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The Urban Dharma Newsletter... March 11, 2003


In This Issue:

1. Buddhist Humor...
2. Perception
...by Claire Hansen
3. A Buddhist Perspective on Forgiveness
...by Lama Yeshe Losal Rimpoche
4. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
An International Conference on Forgiveness
5. Book Review: The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace
...Jack Kornfield
6. Peace Link: The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom


1. Buddhist Humor...

Once there was a monk who was an expert on the Diamond Sutra, and as books were very valuable in his day, he carried the only copy in his part of the world on his back. He was widely sought after for his readings and insight into the Diamond Sutra, and very successful at propounding its profundities to not only monks and masters but to the lay people as well.

Thus the people of that region came to know of the Diamond Sutra, and as the monk was traveling on a mountain road, he came upon an old woman selling tea and cakes. The hungry monk would have loved to refresh himself, but alas, he had no money. He told the old woman, "I have upon my back a treasure beyond knowing -- the Diamond Sutra. If you will give me some tea and cakes, I will tell you of this great treasure of knowledge."

The old woman knew something of the Diamond Sutra herself, and proposed her own bargain. She said, "Oh learned monk, if you will answer a simple question, I will give you tea and cakes." To this the monk readily agreed. The woman then said, "When you eat these cakes, are you eating with the mind of the past, the mind of the present or the mind of the future?"

No answer occurred to the monk, so he took the pack from his back and got out the text of the Diamond Sutra, hoping he could find the answer. As he studied and pondered, the day grew late and the old woman packed up her things to go home for the day.

"You are a foolish monk indeed," said the old woman as she left the hungry monk in his quandary. "You eat the tea and cakes with your mouth."

2. Perception ...by Claire Hansen

* http://www.livingdharma.org/Living.Dharma.Articles/Perception-C.Hansen.html

Somebody very close to me once told me that "perception is reality." It didn't click with me until years later. I thought "right was right" and "wrong was wrong." When someone did something wrong, I felt justified in making a judgment that he or she was wrong. However, something inside of me always told me that maybe I was too rigid in my judgment-maybe I was rationalizing my position. Most of the time I dismissed that part of me by thinking of something else.

The older I got, the harder it became to dismiss that little voice. My world got bigger, and I met more people. I became a wife, mother, and teacher. This led to more and more complicated situations. My list of "do's and don'ts" often were not applicable. Things got confusing and things became grayer instead of black and white.

Perception in the dictionary is defined as: "becoming aware of through the senses; especially to see or hear." I saw a documentary recently of a group of people who lived on a small Pacific island. These people were all related and had a genetic defect in their eyes. They were all completely color blind. They only saw black, white, and shades of gray. Their eyes were also very sensitive to light. Their eyes lacked the cone cells which enable us to see color. Can you imagine how they view the world? Things may blend into other things because they can't see color differences. On the other hand, they evidently can see better at night than we can.

We all perceived things differently. We all have different frames of reference or points of view. This is why we get involved in conflicts. Nothing is absolute; try teaching physics, as I do. One of the most difficult concepts to get across to my students during the first semester is the idea of relativity.

I have to convince them that nothing is absolutely still and nothing is absolutely in motion. Everything must be compared with something else. You are still in your seats relative to me, but relative to someone on the moon, you are moving. The earth revolves around its axis. It also travels around the sun. The sun is part of the Milky Way Galaxy and moves within it. The whole galaxy is moving, too. There are about a hundred billion stars in our galaxy and we are aware of about a hundred billion galaxies, all in motion.

Einstein said that the faster we move the slower time becomes. The cosmic speed limit is about 186,000 miles per second-the speed of light. He said that the closer we move to the speed of light, the slower times becomes. If we reach the speed of light, time becomes zero. Isn't this hard to perceive?

Einstein was right. The Apollo astronauts were traveling faster than we are on the earth when they traveled to the moon. When they came back, their atomic clocks (which were synchronized with Houston) were about 20 minutes, I believe, slower than the clocks in Houston. They were 20 minutes younger than the people on earth!!

Nothing is absolute. We are not absolute creatures. We all have the possibility of being good and bad. We are all capable of doing wonderful things or ending up in jail.

I learned something about Buddhism a few years ago. I learned that there is no such thing as forgiveness in Buddhism. I was shocked to hear that from a minister until he explained his position further. He said that to forgive means that the person doing the forgiving has to come from a higher plane than the one being forgiven. In Buddhism, we are all equal. This is one of the greatest contributions of Buddhism-we are all equal. In other words, we all have the same capacity to do good things or bad things. The person forgiving is no better or worse potentially than the person being forgiven.

