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Aloka’s Funeral

On August 13th 2015 the funeral service for the teacher of the DharmaMind Buddhist Group, Aloka David Smith, was held at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre. It was a celebration of the life we all shared with him – fellow dharma practitioners, friends, family and football buddies. We are sure he would have wanted you to enjoy this video 🙂


– Thank you so much for allowing us to share in this very important occasion. And so inspiring to have him there with an open coffin, and his letter being read. He is one of the greatest teachers of our time, hands down. His personal reference always being his experience, he can be trusted as an authentic teacher / guru. Thanks the Dharma Mind group for always ensuring that Aloka’s dharma talks were recorded, each being an absolute gem that bears relistening & relistening. I believe him when he says he has given us the complete package, everything we need to proceed rightly upon the path. May you all go well, as we move forward without Aloka’s presence.

Fundamentals of Teacher/Student Relationship

This is Aloka’s last filmed talk. Its a challenging piece, as it talks about what it means to give oneself in service, especially in service to your teacher. What he covers can sometimes be hard to open up to, especially for us westerners in the DharmaMind group. This talk prompted a lot of discussion in the group afterwards, so is well worth watching.


– In his last talk, Akoka has made me examine the relationship I’ve had with him over the years and recognize how difficult it has been for me to “just surrender”. The feelings of resentment I have often felt towards Aloka are indeed a reflection of the vulnerability of my own ego. It is beginning to dawn on me what Aloka means by a “dharmic relationship” and how different it is from our usual human relationships. As Aloka explains, the normal rules of rationality and reciprocity simply do not apply. Yep, I’ve got a long way to go with this training!

– A lot of powerful reminders here. Sometimes it can be hard to hear what Aloka says, but that in itself is a lesson about the ego. I am very glad I watched this.

Breaking out of Your Conditioned Bubble

In our quest to be free we have to look and discover that part of ourselves that isn’t. We discover with investigation that so much of our thinking and functioning in life is simply following what we are familiar with, like a machine that we hide behind because we feel we are safe and unchallenged. What we need is to bring natural spontaneity into these situations and so step beyond that safety bubble out into the unknown. This is the path of the unconditioned and the chance to break the shackles that cause us to experience all of our suffering.


– A wonderful talk! Aloka addresses with great clarity the self-created barriers that have prevented me (and, I imagine, most of us) from experiencing openness and freedom.

The Importance of Silence

This talk given at the London Buddhist Society focuses on an issue that could be said to be the most important feature of dharma training but also the most important feature of all spiritual training that all religions, indeed all spiritual aspirants pursue. Without it access to the source of your quest is not possible, and this is the cultivation of silence of mind supported by physical stillness. This is a major challenge that demands we examine the reasons why we can’t pull this off. Discover that a busy life without seeking precious spacious moments to relax and do nothing thus to become the master of your life, rather that its victim, is a major impediment in finding the mental platform to developing silence of mind on the meditation cushion, and discovering liberation from suffering.


– I was unable to attend the talk, so I am most grateful that the event was recorded. As always, Aloka goes to the heart of the matter: identifying silence as the foundation upon which we can extract ourselves form the turmoil of our everyday lives. The same simplicity is evident in Aloka’s comments on the DharmaMind group. While embracing the core principle of Chan/Soto practice, our focus is entirely upon discovering silence and using that silence to illuminate–without adding any complications. Thank you, Aloka!

Silent-Illumination Unpacked

Silent- Illumination is an ancient Chan practice that can be difficult to understand and put into practice. This talk attempts to unpack this ancient practice and make it accessible to us here in the west so we can identify with it and take it not just to our meditation, but crucially also into our everyday ordinary life. Discover how to grow into this profound form that will not just awaken us to our habits and attachments that create the suffering of samsara, but open the door beyond this self-made creation into the uncreated, and return us to our true nature and liberation.

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Taming the Noise

In the last talk the subject of finding your natural stillness and where the dharma abides was discussed, it is for us to now acknowledge this truth and take to the centre of our training. This talk focuses more specifically on how we go about bringing about that stillness that paradoxically is always with us anyway. The need to fulfill this aspiration can only be pulled off when we learn to take this training into our everyday lives and to all the ordinary mundane activities most of us engage with. When we do begin to tame that restless mind through committed training in this way, we can then bring that new familiarity to the cushion and so open ourselves to where the dharma is waiting to rise and transform.


– I find this talk really helpful. Thank you Aloka

– Having listened to it again this is just what I needed to hear. Commitment and discipline are both areas I need to work on and it is amazing how noticeable it is when you don’t commit to the practise and what happens when you are not disciplined with yourself.

The Unifying Principle of all Buddhism

Buddhism is a vast and expansive religion created by traditions and cultures that stretch back 2500 years to the time of Shakyamuni buddha. If you wish to study it you could easily spend your life exploring its philosophy, history and its many teachings. But if you are someone who wants to get to the bottom of your suffering and extinguish it you have to be very careful you don’t get lost in its perfusion of endless concepts. However attractive these teachings are you need to focus and find the central principle that unites them all, and that is creating a still, empty and silent mind. For it is from this experience can you truly begin the journey with all the techniques on offer to understand and go beyond your suffering. Without making this your primary focus your desire to be free that is the promise of all schools will not be fulfilled.


– Aloka returns to familiar themes in this talk–but, my goodness, how I need to be reminded! One message from the talk that I find helpful to repeat to myself when confronting the challenges of the day: “Don’t take it personally!”

Questions on Spiritual Practice 2

The second day of questions focus on the remainder of the principles covered in the talks. After comments on how the dharma subtily changes the personality when you commit to practice. The questions focus on service, which many of us find challenging to our sense of self. The virtue of forgiveness can be the great healer both for yourself and others. Learning to let go of negative emotions is to become human, and rise to the challenge of not to taking ourselves so seriously. Finally, finding your inner guru.

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Questions on Spiritual Practice 1

With the principles covered over the first three days the group are now invited to comment and ask questions on a subject that can be a very personal feature of training. This video on the 4th day of recording covers questions on how to distinguish the difference between willfulness and wholehearted commitment to training. Nurturing humility in daily life and working with a strong sex drive that many of us sometimes feel we are possessed by.

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The Principles of the Spiritual Path 3

This talk completes the trilogy on the principles of the spiritual path with some emphasis on meditation, and the need to always be cultivating the ability to get to know yourself with insight in the context of a spacious mind that points continually to your true nature. There is also attention given to two features that are often seen as controversial in modern western buddhism – surrender and service. These features have shown to be have been exploited by some teachers who want control and power over their students. This danger needs to be guarded against with utmost diligence, but to dismiss these two principles as not being necessary for the cultivation of the spiritual path runs the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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The Principles of the Spiritual Path 2

This second talk focuses primarily on learning to ‘Trust your Inner Guru’ which means for us buddhists to make contact with and recognise buddha nature. This along with our type of meditation defines this path as being both spiritual and buddhist. All other features of this path can be assigned to the universal pursuit of the spiritual path and other practices too. Many buddhists in the west these days are marginalising the concept of buddha nature as being irrelevant but by doing this how can what we practice be then said to be a spiritual path? It is only when we open to and embrace our own inner nature beyond the conditioning that we are familiar with do we find the bridge to the unconditioned, true liberation from birth and death and our eternal divine nature.

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The Principles of the Spiritual Path 1

What is the spiritual path and how should it be defined? In these talks this path although common to all those with spiritual aspirations is viewed from a dharmic training viewpoint with it’s unique perspective on self and buddha nature. Each of the 12 principles is investigated with only 2 of those principles seen as being uniquely Buddhist. After an introduction, the first principle to be looked at is ‘Acceptance of life’s Vicissitudes’ and how to find the middle way and equanimity in the midst of the up’s and down’s of everyday living.

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The Great Adventure

To engage with this type of dharma training it is important to know the correct spirit that should always be with you. This training is not a cerebral exercise but much of one that takes place in the body and the emotions. It is important therefore to consider that you are not so much on a path with a sense of duality but rather engaging directly with an adventure. An adventure is something that you can never be certain of its outcome yet retail the excitement of alway going into what will always be the unknown. Step outside of the comfort zone you’ve created for yourself that houses the dukkha you experience into something that may evoke fear but step into it anyway. Take a chance, and see how it works out, This is the spirit of our training.

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Beyond Death – the Eternal Flow

Yesterday in the talk recorded at Anybodys Barn there was the focus on the reality of death which comes to all living things. Today the talk focuses on the logic that if some living thing dies it therefore means that at some point it must have come into being or been born. This notion of being born and dying needs to be seen as a creation of a mind that misunderstands what it is actually experiencing with this idea of a beginning and an end. When we learn to see this we can return to the truth in that everything is not broken up in this way but is rather in a state of flux and so see that nothing actually dies because it was never born in the first place.


– An extremely moving talk in which Āloka reflects on his training and on the clarification and polishing process that has taken place. By looking inwards and learning how our mind is the creator of everything, we can apply the training to move beyond conditioning and duality, and discover the uncreated and unconditioned. Āloka describes how we can find our true nature, and how our heart can be released from its prison. The training helps us to look at our fears, our suffering, and our death, and get to know them rather than run away or chase other insubstantial ideas in our search for freedom. But trying to stay present, truly living and experiencing every moment, is a great challenge. The inspiration from these talks is so very precious – I offer my meditations in gratitude.

