ACI LA Newsletter


n last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut drew from the ancient Indian religious classic called the Bhagavad Gita Venerable Marut used this text to encourage us to learn how to act in the world without being imprisoned by it; to be “in the world but not of it.”

This month, Venerable Marut introduces us to one of the most useful practices taught in the Tibetan Buddhist- how to transform problems into opportunities.

We hope this month’s newsletter supports your spiritual practice and provides you resources to make the most of your precious human life.



  This Month
  A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
  Student Contributions
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Dharma Book of the Month
  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
  Current ACI-LA Classes
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home


ACI LA Newsletter


A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)


One of the most useful practices taught in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is learning how to transform problems into opportunities. We start by understanding that there are no “problems” per se. Problems do not exist objectively as problems. Problems are only interpretations. And because problems exist only because we construe them as such, we can learn how to re-label and reinterpret them . . . and thereby convert them into something other than “problems.”

Through this relatively simple process of training ourselves to think differently about things, what was once seen as a problem can be transmuted into something useful for our spiritual practice and development. In Buddhist literature, a serious practitioner who has learned to do this is likened to a peacock who feeds on poison and converts it into beautiful tail feathers.

This practice goes way beyond merely trying to find the silver lining in any cloud. It is designed to make clouds disappear altogether. For if we can see what we once thought of as a problem as something valuable and helpful, it is no longer a problem at all!

When we experience something unwanted – sickness, losing a loved one, having a professional setback, encountering a difficult or hurtful person – we can always use it as an opportunity to reflect on the suffering nature of secular life. When the Buddha said, “Life is suffering,” he wasn’t kidding. But it is usually only when suffering is overwhelmingly obvious to us that we recognize it.

Teachers sometimes assert that “samsara is kind,” for it will always, sooner or later, show you its true nature. Without problems and the suffering they bring us, we would never get motivated to really work at our spiritual lives. Without the reminders we get when problems arise, we would never gain the renunciation of suffering and its causes that is the precondition to any serious spiritual effort.

So the first way to change a “problem” into an opportunity is to use it as a reminder that our real happiness cannot come from any other source than our spiritual practice. Suffering eliminates both complacency and the smugness and pride that come when things go too well for us (“That kind of thing could never happen to me!”). To be happy we must first let go of the coals that are burning us, and it is only when we feel the burn that we become really interested in alternatives.

When we experience problems we can also use them to learn true compassion for the suffering of others. It’s not until we feel ourselves what it’s like to lose one’s health, loved one, job, or money that we really know how others feel when these things happen to them. Without problems befalling us, we would never truly understand the suffering of others and could not develop the compassion so crucial to our own spiritual maturity.

The first Panchen Lama cites a verse in one of his teachings on developing a good heart (lo jong) that claims, “Suffering moreover does have certain benefits: It gives you sadness that wipes away your arrogance, and teaches you compassion for those caught in the circle. You start to avoid bad deeds, and learn to take joy in good.”

In addition to acting as a wake up call for our own complacency and spiritual laziness, and a remedy for our callousness regarding the suffering of others, problems also provide us with the opportunity to reflect on the nature of causality or karma. Why did this unwanted thing happen to me anyway? Do things just happen randomly? Is there a God micro-managing the universe who is mad at me? Or is everything – very much including this unwelcome event – implicated in the network of cause and effect?

Every problem we experience ourselves comes from creating that kind of problem for others in the past. We reap what we sow. What goes around, comes around. Suffering provides us with the chance to think about karma and its workings; it helps us resolve to live better moral lives: “I don’t want to suffer! So I must be careful not to create the causes for it.”

Furthermore, if we don’t re-create the causes that brought us the difficulty in the first place, we can feel happy that we are now burning this negativity off. Once a result has been experienced, it is over. What could have incubated longer and then grown into a major disaster has instead ripened now into this relatively minor discomfort. As Pabongka Rinpoche writes in his classic Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand,

Whenever sickness or any other such problem comes to you, you must think to yourself that your bad karma from the past, all your negative actions and obstacles – things that were surely going to send you down to a birth in the lower realms – have instead ripened upon the mind and body you have now, and have been fully replaced thereby. As such you should rightly feel an immense sense of relief.

Finally, if you are trying to live a life of altruism, dedicated to relieving the suffering of others, when a problem arises you can say, “Excellent! It’s working! My wish to take on myself the suffering of others is now being fulfilled. I’m so happy that I can experience this pain so that others are free from it.” Je Tsongkapa, in his A very Brief Instruction on the Practice of Transforming Suffering into a Spiritual Path, writes that

You should . . . feel great joy, thinking to yourself, “In the past I did the practice of giving and taking, trying to take on myself all the bad deeds and obstacles of every living being. And now I see my wishes have been accomplished.”

In these ways, we can learn to make our suffering meaningful, to use it as a spiritual tool and re-envision it as an opportunity we would not have had otherwise. When we do this, there actually are no “problems.” There are just various occasions and contexts to cultivate and exercise our wisdom and compassion.

Buddhism teaches that all unhappiness comes from self-cherishing and self-grasping. We can eliminate our true enemies by embracing “problems” and transforming them, like the poison-eating peacock. And when we do this successfully, there won’t be any “problems” left to transform.

With all good wishes,





ACI LA Newsletter

  tudent Contributions

In My Pure Land
By Irma Gomés

In my pure land runs a river, where water is clear
gummy bears and chocolate truffles float.
The grass is blue in the morning and gold at night.
In the center there is a lake, where there blooms a Lilly
fairies sparkle stardust atop the crystal palace.
In my pure land there are no whale hunters, no green peace:
There’s peace, and ego hunters.
Holy figures manifest uninterruptedly;
Dharma rains at all times.
In my pure Land it’s 95 degrees
no global warming or CO2 emissions;
all creatures coexist, and speak mantra.
There are rituals, and an absence of rituals
Sanskrit syllables and French pastries.
salsa is never too hot.
Sometimes we walk, others we fly pirouettes in the sky
We’ve renounced and we’ve succeeded;
Taking care of others has helped us stop death
We continue to be, multiple me’s. No me’s.
In my Pure land lives my Lama, and You, and I
And we dance, teach; relax and work
We’re never tired, and always happy
There’s an ocean where the Lama surfs,
and mountains where my angel skis.
There are toucans and peacocks, blueberries, cherries
soft tranquil music, waves of cotton candy
We all have the Wish, even though we’ve reached it
Our clothes are finest silk.
In my pure land there’s a bath house
That smells like sandal and rose; 
our rainbow bodies glitter,
we read the little prince.
My pure Land is Your heaven,

the Lama sits on My Heart
and You sit on His Heart
finally, everything is fine!




Operation Secret Agent Bodhisattva (South Lake Tahoe Retreat)
By Secret Agent #TG2672

Set amongst the towering pines and sparking blue-silk water of South Lake Tahoe, our Secret Agent Bodhisattva Cell embarked on an exhaustive “Buddhi Yoga” training weekend on how to think and act like a Bodhisattva.

Our Commander in Chief, Venerable Marut, never failed to inspire us when we weakened, assure us when we doubted, motivate us when we tired and push us further than we could ourselves in our precious mind-training.

Miraculously, He inexhaustibly covered the deepest, most difficult and most sacred practices over the long weekend; of Lojong: Developing the Good Heart, Karmic Correlations from the Wheel of Knives, Tong Len: The Practice of Giving and Taking, and the 7 Step Cause and Effect Method for Developing Bodhicitta, or the “Mother Meditation”.

It is impossible to encapsulate the precise practices of these teachings here, but certainly there was a major thematic drive throughout all of them: we must destroy our self-cherishing and our grasping to an illusory self in order to escape our suffering and develop the true bodhicitta of a Bodhisattva.

In signature Lama Marut style, He found the key to these teachings that would speak to us more profoundly in the West. Presenting them as deviant behaviour, insurgent, warrior-like combat and intensive guerrilla activity, these practices of compassion were showcased as the weaponry against the very attitudes that keep us chained to the suffering of samsara.

Conjuring cage-matches and smackdowns against our own worst mental afflictions, Guru-ji illustrated how the mighty forces of compassion and wisdom are the path that will lead us to freedom. This precious life we have is fleeting and we must work hard, now, through ‘radical means’ (“Triple X not PG”) to rid ourselves of the self-cherishing that keeps us identifying with our suffering “gollum” self.

As Lama Marut described, a high practitioner transforms these poisons into beauty, and may use certain energies, disengaged from the affliction, as a powerful force to master the various modes of compassion that may help themselves and others in more ultimate ways. The final, and fundamental ‘Vajra Compassion’ being the wisdom of knowing where suffering beings in your world have come from in the first place – and that you must have compassion for others as you have created them.

The last sessions of the retreat were focused on the ‘Mother Meditation’, which provoked a palpable sense of the retreatants softening, insight deepening and hearts cracking wide-open. The sense of personal responsibility for others was intensified as we used the 7 (+1) steps to generate the gratitude that fuels our motivation and dedication toward helping all living beings.

