Sunday, October 2, 2016

Who is the Buddha? - Dharma talk

The Buddha is not only some enlightened man who lives 2,500 years ago; the Buddha is who you see when you look in the mirror. Look inside and discover this for yourself.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Business as Usual - Dharma talk

True kindness is selfless. Giving with the hopes of gain is not kindness, but business. In Zen, we need to be painfully honest about our motives. Our state of mind is just as important as the action that accompanies it.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Abide in the Silence - Dharma talk

The Buddha awakened to something comepletely indescribable. Words only confuse us. The aim of Zen is to realize that same experience of the Buddha, which is best expressed with silence.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Monday, September 12, 2016

One Kind Act - Dharma talk

In Buddhism, so much emphasis is placed on the enlightened mind, yet little is said about enlightened action. In this Dharma talk, I discuss how kindness is the supreme act of Buddhahood.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Like You'd Lose a Finger - Dharma talk

If we lived every moment like our lives depended on it, there would be no room for suffering. All of our attention would be consumed with the present. In a very real sense, that's what Zen practice  is--becoming this present moment in all of its entirety.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Eunsahn Gartland.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sweeping the Mandala

I watched an amazing sand mandala video yesterday (sorry, I can't find it to share with you). As is customary, after the monks dedicate countless painstaking hours designing this gorgeous mandala, they wipe it away with brushes. This is a lesson in both impermanence and letting go. Since the mandala is made of sand, it won't last. That's its purpose, to illustrate how ephemeral the world is. Nothing lasts.

Even if the monks had wanted to preserve the mandala, they couldn't. Today, people have crafted all sorts of creative ways to preserve the moment. We take pictures, then share them with our friends digitally and in person, post them on Facebook and Twitter. Yet the moment is gone. It vanished right after it was over.

Which leads me to the second function of the sand mandala--letting go. These monks have spent hours bent over this mandala, pouring their attentive hearts into it, only to sweep it away when they are done.

Why? we want to ask. Why would someone spend all of that time only to sweep it away?

Why do we anything then? Buildings, books, poems, families, empires, all of these are impermanent, subject to dissolution. The sand mandala is simply a more visceral example of this same principle.

We cannot hold onto or preserve any moment. Sweeping the sand away is a gesture and exercise in letting go of our need to hold on and preserve. Wisdom is knowing when to hold on--fight perhaps for those we love or ideals that we believe in--and when to let go.

My family and I went to the beach yesterday, too, where the ocean taught me a lot about sand and impermanence. My children and I dug holes near the shoreline only to watch them get washed away moments later. It was fun. It can be, if we are playful with the tides of change.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Buddhist Magazines, Not Worth Your Time or Money

Against my better judgment, I borrowed a Buddhist magazine the other day. I stopped reading Buddhist magazine about five years ago because, frankly, I thought they were sheer drivel. Most of the magazine consists of advertisements of retreat centers and celebrity Buddhist teachers. "Come meditate for a week with..."

The content tends to be along the lines of, "How to make sure you're meditating correctly." These magazines are the Buddhist equivalents of Fitness and Mens Health. "Want to jump-start your meditation routine? Follow these three steps..."

But I borrowed the magazine anyway from our meditation center, mainly because the lead article piqued my interest. And besides, maybe I had been too critical, maybe their content had evolved since I'd last read them.

Inside, I was greeted by all of the same schlocky material that you'd find in an advice column. The article I was interested in turned out to be a panel interview with teachers from various Buddhist traditions. No one said anything compelling. Maybe the questions weren't substantive enough; I don't know. 

What irks me about these magazines is that they don't promote Buddhism; they are selling the Buddhist lifestyle. Like any other consumer niche, the Buddhist lifestyle requires its adherents to subscribe to all of the major Buddhist magazines, amass and quote serene quotations about mindfulness and forgiveness, and purchase books by all of the major Buddhist authors. And of course, attend retreats, the longer the better, preferably ones led by brand-name teachers.

In my opinion, Buddhist magazines exist to promote books and retreats. They provide revenue streams so that Buddhist teachers can continue doing...whatever it is that they do--teach, lead retreats, write books, travel. 

If Huang Po, Deshan, or Yunmen were alive today, they would burn every copy they could get their hands on. 

You don't need to read a Buddhist magazine to be a Buddhist. In fact, if you want to practice Buddhism, take the $20 you would have paid for a year's subscription to one of these magazines, and donate it to the charity of your choice. That's much closer to the heart of the Buddha's teaching than anything you will find in a Buddhist magazine.