PROPHECY, APOCALYPSE, AND TRUE DHARMA
Forty Years Turning the Wheel of Dharma
When I wish my classmate of 30 years “Happy New Year” on January 1, 2012, he will probably tell me to prepare for the end of the world on December 12. Like many people, including some Buddhists, he truly believes in the Mayan prophecy that 2012 will be a year of disasters which will eventually plunge the entire planet into chaos and destruction. History Channel has aired a handful of special series on doomsday that include analysis of 2012 theories, while Discovery Channel in 2009 aired “2012 Apocalypse”, suggesting that massive solar storms, magnetic pole reversal, earthquakes, super-volcanoes, and other drastic natural events may occur in 2012. In fact, every thing from the Tsunami in Eastern Japan in March 2011 to the current debt crisis in Europe is being cited as evidence of impending doom. So there seems to be more than a whiff of apocalypse in the mass consciousness, even among some seemingly knowledgeable and meditating Buddhists. What is the Buddhist response to this latest eschatology? It must be remembered that unlike the theistic religions, Buddhism does not have a linear historical view of time progressing from creation to an end of the world. In fact, Buddha talked about a beginningless and endless time through immensely long cycles called kalpas (aeons). In the Pali tradition, there are few references to eschatology. In the Satta Suriya Sutta (AN 7.62), the Buddha spoke of how seven suns would appear in the sky and how earth will eventually be destroyed, after many aeons, through a series of cataclysmic events that would include drought and fire. Another discourse known as the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta (DN 26), where the future Buddha Mettaya is mentioned, also alludes to the origin and fate of a world system. Like the Satta Suriya Sutta, this discourse also mentions a slow decline with many millenniums to go before the world comes to an end. In general, the idea of time in Buddhism is cyclical. So a real doomsday should not happen; even after our current universe is destroyed, another one will evolve again. The Buddha delivered both discourses to remind his disciples of the impermanent nature of the world and of our existence, which is subject to decay and renewal and from which even the celestial beings such as Brahmas are not free. Both discourses are moral advice that if we wish to prevent the destruction of our world, we should avoid selfishness and practice kindness and compassion. For instance, the Cakkavatti Sihanada Sutta talks about the relationship between the life span of a human being and his behavior. It explains that when human beings do not give to the needy, poverty becomes rife. When citizens are poor, theft increases. With theft, the use of weapons increases. From the increased use of weapons, killings increases, and with the increase in killings, the human life span decreases. If morality continues to degenerate, human life will continue to shorten to the point where the normal life span is 10 years, with people reaching sexual maturity at five. If we look at our world today, indeed there are reasons to believe that we are actually threatening the survival of our civilization and perhaps of humanity itself. Modern man has developed several ways of destroying himself; ecological collapse, nuclear or biological war and a host of other potential disasters. All of these stem from our technological cunningness that has outstripped our moral and spiritual development. We are becoming like a gang of naughty boys playing with matches in a shed full of gasoline. But both panic and complacency are states of mind to be avoided if we are to make it beyond 2012. So how should Buddhists treat 2012? The right way to live our lives in 2012 is no different from how we should live at any time in any age. As always, we need to live our lives in a decent and humane manner. This means following the five precepts, practice generosity and compassion, and cultivate Bodhicitta. EH December 20, 2011 FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!2
EASTERN HORIZON CONTENTS JANUARY 2012 ISSUE NO. 35
Lead Article: Lighten Up!
by James Baraz
News: Faith Alone Is Insufficient - Be a 21st Century Buddhist: His Holiness Dalai Lama by YC. Dhardhowa
Teaching: Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers
by Geshe Tenzin Zopa
Teaching: Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
by L.S. Kuan
by Chan Kah Yein
Feature: From Victim to Liberator: The Power of Compassion
Feature: The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Feature: Prayer and Remembrance: Being Mindful in the Presence of the Buddha by Raymond Lam
by Pamela Bloom
Teaching: Right View - the Place of Coolness by Ajahn Chah
News: A Buddhist Perspective of ‘2012’
by Ven Kumara Bhikkhu
by Shen Shi’an Rinpoche
News: Return of Buddha by Shobhan Saxena
Teaching: Dana & Caga
Feature: DAGPO SHEDRUP LING by Sumi Loundon Kim
Teaching: Chan & Daily Life by Master Sheng Yen
EasTern HorIzon Radiating the Light of Dharma
....................................................................... JANUARY 2012 ISSUE NO. 35 (Published 3 times a year)
Teaching: Sitting Quietly, Doing Something by Daniel Goleman
EASTERN HORIZON PUBLICATION BOARD CHAIRMAN
: Liau Kok Meng
: B. Liow <Bennyliow@gmail.com>
SUB-EDITORS : Tan Yang Wah / Dr. Ong Puay Liu
Books In Brief
: Teh Soo Tyng
ART DIRECTOR : Geam Yong Koon PUBLISHER
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COVER DESIGN : Geam Yong Koon COVER PHOTOGRAPHER : Lim Chong Wei
Buddhist Stories: Four on a Log (Gratitude)
Book Review: Untying Injustice by Gary Gach
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:
Dharma Aftermath The Common Enemy by Rasika Quek
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Lead Article | Lighten Up!
Lighten Up! Buddhism’s not such a raw deal. by James Baraz “I didn’t know Buddhism was about being happy,” one of the wedding guests said to me after the ceremony. I had just officiated at the marriage of two friends, longtime dharma practitioners. As part of the ceremony, I had invited everyone to join in a lovingkindness meditation for the couple. “May you both be happy, may you be filled with joy and love,” we had silently repeated, our wishes deepening with each phrase. With the vibrant power of lovingkindness awakened, the guest’s conclusion that Buddhism is about happiness was understandable.
of death and rebirth. The “end of suffering” got entangled in my mind with the “end of living,” which meant tempering aliveness and enthusiasm and fun. Perhaps it was a necessary stage in the awakening process, but the smiling Buddha who had so lovingly inspired me during my first years of practice had turned into a stern taskmaster. Practice became a serious endeavor.
Despite pervasive images of the smiling Buddha, the practice and teachings of Buddhism have had a reputation of being rather more somber than joyful. With so much emphasis on “suffering and the end of suffering,” there’s not much air time for happiness and joy. Some practitioners may even think that expressing those qualities is un-Buddhist. My friend Rick Foster, coauthor of How We Choose to Be Happy, frequently takes calls from listeners when he talks about his book on radio shows. He says he has come to expect that when a caller begins with “I’m a Buddhist . . .” almost invariably the statement will continue with something like: “and all your emphasis on getting happy seems to overlook the suffering in life.”
Playing the guitar and singing had been a joyful pursuit for me since the days of the Beatles. Now I rarely did either, and when I did I noticed an underlying sense of guilt. How could I be a serious practitioner and spend my time just having fun? A lifelong sports fanatic, I felt conflicted when I’d get carried away yelling and screaming at the television as I watched my team play. My poor family and housemates had to deal with my somber persona as I suppressed my natural inclination to celebrate life. I carried this same tendency into my work as a dharma teacher, a slight wariness creeping into my attitude toward those aspects of life that were fun and attractive, that might entice one to remain “on the wheel.” This focus on suffering actually had a numbing effect. Shutting down my vitality left me feeling rather disconnected from myself and others, and less able to respond compassionately to the suffering of those closest to me.
I went through a period of time in my own practice when I might have been one of those callers. For several long years, the truth of suffering became my primary guide. “Real” practice meant committing to “getting off the wheel,” freeing myself of lifetimes of suffering as I wandered through endless cycles
Through the struggle and crisis of those years, I learned something important: lack of aliveness and joy is not a sign of awakening. In fact, it is just the opposite. As one of the seven factors of enlightenment, joy is not only a fruit of awakening but also a prerequisite. Joy creates a spaciousness
Lead Article | Lighten Up!
Life, though full of woe, holds also sources of happiness and joy, unknown to most. Let us teach people to seek and to find real joy within themselves and to rejoice with the joy of others! Let us teach them to unfold their joy to ever sublimer heights! Noble and sublime joy is not foreign to the Teaching of the Enlightened One. Wrongly, the Buddha’s Teaching is sometimes considered to be a doctrine diffusing melancholy. Far from it: the Dhamma leads step by step to an ever purer and loftier happiness. —Nyanaponika Thera (1901–1994)
in the mind that allows us to hold the suffering we experience inside us and around us without becoming overwhelmed, without collapsing into helplessness or despair. It brings inspiration and vitality, dispelling confusion and fear while connecting us with life. Profound understanding of suffering does not preclude awakening to joy. Indeed, it can inspire us all the more to celebrate joyfully the goodness in life. The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu are good examples of people who have seen tremendous suffering and are still able to inspire others with an infectious joy. We all know what it’s like to get trapped in dark, constricting states of mind—and how useless it is, in terms of awakening, to dwell there. That is exactly what the Buddha taught: we don’t need to stay stuck in greed, hatred, and delusion. Life can be lighter, more workable, even when it’s challenging. This lightening up, which I see as an aspect of joy, is the fruit of insight into anatta, the selfless nature of reality, and anicca, the truth of impermanence. When we are not attached to who we think we
are, life can move through us, playing us like an instrument. Understanding how everything is in continual transformation, we release our futile attempts to control circumstances. When we live in this easy connection with life, we live in joy. Joy has many different flavors. It might overflow from us in song or dance, or it might gently arise as a smile or a sense of inner fullness. Joy is not something we have to manufacture. It is already in us when we come into the world, as we can see in the natural delight and exuberance of a healthy baby. We need only release the layers of contraction and fear that keep us from it. Methods for opening the mind to joy and happiness are found throughout the Buddha’s teachings. One sure way is through skillful practice of meditation. Through seeing clearly, we can free the mind of grasping, aversion, and ignorance, allowing our natural joy to manifest. In fact, research has amply demonstrated that meditation increases activity in areas of the brain associated with positive emotions.
Lead Article | Lighten Up!
Young Smiling monks
But formal meditation is not the only way to tap into joy. The teachings say that when we cultivate wholesome mind-states—generosity, love, compassion, happiness for others—we experience pamojja, translated as “gladness” or “delight.” In one of the discourses (Majjhima Nikaya 99), the Buddha says, “That gladness connected with the wholesome, I call an equipment of the mind . . . an equipment for developing a mind that is without hostility and ill will.” As I climbed out of my “dark night,” I was delighted to discover that those positive feelings— joy, delight, happiness, gladness—rather than being impediments on the path, actually facilitate awakening. They are part of our tool kit for keeping the heart open. Gladness and delight do not merely balance out negative tendencies, they actually heal the aversive mind.
in the world, it is healthy to let our hearts delight in the blessings of life. In waking up, it’s important to remember that in addition to the ten thousand sorrows there are also the ten thousand joys.
Over the past year, I have been leading dharma groups focused on cultivating joy in our daily lives. Participants learned, some of them for the first time, that relating to the present moment with joy is a choice we can make. Discovering this can change our lives. Whether we are paying careful attention to wholesome states when they arise, reflecting on gratitude, or feeling the delight of living with integrity (which the Buddha called “the bliss of blamelessness”), we can access joy by shifting the focus of our awareness to what uplifts the heart. The Buddha spoke of this as “inclining the mind” toward the wholesome. This doesn’t mean disregarding suffering; it does mean not overlooking happiness and joy. With so much fear and sadness
JAMES BARAZ is a founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center and coordinates the Community Dharma Leader program and the Kalyana Mitta Network. SHOSHANA ALEXANDER contributed to this article. She is the author of In Praise of Single Parents and Women’s Ventures, Women’s Visions. Together with Baraz, she is writing a book about Buddhism as a path to joy.
Ajahn Sumedho, abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, in England, writes, “Once you have insight, then you find you enjoy and delight in the beauty and goodness of things. Truth, beauty, and goodness delight us; in them we find joy.” When we open a channel to the wellspring of joy, the waters of well-being that flow into our lives are a gift not only to ourselves. As joyful bodhisattvas, we serve by inspiring spaciousness, perspective, courage, and goodness in the hearts of others. May you be happy and awaken joy in yourself and all those you meet.
Image: “Rehearsal for the Kalachakra Ceremony, Labrang Monastery, Amdo, Tibet,” © Robin Brentano Source: Tricycle Daily Dharma, December 1, 2011. USA. EH
Teachings | Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers
Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers Geshe Tenzin Zopa
Geshe Tenzin Zopa holds the Geshe (Doctorate) degree from Sera Je Monastic University, South India having completed the 20 year monastic curriculum in just 17 years. He was ordained at the age of 9 by the late great mahasiddha Geshe Lama Konchog, received novice ordination from Geshe Lundrup Sopa Rinpoche and full ordination from HH the 14th Dalai Lama . Under the direct tutelage of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, the great mahasiddha Geshe Lama Konchog and the most eminent of Gurus including those from the great Sera Jey Monastic University, Geshe Tenzin Zopa possesses vast scriptural knowledge, extensive teaching experience, has successfully managed major projects, has completed many retreats including a 6 month Highest Yoga Tantra retreat with the late Geshe Lama Konchog and is highly skilled in rituals, astrological observations and religious dance. Projects undertaken by Geshela included taking responsibility for the temporal and spiritual development of Rachen Nunnery and Mu Monastery, Tsum, Nepal and supervised the completion of the 1000 Buddha Relics Memorial Stupa at Kopan Monastery, Nepal. Geshela has been the longest serving Resident Geshe at the oldest Malaysian FPMT Centre, Losang Dragpa Centre (www.fpmt-ldc.org) in Petaling Jaya. In an effort to introduce Buddhist values and teachings on life, death and reincarnation, Geshela played a pivotal role in the documentary
“Unmistaken Child” and participated in “Forbidden Journey to Tibet”. Geshe Tenzin Zopa is undertaking the important responsibility of overseeing the physical, mental and spiritual development of Tulku Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche, the unmistaken reincarnation of the late great mahasiddha Geshe Lama Konchog.
The following is based on a talk given on October 30, 2011 to a group of mainly Theravada Buddhist lay leaders and supporters who had gathered in Petaling Jaya to offer a farewell lunch dana to Geshe Zopa. This talk will be published in two parts. Part II which will feature the Q&A after the talk will appear in the May 2012 issue of Eastern Horizon.
First of all, thanks to Benny and all his family members for giving me this opportunity and giving all of us this chance to meet and discuss Buddhist teachings. Just providing this platform is something to be thankful about and I appreciate it very much. I was told that most of you here are the leaders of different Buddhist societies and the inspirational figures of different Buddhist organisations. All of you play a very important role for the preservation of the Buddhadharma and in particular, preserve the pure Buddhadharma. Merely calling a society a “Dharma society” does not necessarily mean it is practising pure, authentic
Teachings | Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers
Dharma. A Centre may outwardly look attractive and impressive, have many members and a famous master but that in itself is not the definition of an authentic Dharma society nor its practices, pure meditative concentration of realised masters. However, for an ordinary, degenerated beings like me and especially in these degenerate times, we need to take care to establish the authenticity of the Dharma teachings being given e.g. through living masters or the earlier generation of great masters, the lineage of whom can be traced back to the Buddha. In relation to the people gathered here – some are from the Theravada tradition, Chinese Mahayana and some from Tibetan Buddhism. All our lineages should be traceable back to the Buddha & the 17 Pandits of Nalanda, the great Indian monastic institution, whose Buddhist works form the basis of monastic study even till today. All the teachings of the 3 yanas (Theravada, Bodhisattvayana and Vajrayana) were transmitted through the works of these Pandits. There were 500 oustanding scholars. From amongst, the 17 most famous ones were Nagarjuna, Aryadeva & Asvagosha, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Kamalashila, Dignaga, Gunaprabha, Shakyaprabha, Vimuktisena, Dharmakirti, Shantarakshita, Shantideva, Atisha Dipamkarasrijnana. Like the Buddha, they transmitted the authentic teachings of the Buddha for the different mental dispositions of beings, giving rise to what we now call “the 3 yanas”. All the teachings originated from the Buddha. There are those who claim “a new Buddhist tradition” – there is no new tradition. If it is Buddha’s tradition, it should be directly traceable to the Buddha and the Nalanda Pandits. The teachings in Tibet is from that tradition – from Buddha down to the Pandits including Lama Atisha and to the Tibetan masters. During the 7th century, Dromtoenpa , chief disciple of Lama Atisha, established the Kadampa traditions of the lojong (mind training) masters. During Lama Tsongkhapa’s time, he brought together the teachings of the Lam Rim (Graduated Path to Enlightenment) and lojong, giving rise to
what was termed as the new Kadampa established by Lama Tsongkhapa. After that time, there were no more “New Kadampas”, no new tradition. Anyone can claim a “new tradition”, anyone of us can declare that. The key point is – can it be traced back to the Buddha and how does one certify someone or a tradition as authentic.
Tulku Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche with Lama Zopa Rinpoche
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, all of its 4 schools (Gelug, Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma) have lineage masters who are indeed traceable to the Buddha via Buddha’s heart disciples like Shariputra and then the Nalanda Pandits. Even in present day, it is common for Tibetan Lamas giving teachings or initiations, to state whom they received the teaching/initiation from – this is part of the verification process to illustrate its authenticity because there are textual references which indicate the names of lineage masters all the way back to the Buddha. Even if one is a Theravadan or Chinese Mahayana practitioner, Vajrayana has something to offer. It is worthwhile to note that the term “Mahayana” consists of the teachings of both Sutra and Tantra. This is easily seen as the great, respected practice
Teachings | Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers
of reciting the Kuan Yin prayers of Om Mani Padme Hum and Tar Pei Jou, comes from the tantra teachings. Perhaps due to Tibet being isolated from much of the world, it preserved the Mahayana teachings in its totality.
our own high realisations in concentration and have the clairvoyance to see the level of the Teacher’s realisations, it can be very challenging to find a right master or the right Buddhist society to be a part of. The safest way is to study Dharma well, put it into practice and through this, one will generate merit and wisdom and a perfect teacher will appear to guide one on the right path. We need to have an open mind to all the 3 yanas and different Buddhist teachers, does not mean we do not have a lineage to abide by. Everyone should have an authentic lineage to follow and for that, one needs to have authentic Teachers.
The late Lama Konchog ((1917–2001).
