Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So I should probably give a little account of my last retreat at Aryaloka, which by the way is celebrating it's 25th anniversary--Yahoo! It almost closed down a few times, and it has an interesting and glorious history. I listened the the chairperson's talk last night. Dayalocana is awesome.

It was on the transcendental principle, and Sangharakshita's first chapter in A Survey of Buddhism.

I have read the survey many times by myself, but I've never studied it with others, and that was really awesome! My group was led by the great Nagabodhi who wrote Jai Bhim!: Dispatches From a Peaceful Revolution, among other things.

So as usual, retreats provide an amazing collection of things, which can be generalized by the phrase "supportive conditions." Good vegetarian food, lots of meditation, Dharma study and friendship in a lovely setting. I took walks along the river and around the neighborhood in Newmarket. I use these wonderful men as my reference point in the world. The last batch of photos here are all from Aryaloka, so just scroll down and look at the pictures.

The retreat is bookmarked on both ends by a ride up with a good friend and a ride down with a good friend, and friendship was abounding on the many walk and talks I went on with these good men. I'm going to be going on more retreats coming up and I will definitely be on this yearly men's ordination retreat next year.

Here is the retreat schedule if you missed it scrolling down.

There were many great talks.

Reporting out, I comment on how healthy I feel when I'm on retreat. I just feel really healthy, my best self. Thank you to everyone, including Sangharakshita for the order he created that allows for this retreat. Thank you to Vajramati for teaching me meditation 8 years ago. Thank you to Dhammarati and Nagabodhi for coming across the pond. Thank you to Danakammala for cooking! His last retreat where he's in charge of cooking (so he says). Thank you to all the other order members who participated and joined in. Thank you to my brothers in the Dharma in our journey towards ordination. Well done!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

retreat photo

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white Tara

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Bante Quote

From Crossing The Stream essay 'Where Buddhism Begins - and Why It Begins There':

"Only when a man feels strongly will he act effectively. It is for this reason above all others that Buddhism starts not with a concept but with a feeling, not with intellectual postulation but with emotional experience."

Three Cheers for Tanka

Three Cheers for Tanha
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Subhuti paper

Box.net mobile
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screen porch Rupa

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gifts from above

and a mug
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five niyamas

free buddhist audio : : "rambles around reality 2010 - the five niyamas 2" by subhuti
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repaired Rupa

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broken Kshitigharba

arm with staff broke off
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blue Rupa

in library
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inside dome

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in library
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Hare's translation of Sutta Nipata 1076

"When all conditions are removed, All ways of telling are removed."
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standing Buddha

you see this just before going upstairs to the shrineroom.
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Quan Yin stepping down

bad lighting and details, but you can feel her compassion in action.
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daily retreat schedule

6:30 wake up bell
7:00 refuges and precepts, 40 min. sit (MOB) then walking meditation till...
8:00 second 40 min. sit (metta)
9:00 breakfast
10-11 individual study
11:00 prostration and refuge tree visualization practice, then walking meditation till...
12:15 just sitting 30 min
115 lunch
330-530 study group
6 dinner
730 Dharma talk
845 puja

In between activities I often walk and talk with a brother in the Dharma about the spiritual life. Also there is a rota to prepare and clean up after meals. All meals are vegetarian.

We are studying the first chapter of the Survey of Buddhism by Sangharakshita, on the transcendental principle.
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aryaloka at night

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Rupa in entrance

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Punya brought this Rupa, used to be pink.
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Quan Yin

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painting at aryaloka

the Buddha
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the road to Aryaloka

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sign at entrance

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Rupa and dome

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from entrance to Aryaloka
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Quan Yin at Aryaloka

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Sunday, September 12, 2010


"I must lie down where all the ladders start,
in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."
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bante quote from survey

(p.47 9th edition) "Ernest students of Buddhism living in a non-Buddhist environment should meet for discussion, as well as for group study and meditation, as often and as regularly as possible."
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Saturday, September 04, 2010

Subhuti on Ambedkar

Taraloka Buddha on the International Retreat


I've read Osamu Tezuka's 8 volume biography of the Buddha, leaving it on the shelf hoping my wife or kids would read it. So when I got Tetsu Saiwai's The 14th Dali Lama in the mail to review, I was quite happy. I like graphic novels, and in this case a biography.

Of course Seven Years in Tibet, Little Buddha and Kundun are interesting movies.

I've even seen a more modern movie that portrays Tibetan culture in exile.

I've even read Palden Gyatso's memoir.

I don't know why the Dali Lama is seen as the spokesperson for Buddhism, when he's a teacher in of one of 6 Tibetan Buddhism schools. His life story is compelling and he seems like an awesome guy. I've read a few of his books, seen him in movies.

I like it when he was asked about Tiger Woods, he didn't know who he was. And when he was explained, he said he thought any spiritual tradition would have about the same thing to say about him. I have read his memoir.

Just read Dharma Punx and Noah Levine says he was influenced by his talks, and meeting him a few times, briefly.

I lean more towards Stephen Batchelor's rejection of reincarnation dogma, and I'm working within the context of the TBC.

