Dharma Practice and Politics It has been more than a year since Malaysians went to the polls on March 8, 2008. Yet the rollercoaster political developments continued unabated in the country. Despite the recession that is now threatening Malaysians from all walks of life, the political leaders seem unable to veer away from the lingering political issues. Someone recently commented that unlike the Malaysian Christians who are vocal on political and social issues, the Malaysian Buddhists tend to be silent and passive most of the time. Is it true that Buddhists are not bothered with politics but only with their own individual Dharma practice? As Buddhists as well as citizens of Malaysia, should we not be concerned with politics? It is true that the central focus of Buddhism is our personal spiritual development and transformation. But contemporary Buddhist leaders such as Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Burmese icon Aung San Suu Kui have all advocated individual practice with a response to social conditions. In his Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that â€œMindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. We must be aware of the real problems of the world. With mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help.â€? In his autobiography Footprints in the Snow, Chan Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009) explained that the aim of Buddhism is to create a Pure Land on earth, a place free from vexation. Another contemporary Buddhist master, Master Hsing Yun, spoke of the same when espousing Humanistic Buddhism. So if we follow the advice of these great masters, Buddhists should not just focus on their own personal development but be involved to help create a peaceful society that is free of suffering. This is also the message of the Buddha when he said that his sole intention is to show the path out of suffering, and into happiness. The aim of Buddhism is not to create new political institutions or to establish political arrangements. It seeks to approach the problems of society by reforming the individuals in society through ethical values, greater humanism, improved welfare, and more equitable sharing of resources. There is a limit to what a political system can do to safeguard the happiness and prosperity of the people. No political system, no matter how ideal, can bring about peace and happiness as long as the people in the system are dominated by greed, hatred and delusion. So the aim of Buddhists is to firstly eliminate these three poisons within themselves, and to support political parties that share similar beliefs to create a peaceful society, but through non-violent, legal, and non-discriminative means. The Buddha himself is concerned about the well-being of society. In the Dasa Raja Dharma, he gave advice on ten ways how a good leader should govern the nation. Among others the leader should not be corrupt nor discriminate against the people. In the Cakkavatti Sihananda Sutta, leaders are told that immorality and crime arise from poverty. And in the Kutadanta Sutta, the Buddha suggested economic development instead of force to reduce crime. It is important therefore for Malaysian Buddhists to understand their role as citizens of the country. They should work closely with the political leaders from both the Government and the Opposition so as to share with them the time-tested principles of good governance as taught by the Buddha, and to engage them at all levels to help create a peaceful society among all Malaysians. In this way, they are combining their own Dharma practice by developing wisdom, and putting their compassion into action to create a better society for all. EH
BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}! BQSJM!311: FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!2
Lead Article: A mind of pure gold
by Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo
Teachings: Coping with a handful of leaves
by Ven Aggacitta Bhikkhu
Teachings: The secret of a happy married life
by Venerable K. Sri
Features: Stones in the road: aversion
Teachings: Unwavering faith by Venerable Daehaeng Kun Sunim
Teachings: The three marks of existence by Pema Chรถdrรถn
by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera (1919-2006)
Teachings: Four Kinds of Prostration by Chan Master Sheng Yen
Teachings: Buddhism in a Nutshell: The Four Seals of Dharma by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
Face to Face: Planting the Dharma Seeds in Vietnam by Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni
EasTern HorIzon radiating the light of dharma
In Memory of Chan Master Sheng Yen
April 2009 Issue No. 28 (Published 3 times a year)
eastern horizon publication board chairman Liau Kok Meng editor B. Liow <Bennyliow@gmail.com> sub-editors Tan Yang Wah / Dr. Ong Puay Liu
Rome Makes Dalai Lama an Honorary Citizen
manager Mak Lai Cheng art director Geam Yong Koon publisher YBAM <email@example.com> printer Vivar Printing Sdn Bhd
Cover Photographer: Jonathan Teh Sin Wei Cover Design: Geam Yong Koon
MALAYSIAN BUDDHIST SONGBOOK DHARMA TUNES VOLUME 1 LAUNCHED
Books In Brief
eastern horizon is a publication of the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM). A non-profit making project, this journal is non-sectarian in its views and approach. We aim to inspire, stimulate and share. The opinions expressed in eastern horizon are those of the authors and in no way represent those of the editor or YBAM. Although every care is taken with advertising matter, no responsibility can be accepted for the organizations, products, services, and other matter advertised. We welcome constructive ideas, invite fresh perspectives and accept comments. Please direct your comments or enquiries to: The Editor
Dharma Aftermath Mitigating the Depression Threat
Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia 9, Jalan SS 25/24, Taman Mayang, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, MAlAYSIA Tel : (603) 7804 9154 Fax: (603) 7804 9021 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Benny Liow <Bennyliow@gmail.com> www.ybam.org.my website :
by Rasika Quek KDN PP 8683/11/2009
Coping with a
Handful of Leaves by Ven Aggacitta Bhikkhu
Venerable Aggacitta is a Malaysian Theravāda Buddhist monk who was first ordained at Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre, Penang in 1978, and received his higher ordination (upasampadā) at Mahāsī Meditation Centre, Rangoon, Burma, in 1979. He has trained under various teachers, notably Sayādaw U Paṇḍita (Paṇḍitārāma), Sayādaw U Tissara (Yankin Forest Monastery), Sayādaw U Āciṇṇa (Pa Auk Forest Monastery) and Sayādaw U Tejaniya (Shwe Oo Min Dhammasukha Forest Centre). Besides practising meditation, he studied advanced Pāli and translation in Thai and Burmese under Sayādaw U Dhammananda at Wat Tamaoh, Lampang, Thailand, from 1983 to 1984. He continued to study the Pāḷi Tipiṭaka in Burma and researched on its interpretation and practice until his return to Malaysia in late 1994. In 2000, he founded Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS), a Theravāda monk training centre on a 10-acre undulating, hilly land on the outskirts of Taiping, Perak, Malaysia. Bhante Aggacitta has also initiated the highly successful Introduction to Monkhood Programme (renamed “Inspiration for Monkhood Programme” since IMP10) to sow the seeds of renunciation among local men who have the inclination for monkhood.
“What do you think, monks? Which are more... the leaves in my hand or those above the sisapa forest?” The Blessed One was staying near Kosambī in the sisapa forest when he picked up a handful of sisapa leaves and posed this question. “Few are the leaves in your hand, Bhante,” answered the monks, “compared to the abundant leaves above the sisapa forest.” “It is so indeed, monks,” said the Blessed One. “In the same way, vast is the knowledge that I have directly realised but not revealed. But why did I not reveal it?” The Buddha explained that it was because such knowledge was not conducive to total liberation from the sufferings pertaining to the endless round of births and deaths. (Sisapavana Sutta, SN 56:31).
Centuries later, the “handful of leaves” bequeathed to us was subsequently inscribed in three huge baskets of dried palm leaves, then printed in several thousand pages, and now stored in several hundred megabytes of disc space. How can we relate the method of insight meditation (vipassanā) that we are so familiar with to the handful of sisapa leaves? Could it be a leaf; perhaps just a cell? Or maybe even more minute than that? Not very long ago I was involved in an open discussion about various methods of vipassanā meditation. A long-time Mahāsī yogi asked, “What do you think of the Goenka method? They even claim that they are doing vipassanā meditation.” I was quite startled by his remark because it implied that only the Mahāsī method was vipassanā while others were not. There are in fact, some yogis who had difficulty making headway in the Mahāsī method but found the Pa Auk method more suitable for their meditative progress.
Later he told me that although mindfulness of the
Some of them have made such great advancement that
in-breath and out-breath (ānāpānassati) gave him
they have become qualified teachers of that method.
some peace and calmness, he found that his everyday mindfulness was becoming dull and blunt. When he
Yet there are others who assert that access or
was practising general mindfulness, he could watch his
absorption concentration is an absolute prerequisite
thoughts and emotions even when he was at work, and
before a yogi can even start to mentally observe
that helped him in self-restraint. But since he changed
(vipassati) the grossest of ultimate reality—material
to pure tranquillity (samatha) meditation, he had got
phenomena, not to mention mental phenomena like
wilder in his behaviour.
thoughts, emotions and defilements. Several years ago when I was in Myanmar, I had a One particular yogi had been regularly practising the
discussion with a brother forest monk, Hman Taung
Mahāsī method on his own for several months when
Forest Sayādaw U Candobhāsa. He is one of the more
he was talked into accepting this view. He was advised
exceptional yogis that I have met. Having practised
to stop noting predominant physical and mental
various methods of meditation, e.g. Mahāsī, Sun Lun,
phenomena ‘interrupting’ his meditation and to just
Mogok, Than Lin Taw Ya, Kanni, etc. he was still very
concentrate on the breath at his nostrils. For three
enthusiastic when I told him about the Pa Auk method.
months he diligently tried to do so.
“How can you cope with so many methods?” I asked.
“Whenever I start to learn a new method I make sure
Ven Sāriputta, with all his intelligence and wisdom,
that I completely let go of any other techniques I
could not figure out what was wrong. Finally he took
have learnt,” replied Sayādaw. “One must be unbiased,
him to see the Buddha. Through his psychic insight
objective and believing when practising under a
into others’ inclinations and proclivities, the Buddha
competent master. Only then can one reap the most
perceived that this new monk had been born in a
benefits,” he stressed.
goldsmith’s family not only in this existence, but for the last 500 lifetimes!
Such are the words of a true Truth Seeker. Faith in, gratitude and loyalty to one’s teacher are, doubtless,
The poor novice was absolutely repelled by such a
cardinal virtues of a devout student. But should a
gross subject because he had been used to working
Dhamma sibling be accused of unfaithfulness (or
with refined, beautiful objects of gold. It was obvious
‘spiritual adultery’, to coin a new term) and snubbed
why his mind could not concentrate on the asubha
for having the guts to try another alternative that may
meditation. Realising that a pleasant meditation
very well prove to be more suitable than the Dhamma
subject would be suitable for him, the Buddha created
family’s usual method of practice? There is a great deal
a huge golden lotus with drops of water dripping from
of subjectivity involved in walking the path to liberation.
its petals and stalk. “Here, take this to the fringe of the
What is suitable for one may not be so for another. “One
monastery, erect it on a heap of sand and meditate on
man’s meat is another man’s poison” may be a mundane
it,” he said.
English saying, but its message reverberates through the Tipiṭaka and its exegetical literature as well as among
The monk’s eyes lit up with pleasure when he saw
yogis of all traditions and ages.
the beautiful golden lotus in the Buddha’s hand. He reached out for it and his mind was immediately
Most of us would be quite familiar with the story of
absorbed in the golden lotus. Following the Buddha’s
Ven Sāriputta’s newly ordained student (found in
instructions, he progressively attained and mastered
the Commentary on the Dhammapada verse #285)
the four states of meditative concentration (jhāna) in a
who struggled in vain with an unsuitable meditation
single sitting. The Buddha then made the lotus wilt and
subject until the Buddha came to the rescue. He was it
fade in front of him. At that moment, the new monk
seems, a goldsmith’s son. Observing that he was still in
realised impermanence and he attained enlightenment
his robust youth, Ven Sāriputta, the Buddha’s foremost
when he heard the Buddha’s words, projected through
disciple in great wisdom, gave him the meditation on
psychic power from afar:
loathsomeness of the body (asubha) to subdue lustful thoughts that he could be prone to. It was a disastrous
Pluck off one’s attachment,
diagnosis, which goes to prove that even liberated
Like the autumnal lotus, with the hand;
persons who have eradicated all mental defilements
Just develop the path to peace,
(arahantā) are human enough to err. Throughout
Nibbāna, preached by the Buddha
the three-month rainy season retreat (vassa), onepointedness of mind eluded him. His mind simply did
not want to concentrate on the loathsome subject. After four months of coaching and persistent
Dogmatic Theravāda meditators should be asked,
striving, both teacher and student were exhausted.
“Under which of the 40 objects of meditation described
in the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification—a
example, Ven Ānanda’s case. The scriptures say that he
Theravāda manual on meditation) can this golden
attained total liberation from all defilements (arahatta)
lotus be classified? Can it be ascertained that he went
while he was practising mindfulness established in
through the classical 16 stages of insight knowledge?
respect of the body (kāyagatāsati). Teachers from the
Mahāsī tradition would of course assert that he was
connection of his past lives before he qualified to attain
noting the movements of his body as he was lying
the path and fruition (maggaphala) of enlightenment?
down. Teachers who favour ānāpānassati would instead
It can be argued that individuals during the Buddha’s
suggest that he was observing his breath at that time.
time had superior perfections of spiritual virtues
‘He must have been contemplating one of the thirty-
(pāramī), so they could break all the rules and still
two parts of the body,’ asubha enthusiasts would insist.
attain enlightenment; whereas lesser mortals like us
None of them can be proven wrong because the term
shall have to trudge every inch of the way just to get
‘kāyagatāsati’ can refer to any of those meditations.
a glimpse of Nibbāna. With all humility, we may have
This is only one example, mind you. The scriptures are
to admit that we have inferior pāramī credentials. But
full of ambiguities like that,” disclosed Hman Taung
who on earth has the audacity to determine which
method is best for an individual when even Ven Sāriputta, the Buddha’s wisest disciple, could prescribe
“They’re all so eloquent and convincing; we don’t
a wrong subject?
really know whom to believe or not to believe. In the end, it’s the actual practice—the direct, personal experience—that matters most,” he continued. “After trying out so many different methods, what do I conclude? Each may start differently, but eventually they all end up doing the same thing—observing the arising and passing away of mental and material phenomena. The clarity and subtlety of the perception, of course, depends on the strength and intensity of one’s concentration.” During the Buddha’s time, monks of different clans, castes, districts and countries stayed and meditated together in one monastery, living in harmony and in accordance with the Doctrine and Discipline (DhammaVinaya). But not all of them were meditating on the same type of meditation. One might be practising development of loving-kindness (mettābhāvanā), another ānāpānassati, and yet another contemplating the four great elements. Others might be practising more than just one type of meditation.
“I tell you, Ashin Phayah (Burmese word roughly meaning ‘Venerable’), all of them lure [their students]
For instance, Ven Rāhula, the Buddha’s son, at one
according to their respective inclinations. Consider for
time was given six different subjects of meditation:
thirty-two parts of the body, five elements, four divine
understanding, respect and support within our own
abodes, asubha, impermanence and ānāpānassati.
organisation or society even though we may be
(Mahārāhulovāda Sutta, MN 62).
practising different methods of meditation?
As the Omniscient One was still alive, monks were
The handful of leaves given to us by the Buddha may
prescribed the meditation subjects most suitable
be insignificant compared to the bountiful leaves of
for each individual. Our story of Ven Sāriputta’s
knowledge and information available to us today.
student is just one of the many cases where monks
But the wonder of that little handful is that it can be
who were given inappropriate meditation subjects
so varied, so versatile, so readily customised, and
by their teachers struggled in vain until the Buddha
so effective—if only we allow ourselves the freedom
came to the rescue. The Visuddhimagga and other
to choose and experiment. If only we are humble
commentaries also discuss at length the subject of
enough to admit the limitations of our knowledge
suitability, not only confined to meditation subjects,
and experience. If only we are discreet enough when
but covering other areas such as temperament, food,
posture, climate, lodging and Dhamma talk as well.
that are beyond our ken. If only we are tolerant and
understanding enough to encourage our Dhamma All this points to the fact that there is a great deal of
siblings to try another path that is different from ours.
subjectivity involved in the practice for liberation.
If only we have enough unconditional love to rejoice
Starting off on the spiritual path on the wrong foot
in the success achieved through the Pa Auk method by
could have far-reaching consequences. Imagine what
a long-time Mahāsī yogi. If only we know how to cope
could have happened to the ex-goldsmith monk if the
with just a handful of variegated leaves.
Buddha had not intervened. In my association with yogis and meditation teachers of various traditions,
Mutual support, understanding and respect, and
I’ve met and heard of many yogis who got on the
unity in diversity are essential virtues that will
right footing only after they had tried other methods
help to nurture our practice while we walk on the
without much success.
spiritual path together. As a minority in a Muslim country, and even among the Malaysian Buddhist
If we know that a Dhamma sibling has discovered
community, we Theravādins can no longer afford to be
a new method of practice different from ours that
further decimated by our petty dogmatic differences,
is conducive to clarity of mind, freedom from the
opinionated assertions and partisan loyalties. To
hindrances (nīvaraṇā) and deepening of insight, what
react emotionally or behave judgmentally towards
should we do? Would it be to anyone’s advantage
our Dhamma siblings who have found their mecca in
to ostracise him or her out of loyalty to the good old
the ‘opposite camp’ may well cause an obstruction to
teacher or to the Dhamma family’s usual method
their spiritual progress and well-being. It may also
of practice? Why can’t we maintain the spirit of
undermine our own precious fraternity, strength,
liberality prevalent during the Buddha’s time? Even
unity, and direction as the privileged heirs of our
the venerables Sāriputta, Moggallāna and Ānanda
Master’s handful of leaves, given without a closed fist.
would send their students to one another for training.
Why don’t we hear of student exchange programs, e.g. between the Mahāsī, Goenka and Pa Auk traditions?
First published as a free booklet in 2004 by Sāsanārakkha
Why can’t we live in harmony and with mutual
by Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo (1907-1961)
Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (1907- 1961) or Phra Suddhidhammaransi Gambhiramedhacariya was one of the foremost teachers in the Thai forest ascetic tradition of meditation that was founded at the turn of the 20th century by Phra Ajaan Sao Kantasilo and Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatto. His life was short but eventful. Known for his skill as a teacher and his mastery of supernatural powers, he was the first to bring the ascetic tradition out of the forests of the Mekhong basin and into the mainstream of Thai society in central Thailand. This is a collection of 16 Talks on Buddhism and Meditation by Ajahn Lee, translated by Ajahn Thanissaro. The talk was delivered in July 1958.
