Šansa kakva se pruža jednom u životu

Pozdrav svima. Nadam se da ste dobro, kako fizički, tako i mentalno, u ova ne baš jednostavna vremena. Vremena koja su došla tako iznenada i iz korena promenila čitav naš način življenja. Barem spolja. Iznutra smo uglavnom oni isti, pomalo više zbunjeni, još malo više uplašeni i zabrinuti, ali isto tako željni da nekako sve na kraju bude dobro. A da bi bilo, kao što dobro znamo, želja nije dovoljna. Jer to, između ostalog, zavisi i od toga šta iz dana u dan radimo. Upravo sada. Da li smo zalepljeni za TV i društvene mreže i ophrvani lošim vestima ili smo uspeli da se koliko-toliko odvojimo i sagledamo situaciju u kojoj smo drugačijim očima. I tada će nam možda sinuti kakva nam se šansa ukazala, sa svim tim ogromnim, poklonjenim slobodnim vremenom, koje ne treba da nas truje, ubija, već da nas leči. Kakav divan, neočekivan poklon! Samo od nas zavisi hoćemo li ga iskoristiti za novi početak, za polazak na put negovanja vrlina i postupaka, negovanja mudrosti.

Za odlaganje tog puta smo do sada imali zauzetost kao valjan izgovor. A kakav je izgovor naš um sada smislio? Ne verujte mu, već zgrabite priliku i krenite da se ustaljujete u praktikovanju meditacije koliko god ona u početku bila duga/kratka. 15 minuta? Odličan početak! Nastavite bez mnogo obaziranja na uvek nezadovoljnog unutrašnjeg komentatora. Nasmešite mu se i sedite. Dopustite mu da i on sedne pored vas. Saosećajte sa njim i prigrlite ga. Sedeći tako zagrljeni u tišini, razvijajte tu blagodet koju zovemo – saosećanje. Za sebe i za sve znane i neznane ljude na ovom svetu koji su u istoj situaciji kao i vi. Umesto da očajavate, podržite ih svojom ljubavlju i tako stvorite sebi novu snagu. Podržite sebe, svojim mirom i ljubavlju. I radujte se, jer ste sada na putu kojem ravnoga nema. Na putu ka samome sebi.

Ako vam treba pomoć/savet u vezi sa praksom, biće mi drago da i učinim ono što sam malopre napisao i savetovao. Pišite mi na budizam@yahoo.com i potrudiću se da vas podržim koliko je u mojoj moći. 🙏❤️

Ko si u ovom trenutku?

U dvanaestočlanoj shemi uslovljenog nastanka (paṭićća-samuppāda), koja je zapravo shematski, analitički prikaz onoga što nam se događa iz trenutka u trenutak, i otuda je Budin dragoceni prilog našem razumevanju stvarnosti, postoji kao deseti elemenat ono što se na paliju zove bhava, a mi ga prevodimo kao bivanje, nastajanje. On po redu dolazi posle vezivanja (upādāna), a sledi ga rođenje (đāti). Kada se za nešto vežemo, toliko se sa time poistovetimo, da to i postanemo. Rodimo se kao toi to je rođenjem još jednoga “ja, mene, moje”. Tako nastaje čitav taj okean patnje koji čine starost, bolest i smrt, i u bukvalnom, ali i u prenesenom značenju umiranja naših vezanosti, naklonosti, na željama baziranih uverenja, naše slike o samima sebi. Smrti koja je, naravno, bolna i porađa patnju.

Ali mi to nastajanje ne vidimo na taj način, već kao nešto sasvim prirodno, očekivano i čak poželjno. Opčinjeni smo bivanjem, zar ne? Svakako da želimo da postanemo neko i nešto: uspešni, cenjeni, mudri, lepi, duhoviti, najbolji u onome što radimo. Zavedeni smo poistovećivanjem sa svojim telom, svojim umom, idejama, emocijama, sećanjima i planovima. Ta uronjenost u svet omeđen našim čulima, onim što vidimo, čujemo, mirišemo, okusimo, dodirujemo i što mislimo za nas je postala toliko prirodna, da se dok čitate ove redove verovatno pitate: Pa šta? U čemu je problem? Zar ne treba da budem najbolji? Sa čime ću drugim da se poistovetim ako ne sa tim mislima što mi neprekidno prolaze kroz glavu? Šta može postojati izvan i mimo toga? Nije li to zapravo sve ono što jeste. I ovde nam može biti koristan dijalog koji Ānanda i Sāriputta vode u Sāriputta sutti (AN 10:7) i Sāriputtine završne reči: bhavanirodho nibbānaṃ. “Prestanak bivanja, poistovećivanja jeste nibbāna.”

Divna rečenica! Kada su naš um i srce oslobođeni vezivanja, tog suptilnog prianjanja, identifikovanja, tog osećaja našim stavovima i gledištima omeđene egzistencije, dakle kada sve to odložimo sa strane, tada dosežemo stanje bez patnje, stanje potpunog mira, slobode i jasnoće, nibbānu. I pre nego što takvo stanje oslobođenosti ostvarimo kao svoju trajnu karakteristiku, možemo ga, ako smo samo malo pažljiviji, uočiti makar na trenutak. Meditiramo možda godinama i moguće je da smo na svoje veliko čuđenje uočili kako je zapravo trenutak najvećeg mira i sreće u meditaciji onaj kada se oglasi zvono za kraj meditacije. Poznato vam je to? Delom zato što smo taj trenutak uspeli da ga dočekamo uprkos bolu u leđima ili kolenima, uprkos kovitlacu misli koji nas sve vreme nosi tamo-amo. Ali ima u tom blesku mira i sreće još nečega. Pogledajte ga malo pažljivije. Uočićete razliku u osećaju grča pre nego što se zvono oglasi i potom osećaju oslobođenosti, kada ne treba više apsolutno ništa da uradite.

Iako je sve što sam do tada radio bilo da meditiram, dakle uspostavljamo stanje unutrašnjeg mira, upravo taj kvalitet činjenja, prisustvo tog “ja” koje “uspostavlja” nešto postaje jezgro oko kojeg se formiram kao “meditant”, poistovećujem sa svojom slikom kakav bi ja i kakva bi meditacija trebalo da bude. Upravo to postajanje, poistovećivanje, bivanje “meditantom” jeste bhava, gest hvatanja i identifikovanja. A onda čujemo: “Ding!” i um sve to istog trenutka pušta da se pretvori u prazninu. Ništa više ne “treba” da se uradi. Um može da se zaustavi, opusti. I onda, nažalost, često već u narednom trenutku zgrabi sledeću igračku: “Jel me neko zvao u međuvremenu?” Samo zato što nismo bili dovoljno pažljivi da uočimo taj prelaz. Dakle, praksa meditacije postala je talac, zarobljenik naše navike postajanja, bivanja nečim i nekim. I to je taj trik uma-mađioničara koji treba da proniknemo kako bismo načinili korak dalje.

Sa druge strane, kada pomenemo nevezivanje i prestanak bivanja manje upućenima to izgleda kao da savetujemo nekako samouništenje, totalnu pasivnost, zabranu samima sebi da bilo šta učinimo. Sve treba samo da posmatramo poput Budinog kipa, pa još sa smeškom, makar nam skakali po glavi. I zaista, kada slušamo neke učitelje i koučeve sada tako popularnog “majndfulnesa”, instrukcije nisu daleko od toga: “Budi samo posmatrač. Ne remeti prirodan tok stvari.”, “Budi onaj koji zna, svedok”. Naravno, te instrukcije imaju vrednost same po sebi, ali je bitan kontekst u kojem su date. Inače nam zaista sugerišu stav pasivnosti. I onda pomislimo: “Treba samo da budem svestan, što znači da se trudim de ne činim bilo šta, da se ni na koji način ne uplićem u sopstveni život”. Jer ću inače poremetiti tu svesnost i sve uprskati. Ako samo tako razumemo instrukcije za vipassana meditaciju, možda bi bilo dobro da promenimo ugao gledanja i celu stvar malo bolje osmotrimo. Kao prvo, šta god da uradimo, to ne mora da samo po sebi naruši kvalitet naše svesnosti. Ona je dovoljna da obuhvati bilo šta drugo. Dalje, pojam “srednji put” već sam po sebi sugeriše putovanje, kretanje. Inače bi ga Buda verovatno nazvao “srednjim mestom”. To kako ga je naš Učitelj izložio jasno nam govori da se zaista ne radi o tome da treba da ostanemo skamenjeni u jednoj tački, da budemo pasivni, da eliminišemo svaki dodir sa svetom u kojem živimo. Da na svaki takav kontakt ili angažovanje gledamo kao na nužno, ali nevoljno remećenje naše devičanski čiste svesnosti.

