Why meditate?When you sit still and watch your thoughts rise and fall, without commenting, without criticizing or editing, gradually your mind, which before was a no-fly zone, becomes your inner neighborhood, a place you like to visit, a clean, well-lit garden, free of fear and tension.
Every morning at Berkeley Monastery and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas we bow to our lineage of ancestors, to keep their memory fresh in our minds. At the start of the list we bow three times to our teacher's teacher, the late Chan Master Empty Cloud, of True Suchness Monastery. True Suchness Monastery, on Cloud Dwelling Mountain, in Jiangxi Province in China, is a thriving community of meditating monks who keep a 1200 year old meditation tradition alive, who also farm the soil, grow their own tea, eat vegetarian food and live amid a misty landscape that seems to have been lifted from a thousand-year old Chinese landscape painting. Ted Burger's new film, "One Mind" shows the daily life of the monks of True Suchness Monastery in exquisite moving images and sounds. Ted, an indie film-maker who lives in China, took his camera into the monastery, gained the trust of the monks as he meditated and worked with them and with this film has opened a window to the rarified space of the mountain-top. His previous film, "Amongst White Clouds," introduced the world to the hermits of Zhongnan Mountain, where individual Buddhist monks and nuns carry on solitary practice of meditation and reflection as it has been done for centuries. “One Mind” shows us how the Sangha community of monks lives together while sustaining their practices, combining work, meditation, devotion and service into a living spiritual path.
He sat on a broad wicker chair with a curtain of light behind him, looking for all the world like a benevolent, beloved king. The chair was not special, it was his regal bearing that transformed his presence. In fact his father had been king of a tribe; the bloodlines were evident that evening.
There were religious leaders on stage from 300 faiths and sects; Madiba's broad smile and generous dignity brought us all into his light. I felt elevated by his words and ennobled by his spirit and vision.
Like the Obama family pictured above, we religious delegates visited Nelson Mandela's small cell on Robben Island and had been blinded by the sunlight glaring from the rock pit where he chipped away at his 27-year captivity.That he emerged from that soul-breaking prison at age 71 and forgave his captors reminds one that the Bodhisattva-spirit can arise from the darkest of despair.
The inspirational choirs that greeted him on stage and sang his praises sent shivers and tears at the same time.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching! As we gather with family and friends for the holidays, we expect joy and blessings, but sometimes it's hard to avoid friction. The troubles often arise from trivial, but real issues, such as challenging travel conditions over great distances, no space left in the oven to warm up that last dish, and many personalities gathered at the table trying to find safe topics of conversation. How do we skillfully navigate these moments,and how do we resolve them without lingering bad feelings?
Let's talk about how to find "the Dharma in the drama," over the holidays and into the next year.
I'm in Los Angeles for the VegSource.com Healthy Lifestyle Expo and this marks the 10th year of my participation. I gave my first presentation on Buddhist approaches to plant-based nutrition in 1993! My talk tomorrow (9:15 AM at the Warner Center Marriot Hotel in Woodland Hills) is titled, "Deepening Our Connections to All." Hope to see you there! If you can't make it, Jeff and Sabrina Nelson film the events each year and produce outstanding DVDs of all the talks given by the doctors, researchers, nutritionists, athletes and Buddhist monks who attend. Available here!
Truthout.org has a scary article called, "It's Going to Be a Scorcher ... of a Century" that is so worth your while reading. It talks about when climate change will "lock-in" by 2047, and the hottest weather will be the new standard. If I were a couple planning for a family, I would face a major quandry. Kids born this year will be 34 that year. Their kids will be adolescents and they will have to face savage storms, deadly droughts and rising seas. Singapore will reach its temperature "point of no return" in 2028, says the article. The article says,
"Of course, this doesn’t have to happen. The scientists who worked on the Naturestudy estimated that if we cut our CO2 emissions by just a little bit, we can put off that 2047 zero hour by 22 years to 2069. That’s still only 56 years away, but it is a sign that we might be able to avoid permanent damage to the planet if we push for renewable energy right now. If that’s the case, we can avoid passing the climate threshold."
Traveling with Dharma-friends up through Seattle to Vancouver for the Inauguration of Gold Buddha Monastery. We are staying with Dharma Master Heng Lai at Snow Mountain Monastery near Index, Washington. A group of forty folks from Gold Mountain in San Francisco, joined with thirty people from Berkeley for a big photo beneath the white Guan Yin image.
The Berkeley friends took a group photo with Dharma Master Lai.
We also visited with the 80-year old Vietnamese monk Master Ming Zhao, of Vietnam Temple in Seattle. Master Ming Zhao has been a Dharma friend of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for a decade.
Just returned from my mother's 90th birthday party in Toledo. Her birthday is Nov. 24th, but with Thanksgiving travel and the snowy weather at that time of year, she said, "If the queen of England can decide when to celebrate her birthday, so can I! We're going to celebrate in August!" So 18 family members arrived from points in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and California (me) and had a fine party with music, speeches, a memory book, photos and food. We had two five-month old infants and four generations.
(Me, my mom, Debbie Metcalf, and my sister, Liz Clowery.)
I don't much go for the practice of finding unusual creatures in the clouds, as so many of my Asian Buddhist colleagues do, but this particular critter sure looks like a dragon, don't you think? Dragons are supposed to come around to protect auspicious Dharma-events. Maybe so? (Photo credit: Marion Roberson)