Ajahn Brahm & Ven Canda: “Bliss Upon Bliss Upon Bliss: A Deep Dive Into Breath Meditation”

Date(s) - 19 Nov 2020 - 24 Nov 2020
8:30 am - 9:00 pm






Six Day Online Meditation Retreat

Since the inception of Anukampa Bhikkhuni Project, we have invited Ajahn Brahm to teach in the UK every year. Our usual three to eight day residential retreats and talks with Ajahn Brahm are very popular and an eagerly-awaited highlight of the year, as well as the major time for generating support and fundraising for our Monastery! Due to Covid-19, Ajahn Brahm has very kindly offered to lead a 6-day online retreat in place of his yearly tour, assisted by Venerable Canda.



Retreat Description



In this retreat, meditation master Ajahn Brahm will guide us through the Anapanassati Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya: 118), using his own translation. In her evening sessions, Ven Canda Bhikkhuni, a close disciple of Ajahn Brahm, will encourage skillful perceptions that complement and empower breath meditation, such as loving kindness, joy, trust, letting go and contentment.


This is a very special “dual Sangha” (bhikkhu and bhikkhuni- led) retreat. It is also the first time Ajahn Brahm and Ven Canda are teaching a retreat together, so we are very excited! It will include three sessions of one and a half hours each: a morning and an early afternoon session with Ajahn Brahm and an evening session with Ven Canda.



Breath meditation was the Buddha’s own preferred method of meditation, leading to his Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Despite it’s central place in Buddhist practice, clear and comprehensive teachings on the sixteen stages of Anapanassati, leading to liberation of the mind, are very few and far between.


Ajahn Brahm emphasises that the deep meditations, called jhana, are not attainments but “stages of letting go,” realised through careful cultivation of the whole Noble Eightfold Path – a path of ever-increasing joy. In his book “Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond” Ajahn Brahm says:



“Meditation is the way of letting go of the complex world outside in order to reach a powerful peace within. In all types of mysticism and in many spiritual traditions, meditation is the path to a pure and empowered mind. The experience of this pure mind, released from the world, is incredibly blissful. It is a bliss better than sex.


Effort alone is not sufficient. Effort needs to be skillful. This means directing your energy to just the right places and sustaining it until the task is complete. Skillful effort neither hinders nor disturbs; instead it produces the beautiful peace of deep meditation. 


The effort is directed to letting go, to developing a mind that inclines to abandoning. One of the many simple but profound statements of the Buddha is that “a meditator who makes letting go the main object easily achieves samadhi,” that is, attentive stillness (Samyutta Nikaya 48.9). Such a meditator gains these states of inner bliss almost automatically. The Buddha was saying that the major cause for attaining deep meditation and reaching these powerful states is the ability to abandon, to let go, to renounce.”



Ven Canda’s teachings emphasise kindness and letting go as a way to deepen samadhi (stillness) and pave the path to wisdom. Her style is warm, engaging and richly informed by the pragmatism of early Buddhist texts. Her popular “Zoomi Bhikkhuni” sessions are eagerly received by a regular group of devoted disciples of both hers and Ajahn Brahm. Here is some of the feedback she has received:


“Your Dhamma talks are unusually good. Substantial, clearly expressed and full of your own insights. You often put a different slant on thing which helps the penny to drop. And it’s good that you share your struggles and doubts with us – very helpful and something I think that women are much more often able to do than men. You give us so much!” (July 2020)


“It struck me how different your way of teaching is compared to the male Ajahns. You bring more warmth, emotions, and intuition. It’s probably about personality, but I guess also about gender and it just shows how important it is to have diversity amongst spiritual teachers :)” (June 2020)


You can read detailed biographies of Ajahn Brahm and Ven Canda here.




The Ethical Precepts 


Venerable Ānanda once asked the Buddha, “Venerable, what is the purpose and benefit of skillful ethics (sila)?” The Buddha answered, “So, Ānanda, the purpose and benefit of skillful ethics is not having regrets (avippati). The purpose and benefit of not having regrets is joy (pamojja). The purpose and benefit of joy is bliss (piti). The purpose and benefit of bliss is tranquillity (passaddhi). The purpose and benefit of tranquillity is happiness (sukha). The purpose and benefit of happiness is stillness (samadhi). The purpose and benefit of stillness is seeing things as they truly are. The purpose and benefit of seeing things as they truly are is revulsion (nibbida). The purpose and benefit of revulsion is dispassion or fading away (viraga). The purpose and benefit of dispassion is knowledge and vision of liberation (vimuttinyanadassana). So, Ānanda, skillful ethics progressively leads up to the highest.” (Anguttara Nikaya 11.1). 


Here we see how practicing ethical precepts creates a strong foundation for the development of deep meditation. We therefore strongly encourage you to take the precepts – and you may choose whether you wish to observe the five or the eight, during the retreat.


The Five Precepts – Pañcasīla

  1. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from killing living beings.
    Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  2. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from taking what is not given.
    Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  3. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
    Kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  4. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from false speech.
    Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  5. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from alcoholic drink or drugs that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness.
    Surā meraya majja pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.


The Eight Precepts – Aṭṭhaṅgasīla

  1. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from killing living beings.
    Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  2. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from taking what is not given.
    Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  3. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from sexual conduct.
    Abrahmacariyā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  4. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from false speech.
    Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  5. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from alcoholic drink or drugs that cloud the mind and cause heedlessness.
    Surā meraya majja pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  6. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from eating at the wrong time (after solar noon).
    Vikāla bhojanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  7. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments, wearing jewellery, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
    Nacca gīta vādita visūkadassanā mālā gandha vilepana dhārana maṇḍana vibhūsanaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.
  8. I undertake the training-precept to abstain from using high or luxurious beds and seats.
    Uccāsayana mahāsayanā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi.



