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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Buddhism, Hinduism, Karma, Fate and Predestination.

Whatever decision we think we are making is actually being made for us, because the decision is the end result of a thought and we have no control over the arising of the thought.

-Ramesh Balsekar

James: Upon first reading this I agreed with it but now that I've been contemplating upon it for awhile I'm wondering, "Do we really have no control over the arising of the thought? Don't we have control over what we think?"

I realize that karma plays a role in our thought process but this quote seems to confuse karma. It rather seems fatalistic and seems to lean toward teaching predestination and from what I've learned Buddhism doesn't teach fatalism or predestination:

It is quite often the case that we find people misunderstanding the idea of karma. This is particularly true in our daily casual use of the term. We find people saying that one cannot change one’s situation because of one’s karma. In this sense, karma becomes a sort of escape. It becomes similar to predestination or fatalism. This is emphatically not the correct understanding of karma. It is possible that this misunderstanding of karma has come about because of the popular idea that we have about luck and fate. It may be for this reason that our idea of karma has become overlaid in popular thought with the notion of predestination. Karma is not fate or predestination.
James: I'd really enjoy hearing your thoughts on this quote, fate, karma, predestination and how it relates (or not) to Buddhism. Part of this could be a difference between Buddhism and Hinduism as this quote came from a daily Hindu wisdom email. And while I don't know Hinduism as well as Buddhism it was my understanding that Hindus don't believe in predestination either.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Prajnaparamita-Hridaya Sutra Mantra.

I've been looking for a reliable representation of the Heart Sutra's mantra (om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha) in either Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Hindi, etc. I have been doing extensive research but haven't found much. I found the version written above in the Siddham script of Sanskrit (At least I think the above script is Siddham).

However, I need a verification of it's validity and accuracy because eventually I want this section of the Heart Sutra tattooed on my forearm and don't want to get the wrong thing tattooed on me. Can anyone verify the Siddham script Sanskrit version or give me a version written in any of those other Asian languages that I mentioned above? I also think I found a version written in Japanese kanji (below)--can anyone confirm it as being the Heart Sutra mantra?The other question I have is that the characters above seem like Chinese and not Japanese but I'm not an expert to say the least. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Bowing...

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, March 23, 2009

We all Make Mistakes.

We all make mistakes from time to time. Life is about learning to make our mistakes less often. To realize this goal, we have a policy in our monastery that monks are allowed to make mistakes. When the monks are not afraid to make mistakes, they don’t make so many.

–Ajahn Brahm, from Opening the Door of Your Heart (Lothian Books)

James: (I am not a teacher and the following are my thoughts and mine alone). I have often found that perfectionism is a common obstacle to many people. Striving for perfection is in my view another form of desire because we refuse to accept that we are already perfect as all has Buddha nature. Perfectionism asserts that mistakes are negative and signs of failure.

In reality we can not make progress without making mistakes. If we adjust our lives so that we won't make many mistakes then we greatly hinder our chances and opportunities to peel away the layers of karma to reveal the perfect jewel of enlightenment. Not to mention loosing out on a lot of the joys of life out of a fear of making mistakes. But guess what?--everyone makes mistakes and suffers pain.

Even Buddha suffered aches and pains after his enlightenment. He understand that, "Enlightened people do not cease to experience the pain of existence. They only stop creating illusions that amplify that pain and cause new suffering." However, If we compare ourselves say to advanced students or the great teachers then we will come up feeling inadequate and get discouraged to where it would be easy to give up the Dharma thinking we will never become who they are.

The key I think is to set modest goals and realize that the middle-path isn't a short-cut or express lane but rather a journey that will most likely take many, many, many lives to fulfill. There is no reason to be discouraged by this, however, because instead it takes the pressure off of feeling like we have to realize enlightenment in this life, which often brings frustration, low self-esteem and discouragement. Of course we should strive to do our best and live the Dharma as best we can but mistakes will happen and that is simply apart of the journey. Step by step, moment by moment, enlightenment unveils itself.

