VAJRA BELL Volume 7 Issue III
The Transcendent Buddha Making an Unexpected Connection to Vajrasattva in Practice By Stephen Sloan
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Aryaloka Buddhist Center 14 Heartwood Circle, Newmarket, NH 03857
Image of Vajrasattva by Aloka
irst a few words of introduction. If you’ve been following the series of articles on the five jinas you’ll know that these articles have been written by authors with in-depth knowledge of these archetypal figures. I am not one of those authors, in fact I have no special knowledge of Vajrasattva. Considering what has gone before, I am one of the least likely people to be writing an article on Vajrasattva, the representation of the essence of all of the Buddhas. Yet here I am, writing this piece. I’m attempting this article with the hope that it will help me to strengthen my unexpected connection with Vajrasattva and that perhaps it may inspire those who may have been curious about Vajrasattva to look deeper. I never would have expected to form a bond with Vajrasattva, it all happened quite by accident. First a few basic points about Vajrasattva. Bhante tells us in one of his seminars: “So you could say that Vajrasattva represents that esoteric aspect of Buddhahood which transcends both space and time. And as transcending space He is the Sixth Buddha, as transcending time. He is the Adi-Buddha, the primeval Buddha or First Buddha, ‘Original Buddha as it’s usually translated. Not only that; not only is Vajrasattva ‘from the beginning’ as it were, but it is specifically said that He is pure from the beginning. Vajrasattva represents the beginningless purity of one’s own mind; that is to say one’s own Ultimate Mind or Ultimate Essence.” Vajrasattva plays a big role in Tibetan Buddhism.
From the Editor Changing Roles in Vajra Bell Kula By Samayadevi It has been such a deep pleasure to be editor of the Vajra Bell for these last few years. It is always a challenge and a privilege to try to gather news and articles that will nourish and perhaps inspire our practice, and help By Eric Wentworth It seems like such a short time ago that I joined the League of Extraordinary Buddhists that is the Vajra Bell kula. From the first meeting I attended, I was awed by the dedication of this small group of people who, four times a year, craft a fantastic newsletter tying together events and insights from all over New England and the FWBO at large. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with all of them - creating the Vajra Bell has truly become a labor of love, in part because of the excellent company we all keep in putting it together. In particular, I would like to take this time to strongly rejoice in the merits of our outgoing editor, Samayadevi. This amazing woman has devoted huge amounts of time, effort, and resources into making the Vajra Bell what it is today. She has given so much to this endeavor, providing an outlet where the greatest gift -the dharma - can be passed on to you, our readers. And, she has given a tremendous amount to those
support our sangha. I have truly enjoyed every moment of it. And still, I feel my own well running dry and sense it is time for new inspiration, creativity and aspiration. It was not difficult to look around and see who might enjoy becoming editor… someone who already works hard on every issue of the VBell and is responsible for the graphics that invite and the articles that inform. Eric Wentworth has agreed to be the new editor and so, please, three loud SADHUS, thank you and a heartfelt BRAVO. of us on the Vajra Bell kula as well. Her caring smiles and her soft manner brimming with humor and enthusiasm sustain all of us, and make us want to create the best issue ever, every time. From my heart, I extend her a hearty “Sadhu!” and I’m really looking forward to her continued work and presence in the kula. Thank you, Samayadevi. This issue is one of coming together. Our main story takes a look at Vajrasattva, the primordial Buddha, from which the other five Buddhas of the mandala emanate. Then, tying together West and East, we’ll read about our sister organization in India, the TBMSG, and a convention and pilgrimage there. The web review links us to an online project addressing our common humanity. We’ll look at the recent Urban Retreat, hosted in part by Aryaloka, which brought together Buddhist practitioners from all over the globe. And there’s also an article about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to New England, where he talked about the Four Noble Truths and creating peace in the world. I’m very excited about taking on the challenge of this new role as editor of the Vajra Bell, and continuing Samayadevi’s noble efforts to keep our sangha connected, informed, and inspired.
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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 Khemavassika email@example.com Vihanasari firstname.lastname@example.org Samayadevi email@example.com Prasannavajri firstname.lastname@example.org
Vajra Bell Kula Eric Wentworth, Chair email@example.com Samayadevi firstname.lastname@example.org Vihanasari email@example.com Stephen Sloan firstname.lastname@example.org
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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Musings from the Chair By Dh. Dayalocana We welcome Kiranada, who recently returned from a threemonth ordination retreat at Akashavanda in Spain. Her Order name, Kiranada, is Sanskrit and means “she who gives beams of moonlight.” Kiranada was known to us as Betsy Sterling Benjamin before her ordination
into the Western Buddhist Order. We look forward to hearing about her experiences in Spain. Her strong connection to the Dharma and to meditation is an inspiration! In July many of us had the opportunity to visit with Nagabodhi who has been President of Aryaloka for over 20 years. We appreciate his friendliness and his care and concern for the well being of Aryaloka and all who come here. He was most generous in giving his time by meeting with individuals, giving talks, leading retreats, and advising the Aryaloka Council.
Over the next few months we will be welcoming several Order members from FWBO Centers in England. Sudakini and Vajralila will lead several events in August. In September, a team of Order members will stay at Aryaloka to lead retreats for men and for women who have asked to be ordained. Dharmacharini Ashokashri, from London, will be staying at Aryaloka in the fall and Dharmachari Dhammarati will visit in October. I hope that you will enjoy the variety of interesting events offered by our guests.
in our sanghas more spiritual sustenance and connection to the Order, so we [will] offer support for and encourage those [people in such] positions to take retreats for themselves and to attend Order conventions.” The Aryaloka Council agreed in principle that it was important and worthwhile for centers to support national positions that benefit people throughout the region. Khemavassika will explore what level of support might be realistic for Aryaloka to contribute. It was decided to pre-buy oil and gas for the coming heating season. Town Energy Alliance offers a rate that is lower than what has been paid in most recent years. Aryaloka has and will continue to host a number of guests during the spring and summer months. Paramashanti stayed here in April, Aryaloka’s president Nagabodhi
was here from the end of June through the beginning of July, Karunadevi from the San Francisco center was here in mid-July, Sudakini and Vajralila come in early August, and Dhammarati plans to visit the East Coast in October and hopes to have a chance to meet with folks from our sangha. Many thanks to all those who visit and share their wisdom and love of the Dharma with us. Dayalocana and Amala will attend the meeting and retreat of center chairs and mitra convenors at Padmaloka in the UK in July. Amala will go in place of Saddhamala who cannot attend. Sangha Night with the Council will be held this year on Tuesday, October 20. This annual meeting is a time when sangha members
The Council By Vihanasari Many thanks to Akashavanda who has agreed to facilitate the Fundraising Events kula. Such events would include the annual auction, dinners, movie nights, and other activities that will generate income for Aryaloka. These will be planned in conjunction with the Program Director and Council, if needed. Amala will look into the development of a Just Giving page for the Aryaloka website to make it possible and easy for people to donate funds to the Center. The San Francisco Buddhist Center has decided to fund, in part, the regional (USA/ Canada) position of National Mitra Convener. Viveka writes that this support would “give [people in] positions working for the Dharma
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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. * * * * *
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Sangha Notes - “What’s Happening?” By Suzanne Woodland The wellspring of kindness nearly exhausted and the energy depleted, such is the state in which I, too, often arrive at Aryaloka. A full day of legal work can do that to a person. And yet, as I step across Aryaloka’s threshold, something almost magical begins to happen. The smile again becomes easy, a wave of enthusiasm for the evening begins to surge, and the lingering concerns begin to soften and dissipate. It is as if the premises themselves retain an afterglow from our collective dharma study, spiritual friendship, meditation practice and devotional activities. • What has that collective practice looked like during the last three months? In March and April, several of Aryaloka’s offerings centered on the precept of non-violence. Visiting Order member Shantigarbha modeled nonviolent communication in a weekend retreat and Tuesday evening talk, and Bodhipaksha and Suddhayu shared their perspectives on
non-violence and food choices. • The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path has been the centerpiece of study for both the men’s and the women’s mitra study groups. That venerable topic has also been a part of the men’s practice days along with some desperately needed, and greatly appreciated, driveway reconstruction. • Our collective practice provided a sanctuary of stillness and restoration for ourselves and others with such offerings as “The Open Heart Quiet Mind Yoga and Meditation Retreat” led by Michelle McComb and Saddhamala and the “Rest and Renewal Weekend Retreat” led by Amala and Sunada. In like category, Narottama offered an enriching day-long retreat aptly entitled “Meditation with Bread.” • With delight I report on the continued offerings for those seeking an introduction to meditation. Amala continued to hold meditation day workshops and offered a “Beginners Mind Weekend Retreat.” A meditation teacher training program concluded in May with a weekend retreat. • Devotional activities found expression during a women’s practice day dedicated to the topic and all sangha members had the opportunity to participate in the regular full
moon pujas. On May 3, the sangha gathered to celebrate Wesak, the day set aside for rejoicing and reflecting upon the Buddha’s enlightenment. In an afternoon of chanting, reflection and puja led by Vidhuma and Paramashanti, the transformative aspects of our coming together were tangible. • Tuesday evenings have seen a transition in leadership. With heaps of gratitude for Khemavassika’s efforts on Tuesday evenings, Arjava has succeeded Khemavassika on the Tuesday evening team. Making use of the library, Arjava has been offering those new to the practice of meditation more guidance. This opportunity for newcomers is provided as an alternative to the silent meditation in the shrine room After the period of meditation, Amala has been leading one group in discussion based on selected suttas from the Pali Canon. Arjava and Suzanne have been exploring with another group the fundamentals of Buddhism using Chris Pauling’s book Introducing Buddhism. • As a most marvelous way to close this summary of our collective practice, let us all rejoice and welcome Denise Martin as a mitra and Kiranada (previously know as Betsy Sterling Benjamin) as a member of the Western Buddhist Order.
