It’s not surprising that His Holiness the Dalai Lama—who likes to say that if he hadn’t become a monk, he’d have been an engineer—should so often find himself involved with the paradoxical relationship of the material and the spiritual. On his fall trip to the U.S., which coincided with publication of his new book, The Universe in a Single Atom, he gave teachings in Tucson, New York City, and San Francisco, and joined a webcast dialogue at Stanford University between neuroscientists and Buddhist scholars during a daylong program called “Craving, Suffering and Choice: Spiritual and Scientific Explorations of Human Experience.” In Washington, D.C., he participated in three days of dialogue on the science and clinical applications of meditation at the thirteenth meeting of the Mind and Life Institute, which he cofounded in 1987 to foster dialogue and research between modern science and contemplative traditions, especially Buddhism.
By David Swick
When Sharon Salzberg joined two other twentysomething meditators to buy a former Catholic seminary for $150,000, creating the Insight Meditation Society, she learned for the first time what a mortgage was. Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein were just back from several years of practice and study in South Asia. They knew what they wanted to create, more or less, but they weren’t sure they had the skills and experience to make it happen. Could they transmit the teachings? Would people come?
Defined by Wing Shing Chan
The Chinese term Huihu, an important concept within the Caodong sect of Chan, first appeared in Shitou Xigian’s text, Cantongqi. This text, known in Japanese as the Sandokai, is an indispensable part of the canon of Soto Zen, and is recited in Soto temples daily. Huihu—a central concept within the Cantongqi—means “transposition,” or “interaction.” It refers to the phenomenal interchange between polar entities, like winter emerging into spring or vice versa, or vexations transformed into liberation or vice versa. Hui means “return” and hu means “mutually,” so a literal translation of the concept would be “mutual return to the state (of the other).”
A conversation with Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield about the everyday difficulties that provoke us, reveal our habitual patterns, and ultimately transform us.
Call it luck, good luck. This past May, a sellout crowd of over 3,000 people arrived at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco to listen to a discussion with two of America’s most respected and beloved Buddhist teachers: Pema Chödrön and Jack Kornfield. Then, suddenly, the center’s computer system went down, causing mass confusion at the ticket counters. But what might have seemed like a big problem on the surface, explain Chödrön and Kornfield, was in fact a great opportunity to practice the Buddhist teachings. Here is a portion of their conversation, moderated by KQED Public Radio host Michael Krasny.
John Daido Loori comments on koans from Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye
Japanese master Eihei Dogen is best known for his comprehensive and profound masterwork, the Kana, or Japanese, Shobogenzo. This monumental achievement, a collection of ninety-five discourses and essays composed in Japanese between 1231 and 1253, is a unique expression of the buddhadharma based on Dogen’s profound religious experience.
A lesser-known work of Dogen’s is his Mana Shobogenzo, or Shobogenzo Sambyakusoku (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Three Hundred Cases), a collection of three hundred case koans written in Chinese. This seminal work, which was to influence all of Dogen’s other teachings, remained in obscurity for many centuries. Dogen culled the three hundred case koans collected in the Mana Shobogenzo from Zen texts of the Song era during his travels in China between 1223 and 1227. And, unlike the classic collections of the period, these cases are not accompanied by either a title or a commentary.
Inspiration, innovation, institution—Reginald A. Ray looks at the different manifestations of lineage and how they maintain their awakened quality.
All religions concern themselves with questions of authenticity and legitimacy. How can we tell whether a particular teacher or teaching is a genuine and true reflection of a certain tradition? In Tibetan Buddhism, the question of legitimacy comes down to the question of lineage: Which teachers embody and transmit the authentic lineage? Which teachings and practices are legitimate reflections of genuine lineage? For that matter, what do we even mean by lineage?
In Western religious history, it has been common for institutions to determine what is religiously “legitimate” and “authentic,” and people often look to institutional leaders or hierarchies to evaluate the lawfulness of individual teachers, teachings, and practices. This kind of approach might seem particularly appropriate to the theistic religions, where truth is understood to be external to the individual, and the individual is thought to lack the capacity to judge truth or reality.
Many years ago I set off hitchhiking across six states in pursuit of a religious experience. I hoped to break free from conventional life and embark on a momentous and romantic spiritual path, the stuff that would make a great autobiography someday. I was going to see the great guru. As I sat in my flouncy, brightly colored pants from Madras, the feeling of expectation was enormous. When Chögyam Trungpa arrived for his talk, it was a bit of an anticlimax. His reputation preceded him, but nothing prepared me for his unholiness. So strong was my urge to learn, however, that I set aside my hopes of hearing choirs of angels rejoicing in his presence. At some point during that talk, he said that the spiritual path only really begins when you experience nausea with yourself, nausea with samsara. “Real nausea,” he said, making clear that it was not a metaphor. As far as I’m concerned, he was the first person to tell me the whole truth, and he seemed not the least bit concerned if it didn’t conform to what the paying customers expected.
The late Sayadaw U Silananda explains that the purpose of vipassana meditation is to see mind and matter clearly, and to see that there is only mind and matter.
In Mahasi Sayadaw’s book To Nibbana via the Noble Eightfold Path, he wrote,
At the beginning of the stage where concentration becomes strong enough for the mental hindrances to disappear, when purity of mind begins to arise, one comes to know, or see distinctly, the matter that is noted and the mind that notes. When one notes rising, one knows clearly that what rises is one thing and what notes the rising is another. When one notes falling, one knows that what falls is one thing and what notes the falling is another. In the same way when noting lifting, stepping, and putting down while walking, one knows clearly that what is noted is one thing and what notes is another. In this way, one distinctly knows the matter which is known and the mind which notes. And that knowing is not by imagining, but it is distinct and clear understanding through just observing without imagining.
A solitary retreat offers the opportunity to deepen one’s practice in profound and lasting ways. But it’s not without pitfalls. Marshall Glickman reports on the benefits and drawbacks.
When I was in my twenties, with a handful of sesshins under my belt, I decided to do a meditation retreat on my own. It seemed like a good idea; after all, I had a dedicated daily practice, knew the sesshin schedule by heart, and wanted to save some money. So while my parents took a vacation, I spent seven days alone in the suburban house I had grown up in, ignoring the phone and doorbell, trying to recreate our practice at the monastery.
The retreat was a dud. I read and slept more than I wanted and meditated less. I can recall only one insight from those seven days: I’m not ready to do a retreat on my own.
Defined by Tyler Dewar
The Tibetan term tendrel, or, more fully, ten ching drelwar jungwa, describes the nature of phenomena and how they relate to each other. It has connotations that are both mathematical and magical, and is a principle that plays a key role in all three levels of view and practice in Tibetan Buddhism: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana.
Ten means “to depend” and drel means “connection” or “relationship.” So tendrel means that all phenomena come into being (jungwa) through a dependent relationship with other phenomena. As the Buddha famously stated, “In dependence on this, that arises.”