Sakyadhita Canada
   OCTOBER, 2016

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  In September some  contributors, and members of Sakyadhita Canada were very  fortunate  to attend an 8 day silent meditation retreat on the Sunshine coast of BC. facilitated by the Dhamma Buddhist Society. 
Retreat was lead by Venerable Madawela Punnaji Maha Thera.   (affectionally known as Bhante Punnaji.) A Theravada monk, an author, a scholar of the Pali Canon, has extensive studies in science, medicine, philosophy and comparative religion, world history and western psychology. He currently lives in Malaysia. 

Bhante Punnaji was born in Sri Lanka in Nov. 1929 and has undertaken life long research to discover the original teachings of the Buddha, which he has found to be different from all the modern schools of Buddhisim.
" All the forms of Buddhism present in the modern world are cultural modifications and not exactly what the Buddha taught "

For me to reiterate here, even a fraction of what was expressed at retreat would be futile. But I encourage you to explore his teachings and come to your own conclusions.
As the Buddha pointed out, "I don't lead the blind to their destination by holding hands. I help them regain their visions, and point the path, so that they can find their way by themselves."

Following, are a few shared reflections by some retreat participants. 
Much gratitude to those who shared. This is not always an easy path, and often harder to put into words.

" R E T R E A T "
(: to retreat, withdraw, to escape something hazardous or unpleasant. :A place of privacy, peace, and quiet)
Many of us have a  favourite spot we like to 'retreat' to, or 'get away' to. Perhaps a forest walk, a quiet park, or even a room of our own.
But then what? What exactly are we drawn to in this retreat? And can we be open and welcoming to what may arise? 
Being with only our own naked mental activities can seem very appealing, and then 'Jekyll and Hyde' into something quite scary and challenging.
A good retreat will offer a quiet, gentle place for us to explore whatever arises.

I asked for some reflection on what stood out after 8 days of Bhante's extraordinary teaching, and 8 days of personal introspection.
May this be helpful for all:

"Bhante Punnaji has devoted decades translating and interpreting the Buddha's teachings. What he has shared with us is his distillation, which he conveys in the simplest of terms. Two things stay with me most strongly in terms of practice: First and fundamentally, relax the body to calm the mind. Four simple steps when focusing attention within (Satipatthana translated as insight through "introspection" rather than "mindfulness"): 1) note the body's movements (walking or the breath), 2) is the body tense or relaxed (if tense, then consciously relax), 3) note the emotional state, whether agitated or calm, and 4), note any thoughts that arise that interpret circumstances. Secondly, I contemplate that a broad mind achieved through practicing Metta or "universal benevolence" is a happy mind. On the other hand, a narrow mind (focused on Self) is an unhappy mind. 
Bhante's Metta meditation: "May all beings be well, comfortable, peaceful, and happy."

Bhante Puniji's clear succinct translations from Pali to English were so very helpful for me. Simple and 'relatively' easy to apply. 
One day in walking meditation I was focusing on his talk about 'Dispassion'.  A strong emotion was arising and I asked myself to 'step outside' the emotion as he had talked about. Not really knowing how to do that, I focused on 'feeling' his words ..... eventually I shifted to a new experience of actually 'standing outside'.  There was no need to get rid of the emotions or do anything with them, simply stand outside. Surprisingly, the moment I 'stepped outside', endless compassion, peace & clarity replaced all the worry, concern, anxiety.  My mind was so very clear and calm.  I was 'seeing' differently, connected to life not cutoff in any way as I had imagined dispassion to be.  
I'm now totally sold on dispassion, and humbly practicing with no shortage of emotions arising!
I am so very grateful for all of Bhante's talks, translations, repetition and his direct, clear approach to the teachings.  With the simplicity of his translations and approach I have come away feeling more confident in being able to bring this into my life. 

Some of Bhante's phrases  that really helped me included: 
· The more you observe the more you begin to  understand. 
· The past does not exist. We think it exists because we are in delusion of existence. The paradigm shift is from existence to experience.  
· It is not mindfulness, it is introspection. Bhante says the word mindfulness is not correct as we do not want a full mind. Rather we want an empty mind. He says we need to cultivate a happiness of mind, comfort of body and tranquility of mind.
·  Universal benevolence (which many call Loving Kindness, but Bhante prefers to call it Universal benevolence) is meant to rid ourselves of selfishness by focusing on others and directing our thoughts towards the universal well-being of all beings. That brings an end to suffering.  He uses the phrase - "May all being be well, comfortable (relaxed in body), peaceful and happy".  He had us start with self and then move out to our building, neighbourhood, city, province, country, continent, world,  universe, galaxy, cosmos and beyond that! He had us practice this for a full day even in walking meditation. I've never done a full day including five hours of walking reciting universal benevolence. That was very helpful for me to not fall into my usual sloth & torpor state,  and to see more clearly the insight of No-Self.

I was indeed grateful to participate.  How special to be in Bhante's presence, to meditate with experienced fellow practitioners, to hear a clear and detailed explanation of the original teachings of the Buddha, to receive instructions on both the importance of the relaxation of the tensions in the body, and how to still the mind.
To pick a couple of things that affected me is not easy, as there were many. However, the first would be Bhante's teachings on "to awaken from the dream of existence". (Paticca Samuppada)
  The second was Bhante's explanation of the Satipatthāna Sutta (Systematic Introspection) - the 'why' and the 'how' of the system of Buddhist meditation. In so doing, all suffering comes to an end.

To explore more of the original teachings of the Buddha by Venerable Punnaji Maha Thera, please visit:

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