ACI LA
   
NOVEMBER 2006


ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

This Month


In our last newsletter, Venerable Marut encouraged us to take a few moments to reflect on how our life is going and what kind of changes we could make to improve it.

Venerable Marut shared a passage from Stephen Batchelor’s translation of Arya Nagarjuna’s great treatise on emptiness, the Mulamadhamakakarika, where he says 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”:

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:

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.”

This month Venerable Marut encourages us to cultivate faith and confidence in our teachers, our spiritual path, and ourselves. He asks us to take a “great leap.” We hope this month’s newsletter offers you opportunities to make the preparatory changes you need to reoriented yourself and your activities in such a way that you can take a great leap in your spiritual practice.

 


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

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

We’re back in Arizona, at the beginning of Diamond Mountain University’s third year. This term we’re joined in the desert by even more ACI-LA members who have made the efforts needed to be here. In addition to the usual commuters from L.A. (Lauren Benjamin, Summer Moore, and Lindsay Crouse) this term Rick Blue will also be coming out on the weekends and Rob Cipriano and Stephane Dreyfus are here for the next four or five weeks.

The dedication and commitment of people like this is very inspiring. These folks have rearranged their lives around a new pivot. They are no longer defining themselves in terms of their careers, their relationships, their hobbies, or their possessions. They have reoriented themselves and their activities in such a way that their spiritual practice takes precedence over other aspects of their lives – and therefore can now infuse those other dimensions of life with meaning that they would not have had otherwise.

This kind of recognition of what is really important is the only way that we will make much progress in our spiritual lives. This starts with the realization that there is nothing in the worldly life that is not or will not result in suffering and pain. We must begin our search for happiness and meaning in life by acknowledging that the quest for satisfaction and fulfillment through non-spiritual pursuits is absolutely doomed. It will not and cannot work out. We have to begin by letting go of our tight grasp of the ember that is burning us.

And then there is a transition period between the time that we give up on our old ways of thinking and acting and the time that we are firmly established in a new, healthier, and more meaningful mode of life. It is then that we must make what the Christian theologian Soren Kierkegaard called a “leap of faith.” Although we’re not sure that the new way will bring the results we seek (because we have yet to experience those results first-hand), we know that the old methods do not work.

And then we start. We try. We begin a daily practice of study, meditation, monitoring our ethics, and service to others. And we wait.

We leap. We cultivate faith or confidence in our teachers, our spiritual path, and ourselves. We begin creating a “New World” for ourselves out of the ashes of the old, suffering world we have abandoned. We try to live a life ruled less by paranoia – the nagging suspicion and fear that life is just a disaster waiting to happen – and more by what Rob Brezsny, in his poem “Painful Blessings,” calls “pronoia.”

Here's one for you:

In the New World
you will know through and through
that life is crazily in love with you --
life is wildly and innocently in love with you.

In the New World,
you will know beyond a doubt
that thousands of secret helpers are
angling to turn you into
the gorgeous curiosity you were born to be. . . .

In the New World,
you will reject paranoia with all of your smart heart.
Instead, you will embrace Pronoia,
Which is the opposite of paranoia.
Pronoia is the sneaking suspicion
that the whole living world
is conspiring to shower you with rowdy blessings.
Pronoia is the dawning perception
that life is a conspiracy
to liberate you from ignorance,
and fill you with love,
and make you brilliantly soulful.

My fellow creators,
I want you to know
that I am allergic to dogma.
I don't trust any idea
that requires me to believe in it absolutely.
There are very few things
about which I am totally certain.

But I am absolutely certain
that Pronoia describes the way the world actually is.
Pronoia is wetter than water,
truer than the facts,
and stronger than death.
It smells like cedar smoke in spring rain,
and if you close your eyes right now,
you can feel it shimmering
in your soft warm animal body
like the aurora borealis.

The sweet stuff that quenches all of your longing
is not far away in some other time and place.
It's right here and right now.

