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Photo Albums for Events in 2019

img-e0cd6f89f7cb1aa4b79b1937f347e934-v   8 Precepts Retreat 23 – 24 November 2019

20191027_051048   8 Precepts Retreat 26 – 27 October 2019

IMG-a7815bb1de1da0318778f5c45aefc24e-V   8 Precepts Retreat 28 – 29 September 2019

IMG-f124ba761048bffde98a53616ca1603f-V   Mid Autumn Festival 2019

IMG-aa803452eb8ef03c0729bff293adb73d-V   Visit to Vietnam August 2019

IMG-08e009696dd993a54fe3685ddd3c5434-V   Ullambana Festival 18 August 2019

IMG-0e925b41414bc316ed93dc6c829c6459-V   8 Precepts Retreat 27 – 28 July 2019

IMG-bf6f08cff8ea8def3fc385b36cfe0ef0-V   8 Precepts Retreat 25 – 26 June 2019

IMG-f722243ee54d9ccce19108df6af671b2-V   8 Precepts Retreat 25 – 26 May 2019 

IMG-7d5aab69c994807c05c8b48ac0d1458b-V  Vesak Celebrations 12 May 2019

IMG-5a3521df291782aa5f635a6e1d49df5f-V   8 Precepts Retreat 27 – 28 April 2019

img-dff3e0d497a81fa3ce3021deac5488b5-v_47573761102_o  8 Precepts Retreat 30 – 31 March 2019

img-f80a2c35bd0ed2370476ea2b867e0375-v_40660079433_o  8 Precepts Retreat 24 – 25 February 2019

IMG-bdef2f283ae4d3dec94a2984cd3d5e0d-V  Vietnamese New Year Celebrations 4 -5 February 2019

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Concentration and Awareness

Dharma discussion on Saturday 15 June 2019

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Thay explained that when we sit in meditation, we first establish concentration by fixing our mind on the area where our in and out breaths touch our skin: the touching point. It is the area around our nostrils and the top of the upper lip. Once we have established concentration, we can progress into establishing awareness by following our in and our breaths. In this way, through regular practice, we will able to realise the true nature of our mind.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Our Practice in a Nutshell

Dharma discussion on Saturday 1 December 2018

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Thay explained that the reason why we practice sitting meditation is to calm our defiled and conditioned mind so as to realise our true mind. Our true mind is indestructible, immutable, unconditioned and not subjected to death and decay. When we abide in our true mind, we will able to live in equanimity and tranquillity, and see the true nature of things. We are no longer attached to pleasures or stressed by afflictions. Liberation is thus attained.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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As Strong As Diamond

Dharma discussion on Saturday 14 July 2018

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Thay taught that regular meditative practice, be it breath meditation, mantra recitation or visualisation on holy objects, leads to strong mental stability. Like a strong diamond cutting tool, a strong stable mind can ‘cut through’ the negative energies of worry, anger, despair, anxiety, etc.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Resistances

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 11 – 12 November 2017

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Thay explained that we sometimes experience resistances when we want to engage in our spiritual practice. This is due to the presence of negative energies associated with us. We can generate positive energies, such as doing repentance, sharing of merits, interacting with spiritual friends, etc, to counteract the negative energies so that we can continue in our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Saying out our faults

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 13 – 14 May 2017

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Thay explained that if we have broken or suspect that we may have broken any of the precepts we vowed to uphold, it is important that we speak out on our transgressions especially during a spiritual gathering. By saying out our transgressions we allow the negative imprints of our misdeeds to be released from our mind, thus enabling us to begin anew.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Our Body – Our Companion

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 25 Mar 2017

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Thay explained that our body is like our companion. Even though we know that our body is subject to old age and illness, we still need to take care of our body, ensuring that it is healthy and functioning well. Like a companion, a healthy body plays an important supportive role in our spiritual practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Motivation

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 18 – 19 March 2017

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Thay reminded us the importance of examining and understanding the motivation underlying all our actions. Having a selfless intention is essential in the cultivation of bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Ceremonies

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 18 – 19 February 2017

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Thay taught that we do not participate in ceremonies to acquire merits. Rather, we participate in ceremonies to allow the positive energies (generated in the ceremonies) to purify the negative energies in us.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Protecting Our Mind

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 21 Jan 2017

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Thay taught that we need to be mindful of our thoughts, emotions and feelings in whatever we are doing. We should be careful not to allow illwill,  anger or hatred to always arise in our mind even when we are doing things do not like or when we are in an unpleasant situation. This is because the seeds of these negative energies, if not carefully dealt with, will transform into habitual and uncontrollable anger.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Dharma Protectors

Dharma discussion on Saturday 26 November 2016

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Thay explained that dharma protectors actually protect the practitioners. We carry a dharma protector on each of our shoulders.

