VAJRA BELL Volume 6 Issue I
Four glimmerings on wisdom Candradasa is a member of the Order from Scotland. He was ordained in 2001, having been involved with the FWBO since 1996. He is the Director of the Dharmachakra Archives and Free Buddhist Audio, and now lives and works in Portsmouth, NH. In his spare time (when he has any!), he is also a poet and graphic designer...
hen Samayadevi asked me to write about ‘Wisdom’, my first instinct was to refuse – nicely! I think it’s very difficult to write anything satisfactory on an experience that, by definition, is elusive in my own life and, I guess, in many other lives. Not just elusive, in fact, but completely beyond! But, I don’t like saying ‘no’ to requests related to the Dharma, so I am writing something, though I wouldn’t make any claims for its relationship to ‘Jnana’ or ‘knowledge of things as they really are’. And to attest to the provisionality of anything I have to say here, I’ve decided to do it in the form of notes only – the ‘glimmerings’ of the title. These are just the things I’ve caught sight of in my own practice when thinking about this article, little glimpses, seen out of the corner of my eye. I hope any light they cast proves useful! 1. ‘Pratitya Samutpada’ – the DNA of the Buddha’s teaching
ing, which I would say is more like a poem. But, also like a doctor’s prescription to make things well!
The doctrine of ‘pratitya samutpada’ (often translated as ‘conditioned co-production’ or ‘dependent origination’) is the building block of the Buddha’s Dharma, and therefore the quintessential expression of transcendental Wisdom in Buddhist terms. It is the baseline for all Buddhist thought and practice. If any evocation of the nature of Reality does not correspond with this insight, then it’s not Buddhist, and (according to the Buddha) not adequate for understanding things. It may have some resonance and some partial value for us – but it won’t really do justice to the complexity of our lives. That’s quite a thought in itself! It’s worth writing out the whole classic formula for this teach-
“This being, that becomes, From the arising of this, that arises; This not being, that does not become, From the ceasing of this, that ceases.” For me, there is a beautiful harmony and weighted balance to these verses. You can feel the mutuality implied between things – and the space in the process being described; there’s something
Aryaloka Buddhist Center 14 Heartwood Circle, Newmarket, NH 03857
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From the Editor By Samayadevi I have missed helping out with the last few issues of the Vajra Bell, but have so enjoyed reading them. It would be a tough act to follow were it not for the wonderful Vajra Bell Kula of Viriyagita, Anilasri, Sandy Bonin, Stephen Sloan, Eric Wentworth, and Candace Copp. It is an inspiring group to work with and a privilege to return as editor. You will notice a change in the line up. After helping us to resurrect the Vajra Bell, and setting us on our current path, Karunasara has decided to step down, and Anilasri has kindly agreed to join the kula. We are immensely grateful to Karunasara for her clear input and inspired suggestions and warmly welcome Anilasri. The last paramita to be considered is Wisdom, a challenging topic to wrap words
around. We often recite that fifth precept: “Transforming ignorance into wisdom “and still I bumble and stumble and wonder what wisdom would look like. Perhaps the wisdom is found in the wondering, in the curiosity, in the determination to actually experience wisdom, to live through that lens. How it would color my relationships, my perceptions, my speech, and my motivations? “Not even wisdom to attain” is another familiar phrase, this time from the Heart Sutra. There is such freedom in non-attainment, and still such a powerful invitation to calmly, mindfully seek without ever grasping what is ungraspable, unattainable, and no less transformative. May we each be drawn by our own curiosity and willingness to be transformed in ways we cannot even envision. And may we never be limited by our imagination!
Musings from the Chair By Dh. Dayalocana Many thanks to the Vajra Bell kula for providing us with the opportunity to reflect on the six paramitas – the six perfections: the perfections of giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation, and wisdom. We practice and develop the perfections for the sake of all sentient beings. We practice as a spiritual community to give support, encouragement, and assistance to others who seek to bring the Dharma more and more into daily life. We experience this at Aryaloka in classes, in kulas, on retreats and in friendships. And we welcome two new Order Members at our Center, Arjava and Bodhana, who have made a commitment to follow a spiritual path that leads them toward greater wisdom and compassion. In the book titled, Human Enlightenment, Sangharakshita writes “... Enlightenment is
spoken of as a state of pure, clear—even radiant—awareness...the subject object-duality is no longer experienced...here is only one continuous, pure, clear awareness...an awareness of things as they really are...transcending the duality of subject and object...Enlightenment is spoken of as a state of intense, profound, overflowing love and compassion...boundless, directed towards all living beings...Enlightenment consists of a state, or experience of inexhaustible mental and spiritual energy.” (pp. 16 – 17) We have a new year ahead of us. Perhaps we could each make our own commitment to practice in earnest, to create conditions that will foster the development of the six perfections and deepen our understanding of the Buddha’s message. And by doing so perhaps we will bring more joy into our lives and to all beings we encounter.
Please consider Aryaloka in your estate planning.
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Contact Information Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 email@example.com www.aryaloka.org
Aryaloka Council Dayalocana firstname.lastname@example.org Saddhamala email@example.com Amala firstname.lastname@example.org Viriyalila email@example.com Kemavassika firstname.lastname@example.org Buddy Vaughan email@example.com Sandy Bonin firstname.lastname@example.org Samayadevi email@example.com
Vajra Bell Kula Samayadevi, Chair firstname.lastname@example.org Viriyagita email@example.com Candace Copp firstname.lastname@example.org Sandy Bonin email@example.com Stephen Sloan firstname.lastname@example.org Anilasri email@example.com Eric Wentworth firstname.lastname@example.org
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Prajna awareness comes through experience By Vidhuma Wisdom is the common translation of Prajna, the sixth of the great perfections. But what is this wisdom? It is not knowledge in the usual sense, although it is based on knowledge. Knowledge, as we usually use the word, implies a that there is a subject. Wisdom, in contrast is a quality or (better) an ability or (even better) a state of mind or (best) a way of being. What is this way of being? It is described as a state or quality of mind that is characterized by discriminative appreciation (Sangharakshita – KNOW YOUR MIND) that sees things
“as they really are.” So Prajna is a purified awareness that transcends the duality of subject and object, or a mind that clearly and truly comprehends the emptiness of all of conditioned existence. Here we can impress ourselves by trotting out our understanding of sunyata (“Form is only Emptiness; Emptiness only Form”). But having said all this, where have we gotten to, really, in understanding Prajna. Not very far, it seems to me. Words, words, words (as Hamlet says). The sixth perfection, Prajna, is not to be understood in words. It is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing.
Prajna describes the enlightened mind, the mind of a Buddha. It is the way a Buddha sees the world. It is what makes a Buddha a Buddha. Prajnaparamita is described as the mother of all Buddhas in just this sense. It cannot be described in words because it is beyond conceptual understanding. In fact it does not even exist in the abstract. Here I want to emphasize (I am essentially quoting from Sangharakshita in his discussion of the Four Great Reliances) that the Dharma does not exist in the abPRAJNA
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Hello from the bookstore By Steve Cardwell There are more books in the bookstore right now than we have ever had and the selection spans many different authors. We have just about every book written by Bhante Sangharakshita that is still in print and many books written by other FWBO Order Members on subjects from meditation to karma to rebirth.