News from Nagaloka By Gail Yahwak Nagaloka has had a very inspiring spring. Akashavanda and Maitrimani finished up our study of the Six Paramitas. We had enthusiastic discussion, and homework that really inspired our sangha to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice on a daily level. One week we challenged ourselves with dana, doing five things every day that were generous and that were not something we would normally do. Not such an easy task, but well worth the practice! Thank you very much to both Akashavanda and Maitrimani for leading on the bodhisattva path. Dharmasuri returned from her trips to India and Georgia. She gave a presentation of her dramatic photos and shared her experiences
with us. What a great way to experience the Buddha, walking in his footsteps. Thank you for sharing this with us! More recently, Nagaloka has been lucky enough to have quite a few Order members visit, sharing their knowledge and wisdom. Thank you to Karunasara, Prassanavajri, Dayalocana, Viriyagita, and Bodhana. It is so wonderful to share teachings and experiences with our wider sangha. We are looking forward to Nagabodhi’s visit soon as he is always a dear pleasure to be around and to learn from. Many members of our sangha had a very fun time at this year’s Old Port Festival painting faces! This was a big fundraiser for Nagaloka and we really appreciate all the time and energy that everyone put into it. Just think how excited all the children were, too. So, a very big thank
you to everyone who helped make this such a success. Nagaloka’s website has had a makeover. Check us out at www.nagalokabuddhistcenter. org. You can see some great pictures of our new space and bookstore. We now have Paypal available to make donations and to purchase our new, very cool, Nagaloka t-shirts. Other items will soon be available to purchase online as well. Thank you to Dharmasuri and Lisa for all this hard work. We will soon be starting a new study of Sangharakshita’s book The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. Dharmasuri and Maitrimani will lead us along the Buddha’s path to liberation! We are looking forward to looking more deeply at how to put this path into practice in our daily lives.
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News from the Concord Sangha By Stephen Sloan On July 24th and 25th, the Concord Sangha will be holding a retreat on the theme of “Noble Silence and Meditation” at the NH State Prison for Men. This is one of a series of retreats held each year. Volunteers from Aryaloka and elsewhere are welcome to participate. For a one-time event volunteers can attend after submitting paperwork (see the Aryaloka office). The review of the paperwork can take several weeks so be sure to get your paperwork in early if you’re planning on attending an event. There is also a short class that volunteers can attend to be certified for unlimited
volunteer visits over a three year period. The information for those classes is on the NHDOC website. In the past volunteers have reported that attending retreats at the Concord Sangha can be a very positive experience. Many of the men are maintaining very deep spiritual practices under trying circumstances. It can be quite liberating for visitors to practice the Dharma under new conditions. It’s an opportunity to break down the stereotypes many of us hold about conditions in prisons or just views we may hold about what we can or can’t do. Please give some thought to attending a retreat in the future, you’ll be glad you did.
News from the Boston Sangha By Sunada July 8 will be a special day for the Boston sangha – that’s the day Glenn MacKay officially becomes a Mitra! This is a big deal for us. It’s been maybe three or four years since we had our last mitra ceremony, so this is a real occasion for celebration. Sravaniya and Sunada will jointly perform the ceremony. On a related note – Sadhu to Sravaniya for finishing (well, almost!) his Doctorate in Music from the University of Michigan! He is currently away on his various travels and vacations for the summer, but we look forward to having a second Order member in Boston starting in September.
Goffstown Women’s Prison Begins Building Sangha By Samayadevi
There is a little prison in Goffstown where about 120 women are incarcerated. Last November I received a phone call from the chaplain asking if I would be interested in teaching/leading a class on Buddhism as one of the women had requested a class to supplement her own explorations of Buddhism. I had volunteered in a men’s prison in Concord, MA for many years, but had never worked with women. It has clearly been a gift to me to have time with them to study the dharma. In December I offered a four-week overview of Buddhism (we romped through the basics!) with time for meditation built in to slow us down and center us. There were usually four or five women who came regularly, and when the four weeks were over, we discussed what they would like to study next. Of course, it was meditation! The next six weeks we had spacious time to practice the Mindfulness of Breathing and the Metta Bhavana together. There is really something very sacred about meditating in prison with these women; doors slam, the loud speaker blasts announcements and there we are all together, breathing deeply and sending metta to all and sundry. I am not sure when Anilasri joined us, but I think it was in the wintertime, and what a
lovely gift it was for us all to have her there. Everyone felt at ease, so when we studied the Precepts, we were all ready to really explore their presence/ influence in their own lives. We began the Noble Eightfold Path, but put it on hold while we joined the Urban Retreat schedule. It was very abbreviated, as I could only go in for three hours on Saturdays, and one hour during the week. I watched the women choose a behavior to work on, understand what the obstacles might be, and find ways to remind one another of their intentions. We were a sangha of mutual support. I talked of anger as being like holding onto a burning log, (intending to throw it) and so one woman drew a beautiful little picture of a burning log for the other woman to put on the wall by her bed as a reminder. We couldn’t use sticky notes to post around, so one woman simply thumped her chest over her heart, to remind another of her intention to love herself. They simply found ways to support each other even in those surroundings. I could share many stories of their kindnesses to one another, or their generosity (they bought a little cake for the last day one of the women would be with us in class) they have been my teachers. Last week two women had made too much popcorn and so were able to give the leftovers to anyone they chose. But we had talked about preferences
and aversion, being hamstrung by our own biases, and so they found a way around all that. After naming a few women they did not want to give to, they decided that was not helping their practice and so they made scraps of paper with areas of the prison on them, and chose a section (a block) at random. Then they wrote the names of all the women on that block and again, chose a name out of the hat. It was a woman they would not normally have been generous towards, but they gave her the popcorn with the wish that she enjoy it. It was the first time they had seen her smile. A number of the women have been released to other institutions and so our numbers are dwindling. I will meet with the chaplain soon and see what the need might be now. I have been asked to go to those other prisons /farms/ half way houses, but no decisions have been made. I only wanted to share this experience with you to perhaps plant a seed of curiosity into the lives of women behind bars and to share their kindnesses and their practice. It is a gift to be with them. If you are interested in teaching in the prisons, orientation sessions are scheduled throughout the year, and are good for three years. It is important for the women to know they are not forgotten and that sharing the dharma with them is really a gift for us all.
