The Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 23, 2002


In This Issue:

1. Muslims emerge as saviours of Buddha statues in Kargil
2. Buddhism... Course Number 687
(24 lectures)
3. Book Review- The Places That Scare You... Pema Chodron
4. Temple/Center of the Week: Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery
5. Equipment for the Journey
...by Judith Clark


1. Muslims emerge as saviours of Buddha statues in Kargil

July 13 (ANI):

* For centuries Muslims in India's remote northern Kargil region have preserved the lesser known rock- carved Buddha statues. However, archaeologists fear these might crumble on account of neglect. The Kargil Buddha statues may not be as famous as those in Afghanistan's Bamiyan but historians say they are nearly as old. Kargil, the stage of the last military conflict between arch-foes India and Pakistan, lies at a strategic height in Jammu and Kashmir state.

Unlike the Bamiyan Buddha statues, Kargil idols are tucked in mountain nooks and crannies in the spartan border area, silent victims of human callousness and corrosive weather. Some statues have cracked right through the middle and others have disfigured bodies and faces.

It seems no one ever bothered to do restoration work, not even the Archaeological Survey of India. Historians express regret, saying that the statues were witnesses to the spread of Buddhism across the Indian subcontinent.

But, in what can be described as a lesson in communal harmony, Kargil's Muslim Shia community have come forward to restore the statues to their original splendour.

"These statues are symbols of our Buddhist heritage and past. They are sacred to our Buddhist brothers. It is our duty to protect these historical statues. Our village head also says that we should protect these statues, they are our responsibility," said Shahabuddin, a local resident.
Earlier, not even a single board was put up to inform the visitors and residents about these magnificent sculptures. It was only after the residents initated the drive, that the army demarcated the area.

The area's Muslim population is determined to guard these idols which they say is respected by one and all.

"We have been guarding these statues for a long time. Even now nobody bars us from doing so. Nobody tries to damage it even now. Nobody shows disrespect to the idols," according to Mustafa, another local resident.

Buddhists, however, are worried that these statues may become victims of religious crossfire unless they are protected properly.

"All are not in favour of these statues and do not want them to be there, so if we do not take care of these statues, these might also meet the fate of Bamiyan Buddha statues. If any religious leader incites the people and they get passionate, there are chances that they might harm the statues. Therefore it is essential to take care of these statues," said a Buddhist monk.

The statues have recently been declared a heritage site and the state government is developing them as a tourist destination.

Buddhism, which started off in the northern plains of India in sixth century B.C., spread all over East Asia and South East Asia. It is a religion which has left deep impact on Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar, China and Japan, among others.

2. Buddhism... Course Number 687 (24 lectures (30 minutes/lecture)
Taught by: Professor Malcolm David Eckel- Boston University
Price: $34.95 + $10.00 S&H

* http://www.teach12.com/ttcstore/assets/coursedescriptions/P687.asp

Share Professor Malcolm David Eckel's fascination with this remarkable, lively and challenging religious tradition.

In its 2500-year history, Buddhism has grown from a tiny religious community in northern India into a movement that now spans the globe. This course is a survey of the history of Buddhism from its origin in India in the 6th century B.C.E. ("before the common, or Christian, era") to its present-day status as a major world religion. It is meant to introduce students to the astonishing vitality and adaptability of a tradition that has transformed the civilizations of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan and has now become a lively component in the cultures of Europe, Australia, and the Americas.


Lecture 1: What is Buddhism?
Lecture 2: India at the Time of Buddha
Lecture 3: The Doctrine of Reincarnation
Lecture 4: The Story of the Buddha
Lecture 5: All is Suffering
Lecture 6: The Path to Nirvana
Lecture 7: The Buddhist Monastic Community
Lecture 8: Buddhist Art and Architecture
Lecture 9: Thervada Buddhism in Southeast Asia
Lecture 10: Mahayana Buddhism and the Bodhisattva Ideal
Lecture 11: Celestial Buddhas and Bodhisattvas
Lecture 12: Emptiness


Lecture 13: Buddhist Philosophy
Lecture 14: Buddhist Tantra
Lecture 15: The Theory and Practice of Mandala
Lecture 16: The "First Diffusion of the Dharma" in Tibet
Lecture 17: The Schools of Tibetan Buddhism
Lecture 18: The Dalai Lama
Lecture 19: The Origins of Chinese Buddhism
Lecture 20: The Classical Period of Chinese Buddhism
Lecture 21: The Origins of Japanese Buddhism
Lecture 22: Honen, Shinran and Nichiren
Lecture 23: Zen
Lecture 24: Buddhism in America

