...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... June 3, 2003
The Boy Monk ...Anh Do and Teri Sforza
3. Waiting for the Right Time ...Upasaka Guy Rom
4. A Letter to a Friend Considering Ordination ...Bhikshuni
5. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
6. Book Review: Qigong Empowerment: A Guide to Medical,
Taoist, Buddhist, Wushu Energy Cultivation ...by Shou-Yu
Liang, Wen-Ching Wu
2. The Boy Monk ...Anh Do and Teri Sforza
The Boy Monk newspaper article @
Free screening and question-and-answer session with writers/producers
of "The Boy Monk," a series and video documentary
produced by reporters Anh Do and Teri Sforza of The Orange County
Thursday, JUNE 5, 7-8 p.m.
UCLA campus, Franz Hall 1260- See UCLA.edu for map
Boy Monk is a 30-minute documentary about the remarkable journey
of Donald Pham, a gifted teenager from Orange County who moved
to a monastery in India to become a Buddhist monk and pursue
his ultimate goal: to become the first Vietnamese-American geshe,
the most learned of Tibetan Buddhist monks.
now as Konchog "Kusho" Osel, the boy monk is the youngest
at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, run by the Tibetan
Government in Exile. The series examines a monk's sacrifices
including vows of silence, chastity and feelings of abandonment
and Don Pham's personal battles with physical illness and devastating
'Boy Monk' series explores Pham's family's background, whether
the decision to go to India was entirely his own, how the family
is dealing with the transition and whether the family is ultimately
accepting Don Pham's journey of faith.
of the 4-part newspaper series and DVD copies of the documentary
will be available for sale at the event.
3. Waiting for the Right Time
...Upasaka Guy Rom
would like to share my experience while encountering the Dharma.
What I say may seem obvious to many Dharma practitioners, but
if it clarifies something for just one person, then that is
I first met the Dharma, my mind was racing. I had a strong instinct
for the teachings, and I was fascinated and excited by them.
I had a strong desire to become a monk as soon as possible,
to practice intensely, and to become a Buddha quickly. Luckily,
my teacher would not allow me fall into my own trap. Becoming
a monk at that time in my life would have been disastrous for
me. This was because, unbeknownst to me at the time, my understanding
of the Dharma was intellectual. My desire to be ordained was
simply a desire of the ego; there was little Dharma motivation
from the heart. Consequently, taking ordination would have made
me feel pressured, instead of bringing peace and happiness,
which are the real purpose of practicing the Dharma and keeping
the precepts. I would have been in constant internal conflict
as I tried to live up to my ideal of a perfect monastic, instead
of accepting myself and working with what I am at present.
some time, I realized my faulty motivation. I came to my senses,
or more accurately, I left my senses and discovered a tiny drop
of Dharma in my heart. As I practiced more, self-acceptance
began to arise in my heart. I stopped pressuring myself with
my idealistic, intellectual understanding of the Dharma and
the expectations it produced. Dharma is beautiful, and we have
to have a long-term view in order to find it within ourselves.
It will take a long time to practice and develop Dharma qualities.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, '"'The longer the
practitioner is willing to practice, the quicker he or she will
achieve the goal.'"' Joyous effort means being peaceful
and happy with the practice and willing to spend a long time
at it. When we have this, then we are truly practicing. Dharma
now means to me becoming a better human being, caring for others,
trying to develop a kind heart. It does not mean being intellectual,
uptight, and pushing myself.
hope to be ordained when I am confident to keep the precepts
purely in a peaceful, happy state of mind. Then being ordained
will benefit my practice and that in turn will benefit many
other people as well. In the meantime, I will try to live according
to the precepts while wearing lay clothes and having long hair,
and practice being a monastic before actually becoming one.
4. A Letter to a Friend
Considering Ordination ...Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron
received your letter. You want to be a monastic! You sound both
happy and nervous about this. It is very worthwhile to be a
monastic, and the more prepared your mind is for ordination,
the easier the transition from lay to ordained life will be.