Not only did Lama Marut teach these practices to us perfectly in speech, but also through His tireless actions throughout the whole retreat. The true teachings on compassion were displayed through His unlimited energy to teach us, sometimes 8 hours a day; His boundless love in shepherding us through such demanding material until we understood; and then giving personal advices in His breaks. His vast stores of happiness, random acts of kindness and ‘gratuitous’ acts of senseless beauty were also ever-present to remind us of the true spirit of a Buddha… and of course, His ongoing commitment to giving students precious vows saw a very special evening ceremony, blessed by a gigantic full moon.

To close this extraordinary retreat, Guru-ji sent us out on our own as “Individual Lojong Terrorists”; the 50 Bodhisattvas of the South Lake Tahoe Cell officially disbanded for another year, and are now walking amongst us all, undercover, against the grain, and in magnificent disguise...

Please stay, Holy Lama Marut.
Please never stop teaching us.

Thank You so much to David and Brandy for organizing the event, and for all participants for helping in so many ways.

May all beings be happy.


To listen to the audio from this amazing weekend please follow this link to:
South Lake Tahoe 2007 Retreat, Compassion



ACI LA Newsletter

  Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma - The Day the Earth Stood Still

From the director Robert Wise (whose eclectic filmography includes: The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, and West Side Story) The Day the Earth Stood Still is a cautionary tale born of early cold war anxieties of 1951. In the film, The United States is visited by a being from outer space called Klaatu. Klaatu has brought with him not only greetings from outer space but also a stern warning that if the people of the Earth attempt to bring their atomc weapons into space, the residents of neighboring galaxies will not hesitate to destroy them. Although the film is campy by today’s sci-fi tastes, it does offer some dharmic intrigue of the highest rank.

Shortly after the film begins, Klaatu, our intrepid man from outer space, takes an alias so that he can inconspicuously move among the people of the earth and, he hopes, organize a meeting of world leaders who will agree not to take atomic weapons into outer space. In this low grade but, nonetheless, eyebrow raising hint of dharma to follow, the alias he chooses is “Carpenter”. Soon after, “Carpenter” asks his guide, a young boy named Bobby, to take him to the greatest person in the world. Bobby takes him to the home of a well known Math professor. Although the professor is not home, the pair finds an unsolved Mathematics equation on a blackboard in the home. As it turns out, the equation is a formulation of Newton’s Second Law of Motion: “The rate of change of momentum of a body is proportional to the resultant force acting on the body and is in the same direction”. So, a man from outer space called “Carpenter” happens to be an expert on cause and effect.

The most profound dharmic moment in the film was brought to my attention in a teaching from Lama Marut in Los Angeles. The teaching was on Nagarjuna’s “Wisdom: A Song on the Root of the Middle Way”. As Nagarjuna points out, and as Marut, reminds us, if reality really was an unchanging whole made up of separate entities with essences, time could not pass and the Earth would actually stand still. When asked to demonstrate his powers, Klaatu makes the earth stand still and offers the careful dharma student a direct look the impossibility of the incorrect worldview which holds that things exist essentially, that is, from their own side. Thank you Nagarjuna, Marut, Robert Wise, and Klaatu


Explicit Dharma - The Yatra Trilogy

In this series of films by John Bush, the viewer is treated to three powerful journeys into Buddhist Culture and other wisdom traditions in Tibet, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Bali. For those of you in Los Angeles, all three films are being shown this weekend at The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. For others interested in the films, you can find more information at: Enjoy!





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:

This month’s dharma website should be a familiar one for most of you. It is the website for the Asian Classics Institute Los Angeles. The Asian Classics Institute Los Angeles is dedicated to the serious study and personal practice of the original teachings of the Buddha, and for those wanting to learn more about this tradition.

Our website is full of useful information on course and classes as well as a wealth of opportunity for videos, digital downloads and dharma flicks. You can listen to teachings given around the world and find out about classes happening here in your own backyard. The website is great portal and information center so you can stay active and involved in our ACI-LA community.



If you come across a site that you’d like others to know about, please notify Shannon and contribute to this part of the newsletter.






