VAJRA BELL Volume 9 Issue I
RIGHT EFFORT Every Day Evolution By Dh. Amala
e apply effort each and every day: the effort to get up, to turn towards the day and the responsibilities and commitments it brings; effort to take care of needs that arise; effort to concentrate, or to relax; effort to engage, to listen, to stay on task, to not become distracted. What takes particular effort for you?
Is it an effort to remember things? To not get angry? To do certain things â€“ like go outside when itâ€™s cold? To eat well? To follow instructions? To be friendly? There are countless actions we undertake that require some conscious effort, some more strenuous than others.
Aryaloka Buddhist Center 14 Heartwood Circle, Newmarket, NH 03857
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From the Editor By Eric Wentworth After our last issue’s look at Right Livelihood, we now turn to the sixth aspect of the Eightfold Path, Right Effort. In relation to Right Effort, I love this wonderful quote by Sangharakshita from his book The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path: The spiritual life is not an armchair life. By this, Bhante means that the Path requires a lot of grit and determination - what he terms “spiritual athleticism.” It can be easy to fall into the rut of thinking that all one has to do to live a Buddhist life is to find a sense of calm and stillness through meditation, or to try to be as mindful as possible. While these are extremely helpful tools along the way, the spiritual life is far more dynamic than this, and requires far more from us. Simply trying to attain a blissful state, be a nicer person on occasion, or to make a habit of thinking more philosophically about life will only take us so far. We’re sentient beings stuck in samsara, an endless prison of cyclic existence, doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. The situation asks of us something much more radical than pulling at the tattered edges of the Wheel of Life - it requires the rocket fuel of Right Effort to get us to the moon of enlightenment. This part of the Eightfold Path is primarily concerned with what are called the Four Exertions: preventing, eradicating, developing and maintaining. In essence, what we’re doing is waking up to our habitual patterns of unskilfulness and employing our inner discipline, willpower, and awareness to confront them head-on and replace them with skilfulness in the hopes of developing a higher state
of consciousness. In action, this is obviously no simple task. Working with our harmful mental states and preventing them from permeating our experience will often be uncomfortable, even downright painful. We’re so attached to our familiar ways of being that we will try every way we can conjure up to avoid dealing directly with how ineffective and illusory they really are. On reflection, I have to laugh and shake my head sometimes at how stubborn my own tendencies can be, how difficult they are to uproot, the grandeur of the magic show that they perform to trick me into forgetting to work on them. My personal experience of dealing with habitual patterns reminds me often of the Buddha’s experience under the Bodhi tree, confronting the demon Mara, who threw everything he could think of at the Buddha to veer him from enlightenment. Sometimes my tendencies fight my efforts like they’re facing a death sentence, making a million bids to save their existence. From a distance it’s entertaining, but when you’re immersed in the testing ground it can be very difficult. Some days you win the battle, other days you live to battle another day. And that’s okay, as long as we keep at it and don’t give in to despair, or self-doubt, or spiritual laziness. The more we practice skilfulness, the less unskilfulness arises. The more we replace our habits with their antidote, the more we evolve as individuals and become what we never imagined we could be. But we always need to push ourselves just a little bit further than we think we can go. So to begin this issue of the Vajra Bell, I first wish that all may find the inner resources to pursue the spiritual life wholeheartedly, and then I’d like to add another of my favorite quotes - apropos to this limb of the Eightfold Path - the Buddha’s last words of advice for us: Impermanent are all conditioned things. Strive on mindfully.
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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, Chair firstname.lastname@example.org Amala email@example.com Vihanasari firstname.lastname@example.org Akashavanda email@example.com Viriyalila firstname.lastname@example.org Tom Gaillard, Treasurer email@example.com Arjava firstname.lastname@example.org
Vajra Bell Kula Eric Wentworth, Chair email@example.com Vihanasari firstname.lastname@example.org Stephen Sloan email@example.com Mary Schaefer firstname.lastname@example.org Elizabeth Hellard email@example.com Daniel Bush firstname.lastname@example.org Ashley Bush email@example.com Jen Bouchard firstname.lastname@example.org
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How Can You Contribute to the Vajra Bell? As a sangha, one of the most important things we do is to share our individual experiences of the spiritual life. By contributing our own stories to the richly-flavored stew of Dharma life that surrounds our center, we create strong connections between each other and strengthen each others’ practices, sometimes without even knowing it. Just by telling another person about something you know or an experience you’ve had, you may provide the missing part to a puzzle that has been unfinished in their mind. You may bring them peace, simply in the knowledge that they are not the only one struggling with an issue. You might say the right word at just the right moment that will alter their lives forever.
With this in mind, if you’ve ever been interested in contributing to the Vajra Bell, this is the time to do it! Have you taken an amazing photo lately? We can use one! Trying your hand at poetry? We’re eager to share one of your poems. If you’ve attended a retreat or event at an Triratna center, we would love to have you write something about it for us. If you have a great website to share, a Dharma movie you’re eager to talk about, or a page-turner of a Buddhist book that you have to let everyone know about, let us know! There are so many ways that you can enrich the pages of the Vajra Bell let your imaginations run wild! So, you say that you’re not a great writer? Well, now is the chance to chal-
lenge that self-view. The Vajra Bell kula has among its volunteers an excellent set of editors to help you on your way. Have an idea, but you’re not sure if it’s prime-time material? Let us know what you’re thinking - it may grow from a seedling thought into a solid story. The important thing is to take the leap. You never know what will happen unless you give it a shot, and there may be someone out there just waiting for what you have to say. To contribute, or to suggest an idea for a future issue of the Vajra Bell, you can contact any of the kula volunteers, listed in the contact column on page two of this issue, by email or in person.
Musings from the Chair By Dh. Dayalocana 2010 was a year of celebrations and change at Aryaloka. At the end of the summer we welcomed sangha members and visitors for eight days of meditation, talks, ritual, a picnic and an open house – a wonderful celebration of Aryaloka’s 25th Anniversary. Banners and a large painting of Avalokitesvara are still with us as reminders of the benefits to all when we direct our energy in pursuit of the good. Following the 25th celebration we witnessed the beautiful ordination ceremony for Bodhilocana, the newest member of the Triratna Buddhist Order on the East Coast. And we celebrated all year as men and women made mitra declarations expressing their commitment to follow a Buddhist path. In May, June and November we celebrated the Three Jewels - the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha - as reflected in the new name of our worldwide movement, The Triratna Buddhist Community. In the
autumn, Aryaloka hosted the North American Order Convention as well as retreats for men and women in the ordination process. Along with many classes and retreats we added a program for young people and their parents and several wonderful arts events. Aryaloka’s new website was completed, offering easy access to program information and registration. It features a new logo, beautiful photos of the center and even a link to Facebook. The building received two major renovations – a new roof over the bookstore and a remodeled kitchen that will better meet the needs of our growing sangha. Sangha members were generous in their support of Aryaloka - through volunteer efforts as well as giving through monthly pledges. It is this sense of community, of care and commitment, that has made it possible to offer the teachings and practices of the Buddha for over twenty-five years at Aryaloka. Thank you. On the first day of the new year we gathered at Aryaloka for meditations devoted to peace – both within ourselves and without. We practice as a spiritual community to bring about conditions and opportunities
that support and nurture peace, equanimity, and kindness. May our efforts bring about positive change in the year ahead. Recalling words from the Dhammapada: We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world Speak or act with a pure mind And happiness will follow you. Dharmacharini Dayalocana Chair, Aryaloka Buddhist Center
For Your Information... Triratna Centers in the U.S.: Newmarket, NH Portland, ME Lubec, ME Somerville, MA New York City, NY Missoula, MT San Francisco, CA Seattle, WA -- Richland, WA.