If you discover a book that you think would be great in the bookstore please give Steve Cardwell a message at info@ aryaloka.org and we will try to stock it. Please think of the bookstore when you are considering a gift for someone special. The purchases that you make provide Aryaloka with much needed capital to help keep the center running. We have lots of new things to check out:
Buddhaworks The Aryaloka Bookstore
* Meditation Candles * DVDs from Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Das * Meditation Journals * CDs from Thich Nhat Hanh
* Singing Bowls * Brass Door Chimes from Nepal and India * Children’s Coloring Books * Lots and Lots of Great Books!
Your support brightens Aryaloka’s future. Buddhaworks is located at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center
There are new candles in two different sizes that have very attractive prices and wonderful scents. We just received miniature Buddha rupas in many different colors and materials, some in copper and brass. We have gift sets of incense from Nippon Kodo which include attractive ceramic incense holders. Plus, there are a few small gift boxes of very special BOOKSTORE
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Sangha Notes - “What’s Happening?” By Steve Cardwell Our Buddhist Ethics Retreat was led by Karunasara and Anilasri at the beginning of September. This retreat included discussions and workshops dealing with the practical use of ethics when considering Dharma principles and precepts. The Dinner and Concert in September was a great success. The Silk Tones, a singing octet co-founded by Dharmacharini Sunada, performed a wonderful selection of music and the dinner was enjoyed by all. This was a fundraiser that brought in over $600 for the center. Many thanks to everyone who worked on this event, and we are especially grateful to members of The Silk Tones who donated their time and talents for Aryaloka. Family Day was also in September and gave parents and children a chance to come
together to learn more about the Buddha. Thanks to Denise Connors and the Family Kula for making this happen. The Introduction to Meditation evening class series taught by Amala started September 19th. This was a wonderful class with 24 people registered. How fantastic to reach this many new friends. Thanks, Amala! We had a very productive Work Weekend or “Generosity Practice Days” in October getting the center ready for winter. There was lots of painting and cleaning and yard work done by many generous friends. The solitary cabin has a new microwave oven to make staying there much more enjoyable. Akasaloka has new living room furniture, too, thanks to the Furnishings Kula.
items auctioned by our President Nagabodhi. Over $5,000 was raised this year and the auction continues to be one of our biggest fund raising events. Thanks to everyone who made this such a fantastic event! October was also the President’s Retreat with Nagabodhi. This has always been a very popular retreat and this year the topic was the Bodhicaryavatara. This was a very special weekend with one of our most experienced teachers. Non-Violent Communications trainer Shantigarbha held three different events in October and November. There was a basic training for mitras and Order members and an advanced retreat called Deepening + Anger Training for advanced students. Plus there was a free introductory evening that was attended by 21 people from throughout
The Annual Auction in October was a smashing success with lots of services and
in which sangha members may put information about their community social outreach work. Viriyalila’s resignation was accepted with regret and with thanks for all of her work on the Council. Khemavassika noted that it is time to renew the Aryaloka mortgage and was authorized to take care of the necessary details. Samayadevi offered to write thank-you notes for dana contributions. The office was asked to send a reminder to all groups meeting at the Center (except kulas) to please consider a good-will donation to help cover the costs of utilities. It was decided to hold the annual sangha meeting with the Council as a Sunday
morning brunch [on April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon]. Finally, it was decided to ask if any mitra or Order member is interested in becoming a Council member – there are currently two openings…. In December, Council members decided to schedule further discussion about what materials may be posted at the Center and the development of a procedure to do this. The Council asked that the Aryaloka Management Team (AMT) look into having an assessment done of the Center’s heating equipment with suggestions for improvement. Financially, we are
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The Council By Sandy Bonin In October, the Aryaloka Council re-appointed the then-serving Council members: Dayalocana, Saddhamala, Viriyalila, Samayadevi, Arjava, Khemavassika, Amala, and Sandy Bonin. The following officers were elected for 20072008: Dayalocana, chair; Khemavassika, treasurer; Sandy Bonin, recording secretary; and Samayadevi, corresponding secretary….In November, Council members heard a presentation by Jean Corson about the Seacoast Interfaith Hospitality Network (SIHN). It was decided to develop a binder notebook
Who can contribute to the Vajra Bell?
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Submit an article, poem or picture for consideration, or simply share some information and we’ll do the writing for you. Just contact any of the Vajra Bell staff - see the “Contact Information” section on Page 2 of this issue.
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Movie Review By Eric Wentworth “Zen Buddhism: In Search of Self” (2007), 65 minutes, Not rated, Available on Netflix The simple and rustic beauty of Baek Hung Temple in South Korea is the setting for this beautiful documentary about a group of Buddhist nuns on the 90-day winter Zen retreat named Dong Ahn Geo. Marking the first time ever that this sacred practice has been filmed, “Zen Buddhism: In Search of Self” exhibits a sensitivity to the subject matter that truly honors it. There are no Ken Burns moments, very few interviews and no soundtrack to speak of. Silent moments are allowed to speak for themselves - quiet breathing in the meditation room, the bubbling sounds of boiling rice, voiceless walks in the courtyard between sittings, soft snow falling on the temple’s roof, the gentle dings of a chime in the mountain wind. I found myself in my own state of quiet contemplation just watching, so much so that when the nuns would break from sitting and play a wild game, or go for a hike and a chat, I really began to appreciate how all the small enjoyments would be breathtakingly fun after spending three months in silent meditation. The practices during these ninety days were fascinating. In one segment, the nuns commemorate Enlightenment Day, the day of the Buddha’s great awakening, by medi-
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incense. This is the finest incense we have ever carried in the bookstore and perfect for someone who wants incense for celebrations. Look for the little gift boxes on the table. There is a great selection of 2008 Calendars and the most beautiful date books that we have ever seen. There are folding wooden meditation benches made by Brian Sullivan that are at very reasonable prices - check out the fine quality. And beautiful malas made
tating for days beforehand without sleep. Then, on December 8th, they perform a series of ceremonies representing the awakening of mankind and say prayers for the enlightenment of all beings. We get to see the methodical and mindful practices of the meditators, from Buddhist-bowl eating to collecting wood to cleaning snow from the walkways, everything is performed with the utmost attention and care. And we get to spend New Year’s Eve with the nuns and see how they celebrate the turning of another year. Views of the meditation room are punctuated with wonderful short descriptions of what “Hwa Du” (profound question leading to enlightenment) the nuns are so intensely concentrating on, such questions as: “What was I before birth? Who am I after birth? Momentarily a human I have been. After this, who will I be?” This movie struck me as similar to the wooden moktak instrument used to call meditation at the temple each day. As the stick beats upon it, making ‘pock’ sounds like drops of water in a bucket, getting progressively quicker and quicker until the beats become one long sound, so too the film inspires small moments of insight that accumulate in the mind and heart. It is well worth watching and will inexplicably leave you wanting to spend three cold months in a 1,000-year-old Zen temple reaching towards enlightenment. by one of the mitras from Concord. There are CDs by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bodhipaksa, Pema Chodron, Sharon Salzberg, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. What a great way to enjoy your commute to work or a drive to the ski lodge or an excursion to Boston. But remember not to listen to meditation CDs while driving - another good reason to ride the bus or train to work when possible. Thanks to everyone for your continued support of the Aryaloka Buddhaworks bookstore.
