Encounter with Te-Shan

cold winter winds
carry the voice of Te-Shan
intruding on my solitude
free yourself, he says ~
while working, work
while resting, rest
….buji*

the birch outside my window
waves her leaves in the wind
celebrating her emptiness,
free of all anxiety

*buji ~ free of anxiety (no mind in work, no work in mind; that is, not self-conscious)

660px-diamond_sutra

Te-Shan was an eighth century Chinese Chen (Zen) Buddhist teacher and scholar of the Diamond Cutter Sutra (aphorism), known as Case #4 of the Pi-yen-lu koans (riddles). Case #4 is “Te-Shan carrying his bundle.”  As the story goes, the Master Te-Shan left his monastery in the north of China and headed south to challenge some teaching that he deemed incorrect. He was dedicated in both his scholarship and his tradition. On his journey, he carried with him his treasured bundle, the Commentaries on the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

Along the way he met a merchant selling rice cakes by the side of the road. She was an old woman and we all know how dangerous old women can be. The old woman asked him what scriptures he carried that were so precious to him. When he told her the Diamond Cutter Sutra, she asked, “Doesn’t the sutra say ‘past mind cannot be held, present mind cannot be held, future mind cannot be held? Which mind is it that the Master would wish to revive?” The old woman’s pointed questioning left Te-Shan speechless.

Shamed  and defeated by this uneducated old woman with her street wisdom, Te-Shan returned to his monastery. It is said that he was unable to resume his teaching and spent the next days immersed in meditation. He soon achieved enlightenment and, as a result, burned all his writing and books saying:

“To plumb the greatest depth of knowledge would be no more than a piece of hair lost in the vastness of the great Void.  However important your experience of worldly things, it is nothing – it is even less than a single drop of water cast into the Void.”

The Diamond Sutra or the Vajra Cutter Perfection Wisdom Sutra emphasizes the Mahāyāna Buddhist practices of non-attachment and non-abiding

© 2012, poem and story adaption, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ the frontispiece piece of the Diamond Sutra “the oldest known printed book in the world” via Wikipedia and in the public domain

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collabrative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Tropical thoughts

It’s summertime here in the South, and the weather puts one in mind of the tropics; the steamy humidity, warm summer sun combine to promise that you’ll need another shower as soon as you dare to step foot outside. Many years ago (2006), I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Big Island of Kona, Hawaii for a couple of weeks. You hear stories, of course, of the beauty, but nothing compares to the reality. It truly is a tropical paradise. The native people are very eco-conscious and generally helpful, friendly people. They have a deep respect for the Earth and their simple ways of life were incredibly appealing to me. It’s terribly expensive to live there, since the economy is tourist-driven, but if I ever had the money, this is where I would retire and happily spend the rest of my life.

I got to snorkel with Green Sea Turtles…

Swimming with sea turtles, Kona, HI, 2006
Swimming with sea turtles, Kona, HI, 2006

and see plenty of Yellow Tangs and Needle-nosed Knifefish (which floated right below the surface of the water in schools) — Both are types of reef fish.

Yellow Tangs and Butterfly Fish on the reef, Kona, HI, 2006
Yellow Tangs and Butterfly Fish on the reef, Kona, HI, 2006

 

 

Needle-nosed Knife Fish
Needle-nosed Knife Fish

I also got to see some amazing waterfalls (although it was raining like a monsoon when I went to see them) This is Akaka Falls…

Akaka Falls, Kona, HI 2006
Akaka Falls, Kona, HI 2006

One of my favorite pictures from the trip is from Pololu Valley. You could see the mountains, the coast and the rainforest vegetation all in one shot…

Pololu Valley, Kona, HI, 2006
Pololu Valley, Kona, HI, 2006

There were some wonderful examples of island art, from hammered tin gates…

Fantastic Hammered Tin Gate on Ali'i Drive
Fantastic Hammered Tin Gate on Ali’i Drive

to the carved, wooden Ki’i statues in various places all over the island. These statues are usually meant as guardians to protect and watch over certain sites. This one is from “Place of Refuge”…

One of the Ki'i (Wooden guardians) At Place of Refuge
One of the Ki’i (Wooden guardians) At Place of Refuge

To my great delight, there were even dragons!

Between Two Dragons at the Hilton

And Buddha was there, too!