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The Council By Dh. Vihanasari The Council has had a busy few months. First on the agenda in the fall was a most grateful thank-you and SADHU to the 25th Anniversary kula for all of their hard work and great ideas! What a wonderful celebration was had by all! Due to the rising prices of food, goods, fuel, utilities, etc. it was voted to raise registration fees for the new year. The new fees include: weekend retreats - $185, four-day yoga retreats - $225, one-day classes/retreats - $70, six-week evening classes - $80. An additional $50 will be added to weeklong (or longer) retreats. The center is now operating on a calendar year schedule instead of the old fiscal year. A new program of events was approved for the first six months of 2011, printed programs were mailed to everyone, and events
are being posted on our new website on an ongoing basis. Operating policies for the Young Sangha program were approved (contact Shrijnana for details). We have made arrangements to insure outside artworks that are displayed at the Center. The Council discussed looking into the possibility of building a stupa on Aryaloka property to hold some of Dhardo Rimpoche’s ashes. Bodhilocana and others will spearhead this project. No action was taken. The Council has been meeting with Jean Corson to restructure our working roles. Going forward, Council members will focus on one or more of the following areas: administration, spiritual/program, finance, and facility. Other sangha members will also be invited to share their knowledge, skills, and ideas. The 2011 Aryaloka budget of $142,470 was approved. It was voted to continue the
kitchen and cleaning managers’ positions. Both Saddhamala and Candradasa were celebrated for their service to the Council - both have retired, effective at the December, 2010 meeting. Their hard work and dedication was acknowledged with much appreciation for all they have done to make the center what it is today. (In the case of Saddhamala, her contributions to Aryaloka as a Council member have spanned many years!) May they find much happiness in future projects! Sadhu! The following Council members were voted in for a one-year term for 2011: Dayalocana, Chair; Tom Gaillard, Treasurer; Akashavanda; Amala; Arjava; and Vihanasari. Viriyalila will be serving a threemonth term as Secretary. Visitors are welcome at Council meetings. Please contact Dayalocana to make arrangements.
Sangha Notes - “What’s Happening?” By Jen Bouchard As Suzanne mentioned in the last issue, I am excited to take on the role of updating you on the happenings within the Aryaloka sangha and hope I can match Suzanne’s skill with words! To that end, the sangha has been buzzing with activity this fall with work days, yoga retreats, classes and more! The men’s mitra group, which is comprised of new and experienced practitioners, focused on the Bodhicaryavatara, Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life. The work explains the arising of the Bodhicitta and inspires us to practice the Six Perfections: generosity, ethics, patience, effort, meditation, and wisdom. The men studied Pema Chodron’s excellent commentary No Time To Lose as their text. The women’s mitra group is currently split into two groups. The more advanced study group covered the topic Transcending Views from year two of the Dharma Training Course for Mitras and was co-led by Karunasara and Saricitta. The women met
weekly with the study leaders to explore the breadth, depth, and impact of views. They examined their own views, the impact of eternalist and nihilist tendencies, and views surrounding practice and ritual. Several participants particularly appreciated exploring the Honeyball Sutta which introduced the term papanca - the proliferation of conceptual thinking. The second women’s group was comprised of four newer mitras. This group covered Vision and Transformation - the Buddha’s Eightfold Path, the first module from the Dharma Training Course. This module drew heavily from Sangharakshita’s text The Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The eight-week course ended with presentations by mitras in the form of three stories and a collage which represented what each woman took away from the previous weeks. October began with a talk and special puja on Padmasambhava led by Viriyalila. Midway through the month, Shantigarbha guided a group of practitioners on an advanced Nonviolent Communication (NVC) weekend retreat that focused on deepening
empathy and introducing restorative justice. The month came to a close with a five-day silent retreat entitled Noble Silence, co-facilitated by Bodhana and Narottama, which was a follow-up to the summer’s Taste of Silence retreat. Highlights from November included the Order/Mitra Day, focusing on spiritual friendship. This day was led by Narottama, Stephen Sloan, Viryalila, and Saricitta. Talks given during this event can be found at Free Buddhist Audio by searching for Three Perspectives On the Practice of Spiritual Friendship. As the talks came to a close, many people remained for the late afternoon Arya Sangha celebration. This annual event celebrates the third of the Three Jewels. This year’s celebration featured talks by Dayalocana, Vidhuma, and Karunasara who focused on the theme Enlightened Teachers from the Past. Dayalocana recounted the story of the Buddhist nun Patacara. Vidhuma presented a brief history of Hui Neng. Karunasara finished this fulfilling day with SANGHA NOTES
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News from the Boston Sangha A group decision by consensus By Dh. Sunada When the sangha in Boston had a big decision to make, we tried something different. Rather than taking a majority vote, we went for the challenge of a finding a group consensus. In other words, we talked through a process where everyone contributed to envisioning a solution that all could support. And what a ride that was. The decision to be made was this. You may have heard that our basement-level rented room got flooded with the heavy rains last March and became unusable. Do we attempt to fix it back up, or do we move on? “Although it was cold, damp, and dark, that basement had one big redeeming feature — it was affordable.” Or should we rally our forces and look for a nicer street-level location, at potentially three or four times the rent? This latter choice would require a higher commitment from everyone. More time, money, energy, cooperation – really, more of just about everything. Were we ready for this? I saw our crossroads as an opportunity, in so many ways. For one, it was a chance
to put our commitment to Right Speech (i.e. truthful and harmonious communication) into practice in a real-life situation. As you may know, the Triratna Buddhist Community holds sangha communication as central to practice. Everyone is explicitly encouraged to grow into and express their own unique individuality. But at the same time, we commit to open and honest communication that builds community and cooperation toward a common good. As you can imagine, these two ideals can rub up against each other in practice and create some challenging learning situations. In a consensus process, everyone’s views are taken into account. The idea is to openly listen to each other to look for common ground. It’s a long and messy process. To make this work, everyone needs to speak up – especially around disagreements. And working through conflict is a key part of the process. The goal is to reach a decision that everyone is willing support, even though it’s likely to be with differing levels of enthusiasm. When we started, everyone had different ideas of what our options were, and how much risk we should take. And there were just as many different visions of what our future as a sangha looked like, and what sort of home would suit that vision.
There was much more to this experience than I can cover in this one article. For one, I won’t go into the specifics of how we managed the decision-making process. What I do want to share though, is what I personally took away, having been both a participant and facilitator. Don’t go in with strong views. It’s important for each of us to go into a discussion having sorted through the facts and considered our own perspectives. But it’s also really important to be willing to hear out other views nonjudmentally. Not just new information, but also other people’s preferences and emotions. (And that’s the difficult part!) This process can work only if everyone is willing to listen to everyone else - completely. Distinguish between facts and opinions. I did have a personal bottom line. I wasn’t willing to stay in a basement that had mold. Obviously that was a health hazard – and a fact-based objection. But I also didn’t find the basement very inspiring, and felt it dampened the energy of the sangha. That was an opinion. Don’t go down the rathole of arguing over opinions. It’s more important to listen than to speak. It’s really challenging to listen openBOSTON SANGHA
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News from Nagaloka By Gail Yahwak Happy New Year to all from Nagaloka. Some big changes are in the mix here in Portland, Maine. Nagaloka is growing again! We are in the midst of negotiating a new lease for a space that is bigger, brighter and quieter than our current spot. Be on the lookout for day retreats and new studies to be offered in the coming months! Our Wednesday night study of Ritual and Devotion from the Dharma Training Course has come to a close. We had some wonderful opportunities to explore together what faith, ritual, worship, and devotion
mean to us personally and how expressing those in the world can help us and others in our spiritual practices. We have just begun a new study on Sangharakshita’s Who Is the Buddha? So far we have read and discussed how the events of the Buddha’s life before his Enlightenment can relate to our own lives and progress on our spiritual journey. Thank you to Prassanavajri, Karunasara, Maitrimani and Dharmasuri for their combined effort in leading our last mitra study of Turning the Mind to the Dharma. Nagaloka mitras had this great opportunity to study and reflect on the Four
Mind Turnings together. More mitra studies and events are in the works for the new year. Dharmasuri is in the midst of an Intro to Buddhism and Meditation course this January. It is held on Tuesday evenings. Also a retreat at Aryaloka is in the works to bring the sanghas from Cambridge, New York and Portland together. It will be held Friday, January 21st through Sunday, January 23, and will focus on the Anapanasati Sutta. Keep an eye on our website, www.nagalokabuddhistcenter.org, for updates on our new location and schedule of events.