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Pilgrimage and Connection in the Buddhist Homeland By Dharmasuri I loved my experiences in India. In many ways it was a life-changing experience. I felt a huge connection with the Buddha’s humanness — his having been truly alive and having taught the Dharma to so many beings. In India, images of the Buddha abound, practicing Buddhists are present from all around the world, and even the air profoundly contains the Dharma. Buddhism is everywhere. So, for me, being present in the moment was my practice. The Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha were simply there for the taking. India overstimulated all of my senses with some good and some not-so-pleasant feelings. The burning waste, fires for cooking and warmth, and the mix of animal and human excrement that are left out in the open streets can smell pretty awful. But, there is also the sweet smell of incense and freshly-blooming flowers. While there, I witnessed stunningly-colored saris, Buddhist images, and temples alongside unpleasant desperate beggars, filthy toilets, trash, and poverty. Seventy-seven percent of the population earns twenty rupees a day or less. That is approximately fifty cents a day. The air was filled with the sound of honking horns, loud speakers, barking dogs, wedding celebrations in the streets, chanting and the recitation of beautiful pujas. I was tantalized by the spicy food and the endless sweet milky chai. My level of wellbeing and health was never a hundred percent. My diet was limited due to getting sick, and seeing the suffering of beings living in such very poor conditions killed any appetite I might have had. Some days we traveled for ten hours on bumpy roads, slept on thin pads, and stayed in at night as it was not safe to be outside. Indian people are mostly very pleasant, kind, and happy, but there are also “robbers and villains.” The electricity was shut down in the afternoon, there was no toilet paper, and hot water was a rarity. We arrived late at night in Delhi. The following evening we took an overnight train to Sarnath where we met Manidhamma, who lead the nine of us on a ten-day pilgrimage to all the holy sites INDIA
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of the Buddha. I traveled with Varasuri from Montana, Viradhamma from San Francisco, Nagarakshita from London (who joined us in Sarnath along with Sue and Jenny, GFR mitras from Wales), Srinivas, a GFR mitra from Sarnath, and our driver Sanjay. We walked, rode, chanted, meditated, made offerings and recited pujas at many of the Buddhist sites: the Buddha’s birthplace, the spot where he gained Enlightenment, places in which he taught the Dharma, the site of his passing away, his cremation site, and places that contain his relics and shrines. We began our tour in Sarnath, where the Buddha met the five companions who had abandoned him in Rajgir when he decided to stop his self-mortification because he felt that spiritual salvation was not possible through those means. Here, in Deer Park, outside the city of Varanasi, he gave his first sermon, called the “Turning of the Wheel of Law (Dharma).” From Varanasi we ventured out into the night on a boat floating along the holy Ganges River. After passing many ghats, we stopped to witness one of the open cremation sites. It was crowded with many other witnesses, along with dogs and cows lying on the still-warm ground of the cremations. Then we went to Sravasti, where the Buddha spent many rainy season retreats at Anathapindika Park also known as Jetavana Vihara. This place is the spot where most of what is written in the Pali Canon took place. We visited the holy site of the Buddha’s home in Kapilavastu. The Buddha spent the first twenty-nine years of his life there, before his great renunciation, when he left his home, cut off his hair, and donned the robes of an ascetic. He sent his chariot back to the palace with his jewels and horse and entered into the homeless life. We drove on to view the beautiful grove in Lumbini, Nepal, where Queen Mahamaya is said to have given birth to the future Buddha. She reached up for a branch of a sal tree and the child came out of her right side. The prince took seven steps, with a lotus appearing to cushion each step, and announced that this would be his last birth. In Kushinagar we visited the large rupa of the Buddha’s Parinirvana. His last words
were: “Bhikkhus, listen to what the Tathagata now says. Dhammas are impermanent. If there is birth, there is death. Be diligent in your efforts to attain liberation. I declare to you that all conditioned things are of a nature to decay… strive on untiringly.” Also in Kushinagar we meditated and preformed rituals in front of the shrine where Sangharakshita was ordained on Wesak morning (on May 12th, 1949) as a novice monk, by a Burmese monk. Manidhamma thought perhaps the shrine had not changed much over the last sixty years. Vaishali was where the first women were ordained by the Buddha. The Buddha’s stepmother and 500 other women made a pilgrimage on foot seeking to join the order. Three times the Buddha refused their entry. Ultimately they shaved their heads, donned the orange robes and beseeched the Buddha once again. With Ananada’s help The Enlightenment One was finally persuaded to admit the women as nuns. We visited in Nalanda the International Buddhist University where many famous masters studied: Shantideva, Huen Tseng, Padmasambhava, just to name a few. The ruins contain approximately eleven monasteries and five temples. We climbed to the top of Vulture Peak in Rajgir, where the Buddha spent many rainy seasons meditating and preaching the Dharma. Here Shakyamuni placed many sutras in the hands of the nagas until such time as others were ready to receive them. Below Vulture Peak is Jevaka’s Mango Grove which was given to the Sangha by the Buddha’s personal physician. Also, below Vulture Peak is the famous Bimbisara’s Jail, where the king and queen were imprisoned, yet were still able to view the Buddha meditating. We climbed the steep stairs to the Satparni Caves. A few months after the Buddha’s death the first council meeting was held here with 500 arahants in attendance. Ananda and other disciples recited the Buddha’s teachings, as described in detail in the Pali Canon. We walked up the hill to see the cave at Pragbodhi where the Buddha lived for five years as an ascetic. Our last site was Bodh Gaya, and the Mahabodhi Temple. Two thousand five hundred years ago on this spot, under the Bodhi Tree, the Buddha decided
determinedly to sit and meditate until he was enlightened. He knew his quest had ended as he reached the truth of the way things are. The WBO/Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha International Convention took place under a large tent at Bodh Gaya on a weeklong retreat. There were over 500 (mostly Indian) Order members meditating together, meeting in small “getting-to-knowyou” groups, listening to talks, screening an interview with Bhante, walking silently together to Mahabodhi in the mornings for meditation and in the evenings for pujas. We celebrated women’s day and men’s day, and the thirty year anniversary of the TBMSG. In my short talk on the last day of the convention I looked out over the crowd of order members and saw them as the arms of Avalokitesvara. The sense of overwhelming compassion was felt and shared by everyone. The Three Jewels truly shone from their hearts. I heard many stories of hardships but I also saw, and was deeply impressed by, the generosity of so many who gave to less fortunate beings. My final destination was Nagpur where Nagaloka is located. Varasuri and I facilitated one morning on the theme “Yes We Can” to a group of forty-six amazing young-adult students. The boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on the other. We listened one evening to Viradhamma’s inspiring talk about the civil rights movement. These profound experiences from India leave me feeling very fortunate I’ve found the Dharma in this lifetime. I also feel very fortunate I was born in the U.S., into conditions that enable me to practice the Dharma with so many other wonderful beings. Returning home after retreats, especially my six-week ordination retreat, has been transformative, but not without inner conflict and struggle when trying to gain integration. The re-entry after being in India for a month has been very pleasant. I’m still processing the experiences, communicating with a lovely Tibetan woman I met, and reflecting on my spiritual path with delight. Currently, my choice of meditation practice is the mindfulness of breathing. The simplicity of this practice seems to sustain my peaceful joy and happiness, and keeps the Three Jewels alive at the center of my being.
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Buddhaworks - the Aryaloka Bookstore By Steve Cardwell Hello and good wishes, We are excited to have many new items in the bookstore which can be wonderful for your practice or for a friend’s enchantment. Books, books and more books... but “what’s new?” you say. How about a new book from one of our mitras?... yes indeed... “Imagining the Fetus: The Unborn in Myth, Religion and Culture” by Venessa R. Sasson and Jane Marie Law In contemporary Western culture, the word “fetus” introduces either a political subject or a literal, medicalized entity. Neither of these frameworks does justice to the vast array of religious literature and oral
traditions from cultures around the world in which the fetus emerges as a powerful symbol or metaphor. This volume presents essays that explore the depiction of the fetus in the world’s major religious traditions, finding some striking commonalities as well as intriguing differences. Among the themes that emerge is the tendency to conceive of the fetus as somehow independent of the mother’s body -- as in the case of the Buddha, who is described as inhabiting a palace while gestating in the womb. On the other hand, the fetus can also symbolically represent profound human needs and emotions, such as the universal experience of vulnerability. The authors note how the advent of the fetal sonogram has transformed how people everywhere imagine the unborn today, giving rise to a narrow
range of decidedly literal questions about personhood, gender, and disability. ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ And here is an old and beautiful classic you will want to read again... “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse “Beautifully translated, evoking majesty in the simple story of a man on a lifelong journey towards the attainment of Enlightenment. Melodic in its tone but true to the original German, Susan Bernofsky’s translation has set a new standard among the various English translations currently available. As many times as I have read and enjoyed Siddhartha BUDDHAWORKS
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Online In-Site - This Issue’s Featured Website By Eric Wentworth
http://www.6billionothers.org/ According to the U.S. Census Bureau in May of 2009, the population of our planet was estimated to be more than six and a half billion people. Just think about that for a second and try to fully grasp the gravity of that statistic. Our numbers are truly staggering. We are surrounded by each other. In some places, we can barely get out of each others’ way. We have become the most successful species on the planet in large part due to our ability to collaborate. And yet, sometimes it seems that the more of us there are to occupy this beautiful world, the less we really try to understand each other. We have access to more information and communication technology than at any time
in human history, able to reach people across the globe, and somehow we know next to nothing even about the person who lives next door to us. On the Dalai Lama’s recent visit, which I write about elsewhere in this issue, he spoke about the perceived separateness that pervades our relationships with other people.
Who can contribute to the Vajra Bell?