Umesto toga, gledamo na svesnost kao na nešto što je aktivno, što uključuje interakciju. Razumemo srednji put kao postepeno učenje da naši postupci, namere i izbori jesu takođe deo tog prirodnog toka stvari. I tako, kako podižemo kvalitet svesnosti, učimo da budemo svesni i samih tih postupaka, da budemo zaista prisutni za sve te namere i odluke. Ne gledamo na njih tako kao da bilo šta remete, kao na odstupanje od stava potpunog nevezivanja. Umesto toga, ako je to što odlučujemo i potom govorimo ili uradimo vođeno svesnošću i mudrošću, bićemo u saglasju sa svetom oko nas šta god da uradimo. Bićemo u dosluhu sa samim sobom i situacijom u kojoj smo se našli. Nema nikakvog odstupanja od univerzalnog sklada, već smo i sami jedan njegov delić. Čista svesnost nije ni na koji način pasivnost, već svesno, fino podešeno učestvovanje u životu našeg tela, naše porodice, okruženja i ovoga sveta. Reči i postupke znalački saobražavamo vremenu, mestu i situaciji. Nismo okamenjeni posmatrač predstave koja se odigrava tamo na pozornici. A napuštanje identifikovanja, bivanja, nije vežba u presecanju veza sa zajednicom čiji smo deo, zaustavljanju misli u našoj glavi ili gušenje emocija koje preplavljuju srce. Hodajući srednjim putem meditacije mi ne ostajemo u jednom trenutku zaleđeni. To nije smisao naše prakse. Okončanje bivanja jeste zapravo napuštanje navike, odlaganje maske koju smo na svoje lice i ne znajući stavili. A onda, kada je vreme da hodamo, mi hodamo. Kada je vreme da mirujemo, mirujemo. Nema napora, nema grča. Samo mir i sklad koji niti nastaju, niti nestaju. Tu su u nama, oduvek.

Planovi su planovi…

Dragi prijatelji, imao sam kartu za 18. mart i plan da se posle prve godine studija ovde u Mjanmaru vratim u Srbiju za raspust. Onda je krenuo ovaj virus i sve je počelo lagano da se ljulja. Nekoliko dana pred polazak dobio sam obaveštenje da se moj let odlaže za 20. mart, verovatno zbog velikog broja otkaza, pa su avio-kompanije počele da grupišu više polazaka za jedan dan. Ništa strašno, pomislih, dva dana brzo prođu. I tako se lepo spakujem 19. i odletim iz Taunđija za Jangon. Popodne sam proveo sa našim starim znancem, monahom Uttarom, očekujući polazak u 2 ujutro narednog dana. A onda sam saznao da je aerodrom u Beogradu zatvoren i nešto kasnije dobih i obaveštenje od agencije da je moj let od Dubajia do Beograda otkazan. Plan se definitivno izjalovio.

Pomalo razočaran, vratih se sutradan u Taunđi, gde sam i sada. No, kad se slegla prašina, shvatih da mi je ovo druga najbolja opcija (jer naravno kod kuće je ipak najbolje). Dakle, ovde sam prilično bezbedan, jer je univerzitet izvan grada. Svaki dan dođe po nekoliko ljudi da nam donese hranu i to nam je sva komunikacija sa spoljnjim svetom. Sa druge strane, zdrav sam, ovdašnja biblioteka je odlična, internet radi, a vreme sunčano i toplo. Vremena da radim ono što me najviše zanima napretek. Uz to, Sayadaw Dhammasami je isto sve vreme ovde, tako da svako veče slušamo njegov govor o Dhammi i imamo vođenu meditaciju. Šta bih više mogao poželeti od života!? 😊

Želim i svima vama da isti takvi budete, da na najbolji način iskoristite ovo ogromno slobodno vreme koje smo dobili na poklon. Neka vam ono ne bude breme, otrov, već blagoslov. Posmatrajte sebe neprekidno i učite o sebi što više možete. Ovo je dragocena prilika. Posmatrajte i taj kritički um, koji tako često komentariše, merka i kritikuje. Nema u njemu ništa loše, to je naša dragocena sposobnost kritičkog razmišljanja. Ali ne dopustite da vas odvede dalje, u žalopojke, samosažaljenje, tugu i očajanje. Mada će, ako nismo budni, pokušavati. Svaku novu lekciju o sebi uzmite kao posebnu vrednost, ne delite ih na dobre i loše, na one koje volite i one koje mrzite. Takva podeljenost je i uzrok mnogih naših problema. To ne znači da sve što kod sebe uočite treba da odobravate i sledite, već da uzmete kao dragoceni putokaz u kojem pravcu treba da idete, šta da vežbate kako biste rasli kao srećna, spokojna, blagoslovena bića. Naoružani strpljivom pažnjom, s radošću krenite na to unutrašnje putovanje. Pridružite se mnogima koji, baš kao i vi, prinudno fizički omeđeni, iz dana u dan pročišćuju svoj um. Za svoju i za dobrobit svih bića. Namaste i metta! 🙏 ❤️

O, Bože, da li je to znak?

Sabranost pažnje, jasno viđenje, znači da smo se probudili za sreću čistog trenutka. Mi inače stalno komplikujemo trenutke svog življenja. Teško da nam se dogodi bilo šta, a da um ne počne oko toga da plete svoju priču. I to uplitanje čini život težim nego što bi on inače trebalo da bude.

Svoju naviku pretvaranja neutralnih činjenica u bolne stavove uočila sam pre mnogo godina kada sam telefonirala u jedan manastir kako bih ugovorila individualni period meditacijskog povlačenja. Osoba sa kojom sam razgovarala rekla mi je:

“Treba o tome da razgovarate sa Robertom, on je zadužen za pravljenje rasporeda.”

I tako sam ostavila poruku za Roberta, sigurna da će me nazvati. Sledećeg dana na telefonskoj sekretarici bila je zaista kratka poruka od Roberta da odgovara na moj poziv. Tako sam još jednom nazvala, da bi mi još jednom rekli da Robert nije tu. Objasnila sam da sam već zvala, da je Robert zvao mene i da eto ja opet zovem njega. A onda sam još malo zakomplikovala rekavši:

“Možda je sve ovo samo znak da i ne treba da dođem u vaš centar.”

Na to sam dobila odgovor:

“Mislim da je ovo znak da Robert nije ovde.”

(Sylvia Boorstein: Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There)

Obeležja velikog čoveka

U Pali kanonu ima niz mesta koja na prvo čitanje nisu baš najjasnija i predstavljaju problem u tumačenju. Ali uz pomoć komentara na Kanon, upoređivanja sa drugim kanonima i naravno naučnih radova savremenih autora, moguće ih je na ubedljiv ili manje ubedljiv način dešifrovati. No postoji nekoliko mesta koja se takvom dešifrovanju uporno opiru i ona često istraživače dovode na ivicu očajanja. Jedno od njih su svakako “obeležja velikog čoveka” (mahāpurisalakkhana), spisak fizičkih karakteristika Budinih, koje su toliko groteskne da zaista ne znamo šta sa njima da radimo i kako da ih objasnimo.