3. The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times... Pema Chödrön

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1570624097/wwwkusalaorg-20/

From Publishers Weekly

American Tibetan Buddhist nun Chodron (When Things Fall Apart) teaches an intense form of meditation in which readers are encouraged to become "warrior-bodhisattvas," those who courageously confront suffering. Warrior-bodhisattvas, according to Chodron, are willing to have their inner selves broken, while keeping their minds and hearts from shutting down. They take on suffering with compassion and loving-kindness, working through their own emotions of fear or anger to help alleviate others' pain. Chodron highlights six traditional paramitas to model (generosity, discipline, patience, enthusiasm, meditation and unconditional wisdom) and cautions that ego, self-deception, unforgiveness and a grasping for permanence all present barriers to compassion. True meditation cultivates the qualities of steadfastness, clarity of vision and attention to the present moment. Despite the title, this book is more about generating compassion than facing fears. A few humorous vignettes are interspersed with the deeply philosophical text, such as when Chodron describes discovering her boyfriend in an intimate embrace with another woman. She tried to throw something at the couple, but the thing she picked up was a priceless piece of pottery that belonged to their millionaire host. "The absurdity of the situation totally cut through my rage," she explains, noting that many times "wisdom is inherent in emotions." Moments such as these mitigate the intensity of this highly cerebral book, which will offer meaty reflections for the serious practitioner, but less guidance for the mere bookstore Buddhist.

From Library Journal

Chodron, a student of Chogyam Trungpa, is well known for her clear and inspiring books on spiritual practice (e.g., The Wisdom of No Escape). Here she once again presents Tibetan Buddhist wisdom in a clear, engaging, and undiluted way, making it useful and relevant for newcomers and longtime practitioners alike. This time her focus is on bodhichitta, a concept that roughly translates as "open heart" or "awakened mind." As the text points out, this is a term more easily understood than translated, finding its ground in activities that embody compassion, tenderness, and awareness. In a series of short chapters, the reader is introduced to a number of ideas found in Tibetan Buddhist bodhichitta practice and is given practical exercises for daily life. Her clear and simple descriptions guide the reader through these powerful and sometimes difficult practices. Chodron has once again proven herself to be one of the very best working in this crowded field. Recommended for all collections. Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

4. Shasta Abbey Buddhist Monastery

* http://www.shastaabbey.org/

Shasta Abbey is a Buddhist monastery established in 1970 by the late Abbess, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, who died on November 6, 1996. Rev. Kennett studied in Japan from 1962 until 1969 and was the disciple of the Very Rev. Keido Chisan Koho Zenji, formerly the Chief Abbot of Daihonzan Sojiji Head Temple (1957-1967). She received Dharma Transmission from him in 1963. In accord with Koho Zenji's wishes, Rev. Kennett returned to the West in 1969 in order to teach and train Western disciples in the Serene Reflection Meditation tradition.

Shasta Abbey is located in the mountains of far northern California at an elevation of 4000 feet. The immediate vicinity of the monastery is an area of coniferous forest, three miles north of the town of Mt. Shasta. The mountain after which the town is named lies six miles to the east of the monastery. Because of the mountainous location and altitude, weather in this area is variable and unpredictable. Summer weather, although usually clear, can at times be unseasonably cool.

Retreat guests stay in the monastery's guest house, which accommodates about 40 people. Normally, there will be one person per room except during large retreats, when most guests will share a room. All meals are vegetarian (lacto/ovo). We try to accommodate the special needs of those guests who, due to age or health infirmities, find the usual daily schedule difficult to follow.

5. Equipment for the Journey ...by Judith Clark

The Middle Way (volume 76:4 p. 195) February 2002

* About 25 years ago I visited friends in Derbyshire. The father of the family was an experienced fell-walker, well acquainted with the Peak district. He offered to take us out for a day's walk up Kinder Scout, the beginning of the Pennine Way, a long-distance footpath, which stretches from Derbyshire up to Northumberland and into Scotland. He was very particular that we began the walk early so that we could complete it in good time. We were to wear walking boots and take warm clothes and waterproofs, and we had to be able to carry all our food and drink ourselves.

