...Buddhism for Urban America
Urban Dharma Newsletter... October 14, 2003
This Issue: Special Issue - Western
Buddhist Monastic Conference
Three Western Buddhist Monastic Conference Photo Albums:
2. The 9th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference
3. The 8th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference
4. The 7th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference
5. The 6th Western Monastic Buddhist Conference
6. The 4th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference
7. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week: None
8. Book/CD/Movie Review: None
Three Western Buddhist Monastic Conference Photo Albums:
9th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference ...Presentations
and discussions on: SUFFERING & TRANSFORMATION ...Vajrapani
Institute, Boulder Creek, California ...October 6-10, 2003
Theme of this Conference was: Suffering & Transformation
of suffering caused by a sense of unworthiness & alienation
of suffering caused by personal & structural violence
of suffering caused by sickness, ageing and death
of suffering caused by greed & consumerism
discussions provided opportunities for us to broaden our understanding
of these topics, expand our capacity to work within our own
communities and gain greater appreciation and understanding
of other communities in these areas.
year the host was Vajrapani Institute, situated in Boulder Creek,
California. Our monastic conferences originally started for
Western monastics to gather together and spend time learning
about each other's work and practices in the West as well providing
an opportunity for us to be rejuvenated in a monastic setting.
In this same spirit, this conference was open to monastics from
all Buddhist traditions and cultures, but is particularly for
monastics born or raised in the West, who follow traditional
vows, which include observing celibacy.
October our conference theme was "True to the Source"
this included explorations of forms of monastic training, investigation
of the heart of monastic practice, inter-faith dialogue, and
the interface with modern Western culture. These themes provided
the focus for the presentations and discussions about our lives
as monastics. Thirty participants, including seven abbots of
monasteries in the West, attended the event.
year's conference, as well as being based around these various
dimensions of using suffering for the purpose of transforming
greed, hatred and delusion into virtue, concentration and wisdom,
was also intended to involve the elements of sharing our various
forms of practice, especially meditation techniques & teachings,
and intra-Buddhist tradition dialogue & collaboration.
pm Check In
Monastic Conference Opening Session: Facilitated by Ven.
Tenzin Kacho, Rev Master Eko & Ajahn Amaro
1st Council — Transformation of Suffering Caused
by a Sense of Unworthiness & Alienation ...Presentations
by — Ven. Tenzin Kacho & Rev. Meian Elbert
...Facilitators: Rev Master Eko, Ajahn Amaro
Main meal offering
2nd Council— Transformation of Suffering Caused
by Greed & Consumerism ...presentations by — Rev
Kusala Bhikshu & Rev Heng Sure ...facilitators: Ven.
Tenzin Kacho, Rev Master Eko
Informal Dialogues: Facilitators: Ven. Tenzin Kacho,
Rev Master Eko
3rd Council — Transformation of Suffering Caused
by Personal & Structural Violence ...Presentations by
— Ajahn Santikaro & Sr. Chau Nghiem ...Facilitators:
Ven. Tenzin Kacho, Rev Master Eko
Main meal offering
Tour of Vajrapani & Visit to Land of Medicine Buddha
Informal Dialogues: Facilitators: Ven. Tenzin Kacho,
Rev Master Eko
4th Council — Transformation of Suffering Caused
by Sickness, Ageing and Death ...Presentations by —Ven.
Jangchup Phelgyal & Rev. Master Eko ...Facilitators:
Ven. Tenzin Kacho, Rev Master Eko
Main meal offering
pm Presentation on the Work of FPMT by Ven. Losang
Informal Dialogues: Facilitators: Ven. Tenzin Kacho,
Rev Master Eko
Closing Discussion & Reflections; Merit-Sharing Ceremony
...Facilitators: Ven. Tenzin Kacho, Rev Master Eko &
Main Meal Offering / End of Conference
council was scheduled for one hour, followed by one and a half
hours of free discussion time.
