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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.
INSIDE THIS ISSUE...
Articles The Concept of Emptiness, Carlee Hines 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, James Davie Art Untitled, Brian Alberer Orchids in the Wind, Travis L. Adams Ancient Eye, Travis L. Adams Letters Cesar Correal Henao Travis L. Adams James L. Halbirt Ronald Couch, Jr. Minister Willie Campbell
The Concept of Emptiness
Carlee Hines (St. Louis, MI)
hat is emptiness? Emptiness is the heart of the Dharma, what elevates you to Buddhahood. That entities have no fixed or independent nature is a fundamental Buddhist concept; nothing exists independently. It rejects as false the belief of one who envisions himself as being absolute and independent of all other existences. People think emptiness means nothingness, but it is not “empty” or being empty. It means that all things are changing every moment. If things truly had a definite, enduring substance or entity, then no change or flow would be possible. Because nothing has self-nature, everything is possible. Emptiness teaches how to destroy the mental fantasy and hallucinations brought on by ego. It brings you an entirely different experience of reality. When you have strong contact with your senses, your ego arises, incredibly strongly. For example, 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 experienced in your life right up until this moment is not you. The moment you identify yourself as something, you are something else. You will really begin to experience emptiness only when you look simply and practically at your own ego’s view. It is not our sense perceptions that cause us to grasp, it’s our mental consciousness, 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 keep the mind under constant control. They should neither grasp nor become attached to the passing things of the senses or concepts and moods of the mind. With mind training you can easily experience emptiness and thereby release your ego’s fantasy, for example, releasing your concrete projection of “I”, which is in fact completely nonexistent, opposite to the vision of emptiness. With intensive awareness, you will see the strongly hallucinatory projection, which then disappears. At that moment, you experience emptiness. When you realize the non-self existence of the concrete projection of “I,” it completely disappears into nothingness. Everything becomes “empty” when you realize emptiness—all concrete concepts of ego vanish. When you realize emptiness, you can truly realize attachment, delusion, ego, impermanence, nonexistence, the nature of reality, etc. You will stop thinking of the way things should be and start seeing them as they really are. Thus, emptiness is the vehicle to the path of liberation. Emptiness is symbolized by a sword, the wisdom sword of emptiness. It penetrates all obstacles and cuts through all delusions.
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Does a Buddhist Practitioner Have Faith?
The BCCN is distributed at no charge to those taking the Buddhist Correspondence Course. This is your newsletter–by you, about you, and for you. You are the major contributors, so send us your questions, problems, solutions you've found to difficulties in practice, thoughts you have on practice, artwork, poetry, etc. Due to limited space, some editing may be necessary. We also welcome your comments on the newsletter and suggestions for ways we might improve it to serve you better. Please mail all correspondence to: Buddhist Correspondence Course c/o Rev. Richard Baksa 2020 Route 301 Carmel, NY 10512
any Westerners who come to Buddhism were raised in a different religious tradition, such as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. In those religions, the role of faith is relatively straightforward; faith is directed toward God. But how do we think about faith in the context of a non-theistic religion like Buddhism? Is faith wholesome or unwholesome? What did the Buddha say about faith? How does faith develop? In different teachings, the Buddha lauded different sets of qualities as conducive to enlightenment. An often cited set of wholesome qualities that he taught are called the ‘five spiritual faculties.’ Faith is one of these five spiritual faculties. The faculties are: 1. faith or conviction or belief (saddhā) 2. energy or persistence or perseverance (viriya) 3. mindfulness or memory (sati) 4. concentration or focus (samādhi) 5. wisdom or understanding or comprehension (pañña) In Buddhism, faith is directed toward the Buddha’s awakening, toward the Dharma, which is the truth of his teaching, and toward the sangha, the community 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 our own capacity for spiritual development and liberation. So from this perspective, faith is wholesome However, we are also cautioned against one spiritual faculty overpowering and inhibiting the other faculties. To prevent one faculty dominating another, it is recommend 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 and groundlessly. Faith that is not balanced by wisdom is blind faith. We can see this in religious fundamentalism of all sorts. Indeed, in the Kalama Sutta the Buddha himself argues against "blind faith." This kind of faith is unwholesome. On the other hand, one strong in understanding and weak in faith may become cunning and scheming. Such a person may be a good debater, but their heart is hard and their reasons for learning lack compassion. In one sutta, Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s beloved disciples says this about the five faculties: “These five faculties, if cultivated and regularly practiced, lead to the Deathless, are bound for the Deathless, end in the Deathless." In other words, practicing these five faculties can lead to enlightenment. So, we are instructed to strive for a balance of faith and wisdom. For me, my faith was sparked the first time I saw a bikkhuni (nun). She was so beautiful and happy. I could see that she knew how to lead a good life. She inspired faith in me. Now my faith is strong. I entrust myself to the triple gem. continued on p. 3 Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Let us know if we may use your full name or just initials.
