ACI LA Newsletter


n last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut reminded us that a spiritual practice should increase our happiness and help us overcome our suffering. This is the whole point of a spiritual practice. He also reminded us that 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.

Venerable Marut quoted one of the most important verses 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)

Then, Venerable Marut reminded us of the simple way the Dalai Lama sums it: “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. Thankfully, he went on to remind us of the methods Buddhism teaches for doing this!

This month, Venerable Marut encourages us to develop a yoga practice grounded in a classical understanding of the purpose of yoga. We hope this month’s newsletter supports your spiritual practice and helps you get really happy.

  This Month
  A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
  Student Contributions
  Reflections on Tibetan Heart Yoga
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Dharma Book of the Month
  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
  June Retreat Announcement
  Current ACI-LA Classes
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home


ACI LA Newsletter


A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)


According to statistics, some 16.5 million people – 7.5% of all adults -- in America are regularly doing yoga. And an additional 25 million people say they intend to start practicing yoga real soon! The yoga “market” is now estimated at $3 billion a year; entrepreneurs are hoping to strike it rich by getting on the ground floor of the “next yoga,” the next big fad.

Whether or not yoga is more than just a temporary craze (like jogging was) I certainly can’t predict. But I do think it very is important for those Buddhist practitioners who are attracted to yoga to be clear on why one should practice it.

What is the real purpose of yoga? Is it to get into better physical shape? Become more flexible? Lose weight? Achieve better muscle tone and obtain what is sometimes called the “yoga butt?”

Or is the goal of yoga is to gain some kind of peaceful haven within our busy lives, a little window of stress relief that will enable us to return to the job or family responsibilities temporarily refreshed and a bit more able to cope?

While these physical and mental benefits can indeed come from a good yoga practice, according to the ancient texts none of them is the real point of yoga.

Master Patanjali defines what he means by “yoga” very early on in his classical text, the Yoga Sutra: yogash citta virtti nirodhah, “Yoga is the stopping of the way the mind turns things around.” (YS 1.2) The purpose of yoga is to effect a transformation of the nature of the citta, the mind. Something needs to be stopped – nirodhah. And that something is the virttis or “turnings” of the mind.

Stopping the vrittis of the mind does not mean somehow preventing the mind from working at all. (The goal of yoga is certainly not to become brain-dead!) The cessation of the vrittis means the termination of a mind which mixes things up, turns them inside out, and perceives things in a way different from the way that they are. The word virtti is etymologically related to the English word “pervert”; yoga is meant to stop the perversions of the mind.

Later in that same text, Master Patanjali provides a concise statement of just how our minds “turn things around.” In his definition of “ignorance” or avidya, the root of all our problems and unhappiness, Patanjali says this: “Ignorance is the belief that things which are impermanent (anitya) are permanent (nitya); thing which are impure (ashuci) are pure (shuci); things which cause us to suffer (duhkha) will bring us happiness (sukha); and things which do not have essences (anatman) do have essences (atman).” (YS 2.5)

We suffer because we think things exist in ways that they do not. We invert the way things really are. We think, firstly, that things that are impermanent and cannot last will always be there – our possessions, our friends and loved ones, our own youth, health, and life – and when they show their true nature to us (i.e., when we lose them) we are taken by surprised and become despondent.

We also mistake fundamentally impure things – like, for example, the human body -- as something pure. We then either lust after the corporal forms of others (and out of that lust do very foolish and often hurtful things in order to obtain the object of our desire), or are narcissistic about our own bag of skin, bones, blood, and guts. Other examples of mistaking impure things for pure ones would be ingesting intoxicants or foods which are bad for the body, or thinking that movies which realistically depict violence and injury to others are somehow alright to consume as entertainment.

Thirdly, there are many, many ways in which we mistake things that will bring us unhappiness for things that we think will satisfy us and make us happy. We believe that more possessions or money, a different partner, another exotic vacation, or a promotion at work will make us happy when, inevitably, these things turn out to be a source of dissatisfaction when we learn that they cannot deliver what we have unrealistically expected of them. Happiness cannot come from things outside of ourselves, and because we think they have that power we are disappointed when we discover that they do not.