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Is That Stillness I Hear? By Mary Schaefer I put aside any expectations of how I thought I should experience the Noble Silence seven-day retreat at Aryaloka in October. I’ve had friends who after doing a tenday Vipassana retreat emerged transformed. I, too, wanted a life-changing experience, but I figured I shouldn’t plan on it. After I started coming to Aryaloka last year, I decided to deepen my meditation practice. Even though I meditated for some thirty years, I did it sporadically and often only for twenty minutes at a time. As I sat for longer periods and participated in the Dharma study and sangha, the more my practice bounced up until soon I seemed like a jet ski bouncing across the water. I wanted to dive deeper. My first plunge was a five-day silent retreat in the heat of August at Aryaloka last summer. A friend warned that I might want to bolt after a day or two. “Pshaw,” I thought, “I’ve been on retreats before.” But I realized I hadn’t been on a retreat where I was sitting in silence with fellow retreatants – complete strangers for the most part – for several hours a day. They sat poised in seemingly quiet bliss, not a worry evident on their serene faces – all in sharp contrast to the prattle in my head and the agitation in my body that had spawned a case of restless leg syndrome along with an “oh my aching back” disorder. I bolted awake at three a.m. the second morning, questioning. “What on earth was I thinking? Meditating for hours in a room full of strangers! I gotta get out of here!” But then a quiet voice inside said, “This is your practice.” I stayed. After a day or two, we briefly broke the silence to check in. My fellow meditators admitted they, too, were unable to quiet their minds and bodies. Maybe on many levels I DID know these people. They weren’t so strange after all. Ready for a repeat performance on this retreat, I told myself, “No expectations. Just pay attention to what shows up.” Narottama, one of the retreat leaders, warned us the first night that our minds – stripped of all
our daily business – will still want to grab onto something. Apparently, our minds need something to fret about. It’s what they DO; at least, it’s what my mind is very good at. I’ve always been aware of what I call my IBCC – the Itty Bitty Crazy Committee – that operates sometimes 24/7 in my head. I became intimately acquainted with several of the committee members during those first few sits. One member, the Planner (I sometimes think she’s more a Schemer), was particularly active. True to what Narottama said, stripped of my daily business, she stepped in to plan even the simplest things around my meditation. Should I use the chair on the next sit? When should I go for a walk - before the next session or after lunch? When can I fit in a nap? I could do yoga at the break. Shall I stretch now, or wait a breath or two? Often the Analyst, Reporter, Negotiator and, of course, the Critic would chime in and there would be a cacophony of voices – all striving to be heard. The quieter I became, the louder and more talkative they all seemed to get. “Are you always this way,” I wanted to yell, “and I’ve just been too busy to notice?” I was reminded of what a friend told me long ago when I complained of this committee. “Send your mind out for a sandwich,” she said. I couldn’t do that, I thought,
because the Planner would ask whether I wanted it on rye or wheat bread. On the second day, one of the retreat leaders wrote on a flip chart near the dining area, “Listen to the stillness.” “And when does this stillness kick in?” I wanted to ask. I started to dread the next sit, because the banter in my head was getting too loud. They were like the squirrels I heard scampering across the roof, scratching and searching for a way in. Back and forth they would go until I’d hear WHUMP. They had found an opening and landed inside. Then, I’d hear them scrambling across the yoga room downstairs. Why, I wondered, would they try so hard to get in, and then once in, try even harder to get out? Like the thoughts in my head. Once they got in there, the more frantic I became at trying to get them out, the more they scampered, and the louder they screeched. Despite the chatter, I WAS becoming more mindful – at least of the committee in my head. I always knew I had an active mind; it was startling to watch how active it really was. Unfortunately, though, as I became quieter, the more aware I also became of the ringing in my ears. As long as I can remember, I’ve suffered from tinnitus. Over the past year, it had gotten louder and my hearing had diminished. As I settled in the second day, the noise became deafening. It sounded like several fire alarms ringing and vibrating in my ears. I couldn’t always hear even when the bell sounded, ending the meditation. Soon after, below the line “Listen to the stillness” on the flip chart, someone had written, “Can you hear it?” “Is that stillness I hear?” I wondered. “It’s awfully loud.” A hearing technician had asked me once, “Does the ringing keep you awake at night?” She then added, “If it does, turn the radio on.” At the time, I laughed out loud. “Wouldn’t that just mean the radio would STILLNESS
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Puja Evenings Open Up Practice to the Bodhicitta By Stephen Sloan Puja is a devotional experience in which we help to create conditions where the bodhicitta can arise. As Sangharakshita says in The Bodhisattva Ideal: The ritual, the recitations, the ceremony, are all there to support the inner core of the exercise, which is essentially a sequence of devotional and spiritual moods and experi-
ences. If our hearts are filled with sublime feelings of reverence and devotion and worship; if we really feel the distance that separates us from the ideal; if we are truely determined to commit ourselves to the realization of that ideal; if we see clearly the darker side of our own nature; if we honestly rejoice in the good deeds of others; if we are really receptive to higher spiritual influences; and if we wish to keep nothing
back for ourselves alone - then, in dependence upon these states of mind, the bodhicitta will one day arise. So if you’re an aspiring Bodhisattva-tobe, or if you’re just interested in deepening the heart connection in your practice, join us for the monthly puja celebration held on the Friday evening closest to the full moon. Who knows, it could just mean the end of suffering for all beings.
News from Clear Vision About New Resources From Dh. Munisha Clear Vision is Triratna’s audio-visual project, based in Manchester, UK. We look after Triratna’s image and video archives and make them available at www.clearvision.org and www.videosangha.net.
based materials: The Life of the Buddha, and Us and Them: Buddhism and Community, a set of 10 videos looking at the topics of identity and community-building using the Four Sangrahavastus. It’s revolutionary and you don’t have to be 16 to have a look! www.clear-vision.org/youngpeople
Free materials for young people
Free video for Triratna
Thanks to our loyal supporters we’ve launched our new webpages full of free Dharma materials for young people at home, temple, or centre. Well-known for our materials schools, we’re now focusing on teenagers who’ve learned about Buddhism in school and want more. Occasionally, they email us or we meet them on school visits to the Manchester Buddhist Centre. They typically say they think they might be Buddhist but they don’t know what to do to be one! They may be too young to visit a Buddhist Centre, but they all have computers. They are avid users of Facebook and online video. The problem is that the Buddhist world lags way behind them. So, on the Clear Vision website they’ll now find a steadily growing collection of free Dharma materials including games, quizzes and carefully selected links to Buddhist projects around the world. Most importantly, there are two sets of interactive video-
We’ve also completed the digitisation of all the old FWBO Newsreels, documenting the development of the FWBO through the 1990s and into the 21st century. For now you can see them on YouTube: http://www. youtube.com/user/clearvisiontrust#g/u In time, you’ll find them on the new, improved VideoSangha website we’re creating. Meanwhile, you can see huge quantities of other Triratna free video on the current site:www.VideoSangha.net. And.. yet MORE Buddhism for young people! We’ll soon be starting work on two new sets of online interactive materials, for school and home use. The first centres on the Kalama Sutta and explores the importance of thinking for oneself. This project is a collaboration between us and the young Indian Buddhist students at the Aryaloka Computer Institute in Nagpur. We wrote the script; they created an animation retelling the story of the Ka-
The Aryaloka Council minutes are now posted on the bulletin board at the foot of the stairs.
