ACI LA
   
SEPTEMBER 2006


ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

This Month


In last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut encouraged us to achieve the state of mind of complete happiness and joy.  He reminded us of the great advice given by Master Shantideva in the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

No matter what happens

I will never allow

My joy to be disturbed.

Feeling upset cannot accomplish

My hopes, and only makes me lose

The goodness that I have. (6.9)

Venerable Marut followed this with another reminder from Master Shantideva’s Guide:

If there is something

You can do about it,

Why should you feel upset?

If there is nothing

You can do about it,

What use is being upset? (6.10)

This month Venerable Marut encourages us to reflect on how our life is going and consider the opportunities we have to improve it. We hope you will find many opportunities to improve your life and be happy in this month’s newsletter.

 


   
  This Month
A Message from Brian Venerable Marut)
  Current ACI-LA Classes
  Upcoming Teachings
  Asian Classics Input Project
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home
 

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

As someone who spent pretty much his whole life in the academic world, September has always seemed to me to mark the “new year.”  As we move from a sort of summer holiday mentality to an autumnal “back to work” mindset, it is good to take the opportunity to make some “New Year’s resolutions” about our spiritual lives. 

Take a few minutes in the next week or two to reflect a bit about how your life is going and what kind of changes you could make to improve it.  Time flies by so fast!  Don’t let it all just slip away; try to maintain consciousness about the flow of your life and do (now!) the things you know to be most important.

Time is one of those things the emptiness of which is relatively easy to perceive.  I think we all know, or at least have a strong suspicion, that time is not going on “out there” somewhere, but is rather something that we experience (differently at different times) “inside,” in our minds.  When we are bored, time seems to go by very, very slowly.  When we are interested and engaged in what we’re doing, time whisks by quickly.  When we are eagerly anticipating something coming up in our lives, it often seems like it’s taking forever for that special moment to arrive.  But looking back at the past, time often seems to have gone by very fast indeed!

If time weren’t “empty” of existing independently, on its own, or objectively, it would be experienced at the same pace for everyone. . . every time.

Time does exist. . . but only dependently.  One implication of this is that there is no time apart from someone or something going through time.  Time does not exist absolutely, objectively, or independently.  Time exists only dependently on beings or objects that are going through it or experiencing it.  Time does not happen by itself

Time also exists dependently in another sense:  it exists dependently on its parts.  On the basis of the minutes and hours that have occurred since I woke up, I impute or project “this morning.”  “This morning” does not exist all by itself, but is rather the whole I imagine and impute onto the parts of “this morning.”  “Today,” “this year,” “last month,” etc. etc. – they all exist only nominally, as mere names or labels we impose on the parts that comprise them.

And the three main parts of what we call “time” – past, present, and future – also exist only dependently on each other.  There is no “present” in and of itself, but only in relation to a “past” and a “future.” 

As a practice, it is extremely important to try to remain “in the present.”  As Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says in his great classic, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, “One’s whole practice should be based on the relationship between you and nowness.”  We are constantly spacing out and living in times that are either gone and no longer exist (the past) or in times that have not yet come and therefore do not yet exist (the future).  “Be here, now,” as Ram Das so famously said.  Much of Buddhist practice, especially meditation, is designed to try to bring us into and keep us focused on the present.

However, as Stephen Batchelor writes in the introduction to his translation of Arya Nagarjuna’s great treatise on emptiness, the Mulamadhamakakarika, there actually is no findable, self-existent “present” that exists in any other way than in relation to or dependent upon the (equally dependently existing) conceptualizations of a “past” and “future”:

To cultivate awareness, one is encouraged to live fully in the present moment, as though the present were somehow more “real” than the past or the future.  But the idea of the present is unintelligible without a notion of past and future.  In reality, there is no such thing as the “present moment.”  However valuable it may be to try to remain totally in the here and now, one should not mistake a strategy for reducing distraction with a metaphysical statement about the nature of time.”

Or as Arya Nagarjuna himself says in that same text, “Past, present, and future are like bottom, middle, top and one, two, three.” (Mulamadhyamakakarika 19.4, translated by Stephen Batchelor in his Verses from the Center).

A very interesting ramification of this is that by changing any one part of the three main parts of time, one affects the other two.  If, for example, one thinks differently about one’s past, one will necessarily experience one’s present differently.  And if one thinks differently about one’s present, one’s expectations of the future will also change.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

Current ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are free and open to the public.

