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Saturday
Mar012003

"Do Buddhists Pray?"

Sarah Harding is a Tibetan translator and lama in the Kagyü school of Vajrayana Buddhism and editor of Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation (Wisdom).

Rev. Shohaku Okumura is director of the Soto Zen Buddhism International Center in San Francisco.

Mark Unno is ordained in the Shin Buddhist tradition and is an assistant professor of East Asian religions at the University of Oregon.

The Venerable Wadawala Seelawimala is a Theravadin monk from Sri Lanka and professor at the Institute for Buddhist Studies and the Graduate Theological Seminary in Berkeley.

Buddhadharma: Perhaps we could begin our discussion of the role of prayer in Buddhism by considering the Pure Land tradition, which is renowned for supplicating or invoking what it calls “other power.”

Mark Unno: One of the primary practices of the Pure Land tradition is intoning the name of Amida Buddha. In the Shin school, we say Namu Amida Butsu, which roughly translates as “I take refuge in Amida Buddha,” or “I entrust myself to Amida Buddha.”

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Saturday
Mar012003

”Mother of Light: The Inspiring Story of Dipa Ma”

Amy Schmidt and Sara Jenkins tell the inspiring story of Dipa Ma, known as "the patron saint of householders."

Gotama Buddha's familiar story follows the archetypal hero’s journey: he left behind wife and child and renounced the ordinary world to seek the holy life. Dipa Ma followed a similar path, but with an unexpected turn. Ultimately she took her practice home again, living out her enlightenment in a simple city apartment with her daughter. Her responsibilities as a parent were clarified by her spiritual practice; she made decisions based not on guilt and obligation but on the wisdom and compassion that arose from meditation. Instead of withdrawing to a cave or a forest hermitage, Dipa Ma stayed home and taught from her bedroom—appropriately enough, a room with no door.

Nani Bala Barua, later known as Dipa Ma, was born in 1911 in a village on the plains of Chittagong in what is now Bangladesh. The indigenous Buddhist culture there traces its lineage in an unbroken line back to the Buddha. By the time Dipa Ma was born, meditation practice had almost disappeared among her clan, but they continued to observe Buddhist rituals and customs.

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Saturday
Mar012003

”The Three Bodies of Enlightenment“

“Dharmakaya is like the sun, sambhogakaya is like the rays, and nirmanakaya is like the rays hitting the objects on the earth. Nirmanakaya is the physical situation, and sambhogakaya and dharmakaya are the level of mind.”

A teaching on the three kayas by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

The three bodies of enlightenment are three types of atmosphere involved with ordinary, everyday life, as well as with enlightened mind. To start from the beginning, the first body, dharmakaya, is background or origin. It is why we are here—not necessarily why we are here in this particular place or why we are studying Buddhism, but why we are here at all. Why are we here on this earth? Why is there earth at all? Why is there sun and why is there moon? Why all of this? The first body seems to be our basis, or starting point: we start from outer space, to begin with; then we slowly get into inner space and the earth.

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Saturday
Mar012003

“Facing the Mirror”

Ayya Khema (1923-1997) was born in Berlin in and became the first Western woman to be ordained as a Theravadin nun. This article is excerpted from her book, Come and See for Yourself: The Buddhist Path to Happiness, published by Windhorse Publications, 2002.

What we perceive as the faults of others are simply a reflection of our own. If we observe what is going on in the other person, we can use what we notice as a mirror to know ourselves. A commentary on two verses of the Dhammapada by the late Ayya Khema.

Easily seen are the faults of others,
Hard indeed to see are one's own;
The faults of others you bring to light
Like winnowing the chaff,
But your own faults you cover up
As the trickster conceals a losing throw.
Those who always find fault with others,
Who criticize constantly,
Their own cravings will grow,
Far are they from the cessation of their desires.
Dhammapada 252-3

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Saturday
Mar012003

Money for Nothing

by David R. Loy

What does Buddhism add to conventional Western conceptions about money? St. Paul the Apostle, one of the first proponents of Christianity, taught that love of money is the root of all evil, emphasizing that our greed and attachment to money is what makes it such a problem—for those who have it, at least. The New Testament also warns us not to “lay up for ourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19-21), for how do we profit if we gain the world but lose our souls in the process? And long before those biblical verses were written, the Greek story of Midas and his golden touch gave us the classic metaphor for what happens when money—pure means—becomes an end in itself.

Today money serves at least three functions. For better or worse, it is our indispensable medium of exchange. Worthless in itself—coins and bills can’t be eaten or shelter us when it rains—it is at the same time more valuable than anything else. Because it is how we agree to define value, money can transform into almost anything.

