Apr 02

Talk given by Jos Joseph, Sanga Member on Second Life

Good read! Delani

Talk given at Riverview Dharma Center 2016-11-27
After the talk on the Heart Sutra and Mantra a few questions of hearers remained in my mind and it felt it would be a good idea to address the core of these questions in a follow up talk. This talk we have today.
The topic of today’s talk is Emptiness, what is it and how to understand it rationally, in a way that makes it more palpable (if one can say this like that) and in a way that helps us to realize it more easily.
Of course the conclusion on the meaning of the Heart Sutra is that all phenomena are ’empty of inherent nature’. As we analyzed the text of the sutra, we learned by logic that this has to mean that all phenomena actually do not even exist because they do not even get to be created. Nevertheless we experience phenomena, as they appear to us, actually all as being very created, very existent and real.
As we analyzed in the Heart Sutra, phenomena have to be a ‘sort of a dreamed up experience’. Dreamed by a non-dual dreamer, called ’emptiness’ who dreams being a universe with a multitude of phenomena, including our individual personalities who are (being) tricked in to believing the dream is a reality.
We learned from the Heart Sutra there have to be two truths.
Our small personal identity, its experiences and corresponding view on reality are a relative truth in which we experience all phenomena as real.
The ‘Greater Whole’ the ‘Non Dual Dreamer’ (just a few designations I or anyone can imagine for the Foundation on which, or in which, or because of which all phenomena experience one another) is the ultimate Truth. This Truth in Mahayana Buddhism often is referred to as ‘Emptiness’. Another very important reference to this Truth we find in a text called ‘Udana’ which is part of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism as wikipeadia informs us. I am referring to Udana nr. 80. I will quote that text:
There is an Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unconditioned. If that Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unconditioned were not, there could be no escape from this that is born, originated, created, conditioned. But because there is That which is Unborn, Unoriginated, Uncreated, Unconditioned, an escape from this that is born, originated, created, conditioned can be proclaimed.
It seems good to once more shortly emphasize that this ‘Emptiness’ as we find it in Mahayana Sutra’s is actually something which one will find in the Pali Canon as it is accepted in the Thearvada tradition of Buddhism.
At first glance there seems to be an unsolvable contradiction and our mind is screening at us, trying to convince us that it really can’t be true that ‘it all’ does not exist, and, then, when believing our mind, we actually strengthen the experience of the reality of those phenomena which nevertheless do not really exist.
We have to learn to calm this panic-like response of our minds to this notion that phenomena do not exist. We have to learn to ponder on this idea calmly and in a way our minds will accept the possibility of this idea, so that we remain open, in a researching way, for experiences which may bring conformation of the reality of this idea of non-existence of the phenomena.
That this is not an easy task may be obvious. We need to practice relentlessly and we need to correct ourselves every time our mind tricks us in to believing things as real and existent.
If we now look at that board behind me, on my right hand side, (for you that is left of me) we see these lists which I copied from Alexander Duncans book called ‘Conversations with the Buddha’.
These lists are lists which basically have been given to us by the Buddha in his teachings.
The list on top on the right side of the board shows those five aggregates or ‘skandha’s’ of which the Heart Sutra says the are empty or non-existent. This, although in Buddhist philosophy, these aggregates totally constitute and explain a livings being existence.
If we would wish to imagine ourselves upon that image or visa versa, we would spontaneously wish to flip the list upside down. Consciousness on top and form at the bottom, right?
If we do so flip the list, we immediately see the great overlap that this list of aggregates has with the list on the top left side of the board.
Thàt list is called ‘the chain of cause and effect’ also known as ‘the links of interdependent arising’, of which there have evolved several versions with a few more or less links in the list.
The idea however is the same in all of them.
In this chain of cause and effect, we see that the Buddha taught, that a person’s existence here in Samsara starts out with consciousness. Often this first link is called ‘ignorance’ which is consciousness as well, but of an uninformed nature – thus of a not wise nature, lacking in wisdom. It is only at the end of the ‘chain of interdependent arising’ or the ‘chain of cause and effect’, in the last two links, we see the arising of matter as we know it, when we start becoming and get born into this material universe.
If we now look at the list on the bottom right side of the board we see the list called ‘eight liberations’. This list is a list of steps one has to take, or go through, to attain final liberation and these steps are basically doing the opposite of ‘becoming and getting born’ as in the last two links in the list of interdependent arising.
In the list of the Eight Liberations we firstly see those first three steps which correspond to the last step of the chain of interdependent arising which is ‘becoming, getting born in this material world’. After these first three steps of becoming, we then see the first actual step on the actual path of reversing that chain of interdependent arising, which is step 4 in the list of liberations.
We see that we, as a first step, have to transcend all perceptions of matter!
Sidestepping the issue of this talk for a second, we should notice for a moment that according to this list the experience of ‘becoming ,getting born and getting intend on these experiences in Samsara’ are actually part of the path from ignorance to Wisdom! Hence they are on the list of the eight liberations.
Forms do not exist, as we learned from the Heart Sutra, so matter does not exist either. We only perceive matter because we are intend on perceiving it and because we enjoy the sensory experiences it brings to our mind. Nevertheless we are interacting with a delusion, as is also clearly proclaimed in the Diamond Sutra from which the following is a quote:
Diamond Sutra, Section V.
Understanding the Ultimate Principle of Reality
Subhuti, what do you think? Is the Tathagata to be recognized by some material characteristic?
No, World-honored One; the Tathagata cannot be recognized by any material characteristic. Wherefore? Because the Tathagata has said that material characteristics are not, in fact, material characteristics.
Buddha said: Subhuti, wheresoever are material characteristics there is delusion; but whoso perceives that all characteristics are in fact no-characteristics, perceives the Tathagata.
End of quote.
So, In order to start to get an idea of that evading concept called Emptiness we must realize deeply and finally that all phenomena in our universe are NOT made of matter AT ALL !
If we fail to do so, we actually fail on the first step (actual or positive step that is) on the Path of Liberation which is listed as step nr.4 on the list of the eight liberations.
Studying the list of cause and effect leading from the arising of consciousness (in a state of ignorance that is) to being born, as well as this list of the eight liberations, we find ground to assume that the universe and all phenomena in it are made of that kind of energy which is, necessarily, included in that first consciousness and is the root of that consciousness at the same time.
This primal power is to be regarded as psychical or psychic in nature as opposed to material in nature. This we can conclude by logical deduction from the teachings of the Buddha, as is shown in these lists. This position which we actually find in the Pali Canon, the Digha nikaya more precisely, finds conformation in, for instance, such Sutras as the Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra. These latter once of course being an important legacy of, and teaching in, the Mahayana tradition.
Let it sink in for a few moments … our entire experience both personally as well as communally is made out of psychical energy as opposed to physical substance!
Let it sink in!

