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Dhamma Practice and Leaving Worldly Pursuits

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  • Dhamma Practice and Leaving Worldly Pursuits

    Dear Venerable,

    1) A) I hope all is well at your end. I find the more I practice Dhamma, the less interest I have in other pursuits in life such as traveling, going out to socialize with people, etc. Such lack of interest is not in a depressive way. Quite the contrary. I find that with deepening Dhamma and meditation practice, peace, happiness, and contentment settle into the heart so one doesn't care much for other sensory pleasures and pursuits. The heart turns away from worldly pursuits and delights in Dhamma practice. It's quite a natural maturing along the spiritual path. So the most natural lifestyle for me has been that of an 8-precepts keeper (being flexible with the rule of not eating in the afternoon).

    I want to know, as a layman should I still pursue other hobbies such as traveling, e.g. to places of natural beauty? Although at this point in life I don't find it regrettable that I'm not more out there exploring the world because as Ajahn Brahm says something to the effect, "A tree here, a tree there, it's all quite the same." So no need to spend unnecessary money on traveling for sensory pleasures.

    Personally though, if possible I would rather go to quiet forest monasteries such as Bodhinyana or Dhammasara and others (which are more nearby) to experience a monastic environment dedicated to earnest Dhamma practice. However, I don't want to get attached to romantic ideas of meditating in a kuti in the forest. Especially if this is not possible for me, I can spend all of my life in simplicity and Dhamma practice at home, but I don't want to regret later in life that perhaps I should've seen more of the world, such as quiet, contemplative places of natural beauty, particularly forest monasteries as mentioned above.

    So is it okay to content myself with Dhamma practice at home? Or should I take a trip every now and then somewhere nice, including spiritual places like monasteries so I don't regret in my old age that I spent a good chunk of my life on the cushion meditating at home when I could have explored the world a bit?

    B) Is contenting myself with dedicated Dhamma practice at home for my entire life (as pretty much an 8-precepts keeper) even regrettable? As the quote goes, "Suffering is thinking happiness lies elsewhere." How should I view this matter so I don't have any regrets in old age (although I have no regrets about it at this point in my life)?

    2) It is saddening to see that in some countries in the Buddhist world nationalist Buddhist monks sometimes preach hatred against other ethnic minorities. I just wanted to know even in such a social climate, are there still pure monks and nuns in these countries that hold dear the true Buddha Dhamma of love and compassion for all? Do such pure monastics in these affected countries preach goodness, love, respect, and compassion for all regardless of ethnicity, religion, etc to counter the discriminatory opinions of the nationalist monks? I would appreciate if you could share what you know about this topic.

    Thank you very much for your time Venerable.

    Warmest regards.
    Last edited by Haca Ce; 18th-November-2020, 10:26 PM.

  • #2
    Hello Haca,

    I would like add my two cents on that topic.

    For one thing, I would say that it is up to you to regret something or not. If one applies some wisdom one does have some kind of choice there I think.
    I do understand your desire to travel, I'm not free from that either. And I also think that travelling can expand one's horizon. But so can reading books. Or studying. Or getting to know new interesting people in one's home of choice. If done properly. It is also possible to travel the whole world and yet remain ignorant.

    As you know I by now practise "Dhamma" from the secular side of things. But here we also go into ethical questions, and they are to be addressed whether one follows a non-secular approach or not. Here is some food for thought. Interestingly, it is an urgent issue that - for whatever reason - so far I did not see addressed by any Buddhist monastic whosoever.

    The issue is that there is a huge ethical dilemma involved with travelling, or rather: the means of transport for travelling. As mentioned, I so far didn't see this issue addressed by any Buddhist monastic, and only scarcely by lay practitioners - if at all. It regards the issue of the environmental impact of air travel. To anyone who does not know about the environmental impact of air travels I would strongly suggest to fill that gap of education, especially if they are devoted to a spiritual path of ethics.

    I personally avoid air travels as, quite frankly, I think that that from an environmental point of view this means of transport needs to be considered criminal. I could go into detail here why I think so if you like, but for the sake of simplicity, I leave it at that.

    Now, I know some Buddhist practitioners who even are aware of the environmental impact caused by air travel. But they do it anyway, resorting to excuses along the lines of:

    "The amount of good karma created by the Dhamma practice abroad fair outweighs the bad karma due to the environmental harm, and after all it is only the intention that matters..."
    To that I say: from a secular point of view that argument is nonsense.
    But even from a non-secular point of view that point would be highly questionable. Unless one lives in, say, a very strict Muslim country I think that it is not necessary to travel to distant places in order to practice Dhamma. But even in that case there might be means of public transport by land available in order to get to a destination that is more suitable for Dhamma practice.

    In the past I had been traveling with airplanes myself, as I was young and unaware of the impact. Later on, I payed some money to climate compensation companies. I've by now learned a bit more about that (I worked in the energy industry before), which lead me to consider that as a kind of "sale of indulgences". Not as bad, but not much better. So that is why I decided to never again enter an airplane for holiday purposes. However, living in Central Europe I am in the lucky position to be able to travel to many interesting places by public transport by land.

