Vast As the Ocean

Living in Maine, we are blessed with the ocean as home. This August we had an opportunity to create a silent meditation sail on a two masted schooner. The gliding, quiet movement was nourishing and calming; the water element- a basis to generate greater compassion. Enjoy this guided ocean meditation that you can adapt – even for floating in your bathtub.

The meditation is a series of contemplations to cultivate mindfulness and to generate Bodhicitta. Take time with each contemplation (paragraph) from a few minutes to twenty. Up to you.

Cultivating Mindfulness:  Open your senses, relax your senses. There is the warmth, the air, the wood underneath us, water under the wood. Smell the ocean, taste it in the air.

Notice the sensation of movement, the boat is moving and at the same time the ocean is rocking us. Floating and moving in/with water are new and old. Gliding and floating feel new. Yet primal, we floated for 9 months in water. Allow the sensation of this moving and sailing to be realized/experienced… not thought with more thoughts.

Who is moving/flowing: Our bodies are water (60%) our hearts are pumping and we have the solidity of earthlike flesh and bones. Land under the surface is lava, steam, shifting plates. We are flowing, boat is floating, we are floating, land is flowing clouds are floating. Time is floating, life is flowing. Ocean…Land…I… We…. Time… Life….Flowing… Floating.

At home in this moment let thoughts flow away.

Giving rise to bodhicitta-(loving kindness and compassion) Expand heart mind into this moment of life. The sunlit waters of our ocean support even more living beings than on land, about a million microscopic organisms are in every single drop. Fish, crabs, mussels, eels, lobsters, seals, whales, sharks below; birds above. Connect wholeheartedly with the water beings, our companions with whom we share life in this very moment.

Give rise to bodhicitta (loving kindness and compassion) overflowing from your heart to all life, all living beings.

With the ground of Bodhicitta supporting your heart/mind, Expand, without thought. Be ocean/life. Profound presence and vastness, nowness, complete as it is.

Dedication: Gather some water in your hands. Let your thoughts turn to wherever you hear the cries of suffering and bless this water with prayers that it becomes healing medicine. Whisper aspirations to benefit all beings with this practice. Offer the water to the ocean, or to any body of water near you. Know that over time it rises as a cloud, becomes a rain of nectar; nourishing the land, quenching the thirst of the suffering, taken into the bodies of the wise to sustain their long life and teaching.

The End

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The Dharma of Bees

The Dharma of Bees

by Alison Melnick Dyer

 

Happy Pollinator Week! Here in Maine the lupines are in bloom, and the air is finally warming up. The summer solstice brought some rainy relief from the drought we had been experiencing. And in my modest yard and in the nearby fields, I’ve noticed bees of all stripes working over the flowers.

As a Buddhist and sometimes bee-keeper, I’ve spent a lot of time with bees. They’re beautiful to watch and listen to, and to spend time with. The contented hum of a healthy hive is incredibly soothing, and it’s fun to sit and watch them coming and going from the hive. Lately I’ve been thinking about how the lives of honeybees reflect aspects of the Dharma (as I’ve come to understand it). There are few things that bring me as much contentment as watching my bees returning to the hive, their “saddlebags” (pollen baskets baskets on their legs) filled with pollen of all colors. They are working to share their bounty with the rest of the hive, seeking to benefit all.

 

In the spring and summer, honeybees work from dawn till dusk to get enough sustenance for the hive to survive. This means long forays out into the world, working over pollinating plants, searching out water sources, and learning good foraging spots from their fellow hive-mates. Bees share information with each other. They have different dances they use to communicate important sources of pollen and water. Some work away in the hive: nurse bees feeding and tending the young brood (future generations!), others packing away supplies of honey and pollen, cleaning and building new cells out of wax. Meanwhile, some are out foraging for the sake of all. They each have jobs, but all work for the good of the whole. Their work is for their own survival, sure, but also for the entire hive. Their efforts are coordinated so that the hive can flourish, and so there is enough put by for the long winter.

 

In the winter – the most difficult months of the year – honeybees will bunch up around the queen, fanning their wings to keep her and each other warm. They take turns with who is on the outermost edge of the bunch, the front line against the cold. And they take turns being close to the cozy center. Without the group they won’t survive.

