Archive for buddhism

Online Dharma teachings: Taigu on Oxherding

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Video, Zen with tags , , , , , on December 30, 2009 by Al

Treeleaf teacher Rev. Taigu discusses the first of the Ten Oxherding pictures:

Be sure to subscribe to the rest of the series here.

Dhammapada 11-12

Posted in Dhammapada Study with tags , on December 30, 2009 by Al

Those who regard
non-essence as essence
and see essence as non-,
don’t get to the essence,
ranging about in wrong resolves.

But those who know
essence as essence,
and non-essence as non-,
get to the essence,
ranging about in right resolves.

Tolstoy’s Three Questions goes along with this one really well, don’t you think? Knowing what’s right or what’s essential can become an obsession. Still though, like in Tolstoy’s story, there’s this long, winding journey leading to the realization that the only important thing is what’s in front of you. I love the sound of “ranging about in right resolves.” You don’t want to be wandering around in the forest of wrong resolves, now do you?

Dhammapada 9-10

Posted in Dhammapada Study with tags , on December 28, 2009 by Al

He who, depraved,
devoid of truthfulness
& self-control,
puts on the ochre robe,
doesn’t deserve the ochre robe.

But he who is free
of depravity
with truthfulness
& self-control,
in the precepts,
truly deserves the ochre robe.

I feel weird about this, almost as if it’s saying we have to be free of all the bad stuff before we even take up practice (the ochre robe). I’m guessing this is more like a pep talk to the monks, though, and a standard by which lay people of the time could decide where to devote their generous donations to the sangha. What does it mean to wear the ochre robe, though? To take up monkhood? Or just to take up practice?

Speak truth
Don’t be a maniac
Keep the 5, the 8, the 10 or the 16

Dhammapada 7-8

Posted in Dhammapada Study with tags , on December 24, 2009 by Al

Today’s couplet:

One who stays focused on the beautiful,
is unrestrained with the senses,
knowing no moderation in food,
apathetic, unenergetic:
Mara overcomes him
as the wind, a weak tree.

One who stays focused on the foul,
is restrained with regard to the senses,
knowing moderation in food,
full of conviction & energy:
Mara does not overcome him
as the wind, a mountain of rock.

Oh, this one is a little bit more challenging than the first few couplets, isn’t it? Staying focused on the beautiful is BAD? What now? Focus on the FOUL? That sounds like it would suck. It rubs me the wrong way. But the point here is that beauty is fleeting, and at the same time blinding. If you’re only focused on chasing after the good stuff, you are a slave to your senses. A lot of people think this is a good, fulfilling way to live, but Buddha warns against it.

Who is this Mara, anyway? A metaphor for the clever trickster of desire, you might even call Mara the Buddhist version of the devil. But I don’t think the idea is quite as evil as it’s portrayed in Christianity. Mara (desire, wanting) is easily defeated with the Buddha’s instructions.

Basically I think the Buddha is saying that if you’re constantly distracted by beauty, or by whatever the new sparkly shiny thing is, you’re not being vigilant enough in reigning in your senses. Social custom dictates that you don’t just take everything you see and you don’t believe everything you hear. Your senses shouldn’t rule you, but often they do. In order to break free of this, we have to keep our focus balanced between material life and spiritual endeavor.

Dhammapada 3-6

Posted in Dhammapada Study with tags , on December 23, 2009 by Al

Here are couplets 3-6 of the Dhammapada:

‘He insulted me,
hit me,
beat me,
robbed me’
— for those who brood on this,
hostility isn’t stilled.

‘He insulted me,
hit me,
beat me,
robbed me’
— for those who don’t brood on this,
hostility is stilled.

Hostilities aren’t stilled
through hostility,
Hostilities are stilled
through non-hostility:
this, an unending truth.

Unlike those who don’t realize
that we’re here on the verge
of perishing,
those who do:
their quarrels are stilled.

And a few sentences of my own:
Hitting, beating, robbing. These are some pretty serious incidents! Notice how Buddha goes ahead and includes insults in with physical injury. The ego is a big, swollen thing and Buddha was a smart guy – those insults to our pride can hurt just as much and last twice as long in our minds as a physical thing. But he says anyone who broods on this, anybody that holds onto resentment and replays the great play of negativity over and over again on the screen in our minds is never going to still hostility. Interesting there because it means that to let all these things go, the goal has to be letting go of hostility, not revenge or the preservation of some reputation. You have to truly want to let go of your hostility and anger. Hostility is stilled through non-hostility, in thought, word and deed. The only hostility you control is your own. And also notice he says don’t BROOD on it. He doesn’t imply you should avoid it at all costs or if you’re just nice enough, bad things will never happen to you. You’re going to be insulted, hit, beaten, robbed – not just in the literal sense but in all kinds of emotional senses. Don’t brood.