The kind-looking dharma protector looks after us so that:
when good things have not happened to us, we make opportunities or conditions for them to happen; and
when good things have happened or are happening to us, we make efforts to promote them and to share the good results with everyone.

The fierce-looking dharma protector looks after us so that:
when bad things have not happened to us, we do not make opportunities or conditions for them to happen; and
when bad things have happened or are happening to us, we make efforts to stop them or prevent them from becoming worse, as well as not to react adversely to them.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Repentance

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 12-13 November 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that repentance is an integral part of our spiritual practice. By confessing our wrongdoings in the presence of our fellow practitioners, we release from our mind the negative energies associated with the wrongdoings. This helps to clear the obstacles for us to begin anew in our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Coming Out of Meditation

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 12-13 November 2016 (1)

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Thay explained the importance of massaging our body at the end of our sitting meditation, a practice only to be found in our tradition (steps to massage our body can be found here: Meditation and Chanting Guide). Massaging our body helps to relieve the tension and soreness in our body due to the long sitting. By doing so, we keep our body in a good condition for continual sitting meditation practice. The tension and soreness is also a reminder that our body is impermanent and subject to pain and decay. We can still enjoy our sitting meditation despite the soreness and numbness.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Letting Go

Dharma discussion on Saturday 22 October 2016 

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Thay explained that letting go means not harbouring. Like a kaleidoscope, our mind, conditioned by our habitual tendencies, conjures up all sorts of images when we interact with the external environment. A Thien (Zen) practitioner knows that these images are not real and do not represent the actual situation. As such, we let go of these images and abide in a state of calmness and awareness.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Living in Our True Self

Dharma discussion on Saturday 8 October 2016 

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Thay taught that awareness of breathing should not be limited to sitting meditation only. We should maintain awareness of our breathing in all our daily activities. Our body is able to breathe by itself, we do not need to force ourselves to breathe. And yet we often forget to notice this essential function of our body. We maintain awareness and mindfulness in the activity we are doing and not following whatever thoughts or feelings that arise, and at the same time aware of our in-breath and out-breath. In this way, we are said to be living in our true self.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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In Quietude

Dharma discussion on Saturday 24 September 2016 (1)

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Thay pointed out that we can remain in quietude despite meditating in a noisy environment. The mind that pursues the external sounds is not our true mind. Like a non-participating observer, we just allow the external sounds to ‘flow’ past us while we maintain looking inward (refer to earlier post on Inward Contemplation) in our meditation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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A Being

Dharma discussion on Saturday 23 July 2016

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Thay explained that the definition of a being should not be restricted to living things only. A non-living thing, e.g. a cup or a table, is also a being because, like a living thing, its existence is a combination of causes and conditions. All beings, living or non-living, come into existence when there are sufficient causes and favourable conditions, and they cease to exist when the causes and conditions are no longer supportive.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Seeing Buddha, Seeing Myself

Dharma discussion on Saturday 23 July 2016 (1)

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Thay explained that Buddha images and statues serve the function of a mirror, reflecting our true nature (also known as Buddha nature, true self, true mind). All along, our true nature has been obscured by our false-thinking mind. Rooted in greed, anger and ignorance, our false-thinking mind has brought pain, worry, anxiety, hatred, etc, into our lives. Thien (Zen) meditation helps us progress towards awakening from forgetfulness and realising our true nature.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Not Be Blown Away

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 July 2016 (2)

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Thay reminded us that we are constantly being ‘blown at’ by the 8 winds (or the 8 worldly conditions) of: praise and blame, happiness and pain, fame and disrepute, and gain and loss. We feel happy when praised, angry when blamed, joyous in gaining something, despondent in losing something. Like a yo-yo, our mind bobs up and down as we are tossed about by these 8 winds. Our Thien (Zen) practice helps us to develop Right Stability (calmness and awareness) and prevents us from being ‘blown away’ by the 8 winds.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

Going for Refuge and Taking of Precepts

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Upeksa Meditation Village (Thien Tu Hy Xa) organises the ceremony for Going for Refuge and Taking of Precepts twice each year, one on Buddha Birthday Celebration (usually in May) and another on Ullambana (usually in August). 

When a person wishes to become a Lay-Buddhist, the first step he or she takes is to go to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for refuge and take the 5 Precepts. Since the time of the Buddha, taking the Threefold Refuge and 5 Precepts has identified a person as a Lay-Buddhist.

Below are extracts from Buddhanet which provide more information on Going for Refuge and Taking of 5 Precepts. 

Reasons for Taking Refuge
If people observe the world around them carefully, they are bound to notice the pain, suffering and frustrations experienced by sentient beings. A Buddhist will look for a way to end such distressing conditions in life just as a traveller caught in a storm will seek shelter. If the traveller is able to find shelter inside a building that is strong and safe, he will call out to others who are still struggling in the storm outdoors to join him in this safe refuge. Similarly, a person chooses to become a Buddhist when he understands who the Buddha is, and how the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha can provide him the way to end suffering. Out of compassion, he will also encourage others to take the same refuge.

