keeping sangha connected
myth & Imagination
A recovering Catholic learns to trust intuition, imagination, and Buddhas in all colors by Lilasiddhi
Also in this issue:
The first Pan-American womenâ€™s GFR retreat
Buddhism & Environmentalism
As each of us in our own manner says goodbye to 2012 and greets the new horizon of 2013, we are left with many challenging questions to consider about what is of value in our lives, and perhaps we are also presented with opportunities for deep reflection on what it means to be an engaged Buddhist in our modern world. At the moment of this writing, we mourn the senseless and almost unimaginable losses of twenty tiny, innocent young children and six brave, caring adults in Newtown, Connecticut. For me, this tragedy hits very close to home. My wife teaches her own class of children not much older than these six and seven-year-olds, and like the teachers in Newtown, I know she would instantly place her students before herself. Like so many parents of little ones, it’s all too easy to imagine the horror of losing my own children in such a violent act. My heart breaks for these families, and for their community. Whether it’s another shooting tragedy in America or Afghanistan, the threat of environmental collapse, the problems of poverty and addiction, a harsh and divisive election, brutal wars and conflicts around the globe, corruption and greed in the financial system, it seems we’re continually reminded that samsara - that perpetuallyspinning wheel of suffering and delusion has an incredibly strong hold on humanity, causing problems so big and systemic that it can feel hopeless to confront them. But confront them we must. The products of samsara will not go away simply because we choose to ignore them or fear acting in the face of them. We cannot “fix” samsara, but that does not allow us the luxury of throwing up our hands in resignation. In times like this, when the world seems like a dark and scary place to be, we’re presented with our greatest opportunities for change and growth - as individuals and as a people. At times like this I am ever more deeply grateful for the vision and values found in Buddhism and
in our community, which offer a path to tread and a lamp to guide the way. The Buddha’s teachings are first about changing oneself - that’s where we all have to begin - but in the end it’s about what happens next. The insight that emerges from practice reveals that we are all very literally from the same family. We intimately share in the sufferings and the joys of the world as one, whether we know it or not. What we do as individuals - no matter how small we think it may be or how little we think it makes a difference to anyone else - has an effect on the great web of existence that we all belong to. Everything matters. We have a responsibility, a duty as loving beings, to mitigate the suffering that exists wherever it is found, wherever we can. It starts with what we do. And we can always help in at least some small way. Even the simple act of changing one’s own mind has the potential to sow the seeds of a mass movement that goes far beyond us as individuals. As Buddhists we are all “bodhisattvasin-training.” Our life’s work - in whatever way we individually choose to manifest it - is to encourage happiness for all beings. We subscribe to the notion that inner evolution leads to outer revolution. We cultivate aware, creative, compassionate, peaceful, spontaneous, and joyful responses to the challenges we encounter. We are aware that time always is short - always change is upon us - and every moment is too precious to be spent frivolously. This rich, dynamic, and beautiful practice, this way of walking in the world, has inevitable meaning for what we do with our time and efforts. And it naturally has an effect on how we influence society, through the ripple effect of direct action and also through the examples we each offer of a life lived peacefully. I believe that Buddhism has something unique to offer a new age which still holds on to the vestigial organ of violence. As we mark the beginning of another year, I know I will not be alone in contemplating deeply what role I might fulfill, and what of my own practice I can bring to the great project of effectively and creatively bringing about an end to suffering. ◆◆
VAJRA BELL KULA EDITOR IN CHIEF: Eric Wentworth email@example.com ADMINISTRATION EDITOR: Dh. Vihanasari firstname.lastname@example.org SANGHA EDITOR: Satyada email@example.com ASST. SANGHA EDITOR: Pam White firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURES EDITOR: Mary Schaefer email@example.com ARTS EDITOR: Elizabeth Hellard firstname.lastname@example.org
ARYALOKA COUNCIL MEMBERS COUNCIL CHAIR: Dh. Dayalocana email@example.com CO-TREASURER: Dh. Arjava firstname.lastname@example.org CO-TREASURER: Dh. Akashavanda email@example.com Dh. Surakshita firstname.lastname@example.org Dh. Vihanasari email@example.com Dh. Shrijnana firstname.lastname@example.org Barry Timmerman email@example.com SECRETARY: Eric Wentworth firstname.lastname@example.org
Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 email@example.com · www.aryaloka.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! 2
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musings from the chair In the winter months at our Center there is a sense of stillness, a reflection of the seasonal pause in nature’s cycle of activity. Winter at Aryaloka provides a time for slowing down, for focused study and quiet meditation. Within our peaceful setting there is opportunity for contemplation, deepening our practice, searching within, and opening to possibilities.
from the council
Standing outside in the brisk and clear night air, looking upwards to the sky, taking in the beauty of the stars and the mystery of the vast universe, we feel connected to a dimension beyond our everyday experience. Looking back at the golden light shining in the windows in the shrine room, hearing the voices of our community chanting in the puja, knowing all are welcome to walk through the door, we realize the importance and the significance of our community with whom we share our everyday practice.
As the stars continue to sparkle in the midnight sky, as the morning sun touches the snow and turns it to diamonds, I invite you to consider how you might add to the sparkle of our world. Can we find time and inclination to connect with others with words of kindness, offer a hand to those who suffer, consider the consequences before we act or speak? Do you ever look at the shimmering water on a lake and wonder what might happen if each of us brought a little more sparkle into our world? Let’s give it a try. ◆◆
◆ At the October meeting, the Council discussed replacing some of the more uncomfortable mattresses with newer ones donated by Arjava. ◆ Dayalocana reported that the newly-formed Women’s Mitra Convening Team has had its first meeting and that members are sharing various responsibilites for the mitra convening process. ◆ Council members agreed that regular teachers at Aryaloka may obtain books for a course they are teaching at no cost. ◆ The Animals at the Center policy was revised to ask service dog owners to have their animal under control and to avoid walking in the woods during tick season. ◆ A request was received to not limit the number of participants for classes. All agreed that class size should be determined by the instructor to ensure a quality
experience for all. ◆ At the December business meeting at Tom Gaillard’s home, the Council approved a 2013 operating budget of $126,828. This included projected income from pledges, dana, programs, retreats, the bookstore, fundraising, rent, and visitors. Projected expenses included staff (44%), facilities (32%), administration (8%), retreat costs (5%), and other (8%). ◆ The proposed Aryaloka program from January to June, 2013 was approved and will be printed and mailed by the end of the year. ◆ The development team is researching the possible acquisition and use of a mobile card reader. The facilitiy team gave an update on the state of the solitary cabin. The administrative team discussed changing the name of Tuesday night gatherings back to “Friends Night,” as it was previously called, since a good portion of the sangha is unable to attend on those evenings (approved). The possibility of a Friends of Aryaloka Facebook page was
also discussed as was a blog (or blogs) for Friends Night class discussions. ◆ Council meeting dates for the first six months of 2013 were approved. ◆ Following dinner, the Annual Meeting of the Aryaloka Council was convened. Council members elected to serve for the coming year include Dayalocana, Shrijnana, Arjava, Eric Wentworth, Surakshita, Vihanasari, Barry Timmerman, and Akashavanda. Newly-elected officers include Dayalocana, chair; Arjava and Akashavanda, treasurers; and Eric, halftime secretary. Each team also shared a review of the most notable issues dealt with over the past year (see article elsewhere in this issue). ◆ Much gratitude was expressed to Tom and his family for hosting the meeting at their home, and for Tom’s excellent work as treasurer during the last several years. His expertise, diligence, thoughtful reflection, and hard work are much-appreciated, as are his support, grace, and wonderful sense of humor. We will miss him on the Council!