– Aloka’s reflections on death offer profound and illuminating insights into the nature of life.

The Myth of Death

Life comes to an end for all of us, this we all know. Because of this reality it should be seen that it is very important to prepare yourself for that event because expectations of this will have a profound impact on life as you now experience it, and also what follows. We learn through thinking and reinforcing a sense of self to create our experiences as a world of mental dharmas and objects all separate, independent and always changing. This way of seeing things creates the notion that everything is born, lives and dies. We too along with our body are a part of that apparent reality. Yet, there is part of ourselves to be discovered that is not a part of that cycle of birth and death. When we discover that part as being our true reality we discover that the event of death is just a play of the mind and a myth that has possessed us all of our lives. Take refuge there in the silent stillness of who you really are and you will live life without fear.


– Hello Aloka, I am watching all of your videos repeatedly and I so VERY VERY much appreciate the Dharma that is coming through you. I have shared your diagnosis and and link to this video. This vimeo channel is the greatest gift you could have given to us. I am here, on your channel, everyday, letting the Dharma wash over me. Here is a video I found that may interest you youtu.be/4n8qT0vQbWk On Cancer and all of your contributions.

– An amazing talk. Āloka provides an incredible explanation of how the self/me/I create dharmas, pulling segments out of a continuum (the flow), giving them a beginning, middle, and end, and an identity. And by pulling them into our mind-created world we give them the ability to be born, to live, and to die. Āloka offers that our whole sense of me/my body is a similar extraction from the flow, and therefore life and death are also a myth. So much inspiration and valuable perspective on the training – stay present, stay in “the flow”, live 100% of every moment, and prepare as much as possible for death.

– I think this is an extraordinary talk. It seems that Aloka really does understand this at a deep level. Which is inspiring.

Finding Joy Within Practice

We all come to this practice because we don’t feel satisfied or fulfilled with life as it is, so us practitioners are inevitably draw to the experiences of dukkha and see them as the cause of our malaise. This is what is seen to need to change if we are to achieve our desire for fulfillment. The problem with this is that we can so easily focus almost exclusively on this negative side of ourselves to the exclusion of the positive side that we all have, and the positive side of this wonderful and mysterious world that we all live in. So to change we need to turn ourselves not exclusively to the negative but also to the positive, and include life itself, to create an antidote that will help disempower and counterbalance dukkha so allowing it to fade and fall away.


– Thank you for an inspiring talk at this retreat. As always, it seemed to be directly what I needed to hear – being in a spiral of blame, self-loathing and feeling out-of-control is a cycle that I find hard to break. It’s almost as if I need periods of self-pity and indulgence to escape from the effort of this training. But, Āloka’s story and 40 years of commitment is such a motivation, and to hear how he is dealing with cancer, and how we need to recognise the positivity and wonder in each moment, these certainly help me to put things into perspective. So, thank you. For bearing with us, for being our teacher, and for continually reminding us of the path.

Q & A – Session 2

On this the final day of the ninth Snowdonia retreat at Trigonos we continue with a richly diverse question and answer session started the day before covering the extensive teachings of the DharmaMind group. These teachings embrace every aspect of training from the basic understanding of meditation to the direct discovery of your true nature. These teachings point to what is needed to grow into and embrace with a wholehearted spirit the commitment needed to break free of the conditioned nature that diminish human potential, and discover that part of ourselves that is not touched by this conditioning and so return to who we really are – a true warm-hearted human being, mysterious and eternal.


– More useful discussion which again really helped me to further understand and bring together the talks from this retreat. The question on suffering clarified for me how the duality of the experience reinforces the concept of “me”. Then, the area of boredom was explored as being a way to remain in your comfort zone – I very much related to the idea of being terrified to step outside – but it explained why life can sometimes feel meaningless, and that we need to go beyond this fear. This was then discussed through the Dharma teaching of “do nothing”; how we need to open, become familiar, and bear with the experience, and weigh up when to take a risk and step into the unknown. Finally, the need for genuine humility and the act of bowing, using this to surrender to our true nature, give up the self, and discover a fearless state. Another inspirational talk.

Q & A – Session 1

After 4 talks that focused on the main features of the DharmaMind practice, the students of the group now have the opportunity with this session the opportunity to clarify aspects of the training through the first of 2 question and answer periods – For example: What are the tools we use for developing insight? How do I let go of insight? Are dreams significant on the path?


– Very useful questions and answers, giving further clarity around the training. Highlights for me are (1) more detail on the insight tools, applying them in walking meditation, and how they can help to open to our true nature; (2) the need to continually let go, including letting go of any insights that arise. How we can use such insights as inspiration; (3) a reminder of the simplicity of this training, and how important it is not to get diverted from our commitment.

Complete Teachings – Talk 4

Vipaśyanā is a Sanskrit word translated means insight which is the instigator of transformation; and in this fourth talk we go deeply into this important feature of the Buddha’s path. For us in our group we don’t follow insight formulas but rather have without picking and choosing an open forum to all of our experiences both on and off the meditation cushion. When we come to discover our innate ‘blue sky’ of stillness we learn to bring the insight tools of investigation characterised by the ‘white cloud’ to our practice. Here we discover the ancient practice of ‘silent illumination’ which for us is the pinnacle of our commitment and which when cultivated can take us like an arrow to complete liberation.


– Another outstanding talk, building on talk 3 and leading us to the aspiration of Silent Illumination. Āloka asks us to look continually at ourselves and our relationship with things, how we can discover that we create everything, and that by learning to open, observe, and take responsibility, we can also learn to let things go. A key point for me was the emphasis on our training as an opening practice, not a concentration. And by continual looking and questioning of who/what we are, we can start to see the reality of impermanence and why we suffer.

Complete Teachings – Talk 3

This talk starts with the first steps of the insight path, and the features of the ‘white cloud’ that we often refer to in our practice. This talk explains that the insight path isn’t something narrow that can only be pursued with defined insight methods and tools, Developing familiarity with insight can begin in the most unstructured way in any circumstances. From this growing familiarity you can then take yourself into the deeper and more refined practice that will eat away at the root of your ignorance.


– thank you Aloka!

– This talk had a big effect on me, clarifying my understanding of the attitude and approach needed to engage more fully with the training. With a focus on self-awareness, Āloka explains the key to the training and how we can learn to use everyday opportunities to watch ourselves and cultivate insight. Reminding us to always look inwards, Āloka describes the positive and potential negative discoveries we can uncover, and how we must bear with these emotional episodes and allow them to go into change. By owning our “stuff” we can start to understand and heal ourselves.

– I find this talk very helpful. I have struggled in applying the “white cloud” metaphor to my own meditation. From Aloka’s talk I recognise that the path of insight is not limited to profound states of medittiion. So long as there is awareness, self-reflection can yield insight in a variety of circumstances and activities.

Complete Teachings – Talk 2

An overview of the five pillars is followed by an introduction to the blue sky. Pursuing the pillars as the centre of training will naturally bring you to your open limitless blue sky that can now begin to become a significant aspect of your vision of what is beyond the dualistic world. The blue sky is the natural stillness and limitlessness of who you really are. From here you can begin to come alive to that which is not of the created world of the mind. Changes can be significant here but it is not the end of the path. There is still the white cloud of insightful investigation to integrate with the blue sky, it is then you can really begin to cut the bonds of ignorance.


– I found this talk very helpful in providing a bridge from the five pillars to the blue sky, giving a platform from which to open to and learn to become familiar with awareness. Āloka first reminds us to come into the body, to get out of the way, to resist wanting to be in control, and drop the “security” of the self. In this space we are encouraged to trust and allow something else to arise – a space where we can start to discover who we really are. With the support of the paramitas we can learn acceptance, open to ourselves, and begin to move forwards on a more skilful basis. Further training that I can aspire to work on every day.

Complete Teachings – Talk 1

These talks cover the complete spectrum of the teachings on offer from the DharmaMind approach to the dharma with its focus on liberation from the self, and nurturing the path to becoming a complete warm-hearted human being. This first talk draws together what are essentially two perspectives that could be seen as separate but are of a complete form of training.


– Thank you for these teachings. I have listened to the talk several times already and look forward to the next talks from this retreat.

– I think these complete teachings are very useful. I look forward to playing these 2 dharma talks over again to go deeper into practise. Thanks Aloka.

– This one hour seems to contain a life’s work, from the formation of the Five Pillars of Transformation to Blue Sky, White Cloud. Āloka indicates the Dharma is small, not complex, and on first hearing I thought the same about this talk. On second listen there is clearly a lot more to it, and I think more repeats (polishing) will reveal even more. Most useful pointers for me are (1) being alive to the constant pull of my impatient, dissatisfied, and insatiable mind; (2) that our training is about unburdening, not gaining, progressing or increasing; (3) restlessness is the biggest impediment to stillness and getting to know myself. An inspirational start to another incredible set of talks from our week at Trigonos.

Preparing for a Retreat

In this talk I’ve used the upcoming retreat for the group in Snowdonia as an example of breaking the habit of needless mental projections. Using this retreat as a metaphor for life I’m encouraging the student to rather than spend time creating situations in their mind about the retreat that may or not occur, to instead turn away from this common habit because it only produces burdens and expectations that almost certainly will not take place anyway. Best to arrive at the retreat without any expectations at all and so arrive with an empty fresh openness often described as a beginners mind. This is but an example of how we should approach everything we do in our life.