lamas’ meeting with the Buddha. We’ll set this in an online “environment” along with questions, discussion topics, background information, activities and links. Result: 1) great new teaching materials for young users, 2) a really worthwhile training project for these young Buddhist animators, and 3) an unprecedentedly large audience for their work. The second set of materials explores the Five Precepts, using Manga-style cartoons created by an American Buddhist of another tradition who has asked to work with us. And, in time, all this will sit on a new, improved Clear Vision website especially for schools and young people. For regular updates, join our email list: email@example.com If you’re inspired to support us, please do! www.clear-vision.org/donate
Audio-visual resources exploring Buddhism
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Buddhaworks: From the Bookstore By Steve Cardwell We are happy to report that it was another good year for the bookstore. Sales will be over $12,000 in 2010. We also increased the number of book titles from Triratna Buddhist Order authors and found many new books and CDs on spiritual study and meditation. Some of the new items introduced this year were Aryaloka T-shirts in four colors, Aryaloka baseball caps, meditation mats and cushions from Samadhi, new rupas from Tibet Arts, a Buddhist CD of chants, and new candles from Crystal Journey. Thanks for your continued support of the bookstore. Your purchases help Aryaloka continue the mission of being the spiritual home for many. Here are a few of the new titles (and one old favorite) you will find in the bookstore: Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children: Becoming a Mindful Parent By Sarah Napthali “A combination of personal narrative and stories gathered from mothers, this guide shows how spiritual and mindful parenting can help all mothers—Buddhists and non-Buddhists—be more open, atten-
tive, and content. By guiding mothers on a spiritual path, this evocation also helps them cultivate wisdom, open-heartedness, and a better understanding of themselves and their children. The Buddhist teachings and principles help answer questions that all mothers face, especially those with young children: Who are my children? Who am I? How can I do my best by my children and myself? What to do about all that housework? And is this all? Written in a clear and engaging style, this warm and simple meditation facilitates parenting with awareness, purpose, and love.” One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps By Kevin Griffin “One can be sure there are more ‘definitive’ guides to Buddhism and the 12 Steps out there, but what I found most useful in this straightforward, and deceptively simple book, were the accounts of the author’s own experience - written in the first person and the application of his understanding of the principles of Buddhism and the 12 steps in his own life. The voice is that of one who has been there, and actually applied the spiritual principles of the two traditions to real problems in a real life. Unlike many
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
texts that purport to lay out spiritual teachings for the general reader, there was no hint of condescension here - the writer bases his authority on the lessons he has personally learned through failure. For those struggling along their own paths, this book is a mighty gift” -- Babh Buddha in Your Backpack By Franz Metcalf “If you’re looking for a new path in life or just looking for a good read about selfimprovement, this book is perfect. I have been searching for a long time for something to relate Buddhism to me and Franz Metcalf has written it. It does not preach about Buddhism but relates to everyday things in the life of a teen, such as homework and relationships. It also includes quotes and the thoughts of teen Buddhists so you can relate your thoughts with them. But it also teaches the basics of Buddhism like meditation, the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path and how to use them in daily life. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in Buddhism or as a great gift idea for a teen interested in Buddhism” -- Paddy Russell BUDDHAWORKS
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Movie Review By Dan Bush “Wheel of Time” (2003), 81 minutes, Unrated Available on Netflix or Amazon After discovering the magic of filmmaker Werner Herzog in Unmistaken Child, I was drawn to this, his 2003 documentary about the Tibetan Kalachakra initiations. This documentary brings us to Bodh Gaya, the place of Buddha’s enlightenment, to Mt. Kailash, the “center of the universe,” and to Craz, Austria for the first Kalachakra initiation in the west. Kalachakra is a Sanskrit term that literally means “time-cycles.” The Kalachakra initiation is a twelve-day ceremony that revolves around the creation of a large “painted” circle or “mandala” out of colored sand grains. Every two to three years, half a million pilgrims make their way to Bodh Gaya where the Dalai Lama presides over this ritual initiation into the Kalachakra medita-
tion practice. This documentary brings us right to the very spot where the Buddha is said to have gained enlightenment. Monks in yellow and red seem to flood Bodh Gaya. There, under the branches of the Bodhi tree (which they say is the fifth generation of the actual tree under which the Buddha sat), they prepare for the ceremonies. Herzog introduces us to a monk who took three and a half years to make the pilgrimage, doing prostrations the entire way. Other Buddhists crowded on mats before the Bodhi tree, attempting to do 100,000 prostrations in six weeks. Herzog brings us to the detailed making of the mandala. Eight monks work from six a.m. to midnight. We watch the monks drop just a few colored grains at a time, creating a geometrically complex image of the universe and its deities. Prompted by Herzog, the Dalai Lama says of the sand mandala, “This painting by sand is actually a reminder of our visualization. Our actual meditation. You meditate on emptiness... the main thing is visualization, not external mandala but (pointing toward his chest) internal mandala.” Like the mandala, Mt. Kailash, located in western Tibet, is considered the abode of the Buddha. Pilgrims make their way to this sacred mountain year-round to walk around its base. High-pitched Tibetan
Online In-Site By Eric Wentworth When it comes to really experiencing the history of a place pictures are great, but when video is available that’s even better. Video captures the living presence of its subject in a way that’s unique from a description or a still image. And with the advent of digital media, video has become a massive presence on the internet. Of course the best-known place to find video online is YouTube - dominating the field with two billion views per day. In my recent explorations of YouTube, I happened upon two great videos about our own spiritual home, Aryaloka, and its unique history: ONLINE INSITE
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chants setting the mood, we watch some pilgrims hurrying their way around the mountain with the goal of finishing in one day. Others, using wooden blocks to protect their knees and hands, perform prostrations, one after another, during their weeklong circumambulation. In response to the idea that Mt. Kailash is the center of the universe, the Dalai Lama says, “We ourselves, each individual, that is the center of the universe. Because the conception of the whole universe comes from here (pointing to himself).” In 2002 the Kalachakra ritual was held in the west for the first time. Here in Craz, Austria, we see the creation of another mandala and the Kalachakra meditation led by the Dalai Lama. And, a sight rarely caught on film, we view a close-up of the systematic destruction of the mandala by the Dalai Lama himself. The sand collected into a sacred urn, he walks to the Mura River where he pours the multi-colored sand into the moving water thus demonstrating the impermanence of all things and simultaneously offering a blessing to the world. This 81-minute film might feel a bit slow for the average movie-goer but it is certainly a must-watch for any Buddhist in the Tibetan tradition. Available on Netflix (not yet available as streamable) or for purchase on Amazon.com for $14.
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We all have a sense of what effort is and how to use it. Common sense tells us effort involves making a decision. Effort involves a selection of “this” over “that.” It means focusing our attention. And it means valuing something. If certain values are well integrated into my being, to be a vegetarian for example, then it takes little effort for me to select vegetarian foods over others. If I find it takes a lot of effort to make the vegetarian choice, perhaps the value of non-exploitation of animals is not fully integrated in me compared to some other things, like enjoying certain flavors. Conflicting priorities and desires make a more complex situation, so it takes more effort – call it “persuasion” - for me to select the tofu casserole over chicken enchiladas.
Finding Motivation To apply effort as we do every day we need motivation. This can be anything, and we may not be particularly aware of what gets us mobilized. Today I have allotted time to write this article; I am making the effort to collect the thoughts from the back of my mind where the topic has been simmering for several weeks, to look up some references, to think of my potential audience, to write. Where effort is concerned, does it matter what moves us? In this writing, is it significant whether I am motivated by an impending deadline, a desire to appear responsible, or fear of an editor’s displeasure, or whether I am motivated by interest in the subject and a desire to communicate? We might say that if the job gets done, the fine point of what got me to the keyboard is not terribly significant. Fair enough. Most days we are doing well to direct effort towards urgent matters, accomplish a few things, and hopefully have a positive experience in the doing. We inch along in our chosen direction, prioritizing and making decisions as to where we will put our energy. In addition, we generally hope to “get something” for our trouble, as the saying goes. Is this all there is to effort; just the focus, persuasion, and slight rev of energy to accomplish a task? In the Buddhist context,
why is it a named stop along the Noble Eightfold Path? And what can be meant by “right” or even “perfect” effort?
What is Right Effort? The traditional expression of effort in the Eightfold Path is in four parts. We make effort to: • • • •
Remove unskillful states that have already arisen in our mind Prevent the arising of further unskillful mental states Maintain and develop skillful mental states already present in our mind Bring into being further skillful states of mind
Reading this list we notice immediately that from the Buddhist point of view, effort is directed toward the mind - our mental states. After all, it is what goes on in the mind that determines the nature of our actions. Getting the hang of this fundamental principle is a large part of Dharma practice - what we think actually matters. What we think – or both more broadly and precisely, our values, thoughts, emotions, and impulses - does not stay put in some private interior vault that no one but ourselves will ever see. Our inner environment is contiguous to the whole “outside” world. It touches the great interactive universe that we inhabit, even without visible words and bodily acts that reveal us to ourselves and each other - even when we think we are being private and not “doing” anything. This is the mysterious way of things.
Working on Mental States So, Right Effort – also known as Perfect Effort (apparently a more accurate translation of samyak vyayama) is about working with our mental states, as in exercise or gymnastics. It “deals specifically with the transformation… and transmutation… of the individual will or individual volition.” It refers not so much to accomplishing the tasks of the day, the kind of effort we are all familiar with, as to changing our mental chemistry towards an ideal blend of
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engaged interest, energy, heart connection, and alert pursuit. (chanda, virya, citta, mimamsa) The reason we might want to work on our mental states is twofold. Firstly, we may be motivated to avoid suffering. Commonly, unexamined inner states keep us going around the cycles of attraction and aversion, expectation and disappointment, even while we try desperately to be cool about everything. It turns out that this is the root of our suffering. Secondly, we may feel an alternate pull toward a smoother and more gratifying way of life, some possibility of fulfillment that is beyond the ordinary.
