ACI LA
   
JANUARY 2007


ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

n last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut reminded us that as spiritual practitioners we must get used to being different. We must embrace the abnormal. We must eschew a social and individual lifestyle where unhappiness is normal and pursue total happiness for the benefit of all sentient beings.

He reminded us that a true spiritual practitioner must be a rebel, willing to upset the cultural order of things. He encouraged us to develop the highest and most important method to cultivate in order to achieve the bliss of enlightenment. This method is known as bodhicitta -- the “wish” or “mind-set” (citta) that desires enlightenment (bodhi) so that one can be of ultimate service to others.

This month, Venerable Marut encourages us to increase our happiness and overcome our suffering. We hope this month’s newsletter supports your spiritual practice and helps you get really happy.



   
  This Month
  A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
  Current ACI-LA Classes
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Student Contributions
  Thank You
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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

As I have noted in this column many times, a spiritual practice should increase our happiness and help us overcome our suffering. This is the whole point of a spiritual practice. To pursue happiness is not some trivial goal; it is to realize the principal objective of our lives. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said, “I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment.”

And the Dalai Lama goes on to delineate the method that will really produce this goal: “In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life.”

The seemingly paradoxical secret to our own happiness is to stop worrying about our own happiness all the time and to start being concerned with how to promote the happiness of others. Many readers will recall here perhaps the most important verse in Master Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:

The total amount of happiness
That exists in the world has come from
Wanting to make others happy.
The total amount of suffering
That exists in the world has come from
Wanting to make yourself happy. (8.129)

The Dalai Lama sums it up like this: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

In order to be happy and to produce the causes for more happiness, we have to get ourselves out of the way. True compassion, in which we stop our tendency to obsess about “me” and “mine,” is itself a kind of emptiness meditation. We have to empty ourselves of ourselves if we are going to be happy. We have to “lose ourselves to find ourselves.” “If anyone desires to come after Me,” said Jesus, “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25).

The Buddhist tradition teaches many methods to do what in Christianity is technically called kenosis, a Greek word that literally means “emptying.” In Christian theology, kenosis refers to the “self-emptying” of one's own will in order to become entirely receptive to God. One becomes a worthy vessel for higher things only when one empties oneself of oneself.

If we are interested in becoming happy, we must do one or another version of kenosis. One very important method taught in the Buddhist tradition is to equalize and then exchange yourself for others -- to learn how to think of another’s happiness as no different than your own and, eventually, to pursue the other’s happiness as “your own” (because “you” and “the other” become one).

Another method of losing one’s (smaller, unhappy, problematic) self in order to find one’s (larger, happy, and perfected) self is what is called “guru yoga.” Service to one’s spiritual teacher begins with trying to see them for who they really are for you – the very incarnation of all the Enlightened Beings of the universe rolled into one. Having learned (through intensive and on-going practice) to see your teacher this way, you then naturally begin to act toward them properly. In this practice, you “empty yourself of yourself” in order to be capable of being filled up by the guru’s wisdom and goodness.

But then at the deepest levels of guru yoga, one starts to realize who the guru really is; you realize that the guru is not an object “out there” but rather the highest part of you which you are projecting onto an inherently empty being. When this wisdom dawns, the practice becomes more and more about fully identifying with the guru, with this highest version of “you.” You then practice “losing yourself in order to find yourself” in this most profound way.

One way or another, however, the message is clear: in order to be happy we have to provoke in ourselves a kind of healthy identity crisis. And your “self” will surely resist this . . . because it rightly senses that it’s doomed. But as the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life says,


Until the day that you give up
Your own self, you’ll not be able
To stop the suffering.
Until the day that you let go
Of fire, you will not be able
To stop your hand from burning. (8.135)

With all good wishes,

Marut

 

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Current ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are free and open to the public.

