May 01

What we Learn from our Teachers

From a talk I held at the Buddha Center in 2016
Today my talk is my real-life experience which I would like to share with you
Teachers

The nice thing about having teachers is that we can pass on to others what we learned from them. An example of a superior, knowing Buddhist teacher came about when I studied at a Chan temple in 2000 – 2009. Dharma Drum Retreat Center This was not my home temple, but it was conducive for me to go there as they had consistent meditation on Thursday evenings. Chan and Korean Zen are very similar in their practice. Also, they hosted many retreats that I attended. I was allowed to live the life of a monastic for several days on different occasions. So, they warmly welcomed me. I had several teachers there but the one who most stays with me is Guo Jun Fashi who is now in Singapore.

Home

He taught about the beginner mind often starting with this and going back to it again and again to remind us. (Suzuki also talked often about the beginner mind and wrote the book, Zen Mind, Beginner Mind which I highly recommend if you have not already read this)

Suzuki stated:
In order to receive the Buddha’s teachings, you must have an empty cup. (as you can well guess that is a metaphor for your mind). If you come to Buddhism with a full cup, there is not room for anything to be added – If you come with a full cup – you are full of ideas perhaps erroneous beliefs, etc. When you enter the practice of Zen, you must empty your cup– think of the joy of learning – it helps us to expand and grow develop.

In Chan and Zen we talk about beginners mind. If you have known me for a while and heard my talks– you will often hear me say go back to your beginners mind – empty that cup. Clean it make sure there are not cracks or holes in it. These are you misconceptions, your illusions. That clean, empty solid cup is your pure beginner mind.
My goal today is to pass on some of the things I learned from my teacher, Guo Jun Fashi.

I have this remarkable story to tell that I heard my teacher Guo Jun Fashi. He said that as a new Dharma teacher, he always found teachers, with whom he needed to continue his learning not suitable for his continued studies. He found them to be too old and at the end of their lives. He felt frustrated as he was not learning enough. He complained to one of his teachers and was presented this story which he passed on to us
He tells this story about a dharma teacher who had great understanding of the Diamond sutra. What is interesting is that in the diamond sutra The Buddha is generally thought to be trying to help Subhūti, an elder, unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality and enlightenment.
To continue with his original story, one day the teacher said to him – I will ask you a question that you must answer by not looking at all the sutras – you must come to your own realization. Use your own words.
Before you were born what was your original nature or original face? (Very famous koan)
The aspiring dharma teacher, Guo Jun, went to his room and all night read through the sutras but could not find the answer.
The next day he went to his teacher and said “I do not know the answer can you please tell me?” His teacher said
“Then it would be my answer, not yours”.

A beautiful story that teaches that we must all find our own answers and it can only arise from pure untainted intuition.

My teacher also talked of mindfulness. He said it has gone even beyond Buddhism – very popular word. But mindfulness is simply the practice being mindful, continually every minute of the day no matter what you are doing. not just when you meditate, but when you wake in the morning –brush your teeth – put your clothes on eat breakfast – all in mindfulness – that is true meditation – living and breathing it.

So I pass on to you the wonderful words given to me and hope you can then pass them on to someone who may need to hear them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guo_Jun

Guo Jun Fashi’s background
He speaks Mandarin, Korean, and English. He has traveled around many parts of the world to share his experience, including Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Luxembourg, Poland, Croatia, and Switzerland. He is a member of Australian Psychological Society. He is also a spiritual and guiding teacher of Chan Community Canada, and Dharmajala Indonesia. He was the abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York from 2005 to 2008. He was the abbot of Mahabodhi Temple in Singapore.
In February 2017, Guo Jun stepped down as abbot of the Mahabodhi Monastery and now the president of the monastery’s management committee. Venerable Jing Yao replaced him as the abbot, witnessed by senior monks from various countries
He has written several books and can be found in many YouTube teaching videos.

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May 01

The Path of Liberation

Suffering comes to an end only when a person is so in touch with life that he or she is completely at peace, regardless of physical or emotional circumstances.
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

We must be liberated in order to be free from suffering. The Buddha gave us the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path. However you can go deeper and learn now to follow these paths and others designed to help you in your liberation.

