vajrabell WINTER 2017
spreading the dharma keeping sangha connected
in this issue: Buddhism and Friendship Help Transition to Freedom, page 09
The Power of Positive Action, by Dh. Sanghadevi page 07 Living Your Practice, by Dh. Vidhuma page 04
also: The Buddha in the Dark, page 24 Sangha Connections: Dh. Nagabodhi, page 16
vajrabell VAJRA BELL KULA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Schaefer firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR: David Watt email@example.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Susan DiPietro firstname.lastname@example.org ARTS EDITOR: Deb Howard email@example.com WRITER: Bettye Pruitt firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER: Callista Cassady email@example.com
SANGHA NOTES CONTRIBUTORS Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 info@Aryaloka.org · www.Aryaloka.org
Gary Baker, New York Sangha firstname.lastname@example.org Paramita Banerjee, Vancouver Buddhist Centre email@example.com Peter Ingraham, Aryaloka Buddhist Center firstname.lastname@example.org Sabrina Metivier, Nagaloka Buddhist Center email@example.com Mary Salome, San Francisco Buddhist Center firstname.lastname@example.org
Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/Aryaloka ...or on the Aryaloka Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/AryalokaSangha Connect at The Buddhist Centre Online: TheBuddhistCentre.com/Aryaloka
ARYALOKA STAFF Dh. Shrijnana, Executive Director Dh. Bodhana, Kitchen Manager Dh. Lilasiddhi, Cleaning Coordinator Dh. Rijupatha, Web Master and Publicity Designer Dh. Shantikirika, Buddhaworks Manager
Samatara, Rocky Mountain Buddhist Center email@example.com Mike Mappes, Khante Outreach firstname.lastname@example.org
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dh. Dayalocana (Interim Chair) Barry Timmerman (Secretary) Elizabeth Hellard (Treasurer) Dh. Amala Dh. Rijupatha Jean Corson Tom Gaillard Daniel Kenney Alisha Roberts
SPIRITUAL VITALITY COUNCIL Dh. Amala (Chair) Dh. Vidhuma (Vice Chair) Dh. Dayalocana Dh. Khemavassika Dh. Shrijnana Dh. Surakshita
© 2017 Aryaloka Buddhist Center page 2
table of contents winter 2017
04 Living Your Practice: Lifting Us to Something Higher By Dh. Vidhuma 07 The Power of Positive Action by Dh. Sanghadevi 09 Buddhism and Kindness from Friends Helps Transition to Freedom by Rich 10 Arts at Aryaloka 11 Poetry Corner 12 Sangha Notes, by Sangha Notes Contributors 16 Sangha Connections: Interveiw with Dh. Nagabodhi by Bettye Pruitt 20 Upcoming Events at Aryaloka 21 Buddhaworks Board Notes 22 From the Editors 24 Mythic Perspectives: The Buddha in the Dark by Dh. Candradasa
COVER IMAGE: Eric Ebbeson
Living Your Practice: Lifting Us to Something Higher by Dh. Vidhuma
days of the week. Among the various ways we spend our weekly lives, When I first discussed our sprinkling of spiritual practices, the theme for this issue such as meditation, study, reading of the Vajra Bell with or devotional activities, are folded Mary Schaefer and into the tally. Their summation then David Watt, its wonderful becomes a description of our spiritual hardworking editors, I learned life. the overall theme was “living your Because these practices often bring practice.” Its purpose was to address to our lives qualities such as balance, the broad question of how we live the relaxation, quietude, meaningful Buddha’s teachings in our everyday contact with others, intellectual and lives. How do we not just read and emotional stimulation, or a sense of study the Dharma but integrate our our place and purpose in living, we spiritual practices into the fabric of consider them important. Because our complicated lives? they are generally pleasant, we wish These are important questions, we could increase them. But usually, because they point us to the practical because there are after all only 24 living of our lives and how a spiritual hours in a day and our life is crowded dimension can fit into our busy lives. with all the other pieces of living, we Behind these questions lurk even can’t squeeze more spiritual practice more basic ones: What is the purpose or activities into it. of spiritual practices? What is the We divide our lives into the purpose of a spiritual life? important responsibilities and pleasures they may contain. We put The spiritual touches every aspect whatever time and energy into the of our lives spiritual arena as we can manage. Since that conversation I have been And there it is: our life. In this way reflecting on living your practice, or we begin to see our spiritual life and as I have come to frame it, “living a practices as just one of the pieces of spiritual life.” My thinking has gone our lives. something like this: Most people have There is a problem here. It is this: abundantly busy lives; few complain our spiritual life is not the sum of that their lives are not busy enough. our spiritual activities. It cannot be a Often people list the aspects of their division of our life, one compartment lives that make it so full: Work, family, among many such as my family life, social and recreational activities, civic my work life, my spiritual life, my duties, and somewhere in here come social life and so on. religious or spiritual life practices. Why not? In our thinking we tend to divide What is spiritual touches every our life into the various constituents aspect of our living. By definition, that fill the hours of the day and the spiritual practices include everything page 4
that is an expression of our values and our beliefs. What about our perceptions of the world and of ourselves? These certainly are shaped by our spiritual practices and spiritual beliefs. When we pause to look at this more closely, we could conclude that every action, every thought, every word connects back to our spiritual lives. Our relationships with our partners, with our parents, with our children, with our friends, with our co-workers and with ourselves – are these not where our spiritual lives manifest? Our spiritual lives suffuse through everything we do. Truly to know a person’s religion you would have to see how they live, not how often they attend religious services or read religious texts. Their spiritual life defines itself in living, in how they relate to others, how they work, how they talk, how they eat, all they do in the course of their day; in short, how they live. Our spiritual lives are the stage on which are danced all the various movements in our lives. Our spiritual lives also determine the lighting, and influence the sets, the cast, the choreography and how graceful and flowing the dancer becomes. An uncomplicated formula for living The historical Buddha was practical. In his many dialogues with the numerous people he encountered, as we read in the scriptures that have come down through the almost 26 centuries since he lived, his focus
This is an uncomplicated formula for living: be generous, maintain the five ethical training precepts as scrupulously as you can, develop a sharpened attention to all experience (mindfulness), develop a mind that can think clearly and undistractedly, and act consistently with compassion for all beings.
was directly on how people lived their everyday lives. The Buddha Shakyamuni is invariably depicted as a pragmatic and human person. His teachings are about how to understand the distresses of our human lives, and how to live in a way that transforms the inherent dissatisfactions that are part of human existence into wisdom, peace and happiness. I am choosing just one example but there are many scattered through the stories of the Buddha’s life. “The Mahanama Sutta” (Angutara Nikaya 11.13) describes a simple encounter between the Buddha and Mahanama, a clansman living in the village in which the Buddha was staying for a time. In the brief exchange between them, Mahanama asks the Buddha where his mind should “dwell.” The Buddha’s answer to Mahanama is a straightforward and practical teaching that typifies his approach. The Buddha describes how to incorporate spiritual practices into living the everydayness of life. The
Buddha tells Mahanama that first a person must be motivated to live their beliefs. They must take their beliefs seriously (“have conviction”); must be persistent; must want to establish mindfulness in their actions, speech and thought; must want to train their mind not to be distracted; must want to become “discerning.” The Buddha advises Mahanama to occupy his thoughts with – mentally dwell upon – recollections of acts of generosity (his own and others), recollections of virtuous actions (idealized in others and in his own past actions) and recollections of his most cherished values. Then the Buddha urges him thus, “Mahanama, you should develop [these various recollections] while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children.” By doing so, the Buddha explains that, for a person recollecting like that “his mind is not overcome with
passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on virtue. And when the mind is headed straight, [this person] gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.” This is an uncomplicated formula for living: be generous, maintain the five ethical training precepts as scrupulously as you can, develop a sharpened attention to all experience (mindfulness), develop a mind that can think clearly and undistractedly, and act consistently with compassion for all beings. Wherever you are, whomever you are with, whatever circumstances surround you, act with kindness and compassion. Apply yourself to this with determination and courage. This formula for living a - Living Practice, continued on page 6 aryaloka.org
Our spiritual life is not one piece among many. It is what holds all the various fragments together, welding them into a beautiful whole experience that is much larger than the pieces together – a life of continual peace and amazement.
- Living Practice, continued from page 5
Now this is the strange part. Only through the sedulous everyday spiritual life can be found repeated in living of our spiritual beliefs can we many other discourses. begin to transcend the limitations that keep us distressed, frustrated, Spiritual life is the whole of how we discouraged or weary. When we bring live our full attention to living deliberately, This is an effective recipe for we begin to become unburdened. being more at peace and for feeling When we begin to let go of our more content with life, not so tightened hardened hearts we begin different in many respects from the to experience an open receptivity. We prescriptions of current cognitive realize how large we truly are. behavioral therapy. But is this living Living in our everyday lives with as a spiritual life? The purposes of much as possible of loving kindness, spiritual practices are not only to open-handed giving, contentment reduce stress and anxiety, to increase with a fewness of things, a still mind contentment with life, or to learn and body, an honest heart and with more effectively to enjoy the moment. a radiant clarity of mind, we learn to Don’t we have something larger realize how wondrous the experience in mind when we speak of our of living is. We move from living in spiritual lives? Don’t we expect the moment to living beyond the spiritual practices to bring a grander moment, outside of time. What we dimension to life? The Buddha’s must do, as the Buddha advises, is teachings and all truly religious make the best effort to remember endeavors have a goal, not of what is important to us and develop improving our coping ability but of it “as we are walking, as we are lifting us to something higher, of standing, as we are sitting, as we are elevating us above the struggles of lying down, as we are busy at our life, fear, loneliness, loss and death. work and as we are relaxing in our The Buddha described the goal of home crowded with children.” the spiritual life as “seeing things as Our spiritual life is not one piece they really are,” all our many blinders among many. It is what holds all removed. The goal of living a spiritual the various fragments together, life is ineffable. But we have all had welding them into a beautiful whole tastes or flashes of that ultimate state experience that is much larger of freedom. We have intimations of than the pieces together – a life of that sense of wonder and clarity and continual peace and amazement. amazement. And that is enough, more than enough, to keep us seeking. page 6
When we bring our full attention to living deliberately, we begin to become unburdened.
Vidhuma has been dedicated to learning Buddhism and living his life accordingly for nearly 30 years. He was ordained in 1997 in the Triratna Buddhist Order, and is actively engaged in teaching and other activities at Aryaloka Buddhist Center.
The Power of Positive Action Sanghadevi was at Aryaloka this past fall at a retreat for women in the ordination process.
Sanghadevi is an order member who lives in Cambridge, England. She met Sangharakshita more than 40 years ago, and was ordained by him in 1977. As a public and private preceptor, she has ordained more than 100 women around the world over a period of 15 years. This is an edited version of a talk she gave at the retreat for women in the ordination process at Aryaloka this past fall. — Editors by Dh. Sanghadevi Recently I was on retreat at Adhisthana in England where Bhante lives. The retreat was led by Ratnaguna, a skilled study leader, on material in Great Faith, Great Wisdom: Practice and Awakening in the Pure Land Sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, a book he co-authored with Sraddhapa. Eight of us spent a week with Ratnaguna reading aloud the three sutras, sharing our responses, being led in
short visualizations from material in the texts, and journeying in a relaxed manner through sections of each text. Our retreat took place at the same time as several other retreats and events, including a poetry festival. All this was happening in a spacious, harmonious way thanks to the vision and support of the three communities who live at Adhisthana. As the days unfolded, we began to feel, as we sat exploring Amidas’ Pure Land, that we were doing so in a context that was in itself something of a Pure Land. This was the first time I tasted this experience from the standpoint of a retreatant. The level of harmony and flow felt quite remarkable. Possibly, there was an occasional jarring interaction that took place that I was not witness to, but if there was, it was held in a larger field of skillfulness, which was all I was aware of. I felt and feel there is much to rejoice in at Adhisthana. There is much to rejoice in in North America, too, when a Sangha gathers within the conditions of a retreat or
for a few hours at a Dharma class. Through our own and others’ skillfulness something beautiful unfolds which augments and encourages the further unfolding of the good, the true. This is why I want to focus on the positive precepts. Confession of unskillfulness is an important, even essential, spiritual practice. When we enter into it in the right spirit – free of guilt and self-berating – it erodes our false sense of ego-identity and pride. It is an expression of the two skillful mental events hri and apatrapya. Confession is a skillful action in itself and a reflection of a growing moral sensitivity. It is healthy to be troubled by our unskillfulness and to want to bring it out in the open with our spiritual friends so that it may be released more readily and our intention to not do that particular action again strengthened. However, it is equally important to acknowledge – even rejoice – in the good, recognizing when and where - Positive Action, continued on page 8 aryaloka.org
- Positive Action, continued from page 7 we are giving expression to one or more of the positive precepts. It is easy to take for granted whatever level of positivity we have and unwittingly limit ourselves. Awareness of and rejoicing in acts well done by oneself and others increase the good. The good heart is strengthened and revealed more and more. We need to keep increasing our capacity to love, give and be content, because only then are we being true to who we really are. We are fulfilling our human potential and contributing to the wellbeing of others through doing so. One way to increase our capacity to love is to be aware of the love and generosity that already flows through us. This is like the Buddha’s earth touching mudra. The positive precepts give us some sense of how a fully enlightened being would naturally function in the world. A Buddha has boundless goodwill, limitless love and compassion, unfailing generosity; is profoundly peaceful; is a highly skilled communicator; and always has a perspective that transcends all dualistic notions and distinctions. The Mahayana Sutras endlessly extol the Buddha’s virtues and demonstrate the limitless nature of enlightenment through stories and myths centering on the Bodhisattva’s path to enlightenment. Descriptions of pure lands such as Sukhavati (the Pure Land of Amitabha) evoke an entirely positive world created through the power of skillful intention and action. If we immerse ourselves in these sutras – especially through reading them aloud – our limited frames of reference expand. Our hearts and minds open to vaster vistas of beauty and wonder, which are expressions of great compassion. We are inspired in our spiritual practice to keep enlarging our capacity for the good in keeping with being aspiring Bodhisattvas. The positive precepts then have no limit; they are boundless. The skillful enriches life. The opportunities to be skillful are endless, for there are ever-present opportunities to give page 8
expression to one or another of the positive precepts more fully and deeply. In the Anguttara Nikaya of the Pali Canon, we find the story of Mahanama. He was born into the same clan as the Buddha and is already the Buddha’s disciple. He is a family man who has been ill and has just recently recovered. He goes to visit the Buddha who is staying with monks gathered on the edge of Kapilavatthu, the town where he lives. Walking through the grove of trees, Mahanama sees monks seated on the ground making new robes to be offered to the Buddha when the three-month rainy season retreat ends. Mahanama is aware that once those new robes are offered, the Buddha will set off again. Now, he knows, is a good time to approach the Buddha for a teaching. Mahanama finds the Buddha, pays his respect, sits down and asks him for guidance. He asks: for those like himself who are not homeless wanderers, whose minds dwell here and there, where should he and other householders place their minds? After considering this, the Buddha responds. First, the Buddha speaks of the five spiritual faculties and of how one aroused to practice as Mahanama is, is one with faith, persistence and mindfulness; centered in concentration; and discerning. On the basis of these five qualities being established, the Buddha then tells Mahanama of six further qualities he, and others like him, should develop. These are the six Annusatis (annu means constant; sati means mindfulness or recollection) – the constant recollections or the six things to be constantly mindful of. The first three are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, the qualities of the Three Jewels. I particularly want to focus on the fourth and fifth Annusatis. First, though, let’s hear the Buddha explaining to Mahanama what consequences unfold naturally from cultivating constant mindfulness of the qualities of the Three Jewels (as edited from Thanissaro Bhikkus’