Finally, we are constantly imagining that the things and beings in our world are essentially attractive or repulsive, desirable or undesirable, apart from our own interpretations of them. Things do not have the independently existing, objective essence or “self” we think they have (they are anatman). There are, for example, no essentially irritating people, people who exist as irritating by nature. Irritating people exist for us only if and because we are irritated by them. If we cease to be irritated, the irritating person no longer exists as irritating for us -- because they never were an irritating person from their own side, objectively and essentially.

So if we are succeeding at our yoga we should be becoming wiser, seeing things as they are, and less likely to be “turning things around.” And this, in turn, will help us move closer to another of the real goals of yoga – happiness.

Yoga, like all spiritual paths, is meant to produce happiness in the lives of those who practice it. We cannot attain true happiness with a mind that twists and distorts our perceptions of reality. Happiness emerges out of wisdom and actions that are guided by it.

The practice of yoga leads to the deep contentment and peace of mind called samadhi. This is the real purpose of yoga: a state of mind that no longer “turns things around” and, as a result of the attainment of this wisdom, achieves ultimate and permanent happiness.

The real purpose of yoga is thus no different than the real purpose of every authentic spiritual path. And we should be practicing our yoga everyday. . . not just by doing the physical poses but even more importantly by staying content and happy as we rehearse for the eventual attainment of the ecstasy and bliss of enlightenment.


With all good wishes,






ACI LA Newsletter

  tudent Contributions

By Irma Gomés Danel

The Source of All My Good

is a mountain of jewels, a singing stream

a bubble in the wind

is wishing Goodness to all

putting others first

is a possibility of a new Me

an incarnation of a belief

the feeling that nothing else matters

The Source of All My Good

Teaches me Gratitude, offering

a wish "may all be happy"

a strong emotion

that bursts me in tears.

I find in helping others,

a powerful transformation

rescuing all from death

Is taking advantage of a magic wand

thurst into my hand

Is a projection coming from Me.

The Source of all my Good

Is an obsession to turn things around

a roundabout to the left

Is an Oral Transmission that need not be carved

a realization in my heart.

Is a Yoga pose solely for meditation

equilibrium, mental poise.

is a Seven Limb Prayer

crowning the top of my Head.

Is a red rose next to a pink one

offered in a living room

A plea for a teaching,

inconditional prostration.

The Source of all my Good

Helps me stop my grasping

is not a self made of flesh

but a flight to Dewachen.

Is a leap of faith, a possibility, letting go.

Time running, coming to a stop

The Source of all my Good

blesseth him that gives and him that takes

enthroned in the hearts of kings

is a plea to let go

is desire to fall and then soar.

Is a Blue Lagoon under lavander skies,

keeping my book

remembering before going to sleep

is the goodness I do, what I confess.

And never blaming anyone else for what happens.

A noble idea

all Mothers since beginningless time

what elevates all to the Supreme.

Is a String of small deaths

that bloom in new beginnings

an all encompassing jewel

All Buddhas in One Atom

The Source of All My Good

is a perfect subject mind

a house of mirrors of bliss

and mirrors without pictures.

is matching my identity to the Middle Way

re acquainting oneself with an old friend

The certainty that everything is there

because it is all a miracle

Strangers wanting out of a strange land

a hummingbird's OM

The Support of a Lineage

in the Heart of the Supreme

The Source of All My Good,

Holy Lama, can only be You:

The One who stole my heart,

The Holder of the Diamond.





  eflections on Tibetan Hearth Yoga

By Eric Smith and Ersellia Ferron

Last week Golden Bridge in Hollywood received the Yoga Studies Institute and Tibetan Heart Yoga Series One.

Zorie Barber and Vanessa Hopkins teamed up to teach the Tibetan Heart Yoga Teacher Training, a 20 hour course that focused on The Six Perfections, with Asana unique to this lineage. On our first evening, Zorie lectured on yoga ethics and theory, explaining principles and concepts. On the second evening, Vanessa taught us the Asana aspect of this lineage, where she lead us through the new forms and postures that were to go in tandem with our practice of the Six Perfections. Continuing in this fashion, alternating between theory and Asana, our teachers guided us, and made us understand the serious impact that this practice could and would have on our lives.

Zorie had the energy of a thousand Yogis as he taught us the theory aspect of THY, predominately centered on Master Pantajali's Yoga Sutras and his Eight Limbs of Yoga: Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. And with grace, Vanessa taught us the Asana limb of Tibetan Heart Yoga.

