Page 1

VAJRA BELL Volume 7 Issue II

April 2009

Center of the Buddha Mandala Vairocana and His Consort Akadhatesvari Illuminate the Dharma By Samayadevi

VAIROCANA

Continued on Page 15

Aryaloka Buddhist Center 14 Heartwood Circle, Newmarket, NH 03857

Illustration of Akadhatesvari by Eric Wentworth

W

e come at last to the center of this great multi-dimensional mandala of the five Buddhas. In the hours of early dawn in the East, we opened to the mirror-like wisdom of Akshobhya, dissolving the poison of hatred. His element is water and so he is deep blue in color. His hands are held in the earth-touching mudra, bhumisparsha. Locana, “she who is illuminated by the dharma,” accompanies him. Then at noon we turned to the south to be with Ratnasambhava and the wisdom of equality, dispelling the poison of pride. His mudra is varada, supreme giving, and he glows with a warm yellow light, like the summer sun on a field of wheat. His element is earth.  Mamaki is by his side, with her endless resources ready to give to all beings equally. As the sun set, we turned to the western sky and Amitabha, sitting peacefully in dhyana, in the meditation mudra, with his hands cupped in his lap. His wisdom is discriminating wisdom, wisdom that dispels the poison of greed and


VAJRA BELL

PAGE 2

From the Editor By Samayadevi This is the last issue dedicated to the Five Jinas, but clearly not the last time we will hold them in our minds and hearts. We are invited now into the heart of the mandala, to be in the presence of the Illuminator, Vairocana, and his consort Akashadatesvari. This has been called “a terrible radiance” where outlines blur and we can only see the real. Duality is a hard edge to hold here and entering in would be almost impossible without the unstinting support of our sangha.

Every issue is really about sangha encouraging us to venture forth into the Dharma, to take profound refuge in the Buddha. We all know it is a journey we would embrace even if all alone, but what a jewel that we have the inspiration of each other. And our sangha is flung far and wide! In the next issue we will share the travels to India on convention and on pilgrimage that many of our members have taken this winter, and in future issues we will learn about the Order flourishing in India. It is a challenging time for all of us, and also a time of great opportunity for practice, for allowing the light of Vairocana to show us what is really important in our lives in these very conditions. May we learn to bask in the radiance of Vairocana.

Musings from the Chair By Dayalocana In this issue of Vajra Bell we are introduced to Vairocana, the Illuminator. He holds the golden wheel, representing the teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni, the giving of the Dharma to the world. At Aryaloka the sharing of the Dharma as a spark of Vairocana’s light is made possible by many people in our sangha. Energy, interest and enthusiasm are shared in study, in meetings and in friendships. Sangha members contribute to the vitality of the Center by offering support in many ways. Together we create opportunities for personal reflection in a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere. I invite you to participate with the FWBO sangha to brighten the world with the gift of the Dharma. Throughout this coming year a variety of Order members and mitras will visit Aryaloka

to share their experience of the Dharma and FWBO activities. Participation in retreats, classes and conversation with them will add to the richness of our experience and understanding of the Dharma. It is good that so many people around the world wish to give the Dharma. We are fortunate to be in a place to hear the Dharma. I invite and encourage you to join in welcoming our guests. This is a challenging and difficult time for people throughout the world. More than ever we are aware of the uncertainty surrounding us. It is no longer as easy to push away the truth of impermanence. Studying the Dharma together we can bring the teaching of the Buddha into our lives, changing ourselves and influencing the world we live in. We can learn to create positive mental states and bring qualities of patience, generosity and kindness to everyday interactions. Each of us in our own way can illuminate the world with the Dharma and touch the lives of those around us.

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

Contact Information Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 info@aryaloka.org www.aryaloka.org

Aryaloka Council Dayalocana dayalocana@comcast.net Saddhamala dh.saddhamala@gmail.com Amala amalamaeve@gmail.com Khemavassika sueb1011@myfairpoint.net Vihanasari sbonin@earthlink.net Samayadevi samayadevi@mac.com Prasannavajri prasannavajri@gmail.com

Vajra Bell Kula Samayadevi, Chair samayadevi@mac.com Vihanasari sbonin@earthlink.net Stephen Sloan sloan@comcast.net Eric Wentworth thewintercrow@hotmail.com

Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you!


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 3

The Council By Samayadevi & Vihanasari At the January meeting, Council members decided that the theme for 2009 would be communications; that is,  how to be more interactive with and visible to the sangha as a whole. As a part of this initiative, members of our various kulas will be invited to meet with the Council to talk about what they have been doing, share concerns, and identify the kinds of support that they would find most useful in order to continue their work most effectively. Sangha members and those people new to Aryaloka find out information about our offerings in a variety of ways.  The Council would like to identify  which of these ways

are most effective in addition to the printed program. Members discussed whether changes need to be made to the program itself and how often it needs to come out. A team will be established to follow up on this. Performance appraisals are underway for our small Center staff, including discussions about what information needs to be included in the appraisals and in individual job descriptions. Dayalocana is currently working on a job description for the chair’s position.   A new kula has been formed to look into how best to revamp our current web site. The guiding question for this task will be “What do we want the Aryaloka web site to accomplish?”  Those in the sangha with skills

in web site design are most welcome to join this fledgling kula. Prasannavajri reported on the Aryaloka Development Fund. A brochure will be designed and sent to all sangha members that shows what has been accomplished at Aryaloka during the past year (2008).  The brochure will also show  where our income comes from, how expenses are covered, and a listing of the many kulas that work so hard to keep Aryaloka such an exciting place to be. Council meetings are open to visitors please contact Dayalocana if you would like to observe or talk to the Council (dayalocana@ comcast.net). 

Sangha Notes - “What’s Happening?” By Suzanne Woodland

friendships. Poetry and promise accompanied meditation and reflection.  Arising out of the A line from the seven-fold puja reads: retreat was a particular rejoicing in the efforts “I rejoice with delight, in the good done by that Vidhuma and Dayalocana have made all beings.”  Indeed there have been many in over the years to make Aryaloka and our whom to rejoice these last several months; spiritual community what it is today. the organizers, the teachers, the carpenters • The first three Tuesdays of March were and the cooks as well as all those who have notable for the talks that Devamitra delivered contributed by their friendly and attentive as part of sangha night activities.  Devamitra, a presence.   senior order member visiting from the United • Using Tejananda’s excellent book The Kingdom, spent almost a month at Aryaloka.  Buddhist Path to Awakening, Amala and Over the course of three evenings, Devamitra Khemavassika continued to lead sangha invited those in attendance to examine the night activities during the winter months.  role that fear plays in our lives; the manner in Those who gathered had an opportunity to which it might hold us back from being truly explore Siddhartha’s journey of awakening, authentic.  He challenged those who seek to the Buddha’s core teaching of  the Four practice the Buddha’s teachings to examine Noble Truths and the five precepts that inform the manner and conditions of our going forth.  ethical conduct. He left us with the opportunity to reflect upon • On February 7, Karunasara helped fearlessness and the heroic aspects of the participants honor and celebrate Parinirvana, Buddha’s path. the death of the Buddha.  It was a day of • The Introductory Evening class series meditation and readings from the Pali Canon (led by Amala) just concluded.  It was 7 weeks as well as remembrance and rejoicing.  Many of meditation and Buddhism with an engaged gathered in the shrine room to remember group of about 16 participants, some of whom those who have died with touching tributes, were brand new to the topics and others who poetry and other offerings. were aiming to go deeper and gain clarity for • The New England Order/Mitra their previous personal explorations. weekend in late February was a rich time • The women’s mitra study group to discover new friends and deepen existing is just concluding “What is the Sangha?” by

