May Dhamma Sharing

Dear Friend,

What is disillusionment?

It is the waking up to reality, where previously we were dreaming, we were not seeing clearly. We were assuming things were a certain way and actually, when disillusionment happens, its a recognition, “Well actually that’s not correct, they really weren’t like that. Things are not that way. OK. The reality is like this.”

And so, a growing up . . .

. . .To grow in wisdom is to be constantly disillusioned.

Because if we’re growing in wisdom, then we’re going to look back on how we understood things earlier and recognise that we were not seeing things as clearly as we are now. So by its very nature, growth on the Path is going to involve a falling away of illusion after illusion as ignorance is turned into knowledge and understanding.

So in this way of appreciating the benefits of disillusionment, we can be glad when our illusions are shattered, even if this may involve some disappointment, some upset, even despair, even trauma - when we assume things to be a certain way and we discover that they are not so.

We can see in the world around us that there’s a great need for people to step away from illusions and to wake up to reality - the reality of how we treat one another, the reality of how we treat the environment, the immature ways in which we relate to the animal world, the world of nature and to one another with callousness, disregard, disrespect - not recognising that in order to sustain our environment and our communities we have to work hard to look after one another and to look after our animal family and all the different species, all the different beings - to relate to them respectfully and with care, with Metta, with kindness, with compassion.

And to the environment also, the world we live in, which is impersonal. It doesn’t have views about things. The weather is completely . . . it’s impossible to offend the weather, or to disrespect the weather. The natural world around us is completely indifferent to our views and opinions about it.

But we do share this material realm, these elements. Earth, water, fire and air, space and consciousness are not unique to any particular being or any particular species.

And to consider this inter-relationship, this connectness, this web of life and health and that we have a part in this and its important for us for sure to take care of what we use, what we eat, how we live. Not to create a whole load of garbage. Not to make a mess of things. Not to destroy things. Not to obliterate nature in the interests of, what? Mining for diamonds? Mining for minerals, for what purpose? Burning oil, burning fossil fuels - a habit we’ve got into and one that is very destructive, very harmful for the entire environment in which we live.

And so in these ways, we need to wake up. We need to step away from the illusion of endless resources for our consumption. And to step away from treating others as anything other than ourselves.

If I hurt you then I hurt myself. If I harm any being, I’m harming myself. If I have the attitude of dehumanising or disconnecting from any other being then I’m dehumanising and disconnecting from myself. How much suffering, how much blindness in that?

And so to shed these illusions of perpetual benefits for the wealthy and privileged and disregard for the neglected and underprivileged . . . All of this, this is a growing up that so needs to happen.

And spiritually to be very awake to the willingness to let go. Let go of ideas. Let go of views. Let go of the sense of knowing anything at all. To be willing to be very open. To be a Holy Fool. To be an innocent.

And investigate these Dhamma Teachings again and again. And always with a fresh eye, a fresh heart. As if we’ve never heard them before. As if we really know nothing and we’re open to learning whatever we can.

Disillusionment can be a source of disappointment, sometimes even bitterness. You know, cynicism, turning away from situations.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Disillusionment is something we can notice and we can carefully choose our response. We don’t want to allow disillusionment to turn us away from the good, to stop us trying, to make us remove ourselves from the company of others, to dismiss or to give up on others if they are involved in this process of disillusionment that we’ve experienced, or we’re experiencing.

On the contrary, let’s consider being grateful for disillusionment. Let’s consider disillusionment as a gift. As a great boon, and a blessing and a benefit for us. Because its when the scales fall from our eyes, its when were growing up, part of the maturing into wisdom.

And so, can we combine, when we feel we’ve been disillusioned, we feel weve been let down in some way by those around us, by the teachings, by our understanding of the spiritual path . . . Whenever we feel let down by anything and disappointed, can we bring up gratitude in the heart? And see, “How can I use this disillusionment for Path? How can I turn this disillusionment into the wisdom that it is and bring it back into the mix.

Whatever situation we’re in, when we’re disillusioned we dont want to turn away, but rather to compassionately open to the truer understanding of the situation.

The Benefits 
of 
Disillusionment

Exploring the meaning of Nibbidábahulasutta SN 22.146

Life Is Practice

Exploring MN 2, Sabbásava Sutta

How to relate to every aspect of our lives 

as practice for liberation

Click here

April Dhamma Sharing

Dear Friend,

 

In many ways it’s normal for us to have a heart that is kind, that is compassionate, that is resting in well being. This is normal.

