefits in renunciation, and only after all these principles had made their impact on the minds of his listeners would he expound to them that unique discovery of the Awakened Ones, the Four Noble Truths.

Strictly speaking, giving does not appear in its own right among the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, nor does it enter among the other requisites of enlightenment (bodhipakkhiya dhamma). Most probably it has been excluded from these groupings because the practice of giving does not by its own nature conduce directly and immediately to the arising of insight and the realization of the Four Noble Truths. Giving functions in the Buddhist discipline in a different capacity. It does not come at the apex of the path, as a factor constituent of the process of awakening, but rather it serves as a basis and preparation which underlies and quietly supports the entire endeavor to free the mind from the defilements.

Nevertheless, though giving is not counted directly among the factors of the path, its contribution to progress along the road to liberation should not be overlooked or underestimated. The prominence of this contribution is underscored by the place which the Buddha assigns to giving in various sets of practices he has laid down for his followers. Besides appearing as the first topic in the graduated exposition of the Dhamma, the practice of giving also figures as the first of the three bases of meritorious deeds (punnakiriyavatthu), as the first of the four means of benefiting others (sangahavatthu), and as the first of the ten paramis or “perfections.” The latter are the sublime virtues to be cultivated by all aspirants to enlightenment, and to the most exalted degree by those who follow the way of the Bodhisatta aimed at the supreme enlightenment of perfect Buddhahood.

Regarded from another angle, giving can also be identified with the personal quality of generosity (caga). This angle highlights the practice of giving, not as the outwardly manifest act by which an object is transferred from oneself to others, but as the inward disposition to give, a disposition which is strengthened by outward acts of giving and which in turn makes possible still more demanding acts of self-sacrifice. Generosity is included among the essential attributes of the sappurisa, the good or superior person, along with such other qualities as faith, morality, learning and wisdom. Viewed as the quality of generosity, giving has a particularly intimate connection to the entire movement of the Buddha’s path. For the goal of the path is the destruction of greed, hate and delusion, and the cultivation of generosity directly debilitates greed and hate, while facilitating that pliancy of mind that allows for the eradication of delusion.

The present Wheel publication has been compiled in order to explore in greater depth this cardinal Buddhist virtue, the practice of giving, which in writings on applied Buddhism is so often taken for granted that it is usually passed over without comment. In this issue four practicing Buddhists of today, all of whom combine textual knowledge of the Buddha’s teachings with a personal commitment to the path, set forth their understanding of the various aspects of giving and examine it in relation to the wider body of Dhamma practice.

The collection concludes with a translation of an older document — the description of the Bodhisatta’s practice of giving by the medieval commentator, Acariya Dhammapala. This has been extracted from his Treatise on the Paramis, found in his commentary to the Cariyapitaka.

[‘Dana: The Practice of Giving’ Selected Essays Edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi.]

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5. The Four Noble Truths

This text is from Wikipedia and reduced to the main points. All the Wikipedia links are removed to make it less distracting. For the original Wikipedia explanation, click this link: Four Noble TruthsClick this link for the Four Noble Truths, Ajahn SumedhoSummary: 1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, stress) 2. The truth of the origin of dukkha 3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha 4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha

First truth: dukkha The first noble truth is the truth of dukkha. The Pali term dukkha  is typically translated as “suffering”, but the term dukkha has a much broader meaning. Dukkha suggests a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of life, due to the fact that all forms of life are impermanent and constantly changing. Dukkha indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

The emphasis on dukkha is not intended to be pessimistic, but rather to identify the nature of dukkha, in order that it may be overcome. The Buddha acknowledged that there is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but he taught that even when we have some kind of happiness, it is not permanent; it is subject to change. And due to this unstable, impermanent nature of all things, everything we experience is said to have the quality of duh­kha or unsatisfactoriness. Therefore unless we can gain insight into that truth, and understand what is really able to give us happiness, and what is unable to provide happiness, the experience of dissatisfac­tion will persist.