 

Bees work together to make the hive viable, and there’s a really great lesson in this. We can’t get far without the sangha. If we don’t have a community of practitioners to connect and share ideas with, how can we progress along the path? If we didn’t have the wisdom of teachers – in their words, their actions, and their writing – it would be very difficult indeed to learn how to put Buddhist doctrine into practice. But being part of a sangha means offering support to those around us. Making sure that the teachers and dharma siblings have the ability to continue their practice and study, and participating alongside them. I can’t imagine a community that more thoroughly embodies this Bodhisattva ideal than the honeybee. If one of us is not free, how can any of us be?

Emerging Into the world- What is working for you?

We invite your responses to:

Our Tuesday Thursday morning meditation and Sunday Dharma class.

She Who Vanquishes Epidemics

Lady Parnashavari

In Buddhism we think of healing, ultimately, as a peaceful mind filled with love. We have many practices and visualizations to help us embody that realization. Tibetan Buddhism particularly cultivates images that evoke a personification of that state as various deities. It is sometimes explained that this is similar to light passing through a crystal lens, becoming a multicolored rainbow reflection, or many images to inspire devotion for different kinds of minds.

Within the family of Buddhas that emphasize how to learn compassion, there are famously 21 Taras, female Buddhas. Lady Parnashavari, the dakini who is attired in green leaves of medicinal plants, is the 20th of the 21 Taras.  She protects us from contagious diseases such as the Coronavirus that we have today. I find her image compelling, as unlike most deities, who are depicted in royal attire, she is clothed in medicinal plants and herbs. She carries a bow and arrow and battle axe to vanquish illness (ignorance) and medicinal plants. She sits with one leg extended, ready to jump into action, an ancient super-hero! The significance is to cultivate confidence in our own seed of wisdom and that of others by imagining a powerful accomplished example.

Chanting mantra unites our body, speech and mind with her realization.  We visualize her and all Buddhas filling the whole of space and sending healing nectar, filling the bodies of all sentient beings in every region and nation, all the bodies of water, all the vast extent of the skies. 

Mantra: OM PI-SHA-TSI PARNA-SHA-WARI SARVA MA-RI PRA-SHA-MA-NI HUNG

Listen to the Mantra  

Full Practice

This is her mandala. The seed sylable “PAM” in the center, is the sound of her compassion. The mandla can be printed and hung in windows or gardens as a prayer flag, with the air carring the sound of compassion and her blessings to all countries.

Here is a teaching on the mantra:

OM: sacred syllable that consists of three sounds A, O and M, representing Buddha’s purified body, speech and mind. Here in particular, the sounds are invoked to prevent, protect and liberate our body, speech and mind from the epidemic disease such as the coronavirus.
PISHATSI: a female divinity of great powers such as a dakini or yogini who can protect, prevent and liberate beings from all negative and obstructing forces
PARNA: a leaf of a tree or a plant
SHAWARI: a tribal lady of the forest who masters magic and healing using forest herbs and medicines.
PISHATSI PARNASHAWARI: a powerful dakini who attired in green leaves of medical plants that are remedies to all illnesses and pestilences
SARVA: all, everything
MARI: illness or pestilence
PRASHAMANI: pacifier
SARVA MARI PRASHAMANI: the Pacifier of all illnesses and pestilences
HUNG: to attain the siddhis (attainment), to fulfill the aspiration, to be established in the deity-state, the Parnashavari-hood.

The head of our Drikung Lineage, HH Tinle Lundup,  searched the ancient texts written by our founder, Lord Jigten Sumgon to find her practices so we could envision her now. He then composed this brief version.

Praise and Verses to the Goddess Who Eliminates All Diseases.

Out of the mandala of dharmakaya’s great bliss
You protect against dangerous diseases like epidemics
And against untimely death-
I pay homage to you, the mother of wish fulfilling activities.

You, golden colored Parnashavari, sit on a lotus seat,
Your main face is yellow, the right one blue, and the left one white
Your hair is bound up in a topknot, and you are full of splendor-
I pay homage to the divine body of the goddess granting accomplishments.

