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Visible Here and Now: The Buddha's Teachings on the Rewards of Spiritual Practice [Paperback]

Ayya Khema
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2001
This practical commentary on one of the most important scriptures of the Pali canon will provide essential sustenance for Buddhist practitioners. Ayya Khema is a mountain of strength, encouragement, and tough love as she pours out down-to-earth practical instruction on the journey to enlightenment, following the framework set forth in the Samannaphala-sutta, the Buddha's discourse on the rewards of spiritual life.



The sutta—included here in the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi—contains the Buddha's teachings in response to questions posed by King Ajatasattu. Why, the king asked, should we give up the satisfactions of worldly life and devote ourselves to meditation? What are the tangible benefits to be gained from following the Buddha's way? In answering this question, the Buddha provides a compact synopsis of the entirety of the spiritual path, and Ayya Khema expands on this with her characteristic approach—simple, direct, experiential, and loving.



An important aspect of the sutta is an account of the eight meditative absorptions, or jhanas—states of mind that bring joy, serenity, and peace and that open the way to clarity and liberation. Ayya Khema, who was herself adept at the eight absorptions, confidently leads the reader to, through, and beyond the jhanas, following the Buddha's plan. Her words have the effect of inspiring us to roll up our sleeves and get to work so that we may grasp the insights, accomplish the meditative goals, and become enlightened to the highest extent of our talents and efforts.

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Visible Here and Now: The Buddha's Teachings on the Rewards of Spiritual Practice + Who is My Self?: A Guide to Buddhist Meditation + Being Nobody Going Nowhere: Meditations on the Buddhist Path
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications Inc (1 Aug 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570624925
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570624926
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,079,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ancient Text and a Modern Commentary 22 Feb 2007
By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book consists of the text of the Samannaphala Sutta translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, an American monk, and a commentary on the text by the late Ayya Khema, a German nun. The Samannaphala Sutta is part of the "Long Discourses of the Buddha" of the Pali Canon, the oldest series of buddhist texts. In addition to the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Sutta may be found in the translation of the entire "Long Discourses of the Buddha" by Maurice Walshe.

For the past several years, I have had the good fortune to participate in a Sutta Study Group in which we study the Pali texts. Recently, we devoted three sessions to study of the Samannaphala Sutta using both Walshe's and Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. We proceeded by reading the Sutta aloud, in small sections, and then pausing for group discussion and comments. The members of our group take turns in leading the discussions. I was favored with the opportunity to lead the discussion of this complex and profound text.

The Samannaphala Sutta tells the story of an encounter beteen King Ajasattu and the Buddha. With all his power and wealth, and 500 wives, the King feels something is missing in his life. (Indeed, the King is understandably troubled because he has just killed his father to assume the throne.) He goes to the Buddha, and other ancient teachers, in search for peace of mind and for an understanding of the benefits of what Ayya Khema's book characterizes as a 'Spiritual" way of life.