We had a great day out, and at about four o'clock were heading back to the descent and our parked car when we were stopped by a young couple who asked us to direct them to the start of the Pennine Way. They were dressed in shorts, T-shirts and flimsy trainers. It was already four, and they were intending to set off without either map or compass. My friends' father was horrified. He said to them, "Surely you don't intend to set off now. You are not prepared and you will not reach a suitable stopping point before dark." However, they were not to be deterred, and continued in the direction of the start of the route. My friends' father said, "I suppose they will end up getting into difficulties, and some poor devil will have to turn out to rescue them!" Our journey may not be along the Pennine Way but following the Buddha's Great Way to full and perfect enlightenment also requires equipment.


This "equipment" is known as the Seven Factors of the Path to Enlightenment. In this article I would like to look at some of the equipment needed. The first thing we require is awareness of the necessity of the journey. I once saw a film about a Carthusian monastery in which one of the monks described what had led him to the religious life. He said it was the feeling of an empty space inside him, which he eventually realized was a "God-shaped" space. I suspect that we too have come to the Summer School either because we have an empty space inside or because there are difficulties we need to overcome. We should be grateful for this feeling of something lacking or of difficulties, because without them we would never have become aware of the need to set out on this path.

Awareness is an attentive presence in the living moment of any situation. The late Soko Morinaga Roshi in his book Pointers to Insight describes the young men who came to his training temple in Japan. They were intelligent young men from first-rate universities. The first job they were given was to heat the bath. This was a traditional Japanese bath, shaped like a barrel with a lid and heated by lighting a fire underneath it. After several instances of a fire being lit under an empty bath, the roshi found it necessary to start by asking the students, "What's the first thing you do when heating a bath?" They would inevitably say, "Light the fire", to which he would reply, "Definitely not!" Then they would say, "Fill the bath with water." It never occurred to them to scrub out the bath before filling it with clean water. Duly instructed, they would scrub out the bath, fill it with clean water and try to light a fire under it. On checking their progress a little later, the roshi would find that the "fire" consisted of two large logs and lots of burnt newspaper. He would then explain that they would never manage to make that burn. What was needed was kindling, the students would say, "There is no kindling," To which he would reply, "Then chop some." They would then say, "I don't know where the hatchet is." To which he would reply, "Well, why don't you ask someone?" He would go away for a while, and when he next returned to see how things were going, he would find a smoking mess under the bath. Poking about under the bath he would find it full of burnt paper. He would ask them, "What makes a fire burn?" Being bright students they would reply, "A combination of fuel and oxygen." The roshi would say, "Where's the oxygen?" "In the air." And he would say, "Well then, why don't you clear the ashes and let some air in?" Eventually the students would learn to perform practical tasks such as heating the bath.

We may laugh at this but we are all becoming increasingly divorced from practical "hands-on" experience in the present moment. Such things as TV, computer games and virtual reality come between us and actual experience. We can even make friends in chatrooms on the Internet! However, face-to-face experience is essential for the cultivation of awareness. Practising awareness is said to be both the beginning and the end of the Buddha's Path, and it is set out in great detail in the Satipatth›na Sutra as the Four Foundations of Awareness these four foundations are awareness of body, sensations, mental states and contents of mind.

The correct physical posture for meditation is most important as it helps us to be aware of mental states arising. However, there are many other situations in life that require direct awareness in the body too. At Wimbledon a player waiting to receive a serve does not just stand casually swinging the racket. They crouch down, muscles tense, moving their body weight from side to side ready to play the ball, forehand or backhand. We need to carry this awareness in the body on the meditation cushion into all aspects of daily life as a form to be observed. Even in informal situations, such as shopping in the supermarket, this awareness in the body can be practiced.

There are experiences we find pleasant and others we find unpleasant. What causes a pleasant, unpleasant or neutral sensation will differ in each person. It is human to have preferences, even animals have preferences. Our problems arise when we feel we must have what we prefer.

To give a simple example, when I was a student I used to visit an old lady called Mrs Braid. She was very suspicious and frightened by official letters because she was unable to read or write. It took me some time to win her trust but once it had been gained she loved my visits. In return for dealing with her official correspondence she would entertain me to tea. At that time I preferred tea weak and black with no sugar. Mrs Braid's idea of tea was rather different. She would begin by putting two teaspoons of sugar into the cup, she then poured a good inch of sweet and sticky tinned condensed milk, followed by tea, a densely brewed black liquid. The first sip of this brew was truly vile. What is more, to please Mrs Braid at least two cups of tea had to be drunk, accompanied by a piece of sweet sticky cake. I would never have chosen to have a cup of Mrs Braid's tea then or now. But in that situation, when it was offered with such kindness and hospitality, there really was no problem in drinking two cups. It was not my preference, but in that situation it was possible.

