ACI LA Newsletter

elcome to ACI-LA's November Newsletter. And although it's happening at the beginning of December, the first thing we'd like to call your attention to is the Mahasuka Center Festival of Bliss, which is a great wealth of teachings and events by Lama Marut. Click here (front page) or here (back page) to see the events and go to for December to see the details.

In addition, besides the wonderful teachings we regularly offer in dharma and yoga, please check out two unique events. The first is Yoga Mahamudra: Wisdom for Your Mind and Body - a Yoga Weekend Immersion with Jessica Kung and Stephane Dreyfus. Click here to see the flyer. They will teach us how to take the highest mind-training to the yoga mat, and revelations from the yoga mat to the meditation cushion to create your perfect world. The second is the Dharma Study Hall that Cliff Spencer will host every Monday in November, for catching up on all that unfinished ACI classwork, as well as answering any burning questions you may have on any of the teachings.

And finally, this year's Meditative New Year's Eve is going to be led by Cliff Spencer. So reserve the date - December 31 - and keep your eye out for the official announcement.

The November class and event offerings are listed at the end of this newsletter. These and the December offerings are available on the ACI-LA website at

We continue our efforts to support the 3 year Great Retreat , scheduled to begin in October of 2010. (To see the full description, go to Right under Lama Marut's message, below, is information about the retreat and how you can participate.

We hope this month's newsletter supports your spiritual practice and helps provide the resources you need to make the most of your precious human life, in order to gain ultimate happiness and freedom.


This Month
A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
Three Year Great Retreat
Dharma Book of the Month
Dharma Website of the Month
Dharma Flicks
Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
Upcoming ACI-LA Classes
How You Can Help
Thank You

ACI LA Newsletter

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

Living in the Present (for the Moment), Part One

The importance of living in the present - of "being here, now," as Ram Das famously put it - is a spiritual truism. And like most truisms, there's more to it than it might at first seem. Not only is it a lot easier to say "live in the present" than to actually do it. There's also a right way to relate to the here and now, and a wrong way. A sophisticated spiritual practitioner has to learn to "be here, now" wisely . Otherwise, being presentistic can just become another modality of suffering.

Being attentive to what's going on in the moment is without question a crucial component to living a good life. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche went so far as to say that "One's whole practice should be based on the relationship between you and nowness." Abraham Maslow, one of the towering figures of modern psychology, made a similar assertion: "The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness."

It's one of the signs of the depth of our misconception of ourselves and the world that, when we pay attention, we discover rather quickly how little time we actually spend in the here and now. Our minds are perpetually avoiding reality and inhabiting times that don't even exist!

We're often just reminiscing about a past that has come and gone - either nostalgically or, more often I think, resentfully. And our memories bear only slight or even no resemblance to what actually occurred. As Mark Twain said, "I've lived a long life and seen a lot of hard times... most of which never happened." The past, one could say with accuracy, is never as it used to be.

And when we're not rehashing (and reinventing) the past which is no more, we're day-dreaming about a future that has not yet come - a future that when it does arrive will almost certainly not look anything like what we had forecast anyway. The future never turns out to be exactly as we had envisioned it and most often it is completely different from anything we had imagined. So what's the point? We're just needlessly setting ourselves up for disappointment when the future does come and/or feeling anxiety in the present worrying about what might happen. Andrew Solomon, who wrote an interesting book about his struggle with depression, remarks that when we become agitated about the future "all that is happening in the present is the anticipation of pain ... and the present qua present no longer exists at all."

Dwelling in non-existent times outside of the present is clearly delusional and detracts from the mindfulness and on-going awareness we should be cultivating toward what's actually happening now. It has been observed that if we have one eye on yesterday, and the other eye on tomorrow, we're going to be cockeyed today. The past and the future are mere hallucinations if we think they exist as anything other than merely parts of our present state of mind: "I have realized that the past and future are real illusions," claims Alan Watts; "they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is."

So it is first of all ignorant to not be living in the present since there really is no other time. And by the way, ignorance is not bliss; wisdom is bliss ! Living in the only time that is actually happening is a key to contentment and happiness. We are not happy when we are either nostalgic or resentful about the past (which is no longer here), and we are not happy when we are either eagerly anticipating or worrying about the future (which has not yet occurred). Someone once remarked, "Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace."

One way of thinking about contentment is to be present - to be "here and now" instead of always being "there and then." And this is fine, as far as it goes. But even if we can manage to wrench our minds out of the imaginary past and future and focus on the present, we need to have the wherewithal to deal with the present realistically and with intelligence.

