Author Topic: New to learning Buddhism  (Read 2801 times)

Offline redgunner

  • Member
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
New to learning Buddhism
« on: May 17, 2015, 01:35:51 pm »

I am 27 years old and I live in Ireland... my background is that I was brought up a Roman Catholic (surprise surprise being irish) but I came to the decision that I was told to believe in a Christian God and I never actually did because I came of an age of what I would describe as self awareness and understanding things for what they really are.

I would describe myself an Agnostic sometimes and Atheist sometimes (sounds strange I know) but I have been trying to find meaning in my life in the form of comparing it to reality and not comparing it to what others want me to be...

I know the basic concepts and four noble truths which seem to make sense to me but I would love to take the the step with confidence knowing that I can be helped towards a better and informed understanding of my presence in life...

If anybody can help suggest what my first steps should be and how I can understand Buddhism more it would be of great benefit to me and my appreciation.

Thank you.

Offline Galen

  • Member
  • Posts: 194
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2015, 03:27:11 pm »
If anybody can help suggest what my first steps should be and how I can understand Buddhism more it would be of great benefit to me and my appreciation.


welcome to Free Sangha!

I am Galen.
I live in North Bay Ontario, Canada, in northern Ontario

First I would suggest a good book to get started:

To get a grasp on Buddhist concepts I suggest "Buddhism Plain and Simple" by Steve Hagen  real easy to read.

Then maybe a one of these:

"The Miracle of Mindfulness" by Thich Nhat Hanh

"Meditation for Beginners" Jack Kornfield

"Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana

"Being Zen" by Ezra Bayda

"Insight meditation" by Joseph Goldstein

Then I would suggest making contact with a Buddhist Community

Kagyu Samye Dzong  is a Dublin-based Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Centre, founded in 1977, the oldest established Buddhist Centre in Ireland,
and is part of the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.  Our Spiritual Director is His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorge.

here is the web site:

I would avid the Dublin Buddhist Centre it is part of the Triratna Buddhist Community, and is kind of a cult.

here is some basic information I have put together for beginners

Basic Buddhism

When I talk about Buddhism it is with an understanding that I will be talking purely from my own understanding and experience, and that it will be expressed in a way that makes sense to me and that I hope will make sense to you.

What I have learned is mainly from a Tibetan Buddhist lineage and Zen Buddhism.

I do not want to offend anyone in their beliefs, or to give the impression that I am speaking for any one type of Buddhism.

I have good news, being content in your life has nothing to do with the accumulation of wealth, power or processions, it has nothing to do with having good fortune or avoiding health or natural disasters. Being content in your life has to do with honesty, integrity and kindness, qualities we all have.

Suzuki Roshi said,
"Everyone is fine just the way they are, and everyone could use a little bit of work."

In my understanding the term “Buddhism” as it is applied to these teachings, is a mistake. An “ism” is a belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school. Buddhism is a label devised so that we can put it in a category beside other religious teachings.

All of the divisions of what we call Buddhism try and practice the Bodhidharma
“Bodhi” means, awake and “dharma” means teaching.

So they all try to practice the “Teachings of the Awakened.” This is the little bit of work Suzuki Roshi was talking about.

My response to the question "What is Buddhism?" varies at times even though I think they all are true. Here is one:

The Bodhidharma is the practice of awareness to help you deal with dissatisfaction by maintaining meticulous thought and action on a daily basis.  Doesn't sound very sexy, does it.

The Buddha's first teaching, the sutra called the Discourse on the Four Noble Truths, delivered at the Deer Park in Sarnath.

"Suffering" is the term most commonly associated with the "Four Noble Truths". But the term "Dukkha" which is translated as "Suffering" more correctly means "dissatisfaction"

At the same time the term "Arya", that is translated  as "noble" is not referring to the Truths being noble, but to the individual that is awaken. One is "Noble" because they are awakened.

So when we see:

The Four Noble Truths:

Life means Suffering.
The Origin of Suffering is Attachment
The Cessation of Suffering is Possible
The Path to the Cessation of Suffering: The Eight Fold Path

 it more correctly means:

The Four Truths that an Awaken One is Aware of are:

There is Dissatisfaction in Life
The Origin of Dissatisfaction is Attachment or Desire
It is possible to deal with Dissatisfaction
The Eight Fold Path can help us deal with Dissatisfaction

One of the interesting realizations that can be gain from this description is that, you can be told about something and still not be aware of it.
Awareness takes more practice and experience.

