Urban Dharma Weekly Newsletter... July
In This Issue:
1. Buddhism: Compassion, Wisdom are the
keys to reality.
2. Indianapolis Mayor Issues World Tibet
3. Book Review- One Dharma: The
Emerging Western Buddhism.
4. Freeware and Gifts of Dharma for "Mac"
5. Article- Thus I have Heard
6. Temple/Center of the Week: The
Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara
1. Buddhism: Compassion, Wisdom are
Keys to Reality- by Michael
Kerze, Ph.D ...The Tidings...
Friday, June 28, 2002
* Editor's note: With this column, The Tidings continues
an ongoing series on other religions and their relationship
to Catholicism today.
From the outside of a nondescript office building on Third Street
near Western Avenue, a person would never imagine that inside
are the enormous halls and huge statues of the Buddha of Kwan
Um, a magnificent Korean Buddhist Temple.
I certainly did not know what to expect the morning I walked
up the stairs into it for the first meeting of the Los Angeles
Buddhist Catholic Dialogue. I was among 14 people, both Buddhist
and Catholic, invited to form the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic
Dialogue sponsored by the Archdiocese and the Buddhist Sangha
Council of Southern California. Thirteen years later the dialogue
continues, considerably enriching the lives of its members and
the relations between the two communities.
What is important, the Buddha taught, is to look at the human
condition and the suffering in it, and work to alleviate it
within ourselves and within others.
Over half a million Buddhists live in Southern California. Like
the Korean Temple I walked into, Buddhist temples and centers
are found throughout the region. Some are as large as Hsi Lai
Temple in Hacienda Heights and some, like the International
Buddhist Meditation Center, are a collection of houses near
downtown Los Angeles.
Like me as I stood before the facade of the office building
on Third, Catholics might not recognize that a wonderfully rich
religious tradition flourishes behind the everyday appearances
of the streets we drive down and the people we meet, work with,
and live next to. What makes Buddhism so important?
Buddhism was founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama (c.583 B.C.E.),
a prince who renounced the life of luxury and comfort he was
raised in. After an arduous process of study, asceticism and
meditation, he discovered the Four Noble Truths, and became
the "Buddha," the one who is awake, the enlightened
one. For more than 40 years he taught a community of monks,
nuns and lay people, that has grown into the world wide religious
community of today.
The First Noble Truth is that all is ultimately unsatisfactory,
dukkah. More than suffering, it means that ultimately nothing
is permanent because everything changes, including ourselves.
The Second Noble Truth taught that the source of the unsatisfactoriness
is tanha, thirst or craving, which arises out of the ever-changing
desires of the egoistic self. The Third Noble Truth is, simply,
to end the unsatisfactoriness, end the craving. Nirvana, "extinguished,"
is the term used for this.
The way to Nirvana is the Fourth Noble Truth, the Eightfold
Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action,
right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right
concentration. The point of the path is to end suffering through
wholesome action, ethics and intention; intellectual knowledge
is not enough.
Buddhists are neither theists nor atheists; they are non-theistic.
Whether God exists or does not is not the point. What is important,
the Buddha taught, is to look at the human condition and the
suffering in it, and work to alleviate it within ourselves and
within others. Only we can reach enlightenment; no one else
can do it for us.
Ethics, meditation and wisdom comprise the necessary foundation
for extinguishing the grasping ego - but, once extinguished,
something of monumental importance occurs. Because nothing is
"self," there is no distinction between us and others;
their suffering is our suffering. Compassion arises spontaneously.
More, probably, than any other religion, Buddhism emphasizes
that compassion and wisdom are the key to reality. Here is found
one source of the deep connection between Christianity and Buddhism.
Christianity teaches, "God so loved the world that he sent
his only son" to suffer and die, forsaking godhead for
humanity out of compassion. We are called to follow Jesus, to
embrace our suffering like he did, for the sake of the salvation
of all the world.
This is something Buddhists might understand. In Mahayana Buddhism
the bodhisattva is central. This is the being who vows to work
for the salvation of all beings, even if it means embracing
this world of suffering lifetime after lifetime.
Buddhism spread from India into South and Central Asia and then
to Japan, developing into three schools. Theravada, the Buddhism
of the Elders, is found in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Mahayana,
the Great Vehicle, flourished in China, Vietnam, Korea, and
Japan. Especially important are the Pure Land and Zen Schools.
Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, is the Buddhism found in Tibet
led by the Dalai Lama. All schools and their ethnic variations
are represented in Southern California.
Buddhism remains monastic at its core. Here it is deeply akin
to the Christian monastic tradition. Is it any surprise, then,
that Catholic and Buddhist monastics have been visiting, staying
with, and learning from each other? The Monastic Interreligious
Dialogue, which formally began in 1978, had its roots in Thomas
Merton's experience with Buddhism in the years before his death
Today, thousands of lay Christians are learning the benefits
of Buddhist meditation practices while Buddhists are learning
from Christians how to effectively promote social justice to
address societal injustice and the dukkah it causes.