Sangharakshita with the role of friendship on the spiritual path being an especially rich component of the study.    • The men’s mitra study group is continuing with the foundation year course materials of the mitra study program. They have recently explored the arising of the Bodhicitta and are continuing with a condensed history of Buddhism. • The men’s monthly practice days continue to provide an opportunity for all men to come together on a monthly basis.  It is not necessary to be an order member or mitra to participate.  Study of the Six Paramitas concluded in January and February. The men’s practice day in March, led by Devamitra, centered around the one of the earliest sutta’s describing Siddhartha’s going forth to the homeless life to discover the truth of Reality. • Friday night opportunities at Aryaloka have been varied and included a showing of the movie Dhamma Brothers and an evening of Shakespeare led by Devamitra.  Meditation and puja were offered one Friday evening each month. Puja, a devotional practice, is traditionally undertaken at the full moon.  See the Aryaloka website and posted fliers for future Friday evenings of meditation and puja around the time of the full moon.


PAGE 4

VAJRA BELL

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

Buddhaworks - the Aryaloka Bookstore By Steve Cardwell What great news we have to share with the sangha. As of March, we have made $6,000 in net income for Aryaloka in the last 12 months! And in the last two years we realized $13,600 in net income. The bookstore continues to be a reliable source of income for the center and we have everyone to thank for this success. Thanks for thinking of the bookstore for mitra ceremonies, new Order members’ welcoming gifts, housewarmings, birthdays, anniversaries, “get well” gifts, “thank you” gifts, and items to support your personal practice. We know that sometimes you can find books cheaper at other places, but the little extra you pay makes a big difference to Aryaloka and our financial health. One of the easiest ways to help Aryaloka is to support the bookstore. So please check out the wonderful selection of Dharma books, incense, candles, rupas, singing bowls, and great note cards. And this month we have a NEW book by Bhante to showcase:

“The Essential Sangharakshita: A HalfCentury of Writings from the Founder of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order” by Urgyen Sangharakshita Sangharakshita is unique in his experience with Buddhist traditions and his distillation of their core practices. Born Dennis Lingwood in South London, he is neither of the East nor of the West — rather, he springs from both, providing readers with the best of both traditions. Profoundly knowledgeable, articulate, and well-read, he uses his knowledge of every field of human experience to stir followers to a deeper understanding of timeless truths. Equally at home with science, philosophy, myth, and poetry, he uses every inner avenue to communicate the dharma. He engages both intellect and heart countless times in a single chapter, attacking delusions on all fronts, sometimes methodically, sometimes lyrically, drawing perfect examples from sources as diverse as Orwell, Aeschylus, and Jane Austen. These thoughtful, wide-ranging essays are

a sparkling distillation of his 50 years of study, practice, and personal experience with Buddhism.

Online In-Site - This Issue’s Featured Website By Eric Wentworth http://www.goodguide.com Making purchases consciously can be somewhat of a struggle. When picking out food at the grocery store one has to wade through a sea of ingredient lists, nutrition information, and confusing labels saying “organic” or “natural” that need doublechecking to be sure they’re telling the truth. When buying other items, especially toys for children, it’s hard to know what you’re putting into your environment. Is that set

of blocks covered in lead paint? Will your electronics be off-gassing toxic substances into your living room? Going further, even if you buy organic and healthy, and try to stay environmentally aware, there is an entire social element to products that you may be missing. Your unpainted wooden blocks may be good for your child’s health, but bad for the Amazonian rainforest where the wood was harvested, or the labor practices in the making of the toy might be abominable. Dara O’Rourke, a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, felt the same way when he started the GoodGuide

Who can contribute to the Vajra Bell?

project. After researching the ingredients of the sunblock he’d been putting on his daughter for years, he discovered he was smearing her with a toxic chemical. In response, he gathered the support of some of the best minds in academia, technology gurus, industry experts, and scientific researchers to create a clearinghouse website where consumers could go to find detailed information on products and compare them to other products to make the best choice about their purchases. ONLINE IN-SITE

Continued on Page 15

YOU CAN!

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.


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

Library News

Movie Review By Stephen Sloan “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” (2003), 90 minutes, Not Rated Available on Netflix First off, the title of this two part film is a bit misleading - this isn’t strictly speaking a film about the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Instead, it is a glimpse into Tibetan Buddhist practices, especially as they relate to death and dying. The Bardo Thodol, also known as the Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State or the Tibetan Book of the Dead in the West, is intended to be a guide to the experiences during the transition between bardos, or intermediate states. The dying process is the transition from the living bardo to the bardo of the moment of death, into the bardo of the experiencing of Reality, culminating in the bardo of rebirth (unless the cycle of rebirth has been broken). In the beginning of the film we are invited to observe as a Buddhist lama recites the Bardo Thodol to a man who has recently died. By regularly providing instructions to the dead man, the lama seeks to help the man

By Samayadevi progress through the bardos by recognizing the apparitions that appear in the bardos as creations of his own mind. According to Tibetan Buddhist teachings, it is at this time that the dying man has an opportunity for spiritual advancement by bonding with the Clear Light. The lama reads from a hand printed version of the Bardo Thodol which is an unbound rectangular stack of pages. This is the traditional form for Tibetan scriptures going back for hundreds of years. There were many other glimpses into Tibetan practices in this film. In one scene, we observe a band of pilgrims advancing along, one prostration after another. In another scene we meet an elderly Tibetan who still performs 108 prostrations daily as a devotional exercise. While some critics have rightly pointed out weak points in this film’s production, the overall effect is much more than just another movie. This record of the Tibetan lifestyle, which is under assault by the Chinese within modern Tibet, is an invaluable asset linking us with a traditional Buddhist way of life. And the teachings from the Bardo Thodol leave us with much to ponder long after the film has ended.

Buddhaworks The Aryaloka Bookstore

* Meditation Candles * DVDs from Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Das * Meditation Journals * CDs from Thich Nhat Hanh

PAGE 5

* 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

The library at Aryaloka is one of our best kept secrets. It is airy and spacious, conducive to study and stillness, and chock full of books to peruse or borrow for more serious study.  Works by  Sangharakshita and Order members, classics of the Pali canon,  Mahayana sutras and commentaries, Tibetan teachings and practices,  poetry by Rumi and Yeats, large format books of Buddhist art, books on integrating Buddhist practice with family life...the list is almost endless.  Although borrowing and returning books is a simple process, trying to decide which book (or books) to take home is a lot more challenging. Anilasri (anilasri@comcast. net) is the contact person for the newly configured kula of seven, and the go-to person  for donating books. Requests for additions to the library can go to Anilasri or Samayadevi (samayadevi@mac.com). You may have noticed that there has been a change in the protocol for borrowing the CDs of Sangharakshita’s talks (kept in the cupboard in the book store). There is no longer a fee! Simply sign it out, enjoy and then sign it in when you return it. Come early to an event or a class at Aryaloka and explore this well-kept secret treasure. The dharma is so accessible at our center...what a gift.