were two presentations for each council, thirty minutes each
for a total of one hour. There was then a short break and the
second hour and a half was open to the whole gathering for further
input, discussion & questions.
made introductions, and announced the program and schedule,
and moderated and facilitated discussions and question &
of each tradition offerd opening aspirations and closing dedications
for each council, as well as at the opening and close of the
conference itself. Traditions leading the chanting were encouraged
to share copies of their texts with the gathering so that all
Monastics - Tradition/Traditions
Tenzin Kacho - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Meian Elbert - Soto Zen/Chinese Mahayana
Thich Nu Chon Duc - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Sr. Thich Nu Chan Chau Nghiem - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Thubten Chodron - Dharmaguptuka/Tibetan
Losang Drimay - Gelugkpa/Tibetan
Gyalten Thartso - Gelugkpa/Tibetan
Sr Thich Chau Nghiem - Vietnamese Zen/Pure Land
Sr Thich Nu Chan Thuan Tien - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Man Shing - Chinese Chan/Pure Land
Lekshe Choying Wangmo - Gelugkpa/Tibetan
Angie - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Thubten Norzin - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Shiou Wen Shih - Chinese Zen/Pure Land
Losang Chodren - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Amy Miller - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Monastics - Tradition/Traditions
Ajahn Pasanno - Theravada/Thai Forest
Kusala Bhikshu - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Sudanto Bhikkhu - Theravada/Thai Forest
Ajahn Santikaro - Theravada/Thai Forest
Master Eko - Soto Zen/Chinese Mayahana
Jangchup Phelgyal - Gelukgpa/Tibetan
Luminous Owl Henkel - Soto Zen
Daishin Yalon - Soto Zen/Chinese Mahayana
Heng Sure - Chinese Chan
Ajahn Amaro - Theravada/Thai Forest
Chong Hae Sunim - Kwan Um Soen Rim-Korean
Chong Won Sunim - Kwan Um Soen Rim-Korean
Jian Hu - Chinese Linji Chan
Jian Ying - Chinese Linji Chan
Jian Zong - Chinese Linji Chan
Rinchen Gyatso - Drikung Kagyu/Tibetan
Losang Tensin - Gelugkpa/Tibetan
Thich Chan Phap Hai - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Thich Chan Phap Dung - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Thich Chan Phap Son - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
Thich Chan Phap Ntuyen - Vietnamese Zen/Lin Chi
The 8th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference Concludes Successfully
...BY SAMANERA NYANIKO OF ABHAYAGIRI MONASTERY, REDWOOD
eight years now. Western Buddhist monastics have been gathering
to discuss Buddhism's adaptation to the West, the West's adaptation
to Buddhism, how to collectively work towards the true goal
of Buddhism as a united Sangha, among other topics specific
to the particular theme of each year's conference. These discussions
promote understanding and harmony within the Western Sangha.
November 7th, 2002, twenty-nine Buddhist monastics representing
six different lineages of Buddhist practice came together at
the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CITB) in Ukiah, California,
for the 8th annual Western Buddhist Monastic Conference. The
topic this year was "True to the Source" and the conference
involved demonstrations of rituals, chants, and practices from
each tradition as well as group discussion of how each of us
uses our way of practice to relate to the "source"
of the Buddha's Teaching. Topics such as teacher/student relationship,
interfaith dialogue, interface with modern Western culture,
and inter-tradition ordinations were discussed. The traditions
represented were Theravada Thai Forest Tradition, Soto Zen,
Chinese Mahayana, Tibetan Gelugpa, and Korean Chogye Zen. For
four days, we met in councils, meditated together, took part
in CITB morning and evening services, had informal discussions,
told stories, and related more closely to each other in the
light of our similar human experience, and in the light of Dharma.
the beginning it was apparent that the similarities between
us outweighed the differences. Elements of study, meditation,
and service are included in our practice. We're all following
rules of training and discipline. Each chanting or ritual demonstration
invoked a spirit of offering oneself to the Triple Gem and revering
the Triple Gem, taking refuge in the Triple Gem, bringing forth
the bodhi resolve and overcoming all doubts. Everyone's robes
were similar also; the colors may have been different, but each
robe, save one style of Soto Zen robe, was made in the traditional
patchwork style designed by Ananda and resembling the rice paddy
fields in India. The difference was mainly in the style of the
ritual: for example at CITB their recitations and praises are
very musical and backed by chimes, drums, and bells. In the
Theravada tradition, the chanting is done in three tones with
through the conference the group visited Abhayagiri Monastery
to watch a video depicting the Ajahn Chah tradition in northeastern
Thailand and to take a tour of the land. Perhaps an event that
fills in a large gap between the Theravada and Mahayana traditions
is Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's offering of the Abhayagiri Monastery
land to the Theravadin order. When asked how the Sanghas of
these different traditions could interact with each other, Master
Hua would reply "not different Sanghas; same Sangha."
This kind of statement refers to the need to not have separated,
floating Sanghas in the West who interact with each other through
windows of traditional forms, but for each practice tradition
to be part of one Sangha, with a common teacher (the Buddha)
and a common goal (to realize the Truth). That's why these monastic
conferences are so important: we come together and discuss our
common aspirations and goals, about what works for us in our
practice) and what we're inspired by We can see from the similarities
of different Buddhist traditions that a united Sangha in America
exists right now. This kind of unity happens when there is mutual
respect for discipline, a "seeing through" of conventions,
frequent interaction, and mutual love of Dharma.
to the "source" of the Buddha's Teachings, it had
to be agreed upon that the final say has to come from our own
experience. The description in the Pali sutras of a stream-enterer
is "one who knows for himself" or "one who has
knowledge not dependent on others."
the Western Buddhist Monastic Conference happens, many devoted
monastic practitioners gather, and it's a rare opportunity to
live and train with monastics of all traditions. There's automatically
a sense of deep gratitude that the Buddha's Teaching has even
lasted for this long at all there is no other organized group
structure that has stayed true to its original core principles
for this long. The Sangha in America is very much alive the
monastic conferences are proof of this and everyone is working
hard. The Sangha is slowly becoming a part of the society, slowly
changing things for the better through the power of its ethics
ninth Western Buddhist Monastic Conference will happen at Vajrapani
Institute in Oct/Nov 2003. The theme is yet to be decided. ...Copied
from Vajra Bodhi Sea, issue 390, November 2002, p. 48-49.
The 7th Western Buddhist Monastic Conference Presentations
and discussions on: MONASTIC TRAINING ...City of Ten
Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Ukiah, California
theme of the October 2001 conference was Monastic Training.
The presentation topics were Upholding the monastic tradition
in the West - What are the essentials?, Adaptation to the West,
Transforming Worldly People into Monastics, Heart of the Life,
and Where are we Going? These discussions provided opportunities
to broaden our understanding of the topics and expand our capacity
to work within our own communities and gain greater appreciation
and understanding of other communities in these areas.
year the host was Rev. Heng Lyu, Abbot of the City of Ten Thousand
Buddhas and Rev. Heng Sure, Director of the Berkeley Buddhist
Monastery. Our monastic conferences originally started for western
monastics to gather together and spend time learning about each
other’s works and practices in the west as well as to
rejuvenate in a monastic setting. As in the past, this conference
was open to monastics from all Buddhist traditions and cultures
and for persons who are seriously interested in becoming a monastic,
following traditional vows, which includes observing celibacy.
October our conference theme was “The Four Messengers”;
the signs Prince Siddhartha saw when he explored the world outside
the palace gates of aging, sickness, death and the spiritual
seeker. This was the presentation focus in our lives as monastics
and twenty-six participants including four abbots of western
Report on the 6th Western Monastic Buddhist Conference ...by
Ven Tenzin Kacho Assisted by: Sister Jitindriya, Rev.