Buddha taught that to attain enlightenment, all 3 yanas must ultimately be practised. Just the pursuit of one yana will not enable that to happen. Each yana is built upon the other. Hence, the need for mutual respect and effort at practice. In present day, as far as Tibetan Buddhism is concerned, the most reliable or safest manner of determining the authenticity and lineage of teachings/initiations is to ensure it is traceable back to HH Dalai Lama. Leaving aside the politics of Tibet and China, we should be able to trace the teachings being given by any present master of Tibetan Buddhism, as being received from HH Dalai Lama. When one searches for a Teacher of this tradition, one should observe and check whether that Teacher follows the advice of HH Dalai Lama or not. That the easiest way to check. Unless we have
If one is following the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, one should then follow the advice and lineage held by HH Dalai Lama. Any person who goes against His Holiness’ advice means that there is a weakening or absence of a lineage-link between that person and His Holiness, which in turn casts doubt on the authenticity and ability of that person to be a teacher of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. As I have lived in Malaysia for some years, my own readings told me that the late Chief Reverend K. Dhammananda was an example of a pure lineage holder of the Theravada. For the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, one can confidently say that the lineage of HH Dalai Lama is unmistaken. If one simply follows any master and that master’s lineage-link is broken, whilst the words spoken by him may make sense, it will not benefit our spiritual practice. If only advice is what we seek rather than realisations, we can go to psychologists. However, as Dharma practitioners, it is the realisations of the 4 Noble Truths that we are seeking and for this, we need teachings from an authentic master, who has come from an authentic lineage and who has not broken that lineage-link (through not abiding by the lineage holder’s advice). The Buddha taught the 4 Noble Truths for us to gain experiential realisations on the Path. Why teach the 1st and 2nd Noble Truths of Suffering and its causes ? It was to enable us directly understand the need for renunciation (which is the first of the
Teachings | Learning Dharma from Authentic Teachers
3 principles of the path of renunciation, bodhicitta and wisdom realising emptiness). Renunciation helps us gain detachment from karma and delusions and thereby, achieve freedom from suffering. Within the 3rd Noble Truth of Cessation, Buddha taught about the end of samsaric suffering and what that would involve. In order for one to have a firm understanding of Cessation, one needs to train in some level of philosophy because Buddhaâ€™s teachings is not based on faith alone but also upon reason and logic. That is what Buddhist philosophy provides. To supplement the teachings on the 4 Noble Truths, the Buddha conferred teachings on the 4 seals i.e. all produced-phenomena are impermanent; all contaminated phenomena are suffering; all existence is selfless and nirvana is peace. For us to have a firm conviction on the 4 seals, the Refuge teachings were given. For the benefit of sentient beings, many levels of vows were given â€“ e.g. refuge vows, individual liberation vows, Bodhisattva vows, Tantric Vows re all based on Refuge in the Triple Gem of Buddha Dharma Sangha. Whether one is a pure Buddhist practitioner or not, depends on whether we have Refuge or not. If we take refuge in spirits and worldly gods, we lose our vows of refuge because those require us to take refuge solely in the Triple Gem. Paying respects to ancestors is not taking refuge in them. Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem means total reliance upon the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to guide oneself to enlightenment. To gain total freedom from samsaric suffering and attain enlightenment, one needs genuine refuge in the Buddha Dharma and Sangha. Some of you have asked about the controversy surrounding the Shugden practice. Historically,
Shugden is a spirit, not even a worldly god. There are people and even some lamas, who take refuge under Shugden. Some people, due to grasping at temporary gains, do not follow HH Dalai Lamaâ€™s advice not to practice Shugden at all. These are degenerate times, where confusion and clinging to instant gains lead people to wrong paths and doubtful masters. This is happening throughout the world. Some masters are very famous, claim they preserve the Dharma, advertise themselves heavily and attract people to the fantasies they create. Sadly, the more concerned about the 8 worldly concerns a teacher is, the more outstanding and popular that teacher becomes! When troubles arise, it is not because the 3 yanas are not pure. It is because of aggressive practitioners who self-claim their abilities and realisations and draw people to them through clever ways. With pure Dharma, begins can be liberated but if a master is following a mistaken way, all the followers will do so and Dharma can never be preserved in this manner. Therefore, as regards the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, teachings and Teachers approved by or following the instructions of HH Dalai Lama is key. All of you here are from different Buddhist centres and your intention is to preserve the pure Dharma. That is wonderful and a huge responsibility because by doing so, many beings will meet the authentic Dharma and Teachers and it will enlighten many beings. One may have different labels of activities to suit the different inclinations of people but the effort to preserve the Buddhdharma and reliance upon authentic teachers will lead them to the right path and liberation. EH
Teachings | Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
Helping the most down-trodden beings
in the community - Chan Kah Yein, Ph.D
Dr Chan Kah Yein is the founder-president of AnimalCare Society Petaling, Selangor. She also gives public talks on living a more spiritually fulfilling life. She has written seven books and many of her talks have been produced on audio CDs. Kah Yeinâ€™s motto is to embrace simplicity and travel light in life.
In my decades of having been a practicing Buddhist, I have been made to understand that the Buddha taught metta, which translates as unconditional loving-kindness towards all beings. When I joined the mainstream Buddhist community five years ago as a public speaker, I asked a few of the active societies why there are so many charities for humans yet there is no initiative or interest in setting up a charity for animals. I received various replies, but to cut a long story short, no society was interested in initiating such a charity. So, I did the next best thing I could think of â€“ I would start one. Stray animals are about the most down-trodden beings in our community. They live on the streets and are therefore susceptible to the elements, to accidents, disease, abuse and capture by the local councils which would only result in their deaths at the pounds. An un-neutered pair of dogs breed, on the average twice a year, each time producing 5-12 puppies while an un-neutered pair of cats would breed, on the average, four times a year, producing 3-7 kittens each time. It therefore comes as no surprise that the over-population of stray animals poses a problem in our society, which unfortunately, results in complaints from the public, which in turn, results in them being captured and killed at the pounds. With this understanding, that animals by their instinctive nature, of which uncontrolled breeding is a natural consequence, one of the most compassionate ways to help them would be to get them spayed and neutered and if possible, rehomed, so that they would be safe and cared for. However, rehoming is not always possible, so the next best thing would be to return them to their colony and continue looking after them as best we can. Having been spayed and neutered, they get to live out their natural lives without producing offsprings. Returning them to the colony also prevents the re-colonization by new un-neutered strays
Teachings | Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
They still live on the streets, but they have been spayed-neutered and are looked after by a caregiver.
SJBA, May 31, 2009 – the soft launch that started AnimalCare.
When I first started AnimalCare, my target was to help 10 animals in one year. I did not dare to aim high as I had never managed any charity before, much less, engaged in any fund-raising. But thanks to the support of the community and the response from rescuers, we ended up helping a total of 660 animals in our first year. That was extremely encouraging and rewarding.
from elsewhere. The population is thus controlled. Besides this, all animals play a role in the eco-system. They provide biological control and contribute to the balance in the eco-system.
Our medical aid is given to all stray and rescued animals as well as community animals. We do not cover owners’ pets because it is the responsibility of owners to take care of their pets.
AnimalCare was started on May 31, 2009 with a soft launch at the Subang Jaya Buddhist Association (SJBA). The purpose of this soft launch was to let the public know that there is now such a charity and they could seek financial aid for their rescued animals who require spay-neuter and medical help. I will always be grateful to Bro Chim Siew Choon for his continued support in allowing us to open our booths at the Vihara at every Wesak and Kathina.
We have a few panel vets in the Klang Valley who offer us their services at a slightly reduced rate. For geographical convenience, rescuers also have the option of using their own vets and claiming a subsidy from us by providing photographs and the original receipts. From the Klang Valley, our help has now extended to rescuers from other states as well.
AnimalCare is a medical fund that helps pay for the spay-neuter and medical needs of stray and rescued animals. We promote CNRM: C = Care N = Neuter R = Rehome or Return M = Manage We are currently actively promoting our One-Street CNRM program where members of the community are encouraged to take care of the stray animals on their street, or just those around their house. Make friends with the animals by feeding them, then, bring them in for spay-neuter (we will sponsor). Rehome or return them to the colony and continue looking after them in a responsible manner. Should they require medical help, we will again subsidize their medical bill. In this way, stray animals become “community animals”.
On May 6, 2011, AnimalCare was officially registered as a Society under the Registrar of Societies, Malaysia. To date, we have helped a total of 1380 animals in providing free and subsidized spay-neuter and medical treatment (including surgeries) and e-rehoming (advertising through our blog). The animals which come to us are given the best possible medical treatment. Even terminally ill animals are given palliative care and nursed until they pass away in their own time. In accordance with the First Precept, we have not resorted to euthanasia even in the worst of cases. With the help of our vets, we provide not only medical care, but also emotional support for the rescuers and their animals. Every case is documented with full details in the blog, so this becomes a source of education to the general public on the subject of caregiving for animals.
Teachings | Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
Palliative care for Wendy, a terminally ill dog dying of distemper.
Bushytail, a female cat with life-threatening necrotizing mastitis and pyometra.
In running AnimalCare, a typical day for me starts at 5.00am by replying emails and enquiries from feeders, rescuers and people who are interested in helping animals. Then I write the day’s postings in my blog, www.myanimalcare.org, which currently has more than 643,000 hits from 146 different countries in the world. I am then at work in college (my day job which puts food on the table!) and during breaks, there would be sms enquiries on my phone. Appointments have to be made at the vet’s for cases requesting help. After work, I head off to the vet’s to personally attend to the cases that come in on a daily basis. For new rescuers, there is a need to provide advice, assistance and emotional support. Sometimes they need help in borrowing or buying cages and other accessories. Depending on the number of cases that come in, by evening, I head off home only to answer more email enquiries and phone enquiries in between. My day ends, sometimes past midnight, after I am done reporting the day’s cases on the blog. There are no weekends – every day and any day is a good day for helping those in need.
The support from the Buddhist community has been tremendous and I wish to record my most grateful thanks to the Subang Jaya Buddhist Association; the Mudita Buddhist Society, Klang; the Ti-Ratana Community Centre, Klang and the members of the Bandar Utama Buddhist Society, especially to the children. Many other societies have been equally supportive. For example, the Shah Alam Buddhist Association is also going to initiate a support group to help animals and we will be working together on this. Besides the Buddhist community, the support from animal-lovers from various races and religions has been very encouraging. I am grateful to a few friends who help me out during events without which we would lose another source of generating funds and publicity.
Besides this daily management, there is also the accounting, planning for ongoing fund-raising and ordering, taking-stock of and posting tshirt orders. Our tshirt is currently the only merchandise we have for fund-raising. Our three designs have been very well-received and to date, we have sold more than 4000 pieces of tshirts, which generates funds for us. Supporters not only buy the tshirts for family and friends, but also help us take orders from their workplace.
AnimalCare remains a secular charity and rightly so, because animals do not have a religion. All they need from us is kindness and this virtue is prevalent in every human being, regardless of religious inclinations. AnimalCare is not affiliated to any organization, but we work together with other animal welfare NGOs. Our beneficiaries are usually small-time rescuers, particularly those who are just starting out with their rescue work. They are the ones who need help most of all as they do not have funds or support. Sometimes, these are the elderly homemakers or retirees who feed the cats in their back alley; sometimes it is young people who have picked up a litter of abandoned
Teachings | Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
Bushytail, after a successful surgery and fully recovered. Now, back to the colony as a community cat in SS19/6.
Tara, rescued from the pound and diagnosed with distemper and later, transmissible venereal tumour (a treatable cancer).
kittens or puppies from the roadside or a construction site. The ones who want to help are those most deserving of assistance.
in their schools. Sometimes, after giving talks in the various Buddhist centers, children from the Sunday School line up to ask me about the animals they have read about or simply to offer a donation from their pocket money to help the animals. I strongly believe that education is the key to enacting positive change in the society and I know our hope lies in the young. The best form of education is always by example.
Occasionally, we also receive appeals from smalltime shelters asking for help. For these shelters, I would initiate a separate fund-raising and the funds would be used to purchase food for the animals. One such shelter that we help on a regular basis is Meijiâ€™s dog sanctuary in Raub, Pahang. Meiji is an Eight-Preceptor who is exemplary in the practice of unconditional loving-kindness towards animals. She runs her sanctuary single-handedly up on a steep slope in Raub, looking after 128 dogs and her only source of income is rubber-tapping. We have also helped shelters in Ipoh and Tanjong Rambutan. Besides promoting caregiving to stray animals, AnimalCare also functions as an education website for cultivating compassion towards animals through other ways such as reducing oneâ€™s meat intake, using products that are not tested on animals and those that do not cause animal suffering and bringing the awareness to the many forms of animal exploitation prevalent in our modern society. I have written three books on my personal caregiving and rescue work. My most rewarding instances are when I receive emails from children who have read my books. They tell me how my stories have changed their perception of animals and how they too would like to care for the street animals in their back alley or
AnimalCare was started as a small initiative to help animals, and it is likely to remain small because as one person, I do not have the resources or capacity to expand. Furthermore, I also do not see any need to do so. I would rather that other people who are interested in helping animals start a similar program in their community. That way, we can reach out even further. AnimalCare will continue to run as a one-woman initiative for as long as there are still funds. For me, if my humble endeavors could serve as an encouragement for others to turn their passion into charities that will benefit the community, my efforts would have been well worth the time and energy. On a larger scale, human beings continue to achieve great advancement in cognitive knowledge, and in doing so, they claim superiority and dominion over the animals and the environment. To me, if this superiority is confined only to knowledge, it would lead to misuse which eventually brings about our downfall.
Teachings | Helping the most down-trodden beings in the community
This is why stray animals need our help. My Buddhist upbringing and understanding tell me that metta or living kindness is the key to building a more compassionate and caring society. If that is our hope for the future, then we must practice metta and not just talk about it.
Tara, adopted and now living a pampered life with a loving family.
We do not have to look far as we can already see the vast amount of destruction and suffering we have caused the animals, the environment and inevitably, ourselves. Human superiority should therefore not only be cultivated in knowledge but also in compassion. As our world continues to become more concrete to facilitate our survival (or so we think), the stray animals who live amongst us would be the greatest victims of this concretization because they do not have the means nor skills to survive in a world which is too far divorced from its natural state.
On this note, I am sometimes asked why I spend so much time helping animals when there are so many suffering humans out there. To answer this, allow to me quote George Thorndike Angell, who was also asked the same question and this was his answer: I am working at the roots. By the same token, I am also working at the roots. Chan Kah Yein’s ongoing AnimalCare work is documented in her blog www.myanimalcare.org. Her e-books are available for free download at www. tiny.cc/paws. Her work was featured in StarTwo (June 2, 2011) and she was also interviewed on BFM 89.9 (June 13, 2011) which was carried live: http:// bfm.my/assets/files/TheBiggerPicture/2011-06-10_ DrChanKahYein_AnimalCare.mp3 EH
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 senƟent beings!
Feature | From Victim to Liberator: The Power of Compassion
From Victim to Liberator: The Power of Compassion by Pamela Bloom PAMELA BLOOM is an award-winning author, intuitive counselor and vibrational sound healer whose passion for spiritual exploration has taken her through many disciplines, including Judaism, Tibetan Buddhism, Western mysticism, energy healing and the Divine Feminine. An intuitive opening around the age of thirty inspired her to develop a unique form of energy healing that combines clairvoyant insight with the medium of her singing voice. During the early 90s she honed this skill as a counselor on staff at the Manhattan Center for Living, founded by Marianne Williamson to assist those with life-challenging illnesses. She is also a third-degree Reiki master and Johrei practitioner and has experience as a hospital chaplain. She presently offers both private healing sessions combined with intuitive soul readings as well as workshops in creativity and meditation. For over 25 years Pamela has also been a highly published writer in many fields. As a music critic she has been a Contributing Editor at top entertainment publications; as a travel writer she received the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award twice for her guidebooks on Brazil and the Amazon forest; she also has won awards for fiction. Her articles on lifestyle topics have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, New York Post and Parabola, Science of Mind, New Age Journal, and Elle magazines, among others. She is also the author of Buddhist Acts of Compassion, On the Wings of Angels (about angel lore) and The Heart Sutra, in The Dalai Lamaâ€™s Altar Kit. Among Pamelaâ€™s most recent works are The Power of Compassion: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul and Change the World (Hampton Roads, 2010), and Heaven Speaks: Intimate Interviews with Illuminated Souls (with co-author Carla Flack) (Soul Connections Unlimited, 2010)
Feature | From Victim to Liberator: The Power of Compassion
was on a meditation retreat in the south of France when a visiting master was introduced to the group. An audience of over three hundred Western students of Buddhism waited quietly for him to speak. He was about forty years old, quite tall and broad-shouldered for a Tibetan, with an enormous presence likea mountain, though he barely smiled. As he began to talk he repeatedly wiped at his draining right eye, as if something in him was constantly crying, but his voice remained strong. Soon his personal story unfolded. For fifteen years, as a young man, this Rinpoche and his elderly master had been imprisoned inside Tibet as victims of Communist Chinese persecution. Although he did not go into details, the conditions they had had to endure were of the roughest sort, with many days spent chained together in their dark, dirty cell. The Communist, he said, not content with normal torture, had been determined to persecute devout Tibetans in the worst possible way by denying them the right to meditate; every time their eyes closed they were beaten. But because the Communist did not understand that Tibetans actually meditate with their eyes open, the two were able to continue their prayers and meditations in secret. Unfortunately, as the years went by,
the abuse only got worse; in fact, Rinpoche’s constantly tearing eye was the result of beatings from that time. He had even had to endure the loss of his master, who died next to him one night in their cell. After many years of torture, escape from this living hell had come to seem impossible. But then one day, out of the blue, two of the jailers addressed him directly: “What are you doing?” they said. “No matter what we do to you, now matter how we hurt you, nothing moves you.” Apparently the jailers had practiced all sorts of martial arts, but they had finally met a power they didn’t understand. “You know something we don’t,” they told him, “and because we are the jailers, we must learn it in order to become stronger than you.”
inspiration to not only practice compassion but to teach it in the middle of hell to the very beings who were the agents of their suffering . . . well, that was a level of compassion that transcends the ordinary mind. And yet, that is the essence of Buddhist compassion. And as a result, as Rinpoche told it, the unbelievable happened. One day, some time later, the Communist jailers suddenly announced to their Tibetan captive that they were releasing him from jail. No reason. Just his time was up. And they set him free.And that is how he came to be before us on that bright sunny day in the south of France, with his eye running like a persistent rain of remembrance, his gaze brilliantly clear, his posture immovable like a warrior’s.
So because he had no other weapon, he taught his jailers the very practice he and his master had been doing— the Tibetan meditation called Tonglen, which is the practice of breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out light. It was the same practice that many of us had been learning at this retreat with some struggle, for to actually take on the suffering of others with no sense of martyrdom or resentment is a great affront to one’s ego.
In fact, as I remember it now, there was not even a trace of resentment in his voice, only perhaps the bittersweet irony that his master had not lived to see that somewhere between the in-breath and the out-breath,the boundary between persecutor and persecuted had finally dissolved.
So, to imagine that this monk and his elderly master had found the
Source: From THE POWER OF COMPASSION: Stories that Open the Heart, Heal the Soul, and Change the World (Hampton Roads, 2010). EH
Teachings | Mindfulness Practices in Western Psychology?