PAGE 6

VAJRA BELL

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

Practice Around the Globe: International Urban Retreat By Amala This year we are running the first ever FWBO International Urban Retreat. Around the world, close to 40 local FWBO Centers will run “urban retreats” during the week of June 20-27, 2009. Aryaloka joins the ranks with our own program that includes day retreats to begin and end the week, and several special daily practice opportunities Monday through Friday. Participation in an international event can give us a feeling of connectedness and solidarity. We can take heart that many others, like ourselves, are practicing mindfulness and kindness in their own environments. But what is an ‘urban’ retreat? The phrase makes sense for New York City or London or Mumbai, but here in New Hampshire what

does that mean? Simply that on an “urban retreat” you continue to live and work in your normal circumstances, but with an intensified commitment to practice for these few days. On the first day retreat on June 20th you’ll be helped and encouraged to set up conditions to take your practice deeper. Through the week you apply just a bit of extra effort to meditate daily, or observe a particular precept more consciously, listen to a talk each day, or take mindfulness breaks each hour – whatever you have chosen for your focus. Through these actions you can: * Gain confidence in your practice... learn that you can create positive states of mind in the midst of everyday life. * Go deeper... link-up with other people at the Center and help each other to practice

more intensively for a week. * Be inspired... you’ll be part of an international event, practicing with people from FWBO Centers all over the world. To support you during the week, there will be talks, guided meditations, and other resources available, locally and on-line. The Urban Retreat ends with another day event at Aryaloka on June 27th with the chance to reflect on how it went, and where you want to take your practice next. For those who can’t attend the Urban Retreat at Aryaloka or another FWBO Center, there is the chance to do the retreat on-line. For further details on the International Urban Retreat check the websites: www. aryaloka.org and www.theurbanretreat.org.

News from the Concord Sangha By Stephen Sloan On March 27th and 28th, volunteers from Aryaloka joined with men from the Concord Sangha for a retreat on the theme of the Four Noble Truths. Turnout was strong, with a good representation from both the Concord men and the volunteers. Friday evening began with a dedication of the space for the weekend’s retreat. This was followed by meditation and a sevenfold puja. Both newcomers and long-time Concord sangha members participated enthusiastically and many commented later on the high energy levels in the room. Saturday brought a warm spring day full of hope and promise. Lori Seibert led the group through an exercise called “Crossing the Line,” designed to help us connect with the suffering we experience in different settings. Following that we began a series of presentations on the Four Noble Truths. Steve

Cardwell led off with a short talk on the First Noble Truth, followed by Bob Montgomery who presented the Second Noble Truth. Bob’s presentation generated lively discussion. After lunch, Rich Cormier gave an example of the Third Noble Truth, the source of suffering. Rich told how, that morning, his cell block, which was usually first to be released to go to breakfast, instead had to wait while another group was released first. For him, the suffering did not arise from the wait, but rather from the complaining that he was hearing all around him. He was experiencing an aversion to others expressing their dissatisfaction. He told about how he was able to apply the principles from the Four Noble Truths to eventually attenuate his suffering. Candace Copp and Stephen Sloan together presented the Fourth Noble Truth, the way to the end of suffering. Drawing on Sangharakshita’s Vision and Transformation,

it was shown how the Noble Eightfold Path could be viewed as a path of vision and a path of transformation. Stephen read a portion of the Nagara Sutta where the Buddha describes an “ancient road” trod by enlightened beings. This is the vision of the way to the end of suffering. Candace and Stephen then led the group through a discussion of each of the elements of the Noble Eightfold path. At the end, Rich Cormier explained how each of the elements of the Noble Eightfold Path could have been employed in the example he had given earlier of the breakfast incident. This was practical information that could be of use to all. The retreat ended following a check out circle. Everyone expressed how positive the day had been. Both the volunteers and the men of Concord left with much to ponder. If you’ve never been a volunteer in Concord, think about signing up for the summer retreat. Check with Bodhana for more details.

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.


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 7

News from the Boston Sangha By Sunada On the weekend of March 6, the members of the Boston FWBO collectively rolled up our sleeves and got to work. With scrapers, paintbrushes, and rollers in hand, we transformed our dark and dingy one-room meeting space into a wonderfully warm blue-and-gold Milarepa’s Cave. Thanks to the many sangha members who came to help out, this sizable job got done quickly and with ease. We have Steve Wade to thank for pulling this project together -- and he still has more ideas up his sleeve. Our space is located at the far end of a long, sterile-looking hallway in the basement of an office building. Steve’s vision is that when someone walks

into our door, they’re suddenly greeted with a beautiful, colorful shrine room. Since his recent trip to visit FWBO Centers in the UK, he’s gotten inspired to really do something in style. So this is just Phase One for now, and more improvements will no doubt come over time. We’ll probably get some built-in shelving for our zafus, and perhaps build up the shrine table so it more grandly fills the space. It’s all pretty exciting -- especially since the atmosphere already feels so changed with what we’ve done so far. A special thank you goes to all the sangha members who chipped in: Steve Wade, Glenn McKay, Rita Rocha, Stan Dankoski, Wyatt Greene, Doug Fosdick, and Martha Penzenik.

News from Nagaloka By Gail Yahwak Greetings to all from Nagaloka Buddhist Center in Portland, Maine where we are all welcoming spring.  The warmer weather finds us in the midst of a new study on the six Paramitas, or Perfections.  Akashavanda and Maitrimani have been doing a beautiful job leading us through and encouraging us to practice what comes to a bodhisattva naturally.  We have had engaging conversations and very thoughtful homework with this study.  Thank you very much to these two warm and friendly ladies!

We have finished up our study of “Everyday Zen” by Charlotte Joko Beck. This was a good study to help us find “the present moment” and to help us understand that it could take years of practice.  We were also able to investigate how Zen approaches some of the Buddha’s teachings compared to how we practice in the FWBO.  Dharmasuri has been away in India on a pilgrimage and attending the FWBO Convention.  She is back in the U.S. having a stay in Georgia.  She has promised us lots of stories and pictures of her travels.  We miss her, but rejoice in the fact that she was able to

make this trip. Narottama and Devamitra have both come to lead day retreats at Nagaloka.  Thank you so much for enhancing our practice with days of deeper and devoted study.  Narottama has also led a 4-week “Introduction to Buddhism and Meditation” course.  We have an upcoming “Family Time” morning in April with Maitrimani, as well an “Introduction to Buddhism and Meditation” class.  Keep your eyes on our website at www. nagalokabuddhistcenter.org for a schedule of special as well as regular events.

New Policy for Retreat Deposits: Retreats/Classes/Solitaries Those registering for retreats (including solitaries) and classes of any length will be asked to pay a minimum deposit of one-half of the total cost. If a registrant cancels two weeks or more before the event, s/he will receive a refund of the amount paid, minus a $15 processing fee. If the cancellation is received less than two weeks before the event, the registrant will forfeit the minimum deposit. Forfeited deposits may not be transferred to another event.

Yoga Retreats Those registering for yoga retreats will be asked to pay the full cost in advance in order to finalize the registration. If a registrant cancels two weeks or more before the retreat, s/he will receive a refund of the amount paid minus $35 that may be credited to another event. If the cancellation is received less than two weeks before the event, the registrant will receive a refund of $100. Thirty-five dollars ($35) of the remainder may be credited to another event, the rest will be forfeited.