As we also learned from studying the Heart Sutra, our personal personalities are non-existent as well in reality, in absolute Truth. Of course we do experience our personal ‘selves’ as such in our relative view to reality. In objective reality in Ultimate Truth, there is, and can be, only One, since Buddha has taught us that the experience of Nirvana transcends duality. In other words, all our little personal selves are in the absolute reality part of that
non dualistic One Primal Cause
non dualistic One Primal Energy
non dualistic One Unborn
non dualistic One Emptiness
non dualistic One psychical energy, whether we are fully submerged in our little personality and do not believe this can be true, or not.
One may consider these several designations as equally valid or equally invalid I believe, but the most important as a student in Buddhism is the teaching that there is no matter, no material phenomena and no other phenomena in this Ultimate reality and therefor all phenomena can not be made from matter. The experience of matter is the experience of delusion.
As was already suggested in the Talk on the Heart sutra it only seems logic to call this one non dualistic psychical energy ‘Buddha’ or Buddha-nature of which we all carry a perfect copy, or part, at our core being, whether we realize this or not! This particle Buddha-nature in each of us is just as perfect as the one particle of Buddha-nature in Gautama is or was.
So what does this mean for a person like Gautama the Buddha, having realized this to full potentiality, because of understanding the nature of it and controlling it consciously and in wisdom as opposed to ignorance?
It means everything can be done!
Because all we experience is a psychical projection of our collective mind or minds, it is in fact only that, a projection, and nothing more.
Those who have been able to fully realize their Buddha-nature see this projected reality as it is and therefor they do not see any material reality, or specific characteristics, other then that it is a projection, in it.
That is why their consciousness has the ability to remain un-influenced by these projected illusions.
This is why they can make their ‘body’ move through walls, make them walk on water and swim in sand, make them bigger or smaller, make them extremely heavy or without weight at all, make them radiate light or be invisible, or whatever is considered appropriate at any occasion.
All so called supernatural powers, or Siddhi’s are actually fully normal natural powers. Also because of this very same basis of oneness of all that is, supernormal powers like for instance telepathy, mind reading and knowing ones karma are totally understandable and natural too.
This natural aspect of this psychical power works both ways actually.
It does not only allow so called supernormal powers but it also is the root cause for falling into getting born!
Exactly because these powers are in this way fully natural, we keep getting born over and again each time we have died, as long as we did not cease our craving for experiencing Samsara.
The will in one to experience it, did not cease and thus the working of the psychical power granted to this ‘individual’ particle of the ‘whole’ will create a new birth to get the experiences it seeks.
How come we can’t do whatever we want all time then, simply by willing it?
Obviously the answer to that question is that we can’t because we still see reality in material and other phenomena, this is we see material characteristics in the projected universe we find ourselves ‘in’.
However; it is not the universe we are in, but the universe is in us!
How do we arrive at this conclusion?
Now please look at those first two steps on the list of the eight liberations.
The first step says: ‘possessing form, one sees form’. How did we get that form? We got it because of our ignorant state of consciousness in which we traveled down the links on the chain of interdependent origination and having reached the second link we acquired ourselves ‘name and form’ or Nama-rupa. There and then we acquired form!
The second step on the list of the eight liberations says: ‘Not perceiving material forms in oneself, one sees them outside’. This also only is so, because of the (still) ignorant state of our consciousness!
Of course this is a huge hint !
We should not see material forms as outside ourselves.
Seeing the material universe as outside ourselves or outside oneself also does not fit at all to the notion that the Ultimate Reality is that there is a non-dual existence. The non-duality guarantees there can be nothing existing outside of it. A simple question of logical deduction!
Secondly we can’t realize every will at command because of our untrained and un-sustained concentration. We have many and opposing intentions all the time, thwarting the promptly realization of most if not any at all of them.
Thirdly we have been having many intentions for many lives and in these lives we did do many things which have caused good or bad fruit of karma. This fruit of karma has to be experienced as well. This fruit of karma will also thwart the promptly realization of intentions.
Emptiness is the non-dual Primal Force which in reaction to intention brings about the experience of what was intended.
Because of ignorance we do not realize this and that causes us to wrongly identify as a separate individual personal self living inside an Universe which exists separate from us – which it does not.
Realizing this Ultimate Truth to the full, will cease the urge to try to attain anything ‘outside oneself’ or in the ‘material universe’.
Maintaining full concentration on this Ultimate Truth will then lead to exhaustion of fruit of karma. Not as a first goal, but siddhis will arise as a natural side effect of this ‘dwelling in the perfection of Wisdom’ as it is called in the Heart sutra.
So far this try to make the illusive concept of Emptiness a more clear mental concept and as such more ‘palpable’ and better attainable as a goal in meditation and in life. Of course this talk really can’t show you the full reality of emptiness, nothing and no one can except for th non-dual Buddha-nature in you!
I wish you the power and determination to find this one and only refuge from Samsara!
Author: Jos joszpe