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 onehalf of the total cost to finalize registration. If a registrant cancels two weeks or more before the retreat, s/he will receive a credit of the full amount toward another event. If the cancellation is received less than two weeks before the event, the registrant forfeits half of the retreat fee, and the remainder may be credited toward 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 credit of the full amount toward another event. If the cancellation is received less than two weeks before the event, the registrant forfeits half of the retreat fee, and the remainder may be credited toward another event.
Note: In all situations, special circumstances will be taken into consideration. W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
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Council Celebrates Many Successes in 2012 The Aryaloka Buddhist Center Council gathered together for their annual meeting in December. Tom Gaillard and his family were kind enough to host and his rooms were filled with good cheer as we shared a potluck meal together, took care of some pressing business, and reflected on the year gone by. At this time each year the floor opens for existing Council members to announce their departure and for new members to be elected. Alas, this year we lose two powerhouses from our team - Tom Gaillard and Brian Jervis - who will be moving on to new projects and making room for more practice. All of us shared in strong rejoicing in the merits of these two gentlemen and their contributions, and gifts were presented in thanks for their service. The Council also unanimously accepted the nomination of one of our sangha’s great friends, Barry Timmerman. Barry will no doubt be an amazing addition to the team. Each Council team had the opportunity to speak about their work in 2012 and what has been achieved over the year, and they would like to share them with you! Here are some of the highlights: Finance Team: ◆ Launched first Meditation Marathon raising over $6,000 and creating a fun sangha event. Facilities Team: ◆ Survived the flooding with the unexpected bonus of upgrades to our floor and laundry room. ◆ Added a wall around the bottom floor of Akashaloka to prevent animal incursions. Administrative Team: ◆ Instituted a three-tiered pricing solution with great positive results. ◆ Better control over building keys. ◆ New procedures to check rentals in and out. ◆ Repurposed one bedroom into an extra meeting room.
Development Team: ◆ Optimized email system and mailing list to boost subscriptions, improve email design, and better update sangha. ◆ Improved publicity workflow and methods. ◆ Developed Aryaloka’s presence on social media. ◆ Set the foundation for a better sangha contact database. Programming Team: ◆ Introduced many new introductory and Order events, strengthened meditation
retreat offerings, and focused attention on workshops and series. ◆ Teaching Kula completed policy for teaching at Aryaloka and made substantial progress in developing a comprehensive curriculum. Spiritual Vitality Team: ◆ Convened a new team to support women mitra training; men’s team going strong. ◆ Tuesday night greeters program is working very well. ~ Eric Wentworth
The Aryaloka Council minutes are posted on the bulletin board at the foot of the stairs. 4
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sangha notes ARYALOKA SANGHA (NEWMARKET, NH)
Tuesday Friends Night at Aryaloka has been busy and full of energy. We have greeted many newcomers to Aryaloka and enjoyed the company of old friends. There has been guidance and instruction for those who are newer to meditation and lovely, unguided meditation in the shrine room for those who are comfortable with silent practice. We have also had the opportunity to attend three ongoing classes after meditation. Akashavanda and Lilisiddi have facilitated an “Introduction to Buddhism.” This eight-week course NAGALOKA SANGHA (PORTLAND, ME)
There is big news from Nagaloka Buddhist Center in Portland, Maine this winter. We have moved to a brand new location in the heart of the arts district in the city of Portland. Our new location is at One Forest Avenue, within walking distance to all manner of restaurants and coffee shops. The move took place on December 1st, 2012 with the help of many of our hard-working sangha there to help pack, move, and unpack. Nagaloka now occupies the first floor of a beautiful brick building. We have separate rooms for a book store, library, shrine room, and open discussion room. There is also a kitchenette and ample room for storage. The wood floors have been beautifully refinished and shine brightly. Clean new paint makes the shrine room PORTSMOUTH SANGHA (PORTSMOUTH, NH)
The Portsmouth Buddhist Center continues to grow and offers a lively space for meditating with others, discussing the Dharma, and creating sangha together. Our Wednesday Sangha Nights have featured a Religion Without God series of talks followed by Parables from the White Lotus Sutra. Our January program includes explorations on the themes of Going for Refuge, Faith in Buddhist Practice, the W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
provided newcomers an overview of the fundamental teachings of Buddhist philosophy, practice, and key Buddhist principles. Arjava taught an intermediate Buddhism class using two books; Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung by Ajahn Brahm and Tales of Freedom by Vessantara. This sixteen-week class read and discussed these wise and mythical tales in an effort to inspire us and help us gain insight. Amala and Satyada explored Desert Island Dhamma – Living with the Dhammapada, one of the oldest and most beloved Buddhist texts. The text offers pithy teachings from the Buddha in a strong and uncompromising voice. Those attending were encouraged to bring glow in a golden tone, the library and book store are a warm peach color, and the open discussion room is a fresh, light green. You can expect lots more happenings in the New Year for our new center. The program will include our regular Wednesday night Friends’ meditation and study. We will continue monthly mitra studies, followed by a potluck luncheon. Meditations will be on Monday evenings, Thursday at noontime, and Sunday mornings. A new children’s program will begin taking place on some Sundays with a story time and puja for the whole family. We will be hosting day retreats throughout the year, and keep your eyes open for special events! A big thank you goes out to the whole sangha for helping in the move and supporting us in our new space. A very special thanks to Dharmasuri for making this all happen and for all that you do! ~ Gail Yahwak Tiratnavandana and the Sevenfold Puja. With more and more people being drawn to meditate, our team looked to the the New Year as a great opportunity to introduce our new Sunday Morning Meditation session. Beginning on January 13th, our sangha will be gathering for this vital and calming practice every Sunday from 10-11 a.m. The Center is located at 40 Congress Street on the fourth floor. For their current program and directions, visit their website at: www.portsmouthbuddhistcenter.com. ~ Dh. Viriyalila
various translations of the Dhammapada to read aloud, compare and discuss. But possibly the highlight of Friends Night was Tuesday, December 18th when four of our friends became mitras. Surakshita and Akashavanda led this beautiful ceremony as Sue & Eric Ebbeson, Michelle Hart and Alisha Roberts placed white flowers, candles, and incense on the shrine. Mitra ceremonies are such a happy and uplifting event especially when witnessed by so many friends and family. Sadhu to Sue, Eric, Michelle & Alisha. As, one by one, we make our own commitment, An ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows. VANCOUVER SANGHA (VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA)
In September, three cars full of people headed south of the border to join Triratna Seattle for the Sun Lakes Fall Retreat, led by Karunadevi. This venue is a great favorite of the Vancouver sangha with many of us having a long association with the place. It was great to connect with the thirty or so retreatants from the region who participated. Centre activities continue apace, with new faces and growth in all three of the friends’ drop-in sessions we offer. In December we wrapped up an Introductory Meditation and Buddhism course that ran over ten consecutive weeks! This format attracted a few very committed participants. This January will see the expansion of our mitra sangha, when we’ll witness Jodi Loudfoot’s public ceremony within the context of a day retreat at the Vancouver Centre for Peace. We are looking forward to further growth in 2013. ~ Dh. Dayasiddhi
For Your Information... TRIRATNA CENTERS IN THE U.S. Newmarket, NH Portland, ME Somerville, MA New York City, NY