* * * * * Note: In both categories above, special circumstances will be taken into consideration. * * * * *


PAGE 8

VAJRA BELL

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

The Unknown Story of the Burning Monk

By Devamitra “Every Angel is Terrible.” - Rilke

In June 2006 I was teaching a course at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre, England, on viriya - an important Buddhist practice. This term is generally translated as ‘energy’ or ‘vigour’, but like many Sanskrit words it is rich in meaning. It is highly suggestive of the heroic ideal inherent in Buddhism - an aspect of the tradition that seems to have received little if any emphasis in the West, where we are more aware of Buddhism as a paradigm of non-violence. But these two strands are not mutually exclusive. They can form a harmonious blend and any action which is heroic in the Buddhist sense will be underpinned by the principle of non‑violence. During the fifth week of my course, as I pondered the heroic ideal, my imagination was ignited by the image of a monk serenely seated in the midst of the rage of flames consuming his body. For me, Malcolm Browne’s iconic photograph of the ‘burning monk’ had come to epitomise, in a disturbing paradox, the perfect union of heroism and non-violence, and it featured in my presentation. The following week I found my mind cast back in its direction as I considered the Bodhisattva’s willingness - in extremis to give life and limb and a week later, when reflecting on the tantric symbolism of the cremation ground, it featured once more in my discourse. In the midst of my reflections, one morning whilst meditating, this figure kept coming to mind and was beginning to haunt me. I tried to ignore it, but its terrible beauty would not leave me alone until finally I let myself dwell upon it, my imagination sweeping me into the flames surrounding the monk, imparting a deep impression upon me. I knew at once that I must find out more about him. I searched Amazon for a biography, but there was none. Further searches produced very little – many web pages carried the famous pictures and a few contained scant biographical sentences. Yet others attempted unimaginatively to explain in

Photo by Malcolm Browne

Malcolm Browne’s iconic photograph of Thich Quang Duc’s immolation. The power of the monk’s action and Browne’s photographic imagery stunned the world and drew its attention to Vietnam.

political, sociological, moral, ‘religious’ or psychological terms the final act of this monk – without any knowledge of the man. Seemingly, there was no urge to see and understand the individual behind the myth – what drove him, what made him what he was. Such human considerations did not appear to enter into the discussion. He was reduced to a fact that fitted a theory or even a prejudice. But then finally, a fellow monk gave me a tantalising glimpse. Thich Giac Duc had met the monk a few times during the weeks leading up to the immolation and I read his moving account of their brief meetings as recounted in ‘Vietnam: A Portrait of its People at War’. This apart, all I learned was that his name was Thich Quang Duc, from Ninh Hoa district, and that he was aged 66 when he died so spectacularly in Saigon on June 11th 1963. I was both astounded and deeply disappointed that so little seemed to be known about this man who has left an indelible mark upon our culture. Many of us – non‑Buddhists alike - are familiar with the unforgettable picture of him burning, but so few outside Vietnam even know his name,

let alone anything about his life. Even though in his homeland he is universally revered as Bo Tat (Bodhisattva) Quang Duc, very few Vietnamese know anything about him. Given the recent tragic history of Vietnam this is hardly surprising. From 1939 until 1975 its inhabitants staggered and fell through a gruelling succession of wars culminating with the rise of a brutal communist regime under which Buddhists continued to be persecuted. In the confusion of these times, pagodas were sometimes destroyed, documents lost perhaps confiscated or burned - and many of those associated with Quang Duc would have died either as victims of war, of Catholic or communist persecution, or - in their desperate attempts to flee their homeland - in flimsy fishing vessels, on the open sea. To gain an understanding of the kind of man he was is beset with difficulties. Very little documentary evidence has survived or come to light and there are few photographs. So far as I have been able to ascertain, what has been written about him to date in Vietnamese gives very little away BURNING MONK

Continued on Page 14


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 9

Talking Quang Duc and Community with Devamitra Interview by Eric Wentworth VAJRA BELL: Devamitra, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with the Vajra Bell. These are some questions that we’ve put together about you, your work with the Quang Duc story, and your experiences in men’s communities that we thought our readers might enjoy hearing about and pondering over. To begin with, how did you first encounter the FWBO? DEVAMITRA: In June of 1972 I was looking for a Buddhist meditation teacher and I read about the FWBO in a book called “Alternative London.” I was very intrigued, but the FWBO was described as “homeless” at that time and so I had no means of establishing contact. Eventually I met someone at a yoga class who taught yoga for the FWBO. He told me where to go, and so I turned up on Dharma Day in July of that year.

In Chicago I hope to explore ways of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Quang Duc’s immolation, which is just over 4 years away.

VB: Do you consider physical self-sacrifice the ultimate gift one can give to the Three Jewels, or are there other ways of honoring them that hold a similar spiritual weight?

VB: What has your study of Quang Duc meant to your personal experience of what it is to be Buddhist?

D: The highest (and therefore ultimate) gift one can give, according to tradition, is the Dharma and I think, therefore, that we have to regard that as the ultimate way of honoring it. However, that was a gift that Quang Duc had been liberally giving most of his life. The fact that in the end he gave his life for the Dharma perhaps cannot ultimately be separated from that, but it is important to realize that he acted under very extreme circumstances. There was a holocaust on the horizon which he and others could see coming. This needs to be understood. Diem was trying to Catholicize South Vietnam, which meant forced conversions, arrests, torture, disappearances, etc.

D: Quang Duc is very challenging. He really was a man who took the Dharma very seriously - even to the point of giving his life for its sake. If you like, his example highlights the superficiality of most Westerners’ understanding, let alone practice, of what it really means to be a Buddhist. For me he has become a spur to practice with greater depth and sincerity and to avoid getting bogged down in petty fears, such as, for example, “who will look after me when I get old,” or “will we survive the economic downturn,” etc. I am not saying that these things don’t matter, but in light of the way he led his life, and its final outcome, for me they take on the aspect of distractions and I do not intend to be sidetracked by them.

VB: How long do you plan to be visiting in the U.S., and what do you plan to do while you’re here?

VB: Would it be accurate to say that Quang Duc’s immolation was the ultimate expression of the Bodhisattva Ideal - the sacrifice of our inherent sense of self in compassionate service to others?

D: I am in the U.S. for 5 weeks, leaving on March 29. My primary motive for coming was my response to an invitation to present a paper on Quang Duc at the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies, which this year is in Chicago. However, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to meet up with old friends here and to give in whatever way I could. Hence, I have given talks, led study, and met people in NYC, Boston, Portland, and Ann Arbor as well as at Aryaloka. I also looked up an actress I trained with in London who is currently working on Broadway. Whilst at Aryaloka I led a scene study from one of Shakespeare’s plays, using the Norton Facsimile of the First Folio, exploring the text from an actor’s point of view. I have never done that before.

D: I think that could be one way of looking at it, but I suspect that for him it might have been more complex. It is significant that he spoke in terms of making an offering to all the Buddhas, whilst simultaneously being deeply concerned about the Catholic Government’s persecution of Buddhism in Vietnam. He wanted to avert further suffering, but he was also moved by a depth of devotion which I find difficult to fully comprehend. No single explanation seems to satisfy. It is not easy to understand what he did and I suspect I never will. There are no easy answers. It’s as if you are looking at something, trying to fathom it, but it comes at you sideways and defies your attempt to grasp it. I have a sense of some transcendent element at work.

