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buddhist correspondence course

Volume 5, Issue 4
October-December 2009 To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind —
this is the teaching of the Buddhas.
Dhammapada, 183

INSIDE THIS ISSUE... Building a Buddha-Box

James Davie (Brent, AL)
Building a Buddha-Box, James Davie
Bodhicitta, Janet
Lawsuit Resumes Concerning
I wrote this in hopes that those who can relate to tools and toolboxes will be
able to imagine a mental toolbox filled with tools to help them with their mind
and relations with others.
Buddhist Prisoners, James Newby
My Nature and Yours, Have you ever needed to repair something but just didn’t have the right tools? Or
James Halbirt used the wrong tools or the right tools in the wrong way and ended up with an
even bigger problem than you started with? Me, too! Plenty of times.
Silent Screaming, Cliff Marvin Nowell Knowing how to use tools properly takes wisdom, knowledge, and hands-on ex-
Dragon, James W. Bettis perience. Knowing where to find them takes organization. That’s why the toolbox
Grow, James W. Bettis was invented. A carpenter, mechanic, electrician, auto body repairman, and so
Eradication Day, Cliff Marvin Nowell on all use some common tools. They also have specialized tools for their trade.
Love Letters, Cliff Kathleen Wyatt The specialized tools I’m referring to are for the repair and maintenance of the
What Is, "Is," Travis L. Adams mind.

Art The Buddha’s teachings have given us many tools to work with. So many that I
Zen Art, Travis L. Adams had to have a larger toolbox to keep them in.

Just like an electrician needs to understand ohms, watts, and volts, we need to un-
Ronald Couch, Jr. derstand how attachment and desire arise and where emotions come from.
James L. Halbirt Just as my physical toolbox is a large three sectional unit, so is my Buddha tool-
G. A. Norrell
box. The tools in my box are based on the Noble Eightfold Path. The top section
is my wisdom box (panakkandha). It holds tools for right views and right inten-
tions. My moral box (silakkahandha) is in the middle section. It contains tools for
right speech, right action, and right livelihood. My concentration box (samad-
hikkandha) is on the bottom. It holds all my heavy duty tools of right effort, right
mindfulness, and right meditation. You can organize your box as you see fit. This
is just my personal reference.

As sentient beings we all have the same basic problem. It’s called ignorance.
We need to understand the nature of our dissatisfied mind. Just as we would
check the oil and radiator fluid in our car, we should make regular checkups to in-
vestigate the health of our minds. This is not just philosophy, we need to know
how the mind functions. We all have the potential for infinite development.

Be mindful of your tools. If you think you are lacking tools in any area, ask your
guru or teacher for help and study Buddhist books. The wisdom knowledge you
continued on p. 3

page 1 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter


Get up with Bodhicitta.

Eat with Bodhicitta.
The BCCN is distributed at no Go to work with Bodhicitta.
charge to those taking the Sleep with Bodhicitta.
Buddhist Correspondence Study with Bodhicitta.
Course. This is your newslet- Experience problems with Bodhicitta.
ter–by you, about you, and for Die with Bodhicitta.
you. You are the major contribut-

