Monday, 10 February 2014

Philip Jacobs talks to Conscious TV about ‘illness and the spiritual path'...

‘I had always previously thought that it was possible to change my attitude to any situation. With the illness, I realised that there was a stage where you couldn’t. You could have a good attitude either side of the experience, but not while you were in it. This was when the illness was deep in the brain, there was no way out until it passed and you just had to allow the experience to be what it was and if it was darkness then it was just darkness.

I loved being on the river. Some days I would manage to get myself to the river and slowly row the large boat downstream, tying it to the trees along the waters edge. As the sun went down I sat and meditated on those grassy chalk downlands.  Then a great happiness and stillness would surge through me.  It had taken the whole day to slowly climb out of this pit of illness but the next day I would start right back at the beginning.

It reminded me of doing the “Big Prayer” in the movements at Colet House, there was this great process of effort and despair and more effort as if you were being torn apart and then at the end you arise as from the dead surrendered and empty as if new born. 

I was having to assimilate the idea of illness and suffering as a gift - what looked like suffering on the physical and psychological levels could often have a transforming effect on the deeper spiritual levels, that may not be apparent to the casual observer.

I had often witnessed people go through a period of intense suffering.  At the end of it, it was as if all their hard bits had been washed away. They showed a softness and gentleness which previously had been absent or covered over.  It was as if in the journey of life, having built up a separate identity and a separated ego, life’s events then caused  it all to fall away again, until what you were left with was the true Being, who you always were, the place you never left.’

On February 13th, Philip Jacobs was back in our CTV studios for an interview with Iain McNay. To watch the complete interview, please click here

Sunday, 9 February 2014

An interview with Aloka David Smith 

Aloka has been a practicing Buddhist for nearly 40 years. He began training with Zen, practicing with the Venerable Myokyo-ni, a teacher from the Rinzai school, at the Buddhist Society in London for 5 years. He then travelled to Sri Lanka in 1980 where he lived for three years as a Theravada monk under the guidance of the Venerable Dhammaloka Maha Thera. While in Sri Lanka, his spiritual breakthrough took place in 1981, and it is that, that formed the framework of his first book, ‘A Record of Awakening’, published in 1999. 

On his return from Sri Lanka, Smith matured by living on his own for a number of years in east London. 

At the time of my breakthrough in Sri Lanka, my teacher told me I should travel and begin to teach, but it was to be around 20 years before I took that role by leading retreats at several retreat centres of the Triratna Community in the UK and abroad. My association with this movement came to an end in 2006.’ 

Aloka David Smith has written 4 further books: ‘Dharma Mind Worldly Mind’ published in 2002,  ‘A Question of Dharma’ published in 2008, ‘The Five Pillars of Transformation’ also published in 2008  and ‘Blue Sky, White Cloud’ published in 2012.

In his words: ‘At the moment of ‘coming back to life’ after awakening the awakened Mind is born’. Before awaking there is only the ordinary mind a mind that is always deluded. After years of practice this mind develops wisdom into the nature of itself and becomes more and more refined in that respect until it finally reaches the point where it cannot know any more about itself and falls into equanimity. Shortly after this awakening takes place and with that the Bodhisattva path is alighted upon. There is a popular misconception that with awakening the everyday ignorant mind is swept away leaving just the pure wisdom of enlightenment. There remains a paradox which many find hard to accept, the transcendental is awakened but shortly after that, the small mind comes back with all its ignorance and power – everyday living doesn’t change much at all. The practice that takes place afterward, the ‘breakthrough’ is precisely about these two minds.’

On February 13th, Iain McNay interviewed Aloka David Smith at Conscious TV studios in London. To watch the complete interview, please click here