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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

No Opposites, Only relationships

What is meant by nonduality, Mahatmi? It means that light and shade, long and short, black and white, can only be experienced in relation to each other; light is not independent of shade, nor black of white. There are no opposites, only relationships. In the same way, nirvana and the ordinary world of suffering are not two things but related to each other. There is no nirvana except where the world of suffering is; there is no world of suffering apart from nirvana. For existence is not mutually exclusive.

-Lankavatara Sutra

From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

James's comment: Speaking of non-duality, you should read the following trilogy from Dr. David R. Hawkins:, "Power vs. Force," "Eye of the I," and "I." He discusses non-duality and other deep spiritual issues that kicked off my interest in Buddhism. He says for example that there is no such thing as "dark and light" it is more a deal of light and less light.

Anyway, Some of the stuff he talks about is a little much but most of the stuff in these books is excellent. I highly recommend them.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In the End, We All Must Walk Alone



The Purpose of Religion
by Lama Thubten Yeshe

Thus, the only purpose for the existence of what we call religion is for us to understand the nature of our own psyche, our own mind, our own feelings. Whatever name we give to our spiritual path, the most important thing is that we get to know our own experiences, our own feelings. Therefore, the lamas' experience of Buddhism is that instead of emphasizing belief, it places prime importance on personal experimentation, putting Dharma methods into action and assessing the effect they have on our minds: do these methods help? Have our minds changed or are they just as uncontrolled as they ever were? This is Buddhism, and this method of checking the mind is called meditation.

It's an individual thing; you can't generalize. It all comes down to personal understanding, personal experience. If your path is not providing solutions to your problems, answers to your questions, satisfaction to your mind, you must check up. Perhaps there's something wrong with your point of view, your understanding. You can't necessarily conclude that there's something wrong with your religion just because you tried it and it didn't work. Different individuals have their own ideas, views, and understanding of religion, and can make mistakes. Therefore, make sure that the way you understand your religion's ideas and methods is correct. If you make the right effort on the basis of right understanding, you will experience deep inner satisfaction. Thus, you'll prove to yourself that satisfaction does not depend on anything external. True satisfaction comes from the mind.

James's comment: I have heard before that one difference between Christianity and Buddhism is in Buddhism we are responsible for our own "salvation." I really like the bits in this quote that talk of personal experience and practice. This is the true path of Buddhism. No one can tell you what to do, you have to experience it for yourself for it to lead to true mindfulness and liberation (in my opinion).

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, August 29, 2005

Absorbed in the Moment


The greatest support we can have is mindfulness, which means being totally present in each moment. If the mind remains centered, it cannot make up stories about the injustice of the world or one's friends, or about one's desires or sorrows. All these stories could fill many volumes, but when we are mindful such verbalizations stop. Being mindful means being fully absorbed in the moment, leaving no room for anything else. We are filled with the momentary happening, whatever it is--standing or sitting or lying down, feeling pleasure or pain--and we maintain a nonjudgmental awareness, a "just knowing."
-Ayya Khema, "Be an Island"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001. Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok, with permission of Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville MA 02144 U.S.A, www.wisdompubs.org.

James's comment: Staying mindful in everything I do is the biggest lesson for me that I learn and relearn everyday. I certainly do my fair share of making up stories in my "mind" and worrying as well as dwelling on my "sorrows" instead of staying mindful in the present moment. I think that it is o.k. to feel sorrow if that is the moment that you are in but it is not healthy to dwell and live in that moment. That is easier said then done for all of us especially those with brain disorders but thankfully we have good medications now that can go a long way to help.

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fun with a Fox



Last night we went over to the parent's house for my father's birthday. After dinner Lori was out on the front porch talking to her parents in New Orleans about the in-coming hurricane when we spotted a fox in the park across the street.

I notified the neighbors and the rest of the family in the house and we sat there and watched this beautiful fox (picture not the fox we saw but similar) jump and play in the park. He/she was not in the least bit worried about us. It was so cute to watch this little fox jump and stretch out in the grass. Then my mean, trouble-maker of a brother-in-law picked up a rock and threw it at the poor fox!! Thankfully the fox just twitched a little and went back to playing and eating grass.

