Christopher Titmuss Dharma Blog

A Buddhist Perspective

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NAIKAN – THE PRACTICE OF A BUDDHIST PYSCHOTHERAPY

Paul Koppler, the founder and guardian angel of the Waldhaus Retreat Centre, Nickenich, an hour from Bonn, Germany and I were talking over lunch last week about the practice of Naikan Therapy. We have a mutual friend, Franz in

Austria, who has been a Naikan therapist for more than 25 years leading Naikan retreats, often every other week.

Naikan Therapy enables people to take total responsibility for their feelings, perceptions and views in matters of a relationship, and to transform their attitude towards another person. It is truly a Buddhist therapy.

Naikan means in Japanese inside looking and was founded by Ishin Yoshimoto in 1953.

A participant sits a seven day Naikan retreat. He or she is provided with a small room, pen and paper, and only leaves the room to go to the toilet and shower. The Naikan teacher goes to the room daily, perhaps two or three times, to listen to the person’s reflections. The participant has three questions to reflect on and has nothing else whatsoever to be committed to.

The Three Questions

  1. What have I received from __________ ?
  2. What have I given to __________ ?
  3. What troubles and difficulties have I caused __________ ?

These questions apply right up to the present time in the retreatant’s life. The person generally takes the most important person in their life and explores the relationship within the context and discipline of the three questions. The practice enables the person to come to a realistic view of the relationship and the necessary give and take required.

Naikan helps the individual take full responsibility for their attitude, motivations and enables him or her to recognise the support and care that the other person has offered. The practice is to end the problems in the relationship due to seeing the other primarily or equally at fault.

1. What has the person given me? The retreatant might list all the details of what the person in his or her life has offered, shared or sacrificed going back as far as possible. One becomes mindful of all the little things. The more the recollection of tiny details the better. Everything is important.

2. The other side of the equation. What have I given to the person? What am I offering currently? Make the details specific.

3. What problem and difficulties have I caused or am I causing this person? This is the hardest question. We are used to believing that the other person must change for any kind of relationship to work. We might think that what we say or do is not such a big deal. The retreatant becomes mindful and writes down with total honesty all the problems and difficulties he or she has caused in the relationship right up to the present time.

One person might choose their mother, father, siblings, partner, neighbour, boss, friend, pet, or a job or the area where one lives or a possession, such as money, a home or a car.

One person asked Ishin Yoshimoto, the founder: “Why don’t you allow a fourth question? What are the problems and difficulties the person has caused me?

The founder replied: “There is no need for you too go into this question. You know already.
”If you have a major issue going on with somebody, then take a day out and give yourself totally To these three questions. You might change into the person that you want the other person to be!

MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY



LISTEN TO ANTONY, AN ANDROGYNOUS ANGEL

A friend, Jenny, kindly invited me for my birthday to come to watch at Dartington, Totnes on film Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man – a tribute to the Canadian singer-poet, Leonard Cohen. Various artists sang several of his best known songs including “I’m Your Man” Suzanne, Tower of Song and Hallelujah.

Halfway through the concert, a guy dressed in black, a little heavy in build, and with black lanky hair, looking a bit like a mediaeval monk, named Antony of Antony and the Johnsons came on stage and sang a less known song of Leonard Cohen called “If it be your will.” that starting with the words….
“If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true …”

Anthony sang with a haunting sensitivity that expressed itself throughout every note. This voice expressed a very rare quality. I had one of those seminal moments in the act of listening that resonated throughout my whole being of sheer jhanic (deep absorption) happiness – the sweetness of the voice, with his breathtaking range of emotions from an exquisite depth to an angelic high. As soon as I arrived home, I googled his name to find out about his music and the name. Born in Chichester, Sussex, England, Antony has lived for many years in the USA. He is a rare being – he embraces both male and female and through the unity of the two, he reaches out so that several songs feel like a hymn to humanity. Love, forgiveness, sorrow, identity, death feature in the lyrics – very simple and to the point.

In the sweetest of ways, Antony is fearless in terms of his lyrics.

One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful woman
One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful girl
One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful woman
One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful girl
But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy

Antony has clearly touched a chord with those professionals who give their life to music. His 2005 album I am Bird Now won the prestigious Mercury Music Award given by a panel of industry experts, journalists and artists, for the album’s originality and creativity rather than sales success. The chairman of the judges said “I am a Bird Now is not like any album I have heard before or since.”Laurie Anderson, a creative artist herself, said: “When he sings it is the most exquisite thing that you will hear in your life.”

I bought the album the next day and played it one evening on the retreat that Nicole Stern and I were offering on The Power of Intimacy in the Waldhaus, near Bonn, Germany. Listen to it and let your heart sing.

Listen to Antony sing >>



FACTORS COMMON TO RELIGIONS. Positive and Negative

It is easy to fall into the habit of thinking that our own religion is the true faith and that other believers have got it wrong. The following two lists show that religions, even from different cultural and historical backgrounds, have more in common for the good or for ill than we may think. Continue reading 



THE PACKAGING OF THE NOW

Are we living in a period when the quest for something profoundly spiritual has formed itself into a marketable package; a package that is rapidly becoming an agreement in certain spiritual circles, shaped by an unquestioning obedience to a definition of enlightenment?

It would appear that several key standpoints and the definition of the determination of these standpoints determine what enlightenment is. If you have the experience of Oneness, Being, Consciousness and Non Duality, while abiding in total acceptance and complete surrender, with no thoughts of the past or future, then this means you know your True Self and are enlightened. Being enlightened, you are abide effortlessly in the Now knowing that there is nothing to do and nowhere to go, and all effort is ego.

This is complete unexcelled enlightenment. Are you sure? Are you really sure this is the fulfilment of all human aspiration? We do not have to look far to see why it is such an attractive package and why people are prepared to pay $$$$ for a retreat, a workshop or for a couple of hours teachings and dialogue on the Now.

When the mind is running up and down the three fields of time (past, present and future) and stressed out with thinking about everything that is inconsequential, then the ideology of the NOW and non-thinking must hold great attraction. After all, we are urged to believe there is only the Now and the Now is eternal. Or, are the high priests of this spiritual package deluding themselves and deluding others into clinging to the Now as enlightenment?

Have these spiritual teachers simply called a halt to deep inquiry and have settled for Being-in-the-Now as the answer to everything?Well, is it enlightenment? Or, at best, is it a pseudo enlightenment, a kindergarten enlightenment that, for starters, doesn’t require a single change of lifestyle, an exploration of a vast number of ethical issues, an investigation into dependent arising circumstances, fearless compassion, insights into wider sphere of  global consciousness and heaven forbid, any kind of real renunciation, or even questioning of the so called reality of the Now, let alone surrender to it?

It appears that certain spiritual teachers steer away from vital issues; they have adopted another standpoint namely that these matters are irrelevant from an enlightened perspective since they take us away from the Now. Frankly, when the self (with or without a capital S) lands in the Now and stays there it is stuck, truly stuck.Anyway some teachers tells us the above concerns has nothing to with enlightenment.

Excuse me, some of us beg to differ. Perhaps we all need to wake up and realise the vast circumstances that make up our life. Of course, there is an immense value in knowing the immediacy of things but it would be a great tragedy if in any way consciousness became restricted to the Now and defined itself by the Now.

A truly enlightened life has surely to address major issues and not be afraid to enter into discourse about them.  

Extract from 4000 word article “Is the Here and Now a Myth?”

A small footnote: I suspect the Buddha would feel totally bemused at the new lightweight determination of enlightenment on offer in the West.




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