 

But we can be subject to the defilements of ill will, irritability, animosity, even hatred - through inner experiences and through interaction with the world around us - these defilements can come up.

 

And when this happens, when we’re caught up in aversion, in ill will, then loving kindness becomes something like an antidote. It’s a remedy. It’s a skilful important tool for us . . .

. . . It’s the ability to turn around even the darkest, most desperate kamma, the most difficult situations and bring in light. We can do this.

Let’s remember the power of love. How important and how needed it is in the world. How it transforms the world again and again. How this is a truly memorable quality that we can always access.

This is the real story of this existence in this human realm. This is the real story. This is the real history. That there is love. That there is compassion. That there is the rejoicing in the good of others, in the wellbeing of others. There is this this possibility of sharing. That there is peace here.

And it is up to each one of us to make it this way. We all have this responsibility.And its a call for us in every moment in a world that can seem so troubled, so desperately struggling and suffering, so confused, so misdirected the energies in this world, in this human realm. The priorities are really not such wholesome priorities often. There’s not a lot of morality necessarily manifesting on the grander scale in our human realm.

But we all have a responsibility to make it good. To make a difference and to transform the unskilful into the skilful. To transform hatred into love.

As the Buddha said, there is only one remedy for hatred, only one way out of hatred. The remedy for hatred is love.

So where there is hatred, where there is cruelty, where there is ill will, let’s remember we can bring in, we can generate and we can radiate this powerful quality of love.

Sutta Study

Aspects of Mindfulness 

Sutta Reading and discussion 
with 
Vens. Dhammānusārī, Dhammavarā, and Dhammavihārī. 
Samyutta Nikaya 47.3 

The Power of Love

The benefits of cultivating 
loving kindness

The Good News, 
the Bad News 
and 
the Truly Great News

How to make sense of this world 
and to blossom here

Click here

Sutta Study

Yamaka Sutta

Where can we put our trust?

Samyutta Nikaya 22.85

Seeds

The Buddha's simile 
in Samyutta Nikaya 22.54
Seeds of consciousness 
planted in the earth of form
watered by desire 

Laying Down the Burden

What is this burden? 
How did it get here? 
Who is carrying it?
. . . 
How to put it down

Sutta Study

Anything that has a Beginning has an End

Sutta reflection for Magha Puja Day
recalling Sariputta's stream entry realisation

 Mahakhandaka 1.14.

Far 
From the 
Madding Crowd

How to practice the Buddha's teachings on solitude and seclusion

Sutta Study
Anuruddha and 
the Great Thoughts

Investigating the teachings 
in Anguttara Nikaya 8.30

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYmFwCTQrKY

Wise Witnessing

How to witness reality to enable wisdom and free the heart from all suffering

Poisonous Privilege

Teachings from the Buddha 
on the deathly danger 
of praise
honour and renown

Entering 
the Sacred Space

A 40 minute guided meditation

on breath awareness 

Four Oceans of Tears

How Many Tears Have We Shed . . . ?

Patience is a Virtue

The noble virtue of patience, like a bridge over troubled waters

Simplicity in Diversity

January 2024
Dhamma Sharing

Dear Friend, 

Greetings and good wishes to you. I hope that you are well and thriving. 

I am well. I’m settling into life with my dear elderly parents in Wiltshire, UK. Opportunities to connect with the wider Sangha are arising. All thanks to being able to be online from wherever we are around the world. 

I’m offering Dhamma teachings again with my beloved communities in the US - Dhammadharini monastery in CA and Empty Cloud monastery in NJ . . . 

I’m co-teaching two sessions each Sunday in February with respected theri Ayya Sobhana and offering Dhamma on Wednesdays for the Empty Cloud Sangha led by Ayyas Suddhaso and Soma. 

I’ve also been connecting with my dear old monastic Chan friend, Venerable Jin Ho, honorary chaplain at Bristol University. She is based at the vibrant Multifaith Chaplaincy in the heart of the city. To spend time with her is great Dhamma nourishment. 

 

I am blessed to have the opportunity to offer teachings to her students and the wider sangha around her on Fridays in February. 

Spiritual friendship, said the Buddha, is the whole of the holy life. 

My greatest spiritual friend this lifetime is my dear 85 year old Mum, Theresa. She has determined to sit with me every evening, however weary, dedicating our efforts for peace and ceasefire in our troubled world. 