Buddha and Me

It was such an inspiring trip, I couldn’t help but write a poem to help me remember the experience. If you ever have the chance, I hope you will go! It was an enriching journey for the artistic spirit and the soul of anyone who appreciates nature. 🙂

~ Kona ~


 

Muted moonbeams drift through vaporous clouds,

While gecko songs mesh with the soft click of palms.

Awash in the gentle susurration of waves’ persuasion,

The island breezes encourage me to let go…relax.

No pressure here, no hustle and hurry,

No scamper and scurry,

On “island time”.

Simply hang loose and flow.

The scent of exotic, tropical orchids,

Mixed with the lush green of giant, verdant ferns.

The bright flicker of numerous birds in the brush,

Calls from long-forgotten conchs and steady drums…

All convince me that I,

Have finally found my way home,

To Eden.

~ C.L.R. ~ © 2006

((Someday, I’ll get back there and once more find that kind of peace and serenity.))

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

The Garden of My Heart

With all the strife in the world now, it seems a good thing to post something healing and peaceful.

Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926) Zen Monk, Dharma Teacher, Social Activist, Writer, Poet, Peacemaker

Thich Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Temple and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the “lamp transmission”, making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Thật. MORE [Wikipedia]

Though a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh combines traditional Zen with techniques from Theravada Buddhism, the wisdom of the Mahayana tradition, and ideas of modern Western psychology to teach meditation and spiritual values and practices in a way that resonates for people from diverse religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. He is a writer, poet, and peacemaker with over one-hundred books published, many in English. He was suggested for the Nobel Prize for Peace by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. He was nominated again 2013.

Since 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exile. Based at Plum Village, a meditation community in the south of France, he is a leading Buddhist teacher, encouraging engaged Buddhism, a movement for social activism that he founded. He organizes and supports many worthwhile humanitarian efforts.

Thich Nhat Hahn coined the term “interbeing,” a pointer to the Buddhist principles of impermanence and non-self, which bring light to the idea and ideal of the inter-connectedness of all things. He founded The Order of Interbeing, the members of which include lay people. Link HERE to brief summaries of each of the fourteen mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing.

“If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.” ~ from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is  a meditative interlude. The title of this post is a quote from the meditation, which is an excerpt from an album called Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying. It features spiritual teachers from many traditions offering advice to the dying … in other words, advice to all of us.

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity, to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded and host The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another – no matter our tribe – in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.”

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

Celebrating Bodhi Day (December 8), the Day of the Siddhartha Gautama’s Awakening

“My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’ “

SARANAI!

May the serenity of the Buddha be yours!

AavaPhoto credit: Thanks to the curator of The Buddha Gallery for this contribution in honor of Bodhi Day. This rare and exquisite 17th or possibly 18th Century Burmese Buddha is in a style of the late Ava/Early Shan.

One Man’s View of Karma and Rebirth

STEPHEN BATCHELOR (b. 1953), Buddhist teacher, author, scholar

Author of Buddhism Without Beliefs

In this video, Stephen Batchelor presents his view of Karma and Rebirth and the reasoning that supports his perspective. In the video he mentions “dukkha,” which is an important concept in Buddhism:

Dukkha is commonly explained according to three different categories: The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying. The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.” Wikipedia

“Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught. Buddhism has survived for the past 2,500 years because of its capacity to reinvent itself in accord with the needs of the different Asian societies with which it has creatively interacted throughout its history. As Buddhism encounters modernity, it enters a vital new phase of its development. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.” MORE [About Stephen Batchelor from his website]

Photo credit ~ Stephen Batchelor at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico by ottmarliebert via Wikipedia under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic license.

– compiled by Jamie Dedes

A DHARMA TALK: Being Present

Gil_FronsdalGil Fronsdale is a Buddhist who has practiced Soto Zen and Vipassana since 1975, and is currently a Buddhist teacher who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gil was trained as a Vipassana teacher by Jack Kornfield and is part of the Vipassana teachers’ collective at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was ordained as a Soto Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982 and was a Theravada monk in Burma in 1985. In 1995 he received Dharma transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center.