To receive copies of any of the resources listed below, please write to Rev. Richard Baksa at the address above. • A listing by state of Buddhist groups that may be able to send volunteers to your prison to conduct Buddhist activities. • The "Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000." This guarantees equal access for all religions to prison facilities for the purpose of religious meetings. • “What is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act?” This explains the Act and how it is to be applied.
What is Enlightenment?
Bill Ritter (Eloy, AZ) hat is it to obtain enlightenment? In our Sangha, few other topics have inspired such intimate and intense discussions and caused such thought and contemplation as the meaning of the term “to reach enlightenment.” Is it a sudden spark of clarity in which a person is able to underBrian Alberer stand the true reality of the world in which we exist? Is it a sudden insight into ourselves which in turn leads to the ability to understand the connectedness of 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 out of reach. It is said that enlightenment is indescribable and unimaginable. It is described as a state which takes many lifetimes to achieve. In the Seeker’s Glossary of Buddhism, a description of enlightenment is “to achieve Buddhahood.” According to the Mahayana view this is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all beings. After much contemplation and thought, I can’t help but wonder that since the word “Buddha” means one who is awakened, that maybe enlightenment isn’t a state of mind or consciousness at all. Maybe enlightenment is the never-ending search for more wisdom, more compassion, and more personal insight. Maybe to become enlightened really means to become truly aware that as humans we need to constantly keep trying to better ourselves by becoming more compassionate with each other and the world around us. Maybe it is the search for never-ending wisdom in a time when so many are content to stay stuck in a state of ignorance and egoism. If so, enlightenment is an unobtainable state, a daily journey to better ourselves for the selfless reason to benefit others. Maybe this is the true meaning of god-like state. No matter what the true meaning of enlightenment is, it is useless to spend much energy on what might be or what might happen. Instead, as one member of my group said, we should put our efforts into the present moment by continuing to better ourselves, and being ever more conscious of the suffering of those around us. We should stay focused in the present moment, because only in the actions we make in the present moment do we change our future for the better.
It’s often said that the Buddhist way is not to grasp. But that can become 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 total confusion because of the limitation of language and perception. You have to go beyond language and perception. And the only way to go beyond thinking and emotional habit is through awareness of them, through awareness of thought, through awareness of emotion. ‘The Island that you cannot go beyond’ is the metaphor for this state of being awake and aware, as opposed to the concept of becoming awake and aware. Ajahn Sumedho
Faith, cont'd from p. 2 We are all at different places on our spiritual paths. Your faith in the beginning may be very small. You may come from a background where cleverness and scheming was valued more than faith. Enlightenment may seem a long way off. But, we can head in that direction. What about you? How can you water the seeds of faith that lie deep in your consciousness? The truth is, you are already watering those wholesome seeds. You are cultivating faith by taking this Course, reading this newsletter, taking up a practice that will lead you in toward truth and beauty. You have cultivated good karma that has brought you to the Dharma, and that is already very good.
Travis L. Adams (Raiford, FL)
James Davie (Brent, AL) From chaotic clouds To a sea of sadness Venomous visions fall False impressions Invented imaginary things Nothing is real Falling from grace Stepping into dukkha My shoes are messy again.