   
 

Course 14: Lojong, Developing the Good Heart, Level 3 of the Steps to Buddhahood (Lam Rim)


Taught by: Lindsay Crouse

Date: Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm,

April 25th, May 2nd, May 9th, May 16th, May 23rd, May 30th.
Location: The first class will be in the Pacific Palisades

To register contact Lindsay Crouse



Course 13: The Art of Buddhist Reasoning

Taught by Cliff Spencer
Monday evenings
Starting April 23rd
7:30pm
Venice, CA

Lam Rim Meditation

Taught by Stéphane Dreyfus
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
7:30pm
Hill Street Center
237 Hill Street
Santa Monica, CA


Tibetan Heart Yoga - Series 1

Taught by Zorie Barber & Vanessa Hopkins
April 16 – 22
Monday -Thursday evenings
7:30- 9:30pm
Saturday & Sunday
11:00am – 5:00pm
Evening sessions: $30
Weekend sessions: $75
Total for all 6 sessions: $250
While ACI-LA is not specifically sponsoring this event, we thought it might be of interest to you. Tibetan Heart Yoga was designed by Geshe Michael Roach and reflects the integration of the practices which ACI-LA teaches with a physical yoga practice.


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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  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma – Amélie

In another fantastic film by French director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children) Audrey Tautou plays the lovable, Amélie, a waitress in Montemart who realizes that the best way to bring love into life is to help others find love in their own lives.  We see Amelie grow up in an original, if slightly dysfunctional, family and interact curiously with her neighbors and customers.  Through the course of the beautifully photographed movie and through the twists and turns of Amelie’s life we discover, as our heroine does, that the life of a Bodhisattva, though sometimes difficult to discover and maintain, is ultimately the best.

 

Explicit Dharma – A Brief History of Time

“I wanted to understand how the universe began.”  With this simple goal, Stephen Hawking set upon his work as an astrophysicist.  Luckily for us, the accomplished documentarian, Errol Morris, wanted to understand how the great physicist, Stephen Hawking, began this quest. Much less dense than the book of the same name, the film A Brief History of Time is a great accomplishment and an interesting way to see one man’s journey into the largest scientific questions of our day.

 

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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.world-view.org

We are very pleased to feature www.world-view.org as the website of the month! ACI-LA is part of the WorldView community, so please take some time to visit the site to learn more about this amazing organization.

WorldView is an international fellowship dedicated to serving others in the highest way, principally by sharing the ancient wisdom with which we can truly find perfect happiness and ultimate meaning in life.

They have many different organizations and projects operating at the grassroots level all around the world. They are linked together by a common lineage and common worldview.

The WorldView mission is:
We seek to respect, promote and protect all the diverse expressions of spiritual knowledge throughout the world, irrespective of country, gender, culture or religious tradition. We should strive to keep alive in the world any and every teaching on kindness and wisdom for they are all precious jewels that appeal to the diverse needs of people and contribute to the happiness and peace of the world.

You can keep on their programs and projects, get Dharma resources, find teaching schedules and much more on this informative and beautifully designed site. Check it out!

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
   
 

The Karma of Thinking Green
By Irma Gomés Danel

Those of us who have studied Dharma for a little while are trying to understand how karma works and how its marriage to emptiness can change the world around us. And the world around us is heating up! We are contributing in ways we are not even aware of to global warming!

So, if global warming is empty, this means it can be changed. And there are many websites out there telling us how we can contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. But before I repeat a few good ideas I have found online, we need to address also the motivation for doing so. Al Gore’s informative documentary An Inconvenient Truth raised his profile and gave him a good image and even an Oscar until… the press went to his house, a very large and well lit mansion that uses thousands of kilo-watts of energy per hour.

If we own a pretty house of course we want it lit up at night; so are we a little like Al-Gore? Do we engage in behaviors without the proper motivation? Do we buy organic produce because it is good for us? Or because it is good for the environment? Do we turn the tap off because we want to save water or because we want to reduce our water bill? So why do we need to think green? And how does a projection of global warming can come to an end? We need to do it for others. This makes it much more powerful. On a hot day when you are stuck on Los Angeles traffic and you feel like you need your air conditioning, think of the future generations, think of the rest of the world and roll your windows down for 5 minutes. Think: today I will save some CO2 emissions for 5 minutes and I dedicate my sweat in the car for others. May all live in a perfect world.