Jedno od mesta na kojima se taj spisak javlja je Mahāpadāna sutta ili Govor o velikom postignuću (DN 14). I pošto sam krenuo da prevodim ovaj govor, dođoh i do mesta gde se navodi kako je svaki od Buda iz prošlosti, pa i Buda Gotama, imao sledeća fizička obeležja:

1. Stopala su mu široka i stabilna.
2. Na svakom stopalu je vidljiv točak, sa hiljadu paoka, zajedno s oplatkom i glavčinom, potpun u svakom pogledu.
3. Pete su mu izbačene.
4. Ima duge prste na rukama i nogama.
5. Ruke i stopala su meki i nežni.
6. Na rukama i stopalima ima linije poput mreže.
7. Tabani mu imaju svod, nisu ravni.
8. Noge kao u antilope.
9. Kada stoji, bez savijanja može dlanovima da dodirne kolena.
10. Polni organ mu je obavijen naborima kože.
11. Ima zlatnu boju kože.
12. Koža mu je meka i glatka i zato se na nju ne hvataju prašina ili blato.
13. Malje rastu svaka zasebno iz svog korena.
14. Vrhovi malja su uvek nagore; malje su tamnoplave boje i uvijene uvek udesno.
15. Ima potpuno prave udove, nalik Brahmi.
16. Ima sedam ispupčenja.
17. Ima telo poput lava.
18. Nema brazdu na sredini grudi.
19. Ima proporcije banjanovog drveta; raspon njegovih ruku jednak je visini tela, a visina tela ravna je rasponu ruku.
20. Vrat i ramena su ravni.
21. Ukus mu je savršeno precizan.
22. Vilica mu je nalik lavljoj.
23. Ima četrdeset zuba.
24. Zubi su ravni.
25. Između zuba nema razmaka.
26. Zubi su sasvim beli.
27. Ima dugačak jezik.
28. Ima božanstven glas, nalik pevu karavika1 ptice.
29. Oči su mu tamnoplave.
30. Ima duge trepavice poput govečeta.
31. Između obrva rastu meke i bele dlake.
32. Glava mu ima oblik turbana, to jest ima izbočinu na temenu.

Kad pogledamo ovaj spisak, on bi trebalo da bude slika idealnog čovekovog tela. Nešto kao čuveni Leonardov “Crtež čoveka po Vitruviju”. E sad, ako i zanemarimo točkove na stopalima, očigledno da ima stavki koje, barem nama na Zapadu, deluju u najmanju ruku čudno, bolje reći groteskno. Recimo pete izbačene unazad (3), dodirivanje kolena bez savijanja (9) ili 40 zuba (23). A posebno je zagonetno zašto je ideal da penis bude obavijen kožom, odnosno uvučen kao kod, recimo, pastuva (10). I na kraju, izbočina na glavi (32), koja je onda ikonografski vremenom postala punđa. Sve u svemu, kad sve sklopimo, svako ko bi imao sva ova 32 obeležja pre bi ličio na nekog vanzemaljca, nego na čoveka.

Nasuprot ovome, na nekoliko mesta u Kanonu je jasno da je Buda bio sasvim običan čovek i da se nije mnogo razlikovao od drugih. Tako recimo, neposredno po probuđenju, sreće āđīvaka asketu (MN 26):

“Na putu između Gaye i mesta probuđenja ugleda me āđivaka Upaka i reče: ‘Prijatelju, bistar ti je lik, put čista i svetla. U čijem si se učenju odrekao sveta, prijatelju? Ko ti je učitelj? Čiju Dhammu slediš?’”

Kao što vidimo, Upaka jeste primetio nešto neobično kod tek probuđenog Gotame, ali to je verovatno više bio izraz njegovog lica, način na koji je odavao stanje unutrašnjeg mira, nego višak zuba ili izbočina na glavi. Kad mu je Buda odgovorio čuvenim stihovima:

“Onaj sam koji je sve nadišao, znalac svega,
neukaljan nijednom stvari, okrenut od svake od njih,
dokončanjem žudnje oslobođen. Spoznaju dosegoh
sam za sebe, koga učiteljem da nazovem?

Učitelja nemam, niti mi iko ravan
postoji bilo gde u svetu ovome,
sa svim božanstvima njegovim, zato što
nijedno biće mi parnjak nije.

Ja sam Usavršeni na svetu ovome,
učitelj nenadmašni.
Jedino ja sam potpuno probuđeni,
u kojem su vatre ugašene i ohlađene.

Točak Dhamme idem da pokrenem
u prastarom gradu Kāsi.
U svetu što slep postade
zagrmeću bubnjem besmrtnoga.”

Upaka nije bio nešto posebno impresioniran, te samo prozbori:

“Neka ti bude, prijatelju!”

Pa vrteći glavom u neverici, skrenu na sporedni put i nestade.

Drugi slučaj koji govori u prilog običnosti fizičkog izgleda Budinog nalazimo u Samaññaphala sutti (DN 2), kada kralj Ađātasattu ide da poseti Budu. No kada je stigao, ne zna ko je on među okupljenim monasima. Tako nam sutta kaže:

“Kralj Ađātasattu jahao je na slonu dokle je mogao, pa onda sa njega siđe i peške se približi velikom paviljonu. Kad je stigao, upita Đīvaka: ‘Đīvaka, gde je Blaženi?’

‘Eno ga Blaženi, veliki kralju. Onaj što sedi oslonjen na središnji stub, okrenut istoku, okružen monaškom zajednicom’.”

Možemo dakle iz svega ovoga zaključiti da su se moć i privlačnost Budina više ogledali u njegovom unutrašnjem stanju kojim je zračio i snazi njegovih argumenata, a ne u nekakvom specijalnom fizičkom izgledu.

I sada možemo da se zapitamo otkuda onda ovaj neobični spisak i to ne samo u Mahāpadāna sutti, već isto tako u Lakkhana sutti (DN 30) i Brahmāyu sutti (MN 91). Sem toga, sama sintagma “obeležja velikog čoveka” (mahāpurisalakkhana) javlja se i u nizu drugih govora, što znači da se ne radi o nekakvoj marginalnoj i nevažnoj ideji. Dalje, termin mahāpurisa se u Kanonu često povezuje sa “učenim brahmanima iz prošlosti”, na osnovu čega bismo rekli da ona nije bila samo budistička, već šire poznata u Budino vreme među religijskim misliocima. Tako je i nastalo objašnjenje da je ovaj spisak obeležja preuzet iz brahmanizma. I sve bi bilo u redu kada bismo zaista mogli da ga pronađemo u brahmanskim tekstovima. Ali u njima tako nečega nema.

No, za utehu, u đainskom tekstu Aupapatika postoji takođe skup od preko 70 fizičkih karakteristika njihovog osnivača Mahāvīre. Neke od karakteristika su identične i kod njega i kod Bude: svi zubi su jednaki, ne postoji razmak između njih, linije nalik mreži na rukama i stopalima, noge poput antilope, znak točka na stopalima, koja su široka i stabilna itd. Kod nekih karakteristika konkretan opis se razlikuje, ali bi značenje moglo biti isto. Recimo u slučaju 9. stavke u našem spisku, ruke koje dopiru do kolena, mogao bi odgovarati sledeći opis iz Mahāvīrinog spiska: “Ima duge ruke nalik dugim sklupčanim zmijama koje se izduže kako bi progutale svoj plen”. Ili bi Budinoj vilici koja je nalik lavovoj, kod Mahāvire mogao odgovarati opis da je njegova nalik tigrovoj. Ovakvih posrednih podudarnosti ima još.