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Michael Collier (Iowa Park, TX)
Letting Go The easiest way to work on letting go and letting be is to notice your tendency to want things to be different from what they are and to practice giving up that strong preference. The Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen sang, "The Way is not difficult for those who have few preferences." There are many means to letting go, from surrendering to God's will, if that is your faith, to undertaking the mind-training techniques of Buddhism. The following are a few simple steps that aid the practice of letting go, regardless of your beliefs or religious affiliation. Fundamentally, letting go requires just two steps: (1) becoming aware of whatever arises within the field of your experience or consciousness, and then (2) becoming aware of how you relate to it. Because our minds cycle through so many thoughts in the course of a day, or even a minute, they are a good place to start in the practice of letting go. First, practice being aware of whatever arises in your experience--a physical sensation, thought, or emotion--rather than repressing, suppressing, or ignoring it. Second, try to observe whatever arises, without judgment or reaction. Third, investigate and examine the feeling, thought, or emotion, without bringing external or internal activity to bear on it. Fourth, if the thought, feeling, or sensation requires that you act, decide how to channel your energy into action, or Fifth, simply release the sensation, thought, or feeling, recognizing the transitory, empty nature of all experiences. Lama Surya Das
Christopher Brainerd (Eloy, AZ)
am not a Buddhist, but I do seek truth through an inner way. I also seek peace within myself and with my brothers. Many of the concepts I’ve found in Buddhism I believe are more clearly stated and better understood by its teachers and students than in other religions. But still it’s just a religion, a system that depends on our understanding and the quality of our interpretation of the principles the system embodies. Just as religion is made up of a universal principle or truth, we each are made from a single source as well. This source has no beginning or end, encompassing the whole of creation of which it is not only a part but the whole of what we really are. Whether rich or poor, male or female, white, black, brown, yellow, or red, we are all a single entity. The spark of life in every living thing is the same. Only in the lower realms of expression do we see this difference—or rather its appearance—and have the ability to be fooled by it. To understand the spiritual teaching of the Buddha, one must think and apply these concepts to his or her own life. You can do this in any physical location, loud or not, by turning inward, by thinking about what you have studied, your own life, and the world around you. The physical world is an illusion and as long as we are fascinated by the illusion, we’ll be bound to it. Let us look to what is the same for all of us and to our struggles to turn inward to that sameness and the wellspring of knowledge shared by one and all rather than to the esoteric differences that are a part of our suffering.
I need this body to pursue the Way. I must not risk harm. I need this mind to seek the Way. I must not risk unwholesome influences. I need time to practice precepts. I must avoid distractions. I need a wholesome mind to clear the Way. I must avoid evil. I need material things to live and give. I must not waste. I need this life to progress towards Enlightenment. I must not squander it. Anything that deters me from the Way must be avoided. Not for my sake, but for the sake of my future lives, the goal of Enlightenment, and the eventual relief of others’ suffering. Be selfless but don’t be foolish. How do I know when I am acting wisely? Ask myself: 1) Does this serve my Path to Enlightenment? 2) Is it selfless? 3) Is it not an undue burden, following the Middle Way? How do I prepare myself to act wisely? 1) Nurture a clear mind through meditation. 2) Expel intoxicating emotions through mindfulness. 3) Learn selfless behavior by practicing the Precepts.
