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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

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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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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