ors, so send us your questions,
his quote from Lama Zopa denotes how bodhicitta, the union of compassion
problems, solutions you've found
and wisdom, or the awakened heart/mind, should be all-encompassing and
to difficulties in practice, thoughts
pervasive in our lives, not an ornamental philosophy to espouse and take down
you have on practice, artwork, po-
etry, etc. Due to limited space,
from the shelf now and then, but an integral part of our thoughts and actions.
some editing may be necessary. With our thoughts and actions based on bodhicitta, we can become bodhisat-
We also welcome your comments tvas.
on the newsletter and sugges- Lama Zopa puts the importance of bodhicitta so simply and put it within the
tions for ways we might improve
reach of everyone:
it to serve you better.
Please mail all correspondence to: Our lives are so busy; we are preoccupied by many family and other obligations.
When your life is so busy, there is no other refuge than your good heart. Your
Buddhist Correspondence Course good heart is the most important thing in which to take refuge. Even though you
c/o Rev. Richard Baksa might want to do long practices, sitting meditation, many prayers or retreat, your
2020 Route 301 life is usually so busy that you don't have time. You have too many other obliga-
Carmel, NY 10512 tions; you can't do everything that you'd like. If this is the case, your only refuge
is your good heart, your compassion, the thought of benefiting others, bodhicitta.
Let us know if we may use If you take refuge in that, if you can practice that, no matter how busy you
your full name or just initials.
are—even if you cannot do many hours' sitting meditation, prayers, preliminary
practices and so forth—you will have no regrets over lost opportunities, now or in
the future. In this life and in all future lives, you will go from happiness to happi-
ness to enlightenment.
To receive copies of any of the
resources listed below, please As I write this essay, I never want to forget that the study of Bodhicitta is very im-
write to Rev. Richard Baksa at portant because its purpose is to teach us how to have bodhicitta. When all is
the address above. said and done, though, it is the actual practice of bodhicitta (“the Wish-Fulfilling
• A listing by state of Buddhist Jewel”) that is ultimately the most important thing.
groups that may be able to
Bodhicitta is made up of the word bodhi signifying “awakened” and citta mean-
send volunteers to your prison
to conduct Buddhist activities. ing (according to your source) “mind,” or “consciousness, “ or “spirit.” The words
“essence,” “core,” “foundation,” or “crux” are just some of the words that I thought
• The "Religious Land Use and about to use when speaking of Bodhicitta but the word “heart” is the most appro-
Institutionalized Persons Act of
priate. Bodhicitta is the heart of Mahayana Buddhism; it is the most apt word be-
2000." This guarantees equal
access for all religions to prison cause bodhicitta is all about “the good heart.” Everything we study and do is for
facilities for the purpose of reli- this end—the development of bodhicitta and enlightenment, enlightenment for the
gious meetings. benefit of sentient beings. Developing our minds, meditating, reading, and study-
• “What is the Religious Land
ing all lead to this end. If someone were to ask, “Tell me what Buddhism is all
Use and Institutionalized Per- about in just a few sentences,” I would refer to the Four Noble Truths and Bodhi-
sons Act?” This explains the citta in my answer. At the very least, we should consider the immediate benefit of
Act and how it is to be applied.
continued on p. 8

page 2 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

Buddha-Box, cont'd from p. 1 stir up the energy in our minds to More specifically, the Court of Ap-
gain will be the actual tools you store strive for what is right. peals said that when an outside volun-
in your toolbox. teer is not available to oversee
Our right mindfulness drawer (samma “regular” meetings, prison officials
Here is a brief example of some of the sati) should have some tools for must provide supervision similar to that
tools we can have in our Buddha box. contemplating the body, feelings, enjoyed by Muslim prisoners.
state of mind, and phenomena.
Our right view drawer (samma ditthi) Additionally, the Court found that the
can consist of the tools of the Four The right meditation drawer (samma prison policy requiring malas to be
Noble Truths, and the right views of samadhi) should be filled with black plastic, and forbidding inmates
the five aggregates of clinging and concentration tools. These one- to carry or wear them, was not shown
suffering. Another right view to have is pointedness meditation tools can by the state to be the least restrictive
of the Noble Eightfold Path as it is consist of tools for establishing a means of furthering a compelling gov-
truly a way to end dukkha, and the meditation practice, meditations on ernmental interest. The case was re-
right view of the cause and effect of the mind, analytical meditations, manded back to the District Court for
karma. visualization meditations, prayers and further proceedings.
other devotional practices.
The right intention drawer (samma This case was filed May 8, 2005, ad-
sankappo) can have tools for All of our tools should be chosen with dressing Buddhist inmates’ rights at
understanding the intentions of wisdom knowledge and used with the Roach Unit in Childress, Texas.
renunciation, good will, and lovingkindness and compassion.
harmlessness, plus knowing what our Consequently, the outcome of this suit
Better than a toolbox filled with a has the potential to confer benefits
aim and purpose is in everything we
thousand worthless tools is one tool upon not only Texas Buddhist inmates,
think and do.
that brings peace and happiness to but prisoners anywhere that federal
In the right speech drawer (samma all. Gassho. constitutional and statutory rights are
vaca) we should have tools for protected.
understanding the reasons for
abstaining from idle chatter, false, Buddhist prisoners should be sure their
slanderous, and harsh speech. Wrong Lawsuit Resumes Concerning prison record shows their faith to be
speech can create enemies and start Buddhist Prisoners Buddhism. Prison officials regularly ar-
wars. Right speech can give wisdom, Rob L. Newby (Teague, TX) gue that they have less than 1% of the

heal, and create peace. When used inmate population recorded as
he 5th Circuit Court of Appeals
properly, speech is silver and silence Buddhist, and thus should not be re-
has vacated the judgment of the U.
is golden. quired to make special accommoda-
S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas,
tions for them.
The right action drawer (samma that had dismissed the Buddhist in-
kammanta) can consist of tools for mate lawsuit as “frivolous” and for Details on the developments of this
abstaining from taking life, from “failure to state a claim”. case will be provided to the BCCN as
taking what has not been given to us, they occur. (Copies of the Court’s opin-
In a 13-page opinion issued April
and from sexual misconduct. There are ion are available.)
30th of this year, the Court of Appeals
counterpart tools for each of these. For
ruled in favor of Buddhist inmates on For the sake of Dharma, practice.
example, abstaining from taking what
four of five points finding that a reason-
has not been given to us has a
able finder of fact could determine
counterpart tool of honesty, being
that the Texas Department of Criminal
content with what we have and the
Justice imposes an impermissible sub-
virtuous tools of generosity.
stantial burden on Buddhist prisoners’
In our right livelihood drawer (samma religious exercise and fails to provide
ajivo) is where we can keep tools for reasonable alternatives in violation of
righteous ways of making a living. the RLUIPA [Religious Land Use and In-
stitutionalized Persons Act of 2000]
The drawer of right effort (samma
and the 1st and 14th amendments the
vayamo) are for tools of mental
determination. These are attempts to

page 3 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

Silent Screaming
Cliff Marvin Nowell (Beaumont, TX)

An ensemble of emotions
Rage throughout a young mind,
Warped by incestuous acts,
Illegally and insidiously obtained,
By coaxing or intimidation.
Neglected of parental passion,
Craving encouragement and approval,
Inviting acceptance of immorality.
Sadly taught sexual transgressions,
Are physical equations of love.
Invitations of lustful congresses
Are readily extended, bringing
Future harm, invisible dangers.
Psychogenic states go unnoticed,
Sexual improprieties deemed normal.
Gender lines drawn, then crossed, Dragon
As physical aggressions prosper. James W. Bettis (Clarinda, IA)
Denial of sexual access,
Shock, stun, flabbergast, angers, Looking out the widow
Introducing series of self-rejections, At the bright blue sky
Accompanied by imagined verbal slurs, Thinking of the dragon
Destroying a fragile confidence. That was hard to suppress
Imagined looks of contempt, Til I met special friends
Degrade thoughts of self-esteem, Who had patience
Igniting anti-social behaviors. Who gave me a chance
Confusion, fear: clearly in view. Who taught me
Needs, wants: out of reach. To tame the Dragon.
Desperate yearning invades wrecked psyches,
While early learning reverts/diverge,
Upon unsuspecting youthful victims, Grow
Needful of tender loving acceptance, James W. Bettis (Clarinda, IA)
Silently screaming for rescue
Will they ever be heard? Seeing steel bars day in day out
Metal fence wherever you go
Being told what to do
Getting up at a certain time
Sleeping on hard beds
Lights on, lights off at certain times
Some call prison
We call it a chance to grow

page 4 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

Eradication Day
Cliff Marvin Nowell (Beaumont, TX)

He inherited the best

Of an amazing childhood –
A time full of joy!
And toys made of wood.

He became a greatly
Admired athlete of lore:
Like the boy next door –
With trophies and ribbons galore.

He had earned the life

One full of glowing health
And a business that provided Zen Art
His family with great wealth.
Travis L. Adams (Mujin),
He surely had the touch – (Sarasota, FL)
Rewards arriving every day.
Then one day when he was going home …
An accident happened on the way.

It was not his fault …

That the blood was tainted –
Not knowing, the orderly drew it
From a risky person who knew it.

Sure it’s sad I admit

Thought not all lives end this way –
But his family I had to tell:
AIDS eradicated him today.