– Another brilliant exposition of the Dharma. Bowing in thanks

– It is uncomfortable to realise how much projecting I do, and the level of detail in my scenarios is equally disturbing. And as Āloka points out, all the stories revolve around me! Using the framework of the retreat helps to give a focus for looking at the mind, but this is very much a lesson to apply to every situation. Āloka talks of using the practice to help us approach events with a clear mind, with spontaneity and a sense of adventure, rather than trying to control all the time.

Liberation in the Mundane

We are creatures of habit, or looking from a dharmic perspective conditioned beings. This means when we learn something it then becomes a habit in our everyday life and it so often then becomes something we follow without any notion of being present through awareness, and so become like a mindless mechanical thing. The habit learned in the body takes over so that we can get lost in our thoughts and fantasies yet still perform the function that we set out to do. By living like this we are cutting ourselves off from the very source of our true nature and liberation and will be forever unfulfilled. The challenge that we all face is with energy (virya) be alive with ever present awareness and be with all of our daily habits and mundane routine, for it is just being like this that the door to freedom and awakening can only be found.


– Happiness, fulfilment, meaning and liberation are all to be found by awakening to the everyday activities of life. What a powerful message! I am reminded of Thich Nhat Hanh’s observation: “the real miracle is not to walk on water, it is to walk on the earth.”

– Awakening in the now will be such a relief, really, only having to focus on this moment, then the next, etc. Thank you Aloka, this is very helpful.

– This is a powerful reminder of the need to be in the moment, “where your feet are now”. I find it easy to be pulled into the future – particularly to the next holiday – wanting it before it is time. But then I miss out on the living that happens between now and then. Āloka talks about the effort and commitment needed to engage with each moment and not get dragged into the past or future, or just perform activities like a robot with no awareness. The inspiration is to see the meaning and practice in every moment, and the potential to find freedom through every moment of every day.

DharmaMind China Pilgrimage – 2013

In November 2013, 13 pilgrims from our group travelled to Shanghai, China for a two week pilgrimage. Over the two weeks they visited sites both in Shanghai and the surrounding provinces. China has yet to open fully its wonderful Buddhist heritage to the world, as there are still many restrictions in place for the visitor. But slowly these restrictions are eroding as Buddhism’s renaissance continues to mature. The DharmaMind group’s tour was both inspiring and educational, and this short video give you a taste of what they experienced.


– A fabulous record of a truly memorable trip. With thanks to James and Matthew for the superb filming, capturing the essence of our tour, and to James for his skilful editing and production. Finally, thanks again to Āloka for arranging the pilgrimage.

– Thanks James and Matthew. And not a single circular restauran table!

Cultivation of Detachment in Chan Buddhism

The heart of Mario’s talk focuses on the fundamental danger of practice of unknowingly turning the practice itself into just another possession of the self. He focuses on the teachings of the early Chan masters who developed teachings and structures to alert practitioners of this danger that many would consider the greatest challenge of the spiritual path, in that of surrendering the notion of self without simply reinforcing it.


– Fascinating insights into the approach of 7th century Chan masters to the challenges of detaching from the self (especially the challenge of “detaching from detachment”). Also some humorous observations on the conceit with which we co-opt religion as an extension of the self–particularly the propensity of many Westerners to (ab)use Buddhism as a form of therapy. .

– A really informative talk. I got slightly despondent with the emphasis on humans having such propensity to mess things up, but on reflection it does seem to be an accurate assessment of the focus we all have on ourselves and our habitual tendency to put me first. A super ending, culminating in the Chan three-step approach to detachment, the Bodhisattva path, and how with commitment and on-going reflection we can aspire to drop all ideas of self gain and instead practise for others.

Embracing Life with Courage

This talk begins with a short acknowledgement of the Buddha’s life during this month of Wesak, followed by the importance to focus on fully engaging with life as we learn to contain the habits that cause attachment and dukkha. We learn with a spirit of playfulness and experimentation to redirect our thoughts, speech and actions into a more skilful way of living all with the guidance of the six paramitas, as we slowly come to recognise the selfless engagement and function of our true nature and its aspiration of revealing the true human being.


– A reminder after Wesak of how important it is to ponder and take inspiration from the Buddha’s story.
The second part of the talk provides further insight on attachment and the paramitas. I found it helpful to understand that attachment relates to all clinging, not just the things we like, but applies equally to fear and other aversions. The problem of engaging with life without attachment, of not falling into a void when the self is out of the way, is then discussed. Aloka shares how authentic change will lead to the wonderful experience of true human nature expressing itself through the paramitas.

– Aloka draws upon the life of the Buddha to inspire us to: “begin to fulfil the liberated heart that just wants to be at one with this amazing experience so that’s there no separation between you and the wonderment of life,”

– I found there is a lot in this talk to ponder. As commented above, the insight into the nature of attachment being clinging in all its forms was particularly useful to me. Obvious maybe to cling onto to things and emotions that we like and want in our lives, not so obvious to cling onto things and emotions that we don’t like and very much want to be free of. Later in the talk Āloka points out the danger of becoming a “good Buddhist” and mistaking that for the fulfilment of the path. He clarifies the fulfilment of the path as being, through letting go of our attachments, to go beyond the conditioned mind and beyond any notion of a self.

– Great to listen to this talk again on Wesak Day and hear the piercing wisdom of Āloka as vibrant and accessible to me as when he was alive.

The Fear of Letting Go (Pt. 3)

It is so easy to misunderstand our form of practice as just learning to be still and silent of mind and then expect wisdom to arise from this state. If your understanding of the training is along these lines then this is a misunderstanding and a grave error. You certainly needs stillness as a basic foundation and platform for wisdom but to really liberated what is your inherent wisdom requires commitment to change your stream of habitual attachments, through observation, investigation and restraint, all through practice within the four postures. These three talks highlight the need to be careful of retreating into your comfort zone that stillness can encourage but challenge this danger by willingly engaging with the whole of life.


– This is such a helpful talk for me – to look at emotions as habits, how to bear with their power and intensity, and how to work on finding “the gap” and catch them before they take me away. Much easier to say than to do… It is scary to start to see how much energy I put into maintaining my defences and protecting my self-identity. This training is about learning to open, and truly engage with everything. The Q&A at the end is really useful too, with extra advice at a practical level on day to day challenges.

The Fear of Letting Go (Pt. 2)

It is so easy to misunderstand our form of practice as just learning to be still and silent of mind and then expect wisdom to arise from this state. If your understanding of the training is along these lines then this is a misunderstanding and a grave error. You certainly needs stillness as a basic foundation and platform for wisdom but to really liberated what is your inherent wisdom requires commitment to change your stream of habitual attachments, through observation, investigation and restraint, all through practice within the four postures. These three talks highlight the need to be careful of retreating into your comfort zone that stillness can encourage but challenge this danger by willingly engaging with the whole of life.


– Further inspiration and much to ponder as Āloka continues to encourage us to seek freedom, beyond the known, outside our bubble, and into our fears. It really does enable me to start to question what I see and know, what defines me as me. The biggest challenge is to try and stop my habitual response and reaction to things that challenge my own self-view.

– Very helpful talk, thank you, Aloka.

The Fear of Letting Go (Pt 1)

It is so easy to misunderstand our form of practice as just learning to be still and silent of mind and then expect wisdom to arise from this state. If your understanding of the training is along these lines then this is a misunderstanding and a grave error. You certainly needs stillness as a basic foundation and platform for wisdom but to really liberated what is your inherent wisdom requires commitment to change your stream of habitual attachments, through observation, investigation and restraint, all through practice within the four postures. These three talks highlight the need to be careful of retreating into your comfort zone that stillness can encourage but challenge this danger by willingly engaging with the whole of life.


– This talk really hits home, pointing at the essence of our self-made world, i.e. fear, and how we work so hard to protect ourselves. I am starting to recognise my own fears, limitations, and self-imprisonment, but how to find the strength and commitment to release the barriers and operate from a new centre of openness? A direct and inspiring talk.

– A wonderful challenging talk. Anyone who may have been led to believe that this practise of ‘no practise’ is therefore to suggest that the ‘practise’ is a quietistic one would be well advised to watch this video. Here Aloka reminds us that whilst there maybe some focus on meditation and the cultivation of stillness, this is essentially only to create the appropriate environment to explore and challenge our attachments. Basically going on to say, simply substituting one attachment for other ones is not sufficient. And recommending instead we say NO to our habitual tendencies to defend these attachments. Which will no doubt bring up some challenging emotions to bear with, but also ‘material’ to investiage and explore further. This Aloka seems to suggest, is where the practise of ‘doing nothing’ really begins!

– I think this is a very strong talk. Aloka begins by laying out the nature of stillness and its importance but also stresses that it is only the foundation for really getting to know yourself. He encourages us not to get stuck or comfortable in this stage.

The Simplicity of Presence

This talk touches the heart of this training. This ancient form of dharma (no) practice is the essence of the DharmaMind Way. This training is about discovering that part of yourself that is never a part of your created mind of impermanence, but is that which is uncreated, permanent and ever present. Here you must find this ‘place’ and learn to trust and invite it into your daily life. By doing this you will surely let go of all that you dearly hold on to that you see diminishes your life and deprives you of your full potential. Learning to be just present is the gateway to this freedom.