Missoula, MT San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA Portsmouth, NH VAJ R A BE L L
Buddhism and the Environmental Movement
How two efforts -inner and outer - to benefit all beings might benefit each other By Scott Hurley I first became involved in the environmental movement when I was seventeen, as a high school student in an environmental science class. I had recently reformed from a reckless lifestyle and was looking upon life with a fresh set of eyes when my world suddenly expanded and came alive from learning about ongoing environmental issues. I immediately became involved in that community and continued on with it after graduation. Some of the most significant experiences that followed on from that first encounter included a three-week course in permaculture design at the Sirius intentional community in Shutesbury, MA, a week-long march from Nashua to Concord advocating climate change
policy, and a semester abroad in the “universal town” of Auroville, India studying ecological sustainability and spirituality. I’ve had the opportunity to deeply study permaculture, intentional communities, and earthskills which have opened windows for me on ecologicallysustainable living, community living, and living in the wild, respectively. When I first started coming regularly to Aryaloka in 2008, my understanding of Buddhist principles and practices and my connection with the community here was strongly influenced by the experiences and education I had received from these various aspects of the environmental movement. I’d learned to question harmful views, such as the rights of man over nature and infinite economic growth. I’d taken
intentional action on moving toward compassion and non-violence, such as choosing to support environmentally friendly products and participating in environmental activism. And I’d deepened my direct contact with reality by spending lots of contemplative time in nature. My openness to the Aryaloka community was supported by positive experiences of having lived in intentional communities at Sirius and at Sadhana Forest in Auroville, India. Practicing Buddhism, in turn, has benefited my attempts to make a difference and connect more fully with the environment. The practices of self-metta, contentment, and mindfulness have given me a foundation where I experience less burnout and isolation and more receptivity continued on page 17
Setting the Conditions for Positive Meditation By Barry Timmerman I am not a meditation teacher. I am a meditator, and I have a daily meditation practice. My intention for writing this article is to share my own experiences of developing the proper conditions for a positive outcome in sitting practice. I’ve learned about meditation from a variety of sources: numerous books, formal day-long classes, and longer meditation retreats. I have spoken with other meditators - some brand new, some intermediate, and some quite experienced. But, first and foremost, I’ve meditated. I have journaled about my meditation experiences and experimented with many forms of meditation, and I know that my meditation practice is continually evolving. Whenever I feel my practice is stagnant, I try a different approach. I talk to others, get feedback, and make adjustments. What follows are some of the things I have learned, through experience, that have benefitted my practice. I remind myself why I meditate In beginners’ Buddhism courses at Aryaloka we pose the question “why 6
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meditate?” A simple, succinct answer is that meditating makes one a better person on the inside and the outside. This is scientifically proven to be true - meditating changes the brain for the better. Even when one is experiencing quite a bit of mental activity while meditating, it is still beneficial. The longer and more frequently one meditates, the greater the benefits. Meditators are kinder, less stressed out, more patient, more content, less apt to be impulsive, experience less illness, and are generally able to function more creatively and efficiently in whatever task they are engaged in. When I remind myself of this fact, meditation is not a chore, it is something I look forward to. I can enter each meditation session with a positive state of mind. I’m not meditating because I have to or to make something happen. I hold no expectations or wants other than the desire to be present with whatever happens, without judgment, and with kindness towards myself. Sometimes my mind is calm, sometimes it is a maelstrom, but I’ve come to accept the variety of mental states that I encounter during meditation sessions, letting them come and go.
I do not meditate impulsively I precede each meditation session with an intention - preparing for each session with a formal devotion to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. I know this is not for everybody, but it works for me. I meditate when it’s the most conducive for my schedule, at a time that allows me to sit without worrying or being in a rush. For me, this is early in the morning - I’ve chosen to wake up earlier so I can meditate with time to spare. Another benefit of early morning meditation is that it’s a wonderful way to begin each day. On those infrequent days when I haven’t meditated in the morning, but instead had a sit later in the day, I am struck by how much more difficult my day has been in comparison. Also, in the morning I do not, under any circumstances, watch television, particularly the news. I create the right environment I’ve created a comfortable and safe place to meditate in my home - a place that is quieter than other spots in my living area and that provides an aesthetically pleasing view of the outdoors. The temperature is just right, continued on page 7 WI NT E R 2013
Men's Practice Days for the New Year
20 Good Reasons to Attend the “Exploring the Joy of Mindfulness” Retreat! Retreat runs January 25-27. Led by Arjava and Akashavanda. 1. Going on retreat is a gift to yourself that also benefits all beings! 2. Deepen your meditation practice. 3. If you are a newcomer or never been on a retreat, this retreat was especially designed for you (all others welcome of course!). 4. Enjoy a period of noble silence… no need to talk or be distracted by others’ talking. 5. Experience stillness and peace that comes from meditation and silence. 6. Try out “Laughing Yoga” (not physical postures required). 7. Delight in “just being” – drop your roles, activities, “to do” list. 8. Recharge your batteries from the stress of your busy life.
setting the conditions Continued from Page 6
with a comfortable, but firm, place to sit. In my space I have a shrine, decorated with a number of devotional objects that symbolize the path to enlightenment and other positive qualities that I am working to develop on my path as a Buddhist. I use a meditation timer that has a pleasing bell sound. If you have a smartphone, there is a great app called the “Insight Timer” With this app, you can create presets, with your choice of bell sounds, sitting times, and number of meditation stages. In addition, you can connect with others who are meditating all around the world. I prepare my body for practice Prior to meditating, I ensure that I’m wearing loose, comfortable clothing W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
9. Help cook or just enjoy the gourmet vegetarian meals served up by Arjava. 10. Expand your knowledge of the Dharma. 11. Have fun with a “mindfulness” scavenger hunt. 12. Give yourself a break from the responsibilities of family and work. 13. Relax and do nothing! 14. Make new friends or deepen existing friendships. 15. Eat chocolate mindfully. 16. Totally focus on your practice without any distractions. 17. Enjoy the time to be with yourself. 18. Touch the electric blue Buddha head and see what happens… 19. Hang out with Arjava and Akashavanda. 20. Bring your cross country skis or snowshoes and explore the nearby woods. ~ Dh. Akashavanda - nothing that binds or pinches. I clear my sinuses - an unobstructed airway, like good posture, improves the quality of the meditation experience. Posture is important. In this regard, I remember what my mother always said to me as a child, “Sit up straight.” This is good advice. When one sits up straight, be it in a chair or on a meditation cushion or bench, things flow the way they should without impediment - the blood, the breath, and the energy that makes its way through the various conduits and circuits that form our connective systems. I take care of any bathroom needs before meditating. It may sound odd, but many people will begin a meditation session then realize, partway through, that their bladder is in need of emptying or they have a need for expulsion of other waste. I do not eat prior to meditating food in the stomach equals lethargy.
