It is with great sadness that we let you know our dear little Catty, ‘Sumudu’, passed away yesterday (18th Jan.) after a brief illness. The likely cause, it seems, was infection by a paralysis tick. Even though we never found one on her or in the house, the vet said that all the symptoms matched that illness and speed of decline.
Our dear friend is sorely missed, and will be for quite a while. As a mature feline, she emanated such love and presence that she was always a source of pure joy and a cause for the emergence of spontaneous loving care. Her contented ‘beingness’ reflected the purity of consciousness itself, (well, 99.9% of the time)! Admittedly, she still had some preferences, and would let us know without hesitation when she wasn’t pleased with a meal offering served up from time to time… But, her old body had particular needs – like all of us! She was a grand 22 years of age, so, finding what supported her well-being was a pleasure.
Viveka Hermitage feels so much emptier without her physical presence… and it will take some getting used to, as she has been here since its instigation and was a significant part of our little community! But, in recollecting the Dhamma, we are remembering the unswerving truth of anicca – change and uncertainty – in all forms, in all conditioned things, and the life-lesson of not clinging to, not identifying with any manifestation of the khandas, whether as so-called ‘self-forms’ or ‘other-forms’.
And, while feeling the sadness of her loss, we are remembering too that it was the very essence of loving-conscious-awareness that emanated from Catty which was/is her true essence – as it is with any and all of us – that true nature which never dies, is never separate, has never been born, is never truly affected by changing conditions, even as the kammic forms undergo the cycle of change. This is the truth and essence of her being, as it is the truth and essence underlying all forms of being. Her little being was just so good at reflecting that ever-loving-presence in her form-being!
So, we are grateful for her gift of Dhamma and the time we shared together – grateful for her uncomplicated loving presence, and bless her passing out-of-form as a release from aging, illness, and the confines of death-bound phenomena. May she rest in perfect peace – may she fully rest in the ultimate nature of nibbana – the deathless – the liberation of, and from, all cycling forms.
On the 11th of February this year, we offered a one-day online retreat live on YouTube. It has been archived so those of you who couldn’t join live can participate whenever it’s convenient for you. Everything you need to know is below. Enjoy!
Cultivating Mindfulness & Wisdom
A One-Day Online Retreat with Samaneri Jayasāra and Ayya Jitindriyā
The cultivation of mindfulness, full awareness and wisdom are central to the path of awakening as taught by the Buddha. In this online day retreat, Samaneri Jayasāra and Ayya Jitindriyā offer teachings and guided meditations based on mindfulness practice, supporting the development of calm and insight, and integrating it into our daily lives.
We encourage participants doing the whole retreat in a day to practice observing noble silence for the duration if possible, as this really helps deepen the practice. There are periods of Q&A (recorded from the ‘live’ sessions) both in the late morning and afternoon sessions . The whole retreat (in 4 video sessions) is archived on Samaneri Jayasara’s YouTube channel for you to engage in whenever it suits you.
See the retreat schedule below, and the links to the Retreat playlist on YouTube.
4:45pm: Closing dedications and end of Live retreat
NB: For those who wish to continue the retreat practice into the evening to make a full day, we’ve provided links below for two guided meditations with Dhamma reflections. The first is from Ajahn Chah, and the second from Ajahn Dune, two great Masters from the Thai Forest Tradition. These talks are read by Samaneri Jayasāra and have been especially selected for the final sessions of this retreat. Listen to one or both, as you like.
Over the years, many people have enquired of us about how to work with challenging emotional states, such as anger or depression, anxiety or grief. These are very human experiences that we all encounter at least at some stage in our lives, if not on a more regular basis. Meditators are not immune to these emotional experiences, and in fact, when we start a spiritual practice, we may even come into contact more strongly with mind-states and emotions that we haven’t seen so clearly before.
Its important in our spiritual practice not to disassociate or cut-off from emotions with the idea that we should be more ‘detached’ or ‘above’ such things. But rather, we can develop an attitude of real interest in them in order to begin to understand these states with wisdom. We also, of course, need to develop the heart qualities of kindness and compassion to fully embrace such experiences without judgement, as resistance merely sharpens the pain.
Ayya Jitindriyā has created a series of guided contemplations and meditations which offer a way of working with some of this more challenging emotional terrain that we encounter in life. The series invites us and guides us to come more fully into presence with these emotional experiences, allowing them to transform… and in the process, to transform us – into more fully integrated, balanced and wise human beings.
