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Friday
Sep012006

Degrees of Seeing

Meditation is the way of letting go. First you let go of all perceptions of time to enter the timeless present moment. Then you let go of inner speech to rest peacefully in silent awareness. Next, you let go of most of your five senses’ activity, just keeping awareness of your breath. Then you let go of your breath and watch it disappear.

At this stage, you can no longer see, hear, smell, taste, or feel touch. It appears that your body has vanished, and in its place you are mindful of a beautiful light, the nimitta. The nimitta is a reflection of the citta (the mind), seen through the sixth sense. Then you let go of all controlling to merge into the light and enter the bliss of the jhana world. Thus, jhanas are what happen automatically when you really let go; they are described as the deep stages of letting go. The Buddha clearly and repeatedly stated that full enlightenment could not be attained without the experience of a jhana. Yet today, some teachers claim that such a degree of letting go is unnecessary. They often cite the Buddha’s well-known brief teaching to Bahiya, as recorded in the Udana (Ud 1.10).

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Friday
Sep012006

Forum: Practicing the Great Perfection

Introduction by Barry Boyce

Sometimes the Buddhadharma forum asks people from different traditions to discuss a common Buddhist principle, like karma or the kleshas, or to explore issues that challenge the Buddhist community as a whole, such as how we can extend a helping hand to the world. At other times, we take a fly-on-the-wall approach, and listen in as members of one particular tradition discuss the nature of their path and practice. In this forum, we’ve brought together several noted practitioners of the Vajrayana tradition of Dzogchen to discuss this profound path of simplicity, which seems both utterly accessible and inaccessible all at once.

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Friday
Sep012006

In Translation: Nothing to be Discarded or Kept

Mirror to Reflect the Most Essential: The Final Instruction on the Ultimate Meaning

By Longchen Rabjam

Single embodiment of compassionate power and activities
Of infinite mandalas of all-encompassing conquerors,
Glorious guru, supreme lord of a hundred families,
Forever I pay homage at your feet.

Ema! Listen here, you fortunate yogis.

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Friday
Sep012006

Pointing Beyond Words

Introduction by Gary Gach

Glancing at these pages, you might get the impression that someone picked up a brush without knowing whether to write a poem or draw a drawing. A perpetual freshness permeates the atmosphere.

Hand in hand with such immediacy and spontaneity, you can freely glide through these poems like a fish unaware of the water—and suddenly be surprised by the taste of the entire ocean in just one drop: That shock of recognition. Words can point beyond words. To silence (which makes words possible). To the whole cosmos. To the luminosity of being. To the heart within the heart.

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Friday
Sep012006

Buddhism and the American Character

By Bodhin Kjolhede

The American tradition is to use all traditions freely, and for several decades now American Buddhists have been doing just that. Here on American soil, we’re cultivating a mixture of dharma seeds sown by our various Asian forebears, and while the yield from this effort is only beginning to be seen, it surely embodies the native soil—us Americans—at least as much as the seeds. We might pause, then, to consider the American character as it relates to practice, focusing on those traits most likely to challenge us as practitioners.

Individual Self-Identity

The subject-object split is part of the human condition, but nowhere is the concept of a fixed, discrete self so entrenched—and so celebrated—as in this country. This obsession with “I,” “me,” and “my” creates a world of trouble in practice as we keep getting in our own way, tripping over all those opinions and preferences and comparisons with others that we count on to secure our selfhood.

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Friday
Sep012006

Ask the Teachers

Q: Buddhism stresses having compassion for others, trying to reach the “soft spot” in their hearts in order to communicate with them. However, recently, in my own life, I have come to realize that there are people who do not wish me well and, in fact, actively pursue harming me in some way. Devious and manipulative people do exist and being in their presence can feel truly toxic. In fact, I’ve experienced real physical symptoms of illness and weakness when I am in the presence of such people for too long a time. Is it ever permissible to stop trying to connect with this type of person and just remove oneself as much as possible from their negative influence?

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Friday
Sep012006

Analyzing Enlightenment

    After: Poems Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures: Essays on Theories and Practices
    Edited by Mark Unno
    After: Poems The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra
    By Rob Preece

Reviewed by Mark Epstein, MD

 


Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know. But at conferences on Buddhism and psychotherapy, the spoken word is all we have to go on. What is the point? The hope at such conferences is always for someone to explain what Buddhist awakening actually consists of, what enlightenment actually means.

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Friday
Sep012006

Book Briefs

Foundational teachings on Buddhist meditation are contained throughout the collection of texts known as the Pali canon. Much of this material has been translated into English but remains hidden in rare or out-of-print books and obscured in the archaic language of a bygone age. Sarah Shaw successfully remedies this unfortunate situation with her new book, Buddhist Meditation: An Anthology of Texts from the Pali Canon (Routledge, 2006). The structure of Shaw’s anthology follows the list of forty subjects of meditation established by the scholar-monk Buddhaghosa in the fifth century BCE and used in Theravada countries to the present day. Under each heading, Shaw provides elegant and highly readable new translations of relevant passages from the Pali canon and its earliest commentators. With introductory chapters addressing questions such as “What is meditation?” this excellent anthology is both a practical handbook for meditators and a useful reference for students of Buddhism at any level.

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Friday
Sep012006

Profile: Forest Sangha

A humble man of small stature, living simply in a kuti (meditation hut) in the remote and impoverished northeast of Thailand, grew to be one of the most influential figures in Buddhism in the West. Ajahn Chah was not only an important teacher for the founders of the Insight Meditation Society, a largely secularized group devoted to vipassana meditation, he also left a legacy of rigorous Theravada monasticism that is carried on in monasteries and their associated lay communities throughout the world. This group of monasteries is led by Ajahn Chah’s senior Western monks. There is no overarching organization that carries on his legacy, but the age of the Internet demands a label, so when the far-flung community decided to create a web portal in 2001, they gave it the name forestsangha.org.

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Thursday
Jun012006

Reflecting on a Mother’s Love

This is probably the last Saturday night talk that I’ll be giving for quite a while. I have received news from my sister in England that our mother is extremely ill, and the signs are that she won’t live for more than a few months. So I plan to fly to England in a week to be with her.

The Buddha once said (Anguttara Nikaya 2:32) that if you were to carry your parents around with you for their whole lives—your father on one shoulder and your mother on the other—even to the point where they were losing their faculties and their excrement was running down your back, this would not repay your debt of gratitude to them. But you could repay the debt if your parents were not virtuous and you established them in virtue; if they were not wise and you established them in wisdom; if they were stingy and you established them in generosity; if they had no faith in the spiritual path and you led them to it.

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