Monday, August 30, 2010

Dharma Talk Summary - Rebirth

August 29, 2010
Talk Given by Hae Doh Sunim
22 Minutes

The Dhammapada reading this week is the Cula-Malunkyovad Sutta: The Shorter instructions to Malunkya. It is found in the Majjhima Nikaya and is the 63rd sermon. It can be read in its entirety at Access to Insight.

Since this week's Dharma Talk was longer than usual and lacking the time to transcribe the entire talk we are starting to experiment with posting the audio recordings. The volume may be a bit low and some people may experience background white noise. I'm opinion to your opinions on whether you prefer the written transcriptions or audio recordings. If the audio streams work, then I may invest in purchasing a higher quality microphone to improve the audio quality in the future. Anyway, here is the first audio Dharma Talk for your listening.

DVD Spotlight - Unmistaken Child

The Buddhist concept of reincarnation, while both mysterious and enchanting, is hard for most Westerners to grasp. UNMISTAKEN CHILD follows the 4-year-search for the reincarnation of Lama Konchog, a world-renowned Tibetan master who passed away in 2001 at age 84. The Dalai Lama charges the deceased monk s devoted disciple, Tenzin Zopa (who had been in his service since the age of seven), to search for his master s reincarnation -- a child who may be anywhere in the world. Tenzin sets off on foot, mule and even helicopter, through breathtaking landscapes and remote traditional Tibetan villages. He listens to stories about children with special characteristics, performs rituals and rarely seen tests designed to determine the likelihood of reincarnation, and eventually presents his chosen one to the Dalai Lama, who will make the final decision.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Buddhist Podcasts

A while back I posted a link to DharmaDots, a Buddhist RSS Aggregator and News Hub website, which links to several different Buddhist blogs around the internet. Today, I was asked which podcasts I listen to and while I don't currently know of any Buddhist Podcast directory I thought I would put one here. Below are links to several Buddhist podcasts which you may find enjoyable. These are just the ones I subscribe to or listen to currently as I'm sure there are more out there. Feel free to share if I forgot one!

Zencast (Arguably the largest and most comprehensive Buddhist podcast available. Updated often.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

'Balu-gongyang': Korean monastic temple-meals

Buddhists have always regarded eating as a highly important religious act, nourishing the body properly so that development of the mind might continue to progress smoothly. What one eats and how one eats it are very significant, and ought to be approached with
a conscious seriousness and sincerity. Further, our daily meals are recurring opportunities for expanding and deepening our awareness, as a type of meditation in themselves

``Balu-gongyang’’ is our name for the traditional and formal communal meal practice unique to Korean Buddhist temples, using four bowls of different sizes and not wasting even a speck of food. Monks themselves do not eat this way at every meal, as some are taken more informally, but generally practice it in ceremonial situations and during seasonal intensive meditation sessions. This way-of-eating has, over the many centuries, become an integral feature of the Seon practices of the Jogye Order, and these days it is an important component of the templestay programs operated at many of the great monasteries across this nation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New Complete Translation of Dogen's ShoboGenzo now available!

Shambhala Publications has a newly published collection that was released last week.
Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (Shobo Genzo, in Japanese) is a monumental work, considered to be one of the profoundest expressions of Zen wisdom ever put on paper, and also the most outstanding literary and philosophical work of Japan. It is a collection of essays by Eihei Dogen (1200–1253), founder of Zen’s Soto school.

Meditation For A Stronger Brain

Researchers say a type of meditation called integrative mind-body training can strengthen connections in certain areas of the brain, even when practiced for as little as 11 hours. Psychologist Michael Posner describes the study, and explains the brain changes he documented.

DVD Spotlight - Departures

Departures was the film chosen for Muddy Water Zen's most recent film screening this past Saturday evening. This past Sunday was also the Ullambana service, which helps us remember and pay respects to our ancestors and reminds us of the inevitability of death. Departures is a film that deals with this subject and which also won the Academy Award for best Foreign Film in 2009 and is also the recipient of 32 other awards.

Daigo Kobayashi is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled "Departures" thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of "Nokanshi," acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Wastefulness of Decluttering; or How to Make Less Count for More

‘It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.’ ~Bertrand Russell

I know there are many of you who want to declutter, or who have already gotten started … but you hit a roadblock.

And it’s a big one: you don’t want to be wasteful. Your gut tells you that getting rid of perfectly good things — things that cost a pretty penny to get in the first place — is wasteful as hell...[continued at ZenHabits]

University offers course on Buddhist depression therapy

THE first course in Scotland using a non-pharmaceutical technique to treat depression has been launched at Aberdeen University.