– If you want a refresher for your practice then I would highly recommend this talk. Āloka returns to the fundamental nature and simplicity of the training, reminding us to “just be with yourself”, but indicates how easy it is to miss the doorway to freedom. For me, it is like there is something in my makeup determined not to let me be still or quiet. It is almost as though I am scared of what lies through the door. It certainly seems easier to stay in the world of interest, distractions, of what is known and understood. This training really seems to challenge my ability (and courage) to trust the unknown.

– “Just being present: the simplest thing in the world!” And yet, how challenging!

The Fine Details Of Commitment

We all come to the practice of the dharma because we want change in our life, otherwise If we were happy with how things are we wouldn’t bother, would we? Yet we so often think that these changes are some how done by acts of will and choice. What we often do not appreciate is that with change comes by giving things up and renunciation. Taking responsibility for your habits and be prepared to surrender them for the dharmic change we all so much desire. In order for this to truly take place we need to take our commitment off the cushion and into our daily life and look very closely at how so often we just don’t want to give up even the smallest of habits and things we attach to.


– Thankyou for posting Aloka. I tend to start to drift if I don’t watch at least one of these a week.

– Thank you, I cherish each and every talk that is posted here. I am wondering what snail mail address that I might write to Aloka? Sandy, Vancouver, BC

– This talk is a very practical reminder of the spirit of commitment, and what is required to work on my stuff on a daily basis. With this training it is all down to me, my choice as to what I do. It’s personally a challenge to take ownership, to use the gift of choice in a wise way, and take responsibility for my decisions and actions rather than blame others. Āloka advises us to learn to say “no” to engrained habits, but also recognise that we have to be willing to completely surrender and let go to find the freedom we desire. For me, this is why the practice can be found in every moment.

– The,topic of this talk–the need for commitment and consistency of practice–echo the themes of the very first talk of Aloka’s I attended seven(?) years ago. What I am realising is that for me to overcome the habits of a lifetime I need regular reminders and continual reorientation.

– A powerful reminder about self-discipline. Thank you for giving this talk Aloka.

Keep Yourself Centred

In this talk on the seventh anniversary of the beginning of this group it is an appropriate time to reflect on what it has to offer. The importance of keeping yourself focused and to resist making the commitment to the dharma complicated and confusing is at its heart. The essence of the group is to provide an environment of trust and support so that the student has the opportunity to let go of what they dearly hold on to and discover the freedom that comes from non-attachment.. We never lose focus of this fundamental opportunity.


– This talk is a valuable reflection on the importance of our Sangha, how critical it is to have a consistent and stable form with no diversions and distractions, and that each person supports the standard, giving and taking as needed. I recognise in my own mind the tempting, almost instinctive urge to complicate and create, and add to the practice. Āloka reminds us to return to the simplicity of the training, and not to create. Buddhism can be a new mask, another way of creating an image depicting the person we want to be seen as. But this journey is the opposite – we have to let go of everything, discard lifelong baggage and open completely, with utter trust, to what is within.

– The themes that Aloka addresses encapsulate the reasons why I joined this group and why I stick with this group: our practice is centred around simplicity, commitment and authenticity.

Dancing with the Dharma

After practicing the Dharma for some years, it’s easy to forgot why it’s important to practice and how it can benefit your life. In this talk, one practitioner reflects on what got him started in the first place, and why he continues to do so. He reminds himself, in this deliberate act of reflection, that he practices to be fully human, embodied best by being able to dance freely. In the process he rediscovers what an immensely positive impact the Dharma has had on his life.


– Thank you for the talk, Mike, which I found engaging, courageous and uplifting. It’s encouraged me to reflect upon my own journey and the impediments which I still face. –Rob

– And I thought I was a control-freak – I clearly have a lot to learn from Mike!

– A heart warming, open and honest assessment of walking the dharmic path. Enjoyable to watch and encouraging to note the similarities with my own imperfect practice.

– Thank you for doing this talk. I have watched it a few times now and it helps me.

Shunyata in Daily Life

Shunyata is a Sanskrit word with many interpretations and a word found extensively in buddhism. A word with deep philosophical and profound spiritual depths. Yet it is also accessible for our everyday ordinary practice to encourage us not to attach to our familiar habits but instead see them as insubstantial and ungraspable.


– This talk is very helpful in getting a new perspective on Shunyata, which I had always understood as the translation “emptiness”. The broad explanation of Shunyata looks at duality, our sense of separation, and the creation of suffering. Āloka offers ways for us to look at our world in a new way, to doubt the solidity of what we see, and question our interpretation. I find this a useful tool in approaching everyday situations, and helps me to start to see things from other angles and viewpoints.

– Always great to hear what the correct meaning of words and concepts are in relation to the practice it it itbrings clarity .still don’t understand karma ! However
Also funny to hear misuses of these words in society as a whole ….

The Importance of Pondering

We pursue a silent mind during meditation and we work with our habits during our daily life . But we also need to find time between these two opposite so as to bridge the gap to help pull them together. To find the space in your daily life to be still and to ponder your relationship with yourself, life and touch your inner guru is also an essential part of practise.


– It is quite difficult to try and find space in an already busy life. I’ve not been able to allocate an hour, but have managed to make a 15 minute space at the end of work where I try to sit and reflect. But even though this sounds a pleasant activity it is really tricky to stop the chatter and restless mind. So pondering also needs practice, and it’s interesting to hear Āloka talk about the ongoing maturing and cultivation of this aspect of the training.

The Need for Inspiration

By its very nature the spiritual path has many highs and lows. When we feel good and in balance we need little support, but when we enter a trough the training can get tough. We have to learn to bear with at these times, but some external support in the form of inspiration can be invaluable. Inspiration from your teachers words. Words of dharma through stories and inspiration from your sangha can be very helpful. But also be inspired by your own commitment to practice and your own efforts against all difficulties to become a true human being.


– Thanks Aloka…a wonderful reminder! :-))

– It struck me listening to this that there is a need to find a balance between internal and external inspiration. The dangers with external sources are their impermanence, the fact that they are a useful stimulus but are short-lived and we find ourselves wanting and needing more to get that emotional lift. Āloka offers a more stable source of inspiration which is our own practice. And describes how we can use the incredible journey of discovering our true humanness to maintain positivity and commitment. A very uplifting talk.

Knock on the Door

During the group’s tour of China we visited Tiantong Monastery home of Chan master Hongzhi Zhengjue author of the ‘Silent Illumination’ teaching that became a great inspiration to Zen master Dogen who came two centuries later. Master Dogen also received transmission at this same monastery. During our visit we were given a talk from the resident meditation teacher Tong Wei who covered the subject of shunyata and how we create our own world of suffering. This talk is a commentary on his talk that highlights the importance that we wake up to how we create this world of suffering we call samsara.


– So true do we ever learn? Or doesn’t thing ever stop even into old age

– It was an amazing privilege to sit in Tong Wei’s quarters and listen to his talk. Āloka provides additional insight on how we can use the practice to wake up, to shake ourselves out of the dream. And for me some really helpful commentary on anxiety and stress. But simple does not mean easy. “When there is a knock on the door, leave it alone!” – can I break the lifelong habits…?

– Such a simple message. Stop creating new worlds or clutching onto some current one. Be open, present and allow things change. Notice how we are continually doing this in our daily lives in many small un-noticed ways , with the example given of our typical response to an unexpected knock at a door………………Watch also how Aloka delivers this talk, his manner, tone, fluidity, different emphases, commitments to particular ideas….how he moves in the chair or lifts his head…..how authentic is this messenger? He gets my vote….with this talk is yet another example.

The Fear of Self-Consciousness

Does self-consciousness affect your life? Such a common impediment experienced by many of us, but what can we do to address this condition that can so diminish our lives. This talk attempts to look at the issue and suggests it is caused by an overbearing self-view that we feel a need to shore up and protect. When looked at we see the driving emotion is a deep seated fear and one we have to learn to face up to and become familiar with its nature.


– I appreciate Aloka addressing this topic. As a young man I was often paralysed by self-consciousness. My attempts to confront my fears of exposure and gain familiarity with difficult situations had limited effectiveness. It was not until I took up meditation and began to loosen the grip of the self that I wasable to overcome this affliction.

– I had not appreciated the extent to which self-conciousness and fear limits me. The practice helps me to look into this aspect of myself, and start to develop some understanding of how it affects me and influences the way I deal with people and situations. It has also given me the courage to face some of those fears and insecurities, smaller ones at first, and begin to realise that they are self-inflicted, a misinterpretation or misunderstanding created in my own head. This is an incredible talk that so accurately expresses what many of us have experienced.

Creating the ‘DharmaMind’ Calligraphy

The calligraphy was created by the renowned Chinese artist Mao YinFu (xiao Lin) at his facility in the Yellow Mountain peaks of southern Anhui province eastern China in November 2013. The inscription ‘DharmaMind’ is written down the centre of the paper with the group’s teacher’s name ‘Aloka’ written on the right. The left side includes the artists name plus other information such as time and date.

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The Endless Flow of Thoughts

Most of us would admit to be continually distracted by thoughts. They just never give up, do they? Given that trying to stop them by force doesn’t work, how do we go about dealing with that which never lets up and so enjoy some peace? This talk offers the path that tempers and ultimately stops the chattering mind, and the way to cultivate the ability to return over and over again from thoughts to rest with our own innate silent thoughtless awareness; both on the cushion and off it.


– Just what I needed to hear. Thanks Aloka.

– It is so easy for me to divert from stillness in my daily life, especially at the weekend when I do have time to be with myself. This talk is a reminder to not fall into that trap and allow time to do nothing, to create space and allow the mind to settle.

– This is a great talk to hear again, as it cuts through the complexities I have created and returns to the simple heart of the training. Such clear and wise advice on how to use the practice as an antidote to thought, and in our wider daily situations. But although it is simple, it is not easy. My chattering mind is so familiar, a comfortable place to be, it takes a huge commitment to give it up. The training makes me feel less comfortable, vulnerable, insecure, so it’s tempting to find excuses to do something else. Is this why this is a lifelong journey, to develop that commitment to keep coming back, to remain present, for as many moments as possible, every day?

Day 4 of 6 – Boundless Body, Boundless Treasures

It is unfortunate that so many dharma practitioners assume their liberation is to found through some sort of mental development process. There may be fruit from this way but you will be only scratching the surface of your full potential and surely miss out on the inconceivable wisdom and wonder that full awakening promises. If instead you take your attention into the physical form and embark upon your spiritual journey from within this place, you will with commitment soon enough discover freedom and boundless treasures by going beyond the confines of a dualistic mind.


– Be fulfilled by knowing the ultimate Truth of Life, check out web site below.

– In this talk we are reminded of how important it is to bring Dharma practice out of our heads and into our bodies. This is a challenging area of practice for me. It requires constant vigilance not to allow awareness to float back into the head and be captivated by thoughts. Āloka once again outlines an essential element of the Dharmic path with great clarity.

– Having come to this training in a period of stress-related illness, the linkage between the physical and emotional is an important area of investigation for me. Life can so easily be lived from the head with no consideration for the body, but this pillar, this talk, gives a straightforward approach that can be used to turn around conditioning and discover a new way of being. Fears and emotions can be faced, embraced, and blockages removed, as Āloka describes how to find the innate wisdom within ourselves.

Day 3 of 6 – The Restlessness of Mind

Anyone who has tried meditation will know the major challenge to concentration is the restlessness of the chattering mind. Although this the biggest single challenge there are other aspects of our makeup that are also difficult to bringing stillness to meditation: namely the body and the emotions. Why is conquering these restless characteristics so important to meditation and practice? Simple. It is only when you have tamed restlessness throughout your entire being will your innate wisdom rise up and transform your life in an authentic way.


– This talk goes to the heart of the key barrier between me and my liberation. After an upbringing where “idleness” was a grave sin, I have devoted my life to action and achievement. Thanks to Aloka’s guidance, I am aware of this addiction. But giving up the habits of a lifetime is no simple matter!

– This talk reminds me that it is ok to create space in my life in which I am doing nothing. In fact this space is essential to allow Dharmic insight to arise.

– I can see that restlessness itself has caused me to overlook this pillar. The constant agitation of physical, emotional or mental manifestations have been quite difficult for me to identify, however, this talk makes me look harder and more honestly at my habits. In particular the need to arrange, schedule, plan is with me constantly – a never-ending monologue playing out in my head. Hearing that this is just a way for the self to re-assert itself helps to fuel my commitment to try to stay present and to try and make space.

Day 2 of 6 – Trusting Silence

I believe the teachings that are on offer to this group will be all you need to find authentic liberation. At the heart of the teachings is the need to discover the stillness and silence that lives in us all through skilful meditation. This newly cultivated experience brings the discovery of who you really are just beyond the turmoil of your created samsara. Learning to trust this expansive space becomes a true taste of your commitment as you make yourself open and vulnerable. But to learn to trust stillness evermore willingly is to open the door to your full potential and your complete and full liberation.


– How tempting it is to give into restlessness and look to make this practice more complicated. Āloka stresses the need to resist these habits, to find the space and not look to fill it with dualistic concepts. He reminds us of the simplicity of the Dharma and that this is a journey that does not go anywhere. I found the idea of treating every day of practice as day 1 very helpful, together with the image of polishing/going around continually with the hope of finding more clarity and understanding. By always returning we can build familiarity, trust, and truly find the heart of the training.

Day 1 of 6 – The Meaning of ‘Refuge’

Beyond ritual and ceremony ‘Going for Refuge’ is an expression of your training. To understand what the word ‘refuge’ means is to touch the very heart and spirit of what training means. Learning to give yourself and surrender your attachments to your precious opinions and habits is always going to be a big challenge, but to understand this importance and the way we cultivate this act of giving is to discover the true spirit of this ancient ritual.


– Aloka explains that taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is a central, non-negotiable feature of the Buddhist path. It requires that we surrender everything that defines us as an individual. It is a huge challenge–we cannot do it on our own.

– The profundity of going for refuge is made clear in this talk – can we leave behind our wordily conditioning and open to something unknown? Āloka asks us to test “where am I with my training – where do I stand in taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha” and I realise that this is something I have not recently done. Another timely reminder to be continually questioning myself, what I do, my motives, and that the guidance of a teacher and support of the Sangha are essential.

Own Your Samsara

To own and take responsibility for all of your thoughts speech and actions is one of the great challenge of training, and so until you manage to pull this off authentic dharmic change will not take place. The way to learn to enter this challenge is to realise that the world that you involve yourself with and form attachments to are in essence your own creation manufactured by these very thoughts, speech and actions. The more you become aware of this the more you can begin to take charge of that world and cease to be its victim through attachments and reactions. When you get to this realisation you can start to dismantle what you attach to and taste the space and freedom that is your true nature.


– You know that experience when you have heard something – read the same thing – countless times before. Then ……….. comes a time on the 50th listening session when you get the feeling and just know, that it has all gone just that little bit deeper? When there are just a little glimpses of insight into ‘stuff’ that has made up parts of who I think I am! And am so very very deeply attached to. Ah well….. on we plod, gently.

– A remarkable and challenging piece of teaching.
Thank you Aloka

– “We have to learn to own everything that we think and we say and we do. When we begin to own we can begin to change. And we can change everything.” –This is a powerful teaching about the potential for personal transformation.

– A huge shock for me, to consider the possibility that rather than being a victim of circumstances I was actually the perpetrator of my suffering. But by taking this new perspective I have been able to look at situations in a completely different light. And the wonder of this practice is that you can apply it to real events, and see that the teachings are right, and that change can happen. Sincere thanks indeed. Next brick here I come 🙂

– If I’d watched this 48 hours sooner, I might be still talking to my brother.

– Thank you.

Samadhi in Action

Samadhi defined as stillness or silence of mind is an important feature of our training, but we must be careful not to misunderstand that this is where our training finishes. To create the samadhi of silent openness through passive awareness is really only the beginning. From this place of steadfastness you now turn yourself to insightful cultivation in two distinctive ways in order to see into the relationship with yourself, life and the attachments that you create. One aspect of samadhi is sitting still in awareness on the cushion and the other is taking that stillness into the activities of daily life to become samadhi in action, which then reveals the true dynamic spirit of our understanding of this important concept.


– So, discovering stillness is not the whole story: true liberation requires using that stillness to gain insight into myself. I now see that this a lifetime quest! It’s a challenge, but the alternative (staying as I am) is certainly unappealing!

– This talk really helped me to understand the apparent contradiction of stillness and activity required by our practice. And presents me with the challenge of trying to bring stillness into everyday life. Learning to face into my barriers and fears is what Āloka calls “tasting the ice cream”, and means accepting full responsibility for the world I have created and hopefully starting the process of change.


This talk focuses directly on the heart of our training and the place of liberation, and that is discovering our innate natural silence. The ten thousand forms of life and even buddhism itself can easily distract us from this discovery, but to put the aspiration of silence at the very heart of dharma training gives us the chance of not losing that focus and the ultimate fulfilment of awakening. Difficult to find, and boring in the beginning. Silence if trusted, coupled with skilful means, opens the door to the inconceivable reality of who we truly are, and the divine nature of life itself.


– Love all of Alokas talks but the last couple of talks I have listened to seem to condense the essences of the whole practise into a single talk and provide those valuable practical suggestions and insights, so I have a better sense of what I need to do and what this means in my daily life.

– Aloka cuts through the complexities of Buddhism to reveal the simplicity at the core of the DharmaMind practice: discovering the place of stillness that lies within us all.

– A short title, but a very extensive talk covering the breadth of the practice from the place of stillness. Āloka recognises that it is so difficult to change our habits, to stop worldly busyness, and asks us instead to find some space and time to be with ourselves. I find this is a step into the unknown and into my fears. I find it incredibly difficult to stop, to do nothing. But we have to train ourselves to invert our outlook on life, to overcome our fears, to stop reinforcing the self.

The Medicine for Fear and Suffering

A month or so prior to this talk I had an a operation on my head and neck to remove cancer growths. During this period there has been a lot of time to reflect on life and my relationship to it. I talk about the gift of self-awareness and of waking to the wonderment of life and our divine nature. I also spoke of how we can turn a potentially fearful event like this into one of great suffering by projecting thoughts and scenarios as to its future consequences. The strong lesson to be learnt is by not projecting into the future (or the past), but rather just staying with what is; there may be pain, but there is never suffering or fear.


