ACI LA
   
MAY 2008


ACI LA Newsletter

   

elcome to ACI-LA's May Newsletter. Spring brought the blossoming of the spacious new Mahasukha Center to Los Angeles. The month of April was full of astounding teachings by Lama Maurt as well as by ACI-LA's very own Rick Blue, Cliff Spencer and Lindsay Crouse, with lots of rejoicing for the blessing of our new center. If you didn't have a chance to join in on the many activities last month, or even if you did, be sure and check out the calendar at the end of the newsletter and also on the ACI-LA website (www.aci-la.org) to see the bountiful selection of teachings for the month of May. Please take a moment to peruse the NEW MAHASUKHA WEB-PAGE on our site, which has the Grand Opening teachings and the link to the full calendar of events for the months to come.   And don't miss the new HOW YOU CAN HELP section at the end of the newsletter for anyone who can volunteer your time to ACI-LA.

We have a colorful selection of contributions this month beginning with Lama Marut's wonderfully challenging message on one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, anatman. It's the first of a two part teaching on "learning how not to be you."

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 Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
  Upcoming ACI-LA Classes
  How You Can Help
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home
   

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
 

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

   
 

"Learning How Not To Be You"

It is sometimes said that there are three fundamental teachings that unite and define Buddhism no matter what the lineage or denomination. The first is the truth of suffering or duhkha. The second is the impermanence of phenomena or anitya. And the third is the absence of essences to things or beings: "no-self" or anatman.

It is anatman that I wish to concentrate on here. For I think, despite its centrality as a core doctrine of Buddhism, many of us in the modern West choose to ignore it - either willfully, because we find it so uncomfortable, or because we don't really understand what it entails.

I think many of us may be irrationally holding onto a belief that we can both cling to our present sense of individual identity and somehow practice a spiritual path designed to completely destabilize and ultimately undermine our deepest ideas of who we think we are. Grounded in the Western reification and worship of the individual and his or her "needs" and "rights," we new Buddhists of the modern West may be tempted to think that somehow ultimate happiness will occur for us as individual persons. We might be hoping that when we become Buddhas we will be just super-sized and improved versions of who we are now.

That is impossible."You" (say your name to yourself) will not become enlightened. "You" have to be eliminated before an enlightened Buddha can appear. There's not room enough in you for both "you" and a Buddha. "You" and the Buddha you could become are mutually exclusive.

This is the real and radical implication of the doctrine of anatman. It is not just the fact that the "self" we believe in, cling to, and are often so proud of is a kind of chimera - just a label placed on constantly changing parts, and not an entity or thing at all. The doctrine is a full frontal assault on our identity. The denial of the real ramifications of the anatman doctrine is understandable. We naturally resist our own elimination.

As usual, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche sums up the situation nicely and forcefully:

Actually we cannot attain enlightenment until we give up the notion of 'me' personally attaining it. As long as the enlightenment drama has a central character, 'me,' who has certain attributes, there is no hope of attaining enlightenment because it is nobody's project; it is an extraordinarily strenuous project but nobody is pushing it. Nobody is supervising it or appreciating its unfolding. We cannot pour our being from our dirty old vessel into a new clean one.

One could argue that the whole of Buddhism targets the eradication of the self. Every part of the Buddha's Dharma can be seen to be directed toward this aim. The destruction of the ego begins with giving up on the idea we are self-sufficient "masters of our destiny" and the surrendering to a spiritual teacher. Taking oneself to a guru is the beginning of the end of the self. "The starting point of devotion," writes Trungpa Rinpoche, "is to dismantle your credentials. You need discoloring, depersonalizing of your individuality. The purpose of surrender is to make everyone grey - no white, no blue - pure grey."  

It is precisely the guru's job to make it more and more difficult to be you. The guru knows well what you have come to suspect: that the problem here is the "you" you are identified with and want only to be coddled. To cite Trungpa Rinpoche once more: "The real function of a spiritual friend is to insult you."