We both know well that a ceasefire has first to come about within our own hearts and minds as our meditation practice makes space for healing and peace. 

May all know the peace of harmlessness, of kindliness. 

May we all know the happiness of letting go of self centred habits. 

May all beings open to the joy of serving and supporting one another, in peace and friendship. 

Upcoming retreats 

12 - 16 June at Sunyata Ireland - 

www.sunyatacentre.org 

8 - 16 July Ekuthuleni rustic retreat - 

www.ekuthuleni.org 

** And a special announcement ** 

New monastery in Apulia, Italia 

See www.emptycloud.it 

for news and a chance to contribute

December 2023
Dhamma sharing 

Greetings and good wishes for the New Year

Dear Friend,

I hope you are well, happy and peaceful. The festive season can be joyful, or it can be lonely and sad. We know that it may be a time of counting the blessings, warm and safe and surrounded by family and friends for many, while for others right now it is a time of great suffering, trauma and loss.

However it is for you, may the goodwill of this holiday manifest all around you and within you.

May we continue to develop tender hearts of compassion for the suffering in the world, rejoice in the goodness that is apparent and maintain loving kindness and peace as wise response to every situation.

November 2023
Dhamma Sharing

I'm well and hope that you are also well in every way. I'm experiencing a profound sense of homecoming nowadays, as I am staying on with my parents in an open-ended way, in their lovely home and village in the UK. 

It's a homecoming especially in the sense of deeply stilling and entering into the heart. Being with old age is a slowing down. An embracing of impermanence. A welcome to the truth of not knowing. A letting go. 

It's beautiful to be here with my dear elderly Mum and Dad. A chance to repay some of the great love and care that I have received from them my whole life and to keep cultivating love, care and patience, opening to nature, to Dhamma.

A Contemplation

From The Greater Discourse of the Buddha on the Mass of Suffering 
MN 13

". . . With sensual pleasures as the cause, sensual pleasures as the source, sensual pleasures as the basis, the cause being simply sensual pleasures - kings quarrel with kings, nobles with nobles, brahmins with brahmins, householders with householders, mother quarrels with child, child with mother, father with child, child with father; brother quarrels with brother, brother with sister, sister with brother, friend with friend.

 

 

 

 

 

.

And here in our quarrels, brawls and disputes we attack each other with fists, clods, sticks or knives, whereby we incur death or deadly suffering . . . We take swords and shields and buckle on bows and quivers, and we charge into battle massed in double array with arrows and spears flying and swords flashing; and there we are wounded by arrows and spears, and our heads are cut off by swords, whereby we incur death or deadly suffering. This too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures . . . the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

. . . And we charge slippery bastions, and we are wounded by arrows and spears, splashed with boiling liquids and crushed under heavy weights . . . And we break into houses, plunder wealth, commit burglary . . .

 

Thus, we, people indulge in misconduct of body, speech and mind. Having done so, on the dissolution of the body, after death, we reappear in states of deprivation, an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell. This too is a danger in the case of sensual pleasures . . . the cause being simply sensual pleasures.

 

And what is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures?

 

It is the removal of desire and lust, the abandonment of desire and lust for sensual pleasures. This is the escape in the case of sensual pleasures

 

Healing Dhamma 

A burning question for this time is, "How do we allow ourselves to open to the pain and grief of our sisters, our brothers, our children without bitterness? Without trauma? Without re-enacting and extending the pain, like a voracious fire that ravages everything in its path?

 The trauma that we share in our human family is surely all of our work. It is our Dhamma duty to attend to it, the air that we breathe, the life and death we all share. 

Can our collective grief and trauma bring us closer together? Can we recognise our inseparability? 

For how can I be happy without you sharing my happiness? And how can you be in fear and pain without me being affected? 

May the practice of meditation continue to help and guide us in healing the human world from within. May we have the possibility to stop, to sit and to feel. To breathe deeply. To allow and to open to the collective suffering and make peace within us. 

No thought is required, no view, no solution. No side, no stance, no holding back, no other. We are surely all alive in this world to wake up. To heal and repent. To apologise. To mourn fully and release the pain that makes us feel separate and reactive. To see for what they are the projections of our unfinished healing onto the creations we call "other". 

There is no other. We are us. All that happens in this world can be known, felt bone deep and understood. My body, my blood. One family, one land. 