– Reflecting upon how I would feel in Āloka’s situation makes me realise how much I have to let go of. And when I am caught up with my negativity, I find it difficult to find a place of gratitude. But for me there is nothing more important in life than coming to terms with our mortality. And whatever gratitude and acceptance I am able to feel when my time comes will be down to my contact with the Dharma and specifically Āloka’s teachings.

– An inspiring and very personal reflection on the wonder of life and inevitability of death.

– One of the most moving talks I have heard, and a privilege to listen to. I can relate to the temptations of self-indulgence, self-pity and resentment when I feel ill, so it is extremely humbling to hear Āloka’s story of facing major surgery and death. The depth of his gratitude for life and of the opportunity to have practiced the Dharma are plain to see, and are an inspiration for me to look at my own circumstances and ensure that I make the most of the invitation to participate in this amazing world.

A Glimpse of the Bodhisattva

The bodhisattva ideal is a major concept in mahayana buddhism and therefore relevant to the type of training we pursue in our group. I believe it to be a greatly inspiring concept but it carries a danger far greater than misunderstanding the other defining concept of our tradition in that, because we all possess buddha nature we therefore do not need to train. Misunderstanding the bodhisattva ideal is far more common because we perceive the bodhisattva in the human form and therefore can easily grasp at this ideal and see ourselves to be becoming one of these truly enigmatic beings. In order to steer clear of the danger of turning this training into a self-image ego trip we need to understand what sets the bodhisattva training apart from any other pursuit that we may be familiar with. This talk touches on the unique perspective and qualities of this type of training.


– These inspiring and salutary insights have made me reflect deeply on how I behave towards and how I relate to other people.

– “Give yourself 100% without grasping”… What’s great about Aloka is his ability to cut to the heart of the matter. Listen to this and you can’t help but come away with one or two sentences lingering in the corridors of your mind. Sentences that challenge and clarify practice.

– This is an inspiring and humbling talk which deals directly with the importance of practising for self and other – not one or other, but both. For me, the comments about staying grounded, contributing to the form/the Sangha, and giving without expecting anything in return are such useful pointers for everyday training.

Talk 6/6 – Questions and Answers

We come to the last day and time given over to issues on our way of dharma training through a Q and A forum. In this session answers to the retreat students questions highlight – The Physical Centre of Practice / The Dangers of Sleep / Not Liking Myself.


– The Q&A is always useful and this one is full of very helpful practical advice. Near the end there is a section on the mind which resonated with me, in particular how it can be seen as a machine, churning out a constant stream of images and stories. This picture, together with some of the previous answers on dealing with negative thoughts, will hopefully help me to move into a more positive environment for practice.

Talk 5/6 Dharma Offers More Than Just Happiness

A familiar promise often made by teachers of Buddhism is one of happiness. This is true, but the problem with happiness is that it relies on circumstances to experience this much desired emotion, In truth all circumstances are in the grip of the law of impermanence, so when the circumstances that bring happiness go into change so does your happiness.
As well as happiness the practice of Buddha-dharma also promises contentment, which is of a far greater order and importance. Contentment is much more subtle and more difficult to bring into your life, but once established takes you beyond the need to chase ever-changing circumstances that you hope will bring the emotion of happiness. With contentment established you will be happy anyway, because you will no longer be pulled around by life’s vicissitudes but have an equanimity and stability in all situations, this we call the middle way, and so go beyond the stress of continually chasing after the impermanence of happiness, that proves in the end, to be just a temporary shield from the human malaise.


– The distinction that Aloka makes between worldly happiness and true contentment is fundamental to what first drew me–and continues to draw me–to the Dharma.

– As a teenager I struggled with feelings of unhappiness, uncertainty, and a sense that something was not quite right, even though I had everything I needed. Hearing this talk and looking back, it is clear that we have to work on our relationship with ourselves to discover true contentment.

Talk 4/6 Time for Renewal

This talk took place on New Year’s Eve, and so I suggested to the group that they made use of this time to look back over the year that was about to end, and ponder if there were grounds to renew their commitment to practice in the New Year that was about to begin.
Of course, as practitioners we should always be watchful of our commitment to training as a part of everyday awareness; but be especially watchful to the danger of falling into the ‘comfort zone’ that manifests in numerous ways being the greatest and most common mara that follows us all.


– This talk is one of my favourites, with a fabulous description of the wild mind as an untamed horse and how through committed practice, friendship and trust the trainer and animal can become one. A good time too to listen to this again as we go in to a new year, and I ask myself if I can maintain my commitment to contain and not be pulled around by my emotions. And how I can work at being honest with myself, to look at me without any pretence or judgement.
Āloka reminds us to always reflect, but use this time of year in particular to look back over the last 12 months, and also to strive to refine our thoughts, words and deeds in the next 12. He ends with some real nuggets – don’t take things personally – everything is an empty dharma – we create suffering through attachment.

Talk 3/6 The Jewel of Awareness

Dharma training can so easily become complicated and even confusing. Yet the key and centre focus is always to do with the simplicity of awareness. All forms of Buddhist training are paths that lead back to simple naked present awareness. It is then from this position that you begin to observe and wake up to yourself, and make decisions to let go of attachments to discover your natural stillness and freedom from suffering. We need to remind ourselves over and over that this is the simple basic truth of all dharma training.


– This talk reminds me of the line in our morning puja “and throughout this day sustain mindful awareness”. Can I endeavour to stay aware, be present with what I am doing through the whole day? It is not easy, and I find I am constantly getting lost in the temptations and distractions that occur. But, when it can be sustained for a short time, for me it is like discovering a new sense. An incredible new way of looking at my involvement in situations and the world.
So, we are encouraged to use all opportunities to practice retaining awareness, walking meditation, or any of the four postures, so that it becomes familiar.
The message I take from this talk is that our practice is not to do anything about the situation I am in, but just to know it…and to start to get to know and understand myself.

2/6 Breaking Through the Darkness

We can all aspire to a vision of awakening and enlightenment, release from suffering and eternal freedom. Many teachers offer this vision but often forget to remind the student that release is only possible by first opening and working through the mind’s created samsara and its suffering. Our form of training also offers the great vision, but continually reminds the student to primarily focus on the created suffering of self and ego. Because it is only when the darkness of the created world begins to fade will the great vision of liberation we all aspire to begins to shine through.


– Lots to ponder in this talk. I found it a useful reminder on what to focus on in the practice – getting to know myself – and that I must not get pulled into the dreams and imagination of what “I” want from the training.

1/6 Making Life Positive

As practitioners we are aware of the suffering that characterises much of life, and can therefore become conditioned to see life from a negative point of view. But taking on dharma training this perspective can be turned around by seeing that that very suffering itself can instead become really something very positive. Now you can train yourself to see it as the very substance of the path of transformation itself, and the gateway to freedom and liberation.


– A radical and inspiring message. We don’t have to remain trapped within the personas we have created for ourselves; we can step outside and experience the fullness of life.

– Radical indeed. An inspiring message for learning how we can break out of our fears and limitations, treating our dissatisfaction as food for the journey rather than being a victim of it.

The Secret of Awakening

Our way of being is to create a dualistic world of opposites. We grasp at things or reject them. We like or dislike. We have views and opinions that invariably display one-sidedness. We want to do this training, then we don’t want to do it. What we seldom experience with any sort of consistency is living in the middle of these extremes. But the definition of authentic practice is to be able to live in that middle space between these opposites. That place that you sometimes touch but seldom abide in with any consistency.
Lift yourself up when you feel uninspired and fearful, contain yourself when you are tempted to grasp and get carried away. This is the secret of awakening, and the secret that the Buddha discovered – it’s called the Middle Way.


– As well as encouraging us to reflect over the past year, this talk gives practical advice on how to have the right relationship with our training. Āloka provides principles that can be applied to that annual reflection, but also to the daily practice. Some of the key messages for me are (1) maintain a consistent commitment – Āloka sees this as regular practice that does not intensify with good times nor slacken in tough times (2) maintain a constant effort – “lean in” without force and don’t be tempted to remain in the comfort zone (3) discover the middle way – try to find equanimity rather than be pulled to the extremes or opposites (4) never be complacent – always keep watch.
I find it challenging to go into the unknown and enjoy the adventure, particularly when the practice uncovers fear and vulnerabilities. However, the fruit of being able to do this and give up our attachments is described as inconceivable, and committed consistent practice can give us this direct experience.

Empowering Yourself

The negative image so many of us have of ourselves is the reason why we don’t recognise and enjoy the peace of our innate blue sky. Through this form of training you learn to bring the blue sky into your life by owning everything that makes you up. This revolutionary state of being then empowers you to turn away from a life time of habitual negative self-views. With this change taking place your blue sky will come evermore into your life.


– Talk two from Autumn 2012 is another exceptional one. Āloka offers a humbling vision of what is available if we can go beyond our conditioning, limitations and fears. A key part of this is to start to wake up to the relationship we have with ourselves. For me, this has made me realise how much I blame others for the way that I am, the way I feel, and the situation I am in. This habitual dialogue can be broken, but it takes effort, commitment and patience to stay with the continual return of the negative, and simply say “no”. Āloka suggests antidotes that we can use to address these habits, which are part of the deception and can therefore uprooted. The key is taking ownership of my stuff, my creation, and realising that I can change it. Having a positive relationship with me is an important learning, and I’ve found being kind and forgiving towards myself helps me to be more tolerant with others, and also makes me more able to ask others to forgive me.

