Why Form Matters in Buddhism

Why Form Does Actually Matter in Practical Buddhism

buddhists praying hands

The challenge, that all Buddhists face, is not one of whether or not this kind of lifestyle and spiritual calling makes sense – it resonates and rings true, for sure – but one of whether or not the “form” of our Buddhism is “correct”.

 

This is especially true of those that have come to this calling later in life, compared to those that have been embracing all that this spiritual choice has to offer from birth. We wonder whether or not we are doing things the right way, whether or not we are making our offerings correctly and with the right mindset, and whether or not we are embracing all that our hearts tell us we must – or if we’re just playing around with foreign superstitions.

 

Worst of all, so much of what we worry about as practicing Buddhists never seems to impact those that have been “dyed in the wool”. Monks do not seemingly have these concerns, and in truth they reach a place in their minds, their spirits, and their souls that allows them to forget completely about form, ceremony, and pomp (as much as there is “pomp” in this world) and instead just feel the way that they should honor their traditions.

 

This can be particularly confounding for those that want to become more authentic, those striving for a more impactful connection, and those that are looking for answers in a world that has so few with any real weight.

 

Make no mistake about it, the form – the physical rituals we all go through as practicing Buddhists – definitely has a place in our spirituality. It has a way of manifesting the way we feel in the physical realm, and it has a way of making our souls a more tangible thing.

 

And while it is essential to spend as much time honor the form of our bows, our rituals, and our prayers, it is most important that we don’t allow the form – or the stress about whether or not our form is correct – to cloud the connection we feel with all that we have learned and strive to be.

 

Above all else, it is most important that we strive to be our most authentic selves.

 

While this may not always involve pitch perfect form, or the most traditional of rituals, it is what we all owe to ourselves and to our souls. Authenticity is so severally lacking in our world and as Buddhists it is our calling to celebrate it in every way possible. The things we keep, the things we discard, and the things that we hold most dear are all going to shape the future of Buddhism, just as the workings of past generations have. The beauty of this calling is that it is alive, ever changing, and always evolving. By letting go of the stress and pressure of mastering form (sounds a bit like mindfulness, discussed in this post), while at the same time striving to perfect it as much as possible, is the true balance that we all deserve to pursue.

 

It’s not easy. It’s never promised to be easy.

 

But it is worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

Scientific Studies Measure Mind-Body Connection in Meditation

mind body connection

While some scientists are skeptical about the mind/body connection and consider it to be an element of pseudoscience, there is growing evidence which is peer-reviewed that shows a direct link in functionality between our minds and bodies.

 

A research group has devised a method of measurement of physiological phenomena which is connected to stress reduction that is based on mindfulness. According to their research, meditation helps to synchronize brain and heart processes.

 

There are actually quite a few reputable studies which prove that meditation has a tangible and positive effect on the human body. Scientists from Harvard published an array of studies which detailed the physiological and biological effects of meditation upon the brain and stomach.

 

If you’ve ever meditated for even ten minutes, you probably already know that it calms you and gives you a sense of being centered. It clears away negative thoughts and lets in peace and love. Scientific studies are explaining why…

 

Now, we’d like to talk about important data which comes from researchers at Hong Kong’s Centre for Buddhist Studies.

 

The director of the Centre told a reporter at Newsweek that the practice of MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) helps to create more synchronization between brain and heart, which is great for the body. Data from the study was published and peer-reviewed. The study lasted eight weeks and featured eleven graduate students who had no experience with meditation.

 

Studies such as this definitely underscore the wisdom of ancient cultures which encouraged meditation. Meditation is good for us!

 

Discover the Power of Heart Coherence

 

Scientific researchers at the HeartMath Institute are also studying heart-mind synchronicity. The Institute’s Director, Dr. Rollin McCarthy, has remarked that meditation which fosters a sense of compassion and love causes our hearts to generate measurable electromagnetic waves, which travel into local field environments. These waves make social coherence easier! When heart coherence builds, an energy field emerges which helps others to connect with their own hearts.

 

Is heart coherence the secret of global coherence? it may not solve everything, but it definitely won’t hurt.

 

How Does Epigenetics Factor In?

 

Epigenetics is the study of alterations in organisms which are triggered by a modification of “gene expression”. Epigenetics shows us that DNA and genes aren’t in control of our biology. Instead, DNA is controlled via signals which are situated outside of cells, which come with messages that are derived from our thoughts.

 

Bruce Lipton is a leading authority on epigenetics. He’s a cellular biologist. In his opinion, our feelings do regulate our genetic expression. He wrote about this interaction between mind and body in his books, Spontaneous Evolution and The Biology of Belief.

 

It’s interesting to note that the placebo effect is a facet of epigenetics (this is what Lipton believes). There will be great value in discovering the best way to leverage the power of the placebo effect as a treatment for illness.