    As I see from your profile, you live in Canada. I think that there should be an abundance of natural beauty within reach, which I would consider to be very suitable for Dhamma practice. However, if you find that interesting forest monasteries are out of reach for you, and the only way to access them is by air travel, I would recommend you take to heart the above mentioned ethical considerations for that endeavour. Aren't there interesting monasteries in Canada or US as well which you can reach by ground-based means of public transport?

    I said in the beginning that it is "up to you" whether you regret not having spent time on traveling.
    However, I suggest that you don't regret not having traveled, but regret having traveled by air - for ethical reasons.

    May this give you inspiration and help you on your way.

    Kind regards
    Last edited by Michael Steinfeld; 3rd-December-2019, 06:39 AM.


    • #3
      Hello Michael,

      Thanks for your great input! I've never been a big fan of air travel and rarely fly, and you've given me a really solid reason to avoid unnecessary air travel all together. I'm grateful for that! As you mentioned and I agree, there is a lot of natural beauty in Canada as well as at least one forest monastery and a hermitage in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Chah (plus a bhikkhuni forest monastery) in my province, all reachable by ground transport.

      I've leaned towards ground public transportation for environmental reasons especially if I need to travel some distance and now I have additional impetus to do so. You have made me aware of the ethical dilemmas around air travel. So thank you for the further inspiration!

      I also appreciate your point that "it is up to you to regret something or not. If one applies some wisdom one does have some kind of choice there I think." Well said.

      Kind regards and be well.


      • #4
        Dear Haca Ce,

        1. If practising the Dhamma is making you content – how wonderful! In fact, it is just our proliferating mind that likes to be busy and comes up with all these potential problems. I can say for myself that I have travelled quite a bit - and now when I look back, they are all just faded memories.

        Nothing compared to the happiness of a pure life.

        It is fortunate that you have such good experiences. I don’t think your practise is inadequate if the result is joy and contentment. Many people come to the Dhamma and do not have such wholesome results as you have – so do not take your experiences lightly.

        If you do think that you might be missing out on something – then take a short trip – mindfully – and compare it (honestly) with your homely life.

        If you feel you are missing out on ‘spiritual places’, in my opinion, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will come.’

        2. Indeed it is a terrible thing to see what happens in so-called Buddhist countries. What human beings do to other human beings, whether they are ordained or not. For myself, I try to cultivate compassion, for all parties.

        As a Sri Lankan originally, I have some information only of what is happening in that country, not in Burma for example. Yes, there is a small but strong and growing movement of ‘good’ monastics - more than 100 or even 10 years ago - who practice and preach the true Dhamma. Because of media and cheap travel, their voices are heard not only in Sri Lanka but among its diaspora. Many of these monastics are relatively young and surprisingly wise. So I have faith in the Sangha in Sri Lanka, though I may be biased.


        • #5
          Dear Venerable Upekkha,

          Thank you very much for taking time out from your schedule to provide your valuable your insights. I truly appreciate it!

          1) You make a very, very wise point when you say, "If you do think that you might be missing out on something - then take a short trip - mindfully - and compare it (honestly) with your homely life."

          I realize I have done that on many occasions and always come to the conclusion that my homely life of Dhamma practice is best for me. It's left to see if staying at a monastery would be better, but to be honest, at this stage in life I find plenty of inspiration to have a dedicated and fulfilling Dhamma practice at home. My home is my spiritual sanctuary. I think it's as you say, the "proliferating mind" just comes up with ways to make me think I might be "missing out" on something when in fact I have a happy practice at home. Again, as the quote goes, "Suffering is thinking happiness lies elsewhere."

          I appreciate your thoughts on my second question as well. I'm glad that the Sangha in Sri Lanka inspires faith. That makes me hopeful too.

          The BSWA Sangha especially inspires a lot of confidence in me, particularly Bodhinyana Monastery and Dhammasara Monastery. So thank you for all the hard work as well as inspiration you and all the members of the BSWA are providing

          Actually, when I want to recollect the virtues of the Sangha, i.e. Sanghanussati, I imagine the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis at Bodhinyana and Dhammasara.

          2) On the topic of anussati, I have a question.

          As part of anussati recollections to inspire my meditation, can I recollect/visualize the beauty of nature? Nature is inextricably linked to Buddhism in my mind as the Buddha was born, lived, and passed away in the forest. Plus, I love Buddhist art and aesthetics such as Zen gardens, Zen paintings, haiku, and so on. So visualizing nature inspires me as much or even more than actually seeing it in person, especially since it's also a meditation. Nature recollection/visualization inspires me similar to Buddhanussati and Dhammanussati, especially when I feel/imagine the soft presence of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.

          It's kind of my own contemplative anussati which I do sometimes and for me it fulfills the purpose of the anussati, which as is expounded in the Mahanama Sutta (AN6.10) and Paṭhamamahānāma Sutta (AN11.11), causes one to "find joy in the meaning and the Dhamma, and find joy connected with the Dhamma. When you're joyful, rapture springs up. When the mind is full of rapture, the body becomes tranquil. When the body is tranquil, you feel bliss. And when you're blissful, the mind becomes immersed in samadhi."

          So I guess if such a recollection, anussati works for me and inspires me in my meditation practice, it's fine to do and incorporate into my spiritual practice, correct?

          A deep thank you again Venerable Upekkha for your time and input.

          Kind regards.


          • #6
            Hello Haca,

            you are welcome. Thanks for considering it!

            Kind regards



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