The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are called the Triple Gem because they represent qualities which are excellent and precious like a gem. Once a person recognises these unique qualities after careful consideration and is confident that the Triple Gem can help lead him towards happiness and Enlightenment, he takes refuge. It is, therefore, not out of mere faith, but with an open-minded attitude and enquiring spirit that he begins to practise the Buddha’s Teaching. In a way, he resembles the scientist who decides to carry out a research project once he is confident that it will bring positive results.

The Buddha
The word Buddha means the “Fully Enlightened One” or “Awakened One”. It is the title given to those who have attained supreme and perfect Enlightenment. Buddhists acknowledge the Buddha as the embodiment of the highest morality, deepest concentration and perfect wisdom. His followers also know the Buddha as the “Perfected One” because He has wiped out desire, ill will and ignorance, and has overcome all unwholesome actions. He has put an end to suffering and is no longer bound to the cycle of birth and death.

The Buddha is the Fully Enlightened One because He has realised the Truth and sees things as they really are. He knows through his perfect wisdom, what is good and what is not good for all beings. Out of great compassion, He shows people the path leading to the end of suffering.

The Buddha’s exemplary conduct, perfect wisdom and great compassion make Him an excellent teacher. By His use of skilful means, He is able to reach out to all His followers so that they can understand His Teaching.

The Dharma
The Buddha taught the Dharma solely out of compassion for sentient beings who suffer in the cycle of birth and death. The Dharma is therefore taught without any selfish motives. It is well-taught and completely good. It is by nature pure and bright like a light that destroys the darkness of ignorance. When the Dharma is studied and practised, it brings many benefits now and in the future.

The Dharma is the Teaching about the nature of life. This Teaching of the Buddha is contained in the three collections of scriptures called the Tripitaka or the “Three Baskets”. These consist of the discourses (Sutra Pitaka) said to have been taught by the Buddha, the rules governing the discipline of the monastic community (Vinaya Pitaka) and the philosophy and psychology of Buddhism (Abhidharma Pitaka).

A Buddhist gets to know about the Dharma by reading the scriptures. He also learns from the writings and explanations of qualified teachers of Buddhism. Once he has familiarised himself with the Dharma through reading and listening, he has to realise its truth for himself by putting it into practice. This means purifying his conduct and cultivating Mental Development until the Teaching becomes part of his own experience.

The Sangha
The Sangha that a Buddhist takes refuge in is the community of Noble Ones who have led exemplary lives and attained extraordinary insight into the true nature of things. Their lives and achievements show others that it is possible to progress on the path to Enlightenment.

However, the Sangha also generally refers to the fourfold community of monks, nuns, men and women lay followers. Monks and nuns are respected for their good conduct and for their experience in meditation. They are also respected for their diligence, mindfulness and calmness. Wise and learned, they are able teachers of the Dharma. They can also be like trusted friends inspiring the lay followers along the path of Good Conduct.

The lay followers accept the Four Noble Truths (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/bs-s02.htm) and the other teachings of the Buddha and seek happiness and Enlightenment as their common goal in life. They also uphold common moral values such as avoiding injury to others in any way. Thus a Buddhist can look to other members of the lay community for help and advice in times of need.

Analogy of a Journey
To understand better the idea of taking refuge, one might take the example of a traveller who wants to visit a distant city where he has never been to before. He will surely need a guide to lead him towards his destination. He will need a path to follow. He may also wish to have travelling companions on the journey. A Buddhist working towards attaining happiness and Enlightenment is like the traveller trying to reach that distant city. The Buddha is his “guide”, the Dharma his “path” and the Sangha are his travelling companions”.

A Buddhist takes refuge in the Buddha as his guide because he believes that the Buddha, having attained Enlightenment Himself, is able to guide him towards that goal. The Dharma that he takes as his refuge is like a path that has been well laid out. Such a path may include signposts to show directions, bridges for crossing rivers and steps for climbing mountains. Similarly, the Dharma includes the rules of Good Conduct to help him avoid unwholesome actions and the techniques of Mental Development to help him overcome distractions. It also teaches him how to overcome ignorance and gain Enlightenment.

Taking refuge in the Sangha is like having good travelling companions who keep a traveller company, care for him when he is sick and encourage him along when he is tired. The members of the Sangha, like ideal travelling companions, help the lay follower to purify his unwholesome ideas and correct his behaviour through sound advice and instruction, and encourage him to continue his journey to Enlightenment.

5 Precepts
Essentially, according to Buddhist teachings, the ethical and moral principles are governed by examining whether a certain action, whether connected to body or speech is likely to be harmful to one’s self or to others and thereby avoiding any actions which are likely to be harmful. In Buddhism, there is much talk of a skilled mind. A mind that is skilful avoids actions that are likely to cause suffering or remorse.

