...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter...
March 25, 2003
2. Meditation: The Heart of Buddhism ...Ajahn Brahmavamso
3. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
4. Book Review: Buddhism: A Concise
Introduction ...by Huston Smith and Philip Novak
5. Peace Quote...
Why don't Buddhists vacuum in the corners?
Because they have no attachments.
Meditation: The Heart of Buddhism
TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
want to talk in depth today about the nature of Buddhism. Very
often I read in newspapers and books some strange things that
are presented as Buddhism. So here, I will point out the heart
of the real Buddhist teaching, not as a theory but as an experience.
is Not The Heart of Buddhism!
know that some people still think Buddhism is some form of psychotherapy,
some way of applying wise attitudes or skilful means in order
to live more at peace in this world. Indeed, in the rich storehouse
of Buddhist teachings there are many things which do help people
to live life with less problems. Using wise attitudes and compassionate
intentions, Buddhism teaches an effective way of dealing with
the problems of the world. When these Buddhist methods actually
work, they give people faith and confidence that there really
is something in this Buddhist path which is valuable to them.
often reflect on why people come here to the Buddhist Society
on a Friday evening. It’s because they get something out
of this. What they get out of these teachings is a more peaceful
life style, a happier feeling toward themselves and more acceptance
of other beings. It is in that sense a therapy for the problems
of life, and it does actually work. However that’s
not what Buddhism really is, that’s only one of its side
people come across Buddhism and they find it’s a marvellous
philosophy. They can sit around the coffee table after I’ve
given a talk and they can talk for hours and still not be close
to enlightenment. Very often people can discuss very high-minded
things; their brains can talk about and think about such sublime
subjects. Then they go out and swear at the first car that pulls
out in front of them on the way home. They lose it all straight
instead of looking at Buddhism as a philosophy, many people
look at it as a religion. The rituals of Buddhism are meaningful,
and they shouldn’t be discarded just because one thinks
one is above ritual. I know people are sometimes very proud,
arrogant even, and think they don’t need any rituals.
But the truth of the matter is that rituals do have a psychological
potency. For example, it is useful in society when two people
are going to live together that they go through some sort of
marriage ceremony. Because in that ceremony there is something
that happens to the mind, something that happens to the heart.
There is a commitment made deep inside which echoes with the
knowledge that something important has happened. In the ceremonies
and rituals of death, all of those rites of chanting, reflection
and kind words actually have a meaning for the people involved.
It does help them to come to accept with grace the passing of
a loved one. It helps them acknowledge the truth of what’s
happened, that a final separation from that person has occurred.
And in that acceptance they come to peace.
the same way, at our monastery, in order to forgive another
person and to let go of past hurt, a ceremony of forgiveness
is often used. In the Catholic Church they have the ceremony
of confession. The precise details of a forgiveness ceremony
don’t really matter, but what is important is that forgiveness
is given, by some physical means through some ritual or ceremony.
If you just say, "Oh I’m sorry", isn’t
that a lot different from also giving a present, or a bunch
of flowers? Or isn’t it different from going up to them
and saying "look, what I did the other day was really unforgivable,
but come out to dinner with me this evening", or "here
have a couple of tickets to the theatre"? It is much deeper
and more effective when you weave a beautiful ceremony around
forgiveness rather than just muttering a few words.
the ritual of bowing to a Buddha has a great meaning. It’s
an act of humility. It’s saying I’m not enlightened
and yet there is something that is beyond me which I am aspiring
towards. It’s the same humility that a person has when
they go to school, or university and they acknowledge that the
lecturers and the professors know more than they do. If you
argue with professors when you go to university, are you going
to learn anything? Humility is not subservience, which denies
the worth of yourself, But humility is that which respects the
different qualities in people. Sometimes the act of bowing,
if it’s donemindfully, is a ceremony, a ritual that can
generate a great sense of joy. As a monk many people bow to
me, and I bow to many others. There is always someone that you
have to bow to no matter how senior you are. At the very least
there is always the Buddha to bow down to. I enjoy bowing. When
there is a monk who is senior to me, bowing is a beautiful way
of overcoming ego and judging, especially when I must bow to
a really rotten monk (the good monks are easy to bow to). This
is a ritual which if done in the right way can produce so many
benefits. At the very least, as I tell people at the monastery,
if you do a lot of bowing it strengthens your stomach muscles
and you don’t look fat! But it’s more than that.