I have speculated as to whether or not he might have immolated anyway, given the strength of his devotion to the Three Jewels and the Lotus Sutra, without the stimulus of the Catholic persecution, but we will never know. VB: It seems that many of the people who knew Quang Duc in Vietnam did not immediately recognize him as a bodhisattva during his lifetime, but only after his act of immolation. Do you believe he would have been considered a bodhisattva without performing this practice? D: I doubt if any of us are in a position to immediately recognize someone as a bodhisattva! Nobody, so far as I am aware, considered Quang Duc to be a bodhisattva until after his death. He was not a famous monk, even though he was very highly regarded by those who knew him. I think it’s unlikely that many people would have considered him to have been a bodhisattva had he not auto-cremated, but it is interesting to note that none of the others who burnt themselves at that time are held remotely in DEVAMITRA

Continued on Page 12


PAGE 10

VAJRA BELL

Kula Corner

The Kindness of Others By Sheila Groonell Blanche Dubois (Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams) sure knew her Dharma when she said “...I have always  depended on the kindness of strangers...”  Every day, every hour, we are helped  by the kindness of unknown benefactors.  In two hours a car made by people on the other side of the world will carry me to a Dharma class.  The air in my lungs comes from unseen trees and plants.  We live in a fabric of reflected beauty and links of tender mercy. All winter we were able to get to Aryaloka because of the kindness of unseen shovelers. Barry Timmerman, Jim Mosonyi, Steve Cardwell, Paul Dupre, Marianne Hannagan and Stephen Pittman all  left their snuggy, cozy  homes when it was cold, dark, wet and snowy to shovel the way for us to get to Aryaloka.   Sweet Bodhisattvas of Snow, one and all.  Thank them and rejoice in their merits! They kula.  Do you?? Let us all remember to remember the kindness of strangers, and the kindness of those we know, but whose acts of generosity,

mercy, or compassion go unseen.  We all depend on the kindness of others. ---------------------------------------Now you (yes, YOU!)   have a new seasonal opportunity to act for the benefit of others and have fun to boot.  The Garden Kula is gearing up to clean, rake, plant, and weed to beautify our spiritual home.  Wednesday is the day when one and all are welcome to arrive at Aryaloka at 5:00 p.m. and pitch in.  Just look for the smiley presence of Steve Pittman.  He’s always there.  Some people stay for an hour.  Others work until dark.  Some come many Wednesdays.  Some only one.  All are welcome  to join in the fun, make friends, get dirty, laugh, and dig.  No knowledge of gardening is required.   Joan Rochette, the Head Gardener, has led this group in the past.  She is currently a little “under the weather.” (We all wish you a speedy recovery, Joan!)  So, if you do know anything about gardening, you have a special invitation to help out with  the 2009 Garden Kula.   Do you kula ?  

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

The AMT: Mysterious Team at Work By Amala The AMT: Appalachian Mountain Top? Automated Machine Teller? Aryaloka Mystery Team? No, it’s the Aryaloka Management Team. This animated group of people makes things happen at Aryaloka and tries to keep everything rolling in the right direction. The team is comprised of Vihanasari (Center Administrator), Steve Cardwell (Office Manager), Amala (Program Director), Karunasara (sangha supporter and ex-cleaning coordinator), and Sheila Groonell (Kula Coordinator). We gather approximately every three weeks on a Monday morning around the conference table, usually over fruit and tea. Topics for discussion and decisions made have to do with every aspect of the Center: scheduling, services or support needed for every event, rentals, guests, snow removal and other maintenance AMT

Continued on Page 13

Gratitude and Appreciation for Karunasara’s Hard Work By Sheila Groonell When Janet, soon to be ordained as Karunsara, arrived here from her longtime home in Seattle, we did not realize what a gift we at Aryaloka had received.  With her deep devotion to Dharma, intellectual curiosity, high energy, quick humor and warm personality, Karunasara quickly made herself an indispensable arm of Avalokiteshvara  in  Newmarket.  Since her arrival she has taught classes and workshops on a wide variety of

subjects including death and dying, ethics, Sangarakshita’s  “Survey of Buddhism,” and  tantric symbolism, just to name a few.   Karunasara was key in initiating and running a system of weekly pujas for our sangha.  She organized and directed the cleaning kula for all three buildings for years, making sure all buildings were perfectly prepared for every activity, workshop, and retreat.  She also did much of the cleaning herself! And woe betide any food left in the refrigerator too long, in this nurse’s opinion!  She is a member of the Aryaloka Management Team and the Teaching and Programming Kula.  Karunasara was also an original supporting Order member for Nagaloka in Portland, Maine. Finally, Karunasara has a full complement

of kalyana mitras, Order members, mitras, and friends with whom she meets regularly to provide heartfelt support in the study and practice of the Dharma in all our daily lives.  After much thought, Karunasara has decided she would like to have more time for her own practice.  And so she is withdrawing from the cleaning kula.  While we on this kula will miss her leadership, coordination, encouragement and hard work (and maybe Aryaloka will never sparkle in quite the same way!),  we know this is the right decision for her.  We all owe Karunasara enormous gratitude and appreciation, not just for what she has done, but for who she is and who she encourages us to be.  Sadhu, sweet Karunasara!


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 11

Mandala Pledge Drive is Happening Now! By Prasannavajri    On behalf of the Aryaloka Development Fund (ADF), it is my pleasure to introduce our first exciting project - the Mandala  of Supporting Friends Pledge Drive.  Our goal is to develop and revitalize the program into a vibrant “partnership of giving.”  Interestingly, the current status of  mandala pledges is not reflective of the whole of the sangha - there are  only 23 Order members, mitras, and friends who have a monthly mandala pledge, for a  total $1,763.  Yes, we were surprised as well, and this very  fact has fueled our inspiration.  The time has come to match the Dharmic maturation we see happening in the sangha with a total engagement in the mandala pledge program.  The Aryaloka Development Fund members are committed to making the pledge drive visible, transparent, and open to all!      The ADF is significantly involved in supporting the future growth and development of the sangha on a spiritual, as well as practical, level.  There are long-term plans for extensive renovations to the Center, but first the need is to have a consistent income, not only to meet our monthly expenses but also

to give Aryaloka a chance to build a reserve for essential larger projects.  Months of work have already taken place consulting with an architect  with whom we have  developed a truly exciting and doable five- to seven-year renovation plan.  The ultimate goal is to bring the Center up to code with a clear focus on integrity, safety, and financial sustainability. Between the end of March to mid-May, ADF members will be speaking with everyone about an opportunity to contribute to Aryaloka on a consistent, ongoing basis.  The timing of the pledge drive is important. Aryaloka’s fiscal year begins June 1st.  In order to determine the budget for the coming year, there is a need to know accurately what income is expected on a monthly basis.  We’re looking for 100% participation - for everyone to take ownership and make a pledge.  Understand that participation is “giving according to your means,” whether that is $5 a month,  $500 a month, or anything in between.   The practical goal is to have $5,000 in monthly pledges.  The spiritual goal, which  exceeds the practical, is to have every single sangha member contribute whatever they can!  We must not underestimate the spiritual power

of a $5 monthly contribution offered with a clear intention of generosity in support of the Dharma! This is truly a “partnership of giving!” Around the Center you will find displays of mandala pledge packets.  In your packet is a cover letter describing what we are doing and why we are enthusiastic about its outcome.  There is also a flyer highlighting what has been accomplished at Aryaloka in 2008, which is impressive.  The pledge card comes with a return envelope which you may mail or drop off at Aryaloka.  You will see how all the Dharmic activity of the past year is a beautiful reflection of Aryaloka’s mission, which speaks to the very heart of the mandala pledge drive: Aryaloka Buddhist center is a spiritual community and resource center whose mission is to create the best possible conditons in which to explore, practice, and share the Buddhist spiritual path ‘for the benefit of all beings.  With gratitude for your giving and your merit - we rejoice!   ~ Members of the Aryaloka Development Fund

