Puregg – Day 4 (2006-09-29)

I shared the guest room with Klaus and Kurt. Interestingly most other participants were females. Could meditation possibly be considered “unmanly” in our western society? Or do males find it more difficult to take a few days off?

Hannes. During Summer I had grown quite fond of the gentle voices of some sutta readings. Thus I delighted even more in Hannes’ way of speaking: calm, gentle, compassionate, understanding, and humorous. His inspiring and very practical speech gives me the impression that he possesses a deep understanding of Vipassana and Theravada. It is interesting that his main teachers were of a quite complementary nature: Sayadaw U Pandita from Burma is what he calls a “warrior monk”, whereas Godwin Samararatne from Sri Lanka taught with a strong emphasis on compassion.

Pieces of Mind. The meditation practice led me deeper and deeper into the labyrinths of my mind. As some of the “common” thought processes were stilled, others surfaced. The pain in my back and neck was growing stronger, and whenever I felt tired I heard voices chattering incoherently. We spent the daytime phases of walking meditation outside (beautiful weather!), and in the afternoon I sat down under a tree, leaning my back against the trunk.

In the evening Hannes gave us a lecture based on the Bhaddekaratta Sutta (one of my favourites). Here is an excerpt, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu:

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past is left behind.
The future is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there, right there.
Not taken in, unshaken,
that’s how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow: death.
There is no bargaining with Mortality & his mighty horde.

As far as I understand it, the Buddha does not intend to say that past and future are completely insignificant. We can learn from past experience, shape the future, and not be heedless. However, the way in which we usually deal with past and future is rather unskillful: lost in reverie about likes and dislikes, or entangled in a “thicket of views” about our self, we grow heedless about the present – the only time in which any action, any change, any decision can actually take place! The good news: we can learn more appropriate ways. :-)

3 thoughts on “Puregg – Day 4 (2006-09-29)

  1. Quote: Could meditation possibly be considered “unmanly” in our western society?

    Speaking as a male living in Canada, I’ll say this…

    When I tell people I meditate, they seem lost for words. It’s seen as rather … odd. Unconventional, you might say. In addition, it’s often seen as an indication that one has problems — something Western males are not keen to admit.

    Meditation is also seen as “too passive”. We Western males are told we have to go out and SEIZE what we want. It’s the subtlety of the brute. Yet society continually feeds us images of what a “real man” should be, and if we males buy into that we might conclude that meditation is too “girly”.

    Maybe males in the West HUNT, while women GATHER. :)

  2. Quote: … we grow heedless about the present – the only time in which any action, any change, any decision can actually take place!

    I’ve long understood — on an intellectual level — that the present is the point at which “change” happens. Now I realize I had completely missed the point.

    As for “action” … I don’t know what you mean by the word. It would seem to bring in time (duration). Perhaps you were referring to the initiation of the action, not the action itself.

    You also mentioned “decision”. Right now I’m puzzled about the concept of “choice”. I have no answer, though my intellect insists that “free will” is an illusion and ultimate causes are unknowable.

    My intellect has been wrong on occasion.

    By the way, Heimdall, with so little electricity available there, how are you posting to your blog?

  3. Now I am curious: how have you completely missed the point?

    With “action” I mean any present activity (or momentary part thereof). This includes, in my understanding, also the initiation of any action, the act of willing, of “deciding” to take action. By whatever name I want to call it: there is always something happening right now.

    So if there is any choice (and I believe that denying the possibility of choice might be a waste of choice, while I agree that our common understanding of “choice” or “free will” is an illusion), it can be made only now.

    Ah, it’s difficult for me to explain. You just made me aware of the enormous variety of possible interpretations for words that I foolishly deemed “easily and clearly understandable” (in other words: my own confusion :-)).

    Posting to my blog: I thought the dates in the headlines were obvious enough … my retreat in Puregg was two months ago. :-)

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