The mind, the Buddha said, is like gold. An impure mind is like gold adulterated with various minerals that will make it hard and unmalleable. Before it can be put to use in any way, it first has to be melted down and its impurities — the various adulterations — removed completely. Only then will it be genuine gold, soft and malleable. Our mind, which is adulterated with various preoccupations, first has to be put into shape, and its impurities — its various defilements — completely removed. Only then will it be a pure mind, becoming a thing of supreme power and usefulness, like genuine gold malleable enough to be melted and poured into anything at all. A pure mind can pour around the world without getting snagged and can roll all around itself, like a bead of water on a lotus leaf, which will roll around without seeping into the leaf. This is what is meant by a mind that is Dhamma. Or you might compare a pure mind to genuine beeswax, which doesn’t need fire in order to melt. No matter how large or small a lump it may be, all it needs is a little sunlight or just the warmth of your hand, and it will be soft and malleable enough for you
to form it into any shape at all. A pure mind can be put to every sort of use in line with your aspirations in just the same way. This is why the Buddha taught that every sort of achievement depends completely on the power of the mind. Things that are genuine or pure, even though they may be small, can give rise to enormous results, just as a piece of genuine paper money — a tiny little slip of paper with the state seal — can be put to use in all sorts of ways. But if it’s newsprint, even a bushel of it wouldn’t be able to buy a thing. In the same way, a pure mind — even if we can make it pure for only a little while — can give results way in excess of its size. People who are really intent on purifying the mind may even lift themselves over and beyond the world. So we’re taught that people whose minds aren’t pure — regardless of whether they’ve given donations or observed precepts by the tens or hundreds of thousands — may not escape going to hell. At best, they may make it back only as human beings. A mind adulterated with bad preoccupations will have to go to a bad bourn. A mind adulterated with good preoccupations is bound for a good bourn, as a heavenly being. A pure mind, though, will go above and beyond all this.
Mfbe!Bsujdmf FI !}!!Ufbdijoht !}!!B!njoe!pg!qvsf!hpme
For this reason, you should focus on watching only
inconstant, stressful, and not-self. They make us
your mind. Don’t let your attention go leaking out
misconstrue everything, just as when we let ourselves
your ears, eyes, nose, tongue, or body. If the mind
get duped into spending our money. There are people,
is murky, make it clear. Keep trying to chase away
for instance, who make sugar water with various
its various preoccupations until they’re completely
colors for us to drink at 10, 20, or 30 cents a glass.
gone, leaving only the genuine gold: a pure mind. Set
Actually, it’s no different from the ordinary water we
your heart on doing it right now.
drink, but we have it all misconstrued and think that it’s something special — so we’ll come back to spend
more money to drink it again. This is inconstancy. It’s like waves that keep rising and falling, causing us to
Just as we have to give rise to goodness in our
waver, keeping us from being still and at peace. When
actions, we have to give rise to goodness in
we see this, we should incline our hearts toward being
our minds by letting go of physical and mental
trained in the Dhamma.
phenomena, which are a heavy load. This is why the Buddha taught, bhara have pañcak-khandha:
‘The five khandhas are truly a burden.’ The body is heavier than rock. How is it heavy? It’s big. Weighty.
A person who lets the mind be defiled is like
Enormous. Its mouth can eat cattle by the herd, rice
someone who lets his children play in the mud:
by the ton, and yet never be full for a second. You
They’re bound to cause hardships for their parents,
have to keep finding things to stuff in it all the time,
and not only that, they’re bound to cause hardships
which is a burden to the heart. We’ve been shoring
for themselves, because they have no livelihood, no
up this body ever since we were little and red so
basis for setting themselves up in life. So we should
that it will stay with us, and yet it won’t stay. What
train our hearts to be adults in order to outgrow our
does stay is nothing more than scraps. What’s good
defilements and corruptions.
leaves us completely. Don’t go thinking that it’ll stay. The part that’s left loads us down, creating stress
We shouldn’t let ourselves get tied up in worldly
and pain. So we’re taught to let go. Caga: Relinquish
affairs, because they’re good only from age 20 to
what’s outside, i.e., the body; and let go of what’s in
40. From that point on, our mouth gets smaller and
the mind, i.e., its various preoccupations that follow
smaller, our eyes get so small we can scarcely open
along with the world. If we can let go of these things,
them. Whatever we say doesn’t get past our lips.
we’ll be light in body and mind. And when we’re light
Our hands get so small that we have to give them a
in this way, we can be at our ease.
one-meter extension called a ‘cane.’ Our back gets crooked — and with the body sure to run down like
Then we can consider further that all these things
this, what are we going to want out of it? It’s enough
fall under the truths of the world. That is, they’re
to make you heartsick. So we should develop what’s
good and becoming within ourselves. Develop
pays any mind; but if a rich person behaves that
goodness into a Noble Treasure. In other words,
way, people really despise it. In other words, we
relinquishment (caga) and virtue (sila) are two
shouldn’t let our hearts go lurking about in shoddy
things we should foster in our hearts so that we
or unwise preoccupations. We have to practice
can begin to grow up, unfold, and go beyond being
tranquillity meditation to make the mind still. That’s
when we’ll begin to enter adulthood.
Once we’ve reached the middle of life, things start
When the mind is still, it gradually gives rise to
getting shorter and shorter, so we’re taught not to be
discernment, just as a kerosene lantern we keep
complacent. Whatever will give rise to knowledge,
looking after — adding kerosene, making sure that
we should stir ourselves to pursue, like a child who
nothing disturbs the flame — is bound to grow
studies math without playing truant or thinking only
bright. The wick is the breath, the theme of our
of fun and games. Such a child is sure to have a high
meditation. The effort we make is like the kerosene.
level of knowledge in the future.
We keep looking after the mind, making sure that the various preoccupations coming in by way of the
People in this world — even though they may be 80
eyes, ears, nose, and so forth, don’t collide with the
years old — if they stay sunk in worldly matters, are
heart. The mind will become bright and dazzling,
still children. Relinquishment and virtue: Once we
like the wick of a kerosene lantern that we keep fed
give rise to these things, we’re headed for adulthood.
with fuel and whose burnt parts we keep scraping
Otherwise, we’re still children. So we shouldn’t
let the heart settle on things that aren’t good for it. Sometimes there are both good and bad things.
If liberating insight arises, we’ll see the absolute
The good things are hard to latch onto; the bad are
truth — that all our preoccupations are inconstant,
easy. If we give our children free rein to go playing,
stressful, and not-self — appearing in our heart.
they’ll for the most part bring us nothing but trouble.
When we can see things clearly in this way, we’ll
Sometimes they hang around doing nothing at all and
be able to let go of our various preoccupations. The
yet come back with other people’s belongings in their
mind will give rise to a brilliant radiance — termed
pockets. In other words, sometimes other people do
dhammo pajjoto, the light of the Dhamma — and
something, and yet we let it get stuck in our hearts.
we’ll attain to the transcendency of the mind. When
This is being infantile. Our minds are a mess of
we reach this point, that’s when we’re said to have
defilements, which is why we’re said to be children.
grown up. We can go wherever we like, for no one will be able to pull the wool over our eyes. EH
So we should consider things carefully. Whatever will benefit us, we should take an interest in. If a poor person wanders shiftlessly about, nobody
Seon Master Venerable Daehaeng Kun Sunim
Born in 1927 on the first day of the lunar New Year, Venerable Daehaeng Kun Sunim’s family was originally quite well-off. Her father had been an army officer under the last king of Korea, and had continued to resist the Japanese military occupation of Korea. For years he had evaded arrest, but when Sunim was six years old, in about 1933, the Japanese came after him. They confiscated all of his remaining lands and property, and he fled his house with his wife and children minutes ahead of the Japanese secret police. The family escaped across the Han River with only the clothes they were wearing. There in the mountains south of Seoul they built a dugout hut. Their life of wealth and privilege was gone, as if it had never existed. For a long time all they had to eat was what they could beg or what was left in the fields after the harvest. Seeing the pitiful situation of his family and country, Sunim’s father was filled with despair. Although he was kind and generous with other people, for some reason he poured out all of his anger and frustration onto Sunim, his eldest daughter. Confused and unable to understand why this was happening, she stayed away from the family’s hut as much as possible in order to avoid her father. She often slept alone in the forest, covering herself with leaves to stay warm. After about two years of such hunger and cold, she noticed that the fear she had felt at being out in the mountains at night had faded, and the dark night had gradually become comfortable and beautiful. However, the world outside of the forest seemed to be filled with suffering.
While spending her nights in the forest, Sunim often wondered who had formed her and why people had to suffer from hunger and disease. Why did people suffer? Who am I? What am I? What made me? She concentrated on these questions more and more, and intensely wanted to know the answers to these. The first thing that Daehaeng Kun Sunim teaches people is that when we were born into this world, each one of us was already endowed with everything we need, including all abilities and all understanding. We all have this fundamental nature, sometimes called Buddha-nature, inherent mind, or Juingong, but the problem is that people don’t rely upon it. Instead they search outside of themselves for something that will make them feel happy, complete, and satisfied. But ignoring the splendor of our inherent nature and looking for something separate from ourselves only makes people feel worse. In order to realize and awaken to our inherent nature, Daehaeng Kun Sunim teaches people to “Believe in your foundation, Juingong, and entrust it with everything that confronts you. Then go forward while observing and experimenting with what you experience. All things constantly change every instant, so there is nothing to cling to. By entrusting everything to your foundation, every aspect of your daily life can become part of your practice. Don’t blame others for the things that happen in your life, know that everything is your teacher, and interpret things positively. Also know that all beings share the same mind, the same life, the same body, work together, and share all things together.”
Unwavering Faith by Venerable Daehaeng Kun Sunim
Being able to learn how mind works is such a precious and rare opportunity. This karmic chance to learn about mind is something to be deeply grateful for. Keep practicing and experimenting with how mind works until you thoroughly grasp it and can apply it in your daily life. Keep practicing diligently, and attain the ability to live your life with wisdom and compassion. You may have read many books or listened to many teachings, and although you may be able to quote or use the things you’ve learned, ultimately all of those things are futile. Even when you read a Sutra, you will be able to understand the true meaning of the words
You should let go of the idea that some
only when you are able to understand the blank
mental state is hindering you, and even
paper. Once you are able to truly read the words, you
let go of the thought that you have to
will be able to see all of the wisdom and truth of the entire universe contained within even a single word.
cultivate mind diligently - just maintain
So the blank paper means the wisdom of the whole,
steady, unwavering faith in your Buddha
Hanmaum, and the words represent the application
nature or Juingong.
of this wisdom. Knowing and using the wisdom of Hanmaum is so wonderful! Without experiencing this, how could you hope to become a Buddha? You should let go of the idea that some mental state is hindering you, and even let go of the thought that you have to cultivate mind diligently - just maintain steady, unwavering faith in your Buddha nature or Juingong. Because Juingong, your fundamental mind, is inherently endowed with everything, all you have to do is have faith in it. However, some of you overstrain yourself desperately trying to cultivate mind, often thinking, “Why isn’t this working? I was told that if I entrusted everything,
it would go well. But why isn’t it working for me?” If you overstrain yourself like this, it’s hard to move forward. As centipede walks along, if it begins to think, “How can I walk so well without all these legs tripping over each other?” at that instant its legs become tangled up and unable to move. The same may be said of you. Tripped up by your own thoughts, you don’t make progress in your practice, but whose fault is this? I keep teaching people about the importance of
Even after you have let go of something once, when it arises within you again, you should let go of it again.
letting go of attachments, as well as how to let go
exist, my mind sends out and takes in everything!”
of attachments, but still they don’t let go of them.
You have to experiment with and experience these
Even after you have let go of something once, when it
truths to the point where you completely understand
arises within you again, you should let go of it again.
them and can freely and naturally apply them to
However, instead of releasing it again, people tend
whatever circumstances arise.
to fret about it, thinking, “I let it go, but nothing has changed.” You have to let go of even the thought that
When we are thirsty, we just go and get a drink of
it didn’t work, but many people aren’t doing this.
water, don’t we? In our daily lives, if we desperately need something, our foundation naturally provides a
There are some people who live thinking, “A person
solution. Regardless of whether we are enlightened
can die only once, not twice. Even if the sky is falling,
or unenlightened, this ability is inherent within
I will remain calm and deal with whatever arises,
all of us. We are endowed with such wonderful
and just live in whatever situation confronts me,
capabilities! We are complete just as we are! You
however bad.” People like this are much better off,
are able to send out and take in whatever is needed.
and their lives turn out okay. But the person who is
Why do some people say, “This is too difficult, I can’t
full of worries and anxieties often thinks, “Although
do it,” without even trying to experience or feel the
I have let go of my problems and entrusted them to
way mind works? Instead of trying to experience this
Juingong, why haven’t they improved? Juingong,
for themselves, people devote their energy to their
please help me!” and so their life becomes worse
thoughts of “I,” to their greed, and to their clinging.
off. This way of thinking is not letting go. It’s kind of foolish, isn’t it? If you are begging Juingong for help,
For example, people these days tend to let
then you have already begun to perceive Juingong as
themselves fall in love too easily and then end up
something separate from yourself. To whom would
crying and wailing. However, don’t waste your tears
you beg? Your mind already knows that things aren’t
over things like that. If you shed even a single tear,
going well. Who else could you ask for help?
an entire ocean should be contained within that teardrop. If you can live your life with this kind of
As the Patriarch Hui-neng said, “Who would have
wisdom, then not only will you be able to obtain true
thought that my inherent nature is intrinsically pure?!
freedom, but also the universe will entrust the key to
Who would have thought that mind is inherently
you. Let’s talk about this next time. EH
endowed with everything! Who would have thought that because I exist, everything I need is completely
[This Dharma talk was given by Daehaeng Kun Sunim
provided! Who would have thought that because I
on September 17, 1989.]
happy married life by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Nayaka Thera (1919-2006)
The late Venerable Dhammananda was born in Sri Lanka, and ordained as a novice monk at the age of twelve. At age twenty-two he received higher ordination. He pursued scholarly studies in Sanskrit, Pali, Hindi, and Buddhist Philosophy at universities in Sri Lanka and India, eventually receiving a Master of Arts degree in Indian Philosophy and a Doctor of Literature degree from the Benares Hindu University. He then returned to Sri Lanka, where he established the Sudharma Buddhist Institute, which tended to the educational, welfare, and religious needs of local villagers. In 1952 he traveled to Malaysia as a Buddhist missionary, and in 1962 founded the Buddhist Missionary Society to help disseminate the Buddhaâ€™s teachings across Malaysia and beyond. He wrote more than 60 books (in English) which have been widely distributed worldwide and translated into more than a dozen languages. He was the most well-known missionary monk in Malaysia when he was alive and was spiritual advisor to most Buddhist groups in the country.
~ Introduction ~ From the Buddhist point of view, marriage is neither holy nor unholy. Buddhism does not regard marriage as a religious duty nor as a sacrament that is ordained in heaven. A cynic has said that while some people believe that marriage is planned in heaven, others say that it is recorded in hell also! Marriage is basically
A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence.
a personal and social obligation, it is not compulsory. Man and woman must have freedom either to get married or to remain single. This does not mean that Buddhism is against marriage. Nobody in this world would say that marriage is bad and there is no religion which is against marriage. Practically all living things come into being as a result of sex life. Among human beings, the institution of marriage has come about so that society guarantees the perpetuation of the human species and also ensures that the young would be cared for. This is based on the argument that children born through the pleasure of sex must be the responsibility of the partners involved, at least until they have grown up. And marriage ensures that this responsibility is upheld and carried out.
A society grows through a network of relationships which are mutually inter-twined and inter-dependent. Every relationship is a whole-hearted commitment to support and to protect others in a group or community. Marriage plays a very important part in this strong web of relationships of giving support and protection. A good marriage should grow and develop gradually from understanding and not impulse, from true loyalty and not just sheer indulgence. The institution of marriage provides a fine basis for the development of culture, a delightful association of two individuals There must be no thought of either man or woman being superior — each is complementary to the other; marriage is a partnership of equality, gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication.
to be nurtured and to be free from loneliness, deprivation and fear. In marriage, each partner develops a complementary role, giving strength and moral courage to one another, each manifesting a supportive and appreciative recognition of the other’s skill in caring and providing for a family. There must be no thought of either man or woman being superior — each is complementary to the other; marriage is a partnership of equality, gentleness, generosity, calm and dedication. In Buddhism, one can find all the necessary advice which can help one to lead a happy married life. One should not neglect the advice given by the Enlightened Teacher if one really wants to lead a happy married life. In His discourses, the Buddha gave various kinds of advice for married couples and for those who are contemplating marriage. The Buddha has said, “If a man can find a suitable and understanding wife and a woman can find a suitable and understanding husband, both are fortunate indeed.”
