Archive for dharma

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.

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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.

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.

The Anatomy of an Online Jukai Ceremony

Posted in Buddhism on the web, Jukai, Western Buddhism, Zen with tags , , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Al

Jukai just got digital. Jundo Cohen of Treeleaf Zendo is trailblazing in the art of online Dharma.

What is Jukai? This is an ancient Zen ceremony where a Buddhist student receives the precepts and takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. It usually involves sewing a rakusu, a traditional Zen garment that my non-Buddhist friends have lovingly taken to calling a “Buddha bib,” and getting a Buddhist name from the teacher. It has that satisfying gravitas we’re all looking for in a religious ceremony.

Jundo Cohen, ordained in the Soto Zen tradition under Zen Master Gudo Wafu Nishijima, created Treeleaf Zendo over 2 years ago and brought interested practitioners a serious online sangha experience. Complete with samu (work practice), sanzen (video chat meetings with the teacher) and a forum for communication among members, the sangha has grown steadily. Now, a small group of us have joined Jundo in his latest experiment of an online Jukai ceremony.

Not that calling it an “experiment” should in any way imply that Jundo or his students aren’t taking the requirements seriously. Over several months, Jukai hopefuls are studying a wide selection of readings, primarily guided by Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics and also including essays from many other Zen teachers. Participants are even sewing the rakusu, guided by a very detailed set of instructional sewing videos with Rev. Taigu created especially for this unique online ceremony.

So how exactly did Jundo do it?

Tech:
Skype for direct video communication
Treeleaf video zendo for group meditation and retreats
Google Video for the rakusu sewing instructions
Treeleaf forums for precepts study

Other materials:
– Various sewing materials (fabric, thread, etc.)
– Robert Aiken’s The Mind of Clover: Essays in Zen Buddhist Ethics
– Various online readings
– The good ol’ meditation cushion

Loose schedule:
– Prep period of gathering materials, ordering the book
– General discussion of Jukai and the Three Refuges
– Week by week study of the 10 precepts (not to kill, lie, steal, self-aggrandize, defame others, misuse sex, misuse intoxicants, become wrongfully angered, to be generous, and to honor awareness, learning and community) with metta “intermission” week
– Simultaneous sewing of the rakusu while studying the precepts
– Weekend Rohatsu retreat (Dec. 6-7)
– Online Jukai with Jundo

We’re still not sure how the live online Jukai is going to work out, but that’s part of the beauty of it. The expansion of online Dharma proves again and again that you can seek out and learn from the teaching that best benefits you, not just the teaching next door.

Family values, Dharma style

Posted in Western Buddhism with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by Al

Often in modern Western life, our families and friends are our sanghas. Buddhism has fallen dramatically short at creating family-friendly fellowship among its practitioners. For all the emphasis on the sangha (a group of people who support your practice) in the original teachings, traditional Buddhism has been less than inclusive of family life, at times even outright discriminating against women, children, and family concerns. In her article, Change or Die: American Buddhism When Baby-Boomer Converts Are Gone, Andrea Useem talks about Zen monk Clark Strand’s recent article in Tricyle, “Dharma Family Values.”

Clark asserts that while Buddhism has made a good start in the US and has become part of the lexicon (a subject I’m interested in myself), we haven’t yet figured out how to “get married and buried” as Buddhists. Ritual, family, and ceremony have either been stripped away completely in the name of creating a more agnostic Buddhism or they’ve been copied verbatim, preserved in the form in which they were imported but not adapted to our own modern lives.

This is one of the most important places Buddhism can learn from Christianity (yes, we should be mindfully paying attention!). Christians have summer camps, youth groups, Bible studies, pot lucks, and fellowship after services. Now, I know that many local Buddhist groups often have gatherings and work very hard to be family-friendly. However, I think that overall, Western Buddhism has failed to put together a cohesive system.

I got married yesterday. When trying to research how to have a “Buddhist” wedding, I came up with almost nothing. The choices are either ultra-traditional (robes, precepts, blessing by a monk) or vaguely New Age stuff that was made up by wedding portal websites to target a demographic. Where is the in between where we, as Westerners, often rest so comfortably?

The good and bad news is that we are creating the in between, the new traditions, here and now. Really, it’s a call to action for young Western Buddhists to be mindful of their own actions and take an active role in developing what Buddhism will be in this country. I didn’t have a “Buddhist” wedding ceremony. But I did vow to treat my partner with kindness, compassion and mindfulness, and I believe others in the post-boomer generations will uphold these and other Buddhist family values, no matter how they manifest in ritual and ceremony. A little bit of ceremony wouldn’t hurt, though.