Moral conduct for Buddhists differs according to whether it applies to the laity or to the Sangha or clergy. A lay Buddhist should cultivate good conduct by training in what are known as the “Five Precepts”. These are not like, say, the ten commandments, which, if broken, entail punishment by God. The five precepts are training rules, which, if one were to break any of them, one should be aware of the breech and examine how such a breech may be avoided in the future. The resultant of an action (often referred to as Karma) depends on the intention more than the action itself. It entails less feelings of guilt than its Judeo-Christian counterpart. Buddhism places a great emphasis on ‘mind’ and it is mental anguish such as remorse, anxiety, guilt etc. which is to be avoided in order to cultivate a calm and peaceful mind. The five precepts are:

1) To undertake the training to avoid taking the life of beings. This precept applies to all living beings not just humans. All beings have a right to their lives and that right should be respected.

2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given. This precept goes further than mere stealing. One should avoid taking anything unless one can be sure that is intended that it is for you.

3) To undertake the training to avoid sensual misconduct. This precept is often mistranslated or misinterpreted as relating only to sexual misconduct but it covers any overindulgence in any sensual pleasure such as gluttony as well as misconduct of a sexual nature.

4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech. As well as avoiding lying and deceiving, this precept covers slander as well as speech which is not beneficial to the welfare of others.

5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness. This precept is in a special category as it does not infer any intrinsic evil in, say, alcohol itself but indulgence in such a substance could be the cause of breaking the other four precepts.

Source:
– Becoming a Buddhist (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/bs-s17.htm)
– Buddhist Ethics (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/budethics.htm)

For in-depth reading:
Going for Refuge & Taking the Precepts by Bhikkhu Bodhi (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bodhi/wheel282.html)

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Inward Contemplation

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 July 2016 (1)

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Thay taught the method of inward contemplation, which is the main form of sitting meditation practice in our tradition. There are 3 levels of inward contemplation. The first level is body contemplation: in-breath and out-breath; rising and falling of chest and abdomen during breathing. The second level is contemplation on our feelings: pleasant and unpleasant feelings that come and go during meditation. The third level is contemplation of emotions: anger, sadness, grief, joy, etc, that appear and disappear during meditation. This practice helps us to see impermanence and the conditioned. Such insight is essential towards attaining liberation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Making Offerings

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 28-29 May 2016

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Thay explained that the act of making offerings is an expression of commitment in the threefold practice of sila (morality), samadhi (concentration and mindfulness) and panna (wisdom). Making offerings with the sole intention of acquiring merits for oneself is a wrong practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Positivity in Impermanence

Dharma discussion on Saturday 30 April 2016

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Thay explained that the notion of impermanence should be looked upon with positivity and not negativity. Whatever state we are in, or whatever issues we are dealing with will not last forever. Thus, we can make efforts to create the causes and conditions to improve the situation and issues we are dealing with.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Two Techniques

Dharma discussion on Saturday 9 April 2016

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Thay taught 2 techniques that can help us maintain awareness of our breath.

The first technique is breath counting. We breathe in normally till the limit of our in-breath is reached and breathe out normally till the limit of our out-breath is reached. This process of inhalation and exhalation is counted as 1 breath. We count up to 10, and when we reach 10 counts we start counting from 1 again. We do not control our breathing; we let our breath takes its own course.  

The second technique is body scan. We scan from the top of our head down to our toes. As we scan each part of our body, e.g. eyes, ears, heart, kidneys, etc, we send thoughts of gratitude and appreciation to that part of our body. If any part of our body feels tense, we send thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion to that part, relieving the tension and stress. We do not need to rush through the scanning process; we scan at a pace comfortable to us.    

Namo Shayamunaye Buddhaya

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Willow Branch and Nectar Vase

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 26-27 March 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that statues and paintings are used to convey teachings and values. Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is often portrayed as holding a willow branch and a vase containing nectar. Using the willow branch, the Bodhisattva sprinkles the nectar drawn from the vase onto people to alleviate their sufferings. The willow branch represents suppleness while the nectar vase symbolises a pure mind and body. So, in helping others we need to be understanding and accomodating, and that our intentions and actions are pure and sincere. Purity of mind and body is achieved through internal reflection and not through rites and ceremonies.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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True Freedom

Dharma teachings from the 8 Precepts Retreat 26-27 March 2016 (1)

True freedom

Thay explained that true freedom is not about being free from restrictions or being able to whatever we like. Rather, true freedom means being free from false perceptions and that we are able to enjoy each moment of whatever we are doing.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya                                                                               

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Learning from the Earth

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 March 2016            

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Thay pointed out that the earth sets a good example for our practice. While enduring and accepting whatever treatment received from us, the earth constantly nourishes and supports our existence. Learning from the earth, without aversion or attachment, and with calmness and awareness, we accept and face whatever situations and conditions we are in.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya        

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Where is Our Mind?