This issue’s featured website By Eric Wentworth http://www.freebuddhist audio.com FreeBuddhistAudio.com is the result of an enormous effort to place the audio and text archive of the Western Buddhist Order online. The site hosts “over 500 audio talks on Buddhism and meditation” and “hundreds of seminar and lecture transcripts” from the Dharmachakra Archive, including over 100 talks given by Sangharakshita. There are topics ranging from the sutras, to guided meditation practices, to the parallels between quantum physics and Buddhism - a wealth of information. The archives are searchable by keyword and browsable by theme. The home page features collections of popular, new and introductory files, a great way to see what’s been recently added or what everyone else is excited about. Best of all, you can read along with “fully transcribed texts to complement audio files” in PDF format. A blog accompanies the archive where new additions are introduced with a small blurb about the speaker and his/her topic. Listening to the audio files is made very easy. You can either listen online or you can download the file to your computer to listen on your iPod or MP3 player. Audio files are also available through podcast. Amazingly, all of this is free! However, because FreeBuddhistAudio.com is a charitable organization, they depend on contributions to keep it all running for no cost. If you enjoy the site and its offerings - which we’re sure you will - please give a donation when you download.
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Kula Korner By Sheila Groonell, Kula Coordinator Welcome to the new Kula Korner section of the Vajra Bell. In this and future issues we will use this column to make all the members of Aryaloka aware of the current activities and needs of our Aryaloka kulas. We also will celebrate and thank new volunteers for their generosity and commitment as they offer themselves and their efforts to help our beautiful community survive and grow. As you probably know, kulas are small groups of sangha members who have volunteered to work together on various activities for the benefit of this, our spiritual home. There are currently 15 kulas including: * Buddhaworks Bookstore * Furnishings * Recycling * Building and Maintenance * Gardens and Grounds * Shrine * Children’s Programs * Green Indoors * Technology * Cleaning * Library
* Vajra Bell * Dana * Outreach * Work Days We would also like to express our excitement, thanks and congratulations to our recent volunteers, who include: Barry Timmerman and Zoltan (Recycling), Steve Pitman (Shrine), Joe O’Sullivan (Technology), Eric Wentworth (Vajra Bell), Jahnay Picket (Library and Buddhaworks), and Nina Jordan (Cleaning). You have all taken a wonderful step forward in your commitment to Aryaloka and to the generous, kindly, and thoughtful way of life that is at the heart of Buddhism. We rejoice in your merits, and hope you feel great satisfaction and all our gratitude. Our greatest current need for volunteers is for the Dana Kula. This very important kula is responsible for dreaming up and carrying out all our fundraising activities. Unfortunately, people seem reluctant to volunteer for this kula. And I think I know why. I think people imagine that if they join this kula they will have to walk up to people, or dial them up on the phone and ask people for money.
BUT THIS IS NOT TRUE! NOPE! What you will be asked to do is sit around with a fun group of people and dream up some crazy and some not so crazy activities that could make money for Aryaloka. How about a music concert?? How about a chocolate feast?? How about a movie festival?? Etc., etc. No ideas are too crazy to consider. Have fun! Dream big! Then once you and your kula friends have picked a particular idea to go with, you may help organize activities, create publicity, put up posters in key places, greet people at the door, organize refreshments, etc., AS YOU WISH. Nothing painful, just fun things with nice people to benefit our dear Aryaloka. Please, please consider offering the Dana Kula two or more hours for three or four times a year. Our gratitude to you will be boundless. And your own satisfaction and your sense of Aryaloka as your spiritual home will grow and deepen. You may contact Anne Rugg, Coordinator of the Dana Kula directly at email@example.com. Or you may contact me, Sheila Groonell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Love and gratitude to you for your consideration. May all beings be happy.
Annual Auction Raises Over $5,000
Nagabodhi cracks up the crowd while playing auctioneer at the 2007 Aryaloka Fall Auction.
By Candace Copp Our fall auction, which took place during the visit of our center’s President, Nagabodhi, was a huge success! Much thanks to the many generous people who supported this event-- the item donors, successful bidders, dinner cooks and auction volunteers (Jean Corson, Candace Copp, Viryalila, Samayadevi and Anne Rugg). The evening began with a delicious community dinner, which gave us an opportunity to meet
new people and connect with old friends. Next was the silent auction with an assortment of interesting, odd, fun and useful items. The highlight of the evening was Nagabodhi’s role as the most creative and humorous auctioneer ever. His unique skills spurred bidders on to outbid each other and, in one instance, an enthusiastic bidder even bid against herself! A great time was had by all and we broke all previous auction fundraising records.
Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you!
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Audacious Project to create change A Magazine Article Review By Viriyagita “The O Interview: Oprah talks to Richard Branson” from O, The Oprah Magazine December, 2007 Resolve conflict and end war! Eradicate disease globally! Curb global warming! Such are the goals of The Elders Project, a twelve-person council of some of world’s most respected and wise leaders. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airlines, explains how he and Peter Gabriel initiated this project with the belief that moral leaders can effect change. The Council consists of the following twelve individuals: Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel, Kofi
Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Li Zhaoxing, Mary Robinson, Muhammed Yunus. Aung San Suu Kyi has a seat that is being kept open for her when she is released from house arrest in Burma. This council of former Nobel Peace Prize winners and outstanding leaders are beyond the influence of politics and special interests. Richard Branson asserts that they are beyond ego. Their plan is to tackle the world’s most difficult problems starting with the Sudan. (They were well underway in their arrangements to go into Iraq but the war started before they could begin.) What a note of hope and optimism! I highly recommend that you visit their website: www.theElders.org. Perhaps you will find a way to further this inspiring effort for the benefit of all beings.
