ACI LA
   
FEBRUARY 2007


ACI LA Newsletter

   

elcome to ACI-LA's March Newsletter. There's so much amazing stuff going on this month. Be sure to check out the highlights.

The first is Lama Marut's message, which presents us with a seemingly paradoxical route to happiness: become a spiritual radical and "fight the power" ... by being content.

And then there's the grand opening of ACI-LA's new home: the Mahasukha Center. The Center's slogan is Dharma. Yoga. Happiness and we're very excited to be able to offer a wide variety of teachings and events to the varied communities in Los Angeles who are interested in learning the many ways to bring the Dharma into our daily lives. Take a look at the press release below and also the new Mahasukha web-page on our site.

And finally, check out the beautiful offering of teachings that Lama Marut will be giving at the Mahasukha Center this month (below), as well as the greatly expanded and rich offering of classes and events over the next several months (listed on the brand new calendar - under "Schedule.")

We hope this month's newsletter supports your spiritual practice and provides you with the resources you need to be truly happy and make the most of your precious human life.

PRESS RELEASE

The Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles is opening a new center at 6512 Arizona Ave., Los Angeles, 90045, just north of LAX.

The grand opening of The Mahasukha Center takes place on March 24 with doors opening at 7:00 pm for blessing of the space. Venerable Sumati Marut, known to his many students worldwide as Lama Marut, will give a brief teaching at 7:30 pm on "Living Your Yoga: Advices from the Bhagavad Gita." Learn how yoga can infuse every dimension of your life and bring happiness. A grand opening party follows! All are welcome.

The Mahasukha (which means "great bliss" in Sanskrit) Center will be reaching out to the yoga community with many events featuring nationally known teachers scheduled in the near future, as well as Asian Classics Institute of LA (ACI-LA) dharma courses, teachings on spiritual partners, and informal talks on a variety of subjects pertaining to living a happier and more fulfilling life. A full calendar of events is under development. The Center will be a place for people to connect. The Center's logo slogan will be "The Mahasukha Center: Dharma, Yoga, Happiness."

 



   
  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
  Class Offerings
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home
 

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

Staying content with what we have should be a lot easier for most of us than it seems most of the time. For people living unbelievably blessed lives like ourselves, it is a little surprising (when we stop to think about it) and also more than a little shameful to always want even more than we already have – more consumer goods, more exotic vacations, more relationships, more promotions at work, more entertainment experiences.

Of course, we are encouraged at every turn to be dissatisfied with our present lives and circumstances. This is the essence of the consumer capitalist society we live in - to never stop wanting, acquiring, and devouring. We are daily bombarded by messages ranging from TV commercials to pop-ups on the internet to political propaganda, all of which exhort us to desire and buy more. . . and more, and more - without end, without satiety.

Consumer capitalism feeds on our most selfish, base impulses. Among the most revolutionary actions a spiritual radical could take in a society like ours is really no action at all. Just stop. Don't buy any more stuff. Don't even want to buy stuff. Just be content.

Contentment is the very opposite of the value system at the center of our current culture. And it is sine qua non of happiness. Without contentment, we can never be happy. Contentment is "entry level" happiness. And with contentment, we will become the most dangerous enemies of our current cultural milieu.

If contentment is the antithesis of consumerism, and is also absolutely essential for happiness, what does that tell you about shopping mall culture? Your unhappiness is their life's blood! Rebelling against a force like this is just sanity; remaining complacent is a recipe for certain grief.

Whenever we feel dissatisfied with our material lives, we might want to stop and recall the statistics. The average income in the U.S. is the second highest in the world (only Luxembourg is higher). In 1999, Americans owned 23% of the world's wealth. The 20% of the world's people living in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures, while the poorest 20% consume a minuscule 1.3% of the total. The richest fifth consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%. The wealthiest 20% consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%. Two billion people in our world live on $1.00 per day, and according to some statistics 50% suffer from malnutrition.

And on it goes. These statistics are not meant to make us feel guilty. They are meant to make us aware of the reality of our lives. We should call them to mind when we succumb to the temptation of thinking we somehow don't have enough.

Remaining satisfied with our things, our relationships and our experiences is one kind of contentment. Another and more subtle form of contentment is to just be happy here and now. A deeper layer of discontent is to always wish we were somewhere else, or some time other than in the present. But in actuality, for almost all of us almost all the time, things are just fine right here, right now.

Staying in the present, happy and content with where we are, who we're with, and what we're doing, is a powerful way to cultivate the happiness we all seek. Try it. It's not easy. But how else did we think we'd be content? One becomes content by . . . just being content.

Bhagavan Shree Rajneesh once summed up the spiritual life like this:

What is to be practiced then? To be more and more at ease. To be more and more here and now. To be more and more in action, and less and less in activity. To be more and more hollow, empty, passive. To be more and more a watcher - indifferent, not expecting anything, not desiring anything. To be happy with yourself as you are. To be celebrating.

We should work at being content by just being content and stop striving for always more. We should remain content with everything in our lives. . . except for inability to be content.

Be content. And then you will really have fought the power aligned against your own happiness.