A Buddhist Perspective of ‘2012’ by Shen Shi’an
In view of so much hype about 2012 as marking the end of the world, even among some Buddhists, EASTERN HORIZON wishes to reproduce a very meaningful article written by Shen Sh’ian of Singapore on the Buddhist perspective of this doomsday year. EASTERN HORIZON thanks Shen Sh’ian for his kind permission to reproduce this article. Singapore -- In the ‘Sutra of the Eight Realisations of Great Beings’, this is taught – ‘Wholeheartedly, day and night, disciples of the Awakened One [Buddha] should recite and meditate on the Eight Realisations discovered by the Great Beings.
The First Realisation is the awareness that the world is impermanent. Political regimes are subject to fall. Things composed of the four elements [earth, water, fire and wind] are empty [of lasting substantiality], containing within them the seeds of suffering…’ (http:// plumvillage.org/practice/discourses/58-discourse-onthe-eight-realizations-of-the-great-beings.html) Indeed, our true refuge cannot be in the fickle elements or even great nations; it must rest upon the personal realisation of immutable truths, which would set us free. The film ‘2012’ bears testimony to this. ‘2012’ is arguably the melting pot of many disaster movies. It proposes that due to alignment of heavenly bodies in our solar system, there will be a sharp increase of solar activity, which would create havoc at the Earth’s core, causing its tectonic plates to shift, along with its poles. But since the current climate crisis is already more than enough to tear the Earth apart via increasingly violent and more frequent earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and such, what sorely missing from the movie extravaganza was the message of the urgent need to pull back our human destruction of the environment by being more consciously green.
During the recent Asia Vegetarian Congress, Dr ArtOng Jumsai, who was involved in NASA’s Viking Space Project, proposed that due to the meltdown in the Arctic, there could be more earthquakes and tsunamis from the shift in weight of flowing ice, which puts pressure on the tectonic plates. What does this have to do with vegetarianism? Meat-eating produces more greenhouse gases than all the motor vehicles in the world combined! Instead of proposing what we can do to save the world, ‘2012’ focuses on the idea that we can do next to nothing. That’s not very helpful, especially when there might be movie-goers who leave the theatre feeling haplessly apprehensive about an ‘impending doom’. Anticipating worldwide disasters, governments begin a race against time to fund and build giant arks as vehicles of salvation to tide through the greatest flood ever - for the rich, influential and those with good genes. Strangely, nothing was mentioned about saving the good. The arks are clearly inspired by the biblical one. However, according to the book, there is supposed to be no more monster floods; though there are still many ongoing killer floods in history. With multiple arks built without divine instruction, and them being much larger than the ‘original’ one, does this imply that humans are wiser and kinder in wanting to save more? With masses in fervent prayer killed, does the story hint of the absence or rage of any almighty one? There were also shocking scenes of the statue of ‘Christ the Redeemer’ being shattered, and ‘The Creation of Adam’ in the Sistine Chapel being destroyed by an initial crack that separated the ‘Creator’ from ‘Adam’. Surprisingly, there were clear Buddhist concepts introduced instead. A wise Rinpoche shares a key teaching from the Kalama Sutta on active investigation for the truth with his disciple Nima when the latter voices his suspicions that there is a huge conspiracy going on in the mountains – ‘Do not believe in something, simply because you have heard it.’ (This is golden advice for those who speculate on hearsay of
NEWS what’s going to happen in 2012!) He then does the classic Zen act of filling the young monk’s cup till it overflows and says, ‘Like this cup you are full of opinions and speculations. To see the light of wisdom, you first must empty your cup.’ He then passes him the key to a jeep for him to go check it out. Nima later flees for the arks with his family and a band of strangers. When asked to send the strangers away, he says, ‘I am a follower of our great Lama Rinpoche. You know I cannot do that. We are all children of the Earth.’ Indeed, Bodhicitta, that most excellent aspiration based on compassion and wisdom to save all from suffering will be that which liberates us all. They say that in the worst of times, you get to witness both the worst and the best in humans. A turning point of great selflessness versus great selfishness. While some leave the vast majority ‘in God’s hands’, some ‘play God’ to do what they can to rescue every one they can – up till the very last second. For what purpose do we strive to continue our kind, if we are to lose our kindness in the process? For us to be a human civilisation, we must be humane and work together in a civilised manner. As mentioned by one of the protagonists, ‘The moment we stop fighting for each other, that’s the moment we lose our humanity.’ At the climax, most of humanity votes for greater humanity. Despite being on many separate arks, we are already one on a spaceship called Earth, that hurtles on through space. Controversial indeed was the concealment of the truth from the masses, that most were going to die due to the lack of time to build enough arks for all. Is this compassionate or cruel? Even whistle-blowers with good intentions to reveal the truth were killed due to fear of panic and chaos if the ‘secret’ leaked. But do we not all have the right to know the truth, so as to tie up our loose ends in time, to bid farewell, express gratitude, offer comfort, seek forgiveness…? Though there is no Buddhist prophesy of any special upcoming event in 2012, I can no longer hide a universally true prophesy. Here is it… Due to impending death and the uncertainty of when it arrives, we might die any time before 2012. We might even pass away today, for life is uncertain, while death is certain. Whether you believe something ill will happen in 2012 or not, it always makes sense to live life fully with the Dharma – NOW. Since Buddhists believe in the phenomenon of rebirth, of both sentient lives and entire world systems, the physical ‘end of the world’ is to us, somewhat overhyped, while it is end of our spiritual life that is the most truly terrifying. As the Buddha exhorted in his last words, ‘Subject to change are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence!’ EH
Return of Buddha by Shobhan Saxena
Are Buddhist nations coming together to form a bloc that is as much religious as it is political? And is India ready to assume leadership of the group? If it is, China is clearly unhappy about it. But a churning has begun. Sunday Times reports from the first Global Buddhist Congregation. With the smell of incense floating above their shaven heads, the Thai monks in grey robes walked in a single file, eyes to the ground and their hands softly beating the prayer drums. Following them were the Tibetan lamas, Sri Lankan monks and Taiwanese priests - all walking elegantly, murmuring mantras under their breath and forming a circle around a chosen spot. Then a shiver passed down the crowd as the Dalai Lama arrived at Nehru Park and placed into freshly dug-up holes saplings of the Bodhi Tree - a cutting of the same pipal under which the Buddha had found enlightenment 2600 years ago and which was slashed and burned by King Sasanka of Bengal, an anti-Buddhist iconoclast, in the 6th century AD. On November 30, as the first Global Buddhist Congregation in Delhi decided to form a new global Buddhist body based in India, delegates from 46 countries - from the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions - were handed over the Bodhi Tree saplings to be planted in their countries. Many leaders
NEWS Return of Buddha received the plants from the Dalai Lama, who also gave the valedictory speech at the congregation . The message was not missed on anyone : Buddhism is set to get more organized globally; India is to become the new centre of this unity; and the Dalai Lama is recognized as an unofficial leader of all Buddhists. “All Buddhist countries feel that in India, the land of Buddha, nothing is being done to promote Buddhism. Now, all the Buddhist organizations will be under the International Buddhist Confederation to be based here,” says Lama Lobsang, the head of Asoka Mission, which organized the Delhi congregation. The idea seems to have been accepted. “The whole world looks to India because of Buddhism. If someone from India takes initiative, India can take leadership of the Buddhist world,” says Banagala Uptatissa , chief of Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka. Well, not exactly the whole world. On November 26, one day before the Congregation began, China kicked up a diplomatic storm by putting off border talks with India after New Delhi refused to give in to its demand of not allowing the Buddhist meet. Earlier, 35 Chinese monks invited for the meet didn’t turn up, making it clear that Beijing was not happy with the congregation. “This conference had a very clear agenda to remind the scattered Buddhist communities that India is the home of Buddhism,” says Gabriel Lefitte, Australian academic and environmental activist who attended the meeting. “China has been quite vigorous in making sure that anybody with a Buddhist background feels connection with China but India has been a bit slow by comparison to restore the ‘Buddhist parivar’ .” It’s not that the officially atheist China has suddenly fallen in love with Buddhism. China is worried about the growing stature of the Dalai Lama as a global Buddhist leader; it’s also trying to build credibility among the Buddhists so that Beijing can pick the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama without
Nalanda University was one of the first universities in the world, founded in the 5th Century BCE, and reported to have been visited by the Buddha during his lifetime. At its peak, in the 7th century CE, Nalanda held some 10,000 students when it was visited by the Chinese Buddhist scholar Xuanzang.
any problem. “The current Chinese leadership is haunted by the Tibetan issue as there have been many cases of self-immolation by the Tibetan monks in mainland China. There is a feeling of urgency regarding the decision of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama,” says Binod Singh, who teaches at the India Study Centre of Peking University. China faces an additional problem. It may have dazzled the world with its growth rate, but China has not been able to check social unrest and growth of religion at home. It’s believed that there are now some 100 million Buddhists in China, many of them followers of Tibetan Buddhism. “Of late, the Chinese leaders have been talking about a ‘harmonious society’ and they have eased restrictions on all religions. The Communist Party takes part in the selection of reincarnation of Tibetan lamas. They want to control Buddhism to keep control on their people,” says an Indian diplomat who served in Beijing till recently. “The friction with India is over the leadership of Buddhist countries and trade interest in east Asia, which China considers its area of influence.” Source: Times of India, December 4, 2011 EH
Teachings | Mindfulness Practices in Western Psychology?
Faith Alone Is Insufficient - Be a 21st Century Buddhist: His Holiness Dalai Lama by YC. Dhardhowa, The Tibet Post International, December 6, 2011 Karnataka, India -- His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet made a three-day visit to south India on December 5 and, during his teachings at Gyudmed Tantric University in Karnataka state, told followers that one should strive to become a 21st century Buddhist with both traditional values and a modern education.
important that these days have seen a growing interest among the Tibetan Buddhist institutions, nunneries and monasteries India and Tibet.”
Whilst delivering teachings on the Commentary on the Five Stages by Nagarjuna, His Holiness underlined the need to understand Buddhism in order to develop a higher faith.
“Today, there are about 500 new arrivals from Tibet [here],” he said. “In actual fact, there is no real religious freedom in your homeland - no opportunity to listen to Buddhism as a religious practice considered political matter...
“I always say that study and practice are both very important, but they must go hand in hand,” he said. “Not merely belief - faith alone is not sufficient. “Faith needs to be supported by reason. Whatever we learn from study we need to apply sincerely in our daily lives.” Addressing a crowd of over 10,000 people, including monks and nuns, the Buddhist spiritual leader and Nobel peace laureate also emphasized the need for peace and compassion in the modern world. He pointed out that the nearly 300 volumes of Gautam Buddha’s teachings should not only be the object of prayer and prostration, but that we must engage in the study and analysis of the Buddha’s teachings, instead of simply relying on faith. Speaking on education, His Holiness said the “study and practice of the Buddha’s teachings is necessary to preserve and promote them. Therefore, it is very
Addressing a group of new arrivals from Tibet, His Holiness continued that China has stepped up religious restrictions inside Tibet.
“All of you have reached here after passing through a difficult journey. Therefore, I would like to offer my special greetings to you all.” On the morning of December 7, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will conclude his teachings, and a public ceremony offering prayers for his life will also be performed. In the afternoon, he will open the new School Of Snowland Tibetan Studies, and perform a ritual (rabney) consecration. 70 lay students from the Tibetan Children’s Village Schools will study Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy and Buddhism there, during their winter vacation from January 19 next year. Source: Buddhist Channel EH
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno (12 Aug 1913–30 Jan 2011)
by L.S. Kuan
Royal wreaths at the sala (where Luangta's casket is behind the curtain) in Wat Pa Baan Taad
I first learnt about Ajahn Maha Boowa (Luangta) from Ajahn Kalyano (an English disciple of the late Ajahn Chah), abbot of Buddha Bodhivana Monastery in East Warburton whose forest monastery my family and I support in Melbourne, Australia. My first encounter with Luangta was in May 2005 when my parents and I together with two Dhamma friends visited and stayed in his forest monastery, Wat Pa Baan Taad for 4 days. Luangta was a simple monk in saffron robes who commanded great respect for his kindness, compassion and generosity to mankind, in particular to his country - the Thai kingdom where he was born. During all my stays in the monastery, people would come to offer pindapat and share alms food with Luangta and his disciples in the sala. After Luangta had completed his meal, people would gather around him as he may give short sermons, tell jokes and stories. During this time people would donate
money, gold, cloth and requisites to him. Luangta never wasted any money on himself but for the community. He would buy medical equipments, build and upgrade hospitals, temples and improve community facilities. Food was always abundant as the Thai people had been taught to make food offerings to the Sangha during alms round since they were young. When the country was in economic crisis in 1997, Luangta stepped up and founded the “Help Thai Nation” project. Through that, he helped his countrymen not only monetary but also taught them how to live a life following the Buddha’s teaching. To me that was Luangta, a monk who lived by example and did what no other monk had singlehandedly done before; to live a life that is worthy to the utmost capability of saving his country and countrymen from hardships. Despite having heard many stories that he is an Arahant, I was never fearful that he could read
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Ajahn Maha Boowa was born in Baan Taad village, Udon Thani. He was one of 16 children and was ordained at the age of 21 following Thai customary way. Even though he had no intentions of remaining a monk, his views changed. Upon completion of his third-level Pali exams, he set out to practise meditation in the forest and seek the guide and mentor of the esteemed forest master Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta. He returned to Baan Taad to establish a forest monastery to teach and care for his ageing mother and ordained her as a white-robe nun. Although known for his reputation for being fierce and uncompromising, many monks came to practice in his monastery following Ajahn Mun’s lineage of renunciation, strict discipline and intensive meditation. He is one of Thailand’s best known Buddhist monks of the current era.
The funeral pyre on cremation day.
my mind or “scold me” that I never meditated much. I was only very humbled whenever I saw him and was very much attracted to the positive energy of the place. The way he taught was direct, intense and uncompromising - straight to the heart. His technique was a simple mantra of “Buddho” to anchor one’s mindfulness before body contemplation but yet, so profound. He lived by what he taught and didn’t have any airs. His kuti was a simple raised-up wooden hut and was only renovated when he had problems walking; with the existing kuti lowered to the ground and his original kuti placed above. It was nothing fanciful for such a great noble person of his calibre. Despite not knowing the Thai language, it did not stop me from returning to visit him. His outer robes were always tightly folded neatly under his arm whenever he sat to eat his morning meal, at sermons and functions. He was always proper despite his age. To describe him in a single word, I would say “dignified”.
When Luangta fell severely ill, my friends in Wat Pa Baan Taad told me to quickly go and visit him as he may pass away. I had postponed my trip from November to January despite hearing his condition. I felt that Luangta already knew when he was going to pass away. I was informed that no one was allowed to visit him in his kuti apart from his disciples who were nursing him each day. When Luangta wasn’t too tired, he would go around in his golf cart even though he was on drips and oxygen so every day, many of his lay followers would wait in the sala hoping to see his face. They would gather and form a queue to see him; making cheque donations, cloth offerings and requisites. Upon hearing this, I felt that Luangta was looking to see if there was anyone else he needed to see or expound the Dhamma to before his Parinibbana. It was late January 2011 that I finally booked my flight from Melbourne to visit Luangta via Kuala
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Luangta with his disciple at Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi.
Lumpur as my mother had decided to join me. She could only spend 4 days as Chinese New Year was around the corner but I would however spend a week there with the kind permission of my parents. We arrived in Wat Pa Baan Taad January 26. Together, my mother and I went to Luangta’s kuti to pay our respects. He was actively stretching his legs, waving and pointing his hand around as his attending monks presented cheque donations and other offerings. From his bedside he saw both my mother and myself and acknowledged our presence. Early next morning I went to see him again after the morning alms round. His eyes were covered and he was on drips and oxygen. I didn’t think much of it as he was elderly and it was only normal that he was on pure oxygen in a sterile environment given the condition. Ever since seeing Luangta’s acknowledgement, we never saw him awake again. Deep inside, I felt that if Luangta was unable to preach the Dhamma, it was pointless for him to suffer having his disciples look after him round the clock. The day my mother was due to return to Kuala Lumpur, we were awoken at 3am and told that Luangta was in critical condition. We both quickly got dressed and rushed outside in pitch darkness with our torch lights. The sala was quiet and Luangta’s kuti was heavily guarded as HRH Princess
Giant balloon of Luangta's photo and the Thai flag flying in the sky.
Chulabhorn was there. After waiting quietly for some 15 minutes, we made our way in without any obstacles. There were probably about 100 people in and around his kuti area and veranda. The curtains were drawn open and I was stuck right in front of a column facing his kuti. Despite my height, I could only see his feet and I said to myself, “Luangta, please let me at least see your face for one last time if you are to depart”. My mother and I got separated and despite the small crowd, somehow I ended up right in the middle and was able to see Luangta’s face and his entire body covered from head to toe. From the blood pressure monitor, I knew that news wasn’t good. Having seen his face, I moved back to the corner allowing others to also see him. Many sat quietly in meditation as I did too, to say my farewell as I noted many of his senior disciples were making their way in. Ajahn Phoosit (Chan) Khantitharo (Luangta’s disciple), abbot of Tiger Temple, Kanchanaburi was also there. When I saw Luangpu Li (Luangta’s senior disciple) coming, I knew that Luangta was about to pass away or had just passed away. Tubes and machines were removed and the curtains were drawn open. A short chanting session was held then one of the senior monks opened the window and made the announcement that Luangta had just passed away. The time was 3:53am. As the crowd slowly disperse
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Human-chain clay planting of lotuses into pots for the funeral pyre.
Floral decoration of the giant wooden umbrella that sheltered Luangta's casket at the funeral pyre.
after the monks moved Luangta’s body to another room, I found my mother again. We both edged into Luangta’s kuti veranda facing the room where his body was placed. I bowed and paid my final respect and we both sat there quietly till after 6am. I would always remember that day - January 30, 2011.
and wall fans on the wooden columns. Senior monks used handheld microphones to control the crowd while the army was shoulder-to-shoulder, man-toman. The crowd moved smoothly in 2 single files up the main sala stairs, paid their respects and down the side stairs. Nurses, army, police and helpers were giving out ammonia cotton just in case anyone collapsed or fainted. Before sunset about 5:30pm, a royal ceremony was held to place Luangta’s body into a golden casket where it would be kept in a coffin fridge. Chanting and Dhamma talks were held each night with the first 3 days for royalty to attend. It was then announced that the royal family would oversee Luangta’s funeral and the funeral date was set for March 5, 2011. Luangta’s Parinibbana was to be treated like no other than a royal funeral.