We can honestly say that we were lucky to have such great teachers to show us the amazing power of Tibetan Heart Yoga, and that we look forward to having more teachings in Los Angeles.





ACI LA Newsletter

  Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma - Dead Man

In Jim Jarmusch’s genre-bending classic, William Blake (Johnny Depp) disembarks from a train that has reached its terminus in a town called Machine. Normal enough, you might think, but it so happens that Machine is where civilization’s frail finger tip meets the great western wilderness. If Depp’s character’s name weren’t a clue to the major subterranean workings of the story, and the suggestive title of Depp’s destination didn’t get the wheels turning, true suspicions begin to arise when, in this town called Machine, Depp meets a native American named Nobody. Very quickly, the careful viewer begins to see that the tale unfolding is an austere but elaborate allegory. Where the allegory points though is mysterious. Jim Jarmusch has this to say about the swirling mysteries in his film, “Death is life's only certainty, and at the same time, its greatest mystery. For Bill Blake, the journey of Dead Man represents life. For Nobody, the journey is a continuing ceremony whose purpose is to deliver Blake back to the spirit-level of the world. To him, Blake's spirit has been misplaced and somehow returned to the physical realm. Nobody's non-western perspective that life is an unending cycle is essential to the story of Dead Man”. And there you have it; one of America’s renowned maverick filmmakers has gone and made a film about the Bardo. And with a great score from Neil Young to boot, Dead Man is not to be missed.


Explicit Dharma - 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama

Could it get more explicit than this? In his film, 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama, filmmaker Rick Ray answers the famous dinner party question, “If you could meet any one in the whole world, who would it be?” Fortunately, his answer is more than just idle dinner party conversation. In 85 minutes, Ray weaves together observations from his own journeys throughout India and the Middle East, and the wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The film also contains rare historical footage as well as footage supplied by individuals who at great personal risk, filmed with hidden cameras within Tibet.





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:

We are very pleased to feature as the website of the month! The Yoga Studies Institute is a non-profit educational institute that thoroughly grounds students in the classical tradition of yoga. The program reunites the "outside" methods (working with the physical postures and breath) with the traditional "inside" methods (ethical living, meditation, philosophical training, and correct worldview) into a powerful synthesis the ancients called "royal yoga."

Bringing together these "outside" and "inside" methods, restoring to yoga the complete set of "limbs" of Patanjali's eight-limbed (ashta-anga) practice, combining the physical dimension of yoga with the spiritual understanding of the interdependence of karma and emptiness, their program is designed to achieve nothing less than the end of suffering and full enlightenment for the practitioner and the skills needed to teach others how to reach these goals too.

The site includes yoga resources, audio recordings and other opportunities to enhance your yoga practice in concert with your Dharma practice. Be sure to visit to get amazing audio teachings about Karma & Emptiness in the Yoga Sutras. Check it out! These teachings are the jewel of this site…




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.





  Dharma Book of the Month

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

by HH Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler

The Art of Happiness's main topic is answering the age-old question: What is happiness and how do I achieve happiness?

Over the span of ten years, Howard C. Cutler, an American psychiatrist, was allowed extensive interview time with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As they collaborated to answer universal psychological questions concerning the rise of anger, depression, loneliness, low self-esteem, anxiety and divorce, you can discern a loving relationship, and a growing understanding between two very different worlds. Howard C. Cutler, would first address each important topic from an American psychological standpoint, and then juxtapose it with HH Dalai Lama's observation and point of view, often refering to Buddhist concepts, discussing each subject with deep concern and reflection.

What's most fascinating is how the Dalai Lama in some instances would agree with American psychology, but then in others would completely discount modern psychology's approach to negative human behavior, bringing a different way of dealing with what we consider to be "normal" reactions.

His Holiness suggests that all human beings share the same common goal: to be happy. And in that lies the root of all compassion and understanding, creating a form of equanimity with all human beings. His Holiness explains that happiness can be achieved through the training of the mind and heart in the ways of compassion and kindness, giving helpful techniques such as Taking and Giving. He explains that we are all capable of executing this training, through the destruction of the one thing that they value the most, Self-cherishing.

In these interviews HH draws direct experiences from his own life, including those of his childhood and the Chinese invasion. His heart is completely open during most of the discussions, and it allows the reader a glimpse into the mind of this holy being.