While the approach in the guided practice is aimed at supporting those in the midst of such states to come out the other side with a deeper understanding and a more peaceful heart, they may also prove beneficial for those who wish to process and understand more deeply these experiences from a recollective perspective (i.e. if not currently feeling too impacted by them). Regardless of your current mind-state however, we hope you’ll find them helpful resources!
You’ll find this new series on the ‘Guided Meditations’ page of this website (under the ‘Resources’ tab), and we’ve also linked to it here.
The monks from Clear Mountain Monastery – near Seattle, Washington – Venerables Kovilo and Nisabho, invited Ayya Jitindriyā and Samaneri Jayasāra to do an interview with them on their YouTube channel… So we thought to share them with you here. Enjoy!
We’re introducing a new six-part series live on YouTube, beginning in May, in which Ayya Jitindriyā will discuss some of the key contemplative paradigms and practices in Early Buddhism. These sessions will take place every six weeks and replace one of the usual fortnightly guided meditations we offer — so that means every third session will be a Buddha-Dhamma session (streaming on the same ‘Wisdom of the Masters’ channel as our regular guided meditations). A link to the playlist is provided below.
Each session will include a guided meditation, a talk from Ayya Jitindriyā, and an opportunity for Q&A, and will go for approx. 2hrs or so. The series is not intended to be an exhaustive academic education on the subject of early Buddhism, but rather a lively extemporaneous reflection on some of the key contemplative paradigms as taught by the Buddha, how we can apply them in practice, and what purpose they serve with regard to eliciting insight and freeing the mind from unnecessary cycles of suffering.
In each session Ayya Jitindriyā will address a different aspect of practice, including but not limited to:
– The liberating insights of the Four Ariya Sacca (Noble Truths) – The Eight-fold Path, the Way of non-suffering (or, view, conduct & meditation) – Samsara (cyclic suffering), karma (kamma) and the end of karma – The five aggregates affected by clinging, or ‘personality factors’ – The three characteristics of all conditioned existence – The five hindrances to meditation, samadhi, and the enlightenment factors – The four foundations, or placements of mindfulness – Nibbāna (skt: Nirvana), the ‘deathless’, ’emptiness’ and liberation…
All are welcome to attend, whether new or experienced in practice; if you can’t come along to the live sessions, they’ll be archived for later viewing on YouTube, and linked to on this website as well.
Here is a new set of Q & A’s which you might find helpful.
These questions from listeners and friends of Viveka Hermitage have been selected to share here as their topics would be of general interest to our audience, and some go very deep. They have arisen either in response to teachings uploaded on the ‘Wisdom of the Masters’ YouTube channel or from our live meditation sessions.
Just click on the question-links below to find the full questions and our responses… In some cases they are quite long, more like a back-and-forth conversation.
They have also been added to our Q & A page, found here.
As the new year of 2023 approaches, (and as ‘time’ seems to be rolling by with increased speed and vigour), it brings forth some reflections and inquiry into the experience of ‘time’, the perception of ‘years passing’, what moves the ‘mind’, and the mystery of what it is to ‘be’ at all.
In this current age, with IT and AI increasingly at the centre of our lives, in some respects it is a world barely recognisable from the years preceding the advent of the world-wide-web… Or is it?
While the overall data processing has picked up a huge pace – in both the incoming and outgoing streams, whether via artificial or innate intelligence – the flavour of the content when scrutinised appears to be much the same as it ever was, albeit some in thinly-veiled disguise. As an apparently evolving species we may ‘feel’ like we are progressing… but are we, for the most part, merely travelling in circles as ever before, in repeating cycles of habitual activity and reactivity?
While in some respects we are exploring many new frontiers of knowledge and socialisation, if one were to judge by the outer signs – in the news and social medias, in popular discourse, in geo-political posturings, in the various outer expressions of humanity – one can easily find evidence of the same forces playing out as ever before.
The Buddha’s breakdown of the forces that move us, whether consciously or unconsciously, is a simple yet profound way to understand what’s going on both in and around us, and also how to carve a path out of the mire of repeated cycles of reactivity that lead to dukkha [Pali] – the experience of unsatisfactoriness, suffering, or stress.
Basically, the three roots of the unwholesome, or unskilful are: greed/covetousness; hatred/aversion; and delusion/confusion. And the three roots of the wholesome, or skilful are their opposites: non-greed; non-hatred; and non-delusion.