Living in the present is necessary but not sufficient. We need to learn how to "be here, now."

Being conscious of life in the present is not in and of itself productive of contentment. One of the reasons we try to avoid what's actually going on now by resorting to the past or future is because we're not happy with what's happening in the present. We suffer not only because our heads are not in the present, but also because we have a wrong view about the time in which we actually do live.

What is this misunderstanding of the present that precludes our acceptance of it and genuine happiness with it? It is thinking that it will last .

Mistaking impermanence for permanence is one of the main ways our ignorance leads to our unhappiness. In Buddhist terms, this is known as the "suffering of change." We get a new car, or a new boyfriend or girlfriend, or a new position at work, or go on holiday to a new Lonely Planet country, and at some level of our being we think the exhilarated feelings we experience in that new acquisition or experience will somehow endure unchangingly. In other words, some part of us relates to this new and desirable present moment completely unrealistically: "This thing or experience will last forever and this joy I feel now in that thing or experience will be how I'll always feel." And then when it changes - as, of course, it must - we plunge back into unhappiness. The roller coaster ride goes from high to low. These vicissitudes of life are one of the reasons why, according to the Buddhist texts, life truly is suffering.

It's not only that we subconsciously believe changing things won't change. We also and simultaneously realize that things really are impermanent (how could we live even a few days and be entirely clueless of this, after all?) - even as we are in denial about that fact. But our response to what conscious recognition we do have of change is as counter-productive as is the denial of it: We try desperately and anxiously to grasp and cling to those things and beings we enjoy and love, as if by holding on to them even tighter we could somehow keep them immune from the process of time itself.

We become attached to the present that we are living in because we are worried about the present becoming the future - a future we know (or at least fear) will not be like the present.

So that's one way we can actually be living in the present but still be unhappy due to our ignorance. Here's another: We can experience unwanted and unexpected events in the present and, again mistaking impermanence for permanence, think, "This is the way things will be forever; this is how I'll feel for the rest of my life." We become attached to the present from a negative point of view and convince ourselves that this unpleasant present is somehow stable, fixed, and abiding. We forget what we might think of as the upside of impermanence, that this too shall pass .

In both kinds of cases we identify with a changing present and suffer as a result. And as the great spiritual teacher and mystic George Gurdjieff used to say, the key to happiness is not to be identified with what is impermanent - whether it be something you regard as positive or something you see as negative.

So the secret of happiness seems to involve living in the present - for, indeed, when else could you truly be living? When else could you be truly happy? But equally, if not more importantly, it is also to stay unidentified with and detached from the very present you are simultaneously fully occupying.

A wise practitioner tries to be in the moment but know it is only for a moment . And this requires not only training and practice (for the first part) but also a certain kind of wisdom (for the second). It demands developing both mindfulness (to be in the moment) and also an understanding and acceptance of the truly impermanent and constantly changing nature of life (to realize that the present is only for a moment).

Next month we'll continue this examination of living wisely and happily in the present by looking at what methods there might be for pulling off this trick of being fully present and fully detached from the present at the same time. Stay tuned!

With all good wishes,



hree Year Great Retreat

Buddhist practice is meant to bring about a total transformation in the practitioner so that he or she can gain ultimate happiness and become capable of truly helping others do the same. In order to actualize this goal, Lama Marut and some of his close students will undertake a 3 year Great Retreat, designed to provide the best conditions possible for gaining the realizations that end suffering, not only for themselves but for others. There are several ways you can participate in the efforts to support this retreat.

  • You can purchase distinctive items imprinted with Lama Marut-isms and other quotes by going to A percentage of every sale goes directly into the retreat fund.
  • You can purchase beautifully imprinted and designed yoga clothes from Kaladanda by going to and entering the code "Mahasukha" before checking out. 20% of these purchases will go to the retreat fund. (Click here to see the flyer)

For more information about the retreat, go to or contact Jesse Fallon at


ACI LA Newsletter


Interview with Rick Blue
This is the first of a series of interviews with Mahasukha Center Senior Teachers

Rick Blue is a Senior Teacher at the Mahasukha Center. His interest in Buddhism began when he edited a documentary for Martin Scorcese entitled "In Search of Kundun" . His work on this project led him to a Buddhism class taught by Brian Smith, who would later become an ordained monk by the name of Venerable Sumati Marut. After this introduction to Buddhism, Rick became a student of Lama Marut's, and he completed the 18 ACI-LA courses, and then took his Maroke. He has since taken advanced teaching from Venerable Marut, and has also taken teachings from Geshe Michael Roach, Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen, as well as attending various teachings given by his Holiness the Dalai Lama.