Once one has taken oneself to the guru and volunteered for the radical ego-ectomy the spiritual life requires, every step on the path thereafter is meant to help things along. The process begins with renunciation - detaching from the old life of suffering which mostly involves the systematic kicking out the props that were holding up one's worldly self-image. As we develop true renunciation, we no longer identify ourselves with our jobs, our family or social relationships, our money, our degrees, or our hobbies. We give up thinking we are "somebody."

At the next level of our practice, we learn to lose ourselves in the service of others. The development of compassion helps us break down the artificial and tightly circumscribed boundaries between the "self" and "others." We learn not just to empathize with others but to fully identify with them. Having ceased to be somebody, we are now are ready to learn how to become everybody.  

Real love and compassion is as corrosive to our sense of individuality as renunciation is - maybe even more so. As Bhagavan Shree Rajneesh once observed,

"When you love a person, you have to become a nothing. When you love a person, you have to become a no-self. That's why love is so difficult... When you love, you have to become nobody. If you remain a somebody then love never happens."

As we create more and more spiritual momentum through renunciation (giving up being somebody) and compassion (learning to be everybody), we gain more and more wisdom into the fact that we were nobody to begin with. True wisdom gives us insight into the identitylessness of ourselves and everything in our world. We are empty; we have always been empty. The self we have been grasping onto so tightly has never truly existed at all. "When you come to the Ultimate," writes Rajneesh, "when you come to your deepest core, you suddenly know that you are neither this nor that - you are no one. You are not an ego, you are just a vast emptiness... And when you are not, then who is there to suffer? Who is there to be in pain and anguish? Who is there to be depressed and sad?"

Someone once said: "Self-knowledge is often bad news." Self-knowledge is certainly bad news for the twisted, limited, pitiful self we suffering beings think we are. C.S. Lewis, in his classic work entitled Mere Christianity, draws a distinction between a "natural" and "spiritual" life that are diametrically opposed:

"The natural life in each of us is something self-centered, something that wants to be petted and admired, to take advantage of other lives, to exploit the whole universe. And especially it wants to be left to itself: to keep well away from anything better or stronger or higher than it, and anything that might make it feel small. It is afraid of the light and air of the spiritual world... And in a sense it is quite right. It knows that if the spiritual life gets hold of it, all its self-centeredness and self-will are going to be killed and it is ready to fight tooth and nail to avoid that."

The religious quest is not the freedom of the individual; it is the freedom from the individual. "You" will not be liberated by a spiritual path -- except from your present concept of "you."  

Which is exactly what real freedom, true nirvana, is. Not being you.

Next month, we'll continue with a "Part Two": "Learning How to Be Someone Not You," i.e., a totally happy, completely compassionate, fully capable Enlightened Being.

With all good wishes,

Marut

 
   

 

ACI LA Newsletter

   
  ontributions
   
 

A Preliminary Practice
By Morgan Williams

Je Tsongkapa spent half of his life in retreat asking his heart teacher for blessings to be able to succeed in his practice. For your spiritual practice to work, you must do the same. Before teaching, translating, doing meditation, etc. you should spend as much time asking for holy beings' blessings as you spend actually doing the activity that you want to succeed. Asking for "blessing" means asking to increase your spiritual capacity - your understanding and practice. You ask holy beings to increases your spiritual capacity. Can they really change you? Does a self-existent blessing exist? No. It's empty. They don't have any power to bless you from their own side. Asking for a blessing creates the karmic cause to receive the result of a blessing. Your pure motivation and devotion and faith and asking creates the karmic result of a blessing. That's the only way to receive a blessing. This is an important key to understanding emptiness. You must spend a lot of time asking for blessing to understand and to see emptiness directly. If you don't ask, you won't get it.

I've successfully used this as a preliminary practice for meditation with my students.  I suggest you try it. 

 

   
 

 

A Poem
By Irma Gomes

Would You be the tree

 

Whose leaves cover me

On a cold night, when I fear

 

The clear fresh water

That soothes my sorrow

And washes my tears?

 

Would You be there for me? Would You be me?

 

Would You come

And kiss me good night

Wrap me in golden light?

 

And blow a soft breeze

-make my heart skip a beat.

 

Could it be You

That I feel when the ocean sparkles

Its waves filling my heart

Its blue reminding me of Your eyes?

 

When the singing bowl stops 

om vibrates in my soul.

