A Day and a Night at the Abbey

A month ago I was able to spend a night and a day with fellow monastic brothers of the Catholic faith in Washington DC, at St. Anselm’s Abbey, for a symposium on meditation in the various major religious traditions. This included representatives from Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and myself as the Buddhist representative in place of Bhante G who did this in years past.
The Symposium was a wonderful experience for members from the various religious faiths to come together in friendship and share what meditation is and how it is practiced in their traditions. I think more gatherings like this need to take place in this country, with the religious and non-religious alike, to bridge gaps and bring unity over division.
I have to admit though, what I liked most of all was spending time with the Benedictine brothers and getting to know them and how they live. It was a laid back, joyful atmosphere with an undercurrent of dignified seriousness in their mission.
The brothers instantly welcomed me into their groups and conversations. Many remembered Bhante G and asked about his welfare, and others had visited Bhavana in years past. They were kind and sociable and wanting to make sure I felt at home and had everything I needed. I attended mass and the various monastic activities with them and got to experience the day in a life of a catholic monk.
The Abbot, Abbot James Wiseman, in my opinion lived up to his name. A quiet, elderly, unassuming monk(who I couldn’t pick out from the other monks and didn’t realize I was talking to the Abbot until about 5 minutes in) who actually took one of my bags and lead me to my room himself.
His humility and kindness reminded me of watching Ajahn Brahm at work on the streets of New York City, pretending to be bell hop at Google and opening the doors for people with a smile and a “welcome to google!”.
Abbot James impressed me greatly as someone who provides a good example in humility, dignity, and service, to his fellow monastics. He had an impact as an example on myself as well, as I grow as a monastic and mold myself into something better.

All in all an insightful and joyful experience that I will gladly attend again in the future if/when invited.

Depopulation? Not yet…

This sutta shows good news for humanity, and reason enough not to be too hard on us, we are doing pretty good stuff(see the article below), since our population is increasing(although its said with world estimates that we will top off at about 9 billion, and decline from there).
“Master Gotama, I have heard older brahmins who are aged, burdened with years, teachers of teachers, saying: ‘In the past this world was so thickly populated one would think there was no space between people. The villages, towns, and capital cities were so close that cocks could fly between them.’ Why is it, Master Gotama, that at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, an.i.160 towns, cities, and districts have vanished?”
3(1) “At present, brahmin, people are excited by illicit lust, overcome by unrighteous greed, afflicted by wrong Dhamma. As a result, they take up weapons and slay one another. Hence many people die. This is a reason why at present the number of people has declined, depopulation is seen, and villages, towns, cities, and districts have vanished.
You can find how the world is improving in this article -https://www.vox.com/2014/11/24/7272929/charts-thankful and checking out people like Stephen Pinker(https://www.amazon.com/Better-Angels-Our-Nature-Violence/dp/0143122010).
 
Don’t allow yourself to be too mired in the negative aspects, watching the news you may think it’s all going to hell, but it’s not,at least not until our population begins to decline ;).
 
As Sam said to Frodo in the Lord of the Rings:
 
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
 
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
 
Go out and do good deeds for the good of the many folk. Doing good deeds, acting skillfully and wisely in the world, and helping others is how we fight against our decline, not fighting , opposing, and arguing with others.

A Mindful Exploration of Perception

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Let’s have an exploration of perceptions… what arises in your mind when you see this picture ?

What thoughts arise regarding the people who put it up?

What changes when I tell you that these are my neighbors, only two houses down?

What the changes when I tell you they are a nice young couple who has come to Bhavana multiple times and asked questions about meditation?

And lastly, what changes when I tell you that they put that sign up because people went to their house and literally ripped out copper pipes to sell? In a place where the nearest police is 40 miles away, you are on your own out here. (ive never even seen police within 20 miles of Bhavana, don’t even know what they’d look like).

This is the importance of not rushing to judgement regarding other people. Sure our minds will do so, but do you question those initial judgements? Or just accept them as truth?

Now what if I told you that I, a Buddhist monk, was for years in lay life , a firearms owner and a member of the NRA, even while being a Buddhist practitioner and moving towards ordination?

Or that I was never a vegetarian in lay life?

Now because of this picture, my message may appear to be quite one sided, as someone who was an independent in lay life, I belonged to various groups that line up with the various political sides, like Sierra club and others. The reality is that this is a human problem, and I myself am guilty of rushing to judgement on people, it is something i still work on to this day, using the same questions I’ve posted here towards my own mind.

For those of you who’ve heard my teachings before, what does that new information bring up in your minds?

What do you suppose that new information will do if you hear me speak in the future, how will it affect what you hear me say? how will you perceive my intentions behind my message?

How often do we justify not having to listen to what someone has to say, just because they are one of “those” people?

This is why it’s important to treat each person you come across as a complicated human being, a sovereign individual worthy of common decency, and strive to work against our natural inclinations to to group people in categories , make judgments, and separate yourself from others as different, or better.