From the Tergar Meditation website

What is the Path of Liberation?
The Path of Liberation is an experiential path of meditation for those who wish to practice the Buddhist teachings under the guidance of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Encompassing the most important practices of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, .
There are two tracks in the Path of Liberation. Each track is designed for a different set of circumstances. The first track is based on a short practice liturgy entitled Nectar of the Path and is designed for people who have roughly 30–60 minutes for their daily meditation practice. The second track is based on a traditional liturgy for ngondro entitled The Chariot for Traveling the Noble Path. This track works best for those who can practice between one and two hours each day. Both tracks culminate in the practice of a White Tara Sadhana entitled Radiance of the Heart.
What are the prerequisites for beginning the Path of Liberation?
To begin the Nectar of Path track it is necessary to take refuge and receive pointing out instructions on the nature of mind from a Buddhist lineage holder. To begin the Ngondro track you will need to take refuge, receive the reading transmission for the ngondro liturgy (Chariot for Traveling the Noble Path), an empowerment, and instructions on the ngondro practices, as well as receive pointing out instructions on the nature of mind from a Buddhist lineage holder. All of these transmissions are given at Tergar’s Path of Liberation retreats. If you are not sure if you meet these requirements, please email [email protected] to check with a Tergar Instructor.
What practices are included in the Path of Liberation?
Both tracks of the Path of Liberation include two different forms of practice: nature of mind practices and practices that involve contemplation and/or the imagination. Nature of mind practices put us directly in touch with our awakened nature — the radiant purity of awareness. Contemplations and practices that use the imagination bring us to the same place, but they do so by dissolving the habits that keep us from seeing our awakened nature.
How are the two tracks of the Path of Liberation different?
The main difference between the Nectar of the Path and ngondro tracks was mentioned above. The former works best for those who have 30–60 minutes to practice each day, or who want a simpler form of practice with more time to devote specifically to nature of mind meditation, while the latter is designed for those who have at least one to two hours for their daily meditation practice.
The two tracks contain many of the same elements. They both include the four thoughts — four contemplations that turn the mind toward the path of awakening — as well as the practices of going for refuge, arousing the altruistic mindset of bodhichitta, and guru yoga. The ngondro track also includes the practices of Vajrasattva and mandala offering.
Nectar of the Path is a much shorter practice liturgy. Daily practice in this track thus involves less chanting and more time for contemplation and nature of mind meditation. The ngondro practices are more time intensive, and therefore leave less room for periods devoted exclusively to nature of mind practice. In terms of the total amount of practice time needed to complete each path, the ngondro track takes considerably longer (see below for more detail).
Finally, completion of either track will enable students to receive advanced nature of mind teachings, but only the ngondro track will authorize students to practice the Vajrayogini Sadhana and the Six Yogas of Naropa.
How long will it take to complete the requirements for each of the two tracks?
The total time commitment for the Nectar of the Path track is 500 hours. The ngondro track requires a total of 100 hours of contemplation, 111,111 repetitions of each of the four main ngondro practices and 200 hours of nature of mind practice. Although it depends on the individual, this path takes roughly 2,000 to 2,500 hours of practice to complete. Thus, the Nectar of the Path track could be completed in roughly three years with 30 minutes of daily practice, while the Ngondro track would take roughly four or five years with 90 minutes of daily practice.
How do I begin practicing the Nectar of the Path track?
There are two ways to begin this track. One option is to attend a Path of Liberation retreat with Mingyur Rinpoche or Khenpo Kunga, such as our annual Exploring the Nature of Mind summer and winter retreats. The second option applies to those who have received pointing out instructions on the nature of mind from an authorized Buddhist teacher in either the Kagyu or Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. If you have received these transmissions and would like to begin practicing the first and second levels, you should enroll in Vajrayana Online, which contains a Nectar of the Path course that includes the teachings and instructions needed to do the practice. If you have questions about this track, please email [email protected] to check with a Tergar Instructor.
How do I begin practicing the ngondro track?
There are two options to begin this track as well. One option is to attend a Path of Liberation retreat with Mingyur Rinpoche or Khenpo Kunga, such as our annual Exploring the Nature of Mind summer and winter retreats. The second option applies to those who have received the necessary transmissions from an authorized Buddhist teacher in either the Kagyu or Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. These transmissions include pointing out instructions on the nature of mind, the reading transmission for a ngondro liturgy (such as The Chariot for Traveling the Noble Path), a Vajrayana empowerment, and instructions on ngondro. Path of Liberation retreats include these transmissions. If you have received pointing out instructions and would like to begin practicing the first level, you should enroll in Vajrayana Online, which contains a Ngondro course that includes the teachings and instructions needed to do the practice. If you have questions about this track, please email [email protected] to check with a Tergar Instructor.
What if I am not sure which track to choose?
The Tergar Instructors are always available if you need guidance on choosing a practice. If you are not sure which track to choose, you can start with Nectar of the Path and switch to ngondro later on. The most important point is to choose the option that works with your circumstances. You can always adjust later on and receive guidance from a Tergar Lama or Instructor.
What if I have already completed the 4 x 111,111 ngondro?
If you are an experienced Vajrayana practitioner and are actively practicing, or have already completed, the full ngondro, you can attend “Transmission for Levels 1 & 2: Recognizing Pure Awareness” at a Path of Liberation retreat to receive nature of mind instructions from Mingyur Rinpoche or Khenpo Kunga. The practice requirements for each level will consist of completing 50 hours of nature of mind practice and a certain number of days of practice in retreat, in addition to continuing with your existing practice (for those who have not yet completed the full ngondro). Detailed instructions can be found in the practice guide available in Vajrayana Online.
How do I progress through the five Path of Liberation levels?
Both tracks include five levels. Nectar of the Path meditators practice each part of the practice for 100 hours before moving on to the next stage. Ngondro meditators practice each practice to the completion of a certain number of repetitions, plus 50 hours of nature of mind practice for each level. Both tracks also include a certain number of days of retreat practice for each level.
Guides are available that provide details about the specific requirements for each level. These guides, as well as video instructions by Mingyur Rinpoche, additional practice instructions with the Tergar Instructors, and much more, can be accessed in the Nectar of the Path and Ngondro courses in in Vajrayana Online on the Tergar Learning Community website.

