Tenzin Palmo’s newly renovated cave in the Himalayas © Tsunma Kalden

Tenzin Palmo’s newly renovated cave in the Himalayas © Tsunma Kalden


 
Most Dharma centers these days offer people the chance to deepen their meditation practice by offering retreats, anywhere from one day to a few months in duration. For many of us, even to take one day out of our lives to attend a retreat can be difficult, but the benefits are lasting and well worth making the effort to attend.

When I first started practicing meditation, I originally started with just 10-20 minutes a day; slowly working my way up to one-hour sessions. As I continued to read and became more inspired, I began doing semi-retreats at home on the weekend. I would practice noble silence and do up to seven hours meditation on the Saturday (breaking up my sessions with 45 minutes Shamatha meditation and 15 minutes walking meditation). Then on the Sunday I would attend my local center’s Sunday morning session and come home and do more practice.

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The concept of no self or selflessness (also known as anatta or anatman in Buddhism) can sometimes be confusing. If there is no self, then who or what is experiencing our present reality? The Buddha taught that there are five aggregates that constitute a living being; however, to solely identify with these is to rob ourselves of knowing our true nature which isn’t defined by these five phenomena.

In this video, I explain in detail what these five aggregates (khandhas or skandhas) are and how the Buddha’s teachings of no self serves as a liberating reminder that our thoughts, feelings and perceptions are not to be taken so seriously; that instead there is a way to live in this world with a greater lightness of being.

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Via Jonathan Moreau on flickr

Photo: Jonathan Moreau on flickr


 
In Buddhism, it is said that all sentient beings are ones who can perceive and feel, which raises the question whether animals are conscious and experience feelings and emotions like we do. For those of us with pets, like cats or dogs, it may be easy to see that these types of animals experience similar emotions to us like happiness, sadness and even jealousy and pain. However, since most of us haven’t grown up with farm animals (the kind most likely raised for the meat industry), it’s understandable that we might not have considered whether these animals are also capable of exhibiting emotions.

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As a Buddhist, a question I often get asked is: Are Buddhists vegetarian? Given the Buddhist teachings focus on compassion and non-violence, it’s not a surprise that many people think all Buddhists must therefore be vegetarian or vegan.

In this video, I explore what the Buddha said about eating meat and how his teachings have affected the landscape of vegetarianism within different Buddhist traditions today. I also discuss healthy attitudes we can embody if we are vegetarian or vegan, and I look at ways we might incorporate the Buddhist teachings of compassion into our eating habits whether we are exclusively vegetarian or not.

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