Earth is crammed with heaven.

Reorient your life and begin to live it differently. Have faith. Take the leap. Have confidence that this precious human life we have somehow acquired can be magical and filled with wonder.

Albert Einstein once said that “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Your life is a miracle. Try to start seeing it that way and living it as if it were.

The alternative, after all, is just boring.

With all good wishes,
Marut

 

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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 3

Applied Meditation (in progress)

Taught by Rick Blue
Thursday evenings, 7:00pm
Pacific Palisades, CA
Contact: bluejkt@earthlink.net

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

Upcoming Teachings

ACI classes are free and open to the public.

   
 

Heart Sutra
Open Retreat on Emptiness and the Heart Sutra

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

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.

For more info contact: David Fishman or visit www.lamamarut.org


Dharma Essentials VIII
Death and the Realms of Existence

Taught by Venerable Marut
December 7, 12,13 and 14, 7:30- 9:30pm
Location: TBA

For more information, contact: Lauren Benjamin


Maroke Ceremony

December 10, 7:30pm
Saturday, September 30
Pacific Palisades. CA

Come attend, then party, as we celebrate and support those ACI-LA students who have completed their study of the ACI formal study courses.

For more information, contact: Lauren Benjamin


Public Talk

"Learning Trust"

Given by Venerable Marut
December 11, 7:30- 9:30pm
Location: TBA

For more information, contact: Lauren Benjamin

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Asian Classics Input Project
   
 

ACIP Monthly Update
Written by Linda Kieran

STAGE TWO: DEVELOPMENT OF THE INITIAL CONCEPT

On the basis of the international survey of nearly 100 scholars of Asian literature throughout the world, it was decided as a first step to target 25 texts from the Derge edition of the Kangyur and Tengyur, which was printed from woodblocks carved in eastern Tibet circa 1730. Although a number of cost estimates were obtained throughout the United States, Europe, Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand, it quickly became clear that a word processing input project of this magnitude, particularly considering the difficulty of mastering and interpreting the often ambiguous Tibetan characters, would best be left to native Tibetan scholars.

The initial project organizers spent months reviewing and evaluating similar efforts by others who had undertaken similar tasks. At the computer center in Mahidol University, Bangkok, the earlier developers studied the impressive database, search, and indexing tools developed for the classics of Pali in Thai translation by Dr. Supachai Tangwongsan and other researchers. The organizers also received invaluable input from many, including:

  • Dr. Theodore Brunner of the University of California at Irvine who freely shared his experience and contacts as the director and driving force behind the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) project;
  • Mr. John Bradley of the Computer Input Corporation of Redondo Beach, California, and a major TLG contractor, who supplied much information on data standards and conventions; and
  • The Korean Information Company ("KICO"), in Seoul who allowed us to study their operator training and methodology for early TLG work

If you would like to support ACIP’s work, please contact Lauren Benjamin.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Explicit Dharma: Fearless

Adapted by screenwriter Rafael Yglesias from his own novel, Fearless explores the complex struggle back to mental health of post-traumatic stress disorder victim Max Klein (Jeff Bridges). One of few survivors of a fatal plane crash, Klein remains calm and assists other survivors out of the burning debris, earning praise as a hero by the media. After stoically departing the tragedy without a word to emergency officials, Max returns home with detached feelings towards his wife (Isabella Rossellini) and son, along with a bizarre, seemingly authentic belief that he is now impervious to harm. Bill Perlman (John Turturro), a psychiatrist for the airline, fails to reach Max about his newfound fearlessness, but asks for his help in aiding Carla (Rosie Perez), a fellow crash survivor filled with grief and guilt over the loss of her baby. In this film, filled with fantastic peformances, we can see several different levels of emptiness as they are being taught by Cliff this month in our Tuesday meditatons. First, of course, the film dals with impearmanence and, even more poignantly it deals with the lack of control that we have over our lives. Eventhough we feel like there is a “self” that oversees and drives all of our activities, Fearless points out that this is in fact not the case. Not only does the film make this clear, it tells a great story in the process.


