dharma monkey 佛法猴

embrace the monkey

January 26, 2014
by Sean
0 comments

Compassion is universal…

Just finished an inspiring weekend teaching with Patrick Gaffney, Sogyal Rinpoche’s senior-most student, entitled “The Wisdom of Compassion.”  Patrick shared this poem, which is engraved on the entrance gate of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan.

Sa'di in a rose garden, from a Mughal manuscript of the Gulistan, ca. 1645.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Sa’di in a rose garden, from a Mughal manuscript of the Gulistan, ca. 1645. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

“The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,
Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others,
You are unworthy to be called by the name of a Human.”

Bani Adam, or The Children of Adam, by 13th-century Sufi poet Sa’di Shirazi

December 21, 2013
by Sean
1 Comment

‘On behalf of a grateful nation…’

A poignant photo from yesterday’s LA Times…and a reminder of the obligation we have as a nation of grateful citizens.

Clara Gantt, the 94-year-old widow of Army Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Gantt, weeps as his casket arrived at LAX early Friday morning. After a tour of duty during World War II, Gantt was captured in the Korean War and was missing for more than 63 years. His remains were only recently identified, providing closure for his family.

(Photo credit: Andrew Renneisen / For the LA Times)

December 3, 2013
by Sean
0 comments

Of cloud forests and buddha nature

One of the Monteverde Cloud Forest's hanging bridges.

One of the Monteverde Cloud Forest’s hanging bridges.

At the beginning of this year, my spouse and I traveled to the cloud forests of Costa Rica to celebrate his birthday.  I didn’t know much about the area before I started researching the trip, which was a Christmas present, but I had taken a class with a Buddhist nun who lived in a Nicaraguan cloud forest, and the descriptions of her home and day-to-day life piqued my interest.

We ended up traveling to Monteverde, an area that was settled in the 1950s by Quakers from Alabama who objected to the military draft for the Korean War. It’s a small, compact town at about 4,200 feet above sea level, set on a mountain ridge just below the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.  This part of Costa Rica is perhaps best known for two things: the grueling, 90-minute drive up the mountain on a treacherous, winding gravel road to reach Monteverde, and the suspension bridges and zip lines that one finds high above the cloud forest floor once you arrive.

Looking at photos of hanging bridges is a very different experience from actually standing at the base of one.  From the very first step, I was forced to deal with my near-paralyzing fear of heights. The steel-grate flooring decks of the bridge tend to move up and down with each step, while the cables that double as handrails move in the opposite direction, so the entire bridge twists as you walk across, and the twisting gets worse the further away from you get from the towers at either end.  The experience is made all the more harrowing when you look down to see how high you are above the tree tops.

It took me a few minutes to work my way out on to the first bridge, and as I stood there, I made a rather snap decision: for once in my life, I would force my mind to abandon the fears and anxieties and stories that constantly bombard my consciousness.  In short, I decided to simply be present — to accept that the current moment was the only moment I should be concerned with — and to put one foot in front of the other without obsessing about whether I would fall off the bridge and plunge to my death below.

It was an amazing feeling to be free from those feelings, and to simply enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  After a few minutes of loosening up, I may have even intentionally bounced on the bridge a few times, much to the chagrin of my spouse.

"Thoughts are like clouds. Even though the clouds sometimes seem to cover the entire sky, if you take a plane you can go beyond them into a vast space that is never even touched by the clouds. The clouds of our ordinary thoughts are just temporary and changing, whilst the deeper nature of our mind is unchanging, like the infinite space of the sky." -Sogyal Rinpoche

“Thoughts are like clouds. Even though the clouds sometimes seem to cover the entire sky, if you take a plane you can go beyond them into a vast space that is never even touched by the clouds. The clouds of our ordinary thoughts are just temporary and changing, whilst the deeper nature of our mind is unchanging, like the infinite space of the sky.” -Sogyal Rinpoche

This whole experience came to mind yesterday as I re-listened to a teaching that Sogyal Rinpoche gave at a retreat in New London, Connecticut, in June on buddha nature, the potential for enlightenment that every sentient being possesses. Although the various denominations of Buddhism have differing views on the subject, the path I study has perhaps the most optimistic viewpoint — each and every being not only has buddha nature (which is innate and primordially pure), but, as Rinpoche puts it, “Your buddha nature is as good as any buddha’s buddha nature.”

While contemplating this profound teaching, I was reminded that our limitless potential is obscured by the emotional and cognitive delusions that we have created through lifetimes of bad habits, negative actions and self-grasping.  ”Once you recognize that a delusion is just that, it ceases to exist,” Rinpoche said in the teaching.  ”Just like turning on a light in a dark room.”

If only it were as easy as flipping a light switch…but the experience of putting my fear of heights aside for a long weekend of hiking in Costa Rica is a tangible example of the point Rinpoche made about delusion, which is one of the biggest roadblocks to my own spiritual practice.  If I suddenly found myself on one of those bridges in the cloud forest again, it would only take me a few minutes to come to grips with the situation, shake off my fear and then enjoy the raw now-ness of the present moment, even if I’m swinging back and forth in the treetops of Central America.

It know it would take a great deal of practice to dispel that fear on a permanent basis, just as it will take a great deal of practice before I am able to banish the obscurations that keep my from realizing my own potential buddhahood.  But I know it’s possible, and I’m grateful for the masters — including my own — that have shown us the way.

November 30, 2013
by Sean
1 Comment

Black Friday meditation

I turned on the television this morning to see video footage of a woman using a stun gun on another Black Friday shopper.  This passage came to mind:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment,

for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.

But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

– St. Paul, in 1 Timothy 6:6-10

October 27, 2013
by Sean
0 comments

Ancient wisdom for today’s world

I came across this passage a few years ago, and while I couldn’t initially appreciate the depth of what the Old Master was trying to convey, there are some days now that I read these words in a state of awe.

The Way that words can tell is not the eternal Way.
The name that words can name is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the source of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of myriad forms.

Free from desire: behold the unknowable.
Filled with desire: behold the visible.

Being and non-being springing from the source, and differing only in their name:
this is the deepest mystery, the darkness of the dark, this is the gateway opening to the All.

- Laozi, from the Tao Te Ching

%d bloggers like this: