ACI LA
   
JANUARY 2007


ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

This Month


In last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut encouraged us to use the transition from the end of one year to the beginning of another transition as a time to reflect on the true meaning and purpose of our lives, and make new resolutions for the future.

He reminded us that the best way to have faith and confidence in future is to concentrate on living a good life in the present – which will plant the karmic seeds that will insure a pleasant life later.  He quoted Vladimir Ilych Lenin as saying “trust is good, but control is much better.”  We have in the present the perfect and absolute control over the future.  Exercise that control by being very careful, in every moment, about your actions of body, speech, and mind.

This month Venerable Marut encourages us to make and to keep new resolutions. He reminds us that true happiness is the precondition for really being of service to others and encourages us to see that our resolutions can be a vehicle to reach this true happiness.

We hope this month’s newsletter offers you opportunities to make and to keep new resolutions for your spiritual practice. We wish you a joyous New Year in which your greatest aspirations are attained.

 

   
  This Month
  A Message from Brian Venerable Marut)
  Current ACI-LA Classes
 

Reflections on Past Teachings

  Lama Poem
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home
 

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

At the beginning of this month, many of us made our resolutions for the coming year. And many of us will find that in a week or two those resolutions went the way of so many others we have made in the past. As Mark Twain said about his own resolutions to quit one particularly bad habit, “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about resolution as I prepare to teach a new Diamond Mountain University course this winter on the seventh chapter of Master Shantideva’s GUIDE TO THE BODHISATTVA’S WAY OF LIFE – the chapter on the fourth of the “perfections” of a Bodhisattva, “joyful effort” or virya. As many of you know, virya is defined in the GUIDE as “joy in doing good” – being stoked about working very hard in our spiritual discipline – and is the quality we need to make sure that we will keep the resolutions we make to ourselves and others.

In order to keep our vows and resolutions, we must decide that “this is it,” that we definitely are going to not only “talk the talk” but “walk the walk.” So, as Master Shantideva advises, we must first realistically evaluate our capabilities and resources. It is better, he says, not to even start something if you don’t intend to complete it:

 

At the very beginning appraise yourself
To see if you have the resources needed,
And then decide to act or not.
(If you can’t complete it), the very highest thing to do
Would be not even to start a thing;
But once you have begun then never
Allow yourself to stop. (7.47)

Sometimes our problem in keeping resolutions is that we are too hard on ourselves in the sense of underestimating our capabilities. In addition to laziness and “an attraction to what is bad,” Master Shantideva also lists “the feeling of being discouraged and belittling yourself” as an obstacle to the development of joyful effort. We must, it is implied, cultivate a kind of healthy pride in ourselves and our abilities to become better persons and do what we set out to do.

The word “pride” in this context brings up another facet of this subject. For isn’t pride itself a mental affliction? Can what would under some circumstances be a mental affliction (like pride) be useful in overcoming another kind of mental affliction (like low self-esteem)?

Definitely. Westerners sometimes seem to have the totally erroneous idea that Buddhism is some kind of namby-pamby pacifistic path that eschews all strong measures, all extremes, all hostility, in favor of some sort of wishy-washy, tepid quietude and moderation – a sort of distorted caricature of the Buddhist concept of the “middle way.”

While patience, forbearance, and temperance certainly have their place in one’s practice, according to many Buddhist texts and many Buddhist teachers it is misguided to think that one should exercise such patience on one’s own spiritual and emotional weaknesses and faults. While sometimes one should cultivate pride in order to overcome discouragement, at other times one should be not go so easy on oneself. We should not let ourselves off the hook so easily when we succumb to the weaknesses and bad habits that just perpetuate our unhappiness.

Master Shantideva has no patience for those who have patience with these mental afflictions:

 

They live in my mind,
And hurt me at their absolute will.
It’s completely wrong that I should tolerate them,
And not feel anger for them:
My patience with them is a disgrace. (4.29)

 

Mathieu Ricard echoes these words in his recent book, HAPPINESS: A GUIDE TO DEVELOPING LIFE’S MOST IMPORTANT SKILL, when he writes that “The only target of resentment possible is hatred itself. It is a deceitful, relentless, and unbending enemy that tirelessly disrupts and destroys lives. As appropriate as patience without weakness may be toward those we consider to be our enemies, it is entirely inappropriate to be patient with hatred itself, regardless of the circumstances.”

So this year make a kind of meta-resolution and resolve to “get medieval” on your mental afflictions, bad habits, and laziness. Don’t foolishly think that one should coddle or be patient with these negative states of mind – including the vacillating mentality that allows one leeway with the resolutions one has made.

Master Shantideva advises us to get angry (about our suffering state), to stop being patient (with our own procrastination), and to make war on our true enemies:

 

I should therefore never turn back
Even for a single moment from the task
Of destroying the mental afflictions.
I should get attached to them,
And learn to hate and make war.
These kinds of mental afflictions
Act to destroy the mental afflictions
And so are not counted among them. (4.43)

With all good wishes,
Marut

 

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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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Growing the Dharma Community: Reflections from ACI-LA's Sister group in Cape Ann, Massachussetts

   
 

"Applied Meditation" in Massachussetts
by Phil Salzman

Lama Marut returned to Cape Ann, Massachusetts on Dec. 19 - 22 offering a 4 night public teaching of ACI Dharma Essential III Course, "Applied Meditation''. The evening teachings at the Old Rockport Community House drew a packed full house with an average of 85 attending each night. Lindsay Crouse, who started bringing Lama Marut to Cape Ann two years ago with the first summer retreat and, Rick Blue gave meaningful background introductions on the ACI Courses framing the context for Lama Marut's teachings. Each evenings' Dharma teaching and Lam Rim meditation was received by a very diverse group of Cape Ann community members, many for the first time, in an environment of openness and warmth.

The follow up interest was demonstrated again on Thursday, Dec 28 when 60 people filled Lindsay and Rick's home for an informal Dharma talk, "Integrating Buddhism Into Your Daily Life". The evening covered Lama Marut's lineage, ACI Courses background, keeping "The Book" and questions and responses. Lindsay and Rick will begin teaching the ACI Dharma Essentials I course via long distance video conferencing on Jan 17.07. In March Lindsay is planning to return and offer the "Spiritual Partners Teaching".

The Cape Ann Sangha meets weekly for study and meditation. It formed in September after Lama Marut's six-day retreat at Windhover in Rockport, Ma. The meetings average 15 participants and are growing. Beginning in January there will be two study groups, the Sangha meetings will be doing the Dharma Essentials Course with another group doing the Formal Courses.

The Cape Ann Sangha is very grateful for all the teachings that have come to Cape Ann and is growing it's Sangha through meetings and the relationships that support daily practice.

 

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  Lama Poem
   
 

My Lama IS, and he's not.
Written by Irma Gomés

My Lama is a woman
Who emanates as a man
A man in robes
With the smile of a child

My Lama is an Archangel
In the kingdom of God
And He is God
In the kingdom of heaven

I Love my Lama
I really do!
He’s all I had wished for
and more

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

My Lama surfs the ocean
And the waves of our mind
He rides, walks and drives
Never touching the floor

He’s a ballerina
He spins my thoughts
he’s water, earth, fire
wind, ram and hung.

Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa
He’s all, He’s none
For Holy Marut has risen above.

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

My Lama is not a “Lama”
But I like to think so
For He cannot be bound
With my human mind

I see him in a bird’s nest
In an old port afar
I hear him in Verdi
And in the wind’s blow.

He’s Monet’s palette
And Mount Saint Victoire;
A cloud by Rene Magritte:
No apples, no hats

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

My Lama speaks Sanskrit
And He rings his bell;
He holds his dorje
And the whole earth shakes.

His blue eyes are the ocean
His lips are ruby gold
He watches me, He speaks to me
He blesses my soul.

My Lama is a closed teaching
Hidden in the wind
He blows, and blows, and purifies
All samsara and beyond.

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

My Lama is a wolf
And my ego is his pray
He knows when I break my vows
And doesn’t hesitate to say

My Lama’s smile is sweet
My Lama’s smile is bright
My Lama’s smile melts me
And thunders in my heart

My Lama is a rock star
My Lama is a star
My Lama is a rock
That crushes from afar

He’s beautiful, he’s precious
His robes are finest silk
His warm lap embraces me
When I go to sleep

My Lama is a jewel
Mount Meru is his throne;
My Lama gave me a Diamond
And said nothing at all.

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

He’s batman, the riddler
He questions my mind
He knows me and He’s never far

My Lama is a symphony
He’s Beethoven´s ninth
His music are mantras
And his holy speech flames
-ignorance burned-

He’s Louis fourteenth
In all his splendor,
A monk, a saddhu and a nun.

He keeps his vows pristine
And it shows
He leads with example
Wearing his saffron robes.

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold

Dear Angel of Great beauty
Please stay, Please stay, Please stay!
Take us to your star
Don´t leave us behind.

Born from a lotus
Your greatness, unsurpassed
You teach me compassion
And give me vows.

I offer you this nectar
I offer you my heart
Your Holiness, come bless me
Your Highness, hold me tight

If you see my Lama
And I am not there
Please praise him for me:
With roses, with chants
With gold or myrrh.

I dance, dance
I pray, I praise

May all meet their Lama
And don’t let them leave
May they be the highest of all

And may all follow
Their Lama’s path
And obey their holy words

Mall all beings stay close:
Angels in a kiss
May all have a Lama
As unsurpassed as mine

May all reach their goal
Holding their hands
And their breath.

My Lama is your Lama
My Lama is me
Glory in the highest,
Pure holy deeds

My Lama has steel hair locks
And a heart of gold.

 

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  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma – Dekalog (aka The Decalogue [US title])

Only Communist Poland could produce a state funded TV series that interprets The Ten Commandments in ten 55-minute episodes. We should be happy though that the Polish Communists saw fit to make the films, as they are each beautiful explorations of human instinct running up against morality and law. Over and above the usual genius that we have come to expect from Krzysztof Kieslowski (director of the Three Colors Trilogy), Stanley Kubrik has called the Decalogue “the only masterpiece I can name in my lifetime”. Indeed, the films are so simple and direct that they somehow baffle the viewer in their ability to create the intense emotion that they do. With each episode a very digestible length and with each offering a great mediation on matters of the spirit, a DVD containing a couple of the episodes can be a great companion on a cold winter night. 

 

Explicit Dharma – Lion’s Roar, The Life and Times of His Holiness Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa

This film gives an excellent opportunity to become familiar with the lineage of the Karmapas, the leaders of the Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu trace their lineage directly through Tibet‘s great teachers Milarepa and Marpa to India‘s Naropa and Tilopa all the way back to the Shakyamuni Buddha. Although the current 17th, Karmapa is a more quiet (but fiercely wise) incarnation, the 16th Karmapa is a famously charismatic figure who was responsible for the first experience that many Westerners had of Buddhism as they came East in the 60’s and 70’s.

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, was born in Tibet in 1924. During the 1959 invasion by the People‘s Republic of China, the Karmapa left Tibet and settled in Rumtek, Sikkim, India. The construction of his new Rumtek monastery was completed in 1966. In 1974, the Karmapa set out on his first world tour; he undertook a second tour in 1977. While traveling in 1981, he died in Zion, Illinois, north of Chicago. He was returned to Rumtek for cremation.

The film journeys with him in North America where he visited the Hopi Nation, offered teachings and performed the Black Crown Ceremony (Vajra Makut), enjoyed everything from zoos to video arcades, and initiated the construction of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York, the seat of his lineage in North America.

 

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  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.tricycle.com

 

The Tricycle Foundation was established in 1990 as a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to the introduction and dissemination of Buddhist views and values. In 1991 it launched Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, the first magazine intended to present Buddhist perspectives to a Western readership.

Tricycle provides a uniquely independent public forum for exploring contemporary and traditional Buddhist ideas and their integration with Western disciplines, a home for Buddhists of different traditions to come together, and an accessible voice in the dialogue between Buddhism and the broader culture.

This site provides interesting articles, daily Dharma quotes, Buddhist blogs, video podcasts and much more. This month there is a feature on Nagarjuna.

 

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.

 

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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 Lauren Benjamin, Cliff Spencer, Rick Blue, Lindsay Crouse, Summer Moore, and Stéphane Dreyfus for their kindness in continuing to teach here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Rick Blue for maintaining the ACI-LA website. 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 your contributions to Shannon by the 25th of the month.

 

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