As a student of Lama Rick's, we wanted to interview him to discover what motivated him to practice Buddhism in a Western society. In this interview we talked about topics ranging from the popularity of Buddhism in America to practicing Buddhism while working in Hollywood.

Regarding the former topic about why Buddhism is becoming more popular in the West, our discussion led us to his upbringing in the 1960s/1970s when people were questioning the dominant culture. He believes at that time the "modern religion" became science, as people were becoming more attracted to logic and asking questions. Buddhism, therefore, became more popular as it asks you "to develop your analytical thinking, to use logic, and not just blindly accept something because its been told to you... but to test it, and to try to apply it, and to meditate on it, and to try to come to an understanding of how the world is working."

In studying Buddhism we are asked to not just take things on blind faith, but to test them out in our own lives and try to understand the deeper nature of reality. This helps us have a more unshakable faith in the teachings. As Lama Rick explains, "I think to have that type of tradition start to unfold here was very attractive to people who necessarily didn't want to just be told, "Do it because someone said so", "Because if you don't you're going to hell"... And something that said kind of like you are the creator of your own hell! (laughs)"

Buddhism gives us the gift of taking responsibility for creating our world through an understanding of karma and emptiness. We can examine how we are perceiving our world and try to realize how that view is coming 'from us' and not 'at us'. As Lama Rick says, "I think that for me this philosophy doesn't posit that "things happen just because...", "it's just random", or "its just someone who is pulling all of the strings." There's this middle road where you have to examine those things, and not just take them on face. I think (Buddhism) teaches you to be a good logician."

To listen to the full-length audio for this interview go to /mi-ft_blue.html.

Lama Rick Blue is currently teaching Guided Meditation class on Tuesday nights from 7:30pm - 9:30pm at the Mahasukha Center. All classes are free of charge and open to the public, and are for students of all meditation levels.



Yama Asteya: Not Stealing:
This is the third article in an ongoing series by Rene Miranda

The third yama is asteya or not stealing. It comes from the Sanskrit root sta meaning to be stealthy. Related English words are steal and stealth. The a at the beginning indicates a negative. Few people reading this article are likely to be blatant thieves, shoplifters or robbers. However, as is often the case for humans, most of us commonly commit the act of stealing in more subtle ways. Here are some examples. Consider being at your place of employment and spending time talking on the phone to friends or attending to personal business during the workday. Consider stealing other people's time by making extra work for them when we don't clean up after ourselves in a store. Consider cheating on taxes, littering and similar acts taken against "big" organizations. The bigger the organization, i.e. the federal government, the more beings effected, and the greater the karmic imprint! Consider wasting resources on this planet; stealing from future generations. Take heart! Changing these kinds of actions is usually easy, once one understands.

Mohandas Ghandi used to reply to letters on the blank side of the page of the paper he received. He took the envelope apart, turned it inside out, glued it back together, and reused it. He did not want to use what someone else could have. He had that much compassion; that much humility.

Why do we steal? It comes from a sense of entitlement, of selfishness. On some level we are thinking, "I deserve this." Why else would someone go into debt, cheat on taxes? When we look at it this way, stealing is the opposite of compassion. Believing we can get what we want by taking from others is a complete misperception and will have the opposite of the desired effect. The karmic consequence for stealing is that you never have enough to live on.

I started thinking about how asteya applies to yoga asana practice. One cannot actually steal a pose. One can, however, have a sense of entitlement, of "I am better than" during a practice. I know from experience this can happen in a public class as well as in a home practice. How? Expecting to be "good" at all the poses with little practice. Expecting the benefits of yoga to come without much effort. Comparing oneself to another during class. Assuming you know more than others in the group, or than the teacher. Using the yoga studio's property without taking care of it. See how many ways there are to practice in every setting!

