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Vol 6 Issue 1 Rev 2

Vol 6 Issue 1 Rev 2

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page 1
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter 
 Volume 6, Issue 1 January-March 2010
Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt,so also this Dhamma and Discipline has one taste,the taste of liberation.
Uposatha Sutta
buddhist correspondence course 
newsletter 
INSIDE THIS ISSUE...
 Articles
The Concept of Emptiness,
CarleeHines
Does a Buddhist Practitioner Have Faith? 
, Julie
What Is Enlightenment? 
, Bill Ritter
Untitled 
, Michael Collier
Foolishness
, Christopher Brainerd
Watching Your Company 
, Ariya Bantu
Poetry
Haiku,
James Davie
Untitled 
, Willie E. Campbell
Contemplating Enlightenment 
, JamesDavie
 Art
Untitled,
Brian Alberer
Orchids in the Wind,
Travis L. Adams
 Ancient Eye 
, Travis L. Adams
Letters
Cesar Correal HenaoTravis L. Adams James L. HalbirtRonald Couch, Jr.Minister Willie Campbell
The Concept of Emptiness
Carlee Hines (St. Louis, MI)
 W 
hat is emptiness? Emptiness is the heart of the Dharma, what elevates youto Buddhahood. That entities have no fixed or independent nature is afundamental Buddhist concept; nothing exists independently. It rejects as false thebelief of one who envisions himself as being absolute and independent of all oth-er existences. People think emptiness means nothingness, but it is not “empty” orbeing empty. It means that all things are changing every moment. If things trulyhad a definite, enduring substance or entity, then no change or flow would bepossible. Because nothing has self-nature, everything is possible.Emptiness teaches how to destroy the mental fantasy and hallucinations broughton by ego. It brings you an entirely different experience of reality. When youhave strong contact with your senses, your ego arises, incredibly strongly. For ex-ample, this morning, the hungry “I” went to breakfast and ate. Even when “I”was eating I still thought “hungry me is eating.” However, whatever you have ex-perienced in your life right up until this moment is not you. The moment you identi-fy yourself as something, you are something else. You will really begin toexperience emptiness only when you look simply and practically at your ownego’s view. It is not our sense perceptions that cause us to grasp, it’s our mentalconsciousness, the conceptions of our ego. Ego is at the root of separateness.How do you practice with emptiness? Disciples should be on their guard to keepthe mind under constant control. They should neither grasp nor become attachedto the passing things of the senses or concepts and moods of the mind. With mind training you can easily experience emptiness and thereby releaseyour ego’s fantasy, for example, releasing your concrete projection of “I”, whichis in fact completely nonexistent, opposite to the vision of emptiness. With intens-ive awareness, you will see the strongly hallucinatory projection, which then dis-appears. At that moment, you experience emptiness. When you realize thenon-self existence of the concrete projection of “I,” it completely disappears intonothingness. Everything becomes “empty” when you realize emptiness—all con-crete concepts of ego vanish. When you realize emptiness, you can truly realizeattachment, delusion, ego, impermanence, nonexistence, the nature of reality,etc. You will stop thinking of the way things should be and start seeing them asthey really are. Thus, emptiness is the vehicle to the path of liberation.Emptiness is symbolized by a sword, the wisdom sword of emptiness. It penet-rates all obstacles and cuts through all delusions.
 
page 2
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter 
continued on p. 3
Does a Buddhist Practitioner Have Faith?
 Julie 
M
any Westerners who come to Buddhismwere raised in a different religious tradi-tion, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. Inthose religions, the role of faith is relatively straightforward; faith is directed to-ward God. But how do we think about faith in the context of a non-theistic reli-gion like Buddhism? Is faith wholesome or unwholesome? What did the Buddhasay about faith? How does faith develop?In different teachings, the Buddha lauded different sets of qualities as conduciveto enlightenment. An often cited set of wholesome qualities that he taught arecalled the ‘five spiritual faculties.’ Faith is one of these five spiritual faculties. Thefaculties are:1. faith or conviction or belief (
saddh
ā
)2. energy or persistence or perseverance (
viriya
)3. mindfulness or memory (
sati 
)4. concentration or focus (
sam
ā
dhi 
)5. wisdom or understanding or comprehension (
pañña
)In Buddhism, faith is directed toward the Buddha’s awakening, toward theDharma, which is the truth of his teaching, and toward the sangha, the com-munity that practices together. These are called the three jewels or triple gem.Faith in Buddhism is also a belief in our own Buddha nature; a confidence in ourown capacity for spiritual development and liberation. So from this perspective,faith is wholesomeHowever, we are also cautioned against one spiritual faculty overpowering and in-hibiting the other faculties. To prevent one faculty dominating another, it is recom-mend that the five spiritual faculties be developed in counterbalancing dyads.Faith and wisdom are one of these dyads.One strong in faith and weak in understanding has confidence uncritically andgroundlessly. Faith that is not balanced by wisdom is blind faith. We can see thisin religious fundamentalism of all sorts. Indeed, in the Kalama Sutta the Buddhahimself argues against "blind faith." This kind of faith is unwholesome.On the other hand, one strong in understanding and weak in faith may becomecunning and scheming. Such a person may be a good debater, but their heart ishard and their reasons for learning lack compassion.In one sutta, Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s beloved disciples says this about thefive faculties: “These five faculties, if cultivated and regularly practiced, lead to theDeathless, are bound for the Deathless, end in the Deathless." In other words,practicing these five faculties can lead to enlightenment. So, we are instructed tostrive for a balance of faith and wisdom.For me, my faith was sparked the first time I saw a bikkhuni (nun). She was sobeautiful and happy. I could see that she knew how to lead a good life. She in-spired faith in me. Now my faith is strong. I entrust myself to the triple gem.
The BCCN is distributed at no charge to those taking the Buddhist Correspondence Course. This is your newslet- ter–by you, about you, and for you. You are the major contribut- ors, so send us your questions, problems, solutions you've found to difficulties in practice, thoughts you have on practice, artwork, po- etry, etc. Due to limited space,some editing may be necessary.We also welcome your comments on the newsletter and sugges- tions for ways we might improve it to serve you better.
Please mail all correspondence to:Buddhist Correspondence Coursec/o Rev. Richard Baksa2020 Route 301Carmel, NY 10512
Let us know if we may use your full name or just initials.
 To receive copies of any of theresources listed below, please write to Rev. Richard Baksa atthe address above.• A listing by state of Buddhistgroups that may be able tosend volunteers to your prisonto conduct Buddhist activities.• The "Religious Land Use andInstitutionalized Persons Act of 2000." This guarantees equalaccess for all religions to prisonfacilities for the purpose of reli-gious meetings.• “What is the Religious LandUse and Institutionalized Per-sons Act?” This explains theAct and how it is to be applied.
 