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Apr 01

We talk about Loving Kindness at the Buddha Center but do we practice it in our everyday life

a beautiful article as a reminder to us all

 » Basic Buddhism Guide » Snapshots » Loving-kindness – Forgivemess

“Please put the attention on the breath.
Have forgiveness in your heart for anything you think you’ve done wrong . Forgive yourself for all the past omissions and commissions. They are long gone. Understand that you were a different person and this one is forgiving that one that you were. Feel that forgiveness filling you and enveloping you with a sense of warmth and ease.
Think of your parents. Forgive them for anything you have ever blamed them for. Understand that they too are different now. Let this forgiveness fill them, surround them, knowing in your heart that this is your most wonderful way of togetherness.
Think of your nearest and dearest people . Forgive them for anything that you think they have done wrong or are doing wrong at this time. Fill them with your forgiveness. Let them feel that you accept them. Let that forgiveness fill them. Realizing that this is your expression of love.
Now think of your friends. Forgive them for anything you have disliked about them. Let your forgiveness reach out to them, so that they can be filled with it, embraced by it.
Think of the people you know, whoever they might be, and forgive them all for whatever it is that you have blamed them for, that you have judged them for, that you have disliked. Let your forgiveness fill their hearts, surround them, envelope them, be your expression of love for them.
Now think of any special person whom you really need to forgive. Towards whom you still have resentment, rejection, dislike. Forgive him or her fully. Remember that everyone has dukkha. Let this forgiveness come from your heart. Reach out to that person, complete and total.
Think of any one person, or any situation, or any group of people whom you are condemning, blaming, disliking. Forgive them, completely. Let your forgiveness be your expression of unconditional love. They may not do the right things. Human beings have dukkha. And your heart needs the forgiveness in order to have purity of love.
Have a look again and see whether there’s anyone or anything, any where in the world, towards whom you have blame or condemnation. And forgive the people or the person, so that there is no separation your heart.
Now put your attention back on yourself. And recognize the goodness in you. The effort you are making. Feel the warmth and ease that comes from forgiveness.”
May all beings have forgiveness in their hearts!