He is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) of Redwood City, California. He has a PhD inBuddhist Studies from Stanford University. His many dharma talks available online contain basic information on meditation and Buddhism, as well as subtle concepts of Buddhism explained at the level of the lay person.” Wikipedia

Video uploaded to YouTube by insightmed.
Photo credit ~ Insight Meditation Center, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Deriv 3.0 Unported

BARDO NEWS: Walk to Feed the Hungry

Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder of Buddhist Global Relief
Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder and Chairperson  of Buddhist Global Relief

This just came in from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddist Global Relief. Walks are happening in: San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angles, California; Willington, Connecticut; Tampa Bay, Florida; Ann Arbor, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; New York, New York; Houston, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Beanteay Meanchey, Cambodia; Nagpur, India.

.
Dear Friends,

Today close to a billion people worldwide face hunger as a fact of daily life. Hunger and hunger-related illnesses claim ten million lives each year, half of them children. Hunger of such magnitude is not the result of a shortage of funds or a lack of food, but of a lack of care, a lack of will. In a world where trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and wars, the extent of hunger is a blemish on the soul of humanity. To redeem ourselves, we must learn to see ourselves in others, to recognize our obligation to ensure that all humankind can flourish together.

This fall, in different cities around the U.S. and abroad, Buddhist Global Relief will be holding its 4th “Walk to Feed the Hungry.” The walk is a gesture of care and compassion by which we express our commitment to helping our brothers and sisters in need. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds for our many projects that address hunger and malnutrition. Funds raised will support such BGR projects as right livelihood training for girls in Sri Lanka; meals and scholarships for poor kids in Haiti; food scholarships for girls and their families in Cambodia; education and vocational training for kids in Bangladesh; nutritional guidance and micronutrient supplements in Côte d’Ivoire; a tuition center for women and girls in India; urban gardens here in the U.S.; and sustainable agriculture programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Haiti, India, and Malawi.

The BGR “Walk to Feed the Hungry” has become an American Buddhist tradition that is growing from year to year. Our first walk took place in New Jersey in October 2010. In 2011 we held three walks and last year a dozen walks, including solidarity walks in India and Cambodia. We expect a similar number this year. A walk like this offers us a channel to express our collective compassion in solidarity with the world’s poor. It’s also a great form of exercise and an opportunity to make new friends

I cordially invite you to join us on this walk. A “Walk to Feed the Hungry” will be held at various locations around the U.S. See our website for information about walks already planned. Please join us, register early, and mobilize members of your congregation, Dharma group, or community to participate as well. By creating a First Giving Fundraising page, you can enable your friends and relatives to share in the merits of the walk by supporting you in this worthy endeavor.

If you live too far from any of these places, you can organize a walk of your own or some other event with your friends or community members, such as a day of mindfulness, to raise funds to feed the hungry. Together, let’s show that we cherish the poor and needy of the earth like our own parents, children, brothers, and sisters.

Thank you so much.

With metta and a downpour of blessings,

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson

Photo credit ~ Ken and Visakha Kawasaki under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Accesibility and the Dharma or The Pitfalls of Cherry Floors

Vermont Zen CenterA few weeks ago we attended the 25th Anniversary Celebration at the our local zen center. The day was splendid, and the ceremonies moving.

I have had a rather rocky relationship with the Zen Center due to issues of accessibility. Sometimes the Center has been very accommodating, other times attending functions there has been a challenge. Visits go best when I remember to bring my own slippers. Unfortunately, on the day of the Anniversary Celebration my slippers were at the office and I forgot to stop and pick them up.

The Zen Center has beautiful, very slippery, cherry floors, and I do best there when I can keep my brace and shoes on. For the celebration the staff of the center provided surgical slippers to those of us who need to keep shoes on. Unfortunately, the surgical slippers proved to be very slippery, and I had difficulty keeping my balance even with crutches. After the formal ceremony we left the Center building to attend a Taiko performance outside. When others returned to the building to listen to a storytelling performance I chose to remain safely outside.

During lunch I spoke about accessibility issues with some of the Zen Center staff. The gist of the conversation was that the Zen Center policy places protecting the cherry floors above providing accessibility for disabled visitors and members. It also became clear the policy is a source of discomfort within the center.

Since the celebration I’ve been wondering about the tension between the lack of access at the center for us folks with mobility issues, and the Buddha’s insistence on making the Dharma and Sangha available to all. I also wonder how it could be that in a structure so lovingly designed and built there could be so little attention to accessibility.

Very much like the monks in one of my favorite zen stories, I’ve crossed that river but seem unable to put this one down.

Michael Watson, Ph.D.