Sve u svemu, vidimo da su obeležja velikog čoveka bila deo budističko-đainskog nasleđa i otuda možemo zaključiti da se to odnosi i na šire indijsko nasleđe, o kojem nažalost pisani tragovi nisu ostali sačuvani do danas. Ono što pogotovo nas Zapadnjake buni je zašto su te karakteristike formulisane upravo na ovaj, nama groteskan način. Na to pitanje za sada nemamo odgovor. Bilo kako bilo, očigledno da je formiranje ovakvog skupa fizičkih obeležja deo jednog šireg procesa divinizacije Bude u skladu sa osećanjem budista da je on drugačiji od običnih ljudi i da se to mora ispoljiti i kroz fizički izgled. Taj proces je kasnije nastavljen u mahayana budizmu, pa smo tako stigli do gigantskih formi Budinog tela, koje se u isto vreme manifestuje u tri različita vida i na tri različita nivoa, od kojih je jedna forma, nirmanakāya, vidljiva nama, običnim smrtnicima.

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1 Vrsta indijske kukavice (Cacomantis passerinus), koju u Tipitaki, ali i drugim delima indijske književnosti hvale zbog umilnog poja. Za ovu pticu se u Mahāpadāna sutti kaže da ima “glas prijatniji, lepši, umilniji i veseliji od bilo koje druge ptice”.

21. Vidi plavu boju

Vežba: Postanite svesni plave boje kad god da se pojavi u vidnom polju. Ne tragajte samo za očiglednim primerima, kao što je plavo nebo, već isto tako i za onim manje uočljivim pojavljivanjima i svim nijansama plave.

PODSEĆANJE

Stavite markerom jednu plavu tačku na nadlanicu ili na unutrašnju stranu zgloba šake. Zalepite plave kvadratiće po kući, na mestima na kojima ćete ih uočiti, na vratima, frižideru i slično.

Kada spazite ove podsetnike, zastanite za trenutak i potražite oko sebe plavu boju. To može biti nijansa plave bilo koje veličine, od tačke do velike površine. Može biti korisno “smekšati” fokus svog pogleda i tako “prizvati” plavu boju da se pojavi.

OTKRIĆA

Ovaj zadatak mi je sugerisao jedan moj učenik, koji je inače umetnik i naravno vrlo senzibilan za boje. Kada smo posle nedelju dana praktikovanja izveštavali o svojim zapažanjima, on je objasnio da plavu vidi u svakoj boji. Ljubičastoj, zelenoj, braon i da za njega čak i crna svetluca plavim odsjajima. Većina nas pronalazila je plavu boju na mnogim neočekivanim mestima. Toliko je mnogo plave, od suptilne do očigledne. A smekšavanje pogleda daje više sjaja svim bojama i oblicima.

U nekim jezicima, ista reč se koristi i za zelenu i za plavu ili za crnu i plavu. Na primer, u japanskom postoji drevni znak i reč za plavo (aoi), a posebna reč za zeleno (midori) je u sporadičnu upotrebu ušla tek kasnije, u Heian periodu, tako da se u obrazovnim tekstovima ne javlja sve do okupacije Japana posle drugog svetskog rata. U drugim jezicima, kao što je grčki, mnogo je naziva za razne nijanse plave – thalassi za morsko plavu, ourani za nebesko plavu, galzio za svetloplavu i tako dalje.

Mnogi vežbači kažu da kada se sete da potraže oko sebe plavu, ona kao da im odjednom iskoči pred oči. Čini im se kao da se plavi predmeti ističu, kao da postaju više trodimenzionalni. Ovaj zadatak takođe otvara u nama novu prijemčivost za nebo, tu ogromnu plavu kupolu koju kao da ignorišemo veći deo vremena, iako obično zauzima veliki deo našeg vidnog polja. Svetloplavo nebo je uvek iznad nas, čak i kada je oblačno ili pada kiša. Shvatimo to kada letimo avionom i on se probije kroz sloj niskih oblak, tako da nas zapljusne zaslepljujuća svetlost.

DUBLJE LEKCIJE

Kada se setimo da svoju svesnost otvorimo za plavu boju, učini nam se kao da je ona postala življa i svuda prisutna. Naravno, nije sada takva postala. Ona je uvek jasna i prisutna. Međutim, samo kada smo svesni, postane nam jasno koliko je sveprisutna u našim životima.

Kako znamo da to što vidimo i zovemo plavim zaista jeste takvo? Svako od nas živi u sopstvenom svetu i niko drugi u njega ne može ući i u potpunosti ga doživeti. Iskustva čak i jednojajčanih blizanaca su različita. Mi smo jedini koji plavu vidimo na način na koju je vidimo. Slično tome, ni naš život se u svim svojim detaljima više nikada neće ponoviti i mi smo jedina osoba koja ga može u potpunosti doživeti.

Tibetanski budisti našu suštinsku prirodu opisuju kao nebo, ogromno, blistavo i čisto. Meditacija nam pomaže da ponovo dopremo do tog beskonačnog uma, koji je u stanju da osvetli i duboko sagleda sve ka čemu ga usmerimo. Čišćenje uma slično je našem svakodnevnom iskustvu sa kompjuterskim ekranom. Toliko se udubimo u to što vidimo na ekranu, da za neko vreme to predstavlja svu našu stvarnost. Onda nas nešto odvoji od tog ekrana – možda kolega zastane da popriča – i iznenada se polje naše svesti proširi, a mi izdignemo iznad tog uskog sveta svetlećih tačkica na ekranu koje čine reči.

Kada isto tako uronimo u zavodljive i kompleksne slike na našem unutrašnjem ekranu, potrebno je da zapamtimo da izbor uvek postoji. Možemo da tekući ekran minimalizujemo na ikonu u dnu tog mentalnog ekrana i otvorimo sebe za vedroplavu našeg suštinski bezgraničnog, čistog uma. Nekoliko misli promakne ispred tog ekrana, nalik prozračnim belim oblacima. A mi se izdignemo iznad tog uskog sveta “ja, mene, moje”, do mesta spokojstva. I onu malu ikonu naših briga i planova možemo otvoriti kad god poželimo.

Baš kao što je plavo uvek iznad nas, čak i kada ne možemo da ga vidimo, isto je sa našom savršenom Izvornom Prirodom. Čak i kada je stanje našeg uma oblačno, a emocije liju kao iz kabla, naša Izvorna priroda je uvek tu, blista jasno unutar nas i osvetljava svaku stvar.

Zaključak: Zaista možemo sebe osloboditi iz mraka i tesne tamnice uma zaokupljenog samim sobom i pronaći slobodu uma nalik blistavom nebu.

(Jan Chozen Bays: Kako krotiti divljeg slona)

Životnost

PUN MESEC – nedelja, 8. mart 2020.

Prijemčiva svesnost je put u život,
nepažnjom vođeno izbegavanje put u smrt.
Dok su oni istinski svesni zaista živi,
nepažljivi su već mrtvacu nalik.

Dhammapada, 21

Ukoliko pretpostavljamo da je istinska, trajna životnost nešto što ćemo možda pronaći u budućnosti, na nekom drugom mestu, a ne upravo ovde, tada se udaljavamo od stvarnosti ovoga trenutka. To se naziva nepažnjom. Mi tek prividno živimo svoj život i jedan deo nas je uvek odsutan. Otuda taj neprekidni osećaj da nam nešto nedostaje. A to što nam nedostaje jeste brižljivo odnegovana, prijemčiva svesnost onoga što se događa ovde i sada. Naši Dhamma učitelji nas ohrabruju da napustimo svoje fantazije o budućnosti, mada ovo svakako ne znači da treba da se odreknemo svoje imaginacije. Pre je reč o tome da budemo zaista svestan činjenice kako fantazije jesu fantazije. Da su nalik fotografijama. Mogu da pokrenu snažne emocije, ali kad istu tu fotografiju okrenemo, njena poleđina je prazna. Dakle, od nas se ne traži da se odreknemo bilo čega suštinski bitnog.

