The Buddha, The Dharma, The Sangha

"Spiritual powers and their wondrous functioning--hauling water and carrying firewood." --Layman Pang, upon his realization

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Essence of Tantra

We live in an ocean of cyclic existence whose depth and extent cannot be measured.  We are trouble again and again by the afflictions of desire and hatred as if repeatedly attacked by sharks.

Our mental and physical aggregates are impelled by former contaminated actions and afflictions and serve as a basis for present suffering as well as inducing future suffering.  While such cyclic existence lasts, we have various thoughts of pleasure and displeasure: "If I do this, what will people think?  If I do not do this, I will be too late; I won't make any profit." When we see something pleasant we think, "Oh, if I could only have that!"  We see that others are prosperous, and we generate jealously, unable to bear their prosperity.  we see an attractive man or woman, and we want a relationship.  We are not satisfied with a passing relationship but want it to last forever.  And then, once staying together with that person, we desire someone else.  When we see someone we do not like, we become angry and quarrel after a single word; we feel we cannot remain even for an hour near this hatred person but must leave immediately.  Day and night, night and day we spend out lives in the company of the afflictions, generating desire for the pleasant and anger at the unpleasant, and continue thus even when dreaming, unable to remain relaxed, our minds completely and utterly mixed with l
thoughts of desire and hatred without interruption.

Only a Buddha has extinguished all defects and gained all attainments.  Therefore, one should mentally go for refuge to a Buddha, praise him or her with speech, and respect him or physically.  One should enter the teaching of such a being.

--HH the Dalai Lama, from The Great Exposition of the Secret Mantra, Volume I: Tantra in Tibet by Tsongkhapa

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Gratitude Practice--Day 7

Welcome to the final day of our Rohatsu Gratitude Practice!

"Each person's life is like a mandala--a vast, limitless circle.  We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life."
--Pema Chodron

Begin your morning with your Grounding practice (taking refuge in the True Self) at your Centering space.
Sit 5-10 minutes (or longer) in silent meditation, undisturbed.

The word Mandala means circle in Sanskrit.
A mandala represents wholeness, a cosmic diagram representing our place of centeredness in the Universe as Buddhas, and our intimate relationship  to all that surround us in an ever-expanding circle beyong our body and mind.
We can discover mandalas in all aspects of our life with the dance between the Ego Self/ True Self, our families, friends and communities.

For meditation purposes, a mandala invites the practitioner into a world of infinite wisdom and compassion, by guiding visualizations and transformations.  Meditation with a mandala as a tool can illuminate your path of past, present and future.

For our final practice today, we will find a mandala, decorate it and use it as a meditation tool at our Centering space.
There are several places on the Internet where you can download free printable mandalas to decorate with colored pencils, markers or paints--or leave them uncolored and fill them with significant words or phrases, or pictures that resonate with you.

You can also try your hand at drawing your own mandala--perfection is non-existent, so think in terms of making this a mandala that is just your own.  Begin with a circle, and let it organically grow from there.

Take time to notice connections and intersections in your mandala.
And then just have fun!
Let your creative juices flow, invite friends and family to join in, have a mandala coloring party.  Or create in silent solitude, making this part of your meditation. 
Either way, make as many mandalas as you want, then add them to your Centering space for the days to come.

As we conclude our 7 day cycle of Rohatsu Gratitude practice, consider how your experiences have culminated in this moment of living mandala.

Finish the day with your journaling--perhaps record your reactions and feelings about the mandala exercise.
Record 5-10 things for which you are grateful, different from yesterday.
Finally, offer yourself loving-kindness for your day, using the Metta prayer from Friday.

This ending is just the beginning!
In Gassho.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gratitude Practice--Day 6

Welcome to Day 6 of our 7 Day Gratitude Practice

"In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass, I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God's name.  And I leave them where they are, for I know what wherever I go, others will punctually come for ever and ever."
--Walt Whitman

Begin the morning with your Grounding practice (taking refuge in the True Self) at your Centering space.
Sit 5-10 minutes (or longer) in silent meditation, undisturbed.

Old fashioned, traditional and perhaps on its way to becoming dying art, writing a handwritten letter to express your gratitude to someone is how we will practice today.

While I can appreciate that some of you may balk at writing by hand ("my handwriting is too sloppy, it looks like chicken scratching"), research shows that the simple act of writing can effect everything from *"improving learning abilities to fostering a more positive outlook on life."
*The Huffington Post

Please identify one person to whom you would like to write a letter of gratitude.  If you would like to shop for a special card or stationary for this person, feel free, but frankly, the recipient of your letter will be thrilled even if your words are written on the back of a sleazy cocktail napkin!
The point is, few of us ever receive, or even expect such a gift, especially in our high-tech, fast-paced world; the connection you create through your intentions of gratitude and sincere thanks will resonate indefinitely with the one who receives.

You may deliver your letter by hand or send it through the mail.  You may even choose not to share the letter at all, as in the case of a letter to someone who is no longer available.
Don't underestimate the power of your intention--the energy of writing, of expressing your thankfulness, of delving into the experience of gratitude and allowing the True Self to respond in infinitely abundant.

At the end of your day, journal about your experience of letter writing; was it difficult or easy?  How did your body feel?  What emotions did the letter prompt?
List 5-10 things for which you are grateful, different from yesterday.
Finally, offer yourself living-kindness, using the Metta prayer from Friday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Gratitude Practice--Day 5

Welcome to Day 5 of our 7 Day Gratitude Practice

"Do not overlook one drop in the ocean of virtue by entrusting it to others.  Cultivate a spirit which strives to increase the source of of goodness upon the mountain of goodness."
--from Instructions to the Cook, by Dogen Zenji

Begin the morning with your Grounding practice (taking refuge in the True Self) at your Centering space.
Sit 5-10 minutes (or longer) in silent meditation, undisturbed.

Naikan: Seeing With The Mind's Eye reflection
"Inside looking" or introspection
Naikan is a Japanese method of structured self-reflection that promotes self-knowledge and clarity, with ourselves, our relationships and the essential nature of being a human being.
Naikan was developed by Ishin, a devout Buddhist of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Japan.  As he practiced the rigorous and difficult techniques, he sought to offer something more available to lay practitioners--Naikan can be shared widely with others.

Today we practice Naikan.
This can still be an intensive assignment, so please remember that we are infinitely kind to ourselves throughout our retreat, recognizing that we sometimes hurt ourselves and others, and that it cannot be helped.
What we can do however, is vow not to intentionally cause harm to ourselves and others.

With your journal in hand, as yourself the following questions:

1.  What have I received in the past 5 days?
2.  What have I given in the past 5 days?
3.  What troubles and difficulties have I caused for myself/ others?

Allow your thoughts to flow freely and record whatever comes to mind, without edit.  Be as honest as you possibly can be.
Finish your journaling with a record of 5-10 things for which you are grateful, different from yesterday.
Finally end your day by offering yourself loving-kindness, using the Metta prayer from Friday.