page 5 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

Love Letters I’m out of here, said L’il Red
Kathleen Wyatt (Willimantic, CT) My grandmother’s ill
She can’t leave her bed
Once upon a time Then she pulled on her hoody
Under the guise of fairy tale lies And asked a friend could she
Girls and women believed … Be her shift cover
Believed in happily ever after To check on grandmother
Believed good would always win She cut through the park
When that reality became a delusion To arrive before dark
They carved love letters into their skin
Teen wolves in a pack
You always told her Planned their attack
Home is where the heart is Leading Red like a lamb to the slaughter
Home sweet home Sliced up and bruised
When Grandpa comes to visit Red was violated and used
He gets her alone What a cruel lesson this world taught her
Kisses like Prince Charming She left a note on her bed
Smells like mothballs And this is what it said
Tastes like sin This pain I wear is a skin I can’t shed
Now Daddy’s little Princess I’m sorry but I’m better off dead
Carves love letters into her skin Your loving granddaughter, L’il Red
Then she cocked a gun to her head
Teens in formal wear
Shooting her brain full of lead
Vote for King and Queen
With all innocence robbed
At the stroke of midnight
Her friend at the job
She pleads, Don’t make a scene
Filled with guilt as she sobbed
DJ spins Rhiana’s Umbrella Song
An old hymn about God, about salvation, about sin
The prince punches Cinderella
While carving love letters into her skin
For ignoring him all night long
He roars, Only whores wear glass slippers Rapunzel’s prison tower
I’m sorry, the maiden whispers Mirrors prisons of today
Again and again, the prince hits her Good women who are broken
I must learn to treat him better Are forgotten, hidden away
I’m so stupid, he’s so clever It’s the perfect fortress
His proclamation I must remember The good townspeople say
I belong to him now and forever To keep those women silent
As an affirmation to this surrender Teach them to obey
The prince watches with a grin In the village chapel
Cinderella carves love letters into her skin They sing rejoice and pray
But do they love thy neighbor
Sleeping Beauty’s nodding
Even whey they stray
Chimera runs through her veins
Because it’s girls and women who seem to pay
The Queen slams back gin and tonics
Those born of this earth
Ignoring the signs, afraid of blame
Are cursed right from birth
Puss-filled purple pockmarks
Because men decide their worth
Poison pricks like a pin
Beauty sleeves are long and bloodied Now this is not a bedtime story
From carving love letters into her skin Or a tale from Brothers Grimm
It’s the testimony of our sisters
Who carve love letters into their skin

page 6 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

My Nature and Yours Four Thoughts that Turn the
James Halbirt (San Luis Obispo, CA) Mind Toward Dharma

I have always been fond of nature, its outlook and its simplicity. Nature is at my (Ngondro or Preliminary Teachings)
beck and call. We live in it, we are a part of it, and it lives within us. It is the or-
The Four Thoughts clearly describe
der, the disposition, and the essence of all entities. The stuff of the universe is
how reality works. Contemplating
what we are made of. them helps integrate their deep wis-
dom into our awareness, transform-
Have you ever looked at a beautiful stone and wondered about it? What does it ing mind and heart, bringing
represent? Where has it been? Is it alive? It is my understanding that stones have greater insight, wisdom, lovingkind-
rudimentary life. One might think, “This guy is crazy.” However, think about it this ness, and compassion. Actively con-
way: these stones put our lives into perspective. As we sit, our lives appear to un- template the importance, merit,
fold at a pace in between the lives of a long-lived stone. and relevance of this wisdom to
your life and to the lives of others.
A stone is a natural object, obviously made without motive. Thus it portrays the
Contemplate the importance and
qualities of a buddha, like the one sitting on an altar. It indicates stillness, opportunity of having a precious
calmness, centeredness, patience, tolerance, even magnanimity, compassion, human birth. We are fortunate to
and wisdom. The stones we can hold, just sitting, remind us of our true nature, be- be born as human beings and to en-
fore we stir our minds in thought. Yet all the while, they remain natural objects, of- counter the Dharma. Allow this to
fending no one and encouraging no one in particular in belief or thought. These inspire within you the compassion-
ate wish that all beings find libera-
stones have taken many twists and turns in life, just like our flow of life. tion from spiritually impoverished
Even a Buddha statue you might honor and respect is alive. It represents truth, circumstances.
compassion, kindness, and love, to name just a few aspects. Think also of anim- Contemplating impermanence and
als: they are self-contained. Like the rocks, they just are. They don't look for any- mortality is an essential aspect of
thing outside of just this. Each comes equipped as it is. It does not try to be Dharma practice. It helps us realize
the preciousness of life, choose to
anything that it is not. It's ready and willing to sleep, to breed, to find food and
embrace what is of value, and
shelter to survive. wisely spend our valuable time and
energy. It inspires us to make a de-
That is serenity. They just are what they are. They don't get outside themselves like
termined effort to practice the
we do. They don't manifest fantasy worlds. They don't have time to be anything Dharma, cultivate virtue, and serve
but real. They don't look outside themselves. They live entirely in the moment. the welfare of all living beings.
When a lion kills a deer, the world rolls on; all is placid and serene.
Karma and its results are certain
Animals, like rocks, are artless, without guile or deceit. They don't try to manipu- and unfailing. By understanding
late our impressions of them or cover up the truth about themselves. karma, purifying our delusion and
negativity, and engaging in virtuous
A very young person, for example a baby, shows no sign of feeling separate behavior, we change our life experi-
from the world. Just noticing such qualities is enough to give us grownups a mo- ence and move swiftly toward libera-
tion. Closely examine your life, your
mentary sense of lightness and freedom. Thinking on this, why can't we live with thoughts, feelings, speech, and ac-
such peace and serenity ourselves? We tend to look "out there" to make tions. These are a precise indica-
ourselves whole, hunting for something as if it were prey. We can't seem to stay tion of your future experience.
in our own reality. We are never satisfied. The reality we create traps us. Like an-
We must understand and embrace
imals and rocks, the world is always here. There is nothing "out there" we need the truth of our stress and suffer-
to acquire. True reality is forever at hand. Moment to moment of radiant pure be- ing and the disadvantages of the
ing. worldly life. Attachment to this
samsaric life can distract us from
Even our earth is alive, just like the rocks. It is always contracting and expanding, practicing the Dharma. For the wel-
just like the breaths we take moment to moment. Even on the earth resides birth fare and benefit of all living beings,
and death. The rocks, the earth and everything we see is alive or being born or we should make a firm commit-
dying. We know from physics that the rocks you can hold in your hand are recon- ment to renounce samsara, a firm
commitment to study and practice
structed (that is, reborn) moment to moment in a blur of rapidly moving molecules the Dharma until we attain joyous
and atoms, each exchanging electrons and energy with other molecules and enlightenment.
atoms at enormous speeds. The whole picture can be reduced to energy and
--adapted from Naljor Prison
continued on p. 8 Dharma Service

page 7 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

My Nature, cont'd from p. 7 experienced. It's a mental experience. I have become extra sensitive to all
Mind is the Course. around us, seeing suffering not from a
movement. If these rocks did not have
generalized global perspective, but up
rudimentary life, they would fall into The reason why we practice is to
close and personal, knowing all who
space. The molecules and atoms keep tame our egos, to find a common
suffer are really connected. As they
this rock contained. However, like us, ground of reality to understand hu-
say in Zen “it’s just the skin bag” that
they change. man life, a way to conduct our affairs
separates us. What made me think I
that doesn't lead to suffering for
Typically, even as we die, all things was so different from anyone else who
ourselves and others. To practice well
die. We return to the earth and birth suffers, who desires not to suffer, who
is to find our center, and to abide in
begins again, maybe in a different wants happiness and peace?...I have
awareness of the moment is to bring
form. Energy cannot be destroyed. All had to re-learn some very elementary
us awake to see there is nothing out
living beings are energy. Whatever ex- and basic things (I say “re-learn” be-
there to be found. In meditation, there
ists is energy manifesting. The earth is cause I think I once knew them):
is nothing to be found out there that
much like ourselves: it belches, it namely, that yesterday belongs to yes-
would cure our minds. What is lies
breathes, and in its movement it gets terday, that yesterday’s bitterness can
within. Our innate wisdom is found by
rid of inner trash from its inner en- poison today, that sickness and death
seeing the reality of what is. We have
ergy. It changes just like we do, but it are a part of life, that I cannot hold on
all we need. There is nowhere to hide
lives on in birth and death, moment to to anyone or anything, and finally that
or run. We are special and when we
moment. Whatever dies, it takes and I am responsible and accountable for
live in a grateful world, the world will
renews. Like ourselves, we do not take all time for my actions. Yes, I know
be grateful as well. And so it is...
care of our earth. I think the earth they sound hauntingly familiar. In fact,
gets mad at times, just like we do. I claim them as my daily practice—
After all, aren't we destroying our en- Bodhicitta, cont'd from p. 2 the Five Remembrances [see. p. 9,
vironment, just like we do to other Ed.], but I now really have experiential
people? Maybe it is collective karma. bodhicitta—that it reduces all our knowledge of them; they are not just
fears and worries. The long-term bene- beautiful sentences from the Buddha
It is amazing that we cannot learn that I keep framed on my desk.
fit is that it totally eliminates them be-
from nature. We know from physics,
cause it is the main antidote to the And so, I would say that something
for example, that our hand is reborn
self-centered mind. Shantideva said, “I has happened to my heart. I feel as
moment to moment as a blur of rap-
invite every living being to this festival though the great big hand of the uni-
idly moving molecules and atoms,
giving both immediate and lasting verse has taken my puny heart in
each exchanging electrons and en-
joy.” In addition, bodhicitta is a prac- hand and kneaded it to a suppleness,
ergy with other molecules and atoms
tice that can be done by Buddhists a vulnerable porousness, a softness
at enormous speed. As a result, in no
and non-Buddhists alike because there that takes on, receives and blends
two instances is there the same hand,
is absolutely no conflict with any reli- with all suffering in this world, not
the same animal, the same rock. The
gion’s prevailing belief system, nor from any phony intellectual gleaning,
whole picture is reduced to energy
any conflict due to East-West differ- but an understanding from where suf-
and movement, just like the movement
ences in culture. fering can only be truly understood—
on our earth. As we are physically, it
is also necessary for us to change I remember one time, in particular, in the softness of the human heart.
mentally. We will do that eventually when I think I understood bodhicitta That day, I felt all barriers dissolve.
given enough time, but time is limited, and the emptiness that is its founda- There was no “I” no “others.” We
we only have NOW. tion. I was in the surgical waiting were all the same in our human joys,
room while my daughter was undergo- frailties and suffering. I believe that I
Early Buddhists, I'm told, did not have
ing surgery for breast cancer. I remem- went beyond just an intellectual under-
the benefit of modern physics, yet nev-
ber feeling a unity with all who had standing of emptiness that day, empti-
ertheless recognized total imperman-
experienced the same suffering; there ness which is part and parcel of
ence. Nothing abides for a moment.
was a sense of deep connection, a bodhicitta. I know we should not at-
In each instance, we find a different
sense that we were all in the same tach to feelings but I will never forget
picture, a changed universe. Why are
family. While I waited, I wrote in my the feeling of complete ease that day.
we physically and mentally this way?
Because this is the only way it can be

