Friday, December 2, 2011

The Buddhamas Carol

Seasons Greetings to all Dhamma friends around the World

If you get tired of hearing the traditional Silent Night carol over the next few weeks here are some alternative lyrics to roughly the same tune. You can tune in with others on Christmas eve. by singing along. 

A Buddhamas Carol

Ode of a Vipassana Yogi

Silent Night, Peaceful Night,
All is calm, Stars are bright,
Round the hall Yogis sitting still,
Keeping their backs straight, exerting will,
Enduring pain without any ill-will,
Pervading Metta all throughout space,
Wishing Good-will to the whole human race.

Silent Mind, Peaceful Mind,
Thoughts are few, Pain is slight,
Focusing mind at the tip of the nose,
Knowing each breath as it comes and it goes,
Percieving the light that steadily glows,
Feeling the Rapture from head to the toes.

Silent Mind, Tranquil Mind,
Thoughts are stilled, Body feels light,
All the Five Hinderances have died down,
The Ego no longer is spinning around,
Mind is one-pointed not moving a bit,
Enjoying at long last the Jhanic Bliss,

Sitting in Joyful Peace, Sitting in Blissful Peace.

Silent Mind, focused Mind,
Awareness is strong, Mind is bright,
The Spiritual Faculties are prepared,
Vipassana-Insight has Mara scared,
Scanning the body from head to the toes,
Anicca, Anicca, each moment goes,
Anicca, Anicca, Impermanence flows,
 The Five Aggregates appear empty as foam,
The Truth of No-Self is easily shown,

Sitting in insightful Joy, Sitting in insightful Joy.

Silent Mind, Concentrated Mind,
Awareness is clear, Equanimity shines,
The six sense-impingements arise and pass,
No desire, no clinging, no ego to grasp,
No holding to present, future or past,
Mara has vanished he took his last gasp,
This body-mind house is empty at last,
Sitting and walking the whole night through,
Greeting the dawn completely anew.

Silent Mind, Wisdom Mind,
Now is the time, Conditions are prime,
The Enlightenment Factors are developed well.
The Four Noble Truths become clear as a bell,
The Eye of Dhamma is opened wide,
The three lower fetters are broken in stride,
Tonight the Yogi enters the Stream,
Tomorrow Nibbana no longer a Dream
                                                                                                             Lyrics by Bhante Rahula
To hear the audio version click here:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Back in the USA-Retreat at Bhavana Society Forest Monastery

Hi friends,
After spending the summer vassa at the Buddhistisches Haus in Berlin, Frohnau I am now back in North America.
Starting October 6th I stayed for five days in Tallahassee, Florida with an old friend, Douglas Durham. While there I visited a small Buddhist group at the NWFRC, a prison facility near Chipley. I also gave a talk and meditation evening at the Tallahassee Buddhist group which was well attended.
Then I flew up to Washington D.C. and stayed at the Washington Buddhist Vihara on 16th St. NW. Ven. Dhammasiri and the other monks kindly welcomed me there.
I attended and delivered the keynote talk at a Buddhist Symposium held at George Washington University on Oct. 15th. On the 16th evening a talk was given to a meditation group at the Willow Street Yoga Center . A group of six meditators had wished to formally take the Eight Lifetime Precepts. So a talk on the Buddhist meaning of evolution (group and individual), the Path of Regular steps and the Three Refuges was appropriate.
On Monday October 17th I went out to spend two weeks at the Bhavana Society Forest Monaster in West Virginia. It felt good to be back there after one and a half years. The weather was was wonderful with the fall colors at their peak. I was able to meet and speak with Bhante H. Gunaratana and the two other bhikkhus and several lay residents living there
On October 23rd Bhante Dhammaratana and I were driven back to Washington where I attended and gave a talk at the Kathina ceremony at the Washington Buddhist Vihara.

