Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Vimalakirti-Nirdesa Quotes

"You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you are released in liberation without abandoning the passion that are the province of the world."  VN/T p.24

Sunday, September 16, 2012

picky little point

I love the movie Tron Legacy.  I saw the original as a kid, so it is visually in my consciousness.  I think it's visually a very very amazing movie.

And I think it's cool that Flynn is meditating, that he's thinking Zen.  But I don't think Zen, which is after all a sect of Buddhism, is about quietism.  I think with mindfulness and kindness we move more towards action.  There is a growing tradition of engaged buddhism.

So that little detail, Flynn's misunderstanding, bothers me about the movie.

Wanderlust Versus World Weariness

"If we are beset by this kind of spiritual ennui, it is vital that we shake it off, that we get completely away from any feeling that life--spiritual life--is dull and boring." (p.6 The Inconceivable Emancipation:  Themes from the Vimalakirti-Nirdesa)

There's an old saw in the TBC, when someone comes along who's younger than 32.  For some reason 32 seems to be the magical number when the hard drive starts to get bugs in it, and we seek out something beyond our usual programming.  We can not solve the equations on their basic terms.  

(I'm jealous of the ones who come to the dharma younger, I read it, and maybe that built some foundation, but I read Zen, and that was utterly confusing, I didn't have the context to put it in.)

I think a lot about the book The Unbearable Lightness of being, where one fellow feels like life is meaningless, trivial, and he can be a hedonist, and just pleasure himself.  His girlfriend takes everything so deeply.  She is overwhelmed with meaning.  And there is a third one who takes things playfully, dances with the mysteries.

(I haven't read it in a while, and maybe I'm misreading, perhaps I should reread it again, but I take those distinctions whether or not they derive from that book.)

(The women order members up at Aryaloka have that playful spirit, I haven't really felt that amongst most of the men up there.)

I recently read a blog post about ennui, on a fantastic blog.

Recently, the question was asked in my study group is based on the quote, "Every moment is unique."  How can we cultivate this?  My answer is notice differences and change, instead of seeing the sameness.  There's a richness in mindfulness, life is not boring.

I think I've lost the quest for utmost wondrousness that I set out for myself.  Like the blogger who drifted into ennui, I've grown world weary, a sure sign that I've lost my mindfulness and kindness.  Catching myself falling short of my ideals can be dispiriting, if I take it the wrong way.  But when I gain a little mindfulness, I can catch my negative undertow and use my ideals as my guiding light.

I'd hoped that I'd established something that was irreversible.  That was hubris.  You can always backslide (until you become a stream entrant).  "Beware the thin part of the wedge," is one of my favorite sayings.  I got puffed up.  I have been deflated.  I hope that is the basis for true spiritual progress, the humbling.  I hope I can choose to move toward the ideas, the richness, the unbearable heaviness of being, utmost wondrousness.  The words vigilance and discipline have been standing out to me.  I'm constantly challenged by the writings of Bhante Urgen Sangharakshita, and my spiritual friends.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa visual study aid

Here are the 8 talks for the Vimalakirti Nirdesa, on Free Buddhist Audio.

There's a list of mythical beasts mentioned on page 16 of Thurman translation (Click on the definition to see an image I have found of the mythical creature):

Brahmas:  Creator gods.

Sakras:  Indra, king of gods.

Lokapalas:  Kings of the 4 quarters, protectors.  Also Wikipedia.

Devas:  gods.  Wikipedia.

Yaksas:  forest demons.

Gandharvas:  Heavenly musicians.  That are birds.

Asuras:  Titans.

Garudas:  Magical bird.  Which, by the way, is the national symbol of Thailand

Kimnaras:  Horse head, human body.

Maharagas:  Mythical serpent race, of which I couldn't find any images.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Back to school

It's September, and my boys started second and third grade.  It's back to school time.  

In the Triratna Buddhist Community you can become a mitra, it is self selective, when you realize that you're a Buddhist, you want to follow the 5 precepts, and you want to practice within the Triratna Buddhist Community context.  Though shopping around is allowed now, you still you have some kind of allegiance to the TBC, otherwise why ask to be a mitra in this context?  The mitra ceremony is a puja with three offerings:  a flower, incense and a candle.  They all symbolize impermanence, and beauty and the fragrance and light of the dharma.

Then, if the spirit moves you, you can ask for ordination into the order.  You become, in the lingo, a GFR mitra.  GFR is short for "going for refuge", which of course you can do without the TBC or TBO, but it's just how the tradition has evolved in distinguishing people who have asked for ordination.  

I have asked for ordination.  Now ordination isn't self selective, the order decides when and if you get ordained.  You have to be witness to be effectively going for refuge.  You might be effectively going for refuge, but not witnessed to be so.  Effective means many things and I'm not going to unpack that now.  There is a checklist of things you can do, but being invited is beyond a checklist.  The only organization in the TBO, beyond centers, which are run autonomously (though in close relation with friendships in the order), is the preceptors college, who's sole purpose is to say yes or not yet to ordinands.  

One thing that being a GFR mitra gets you (and that's a horrible way of looking at it), is that you can go on GFR mitra retreats, or retreats that include such people.  And also it includes study.

In the good old USA, we don't have the amount of order members like you do in other places.  So the order is stretched thin.  So we have some on line Dharma study.  And it happens to be on the Vimalakirti Nirdesa.  There are great talks on FBA, and many translations of this excellent sutra.  So I'm embarking on a deeper study of this sutra, which I've read a few times, and listening again to the talks, and rereading the book based on those talks.

I embark on this journey of study with excitement, and hopefully the right view of looking into the text.  Approaching a text is a kind of sacred journey into the heart of the Dharma.  What we find there will change each time, maybe, and hopefully I will bring the requisite energy and view to the study.  I approach with respect and reverence.  If I am receptive the text will beam out at me some of the feel of enlightenment, a glimpse perhaps, a finger pointing at the moon.  I'm excited.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Merton follow up

For whatever reason, I didn't mark the places I thought were interesting in a cross over, similarities in the spiritual life of Thomas Merton and mine as a Buddhist, but I think he spoke to me on many occasions in The Seven Storey Mountain.  Merton is often an awesome writer.  

In 1947 Bhante comes out with A Survey of Buddhism, and in 1948 Merton comes out with The Seven Storey Mountain.  I'd need to be better versed in those times to see if there was much cross over, but it feels significant that those two classics come out around the same years.  They both found the conflict of writing and being spiritual, saw themselves as split between two people, at times.

I learned an awful lot about Catholicism.  In the end I find the focus on sin, the negativity, threats and fake spirituality a real turn off.  Maybe I've just never heard a definition of God that I understand.  I like that Buddhism doesn't need a creator god to grease the wheels.

I have known some very awesome Catholics who I really respected, and I believe you can go deep in any spiritual tradition.  I inherently respect it that others must find their own path.  When I first found my path, I wanted everyone to know it, and I had a kind of evangelical zeal, that is obnoxious, misplaced, and doesn't listen.  A kind of immaturity, which I grew out of, hopefully.  It helps my spiritual life to read about other traditions.  In a way, I want to stay away from Christianity because our culture is so saturated with it, but Merton makes it worth it to me.

I get into scuffles with people about spirituality and religion.  People are against the obviously wrong things religious organizations can do, or people in power in religious organizations can do. I don't think that touches the deep spirituality in each tradition.  I'd rather focus on the positive potential in depth, while keeping an eye out for abuses, than to focus on the abuses and wrongs, and ignore the potential goodness.  Merton was very keen to the way we can dissemble and rationalize anything, within himself.

I translate all the talk of God, to talk about using other power in my spirituality.  We need self power, community power and other power to get very far in the spiritual life.

What strikes me is how alone he is, until he enters into Gethsemani, which is nearly the whole book.  He meets Catherine de Hueck, who encourages him.  And he reads a lot, which is a kind of one way impersonal communication.  But he takes a 3 year spiritual journey, mostly alone, with little help, which he acknowledges wasted time.  He had friends, but not in his spiritual life.  I dislike that because I am guilty of this fault.  I need to connect more with sangha. 

So I found one mention of Thomas Merton on FBA, an uncorrected seminar transcript, where Sangharakshita talks about obedience, and says he read a biography of Thomas Merton.  Sangharakshita is talking about his time where he just did what his teacher told him to do.  I don't know enough about the life of Thomas Merton, just this autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, so I don't know about his vow of obedience.  

In the comments of my last post, someone suggest reading the Asian Journals, which you can get as a pdf (here).  Bhante and others seem to reference them a few times in the seminars, mostly because of of Bhante's guru's was met by Merton, Chetul Sangye Dorje.

The Eternal Legacy is Bhante's book on the writings of Buddhism.  I've never really read an equivalent one for Christianity, but I followed Merton's spiritual journey a little bit.  I found The Story of a Soul, which includes audio and a list of other resources. I was tempted to read the Lives of the Saints, after a visit to the Cloisters, but it was hard to determine which one was the best to read.  It turns out there are many versions, and edited down versions.  (I decided I'd rather read about Padmasambhava or Milarepa.) I couldn't find any free video or audio of Merton beyond the movie on Netflix (which isn't, after all, free).

I suppose I'll try to dip into spiritual classics of other traditions once in a while, because it makes for a broader world, and I do enjoy memoirs and especially spiritual memoirs.  The Seven Storey Mountain is a universal spiritual classic.