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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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Community Profiles



What Are We Ignoring About Breathing?

My dear dragons and elephants, do you know how many times an elephant breathes? You don't know? A Japanese scientist found out that an elephants breathes 500,000,000 times in a lifetime. Isn't it fascinating? Of course, this is merely a statistic. Kindly, he does not say how many times a human being breathes.

Usually we say there are three essentials in life: clothes, shelter and food. Breathing, the most important essential, is not mentioned. Not only do we ignore our own breathing, but we often ignore the breathing of other creatures. Animate and inanimate beings are all breathing. Breathing is a most important dharma. Without this very body, the dharma can't be appreciated. We must be aware of how this so-called body and mind exist. It is the most mysterious, subtle dharma; everything comes out of it.

We humans usually breathe fifteen to eighteen times per minute. We may think that we breathe only through the nostrils or lungs, but actually our whole body breathes. When we meditate, the frequency of our breathing can slow down to one to two times per minute. A baby breathes one to two times per minute in the mother's womb. So when you cultivate your breathing, your breathing rate becomes just about the same as a baby's in the mother's womb.

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Thinking Non-Thinking

John Daido Loori, Roshi is abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York. He is a dharma heir of Taizan Maezumi Roshi.

Thinking Non-Thinking

John Daido Loori, Roshi explains why non-thinking is right thought in this commentary on Dogen's 300 Koan Shobogenzo, Case 129: "Yoashan's Non-Thinking"

The Main Case

When Priest Yaoshan was sitting in meditation1 a monk asked,2
"What do you think about, sitting in steadfast composure?"3
Yaoshan said, "I think not thinking."4
The monk said, "How do you think not thinking?"5
Yaoshan said, "Non-thinking."6

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Ordained At Last

On February 28, 2003, Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, formerly known as Dr. Chatsumarn Kabilsingh, became the first Thai woman to receive full ordination as a Theravadin nun. Kristin Barendsen reports on Dhammananda's steadfast commitment to paving the way for other Thai women practitioners.

Just before dawn, bright spots of saffron and orange move slowly down the dim streets and low tones of chanting linger in the cool air. Thailand's estimated 300,000 monastics are out on morning rounds, cradling their alms bowls. Of these monastics, only three are women. One is the Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, who has just become a bhikkhuni despite living in a country where such ordination of women is forbidden.

Tall for a Thai woman and a youthful fifty-eight, Dhammananda wears the saffron robes with grace. A dozen women walk behind her; they are mae chees—Thailand's white-robed renunciates who are considered neither lay nor monastic. On the quiet street a line of laypeople and children are waiting. They carefully place their gifts of food in Dhammananda's black metal bowl, then kneel on the ground and prostrate three times. Dhammananda chants a verse in Pali, smiles and asks a child if she will be on time for her English lesson later that day. The girl looks up, giggles, and bows.

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Forum: Who Will Teach the Dharma?

Buddhadharma: Perhaps we should start by enumerating the important qualities of a Buddhist teacher, the kinds of things a successful selection process would identify in a candidate.

Jack Kornfield: In short, the qualities are compassion and wisdom. The qualities a teacher needs include: true compassion and connectedness with all beings, so that whatever teaching is offered comes through as an expression of the universal compassion of all the buddhas; emptiness, liberation from the identity with the small sense of self; fullness, an ability to be present and awake; maturity, someone who has a great deal of life experience; and a kind of sensitivity.

And along with all that, profound dharma practice, deep experience of the teachings of the Buddha in their own heart and mind-stream, and a fundamental virtue and morality that is both beautiful and in some ways unshakable.

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The Simple Presence of Attention

Toni Packer is author of The Wonder of Presence (Shambhala) and is resident teacher of Springwater Center, in Springwater, New York.

Finding a New Way to Listen

Before inquiring into a new way of listening, let me just share the joy of walking through the fields and woods on this extraordinary land. Just stepping out of the reception area, closing the door behind me, walking away from the overhang that shields one from the sun and rain, there isn't any enclosure left—not even a body! All I am is the birds singing and fluttering, bare branches swaying in the breeze, the ground partly frozen yet melting, the pond covered with a thin layer of ice, and the blue hills, sky and wandering clouds within close reach. There is also a throbbing heart and the people walking on the path. Even those who are not here—aren't we all together this one moment—beholding everything out of stillness?

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Politics & Dharma: No Separation

by Melody Ermachild Chavis

My earliest consciousness was political. I understood in a child’s way, but a deep way, that my own fate was connected to enormous events and the destinies of other people, even people half a world away.

Since the time I was old enough to ask, I knew that my father had been killed in the Second World War, when I was a baby. On October 12, 1944, he and six other men died together when their plane was shot down on a bombing mission over Germany. My mother married another soldier when I was five. I grew to love my stepfather. When I was eight, he left for Korea where he fought through a dark winter, leaving my mother, me and my two baby sisters waiting in a town where we were strangers. When my stepfather came back he was a different man. Later, he was forced to take part in atomic tests in Nevada. He died of cancer at age thirty-four. I know that the dread of war I learned so young was partly why I worked from 1965 to 1975 against America’s assault on Vietnam, and later against nuclear weapons and capital punishment.

I did not begin to study Buddhism until I was forty-three years old. After years of political activism, I took lay vows.

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Reader essays/Politics

Being a Zen student in the Korean Chogye tradition has taught me that all of my political thoughts, feelings, opinions and impulses arise by themselves like flowers in the springtime. They arise because of my family background, life experiences, education, and the influences of friends, neighbors, co-workers, politicians and the news media. They have no self-nature, they are transitory; next year or next decade I expect to have different beliefs. Therefore, I am very careful about not becoming overly attached to my beliefs or to the results of an election or legislative session.

When I push facts and data through my personal screens and sieves, I come to mostly conservative conclusions. I know this is quite different from many other sangha members, who come to liberal conclusions. However, common to both views is the desire to serve beings, and to serve beings through involvement in the shaping of public policy.

What disturbs me about the current political environment is that there is so little courtesy, respect and dialogue between political activists from opposite ends of the spectrum. It is so very toxic—definitely not Buddhist. There are opportunities for forming working coalitions focused on serving beings, but these opportunities are being lost at local, state, national and world levels.

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Dharma Dictionary: Interdependent Origination

Defined by Francesca Fremantle

Interdependent origination (Skt., pratityasamutpada) is the law of causality, which Shakyamuni discovered at his awakening. It revealed to him the whole truth of existence, and in penetrating it he became the Awakened One. What he saw was a total vision of how and why all beings throughout space and time are entangled in samsara for countless lives, as well as his own past lives in his progress toward liberation. This was the extraordinary insight that distinguished his teaching from others, so it is said, “whoever sees interdependent origination sees the dharma, whoever sees the dharma sees the Buddha.” When Assaji, one of the Buddha’s first disciples, was asked by Shariputra about his master’s teaching, his reply was a summary of interdependent origination, which became famous as the fundamental doctrine of buddhadharma:

Whatever things are cause-produced, the Tathagata has told their cause;
what their cessation is, thus the great ascetic teaches.

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Profile: Zen Hospice Society

People in the final stages of their lives who enter the Zen Hospice Project are not seeking a path of meditation, and in fact they will hear little mention of “Zen” or “Buddhism” while they are there. The project, founded in 1987, evolved from caring for several residents who were dying at the San Francisco Zen Center and later grew into a service for the larger community. For founder Frank Ostaseski, ZHP exists simply because “there is a natural match between meditators—people who cultivate the listening mind—and people who really need to be heard at least once in their lives, folks who are dying. I just thought that we should put these people together and that if we did something good would happen.”

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"Quick! Who Can Save This Cat?"

Norman Fischer is a former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center and founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation. His most recent book is Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms (Viking Compass).

The Case

Nanchuan saw the monks of the eastern and western halls fighting over a cat. Seizing the cat, he told the monks: "If any of you can say a word of Zen, you will save the cat." No one answered. Nanchuan cut the cat in two. That evening Zhaozho returned to the monastery and Nanchuan told him what had happened. Zhaozho removed his sandals, placed them on his head, and walked out. Nanchuan said: "If you had been there, you would have saved the cat."

Mumon's Comment

Why did Zhaozho put his sandals on his head? If you can answer this question, you will understand exactly that Nanchuan's action was not in vain. If not, danger!

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