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Saturday
Mar012003

Readers’ Essays

My teacher said, “When you view the workplace as your shrine room, you are being paid to practice.” When I received this instruction I was working as the assistant manager of a 7-11 store. Once it became my shrine room, I took far better care of it. Stocking the shelves mindfully became a joy rather than a chore, and sweeping or scrubbing the floor was an exercise in equal amounts of precision and enthusiasm. Within two weeks, the store began to sparkle and shine, and I discovered that upliftedness is contagious. Regular customers came more frequently and stayed longer. Employees who could not rise to the occasion abruptly quit, and were replaced by people with energy and enthusiasm.

One Sunday morning when I was the only person working, the driver of a Greyhound bus made an unexpected stop at the store and disgorged his fifty passengers. That morning I saw that money was nothing more or less than energy. I watched a particular dollar bill with interest. It came from one customer and went into the cash drawer. The next customer stepped up and I handed it to him as change. He handed it to his son who was standing behind him. The son stepped up with his purchase and the bill went back into the cash drawer. To the next customer, it was given in change. But as she left the store, she gave it to a man panhandling outside the door. The man came in, made his purchase and the bill went back into the cash drawer. To the next customer, it was given in change and did not come back.

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Saturday
Mar012003

Dharma Dictionary: Yogacara

Defined by Charles Muller

(Skt., “yoga practice”)is an influential school of philosophy and psychology that developed in Indian Mahayana Buddhism starting sometime in the fifth century C.E. Originating around a set of scriptures and treatises composed by early masters such as Vasubandhu and the semi-mythical Maitreyanatha, this school held a prominent position in the Indian scholastic tradition for several centuries. It was also transmitted to Tibet, where its teachings became an integral part of much of Tibetan Buddhism up to modern times, and to East Asia, where it was studied intensively for several centuries.

eventually died out as a distinct school in East Asia, along with other scholastic traditions. One reason for this was the evaporation of the state patronage essential to the survival of scholastic traditions like Yogacara. Another was the overwhelming competition from more readily understandable, practice-oriented traditions like Ch’an (Zen) and Pure Land. But even though it would eventually die out as a distinct school, Yogacara brought a deep and lasting influence on the basic technical vocabulary of all forms of Buddhism that developed in Tibet and East Asia. It was the Yogacarins who took it upon themselves to provide a detailed analysis of the functions of consciousness, as well as the effects that Buddhist practices such as morality, concentration and wisdom have on the consciousness, and how those effects bring one to the Buddhist goal of enlightenment.

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Saturday
Mar012003

Ask The Teachers

Q: I've been teaching meditation and leading Buddhists classes for a number of years. Sometimes when I teach I feel like I'm pretending to be someone I'm not because I see where I fail to live up to these precious teachings. Then I begin to doubt my ability to teach. How do you work with this as a teacher?

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Sunday
Dec012002

The Practice of Sangha

Thich Nhat Hanh explains that sangha is more than a community, it’s a deep spiritual practice.

A sangha is a community of friends practicing the dharma together in order to bring about and to maintain awareness. The essence of a sangha is awareness, understanding, acceptance, harmony and love. When you do not see these in a community, it is not a true sangha, and you should have the courage to say so. But when you find these elements are present in a community, you know that you have the happiness and fortune of being in a real sangha.

In Matthew 5:13 in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, we find this statement: "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt hath lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and to be trodden underfoot of men." In this passage, Jesus describes his followers as salt. Food needs salt in order to be tasty. Life needs understanding, compassion and harmony in order to be livable. This is the most important contribution to life that the followers of Jesus can bring to the world. It means that the Kingdom of Heaven has to be realized here, not somewhere else, and that Christians need to practice in a way that they are the salt of life and a true community of Christians.

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Sunday
Dec012002

Earthquakes and Blossoms Appear

Zen teachings and calligraphies of Kobun Chino Otogawa Roshi, who died tragically while trying to save his young daughter from drowning. With a remembrance by Kojun Jean Leyshon.

Who Is Your Teacher?

The real purpose of practice is to discover the wisdom which you have always been keeping with you. To discover yourself is to discover wisdom; without discovering yourself you can never communicate with anybody. In everyday life, we can pick up some glimpse of wisdom, as the polished tool of the carpenter expresses that there is wisdom in the arm of the carpenter. It is invisible; you cannot draw it and show it.

Wisdom doesn't come from anywhere; it is always there as the exact contents of awakening—it is always there and everywhere. What you can do is to uncover it, like going to the origin of a river. Have you been to the source of a river? It is a very mystic place. You get dizzy when you stay for a while. An especially big river has several sources, and the real source, the farthest point which turns to the major stream, is moist and misty, with some kind of ancient smell, and you feel cold. You feel, "This isn't the place to go in." There is no springing water, so you don't know where the source is.

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