Doctors, nurses, psychotherapists and teachers have signed up for the part time MSc in mindfulness, a revolutionary Buddhist-based non-medication approach to dealing with the condition.... [continued]

Outdoors and Out of Reach, Studying the Brain

It is a small thing, the kind of change many vacationers notice in themselves as they unwind and lose track of time. But for Mr. Braver and his companions, these moments lead to a question: What is happening to our brains? .... [continued on NYTimes]

The Future of Buddhism in the West

Over the past 50 years or so, the Buddhist teachings have taken root (to a certain extent) in our Western culture. Many great teachers have worked hard to translate these teachings and practices into English and European languages and into forms that are accessible to Western students. Within some Buddhist schools, on the other hand, the students have been required to learn the traditional forms in their original language and cultural setting.... [continued here.]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dharma Talk Summary - Great is the problem of birth and death

“Great is the problem of birth and death”


Hae Doh Sunim

I was going to talk about something rather benign this week but this week unfolded differently then I expected. Going back to Adam’s Facebook post the other night, I thought, ‘Great is the problem of birth and death.’

We’re going to listen to a song first, by Ralph Stanley called O’ Death. I want you to close your eyes and really listen to the lyrics. (Follow this link to listen to the song online.)

This has been a week for me of people and animals dying and near death, so I had to talk about it. I have a particular patient and dog that has a certain paralysis and unusual symptoms, and it was clear the the dog would be dying soon. I gave the patient my phone number and told her if she needed anything to call me. Sure enough, in the middle of the night she called me. I asked if the dog was in any pain and she said “No, he is very quiet.” So I told her I’d give her a call in the morning and go from there. I called her in the morning and she said the dog had passed about an hour after we talked the night before.

We had to put down another cat and several other animals that were dying and in a lot of pain. Then I got a phone call Tuesday night was told that Bodhidharma Ron Allen was taken off of life support and was pronounced dead around 10 PM.

I got to bed late Tuesday night and had a lot on my mind and got another call Wednesday from my sister telling me that my mom may be on her last day. It turns out she was given a pill for her blood sugar since she’s diabetic and her levels dropped dangerously low and they thought she might not make it out but it turns out she dodged another bullet and her blood sugar level slowly started to come back up again.

I had a interesting conversation with my mom’s hospice nurse Chris, and I asked her how she got into that line of work and she told me, “We’re all dying, a lot of people try to fight it, but I really enjoy being with people. Some people accept their death and don’t fight it.”

It got me to think. “Are we prepared for our death?” My mom’s ready, she’s ready to be with my dad.

There was a monk named Won-Hyo, many consider him to be the father of Korean Buddhism who lived in the 600s and he wrote a lot of different things but he wrote this one treatise that says, “Are you ready? Have you really cultivated your practice? What is your life all about?”

Pretty soon a day goes by, pretty soon a week goes by, pretty soon a month goes by, pretty soon a year goes by! When are you going to be ready? When are you going to find out what your life is all about and when are you going to start your practice? You’re going to be there on death’s doorstep and it’s going to be too late then.

I went to see Restrepo, a documentary about the Afghan War and there is this one solider that is followed by the camera, bullets whizzing by his head screaming, “HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! I’VE NEVER FELT MORE ALIVE!!”

He’s just cursing and cursing, knowing the next second that he could die. I was telling Adam and Won-mu last week that I feel the most alive when I’m dealing with people on death’s doorstep, because that will be me, because if I don’t do my practice I’m going to fight my death. I want to be ready. I want to have that same type of energy as that soldier. It’s when you deal with death that you really feel alive.

From the Dhammapada:

“Yellow leaves bring on your tree of life.

The messengers of death are waiting.

You’re going to travel far away, have you any provision for your journey?

Make an island for yourself, hasten and strive, be wise.

With the dust of impurity blown off and free from sinful passions

You’ll come unto the glorious land of the great.

You’re at the end of your life. You’re going to meet death.

There is no resting place on your way, and you have no provision for your journey.

Make an island for yourself, hasten and strive, be wise.

