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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Key to Liberation [Lies] in Interdependence and Non-Self

James: The following are segments from the chapter describing the enlightenment and liberation of the Buddha. It is from the book, "Old Path White Clouds." Often I feel that we aspirants make Buddhism too complicated. However, the following teachings on interdependence and non-self put it all into the right perspective. These major concepts, in my opinion, are the foundation to the path that we call "Buddhism":

He [The Buddha] smiled, and looked up at the pippala leaf imprinted against the blue sky, it's tail blowing back and forth as if calling him. Looking deeply at the leaf, he saw clearly the presence of the sun and stars -- without the sun, without light and warmth, the leaf could not exist. This was like this, because that was like that. He also saw in the leaf the presence of clouds -- without clouds there could be no rain, and withhout rain the leaf could not be. He saw the Earth, time, space, the mind -- all were present in the leaf. In fact, at that very moment, the entire universe existed in that leaf. The reality of the leaf was a wonderous miracle.

Though we ordinarly think that a leaf is born in the springtime, Gautama could see that it had been there for a long, long time in the sunlight, the clouds, the tree, and in himself. Seeing that the leaf had never been born, he could see that he too had never been born. Both the leaf and he himself had simply manifested -- they had never been born and were incapable of ever dying.


The leaf and the body were one. Neither possessed a seperate, permanent self. Neither could exist independently from the rest of the universe. Seeing the interdependent nature of all phenomena -- that all things are empty of a separate, isolated self. He realized that the key to liberation lay in these two principles of interdependence and non-self.


Illuminating the rivers of his body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, Siddhartha now understood that impermanence and emptiness of self are the very conditions necessary for life. Without impermanence and emtiness of self, nothing could grow or develop.


The source of suffering is a false belief in permanence and the existence of separate selves. Seeing this, one understands that there is neither birth nor death, production nor destruction, one nor many, inner nor outer, large nor small, impure nor pure. All such concepts are false distinctions created by the intellect. If one penetrates into the empty nature of all things, one will transcend all mental barriers, and be liberated from the cycle of suffering.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, December 30, 2005


Someone asked T'ou-tzu, "How is it when there is no mistake moment to moment?"

T'ou-tzu said, "Bragging."

James's comment: This brought a smirk to my face when I read this. What a great answer and lesson. I took this to mean that we should never feel that we are better then anyone or anything that exists or does not exist.

It also says to me that even "great masters" make "mistakes. "

What lesson do you take out of it?

Meditation was good today. Well, it's always a good thing but today was very helpful. I was meditating and for the first 10 minutes had a lot of intrusive thoughts and keep trying to "do" something to stop them.

Then, however, I was reminded of the mantras, "Nothing to do or undo" and "Nothing to think or not think." After meditating upon these words I felt the distractions just melt away like snow and then I realized that I already had the tools to release myself more easily from the distractions that clog up my peace and mindfulness through out the day. Upon remembering that I didn't have to "think or not think" about anything I felt a freedom that I know that I can carry with me as I keep walking the middle path from moment to beautiful moment.

Present moment, wonderful moment, only moment.

Does any of this even make sense? I hope so.

I hope that I haven't totally contradicted myself. :)

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Meditation Upon Emptiness

The following lessons/meditations were observed by the body/mind during the state of formal sitting:

Emptiness: This body is the dog barking. This body is the children playing. This body is the birds chirping right outside the window. Nothing exists within this body which is special or unique. Everything is dependent upon everything else that exists and does not exist. There is no Nirvana outside this moment of emptiness. There is no enlightenment outside being apart of all that exists and does not exist. self blends and melts into the Self of the universe and non-universe. Death has no unique or special, inherent existence. Death is connected to so many other causes and conditons that it is simply another color in the rainbow. What "we" call "death" is just another wave in the ocean.

There is no end and there is no beginning.

There is simply this.

This body/mind has been meditating upon the Heart Sutra for awhile now, however, "I" do not consider myself an expert or even a teacher of any kind on this matter. However, "I" wanted to share some of the meditations from this morning.