So we are not satisfied with our lives, so what! it doesn't sound as bad as suffering.
Here we have to make two distinctions.

Buddhism is not saying that if you follow its teachings you will never have an accident, fail an exam, loose a job, have a major illness, have a loved one die, or die yourself. You will, that is the normal pain and misfortune of living. But you can learn how to deal with them so that you experience less suffering or dissatisfaction.

Buddhism is not down playing how much dissatisfaction hurts. Here is a way of understanding
how dissatisfaction makes us miserable, on a regular basis not just when we experience major difficulties.

 The Thought that kicks you out of Heaven

The thought that kicks you out of heaven could be "I'd be a little more comfortable if I had a pillow." Or “I could be happier if my partner were here."

Without that thought, you're in heaven - just sitting in your chair, being supported and being breathed. When you believe the thought that something is missing, what do you experience?
The immediate effect may be subtle - only a slight restlessness as your attention moves away from what you already have. But with that shift of attention, you give up the peace you have as you sit in your chair. Seeking comfort you give yourself discomfort.

What if you did get a pillow? That could work (if you have a pillow). You may find yourself back in heaven again. It may be the very thing you needed. Or you could pick up the phone and convince your partner (if you have a partner) to join you, and maybe he or she would actually arrive. And perhaps you would be happier, and perhaps you wouldn't. In the meantime, there goes your peace.
The thought that kicks you out of heaven doesn't have to be about comfort or happiness. It could be "I'd be more secure if...." or "If only it could always be like this…", or it could be just the thought of a cup of coffee. Most people are so busy making improvements they don't notice that they've stepped out of heaven. Wherever they are, something or someone could be better.

So, how do you get back to heaven? To begin with, just notice the thoughts that take you away from it. You don't have to believe everything your thoughts tell you. Just become familiar with the particular thoughts you use to deprive yourself of happiness. It may seem strange at first to get to know yourself in this way, but becoming familiar with your stressful thoughts will show you the way home to everything you need.

from - I Need Your Love - Is That True? by Byron Katie p 9-11

The Eight Fold Path

Right View
Right Intention
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Meditation

The word Kusala can get translated simply as "good" or "right" but it doesn't mean "right"  as in our western understanding of "Right vs Wrong".

Kusala can be understood generally as "intelligent, skillful, contented, beneficial"
or "that which removes affliction, that which maintains awareness."

So the values of the Eight-fold Path would be......

1 A View that is skillful, beneficial, that helps maintain awareness
2 An Intention that is beneficial, that helps maintain awareness
3 Speech that is that is skillful, intelligent, beneficial, that which removes affliction,   
  that  which helps maintain awareness  ... etc

1. Right View

Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truths. As such, right view is the cognitive aspect of wisdom. It means to see things through, to grasp the impermanent and imperfect nature of worldly objects and ideas. Right view is not necessarily an intellectual capacity, just as wisdom is not just a matter of intelligence. Instead, right view is attained, sustained, and enhanced through all capacities of mind. It begins with the intuitive insight that all beings are subject to suffering and it ends with complete understanding of the true nature of all things. Since our view of the world forms our thoughts and our actions, right view yields right thoughts and right actions.

2. Right Intention

While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion.

3. Right Speech

Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path.
Ethical conduct is important because you cannot attain or maintain healthy mental and emotional states without speech that is skillful, intelligent, beneficial, speech that which removes affliction, and helps maintain awareness . 
The importance of speech in the context of Buddhist ethics is obvious: words can break or save lives, make enemies or friends, start war or create peace. Buddha explained right speech as follows: 1. to abstain from false speech, especially not to tell deliberate lies and not to speak deceitfully, or be misleading 2. to abstain from slanderous speech and not to use words maliciously against others, 3. to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others, and 4. to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth. Positively phrased, this means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.
I would also add that that we include right listening and right reading. That we read and listen to things that are skillful, intelligent, beneficial, that which removes affliction, and helps maintain awareness . 

4. Right Action

The second ethical principle, right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. As with speech, unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind. Again, the principle is explained in terms of abstinence: right action means 1. to abstain from harming sentient beings, especially to abstain from taking life (including suicide) and doing harm intentionally or carelessly, 2. to abstain from taking what is not given, which includes stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty, and 3. to abstain from sexual misconduct. Positively formulated, right action means to act kindly and compassionately, to be honest, to respect the belongings of others, and to keep sexual relationships harmless to others.
I would also add that "Right Action" includes doing positive actions. Being generous with our money, caring, time. Acting with compassion by comforting others, being present physically, mentally and emotionally available. Identifying injustice and labeling it, speaking out against it  and taking a stand against it. We are not just called to "do no harm" but to try and stop harm from being done. 

