ACI LA
   
JUNE 2008


ACI LA Newsletter

   

elcome to ACI-LA's June Newsletter. Last month, the Mahasukha Center was packed with richly diverse teachings and workshops by inspiring teachers, and June promises to be another month full of dynamic Dharma events. We are blessed and grateful to have Lama Marut returning to LA with more mind-bending talks by Arya Nagarjuna, as well as the challenging Dharma Essentials teachings on "What the Buddha Really Meant." We hope you can join us for these, as well as some of the other wonderful teachings coming up in the month of June. All of these are listed at the end of this newsletter, as well as on the ACI-LA website (www.aci-la.org) with a full calendar of events for the months to come.   

The Mahasukha Center is looking more finished and beautiful every day as all the loose ends of construction and decor are being pulled together by many helpful and generous souls donating their time. Thank you to all who continue to help out.

This month's article by Lama Marut will be His last contribution to the newsletter until September as He will be on retreat most of the summer. So enjoy reading His wise words on the topic of "Learning How to Be Someone Not You" .  

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, imprinted with "Lama Marut-isms" and other quotes and such, online beginning this month. Please check out the Cafe Press store website, listed at the end of Lama Marut's article to see all the items available if you would like to participate in this endeavor. And keep in mind, a percentage of every sale will go directly into the retreat fund.

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 on a donation basis, 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 Book of the Month
  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 To be Someone Not You"

Last month we explored some of the implications of the fundamental Buddhist teaching of "no-self" or anatman . The abandonment of the illusory and lower self, the relinquishing of a constructed or imputed identity that is by definition limited, imperfect, and suffering, is the precondition for the emergence of an Enlightened Being. We can't be ourselves and a being who is free of suffering at the same time. Before we can be someone else - a happy, compassionate, enlightened Buddha - we have to give up being ourselves.

"The attainment of enlightenment from ego's point of view," writes Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, "is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment. Treading the spiritual path is painful.   It is a constant unmasking, peeling off of layer after layer of masks. It involves insult after insult."

The idea that we must die to a lower self to be reborn as something higher and more perfect is by no means unique to Buddhism. One could argue that some version of this principle is shared by many, if not all, of the world's spiritual traditions. It certainly lies at the very heart of Christianity. As we saw last month, C.S. Lewis, in his Mere Christianity , says that the whole point is to replace a self-centered "natural" self with a "spiritual" self that is "better," "stronger," and "higher." We must be "born again" as someone different . We must learn how to be someone who is not the "you" you think you are now.

Where do we go for this new identity? Where can we find an alternative to the suffering, selfish, "natural" self? What will replace the old as we die to it?

In the Christian tradition, what replaces the lower self is, of course, God. The presence of God in one's life is, writes Lewis, an affront to the ego one has such pride in and attachment to:  

"In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that - and therefore know yourself as nothing in comparison - you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. . . . The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object."

And, he adds, lest this encounter with something greater than the self be an excuse to be self-centered in a different way, through depression and self-abasement, "It is better to forget about yourself altogether."

Most of us begin our spiritual path by thinking that the point is for the self to become "better": we need to stop being "bad" and start being "good" and "moral." But it is still the "me" that will be getting "better" through cultivating a more ethical life with this mind-set. "The Christian way," says Lewis, "is different: harder, and easier.   Christ says, 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. . . . I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself. My own will shall become yours."

The true religious quest is radical and, from the ego's point of view, suicidal. "'No half measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down.' . . . That is why He warned people to 'count the cost' before becoming Christians. 'Make no mistake,' He says. 'If you let me, I will make you perfect.'"

The goal of the religious life is nothing less than this - perfection. We can attain a state where we are perfectly happy, perfectly loving, perfectly omniscient, and perfectly capable of helping others in just the right way. But we can't achieve perfection either by ourselves or as ourselves .

So first we must surrender ourselves. We must give up the ignorant pride that says, "I am getting better; I am really making some progress now; I know what's best for me." Again, from Lewis: "Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good - above all, that we are better than someone else - I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil."  

What C. S. Lewis says about surrendering oneself to God or Christ is exactly what is meant in the Eastern traditions by "guru yoga." Taking oneself to a guru or lama is the first step on the spiritual path - giving up thinking that you can fix you, and with some recognition that the whole problem is, in fact, "you." You devote yourself to Someone Else - the guru representing and embodying your own highest spiritual ideals - who is also your Ideal You.