Tergar Meditation Community


Once you have completed the number of hours/repetitions and retreat days specified for that level, you can move on to the next stage of the path.

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Mar 20

Cat in a Box – Engaging Form and Emptiness

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

The Buddhist philosophical ideal that “form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form” found most famously in the Heart Sutra can be a difficult concept to wrap the mind around. Emptiness is well . . . empty, and form has substance so how can they have the same properties, at the same time. To achieve some realization of this dharma requires a thought experiment followed by a way to engage that ideal in moment-to-moment practice. There is both an ancient ideal and a contemporary thought experiment that can bring about a clearer understanding of form and emptiness.

In Buddhist philosophy everything, all dharma is causally conditioned. It becomes what it is in a particular moment as a result of the causal process of the Universe. This would not possible if all dharma had inherent and permanent form. The philosopher and scholar Nagarjuna is arguably at the top echelon of Buddhist philosophers whose original ideas continue to shape Mahayana thought and practice to this day. His most revered text is the Mulamadhamakakarika text in which he maintained, “Since there is no dharma whatever which is not causally conditioned (not relative to whatever experience or situation it finds itself connected with), no dharma whatever exists which is not empty.” Phenomena have no form until acted upon physically and/or mentally by another phenomena, human being or otherwise. Until the moment of interaction it has only potential (emptiness) to take on form, a form dependent on whatever acts upon it. Causal conditioning, the who, what, when, where, why and how of the causal process enacts the transformation from emptiness to form. For Westerners caught up in concrete definitions and concrete descriptions it isn’t an easy concept but one that can be engaged with a little creative re-description. Let’s look to a contemporary science model for some help with that.
In 1935 Erwin Schrodinger was looking for a way to describe the difficult language of quantum mechanics, in particular how particles like atoms can be in two or more different quantum states simultaneously. His thought experiment began with putting a cat in a box that had no openings. Inside the box is placed a radioactive atom connected to a vial of deadly poison. Once the box is closed there is no way to know if the atom decays allowing the vial to shatter and the poison to be released and the cat killed. He postulated that because the atom, the cat and the vial could not be seen then the atom could be viewed as beeing in both a decayed and non-decayed state at the same time. The cat, because it couldn’t be seen would be both dead and alive at the same time. Without observation these physical objects would be in two diametrically opposed conditions in the same moment. The ideal of choice between “dead or alive” was empty of meaning. Emptiness and form are diametrically opposed conditions yet Buddhist philosophy says they too are the same.
To apply Schrodinger’s thought experiment to the Buddhist philosophical ideal of emptiness and form first requires the understanding that observation is an experiential act and the emptiness/form concept can be experientially verified. In Schrodinger’s experiment there is a cat in a box with a vial of poison. There is a trigger, the atom that has the potential to release the poison killing the cat. The atom, the poison and the cat are each thought to be in two simultaneous states of existence because we can’t see them. It all comes down to one can’t ascertain the reality without the experience. There is both emptiness and form.
The saying that if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound points to form and emptiness. There is the potential for sound to be heard if someone is present. If not, do we really know for certain if there is a sound? Only the birds, bugs and other critters present know for sure.
Consider too a birthday gift. You accept a package beautifully wrapped with a silver bow. You can hope that it is _____________ (fill in here whatever you might wish for). It feels like it weighs the right amount and it doesn’t rattle. The box is the right size for it. No matter. You are holding a box of emptiness until you open it and experience what is inside, giving it form.
There is no way for human beings to know the future. Yeah, some people say they can but it is all speculation whether scientific or the metaphysical methods are engaged. So, each moment can be viewed as in a box until it is entered in to. There is a tendency for people to believe they know what is in the box before it is opened. That is known as fondling the future. It is a thought experiment without the possibility of experiencing it (emptiness) until the future happens (form). Then that ‘future’ is empty and as the present moment, is form. Let’s try a different thought experiment.
Wade has been called into a meeting with his boss and a representative of human resources. He can’t think of anything he’d done wrong but that doesn’t ease his anxiety. Wade is certain he knows what will happen. Other employees have had the same situation and came out of the office, cleaned out their desks, and left the building. At 2pm he enters the office (the box). Sitting at the conference table is his boss (the atom), the human resources person (the poison), and Wade (the cat) takes a seat. Wade has prepared himself for the worse. An hour later he comes out of the meeting with a promotion and a raise. While Wade imagined what was going to happen in that office it was in reality empty of form until he experienced it. He could equally have imagined getting a promotion and raise.
The dharma is the realities of life, what is. We don’t know what “is” until we experience the emptiness of any situation, thus experiencing the form it takes. Buddhist practice further teaches us that once form is experienced it will not take that same exact form again. It will be empty again. Even as we experienced the form of any dharma there is another person who is experiencing the emptiness of that very same dharma.
Form and emptiness are Buddhist philosophical concepts that are deeply interconnected and interdependent. Generations of Buddhist monastics and scholars continue to contemplate them, discuss them, and try to understand them better. This concept also has great value in practicing the dharma, in achieving a mature Buddhist practice. Consider the ideal of not-self, the ever-transforming you. You, as not-self are a mirror of form and emptiness. The not part is emptiness. The self part is form. In you there is an emptiness, a potential that is realized when some phenomena has an impact on how your. In that moment a form arises. That form is also empty waiting for the next phenomena in next moment. You are not only a not-self. You are a human example of form and emptiness.