Instead of forgiveness, we Buddhists offer our compassion and support for each other. We realize (hopefully) that under the same conditions, we may very well have behaved the same way as the one that has done wrong.

Perceptions and points of view must be examined from all angles to get a clear understanding of the situation. This refers to the first statement of the Eightfold Noble Path-right view. If we can do that, we can understand the condition of life. I know I'll never be fully aware of my shortcomings, but I hope I'll always strive toward that awareness. In the meantime, I have a greater understanding of the phrase "perception is reality."

3. A Buddhist Perspective on Forgiveness ...by Lama Yeshe Losal Rimpoche

* http://www.findhorn.org/events/conferences/archives/forgive/yeshe.html

Lama Yeshe Losal is the Abbot and Retreat Master of Samye Ling, Director of the Holy Island Project and Chairman of Rokpa Trust. Since completing 12 years of retreat, much of it in solitude, Lama Yeshe has been the guiding force behind the development of Samye Ling, which was the first and is the largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Europe. He is responsible for the spiritual development of over 40 resident monks and nuns as well as the lay community. Lama Yeshe is also the only person in the Western World to have twice completed the 49 day "Dark" or Bardo retreat. It is his profound experience as a meditator, together with his direct, good humoured way of communicating, that make him in demand as a teacher around the world. As Director of the Holy Island Project, his vision of the island as a focus for world peace through inner peace is the guiding principle of its development.

A personal account of Lama Yeshe's presentation

Lama Yeshe is a Buddhist monk who left Chinese-occupied Tibet in 1959 for exile in the West,where he is a leading teacher of Tibetan meditation techniques.Currently involved in the Polio Project, he is the director of Samye Ling, a Buddhist retreat centre situated in northern Scotland not far from Findhorn, where he is a frequent visitor.

‘Forgiveness? For me,this forgiveness is a very big subject!’ began Lama Yeshe, his viewpoint informed by his dedicated practice of Tibetan Buddhism. From where does the need for forgiveness originate? Who creates the conditions in the first place that necessitate acts of forgiveness? For the Buddhist the root of the problem lies deep in our own minds; it stems from ‘not seeing properly’. People from all different ages and backgrounds are not learning to let go of the various life-experiences that have caused them suffering, instead allowing their attachment to pain to take them over. Lama Yeshe’s message is clear: we cannot begin to help others until we have helped ourselves. ’Don’t try to help the weak if you are not yet strong; it will only bring you down’.We talk of forgiveness from a place of ignorance - there can be no peace established on the planet whilst there is fighting in our hearts and homes. ’Start within yourself. If I’m unable to free myself from the cause and condition of suffering I’ll never be able to help others do the same’.

Every life-form wants happiness and peace. This state of awareness, which can invest our life with meaning in the present, can only be achieved by cultivating non-attachment. The West tends to interpret this concept literally in terms of giving up material objects because its cultural identity is defined by financial investment and property development - but this is a typically crude approach. Non-attachment in the context of Buddhism is located not so much on the physical plane of existence but in the sphere of the mind. Mental clinging is ‘the big glue’ that pulls us in no matter how well we think we know how to relinquish our attachments. We need to commit ourselves,Yeshe emphasised, to the ‘liberation of the glue-free mind’, the implication being that in the pursuit of true freedom via meditation the need for forgiveness will simply fall away.

Yeshe invited his audience to create the time for proper meditation:’true meditation aids the process of letting go’. He pointed out that we in the West use the modern-day preoccupation with time and money to avoid taking space for contemplation, when this should be our priority and asked us to reflect upon the question ‘Is there anything I need to let go of?’ to enable us to release unwanted experiences from our personal histories.This method of self-inquiry helps facilitate forgiveness at a grass-roots level by allowing us the breathing space to ‘fully and completely’ release the past (which is anyway ‘gone, over, finished’) as well as preventing us from projecting into the future.The mind in meditation should be ‘calm and settled in the present moment’; it is from this place that change can be initiated. The pause from the chaos and business of our daily lives provides us with the opportunity to note those habits that hold us back from full self-realisation. Through self-discovery and the contingent willingness to recognise where we need to change we can motivate ourselves to modify and control these weak spots, to strengthen ourselves for the good of the whole.

When we are no longer expending energy on worry and anxiety we are freely available to serve others.’You have to believe in your own ability to change and grow’. If you follow the spiritual path you need to have enough ‘dharma ego’ to believe that you can achieve self-growth.You need a certain amount of pride, otherwise you feel incapable of real change. ’If you want to change for the better you have to believe you can do it as no-one else can do it for you’. Self-forgiveness is therefore of paramount importance: how can we find peace and wisdom if we keep attacking and blaming ourselves? As we become wiser, kinder and more forgiving the people around us will begin to take note and will be inspired to initiate their own inner change.Global healing happens incrementally in this undramatic but powerful way, in our immediate environment.

