ACI LA
   
APRIL 2008


ACI LA Newsletter

   

elcome to our April Newsletter. As we go to (virtual) press, we are still in the opening week of our new home, the Mahasukha Center. It was originally the plan of the newsletter staff to dedicate this issue to saying thank you to those who worked so hard to build the space and make the event happen, but the Grand Opening was so exciting and so much fun that we cannot contain ourselves. Besides, gratitude and joy go hand in hand and only good can come from expressing both.

From the point of view of the space designers, Mahasukha is very much a work in progress. But even unfinished, the space is beautiful. There are far too many people to list here who contributed time and energy to bring it all together, from gathering all of the equipment and supplies, to staffing the actual events, to laying floors and painting walls. To all of you, we express our deepest gratitude. But we cannot speak of gratitude for this project without saying a special thank you to Cliff Spencer and Sal Gallina. Not only did they find the space, they pretty much put every other aspect of their lives on hold in order to convert a musty old warehouse into a space of beauty, doing the work themselves as well as leading the teams of volunteers who gathered to lay floors and paint walls - with true virya. Next month's Newsletter will be full of stories about building the Center as well as its first events. This one we reserve to express our deep gratitude to Cliff and Sal. We bow to you.

There are many others, and we hope to thank them all in the newsletters to come, but the Grand Opening was a night to remember. The room was filled with joyous people, happy to share the occasion and the teachings in a beautiful space that ACI-LA can call its own. There were so many old friends, and so many joining in for the first time. Cliff and his young son, Scout, did the ritual honors while Lama Marut recited the Heart Sutra in order to bless the room. Then Lama Marut's teaching on "Living Your Yoga" is not to be missed (and is uploaded on the download page.)  These were followed by the downtempo beats and live sitar of LuckyCat Dynasty featuring Djun-Djun and Dvine [Puretone], with people dancing (alone, together and with hoops), sharing conversation and laughter, and last but not least, enjoying the sumptuous snacks graciously contributed by Viva Fresh Mexican Grill, Martini's Italian Deli & Pizza, Marie Callendar's, Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill and Stefano's.

Please check out the schedule page for teachings that Lama Marut will be doing during the next two weeks at Mahasukha, as well as the greatly expanded and rich offering of classes and events over the next several months (listed on the BRAND NEW calendar on the ACI-LA website - under "Schedule.") and continuing on - until enlightenment!!!

The Center's slogan is Dharma, Yoga, Happiness . Take a look at the NEW MAHASUKHA WEB-PAGE on our site.

The Asian Classics Institute of 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. It offers a wide range of courses, guided meditations and other activities, all offered at no charge, including Introductory, Dharma Essentials and Formal Study courses focusing on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice.

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.


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

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

"The Toxicity of TV"

The last few issues we've been talking about the importance of "fighting the power" of consumer capitalism in order to cultivate contentment - the opposite of the dissatisfaction engendered in us by advertising and the beginning of the true happiness we seek. A spiritual life requires a renunciation of its antithesis, the values of secularism, and for us this means rejecting the ideology of shopping mall culture which is entirely designed to keep us discontented and unhappy.  

The all-pervasive and thoroughly corrosive worldview of consumer capitalism is principally disseminated through the mass media, and most especially through television.

In his classical cautionary tale, 1984 (originally published in 1949, long before my family had its first TV), George Orwell imagined a future where everyone would have a television that was on pretty much all the time, broadcasting mindless pap or violence and propaganda designed to keep the populace in a constant state of unhappiness. That time has come. We are living the nightmare Orwell foresaw.

99% of all American households now possess at least one TV, while 66% have three or more. The TV is on in the average home 6 hours and 47 minutes a day. The typical person now watches over four hours per day, or 28 hours a week.

That's two months of non-stop television viewing a year. By the time the average person is 65, he or she will have spent nine years watching TV.

These numbers are staggering. And they go on. According to statistics, parents spend all of 3.5 minutes per week in "meaningful conversation" with their children, compared to the 1,680 minutes per week the average kid spends in front of the TV.   While a child typically spends 900 hours per year in school, he or she spends 1500 hours per year glued to the TV set. Children spend more time watching television than in any other activity except sleep.

It's not just the sheer number of hours of our precious and finite human life we waste staring at the TV. What, exactly, are we and our children spending huge parts of our lives passively watching?

First of all, a whole lot of commercials cleverly designed to instill over and over again the idea that we should never be satisfied. that we should always "need" more, and that our happiness lies outside ourselves - in money, acquisitions, status, or entertaining experiences. The average kid sees 20,000 commercials a year. By the time the typical American watcher is 65, he or she has seen 2,000,000 TV ads. Two million.

And then there is the violence. The average child has witnessed 8,000 murders on TV by the time he or she finishes elementary school. By age 18, that same kid has seen 200,000 violent acts.

In case you were wondering if watching hundreds of thousands of violent acts on TV has any effect on people, 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a causal factor in the real life version. According to a report issued by the American Psychological Association, children often behave differently after they've been watching violent programs on television. Kids who watched violent shows were more likely to argue and strike out at their playmates.

TV inures us all to violence (making possible, for example, mass support of wars waged in our name) by depending on it so heavily for what supposedly is "entertainment." Watching other people harming and killing each other for our amusement calluses us to the suffering of our fellow human beings. Kurt Vonnegut cynically remarked that it is " One of the few good things about modern times: If you die horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You will have entertained us."

And it's only getting worse. As the tolerance level for TV violence goes up, the producers of such "drama" shows just amp things up accordingly. "Violence is like the nicotine in cigarettes," says one observer. "The reason why the media has to pump ever more violence into us is because we've built up a tolerance. In order to get the same high, we need ever-higher levels. . . . The television industry has gained its market share through an addictive and toxic ingredient."

Toxic indeed. And, apparently, highly addictive.

If you are serious about your spiritual life, you can start by turning the TV off. Get your time and sanity back. Not watching television is an easy way to recover a bit of peace in one's daily life.

Having weaned yourself from the addiction, eventually just get rid of your TV. You won't miss it. In fact, you'll be suddenly aware of how much more time you have for things that matter and how much more peace of mind you have automatically by just not exposing your consciousness over and over again to what is being broadcast.

In Orwell's book, the protagonist is astonished to discover that in the homes of the elite the television can actually be turned off. Be a real individual. Be part of the 1% of the population who isn't willingly allowing themselves to be mentally poisoned over and over again, for hours and hours every day.

We become what we repeatedly put in front of our consciousness. Try to remember that the next time you're tempted to turn on the TV.

With all good wishes,

Marut

 
   

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
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Courses on the Bhagavad Gita
By Rene Miranda

Our most Holy Lama is teaching a series of three classes on the ancient Hindu text, The Bhagavad Gita" (song of the Lord). This holy text is part of a famous Hindu epic about a war between cousins called the Mahabharata. The main characters are Arjuna, a warrior who is faced with a serious moral dilemma, and Krishna, his charioteer. Arjuna is faced with being called to fight his own cousins and asks Krishna for help. Arjuna represents us, "everyman", while Krishna is his holy Teacher. The teachings are really about how to live a good life in a messy situation.   The path: Yoga. Yoga is discipline and is referenced many, many times in the verses of the Gita. Holy Lama Marut clarifies the meaning of yoga for us so well. Nowhere does the text mention downward facing dog and we don't need special clothes to practice. We are learning " bhudi yoga", or the "yoga of the intellect." Even ye of highly inflexible joints can participate!

The course is divided into three segments. First is karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action. Second is jnana yoga, the yoga of wisdom, and third is bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion.

Why teach a Hindu text to students of Tibetan Buddhism? We see clearly how the basic tenets professed by this text parallel the teachings of the Buddha. The Gita was written around the time of the turn of the common era, between 200 BC and 200 AD; around the same time Mahayana texts were spoken as well as the time of Christ. This was a time when Enlightened Beings were present, teaching to as many as possible. What an example of Karma Yoga! Teaching obsessively, with great love to help us all understand. In the story, warrior Arjuna first tries to avoid taking any action at all; verse after verse in the first two chapters he reasons why running away is best. Krishna doesn't let him off so easily, though. Instead Arjuna is presented with beautiful teachings on karma and its consequences, how to have equanimity and how to act in ways that bring us closer to the freedom. Arjuna learns that action, properly directed, can save the beings otherwise headed for destruction.  

The second course is Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Wisdom. Arjuna asks for guidance from Krishna. Krishna gives him teachings on wisdom; many teachings over and over again, so that Arjuna can understand. Including, we perceive the world wrongly; it is all an illusion. Here is the path to freedom: When we have renunciation we can take full refuge, and practice what will truly help us overcome ignorance. We must learn to meditate in order to realize how the world appears and how it really exists. We must habituate ourselves to the profound practice to gain freedom from pain. Then we will reside with God. Yes, the basic tenets are the same.  

How sweet to read the verses of song in the mother of all languages, Sanskrit! How lovely to know teachers appear in any form! How delicious to realize the teachings reach beyond any confines of specific spiritual paths! Our Holy Teacher, Lama Marut, works tirelessly to bring us these messages. He also makes the teachings so very much fun! He makes available teachings that appeal to a wider audience. He exemplifies all qualities of a true Guru. And, in the end, it all comes to that; devotion, Bhakti Yoga, as we shall see beginning April 22.  

To download the teachings from   Fall term 2007(Karma Yoga) and Winter term 2008 (Jnana Yoga), visit www.dmes.org .   First click on the desired dates of term. Then click on the school of wisdom. Then scroll down to The Three Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita and download classes.

