Buddhist Practice

Buddhism aims at no less than the perfection of the human character, in its cognitive, behavioral and affective aspects. This is one way of describing Nibbana (Nirvana). Few fully attain the ultimate goal in this life, but ardent Buddhists generally make significant progressive progress on the path. This entails working intimately with our actions of body, speech and mind, particularly working to refine the mind in developing contentment, good-will and wisdom to displace the natural human propensity for greed, ill-will and delusion.


Accordingly Buddhism had adapted and developed a wide variety of practices for these ends. Most prominent among these is meditation practice, but almost all aspects of life at the Sitagu Vihara are shaped with these ends in mind. The practice of dana, or generosity, is pervasive in the monaster culture, from offering meals to the monks and to visiting laypersons to providing flowers for the altars or even offering food symbolically to the Buddha, is extremely effective in developing skillful states of mind, including an easily accessible inner joy. Gestures of respect, other ritual observances, entering sacred spaces, chanting the words of the Buddha and taking Refuge open the receptivity of the mind to a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Buddhist path. Reciting the Precepts reminds us to be harmless and of benefit in our everyday life.

The encounter with kalyana mitta, good spiritual friends, both monks and devout laity alike, provides living examples and role models to inspire how we think and behave in the world. And of course ordination and living a simple life of renunciation and seclusion, fully supported at the Vihara either as a lifetime commitment or on a temporary basis, is perhaps the most powerful tool for directing the mind in more wholesome directions.

Of course studying the Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha and his disciples, provides us with the reminders, the perspectives, the orientation, the inspiration that give shape and solidity to our practice. And we have not even gotten to meditation yet.


Meditation. The word "bhavana", a Pali word normally translated as 'meditation', actually signifies 'mental development' or 'mental culture'. Meditation in Buddhism is a technique for developing one's mind to gain control over its functions, to focus its attention and strength, and to use it as a tool for gaining insight, which ultimately leads one to liberation from samsara and suffering, Nibbana. While the practice of meditation does have many other useful or pleasant results, the chief aim of meditation in Buddhism is this liberation from rebirth and suffering. According to Buddhist doctrine, our minds continually seek out pleasure by clinging to one impermanent object after another. This inclination towards clinging is fueled by the defilement of ignorance or delusion. Along with this delusion, our minds are also plagued by two other defilements, greed & hatred. Meditation is the only means at our disposal for suppressing these defilements, and ultimately, when liberation is realized, for eradicating them altogether.

Theravada Buddhists traditionally describe meditation in its two aspects of concentration and insight (samatha bhavana & vippassana bhavana ). Concentration is not uniquely Buddhist. It is a common form of meditation found in most religious spheres that have mystical aspects (Hinduism, Christianity, Islam). This form of meditation involves focusing the mind upon a single object until special states of consciousness are realized. This gives the meditator especially strong concentration skills and grants a temporary relief to the mind from the effects of the defilements. This type of meditation itself cannot lead one to Nibbana, but it can provide one with tools helpful to attaining that end. Insight is an aspect of meditation that is given uniquely Buddhist attention. This applies mindfulness to whatever arises to the mind's attention in order to examin whether any permanence, lasting pleasure, of self-nature can be found in it. This excersize begins to break down attachment to sensory pleasures and to existence itself and with time to transform the meditator's consciousness toward liberation. The mental defilements are not just suppressed, but eradicated, and a direct knowledge arises in the meditator of the true nature of reality (yathabhutam).

Meditation at Sitagu Vihara follows the most extablished tradition of silent practice in a seated posture. We offer periods of group meditation, organize long retreats or provide opportunities for individual practice at our center, including residential practice. We freely offer instruction, just ask a monk, including advice on home practice. The practice most commonly taught focuses on meditation on the in & out breath (anapanasati), well suited for developing both concentration and insight. Traditionally, this form of meditation involves sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor with an erect posture and focusing the minds attention on the sensation of the breath as it enters and exits the tip of the nose. Those who are not comfortable sitting on the floor are welcome to practice this type of meditation while seated upright in a chair.

Chanting. We generally offer daily group chanting at the Vihara, usually alternating among the Pali, Burmese and English languages. The Sitgu chant book is available in PDF Here. We also have many chant books in the library in use at other monasteried, including copies of the entire set of Parittas, the protective texts learned by most Burmese monks.

We almost always begin our group meditations in accordance with Theravadan practice by taking the Three Refuges and Five Precepts, as follows: (When present the senior monk leads the laity in this recitation.)

Opening Veneration

Buddham pujemi (bow)
Dhammam pujemi (bow)
Sangham pujemi (bow)
I venerate the Buddha
I venerate the Dhamma
I venerate the Sangha

Requesting the Five Precepts

Aham, bhante, tisaranena saddhim pancasilam dhammam yacami.
Anugaham katva, silam dehta me bhante.
Dutiyampi aham...
Tatiyampi aham...
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammasambuddhassa
Reverend sir, I ask for the five precepts together with the three refuges
Out of kindness, please administer the precepts to me.
A second time I...
A third time I...
Homage to the Buddha
Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.
Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.
Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.

The Three Refuges

Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham saranam gacchami
Dutiyampi Buddham...
Tatiyampi Buddham...
I go to the Buddha for refuge
I go to the Dhamma for refuge
I go to the Sangha for refuge
A second time I go...
A third time I go...

The Five Precepts

Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
Sura-meraya-majja-pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from harming living beings.
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what is not given.
I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct
I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech
I undertake the precept to refrain from consuming alcohol & drugs which cause heedlessness.

Exhortation to Practice

Apamadena sampadetha.
Ama, bhante. (bow)
Strive on with diligence.
Yes, Reverend sir.

The sitting meditation period now begins for approximately forty-five minutes.

At the end of this period, a chime calls us to our lovingkindness meditation and closing recitation.

Lovingkindness Meditation

Dukkhapata ca nidukkha
Bhayapata ca nibhaya
Sokapata ca nisoka
Hontu sabbe'pi panino (three times)
May the suffering be without suffering
May the fearful be without fear
May those who grieve be free from grief
So too may all beings be. (three times)

Closing Veneration

Imaya dhammanudhamma patipatiya Buddham pujemi
Imaya dhammanudhamma patipatiya Dhammam pujemi
Imaya dhammanudhamma patipatiya Sangham pujemi
Idam me punnam asavakkhayavaham hotu
Imam punnabhagam sabbasattanam bhajema
(bow three times)
Sadhi! Sadhu! Sadhu!
By these practices of Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma I venerate the Buddha.
By these practices of Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma I venerate the Dhamma.
By these practices of Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma I venerate the Sangha.
By this practice may I be free from birth decay disease and death.
By this merit of mine, may I attain Nibbana.
We share our merit with all beings.

Our mediation period ends with the ringing of the Shrine Room's gong three times.

After mediation the participants normally hear a brief Dhamma talk delivered by the chief monk, and then discussion follows.