S ljubavlju
ađan Munindo

Dolazak nečemu čemu se nismo zaputili

Živimo nažalost u vremenu kada se osećaj praznine i nedovoljnosti sopstvenog života širi brže nego korona virus. Religije smo se “oslobodili”, svaku ideologiju odbacili kao samo još jedan sistem porobljavanja. I šta nam je ostalo? Dobrovoljno ropstvo zasnovano na zadovoljstvima čula. Od svih sloboda, prigrabili smo najproblematičniju: slobodu tržišta, čija je jedina poruka: troši! I radi još više da zaradiš novac, kako bi mogao da – trošiš još više. Ali mnogi, čak i među onima koji su vrlo uspešni u toj “trci pacova” za što više materijalnih stvari, osećaju da nešto nije u redu. Koliko god da imaju, koliko god da su “uspešni”, i dalje nisu zadovoljni svojim životom. U njemu i dalje nešto nedostaje. Na taj način, u praksi dokazuju ono što su mudraci i filozofi od Bude naovamo već znali: kada jednom imamo dovoljno da zadovoljimo svoje osnovne potrebe, više sticanja nam ne donosi više sreće. Samo više briga i na kraju veći osećaj da smo uludo straćili svoj život.

Jer, na stvari oslonjen osećaj zadovoljstva je, kao što smo se bezbroj puta uverili do sada, vrlo nepostojana stvar. Naša čula brzo postaju neosetljiva na taj prijatan stimulans koji nas je još koliko juče oduševljavao. Zato moramo u potragu za novim stimulansom, i novim, i novim… Je li onda čudno da se pre ili kasnije umorimo od te potrage? Mada, naravno, ima onih u kojima nada ne jenjava. Takvi se uvek nadaju da ta velika, definitivna sreća čuči upravo iza sledećeg ćoška. A svi zajedno nikako da jasno uvidimo paradoks hedonizma: što direktnije sledimo svoju želju za zadovoljstvom, njeno ispunjenje je sve nedostižnije. Kako to Viktor Frankl lepo objašnjava u svojoj knjizi Nečujni vapaj za smislom, “sreća jednostavno mora doći, za njom se ne može trčati. Ona је nešto što se naprosto mora dogoditi, a naše je da joj to dopustimo. Naprotiv, što јој više težimo, to ćemo pre promašiti svoj cilj”. Ovo nam možda, na prvi pogled, izgleda paradoksalno. Kako da stignemo do nečega čemu nismo zaputili? I kako to da je to najbolji put?

Ali ako malo bolje zagledamo, stvari nisu baš toliko komplikovane. Ako nam je jasno gde trajnu sreću nećemo naći, onda nam je lakše da shvatimo ono što nam mudri uvek iznova savetuju, samo što mi nemamo uši da ih čujemo. Doduše, reč etika nije jako popularna i zato češće koristim jednu drugu, a to je – vrlina. A šta je to život vrline? Pa upravo to da se probudimo iz transa narcizma, zaokupljenosti tim kapricioznim ja i sebe poistovetimo sa nečim većim od nas samih, sa ciljevima koji će ujedno dati dublji smisao našem životu. Da na taj način uspostavimo ravnotežu, sklad između zahteva vrline i našeg najboljeg interesa kao jedinke. Naravno, u vremenu u kojem je cinizam popularniji od idealizma, to nije baš jednostavno. Ali ono što sve to znatno pojednostavljuje je, uz našu svest o dosadašnjoj neuspešnosti u obezbeđivanju sreće, i to da svako do nas bira sam za sebe te ciljeve. Neki od nas su jednu takvu stvar pronašli u Theravada budističkoj zajednici, u svom angažovanju da drugima približimo Budino učenje, da kroz učenje o Dhammi i praksu meditacije bolje razumeju upravo ovo o čemu je ovde reč. Tako je služenje drugima s radošću jedan od puteva kojim nam sreća može doći. Naše je da taj put držimo otvorenim i prohodnim. A gost će doći kada ga najmanje prizivamo i očekujemo. To nam se događa iz dana u dan. I kako vreme odmiče, već sama pomisao na sve ono što jesmo uradili prožima nas ogromnim zadovoljstvom, srećom ispunjenja. Novi paradoks. Što više dajemo, više dobijamo.

A koji je tvoj način da nenadanom gostu prokrčiš put?

Mass Lay Meditation Movement: From Myanmar to Serbia (3)

The Case of Serbia

Up to this point, we traversed a long way both historically and geographically, to finally arrive to Serbia and try to see how all we were talking about reflects there. For the starters, Theravada Buddhism in Serbia started to be popularized mainly through texts written by the late Bhikkhu Nanajīvako, former Čedomil Veljačić, university professor of Eastern philosophies, who after retirement became a bhikkhu in Sri Lanka in 1966. His translations from the Pali Canon, articles and books attracted a lot attention among intellectual circles in former Yugoslavia, but mostly on the theoretical level. This interest and personal contacts brought some of well-known monks at that time to Belgrade, like Philip Kapleau Roshi in 1985 and two years later Master Seung San. But these visits hadn’t left much of a visible effect.

Steady Buddhist practice in form of the vipassana came somewhat later, in April 1996, when the first course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka was organized for 57 attendees. As the civil war had just finished, the Buddha’s message on suffering and the promise of liberating from it fell on a very fertile ground. From than on these courses, two per year, continued to be organized one after another. Less a decade later, in 2003, a group of enthusiasts got together to form an informal Theravada Buddhist Society “The Middle Way”, as a response to the growing interest in Buddhism and its practice. So, on their invitation, in 2006 Ajahn Munindo from the Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery in UK visited Serbia to deliver several public Dhamma talks. Next year the Society also started organizing regular Vipassana meditation courses. The first of them was led by Ajahn Jayanto from the Amaravati Monastery in UK. From then on, monks from Ajahn Cha’s network of monasteries regularly visited Serbia, led courses and gave public Dhamma talks in different places.

Meditation course in Čortanovci, 2008.

The Society membership was growing steadily, as well as the interest for meditation retreats, lectures and books being published. So the Society was officially registered in 2009 as a Buddhist organizyation. Already next year Ven. Dhammasami, the abot of the Oxford Buddha Viharaha (OBV), led his first meditation course in Serbia and became a main teacher of the group. Close connections with OBV were established, so other disciples of Ven. Dhammasami also taught there on regular basis. This gradually led to the next important step, establishment of the first Buddhist monastery, Oxford Buddha Vihara in Serbia (OBVS) in the Balkan region. Finally, as mentioned at the beginning, the Society in 2019 transformed into a religious community named Theravada Buddhist Community in Serbia. Buddhism became an officially recognized religion in Serbia.

Monastery establishment boosted activities on promoting vipassana meditation in the region. That is much supported by the presence of two Buddhist monks, who were able to teach in the monastery, but also to visit branch groups or individuals and help them in their practice. Beside meditation instructions, they also organized a series of weekend lectures on various topics, ranging from the four brahma viharas through sutta studies to the introduction into Vinaya rules for laypeople, so they can better understand dos and don’ts for monks.

Are you a Buddhist?

Compared to earlier practice in the Community, presenting Buddhism in a monastery environment and with resident Buddhist monks made somewhat easier to preserve the traditional forms of teaching and performing rituals. It is quite obvious, when comparing the dynamics going on within the groups in Belgrade and Novi Sad affiliated to the Community. When these groups were established, usual procedure was that a group meditation starts with chanting, of course much shorter then the puja in the monastery. It was believed that it contributes to the solemn atmosphere and as a nice introduction to the meditation practice. But after some time complains appeared from some of the members that all this chanting in an unrecognizable language, especially to newcomers, looks alienating, too much as some kind of cult. Finally, it was dropped, except when monks are present.

Outside of the monastery, vipassana was taught in various other places, mostly yoga clubs.
Here Branko leads a class in the yoga club “Hipokrat”, Novi Sad

Also, from the establishment of the group, but particularly after establishment of the monastery, we often come across the question of Buddhist identity. Who is a Buddhist and what makes someone a Buddhist. Many newcomers, but also some of the old members do not like to put any label on themselves. This opens the question of typology and finer segregation of the meditators we encounter.