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes the one below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

A Force of Nature

Winooski RiverThe waters are rising. We have had many days of rain the past couple of months and the rivers are running high, many in flood. Here on the western flank of Vermont rain falls in the mountains and tumbles through rocky streams to the rivers, then into the lake. We are told the water is too cold, high, and fast for swimming, yet people, refusing to honor the Nature of the torrent, go swimming, often creating unhappy outcomes.

We are each a force of Nature, although we tend to forget this, individually and collectively. We seem to easily lose connection with the great powers that lie embodied within us, ignoring the joys and dangers they offer. It is so very easy to identify with mind or brawn, money and might, missing the deep connection implicit in recognizing one’s own Nature. Or perhaps we lose any connection to the force of our Nature, imagining we are powerless or fearful of the energies we intuit within us.

Power is a loaded word, drenched in the abuses ingrained in our various forms of governance, education, and sadly, even family and community. Too often power is power over rather than power with or through. Yet the shamans have always taught that we are each, like the raging river, a force to be honored and reckoned with. Shamanism, like zen, opens doorways to the realization of one’s true Nature. Dare we walk through?

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes portrait below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Wabi Sabi

Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-n Garden
Japanese tea house: reflects the wabi sabi aesthetic, Kenroku-en Garden

if only i knew
what the artist knows

about the great
perfection in imperfection

i would sip grace slowly
at the ragged edges of the creek

kiss the pitted
face of the moon

befriend the sea
though it can be a danger

embrace the thunder of a waterfall
as if its strains were a symphony

prostrate myself atop the rank dregs on the forest floor,
worshiping them as a breeding ground for fertile seeds
and the home of a million small lives

if i knew what the artist knows,
then i wouldn’t be afraid to die,
to leave everyone

i would be sure that some part of me
would remain present
and that one day you would join me
as the dusky branch of a river or the
bright moment of the flowering desert

if i knew what the artist knows,
i would surely respond body and soul
to the echo of eternity in rough earthy things

i would not fear decay or work undone
i would travel like the river through its rugged, irregular channels
comfortable in this life; imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete

© 2013, poem, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved,
Photo credit ~ from Pictures section of OpenHistory via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.o Unported license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ My worldly tags are poet and writer. For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day,the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight.  Through the gift of poetry (mine and that of others), I enter sacred space.

The Buddha’s Birthday today …

531-080413_5349The Buddha’s Birthday, Vesākha, is a moveable feast.

This year it is celebrated on May 25, 2013 in Western Countries.

In Eastern Countries it is celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, April 8.

The Buddha’s Birthday is celebrated in different ways:

On Vesākha day, devout Buddhists and followers alike are expected and requested to assemble in their various temples before dawn for the ceremonial, and honorable, hoisting of the Buddhist flag and the singing of hymns in praise of the holy triple gem: The Buddha, The Dharma (his teachings), and The Sangha(his disciples). Devotees may bring simple offerings of flowers, candles and joss-sticks to lay at the feet of their teacher. These symbolic offerings are to remind followers that just as the beautiful flowers would wither away after a short while and the candles and joss-sticks would soon burn out, so too is life subject to decay and destruction. Devotees are enjoined to make a special effort to refrain from killing of any kind. They are encouraged to partake of vegetarian food for the day. In some countries, notably Sri Lanka, two days are set aside for the celebration of Vesākha and all liquor shops and slaughter houses are closed by government decree during the two days. Also birds, insects and animals are released by the thousands in what is known as a ‘symbolic act of liberation’; of giving freedom to those who are in captivity, imprisoned, or tortured against their will. Some devout Buddhists will wear a simple white dress and spend the whole day in temples with renewed determination to observe the eight Precepts.

Devout Buddhists undertake to lead a noble life according to the teaching by making daily affirmations to observe the Five Precepts. However, on special days, notably new moon and full moon days, they observe the eight Precepts to train themselves to practice morality, simplicity and humility.

Some temples also display a small image of the baby Buddha in front of the altar in a small basin filled with water and decorated with flowers, allowing devotees to pour water over the statue; it is symbolic of the cleansing of a practitioner’s bad karma, and to reenact the events following the Buddha’s birth, when devas and spirits made heavenly offerings to him.

Devotees are expected to listen to talks given by monks. On this day monks will recite verses uttered by the Buddha twenty-five centuries ago, to invoke peace and happiness for the government and the people. Buddhists are reminded to live in harmony with people of other faiths and to respect the beliefs of other people as the Buddha taught.

