Sunday, August 29, 2010

Celebrating Bante's birthday!

the question of lineage

One comment stuck out, when I visited the Ch'an Meditation Center yesterday. When I was talking about the Triratana Buddhist Community, was someone said, "oh, the one without a lineage."

I thought immediately of the refuge tree. In Subhuti's last essay he says it's a refuge and respect tree. We have the whole Buddhist tradition to count on, it is open to all.

I thought about Sangharakshita's questions about his own Theravada ordination in his book Going For Refuge. How does he really know the five monks were following the code, and by extension, that nobody along the way back to the Buddha, was not following the monastic code, and there by invalidating an ordination? You could never know. Also that even if someone wasn't following the monastic code, they might actually be a good Buddhist.

Someone people follow the code, but don't really inspire others to practice, or they don't do much to get others to practice. I've read articles where there's a problem in that some people who are not very motivated and join a Theravada order just to not have to struggle for housing and food, they get it without much expectations. Actually I think that's cool, I think there should be more legitimate ways to do little. I think our society is over busy. And you can think about the story where Shantideva was thought to be a lazy monk who did the three practices (shit, eat and sleep), and then he dropped the knowledge on everyone.

At the Ch'an center they bragged that Shifu had two lineages. Sangharakshita has none officially, as far as I know, though he's had many initiations and whatnot. Maybe he was offered lineages, which he turned down.

So does this illegitimate the Triratana Buddhist Community and Order? I suppose it does raise questions, but to be honest, I'm not really impressed by titles in Buddhism. I think I can judge for myself spiritual progress, in myself and others. It's a kind of Buddhist branding, which isn't a problem. Just like everything, you still have to feel and think for yourself.

Now if you're looking for a career in Buddhism, lineage might be important. But I'm not looking for that. If you want to be a career Buddhist then lineage might be relevant. If you're going to serve a community that you target, and if that community values lineage talk, then that might be relevant.

I think TBC/O will always be dogged by this question of lineage, on a superficial level. Come see for yourself, I say. There are no spiritual guarantees. Just like I hope to check out the Ch'an Meditation Center, and judge it based on my own experience to see if it's going to be helpful in my own spiritual progress. And I'll not get too intoxicated by talk of lineage. It seems like a very promising place that is open to westerners and diversity. I was very impressed.

Of course you do want to know other people's training and experience, that is a legitimate question. I do think it's OK to ask about that stuff, and that is important. To be clear, I am not saying just take anyone. I have to be honest that I trust my instincts about people and whether or not they deserve my respect, and levels of respect. Of course every practitioner deserves respect, from a beginner to the the most advanced. Everyone deserves respect whether they follow my path or not. Some people impress me more than others in the spiritual life. And that's also important to think and feel about.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rupa of Quan Yin at Ch'an Center

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yelp review

I visited a Ch'an Meditation Center in Elmhurst today and wrote a review on Yelp.

Bante video

a fantasy of ordination

I daydream about being ordained.

Before I get ordained, I will put in a push in my practice that I did not know was in me. And yet it's nothing special. I can't help but do this, and finally circumstances support my efforts, and in a weird kind of way I transcend my conditions. The same old mess is there. Somehow I take a small step back from that gorgeous mess and it makes a big difference. I try not to get too excited by all this. I get some traction, go to new places that are utterly unfamiliar. I won't so much as renounce as grow up.

My friends and the order that backs them up will have witness my effective going for refuge. Whether or not it is effective now, the bonds of friendships will bear witness in a profound way then, and the connections of these relationships will have an amazing vibrancy. It won't just be being asked to join an awesome group, it will be a joining to spiritual depth, that hitherto now, probably would have blown out my circuits. Even though I am deemed finally ready, it will challenge me to my utmost. I will raise to the occasion of the invitation to join the order, and it will be a happy day when the retreat begins.

I can't imagine the spiritual depth to which I will be in at this point, since I am not there yet now, but I have the hope that I will be there some day, and that I will have enough health to remain there for a while. Life is fragile and I have the fear that I won't live long enough to get to this point. This anxiety is at the root of my impatience. I have learned to face my anxiety and be more patient, but there's always room for growth. Asking to be ordained is in way a place to rest and stop my efforts.

The day i am invited, the hope will be fulfilled, and I will steel myself for the further journey. The rest of my life has a cast to it now that it didn't have, and yet everything is utterly the same. After the ecstasy, the laundry. I have come so far, but the ordination will accelerate me to a place I can not imagine now. And at the same time it will be nothing special.

On a retreat, I will experience a death. I will do lots of 6 element meditation, and dismantle myself. I have gone very deep into this meditation before, and held off on it because I want the rebirth of a new spiritual being in the order. I will let myself go in a new and profound way. Because it will be a retreat, from a week long to four months long, I will be in a deeper place, and will be mindful of what is happening. The journey will as usual be mundane and boring, amazing and vivid, intense, energizing and tiring.

At a certain point, being isolated in a tent or a hut, my preceptor will perform a ritual that will involve the gift of a sadhana, a visualization meditation practice. I will be filled with joy, and it will be a new kind of struggle with something new. I've done visualization before, but this will have a kind of profundity and awesomeness that is both not what I thought it would be, and exciting. A new name will be given to me, something like sravacitta, mind listener. I will love being reborn, and I will try and calm myself, try to settle in without getting too excited.

There will be a solitary period of time where I settle into my newness, my rebirth. It is the same me, but somehow I am different. I am becoming the Bodhisattva that I visualize and chant the mantra to. Like an infant, I will stumble as I try to walk. At times I will think the world is my oyster. At times I will feel profoundly resourceless, over-matched.