While living in the monastery from its establishment, I was in a good position to get a clear picture of its visitors and what motivates people to come. Since, in Serbia of course there are no Buddhists by birth, generally all newcomers may be differentiated into three levels, for which I put a provisional label and sorted them from the widest to the more narrow one:

1. Medical level – those interested exclusively in stress relief by learning meditation technique, but not in Buddhist Teachings as such. These are usually people who are going from one spiritual tradition to the other, looking for something that will resolve their internal conflict or feeling of incompleteness, dissatisfaction, instability. They probably already have experience with yoga, meditative intensives (of the Western type), tai chi, astrology, anthroposophy or some other Western esoteric teachings and various other “products at the spiritual market”. Most of them stay for a while with vipassana meditation, until they leave for some other trendy technique or teaching. So far we have even people who once left the community and later come back.

2. Theoretical level – Contrary to the previous group of those interested in “technique”, here are intellectual and I’d say idealistic type of persons, interested in Buddhism as one among many philosophies, but not in a practice. They can talk endlessly about various teachers, lineages, aspects of the teachings and be occupied by less important questions like: “If Buddha was so compassionate, how come that he didn’t prescribe vegetarianism for all his followers or at least for monks and nuns?” Or by some of the perennial questions, like the one: “If there is no permanent soul, what is that’s being reborn?” Probably because they themselves have difficulty to take one position and often move from one point of view to the other, their frequent question for me as an interlocutor was: “Are you a Buddhist?”. Which often had an unspoken follow-up question: “But than why you are not a Christian?”

3. Religious level – People who probably function more on emotional, than strictly intellectual level and are interested in both Buddhist theory and practice, in ways how to integrate them fully into their own life. The history showed that this is the smallest group, but also the one from which it is most reliable to recruit potential meditation teachers for our needs. No doubt that these groups are not fixed and there is nothing wrong with any of this approaches to Dhamma. Our experience showed that from both groups 1 or 2 there were individuals which, as they expanded their understanding the Dhamma and benefited from it, stayed permanently and engaged within the Community.

Ven. Dhammasami’s evening Dhamma talk during one of the meditation retreats

We are not an island

Important aspect of transferring vipassana meditation and Dhamma in general to Serbia and a matter of our deep concern was how this will be reflected in the media reporting, but also how people, on macro and micro community level will react to this. There were some fears that we might be perceived just as some new sect of oriental provenance within the wider spectrum of such movements and ideologies being transferred within several last decades to Serbia, like Hare Krishna or Sai Baba’s followers. Concerns were fed by media reports of occasional attacks to the objects belonging to small religious communities or verbal treats to their members. To our relief and also thanks to our efforts, media so far presented us in quite a positive way, without any negative reporting. For example, we had a dozen of media representatives, from local to national, at the opening of the OBVS. Later on, also, reporting in TV programs and newspapers was made without any distortions or misrepresentations. One of our members, who is also one of the most famous rock musicians in Serbia and the region, greatly contributed to that. Namely, who often gives interviews and good portion of them he dedicates to his meditation practice, since the unavoidable question for him by journalists is: “Why did you become a Buddhist?”

With father Predrag, the local priest
from the Serbian Orthodox Church

The other aspect of our public image we gave much importance to are our relations with other religious communities, especially the dominant one and that’s Serbian Orthodox Church. Of course, the difference in number of devotees and social influence between our communities is enormous, so our strategy was to start with small steps. We were lucky that the local Orthodox priest is a very open-minded and benevolent person, and he visited our monastery first, right after the opening ceremony. He offered any help in case there is any misunderstanding with the local village people. Later, we used a visit to Serbia by Ven. Dhammasami to deepen that relationship, by visiting him and giving a modest donation to the local church rebuilding project. We also do not forget to wish him well for the main Christian holidays.

All in all, I’d say this is a nice small example of inter-religious understanding and mutual respect. Our next step would be to use this contact and approach the bishop, who is the highest spiritual official in the diocese, the church district under his jurisdiction. Apart from being a nice event of itself, this meeting may help in further legitimizing our Community as a constructive factor in a wider inter-religious dialogue in the society. It can also prove helpful in approaching and establishing contacts with other religious communities in Serbia, since so far we had contact and got support from only one protestant, small religious community. But before that, we would also like to be a point of cohesion for other Buddhist groups in Serbia (Tibetan, Nichiren and Zen). Because, just after establishing inter-Buddhist dialogue, we can expand it into inter-religious one.

By being friendly and not intrusive to the people in our local community, we positioned ourselves as its constructive member, trying to contribute as much as we can. Therefore, we also gave donations to the local school, which was a big surprise for them. Thus the principal told us: “You are the only one who ever gave us a donation!” From that time, she invites us regularly to the end of the academic year and a school day celebrations. It is a great honor and pleasure for us to be there, but also important for locale people to see our Community represented.

Finally, like any beginning, transferring Vipassana practice and accommodating it to the Western context had its ups and downs in Serbia too. Downs are more related to the problems of our internal organization, of not having enough dedicated people for all the plans we have and the fact that we are exploring terrain which is unknown for all of us. But this process also provided us with important lessons to learn as we go forward. These lessons are related as much to the monastery establishment, expectations of the hosts for visiting monks, so much to their preparation and skills development, as well as understanding a general role of a missionary monk. Of course, among basic and decisive skills of the monks coming to teach in a new environment are a solid command of a local language, in ideal case, or more realistically, of English. Together with their thorough knowledge of Dhamma, that makes for the good start.

Ven. Sandimar and Ven. Uttara

But preferences and needs go much further. The missionary monks also need to be flexible enough and willing to accommodate to a new social and cultural environment. This is very important, since rigidity and insensitivity to a new environment can put off many among potential followers and meditators. One of the questions we faced with is understanding the importance of gender equality, which might be a problem for monks coming from a distinctly male dominated culture. The other is awareness of the new legal framework they are now operating in, so that what was legal or simply accepted back home might not be the same in the new country. The example was an offer of one of the monks to heal children with mental problems like autism. It was explained to him that this would be illegal, since only certified medical specialists are entitled for this kind of treatments.

It is impossible to completely prepare monks for the new environment they are going to live in and act. As we all know, the best way of learning is by example. Therefore, by living in that new environment. That’s why it is crucial that missionary monks are flexible and easy to accommodate to the new situation, where for example sense of respect and reverence by the locals is not something set in advance, brought by tradition itself, but has to be acquired day by day through genuine interaction and impeccable behavior.

It is also important that missionary monks have a clear awareness and appreciation of the new role they are in. Being in the completely new territory, surrounded by people who often do not know much or anything about Buddhism, but are necessary to interact with, they are somewhat in the same position as the first monks Buddha sent to propagate the new Teachings. And today this role is not only of transferring one age old religion and some of the cultural baggage that accompany it, but also the role in helping to find proper ways of its acculturation, adaptation and, as we saw through examples so far given, change in the new environment. This is especially visible in countries like Serbia, where an immigrant population from traditional Buddhist countries doesn’t exist, so there is no opportunity for learning from Asian communities of practitioners. In that respect we are lucky there is a Myanmar Embassy in Serbia, which give a lot of support to the monks and the Community in general.

Conclusions

This paper traces a wide range of socio-political, cultural and historical factors that contributed to the rise of mass lay meditation movement by highlighting the life and practice of Ledi Sayadaw and lay teachers in his lineage. It looks at how such a movement play an important role in the spread of vipassana meditation to the west, and how western meditation teachers draw on a range of Buddhist meditation traditions, including Burmese vipassana, in the development of mindfulness movement in the west. Finally, this study examines the arrival and spread of Buddhism and meditation in Serbia. I will make some concluding remarks on the case study of Buddhism in Serbia.

In sum, we could say that in a way, arrival of Buddhism to Serbia followed similar pattern we saw elsewhere in Europe and in the West in general. That pattern starts with intellectual curiosity, translations of the Canon and philosophical debates around some of the key aspects of the Teachings, to be followed with an active engagement through meditative practices and its application in everyday life.