Kusala, Rev. Meido, Ajahn Pasanno, Ven. Heng Sure and Ven. Karma
Master Eko Little and the monks at Shasta Abbey hosted the 6th
conference of Western Buddhist monastics for the third consecutive
time. It took place from Friday October 20 to Monday, October
23, 2000 in Mt. Shasta, California. This was the largest gathering
ever with greater diversity and there was representation from
the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Tibetan and Vietnamese
traditions. There were four abbots among the twenty-six participants.
Some persons had been ordained well over two decades and the
newest monastic was ordained just months ago. The conference
theme was "The Four Messengers"; the sights Prince
Siddhartha saw when he explored the world outside the palace
gates; revealing the signs of aging, sickness, death and the
spiritual seeker. We used this as a presentation focus in our
life as monastics.
guests arrived at the Abbey on Friday evening to the welcome
introduction and opening by Rev. Master Eko, Abbot of Shasta
Abbey (Japanese Soto Zen tradition) and Ajahn Pasanno, co-Abbot
of Abhayagiri Monastery (Thai tradition). Everyone was invited
to attend the evening vespers service and meditation with the
resident monastics. And in the early mornings many attended
the morning services and meditation in the Meditation and Ceremony
Halls. The services at Shasta Abbey are sung in English, set
to western Gregorian chant melodic style by the late Reverend
Master Jiyu-Kennett who established Shasta Abbey in 1970. The
services are uniquely beautiful and many participants looked
forward to returning to the Abbey for these services.
morning the first gathering was on the topic of "Aging"
and Rev. Daishin from Shasta Abbey (Japanese Soto Zen tradition)
presented his experiences of being in the monastery most of
his adult life. He spoke of growing up and aging in the monastery
as he has been ordained for twenty-six years. He started his
talk by relating a recent visit to the local bank where he noticed
that no one had gray hair. Was it that everyone was young or
just appearing young? In our American society we deny and defy
old age. We are a culture addicted to youthful appearance. Surgically
and cosmetically we try to sustain youth and push away the reality
of age in the hopes of remaining youthful. Living in a monastery,
we don't have to be compelled to engage in our life and aging
in this way. He spoke of enjoying being older and of the satisfaction
of monastic life. Discussion focused on how the natural process
of aging is accepted and appreciated more as we deepen our practice
and study of the Dharma. Reflection and blessing were held at
the beginning and end of every session offered by monastics
from different traditions.
Karma Lekshe Tsomo (Tibetan tradition), assistant professor
of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego,
spoke on the topic of "Sickness." She related her
personal experiences with sickness while pursuing her Dharma
studies in India and other countries. Some years ago in India,
while viewing land sites for a nunnery, Ven. Lekshe was bitten
by a poisonous viper. She spoke graphically about her three-month
hospital ordeal in India and Mexico, and the difficulties that
even seasoned practitioners may experience when confronted by
intense pain and the uncertainties of serious illness. She described
the traditional Tibetan explanation of illness and its causes,
and presented a variety of Buddhist practices that can be helpful
for transforming our attitudes toward illness, coping with pain,
and using the experience of illness as an opportunity for practice.
Sunday morning two participants shared the topic of "Death."
Rev. Kusala (Vietnamese Zen tradition) spoke on the recent passing
of his teacher, the late Ven. Dr. Havanpola Ratanasara, eminent
master and scholar from Sri Lanka. The late venerable monk had
founded the American Buddhist Congress, the Buddhist Sangha
Council of Southern California and numerous other organizations
and schools in the United States and Sri Lanka. He spoke of
the incredible teaching Dr. Ratanasara showed through his acceptance
of approaching death and in mindfully releasing his responsibilities,
turning away from this life and looking in direction of his
rebirth. Rev. Kusala said of Dr. Ratanasara, "He taught
me the need to turn away from everything in this lifetime as
death approaches and make ready for the next. 'Don't be attached,'
he would say; 'It only leads to more suffering.'" Rev.
Kusala also addressed the theme of dealing with grief as monastics.