What does Master Patanjali say? In chapter two, verse thirty-seven of the Yoga Sutra, he writes, " Asteya pratishthayam sarva ratnopasthanam ." The translation in The Essential Yoga Sutra, by Geshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally says, "If you make it a way of life never to steal from another, then there will come a time when people just come to you and offer you all the money you need." Wow!! The karmic consequence for protecting the property of others is that one is forced to see abundance! We think money comes from the bank or the federal reserve and we receive it for services rendered. But it is possible not to be paid for services, and some people have never had a job, yet own abundant material resources. As usual, the way to see an object in your world is to make sure others have it. Share, donate, tip heavily. In the ultimate sense, practicing asteya creates the perfect paradise for the future enlightened you.



Planting and irrigating Blue Karmas

A while ago in this newsletter I wrote about green karmas in an effort to reduce our CO2 footprint. Today, I want to talk about blue karmas: our efforts to reduce the water intake to change the seeds that make us see a water crisis on the planet. Reports on world water estimate that over 2 billion people are affected by water shortages in over 40 countries, and the extensive withdrawal of water for agriculture from river, lakes and aquifers results in limited supplies for other human needs, such as drinking, washing, cooking and sanitation. Reports say that agriculture is by far the biggest user of water. Because of this, the water that a person 'eats' everyday contained in food products is much larger than the volume of water a person drinks. We do not only drink water: we also eat it, wear it, breathe it... and we must be aware of our intakes if we want to change our karma and see every mother living being having unlimited access to this precious liquid. Here are a couple of examples:

How much water do you "eat"?

The virtual-water content of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce something, measured at the place where the product was actually produced (production-site definition). It refers to the sum of the water use in the various steps of production chain. UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the daily water requirement to provide 2,700 calories is estimated at 4.3m3 per person daily, or 1,570m3 per person annually.

How much water do you "wear"?

Cotton, which is mostly grown unsustainably - with massive inputs of water and pesticides - has already been responsible for the destruction of large-scale ecosystems such as the Aral Sea in central Asia and the deteriorating health and livelihoods of people living there. Just 2.4 percent of the world's arable land is planted with cotton yet cotton accounts for 24 percent of the world's insecticide market and 11 percent of the sale of global pesticides. 73 percent of the global cotton harvest comes from irrigated land.

What to do?

A nation can preserve its domestic water resources by importing a water-intensive product instead of producing it domestically. What we need to have is the global awareness/intention to do it, and in so doing, to dedicate all our efforts for the wellness of all living beings. To avert wider water shortages, and to conserve nature, there is more required than simply producing more crops with less water. There are still many countries where individual farmers are dependent for their water supply on whoever controls large-scale irrigation systems. We should start by changing ourselves through simple things; and only then we will see that there have been improvements on efficiency through better system design on effective drainage, and new equitable procedures for allocating water among farmers when there are shortages.

Start by calculating your blue (karma) footprint at: where you can also find hundreds of ideas to reduce your water consumption. May all beings have access to the purest water!

Irma Gomés



Dharma Book of the Month

The Art of Happiness
by HH the Dalai Lama

It was the afternoon of the last day of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings in Philadelphia and my angel friends had just dropped me off in a little Pennsylvania town so I could catch a train to the airport. Walking around with an hour to spend, I felt the irresistible pull of a small-town thrift store. I went in, and there was His Holiness, facing out at me from a shelf of 99 cent books. I took Him with me to the airport, feeling so grateful to be offered this way to smooth the transition - from 6 days of engrossing and dizzying lectures on the Lam Rim, back to home.

The book that appeared to me in Pennsylvania and absorbed me during my journey back to LA was The Art of Happiness , written by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, MD (a psychiatrist), published by Riverhead Books in 1998.   The book is based on interviews conducted by Dr. Cutler over several years both in Arizona and Dharamsala. The Art of Happiness works to find similarities and divergences between the teachings of Buddhism and methods and experimental findings of modern psychology, as both systems tackle the problem of "how to be happy". As Cutler muses, psychology seldom takes happiness as its goal, more often working towards just the moderation and normalization of the mind to reach a state of not-so-badness. Buddhism, on the other hand, encourages people to reject even this low-level suffering, to change the mind's very structure and make happiness a possibility.

Cutler's writing shifts between the scientific and the personal: he uses his own experiences and struggles with things like anger or low self worth to raise questions to ask the Dalai Lama. Though written 10 years ago, I think this book is a great recommendation for anyone becoming interested in Buddhism who grew up, like me, with a view of the world based on western science and psychology.

Submitted by Claire Thompson


ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Website of the Month

Kham Aid Foundation

Their mission is to help communities of the Eastern Tibetan Plateau through cultural heritage preservation in conjunction with health and education development. Check out their website to learn about the exemplary things this organization is doing for the Tibetan people.