He explained that the things that divide us are of incredibly minor importance compared to the things that unify us, something he always remembers when speaking with any new person he meets. On a fundamental level, we all have the same wishes for happiness, we all come from a mother and a father, we are all loved by someone and we all love someone. We all face age, sickness, and death. We all laugh, we can all experience compassion for others, and we can all feel peace in the simple things of life. Our sufferings and our joys, when compared, parallel one another, as we all share this existence and this space together. 6billionothers.org is a project begun by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, with help from numerous filmmakers and directors travelling ONLINE IN-SITE
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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 “Life of Buddha” (2003), 90 minutes, Not Rated, Available on Netflix The Buddha’s life is an endless source of fascination for practicing Buddhists. As the first of the Three Jewels, understanding who the Buddha was, how he came to Enlightenment, and what that means to our own path takes on vast importance. His story, in its various mythical and practical proportions, helps us to wrap our minds and imaginations around what it really means to pursue truth and see the reality of the Dharma. He is simultaneously a very human figure that reminds us that every being can reach Nirvana, and a supreme and mystical example for a state of existence that, it is said, takes lifetimes to reach, and which we must constantly strive to achieve. For me, holding these two images of the Buddha - the myth and the man - in my heart and mind, and realizing the importance of both in going for refuge, is a vital part of my own practice. “Life of Buddha” combines myth and historical fact beautifully to create an excellent primer on the Buddha’s journey. From his
birth in Lumbini to his death (parinirvana) in Kushinigar, the film tells the Buddha’s story through the voices of the Shakya clan, archaeologists, historians, lay Buddhists, and monks. It is shot on location at the important places that the Buddha would have visited, tracing his physical and spiritual path along the Ganges River. The imagery and filming are fantastic, and the film itself is a gorgeous portrayal of the variety of peoples, traditions, and landscapes of modern-day India. Barring a trip to India, it gives the viewer a chance to see places like Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and the forests where the Buddha travelled and meditated in all their splendor. It has the feel of an armchair pilgrimage, following the Buddha’s path, and left me with a deep desire to make my own real-life pilgrimage someday. In addition, I found the comparison between India today and India at the Buddha’s time very interesting. There are several communities that carry on the same way of life that they have for thousands of years, giving researchers great insight into what the land was like when the Buddha walked it. Historical comparisons discussed in the film serve to bring a dose of reality to some of the
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
myths, but they lend support to some of them as well. For example, archaeologists working to discover the Buddha’s childhood palace at Kapilavastu submit that it is likely his family ruled over a rather small kingdom of very modest means - nothing like the opulence portrayed in the stories. However, stories about the king restricting young Siddhartha’s travels by building an enormous palace wall are given some credibility by a set of ruins discovered to include a heavy fortifying wall around what appears to be a palace. The film focuses mainly on the details of the Buddha’s life and less on his teachings, but there is an exposition of the Four Noble Truths near the end of the film by Thich Nhat Hahn which is rather nice. You also get a peek into how Buddhism existed and still exists alongside other practices and mainstream religions in India, with educational asides on Jain, Vedic, and Hindu religious practices, and how the historical seeds of them may have influenced the way the Buddha taught the Dharma. I would certainly recommend this film to anyone interested in learning more about the Buddha’s life, particularly new Buddhists, as it’s a very helpful and simple introduction. Long-time Buddhists will also enjoy hearing the stories again and visiting Buddhist India onscreen.
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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama blessing visitors on Gillette Stadium’s jumbotron during his recent visit to New England.
Photo by Eric Wentworth
A Day with the Dalai Lama By Eric Wentworth On May 2nd, the Dalai Lama was hosted by the Tibetan Association of Boston at Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro, Massachusetts. He was slated to give two talks, in morning and afternoon sessions, on the Dharma. A small group of us from the Aryaloka sangha gathered together to make the trek - a Buddhist road trip, if you will - to see this great leader in one of his rare visits to New England. Despite arriving fairly early, the line to get into the stadium was already snaked around the parking lot, doubling back on itself, extending inside the stadium and creating a slow traffic jam as people navigated to their seats. I later discovered that there were nearly 16,000 people there for the event, from all walks of life. Some were Buddhist, some were there just to see such a famous figure,
some were immigrants from Tibet who came to bask in the wisdom and presence of Tibet’s leader-in-exile. At the far end of the stadium’s field a platform had been erected where the Dalai Lama, his attendants, and his translator would present the talks. When the Dalai Lama emerged onto the field, the crowd rose and cheered while he waved hello to everyone in the stands. He settled into his chair, and a wave of laughter erupted as he pulled his robe over his head to keep it protected from the chilly wind of the cloudy morning. Giggling to himself, he greeted the crowd, wrapping his robes closer to keep warm and telling everyone that if they brought a hat they should put theirs on too. When everything had calmed he began his first talk on the Four Noble Truths. He started by discussing mental states as the key to health and happiness. “Medicine
can heal,” he said, “but it can only do so much.” Mental attitude can change our health and level of suffering in even better ways. He then rolled this into a comparison of different religions and their ideas on the large questions we face as human beings. On the first big question, regarding the existence of self, he explained that theistic religions believe that self is “I.” I am the owner of the body, independent of other things. In India, the name for this is “atman,” and in other religions it is the soul. The basic idea here is that there is an unchanging self. Among non-theistic religions, Buddhism alone believes in no-self, that self is only a combination of body and mind. When one investigates further to find the reality of what the self is, there is nothing to find. DALAI LAMA
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The second big question, where did it all begin? Theistic traditions, of course, believe that a God created the universe. He had several good things to say about the positive aspects of theistic religion, in that the desire to create a closeness with God can inspire the desire to embody that God’s example as well. Wanting to emulate an infinite source of love is a very helpful and positive thing, and reduces extreme grasping attitudes. It can help one to pay less attention to serving themselves and more to serving a higher purpose. In Buddhist and Jain tradition, there is no creator God - everything depends on causes and conditions. He explained that this makes it difficult to truly conceive of a beginning like in theistic traditions. If every condition has a cause, then a beginning of the universe would imply a cause, which means that it can’t really be the beginning. Even for the Big Bang Theory, there must be causes and conditions. In thinking about it, you go back and back and back until in the end you can see clearly that there is no original cause. He then expanded this string of discussion by talking about cause and effect in relation to the body and mind. Body, he said, originates with conception. Mind originates out of our pre-birth experiences of sense. Our idea of self relies on the continuity of those two things. When we talk about mind, we’re talking about consciousness - a phenomena of experiencing our own existence. All cognition has a luminous quality of knowing and being aware of something. Normally we consider this as experiencing an object of some sort in our sphere of existence, but cognition doesn’t always relate to experiencing something directly. It can also arise from thinking about something in our mind alone. He gave the example that right now we are experiencing waking consciousness, but if we follow that back to our experiences when sleeping and dreaming, we realize that consciousness continues even when there are no sensory perceptions or waking thought. This consciousness can be traced back all the way to the point of conception, and further, so far back that it becomes beginningless. The third big question he discussed was, is there an end to self? In theistic religions, one goes to heaven, but is this a permanent state? In non-theistic religions like Buddhism,
Photo by Eric Wentworth
Sangha members Scott Hurley, Elizabeth Hellard, and Zoltan Molnar basking in the good vibes.