  Dharma Book of the Month

One City: A Declatration of Interdependence
By: Ethan Nichtern

Ethan Nichtern is the founder of The Interdependent Project, a grassroots organization interconnecting meditation, activism and the arts. He is also the author of "One City, a Declaration on Interdependence".  Reading “One City: A Declaration of Interdependence”, Nichtern does a great job explaining and observing how interdependence actually functions. He does this by playfully applying the principles of interdependence to his life. Becoming a joy ride, his examples range from the ills of consumerism, to understanding how we entertain ourselves, to how we can actually take control of our apathy.  Just reading the first chapter is a wake up call to our lack of understanding of how interconnected we are to each other.  If we were to apply interdependence to our lives the way that he does in " One City: A Declaration of Interdependence", we would alter our entire way of seeing the world and how we function in it. We also would have a deeper understanding of how pollution, food, clothing, and love arise in our lives. And lastly we would perceive how we actually create the demands of the society we live in, and therefore how we could actually change it.

Ehatn's voice is the most entertaining part of the book.  Using hip-hop lingo, he leads us on an "Award Tour" of his thoughts about eating meat, using the internet, media's affect on our minds, and issues of activism vs apathy. Refreshing and's like "Lyrics To Go". It’s an opportunity to raise our awareness, the concrete jungle and the words of the Buddha, clashing for a rush of a new “spiritual revolution”.

“When we expand the vision of interdependence even further, we can see the way that the billions of people alive are “co- producers” of the planet Earth. This thing we call “The World” is actually the interdependence product of all the fears, hopes, assumptions, biases, value judgments, creativity, and – most of all – actions of billions of people who inhabit it. As individuals, our minds help project the state of the world we live in. Like the butterfly effect in the chaos theory, the truth of interdependence states that no individual’s action merely disappears into outer space without any effect.”


Click to purchase from Amazon:





  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads

Dharma Poscast

You can watch Dharma flicks, read Dharma books and now you can hear Dharma pod casts. 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: /mg-podcasts.html.

This month’s Dharma Podcast:

>> Guided Meditation on the Emptiness of Problems and Feelings

>> Everything is Coming From Me, Not At Me: The Emptiness of Self-Existence

>>Turning Problems into Opportunities: The Emptiness of Things Coming from Their Own Side

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.



Recent Audio Uploads

Lama Marut's Dharma Essentials:
>> Dharma Essentials IX

Lama Marut'sGuided Meditations:
>>Guided Meditation on Exchanging Self for Others

Lama Marut's Foundational Practices:
>> Learning Forivenes. Los Angeles

>> Gratitude, South Lake Tahoe

Lama Marut's six Perfections:

>> Joyful Effort, Salt Lake City

>> No Fun No Yoga, Three Jewels, New York City

Lama Marut's Emptiness:

>> Explorations in Emptiness, Los Angeles

>> Explorations in Emptiness, with Mercedes Bahleda, New York City

Lama Marut's Retreat Teachings:

>> South Lake Tahoe Retreat 2007

Lama Marut's Yoga Philosophy:

>> How Yoga Works, Sacramento

>> How Yoga Works, Salt Lake City

Cliff Spencer's Teachings:

>> ACI Course 15






ACI LA Newsletter


Current ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are donation-based and open to the public.

  Lam Rim Meditation
*** Due to the holiday season, there is no Tuesday night meditation untli the new year. ***

Taught by Rick Blue
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
Venice, CA

pcoming Teachings

Dharma Essentials I: The Ethical Life

Date: December 15th-18th, at 7:30pm
:Sherman Oaks, CA
Admission: Registration required. To register please contact or call (818) 807-2794
Taught by: Stephane Dreyfus

>>> See the flier for more info!


Formal Study Course 5: How Karma Works, Level 1 of Higher Knowledge (Abhidharma)
Date: Fridays evenings, December 14th until January 11th, 7:00pm
Location: Venice, CA
Taught by: Lauren Benjamin
To register or for more information please contact

>>> See the flier for more info!


In Depth Course 2: Killing Anger,

The Patience Chapter From the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life

Date: Monday night's, Beginning January 7th, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Location: Venice, CA

Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only

Taught by: Cliff Spencer

>>> See the flier for more info!


Dharma Essentials IX: The Ethical Life

Date: December 10th-13th, at 7:30pm
: Westside Waldorf School, 17310 W. Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades
Admission: Registration required. To register please contact
Taught by: Venerable Marut

This 4-class course explains the relationship between an ethical way of life, meditating deeplu, and experiencing ultimate reality. Topics include: the essence and basic nature of vows; reasons to live and ethical lide; why morality is the key to meditation and seeing emptiness directly; the specific karma resulting from each of the ten non-virtues; how to find a teacher; taking refuge; the four forces of karmic purification; and the six perfections.

>>> See the flier for more info!



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, Catherine Eaton, Summer Moore, and Stephane Dreyfus for their kindness in continuing to teach here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Stephane 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.