The Art of Happiness is a practical and insightful book intended to be read by both Buddhists and non- Buddhists alike. It's a great book for someone in your family who doesn't practice Buddhism, but has an open mind and is interested in trying to improve their life.





  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads

You can watch Dharma flicks, read Dharma books and now you can hear Dharma podcasts. Life in the modern world certainly makes life easy for a practitioner to get wonderful access to teachings! Don’t miss our new weekly podcasts at New podcasts of teachings are available regularly, so visit the site often! Please check out these recent audio uploads at
Dharma Essentials VI: The Diamond Cutter Sutra
Taught in Los Angeles
March 26 - April 4
2006-2007 New Year ' s Eve guided meditations
Taught in Los Angeles
December 2006
Teachings on Joyful Effort
Given at Diamond Mountain University
Winter term, 2007
San Francisco
April 9
South Lake Tahoe 
April 14

Various talks on Yoga Philosophy
Given at Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 8-11
New York City
March 14, March 21
San Francisco
April 9
Santa Cruz
April 10
Reno, Nevada
April 12
Teachings on Forgiveness, Trust,  Being Happy. . . Here and Now, and Joyful Effort, Given in Rockport, Mass
March  17-18
Teachings on being happy and living in the present
Given at Los Angeles
March 25
April 11
Reno, Nevada
April 12
South Lake Tahoe
April 13

Components of a Daily Spiritual Practice
Given at Santa Cruz
April 10


If you enjoy having access to these wonderful Dharma podcasts, please make sure to comment in the comments section on iTunes.

Also, make sure to subscribe to keep up to date on the digital downloads! Click on the subscription button at and/ or 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.






  etreat Announcement

By Cliff Spencer

We're so fortunate to have Venerable Thupten Pelma come to Los Angeles to lead a retreat. She is a remarkable teacher and a treasure in our lineage. I first met Ani Pelma in New York when she was tasked my Geshe Michael to open the Three Jewels Bookstore. I was living upstairs in the same building and kept seeing this flurry of red robes in and out of the doors of this strange new shop in the basement commercial space. As their work progressed and the small tearoom and lending library opened, I began to see familiar faces on my once anonymous sidewalk. Some of the people in my building began to drop by the shop and say hello, and one even began working there now and then. I began to notice other people that I'd seen in other parts of the East Village show up at our building. Drop-in for a while at the Three Jewels, people of all types, sitting on couches, all the while being served tea by this bright-eyed nun who never seemed to stop moving, and who'd often and easily burst out into laughter, that kind of infectious laugh, that relaxes you, makes you feel at home. I remember sitting in there with some total strangers and Ani Pelma talking with us, introducing everyone, and asking if we wanted more of this or that. And for a moment in that big city there was some friendship, some warmth; a sense of possibility. I learned so much from Ani Pelma then from the things she said in casual conversation and in watching the way she worked, the way she treated others, and watched herself and her behavior in doing so. I think having Bodhicitta must make you irresistible, you become a magnet- others can sense you've got the best game in town and they want in on it. Everyone wanted in on the game at the Three Jewels.

Ani-hla is a great teacher in many modes, and has gained great knowledge and experience from her deep practice. We can learn so much from her and are so fortunate to have this Lineage Lama comes to teach us. I hope you'll all sign up for this retreat in June as Ani Pelma brings us together for a great retreat weekend. Don't miss this one!

>>> See the flier for more info!





ACI LA Newsletter


Current ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are free and open to the public.


Lam Rim Meditation

Taught by Stéphane Dreyfus
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
Hill Street Center
237 Hill Street
Santa Monica, CA

Course 13: The Art of Buddhist Reasoning

Taught by Cliff Spencer
Monday evenings
Starting April 23rd
Venice, CA


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

pcoming Teachings by Venerable Marut

Emptiness Teachings from Arya Nagarjuna

Taught by Venerable Marut (Brian Smith)
May 29th and 30th, June 5th and 6th
7:30pm to 9:30pm
Los Angeles, CA

This course will be an in-depth view of the teachings on emptiness by the greatest philosopher of the Mahayana tradition.  Teachings will be based on original translations from Arya Nagarjuna's great Sanskrit classic, Mulamadhyamakakarika (The Fundamental Teachings of the Middle Way), and classes will include guided meditations on emptiness. 

Podcast of Teachings Now Available!
Make sure to subscribe!

Click on the subscription button at and/ or 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.



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