You Illustrious One, are the embodiment of wisdom and compassion, You stand in the midst of masses of fire, burning like in the end of time. With your three faces and six arms, you look terribly wrathful-
I pay homage to you, whose one leg is stretched and the other bent.

You who wears a robe of leaves, hold bow and arrow,
Battle ax, and a bunch of branches.
Parnashavari, you sow the threatening mudra and hold a vajra-
I pay homage to you, great mother, protectress of human beings.

OM PI SHA TSI PARNA SHA WA RI SARVA MA RI PRA SHA MA NI HUNG*

By this virtue, may I swiftly accomplish Parnashavari

and establish all beings without exception in her state.

Full Practice

Loving the Stranger

This year I am the International Chair of a historic retreat in India, which has meant a lot of travel to organize the event. In December I went to Taiwan for many planning meetings. I asked for the support of one of our lineage centers as I needed to be there for quite some time. The Garchen Institute kindly offered a room and office support (Each of our centers is entirely separate, with different projects and concerns assigned by the leading Rinpoche of that center.) Which is to say I asked His Holiness’s office to arrange housing, basically inviting myself to stay for a month in HE Garchen Rinpoche’s Dharma Center. So, a stranger, not working on a Garchen project, comes for a month!  This already is a big ask.

The director, Mrs. Christine Hsu and the entire staff of about six were very welcoming and considerate. They prepared a lovely room, hosted a welcome dinner and assigned Lenny, one of the staff, to answer any questions and thoroughly orient me to the Dharma Center and the neighborhood. They made an offering to me for food and gave me use of the kitchen. They also included me in the delicious lunches that were prepared for the office staff every day by Mei Jing. I settled in for a long stay.

Then I got pneumonia. What I thought was a cold, got worse and worse. Lenny arranged for several doctor visits, but by the end of the first week I was so sick I could not breathe. I called Lenny at one in the morning and he escorted me to the emergency ward. You can imagine how fragile I felt in that state, unable to communicate directly with the doctors as I do not speak any Chinese. Lenny kept a close watch all night as I waited for a bed.

The next morning, the whole Center turned the full force of their loving kindness to helping me in every way. Mrs Hsu and her nephew Derek arrived to take over and quickly had me transferred to a branch hospital that had rooms. They insured that an excellent doctor was my physician ( Dr. Lin Heng YI turned out to be the president of the hospital and a respiratory medicine specialist.)  Immediately, Mei Yuan and Pei Ying were asked to take shifts so I could have 24/7 help, supervision and translation. They have become like sisters, spending a week with me in the hospital. Mrs Hsu came to the hospital three times a day for most of the week to make sure all was well, bringing soft blankets and pillows from her home. She totally made me feel safe and secure, reassuring me we were family now. She had Pei Ying start a log tracking every medicine and procedure. Pei Ying quickly added me to the Line-chat group so the whole office could follow my progress. She kept a close watch, making sure I took all the medicine correctly, turning into a practical nurse while she kept up her office duties on her computer.

Every day my new friends demonstrated their warm hearts. Mei brought towels, soaps and lotions, cups and thermoses so I had hot tea and luxuries to supplement my travel supplies. She made her grandmothers herbal remedy drink (made from a kumquat? and tasted a little like peanuts). Mai Jin, the center chef, sent many treats every day to supplement the hospital food, sliced fresh fruit, radish and egg pancakes and one day even a Chinese cake. Every day she made fresh fruit smoothies and her grandmother’s remedy; a tea and brown rice drink that tasted like nectar when I was very sick. She also did my laundry. Derek brought me a daily sandwich from a coffee shop so I also could have familiar food. One day he waited in line 20 minutes braving the brunch crowd, and one day on a bagel! All of the staff visited at least once, Lenny snuck in sparkling water and coke – my favorite drinks, but not recommended by Chinese medicine. By the week’s end I had to plead with them that one visit a day was fine and to please rest on the weekend.