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Watching Your Company
Ariya Bantu (Chippewa, MI)
t is extremely important to guard your mind. This means watching your company, for they can disrupt and poison your mind and spiritual energy. The Dhammapada, verse 61, specifically states: “Avoid companionship with the foolish.” “If as the disciple fares alone, he meets no companion who is better or equal, let him firmly pursue his solitary career. There is no fellowship with the foolish.” Verse 76 specifically states: “Associate with the wise who try to correct you.” “Should one see a wise man, who, like a revealer of treasure, points out faults and reproves; let one associate with such a wise person; it will be better, not worse, for him who associates with such a one.” This reminds me of a wonder story regarding the assimilation of the mind as it concerns companionship. A lion cub can never really be like a donkey; in its claws, its head, its whole body, it is completely a lion. But if it were to spend all its time with donkeys, it would start to lose its bravery, and the donkeys would begin to think it was one of them. It would gradually change its own spirit, its nature, and its habits, and take on the characteristics of a donkey. It would start to bray like a donkey, eat filthy things, and bathe in dirty water in the streets, as donkeys do. If it did this for long, then only its body would be a lion's. All its inner characteristics would be a donkey’s. It would slowly forget its bravery and courage, its love of the forest solitude, its species, its habits, and all the ways of a lion. It would live in the streets of villages and towns. And then one day a washerman would come along looking for a beast to carry the dirty clothes of the town, and along with all the donkeys, the lion would have to journey to and from the washing place carrying dirty clothes. But it page 5
would never think it was a lion that had turned into a donkey. It would think that, since donkeys are in the majority, it had improved itself. Just as the lion in the story spent all his time with donkeys and began to conform to the donkey’s way of life, humans, too, when immersed with negative people tend to assimilate, over time, that negativity. Perhaps the Mahasiddhas said it best: “You should not undermine your sadhana by listening to the opinions of evil, leering types of people whose minds are perverted and whose habits are bad. If you do find yourself in the company of some hypocrite who distorts everything, don’t let yourself be dragged down into his world.” “Never disparage the Guru. This will deflect you from your sadhana and lead you into delusion. If there is enmity, jealousy, falsehood, and gossip among brother disciples so that the code of conduct of the Guru’s family is broken, and if instead of meditating and studying you allow your minds to become agitated by quarrels, then the inner shakti will gradually become weakened. Weeping, shouting, conceit, and hurting other people are not the marks of service to the Guru.” “There is one thing that you must remember: The shakti that is active and growing within you is the Guru himself. You should therefore be careful about the company you keep, so that the purity of your sadhana is maintained. Bad company is dangerous, even fatal, so make a firm resolve to avoid it. When a man keeps the wrong company, all the bad features of a demon are automatically fostered in him, and he behaves like a demon. The noble qualities are destroyed.” “Just as a drop of sour curd can spoil a whole ocean of milk, so bad company can lead to every kind of evil. It can make you gossip about everyone
and talk ill of them; it can make you indiscreet, arrogant, impure, full of animosity; it can make you behave dishonestly; it can draw you to movies and plays and to eat impure foods in restaurants. Siddha students must be extremely careful to avoid bad company, for it reduces the momentum of the inner shakti.” Please, my Dharma Brothers and Sisters, guard your minds by watching your company. Otherwise, you will degenerate, descend from the pure land to the hell realms. Yours in the Dharma.
I find it wrong that in our modern society we tend to reject people who have committed crimes prisoners, for example. The result is that often the people themselves lose hope. They lose their sense of responsibility and discipline. The result is more tragedy, more suffering, and more unhappiness for all. I think that it is important for us to convey a clear message to these people: "You are also a part of our society. You also have a future. You must, however, transform your mistakes or negative deeds, and should no longer make these mistakes. You must live responsibly as good citizens." from An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, by H.H. the Dalai Lama
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Willie E. Campbell (Angola, LA)
We dance a tune to Nature’s eternal form and grace. Tis no limit to time – No limit to space. From afar we’ve come to manifest as sparks upon this canvas of life. We’re yet to truly know and understand our eternity – to fully grasp our eternal light. Sojourners along this path are we – temporarily houses in materiality. The moment of our entry Will be with blinding likeness in the end – for when and where this illusion of life will stop
Orchids in the Wind Travis L. Adams (Sarasota, FL)
The explosion of Reality will begin.