Effort, Evolution, and Practice Sangharakshita, in a 1968 series of talks on the Noble Eightfold Path, refers to the background context of Perfect Effort in the following quotation: The background of Perfect Effort is nothing less than the whole range of sentient existence, the whole of life, the whole of organic existence, or we may say the whole process of the evolution of organic life. So against this background, within this context, we may say that Perfect Effort represents, within the… general framework of … the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path… the fact that the spiritual life can be regarded as being in a sense the continuation, even the culmination, if you like, the consummation, of the entire process of evolution. Pursuit of a spiritual life is the most refined and evolved way to live as a human being. Right Effort is crucial to a spiritual life - what goes on in our mind is at the core of our own personal reality AND “big R” Reality. Recall the Buddha - symbol and representative of a perfected human being, the Enlightened One - who learned how to live free of suffering, in alignment and harmony with Reality as it is. Is that where we are going? Is that on our mind as we make the usual effort to rise out of bed in the morning? Oh dear…. Before you begin to slump and become RIGHT EFFORT
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RIGHT EFFORT Continued from Page 10
overwhelmed, put-off, and distanced by this talk of perfection and evolution, let us come back to our commonsense use of effort every day. We know how to do this instinctively. All we need to do is be a bit more conscious about it and focus on a few qualities that emulate the perfection “out there.” It will make a difference, I promise. Let us look more closely at the four Right Efforts listed above.
Eradicating First of all, what are unskillful mental states that we are to eradicate and prevent? They are any state that is based in, or tinged with, greed, hatred, or delusion – the “big three” – or any of their many cousins and neighbors such as craving - a vague sense of want; irritation - on up to spite and desire to inflict harm; confusion; doubt; and indecision. These are states that do not liberate, but instead keep us enslaved to forces of alienation and dissatisfaction. It is a healthy response to want less of these states in our mind stream. To remove or eradicate unskillful thoughts already arisen, we can apply several “antidotes,” to use traditional language. These are commonly used during meditation but apply equally at any other time. These methods, while not exhaustive of our resources, should offer us plenty to bring to an unwanted state of mind. In brief, we can: 1. Consider the consequence of continuing in the unskillful state of mind, thus motivating ourselves to let it go and move on to something less dangerous or unpleasant; 2. Cultivate the opposite attitude, such as the classic effort to develop metta instead of ill will, by recalling things we can appreciate and by connecting to the poignancy of the human dilemma; 3. Let them pass by, like clouds floating by on a fair day – stepping back a bit and finding a bit of spaciousness around whatever the thoughts
are – they come unbidden, they go away naturally when we let them; 4. Just say, “No!” Put our foot down with ourselves and reject the offending thought sequences or lock them in an old box (metaphorically) and tell ourselves not now - not ever - to go down that road; 5. Gently acknowledge the state we’re in - neither try to push it away or change it, but bow down to the complexity of things and give it all up to the Buddhas (also known in this context as Going for Refuge).
Preventing To prevent as yet unarisen unskillful mental states we must be vigilant! We “guard the doors of our senses.” We say “no” to attending events that we know will only get us into a state of craving. We practice mindfulness diligently, watching what is arising in our mind and, specifically, our responses to sensory input. We watch our energy levels so that we don’t get carried away with anything we may later regret.
Maintaining & Developing To maintain and develop present positive or skillful states of mind we do much the same as the last effort, but with a different emphasis - ready to support and augment anything helpful that is in our reach. For example, while speaking with and also listening to a good friend, we may realize that we feel calm and clear, so we relax into the appropriate pace of the interaction and allow a feeling of metta and connection to arise between us. It is largely a matter of attentiveness with a light touch.
Inviting Skilfullness Finally, to bring into being as yet unarisen skillful states, we may move ourselves into new territory. We put ourselves in situations where we might experience something different, something uncharacteristic. Classically, this means meditation, and specifically, cultivating dhyana states. Every time we meditate there is a possibility for new experience, for new perspec-
tives and perceptions to arise, including ever more subtle and rarified states. Effort in meditation is applied delicately, and sometimes appears as non-effort. This requires skillful discernment and integrated awareness. There are opportunities to awaken new skillful states when we’re off the cushion as well. We can seek out inspiring experiences, such as spending time in solitude or in nature, or by reading Dharma, or undertaking tasks to clear away dross in our lives, making room for fresh experiences.
Building Up Momentum Right Effort is inner work, but as with all dharma practice, whatever we do with our inner mindfulness and meditation (and the occasional metaphorical taking ourselves by the collar and telling ourselves to “shape up”) will flow seamlessly back and forth with our outer actions. The good news with Right Effort is that, like stages in the spiral path, skillful states become more familiar and an augmenting effect kicks in. It feels better to be swathed in metta and friendliness than in spite and viciousness, so we begin to gravitate towards the kind and appreciative states more often. This is the minute-by-minute flow of evolution working in our mind-stream and seeping out to the universe around us. This effort to be continually and increasingly skillful is not easy. We will have many lapses into dullness, laziness, heartlessness, and boredom. But we keep at it; that is the core effort, I believe. We need patience (kshanti) and persistence. These are fed by a glimpse of Perfect Vision or enlightened possibility that got us on the Eightfold Path in the first place. Inspiration and insight help us persist in our efforts. The mental work purifies old habits and tips the balance of our contributions to the universe ever so slightly closer to an enlightened way of living. And that would be well worth the trouble for all concerned. Works referred to: by Sangharakshita: • 1968 talk On Effort • Know Your Mind • The Essential Sangharakshita
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Calm, Ease, Smile, Breathe By Thich Nhat Hanh “Artist Logan Payne has created a portable altar in a new and imaginative way by combining her unique vision with a basic time-proven guided meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh. The resulting set contains a six-panel fold-out altar bearing the words of the guided meditation; a CD recording of the meditation; and a booklet with biographical information about the author and artist as well as detailed instructions for usage. Designed to be used at any time and in any place, this beautiful altar is useful to anyone looking to deepen his or her spiritual practice.” Mindful Yoga, Mindful Life By Charlotte Bell “A longtime yoga teacher and Buddhist meditation practitioner, Charlotte Bell describes in passionate detail how she applied the eightfold path of the Yoga Sutras and the Buddha’s heed for mindfulness to her hectic Western life. The path is often rough; she writes of self-doubt and struggles, of trying too hard and discouragement, of learning to accept the life she has, imperfections and all. But with grace and guts, she navigates the eight limbs of yoga, using the Yoga Sutras and insight meditation as her compass. She shows each limb at work in her relationships, music, asana, meditation, and even in writing this book. Her discussion of each limb includes practical ways that readers can bring mindfulness into asana itself, and in a section called “Reflections,” Bell encourages readers to experience even the most ordinary activity as extraordi-
Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you very much!
nary, whether it’s washing dishes, making tea, or rolling out their yoga mat.” Awakening the Buddha Within By Lama Surya Das “If you dropped the Buddha into a modern metropolis, would he come off sounding like a 16th-century morality play or more like a drive-time disc jockey? Lama Surya Das doesn’t spin platters for a living, but he does have a hip delivery that belies his years of sheltered training in Buddhist monasteries. In Awakening the Buddha Within, he borrows a time-tested bestseller format for a 2,500-year-old tradition that comes off as
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anything but ancient. With the ‘Five T’s of Concentration,’ the question of ‘need or greed,’ and the story of the monk who bares his backside to prove a point, Surya Das invokes a path of wisdom that is as accessible and down-to-earth as a worn pair of loafers. It’s not an easy path--it demands thought, effort, and discipline. But Surya Das is there for you, lighting the way to wisdom training, coaxing you into ethics training, and laying out step by step the path of meditation training. And if that’s not enough to get you to live in the now, consider these words of the enlightened lama: ‘You must be present to win.’” -- Brian Bruya
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Poetry Corner The Photographer’s Journey By Joan Rochette
First the question, what is it how can I, should I, must I, then the who, what, where, when we’re taught in eighth grade to explain the incident for the school paper. But then the same who, what, and all the rest by those who spend their lives in lonely, unsafe places searching for a way to tell us what we need to know. Next the waiting, not waiting for the bus, or even waiting for Godot, a dedicated waiting, because something isn’t known, not the weather or the close of the stock market or who won the election, but waiting for a glimpse of beauty before the object can be found, waiting for the answer before the question can be known.