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Feb 10

Parinirvana Day, February 15th at the Buddha Center



Please join us for a day of reflection and meditation sessions at the Buddha Center to commemorate the Lord Buddha’s entry into Nirvana.  A schedule will be submitted to the Sangha for the day’s events


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2017/02/10/parinirvana-day-february-15th-at-the-buddha-center/

Feb 01

Chinese New Year at the Buddha Center – January 28th 2017

Year of the fire Rooster 2017

What an amazing day we had, meditations, historical talks fireworks and dancing and lovely gifts for all.   We started at 7 am slt and ended with Bhante Yuttadammo’s talk at 6:30 PM


Please join us next year for a fun filled day


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2017/02/01/chinese-new-year-at-the-buddha-center-january-28th-2017/

Dec 28

Happy New Year from the Buddha Center

Image result for Happy 2017 new year from the Buddha

May you achieve Enlightenment in this new year

The Buddha Center Staff


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2016/12/28/happy-new-year-from-the-buddha-center/

Oct 19

So you have never done a retreat before? How to get started

Retreats and Benefits

Often people ask me how long should I participate in a retreat. I say “the longer the better”. However, if you are a beginner, it is really best to do a one to three day retreat. This will give you a sense of the retreat process and it likely will encourage you to continue with longer retreats. In time you work your way up to a five or even an eleven day retreat

Many monastics and devoted lay people, of different traditions, take part in a three to four month retreat. In the West, with jobs and family obligations, this may be difficult if not impossible for the lay person.

But think of it this way – everyone gets vacation time from work so doing a ten to eleven day retreat is very feasible. And what a great vacation it is. Think about this – your worries, anxieties, fears are put aside during your retreat time. You dwell in bliss – peaceful bliss.

I have had monks and nuns tell me you do not achieve the benefit of retreat until day five, but I don’t agree. I have done both short and long retreats and found that a one day retreat can give me as many benefits as an eleven day one.

Let me emphasize this. Just doing a retreat one time is not going to do it.   It is a practice and with practice we continue to gain the privilege of achieving our goal. What is this goal? Enlightenment, awareness, knowing self.

I suggest that you don’t put pressure on yourself and say it didn’t work – it does with time and commitment. Keep at it.

So what are the benefits?

There are two categories – physical and spiritual

Let s start with physical

  1. Blood pressure goes down
  2. Cholesterol levels are reduced
  3. Aches and pains seem to magically evaporate
  4. You are more relaxed. Things that bothered you before are now unimportant
  5. You find that you are more focused on work.


  1. I rate this on top. Getting to know your true self
  2. Gaining a sense of peace, direction and increased confidence
  3. Reducing anger and frustrations
  4. Improving relationships
  5. Smiling more and sleeping better
  6. Attaining an acute sense of your surroundings with appreciation and respect.

Those are just a few.

There are many monasteries and temples that offer retreats- it will cost a lot less than going to Aruba or Jamaica. Besides all that, the food it great and you will find you are really tasting the food, not just shoveling it in. Again a sense of appreciation.

May we all achieve Buddhahood.

Delani, co-founder of the Buddha Center and Satori.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2016/10/19/so-you-have-never-done-a-retreat-before-how-to-get-started/

Oct 11

What is Silent Illumination ( Shikantaza (只管打坐?)


What is Silent Illumination?

By Simon Child

Article commissioned by Medytacja magazine (Poland).

Anyone who has ever tried any meditation will understand what I mean when I say that our minds are often noisy and dull. ‘Noisy’ because we experience the ‘voices’ of our thoughts filling our minds with words and images. ‘Dull’ because we see only a part of our present circumstances and environment, the part which preoccupies us, and we overlook much else that may be present. The Chan (Chinese Zen Buddhist) practice of Silent Illumination points the way to correcting this, by leading us to a mind in which the awareness is wide-open and all-seeing (clear, bright, awake, ‘Illuminated’) and yet the mind does not generate any commentary or other mental chatter (calm, peaceful, ‘Silent’).

The fundamental problem is our innate tendency, which we have each developed and refined during the decades of our lives, to evaluate the world in terms of whether some circumstance or encounter may be beneficial or dangerous to ‘me’, in which case I give it a lot of attention, or whether it seems unimportant or irrelevant, in which case I ignore it. This splitting goes on all the time, sometimes consciously but often unconsciously. It is the process that the Buddha referred to in the second Noble Truth as the origin of ‘Dukkha’, the Sanskrit word for suffering or dissatisfaction – we are preoccupied with concern that we may not get what we want, and may lose what we have, and this leaves us wary and unsettled.

It is natural and useful that we do that to some extent, or else we might fall prey to common dangers such as starvation or car accidents. But we are such complex social creatures with such powerful thinking minds that we overdo it. We can spend many hours thinking anxiously about some past situation and trying to rework it because we didn’t like the outcome, or planning future possibilities fearing an unfavourable result, and all this time our attention has been narrowed and we have overlooked opportunities and delights in the present moment. Practising Silent Illumination leads us to a balanced mind, one which indeed can function safely and effectively in response to common dangers and opportunities but which is not ‘narrow-minded’ and preoccupied with selfish concerns.

The two aspects of the practice, Silence and Illumination, need to be cultivated together. If we over-emphasise one aspect and neglect the other then that is not Silent Illumination. For example, there are many meditation methods which emphasise calming and silencing the mind but often these include an element of suppression of the mind so as to reduce the tendency for the mind to wander. The common method of settling the mind by focusing on the breath (or some other object such as a mantra or an image) may be excellent for a meditator whose mind is very unsettled (and so we often recommend this as preparation for practising Silent Illumination). But by directing the mind to focus solely on the breath one is excluding the possibility of a wide open awareness. Silent Illumination takes a different approach.

One meaning of the term ‘Silent Illumination’ is not a meditation method at all but is a state or a way of being. If you are in a state of wide open awareness with a silent mind then there is no need to apply any method of meditation. Indeed to do so would be inappropriate as you would be adding unnecessary activities and ambitions to a mind which is already bright and clear. This is the state of Silent Illumination, but the question is how might one discover or enter that state.

It is possible that you might fall into that state spontaneously, and it is also possible that you might move to it from some other meditation method. For example, if well-practised at following the breath you may be able to maintain the same concentration and silence of mind whilst opening the awareness wider than just the breath. The traditional way to enter Silent Illumination is by settling the attention on awareness of your body, the experience of sitting, the sense of bodily presence.

It may appear that focusing on body awareness could lead to the same problem as focusing on breath awareness, that you would exclude a wider awareness, but it turns out to be quite different. It is through the sense organs of the body that we hear sounds, we see light and objects, and we feel the touch of a breeze and perhaps smell the scent of incense or flowers. So in focusing on body awareness we are automatically cultivating awareness of our surroundings as well. And similarly we also include full awareness of our inner world, most directly as we experience emotional feelings being felt as part of the physical body sensation but also as we locate thoughts as arising ‘in’ the body or head. We discover that the act of sitting with full experience of our body sensation leads us to cultivate a full three-dimensional 360 degree awareness of physical body together with our inner and outer worlds.

It can be a difficult practice to stabilise, and it is wise to check your practice with a teacher. As the awareness is open wide there is so much more material for the mind to comment about and so the silence may be lost. And in trying to suppress the tendency of the mind to wander the awareness can become reduced. In either case this is not yet Silent Illumination, but with guidance and practice one can taste the freedom and spaciousness and liveliness of this state.

This is an ancient practice which derives from the teachings of the Buddha, from the Samatha-Vipassana practices of Indian Buddhism, from the early Chan Masters, and especially from Chan Master Hongzhi in 12th Century China. Subsequently it spread to other countries, notably to Japan where it is the basis of the Soto Zen practice of Shikantaza. It is an ancient Oriental practice with monastic origins, but one which is perfectly suited to modern Western lay people who can learn and cultivate the practice and naturally carry it through into their lives as an everyday mindfulness which is present, attentive, and open in all circumstances.


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Sep 25



“According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s not passive — it’s not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness).”(1)

“The White Knight Syndrome represents a strong inclination some men have to seek women who are or appear to be in need of help (usually the more help the merrier), and on his own initiative provide that help (often no matter the sacrifice), without requesting anything in return.” (2)

It is not just men that display this syndrome, as a lesbian, I too have suffered from it with the desire to rescue damsels in distress. As a practicing Buddhist, and lay practitioner that has taken the Boddhisatvaa vow; I have both an interest in and obligation to distinguish between the two motivations, and choose appropriate actions and behaviors from a place of clear view and intention.

To outline the difference of these two approaches to “assisting others”, I shall provide more details of what White Night Syndrome entails.

