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ASK THE TEACHERS

Q: How do we retain passion in life and still follow the teaching that we should accept all of life with equanimity?

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Tuesday
May162006

Ask The Teachers

Q: I am relatively new to Buddhism (I have been practicing for about a year) and I’ve been struggling with the balance between study and practice. How should I go about setting up a plan of study for myself? How do I decide what I should study when there is so much material out there, and are there things that I absolutely must study before going on to more advanced material? Also, do you have any suggestions on how I should balance practice and study? Is there an ideal balance between the two?

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Wednesday
Mar012006

The New Panditas

When I was young graduate student in the Buddhist studies program at the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1967, I heard my very first scholar-practitioner story. It was about a recent visit to the university by Edward Conze, then considered to be the world’s foremost authority on the complicated form of Mahayana literature known as Prajnaparamita. This story, however, had nothing whatsoever to do with Professor Conze’s academic passion.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

The Joy of the Lonely Dancer

    The lonely child who travels through
    The fearful waste and desolate fields,
    And listens to their barren tune,
    Greets as an unknown and best friend
    The terror in him, and he sings
    In darkness all the sweetest songs.

    —Chögyam Trungpa, from “The Silent Song of Loneliness” in Mudra: Early Poems and Songs

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Wednesday
Mar012006

Laughter Through the Tears: Kosho Uchiyama Roshi on Life as a Zen Beggar

Introduction by Daitsu Tom Wright and Jisho Warner

Kosho Uchiyama Roshi was one of the great Zen masters of the twentieth century. He centered his life on zazen, and, at his temple Antaiji, on the outskirts of Kyoto, he taught a life of the highest culture to everyone who wanted to practice with him, monk and lay, Japanese and foreigner.

For Uchiyama Roshi, leading a truly rich spiritual life meant leading a life grounded in zazen and following a lifestyle of material minimalism. He did not see material simplicity as some sort of asceticism, but he often spoke to his disciples and followers of the importance of never being afraid or ashamed of material poverty. He saw how the very abundance that people seek confuses them and becomes the cause of so much suffering.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

Nibbana Is Giving Up, Letting Go, and Being Free

The Buddha taught to see the body in the body. What does this mean? We are all familiar with the parts of the body, such as hair, nails, teeth, and skin. So how do we see the body in the body? If we recognize all these things as being impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self, that’s what is called seeing the body in the body. Then it isn’t necessary to go into detail and meditate on the separate parts. It’s like having fruit in a basket. If we have already counted the pieces of fruit, then we know what’s there, and when we need to, we can pick up the basket and take it away, and all the pieces come with it. We know the fruit is all there, so we don’t have to count it again.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

First, the Bad News

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s perspective on Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist practices is unique, and summarizing his views, ranging as they do over so many profound issues, is not an easy task. The number of his books is already quite large, with more arriving. While Trungpa Rinpoche is a very organized thinker in one respect, with a masterly command of the English language, in another respect his teachings almost defy systematization; his spontaneous outbursts of poetic expression and brilliant insights into our human folly can appear at any instant in his discourse, making it very difficult for anyone to write about his work and do his thinking justice.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

Forum: Are Kleshas Obstacles or Opportunities for Enlightenment?

Buddhism has plenty of words for what human beings do wrong—defilements, neurotic behavior, obscurations, obstructions, evil deeds, kleshas, and so on. The beauty of Buddhism, though, is that it doesn’t focus on blame. The focus of Buddhism is samsara, which is not a sin but simply a mistake, a mistake that starts out small and gets very, very big. When you begin with the view that a mistake has been made, you can stop trying to apprehend the wrongdoer and put your effort into finding out how the mistake occurred in the first place. In the beginning, the real nature of the mistake can elude us, and we may think that there is “something wrong with us.” It takes the patience and diligence of mindfulness to see our “defilements” for what they really are—and to see how they differ from who we really are.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

Ask the Teachers

Q: Someone very close to me is going through a great deal of psychological difficulty and can’t find their way in life. I feel strongly that they would benefit from being able to take their thoughts less seriously, something I feel I’ve been learning from meditation. Yet, they are clearly not ready to take up Buddhism or even meditation, although in the long run I think they might. I would like to help them out now and to help them find their way to the path. How can I do that without seeming to preach Buddhism or trying to make them take up an activity they don’t feel ready for?

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Wednesday
Mar012006

No Time to Lose

    No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
    By Pema Chödrön

Reviewed by Roger Jackson

No Time to Lose is a fruit of the encounter between one of the most respected of all Western Buddhist teachers, bhikshuni Pema Chödrön, and one of the most beloved of all Mahayana Buddhist texts, the Bodhicharyavatara by the eighth-century Indian monk, Shantideva.

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Wednesday
Mar012006

The Lost Lineage

Reviewed by Roko Sherry Chayat

Feminism has had an impact on Buddhism, but it has been a slow, wrenching process. Yes, the Buddha proclaimed that women were capable of enlightenment; yes, Dogen, Dahui, and other great ancestral teachers declared that according to the dharma there was no difference between men and women. But at the same time, the movement that seeks to establish women’s equality has had to confront ancient Buddhist teachings that, as Osumi Kazuo explains, would have us believe that “because the nature of women is inherently evil, they cannot achieve salvation without first being transformed into or reborn as men.”1 And indeed, in actual practice, the world of differentiation always seems to trump the realm of sameness.

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