With impurities blown off and free from sinful passions, you’ll be free from birth that must die, you’ll be free from old age.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Buddha's Lost Children

A rare look at life way beyond the view of most, filmed on location among the hill tribes in the border regions of Burma and Thailand, the Golden Triangle infamous for its drug lords and violence. A nomadic, horseback-riding Buddhist monk, Phra Kru Ba, a former boxer known as the "Tiger Monk," devotes his life to helping the isolated communities there, and rescuing orphan children. With his Golden Horse Temple he's built an orphanage, school and clinic a haven for the children of the region, who see him as a shaman, father figure and coach.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sanshin-gak: Mountain-spirit venerated in Korean temples

Throughout Korean history, the residents of this mountainous peninsula have believed that the peaks and slopes are spiritually alive and religiously significant, inhabited by or manifesting "Sanshin,’’ which literally means "Mountain-spirit(s).’’

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dharma Talk Summary - Generosity

August 8, 2010
Talk Given by T'ajin Kevin Hickey

Dhammapada Reading - Chapter 24 "Craving"

The gift of the teaching surpasses every gift.
The flavor of the teaching surpasses every flavor.
Delight from the teaching surpasses all delight.
The dissolution of craving conquers every pain.

Possessions hurt the unthinking person,
but not those seeking the other shore.
Because of his craving for possessions,
the unthinking one hurts himself,
just as he hurts all others.

Weeds are the ruin of fields.
Passion is the ruin of this human world.
So, to those without passion,
what is given yields abundant fruit.

There are three poisons that are often talked about in Buddhism and they are Greed, Aversion, and Delusion. My talk today is about generosity, the virtue that when cultivated properly, can help eliminate greed and the attitudes that fuel greedy behavior. Before I start talking about generosity though I want to share with you a short Zen parable that illustrates the negative consequences of greed. This story is from the collection Zen Flesh, Zen Bones and is titled, The Black Nosed Buddha:

A Nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her. Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine. The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

Generosity is a fundamental virtue in Buddhist ethics and is often listed as the 1st in many virtuous lists. Generosity is the 1st of the 6/10 Paramitas, or perfections of certain cultivated virtues. It is also included as one of the 10 Wholesome Actions, A base of social harmony, a virtue as a ruler, a virtue as a householder and one of the 3 pillars of Dharma, or making merit. So clearly generosity is important.

I think the Western, or American idea, of what we view as generosity, and what constitutes an act of generosity may be slightly different than what was tradtionally understood as generosity in Buddhist Asia and also historically. Here, when we think of generosity we often think of donating some money to a charitable cause we support or perhaps volunteering some of our time somewhere. But today I want to explore how generosity can extend beyond merely giving money or time.

The Sanskrit word for generosity is Dana, which simply means giving. But I think a more appropriate word that I heard recently may be Chaga, which means letting go, or relinquishment. And that's what generosity really is, letting go of our ego, or our possessions or other things that we think we own.

The Buddha saw 8 different reasons for giving. One reason a person might give is to reciprocate a gift you have received. If someone gives you something, then perhaps it is custom to return a gift. Another reason may be to give a gift in hopes of receiving a gift in return. You could also give thinking that it is good to give, or that it will improve your reputation or status. You could give out of tradition, such as at birthdays or Christmas. The final reason the Buddha gave for a reason we give is to adorn the mind. This means that the reason for giving shouldn't be driven by motives that are selfish at their root but should be inspired through a desire to rid oneself of greed and selfishness.

There are several benefits to practicing generosity. Generosity can help you reduce your attachment. It can help develop concentration and wisdom. It can also have positive karmic influence for yourself and others.

There is another story I'd like to share, about a wandering forest monk. This monk was good friends with the king in a nearby village so as a sign of his gratitude for their friendship and the monk's teachings, the king gave him a golden alms bowl to carry with him. The monk, being alone in the forest with his golden bowl was spotted by a man who stated to follow him for a few days. The monk noticed he was being followed and suspected that the man may want to steal his golden bowl as that was the only valuable possession he had. So one night, the monk pretended to go to sleep and when the man approached the bowl the monk suddenly rose, startling the man. The monk extended the golden bowl towards the man and said, "I've noticed your eye on my golden bowl for some time, obviously you would like to have it. Here take it, it is yours."
The man was surprised but accepted the monk's gift and left with the bowl.

By the monk giving the bowl as a gift he spared the man from the negative karma of stealing the bowl and becoming a thief if he hadn't of given it to him.

This story also teaches us that it is important to become aware of others needs. Someone once asked the Buddha when was an appropriate time to give and the Buddha replied with, "Wherever you feel inspired", or, "Wherever you recognize a need."