On Monday evening, October 24th the one week Vipassaa with Yoga retreat at the Bhavana Society began. 25 persons attended.  During the first four days the weather remained quite beautiful. Then literally overnight the weather changed dramatically to clearly illustrate Anicca and Anatta (impermanence and no-self). Seven inches of heavy wet snow fell during the night and into the next day turning the technicolor fall into a white winter wonderland.
The additional heavy weight of the snow on the tree branches caused many large and smaller branches to come crashing down all throughout the forest. Luckily all the kutis and other buildings escaped being damaged, and no people were hit by the falling debris. However, a few forest trails to the kutis were blocked by big brances. The retreatants happily pitched in to do mindful snow shovelling and branch removal.

The following photos give a vivid show of the before and after.

Bhante G. on his daily walk

Meditation Hall

The beautiful meditation hall in any season

Happy retreatants

Photo credits: Russ Sernau

On November 1st I flew to Ottawa where I am staying two weeks. The main events are a one week retreat for the Ottawa Buddhist Association and two additional one day meditation sessions at other venues.

Eventhough I do not have any permanent residence now people still ask me where I am living. The response is,  HERE AND NOW.

Please consult the Travel page for my future itinerary.

Remember: Mindfulness a Day Keeps Dukkha Away

May all Beings well, Peaceful and Wise

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer in Berlin

Dear Dhamma friends,
As many of you may know I am intending to spend the summer and the 'vassa' rainy season period here in Berlin, Germany. This is a little update on what I've done so far here in Europe since arriving on May 19th.
Upon arriving at the airport in Zurich I was told that I could only stay for three months in the Euro Zone countries because of the new Shengen agreement amonst Euro Zone countries, including Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU. So I will have to try and get my visa extended here in Berlin. With a letter from the Buddhistiches Haus Temple where I am staying, it should not be a problem. I'll have to wait and see. All things are impermanent.

My first stop was at the Metta Vihara Forest Monastery (Waldkloster) about 15 kilometers from Kempten in Allgäu. It was started by Ayya Khema just before she passed away. The abbot is Ven. Nyanabodhi, a direct disciple of Ayya Khema. There are two other resident monks living there also, Ven. Anuraddha and Ven. Kaccayana. They recieved me and treated me very kindly. I stayed there three days before heading to the Buddha Haus where I conducted a one week meditation retreat.
At the end of the retreat on May 28th I went to the Anenja Vihara and gave a Dhamma talk in the evening. The Anenja Vihara is located only a few kilometers from the Buddha Haus. It is a monastery for Buddhist nuns and lay women. The current Abbess is Ayya Sucinta who I have known for many years. Ayya Sucinta was ordained as a novice nun by Bhante H. Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in the late ninties. and took Bhikkhuni ordination in Bodhgaya over ten years ago. Inbetween she had lived in Burma, again at the Bhavana Society and in Melbourne Australia where she had helped start a Vihara. She accepted the invitation to become the Abbess of the Anenja Vihara just last year.
I again stayed a few days back at the Metta Vihara after the retreat. This summer they are having four new kutis erected on the men's section of the monastery.