However countless sentient beings are,
I vow to save them.
However inexhaustible the resistance,
I vow to relinquish it.
However many the doors of incarnation,
I vow to enter them all.
However incomparable the highest perspective,
I vow to attain it.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dalai Lama Interview in The Progressive Magazine

There is a great interview with HH the Dalai Lama in the latest issue of, The progressive.

I have decided to post a few of the highlights in this post:

On countering terrorism:

We can not blame the entire Muslim society because of the mischievious acts of a few individuals. Therefore, at the general public level we must cultivate the notion of not just one religion, one truth, but pluralism and many truths.


Then, second, there should be a spirit of dialogue. Whenever we see any disagreements, we must think how to solve them on the basis of recognition of oneness of the entire humanity. This is the modern reality. When a certain community is destroyed, in reality it destroys a part of all of us. So there should be a clear recognition that the entire humanity should be considered as a family conflict. We must find a solution within this atmosphere.

It's not easy. If we tackle these problems the wrong way, then while today there is one bid laden, after a few years there will be ten bin ladens. And it is possible that after a few years, there will be 100 bin ladens.

On the male dominated history of Buddhism:

The important thing is that now, for the past thirty years, we have worked to change that. Many nuns are very sincere, but they have had no chance to ascend to the highest ordination level. This has made me somewhat uncomfortable, especially since the Buddha gave equal opportunities to women. But we, even as followers of Buddha, neglected the quality of religious studies in nunneries. For the past forty years, ever since we've been in India, nunneries have developed better. Then, we introduced the same levels of studies for both males and females. Now it is possible for both men and women to get doctorates in Buddhist studies.

The role he would play in a new Tibet:

My own role? Nothing. Zero. As early as 1969, I made an official statement that the very institution of the Dalai Lama, whether it should continue or not, is up to the people. Second, in 1992, I made clear that when the day of our return -- with a certain degree of freedom -- comes, I'll hand over my political authority to the local Tibetan government. Hopefully, that government should be a democratic, elected government. And even while we have remained outside Tibet -- for the last forty-six years -- we have undertaken strong efforts at democratization. In the last four years, we have established an elected political leadership. Since then, I have been in a position of semi-retirement. Once the day of our return comes, I will go into complete retirement. There will be no political role for the Dalai Lama. This will be true not only for me but for any future Dalai Lama.

Thoughts on mortality after turning 70 in July:

At a personal level, as a Buddhist practitioner, I deliberately visualize and think about death in my daily practice. Death is not separated from out lives. Due to my research and thoughts about death, I have some guarantee and some conviction that it will be a positive experience.


Don't you just love that smile on HH?

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Wish

I hope that this Christmas day is a beautiful and bright one to all my Christian friends (and to my non-Christian friends who still celebrate the holiday).

Special thanks for Isaiah for the picture.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, December 23, 2005

The Wise Man Recognizes His Own Ignorance

A fool who recognizes his own ignorance is thereby in fact a wise man, but a fool who considers himself wise -- that is what one really calls a fool.

~Gautama Buddha

James's comment: This reminds me of something I read that HH the Dalai Lama said:

The one-time boy king has become the most celebrated man in robes since Mahatma Gandhi, whom he says is his major role model, along with American civil rights advocate Martin Luther King Jr. Yet he insists he never sought the limelight. Others may worship him as a living god, but the Dalai Lama says he's "just a simple monk" with no exceptional wisdom to impart. "Others are always making too much of my words," he says. "People are too serious. All the time, too serious."

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Keep Walking Forward

The Dharma Path is to keep walking forward. But the true Dharma has no going forward, no going backward, and no standing still.

-Ajahn Chah, "Still Forest Pool"

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Screen Saver Meditation

I enjoy finding new and different ways to meditate in our technology driven, modern society.

Well, yesterday afternoon was one of those days when I discovered a new and unique but effective way to meditate. I was having a really rough weekend after a rough week and I just was feeling too angry and upset to formally meditate so I decided to relax on the couch for awhile as I followed my breath. As I put my head down on a pillow I realized that the laptop was still on in front of me on the coffee table and the screen saver was running.