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 February 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that our mind is not to be found in a specific location in our body. Where our actions (physical, verbal and mental) are, there our mind will be. When we are looking at something, our mind will be there directing, cognising and generating a whole lot of mental constructs which often do not portray the reality of the world. This is why it is so  important to understand how our mind works, so as not to be living in the world of our false thinking mind.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Just Manifestations of Energies

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 13 February 2016 (1)

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Thay explained that all events and things (material and mental, organic and inorganic) are just manifestations of energies. They exist because of causes and conditions. When conditions change, their manifestations also change. Understanding this, we will not be caught up in arrogance and complacency when we are in a good situation, and we will not be trapped in despair and hopelessness when we are in a bad situation.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Awareness of Breathing

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 23 January 2016 (2)

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Thay explained that our breathing is a bridge between our body and our mind. This is why we always place our awareness on our breathing at the start of our meditation, to allow our agitated or ‘jumping’ mind to calm and quiet down. Just as the water in a lake shows itself clearly when in perfect tranquility, our true mind reveals itself brightly when in perfect equanimity (upeksa).

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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No Quick Fix

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 23 January 2016 (1)

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Thay reminded us that there are no quick fixes and no shortcuts in spiritual practice. We have to exercise patience and perseverance. But we can be assured of the spiritual benefits brought about by our Thien (Zen) practice. The spiritual attainment of the Buddha and the enlightened Masters, past and present, is the best testimony to our practice.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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A Flowing River

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 9 January 2016 (1)

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Thay pointed out that a river, flowing incessantly, is never the same each moment; we do not step into the same river twice. We, essentially a mere composition of the five aggregates (body, feeling, perception, mental formation and consciousness) are also never the same each moment. Understanding this phenomena, we should not waste time chasing after the false and the impermanent. We should cherish each moment to further our practice especially when we are well and healthy.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

Information for Newcomers and Beginners

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Overview of Buddhism:

Buddhism is not a religion; consequently its practice does not interfere with anyone’s religious beliefs. The various statues of Buddha, Patriarchs & Bodhisattvas at Upeksa Village are not worshipped – those they represent were human beings, not gods; they are venerated for their qualities of enlightenment and compassion, and in gratitude as trailblazers who introduced or fostered Buddhism in Vietnam. It is these same qualities in us, enlightenment and compassion, that we foster through the practice of Buddhism and Thien (Zen) Meditation.

The founder of Buddhism (Sakyamuni Buddha, 5th century BCE) discovered the path to enlightenment after experiencing extremes of indulgence and asceticism. He found neither resulted in happiness nor answered the question of why people suffered, or how to end suffering. In desperation he vowed to sit in meditation until he had attained full enlightenment; eventually realising that the answer lay in a ‘Middle Way’ between these two extremes. Although Buddhism has many different traditions and methods of practice, their foundations all stem from the Buddha’s first sermon which is known as the ‘Four Noble Truths’, that:

  1. Humans suffer (birth, old age, sickness, death, separation, enemies, and disappointments etc.)
  2. That suffering is caused through greed, hate and illusion.
  3. That suffering ceases when the causes for suffering are eliminated.
  4. That meditation is one path leading to the end of suffering.

This path has three qualities:

  • Morality (sila);
  • Concentration (Samadhi);
  • Wisdom (panna)

Therefore the essentials of Buddhist practice are:

  • Not to do any evil;
  • To cultivate good;
  • To purify one’s mind;

This is the teaching of all the Buddhas.

Basic Temple Etiquette:

Shoes worn for outside should be taken off before entering the temple areas.

On entering and leaving the temple area it is considered respectful to turn toward the Buddha altar, bow slightly, with hands held at chest level with palms together, as in the prayer position.

Greeting/leave taking: both hands may be held together in a prayer position at chest level with palms together, and a slight bow given ― this hand position shows wholehearted respect and mindfulness. It is particularly appropriate when interacting with ordained members of the Sangha (Buddhist community).

Address the abbot or teacher as ‘Thay’ (pronounced Tie) and any of the nuns as ‘sister’ as a sign of respect and appreciation of their efforts and devotion to the Sangha.

When in conversation with ordained members’ of the Sangha it is considered impolite to interrupt while they are speaking or to talk over them. At meals: in Vietnamese culture the chopsticks are used to transfer food from a general food source to your bowl or plate; and the spoon is used for individual eating, placing the chopsticks from a communal bowl to one’s mouth and back again is considered impolite and is of course unhygienic.

Bowing, and respectful and dignified behaviour not only show thoughtfulness but demonstrate respect for Buddhist beliefs and for Vietnamese culture and sensibilities – they are behaviours consistent with that of an honoured guest – they also help to develop humbleness.