Bringing happiness to others

Celebrating Vesākha also means making special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick. To this day, Buddhists will distribute gifts in cash and kind to various charitable homes throughout the country. Vesākha is also a time for great joy and happiness, expressed not by pandering to one’s appetites but by concentrating on useful activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting and creating exquisite scenes from the life of the Buddha for public dissemination. Devout Buddhists also vie with one another to provide refreshments and vegetarian food to followers who visit the temple to pay homage to the Enlightened One. 

Paying homage to the Buddha

Tradition ascribes to the Buddha himself instruction on how to pay him homage. Just before he died, he saw his faithful attendant Ananda, weeping. The Buddha advised him not to weep, but to understand the universal law that all compounded things (including even his own body) must disintegrate. He advised everyone not to cry over the disintegration of the physical body but to regard his teachings (The Dhamma) as their teacher from then on, because only the Dhamma truth is eternal and not subject to the law of change. He also stressed that the way to pay homage to him was not merely by offering flowers, incense, and lights, but by truly and sincerely striving to follow his teachings. This is how Buddhists are expected to celebrate Vesak: to use the opportunity to reiterate their determination to lead noble lives, to develop their minds, to practise loving-kindness and to bring peace and harmony to humanity.

A Dharma Talk, the Practice Is Where You Are At:

Text courtesy of Wikipedia. Photo credits ~ the Buddha by Barbara Stone (The List of Buddha Lists) for The Buddha Gallery and courtesy of the curator of the gallery. Video courtesty of Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, California, featuring Gil Frondal, teacher.

– Compiled by Jamie Dedes

Spring, Ritual, and the Great Mystery

P1050397When I first began learning the ways of shamanism, more than thirty years ago, my Cherokee teacher used to speak to me about the similarities between Buddhism and Native American thinking. She was particularly fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism, and had traveled to Asia to meet with Tibetan teachers. I was intrigued, but not particularly interested in learning more. I was still trying to sort out my relationship to Native America. Adding Buddhism to the mix was quite simply beyond me.

Recently, I’ve been reading Bringing Zen Home, by Paula Kane Robinson Arai. The book is a marvelous piece of ethnographic writing examining the ways a group of Japanese women use domestic zen practices as healing tools. If one only read the early sections on ritual, the book would be a worthy purchase. Reading Arai’s words reminded me of my first teacher. I imagine she would love the book, especially the author’s focus on gratitude,  joy, kindness, and ritual as sources of connection to All That Is. She would also, I believe, deeply appreciate the discussion of Dogen, and his weaving together of form and formlessness.

This week Nature gave expression to the form/formlessness paradox. A few days ago there were buds on the trees, then in a single day, as if arising from nothing, innumerable umbrels of furled leaf and flower replaced them. The umbrels, in turn, transformed into flowers in full bloom, then immature seeds. Now the trees have largely leafed out; the entire process seemed to occur overnight, a green, fiery, big bang. Engaging Nature’s seasonal changes, we are reminded that the progression of the year is a ritual, encompassing and illuminating the patterns of Self as we unfurl, transform, and perhaps, seek rebirth. Our very lives enact, and reenact, the great patterns of the natural world.

I’ve also been reading Patrisia Gonzales’ Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing. In this volume Gonzales reminds us that human birth is another expression of the paradox. We know how pregnancy happens, yet the miracle of personhood challenges any simple reductionism. In quite a few Native traditions reincarnation is a given. One just expects those who pass on to be reborn to the family line, often announcing their intent by appearing to their prospective mother in a dream. Life and death are doors through which we pass, nothing more than state changes. Yet we do not know, ultimately, where we come from or whither we go; that remains a Great Mystery, of which we are all, innately, a part.

In their respective books Arai and Gonzales discuss ritual as serving to connect women to the Great Mystery, and in so doing, offering the possibility of an expanded perspective and healing. Their ideas echo those offered me by teachers in Native traditions from both North and South America, although rather than the term, “ritual”, my teachers often utilized “ceremony”.  As a mature practitioner, I encourage those who come to me for healing to create meaningful rituals in their daily lives, to “practice.” I also strongly advocate for ceremony. Like ritual, ceremony seeks to make evident the sacred nature of our lives, to encourage gratitude, and to embody participants in the experience of self as cosmos. When rituals and cerem0ny work, we are transported into an awareness of being part of, and supported by, All That Is. Of the two, perhaps ceremony is more social, often engaging communities in support of those seeking healing.