translation of Anguttara Nikaya 11.13 in Pali) Furthermore there is the case where you recollect the Tathagata, the Dhamma, the Sangha. At any time when a disciple of the noble one is recollecting any of the Three Jewels, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the Three Jewels. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble one gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated. Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of the Three Jewels while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children. Then the Buddha comes on to the fourth and fifth Annusatis which are first, one’s own virtues and ethical practice, one’s own observance of the precepts, one’s sila; and, second, one’s own generosity or practice of dana. The text continues: Furthermore there is the case where you recollect your own virtues. . . where you recollect your own generosity; It is a gain, a great gain for me, that, among people overcome with the stain of possessiveness I live at home, my awareness cleansed of the stain of possessiveness, freely generous, open handed, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. At any time when a disciple of the noble one is recollecting generosity (or his abstention from the unskillful and practice of the skillful), his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on generosity (or virtue). And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble one gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In - Positive Action, continued on page 18
Buddhism and Kindness from Friends Helps Transition to Freedom Rich was a member of the New Hampshire State Prison Sangha in Berlin, NH. He was released this past fall after his most recent incarceration of 16 years. Rich shared his thoughts about the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The story below is his. Rich was recently married and now lives with his wife and stepson in Colorado. — Editors
by Rich How, I’m sure you are wondering, does a person benefit from a Buddhist practice when being released from prison after 16 years? I was extremely fortunate to benefit from Satyada’s monthly visits to the prison along with the Buddha gals from the Valley Insight Meditation Society in Lebanon, NH. I attended my first Buddhist study group about four years ago, and I was hooked immediately. I just knew I was onto a very powerful thing that could help in my rehabilitation process, which so
you know, is not an easy thing to do. To change my thought process, my beliefs, my perspective and my views is a very difficult process. Verse one of the Dhammapada says, “All states of being are determined by mind; it is mind that leads the way.” OK then. I just knew or could feel that this is the key. I would study, read books, devote two hours per day to meditation (three sits), and I would pepper Satyada with questions. Poor guy. He was patient, and we had many great conversations. Imagine how my mind was in turmoil over my pending release. Of course, I was excited but also nervous, scared, unsure, so much so that I had trouble eating. Where would I live and work? How would I adapt and adjust? Now that I’ve been rehabilitated, and by that I mean 10 years of classes, meetings with “The Mental Gals” (prison mental health staff), Buddhist practice along with a long list of other things I’ve done, how will my new frame of mind serve me after 16 years of prison life? Add to that my new sweetheart that I met because of a radio interview.
She heard me interviewed on National Public Radio (NPR) and wrote me a letter. We’ve talked a lot about a future together. Will I be able to be as positive, loving and kind as I want to be? I haven’t had a relationship in a very long time; can I adjust properly? Yes, I was a wreck inside but to recite the Dhammapada, recall helpful books and quotes, listen to Satyada’s teaching, indulge in meditation to explore my mind, the answer became clear. Be present in this moment. Not in the past, not in the future, but right now. Keep my intentions pure, and great things will happen. Show kindness when possible, and remember it’s always possible to be kind. Accept things as they are. When I don’t, suffering arises. That is what I walked out of prison with. Freedom is overwhelming. This is a fast-paced, technologydriven world now. Utilizing all of the teachings that I’ve learned helps keep me grounded and at peace, and most of all, accepting each moment for the way it is. How grateful I am. And that, my Buddhist friends, is the difference between happiness and suffering. - Freedom, continued on page 19 aryaloka.org
arts at aryaloka
This serigraph (screenprint) – titled “Sentinel” – by Eric Ebbeson is hand-cut and printed. (Featured on cover of this issue.)
‘The Natural State’ – An Art Exhibit The next exhibit in Aryaloka’s art gallery will be “The Natural State – Paintings and Prints by Eric Ebbeson.” The show runs April 6 through May 25, and the opening reception will be announced. In 2012 Eric began leading a drawing group at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center where participants explore the connection between drawing and meditation. He works in several different media, notably watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, screen printing and calligraphy, often combining them in unusual ways. He has exhibited his work in New England galleries, including the Newpage 10
buryport Art Association Gallery, the Seacoast Art Association Gallery, the Laughing Moon (Plymouth, MA, and Bridgeton, ME), Yikes Gallery (Center Harbor, NH), Annie’s (Newburyport, MA), Tulips (Portsmouth, NH), the Blue Moon (Exeter, NH), Terra Perma (Laconia, NH) and Luna Gallery (Salem, MA). He has illustrated two books, The Ambiguity of Autumn, a book of poetry by Jeff Volk, and Luna and Floyd Visit their Grandparents, a children’s book by Lauren Levine. “Like countless artists before me,” said Eric, “I have found my inspiration in the natural world. Indeed, I feel that this is also how I came to Buddhism,
by seeing closely the impermanence and the interconnectedness of everything. Also, I found that drawing and meditation are very close to the same thing. I use my hiking boots and kayak to find the ‘Magic Places’ on this planet. I find peace, inspiration and joy there, and I hope that those who see my work will feel the same. I am drawn to the edges of things: riverbanks, places at the edge of the continent where sea, land and sky meet, mountaintops, twilight, sunset, dawn.”
poetry corner Dreams
Thoughts on Meditation
by Ed Rogers
by Leslie Myers Strong
Russian Caravan tea fills my morning breakfast thoughts with unspent energies from dreams the night before.
Do not be frightened. Silence bears no evil. Stillness brings forth great gifts of serenity. When the mind stops traveling the soul soars, venturing into that space that is greater than our mortal selves. Born of wings no man can put asunder, mortality is appreciated.
Like the aroma of these teas, blended with the countries they’ve travelled through, where journey and flavour are one. Like me each day, experiencing life a little differently, cautious of what I might become, but still my changing myself. Like features on a timeless landscape, sometimes hard to remember, but strangely even harder to forget. Dreams beguile us so. If I stop to draw you a map you might go there too. Can I trust you with my secret? Would these places disappear if you saw them too? Can we share our dreams? I travelled there last night and will go back this evening, returning at daybreak to the aroma of this Russian Caravan.
“The Poet’s Way” is the name of the poetry group that meets at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre, home to the Triratna Buddhist Community in this part of Scotland. Inspired by Manjusvara’s book of the same name, aspiring poets meet, usually on a monthly basis, to explore the awakening power of poems to complement and enhance their spiritual practice. Of course, it’s really good fun as well. All you have to do to participate is bring along a poem (with four copies), writing materials and vegetarian food to share during the break usually referred to as our nibbles. — Ed Rogers
The Buddha rupa in Glasgow Buddhist Centre’s large shrine room. Photo courtesy of Glasgow Buddhist Centre.
sangha notes: Keeping Sangha Connected During his annual visit, Nagabodhi, an order member from England and (NEWMARKET, NH) the president of Aryaloka, hosted “Dimensions of Mindfulness,” an order This fall brought a busy retreat mitra day investigating the depths schedule with the North American of mindfulness practice, as well as a Going For Refuge Retreat Teams Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction holding retreats for both the men (September) and women (October) on workshop. In November, Suddhayu gave a talk their way to ordination. at the Portsmouth-Aryaloka Sangha In September Lona Kovacs and Day, a time for meditation, discussion Sunada led the “Sublime Composure” and sharing a meal. yoga and meditation retreat. — Peter Ingraham Particpants practiced Buddhist ARYALOKA SANGHA
meditation as well as Ashtanga yoga and focused on the supportive relationship between the two. Bodhana and Karunasara led this season’s “Intensive Noble Silence” weekend retreat in November. Guest speakers Sanjay Bhagat and Suraj Yengde presented Ambedkar Day with dinner by Harshal Dofe in celebration of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and his work to bring Buddhism to the Dalits (former untouchables) in India.
