Jim Gaffney moved from New York to Ireland in 2002 to start up his own catalogue company. The company did well when the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro balanced but the Gaeltacht based company had to close when the exchange rate changed for the worst. He himself described the closure of the company as “heartbreaking” but continued to live in the tranquil beauty of Caiseal na gCorr, Gort a’Choirce relieved that his twelve hour working days had come to an end.
The closure gave Jim more time to do as he pleased in his spare time so he took the opportunity to meditate. Four years ago he took his journey into the world of meditation a step further and attended a retreat in Kells, County Meath. While there he meditated for eight hours a day for ten days.
“I had been meditating for some time before I attended my first Buddhist retreat outside of Kells in County Meath four years ago,” he said.
Jim described the ten days spent in meditation as “transformative” and became more focused on his study of Buddhism. Since his initial retreat he has also attended Buddhist retreats in Germany and California.
“It isn’t something that is the entirety of my life but it informs every part of it. It becomes a perspective. It informs the way that you greet the happenings in the day and the manner in which you relate to other people. It enables you to see the opportunities in challenges,” he said.
The reason for his journey into Buddhist meditation, was not to believe in it as a religion but rather as a philosophy and bring himself deeper into his meditation, a practise that is deeply rooted in early Buddhism.
“I had been looking for some way to bring my meditative practise to a higher level with a lot more understanding and discipline. This was a retreat organised by the Irish Vipassanna Association. It brings you away from all the distractions of everyday life. Once all these distractions are removed you really encounter yourself. There are some things that you might not totally approve of but that is all part of the process. Part of the Buddhist practice is to confront without attachment or anxiety all of the emotional factors and memories that
have gone into making you what you are,” he said.
For many of those who go on retreats the rewards can be immediate but for others they may not be as immediate.
“I had known people who were practising Buddhists meditating for around 20 years. I wanted to discover a deeper connection with the practice and it became very important for me to find out where this practice came from and what philosophical environment gave rise to the Buddhist insight,” he said.
He had found equanimity within his meditation, one of the most sublime emotions of Buddhist practice but when mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being, Jim found himself at the transformative
“Equanimity, is when you can approach life with meditation, practice seeks to teach you to operate from a perspective that is called “mindfullness,” looking with more wisdom at both positive and negative conditioned reactions and emotions, like anger, judgement and on the other extreme joy and acceleration. Mindfullness encourages a much more open and acception in appreciation of other people and encourages a greater connection to the community and to the world at large,” he said.
Jim practices Theravedin Buddhism which is pure in essence deriving from the earliest form.
“It was taught by the Buddha beginning from around 450 B.C. There are many different versions of Buddhism today and they have arisen because of interchanging social changes in the countries to which Buddhism travelled.
“Theravedin is non theistic and the Buddha is not considered a Diety not to be worshipped. There is not an emphasis on an afterlife. The Theravedin is very grounded in eliminating personal suffering in day to day to life,” he said.
Jim believes that if you focus on the here and now you relate well to things rather looking ahead to an afterlife. “If you don’t look at an afterlife as a solution or goal and concentrate on what is happening here and now, you will much quickly to state of mindfullness,” he said.
To indicate the philosophy behind his story, he recalls a story of a disciple asking the Buddha about the afterlife and Karma. The disciple said to the Buddha that should he not be able to answer his questions he would leave. The Buddha answers: “Suppose a warrior is struck by a poisoned arrow his friends rush to take out the arrow immediately. Suppose the warrior does not want the arrow removed until he knows who shot it, does it have eagle feathers or goose feathers, and why he shot it. What would happen? If he were to wait until all these questions have been answered, the man might die first. Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.”
If you are interested in Buddhism and meditation Jim is running an interactive course of seven one and a half hour classes wherein the history of Buddhism and its thought will be presented. Participants will be able to explore and learn insight meditation practise. Audio and audio-visual aids will bring internationally recognised scholars
to the Cloughaneely course. The preparation and presentation of the course will be supported by a suggested donation of €5 per session.
Courses care from 7.30 to 9.00pm at Garradh Cholm Cille Centre. For more information and to register call Jim at (087) 2161420 or Paul Kernan at (086) 0841433.