This is not optional. You will never make any progress escaping from "you" unless you surrender to the Higher Principle, the Higher Self, personified in the guru. As Trungpa Rinpoche puts it:

"One of the problems of spiritual searching is that we tend to feel that we can help ourselves purely by reading a lot and practicing by ourselves, not associating ourselves with a particular lineage. Without a teacher to surrender to, without an object of devotion, we cannot free ourselves. . . . Devotion is a process of unlearning. If there is no devotion, no surrendering, we cannot unlearn."

The guru is the Perfect Being we wish to become, the Higher Self we strive to identify with. In those texts of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition known as the "Steps on the Path" ( lam rim ), the practice of guru yoga is divided into two sections: learning how to rely on the guru in thought and how to rely on the guru in practice. The first of these is simply put: recognize your guru as God, as a perfect, Enlightened Being come to help you stop being "you." This is obviously the key to how this practice will work. One must just assume that everything the guru says and does is the teaching of a Buddha. If you have taken yourself to the guru in order to learn how to become him or her, it's obvious that you will want to see the guru in the most perfect light. . .so you can become that!

Next, we learn to "rely on the guru in practice," meaning three things. First, we support the guru and his or her projects financially and materially, as what Alexander Berzin calls "a natural outgrowth and practical expression of appreciation, respect, confidence, and trust in the person and in his or her efforts." (see Berzin's Relating to a Spiritual Teacher. ) Second, we learn to respect and serve with body and speech, by offering help and showing courtesy and reverence for the guru in our actions and words. Finally, and most importantly, we rely on the guru in practice by trying to implement in our own lives what they are teaching us.

We learn through surrender and service to give up our self-will and become something higher. We try to identity fully with the teachings the guru has imparted and match our thoughts and actions to those of the perfected being who so kindly imparted those teachings. We learn to interiorize the guru, to become the guru, to lose ourselves and enter the very being of our paragon of perfection. "The spiritual friend becomes part of you, as well as being an individual, external person," observes Trungpa Rinpoche. "The guru can be a person who acts as a mirror, reflecting you, or else your own basic intelligence takes the form of the spiritual friend. When the internal guru begins to function, then you can never escape the demand to be open."

The practice of guru yoga has often been misunderstood in the modern West. It is crucial that we learn and practice it correctly. It is the express train out of our suffering selfhood. The guru - our mirror, our highest ideal, our salvation - is the being we want to be and can be.

We can be perfect, but we need a role model. We can achieve perfection only if we constitute, recognize, and meld with a perfect being, with God. We give ourselves over to him or her with faith and devotion. And, most of all, we surrender our suffering selves to our Higher Self with wisdom as to how and why such a practice could work.

With all good wishes,

Marut

   
 

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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Courses on the Bhagavad Gita
This is the first of an ongoing series 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 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.

 

   
 

 

Vegetarian, or Not?

Vegetarianism, like all other things is empty: It's a fashion, a lifestyle, a means to stop harming animals, a need, a radical change of the self. Some see it as a great thing, some don't. Who is right?
There is a man who lives in Texas . He's given millions to women's abuse/violence centers, he's a pro-life activist, he promotes healthy lifestyles, exercise, and prayer. I heard him once say "I love animals. They taste very good".
 
There is a song by The arrogant worms that goes:

Vegetables live in oppression
Served on our tables each night
This killing of veggies is madness
I say we take up the fight (...)
I saw a man eating celery
So I beat him black and blue
If he ever touches a sprout again
I'll bite him clean in two
I'm a political prisoner
Trapped in a windowless cage
'Cause I stopped the slaughter of turnips
By killing five men in a rage
I told the judge when he sentenced me
"This is my finest hour
I'll kill those farmers again
Just to save one more cauliflower"

This note is an invitation for an introspective. If You are reading this newsletter, You are discovering the path to liberate all creatures from suffering. You have the goodness in your heart that will get you there. Regardless of your diet, think of others first. As Lama Marut said in His newsletter in May, we can't get enlightened as ourselves. We have to transform. And the wings are our thoughts. For some, eating just vegetables is easier than saying hello to their neighbor. We have to be very watchful of our motivation. Does vegetarianism feed my ego, or does it destroy it? Does being a vegetarian define me as a higher type of person? Do I think less of non-vegetarian? If we change our diet, but don't change ourselves, could we get enlightened? How many animals die in the harvest or when we drive in the highway? Is it necessary to then stop eating plants, to not drive, to not walk to save beings from suffering?

