Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kalama Sutta

Kalama Sutta

The people of Kalama asked the Buddha who to believe out of all the ascetics, sages, venerables, and holy ones who, like himself, passed through their town. They complained that they were confused by the many contradictions they discovered in what they heard. The Kalama Sutta is the Buddha's reply.
– Do not believe anything on mere hearsay.
– Do not believe in traditions merely because they are old and have been handed down for many generations and in many places.
– Do not believe anything on account of rumors or because people talk a a great deal about it.
– Do not believe anything because you are shown the written testimony of some ancient sage.
– Do not believe in what you have fancied, thinking that, because it is extraordinary, it must have been inspired by a god or other wonderful being.
– Do not believe anything merely because presumption is in its favor, or because the custom of many years inclines you to take it as true.
– Do not believe anything merely on the authority of your teachers and priests.
– But, whatever, after thorough investigation and reflection, you find to agree with reason and experience, as conducive to the good and benefit of one and all and of the world at large, accept only that as true, and shape your life in accordance with it.
The same text, said the Buddha, must be applied to his own teachings.

– Do not accept any doctrine from reverence, but first try it as gold is tried by fire.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Loving kindness

I came across a link to this piece about loving kindness meditation in an article about the Dalai Lama retiring.

The more the information gets out there - via CNN or whatever - the better.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A boon for meditation studying

The New York Times had an article today about a donation made by the Dalai Lama to the University of Wisconsin to study meditation. I think this is a positive development. If only meditation were used by more people as a positive tool, we might have a more peace and wisdom in the world.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


The dharma talk today is an excerpt from Hakuin's writings on kensho.

Here is a brief story about Hakuin (1686-1769).

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near Hakuin. One day, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child. This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parent went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the child needed.

A year later the girl could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.

The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.

Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Only now.

You must meditate without wasting time, thinking that there is only this day and this hour. After that, it becomes truly easy.
You must forget about the good and the bad of your nature, the strength or weakness of your power.


Sunday, August 15, 2010


OK. Togas are not required or not even suggested. And I really don't know who these people are. But we will be having a little party after the regular sitting on Sunday, Aug. 29. It's a potluck, and so members are supplying the food and people are also supplying their own dishes. Beyond that, we may have dancing. We may have free form jazz combos. We may have hula hoop contests. Just don't know.

We are celebrating ONE YEAR of regularly meeting. It's kind of remarkable. With minimal organization, we've continued to meet every week over the course of a whole year. I hope we provide some sort of resource for people who are seeking the benefits of meditation in their life. And I hope that we will continue to offer this resource for the year ahead.

Mindful speech, mindful listening

Laura read from True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh. The passage she read concerned mindful speech, the need to be conscious of how unkind words in themselves can inflict a certain violence. We talked about the need for deeply listening as well, to really ensure that we hear what is being said.

I was thinking about our conversation later today as I ran down a road near my house. There is a very annoying dog that lives in one house, a toy terrier of some sorts. At every passerby, he barks frantically, madly running around the property. One day I discussed his behavior with the owner of a chihuahua, another breed that is known for being high strung. He observed that his own dog was around people a lot when he was a puppy, and so is accepting of their presence.

Perhaps this little dog was ignored or deprived of attention when it was young. Now, it reacts with hostility to nearly everyone. I see these examples frequently - in people or elsewhere in the world - of how the principles we discuss in the sangha are manifested.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Just be natural

I came across this little piece of advise today. I thought it was good.

When you meditate, there should be no effort to control and no attempt to be peaceful. Don't be overly solemn or feel that you are taking part in some special ritual; let go even of the idea that you are meditating.
Let your body remain as it is, and your breath as you find it.

Sogyal Rinpoche

Monday, July 19, 2010

Breathing. Walking.

Matt read a portion of Thoreau's Walking at our last meeting.

This essay, which examines the position of humans in the natural word, is regarded by some as one of the most important essays in the environmental movement.

Elizabeth is providing the reading for the next sitting.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

One Breath at a Time

Dianne read a portion from One Breath at a Time at Sunday's meeting of the sangha. The reading began on page 140 and continued for a couple more pages. It concerned dropping habitual thoughts. Among other things. About really doing what we're doing. If we are meditating, then we should meditate. Of course, trying to clear the mind in itself can be frustrating. Sometimes it is better to just watch the mind - and with attention those discursive thoughts will abate.

A life that matters

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The poisons

Buddhism teaches that the three poisons are greed, hate & ignorance. These poisons lead us to do evil. In other words, to act contrary to our own enlightened self-interest, causing pain for ourselves and other. I believe these are real - with real effects. But I was thinking about poison today and relative truth. I was walking in the woods this morning and saw a small amanita mushroom. I know this variety. If you eat it, the mushroom will make you sick & if you eat enough, it will kill you. But how this mushroom affects me depends on my relationship with it. If I am just looking at it, I am not sickened. I can even touch it. The mushroom is not inherently poison. It is poison in relationship with me, and even then its noxious quality depends on my action.

So it is with everything. The morning glory is beautiful to look at, but I know that its seeds will create hallucinations. So, if I don't want that effect, I just enjoy the flower - and do not consume the seeds. The apples that I photographed this morning have no existence apart from the water and soil that nourished them. And what is the difference between them and the flowers that I photographed there in May? The flowers have the potential of the fruit within them. And the fruits follow naturally from the flower.

If I see reality with all its myriad connections, then I can better avoid trapping myself, thinking that someone or something "is" this or that way. It all depends on how I am perceiving things, and how I choose to interact with the world.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

I was thinking about this holiday & the idea of independence. Politically, of course, I'm all for self-determination. If I am paying taxes to a government, then I should be able to influence that government through democratic means. As a Buddhist, however, the idea of independence is a bit strange - if not positively destructive. If I believe I am really completely independent, then I may act destructively. None of us really is independent. We are inter-dependent. What I do effects you - even if I cannot see the effect immediately. When I turn on my light switch, I am affecting the amount of coal that is burned in this country. I am affecting the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I do not exist independently of anything. To believe otherwise is to fall prey to illusion.

(The photo is an allusion to Indra's Web. We are all tied together, even though we usually do not see the threads.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Because of a really random keystroke, I happened upon this site. It looks interesting. The most recent issue concerns one of the topics we discussed on Sunday - death. Unfortunately, there are no active links to the content in the journal. Links to other associated content, however, do function.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Death, strawberries, and stuff

We had a good discussion of life, death, clinging, transition, self, non-self.... and other things on Sunday, while enjoying the sweet strawberries & cookies that Sally brought. Ryan read a selection from No Death, No Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Next week, Jeremiah is providing a reading and Dianne promises to bake cookies.

Here are a few photos of the garden, which is growing quite happily in the back.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Hi, all.

I just remembered that there was a request at the end of last week's meeting that I post the name of the poem I read from. The poem is called "Ode to Intimations of Immortality" by William Wordsworth.

See you all Sunday!



I came across this site this morning. I haven't had a chance to fully explore it - but it looks interesting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Three more days

I came upon this little Zen story. Strange in a dry way. Deadpan - like a story by Paul Bowles or something.

Three Days More

Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan.

Suiwo gave him the problem: "Hear the sound of one hand."

The pupil remained three years but could not pass the test. One night he came in tears to Suiwo. "I must return south in shame and embarrassment," he said, "for I cannot solve my problem."

"Wait one week more and meditate constantly," advised Suiwo. Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. "Try for another week," said Suiwo. The pupil obeyed, but in vain.

"Still another week." Yet this was of no avail. In despair the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five days. They were without result. Then he said: "Meditate for three days longer, then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself."

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

(From Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Some Readings

Hi, All.

Following-up on one of Eric's posts about good meditation-related readings, here are a few that I have read and found particularly helpful over the last several months:

"Real Meditation in Minutes a Day" by Joseph Arpaia and Lobsang Rapgay (the first guy is a psychiatrist and the other a psychologist and they both run meditation-based therapy clinics).

"A Practical Guide to Buddhist Meditation" by Paramananda

"Minfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana - ("Bhante G", as he is known, is the head abbot of the Bhavana Society, a forest monastery and meditation center in West Virginia where I have gone on retreat a couple times. This book is probably the best introduction to Vipassana (insight) meditation that I have read. He has also written a follow-up book called "Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English" which I haven't read yet because I'm not quite at that point:)).