A direct relationship we can all work on is the primary one that we have with our parents. ‘So many people blame their parents’. If we were ‘really wise’ we would acknowledge that ‘deep-down of course nobody wants to cause their children suffering’. According to the Buddhist teachings outlined by Lama Yeshe, it is the outworking of ‘bad lineage’: our parents did not have positive role-models either, so how can we hold them responsible for not being equipped to give us what we in turn needed? ’We must see their need for compassion, not blame’.

We should do everything in our power to find ways and means to forgive as this will lead to freedom and release. We can never achieve this without the purification of meditation.Yeshe recommends that we commit to meditating both morning and evening to gradually increase our innate capacity for greater happiness and inner stability.A common resistance he encounters to this approach - particularly prevalent in alternative/new age communities such as this one - arises from the thought-form ‘If I’m not happy, I don’t want to make myself happy as that would be to deny my own truth’.But Yeshe remains adamant that we must use every method available to us to engender a sense of peace with the self. To locate our well-being in our friendships/relationship creates false security; in the eventuality of death, when we cannot take our loved ones with us, ’only our state of mind remains’ making it of paramount importance to start building a peaceful relationship with the self right now.

Lama Yeshe himself spent 12 years in silent retreat. He brings what he has learnt through meditation into his everyday life. He wakes daily giving thanks for all he has (‘What a lucky Lama Yeshe I am!’). Time spent in silence, he reminds us, results in ‘true speech’ effortlessly: ’I recommend that we all become very very wise before we say anything to anybody. Think very carefully before you speak’. Such mindfulness, he suggests, will contribute to a state where forgiveness is no longer a key issue because it promotes harmlessness. Wise communication utilises language to befriend people, ’to bring people together, to help people get along with one another.’

Moving from the personal to the political, when asked about his attitude towards the Chinese oppression of Tibet, Lama Yeshe concluded that he has never condoned the use of violent means.’ What is freedom? The Chinese could never take away my freedom...I only want to approach them with compassion, to teach them how to love. We will succeed in this...’

4. An International Conference on Forgiveness

* http://www.findhorn.org/events/conferences/archives/forgive/

To forgive means living and loving completely in the present, without the shadows of the past. Forgiveness is not just for the other person - but for ourselves. Gerald G. Jampolsky, MD.


As we approach the beginning of the 21st century and reflect on events of the 20th century, the question of forgiveness, and its role in healing and reconciliation, seems more timely than ever. The concept of forgiveness gives rise to a complex range of feelings and dilemmas, which can take us on a journey towards wisdom, inspiration and peace.

This international conference explored the process of forgiveness, with all of its challenges, and its role in both our private lives and in our societies.

Some of the questions explored:

* What is forgiveness?

* How is it different from reconciliation?

* What can be forgiven? Or not forgiven?

* How can we balance the need for justice with the need to release the past?

* What makes it so difficult to forgive?

* What about the need for retribution and revenge?

* What are the steps needed to forgive?

* Are there degrees of forgiveness?

* What is the shadow side of forgiveness?

* What is the role of self-forgiveness?

Each day focused on different areas in which questions of forgiveness arose, through speakers, panel discussions, experiential workshops and drama.

Caroline Myss - Why Nations and People are Afraid to Forgive

AbaGayle - The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Father Michael Lapsley - To Heal and Remember, or to Bury and Forget?

Helen Bamber - Forgiveness

Gerald Jampolsky and Diane Cirincione - Forgiveness the Greatest Healer of All

Ofra Ayalon - The Road to Peace begins inside - The Art of Reconciliation

Colin Craig - The Struggle to Forgive and the Freedom to Forgiveness

Lama Yeshe Losal - The Buddhist Perspective on Forgiveness

Pastor James Movel Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa - Muslim/Christian Dialogue Forum

John and Susan Collin Marks - Searching for Societal Reconcilation and Collective Forgiveness

Satish Kumar - on Forgiveness

The Findhorn Foundation in co-operation with Coventry University's Centre for Forgiveness and Reconciliation

The Findhorn Foundation is a spiritual education centre founded in 1962 on the principles of cooperation with nature and the belief that spiritual experience is accessible to all. It has grown to a community of over 300 members, hosting 7000 visitors per year in its conferences and educational programs. It is a recognised NGO by the Department of Public Information of the United Nations, and is a registered charitable trust in Scotland.