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Feb 26

The cracked pot

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Jan 08

THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF EXISTENCE: PRACTICE

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

In Buddhist philosophy there are Three Characteristics of Existence realized by the Buddha. These characteristics arose from the realities of causality and causally conditioned phenomena, and fall away due to the same realities. These characteristics are impermanence, suffering, and not-self.
A passage in many discourses reads: “Impermanent indeed are the compounded (the conditioned) things; they are of the nature of arising and passing away. Having come into being, they cease to exist.” Things are characterized as impermanent because they are subject to three stages of being: arising (uppada), falling away (vaya), and decay or change (thitassa annathatta). Impermanence is a synonym for the Buddhist ideal of ‘arising and falling away’ or ‘birth and death’. Birth in the human sense, also in the sense of the combining of material phenomena from constituent parts into what is viewed as an object. Death as applied to living beings is readily understood; death of inanimate phenomena is sometimes termed destruction even though nothing is every truly destroyed. Inanimate death is experienced as the breaking down of its present form.
Impermanence is causality and it causally conditions all phenomena, and the same is true for suffering and not-self. Things are impermanent due to the causal nature of the Universe. All phenomena from the material to the immaterial, from rocks to emotions act as both cause and effect. A rock striking you on the head can be a cause of pain; emotional pain can be a cause for you to throw a rock. All things are causally conditioned due to the causal nature of the Universe. You were not in pain until the rock hit you on the head; you reacted with emotion when you threw the rock. Experiences are causally conditioned by internal and external factors.
Impermanence is the reality that all things are temporary and this reality is a cause of suffering. Nothing lasts forever in any specific form. Even the protons, electrons and neutrons that are the building blocks of all material phenomena undergo constant changes. Impermanence happens. Impermanence cannot be stopped and this leads to suffering because human beings can crave permanence. Impermanence can be slowed down or speeded up. It can result in unwholesome transformation or in wholesome transformation. It can happen naturally or it can be made to happen. Choosing to guide the causes and effects of impermanence is a path to the alleviation of suffering.
Impermanence is an unavoidable reality in Buddhist philosophy. ‘You cannot practice impermanence but you can practice how you use that reality; how you respond to its cause and effect. You can accept that impermanence is a reality and then learn ways to transform that information into knowledge by making it a factor in how you deal with the suffering that impermanence can be the cause of.’
Think okay, impermanence is a reality . . . now what. How can I most effectively respond to impermanence? You are actually already doing this, you just might not realize it.
You check the weather report each morning before going to work. It shows no chance of rain that day. You look outside and see gray clouds piling up. You take an umbrella just in case. This is responding appropriately to the suffering caused by impermanence.
Last year you got an eye exam and bought new glasses. At the time you also set an appointment for this year. This is responding appropriately to suffering caused by impermanence.
Your drop your favorite Happy Birthday coffee cup and it shatters against the tile floor in the kitchen. You get angry, slam your fist into the refrigerator. Two of your knuckles crack and the refrigerator stops working. This is responding inappropriately to suffering caused by impermanence.
It can seem that impermanence is a pretty negative reality. Negative experiences happen like the weatherman is wrong, health issues arise, relationships end, loved ones die, new cars get damaged, and you’re supposed to deal with these unwholesome events appropriately. For a Buddhist that is exactly what you’re supposed to do. You might ask then, “If impermanence is unavoidable then what can I do about it?” The answer is found within the reality of impermanence.
Remember earlier the statement ‘You cannot practice impermanence but you can practice how you use that reality; how you respond to its cause and effect. You can accept that impermanence is a reality and then learn ways to transform that information into knowledge by making it a factor in how you deal with the suffering that impermanence can be the cause of.’ The reality of the not-self is causally conditioned by the effects of impermanence; effects that you can allow to be uncontrolled or you can choose to control them, a lot of them at least.
The Buddhist ideal of not-self owes its arising to the Buddha’s realization of the reality of impermanence. He further realized that while impermanence was a factor in suffering, it could also be a factor in the alleviation of suffering. His acceptance that all phenomena are impermanent and that human beings are phenomena logically led to the realization that no aspect of being a human is permanent. There is a self, a not-self. It is a person who is continually undergoing a process of transformation so why not learn to channel that impermanence toward wholesome change and then make that a factor in how a person thinks and acts.
Like any Buddhist practice the causal potential begins with you. You can realize the reality of impermanence by just looking at yourself in a mirror. You can realize the reality of suffering through the lens of your own experiences. You can realize the reality of the not-self by taking a rigorously self-honest look at how you have changed, and how you continue to change in each moment. You develop a deep understanding and acceptance of the three characteristics through insight gained about yourself and your own life.
The Three Characteristics of Existence are realities; they are dharma. You only have to view your own existence through a lens of rigorous self-honesty to fully realize that impermanence, suffering and the not-self are truths. Realization that while this teaching has its foundation in human existence the realities of impermanence, suffering and not-self encompass the causal universe will arise as your Buddhist practice matures. The dharma of impermanence, suffering and not-self are truths beyond the human condition. All phenomena are impermanent. Human kind are not the only beings that suffer. All phenomena are causally conditioned and so have no permanent aspect, are not-self.