“With this penchant towards saving women comes a whole set of perceptions (many of them unconscious) that model the white knight’s emotions and behavior. Your archetypal white knight:
Sees women as powerless and unable to defend or take care of themselves.
Sees women’s problems as the result of misfortune or the cruelty of this world, never as their own fault. Women are never responsible for their troubles.
Considers it is men’s responsibility to help women solve their problems and sees doing so as a sign of nobility.
Thinks a woman will forever be grateful to a man who helps her. She will praise him, love him and give herself to him.
Sees men in black and white: they are either good or bad, there is no middle ground, and the decisive factor is how they treat women.
There are many clichés and stereotypes in the way a white knight perceives men and women, and this perception is indeed much more descriptive of folktales than of actual reality.
The White Knight Syndrome essentially stems from two erroneous beliefs that all white knights have in common. Deep down, they believe that 1) it is imperative for them to be liked by all women and 2) they are not good enough to be liked by women as they are.
Thus, the White Knight Syndrome ensues, as sort of a coping mechanism.
The white knight craves female approval, attention and companionship, as well as sex, a romantic relationship and perhaps marriage. But he doesn’t believe that he can obtain these things by just being himself, because he thinks he’s not good enough.
He believes he has to do something special to cope with this predicament. And the something special he discovered is trying to save women from their troubles. It’s no wonder he is drawn to women who need saving like a fly to honey.
At some level he thinks that if he can find women who are weak and in dire need of help, and he will swiftly jump in to provide that help, he will get these women to like him and give him all that he craves from them. Without him openly asking for any of it.
Even though the white knight asks for nothing in return for the help he offers and he may seem to offer it out of pure kindness or morality, make no mistake about it: he has a personal agenda, which he keeps hidden (often so well even he’s not truly aware of it). He wants something from the women he helps. Sometimes it’s only something emotional such as their approval, other times it’s something more material.
Unfortunately, to the white knight’s utter surprise, instead of providing him what he wants from women, his behavior mostly generates steep negative consequences.” (3).

To learn more about this Syndrome check out the link in the reference are from which the quoted material comes.

I started the title of this article with the word seasoned to illustrate the point that it takes true self investigation and honesty to truly understand ones inner motivations for taking vows and displaying behaviors. Oftentimes one runs into conflicts with self and others unaware of their origin. This in fact has happened to me over and over, as I truly do have compassion, seriously and wholeheartedly took the Bodhisattva Vow, but was unaware that my behavior towards women was laced with the ” White Knight Syndrome”, until a woman I was flattering responded to my behavior by simply saying White Knight Syndrome. I looked it up, and found myself on every line of the article, minus being a man of course. I merely thought I must have been a man many times in past lives to want to rescue Damsels in Distress and had no idea about the syndrome. I will be forever grateful to her for opening my eyes to a lifetime of erroneous behavior on my part. It is no wonder I sensed an inner conflict between my vow and my penchant for flattering and wooing women.

So whether you are a man or woman, Buddhist or not, I encourage you to look deeper into yourself, it just may free you to engender true compassion for yourself and others, who knows it could lead you and them to true liberation.
In the Dharma, Jinpa.

(1) http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/compassion.htm
(2) http://iameduard.com/whiteknight/
(3) http://iameduard.com/whiteknight/


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2016/09/25/seasoned-compassion-v-s-white-knight-syndrome/

Sep 13

Teaching by Chang Xiang Fashi at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center


You Want to Get Liberated, But You Don’t Want to Change

By Chang Xiang Fashi

Dharma Talk given on March 26, 2015 at DDRC’s Thursday Evening Meditation Group

audio version

So on Thursday evenings, apart from the meditation, we also hold a Dharma Talk, so that we can talk about theories and methods – about how to really practice, and some problems you may be having.

Today, I want to talk about a certain concept. Have any of you seen the movie trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron?

It’s a new movie – you can see it in theatres in May – but now you can only see the trailer. Actually, before I became a monk, I loved watching movies. Now, I couldn’t really see the full movie, but I can at least see the trailer – and it’s legal, because you can find it on YouTube.

And in that trailer, there’s a line that’s very interesting – it says:

“You want to protect the world, but you don’t want to change.”

Anyone have any impressions?

This phrase reminds me of when we practice, because usually, we don’t really want to change ourselves. In Chinese, the word for practice, xiū xíng, consists of two characters:

  1. The first character means ‘to adjust or modify’
  2. The second means ‘behavior’

So xiū xíng means ‘to adjust your behavior,’ or ‘to modify your behavior.’

