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Friday, June 30, 2006

Have Confidence in Your Own Spiritual Potentiality

Have confidence in your own spiritual potentiality, your ability to find your own unique way. Learn from others certainly, and use what you find useful, but also learn to trust your own inner wisdom. Have courage. Be awake and aware. Remember too that Buddhism is not about being a Buddhist; that is, obtaining a new identity tag. Nor is it about collecting head-knowledge, practices and techniques. It is ultimately about letting go of all forms and concepts and becoming free.

-- John Snelling, in Elements of Buddhism

James: This is such a refreshing, rejuvinating reminder of the importance of looking within to realize and cultivate one's Buddha-Nature. As well as the importance of avoiding the spiritual materialism of attaching to labels and collecting teachings.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth Review

I have been convinced of the truth of global warming from the first time I became aware of the issue and saw the evidence. This movie, An Inconvenient Truth solidified my firm stance to help our environment and to the severity of the threat that it is facing and suffering from by global warming.

Al Gore presents the arguement in a convincing, powerful and complete powerpoint presentation to a live audience. He covers the subject from all possible angles and addresses the counter-points, shows how they fall short and deconstructs them with vigor and in totality. He then shows what we can do to help bring us back from the point of no return but he warns ( and shows through the presentation) and admonishes us that we are quickly running out of time.

This is a must see documentary whether you currently agree or disagree with global warming. If you see one documentary in you life or this year then make this one it. It may not be the most entertaining but it is perhaps the most important movie to see in the history of film. You will come away with a very solid understanding of the current threats facing our fragile and beautiful environment. Then after seeing this film urge all of your friends and family to see it.

Even if you STILL do not agree with global warming after watching this film I beg of you that we should take action. If for no other reason then it is better to be safe then sorry. After all we only have one planet and we must take precautions and measures to help Mother Earth survive and support human life for generations to come. Do it for your children and grandchildren.

---End of Transmission---

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Friday, June 23, 2006

My Own Enemy, Savior and Witness

With whom shall I battle, for I am my own enemy?
Who will save whom, for I am my own savior?
I am my own witness, for my actions and inactions.

--Dharmarakshita in Mind Training

James's comment: I often float up into the clouds of dreams, delusions and distractions. This prose came to me at the end of a week of heavy distraction. I bow to the person who sent this to me so that I might ground myself again.


-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Practice in Good Times to Maintain Peace During Adverse Conditions

Adverse circumstances test our courage, our strength of mind, and the depth of our conviction in the Dharma. There is nothing exceptional about practicing Dharma in a good environment and atmosphere. The true test is if we can maintain our practice in adverse conditions.

-Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, "Advice From a Spiritual Friend"

James: This is why practicing on a regular basis and when things are good is so important to us. If we cultivate a regular practice then we can sail across the waters of adversity with confidence knowing that our sturdy boat of practicing the Dharma will hold us up and see us through to the shore.

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Understanding Emptiness

When you dream of an elephant, does an elephant appear to your mind? Indeed it appears very clearly. Is there an elephant there? No. This appearance of an elephant in your dream is a union of appearance and emptiness. It appears, yet it does not exist--yet it appears. It is the same with all external phenomena. If we understand the example of the appearance of something in a dream, it is easier to understand how the mind appears yet does not exist, and does not exist yet appears.

--Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Essentials of Mahamudra from More Daily Wisdom, edited by Josh Bartok, Wisdom Publications

James: As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Wave is form and the water is emptiness."

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Venerable Thubten Yeshe on One Buddhist Approach to Mental Illness

We lamas think that the main point is that human problems arise primarily from the mind, not
from the external environment. But rather than my talking about things that you might find
irrelevant, perhaps it would be better for you to ask specific questions so that I can address directly the issues that are of most interest to you.


By mental illness I mean the kind of mind that does not see reality; a mind that tends to either
exaggerate or underestimate the qualities of the person or object it perceives, which always causes problems to arise. In the West, you wouldn’t consider this to be mental illness, but Western psychology’s interpretation is too narrow. If someone is obviously emotionally disturbed, you consider that to be a problem, but if someone has a fundamental inability to see reality, to understand his or her own true nature, you don’t. Not knowing your own basic mental attitude is a huge problem.


Human problems are more than just emotional distress or disturbed relationships. In fact, those
are tiny problems. It’s as if there’s this huge ocean of problems below, but all we see are the small waves on the surface.We focus on those — “Oh, yes, that’s a big problem” — while ignoring the actual cause, the dissatisfied nature of the human mind. It’s difficult to see, but we consider people who are unaware of the nature of their dissatisfied mind to be mentally ill; their minds are not healthy.


Q. Lama, what do you find in the ocean of a person’s nature?

Lama.When I use that expression I’m saying that people’s problems are like an ocean, but we see only the superficial waves.We don’t see what lies beneath them. “Oh, I have a problem with him. If I get rid of him I’ll solve my problems.” It’s like looking at electrical appliances without understanding that it’s the underlying electricity that makes them function.