Upeksa Village was envisioned and brought into fruition through Zen Monk Thich Thong Chieu, with the aid of many dedicated Sangha members and under the auspices of Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu, who in the 1970s undertook a regeneration of Vietnamese Thien (Zen) method, practice, and instruction. The practice at Upeksa Village is in line with these teachings: To reduce mental agitation through meditation; and increase inner peace and happiness.

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A Drum

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 12 December 2015 (2)

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Thay pointed out that we are just like a drum. Because:

  1. Like a drum, our body is hollow – there is nothing substantial.
  2. The sound of a  drum when played unskillfully and at the wrong time is noisy and unpleasant; the sound of a drum when played skillfully and at the right time is melodious. Likewise our mouth can be a noisy drum or melodious drum – producing unwholesome speech or unwholesome speech.

Let us all strive to be a prajna (wisdom) drum.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

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Real Wisdom

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 12 December 2015 (1)

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Thay explained that real wisdom is acquired not through studying, analysing, theorising, intellectualising, etc. Real wisdom is gained through calming and quieting the mind. For example, when the sea is turbulent and the waves are thrashing about, we cannot see the water clearly. Likewise, when the mind is calm and stable, our true nature appears. This is real wisdom.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

Liturgy of Formal Lunch

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(A pdf copy of this liturgy in Vietnamese and English is available: Formal Lunch Liturgy)

Making the Offering:
(The right hand held before the middle of the forehead forms the mudra of peace. The left hand holds up the bowl in front of the right hand.)

We offer this food to:
Buddha Vairocana of Essence,
Buddha Locana of Potentiality,
Buddha Shakyamuni of Manifestation,
Buddha Maitreya, yet to be born,
Buddha Amitabha in the Land of Great Happiness,
All the Buddhas in the Ten Directions and the Three Period of Times,
Bodhisattva Manjushri of Great Understanding,
Bodhisattva Samantabhadra of Great Action,
Bodhisattva Avalokita of Great Compassion,
Bodhisattva Mahasthama of Great Force,
All MahaBodhisattvas, Protectors of Dharma.
Maha Prajna Paramitas.

With The Three Qualities and the Six Tastes, we are offering to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha and all beings. As we are eating, we practice so that the bliss of meditation and joy of dharma turn into the essential food.

The Advice to Eat Mindfully:
The Buddha advises us to be mindful while eating, so as to be worthy to receive the food we are eating. When you hear the sound of the bell, concentrate on the Five Contemplations.
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

(Holding the bowl to the forehead level)
Holding the bowl which is full
I vow to help all sentient beings
Achieve their Path
So being worthy for this offering

Three vows: (In silence, one line for each spoon)
I vow to avoid any unwholesome actions.
I vow to cultivate wholesome actions.
I vow to purify my mind and to help all beings.

The Five Contemplations:
1. To realize how this food comes about and relates to innumerable efforts.
2. To assess our own virtues so as to be worthy to receive it.
3. To guard our mind against greed, hatred and delusion.
4. To realize foods only to nourish us and prevent illness.
5. We accept this food to achieve the path of understanding and love.

The Heart of The Prajnaparamita Sutra
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame ill-being.
Listen Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness and emptiness is not other than form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness.
Listen Shariputra, all dharma are marked with emptiness. They are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing.
Therefore, in emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formation, nor consciousness. No eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind. No form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind.
No realms of elements (from eyes to mind consciousness), no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to death and decay.) No ill-being, no cause of ill-being, no end of ill-being, and no path. No understanding, no attainment.
Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, grounded in perfect understanding, find no obstacles for their minds. Having no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realising Perfect Nirvana. All Buddhas in the past, present and future, thanks to this Perfect Understanding, arrive at full, right and universal Enlightenment.
Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is the highest mantra, the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of ill-being, the incorruptible truth. A mantra of prajna paramita should therefore be proclaimed:
Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha.

Dedications:
Having finished our meal, we are determined to live for the
benefit of all beings. May all beings wholly realize complete
awakening.

Paying gratitude:
We are grateful to those who contribute to our food; to the
makers of fabric and the tailors who bring us warmth and
comfort; to gracious people who care for us with medicine
and shelter; to our teacher who compassionately teaches us
the dharma.

May we share the merits arising from our practice with those
who generously make offerings.
May their faith in the Dharma be unshakable and their
merits increase.
May all beings, both living and deceased, accomplish the
Buddha Path.
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya.

Verses for Meditation

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In our tradition, verses about the true mind are chanted at the start of our meditation. There are 2 verses, one for the morning meditation and one for the evening meditation.

The verses for meditation below were extracted from the book Stories of Thien – Vietnamese Buddhist Meditation (2009) published by Sunyata Community and Meditation Centre, Western Australia. Permission has been granted to publish these verses here.