5. The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace ...Jack Kornfield

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553802054/wwwkusalaorg-20/


Bestselling author Jack Kornfield has put together a how-to book--his most ambitious work yet--to encourage the best side of humanity. In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, Kornfield uses the evocative power of aphorisms to spark feelings and thoughts that can germinate and grow. After a chapter of aphorisms and quotations on each of the title's three topics, Kornfield offers a related series of meditations that show how to cultivate what the aphorisms have prepared. Whereas essays tend to be read through and forgotten, this book invites a deliberate pace, with the reader filling in the blanks, taking time away for meditation, then coming back for more inspiration. Never descending into triteness, Kornfield is realistic on tough issues, encouraging awareness and persistence over resignation and indifference. If you yearn to open your heart, open the pages of Kornfield's latest. --Brian Bruya

Book Description

You hold in your hand an invitation: To remember the transforming power of forgiveness and lovingkindness. To remember that no matter where you are and what you face, within your heart peace is possible.

In this beautiful and graceful little book, internationally renowned Buddhist teacher and meditation master Jack Kornfield has collected age-old teachings, modern stories, and time-honored practices for bringing healing, peace, and compassion into our daily lives. Just to read these pages offers calm and comfort. The practices contained here offer meditations for you to discover a new way to meet life’s greatest challenges with acceptance, joy, and hope.

Amazon.com... Reviewer: Curtis Grindahl from San Anselmo, California United States- The older I become the simpler life seems. I've read Jack's work, though I haven't read this book yet. I'm fortunate to live in a community very close to the lovely San Geronimo vallery where Spirit Rock Meditation Center is located. I see Jack quite regularly standing with friends on a San Anselmo street corner Saturdays, offering witness of his commitment to peace and justice. The times I've heard him speak at Spirit Rock and elsewhere I was deeply touched by his simple humanity.

Learning to forgive, to treat others in our lives with loving kindness, as we cultivate peace...what more is there to realize in this human journey? There will always be what a teacher of mine once called "cookies for the mind." Jack offers something far more profound as he supports us in coming to each moment with our hearts open. This is what I hope to do with the remaining years of my life. It is comforting to share the journey with others who understand what is truly important. Jack Kornfield is surely one of them. Thank you Jack for sharing with us the wisdom you've come to.

Amzon.com...Reviewer: A reader from VT United States- This book is short yet profound. No wasted words. Each phrase is a short lesson to meditate on, full of meaning. There are modern quotes as well as ancient. A favorite was by Ben Franklin: "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame". I was attracted to this book by its brevity and the resonance of the words.

Amazon.com... Reviewer: Joseph from Richmond, USA- When I first flipped through it, I thought there was not much to this book - not just because of al the empty space. I have read it several times by now and what I started to like most about this book is just picking it up, at any time, opening it to a random page and to read a few lines. The book might not seem profound, but like focusing on the breath, it has a grounding effect. Plenty of other books on the shelve to learn about Buddhism - this one shows, very simply, how to live Buddhism. Thanks Jack.

6. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

* http://www.wilpf.org/

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was founded in 1915 during World War I, with Jane Addams as its first president. WILPF works to achieve through peaceful means world disarmament, full rights for women, racial and economic justice, an end to all forms of violence, and to establish those political, social, and psychological conditions which can assure peace, freedom, and justice for all.

WILPF works to create an environment of political, economic, social and psychological freedom for all members of the human community, so that true peace can be enjoyed by all.

On April 28, 1915, a unique group of women met in an International Congress in The Hague, Netherlands to protest against World War I, then raging in Europe, to suggest ways to end it and to prevent war in the future. The organizers of the Congress were prominent women in the International Suffrage Alliance, who saw the connection between their struggle for equal rights and the struggle for peace. WILPF's foremothers rejected the theory that war was inevitable and defied all obstacles to their plan to meet together in wartime. They assembled more than 1,000 women from warring and neutral nations to work out a plan to end WWI and lay the basis for a permanent peace. Out of this meeting the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was born.

WILPF's first International President was Jane Addams, founder of Hull House in Chicago and the first U.S. woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. For more information about Jane Addams, visit the official site of the Nobel Foundation

It was the wisdom of our founding foremothers in 1915 that peace is not rooted only in treaties between great powers or a turning away of weapons alone, but can only flourish when it is also planted in the soil of justice, freedom, non-violence, opportunity and equality for all. They understood, and WILPF still organizes in the understanding, that all the problems that lead countries to domestic and international violence are all connected and all need to be solved in order to achieve sustainable peace.

This remarkable vision still guides us today as we face the challenges of the twenty-first century. In today's context this means

* the equality of all people in a world free of sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia,

* the guarantee of fundamental human rights including the right to sustainable development,

* an end to all forms of violence: rape, battering, exploitation, intervention and war,

* the transfer of world resources from military to human needs, leading to economic justice within and among nations, and

* world disarmament and peaceful resolution of international conflicts via the United Nations.


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