When we refuse to accept imperfection then we set ourselves up for disappointment and suffering. On the contrary when we accept that things don't have to be perfect to be good or beneficial then we can stop worrying so much and enjoy being perfect in our imperfections!! I think that is one of the reasons why the teaching on the present moment is so important because it is keeping goals realistic. Thus the teaching of "before enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water and after enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water."

Before enlightenment perhaps we chopped wood and carried water with a constant thought stream of self-judgments such as: "I should be chopping wood faster," or "Look at how much water is splashing over the side of the bucket, I must be worthless at this job." Little perhaps do we realize that like a famous story goes--the water splashing over the side of the bucket could be watering flowers down below, flowers that we did not notice because our focus was on trying to be perfect.

After enlightenment chopping wood and carrying water is perfection already expressed because the focus is no longer on doing the task perfectly but on simply doing and fully experiencing the task itself as it unfolds.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I'm sorry that I haven't been writing lately. I have been getting ready for a big trip to Indiana and Chicago to visit family. I'll be back in about a week with some new posts. I hope you are all doing well and I'll miss you!!

Oh and Michael? The one who put their name into the hat for the Zen enso t-shirt? You won the contest awhile back but haven't heard from you. If you don't reply to this post by the time I get back I'll have to give it to someone else. So I'll leave you with a quote to chew on:

Listen to the cicadas in treetops near the

See how last night's rains have washed away
all grime.
Needless to say my hut is as empty as can
But I can offer you a window full of the most

intoxicating air !

-Ryokan, Zen monk of Japan

James: O.k., I'm off. Be well in your practice.

I bow to you all....

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Bring Me Your Mind.

Hui-k'o, who would be the Second Patriarch of Ch'an, stood in the snow outside the cave. To show Bodhidharma his sincerity to learn the Dharma, Hui-k'o cut off his arm and said, "Your disciple's mind has no peace as yet. Master, please, put it to rest."

Bodhidharma said, "Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest." Hui-k'o said, "I have searched for my mind, but I cannot find it." Bodhidharma said, "I have completely put it to rest for you."

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Mexico, USA will Abolish the Death Penalty.

The New Mexico Senate voted to abolish capital punishment, a measure already approved by the lower House that Governor Bill Richardson must sign before it goes into effect, the Senate said on its website. Supporters of the measure argue that replacing the death sentence with life in prison without parole would save the state more than one million dollars a year. There are about 10 US states currently considering repealing the death penalty, which is applied in 36 of the 50 states in the union.

James: The death penalty has no place in civilized society and in my opinion not in Buddhism either. Consider this tale from the Rajaparikatha-ratnamala, which was advice given to King Udayi from the great Indian-Buddhist philosopher Nagajuna:

The Rajaparikatha-ratnamala or The Precious Garland of Advice for the King is a treatise attributed to the famous South Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna (2nd or 3rd century AD). In this work on Buddhist statecraft, Nagarjuna gives King Udayi of the Satavahana Dynasty advice on a variety of matters. Here is how Nagarjuna handles capital punishment:

O King, through compassion you should always< style="font-weight: bold; color: rgb(102, 102, 102);">Even for all those embodied beings Who have committed appalling sins. Especially generate compassion For those murderers, whose sins are horrible; Those of fallen nature are receptacles Of compassion from those whose nature is great.... Once you have analyzed the angry Murderers and recognized them well, You should banish them without Killing or tormenting them.

Banishment or exile has been employed as a form of sanction in various pre-modern Asian legal systems. Indeed, banishment has also been employed at times in the West. Although banishment obviously entails psychological and physical hardships, it is certainly to be preferred to death. Moreover, it can protect the convicted defendant from the possible wrath of friends or family of the victim.

James: I see banishment and exile today as life in prison without the possibility of parole, which is a very humane yet punitive way to deal with murders and other serious felons. I think whether we kill prisoners or not says more about us than the prisoners. As I've said here before the death penalty is excessive and continues the cycle and energy of anger, hatred and lust for violence and revenge.