these Buddhist rituals are useful, but Buddhism is much more
you ask what Buddhism really is, it’s a hard question
to answer in a few words. You have to come back to this process
of meditation because there is the crux, the fulcrum of Buddhism,
the heart of Buddhism. As everybody who has ever come across
the Buddhist teachings would know, the Buddha was a man who
became enlightened while meditating under a tree. A few minutes
ago you were doing the same meditation for half an hour! Why
where you not enlightened? That enlightenment of the Buddha
was actually what created this religion of Buddhism. It is its
meaning, it is its centre. Buddhism is all about enlightenment;
not just about living a healthy life, or a happy life, or learning
to be wise and saying smart things to your friends around the
coffee table. Again Buddhism is all about this enlightenment.
of all you have to get some feeling or indication of what enlightenment
actually is. Sometimes people come up to me and say "I’m
enlightened", and I sometimes get letters from people saying
"thank you for your teachings, please know that I am enlightened
now". And sometimes I hear other people say of teachers
or gurus "Oh Yeah, they are certainly enlightened"
without really knowing what that means. The word enlightenment
stands for some opening of wisdom, some understanding which
stops all suffering. The person who hasn’t abandoned
all suffering is never enlightened. The fact that a person still
suffers means that they are yet to abandon all their attachments.
The person who is still worried about their possessions, who
still cries at the death of a loved one, who is still angry,
and who is still enjoying the pleasures of the senses like sex,
they are not enlightened. Enlightenment is something beyond
and free from all that.
when a monk talks like this he can very easily put people off.
Monks seem like "wowsers" , as they say in Australia.
They don’t go to the movies, don’t have any sex,
don’t have any relationships, don’t go on holidays,
don’t have any pleasures. What a bunch of wowsers! But
the interesting thing which many people notice, is that some
of the most peaceful and happy people you meet are the monks
and nuns who come and sit here on a Friday evening and give
the talks. Monks are quite different from wowsers, and the reason
is that there is another happiness which the monks know and
which the Buddha has pointed out to them. Each one of you can
sense that same happiness when your meditation starts to take
Buddha taught that it is attachment that causes suffering and
letting go is the cause for happiness and the way to enlightenment.
Letting go! So often people have asked how do you let go? What
they really mean is, why do you let go? It’s a difficult
question to answer and it will never be answered in words. Instead
I answer that question by saying "Now is the time to meditate,
cross your legs, be in the present moment," because this
is teaching people what letting go is all about. Moreover,
the final moments of the meditation are the most important.
Please always remember this. In the last few minutes ask yourself,
"How do I feel?" "What is this like and why?"
"How did this come about?"
meditate because it’s fun, it’s enjoyable. They
don’t meditate to "get something out of it,"
even though when you meditate there are a lot of good benefits
to be had such as health benefits or reducing stress in your
life. Through meditation you become less intolerant, less angry.
But there is something more to it than that - it’s
just the sheer fun of it! When I was a young monk that’s
what made me become a Buddhist. It was inspiring to read the
books but that was not good enough. It was when I meditated
and became peaceful, very peaceful, incredibly peaceful, that
something told me that this was the most profound experience
of my life. I wanted to experience this again. I wanted to investigate
it more. Why? Because one deep experience of meditation is
worth a thousand talks, or arguments, or books, or theories.
The things you read in books are other people’s experiences,
they are not your own. They’re words and they might inspire,
but the actual experience itself is truly moving. It’s
truly earth shattering because it shatters that which you’ve
rested on for such a long time. By inclining along this path
of meditation you’re actually learning what letting go
Forgive and Let Go (AFL)
those of you who have difficulty meditating, it’s because
you haven’t learned to let go yet in the meditation. Why
can’t we let go of simple things like past and future?
Why are we so concerned with what someone else did to us or
said to us today? The more you think about it, the more stupid
it is. You know the old saying, "When someone calls you
an idiot, the more times you remember it, the more times they’ve
called you an idiot!" If you let it go immediately, you
will never think about it again. They only called you an idiot
at most once. It’s gone! It’s finished. You’re
is it that we imprison ourselves with our past? Why can’t
we even let that go? Do you really want to be free? Then acknowledge,
forgive and let go, what I call in Australia the "AFL Code"
 - Acknowledge, forgive, and let go of whatever has hurt
you, whether it’s something that somebody has done or
said, or whether it’s what life has done. For instance,
someone has died in your family and you argue with yourself
that they shouldn’t have died. Or you’ve lost your
job and you think without stop that that shouldn’t have
happened. Or simply something has gone wrong and you are obsessed
that it’s not fair. You can crucify yourself on a cross
of your own making for the rest of your life if you want to;
but no one is forcing you to. Instead you can acknowledge forgive
and learn in the forgiving. The letting go is in the learning.