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Dec 09

The buddha and the beggar

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Nov 27

Verified Confidence: Faith in Buddhism

 

Religious belief relies, to varying levels, on faith, acceptance of dogma and doctrine without expectation of experiential verification that what is being taught has a basis in reality. Some religions teach that a practitioner must continue to believe what is not, or cannot be proven or experienced . . . that they ‘take it on faith’. This can lead to an overzealous faith that suffocates intelligent exploration and questioning of dogma. People who believe without any attempt to prove will likely find themselves mired in dogma rather than accruing knowledge of themselves and the world around them. There is a great disservice to the individual and society if faith replaces the motivation to investigate and to experience personally the efficacy of any teaching or knowledge.

Buddhism is practiced by many as a religion and so faith plays a role, but with particular views not shared with other religions. To highlight the difference in intent Siddhartha used a synonym for faith; he used the word confidence. The same intent from a different arising. Faith, arises as the acceptance that what is being taught is reality without the expectation of, or means of verification . . . or too often it stifles the desire to verify. Confidence arises as a result of knowledge, practice and experience proving the effectiveness of tenets and practices . . . it is faith founded in the reality of experience. Knowledge that Siddhartha was human and that each of us are human gives us confidence (faith) that we can experience awakened moments. Engaging in practices such as generosity of spirit we experience that the good we do matters for ourselves and our society. The Buddha wanted each disciple and follower to engage his teachings and experience their value so that a verified faith (confidence) arose in them. In the Nandiya Sutra, Siddhartha teaches the ideal of ‘verified confidence’.

“There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy and rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge & conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of divine & human beings, awakened, blessed.’

“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Dhamma: ‘The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One, to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the wise for themselves.’ Content with that verified confidence in the Dhamma, he does not exert himself further in solitude by day or seclusion by night.
“Furthermore, the disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Sangha: ‘The Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples who have practiced well… who have practiced straight-forwardly… who have practiced methodically… who have practiced masterfully — in other words, the four types of noble disciples when taken as pairs, the eight when taken as individual types — they are the Sangha of the Blessed One’s disciples: worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of respect, the incomparable field of merit for the world.’ Content with that verified confidence in the Sangha, he does not exert himself further in solitude by day or seclusion by night.

Confidence in the Buddha doesn’t arise because HE IS THE BUDDHA. It arises due to the evidence of Siddhartha’s life, and the evidence of how his life affected others . . . including most importantly our own lives. It is verified confidence.

Confidence in the Dhamma doesn’t arise because they are texts of the WORDS OF THE BUDDHA. It arises due to the evidence of Siddhartha’s life, and the evidence that each practitioner gathers as they engage the Dhamma in life and experience the results. It is verified confidence.

Confidence in the Sangha doesn’t arise because the members are ALL ON THE SAME PATH. It arises due to the evidence of 2600+ years of Buddhists gathering together, and the evidence each of us experience when we sit together. It is verified confidence.

There is the concept of faith (sraddha) in Buddhist practice. Nagarjuna said, “When one’s mind is grounded in faith, one escapes doubt and regret. Then the power of faith is strong, one can seize and espouse the dharma; and this is called dharmaksanti: tolerance of the dharma, patient acceptance of the teachings about the nature of reality even though they are not yet within your grasp.” This also points to confidence. Though there are aspects of the dharma that aren’t immediately experienced the practitioner has ‘faith’ that they will eventual come to full realization.

The Buddha’s teachings do not begin with a leap of faith meant to affirm a metaphysical doctrine or theory but instead draw our attention to something we care deeply about: we don’t want to suffer and we don’t want others to suffer. The Buddha’s teachings don’t ask us to solely believe, or have faith. Trust in the dharma, in the form of faith or confidence, is useful in allowing practitioners to continue practicing, studying, thinking and meditating even when one hasn’t yet realized how worthwhile the effort is. A mature practice goes beyond faith in the Buddha’s teachings to confidence in the practitioner’s own experience gained from mindful practice and broadening awareness. Buddhist practice doesn’t ask you to just accept anything, even the reality of suffering. It offers teachings about the nature of reality while also offering ways that you can verify it for yourself.

Doubt and regret can arise at any level of Buddhist practice, the feeling that you just aren’t getting it; that you’re not seeing results. Meditation practice is where this is likely to first manifest. You meditate each day for twenty minutes and don’t recognize any benefit. You don’t feel more aware, it doesn’t feel like that part of your brain is getting bigger. You recognize the arising of emotions but still don’t seem to be able to control them. Everything else might be impermanent but you still feel like the same old you. There is doubt that what you are doing is of value and you develop a sense of regret that practice is wasted effort.

A sense of confidence enables you the patience necessary to come to the realization that ideals like impermanence, not-self and suffering are realities. That that same realization can lead to a more wholesome personal character. Acting with compassion and selflessness may not have immediate recognizable wholesome results, the ideal of confidence allows you the time to develop the encompassing awareness needed to realize them.

For some people the concept of faith in Buddhism is not complete with touching on the metaphysical ideals and practices in some Buddhist traditions. Faith in rebirth and karma, that some Zen Masters gain the ability to move instantaneously from one place to another, that a Vajrayana lama can control the weather, or in the legendary birth stories of Siddhartha Guatama is up to the individual practitioner. For others an agnostic approach to the metaphysical may have more value. Setting those concepts aside they focus on those practices that have practical moment-to-moment value while remaining open to the possibility of altering their view through direct experience.

Will you choose to put your faith in the hands of others, or take confidence firmly in hand and turn it into a useful tool in your Life Toolbox? Actualizing confidence that allows the arising of patience and endurance works. It can be the clamp that holds your Buddhist practice together while the glue dries.



I bow with respect,
Wayne Ren-Cheng Hughes, Shi 仁 诚

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Nov 19

Reading in voice

Hello Dharma friends.

I’m happy to join the conversation here and I’d like to share some of the reading I’ve been doing. I just completed a series of recordings of my reading the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. I found the guidance for my practice presented in this book to be informative and useful and at some points personally touching and relevant to my own experience. I hope you get a chance to listen and enjoy it as well.
links below to recordings of varying lengths 45 minutes to 90 minutes each.

chapter 1 – 4       https://www.dropbox.com/s/ojlgeo2bex7vnku/When%20Things%20Fall%20Apart %201%20chapter%201%20thru%204.m4a?dl=0
chapter 5 – 7       https://www.dropbox.com/s/56zvtidorsmzhh4/When%20things%20fall%20apart%202%20chapter%205%20thru%207.m4a?dl=0
chapter 8            https://www.dropbox.com/s/8dtx2d0ntu4ak4e/When%20Things%20Fall%20Apart%203%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%208%20%2C%209.m4a?dl=0
chapter 9            https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ndwsxuxmiaafiq/When%20things%20fall%20apart%209%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2018%20to%20end.m4a?dl=0
chapter 10 – 11   https://www.dropbox.com/s/mb5l1646z4ka7xl/When%20Things%20fall%20apart%204%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2010%20%2C%2011.m4a?dl=0
chapter 12 – 13   https://www.dropbox.com/s/ho2z54z301ot5hh/When%20things%20fall%20apart%206%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2012%20%2C%2013%2C%202nd%20read.m4a?dl=0

chapter 14          https://www.dropbox.com/s/8rdbn2zkp6kdg1z/When%20things%20fall%20apart%207%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2014.m4a?dl=0
chapter 15 – 17   https://www.dropbox.com/s/fiywqbx0n1je8q0/When%20things%20fall%20apart%208%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2015%2C%2016%2C%2017.m4a?dl=0
chapter 18 – 21   https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ndwsxuxmiaafiq/When%20things%20fall%20apart%209%20by%20Pema%20Chodron%20chapter%2018%20to%20end.m4a?dl=0

Thank you all for supporting my practice in sl
Rolotomasi

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Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2017/11/19/reading-in-voice/

Oct 30

Agression in many forms

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

A critical aspect of Buddhist philosophy and practice is the ideal of non-violence (ahimsa). Violence, any physical action that results in the harm or death of another being, is antithetical to the development of compassion, loving-kindness and to liberation from suffering. The reality is that violence abounds in the world; violence in acts like murder, rape, war and genocide, as well as any other actions that cause harm or death to living beings. The question each Buddhist practitioner must ask, and answer with rigorous self-honesty is what acts of violence have I committed or am I considering. None, or very few is likely to be the honest answer. Most people have never purposely taken a truly violent action. It is very likely though that most people have engaged in aggression in one of its many forms in thought and in action. To reach the ideal of non-violence requires an acceptance of the reality of aggressive habitual reactivities, unwholesome dispositions and habits that arise without mindfulness. Once accepted there must be a commitment to weeding the bodymind of them. When aggression is accepted as a major causal precursor to violence then practice can begin to mitigate and finally eliminate aggression in thought and action. Eliminate aggression and violence falls away.

The Buddha began the Attadanda Sutra with this verse,“Violence breeds misery; look at people quarreling.” It offers the reality that violence leads to suffering. The words look at the people quarreling also offers a glimpse of a causal factor of violence, aggression. Some people believe that aggression is as much a part of the human condition as is suffering itself. There is a factual basis for this view that can be experienced in language. In human relationships for example an argument gets called a fight even thought nothing physical usually happens and disciplining a child gets called punishing a child. Aggression is a phenomenon of human personality, personality that is subject to causal conditioning and impermanence so aggression can be transformed into loving-kindness with the application of mindfulness and compassion. A bodymind anchored in loving-kindness is one without aggression; a bodymind anchored in unbounded compassion is incapable of violence.
Look at people quarreling is the Buddha’s skillful way of directing mindfulness and awareness to aggressive thoughts and actions. The Buddha’s common mode of teaching through discourses is by pointing out the problem to be addressed, in the Attananda Sutra the first verse offers that it is violence that causes suffering. Then he points to a path to addressing the problem, be mindful of our own aggressive tendencies and aware of the same in others. This is a path that leads through practice to the elimination of aggression, a path that when walked further will lead to the elimination of violence.

It is recent situations at the Buddha Center in the virtual world of Second Life that prompted me to think deeply about aggression. ‘Griefers’ have been disrupting sessions by interfering with attendees, being inappropriately undressed, using foul and abusive language. and being disrespectful to teachers, sangha members, and staff. The fear and anxiety caused by these actions have led sangha staff and members to engage in their own thoughts and actions of aggression, sometimes even thoughts of violence. How some people have reacted to these ‘griefers’ reveals the negative impact that aggression can have on others, and how the seeds of aggression spread on this wind of unwholesome activities.

Asking why these griefers are acting so aggressively has little value in stopping them from engaging in the activity. Asking why is like the man in the Parable of the Arrow wanting to know all about the person who shot him with the arrow before he would seek medical help. The more pragmatic question is asking why are people allowing these griefers to have such an unwholesome effect on their experience in Second Life. There is nothing to fear or get anxious about. Second Life is a virtual world peopled by avatars with no actual physical interactions at all so the only harm they can do is emotional and emotions are temporary phenomena that one can allow to fall away. The most effective non-aggressive way to respond is to not respond. Be silent. Ignore IMs. Walk away. Teleport away. Aggression thrives on the emotional reactions it causes so don’t fertilize it, let it wilt, wither and die off.