News from Nagaloka By Gail Yahwek Greetings to all from Portland, Maine! As the weather is getting colder and certainly snowier we are keeping ourselves warm with a delightful study of Sangharakshita’s Living with Kindness, the Buddha’s Teaching on Metta. What a wonderful season of love and generosity to be studying metta and learning what we need to do to cultivate and deepen this practice. Our Wednesday sangha night group has been sharing some very personal experiences that help us all grow and learn from each other. The study of this text is preparing us for our next study which will be on the brahma viharas: metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy) and upekka (equanimity). We will spend a week on each. Our advanced mitra study on The Bodhisattva Ideal came to a close in December. What a transforming text this is. Thank you so much to Viriyagita for taking the time and preparation to make this happen. We truly do appreciate it. Advanced
study will continue with Dharmasuri in January, focusing on the mandala of the five Jinas and spending a week on each. We would also especially like to mention the passing of our dear friend and sangha member, Douglas Uraneck. Douglas died in October from ALS. Although near the end he was not able to come to Nagaloka often, our Sangha members went to him. A group traveled regularly to Douglas’s house to meditate and chant. Douglas truly was a pleasure to know. A Celebration Of Life was held for Douglas at Nagaloka - a beautiful remembrance of all he taught and shared with us. On a lighter note, good news for our library this month. We got the okay to buy a new bookshelf and all of the dana for the month of November will go to buy some new books and possibly DVDs. Thank you to Gordon and Ben who both donated large stacks of books to our growing library. Dharmasuri has been away in sunny Georgia. We miss her dearly when she is gone but Nancy and Linda have both been doing a great job leading us in meditation and study. Thank you to all of you!
Late-breaking Sangha news By Sandy Bonin Thanks to the generosity of several sangha members who support Aryaloka on a monthly basis, we are able to offer a small number of full scholarships for weekend retreats. If you have wanted to attend a retreat but finances are tight, please call the office to ask about a scholarship. Starting this winter, Aryaloka is able to offer a variety of accommodations for solitary retreats at several different rates. Please call the office for more details. You are cordially invited to brunch on Sunday, April 13 from 10 a.m. to noon for the annual sangha meeting with the Aryaloka Council. Enjoy a simple, delicious meal while having the opportunity to share any questions, ideas, or concerns that you may have with Council members!
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in good shape, with a slight surplus. Building renovations were discussed but no action was taken. The Mandala of Supporting Friends appeal will go out some time during the first quarter. It was decided to distribute discount coupons for Intro Day classes at a variety of locations. The AMT will coordinate this, as well as the establishment of telephone service to Akasaloka. Usage of Akasaloka during the winter months was discussed. The Council began work on establishing rates for visiting Order members and will finish this work at a future meeting… Future meetings of the Council will take place on Feb. 23 from 12:30-2:30, Mar. 23 from 9-11 a.m., Apr. 13 from 1-3 p.m., and May 18 from 10 a.m.-12 noon.
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Thoughts from Akashavana By Samayadevi I cannot fall from grace here, Be shunned for mis-behaviors, Cast out for treacherous thoughts. Breathing in and breathing out I am only called to be present To what arises and falls away, With kind regard and profound compassion. Akashavana, forest refuge of luminous space, built in the hard scrabble mountains of Aragon, far from roads or houses, gardens or vineyards. The soil is too rocky here to grow much, except perhaps the vegetables lovingly planted and tended by Ratnadharini, and watered with soapy rinse water. Water is scarce here. We learn to bathe in a small bucket, or perhaps under the plastic bags of sun warmed water down by the laundry lines. Food is plentiful and each day we work in the kitchen, chopping, sautéing, cleaning,and mopping, under the kind eye of Subhadramati. There is no end to what you can do with peppers. There are fourteen of us to be ordained (two from Holland, one from Germany, one from Mexico, one Yank, and the rest from the UK and Scotland), two who have been ordained and are here for the long retreat ( Anilasri and Satyalila), and five team members (Ratnadharini, Padmasuri, Dharmadassin, Subhadramati and Vijayasri). We live in the stone ‘center’, in rooms that accommodate two, or five, or even seven ( when the preceptors arrived for their two weeks stay). But there are floods from time to time, and beds are moved to allow for the drying out. We even moved the library
and created a cozy bedroom. The books went into the lounge, where we could all use them more easily. I was in charge of the library and there is nothing so symbolic of the change that happens there than when Ratnadharini told me we were to move the library. It didn’t cause a ripple. We formed a chain and moved each book, and then set them up again. In spaciousness. No ripples at all. It happens there. Time was one of the first concepts to dissolve. Instead of days of the week, months of the year, time of day, we simply had blocks of time: for life stories, for study, for confession, for talks. Any day was only ‘the fifth day of a seven day block’. Days and dates became such arcane concepts. Still, it was a shock when I saw a newspaper one day and discovered that we were at the end of May. And then there was the going forth. From what? It was our choice. Some placed rings and photos in the ancient trunk used as the base of the shrine in the shrine room. Some placed cell phones and beloved objects with warm histories. I placed my hair there, as did many others. I removed my wedding rings, and gathered family photos, and they went into the trunk also. This was a new venture, a going forth from a self view into the unknown. There was nothing to do but to flow along with the currents. Our days were planned by the team and we trusted them completely. Double sits, pujas, classes, weeks in silence, the frolic of a dakini walk or the exuberance of the Padmasambhava practice. That happened in the evening, outside and while we chanted his mantra - lightening flashed from cloud to cloud and we were lost in wonder and awe! Leaving the shrine room at night we often watched AKASHAVANA
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Supporting Dhamma work abroad By Amala Last winter Aryaloka was brightened by a visit from two Indian Dharmacharis, Kumarjeev and Aniruddha. They participated in a weekend retreat and later shared with us some photos and information about Dharma activities in India. Perhaps some of you remember the warmth and kindness of our guests and the strong feeling of solidarity that we felt toward brother and sister Buddhists in a faraway place. There is a way to stay connected to the energy and vision that brings the Dharma (Dhamma) to life in India, by supporting the projects our friends work on. Kumarjeev is active in a large project called ‘Dhammakranti Social Institute’. What is this about? To get an idea, it may be helpful to first recall a little history of Buddhism in India. In the first half of the 20th c. an important movement of ‘new’ Buddhists began among the lowest of the ‘scheduled’ castes in India. The movement was inspired by the conversion of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to Buddhism. Ambedkar was the first law minister of newly independent India, following a long career in law and decades of speaking out
Surakshita poses with Indian Dharmacharis Kumarjeev and Aniruddha during their visit last winter. on behalf of the lowest castes, from which Ambedkar himself had come. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism was a statement on a spiritual level that the value of a person is in how he lives, not in the social caste of his birth. The Buddha taught this thousands of years before. (for more on Ambedkar see: http//en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._R._Ambedkar) Today there are many second and third generation ‘born’ Buddhists, like Kumar-
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the sun turn the sky peach and purple, or saw the black clouds roll in and hurl rain at us, lashing the windows and doorways. This place has weather – real weather Wind that will lick the clothes from your frame And rain to lash you like a Victorian headmaster And all that air, rushing down the valley Reminiscent of the last train home – The one that left the station just as you got there.
jeev. And there are still many thousands who struggle in poverty, thwarted by social limitations of caste and tradition. Many of the ‘new’ Buddhists have converted without much opportunity to know the teachings of Buddhism directly or to practice with others. Sangharakshita, when he still lived in India, was a frequent speaker to huge groups of Buddhists who wanted to know how to live their new faith. (the same question we explore!) The FWBO, and in India TBMSG, have many projects to address the needs of thousands of Buddhists, including needs for education, medical care, skills improvement, and literacy. Based in Nagpur, Dhammakranti continues this work. “To get rid of caste and create a single, undivided and harmonius community is our goal.“ (for more on Dhammakranti see www.dhammakranti.com) Dhammakranti sponsors retreats and programs that bring Dhamma (Dharma) teachings and practice into poor and rural communities. Their annual retreat at Bodh Gaya had 1500 in attendance! “One aim of the retreat is to exemplify a ‘casteless society’ which is DHAMMAKRANTI
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been difficult to take up time again. To feel at ease in my days. I am not ripe yet, or perhaps, I am bearing fruit in a manner I could not have imagined. I want to grasp the clouds, Hang on to their every changing form and colours. I want to cling to the wind as it sings in the pines As it cools my sun burned arms and lulls me to sleep at night. I want to hold on to these craggy mountains, Firm against lightening and scorching sun Haven of wild goats and vultures, Hidden treasure of rosemary and thyme and lavender.