The letting go gives the future a freedom to flow easily, unchained
to the past.
was talking to some people recently about the Cambodian community
here in Perth and, being a Buddhist community, I have had much
to do with them. Like any traditional Buddhists, when they have
a problem they come and speak to the monks. This is what they
have done for centuries. The monastery and the monks are the
social centre, the religious centre, and the counselling centre
of the community. When men have arguments with their wives they
come to the monastery.
when I was a young monk in Thailand, a man came into the monastery
and asked me "Can I stay in the monastery for a few days?".
I thought he wanted to meditate, so I said "Oh you want
to meditate?" "Oh no", he said "the reason
I want to come to the monastery is because I’ve had an
argument with my wife." So he stayed in the monastery.
Three or four days later he came up to me and said, "I
feel better now, can I go home". What a wise thing that
was. Instead of going to the bar and getting drunk, instead
of going to his mates and telling them all the rotten things
that he thought his wife had done thereby reinforcing his ill
will and resentment, he went to stay with a group of monks who
didn’t say anything about his wife, who were just kind
and peaceful. He thought about what he had been doing in that
peaceful, supportive environment, and after a while he felt
much better. This is what a monastery sometimes is: it’s
the counselling centre, the refuge, the place where people come
to let go of their problems. Isn't that better than lingering
on the past, especially when we are angry at something that
has happened? When we reinforce the resentment, are we really
seeing what’s going on? Or are we seeing through the perverted
glasses of our anger, looking at the faults in the other person,
focussing only on the terrible things they have done to us,
never really seeing the full picture?
of the things I noticed about the Cambodian community was that
these were all people who had suffered through the Pol Pot years.
I know of a Cambodian man whose wife had been shot by the Khmer
Rouge in front of him, for stealing a mango. She was hungry
so she took a mango from a tree. One of the Khmer Rouge cadres
saw her and, without any trial, he pulled out his gun in front
of her husband and shot her dead. When this man was telling
me this, I was looking at his face, looking at his bodily movements,
and it was amazing to see that there was no anger, there was
no resentment, there was not even grief there. There was a peaceful
acceptance about what had happened. It shouldn’t have
happened but it did.
go of the past is so we can enjoy the present, so the future
can be free. Why is it that we always carry around the past?
Attachment to the past is not a theory, it is an attitude. We
can say, "Oh I’m not attached". Or we can say,
"I’m so detached I’m not even attached to detachment,"
which is very clever, and sounds very good, but is a lot of
old rubbish. You know if you’re attached if you can’t
let go of those important things that cause you to suffer, that
stop you being free. Attachment is a ball and chain, which
you tie around your own legs. No one else ties it around you.
You’ve got the key to free yourselves, but you don’t
use it. Why do we limit ourselves so and why can’t we
let go of the future, all the concerns and the worries? Do you
worry about what’s going to happen next, tomorrow, next
week, next year? Why do you do that? How many times have you
worried about some exam or some test, or a visit to the Doctors,
or a visit to the Dentist? You can worry yourself sick and when
you get ready to go to the dentist you find they have cancelled
your appointment, and you didn’t have to go anyway!
never work out as you expect them to. Haven’t we learnt
yet that the future is so uncertain that it doesn’t bear
worrying about? We never know what’s going to happen next.
When we let go of the past and the future, isn’t that
being on the path to deep meditation? Aren’t we actually
learning about how to be at peace, how to be free, how to be
are indications of what enlightenment means. It means seeing
that many of our attachments are based on sheer stupidity. We
just don’t need this. As we develop this meditation deeper,
we let go more and more. The more we let go the more happiness
and peace it gives us. This is why the Buddha called this whole
path of Buddhism a gradual training. It’s the path that
leads one on, one step at a time, and at every step you get
a prize. That’s why it’s a very delightful path
and the prizes get more delightful and more valuable the further
you go. But even on the first step you get a prize.
still remember the first time I meditated. I remember the room.
It was at Cambridge University, in the Wordsworth Room at Kings
College. I’d never done any meditation before, so I just
sat down there for five or ten minutes with a few of my mates.
It was only ten minutes but I thought "Oh that was nice",
I still remember that feeling. There was something that was
resonating inside of me, telling me that this was a path which
was leading somewhere wonderful. I’d discussed over coffee
and over beer with my friends all types of philosophy, but the
"discussions" had always ended in arguments and
they never made me happier. Even the great professors at
the university, who you get to know very well, didn’t
seem happy. That was one of the reasons why I didn’t continue
an academic career. They were brilliant in their field but in
other ways they were as stupid as ordinary people. They would
have arguments, worry and stress just like everyone else. And
that really struck me. Why in such a famous university, where
people are so intelligent, are they not happy? What’s
the point of being clever if it doesn’t give you happiness?