Tenzin Kacho (Tibetan tradition), spoke on a different aspect
of "Death" in the "Death of the Monastic."
I prefaced my talk saying that the focus was on the difficulties
and concerns of the western monastics today and presented some
of the encounters and views of lay Buddhists and lay Dharma
teachers toward monastics. Some persons view monasticism as
an austere self-centered practice and monastics as escapists
not able to cope in society. Also mentioned were the comments
of the head of a national Buddhist organization (name was not
mentioned) who feels that there are only two jewels left in
Buddhism anymore; that the Sangha has degenerated in Asia and
not accepted in the West. Some persons comment that there is
no need for a monastic Sangha. I also noted that there were
no monastic presenters at the "3rd Annual Buddhism in America
Conference" held in October 2000 in Colorado. These views
stimulated some fruitful discussion. In general, although concerned,
the participants were optimistic and that we need to continue
our efforts to study, practice and conduct ourselves well. With
time, as we foster Dharma friendships with lay people and participate
in Buddhist gatherings, the presence and value of monastics
will naturally come to be recognized in this country. Excellent
training and continued guidance is key before one takes ordination
and especially in the early years of one's life as a monastic.
Heng Sure, Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, a branch
of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Chinese Chan tradition)
spoke on the Samana, the spiritual seeker and started by having
each person share the signs or triggers that set each of us
on to become monastics. This gave people a chance to express
themselves and it was skillful for it allowed everyone an opportunity
to speak. He then presented ways of according with the Dharma
and of the signs and form of the Samana. The evening before
he had translated the "Poem in Praise of the Sangha"
by Qing Dynasty Emperor Shunzhi (mid 17th century) and read
it to us. He shared how the internal signs of the Samana were
the combination of blessings and wisdom; that blessings without
wisdom was like an elephant with a necklace and wisdom without
blessings was like an Arhat (one who has attained liberation)
with an empty bowl. Blessings come from making others happy.
morning Sister Jitindriya from Abhayagiri Monastery (Thai tradition)
presented "the Spiritual Friend". She began her talk
with the view that the Four Messengers can be seen as opportunities
for awakening; that we don't usually see them that way, but
instead we see them as things to avoid. Because we don't see
suffering (dukkha), as an opportunity to awaken, as a 'sign'
pointing out the truth of the way things are, we continue to
wander aimlessly in samsara. Dukkha is a sign that can lead
to liberation if we don't despair. She suggested that if the
Buddha had not awakened to dukkha in seeing the earlier signs,
he might not have 'seen' the Samana, the sign of the renunciate
would not have meant much to him. She quoted from many sources
in the Pali Suttas. As worldly beings we are intoxicated with
youth, health, beauty and life, we don't see their impermanent
and unstable nature. The monk Ratthapala was asked, "Why
have you gone forth when you have not suffered the four kinds
of loss?" that is, of health, youth, wealth, and family.
He replied in the manner of a teaching he had heard from the
Buddha: that life is unstable and there is no shelter or protection
in any world. Ananda, the Buddha's attendant, said that association
with good friends (those who encourage and help us on the Path)
constituted half of the holy life, and the Buddha commented
that the whole of holy life is association with good friends.
Good friendship is the forerunner and necessitates arising of
the Noble Eight-Fold Path.
session was purposely created with sufficient time for discussion
after the presentations to allow questions, concerns, and dialogue
in depth. It was encouraging to voice and listen to other's
personal views. Most of us have very busy lives alone or in
monasteries and it is a true joy to spend some time in engaging
conversations and learning about other monastics' lives. Our
gathering truly felt like a conference for and by monastics.
Often topics of discussion at Buddhist gatherings focus more
on particular interests and concerns of laypersons and lay teachers;
the purpose of this conference is to meet and share monastic
concerns and to enjoy the company of others who have gone forth.
This fundamentally different orientation highlights the importance
of holding monastic conferences as much as possible at monasteries.