Another book that I recently read that is not a meditation instruction manual, per se, as much as it is an excellent discussion of how meditation can, over time, inform and enhance our daily lives long after we've gotten up off the cushion is "The Wise Heart" by Jack Kornfield.

Another good book that I am currenty reading is "Living Buddha, Living Christ" by Thich Nacht Thanh in which he draws parallels between Christianity and Buddhism and argues that they can be usefully integrated together in one's spiritual life.

Finally a really GREAT collection of essays for anyone facing difficult times is called "In the Face of Fear: Buddhist Wisdom for Challenging Times." This book has become one that I refer to often.

See you all of Sunday!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sangha meeting

This Sunday we sat while the rain steadily drummed on the roof. By the time we rose to stroll around, the rain had abated, gently falling still. The reading of the day was on pages 252-255 of Food for the Heart by Ajahn Chah. Here's a link to the Google book. A synopsis of the work can also be read here. The selection read on Sunday was from the chapter Samma Samadhi: Detachment Within Activity.

When were talking afterward, someone asked me if I could recommend any books on Buddhism. There are quite a few to choose from, of course. Some of my favorite authors currently writing are Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. Other favorites include the late D.T. Suzuki, Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg.

That said - I often will just wander in the library and pick out books I haven't read, unknown authors.

Next week, Terrence agreed to provide the reading for the Dharma talk. Laura said she will bring some sort of snacks.

Please come by and sit with us at 1 p.m. if you wish.

Monday, May 24, 2010


The Huffington Post has a short & very non-sectarian interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. I think this approach is good. I am a Buddhist, but I also believe that the truths of life do not need to be named & are quite perceptible if we just stop to look inside ourselves.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Buddhism & Jeff Bridges???

Here is a really interesting interview with Jeff Bridges (who knew???)and his Buddhist practice.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the magazine "Tricycle", look it up and check it out...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beyond Duality

Do not let the mind dwell in thought of what is good or what is bad - Just relax and forget that you are meditating.


Meditation: An Enjoyable Skill

Came across this today...

"When explaining meditation, the Buddha often drew analogies with the skills of artists, carpenters, musicians, archers, and cooks. Finding the right level of effort, he said, is like a musician’s tuning of a lute. Reading the mind’s needs in the moment—to be gladdened, steadied, or inspired—is like a palace cook’s ability to read and please the tastes of a prince.

Collectively, these analogies make an important point: Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rahula: “When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way—conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others—take joy in that fact and keep on training.”

-Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "The Joy of Effort" (Summer 2008)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New issue of socially engaged Buddhists published

I had never seen this href="">newsletter before. Interesting. This issue includes coverage of the "Wisdom 2.0 conference" and perspectives of different Buddhist scholars and leaders.

Not sure what Wisdom 2.0 is - but why not?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Two flower blossoms in the woods

I was walking around yesterday, looking at the world. First, I saw this beautiful magnolia blossom. Smelling sweet. Just perfectly formed, white and pure and fresh, glowing against the dark of the forest. I photographed it, and as I released the blossom from my hand, I saw the stamens fall apart. I saw that the flower now was decaying minute by minute. Then I saw the neighboring flower. It had bloomed earlier, and now it was brown and withered.

And this is the nature of things. Yes, the beauty of the flower exists, but how can I saw that the flower is beautiful. Certainly its sweet scent is fading quickly. The fresh petals will soon be brown and dried. So it is with all composite things. They are subject to change. To pretend otherwise is to seek pain.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Heart of Buddha's Teaching

We met on Sunday - about 10 of us - at the Councill House. Ryan provided the reading from The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.

Here is an excerpt.
"As we study and practice the Eightfold Path, we see that each element of the path is contained with each of the other seven elements. We also see that each element of the path contains the Noble Truths of suffering, the making suffering, and the end of suffering."

We will meet again on Sunday as planned. Jeremiah is bringing refreshments. Margaret is providing the reading.

Friday, May 7, 2010


After the Flower Sermon,
Ananda Addresses the Forest


The green twig of Buddha
and the dead brown branch of Buddha-
surely, He is everywhere.
Blessed is the sunlight
and blessed the dark where the trail ends.

The lizard shimmering on the cedar log
is Buddha, and the dead squirrel by the path.
Even the fallen flower and the path's stones.

The gray lark that preaches: Even in death
we are in life.