   
 

Lam Rim Meditation

Taught by Cliff Spencer
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings, 7:30pm
Hill Street Center
237 Hill Street
Santa Monica


ACI Formal Study Course 10

Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Part 1

Taught by Lauren Benjamin
August 30 – November 1
Wednesday evenings, 7:00pm
Venice, CA
Contact: lauren.benjamin@cgu.edu

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

Upcoming Teachings

ACI classes are free and open to the public.

   
 

Learning Forgiveness
Teachings from the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life

Taught by Venerable Marut
Monday, September 11th
7:00pm
First United Methodist Church
Santa Monica


Heart Sutra
Open Retreat On Emptiness and the Heart Sutra

Taught by Venerable Marut
South Lake Tahoe, CA
November 23-26, 2006

Venerable Marut will be teaching a precious retreat in South Lake Tahoe over the Thanksgiving holiday. It will include classical meditations on emptiness with teachings based on the Heart Sutra.


Formal Study Course 2
Level One of the Perfection of Wisdom

Taught by Summer Moore
San Francisco, CA
Friday, September 22
Saturday, September 23
Saturday, September 30
Contact: sumsmiles@verizon.net

The topics to be covered in this course include the perfection of wisdom, Buddhist refuge, the qualities of a Buddha, the different types of bodhichitta, nirvana, emptiness, and the five paths to full enlightenment

Formal Study Course 3
Applied Meditation

Taught by Rick Blue
Late September

TIme and location to be announced
Keep your eye out for more details

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Asian Classics Input Project
   
 

On the Road with ACIP
Written by Lauren Benjamin

news200609-im1It’s the last morning of the last phase of my trip to India, which began with teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally (about which others will write), and ends here in Varanasi working for The Asian Classics Input Project (ACIP). I’m on the veranda overlooking one of the Ganges ghats (docks). The sun is rising and people are just finishing their morning ritual bath in the river. The air is already hot, and thick with water, so that the distinction between when it’s raining and when it’s not minimal. The Ganges is smooth and the various ritual bells and gongs are fading, being replaced by voices that will become a cacophony within the hour.

While my trip is ending, John Brady, Executive Director of ACIP, will continue on to South India for another two weeks. He was the beginning of this particular excursion (which began in Mongolia), and he will be its end. . . ‘end’ being a relative term, since work will continue from the states and, already, plans are being made for the next trip, in 6 months.

ACIP is a non-profit, charitable organization which scours the world for the sacred and ancient texts of the Indic traditions. They are catalogued and, where ever possible (which is surprisingly often), digitally recorded and made accessible on-line to anyone who wants to translate and/or study them, free of charge. Geshe Michael Roach is the project’s inspiration; John Brady is its heart.

The trip has taken us to the Indira Gandhi Institute in Delhi, which is also interested in preserving these texts, to establish a partnership to catalogue and record texts outside of India. It has also taken us to Bihar to establish a partnership with a local library and group who will document texts in this most auspicious region – close to where Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened.

And it has taken us over the highest motorable ‘road’ (and I use the word loosely) in the world – over the Himalayas – from Leh, Ledakh (through which Buddhism passed on its way to Tibet) to the remote, previously restricted region of Nubra, and to a 500+ year old Tibetan Buddhist monastery carved into the mountain where monks in John’s employ catalogue and scan the monastery’s texts. It’s truly stunning to witness the monks carrying the computers (and generators – since the monastery’s electricity is erratic at best) up the mountain, setting them up in the ancient library and going to work.

It is even more stunning to witness John Brady don the myriad hats necessary to keep this project going and growing. From prestigious scholars, to University Officers, to young entrepreneurial university graduates, to high and holy Abbots of the remote monasteries, to the monks who serve the Dharma, John’s love for the project as well as for the people he meets allows him to transcend the language and other barriers and bring people together to help preserve this ancient wisdom.

If you would like to support ACIP’s work, please contact lauren.benjamin@cgu.edu.