 

A study showed that patients who felt nauseated chronically, in a severe way, were able to find relief via the placebo effect. They were told that they were getting an effective treatment for nausea and received a placebo instead (a “dummy pill”). The dummy pill was actually designed to make their nausea worse. Despite the properties of the dummy pill, the patients who received the placebo felt that it helped them. Basically, their brains decreased the nausea that they were feeling. This is startling as the dummy pills should have made them feel much worse.

 

Change begins from the inside. Lots of people on Earth are not happy people and their mindsets may negatively impact their health and the health of those around them. Mind-body connection is extremely important. Our feelings may indeed trigger physiological responses in other people.

 

We Need to Master Our Feelings

 

It would be helpful if schoolchildren were able to learn how to master (or just manage) their feelings at a young age.

 

During 1999, a study performed by a statistics professor who works at UC Irvine showed that people who take daily doses of aspirin for the purpose of preventing heart attacks had stronger results during paraphysiological experiments. Since these stronger results were proven, why are most scientific authorities so reluctant to acknowledge psi experiments?

 

It’s possible that many scientists are concerned about the link between the mind-body connection and magic, superstition and spiritualism. Lots of scientists are clearly more interested in staying far away from “pseudoscience” than they are with promoting scientific exploration. Hopefully, in the future, a new spirit of true academic freedom will prevail and the connection between heart and mind, as it relates to the individual and society as a whole, will be the subject of further study.

 

The studies that we’ve talked about today show that there is a strong mind-body connection and that heart coherence offers amazing possibilities in terms of helping groups of people to come together and get things done effectively.

Discover Nalanda, Bihar

Nalanda, Bihar

 

Nalanda is one of the most beautiful religious centers in India which is also a learning and a cultural site. With its establishment around the 5th century, it was the destination of Lord Mahavir and Gautam Buddha for over many years. Being one of the richest in regards to tradition and more, with worldwide recognition, this is the favorite spot for many folks who want to spy monasteries and the aged monolith. This is an irresistible destination for the historians. The historic objects of the old higher level institution is the chief attraction in all parts of the main town. The ravishing temples add more beauty, a representative of the glorious history of the area and the ruined university . It carries a remarkable culture as well as history, a spot that you should never miss.

 

 

Story of Nalanda

 

Nalanda is known to have a colorful history from back to 6th century, the period of Lord Mahavir and Gautam Buddha. There is a close relationship between the dozens of myths and the fulfillment of name Nalanda. One of the most recognized is the Nalam meaning lotus and da signifier giver. Additionally, the place is renowned because of its origin of the Sariputra, a world-shaking devotee of the Gautam Buddha. Lord Buddha has repeatedly visited this critical Buddhism site. Up to date, there are fresh memories of Hiuen Tsang, a traveler from China who happened to be part of the university for 12 years.

 

King Ashoka constructed numerous temples in the 3rd century BC, which were closely situated to the site. The acclaimed alchemist Nagarjuna taught and learned here during the 2nd century BC. It then came under reign of the Guptas in 5th century. The municipality was under the control of empire of Mauryan king Harshavardhana from 606 to 647 AD.

 

Attraction sites not to miss

nalanda temple

Hiuen Tsang Memorial Hall

 

The establishment of this tourist attraction site came after a tourist from China stayed at Nalanda college, the world’s first university. Hiuen Sang Memorial Hall is the most prominent attractive spot that you will get to enjoy and have breathtaking memories.

 

Nav Nalanda, the Mahavihara

 

This is preeminent educational institution of the region which offers education mainly on Buddhism and Pali. With its establishment in 1951 by the Bihar government, and Nav Nalanda is the best site for the students who want to have a broader knowledge of Buddhism. You get every kind of support you need, and the environment is friendly.

 

Bihar Sharif

 

While the name is originally derived from the term for “monastery” this city actually predates the arrival of Buddhism.  This is an area that changed hands in terms of ruling dynasties and has a history of conflict. The city is rich in Jainist and Buddhist relics still and draws tourists from all walks of life. Be sure to take in the many natural attractions as well such as the mountains, trails and many rivers in the region.

 

Rajgir

 

Rajgir is the primary site of the Gautam Buddha in the rainy season. Seven mountains surround this site, which adds its beauty. Rajgi is the home of dance festivals which reveals explicit performances of pro performers. Its tranquil locations and jungle-like landscape make it an exemplary place for both pilgrims and tourists. It has a calm surrounding which colors the tourists’ experience and gives them a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature.

 

How to get there

 

By Air

 

To those wishing to land at the  hallowed city by air, Loknayak Jayaprakash Airport is the most convenient. It links up to the major cities of India like New Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur Mumbai, Bangalore, and many others by the daily flights. Traveling through air saves time since its faster than the other means.

 

By Train

 

You can get to Nalanda through the nearby railhead at Rajgir which is 12 kilometers away. You can decide to board a taxi from the railway station and head to your desired terminus.