And he finishes by saying, HEY! We’re dying. We’re dying you idiots. Stop quarreling. There’s no great cosmic father figure who’s going to turn the car around.

Dhammapada 1-2

Posted in Dhammapada Study with tags , on December 22, 2009 by Al

Today I am going to start a Dhammapada study project because it’s something I’ve been wanting to do and I happen to have the time this morning. I will be using Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s translation. Because I think it has a bit more heart than some of the others. I’m just going to post a section and then post a little bit about my understanding of it. I think the Dhammapada is a really accessible piece of writing.

To begin, here is the first couplet:

Phenomena are preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act
with a corrupted heart,
then suffering follows you —
as the wheel of the cart,
the track of the ox
that pulls it.

Phenomena are preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act
with a calm, bright heart,
then happiness follows you,
like a shadow
that never leaves.

And a little string of words expressing my current understanding:

The whole world is with you because the whole world is you. If your heart is breaking, it feels like the world is breaking with it. But there are subtler emotions. If you’re a victim, chances to be a victim present themselves. If you’re defensive, the world presents you with chances to defend. It is all built by our perception.

How do you speak and act with a calm, bright heart? How do you become confident that your perceptions are building your world instead of the world building your perceptions? How do you go from “life is happening to me” to “I am creating my life”? Buddha says reflection, insight. Think about your interconnectedness.

BuddhaDharma 2.0 Conference

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Western Buddhism with tags , , , , , on August 19, 2009 by Al

Dharma buddy Ryan Oelke and Vince Horn over at Buddhist Geeks are soliciting contributions for a cool upcoming event: the BuddhaDharma 2.0 conference set for fall 2010 in Boulder, Colorado.

From the BuddhaDharma 2.0 website:

The BuddhaDharma 2.0 Conference is an event that will focus on the radical innovations available to Buddhist practitioners and communities living in the modern era. Some of the topics that we plan on exploring include:

* Buddhism & Technology – The information age has radically altered almost every dimension of our personal lives, our society, and economy. What impact will it have on the Buddhist tradition, and are there ways we can consciously adopt technologies to benefit Buddhist communities?

* Cutting-edge Buddhist Practices – Many Buddhist teachers are being informed directly by other pre-existing traditions of personal exploration and change. The result is that all sorts of innovate and interesting hybrid practices are emerging in the Buddhist world. Are these practices as radical as their creators claim? Or are there examples of teachers who are simply watering down the teachings of the Buddha, re-packaging them in fancy garb, and charging gobs of money for them? We’ll explore these questions, as well engage in some of the more promising of these hybrid practices.

* Buddhism & Science – Scientific explorations into the benefits of Buddhist-style meditation have exploded in the past several years. What is the implication for the Buddhist tradition, and for the wider populous?

* The Future of Buddhism in the West – Underlying all of the previous topics is a question about where we are now, and where we are heading tomorrow. With such an array of complex factors influencing the development of Buddhism today, how can we engage with the future in a way that honors the rapidly changing nature of things, and the need to act quickly at times, with the deep-rooted need to stay present with what is?

Needless to say, this conference sounds like it’s right up my alley. I hope to make it to Boulder in 2010, and I will be contributing in the name of Dharmacore. If you have $5 per month, consider contributing as well.

Online Dharma opportunity: The Five Hindrances

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Vipassana, Western Buddhism with tags , , , , , , on March 6, 2009 by Al

Audiodharma has added another course to their online meditation curriculum. Ines Freedman and Gil Fronsdal will lead a course on the Five Hindrances starting on May 31. The only prerequisite is that you’ve already completed their Intro to Insight Meditation course with teacher support.

These courses, provided on the basis of dana only, are an amazing wealth of practice support and in depth study. Having a weekly chat with a meditation instructor is a great way to keep your practice going steady through those hot summer months (sloth and torpor, anyone?).