The Buddha explains the Buddhist ethical path to the King and further develops 14 fruits of the spiritual life. These fruits begin with the most mundane consideration of benefits of the life of the seeker and end with the attainment of the highest, most rarified wisdom. Each of the fruits is illustrated by metaphors of increasing power.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Edifying read 6 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So much to learn from each page - I loved this book. I feel as if I'm there, like a 'fly-on-the-wall' listening to the teachings and advice. As ever Ayya Khema brings BuddhaDharma to life with her immense wisdom. The world would be such a richer place if we each had a little of her compassion. I'm constantly learning from this book and it's going to be one to keep dipping into again and again.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Ancient Text and Modern Commentary 20 Aug 2002
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book consists of the text of the Samannaphala Sutta translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi, an American monk, and a commentary on the text by the late Ayya Khema, a German nun. The Samannaphala Sutta is part of the "Long Discourses of the Buddha" of the Pali Canon, the oldest series of buddhist texts. In addition to the translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi, the Sutta may be found in the translation of the entire "Long Discourses of the Buddha" by Maurice Walshe.
For the past several years, I have had the good fortune to participate in a Sutta Study Group in which we study the Pali texts. Recently, we devoted three sessions to study of the Samannaphala Sutta using both Walshe's and Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation. We proceeded by reading the Sutta aloud, in small sections, and then pausing for group discussion and comments. The members of our group take turns in leading the discussions. I was favored with the opportunity to lead the discussion of this complex and profound text.
The Samannaphala Sutta tells the story of an encounter beteen King Ajasattu and the Buddha. With all his power and wealth, and 500 wives, the King feels something is missing in his life. (Indeed, the King is understandably troubled because he has just killed his father to assume the throne.) He goes to the Buddha, and other ancient teachers, in search for peace of mind and for an understanding of the benefits of what Ayya Khema's book characterizes as a 'Spiritual" way of life.
The Buddha explains the Buddhist ethical path to the King and further develops 14 fruits of the spiritual life. These fruits begin with the most mundane consideration of benefits of the life of the seeker and end with the attainment of the highest, most rarified wisdom. Each of the fruits is illustrated by metaphors of increasing power. The Sutta ends with King Ajasattu becoming a lay follower of the Buddha. The suggestion is that the King cannot proceed further than this due to the grave evil he has committed in murdering his father.
It is a great value of this book that it presents this ancient Sutta in a form accessible to many readers.
Following the Sutta, the remainder of the book consists of a lengthy commentary by Ayya Khema. Although this is not explicitly stated, the commentary appears derived from a series of lectures, as witnessed by the questions and answers at the end of several of the chapters. Her commentary is not a line-by-line exposition of the Sutta. Bhikku Bodhi, in his translation of the Sutta, offered as well a selection of commentaries from Pali sources which discuss the text in great detail. This is not the only way, or possibly even the best way, for a modern reader to approach this Sutta. It does have the advantage, however, of forcing the reader to pay close attention to the text itself.
Although Ayya Khema's commentary has many interesting and valuable things to teach, it strays rather far from the text of the Samannaphala Sutta. After the opening in which she nicely sets the stage by discussing the encounter between the King and the Buddha, she wanders further and further from the text of the discourse. In many cases, she elaborates upon its teachings well. Much of the time, I thought the reader would be better served by looking more closely at the text and at the literary structure of the Sutta. After the beginning few pages, the commentary loses sight of the dramatic form of the Sutta. It also, in its free-wheeling character loses the opportunity to comment on the metaphors by which the Buddha explains his teachings to the King. These metaphors are revealing and are basically unique to this Sutta.
There is little discussion in the commentary of textual issues going to the meaning of the Sutta. There are places where such a discussion would have been useful. Most basically, I am not comfortable with the translation of the Sutta as a discourse on the fruits of a "Spiritual" life. To me this is too broad and too vague. There is much to be said for Bhikku Bodhi's translation of the title -- the fruits of "Recluseship" or for Walshe's -- the fruits of the "homeless" life. The word "Spiritual" does not indicate, to me the radical character of the life at issue.
In some instances, the fruits of the spiritual life that are described in the commentary do not appear in the Sutta. The commentary describes the higher Jhanas, for example, as a fruit of the Spiritual life. (Jhana's are progressively more rarified meditative states.) While the Sutta does describe the first four Jhanas, it does not even mention the fifth through eighth Jhanas which Ayya Khema in her commentary describes as a fruit of spirituality in the Sutta. Conversely, much of the Sutta is given to a description of certain supernatural states. This book's commentary passes over these states in silence. Although I agree that these suprernatural descriptions are difficult to understand for the contemporary reader, it would be better, I think to acknowledge them as part of the text rather than to simply ignore them. While the commentary very properly emphasizes egolessness and nonself as fundamental to the Buddha's teaching in this Sutta, there are portions of the discussion in the commentary which seem to speak of a universal consciousness which all people share. I do not think I find such a teaching in the Buddha or in this Sutta.
The reader would be well -served, I think, by using the commentary as a springboard to read and reread the Sutta itself. There are many books on Buddhism and its teachings currently available, but there is surprisingly little attention paid to the original texts. This book should ideally provide an opportunity to the reader to study the text of an important Buddhist teaching, the Samannaphala Sutta, for him or herself. The modern commentary here is useful, but it cannot replace the attempt to grapple with and learn from the ancient text.
7 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful work from Ayya Khema... 7 May 2001
By Sean Hoade - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you may be a little stuck in your meditation practice and need to know what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like, READ THIS BOOK! It is an indispensible tool, like all of Sister Khema's work.
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