This is why, during our retreats, we usually teach people to do Five Harmonizations, which are to:

  1. Harmonize the Diet
  2. Harmonize the Sleep
  3. Harmonize the Body
  4. Harmonize the Breath
  5. Harmonize the Mind

The purpose of these Five Harmonizations is to make our body and mind suitable for practice, suitable for meditation.

And you have to understand these Five Harmonizations sequentially, and as being interconnected:

If you couldn’t harmonize your diet and sleep,
you couldn’t harmonize your body.If you couldn’t harmonize your body,
you couldn’t harmonize your breath.If you couldn’t harmonize your breath,
you couldn’t harmonize your mind.

So we have to adjust ourselves step-by-step, and today, I first want to talk about harmonizing our diet.

What It Means to Harmonize Your Diet

To harmonize your diet is to know how to eat properly.

I come from Taiwan, and I think many people know that in Taiwan, there are lots of delicious foods. So Taiwanese people love to eat, and they know how to make good food.

I like delicious food too, but when I came here as a monk, I was put in charge of the kitchen; so it’s my duty to serve people healthy food, and to harmonize their diet, because the food we serve here at the monastery is what the practitioners have to eat – they don’t have much choice.

There are certain principles we have to follow in the kitchen. We couldn’t serve hamburgers and French fries every meal – that would make practitioners sick. So we have to serve a healthy diet, and we have to make the nutrition balanced, because that’s very important during a retreat: if you can’t eat good food, or enough food, that would generate many problems.

The four principles we have to follow in the kitchen are clear – the food must be:

  1. Nutritious
  2. Healthy
  3. Hygienic
  4. Reasonably Priced

Those are the four principles we have to follow when we serve food.

You can notice there’s no ‘Delicious’ principle there. Making the food delicious is not our first priority. That’s not even in the four principles, even though most people like delicious food, and most of the time that’s the first reason why they eat a particular meal.

When you go out to eat, the first concern is: “Does this restaurant’s food taste good?” For the majority of people, taste is what matters most.

But people come here to the monastery to practice – we don’t want them to expect too much from the food; although, our chefs are very good at cooking food, so most of the time our food is delicious.

But that’s not what is most important.



This is an amazing retreat center started by the Late Master Sheng Yen in the USA.  His legacy is carried on.

The Dharma Drum Retreat Center is located off of Rt. 52 in Pine Bush, NY at 184 Quannacut Road. If you or your group would like to visit our retreat center, please call (845) 744-8114 or email us at [email protected] to request an appointment.

Please note that visits are not allowed when a retreat is in session.



Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2016/09/13/teaching-by-chang-xiang-fashi-at-the-dharma-drum-retreat-center/

Jul 01

All Phenomena is Causally Conditioned . . . Even You

All Phenomena is Causally Conditioned . . . Even You

by Wayne Ren-Cheng

Causality, co-dependent arising, the causal chain, the arising and falling away of phenomena, causal conditioning, these are all labels for the causes and effects brought about by the reality of impermanence. Due to the dynamism of the Universe we inhabit there is always change, always room for change, always the potential for change. The reality of the arising and falling away of phenomena adds vitality to the Noble Path, the path of positive transformation. Impermanence is a dharma ideal. Causal conditioning is the reality that arises from that ideal.

In the Paccaya Sutta the Buddha says:

When this is present, that comes to be:

from the arising of this, that arises.

When this is absent, that does not come to be:

on the cessation of this, that ceases.

In causal conditioning there can be no ONE cause or ONE effect. All phenomena arise from a variety of causes and effects. No matter whether it is a thought, action, philosophy, material, food, theories, emotions, or ideas they are all subject to the actions of other phenomena though every causal event that contributed may be beyond our ability to comprehend or discover. This does not negate the reality of causal conditions, just our ability as human beings to recognize all the nuances of the causal Universe.

There is an aphorism that says you are the author of your own story. That is true given that you choose how you respond to each situation, still you are responding to causes and effects you are mindful and aware of . . . and not to those causes you have no awareness of. Your intent must be to engage with causal factors more likely to cause the arising of wholesome consequences, and to allow the falling away of those causal factors likely to cause unwholesome consequences. You must seek to take control of the causal conditions you can so that those you can’t control will have a lesser impact on your wholesome personal transformation.