The news spread like wild fire across Thailand and all over the world as Luangta was considered the most honourable and senior in the Thai Kammatthana tradition. He was also one of the last few living disciples of the late Venerable Acariya Ajahn Mun. All the monks continued their daily morning alms round as the crowd flowed into the monastery from all directions. By 10am, my mother was ready to go to the airport as the crowd grew even bigger and the police started road blocks into the monastery. I was stuck outside with my mother’s luggage when Luangta’s body was carried from his kuti to the small sala where hundreds of people rushed to catch a glimpse as my mother was stuck inside with the crowd. After Luangta’s body was carried up to the sala, I found my mother at the police kuti outside the main gate and we went to the airport. When I returned to the monastery, three queues were formed into one to view and pay respect to Luangta’s body. I was utmost fortunate to be able to pay my respect twice by 12:30pm when everything was still very much in chaos. Workers were carpeting the platforms of the sala, hanging curtains, placing white cloth below the roof
Everywhere, the Thai peoples’ generosity could be seen as free food and drink stalls were set up sponsored by individuals, families, temples, businesses and large corporations who are Luangta supporters. The army, police, workers and monks worked round the clock 24/7 as plans for the funeral pyre was finalised. Every day, things changed. Food stalls were moved to the outer gate of the monastery. Information centre and the monks’ registration booth were set up with condolence books. From a quiet forest monastery, sprouted out an “instant” office with the latest technology. Laptops, printing and photocopying machines, laminators, cabinets and work desks all suddenly appeared. Mobile
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Polished scented scandal wood offered to the higher Sangha for cremation, robes and chanting fans.
television stations were set up with huge 8 feet satellites. Wi-Fi mobile vans appeared as did portable ATM machines! Chubb portable safes were placed in Luangta’s kuti as well as the sala. As monks from all over Thailand came to pay their respects, a senior monk would announce who came from which monastery. All considerations were taken to ensure the safety of every person. Ambulance and medical posts were situated at several locations. Even though the monastery gates were open till late, by 11pm the crowd would had gone and the monastery would be quiet again for the residents and monks who were meditating inside. Many people camped out within the temple compound as the police and army kept watch throughout the night. Every day after the evening chanting session, my friends and I would take a walk outside to see the construction of the funeral pyre and what stalls had sprouted out. Later in the night, we would only return to pay our respects to Luangta after the crowd had gone and sit to meditate for a short while before retiring to our kutis inside. On my very last night, I lost my friends but continued my usual routine. It was a cool night and armed with my mobile phone, I took many memorable photos within the outer compound. I felt a true sense of joy and couldn’t help smiling as I was touched by the generosity of the Thai people. All around the world I have seen the generosity of many Buddhist individuals, families and organizations
Monks (and lay people) who attended the funeral cremation.
from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia but none could be compared to Thailand in particular, to Luangta supporters. The generosity was overwhelming. Young and old, the Thai people came with only one intention in mind which was to ensure that everyone had enough food and drinks. Every day they prepared, cooked, made desserts and drinks - all to offer Dana. Children as young as 4 years old would help their parents pour drinks. In the midst of the people preparing and distributing free food and drinks, there were chatter, laughter and joy. It was just like another one of Luangta’s “Gold bar offerings to the National Treasury” celebrations. He was very much there even though he had just passed away. I felt extremely humbled by the actions of these Thai people even though I had seen this in many of Luangta’s ceremonies before. The magnitude of this act of generosity cannot be found in any country in the world where services were offered freely for over 8 weeks duration. I later went up to sit in the sala to pay my respect to Luangta; to thank him for allowing me witness this very humble event and also, for allowing my mother and I to be so close to him in his kuti area when he attained Parinibbana despite us being foreigners who lived so far away from him yet, we were there. I could not in my strangest mind think that I could be given such an opportunity to farewell an honourable monk who had such a strong impact in the hearts of many individuals. Upon my return to Kuala Lumpur, it was decided that I would return again to Wat Pa
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
HM Queen Sirikit paying her final respect to Luangta Maha Boowa on cremation day.
Baan Taad to attend Luangta’s funeral cremation. Luangta had showed me many things despite our language barrier. I spoke to him from my heart more than I did meditate but somehow, things just fell into place and there were no obstacles at all. No sound just thoughts from the heart. I always felt safe. I spent a total of 10 days prior to and after the funeral when the crowd had left. I made myself useful and carried drinks from the free stalls for the helpers, local television crew and monks who were stuck inside working tirelessly each day coming up to the funeral. I felt extremely lucky to have also secured a sleeping place in the foreigner’s kuti together with my mother who came last minute from Melbourne. We made offerings every day to the senior monks on behalf of our families and friends from Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Toronto and Washington DC. It was indeed a very humbling experience to meet all the senior monks of the Thai forest tradition who had gathered for Luangta’s funeral. Sponsored tram-like buses ferried people around; from the car park to the food stalls to the inner gate of the monastery every 15 minutes. Huge hot air balloons with Luangta’s photo and the Thai flag was flown in 4 different locations and helicopters were flown capturing the crowd from an aerial view. It was remarkable. Everyone worked in unison from helping to plant the lotuses in huge pots in a humanchain like manner, to polishing scented sandal wood that was cut to size to be used for cremation. The
hours spent making the floral decorations for the enormous wooden umbrella and the funeral pyre that sheltered Luangta’s casket the night before cremation were incredible. Every single detail was captured as everyone helped out in some form or another. Live footage was telecast on the television, radio, newspapers and internet all across Thailand as well as abroad. People from all walks of life came to see and every single hotel and guest house was booked out. People just camped wherever there was a spot to sleep. An estimation of over 10,000 monks of the Thai Theravada tradition from all over Thailand and the world came together with over 1.5 million lay people who witnessed the funeral cremation. Under royal patronage, HM Queen Sirikit flew in and led the ceremony along with her youngest daughter, HRH Princess Chulabhorn, her family and many VIPs which included dignitaries, ministers, politicians, tycoons, foreigners, general public and the media. After the funeral pyre was lit, many sat to watch, meditate and many amazing photos were captured. It was well past midnight when the fire died down and my mother and I went back to retire. Luangta’s Parinibbana had signalled the end of another era. Today, Wat Pa Baan Taad continues to be a monastery for many of his disciples and lay residents who practised under him. Many of Venerable Luangta Maha Boowa’s relics which had already been crystallised are for view in the sala together with the relics of the Buddha, Acariya Sao Kantasilo,
Feature | The Parinibbana of Venerable Acariya Maha Boowa Ñanasampanno
Prayer and Remembrance:
Funeral pyre after cremation day.
Raymond with a dancer from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts, Bhutan, during the Global Buddhist Congregation in Delhi, India.
Luangta's (tooth) relic in his kuti.
Acariya Mun Bhuridatta and fellow Acariya disciples. The kuti which Luangta dwelled in is also available for view. Accommodations that I recommend for large to small groups, pilgrims and individuals: In Bangkok, Silom (private en suites and dormitories of 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 beds) - also for India pilgrims to Gaya and Varanasi: 1. Saphaipae Hostel (http://www.saphaipae. com) from THB300/pax/bunk. Attn: Nat, Ref: SK. In Udon Thani (private en suites): 1. Much Che Manta Boutique Hotel (http://muchchemanta.com). Attn: Jenny, Ref: SK. 2. Siri Grand Hotel Udon Thani (Mandarin speaking). Attn: Mr Chew (Khun Siri), Ref: Lee. Tel: +66-4232-4514 (6 lines, last digit 4-9) Photos via agent: http://www.hotelclub.com/ Siri-Grand-Hotel-Udon-Thani/photos EH
Raymond Lam is a writer and journalist at Tung Lin Kok Yuen Wang Fat Ching She (WFCS), Hong Kong. He writes for WFCS’s Buddhistdoor website as well as activist magazines in London. He was initiated as an upāsaka at Guan Yin Temple in Hong Kong and holds the Dharma name ㋴ He divides his time between the UK, Australia and Asia. -----------------------------------------------------------------I had the privilege to attend the Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC) in Delhi in November, 2011 which concluded with a memorial to Gandhi before the Martyr’s Column on the 30th. The ceremony of prayer and chanting weaved together Gandhi’s struggle and Indian pride in the spiritual Indic traditions. The result was a tapestry that unveiled Buddhism’s bright, hopeful future with all traditions united with one voice, in spite of any institutional politics. With the three Vehicles represented in traditional Asia, the West and other locations as far-flung as Jamaica, Argentina and Uganda, this hope may just turn to be possible. Eminent, awe-inspiring masters conducted the remembrance at the Martyr’s Column. It was an intensely public event because remembrance is often stronger when it is summoned collectively. But one cannot forget the intensely personal dimension of what it means to “remember,” to “call to memory,” to
Feature | Prayer and Remembrance: Being Mindful in the Presence of the Buddha
Being Mindful in the Presence of the Buddha by Raymond Lam
Attending the World Buddhist Congregation Dinner hosted by Asoka Mission for over 1,000 participants from over 40 countries.
The best of regional Indian cuisine served to all the guests of the World Buddhist Congregation organized by the Asoka Mission of India.
“keep a memory of.” Two crucial words in Buddhism are smṛti (remembering) and buddhasmṛti (mindfulness of the Buddha), the latter of which has been built into a central practice of Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia (nian fo, ᗉԯ). One of the most important realities about human life is that prayer, memory and meditation are not for creating something “new.” They are made to talk to and about something, someone, who is already there and will always be there. Prayer is a word not often used in Buddhist discourse, but to express devotion to the Buddha is in itself a prayer because it invokes someone present. It prompts a sentient being to participate in buddhasmṛti. W. H. Auden said, “To pray is to pay attention to something or someone other than oneself. Whenever a man so concentrates his attention… that he completely forgets his own ego and desires, he is praying.” That idea about prayer expresses mindfulness tremendously well to me: being in the Buddha’s presence means to be so watchful that the false ego is not grasped at so strongly anymore. Our preceptors remind us to be sharply aware and mindful of the present moment. But one needs to make the time to step back and prostrate before that ineffable, compassionate Sage. In the bustle of everyday life, it can be easy to miss the Buddha’s loving gaze. When we shout, scream or throw a tantrum because we are suffocated by ego, Thich Nhat Hanh urges us to simply push pause, and remember. He advises us to bear in mind the present moment, consider who we might be hurting through anger, and recall that our rage and greed drown out the
The panel on Women in Buddhism was easily one of the most energetic, productive and wellattended forums during the World Buddhist Congregation.
Buddha’s voice inside each of our hearts. Some of my favorite passages from Thay come from his wonderful pocketbook The Energy of Prayer, which I’ve shared many times elsewhere: “All Buddhists have their own experience and their own perceptions of the deeper nature of the Buddha… The Buddha is not just someone sitting on an altar, but someone familiar. Seeing someone is not the same as knowing them. Although none of us were alive in the time of the Buddha, we can know him better than someone who was alive at that time… Buddha is right here; we don’t have to go to the Vulture Peak. We are not deceived by mere outer appearances. For me, Buddha is not just a form or a name, Buddha is a reality. I live with the Buddha every day. When eating, I sit with the Buddha. When I walk, I walk with the Buddha. And while I’m giving a Dharma talk, I’m also living with the Buddha.” (2006: 66 – 67). Prayer is not only a chant to the Buddha, but also a conversation with him. It is to be part of his compassion and wisdom. This is a devotion that all Dharma brothers and sisters of every tradition share. From a Buddhist perspective, therefore, the truly meaningful moment has got to be a moment that is acknowledged mindfully. It has to be a period of time in which your brain is absolutely oriented toward one thing in meditation, or one Person in buddhasmṛti. Much like a heartbreaking film or a riveting book that captures our undivided attention, to pray and to invoke means to enjoy a sharp, attentive, beloved intimacy with our best friend. EH FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!3:
Teachings | Right View - the Place of Coolness
Right View -
the Place of Coolness1 by Ajahn Chah (1918-1992)
Every year during the week leading up to the anniversary of Ajahn Chah’s death on 16 January, there is a great gathering at his monastery, Wat Nong Pah Pong, in north-east Thailand when many of his disciples come together for six days of Dhamma practice. In Malaysia, the Ajahn Chah Remembrance Day is a special day devoted to the legacy of dhamma talks, students, and monasteries left behind by Ajahn Chah. The third Ajahn Chah Remembrance Day in Malaysia, is especially significant as it marks the 20th anniversary of this great monk’s passing. The two-day event was held on December 17-18, 2011 at the Yuk Chai Chinese Primary School in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Programs included Dhamma talks by Ajahn Chah’s disciples and pindapata in the morning. The practice of Dhamma goes against our habits, the truth goes against our desires, so there is difficulty in the practice. Some things which we understand as wrong may be right, while the things we take to be right may be wrong. Why is this? Because our minds are in darkness, we don’t clearly see the Truth. We don’t really know anything and so are fooled by people’s lies. They point out what is right as being wrong and we believe it; that which is wrong, they say is right, and we believe that. This is because we are not yet our own masters. Our moods lie to us constantly. We shouldn’t take this mind and its opinions as our guide, because it doesn’t know the truth. Some people don’t want to listen to others at all, but this is not the way of a man of wisdom. A wise man listens to everything. One who listens to Dhamma must listen just the same, whether he likes it or not, and not blindly believe or disbelieve. He must stay at the half-way mark, the middle point, and not be heedless. He just listens and then contemplates, giving rise to the right results accordingly. A wise man should contemplate and see the cause and effect for himself before he believes what he
hears. Even if the teacher speaks the truth, don’t just believe it, because you don’t yet know the truth of it for yourself. It’s the same for all of us, including myself. I’ve practised before you, I’ve seen many lies before. For instance, ‘’This practice is really difficult, really hard.’’ Why is the practice difficult? It’s just because we think wrongly, we have wrong view. Previously I lived together with other monks, but I didn’t feel right. I ran away to the forests and mountains, fleeing the crowd, the monks and novices. I thought that they weren’t like me, they didn’t practise as hard as I did. They were sloppy. That person was like this, this person was like that. This was something that really put me in turmoil, it was the cause for my continually running away. But whether I lived alone or with others, I still had no peace. On my own I wasn’t content, in a large group I wasn’t content. I thought this discontent was due to my companions, due to my moods, due to my living place, the food, the weather, due to this and that. I was constantly searching for something to suit my mind.
Teachings | Right View - the Place of Coolness
As a dhutanga2 monk, I went travelling, but things still weren’t right. So I contemplated, ‘’What can I do to make things right? What can I do?’’ Living with a lot of people I was dissatisfied, with few people I was dissatisfied. For what reason? I just couldn’t see it. Why was I dissatisfied? Because I had wrong view, just that; because I still clung to the wrong Dhamma. Wherever I went I was discontent, thinking, ‘’Here is no good, there is no good...’’ on and on like that. I blamed others. I blamed the weather, heat and cold, I blamed everything! Just like a mad dog. It bites whatever it meets, because it’s mad. When the mind is like this our practice is never settled. Today we feel good, tomorrow no good. It’s like that all the time. We don’t attain contentment or peace. The Buddha once saw a jackal, a wild dog, run out of the forest where he was staying. It stood still for a while, then it ran into the underbrush, and then out again. Then it ran into a tree hollow, then out again. Then it went into a cave, only to run out again. One minute it stood, the next it ran, then it lay down, then it jumped up. That jackal had mange. When it stood the mange would eat into its skin, so it would run. Running it was still uncomfortable, so it would stop. Standing was still uncomfortable, so it would lie down. Then it would jump up again, running into the underbrush, the tree hollow, never staying still. The Buddha said, ‘’Monks, did you see that jackal this afternoon? Standing it suffered, running it suffered, sitting it suffered, lying down it suffered. In the underbrush, a tree hollow or a cave, it suffered. It blamed standing for its discomfort, it blamed sitting, it blamed running and lying down; it blamed the tree, the underbrush and the cave. In fact the problem was with none of those things. That jackal had mange. The problem was with the mange.’’ We monks are just the same as that jackal. Our discontent is due to wrong view. Because we don’t exercise sense restraint we blame our suffering on externals. Whether we live at Wat Pah Pong, in
America or in London we aren’t satisfied. Going to live at Bung Wai or any of the other branch monasteries we’re still not satisfied. Why not? Because we still have wrong view within us. Wherever we go we aren’t content. But just as that dog, if the mange is cured, is content wherever it goes, so it is for us. I reflect on this often, and I teach you this often, because it’s very important. If we know the truth of our various moods we arrive at contentment. Whether it’s hot or cold we are satisfied, with many people or with few people we are satisfied. Contentment doesn’t depend on how many people we are with, it comes only from right view. If we have right view then wherever we stay we are content. But most of us have wrong view. It’s just like a maggot - a maggot’s living place is filthy, its food is filthy...but they suit the maggot. If you take a stick and brush it away from its lump of dung, it’ll struggle to crawl back in. It’s the same when the Ajahn teaches us to see rightly. We resist, it makes us feel uneasy. We run back to our ‘lump of dung’ because that’s where we feel at home. We’re all like this. If we don’t see the harmful consequences of all our wrong views then we can’t leave them, the practice is difficult. So we should listen. There’s nothing else to the practice. If we have right view wherever we go we are content. I have practised and seen this already. These days there are many monks, novices and lay people coming to see me. If I still didn’t know, if I still had wrong view, I’d be dead by now! The right abiding place for monks, the place of coolness, is just right view itself. We shouldn’t look for anything else. So even though you may be unhappy it doesn’t matter, that unhappiness is uncertain. Is that unhappiness your ‘self? Is there any substance
Teachings | Right View - the Place of Coolness
to it? Is it real? I don’t see it as being real at all. Unhappiness is merely a flash of feeling which appears and then is gone. Happiness is the same. Is there a consistency to happiness? Is it truly an entity? It’s simply a feeling that flashes suddenly and is gone. There! It’s born and then it dies. Love just flashes up for a moment and then disappears. Where is the consistency in love, or hate, or resentment? In truth there is no substantial entity there, they are merely impressions which flare up in the mind and then die. They deceive us constantly, we find no certainty anywhere. Just as the Buddha said, when unhappiness arises it stays for a while, then disappears. When unhappiness disappears, happiness arises and lingers for a while and then dies. When happiness disappears, unhappiness arises again...on and on like this. In the end we can say only this - apart from the birth, the life and the death of suffering, there is nothing. There is just this. But we who are ignorant run and grab it constantly. We never see the truth of it, that there’s simply this continual change. If we understand this then we don’t need to think very much, but we have much wisdom. If we don’t know it, then we will have more thinking than wisdom and maybe no wisdom at all! It’s not until we truly see the harmful results of our actions that we can give them up. Likewise, it’s not until we see the real benefits of practice that we can follow it, and begin working to make the mind ‘good’. If we cut a log of wood and throw it into the river, and that log doesn’t sink or rot, or run aground on either of the banks of the river, that log will definitely reach the sea. Our practice is comparable to this. If you practise according to the path laid down by the Buddha, following it straightly, you will transcend two things. What two things? Just those two extremes that the Buddha said were not the path of a true meditator - indulgence in pleasure and
indulgence in pain. These are the two banks of the river. One of the banks of that river is hate, the other is love. Or you can say that one bank is happiness, the other unhappiness. The ‘log’ is this mind. As it ‘flows down the river’ it will experience happiness and unhappiness. If the mind doesn’t cling to that happiness or unhappiness it will reach the ‘ocean’ of Nibbāna. You should see that there is nothing other than happiness and unhappiness arising and disappearing. If you don’t ‘run aground’ on these things then you are on the path of a true meditator. This is the teaching of the Buddha. Happiness, unhappiness, love and hate are simply established in nature according to the constant law of nature. The wise person doesn’t follow or encourage them, he doesn’t cling to them. This is the mind which lets go of indulgence in pleasure and indulgence in pain. It is the right practice. Just as that log of wood will eventually flow to the sea, so will the mind which doesn’t attach to these two extremes inevitably attain peace.
