A Parable on Faith and Prayer in Buddhism

A Parable on Prayer from the Christian Faith:

One day a man, who was deeply faithful and a strong believer in prayer, got word that a flash flood was on its way. He barely had enough time to get onto his roof before the flood waters arrived and submerged the ground floor of his home. Having no means of escape, and surveying his situation, he decided this was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of prayer to all the non-believers in his town. “Oh God,” he said, getting down on his knees, “Please, spare me and my home! Save me from this flood!”

While he was praying with all his might, his neighbor called up to him. His neighbor had gotten into his boat and was now floating down the man’s driveway. “Go away!,” the man called back. “I have the power of faith! God will save me!” Shrugging, the neighbor motored away.

The man kept praying, and a bright light in his heart assured him his prayers were being answered. Just then, though, his words were drowned out by the roar of a helicopter descending towards his roof. “Go away!” he waved. “God will never hear me with all this racket!!!” The helicopter circled twice, then departed.

“Finally!”, the man said, and got back down on his knees to pray. But, just then, the flood intensified. The house collapsed, and the man was swept away to his death.

Shortly thereafter he arrived in heaven, at the Pearly Gates. He strode in and found God, incredulous. “Oh great God!” he said. “How could you abandon your faithful servant?! Why didn’t you save me??”

God looked down at him, confused. “DIdn’t you see the boat and the helicopter I sent?”


Sometimes when we pray there’s no question we are being helped – but are we willing to help ourselves?


The Practice and Habit of Letting Go

On Sunday, Bhante Jayasara gave a talk to the Indonesian Buddhist Family of New York on Letting Go, which gave rise to a good Q&A session with dialogue from both monastics.

Last night, the topic of the wednesday tea/zoom session turned to another form of letting go: the contemplation of death. Like the consideration of the unattractive nature of the body, this contemplation is not always dealt with in mixed audiences. Many monastics feel that addressing them to average people would be off-putting. But when you have the opportunity to chat with a monastic one-on-one, I encourage you to take the opportunity and ask away about all the things no one else will talk about!

Truly, these practices are of universal benefit, not just for monastics!

Morning Dhamma Options

Morning Dhamma Options

This morning, as I have most mornings this year, I woke early before the gears of the world started turning. In the morning stillness I dressed, brewed a cup of coffee, and sat down to read a few passages of dhamma.

One of the passages, by chance, included the 16 steps of Anapanasati, or Mindfulness of Breathing. As I read the steps one at a time, “Breathing in, he knows ‘I breathe In’, Breathing out, he knows ‘I breathe out’, I could feel my body’s own breathing rhythm matching the pace of my reading. I slowed down, I listened, and then I put the book down and began meditating.

How we start the day is important. It sets the tone for what follows. While we have the threads and momentum of our ongoing spiritual practice to carry us, morning is the time when we can most easily set new patterns and establish new motivations. Just like a healthy breakfast prepares the body for the day, a helping of stillness and dhamma in the morning prepares the mind for meeting what is to come with wisdom.

If you have the chance this week, try adding a little dhamma to your morning. At 8 am EST at Empty Cloud, Bhante Suddhaso will lead three mornings of Vipassana instruction, while on the MaggaSekha channel, Bhante Jayasāra will continue his six days a week morning puja/chanting. Or, if you’re on the move, just check in here. There will be a new talk linked each morning.



Discussion Around Truth

The most fruitful dhamma explorations, I find, are the ones that are delved into communally – the ongoing dialogue among seekers that allows us to push beyond our limited understandings to explore themes too vast to be encompassed by just one viewpoint. This week’s exploration has been around speech, and the unimpeachable value of Truth.

On Sunday, Bhante Jayasāra and Tahn Pamutto explored Truthfulness (Sacca) and its practice and development. How do we know the Truth? How do we commit to it? How do we draw on its power in relating to others and the world? Truthfulness, we find, is not one thing but a continuum. When we begin we are beset by our defilements – Greed, Hatred, and Delusion lurking in the background of our mind – and speech seems like just another tool to get what we want. At some point, though, the pain caused by being deceitful will tip the scale and we’ll be ready to commit to the Fourth Precept and train ourselves not to tell lies. Not to others, not to ourselves, not ever.

How often do we bend or break the truth to avoid an unpleasant reality or shield ourselves from blame? How often do we misdirect another so we can get what we want? Some people of the world see life as a competition, where we are all in a struggle to get to the top. When we take this fourth precept to heart, though, we start to perceive higher truths. There is no competition. The only goal, the only point of completion in human life, is the one that we all reach whether we are fast or slow, bright or dull, rich or poor … the finish line of death. When we pass on, the only thing we take with us are the consequences of our actions and the strength of our commitment to truth.