There is another non-aggressive way to handle griefers but it requires one to be extra mindful and calm. Respond in open chat so that nearby avatars become aware of the griefer. Ask them this question: What is your reason for choosing to act this way? No matter what is done or said keep asking the question until it is answered. After a time either the griefer will answer, will get frustrated and give up, or the one being griefed can teleport away. Dealing with such issues in the virtual world of Second Life is great training for similar experiences in real life (RL).

Griefers, as they are understood in a virtual world aren’t as common in real life because there is not the anonymity that a virtual world offers. The term can apply though, the manifestations of action are still based in aggression. Aggression is readily recognized in threatening acts, property damage and openly carrying weapons in public (some will disagree with this view but their view is based in delusion). Aggression arises in more subtle ways, ways that a practitioner must be mindful and aware of. Mindful so that their own aggressive habitual reactivities can be realized; aware so that the aggressive tendencies of others can be appropriately responded to.

Intentional rudeness and disrespect are common examples of aggression that occur in human interactions. Whether it is forcing their way to the front of the line at the grocery store checkout or loudly making fun of a woman in a burkha, it is aggression. There is experiential proof that aggressive actions such as these lead to violence. In the first instance it precipitated a fist fight in the aisle; in the second two men who attempted to intervene were stabbed, one died of his injuries. These are physical reactions but a Buddhist practitioner must be mindful that even the thought of taking such rude and disrespectful actions is aggressive behavior. Aggression leads to violence. The more that aggression is limited in thought and action, the more that violence is limited.

Go back to the statement made above that openly carrying weapons in public is an act of aggression. To further this idea, even carrying a concealed weapon is aggressive. In both cases you might think that no violent act is being done by just having a weapon and you would be correct, but remember we aren’t just talking about acts of aggression and violence. In Buddhist philosophy and practice there is acceptance of the role that the mind has in how we interact with the world around us. How we think is of equal importance to the actions that we take. Carrying a weapon, in view or concealed is done with the anticipation of aggression or violence and so it creates in the mind a continuous possibility of the same. The expectation of aggression is rooted in the mind by a physical representation of that aggression.

In his book Creating True Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Hatred cannot be stopped by hatred. Violence should not be responded to with violence. The only way out of violence is for us to embrace the practice of peace, to think and act with compassion, love, and understanding.” With the realization that aggression leads to violence then Master Hanh’s words find a deeper meaning. When aggression is accepted as a causal precursor to violence then practice can begin to mitigate and finally eliminate aggression in thought and action.

The individual practice of eliminating aggression begins with the mind, with how you choose to think. Letting go of the fear of what might happen is a step on that path. Fear is a major causal factor of aggression. The practitioner must ask themselves what they have to fear and then, with rigorous self-honestly answer the question. Determine if the fear being experienced is founded in reality or in delusion.

These days it might seem that aggressiveness and violence is everywhere and that belief is strengthened by the language being used. In politics for example there used to be opponents, now they are enemies; contest became war. Political rhetoric uses the combative word campaign to describe the activities of elective officials. In sports it used to be the Rams play the Falcons, now the Rams battle the Falcons. In the social arena it was Us and Them, now it is Us versus Them. Just today I heard a comment on the radio about retail stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Sear vying for holiday business and the CEO of one company called these businesses ‘battleground industries’. These examples may seem trivial but these are all subtle examples of aggressive habitual reactivities. We must be mindful of the language we use as an element of a path to non-aggression and ultimately to non-violence.

By now someone is thinking what about defense. How can I defend myself and others without aggression, without violence? The initial question to ask is just what I am defending. Defending the the ego is a waste of energy. Defending from a physical attack is another matter entirely. The ideal of physical defense without aggression is a reality. It is all in the intent.

Intent in this type of situation is key. Looking to the martial arts practice of aikido offers one path. The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba said, “To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.” The foundation of the practice of aikido is doing the least harm to an attacker by redirecting the energy of violence.

Most people have never purposely taken a truly violent action or been the victim of violence leading to physical injury. Most people have experienced some form of verbal or non-damaging physical aggression. The ideal set forth by Master Ueshiba can be applied to that reality. Respond to such situations with calm and equanimity. Walk away if possible. Do not return verbal injury with verbal injury. Do not return rudeness and disrespect with the same. Instead respond more appropriately with actions of loving-kindness and the voice of compassion.

The unwholesome weeds of aggression can bear the fruit of violence. Weeding aggressive thoughts and actions for the bodymind must be the goal of all of us who choose to walk the Noble Path. Be mindful of aggressive habitual reactivities so they pulled from the fertile soil of the bodymind leaving space to plant the wholesome seeds of loving-kindness, compassion and generosity.

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Oct 28

Dealing with emotions

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