Updated: February 9th 2005

  • Hardly anyone seems to send any feedback so I would welcome some fresh ideas for this page. The discussion groups below are still active if you prefer interactive discussion. I prefer not to have a guest book as they are subject to frequent abuse. Email me if you have any questions about the site or any of the books.
  • All Things Pali Discussion Group is a Yahoo group where one can learn some Pāli or discuss passages from the texts and commentaries.
  • E-Sangha - The Buddhist Community. A well-organised forum for discussion of all the main forms of Buddhism.
  • New to Buddhism As the name suggests, this forum is intended for those new to Buddhism. Questiions tend to be more basic for those starting out with meditation.
  • Sangha On line This Yahoo group is visited by several members of the Sangha who respond to questions posted by members. They have a wealth of scriptural knowledge if you want to know about the Pāli texts, but you can also ask basic questions on Buddhism and meditation.
  • Theravada Buddhist Forum This forum is strictly moderated by Burmese Buddhist Maung Maung Lwin — the Webmaster of It is a good place for light or serious discussion on Theravāda Buddhism or meditation.

Q Jabhun Kim

You mentioned that if you need to sleep for 6/7 hrs a day, then you are still far from meditation, My question ism “How do I get to the point where I can sleep 2 hrs a day like the Buddha.

A What I said was, “If we want to sleep at least six or seven hours, the goal is still far away.” While engaged in intensive meditation, six hours’ sleep should be adequate.

The Buddha needed only 1 or 2 hours sleep because his mind was perfectly pure. Set a realistic goal to reduce sleeping by one hour. That is achievable for most of us.

Q Felix

1. What is the Burmese meditation position?

2. What is the meaning of “Ashin” and “Sayadaw”?

A 1. The full-lotus position is cross-legged with each ankle placed on the opposite thigh. The half lotus is with one ankle placed on the floor and one on the opposite thigh. The Burmese position is cross-legged with both ankles on the floor, one tucked in, and the other in front. You may find this more comfortable if you are not supple.

2. Better ask a Burmese for a definitive answer, but “Ashin” means something like Venerable Sir, reverend. Sayādaw is derived from ācariya (Pāli for teacher) and is akin to Ajahn in Thai, though Ajahn may also be used for lay Dhamma teachers, whereas Sayādaw is only used for monks as far as I know.

Q Adam

I must admit that I am quite fearful, after reading your web page on hell, about a rebirth in the lower realms.  Unfortunately, I gather that this fear is in itself unhealthy, and can lead to the lower realms. Is there a good way to nip this fear?

A Fear is an unwholesome mental state, akin to anger and aversion. However, there are two other mental states that are wholesome: hiri and samvega.

Hiri is the mental state that recoils from wrong-doing due to fear of suffering the evil consequences of unwholesome actions. Its counterpart is ottapa, which is shame or fear of blame. If one has either one or both of these virtues one can observe morality scrupulously.

Samvega or zeal is rare these days. Even good people are incredibly heedless. Religious zeal is vital to the spiritual life. One should reflect constantly on death to try to arouse it. Living as we do in cities surrounded by people, and protected from the elements, with all we need easily obtainable, it is hard to see the fragility of life until some trauma touches our life. Then one trembles with fear, but it is usually unwholesome fear due to strong attachment, not genuine zeal or fear of constant rebirth.

Unwholesome fear arises from craving and attachment. To reduce it we must remove craving and attachment. The practice of loving-kindness is also very helpful to eradicate fear as it is opposed to anger and aversion.

Forest monks practise the Ascetic Practices (dhutanga) to try to arouse samvega. Living in remote forests with wild beasts, dwelling in cemeteries, eating only food gathered on almsround, or not lying down to sleep, are all very good practices to arouse samvega.

Q Isuru

I am studying for my GCSE in Buddhism and would please like some information on the Buddhist teaching of dukkha.

A Dukkha is hard to translate accurately as it has a wide range of meanings. Mostly it is translated as suffering or unsatisfactoriness. The description in many discourses is as follows:

“What, monks, is suffering? Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering. Grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair are suffering. Association with the unloved is suffering. Separation from the loved is suffering. Not to get what one wishes is suffering. In brief, the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.”

The five aggregates means the body, feeling, mental formations, perceptions, and consciousness. So all mind and matter is suffering. Even pleasure and joy are dukkha. Why? Because they are impermanent, unstable, unreliable, not satisfying, and not subject to one’s wish or control.

Q Krishna

I’m confused. The Buddha said to get rid of the ego and desire, but if one does that, will one have any aim in life.

A Desire is the cause of suffering, so if we want to achieve the end of suffering we must get rid of desire. However, that desire to get rid of desire should be made deep and strong. It is not sensual desire or craving for pleasure. It is the determination and intelligence to find a way to the end of suffering. It is called will (chanda) as the basis for success (chandiddhipada). Sensual desire arises due to pleasant feeling, but desire for liberation arises due to insight into the human condition. It is not an unwholesome dhamma like craving and greed, but a wholesome one. Be wary of those who teach that one can attain enlightenment just by letting go of all desire.

The teaching is a raft for crossing over the torrent of desire. One has to let go of the raft after, not before or during crossing the torrent.

One also needs will (chanda) to achieve worldly ends. A murderer needs will to kill his intended victim. A robber needs will to rob a bank. An adulterer needs will to seduce someone else’s spouse. A millionaire needs will to become wealthy. A doctor needs will to discover a cure for disease. One also needs a strong will to achieve results in meditation. The kamma depends on the intent.

Q Soenarno Hoetomo

Bhante, what is black-magic exactly according to Buddhist philosophy? And as a buddhist lay person what can I do to dispel this black magic or at least not to be affected by it.

A The Buddha said that poison held in the hand cannot harm one who has no wound. The best protection is one's own moral virtue and loving-kindness. If you practise generosity, honesty, and metta, you will have no enemies.

If some people still hate you, the evil kamma will remain with them, unless you retaliate, so be patient. If people do try to harm you, that is because you tried to harm them at some point in this existence or in past existences.

These Paritta Suttas were taught by the Fully Enlightened Buddha to ward off various dangers. The greatest danger comes from one's own mind so one should guard it well. No person, however wicked, can cause anyone to be reborn in hell, but our own mind can do that if we leave it unguarded and allow hatred or envy to overwhelm us.

Take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and strictly observe the five precepts. Listen to the chants and reflect well on the meaning as you listen. The words of some of the chants can be found here. I may add some more later if I have time.

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