A little while later he trotted across the street towards us and ran along our fence line into my parent's back-yard and my mother and I quietly followed. We creeped up around the hedge to see the fox poking his head around the big trunk of one of the cotton wood trees. He/she just watched us with the sun setting lighting up it's face. It was so beautiful to watch.

Finally, the fox ran into the neighbor's yard behind my parent's house but not before making a quick stop into my parents garden to do a little digging in the dirt. This is a house owned by a very elderly man who has been in the nursing home for years. Thus, his back-yard and garden is very over-grown. We figured that the fox lived back in there due to the over-grown plants.

The neighbors on the right then told us that he/she must have stolen their dogs squeeky toy and right about then we heard the fox playing with the squeeky toy in that over-grown backyard!! It was SO CUTE to hear it playing with this dog toy. He/she just wanted to play and have fun being a fox.

Overall it was such a beautiful experience to watch this beautiful creature interact with the environment around us.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, August 26, 2005

This Body Is Not Yours


This body is not yours, nor does it belong to others. It should be seen as the product of the whole of history. In regard to it the wise person will reflect on the nature of conditioning, saying: If this comes into being, that will arise; if this does not come into being, that will not arise.

-Samyutta Nikaya

From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

James's Comment: Indeed and what (if anything) is "ours?" I like Thich Nhat Hanh's comment that "our only possessions are our actions."

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Purpose of Religion


Many people misunderstand Buddhism. Even some professors of Buddhist studies look at just the words and interpret what the Buddha taught very literally. They don't understand his methods, which are the real essence of his teachings. In my opinion, the most important aspect of any religion is its methods: how to put that religion into your own experience. The better you understand that, the more effective your religion becomes. Your practice becomes so natural, so realistic; you easily come to understand your own nature, your own mind, and you don't get surprised by whatever you find in it. Then, when you understand the nature of your own mind, you'll be able to control it naturally; you won't have to push so hard; understanding naturally brings control.

by Lama Thubten Yeshe

James's comment: This is a really good teaching. An excellent reminder not to get too caught up in the concepts and philosphy of Buddhism and to concentrate on one's practice of meditation and mindfulness. This is something that I am doing better with I think but can always have improvement upon. This is a wonderful and gentle reminder.

P.S.~Isn't he just adorable?? I want to give him a big hug and kiss his bald head.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Depression from a Tibetan Buddhist Perspective


Transforming Depression
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

When feeling depressed you can think, "I'm exhausting so much of my negative karma to have depression that I've accumulated throughout countless past lives." Rejoice! You should feel great joy about finishing the karma instead of seeing the depression as something bad. As it's said in Guru Puja, living beings and their environments are filled with unbelievable problems and sufferings, coming one after another like rainfall, sufferings that are the results of negative karma. "Please grant me blessings to see my depression as exhausting the results of my negative karmic imprints, and bless me to be able to always transform bad conditions into the path to enlightenment." You can recite mantra while doing this meditation.

For example when you wash a dirty piece of cloth, the water becomes black with dirt. You don't see the black dirt as a negative thing since it means the cloth is getting clean. In the same way, when you practice dharma negative karmas can ripen causing you to get sick because you're purifying so much negative karma by practising dharma. So you should rejoice when you get depressed!

James's Comment: Not everyone is Buddhist (or maybe follows the Tibetan Buddhist path) but I find great comfort in this description of depression. Those of us with mental illness are burning off a lot of negative karma in order to help our overall spirituality and that of the world. I think this is why suicide seems so tempting to those of us with heavy depression. We are burning off so much heavy, negative karma that it can seem unbearable but if we stay strong and get through it with our mindfulness, compassion and spirituality then we can find a much more peaceful existence in our life and in the next for sure. That is my commentary on this Tibetan Buddhist perspective on depression.

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Soul Portrait


Lori and I went up to Fort Collins this saturday to the "Nepal Tibet Import" store to buy a Kwan Yin statuette.

The store is located in the "old town" section of the city and when we walked our way back to the car we saw that some kind of festival was going on.

Turns out it was this huge festival called the "NewWestFest.com" where we ran into a artist's booth doing "soul portraits.

The artist is Katerine Skaggs and she is a very in-tune artist. Anyway, she does these "soul portraits" of people after talking to them about different aspects of their lives and tapping into past lives as well. This one is of me and It reflects my many past lives as a monk and a shaman in traditional African and Native American civilizations.

The lotus flower rests just above my heart chakra and my "third eye" is activated and radiating in my middle, lower fore head. The ironic thing is that Kwan Yin is connected with the "third eye chakra" and that would explain the bursting love and compassion that my sensitive heart experiences. My aura radiates pink, purple and yellow/gold light reflecting my strong, loving energy. The feather necklace reflects my love and connection with nature and my shamanic lives.

It is a very beautiful gift (even though I had to pay for it. Hehe) from a very talented and spiritually connected being. I will be looking at this portrait often before and after meditating when I am down and depressed and feeling the heavy chains of samsara.

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, August 20, 2005



Smile, breathe and go slowly.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

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Friday, August 19, 2005

A New Commitment



It has been 19 days since Lori and I went vegetarian and there has been no looking back.

In that vein I am going to make another commitment to the environment. I am going to use hand dryers whenever there is a choice between them and paper towels. I must admit that in the past I have often gone for paper towels out of laziness.

I announce this only because I feel that it is another way for me to ground myself spiritually and I thought that others might want to make that commitment as well.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Rough Day

I wanted to apologize for not posting anything yesterday. I wasn't feeling very "Buddhist" yesterday. I was feeling depressed, cranky and just overall selfish. My bipolar was kickin' me around something fierce so I never got around to posting anything too inspirational but I am alive and feeling better today.

I just have to keep reminding myself that the present moment is beautiful and wonderful even though you might be sifting through garbage.

-Peace to us all-

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Friday, August 12, 2005

A Lighter Side of Buddhism

I want to thank Isaiah for the link to this light and fun web site regarding Buddhism and laughter.

The following is a description for the site:

The Buddha was known to have a good sense of humor. The same applies to many great Buddhist gurus and thinkers after him. In this section, we take a look at the lighter side of Buddhism.

Here are a few jokes from the site that Isaiah posted on his site:

Q: Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?

A: Because they have no attachments.

Q: What did a Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

A: Make me one with everything.

Q: How many Zen buddhists does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Tree falling in the forest.

Q: Why are there so few Buddhist rhythm and blues bands?

A: Because Buddhists don't have any soul.


Happy smiling and laughter!!

-Peace to all beings!-

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What Is the Past and What is the Future?


Sakuladayi the Wanderer asked the Buddha: "What is the past and what is the future?"

"Let the past be," answered the Buddha, "and forget the future. I will teach you that which is now.

"When this condition is, that condition comes to be,With the arising of this, that arises,When this is not here, that does not come into existence,With the ceasing of this, that too ceases.

-Majjhima Nikaya

From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

No Purpose at All


The whole idea of meditation is to develop an entirely different way of dealing with things, where you have no purpose at all. In fact, meditation is dealing with the question of whether or not there is such a thing as purpose. One is not on the way somewhere. Or rather, one is on the way and is also at the destination, at the same time.
~ Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
from Meditation in Action

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Vegetarianism


I am going on my 6th day of being a vegetarian and I feel GREAT both physically, emotionally and mentally.

I said early in my 20's that I wanted to be fully vegetarian by the time I turned 30 and well, I am turning the big 3-0 in december.

So, It's official!!

I already have noticed that I have more energy and feel lighter (no longer all that heavy, greasy meat). Not to mention that I have been drinking a lot of water along with this transition thus detoxing my body and it feels wonderful.

