Upavana Blog

Upavana Teachings and News

Upavana posts regularly through Facebook. These posts include dhamma reflections, updates on online and in-person events, and links to recorded talks by various teachers. The posts also appear here.

What is Faith? What is Refuge? - Tahn Pamutto June 11, 2021

Following the gathering at the end of May commemorating the Buddhist holiday of Vesak, there's been a lot of interest and questions on the topic of Faith. What is it? How does one develop it? How does one practice recollecting the primary objects of Faith and Refuge - the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha?


In this follow-up talk given on the New Moon night, Tahn Pamutto offers reflections on what Faith actually means, and points out the way the term is used in popular culture might not actually be the thing we're trying to grow in.


As it turns out, there's a difference between Faith and Belief. In terms of mindstates, one blind belief is not much different from any other. We're gambling that the thing we believe is true. This is the danger of blind faith. A deeply devoted believer in a particular religion is no different in this way from a mentally disturbed individual convinced that something is true even if everyone around disagrees. It's the same faculty of mind at work.


Instead, the Buddha exhorted his students to not cultivate blind faith on any grounds - as in the Kalama Sutta (AN 3:65): - "Don't believe on the grounds of oral tradition or strength of teaching lineage, not by hearsay or book learning, by logic or inference, not by working it out for yourself, not because the speaker seems competent or even because you think, 'This person is my teacher.'"


The Faith we cultivate in this spiritual practice is the confidence in those things that we can prove to ourselves - based on things we have seen proven true again and again. This is the kind of Faith that grows stronger and bears fruit; the faith that allows us to overcome obstacles not by mere prayer but by an internal confidence in reliable processes of mind and nature.


Tahn Pamutto goes on to describe the Triple Gem, and how these are not objects of blind faith by spiritual principles we help us work past three of our biggest obstacles in life: Pain, Fear, and Illness.


What is Faith? What is Refuge? - YouTube

New Moon Uposatha - Tahn Pamutto June 10, 2021

Today is the Uposatha, meaning this evening there will be our online program starting at 8pm EDT with meditation, precepts and dhamma talk. Enthusiastic meditators can stay after for additional informal meditation until midnight EDT.

Info at:

https://www.upavana.org/events

Upavana now has a property for meditations and events, but no internet or electricity there. We really are close to nature! In order to reach the whole community on this day of practice, the session will be broadcast on Zoom with no in-person component. But stay tuned as this is a work in progress. If you would like to support getting us hooked up off-grid, check out the wish list or donation options on:

https://www.upavana.org/support-upavana

The Bamboo Grove - Tahn Pamutto June 6, 2021

Upavana now has a piece of property to take root in, a camper which can be a meeting place and shelter for monastics through the summer, and has already seen much in the way of its mission of building community. Though much of this has come about seemingly all at once, it is the fruition of a strong, clear intention, a bit of faith, and some hard work.

“When you ask the universe for something,” a friend said recently, “you should be very sure what it is you want. And be ready! -- you just might get it.”

That simple advice has been resonating a lot recently. Part of returning to western mass and the wandering monk way of life was setting a very strong intention for a community - thinking of a place, some basic services to provide, and thinking of structures to start with. At the beginning of May, Upavana had its first online ‘open house’ to discuss some of these points and get word out.

For several weeks it wasn’t clear that anything was happening, but that’s the way it goes. Checking out rental units, searching online lists for campers and pop-up tents. Then, last Wednesday, everything came together. Like most things that come from Faith and Hard Work, the results have been better and more accurate to the original intention than could reasonably be expected.

A good friend, Rich, has offered a piece of property in Leverett, MA, until it sells or until Upavana can arrange to buy it. The land is four acres of level field with a clean, gushing well and some of the healthiest, tallest Japanese Knotweed I’ve ever seen. The property, lush with the bamboo-like plant, has been lovingly named Veluvana - “The Bamboo Grove”, in remembrance of the first monastery given to the Buddha.

The camper was a bit of a mess, but American monks have to do a lot of renovation, and a trained eye could see through the grime that the base was good. It came with more open space than most campers - perfect for a shrine and chanting/meditation.

The Bamboo Grove is not yet a public site available for drop-in, but friends are welcome to arrange to visit. The first group meditation was held on the day of arrival with the delivery of some chairs for outside, the second meditation also brought the first meal offering. Tomorrow, the first almsround will leave from the site into the surrounding town.

Many blessings to all who have joined in making this possible!

Box Practice - Tahn Pamutto June 2, 2021

And now for something a little different - an answer to the question nobody asked - "What does a forest monk do in the rain?" The answer may or may not surprise you. We sit.

This weekend I had wonderful accommodations - a fully furnished, clean, warm retreat apartment at a house next to a tibetan monastery. The surrounding hills and forests are gorgeous, but it was raining almost the entire time, so I committed instead to doing a self-guided breath meditation retreat. Without really intending to, I planted myself on a 6x10 foot rug in front of a Buddha image - and that's w closed) box and spend up to three years there. Monasteries who do this practice often have monastics on rotating schedules. Some are in retreat, some are looking after retreatants' basic needs, and some are out taking care of the facilities. Time passes, and they alternate.

I tried to find a license-free image of such a box, but this cat picture is all I got. Hopefully it helps a little to visualize what this would be like.

Whether or not the things that enclose us are a prison is up to us. The real prison, it turns out, is in the mind. If we rage against our boundaries we will always be unsatisfied. But if we accept them and see them as protecting us, guiding us, and focusing us, then the narrative flips.

That might seem like an odd sentiment for a forest monk who, like a deer, wanders in and out of buildings and woods alike as if he doesn't see boundaries at all. But something one recognizes when they study nature is that when the conditions aren't right to act - animals stay put. They wait. Imagine a spider sitting on a web for hours, for days, silently attentive to the slightest motion on the webstrings. It's not because of some miraculous powers of concentration. They are just conserving energy in their life or death struggle for survival. But we, as human beings, have the ability to train our minds to let go of the external and focus on just what is right here - the webstrings of our own body, and our breath.

Just a thought for consideration.