James Davie (Brent, AL) I contemplate Enlightenment – for the welfare of all beings And give thanks to the Buddha – for all that I’m seeing I’m seeing a new way – to live out each day As I get ready for another – and begin to pray I pray for peace – for everyone’s mind Loving kindness – is what I hope they will find To find it and hold it – close to their hearts May it stay and grow – may it never depart
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
Dearest Dharma friends: Years ago I was the most miserable person you can imagine. I was full of anger, hatred, attachment for women, money, and I could not love anybody, not even myself. However, it took coming to prison to find the best gift I have ever had in my whole life - the gift that I am talking about is the precious teachings of Buddha “Dharma”. By studying Dharma, I came to realize the importance of mindfulness. Through mindfulness I can understand the wrong concept of “I” or “me”. This labeled “I” or “me” have been the cause of my evil deeds that I have done to others, and obviously it has harmed me as well. Through practicing the Path, we gradually rid our mind of all its false conceptions, dualistic attitudes, and negativities. This achievement is possible because the delusions obscuring the mind are not one with the mind. The mind is temporarily afflicted with these delusions. The nature of the mind is clear and vast, limitless like a cloudless sky. I send my love and prayers to each one of you. Cesar Correal Henao. Garden City, GA This is in response to Elton Houston (BCCN Vol. 4, Issue 2), who responded to Carlee Hines (“Buddhism and It’s Purpose” [BCCN Vol. 4, Issue 1]). Elton Houston stated that the end of suffering is not the final goal, that the ultimate objective is the experience of Nirvana. I would like to comment on that. page 7
To speak the truth is very important in this area. Although Mr. Houston may be correct in this view, it’s to be noted, and very important to be made crystal clear, this is the view of the Hinayana tradition and not that of the higher scope of the Mahayana. The sole purpose for one’s enlightenment is in fact to finalize all suffering. This is the true teaching of the Tathagta within the higher Tripitaka of the Mahayana tradition, as taught by the Yogacara and Madhyamika schools. Nirvana is not enlightenment and is a selfish state of being. It is merely a state of awakening of the third eye, the first glimpse of enlightenment. And yes, Mr. Houston, even Buddhism, the Dharma, in order to have a direct realization of emptiness, to see emptiness directly and everything in one moment of existence, it must be let go of. Please refer to the middle-way teachings of the great Nagarajuna, also the Ornament for Clear Realization by Maitreya. This is also supported by the Great Shantideva in “Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds.” Mr. Houston, sir, the ultimate goal of the Buddhist practice is far from the state of nirvana, and yes, per the Tathagata and everything ever taught in Buddhism, it is to end all suffering. And if this could be done without enlightenment, then so be it. Plain and simply put, if there were no suffering, there would be no Buddhism, thus no Nirvana. I will stop here, sir, before we go into 800 chapters of emptiness and true reality. As for the limitations of the bodhisattva within the teaching skillful means, a bodhisattva may work for the benefit of another, to end suffering, participate in deeds of nonmerit, and then enter into the purification of the Tantric Vajrasattva. This is due to his understandings of not only the workings of karma in relation
to emptiness, but the true understanding of the entrance to the great Mahayana Path of “Great Compassion” – it is different than mere” compassion. I wish you and your practice well, Mr. Houston. Gassho. Travis L. Adams Raiford, FL In an earlier issue of the BCCN (Vol. 5, Issue 1, pages 8-9) Sanderson Becker wrote in response to an article by James Halbirt in Vol. 4, Issue 4 (pp. 12), “Prison Doesn’t Work Unless You Make It Work.” Mr. Halbirt now responds to Mr. Becker. Dear Sanderson, I accept your apology while none is really needed. No. I have never been in a hard level #4 prison, but I have been in hell and I can sympathize with your predicament. And I will not pretend to make a judgment about it. I can and will feel empathy and compassion for all those who suffer, including you. After 38 plus years in prison, I have a knowledgeable understanding of prison life; which would include dropouts, including some from Pelican Bay State Prison. I’ve found in my studies of life that when we forgive, we tend to have less misery in our lives. Who knows what karmic obstacles you have created in a past life, and has matured in this one? I have no idea what you did to get in such a super-max prison, but still I can have empathy for your situation. I have had some hellish moments that I will not elaborate on, but being whipped with fan belts and oth-
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