They cared for me the way I would for my sister or mother, even better perhaps. I have learned a lot about loving kindness through them.  We sometimes say we can see the greatness of a teacher by the actions of their students. This experience has demonstrated for me Tara in action; HE Garchen Rinpoche’s love for all beings through his disciples. I will always use this experience as an ideal when I pray for the welfare of suffering beings. May we all feel so safe and tenderly treated.

May all traveling beings feel the protection of loving kindness, from  recovering well,  Khenmo

May. Benevolence Flow Like Water

The Highest Form of Benevolence Flows Like Water

I recently completed a temple pilgrimage in Taiwan and was deeply inspired by the artistry of this calligraphy by Master Master Hsing Yun, founder of the Fo Guang Shan Lineage and have been contemplating its deeper meaning The Highest Form of Benevolence Flows Like Water.

One of the largest Buddhist organizations in Taiwan is Tzu Chi. Led by its founding nun, Master Cheng Yen, the nun’s community and thousands of lay members, now rivals the International Red Cross the size and scope of service. While much of their work is focused on disaster relief, their diverse activitiesinclude hospitals and specialized responses to smaller events. Master Cheng Yen’s vision is to respond to the world with a heart of benevolence flowing like water to wherever it is needed.  Through exemplifying this conduct with a rare purity, a vast network arose to amplify her work.

The story began so humbly, five nuns in a tiny cabin determined to build a life only giving to others. They invited 30 housewives to save fifty cents from their food shopping and drop it in bamboo banks which they made form a grove nearby, sawing the stalks at the joints. With the slogan “50 cents can save lives”, and the aspiration of kindness formed with each deposit, funding small acts grew into an international community of response. Every suffering being who found their way to the cabin elicited heartfelt caring which grew exponentially.

Gradually the work of the nuns flowed into every dimension of experience. An example was a local explosion that injured 500 children. They started visiting the burn victims and found that the compression bandages used were inadequate. So, they invented new fabric, continuing to visit the patients weekly, offering comfort and assessing the fabric. After testing several versions, the new fabric is now useful for all burn victims. The tenderness extended towards cries for help also extends to how the solutions arise; the

environment and all the volunteers who implement the vision. For instance, hospitals; how do you create an environment of compassion? In the photo we see volunteers setting an intention of kindness before starting work. New medical students are met with volunteer “godparents” to lovingly encourage them throughout their studies. Their training begins with an extraordinary experience of appreciation that opens their hearts. The education of a doctor begins with anatomy and dissection. In this program they visit the families of the donors of the bodies and write a biography of their first teacher, the body given for dissection. Then before the start the study, a wonderful ceremony thanking the families and giving them a chance to say goodbye and honor the choice of their loved one is held at the hospital. There are prayers of gratitude to the donor by the students and a full ritual funeral attended by the whole monastery, students and families at the conclusion. The students are taught that their knowledge comes from a treasured gift and their work must honor its value. These doctors grow in understanding the role of compassion in their work.

The wonderful call and response of need and compassionate action; flowing so powerfully in the course of one lifetime is a joy to witness. The five nuns were joined by hundreds of thousands of lay volunteers and funds to cover the world, who are now often first on the ground in places like Fukushima and even in Texas after the disastrous tornados. The essence of compassion is ever-present in how they work.

I come away with a new understanding of seamless benevolence enabling boundless compassion. May benevolence flow in and from our lives like water.

Buddha’s Family

Lha Bab Duchen

Lha Bab Duchen falls on Nov 19th this year. One of the four major Tibetan Buddhist holidays, it marks the time Buddha went to the Tushita Heaven to teach his mother and then returns to his Sangha in our realm. Our special holidays honor Buddha’s birth, first teaching, Enlightenment, the miracles he displayed, his death and this journey to take spiritual care of his mother who had died giving birth to him.

Often when we tell the life story of the Buddha we begin with Buddha/Siddhartha leaving his family, just after his child was born, to find enlightenment.  As westerners, we hear this story through the lens of our culture and conflate it with the classic “hero’s journey” or suspect the abandonment as lacking in compassion.  Lha Bab Duchen more normally depicts Buddhas return to our realm after teaching his mother in the Tushita heaven realm. On Lha Bab Duchen, we can contemplate Buddha’s family story in a way that illuminates inclusion.