Footnotes ...1 Given to the assembly of monks and novices at Wat Pah Nanachat, during the rains retreat, 1978 ...dhutanga2 Dhutanga, properly means ‘ascetic’. A dhutanga monk is one who keeps some of the thirteen ascetic practices allowed by the Buddha. Dhutanga monks traditionally spend time travelling (often on foot) in search of quiet places for meditation, other teachers, or simply as a practice in itself.
Teachings Teac Te achi hing ngss | Ri Rig Right ght Vi gh V View iew ew - tthe he P he Pla Place lace la ce o off Co Cool Coolness o ness ol ne ess
Biogra Biography Biog raph ph p hy of A Ajahn jahn ja h C hn Chah hah ha h (1 ((1918-1992) 191 188 19 1992) Venerable V Ve nera ne rabl blle Ajahn Ajjah hn Chah (Phra Bodhiñāna Bod odhi hiñ ñāna na Thera) The heraa) was waas born b rn into bo iint nto o a typical typi ty picca cal farming farm fa rmiin rm ing ing family fami fa m lyy in in a rural ru village in thee province provinc ncee of Ubon Ubo bon n Rachathani, R ch Ra chat atha hani ni,, N.E. N.E. E. Thailand, Tha haillan nd,, on on June Ju une 17, 1918. first part 17, 19 1918 18 8. He lived d the h fir rst p par artt of his his life liffe as as any any ny other oth ther er youngster yyo oung ou ngstter ngst er in in rural rura ru rall Thailand, ra Th hai aila l nd la n , and, a d, following an f tthe he custom, ccus usto tom, m took ordination ordinaation on n as as a novice no ovi v ce in in the th he local lo oca call village v lllagge vi monastery learned and write, addition monaast ster eryy for for three thre th r e of years, yearss, where wher wh eree hee llea earn rned ed tto o re rread ead aan nd w r te ri te,, in aadd ddit dd itio it ion io n to some b basic assic Buddhist Bud B uddh dh hisst teachings. teaac te ach ching ngs. s. After Aft f err a number num umbe b r of years be years yea eaars r he he returned reetu turn rn ned to to the th he lay lay lifee to to help help he p his his parents, par areents, but, bu ut, feeling ffee eelilin ng an ng an attraction attrrac at acti tion on to to the th he monastic m na mo nast stic st ic life, llif i e, at if at the t e age th age off twenty 1939) again monastery, tween ntty (o (on April 26, 19 939 39)) he he aaga gain ga in eentered nterred a m nt mon on nas a te tery r , this ry this time tim me for fo or higher h gh hi gher eerr ordination orrdi o dina nati na t on as a bhikkhu, or ti or Buddhist Budd Budd Bu ddhi hist hi stt monk. mon m onk. on k. He off hi his He sspent peent the first few years p yeears rs o h iss bhikkhu b ik bh ikkh kkh hu life life studying stu t dyyin ingg some s me so m basic bas asic ic Dhamma, Dha Dha hamm mma, a, discipline, disc di scip ipliline nee, Pali P li language Pa laan ngu uage and scriptures, scripturees, but but the t e death th deeat a h of o his hiss father ffat athe at herr awakened he awak aw aken ak en ned d him him to to the the transience tran nsi sieence of of life. lilife fe.. Itt caused fe caused him to think ca thi hink n deeply dee d eepl plyy about pl ab bou outt life’s lil fe f ’ss real rea reeaal purpose, purp pu rp pos ose, e, for for although alt ltho houg u h he had had sstudied st udieed extensively exxte tens nsiv ivvel elyy and an nd gained g ined ga ed d some som omee proficiency prof pr ofic of iccie ienc ncyy in nc n Pali, Pal a i,i, he he seemed seeem seem emed ed d no no nearer near ne arer er to to a personal pers pe rson o al understanding to find u un ders rsta tand din ingg of the the end end n of of suffering. su uff ffer erin ing. in g. Feelings FFee eeliling ngss off disenchantment dis diseench enchan antm tmen entt set set in, in and a d a desire an de essence off th Buddha’s the real th al eess s en ence ce o thee Bu Budd ddha dd ha’ss teaching ttea each chin ingg arose. aros ar ose. e Finally Fin inal ally ly (in 1946) 194 9 6)) he abandoned aban ab ando doned his studies and an d set off off on o mendicant men e di dica cant ca nt pilgrimage. pililgr p grim imag age. He He walked w lk wa lked ed some ssom omee 400 400 km to to Central Cent Ce ntraal Thailand, sleeping in forests almsfood fore fo rest s s and d gathering gaath ther erin ing al lms msfo food od in in the the villages villllag vi ages es on o the way. He took up residence in a monastery where vinaya (monastic wher re th thee vi vina naya ya ((mo mona nast stic ic discipline) dis disci cipl plin ine) e) was was a carefully studied and practiced. While there ther he was Master. Keen told about Venerable Ven e er erab able le Ajahn Mun Bhuridatto, a most highly respected Meditation M to meet such an accomplished teacher, Ajahn Chah set off on foot for the Northeast in search of him. He began to travel to other monasteries, monaste i studying the monastic discipline in detail and spending a short but enlightening enlighteni period with Venerable Ajahn Mun, the most outstanding Thai forest meditation meditatio master of this century. At this time Ajahn Chah was wrestling with a crucial problem. He had studied the teachings on morality, meditation and wisdom, which the texts pr b presented in minute and refined detail, but he could not see how they could actually be put into practice. Ajahn Mun told him that although the teachings are indeed extensive, at their heart they are very simple. With mindfulness established, if it is seen that everything arises in the heart-mind: right there is the true path of practice. This succinct and direct teaching was a revelation for Ajahn Chah, and transformed his approach to practice. The Way was clear. For the next seven years Ajahn Chah practiced in the style of an ascetic monk in the austere Forest Tradition, spending his time in forests, caves and cremation grounds, ideal places for developing meditation practice. He wandered through the countryside in quest of quiet and secluded places for developing meditation. He lived in tiger and cobra infested jungles, using reflections on death to penetrate to the true meaning of life. On one occasion he practiced in a cremation ground, to challenge and eventually overcome his fear of death. Then, as he sat cold and drenched in a rainstorm, he faced the utter desolation and loneliness of a homeless monk.
Ajahn Chah visiting his Western disciples in the UK
After many years of travel and practice, he was invited to settle in a thick forest grove near the village of his birth. This grove was uninhabited, known as a place of cobras, tigers and ghosts, thus being as he said, the perfect
Teachings | Right View - the Place of Coolness
location for a forest monk. Venerable Ajahn Chah’s impeccable approach to meditation, or Dhamma practice, and his simple, direct style of teaching, with the emphasis on practical application and a balanced attitude, began to attract a large following of monks and lay people. Thus a large monastery formed around Ajahn Chah as more and more monks, nuns and lay-people came to hear his teachings and stay on to practice with him. Ajahn Chah’s simple yet profound style of teaching has a special appeal to Westerners, and many have come to study and practice with him, quite a few for many years. In 1966 the first westerner came to stay at Wat Nong Pah Pong, Venerable Sumedho Bhikkhu. The newly ordained Venerable Sumedho had just spent his first vassa (‘Rains’ retreat) practicing intensive meditation at a monastery near the Laotian border. Although his efforts had borne some fruit, Venerable Sumedho realized that he needed a teacher who could train him in all aspects of monastic life. By chance, one of Ajahn Chah’s monks, one who happened to speak a little English visited the monastery where Venerable Sumedho was staying. Upon hearing about Ajahn Chah, he asked to take leave of his preceptor, and went back to Wat Nong Pah Pong with the monk. Ajahn Chah willingly accepted the new disciple, but insisted that he receive no special allowances for being a Westerner. He would have to eat the same simple almsfood and practice in the same way as any other monk at Wat Nong Pah Pong. The training there was quite harsh and forbidding. Ajahn Chah often pushed his monks to their limits, to test their powers of endurance so that they would develop patience and resolution. He sometimes initiated long and seemingly pointless work projects, in order to frustrate their attachment to tranquility. The emphasis was always on surrender to the way things are, and great stress was placed upon strict observance of the vinaya. From that time on, the number of foreign people who came to Ajahn Chah began to steadily increase. By the time Venerable Sumedho was a monk of five vassas, and Ajahn Chah considered him competent enough to teach, some of these new monks had also decided to stay on and train there. In the hot season of 1975, Venerable Sumedho and a handful of Western bhikkhus spent some time living in a forest not far from Wat Nong Pah Pong. The local villagers there asked them to stay on, and Ajahn Chah consented. Thus Wat Pah Nanachat (‘International Forest Monastery’) came into being, and Venerable Sumedho became the abbot of the first monastery in Thailand to be run by and for English-speaking monks. In 1977, Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho were invited to visit Britain by the English Sangha Trust, a charity with the aim of establishing a locally-resident Buddhist Sangha. Seeing the serious interest there, Ajahn Chah left Ajahn Sumedho (with two of his other Western disciples who were then visiting Europe) in London at the Hampstead Vihara. He returned to Britain in 1979, at which time the monks were leaving London to begin Chithurst Buddhist Monastery in Sussex. He then went on to America and Canada to visit and teach. In 1980 Venerable Ajahn Chah began to feel more accutely the symptoms of dizziness and memory lapse which had plagued him for some years. In 1980 and 1981, Ajahn Chah spent the ‘rains retreat’ away from Wat Nong Pah Pong, since his health was failing due to the debilitating effects of diabetes. As his illness worsened, he would use his body as a teaching, a
Teachings | Right View - the Place of Coolness
living example of the impermanence of all things. He constantly reminded people to endeavor to find a true refuge within themselves, since he would not be able to teach for very much longer. This led to an operation in 1981, which, however, failed to reverse the onset of the paralysis which eventually rendered him completely bedridden and unable to speak. This did not stop the growth of monks and lay people who came to practise at his monastery, however, for whom the teachings of Ajahn Chah were a constant guide Senior disciples of Ajahn Chah at Wat Pah Santidhamma and inspiration. After remaining bedridden and silent for an amazing ten years, carefully tended by his monks and novices, Venerable Ajahn Chah passed away on the 16th of January, 1992, at the age of 74, leaving behind a thriving community of monasteries and lay suporters in Thailand, England, Switzerland, Italy, France, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S.A, where the practise of the Buddhaâ€™s teachings continues under the inspiration of this great meditation teacher. Although Ajahn Chah passed away in 1992, the training which he established is still carried on at Wat Nong Pah Pong and its branch monasteries, of which there are currently more than two hundred in Thailand. Discipline is strict, enabling one to lead a simple and pure life in a harmoniously regulated community where virtue, meditation and understanding may be skillfully and continuously cultivated. There is usually group meditation twice a day and sometimes a talk by the senior teacher, but the heart of the meditation is the way of life. The monastics do manual work, dye and sew their own robes, make most of their own requisites and keep the monastery buildings and grounds in immaculate shape. They live extremely simply following the ascetic precepts of eating once a day from the almsbowl and limiting their possessions and robes. Scattered throughout the forest are individual huts where monks and nuns live and meditate in solitude, and where they practice walking meditation on cleared paths under the trees. Wisdom is a way of living and being, and Ajahn Chah has endeavored to preserve the simple monastic life-style in order that people may study and practice the Dhamma in the present day. Ajahn Chahâ€™s wonderfully simple style of teaching can be deceptive. It is often only after we have heard something many times that suddenly our minds are ripe and somehow the teaching takes on a much deeper meaning. His skillful means in tailoring his explanations of Dhamma to time and place, and to the understanding and sensitivity of his audience, was marvelous to see. Sometimes on paper though, it can make him seem inconsistent or even self-contradictory! At such times the reader should remember that these words are a record of a living experience. Similarly, if the teachings may seem to vary at times from tradition, it should be borne in mind that the Venerable Ajahn spoke always from the heart, from the depths of his own meditative experience. EH FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!45
Teachings | Dana & Caga
Dana & Caga Is giving necessarily generosity? by Ven Kumara Bhikkhu
An edited transcript of a talk given at Taiping Buddhist Society, Perak, on November 4, 2006. Āyasmā Kumāra was ordained in 1999 at the age of 27 by Sayādaw U Revata at Subang Jaya Buddhist Association. Currently, he resides in Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (www. sasanarakkha.org), Taiping, where he learns from Āyasmā Aggacitta and acts as his personal assistant. The venerable graduated with a bachelor degree in education (Teaching English as a Second Language) from the University of Malaya. It was during his studies there that he became enthusiastic about the Buddha’s teachings and decided that he wanted to live this life as a monk. Since then, with his training in education, he has been sharing the Dhamma in various ways and in several languages (mainly English, Mandarin and Hokkien) with Buddhists of various traditions and non-Buddhists too. Inspired by his main meditation teacher, Sayādaw U Tejaniya, Āyasmā Kumāra has been especially interested in spiritual teachings that show how to cultivate wisdom that removes the causes of suffering. Influenced by Āyasmā Aggacitta Mahāthera, he is open to Dhamma teachings beyond orthodoxy and tradition, so long as they work towards the ending of suffering. Having discovered happiness through this, he is happy to help others do so too.
As most of you probably know, dana is a Pali word meaning ‘giving’ or ‘gift’. Some extend it to mean ‘generosity’ as well. While this is somewhat commonly accepted, how safely can we assume that giving is necessarily an act of generosity? We should bear in mind that ‘generosity’ in Pali is not dana, but caga. Giving (or dana) per se can be done with or without generosity. Let me explain.
Non-generous Giving While giving is generally regarded as a good deed, it can also be motivated by an unwholesome intention, which the doer may not be fully aware of. Here are four unwholesome states from which a motivation to give can arise.
Greed A person may give with the hope of getting something in return. An example would be bribing to get a business deal or a government contract. In the Buddhist world, greed-motivated giving happens too, though we may not see it as unethical. We can call it ‘kammic investment’, giving to gain merits for future benefit. Is that bad? No, it’s not. It is just as it is: greed-motivated giving, which shall bear results accordingly. I wish I could talk about this without making some people feel uncomfortable, but I really don’t know how. At any rate, I think it’s important to be aware of this.
Teachings | Dana & Caga
This greed-motivated giving probably still has its merits nonetheless. Yet, we can’t say that it’s generous when it’s motivated by greed. Whether we like to admit it or not, such giving is done out of the giver’s desire to gain future enjoyment for oneself. Some people also believe that the merits of giving can bring about rebirth in heaven. But is that true? I’ll get to that later. One problem with such giving is that the giver’s desire tends to blind him from considering the receiving end. Does the recipient want that gift? Is it suitable for the recipient? This desire can sometimes be so strong that the giver forces the recipient to accept the gift. I once witnessed a monk insisting that an elder monk accept a pair of socks. After repeated attempts to decline politely, the elder monk gave in to the demand apparently just to avoid prolonging the spectacle. Another monk told me of an experience while collecting alms. When he saw a man coming with money in his hand, he quickly closed his bowl. So, what did the man do? He promptly pried the lid open and threw the money in! In these cases, we can immediately recognise them as wrong, as there was resistance from the unwilling recipient. Off times, the recipient simply resigns to the wish of the giver. Or else, he may be regarded as being ‘choosy’, ‘uncompassionate’, or simply ‘not giving face’. For example, people often give monks more robes than they can possibly wear, such as during a kathina ceremony. Are these acts of generosity? (This may not be motivated by greed though, as one may be simply following a tradition blindly. In that way, it’s more of delusion.) Why do we give things that others don’t want, or that are unsuitable for them? What kammic results can be expected of such giving? Such questions are worth pondering upon.
Offering Food to the Buddha who was on alms round (Thai painting)
Aversion Can we give out of anger or aversion? Why not? Let’s say, two parties fight over something. Then one gets really sick of it and gives up, saying, “Okay, you take it! Take it! I don’t want it anymore!” Is that giving? It still is. But is it generosity? I wouldn’t think so. It’s more likely that it is done out of anger, isn’t it? Another example is when a smelly, dirty beggar comes to beg for alms while you’re enjoying your meal with your partner at a hawker centre. You resent having your enjoyment interrupted and promptly give him some money to get rid of him as soon as possible. To give you another example, some parents give in to their children’s pestering, even though what they ask for is mentally or physically unhealthy. Instead of doing the right thing, which is to educate or explain to the child, many parents often give in simply because they want to avoid feeling annoyed. Are these acts of giving? Sure. Generosity? Not really. They are done out of aversion.
Delusion Giving out of delusion mainly occurs among victims of swindlers, manipulators and exploiters. You’ve probably heard of people who donate large sums of money with the aim of being empowered to gain great riches. I wonder how many of them got their wish. One may also be charmed into giving
Teachings | Dana & Caga
to some religious person (preferably one who is believed to be an arahant with psychic powers), or for some religious project (like building a multi-million dollar tooth-relic temple), can somehow neutralize their immoral actions and thus prevent them from having to face the consequences they fear. These acts of giving are not done out of generosity, but fear.
Venerable K Dhammaratana distributing sweets to children from welfare homes during the Caring and Sharing program during Wesak.
large sums of money to obtain ‘magic stones’ that are supposed to possess miraculous powers. More professional charmers don’t even have to give anything in return. The victim is simply tricked into giving. Then there are also temple gimmicks, such as having people throw money into alms-bowls labelled with words like “Prosperity”, “Health” and “Love”, or having them put money into donation boxes in the shape of alms bowls held by Buddha images. Of course, it is still possible to give out of generosity despite the delusive forms, but would it not be likely that many may be influenced to give out of delusion? Please note that I’m not saying that such giving is not meritorious. Rather, I’d like to encourage you to check the underlying moral intentions, which is what kamma is about ultimately.