I mean real happiness, real contentment, and real peace.
contentment and peace
first person I saw who had real contentment and peace was Ajahn
Chah, my teacher in Thailand. There was something about that
man! I saw what he had and I said to myself, "I want that,
I want that understanding, that peace". People from all
over the world would come to see him. Just because he was a
monk didn’t mean that everyone was subservient, obsequious
and always praising him. Some people would go and argue with
him and try to catch him out or even shout at him. I remember
a story about the first time he went to England with Ajahn Sumedho.
He went on alms round in Hampstead and as he was walking on
alms round, this was over twenty years ago, this young hooligan
came up to this funnily dressed Asian and threw a punch at him
just missing his nose. Ajahn Chah did not know this person was
trying to miss. Then he tried to kick him and just missed. He
was just trying to wind up this little Asian monk in funny clothes.
Ajahn Chah didn't know when he was going to be hit. He never
did get hit, because he kept peaceful, kept cool and never got
angry. Afterwards, he said England was a very good place and
that he wanted to send all his senior monks over there to really
test them out. As for Ajahn Chah, he had equanimity in practice.
easy saying "I’m enlightened", but then something
happens like that and you run a mile. Another monk in Hampstead
at the time was just going for a walk in the afternoon when
he passed a pub. He didn’t realise at the time that there
was a big soccer match between England and Scotland on that
day. It had already finished and the Scots supporters where
in the pub getting drunk. Around this period, there was a popular
TV series about a Kung Fu monk who, when he was small, was called
"grasshopper." These sozzled Scots soccer fans looked
through the window of the pub and said "Och it’s
wee grasshopper," and this monk took fright. These where
big Scotsmen and they were very drunk. So he started running
away, and they chased him all the way back to the Temple. "Wee
grasshopper" was running for his life. He lost it. But
the sort of practical letting go that Ajahn Chah did in Hampstead
is something which gives you a sense that you are on the road
Heart of Buddhism is a gradual path, one step after another
step, and you do get results. Some people say you shouldn’t
meditate to get results. That’s a lot of hogwash! Meditate
to get results! Meditate to be happy. Meditate to get peace.
Meditate to get enlightened, little by little. But if you’re
going for results, be patient. One of the problems with
Westerners is that when they make goals, they are not patient
enough. That’s why they get disillusioned, depressed and
frustrated. They don’t give their practice enough time
to mature naturally into enlightenment. It takes time, maybe
a few life times even, so don’t be in a rush. As you walk
each step, there is always something you get out of it. Let
go a little and you get freedom and peace. Let go a lot and
you feel bliss. This is how I teach meditation both at my
monastery and here. I encourage meditators to aim for these
stages of letting go, these bliss states called Jhana.
wants to be happy, and the Jhanas are how you can achieve happiness,
I mean real happiness, deep happiness. The only trouble is these
states don’t last very long, only a few hours, but still
they are very attractive. They arise through letting
go, real letting go. In particular they arise through
letting go of will, choice, control. It’s a fascinating
thing to experience a deep meditation and understand how it
comes about. Through such an experience you realise that the
more you control, the more you crave because of attachments,
the less peaceful you get. But the more you let go, the more
you abandon, the more you get out of the way, the happier you
feel. Now this is a teaching of something very profound,
much deeper than you can read in a book or hear in a talk and
certainly much more useful than discussing these things over
a coffee table. You’re actually experiencing something.
This is getting towards the heart of religion, that which people
call mysticism. You’re actually experiencing it for your
self. In particular you are letting go of this "controller,"
this "doer." Now that is the prime problem for human
beings. We can’t stop messing things up. Very often we
should just leave things alone but we can’t, we don’t.
Instead we make a mess. Why can’t you just relax and enjoy
yourself instead of always doing something?
hard to stop in meditation, but the more you stop the more rewards
you get, the more peace you get. When you let go in meditation,
let go the will, let go of the control, when you stop talking
to yourself, you get inner silence. How many of you are fed
up yet with this racket that goes on inside your head all the
time? How many of you sometimes can’t get to sleep at
night when there’s no noise from the neighbours but there
is something even louder between your ears. Yak, Yak, Yak, Worry,
Worry, Worry, Think, Think, Think! This is the problem with
human beings, when it’s time to think they can’t
think clearly and when it’s time to stop thinking they
can’t be at peace. When we learn how to meditate we get
this sense of being more balanced, and we know how to let go.
We now how to let go to the point where all thoughts disappear.
These thoughts are just commentaries, they’re just descriptions.