This is the invitation. From the broken hearted, the maimed and the defeated. From the unheard, the alone and the lost. "May we be seen! May we be heard! May we be held tenderly in consciousness. May our suffering be acknowledged, fully felt and owned. May we be welcomed warmly home. May we heal and know our true potential, the natural resting place that is love, compassion, joy and peace. 

October 2023 News

We are told of heavenly messengers 
or, in Pali, Devaduta


They are sickness, ageing and death. They remind us of the truth of our fragile existence.

Are are other heavenly messengers we could consider? War, famine, thirst . . . climate change?

The Buddha described the first three mentioned here - as well as the message of those who have renounced the world to follow the spiritual path, to search for truth.

Truth is elusive in our everyday life. Lies and distortions of reality are commonplace. It is difficult to know where we stand, to have any sense of common ground, or of any solid, secure foundation to rest upon. The Buddha told us that the whole world is shaking, unstable, inconstant. There is no refuge here for us.

The only shelter from the storms, the only real refuge is Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. Simply put - awareness, truth and community. Or we could say, The Buddha, the Teachings and Those who have realised the way out of suffering by understanding the Teachings.

May we stand firmly in this Way of practice and be guided and nourished by the timeless Dhamma taught by the Buddha in northern India 2,700 years ago - that which is always apparent, universally applicable, freely offered to everybody everywhere.

May all beings 
be free from suffering 
and its causes

The Palestinian people of Gaza and beyond 

are living with thirst, hunger, homelessness, destruction, fear, trauma and grief. They surely have a clearer sense of change, of loss and of impending death than most. They are living and manifesting now more than ever the vulnerability, the defencelessness of our human state. The heavenly messengers are all around for us to see.

May the sacrifice and immense suffering of the women, men and children in Gaza today be a source of liberation of hearts and minds so that this genocide can have some meaning, some purpose even as their immense suffering unfolds at this terrible time.

Free Palestine.

from A Walk In The Woods by Ven. Khantipalo 

All compounds break down 
All made things fall into pieces 
All conditioned things pass away 

With the passing away of those conditions 

Everything and everybody 

(That includes you and me) 

Deteriorates, ages, decays 

Breaks up and passes away 

And we, 

Living in the forest of desires 

Are entirely composed of the impermanent 

Yet our desire tells us to not see this 
Though impermanence stares us in the face 
From every single thing around us 

And it confronts us when we look within 

Mind and body Arising and passing away 

So don't turn on the TV, go to the pictures, read a book seek some food 

Or 100 other distractions Just to avoid seeing this 

This is the one thing really worth seeing 

For one who fully sees it in themselves is free.

September 2023 News

Dear Friends, 

Warm greetings and good wishes to you from early autumn breezes, reddening maple leaves, cloudy skies and chill morning air on a mountain ridge monastery in New Jersey. 

The Vassa at Empty Cloud is coming to a close. It has been a precious time of communal harmony, shared Vinaya studies, walks in nature and Dhamma explorations over cups of green tea poured by our Venerable Abbot and brother Ayya Suddhaso. 

I'm full of gratitude for fellow monastics Ayyas Suvijjana, Suddhaso, Sanathavihara, Soma and our inspiring teenage brother Samanera Vaddha for this time together. 

I will be saying goodbye and returning to Europe in a few days, to spend time with family and friends in Ireland, Scotland and England for the month of October. 

May I wish you all well in these times of great upheaval for brothers and sisters in so many parts of the world, where wild weather has been a cause of devastating loss of loved ones as well as homes and whole communities. 

May our deepening understanding and practise of the Buddha's teachings in our lives bring inner safety and strength of heart, for self and others. 

With Metta and appreciation, Ayya Brahmavara

Monk Chat 19.09.23

Dhamma conversation with an assortment of great questions

from the Empty Cloud online community

Monk Chat  

Questions and answers 

covering a broad range of Dhamma topics 

from Empty Cloud monastery 

Vassa 2023

August 2023 News

Dear Friends,

Thank you for subscribing to my website and/or supporting my life as a bhikkhuni.

I am in the midst of the Vassa, or annual three months' 'rains retreat', at Empty Cloud monastery in New Jersey. We are a happy community of six monastics. This week we are focusing on meditation practice. Other times we give time and energy to Vinaya studies. It is good to learn from one another and to sit together.

We are offering teachings mostly in house, on weekends. These are not recorded. However there are also online Dhamma sharings a few times each week

- https://www.youtube.com/@BuddhistInsights/streams

This summer has felt to me to be the best of times to consider uncertainty, this aspect of anicca, as the climate has been changing even more rapidly than expected. We're all witnessing unprecedented ice cap melt, forest fires, floods and record breaking temperatures on both hemispheres of our beautiful planet.

With these events unfolding, I've been contemplating the Buddha's teachings on dependent co-arising, cause and effect. Recognising how nothing happens without reason. This great way of seeing gives perspective and even though the process is painful, leads to peace and understanding.

From this resourced vantage point, it seems clear that the call is for compassion, for kindness and for calm amidst the storms.

How may I help? Can I engage in rightful action to support myself and others?

Here are some reflections on this theme - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXh6PCz8- . . . the Dhamma talk follows a 30 minute guided meditation. 
 

May we all be guided in this enquiry by the Buddha's ever helpful, timeless Dhamma teachings

With an abundance of gratitude, good wishes and loving kindness for us all and for the Buddha Dhamma, our greatest treasure.

A whole host 
of Dhamma questions

Monk Chat at Empty Cloud monastery is an invitation for all those random Dhamma questions that may pop up to be answered. 

Here's Bhante Suddhaso and myself taking the opportunity to speak on Dhamma 

thanks to these great Qs

Monk Chat 
from Empty Cloud

A far ranging discussion on Dhamma 

with Ayya Soma and Samanera Vaddha

with thanks to all the great Dhamma questions from our lay friends

The Good News 
of Thai bhikkhunis

With thanks to Venerable Ayya Khemavamsi

A Conversation about Samadhi

Sharing of experience of Samadhi practice

with fellow samanas Ayya Sudhasso and Ayya Khemavamsi

The Many Forms 
of Conceit

A conversation on Mána 

with Ayya Khemavamsi Bhikkhuni

Simplicity 
and 
Renunciation

with Bhante Suddhaso

Back to the monastery

7 July 2023

Settling in at Empty Cloud monastery, it's a joy to see Ayyas Suvijjana and Soma along with Bhantes Suddhaso and Mettiko again. 

I have the honour too of meeting two Venerable bhikkhunis from Thailand who are staying with us for two weeks - Ayya Punnyasiri and Ayya Khemavamsi 

Last but not least, it's a joy to meet Samanera Vaddho, aged 19 from Ohio, a most inspiring younger brother who completes our happy monastic group of eight. 

Here is a conversation with our esteemed visiting Thai Venerables -

Auspicious time

1 July 2023

As I travel to the US and Empty Cloud monastery today, I am feeling the blessings of this auspicious time . . .

First European bhikkhuni ordinations are happening today at Aneñja Vihāra in Germany - http://anenja-vihara.org/


 Recently, the 80th birthday of most respected bhikkhuni Elder, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo - https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLQfTnGpIJDBQi8GIUtqcmIHdz4GuUhdij&fbclid=IwAR0mV4aMSn7v-wpVOBwKusgm4h05OdZoxIBLy34VSm3OPK0UseLBToAcw5g


40th Anniversary Celebrations today at Wat Buddhanusorn in California, dear Luang Por Ajahn Maha Prasert's 77th Birthday and his promotion by royal decree as a leading senior monk to "Chaokhun Thep." - https://www.watbuddha.org/

 And tomorrow is Asalha Puja, the Full moon Uposatha Day and start of Vassa 2023 for many in the Theravada Buddhist world.

I'll be spending the Vassa at Empty Cloud - click the link below for the monastery website . . . so grateful to be able to practise with the Sangha there 🙏🏾

Dealing with Anger

An interview with friend Kim Mulligan 

on how to relate to anger

The Pacific Coast

27 March 2023

Scenes from our community day out in nature last week.

Meditating on the sea . . . opening the mind wide to aniccasañña, with the only constant the ebb and flow of the waves . . .

Currently in Sonoma County, CA

9 March 2023 

Staying at Dhammadhārinī monastery with bhikkhunis, samaneras, anagarikas and lay friends.

Grateful for practice in community, the opportunity to support respected senior bhikkhunis as they are in secluded retreat - Ayya Tathaloka here at Dhammadharini monastery and Ayya Sobhana at Aranya Bodhi, our redwood forest hermitage near the coast 

Peaceful winter retreat time for the Sangha here, with occasional uplifting visitations from good Sangha friends.

Donations towards Ayya's requisites 

of food, shelter, medicine and travel 

gratefully received

here

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