Explicit Dharma: Peace Is Every Step

Speaking of mastering the art of living with the truth of impermanence, Vietnamese Zen teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh has had a profound impact not only on contemporary thinking and social action but also on the lives of many practitioners. His efforts to achieve an early peaceful end to the American war in Vietnam earned him a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a forty-year exile from his homeland. Peace Is Every Step is an intimate and direct portrait of a monk who has lived through war and fought back with meditation, love and grace under fire. The fine documentary shows what can be achieved by living mindfully and with an insight into the inescapability of change.

 

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  Articles
   
 

The Other Judas
By Irma Gomés Danel

Generally when we hear the words “Judas’ kiss”, we think of betrayal. It is almost unquestionable that one of Jesus’ disciples earned the biblical reputation of “the one who handed the Son of God to the Roman soldiers”. “Hey, wait a minute! How can a student of such great master can hand in his teacher? Why? He handed him with a kiss, and the teacher accepted this kiss. Why didn’t he point him out to the soldiers from the distance?” Personally I had never further questioned this biblical episode. Judas sold his teacher for some silver coins. And history carried on.

I had never thought again of Judas Iscariot until I bumped into “The Lost Gospel” by Herbert Krosney at a bookshelf in Gatwick airport. My flight had been delayed and I was looking for a book in english before I arrived in France. The book is hardcover and heavy but I decided it was worth carrying it.

Two millennia had passed, and the tyrant of the story had finally given a chance to explain himself. Why did he turn in his Lama? Were the cops really looking for Jesus? Were the Romans afraid of his influence in the masses? Did other rabbis wanted him out of the panorama? Why would he take 30 silver coins, no more, no less?

One can only imagine the relationship of Jesus with his closest students. One of admiration, respect and acquiescence. I think the apostles were practicing very closely what in Buddhism we call Guru Yoga: taking yourself to your Lama, in a perfect way. No room for pride, anger or jealousy. Some of his disciples quit their jobs, left their homes and just followed him. Lord Buddha would travel across India with his closest disciples, too. Being a groupie was part of their Lama Devotion: if your teacher tells you “leave what you are doing and come follow me” that is what you do.

Jesus was called Rabbi, which is derived from the hebrew root-word Rav, which in biblical hebrew means "great" or "distinguished (in knowledge)". As such he would deliver sermons –speaking in parables- to the general public, and according to the tradition at the time, he would then explain deeper meanings of his words only to his closer disciples. Perhaps he would debate them with his new ideas and he would make them get deeper into the teachings’ core. Only a few men and women would be revealed, slowly, how the Kingdom works.

Jesus always talked about love; if there is a taste to all canonical gospels, it would have to be Love. Love thy neighbour without holding anything back. Our lamas say love all beings like a mother loves her only child. With love is easy to practice giving; one never questions how many of our favourite chocolates we should give to our loved ones. It seems like the more they eat, the happier we are. Perhaps that is why mothers over-feed their children. When you are in love, it is harder to get impatient, angry; on the contrary, the longer the line is to buy tickets, the more time you get to hold hands with your special loved one. To understand love, the Iscariot probably did a lot of contemplation and prayer, and would go to his Lama and ask questions.

So I like to think that Judas’ lama was teaching him about enlightenment, how to reach a state of ultimate bliss, where there is no pain and things are so perfect and so beautiful it can only be perceived with the eyes of the heart. I think of the kingdom of heaven as a sort of Disneyland to the 1000th power. A pure land: no room for defects.

To get to heaven we need to collect both merit and wisdom. The merit part is that one based on love and compassion. This is the New Testament’s message. Wisdom or Sophia, in greek, is not as evident in the canonical gospels.