The young monk sat at the window, no doubt for the light to read his book, but in that captured moment his book was put aside and something became his question. He has not abandoned his book, but is waiting, for who of us could ignore the sight of that fellow questioner he sees from his window.
Catch and Release By Barry Scott Timmerman
Leaf catcher stands under a maple, gently being. Maple stands under the slate sky, gently being. Leaf catcher eyes fire-branded leaves, framed against the slate sky. Fire-branded leaves await the law of impermanence to signal their release. Leaf catcher takes an in-breath, staying in the present moment, releases the out-breath. Maple takes in the breeze, swaying in the present moment, releases a leaf. Leaf spirals down, then up, then east, then west, at the whim of the breeze. Leaf catcher moves forward, moves back, moves to the east,
then the west, at the whim of the leaf. Flight path of the leaf undetermined, leaf catcher determines to maintain the path of the middle way. Convergence accomplished, leaf settles on leaf catcher’s outstretched palm. Leaf catcher takes an in-breath, staying in the present moment, releases the out-breath, propelling the leaf to further flight. Leaf catcher stands under a maple, gently being, awaits another leaf.
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Arts at Aryaloka
The Arts Evening: “A Wee Bit of a Marvel” By Dh. Kiranada There are times when the Muses all arrive in radiant garb to produce an extraordinary event, and that seemed to happen on Sunday, November 14, 2010, at the Aryaloka Arts Evening. With the exhibition Images of Buddhist Asia surrounding us, international photographer Don Gurewitz shared some of the stories behind the images that had been glowing on our walls from October through November. Responding to Don’s theme, sangha poets Joan Rochette and Dh. Candradasa shared reflections on travel and Buddhism with a rich offering of short tales and poetry inspired by Asia, England, Spain and Ireland. Next, our extraordinary composer/musician laureate, Dh. Sravaniya, shared thoughts on contemplative music and performed an inspiring Bach partita. The pinnacle of an evening of riches came with Sravaniya’s composition Homage to Dhardo Rimpoche, performed on violin and piano with Margaret Crowley. While this haunting, uplifting composition filled the dome, it was accompanied by poignant
images and documentary footage of Dhardo Rimpoche’s life in Kalimpong, India, playing on screen thanks to the wizardry of Eric Wentworth. A standing ovation and lumps in many throats followed. The evening ended on a satisfying note. It was a very special night. Great thanks to all who contributed to
this wonderful event and deep gratitude to the artists whose work helps to open doors and allows us to quietly step into another realm of words, images and sound. As one friend remarked, “The opportunity to experience the Dharma through the arts really flourishes at Aryaloka... a dream realized.”
Join Us for More Arts at Aryaloka in 2011 By Dh. Kiranada Sometimes a friend says it all: “The wonderful artists who came to that Arts Evening (photographers, musicians, and poets) enabled us to travel to awe-inspiring places in this world (and also within ourselves.) I was touched, delighted, awestruck and inspired to also create after experiencing the creativity - music, images and poetry - of others.” So, come join us for a year of Arts at Aryaloka. Please do remember that participation in contemplative arts has little to do with talent and everything to do with cul-
tivating deep awareness, contentment and bliss. YES, bliss. We have music, poetry, ink painting and movement planned, all within a contemplative context. In quiet February, there is a very special opportunity to go within and put pen to paper with Lin Illingworth and Dh. Saddhamala in The Mindfulness of Poem-Making (February 20). No experience necessary. On May 14, we welcome back the Boston-based a capella group - The Silk Tones, with our own Dh. Sunada - for an evening of mellow music and exquisite harmony, all benefiting Aryaloka.
On July 17, Dh. Kiranada will lead a group dipping into Fresh Ink and exploring contemplative line on the walls of the Yoga Room!!! And on October 8th we will, at last, “move” when choreographer and modern dancer Dawn Kramer (from MassArt) comes to lead us in afternoon of Movement and Film along the Piscassic River, if weather permits. Ahh, a wealth of riches in the contemplative arts. Call the office and reserve your space now. Create yourself, lose your “self” and find some bliss.
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Arts at Aryaloka
Mindfulness & Poem-Making on February 20th By Dh. Kiranada For me poetry has always been a practice in and of itself. It’s not only the practice of using language – it’s also the practice of being aware; of using all the senses and being absorbed in each moment. -- Seido Ray Ronci Lin Illingworth, a southern NH poet and creative writing teacher, will join Dh. Saddhamala to lead a joyous day of contemplative words, ideas, and meditations on February 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The day is entitled Mindfulness and Poem-Making. Lin describes the path of meditation as “Be present, pay attention” and conversely, poetry as “Be present, pay attention, write it down.” She is an enthusiastic teacher of
writing and human potential. Lin has studied and taught poem-making with Pulitzer Prize winners as well as with absolute beginners. Saddhamala has had a love of poetry for many years and is one who always lightens our lives with a line of poetry at the end of every email, “Life is fragile, like the dew…” She has taught Dharma classes at the center for more than ten years and is the founder of www.mindfulworkshop.com. The day of poem-making will include seated and writing meditation (exercises) that may take you to new places and even rediscovered landscapes both within and without. No talent or writing experience is necessary, only an open heart, presence and a desire. So -- take a day out of your long winter and explore. You may end up as one
of our sangha poets, “sharing love and delight in the Dharma through your writing.” Call the office to register soon. (603) 6595456. Bhante Sangharakshita on Poetry: After Rilke The poet is the world’s interpreter, At least to his own self. He recreates In his own heart the things he contemplates, And brings them forth transformed from what they were Into beauty-truth that cannot err, That cannot fade or die... -- From The Religion of Art
Reflections on the Diamond Sutra Retreat By Stephen Sloan The Diamond Sutra has been a core teaching for generations of Buddhists. By one estimate there are over 20,000 commentaries on the Diamond Sutra, which testifies to the importance of this text. In Wisdom Beyond Words, Sangharakshita tells about coming upon the Diamond Sutra and the profound impact that reading it had on him. He calls it an “overwhelming spiritual experience that changed the entire course of my life.” Later he warns, “It is a terrible, fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Diamond Sutra, because once you are caught, well, you're caught. Wriggle as much as you like, you will not get free.” Bhante's words certainly ring true for me. The first time I picked up the Diamond Sutra it didn't make any sense to me and I quickly stored it away with the intent to try it again after my experience with Buddhism had matured some. But more than a year ago I felt a strong, somewhat mysterious urge to pick it up again. This time I was ready. As I
began my study I found that I just couldn't let it go, or more accurately that the Sutra wouldn't let go of me. With gratitude I found several sources of guidance that helped me to approach the Sutra. The first, of course, was Sangharakshita's Wisdom Beyond Words, which also includes discussion on the Heart Sutra and the Ratnaguna-Samcayagatha, two other texts addressing wisdom teachings. Another useful guide was Red Pine's commentary and translation in which he offers extracts of many of the historical commentaries on the Diamond Sutra. In addition, I found an excellent series of talks (available on FreeBuddhistAudio.com) given during a retreat on the Diamond Sutra led by Padmavajra at the Padmaloka Retreat Center in the UK. Finally, I appreciated the direct and clear commentary offered by Master Hsing Yun in his commentary Describing the Indescribable. So you can guess how excited I was to learn that there would be a retreat on the Diamond Sutra to be held at Aryaloka. Be-
ginning on December 17th, the retreat was attended by several male Order members and men in the ordination process. Our retreat leader was Suddhayu, who guided us through a weekend of study, meditation, and reflection on the Diamond Sutra. In the sutra, the Buddha talks about “harmonious Buddhafields,” which Bhante interprets as a reminder that “the spiritual life is a common, even a cooperative venture, undertaken in unbroken association with other beings.” So it felt right to be sharing this experience of the Diamond Sutra. In addition there was a larger context enveloping our time “taking up this discourse on Dharma.” The Buddha reminds us in the Sutra that “beings who have not taken up the pledge of Bodhi-beings [can] neither hear this discourse on Dharma, [n]or take it up, bear it in mind, recite or study it. That cannot be.” The pledge of Bodhi-beings of course is the Bodhisattva vow - the pledge to engage all of our energy to attaining enDIAMOND SUTRA
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An Elevator Ride with Bodhipaksa By Dh. Bodhipaksa I was recently asked to give an “elevator pitch” for my recent book, Living as a River, which was published by Sounds True. An “elevator pitch?” I wondered. What on earth’s that? Well, thanks to the internet, I now know it’s “a persuasive account of a book, film, etc, given in the amount of time you’d spend talking to someone in an elevator ride.” So, please ride with me, and if you don’t mind, I’ll tell you about Living as a River. (Fifth floor) It’s a book that helps people overcome the delusions they have of themselves being separate and unchanging, and helps them to overcome the fear that supports those delusions and arises from them. (Fourth floor) The book starts with the
observation that we’re afraid of change because it reminds us of death, and that our fear leads us to cling to the idea of having a particular kind of self—a self that’s separate, permanent, and unified. (Third floor) How do we transcend fear and clinging? Using a meditation practice from the Buddhist tradition (called the Six Element Practice), we systematically explore the nature of the self, learning how we’re in fact entirely interconnected, physically and mentally, and that the body and mind are always changing. We therefore find that we don’t have selves that are separate or permanent. This can be unsettling, but also rather beautiful, as we consider the ways that the world is us, and we are the world. (Fortunately someone with a double stroller entered the elevator at this point, allowing me more time to expand).