Therefore, I will write some questions for you to reflect on
in the hopes that they will help you to think deeply and thus
eliminate potential obstacles in your mind. When I requested
my spiritual master for permission to be ordained, he said,
'"'Yes, but wait a while.'"' He made me wait nearly
a year and half. I was impatient to ordain and did not want
to wait, but looking back on it now, it was very good that I
did. During that time I repeatedly contemplated the topics outlined
in these questions. This helped me considerably, so now I would
like to share them with you. When you contemplate these questions,
it is important to be as honest as you can and use them as a
tool to discover your own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes your
truthful answer may not be what you would like it to be or what
you think your spiritual teacher would want it to be. However,
there are no right or wrong answers here. The better you know
yourself, with all your strengths and weaknesses, the better
you will be able to prepare for ordination.
Why do you want to become a monastic? What is your deepest motivation,
your deepest reason for wanting to take ordination? What does
ordination mean to you? Are there difficult relationships, situations,
or emotions that you are trying to be free from? Is ordination
a way of avoiding those or a way of facing them?
Where does being ordained fit into your Dharma practice? How
will it help you? What things about being ordained will be difficult
One of our precepts is to follow the Dharma advice of our abbot
(abbess) or teacher. Is there a teacher with whom you have a
strong connection? It is important to train under the guidance
of a qualified and skillful teacher, not just to move around
going wherever your fancy takes you. Are you willing to discuss
your plans with your teacher and follow his or her Dharma instructions,
or do you like to do what you want to do?
As sangha members, we are part of a larger spiritual community.
We sit in order of our ordination and respect those ordained
before us. We also should listen to the advice and suggestions
of the senior monks and nuns because they have more experience
as monastics. Is there a part of you that has difficulty with
respecting and listening to those who are senior? How can you
work with that attitude so you can value their guidance and
reap the benefit from their experience and concern?
Which of the Buddhist traditions will be your principal practice?
Theravada? Chinese? Tibetan? It is important to know which direction
you will take in your practice; otherwise you could end up doing
a mixture of things and not get anywhere.
In order to be able to keep our ordination, we need living conditions
conducive to spiritual practice. Where will you live after taking
There is no large organization that supports and looks after
Western monastics. We are responsible for our own finances,
health insurance, and so forth. Worrying about these things
can distract us from practice, so it is better to have these
firmly in place before ordination. Will you have an income or
financial support? Do you have health insurance?
Do you have any social obligations to clear up before ordination
(debts, divorce, caring for aged parents or children)? Do you
have any serious health problems that will influence your ability
to practice, to live in community, or to keep the ordination?
We have years and lifetimes of conditioning behind us. It is
important to look at this closely and resolve it. Thus, the
next sets of questions deal with societal values and goals that
previously have been inculcated in us. Do you wish to be successful
in a career? Imagine meeting your old friends after several
years. They have good careers, success, a comfortable life,
and reputation. How will you feel? Will you feel like a useful
member of society even though you have not produced anything
tangible that is valued by society?
Ordination entails developing our ability to handle our own
emotions without seeking emotional support from a partner. It
also involves managing our sexual energy. How do you feel about
married and family life? Would you like a life-long companion
to share your life with? Is it difficult for you to control
your emotional or sexual attraction for others? Even if marriage
and family do not seem so interesting now, how will you feel
when you are older? Often women in their middle or late thirties
and men in their late forties undergo a crisis, thinking, '"'If
I want to get married and have children, I have to do so now.
Otherwise, my age will make having a family difficult.'"'
Imagine yourself at that age and investigate how you might feel.
How will you feel when you are old if you have no children,
grandchildren, home, security, and so forth? What could your
old age be like as a nun or monk? as a lay person?
Two of our precepts are to abandon the signs of a lay person
and to take on the signs of a monastic. This entails shaving
our head, wearing robes, and keeping our precepts wherever we
are and whomever we are with. Are you easily influenced by what
other people think of you--be they strangers or family and friends?