Awareness of mental states is important because it enables us to catch the passions before they are acted upon. Whichever passion happens to arise be it desire or anger, unless we are aware of the arising, it will take off before it can be caught. Trevor Leggett gave a hint for experimenting with this, when he discussed the derivation of the words sukha, pleasure and happiness, and Duhkha, suffering or pain. He said, "These are familiar words in Buddhism, but there is a secret in them. Sukha comes from su, meaning good, and kha, meaning space. Duhkha comes from duh or dush meaning bad, and kha, space. The origin of the words, with their respective meaning of happiness or pleasure and suffering or distress, comes from their application to the axle of a chariot wheel. As you know, the axle goes through the centre of the wheel as it turns. Su-kha , "good space", is when there is space so that the wheel can turn freely on the axle. Duh-kha, "bad space", is when there's not enough space or when the space is uneven or gritty, so that wheel and axle grind against each other or stick and won't move smoothly. The hint from the make-up of these two words is that in our actions, in our interchanges with the world, we need to have a little space. If we can learn to make a little space, then our actions, and our thoughts, can move easily without obstruction."

So if we can get into the habit of taking a deep breath and creating a pause in what we are doing, this "good space" will allow us to act more smoothly in daily life, without being carried away by the passions. In fact there was a method for giving up smoking that used this idea. All it required was an egg-timer. Every time the craving for a cigarette arose, instead of smoking a cigarette, you were instructed to turn the egg-timer over and wait the three minutes which it took for the sand to run through. If the desire to smoke was still as strong after the three minutes, you could have one. This was a quite successful method because people found that after three minutes the craving had reduced just enough to allow them to choose not to smoke. Even counting to ten can work if we do it habitually.

Our thoughts seem to switch on instantly when we wake in the morning and go on throughout the day until we fall asleep again at night. It seems to be an endless mental film that never stops unless we become totally absorbed in what we are doing. If we let it rip it just goes on and on and on. We may tend to indulge it and deliberately perpetuate it because we are rather afraid of the silence which would be there without this mental chatter. If we wish to reduce this restless pursuit of thoughts the body can help us.

Chess training in the Far East, as Trevor Leggett has pointed out, tries to cultivate inner balance, courage and inspiration. Mr Leggett watched Kimura, a famous Japanese chess champion, who was playing a brilliant young player. There was clearly only one move that Kimura could make but he didn't make it; he just sat there. He sat for so long that he seemed to have fallen asleep. Meanwhile his young opponent became agitated, fanning himself, drinking tea, going to the toilet, coming back again and continually fidgeting. After 10 minutes Kimura made the move he had to make. His opponent responded in a flash. This process was repeated several times. Eventually Kimura won because, in his impatience to move the game on, the younger man made a blunder.

Later, Mr Leggett talked to Kimura and found that he was a fast-talking, witty man. So he asked him why his chess personality was so different from his ordinary personality. Kimura explained that when he was young he was just like his young opponent; but he played many games against an old master who did exactly what Leggett has seen him doing. I always lost, he remarked because of my impatience to move things on. So he practised sitting in front of an empty chess board for an hour without moving. He did this for a few days and then increased the time to two hours a day. At first he found himself seething inwardly, watching the clock. But suddenly, in the second week, he felt a sort of calm. After that he could outsit any of them.

It is useful to remember that the body can help us to contain and calm our agitation. The practice of these Four Foundations of Awareness comprises the first of the Seven Factors of the Path to Enlightenment.

Keen Investigation and Energy

The second factor is keen investigation of the Dharma. What this means is checking and rechecking to make sure that the map we are following is really the Buddha's Way and not one we have devised ourselves. This word "keen" leads us on to the third factor which is energy. Energy needs to be invested in the practice at all stages. Generally, we have energy for those things we want to do but not for those we don't. Often our effort is conditional on getting results; we shall keep going if we seem to be getting there. In the kitchen at Shobo-an, the Zen Centre in London, there is a cartoon pinned to the wall which shows a class of children sitting in a circle on cushions, and a monk is giving the lesson. On the blackboard is its title, "The Journey to Enlightenment". The whole class is sitting quietly in meditation except one little girl who has her hand up and is asking, "Are we there yet?" That is the feeling we all have. We make some effort and then want to see immediate results. Unfortunately, it is not like that. Master Hakuin said we need the same intensity of effort we would put into finding a lost family heirloom.