Verses for Morning Meditation (3 am)
(Chanted by Bell Master as bell is sounded)

At fifth watch of the night the sun is about to rise.
Our Perfect Wisdom shines in boundless space.
When no thought arises, our mind envelopes the Three Realms.
Realising the equanimity of our True Nature,
we do not stir up any thoughts.
The True Mind appears.
The insight is very deep and beyond our thinking mind.
The more we chase after it, the wearier we become.
With mind and heart disturbed by searching,
we have not understood.
With no thoughts arising, all seeking is fulfilled.

Namo Sakyamuni Buddha
Namo Sakyamuni Buddha
Namo Sakyamuni Buddha

Verses for Evening Meditation (7 pm)
(Chanted by Bell Master as bell is sounded)

First watch of the night has arrived.
Calmly we sit upright and still in meditation.
Like space, our mind is empty, tranquil and luminous.
From beginningless lifetimes,
It has never been born and has never passed away.
Then why worry about birth and death.
Reflecting deeply to see that all phenomena are illusory.
Their nature is empty.
So there is no need to search for them,
Once realising that this mind is formless, be still and undisturbed
and let it manifest itself in perfect equanimity.

Namo Sakyamuni Buddha
Namo Sakyamuni Buddha
Namo Sakyamuni Buddha

Meditation and Chanting Guide

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Copy of Guide: Meditation and Chanting Guide (pdf format)

                            Meditation and Chanting Guide (online e-book format)

AT THE HALL OF PATRIARCHS
Before the invocation we light three sticks of incense representing the following qualities:
Morality (Sila)
Concentration (Samadhi)
Wisdom (Panna)

INVOCATION:
With respect and gratitude
We bow three times to the
Patriarchs from India,
China and Vietnam
(Bell and Bow x 3)
[We now move into the Main Hall for meditation]

1. INCENSE OFFERING
(bells)
In gratitude, we offer this incense to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout space and time.
May it be fragrant as Earth herself, reflecting our careful efforts, our wholehearted mindfulness, and the fruit of understanding, slowly ripening.
May we and all beings, be companions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. May we awaken from forgetfulness and realise our true mind.
(bell)

2. DEEP BOWING
We wish to revere with speech, mind and body, the Buddha. The one who shows us the way in this life.
(bell and bow)

We wish to revere with speech, mind and body, the Dharma. The way of understanding and love.
(bell and bow)

We wish to revere with speech, mind and body, the Sangha. The community of mindful harmony.
(bell and bow)

3. PREPARING FOR MEDITATION
Prepare yourself for meditation either on the floor or on a chair. If on the floor, sit in either a full or half lotus position. If on a chair, place feet flat on the floor with hands either right cupped (right in left) or gently placed on thighs. Press down strongly three times on your hands, straightening the spine.
Aligning your head and shoulders, looking down from the side of your nose, and focusing on a spot about 3 feet from the end of your nose. The mouth is gently closed and the tongue placed behind the upper teeth (this limits saliva production). Next take three deep breaths slowly in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Keep your eyes slightly opened at the beginning of the meditation and closing them later when your position, breathing and mind have stabilised. The bells during the meditation remind us to re-concentrate on the breath, this is especially helpful when our mind wanders or we begin to feel drowsy.

4. EVENING CHANT
With posture upright and solid
We are seated at the foot of the Bodhi Tree
Body, speech and mind all are one
In stillness, there is no more thought of right and wrong
Our minds and bodies dwell in perfect mindfulness

We re-discover our original nature
Leaving the shore of illusion behind
Noble Sangha diligently bring your mind into meditation

Chorus:
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya
Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya

(Meditation starts)

5. ENDING THE MEDITATION
You are now listening to the last bells of this meditation.
On hearing the first bell we will dedicate this meditation to all sentient beings.
(bell)
On hearing the second bell we will take three deep breaths: in through the nose; and out through the mouth. Breathing in all the positives in our lives; breathing out all the negatives of our lives.
(bell)
When you heard the third and last bell, slowly open your eyes and follow further instructions to get out of this meditation.
(bell)