5. Right Livelihood

Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully, and used for your own needs and the good of the greater community. Activities that harm other beings should be avoided. 
Some are obvious to avoid: selling weapons, slavery, prostitution, killing, making or selling drugs, polluting the environment. Avoiding any other occupation that would violate the principles of right speech and right action should be avoided. Now it gets less obvious. If you are a Lawyer, politician, journalist or media celebrity do you make a living by telling the truth, not misleading people, not taking credit for work that is not yours. If you are a teacher, doctor, nurse, caretaker, counselor do you avoid taking advantage of position of power you hold?

6. Right Effort

Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavours that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of unarisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

7. Right Mindfulness

Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. Usually, the cognitive process begins with an impression induced by perception, or by a thought, but then it does not stay with the mere impression. Instead, we almost always conceptualise sense impressions and thoughts immediately. We interpret them and set them in relation to other thoughts and experiences, which naturally go beyond the facticity of the original impression. The mind then posits concepts, joins concepts into constructs, and weaves those constructs into complex interpretative schemes. All this happens only half consciously, and as a result we often see things obscured.
Right mindfulness is anchored in clear perception and it penetrates impressions without getting carried away. Right mindfulness enables us to be aware of the process of conceptualisation in a way that we actively observe and control the way our thoughts go. Buddha accounted for this as the four foundations of mindfulness: 1. contemplation of the body, 2. contemplation of feeling (repulsive, attractive, or neutral), 3. contemplation of the state of mind, and 4. contemplation of the phenomena.

8. Right Meditation

Right Meditation refers back to "Kusala", meditation that is intelligent, skillful, content, beneficial and that which removes affliction, that which helps you attain and maintain awareness. It is meditation that leads you to discover your own mind and body, how your thoughts and emotions develop, and how to deal with them rather than being swept away by them.  Its meditation that helps you to develop your Basic goodness, your best qualities.
Basic Meditation

Why Meditate?
People can have different reasons for trying meditation
    To be able to relax
    To deal with a specific emotional problem
    To help you concentrate or focus
    To gain personal insight
    To feel good
What Meditation is not:
 Meditation is not:
 about psychological change
Meditation is not:
about being better or different than you are.
Meditation is not:
about reaching some kind of spiritual state.
Meditation is not:
about feeling good, or content or at peace.
Meditation is not:
about some intellectual or philosophical knowledge of the universe.
Meditation is not:
about escape from the world.
Meditation is not:
about thinking less or not at all.
Meditation is not:  a quick fix
What Meditation is:

Simple, Ordinary, Basic   

Meditation is about:

Trust & Acceptance
Being aware of what is around you
Being aware of your true nature
Living from a position of strength and courage rather than poverty, want or greed.

When you realize than you have everything that you need, you no longer have to suffer from want or loneliness.

Start Meditation

Meditation is not about thinking slower, or less, or not at all. Meditation is not about trying to change who you are, that is an aggression against self. Meditation is about becoming aware of who you essentially are. It is about seeing yourself clearly, no judgments, no regrets. There may be some things that you do that are not helpful to you or others, but what you do is not the complete picture of who you are. There is nothing wrong with who you are. You do not change who you are, but become who you are. Your behaviours may change, naturally, as you let the layers of protectedness fall away.

Suzuki Roshi said " Everyone is fine the way they are, and everyone can use a little bit of work"

When you first start to meditate you will most likely feel uncomfortable noticing your thoughts. It is important to "Hold your Seat" which means to stay with the practice of noticing your thoughts even though it is uncomfortable.

Carl Rogers said:
 “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

As this letting go happens, the essential you comes through. Like a window you had painted over, some light may come through but you can’t see anything until you scrap off the paint. The light has always been there, but now it can come through and you can see clearly. We are all brought into the world, whole and complete, with everything we need to do what we need to do, to be who we are meant to be, to give something wonderful to existence. You can choose to live in that sense of strength, wealthy and connectedness at anytime. Just like in the Wizard of Oz. The Tinman always had a heart, the Scarecrow a brain, the Cowardly Lion was brave and Dorothy always had the power to go back to Kansas. The Wizard didn’t give them anything that they didn’t already have. The magic of Oz was the gift of awareness.