(Second floor) I also explore some really freaky stuff that shows how we’re not as in control of ourselves as we think we are. We really aren’t what or how we think we are. Do you know, for example, that brain scans can predict what decision you’re going to make up to six seconds before you know yourself? What does an awareness of that do to your sense of self? (First floor) It’s a book that’s full of gripping and even sometimes disturbing insights from the sciences, and particularly from psychology, like the one I just mentioned. People have described it as being fascinating and even mind-blowing. Ding! Well, I guess the elevator ride’s over. Thanks for listening. What’s that you say? Why yes, the book is available in Aryaloka’s bookstore and in the usual outlets. And please do let me know what you think of it.
Kula Corner By Steve Cardwell Well, 2010 is almost over and we are very excited about prospects for Aryaloka for the coming year. Things happen at Aryaloka, not by magic, but rather because of all the friends who do the volunteer work in kulas at this wonderful place. But kulas are more than just teams of people doing great work, they are bundles of friends getting to know each other better and developing relationships. We hope that everyone who calls Aryaloka their spiritual home will make sure
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lightenment for the sole purpose of ending suffering for all beings. So by taking up, bearing in mind, reciting, and studying the Diamond Sutra, the implication is that we have either in this life - or in another - committed ourselves to the end of suffering for
they participate in two or three kulas. What a wonderful opportunity for service. Why be on only one kula? Of course we want every Order member and every Mitra to take advantage of working together on kulas, but also Friends and newcomers to Aryaloka too! Here is a list of open kulas at Aryaloka. Please join any that sound like fun. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or questions. • Building projects • Children’s Program • Cleaning • Events and Festivals all beings. This is an implication that bears pondering. The Buddha tells us that by taking up and working with the Diamond Sutra we will be humbled. The impure actions that we have committed in this and former lives are “liable to lead [us] into states of woe. In this very life... by means of that humilia-
• • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Furnishings Gardens and Grounds Hospitality Library Mandala of Supporting Friends (fundraising) Mowing and Snow Shoveling Publicity Recycling Shrine room Tech Support Transportation (for visitors) Vajra Bell Newsletter Website Workdays
tion, [we can] annull those impure actions... and reach the enlightenment of a Buddha.” I can say that I certainly feel humbled by the experience of working with the Diamond Sutra. Coupled with that is a sense of gratitude for the opportunity to share this teaching with my Dharma brothers. All of this leaves me with much to ponder.
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January 2011 Financial Update: How Are We Doing? Tom Gaillard, Treasurer It’s with tremendous gratitude that we look back and celebrate all that 2010 meant for Aryaloka Buddhist Center. The 25th Anniversary was a momentous occasion for rejoicing in the people, programs, and events that weave together our wonderful Center. Now we turn our attention to 2011 and our 26th year. Our Council has spent much time discussing the future, including the finances and budget for the coming year. In this brief article I’ll include an update on Aryaloka’s financial position. As we look ahead, we find ourselves on reasonably strong financial footing. The approved budget is break-even; it anticipates $140,000 of income and an equal amount
of expense. As I’ve noted in past columns, Aryaloka is supported financially by three pillars: dana, retreats and programs. Retreats are most important, generating 35% of our budgeted income. Dana provides another 25%, through pledges from the Mandala of Supporting Friends and generous individual donations. We rely on programs (sangha night, mens’ and womens’ days, etc.) for an additional 22%. The bookstore provides another 10% of income. We spend almost half our income to compensate those who administer the center and spread the Dharma through Aryaloka’s many teachings, retreats and programs. Facility expenses, including our mortgage, utilities and the like, are another one-third. We struggled this year to find additional
a talk on the symbolism surrounding Vajrayogini. These talks can also be found at Free Buddhist Audio as well. Just search for “Aryaloka” to quickly find them. Rounding out the year, December saw a three-week, level two meditation course led by Bodhipaksha, which provided a forum for students to explore new ways to deepen their practice. Other December retreats covered the Heart Sutra, facilitated by Suvarnaprabha; the Diamond Sutra, which shall be covered in more detail in this issue; and the end-of-year, week-long silent retreat focusing on mindfulness, also led by Suvarnaprabha. Nine members of the sangha rang in 2011 with the ringing of the grand gong in the shrine room 108 times! The word is spreading about our sangha! In recent weeks, Tuesday night meditation has become quite popular, with some evenings approaching sixty people and sangha members having to park up at the circle! Arjava and Suzanne continue to lead discussions on introductory Buddhism topics such as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, while Narottama, Amala, Viriyalila and Bodhilocana have offered up more advanced topics throughout the fall.
keep me awake then?” But she was serious. It was on this retreat that I realized the wisdom in what she said. In all this noble silence, I yearned for something else to listen to to distract me from this relentless noise. I was beginning to think this “noble silence” was a bit overrated, and began to doubt if I was really cut out to be a Buddhist. During one particular sit, rather than fretting about this condition, I decided to just listen to it – a radical and frightening thought. “I can’t do that,” one of the IBCC members said. “Of course not,” another said. “It will just get louder. My hearing will get worse. I really will go insane as I won’t be able to hear anything else.” A counter voice said, “I’ll befriend it. If I do, maybe it will lessen, even disappear. What would real silence sound like? No, wait. That’s planning the outcome, trying to manage or control the noise. Isn’t that just another form of resistance? I should learn to love it and live with it.” The debate was as irritating as the ringing in my ears. Again, a quiet, calm voice repeated, “Just listen and observe.” I took a deep
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funds to spread the dharma through publicity and advertising. What’s not included in our budget are any significant investments in our facilities (like 2010’s new kitchen!), and we still rely more than we’d like on part-time, very busy staff. Here’s how you can help: by continuing to actively participate in our programs and retreats! By giving to the Dana bowl every time you attend an event! And, most importantly, by offering a monthly pledge through our Mandala of Supporting Friends! Please consider setting up a monthly donation by PayPal or credit card so Aryaloka can continue to grow and prosper into the next 25 years! See the web site or call the office for details. Thank you! breath. The ringing was louder in the right than in the left, I noticed. There was more than one tone, all different pitches, some louder than others. Sometimes another tone would jump in and join the others. Where was the noise coming from? Inside the ear? In the back of my head? I focused on the tightness behind the ears, and then felt it loosen. I breathed easier. I stopped fighting. For a little while anyway. During the rest of the retreat, I grew more comfortable with the ringing. Witnessing it without judgment helped me realize it wasn’t going to kill me. Too, as I observed the IBCC chatter, I found myself smiling – and even wanting to giggle – at the antics of my wild mind. I don’t think it got any quieter, we all just seemed to be more comfortable hanging out with each other. One afternoon after lunch, I strolled through the woods. The wind was blowing. I noticed how the tops of the trees above me swayed and the leaves at my feet swirled to this invisible force. I noticed, too, how the wind through the trees sounded different from the fluttering dry leaves. I didn’t hear any ringing; even the IBCC was quiet. Maybe that was stillness I heard.
