Uposatha – “Spiritual Growth”

The biweekly Uposatha program will be hosted tonight from NYC and broadcast online through Zoom. Tahn Pamutto will be joined by Tan Santi for a discussion on the topic of “Spiritual Growth”. A fundamental difference between Eastern and Western philosophy is the idea of growth – that our character can be developed and honed towards a particular end. This is even more the case in Buddhism as we have a very clear goal for our development: Nibbāna, the perfect peace of a calm and pure heart.

Once we’ve established there is a goal and we understand where we are in relationship to that goal, it becomes possible to foresee both supports and obstacles to our success. A whole world of possibilities for growth and learning open up before us. Tonight we hope to share in the exploration of these possibilities and what it means to be moving forward and growing in the spiritual life.

Finding a Retreat

Winter is a good time for formal practice. The days are short; the nights are long. The weather is cold and encourages us to find cozy spaces to settle in. There is a natural momentum towards long sits in dark rooms, or finding ourselves getting up at odd hours and being wide awake. Traditionally, meditators have found this time to be a fantastic for formal practice.
 
We’ll naturally find ourselves in a quiet mood. Every time we sit by a windowsill or curl up on the couch might be cause for an hour to fly by in reverie. But we can also be more intentional with our practice. The rhythms we set up early can support us throughout the long winter and keep our resolve from weakening before spring arrives. And doing a formal retreat is a great way to set rhythms.
 
Few places have as many options for doing structured meditation retreat as the Pioneer Valley. In terms of institutions, Dhammadhara in Shelburne and the Insight Meditation Society in Barre are known internationally and are some of the oldest such centers in the West (at dhamma.org and dharma.org respectively, they CLEARLY got in the game early). The former offers heavily structured 10 day meditation courses completely free of charge, while the latter has three facilities offering a diverse array of programs at a range of costs. You can go for a weekend or a year.
 
Both of these organizations are in high demand, and booking as far in advance as possible is a good idea. But there are also many groups posting events on more short notice. Insight Western Mass in Easthampton and Vermont Insight in Brattleboro are smaller branches of the insight tradition that are constantly running programs. Our friend Mark Hart with Bodhisara has also been leading meditations and retreats in the area for decades, with many online and now in-person retreats through the pandemic. His latest upcoming posting is for a retreat the weekend of January 7th.
 
Our final option is to set aside time to practice and just go for it. If you’re taking this option, it’s best to be as clear as possible if we want solid results. Set a schedule and try to keep to it. Give yourself the best chance you can to be free of distractions. Actually turn the phone off. If you can gather a group for the same program, or if there is an online program you can follow, it can help to have accountability with other meditators. If at all possible, book a chat with a trusted teacher or mentor for mid-retreat to help clarify the questions that are likely to come up.
 
Tahn Pamutto’s time in NYC has already been very busy. Communities there were pretty sleepy during the height of lockdowns but there is a lot of enthusiasm for gathering and growth. After New Year, he returns to Shelburne, where a new space is waiting for living and offering practice opportunities. Until then, Happy Holidays!
 

Drawing Sangha Together

Tahn Pamutto is in NYC this month. This means that while all Upavana’s regular online programming will continue, there aren’t plans for any in-person meditations or retreats for our friends in Western Mass. The option is open, but chances are things will remain quiet until the New Year.
This evening, on the occasion of the Half-Moon, we’ll be having our biweekly Lay Sangha Chat. (https://upavana.org/events/lay-sangha-chat/) It will be at least from 7-9pm EST, or later depending on who is around. This gathering started some weeks ago, when Tahn Pamutto was unable to make it to the regular Wednesday Tea Time. Instead of immediately disbanding, the group stayed and had a long involved dhamma conversation. Our friend Ryan stepped forward willing to facilitate a regular biweekly meeting for lay practitioners to gather and talk about practice and life. And Adrianna helped organize the event listings.
If you have some free time tonight, consider dropping in for some portion. There are a million things we can do with our spare time, but how many of these guarantee us the chance to interact with other buddhists and dhamma enthusiasts?
Meanwhile, Tahn Pamutto is doing the same on the ground in NYC, reconnecting with friends from earlier in the year and dropping in on a new sitting group they’ve put together. This is even on top of all the wonderful interactions with the Indonesian Buddhist Family and Wat Thai Thavorn communities. Beyond just gathering for formal practice, part of the joy has been getting together for tea beforehand or going for walks in the city. When there is Sangha, we should draw close!

Talk: Taṇha – Craving for Existence

We had a lot of friends join for the Uposatha program last night. Marking the occasion, Tahn Pamutto offered a reflection on one of the central aspects of the Buddha’s definition of what causes stress in our lives: Taṇha, or Thirst. Starting at the reality of our lives and the tangible experience of loss, he tracks it back through the steps of Dependent Origination to the place where it arises, namely, the craving and identification with experiences that are pleasant, painful, and neutral.

Uposatha

Tonight is the New Moon, and our regular uposatha gathering will be starting at 8pm EST via zoom with a meditation, followed by precepts and a dhamma reflection by Tahn Pamutto.
 
Find out more: https://upavana.org/events/online-uposatha-234-146-469-442-612-253/

Mettā Week

The recordings of the mettā weeklong working retreat can be found on the ‘Innovative Dhamma’ YouTube channel.  Each session is an hour long, including an opening homage, 45 minute meditation, and a reflection.

Please note – the first one or two recordings may have occasional glitches due to technical difficulties.  It was resolved after that.

Giving Tuesday

Upavana | Facebook

For those who have been interested in supporting Upavana and its growing mission to nurture buddhist community locally and abroad: this coming Tuesday, starting at 8am EST, is Giving Tuesday on Facebook. This fundraiser is a once-a-year event where Facebook will match all donations given to 501.c3 Non-profit’s like Upavana. All donations are tax-deductible.

Even if you don’t use Facebook, it’s possible to make donations and check our wish list on the Support Page.

This year, the cause is: Please support Upavana Foundation with it’s Shelter Fund, which will help pay for expanded living accommodations for monastics in Western Mass. These facilities are not simply hermitages but will allow the monastics to receive guests, host meditations, and broadcast online dhamma activities. Help us create safe spaces for dhamma practice to grow!

Dear Season

The Upavana working retreat, themed around Mettā practice, has wrapped up. It’s always wonderful to dedicate time to sincere Mettā! It was not a time without challenges or work to be done, but everything is so much easier to hold when the mind is full of goodwill. The recordings of the hour-long morning and evening sessions (including 45 minute meditations) can be found at:

https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLhHe4p1yupnsjTLAFhFYqmovqwFIuc4dJ

The retreat coincided with the end of the formal ‘robe season’, the traditional time of making robes, in which Tahn Pamutto was able to sew not one but two warm new robes for the coming winter.

The time has come for Tahn Pamutto to mothball the mobile temple for a month. Deer season is a volatile time to be a wandering forest monk, especially one who wears deer-colored robes. Conversely, it’s a great time to head to the city to heal up, repair and acquire requisites, and spend time with family and friends. Tahn Pamutto will be in New York City at Vihara Parivara Dhamma Acala until just before Christmas. If you are in the city feel free to reach out to find out what dhamma activities he’ll be leading/joining. The usual online activities, including Wednesday tea times and Uposatha gatherings, will continue unaffected.

The new year will bring new opportunities to practice. For buddhists, every day is thanksgiving! Thank you for your support!

Upavana Foundation info@upavana.org

Join our Mailing List!