~ The Nature of Love and Pleasure ~ Love There are different kinds of love, and these are variously expressed as motherly love, brotherly love, sensual love, emotional love, sexual love, selfish love, selfless love, and universal love. If people develop only their carnal or selfish love towards each other, that type of love cannot last long. In a true love relationship, one should not ask how much one can get, but how much one can give. When beauty, complexion and youth start to fade away, a husband who considers only the physical aspects of love may think of acquiring another young one. That type of love is animal love or lust. If a man
really develops love as an expression of human concern
The portrayal of love by commercial groups through the
for another being, he will not lay emphasis only on
mass media in what we call “western” culture is not
the external beauty and physical attractiveness of his
“real” love. When an animal wants to have sex, it shows
partner. The beauty and attractiveness of his partner
its “love,” but after having experienced sex, it just
should be in his heart and mind, not in what he sees.
forgets about love. For animals, sex is just an instinctive
Likewise, the wife who follows Buddhist teachings will
drive necessary for procreation. But a human being has
never neglect her husband even though he has become
much more to offer in the concept of love. Duties and
old, poor or sick.
responsibilities are important ingredients to maintain unity, harmony and understanding in a relationship
“I have a fear that the modern girl loves to be Juliet,
between human beings.
to have a dozen Romeos. She loves adventure . . . . . The modern girl dresses not to protect herself from
Sex is not the most important ingredient for
wind, rain and sun, but to attract attention. She
happiness in a married life. Those who have become
improves upon nature by painting herself and looking
slaves to sex would only ruin love and humanity in
marriage. Apart from that, a woman must cease to — Gandhi
consider herself as the object of a man’s lust. The remedy is more in her hand than in a man’s. She must refuse to adorn herself simply to please a man, even if he is her husband. If she wants to be an equal partner with a man, she should dress so that her dignity is enhanced, and she does not become a sex symbol. Marriage for the satisfaction of the sexual appetite is no marriage. It is concupiscence. (Gandhi) Love may indeed be a product of sex, but the reverse is likewise true: sex is an expression of love. In the ideally
Duties and responsibilities are important ingredients to maintain unity, harmony and understanding in a relationship between human beings.
happy married life, both love and sex are inseparable.
The Buddha’s Explanation We can study the Buddha’s teaching regarding the feelings that man and woman have for each other.
The Buddha says that he had never seen any object
Sex by itself is not “evil,” although the temptation
in this world which attracts man’s attention more
and craving for it invariably disturbs the peace
than the figure of a woman. At the same time the
aof mind, and hence is not conducive to spiritual
main attraction for the woman is the figure of a man.
It means that by nature, woman and man give each other worldly pleasure. They cannot gain happiness
In the ideal situation, sex is the physical culmination
of this kind from any other object. When we observe
of a deeply satisfying emotional relationship, where
very carefully, we notice that among all the things
both partners give and take equally.
which provide pleasure, there is no other object that can please all the five senses at the same time beside the male and female figures.
The ancient Greeks knew this when they said that
Without abusing or misusing this passion, we can
originally man and woman were one. They were
tame our desires through proper understanding.
separated and the two parts that were divided are constantly seeking to be re-united as man and woman.
Pleasure Young people by nature like to indulge in worldly pleasures which can include both good and bad things. Good things, like the enjoyment of music, poetry, dance, good food, dress and similar pursuits do no harm to the body. They only distract us from seeing the fleeting nature and uncertainty of existence and thereby delay our being able to perceive the true nature of the self. The faculties and senses of young people are very fresh and alert; they are very keen to satisfy all the
By the very nature of existence, one will never be completely satisfied with whatever pleasure one experiences and the resultant craving in turn only creates more anxieties and worries.
five senses. Almost every day, they plan and think out ways and means to experience some form of pleasure. By the very nature of existence, one will
~ The Reality of Married Life ~
never be completely satisfied with whatever pleasure one experiences and the resultant craving in turn only
John J. Robinson in his book Of Suchness gives the
creates more anxieties and worries.
following advice on love, sex and married life. “Be careful and discreet; it is much easier to get married
When we think deeply about it, we can understand
than unmarried. If you have the right mate, it’s
that life is nothing but a dream. In the end, what do we
heavenly; but if not, you live in a twenty-four-hour
gain from attachment to this life? Only more worries,
daily hell that clings constantly to you, it can be
disappointments and frustrations. We may have
one of the most bitter things in life. Life is indeed
enjoyed brief moments of pleasure, but in the final
strange. Somehow, when you find the right one, you
analysis, we must try to find out what the real purpose
know it in your heart. It is not just an infatuation of
of our lives is.
the moment. But the powerful urges of sex drive a young person headlong into blind acts and one
When one ceases to crave for sensual pleasure
cannot trust his feelings too much. This is especially
and does not seek to find physical comfort in the
true if one drinks and get befuddled; the most lousy
company of others, the need for marriage does not
slut in a dark bar can look like a Venus then, and her
arise. Suffering and worldly enjoyment are both the
charms become irresistible. Love is much more than
outcome of craving, attachment and emotion. If we
sex though; it is the biological foundation between a
try to control and suppress our emotions by adopting
man and a woman; love and sex get all inter-twined
unrealistic tactics we create disturbances in our
and mixed up.”
mind and in our physical body. Therefore we must know how to handle and control our human passion.
Problems Almost every day we hear people complaining about their marriages. Very seldom do we hear stories about a happy marriage. Young people reading romantic novels and seeing romantic films often conclude that marriage is a bed of roses. Unfortunately, marriage is not as sweet as one thinks. Marriage and problems are interrelated and people must remember that when they are getting married, they will have to face problems and responsibilities that they had never expected or experienced hitherto. People often think that it is a duty to get married and that marriage is a very important event in their lives. However, in order to ensure a successful marriage, a couple has to harmonize their lives by minimizing whatever differences they may have between them. Marital problems prompted a cynic to say that there can only be a peaceful married life if the marriage is between a blind wife and a deaf husband, for the blind wife cannot see the faults of the husband and a deaf husband cannot hear the nagging of his wife.
Sharing and Trust One of the major causes of marital problems is suspicion and mistrust. Marriage is a blessing but many people make it a curse due to lack of understanding. Both husband and wife should show implicit trust for one another and try not to have secrets between them. Secrets create suspicion, suspicion leads to jealously, jealousy generates anger, anger causes
Marriage and problems are interrelated and people must remember that when they are getting married, they will have to face problems and responsibilities that they had never expected or experienced hitherto.
enmity and enmity may result in separation, suicide or even murder. If a couple can share pain and pleasure in their day-to-day life, they can console each other and minimize their grievances. Thus, the wife or husband should not expect to experience only pleasure. There will be a lot of painful, miserable experiences that they will have to face. They must have the strong will power to reduce their burdens and misunderstandings. Discussing mutual problems will give them confidence to live together with better understanding. Man and woman need the comfort of each other when facing problems and difficulties. The feelings of insecurity and unrest will disappear and life will be more meaningful, happy and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share anotherâ€™s burden.
Blinded by Emotions When two people are in love, they tend to show only the best aspects of their nature and character to each other in order to project a good impression of themselves. Love is said to be blind and hence people in love tend to become completely oblivious of the darker side of each other’s natures. In practice, each will try to highlight his or her sterling qualities to the other, and being so engrossed in love, they tend to accept each other at “face value” only. Each lover will not disclose the darker side of his Man and woman need the comfort of each other when facing problems and difficulties. The feelings of insecurity and unrest will disappear and life will be more meaningful, happy and interesting if there is someone who is willing to share another’s burden.
or her nature for fear of losing the other. Any personal shortcomings are discreetly swept under the carpet, so to speak, so as not to jeopardize their chances of winning each other. People in love also tend to ignore their partner’s faults thinking that they will be able to correct them after marriage, or that they can live with these faults, that “love will conquer all.” However, after marriage, as the initial romantic mood wears off, the true nature of each other’s character will be revealed. Then, much to the disappointment of both parties, the proverbial veil that had so far been concealing the innermost feelings of each partner is removed to expose the true nature of both partners. It is then that disillusion sets in.
Material Needs Love by itself does not subsist on fresh air and sunshine alone. The present world is a materialistic world and in order to meet your material needs, proper financing and budgeting is essential. Without it, no family can live comfortably. Such a situation aptly bears out the saying that “when poverty knocks at the door, love flies through the window.” This does not mean that one must be rich to make a marriage work. However, if one has the basic necessities of life provided through a secure job and careful planning, many unnecessary anxieties can be removed from a marriage. The discomfort of poverty can be averted if there is complete understanding between the couple. Both partners must understand the value of contentment. Both must treat all problems as “our problems” and share all the “ups” and “downs” in the true spirit of a long-standing life partnership.
~ The Buddhist Concept of Marriage ~
The Anguttara Nikaya contains some valuable advice which the Buddha gave to young girls prior to their
In view of what has been said about “birth and
marriage. Realizing that there could be difficulties
suffering,” some people have criticized Buddhism
with the new in-laws, the girls were enjoined to give
saying that is against married life. They are wrong.
every respect to their mothers-in-law and fathers-in-
The Buddha never spoke against married life.
law, serving them lovingly as their own parents. They
However, he pointed out all the problems, difficulties
were expected to honor and respect their husband’s
and worries that people would have to face when they
relatives and friends, thus creating a congenial and
take on the responsibility of marriage. Just because
happy atmosphere in their new homes.
he warned one against problems in marriage does not mean that the Buddha condemned marriage.
They were also advised to study and understand their husbands’ natures, ascertain their activities,
The act of marriage itself implies that a person is
characters and temperaments, and to be useful
still more attached to the physical world and since
and cooperative at all times in their new homes.
our mental faculties are influenced by craving,
They should be polite, kind and watchful of their
attachment and human emotions, it is but natural
husbands’ earnings and see to it that all household
that problems would arise. This happens when we
expenditures were properly administered. The advice
have to consider the need of others and to give in to
given by the Buddha more than twenty five centuries
what others need.
ago is still valid even today.
Conclusion Marriage is a partnership of two individuals and this partnership is enriched and enhanced when it allows the personalities involved to grow. Many marriages fail because one partner tries to “swallow” another or when one demands total freedom. According to Buddhism, marriage means understanding and respecting each other’s belief and privacy. A successful marriage is always a two-way path: “humpy, bumpy” — it is difficult but it is always a mutual path. Marriage is a partnership of two individuals and this partnership is enriched and enhanced when it allows the personalities involved to grow.
Young people in this country and elsewhere sometimes think that “old fashioned ideas” are not relevant to modern society. They should be reminded that there are some eternal truths which can never become outof-date. What was true during the time of Buddha still remains true today. The so-called modern ideas we receive through the highly glamorous television programs do not represent the way most decent people in the west
think or behave. There is a vast “silent majority” of decent couples who are as deeply religious and “conservative” about marriage as any Eastern couple. They do not behave in the manner that the mass media has portrayed them. Not all the people in the west run off to get a divorce or abortion after their first quarrel or dispute. Decent people all over the world are the same; they are unselfish and care deeply about those whom they love. They make enormous sacrifices and develop love and understanding to ensure happy and stable marriages. So, if you want to ape the west ape the “silent majority”: they are no different from your decent neighbor who lives next door to you. Young people must also listen to their elders because their own understanding about married life is not mature. They should not make hasty conclusions regarding, marriages and divorces. They must have a lot of patience, tolerance and mutual understanding. Otherwise, their life can become very miserable and problematic. Patience, tolerance and understanding are important disciplines to be observed and practiced by all people in marriage. A feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual understanding which is the SECRET of a HAPPY MARRIED LIFE. EH Source: A Happy Married Life: A Buddhist Perspective, by Ven. K. Sri Dhammananda, Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1987, 27pp.
... The advice given by the Buddha more than twenty five centuries ago is still valid even today.
Stones in the Road: Aversion by Rev. Kathleen McTigue
The Rev. Kathleen McTigue is minister of the Unitarian Society of New Haven, in Hamden, Connecticut, USA. She and her husband, political organizer Nicholas Nyhart, have three children. She is a contributor to Bless This Child: A Treasury of Poems, Quotations and Readings to Celebrate Birth, edited by Edward Searl (Skinner House, 2005).
Today is the fifth and final Sunday in the series
in which we’re studying the Buddhist hindrances. Today’s topic, aversion, is particularly rich and complex because it can show up as so many different states of mind. It can arise as mild dislike or passionate hatred; as momentary grumpiness or furious rage; as annoyance that passes like a blip on the screen, or a grudge that we carry through years and years of our lives. Within the context of the spiritual journey, Buddhism understands aversion as a powerful hindrance to our spiritual maturity because it so easily traps us into seeing the world through the lens of our wounds. And then we act it out in ways that are often enormously destructive. Naming aversion as a hindrance is a little tricky though, because often there are very good reasons for our anger. When someone in our lives acts destructively or immorally; when someone we love is abused or otherwise harmed; when we see injustice around us, whether in isolated, individual ways or on a global scale, anger is one of the things that can motivate us to act.
can. The theory, like pretty much everything else in Buddhism, is that this willingness to know ourselves expands our freedom of movement. It lets us choose our path of action, harnessing the energy of anger without being driven mindlessly along by it. This is an important skill to learn, because anger will always be with us. No matter how far we advance in the spiritual journey, it’s not too likely that we’ll wake up one day as saints, miraculously immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous outrage. In fact one of the best of the current candidates for sainthood, the Dalai Lama himself, was asked in a conference whether or not he ever got angry. He responded as though he’d been asked whether or not he still got hungry or thirsty: “Of course”, he said. “If something happens and I don’t like it, if it is not what I want to have happen, anger arises.”
The problem is that it often also muddies our thinking. We react defensively or in the heat of the moment, and later we regret our hastiness because we see there were more constructive ways we might have acted.
That answer, brief though it is, speaks volumes, especially in those two words, “anger arises”. It’s like saying, “The sun comes up”: it’s neutral information. Anger arises. This is so completely different from the way we usually regard our anger! We don’t say, “Oh, I feel anger arising”. We say, “I’m furious! I’m ripped! I’m so angry I could spit!” We say, “How dare he? Who does she think she is? They can’t do that to me!” We say, “I’ll show him! She’s not going to get away with that! Boy, they’ll be sorry!”
Buddhism doesn’t teach that we should ignore or repress our anger; in fact it teaches the opposite. When we start to get angry we should turn toward it, study it fearlessly and come to know it as well as we
For most of us, when we’re angry it’s all about me: how I’ve been treated, the ways I’ve been dissed, how unfair it is, how wrong, how outrageous. The anger catches us up in constricting loops of thought, as we
Within that spaciousness, there’s even enough room to see our antagonist in a different light.
rehearse our grievances and talk to ourselves about how we’ve been wronged. It lodges in our bodies as well as our minds, giving us physical tension and pain in our stomachs, necks, backs. And it can lead us to actions that hurt ourselves and other people, from speaking hurtful words all the way to physical violence, and even murder. “Anger arises.” What a different way to think about it! Suddenly there’s a little bit of space in there, a little room to maneuver. We don’t have to react quite as suddenly or defensively. There’s room to notice where we feel the anger, what it’s like in our bodies; there’s room to see the energy it contains, the way it sharpens our attention. There’s room to notice all the reactive voices that rise up inside of us, and to make a little distance between what actually happened to us, and our story line about it. There’s room to choose a response, attentively. Within that spaciousness, there’s even enough room to see our antagonist in a different light. When there’s someone who really provokes us, someone who chronically makes us mad, we categorize them. They become “enemy” or “jerk” or “moron” – whatever our favorite labeling word might be. They become radically “other”. But seen through the lens of our spiritual journey, these people, the ones who make us angriest, are actually a gift, because it’s only through them that we see the places where we’re stuck. It’s through them that we come up against our limits and get a chance to polish our own rough edges. Pema Chodron tells a story about Atisha, the Indian teacher who first brought the Buddha’s teachings to Tibet. As he got ready to go to Tibet Atisha began to
feel a little worried because he had heard about how friendly, warm and kind the Tibetan people were. He was afraid that if the people there were really so nice, he’d find himself in trouble spiritually because no one would push his buttons. No one would provoke him into anger, and his own unfinished development would be invisible to him. So he decided to bring along with him an incredibly surly Bengali tea boy. In that way, Atisha could be sure he would stay awake spiritually. It’s an interesting exercise to choose the person who most provokes you, and try thinking of him or her as your own personal Bengali tea boy. In other words, that one you’ve got locked away in the enemy box, that one I would really rather never see again, those people who get us all riled up whenever we think about them – those people are the best lessons we could possibly receive in our spiritual journeys. They show us dimensions of ourselves we would rather not see. They hold up our own reactivity and put it under a magnifying glass. And therefore, they give us the opportunity to put our spiritual aspirations to work in our lives. We don’t need to cultivate patience, kindness, forgiveness, compassion or understanding for all the people who think we’re terrific, who like our way of doing things, who always want to be on our team. We need to cultivate those virtues for the Bengali tea boys in the world. Pema Chödrön says, “In our own lives, the Bengali tea boys are the people who, when you let them through the front door of your metaphorical house, go right down to the basement where you store lots of things you’d rather not deal with, pick out one of them, bring it up to you, and say, ‘Is this yours?’”
When we try to consider the difficult people in our lives in this new light, as a spiritual gift or lesson for us,...
Those things we keep out of sight in our inner basements do in fact get held up, right in our faces, by the people who make us mad. If we’re willing to go quietly into our own complicated psyches and follow the thread of our anger, if we’re willing to really study the questions, ‘How come he pushes my buttons so easily? Why does she get to me so much?’, the answer has to do with us, not with them. It’s not to say that their behavior is exemplary; it might in fact actually be very bad behavior. But if we’re willing to study our own reaction to it, we learn more about who we are. And through that learning, we will begin to open up a little space of liberation. When we try to consider the difficult people in our lives in this new light, as a spiritual gift or lesson for us, one of the things we often discover is that we really don’t want to. It is actually much more comfortable to keep them right where we’ve already got them: in the land of great aversion. As long as we are convinced that our anger has to do with them – with how inconsiderate they are, how unaccountably hostile toward us, how unreasonable – our own sense of self can stay intact. We can continue to think of ourselves in righteous terms. But we pay a heavy price. Sharon Salzberg puts it this way: Our “self-righteous anger solidifies into an almost choking sense of “I” and “other”. Anger is such a grievous state because it means the death… of love or connection in that moment….” Buddhism pointsus in a different direction. It teaches that if we’re willing to let go a little of this selfrighteousnessand investigate our anger, we will see ways to respond that are clear-eyedand skillful.
Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck gives an interesting image to work with. Imagine you’re out in a lake in a little rowboat that you love: you built it yourself, you’ve got a fresh paint job on it, and you’re feeling terrific, rowing along out there in your pretty little boat. And then suddenly out of the fog another rowboat emerges and it bashes into you, wham! You are of course immediately outraged: “What an idiot! What does he think he’s doing? I just painted this boat!” And in the next instant, just as you’re opening your mouth to yell at the fool, you realize the other boat is empty. What happens to the anger you were building up? There’s no one there: it’s just an empty boat. Joko Beck says, “Our encounters with life, with other people, with events, are like being bumped by an empty rowboat” This is a hard teaching to get hold of, because so much of the time it seems pretty clear to us that we’re not only being bumped but clobbered by someone else. The rowboat we’re looking at isn’t empty at all: it’s got our boss in it and our meddlesome motherin-law; it’s got our inconsiderate neighbor and our abusive boyfriend, our manipulative coworker and our vindictive ex-spouse. How in the world can we think of the boat as empty? Joko-Beck is not trying to convince us that no one in our lives means us harm, or treats us unfairly. I think what she’s pointing to is the nature of our reactions. When anger rises up in its many defensive and selfrighteous ways, nothing in our lives teaches us to first notice and feel our own reactions. So instead we react unthinkingly, and it usually involves lashing out: someone has bashed our boat, so we bash back
All over the world, human beings who were once calm and rational are carried away by pain and anger every day.
at them. In its largestand most destructive forms, this cycle of action and reaction, of violence and revenge,becomes a war. Buddhist teachings about anger ask the question: what are the otheroptions? There was an amazing drama that unfolded in Atlanta last weekend, and I found myselfthinking about it over and over again within the context of aversion and how it drives us in our lives. I read about Brian Nichols, the prisoner who, on the way to the courtroom to face a charge of rape, overpowered and shot his guard, went on to kill four other people and then disappeared for a couple of days, hiding somewhere in Atlanta. It’s hard to imagine how much rage and despair must have to be inside a person to lead to that level of violence. And it’s very tempting to think of someone like Nichols as radically “other”, so much worse than we are, that we’re not even quite the same species. And yet in our hearts we know it isn’t true. We know that there is a spectrum of rage, and that every human being dances up and down it. Thankfully, most people never get out to the murderous end; but we are all on the same spectrum. All over the world, human beings who were once calm and rational are carried away by pain and anger every day. We end up doing things we never imagined ourselves doing. We hurt our own children. We lash out unfairly. We torture, we wound, we kill. We lose ourselves, our true selves, our deep selves, and we don’t know the way back home. Chapter two of Nichols’ story was very unexpected, and riveting. He ended up being captured, without anyone else getting hurt, because of the way in which he was spoken to and somehow reached by the woman he had taken hostage in her apartment,
Ashley Smith. Over the course of the seven hours they spent together she persuaded him that his life still had some meaning. He ended up letting her go, and he allowed himself to be arrested without any more violence. After it was all over, a man who used to work with the FBI in hostage situations analyzed the interactions between the two people, captor and captive. What was it that opened the door to this unexpected and peaceful ending? First, he said, Ashley Smith was able to be calm and centered enough to help her captor see her as a human being, with hopes and fears of her own, with a family and a life she wanted to live. Second, she was able to listen and speak to Nichols without judging him. She engaged with him with respect and dignity, separating out the human being from what he had done. And third, she opened up a little crack of possibility for him, a view of himself as a human being who still had something good within himself to offer up to the world, despite the terrible things his anger had led him to do. The FBI man concluded with a remarkable statement. “She must have been the calm in the storm for him”. I hope that none of us ever face a challenge as extreme as the one Ashley Smith faced so admirably; fortunately, the odds are on our side. For most of us, it will be challenge enough merely to deal with our surly Bengali tea boys. But there’s a powerful lesson for us that shines out of this intense encounter between two people. EH The above Sermon was delivered on Sunday, March 20, 2005 in the United States. Article published with kind permission of Rev Kathleen McTigue.
Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and a leading exponent of teachings on meditation and how they apply to everyday life. She is widely known for her charming and down-to-earth interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism for Western audiences. Pema is the resident teacher at Gampo Abbey, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, the first Tibetan monastery for Westerners and has authored several books, including, Always
Maintain a Joyful Mind (lojong teachings), Practicing Peace in Times of War, No Time to Lose, The Pema Chodron Collection (audio), Getting Unstuck:Breaking Your Habitual Patterns & Encountering Naked Reality (audio), The Places that Scare You, When Things Fall Apart, and Start Where You Are.
The THREE MARKS OF EXISTENCE by Pema Chödrön
There are three truths—traditionally called three marks—of our existence: impermanence, suffering, and egolessness. Even though they accurately describe the rock-bottom qualities of our existence, these words sound threatening. It’s easy to get the idea that there is something wrong with impermanence, suffering, and egolessness, which is like thinking that there is something wrong with our fundamental situation. But there’s nothing wrong with impermanence, suffering, and egolessness; they can be celebrated. Our fundamental situation is joyful. Impermanence is the goodness of reality. Just as the four seasons are in continual flux, winter changing to spring to summer to autumn; just as day Adapted from
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
becomes night, light becoming dark becoming light again—in the same way, everything is constantly evolving. Impermanence is the essence of everything. It is babies becoming children, then teenagers, then adults, then old people, and somewhere along the way dropping dead. Impermanence is meeting and parting. It’s falling in love and falling out of love. Impermanence is bittersweet, like buying a new shirt and years later finding it as part of a patchwork quilt.
People have no respect for impermanence. We take no delight in it; in fact, we despair of it. We regard it as pain. We try to resist it by making things that will last—forever, we say—things that we don’t have to wash, things that we don’t have to iron. Somehow, in the process of trying to deny that things are always changing, we lose our sense of the sacredness of life. We tend to forget that we are part of the natural scheme of things. Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality. Many cultures celebrate this connectedness. There are ceremonies marking all the transitions of life from birth to death, as well as meetings and partings, going into battle, losing the battle, and winning the battle. We too could acknowledge, respect, and celebrate impermanence. But what about suffering? Why would we celebrate suffering? Doesn’t that sound masochistic? Our suffering is based so much on our fear of impermanence. Our pain is so rooted in our one-sided, lopsided view of reality. Whoever got the idea that we could have pleasure without pain? It’s promoted rather widely in this world, and we buy it. But pain and pleasure go together; they are inseparable. They can be celebrated. They are ordinary. Birth is painful and delightful. Death is painful and delightful. Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else. Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward. Inspiration and wretchedness are inseparable. We always want to get rid of misery rather than see how it works together with joy. The point isn’t to cultivate one thing as opposed to another, but to relate properly to where we are. Inspiration and wretchedness complement each other. With only inspiration, we become arrogant. With only wretchedness, we lose our vision. Feeling inspired cheers us up, makes us realize how vast and wonderful our world is. Feeling wretched humbles us. The gloriousness of our inspiration connects us with the sacredness of the world. But when the tables are turned and we feel wretched, that softens us up. It ripens our hearts. It becomes the ground for understanding others. Both the inspiration and the wretchedness can be celebrated. We can be big and small at the same time. Can we also celebrate egolessness? Often we think of egolessness as a great loss, but actually it’s a gain. The acknowledgment of egolessness, our natural state, is like regaining eyesight after having been blind or regaining hearing after having been deaf. Egolessness has been compared to the rays of the sun. With no solid sun, the rays just radiate
outward. In the same way, wakefulness naturally radiates out when we’re not so concerned with ourselves. Egolessness is the same thing as basic goodness or buddha nature, our unconditional being. It’s what we always have and never really lose. Ego could be defined as whatever covers up basic goodness. From an experiential point of view, what is ego covering up? It’s covering up our experience of just being here, just fully being where we are, so that we can relate with the immediacy of our experience. Egolessness is a state of mind that has complete confidence in the sacredness of the world. It is unconditional well-being, unconditional joy that includes all the different qualities of our experience. So how do we celebrate impermanence, suffering, and egolessness in our everyday lives? When impermanence presents itself in our lives, we can recognize it as impermanence. We don’t have to look for opportunities to do this. When your pen runs out of ink in the middle of writing an important letter, recognize it as impermanence, part of the whole cycle of life. When someone’s born, recognize it as impermanence. When someone dies, recognize it as impermanence. When your car gets stolen, recognize it as impermanence. When you fall in love, recognize it as impermanence, and let that intensify the preciousness. When a relationship ends, recognize it as impermanence. There are countless examples of impermanence in our lives every day, from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep and even while we’re dreaming, all the time. This is a twenty-four-hour-a-day practice. Recognize impermanence as impermanence. Then we can recognize our reaction to impermanence. This is where curiosity comes in. Usually we just react habitually to events in our lives. We become resentful or delighted, excited or disappointed. There’s no intelligence involved, no cheerfulness. But when we recognize impermanence as impermanence, we can also notice what our reaction to impermanence is. This is called mindfulness, awareness, curiosity, inquisitiveness, paying attention. Whatever we call it, it’s a very helpful practice, the practice of coming to know ourselves completely. When suffering arises in our lives, we can recognize it as suffering. When we get what we don’t want, when we don’t get what we do want, when we become ill, when we’re getting old, when we’re dying—when we see any of these things in our lives, we can recognize suffering as suffering. Then we can be curious, notice, and be mindful of our reactions to that.
Again, usually we’re either resentful and feel cheated somehow, or we’re delighted. But whatever our reaction is, it’s usually habitual. Instead, we could see the next impulse come up, and how we spin off from there. Spinning off is neither good nor bad; it’s just something that happens as a reaction to the pleasure and pain of our existence. We can simply see that, without judgment or the intention to clean up our act. When egolessness arises, we can recognize it as egolessness—a fresh moment, a clear perception of a smell or a sight or a sound, a feeling of opening to emotions or thoughts rather than closing off into our narrow limited selves. When we perceive the spaciousness in our lives, when we sense a gap in the continual conversation we have with ourselves, when we suddenly notice what’s in front of us, when we take a fresh, clear, unedited look at reality, we can recognize it as egolessness. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Egolessness is available all the time as freshness, openness, delight in our sense perceptions. Curiously enough, we also experience egolessness when we don’t know what’s happening, when we’ve lost our reference point, when we get a shock and our mind is stopped. We can notice our reactions to that. Sometimes we open further; sometimes we quickly shut down. In any case, when egolessness occurs in our lives, we can recognize it as egolessness. We can notice, be curious, be mindful of our reactions and of what happens next. Often peace is taught as the fourth mark of existence. This isn’t the peace that’s the opposite of war. It’s the well-being that comes when we can see the infinite pairs of opposites as complementary. If there is beauty, there must be ugliness. If there is right, there is wrong. Wisdom and ignorance cannot be separated. This is an old truth—one that men and women like ourselves have been discovering for a long time. Cultivating moment-tomoment curiosity, we just might find that day by day this kind of peace dawns on us, and we begin to understand what all the books have been talking about. So don’t take anything for granted, and don’t believe everything you’re told. Without being cynical or gullible, look for the living quality of the dharma. Recognize impermanence and suffering and egolessness at the kitchen-sink level, and be inquisitive about your reactions. Find out for yourself about peace and whether or not it’s true that our fundamental situation is joyful. EH
41!}!FBTUF FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!BQSJM!311: FSO!IPSJ[PO BQSJM!31 11: 1
In Memory of Chan Master Sheng Yen
Chan Master Sheng Yen founder of Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan and the Chan Meditation Center of New York, passed into Nirvanic bliss in Taipei on
February 3, 2009. He was born in China’s Jiangsu
- The universe may one day perish, yet my vows are eternal
The Master used to say, “The Dharma is so good,
Province in 1930.
yet so few people know about it and so many people misunderstand it.” For this simple belief, Master Sheng Yen founded Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) in Taiwan. Calling himself “an itinerant monk pressing ahead through the wind and snow,” and named as one of the fifty most influential people in Taiwan in the past four hundred years, Chan Master Sheng Yen actually had a life full of miseries, deprivations, tests, and turning points. Whether on solitary retreat, studying in Japan, spreading the Dharma in the USA and Europe, or founding Dharma Drum Mountain, the Master said that he had always been able to conquer the difficulties and find the way out. This was because, to him, life was a process of realizing the Buddhadharma. For higher prestige of orthodox Chinese Buddhism and the development of monasticism in Taiwan, at age forty, Master Sheng Yen resolutely went to study for his doctorate degree in Japan. Next he started to propagate the Dharma around the world. The Master also dedicated much of his energy and time to writing for the purpose of Dharma propagation. Now, over one hundred books (both Chinese and English) have been published and which are still influential. As an erudite scholar and as a Dharma heir in both the Linji and Caodong lineages of Chinese Buddhism, the Master established the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies, Dharma Drum Buddhist College, Dharma Drum Sangha University and Dharma Drum University to cultivate first-class Buddhist researchers and sangha.
In recent years, he also actively initiated beneficent dialogues with celebrities from various fields in
Six Ethics of the Mind
society for public good. His compassionate mind and
Starting from 2008, Chan Master Sheng Yen’s
global viewpoint soon earned him high recognition at
compassion for humanity was further revealed in
home and abroad.
“the Six Ethics of the Mind Campaign”. They are Workplace Ethics, School Ethics, Family Ethics, Living
Vision Built on Vows
Ethics, Environmental Ethics and Ethics between
The Master’s compassion spread even further with
Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education that was inaugurated on October 21, 2005, in
He believed that in today’s society, chaos in all its
line with the vision of “building a pure land on earth”.
manifestations springs from a lack of ethical and moral standards in interpersonal relationships
According to the Master, the notion of “a pure
among people from all walks of life. Thus, everyone
land on Earth” is actually stressed in Mahayana
scrambles for their rights while forgetting their
Buddhism. The Huayan Sutra (Sanskrit: Avatamsaka-
obligations and duties. “Ethics” means doing one’s
sutra) states: “The first moment you give rise to
duties and observing one’s role and “morality”
Bodhicitta, you have attained enlightenment.”
means respecting and caring for each other in
(Taisho Vol.9, p. 449) This means that as soon as
you give rise to the aspiration to attain the Buddha’s mind of compassion and wisdom, you have become
The Master stressed that ethics represent a form
of loving-kindness and the compassion of the bodhisattvas. One must benefit others while seeking
The Master said that although you are not yet a perfect
our own; only by benefiting others will one’s own
and complete Buddha, your mind is in harmony with
benefit be safeguarded. If one has only one’s own
the enlightenment of Buddha. Therefore, when the
interests at heart without considering the benefits
mind is peaceful, the world you see is a pure land.
of others, the benefit one enjoys will not be secure
In other words, peace is created in and with a mind
because others will covet it and vie for it.
at peace. The Master actively promoted this notion wherever he went. Those who received the Master’s
In an increasingly chaotic environment, the promotion
teachings had in the end turned into DDM’s worldwide
of ethical education and concepts becomes even
“ambassadors of peace.”
more vital. Chan Master Sheng Yen thus hoped every
one could act as an interpreter and pioneer for this campaign, developing himself by benefiting others in the spirit of serving and giving. This is the most superior value, and represents the true meaning of well-being and a happy life. Eternal Vows His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama once said, “When
Master Sheng Yen
I listen to Master Sheng Yen’s presentation of Chan
Born near Shanghai in l930, Master Sheng-yen
Buddhist teachings, my immediate and very profound
became a monk of Guang Jiao Monastery in the
feeling is that I am listening to words of wisdom
Wolf Hills of Nantung at age thirteen. At age 16
from someone who is very experienced and a great
he was transferred from the countryside to a
branch of the monastery, Ta-sheng Monastery, in Shanghai. Later on he studied at the Buddhist
In light of the Master’s long-term endeavor and
Academy at Ching-an Monastery in Shanghai,
compassion for the well-being of humanity, he
where he was inspired by the teachings of Ch’an
received many awards from Taiwan’s authorities,
Master Xu Yun (Empty Cloud) and Master Tai Xu
such as The 3rd Outstanding Leadership Award for
on their visits to Shanghai.
Social Peace Movement in 1993, The First National Civic Service Award in 1990, The 2nd Bodhi Prize
In 1949, during the Communist takeover of
of the Presidential Cultural Award in 2002 and The
China, he joined a unit of the Nationalist Army
Distinguished Cultural Contribution Award from the
and went to Taiwan and served as a wireless
Chinese Arts and Literature Association in 2008.
telegraph operator, a telecommunications officer, and a warrant officer. Continuing his studies
Indeed, the Master’s passing is a great loss to the
nonetheless, he wrote his first book in 1956
people of Taiwan, to the Buddhist community and
and numerous articles during a sick leave from
even to those who care about the development of
military service. At age 28, sojourning at various
humanity. Ever since the Master passed into Nirvanic
monasteries in the area, he had the deepest
bliss, from February 3- 15, over one hundred thousand
spiritual experience of his life. His experience
people arrived at the DDM World Center for Buddhist
was later recognized by masters in the two main
Education to pay their last tribute, participate in
lineages of Ch’an (Chinese Zen) Buddhism: the
Buddhist rituals for transference of merit, and to join
Lin Ji (Japanese: Rinzai) and Cao Dong (Japanese:
the ceremonies of the Master, such as Encoffining
Soto), and he became the Dharma heir in these
Ceremony, Cremation Ceremony, and Commemoration
and Ash-Burial Ceremony, in memory of Chan Master Sheng Yen.