Q. What kind of problems do we find below the waves?

Lama. Dissatisfaction. The dissatisfied mind is the fundamental element of human nature.We’re
dissatisfied with ourselves; we’re dissatisfied with the outside world. That dissatisfaction is like an ocean.

Q. Do you ask the other person questions about himself or how he feels to help him understand himself?

Lama. Sometimes we do, but usually we don’t. Some people have quite specific problems; in such cases it can help to know exactly what those problems are so that we can offer precise solutions. But it’s not usually necessary because basically, everybody’s problems are the same.

Q. Is my basic problem the same as his basic problem?

Lama. Yes, everybody’s basic problem is what we call ignorance — not understanding the nature of the dissatisfied mind. As long you have this kind of mind, you’re in the same boat as everybody else. This inability to see reality is not an exclusively Western problem or an exclusively Eastern problem. It’s a human problem.


For example, a hundred years ago, people in the West had certain kinds of problems. Largely through technological development, they solved many of them, but now different problems have arisen in their stead. That’s what I’m saying. New problems replace the old ones, but they’re still problems, because the basic problem remains. The basic problem is like an ocean; the ones we try to solve are just the waves.


I’m not saying that because Buddhist methods work we don’t need any others. People are different; individual problems require individual solutions. One method won’t work for everybody. In the West, you can’t say that Christianity offers a solution to all human problems, therefore we don’t need psychology or Hinduism or any other philosophy. That’s wrong.We need a variety of methods because different people have different personalities and different emotional problems. But the real question we have to ask of any method is can it really put a complete stop to human problemsforever? Actually, Lord Buddha himself taught an amazing variety of psychological remedies to a vast range of problems. Some people think that Buddhism is a rather small subject. In fact, Lord Buddha offered billions of solutions to the countless problems people face. It’s almost as if a personalized solution has been given to each individual. Buddhism never says there’s just one solution to every problem, that “This is the only way.” Lord Buddha gave an incredible variety of solutions to cover every imaginable human problem. Nor is any particular problem necessarily solved all at once. Some problems have to be overcome gradually, by degrees. Buddhist methods also take this into account. That’s why we need many approaches.

James: And an important approach (for many) that the Lama leaves out is the use of medications to help calm the body to the point where his true inner evaluation is possible.

-I'm out-

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Pleasure and Pain

The Supreme Reality stands revealed in the consciousness of those who have conquered themselves. They live in peace, alike in cold and heat, pleasure and pain, praise and blame.

-Bhagavad Gita 6:7

James: Suffering and physical pain are not the same thing. Surely one has heard the famous Zen aphorism that, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is not." As long as we find ourselves in the physical limitations of samara we will experience physical pain. However, whether we suffer emotionally from that pain is up to us.

This from Rev. Mike Young:

Buddha recognized that suffering is the result of our habits of mind in responding to that pain. It is not the pain that causes the suffering. It is our habits of mind in responding to pain that causes the suffering.

The point of Buddhist transcending of suffering is not anaesthesia. Unfortunately, much that passes for a description of Buddhist thought in our culture for years has seen Buddhism as a way being totally indifferent, of not emotionally responding. Buddhism is portrayed as a kind of emotional anaesthesia that avoids all problems by simply not letting yourself become involved in them at all.

It is not a question of getting yourself not to feel pain anymore. Indeed, our usual response to pain, the indulging, wallowing in it, grasping . . . or pushing away, all produce suffering. But these responses also tend to numb us. And, in some ways, this is what we are after in the wallowing, obsessing, the grasping and pushing away. We are seeking the numbing that leaves us not feeling the pain so acutely.

In Buddhism, transcending suffering may well result in our feeling the pain that is inevitable even MORE acutely. Hence, the centrality in Buddhism of compassion, not indifference. But, if it means feeling pain more acutely, it also means feeling JOY more acutely. For, the anaesthesia we have the habit of doing to ourselves to shut off our pain results also in shutting off much--if not all--of the playfulness and joyousness of life.

James: I'll leave you with these words from William Blake:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Go Beyond Our "Limits"

The abandonment of religious virtue has left this culture aggressively antagonistic to the pursuit of the unknown, the unknowable, to the mystical realms of reality. The original enthusiasm for Zen in the United States was not just for personal discovery, but for the possibility of developing an appreciation for the unknown in an excessively cluttered society-it was an effort to break ground for new possibilities.

What we need to know cannot arise from what we know now; our liberation from personal and collective suffering must derive from what we cannot envision, what is beyond our imagination, even beyond our dreams of what is possible.

One day an American student asked a Japanese Zen master, "Is enlightenment really possible?"He answered, "If you're willing to allow for it."

James: This goes to show that we are our own worst enemy. We trip ourselves up and tighten up when we feel we are letting go too much because we want to control our life and are afraid of the "unknown." However, when we fully let go and float into the unknown--it is then and there that we find true freedom and the doorway to enlightenment opened wide. And we realize that the door was open all along.