there are two common views: that one ceases to exist when you die (he explicitly stated that this was not his favorite), or that upon death, deluded states of mind are brought to an end, but the continuity of consciousness goes on as long as space remains, self continues. Regarding both theistic and non-theistic religions, however, he was sure to say that all traditions bring goodness to humanity, and therefore deserve our respect. For him, he feels that Buddhism is the best and most beneficial, but that is not the case for everyone, and one of his lifelong commitments is to the furthering of religious harmony. He then explained the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha’s first sermon at Sarnath, the goal of them being permanent happiness and freedom from suffering. The First Noble Truth is that suffering is real, and comes from causes and conditions. To overcome it, we must tackle mental phenomena. The Second Noble Truth, the cause of suffering, is ruled by karma and mental afflictions. The Third Noble Truth is that freedom exists and leads to permanent joyfulness, cessation of suffering, and an end to deluded mental states. The Fourth and final Noble Truth is the true path, cultivating the wisdom to see through the ignorance that underlies all of our problems and keeps us from seeing the true nature of reality. Experiential understanding of no-self is the root of the path. If wisdom is applied, the Dalai Lama advised, we can counter deluded states of mind and there will be an end to unenlightened existence. If we allow our consciousness to be polluted by ignorance and the lower qualities of experience, there will be no liberation. One of our main difficulties as beings is
in dealing with the idea of impermanence. On an obvious level, we all know that we and our environments change. He joked that since the last time he was in New England, he was missing a piece of himself - his gallbladder which was recently removed. But, the subtler levels of impermanence are harder to fully appreciate, the idea that all things change at all times. Simply by existing, everything must be different from moment to moment. All conditions are bound to their causes. He explained that just our existence itself is a form of suffering caused by ignorance. The only way to bring about an end to conditioned existence is by cultivating insight into ignorance, and seeing how all things are mutually dependent through cause and effect. This was the end of the first talk. There was an intermission in which the crowd could wander and be entertained by some really wonderful displays of Tibetan dancing, singing, and flute playing. Then the Dalai Lama began his afternoon talk on the path to peace and happiness. This time, he settled in cross-legged in a large easy chair, dress shoes to the side. To everyone’s great amusement, he donned a bright red Patriot’s cap, and kept a big umbrella nearby to shade himself from the emerging sun. He began his talk on peace by discussing how we are all fundamentally the same on a very human level, as beings who have the same wishes for happiness, and how this is key to overcoming our problems with each other. Our issues, he said, are man-made. And with a trouble-making gleam in his eye and a wide grin, he quipped, “Also, woman-made!” This got a big laugh from the stands. Continuing on, he stated that though religion and faith are one type of spirituality, there is a spirituality that is full of fundamental and universal values, that everyone can understand, even animals. This is the spirituality of love, kindness, friendliness, compassion, and respect. We all come from mothers, he declared. And he told the tale of his own mother illiterate and a simple farmer, but a very spiritual, warm, and kind-hearted person. She always gave to those in need, and never responded in anger, but with calm. The Dalai Lama was obviously moved, and told everyone that his first teacher on compassion DALAI LAMA
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Creating a Culture of Enquiry By Dhammaloka Dharmapala College is a new project carrying forward an earlier tradition. Years ago, there were the Vajrakuta and later Dharmavastu study centers in North-Wales. Like Dharmapala College today, they offered study and reflection retreats as well as training for FWBO study leaders and Dharma teachers. This continues to be an important part of our mission. At the core of Dharmapala College, though — and in a sense underlying and informing all our activities — is our commitment to the development of a culture of open-minded, collaborative enquiry in the FWBO. We believe the projects of translating the Dharma into the West and of stimulating engaged dialogue between the Buddhist tradition and Western culture are long-term endeavors that have only just begun. We aim to play an active part in these and we invite everyone who is inspired by the vision and practice of collaborative enquiry into reality to join us in a mutual
sharing of exploration, experimentation, and experience. Explorations around Sangharakshita’s teachings and his system of training are important, yet by no means exclusive elements of our activities. We are committed to help fellow Dharma farers — Order members, Mitras and Friends — to make the best of their practice, individually no less than collectively. We support them in their understanding of principles and methods, monitoring their actual experience and progress, and we offer guidance and mentoring for the deepening of their practice. Mindful of the context of our practice today, we both aim to place Bhante’s teachings into the wider context of Buddhist history and we bring buddhist insights, values and practices into dialogue with the best of Western traditions. Speaking of “collaborative Dharma enquiry,” we mean a spiritual practice that is grounded in critical investigation, meditative calm, and contemplative
reflection. Study, meditation, reflection, and devotional practice are therefore integrated so as to mutually reinforce each other. The collaborative element takes our practice out of the — all too often private and isolated —space of an exclusively individual pursuit into a relational, yet meditative context. With the help of each other, we aim to see our views and assumptions for what they are and find ways to transform them. At its best, we trust that such collaborative enquiry is training in non-combative research, dialogue and debate. It may give rise to what Sangharakshita has called a “third order of consciousness.” When individuals meet in genuine openness, rigorous enquiry, and mutual appreciation a higher order of insight can emerge that would have remained inaccessible to individual effort. To find out more about our programme, please visit www.dharmapalacollege. org or contact Dhammaloka at connect@ dharmapalacollege.org
Delicious Italian Food and Magnificent Musical Treats By Eric Wentworth Many congratulations go out to the Aryaloka Council for organizing and sponsoring the Gala Italian Dinner on June 28th. The fundraising event was packed to the seams with guests, with 50 people in attendance, for a total of $610 in funds raised that will greatly benefit Aryaloka’s efforts and plans for the future. The evening started off with mingling and hors d’ouevres as everyone arrived, dressed to the nines. The center’s main room and yoga room looked beautiful tables arranged smartly with red tablecloths, candles, and place settings. When food arrived, the line formed quickly at the buffet table, and there were many oohs and aahs over the choices, which included pasta with pesto or sauce, homemade bread, and mixed
green salad. Everyone enjoyed their meal, and the atmosphere was joyful and friendly. After dinner, the tables were cleared away and seating set up in the yoga room for the music portion of the evening. Dayalocana kicked things off by giving thanks to the members of the Aryaloka Council for organizing the event and creating our sumptuous meal, and to Barry Timmerman for volunteering to organize music for dinner. Then, Nagabodhi, the President of Aryaloka, said a little bit about our center, and how important the work being done here is. He talked about some of the future plans for Aryaloka, and how every donation counts, so encouraged everyone to do as much as they can to preserve our spiritual home. Barry then jumped in and introduced the musicians, and played the first set, a
beautiful mixture of instrumentals, Irish folk songs, and blues on the guitar. He was followed by Rose Crowley, a very gifted young violinist, who played some selections of classical music. After Rose was Jon Prichard, who wowed everyone with three haunting melodies on Native American flute. Cynthia Chatis continued the lineup with four fantastic pieces on an Indian instrument called a shruti box - similar in sound to an accordian or bagpipe. Finally, Dan Miner gave a riveting performance on guitar, accompanied on a few songs by his daughter’s beautiful vocals. It was an immensely enjoyable night for everyone. We were all having so much fun that time got away from us, and when the night finally ended, it was closer to 10 pm than 9 pm! A great success, and I know we’re all looking forward to the next one.
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Nagabodhi Retreat for Men a Big Success By Stephen Sloan Over the 4th of July weekend Nagabodhi led a retreat for men at Aryaloka. The theme of the retreat was the first three chapters of the Bodhicaryavatara. In the course of all three days, at least 26 men attended either all or part of the retreat. Friday focused on the first chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara on the benefit of the bodhicitta. A lot of conversation focused on this challenging call to the ultimate altruistic spirit, dedicating one’s whole existence to the relief of suffering of all beings. On Saturday we moved on to Chapters Two and Three which form the basis for the
sevenfold puja used throughout the FWBO. With Nagabodhi’s skilled leadership, we worked through the series of seven devotional “moods” contained within the puja. The evening’s seven fold puja gave us all an opportunity to connect directly with this core practice. Sunday’s activities were focused on spiritual friendship. Following morning talks by Bodhipaksa, Narottama and Stephen Sloan on the theme of spiritual friendship, the retreat participated in two Kalyana Mitra ceremonies. These ceremonies were an affirmation of the relationships between in this case a mitra and two Order Members. While the retreatants maintained a continuous flow of
metta through the Metta Bahavana practice in the shrine room, each set of celebrants in turn moved to the shrine room in Akasaloka to complete their ceremonies. First Bodhipaksa conducted the ceremony in which Jim Mosonyi was joined with Vidhuma and Bodhana. In the second ceremony, led by Vidhuma, Stephen Sloan was joined with Karunasara and Narottama. In the end the retreat provided a most supportive environment to build strength within the men’s sangha. There was plenty of time for everyone to meet others who they may not have known. Add in shared practice, and the wonderful food facilitated by Danakamala, and an excellent time was had by all.
Men’s Monthly Practice Days Explore Eightfold Path By Stephen Sloan Each month there is an opportunity for men to join together for a day of collective practice. These days are open to all men with some level of a Buddhist practice. That is to say that while these days are not aimed at beginners, all men are welcome who wish to participate in collective practice.
In April we began a series of days focused on the Noble Eightfold Path. We were fortunate to have Paramashanti with us for our kick-off on the Path of Vision. In May we took a slight detour onto the path of work as the men’s sangha took on the job of repairing the Aryaloka driveway. By June we were back strong on the path of study as we were led by Arjava and Sravaniya in discussion on
Right Emotion. In July study turned to the fruitful field of Right Speech. These are rich days including meditation, puja and opportunities for men to form connections with other men as we share the spiritual life. Please join us if you can, the next practice day is August 15th when we will take up Right Action.