Fear People also often give when they feel compelled to, out of fear that something bad will happen to them if they don’t; for example, when threatened by an extortionist, or when they ‘donate’ to police officers to avoid being punished for doing something illegal. Besides that, some Buddhists and followers of other faiths, particularly those involved in wrong livelihood, also give out of fear of being reborn in hell or other lower realms of existence. They hope that their giving
This brings us back to what I mentioned earlier on the belief that giving can bring about rebirth in heaven. Can dana or giving reward us with long life, beauty and great happiness in the human world or even among the heavens? Can we, so to speak, ‘bribe’ the law of kamma? (Think for a moment before you read on.) The Buddha says yes. However, he adds that this is true “only for the virtuous, not for the unvirtuous; for it is due to his purity that the heart’s desire of the virtuous succeeds.” (Danupapatti Sutta, AN 8:35) Giving is of course a good deed and can bring about good results. Depending on the nature of the gifts, giving can bring about long life, beauty, happiness, strength, good repute, intelligence, etc. (AN 5:31, 5:37) However if you wish for a happy rebirth, even if it’s just in the human realm, it’s your morality or virtue—rather than your giving—that can give rise to that. So, remember that while giving, especially giving to virtuous people, is beneficial to you, it’s even more important to be heedful of your virtue, the least being the Five Precepts though preferably more than that. What happens then to those who give a lot— perhaps even to highly virtuous people—but are themselves heedless in virtue, committing all sorts of unwholesome deeds? In Janussoni Sutta (AN 10:177), the Buddha says that such a person may obtain the reward of being an animal that leads a comfortable life, such as a royal horse. A more common example in our modern day is a beloved pet dog of a wealthy person.
Teachings | Dana & Caga
By pointing out this, I hope those who are going by that wrong idea would realise that they are on the wrong track. Giving is good, but to have a happier future, you also have to be good. If all that I’ve said to this point may be a bit depressing for some of you, let me cheer you up a little.
Generous giving The good news is that if we can give motivated by good states of mind, the benefit is so much greater than just plain giving. You’ve probably done this many times; such as the times when someone asked you for something and you gladly gave; or when you saw someone in need, you considered how you could help and you did, thereby uplifting his well-being. When you gave with such pure intentions, how did you feel? Was there a sense of joy? Did you feel somewhat uplifted? That’s what we get—immediately—when we give purely for the benefit of the recipient with a generous heart. Moreover, according to Sappurisa Dana Sutta (AN 5:148), when one gives with a compassionate heart, meaning out of genuine desire for the recipient’s welfare, then besides becoming wealthy when the giving bears results, excellent is the five cords of sense pleasures his mind is inclined to enjoy. In other words, when one gives without that good state of mind, one can still become rich, but would not be inclined to enjoy the wealth fully. Perhaps you know of certain people who are very wealthy, yet can’t bring themselves to fully enjoy their wealth. Their family members might help them in that department though. So, instead of just doing plain dana, why not be accomplished in generosity (cagasampada)? This is one of the four accomplishments that the Buddha repeatedly spoke about to lay people: What is being accomplished in generosity? Here, a family man dwells at home with a mind free from the stain of stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delight in relinquishing, responsive to requests, delight in giving and sharing. This is called being accomplished in generosity. (AN 4:61, 8:49, 54, 76)
Tzu Chi Buddhist relief efforts in Haiti
In simpler words, it means just being happy to give. This kind of giving is one that is motivated by pure intentions: no greed, no anger, no delusion, no fear. Therefore, it feels good, it feels light, it feels right. It’s the best way to give. By being genuinely generous, by being accomplished in generosity, you can then be truly regarded as a master of giving (danapati). While plain dana can be meritorious, dana that is motivated by caga (generosity) is so much greater. If you wish to do dana as a parami for the attainment of enlightenment and Nibbana, then this is the kind of dana that you want to do, because this is the kind of dana that relinquishes, and thus helpful to the attainment of Nibbana, the complete ending of suffering. So basically there are two kinds of giving: one that binds you, and one that frees you. Which kind would you want to do?
Conclusion Hope you see what I’m trying to point out, that is, giving is not necessarily an act of generosity. It’s not even necessarily done out of good intentions. Having generosity however means that you are prompted to give for the benefit of the recipient, not your own; and that’s the kind of giving that is truly beneficial to both the giver and the recipient. May you be accomplished in generosity for the benefit of the many, including yourself, and so that it conduces to your ultimate freedom. EH FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!4:
Feature | DAGPO SHEDRUP LING
DAGPO SHEDRUP LING The Monastery Situated in the lower Himalayas at Kais in the Kullu Valley lies a precious jewel emanating its determination to uphold and preserve the Buddha’s teaching by ensuring its transmission. This jewel is the Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery. For over six centuries, despite facing many challenges, it has stood the test of time and over the years flourished through its strong aspiration to maintain the Buddha’s precious teaching, in particular the lamrim or ‘the stages of the path to enlightenment for the three kinds of practitioners’. The expression originated with Lord Atisha’s composition, the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. This concise but crucial work condenses all the Buddha’s key teachings, both sutras and tantra, and elucidates the hidden meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (Prajñāpāramitā Sutra) such as the exact number and nature of the spiritual qualities to cultivate through meditation and the order in which to do so.
The founding of Dagpo Shedrup Ling Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery, also known as Dagpo Dratsang, is a monastic university that focuses on the study of Buddhist philosophy, with special emphasis on the lamrim. It was founded in the mid 15th century in south-eastern Tibet by Je Lodrö Tenpa (1402 – 1478), the sixth successor to Je Tsongkhapa. Je Tsongkhapa, an extraordinary Buddhist scholar, practitioner and teacher, based on Atisha’s Lamp for the Path, condensed the Buddha’s entire teaching in a work he entitled ‘The Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, known for short as the Great Lamrim. When Je Lodrö Tenpa visited him shortly after its completion, Je Tsongkhapa blessed him by placing a copy of the book on his head. He then instructed him to go to Lhokha and Dagpo Regions to build a monastery where one could study and practice the lamrim as well as the five great treatises of Buddhist philosophy. At first, Je Lodrö Tenpa stayed at Sangphu Monastery for several years and then, to fulfill his
Feature | DAGPO SHEDRUP LING
master’s exhortation, he travelled to south-eastern Tibet, staying in various hermitages in Dagpo and Lhoka to meditate. He taught repeatedly on the entire Buddhist canon and especially on Buddha Maitreya’s five treatises and on the Great Lamrim, from memory without referring to the original works As Je Lodrö Tenpa’s reputation as a true scholar and accomplished meditator spread, more and more people took the initiative to request instruction and guidance from him. Eventually he acquired a considerable following that included Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa, who would later become his successor at Dagpo Dratsang. Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa was the first chanting master or umze of the monastery and its second abbot. The master later wrote a work in verse called the Quintessence of Excellent Speech, also known as the Gomchen Lamrim, which condenses the middle length lamrim by Je Tsongkhapa and numbers among a collection of eight important lamrim treatises. Je Lodrö Tenpa’s vision gradually became a reality and a monastic community formed around him in the Dagpo Region, which evolved into Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery. Due to its connection with the lamrim teachings of Je Tsongkhapa, Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery is also known as Lamrim Dratsang.
A brief history of Dagpo Shedrup Ling Some years later, Je Lodrö Tenpa was called to become the sixth Ganden Tripa or successor to Je Tsongkhapa at the head of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism. It was on that occasion that he appointed Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa abbot of Dagpo Dratsang. Under his abbotship, the community settled in a former Kagyu monastery at Gyatsa in Dagpo. The first monastic university for advanced studies in Buddhist philosophy in Dagpo was thus created under the name of Thösamling. The community expanded greatly during the abbotship of the 2nd Dalai Lama, Gendün Gyatso, (1476- 1542). The spiritual connection A thangka of Je Lodro Tenpa, founder of the between the Dalai Lamas and Dagpo Dratsang, Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery which persists to this day, was originally established by Shenyen Chöekyi Pelwa, the third abbot, when he offered the monastery to the 2nd Dalai Lama. Today the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is once again abbot. Like a lotus flower blossoming in spring, over the years Dagpo Shedrup Ling thrived. It grew to have over 600 members and was recognized as one of the three most important Gelugpa monasteries of south-eastern Tibet, the other two being Chos Khor Gyel and Ngari Dratsang. It produced many eminent scholars of Buddhist philosophy as well as
Feature | DAGPO SHEDRUP LING
great meditators who through their efforts achieved the highest spiritual attainments. The community continued to respect its founder’s original commitment by transmitting the lamrim teachings in an unbroken line until 1959. In that year circumstances changed radically due to the Communist Chinese take-over. The peaceful existence of the monks in Dagpo Dratsang came to a halt. About fifteen monks, including Dagpo Rinpoche Jhampa Gyamtshog, managed to flee to India and find temporary sanctuary in it north-western state of Assam. In 1960, Dagpo Rinpoche was invited to France to assist French Tibetologists in their research. He taught Tibetan language and Buddhism at the French school of oriental studies (INalCO), connected to the Sorbonne in Paris for almost thirty years. Since 1959 Dagpo Rinpoche has been an inexhaustible source of support and inspiration for the monks of Dagpo Shedrup Ling both in Tibet and in India. Eventually, in 1979, a small monastery in Bomdila in north-eastern India was made available to the monks. The community slowly began to grow in numbers. In 1981 the Tibetan government in exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama offered for its use a small temple at the Tibetan settlement of Mainpat, in Central India,. However, over time, due to the isolation of the settlement, its endemic malaria and other problems, the decision was made in 1996 to look for a more fitting site to relocate the monastery. After much searching a suitable location was finally found at Kais, in the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh in Northern India and the project to build a new monastery began. It was completed in 2005 and on May 11th was inaugurated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On that occasion Dagpo Rinpoche requested His Holiness to accept the title of abbot and he agreed. More than 140 monks now live and study at the monastery and over 100 children attend the boarding school built on the monastery’s grounds.
Some remarkable traits of the monastery Dagpo Shedrup Ling has played a very important role in maintaining the purity of the lamrim teachings through the many holy masters who have emerged from the monastery like a chain of golden mountains. The monastery is renowned for its very high standard of education in all fields, notably the five great philosophical treatises, with special attention given to the teaching and practice of the lamrim. The lineage of masters responsible for transmitting the lamrim includes many spiritual teachers from Dagpo Shedrup Ling who have achieved the highest spiritual realizations through their meditations on the lamrim. One of the more recent examples is Dagpo His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Lama Rinpoche Jamphel Lhundrup, the present Dagpo Rinpoche’s predecessor. He was the main master of Pabongkha Rinpoche, another eminent lama who taught the lamrim extensively in central Tibet. After giving a
Feature | DAGPO SHEDRUP LING
particularly important series of lectures on the lamrim, Pabongkha Rinpoche requested one of his main disciples, Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, who would later become one of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama’s two tutors, to put it into writing. Thus came into being Liberation in our Hands, a work now widely-known that has contributed largely to maintaining and spreading the precious lamrim tradition. The monastery is also famous for its beautiful chanting and melodies. Most of the melodies of the monastery’s prayers were composed by the 3 rd Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, and since they were composed spontaneously upon attaining spiritual insights, they carry great blessings. Those who hear them plant the seeds of liberation within their mental continuum. In addition, Dagpo Shedrup Ling is renowned for its strict application of the vinaya or rules of monastic discipline. For example, to avoid attachment, no one, including the abbot, was allowed to keep utensils made of valuable materials such as silver, copper, porcelain or even aluminum. They could only use those made from ordinary materials such as clay, stone, iron or wood. Many acclaimed holy beings have sung the praises of the monastery. For example His Holiness the 2nd Dalai Lama, Gendün Gyatso, described it as “the lamp of the Buddha Dharma in a remote area”.
Preserving the tradition and the Dagpo Educational Fund Asia The traditions of Dagpo Shedrup Ling constitute a precious treasure worthy of preservation by being passed on to future generations. The activities of the members of Dagpo Shedrup Ling are inspired by the wish to free all sentient beings of suffering and to ensure that they attain stable happiness. The effectiveness of its methods have been proven as they have produced many spiritually accomplished masters over the centuries. It is with the aim of maintaining and preserving the precious traditions of Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery that the Dagpo Venerable Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Educational Fund Asia (DEFA) was established in 2009 at the initiative of Venerable Dagpo Lama Rinpoche. For more information about the Dagpo Educational Fund Asia and Venerable Dagpo Lama Rinpoche’s centre, Kadam Tashi Choe Ling, in Malaysia, you may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.ktcl.org.my EH
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
Chan & Daily Life by Master Sheng Yen
A lecture at the Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri on April 17, 1990
I would like to thank Professor Grant and the university for inviting me here today. From the introduction given me, you may have the impression that, having written numerous books on the subject, I know a great deal about Buddhism. But throughout my study and practice of Buddhism, one important lesson has been drilled into me: once you’ve learned something, be sure to forget it. If you’ve written a book, forget the contents. It’s done. It’s gone. Just forget about it. A Chan practitioner does not dwell on accomplishment. Another important lesson I learned is this: you should have money in the bank and money in your pocket, but you should have no money in your head. Some people believe the opposite. Their minds are filled with money, yet their pockets are empty and their bank account is zero. A Chan practitioner maintains an empty mind. It wasn’t until yesterday that Professor Grant informed me of today’s topic. Thirty years ago I would have needed some advance time to prepare. If the topic is simply about Chan, then there’s no need for preparation. If I’m to speak on an area where I’ve done scholarly research, then, yes, I must have some time in advance. However, the Chan sect avoids the use of words, but words are sometimes unavoidable, so those speaking about Chan should not need to consider what it is they’re going to say beforehand. Perhaps Chan is best suited for lazy people, those who don’t like to work at all. What do we mean when we say that Chan avoids words? Most importantly, it means not relying on what has been spoken or written in the past. There is no need for us to believe even the words of Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus we approach Chan unencumbered by what we have heard and what we have read. Other religions and schools of philosophy use considerable verbiage. Chan advocates throwing everything away. You leave the past behind -- what you have read, heard and experienced.
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
has to choose one of the three. Can he have all three at the same time? Eventually you reach a limit. You might think that it’s very easy to get rid of what you don’t want, but this is not necessarily so. Many people get married only to find later that they want to be single again, but it is not easy to dissolve a marriage.
Master Sheng Yen teaching Ch’an in the US.
At Webster University this morning, I spoke about this principle of letting go and leaving behind. Someone said, “That sounds scary, to throw away your whole past, to totally discard everything you know.” I am not really advocating that we return to some vegetative state, where your head is as empty as a dried pumpkin. We must learn, but we don’t want to cling to what we have learned. We don’t want it in our head. Is this possible? It certainly is not easy. I slept at Professor Harris’ house last night. In the morning when we gathered for breakfast, his wife asked me, “Did you sleep well? Did anything bother you?” I said, “I slept quite well.” I told them that there is nowhere in the world that is free from noise and disturbance. Professor Harris added that no matter where we are or what we do, our minds are always buzzing with self-created problems. It is true: we are most disturbed not by what goes on around us, but what goes on in our heads. What is going on in our heads? It’s our thoughts entangled with the past, present, future. And it’s not being able to get what we want when we want it, and not being able to get rid of what displeases us when we are displeased. It might seem that some people can always get what they want. Imagine a campus heartthrob. Perhaps he’s got three girlfriends he can call on any given night. It looks like he can have whoever he wants, but he still
In making decisions we usually connect the past, present, and future, and the process is fraught with contradictions. I don’t bother to go through all of this. I’m involved in a long list of activities and I have many disciples in Taiwan and here in the United States. I am always busy. Nevertheless, I am not disturbed by the number of obligations I have and the amount of work I must do. People ask me how I manage to deal with all of this. It is simply that I don’t put myself in the way of what I do. There is nothing that I wish to do or not do for personal gain or preservation. I do what I have to do with all my heart. I do not do what is not permitted me, what is unnecessary, and what I am unable to do. Does this mean that I constantly change direction, try one thing, abandon it, and then try something else? No, because there is a central purpose that underlies everything that I do. I try to maintain the attitude of a Bodhisattva, and accordingly I try to benefit others as much as possible. It’s fine if what I do for others is also of benefit or at least of no harm to me. Even sacrifice of oneself is sometimes necessary. Viewing the world this way and maintaining this attitude, I have no vexation. Be sure to understand that the willingness to sacrifice oneself is really the mark of a saint. It is not something that most of us can do. Do not be overwhelmed by unrealistic demands on yourself. Do what you can with the abilities you have now. Don’t think you have to be a saint and perform miraculous deeds. It is Confucianism that advocates striving after sagehood or sainthood. It is true that Buddhism advocates the Bodhisattva ideal. But this is for those who are ready, otherwise everything in its time. To be taken for a Bodhisattva when you have not truly attained this state is to have problems indeed.
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
I sometimes come across people who treat me as if I were a great master. To such people I say, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but please don’t take me for a saint.
it and you can write on it. But the wall itself does not change. Just so, your mind may contain knowledge and experience, but it is unaffected by them. In reality, it is
Otherwise you will end up by causing me harm.” Why
empty of everything just as the substance of the wall is
would anyone want to add to his or her suffering by
neither increased nor reduced by what is hung upon it.
posing as someone else’s ideal, as someone else’s illusion? Most often our suffering derives from unrealistic demands that we make or others make upon us. Many people feel that Chan is an exotic product of the Orient that is of no use to the West. A similar attitude arose in China when Buddhism was first introduced there. Many Chinese thought that this was a foreign imposition that was unsuited and unadaptable to China. Something that is only useful to one nationality, culture, or group is useless and valueless indeed. A Chan story goes as follows: There was a monk who asked his master, “What did Bodhidharma bring when he came to the East?” The master replied, “He didn’t bring anything.” The monk insisted, “Didn’t Bodhidharma bring Buddhadharma, the teaching of Buddha, from the West?” The master replied, “No, not really. Buddhadharma has always been in China.” The monk was puzzled, “Well, that’s strange then. If Buddhadharma was already here, why did Bodhidharma bother coming to China?” The master’s reply is interesting: “Because Buddhadharma was already here, it is for that reason that Bodhidharma had to leave India and come here.” Does everybody get that? What did Bodhidharma tell us? He said that everyone can become a Buddha. Everyone has Buddha Nature, but no one realizes it. How can we attain this realization? He gave us two methods. The first is the method of principle. The second is the method of practice. In the first method there is nothing to talk about and nothing to do. You use no logic and there is no need to practice; you simply make your mind the same as a wall. You can see through this wall; it is transparent. It does not move. Nonetheless, you can hang things on
When the mind is confused, you believe that what is stored in it is you. Then you continually try to take some things out and put other things in. The motion and confusion in the mind increase. The mind is strange. When you have no use for something stored in your mind, it comes out and gets in your way. When you need something from your mind, it often happens that you can’t find it anywhere. This afternoon someone came up to me but forgot what it was he wanted to say. It hid from him. Why was that? If your mind is calm and cool, there’s no need to anxiously search it for information. With a calm mind, what you need is available. When you are at a loss, it is because your mind is spinning with craving, misgiving, and distress. When your mind is like a wall, then it is like the mind of the Buddha. Can you make your mind like a wall? Can you take all your past knowledge and experience and lock them in a storehouse. Can you prevent their escape? Who among you thinks that they can do that? We often meet people who talk constantly. Sometimes there is nothing left for us to do but to tell them to shut up. That may be easy. But what happens when it is your mind that you are trying to quiet? Are you able to tell your mind to silence your wandering thoughts? Probably not. It is for this reason that Bodhidharma also gave us the second method, that of practice. He divided the method of practice into four stages. The first stage has to do with suffering. You recognize that your problems and the difficulties that befall you stem from your previous karma. Everything that now exists has its origin in some other place and some
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
Traditional Zen (Ch’an) meditation
other time. We may not be able to know this origin. What has brought us and all around us to this present moment has its roots in innumerable past lives. But most of us cannot look deep into the past, and there is no way for us to prove the existence of past lives. Even in this life there are many things we are unable to remember. When we are confronted by unpleasantness and unhappiness in the present, we should know that they are rooted in what we have done in the past. We may be unable to perceive exactly what that cause was, nevertheless we should understand that the origin is in ourselves and accept the consequences that we now confront. Is this unconditional acceptance a sign that the Chan approach is passive or negative? Not at all. By understanding that we have laid the groundwork for our suffering in the past, we can see that the here and now is the groundwork for the future. We can lay down a new cause right now to counteract our present suffering and immediately put ourselves on a course that will be more positive. By doing this we pay back debts that we have accrued in previous incarnations. It is important to understand that this paying back consists of acting properly in the moment with what we have at hand. It does not mean surrendering. If this building burst into flames, there would be a cause for it. What would we do? Would we attempt to douse
the flames? Or would we sit down and try to figure out how the fire started? There’s no need to concern ourselves with the reason. What we must do is to put out the fire now. When we have done everything that is humanly possible, only then do we unequivocally accept the consequences without complaint. In the second stage, we develop the awareness that what we find good or pleasant is also the result of causes in the past, and we don’t get caught up in the feelings of gladness. We don’t take good fortune as a sign of our own specialness or greatness. We don’t let such things add to a sense of self. After all, when something good happens to us, we are simply experiencing the consequences of the hard work we have done in the past. It is as if we are withdrawing money from the bank. And what is so wonderful about withdrawing money from our account? We must realize that happy events are not all that they seem. Some people still find ways to be unhappy in pleasant circumstances. Many of those with wealth, power, and position are not necessarily happy. Even a simple, common event such as boy meeting girl may not create happiness for all of the parties involved. This is not to say that they will necessarily be unhappy. But good fortune and happy occurrences should not lead us to pride or self- satisfaction. A lot of people forget themselves when they meet with success.