American society especially is oriented towards comfort. Cars, couches, beds and lawn mowers are designed so you are comfortable. But the same karma that brought us comfort may end, if we are causing discomfort to others. Driving our own car is more convenient than carpooling; let alone taking the bus, or walking. Have you ever considered walking to work? What would it be like? Do you know in many under-developed countries children walk miles in the dark to get to school on time? If you have never had bird poop on your head you have not walked enough to places.

If you can afford a car, please keep in mind that you can still take the bus, or share a ride. If you can afford a large SUV, think there are also energy efficient cars that can take you where you need to go. If there are no bus routes near where you live, it’s probably because there is no need for them. Awareness starts creating a difference in your immediate surroundings. Bring up this issue in your next neighbor’s meeting. Talk about carpooling or requesting the local authorities for bus routes.

Trains are very energy efficient. Did you know that in the Bay Area there was a very good train system until the 50s and 60s? This is when car, tire and gas producers lobbied against them. Trains stopped operating and the need for cars was created.

What would be the karma to create a fast and effective transportation system that reduced CO2 emissions? What would our motivation have to be? How could we dedicate the virtue of our actions? According to Greenpeace, A US household uses three times more electricity for lighting, and twice as much in refrigerators than in the European Union. This is not Governments or companies and has nothing to do whether the US president signed the Kyoto Protocol or not: This is about individuals.
Now, you are probably thinking that you care for the planet and are using bio-degradable soaps and organic fruits and vegetables. That is great! This is a great start, but as my friend Gabrielle says, “There is always room for improvement” especially when we talk about global warming.

The generation of electricity requires a lot of energy, and its production in coal and gas releases a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere. At the power plant, some 60 percent of the energy is lost as waste heat. Another 10 percent is lost in electricity lines and transformers before the electricity even reaches your home. Now that we know that most energy is wasted before it reaches home, we must find ways to preserve it. Now think about your motivation. Why do you need to become more energy efficient? How do you want your future world to be? How and why should you care for new generations?

Then knowing that you might afford it financial-wise but NOT karma-wise you can also apply a few of these ideas, accompanied with a good motivation and rejoicing and help change the world, and help others change it, too.

Do your part and take the pledge.
Pledge:
I/We citizen(s) of ………………………………..are concerned about climate change and pledge to become responsible citizens by reducing our CO2 emissions through making small changes to our daily activities.
Date: …………………. Country: ………………….

You can sign the pledge online at http://www.mycarbonfootprint.eu/ … or you can just promise your Lama!

Simple green karmas to cool the world*

1. Use efficient lighting.
Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Compact fluorescents use four times less energy, and last eight times longer (8,000h instead of 1,000h) than incandescent light bulbs. Especially avoid halogen floor lamps, Also pay attention to the light fixtures. Clever use of reflectors, and directional lamps to get the light where you need it.

2. Buy efficient electric appliances.
In many countries, efficiency rating labels are mandatory on most appliances. In the European Union (EU) Look for the A++ or A+ models. In the US, the Energy Star label is used.

3. Refrigerators/ Freezers.
Buy a high efficiency refrigerator that consumes around 100 kWh/y. This is 10 times less than the average in the US, and four times less than the EU average. These efficient refrigerators are about 5-15 percent more expensive to buy. For most home consumers it is better to buy a two door refrigerator/freezer combination with separate compartments, than a separate refrigerator and freezer. Combinations where the freezer is at the top or bottom of the unit  are generally better than ones with side by side doors.

4. Computers and IT
Buy a laptop instead of a desktop, if practical. It consumes five times less electricity. If you buy a desktop, get an LCD screen instead of an outdated CRT. Enable the power management function on your computer; the screensaver does not save energy. Use one large power strip for your computer, broadband modem, scanner, printer, monitor, and speakers. Switch it off when equipment is not in use.
Minimize printing. Laser printers use more electricity than inkjet printers.

