Monday, December 8, 2014

Right Speech, Right Silence

Ayya Medhanandi

Receiving dana
What makes us pacify and fawn on those we don’t respectonly to lose respect for ourselves? Or hold our peace when someone insults us or another? Are we intimidated into a silence that breaches our core principles lest we offend, draw criticism or anger? In life’s conflicted moments, how do we judge when it’s right to speak out?

There’s nothing golden about a silence that shrugs its shoulders because we’re too scared to say what we feel. We may dodge the vitriol aimed at us or – to our unspoken relief – at someone else, but each time we do so it may be at the cost of our own integrity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Suggestion for Doing Long Retreat: Live according to the Vinaya

Ven. Tenzin Chogkyi

From March 2000 to June 2003, I undertook a 3-year, 3-month (and 3-day!) deity retreat, a traditional practice in Tibetan Buddhism. Five of us engaged in this retreat, although we lived and practiced individually and only met every few months for group practice, which we did in verbal silence, although there was a fair amount of note writing and made-up sign language on these occasions! Two of the retreatants were ordained, and three were lay people at the time (including myself).

Near the end of the retreat, we decided to meet to discuss our experiences, and compile a 3-year retreat manual. When we were preparing for the retreat, we referred to some journal and traditional retreat manuals that primarily discussed the rituals and logistics involved with undertaking such a retreat. However, we really had no information and no idea what to expect in terms of the spiritual, emotional, and psychological transformations we were sure were going to manifest for us and the optimal conditions to help bring these about. Thus after the retreat, we hoped that by compiling our thoughts, future long-term meditators would be able to benefit from our experience.

Monday, November 10, 2014

One at a Time

Venerable Lobsang Khando

Venerable Lobsang Khando after performing a Medicine Buddha puja at the Bhwasa Charity Medical Center, Nepal
Life is a mystery to us and if we examine our purpose, sometimes we are lucky enough to see clearly what our path is. Even luckier are those who get the opportunity to follow the path they have seen. I never believed in luck, but as you will see from my story, maybe I should change my mind.

When I was a little girl my family consisted of brothers, one sister and parents. It was pretty normal for the most part. My favorite color was red; even my rain boots and lunch box were red or reddish. Houses I drew and painted were yellow and red. I loved chanting rhymes as most children do but I would do it repeatedly as it made me feel better somehow. My favorite question was, “Why?” Okay, none of this is unusual. But when you piece it together, something of my past life karma was there, I think, speaking to me right from the start!

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Shangpa Monlam in France 2014

Lama Palden Drolma

Kalu Rinpoche with his three year retreat grads who were in attendance
After driving through dense fog at 8 am, we arrived at Palden Shangpa La Boulaye, Kalu Rinpoche’s primary center in France. As the sun began to stream through the mist, a line of small stupas greeted us. Next we were welcomed by an impressive Bhutanese lhakhang (Tibetan for house of the gods – what they call temples). Before I could enter, I heard a voice say, “Kalu Rinpoche is calling you.” Turning around I saw Rinpoche striding towards me, and I hurried to greet him. After a warm embrace, he escorted me into the lhakhang to show off the altar he had arranged for the Monlam.

Rinpoche put his heart, time and love into this first ever Shangpa Monlam. A Monlam is a prayer, and a large Monlam like this one is where the lamas and attendees make many prayers for all beings’ benefit, which of course includes praying that all beings receive what they need and desire and live in harmony and peace. He had placed nametags for the lamas of his centers and sat the senior lamas in a row together— from East and West, male and female, with all the other lamas and three year retreat grads in rows behind. All the other dharma practitioners sat on the sides and in back. The large lhakhang holds 500 people or so.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Discovering Buddhism in Bangladesh

Stav Zotalis 

Stav and her father.
My journey to Buddhism has been a surprising one. I was born into a Greek Orthodox migrant family 48 years ago. Although I was born in Sydney, Australia, it felt like living in a Greek village. I spoke Greek at home, most of my friends were Greek, I attended Greek school (after regular English school) , went to Greek Orthodox Sunday school, did Greek dancing, ate Greek food, had Greek dreams (marriage to a Greek professional, 2 children, well-paid job and a two-storey house in a respectable suburb). The Greek Orthodox priest played a central role in my life, although his influence was more moral and social than spiritual. He christened me, set up the Greek school that I went to, and was there for important events such as Christmas, Easter, my two sisters’ weddings to Greek professionals, and, very sadly, at the burial of my beloved father when I was 29.

The love and support my father gave me is one of the greatest treasures I have received during this lifetime. He was an extraordinary man. He was born into poverty and deprivation in 1939, which was exacerbated when his father was murdered in 1946, by men from his village and after witnessing the rape of his eldest daughter, my dad’s 19-year-old sister. My father didn’t demonstrate the bitterness and rage that often results from a tragedy like this. He was a gentle, generous, simple, good-humored and wonderful man. In fact, he had a lot of the great qualities of the Buddha – phenomenal love and generosity. He also believed in karma, right speech, right action, and embodied kindness and love.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Times, They are A’Changin'

Venerable Damchö Diana Finnegan 

His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivering the keynote speech during the Inaugural Ceremony of
"A Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India" in New Delhi, India on September 20, 2014.
Photo/Tenzin Choejor/OHHDL

On September 20, 2014, during the first roundtable discussion of a interreligious conference entitled, "A Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions in India - Promoting Human Values and Inter-Religious Harmony," held in Delhi, India, H. H. Dalai Lama spoke in favor of revising a rule stipulating that nuns should sit behind monks, even if the nuns are fully ordained Bhikshunis and the monks are novices. The Meeting of Diverse Spiritual Traditions of India, which was convened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself, spanned two days, including plenaries on “Inter-Religious Understanding and Human Values” and on “Environment, Education, and Society.”