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
Mass meditation as practiced by members of the Dhammakaya Buddhist group in Thailand
There is a story in China about a beggar who won a lottery. He had the winning ticket secreted in a bamboo walking stick. When he found out that he had won the prize, he was so overjoyed that he resolved then and there to never again have anything to do with begging. In a burst of exultation he threw his old clothes and all of his meagre possessions into a nearby river. Unfortunately, the walking stick was one of the discarded items. Too late, he watched it and his new life float downstream. A Chan practitioner should maintain an attitude of equanimity. If the money comes, it comes. If it goes, it goes. Neither circumstance should create wild fluctuations in the mind. By the third stage, the practitioner has come to maintain an attitude of not seeking. Of course, whether you are in the East or in the West, it would seem that nothing could be accomplished if you didn’t set out to accomplish it. Normally, we have desires and goals which we are striving towards. This is what motivates us, and this is very natural. But it often happens that we are unable to attain what we seek. There is a Chinese saying: If you have the intention of planting a flower, the flower will not blossom. But a willow will flourish even if no one plants it.
Most of you in the audience are fairly young, but you are already old enough to have had lots of ideas of what you wanted to do with your lives. You may have had some career in mind even in your pre-school years. When you reached junior high school did your goals change? And in high school? Your first year in college? When I spoke to Professor Harris, he told me that he has a Ph.D. in philosophy, and he teaches it as well. He also has a master’s degree in music, and he’s now studying massage and physical therapy. I wondered what his real goal was, his central purpose. But even though he has applied himself to a number of diverse subjects, I don’t think that this has been a problem for him at all. He is embarking on his own path. It is like a house with many entrances. You may enter from the east or the west side. You can take a helicopter and enter the house from above. You may go in one way, dislike what you see, and then try another entrance. Regardless of what door you come in through, what you see when you get into the interior of the house is the same. But if you stubbornly stick to one entrance and you can’t get past the door, that is a problem. You may see other people going in through that door, but if you can’t, you have to find another way in. It doesn’t matter what others think of you.
Teachings | Chan & Daily Life
Not seeking anything, there is no single goal to attain. Nonetheless, we must work hard. Without hard work, life is meaningless. We need to work. We need motivation to accomplish everyday tasks. But in terms of spiritual cultivation, keeping a specific goal in mind is itself an obstacle to the accomplishment of the goal. Ordinary aims can be achieved by desire and direct effort, but the highest goal cannot be approached in this way. If, for example, you practice to achieve enlightenment, you will find your goal moving farther and farther away from you. What does enlightenment mean? It means liberation, both from constraints imposed by the self and those imposed by the external world. Seeking, even if it is for enlightenment, is just another constraint. Now we arrive at the fourth and last stage of practice. Each method reaches a progressively higher level. The first one is fairly easy to carry out. So, too, is the second one, but the third poses more of a problem. Few can put it into practice. At the fourth level of practice one simply does whatever should be done. Whatever you need of me, I do. One who has only reached the third level may do a task well, but there may be some negativity in his attitude. But by the fourth level of practice, the practitioner manifests positive, forthright action. I once met a young man who had wanted to become a lawyer from the time he graduated high school. As it turned out, he was unable to pass the entrance exam, so he eventually studied library science instead. At first he was quite disappointed. After he graduated, he went to France to do research on the French library system. Eventually, he received his Ph.D. in library science. Then he was invited back to Taiwan because there are very few Ph.D.’s in library science there, and they needed somebody for the central library. He came to me for advice and I quoted a Chinese saying to him: “Once you board the pirates’ boat, be a pirate.” I told him to go all the way with library science. He came
back from France and thanked me. Things turned out quite well for him, and he was probably better off than if he had become a lawyer. In whatever situation you find yourself, strive to be your best in that situation, not in some illusion you fear or crave. When things change, change with them. With this attitude, your life should run smoothly, and your vexations and troubles will be few.
Venerable Sheng-yen (聖嚴) was a Buddhist monk, a religious scholar, and one of the mainstream teachers of Chinese Chan Buddhism.. He was the 57th generational descendant of Linji in the Linji (Japanese: Rinzai) School and a 3rd generational descendant of Master Hsu Yun. In the Caodong (Japanese: Sōtō) lineage, Sheng Yen was the 52nd generational descendant of Master Dongshan (807-869), and the direct descendant of MasterDongchu (1908–1977). Sheng-yen was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan. During his time in Taiwan, Sheng Yen was well known as one of the progressive Buddhist teachers who sought to teach Buddhism in a modern and Western-influenced world. In 2000 he was one of the keynote speakers in the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held in the United Nations. Master Sheng Yen died on February 3, 2009 but left behind many Dharma centers in Taiwan, US and other countries to continue his teachings. EH
Teachings | Sitting Quietly, Doing Something
Sitting Quietly, Doing Something by Daniel Goleman
recently spent an evening with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who has been dubbed “the happiest man in the world.” True, that title has been bestowed upon at least a few extremely upbeat individuals in recent times. But it is no exaggeration to say that Rinpoche is a master of the art of well-being. So how did he get that way? Apparently, the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Rinpoche a bit over the years, and always found him in good cheer. This meeting was no different. When I called him at his Manhattan hotel to arrange to get together before we were to discuss his new book, “Joyful Wisdom” at the 92nd St. Y, he told me he was in the middle of a shower – but not in the usual sense. The shower, he told me, had run out of hot water midway. When he called the front desk, he was told to wait several minutes and there would be more hot water. In this situation, I probably would have been peeved. But as Rinpoche told me this, he was laughing and laughing. The only momentary glitch I’ve
witnessed — a few years back — was slapstick: he sat down in an office chair with a faulty seat that suddenly plunged several inches with a thump. Once when this chair had done the same to me I cursed and groused about it for a while. But Rinpoche just frowned for a second — and the next moment he was his upbeat self again. Quickness of recovery time from upsets is one way science takes the measure of a happy temperament. While annoyances like these are hardly life’s greatest tests, handling them gracefully takes a composure that few of us seem to have at our disposal. Mingyur Rinpoche was not born into wealth and comfort. He spent his earliest years in a remote Himalayan village lacking even the most basic amenities. Nor was he a lucky winner in the genetic lottery for moods. In his book he recounts being extremely anxious as a child in Nepal, having had what a Manhattan psychiatrist would likely diagnose as panic attacks, and how he cured himself of this chronic anxiety by making his fears the focus of his meditation.
Photo by and courtesy of Marvin Moore Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
He has had to earn his good cheer. Rinpoche seems eclectic in studying paths to well-being, including Western recipes. A few years ago, he attended a fiveday meeting at the Mind & Life Institute that brought together a group of neuroscientists and the Dalai Lama to discuss ways to overcome destructive emotions. He found that the Western scientific findings on emotions had much in common with his own approach to cultivating well-being. But when it comes to his own pursuit of happiness, Buddhist theory and practice are Rinpoche’s chosen tools. He has done several years-long meditation retreats, under the tutelage of some of the most renowned Tibetan masters. Of course, what we mean by “happiness” can be elusive, what with the myriad varieties of good feeling running from ecstasy to equanimity. One flavor of happiness at which Rinpoche
Teachings | Sitting Quietly, Doing Something
seems to excel has been wellstudied by scientists specializing in how emotions operate in our brains. Richard Davidson, who heads the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, has found one distinct brain profile for happiness. As Davidson’s laboratory has reported, when we are in distress, the brain shows high activation levels in the right prefrontal area and the amygdala. But when we are in an upbeat mood, the right side quiets and the left prefrontal area stirs. When showing this brain pattern, people report feeling, as Davidson put it to me, “positively engaged, goal-directed, enthusiastic, and energetic.” Mingyur Rinpoche came to Davidson’s lab as one of a dozen or so meditation adepts, each of whom had put in anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 lifetime hours of meditation. Research on expertise in any skill shows that world-class champs have put in at least 10,000 hours of practice; these were Olympic-level meditators. One of the first findings from the research showed that when these adepts meditated on compassion, activity in key brain areas increased up to 100 percent, notably more than was the case in a control group who were taught the same meditation practice. The
more lifetime hours of practice, the greater the increases tended to be. All this seems to confirm the idea that in the realm of positive moods, as in nearly every endeavor, worldly or spiritual, practice matters. So can we all get a taste of Rinpoche’s bliss? Davidson worked with Jon KabatZinn, a teacher of mindfulness meditation from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, to see how a group of novices might gain from these methods. Kabat-Zinn, who has pioneered this contemplative method with medical patients to ease their symptoms, taught mindfulness at a high-stress biotech company; these beginners meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks. Davidson’s measures showed that after the eight weeks they had begun to activate that left prefrontal zone more strongly — and were saying that instead of feeling overwhelmed and hassled, they were enjoying their work. So while the Calvinist strain in American culture may look askance at someone sitting quietly in meditation, this kind of “doing nothing” seems to do something remarkable after all.
Another fruit of these spiritual practices seems to be a healthy dose of humility. When Rinpoche told my wife that he was being billed as “the happiest man in the world,” he laughed as though that were the funniest joke he’d ever heard.
Daniel Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for 12 years. He is the author of several books, including his most recent, “Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything.” His Web site is www. DanielGoleman.info. EH
Of course, there’s no guarantee of greater happiness from meditation, but the East has given us a promising path for its pursuit.
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BOOKS IN BRIEF Wisdom Publications 109 Elms Street, Somerville, MA 02144, USA. www.wisdompubs.org
Ajahn Brahm. The Art of Disappearing. The Buddha’s Path to Lasting Joy. 2011. pp 148. US$15.95 We all want life to go smoothly but things rarely go as expected. Whether mere bumps in the road or genuine crises, we live in a world of unwanted events that no willpower can prevent. In The Art of Disappearing, Ajahn Brahm helps us learn to abandon the headwind of false expectations and follow instead the Buddha’s path of understanding. Releasing our attachment to past and future, to self and other, we can directly experience the natural state of serenity underlying all our thoughts and discover the bliss of the present moment. In that space, we learn what it is to disappear. Ajahn Brahm, an unparalleled guide to the bliss of meditation, makes the journey as fun as it is rewarding. As human beings, we strive to make life go smoothly for ourselves and others, but that is expecting from the world something it cannot give. Ajahn Brahm, the bestselling author of Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? and Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, presents in this new work wisdom for learning to abandon the headwind of false expectations and follow instead the path of understanding in order to find true joy within. By releasing our attachment to past and future, hope and fear, we can settle into the stillness underlying all our thoughts and discover the bliss of the present moment. EH
Lama Yeshe. When the Chocolate Runs Out. 2011. pp 159. US$9.95 This book is stuffed with wit, wisdom, and energetic teachings from the late Lama Yeshe. Author of Introduction to Tantra and many other books, Yeshe has long endured as a figure of playful wisdom and heart-striking compassion. This beautiful little book captures the essence of the teachings of this clever master who played an integral role in introducing Tibetan Buddhism to the world. When the Chocolate Runs Out delights both readers who have known Lama Yeshe for decades and those who have never met this remarkable spiritual teacher. This is the kind of book we’ve come to expect from Buddhist spiritual teachers: deep practical psychology, ethics and meditation all included. Lama Yeshe (died 1984 unfortunately) taught in a style that was both faithful to his Gelugpa Tibetan Buddhist heritage and true to the issues his audience was facing. From my perspective the trouble with chocolate isn’t so much that it runs out, but that the temptation to buy it is always there. But, as Lama Yeshe reminds us, that’s blaming the circumstances instead of facing up to my own issues. EH
BOOKS IN BRIEF Shambhala Publications, Inc 300 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02115, USA www.shambhala.com
Melvin McLeod. The Best Buddhist Writing 2011. 2011. pp 287. US$17.95. Melvin McLeod and the editors of the Shambhala Sun have assembled this gladsome anthology of 31 essays by a variety of spiritual authors and teachers. Some are well-known such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Matthieu Ricard, Joanna Macy, and Pico Iyer. As McLeod points out in the introduction, many of the pieces here are personal — memoirs of marriage, family, work, activism. The storytelling approach has been given a boost in our times by the popularity of social media. We were taken with Karen Miller’s emphasis on everyday spirituality, Rick Bass’s thoughts on the Gulf Oil Spill, Brian Haycock’s taxi adventures, Susan Moon on aging, Rodney Smith on the challenges Buddhism faces in recovering the sacred, Joanna Macy on the First Noble truth and healing from the legacy of Chernobyl, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s manifesto on tolerance, and Pico Iyer’s insider look at the heart of the Dalai Lama. EH
Jan Chozen Bays. How to Train a Wild Elephant. And other Adventures in Mindfulness. 2011. pp 229. US$14.00 The book contains 53 exercises in mindfulness that can be practiced regularly year after year. The depth of this exploration shows both in the nature of the exercises themselves, and in the reflections that Chozen brings to them. Each exercise — which Chozen regards as “seeds” that can be planted in the many nooks and corners of our life in order to “grow mindfulness” — has several sections. First there is a simple description of the task, in just a few sentences or paragraphs. The tasks might involve using your non-dominant hand (exercise 1) or seeing the color blue (exercise 21), or looking deeply into food (exercise 47). The description is followed by a section called “Reminding Yourself,” which shows how we can use notes, images, or other supportive practices in order to help remind us of the mindfulness exercise we’ve committed to doing. After all, one of the most challenging tasks in developing mindfulness is remembering to be mindful! As Chozen says, “This is the essential question of mindfulness. Why can’t I live like this all the time?” Indeed. The next section, “Discoveries,” includes observations, insights, and common challenges of following that task — drawn both from Chozen’s own experience and from the reports of her students. It’s particularly useful to hear of people’s resistances in order to learn that you’re not alone, and to learn that these resistances can be overcome. EH
BOOKS IN BRIEF Snow Lion Publications, P.O. Box 6483 Ithaca, New York 14851,USA www.snowlionpub.com
Karl Brunnholzl. Gone Beyond. Vol 1. The Prajnaparamita Sutras, The Ornament of Clear Realization, and its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition. 2010. pp 937. US$54.95. Hard cover The Abhisamayalamkara summarizes all the topics in the vast body of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. To understand this extraordinarily condensed text, it is necessary to have the assistance of reliable Indian and Tibetan commentaries. Together, they not only discuss the hidden meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom sutras—paths and grounds—but also serve as a basis for further reflection on the explicit topic of these sutras—the principle of emptiness—and how it is to be understood on the progressive levels of realization of bodhisattvas. Thus, these texts describe what happens in the mind of a bodhisattva who meditates on emptiness, making it a living experience from the beginner’s stage up through Buddhahood. This study of the Abhisamayalamkara and its commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu School includes the very first complete translation of a commentary on this text. EH
Mabja Jangchub Tsondru. Ornament of Reason. The Great Commentary to Nagarjuna’s Root of the Middle Way. 2011. pp 598. US$44.95. Hard cover. In the Root of the Middle Way, Nagarjuna presents a method of reasoning, inviting everyone who encounters these lucid and fearless contemplations to follow him on a journey to the heart of transcendent insight. Inspired by the teachings on emptiness in the Prajnaparamita Sutras, Nagarjuna sets out to probe the most fundamental facts of the world, challenging us to question even our most deeply ingrained ideas and what seem to be self-evident facts. The present work contains Nagarjuna’s verses on the Middle Way, accompanied by Mabja Jangchub Tsondru’s famed commentary, the Ornament of Reason. Active in the twelfth century, Mabja was among the first Tibetans to rely on the works of the Indian master Candrakirti, and his account of the Middle Way exercised a deep and lasting influence on the development of Madhyamaka philosophy in all four schools of Buddhism in Tibet. EH
B. Alan Wallace. Minding Closely. The Four Applications of Mindfulness. 2011. pp 350. US$24.95 The ability to sustain close mindfulness is a learned skill that offers profound benefits in all situations. This book explains the theory and applications of the practice of mindfulness. These simple but powerful techniques to cultivate mindfulness will allow anyone, regardless of tradition, beliefs, or lack thereof, to achieve genuine happiness and freedom from suffering. By closely minding the body and breath, we relax, grounding ourselves in physical presence. Coming face to face with our feelings, we stabilize our awareness against habitual reactions. Examining mental phenomena nakedly, we sharpen our perceptions without becoming attached. Ultimately, we see all phenomena just as they are, and we FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!66
BOOKS IN BRIEF approach the ground of enlightenment. Bringing in his experience as a monk, scientist, and contemplative, Alan Wallace offers a rich synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, along with a comprehensive range of meditation practices interwoven throughout the text. EH
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. The Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning . 2010. pp 146. US$16.95 This book is the longest of the Ninth Karmapa’s three important texts on Mahamudra and one of the most extensive texts on it in the Kagyu tradition. It is also the most in-depth and famed text on Mahamudra ever written and is of vital importance in the living Kagyu tradition. It offers a detailed, uniquely comprehensive presentation of instructions on both the view and the practice. In the teachings contained in this book, Thrangu Rinpoche has distilled the essence of the Ninth Karmap’s massive text into manageable proportions and has given pointed guidance on the implementation of its instructions. According to Thrangu Rinpoche, Mahamudra practice is especially appropriate for Westerners and contemporary practitioners because it can be realized in the context of virtually any lifestyle. Mahamudra dissolves the artificial separation between phenomena and emptiness, revealing the radiant display of mind. EH
Lama Lodu Rinpoche. Bardo Teachings. The Way of Death and Rebirth. 2010. pp 73. US$14.95 Bardo Teachings gives readers a precise and vivid description of the way of death and rebirth. It contains a wealth of heretofore untranslated material on the Tibetan presentation of the process of dying, the nature of the intermediate state after death, and the process of taking rebirth. This modest but carefully produced book presents the essence of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in a digestible form. A popular Tibetan Buddhist teacher based in California, Lama Lodu explains the meaning of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He presents a precise description of the process of dying, the nature of the intermediate state after death, and taking rebirth. EH
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Into the Heart of Life. 2011. pp 177. US$18.95 The real test of our Buddhist practice happens not on the cushion or in the protected space of retreat but moment-to-moment in daily life, particularly when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations. How do we respond? In this book, one of the most respected Western figures of contemporary Buddhism, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, offers insights gleaned from more than forty years of engagement with Buddhist practice. Her perspective is vast, with a well-grounded understanding of how the timeless Buddhist teachings apply to the demands and challenges of modern life. Down-to-earth, approachable, and deeply informative, this collection of talks and dialogues covers a wide range of topics, always returning to practical reflections on how we can enhance the quality of our lives and develop more sanity, fulfillment, wisdom, and compassion. Into the Heart of Life is addressed to a general audience and presents practical advice that can be applied whether or not one is a Buddhist. EH 67!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO
Buddhist Stories Four on a Log (Gratitude)
nce upon a time, King Brahmadatta of Benares had a son. He grew up to be a mean and cruel he-man - the type that’s always trying to prove he’s tougher than everyone else. He was a bully who constantly pushed people around and picked fights. Whenever he spoke to people it was with a stream of obscenities - right out of the gutter. And he was always quick to anger - just like a hissing snake that’s just been stepped on. People inside and outside the palace ran from him as they would from a starving maneating demon. They avoided him as they would a speck of dirt in the eye. Behind his back everyone called him the ‘Evil Prince’. In short - he was not a nice man! One day the prince decided to go swimming. So he went down to the river with his servants and attendants. Suddenly it became almost as dark as night. A huge storm came up. Being so rough and tough, the prince was always trying to show he wasn’t scared of anything. So he yelled at his servants, “Take me into the middle of the river and bathe me. Then bring me back to shore.” Following his orders, they took him out to midstream. Then they said, “Now is our chance! Whatever we do here, the king will never find out. So let’s kill the Evil Prince. Into the flood you go, good-for-nothing!” With that they threw him into the stormy raging river. When they returned to the bank, the others asked where the prince was. They replied, “We don’t know. As the rain came up, he must have swum faster than us and gone back to Benares.” When they returned to the palace, the king asked, “Where is my son?” They said, “We don’t know, your majesty. When the storm came up, we thought he went back ahead of us.” King Brahmadatta collected a search party and began looking for the prince. They searched carefully, all the way to the riverside, but couldn’t find him. What had happened was this. In the darkness and wind and rain the prince had been swept down the flooding river. Luckily he was able to grab onto a floating dead tree trunk. Frantically he held on for dear life. As he was being swept along, the tough he-man was so afraid of drowning that he cried like a terrified helpless baby! It just so happened that, not long before, a very rich man had died in Benares. He had buried his treasure hoard in the riverbank, along the same stretch of river. His fortune amounted to 40 million gold coins. Because of his miserly craving for riches, he was reborn as a lowly snake, slithering on his belly while still guarding his treasure. At a nearby spot on the riverbank another rich miser had buried a treasure of 30 million gold coins. Likewise, due to his stingy clawing after wealth, he had been reborn as a water rat. He too remained to guard his buried treasure.