With all good wishes,
Marut

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  tudent Contributions
   
 

BEING GRATEFUL AND FORGIVING
By Irma Gomes

In His newsletter last month our precious Lama talked about the importance of being grateful and also forgiving. I want to thank Him for it, as it brought me back to a practice I want to share with you today. It is very sweet and it is not difficult. The conditions are as follows:

1. You must apply it to a stranger or someone you dislike
2. You must never give up until the activity is completely finished
3. You get extra points if you wear something special that reminds you of practicing this throughout the day.
4. Extra bonus if, throughout the day, you do an extraordinary act of giving.

Practice:

Whilst at home in the morning, before you leave your meditation cushion (or finish your cereal bowl), say "today I am going to love those around me and I'm going to make them smile."

Then, you go out to the everyday world experiment lab, and you smile - really smile - at everyone around you. Don't stop until they smile back. Count the time it takes them to smile back; don't ask them to do so unless they really won't smile otherwise. Never give up on a non-smiler.

As you smile, send them rays of light from your heart, fill them up with joy.
Of course you can smile to those you love! Don't leave them behind. However, it is experimenting with those we dislike or feel neutral to that makes this practice fun.

Look carefully around you. How many are smiling and how many aren't? How many faces can you change one at a time? How do you like your world when most are bright and breezy?

Sometimes when I'm eating (I eat by myself in restaurants quite often) I look for others that are eating alone. I look for the one that definitely needs an injection of love and I secretly pay for their meal, or send them dessert, totally incognito. I ask the waiter to tell the customer that all they need to do is smile. Try this, enjoy the waiter and the person's reaction! It is quite an amusing experience.

If you get a chance, share something special. Give your time to a colleague, drop a bill in a beggar's hat, tell a joke, buy someone something "just because".

At the end of the day, count your blessings, as Lama Marut recommended. Study how you feel... after all, the world around you is just a reflection of yourself. Isn't it time to start smiling?


DANA - THE ART OF GIVING
By Lindsay Crouse

One day a minister was invited to John D. Rockefeller's mansion. As he drove up the winding drive lined with tall trees, he said, "My, my. This is what the Lord might have done-if he'd had the money."

Money is a hot topic in any situation. In America it's a charged word. It's always been a dirty one. No one wants to talk about how much money they have. Talking about what we actually do with our money is even further out of bounds. It's taboo.
Being in the public eye, I get countless solicitations. The prairie dog is going extinct, kids have muscular dystrophy, women have breast cancer, polar bears have no more ice, public television is disappearing, the police and fire department seem to be depending on me. The ubiquitous photos of hungry children make me particularly miserable. Is my $25.00 really going feed, clothe and educate a child for three months?

When I started out on the Buddhist path I had many preconceptions about myself. One big one was that I was a giver. As I progressed, I began to see that this was not true. It came as a shock. I would have an impulse – often a sweeping impulse - to give money to a cause, but almost immediately I'd pull back. I'd think, "Oh I'd love to give those hungry folks ten thousand dollars, a thousand dollars, ten dollars." Which was where I'd end up. My heart would open start to open, but I'd immediately feel a yank at my back, in fact right behind the heart.

I decided to take as a daily practice the art of giving.

Lord Buddha counseled us when giving to start small, to start with "vegetables." Ok, I thought, but deep inside I longed to give the whole garden. Giving $50.00 here and $75.00 there, what did I hope to accomplish? My small contributions didn't let me off the hook. I wasn't even a player.

Giving, or dana in Sanskrit, is the first of the six perfections in Buddhism. For good reason. You can't fake it. It feels radical to really give, but in fact it's not. Once when Swami Satchadananda came to give a teaching where I lived, the first thing he said was "Who is it who thinks this is her house?" Do we actually own anything? No. It's an illusion, and according to the teachings of Lord Buddha, so are we. There's nothing to lose and no one to lose it. Let go and give, dedicate the act for the good of all, and see what comes.

The challenge and the outcome are powerfully clear in the Old Testament. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, said the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma: The Matrix

Recently, Sara from Detroit wrote in to inquire why The Matrix, the Dharma Flick par excellence, or Mahadharmaflick, if you will, was not on the list. Thanks Sara for writing. The Matrix would certainly rank for many as the most identifiable Implicit Dharma Flick of all times. Much has been said about the ways that The Matrix portrays certain tenants of "eastern thought". Indeed, entire academic conferences have been convened around the topic. For this reviewer though, the two most important elements of The Matrix qua Dharma Flick are that, "reality" is a constructed phenomenon and that the hero is one who uses this fact to serve others. In the film, the analogy between the reality created by "the machines" and the one created by us vis-à-vis our Karma is drawn beautifully. The film makes extremely clear that this deceptive reality (of either sort) will do us no real good and that it is our duty to get underneath it so that we may see how things "really" are. What is even more significant though is what the film suggests we do with the knowledge that there is, in fact, an ultimate reality. With the hope that the film places on Neo (Keanu Reeves) to free all other humans from the tyranny of the machines the expectation is set for us, in our own lives, to act appropriately once we have accumulated wisdom. The Matrix is indeed an excellent portrait of Bodhisattva as action hero. Enjoy!