 

   
 

 

Life of a Saint
By Irma Gomes

One of the preliminary practices in Buddhism is to rejoice, and another one is to bow down to a Teacher, to a Saint who has inspired us. This article is both a prostration and an example of what life is about.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Irena Sendler was a nurse in a government building. In 1942 the Nazis created a Jewish ghetto. Irena, with credentials from the sanitary department, ran the section for contagious diseases, because Nazis were afraid of a possible typhus epidemic, they left it on polish hands. Parents of young children in the ghetto started giving them to Irena, in the hope that she would save them from going into a concentration camp. When the situation aggravated, she starting bringing children out of the ghetto in ambulances, claiming they were infected with typhus. Soon, she was hiding them in garbage bins, produce; coffins... anything that could hide a child had one inside. With at least one other person helping her in the Social Department centre, she elaborated hundreds of false documents and gave false temporary IDs to Jewish children.

Irena lived in wartime hoping for peace. Because she wanted the children to recover their original names, she created a secret registry for the children and their new identities: she would write them in pieces of paper that she would store in jars that she'd bury by her neighbor's apple tree. Under that tree the names of 2500 children waited for many years to come. On October 20 th , 1943 Irena was discovered by Gestapo and taken to Pawiak prison, where she was brutally tortured. Her legs and feet were broken so badly she never walked again. Irena never revealed any leads of those who collaborated with her or the children's names. In the hay mattress of her cell, she found an image of Jesus. She kept it until 1979, where she gave it as a gift to John Paul II, the Polish pope. Because nobody could break her, she was sentenced to death. On the way to her execution, a soldier let her escape. Irena went back to work with a false ID with the resistance. At the end of the war, she used her notes to find the 2,500 foster Jewish children she had given to families. She re-united many of them with those parents that survived the concentration camps. The children only knew her by her alias name: Jolanta. Years later, her story appeared in a local newspaper, and many of those children started to call: "I remember you, I owe you my life, I would like to see you"

Hidden by a communist regime, the life of Irena Sendler was a well kept secret inside Poland. Today, at 97 her body is tied to a wheel chair. She does not consider herself a heroine, and never took much credit for all the lives she saved. She regrets not having done more. Irena has been recognized by many and has been awarded prizes and medals. She was a nominee for the Nobel prize in 2007, but lost to Al Gore (I imagine global warming is a hotter topic). Stories like this inspire us to do more, to dedicate our precious life for the well being of those around us. The texts say that enlightened beings emanate in different ways to both inspire and help us get enlightened. Irena has done exactly that, and to her heart of gold, I bow down.

"Try to surround yourself by goodness, and it will make you grow in a spiral of positivity." - Irena Sendler

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  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma - Into the Wild

In the Spring of 1992, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University. His life until that point had been, superficially at least, a model of the American norm. His parents had risen to a respectable upper middle class existence and had provided a very comfortable life for their children. What lied beneath the surface though would soon capture the interest and imagination of many, many people. After Chris finished his obligatory stay in academia, he donated the remaining $24,000 in his savings account to Oxfam and headed west on a quest to find truth; on a quest that would take him into the wild. Chris' story was originally told in the book, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer ( Eiger Dreams, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven ) and adapted by Sean Penn. What is remarkable about Chris' story is not that he had the feelings that he did. Many of us feel that there must be a more simple and more true world beyond the commuting, clocking-in-and-out, bill paying existences that many of us live. What haunts us about Chris' story is that he actually DID what he did. With a huge amount of courage and unapologetic verve, Chris set out to find a place that was true and unencumbered by mundane predictability. The film, directed with simplicity and grace by Sean Penn and shot with gorgeous austerity by Eric Gautier, strikes a special chord for the dharma student. To us, Chris is reminiscent of the ancient Indian yogi, fearless and full of renunciation; sure of only one thing: that samsara must be escaped at any cost. On the one hand, Chris' story is an inspirational tale that shows that one can renounce the things that they know will never lead to happiness and on the other, it is a cautionary tale which reminds us of Shantideva's teaching that we should give according to our abilities; to start small and that if we are able only to give fruits and vegetables, this is what we should do.

 

Explicit Dharma - Visioning Tibet

Visioning Tibet chronicles the passion of two San Francisco based ophthalmologists: Marc Lieberman MD, founder of the Tibet Vision Project and Melvyn D. Bert MD, director of Lhasa Eye Program. Their mission: to end preventable blindness in Tibet - which has the highest rate of untreated cataract blindness in the world - by 2020. Bringing light where there was once darkness, Lieberman's work has been recognized by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, which named him 2003 Humanitarian of the Year. The film is built around the stories of two Tibetans - Karma (a farmer from a small village in Northern Tibet) and Lhasang (patriarch of a nomadic family from the Tibetan plains) - who make the arduous journey to a remote clinic in the hopes of having their sight restored by Tibetan doctors trained by Dr. Lieberman and Dr. Bert.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Website of the Month
   
 

The website is www.giveback.net and is in early stage beta right now. It is a web based community focused on inspiring each other into action by posting information that we feel passionate about. The brilliant thing about Giveback is that when a user sees something that inspires them or arouses their compassion, they are automatically connected with ways to take positive actions, such as volunteering for an organization, donating money to a cause, or petitioning for change. We describe Giveback as "The news and what you can do about it". From a Dharmic perspective we see it as encouraging people to see themselves helping others, a good Karmic activity. We also want to allow people to rejoice about good news rather than participating in the fear mongering and of the mainstream media, and to encourage the type of compassion that leads to taking action right away, rather than presenting bad news as passive entertainment. 

We are headed into the next phase of the company where we help organizations to build project pages for their causes (environmental, humanitarian, etc.) and pair many of them with artists donating music and visual art to bring awareness to and raise money for the projects.

Darin and Claire

Contact: Claire@giveback.net

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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  Dharma Book of the Month
   
 

Title: The Sun of Wisdom: Teachings on the Noble Nagarjuna's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way
Author: Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso

Heart Sutra


In Buddhism Absolute Truth or Reality presents itself differently to practitioners at the various levels of their practice. This unfolds in the experience of an individual practitioner, just as it evolved historically in the way that the Buddhist Scriptures (understandings) emerged as a progression of increasingly subtle teachings.

These increasingly subtle stages of understanding and experience were described by the Buddha Shakyamuni in three major cycles of teachings that unfolded during his forty-five years of post-enlightenment teachings. The writings of the various philosophical schools of Buddhism and the views of the nature of reality that they represent all emerge as commentaries on one or more of these three turnings.

Teachings of the second turning focused on the absence of inherent self-nature of all phenomena, and they were later developed by Arya Nagarjuna and his successor commentators into the 'middle way' between the extremes of independent existence and non-existence. Nagarjuna himself spent much of his writing effectively pulling the rug out from under the other views of how things exist - which has sometimes led to his being mis-labeled nihilistic, and it's up to us to do the work to identify just where he does leave us.

Arya Nagarjuna is essential reading - and he's not easy. This work by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso takes the reader via short, exceptionally clear, chapters through the whole of this foundational work. He explains the points at issue, and also establishes them within the broader unfolding of scripture and understanding of mind. So this book becomes essential reading - particularly for those fortunate enough to be following Lama Marut's teachings on the same work, either live in Los Angeles or via the archived audios and texts.

Thanks to David White for this contribution.

Click to purchase from Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Sun-Wisdom-Teachings-Nagarjunas-Fundamental/dp/1570629994/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205729400&sr=1-1

 

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  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
   
 

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 weekly podcasts at www.aci-la.org .

This month's Dharma podcasts:

April's podcasts cover a wide range of subjects including "Going Against The Grain", "Forgiving Your Enemies", "Challenging Some Of The Current Western Understanding Of Buddhism" and "Getting Enlightened In This Lifetime."

Be 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.

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

To subscribe to Lama Marut's video podcasts please go to: /mg-video.html

Click Here for Recent Audio Uploads

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

Current and Upcoming ACI-LA Classes

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

   
  Lam Rim Meditation
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
April 15th, 22nd, 29th
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Rick Blue

ACI Formal Study Course 16
The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part I
Started February 21st
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Lindsay Crouse

ACI Formal Study Course I
The Three Principal Paths
Starting April 14th
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Cliff Spencer

Pot Luck Dinner
April 16th
From 7:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
With Rick Blue and Lindsay Crouse

Spiritual Partners: The Dharma of Love 2
April 18th
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Lindsay Crouse and Rick Blue

Debate with Cliff Spencer
April 19th
9:00 am - 12:00 pm

Dharma Flicks with Rick Blue
April 19th
8:00 pm - 12:00 am
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles

 

pril Classes - not ongoing

Tibetan Heart Yoga Workshop
April 11 th - 13th
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Zorie Barber
Check ACI-LA website for times

Kelly Morris Yoga Weekend Workshop
April 25 - 27th
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Check ACI-LA website for times

 

pcoming ACI-LA Classes with Venerable Marut

How to Be Happy, Part Two
Date: March 25th, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Bodhi Tree
Given by: Venerable Marut

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

Dharma Essentials
Date: April 7-10, 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Given by: Venerable Marut

How Yoga Really Works
Date: April 23rd
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Given by: Venerable Marut

The Real Purpose of Yoga
Date: April 30th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Given by: Venerable Marut


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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 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. Catherine Eaton will be producing the newsletters and would appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to
Catherine by the 25th of the month.

 

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