The difference between thought and reality is the difference
between, say, reading a book about New York and going to New
York. Which is more real? When you’re there, you smell
the air, you feel the atmosphere, you sense the character, all
of which are things you can’t write in a book. The
truth is always silent. The lie is always with words.
the Body Disappears
"con men," "con women" as well. These con
men can sell you anything! There’s one living in your
mind right now, and you believe every word he says! His name
is Thinking. When you let go of that inner talk and get silent,
you get happy. Then when you let go of the movement of the mind
and stay with the breath, you experience even more delight.
Then when you let go of the body, all these five senses disappear
and you’re really blissing out. This is original Buddhism.
Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch completely vanish. This
is like being in a sensory deprivation chamber but much better.
But it’s not just silence, you just don’t hear anything.
It’s not just blackness, you just don’t see anything.
It’s not just a feeling of comfort in the body, there
is no body at all.
the body disappears that really starts to feel great.
You know of all those people who have out of the body experiences?
When the body dies, every person has that experience, they float
out of the body. And one of the things they always say is it’s
so peaceful, so beautiful, so blissful. It’s the same
in meditation when the body disappears, it’s so peaceful,
so beautiful, so blissful when you are free from this body.
What’s left? Here there’s no sight, sound, smell,
taste, touch. This is what the Buddha called the mind in deep
meditation. When the body disappears what is left is the
gave a simile to a monk the other night. Imagine an Emperor
who is wearing a long pair of trousers and a big tunic. He’s
got shoes on his feet, a scarf around the bottom half of his
head and a hat on the top half of his head. You can’t
see him at all because he’s completely covered in five
garments. It’s the same with the mind. It’s completely
covered with sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. So people
don’t know it. They just know the garments. When they
see the Emperor, they just see the robes and the garments. They
don’t know who lives inside them. And so it is no wonder
they’re confused about what is life, what is mind, who
is this inside of here, were did I come from? Why? What am I
supposed to be doing with this life? When the five senses disappear,
it’s like unclothing the Emperor and seeing what is actually
in here, what’s actually running the show, who’s
listening to these words, who’s seeing, who’s feeling
life, who this is. When the five senses disappear, you’re
coming close to the answer to those questions.
you’re seeing in such deep meditation is that which we
call "mind," (in Pali it’s called Citta).
The Buddha used this beautiful simile. When there is a full
moon on a cloudy night, even though it’s a full moon,
you can hardly see it. Sometimes when the clouds are thin, you
can see this hazy shape shining though. You know there is something
there. This is like the meditation just before you’ve
entered into these profound states. You know there is something
there, but you can’t quite make it out. There’s
still some "clothes" left. You’re still thinking
and doing, feeling the body or hearing sounds. But there does
come a time, and this is the Buddha’s simile, when the
moon is released from the clouds and there in the clear night
sky you can see the beautiful full disc of the moon shining
brilliantly, and you know that’s the moon. The moon is
there; the moon is real, and it’s not just some sort of
side effect of the clouds. This is what happens in meditation
when you see the mind. You see clearly that the mind is not
some side effect of the brain. You see the mind, and you
know the mind. The Buddha said that the mind released is
beautiful, is brilliant, is radiant. So not only are these blissful
experiences, they’re meaningful experiences as well.
many people may have heard about rebirth but still don’t
really believe it? How can rebirth happen? Certainly the body
doesn’t get reborn. That’s why when people ask me
where do you go when you die, "one of two places"
I say "Fremantle or Karrakatta" that’s where
the body goes!  But is that where the mind goes? Sometimes
people are so stupid in this world, they think the body is all
there is, that there is no mind. So when you get cremated or
buried that’s it, that’s done with, all has ended.
The only way you can argue with this view is by developing the
meditation that the Buddha achieved under the Bodhi tree. Then
you can see the mind for yourself in clear awareness - not in
some hypnotic trance, not in dullness - but in the clear awareness.
This is knowing the mind.
you know that mind, when you see it for yourself, one of the
results will be an insight that the mind is independent of this
body. Independence means that when this body breaks up and dies,
when it’s cremated or when it’s buried, or however
it’s destroyed after death, it will not affect the mind.
You know this because you see the nature of the mind. That mind
which you see will transcend bodily death. The first thing
which you will see for yourself, the insight which is as clear
as the nose on your face, is that there is something more
to life than this physical body that we take to be me. Secondly
you can recognise that that mind, essentially, is no different
than that process of consciousness which is in all beings.
Whether it’s human beings or animals or even insects,
of any gender, age or race, you see that that which is in common
to all life is this mind, this consciousness, the source of
you see that, you have much more respect for your fellow beings.
Not just respect for your own race, your own tribe or your own
religion, not just for human beings, but for all beings. It’s
a wonderfully high-minded idea. "May all beings be happy
and well and may we respect all nations, all peoples, even all
beings." However this is how you achieve that! You truly
get compassion only when we see that others are fundamentally
just as ourselves. If you think that a cow is completely different
from you, that cows don’t think like human beings, then
it’s easy to eat one. But can you eat your grandmother?
She’s too much like you. Can you eat an ant? Maybe you’d
kill an ant because you think that ants aren’t like you.
But if you look carefully at ants, they are no different. In
a forest monastery living out in the bush, close to nature,
one of the things you become so convinced of is that animals
have emotions and , especially, feel pain. You begin to recognise
the personality of the animals, of the kookaburras, of the mice,
the ants, and the spiders. Each one of those spiders has a mind
just like you have. Once you see that you can understand
the Buddha’s compassion for all beings. You can also
understand how rebirth can occur between all species - not just
human beings to human beings, but animals to humans, humans
to animals. You can understand also how the mind is the source
of all this.
mind can exist even without a body in the realms of ghosts and
angels (what we call in Buddhism Devas). It becomes very
clear to you how they exist, why they exist, what they are.
These are insights and understandings which come from deep meditation.
But more than that, when you know the nature of the mind then
you know the nature of consciousness. You know the nature of
stillness. You know the nature of life. You understand what
makes this mind go round and round and round, what makes this
mind seek rebirth. You understand the law of Kamma.
First Knowledge. When the Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree,
according to tradition he gained threeknowledge’s. The
first knowledge was the memory of past lives. When you get close
to the mind, there are certain powers that come with that experience.
The powers are no more than an ability, a dexterity with the
use of the mind. It’s like the difference between a dog
that has been running wild and a dog that has been well trained.
You can tell the trained dog to go and pick up the newspaper.
It wags its tail and goes and picks up the newspaper for you.
Some people have got their dogs so well trained that they can
actually pick up the telephone. Maybe they could answer the
telephone as well, then that would really save you a lot of
you get to these deep states of meditation often, the mind becomes
well trained. One of the things which the Buddha did (and which
you can do when you get into deep meditation) is tell the mind
to go back to the past. What’s your earliest memory? Go
back further and further and further. Monks who do this get
early memories of their childhood. They even get memories of
the moment they were born. Sometimes people say that when you’re
born, you have no consciousness because the neuron’s aren’t
developed yet, or something like that. But when you re-experience
your birth, you know that that is just not true. When the memory
of your own birth appears, it is just like you are there and
you experience all feelings of that birth. Then you can ask
yourself for an even earlier memory, and then you get back into
your past lives. That’s what the Buddha did under the
Bodhi tree. Through meditation you know rebirth, you know your
own past lives. This is just what happens with the mind and
you know how it happens. That was the first knowledge that the
Second Knowledge. The second knowledge was to know how you
are reborn. Why you are reborn. Where you are reborn. This is
the Law of Kamma. Someone was showing me a book today
which, unfortunately, we had for free distribution but which
I hadn’t seen before. It had some really weird ideas in
it about the Law of Kamma. I think what it said was that
if you read one of the Suttas while you are lying on
the ground, you will be reborn with a bad back, or something
like that. Just stupid ideas! Kamma is much more complex
than that and it depends mostly upon the quality of your intention.
The movement of the mind itself is what determines the Kamma,
not just the act, but why and where it came from. You
can see this in meditation, but also you can see just how that
mind gets fully liberated.
Third Knowledge. The third knowledge was the ending of suffering.
With understanding of The Four Noble Truths, you realise the
Way and what enlightenment really means. It means freedom!
The mind is liberated, especially liberated from the body, liberated
not just from the suffering of the body but liberated from the
happiness of the body as well. That means that there is
no more inclination for sexuality, no fear of pain, no grief
over the destruction of the body, no ill will and no fear of
criticism. Why do people get worried about bad words that are
said? Only because of ego. They take something to be
themselves. Just imagine for a moment being free from all of
those things. What would that be like, no fear, no craving,
no need to move from this moment - In other words nothing
missing, and nothing left to do, nowhere to go because you’re
completely happy right here no matter what happens! This
is what we mean by enlightenment. This meditation is the
source of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the source of
every person’s enlightenment.
is no enlightenment without that meditation. This is why Buddhism
is far more than a psychotherapy. It’s far more than a
philosophy. It’s far more than a religion. It goes deep
into the nature of being, and it is accessible to all people.
