ACI LA
   
JANUARY 2007


ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

This Month


In last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut reminded us that patience, forbearance, and temperance certainly have their place in one’s practice, but also reminded us that many Buddhist texts and many Buddhist teachers teach that it is misguided to think that one should exercise such patience on one’s own spiritual and emotional weaknesses and faults.

Venerable Marut quotes Master Shantideva who 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)

Venerable Marut encouraged us to make a kind of meta-resolution for the new year and resolve to “get medieval” on your mental afflictions, bad habits, and laziness. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to get started n this endeavor!

This month, Venerable Marut encourages us to cultivate a sincere daily practice and gives us wonderful advice on how to do it. He reminds us that the happiness we seek requires that we be conscientious in a discipline that extends throughout the whole day.

We hope this month’s newsletter supports you in your daily practice.

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

Heart Yoga

  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Student Contributions
  Thank You
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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

The Western religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – are complete and authentic spiritual traditions. What this means is that, like Buddhism and the other major Eastern traditions, they work; they deliver the goods. And the goal of all true religious traditions is the same: perfect (and ever-lasting) happiness.

But somewhere along the line in recent years many practitioners of the Western traditions seem to have lost a sense of daily practice. A spiritual path cannot bring its rewards if practiced just once a week or only on religious holidays.

To achieve the happiness we seek from our religion we must recover and be conscientious in a discipline that extends throughout the whole day. There are a few critical components that should be integrated into one’s lifestyle regardless of one’s particular religious affiliation:

1. Every night get a good night’s sleep.

Caring for your body and mind is a crucial part of one’s spiritual practice. You are doing yourself and those around you a disservice by skimping on sleep and going through your day cranky and crabby. Every night, as part of your practice, get enough sleep so that you are properly restoring your mind and body and are in a calmer, more controlled state of mind less likely to be perturbed by the little irritations of daily life.

2. Every morning, before getting out of bed, loll about in bed for a while.

Many of us feel our lives to be so busy and stressful that at the first moment of consciousness in the morning we jump out of bed and maniacally begin to run around getting ready for our day. Instead, and as part of your all-day spiritual practice, wake up early enough to spend some time each morning in bed setting the tone for the rest of your day.

Every morning luxuriate in that delicious semi-conscious state between waking and sleep and begin your day thinking about what a total miracle your life is, how many things are going right, how many advantages you have. But also realize that this kind of life will not last forever. We all will die, and we don’t know when. Recalling our mortality helps us get our priorities in life straight. So start every day appreciative of your life -- determine not to take life for granted and to do what is really important with this precious opportunity.

3. Daily exercise.

As part of your daily spiritual practice, get some physical exercise everyday. Yoga was designed to get the inner winds or prana moving properly, which helps you spiritually, but other forms of exercise (tai chi, dance, or even running), when done out of the right motivation and with the right mind-set, can also serve this purpose.

4. Meditate every morning.

A daily meditation practice of at least twenty or thirty minutes (very good to do this after a morning yoga practice) is a crucial component of any spiritual discipline. Whether one calls it “prayer,” “contemplation,” or “meditation,” spending at least 20 or 30 minutes a day alone, quiet, and one-pointed in one’s thought is not an optional part of a daily spiritual practice.

5. Keep track of your moral life, all day long.

Living a moral life is also, of course, not optional for a real practitioner. And unless we are actually checking our behavior every couple of hours, we are not really monitoring our ethics. There is no substitution for keeping “the book,” and if you somehow have managed to not learn how to do this crucial practice yet, the instructions are on-line for free download: [add link to book]

6. Do something for someone else every day.

Learning to live a selfless, other-directed life and diminishing our tendency to think only about ourselves is another crucial part of a spiritual lifestyle. Every day do at least one little act of kindness for someone else. And keep track of it (in your book!) and be happy that you are doing things like this in your life. This reinforces the tendency to do more altruistic acts in the future, thereby creating the real causes for your own happiness and well being.

