The Buddha’s RAFT

Fragile looking raft made of bamboo at the edge of river.

An alternative perspective on the ‘Four Noble Truths’

Fragile looking raft made of bamboo at the edge of river.

You probably know the lovely simile that the Buddha used about someone needing to cross a large expanse of dangerous water because the current shore is dubious and risky, but the further shore is secure and free from risk. He says that you would gather together whatever was needed to make a raft that would keep you safe and direct you across the water… but once you get to the security of the far shore you can leave the raft behind and continue your journey. You don’t have to drag the raft around for the rest of your life!

In the Buddha’s first talk – after he awakened to life as it really is – he shared 4 important realisations…

He proposed that the basic-pattern-of-things (Dhamma/Dharma) means that life is inherently, unavoidably and naturally painful, difficult and disappointing and suggested that we investigate and fully understand how this pain manifests and what it actually means to each and every one of us.

This was his first realisation… this was his first teaching!

He goes on to point out that much of the pain of life comes as a result of our human inclinations, our compulsions, and our preferences and aversions, which he says, can be overcome and abandoned.

He then says that it is possible for anyone to personally experience… and to personally verify the absence of these compulsions…

I would say that anyone ‘in recovery’ has shared this experience but we forget (which is the opposite of mindfulness) to remember just how much we have achieved in recovery. We forget to acknowledge and appreciate that in a Buddhist sense we have found freedom from craving, freedom from aversion and freedom from confusion.

….and lastly, the Buddha suggests that we actively engage in a programme that supports the abandonment of harmful compulsions and minimises unnecessary and avoidable pain.

Mindful Awareness Responds Appropriately

I like to describe ‘mindfulness’ as M.A.R.A.


So, the appropriate response to this basic-patterns-of-things might look like…

– Recognise (realise) what it is to be human.
– Abandon painful compulsions and addictions.
– Familiarise yourself with what it feels like to be free from compulsions [craving, aversion and confusion]
– Train (teach and transform) your body and mind to live a good life.

Vince Cullen – 1st January 2022

The Heart of Forgiveness

The subject of recognising and embracing what it is to be human will be explored in the forthcoming Heart of Forgiveness interactive workshops:

For a more traditional rendering of the Buddha’s first talk see…/sn56/sn56.011.harv.html

Mindful Awareness Responds Appropriately

For printable M.A.R.A. poster see

Buddhist Recovery Summit 2021

Group of people holding hands.

Links to further information and resources as referenced at Buddhist Recovery Summit 2021


Sit-and-Share Meetings

Fifth Precept Sangha Downloads

Sit-and-Share Topics

Fifth Precept Sangha Helpful Links

Sit-and-Share Guidelines for Sharing

  • Everyone is equally invited to contribute; but ‘sharing’ is optional and
  • You do not have to agree with the topic.
  • There should be no interruptions during individual sharing.
  • There should be no criticism, or personal comments – although a
    response is ok if its relevant
  • Please pause before you share – to provide a space for ideas to become
  • Please try to suspend assumptions and judgement; and not to to convince
  • ‘Sharing’ should not driven by fear of censure or judgement, or by the
    desire for “success”.
  • You are encouraged to be open to the whole experience – the whole is
    greater than the sum of the individual contributions.

Putting these guidelines into effect requires buy-in from all participants – from the whole Group. We do this using the guidelines for Bohmian Dialogue. These are based on principles laid down by David Bohm, a theoretical physicist (b. 1917), an associate of J. Krishnamurti and A. Einstein, and advisor to the Dalai Lama.

Hungry Ghost Retreats

Blogs, Podcasts and Videos

Upcoming retreats and online workshops

The Dharma of Life ~ an attempt at a full list of resources would be endless but here are some suggested reading (and viewing) to widen the perspective

How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett

YouTube: How Emotions are Made (Cinematic Lecture)

Being You: A New Science of Consciousness By Professor Anil Seth

TED Talk: Being You: A New Science of Consciousness (TED Talk)

How the Mind Works By Steven Pinker

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World By: Iain McGilchrist

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain By Lisa Feldman Barrett

YouTube: Psycho-logical with Dean Burnett

The Brain: The Story of You By David Eagleman

Secular Buddhism – Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World
by Stephen Batchelor

After Buddhism – Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age by Stephen Batchelor

Review: Secular Dharma By Stephen Batchelor

YouTube: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age with Stephen Batchelor

The Heart of Forgiveness

Buddha Statue amongst the ruins of Nalagiri House

A Six-Part Series of Interactive Online Workshops exploring and practising the cultivation of Forgiveness. This program is offered by Hungry Ghost Retreats.

Full details and registration links can be found here – The Forgiveness Programme

Foundations of Awakening & Recovery

From Hungry Ghost To Being Human – Foundations of Awakening & Recovery with Vince Cullen

From Hungry Ghost To Being Human – Foundations of Awakening & Recovery

A series of talks by Vince Cullen exploring Buddhist-oriented practices and principals that are intended to lead away from avoidable-suffering and to move towards the potential end of avoidable-suffering. The source material is contained in the free ‘From Hungry Ghost To Being Human’ booklet and ‘The Forgiveness Workbook‘.

Avoidable-suffering is universal and takes many forms, however, this series of talks may be of particular interest to anyone currently struggling with the three fires of Cravings, Aversions and Confusions.

This series of online talks ran over 8-weeks and was based on the foundational principles and practices of the Fifth Precept Sangha (Community) as follows:

“For me, these are my personal ‘foundations’ of awakening and recovery.  I say awakening and recovery but they are really the same thing. These ‘foundations’ are the principles and practices that I wish someone had told me 24-years ago when I first woke up to living life without intoxicants.”

Vince Cullen

Truth, Karma and Commitment to Awakening

SAJJA / SACCA – Truth, Karma and Commitment to Awakening

Generosity in Thoughts, Words and Actions

DANA – Generosity in Thoughts, Words and Actions

Living in Harmony: Ethics-Harmlessness-Blamelessness

SILA – Living in Harmony: Ethics-Harmlessness-Blamelessness

Self-love, Self-compassion, Self-appreciation & Self-balance


Transgression & Forgiveness

KHAMA – Transgression & Forgiveness

Mindfulness & Meditation

SATI and BHAVANA – Mindfulness & Meditation

Admirable Friends, Fellowship, Community

SANGHA – Admirable Friends & Fellowship

SUMMARY – “OK, Where Do I Go Now?”

SUMMARY – “OK, Where Do I Go Now?”