Blessed the slender bamboo
and the stout,
the long body of Buddha
and the short.
Blessed His abundance everywhere!

The swallows diving in the air
and the ants that climb in martial line
cannot escape enlightenment,
for one day's sunlight is their prayer.

The stumbling beetle that pushes
the diamond-body of his dung
and the great owl that shouts in daylight
are the Enlightened One. And the firefly
and the owl's downy-winged mate,
certain as the stream-brightened stones,
as the shaded moss where the path begins.

- by David Manning, an organic chemist, poet and North Carolina resident

Letting the mind clear

I often compare the mind in meditation to a jar of muddy water:
the more we leave the water without interfering or stirring it,
the more the particles of dirt will sink to the bottom,
letting the natural clarity of the water shine through.

Sogyal Rinpoche

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring in the Appalachian Mountains

Planting Seeds!

An exciting day yesterday! After a few weeks of preparing the soil, Meredith planted some seeds in the garden at the Councill House. Sangha members have assisted in the process of preparing the earth, turning over the soil, picking out the rocks (nice quartz!), and shaking soil loose from the clumps of turf. It's a pretty good sized garden - about 20 by 10 feet - so Meredith will probably need some help with weeding. I'm hoping that sangha members can assist along the way. Caring for a garden can be quite a meditative practice.

For the reading yesterday, Dianne read a selection on forgiveness from the book "One Breath at a Time."

Unfortunately, we all left without anyone making a commitment to provide the reading or refreshments for next week. But - I'm sure this issue will get resolved when the time comes.

And - today - beautiful steady rain. Great for the newly planted seeds.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The two types of goodness

The nature of goodness is of two types.
One type is not subject to change,
while the other changes with circumstances.
Meditation is beyond change and non-change, beyond good and evil.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Open Heart

We had a relatively small gathering for meditation on Sunday afternoon. After sitting, Bob read from An Open Heart by the Dalai Lama. The reading concerned some essential elements of Buddhist practice - and as usual the discussion ranged widely. Afterward, we dug in the garden, preparing the soil from the seedlings that are just waiting for their new home!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Trees on Mt. McCrae

Advice from the mountain

Once a very old king went to see an old hermit who lived in a bird's nest in the top of a tree, "What is the most important Buddhist teaching?" The hermit answered, "Do no evil, do only good. Purify your heart." The king had expected to hear a very long explanation. He protested, "But even a five-year old child can understand that!" "Yes," replied the wise sage, "but even an 80-year-old man cannot do it."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Farewell ceremony for Liz

Some advice

Meditation has to be a joyous activity, it has to be a song. One has not to do it as a duty, one has to enjoy it as fun, as play. If you do meditation as a duty you will miss the whole point.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Gatha

A cup fell to the ground
With a sound clearly heard.
As space was pulverized,
The mad mind came to a stop.

- Hsu Yun

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Many forms of meditation exist and I believe part of the process is learning what forms fit your needs and abilities. However, I also have heard meditation described as climbing a mountain. If you have some guidance, you may be able to progress more rapidly.

Here is one link I recently found that gives some instruction in Buddhist meditation. And here is a site that gives some basic information about Buddhism.


Like the rest of life, this blog is an experiment.

I hope the blog will provide a space for people to share thoughts and information. I have named the blog "Boone Sangha." In fact, there is no such group. Not formally. And perhaps if such a group were formal, it would be less real. I don't know.

I do know that a group of us have been meeting regularly on Sunday afternoon to meditate. We sit for about 20 minutes, then we silently walk, then we get together again to drink tea. You could call the tea drinking time a "Dharma talk." Someone from the group reads something short, and then we talk about it. Often we talk about other things too.

Most recently, we have been meeting at the Councill House, Boone, NC at 1 p.m. Every Sunday.

While I think of the group as a sangha, I'm not sure if other people do. We have no "membership." No dues are paid. While the readings we discuss are generally Buddhist, not all of the people sitting with us would identify themselves as Buddhist. But "Boone Sangha" had more of a ring than "Boone Group" or "Meditation Group in Boone." So - that's what I've named the blog. I suspect that the group itself will remain unnamed. Or maybe it won't. I don't know.

Anyway - this is not my blog. This is a group blog. Feel free to post comments or art or other information.

I hope all of you are well!