As a result of a year doing environmental education with Americorps, Aryaloka Sangha member Scott Hurley was inspired to change his transportation to help the environment. After meeting someone who had replaced his family’s cars with electric bikes, Scott decided to get a motor for his bike. Since Summer 2015, he has come to six events at Aryaloka riding his electric bicycle 90 miles from Keene, NH. At a young Sangha retreat, he came up with the idea to educate more people with a sign on his bike pointing to his website DiscoverElectricBikes.weebly.com.
To Help Those in Need SanghaCare time of need. is a volunteer When there is an illness, surgery, program that natural disaster or other critical event, expands our Sangha volunteers are available to Buddhist provide short-term practical and practice in SanghaCare spiritual support. practical ways Practical support may include, for to help those example: around us • Shopping for groceries or other while building necessities community • Preparing and/or delivering within the Aryaloka Sangha. It is the food Bodhisattva Ideal come to life in the • Running errands here and now. provides To help those in needSanghaCare and build • Transportation an opportunity Sangha members community within thefor Aryaloka • Caring for a pet sangha. to give as well as receive practical • Calling or writing messages of assistance and spiritual friendship in a care and sympathy To help those in need and build community within the Aryaloka sangha.
SanghaCare is a volunteer program that expands our Buddhist practice in practical ways to help those around us. It is the Bodhisattva Ideal come to life in the here and now.
SanghaCare provides an opportunity for sangha members to give as well as receive practical assistance and spiritual friendship in a time of need.
Spiritual support may include: • Visit from a trained Sangha spiritual caregiver • Meditation circle in person’s home or other location Who is eligible? Any member of the Aryaloka Sangha is eligible for services. Request for support should come from the person in need or someone else on their behalf. Contact the Aryaloka office by phone at (603) 659-5456 or e-mail info@Aryaloka.org. Sangha members who are interested in providing support to others are invited to fill out an application form (available at Aryaloka) and return it to the office.
sangha notes PORTSMOUTH BUDDHIST CENTER
NAGALOKA SANGHA (PORTLAND, ME)
It was a busy fall for the Portsmouth Buddhist Center. Close to 50 people came through our Thursday evening beginner courses in October, November and December. Our co-chair Suddhayu has been leading these courses. It is always great to have him more engaged when the growing season slows down a bit! Attendance at our community gatherings on Sunday mornings has been a heartening mix of regulars and newcomers. Viriyalila led a sixweek program based on Subhuti’s Mind in Harmony in October, and in December we explored the three marks of conditioned existence with Candradasa. We also had two events outside the center. On Election Day in November, we hosted a small group near the entrance to a Portsmouth polling place, meditating for peace and mutual respect as part of worldwide synchronized flash mobs coordinated by Elevate the Vote. Due to the weather, we had to cancel a couple of events in December, including a winter celebration for the broader Seacoast Sangha. That has now been rescheduled for February 3: a ceilidh (pron. kay-lee), with live music, country dancing, the sharing of songs, poems and stories, inspired by and to be hosted by our Scottish co-chair, Candradasa. Our spring schedule promises to bring other fun and inspiring events, including a Sangha retreat in March. — Bettye Pruitt
Thanks to Bodhipaksa for leading a meditation workshop for a few weeks in December. Dharmasuri ended the year with a look at wisdom. In January begins a 10-week study session on “The Journey and the Guide” by Maitreyabandhu lead by Dharmasuri and Janet Miles. Besides the Wednesday friends’ night, we continue our weekly sessions with an open sit on Monday evenings and sit and Dharma bite on Sunday mornings. We all look forward to hearing Sabrina Metivier tell of her trip to India. Thanks, too, to Narottama and Khemavassika as they continue leading mitra study the second Saturday of each month. Dharmasuri and Gail Yahwak lead the mitra’s foundation course on Friday afternoons. Nagaloka also hosts a practice day every other month for the women who have asked for ordination. Our eighth annual Portland, Boston and New York City Sangha retreat is scheduled over Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend in January. This year’s theme is the “Five Spiritual Faculties” led by Sunada, Dharmasuri, Sravaniya and Ananta. Ananta is new to this group. Ananta has been in Burma for the last two years (working rather than meditating unfortunately!). Before that he was based in North London for six years where he taught and led study; much of that time he was also working with Karuna Trust’s work in India and Nepal. He has been ordained for nine years. Originally, he is from Essex, the county east of London. He recently moved to New York and will be here for the foreseeable future. Please visit us at: www.NagalokaBuddhistCenter.org — Dh. Dharmasuri
Eight Buddhists from the Concord Sangha met for their quarterly retreat the last weekend of October. They were joined by several outside volunteers with the support of the prison chapel staff. The group gathered Friday 6:30-9 p.m. and Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The golden Buddha was resplendent, flanked by flowers and electric candles. Following a group consensus, Satyada opened the retreat with a dedication puja, and Khemavassika led the Sangha in chanting the refuges and precepts in call and response. Participants brought offerings to the Buddha including origami critters and a wasp nest. No wasps though. A period of meditation followed and concluded with three rings of the brass singing bowl. A separate room was set up for the group to enjoy tea and treats. The quality and variety of teas was exceptional. Never underestimate the beauty of tea and treats to a prisoner. After the tea break, the group gathered in the shrine room for a round-robin discussion of the Four Reminders. Later in the day, lunch was taken in the chapel with space for walking meditation after the vegetarian meal. Retreats are held quarterly, and the Sangha invites you to join. Weekly meditation sessions are held on Saturday mornings from 8:30–10:30 a.m. If you are interested in attending a retreat or a meditation session, please see Satyada or Khemavassika for details. — A Sangha member
sangha notes SAN FRANCISCO SANGHA
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SANGHA
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA)
The San Francisco Buddhist Center (SFBC) had an eventful fall with a few big events standing out among the usual offerings of inspiring teachings and events. The SFBC council arranged for facilitator and Buddhist teacher Arinna Weisman to lead an all-day training workshop in September addressing ways to make the center more inclusive for all people, and exploring barriers we could shift in how we teach and operate. The workshop addressed racial bias as well as other dimensions where unconscious biases can play out such as around gender, class and sexual orientation. The council, teaching kula and center management team attended the full-day workshop, which involved exercises, discussion and guided meditations. We hosted a Día de los Muertos/ Day of the Dead Sangha night. The Day of the Dead is dedicated to ancestors, and honors death, grieving and the cycle of life. It is an important holiday in the City’s Mission District where the SFBC is located. The management team created a special shrine for the event. The center is beginning to prepare for Viveka’s transition from the role of center chair. She says a change in center leadership is overdue, and that she would like to open herself up personally to a shift in focus while remaining committed to SFBC and Triratna. Rather than choose a new chair to take over from Viveka right
away, the council is pausing and sharing leadership for now, encouraging more people to become involved in shaping how they move forward. Our annual winter fundraiser was held in December, a festive affair with a silent auction, potluck and presentations by Sangha members. The warm, lively evening included a puppet show put on by Elaine Womack, whose partner Myra Bicknell is a member of our core Sangha; a photo presentation by Ken Feinberg; a showing of Prasadacitta’s movie about Siddhisambhava’s work on death and dying; and a presentation about Vimalamoska’s work building tiny houses for the homeless in San Francisco. The theme of the December winter weeklong meditation retreat, led by Viveka, was “Mind Like the Clear Blue Sky.” SFBC will be closed in January to the public while we have our Rainy Season Retreat. Dhammarati will lead it, sharing wisdom on the Satipatthana Sutta. The summer 2017 monthlong silent meditation retreat led by Paramananda and Viveka will be July 1-29 at Jikoji Retreat Center. If you are interested in finding out more about this retreat, please contact the center at info@SFBuddhistCenter.org to inquire about whether registration is still open. — Mary Salome
The Sun Lakes annual retreat took place in Washington with the Seattle and Vancouver Sanghas. This year’s theme was, “Of and Beyond the Six Great Elements,” and was beautifully led by Amala. It is a lovely place to spend time and make connections with our West Coast Sangha mates. Dhammarati made his annual visit to our neck of the woods and happily shared his time and knowledge with us in various venues. This year we held an Order Day with him. Tejavani led a couple of friends’ nights on “Mindfulness with Emotions and Thinking” and a night of “Remembering our Dead.” Abhayanaga is leading us through Vishvapani’s book, Gautama Buddha, The Life and Teachings of the Awakened One. We have second and fourth year Mitra Study groups, and they both are working with Bodhisattva modules. The two order chapters are lively as well as the group of women in the ordination process. We are putting more energy into the monthly practice day. Collective meditation seems a positive and effective way to engage in this time of uncertainty. Looking forward to the coming year, we will schedule intro classes and more retreats. May we all find some comfort and ease in the coming months and joy in Sangha. — Dh. Samatara
. . . The essence of the Buddha’s teaching is quite simple: Consciousness is not fixed but subject to change ...