 

saffron, sandalwood, rain.

All words of kindness I hear

love for all beings in a song

the banner of victory You hold

 

Could You be You? Could me be You?

 

Kill nobody. Be everybody.

Dawn rises in splendour         

When smoke and fireflies pass.

Nothing's but a mirage.

 

Would You teach me to love like You do?

Selfless, happy, uncontrived.

Always stoked, never tired.

Holy Lama, would You Let me Love You, too?

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The Flower Mandala Project:
An interview with artist, David J. Bookbinder.

Copyright David Bookbinder 2004-2008
Images © 2004-2008,
David J. Bookbinder:
phototransformations.com

Please enjoy these divine images by David J. Bookbinder, and get involved in his wonderful Flower Mandala Project. Click this link for the full interview about his work, and information about how you can contribute words, phrases or writings that these images invoke in you.

QUESTION: As Buddhist practitioners, we can work with the symbology of mandalas; if we are Enlightened, we see a perfect world. Is this the way you approach your flower mandalas? Trying to create perfection?

I don't try to create perfection. The flowers I photograph are already, each in their own way, perfect. For me, the creation of the mandala images is a way of dialoging between myself and the much larger creative forces that made the natural objects I photograph. I try to capture what feels like the aspect of the flower that speaks most strongly to me and to meditate on it both during and following mandala image creation. It is a way of becoming intimate with these natural objects and their essence.

Copyright David Bookbinder 2004-2008
Images © 2004-2008,
David J. Bookbinder:
phototransformations.com

Q: Can you speak about your intention for this work for the wider community and how they can contribute to the discourse on the Flower Mandala project?

The flower mandalas are part of a larger effort at promoting the use of art as a means for healing and personal transformation — the primary purposes it has served for me. Right now, my primary vehicle is the "Flower Mandalas" blog on Beliefnet.com. However, in the tradition of Carl Jung I intend, as well, to publish a book pairing 52 flower mandala images with inspirational quotations such that each image‑and‑quote pair resonates with a fundamental aspect of human experience.

Recently, Lama Marut used five of my flower mandalas to represent his teachings on the Six Perfections. With no feedback from me, he used them in precisely the way I have been imagining them being used: under each mandala was a single word or phrase (for example, Wisdom), and then text associated with that word or phrase that expanded on the concept. Lama Marut even chose the same image I chose to represent Joy, a dahlia hybrid flower mandala.

It struck me that your organization is part of my ideal audience, and so I'm seeking feedback from this community, I'd like to hear responses from your readers to these images. I'm especially interested in a word or phrase that specific images might evoke, and in either inspirational quotations or brief original writings that elaborate on that word or phrase.

Copyright David Bookbinder 2004-2008
Images © 2004-2008,
David J. Bookbinder:
phototransformations.com

Contact information:
David's website: http://www.phototransformations.com
e-mail: phototransformations@verizon.net
"Flower Mandalas" blog: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flowermandalas
"Flower Mandalas Project" discussion group: http://community.beliefnet.com/flowermandalas

> Please read the full interview with David Bookbinder here

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma - Jacob's Ladder

A classic of the eighties cinema (actually released in 1990), Jacob's Ladder , is a psychological thriller that begins in the jungles of Vietnam and travels through labyrinths of delusion and paranoia in New York only to end with a surprising and powerfully redemptive twist. Tim Robbins gives a great performance as Jacob Singer, who, back from the war is trying to keep his life together in the midst of a difficult divorce and mourning the tragic death of his son Gabriel. What makes Jacob's Ladder so much more than just a dramatic character study, is that as the film unfolds, we begin to feel that there is something to the delusions that Jacob suffers. Suffice it to say that for the dharma student, the hidden plot of the film (revealed beautifully at the end) may not hide so easily. If you're in the mood for a great ride and moments of creepy fright, check out Jacob's Ladder.