7. At the end of the day do the “couch potato contemplation.”

At the end of your work day, instead of vegetating in front of the TV or reading a magazine, curl up in your favorite chair or sofa, shut your eyes, relax, and think about what it would be like to achieve the goal of your spiritual practice – complete and total happiness. What would it be like to have no problems, physical or mental? What would it feel like to have a heart that’s completely open and loving toward all beings? What would it be like to have no doubts about anything, no fears, no anxieties or worries? This is an important part of all day spirituality. If you can’t conceptualize the goal, how do you expect to reach it? So practice, every day, visualizing your own perfection, thereby creating some of the causes and conditions for realizing that perfection.

8. Every evening spend some time studying a spiritual text.

Instead of watching TV or reading a trashy novel, end your day with the study of a text that is designed to make you a happier person. Any text that teaches you to be more compassionate and loving towards others and less selfish is a “sacred” text, because it is designed to make you happier and live a better life. The daily study of a spiritual text – and any authentic spiritual text will do – will put some useful information into your mind that might serve as a small counter-balance to the massive amount of media bombardment we are subject to during the course of our day. Every practitioner should dedicate a half hour or of their day to this activity. It’s nice to end the day like this so as to have these kind of thoughts swimming in one’s unconscious as one sleeps.

 

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


Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, part 2

Taught by Lauren Benjamin
Ongoing Thursday evenings
Venice, CA


Podcast of Teachings Now Available!
Make sure to subscribe!

Click on the subscription button at www.aci-la.org and/ or www.lamamarut.org and enter your email address to receive podcast updates. You’ll receive an email announcement when new podcasts of teachings are uploaded to either site.

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Heart Yoga

   
 

Reflections on Heart Yoga

Zorie Barber and Vanessa Hopkins recently taught a 3 hour Tibetan Heart Yoga seminar at Golden Bridge. What a happy and successful event! Vanessa Hopkins had started teaching a Tibetan Heart Yoga inspired class at Golden Bridge, and wished to bring more of Geshe Michael Roach’s and Christie McNally's teachings to Los Angeles. She invited Zorie to teach one of her Saturday classes, and extended it to 3 hours to provide more time for a good Dharma talk and an Asana practice.

And BOY, did we have a GOOD DHARMA TALK. It was very impressive. In two hours trying to explain emptiness and the 5 paths… not always simple with new students!  But Zorie pulled it off beautifully, and even pulled out the pen. When it came time for Asana, he made sure to make us sweat while dedicating our practice to our loved ones …and reminded us to smile…

While telling us jokes…

Overall, a wonderful example of what Tibetan Heart Yoga could provide to Dharma and Yoga practitioners, a combination of sweat and compassion, while laughing… a thoughtful practice, a true practice of a warrior's dedication to helping humanity.

Zorie and Vanessa will be teaching more Tibetan Heart Yoga seminars… and I would like to invite you all to come to these teachings. They are a blessing, and we must support their blossoming in our city.

 

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  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma – Peaceful Warrior

Along with such books as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Siddhartha, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman, has become a classic contribution to the young-adult-with-burgeoning-spirituality literature canon. Based faithfully on the book, the film, Peaceful Warrior, is a poignant exploration of renunciation and overcoming obstacles. When we first meet Dan, he is a young athlete at the height of his powers poised for great accomplishments as a collegiate gymnast. When an accident strikes and all that he has worked so hard to accomplish as a gymnast, seems suddenly far out of reach, his is forced to look more deeply inside himself and to see that material achievements and achievements are not all they are made out to be. Dan is helped in this quest by Socrates, a very lama-like Nick Nolte, who himself has mastered the path of the peaceful warrior. 

 

Explicit Dharma – Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy

Four years in the making Tibet: a Buddhist Trilogy played to international acclaim following its release in 1979. Now made available in the US by Festival Media, it includes additional materials and a new commentary. Greeted by very positive reviews at its release, the trilogy brings you face to face with the unbroken continuity of Tibet's ancient culture. In 1977, when the film was made, the Tibetan way of life was still resonant with its ancient past and the Dalai Lama relatively unknown on the world stage. From a portrait of the Dalai Lama to an unprecedented revelation of the mystical world of monastic life this film takes you on an intimate journey deep into the heart of an ancient Buddhist culture.