A Pilgrimage to India

In January 2012, 18 members of the DharmaMind Buddhist Group embarked upon a 12 day pilgrimage tour of the principle sites of Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha in northern India. It was an experience that none will forget, and an experience that changed the spiritual life of many.


– A fabulous record of our pilgrimage, bringing back many amazing memories of the sights and sounds of India. Thanks to Āloka and all at Linden Films for this production!

– HI! Greetings from India! This is a fab video. Loved it! you know what, you should definitely submit this for the India Is video challenge! Those guys are looking for videos that are just like yours! Check out indiais.org/video for more details 🙂

The Dangers of Wilful Practice

How is it possibly to engage whole-heartedly with life’s activities and challenges without always having the end game of “I’m doing this in order to get that” ambition? This is the usual function of our everyday mind that would even resort to strong wilfulness in order to fulfil its desires. Our training is to discover the mind that doesn’t engage with wilfulness or pushy ambition, and yet still engages wholeheartedly with life and its never ending challenges.


– I am trying to apply the lessons of this talk to several aspects of my life–including my work as a teacher and writer. Rather than focus upon the end (with an obsession with lists and deadlines), I am commiting to the tasks themselves. I find that my work is becoming more enjoyable and I feel that I am performing it better.

– I find this talk immensely helpful in applying the practice to my daily life. It is so easy to judge what I do in terms of what I achieve (or not) from it, and letting go of this mindset is very difficult. Additionally, coping with the frustration of putting all my efforts into something and not getting anything in return can be a demoralising experience. Āloka encourages us to find the place where we can give ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever we are doing, without any expectation for reward. If we do not attach to our expectations then we will be free from suffering. I very much relate to the ups and downs of life – these are easy to cope with – I can wallow in the positives,and in the negatives. But finding consistency, the middle way, is a challenge. It is an inspiring aspiration to be content with the way that things are, embracing good and bad with the same attitude, and expecting nothing in return for my contribution and commitment.

The Blue Sky, and the Inconceivable Journey

It is easy for us to take moments of peace as being no more than that, but can you see that experience as a gateway that invites you to pass through it? An invitation that will take you on a journey into who you really are, and a journey to that part that is free from conditioned fear that is called your true nature. Precious jewels of transcendental knowledge that points to the astonishment and wonder of life itself awaits, if only you have the courage to make that journey.


– I think this is one of the most outstanding talks so far in this collection. Āloka starts with such a simple idea – peace and quiet – and takes us to the inconceivable. Once again stillness is the key, and we use meditation to set up conditions so that the blue sky can be discovered. Through training we can discover this doorway and be at the threshold of starting our journey. But it is easier to then stay with what we know, where we are safe and secure, rather than step into the unknown. If we truly want to change then we need to have the trust and courage to open to the unknown. We have to be prepared to let go, be vulnerable; we cannot stay in control and expect to find liberation. We have to bear with the emotional and physical intensity of our experiences until they go into change, and eventually burn themselves out. I often find myself the victim of negative feelings, of feeling low or helpless. This talk is a wonderful lift to the spirit.

Mind, Body and Practice

We have the opportunity when in sitting meditation to use the experience to cultivate a mind that becomes ever more still. But we also have the opportunity to wake up to the whole process of how we create attachment and suffering, by being alive to our ongoing relationship to the very posture itself. By just being alive to this relationship on its own can reveal so much of the path to freedom and liberation.


– This seems to be such a key talk for our group because we spend so much time in sitting meditation. Āloka describes how to use the relationship we have with our body and posture to help uncover and understand the relationship that we have with life. We are asked to question the basic assumptions of “my body” and “my pain”, and to observe how we increase our suffering by feeding, reinforcing, and embellishing the experience. I find it a challenge to look at the mind and body in this new way, particularly the idea that we are trapped by our own attachment to it. Āloka encourages us to bear with restlessness and discover the truth of impermanence as the experience will always naturally go into change. I like the conclusion which is to treat posture as our best friend, and use the opportunity to open to that which is not part of the body or self identity.

Dharma Practice will Change Your Life

It is natural to expect some sort of reward from your practice. If you are patient and engage correctly with the training, it will transform your life. In time, you will come to see that this training is worth keeping your trust in, and discover that it is truly an authentic inner revolution.


– really enjoyed this talk. To know we are so close to our true nature is uplifting when practice is tough. Thanks.

– I found this talk very comprehensive in dissecting the self; how it can manifest and possess experiences, how it survives by creating a sense of control and security, and how it can be incredibly subtle and difficult to identify. Once again we are encouraged to discover and take refuge in stillness, and allow our true self to enter our lives. Coming after the Trigonos week we are reminded of the value of retreats, particularly a week of silence, but also the day retreats where we can refresh ourselves and re-focus on what we are trying to do. I like the phrase “stillness in action” which means we need to learn to stay present and bring the stillness into all of our daily activities. Āloka concludes by emphasising the importance of faith, trust, and patience – it is a long journey and change will not always be obvious so relax and live, with the Dharma as part of our lives.

Talk 6/6 – End of Retreat Question and Answer Session

A selection of training questions from the students that closed the 2012 Summer Retreat.


– This is a valuable Q&A session that provides another perspective on the previous talks. I found the first answer very helpful in reiterating an important feature of the blue sky – that it is not created but discovered, and that it is discovered through the process of letting go of all the distractions and confusions of the mind. Letting go sounds so simple, but is so difficult to achieve, however the next question on insight contemplation gives the reasons why it is worth practising and why we need to give priority to bringing stillness to our life. For me, the final section on the nature of fear will be one I will revisit, in particular the challenge of moving out of my comfort zone and being willing to drop the defences around my self-image. Facing and overcoming our fears means we can fulfil our true potential.

Talk 5/6 – The Spiritual Journey

To train ourselves to be always reflecting inwardly is to correctly prepare ourselves for the inner spiritual journey of transformation. From the ability to be still and inwardly reflect, the spiritual journey of discovering our own inner transcendental divine nature and liberation from suffering will surely follow.


– In this final talk Āloka brings together all the elements covered during the week, and re-emphasises that the purpose of the training framework is to turn us in and look at ourselves. We use the five pillars as the start point, but we need to accept that there is no end point to our journey and that the depth of understanding and layers of subtlety are endless. Āloka points out the dangers for westerners taking on the practice and how easy it is for us to misunderstand and delude ourselves. For me this is a reminder about the constant need to check myself, and that unless the practice is deeply personal and even unpleasant at times, then it is unlikely to be true Dharma. As well as the inward journey we are encouraged to also give space to awareness and bring an additional spirit to obtain the complete path. The ultimate truth, if we silently illume, can then be revealed.

Talk 4/6 – Stillness and its Profound Nature

For many in Buddhism stillness of mind is just a pre-requisite for insight practice. We too use stillness to cultivate insight, but by seeing there is more to stillness than just being empty of distractions, we discover who we really are beyond this self-delusion by awakening with ever growing clarity to our infinite true nature.


– A clear and powerful statement of the central role of stillness both as the foundation for spiritual practice and the starting point for self-discovery.

– This is a wonderful, positive talk about the foundation of our training and how the term “blue sky” expresses openness, stillness, and no-thingness. It is really helpful in stopping the element of boredom sometimes present my meditation, and instead inspires me to seek silence and take refuge there. Āloka describes how stillness is the basis for dharmic self-reflection, and is the foundation from where we can start to see the truth of awareness, which is not boring! This stillness is the doorway to our true nature, our liberation, and even to the source of life itself. All the answers can be found within ourselves if we can learn to nurture the blue sky.

Talk 3/6 – The Tools of Transformation

Buddhism offers us many tools for insightful contemplation (usually based on tradition) to use in our quest for transforming wisdom. Our type of training offers a free and open chest of insightful treasures in that ongoing quest.


– There is a huge amount to take in from this talk. Āloka unpacks insight from the five pillars and clarifies how we can apply the concept of blue sky white cloud to further our understanding and training. The difficult aspect to face of course is myself, and Āloka emphasises this as the first rule “always look inwards”. From a basis of stillness we can start to question everything we have taken as real and solid – our world, our feelings, and all the elements that make up me. Unpicking and getting to know ourselves can eventually lead to a growing understanding of our ignorance and delusion, our sense of separation, and why we feel lonely and fearful. The uplifting conclusion is that through our training we can do something about it. I find Āloka’s statement “if I am the creator of my suffering, then I can uncreate it” one of the most powerful messages.

Talk 2/6 – The Art of Non-Doing

To be able to perceive a ‘practice of no practice’ takes a long time because it runs against all that you have come to understand in living your life.


– This talk is a helpful reminder of the five pillars and how we should always be revisiting and pondering them. Focussing initially on restlessness and the emotions, Āloka describes how these are the biggest obstacles to finding stillness and our true nature. Just hearing this encourages me to look harder at my life and try to find ways to bring more stillness to it. Āloka returns to the first pillar to review the training and how it is a practice of non-doing. Again this is a really useful reminder as we are so conditioned to want to action things and achieve, and we need to learn a new, completely opposite way to our conditioning. The fourth and fifth pillars are then interwoven, including the need to bring trust, humility and openness to the practice. Another superb talk from the Summer retreat, asking us to question ourselves about our continual drive and busyness and why we struggle to find inner contentment.