By Atapanai There is not a lot more to tell. We were in a boundless, limitless spaciousness for three months. We came with names and views and left scoured, and with new names. It even seemed fitting that I was robbed in Barcelona, on my way home, and so managed to lose my legal identity as well. Scoured. By winds and rain, and by the stillness, the silence, the sound only of goats around us and the vultures overhead. It was a time of profound cleansing and now a full five months later, I am still raw and unknowing. It has
I want to hold on to this incense, this shrine, These women caught in wonder and devotion and kindness. May I carry the memory with me All the days of my living – May it nourish and transform my innermost parts May it whisper to me always Of the path to freedom For all beings.
Vajra Bell interview: By Stephen Sloan When did you first come to Aryaloka? I first came to Aryaloka around the fall of 1991, with my wife Pat. It was a very different place back then. The men’s community was on the office side of the building. There were no American order members and few mitras. The building was cold in the winter, hot in the summer and leaked like a sieve but even then you could feel the strong sense of sangha. I knew right away that this was the place I had been searching for, a place to explore my spirituality. When did you request ordination? I had become a mitra in February of 95 and asked for ordination in the spring of that year. I withdrew my ordination request in 2001 and did not reinstate it again till 04. Prison work has been a big part of your practice, how did that get started? I began by corresponding with inmates from all over the country around 97 or 98. Suddhayu asked me to visit a Buddhist inmate at the Strafford House of Corrections. I believe that was some time in 98 or 99. By the time my paper work had been processed the inmate had been shipped back to Concord. The CO who was in charge of programs asked me if I would teach a meditation course and counsel inmates who were not of “main stream faiths”. For several years I taught two classes a week, one for the men and one for the women. I also was the on-call “chaplain” for those inmates who were Wicca, Pagan, or whatever did not fall into the standard religions. I also served on the Spiritual Care Board for three years. I began teaching in Concord around the same
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so necessary if Buddhism is to become truly established across India.” We are fortunate beyond measure here in the United States, with our social and religious freedom. Often our Buddhist practice is a fairly private affair; in India it is a social ex-
time. I began by teaching a meditation class one day a week for the drug and alcohol program. We now have two classes a week. On Thursday afternoon we have a Buddhist study group and on Saturday mornings we teach a mitra class. We also give three retreats a year. I love sharing the Dhamma with these guys. I know many people would rather forget these men even exist, toss them in jail and throw away the key. If we do that we miss the opportunity to practice with some very diverse individuals. We miss the opportunity to share the Dhamma and watch as the Dhamma transforms lives.
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(Formerly Dave Carr)
Tell us about your ordination experience. The experience of my ordination is both internal and external. The internal piece is still unfolding and I really do not have a solid sense of it. Some days I feel as if I have “it” all figured out but most days I am clueless. The one thing I do know is that there has been an internal shift or a deepening of how I practice the Dhamma. My ordination retreat is a bit of a blur. I spent the week
studying and hanging out with Vidhuma, Nogabodhi, Narottama, and Arjava who was ordained with me. Arjava and I spent the week in the solitary hut. I could not have had a better group of friends surrounding and supporting me. My private ordination was magical. Vidhuma was my private preceptor, a friend who I have practiced with for many years. On the night of my private ordination the weather was quite intense. During the ceremony there was thunder and lightening. Shortly after my ordination the rain poured down. I am not sure if that was a good sign or not. The time between my private ordination and the public ordination was a bit strange for me. You have this new name, only you and your private preceptor know what it is; you have become this other person in a sense. It felt as if I was in a bardo state. The public ordination was a bit uncomfortable for me. I do not do well with being the center of attention in a large group but I was fortunate enough to have Arjava with me for support. I would not have wanted to do it alone. Once the public ceremony started I was fine, very happy actually. What could be better than being surrounded by friends and family all supporting you in this journey and being publicly ordained by Nagabodhi, a friend to me, to Aryaloka, and to the ordination process in North America. I am struggling a bit with having two names. I prefer my ordained name but that is not always practical. I could have it legally changed but I will have to give that some thought. Another piece of ordination is the fact that I have gone from having one sister to having hundreds of sisters and brothers. I see my ordination as another step along the path, as a means to deepen my practice and strengthen my friendships.
perience! How can we be part of the energy and inspiration of the Dhamma in communities far away? If we cannot go there ourselves, we can send some support. There are many experienced and qualified Indian Dhammamitras, Dharmacharis and Dharmacharinis who would like to work full time for the Dhamma. We can support a Dhamma worker for one
year with just $200 per month. If you would like to contribute and make it possible for a brother or sister to do Dhamma work please send a contribution of any amount to Aryaloka with a notation that the funds are for Dhammakranti. For further information please contact Amala by email at email@example.com. Thank you!
How has spiritual friendship played a part in your practice? Spiritual friendship has meant everything to me. I do not think you can progress very far on the spiritual path without contact with like minded people. My growth as a spiritual person has come through my contact with the WBO, FWBO and specifically the Aryaloka community. I can not stress enough how important it is to develop and maintain friendships within the context of the Dhamma. As the Buddha said, admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the spiritual life.