As we delve deeper into Buddha’s life, we see that it also includes his aunt, Mahaprajnapati, his wife Yasodhara, and the Naga Princess, a being from a water realm. All three attained enlightenment, and they represent the realities of many women’s lives.  Yasodhara, his wife, knowingly supported the unique conditions that allowed Siddhartha to achieve his potential, enlightenment, understanding the benefit for all beings. Mahaprajnapati, his aunt, raised Prince Siddhartha as a child (before he became the Buddha) and accepted the responsibility of ruling the country as queen after her husband died. She accepted a life of responsibility due to compassion. Completing worldly responsibilities, Mahaprajapati became the first nun and Yasodhara followed her. They became enlightened practicing within the nun’s community.

Finally, the Naga Princess can further demonstrate the holiness within “other” or
outsider. People of many clans and tribes joined the monastic community.  The Naga Princess was of another race of beings. Said to be his best student, she was an eight-year-old child of the dragon people, depicted as half dragon half human.  She defied all norms by demonstrating publicly and fearlessly, her profound understanding of the Dharma. When challenged to become a man in order to receive enlightenment she switched gender and then she switched back. What is gender she asked the assembly, thus destroying their ignorance.

All these women became enlightened, equal in spiritual understanding. The subtle teaching of this holiday is non dual understanding of spiritual capacity among genders and differences. There is no lesser Enlightenment, there is realization and nonrealization.

When we acknowledge the inherent holiness within all beings, we see that we are all included in Buddha’s story. This makes a difference in how we see ourselves and others. We are all the hero journeying in our own unique way towards recognizing our inner perfection and we are at the same time interconnected.

Recollecting Joy

Recollecting Joy      

By Khenmo Drolma

“All the world is on fire

All the world is burning

All the world is ablaze

All the world is quaking

That which does not quake or blaze

That to which worldlings* do not resort

Where there is no place for Mara**

That is where my mind delights.”

………………………………………………………………………………………Photo by Christine Racine

The Enlightened Buddhist Nun, Cala, wrote this in the 5thcentury BCE. It is a pithy and fresh description of anxiety and stress, just as evocative of our time as hers. It feels like our world is quaking some days. She then inspires us to look at our minds closely; there is unshakable peace within it and we can delight in it.

Often, in our day to day existence, we are caught up in chaos, in hope and fear. Thoughts, a claustrophobic barrage of illusory information, entrap us. What if? What did? Living in the past or future consumes our present. We do not see what is actually here, in this moment.

Joy opens with the barest shift of perspective. Now, the present fleeting awareness of life as it is, unadorned by elaboration, is always available. We remember to gaze at the sky. Vastness and clarity open as a vista, an expanse. This spaciousness of now is accompanied by peace and a tickle of joy, like a mental smile. The mind has peace and it is accompanied by heart’s delight. Rising joy, an eternal spring, independent of thoughts or senses simply is.

We may not have had direct experience of this treasure yet or we may have forgotten a rare fleeting taste, but it awaits us. Steadfastly, we begin and again, calming distracting conceptuality. Trusting, because as Cala reminds us, in our quaking, blazing world, peace also is present. Meditation is our mind simply coming home to now and that home is joy.

*Worldlings refers to those with no spiritual training.

*Mara is a personification of worldly ignorance.

Acharya Nuns Leadership Program

In 2017, Khenmo spent a month at Samtenling. Asking “How we better support you?”, a special meeting ensued with the current leaders of the nunnery including long time former director Mrs Namlha Taklha, current director Acharya Ani Tsekyi, accountant and secretary Acharya Ani Kunsang, teacher Acharya Ani Yeshe, long time German sponsor Vajramala and German nun, Ani Jinpa along with Khenmo and VDN board member Joanne Swirez.