Then the public ordination will come. All these people from the sangha, my family. I will share my joy, they will share theirs. Like all rituals, I will be anxious and alert, but I will also be mindful and feel a kind of profundity that is not just intellectual. It will touch my depths. Great joy will break out and as the party wanes, I will lament it is over.

As I settle back into my life, with this experience, there will be many interesting things happening, and I will consciously hold back any negative tenancies after I achieve a goal. It's like but not like graduation, getting a new job, having a new child. I am in a way the same person, and in another I'm utterly changed. I feel a kind of gravity of responsibility and utter freedom. I am part of the order now, but I am utterly an individual.

I will go up to Aryaloka for quarterly meetings of the order. I will meet weekly with my chapter. I will attend national conventions and even go to an international convention and meet many awesome people. This will be amazing and sometimes boring and tedious. My friendships will impossibly deepen.

With the project of ordination over, I will naturally channel my energies into other projects that support the spread of the Dharma, the increasing of the sangha, the deepening of friendship, the deepening of meditation practice, of my practice in general. Our sangha will bloom, as it gathers momentum, and the NYC sangha will burst like a supernova across the universe. The combined spiritual energy will do amazing and awesome things, bringing health, purity, kindness, insight and focus to a troubled world.

Monday, August 23, 2010

new talks

Vajradarshini gives another cracking talk, this time about consumerism.

Subhuti has a new talk post on FBA. I particularly like the suggestion that we need to spend more time turning into our primary experience. I live in such a distracted world.

I listened on Noah Levine's talk on perseverance, on his site Against The Stream. He's a young popular teacher, and you can hear people laughing, which is wonderful. I like it when he quotes another teacher who says meditation is one insult after another, once you get past the honeymoon of mindfulness. I prefer talks without the question and answer bits, though the questions here are OK. This is the first talk of his I've listened to, and it's not too shabby. Interestingly he discusses the importance of community to support your practice.

I also found 200 talks by Ayya Khema on Dharma Seed. She doesn't speak so loudly, so you have to turn up the volume. She's got a very no nonsense and challenging approach.

first noble truth

I spouted the usual formation, "life is suffering," to my friends who are not Buddhists,and they felt otherwise, they felt that life was pretty good.

So I had to dredge out what sucks--death, illness, not getting what you want...

They felt that was a negative focus. They admitted they were true, but they say it as balancing out the good things, an almost Taoist view.

So here's my reformulation of the first noble truth: we cause unnecessary suffering by resisting reality.

Bante's book on the 8 fold path, has changed it's name from Vision and Transformation to The Buddha's Noble Eightforld Path. It's good, I've read it many times.

Here's a link for 2 rupas in Chicago

Friday, August 13, 2010

4 bars

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not over busy

There are 5 translations on access to insight website.

When I read the metta sutta, I think the alternate translation of what must be the same words or word:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu: with few duties
Ñanamoli Thera: With few tasks
The Amaravati Sangha: Unburdened with duties
Piyadassi Thera: with but few responsibilities
Acharya Buddharakkhita: Not over-busy

I have lots of duties, tasks, I feel burdened, with many responsibilities. I could aspire to not being over-busy. That makes me feel more hopeful, while I wait for my lovely children to grow up. I suppose if I don't think about it literally and work within my circumstances to be less cluttered, and also work to simplify my life.

We've read the sutta at my son's naming ceremony, both Jyoti's and Santikara's.

Wildmind has a interesting little book on metta:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Saturday, August 07, 2010


i can put too much pressure on myself, and let myself off the hook. the lute strings idea helps. just like tuning a stringed instrament, you dont want it too tight or too loose.

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Friday, August 06, 2010


"What is reborn? To say that the 'being' reborn is identical with the being lately dead would be the extreme of eternalism. To say that he was not identical would be nihilism. Avoiding these two extremes, the Buddha teaches the Middle Way, namely, just this doctrine of conditioned co-production, 'This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises, etc.' Rebirth takes place, but in reality no 'being' is reborn. Going as it does so much against the grain of our deep rooted attachment to the delusion of permanent individuality, this application of the pratitya-samutpada to the rebirth process is one of the hardest ideas to grasp in the whole range of Buddhist teachings. It is not to be understood even intellectually without careful and impartial study and a certain amount of meditation."

p. 132 Suvery of Buddhism by Sangharakshita (italics included, but not diacriticals)

For some reason that reminds me a lovely book:

And of course there are so many good books on the 12 nidanas, but I like

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Body

I was first introduced to body scans on retreat up at Aryaloka. I was into yoga when I first got into meditation and I think yoga brings awareness to the body. I learned yoga from Beryl Bender Birch. With children, yoga has fallen by the wayside, but I occasionally do some sun salutations.

Then I would say the next step in my exploration of the body came about when I read a book my friend helped edit, Touching Enlightenment.

Then I'm reading The Body by Paramananda

More recently, in what I called jokingly The Rego Park Buddhist Center, when I have a kind of half practice day with two friends, we do a body scan by Vidyamala from Free Buddhist Audio (an amazing amazing resource).

Vidyamala is featured briefly in The Triratana Story.

Vidyamala has a video on videosangha, where she talks about her life in preparation for the urban retreat, which happened last year. You can get a sense of her to look at her talking:

One of the things she says in the talk on FBA is, "it's not about endurance, it's about awareness." I like the connection to the lower back in breathing with the diaphram. I'm glad to do a body scan on a small practice day.

Here is another talk by Vidyamala:

She also has a book: