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All Buddhist schools argue that our regular perception is conceptually constructed, or as philosopher Tom Tillemans calls it, made up of useful fictions. That does not make these fictions untrue. We need concepts to make sense of a world that is otherwise too vast and complex to comprehend. The useful fiction of ‘my body’ is […]

Not all our fictions are useful. In fact, many are straightforward harmful. The fact that we hold ourselves and others to have permanent properties gives rise to desire, attachment, pride, jealousy, and anger, while this is a false narrative, for all our characteristics are temporal, relational, and contextual.

The rainy season in Myanmar was impressive. The first drops gave every bedbug throughout the monastery a new lease on life, but luckily also the flowering plants and creatures great and small. Within a week the trickle transformed into a curtain of water, its rushing sound enclosing the silence of my hut. There were days […]

The Arhat from Pa Auk Tawya as the rainy season's Pied Piper of Hamelin.

How can we keep ourselves from self-criticism and discouragement as we explore what is? Self-criticism and discouragement depend on what is called in Pāli sakkāya diṭṭhi, or personality view: I am this, I am like that. It is a consequence of the generalising process of conceptuality. According to the Buddha all things happen in a […]

A permanent self could never learn, adapt, grow, evolve. Precisely because we are empty of a permanent self, we are free to seek relief from unskilful mental patterns and to cultivate skilful patterns. 

To feel or not to feel, that is the question Equanimity is not indifference towards feelings, and especially not suppression, but the letting go of identification and interpretation. Feelings and emotions are a natural and impermanent part of our makeup. They’re not always pleasant for sure, but we’re not buddhas yet, so this is part […]

Equanimity is not indifference towards feelings, and especially not suppression, but the letting go of identification and interpretation. Feelings and emotions are a natural and impermanent part of our makeup.

Meditation is an ill-defined Western term that only partially covers the meaning of the Tibetan term gom (སྒོམ་) or the Pāli bhāvanā. Moreover the term is also used to translate different Buddhist terms like samādhi, jhāna and in some cases even the union of calm abiding and special insight.  Both gom and bhāvanā rather mean cultivation, […]

Both gom and bhāvanā refer to cultivation of the three higher trainings: ethics, serenity, and wisdom. Rather than something you do on your cushion, it refers to a lifestyle in which you cultivate the Dharma.

Is joy an object of shamata, or does it manifest itself when the mind becomes unified in a stable practice of shamata on an object like the breath? When joy manifests as a result of breath meditation, it is a mental factor. When cultivated as a brahmavihara it is called empathetic or appreciative joy and […]

When joy manifests as a result of breath meditation, it is a mental factor. When cultivated as a brahmavihara it is called empathetic or appreciative joy.

How to stay when we reach a state of joy? The paradoxical answer is you can’t, and that for two reasons.  The first reason is that piti (non-sensual joy) is not something that you can generate. It is a side-effect of the mind responding to its own wholesome state. It is important to recognise the […]

Non-sensual joy is a side-effect of the mind responding to its own wholesome state, and not the result of the efforts of a permanent, unitary and independent self, for no such thing exists.

Is sufficient trust necessary for deep absorption to the object? If so, is there any evidence that a secure attachment style aids absorption? Trust plays different roles at different times in the evolution of our meditational practice. One of the first hindrances that we encounter is an unwillingness of the mind caused by procrastination, attachment […]

Lack of trust in the goal, the method and ourselves. cause the mind to become unserviceable through procrastination, attachment to unskilful activities, and self-underestimation.

What am I supposed to trust? Your buddhanature. In more modest terms: the five aggregates that make up our person. Each of them is evidently non-self. The body knows quite well how to breath, digest, walk and talk. In a similar vein, our feelings, thoughts, and perceptions come and go without any interference of a […]

Shamatha based on definite emergence is a path of healing the relationship with oneself. As the Uttaratantra says: the highest self is non-self. When you are free of the story things appear as they truly are: effortless and free.

Someone asked “How can we stop the tendency to utilise people?”. This is a very important question that we will explore over time, for the ignorance at the bottom of this is complex. It has to do with the interaction between concepts and reality. Concepts allow you to think of things independent from context, space, […]

Appreciative joy reminds you that no relationship is given, but rather is something that needs to be nourished and cared for, even if that is merely with a laptop.

We often have the idea that meditation should be peaceful, that no thoughts or disturbances should occur. Although some can be reasonably good at suppressing thought, this is not a productive path, for it can lead to clinging and fear of that which we have suppressed. Serenity is simply the fruit of equanimity, whether there […]

We cannot undo what has already arisen. Serenity is simply the fruit of equanimity. The clear and knowing mind is always spacious, mirror-like, silent, and impermanent, revealing all objects as coming and going.

The Buddha said: “When this is, that is. When this is not, that is not.” This is the principle of dependent origination that Je Tsongkhapa so famous wrote a praise of.  All phenomena exist in dependence on parts, causes and conditions, and naming. That latter aspect we will study in our third year. Our mind, […]

The Buddha said: “When this is, that is. When this is not, that is not.” This is the principle of dependent origination. It means that all phenomena, including our mind exist in dependence on parts, causes and conditions, and naming.

Equanimity is the natural abiding of the mind in the absence of disturbance. Some meditators asked: “I can’t feel it, can I move on to the other brahmaviharas?”.  How could we meditate on joy, love, and compassion, when we have still difficulty experiencing peace within ourselves; when our mind still struggles with discontent, judgement and […]

Equanimity is the natural abiding of the mind in the absence of disturbance. Some meditators asked: “I can’t feel it, can I move on to the other brahmaviharas?”. 

All Dharma – all virtue – perceives [interdependence] to some extent. My joy perceives this to some extent. My love perceives this to some extent. What I would like is to see it entirely, but at least I see some of it. All hatred, all jealousy, all spite and so forth, denies this. All our […]

All Dharma – all virtue – perceives interdependence to some extent, specially the brahmaviharas that nourish simultaneously others and ourselves

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The Way of the Heart

Institut Vajra Yogini

Live in France and on Zoom. Ten day retreat, from 29 July to 7 August on emptiness and compassion at Institut Vajra Yogini. More information will follow.

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Maitreya Instituut Amsterdam

Two-day city retreat: Awakening in the Modern World. Open to anyone interested, onsite and online.