page 3
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter 
 What is Enlightenment?
Bill Ritter (Eloy, AZ)
 W 
hat is it to obtain enlighten-ment? In our Sangha, few oth-er topics have inspired such intimateand intense discussions and causedsuch thought and contemplation as themeaning of the term “to reach enlight-enment.” Is it a sudden spark of clarityin which a person is able to under-stand the true reality of the world inwhich we exist? Is it a sudden insightinto ourselves which in turn leads to the ability to understand the connectednessof all sentient beings? Is it the ability to realize, like the Avatamsaka Sutra says,“The entire universe is created by mind alone”? We are taught that to search for enlightenment is to only put our goals further outof reach. It is said that enlightenment is indescribable and unimaginable. It is de-scribed as a state which takes many lifetimes to achieve. In the Seeker’s Glossaryof Buddhism, a description of enlightenment is “to achieve Buddhahood.” Accord-ing to the Mahayana view this is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all be-ings. After much contemplation and thought, I can’t help but wonder that since theword “Buddha” means one who is awakened, that maybe enlightenment isn’t astate of mind or consciousness at all. Maybe enlightenment is the never-endingsearch for more wisdom, more compassion, and more personal insight. Maybe tobecome enlightened really means to become truly aware that as humans weneed to constantly keep trying to better ourselves by becoming more compassion-ate with each other and the world around us. Maybe it is the search for never-end-ing wisdom in a time when so many are content to stay stuck in a state ofignorance and egoism. If so, enlightenment is an unobtainable state, a daily jour-ney to better ourselves for the selfless reason to benefit others. Maybe this is thetrue meaning of god-like state.No matter what the true meaning of enlightenment is, it is useless to spend muchenergy on what might be or what might happen. Instead, as one member of mygroup said, we should put our efforts into the present moment by continuing tobetter ourselves, and being ever more conscious of the suffering of those aroundus. We should stay focused in the present moment, because only in the actionswe make in the present moment do we change our future for the better.
Haiku
James Davie (Brent, AL) 
From chaotic clouds To a sea of sadnessVenomous visions fallFalse impressionsInvented imaginary thingsNothing is realFalling from graceStepping into dukkhaMy shoes are messy again.
Travis L. Adams (Raiford, FL)Brian Alberer 
 We are all at different places on ourspiritual paths. Your faith in the begin-ning may be very small. You maycome from a background where clev-erness and scheming was valuedmore than faith. Enlightenment mayseem a long way off. But, we canhead in that direction. What about you? How can you waterthe seeds of faith that lie deep in yourconsciousness? The truth is, you arealready watering those wholesomeseeds. You are cultivating faith by tak-ing this Course, reading this newslet-ter, taking up a practice that will leadyou in toward truth and beauty. Youhave cultivated good karma that hasbrought you to the Dharma, and thatis already very good.
Faith, cont'd from p. 2 
It’s often said that the Buddhist way is not to grasp.
But that can be-come just another statement that we grasp and hold on to. It’s a Catch 22:No matter how hard you try to make sense out of it, you end up in totalconfusion because of the limitation of language and perception. You haveto go beyond language and perception. And the only way to go beyondthinking and emotional habit is through awareness of them, throughawareness of thought, through awareness of emotion. ‘The Island that youcannot go beyond’ is the metaphor for this state of being awake andaware, as opposed to the concept of becoming awake and aware.
Ajahn Sumedho 

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