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Thursday
Nov082012

The Sound of Silence 

Ajahn Amaro explains how to practice nada yoga and why this simple act of listening to inner sound can help you realize emptiness.

Along with the more well-known meth­ods designed to help practitioners of Buddhist meditation ground their attention in the present moment— such as focusing on the rhythm of the breath, paying attention to the feeling of foot­steps, or internally repeating a mantra—is a less familiar method known as nada yoga. Nada is the Sanskrit word for “sound,” and nada yoga means meditating on the inner sound, also referred to as the sound of silence. (Interestingly, nada is also the Spanish word for “nothing.”)

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Thursday
Nov082012

Pure, Clear, and Vibrant 

Visualization practice sometimes involves traditional symbolism that Westerners have trouble relating to, says Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. He shows us how we can make the most of this powerful method for transforming perception.

The technique of visualization is employed throughout the Vajrayana practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Its use of our imagination makes it quite different from other meditations, such as shamatha, or calm abiding. Imagination also plays a major part in our deluded experience of life. Everything we encounter and perceive in our daily life is a product of our imagination, but because we believe in the illusions we create, they become such deeply rooted mental habits that we completely forget they are little more than fantasy.

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Thursday
Nov082012

You Are Already Enlightened 

Guo Gu, a longtime student of the late Master Sheng Yen, presents an experiential look at the Chan practice of silent illumination.

Silent illumination is a Buddhist practice that can be traced back not only to Huineng (638–713), the sixth patriarch of Chan, and other Chinese masters but also to the early teachings of the Buddha. In the Chan tradition, silent illumination is referred to as mozhao, from the Chinese characters mo (silent) and zhao (illumination). It’s a term that was first used by a critic of the practice, Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163), an advocate of the method of “observing critical phrase” (huatou in Chinese; wato in Japanese). Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157), the Chinese master most often associated with the practice of silent illumination, liked the term and adopted it.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Meditating on the Mind Itself

A teaching on the practice of Mahamudra by Kagyu master Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, who passed away in July at the age of 57.

According to the Buddhist Maha­yana tradition, practitioners need to eradicate certain defile­ments and obscurations of the mind in order to realize ultimate truth, or ultimate reality, and the most effective way to achieve this is through the practice of meditation. Generally speaking, two types of meditation are engaged in: shamatha, the “meditation of tranquillity,” and vipashyana, the “meditation of insight.” Through the practice of shamatha, the meditator learns to quiet the mind so that it becomes more focused, resilient, and aware—and therefore less suscep­tible to distractions.

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Thursday
Nov082012

The Path of Gratitude 

The goal of Shin Buddhism’s central practice, nembutsu, is not to attain buddhahood for ourselves, says Jeff Wilson, but to express gratitude for all we have received.

I visit a lot of Buddhist temples and groups in North America, and it’s pretty common for people to ask, “So, what’s your prac­tice?” It’s a sort of icebreaker in the Bud­dhist world. I think my answer tends to surprise some folks, though. As a Shin Buddhist, my primary practice isn’t meditation, sutra study, ritual, or precepts. All of these can be valuable, of course, but in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. This sets us apart from many other Buddhists. We don’t practice to achieve anything—not enlightenment, good karma, a favorable rebirth, or material rewards.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Is Meditation Enough?

Introduction by Norman Fischer

The introduction of Buddhism to the West has necessarily involved comparing and contrasting various aspects of Buddhism with our own religious culture, and Bud­dhism has come off quite well. The earliest interested Westerners saw Buddhism as a refreshingly undogmatic psychospiritual approach that was much more rational than the faith-obsessed Christianity of their day. Actual engagement in Buddhist practice exploded in the West in the 1960s. The dharma seemed in perfect accord with an alienated genera­tion in flight from convention and desperate for a wide-open form of spiritual exploration.

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Thursday
Nov082012

Here With You 

“When confronted with a patient’s fatal illness,” says physician Friederike Boissevain, “we are expected to know what to do.” But Zen practice has taught her that being present with a mind of not knowing is sometimes the best medicine.

I leafed through the man’s medical file. A CT scan showed extensive disease, and the histology was unfavorable. He was younger than me, with two children, and worked in the ship industry. He lived in a middle-class neighborhood where the hedges were neatly cut. Symptoms of his illness had shown up a year ago, but he was against further investigation. As I shook his hand in the waiting area and felt his firm grip, I looked into his determined, suntanned face—and the fearful eyes of his wife. In my office, I started with my questions.

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Thursday
Nov082012

No Small Effort

by Gina Sharpe and Larry Yang

On September 19, Spirit Rock Meditation Center held a graduation ceremony for ninety-five leadership train­ees in its fourth Community Dharma Leaders (CDL) training program. This graduating class was the most diverse and multicultural group of teachers Spirit Rock has ever trained in the fifteen years of the program’s existence.

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Thursday
Nov082012

First Thoughts

Behind Door Number Three

When we realize the emptiness of self and the truth of enlightenment, we see there is nothing to strive for. Thich Nhat Hanh on aimlessness, the third door of liberation.

One gatha from the sutra Yogacarabhumi­shastra says that all of us contain a stream and that we don’t have a separate self. It reads: “Living beings is the name of a con­tinuous stream, and all phenomena as the object of perception are only signs. Therefore there is no real change of birth into death and death into birth and no person who realizes nirvana.”

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Thursday
Nov082012

Ask the Teachers

Q: I have two sons, one seven and the other fourteen. I’d like to introduce them to meditation and the Buddhist teachings but it’s difficult to compete with Nintendo games, favorite television shows, and all the other exciting and flashy things kids gravitate to these days. How can I share the gift of dharma with my sons without trying to force it on them and potentially turn them off it altogether?

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