Puja Strengthens Sangha Through Devotional Practice By Stephen Sloan Once while the Buddha was staying near Saavatthi in the Jeta Grove, he was asked what the blessings were that could bring a sentient being safety. Among other answers, he replied: “To the worthy homage paying: This, the Highest Blessing..” (Snp 2.4) Once a month, on the Friday evening closest to the full moon, we have the
opportunity to join with others in our sangha to “pay homage to the worthy.” It is difficult to understate the potential benefits and blessings to be gained by this activity. In Ritual and Devotion Sangharakshita says, “All the devotional exercises, such as the offerings that take place within the puja, are forms of thinking about the Buddha. Through them, we open ourselves to the ideal of Buddhahood, become more
sensitive to it, and are inspired by it. And this paves the way for our eventually breaking through into that higher spiritual dimension which we refer to as the bodhicitta.” If Bhante and the Buddha have inspired you to be willing to try out the benefits of puja, please join us for puja and meditation starting at 7:00 PM on the Fridays closest to the full moon each month. Coming up, that includes August 7th, September 4th, and October 2nd.
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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Daily Life with Full Attention International Urban Retreat Engages Local Sanghas By Sunada, Dharmasuri & Amala Something has been humming around the globe this past week, June 20-27, 2009. Originating in Sheffield, England, the International Urban Retreat has been launched on the internet, at FWBO centers, in private homes, at workplaces, and the Glastonbury library, UK*. For the first time a template for a retreat has been shared and used in over a dozen countries and 40 centers all at the same time. Ideas for bringing mindfulness into daily life have been brought into focus under the title ‘Life with Full Attention’. *The Glastonbury bit is an homage to Lokabandhu, who has been the online ‘master’ for this retreat. On the last day but one his computer was damaged by a lightning strike so he has had to complete the final portions of the retreat from a library computer! Such dedication! The technology aspect of this retreat has been interesting, and very helpful, all thanks to Lokabandhu. Wildmind, local to Newmarket, has also contributed valuable online material to the retreat, as have freebuddhistaudio.com and Windhorse Publications. Skype has played a role as well, as retreat buddies have communicated via that technology. The International Urban Retreat has been well represented in the New England region. Activities have taken place during the week of June 20-27 in Boston, at Aryaloka in Newmarket, and at Nagaloka in Portland. The goal of the urban retreat has been to support people’s practice in the midst of their usual home and work lives, inspired by the image of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara, who reaches out to all beings in all situations with wisdom and compassion. Organizers anticipated that participants would gain confidence and would enjoy a sense of fellowship with other practitioners all around the world also doing the retreat. Two local friends who are at transition points in their home and work year, have found the retreat to be perfectly timed to inaugurate a new
routine. The retreat week has been a good opportunity to remember inspiration and begin new meditation habits. The Boston FWBO kicked off its Urban Retreat with what turned out to be an “AWESOME” day (that’s according to Wyatt Greene, one of the attendees). Sunada started with a short talk emphasizing one key point: “Practicing dharma isn’t so much WHAT you do, but HOW you do it.” Rather than getting discouraged about not being able to meditate daily or attend retreats, she challenged everyone to think about the little things we do every day -- but do them with more care, openness, curiosity, and positive energy. For example, how can be kinder, take better care of ourselves, and find ways to connect more authentically with others? And how can we set in motion a momentum of positive change? The brainstorming sessions brought up lots of good ideas and a few good laughs, too. After the Dedication Ceremony and offerings of aspirations, everyone went home with their lists and some newfound resolve to try out their ideas.
Amy Greene shared with us her realization that it’s so much easier to think about personal change when you break it down into small, manageable steps. “I found the retreat to be one of the most practical spiritual exercises I’ve participated in! Looking forward to some changes in my life!” she said. At Aryaloka there has been a workshop, practice gathering, or presentation on each of the 8 days of the retreat. Participants on the first Saturday worked on practice goals and looked at several areas to apply mindfulness: to our body, actions, interactions, and our mind. Like others, we found that keeping things simple and specific is key. “Eat when hungry. Stop when full.” Amala gave a short talk about bringing an attitude of openness to our experience and allowing each moment to come to its natural conclusion before we jump in with a reaction, like letting a golf ball roll to a stop after it has been hit. We also looked at the Five Forces (from the Seven-Point Mind Training that originated with Atisha): motivation, familiarization, the white seed, destruction, and aspiration. These would come into play for keeping us on track with daily practice goals. Amala has sent daily emails about the five forces to workshop participants. The forces, at first unfamiliar, have begun to work together and energize confidence for one friend who is participating via Skype from New York City. A meditation practice day at Aryaloka on Sunday was a relaxed, quiet, and delightful way for a handful of friends to settle in and collect ourselves before the busy week to come. Aryaloka has hosted a ‘sangha night’ each night of the retreat week. We’ve had talks from seven Order members on topics ranging from practice at work, the Wheel of Life, how to practice ‘socially engaged’ Buddhism, how to prioritize our time, and the importance of listening. An unknown number of friends have been URBAN RETREAT
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participating in the online version of the urban retreat through facebook. On this site, open to anyone who is a facebook member, short talks and readings have been posted each day. By Wednesday of the retreat – so quickly!, comments were showing up on facebook about participants feeling benefit from their choices and focus. One local friend, who has also made it to several of the evening talks at Aryaloka, specially recommends the short talks on the facebook site. Online inspiration has also been on the Aryaloka website with an ‘urban retreat daily quote,’ accessible from the homepage. Readings and links may be available for a short time after the conclusion of the retreat for anyone who would like to tap into those resources. Nagaloka kicked off the urban retreat on Saturday, June 20th with Dharmasuri offering some insight into ways to be more mindful in body, feelings, emotion and mind ~ helping others to find personal ways in daily life to be more present. Included in her talk were ways to find that mindfulness can bring pleasure to everyday experiences, how less input in your daily life helps, to be flexible about commitment, and to be kind to oneself. Brian and Dori attended the workshop
Boston sangha members take part in global practice for the International Urban Retreat, held June 20-27, 2009.
and there were other sangha members from Nagaloka who took part in the retreat. Together we discussed wonderful ideas that would benefit our week long practice. Linda was very much aware of the larger movement and especially enjoyed watching the ten minute talk videos. During the dedication ceremony we offered cut-out hands of Avalokitesvara with hand written aspirations which we offered to the shrine. On Wednesday’s Friends Night, Dharmasuri gave a talk on “Mindfulness in Everyday Life” with lively input from those in attendance. We end the retreat on Saturday
morning at Nagaloka with reporting out and rejoicing in merits. On balance, there was a feeling of connection and excitement around this urban retreat. We were not the only ones recalling Avalokitesvara, not the only ones who cared and who wanted to be more mindful, more kind. “It’s the first time…” was a comment heard more than once. That must mean that we will do it again! Anything that helps us be more aware, more confident, more inspired and connected is of benefit. And to the extent we bear all beings in mind, the benefit accrues to all.
the laundry. The beds are ready for retreats because someone set out the sheets and towels and washcloths on each bed. The books, calenders, artwork, incense candles and cards are available to you in the bookstore because the Buddhaworks staff are always at work. You can borrow books from the library because people buy books, catalog them, and shelve them for you. We get this wonderful Vajra Bell, because the writers and graphic artists volunteer their time. The grass is cut, the garden grows so beautifully, the lawns are mowed, the snow is shoveled, the garbage is emptied and recycled because someone does these tasks. The emergency exit stairs got built because people gave time and skills to build it. Dharma classes are offered and we can attend because people volunteer to teach. Without this volunteered dana, Aryaloka could not function. We would not have our spiritual
home and the promise of freedom it offers. We live and thrive because of our interbeing and our inter-effort. There is no other way. On August 30th from 1:00 to 3:00, the Aryaloka Council once again will sponsor our Festival Picnic of Celebration and Gratitude. It is our opportunity to recognize the work of all the Kula members and to rejoice in their merits! It will be yummy. It will be fun. It will be easy. There will be food, drinks, games, laughs, good times, and the opportunity to sit and enjoy the company of our sangha friends. Please consider joining us at our festivities, and consider volunteering for one of our almost 20 kulas. Please come. Bring your smiles and laughter and easy goodwill and a pot luck something to share as thanks! All are loved. P.S. And bring the sun!