NEW YORK SANGHA (NEW YORK CITY, NY)
A Few Glimpses – New York’s Fire Island Retreat The New York City Sangha held its Triratna Fire Island Retreat off the coast of Eastern Long Island in October. Here are a few glimpses of that gathering. Each morning, we rose early to watch the sky and sea slowly brightening, offering a shifting array of colors from the deepest grays and blues to pinks, yellows and oranges. Then the sun seemed to pop up over the horizon in seconds, and the day had begun. Our days were dedicated to medi tation and study, with Kamalashila, an order member from the U.K., instructing us in the elements practice, including a unique visualization meditation. We made strong connections between each of the elements and our surroundings. Of course, there was also plenty of mindfulness and metta. Throughout, the sound of the surf was ever present, crashing, subsiding, always changing. Our program left us plenty of time to enjoy the island, with walks on the beach, and simply lying in the sun. Several of us swam in the cold, pounding surf, keeping an eye to make sure that everyone who went into the water came out. By the light of a very full moon, we held an elements puja, and finished it on the beach, dancing, singing and generally cavorting as the pale but bright light reflected off the surf.
Neil Harvey organized an impromptu ceremony on impermanence, reading from the tiny book in which he had been writing a line from the Heart Sutra, “Gone, gone, gone beyond gone” over and over. We then moved to the fireplace, where we watched the book burn. Neil also put his fire-making skills to use throughout the retreat. Vajramati demonstrated his skills as a chef as well as our Sangha leader, keeping us well fed throughout the retreat. Fay Simpson regaled us with tales of her family’s history with the old house, and her childhood summers spent playing on the beach.
The sky at Fire Island off the coast of Eastern Long Island offered a shifting array of colors at sunrise and sunset.
Russ Davis shared a poem inspired by our days of study and practice on the elements. Even the trip itself was an important part of the journey. On the ferry ride out, the sun set behind us as the moon rose ahead. Beautiful. — Gary Baker
.... and if we can learn to trace the way it changes, we can direct that change to― Sangharakshita, Living with Awareness: wards positive growth.” A Guide to the Satipatthana Sutta aryaloka.org
sangha connections: Conversations with Triratna Order Members
life – his birth, enlightenment, and his departure from the human world. “If someone had told me you’re going to chant and do a puja, I never would have gone,” he said, “but the whole thing was just magic. So I went to Dharma Day two months later.” Next he attended a 16-day retreat led by Sangharakshita. “And that was it. It was Sangha . . . I was living with five friends in London in an apartment, and they were and are extremely interesting and good friends. But this was something different. It surprised me, it surprised my old friends, that this was something I just wanted more of.” by Bettye Pruitt experience in detail and sent him When he attended Sangharakshita’s home with a pile of books on Eastern lecture, “Vision and Transformation,” When the pain of his philosophy and religion. his connection to the movement was first heartbreak drove “They said you are going to find kin- sealed. His early experience of stephim to question the dred spirits there,” Nagabodhi said. ping outside his conditioned sense meaning of life, Terry He felt most comfortable with Edward of self and his subsequent efforts to Pilchick had the good Conze’s anthology of Buddhist scriprecreate that experience suddenly fortune to encounter a tures and started thinking of himself seemed insufficient. Sangharakshita short anthology of classic writings on as a Buddhist, albeit one determined shared a quote to the effect that a existentialism. He was on holiday with to find his own way back to his experi- spiritual person isn’t someone who a group of university friends but kept ence of no self through meditation. has spiritual experiences but someto himself, walking the beach contem“The ineffable nature of the expeone who puts them at the center of plating these new ideas. rience meant that I couldn’t trust rehis or her life. “It was as if directed at “I spent all my time trying to work ligions or teachers, so I didn’t think me,” said Nagabodhi. “It seemed out, how do I make a choice? Which it was going to be about that,” he like that was what I needed to do, so I meant asking, ‘Who am I? Where do said. “But I did think I needed to have got involved.” I make the choice from?’” he said. the experience again and again, beOrdination: full-on dedication to the Following this thread, he came to cause when I did – and I managed movement recognize the role of conditioning and to do it a few times – it would feed The group around Sangharakshita had what felt like a breakthrough to me for the next few weeks or months in the early 1970s was just 30 people a sense of an essential self that was even. In all other ways I was just a or so, and ordination happened capable of making choices. But the perfectly normal screwed up kid.” more quickly than now. “It was a momentum of his inquiry sent him A few years later in London, in his back to wondering what was behind first job as a trainee assistant film edi- thing – after awhile you asked for that. tor at the BBC, Terry encountered an- ordination, and one by one we were getting ordained.” In January “I was pushing into it, expecting other new hire, a Buddhist and a fol1974, Sangharakshita ordained an answer when ‘I’ just disappeared lower of Sangharakshita, who “made Terry Pilchick and gave him the into the beach and the sea and the it his mission” to bring Terry along to sky. For a few moments my sense of the Sangha. He was impressed by the name Nagabodhi that means “the wisdom that strikes from the depths, self just was everything, which was first lecture he attended but far from like a sea-serpent” or “dragon-like rather interesting and unexpected.” hooked. Six months later, however, awakening.” Right away the new Soon afterward, some family friends the friend managed to get him to a Nagabodhi began to see that his life – “a couple of old-fashioned, eccenWesak celebration that marks three would be radically altered. tric mystics” – had him describe his momentous events in the Buddha’s
Dh. Nagabodhi: Dedicated to the Movement
Following the public ordination ceremony, he and four others ordained at the same time “went straight from the shrine room into the first convention of the Western Buddhist Order.” There were 23 order members and Sangharakshita, Nagabodhi recalled. “He (Sangharakshita) said things like, ‘I’m not going to be doing all the teaching forever.’ He basically unfolded his vision of a movement. Suddenly this thing I’d done had implications that could potentially take over my life. It wasn’t instantly, ‘Oh, yes.’ But it was instantly, ‘Oh gosh! What am I going to do?’” Nagabodhi was then 25. He started giving half his income to the movement and did a little teaching. Then, over Indian food one evening, he and Subhuti discussed the need to publish Sangharakshita’s books and lectures. “That felt like something needing to be done,” he said. “I didn’t want to just drop out and hang out around the place. The idea of a pro ject was what made me take the leap.” Eight months after his ordination he resigned from his job at the BBC. “When I told Sangharakshita about the publishing venture,” said Nagabodhi, “he said, ‘Well, you realize to do something like that will involve quite a commitment, two, maybe three years.’ Twenty-five years later I managed to extricate myself from editing our magazines and running our publishing house (Windhorse Publications)!” In the midst of launching Windhorse Publications, at Sangharakshita’s request, Nagabodhi helped launch the Croydon Buddhist Centre in London and was chair there for three years. He then helped launch the London Buddhist Centre and subsequently went to Padmaloka (a men’s retreat center in Norfolk, UK) and later to Madhyamaloka (a men’s retreat center in Birmingham, UK) to live and support Sangharakshita. In 1999, the year after stepping down as chair of Windhorse Publications, he took on the more advisory role of president of Windhorse Publications. He was also at that time a private and public preceptor and president of seven Triratna Buddhist
centers in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands. These days he has separated from Windhorse Publications entirely and is chair of just five centers (including Aryaloka), as well as being part of the College of Preceptors and a trustee of Adhisthana, a retreat center and Sangharakshita’s home in England. In short, the significance of ordination for Nagabodhi has unfolded in a career of full-on dedication to the movement. Sangharakshita challenged him to make something of his spiritual experience and then offered, in his vision of the order, the Bodhisattva Ideal. “My life in the Order is very much aligned with that,” said Nagabodhi. “It’s my attempt to make my life meaningful by not doing merely what I feel like doing but putting myself at the disposal of others.” Current practice: active engagement These days, Nagabodhi says his spiritual practice is embedded in a life that remains busy. After living for nearly 25 years in men’s communities and a number of years on his own, he married Dh. Vimalacitta They now live in the Cotswolds, not far from Adhisthana. Yet, he is away from home more than four months each year for his work in the order. He stays connected virtually with those for whom he is a Kalyana Mitra or a preceptor. He also helps his mother manage her affairs. Since about 2009, Nagabodhi’s day job has been to run a thriving secular mindfulness business, Mindfulness West – a rare opportunity, as he sees it, “to bring a significant element of Buddhist practice and perspective into the West. Helping people in pain or stress to recognize the collaborative relationship between their minds and the rest of reality, as well as the highly conditioned nature of those minds, seems like a job worth doing!” he said. “Every day is incredibly full. Just working with that – staying focused within, centered within and in touch with a metta-ful spirit – I realize that is my real cutting edge of practice at the moment.”