 

By Road

 

Traveling by the road gives you an opportunity to enjoy more because you get to see a lot on the way. Although it might be slower than traveling by air; some people prefer it especially those that are not in a hurry.

Below are the various roads that lead to the holy site:

Patna 90km

Rajgir 12 km

Pawapuri 26km

Bodh Gaya 50km

Other facts:

Favorite time to visit: From October to March

Language: Hindi and Magadhi

Do you think a pilgrimage to this sacred area is in your future?  The NBG in CT is planning a trip in late 2018!  Contact us to learn more!

 

 

Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

Steps to Become More Mindful and Reduce Stress

mindfulness

These days, there are literally thousands of different mental, emotional, and spiritual methods aimed at reducing a person’s stress levels to make them a healthier and happier person. While each individual is unlike any other, certain techniques seem to work better. As one of the most successful ways to eliminate stress and become a more well-rounded person, mindfulness meditation has become a popular option by people from all over the world.

At this point, you’ve probably already heard about the efficacy of mindfulness. The rumors are founded on truth. In fact, there is no a mountain of evidence supporting the mental, emotional, and physical benefits of such practices. So, what is this method all about and how can it help you?

What Is Mindfulness?

Being in the present and bringing the practice to your everyday life is not as difficult as it may sound. Simply put, we’re talking about a change in your state of consciousness – the position of being fully aware of yourself and your surroundings. Modern dictionaries, such as the one from Psychology Today, define it in the following way:

{NOUN} – “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations…”

This state of being is often used as a therapeutic technique for trauma sufferers, and is commonly used by individuals who are not experiencing trauma as a means to deal with everyday stress.

How Does This Practice Help Reduce Stress?

Recent research has done a lot to uncover the benefits of mindfulness and its various techniques. According to a study performed at both the University of Oxford and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, this technique does more than simply reduce stress – it can actually transform a person’s perspective on the world around them. By practicing a tailored regimen, individuals were able to slowly build character on a foundation of internal strength that prevented future stressors to have such a negative effect.

What Does Mindfulness Look Like?

With so much evidence supporting the mental and emotional health benefits of this meditation techinque, putting it into practice as soon as possible is imperative. To get started, understanding what this mentality looks like in action is beyond vital. Here are some easily recognizable examples of mindfulness in effect:

  • You stop reacting immediately to certain situations, especially those that trigger your emotions.
  • You experience a moment of pause to consider the optional outcomes before you say or do anything.
  • You feel more relaxed and therefore less driven to get things done quickly and efficiently regardless of your current state.
  • You become aware of your internal monologue, allowing you to step away from any given situation to determine your true position before reacting.
  • Your body’s sensations become more recognizable, giving you early insights into undiscovered health problems.
  • You start to recognize the emotions of others more quickly and accurately.
  • Your ability to care and have compassion for others seems to increase, making it possible for you to sympathize with others before becoming stressed about the situation.
  • You begin to see your stress for what it is – a temporary problem that simply requires a well-thought-out solution.

Interestingly, being in this state helps to reduce brain activity rather than increase it. In short, it improves the efficiency of your mental focus, which in turn improves your ability to avoid stressful situations in the first place. With this new ability to streamline your thoughts and emotions, it’s possible to experience an increased sense of well-being, happiness, and relaxation.

Quick Steps to Put it All Together

There are a lot of ways to control your thoughts, emotions, and actions. However, some work better than others. The following is a 10-step meditation process that’s been found to be the most effective:

  1. START thinking about a workable situation in your life that’s causing you stress.
  2. Do not try to tackle a seemingly impossible problem. That will work itself out as you move through the steps of becoming a more conscious individual.
  3. TRY to imagine all the details of the situation that are making you feel uncomfortable.
  4. If it helps, try to picture yourself as if you’re currently in the middle of the situation instead of being able to meditate on it.
  5. SEE if you can recognize any sensations in your body and note where they are and how they feel.
  6. Check for an elevated heart rate, sweating, nausea or nervous stomach, or muscle tightness in your back or face.
  7. LISTEN to your body and mind, feeling each fully and taking note of any emotions that you’re experiencing.
  8. Become aware of the location your emotion is originating to recognize patterns in the future.
  9. BRING your mindful perspective to the emotion or stressor.
  10. Practice acceptance, curiosity, and warmth.
  11. PLACE your hand on the location of the emotion you’re experiencing (often referred to as “self-soothing”).
  12. Show care and concern for yourself at this time.
  13. ACCEPT the sensation for what it is.
  14. Try to feel it pulsate together with your breathing pattern.
  15. PROMOTE an awareness in the present moment and the positive aspects of it.
  16. Reduce the amount of attention being paid to the painful or negative emotions associated with your stress.
  17. STRUCTURE a new perspective which allows you to define your personal perimeter more clearly.
  18. Be careful not to compromise your moral foundations to accommodate the situation.
  19. END the meditation to face the world with a greater sense of awareness.

mindfulness