During the meeting the Acharya nuns expressed their dreams for the future and obstacles the nunnery faced. In frank discussion, the long-term goal of proficiency in English and access to the larger world through competency in computers were determined to be problematic.  In addition, the leaders of the nunnery, also had personal dreams of serving the Dharma as Dharma teachers and translators. Mrs Taklha anticipated future needs and potentials of the nuns to serve the larger Tibetan community such as hospice and elder care like the wonderful Catholic nuns.  As each class produces more educated Dharma women their potential to effect the wider community as future leaders becomes significant.

It became clear, that this moment in time was a wonderful opportunity for the nuns to step forward in determining a beneficial future in order to contribute to the lineage as an institution and individuals. To understand the full potential and range of choices for making the best decisions and for increased confidence in their abilities, the international nuns and women at the meeting felt it would be most helpful for the Samtenling Acharaya nuns to widen their horizons in a leadership program.  The program would give them time to focus on English and computer skills, to experience women’s leadership as a norm in religious and secular communities, and have experiences allowing a wider world view informing their vision. This leadership program would be available to nuns selected by Samtenling, who have a commitment to return to Samtenling to share what they have learned. Khenmo Drolma of Vajra Dakini Nunnery, has committed to developing the vision into a fully active reality along with Mrs Taklha who, although no longer actively directing the nunnery, remains a close trusted advisor. The following description proposes a pilot program beginning in September 2018. With the participation of women leaders in the Drikung across the US, we will further refine the vision as we welcome the first Acharya Fellow to work with us forming the program for future nuns.

Samtenling Acharya Fellowship Program

A Leadership and Enrichment Program for Samtenling Acharya Nuns

An international twelve to eighteen-month program administrated by Vajra Dakini Nunnery

Advisors Mrs Namgyal Taklha, Khenmo Drolma

Goals:  Giving identified future leaders international teaching and professional experiences particularly in programs that are led by women and models that could be duplicated or modified to benefit Samtenling Nunnery and the Drikung lineage as well as nunneries throughout India. Passing areas of knowledge to the early classes of younger nuns gradually affecting the whole nunnery and influencing aspirations and goals of all the nuns (90).

Fellows would begin their experience in the US with language and computer skills at Vajra Dakini along with visits to western nunneries, inter faith and service events and programs designated as fitting the listed goals; including administrative experience.  Vajra Dakini runs a variety of programs that the Fellow would participate in during her stay. These include Dharma teachings, retreats and interfaith events. Vajra Dakini organizes an annual Feeding the Hungry Walk for Buddhist Global Relief and volunteers at the local soup kitchens. Khenmo is on the Portland Interfaith Council and participates regularly in a variety of interfaith events that the Fellow would join in. Khenmo is on the organizing committee for the annual Western Monastic Gathering which models monastics of all Buddhist lineages working together across traditions equitably among genders and seniority. This reduces historic misunderstandings and prejudices that arose due to isolation among the traditions as well as models equal respect among genders. The Fellow would participate in this year’s gathering. Additionally, the Fellow would travel to other cities for further teaching experience and additional investigation of organizations as described. On her return to India, the Fellow would design a talk or workshop for Samtenling on her return, in which she would share her experiences.

If the budget permits: inclusion of the Sakyadita International conference and potentially attending as a presenter. The ideal would be two nuns per year but we may begin with one nun.

  • Intensive English and computer classes
  • Dharma talks or programs that the selected nun would lead after a few months of intensive English classes (Some of the centers have easy access to translators and would be happy to arrange a talk on the subject of their choice, and we have had a request for a children’s program)
  • Participation in Sakyadita, the International Buddhist Women’s Organization with assistance in preparing and presenting a paper for the annual Conference
  • A variety of service experiences, tailored to the interests of the participant, could include:
    • education programs
    • hospice
    • small medical clinics
    • publishing books
    • GO Green projects

Adminstration: Vajra Dakini will host the Fellowfor up to 5 months and provide structured training in English and computer proficiency along with multiple Interfaith and Dharma activities. At least one internship relating to the Fellow’s goals for Samtenling nunnery and the Drikung Lineage is planned.

Partners: Centers and or individuals who offer financial and or hosting experiences as outlined in the proposal. We envision 1-2 month residencies in participating sites that will help build an education module in the areas of Translation, Public Health Environmentalism, Education using new technologies.