Explicit Dharma: Gandhi

Although this category is usually reserved for non-fiction titles, Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, is a tale so well told that even in its fiction it arrives at a truthful portrait of a great man, leader, and saint. Thanks in addition to a marvelous performance by Ben Kingsley in the title role, Gandhi faithfully portrays the journey of the English educated lawyer who begins his fight against social injustice in South Africa and eventually turns his attention to the mistreatment of the Indian people at the hands of the occupying British power. In the film, we see directly how wisdom and compassion will always triumph over ignorance and hatred and that when one is armed with an honest love for justice and the good, there is no adversary that cannot be overcome, even the mighty British empire.

 

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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: http://www.meditateinlondon.org.uk/buddhist-quote.php

Do you ever find yourself sitting at your desk, hands on the keyboard, wondering where in the world wide web to visit next? Well, this month's website is a collection of short Buddhism quotes that are sure to be more satisfying than most of your options. Actually, they are a collection known as Atisha's Advice. Atisha's Advice is one of Buddhism's best-loved and most enduring Buddhist quotes. It was given by the well-known Indian Teacher, Venerable Atisha, in 11th Century Tibet. The scripture is known also known as 'Heartfelt Advice from Atisha'.

It may have been given in the 11th century, but we are pretty certain you will love it and find it very relevant today.

Enjoy!

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

 

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Book of the Month

   
  Dharma Book of the Month
   
 

Title: Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness
Author: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Very similar to our practice of the 6 times a day book, Training the Mind by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche reviews the secret Atisha slogans to apply to one's daily life. These 59 slogans, from The Root Text of the Seven Points, have been used by Tibetan Buddhist masters for eight centuries to help develop compassion and love, as well as a understanding of emptiness. They are meant to be used for meditation, like tonglen, and post-meditation practice. What is most interesting about this book, is that it helps bring Buddhism to your everyday life; one thought at a time, one slogan at a time. While you hold the slogan in your mind, you develop a deeper understanding of the Buddha's most central teachings. As the wisdom develops and evolves, you find that your heart has opened.

"Slogan practice opens up a greater field of tenderness and strength, so that our actions are based on appreciation rather than the ongoing cycle of hope and fear. Coming face to face with this most basic contrast of altruism and self-centeredness takes considerable courage and daring. It gets right to the heart of the spiritual path and allows no room for even the slightest deception or holding back. It is a very basic and nitty-gritty practice." - Pema Chodron

Click to purchase from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Training-Cultivating-Loving-Kindness-Chogyam-Trungpa/dp/1590300513/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203640566&sr=8-1

 

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  Dharma Podcasts and Recent Audio Uploads
   
 

Dharma Audio Podcast

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 www.aci-la.org.

This month's Dharma podcast: There is a Method to Achieve Total Happiness: The Four Arya Truths, Part Four

In this final podcast on working on a daily basis for our highest happiness, Lama Marut urges us to check on our morality every few hours, do something for someone else every day, practice the "couch potato contemplation," and end the day with study of a spiritual text.

This podcast is taken from a series of teachings given at the Windhover Performing Arts Center in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August of 2007.

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 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.

Enjoy!


Bonus Dharma Podcast for the Leap Year

Click here to hear the audio from this year's exceptionally special Meditative New Years Eve: /teach_marut-guided.html

Check out Recent Audio Uploads here: www.aci-la.org/teach_marut_recent.html

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

Current ACI-LA Classes

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

   
  Ongoing ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are DONATION based.

Meditation
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
7:30pm
20 29th Ave. #107 in Venice
Taught by: Rick Blue

ACI Formal Study Course 16: The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part I
Started February 21st
7:30pm to 9:30pm
20 29th Ave. #107 in Venice
Taught by: Lindsay Crouse

Killing Anger
Started January 7th
7:30pm to 9:30pm
20 29th Ave. #107 in Venice
Taught by: Cliff Spencer



pcoming ACI-LA Classes with Venerable Marut

March 11-14, 7:30-9:30 PM, “Teachings on the Six Perfections”
Location: Rockport High School, Rockport, Massachusetts
Contact: Phil Salzman: cape_ann_sangha@yahoo.com

March 11-14, 12:00-4:30 PM, “ACI Formal Study Course XVII”
Location: Unitarian Universalist Society of Rockport, Rockport, Massachussetts
Contact: Phil Salzman: cape_ann_sangha@yahoo.com

March 15-16, 1:00-3:00, 7:30-9:30 PM, “Teachings on the Four Immeasurables”
Location: Rockport High School, Rockport, Massachusetts
Contact: Phil Salzman: cape_ann_sangha@yahoo.com

Living Your Yoga: Advices from the Bhagavad Gita
March 24th, 7:30pm
The Mahasukha Center

How to Be Happy, Part Two
March 25th, 7:30pm to 9:30pm
The Bodhi Tree Book Store

Explorations in Emptiness, Part Three
March 26th, 31st, April 2nd, 7:30pm to 9:30pm
The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles

Dharma Essentials
April 7-10, 7:30pm to 9:30pm
The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles


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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 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 Stéphane. Catherine Eaton will be producing the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine by the 10th of the month.

 

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