The men’s sangha has had a great time at our monthly Men's Practice Days at Aryaloka over the last few months. In October, Vidhuma and Perry Blass led a day on “Basic Goodness” and what that means for practice. In November Bodhipaksa and Eric Wentworth held a basic practice day where we meditated and discussed insight and the Three Lakshanas. Our December event was a very fulfilling day of outreach work at the Cornucopia Food Pantry in Durham which we all enjoyed thoroughly. Men’s Practice Days are already set for January 27th, February 23rd, and March 24th, and we have more great events in store - including a day exploring the Five Hindrances in meditation, and a day with Sravaniya from the Boston sangha. Watch the Aryaloka website and your email for announcements and more details! Men’s Practice Days are open to men of all experience levels and are an excellent opportunity to explore specific Buddhist topics, strengthen sitting practice, and build spiritual friendships and closer connections with other men. ◆◆ I begin each session, before formal meditation, with a body scan. I come into my body and bring my attention to all the areas where I may be holding tension or pain. I let go of the past and future and enter into the present. These are some of the conditions I’ve learned to set up to ensure a positive meditation experience, however I maintain that whatever experience one has in meditation is a positive one. There is always something to learn, something to be in awe of. Just the act of breathing is a miracle in itself. I hope you find my discoveries helpful to your own practice, and for those who are new to meditation I hope it may inspire you to begin in earnest. At Aryaloka we are blessed to have many wonderful opportunities to learn meditation, to sit with others, and to be part of a community that provides support for self-improvement. ◆◆ VAJ R A BE L L
Experiencing the Gift of Spiritual Friendship Beyond Our Borders By Jean Corson After having missed my early morning flight from Boston, I was rerouted to San Francisco, which - I was to discover - was a fortuitous change in “conditions.” I was on my way to the first ever women’s PanAmerican GFR retreat near Mexico City. “Jean?” A voice from behind caught me by surprise as I buckled myself into my seat for the second leg of the trip. Turning, I saw a familiar face belonging to a Dharma sister - Anne Lavergne, a mitra from Vancouver, B.C. - sitting behind me. We had met a few times before at retreats, and I was happy to see her again. And, I found, she was fluent in Spanish, an added bonus. At the Mexico City airport, we waited at baggage claim for another Dharma sister, Mellissa Dana, coming from San Francisco via Houston. The emails had been flying back and forth between us as we plotted our logistics. We planned to take the bus to Cuernavaca together once she
arrived. After an hour with no sign of her we decided to go through customs, find the bus, and proceed to our destination. It turned out that Mellissa’s flight was late but she was on the bus right behind us. All the “conditions” came together again by sheer luck and hinted at an even greater convergence to follow once we had reached our destination two hours south. Saddhajoti, a Mexican Order member
and an amazing and patient host, met us at the bus station in Cuernavaca and drove us to The Chintamani Retreat Centre, where the retreat had begun a day earlier. In the dark we discovered a little piece of paradise awaiting us as we pulled through the gates and up the long and winding drive. The real adventure, though, would be meeting the more than fifty Dharma sisters who were, for the moment, fast asleep. Though bleary-eyed and weary, I awoke excited and ready to meet the others who had arrived from Vancouver, Montana, New Hampshire, California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Mexico City. Many Order members were already there, having stayed on after a convention the previous week. As I entered the dining hall, a wonderful din greeted me, full of a strange fusion of multi-lingual conversation continued on page 16
Reflecting on Going for Refuge Retreats Past By Diane Palaces Since requesting ordination in the Triratna Buddhist Order in April 2010, I’ve attended three Going for Refuge (GFR) retreats for women. The first was held at Aryaloka in August 2010, the second at Jikoji in California in July 2011, and the latest was held November 2012 at The Chintamani Retreat Centre near Cuernavarca, Mexico. These retreats have been from eight to twelve days long and were attended by thirty to forty women who have requested ordination. The women hail from Triratna Buddhist Communities on the East and West coasts: Missoula, MT; Vancouver, Canada; Hawaii; and this year, Mexico. The retreats are led by public and private preceptors who are members of the ordination team. Other female Order members attend and generously support the team and the retreat attendants. The structure of the retreat allows 8
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for in-depth and detailed exploration of the retreat theme. There are several meditation times each day, Refuge Tree practice, and a daily puja. Silence is kept from after the devotional activity in the evening through either breakfast or lunch of the following day. Usually, there are a few days when silence is maintained throughout the day. The retreat includes talks attended by the whole group, small study groups, individual conversations with Order members, shared meals, reconnections with old friends, meeting new travelers on the ordination path, opportunities to work on creating beautiful shrines, shared tasks around meal prep and clean-up, and usually some dramatic - sometimes comedic - expression of the theme. There are countless opportunities to practice and receive generosity, loving-kindness, patience, skillful speech, and mindfulness. continued on page 17 WI NT E R 2013
Aryaloka: Part of a Growing Global Spiritual Movement By Mary Schaefer My horizons of Buddhism and the Triratna Buddhist Community broadened considerably in 2012. Two Dharma sisters and I from Aryaloka traveled to Mexico in early November to attend the first PanAmerican GFR (Going for Refuge) retreat. This is an annual retreat usually held in San Francisco or here at Aryaloka for women who are going for ordination. It was my first such retreat since asking for ordination last year. The trip was my second in 2012 exploring the global reach of the Triratna community. In January, I traveled, with fellow Triratnans from across the country, to India to retrace the life of the Buddha and meet the people who are bringing Buddhism back to modern India. There, we met dozens of long-time Order members, many of whom worked with Sangharakshita during his thirty years in India. We met and meditated with hundreds of fellow sangha members in Pune, Nagpur, Bodh Gaya, and Mumbai who are using Buddhism as a powerful tool for personal and social improvement. What I took away from that trip – among many profound lessons and experiences – was that Aryaloka is just one small part of a global movement and worldwide sangha. How cool and amazing is that! The GFR retreat took place at the Chintanami Retreat Centre about 1.5 hours (or 90 km) south of Mexico City. Some fifty-two women – Order members and GFR mitras – came together from Canada, San Francisco, Hawaii, New York, Montana, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Many of our Mexican dharma sisters – a warm and inspiring contingency that made up about half of the group – are part of Mexico City’s large and fast-growing Triratna community. I have come to appreciate – meeting and talking with Dharma sisters from Hawaii, Vermont, and even New York - that we are quite fortunate to be part of the large, robust community here at Aryaloka. But in seeing and W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
hearing about the Triratna presence in Mexico City, again I realized how Aryaloka is just one small part of a wider sangha. The Mexico City area has close to twenty-two million people, making it the third largest city in the world with ninety percent of its population Roman Catholic. Buddhism is growing in Mexico, though, and Mexico City is large enough to be home to not just one but two centers. Diane Palaces and I arrived on
November 1st in Mexico City and ventured in to visit the largest Buddhist center located in the central borough, Colonia Roma. Jean Corson arrived a few days later. The center is located in a renovated Victorian-style house which was opened to the public in January 2002. The beautiful venue attracts on average about 900 people each week to continued on page 16 VAJ R A BE L L
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Embracing Myth & Imagination A recovering Catholic learns to trust intuition, imagination, and Buddhas in all colors by Lilasiddhi
magination was an important part of my Catholic experience. When I became disillusioned with the Church, I left and buried my spiritual imagination. Finding my place in Aryaloka and the Dharma helped reopen my heart and my imagination. This is my story of that journey. As a child sitting in Mass at Assumption Church, I imagined myself under the Last Supper table among the dirty feet playing with the cats. The stories, chants and incense effortlessly whisked me across a 2,000-year divide. Later, when I learned about the church’s history – the Inquisition, the misogyny, etc. – I had to leave, disillusioned and sad that I had lost my spiritual and imaginal vocabulary along with meaning and purpose in life. I believed I had allowed the church’s aesthetics and my own imagination to lure me into a false refuge, and I retreated into my rational left brain. For thirty-five years I tried different churches, scientific materialism, behavioral psychology, therapy, marriage and art. I doubted them all. Finally, arriving at Aryaloka, I found the Dharmic vocabulary different but familiar. The spiritual yearning was the same, and the people friendly. There was homework (I love homework), meditation ( I love meditation), and open questioning and debate, all the better to catch the errors in my logic. I found no dogma, no doctrine and no sin. Nonetheless, my wariness persists: Where’s the catch? I operated almost exclusively with the left side of my brain. For years as a mitra, I questioned everything: green Buddhas, blue Buddhas, infinite patience, no things, no self, and the role of devotion. In meditation, I stuck close to the forms as taught. The answers from my teachers and friends started to make sense. My confidence in the Dharma grew. My death grip on the rational relaxed. Gratitude to the continued on page 12 W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
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myth & imagination Continued from Page 11
Sangha, my teachers and the Buddha grew. Eventually, most of my doubts were answered. I wanted to deepen my practice, but I still needed to know if I could join an Order headed by Sangharakshita whom I had not yet met. I had to go to Birmingham, U.K. to meet him, put my questions to him, and to find out, once and for all, if this was my tribe. I met Sangharakshita in Spring 2011 with my many questions in hand. Questions about the reality of the Jinas, the usefulness of Vaihinger’s philosophy “as if ” (see the article Re-Imagining the Buddha, p. 11), mundane and absolute reality, and rebirth. I presented every question I had so that, if I was going to get turned away from the Order, I would get it from the horse’s mouth. Much to my surprise and delight, I felt affirmed by his every response. Again and again he responded, “Well, you just have to make up your own mind.” No coercion or transcendental threats, just freedom, imagination and opportunity. I said, “For me, entering the realm of the Buddha feels like going to the theater. It may be fiction, just a script and actors; nonetheless we open ourselves to the drama. We empathize. We live in the experiences presented. Our reactions and emotions affect us AS IF the play were reality. The effect is real. The fact that it is not REAL in a conventional sense doesn’t matter if our hearts are open and we can feel more.” Sangharakshita understood and agreed!
