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 short guided meditation, a talk from Jitindriyā, and an opportunity for Q&A, and will go for approx. 2hrs. 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 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), ’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 recorded and archived for later viewing on the same YouTube channel, 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.
Below is the full video interview just released from the makers of the Deep Transformation Podcast, a discussion with Samaneri Jayasara about her ‘Wisdom Of the Master’s’ YouTube channel — how it began, her inspirations, what drew her to Buddhism, and more…
(NB: We previously posted a link to the edited podcast version a few months ago, which you can find here…)
Today we are entering the traditional vassa period (rains-retreat season). This is an ancient tradition observed by Buddhist monastic communities everywhere (originating in Asia, during the three-month monsoon period each year). The vassa season commences on the first day of the waning moon of the eighth lunar month – this year being the 14th July.
This tradition predates the time of Gautama Buddha. It was a long-standing custom for mendicant ascetics in India not to travel during the rainy season as they may unintentionally harm crops, insects or even themselves during their travels. Although many Buddhist ascetics and monastics (like us) now live in regions that don’t have a monsoon season, it is still a tradition that is observed by the larger Buddhist community as it provides a structured opportunity to focus more on intensive meditation practice and to spend more time in solitude. The Buddha encouraged his disciples to continue to observe this period of practice and to limit travel outside of the monastery or hermitage where one was residing.
Although we live a fairly simple life at Viveka Hermitage, just maintaining a hermitage and our various web resources entails ongoing responsibilities. We also established Viveka Hermitage only one year ago and the property needed some work and TLC, so there have been quite a few things to do which has kept us relatively busy. But now we have this wonderful opportunity of the vassa retreat for more solitude and focus on formal meditation practice.
For many people, being alone for long periods of time and observing noble silence for much of the day would be a torture. But for some, like us, who are more hermitic types, we look forward to the vassa retreat each year. Solitude and quietude provide such potent conditions for settling the mind and for allowing insight into Dhamma to arise. After an initial settling-in period and an adjustment to less sensory input, I always find that many ‘knots’ naturally unravel and everything loosens and softens. The body likes it, the mind appreciates it, and the heart begins to open more and more.
What more can be said about the benefits of solitude that hasn’t already been eloquently expressed by the Masters? All the great spiritual Masters spent long periods in solitude because the benefits for deep meditation are recognized and valued. Without periods of solitude, I doubt many of them would have developed and accessed the profound wisdom and compassion they displayed and shared. The Pali word ‘Viveka’ actually has the meaning of solitude/seclusion, so the name of our Hermitage reflects the inspiration and motivation for setting up this place.
Viveka is not just about physical solitude though, it also means solitude of the mind/heart from the habitual and ongoing proliferations, imaginations, desires, and aversions. It is about finding that place within that remains equanimous and unmoved by all the sensory input – sights, sounds, smells, thought impressions, emotional reactions, and so on. Ultimately, this kind of solitude is something that can be cultivated by everyone, even within a busy daily life. It’s something that can develop as one becomes more stable in the practice of Dhamma. Therefore, periods of alone time each day can be a wonderful support for our practice and give us the boost we need to meet the various demands that come our way.
So, for this next period of time (until mid-October), you may hear a little less from us; however, we will be with you at the deepest level of Dhamma connection and will share some reflections along the way with you too.
Wishing you all wellness of body, mind and heart; and may you find, or build-in, some periods of quiet and solitude in your life (even just five minutes here and there if that’s all you can find for now), to recharge your energy, renew your commitment and motivation to realizing the Dhamma, and to heal and nourish your hearts.
With much mettā, Jayasāra, Jitindriyā, and ‘Cat’
BTW, you might find the latest guided meditation we’ve uploaded called ‘Silence and Stillness’ supportive for practice. May it help you discover the silence within.