In front of the Oxford Buddha Vihara Serbia in Čortanovci

To our big satisfaction, we learned that the attitude towards not only meditation, but to Buddhism in general in Serbia is positive. From ordinary people, through media to the other religious communities. Unfortunately, recent conflict with Rohingya, which in the Western media was pictured in a rather stereotypical, black and white way, castes a shadow. Especially because there a Muslim community in Serbia. On several occasions we had to express our views on this problem, but trying to stay away of any politics, which, like in many other places, could be quite a hot topic.

Regarding the method, we are somewhat similar to the one used by mass lay meditation movement back in Myanmar, since we also regularly organize group readings and discussions about individual suttas. As these meetings showed quite popular, we also record some of them and put on our Youtube channel.

Thanks to our donors and for those who are not able to attend our events, we have substantial publishing program, Thus, so far, we distributed more than ten thousand free books and have plans for publishing some new titles, among them the complete Majjhima Nikāya. Demand for books is big, but unfortunately, with quite limited resources, we cannot satisfy all of them.

What we are especially proud of and contrary to the widespread commodification of the vipassana meditation, all our programs and events are free, financed exclusively by donation made by participants. Exceptions are only our summer 7-day retreats, when we rent the space and have to pay for it and the food provided. But also in these situation we try fee to be the lowest possible and thus to allow everyone to attend.

Finally, we also learned that, although small and with very limited financial means, group of dedicated individuals can do a lot for promoting Dhamma in a completely new environment. Obviously, we are not going to create another mass lay meditation movement in Serbia, but we are confident that our activities contribute to the overall harmonization of the society, by helping some of its members not only to overcome challenges of their everyday life, but also to heal deep, still quite visible wounds inflicted by past decades of social instability, disintegration of an established system of values and ruthless civil war.

Bibliography

Bodhi, Bhikkhu (2011): “What Does Mindfulness Really Mean – A Canonical Perspective”, Contemporary Buddhism, Vol 12, No 1, May 2011.

Bond, G.D. (1987): “The Insight Meditation Movement in Contemporary Theravada Buddhism,” JISRC, 2.4, p, 23–76.

Braun, Eric (2013): The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw. The University of Chicago Press.

Braun, Eric (2014): “Meditation En Masse”, Tricycle, Spring 2014, p. 58-61, 105.

Braun, Eric (2016): The Many Lives of Insight: The Abhidhamma and transformations in Theravada meditation, https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/articles/winterspring2016/many-lives-insight.

Britton, Willoughby (2019): “Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing? The value of a middle way”, Current Opinion in Psychology, 28:159-165.

Coleman J.W. (2001): The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition

Houtman, Gustaaf (1990): Tradition of Buddhist Practice in Burma (PhD Thesis). London: School of Oriental and African Studies.

Jordt, Ingrid (2007): Burma’s Mass Lay Meditation Movement: Buddhism and the Cultural Construction of Power. Ohio University Press.

Kornfield, Jack (1995): The Eightfold Path for a Householder. Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

Ledi Sayadaw (1960): Bodipakkhiyadīpāni: The Manual of the Factors Leading to Enlightenment. Buddha Sasana Council.

Ledi Sayadaw (1965): The Manuals of Buddhism: Vipassanā Dīpanī. Union Buddha Sāsana Council.

Ledi Sayadaw (1971): The Requisites of Enlightenment: Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī. Kandy: BPS

Ledi Sayadaw (1999): Manual of Mindfulness of Breathing: Ānāpāna Dīpanī. Kandy: BPS.

Ledi Sayadaw (unpublished): Treatise on Meditation. http://www.aimwell.org/ledi.html
folder under the title “Unpublished Works”. (accessed on February 2, 2020).

Mahasi Sayadaw (2000): Fundamentals of Vipassana Meditation. Buddha Sasananuggaha Organization.

Monier-Williams, M.A. (1872): A Sanskrit-English Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Nyanissara, Ashin (1996): A Short Biography of Ledi Sayadaw, Yangon: Thidagu Association.

Rich, Simon (2015): Mindfulness and Awareness According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (An interview). https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/511/mindfulness-and-awareness-according-to-jon-kabat-zinn (accessed on February 9, 2020).

Schober, Juliane (2017): “Belonging in New Myanmar” in Religion and Society: Advances in Research, p. 158-172. Berghahn Books.

Sīlānandābhivaṁsa, Ashin (1982): The Venerable Mahāsi Sayadaw: Biography, Abridged Edition, Part I, Translated by U Min Swe.Yangon: Buddha Sasana Nuggaha Organization.

The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Majjhima Nikaya, Transl. Bhikkhu Ñāṇamoli & Bhikkhu Bodhi (2015): Boston: Wisdom Publication.

Turner, Alicia (2014): Saving Buddhism: The Impermanence of Religion in Colonial Burma, University of Hawai’i Press.

Mass Lay Meditation Movement: From Myanmar to Serbia (2)

Vipassana goes West

As demand for teaching grew exponentially, from 1981 Goenka started appointing assistant teachers to conduct courses as his representatives, resulting in “hundreds of assistant teachers conducting approximately 2,500 courses yearly for close to 150,000 people, at more than 150 permanent centers”.1 In parallel with that, some Westerners, after spending a number of years in Asia, often in robes, went back home, taking with them also the knowledge on Buddhist meditation they acquired. Vipassana teachers such as Joseph Goldstein and Jack Kornfield sparked the real explosion of interest in the vipassana meditation at the end of the 20th century, and their message and meditation techniques were well accepted by busy, stressed and disillusioned young Westerners. Such meditation approaches are now known as mindfulness meditation.

Very soon “mindfulness” became a buzz word of the day, being discussed by almost everyone, from celebrities on a night talk-show to the politicians in the Congress. One peak of that wave was marked with the cover of the Time magazine on February 3, 2014, with the title “Mindful Revolution”. It sublimed the trend that this type of mental training brought into the various spheres of the modern Western society: schools, health care, sport, parenting, counseling, military, prisons, corporate world and many others.

Somewhat unexpectedly, since we are talking here about an old spiritual practice, great part of that interest came from the scientific community. The number of articles, scientific papers and books on the topic started to rise exponentially. Thus just the number of articles with “mindfulness” in their title rose from three in 1996 to 674 in 2015.2 Scientists started exploring ways in which this, but also other types of Buddhist meditation, affect our social interactions, school performance or how mindfulness-based behavioral training can decrease our carbon footprint as a society. This exploration and its fruitful findings keep deeply influencing various scientific disciplines, to the extent that this type of research represents one of the leading currents of thought and investigation in cognitive science and neurology today.

This historical process of transferring Dhamma, together with its vital part as it is meditative practice, from the East to the West meant also that the Teaching found itself in the larger, more diverse, dynamic and more secular context. It had to be accommodated to the new environment and often its salient features and methods of operation to be modified. Therefore, it would be interesting to briefly explore modes of that transformation. What was gained and what was lost on the way? What happens when one age old tradition is striped of many of its cultural, historical and ideological elements, just to be harmonized with the Western way of thinking and living?

Focusing on how understanding of the word sati, often translated as ‘mindfulness’, has been transformed, we will look first into what position and meaning sati has in the framework of the Buddha’s teachings, based on the Pali Canon, especially his instructions on the establishment of mindfulness or satipaṭṭhāna. We can say that the basic meaning of sati in Pali, as well as smṛti in Sanskrit is “memory, remembrance, calling to mind”.3 Although this meaning is retained in some of the suttas,4 it is by far not the only one. As it had often happened with some other terms from the common Indian spiritual vocabulary of the time, the Buddha here too added some new shades of meaning important for his message. What an importance the Buddha attributed to sati is obvious by the fact that it figures as the seventh factor (right mindfulness, sammā sati) of the Noble Eightfold Path and thus a necessary step toward the final liberation. Its meaning is further explained by the following standard formula in the framework of the four satipaṭṭhānas:

And what, friends, is right mindfulness? Here, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings… contemplating mind as mind… contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. This is called right mindfulness.5

Here, the role of mindfulness is not to remember something from the past, but actually to notice the present experience, to make its physical and psychological dimension stand out against the background of the general awareness. This application of sati could be termed as distinct awareness or, as Bhikkhu Bodhi suggests, lucid awareness. But there is more to this. An important word in the passage above closely related to mindfulness is anupassanā, translated as “contemplating”. It consists of prefix anu, which suggest closeness or repetition, and the base passanā, which means “seeing”. From that we can infer that mindfulness is also a part of the process of repeated and close observation of an object. An example for this could be the use of sati in the mindfulness of breathing meditation.