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Experiencing the Concord Sangha By Stephen Sloan Bhante (Sangharakshita) says, in What is the Sangha, “How is it that entering into relationship with other people who hold a common ideal and follow a common path should help us in our spiritual life?” He goes on, “Of course we learn from those we associate with, especially those who are more mature than we are, and learning will clearly be important if we are to make progress in the spiritual life. But in what does ‘progress in the spiritual life’ re-
Learning to Live with Right Emotion ally consist? What are we really learning? The knowledge we need, in the end, is selfknowledge. And the real significance of the deep individual-to-individual contact that Going for Refuge to the Sangha involves lies in a simple psychological fact: we get to know ourselves best in relation to other people.” Visiting with the Concord Sangha is an
opportunity to acquire self-knowledge, an opportunity to get to know ourselves in relation to other people. Far from the comfortable environment of Aryaloka, the men from the Concord Sangha must practice in a challenging place complete with clanging steel doors and hostile fellow inmates. To join with the men of the Concord Sangha in practice offers us an opportunity to experience a new reality. Within this new reality, bounded as it CONCORD SANGHA
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Anatomy of a Living Devotion: The Seven-Fold Puja By Anastra Madden I’ve often asked myself what it is about the Puja that draws me so. Even before we begin chanting those first, beautiful, poetic words the shrine feels different. The focus is on the Buddha, surrounded by candlelight, beautiful flowers, and the fragrance of incense. A subtle anticipation fills the atmosphere. Reverence is striking, palpable. The mind relaxes into the background, and the heart readies itself, poised for conjoined practice with others. The movement of cushions and rustling of blankets subside and quiet descends.... Worship - the first spiritual aspiration that immediately begins to cultivate a beautiful mood of heart receptivity and devotion. The verse weaves us through offerings of flowers : With mandarava, blue lotus, and jasmine/ With all flowers pleasing and fragrant...then incense: I envelop them in clouds of incense,/ Sweet and penetrating... concluding with more offerings, and ending with: I scatter handfuls of beautiful flowers. After Worship, the Avalokitesvara mantra – “Om mani padme hum” - is chanted while those who wish to, may approach the shrine and make individual offerings.
Salutation - the second verse heightens our devotion and reverence to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas: And those to whom respectful salutation is due. Going for Refuge - blending Worship and Salutation prepares one to enter the act of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels. It is here that devotion is gradually, gently transformed into a commitment, a vibrant engagement with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Confession of Faults - the sequence is beautiful. We begin to have insight. We recognize our unskillfulness and unknowing; unknowing that perpetuates more unskillfulness! We want to move out of the cycle. We ask for guidance, for protection, for commitment: What is not good, O Protectors, I shall not do again. Rejoicing in Merit - gaining freedom from obstacles fills us with joy, with confidence. We are moved by our own potential and more clearly view the potential in others which compounds our joy: I rejoice with delight in the good done by all beings/Those Oceans that bring happiness to all beings, and are the abode of welfare of all beings. This experience of joy for others brings us to the shores of the bodhicitta, the will to
Enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. We are losing energy, and interest in self-involvement and self-cherishing. We are on the shores of true freedom. Entreaty and Supplication - here we ask for help, imploring the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to stay with all beings So that life in this world does not grow dark. Here, the Heart Sutra is recited in unison. From the Puja Book we learn that the Heart Sutra is “one of the most important of all Buddhist texts...[it].expresses the principle of always ‘going beyond’, or transcendence.” Transference of Merit and SelfSurrender - The seventh and final verse beautifully invokes the transfer of any merit for the benefit of all beings. We take flight into the altruistic dimension, seeking to be of service to others in their quest for Enlightenment and freedom from suffering. Nine sets of concluding mantras chanted three times followed by an exquisite, transcendent silence draw the Puja to a hushed close. The Puja carries us through the winds of the human condition, lifting us into the cloudless realm of vibrant transformation-of-heart for ourselves, our sangha, and all sentient beings throughout the world. Now, how wonderful is that!?
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An opportunity for compassion Jean S. Corson An open letter to the Aryaloka Sangha offering an opportunity to demonstrate compassion and real world support ... Seacoast Interfaith Hospitality Network The Seacoast Interfaith Hospitality Network is an ecumenical effort to address temporary transition needs for families in crisis. Currently, there are ten local religious communities involved in providing housing and other support for this program; another five religious communities support these efforts with volunteers. Often Seacoast families have been impacted with unexpected hardships that involve health, job loss, homes lost, or other unexpected events that have rendered them in crisis. The intent is for those of faith (no matter which) to demonstrate compassion and real world help within the Seacoast community. You can visit the local web site www. nihnnh or the national website at www.nihn.
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is by windows with bars and guards with guns, lies an excellent opportunity to practice the second limb of the Noble Eightfold Path, Right Emotion. In Vision and Transformation, Bhante tells us that “the problem of reason and emotion is central in the spiritual life. Putting it simply, there is really no spiritual life until the heart is also involved. No matter how active the brain is, or how much we have understood intellectually, until the heart is involved and we begin to feel what we have understood -until our emotions are engaged -- there is no spiritual life, properly speaking.” The theme of the recent retreat sponsored by the Concord Sangha, held last November, was ritual and devotion. The highlights included puja, a Mitra ceremony, and other devotional activities. Some of the discussions centered on common misperceptions involved with ritual and devotion. Through our discussions, the participants
org for more information. SIHN is much more than temporary housing -- it is a comprehensive program that offers support in parenting, job search, job training, counseling services, daycare and more -- all intended to help these families gain long-term sustainable improvement in their lives. A case manager oversees each family, develops a plan to which the families commit to take responsibility and actions to improve their lives. Engaged Buddhists I have met with the Council and they have suggested that a first step is to offer members of the Sangha, along with their families and friends, an opportunity to support this important work helping Host Sites by cooking meals and sharing the meal with the families, and other onsite chores. Giving time for other indirect support is also welcome such as contributions of clothing, household items, and furniture and of course financial.
came to see that devotional activities are an excellent way to engage our hearts and emotions into our practices. For a visitor, it was especially inspiring to practice devotional activities with men who maintain such a strong practice in such a challenging environment. The men of the Concord Sangha engage in other activities that put their practices into action. Several of the men produce items in the prison workshop that can be offered for sale. An example of that was a recent event held in December at the Button Factory in Portsmouth. Here’s a report from Steve Cardwell on the day’s activities: “Saturday and Sunday, December 1st and 2nd, was the annual Portsmouth Button Factory arts and crafts event where local artists offer their treasures to the holiday shoppers. Many from our sangha participate in the event. Dino has shown his work for many years and Viriyalila is also a regular artist who generously shared some of her space with Bodhana and Brian
Like the wonderful work being done at the prison by members of our Sangha, I believe that our involvement with SIHN will render long term benefit to those families needing our help. Your involvement will also help us as Buddhists, demonstrate our commitment to compassion and an opportunity to interact with others in other spiritual communities who likewise choose to take action and live their beliefs. Helping families and especially children in times of crisis can mean long-term sustained improvements for the children to get a better start in life. I will be delighted to talk with any of you who feel compelled to jump in with me in any way you can. With great gratitude and metta, Jean Corson 64 Columbus Ave. Exeter, NH 03833 Phone/fax: 603.772.6657 Cell: 603.498.8060 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sullivan. Viriyalila also made a fabulous stairway mobile that was something to see. Brian Sullivan and Bodhana were selling items that were made by inmates from the Concord prison: wonderful wooden bowls with amazing inlays and small carved wooded sailboats. Brian also had on display the beautiful folding oak meditation benches that he has been making for quite some time - you can see these great benches at the Aryaloka bookstore.” Visiting with the men of the Concord Sangha gives us a wide variety of opportunities to engage with our practices on many levels. For 2008, retreats are scheduled in April, July and November. There are also opportunities for volunteers to attend groups that meet on Thursdays and Saturdays. If you would like a new way to go to refuge to the Sangha jewel and to engage your emotions as well as your intellect into your practice, try to attend an event with the Concord Sangha.