Tentative schedule (8:30 on 19th Nov ~ 15:00 on 24th Nov GMT UK time)


The retreat starts at 8:30 on Thurs 19th Nov, and finishes at 15:00 on Tues 24th Nov. On the last day, there will be an opportunity to share your experience with other retreatants. The schedule is deliberately designed to be spacious and allow for plenty of personal practice time and rest, so that you can take a break from the screen and find a supportive rhythm and pace. You will be guided as to how best to make use of your personal practice time.



08:30 – 10:00  Dhamma talk, guided meditation and precepts (Ajahn Brahm)

10:00 – 12:00  Lunch for those on 8 precepts

12:00 – 13:30  Anapanassati Sutta teaching and discussion (Ajahn Brahm)

13:30 – 14.30  Lunch or rest

14:30 – 18:00  Personal practice period

18:00 – 19:15  Tea or dinner

19:30 – 21:00  Short talk, guided meditation and Q&A (Ven Canda)



Full time attendance – including the personal practice period – is necessary for this retreat, so you can experience the full potential of the practice. Due to the timing it will therefore work best for people in the UK and Europe (or the east coast of the US if you are willing to adopt forest monastery time and rise early!) Places are limited to 95, so we kindly ask that if you only want to attend the teacher-led sessions, to please to watch them via live-stream, or after we upload them to our Youtube channel.

Check the retreat schedule against your time zone here.



How To Have A Home Retreat 


Practicing on a home retreat can be a very rewarding experience. One of the most powerful ways in which it differs from watching online talks, is that you carve out a space dedicated to silent practice with none of the usual distractions and disturbances. Essentially, you take “time out” of ordinary life to delve deeply into your inner world. To support yourself in this process, Noble Silence is encouraged throughout the retreat: to remain in silence as much as possible and to not use any electronic devices, including mobile phones, other than the one you would use for the online Zoom sessions (only!). To help you decide whether this would suit you, we offer some thoughts about the benefits of home retreat and consider some of the potential challenges – as well as possible solutions – so you can make the best use of your time.




  • Continuity of practice which helps you get more benefit from meditation
  • Safety, intimacy and support of an enclosed group
  • Opportunity for personal guidance through questions to the teachers
  • Renewed confidence in your ability to practice wherever you are
  • The food that suits your tummy and no one snoring in your dorm!


Challenges and solutions:


If you are living alone, you have the ideal hermitage! Turn off your phone, put on the vacation responder and do your weekly shop in advance. Use ear plugs if it is especially noisy and take a walk at the quietest times of day. This will help you immensely in observing Noble Silence and cultivating sense restraint, which inclines the mind toward inner happiness and facilitates quietening the mind.


For most however, home retreat may pose the challenge of living with others who are not on retreat! In this case, you may need to put a few extra measures in place (if they will not join you!), to enable you to observe Noble Silence and maintain your inward focus. You might ask them to support you while you are on retreat by keeping interactions to an absolute minimum and having a note system for anything absolutely unavoidable. Perhaps there is a room in the house that you can retreat into and someone kind may cook your favourite food and leave your meals outside the door, or negotiate times to use the kitchen alone! If you have children or teens it might be difficult to keep the noise down, so, if you are able, you might even decide to book into a quiet hotel or apartment (COVID conditions allowing) and tune in to the sessions from there.




Registration Fees



This retreat is offered on a donation basis to make the Dhamma teachings accessible to all. Our volunteers have organised this as an act of generosity in their own free time and neither our volunteers nor the two teachers receive any remuneration. To honour the wisdom, time and commitment of our teachers, you will be invited at the end of the retreat to offer donations. Your donations will help us fundraise toward acquiring our dream “Forest Monastery,” so please give with a heart of generosity and joy, whilst respecting your own personal financial situation.


The registration fee is on a sliding scale to ensure your commitment to attending the retreat, as we generally experience a 25% no-show rate to online events. Places are limited, so when this happens others may lose a potentially life changing opportunity to practice.  The registration fee will help further our charitable aims by contributing toward our outgoings and the rental expenses of our Oxford Bhikkhuni Residence. If you are unable to afford this, please contact us. Alternatively, thanks to the selfless service of our volunteers, you may choose to join every teacher-led session via our live stream as part of home-retreat, or find the teachings on our YouTube channel to watch later.


Please note that the registration fee is NON REFUNDABLE.





Application Procedure


1. Please ensure you have read all the above information carefully before you fill the application form below.


2. After submitting your application form, you should receive email confirming that we have received your application within a few minutes. Please check your junk mail inbox if you do not receive it. If it is not in your junk mail please contact us; you might have submitted the wrong email address. We advise you to add our email address, bookings@anukampaproject.org, as a contact to prevent emails from us going into your junk folder.


3. In most cases, we will approve your application within a day or two. Once your application is approved, we will ask for the registration fee to secure your place and then your ticket will be automatically sent to you.



Joining from the same household


If more than one person from the same household wishes to join the retreat, you will need to make separate bookings and log in from separate computers. This is to make our numbers manageable for the Q&A sessions and to encourage you to practice as if you were alone. 


Part-time participation


As places are limited to 95, if you only want to attend the teacher-led sessions rather than sit the whole retreat, we kindly ask you to please watch them via Facebook live-stream or after we upload them to our YouTube channel, instead. There is no need to register for the retreat.





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Bookings are closed for this event.