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


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.

16 June 2014

Contemplation: Practice the Three-Fold Truth

After reviewing the guidelines for practice, take the following as your contemplation:
Now I wish for sentient beings that practice the perfect truth:  great friendship and great compassion.  I wish for all sentient beings that practice the mundane truth:  great friendship and great compassion.  I wish for the sake of all sentient beings that practice the One Vehicle:  great friendship and great compassion.  I wish for the sake of all sentient beings:  to respect and honor the Buddha treasure, Dharma treasure and Sangha treasure, the Three Treasures in one body.
from Kujo Shakujo, as practiced at Tendai Buddhist Institute.

Last weekend's sangha potluck at Jikan's place was one to remember.  See pictures here.

09 June 2014

Contemplation: Cessation and Clear Observation

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

Question:  How should followers of the teaching practice cessation?

Answer:  What is called "cessation" means to put a stop to all characteristics (lakshana) of the world of sense objects and of the mind, because it means to follow the samatha (tranquility) method of meditation.  What is called "clear observation" means to perceive distinctly the characteristics of the causally conditioned phenomena (samsara), because it means to follow the vipasyana (discerning) method of meditation.

 The Awakening of Faith (trans. Hakeda), p. 95.  Punctuation and diction altered.

06 June 2014

Time for Service Practice! Seeking Volunteers...

I write with good news: Our sangha is growing. I would like to continue to nurture that growth, while keeping the close and intimate feeling we've had from the beginning intact. I need some help to make that happen, and to further enrich our current activities.

Here are four volunteer roles--four opportunities for interested sangha members to show leadership and contribute to our little group's health and well-being. If you would like to take on any one of these four, please contact me by email at JikanAnderson@gmail.com ; I look forward to having a good conversation with you about it.

*Outreach & Promotions Lead. This person manages the fliers, greets newcomers when possible, and explores certain kinds of outreach (can we be represented at cultural events in the DC area, for instance). This is a small time commitment, but really every week something needs to be acted on (i.e., is there a flier at St Elmo's?)

*Engaged Practices Lead (might be the same person as Outreach Lead at first): This person recruits sangha members and engages them in social welfare activities (in the past we have worked with Arlington Food Assistance; a sangha member has proposed a regular relationship between our group and a food-relief org in Alexandria that I think is good to start with). This is a long-neglected priority. Something once/monthly or more frequently is needed here.

*Sangha Building Lead (might be the same person as Engaged Practices Lead at first). This person organizes potlucks, events, tea-and-cookies sorts of activities, and other things he or she may come up with. Maybe bowling night, movie night... we know the value of potlucks to bring people together in good faith. We should do something fun once/month together that doesn't require our kesas, that's the point.

*Caring-For-The-Sacred-Space Lead. Down the road, I would like to work with a committed volunteer on keeping our sacred spaces sacred, ensuring we have all the materials (candles, incense, flowers), service books, and supports we need and that these are clean and well-maintained.


Potluck: Let's Send Junsen to Gyo!

Junsen Chris Nettles is attending an intensive training at Tendai Buddhist Institute this summer. We should send him off properly and rejoice in his practice. Join us at 3pm on Saturday, 14 June, at Jikan's house in Alexandria. For directions and to RSVP, please email JikanAnderson@gmail.com . Hope to see you there!

02 June 2014

Contemplation: Zeal

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

Question:  How should followers of the teaching practice zeal?

Answer: They should not be sluggish in doing good, they should be firm in their resolution, and they should purge themselves of cowardice.They should remember that from the far distant past they have been tormented in vain by all of the great sufferings of body and mind.  Because of this, they should diligently practice various meritorious acts, benefiting themselves and others, and liberate themselves quickly from suffering.  Even if people practice faith, because they are greatly hindered by the evil karma derived from the great sins of previous lives, they may be troubled by the Mara and his demons, or entangled in all sorts of worldly affairs, or afflicted by the suffering of disease.  There are a great many hindrances of this kind.  They should, therefore, be courageous and zealous, pay homage to the Buddhas, repent with sincere heart, beseech the Buddhas for their guidance, rejoice in the happiness of others, and direct all the merits thus acquired to the attainment of enlightenment.  If they never abandon these practices, they will be able to avoid the various hindrances as their capacity for goodness increases.

The Awakening of Faith (trans. Hakeda), p. 94-5.  Punctuation and diction altered.