How will you feel if people on the street stare at you because
you wear robes? How will you feel if your family and friends
say that you are escaping from reality or wasting your life
by being a monastic? How will you feel if your parents are upset
because you are not living a '"'normal'"' life?
Have you told your family and close friends that you are considering
becoming a monastic? Are you comfortable with the way they reacted,
or do you feel guilty, hurt or angry? It is very important to
work out these emotions. Also, it is important to give your
parents love. They often fear that their child is rejecting
them, or that they will never see their child again if he or
she takes ordination. We have to be sensitive to their needs,
to reassure them that we love them, and yet not feel pulled
by their emotions or wishes. What meditations can you do to
help you overcome the attachment or anger you may have towards
Are you prepared to live in a community? This involves giving
up doing what you want to do when you want to do it. You have
to follow the discipline of the community. You have to live
and work with people whom you may not normally choose as your
friends. How do you feel about having your ego confronted like
Which is your strongest disturbing attitude: attachment, anger,
ignorance, jealousy, pride, doubt? If it goes unaddressed, it
will cause problems in your practice and make you doubt your
ordination. Know which one is the strongest and start applying
the antidotes in your meditation now.
To actually receive the ordination during the ordination ceremony,
you must have developed to some extent the determination to
be free from cyclic existence and to attain liberation. To be
able to keep the ordination after receiving it, you have to
constantly cultivate this motivation. Do you regularly meditate
on the disadvantages of cyclic existence and its causes, or
is there a part of your mind that is resistant to thinking about
that? The eight worldly concerns are some of the chief obstacles
to developing the determination to be free. We are attached
to 1) money and material possessions, 2) praise and approval,
3) reputation and image, and 4) pleasure from the five sensual
objects. We have aversion to 5) not receiving or losing our
money and possessions, 6) blame or disapproval from others,
7) bad reputation or image, and 8) unpleasant sensations from
our five senses. Which of these are the strongest for you? Are
you familiar with the antidotes for them? Do you apply those
antidotes? Do you feel that giving up those eight mental states
would make you unhappy?
How do you feel about going through the hardships of ordained
life? How can you strengthen your spiritual goals and make them
more heartfelt and central to your life? Ordained life, like
lay life, is not always easy. There will be problems, ups and
downs. When the down times come, people are tempted to blame
their ordination, thinking '"'My ordination is the problem.
If I were not a monastic, I would not have this problem.'"'
What are the benefits of ordination? Do you have deep conviction
in them? It is important to have a clear understanding of these
things beforehand, and to be courageous in facing physical,
emotional, and spiritual difficulties in your life.
Is there a part of your mind that is seeking respect from others
because you are ordained? Do you expect others to treat you
well? to give you things? to show you respect? Or are you willing
to be the servant of others, thus cultivating the altruistic
What are your needs and concerns after ordination? What resources
do you have--internal and external--to help you meet those?
What things do you feel confident about? What things do you
feel shaky about?
are some things to think deeply about. Each point has several
questions, and it could be helpful to write down your responses.
Put them aside for a few weeks. Then reread them and make adjustments.
Reflecting on these questions again and again over time will
help remove unclarity in your mind and possible obstacles in
your ordination. They will help you go through the emotional
high of wanting to be a monastic and to understand your mind
wish you all the best on the path to enlightenment and pray
that your wisdom, compassion, and skill grow so that you may
spread happiness to many beings.
in the Dharma, Thubten Chodron
5. Mahayana Zengong
The True Understanding and Realization of Buddhism
swiftly attain full enlightenment and see the true Buddha nature.
escape the cycle of rebirth and transcend the three realms.
The Health and Well-beings of Everyone
quickly obtain peace of mind and a healthy body.
perform remote-healing using the Mind Energy.
be able to perform remote-healing using the Super Mind Energy.
quintessence of the Mahayana Zengong consists of ten great qualities
and virtues. The Unity of the Ten Greatnesses is inseparable
from the unification of the Ten Dharma Realms, the ten great
liberations and the Ten Immeasurables. It is beyond description,
imagination, duality, and discrimination. All sentient beings
inherently embrace and possess the intrinsic Ten Greatnesses.