--Helen Tworkov

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mindfulness Brings Us Great Freedom

Mindfulness places us where choice is possible; the greater our awareness, the greater our freedom to choose.

~ Gil Fronsdal

James: What a great way to describe mindfulness.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Thich Nhat Hanh--21 Day Retreat in Real Time (or almost)

James: This was sent to my via my sangha.

Hello dear friends!

For your interest--

Thich Nhat Hanh's dharma talks at the 21-day retreat happening at Plum Village France (June 1-21) can now be heard, day by day!! What a joy, and much gratitude to all those who have contributed to the development and use of the technology that allows this vehicle for sharing the dharma widely "in 'real' time" (or almost)! Connect at the following address, and please share also with your communities who may be interested.

In the first talk Thay is offering the practice and teachings from the Anapasati Sutra, the full awareness of breathing. He encourages deep respect for the body: "we have to not discriminate against the body. The body can initiate (smiling) sometimes, sometimes the mind initiates. We have to respect and see the value of the body. Your love, your happiness depends on your body alot. Your body can do a lot, to bring about peace, and respect, and reverence." He encourages especially the practices of smiling and total deep relaxation, which are based on this sutra's teachings. He encourages putting on tape the deep relaxation practice in different languages, and says that it can be offered also in hospitals, schools and corporations. "All of us have to master the practice for ourselves, so we as teachers, parents, we can help so many people with our practice!" He encourages the medical community, teachers, corporation heads: "To remove all the tension in this body, this is a basic condition for healing...The doctor as well as the patient should practice." "It is very urgent in schools, the children don't know (how to do this--relax), there is so much restlessness in them, violence, they need to LEARN how to do it, this is very important."

In this talk Thay also recalls Thomas Merton's saying that "so many elements of monastic culture can be shared"--and we are the ones who have the duty to do that, participate in parents and teachers associations etc and share the practices that can restore healing.He encourages lay and monastic dharma teachers to "please record all the exercises you have invented for your teaching, so you can offer these to other practitioners."

Please enjoy and share:

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Aim of Buddhism

For some years now, students have not been getting to the root of the aim of Zen, instead taking the verbal teachings of Buddhas and Zen masters to be the ultimate rule. That is like ignoring a hundred thousand pure clear oceans and only focusing attention on a single bubble.


James's comment: Being a backpacker I think of the example of packing ones backpack full of the needed things. However, instead of setting out and using them along the way one just sits at the trailhead with a packful of what is needed to survive in the wilderness. Then one pulls out the needed tools (backpackering stove, water purifying pump, etc) holds them in one's hands, cherishes them and puts them back into the pack expecting those tools to somehow transport them along the path. Then one wonders why (and becomes frustrated) that no progress is being made. If one does this long enough then the tools are not being used properly, begin to rust and turn to ashes becoming worthless.

We can pack out spiritual backpack with all the teachings needed to survive and thrive on the path. Nevertheless, if we do not actually set out on the path then we are simply spinning our wheels. We are chasing the wind, wasting our time and letting the precious tools that are given to us from our teachers to rot.

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

He Knows His Own Nature

The master goes about his business
With perfect equanimity.

He is happy when he sits,
Happy when he talks and eats,
Happy asleep,
Happy coming and going.

Because he knows his own nature,
He does what he has to without feeling ruffled
Like ordinary people.

Smooth and shining
Like the surface of a vast lake.

His sorrows are at an end.

-Ashtavakra Gita 18:59-60

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Of Firewood and Ash

Firewood becomes ash, and it does not become firewood again. Yet, do not suppose that the ash is future and the firewood past. You should understand that firewood is firewood, which fully includes past and future. Ash is ash, which fully includes future and past. Just as firewood does not become firewood again after it is ash, you do not return to birth after death.

-Dogen, "Actualizing the Fundamental Point"

James's comment: Just what I needed to hear today. I have been in a tough place the last couple of days. However, I need to remember to take each moment for what it might be whether that is firewood or ash and not place a value judgement upon it. Watch it, observe it and ride the wave out as it merges back into the vast calm of the ocean again.

Although I am a little confused as to why Dogen says, "you do not return to birth after death." What is he refering to here? Is he talking about rebirth vs. reincarnation? Any ideas???

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Good Vibrations

Everything in the universe is made of energy. What differentiates one form of energy from another is the speed at which it vibrates. For example, light vibrates at a very high frequency, and something like a rock vibrates at a lower frequency but a frequency nonetheless. Human beings also vibrate at different frequencies. Our thoughts and feelings can determine the frequency at which we vibrate, and our vibration goes out into the world and attracts to us energy moving at a similar frequency. This is one of the ways that we create our own reality, which is why we can cause a positive shift in our lives by raising our vibration.

We all know someone we think of as vibrant. Vibrant literally means "vibrating very rapidly." The people who strike us as vibrant are vibrating at a high frequency, and they can inspire us as we work to raise our vibration.

-Daily Om

James's comment: I thought this was really cool and spot on.

-Peace to all beings-

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