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but couldn’t find anyone.
Three Winter Tales After Kenneth MacLeod
And the bird daubed white by Michael for her sins, went back to catching oysters and saving children’s souls, bringing them in a boat
By Candradasa I In the year of the dead birds Saint Kenneth fed the sparrows as a last rite under a tree.
From the brink of the other world.
And in the watching man’s heart something else crystallized where previously waterfalls froze.
The black fiddler demon dancer the boat on fire and the music hurtling out of her waves boiling under the flying form the mad dance of the music in flame and the grin and the gleam of the fiddler’s eyes fire flying out of him and the racing ship hurtling through the blackness at the speed of the heart and the burning light of the eyes that saw from the cliffs the gleaming pyre of everyone’s madness caught the music of the waves in the blood and the cold shared heart of the fiddler flames dancing round them all and the wail of the soul held in the hold of the groaning ship bound for the black life forever where no songs prevail.
His eyes misted over and that was the true miracle: now the mountains could melt. In time for something to grow. II Saint Bride’s bird saved the Christ from his enemies (covered him in sea yarn) so down they came from the mountain
Clear Night by Joan Rochette
What despair, when in the mirror of the water I see the churning waves of mind. The image vague, and broken there along its tattered edge, I cannot see its shape or size, but struggle to look on. And then a wave breaks hard against the shore. Breathless and gasping, cold and wet, no solution is at hand. The image was not real, a product of my churning mind. I let sleep lull me away. The struggle is at rest. I wake, the sun is warm, the water still, and it is there, that same imperfect image, hidden now by dust and grime. Leave me, ghost, you are not real, but who can hear my cry?
I cannot leave the shore for more than brief excursions now, that unfinished image haunting days and dreams. Sure it can’t be real, but is a phantom of my mind, yet sure it’s surely there, I wail from dawn to dusk. Next to the river I sit very still, so I won’t disturb a soul, waiting for the harvest moon, so bright I will surely see. The moon is there, a glow rising like a mushroom from the dark, damp earth. I fight to keep the water still, but then a cloud, so dark and thick, hides the moon’s bright glow. I still am very still, my breath now hardly any breath, my choice now hardly any choice, my hope now fully gone. And it is there, real and true. The moon has left. The sun has shone, and is fading now away. The waves no longer churn. I wait the dark without my fears, and carry on a memory of a cold dark night that showed the light of day.
For Your Information ... • FWBO Centers in the U.S. - Newmarket, NH; Portland, ME; Belfast, ME; Lubec, ME; Somerville, MA; New York City, NY; Missoula, MT; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Richland, WA.
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definite to be understood, but there’s also time for breathing, as you read it aloud. A ‘verse’ is literally ‘a turn’ – and these verses are like turnings we can recognise from the ebb and flow of our own lives. And in recognition there is usually some comfort, even if what’s being seen is not necessarily easy. All Buddhist teaching blossoms from the fundamental, experiential insight the verses are trying to represent, or at least hint at. The impermanent flavor of all we encounter, the nature of ‘self’ itself, the deep cause of the sufferings of our lives, however large or small – these are all gradually flowering realisations whose seeds lie in the ‘pratitya samutapada’ teaching. I’m sure you can fill in your own examples. When I first heard these verses and saw them written on a whiteboard, it was a very strong experience for me. And I knew, immediately, I was a Buddhist! It was that simple – and that clear. 2. ‘The rectification of terms’ Urgyen Sangharakshita is very fond of Confucius’ teaching on the ‘rectification of terms’ – on being clear about what words you are using and what they mean! Recently, in a study group, I was reminded of a subtle but important distinction of meaning that, I think, opens up an interesting area for reflection. There’s no space here for much explicit examination of this, but I’ll write out the gist of the thing so you can see what you make of it. The term that needs to be rectified in our usage here is ‘conditioned’. We speak about ‘conditioned co-production’, and we also speak about ‘conditioned existence’. And, the study leader was contending, we often assume, unconsciously, that ‘conditioned’ is referring to the same teaching in both instances. Which is not the case! So here’s the difference, and you can work out how they might differ and relate in your own understanding and practice… In the first example (see above) – ‘conditioned co-production’ – the Sanskrit word being translated is ‘samskrita’ – ‘composite’, ‘confected’: the sense is in something being put together, somehow concocted,
In other words, wisdom is not based on seeing the correct ‘psychology’ of others in a situation, it is based on a total reappraisal of your own ways of thinking and viewing things. even manufactured, from ‘conditioning’ elements or factors. In the external, objective world, this seems obvious enough – ‘stuff’ is made up of other ‘stuff’! But is it obvious? What is this ‘stuff’? What are these ‘things’ whose solidity we trade on all day in our lives? I won’t get into discussing all this here, but the limitations of our language become quickly apparent. It is hard stuff to grasp – and even harder to express! Yet the implications are so profound we need to try; what is Reality like, and how do we see it? And what is the relationship between how we see it and our experience of life, especially our suffering? Our views, our perceptions, our thoughts, feelings, experiences, prejudices, foolishnesses, insights, etc. – how do all these color what we see? Here’s the Buddha in the classic evocation from the ‘Diamond Sutra’: “All composite (confected/dependently arisen) things (samskrita) Are like a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, and a shadow, Are like a dew-drop and a flash of lightning; They are thus to be regarded.” Enough said! And so, on to ‘conditioned existence’. Here, the word is actually referring to life ‘conditioned by’ – marked or tainted by – greed, hatred or delusion. Seeing that this is what our lives are usually like is, again, basic Buddhism, and (in terms of Wisdom) a key insight.