The Sophia transmission was written and explained in other books, the ones studied by the Gnostics and the Valentinians, two branches of Christianity that only lasted a couple of centuries, as they were prosecuted and their books destroyed. Sophia is the flavour of the Gnostic gospels found in the Nag Hammadi texts last century.

The gospel of Judas Iscariot is also a Gnostic one. In here, Jesus says to Judas,

“(come), that I may teach you about (secrets) no person (has) ever seen. There is a great boundless eternal reality, whose extent no generation of angels has seen… since it is great … invisible… no thought of the heart was ever comprehended, and it was never called by any name”

Jesus then would explain how prayer works, how seeds ripen, what the real Sophia is, and how all this, if practiced with ease and on a regular basis in meditation, could lead to the first definite step on the way to heaven: perfect communion with God, with ultimate reality; the state of mind where there is no distinction between subject and object.

Judas appears to have followed his teacher’s words, for in his Gospel, Jesus says:

“Judas, your star has led you astray. No person of mortal birth is worthy to enter the house you have seen, for that place is reserved for the holy”

He was a top notch student. His teacher had trusted him with his finances, and he served and followed his teacher. Perhaps he was in charge of going to the local restaurant and arrange food and drinks for when his Rabbi was finished teaching. Those of us who have been involved -even slightly- in organizing a teacher’s travels and logistics under a budget, we know this is not an easy task. But as treasurer he had done a good job, and he was on his way to the promised kingdom, but clearly he had more goodness to collect before he could see it. And so, one day, the Rabbi said to him

“You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me”

And just like that, his final exam came. His beloved Rabbi has asked him to call the cops on him; he was not asked to write a grisly article on the newspaper, nor was he asked to raise funds for a new temple by the lake. He was asked to do one of the hardest things: to give away his most precious jewel, to someone who would destroy it.

If Jesus wanted to be crucified, he could have gotten himself in trouble to get arrested. He could have asked a random person to turn him in, but he didn’t. He asked Judas to do it.

Then the Son of God announced in “The Last Supper” –probably arranged and paid by Judas himself- what was about to happen. He handed a piece of bread to Judas and asked him to do as he had asked him.

And he did. Perhaps he knew all the other disciples would stop speaking to him, that he would be known as the betrayer. And all this was part of the teaching. He needed this test to fly higher. Who knows if he cried all the way to the police station. Perhaps he thought of leaving the country. But he kept walking slowly, downhill, towards the soldier’s quarters, comforted by a warm breeze and the moon’s glow. He had to pass this test, as his faultless Rabbi knew better.

Our teachers are perfect. Their minds are perfect, and so are their words. Sometimes they speak figuratively and sometimes they don’t. But they love us and they know what it takes to get us to paradise. So they ask us to do things for them. Je Tsongkhapa asked one of his students to start many monasteries across Tibet. Some other Lamas ask their students to build them a house, or a temple, to do a long retreat, or to work on a project. Some of us are asked to keep our vows and do yoga, and sometimes, just to keep our mouth shut. Each teacher speaks to the disciple’s level. Some of us need to take baby steps. But there will come a time when we may need to run up a downward-going escalator.

There are two Judas: the traitor who sold his teacher for some silver coins, and the perfect student who did what his teacher asked.

And there are as many passions of Christ as there were disciples. They each had a different teaching, a different test that would get them to heaven.

And as I re-examine our own teacher’s tests, I can’t help but wonder, how close to the Kingdom we really are?


Bibliography
Krosney, Herbert The Lost Gospel National Geographic Society publications, 2006

 

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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.lamamarut.org

Lama Marut has his own website and it’s a great place to keep up with our busy Teacher! The site includes free audio files, an updated teaching schedule, a discussion of karmic correlations and some of Lama Marut’s favorite quotes. It’s a beautiful site to keep in virtual touch with the founder and spiritual director of the Asian Classics Institute, Los Angeles

 

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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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 emailed to Rick Blue.  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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