er abuse tends to influence your attitude. My position today is to change that attitude by living in a grateful world. Sometimes we just have to find it, but it lies within your reach. As for bed space, come to CMC-E and you will find you have less bed space than where you are. And yes, you’re right, I am fortunate to be where I am, but even this place is getting worse. You can pursue a path of wisdom by meditation, accusing you of being less a person than me. This was not my intent. I have some knowledge of some inmates that have no soul and appear on the surface to be unchangeable. If I could change places with you I would. Maybe I could teach the Dharma to your keepers who are making you miserable. I am also sure that many in your situation are there because they made choices that landed them there. Further, I hope you have it in you to find the path to wisdom, to eliminate any affliction you may have. Some inmates cannot even make it in this type of prison. Far too many are in PC and would rather live in confinement. I wish you peace and happiness in your search to be what you can be. In closing, I have the privilege and honor to remain, yours in Dharma, in metta and Gassho. James L. Halbirt Crescent City, CA This is in response to James L. Halbirt’s article, "Hands," in the BCCN (Vol. 4, Issue 3, p. 3). Wooowww – that was a profound compilation of realized thoughts. I’m looking forward to your advancing the question from “How have they [your hands] served or hundered you? To the context of the “mind”. Gassho. Ronald Couch, Jr. Beaver, WV page 8
This is a comment for Abner Chambers Old in Madras, OR, who asked “A Question for the Sangha” (BCCN, Vol. 4, Issue 3, p. 11). First, I’d like to offer you a suggestion regarding your fasting practice being limited by institutional mandates. Coordinate your meditation and fasting schedule through the Chaplain so he or she may notify the appropriate staff of your nontraditional religious practices. Should you require lawful authorities, in addition to the “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000” and the “What is the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act?” provided by the BCCN upon request, try 544 U.S. 712, as well as the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights. The former is a U.S. Supreme Court case concerning nontraditional religions’ practitioners and rights of institutionalized persons. The latter provides that a human has the right to say/declare that their religions, and practices thereof, are whatever believed to be so by the adherent. Secondly, not to be critical of your statements, but on the one hand, you say you don’t earn enough to “eat-incell” as an alternative to avoid the distractions of the “visually pleasing boys … in prison and after on the streets,” yet you open your question revealing that you face the threat of suicidewatch for going days without a meal because of meditation. That said, I’d like to share the famous anecdote of “Severing an Arm for the Pursuit of the Dharma” of the Second Chan Patriarch Lineage. Huei-ko reached the cave at Shao Lin Temple where the renowned Master Bodhidharma was meditating. At the gate of the cave, he earnestly besought the Master’s permission to ask a few questions concerning Dharma practice. The Great Master, however,
simply kept on sitting there silently and motionlessly, and did not appear to notice that anything was gong on. Huei-ko knelt on his knees patiently and perserverently at the cave’s entrance, waiting for a response for a long, long time. Gradually, as nightfall came, it began snowing very hard. In no time, Huei-ko was covered up to his ankles, calves, and knees; ultimately being buried from his thighs down. Still, Huei-Ko didn’t stir, and as gradually as nightfall arrived, so it passed. At dawn, finally the Great Master Bodhidharma suddenly spoke sternly, “What are you trying to do over there?” Surprised and overwhelmed with joy, Huei-ko implored anxiously, “I would like to ask Your Mastership to instruct me concerning the Essentials of Buddha’s Dharma.” To this, much to Huei-ko’s surprise, Bodhidharma snapped gravely, “The Dharmas of the Buddhas are so pure and precious, and so hard to come upon! And now, with all those impure Karmas of yours, your overriding haughtiness, your outstanding pride, your unbearable arrogance together with that slighting attitude of yours – how could you ever expect to hear anything of it? How could you ever wish to obtain the deepest secret in such a causal and offhand fashion?” By these remarks, the Master meant that Huei-ko had not endeavored enough to purify his Karma. Huei-ko was confounded and despaired for a while. He would not know what more he could do to convince the Master about his faith and sincerity, nor did he know what merits or qualities he would need, and what deeds he should accomplish so as to be accepted by the Master. All of a sudden, Huei-ko had his mind made up: producing a camping knife from his bag, he chopped off his own left arm, and presented it to Bodhidharma.