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


ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma:
Defending Your Life

First of all, thanks to June Hayes for recommending this film to me. Albert Brooks' film, Defending Your Life gives a light-hearted view of the Karma cam. Many of us have heard of the karma cam but who knew that the drab interior of our apartment in the after life, would be caused by our past actions? Well, yes, in fact it must be. And here for a few minutes, you can have a laugh at the antics of Daniel Miller (Brooks) and Julia (Meryl Streep) as they figure out that in fact, all is really cause and effect. Take a break from the more challenging aspects of taking on Mrs. (or Mr.) Karma cam and enjoy a great film that helps us to remember that on the path, a healthy sense of humor is essential.

Explicit Dharma:
Call it Karma

Call it Karma tells the story of the friendship between filmmaker Geoff Browne and a young Tibetan monk, Gyalten Rinpoche. Early in his life, Rinpoche was sent by his Lama to walk 1,000 miles across the rooftop of the world and into the sacred lands of India. After six years and the founding of a Buddhist center in Vancouver, Rinpoche befriends Geoff Browne. The two then embark on an emotional return to the Rinpoche's village. The journey has inspired Geoff to retell his friend's remarkable life story and to share with audiences a wonderful tale of devoted practice.

Dharma Flicks submitted by Mike Parry


Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads

Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads

Dharma podcasts are becoming an increasingly popular and convenient way to get exposure to enlightening Dharma teachings at the touch of a computer key. Don't miss Lama Marut's weekly podcasts at

This Month's Dharma Podcasts:
"Honor the Lineage by Honoring the Teacher", "Yoga and Happiness", "Karma Yoga: Disciplining One's Actions" and "Cleaning Past Bad Karma"

Weekly videocasts: /mg-video.html

Audio podcasts : /mg-podcsts.html

Audio Downloads: The "Recent Teachings" section on is replete with new public talks on yoga, Guru yoga and meditation at: /teach_marut_recent.html

Be sure to subscribe to keep up to date on the digital downloads! Click on the subscription button at and/or and enter your email address to receive podcast updates. You'll receive an email announcement when new podcasts of teachings are uploaded to either site.

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


ACI LA Newsletter

Current and Upcoming ACI-LA Classes

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

Many of the classes are given weekly so please check the ACI website calendar for full descriptions and times:

Nov 1st, 2008 and every Sat morning
Worldview Yoga with Sarah Canfield
Time: 10:30 am - 12:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson (

Nov 2nd, 2008 and every other Sun morning
Coffee, Donuts & Buddhist Debate with ACI-LA Senior Teachers
Time: 10:00am to 12:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public

Nov 3rd, 2008 and every Mon night (check ACI website for substitutions)
Worldview Yoga with Jessica Larsen
Time: 6:00pm to 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only.
Contact: Claire Thompson ( )

Nov 3rd - Nov 24th 2008, Monday nights
Study Hall with Cliff Spencer
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center

Nov 4th, 2008 and every Tuesday night
Guided meditation class with Rick Blue
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Rick Blue ( or call 310-454-6168)

Nov 5th - Nov 26th, 2008 and every Wed night (substitutes: Claire Thompson and Taisha Paggett)
Worldview Yoga with Mira Kingsley
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson ( )

Nov 5th and Nov 12th, 2008 Wed afternoon
ACI 7 Vows of the Bodhisattva with Lauren Benjamin
Time: 4:00pm to 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Lauren Benjamin ( )

Nov 7th - Nov 21st, 2008 and every Fri
Tibetan Heart Yoga I - Vanessa Hopkins
Time: 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson (

Nov 15th & Nov 16th, 2008 Sat & Sun
Yoga Mahamudra: Wisdom for Your Mind and Body. Immersion Weekend with Jessica Kung and Stephane Dreyfus
Time: Sat Nov 15: 1-5pm and 4-6 and Sun Nov 16: 11-1pm and 2-4pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: By donation. Suggested donation: $65 for all sessions; $20 per session
Contact: Claire Thompson (


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 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 and find broken weblinks and audio that doesn't download.
* Have accounting skills and/or are familiar with Quik-Books


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 and Sal Gallina for their kindness in teaching here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Stephane Dreyfus for maintaining the ACI-LA website, and to all our marvelous students who help make it possible to spread the Dharma.

All suggestions and updates for the website can be sent to Stephane at Catherine Eaton produces the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine at by the 20th of the month.