page 8 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

"There are these five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.
Which five?

"'I am subject to aging, have not gone beyond aging.' This is the first fact that one should reflect on often,
whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained.

"'I am subject to illness, have not gone beyond illness.' ...

"'I am subject to death, have not gone beyond death.' ...

"'I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.' ...

"'I am the owner of my actions,1 heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my
actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.' ...

"These are the five facts that one should reflect on often, whether one is a woman or a man, lay or ordained."
(from the Upajjhatthana Sutta: Subjects for Contemplation, trans. by Thanissaro Bhikkhu)

The Five Remembrances help us make friends with our fears of growing old, getting sick, being abandoned, and
dying. They are also a bell of mindfulness that can help us appreciate deeply the wonders of life that are available
here and now. But in the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteshvara teaches that there is no birth and no death. Why would
the Buddha tell us that we are of the nature to die if there is no birth and no death? Because in the Five
Remembrances, the Buddha is using the tool of relative truth. He is well aware that in terms of absolute truth,
there is no birth and death. (from Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, by Thich Nhat Hanh)

1) I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

2) I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.

3) I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

4) All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

5) My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on
which I stand.
fold along the dotted lines to make a convenient, business-card

Please feel free to tear out this sheet along the solid lines and

size. May these teachings inspire and benefit your practice!


page 9 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter

What Is, "Is"
Travis L. Adams (Bradenton, FL)

Great sages of time, speak of the Indus Valley Great sages of time reveal to me
Tell of the Himalayans, the two great rivers of time Speak the truth of the mid-way
Let be known, what is not written Concentration / focus
For there is no Dharma, sutras, nor teachers Do not come upon me Buddha! For I will beat you
Emptiness, can you see with my spoon
Buddha is the mind, mind is the Buddha “Quite!”
There’s only the practice Whisper into my mind great sages
Look, you shall not find, hear and you will see Speak to me the wisdom of time
Emptiness and impermanence Indus Valley, ancestors of time
The wheel turns, the key Avidya, see the moon Can you see
Escape Jaramarana, the grasp of “Yama” The Mountains walk, rivers flow, ride the white cloud
O great earth, reveal the great sages of time great ancestors of time
The secrets of the north, flow in the two great rivers Beyond the bush, hear the ox, no rope is needed
How deep, how shallow, for there is no duality Indus Valley, sit with me
Emptiness is emptiness / form is form Let it be known, nothing is written.
What is, - “is” and the wheel turns

