“If the whole universe can be found in our own body and mind, this is where we need to make our inquires. We all have the answers within ourselves, we just have not got in touch with them yet. The potential of finding the truth within requires faith in ourselves.”
― Ayya Khema
Ayya Khema was born in Berlin in 1923 of Jewish parents. In 1938 she escaped from Germany with a transport of two hundred other children and was taken to Scotland. Her parents went to China and, two years later, Ayya Khema joined them in Shanghai. In 1944, however, the family was put into a Japanese concentration camp and it was here that her father died.
Four years after the American liberation of the camp, Ayya Khema was able to emigrate to America, where she married and had a son and daughter. Between 1960 and 1964 she traveled with her husband and son throughout Asia, including the Himalayan countries, and it was at this time that she learned meditation. Ten years later she began to teach meditation herself throughout Europe, America, and Australia. Her experiences led her to become ordained as a Buddhist nun in Sri Lanka in 1979, when she was given the name of “Khema”, meaning safety and security (“Ayya” means “Sister”).
The Meditative Mind
People are often surprised to find it is difficult to meditate. Outwardly it seems to be such a simple matter, to just sit down on a little pillow and watch one’s breath. What could be hard about that? The difficulty lies in the fact that one’s whole being is totally unprepared. Our mind, senses, and feelings are used to trade in the market place, namely the world we live in. But meditation cannot be done in a market place. That’s impossible. There’s nothing to buy or trade or arrange in meditation, but most people’s attitude remains the same as usual and that just doesn’t work.
We need patience with ourselves. It takes time to change to the point where meditation is actually a state of mind, available at any time because the market place is no longer important. The market place doesn’t just mean going shopping. It means everything that is done in the world: all the connections, ideas, hopes and memories, all the rejections and resistances, all our reactions.
In meditation there are may be momentary glimpses of seeing that concentration is feasible, but it can’t be sustained. It constantly slips again and the mind goes right back to where it came from. In order to counteract that, one has to have determination to make one’s life a meditative one; it doesn’t mean one has to meditate from morning to night. I don’t know anyone who does. And it doesn’t mean we cannot fulfill our duties and obligations, because they are necessary and primary as long as we have them. But it means that we watch ourselves carefully in all our actions and reactions to make sure that everything happens in the light of the Dhamma — the truth. This applies to the smallest detail such as our food, what we listen to or talk about. Only then can the mind be ready with a meditative quality when we sit down on the pillow. It means that no matter where we find ourselves, we remain introspective. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk to others, but we watch the content of the discussion… Continue Reading
Guided Audio Meditation on Dukkha (Stress)
This is a guided meditation with Ayya Khema on how to investigate the nature of dukkha (dissatisfaction, stress, suffering). Here, she guides listeners to investigate how unwholesome and repetitive negative states arise from either wanting (grasping) or not wanting (rejecting) the moment and how to dis-identify and abandon them.