"Storylines" are the belief's we have taken on about ourselves. As we are growing up we pick up a lot of illusions about ourselves that are like those layers of paint on the window. Maybe we put insulation against the window as well to keep out the cold. Soon we can’t see or hear anything. Some things are hurtful, like when you are told that you aren’t good enough, or smart enough, or not good looking, or you are too lazy, or you are a coward; get the picture? The opposite can be just as harmful, that you are smarter than others, or better looking, a better leader, more popular. Some stories we make up ourselves even though they are harm to ourselves. We gain some kind of comfort from building even a somewhat negative identity of ourselves, it can be easier than challenging our preconceive ideas. 

I remember an interview with Thich Nhat Hahn. He was asked "Does Meditation help with low- self esteem?" he responded. "Meditation helps with low self esteem, meditation also helps with high self esteem."

Whatever story we tell ourselves we have to expend a lot of energy in thoughts and emotions to maintain it, because it is not us. Just like it is easier to stand straight for a long period of time than it is to slouch. Standing the way your body was built is naturally comfortable, any different position and your nerves get pinched, your muscles have to hold the skeleton in place and you eventually get sore.

The struggle then is living in a world that is still filled with confusion and disunity.
So there are three refuges, our Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

When we each find ourselves as the courageous, genuine and compassionate beings that we naturally are, it is not as hard to maintain, it is natural to us.

This is our first refuge, our own Buddha or enlightened mind and heart. We are all enlightened to some extent. Whatever percentage of awareness we exist in at the moment
can be a refuge when life things get confusing or painful. I had a friend that I had become quite close with, in a time when this person was struggling they became very angry and blamed me for what they were dealing with. It would have been easy to fall into my old patterns of taking up the blame or to become defensive and yell back. I remembered a statement that my counsellor gave to me often when I was struggling with guilt. “It’s not about me”. By seeking refuge in your enlightened self you can respond without hurting yourself or others.

The second refuge is Dharma, Which generally means, "teaching," but also it means “truth” or the “way of things”, kind of like the “Tao” and “te” of Taoism. This is the collection of things that you do that bring awareness and support it in your daily life. This includes many forms of meditation, but also other things that are nurturing to out spirit. One of my teachers talks about things that you do “by yourself-for yourself” it includes very basic things like going for a walk, sitting by a water or an open fire, singing, dancing, looking at the stars, petting your dog or cat, painting sketching, playing a musical instrument, doing a hobby, getting exercise. Your meditation practice, reading, and practices are important parts.

Your third refuge is the Sangha. This traditionally meant the group or community that practiced together, but I would include all the people that are significant to you. People that you listen to you and support you when life gets hard. This does not mean that we become dependent, but recognises that we are social creatures and need to relate to each other. Someone that can remind us who we are and what we need to be doing when we are struggling and doubt ourselves.

Basic Meditation:

Basic Meditation starts with a sitting meditation because if you lay down you tend to fall asleep. Sitting is the most comfortable position that you can maintain for any length of time to get the most benefits from meditating.

Basic Meditation is Shamantha - Vipassana
Shamantha means "peacefully abiding" it is roughly equivalent to the Zen Shikataza Meditation. Shikataza  is literally translated as "only focus on sitting". More often it is called: "just sitting" or "silent illumination". The emphasis is put on the "just"

Vipassana which means ‘to see clearly’. It is a “mindfulness” meditation because it brings us back to the present; who and where we are at the moment. That means that you do not contemplate on any symbol or theme, just notice thoughts. The basic components of mindfulness meditation are sitting, breathing, and focus. The variations within these will allow you to find a style that works for you, try the different components and notice how they feel for you.

How to Sit:

OK, how hard can it be? The way you sit can have an effect on how comfortable you are as well as your emotional state. The basis of a good sitting meditation is to maintain a pelvic tilt. This makes the vertebrae stack straight and even so that there are no nerves being pinched and no back muscles being strained to maintain a posture. You are more comfortable and can maintain this position longer. It also aligns the charkas to let energy flow between them.