Whilst it is a great beginning to stop eating meat, it is through the Blessings of the Lineage and a drastic change of mind understanding Emptiness and Compassion and that we will kill our old "self" and transform everything into a Pure Land.

                            With that in mind, Bon Apetit!

 

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  Dharma Book of the Month
   
 

Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World
by Professor Robert Thurman

In his new book, Why the Dalai Lama Matters: His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World, to be released Summer 2008, Robert Thurman interprets the Dalai Lama 's vision for an autonomous Tibet and shows just why the Dalai Lama is the only person who can usher in a new, peaceful era for China, Tibet and the world.

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

   
  Dharma Flicks
   
 

Implicit Dharma - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In 1995, at the age of 43, Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, suffered a stroke that paralyzed his entire body, except his left eye. Using that eye to blink out his memoir, Bauby eloquently described the aspects of his interior world, from the psychological torment of being trapped inside his body to his imagined stories from lands he'd only visited in his mind.   The Diving Bell and the Butterfly directed by Julian Schnabel, is a film making tour de force and a fine example of the craft of directing. In addition, the film was nominated for an Academy Award in Cinematography for the fantastic work by Janusz Kaminsky.   For the discerning Dharma student, the Diving Bell and the Butterfly, is a beautiful reminder of the fleeting nature of our human faculties and the unmatched power of the human mind.

Explicit Dharma - Ikiru

Ikiru is Akira Kurosawa's version of "It's a Wonderful Life". In it, Kanji Watanabe is a longtime bureaucrat in a city office who, along with the rest of the office, spends his entire working life doing nothing. He learns he is dying of cancer and wants to find some meaning in his life. He finds himself unable to talk with his family, and spends a night on the town with a novelist, but that leaves him unfulfilled. He next spends time with a young woman from his office, but finally decides he can make a difference through his job. After Watanabe's death, co-workers at his funeral discuss his behavior over the last several months and debate why he suddenly became assertive in his job to promote a city park, and resolve to be more like Watanabe. For the Dharma student who seeks to bring their practice more fully into his or her daily life and who would like to revel in yet another wonderful film by Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru is a great choice.

 

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  Dharma Website of the Month
   
 

Gaia - Global Aids Interfaith Alliance

Gaia partners with religious organizations to reach those profoundly marginalized, in highly depressed rural areas within resource-poor countries for community-based HIV prevention and care. Eleven million children in sub-Saharan Africa have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.

Gaia offers an alternative gift market also where one can purchase care for orphans, nursing scholarships, hospitals, clinics and more.

For more information visit their website at www.thegaia.org

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:

June's podcasts cover a wide range of subjects including, "Why We See Things the Way We Do", "Why We Should Do Good Things", "Stop Honking in Gridlock!" and "Things Exist.....But Not How They Seem."

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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Current and Upcoming ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are donation-based and open to the public.
(Please see the calendar for full descriptions.)

   
 

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

The Ganden Hlagyama, with Venerable Marut
Thursday and Friday, June 5th & 6th
12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
By invitation only
Taught by: Venerable Marut

ACI Formal Study Course 2, with Cliff Spencer
Buddhist Refuge
Six Monday nights, Beginning June 9th
7:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Cliff Spencer

Guided Meditations with Rick Blue
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Rick Blue

ACI Formal Study Course 17
The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part II
A Review with Rick Blue
Thursday nights - June 12th through August 14th
7:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Rick Blue

Pot Luck Dinner And Dharma Flicks
June 28th
Starting 8:00 pm
More information to come
With Rick Blue

Debate with Cliff Spencer
June 28th
9:00am to 12:00pm
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
With Cliff Spencer

Yoga Weekend Workshop with Mira Shani
June 27-29
More information to come
Location: The Mahasukha Center, Los Angeles
Taught by: Mira Shani


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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.

 

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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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