Kula Corner By Sheila Groonell This spring I was asked to calculate the amount of time Sangha members volunteer to support Aryaloka, our spiritual home. I knew many people devote hours to Aryaloka, but I had no idea of the exact number. When all the calculations were done, it turned out that the generous and dedicated people of Aryaloka had contributed over 3,300 volunteer hours in the past year to help our home operate for your benefit and the benefit of all beings. Using the State of New Hampshire figure of approximately $20 per hour, that amounts to over $62,000 worth of dana in the form of volunteer work, given freely to our spiritual home and to you. Think of it: The building is clean because someone mopped, someone dusted, someone swept, someone washed, and someone did
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worldwide. While doing work in Mali, Arthus-Bertrand’s helicopter broke down and he was forced to spend an extra day in the village he was visiting. He spent his time there talking with one of the villagers, who spoke in very open and honest terms about his daily life, his concerns, and his dreams. On a later project in which he was filming from the sky, looking down at a peaceful Earth, Arthus-Bertrand tried to square the closeness he had felt in his talk with the villager and the difficulty and division between people that he encountered when he was on the ground. With his talents in filmmaking, he decided that the best way to bridge the gap was to hear directly from other human beings in very personal interviews, and to make those interviews accessible to everyone online. The interviews on 6billionothers. org come from all over the world. 5,000 interviews, hitting five continents and 75 countries. Each interviewee was asked some very basic questions that get right to the core of what it is to be human. How do you define
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over the years (about 10 or so readings), never have I enjoyed a translation as much as Ms. Bernofsky’s. A truly remarkable effort.” – Joseph H. Hartmann ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ Rarely a book comes along that reads beautifully and can change your life too... “The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness” (Book and CD) by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabit-Zinn “Using mindfulness training to prevent and treat depression is a novel strategy in the West, though it is a traditional application of Eastern meditation practice. Whether you struggle with depression or simply want to understand your mind and emotions better, you will find this book accessible and useful. Depression is epidemic in our society, and I would love to see this sensible treatment approach gain ground.” – Andrew Weil, MD
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happiness? When was the last time you cried? What did you learn from your parents? What happens after we die? What do you think is the meaning of life? The website itself is beautiful and simple. It is built around a mosaic of small headshots that show each of the people interviewed. By clicking on any one of them, you bring up a window that lets you choose to view their full set of interviews - called their “Portrait.” In some cases it also gives you the option of viewing “Podcasts,” which are a collection of interview answers from multiple people based on the same question. At the bottom of the website screen are links to more information about the project - how it was conceived, how it was made, where it has been exhibited offline, and future projects. Also, the project has been continued with online contributors, filming their own answers to the questions. The only complaint I have with the site itself is embarrassingly ethnocentric - several interviews are untranslated into English. A large number of the untranslated ones are in French, however, so those of you who speak French will do just fine.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ And a new Sangharakshita...
“Living Ethically: Advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland” by Sangharakshita Sangharakshita delves into Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland text and extracts the gems of wisdom relevant to the Buddhist practitioner of today, from the beginner to one who is more experienced. The text, originally written for King Satavahana, a spiritual disciple of Nagarjuna’s, is a layman’s guide to Enlightenment. Though originally intended to be studied by a leader of men, in this democratic era Buddhists of all walks of life can learn from the insights of this enlightened teacher of the past. Principally, readers will learn that the path to true joy can be discovered through helping others. This is true not only for private individuals but for governments, corporations, and institutions as well. What
From my own experience, I can tell you that these interviews are a gift. When you first look at the headshots, you can almost watch your own mind trying to define your experience, separating the women from the men, Asians from the Africans and Europeans, further separating people into subdivisions by country of origin, language, dress, religion. When you actually listen to the interviews, however, all those definitions start to drop away. You see the subtle changes in body language and tone of voice as they talk about their experiences - the corners of their eyes crinkling slightly with happiness when they talk about a loved one, a slow sigh in preparation for talking about their mother’s death, a choppy and uncertain cadence in their voice when asked about God, or a mixture of humor and regret when recounting their childhood dreams. You are in the room with them, one on one, no boundaries or borders, no distance to go. You begin to see exactly how alike we all are, and begin to understand that if we could all simply see each other at that level, what would there be to fight about? is true for oneself and one’s personal ethics proves to be equally true in the realm of social ethics—that actions, for good or ill, will have consequences and the practice of ethics is the key to a happy, human life. ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ The bookstore also has some other new items for you... From a New Hampshire company, TreeFree Greetings in Swanzey, we have new note cards and gift bags. This is quite a company and what a treasure they are, right here in our state. This company was formed with a commitment to the environment. They are the first greeting card company to work aggressively toward the use of 100% tree-free paper. Tree-Free is FSC Certified (Forestry Stewardship Certified) and their cards and envelopes are either 100% tree-free, 100% recycled or FSC Certified mixed sources. Please check out the gift bags which include both a note card and tissue to complete your gift purchase. The prices are very low. Thanks for your purchases in the bookstore which have always helped Aryaloka in many ways.
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selected earlier in the day. Here they are with his answers:
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was her. Our survival after birth, he said, depends on our mothers, or another loving caretaker, giving us physical touch, and this has a huge effect on how we act later in life. Those receiving lots of care are generally very compassionate, those who are not compassionate may not have been cared for as they should have been. Calm mind is an important factor for health, he said. Anxiety, fear, hatred, and anger are destructive. This idea of separateness and constant feeding of the Self is unhealthy. It eats at your system from the inside. Those who are always speaking self-referentially, it has been shown, are at greater risk for a heart attack, for example. Unhealthy bodies are a reflection of one’s inner life and mental states. In addition, when you’re always thinking of yourself, it invites narrow-mindedness and loneliness. When the opposite is true, your heart and mind open wider. He went on to say that there is no difference in meeting a king or a beggar when you see everyone as a human, on this fundamental level. True equanimity has no pretense or false smiles. This kind of mental attitude brings inner calm. Wherever you can be comfortable is your home, and if you can bring your calm with you, no matter the surroundings, you will always be at home. Speaking of Tibet, he acknowledged the difficulty of his position, always trying to balance dealing in compassion and being practical. In terms of religion and values, he broke things down this way. One can cultivate inner values through a theistic religious or spiritual tradition - that is one way. The non-theistic approach would be to try to fully understand the law of causality. The non-religious way to cultivate values requires a secular approach, which doesn’t necessarily mean a rejection of religion. Gandhi was a good example of someone who was very spiritual without being religious - he respected all religious people and non-believers alike. Basically, when one’s community is happy, it brings happiness to individuals, and the opposite is true as well. Compassion, affection, and warm-heartedness between all people creates union. And, through inner peace, happiness will come. The Dalai Lama then answered some questions posed to him by the audience,
Q: Do you have any suggestions for young people today for how they should best approach the modern world? A: When in modern society you develop the habit of distracting yourself with sensory experiences, you only end up feeling alone. Pay more attention to the inner world to truly attain happiness and cultivate inner values. Visit your inner world and you will never be impatient for anything. Also, I would advise young people today to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Young people should adopt this attitude to stay realistic about the future. Q: How do we balance inner peace with this crazy modern world? A: The world is not crazy, we are! Change your inner world first and then expand that outwards. Q: Why do a small number of people experience constant suffering while others do not? How does one stay optimistic in the face of constant pain? A: When we face tragedy, look for the meaning within it, whether you believe it’s God’s doing or karma. For non-believers, recognizing that all things are interconnected is helpful. Perhaps one tragedy may ultimately prevent a worse one, or it may be small in comparison to another, or in the long run something positive may arise from it. If you focus on the individual suffering, it will make you suffer more. Also, look for the causes and vow not to recreate them, try to expand your understanding of the suffering. When we develop anger towards something, 90% of it is mental projection. There is not really that much negativity wrapped up in what you’re angry at. If there is a way to fix a problem, then fix it. If there’s no good way to fix it, then it will do no good to worry about it. Q: How can we love everybody when there are people determined not to let others live in their own way? A: First, there are two levels of love.
There is biological love, love for family and so on, and there is also love oriented towards humanity. When a wrong has been done, there is always a distinction between the action and the actor. One can feel compassion for the person without condoning their actions. The actor always deserves compassion. A harmful action by someone else must be stopped, but with a sense of concern for the actor’s wellbeing. This is true compassion, fed by wisdom, and it needs to be continually cultivated. Q: How can we help free Tibet? A: Being pro-Tibetan is really being pro-justice. It should be thought of broadly as an issue of helping humanity. The hardliner Chinese officials are not thinking longterm. I am trying to appeal to China, with the help of the world, to show the world what the conditions in Tibet are really like. If everything really is fine, and all of the stories I hear from Tibetans are false, then I will admit my mistake. The best thing that you can do is to go to Tibet. Study what is going on there and bring back your stories. Tibet’s grievances have been passed on for three or four generations now, and China must realize that, and they must not restrict visitors from going wherever they would like to. Q: What single thing can we do today to help the world be more at peace? A: I don’t know... a miracle from the sky? This is very complex. Think about ecology. Live more simply, waste less and be happy with less. Attend to the inner things, which you can always have more of, not material things which have a definite limit, and never lead to happiness anyway. Then, to a standing ovation, the Dalai Lama waved goodbye as he left the stadium, leaving all of us, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, to absorb all of the great teachings and wonderful advice he had to impart. All of the proceeds from his talk, after expenses, were given to create a new center for Tibetans in Boston. And, as one of us in our small group noted as we exited the parking lot, the talk must have sunk in, because it was the most civil procession of people and cars leaving the stadium that they had ever seen.