On June 1st I went to Füssen at the base of the Alps where the Fairytale like Castle of Neuswanstein is located. There I went on a lovely six hour walk with two old German student/friends on a beautiful day.
I then took a train to Geneva Switzerland and stayed three days at the Geneva Buddhist Vihara with Bhante Dhammika from Sri Lanka. I gave a half day meditation program to a number of devotees and meditation students. By coinsidence an old Sri Lankan monk friend of mine was there, Ven. Homagama Kondanna, whom I had not seen for over 20 years. So it was nice seeing him again also.
From Geneva I took a train up into the Alps to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. I took the Goneratt train up to a height over 3,000 meters for a spectacular view. It truly is an impressive Peak. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to do any hiking in the vicinity.
From there I continued by train to Lugano, in the Italian part Switzerland where I stayed with Albert Cambata, a former Board member of the Bhavana Society who now lives with his family in Lugano. I had a lovely all day drive on the windy roads of the Alps in his new yellow Ferarri convertible. I had to practice non attachment and equanimity.
From Lugano I went to Interlaken hoping to do a trek in the Jungfrau high Alpine region. But the weather was really not cooperating. It was super cloudy and a little rainy. Even so, I took the spectacular cog wheel train up to the Jungfraujoch at over 11,000 ft.elevation. Being literally within a stone's throw distance, I could not see even a trace of the massive threesome of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. I had to practice more non attachment and equanimity of the opposite kind and settled for a short walk in the snow and then a four hour downhill walk in the cold drizzling rain. That night I boarded the night train from Zurich to Hamburg.
Next on my teaching itinerary was my regular nine day retreat at the Haus Der Stille, forty kilometers from Hamburg.There were nineteen participants and the weather held up quite nicely so we could have most of our afternoon yoga sessions out in the spacious grassy area. Three quarters of the participants were my faithful regular students and it was  nice warm intensive practice atmosphere.
On June 20th I took the train to Berlin where I am intending to spend the entire summer.
I spent my birthday with my oldest and long lasting friends in Europe, Asha and Keshav Rekai. They took me out for a birthday Dana at their favorite Chinese restaurant near their Yoga school in Wilmersdorf.
That weekend I conducted a weekend semi retreat at the Lotus Vihara Buddhist Center in the heart of Berlin.
Despite the name, Lotus Vihara it is not a center where Buddhist monks reside. It is a center started and run by disciples of Ayya Khema. The main teacher there is Dr. Wilfried Reüter. It is located in the heart of former East Berlin. They converted an abandoned school for children into one of the most active Buddhist Centers in Berlin. About one hundred people came to the Public talk on Friday night and over thirty people participated in the meditation program on Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and again on Sunday from 9 am to 1 pm. I gave another public talk that night with about one hundred people coming to listen to the Similie of the Raft.

An interesting kammic coincidence occured while taking a walk in the Tiergarten Park. I had read in a Berlin Yoga magazine that there is to be a World Culture Festival organized by Swami Sri Ravi Shankar in Berlin July 2 and 3rd. I was thinking that it might be interesting to go if someone would take me. Then that afternoon while walking in the Park with two Dhamma students we met that very Swami who was also walking with a retinue of folllowers. We greeted each other with the traditional namaskar mudra. After some amiable talk he invited me as a special guest to attend that function with free passes to as many friends as I wanted to accompany me. It's a small world.
The Buddhistiches Haus Frohnau
Now I am happily ensconced at the famous Buddhistiches Haus Buddhist Temple. It sits on top of a small hill
in the leafy suburb of Frohnau, in North Berlin. The Buddhistiches Haus was started in 1924 by Dr. Paul Dalke, a German doctor who had travelled to Sri Lanka a couple of times and had become an admirer of of the Buddha Dhamma. It was the first Buddhist Center in all of Europe. In 1952 it was acquired by the German Dhammduta Society of Sri Lanka who have been managing it ever since. They have been having a succession Sri Lankan monks staying here since 1957. I had first come here to Berlin and seen the Temple in 1977 on my return from Sri Lanka two years after my novice monk ordination. Over the years on my many teaching tours to Germany I have stayed here for short periods of time, given talks and lead some short retreats. Because of a lull in time I decided to stay this year for a longer time in Berlin and spend the vassa period here at the Buddhistiches Haus. Mr. Tissa Werraratna, who is the Sri Lankan manager of the Temple vey kindy accepted me to stay. I will be conducting three meditation retreats here over the summer period.
The Buddhistiche Haus is considered a historical monument in Berlin. And after many years the Historical Monuments office in Berlin has agreed to spend a few million Euros to restore the time weary buildings and grounds back to their original appearance plus other needed improvements. I had a talk with the members of the government offices who were here making their final decisions. (see photos)
 The work is now underway.

May All Beings be Well Peaceful and Happy

Please consult the Travel and Teaching page of this blog for the dates of my retreats at the Buddhistiches Haus as well as the other teaching locations outside of Berlin until October.