As many of you may know I recently started working at Starbucks and one of the benefits they give you while working there is a lot of free coffee. So everyday I leave work I get to take home something to drink. As I was driving home yesterday with my chai tea latte, I saw some kids running a lemonade stand in front of their house. I don't know about you, but it's been a long time since I've seen a lemonade stand. I'm not sure if they all got busted by the health department for not being registered vendors or what but nonetheless I was still surprised to see it. I also noticed the kids sitting there alone, looking bored. Not knowing if they had any customers at all, and feeling compassionate towards their efforts to have a successful day,I turned around to buy a lemonade although I already had a drink in hand. I was able to recognize a need and to give without expecting anything in return. Another common mistake many people make is that only the destitute and poverty-stricken populations benefit from generosity but everyone can benefit from generosity no matter how rich or poor. It's more about the recognition of needs and given when and what is appropriate.

There are 3 types of gifts we can give. Most people are aware of material gifts. Money, clothes, food, etc. But two other gifts we may not immediately think of are fearlessness and the gift of the Dharma. From our Dhammapada reading today, "the gift of the teaching surpasses every gift." And when we practice our precepts, and promise not to kill, practice such things as compassion and generosity we make a more peaceful world around ourselves and give others the freedom from living in fear, knowing that we intend no harm.

Of the things we can give there is an extensive list. We can give time or money, as we talked about before. We can also give kindness. By just being open, and friendly, radiating a welcoming and kind attitude, smiling at someone, can have great effects and spread kindness easily. We can give patience, so often, especially in this area, people are very attached to time, and when they are slowed down get angry that someone is wasting their time.

Everyone know those self checkout lanes in the grocery stores? And how some people that use those machines, perhaps don't know how to use them so well or take longer that you think they should take? I was at Kroger earlier this week on my lunch break which is only 30 minutes and grabbed some sushi and a pop to buy through the express self checkout. All the lanes were full and I noticed there was one woman who had probably taken more groceries through the line than she probably should of. Noticing how long it was taking her to scan and bag by herself I offered to help her bag, to help move the line more efficiently. She was pleased and appreciated my help and immediately looked relieved.

There was another man using the same checkout machine another time that was obviously having a very bad day for whatever reason and it appeared that his machine was malfunctioning. He was cursing and kicking the machine and was overtly showing his frustration. While all the other machines were busy again and the one I was waiting for had just opened up I offered my machine to the man, telling him I could see his machine wasn't working properly. His attitude almost immediately changed and I ended up waiting a bit longer to check out but it wasn't that much of a problem.

In addition to giving, time, money, kindness and patience we can give fearlessness as I mentioned earlier and we can give forgiveness. If someone has hurt you or did some wrongdoing in your opinion you can give a gift of forgiveness and let go of your grudge. No one else can give forgiveness but you.

We can give attention, gratitude and praise. These can all be acts of generosity.

We are all recipients of generosity and we are all dependent on each other. A Korean Zen master by the name of Ko Bong said, "Forgot I, Give, You" Without a recipient there can be do donor and without a gift there cannot be either a recipient or a donor. Likewise, I wouldn't be able to donate if it weren't for my parents, my teachers, my employers, the sun, oxygen, people who make the material gifts I decide to give or anything else. We are all interdependent and rely on each other more than we remember sometimes.

Generosity also isn't about the quantity of what you give but the quality, and the motives for your giving. Sometimes it is a more precious gift if it is small and from the heart than a large gift that is given for selfish reasons.

I want to end with a reading of the Aditta Sutta, also known as the House on Fire:

When a house is on fire,
the vessel salvaged
is the one that will be of use, not the one left there to burn.

So when the world is on fire,
with aging and death,
one should salvage [one's wealth] by giving: what's given is well salvaged.

What's given bears fruit as pleasure.
What isn't given does not:
thieves take it away, or kings; it gets burnt by fire or lost.

Then in the end
one leaves the body
together with one's possessions.
Knowing this, the intelligent man enjoys possessions and gives.

Having enjoyed and given in line with his means,
uncensured he goes to the heavenly state.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

DVD Spotlight - The Clone Returns Home

The Clone Returns Home is a compelling meditation on the paradox of life and death, and the meaning of love and family. Set in an imaginary - yet utterly imaginable - future, this quietly provocative film skillfully transposes complex emotional drama into the realm of science fiction by exploring the influence of technology on human memory and experience. Filled with stunning imagery and haunting stillness, The Clone Returns Home deftly combines subtly nuanced sci-fi with a uniquely Japanese perspective on the universal themes of family, life, love, and death.

