28 July 2014

Contemplation: A Star at Dawn

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation
Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
Buddha Shakyamuni, The Diamond Sutra (trans. Price & Wong), p. 53

14 July 2014

Contemplation: Beginningless Purity

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation:
Because our nature is beginningless purity [...], we don't need to do anything to it or take anything from it, enhance it or reduce it, to make it manifest.  Rather, using the methods that are the path, we simply reveal it as it is.  Then our lack of understanding of this nature, our mind's ordinary habits and delusions, which are reflected in the impure samsaric experience we call reality, are completely resolved into the absolute nature.
Chagdud Tulku, Gates to Buddhist Practice, p. 147

07 July 2014

Contemplation: Two Wings of a Bird

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation:

In daily meditation practice, we work with two aspects of the mind:  its capacity to reason and conceptualize--the intellect--and the quality that is beyond thought--the pervasive, nonconceptual nature of mind.  Using the rational faculty, contemplate.  Then let the mind rest.  Think and then relax; contemplate and then relax.  Don't use one or the other exclusively, but both together, like the two wings of a bird. 

This isn't something you do only sitting on a cushion.  You can meditate in this way anywhere--while driving your car, while working.  It doesn't require special props or a special environment.  It can be practiced in all walks of life. 

Some people think that if they meditate for fifteen minutes a day, they ought to become enlightened in a week and a half.  But it doesn't work like that.  Even if you meditate and pray and contemplate for an hour of the day, that's one hour you're meditating and twenty-three you're not.  What are the chances of one person against twenty-three in a tug-of-war?  One pulls one way, twenty-three the other--who's going to win?

Chagdud Tulku, Gates to Buddhist Practice, p. 38

03 July 2014

Ennin's Diary: Full Text Available Online

Ennin, also known as Jikaku Daishi, is an important historical figure and a great bodhisattva.  He was a direct disciple of the founder of Tendai Buddhism in Japan, Saicho, and also spent a significant amount of time in China mastering the esoteric teachings known as Vajrayana in Tibet and as mikkyo in Japan.  He made great sacrifices along the way; his commitment to the teachings and to the benefit of all beings is exemplary. 

A translation of Ennin's diary has been made available free online.  I strongly encourage anyone with an interest in Buddhism, and especially those who are sangha members, to give it a read.  It is a record of one person's travels in a very turbulent time in Chinese history, and also of his spiritual training.  Find it here:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

(the scanning work was done by committee, which is why we have six files instead of one).

May all beings benefit!

30 June 2014

Contemplation: A Picnic on a Sunday Afternoon...

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation:
Sometimes people fail to realize what an incomparable opportunity we have because their lives are disappointing or very trying, and they lose interest in taking advantage of their human capacities.  This is a grave mistake.  The chances this body provides, right now, are far too great to be overlooked because of disappointment or difficulty.

It's as if you borrowed a boat to cross a river, and instead of using it right away, you took your time, forgetting that it wasn't yours but was only loaned to you.  If you didn't take advantage of it while you had it, you'd never get across the river, for sooner or later the borrowed boat would be reclaimed, the opportunity lost.

This human body is a rare vehicle, and we need to use it well, without delay.  The most exalted purpose of a precious human birth is to advance spiritually.  if we are not able to travel far, at least we can make some progress; even better, we can help others to make progress.  As a very minimum, we mustn't make other people miserable.

We don't have much time in life.  It's like a picnic on a Sunday afternoon.  Just to look at the sun, to see things growing, to breathe the fresh air is a joy.  But if all we do is fight about where to put the blanket, who's going to sit on which corner, who gets the wing or the drumstick, what a waste!  Sooner or later, rain clouds come, dark approaches, and the picnic's finished.  And all we've done is fight and bicker.  Think of what we've lost.
Chagdud Tulku, Gates to Buddhist Practice, p. 32:  a highly recommended introduction to Buddhist practice

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See Also:  Who We Are and What We Do

25 June 2014

Who We Are and What We Do

Together, we have been writing and revising our mission statement in recent weeks. I have received feedback from sangha members in all kinds of contexts, in person and online.  This version, available for free at this link (just click here for it), should be the next-to-last version.  By that I mean:  this is the last opportunity for sangha members to propose refinements to this document before we put it to use in shaping our program and our future.

Much of this document is aspirational.  It reflects what we really should be doing--what we would be doing if we had the resources.  This is another way of saying that it reflects what we are working toward now, and what we will be doing once we have the resources we need to meet these most basic functions.

23 June 2014

Contemplation: Casting Away Evils

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation:

Now I wish that in the Ten Directions, all sentient beings hear the sound of the Shakujo; that lazy people become diligent; that people who break the precepts keep the precepts; that non-believers obtain their belief; that stingy people donate to charity; that people with anger express compassion; that ignorant people obtain wisdom; that arrogant people generate respectfulness; that idle people arise concentration of the mind.  All of these people should practice ten thousand times, bearing witness to enlightenment promptly.

from Kujo Shakujo, as practiced at Tendai Buddhist Institute.