MEDITATION AT THE VIHARA



MEDITATION 2009

INTRODUCTORY MEDITATION

ADVANCED MEDITATION

PRACTICE IN THE SHRINE ROOM

BOWING THE TRIPLE GEMS

RETREATAT THE VIHARA

OFFERING IN THE SHRINE ROOM




INTRODUCTORY MEDITATION

Introductory Meditation is held on every Thursday evening from 7:30pm to around 9pm. This class introduces the two Theravadin methods of meditation: Anapana (breathing) and Vipassana (insight) and concludes with a Metta (loving kindness) meditation. Sitting is for a relatively short period with help given throughout and as personally needed. There is an opportunity for questions and answers at the end of the sitting practice. This class is suitable for the beginner with no experience of meditation practice.

Having learnt the basic technique of meditation, practitioners are welcome to move on to the Monday evening class. This class provides the opportunity to develop your understanding and knowledge as well as an opportunity to extend your sitting practice.


ADVANCED MEDITATION

Advanced Meditation is held every Monday evening at 7:30pm. Due to the longer sitting time, it is recommended that one first attend the introductory meditation class. However, anyone with prior experience of meditation is welcome to this class. The meditation evening starts with about fifteen minutes of chanting. (Chanting is not praying but calling to mind the words of the Buddha.) This chanting, which involves taking refuge in the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha and the Taking of Five Precepts, is not obligatory, and you are welcome to just sit silently observing throughout.

You do not need to wear any special clothing but what you do wear should be loose and comfortable and enable you to sit cross-legged on the floor. Chairs are available for those who do not feel able to sit on the floor. After chanting there will be a period of silent meditation for around forty-five minutes which ends with Metta Meditation.

Monday class provides the opportunity to listen to a Dhamma talk on Buddhist concepts such as Kamma, Metta and Dukkha given usually by a monk. Occasionally senior practitioners or guests are invited to speak. The talks often generate questions and the evening concludes with a question and answer period. Any difficulties in your meditation practice can be discussed with the teaching monk who will always be available to offer you help and advice. The evening ends around 9pm.


PRACTICE IN THE SHRINE ROOM

Following Buddhist custom we remove our shoes before entering the Shrine Room. Most people will develop their ability to sit on the floor but those with physical problems can use a chair. Mats and cushions are provided and you are welcome to use as many as you consider helpful to your sitting. It is considered disrespectful to point your feet towards the shrine or at another meditator, so you should learn other postures for when the pain or discomfort of continuing to sit in a cross-legged position becomes impossible.

It should be noted here that you will often be advised in meditation practice to remain as long as possible with the pain of sitting as this is a powerful way of being in contact with sensation, knowing the painful nature of the body. However, no-one expects you to suffer unduly, so when the pain becomes too severe, quietly, gently and mindfully move to another, more comfortable, posture. You should have a calm and quiet attitude of mind but this does not stop lively discussion taking place!


BOWING THE BUDDHA

When you visit Buddhist Pagodas, Viharas and Temples you will see people bowing and may be intrigued to know what is going on. If you come to Monday class you will see people bowing three times. What they are doing is bowing to the quality of Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha (it is called Going for Refuge).

Firstly, they take refuge in the qualities of the Buddha (not only in gratitude to the Buddha Himself for the teachings that he left for us, but also in acknowledgement of our own essential purity and in acknowledgement of our own Buddha nature or enlightenment nature - that to which we aspire through our practice). Secondly, they bow to the Dhamma (the teachings of the Buddha and the inherent nature of existence which has ever been truth for both mankind and the universe) and finally, they bow to the Sangha (the community of monks and nuns who are an example in practice of the Buddha's teachings; beings who aspire to practice the Dhamma to its ultimate conclusion: enlightenment).

It has been said that the practice of bowing is akin to idol worship. This is not so. There is no worship involved, just an outward expression of love, gratitude and respect. As your practice develops your feelings of gratitude, respect and of compassion to other beings will arise spontaneously. The desire to bow in gratitude to the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha will develop with the gradual purification of the ego and self-realisation to the truth.
There are different ways of bowing but the way we bow in the Theravadin tradition is to kneel with both hands joined (a way of centring heart and mind) and held in the breast region. Both hands are then placed flat on the floor and the body bends to enable the forehead to touch the floor.


DWELLING RETREAT

(I) WEEKEND RETREAT

Weekend Retreats provide the opportunity for a period of intensive practice and learning under the guidance of experienced teachers in an environment of peace and harmony. They are open to all who feel ready to take their practice a stage further.

The weekend begins on a Friday evening at 8pm and ends at 4pm on the Sunday. However, the flexible nature of these weekend retreats means that you are able to join in on occasional sessions if your commitments are such that you are not able to come for the whole time. A total commitment and determination to develop your practice is strongly recommended for whatever length of time you are able to attend. Throughout the weekend you will be expected to keep Eight Precepts, one of which is the precept not to eat after 12 noon. This is waived in exceptional circumstances, such as for health reasons.

Accommodation is provided in en-suite three-bed rooms, men and women in separate wings of the building. You are requested to bring along your own bedding although some is available if necessary. On some weekend retreats volunteers come in to cook, however this cannot be guaranteed. Always check beforehand as you may need to bring ready-made food with you. There is a fully fitted kitchen and fridge/freezer facilities and a microwave are available.

(II) ONE DAY RETREAT

One-day retreats are usually held on the second Saturday of the month. However, you are advised to contact us either by phone or by e-mail as changes to our programme do occur. One-day retreats start at 9.30am and end by 4.00pm although the final question and answer period has been known to take the finishing time to as late as 5.00pm due to the interest such questions and answers generate. In general you will be expected to bring a packed lunch with you. However, there are occasions when lunch will be prepared for you, so this will need checking beforehand.

(III)ONE WEEK OR TEN DAY RETREAT

Except for rarely we do not, at present, run one week or ten day retreats due to limitations of space. Our next stage of development will be the building of a Dhamma Hall and when this happens long retreats will become part of our programme.

OFFERINGS IN THE SHRINE ROOM

There are three offerings (puja) usually made to the shrine:

1. Flowers These symbolise the changing nature of existence and its transience. We are reminded that just as a bloom develops, fades and dies, so too are we subject to birth, ageing, decay and death.

2. Candles The candle flame symbolises the knowledge of enlightenment

3. Incense symbolises the effects of good deeds that spread in all directions as does the fragrance of incense.
Meditation, ceremonies and discourses are held in the shrine room, which is in the Burmese style, with a magnificent golden throne and marble statue of the Buddha.


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