6. MASSAGE AT THE END OF MEDITATION
1     Squeeze fingers 5 times.
2     Push down hard 3 times on your lap, straightening your spine.
3     Rotate your left shoulder 5 times.
4     Rotate your right shoulder 5 times.
5     Now rotate both shoulders 10 times: Reverse the direction of rotation for another 10 times.
6     Gently move your head up and down 5 times.
7     Gently move your head from right to left 5 times.
8     Rub your hands strongly, generating heat, place your hands over your eyes, pause for a few second. Be aware of the touch and the pleasant feelings that arise throughout this massage.
9     Rub your face in an upwardly circulating movement 20 times.
10   Rub your head from the front to the back 10 times.
11   Rub your ears 10 times.
12   Pull your ears lobes 10 times.
13   Place one hand on the crown of your head, the other on the back of your neck and massage 10 times.
14   Rub 2 fingers of each hand together, generating heat, now massage your eyes either inwardly or outwardly 10 times.
15   Rub both sides of the back of your neck 10 times.
16   Rub your throat upwardly 10 times.
17   Place your left hand on your right shoulder and massage the whole of the arm 10 times.
18   Place your right hand on your left shoulder and massage the whole of the arm 10 times.
19   Place your right hand on your left shoulder; and your left hand under your right armpit. Massage up and down 5 times, then stretch and breathe out strongly. Repeat.
20   Place your left hand on your right shoulder and your right hand under your left armpit. Massage up and down 5 times then stretch and breathe out strongly. Repeat.
21   Place one hand on the chest and one hand on the stomach. Massage in a circular motion 10 times. Now massage in  the reverse direction 10 times.
22   Using the back of your hands, rub your back from the top to the bottom 10 times.
23   Using your palms rub your kidney and waist area 10 times.
24   Massage your sciatic nerve in both legs, first left then right 10 times.
25   Rub your upper and inner thighs toward the knees 10 times.
26   Bring out your left leg, massage down to the tibia 10 times.
27   Straighten out your left leg and rub your knee 10 times.
28   Bring up your left foot and rub the sole of your foot with your knuckles 10 times.
29   Hold your toes, rotate them gently 5 times. Now rotate in the reverse direction 5 times. Put down your left leg.
30   Bring out your right leg, massage down to the tibia 10 times.
31   Straighten out your right leg and rub your knee 10 times.
32   Bring up your right foot and rub the sole of your foot with your knuckles 10 times.
33   Hold your toes, rotate them gently 5 times. Now rotate in the reverse direction 5 times. Put down your right leg.
34   Take out your cushion, straighten out both legs and bend forward to touch your toes 10 times.

Stand-up and adjust your clothing. Stand in a relaxed and stable position. Tai Chi: breathing exercise: 3 breaths up and down.
Thay will now conduct a walking meditation (or give feedback).

7. SUTRA OPENING VERSE
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhasa
(bell)

The Dharma is profound and wonderful.
We now have a chance to see it, study it and practise it.
We vow to realise its true meaning.
(bell)

8. THE HEART OF THE PRAJNAPARAMITA SUTRA
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, while moving in the deep course of Perfect Understanding, shed light on the five skandhas and found them equally empty. After this penetration, he overcame ill-being.

(bell)

Listen Shariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness and emptiness is not other than form. The same is true with feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness.

(bell)

Listen Shariputra, all dharma are marked with emptiness. They are neither produced nor destroyed, neither defiled nor immaculate, neither increasing nor decreasing.

Therefore, in emptiness there is neither form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor mental formation, nor consciousness. No eye, or ear, or nose, or tongue, or body, or mind. No form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind.

No realms of elements (from eyes to mind consciousness), no interdependent origins and no extinction of them (from ignorance to death and decay.) No ill-being, no cause of ill-being, no end of ill-being, and no path. No understanding, no attainment.

(bell)

Because there is no attainment, the bodhisattvas, grounded in perfect understanding, find no obstacles for their minds. Having no obstacles, they overcome fear, liberating themselves forever from illusion and realising Perfect Nirvana. All Buddhas in the past, present and future, thanks to this Perfect Understanding, arrive at full, right and universal Enlightenment.

(bell)

Therefore, one should know that Perfect Understanding is the highest mantra, the unequalled mantra, the destroyer of ill-being, the incorruptible truth. A mantra of prajna paramita should therefore be proclaimed:

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha  (3 times)

9. TAKING SELF-REFUGE
Taking refuge in the Buddha in myself, I aspire to help all people recognise their own awakened nature, realising the true mind.
(bell and bow)

Taking refuge in the Dharma in myself, I aspire to help all people fully master the ways of practice and walk together on the path of liberation.
(bell and bow)

Taking refuge in the Sangha in myself, I aspire to help all people build fourfold communities, to live in harmony and support their transformation.
(bell and bow)

10. DEDICATING MERIT
Reciting the sutra, practising the way of awareness gives rise to benefits without limits.

We vow to share the fruits with all beings.

We vow to offer tribute to parents, teachers, friends and numerous beings who give guidance and support along the path.
(bell x 4)
[Small bow to all present]

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Inter-Connectedness

Dharma Discussion on Saturday 14 November 2015 

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Thay talked about the inter-connectedness of all things. For example, a country governed by wise and honest leaders is likely to prosper and vice-versa. All phenomena are inter-connected, living and non-living alike.

Thay also advised the following 4 points in regards to our practice:

  1. When bad things have not happened, do not give create opportunities or conditions for them to happen.
  2. When good things have not happened, make opportunities or conditions for them to happen.
  3. When bad things have happened or are happening, make efforts to stop them immediately.
  4. When good things have happened or are happening, make efforts to promote them and to share the good results with everyone.

Namo Shakyamunaye Buddhaya