There are several ways to achieve the pelvic tilt while sitting, the most important part is to get your knees lower than your butt. Most people think of a Full-Lotus with the bottoms of both feet folded onto the inside of the opposing thigh, or the Half-Lotus, with the feet inside behind the knees. To do either of these properly you need the flexibility to be able to have your knees touching the floor. Most people cannot do this and it can be painful to try. It is not necessary. You can sit on a pillow and cross your legs openly with your knees or use a short inclined stool. When I started to meditate I was considerably heavier and I could not sit upright on a floor. I made a small stool and either crossed my legs below or sat against the stool and tucked my legs under the stool. That is another method, to kneel with your knees apart and your butt raised on a pillow or stool. You can also sit on the edge of a chair and lower your knees by extending them out in front of you or tucking them under the chair.


This is slightly different from sitting. The way your body is positioned gives your mind a clue to your emotional state. If your are leaning, or slouching or your neck is bent forward, your shoulders are sagging you could be sending a message to your mind that you are tired or sad. The use of poor posture can also lead to being uncomfortable and not maintaining your meditation as long.

How to Breathe:

Now that you know how to sit you have to know how to breathe! Some people believe that they must slow down their breathing or do deep breathing to meditate. This is not true.
A relaxed natural breath is important to meditating mindfully. If you are to maintain a deeper or slower breath you are focusing on the breath and not able to allow yourself to notice your thoughts. There are meditations where you count breaths or pay attention to the way you breathe, but for mindfulness meditation you allow the breath to come naturally. Usually we breathe in a cycle, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
I was explaining this to one person and she got very concerned, she said that she “came from a long line of mouth breathers”. It is fine to breathe through your mouth, it needs to be natural for you. To try and force a style unnatural for you will draw the focus from your mind.

How to Focus:

Your focus can really be anything, something that you can see or hear or feel that you return to when you notice your thoughts. For our focus we work with the senses or hearing, sight and touch. If you prefer to close your eyes when you meditate you are limited to touch and sound. Since we are working with being present, usually we meditate with our eyes open to be aware of what is around us.
The most common focus is the breath. You can feel your chest expand, hear the breath going in and out, feel the cool of your breath as it passes over your lips.
You can look at something for a focus. A candle is used in some specific meditations, a fire can be a focus. A picture or statue of someone you honour can be a focus, this is common in some traditions to honour a teacher. You can pick an object and focus on it.
You can find something 4 to 6 feet ahead on you on the ground to focus on. When I worked at a nursery I used to get to work very early and sit in my truck and meditate until the other workers arrived. There was a steel fence post with a very bright yellow insulator on it. It really stood out from the background of green so I used that as my focus in that place.

What do to with your Hands

This is something that people tend to struggle with during meditation. There are very precise hand positions called “Mudra's” that have an effect on the flow of energy, but for this stage of meditation it is more important to just be comfortable so that your hands do not become a distraction. You can rest your hands on your legs or knees or fold them together on your lap.
The finger tips are very sensitive so you can use your sense of what your hands are touching
as a focus. This can be very important later when you expand your meditative mind set to being mindful while you are doing activities.

Just Notice:

The actual act of Mindfulness Meditation is less "active" because it involves paying attention rather than "doing" anything. Meditation is also not trying to do nothing or think nothing. The more you try to empty your mind the more you give your mind to do, you will “think” about “not thinking”.

There is a cartoon from the New Yorker that has an old Buddhist Monk and his young trainee. The young monk has a shocked look on his face after being told what meditation is. The Old master answers his unspoken question: “Nothing happens next”.

While you sit you just notice when you are thinking and go back to your focus. Be gentle and non-judgmental with yourself. If you notice that you are thinking and say in your mind. ”Damn! I’m thinking again!!” you are being disrespectful to yourself. I used to teach, just notice that you are thinking and let go of the thoughts and return to the focus. People still took the phrases "turn back" or "let go of the thoughts" to mean that they were to force their minds. Now I teach notice your thoughts, and notice the thoughts dissolve with the focus (the breath). Some form of visualization can be used as a metaphor for the process.

Pema Chodron talks about the thoughts as soap bubbles that float up and we can brush them with a feather and let them dissolve. I started working with a vision of driving and the thoughts as things by the side of the road that come into view and are pasted. It doesn’t matter if you have 5 thoughts a minute or 5000 a second, it doesn’t matter if you get stuck on one thought for 20 minutes or more. Just notice that and return to the focus. It’s all good, it’s all Ok. You will do that as long as you need to.

The practice is being with yourself as you are that moment. Some people are concerned because their minds are very active and erratic.

There is a Zen Koan about the Horses. There is the worst horse, the master has to capture it, struggle to put on the saddle and bridle, restrain it to get on and direct it with the legs and reins. The good horse, is calm while it is saddled and easy to get on and needs slight direction with the shift of the body to know where to go. The best horse knows when the master needs to ride and comes to him, he knows where the master needs to go and moves with gentle, effortless speed. The question is ‘which horse gets you there?’ They all do, and one is not necessarily better than the other. The master that rides a worst horse must become a better rider.   
This is just a beginning, there are meditations and practices that focus or issues and are more available to use in different situations. This is the bones, something to build on, the meat and potatoes, that we can make a feast around. Honour and accept your true self. Who you are is enough.

Carl Jung said:

“All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble …they can never be solved, but only outgrown. This outgrowing proved on further investigation to require a new level of consciousness. some higher or wider interest appeared on the patient’s horizon, and through this broadening of his or her outlook the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms but faded when confronted with a new and stronger life urge.
Pema Chodron tells a story to illustrate how to work with thoughts. A master named Choki Lodro had a student from India. Where this student came from it was the practice to ask the master the same question over and over again. This was not a practice that Choki Lodro was taught. After five years of answering the same question he was getting very bored and frustrated. The student asked again ”Master, how do I meditate?” Choki Lodro takes a deep breath and says something like “OK, I’m going to explain this to you one last time. While meditating, are you aware of the space between the end of one thought and the beginning of the next?” “Yes Master” “”Make that BIGGER”
That story usually gets a kind of a chuckle, the thought of a frustrated master seems beyond our concept, we like to think that once enlightened that we won’t have feelings like that.

The experience of the space and what it is are not the same. We of course cannot “make” the space bigger not in the western concept of having control over things. To some extent it is more like noticing that the space is bigger.

Thich Nhan Han talks about it as peace or mindfulness, that it is always there but we are looking for something more exciting, peace looks boring so we turn to drinking, drugs, sex, material processions. When we see things as problems we just want them to go away but we can accept them as teachers of awareness. He uses the example of a toothache, when we have a toothache we are aware of something very important - that it is very nice not to have a toothache. But when we do not have a toothache we do not enjoy our non-toothache. The peace of not having a toothache is with us but we are often not mindful of it. It's like we want something to be more exciting or special than our thoughts or feelings to distract us or over power them. 

Eventually you get to the point of realizing that the space is and always was, and always was bigger that our thought, than all our thoughts.

I like to use an illustration of dominos. Put a line of dominoes with a light behind them. The Dominos represent your individual thoughts. If you believe that you have a lot of thoughts that follow each other in rapid succession put them closer together. Get down so that the dominos are at eye level and you see mainly the line of them. The space in between where you can see the light is like your natural mind, your original, your enlightened mind. If you feel that you get stuck on one thought or emotion state, move in closer and focus on one domino. Because our thoughts feel closer to us, they appear more vivid, more “real”, like the foreground of a photograph they are in focus and centered. But the spaces are always there, we always have at least a glimpse of our essential nature.

My Teacher tells me that everyone is enlightened to some extent, a percentage and it can fluctuate. We all have something to work with. The other part of this is that because we focus on that imagined two-dimensional plane with the thoughts or dominos before us, we begin to believe that the spaces are two dimensional as well. That the space between them is only as big as it appears. It reality it is only a gateway, a window, and the whole of our awareness is vast and spreads out beyond what we think and feel. When we focus on a thought or feeling they look huge, they become our whole existence. When we are aware of the vast space that lies beyond our thoughts and feelings the thoughts don’t shrink, they just seem less important. That domino looks huge when in is an inch from your eye but put it down in a city and it would seem small and hard to find.     

When we become aware of our true existence there is room for anger, sadness, anxiety, pain, fear in this vastness.

Buddha had a very simple practice to bring mindfulness. It is to work with the breath.

“Breathing in, I know that I am Breathing in, Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”

it seems so simple, but it is a grounding practice to bring us into the present moment.

I use the metaphor of riding a wild horse to describe the process of meditation.

I describe the mind as a wild horse. People are often enchanted by a vision of a wild horse rearing and galloping with its main flowing as it runs. Mine is the stereo-typical Black Stallion, seen from a distance rearing on a mesa with the moon backlighting it. The initial urge is to want to own that stallion, to control it. But if you captured it and wore it down with it bucking until it was broke it would cease to be the stallion that you admired. The same is true with our minds, they are wild and vivid and contain the essence of what we are. We may not like some of the thoughts we have some of the angry, petty, cruel, selfish thoughts etc but our juiciness, what makes us wonderful and unique and individual is wrapped up in that things we feel are
embarrassing, nasty and smelly.

So if not breaking our minds what do we do? We can be patient and observant. We climb to the mesa where the stallion lives. We watch for where it sleeps, where it eats, where it goes to drink. We just watch. It would be silly to assume that the stallion does not see us doing this, we are in his home, he is aware of everything. In the same way it would be silly to assume that our minds are not aware that we are doing something by meditating, it's our mind, right? it knows what you are thinking?! but by being patient and quietly watching we become part of the landscape and the stallion , our mind, accepts our watchfulness. Each day we get a little closer. Soon we are within arm's reach, then we can extend a hand and touch the stallion, then it accepts an offering of food and eventually we will be able to sit on and ride the creature with all its wild nature.

Shamantha - Vipassana is the initial formal sitting meditation, but as with all formal practices you do it formally at sometime during the day so that you get used to it ( remember the Black Stallion getting used to you being there?) and for you to become more skilful at it.

You also practice throughout the day, to take it into your life and it will feel more natural.

"If you continue this simple practice every day, you will obtain a wonderful power. Before you attain it, it is something wonderful, but after you attain it, it is nothing special" - Suzuki Roshi

There is a good reason for practicing the first meditation with your eyes open. You can notice your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and Storylines anytime during your day.

If somebody is rude to you- What happens? If someone is kind to you - what do you experience?
As you notice thoughts, feelings, body sensations and storylines you get to know yourself and get the raw material for cultivating awareness.

The last really special component of Shamantha - Vipassana is that it also has some of the basic skills and techniques that you will use in other meditations and practices.

For example :

- not being hard on yourself while noticing your mind is the beginning of Loving-kindness or   
 Maitra (Metta).
- working with your breath is used in most meditations - especially Tonglen
- noticing and working with the feelings that come up in response to others is part of cultivating
 compassion and sympathetic joy
- developing your ability to "hold your seat" or be with difficult thoughts and feelings, is the
  teaching of Equanimity.

All this starts with the first basic meditation.


Offline redgunner

  • Member
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2015, 12:12:41 pm »

I live in Belfast - I have found someone here but can I have your opinion on how they are buddhist as you mentioned a "cult" ? - Do you mind checking Belfast and telling me how it falls in with the overall picture of Buddhism.

Offline Galen

  • Member
  • Posts: 194
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2015, 03:13:02 pm »
I live in Belfast - I have found someone here but can I have your opinion on how they are Buddhist as you mentioned a "cult" ? -
Do you mind checking Belfast and telling me how it falls in with the overall picture of Buddhism.

Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) has a questionable lineage, has reports of people being pressured into sex, encouraged to have less or not relationship with family or friends, told to only read Buddhist books published by their authors.
all characteristic common to cults.

you can read more about it here:

Another one to avoid is the New Kadampa tradition, they slander and protest against the Dalai Lama and worship a god they call shugden

you can read about them here:

I would suggest you check out these  Centres in Belfast, both are reputable  organizations with an established lineage:

Offline redgunner

  • Member
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2015, 01:08:53 pm »
What are your thoughts on the Kadampa tradition? how does this tie in with Buddhism?

Offline Provider

  • Member
  • Posts: 34
  • giving, sahring, providing, serve and operate
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2015, 11:46:45 pm »
Step by step to admirable friends to gain the right judgement where and with whom to walk through.  --  --  Anumodana!  --  Virtual Dhamma - Vinaya Vihara  
The current provider: Samana Johann (Hanzze)

Offline vishuroshan

  • Member
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2016, 11:46:47 pm »

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4540
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 03:37:12 pm »
Hi, redgunner.

My suggestion would be to study the suttas / sutras, practice what you read for personal understanding.  Ask questions when you have them of your teacher, or of other board members.

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline vishuroshan

  • Member
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2016, 10:50:07 pm »
suttas are not 100% correct. its more than 2500 years old.  Today we have living arahants / one returners/ non returners, stream enterers.  VEN. MAHANUWARA WAHJIRABUDDHI thero is a living arahant who preach real buddha’s dhamma.
If you honestly want to practice meditation(towards nibbana) he’s the best person to take the guidance.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

  • Member
  • Posts: 4540
  • May all beings live rightly and harmoniously.
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2016, 10:29:11 am »
vishuroshan:" suttas are not 100% correct. its more than 2500 years old."

Thank you for your comment, Bhante'. 