So what are the Five Hindrances, anyway? Sounds like a real downer, right? Yeah, pretty much. The Five Hindrances are those big bad monsters that are likely to keep you frustrated in meditation and that lead you away from enlightenment. Drum roll, please…

1. Sensual desire (kāmacchanda): Craving for pleasure to the senses.
2. Anger or ill-will (byāpāda, vyāpāda): Feelings of malice directed toward others.
3. Sloth-torpor or boredom (thīna-middha): Half-hearted action with little or no concentration.
4. Restlessness-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): The inability to calm the mind.
5. Doubt (vicikicchā): Lack of conviction or trust.

Source: Wikipedia

As you can imagine, these forces can cause a major motivation suck in plenty of other areas in life besides meditation. I’m hoping this course will touch on when to accept and when to fight back against these hindrances. Coming from a Zen background of goalless goal sitting, sometimes it’s hard to know when to actively suck it up and push back.

If you’ve already taken the Intro course, click here to register. If you just want to audit the course, click here.

World’s first online Jukai completed

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Jukai, Western Buddhism, Zen with tags , , , , , on January 25, 2009 by Al

First of all, welcome to those of you who are visiting from the post mentioning Dharmacore on the Tricycle Editor’s Blog. I’m glad to have you here.

So it was a long process leading up to our online Jukai, but for those of us who participated, it was very rewarding. The ceremony was held on 1/17/09 at 9am CST, and people from all over and country (and the world!) participated. It lasted about an hour, and we followed the traditional Soto Zen precept ceremony.

You can see exactly how we did it. First, Jundo created a very helpful PDF Jukai guide for everyone to print out and follow along with during the ceremony. Then we were each assigned a spot in a video conference meeting room using MeBeam. MeBeam didn’t actually work that well for me; I kept getting kicked off every five minutes or so, but it seemed to work well for several of the other attendees. Jundo broadcasted himself and his end of the ceremony using Ustream.

The ceremony involved a lot of chanting and bowing, as well as reciting the Heart Sutra, a very important text in Zen Buddhism. We “received” our hand-sewn rakusus from Jundo, complete with the lovely calligraphy panel sewn in the back. The calligraphy includes our new Buddhist names chosen for each of us by Jundo, the date of the ceremony, and several stamps representing Jundo and our lineage. He also included a beautiful lineage paper that shows our new name flowing down from all the past Buddhas and ancestors.

Here are some photos:

The first photo shows the lineage paper and the name calligraphy (I had these framed), and the other two photos are of me and the altar setup I used during the ceremony.

If you would like to watch the recorded ceremony, you can see the whole thing here: Jundo’s online Jukai recording.

My Buddhist name is Shinkai, which means “ocean of fidelity.” Taking the precepts (and this name) meant a lot to me. I’ve been exploring Buddhism for over 3 years now, and the timing was exactly right for me to make this commitment. I thank Jundo and all my fellow online sangha members who participated in our trailblazing online Jukai.

Co-opting the Dharma

Posted in Pop culture, Western Buddhism with tags , , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Al

The Worst Horse, one of the best Buddhist blogs on the web, keeps track of a little thing they like to call “Dharma burgers.” These are delicious morsels of marketing hooha that use pseudo-Buddhist concepts (meditation! tranquility! om!) to sell things.

Being in marketing myself, I tend to be less offended and more amused by these attempts. Today, the Horse has a great about South Park, Goth/vamp kids, and co-opting the Dharma. I highly suggest you check it out.

A quick excerpt:

If you’re not sure what this has to do with Buddhism and the kind of ground that the Horse is trying to till, ask yourself: “Am I a Goth or a Vampire?” You’re likely neither in actuality. But go ahead and transpose yourself into “The Ungroundable”’s equation: Are you really into Buddhism and what it teaches, or are you, as the kids like to say, a poseur?

The Horse goes on to assure us that we’re not posers. The problem is, no amount of assurance will ever convince us that deep down we’re not just fooling others into liking an image of who we’d like to be. Deep down, the condition of being human keeps us from truly accepting what we are, exactly as we are.

Acceptance is a major aspect of Buddhist practice. Not just acceptance of the things we like about ourselves, but acceptance of every dark nuance of our personality. If you’re a vampire Hot Topic poser, accept you’re a vampire Hot Topic poser. The point isn’t to become something more authentic. It’s to realize your own inherent authenticity. That’s the real work.