Buddhist Stories Lo and behold. when the storm came up, both the snake and the water rat were flooded out of their holes and washed into the raging river. In fear of drowning, they both happened to grab onto the same dead log carrying the frightened wailing prince. The snake climbed up on one end and the water rat on the other.
There also happened to be a tall cotton tree growing nearby. There was a young parrot roosting in it. When the storm-flooded river rose up, the cotton tree’s roots were washed away and it fell into the water. When he tried to fly away, the wind and rain swept the little parrot onto the same dead log with the snake, the water rat and the Evil Prince. Now there were four on the log, floating towards a bend in the river. Nearby a holy man was living humbly in a little hut. He just happened to be the Bodhisatta - the Enlightenment Being. He had been born into a rich high class family in Kasi. When he had grown up, he had given up all his wealth and position, and had come to live by himself next to the river. It was the middle of the night when the holy man heard the cries of panic coming from the Evil Prince. He thought, “That sounds like a frightened human being. My loving-kindness will not let me ignore him. I must save him.” He ran down to the river and shouted. “Don’t be afraid! I will save you!” Then he jumped into the rushing torrent, grabbed the log, and used his great strength to pull it to shore. He helped the prince step safely onto the riverbank. Noticing the snake, water rat and parrot, he took them and the man to his cozy little hut. He started up his cooking fire. Thinking of the weakness of the animals, he gently warmed them by the fire. When they were warm and dry he set them aside. Then he let the prince warm himself. The holy man brought out some fruits and nuts. Again he fed the more helpless animals first, followed by the waiting prince.
Buddhist Stories Not surprisingly this made the Evil Prince furious! He thought, “This stupid holy man doesn’t care at all for me, a great royal prince. Instead he gives higher place to these three dumb animals!” Thinking this way, he built up a vengeful hatred against the gentle Bodhisatta. The next day the holy man dried the deadwood log in the sun. Then he chopped it up and burned it, to cook their food and keep them warm. In a few days the four who had been rescued by that same log were strong and healthy. The snake came to the holy man to say good-bye. He coiled his body on the ground, arched himself up, and bowed his head respectfully. He said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, and I am not a poor snake. In a certain place I have a buried treasure of 40 million gold coins. And I will gladly give it to you - for all life is priceless! Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out. “Snake! Snake!” The water rat, too, came to the holy man to say good-bye. He stood up on his hind legs and bowed his head respectfully. He said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, and I am not a poor water rat. In a certain place I have a buried treasure of 30 million gold coins. And I will gladly give it to you - for all life is priceless! Whenever you are in need of money, just come down to the riverbank and call out, “Rat! Rat!” Such grateful generosity from a snake and a water rat! A far cry from their previous stingy human lives! Then came the parrot to say his good-bye to the holy man. He bowed his head respectfully and said, “Venerable one, you have done a great thing for me! I am grateful to you, but I possess no silver or gold. However, I am not a poor parrot. For if you are ever in need of the finest rice, just come down to the riverbank and call out. ‘Parrot! Parrot!’ Then I will gather together all my relatives from all the forests of the Himalayas and we will bring you many cart loads of the most precious scented red rice. For all life is priceless!” Finally the Evil Prince came to the holy man. Because his mind was filled with the poison of vengeance, he thought only about killing him if he ever saw him again. However, what he said was, “Venerable one, when I become king, please come to me and I will provide you with the Four Necessities.” He returned to Benares and soon became the new king. In a while the holy man decided to see if the gratitude of these four was for real. First he went down to the riverbank and called out, “Snake! Snake!” At the sound of the first word, the snake came out of his home under the ground. He bowed respectfully and said, “Holy one, under this very spot are buried 40 million gold coins. Dig them up and take them with you!” “Very well,” said the holy man, “When I am in need I will come again.” Taking leave of the snake, he walked along the riverbank and called out,’ “Rat! Rat!” The water rat appeared and all went just as it had with the snake.
Buddhist Buddhist Stories Stories Next, he called out, “Parrot! Parrot!” The parrot flew down from his treetop home, bowed respectfully and said, “Holy one, do you need red rice? I will summon my relatives and we will bring you the best rice in all the Himalayas.” The holy man replied, “Very well, when I am in need I will come again.” Finally he set out to see the king. He walked to the royal pleasure garden and slept there overnight. In the morning, in a very humble and dignified manner, he went to collect alms food in the city of Benares. On that same morning the ungrateful king, seated on a magnificently adorned royal elephant, was leading a vast procession around the city. When he saw the Enlightenment Being coming from a distance he thought, “Aha! This lazy homeless bum is coming to sponge off me. Before he can brag to everyone how much he did for me, I must have him beheaded!” Then he said to his servants, “This worthless beggar must be coming to ask for something. Don’t let the goodfor-nothing get near me. Arrest him immediately, tie his hands behind his back, and whip him at every street corner. Take him out of the city to the execution block and cut off his head. Then raise up his body on a sharpened stake and leave it for all to see. So much for lazy beggars!” The king’s men followed his cruel orders. They tied up the blameless Great Being like a common criminal. They whipped him mercilessly at every street corner on the way to the execution block. But no matter how hard they whipped him, cutting into his flesh, he remained dignified. After each whipping he simply announced, for all to hear: “This proves the old saying is still true - ‘There’s more reward in pulling deadwood from a river, than in helping an ungrateful man!’” Some of the bystanders began to wonder why he said only this at each street corner. They said to each other, “This poor man’s pain must. be caused by an ungrateful man.” So they asked him, “Oh holy man, have you done some service to an ungrateful man?” Then he told them the whole story. And in conclusion he said, “I rescued this king from a terrible flood, and in so doing I brought this pain upon myself I did not follow the saying of the wise of old, that’s why I said what I said.” Hearing this story, the people of Benares became enraged and said to each other, ‘This good man saved the king’s life. But he is so cruel that he has no gratitude in him at all. How could such a king possibly benefit us? He can only be dangerous to us. Let’s get him!” Their rage turned the citizens of Benares into a mob. They pelted the king with arrows, knives, clubs and stones. He died while still sitting on the royal elephant. Then they threw the dead body of the one-time Evil Prince into a ditch by the side of the road.
Buddhist Buddhist Stories Stories Afterwards they made the holy man their new king. He ruled Benares well. Then one day he decided to go see his old friends. So he rode in a large procession down to the riverbank. He called out, “Snake! Snake!” The snake came out, offered his respect and said, “My lord, if you wish it. You are welcome to my treasure.” The king ordered his servants to dig up the 40 million gold coins. He went to the water rat’s home and called out, “Rat! Rat!” He too appeared, offered his respect and said, “My lord, if you wish it, you are welcome to my treasure.” This time the king’s servants dug up 30 million gold coins. Then the king called out “Parrot! Parrot!” The parrot flew to the king, bowed respectfully and said, “If you wish, my lord, I will collect the most excellent red rice for you.” But the holy man king said, “Not now my friend. When rice is needed I will request it of you. Now let us all return to the city.” After they arrived at the royal palace in Benares, the king had the 70 million gold coins put under guard in a safe place. He had a golden bowl made for the grateful snake’s new home. He had a maze made of the finest crystals for the generous rat to live in. And the kind parrot moved into a golden cage, with a gate he could latch and unlatch from the inside. Every day the king gave rice puffs and the sweetest bee’s honey on golden plates to the snake and the parrot. And on another golden plate he gave the most aromatic scented rice to the water rat. The king became famous for his generosity to the poor. He and his three animal friends lived together in perfect harmony for many years. When they died, they were all reborn as they deserved. The moral is: Gratitude is a reward, which is itself rewarded. EH
Untying Injustice by Gary Gach
Thich Nhat Hanh is author of over 50 books. His latest title may be his most universal yet. It deals with the question, Why do bad things happen to good people? At some point, we will all ask this, about ourselves, or those around us. Yet there’s a deeper question, underneath: How to skillfully respond? Do we stop to understand the situation? Or do we act on instinct and blame others? Blaming can lead to revenge, retaliation, even military action. But, alas, none of these tactics ever result in genuine relief. The Novice shows us a better way — and in a format we all can take to heart. It’s framed in a popular folk legend, set in thirdcentury Vietnam, whose retelling here subtly elevates it into a profound parable. A rich girl, named Mau, is drawn to a novice monastic, our protagonist, named Kinh (whose name means respect, reverence, reverence for life). Mau’s deluded infatuation quickly results in multiple victims. The ensuing dramatic conflict challenges Kinh’s dearest aspiration, practicing the Way within monastic refuge, her true love. My Vietnamese friends tell me they grew up reviling Mau as a vicious villain. But Thây has looked deeply into her heart. Rather than blame her, he understands her suffering — and how the peace within a monastic setting radiates a beauty beyond any physical attraction. Our common tendency is to grasp after external beauty, rather than recognize it as mirroring what’s already within us. Below the surface of the story’s words, two layers reinforce its potent impact. For one thing, it’s rich in literary as well as spiritual merit. For example, the book opens just before the climax, then flashes back to the beginning. This is a familiar
A review of Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Novice: A Story of True Love
device in cinema, our own century’s global popular folk culture. Indeed, the prose here is so simple yet vivid as to evoke a movie in our minds’ eye. Consider these four words, from the middle of a paragraph: “Mau cried herself dry.” And the whole work is unified by that pitchperfect ear, simple, elegant, and all-of-a-piece. Then too the novella’s authenticity is at one with the author’s own lived world. He himself joined a monastery as a novice at 16. And he’s dedicated his life since to growing his own order of monks and nuns, lay men and lay women. It’s a community of mindful living, now worldwide.
sky, available for the well-being of all beings, and encouraging us each to do likewise. Certainly, you don’t need to be Buddhist to enjoy The Novice. Sometimes, to advance spiritually, we all need to retreat. So treat yourself to a brief but deep retreat within the temple and wilds of these pages. Indeed, we are all novices, training to live in peace and joy, harmony and love, in a world at war with itself. Here’s a most beautiful re-minder of how our birthright of total freedom is available to us right now.
Amplifying this resonance of folk story with the author’s own story, his long-time friend along the Path, Ven. Sister Chan Khong brings to light how he’s dealt with incredible adversity, much probably unknown to most readers. This ranges from lethal violence leveled at his grassroots, nonpartisan social work during America’s war in his native land (aka the Vietnamese war), to the recent brutal repression of his disciples there, after he’d weathered out his 40-someyear exile. The volume is capped with his own summing up.
Gary Gach is author of The Complete Idiot’s to Buddhism, third edition (Nautilus Book Award), and editor of What Book!? ~ Buddha Poems from Beat to Hiphop (American Book Award). His work has also appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including BuddhaDharma, Harvard Divinity Review, Language for a
Listening deeply, I hear how, like his protagonist Quan Am Thi Kinh’s transcendence of great difficulties, he too has become transfigured beyond individual story line. He now makes his great, good heart, as wide as the
First appeared in http://www.beliefnet. com/Faiths/Buddhism/Articles/UntyingInjustice.aspx#ixzz1a3Xy2Xk2 EH
New Century, The New Yorker, Technicians of the Sacred, Tricycle, and Yoga Journal. He teaches mindfulness in San Francisco. Visit http://word.to.
The Common Enemy Dharma Aftermath
by Rasika Quek
Our common enemy is unhappiness. But we project that unhappiness as coming from outside so that we don’t see it as coming from within. We do this projection so effectively that we believe others are responsible for creating our unhappiness. This deception makes it easy for us to play our blame game. We refuse to take responsibility for our own unhappiness. It would be easier to blame others as we would see our unhappiness as coming from the outside. It’s a great magic trick, an illusion we have created since the beginning of our being. We often think that if we could change things or get others to change, we would find happiness. So we talk about social change, political change and so on to justify the belief that when others are “fixed”, we would be happy. The world we perceive seems to be tainted with all kinds of imaginable defects. This is done with the crazy belief that if we continue to blame others and what is outside of us for our unhappiness, we would somehow be “happy.” We would somehow be blameless. It is like saying, “I can find happiness (satisfaction) by blaming others for my state of unhappiness.” And so the charade (deception) goes on and on, undetected. It is always others in need of fixing but never me. So long as we refuse to take responsibility for our own unhappiness, we continue to miss the point and true happiness or liberation eludes us. That is why the ancients belabor the point that true salvation or liberation comes from within and not from without. If we continue to look for the cause of our unhappiness as being found outside of us, we are barking up the wrong tree. No matter how convincing our perception of others as being the cause of our unhappiness, it is still not true. We create our own unhappiness and super-impose it onto an object outside of us so that we can blame someone or something else for it. Don’t think so? Consider this. We have a choice to be angry or not to be angry. But why do we choose to get angry instead of just dismissing the unwholesome thoughts. Must all our thoughts lead to anger? Of course, the answer is no. We can always choose not to be angry. But at times we don’t make the right choice because we find some insane satisfaction in allowing the anger to seethe. Once anger takes its hold, we can play the blame game on others. Anger somehow makes us seem more important than others. It inflates our ego as we trivialize others and their efforts. It makes us mentally blind to the goodness in others. When we are angry, it is difficult for us to see the object of our anger as being human. Conversely, when we see the other person as a human being with the same hopes and aspirations as us, we find it difficult to justify getting angry with him/her. When we do not see another person as a mere “object” but rather a human being, it is difficult for us to justify our anger. The book, “Leadership and Self-Deception,” published by the Arbinger Institute should be required reading for those intent on overcoming self-deception and the blame game. It can save relationships both at home an in an organization and does not carry any unpalatable religious messages. It beckons us to challenge all assumptions about others and ourselves. May All Sentient Beings Be Well & Happy. EH
YBAM Dharma Wa Y Walk 2011
First Station of Dharma Walk at Seberang Jaya Buddhist Association, Penang on 11 September 2011. As
Last Station of Dharma Walk at Johor Buddhist Mission, Johor, on 11 December 2011. The event was officiated by YB Tuan Teng Boon Soon, Member of Parliament for Tebrau. YB Teng was accompanied by Ven Chi Huan, YBAM Religious Advisor, and Dr Ong See Yew,, YBAM President during the walk.
Dharma Walk at SRJKC Chukai Kemaman, n, Terengganu on o 14 October 2011.
Torch Relay from one Member Organisation (MO) to another MO during Dharma Walk at Inti International University, Nilai, Negeri Sembilan on 6 November 2011.
Opening Ceremony at Johor Buddhist Mission, Johor before the 5 km walk.
Published on Jan 30, 2012
Eastern Horizon Magazine - Many Traditions, One Wisdom, Published by Young Buddhist Association Malaysia (YBAM), Theme: Prophecy, Apocalypse...