Talk 1/6 – Instruction on Formless Meditation

An in depth look at our nature of mind practice and how to find inner stillness by cultivating the formless meditation of ‘silent illumination’.


– I heard this recently on the retreat but didn’t realise I’d get a lot more out of it by watching it again.

– A great introduction and invitation to step through that doorway and awaken to your True Nature.
Very inspiring.

– I find this talk so inspiring…..and Crystal clear……

– This is certainly inspiring. Āloka describes the challenges we face with our training, and how the struggle is against our own inner forces and not an external entity. All the skills we need to continue our training are described, when the unpredictable mind continually takes us away from the moment. Āloka gives clear direction on how our direct, non-conceptual practice can take us to our liberation. I found this talk really useful – to revisit the meditation practice for the group as well as re-energising my commitment. It is a talk that I will listen to again as a regular reminder.

The Third Option

Our thoughts tend to take us to play again experiences of the past, and when not indulging in this they take us to indulge the future, and create scenarios usually centred around an often neurotic self-view of insecurity. We therefore live most of our lives in a dream world of past or future, both heavily identified by an insecure self that is the creator of suffering. When we discover stillness on the meditation cushion we find a third option beyond this turmoil. This option is not of the restless mind but a ‘place’ that we can take refuge in and discover the liberation of this present moment.


– This was a timely reminder ahead of our annual Trigonos retreat, about the balance between being sensible and planning, but also the need to retain living in the present and not get caught by indulgences and scenarios about the future. Āloka then links this to the suffering and the world that we create, from the past and into the future, and that we need to wake up to the present – the third option. Through meditation we can start to look at our mind and what it is doing, and begin to find the place of stillness that is with us all the time. A very helpful talk for listening to ahead of any retreat.

– An uplifting talk with lots of important reminders. Very helpful. Thank you Aloka

Awareness – Gateway to the Deathless

If you open to your uncluttered naked awareness and ponder its unique qualities instead of following one of the many insight meditations we are encouraged so often to do, you find yourself on the threshold of the wonder and mystery of life, as well as the on the cusp for your awakening.


– I really got a lot from this talk – it’s really good and talks about letting go and moving beyond duality and clinging to ‘me and mine’. It also helps explain how this kind of practice is paradoxical and how you just have to keep coming back to the practice over and over….!

– Wow – the definitive guide to awareness! This talk really takes you to the heart of the practice and is a fabulous one for pure inspiration and focus. If we can discover stillness, resist the urge to get caught by our habits, and trust the place where we will feel vunerable, then we can begin to learn more about awareness. The challenge is then also retaining this awareness in our daily life. If we can awaken to its nature, our fears and suffering will start to fall away.

Don’t Give Up

Becoming disheartened and negative towards dharma practice is a part of the spiritual journey that we all experience. At these times being a part of a sangha is essential, this is because it gives you both spiritual and emotional support that helps you see through these difficult times, that otherwise would not be possible to see through on your own.


– This is a very useful talk, particularly if you are feeling a little lost with your practice. Āloka reminds us that what we are doing is incredibly rare, immensely challenging, and against the standard culture and world that we operate in. If we can do our best, and take refuge in stillness just for a few seconds, then we can start to undermine the self and allow the transformation process to begin. Using the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha for support we can maintain our commitment and practice through difficult times.

– “We spend our lives in fear–yet, we are in paradise!” As Aloka explains, freeing ourselves from fear and discovering that paradise requires sustained commitment to “staying with” ourselves and our experiences.

– Dharma is the flow of both dark and light +\- energy hence being dogmatic will hinder seeing past mya 🙁

The “White Cloud” of Transformation

How can we skilfully use the many ‘tools’ of insightful investigation found in reflective awareness?


– This is a very helpful Q&A where Āloka describes how we can use thinking, pondering and meditation as insight practices. I found this very useful, particularly for the guidance on pondering, where we can try and practice contemplation in a still environment. For me, the pull of needing to be busy is very strong and it is really challenging to sit and do nothing, other that look at myself…avoidance is easier. We therefore have a toolkit that we can carry and use in all circumstances, that takes us into ourselves, helps us investigate our delusion, and ultimately reveals our true humanness and potential.

How to Learn to Like Yourself

Most of us Westerns don’t like ourselves. Finding a way to heal inner conflict is precisely the function of authentic dharma training.


– A simple title, but this talk contains very deep messages – I very much recommend listening to it. Starting with an perspective on how Dharma training is migrating from east to west, and the potential pitfalls of westernisation, Āloka gives an insight into the Dharma as a natural and universal law. Moving on to the western problem of a strong sense of identity, Āloka looks at the tendency we have to not like ourselves. Another issue of projecting our world “out there” and casting blame, being the victim, really hits home – we ultimately create suffering through reinforcing our dualistic world. By nurturing our sense of devotion, humility, and using the paramitas, we can get to know ourselves and begin the healing process.

– Another brilliant talk. Things are making more sense! Don’t know what I’d do without Aloka’s talks sometimes! I’m so grateful to have come across these teachings.

My World and the Barking Dog

Through learning to cultivate a still mind you come to understand how you create your own suffering, but also learn how to let it go.


– I was at this retreat and the barking dog was certainly a challenge! Āloka starts by reminding us that Dharma training is a 24/7 commitment, that we need to keep catching ourselves and returning to the present moment. By discovering silence we can start to work with ourselves and ultimately shake the foundations of what we believe to be reality. By considering “the dog” and “I” and our relationship with the event, we can go directly to the source of our suffering. This talk offers insight in looking at aspects of our lives that we cannot control, learning to accept these, and take them into the expansiveness of the stillness.

The Practice of No Practice

It is easy to imagine dharma practice to be similar to all other everyday endeavours – but this is not the case. Dharma training is profoundly different and very subtle.


– These teachings have really help me in my life……

– A fabulous talk. Āloka explains the concepts from his new book “Blue Sky, White Cloud” – how the training can lead us to awareness, that place of stillness within us (the blue sky), and the penetrating insight (white cloud) that can then occur to let us see what we are doing to ourselves and how the self-identity is continually reinforced. We are encouraged to nuture and become familiar with this stillness, through regular practice and retreats, but also not to get disillusioned when old habits return. Āloka describes how the wordly concept of a path can be misunderstood, and that it is in fact through coming back over and over that change can take place. Our Dharma practice gives us a place of refuge, and with patience and commitment it will begin to shine; this message is really inspiring.

– This is an amazing talk. My life has gone through a lot of changes over the last while in that I have gotten married, moved house and starting new job. With everything that has been going on, I have lost focus on listening to Aloka’s wonderful Dharma teachings. This video has been the perfect video to serve as a refresher to me on the Dharma and the practise of the DharmaMind group. It has encouraged me to bring renewed energy to my practise. I love the simplicity of the practise yet along with that simplicity comes profound change if the practise is taken on with commitment and the right attitude. I’m hoping that watching this talk will be the start of watching many more.

Environment of Change, followed by Q&A

Authentic change seldom takes place during times of bliss and happiness. Change takes place when we are prepared to not give in to our ingrained habits, and bear with the emotional consequences that invariably accompany such acts of ‘non-doing’.


– This talk reminded me that when we are still we are so close to our true nature and that this ‘environment’ is where change takes place and genuine insight happens, rather than in the higher absorbtions that some practicioners persue

– Āloka reminds us how the training, through discovering that place of stillness, gives us the potential for change. By willingly looking at our “stuff” – the manifestations of our insecurities – we can begin to get to know ourselves, the good and bad bits. Āloka describes this very personal, intimate and emotional journey, and how this fantastic adventure can lead to discovering our true human qualities and identity. The Q&A is really helpful in linking to the Four Noble Truths – how we create our own prison, see ourselves as the victim, blame others, but by owning these creations we can turn things around and find the way out of suffering.

Making Friends with the Devil

The ‘devil’ is that part of our makeup that perpetuates inner conflict. Dharma training teaches us how to put an end to that conflict, by learning to let go of the habitual self-identification that gives that conflict its life.


– This talk explains how important it is to make friends with in order to practice – a really good talk. Also, how we can find real contentment be letting go rather than chasing things all the time..

– By looking inside ourselves, we can find a way out of unhapiness…

– A very challenging talk… are we really prepared to look at ourselves? Āloka explains what looking inward will uncover, and the fears that will be exposed as we undertake this journey. Although the practice is simple, the process of letting go of attachments is one of the most difficult, but is the only route to fulfilment and contentment. Āloka describes how we need to learn to trust the stillness and so begin to see the world we have created. By letting go and making friends with ourselves we can find freedom and the ability to engage with this wonderful world without attachment..

Waking Up

Our experience of the unsatisfactoriness of life is simply because we are seldom aware in this moment to what we are engaged with. Learning to wake up to this truth is what dharma training teaches us.


– I like this talk because it really shows that we have to ‘own’ all our ‘stuff” if we are to be free.

– This is an inspiring talk that refreshes and refocusses your practice. Starting with the typical problems of discontentment, being lost in thought, and feeling like a victim, Āloka describes how our potential is diminished by not waking up to this incessant agitation. The answer is simple, but difficult to achieve, but we are encouraged to be present, to find stillness and simplicity, and commit to meditation and the training. We are reminded of the importance of using the retreat environment as fully as possible, that this life is a privilege, and that we have the opportunity to change our lives and our world.

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