The objective of our Buddhist practice can be described in a brief expression, which we borrow from an esteemed Dhamma teacher.
The art of meditation, the art of life.
Meditation is in actual fact a true discipline of its own. It is at times quite demanding but very rewarding in return (spiritually speaking of course). If we really wanted to exaggerate we could say that it has a real craft dimension and, in fact, it is not uncommon to find that serious, passionate craftsmen unconsciously apply meditative elements in their work. How many times have we found ourselves thinking “Ah, that is how art works!” And vice versa!
However, the object of this art is not a handsome block of wood or the harmonious vibration of piano strings, but the mind itself. It is like going back to one's origins, a stripping from the cognitive field of any element which prevents the natural emergence of a virtuous, serene as wise mind. What a grand opus!
Moreover, we cannot contemplate becoming excellent craftsmen without working, with diligence and devotion on our art. Therefore, the objective is not a simple relaxation or a temporary release from daily routine, but a shaping of our whole life starting from what we know to be virtuous, leading us to peace and wisdom.
We pursue this last objective and we find joy when sharing all of this with other people. These few words would be sufficient to clarify our position but the most curious will find other insights below.
We have always found bewilderment when faced with the deification and glorification of the Buddha, even though this may be expressed in a very subtle manner. What we have always kept at the heart of our practice is the respect, indeed the best form of respect, first described by Buddha, it is a serious practice of his teaching.
In our view it is futile to concentrate on the superhuman aspects of awareness if we then depart from that sense of closeness and familiarity shared for a person who felt our own daily suffering, our humanity, our weaknesses and brief moments of happiness.
We see Buddha in the happy child lost in contemplation of nature. We can see this in a young man unsatisfied with his life who abandons convention and leaves to find his inner self, and the answer to a big question. We can see this in blood, in dust, in old age, in sickness and in death. We can see this in the radiant happiness of the participants in a retreat, as well as in the impressions left in meditation cushions, as night falls and the meditators have withdrawn to their rooms. Some of them stay behind, still, in silence….
But we don’t see this in those who promise unrealistic outcomes after modest commitment. We don’t see this in those who use spirituality to separate, isolate, enmesh or persuade. We don’ see this in those who “sell”the Dhamma and overstep or breach that thin line between sustenance and profit. We don’t see it in those who hide information to feed a small esoteric group. We don’t see this in those who make of the Dhamma a political instrument: to us politics, in the Dhamma, is a bad word. We don’t see this in those who study for their entire lives things that only others will actually experience.
This virtue of the heart is what guides us in our activities. It may change, or may not, but if it does we hope it will be only for the better. By its nature, our association aims to spread in Italy the root teachings of the Buddha and of a particular tradition: that of Theravāda, the school of the elders.
Besides the study of the ancient texts in the Pali language ( in this we can find those teachings which are historically closest to what the Buddha actually said) and the putting of these into practice, we have had the opportunity to confirm the validity and the extreme clarity of the teachings of the Venerable Pa-Auk Tawya Sayadaw and his closest disciples. In our view this “method” embodies one of the most complete and detailed guides towards Nibbãna.
This said, we believe that it is important to look upon other Buddhist and even non Buddhist traditions, in search of common ground based on real experience, rather than doctrinaire speculations. Through time we have come to realize that divergences and division, which are paradoxical in an environment that should favour understanding and compassion, may arise whenever people identify in an unhealthy manner with a particular doctrinaire aspect without applying in practice one’s own beliefs.
It is not our intention to state that trust (saddha) in a particular teaching of the Buddha, in a teacher or a specific tradition, is negative. On the contrary it is a spiritual ability which is essential to achieving realisation. However, such faith should be permeated by another virtue: wisdom (pañña), that in its lucidity of mind recognises that particular closure of the “heart” and melts it through compassion.
This “closure” builds barriers, at times very subtle, that stop us valuing a particular teaching and applying it completely in our lives. We believe that this is a great misfortune and it is important in teaching as in the administration of the association, to transmit from the very beginning an open, curious and empathic approach towards schools different from our own.
We believe that a thorough knowledge of the Pali texts combined with the presence of experienced masters can equip us with a serious and direct experience of the path trodden by the Buddha. Once we have interiorized this craftsmanship of the heart there will no longer be any need to rely upon sterile doctrinal speculations, but we will be able to refer directly to experience and we will have refined a common understanding enabling us to share our experience with other traditions.
We hope that all this will always form part of our personal path and that of the administration of the association. It is then the members’ responsibility to bring to our attention, or to that of those who stray from the desirable behaviour described above, how we should behave.
In the dhamma,
Andrea and Andrea