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Gassho, BCCN Sangha. My name is visions of his own device. self-reliance. Stop trying to make
Ronald Couch, Jr. I’m serving a 1,072 sense of the elements of prison. Make
The Buddha provided that all phenom-
month federal sentence (approxim- sense of what’s trying to make sense!
ena are born of the mind. But don’t
ately 89.4 years) and since March of Instead of me leaving you with Mr.
just take his word on blind faith. Quite
1999 have been doing time at F C. I Adams’, “Shut up and practice!”, I
the contrary, the Buddha left the world
in Beckley in West Virginia. This is my end this comment with the actions of
with a last address: “Be a lamp unto
intro of sorts, to the readers, writers, silence and a bow—signifying wis-
yourselves.” Meaning: Realize for your-
and Dharma practitioners of the dom beyond words, and compassion,
self that the only true teachers are the
BCCN community. I have been silently respectively. Thus may we obtain the
universe and yourself. Therefore, “Shut
appreciating all your efforts for a Marrow of Bodhidharma.
up and practice!” and share in the ex-
couple of years now – and I gotta say
perience of Mr. Adams earning Bod- Ronald Couch, Jr.
that it wasn’t until I read the article by
hidharma’s Bones. Beaver, WV
Travis L. Adams, in Raiford, Florida
(BCCN, Volume 4, Issue 3, page 4) Fortunately, Zen Master Shunryu Su-
stressing a “Shut up and practice!” ap- zuki even said that sometimes you
proach that I felt dharmically oblig- have to say something. And so it was This is in response to the many excel-
ated to commit myself to join what I with the Buddha when he delivered lent writers, and my brothers and sis-
understand of his stance. the Deer Park sermon some two and ters who peruse the BCCN. I would
half millennia ago. So I rhetorically also like to specifically address Jeremy
Allow me to begin with a joke my fath-
ask you again: What was the monk Jones and mentor Florence.
er shared with me from Reader’s Di-
doing at the monastery? Oh yeah,
gest: Every ten years, the monks in the I thoroughly enjoy your sharing and
that’s right, he was supposed to be
monastery are allowed to break their all the thoughtful articles written by
there applying the Buddha’ antidote
vow of silence to speak two words. prisoners and mentors, those who em-
to his “Bad food – “Bed hard” – “I
Ten years go by and it’s one monk’s brace humanity and who are getting
quit!” mind.
first chance. He thinks for a second be- their compassionate life in order.
fore saying, “Food bad.” Ten years Mr. Adams, you said, “Practice is
later, he says, “Bed hard.” Another knowledge, knowledge is wisdom, wis- In response to Jeremy Jones (Tenshin
decade, it’s the big day; he gives the dom is the understanding of ignor- Hyo Sek) of Greencastle, Indiana. It
head monk a long stare, and says, “I ance.” With a little leeway, I’d like to seems we are homeboys of sorts, in
quit!” The head monk quickly re- modify it to: “Practice is knowledge that I lived in East Chicago, Indiana
sponds, “I’m not surprised. You’ve applied, knowledge applied skillfully years ago. ln my younger and way-
been complaining ever since you got is wisdom, wisdom is the disabuser of ward days, I frequented many haunts
here.” ignorance.” The “practice” is medita- and nighttime joints, around Gary, In-
tion—single-pointed concentration on diana, Hammond, Whiting, and Calu-
Ha! Now that’s funny – very character- met City, the sin city of the 50s and
whatever expedient is conducive with
istic of Buddhist behavior. So here we 60s. Included would be many of the
your temperament, to the gateway
have this one monk who spent thirty nightclubs of downtown Chicago. I
and beyond of absorption. The “know-
years in a meditation-conducive atmo- used to work in the steel mills in the
ledge”—in context—is the Dharma
sphere and only arrived at that the Harbor area, Youngstown Sheet and
(i.e., the second of the triple treas-
food was bad, his bed was hard, and Tube, and Inland Steel. I don’t think
ures); “applied” means “practice.”
that he didn’t want to be in this place they are there now. In my younger
Oh, look. We’ve come full circle. The
that slapped him in the face daily with days, I was a boxer, a street fighter,
result is wisdom. And just as wisdom
situations of dukkha. Had he invested who enjoyed getting my kicks into
is realized in degrees, ignorance is
a fraction of that time meditating on some bully. I’ve since overcome that
disabused in degrees. Only that
“MU!” or some other dharmic expedi- aggression as worthless energy and
which we have unnecessarily created
ent, then perhaps he would’ve directly not conducive to humanized living
stands between ourselves and enlight-
experienced that his true nature and and the practice that we serve.
enment. Thus, buck up to this path of
his discriminating mind are, indeed, di-