I had downloaded a screen saver program a few weeks earlier and put various Buddhst images in the program. It flashed images of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and great teachers of Buddhism which I took in as I relaxed on the couch. So after lying there for a while, breathing deeply and watching the sacred slide show I felt much, much better. Thus, I would recommend using your screen saver as another tool to maintain mindfulness.

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bhikkhu's Blog on Creationism

Bhikkhu's blog is a wonderful space in the blanga (as aptly named by Nacho over at Woodmoor Village) that I have listed in my "Sangha members" list on the right.

He (A Theravada monk who goes by the name Ajahn Punnadhammo) has a great explaination of the a Buddhist view on the theory of Creationism. To find this piece, scroll down a bit until you see the title, "Reply to my Creationist Correspondent." He also has a great response to evolution and in the end urges us to always seek the middle ground.

-Peace to all beings-

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I Found the Buddha at Target!!

It was a casual day out at La Boutique Target looking for a pine scented candle for the holidays when we found him.

He was hiding in between the plants and the candles sitting it deep meditation with his wonderous smile on his face that we all know and love. We asked if he'd like to come home with us and he just nodded.

He is holding a lotus flower in his hands that doubles as a tea light candle holder that casts him in soft, light shadows in the dark. Very beautiful.

We were happy to take him home and put him in a place of prominence sitting in a home with other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

So, if you have a Target near by then you might just find the Buddha there too! If someone is really interested in buying one I would be more then happy to buy another one and ship it to you. You'd have to pay for the shipping as well though.

-Peace to everything that exists and does not exist-

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Work to Change Yourself First

Like a fine flower, beautiful to look at but without scent, fine words are fruitless in a man who does not act in accordance with them.

~Gautama Buddha

James's comment: This is one that I need to work on. I am so easy to criticize and judge others when I know full well that I have plenty to work on in cleaning out my own house. Yet another great reminder to work on my own misperceptions. Only then can we expect others to change.

I think it is also important, however, to not beat ourselves up over guilt for not always being "perfect." For one, perfection isn't possible and two, undo guilt only creates more negative karma for ourselves. It's like paying twice for a crime.

-Peace to all things that exist and do not exist-

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Thursday, December 15, 2005


All the wealth you've acquired
from beginningless time until now
has failed to fulfill all your desires.
Cultivate therefore this wish-granting gem
of moderation, O fortunate ones.

-Milarepa, "Drinking the Mountain Stream"

James's comment: This reminds me of the lyrics of the Dave Matthews Band song, "Seek Up:"

Say, say
Look at me in my fancy car
And my bank account
Oh, how I wish I could take it all down
Into my grave, I’d save and save
Take a look again, take a look again,
Take a look again...
Soon we will all find our lives swept away

James: This a perfect place to insert the mantra that goes something like this, "Chasing desire is like drinking salt water to satisfy your thrist."

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yin and Yang Galaxy

"In my tradition we speak of 'interbeing.' We cannot 'be' by ourself alone; we must be with everything else," he continued. "So, for example, we 'inter-are' with a tree: if it is not there, we are not there either."

-Thich Nhat Hanh

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Old Path, White Clouds

At Sangha yesterday before meditation we heard a brief reading from Thay's book, "Old Path, White Clouds. The section we heard was about the meditations of the Buddha during his transportation to enlightenment. The reading really set the mood for the sitting practice.

I thought the way that Thay has written this book really brings the story of the Buddha to life and I need to get this book!!

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Meditation and Ravi Shankar

I've been having some great meditation sessions lately. I've been sitting in silence for 20 minutes and then ending my sitting with listening to a 20 minute raga played by sitar master Ravi Shankar. Shankar's entrancing playing puts one into a place of going beyond everything and being blended into everything that exists. If you haven't listened to the sitar then I recommend you give it a listen and start with the master himself, Ravi Shankar. You can't go wrong with any of his albums but I would recommend beginning with his older, traditional stuff from the '60's to start such as:

-Three Ragas
-Live at the Monterey International Pop Festival
-Ravi Shankar in San Francisco

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Bodhi Day or Enlightenment Day

Yesterday was Bodhi Day or Enlightenment Day and I wanted to post something about it today since I didn't get a chance yesterday.