Reading the work of these thoughtful authors has reminded me of  my first teacher’s wisdom, insight, and clarity. Looking back those many years, I now see her efforts to broaden my perception in a new, more favorable light. I am grateful for her kindness and teachings.

– Michael Watson

© 2013, essay and all photographs include the portrait below, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

A lovely thought for the journey today from Terri Stewart (aka Cloaked Monk). Her blog is worth your visit. Brief and lovely meditative moments. Thank you, Terri!

Beguine Again

What are you planning that will bring you rest?

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”  ― Gautama Buddha

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INTENTIONS

Reblogged from July 2012. J.D.

OUR INTENTIONS — noticed or unnoticed, gross or subtle – contribute either to our suffering or to our happiness. Intentions are sometimes called seeds. The garden you grow depends on the seeds you plant and water. Long after a deed is done, the trace or momentum of the intention behind it remains as a seed, condition our future happiness or unhappiness.” Gil Frondsdal, Teacher, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA

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Photo credit ~ Hana Muchová, Public Domain Pictures.net

BUDDHIST GLOBAL RELIEF: 2012 WALK TO FEED THE HUNGRY

Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi Leading WalkBy Carla Prater – Planning for the 2012 Walk to Feed the Hungry is now in full swing. We have walks planned for the month of October in Ann Arbor, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and another in the Southern San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Sherwood Forest in England. We have a wonderful group of coordinators heading up these events, which are all run by local committees. Please check our website over the summer as we post more information about these events and look for information on how you can participate!

Walk Guides

As part of our planning for the October walks, we have compiled a Local Coordinator’s Guide and an Administrative Guide. The Coordinator’s Guide is a resource for local committees that are holding the walks, with information and tips we have learned over the last two years. The Administrative Guide will focus on what the BGR staff and volunteers can do to make the process smoother for the local committees. We hope these Guides together will make our 2012 Walks the best ever!

© 2012, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

MINDFUL STEPS TO THE END OF HUNGER

Charles W. Elliot

By Charles W. Elliot

Posted here with the permission of Buddhist Global Relief

 The simplest act of eating a piece of fruit is inevitably embedded in a complex web of systems: economic, agricultural, financial, and environmental. In attending mindfully to this act, we can discern myriad interdependent phenomena: the beginningless origins of its seeds, the earth from which the fruit grew, the laboring hands that brought the food to our table. The same mindfulness will show how our own lives depend upon the efforts of others, the essential kindness of countless strangers. And in recalling this kindness, we should be ready to take steps to repay it. One such way is to carefully consider the needs of others, and where we find that basic human needs remain unmet because of injustice, we should be motivated to act.

The Universal Declaration on the Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition states that “society today already possesses sufficient resources, organisational ability and technology and hence the competence to [eradicate hunger].” While food supplies are abundant, access to that food is not. In 2010, 925 million people suffered from chronic hunger, representing one in seven of a global population approaching 7 billion.

Access to adequate food, as indispensable to basic human survival, is a matter of social justice. One of the earliest pronouncements of global governance on fundamental human rights was the U.N. General Assembly’s simple declaration: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food[.]” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25, paragraph 1, 1948.) If food has been recognized as a human right since the end of World War II, and if society has the resources and competence to end hunger, we should ask ourselves: why are so many millions still hungry?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Like all other phenomena, the persistence and spread of human hunger is a complex dependent-arising involving many interwoven causes.  Two disturbing factors are financial speculation, which drove commodity prices sky-high in 2007-2008, and the increasing diversion of crops from food production to biofuel production. Thus, the portion of U.S. corn grown to produce corn-based ethanol rose from 15% in 2006 to an estimated 40% in 2011. Other factors include catastrophic weather conditions such as droughts and floods, and global climate change, which has an adverse impact on water supplies and land, especially in the developing world. At the same time, urban sprawl reduces available farmland, while the urban middle class consumes more meat and processed food, which in turn demands more land, water, and energy.