Classic view of the entrance

Entrance to Library and Lecture hall (left) and to the Meditation Temple 

Giving meditation instructions to a group of students

Back view and garden area

Restoring the original monks kuti imbedded in the hillside

On the way to address the Historical Monuments committee on the importance in helping to improve the Temple

In the Tiergarten Park

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunrise in Rio

These are some photos taken at sunrise on my visits to Rio de Janeiro.
Below these photos is the link to the slide show on my trip to Patagonia.

                                               Sunrise meditation at Viewpoint Dona Marta

Classic Rio landmark: Corcovado-statue of Jesus Christ

Classic view of Rio City

Picnic breakfast

Ad hoc yoga session on Ipanema beach
Meditation on Ipanema Beach

Early morning meditation on Flamengo beach

Meditation and yoga on Flamengo Beach

          Notice airplane ; airplanes landing at Santos Dumont airport circle low in fron t of Sugar loaf Mountain. One of the most dramatic airplane landings.

View from Pedra Bonita

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trekking in Patagonia slide video

Trekking in Patagonia

Between Febuary 5th-27th, 2011 I made a trip to Patagonia in Southern Argentina and Chile to do some trekking in the Patagonia Andes. After many trips and treks in the Himalayas in India and Nepal, this was my first time to visit Patagonia. I went with two Brasillian Dhamma students, Joao Rafael and Fabiana Gomes.
We flew from Sao Paulo via Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego which is the southermost  town of any consequence in the World. Ushuaia sits on the Beagle Channel that connects the Alantic and Pacific Oceans. This is the channel that Charles Darwin sailed through in his ship, The Beagle, when collecting information later used in his Opus, The Origination of the Species etc. On our first day in Ushuaia we took a three hour boat excursion out into the Beagle Channel to view some sea lion and comorant colonies.The nearest penguin colonies were a seven hour boat ride away. Being short on time we decided to take a pass on the penguins. It was a way to practice non attachment also.
The next day we went into the Tierra del Fuego National Park to camp and made two day hikes.The weather is fairly cold,windy and rainy way down in Southern Patagonia. The daytime temperatures were between 5-15 degrees centigrade, even in summer. We were told, however, that while we were there the weather was fairly mild in comparison.
  From Ushuaia we flew north to El Calafate to visit the famous Perito Moreno glacier and make a three day trek with camping to Mt. Fitzroy and Laguna Torre in the Los Glaciers National Park. The weather was fabulous during the trek to Mt. Fitzroy, sunny and warm. However, on our second trek in the Torres Del Paine National Park further south, it was the opposite. It rained on us the whole night through whiled we were camped at Campamento Torres. We did not even get to see the goal of the hike, the three towering monoliths of Torres del Paine because of the low and thick cloud cover. To make it worse, just after we had trekked back to the roadhead and boarded our bus back to Puerto Natales, the weathed quickly cleared up, providing those who were just on their way up, fine views. Being Buddhist meditators we had to practice letting go, gratitude and lovingkindness.

   A highlight of the Patagonia journey was a four day cruise from Puerto Natales northwards through the Fijords of coastal Chile to Puerto Montt. This gave us a rest from hiking ,camping and travelling in cramped vehicles. However, this ship was a cargo Ferry and carried as its main cargo many tractor trailers filled with cattle being ferried north to the markets. The cattle were cramped like sardines with hardly room to move for four full days and nights. The only thing we could do was practise Metta (lovingkindness) meditation towards them.
As we cruised northwards a few hundred kilometers the weather became noticeably warmer.
 Following that cruise we travelled north of Puerto Montt to make an interesting three day trek to Banos de Caulle in a region of volcanos, fumoroles and hot springs. We finished our Patagonian adventure with a three day trek to Refugio Frey and Refugio Jacob-Martin in the Nahuel Haupi National Park in the Lakes district of Chile/Argentina. We then flew from Bariloche, Argentina back to Sao Paulo.

Because of the time limits on Youtube this slide video presentation is in two parts.  The first part covers the beginning of our trip in Ushuaia to the end of our treks to Mt. Fitzroy and Torres del Paine. The second part covers our four day Navimag Ferry excursion from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt and the two last treks. 

Trekking in Patagonia part 1

Trekking in Patagonia part 2