Wednesday’s Tea and Dhamma session continued the conversation. Even once we’ve given up lying, a conundrum remains: What is Truth? How do we know it? And what do we do if the people around us see things differently?

It can be tricky to mix frames of reference. There is a popular social term, ‘gas-lighting’, which refers to a situation where someone is forcefully told what is right and/or wrong. There’s a lot of this going on these days, so it’s fitting there is a term. There was also a lot of it happening in the Buddha’s day too, 2500 years before Facebook, but in the Buddhist framework there is no one thing that describes gas-lighting. We can be pressured to abandon our views and opinions, or adopt new ones, in many ways: through harsh speech and insults, through divisive speech and threats of being separated from a group, even through having our viewpoints dismissed or minimized. We’ve all experienced these tactics, and we know how it feels when what we’ve seen, heard, or felt is aggressively denied.

So too, the roots of this behavior are manifold. It can happen equally based on Greed, Hatred, or Delusion. What is important to recognize in the face of this is the place of truth. When we give in to an unwholesome motive, truth is often the first victim. One who tries to cultivate truth comes to understand this intuitively – most of the truths with which we operate in daily life are subjective. Finding truth in a conventional sense is as much identifying basic facts as it is leaving room and sensitivity for differences of perspective. Truth in the midst of opinion is a quiet and reflective place, often missed, where we know what we believe without holding to this belief too tightly. It is the strong, aggressive absolutes in our speech and the speech of others that tip off the mindful as to where Perception and Ego are overshadowing what is really there.

In the face of unwholesome pressure to abandon what we know or to take on ‘truths’, even those coming from large groups of people, sometimes our only recourse is to be clear about our own reality. Having seen this, we say, “I saw this,”; having not seen this, we say, “I didn’t see this.” It’s not much, but here we can actually have a stable base to stand on – not unshakable, but sturdy enough. Any attempt to reduce things further won’t yield any worthwhile results. Only doubt, and distrust. We know what we know, and we know where our knowledge ends.

As the years of practice go by, and we weather or witness dispute after dispute, the mind turns away from viewpoints and controversy to seek what is really true and stable. This was the focus of the Buddha’s teaching: to point to ultimate truth, that which is the same from every perspective. It is here that we can actually have a strong conversation and reach agreement. There are truths that can be known: suffering; aging, sickness, and death; the consequences of wholesome and unwholesome actions; the peace of the mind beyond constructions … to devote ourselves to this is a lifelong effort, and to bring our thoughts and speech in line with ultimate truth will be an endeavor unlike any other. But nothing can yield such abundant fruit. What will our lives be like when we can openly speak about the things that matter most?

We don’t pursue this truth alone, nor do we have to figure everything our for ourselves, and that’s the joy of sangha. For as many false truths and purveyors of these as there are in the world, there are just as many good people seeking a way out. I encourage you to walk this path for yourself, and join the conversation.

The Uposatha

In the Buddha’s time, people of many faiths were already keeping a sabbath on the Full and New Moons, called observing the Uposatha. When they requested that the Buddha also lay out an observance for this holy day, the Buddha described the practice of taking the 8 Precepts for a day and a night. Doing so, he said, was to live a day and a night like the arahants – the enlightened beings.

Dhammapalooza –

Dhammapalooza every Monday 8-10pm EST

Join Bhante Jayasara and guests on the ‘Students of the Path’ YouTube channel every Monday for a two-hour session of chanting, dhamma reflection, Q & A, and meditation. Every session is broadcast live on YouTube – sign in to join the chat.

This week’s session included Bhante Pamutto, with a reading of the Kosambiya Sutta and a guided meditation on Metta.

Part 1

Part 2


Sacca Parami: Truthfulness

See Bhante Pamutto and Bhante Jarasara during their regular Sunday morning Zoom session with the Indonesian Buddhist Family in NYC.
Bhante Pamutto speaks on Sacca Parami – the Practice and Perfection of Truth, with stories, examples and tips for developing this vital quality. The lengthy Q&A session after includes insights from both monastics further developing the theme.

Bhante Jayāsara and MaggaSekha

Meet Bhante Jayasāra. After years of lay dhamma practice, he ordained at Bhavana Society in West Virginia under the legendary Sri Lankan forest monk Bhante Gunaratana. Almost immediately he found himself teaching and helping lead the community. After four years, he has stepped away from those responsibilities to travel around, visiting other monasteries and learning what he can from the larger tradition. He is currently at the Indonesian Buddhist Family Vihara in Queens, NYC.

Bhante J was one of the first monastics to see the potential in internet teaching. His online community, which you can visit and be a part of at www.maggasekha.org, spans several platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Discord and Second Life. He’s giving teachings and available seven days a week, including informal ‘office hours’ where you can ask whatever questions you might have, and the Monday evening ‘Dhammapalooza’ two hour interactive teaching event.

Upavana Foundation info@upavana.org

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