While resources for food dwindle, governmental policies, particularly in the West, have become increasingly hostile to the poor. The shredding of social safety nets puts at risk an ever-larger number of people who need help in the face of poor economic conditions. Last year, about 25% of the House of Representatives voted to eliminate foreign food aid. Such policies appeal to the notion that the world is a zero-sum game, that any help we offer another family will mean that we get less and that we cannot afford fairness. Here in the U.S. help for the poor is in jeopardy. In my home state of Pennsylvania, food stamp use has risen 50% from 1.2 million people in 2008 to 1.8 million today. Despite the increasing need driven by the Great Recession, the current governor proposes to disqualify anyone with assets of more than $5,500—for example, a bank account or a second car—from food stamp eligibility. As a result, it is estimated that 4,023 Pennsylvania households will lose their food stamp benefits on May 1 of this year.

Battling institutional and entrenched social injustice helps alleviate hunger because poverty is at the root of hunger, and the root cause of poverty is powerlessness: the “powerlessness of those who lack resources such as land and water to grow food, jobs to earn money to buy food, an adequate food safety net and food reserves, and adequate nutrition.” (The Downward Spiral of Hunger: Causes & Solutions)

There are many small steps we can take to end hunger, but we must be prepared to respond to the call of conscience to help others and to restore social justice.  A key step is to rebuild and enhance small-scale local food systems and turn away from globally concentrated control of food production and distribution. Ultimately, we should reject the domination of agriculture by large corporate agribusiness, and confront corporate attempts to control the very seeds of life with their patented genetically-modified “single generation” seeds.

At the neighborhood scale here in the U.S., community food gardens are springing up even in major cities like New York City and Detroit. Food waste and post-harvest losses could be remedied to make more food available to those in need. Greater investment in small-scale agriculture in rural areas and urban agriculture in the cities would empower the poor and hungry.

At Buddhist Global Relief, we are taking our own small steps. For example, we provide village-scale training in intensified rice cultivation to rural farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, helping to build their capacity and confidence in applying sustainable agriculture techniques. These techniques dramatically boost yields without expensive external inputs. BGR funds tools and seeds to impoverished families in Cambodia to grow cash crops and home vegetable gardens. Following each harvest, each family then gives the same amount of seed they received to another local family, thus establishing a community of mutual support. BGR helps train villagers in Kenya and Malawi in small-scale agricultural techniques that nurture healthy soil fertility, produce high yields, conserve resources, and meet the basic need of people to independently feed themselves.

Such small steps, taken collectively by Buddhist Global Relief and countless others, are helping to empower the poor, reduce poverty, and alleviate the suffering of hunger. Neither the complexity of the manifold causes of hunger nor the daunting statistics of global poverty should deter us from acting out of compassion and generosity. In the Buddhist tradition, the embodiment of compassion, AvalokiteshvaraGuanyin Kwannon, is often depicted not just with a thousand eyes to gaze upon the suffering in the world, but with a thousand hands to aid those who suffer. Of course, not even a thousand arms are enough to help the billion people who suffer from hunger. But if we recognize each motivated human heart as the eyes and hands of Avalokiteshvara, each of us acting in our own way, in our own communities, might yet help to end hunger in our generation.

Charles W. Ellliott, a member of the Board of Directors of Buddhist Global Relief, is  a lawyer practicing environmental, land use, and human rights law.

© 2012, photo and essay, Buddhist Global Relief, All rights reserved

Ashok Zamon is a spiritual explorer and freelance writer living in Shanghai who, in this detailed post, brings us a view of the ancient practice of Buddhism as it is rekindled in modern China. For those readers who are not entirely familiar with Buddhist concepts, this well-written feature incidentally provides excellent definition of mindfulness. The post includes stunning and evocative photographs by Mr. Zamon’s partner, Anya.

The blog is just three months old and already contains a wealth of information and insight. I’m grateful to have “Into the Bardo” as a means to provide an introduction to “The Beyond Within” and it’s very excellent writer. J.D.

The Beyond Within

I was going to blog from the temple, but of course it ended up panning out differently. It was a wonderful weekend and it’s great to see how things are progressing there. The last couple of days I’ve been putting together the piece for Vantage Magazine, and here is the draft that I’m turning in. It’s a bit of a rewrite of the Emergent Buddhism piece for a more public audience. We’ll see what the editing process will do to it. I had to take a knife to it myself and cut about 500 words, always a hard thing to do. Hopefully Vantage will just tidy it up a bit and help it flow. It’s obviously for a more mainstream audience, so there were many aspects that I could only really allude to rather than express directly, and plenty of details that I had to leave out all together, but hopefully…

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