In the tradition of Solaris and other deeply philosophical science-fiction works, The Clone Returns Home is art cinema at its best. Kohei, a young astronaut, agrees to participate in an experimental cloning program that will “regenerate” his body and memory should he die. So when he’s killed during a space mission, scientists are able to regenerate his clone. But problems occur with its memory, which regresses to Kohei’s youth and the accidental death of his twin brother. Distressed, the clone flees the lab in search of his childhood home. Along the way, he finds his own lifeless body in a space suit. Mistaking it for his brother, he continues his journey carrying the body on his back.Set somewhere between the near future and a dream, as if a figurative mist drifts through it, Kanji Nakajima’s first feature is distinguished by the metaphysical space it conjures. With each new incarnation of Kohei—his clone, his body, his soul, his twin—our literal sense of story gives way to a metaphysical one. With exceptional artistry (lyrical images, elegant moving masters, and evocative sound motifs), Nakajima explores identity, memory, and the ethical responsibilities of science. But, enriched by spiritual conceptions of life and death and the soul, the film’s emotional center and its poetry lie in these successive versions of Kohei, wandering in search of a home that no longer exists.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Great Buddha's cleaning in Japan's Todaiji Temple

Follow the link below to watch a brief video of monks cleaning the Great Buddha statue at Todaiji Temple in Japan. Video courtesy of the BBC.

Studies Say Meditation May Help Focus

A recent paper in the journal Psychological Science tries to identify brain functions that are actually enhanced by meditating. The study shows that intensive meditation can help people focus their attention and sustain it — even during the most boring of tasks. But while participants who meditated were able to pick up visual cues better than a control group, it was not clear whether meditating helped them process the new information in a meaningful way.... [continued]

Friday, August 6, 2010

Robert Aitken (1917-2010)

Robert Aitken, one of American Zen’s great pioneers, has died.

Aitken was brought to Zen in great part thanks to time detained in Japanese internment camps (due to his presence as a worker in Guam at the start of World War II). In one such camp he met R.H. Blyth, whose presence and scholarly work would have a life-changing influence on Aitken..... continued on Shambhala SunSpace

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Angeo: Buddhist meditation retreat

Commonly known as Varsa or Rains Retreat, this three-month meditation retreat has been a regular annual activity in South East Asia Theravada Buddhist monasteries for more than 2,500 years, ever since Buddha’s time. ``Varsa” is a Sanskrit word meaning ``rain’’ or ``rainy season,’’ and this retreat traditionally took place in India every summer during the monsoon period. During the three-month period monks remain within the monastery precincts and practice meditation or study sutras.... continued here.

Korean Monks Studying in New Jersey

In their traditional grey monk suits with shaved heads and wearing iPods, they've walked Park Avenue, listened to the concerts in Lincoln Park and played football in Lyndhurst—a part of their introduction in the Western world. The monks are a group of three Korean monks and four nuns from Donguk University in South Korea, and are staying at Felician College in Rutherford while studying English as a Second Language and learning about Buddhism in the Western world...... continued here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ten Ox-herding Pictures: Seeking the trace of original mind, buddhahood

The Ten Ox-herding Pictures describe the path to enlightenment and self-development in the Seon tradition. You can see these pictures adorning the walls of Seon monasteries in China and Korea. These paintings depict a deep metaphor for Seon practice. The pictures are the representation in folk images in Seon practices for training the mind. They depict a young ox-herder searching for and taming an ox. Its sequence represents a novice practitioner who comes to realize his own mind through Seon meditation. The pictures depict a young boy trying to find his lost ox. The young boy represents the practitioner and the ox represents the original mind the practitioner is trying to find. The paintings are divided into 10 stages of the meditation process while practicing Seon.

See all 10 Ox-herding pictures here.

Another Inception Review - The 'Inception' of Illusion or Reality?

Another great Buddhist review of Inception. This time from Buddhist Channel.TV

From the review - "It is also proposed that an idea is the most resilient parasite. As they say, thoughts become words, which become actions, which become habits, which becomes character, which becomes destiny. The Buddha would concur, as he taught that the mind is the forerunner of all things. Ideas clung to can shape reality or sustain delusion."

Read the rest of the review here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

DVD Spotlight - Meditate and Destroy

MEDIATE AND DESTROY takes you into the world of punk rock, spirituality and internal rebellion through the eyes of bestselling author Noah Levine (Dharma Punx, Against the Stream). This powerful film examines the driving forces that transformed Levine from a violent, addicted rebel to a dedicated teacher and community leader. Tattoos, motorcycles, music, peace and Buddha all work to tell the inspiring story of finding new paths.