 

Explicit Dharma - The Dhamma Brothers

The Dhamma Brothers documents the extraordinary convergence of an overcrowded, understaffed maximum-security prison and an ancient meditation technique. Within the walls of Donaldson Correctional Facility, considered the end of the line in the Alabama Correctional system, a network of men began to gather to meditate on a regular basis. Hearing of this, Jenny Phillips, a cultural Anthropologist, becomes interested in the possibilities that she knows meditation might offer the inmates.   After visiting Donaldson herself and speaking directly with the inmates, Jenny contacts the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. After a year of planning between the prison and the Vipassana staff, Donaldson Correctional Facility became, in January 2002, the first prison in North America to hold a 10-day Vipassana retreat. The film, Dhamma Brothers, opened in Los Angeles on April 9 th .   More information can be found at the website: www.dhammabrothers.com

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Website of the Month
   
 

Seva Foundation: "Gifts of Service"

This foundation works in nine countries in addition to the United States, to   provide financial resources and technical expertise to help communities build sustainable solutions to poverty and disease. The projects constantly evolve, but their approach is always the same — to build partnerships that respect the cultures and traditional wisdom of the people they serve, and focus on solutions that can be sustained by local communities. You can buy "gifts of service" which help with literacy, preventing blindness, affordable health clinics and many others.

Copy and paste to check out Seva Foundation: http://www.seva.org/site/PageServer?pagename=GOS_landingpage

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 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:

May's   podcasts cover a wide range of subjects including "Part 2: Seven Steps to Achieving Ultimate Compassion", "There's Something Missing Here",   " Riding the Tiger of Guru Yoga and Getting in Touch with Your Inner Sadhu " and "Suffering Beings Aren't Out There."

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
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Rick Blue

ENLIGHTENED SELF-INTEREST - A MEDITATION WEEKEND WORKSHOP on EXCHANGING SELF FOR OTHERS: THE ULTIMATE PRACTICE TO DEVELOP COMPASSION
Saturday, May 3rd and Sunday May 4th, 9am - 3pm both days
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Cliff Spencer

Why Yoga? with Kimberley Veenhof
wednesday, May 7th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Kimberley Veenhof

Spiritual Partners: The Dharma of Love 3 - The Goddess Code: the Echo Effect
Friday, May 9th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles

With Rick Blue and Lindsay Crouse

Pot Luck Dinner And Dharma Flicks
Wednesday, May 14th
Starting 7:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
With Rick Blue and Lindsay Crouse

Tibetan Heart Yoga Series II: The Great Seal
Friday, May 16th ro Sunday May 18th
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Karl Straub
Check ACI-LA website for times

The Dharma of Acting
Friday, May 23rd
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Lindsay Crouse

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
Started April 14th
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Cliff Spencer

 

pcoming ACI-LA Classes with Venerable Marut

 

Explorations in Emptiness, Part IV
Wednesday, May 28th, Monday, June 2th, Wednesday June 4th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Given by: Venerable Marut

Dharma Essentials XV: What the Buddha Really Meant
Thursday, May 29th, Tuesday, June 3rd, Friday, June 6th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Given by: Venerable Marut

How to be Happy, Part 3: Happiness Here and Now
Sunday, June 1st
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Bodhi Tree Bookstore on Melrose
Given by: Venerable Marut


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ow You Can Help

   
 

Thank you to all of the ACI-LA volunteers who help with our various Dharma projects! We are currently looking for people who have specific skills in certain areas so please email us at lamamarut@aci-la.org if you: 

* Would like to help transcribe full length audio teachings
* Have document formatting / layout skills to help format our Dharma Essentials handouts
* If you have some time to look through aci-la.org and find broken weblinks and audio that doesn't download.

Lama Marut Paraphernalia! (And for such a worthy cause!)

In an effort to begin raising money for a three year retreat scheduled to begin in October of 2010 , we've partnered with an internet service called "Cafe Press" and will be selling distinctive items online beginning this month. 

T-shirts, stickers, bags and more are currently available, and every month we'll be adding more. They are all designed by my students with quotes on them ranging from definitions of yoga from the Bhagavad Gita to "Lama Marut-isms" taken from my teachings.

Please go online and check out the CafePress store.  A percentage of every one of these items will go directly into the retreat fund:

http://www.cafepress.com/lamamarut

 

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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 Shannon Clements Parry for producing the past issues of the newsletter.

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 produces the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine by the 20th of the month.

 

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