You know how to meditate. Teachers are giving all the instructions
free without any charge. Do you want to do it? Usually the answer
is, "Maybe tomorrow but not today." Never the less
because the seeds have been placed in the mind, because the
meditation has begun already, there is an interest. Already
there is a sense of this enlightenment, a fascination for peace,
and you will not be able to resist that path. You may be able
to put it off for a while, maybe for lifetimes, but it’s
a strange thing that, as someone said to me many years ago,
"When you hear these teachings you can’t discard
them." You just can’t forget them. They aren’t
telling you what to believe. They aren’t giving you a
theory which is merely rational. But they are pointing you to
something which you can understand and experience for yourself,
and you get intuitions of this the deeper you go.
Buddha was a very remarkable person, his peacefulness, compassion
and wisdom, were legendary. There is something about enlightenment
that is very attractive. In the same way there is something
about freedom that you cannot ignore. That is why little by
little, you will understand what Buddhism is all about. You
won’t understand Buddhism from the books nor will you
understand Buddhism from what I say. You’ll only understand
Buddhism in your own experiences of peaceful meditation.
That’s where Buddhism is taught. So have fun with your
meditation and don’t be afraid of enlightenment. Get
in there, enjoy it, and you will have no regrets.
what Buddhism is. That’s its heart – meditation
and enlightenment. That’s its meaning. I hope you
can understand some of this. I can say no more because the time
has gone. I’ll complete my talk now.
n. extreme puritan, kill-joy, teetotaller, spoil-sport."The
Australian Oxford Dictionary" (New Budget Edition). Herron
Publications: West End, Qld. 1998
AFL code is also the acronym for the most popular form of football,
‘Aussie Rules’, in Australia.
and Karrakatta are the two main cemeteries/crematoriums serving
the whole of Perth.
The Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple
Los Angeles Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple has served the
Buddhist community since the turn of the 20th Century. In 1904,
Rev. Junjyo Izumida established the first Japanese Buddhist
temple in Los Angeles, located at 229 1/2 East Fourth Street.
The temple was relocated several times, to San Julian Street
in Little Tokyo (1907), to Savannah Street (1911), and in 1926,
the temple was moved to 118 North Mott Street in the Boyle Heights
area of East Los Angeles, where it remained for the next fifty
years. The present temple built in 1976 marked the return of
the Higashi Honganji to its roots in Little Tokyo.
the primary function of the temple has been to fulfill the religious
needs of the community, the temple has also served as a center
for a variety of other activities as well. It was, for instance,
the home of the first judo-kendo dojo in Los Angeles, in addition
to having served as an orphanage, a Japanese language school,
and as a facility for a variety of cultural classes. Today,
the Higashi Honganji houses the Lumbini Child Development Center,
a fully accredited pre-school and kindergarten with a full capacity
75 children in its care.
in 1976, the temple’s architecture includes a traditional
roof with over 30,000 tiles imported from Japan, lanterns which
adorn the ceiling of the main chapel, and a magnificent statue
of Amida Buddha on the altar. The temple reveals itself as a
magnificent repository of Buddhist art and architecture. Then
beautiful Japanese garden was landscaped and continues to be
maintained by temple members.
Dharma School is for children from pre-school age through
the 5th grade. The children learn about their religion and culture
through stories, discussions, skits, arts-and-crafts projects,
and special trips throughout the year. Many of the students
are also active members of Lumbini Children’s Choir.
Sangha Teens is a group for Junior High School youth,
expanding upon the foundations learned in Dharma School. In
addition, they also interact with similar groups from other
temples in the area.
Junior YBA (Young Buddhist Association) is composed primarily
of High School students. In addition to religious, social and
service activities within the temple, the group also participates
in regular activities of the Southern District, a league of
over ten temples in the Southern California region.
Senior YBA is college and young adult extension of Jr.
YBA. Their focus is more educational, being involved in monthly
gatherings and various seminars. Members also participate in
events sponsored by the Western Young Buddhist League, a federation
of chapters spread throughout the West Coast.
YABA (Young Adult Buddhist Association) is an organization
for over-30 group. They not only gather to deepen their understanding
of the teachings, but also focus on giving service to the temple.
ABA (Adult Buddhist Association) is a core group of the
temple. They sponsor monthly religious gatherings and meetings
to discuss how they may serve the temple.
Fujinkai (Women’s Group) provides for the needs of
the Temple Sangha. Traditionally, this has been accomplished
through providing refreshments and lunches after services, visiting
retirement homes, and so forth. In addition, they are active
participants in retreats and other educational programs.
Los Angeles Otani Gakuen, the temple’s choral group,
practices weekly. Approximately 25 men and women comprise the
organization, performing regularly at various events throughout
the year. The group is one of the few Buddhist Temple choirs
in the United States, singing in both English and Japanese.
Way is our temple newsletter which is distributed monthly.