I left the meeting high as a kite. I shed the heavy, old winter coat of self-protective skepticism that I had put on when I left the Catholic Church. I threw my heart into the wide Dharma river with gratitude, relief and joy. I took the lock off my intuition, imagination, and faith – those transcendental right-brain functions I’d buried. I allowed myself to believe that the Buddha was enlightened, the Dharma was trustworthy, the Order was a reliable vehicle, and Sangharakshita was a caring human being. I now “lay my heart upon” them all. I remembered Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist in her thirties at Harvard Medical School when she suffered a massive left-brain stroke. In her book, My Stroke of Insight, and in her TED talk, the recovered Taylor described the stroke’s effects in detail. It shut off all sequential, language-based functions, eliminated preoccupation with past and future, and broke down the separation between self and other. Forced to rely almost exclusively on her right brain, Taylor felt herself to be part of a great, beautiful, and loving “whole,” a part of the infinite process, in a realm of beautiful interconnection with all that existed. She believed she entered a kind of Nirvana which we can enter through our practice. I remembered Sangharakshita’s respect for Jung, who believed intuition was the perception of the unconscious. In the article Revering and Relying on the Buddha, Sangharakshita and Subhuti
encourage us to rely on imagination “when reason has flown as high as it may.” According to the article Re-Imagining the Buddha, Sangharakshita believes that Jung and his followers had taken the realm of imagination seriously and made discoveries that could be of great assistance to Buddhists today. In that same article Sangharakshita and Subhuti write that “Imagination transforms the objects of our experience... The data is spontaneously selected, organized and transformed in ways that draw out its inner meaning... Our intimations of deeper meaning are given a form by which we ourselves can come to know them... The components of the image are transformed into symbols.” By imagining the concepts of the enlightened mind, like Infinite Love or The Wisdom of Equality represented in beings like the Jinas and the Bodhisattvas, we create dialogue and interaction with our highest aspirations. Loving-Kindness is no longer a concept; it is Amitaba, the red Buddha. The Wisdom of Equality is no longer a cognitive ideal (or political stand!), it is Ratnasambava, the yellow Buddha. By suspending disbelief, as we do when reading a novel or watching a play, we set aside the fierce need to prove their reality. We slip the bonds of rationalism. These spiritual beings can become our tools and skillful means. As such, they can enable us to play in the fields of imagination, the pure lands of our most inspired hearts. Satisfying only the logical demands of our minds can be a form of self-clinging. Adding intuition and imagination, we
Buddhaworks The Aryaloka Bookstore
* Books by Sangharakshita * DVDs from Pema Chodron and Lama Surya Das * Meditation Journals * CDs from Thich Nhat Hanh
* Singing Bowls * Brass Door Chimes from Nepal and India * Meditation Candles * Lots and Lots of Great Books!
Your support brightens Aryaloka’s future. Buddhaworks is located at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center
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myth & imagination Continued from Page 12
open our hearts and minds to experience that which is greater than our individual selves - the Transcendental. Calling such experience “play,” we free ourselves from the scorn of our left brains. Like the Buddha, we can allow ourselves the freedom to worship and lay down the burden of our separate selves. Let me offer some personal examples. My first imaginative experience may seem quite odd. I was at Aryaloka looking at a painting of the Buddha sitting under a gnarly and graceful Bodhi Tree. The next thing I imagined was the Buddha riding a motorcycle while I sat on the back of the cycle holding on for the ride. Just a flash of this image, nothing more. But I was delighted and intrigued. By setting down my self-protective skepticism, I had allowed the image to emerge and a very personal connection to be established. It’s not “orthodox” but it was a start, and it suited me. Imagination can play an important role in meditation. In the first meditations that the Triratna Buddhist Order teaches, the mindfulness of breathing and the metta bhavana, of course it is crucial to get the basic structures committed to memory and to stick with the forms as taught for a long while. I worked with the basic forms for about three years until I gained control of monkey mind, and could experience periods of time without thinking. I would begin with a body scan that included a mental “foot massage.” I would visualize massaging each toe, the ball of the foot, the arch and heel. It helped to picture, as well as feel, the breath slipping into and out of my lungs. It helped to enlist as many senses as possible into my meditation. With the first stage of the metta bhavana, I sometimes picture myself holding me as an infant, wishing me happiness, freedom from suffering, and so on. I try to feel the glowing warmth rather than concentrating on the words. I sometimes picture my mother holding me, as she did in an old photo, bestowing loving-kindness. Other people imagine themselves serving tea to, sitting next to, or walking alongside the individuals in the stages of their metta bhavana. One may lean towards the other, enveloping them in W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
Satisfying only the logical demands of our minds can be a form of self-clinging. Adding intuition and imagination, we open our hearts and minds to experience that which is greater than our individual selves the Transcendental. warmth and love. Whatever works for you, just allow your heart/mind to soar a little beyond the script of meditation AFTER you’ve got the structure well in hand. A final illustration from just before my recent ordination may help. At ordination we select a yidam or a sadhana as a focus for meditation. It can be a Jina, a Bodhisattva, or Shakyamuni himself. Some people choose sacred texts like the Heart Sutra. I was auditioning some possibilities – Vajrayogini, Vajrapani, Shakyamuni Buddha and Prajnaparamita. I would just sit and open myself to an image or a line of text about the being. I had narrowed the field down to either Prajnaparamita or Shakyamuni Buddha, but really couldn’t get more focused. Ashokashri, my private preceptor, suggested that I just meditate, open up, and see what happened for a week or so. One night, (I often meditate in the middle of the night) as I sat, I found myself walking up a hill to the home of Nancy, my childhood imaginary friend. I approached the door and rang the bell. A lean, graceful, woman, standing as my mother often did, answered the door. I knew this to be Prajnaparamita. I walked into the house and saw that it was the facade of my aunt’s house in Connecticut. It was only the facade. Inside was a long elegant stairway, just like the stairs in her house. I walked up slowly. As I got to the top the stairs, the house faded away and a glowing sky of golden light swirled before me. I stepped into the light. After a while, I backed down the stairs, out the door, and walked away. I left knowing that