Yes, the suttas are over two thousand years old and there have been many different translations over the years.  That is why Buddha advised that we must verify and validate what we learn for ourselves, so that we have personal experience with "How it works."

« Last Edit: July 23, 2016, 07:04:58 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline SwiftMerit

  • Member
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #10 on: July 04, 2016, 11:42:33 am »
What are your thoughts on the Kadampa tradition? how does this tie in with Buddhism?

High redgunner. I would strongly advise you to keep clear from the new kadampa tradition. As someone has already posted they have some very strong indications of being a cult. Personally i have spoken with a guy who was part of the nkt and found him to be very ignorant of basic Buddhist teachings and ways of behaving.

If you are interested in tibetan buddhism may i suggest the following traditions/schools:

Gelug -

Nyingmapa -

Kagyu -

Sakya -

There are many different ways to practice, lineages, schools and traditions. The internet is a powerful research tool, but remember, the most powerful tool you have is your own mind.

Good luck.
"The purpose of Religion is to control yourself, not to criticize others".

Offline stillpointdancer

  • Enlightenment through insight
  • Member
  • Posts: 572
  • Dancing at the Still Point describes my meditation
    • View Profile
    • Enlightenment for Grown Ups
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2016, 02:44:48 am »
I live in Belfast - I have found someone here but can I have your opinion on how they are Buddhist as you mentioned a "cult" ? -
Do you mind checking Belfast and telling me how it falls in with the overall picture of Buddhism.

Triratna Buddhist Community (formerly the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) has a questionable lineage, has reports of people being pressured into sex, encouraged to have less or not relationship with family or friends, told to only read Buddhist books published by their authors.
all characteristic common to cults.

you can read more about it here:

Another one to avoid is the New Kadampa tradition, they slander and protest against the Dalai Lama and worship a god they call shugden

you can read about them here:

I would suggest you check out these  Centres in Belfast, both are reputable  organizations with an established lineage:

Hi there. Spent ten years or so going to the Triratna center in Birmingham, UK. Your description doesn't match my experience, so I thought I'd offer my thoughts about them. They are attempting to make Buddhism more accessible to people in the West by gleaning best practice from around the world, and publishing the Dharma in a more accessible from- hence their publishing company.
Their view is to concentrate on basic meditations such as mindfulness of breathing and metta Havana, or wishing people well, and at the same time developing moral behaviour. This approach, together with the study of the Dharma, will lead to development along the path. I was always made to feel welcome there and fail to recognise anything expressed in the post.
If anything, I found them to be too moral, and it reminded me somewhat of my Methodist upbringing! My own studies took me in a different direction- not because they were wrong at the center, but because I was more interested in using different meditation techniques than used there.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline Peter Vredeveld

  • Member
  • Posts: 21
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2016, 04:21:07 am »
I was not being offensive and if this post is offensive then please delete the post.
Hello Redgunner,
I want to ask that I have seen many catholic who would want to change to Buddhist.
Can I ask why?

I apologize if this is offensive.

Thank You

Offline ECS

  • To all Buddhism Teacher , lets debate with me
  • Member
  • Posts: 38
  • To all Buddhism Teacher , lets debate with me
    • View Profile
Re: New to learning Buddhism
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2016, 07:34:44 pm »
If you are at Cork and someone told you there is something most important in life in Dublin and ask you to collect it , you agreed to go Dublin but that person told you , you need to walk there because you will found many precious item along the road one day , you walk .

As you walk , yes like the man said , you found many precious item like gold / money / diamond and you carry with you ...... as you gain more and more item , your emotion will increase , your greed will increase , your love to the item will increase , your fear that someone will steal your item will increase , your greed / your ego / your worry will increase as you collect more and more item and carry it with you ... your eyes will focus on the ground searching for more item day , you feel so tired and you look around , and you notice you are alone ... no one on the road , nothing is there except you and the item on your back will then realize , you are the emotion , you are the desire / you are the love / you are the greed / you are the fear etc ......

So as you awaken to your existence .... your desire / love / fear will naturally decreases ....all the item will dropped ...... your desire for more item decreases , your love to the item decreases ... your fear to protect the item decreases ..... as your emotion decreases , you will be at ease ... you experience freedom ... you experience bliss as you no longer hold on to the item ...... as you reach to this stage , you realize you are the destination and you no longer having  reason to process ...... you will stop the journey with bliss ... you are at home ......


SimplePortal 2.3.3 © 2008-2010, SimplePortal