Attention must be focused upon the person having to do the actual killing of these prisoners--the executioners. It is probably nearly impossible to kill people over and over and not be negatively effected emotionally and possibly karmically. I have seen several anti-death penalty videos showing former executioners who are still tormented with the visions of a botched electricution of a prisoner or of seeing their faces before being the one to administer the punishment. In these videos many of these executioners are now against capital punishment.

The Dhammapada states:

Everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. Everyone fears punishment; everyone loves life, as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill.

Knowing this, how can we Buddhists support state sanctioned killing in our names? Being o.k. with someone having to be the official executioner is "causing to kill." We go about our lives often not thinking of the burden that someone has of killing people in our names. Just because we don't think of it nor are we personally involved in the killing doesn't mean that we as a society are immune from heavy, less skillful karma.

~Peace to all beings~

P.S.~To the Michael who was selected from the drawing for the Enso-Zen t-shirt. I need to hear from you so that I can send it to you. If I don't hear from you by this coming Friday then I'll have to give it to someone else.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Diamond in the Ruff.

Meditation is many things to me. It is the ultimate medication--like garlic it's helps just about everything.

Today's meditation was like sitting under a water fall after a long day of marching through a steamy, exhausting jungle. As I sat there each breath washed away grime of delusions built up in my mind to once again reveal the Buddha nature within all things.

In keeping with the three jewels imagery I see Buddha-nature as a perfectly cut and brilliant diamond buried in the mud of the delusions, greed, anger within the hologram of the self. It gives me perspective to see the self as a suit coat that one wears to work. It can be put on but also taken off and that it only has form when I wrap myself in it.

It is not permanently strapped to me though at times I get so used to it and I forget that I'm wearing it and those are times of delusion thinking that the suit coat gives me comfort but it is a false sense of comfort. It might bring slight warmth (pay raise) for a time but sooner or later it will become constrictive (attachment to money and power) and cause great discomfort (suffering) and must be shed. The trick is for me to be mindful enough to realize that I don't need the suit (self) to realize retirement (Buddhahood) from the work place (samsara).

But let's get back to the diamond--even when all those layers of mud, dirt and silt cover that diamond of Buddha-nature its essence never dulls or changes. Buddha-nature is indestructible and never loses its luster and pure essence regardless of what covers or conceals it. A diamond can wait for eons locked inside a dark, dirty and hard chunk of rock but it's pure nature never changes. It waits locked inside our karma to be unveiled to bask in the vast openness and freedom of Buddhahood to reflect the glorious light of Nirvana.

PHOTO CREDIT: Click here.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Many People, Many Paths, One Dharma.

As skillful means we can employ whatever is useful, whatever is truly helpful. For each of us at different times, different traditions, philosophical constructs, and methods may serve us, either because of temperament, background, or capacities. For some, the language of emptiness may be as dry as the desert, while for others it may reveal the heart-essence of liberation.

Some may quickly recognize the nature of awareness itself, while others emphasize the letting go of those mind states that obscure it. Some may find that the path of devotion truly empties the self, but for others this way may simply act as a cloud of self-delusion. We each need great honesty of introspection and wise guidance from teachers to find our own skillful path.

-Joseph Goldstein, from One Dharma (HarperOne)

James: We are all apart of the same wheel (Dharma Wheel) but represent different parts based on our karma. Some are spokes, some are apart of the hub and still others are the rim. The same is true of the skillful means mentioned above being emptiness, awareness, letting go of those mind states and devotion. All are intigral parts of the Dharma Wheel. In my opinion, the same can be said for the different Buddhist schools, which people follow often based on karma, tradition, culture, education and philosophy--amongst other reasons.


~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

My Past Lives as a Tibetan Monk.