 

 

ACIP Monthly Update
Written by Linda Kieran

news200609-im2STAGE ONE: THE ACIP CONCEPTION PROCESS

The seeds for the Asian Classics Input Project were subtly planted with an early pioneering study undertaken at Princeton University to digitize the Greek Classics. This department was a focal point for users of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) data, a massive collection of important Greek literature made available on a CD-ROM laser disk with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Packard Humanities Institute. Exposure to this database and the Ibycus software tools led to a proposal to create an equivalent for the Eastern classics. The precursor/antecedent for ACIP took form during a 1977 effort at Princeton University's Department of Classics to define rules of Tibetan verb transformation with computer-aided search and Tibetan alphabetization programs.

In our next issue, we will see how these initial trailblazers followed their dream in building this magnificent historical restoration project.

During the next eight years, individual texts were input, transcription systems refined, and the world's first Tibetan language word processor and printer developed. Important contributions were made by native expert Geshe Lobsang Tharchin, software designer Stephen Bruzgulis, and the chairman of Princeton's Department of Classics, Professor Samuel D. Atkins. In 1986, a meeting was held at Princeton with Dr. David W. Packard, a Greek scholar and developer of much of the TLG work, to help chart the course of an Asian equivalent. A survey of nearly 100 scholars of Asian literature throughout the world was undertaken to determine what texts should be input first, and within what format, to accomplish its immediate and long-term goals.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Inspired by Lama Marut’s upcoming talk on our relationship to time, this month’s Dharma Flicks suggests two films that directly and indirectly look at time in relationship to Dharma. 


Explicit Dharma: Wheel of Time

Werner Herzog’s Wheel of Time is a unique and interesting documentary on the Kalachakra Ritual.  Yes, that’s the same Werner Herzog of Fitzcarraldo and Grizzly Man fame.  While this famously obsessive and, to some, maniacal, director may seem an unlikely voice to create a documentary on Buddhism, his voice here is characteristically incisive and unique.  Ranging freely back and forth between a postponed Kalachara ceremony in Bodhgaya, the subsequent ceremony in Austria and fantastic footage from Mt. Kailas and the Tibetan Plateau, Herzog has given us once again, a provocative piece of filmmaking.


Implicit Dharma: Water

Deepa Mehta’s Water is set in the 1930s during the rise of the independence struggles against British colonial rule.  The film examines the plight of a group of widows forced into poverty at a temple in the holy city of Varanasi. It focuses on a relationship between one of the widows, who wants to escape the social restrictions imposed on widows, and a man who is from a lower caste and a follower of Mahatma Gandhi.  In Water, the tension between the past and the future is beautifully and tragically played out in the lives of the widows whose misfortunes in the past seem to ensure a tragic future. However, both in the film and the mind of the practitioner, the misfortune of the past need not predetermine future misfortune.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Website of the Month
   
 

We thought it might be useful to bring to your attention a valuable dharma-oriented website each month. There are so many great dharma sites on the web…

Web Site of the month: www.dalailama.com/

 

Dalailama.com is the official website of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The site includes a collection oh His Holiness’ teachings, his current teaching schedule, current news articles, and photo gallery. The site includes a very interesting Questions & Answers page with responses from the Dalai Lama where you find thoughtful and sweet answers to a range of questions.

 

The jewel in this site is the downloadable webcasts of the Dalai Lama’s teachings in Mcleod Ganj  on August 14 – 18, 2006.  (Yes, these are the same teachings Venerable Marut mentioned  in the last newsletter!) The teachings are from The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, The 37 Practices of A Bodhisattva and Chapters 18, 22, 24 & 26 of Nagarjuna's The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.

 

Enjoy!

If you come across a site that you’d like others to know about, please email Shannon and contribute to this part of the newsletter.


The film and the mind of the practitioner, the misfortune of the past need not predetermine future misfortune.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter
   
 

Thank You

   
 

Thank you to Venerable Marut for his kindness in coming to teach the Dharma here in Los Angeles and around the world. Thank you to Rick Blue, Lindsay Crouse, Brandice Valentino, Lauren Benjamin, Cliff Spencer, Summer Moore, Stephane Dreyfus and Erica Giovinazzo for their kindness in continuing to teach here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Rick Blue and Stephane Dreyfus for maintaining the ACI-LA website and newsletter. All suggestions and updates for the website can be sent to Rick.  Shannon Parry will be producing the newsletters and would appreciate submissions.   Please email Shannon with your contributions by the 25th of the month.

 

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