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Poetry Corner Love, which is Wisdom’s effluence, And feel our being’s tiniest part Beat with the beating of Thy Heart Feel too, like Thee, each tear of woe Fall on our hearts like fire on snow. O may we, contemplating Thee, Be lost in that Immensity Of Peace and Bliss which now Thou art, And realize the Buddha-Heart!
Before an Image of the Buddha By Sangharakshita
What thoughts are present to Thy mind In that Beyondless State, refined Through ceaseless discipline and pain From the crude stuff of flesh and brain; Or is no thought present to Thee At all, in that Infinity? Looking, in this lonely place, On Thy silent, sculptured face, In whose proximity do cease All unquiet thoughts, and melt in peace, I struggle, with my little wit, To fathom out, whilst here I sit, The calm which beautifieth it As full moon, on a summer’s night, Silvers still waters with her light. Thy Sea of Peace is too profound For plummet of our thought to sound; Yet, from smooth brow and half-closed eyes, And silent lips, void of replies, From coolness and tranquillity Made palpable to us in Thee, Our groping minds may somehow guess That Plenitude yet Emptiness, That state of passionless Delight, Mastered by Thee on Wesak Night; May see, and for a moment sense,
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have an opportunity to ask questions, discuss concerns and issues, and share ideas with the Aryaloka Council. We hope to see you there! In preparation, the Council will meet for a full day on October 17. Sealing the crawl space under the laundry room was discussed. No action will be taken at this time. A Gala Italian Dinner with guest Nagabodhi was sponsored by the Council and held at the end of June. Many individuals and families enjoyed the beautiful setting, the wonderful food, and the fantastic music. Many thanks to all those who planned, prepared, donated to, and participated in this magical night! Khemavassika will soon be stepping
After Meditation By Sangharakshita
As the last gong-stroke dies away, Shiver on shiver, into the deep silence, Opening my eyes, I find myself In a green-mossed underground cave Overarching still waters whereon White lotuses, half open, are peacefully smiling. (All poetry from Sangharakshita: Complete Poems 1941-1994)
down as treasurer of Aryaloka. The Council is currently looking for a replacement and those interested should contact Dayalocana for more details. We are all most grateful for the many years that Khemavassika has served in this position and all the time and energy that she has donated to the Center to keep us on a firm financial footing. Sadhu, Khemavassika! The Council is looking into the development of business, marketing, and financial plans for the foreseeable future. At last count, the Aryaloka Development Fund’s Mandala of Supporting Friends’ Drive has resulted in an increase in revenue of $610 per month. Twenty-four new donors were added to an original 23, a more than 100% increase. ADF members plan to send a quarterly report to donors noting
their contributions, sharing information, and expressing appreciation for their continued support. Aryaloka will soon have a new, updated, more comprehensive web site. Sangha member Eric Wentworth, owner of Winter Crow Studio, will develop the site in collaboration with the Council and other sangha members. September will be a busy month for the Center. We will be hosting the national Men’s GFR Retreat, a preceptors’ retreat, and the national Women’s GFR Retreat (as well as pre- and post-retreats for this event). Next year, 2010, will be Aryaloka’s 25th anniversary! Planning for this special event will begin soon and we hope that many sangha members will want to be involved. Get those creative juices flowing!
VOLUME 7, ISSUE III
VAJRASATTVA Continued from Page 1
Lama Thubten Yeshe explains Vajrasattva’s role this way: “Vajrasattva is a manifestation of the unity of fully developed male and female energy, the complete purity of the state of enlightenment. Out of their great compassion and limitless love, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have manifested their collected purity in the archetypal image of Vajrasattva so that we can identify ourselves with him.” So by now it may be clear that Vajrasattva is different from the historical Buddha. Instead Vajrasattva is one of the archetypal Buddhas. In his book Meeting the Buddhas, Vessantara tells us that “an archetype is a deep mental patterning. When we encounter an expression of one of the archetypes – perhaps in our dreams – they often have a timeless quality, and a sense of ‘meaningfulness,’ a heightened reality that is hard to explain rationally.” And that it why it is so unlikely that I would be forming a bond with Vajrasattva. If there were ever a mind tied to rationality, mine would be it. And yet somehow it has happened that I have an experience of Vajrasattva, an experience that I can’t explain rationally. It probably all began with chanting the Vajrasattva mantra. I’m including a translation of the mantra below although it is
generally chanted in Sanskrit. OM Vajrasattva! Preserve the bond! As Vajrasattva stand before me. Be firm for me. Be greatly pleased for me. Deeply nourish me Love me passionately Grant me siddhi in all things, And in all actions make my mind Most excellent. Ha ha ha ha hoh Blessed One! Vajra of all the Tathagatas! Do not abandon me. Be the Vajra-bearer, Being of the Great Bond! The next step in my discovery of Vajrasattva came as part of my participation in the collective devotional practice known as puja. Currently puja is performed monthly on the Friday closest to the full moon. However, back then we met weekly for puja. Little did I know that the puja one Friday night would change my life in ways I wouldn’t have expected. The Order Member leading the puja announced that we would be doing a Vajrasattva Puja. Since I really didn’t know much about Vajrasattva at the time other than having chanted the mantra a few times, I really had no idea of what to expect. I was ready to give it a try with an open mind.
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13-16 14 15 17-19 19 - Oct. 2 21 22 28 29
Preceptors’ Retreat Men’s mitra class (venue TBA) Sangha Night (venue TBA) Women’s GFR Pre-Retreat Women’s GFR Retreat (both buildings) Men’s mitra class (venue TBA) Sangha Night (venue TBA) Men’s mitra class (venue TBA) Sangha Night (venue TBA)
OCTOBER 1-2 2 4 5 6
Women’s GFR Retreat continues Meditation and Puja 7-9 p.m. (Possible) Order Day Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m.
10-11 12 13 17 17 19 20 23-25 26 27 28 30 - Nov. 1 31
There was something special about that first Vajrasattva Puja that included the quality of meaningfulness described by Vessantara. Indeed my sense of reality was heightened then as it has been ever since then whenever I’ve chanted the Vajrasattva Puja. However, I’m not sure if I can describe it more, perhaps it’s just something you’ll have to find for yourself. As my connection with Vajrasattva has grown, I find myself chanting his mantra as part of my daily practice. I frequently use an image from one of Sangharakshita’s talks. Bhante describes Vajrasattva in detail. He suggests that we should imagine Vajrasattva above ourselves with the drops of pure white nectar that fall from the deep blue HUM at the center of Vajrasattva’s heart falling down over ourselves and purifying our defilements. As we look around we notice that there is a representation of Vajrasattva above everyone’s head providing the same purification for all beings. Where this is all headed I can’t say. But for now it’s enough to go with the experience. Vajrasattva has become part of my practice and is a steady encouragement to keep me focused on peeling away the layers that hide my true nature. When I falter on the path, he stands beside me. He is always true to the bond between us, something for me to try to live up to.
WORK DAYS (both buildings) Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Introduction to Meditation 10 a.m.-4:p.m. Council Day Retreat, begins 7 a.m. (venue TBA) Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m./Sangha meeting with the Council Reflection and Meditation retreat with Ashokashri Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism evening class begins, 7-9 p.m. Abundance Yoga and Meditation Retreat, begins at 7 p.m. Men’s GFR Day - Portsmouth
VOLUME 7, ISSUE III
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.) AUGUST 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 14-16
Sudakini & Vajralila arrive - staying at Akasaloka Men’s mitra class Sangha Night led by Sudakini and Vajralila 7-9:15 Women’s mitra class (venue TBA - life stories) Meditation and puja 7-9 p.m. with Sudakini and Vajralila “The Sacred Feminine” retreat with Sudakini and Vajralila 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Note - Open to both men and women Order Day Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Women’s mitra class (life stories) Abundance Yoga and Meditation Retreat
15 16 17 18 19-23 20 22 24 25 27 30 31
– begins 7 p.m. Men’s Day Council Meeting Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Summer Meditation Retreat with Amala and Suryadhamma Women’s mitra class (life stories) Men’s GFR Day – Portsmouth Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Women’s mitra class (life stories) SANGHA PICNIC – 1-3 p.m. Men’s mitra class
SEPTEMBER 1 3 4 4-13 7 8
Sangha Night 7-9:15 p.m. Women’s mitra class Meditation and Puja 7-9 p.m. Men’s GFR Retreat (both buildings) Men’s mitra class (venue TBA) Sangha Night (venue TBA) UPCOMING
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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, Arjava, and Suzanne 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
Published on Jul 1, 2009
* "The Transcendent Buddha" by Stephen Sloan * "Goffstown Women’s Prison Begins Building Sangha" by Samayadevi * "Travelling India: Pilgrima...