The decision to become a vegetarian is very personal I believe and I would never force anyone into such a decision. However, for myself I feel so liberated.

I wanted to embrace this lifestyle mainly because I have a deep love for all beings and just could not take the guilt anymore of killing poor, defenseless animals for my greedy consumption.

And the interesting thing is that there are a lot of options out there now for vegetarians. You can get veggie burgers that have that "flame grilled" taste, you can get soy taco meat and sausages even!!

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

There Is No Unity


Due to having many parts there is no unity,
There is not anything without parts.
Further, without one, there is not many.
Also, without existence there is no non-existence.

-Nagarjuna, "Precious Garland"

From "365 Buddha: Daily Meditations," edited by Jeff Schmidt. Reprinted by arrangement with Tarcher/Putnam, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Musty Africa Rain Smell

The last few days we have received a lot of rain and now today there is that humid, musty smell that I love. It reminds me of the musty haze that was always hanging aroud when I was living in Cote D'Ivoire, West Africa. I don't know exactly why I like that musty rain smell but I guess I like it because it is very earthy and grounds me to the moment and the environment. Being at one with the physical environment brings me much peace and relaxation.

"Breathing in the Earth heals the body and mind"

"Breathing out heals the Earth"

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Siren Meditation in the Rain

I bought a floor cushion the other day to help raise my pelvis and prevent my legs from falling asleep and I think that it should work well. I tried it out this morning and only had minimal tingling in my legs.

Anyway, it was a beautiful morning to meditate as it has been raining all morning long. Such relaxing rain with it's accompanying, wonderful smells. Well, about mid-way through my meditation I heard sirens and they were especially loud since we live near the local hospital.

At first I was annoyed with the loud, screaming sirens. I was upset that the noises had "interrupted" my beautiful silence. Then it hit me. I have come to rely too much on silence in my meditation. I realized that I have been craving and clinging to silence in order to have a "good" meditative experience. Well, that changed this morning as I then decided to concentrate on the sirens and not on blocking them out and a beautiful thing happened. I began to meditate on the person that was in the ambulance and cultivating compassion toward their emergency and prayed that they would be alright and at least calm and peaceful if they were going to pass on.

The sirens I was hearing became a cry for help and soon that cry was throbbing inside my heart. I began to hear them as loud voices screaming, "Someone is hurt!! Please help us help them and clear the road. Please think kind thoughts for and about this person. They need our compassion right now. Stop what you are doing for a few seconds and send them love and peace."

This changed my entire meditation session completely and I will no longer become annoyed when I hear sirens during meditation. I will try to be with these people in their moment of need whether I am meditating or in the car or where ever. I will send them my heart and my strength in their moment of need. We are all interconnected after all and need each other's help to grow and flourish in this existence.

I have chills on my arms as I am finishing this post. I learned a nice, little lesson today and for that I am forever thankful to all beings.

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Understanding Love

We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Power of a Smile

Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

James's comment: What a great reminder of the power of a smile to change the world. It is a gentle yet firm reminder that to obtain world peace we must start with ourselves. Smiling and breathing and forgiving ourselves are the foundation for leading a life that will have positive effects on others. A positive, constructive, peaceful attitude rubs off on others and is passed around to many.

There is a saying, "What we think upon grows." This may be positive or negative and we constantly have to work to breath deeply to keep ourselves in a positive mood as best we can. It is not always easy as I can attest but I see it as a worth while path with the best road toward personal and greater world peace.

I hope some of that made sense.
Heh. :)

-Peace to all sentient beings and a smile to all things-

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Monday, August 01, 2005

Mantra

Body impermanent like spring mist;
mind insubstantial like empty sky;
thoughts unestablished like breezes in space.
Think about these three points over and over.

-Adept Godrakpa, "Hermit of Go Cliffs"

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001. Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok, with permission of Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville MA 02144 U.S.A, www.wisdompubs.org.

James's Comment: This is such a beautiful, peaceful mantra. Reciting it makes me feel as light as a feather. Floating and dancing in the winds of change.

-Peace to us all-

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