Second truth: origin of dukkha Samudaya The second noble truth is the truth of the origin of dukkha. Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin of dukkha is commonly explained as craving tanha conditioned by ignorance avijja. This craving runs on three channels: Craving for sense-pleasures kama-tanha: this is craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures. Craving to be bhava-tanha: this is craving to be something, to unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing, to be a being that has a past and a future, and craving to prevail and dominate over others. Craving not to be vibhava-tanha: this is craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings.

Ignorance avijja can be defined as ignorance of the meaning and implication of the four noble truths. On a deeper level, it refers to a misunderstanding of the nature of the self and reality. Another common explanation presents the cause of dukkha as disturbing emotions kleshas rooted in ignorance avijja. In this context, it is common to identify three root disturbing emotions, called the three poisons, as the root cause of suffering or dukkha. These three poisons are: Ignorance avijja or moha: misunderstanding of the nature of reality; bewilderment. Attachment raga: attachment to pleasurable experiences. Aversion dvesha: a fear of getting what we don’t want, or not getting what we do want.

Third truth: cessation of dukkha Nirodha The third Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of dukkha. Cessation nirodha refers to the cessation of suffering and the causes of suffering. It is the cessation of all the unsatisfactory experiences and their causes in such a way that they can no longer occur again. It’s the removal, the final absence, the cessation of those things, their non-arising.

Cessation is the goal of one’s spiritual practice in the Buddhist tradition. According to the Buddhist point of view, once we have developed a genuine understanding of the causes of suffering, such as craving tanha and ignorance avijja, then we can completely eradicate these causes and thus be free from suffering. Cessation is often equated with nirvana (Pali nibbana), which can be described as the state of being in cessation or the event or process of the cessation. A temporary state of nirvana can be said to occur whenever the causes of suffering have ceased in our mind.

Fourth truth: path to the cessation of dukkha The Noble Eightfold Path. The fourth noble truth is the path to the cessation of dukkha. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path, and it is considered to be the essence of Buddhist practice. The eightfold path consists of: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

While the first three truths are primarily concerned with understanding the nature of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, stress) and its causes, the fourth truth presents a practical method for overcoming dukkha. The path consists of a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions, that when developed together, lead to the cessation of dukkha. Ajahn Sucitto describes the path as “a mandala of interconnected factors that support and moderate each other.”

Thus, the eight items of the path are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next. Rather, they are to be understood as eight significant dimensions of one’s behaviour—mental, spoken, and bodily—that operate in dependence on one another; taken together, they define a complete path, or way of living.

[Link to Four Noble Truths, Access to Insight]

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4. Handbook for Humankind, Tan Ajahn Buddhadasa

 This teaching is about learning from the experience of suffering; if you can see things in terms of suffering, you come to know the truth. It’s a natural process. The whole purpose of life is to find out what’s going on, to gain knowledge attained through clear insight; ‘finding out what is what’. When we discover the true nature of things, we find craving is completely destroyed because ignorance cannot be in that same moment when knowledge arises.

‘… an uneducated woodcutter will be able to penetrate to the essence of Buddhism whereas a religious scholar with several degrees who is completely absorbed in studying the tipitaka but does not look at things from this point of view may not penetrate the teaching at all.’

Tan Ajahn warns against a purely intellectual process and emphasises learning from suffering. It means being mindful, looking at everything in order to understand its true nature and the source of the suffering it produces: ‘This is a direct teaching … infinitely better than learning it from the tipitaka [where] people listen … in the manner of parrots, repeating later what they have been able to memorize. They themselves are incapable of penetrating to the true nature of things. If instead they would do some introspection and discover for themselves the properties of the mental defilements, of suffering, of nature, in other words, of all the things in which they are involved, they would then be able to penetrate to the real Buddhadhamma.’

The simple fact that we exist means we are working with mind/body every day; what we learn about ‘self’  comes from the direct experience of being alive. To do this, there needs to be sufficient mindfulness to carry out a detailed investigation every time suffering arises in nama rupa.

“In this very one-fathom long body along with it’s perceptions and thoughts, do I proclaim the world, the origin of the world, the cessation of the world, the path leading to the cessation of the world.” (Rohitassa Sutta, Sutta Pitaka)

Getting to know our own true nature, everything that goes to make up this mind/body, this is how we study Buddhadhamma. Learning from the cycle of desire, acting on the desire, and the result of that action which just whets the appetite for more desire over and over again (until we seriously start looking for a way out). This is the true nature of things; we are finding out ‘what is what’.

‘Handbook for Humanity’ is one essay in the collection ‘Me and Mine’. My copy is published by Sri Satguri Publications, First Indian Edition, 1991. For updated info about this and other writings by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, there is an e-book/pdf titled ‘Handbook for Mankind’ at the Buddhist eLibrary. [link]

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3. Money Sex War Karma, David R. Loy

This is a short summary of ‘Trapped in Time’, an essay included in the volume: Money Sex War Karma by David R. Loy and published by Wisdom Publications in 2008.  ‘Many religions provide an escape from death and time that distinguishes body from soul. The body dies but the soul lives on. Buddhism, however, offers a more paradoxical solution. Time and eternity are not incompatible. In fact they are like two sides of the same coin. The eternal life we desire is something we already experience right now. We just need to realize the true nature of time. In order to do that, however, we also have to realize our own true nature—because the true nature of each is not separate from the true nature of the other.

Buddhism distinguishes two truths, the relative (conventional) truth and the ultimate (absolute) truth. Since samsara, the world of suffering, is not different from nirvana, the relative truth does not refer to a different reality than the ultimate truth does. The relative truth is the way we usually experience the world, as a collection of separate things—including us—that arise and pass away. This occurs in time that is experienced as objective and external. The ultimate truth is realizing the way things really are, that they are not separate from each other and therefore are not really things in the usual sense. What does that imply about the time they are supposed to be in?

According to the relative truth you and I are also in time, and since we were born we will someday die; that is our dukkha. Death is the opposite of life, the end of life. According to the ultimate truth, however, we do not escape death because we have immortal souls. Rather, you and I cannot die; we were never born. That is the sense in which we are literally im-mortal, not subject to death. That is what anatta, “not-self,” means. The sense of duality usually experienced between myself inside and the rest of the world outside is a delusion. One way to dispel that delusion is to look for the “I” that is supposed to be inside…. Recognizing that no such self can be found—that is true peace of mind. I cannot be trapped in time if there is no “I,” and never was.

For Buddhism our real problem … is right here and now: that our sense of self isn’t real, which gives us, again, a sense of lack that manifests as insecurity and ungroundedness. Since we don’t feel real enough, and nothing we acquire or achieve ever makes us feel real enough, we long for immortality as a kind of substitute reality that can postpone the problem indefinitely. Buddhism offers a different solution to that longing. To realize the true nature of the self is also to realize a liberating truth about time.’

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2. The Wisdom of Insecurity, Alan Watts

‘I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it the “backwards law.” When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink you float. When you hold your breath you lose it— which immediately calls to mind an ancient and much neglected saying, “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.”

This book is an exploration of this law in relation to man’s quest for psychological security, and to his efforts to find spiritual and intellectual certainty in religion and philosophy. It is written in the conviction that no theme could be more appropriate in a time when human life seems to be so peculiarly insecure and uncertain. It maintains that this insecurity is the result of trying to be secure, and that, contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.

This begins to sound like something from Alice Through the Looking Glass, of which this book is a sort of philosophical equivalent. For the reader will frequently find himself in a topsy-turvy world in which the normal order of things seems to be completely reversed, and common sense turned inside out and upside down. Those who have read some of my former books, such as Behold the Spirit and The Supreme Identity, will find things that seem to be total contradictions of much that I have said before. This, however, is true only in some minor respects. For I have discovered that the essence and crux of what I was trying to say in those books was seldom understood; the framework and the context of my thought often hid the meaning. My intention here is to approach the same meaning from entirely different premises, and in terms which do not confuse thought with the multitude of irrelevant associations which time and tradition have hung upon them.

In those books I was concerned to vindicate certain principles of religion, philosophy, and metaphysic by reinterpreting them. This was, I think, like putting legs on a snake—unnecessary and confusing, because only doubtful truths need defence. This book, however, is in the spirit of the Chinese sage Lao-tzu, that master of the law of reversed effort, who declared that those who justify themselves do not convince, that to know truth one must get rid of knowledge, and that nothing is more powerful and creative than emptiness—from which men shrink. Here, then, my aim is to show—backwards-fashion—that those essential realities of religion and metaphysic are vindicated in doing without them, and manifested in being destroyed.’

[The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts was first published in 1954. My copy published in the Century Paperback series in 1987. The above text selected from the Preface.] 

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1. THIS IS IT, Alan Watts

This Is It‘I had been attempting to practice what Buddhists call “recollection” (smriti) [mindfulness] or constant awareness of the immediate present, as distinct from the usual distracted rambling of reminiscence and anticipation. But, in discussing it one evening, someone said to me, “But why try to live in the present? Surely we are always completely in the present even when we’re thinking about the past or the future?”

This, actually quite obvious, remark brought on the sudden sensation of having no weight. At the same time, the present seemed to become a kind of moving stillness, an eternal stream from which neither I nor anything could deviate. I saw that everything, just as it is now, is IT – is the whole point of there being life and a universe. I saw that when the Upanishads said, “That art thou!” or “All this world is Brahman,” they meant just exactly what they said. Each thing, each event, each experience in its inescapable nowness and in all its own particular individuality was precisely what it should be, and so much so that it acquired a divine authority and originality.

It struck me with the fullest clarity that none of this depended on my seeing it to be so; that was the way things were, whether I understood it or not, and if I did not understand, that was IT too. Furthermore, I felt that I now understood what Christianity might mean by the love of God – namely, that despite the commonsensical imperfection of things, they were nonetheless loved by God just as they are, and that this loving of them was at the same time the godding of them.’

[THIS IS IT by Alan Watts was first published in 1958. This excerpt is from First Vintage Books Edition, April 1973, page 30-31.]

Photo Image: Louk Vreeswijk

8 thoughts on “Texts

  1. Pingback: The Four Noble Truths | dhamma footsteps

  2. How wonderful these reviews. I didn’t read them all – but love the Saffron Days in L.A. – great texts. I’d like a library of them!

    • Thanks for your comment. What I do is scan the page(s) of the book and turn the image into text in MS Word. Then I can edit that a bit, if required and post it on my blog. If you don’t have a scanner that can create OCR (optical character recognition), you can get it done FREE with a jpg of your text page(s). Here’s the link: http://www.free-ocr.com/
      Drop by again sometime…

    • And thank you for visiting here Pieter. The texts are pretty varied, not all Dhamma books, many of them are related in a way that has helped me find words to write the posts. There are also some references to Advaita Vedanta which I’ve started to think is sourced in an historical Teaching the Buddha may have used as a reference. The text collection is ongoing, drop in again to see how it’s developing…

  3. Ah, Ajahn Chah! I have his ‘collected teachings’ – Harnham monastery is 40mins from where I live! I’m actually a Soto Zen follower (Throssel Hole Abbey, UK) but like the Forest tradition of Ajahn Chah.

    • Three volumes plus glossary and a lovely drawing of a broom on the box cover. I’ve been to Harnham monastery many times and heard about another Buddhist monastery near to there – Thossel Hole Abbey? I’d like to go there some day. Thanks for visiting here…

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