After ten years of service, he retired from the army and entered monastic practice again in 1959
Chan Master Sheng Yen said in his will: “What I
at the Buddhist Culture Center in Peitou, Taipei.
am unable to accomplish in this life, I vow to push
From 1961 to 1968 Master Sheng-yen practiced
forward through countless future lives. What I am
a solitary retreat at the Chao Yuan Monastery
unable to accomplish personally, I exhort everyone to
in the mountains of Taiwan. As a lecturer on
undertake together.” His vigor, compassionate spirit
Buddhism at Shan Dao Monastery in Taipei,
and teachings will never disappear. EH
he went to Japan where he received a Master’s Degree (1971) and Doctorate (l975) in Buddhist
literature from Rissho University. In 1975 he formally received transmission from Ch’an Master Dong Chu of the Cao Dong tradition of Ch’an, and in 1978 he received transmission from Ch’an Master Ling Yuan of the Lin Ji tradition. In 1977 he traveled to the United States where he served as the Abbot of The Temple of Enlightenment in
Four Kinds of Prostration
by Chan Master Sheng Yen (1930-2009)
In 1978 he became a Professor at The Chinese Culture
There are four kinds of prostrations. The first
University and President of the Chung-Hwa Buddhist
kind is for fulfilling wishes. When we prostrate,
Cultural Institute in Taipei. In l979 Master Sheng-yen became
we ask the buddhas and bodhisattvas to
the Abbot of Nung Ch’an Monastery in Taiwan, where close
help us. We can do this prostration when we
to 100 ordained monks and nuns currently reside. In the
encounter difficulties or misfortune. It can also
next year, he founded the Ch’an Meditation Center and
be done for others. If someone is not doing
The Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist Culture in New York.
well, you can prostrate for the Buddha’s help.
In 1985 he founded the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist
This prostration can also be used to avoid
Studies in Taipei, a graduate school and conference center,
accidents, sickness, or to prolong life.
and in 1989 the International Cultural and Educational Foundation of Dharma Drum Mountain. A Buddhist
The second kind of prostration is done out of
University and monastery are scheduled to open at Dharma
the sincerity of your heart, not with a seeking
Drum Mountain in 2000. Currently he has 3000 students in
mind. You may prostrate from the depths of our
the US and more than 300,000 students in Taiwan.
heart in gratitude for the Three Jewels. You can also prostrate to your teacher, your shifu. Shifus
Master Sheng-yen has published more than ninety books,
represent the Three Jewels, so we prostrate
available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese,
to them with sincerity for their teachings and
Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, and French. He has
guidance. It is important to understand that is
lectured at more than forty universities in the United
you who benefits from such prostrations, not
States and continues to lecture in Taiwan, Hong Kong,
your shifu. Through this act of gratefulness and
Singapore, Europe, and the US. He has led more than 140
respect, we can change ourselves and generate
week-long intensive Ch’an meditation retreats in the US,
sincerity in our hearts.
England, and Europe. The third kind is repentance prostration. For Responsible for the revival, dissemination, and expansion
this you need a mind of humility and a sense
of Ch’an practice in China and the West, Master Sheng-
of shame. It is impossible to do this if your
yen is also active as an environmentalist. In August, 2000
are filled with arrogance. Even as you touch
Master Sheng-yen was one of the keynote speakers at the
your head to the floor, you will still you are
Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual
right and others, wrong. Such prostrations can
Leaders at United Nation, and in the environmental
help you to change your character to being
protection workshop at Waldorf Astorial Hotel.
more receptive and honest. You will be more complete, more well-rounded. It is like washing
He has received many other government awards for his
clothes. Our clothes get dirty over and over,
humanitarian, cultural, and scholarly activities.
and time and time again we wash them. As long as we wash them, they stay clean. Going
Master Sheng Yen passed away on February 3, 2009. 45!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!BQSJM!311:
through the motions of repentance prostrations
without admitting your faults or being open and
the first two foundations -- body and sensation. The
sincere is like wearing clothes, but never washing
third foundation, mind, is also involved because
them. They just get dirtier and dirtier. When you find
clarity and awareness are the mind itself. At this point
stains on your clothing, be joyous that they are so
our minds’ movement should be fine and subtle,
clear and easy to spot. It means that your clothes
since our body movements are carried out slowly. In
were relatively clean to begin with. If you never wash
the second stage, we know we are prostrating and
your clothes, you may not notice new stains. There is
we feel it, but our bodies are moving by themselves.
no need for self-pity when you find faults in yourself.
We no longer have to order or control our bodies.
The more you find, the better. Perhaps you’ll be able
We are now witnesses. Who is prostrating? The
to catch them before they arise. Better yet, once you
body is prostrating. At this stage, there is no longer
spot your shortcomings, perhaps you’ll be able to
the thought, “I am prostrating;” rather, prostrations
are occurring. At the third stage, others may see you prostrating, but as far as you are concerned, there are
The fourth kind of prostration I call “formless
no longer thoughts that you are prostrating or that
prostration.” However, since it’s impossible to
prostrations are occurring. Body, mind and sensation
immediately arrive at formlessness (no-form), we
are fused: there is no separation.
begin with form and progress through stages until we get to no-form. Similarly, to get to no-self --
Like learning to ride a horse, at first there is a rider
impermanence -- we start with the self. From there,
and a horse, separate wills wanting to go their own
we contemplate emptiness until we gradually move
way. As a result, the ride is bumpy. Experienced
to the level of no- self. We do the same with non-
riders feel no separation between themselves and
their horses. The horse responds instantly, so that
attachment and working toward our goal. Formless
the ride becomes fluid and uninterrupted. The third
prostrations come from contemplating the four
level is the stage of formlessness, but it is not no-
foundations of mindfulness: body, sensation, mind
self yet. When we perfect the third stage, there are
and dharmas. No matter which one we contemplate,
no influences whatsoever. We are neither affected by
we begin with form and end with formlessness.
internal nor external conditions. Of course, we must
always begin with the first stage. If we cannot even We can consider these four foundations in the
reach the initial level of a calm and subtly moving
context of the stages of formless prostrations, which
mind, then it will be impossible to progress to the
I will now describe. The first stage is when we tell
next stages. EH
ourselves to do prostrations and our body obeys our commands. We control the body and consciously
This article is taken from an Evening Talk during a Retreat
ordering it to prostrate. While doing the prostrations,
on December 4, 1992. Published with kind permission from
we are to remain extremely clear of our movements as
Dharma Drum Mountain, Taiwan.
well as the sensation. Already, we are contemplating BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!46
Photos taken from the first edition of Zen Wisdom: Knowing and Doing.
1. Stand upright with the feet forming a “V” shape - about eight inches apart in the front and two inches apart in the back. Hold the palms together at the chest level. Keep all the fingers close. The arms form a 30-degree angle with the torso. While standing, keep the eyes cast on the tips of the fingers, without bending the neck. This is a skillful means to keep the mind from distraction. Relax, breathing naturally and stay mindful. Each of the following steps is a skillful means in mindfully practice.
2. Bend the upper body down while keeping the legs straight. Let the spinal cord curves naturally and shift the buttock backward so that the center of gravity is kept at a vertical axis passing through the heels. Be mindful to keep the neck straight.
3. Bend the knees as if you are squatting down. At the same time, move the right hand away from the left and put it down on the ground. Be mindful not to bend the upper body below the waist. When the right palm touches the ground, kneel down to the floor, using the right hand as a support. Once kneeled, the buttock naturally sit on the legs. The right hand should locate just in front and at the outer edge of the right knee. Place the left hand down to the floor, on a line at the outer edge of the left knee, extending approximately one and a half palm-length ahead of the right hand. Move the right hand forward to the same level as the left.
4. With the palms as supports, bend the upper body downward, until the forehead touches the ground. The spinal cord curves up naturally. Be mindful to keep the neck straight and the buttocks grounded. Flex the fingers to form a fist and roll them up side down. Open the fists so that the palms face upward, as if one is offering to hold the Buddha on one’s hand. Note that the palms form a “V” shape, with the narrow part in front. Flex the fingers back into a fist, roll them back, and then open the fingers, with the palms touching the ground. Raise the upper body, withdraw the right hand back to just in front of the right knee. Withdraw the left hand away from the ground to the front of the chest. Use the right hand as a support and get up from the floor. Return to position 1. Be patient, mindful, and relax. 47!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!BQSJM!311:
Buddhism in a Nutshell:
The Four Seals of Dharma by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
People often ask me: “What is Buddhism in a nutshell?” Or they ask, “What is the particular view or philosophy of Buddhism?” Unfortunately, in the West Buddhism seems to have landed in the religious department, even in the self-help or self-improvement department, and clearly it’s in the trendy meditation department.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche was born in Bhutan in 1961, and was recognized as the main incarnation of the Khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He has studied with some of the greatest contemporary masters, particularly H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. From a young age he has been active for the preservation of the Buddhist teaching, establishing centers of learning, supporting practitioners, publishing books and teaching all over the world. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche supervises his traditional seat of Dzongsar Monastery and its retreat centers in Eastern Tibet, as well as his new colleges in India and Bhutan. He has also has established centers in Australia, North America and the Far East. These are gathered under Siddhartha’s Intent. Also known as Khyentse Norbu, Rinpoche is a filmmaker and writer. His two major films are The Cup (1999) and Travellers and Magicians (2003). He is also the author of the book What Makes You Not a Buddhist (Shambhala, 2007)
I would like to challenge the popular definition of Buddhist meditation. Many people think meditation has something to do with relaxation, with watching the sunset or watching the waves at the beach. Charming phrases like “letting go” and “being carefree” come to mind. From a Buddhist point of view, meditation is slightly more than that. First, I think we need to talk about the real context of Buddhist meditation. This is referred to as the view, meditation and action; taken together, these constitute quite a skillful way of understanding the path. Even though we may not use such expressions in everyday life, if we think about it, we always act according to a certain view, meditation and action. For instance, if we want to buy a car, we choose the one we think is the best, most reliable and so on. So the “view,” in this case, is the idea or belief that we have, that is, that the car is a good one. Then the “meditation” is contemplating and getting used to the idea, and the “action” is actually buying the car, driving it and using it. This process is not necessarily something Buddhist; it’s something we’re doing all the time. You don’t have to call it view, meditation and action. You can think of it as “idea,” “getting used to,” and “obtaining.” So what is the particular view that Buddhists try to get used to? Buddhism is distinguished by four characteristics, or “seals.” Actually, if all these four seals are found in a path or a philosophy, it doesn’t matter whether you call it Buddhist or not. You can call it what you like; the words “Buddhist” or “Buddhism” are not important. The point is that if this path contains these four seals, it can be considered the path of the Buddha.
Therefore, these four characteristics are called “the
weather, we can accept easily, but there are equally
Four Seals of Dharma.” They are:
obvious things that we don’t accept.
All compounded things are impermanent.
For instance, our body is visibly impermanent and getting older every day, and yet this is something we
All emotions are painful. This is something that only
don’t want to accept. Certain popular magazines that
Buddhists would talk about. Many religions worship
cater to youth and beauty exploit this attitude. In
things like love with celebration and songs. Buddhists
terms of view, meditation and action, their readers
think, “This is all suffering.”
might have a view—thinking in terms of not aging or escaping the aging process somehow. They
All phenomena are empty; they are without inherent
contemplate this view of permanence, and their
existence. This is actually the ultimate view of Buddhism;
consequent action is to go to fitness centers and
the other three are grounded on this third seal.
undergo plastic surgery and all sorts of other hassles.
The fourth seal is that nirvana is beyond extremes.
Enlightened beings would think that this is ridiculous and based on a wrong view. Regarding these different
Without these four seals, the Buddhist path would
aspects of impermanence, getting old and dying, the
become theistic, religious dogma, and its whole
changing of the weather, etc., Buddhists have a single
purpose would be lost. On the other hand, you could
statement, namely this first seal: phenomena are
have a surfer giving you teachings on how to sit on a
impermanent because they are compounded. Anything
beach watching a sunset: if what he says contains all
that is assembled will, sooner or later, come apart.
these four seals, it would be Buddhism. The Tibetans,
When we say “compounded,” that includes the
the Chinese, or the Japanese might not like it, but
dimensions of space and time. Time is compounded
teaching doesn’t have to be in a “traditional” form.
and therefore impermanent: without the past and
The four seals are quite interrelated, as you will see.
future, there is no such thing as the present. If the present moment were permanent, there would be no
The First Seal:
future, since the present would always be there. Every
All Compounded Things are Impermanent
act you do—let’s say, plant a flower or sing a song—has a beginning, a middle and an end. If, in the singing of a song, the beginning, middle or end were missing, there would be no such thing as singing a song, would there? That means that singing a song is something compounded. “So what?” we ask. “Why should we bother about that? What’s the big deal? It has a beginning, middle, and end—so what?” It’s not that Buddhists are really worried about beginnings, middles or ends; that’s not the
Every phenomenon we can think of is compounded,
problem. The problem is that when there is composition
and therefore subject to impermanence. Certain
and impermanence, as there is with temporal and
aspects of impermanence, like the changing of the
material things, there is uncertainty and pain.
Some people think that Buddhists are pessimistic,
The Tibetan word for emotion in this context is zagche,
always talking about death, impermanence and
which means “contaminated” or “stained,” in the sense
aging. But that is not necessarily true. Impermanence
of being permeated by confusion or duality.
is a relief! I don’t have a BMW today and it is thanks to the impermanence of that fact that I might have
Certain emotions, such as aggression or jealousy, we
one tomorrow. Without impermanence, I am stuck
naturally regard as pain. But what about love and
with the non-possession of a BMW, and I can never
affection, kindness and devotion, those nice, light and
have one. I might feel severely depressed today and,
lovely emotions? We don’t think of them as painful;
thanks to impermanence, I might feel great tomorrow.
nevertheless, they imply duality, and this means that,
Impermanence is not necessarily bad news; it depends
in the end, they are a source of pain.
on the way you understand it. Even if today your BMW gets scratched by a vandal, or your best friend lets you
The dualistic mind includes almost every thought
down, if you have a view of impermanence, you won’t
we have. Why is this painful? Because it is mistaken.
be so worried.
Every dualistic mind is a mistaken mind, a mind that doesn’t understand the nature of things. So how are
Delusion arises when we don’t acknowledge that all
we to understand duality? It is subject and object:
compounded things are impermanent. But when we
ourselves on the one hand and our experience on the
realize this truth, deep down and not just intellectually,
other. This kind of dualistic perception is mistaken, as
that’s what we call liberation: release from this one-
we can see in the case of different persons perceiving
the same object in different ways. A man might think
Everything, whether you like it or not—even the path,
a certain woman is beautiful and that is his truth. But
the precious Buddhist path—is compounded. It has a
if that were some kind of absolute, independent kind
beginning, it has a middle and it has an end.
of truth, then everyone else also would have to see
her as beautiful as well. Clearly, this is not a truth that When you understand that “all compounded things
is independent of everything else. It is dependent on
are impermanent,” you are prepared to accept the
your mind; it is your own projection.
experience of loss. Since everything is impermanent, this is to be expected.
The dualistic mind creates a lot of expectations—a lot of hope, a lot of fear. Whenever there is a dualistic
The Second Seal:
mind, there is hope and fear. Hope is perfect,
All Emotions are Painful
systematized pain. We tend to think that hope is not painful, but actually it’s a big pain. As for the pain of fear, that’s not something we need to explain. The Buddha said, “Understand suffering.” That is the first Noble Truth. Many of us mistake pain for pleasure—the pleasure we now have is actually the very cause of the pain that we are going to get sooner or later. Another Buddhist way of explaining this is to say that when a big pain becomes smaller, we call it pleasure. That’s what we call happiness.
Moreover, emotion does not have some kind of
The Third Seal:
inherently real existence. When thirsty people see a
All Phenomena are Empty; They Are Without
mirage of water, they have a feeling of relief: “Great,
there’s some water!” But as they get closer, the mirage disappears. That is an important aspect of emotion: emotion is something that does not have an independent existence. This is why Buddhists conclude that all emotions are painful. It is because they are impermanent and dualistic that they are uncertain and always accompanied by hopes and fears. But ultimately, they don’t have, and never have had, an inherently existent nature, so, in a way, they are not worth much. Everything we create through our emotions is, in the end, completely futile
When we say “all,” that means everything, including the
and painful. This is why Buddhists do shamatha and
Buddha, enlightenment, and the path. Buddhists define
vipashyana meditation—this helps to loosen the grip
a phenomenon as something with characteristics, and as
that our emotions have on us, and the obsessions we
an object that is conceived by a subject. To hold that an
have because of them.
object is something external is ignorance, and it is this that prevents us from seeing the truth of that object.
Question: Is compassion an emotion? The truth of a phenomenon is called shunyata, People like us have dualistic compassion, whereas the
emptiness, which implies that the phenomenon does
Buddha’s compassion does not involve subject and
not possess a truly existent essence or nature. When a
object. From a buddha’s point of view, compassion
deluded person or subject sees something, the object
could never involve subject and object. This is what is
seen is interpreted as something really existent.
called mahakaruna — great compassion.
However, as you can see, the existence imputed by the subject is a mistaken assumption. Such an assumption
I’m having difficulty accepting that all emotions are pain.
is based on the different conditions that make an object appear to be true; this, however, is not how
Okay, if you want a more philosophical expression, you
the object really is. It’s like when we see a mirage:
can drop the word “emotion” and simply say, “All that
there is no truly existing object there, even though it
is dualistic is pain.” But I like using the word “emotion”
appears that way. With emptiness, the Buddha meant
because it provokes us.
that things do not truly exist as we mistakenly believe they do, and that they are really empty of that falsely
Isn’t pain impermanent?