The first issue was published in 1947, soon after the end of
World War II. It has served as an important vehicle in the introduction
of Shin Buddhism through ministers’ monthly messages.
It also serves as the main source of information regarding upcoming
activities of the temple.
Buddha (A) - The Buddha enshrined as the central figure
in our altar is Amida Buddha, who symbolizes the wisdom and
compassion inherent in the enlightenment of the Sakyamuni Buddha.
Shonin (B) Rennyo Shonin (C) - The image of Shinran
Shonin (1173-1262), the founder of the Jodo Shinshu tradition,
hangs to the right of Amida Buddha. To the left is the image
of Rennyo Shonin (1415-1499), the 8th Abbot of the Honganji
Temple, remembered for his invaluable contributions in the history
of our tradition.
the far right, there hangs a scroll with the characters, Namu
Amida Butsu, (I Take Refuge in Amida Buddha), the phrase members
are encouraged to recite that serves as a spiritual mirror for
the right of the scroll is a statue of a bodhisattva, one who
has entered the path of Buddhism and is diligently pursuing
the goal of enlightenment.
the area to the far left hang two scrolls. One depicts an image
of Prince Shotoku (574-621), recognized to be the father of
Japanese Buddhism. The scroll beside it depicts the Seven Patriarchs
of our Honganji tradition, the seven masters in history that
our founder, Shinran Shonin considered to be essential in his
understanding of the Buddhadharma. They are Nagarjuna (c. 150-250)
and Vasubandhu (c. 320-400) of India, T’an Luan (476-542),
Tao-ch’o (562-645), and Shan-tao (613-681) of China, Genshin
(942-1017) and Honen (1133-1212) of Japan.
(D) - There are several urns in the altar used to burn incense.
Incense diffuses a sweet fragrance, transcending its shape and
color. The burning of incense symbolizes the transcending of
selfishness or ego to become one with others. It represents
a symbolic cleansing of mind and body to prepare oneself to
receive the Dharma.
(E) - Flowers adorn the altar. They are appreciated not only
for their beauty, but as a symbol of impermanence... they are
beautiful in the morning, but fade in the heat of the day. They
remind us of the continuous change within and around us.
(F) - The lights burning in the altar symbolize wisdom,
the light through which we understand truth. For Buddhists,
wisdom is realized only through experience. Other lamps that
adorn the altar also symbolize the illumination that the Dharma
brings to our lives.
(G) - In addition to the flowers, there is also an offering
of food in the altar. Rice, being the staple of the Japanese
diet, is the traditional offering called obuppan. On other occasions,
fruit and other foods may supplement the obuppan. This custom
symbolizes our appreciation for the food we receive, and serves
as a reminder that we should share what we have with others.
invite you to join us at our weekly services, conducted in both
English and Japanese, for all ages, providing an opportunity
to further an understanding of Jodo-Shinshu Buddhism. Services
are held every Sunday from 10:00 AM (except for a one-month
break in August). Please refer to the calendar section or call/e-mail
for more detailed information.
Buddhism: A Concise Introduction ...by Huston Smith and
well beyond the masterful presentationof Buddhism in the bestselling
The World's Religions, Huston Smith and his premier student
Philip Novak offer an expert, contemporary, yet highly readable
and incisive guide to the heart of this vibrantly diverse and
rapidly growing tradition, one that has an increasing presence
and importance on the American scene. Smith is universally regarded
as the leading authority on the world's religious traditions,
and Novak is an award-winning professor of world religions and
a Buddhist practitioner immersed in the contemporary worlds
of American and Asian Buddhism.
and Novak respectfully cover the essential teachings, practices,
and historical development of Buddhism in all its rich variety.
Beginning with the life and legend of the Buddha, Buddhism explores
core Buddhist doctrines such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold
Path, nirvana, and emptiness. The authors go on to discuss the
split between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, the continued
divisions of Mahayana into Pure Land, Zen, and Tibetan Buddhism,
and the confluence of Hinduism and Buddhism in India. The second
half of the book follows the global migration of Buddhism and
its continuing diversification and development in the West,
especially in America. This compelling work by two great scholars
-- a legendary teacher and his long-time student and colleague
-- is the most insightful, up-to-date, and accessible introduction
to this great and immensely appealing religious tradition available
Smithis internationally known and revered as the premier teacher
of world religions and for his bestselling books The World's
Religions and Why Religion Matters. He was the focus
of a five-part PBS television series with Bill Moyers, and has
taught at Washington University, the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, Syracuse University, and the University of California,
is not the product of a victory or a command. It has no finishing
line, no final deadline, no fixed definition of achievement.
Peace is a never-ending process, the work of many decisions."
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