I would chose Prajnaparamita, because I felt she had invited me into her realm. I had not willfully conjured this imagery in any way. I had not thought of Nancy’s house in a long, long time. But the elements of this were pulled from my experience, were selected, organized and transformed and expressed a spiritual meaning that drew me in and created a relationship that has since become a devotion. In summary, I came to Aryaloka as a person disillusioned and made wary by my first spiritual and religious experiences. I retreated into rationalism. In order to open my heart to faith in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, I first had to satisfy my logical mind. I had to ask many questions and get credible answers to all my doubts in order to develop trust. Once that left-brain part of me was satisfied, I found that was not enough. I had to find a way, MY way and MY path, towards the joy and freedom that is the Bodhisattva’s Way. I had to let my intuition and imagination play widely and happily to lead me toward my spiritual aspirations. Sangharakshita in The Bodhisattva Ideal (p.137-8) references Shantideva saying: “The Bodhisattva is like an elephant (a highly complimentary comparison in the Indian literary tradition). The elephant... is a playful beast, and he loves to bathe in lotus ponds. He merrily squirts water over himself, and trumpets, and plucks great bunches of lotus flowers, washes them carefully, and eats them. In this way he passes the day very happily. As soon as he has finished playing in one pond, he plunges into another. And the Bodhisattva is like that. As soon as one task is finished he dives straight into another with equal delight. “Sometimes the Bodhisattva’s activity is spoken of as ‘lila’ – a sport, a sort of game that the Bodhisattva plays. This is how he or she experiences the manifestation of the perfections, the different aspects of the path to Enlightenment, and eventually the great game of Buddhahood and the manifestation of Enlightenment itself.” So let us learn our structured meditations. Let us get all our questions answered. Let us burn the night oil studying the Dharma. And let our imaginations carry us high over lotus ponds of love and joy, to play in Buddha Fields together with all sentient beings in all the infinite worlds! ◆◆ VAJ R A BE L L 13
Men's Day at the MFA
arts at aryaloka
Aryaloka has a deep commitment to the contemplative arts - supporting the art process, creativity, and artistic expression as tools for communicating spiritual insights and, in the process of creation, dropping the "self."
Creating as Meditation in Action
A Day of Exploration
Meditation practice synchronizes the mind and body, bringing us into the present moment, awake and aware of our sense perceptions and our environment. From that open space, a gesture can arise: a word, a thought, a stroke, a genuine expression informed by our awakened state. Through exercises and discussion we will examine creating, not as product or process, but as a natural state of being that arises as we connect with our felt sense of things as they are. Rebekah Younger will lead this day of exploration into the power of creating as meditation, starting from Square One. For “non-artists” and “artists.” This workshop is an abbreviated introduction to the larger five-part series known as Shambhala Art™ based on the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Join this very special opportunity on Saturday, February 23, 10 am – 4pm. ~ Dh. Kiranada
Upcoming Contemplative Arts at Aryaloka The arts have been a vital part of the Triratna Community for forty years now and are central to our work with the Dharma. The Arts at Aryaloka program focuses on contemplative arts rather than art simply as entertainment or distraction. Art, in its many forms - from painting and photography to dance, poetry, and music - can help us enhance our experience and broaden our sympathies. It can enlarge our imagination and show us ways of going beyond the present - a gateway to the visionary. It can refine and redirect our emotions and can communicate spiritual values. We have a wide variety of arts 14 VAJ R A BE LL
programming scheduled in the next six months for your enjoyment and exploration: ◆ In February we are happy to welcome back the multi-disciplinary artist Rebekah Younger from Bath, Maine who exhibited her photographs for her show titled Earth, Water, Fire this past fall. On Saturday, February 23rd, Rebekah will present a Creating as a Meditation workshop using meditation as a ground for creating using ink, paper, clear vision and clear expression. ◆ The Aryaloka Quartet, a wonderful group of Boston-based classical musicians under the direction of our own Dh. Sravaniya, will come to the center for their
second much-acclaimed concert on Friday, June 7th. ◆ Also in June, we are extremely fortunate to host the Ka-do: the Way of Flowers workshop with Antoinette Drouart, an Ikebana Sogetsu School teacher from Nashua. That’s on Saturday, June 15th from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. ◆ And when the snows of December laid a damper on our wonderful Heather Mahoney Concert that we were all looking forward to, we were lucky to get it rescheduled for a spring date, when perhaps the weather will be more congenial. Come join us on April 14th for a deeply rewarding evening with this fine musician and vocalist. ~ Dh. Kiranada WI NT E R 2013
arts at aryaloka
A Look Back at Arts Evening Sangharakshita has encouraged us to include in our practice both appreciation and participation in the arts. And he has set us an example with his own poetry. How fortunate we are in the Aryaloka sangha to have the riches of the arts on display at the annual “arts evenings.” This year was another shining example. The highlight of each of these evenings has been the invited guest artists who come to us to share their art as well as to bring us the example of how this contributes to their spiritual practice. Last season’s guest, Rebekah Younger, was a splendid example, gracing our walls was the exhibit Earth, Water, Fire - abstract photographs representing the elements. And we were privileged to hear the artist speak to us of her practice, both as a photographer and as a Buddhist. The evening was again well attended, and many who were not present for the artist’s presentation were able to view and appreciate her work as we moved through
the yoga room participating in other events at the center. Much appreciation must go to Kiranada for her tireless efforts to add the dimension of arts practice to our practices of meditation, ritual, and friendship. She has scoured the area to invite guests who have brought us both pleasure and inspiration. But perhaps most importantly these evenings have been a means for members of our own sangha to bring us fine examples of how practice of the arts thrives among us, and to inspire us to both appreciate and contribute with our own practices. This past year we saw a rich variety of music and poetry. Jon Prichard played native American flute as we held our breath and felt the music touch our hearts. Jon tells us the flute was made by a Nitmuc indian who considers the construction of the flute a spiritual practice in itself, during which he thanks
the tree which is transformed into the flute. Jon, too, considers playing his flute spiritual practice as he, too, honors the tree that allows him to “speak” music into the world. And then Cathy Okhuysen played the shruti box, an instrument new to many of us, which lent an unfamiliar sound and evoked deep feelings in all of us. She, too, spoke to us of the element of spirituality in her music, and led us to an experience of the magic evoked by the music. Last but certainly not least we heard poetry offerings by Samayadevi and Vihanasari, and also a little something about how they bring their emotions and practice into focus with the words in their poems. Please see some samples of Vihanasari’s work in this issue. I’m sure Kiranada will be planning to bring new riches to us in 2013. Try to not miss the evening! ~ Dh. Kavyadrishti
Heather Maloney Concert Rescheduled
Second chance show set for April 14th
When New England’s unpredictable weather hit in December, we were crushed to have to cancel our concert featuring talented musician Heather Maloney. But Heather has been kind enough to set a new event date with us and we are very pleased to have her! We hope you’ll be with us on April 14th at 6:30 p.m. to enjoy an evening of “impermanence in song.” Bring your friends and family for what is always a sweet and intimate atmosphere. Over the last three years on the road, Heather has been singing her songs in over 225 shows in twenty states and released two heralded albums. She is now working on a third that will come out on Signature Sounds in 2013. This will be her third performance at Aryaloka Buddhist Center and she is deeply welcomed!
Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you! W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
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attend about thirty meditation, yoga and Dharma classes, retreats, and regulars’ nights. One of our Mexican sisters said that the attendance to all the activities for regulars or mitras could reach 200, with participation numbering as high as 300 on special occasions. One of our gracious hosts, Order member Akasavajri, reported in the Triratna News that the Center, under the chairmanship of Dharmachari Upekshamati, has made a significant contribution to spreading not only the Dharma but Bhante’s vision in Mexico for the last eighteen years. Upekshamati said they welcomed about 300 mitras since the center started, with 180 to 200 still in contact and thirty-five preparing for ordination. Some sixty-five mitra ceremonies were conducted in 2011 and another fifty in 2012. Today, there are at least thirteen Order members, twelve of whom are “home-grown.” The place features an enormous shrine room which can fit 275 people, which some say is proof of Upekshamati’s theory that the size of a sangha rises in proportion to the size of the shrine room. The second Buddhist center in Mexico City opened its doors in Coyoacán in early December in the southern part of the city, according to Dharmacharini Saddhajoti. This center features daily activities including yoga, Dharma workshops, study groups, chapter meetings, and pujas. Triratna actually started its activities in Coyoacán in 1994, before it set up the center in Colonia Roma. The Chintanami Retreat Centre, which was the site of the nine-day GFR retreat, is under the direction of our super-host
gift of friendship Continued from Page 8
some of it in my familiar native tongue and occasionally a few words in Spanish that I understood. After a flurry of hugs, smiles, and greetings with familiar friends and with those from more distant places, I experienced a wonderful spontaneous familiarity with those I had just met. Language was no longer an issue; we didn’t need words to communicate our immediate connection. From the Mexican women we heard 16 VAJ R A BE LL
Saddhajoti who, along with Gisela Peters Castilla, was a key force in making this center a reality. The center was started about ten years ago and is situated on 8.6 acres of land in the Valley of Cuautla in Yautepec near the charming city of Cuernavaca. The quiet, secluded, beautiful spot is dedicated to inner development, leisure, and friendship. The week before our global assembly arrived, Chintanami hosted Triratna’s first Pan-American Order Convention. Saddhajoti wrote in the Triratna News that “Mexico witnessed the first-ever encounter of Order members from different countries of the Americas. The Order members attending were from across the U.S. (San Francisco, Seattle, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Maine, Montana, Spokane), from Canada (Vancouver), from Mexico (Mexico City and Queretaro), plus a few visitors from Spain, New Zealand, Scotland, and England, including our two
Order convenors, Mahamati and Parami.” In all, thirty-eight Dharmacharis and Dharmacharinis gathered to spend a few days together meditating, reflecting and exploring the “new system of spiritual life.” Apart from Chintanami and the two centers in Mexico City, Saddhajoti tells me there is another Triratna Center in the city of Querétaro (two hours north of Mexico City). This community also holds activities facilitated by some Order members in the cities of Pachuca and Toluca where some mitras live. In just the few years I have been involved in the Triratna Buddhist Community, I have witnessed tremendous growth right here in the Aryaloka sangha. As I look and travel beyond the borders of New Hampshire, I see that we are also part of bigger, growing international movement that is bringing Buddhism to more and more people in the world. Again, I say, how cool and amazing is that! ◆◆
many wonderful stories of spiritual journeys, including an impressive young Argentine woman now working in Mexico with indigenous people, teaching them to read and write. Deny Salgado, another young Mexican, is campaigning for support for a shelter she is opening for the homeless. Hearing and sharing these stories brought us all closer together. After five amazing days it was time to leave (it seemed I had just arrived), and I departed with two of my GFR sisters to Mexico City, where I needed to find a hotel room. I met Jessica at the Mexico City Center – yet another spectacular Buddhist
gathering place – who made it her mission to find me a room. When it was clear no rooms at the hotel were available, Aurea Zepeda, an open-hearted woman who lived just up the street insisted I stay with her and her family for the night. She had not been feeling well that day but wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I was totally smitten with these amazing Mexican women and all the other women who traveled from all over the continent to demonstrate solidarity with our sisters to the south. I discovered much common ground in our practices and our love of the Three Jewels. ◆◆ WI NT E R 2013
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There’s laughter and contentment, too. The 2012 retreat theme explored the mythic elements of living a Buddhist life. Subhuti explains in a recent paper entitled Re-Imagining the Buddha that “To live the Buddhist life, to become like the Buddha, we must imagine the Buddha. The goal must be embodied in our imaginations, our deepest energies gathered in an image of what we are trying to move towards.” Being on retreat at the beautiful Chintamani Retreat Centre during Mexico’s celebration of the Day of the Dead provided immediate opportunities to move into the mythic realm. The Mexican Mitras explained the detailed, colorful shrines to the departed, and we all dressed in white face with darkened eyes and mouths to give a dead or skeletal appearance. We imagined “going beyond dead” and reflected on our false refuges. We imagined ourselves personally transformed for the benefit of both ourselves and the world. At the time of the retreat I was
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to the natural world. I believe that there are some fundamental principles that are shared by the Buddhist tradition and the environmental movement. These include non-violence, compassion, the renunciation of worldly life, and waking up to reality. I also see some essential ways that Buddhists and environmentalists could benefit from working together. The most basic Buddhist motivation I can see for wanting to help the environment is offered in the first of the Five Precepts: “I undertake to abstain from taking life.” Humanity takes for itself far more than the gross sum of sustainable resources that are required for every organism on the planet. This means that every time we buy and use a product we are likely preventing other organisms from living, reducing the resilience of nature’s life support systems, and ensuring that future generations bear those same effects (Merkel, 2003). Another point of motivation for Buddhists to help the environment is the fact that without nature life could not take W I NTE R 2 0 1 3
questioning how far I wanted to take my Buddhist practice. While studying the Bodhisattva Ideal in mitra study recently, I became acutely aware that “for the benefit of all beings” goes far beyond study, being happier, and having tea with very nice people. These doubts accompanied me to the retreat. I brought to the retreat an intention to strengthen my meditation practice. One shrine toward the retreat’s end included a skull along with the Buddha rupa. When
I entered the shrine room, I saw only the skull and was moved to tears. I did not know from where this emotion had come. I looked away to prepare my seat for meditation. When I began to salute the shrine I then noticed the Buddha rupa that I had not seen before. During that meditation, I experienced a strong, clear, confident feeling of “this can be trusted,” and a rocking rhythm in my body that said “have faith, have faith, have faith.” ◆◆
place and nor could the practice of the Dharma. If humans continue to emit fossil fuels at current rates, global climate change may near a tipping point in only sixteen years, after which the planet could become unrecognizable and unable to support life (McKibben, 2012). If this were to happen, it is not guaranteed that we could even practice the Dharma in the future. Although the environmental crisis would not be cured simply by one’s personal enlightenment, Buddhism offers a lot to those in the environmental movement. First, if environmentalists were to put their activities in Buddhist terms, with Buddhist principles and tradition underpinning them, they might take on new meaning and importance. Environmental action in this context could be seen as practices meant to expand compassion or reduce self-grasping, methods of deepening one’s connection to nature and cultivation of mindfulness and wisdom as ways of living sustainably and fully engaged with our surroundings. Secondly, by freeing ourselves from reactive patterning and recognizing our interdependence with all life, the environmental issue - inconceivable and