Yeah! If you know this, then you’re all right. It’s because
It is because they believe in what are really just
we don’t know this that we go through a lot of hassles
confused projections that sentient beings suffer.
trying to solve our problems. And that is the second
It was as a remedy for this that the Buddha taught
biggest problem we have—trying to solve our problems.
the Dharma. Put very simply, when we talk about
as a truly existing mind. Finally, when he said, “Mind is luminous,” he was referring to buddhanature, the undeluded or primordially existing wisdom. The great commentator Nagarjuna said that the purpose of the first turning was to get rid of nonvirtue. Where does the non-virtue come from? It comes from being either eternalist or nihilist. So in order to put an end to non-virtuous deeds and thoughts, the Buddha gave his first teaching. The emptiness, we mean that the way things appear is
second turning of the Dharma-wheel, when the
not the way they actually are. As I said before when
Buddha spoke about emptiness, was presented in
speaking about emotions, you may see a mirage and
order to dispel clinging to a “truly existent self ” and to
think it is something real, but when you get close, the
“truly existent phenomena.” Finally, the teachings of
mirage disappears, however real it may have seemed
the third turning were given to dispel all views, even
to begin with.
the view of no-self. The Buddha’s three sets of teaching do not seek to introduce something new; their purpose
is simply to clear away confusion.
dharmakaya, and in a different context we could say that the dharmakaya is permanent, never changing, all
As Buddhists we practice compassion, but if we lack an
pervasive, and use all sorts of beautiful, poetic words.
understanding of this third seal—that all phenomena
These are the mystical expressions that belong to the
are empty—our compassion can backfire. If you are
path, but for the moment, we are still at the ground
attached to the goal of compassion when trying to
stage, trying to get an intellectual understanding.
solve a problem, you might not notice that your idea
On the path, we might portray Buddha Vajradhara as
of the solution is entirely based on your own personal
a symbol of dharmakaya, or emptiness, but from an
interpretation. And you might end up as a victim of
academic point of view, even to think of painting the
hope and fear, and consequently of disappointment.
dharmakaya is a mistake.
You start by becoming a “good mahayana practitioner,” and, once or twice, you try to help sentient beings. But
The Buddha taught three different approaches on
if you have no understanding of this third seal, you’ll
three separate occasions. These are known as The
get tired and give up helping sentient beings.
Three Turnings of the Wheel, but they can be summed up in a single phrase: “Mind; there is no mind; mind is
There is another kind of a problem that arises from
not understanding emptiness. It occurs with rather superficial and even jaded Buddhists. Somehow, within
The first, “Mind,” refers to the first set of teachings
Buddhist circles, if you don’t accept emptiness, you are
and shows that the Buddha taught that there is a
not cool. So we pretend that we appreciate emptiness
“mind.” This was to dispel the nihilistic view that there
and pretend to meditate on it. But if we don’t
is no heaven, no hell, no cause and effect. Then, when
understand it properly, a bad side effect can occur.
the Buddha said, “There is no mind,” he meant that
We might say, “Oh, everything’s emptiness. I can do
mind is just a concept and that there is no such thing
whatever I like.” So we ignore and violate the details
of karma, the responsibility for our action. We become
Ultimately speaking, the path is irrational, but
“inelegant,” and we discourage others in the bargain.
relatively speaking, it’s very rational because it uses
His Holiness the Dalai Lama often speaks of this
the relative conventions of our world. When I’m
downfall of not understanding emptiness. A correct
talking about emptiness, everything that I’m saying
understanding of emptiness leads us to see how things
has to do with this “image” emptiness. I can’t show
are related, and how we are responsible for our world.
you real emptiness but I can tell you why things don’t exist inherently.
You can read millions of pages on this subject. Nagarjuna alone wrote five different commentaries mostly dedicated to this, and then there are the commentaries by his followers. There are endless teachings on establishing this view. In Mahayana temples or
In Buddhism there’s so much iconography that you might think it was the object of meditation or an object of worship. But, from your teaching, am I to understand that this is all non-existent?
monasteries people chant the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra—this is also a teaching on the third seal.
When you go to a temple, you will see many beautiful statues, colors and symbols. These are important for
Philosophies or religions might say, “Things are
the path. These all belong to what we call “image-
illusion, the world is maya, illusion,” but there are
wisdom,” “image-emptiness.” However, while we follow
always one or two items left behind that are regarded
the path and apply its methods, it is important to know
as truly existent: God, cosmic energy, whatever. In
that the path itself is ultimately an illusion. Actually, it
Buddhism, this is not the case. Everything in samsara
is only then that we can properly appreciate it.
and nirvana—from the Buddha’s head to a piece of bread—everything is emptiness. There is nothing that
The Fourth Seal :
is not included in ultimate truth.
Nirvana is Beyond Extremes
Question: If we ourselves are dualistic, can we ever understand emptiness, which is something beyond description? Buddhists are very slippery. You’re right. You can never talk about absolute emptiness, but you can talk about an “image” of emptiness—something that you can evaluate and contemplate so that, in the end, you can get to the real emptiness. You may say, “Ah, that’s just too easy; that’s such crap.” But to that the Buddhists say, “Too bad, that’s how things work.” If
Now that I have explained emptiness, I feel that the
you need to meet someone whom you have never met,
fourth seal, “Nirvana is beyond extremes,” has also
I can describe him to you or show you a photograph of
been covered. But briefly, this last seal is also something
him. And with the help of that photo image, you can
uniquely Buddhist. In many philosophies or religions,
go and find the real person.
the final goal is something that you can hold on to and keep. The final goal is the only thing that truly exists.
But nirvana is not fabricated, so it is not something to
the truth. If there were some true permanence in
be held on to. It is referred to as “beyond extremes.”
compounded phenomena; if there were true pleasure
We somehow think that we can go somewhere where
in the emotions, the Buddha would have been the first
we’ll have a better sofa seat, a better shower system, a
to recommend them, saying, “Please keep and treasure
better sewer system, a nirvana where you don’t even
these.” But thanks to his great compassion, he didn’t,
have to have a remote control, where everything is
for he wanted us to have what is true, what is real.
there the moment you think of it. But as I said earlier, it’s not that we are adding something new that was not
When you have a clear understanding of these four seals
there before. Nirvana is achieved when you remove
as the ground of your practice, you will feel comfortable
everything that was artificial and obscuring.
no matter what happens to you. As long as you have these four as your view, nothing can go wrong. Whoever
It doesn’t matter whether you are a monk or a nun
holds these four, in their heart, or in their head, and
who has renounced worldly life or you are a yogi
contemplates them, is a Buddhist. There is no need for
practicing profound tantric methods. If, when you
such a person even to be called a Buddhist. He or she is
try to abandon or transform attachment to your own
by definition a follower of the Buddha. EH
experiences, you don’t understand these four seals, you end up regarding the contents of your mind as the
This article is based on a talk entitled, “What Buddhism
manifestations of something evil, diabolical and bad. If
Is, and Is Not,” given in Sydney, Australia in April 1999.
that’s what you do, you are far from the truth. And the
Published in Shambhala Sun, March 2000.
whole point of Buddhism is to make you understand
Are you searching for a spiritually challenging work? Do you enjoy meeting fellow Dharma practitioners, Buddhist leaders, and Dharma masters? Would you like to introduce the latest Buddhist book you read recently? How about researching into the latest web-sites on Buddhist activities around the world? And of course, what about telling us how you first came in contact with the dharma and what the dharma means to you today. Well, if you find all of these interesting, we can make it spiritually challenging for you too! In every issue of EASTERN HORIZON, we publish special chat sessions with leading Buddhist personalities, essays on all aspects of Buddhism, book reviews, and news and activities that are of interest to the Buddhist community. We need someone to help us in all these projects. If you are keen to be part of this exciting magazine, please e-mail to the editor at Bennyliow@gmail.com, and we will put you in touch with what’s challenging for the next issue! Let us share the dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings!
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MALAYSIAN BUDDHIST SONGBOOK DHARMA TUNES VOLUME 1 LAUNCHED
Venerable Saranakara receiving a copy of Dharma Tunes from Mr Wong Tin Song, flanked by Mr Chong Su Lim, the editor.
A group of Buddhist music enthusiasts from Setenang Buddhist Community, Selangor, has launched an innovative Buddhist songbook entitled â€œDharma Tunes Volume 1â€?. This is a landmark Buddhist publication, as it is the first Malaysian English Buddhist songbook to feature music notation, besides lyrics with guitar chords. Other innovative features include a Getting Started section, on how to start a singing group, and a listing of Core Buddhist Teachings contained in each song. Accompanying the book is an audio CD that contains five previously unrecorded songs, together with minus one versions to aid sing-alongs. The recordings were performed by Mr Daniel Kwok and members of the i.gemz, a renowned Buddhist singing group in Malaysia. Dharma Tunes Volume 1 was officially launched on August 31, 2008, in commemoration of the 2nd anniversary of the passing away of the Venerable Dr. K Sri Dhammananda, the senior most Theravada Buddhist monk in Malaysia and Singapore. The launch was officiated by Venerable B. Sri Saranankara Nayaka Maha Thera, Adhikarana Sangha Nayaka, Abbot of the Sentul Buddhist Temple, who gave the songbook his encouragement and support. During the launch, copies of Dharma Tunes Vol. 1 were distributed to various Buddhist societies and 1,000 sponsored copies have been distributed in Malaysia and other countries such as Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, USA and the UK. The songbook intends to popularize Buddhist songs to convey the key teachings and values of Buddhism to a new audience, especially the youth. It took a team of enthusiasts nine months to come out with the songbook. 55!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!BQSJM!311:
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for sale. The funds from the sales will help make Dharma Tunes a self-sustaining project, with lower reliance on donation funds. This approach ensures that future volumes of Dharma Tunes are successfully published. ABOUT DHARMA TUNES VOLUME 1 Dharma Tunes Volume 1 is a Setenang Buddhist Community project. This innovative songbook features: • 112 pages in softcover “The Buddha’s teachings promote the universal
• 33 Buddhist songs ranging from Buddhist classics
values of love, harmony and peace which are exactly
such as “Wheel of Life” to latest compositions like
what we need in these challenging times. What better
way to express these wonderful values than through
• Attractive layout with nature based artwork
song”, said Dharma Tunes advisor, Mr Wong Tin Song.
• Environmentally friendly A4 format (no paper
“We hope to enrich the lives of our fellow Buddhists by sharing these values with them”, he added.
wastage) • A “Getting Started” section on how to start a Buddhist singing group within your Buddhist society
“As innovation is the hallmark of Dharma Tunes, we
• Song Index with Core Buddhist Teachings listed
have five previously unrecorded songs arranged in
for each song, to help Buddhist Sunday School
interesting ways to accompany the songbook. A wide
teachers choose relevant songs for each lesson
range of music styles were used, from inspirational, to
• Two sections: Section 1 for singers and guitarists,
lullaby and even with sixties canto pop influences. We
Section 2 for piano / keyboard with simple music
hope this will appeal to all Buddhists, especially the
notation suitable for students
Buddhist youth”, said Mr Daniel Kwok of the i.gemz.
• Accompanying Audio CD with 5 previously unrecorded songs that includes instrumental
“Before the publication of Dharma Tunes, there was
versions for easy sing-along. EH
no readily available musical material for Buddhist Sunday Schools. Even those that were published
Dharma Tunes Vol. 1 is suitable for Buddhist Sunday
did not contain music notation, making it very
School students, teachers, Buddhist Study Groups
difficult to learn the songs. There was also a lack
and piano /keyboard/guitar students and is available
of material that catered to the various age groups,
from Sukhi Hotu bookshop (Tel. +603-78426828,
because songs suitable for adults were not suitable
Petaling Jaya, and Tel. +604-2294811, Penang).
for young children. Dharma Tunes Vol. 1 is designed to address these needs by providing music notes for
For further enquiries, contact:
contemporary material that reaches out to a wide
Mr Jerry Khoo
audience”, said Mr Chong Su Lim, the Editor-in-Chief
phone: +6012-621 1098
of Dharma Tunes. “Besides Volume 1, an entire series
of Dharma Tunes publications will materialize over
Mr Chong Su Lim
the next few years and we hope to get the support of
phone: +6019-329 9972
the Buddhist community for this effort”, he added.
email: email@example.com Mr Wong Tin Song
He further explained that an improved version of
phone: +6012-347 0492
Dharma Tunes Vol. 1 is now re-printed and available
Website: http://sulimation.webs.com/dharmatunes.html BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!56
Rome Makes Dalai Lama an Honorary Citizen VOA, Feb 9, 2009
Rome, Italy -- The Dalai Lama received the honorary citizenship of Rome during a formal ceremony at the city council. The mayor honored him for “his international commitment to find a peaceful solution to the problems of Tibet and spreading the principle of reaffirming human rights and peace among peoples”.
The 73-year-old exiled Tibetan leader said he is committed to three things: promoting the value of the human individual, which has nothing to do with belonging to or believing in one religion or another: promoting inter-religious harmony and dialogue, and resolving the cause of Tibet. The Dalai Lama added that he believes the Tibetan people, knowing that he is in Rome to receive this honorary citizenship, would feel less alone and know
The Dalai Lama renewed his commitment to non-violence at a ceremony in which he received the honorary citizenship of Rome. Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the presence of the1989 Nobel peace laureate represented a moral revolt against injustice, violence and oppression.
The Dalai Lama (left) and Rome’s Mayor Gianni Alemanno, Feb. 9, 2009
they have not been abandoned. Speaking after arriving in the Italian capital on Sunday, the Dalai Lama said that the situation in Tibet remains very serious following last year’s crackdown by the Chinese authorities on Buddhist monks. “My faith towards the Chinese government since the end of March, I publicly expressed, my faith now is becoming thinner and thinner, however my faith towards Chinese people never shaken, and more Chinese intellectuals, writers, are
now expressing themselves about our cause very, very positively,” he said. China has long accused the Dalai Lama of leading a campaign to split Tibet from the rest of the country. But the Dali Lama says he is only seeking greater autonomy for the region to protect its unique Buddhist culture. He added the social situation in Tibet is critical because there is great resentment between the native Tibetan and the Chinese population. The Dalai Lama later traveled to Venice from Rome where he is also to become an honorary citizen of the lagoon city. He then travels on to Baden Baden in Germany to receive a prize. EH
Planting the Dharma Seeds in Vietnam by Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni
Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni (Su co Nguyen Huong) from Vietnam visited Kuala Lumpur in January 2009 on her way to Santi Forest Monastery in Sydney to assist Ajahn Sujato with a training program for Buddhist nuns. Venerable Dhammananda, who is 38 years old, has just completed her Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies in Kelaniya University, Sri Lanka. Now back in her native Vietnam, Venerable Dhammananda is very active in teaching Buddhism and helping with numerous social welfare projects. During her short visit in Malaysia, Barbara Yen Yoke Wah, a retired medical social worker from University of Malaya Medical Centre, and Advisor to the Counseling Unit at the Buddhist Gem Fellowship, spoke with Venerable Dhammananda, on behalf of Eastern Horizon, regarding her early life, vision and current activities in Vietnam.
Eastern Horizon: How did you get the nick-name ‘1001 Questions’ nun? Dhammananda: I have an inquisitive mind and was fond of asking questions. When I became a nun, I would ask questions about the meaning of life, suffering, oppression, wickedness, and impermanence. As a student at Kelaniya University, I had even more questions about Buddhism for my professors who then decided to give me that nickname!
You grew up in Ha Tinh Province in North Vietnam and were not exposed to Buddhism. How did you come into contact with Buddhism then? As a child, my father who had lived in Thailand would tell me stories about the monks there. However, I was more exposed to Christianity in my early days as there was a church in almost every village but no temples. At age thirteen, I attended church services for several years and decided to become a Christian nun. However, my family was strongly opposed to it and I decided to drop the idea. When I was nineteen, I read the work of the famous Buddhist poet Truyen Kiew called “The story of Kiew” about a nun, and it had a lasting effect on me.
But what motivated you to take the path of a Buddhist nun? I was sixth in my family of ten children. At age thirteen, I could see that my grandmother, mother and sister were trapped in a very mundane domestic life where their main task appears to be to produce children and I decided that “this is not for me.” I didn’t like what I saw and wanted to search for a higher meaning in life. There seems to be so much suffering in society, especially wars and poverty, and I felt becoming a monastic would provide me an answer on how to solve these social problems. In fact, when I was sixteen, I had a vivid dream that I was a Buddhist monk going on alms round and my parents were Buddhist devotees! By the time I was twenty-one, I had decided to live in Can Linh Monastery in Vinh City. The abbess Venerable Ni su Thich Nu Dieu Niem became a great mentor for me. She exposed me to the sutras especially the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra and Surangama Sutra. Although she was in her seventies, there was no generation gap. We could work together to serve the poor. However, my second brother opposed to my being a nun and forced me to leave and lived with him in the city. Unfortunately, my brother was killed in a car accident and I became very depressed by this tragedy. I also had to support my sister-in-law but after three years, I decided to leave due to my continuing depression. In 1994, I returned to the nunnery as I wanted to pray for a good rebirth for my brother. The abbess welcomed me back with open arms. About a year later, my mother learnt that I had become a nun and wanted to take me home! But I encouraged her to stay for a few days at the temple and when she saw how happy I was as a nun, she changed her mind. When I was twenty-seven years old, my mentor passed away and I became the abbess! She had about a thousand devotees and running the temple was not easy as I was young and inexperienced. I later left to further my studies in Burma and Sri Lanka where I received my higher Ordination or Upasampada in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka in 2004.