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‘Nirvana’ means the ‘extinction’ or ‘extinguishing’ of these three ‘poisons’ in your life. That’s the aim of practice, that’s why a Buddhist meditates, lives and loves. And it’s a pretty far-reaching and radical challenge for our lives, one that takes us beyond everything we think we know about Reality (but are probably mistaken about). It also takes us beyond what we may actually know – ‘correctly’ – in a more mundane sense. That’s one thing I’ve learned in my own life; being right about people and situations is no defense against suffering – if you want to undo that in your life, you need to examine your own views, and especially your own attachments. In other words, wisdom is not based on seeing the correct ‘psychology’ of others in a situation, it is based on a total reappraisal of your own ways of thinking and viewing things. And to start with, you need to realise the extent to which your view is habitually ‘conditioned’ by the distorted lenses of craving, aversion and confusion. So, an interesting and useful distinction – made with the same challenge to each of us! 3. Reversing the image ‘Nirvana’ is a ‘negative’ term, i.e. it is talking about the absence of something rather than its ‘positive’ attributes. Much traditional Buddhist language, and many of the images used, talk about Reality by way of this technique: it is not this, not that… This approach offers the equivalent of photographic negatives – or x-rays – of our existential situation; letting us know what is there to be developed, what is broken and needs our attention. The experience, in my own life, of a realm where everything is the shadow of what it usually seems to be, lies in dreams. Which is ironic, since traditional Buddhist language also tends (as we’ve seen) to evoke ‘Insight’ as ‘waking up’ from a dream; ‘Bodhi’ is usually translated as ‘Enlightenment’, but its proper meaning is ‘Awakening’. Of course, the dream and the waking state – knowing versus being in the dark – these are not ultimate dualities, just as the GLIMMERINGS
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distinction between ‘samsara’ (the realm of seeing things colored by greed, hatred and confusion) and ‘nirvana’ (the total removal of these veils from your sight) is not an ultimate distinction. That said, it’s useful for us to make such distinctions provisionally because it serves the purpose of encouraging us to look at our own behavior; it’s not a matter of abstract philosophy, it’s matter of practice in our lives. If there’s no behavioral change (ethics), there can be no effective learning that will change our lives (wisdom). And the depth charge of change that needs to happen has to be felt in all parts of our mind – the waking and the dreaming parts. In fact, these days I like to think less about ‘waking up’ to things, and more about learning to dream my way into Reality. I like the idea that the change could go that deep! Louise Gluck puts it well in her poem, ‘Day Without Night’: “The context of truth is darkness… Are you taken in
by lights, by illusions?” 4. Are you experienced? Here’s a closing paradox. I am uneasy with ‘experience’ being the first word we often reach for when we are speaking about the life of the body or the spirit, the mind or the psyche. I mean, given everything above, it seems so thoroughly unreliable as a reference! In the famous classical injunction of the religious mysteries, inscribed above the portal to the temple of Apollo – ‘Know Thyself’ – the emphasis isn’t on ‘thyself’, but on the process of ‘knowing’… And given the shape-shifting nature of the ‘self’, it’s clear that any real knowing worth the name should come to us a full mystery, and remain so in our ‘experience’, as far as we can understand it. Real, mature mystery, then, naturally urges caution, care, meditation, and long reflection before we start to ascribe any wisdom to our experiences, much less act upon them definitively in our lives. As Shakespeare has it in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, “Wisely and slow, they stumble who run fast.” If mystery isn’t present in our expe-
stract. Meditation does not exist in the abstract. Wisdom does not exist in the abstract. The Dharma is alive only to the extent that it is practiced by people. Meditation exists only to the extent that people meditate. Wisdom exists only to the extent that it is realized by individual living beings. That, it seems to me, is the point of all the Buddha’s teachings, is the point of the Six Great Perfections. The Dharma is a living Dharma. Transcendental wisdom can be practiced by living beings, by you and me, and can be attained by living beings. And the only way we can begin to understand wisdom, the only path to understanding ourselves and all things “as they really are,” must come through our experience, through our day to day, moment to moment living.
the area. It was a great way to introduce NVC and Aryaloka at the same time.
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At the end of November we offered our first retreat for caregivers. The Caregivers’ Retreat was organized for all those wonderful people who give their lives in service helping the elderly, the sick and the abused. We look forward to having this retreat again at Aryaloka. Thank you very much to Anastra, Amala and everyone involved in this special weekend event. November 11th was Sangha Day. Viriyalila and Sunada and their team put together an enjoyable day for all who attended. Sunada gave a chanting workshop featuring the mantras of the WBO Refuge tree which helped to improve our vocal skills. The day concluded with the Sevenfold Puja.
rience, then we are not present; no knowing, no self, no seeing through to what lies beyond – at least, not in any way we can trust. On the other hand – and here’s the paradox – our experience of ourselves and others in the universe is exactly all of what we have to contend with. It is our earth and our water and our air. And it is also enough. Our images, our words, our personal gods, our fantasies, our stories, our dreams – their effects on us, together as a community and in our personal practice – call for a basic awe as we come to them in our lives. And (since I already feel on shaky ground myself here) a proper humility too. The great Tibetan guru Padmasambhava’s famous wisdom verses apply here. They are much quoted, but I can’t think of a better way to end – or a better set of reminders and encouragements for the practice of wisdom: “Let these three expressions: I do not have, I do not understand, I do not know Be repeated over and over again. This is the heart of my advice.”
Sadhu and many, many thanks to Saddhamala who has decided to retire from teaching at our Tuesday evening sangha nights. Over the years, she has welcomed newcomers and taught with much wisdom and grace! Our very best wishes go out to her – we will miss you, Saddhamala! And…a warm welcome to our new sangha night teacher, Khemavassika!! Once again, Aryaloka offered a Winter Meditation Retreat, led this year by Narottama. Many folks attended for all or part of the retreat, and the evaluations were overwhelmingly positive and appreciative. January 1, 2008 again saw our annual Meditate for Peace Day attended by many sangha members as well as people from the community. It was a lovely way to bring in the new year with positive thoughts for peace in the world.
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Upcoming Events (Akasaloka events are listed in italics)
JANUARY 26 27 30 31
2 8 9 9 14 16 20-22 22-24 25 30
Men’s overnight Teacher training seminar Intro evening Yoga and Meditation retreat
FEBRUARY 1-3 2 6 10 13 15-17 20 23 23 24 29
Yoga retreat continues Intermediate Workshop on the Hindrances - Sunada Intro evening Teacher Training Seminar Intro evening Parinirvana retreat Intro evening Intro day Council Order Day Kids’ mid-week overnight (One-day, TBA)
Women GFR overnight Intro Day Council Teacher Training Seminar Intermediate Workshop on Mindfulness - Amala Order Day NVC Basic NVC Plus NVC Healing Day NVC Sangha Weekend
APRIL 2 5 6 9 12 13 16 20 23
Intro evening series begins, 7-9 Enlightened Living Day Order Day Intro evening Intro day Council Intro evening Engaged Buddhism Retreat - Parami (UK) Intro evening
Ongoing Sangha Night at Aryaloka
Friday Night Puja
• • • •
The rich devotional practice of meditation and puja is shared most Friday nights by those who find devotion an important part of their practice.
Every Tuesday evening, 7:00-9:15 p.m. Led by Amala and Khemavassika Open to all who have attended an introductory class at Aryaloka Fee: Suggested donation $10 per class No registration necessary
Typically, our Tuesday night activities are: • • • •
7:00 - Gathering, tea and announcements 7:15 - Meditation and shrine room activity 8:00 - Study, discussion or a talk on the evening’s topic 9:15 - End
With all of the activities, you are free to participate or to just sit and listen. Nothing is compulsory. If you have any questions, please ask!
Friday evenings as scheduled. See the Aryaloka web site for dates and locations. 7:00 p.m. meditation, followed by puja.
“When we celebrate the Sevenfold Puja, which combines faith and devotion with poetry and sometimes an element of visual beauty, we find that our emotional energies are to some extent refined. When this happens, it becomes possible for the vision and insight of the higher thinking center to act through these refined, sublimated emotional centers directly on the moving center. In this way, the whole of life is completely transformed.” Sangharakshita ~ Ritual and Devotion
Published on Jan 1, 2008
* "Four Glimmerings on Wisdom" by Candradasa * "Prajna Awareness Comes through Experience" by Vidhuma * "Thoughts from Akashavana" by * "Su...