Due to our deluded and ignorant Minds, we could not realize
and apply these qualities. As we attain the fruit of Buddhahood
we shall spontaneously actualize the Unity of the Ten Greatnesses.
The Greatness of the True Nature -- The mind and the
material world are inseparable. The emptiness and existence
are inseparable. The body and mind are inseparable. The true
nature of the Mind is the Buddha nature.
The Greatness of Appearance -- The sameness and difference
of all phenomena and appearances of the Form and Formless Realms
are unified and is called Oneness. This is because the self
and others are inseparable.
The Greatness of the Primordial Wisdom -- The true nature
of the Mind pervades the past, present, and future and is thus
The Greatness of Virtue -- All phenomena and the body
and mind are inseparable. Engaging in the emancipation and liberation
of sentient beings with love and compassion is the ultimate
virtue of Oneness. That is the Way of Bodhisattvas.
The Greatness of the Ultimate Truth -- The ultimate truth
encompasses immeasurable teachings and boundless heart essences
The Greatness of the Performance -- The actualization
of the Six Paramitas and constantly turning the Wheel of the
Dharma is to liberate sufferings and bring joy to sentient beings.
The effort of such performance is ceaseless and timeless.
The Greatness of the Energy -- The energy of mind, the
body, and the universe are all oneness. One is immeasurable.
Immeasurable is one. Energy and mass are mutually equivalent.
The energy of the mind pervades the Dharmadhatu and is thus
The Greatness of the Accomplishing Activities -- The
accomplishing activities of great compassion can be in aspects
of activity, quiet, the imperceivable, and openness. The Dharmadhatu
is endless while the numbers of sentient beings are immeasurable
and unimaginable. It is necessary to turn the great Wheel of
the Dharma since the true nature of mind fully pervades the
Ten Directions and the Three Times.
The Greatness of Time -- To the enlightened beings there
is no concept of time such as the past, present, and future
(the Three Times). The enlightened ones are always at ease even
when the time changes from the short kalpa into the long kalpa,
and vice versa. However, for the sentient beings there exists
the concept of time because they differentiate changes, measures,
The Greatness of Emptiness -- To the enlightened beings
there is no difference between singular and plural or big and
small since they are all inseparable. However, for the sentient
beings they have the solidified concept of shape, size, change,
and appearance so that they have the idea of emptiness, existence,
6. Qigong Empowerment: A Guide to Medical, Taoist, Buddhist,
Wushu Energy Cultivation ...by
Shou-Yu Liang, Wen-Ching Wu
Empowerment is the most unique and complete volume ever written
in the English language on Qigong (Chi Kung), the attainment
of energy. It is a volume that you can refer to over and over
again for all your energy studies. This book includes all the
major energy training schools in ancient China: 1. Medical Qigong
theories and training methods to strengthen the organs and to
rejuvenate overall health. 2. Taoist Qigong cultivation and
training outline, from the basic to the most profound methods,
to foster Essence, Qi, and Spirit. 3. Buddhist Qigong empowering
methods to develop the Esoteric Abilities of the Body, Speech,
and Mind. 4. Emitting, Absorbing, and Healing Qigong to develop
your healing ability. 5. Wushu (martial arts) Iron Shirt, Iron
Palm, Iron Fist Qigong for developing your ultimate physical
Reviewer: andy_taiji from Martinsburg, WV United
States... By far the best book I have found to date on Chinese
Qigong. Its strength is in the many exercises described within
its pages. The authors provide plenty of pictures to assist
their written directions. The book also provides many exercises
for beginners to build a foundation in qigong basics and methods
of practice for more advanced students.
value of this book is immeasurable. It gives the average student
of qigong access to information that would take an individual
years to acquire in study with many qigong teachers.
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