In the Majjhima Nikayas, the Maha-hatthipadopama-sutta (36) the Buddha teaches that “He who sees causality (dependent origination, co-dependent arising) sees the dharma, and he who sees the dharma sees causality.” Without an understanding and recognition of dependent origination following the Eightfold Path or engaging in any other Buddhist practice can be an empty exercise. The potential is there but the realization of possibilities will not be. In another teaching (Itivuttaka, from the Kuddhaka Nikaya) the Buddha said, “A disciple sees the dharma, and seeing the dharma sees me.” The Buddha was speaking directly to a gathering of monks but the same holds true for anyone. Causality is the core of understanding the dharma, and of realizing how Buddhist practice can be effective in transforming our personal character and the world around us. Realizing the ideal of causality empowers us with the knowledge that we can make a difference through our engaged actions, whether they be within ourselves, or with others, or with the world around us. This is a powerful and liberating realization.

The Buddha talked about four characteristics of causal relationships:

Objectivity: Dependent origination or causal conditioning is a fact no matter what angle it is viewed from. Metaphysics or science, human or animal, seen or not seen, there are causal results of actions taken, or not taken, recognized or not.
Necessity: Nothing happens from “thin air”. The cause may not be discernible but there is a cause, and often a chain, or web of causes.
Invariability: Even events that appear to have no cause, have a cause. While an action/result may have been unintentional, it wasn’t accidental, there was a cause. One may not have intended a particular outcome of their actions, yet they bear at least some responsibility for that outcome. This is why intent is critical in how we interact with the world around us. Whether we recognize it or not our actions are going to have consequences so we engage the world in such a way as to engender positive outcomes, positive karmic consequences.
Conditionality: Events are situational due to the conditions under which they happen. Unconditional would imply determinism, that an event was pre-destined or was an arbitrary occurrence. All phenomena are causally conditioned; they arise, fall, change and interact as a result of being influenced by some other action or thought. In RL when the ching bell is struck the sound follows. That is its causally conditioned action. In SL that is not always so. I can ring the ching bell here by aligning the hand symbol on it and tapping the keyboard but it doesn’t always lead to the sound. In SL the ching bell might not ring due to a glitch in programming or in the transmission of my physical action to the virtual action. This is virtual causal conditioning.
All causal relationships are dependent on all four of the factors above. It is one of the Three Characteristics of Existence, along with not-self and impermanence, that the Buddha awakened to.

In the Paccaya Sutta (Discourse on Causal Relations – SN), the Buddha tells his disciples that the dharma is subject to causality and so would undergo changes in accordance with causal factors like environment, culture, context and level of need; the reality of causally conditioned phenomena. He offered that a realization of causal conditioning explains the existence of all phenomena and the complex interactions between them. A realization of causality empowers one with the knowledge that you can make a difference through your intentional actions, but also you make a difference through unintentional ones. It brings with the knowledge that internal and external phenomena mold HOW you are so effort and commitment made to be more mindful of those influences is valuable on the Noble Path or any other positively oriented path. It is a liberating realization.

Viewing how you interact with the Universe through a causal lens can change your perceptions, intent and actions. When you realize that every move, thought and word WILL become part of the web of causal conditioning the need and value of mindfulness and awareness becomes crystal clear.

Think before you speak or act is an age-old aphorism. What about think before you think? How you think leads to a causal chain of how you’ll continue to think unless you become the cause of your own transformation. How we think naturally leads to how we act. Through practice and study we may come to realize that some patterns of thought are negative and they are leading us to make even more bad decisions. Causality allows the opportunity to make positive changes along with the knowledge that intentional thought leads to good decisions and positively directed actions.

Viewing issues and problems through a causal lens improves your ability to enact lasting positive solutions. We are less likely to place blame on one individual or one vent as a cause by looking for weak strands in the causal web that connects cause to effect to cause to effect . . . Fixing or adjusting more than one strand of the web will enable you to spin more corrective and encompassing solutions to the unique situations you experience each moment.

Picture a spider’s web, yourself at the center. Whatever happens to, or on that web affects you. When the web “vibrates” then something caused it, and that vibration will effect something else. A strand of web doesn’t just snap . . . like your friend doesn’t get angry for nothing. Dew doesn’t just appear on the web . . . like that twenty dollar bill didn’t just appear on the sidewalk. It might have been the wind, an unusually strong moth, it hadn’t been properly attached, or a cause that can’t be clearly viewed that snapped the strand. No matter how you view a phenomena it has undergone its own unique set of circumstances; nothing arises “out of thin air”. You are responsible for developing mindfulness of self-caused effects, as well awareness of possible of outside causes. You are responsible for your intent and your actions because the center of your web is interlinked with all other webs.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/2016/07/01/all-phenomena-is-causally-conditioned-even-you/

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