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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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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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Sunday
Dec012002

Panel: Full-Time Practice

Buddhadharma: What role have long-term, full-time practitioners—whether monastics, priests, mountain yogis or forest yogis—played in the development of Buddhism? Are their activities essential to the continuation of an authentic Buddhist tradition?

Robert Thurman: It is definitely a fact that in the Buddha's time people were inspired to drop out of their ordinary life occupations and become full-time practitioners. The Buddha would say, "Come here, Bhikshu," or "Come here, Bhikshuni," their clothes would change to orange saffron robes, and they would become monks or nuns just like that.

So monasticism was an essential element in early Buddhism. However, I don't like to define a full-time practitioner only as someone who is a monastic or on retreat. I would say that the fate of Buddhism has depended historically on full-time practitioners, people who turn their lives toward enlightenment as their constant preoccupation, but that has not always been monastics or retreatants. There have been lay people who have practiced the dharma by not responding in anger to violence when people shouted at them or hit them or did something wrong to them. That is also full-time practice. When you are out on the street and someone is kicking you and you do not freak out, that is very strict mindfulness. Applying antidotes to the kleshas is a forceful practice.

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Sunday
Dec012002

Songs of Milarepa

Song of Mahamudra

Sung in reply to the challenge raised by three scholars

At the time I'm meditating on Mahamudra
I rest without struggle in actual real being
I rest relaxed in a free-from-wandering space
I rest in a clarity-cradled-in-emptiness space
I rest in awareness and this is blissful space
I rest unruffled in non-conceptual space
In variety's space I rest in equipoise
And resting like this is native mind itself
A wealth of certainty manifests endlessly
Without even trying, self-luminous mind is at work
Not stuck in expecting results, I'm doing O.K.
No dualism, no hopes and fears, Ho Hey!
Delusion as wisdom, now that's being cheerful and bright
Delusion transformed into wisdom, now that's all right!

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Sunday
Dec012002

Awakening "the One Who Knows"

There are two ways to support Buddhism. One is known as amisapuja, supporting through material offerings. These are the four supports of food, clothing, shelter and medicine. The act of amisapuja supports Buddhism by giving material offerings to the sangha of monks and nuns, enabling them to live in reasonable comfort for the practice of dhamma. This fosters the direct realization of the Buddha's teaching, in turn bringing continued prosperity to the Buddhist religion.

Buddhism can be likened to a tree. A tree has roots, a trunk, branches, twigs, and leaves. The leaves and branches depend on the roots to absorb nutriment from the soil. The words we speak are like branches and leaves, which depend on a root—the mind—to absorb nutriment and send it out to them. These limbs in turn carry the fruit as our speech and actions. Whatever state the mind is in, skillful or unskillful, it expresses that quality outwardly through our actions and speech.

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Sunday
Dec012002

Gene Smith's Mission

Lawrence Pintak profiles Gene Smith, the man from Ogden, Utah who single-handedly spearheaded the preservation of thousands of Tibetan texts after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959. Smith’s mission continues.

He has spent his life wrapped in the dharma.

For the past 40 years, Gene Smith has lived, breathed and slept with the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Smith is not a monk, he has never sat an extended meditation retreat, and there is no Ph.D. after his name. But he is a legend to lama and scholar alike.

“Gene Smith single-handedly put Tibetan studies on the map,” says Leonard van der Kuijp, chair of the department of Sanskrit and Indian studies and professor of Tibetan studies at Harvard. “I think it’s safe to say that if it had not been for him, most of us who do Tibetan studies today would be doing something else with our lives. Tibetan literary culture was one of the most prodigious in the world. Gene has been instrumental in keeping this alive.”

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Sunday
Dec012002

Ask the Teachers

Q: Some teachers say that if you're having difficulty with your meditation you shouldn't force yourself to stay on the cushion. How do you know when you're forcing your meditation, instead of applying proper effort? Should you continue with the practice if you're feeling a lot of resistance and your mind is racing? Do you recommend short periods of meditation or longer ones?

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Sunday
Dec012002

Illness: The Way Beyond Suffering

by Jim Bedard

In August 1995, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and given just weeks to live. Over the next year I was close to death many times. I had months of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and many other invasive and painful procedures. In February 1996 I underwent a bone marrow transplant.

My diagnosis was completely unexpected. I had visited my doctor because of some swelling in my hands and feet that I suspected was an allergic reaction to something I had ingested. Within days I was unconscious, on a respirator, in intensive care. My family, friends and Zen teacher were taking turns saying goodbye.

After being unconscious for many days, I awoke in ICU to find myself surrounded by machines that monitored my heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels and other vital signs. There were nine tubes going into my body administering chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, blood products and other medications. I was terribly thirsty and too weak even to lift my arms off the bed. It was days before I was allowed a drink, weeks before I could climb into a wheelchair, and many weeks again before I could walk on my own.

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