The purity of the Sangharama (monastery), this time the hospitality
we enjoyed at Shasta Abbey, lends a priceless support to our
participants expressed deep appreciation for the rewards of
the Sixth Monastic Conference. Our time together was brief,
but precious, as the program brings together studies, traditions,
inspiration and wisdom from America's diverse Buddhist cultural
traditions. The very fact of our gathering with six monastic
traditions testifies to the gradual deepening of the Dharma
roots in Western soil. The historic significance of our gathering,
the community we create, and the merit and virtue generated
when the Buddha's Sangha gathers in harmony is truly an occasion
have set the dates for the 7th Western Monastic Conference for
October 19-22, 2001 with the theme tentatively set for "Monastic
Ordination and Training." We encourage other western Buddhist
monastics to join us next year and thank the American Buddhist
Congress for offering some financial assistance for travel to
this 6th conference.
Colors of the Dharma: The Fourth Annual Conference of Western
Buddhist Monastics ...by Ven. Thubten Chodron
years ago, American nuns from the Tibetan tradition mused about
how wonderful it would be to have Western monastics from the
various Buddhist traditions in the USA meet together. Thus was
born a series of annual conferences. All were interesting, but
for me the fourth, held October 17-20, at Shasta Abbey in California,
was really special.
Abbey is a community of 30-35 monastics, established by Reverend
Master Jiyu in the early '70s. A bhikshuni trained in
Soto Zen, her disciples follow the Zen teachings and are celibate.
All of us were amazed at what the community has created together.
Many of the monastics have been there for over twenty years,
a kind of stability seldom seen anywhere in America these days.
Clearly, the monastic life and that community were working for
overwhelming feeling at our first meal together was how wonderful
it was to sit in a room filled with "altruistic closely
shaven ones," as my friend calls us.
were 20 participants, Westerners from the Theravada, Tibetan,
Soto Zen, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean traditions. The collage
of colors was beautiful. The theme of our time together was
training, and at each session there was a brief presentation,
which sparked a discussion.
was an introduction on Friday evening, and on Saturday morning
Reverend Eko, the abbot of Shasta Abbey since Reverend Jiyu's
passing last year, talked about their training. A monastery
is a religious family. It's not a business, a school, or a group
of individuals competing with each other. One is at a monastery
to be a monastic, so learning, practice and meditation are foremost.
reason is to be part of a community, and that itself is our
practice because living with others puts us right up in front
of ourselves. We keep bumping into our own prejudices, judgments,
attachments and opinions and have to own them and let them go,
instead of blaming others. Novice training focuses on helping
us be more flexible and give up clinging to our opinions and
insisting that things be done the way we want. Too much formality
in the training makes us stiff; too little and we lose the sense
of gratitude and respect so important for progress. A third
reason for going to a monastery is to offer service to others.
Tenzin Kacho, a bikshuni in the Tibetan tradition, talked
about teacher training. For beginner teachers, learning teaching
techniques was emphasized, but for those who have been teaching
for some time, the issue was how to be a good spiritual guide.
will share their confusion with us, but if we accept it without
hurt or blame, it may transform the confusion as well as the
student. Because sentient beings' minds are untamed, it is not
unusual for them to misinterpret their teachers' actions and
to project faults. When students have problems with their teacher,
we can refer them to another teacher or member of the monastic
community to help them at that time."
evening I spoke about thought training, emphasizing "taking
and giving" meditation and ways to transform adverse circumstances
into the path. Taking and giving is a turnabout from our usual
attitude, for here we develop compassion that wishes to take
others' suffering onto ourselves and love wishing to give others
all of our own happiness. Then we imagine doing just that.
course, the question arose, "What happens if I do that,
get sick and then can't practice!" This led into a lively
discussion about our multiple layers of self-centeredness and
our rigid concept of self. Giving all the blame to the self-centered
thought is a way to transform adverse circumstances into the
path, because we experience adversity due to negative karma
we created in the past under the influence of self-centeredness.