His daily meditations are mainly Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana. His Sadana practice is reserved for solitary retreats. “Because I teach secular mindfulness, I’ve got quite a focus in my practice on doing what I teach in the mindfulness world and just getting closer to the spirit of that. So for the last two or three years I’ve very happily focused mainly there,” he said. “My life in the movement has not been one that was limpid, calm, centered. It must have been ordained that that was going to be my path, because in the early days I really struggled to deal with how much work there was, how many deadlines, and yet then you’d have to go and lead a meditation class in the evening. To hold that together and have an inner life of my own, it took me a long time to get there. I think I’m not bad at it now. But I honestly feel that’s been my path of practice. It’s not that I don’t meditate and it’s not that I haven’t had periods when my meditation has been particularly important or particularly fruitful. But I think activity and engagement and interaction have been much, much more the practice that I’m dealing with, day-to-day, moment-to-moment.” These days in the movement, Nagabodhi noted, there is a growing emphasis on insight experiences. He sees value in that and comes back to the fact that his personal priority has been “doing what I can to be useful and, in that process, attempting to purify my mind, my intention and my motivation.” That original “lightning-bolt” experience, refined by his understanding of the Bodhisattva Ideal, remains his reference point. “It is there in the background as a kind of implicit question: am I doing this for myself (my deluded idea of a self)? Or am I doing it in order to make meaning expressly by not doing it for myself?” Triratna has benefited greatly from that lifelong willingness to inquire relentlessly and follow where the inquiry has led.
The opportunities to be skillful are endless, for there are ever-present opportunities to give expression to one or another of the positive precepts more fully and deeply.
- Positive Action, continued from page 8 one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated. Mahanama, you should develop this recollection of generosity (or virtue) while you are walking, while you are standing, while you are sitting, while you are lying down, while you are busy at work, while you are resting in your home crowded with children. The sutra makes clear that it is healthy and spiritually beneficial to be aware of one’s own skillfulness, one’s practice of each of the precepts, not only in terms of restraint or abstention from, but also in terms of expression of the positive precepts, and within this, specifically, one’s expressions of generosity. We cannot simultaneously focus our attention on the good and the wholesome and also be unskillful. Indeed, to the extent we occupy our minds with awareness of deeds well done, our own skillfulness and those of others’ will increase naturally. We need to be vigilant when we open ourselves to input or sensory stimulation. If we are not sufficiently mindful, they may trigger negative mental states. Most newspaper content and news bulletins are liable to have this effect upon us as they so rarely convey positive news and present a quite distorted picture of the world. Undoubtedly, many terrible things happen daily across the world, but there are also a myriad of small as well as outstanding acts of generosity, courage and kindness.
In our story of Mahanama, we see the Buddha revealing to him an unfolding sequence of spiral conditionality arising naturally from the cultivation of the chosen Annusati. The Buddha leaves us with the mind becoming concentrated. The concentrated mind, the positively integrated mind is, as we know, a fit mind to see things as they really are. The Buddha doesn’t explicitly spell this out to Mahanama. Perhaps he is saying: practice like this and see what happens. Concentration in and of itself is probably appealing to Mahanama. Remember, he prefaces his question to the Buddha by describing how he and other householders’ minds focus now here, now there. Their lifestyle, like ours, is more complex than that of the homeless wanderers, and would seem to require this ever-shifting focus. Of course, the danger is that one’s mind ends up restless and unable to settle on anything for very long, and one’s experience of life is then likely to be relatively shallow and superficial. We certainly aren’t going to see the truth of things in such a condition of mind. Mahanama was wondering if there was some way he and others like him could, despite the demands and potential distractions of their lifestyles, go deeper. Was there some place they could anchor their minds to something deeper? The Buddha describes how he could do this. I’d like to suggest we give attention not only to the qualities of the Three Jewels but also to acts well done. Be
aware of our skillfulness, our expression of the positive precepts and actively rejoice in the good, the virtues and the generosity we see in ourselves. Become more sensitive to how we feel when we are skillful, what the quality of our experience is. We might wonder if there is a risk here of self-inflation. The Buddha didn’t seem to think so. Initial motive is everything, and, in Mahanama’s case, the motive is to deepen practice, which arises from his sincere practice of the five spiritual faculties he has developed to a significant degree. Let’s remember what the Buddha says with regards to each Annusati: “At any time when a disciple of the noble one is recollecting these Annusatis, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on recollecting them and when the mind is headed straight he gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma.” Through practising in this way, we are aligning ourselves with the way things are at the deepest or highest level. The joy and pleasure which naturally arises, rather than being self-indulgent, will, if we give ourselves fully to it, take us further along the spiral path until, in dependence upon concentration, arises knowledge and vision of things as they really are. From here on a whole new story begins to unfold which ultimately leads to full enlightenment.