When acting with a mind that is influenced by any of these mental states, we either dig ourselves into the mire of more dukkha and stress, or dig our way out of that mire. It’s that simple really.
The Buddha, with his fully awakened vision, understood that:
“Mind is the forerunner of all conditioned states. Mind is their chief, mind-made are they. If one acts or speaks with an unskilful mind, suffering follows them like the cart-wheel that follows the hoof of the ox. [Or]… If one acts or speaks with a skilful mind, happiness follows them like their never-departing shadow.” Dhp 1.1-2
There’s a lot to be understood here. The fact that the mind itself (or mind-states more accurately) is what fashions our experience, and that by understanding the forces at play in the mind we can influence our experience, both in the here-and-now and in the resultant conditions to come. Within this territory alone lays the path of awakening, the path to freedom.
Choose any human volition you wish to examine, any display of the human mind in its various expressions, whether internally or externally, and you will find these primary influencers of greed/desire, hatred/aversion, delusion/confusion, or non-greed (kindness), non-hatred (compassion), non-delusion (wisdom) at the root of those expressions of body, speech and mind.
Mind often has a mixture of these influencers infiltrating it – rarely just all bad or all good… this is called ‘a mixture of black and white karma’ – which we all experience to some degree or other. And it is a constantly changing show. But the roots of the wholesome grow with our beginning to discern these influencers within our own minds and hearts, and explore how to bring about a more wholesome balance – regularly reflecting on the current mental states and giving rise to wholesome/skilful intentions of kindness, compassion, generosity and understanding, especially where we see their opposites at play.
It may feel like we are completely under the sway of unskilful influencers in the mind at times, but as soon as we recognise them, with the intention to understand and grow beyond, we are already well on the path to ditching the way of dukkha! We have the power in fact, to transform any moment with our understanding of this territory, with our cultivation of right view, right effort, and right mindfulness (ref: MN 117). This is the path of freedom the Buddha articulated. But it has to be engaged to be seen and known and realised.
So what is this sense of ‘time’ and ‘time passing’ in reality? And who is it that is caught up in it? Apart from the conventional agreements of the social norm in accepting the solar or lunar calendar methods of marking time and regulating our behaviour, in the main, the sense of time seems inextricably bound up with patterns of perception (memory/labels and imagination) relating to ‘past’ and ‘future’, with the stream of mental movement and its habitual referencing of a concept of ‘I’, ‘me’ or ‘mine’. But can time ever be pinned down? Can space ever be pinned down? Can ‘I’ ever be pinned down? Can awareness ever be pinned down? In fact, can any perceived thing ever be pinned down?
This is a contemplative inquiry, something to be actively looked into… For only then can we see the truth of these things for ourselves. Only then can we free ourselves of illusory bonds, of illusory habit patterns of mind, of illusory influencers of mind… Only then can we wake up to the truth of reality – in the sense of seeing and knowing what keeps us in a state of stress or unsatisfactoriness, or what releases the mind from the sense of being caught in the cycling of repeated stress, discontent, or suffering.
The world we live in is indeed a challenge at times, but no matter what, it is in that very same place we find ourselves that we can awaken. Awakening is awakening out of habit patterns, awakening to conscious awareness here-and-now; it is the place of freedom, and the place of transformation…. The place of place-less-ness and time-less-ness – because it is ever-new, not caught in past-travelling-to-future perceptions running on auto-pilot… but a portal to freedom – where love, kindness, compassion and wisdom are born; where peace can truly be found and felt, even amidst a world of apparent challenges. Waking up is as profound, yet as simple as that!
May 2023 be a year of transformation in your world, where this love, kindness, compassion and wisdom spring forth evermore, bringing relief to all who know and meet these truths.
With deep appreciation for your practice and commitment to truth, and with deepest gratitude to the awakened masters who compassionately guide us to this portal.
We’ve just uploaded a series of seven guided meditations from Ayya Jitindriyā, which focus on establishing embodied awareness and cultivating mettā (loving-kindness).
They also help guide the listener to an acceptance of difficult emotional and mental states, to reveal an innate capacity of kindness and compassion, and to discover the natural wisdom and peace of mind that emerges from ‘being with’ things as they are.
If you’ve ever had any difficulty with being kind to yourself, or accepting the way things are, or forgiving yourself or others (who hasn’t!), then maybe you’ll find these guided meditations helpful.