Bodhi Day--Usually observed December 8 or the Sunday immediately preceding, is the date, according to Mahayana tradition, of Siddhartha Gautama’s realization and presentation to his fellow seekers of the Four Noble Truths.

James's comment: Sometimes we Buddhists can feel a little left out during the year end holidays and so Bodhi Day is a great opportunity for us to be apart of the season. So you might want to take a moment either today or sunday to remember the enlightenment of the Buddha and rededicate yourself to the path of the Bodhisattva. It is also a great opportunity to celebrate the present moment and to offer service to those with less then us.

Another holiday for Buddhists comes on the first full moon of January as the Buddhist New Year. It is a chance to renew our commitment to live the Dharma in the new year. Yet another holiday is the celebration of the birth of the Buddha on the 8th of April or the sunday before(bows).

-Peace to all beings-

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Lord Ganesh

Yesterday I stopped by the Nepal-Tibet Import store to pick up some more incense and saw this beautiful statue of Ganesh (click image to enlarge) and had to have it. I wasn't going to pick it up because usually these gorgeous statues are $50 or more but this one was a steal at $35. I love to collect religious images/statues and especially Buddhist or Hindu ones. I already have a Shiva statue but Ganesh is by far my favorite Hindu God.

Lord Ganesh is the virtual son of Lord Shiva and is seen in the Hindu faiths as the Remover of Obstacles and the God of domestic harmony and success. He is the most beloved of all the Hindu Gods. He was created as an ordinary boy but was decapitated in battle. Shiva's emissaries were sent into the forest and told to get the head of the first animal they found and to fit that head onto the boy's neck.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My Happy Continuation Day!!

James: Yesterday was my 30th birthday but I prefer to use the Thay's term, "Happy Continuation Day" to describe the special event. If you are not aware of this concept then allow me to quote Thich Nhat Hanh:

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people. To be born means that something which did not exist comes into existence. But the day we are “born” is not our beginning. It is a day of continuation. But that should not make us less happy when we celebrate our “Happy Continuation Day.” Since we are never born, how can we cease to be? This is what the Heart Sutra reveals to us. When we have tangible experience of non-birth and non-death, we know ourselves beyond duality. The meditation on “no separate self” is one way to pass through the gate of birth and death. Your hand proves that you have never been born and you will never die. The thread of life has never been interrupted from time without beginning until now. Previous generations, all the way back to single cell beings, are present in your hand at this moment. You can observe and experience this. Your hand is always available as a subject for meditation.

--Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

James: I received a beautiful gift of a Tibetan singing bowl (like the one pictured) for my continuation day from my generous wife. The bowl has such a rich and enlightening sound that will be a great addiction to my practice. It has some markings on it one of which are the eye's of the Buddha that you often see on Nepalese/Tibetan temples and monasteries. In the very bottom of the bowl is a "yin/yang" symbol with the mantra of compassion, OM MANI PADME HUNG repeated all around the outside.

Happy continuation day is a great time to reflect on the impermanence and interconnectivity of all things.

-Peace to all-

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thay's Advice on Anger

Anger is something that I deal with on a regular basis (as we all do). It is sometimes very easy to become angry because I have (historically) had a problem with patience which often leads to anger.

Anyway, I've been reading Thay's book, "Anger" and it has really helped me (as well as my meditation practice). In the book he gives a great example of how we are to take care of our anger and sit with it instead of seeking revenge on the person(s) who "made us angry."

He says:

If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put the fire out. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.

I do not always do this wise practice but I have come a long way since I have started on the path of the dharma.

This is a great teaching and something I have really engrained in my mind for future reference when the fires of anger pop up.

PHOTO: "James" meditating on our most recent vacation to Hawaii (I was a lot skinnier then but everything must change! Tis' the nature of existence).

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Let the Dust Clear

Just as material things are made of dust, so too are our perceptions and thoughts mere dust. Just as it takes only a moment to wipe the dust from the surface of a mirror, so it takes only a moment to become enlightened, the moment all defiled intentions are cleared from our consciousness, we will see ourselves in the mirror of perfect truth.

-Master Hsing Yun, "Describing the Indescribable"

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