You started off as a Mahayana nun. What made you change to the Theravada tradition? In 1995, I began reading writings by Ajahn Chah and Sayadaw U Pandita and became interested in Vipassana meditation. A year later I heard of a well known meditation master, Venerable Vien Minh Mahathera and traveled two thousand kilometers to learn from him and from Venerable Dhammarakkhita Mahathera at Buu Long Monastery, Long Binh, Ho Chi Minh city. They both taught me basic Buddhist doctrines and Pali. This led to my deep interest in Theravada teachings.
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Occasionally we hear of problems encountered by Buddhist nuns. Do you want to share your experience as a nun, and whether you had to face any major obstacles? I was fortunate not to have experienced major obstacles or discrimination. In fact I had encouragement all the way except in my early days. My Mentor in Vietnam always gave nuns the opportunities they need to develop. Sometimes, when they complained, she would explain that women have more needs than men!
What major projects have you embarked since returning to Vietnam in 2008? I have started a few humanitarian projects to help the poor. In conjunction with the recent Tet or the Vietnamese New Year, we collected donations for the poor in Son Kim Commune, Huong Son District, Hatinh Province, which borders Laos. Many of them are from minority groups and had little or no formal education, and some are disabled children from very poor families. This is the village that I was born and sadly, it is the poorest region in Vietnam. Towards the end of 2007, Vietnam was hit by severe storms and flooding, from Thanh Hoa to Binh Thuan. The people in these areas are very poor and more than 85 per cent of them are farmers whose crops were destroyed by the floods. Thousands of them were left homeless and had little food and clothing. I tried to mobilize help for these poor victims. I also went to Hue City in central Vietnam to help some monks led by Venerable Phao Tong and Venerable Tue Tam in their relief-work following a severe flood. Besides distributing food and other items, I also shared the Buddhist teachings with them.
Are you planning to establish a Buddhist center? My vision is to start centers for Buddhist studies and practice in the provinces where Buddhism was destroyed during long years of wars and under Communist rule. Thousands of these poor Buddhists have little or no formal education. So there is much to be done to improve their quality of life and to help them understand the Buddhist faith and practices. I am currently in the final stages of completing a Buddhist meditation, educational and cultural center in my hometown. The center will have a library, a place for children to play (to be called Lumbini Garden), a meditation and multi-purpose hall, and a guest house where practitioners, visitors and students from afar can stay. At the moment, I help to raise funds for the poor and disabled children to give them the opportunity to receive a proper education. My vision is to help the young people in Vietnam understand and practice Buddhism again after so many years of neglect due to wars and Communist rule. I call this â€œplanting the seeds of Dharmaâ€? in Vietnam again.
Do you write books to spread Buddhism in Vietnam? I would like to translate some of my writings and articles which have appeared in Buddhist journals into Vietnamese and publish them for free-distribution to poor Buddhists. I have completed a Pali-Vietnamese Dictionary with the help of my Dharma sister Venerable Nhu Lien (Susanta). We are sourcing for funds to meet the printing costs. I appeal to all Dharma friends to join hands in this program. BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}! BQS QSJM! M!311 311:! : FBT FBTUFS UFSO O!IPSJ IPSJ[PO [PO!}!5:
I understand you have accepted an invitation by Ajahn Sujato of Santi Forest Monastery, Sydney, to help with his Bhikkhuni training program for two years. Won’t this affect your work in Vietnam? No, I don’t think so because Ajahn Sujato is very compassionate and allows me time to spend half a year in Vietnam to continue my humanitarian projects. Right now, one of my brothers is helping to oversee the building of the temple.
You also discussed with Venerable Aggacitta in Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary in Taiping, Malaysia, on the possibility of a Bhikkhuni training center in Malaysia. What are your thoughts on this? I rejoice at this development. I hope the plan will materialize soon so that women, not only from Malaysia but from neighboring countries can have the opportunity to train under good masters in a conducive and supportive environment.
You won the International Award for ‘Writing Very Short Stories’ from BBC, London, in 1994 and the ‘Outstanding Woman in Buddhism’ Award from the United Nations in 2007. Could you share with us how you achieved them? Basically, I enjoyed writing stories and novels and had enrolled in a writing course. The short stories were submitted by my sister while the Outstanding Woman in Buddhism Award was proposed by a Thai bhikkhuni. I was pleasantly surprised by the awards. They gave me further inspiration to continue with my task to propagate Buddhism.
As a final question, what advice would you give to those who wish to go forth? For those who wish to go forth, my advice is for them to keep a pure and energetic life and be motivated to go towards the spiritual path. Let us hear once again the Buddha’s compassionate appeal: “Go and work for the good of the many, for the benefit of the many, for the wellbeing and happiness of gods and men!” Let us put Loving Kindness (metta) and Compassion (karuna) into action! EH
Those who would like to support Venerable Dhammananda in her charitable activities in Vietnam may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. Her address in Vietnam is as follows: SC Nguyen Huong, Buu Long Monastery, 81/1 Nguyen Xien Lane, Long-binh Commune, 9 District, Ho Chi Minh City, VIET-NAM Tel. (84) 08889168 or (84) 0919193101
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Buddha’s Light Publishing
Book Reviews BOOKS BY MASTER HSING YUN by Benny Liow
3456 S. Glenmark Dr. Hacienda Heights, CA 91745, USA. Tel. (+001) 626-923-5143 www.blpusa.com
Founder of one of the world’s largest Buddhist organizations, the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order, Venerable Dharma Master Hsing Yun has dedicated over fifty years to teaching and promoting “Humanistic Buddhism” that integrates Buddhist spiritual practices into daily living. He has written numerous books aimed at guiding Dharma practitioners towards attaining true mindfulness and real awakening in life. His works have been translated into various Western and Eastern languages. Eastern Horizon is pleased to feature five excellent new books by Master Hsing Yun that were published in 2008 by Buddha’s Light Publishing in California, USA. These books reveal to us the unique personality of this great spiritual master as well as giving us an insight into how Humanistic Buddhism can truly help us achieve happiness in this life. EH
Where is Your Buddha Nature (166 pp, US$15.00) is a collection of 116 short stories that convey the most basic aspects of the Buddha’s teachings in a most inspiring way. In this book, there are stories about the Buddha, Chan (Zen) Masters, ordinary people, devotees, monastics, animals and the Master himself. The stories of Master Hsing Yun is really an autobio-graphical glimpse of his childhood, early years as a monk, the difficulties he encountered in starting the Fo Guan Shan order, as well as an insight into the qualities that this remarkable monk possess that has made him into one of the most successful Buddhist missionaries in the modern era. In stories about his disciples, the reader will be inspired to learn how Master Hsing Yun trains and develops them, while in the stories about the monks and nuns, we learn how these monastics react to different situations in a most positive manner based on their practice of Humanistic Buddhism. The stories in this book are about the many noble qualities taught by the Buddha. They include the message of wisdom, courage, kindness, and inspiration but perhaps the most prominent idea that pervades the entire writings is compassion – the core of the Buddhist way of life as can be exemplified by the life story of the author himself. EH
Seeking Happiness (204 pp, US$15.00) is about how our everyday actions can help us find true happiness in our lives. Going through this collection of 100 short essays, one will be inspired to realize the importance of how a moment of thought can transform our daily lives – to allow us to reflect upon what is good in both the natural worlds and society, so that we can see the goodness in everything that we encounter and find true happiness. These essays very skillfully relate the natural world to our human existence and our existence as individuals to our role within society. In many ways, these essays represent a combination of East-West thinking – a synthesis of the best ideas from Western scholars, Buddhist scriptures, ancient Chinese thought, and many other great thinkers. Master Hsing Yun hopes that each short essay will provide us a moment to contemplate life, to help us look at life from a different perspective, and thus to find real happiness in our lives. EH
The Core Teachings (168 pp, US$15.00) represents Master Hsing Yun’s insights from decades of studying and practicing the Buddha’s teachings. Even though the Buddha’s teachings of over 45 years are now available in the form of sutras, treatises, and commentaries in English, it is not always easy for the beginner to comprehend the entire doctrine. In this book, Master Hsing Yun begins by very skillfully explaining to the readers how to study Buddhism and then explained in simple language in the context of Humanistic Buddhism the core concepts of the Law of Dependent Origination, The Four Noble Truths, Karma, The Three Dharma Seals, Emptiness, Mind, Buddha Nature, Nirvana, The Triple Gem, The Five Precepts, The Noble Eightfold Path, and How to become a Bodhisattva – the ultimate practice of a Mahayana Buddhist. An excellent glossary is also provided at the end of the book for the benefit of readers who are new to the Buddhist teachings. EH
Traveling to the Other Shore (265pp, US$15.00) is a collection of selected stories that bring to life the wisdom of the Buddha as he explains the importance of the Six Perfections, exemplified in the actions of the characters within each of the stories. As a complement to the sutras, these stories narrate the day-to-day spiritual endeavors of sincere practitioners as they practice the Six Perfections. The Six Perfections taught by the Buddha are Giving, Morality, Patience, Effort, Meditation and Wisdom. There are stories for each of these Six Perfections. In the stories about “Giving” as a Perfection, Master Hsing Yun relates how to make offerings and how to give in a proper manner. There are similar stories for each of the other five Perfections. EH
Bright Star Luminous Cloud (472 pp, US$15.00) is the life story of Venerable Master Hsing Yun. He is best known throughout the Buddhist world as the monk who modernizes and globalizes Buddhism through the building of temples, educational institutions such as the University of the West in California, libraries, art galleries and museums throughout the world. This biography comprises a total of 24 chapters. Master Hsing Yun was born in 1927 and this is appropriately explained in the chapter “A Little Seed of Buddhahood Descends into the Human World”. Subsequent chapters narrate how he left home to become a monk, his early missionary efforts, difficulties and challenges he encountered to promote a modern form of Buddhism free from superstition, and the full development of Humanistic Buddhism in the world today. More than any other monk, Venerable Master Hsing Yun has to his credit successfully promoted a most vibrant and modern form of Chinese Buddhism that is today accepted throughout the modern world. EH The above books are available from Buddha’s Light Publishing at www.blpusa.com, or at: Buddha’s Light Publishing 3456 S. Glenmark Dr. Hacienda Heights, CA 91745, United States of America Tel: (+001) 626-923-5143 Fax: (+001) 626-923-5145
Snow Lion Publications Book Reviews
P.O. Box 6483 Ithaca, New York 14851, USA www.snowlionpub.com
by Vijaya Samarawickrama
David Hodge & Hi-jin Kang Hodge. Impermanence: Embracing Change, 2008. pp 158. US$29.95 It would not be an exaggeration to claim that the Teaching on Impermanence is the very bedrock of Buddhism. It is so important, in fact, that the Buddha expounded on it as early as the second discourse which he delivered after his enlightenment. It seems quite fitting therefore that when one wants to honor the world’s best known Buddhist, this subject should be addressed. Charged with celebrating the life and works of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, multi media artists David Hodge and Hi-jin Hodge decided to present their recordings of interviews with over one hundred people on the subject and play them simultaneously and sequentially, mimicking the ebb and flow of conversation in a room full of people—a virtual reality experience of sorts. It could also be seen as a visual-auditory experience of Dependent Origination, with the medium becoming the subject, and vice versa. IMPERMANENCE: EMBRACING CHANGE is a beautifully crafted book, with each page devoted to a single black and white photograph, a paragraph of comment surrounded by plenty of space, inviting one to experience the uncluttered peace required for quiet reflection. It comes with a DVD so that the reader can also share the original experience of the exhibition. The artists were challenged to reduce the abstract topic of impermanence and change into tangible form, to hold down the evanescent, ever changing shapes created by a wisp of smoke, so to speak, to give the impermanent a permanent footing. They succeed, by not writing a treatise in the familiar linear mode but by imitating Zen in capturing fleeting moments of thought as they arose in an array of human beings and stringing them together like a necklace of pearls. Just as each pearl makes individual ‘sense’, but the whole the string creates a different, but related impact, so too in this book, the individual responses carry personalized meanings, but taken together, capture the essence of the universe. The thoughts come from a wide variety of people, from a six year old child to a Catholic priest who had served in the ministry for half a century . Yet, the Buddha’s Dharma pervades them all—thoughts on mortality, birth, relationships, peace, awareness—all pointing to the Teaching that ultimate happiness comes from accepting the reality of change: do not resist change, but use it to grow, love and understand. Overall the book celebrates humanity, its vulnerability as well as its transcendence, or as Anne Firth Murray says in My Message to the World: “Here is what I plan to do: stay alive. Say ‘yes’ to life. Savor the beauties of the world. Believe that change is possible. Make injustice visible and overcome it. Prevent violence. Live without fear. Be there for others. Delight in poetry. Learn. Practice true love. What about you?” Who said that Buddhism is a pessimistic religion? IMPERMANENCE: EMBRACING CHANGE can be read in an hour but it will take a lifetime to understand and experience it in all its cosmic complexity. EH
Book Reviews by Her Cher Sun
Rangjung Yeshe Publications www.rangjung.com
Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of the Dzogchen Yogi Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche by Urgyen, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Erik Pema Kunsang, Marcia Binder Schmidt, 2005. pp 432. US$ 29.95 As the title suggests, these are memoirs of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who was among the first Tibetan Buddhism teachers to establish an important monastery around the very auspicious Boudha Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. The many stories in Blazing Splendor were told by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche over many years to Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schimdt. Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche together with three attendants were the first Tibetan lamas to visit Malaysia. Two of his sons, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and Chokling Rinpoche, his grandson, Phakchok Rinpoche are still visiting Malaysia regularly to give teachings and conduct pujas. Another of his grandson, Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche is the reincarnation of H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. In Blazing Splendor, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche recounted his life story in four parts – his spiritual roots, his early years, his time spent in Central Tibet and his time spent in exile (after the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese government). His memoirs are written in a simplistic, readable and personal manner, which a reader of any levels is able to read and relate without much difficulty. He gave a first-person account of some of the greatest Tibetan Buddhism teachers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Through Blazing Splendor, we read about Buddhist teachings and practices in Tibet, which many may have heard but not read about. In one chapter, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche talked about his great-grandfather, Chokyur Lingpa, one of those masters who revealed Guru Padmasambhava’s hidden treasures of terma teachings. He related occasions when his grandmother, who is Chokyur Lingpa’s daughter actually witnessed how Chokyur Lingpa revealed a terma before a crowd. In another chapter, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche talked about Shakya Shri, a great siddha-master. Shakya Shri is the root guru of Rinpoche’s uncle, Tersey Tulku. Shakya Shri gave instructions in Mahamudra and Dzogchen in accordance with each follower’s disposition. It is also interesting to read in Blazing Splendor stories of masters attaining rainbow body or auspicious signs at the time of their deaths. These phenomena are something that has been written in Tibetan Buddhism books as a matter of theory. But to read that these phenomena actually happen in real-life reinforces one’s faith and confidence in Tibetan Buddhism. To know that if one practises hard enough, including lay practitioners, it is possible to be enlightened in one’s lifetime. Blazing Splendor also gives a better understanding of some of the Vajrayana practices. Throughout the book, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche shared his personal experiences and encounters with some of the greatest Tibetan masters. There are many lessons and teachings to be gleaned from all these personal experiences and encounters. These are not mere stories, these are invaluable lessons from a practicing yogi who had lived and practised in Tibet with some of the greatest masters. Hence, I would highly recommend anyone interested in Tibetan Buddhism or doing Vajrayana practices to read this book. EH
Shambhala (Boston and London), www.shambhala.com
by Her Cher Sun
Migmar Tseten, Treasures of the Sakya Lineage – Teachings from the Masters, 2008, 268 pages. US$18.95 Anyone wanting a better understanding of the teachings of the Sakya tradition – this is THE book for now… However, having said that, it would be best to have some basic understanding of Tibetan Buddhism (or even Buddhism in general in this respect) before embarking on this book. This is due to the reason that the book has various terminologies and concepts but there is no glossary at the back of the book for these terminologies and concepts. Certain terms have been clarified in the first chapter of the book. This is not a book for a brand new beginner in Buddhism. For the uninitiated readers, the Sakya tradition is one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism. This book contains teachings by eminent Sakya masters of the past and present, including, the founding masters of the Sakya tradition, such as, Jetsun Rinpoche Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Phakpa. There is a chapter on the history of the Sakya school, which extensively explains the origin and evolution of the Sakya tradition, though I find it peculiar that this was arranged as the last chapter of the book! There is also another chapter which is a transcript of an interview with His Holiness Sakya Trizin, the forty-first Patriarch of the Sakya sect. In this chapter, the interviewer asked questions that are very relevant to practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. His Holiness Sakya Trizin answered these questions, in a clear and layman manner. Another interesting point to note is – in most of the chapters, there is an explanation on the distinction between Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions on some Buddhist principles. Among such chapters are the Five Paths to Enlightenment and the Ten Bhumis to Enlightenment by Khenpo Apey Rinpoche and the History of Buddhism by His Eminence Chogye Trichen. EH
Book Reviews by Vijaya Samarawickrama Thomas Cleary, Alchemists, Mediums and Magicians Stories of Taoist Mystics, 2009, 194 pp. US$18.95. For a layperson the task of making sense of the bewildering complexity of Taoism must obviously be a daunting task. It is an intricate blend of such a variety of elements ranging from the magical and the mythological to poetry, occultism, mysticism, philosophy and medicine that the task of making sense of it is necessarily left to a very select few. This book helps to bring these elements together by recounting the biographies and historical sketches of about 100 Taoist mystics over a span of two millennia from the 11th Century B.C.E. The present work is a translation by Dr Thomas Cleary of a 14th Century text compiled by Zhang Tianyu, a Taoist priest. Some of the sketches are very short, not more than a paragraph, while others are much longer. There is a liberal blending of the historical, legendary and the mythical so that the reader has to be constantly on guard to differentiate them to fully appreciate the essential teachings of Lao Tzu. However, the simple style of English and the footnotes provided by the editor are particularly useful in guiding the reader through the maze of information which is presented. BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!68