Nevertheless, it's quite a story of finding the Dali Lama's reincarnation, and is deeply embedded in the culture of Tibet. What was it like for a little boy? It must be pretty overwhelming, and before you know it, you just accept the role. In many ways it must be like winning the lottery. But then at 15 to be thrust in as leader is absurd, to see the invasion of China with all it's confusions.

In a way, the invasion of Tibet has brought Tibet into world consciousness. Do we talk about Sikkim or Nepal? It has taken him out of his safe place, and challenged him. It is only to his credit that he has responded and become a world leader. Maybe he does deserve to be a world religious leader. As far as I know, he's consistently chosen non-violence, which is an amazing choice and focus considering what has happened.

The drawings are wonderful and they tell this compelling story well. I still get upset when I think about China's invasion. The mystery novels of Eliot Pattison further helps me to imagine what has happened.

I guess the USA only step in if they found oil there. Another symptom of our skewed priorities.

I think there's a temptation to idealize Tibetans, me not knowing any personally. Before China's invasion one out of five people were monastics. What a wonderful commitment to spirituality! Imagine if the USA were like that.

Sangharakshita, in his memoirs, suggests Tibetans are practical people. He was in Kalingpong and Tibetans were fleeing, he got to know quite a few.

The Dali Lama is a world figure and I'm hoping my children will read this book when they get a little older. I do like all things Buddhism, Tibetan culture and world history, so this is an important book, well executed. I can't really judge the historical accuracy of the book, it has to be said, but it was an enjoyable experience to read and look at it.

Here's an article on the book.

Friday, September 03, 2010

going on retreat

I love retreats. I go deeper into my practice and become more healthy in so many ways. In anticipation of the retreat, I begin to talk to my friends in my head, and report in on the state of my practice. On retreat once someone said, "turns out we have our relationships often more than we're actually with people," quoting Proust. I look forward to my friends, not having responsibilities beyond being mindful, the healthy food, being more in nature away from the city.

I look forward to, and am also scared of all the meditation, because I can have some freaky experiences. I always cry. At some point on the retreat I get a kind of exhausted insomnia. The puja wakes me up and when we do it last thing I have a hard time sleeping. I'm afraid of my retreat exuberance, where I make all these unrealistic plans, shows my conflicts and lack of integration. I'm afraid of how I feel when I return to regular life and feel the mindfulness wearing off, and I cling to it.

Last year I wanted to go early I got so anxious, but I stuck it out, only leaving a little early. I worry about my family and last year I came home to find out there was a bedbugs crisis. There is a kind of feeling like I don't deserve this. My family will be fine, but I feel guilty for carving out what I know is essential to me. I think in part the guilt is a manifestation of my hesitancy and resistance.

I've started checking out at work. The trick is to stay present and mindful, and I'm all anticipation.

I want to ramp up my meditation practice, but I have to admit that I've been blown away by life at times, and my meditation practice falters, isn't daily.

I'm going on retreat! I am incredibly lucky.

Dharma Punx

I read Dharma Punx by Noah Levine on my kindle. I've listened to a few talks on his website, and thought I'd read the book, which came out in 2003. One friend has gone on retreat with him and to his sangha night in NYC.

The first third of the book is a disturbing teenage angst rebellion drug binge, and the development of the punk aesthetic, love of tattoos and hatred of "hippies". Made me think of Sangharakshita's comment that if he hadn't found the Dharma, he would probably gone crazy.

I'm older than Levine, but punk was an alluring movement to me when I was in high school. I certainly didn't get as far into it as he did, and have moved on since then to find my musical true love in jazz, though I have to say I love most genera of music. I'm working on a cross post for a friend who has a music blog.

The pain he was inflicting on himself and others comes to a head about a third into the book, and he turns a kind of corner. In some ways I think he would have written a lot more in some place, I was curious for more details, and I wanted to ask him questions. How did he get into sweat lodges? I wanted more flavor of his friendships. I thought of the old adage about writing, show don't tell, though I can see how this book would be a manifesto for some people. It's a triumph of survival.

I like it when he referenced harm reduction, and the 12 step movements, in his efforts to lead a sober kind existence. I liked it when he explained his transition and changes, and what led up to and his journeys to the east.

His father is a spirituality writer, so he had some inside help and hooked up with Kornfield and the Thai Forest Tradition. But when he gets to the monastery in Thailand, he freaks out and leaves quickly. He tried a couple more times to go on retreat, but he ended up realized he just wanted to be with a woman. He was torn by his urge to be a monastic and his inability to be a monastic. He goes back east on another trip.

I liked his use of slang, I didn't know what shoulder tap was before I read this book. I liked the way he discussed his struggles with women. I had a friend who used to sigh and say, "ah, Buddhist men...." I like Noah's drive. I don't so much identify with his anti-authoritarian rationalizations, the tattoos and bands, but it's interesting. I don't really identify with his anger.

He writes best about his struggles with himself. I don't think he's such a good travel writer. In a way the book was about friendships and his grief over the loss of so many friends.

Certainly made me interested in his next book that came out in paperback in 2007. His punk and Buddhism synthesis is interesting:

I also want to see the documentary about him called Meditate and Destroy.