Red Mugs Welcome Newcomers, Looking for Friendly Volunteers

Tipu’s Tiger Chai, a Right Livelihood Montana Business

By Akashavanda Have you noticed the red polka dot mugs on Tuesday nights?  They are part of a plan to welcome and help integrate newcomers into the Aryaloka community.  So how does it work?  Mitras and Order members volunteer to be a greeter on Fiend’s Night, which involves standing near the top of the stairs holding the red mug and welcoming people as they arrive.  There is a Welcome Newcomers poster in the entranceway encouraging newcomers to seek out the ‘red mug person’ to answer any questions, give a tour, etc. The Red Mug Kula will also host several

activities in the coming months to reach out to newcomers, including a newcomer’s brunch, a newcomer’s picnic and walk at the Hamilton House, Vaughn Woods, and a newcomer’s hike in the fall.  Stay tuned for dates posted in the website and announced on Friend’s Night. If you are interested in being a greeter on a rotating basis, please sign up with the office. Please note: clean red mugs are stored in the cereal cabinet by the stairs so they don’t get mixed in with the rest of the mugs.    The Red Mug Kula (Akashavanda: akashavanda@yahoo.com /   Jean Corson: jcorsonwolff@comcast.net,  Candace Copp: hullcopp@yahoo.com)

By Naganataka Three members of the Western Buddhist Order living in Montana run the small business known as Tipu’s Tiger Chai. Buddhapalita, Varada, and Naganataka will be joined by a fourth Order Member, Abhayanaga, who’s leaving his position at Windhorse Trading in Cambridge, England to join the growing chai company later in 2009.  Tipu’s Tiger Chai is an outgrowth of the Indian vegetarian café that the group launched as a Team-based TIPU’S TIGER CHAI

Continued on Page 13


PAGE 12

DEVAMITRA

Continued from Page 9

the same esteem. I am personally agnostic on his ‘bodhisattvahood.’ I am deeply impressed by him in many ways and the more I learn about him the more it seems to me that it is possible, perhaps probable, that he actually was someone who during the course of his life really did become a bodhisattva. Whether he was actually a bodhisattva, or not, is not the most important thing so far as I am concerned. The main thing is that he clearly was someone who acted consistently, I would say, in the bodhisattva spirit. This is one reason why he is such a source of inspiration to me, and potentially also to others, and why I am determined to do whatever I can to make him better known and understood. VB: What are some of Quang Duc’s qualities that you admire most? D: I admire the astonishing depth and strength of his devotion to the Three Jewels. He also seems to have had an extraordinarily broad basis to his Dharma practice, knowledge, and experience. Even though he was a renowned reciter of the Lotus Sutra, he also studied Pali in Pnomh Pen. He is alleged to have been an adept of the Vajrayana as well as having been a practitioner of Pure Land and Zen. In addition he was a highly gifted and trusted administrator, which is a much more down to earth quality. It is important not to overlook that he spent much of his life as an unglamorous administrator. He was also once described to me as a truth speaker. This latter quality did not always endear him to others and I admire him for that. When he was young he wandered from place to place for a few years, living off alms, which was very unusual for a Mahayana monk. But perhaps most of all I admire his foresight and willingness to do what needed to be done, in the midst of an unfolding tragedy, with unfazed self-composure and seeming fearlessness. He highlights so poignantly the heroic ideal inherent in Buddhism. VB: What do you think are some of the lessons we could learn, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, from Quang Duc’s life and final act? D: Quang Duc had the courage of his convictions and was able to achieve much in

VAJRA BELL

his life as a consequence. He did not just teach or write about the Dharma. He lived it to the full. He was wholehearted in everything he did, so far as I can see. So often we are halfhearted in what we do in life and achieve very little as a consequence. He was prepared to make sacrifices – even the ultimate one – for what he believed in. Very often we are not willing to make even the smallest sacrifice, or even consider it, and will take the soft option. Unfortunately, soft options tend towards mediocrity. There was nothing mediocre about Quang Duc. VB: You mentioned that you are in the process of working on a screenplay about Quang Duc’s life. What would you like people to take away from seeing him portrayed on film? D: The film is a big dream that has slowly emerged over the last few years and which has only crystallized over the last few weeks. Whether or not it will be realized remains to be seen – it is a huge challenge. The desire to produce such a film has come about entirely from my desire to make Quang Duc’s story more widely known and properly understood. If I, and others, can help to bring that about by this means then I will be satisfied. That is the sole motive driving my current interest. VB: How has living in a men’s community influenced you? D: Living in men’s communities has had an incalculable influence upon me. It has helped me to value the friendship and company of other men. I love being with men! This does not mean that I do not appreciate women – I have many women friends – but I think that living with other men helps to keep me on my toes. It is difficult for me to imagine how that would happen if I lead a more conventional life - complacency and selfsatisfaction are such ready traps for all of us. I think I am also better able to see “the danger in trifling faults” because frequently mine are brought to my attention! I also feel more genuinely appreciated by the men I live with. I think that one of the problems of living with just one other person – especially a loved one – is that there is too much at stake for both parties. A lot tends to get invested in such relationships and this may mean that certain things will go unspoken because

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

neither party wants to put the relationship at risk. There is much less likelihood of that happening in a community where the men are engaging with one another as we do in mine. VB: What do you feel single-sex communities have to offer to the FWBO as a whole? D: One of the things troubling me at the moment is that relatively few of us are living in single-sex communities these days and those of us that do tend to be rather long in the tooth. It worries me that we might lose our communities. I think that would be a huge loss for all of us, not just for those of us who continue to live in them. I think the presence of such communities is a reminder that Buddhism is a radical tradition in the sense that it often goes against the status quo. Buddhism does not promote the leading of a conventional domestic lifestyle (which nowadays would mean marriage, career, mortgage, children, pension scheme etc.). The Buddha himself went very much against that. He left home and lived in the wilderness, initially. Later, after his Enlightenment, when he had established a spiritual community, he did not go back to the old lifestyle and neither did he encourage others to do so. Even though he had many disciples who led domestic lives, some of whom made significant spiritual progress, he saw the conventional life as constricting and limiting, which is why he broke free of it and encouraged others to do the same. Those of us who live in communities have at least gone forth from conventional living to some degree and I would hope that we bring with us some hint of this more radical dimension to Buddhist practice. I would further hope that it might help to work against the deeply ingrained human tendency to complacency. I take great inspiration from community living and I hope that communicates to others who do not and that that is of benefit to them. The presence of single-sex communities also means that there are some people around who have no domestic responsibilities and who are therefore free to give their time to help running FWBO activities, teaching the Dharma etc.


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 13

Strengthen Devotional Practice Through Puja By Stephen Sloan

fuel. Without the fuel, Bhante points out, our practice won’t get very far. At Aryaloka, puja is practiced in many ways and in many settings. For the past few years, puja has been offered on a collective basis to the sangha as a whole and indeed to anyone interested in participating on Friday evenings. Usually preceded by meditation, the puja typically performed is the Seven Fold Puja from the FWBO Puja book. This puja is based on Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Participation in Friday puja has been a bit sporadic. While some evenings have seen a good turnout where those present have shared the benefits of puja, other nights have seen just one person. This uneven level of interest has lead some to consider how collective devotional practice at Aryaloka could be reinvigorated. The first step has been to change the

schedule of puja from weekly on Friday nights to monthly on the Friday night closest to the full moon (see the Aryaloka website for the full schedule). This is in keeping with the traditional practice started by the Buddha where he would meet with the monks during the full moon period. Other steps have also been considered. For instance, last summer the puja performed by the visiting Tibetan monks drew a full shrine room of about sixty people. So pujas in the future may feature hats and chanting in Tibetan (just kidding). Seriously though, chanting, drumming and other alternative devotional activities have been proposed as ways to help more connect with this fundamental element of a Buddhist spiritual practice. Please join us for these collective practice nights. And if you have ideas for new ways to express our devotion to the Three Jewels, please share them with the sangha.

any practitioners who may come through Aryaloka’s doors. While this team accomplishes many essential functions for the Center, I feel that our most significant success is the way we work together. Our meetings are informal but also effective for our business. There is always time for give-and-take, for sharing

ideas and concerns. We honor each other’s strengths and skills. We offer each other sympathetic care and joy. We take heart and encouragement for our sometimes very challenging responsibilities. It is an honor and a privilege to work for Aryaloka on this team, with others who practice the precepts and aspire to serve all beings.

six  other states, as well as through accounts in Canada and Mexico.  The Tipu’s  Tiger “Right Livelihood” business in Missoula in Chai team also placed first in two categories  at 1997.  The team closed the café last year to the 2008 World Tea  Expo held in Las Vegas.  focus on the rapidly expanding chai company, They plan to continue their expansion, with which provides the popular spiced Indian tea the expectation to triple their sales in the to coffeeshops and markets as both a liquid coming year.  In order to implement their rapid concentrate and a dry powder.  The recipe growth, the Order members are conducting comes from Buddhapalita’s family, originally advanced discussions with early stage private from the Northwest Indian state of Gujarat.  growth capital, as well as various sources of It’s far spicier and more flavorful than debt, both of which are suitable for this stage much of what passes for chai in the U.S., a in the company’s growth.   Last December, the difference that’s proving increasingly popular company finalized its growth capital budget at $150,000, which will be used by the company with Western chai lovers. What began as requests for the distinctive for  trade shows, production costs, marketing, chai from other cafes around Missoula sales, operating, and administrative expenses.   The Order members have produced a grew into requests from out of state.  Now, in addition to 80-plus accounts throughout business plan that, while being financially Western Montana, Tipu’s Tiger Chai is sold in sound, also stresses that they don’t just want

to grow the business financially. As practicing Buddhists, they hope to use their recipe for success to run an ethical business that’s both ecologically sustainable and of benefit to the wider world.  Recently, the company’s board of directors stated its goals for the next two years in the area of social and environmental ethics.  The company plans to pursue USDA organic certification for its chai, establish regional production of its products so as to minimize shipping distance, begin developing direct relationships with tea and spice growers in India, and has announced its intentions to commit a percentage of company profit  to programs that give back to communities in hardship. For more information, contact info@ tipustigerchai.com.

Pujas are acts of devotion to the Three Jewels. References to pujas are found in some of the earliest Buddhist scriptures: “With fools no company keeping, With the wise ever consorting, To the worthy homage paying: This, the Highest Blessing” ...Sutta Nipata 2.4 (Soni) In Pali: Asevanā ca bālānam panditānañ ca sevanā pūjā ca pūjanīyānam etam mangalam-uttamam.... Sangharakshita has observed that if our spiritual practice can be compared to a car, then devotional activities such as pujas are the

AMT

Continued from Page 10

issues – all the “brass tacks” of a busy facility that is primarily a volunteer organization. It is our business to carry out Aryaloka’s mission and the Council’s wishes with available resources. We run on the heartfelt aspiration to be a friend to all beings and to welcome

TIPU’S TIGER CHAI Continued from Page 11


PAGE 14

VAJRA BELL

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

Poetry Corner Easter Retreat By Sangharakshita

Until the train, now fairly gliding, Runs through the primrose-tufted siding.

In Saxon accent bold and clear Along the platform, ‘Haslemere!’

Pack your suitcase, catch the train, Eastertide has come again. Now at last your way lies clear From Waterloo to Haslemere.

Typewriter, textbook, left behind, To higher things you tune your mind, Solaced, between the well-kept stations, With tea and Govinda’s ‘Foundations’.

Free, down elm-shadowed lanes you wend, Where British blackbirds call ‘Attend!’ Making your way, with quiet elation, To ‘Keffolds’, brown rice, and meditation.

Praise British Rail! How smoothly slide The houses by on either side,

At last! In carriage window framed You hear the well-loved place proclaimed

(Poetry from “Sangharakshita: Complete Poems 1941-1994”)

who could help me. Eventually I was referred to a monk resident in Hanover, Germany, who had done his own researches. He responded to my email saying that there were many contradictions in the literature. I must contact Dr. Le Manh That in Saigon, he informed me, but gave no contact details. I went back to the internet to see if I could track him down. I discovered that the Venerable doctor was an eminent monk known as Thich Tri Sieu with a tragic history of his own, having been condemned to death by the communist regime for ‘plotting to overthrow the people’s government.’ After an international outcry against his conviction and condemnation, his sentence was commuted to 20 years hard labour, of which he served 15, remaining under house arrest after his release. The latest information I could find suggested that, although this was no longer the case, he was still under police surveillance. Assuming I could find some means of contacting him, would it be possible to meet him? In the meantime, further internet searches had revealed the existence of the Vietnam Studies Group - an academic forum interested in all matters Vietnamese. Despite my total lack of academic credentials, I was permitted to join their list. I submitted a posting making known my interest in Quang Duc and waited for responses. Once more Dr.That was mentioned, but no explanation as to how to contact him. Finally, after making a specific request, I was sent his email address and informed him of my impending visit and its purpose. He kindly replied sending his cellphone number and asking me to contact him upon arrival.

I had been sent Dr.That’s email address by Elise de Vido, an American academic living and working in Teipei, who, like me, had developed a keen interest in Quang Duc. She and I began a vigorous correspondence and, by sheer good fortune, we were able to meet in Saigon where she introduced me both to Dr.That and Thich Nhu Hoang, a monk who speaks no English, but who has done a lot of primary research into Quang Duc’s life. Nhu Hoang and I became fast friends, despite the absence of a common language, and I stayed with him in his village temple, which has strong associations with Quang Duc, just outside Ninh Hoa. I returned to Vietnam for a second visit last June, where I had the good fortune, to meet Trian Nguyen who teaches at Bates College in Maine and who had been researching Quang Duc’s life for several years. He invited me to present a paper, as part of a panel on Quang Duc, to the annual conference of the Association of Asian Studies in Chicago. Because of this invitation I was able to visit Aryaloka this March. For a long time I have wanted to produce something substantial about Quang Duc to help make him better known and understood in the West. I had assumed that that would mean writing a book, but my mind has now turned to theatre - my native medium - and even to film. In a little over four years it will be the 50th anniversary of his immolation. His story is unique and compelling. I hope that for that momentous occasion, between us, in our different ways, Elise, Trian and I will be able to tell it.

BURNING MONK Continued from Page 8

as to the character of the man and, given the circumstances and remarkable manner of his death, probably what we do have is coloured in varying degrees by hagiography. For me, as a Western Buddhist, Quang Duc has become an increasingly important figure and a major source of inspiration. Despite my limited understanding, the more I have learned about him, the more I have come to believe that his astonishing example is significant not just for the Vietnamese people, nor even just for Buddhists, but for the whole of humanity. Unlike Pechorin, Lermontov’s self-destructive, nihilistic ‘hero of our time,’ Quang Duc was the genuine article - and more: a hero for all time. In the summer of 2006 I developed a hunger to discover Quang Duc. To do that I would have to go to Vietnam and so, perhaps quixotically, I began to make preparations but why? Something not entirely conscious was driving me. I felt as if I had no choice – that I was impelled to make a pilgrimage. But where would I go and who did I expect to meet? Having discovered that Giac Duc had met Quang Duc in the last few weeks of his life and was now living in Boston, I wrote to him asking for his help and we spoke over the phone. He told me I must meet his good friend Duc Nghiep who still lives in Saigon, and who, like Giac Duc, had been a key figure in the organisation of Quang Duc’s immolation. At about the same time I visited the Vietnamese Buddhist temple in Birmingham to see if there was anyone there


VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

VAIROCANA

Continued from Page 1

grasping. His color is the red of sunset and his element is fire. Pandaravasini, “the white robed one,” accompanies him, and celebrates the uniqueness of every phenomenon and every person. Equality and uniqueness lovely concepts to hold in the same breath.  After the sun had set, and the sky lost its color to a penetrating darkness, we turned north, to Amoghasiddhi and in that time of unknowing, we saw his mudra of abhaya, fearlessness. Here is all-accomplishing wisdom, the wisdom that dissolves the poison of envy. His element is air and his consort is the best loved of all the figures in Tibetan Buddhism, Tara. Her wisdom represents the spontaneous skilful action of a bodhisattva no longer driven by ego, but at the service of all beings. We have traveled around the mandala and now it is time to enter deep into the center. Here we enter a realm of pure light, a “terrible radiance, and often our first impulse is to flee back to the known, the mundane world of our comfortable limitations.” But, we have encountered the fearlessness of Amoghasiddhi and so dare to venture forward into luminosity. Let me quote Vessantara from “Meeting the Buddhas”:   “Everything changes – we enter the stillness of the eye of the storm – we become accustomed to the brilliant light. In this white light are a white lotus, a white moon mat, and a white Buddha, smiling and serene, the color of sunlight on snow. The

ONLINE IN-SITE Continued from Page 4

GoodGuide, which is in its very beginnings, already has a searchable database of over 70,000 products, including food, toys, personal care, and household items. Each of these categories is broken down into subcategories in which all similar products are compared with a rating system. For instance, dishwashing liquid may contain 40 different products rated on scale from 0 to 10, with 10 as a perfect score. The ratings themselves are based on complex analyses of how the product stacks up in regards to health, environmental and social standards.

VAJRA BELL

PAGE 15

simply drop away and allow ourselves to be permeated by this terrible radiance in which truth is revealed and the poison of ignorance dispelled. Here we are in the realm of limitless Once we really are accustomed to the space. radiant light, we can see that he has a smile Akasadhatesvari is his consort here at that invites, is seated cross-legged, has curly the center. She embodies infinite space; not black hair - closely cropped - and is wearing Newtonian space, but inner space. There is richly embroidered monastic robes. After the no solidity here, and the search for a fixed brilliant colors of the other buddhas, it is the core is fruitless! Her wisdom is the wisdom white radiance that surprises here. In tantra, of Dharmadhatu, dhatu meaning realm and that is the color of the Absolute, the color of dharma meaning the realm of truth or the centrality, and his name literally means “The sphere of reality. This wisdom encompasses One Who Sheds Light,” sheds radiance, and all the others as space encompasses all the pours it forth. Can we trust entering into this other elements. She is almost whiteness itself, realm of white light, and what can we rely on and sits on an opal throne, with lionesses at here? Vairocana is holding an eight-spoked her feet. golden wheel, the Wheel of Dharma, the Her hands are at her heart, in the mudra Wheel of Truth, the Wheel of Teaching, and of the turning of the wheel of the Dharma, he holds it with both hands against his chest.  and she holds the stem of a   pale blue open This mudra is the Dharma-chakra-pravartana lotus in her right hand. On this lotus is a mudra which is associated with the historical white moon mat, on which stands a golden Buddha’s initial proclamation of the truth at Dharmachakra. In her left hand she holds Sarnath in the Deer Park. In other words, he another lotus on which rests the silver vajra gives us exactly what we need to trust; he bell of wisdom. gives us The Dharma. What is our experience as we enter into Just in case we are still a little rattled by this realm of the white radiance of Vairocana fear, Vairocana’s special animal is the lion.  In and Akasadhatesvari, a radiance that holds Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha’s utterance is all movement, all speech and all concepts? often referred to as his Singhanada, his Lion Perhaps the divisions between self and other Roar, the fearless roar of truth that we can can be bleached out in this light. In this light depend on, in which we can whole-heartedly suffering is not limitless, samsara does have take refuge. an end and the Dharma points the way beyond It could be that the other buddhas we have birth and death. Perhaps the Illuminator can visited are really all aspects of awakening, and show us what is real, and so release the grip it is Vairocana who is THE Buddha. So here of suffering and fear. It is an open invitation we are invited to let all preconceptions and to each of us to enter into the center of the fears, biases and preferences, all knowing, mandala.  only contrast is his black hair and a golden wheel he holds in his hands. Meet Vairocana, the Illuminator.”

Individual product listings provide consumers with a wealth of information to evaluate. Food, medicine, and household cleaner breakdowns tell what ingredients or chemicals are used in making the product, and ingredients that have questionable or harmful effects are flagged. Toys and other products are tested for toxic substances. One baby teether I looked at had traces of arsenic when it was tested! One of the great features about the website is the ability to create your own personalized account, which allows you to build a shopping list of items to look for in the stores - looking forward to using this myself.

They also do a wonderful job of educating consumers on the issues with a whole section devoted to helpful articles, news about recalls, and information on specific ingredients. Consumers are encouraged to contribute ideas on how to make the site even better and to vote on the ideas they like. The more people that use the site, the better it will be. The better it is, the more people will be educated about their buying practices. And the hope is, the more people who are educated, the more companies will have to pay attention to creating better products that meet their customers’ standards for basic safety and fairness.


PAGE 16

VAJRA BELL

VOLUME 7, ISSUE II

Upcoming Events (All events are subject to change. For the latest upto-date information, please call the office or check our web site: http://www.aryaloka.org) (Akasaloka events are in italics.) APRIL 18 19 25-26

Men’s Practice Day Women’s Day Beginner’s Mind Weekend Retreat - Amala 29-31

MAY 2 2 3 8 7-10 16 17 23

Meditation with Bread - Narottama Introduction to Meditation Day Workshop - Amala Wesak Day Full Moon Meditation and Puja, 7-9 p.m. Open Heart, Quiet Mind Yoga and Meditation Retreat - Michelle McComb, Saddhamala Women’s Day Men’s Practice Day Order Day

Meditation Teacher Training Retreat (full)

JUNE 5-7 5 13 14 20 20-27 27

Rest and Renewal Weekend Retreat - Amala, Sunada Full Moon Meditation and Puja, 7-9 p.m. Introduction to Meditation Day Workshop - Amala Men’s Practice Day Urban Retreat Day Event International Urban Retreat Week Urban Retreat Day Event

Ongoing Sangha Night at Aryaloka

Full Moon Puja

• • • •

The rich devotional practice of meditation and puja is shared on these special 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 include: • • • •

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 website or Vajra Bell events schedule 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

Vajra Bell newsletter - April 2009  

* "Center of the Buddha Mandala" by Samayadevi * Movie Review: "Tibetan Book of the Dead" by Stephen Sloan * "Practice Around the Globe: Int...