- Freedom, continued from page 9 The generosity and kindness of my Buddhist friends are overwhelming to me. First, I am grateful to Satyada for coming up to the prison to teach us, for his offer to help me become a mitra, and for his invitation to come to Aryaloka upon my release. His kindness is staggering. A great friend and mentor is a fellow inmate and Sangha member. He is the person who introduced me to Buddhism. He understood the challenges that faced me upon my release. He asked his family to pick me up and bring me to my new home so I wouldn’t have to carry trash bags full of my possessions to catch buses. His family member not only gave me a ride but stopped for a “real people” lunch. Real people food tastes so good. He also stopped at stores to buy real people clothes for me. His family put together a care package full of things like dishes, coffee maker, sheets, pillows and food, including a homemade apple pie. Can you imagine the positive effect that has on a person? Before I left my friend said, “You are my Dharma brother, and
that’s what we do, and that’s the type of people you will find in freedom.” He was right. Satyada welcomed me in freedom with an invitation to visit Aryaloka. Deb Howard, an Aryaloka Sangha member, called me called to say hello. She welcomed me and asked if there was anything she could do to help me. What a kind thing to do! Computers still frazzle me so Deb found Buddhist services in the area where I was living and called ahead for me. Wow! What kindness! I was able to go to Buddhist services because of her, and believe me, I needed it. To enjoy the peacefulness of meditation and discussion that only a Sangha can provide is priceless. And of course, being invited to Aryaloka for a candle ceremony, and meeting everyone that I’ve heard about over the years was an incredible experience. To be involved with a real people Sangha is something I have dreamed about for a long time. Side note: I was so impressed with the chanting. In prison, not many people know the words and when they recite them,
they are low and unsure. It was all I’ve known, but to hear people chanting loudly, confidently and passionately vibrated through my bones. It was awesome! The most recent example of Buddhist kindness was on Thanksgiving. I was sitting in my rented room, watching old movies and enjoying turkey pot pies from the grocery store. I was so happy and grateful to be free to do that. Then I got a call from a Buddhist friend who was in town and asked if I wanted to meet at a local diner so we could hang out a bit. I thought having coffee would be great, but we had a complete Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoyed great company, friendship and lots of metta. I left the diner so incredibly happy and content and with a doggy bag of leftovers. An act of kindness from my Buddhist friend made a huge difference to me, and I’ll never forget my first Thanksgiving in freedom. Buddhist teachings, meditation and my Sangha are all helping me adapt to freedom and the challenges it brings. I thank you all for that.
Buddhist teachings, meditation and my Sangha are all helping me adapt to freedom.
upcoming events at aryaloka For a full listing of events at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, NH, check out the website at Aryaloka.org. Here are two featured upcoming events. Friday, March 3 — Sunday, March 5 Sangha Retreat: Spiritual Friendship Led by Dh. Candradasa, Dh. Khemavassika, Dh. Narottama and Dh. Satyada
Tuesday, March 21 Mandala Evening: Stories from India 6:45 – 9:15 p.m.
Aryaloka’s first joint retreat for Aryaloka and Portsmouth Buddhist Centers Sangha members. Join us for a weekend of meditation, Dharma study and deepening friendships. We will explore the depths of Kalyana Mitrata, beautiful friendship, which is cultivated with honest communication, kindness, silent reflection on metta and considering the other, as a path to insight. This retreat will be jointly led by teachers from Aryaloka and the Portsmouth Buddhist Center to foster friendship and Sangha connection within the seacoast New Hampshire Triratna community. Quarterly, the entire Sangha will gather at Aryaloka for a special event, such as a talk by an order member or a meditation workshop by a visiting teacher. The Mandala evenings are opportunities for all Sangha members – order members, mitras and friends – to gather together for collective practice, study, friendship and rejoicing. The first Mandala evening will be March 21. Dh. Lilasiddhi, Jean Corson, Deb Howard and Pam Raley will share stories and a slide show about their pilgrimage to visit Buddhist sites and Triratna Centers in India in late 2016.
Buddhaworks the aryaloka bookstore
Your support brightens Aryaloka’s future. Buddhaworks is located at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center
Buddhaworks, Aryaloka’s bookstore, has several additional book titles on its shelves: Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide For Teens by Diana Winston; Change Your Mind, A practical guide to Buddhist meditation by Paramananda; The Journey and the Guide by Maitreyabandhu; No Mud, No Lotus
by Thich Nhat Hanh; Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation by Bhikkhu Analayo; and Living With Kindness by Sangharakshita. There are also new additions to our used book section. A new section in the bookstore features the artwork of artists in our
Sangha: a painting by Deb Howard, photography by Tom Gaillard, pottery by Sue Ebbeson, and cards by Bodhana, Eric Ebbeson and Deb Howard. ― Dh. Shantikirika
Aryaloka operate so well. We miss her every day and wish her only the best The Board of Direcon her new adventure. tors, (BOD), has been The BOD has worked hard to quite busy these last few provide support until we can re-hire months with the operVanessa’s position, which we will ation of the center and look to do in 2017. Daniel Kenney dealing with the challenges of trangraciously agreed to take on the role sition. In addition to regular monthly as facilities manager for the next year. meetings, we have had additional He has already facilitated a successful meetings, including a joint meeting work day and helped prepare the with the Spiritual Vitality Council, center for the winter season. Barry (SVC), to coordinate our efforts to Timmerman has agreed to chair the keep Aryaloka a vital place for all to SanghaCare initiative, which continues study and practice Buddhism. With to move forward, with a plan to Arjava’s resignation and Vanessa’s launch in the Spring. Finances are move to San Francisco came the task stable and we did quite well with the of finding a new board chair, finding year end pledge drive. We are looking support for Shrijnana, filling duties to head into 2017 in the black. and roles to ensure the work we do at The BOD just held its annual Aryaloka is carried on skillfully. general meeting. We reviewed First, a large debt of gratitude to highlights of the past year, which Arjava for his many years of tireless included the current success of commitment to Aryaloka. His teachTuesday Friends night and teaching ing, leadership, friendship and hard the Path of Practice. Other highlights work cannot be praised enough. have been how well the BOD has Vanessa’s role as executive assistant continued to function in harmony was an integral part of what makes with the recent challenges noted
above. We approved the budget for 2017, elected BOD members and officers for 2017 and interviewed potential candidates for BOD positions including chair, vice chair and board member at large. At this juncture the BOD membership is: Dayalocana, interim chair; Tom Galliard, treasurer; Barry Timmerman, secretary; and board members at large Daniel Kenney, Alicia Roberts, Elizabeth Hellard, Jean Corson, Rijupatha and Amala. As we move forward into 2017, the BOD will continue to have prospective board members attend meetings and continue the process of deciding roles. The prospective members bring diverse skills which will complement the existing board nicely. Please stay tuned as we continue to strive on mindfully. It is most auspicious to be part of this vital Sangha. May we all support each other in the coming year, as each one of us works to transform ourselves and ultimately the world.
board notes by Barry Timmerman
from the editors: How am I Spending my Now? by Mary Schaefer Editor-in-Chief, Vajra Bell
“. . .one’s experience is profoundly colored by the mind with which one sees it. To change this mind is A few years ago, I to change one’s experience of the had at least two people world…We can always choose to act in say to me in the span new and creative ways.” of a few days that they I experienced the power of this noticed I often started a conversation freedom with a recent incident at by talking about how busy I was. work. I prepared and facilitated an When I thought about it, I realized intense presentation to the board I did do that, prompting people to about what was needed to take say something like, “My, you’re busy!” the organization forward. It was a Then I would want to protest: “I’m not productive, challenging meeting late really busy. How can I be busy when one night. The next morning I had to I’m not getting done what I want to be back at work at 8 a.m. to interview get done?” a couple of board members. I was As an exercise, I stopped using exhausted going into the meetings, the B word and watched to see what and each of them was an intense would happen if I – instead of talking two-hour discussion about the about how busy I was – talked about organization’s challenges. Afterward, I what was important to me now. I was physically and emotionally spent. found that instead of being stressed I just wanted to curl up in a ball and by my busyness, I started to notice cry. I felt inadequate. I had so much and appreciate what I was doing and to do, I thought, and not an ounce became more mindful in choosing of energy or one clear thought to go how I spent my now. forward. This is just one example of how Thanks to my meditation and when I change how I think – and talk mindfulness practice, I was able to – about my life I can act in new and watch my mind and body and pay creative ways. We just wrapped up a attention. I appreciated that I needed mitra study on the book, This Being, rest and was not able to think very That Becomes, The Buddha’s Teaching clearly – best not to think in those on Conditionality by Dhivan. I only read conditions! I also noticed several a few pages or even just a passage background stories running at the a day so I could absorb and practice same time: I can’t do this! What what this means for how I can be makes me think I can do this? Things in my life. One passage particularly wouldn’t be in this state if I were spoke to me: only better organized, smarter, more
experienced. All of these people would be acting differently if I had just said and done the right thing at the right time. They must think I’ve screwed things up. “Yikes, is this going on all the time?” I wondered. As I gain greater awareness, I come to see the subtle stories that run relentlessly due to years of conditioning. As I uncover one, I discover another. It’s like the ringing in my ears of multiple tones at different pitches that come and go in their intensity depending upon how tired, busy or quiet I am. This is just my mind, I told myself. I don’t have to believe any of this. All of this is running overtime, because I’m physically and emotionally exhausted. I kept thinking, I just have to be here now. I don’t have to do anything about any of this. I just have to sit still, relax and pay attention. I don’t have to get caught up emotionally in what I know will change and isn’t real anyway. What could have turned into a tailspin of hours, days and, in the past, even weeks, faded away and made way for the realization: I am perfectly capable of handling this if I just focus on how I’m doing here and now. I could see – in a clearer way – how I am always trying to figure things out, planning and preparing to make sure the future works out so I can be here now. Instead, I can let the future take care of itself and focus on being here now.