overwhleming to many, often accompanied by emotional and mental suffering, and based ultimately around actions rooted in ignorance of self and the world - might be positively transformed. I hope that by highlighting some of my experiences and thoughts about the environmental movement and Buddhism it might offer something of use in both areas and that the environment might benefit. Perhaps the environmental movement would benefit from the participation of the very capable people that Buddhism creates. Perhaps those involved in the environmental movement might benefit from practicing the Dharma. And perhaps the world could benefit from all of our collective compassionate efforts. McKibben, Bill. “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math: Three simple numbers that add up to global catastrophe – and that make clear who the real enemy is.” Rolling Stone Magazine. Jan Wenner, 2 Aug. 2012. Accessed online 12/21/12 Merkel, Jim. Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth. Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 2003. ◆◆ VAJ R A BE L L 17
Letting Life Take the Lead in Later Life
Children of the Pyre (2008), 88 minutes, Not Rated Available on Netflix Children of the Pyre, by director Rajesh S. Jala, was correctly described by The Times of India as a “haunting documentary.” Filmed in Varanasai (Benares) at the well-known Manikarnika cremation grounds, it explores the lives of seven young boys all between the ages of seven and twelve - who spend their lives surrounded by and tending to the dead. The cremation grounds, or ghats as they are called, in Varanasi are indeed one of the strangest and most striking places you might ever visit. In India it is considered a blessing to spend your dying days in the city and to be burned ceremonially there. Mourners carry their loved one’s body to the burning grounds, pay what they can for firewood and also for the use of the ceremonial fire. As you can imagine, the ghats have become like a death factory, with funeral pyres burning twenty-four hours a day, and a new corpse arriving every five minutes. The caste system in India singles out one family group as being the overseers of this ongoing procession of death. Despite the fact that they are tasked with running the pyres and officiating such an important social ceremony, this group is considered to be Untouchable, the lowest of the low, in
Indian culture. The seven boys that are highlighted in this documentary have been in service to the cremation grounds since a very young age - some of them as early as five years old. They recount their first experiences witnessing the dead burning as being frightening, but they soon become immune - even deadened - to the sight of death through a combination of duty, smoking marijuana to escape, and the mind-numbing conditions of survival. One boy tells the camera that they don’t stare at the bodies, otherwise the dead will visit them in nightmares. Aside from the physical dangers from nature of constant heat, sun and smoke exposure, the children of the cremation
grounds also deal with a heavy dose of abuse. Many have abusive relationships with their parents - who may be drunk or high regularly. To make money to support themselves and their families, the boys resort to stealing the decorative shrouds that wrap the dead bodies. They snatch them and run away to sell their finds to a shroud dealer who will resell them to mourners. Sometimes the family is happy to let them have the shroud, but often they are beaten for their efforts. While certainly not for the faint of heart, this film is thoroughly fascinating in what it reveals not only about the horrid conditions that these children bear, but also in what it has to say about Indian culture. ~ Eric Wentworth
Audio-visual resources exploring Buddhism
www.clear-vision.org 18 VAJ R A BE LL
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poetry corner In January
By Dh. Vihanasari I take the old canvas coat from the peg and wrap myself in his smell. Leaning into the wind we walk, the coat and I, one set of footprints in the snow.
By Dh. Vihanasari I am cat. Born from a wisp of superstition and the dust of stars, I have sat on jeweled pillows in the laps of kings and stalked night rats near cribs in filthy hovels. The barest ripple in tall grass, I shadow the ages of Man and reflect His image with startled eyes.
Late November By Dh. Vihanasari
In the field below my house, frost coats the remains of asters and Queen Anne’s lace, and the wind plays a kind of solitaire, tossing dried oak leaves back and forth over a crystal game board.
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Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism: 6-Week Spring Series, 7 - 9 p.m. - Satyada Foundation mitra class
MARCH 1-3 4 5 5 6 7 8-10 10 11 12 12
Order/Mitra weekend - more details to follow Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism: 6-Week Spring Series, 7 - 9 p.m. - Satyada Foundation mitra class Yoga Retreat with Lily Sibley The Five Factors of the Mind’s Release: Pali Canon Study, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Bodhipaksa Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m.
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Overhead, a blue heron circles, long legs trailing. She looks for open water, but finds instead a skim of ice crusting the cow pond. Tonight a fox, lone hunter, will trace a dotted line across the matted grass.
13 Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism: 6-Week Spring Series, 7 - 9 p.m. - Satyada 14 Foundation mitra class 15-16 Retreat at Concord State Prison for Men contact Satyada 15-17 Mindful Eating Weekend Retreat - Megrette Fletcher. 18 Men’s mitra class 19 Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. 20 Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism: 6-Week Spring Series, 7 - 9 p.m. - Satyada 21 Foundation mitra class 22 or 24 Celebration of Dhardo Rimpoche. More details to come. 22-24 Rental - domes closed 23 Introduction to Meditation - Mindfulness, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Lilasiddhi 24 Men’s Practice Day - open to all. Time TBA 25 Men’s mitra class 26 Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. 27 Introduction to Meditation and Buddhism: 6-Week Spring Series, 7 - 9 p.m. - Satyada 29 Full-Moon Puja and Meditation, 7 - 9 p.m.
VAJ R A BE L L 19
(All events are subject to change. For the latest, up-to-date information, check our web site at http://www.aryaloka.org or call the office at 603-659-5456.) Akasaloka events are in italics.
1 5 7 8 8 10 12 14 15 15 16 17 18-21 21 22 22 23 24 25 25-27 27 28 29 29 30
Meditate for Peace Day, 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. No Friends Night. Going Deeper by Engaging the Heart Through Devotion and Puja, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Karunasara Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Foundation mitra class Introduction to Meditation - Mindfulness, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Vihanasari Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (six-week course Weds. evenings), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana Foundation mitra class Outlying Centers Retreat - center closed Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (six-week course), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana Foundation mitra class Full-Moon Puja and Meditation, 7-9 p.m. Experiencing the Joy of Mindfulness (Introductory Retreat) - Arjava & Akashavanda Men’s Practice Day - open to all. Time TBA Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (six-week course), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana
4 5 5 6 7 9 10 11 12 12 13 16 17 18 19 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Foundation mitra class
Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (six-week course), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana Foundation mitra class Bahiya Sutta from the Udana: Pali Canon study, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Dayalocana Introduction to Meditation - Loving-Kindness, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Arjava Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (six-week course), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana Parinirvana Day, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Karunasara Going Deeper Into Ethics, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Arjava Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. Women’s mitra class, 7:15 - 9:15 p.m. Intro to Meditation and Buddhism (last class), 7-9 p.m. - Bodhana Foundation mitra class Full-Moon Puja and Meditation, 7 - 9 p.m. Men’s Practice Day - open to all, time TBA An Introduction to Noble Silence, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. - Bodhana Men’s mitra class Friends Night, 6:45 - 9:15 p.m. All are welcome. continued on page 19
ongoing events Sangha Night At Aryaloka Every Tuesday evening, 6:45-9:15 p.m. • Led by Arjava, Akashavanda, and other sangha members. • Open to all • Fee: Suggested donation $10 per class • No registration necessary Typically, our Tuesday night activities include: • 6:45 - 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 these activities, you are free to participate or to just sit and listen. Nothing is compulsory. If you have any questions, please ask! 20 VAJ R A BE LL
Full Moon Puja Friday evenings as scheduled (unless noted). See the Aryaloka website or Vajra Bell events schedule for dates and locations. 7:00 p.m. meditation, followed by 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. 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 WI NT E R 2013
Published on Dec 31, 2012
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