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
After the arm had been presented (which symbolizes relinquishing even one’s own dearest and most cherished body for the sake of Enlightenment), the Master then inquired, “What now do you want of me?” Huei-ko immediately went down on his knees and entreated “Master, my Mind is ill at ease. Please, Great Master, help me ease my Mind!” At this, Bodhidharma quickly responded, “Fetch me your Mind, and I will ease it for you!” Quite taken aback by such a reply, Huei-ko hesitated and mused to himself for quite a while, and then remarked, “Master, I have searched all over my being, and yet my Mind is nowhere to be found!” As soon as Huei-ko had uttered these words, Bodhidharma snapped, “Quite so! I have already eased your Mind for you!” Quite so, Abner Chambers Olds, with all that impure Karma of yours, e.g., fear of succumbing to your attraction for “visually pleasing boys,” fear of the consequences of what other prisoners may do to you in the chow hall for succumbing to your latter attraction, lust for “visually pleasing boys” be they “in prison and later on the streets”, and, essentially, attachment to the human form – finding it most beautiful and desirable (and loathsome?), and your overriding haughtiness, outstanding pride, and unbearable arrogance, together with that slighting attitude of yours (e.g., just read over your preceding article addressing Mr. Dehart writing of the ego and emotions that are born thereof, and then read again the entirety of your question for the Sangha) – how could you ever expect to hear anything of the Essentials of Buddha’s Dharma when your tea cup is full? Indeed, Abner Chambers Old, fetch me your Mind, and I will ease it for you! – showing you how one just eats in a chow hall. And since your temperament uses the expedients of visualpage 9
izations to “release you from your distractions,” then dispense with tormenting yourself with meditations on the hell realms, as well as the channeling of primal ignorance through the animal realms, and complete the circuit of antidotes when you meditate on the loathesomeness of this human body. For instance, your latter meditations resound in “The Nine Visualizations on a Corpse.” If this is the case, then this antidote demolishes lust and all kinds of attachments. However, you seem to end up with a lingering aversion for “now discernably disgusting bodies.” Because our path is one of equanimity, try adding “The White Bone Visualization” to cure your Illusive Differentiations, enabling you to see through the superficial layer of skin and flesh, and to see the “Ultimate Reality” of the Bones – that all men are fundamentally alike or equal … meaning, no more visually pleasing boys in prison or on the streets, and no more discernibly disgusting bodies … just the ridiculous delusions of animated skeletons caught up in performing the same acts of individuation expecting different results. Gassho. Ronald Couch, Jr. Beaver, WV Dearest friends: Recently, I was presented the following to ponder upon and respond to: “In remembering the past, what will you do to contribute to a brighter future?” It is my pleasure to share my thoughts with you: In remembering the past, an attempt is made toward linking what has been to what occurs today. Thinking, which isolates transpiring manifestations as a thing (or things) strictly unfolding in the instant, erases away the longstanding fact of interconnectedness between events that have left
seeds of evidence substantiating the theory of ongoing experience from one generation to the next. It is often sensible to revisit the old adage: “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them in the present.” Contributing to a brighter future? Who can say that fifty years ago in the past wasn’t a step forward into a brighter future by those of that time who believed themselves to be cultivators of their knowledge, themed by the results of their sowing and reaping? Or, that the founders of any past society didn’t see that: each and every flaw was nothing more than a swing downwards of the karmic pendulum – resulting, sooner or later, in a inevitable upward swing into lessons well learned, capitalized upon, and given them (that society they founded) as necessary steps to growth and a brighter future for those who were to come after them? Like any other torch, we pass the light of our experiences to the generations succeeding us. Today’s efforts around the globe to uplift humanity from every personal slumber will have brilliant effects for an impersonal, universal realization of brotherhood. Knowing no bounds, no limitations, no selfish borders on seeing in others the strand of divinity we see in ourselves, along with a gentle song of productive progress that will look back on the pains of the past as blessed stepping stones – for our collective growth and higher level of understanding. It is with the aforementioned realizations that we who are incarcerated can leap into the ocean of human progress – remembering the past and its lessons learned without anger about any former suffering we have not the power to change. For we are each a tiny speck of divine radiance shining throughout time, with other specks like