5. Don’t leave electrical appliances on standby.
Most modern electric appliances consume electricity even when turned off. For TVs, VCRs, faxes, HiFis, computer screens, cable boxes, and broadband modems this is on average some 40 – 120 kWh/y. In total, household losses can reach several hundreds kWhs/y, all for doing nothing useful. A power strip is the most practical way to switch all devices at once. In the 15 countries of the EU in 2000, the total energy lost to standby in households was estimated at 94 billion kWh, or the equivalent of 12 large nuclear or coal power plants.

6. Do not use an electric boiler (hot water heater) for hot water
Using gas or oil directly to heat water reduces energy use to 3,800 kWh.
A solar boiler can further halve that figure to 1,900 kWh in a moderate climate zone (and even less in sunny regions) - for a total energy savings of about five times what the electric boiler uses.

7. Use a water-saving shower head
Using a water-saving showerhead, combined with a solar boiler reduces energy needs to some 950 kWh heat (gas or oil), or almost 10 times less than when an electric boiler is used with a traditional shower head.

8. Do not use electric space heating
Same reasons as for the electric boiler. Instead add insulation, and (ideally) heat your house using a renewable energy solution like solar thermal.  However, gas heating is still far better than electric heating.

10. Try to avoid short car journeys
Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are disproportionately higher when the engine is still cold. Research shows that one in two urban car journeys is for less than three kilometers - a distance that can be easily cycled or walked.

11. Make sure you have correct tire pressure
If the pressure is down by 0.5 bars, your car uses 2.5% more fuel to overcome the resistance and thus releases 2.5% more CO2.

12. Reduce waste.
Most products we buy cause greenhouse gas emissions in one or another way, e.g. during production and distribution. By taking your lunch in a reusable lunch box instead of a disposable one, you save the energy needed to produce new lunch boxes. Take your own mug to Starbucks or any other coffee place that does not offer ceramic mugs. It takes a lot of energy to recycle those kinds of paper cups
And say no to Styrofoam.If you order take out and the restaurant only carries styrofoam, bring your own (glass) container and help reduce the manufacturing of this highly pollutant product.

13. Reuse your shopping bag
When shopping, it saves energy and waste to use a reusable bag instead of accepting a disposable one in each shop. Waste not only discharges CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, it can also pollute the air, groundwater and soil.

14. Reduce packaging
Choose products that come with little packaging and buy refills when you can - you will also cut down on waste production and energy use! One bottle of 1.5l requires less energy and produces less waste than three bottles of 0.5l.

15. Turn down the heat
Reducing the temperature by just 1°C can cut 5-10% off your family's energy bill and avoid up to 300kg of CO2 emissions per household and year. Program your thermostat so that at night or while you are out of the house, the temperature is set low

General green karma ideas:
1. Eat less meat
Eating organically grown fruits and vegetables doesn’t just reduce the amount of pesticides getting released into the environment. Producing meat is both CO2 and methane-intensive and requires large amounts of water. In fact, ruminant animals such as cattle, sheep and goats are large producers of methane due to the way that their digestive systems process food.

2. Eat free range, local and organic
Buy free-range, organically raised meat and poultry products. These have been raised humanely and on untreated feeds. Eat local fruits and vegetables which are fresher and less likely to be waxed. Also, some imported produce may have been treated with pesticides and chemicals that have been banned in Canada and the U.S. Produce grown in artificial ecosystems or greenhouses requires a tremendous amount of energy for temperatures to be maintained. Transporting goods by plane from one side of the world to the other generates about 1,700 times more CO2 emissions than transporting them by truck over 30 miles.

Take your own mug to Starbucks or any other coffee place that does not offer ceramic mugs. It takes a lot of energy to recycle those kinds of paper cups.

No foods to go on styrofoam: If you order take out and the restaurant only carries styrofoam, bring your own (glass) container and help reduce the manufacturing of this highly pollutant product.

* Most ideas were found at greenpeace.org and the European Commission for Global Warming

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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 Tony 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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