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In any event, you got it right Jeremy, you in our California prison system This is in response to Darwin Brown,
“never give up.” Our days are always and on our parole boards, people in Kingsley, MI, who wrote the article,
brighter when we start anew and who have a greater understanding of “Everything is New and Imperman-
atone. There is no failure in Buddhism. human behavior. Even in prison, I help ent” (BCCN, Vol. 4, Issue 3, p. 3).
There is no everlasting hell, and as you mentor a couple of COs, one who is
know, we create our hells, right here. It presently involved in a nasty divorce. I Your reflection upon present moment
is good to see that as a “nobody” you assist him with my experience of my was refreshing. Reminds me of the
have lots to offer your brothers in pris- tragedy of what not to do. Another of- classic Zen Mind, Beginners Mind.
on. We both might be a “nobody”, but ficer and I communicate about the Gassho.
all life is precious, and we’re all broth- Buddhist Dharma. He is a good listen- Ronald Couch, Jr.
ers and sisters, mothers and fathers to er and he thinks I should be released Beaver, WV
each other. Our DNA is connection. from prison. Again, we need people
Our births are connecting the maze of like you who have a compassionate
humanity. I assume you have taken the heart and have right understanding. I
precepts as your away-from-home enjoyed your article. Your brother in INVITING YOUR
names indicates. In Gassho, brother. the Dharma. May both your precious CONTRIBUTION
lives be filled with peace and happi-
As for Florence, the mentor. I would Your BCCN needs your
ness. In gassho.
like to respond that my detective contributions! How can you
friend, a neighbor in my hometown of contribute?
James L. Halbirt
St. Joseph, Missouri, saved my life in San Luis Obispo, CA Are you an artist? Perhaps you
one incident of madness. I felt I was ab- can offer a drawing or sketch
used and certainly was as a young per- that is inspired by your
son, and at 16 I was beaten up by practice.
police officers at the booking desk, Are you a poet? A short verse
This is in response to those who ask
who used clubs on me. It had an influ- of a few lines or a longer poem
about the problems of doing can be a beautiful way to share
ence upon my attitudes at that time
and in the future, and the fight was on. meditation in prison your insights with other
In regard to the problem of finding students.
They would have killed me out here in
California. This detective, my friend, quiet times and places to practice Do you have a story to share?
talked me down from an incident of their meditation, may I suggest Perhaps you could write a
personal essay about how your
“madness” that was about to occur. I jogging and/or running. Not only is it
practice has affected your life.
was a very strong and combative per- a component of a clean, healthy
son at that time, and it was like a swat lifestyle, but it is also a great way to Are you a fiction writer?
team incident, or something similar, Fiction can be a wonderful
focus on breathing and quiet the mind. vehicle for offering wisdom.
but they had no swat teams in those As with traditional forms of
days in that area. I was wounded from meditation, running takes practice.
Feeling less secure about your
another incident and was a victim, but abilities? Consider a letter to
One must start out slowly and build up respond to another student or
when they pulled me over, I didn’t take
their endurance. After you “get your to ask a question to which
it as help. To make a long story short, others can reply.
wind up” and work through the initial
my friend talked me down and I went
to the hospital for help. He was one bouts with shin splints, the breathing If you need help framing your
practices of running meditation get thoughts or need support to
friend that I listened to. He was not
bolster your confidence, your
only a cop, he was a friend and he easier - instinct kicks in. After a few
BCC mentor will be happy to
treated me as a friend. weeks of practice, you’ll find your help you.
pace, and with it comes peace.
There are good people in all phases of As always, your comments and
life, and we need people like you, suggestions for ways that we
G. A. Norrell can improve the BCCN are
Florence, who recognize that those
Carlisle, IN welcomed!
who suffer need help, not abuse or un-
told aggression. They need empathy, Revs. Adrienne & Richard Baksa
compassion, and assistance in their
troubles. We need more people like

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