I was a bit skeptical about past lives until I had this very, vivid dream--which also party triggered my investigation and interest in Buddhism. I found myself dressed in some kind of colorful, flowing robe. The colors being a purplish maroon and the other was a yellowish golden color. The robe seemed to be an eggplant color with the golden yellow as trim. I had no clue at that point in my life that those are the colors of Tibetan Buddhist monks; in fact I didn’t know much of anything about Buddhism in general!!

A man dressed in similar robes accompanied me but his robes were bluer with the golden yellow trim. He was my guide as we walked up this slope of a massive mountaintop. I could tell that we were very high up because the vegetation was mostly tundra with a few scraggly trees. The sky was a breathtaking shade of crystal blue with only a hint of wispy clouds. A slight breeze was playfully tossing the fabric of my billowy robes about. I felt so at peace with my guide and in my surroundings. I can’t remember his face but I had a deep feeling of connection with him. He felt like a long lost friend whom I had known for ages.

As we rounded the summit of this great peak I saw a large Buddha-like statue with a crisp, clear stream of water gushing out of the statue’s mouth. My guide told me to drink the water, so I cupped my hands and drank. And as I swallowed this cool, clean mountain water I realized that I was very thirsty and I remember it was so refreshing and delicious.

Thus, I drank more and more of this elixir. As I drank my guide informed me that the water I was drinking was no ordinary water. He said, “It is special water. Water that will bring you vitality and long-life” and with that he gave me a warm smile. Then, as I gazed transfixed into his peaceful face I was transported out of the dream with a blink just like someone changed the channel on the t.v.

As it turns out my research shows that blue and yellow are the two colors in the Karmapa Dream Flag. “The 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, well known for his visions and prophesies, designed this flag from a vision that came to him in a dream. He called it “Namkhyen Gyaldar (Victorious Flag of Buddha’s Wisdom).” He proclaimed, “Wherever this banner is flown the Dharma will flourish.”[i]

According to that same webpage cited above, the inner meaning of this flag is that the blue represents vision and spiritual insight, which is exactly what my dream was for me. In addition, the yellow represents our experiences in the everyday world and certainly my everyday experiences were weighing heavily upon me when I had this dream. So I see this dream as a wake up call that the spiritual insight of the dream represented by Buddhism would be the path that would help me find peace and reduce my great suffering (I was struggling greatly at the time in my life on what to do. I was lost in a nihilist fog at the time of this dream).

It seems that the Karmapa’s Dream Flag took the form of my guides robe colors and the pure, clean water was to quench my thirst for peace and stability through the Dharma. I personally feel that the dream overall it was a reminder of a past life that I must have lived as a novice Tibetan Buddhist monk.

I've had a second, as vivid dream about what I see as a past life in Tibet. I was on a journey all alone in a mountainous land. I was again wearing maroon robes and was on some quest of sorts to find a hermit monk off in the foothills near a grand, blue, wind-swept lake. Well, imagine my surprise and shock when I watched the movie Kundun and saw the exact same lake from my dream in the movie!! It was Lhamo I' Latso or the "Oracle Lake. It is a sacred (considered the most sacred actually), famous lake known for visions and thus no surprise I guess why I experienced that past memory in a dream.

I had the dream about the lake before I had seen the movie. I think these dreams are partly why I was initially attracted to Tibetan Buddhism when I began studying the Dharma in this life.

It is because of these two dreams, the reality of the life cycle of the four seasons and the physics law that nothing every disappears but simply changes form. For example, sunlight lives on in the form of electricity transformed through solar panels. It lives on in trees, which are later used to create paper to make books. Thus the sun lives on in trees, paper, books, ink, and on and on.

[i] Harderwijk, Rudy. “Tibetan Buddhist Symbols.” A View on Buddhism. Ed. Rudy Harderwijk. 10

October 2006. 8 July 2008.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, March 02, 2009

The Hat Has Spoken.

Just wanted to make a quick post saying that the person getting the enso t-shirt was selected from the hat and that person is....

Michael!! So Michael congratulations and please email at: with your address so that I can send it out to you. Thanks everyone.

~Peace to all beings~

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