 

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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.dharmateachings.com

 

We are very pleased to feature www.dharmateachings.org as the website of the month! Please take some time to visit the site and use it as a resource to stay connected to the greater Asian Classics Institute community.
The site includes an incredible collection of Geshe Michael Roach audio files. In particular, there are audio files describing the life of Khen Rinpoche Lobsang Tharchin as examples of the Lam Rim practice.
A quote on the site by Geshe Michael Roach: "These files talk about Khen Rinpoche and his relationship with His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Trijang Rinpoche, and Pabongka Rinpoche. By sharing stories of Khen Rinpoche's life and the things he did, we can see what living Lamrim looks like."

 

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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  tudent Contributions
   
 

Lama Poem
Written by Rob Cipriano

What star shines bright
cutting clips
of the hearts beat
deeply into the anamorphic frames
of all the days and nights
laying tracks
blocking forms
trimming and slipping bytes
dipping, dissolving
pushing and peeling transitions
finding the pace of the piece
mixing
   effects
into the silver-screened cauldron
of merchandized and marketed myths
where career-shaped souls
peddled on the ticker tape trade floor
march proudly in the parade
with only the droning street sweepers brush
to remember?

Only eyes striking bolts
in a picture on an altar
on a mountain of diamonds
gazing three years, three months, and three days
directly into the meaning of the moon
knowing that big names
scroll and fade
leaving the lime light
empty.


A Note On Valentine's Day, On Love and an Invitation


I bow down to my Holy Lama, Holy Lord of all Warrior Saints.

For hundreds of years, people all over the world have celebrated St. Valentine’s Day. But very little is known about the man whose life the holiday honors. Much of St. Valentine’s story is a mystery, clouded by centuries of myth and legend. I did a little bit of research on Mister Valentine, a warrior of Love and Compassion.

There have been a few famous Valentines in history of Christianity. The consensus agrees that the Saint celebrated on February 14th was a catholic priest, who died in the year 270 and whose relics can be found in the Church of Saint Prexedes in Rome.

One has to remember that Romans had their own Gods and Christianity introduced the idea of having only one, who sent his son Jesus to teach on earth. However, the government did not have any problems in allowing people praise whomever they wanted. At this time, there lived an emperor named Claudius II. This emperor was a warrior and thus came with the radical idea that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died. So he really didn’t want people getting married and wrote an edict prohibiting young people –potential soldiers- to get married.

Realizing the injustice of this law, and following his religion’s belief that the union between a man and a woman is sacred, Valentine continued secretly marrying couples. When he became more and more popular amongst those in love, Claudius got furious about Valentine disobeying his edict, and Valentine was sent to jail. There are legends surrounding Valentine's actions while in prison. Some stories say he prayed and healed the daughter of one of the roman judges, who converted to Christianity after the miracle. But he fell in love with a girl he met while he was in jail. It is not clear whom it was but apparently he wrote to her the most exquisite love poems.

In the year 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution of a beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage. When the date was set for his execution, he penned one last epistle to his sweetheart, which he signed: “From Your Valentine.”

There are many great love stories. We can find them in books, in movies, or we can just notice it in people holding hands or in an intense look. Love is hard to describe in words and yet we know when we feel it. It is when we are in love that we are willing to share it all, to even put our lives at risk; we cry and we laugh more intensely. The colors are even more vivid.

But what “really” is love? One can meditate on love, for example, trying to detect where this “love” is coming from, where does it start? Where does it end? Is it physical? Or emotional? Could it be both at the same time?

Love, as our Holy teachers have told us, is not self existent; for if it was, then we would not have to spend our teenage years trying to discover it in different ways and different people, we would know how to generate it, or where to get it.

Still, love can be selfish or selfless. I could think of how lovable I am, and how I love myself so much that I am just going to take care of myself to make myself more lovable. This position is very dangerous, and really one can never be satisfied. We have spent probably lifetimes trying to take care of ourselves because we are so adorable, and we get really frustrated when others don’t treat us the way we want them to, because, “I am so lovely, can’t you see?”

After trying to love ourselves for so long and getting to be experts at it (did you buy yourself a chocolate last Valentine’s day?) We find no satisfaction. We can never be satiated and there is a certain feeling that something is missing.

Then, one day, we turn the mirror away from us and we start noticing that there are others out there who are also looking for happiness, for love. So we try to help them, and gosh! It feels so good! And then we think again “now I took care of you for 10 minutes, I can go back to taking care of myself for the rest of the day”

And it is not that it’s wrong to take care of ourselves. But when we do, it does not bring sparkles of joy as when we look into helping others. We are going to die making love to ourselves, and then what?
And then there are those who do hospice work, for example, and they seem to be doing a very good job at taking care of others, but they don’t necessarily do it out of love. Perhaps they do it with anger and they just wish they had another job.

So, we try taking care of others for 10 minutes a day, and we know it feels good, but then we lose interest or we don’t know how to.

This is when it is really good to search for our perfect Saint Valentine, our source of all inspiration: a Holy Lama.

We have to look around us and find someone who takes care of others better than us; and then we just have to watch them and copy what they do; ask them to help us to get good at taking care of others, and to open our heart. One day I was in retreat and a little bird crashed into my window and lay there. I did not know how to take care of it, and so I ran to get help; and this beautiful woman came, grabbed a towel, skillfully picked up the bird, and held it in her lap until it was good to fly away. She had mastered how to take care of those around her, and it seemed so natural to her to hold a bird in her hands, whereas I had no idea what to do!

And then there is the Dharma. We are all blessed to have found the teachings of Lord Buddha in this lifetime. They provide us with a great armor to become the warriors of Love, the Bodhisattvas who will rescue all mother beings from the ocean of their mental afflictions.

Particularly in Los Angeles, we have fantastic teachers who give us their time every week; they teach us how to meditate or a formal ACI course. But the most I have learned from them is out of the classroom: they just know how to take care of others and they just do things without thinking: “oh! I have no time” or “Oh! How am I going to open my house to strangers!” or “I don’t have time to catch you up on that coursework”. They fly into town to teach us, they don’t charge a penny for it; they even give us course materials and beverages for free… They just do it; out of love they lead us into liberation from suffering.

To conclude this article I would like to open an invitation to all who read this newsletter. I believe we all can be both great Roman Soldiers and a Christian Valentine priest fighting for love. We have the tools to do it and we just have to determine ourselves and wish really hard that this can happen.
If you want to be a warrior of love, imagine now you are in a Roman Amphitheatre. You are wearing a laurel crown, which smells exquisitely. You are surrounded by all your teachers, all are wearing white and smile at you.

Now that special person who teaches you how to take care of others grants you the teaching on what a warrior needs:

They give you a helmet which represents your Holy Lama, who gives you teachings on opening the heart to others; Your sword is that one which cuts through ignorance and your insight into how things really exist; Your armor are all the good karmic seeds you have dedicated for your enlightenment, and all the unselfish thoughts aimed at opening your heart. Your horse is your daily practice; we sit on our cushions and we explore, we ride our minds just like we ride our horse.

And then you are transformed into a Perfect Warrior of Love, a Saint Valentine who goes around Los Angeles, or Sacramento, Tucson or New York, secretly marrying people into a happiness that has no end, divorcing them forever from this suffering world.

If you want to take the Perfect Warrior of Love Pledge, in the form of a wish, or in action, please step forward!

To all of you, Saint Valentines across the planet, I salute!

Happy Valentine’s day!

From Your Valentine

Irma Gomés Danel

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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 toTony Bittick and Stéphane Dreyfus for maintaining the ACI-LA website. 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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