As contact lens-wearer, I have some small idea of what that intensity of focus means. Contact lenses are very useful, but if they get dry they tend to pop out. I have lost lenses in some strange places, including the shallow end of a swimming pool, a dark, wind-swept pavement in Tufnell Park and the bottom of a dusty lift. I am very short-sighted and on all of those occasions, although I was with people with better eyesight than me, it was I who found the lenses. Why? Because they are important to me; without them I am helpless and so I am the one who focuses most intensely on the search. Applying this to practice would be really useful.


Walking the Buddha's Way is not intended to be a grim affair, as the fourth factor, happiness or joyous zest, indicates. We must remember that happiness is not synonymous with pleasure. Pleasure comes and goes according to the law of change or impermanence. This happiness is an abiding state of heart which does not fade, despite the ups and downs of life. This means that whatever we experience, good or bad, can be accepted and lived through. A traditional story told by Venerable Myokyo-ni's own teacher illustrates this. It's called "The Horse from the North".

An elderly couple with a young son are so poor they cannot even afford a buffalo to plough their rice paddy. One day, out of the blue, a horse comes along, attaches itself to the young boy and follows him home. Nobody knows who owns the horse, and so the family gratefully accepts it and there is joy and jubilation. Some years later the horse kicks the boy and, although the broken leg heals, it remains bent. Now there is sorrow and lamentation: the work is going to be harder because the boy is less able. A few months later an army press gang passes through the village rounding up all the young men to fight a war. They are not interested in a cripple with a bent leg, so he is left behind and his family are better off than their neighbours. Again there is jubilation. Then, one day the horse rans off. Now the old couple have no beast to help with the ploughing, and there is sorrow and lamentation. Then another band of soldiers comes to the village, to requisition all the animals either for the war effort or for food. As the horse has gone, the old couple are no worse off. Then the horse returns out of the blue, and there is joy and jubilation once more.

This is how life goes: sometimes things are good and sometimes they are bad. Happiness is being able to recognize that life is like that and to accept whatever life presents us with and do our best with it. One translation of priti, happiness, is rapture which means to be completely absorbed with "rapt attention". In this state there is no I present, and therefore happiness can arise. If we are completely given in to the situation, there is no more stress and agitation.


This brings us to the the fifth factor which is calm, overcoming the passions. In modern life we complain a great deal about stress and anxiety and having too much to do. In fact one of the most successful recent books is called The Little Book of Calm. It seems we are all in need of calm. Road rage has progressed to supermarket trolley rage, and now we have parking rage. If someone beats you to a parking space, you simply ram them out of the way with your car! So there is a lot of anger, agitation and stress out there. All this stems from the fact that we find it hard to accept the Three Signs of Being: no "I," change and suffering. If we did, then we would be able to go with situations in life. Firstly, impermanence: we are anxious because we might lose the things we have and might not get the things we want. We suffer because we are frightened that something might happen to us or our loved ones. And it might. We can't change that. Most of all, we are anxious about the idea that there's no "I" here anyway. We have spent so much time and effort in bolstering it up and making it secure only to be told it doesn't exist.

Anxiety can lead to obsessive attempts to control life. A friend told me that she was worried about her parents. They have always suffered from anxiety, but recently it had increased. The anxiety takes the form of certain set habits and rituals by which the day is controlled. Everything has to happen at a fixed time throughout the day and has to be done in a certain way. Routine may be a good thing up to point. But in the case of my friend's parents, the vegetables must be laid out in a certain order and peeled in that order, and any deviation from this causes anxiety. When they brew a pot of tea they set a timer for exactly three minutes, and only when it rings do they pour the tea. The whole day is ordered in this way which leaves no room for spontaneity. My friend will telephone them to say that she will be passing some time in the afternoon and will call in, only to be told that the timing of some household event makes that impossible. She now visits them unannounced because otherwise they would put her off and she would never see them. The more they try to control their lives the more anxious they become.

Calm can really be established only when we are fully "given in to what is being done at this moment", when there is no room for agitation at all. In one of his books, the Russian Orthodox priest Metropolitan Anthony talks about his days in Paris as a doctor in general practice before he became a priest. He said that at the beginning when he was with a patient, he was also aware of all the people in his packed waiting room. Throughout his surgery he was aware of this endless queue of patients waiting to see him. Because of this, he tried to rush through the consultations. He found he would have to ask each question twice. He would have to repeat examinations because he would forget his findings, and he even forgot the patient's name. After some time he decided that he had to address the problem. He resolved that, regardless of the number of waiting patients, he would attend fully to the patient before him in the consulting room. He worked more slowly, behaving as if the person before him was the only patient he had to see that day. Whenever he found himself hurrying, he would deliberately exchange a few pleasantries with the patient in order to return to the focused, calm state. Interestingly he found that, over all, he now spent less time with each patient because he no longer had to repeat questions or examinations.


Wholeheartedness means being totally absorbed in the living situation which brings us to the sixth factor of enlightenment, absorption. This term is sometimes translated as concentration, but unfortunately this carries the connotation of an "I" doing it. True absorption comes about quite naturally of itself, either when we are doing something that really interests us or when we are in danger. Often it is attributed to the nature of the activity. However, it is actually a result of the wholeheartedness with which we are doing it. The belief that absorption resides in the activity leads us to seek out further absorbing or exciting things to do. In fact, there is a growing business offering "extreme" holidays which promise to take the client out of the "comfort zone" of ordinary life. There is "white-water rafting", being lowered into the sea in a cage among great white sharks or "extreme climbing" when one climbs the rock face without ropes, clinging on only by the fingers and toes. The attraction that these activities all share is that while we are engaged in them, it is impossible to think of anything but what is being done at that moment. In complete absorption there is no room for extraneous thoughts, thus giving us the opportunity to see what is really there.

In this connection Metropolitan Anthony tells the story of an old woman he met shortly after his ordination as a priest. He had been sent to an old people's home just before Christmas to celebrate Mass. After the service he was approached by an old woman who wanted advice on prayer. He suggested that she approach another priest who was reputed to be an expert on prayer. She said to him that she had talked to experts on prayer all her life, and it had done her no good at all. She said, "I thought that as you are new to the priesthood and probably know nothing, you may just blurt out something useful by accident!" Thus encouraged, he asked what her problem was. She said, "For the past 14 years I have been saying the Jesus prayer almost constantly, but I have never felt the presence of God." The Jesus prayer is a short prayer used in the Orthodox tradition in which the words "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me" are repeated over and over again. Metropolitan Anthony replied, "If you speak all the time God has no opportunity to show his presence." He suggested that after breakfast she should go to her room, tidy anything distracting out of sight, set her armchair in front of the icon and light the lamp in front of it. He said she should then just look around and take stock of her room because if she had been practising the prayer like that for 14 years, she probably hadn't noticed her room much. Then, he said, take up your knitting and just knit before the face of God. The old lady did not feel that this was very pious advice, but nevertheless decided to do as he said.

Some time later she told him that it had worked. He asked her to tell him exactly what had happened. She said, "I did as you said. After breakfast I went to my room, tidied it up, arranged everything and, looking around, I thought, ¸What a lovely room this is. I have a view over the garden. I have all the things that I have collected over my life; what a nice comfortable place it is to be.·" She said that she lit the lamp in front of the icon and sat down and felt the peace of the room. "Then I remembered that I was to knit before the face of God, so I took up my knitting. I heard the ticking of the clock, but that did not disturb me. The knitting needles clicked against the arms of the chair, but if anything, this just reinforced the silence. Gradually I began to notice the silence was not an absence but a presence of something. It had a density and a richness that met the silence inside me and pervaded me. I realized that at the heart of it there was an all-silent, all peaceful presence." The old lady was to live another 10 years, until she was over 100; and whenever she practised this silence, she could sense the quietness and peace of God.


While we still search and hope for spiritual experience, we remain out there, unfulfilled. It is only through emptying out completely that absorption can take place. Only in the state of absorption can serenity the seventh factor of enlightenment arise. There isn't a great deal we can say about serenity. What can be said is that it is not something an "I" can have. Serenity is a quality of the heart that, in the absence of "I", radiates out to all around it. This is the essence of the Bodhisattva Path, which is not about practising for ourselves but for the sake of all beings.

The Middle Way February 2002 p. 195 (volume 76:4)


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