Further expanding semantic field of the word sati, it is not by chance that in the suttas6 sati often goes together with another technical term sampajañña. PED this translates as “attention, consideration, discrimination, comprehension” or we can say “clear comprehension”. Close relationship between these two terms shows that in the process of putting something into the focus through distinct awareness, making it vivid in front of our mind, there is also a component of comprehending, understanding it. In meditative context, this use of sati is connected with the contemplation of the repulsiveness of the body (asubhasaññā), mindfulness of death (maranasati) or loving-kindness meditation (metta bhāvana). So keeping something in the focus of our attention leads to understanding it by recognizing those of its features which are common to all other conditioned phenomena. This is how direct insight and wisdom arise.

Finally, let us refer to the Mahācattārīsaka Sutta (MN 117), where mindfulness is put in the relationship with other factors of the Noble Eightfold Path and its discriminating role is highlighted. Thus, for the first five of the factors it is said that mindfulness is the one who draws the line between wrong and right version of them. For example: “One makes an effort to abandon wrong speech and to enter upon right speech: this is one’s right effort. Mindfully one abandons wrong speech, mindfully one enters upon and abides in right speech: this is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three states run and circle around right speech, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness”.7

As we see, mindfulness is not isolated mental quality, but works in unison with the whole range of other mental processes and Path factors, toward the final goal of acquiring liberating understanding.

Moving forward to the writings of Ledi Sayadaw, it can be noticed that his understanding of the role of mindfulness doesn’t differ much from the canonical view. He sees it as an important tool in stabilizing mind and than noticing impermanence (anicca), which he emphasized as a key aspect of insight knowledge and the progress to all four stages of awakening. Again, without sati, especially contemplation of the body, to bring mastery over the mind and make it settled, undisturbed by kilesas, final liberation is not possible. Here is what he remarks in the Bodhipakkhiya Dīpanī:

The body contemplation (kāyagatāsati) that is associated with udayabbaya-ñāṇa (knowledge arising from contemplation of the arisings and vanishings of mental and physical phenomena), which clearly sees their coming into existence and passing away, is very valuable indeed.8

According to Ledi, the task of mindfulness is thus twofold: to assist in bringing into mind the truths about this world that the Buddha elaborated on in his discourses, but also to keep them in a clear awareness as a reference for the present experience. Only thus, by comparing these two or, metaphorically speaking, by rubbing these two fire-sticks against each other, can we possibly produce a spark of insight.

Jack Kornfield

So far, we saw that in the context of classical Theravada interpretation, the array of meanings and references of sati as one of the key terms in the domain of vipassana meditation is rather wide and complex. Turning to how some of the mainstream contemporary mindfulness teachers interpret it, Jack Kornfield interprets it as follows.

To be mindful first means simply to come into the present – to listen with our senses, with our heart, with our physical body, with our ears, with our eyes, to what is actually here in the present; the body, the heart and the mind… Secondly, mindfulness or heartfulness mean seeing clearly. It means non-grasping, non-greed, non-hatred, it means not pushing away, and it means not going to sleep, but seeing what is present for us. Bare attention, remembering, being in the present, without trying to change it somehow…9

Jon Kabat-Zinn, former Kornfield’s disciple, creator of the MBSR and someone who greatly contributed to introducing Buddhist meditation into a secular, especially medical environment, interprets it as below.

Back in 1979, when I started Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, I came up with an operational definition of mindfulness that still serves as well as anything else: mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose in the present moment nonjudgmentally.10

As we can see, these two definitions are quite narrow and tend to stress only the first aspect of sati, which is being present or being aware of the present moment. Its active part of discrimination and evaluation stays obscured, and it has bearing on how mindfulness is practiced in the West. While sati does, at times, has a form of simple paying attention to what is happening externally and internally, also “the practitioner of mindfulness must at times evaluate mental qualities and intended deeds, make judgments about them, and engage in purposeful action”.11

The case of sati is of course only an illustration of the wider process of transformation and accommodation that occurred with the Buddha’s Teachings and vipassana practice while moving to the West. Looking at the bigger picture, we can notice various other trends amount the Western teachers. Some parts of traditional “package” were almost completely ignored, while others came into the focus. So, it is quite characteristic that, for example, there is very little talk about the cycle of rebirth and different planes of existence. Or about the role of kamma, the impact of our volitional actions from this life to the next one. In the best cases, the instances when Buddha was talking about these crucial portions of the Dhamma are considered as mere metaphors. When teaching meditation techniques, not many teachers will take time to expound on the foundation of that practice, which is morality, virtue quality of our speech and acts. And it is pity, since in that case, the practice might be like sowing seeds in the soil which is not ploughed and adequately prepared.

The other feature of the contemporary Western discourse on Dhamma is wide eclecticism, blurring the line between the Teaching of the Buddha and the other religious teachers from the near or further past. Thus in a way implying that all of them were teaching the same thing, just differently formulated. So it may happen that during some Dhamma talks there are more quotations from Lao Tzu, Sufi sages, Ramana Maharshi or Krishnamurti, than from the suttas.

In parallel with that trend, it is worth mentioning here the obvious and highly influential trend of psychologization of the meditation practice, which is not very surprising if we know that lot of Dhamma teachers as well as their disciples have their professional background in psychology. Many of them saw in the practice and its elaborate Abhidhammic theory not a tool for freeing themselves from the round of saṃsāra, but rather a way to better understand the workings of the mind. Something which might make them more successful in their professional life. To that goal, they also started introducing techniques of mindfulness training into their therapies, opening thus way to various hybrids under names of mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy and so on.

Finally, we are today in the point of time when, as already mentioned, we have the whole “mindfulness revolution”. One ancient Buddhist concept became extremely fashionable, trendy, in essence transforming into a label that can be attached practically to anything. Like a salt that could be put into any dish to make it tastier. But if mindfulness can mean anything, that equals it means nothing. Thus we arrived to mindful dating, mindful sex, mindful investing or sporting. The last in this endless series is meditation Barbie doll, who tries to cope with “increasingly busy, over-connected world“. 12

Thus it is not much of a surprise that nowadays we see the pendulum going into the opposite direction. This kind of counter reaction, a critiques of the whole euphoria could be subsumed under the label of “McMindfulness”, as mindfulness meditation became just another commodity at the market of capitalist spirituality. Constantly bombarded by all these promises of the wonderful benefits of mindfulness meditation, often presented as a kind of panacea, many rightfully asked themselves: Can mindfulness be too much of a good thing?13 And this is another, equally interesting avenue to explore, but which goes outside of the scope of this paper. So let’s get back to our main track.

(To be continued)

Notes

1 https://www.vridhamma.org/S.N.-Goenka
2 https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Number-of-Published-Articles-with-Mindfulness-in-Title-ISI-Web-of-Science_fig1_309218798
3 Monier-Williams (1872), p. 1154.
4 E.g. Nagaropama Sutta (AN 7:67).
5 The Middle Length Discourses (2015), p. 1100-1.
6 E.g. DN 2, MN 27, MN 38, SN 47:8, AN 10:61 etc.
7 The Middle Length Discourses (2015), p. 935.
8 Ledi Sayadaw (1971), p. 49.
9 Kornfield (1995), p. 97-98.
10 Rich (2015).
11 Bodhi (2011), p. 26.
12 https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/meditation-barbie/
13 Britton (2019).