I am always trying to figure things out, planning and preparing to make sure the future works out so I can be here now.
from the editors: Recollecting our Virtue
Constantly recollecting the Dharma allows us to see everyday phenomena as they really are rather than as hooks for our suffering. This gives us the option to experience joy. by David Watt Associate Editor, Vajra Bell
cultivate the Five Spiritual Faculties: conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration and discernment – no small feat. Once we’ve managed that, This past year was the Buddha urges that we constantly extremely challenging bring to mind the Buddha, the for me. My work life Dharma and the Sangha as well as was busier than it had been for our own virtue and acts of generosity. more than a decade, there were He urges Mahanama to recollect health challenges in my family and these qualities, (called the Annusatis the political chaos in my homeland or objects of constant recollection), continues to intrude into my thoughts as he goes about all of the activities in many unskillful ways. These of his life. On the surface, these conditions affected my daily attitude, practices appear difficult for my my relationships, my practice and wandering, distracted mind. indeed every aspect of the way I Fortunately, Sanghadevi and moved through the world. Vidhuma encourage me. For Still, my connection to the Three example, Sanghadevi points out Jewels, however tenuous it feels that, as a practical matter, when sometimes, grounds me in what we contemplate our own skillful I know to be important and the actions we are much less likely to act principles I want to embody. When I unskillfully. When we recollect our meditate with the Sangha or study the own generosity, we are more likely Dharma with my mitra group, I have to be generous. Vidhuma takes a a clearer sense of impermanence, somewhat different tack, pointing out of the suffering caused by my that there is no boundary between attachment to the intrusive clatter our daily life and our spiritual life, that I allow into my life, and I often they are indeed one and the same. experience joy. Why can’t I live this Constantly recollecting the Dharma way always? allows us to see everyday phenomena In this issue, we feature essays as they really are rather than as by Sanghadevi and Vidhuma that hooks for our suffering. This gives us draw from the Mahanama Sutta the option to experience joy. Both of in which the Buddha discusses these essays helped me transform precisely this question. Mahanama the naive view of the Annusatis as is a householder who seeks the simple behavioral conditioning into Buddha’s counsel about how one practices that cultivate a closer, kinder can practice while embedded in view of the world in every moment. I his daily life. On the first reading, am grateful to have spent some time I found the Buddha’s reply rather with them. daunting. First, we must successfully I was also fortunate this fall to hear
a fellow mitra, Rich, who was released from prison earlier this year tell his story to our mitra study group at Aryaloka. He has written down parts of his remarkable story, and we are happy to include it in this issue. As I listened to him speak, I marveled at his practice and the transformation that has occurred in him. When I read through his story, I see some of the themes from Mahanama Sutta arising. “Keep my intentions pure and great things will happen. Show kindness when possible and remember it’s always possible to be kind.” I recall him using the phrase “remembering the teachings” several times, exactly what the Buddha calls on us to do. As he shared his story, I was struck by how much I identified with his experience and by the joy with which he embraces his new life. We celebrate New Year’s Day at Aryaloka by meditating for peace throughout the course of the day. I was fortunate to spend a couple of hours at the center that day. During the lunch hour, there was no formal group meditation, and the shrine room was nearly empty. As I sat on the bench, I began to contemplate the very large gong that sits at the edge of the room. It is only rung on special occasions as it is very loud. As I meditated, I imagined this gong ringing 108 times, allowing the reverberations to decay each time, releasing the defilements of the past year and rededicating my practice. May we all be well and happy in the new year. aryaloka.org
Mythic Perspectives: The Buddha in the Dark by Dh. Candradasa It is our first image. It is our best image: the Buddha sitting under a tree. A human form, changing on the inside. Half in light and half out of it; in the day and in the night. But the change is not just of that nature – darkness to light, night to day: the epiphany of the dawn only. He is also half in and half out of the dark, in the deep, dense jungle. Not divided, but able to move like Persephone through each realm, at ease with the upper and under worlds. Beyond all narrative, beyond the allocation of meaning, it is our first image, perhaps our only image, but we do not make enough of it. I sometimes wonder if we focus our shrines and our discourses too much on one side, tell half a story, find one face only of meaning. Our most treasured words shine properly with morning: “Enlightenment,” “Awakening.” Yet we do not talk so much of “Endarkenment” in the third watch of the night with the morning star rising, though that is traditionally when Siddhartha broke through. We do not speak so much of dreaming into reality when light is not the main context. Which is odd, because that’s often our experience of things – being in shadow and dark confusion when we are sitting under our own tree, as it were, exploring our relationship to being and to reality. We have another word, a different way of talking about what the Buddha undergoes: “Insight.” The word it often translates – vipassana
spreading the dharma
An inner glance, a sustained gaze, capable of genuinely witnessing the actual, the true nature of things – their mixedness, their confection, their re-generations.
– connotes inward seeing, seeing through, based upon experience (though not only in the modern sense of personal experience) rather than ideas. In English, its associations are similarly clear, and they are not of the usual brightness. It is not the outer eye of the sun that illuminates things for the Buddha’s seeing. It is not just the dynamic in that famous image of his third eye looking out over the world, across time and space, viewing all arisings and passings away. No, it is more like the shaman who has learned how to see his own skeleton. It is Tiresias the prophet, the man struck blind because of what he has witnessed with his own eyes. Tiresias had watched two snakes copulating – twice – and had been changed because of it: once to a woman, then later back into a man. After he upset Hera, Zeus’ wife and sister, he was blinded by her. It’s quite a story. A person blinded unexpectedly for his vision and transformations within the great duality; someone who had stood on both sides of it, and, I’d speculate, felt a meaningful union that was enough to upset the gods. The gods surely have the most invested in maintaining opposition and straight polarity amongst themselves,
between the sexes, within the paradigm of creation and all its attendant acts. At the end of his tale, Tiresias is compensated richly by Zeus: he receives the treasures of the dark – the secrets of the future – on their own terms as he is given the powers of a seer. Ovid tells it, via Ted Hughes’ version, in his Metamorphoses: “His inner eye opened like a night scope.” A new-old kind of vision then, deep inwards and all around and out again from there, without any literalizing of position or of time or of place. Insight. An inner glance, a sustained gaze, capable of genuinely witnessing the actual, the true nature of things – their mixedness, their confection, their re-generations. The eye that looks inside and out with a unified purpose and sees what matters. The eye of a Buddha coming into the light; the eye of a Buddha waiting in the dark. Candradasa is from Scotland and lives in Portsmouth, NH. He was ordained in 2001 and is the director of Triratna’s main online services and co-chair of the Portsmouth Buddhist Center. He has published poetry in various British poetry journals.
keeping sangha connected