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
ourselves: an illumination of today’s wisdom within each of us thrives as an undeniable testament of all that we are from the cradle to the grave... along with all that we are here to be in the universal family of sojourners living, learning, experiencing, and eventually sowing seeds of continual life. The past is present today in the future; being made brighter with each step we take. There is, truly, RIGHT now. This very instant. Humanity is right now. Universal Brotherhood is right now. Human Kindness is right now. Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is right now. Understanding past mistakes is right now. Recognizing the common good in all mankind/humankind is right now. Acknowledging the very best in ourselves for the sake of those who will come stumbling along in our once wayward footsteps is RIGHT now. I remember the past. I remember it NOT in terms of failures alone, but as a necessary step forward realized in heart, soul, and mind. I remember the trials, the errors, the agony(ies) of human injustice, the perils of human misunderstandings throughout time that now serve as atrocities we can learn from and hope never to repeat again. Right now, the opportunity is given to me to be the change I want to see in the world. From being a living blessing to my family and friends, to doing what I can to enhance love in the world. I can only carry the load I’m given, but will not fail to see the conditions of others as my own as well. I’ll want for myself a heart big enough to share my light with everyone. That’s the key. That’s the magic of remembering where I’ve come from. That is the truth I humbly embrace: a brighter future in this very instant; envisioned for those who come after me to collect the torch of Universal Brotherpage 10
hood and compassion I carry. And when it is time that I leave this plane of being, I will do so with hope that I have said and done things that have contributed lovingly to brighter tomorrows – seen in the todays thereof. With peace, love, and many blessings. Minister Willie Campbell Angola, LA DEFINITIONS
Some students have asked for definitions of terms used in Buddhism. We'll offer a few from time to time. Please write if you have particular terms you'd like us to cover. Buddha: An epithet of those who successfully break the hold of ignorance, liberate themselves from cyclic existence, and teach others the path to liberation. Derived from the Sanskrit root budh, "to awaken," it refers to someone who attains nirvana through meditative practice and the cultivation of such qualities as wisdom, patience, and generosity. Such a person will never again be reborn within cyclic existence, as all the cognitive ties that bind ordinary beings to continued rebirth have been severed. Through their meditative practice, buddhas have eliminated all craving and defilements. The buddha of the present era is referred to as "Sakyamuni" ("Sage of the Sakyas"). He was born Siddhartha Gautama, a member of the Sakya clan. --from A Concise Encyclopedia of Buddhism, by John Powers Dharma: As doctrine, Dharma means the teachings of Buddha, and Buddhism in general. Dharma is a moral imperative for a Buddhist, for it is through observing the Buddha’s teachings that one can reach enlightenment and nirvana. By following the Dharma one will see immediate results; one will experience it at once, without lag. Dharma in this sense is a means toward salvation. This then is the religious imperative behind Buddhism as a whole. Dharma is
what makes Buddhism relevant, today as well as in the past. The dharmas of existence: Early Buddhism used the idea of dharmas to mean elements of existence. The idea embraced all aspects of reality, including mind. Some schools also included unconditioned aspects of reality, such as those found in the state of Nirvana, while other schools meant the term dharmas to apply to only the objects of consciousness. --from The Encyclopedia of Buddhism, by Edward A. Irons Sangha: The Buddhist community, especially those who have been ordained as monks (bhiksu) and nuns (bhiksuni) but originally referring to the ‘fourfold sangha’ of monks, nuns, laymen (upasaka), and laywomen (upasika). The minimal requirements for admission to the Sangha are faith in the ‘three jewels’ (triratna) of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, usually demonstrated in the act of ‘taking refuge.’ Laypeople are expected to keep the Five Precepts while monks and nuns follow code of over 200 rules. --from A Dictionary of Buddhism, by Damien Keown Three Refuges and Precepts: The ‘three refuges’, namely the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, particularly when used as a profession of faith. The formal procedure by which a layman becomes a Buddhist is by ‘taking refuge’, which involves repeating three times the formula ‘I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha’. The utterance of this formula is followed by recital of the Five Precepts. The three refuges are also referred to as the ‘three jewels’ (triratna). --from A Dictionary of Buddhism, by Damien Keown
Buddhist Correspondence Course Newsletter
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