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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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Monday
Sep012003

Emptiness / Buddhanature

The Buddhist schools are rich and varied in their perspectives, but these many points of view all advance the Buddhist concept of the middle view (madhya-drshti in Sanskrit and ume tawa in Tibetan).

The middle view avoids the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. Any view that does not fall into the parameters of the middle view—in other words, all views that fall into the extremes of eternalism or nihilism—are referred to as wrong views in Buddhist literature. The Buddha and his subsequent followers have called these wrong views because the nihilistic view minimizes what is there in reality, while the eternalistic view adds more to reality than what is really there.

Adherents of all Buddhist schools try to understand everything about themselves—their consciousness, the material world, sentient life, their karmic inheritance and its history, even rebirth or reincarnation—in terms of this middle view. In the Mahayana tradition, the establishment of the middle way is also an aspect of one’s own practice, because the Buddhist adherent steers a course between the two extremes to cultivate the two wisdoms: transcendental knowledge (Skt., prajna) and wisdom/gnosis (Skt., jnana).

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Monday
Sep012003

The Thing about Relationships...

By Kate Wheeler

At about seven o'clock each morning, I do a practice that makes me grateful for the Buddhist teachings. Pushing aside the panting puppy who stands beside the bed, that hairy alarm clock who wants me to feed and entertain him, I lie flat on my back for a minute or two and try to come to my senses. I acknowledge as deeply as possible the nature of this day, this moment, and the complex, beloved human being who's still asleep beside me. “You could be me,” I tell him silently, “I could be you. Being is indistinguishable from beings. Same goes for the dog, for everyone. May all of us be happy and free.”

Within minutes (or as soon as my partner wakes up), I'll be swept up in irritation, lust, secretive self-righteousness. I save some of my most pungent delusions just for him—for example, why does he always want things from me I do not want to give? Yet because I began the day with reflection and also because I've trained for years in retreat, it's getting easier to climb back into the present moment and to drop whatever prejudice is gnawing my brain and driving my behavior. The transparent heart of things shines out, making it easier to feel what I need to feel and to negotiate choices less confined by selfishness and fear.

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Monday
Sep012003

Ask the Teachers

Q: In Zen Master Hakuin's Chant in Praise of Zazen, he says:

And if we turn inward and prove our True-nature—
that True-self is no-self,
our own Self is no-self—  we go beyond ego and past clever words.

My question is, if there is no self, who is it that keeps getting reincarnated? Doesn’t the idea of reincarnation imply that there is some integrated thing or self that can be referred to as existing, and which passes from one life to the next?

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Monday
Sep012003

Reader essays

I met my husband twenty-five years ago when he was a Buddhist monk. We were both full of enthusiasm for the traditional Rinzai practice in which we were intensely involved. We entered the relationship carrying a load of personal baggage and, unfortunately for us, practice offered little help in navigating our personal intimacy. It was all empty—except off the cushion. There, it was a catastrophe and full of drama.

At the time, there were many unethical goings-on happening in a number of monasteries and training centers, and we, like many others, left our community feeling betrayed and confused. We went on with our lives, staying together through determination and sheer luck. We became professionals, had two children, and got lots of therapy. Both of us yearned for what we had once tasted with practice, but we did not know how to find it again.

Eventually we stumbled into the community where we now practice as a couple and as a family. Here our teachers offer the teaching of “seamless practice”: there is no separation between the zafu, the dining room, the bathroom or the bedroom. Our children are our koans, as is our marriage. Our teachers and the monastics provide examples of how to make practice alive everywhere.

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Monday
Sep012003

Dharma Dictionary: “Nibbida”

Defined by Andrew Olendzki

So there you are, happily reading the primary texts of early Buddhism in order to better understand the essential teachings of the Buddha. You get to the part that talks about a person practicing in accordance with the dhamma—knowing things directly as they really are and seeing what is impermanent as impermanent with right view. Your head is nodding in affirmation, “Yeah, that’s me all right.” Then all of a sudden you get to the next sentence: “Therefore, one should abide in the utter disgust for the aggregates” [i] (Woodward’s translation).

“Whoa! Wait a minute. What’s up with that?” You think there must be something wrong here. How can the intimate awareness of moment-to-moment phenomena, the opening to states just as they are, lead to such a yucky response? We all know the monks and nuns are encouraged to contemplate death, the disintegration of the body in cemeteries, and other such, well, monastic things. But surely a lay Buddhist vipassana practitioner (for example) deserves a more positive outlook on life from all this mindful, conscious awareness.

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Sunday
Jun012003

Never Born, Never Ceasing

The great pandit Shantarakshita, who was instrumental in transplanting Buddhism from India to Tibet, promised that one of his students would come one day to complete his work. Kamalasila (Tib., Padampa Sangye) fulfilled this prophecy, making three trips to Tibet during the eleventh century. This was the time when the great yogi Milarepa lived, and his autobiography describes a momentous dharma debate between the two teachers.

The story behind the teaching presented here begins when Padampa Sangye throws a stone magically bestowed upon him by the Buddha, saying that he would teach wherever it landed. The stone landed in the village of Tingri, in Tibet, and true to his word, Padampa Sangye founded his monastic seat there and proclaimed The Hundred Verses of Advice to the villagers.

Translator Matthieu Ricard requested that his teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), considered an emanation of Padampa Sangye, offer a commentary on these pithy verses. A renowned Dzogchen master, Khyentse Rinpoche spent most of his early life in solitary retreat in mountain caves. He studied and taught tirelessly for many decades, influencing scores of teachers and thousands of students. He made several important teaching tours to Europe and North America and his works have been translated into many Western languages. In his final years, he was head of the Nyingma lineage.

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Sunday
Jun012003

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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Sunday
Jun012003

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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Sunday
Jun012003

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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Sunday
Jun012003

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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