As a general theme throughout the book, the Taoist love for nature and the simple life is constantly praised in contrast to the Confucianist penchant for serving in Government and pursuing academic knowledge. “People of the world kill their bodies with desire, kill their posterity with money, kill others with government, and kill the world with scholarship” (p190) “If you are talking of Chuang Tzu, he stopped being intellectual, abandoned knowledge, cultivated life, and preserved reality, pure and empty, tranquil and calm, attributing it to nature, taking only creation for his teacher and companion, not compelled by worldly customs” (p32) Of the danger of trying to learn from too many teachers: “ When Huan Tan wanted to borrow the book of Chuang Tzu, Si warned, ‘in ancient times there were those who went to Handan to learn the way people there walked. They never learned to emulate it, but in the process of trying to imitate the walk of Handan, they’d forgotten their former way of walking, so they’d come crawling back home on their hands and knees’.(p32). Although we know that Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism did not always see eye-to-eye, generally the masters represented in this volume are well disposed to the other religions, seeing the inner unity of the universe: “The world is ultimately one, yet there are a hundred considerations. The goal is the same, but there are different routes” (p29). Ideas from the other schools of thought are incorporated: “To get bound up in name and fact trashes the loftiness of Lao Tzu, to enjoy purity and emptiness is to trivialize the doctrines of Confucius” (p120) and the following story echoes the Buddha’s reply to his son Rahula who has asked for his inheritance: Mr Pang said, ‘People of the world bequeath danger; now I alone bequeath safety to my posterity. Though what I leave is not the same, that does not mean I’m not leaving any bequest’. While reading this book may be a little difficult for someone without any basic knowledge of Taoism or the dynastic history of China, if one has the persistence then he or she will be rewarded with a glimpse into the rich variety of elements which are syncretized to give Chinese culture its unique character. Perhaps the best definition of Taoism is provided by one Master Sima Tan, who explains that Taoists don’t do anything, yet also say there is nothing they do not do. The reality is easy to practice, but the terminology is hard to understand. Their arts are based on empty nothingness, functioning by adaptive accord. They have no established structure, no permanent form, therefore they are able to find out the conditions of all things. They are not leaders or followers of anyone, therefore they can be masters of everyone. Whether they have laws or no laws is a function of the time; whether they have measures or no measures depends on the people for whom measures are to be promoted or abandoned. An interesting aspect of this book is the light it throws on the well known disdain that Taoists have had for Government and corrupt inept leaders: “I am fortunate to be able to preserve my natural life to the end, maintaining my spirit and nurturing harmony. Wouldn’t it be more painful to work for a ruler by day promulgating decrees, while worrying about everything at night?” If you don’t first stabilize your spirit and body yet you say you have the means to govern the world, how can that be? (p29) Is there not a message in this for our present day rulers? EH
Book Reviews by Quek Jin Keat Richard Shankman, The Experience of Samadhi – An Indepth Exploration of Buddhist Meditation, 2008. pp 236. US$18.95 It is not every day that I get a challenging book to read. I must thank the editor for this. The author, Richard Shankman has compiled material for his book based mainly on the Suttas with some references from the Visuddhimagga. He has given me the opportunity to try to be open-minded and see things from his perspective. It is a well-meaning book written out of his concern for meditators to practice concentration correctly. We shall now comment on the anomalies discovered, covering four aspects: 1. Conclusion inconsistent with the observation, in the same place 2. Obvious inaccuracy
3. Mix-up of the context 4. Personal predisposition
Conclusion inconsistent with the observation, in the same place a. These steps (1) – (16) in anapanasati do not necessarily correlate to jhana. However, it is a reasonable interpretation ..... pp 31 Obvious inaccuracy a. But their jhana (referring to the Buddha’s previous teachers) could not equal right concentration, because they lacked right view .....pp 15. Then how can monks who have jhana be said to have right view before they embark on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness practice? b. The hindrances do not have to be eradicated in order to take up the foundations of mindfulness practice, but the mind needs to be free enough from them to become settled ..... pp 28. The author contradicts himself by implying strong concentration is not required at the beginning of the practice. c. Sukha is defined in third jhana as purely a physical experience .....pp 41. d. Ekaggata ..... mind itself is unmoving, not the objects of experience ..... pp 42. The mind changes moment-to-moment and this is clearly experienced in vipassana. Alternatively, in samatha practice, if the objects of experience are still moving, it is not yet right concentration. e. ..... the sutta states explicitly that body awareness is present in jhana ..... pp 80. At the beginning of the
b. The author hesitates to read the suttas as definitely excluding the possibility of arahantship without jhana but at the same time says at the least there is a strong suggestion it is so ..... pp 94
uggaha nimitta, even bodily sensations are not felt. I have checked this with my meditation teacher. Mind becomes collected and unmoving, but not the objects of awareness ..... pp 82. Comment as per para (d) above. Author quotes the Anupada Sutta, implying that Sariputta developed insight while still in jhana ..... Page 85. This contradicts the traditional samathavipassana way of practice. Author says that the 7 factors of enlightenment appears to be tantamount to the four jhanas ..... pp 93. Can we not practice the 7 factors of enlightenment exclusively? It will solve the jhana controversy once and for all. Author says stream-winner do not need samadhi .....pp 96. Without samadhi, can there be wisdom or insight? That also could be taken as an indication that one has to be aware of the whole body in order for breathe meditation to lead to jhana .....pp 186. An unconventional method in anapanasati samatha practice.
Mix-up of the context On pp 36, there is a mix up of the jhana factors of vipassana practice with the jhana factors of samatha practice: “unwholesome mental states do not have an opportunity to arise since the mind in jhana is so deeply concentrated, steady & clear.” Then how can lust, anger, delusion, etc. be objects of cittanupassana (mindfulness of the mind practice). BQSJM!311:!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!6:
“Jhana is not a state in which awareness of the body has been lost. Rather than losing connection with the body as one enters jhana, the meditator gains heightened awareness of it as the jhana factors gradually develop & suffuse throughout the body.” This does not correspond with samatha experience, maybe in the vipassana practice. Even then, the awareness of the body can be “lost” in vipassana practice when the concentration becomes powerful. Personal predisposition The author’s central belief is that insight practice is begun based upon and while still in jhana (see pp 87). This is not in accordance with the teachings of traditional masters. The author asserts that the Visuddhimagga is extensive/meticulous in describing the 40 meditation subjects found in the suttas (pp 102). But why is this an issue? We feel it is not wrong for an expert to expand on the suttas, when the intention is to instruct and not to mislead? Concluding remarks The author, to be fair, has interviewed a number of vipassana as well as samatha teachers for this book. We see his good intentions but it is left to the readers to draw their own conclusions based on their personal experiences. EH
Shambhala Publishing Shambhala (Boston and London), www.shambhala.com
Joan Halifax, Being with Dying. 2008. pp 204. US$22.95. Hardcover Joan Halifax founded the Project on Being with Dying to help healthcare professionals and their patients learn to “see death and know life in terms of compassion and awakening”. Distilled from this influential program, BEING WITH DYING combines Eastern and Western psychology, philosophy, and contemplative practices from many spiritual traditions. This innovative, hands-on approach teaches medical professionals, social workers, clergy, community activists, and spiritual seekers an elegant path for taking the fear out of the dying experience. Joan is an anthropologist and Buddhist teacher who’s spent her career applying Eastern concepts of death and respect for the individual to the care of the dying in this country. The work is comprehensive, broadly informed, and intuitively organized. It covers every aspect of being connected to a dying person and is nicely illustrated with the practices of other cultures and the author’s own experiences. EH
Kunzang Pelden, The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech. A Detailed Commentary on Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva. 2007. pp 482. US$34.95. Hard Cover This commentary is about the path of the bodhisattvas – beings who vow to become enlightened in order to help all beings become enlightened as well. It is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment through generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience. It is a compilation of the extensive notes Kunzang Pelden took during a six-month teaching given by Patrul Rinpoche at Dzogchen Monastery. It is thanks to Kunzang Pelden’s labors that Patrul Rinpoche’s teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara have been preserved. It could perhaps be said that THE NECTAR 71!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!BQSJM!311:
OF MANJUSHRI’S SPEECH is the commentary that Patrul Rinpoche so often presented to students, but never actually wrote. Kunzang Pelden (sometimes known as Khenpo Kunpel) was born in Tibet in 1862. One of the great monk-scholars of the Nyingma tradition, he was a close disciple of the famous Patrul Rinpoche, the renowned author of THE WORDS OF MY PERFECT TEACHER. EH
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva. 2008. pp 360. US$18.95. Hardcover. This is one of the greatest classics of Mahayana Buddhism. Presented in the form of a personal meditation in verse, it outlines the path of the bodhisattvas. Originally written in India in Sanskrit, the text first appeared in Tibetan translation soon after its composition in the eighth century. The present translation has been rendered from the Tibetan, following a commentary by the Nyingma master Kunzang Pelden, renowned for its thoroughness, clarity, and accessibility. Shantideva begins with a celebration of the mind of enlightenment, explaining in detail how this is cultivated. There are chapters devoted to the transcendent perfections of patience, heroic perseverance, meditation, and wisdom. The teaching on meditation culminates in the profound practices of equality and exchange of self and other. The celebrated ninth chapter presents the direct realization of emptiness, the perfection of wisdom, as explained in the Madhyamika, or “Middle Way” tradition. EH
Francesca Freemantle and Chogyam Trungpa, The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Book and CD Set. 2008. pp 160. 3 CDs. US$18.95 The ever-popular translation with commentary by Trungpa Rinpoche, on the teaching of liberation by understanding the nature of the mind’s projections perceived at the time of death. In this classic scripture of Tibetan Buddhism, the Bardo Thotrol, which was traditionally read aloud to the dying to help them attain liberation, death and rebirth are seen as a process that provides an opportunity to recognize the true nature of mind. This translation emphasizes the practical advice that the book offers to the living. The insightful commentary by Chogyam Trungpa, written in clear, concise language, explains what the text teaches us about human psychology. The Bardo Thotrol is one of a series of instructions on six types of liberation - through hearing, seeing, wearing, remembering, tasting and touching - composed by Padmasambhava and revealed by Karma Lingpa. The three CDs in this book set are read by well-known celebrity Richard Gere. EH
Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, 2008. 3 CDs. 2008. US$19.95 Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicharyāvatāra) is a guide to cultivating the mind of enlightenment, and to generating the qualities of love, compassion, generosity, and patience. Presented in the form of a personal meditation in verse, it outlines the path of the bodhisattvas—those who renounce the peace of individual enlightenment and vow to work for the liberation of all beings and to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all living beings.
This book and audio-CD edition offers a new way to encounter the beauty and profundity of Shantideva’s verses. Included is a complete reading of The Way of the Bodhisattva by Wulstan Fletcher, one of the members of the Padmakara Translation Group. A sixty-fourpage booklet is also included, with a helpful introduction to The Way of the Bodhisattva and a short biography of Shantideva. EH
Snow Lion Publications P.O. Box 6483 Ithaca, New York 14851, USA www.snowlionpub.com
Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, Dark Red Amulet. Oral Instructions on the Practice of Vajrakilaya. 2008. pp 209. US$16.95 The wrathful deity Vajrakilaya embodies the enlightened activity of all the Buddhas in order to subjugate delusion and negativity that can arise as obstacles to spiritual practice. The Vajrakilaya system of meditation is practiced widely in Tibet as well as in Western Buddhist centers. Written by the renowned scholars Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, THE DARK RED AMULET presents a line-by-line description of this Vajrayana practice and describes the history of its oral transmission lineage. It conveys the essential meaning of the Vajrakilaya teachings and provides an invaluable guide for Tibetan Buddhist practitioners to “discover the absolute vajra nature that will transform every duality hindrance into clear wisdom and compassion.” The book includes a translation of a brief biography of the text’s terton, Tsasum Lingpa, and a chapter of students’ questions and the Khenpos’ answers. EH
Nyoshul Khenpo and Lama Surya Das, Natural Great Perfection. Dzogchen Teachings and Vajra Songs. 2008. pp 196. US$16.95 Hardcover Dzogchen is the consummate practice of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a pre awareness practice applicable to any circumstance and readily integrated into modern life. It is said that Dzogchen teachings directly introduce us to the inherentfreedom, purity, and perfection of being that is our true nature. NATURAL GREAT PERFECTION is an inspiring collection of Nyoshul Khenpo’s teachings, providing the deepest possible insight into the practice of the Dzogchen path. The teachings are followd by a collection of spontaneous vajra songs, composed in the tradition of Milarepa, as the delightful play of wisdom consciousness. The reader will find here, in Nyoshul Khenpo’s captivating personality and teachings, the embodiment of the advice he quotes from the nineteenth-century master Patrul Rinpoche, “Beyond both action and inaction, the supreme Dharma is accomplished. So simply preserve the natural state and rest your weary mind.” EH
Mitigating the Depression Threat
by Rasika Quek
Recently I asked my wife a hypothetical question
I remember some eight or nine years ago, I toyed
what she would do if she were a Finance Minister,
with the idea of a Masters in Buddhist Administration
to tackle the threat of depression. Half-expecting a
degree which I felt could be offered to deal with the
serious answer, what she proffered made sense:
ethical challenges. The unprecedented 2008 sub-
Open up more land for people to work on so
prime crisis which had devastating effects globally,
that the many who have lost their jobs could be
showed us how unbridled greed and deliberate
gainfully employed again.
deception lead to these. Worse still, the wrong view
Offer more skills & vocational training and
that something good could be achieved (i.e., good
re-training for people to take up jobs that
profits) by doing something bad (i.e., enriching oneself
could be easily created in strategic sectors of
at the expense of others) was accepted even by billion
dollar companies. Good corporate governance was
thrown out of the window. Surely, the time has come I asked a friend another hypothetical question, “what
for a revamp of the curriculum for graduate and under-
advice would the Great Sage, Siddhatta Gautama, give
graduate business degree programs.
to our bickering politicians, if He were still around today:
For the past four decades, business management
Continue your spiteful bickering and allow your
training had always been dominated by the west.
nation’s economy to sink deeply, OR
The east was merely aping and lapping up what the
Get your act together and work on the economic
west had to offer in terms of management training.
revival, and in the process resolve your hatred
Clearly, the western model has failed to produce
for each other for good?”
management leadership of impeccable integrity. Isn’t
it time we invented our own model to cope with Imagine if all the Buddhist leaders in Malaysia could
the realities of the 21st. Century? Why can’t local
sit and put their heads together to make serious
Buddhist leaders explore the type of curriculum that
proposals on how to tackle the depression threat,
would address the issues involving good ethical
maybe things will start to improve. We could also
leadership? For instance, introduce transformational
ask our brothers and sisters in the Christian, Hindu,
insight meditation, practice of compassion in action,
Muslim and Sikh communities to do the same. After
cultivation of positive mental imprints in a moral
all, isn’t the economic health of the nation important
culture, practicing the silent circle, using emotional
enough for the various religious communities to come
equity in disputes resolution and so on. What makes
together and make pro-active representations to the
us think that the western model is the only model for
government to address this decline?
We could work together with Buddhist Missionary
We should set up a think-thank of Buddhist leaders
Society, Than Hsiang Buddhist University, Naropa
to provide valuable advice to political organizations
Institute, Buddha Light International, Fo Kuang Shan,
on ethical issues and to act as a catalyst for the
etc. to prepare a joint curriculum and offer it at the
moral betterment of society. These leaders should
post graduate diploma or masters level. Prospective
not have any political affiliations nor be employed by
employers would appreciate employing graduates
any political or governmental organization, to provide
with a solid grounding in ethics to work in their
unbiased view points.
organizations. Looking at the global financial mess, they would be easily persuaded to do so.
We can view the global crisis that has descended
graduates would also contribute valuable voluntary
upon us negatively. Or we could choose to meet
work during the weekends because of their back-
it headlong with a positive mindset, by taking the
Reputable monastics will be invited to
opportunity to change the old order and shifting into
conduct some of the modules so that the monastic-
a new paradigm that promises greater transparency
laity link is strengthened.
and strong ethics. As the adage says, opportunities can be found even in danger. No situation has any
Scholarships should be given to both male and
innate quality of goodness or badness, it depends
female monastics to study various foreign languages
on the subjective perceptions of the observers. If we
to meet the demands of dhamma-duta work overseas,
can take the right action to bring the right results,
e.g., in Russia, Eastern Europe, South America, etc.
we will succeed. Good results will surely come by
As there is a need to properly manage the various
planting good seeds. The only thing is that we cannot
monastic institutions and properties, a post-graduate
determine the timing of these good effects.
diploma course in facilities management (monastic institutions) could be tailor-made in collaboration with
Peace and happiness to all beings. EH
another educational institution offering a facilities
management course. His blog sites are at http://dharmapyramid.blogspot. com and http://successpyramid.blogspot.com
YBAM Penang Annual Dinner on 10/01/2009 At Penang Caring Society Complex
1. National councils of YBAM presenting a song. 2. Speech by President of YBAM, Dr. Ong See Yew. 3. Speech by YBAM Religious Patron, Venerable Chi Chern.
YBAM - KL/Selangor Annual Dinner on 4/1/2009 At YBAM ATC, Taman Mayang, Petaling Jaya. Selangor.
1. Happy Gathering. 2. Welcome speech by President Dr. Ong See Yew. 3. Dance Performance by Adolescent Affairs Committee Members.
Puzhao Buddhist Vihara - Resumption of Construction Work Ceremony on 21/2/09 (Saturday), at 9.30am
1. Group photo of Chanting. 2. YBAM Religious Advisor, Venerable Chi Huan, leading the devotees in chanting. 3. Under construction