Therefore, recognizing that this self-preoccupation is not the
intrinsic nature of our mind but an adventitious attitude, it
is only fitting to blame it, not other sentient beings, for
morning Ajahn Amaro from the Thai forest tradition spoke on
Vinaya training (monastic discipline). "What is living
in precepts all about? Why was our teacher, the Buddha, a monk?"
he asked. When the mind is enlightened, living a life of non-harmfulness--that
is, living; according to the precepts-- automatically follows.
It's the natural expression of an enlightened mind. The Vinaya
is how we would behave if we were enlightened.
when the Buddha first formed the sangha, there were no precepts.
He set up the various precepts in response to one monastic or
another acting in an unenlightened way. Although the precepts
are many, they boil down to wisdom and mindfulness. The Vinaya
helps us establish our relationship to the sense world and live
simply. The precepts make us ask ourselves, "Do I really
need this? Can I be happy without that?" and thus steer
us towards independence. They also heighten our mindfulness,
for when we transgress them, we ask ourselves, "What in
me didn't notice or care about what I was doing!" The Vinaya
makes all the monastics equal: everyone, regardless of his or
her previous social status or current level of realization,
dresses the same, eats the same, keeps the same precepts. On
the other hand, there are times when one person or another is
respected. For example, we heed the Dharma advice of our seniors
(those ordained before us), no matter their level of learning
or realization. Serving the elders is to benefit the juniors--so
they can learn selfless behavior. In other situations, we follow
whoever is in charge of a certain work, regardless of how long
that person has been ordained.
someone--a friend, student or even teacher--acts inappropriately,
how do we deal with it? In a monastic community we have a responsibility
to help each other. We point out others' mistakes not to make
them change so that we will be happier, but to help them grow
and reveal their Buddha nature. To admonish someone, the Vinaya
gives us five guidelines: 1) ask for the other's permission,
2) wait for an appropriate time and place, 3) speak according
to the facts, not hearsay, 4) be motivated by loving- kindness,
and 5) be free of the same fault yourself.
afternoon was "robes around the world," a veritable
Buddhist fashion show. Each tradition in turn showed their various
robes, explained their symbolism, and demonstrated the intricacies
of getting them on (and keeping them on!). Several people later
told me that this was a highlight of the conference for them:
it was the physical demonstration of the unity of the various
traditions. At first glance, our robes look different: maroon,
ochre, black, brown, gray, orange, various lengths and widths.
But when we looked closer at the way the robes were sewn, we
found that each tradition had the three essential robes and
each robe was made of the same number of strips stitched together.
of cloth stitched together is the symbol of a simple life, a
life in which one is willing to give up the immediate pleasures
of the external world in order to develop inner peace and ultimately
in order to benefit others. This is the quality I noticed in
the people present at the conference. No one was trying to be
a big teacher, make a name for themselves, set up a big organization
of which they were head. No one was complaining about their
teachers or anyone else's teachers. No, these people were just
doing their practice day after day. There was a quality of transparency
about them: they could talk about their weaknesses and failures
and not feel vulnerable. I could see that the Dharma worked.
There were qualities about those who had been ordained for twenty
years that aren't found in the average person, or even in the
newly-ordained. These people had a unique level of acceptance
of themselves and others, a certain long-range vision, constancy
evening we discussed the student-teacher relationship and how
it fits in our practice. At first there seemed to be big differences
between us in the importance of the teacher-student relationship
and how it is to be cultivated and used in the practice of each
tradition. However, a unity emerged: our teachers recognize
a far greater potential in us than we see in ourselves, and
they challenge us to the core in order to help us bring this
evening, post-session discussions lasted into the night. There
was a genuine thirst to learn more about each other's practices
and experiences and to use that knowledge to enhance our own.
As Monday morning came, everyone felt a deep sense of appreciation
at the dependently-arising event we had shared in and strong
faith and gratitude for the Buddha, our common teacher. After
meditation and prayers, we met together and each monastic said
a dedication from his or her heart, and then the winds of karma
blew the leaves in different directions as we parted.
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