Open House: Heaven and Hell

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Date: Monday 23 October 2017 (19:00 -21:30)
Heaven and Hell

Open House is a gathering that provides a gentle introduction to mindfulness meditation, the Shambhala Buddhist teachings and our community.

It is an opportunity to learn sitting and walking meditation and engage in discussions about the application of teachings to everyday life from fabulous Shambhala teachers including Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chodron. 

During 2017 we will be focusing on Shambhala teacher Pema Chodron's book "Comfortable with Uncertainty" using a range of methods including contemplative readings, audio and video. This book offers short, stand-alone readings designed to help us cultivate compassion and awareness amid the challenges of daily living. It does not assume prior knowledge and features the most essential and stirring passages from Pema's previous books, exploring topics such as lovingkindness, meditation, mindfulness, "nowness," letting go, and working with fear and other painful emotions. Through the course of this book, we will also explore practical methods for heightening awareness and overcoming habitual patterns that block compassion.

The first Monday evening of every month features a talk by our resident senior teacher Shastri Loretta Geuenich followed by reflection and the sharing of our collective wisdom through discussion. Every Open House concludes with light refreshments and the opportunity to continue discussions and/or catch up with fellow meditators.  A typical Monday evening program includes:

  • Brief welcome followed by sitting meditation (7:00pm)

  • Walking meditation

  • Sitting meditation

  • Reading or video teaching...followed by contemplation, response and discussion

  • Pack-up (8:15pm)

  • Catch-up time including light refreshments and close around 9:00pm

Tonight's reading: heaven and hell

(from Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron) 

ABIG, BURLY SAMURAI comes to a Zen master and says, “Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.”

The Zen master looks him in the face and says, “Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you? A worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?”

Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword and raises it to cut off the master’s head.

The Zen master says, “That’s hell.”

Instantly, the samurai understands that he has just created his own hell—black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment. He sees that he was so deep in hell that he was ready to kill someone. Tears fill his eyes as he puts his palms together to bow in gratitude for this insight.

The Zen master says, “That’s heaven.”

The view of the warrior-bodhisattva is not “Hell is bad and heaven is good” or “Get rid of hell and just seek heaven.” Instead, we encourage ourselves to develop an open heart and an open mind to heaven, to hell, to everything. Only with this kind of equanimity can we realize that no matter what comes along, we’re always standing in the middle of a sacred space. Only with equanimity can we see that everything that comes into our circle has come to teach us what we need to know.