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ly when someone is expressing an opinion we disagree with. Even if we’re staying quiet, it’s all too easy to be arguing against them in our minds, coming up with retorts, pulling up evidence to the contrary. I made it a practice to put myself in the other person’s shoes while they were speaking. I tried to hear what they were implying underneath their words, what assumptions were there, and so forth. It was really valuable in helping me to empathize with their needs and wants, spoken and otherwise. Don’t leave things hidden under rugs. Apologize quickly. Ask for clarification of anything that sounds like a judgment, criticism, or tightly-held opinion. Encourage quieter people to speak up (even if it means private conversations before or after meetings to get things out). Ask for clarification instead of arguing. It’s incredibly delicate to engage in conflict constructively. Even asking a sim-
Auction Night at Aryaloka
ple question like “What do you mean by that?” can come across as argumentative if spoken with a strong tone of voice. I tried really hard to watch my mind and mouth. If I couldn’t find a place in my heart that was willing to hear the other person’s point of view without judgment, I tried to keep quiet. I didn’t always succeed, but I made a sincere effort. Leave space for everyone to express their feelings. After laying out the objective facts and options, there needs to be plenty of space for each person to say how he feels about it all and to be allowed to do so without argument from anybody else. Although everyone wants to rely on facts to make the decision, often a difficult choice in the end has to be based on a gut feeling. And there needs to be room for the group to find its collective gut feeling. Trust the process. I was pleasantly surprised at how toward the end, we started to converge on an accord. As the facilitator, I didn’t make that happen. It happened natu-
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News from Aryaloka 1992 http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=Ehy3H8FOA_4
Mademoiselle Camille, a European fine arts dealer, and Mr. Cassidy, a horse trader, acted as auctioneers for Aryaloka’s annual fundraising event. Over fifty items were part of the live auction as well as approximately fifteen items for the simultaneous silent auction that was held in the bookstore. Some of the pieces that were auctioned off included various evenings of home cooking, delicious treats in the form of coconut cake and cardamom ice cream, metta socks, and many beautiful pieces of art including three Tibetan thangkas donated by Stephen Pitman. Marianne Hannagan and the auction kula organized a great evening with a wonderful array of food, which culminated in the collection of close to $5,000!
Part of the Clear Vision Trust’s video archive, this newsreel video brings us on a trip in the “way-back” machine and shows Aryaloka in 1992, just as Manjuvajra was passing on management of the center to other Order members and heading back to Europe. It’s a blast to see how the center has changed over the years. You see things like the original sign at the end of the driveway, the barn before it was even a men’s community, the building of the solitary cabin. The best part is seeing and hearing from familiar and unfamiliar Order members and mitras whose presence was strong when Aryaloka was just starting out. This was before there even were any American Order members! Lots of fun to be had here.
VOLUME 9, ISSUE I
rally, because we had all listened to each other honestly and respectfully. So what did we decide? I’m very pleased to say that we decided to take the big leap – to go for a bigger, nicer space and take up the challenge to grow the sangha. The story isn’t over yet, though. Though we signed a lease in December, it didn’t work out, and we had to back out. So the search continues. But something has changed for us, having gone through this process. I sense our collective energy as a sangha has grown stronger and more focused. There seems to be more optimism and enthusiasm, and a commitment toward working together to create something new, something better. Even though we’re still without a home, I know it’s only a matter of time before we’ll find a place that’s right for us. So all the hard work we went through to get here seems to have paid off. I think I’d like to approach all our future decisions this way, given what a positive impact it’s had on us. Buddhist Monks Create Sand Mandala http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zm GleDzscw&feature=related From Seacoast Online’s YouTube channel (Portsmouth Herald) comes this clip from 2008 when the Drepung Gomang Tibetan monks visited Aryaloka and, among other things during their stay, created a beautiful sand mandala. It’s a short video with no dialogue, but it demonstrates the process of the mandala’s creation. Expand this short clip out to the several days it took to create the full mandala and you get a good sense of how patient and mindful the monks needed to be. Though not shown, this visit culminated in a ceremony where the mandala was deconstructed and the sands released into the river behind the center. As a side note, the monks have another visit planned for this coming August (see the Upcoming Events page). It’s definitely not to be missed!
Please be sure Aryaloka’s windows stay closed in winter and remember to close them when leaving the center in warmer months. Thank you!
VOLUME 9, ISSUE I
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18-19 20 20 21 22 23 24 25-27 28
Overnight for Dharmacarinis and women who have requested ordination Mindfulness of Poem-Making 10 a.m.-4 p.m. – Saddhamala and Lin Illingworth Men’s Practice Day Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation 7-9 p.m. - Amala Women’s mitra class Living With Mindfulness Retreat – Viriyalila and Sunada Men’s mitra class
MARCH 1 2 3 5 6 6 7 8 9 10 12 12 13 13 14 15 16
Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism three-week eve. series begins, 7-9 p.m. – Amala Women’s mitra class Rental Young Sangha 10 a.m.-12 noon Order Day Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism, 7-9 p.m. – Amala Women’s mitra class Introduction to Meditation – Mindfulness, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Rental Men’s Practice Day Meditation with Bread - Narottama Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Introduction to Buddhism, 7-9 p.m. – Amala
16 17 18 18-20 21 22 23 25-26 26 27 28 29 30
Turning Hindrances Into Allies four-week eve. series begins, 7-9 p.m. – Bodhipaksa Women’s mitra class Full-Moon Puja and Meditation 7-9 p.m. The Path of Awakening through Friendship retreat – Narottama and Saddhamala Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Turning Hindrances Into Allies, 7-9 p.m. – Bodhipaksa Retreat at Men’s State Prison, Concord Women’s Practice Day Introduction to Buddhism, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Turning Hindrances Into Allies, 7-9 p.m. – Bodhipaksa
NVC Mindful Communication retreat – Shantigarbha
Noble Silence retreat – Bodhana and Narottama
AUGUST 1-7 19-26
Drepung Gomang monks Summer meditation retreat – Bodhipaksa et.al.
North American men’s GFR retreat
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 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 me 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 me credited toward another event.
* * * * * Note: In all situations, special circumstances will be taken into consideration. * * * * *
VOLUME 9, ISSUE I
Upcoming Events (All events are subject to change. For the latest up-to-date information, please call the office or check our website:http://www.aryaloka.org) (Akasaloka events are in italics) JANUARY 18 19 20 21 21-23 24 25 26 26 27 28-30 31
Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation six-week eve. series begins, 7-9 p.m. - Amala Women’s mitra class Full-Moon Puja and Meditation 7-9 p.m. Retreat for Cambridge, Portland, and New York Centers Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation 7-9 p.m. - Amala Council meeting 6:15 p.m. Women’s mitra class From Generosity to Wisdom Retreat: the Six Paramitas – Akashavanda, Samayadevi Men’s mitra class
FEBRUARY 1 2 3 5 6 6 7 8 9 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation 7-9 p.m. - Amala Women’s mitra class Order/Mitra Day Young Sangha 10 a.m.-12 noon Women’s Practice Day Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation 7-9 p.m. - Amala Women’s mitra class Introduction to Meditation – Lovingkindness, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Parinirvana Festival Day 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Men’s mitra class Sangha Night 6:45-9:15 p.m. Intro to Buddhism and Meditation 7-9 p.m. - Amala Women’s mitra class Full-moon Puja and Meditation 7-9 p.m. UPCOMING
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Ongoing Sangha Night at Aryaloka
Every Tuesday evening, 6:45-9:15 p.m. • • • •
Led by Amala, Arjava, and Suzanne, et. al. Open to all Fee: Suggested donation $10 per class No registration necessary
Typically, our Tuesday night activities include: • • • •
6:45 - Gathering, tea and announcements 7:00 - Meditation and shrine room activity 7:45 - 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!
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
Right Effort -- Boston Sangha Moves to New Space --- "Is That Stillness I Hear?": Reflections on Noble Silence --- Movie Review: Wheel of Ti...
Published on Jan 1, 2011
Right Effort -- Boston Sangha Moves to New Space --- "Is That Stillness I Hear?": Reflections on Noble Silence --- Movie Review: Wheel of Ti...