Dr. Michael Kerze is Catholic co-chair of the Los Angeles Buddhist
Catholic Dialogue, and has taught religious studies at Loyola
Marymount University and St. Monica High School. For more information
about the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue go to http://www.kusala.org
and follow the links, or contact the Archdiocesan Office of
Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, (213) 637-7555.
2. Indianapolis Mayor Issues World Tibet Day Proclamation
* The International Tibet Independence Movement is very pleased
to announce that Mayor Bart Peterson of Indianapolis has recognized
July 6, 2002 as World Tibet Day. Mayor Peterson issued a very
strong proclamation about the urgency of helping Tibetans to
regain their freedom and the importance of preserving Tibetan
culture. This is the first time such a proclamation has been
issued in Indianapolis.
3. One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism- by Joseph
* Click the link below to go to Amazon.com "One Dharma"
Amazon.com: Insight Meditation cofounder Joseph Goldstein ponders
the possibility that all Buddhist teachings could be distilled
into One Dharma. As Buddhism continues to grow in the West,
Goldstein shows us the value of uniting this movement rather
than allowing it to become fractured by its subtle differences.
He does not advocate a watering down or mixing up of the various
traditions. Rather, "We can practice each of them in its
own integrity and come to a genuine depth of understanding."
Readers who are wary of a scholarly analysis of Buddhist nuances
need not worry. Goldstein (The Experience of Insight) relies
on personal anecdotes and accessible language to explore the
common themes in all Buddhist teachings. Though purists will
no doubt quibble, Goldstein believes that following one Dharma
is the way the West will be won, weaving together the methods
of mindfulness, the motivation of compassion, and the liberating
wisdom of nonclinging. "These three pillars--mindfulness,
compassion, and wisdom--are not Indian or Burmese, Japanese
or Tibetan; they are qualities in our own minds." --Gail
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A revolutionary contribution to Buddhist thinking that will
be accepted by many as the road map for Western Buddhism
We are living in remarkable times. A genuine Western Buddhism
is now taking birth, writes Joseph Goldstein, one of America's
most respected Buddhist teachers. The birth pangs include controversy
and conflict -- and fear that genuine teachings may vanish as
traditions converge in the melting pot of American practice.
But Goldstein recognizes a possibility, indeed a at potential,
for the essence of Buddhism to survive on Western soil, in Western
minds.His visionary synthesis points a way for Buddhism to grow
and flower while remaining rooted in the teachings of the great
Asian schools -- from India and Burma to Tibet and Japan. Marked
by a simplicity derived from the Buddha's own pragmatic response
to life, Goldstein distills the essential question that is at
the base of all the traditions: What works to free the mind
from suffering?He provides a brief historical overview of early
Buddhism and explores the mind-changing reflections that bring
us to the Dharma path -- the teachings of liberation, free from
sectarian attachments. Upon this foundation Goldstein then shows
how the great masters from all traditions have pointed to the
essence of ultimate freedom. This is the best kind of Dharma
book: one that is based on personal experience rather than on
theory, accessible to newcomers and seasoned practitioners alike,
and rich in practical ways to cultivate the qualities of an
awakened mind and heart.In One Dharma one of America's foremost
Buddhist teachers presents the central teachings and practices
of the emerging Western Buddhism in clear, personal language.
In One Dharma we discover the essential points common to all
4. Freeware and Gifts of Dhamma
* This is Freeware for all you "Mac" and "Apple"
users... Sorry "Windows" folks... Just click on the
link above, and download your favorite Dharma.
The Dhammapada is a collection of 423 Buddhist verses, arranged
by topic into 26 chapters. This application randomly generates
one of the verses each time it is opened, and contains the entire
text, which can be browsed or read in the conventional, linear
Wheel of the Teachings is a gentle adventure game, incorporating
Buddhist principles. As you walk through a painted landscape,
your goal is to find the 8 hidden wheels (the Buddha's Noble
Eightfold Path) and 4 hidden books (the Four Noble Truths).
The Udana is a collection of short suttas, each culminating
in a short verse uttered by the Buddha. "Udana -- Exclamations
of Buddha" randomly generates one of those verses each
time it is opened, making it a nice addition to the Startup
The Itivuttaka is a collection of 112 suttas from the Pali
Canon in mixed prose and verse, known for being accessible,
appealing and concise. "Itivuttaka -- Sayings of the Buddha"
randomly generates one of the verses each time it is opened.
"Verses of the Elders" contains inspirational
verses from the early Buddhist monks and nuns. This application
randomly generates one of the verses each time it is opened,
making it a nice addition to the Startup Items folder.
5. Thus Have I Heared ...by Trevor Leggett
1) May 1999
* Buddhist sutras begin with Thus have I heard,
Evam maya srutam. Evam means something like So it is;
it is translated as Thus but it implies that this
is what actually happened. And maya srutam means has been
heard by me. The Japanese for evam is nyo-ze, like
this. So evam could be translated as So it is,
So it was. Nyo-ze is sometimes used by a Zen master
when he gives approval to an answer. He says nyo-ze,
like that. It has the sense that this is correct
and did happen. Thus have I heard could mean that
it is just a rumour.
The traditional Indian doctrine is that the soul is impregnated
through the ear, through hearing. This is quite an important
thing, especially in our modern world. We read, and a great
deal comes to us by reading, but reading classically has three
great defects from the point of view of spiritual truth. The
first one is that when we read we can skip, and we often do.
When we hear, we dont skip. The speaker delivers the message,
we receive it, the soul is impregnated through the ear, not
through the eye where we can select what we read. The second
point is speed. Some of us read quite fast; when we were young
and arrogant we would read down the middle of the page, assuming
that most of it was nonsense. I would read down the middle until
a word caught my eye and then I would read the sentence. But,
when we hear, the speed is determined by the speaker and the
speed is part of the importance of the message. So our eye doesnt
distinguish; it reads quickly and very often superficially,
racing over the words. Those are two defects then, that we skip
and that we read fast. The third thing that we lose is intonation.
The Master of Novices at Eiheiji, one of the great training
monasteries in Japan, once said, An absolute amateur can
write an article of several pages on Zen and make no mistakes;
but if he utters one word, you know his spiritual state immediately.
When hes writing he may be quoting the words of people
who really did know and experience, so there is no mistake.
But if he utters one word, even if he is speaking those same
words, you know his spiritual state at once; it may be no deeper
Our Western alphabet is peculiarly featureless; the letters
are all the same size. To that extent the Chinese characters
have an advantage over our alphabet because the Chinese and
Japanese characters consist of pictures. They do have a living
association in them. For instance, knowledge, spiritual knowledge
or perception, in our language it appears as p e r c
e p t i o n, ten letters all the same size, all in a line with
not very much difference between them. An e and
a c are almost the same. However, the Chinese character
for perception consists of: at the top, the abbreviated character
for plant life, then the character for mouth, then the character
for bird, then the character for an eye and then a man. These
elements come together in the single character. So when you
read the Chinese character for perception you have a living
impression; it is not just the dead letters of the alphabet.
From the point of view of study there are two recommendations
which are made from tradition. One is that we should master
one small book which we do not read in the usual superficial
way. The second is that we should have this text available in
the form of sound.
In modern times we can find someone who has some spiritual capacity
to record it on tape for us, or record it ourselves. We may
not be experienced readers, but when we record a text for ourselves
the reading is generally good because we are not ham-acting
in order to impress others. No, we are doing it out of sincerity,
for ourselves to learn the text. It is a good idea to learn
by hearing the texts. The traditional way was to learn the text
People complain that old people in this part of the world are
simply thrown on the junk-heap, but that is not the problem
at all. It is not that the world thinks they are junk; it is
that they themselves think they are junk because there is something
wrong with our presentation of age. We should think, without
bringing God or cosmic purpose into it, if nature intended that
old people should be junk, then they should die at 50; genetically
we should die at 50. When the children have grown up and have
taken control of the business, then the old people, consuming
but no longer producing, should die. They are supposed to be
senile but in fact there is no need for the mind to decay. Titian
painted one of his finest masterpieces, Tarquin and Lucrezia,
when he was 83. Goethe completed his masterpiece Faust, which
is said to contain some of the best poetry in Europe, when he
was 82. Hokusai was just a poster artist until his late fifties.
He took to meditation and produced these wonderful pictures.
The Wave is probably one of the most famous pictures in the
world. He did that when he was 71 and he went on painting until
he was 88. Verdis greatest tragic opera, Othello, was
completed when he was 72 and Falstaff, an amazingly youthful
opera, when he was 80. So nature doesnt intend that the
mind should decay, crumble away and become senile but, like
muscles, the mind has to be exercised. Every morning we should
learn by heart one or two verses; it is easier to learn verse
than prose; but it can be done. If the mind is exercised it
will not decay. Something like The Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold,
although old-fashioned, is attractive verse and can be learned
easily. In this way the mind is kept alert both mentally and
6. The Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara
The Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara reflects the hopes, aspirations
and energies of a tiny community of Buddhists primarily in the
Michigan Great Lakes region and in southern Ontario. Our Temple
is committed to disseminate Buddhist teachings in the region
and to provide emotional or spiritual help to people of any
faith. Our primary goal is to be a center for inner peace
for all Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the Great Lakes area
to practice the teachings of the Buddha in their own way.
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