MARCH 2009

ACI LA Newsletter

reetings to all and welcome to the ACI-LA newsletter! March is here and Spring is on the way.

Those of us who were in attendance, either in person or online, are still basking in the glow of the beautiful presence and teachings of Geshe Michael and Lama Christie just a week ago. Read the wonderful review under the Contributions section in the newsletter.

This month includes another joyous event as Lama Marut returns to the Mahasukha Center with three nights of teachings on, "The Three Yogas of The Bhagavad Gita." Venerable Marut is a long-time scholar of Indian spiritual traditions, and brings a uniquely Buddhist perspective to this ancient Indian text.

These special teachings as well as all the offerings at the Mahasukha Center are listed at the end of this newsletter, with details available on the ACI-LA website. Click here to see the events:

People who enjoy our center are getting a solid transmission of authentic dharma and yoga traditions for application in today's modern world. They're getting tools and resources to practice wisdom and compassion. As a community we work together to be happy and to serve others. This is the essence of our work.  

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

Blogs are a great way for people to find out about ACI-LA. If you are a blogger, it would be wonderful if you could put information and/or a link to us on your blog.


This Month
Dharma Book of the Month
Darin's Digital Funhouse
Dharma Website of the Month
Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
Upcoming ACI-LA Classes
How You Can Help
Thank You

ACI LA Newsletter


ACI-LA Hosts Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally
By Rick Blue

For the first time since its inception, ACI-LA and the Mahasukha Center had the great good fortune to host Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally for 2 sparkling evenings of teachings centered on spiritual partnership, and a party for the release of their new book, King of the Dharma .

Just having Geshe Michael and Lama Christie "schedule us in," on a calendar with teaching requests that span the globe was our first ripening of good karma. To have their talk coincide with a teaching on the vision behind their beautifully researched and designed book, King of the Dharma , was a great bonus.

The talks took place on the evenings of Feb 20 and 21st at the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church in Westchester, CA., with the kind blessing of Father Peter Rood.

For many in the ACI-LA sangha it was the first time they had been able to receive live teachings from the lamas. The setting of the church reflected their inclusive style, welcoming an audience of diverse traditions to hear concise, gentle teachings on how to use the principles of karma and emptiness to not only find your "spiritual partner" but the way to view and hold all relationships. Their insights into "karmic engineering" as a way to literally change your world was very much at home in an Episcopal Church, where another Buddha, (which is certainly how we would see Jesus - an enlightened being, appearing to serve and teach all beings), also taught the karmic principles of "reaping what you sow," and "treating all others as you yourself would like to be treated."

The motif for these talks about partnership centered on the ideas surrounding the life of Je Tsongkapa, a towering figure of Tibetan Buddhism whose life is captured in their new book, King of the Dharma .

When Tibet was under siege from the Chinese invasion, members of the family of His Holiness, the 14 th Dalai Lama of Tibet, fled with what little they could take. One of the things that survived their flight to India was a series of 15 scroll paintings known as the" Tsongkapa Eighty." These works contained more than 200 scenes from the life of Je Tsongkapa, arguably the greatest figure of Tibetan Buddhism, and founder of the Gelukpa School of Buddhism - someone whom Geshe Michael referred to in the talk as being "as important as Jesus."

The paintings were donated by His Holiness to the Kalmyk Mongolian temple in New Jersey. Geshe Michael met and served his root lama, Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Lobsang Tharchin at the Kalmyk temple, Rashi Gempil Ling , in NJ and it was there that he, and later Lama Christie, began a journey that probed into all aspects of this work. The fruit of over 15 years of labor has resulted in an illustrated biography of both detailed scholarship, and great art.  

King of the Dharma traces the evolution of these paintings, and the life and teachings they illustrate, including rare commentary. It blends original and archival photographs, as well as stunning modern illustrations by the artist, Ori Carin.

Another important accomplishment of the book were posters Geshe Michael and Lama Christie created which capture the different roles that Je Tsongkapa played in his life. As they said, he was more than a monk, he was a philosopher, master mediator, yogi, diplomat then some.

The posters circled the church sanctuary where the teachings were given, literally enveloping us in the dharma.

Taking turns, the lamas, wove their way through the themes of the posters, giving us a recipe on how to live a spiritual life, and in turn forge partnerships that nurture that path.

The universality of the teachings these posters impart become clear to us when Father Peter and some of his parishioners asked us if we could leave the posters on the wall for their Sunday service and for some time after!   

The talks were attended by capacity audiences as well as online, where the teachings were streamed and will be available as an archive.  

For those who had heard Geshe Michael and Lama Christie teach before, it was a chance to revisit their laser-like, yet humorous and loving style of teaching. For first-timers, you could sense they were learning what we had; that when in their presence you always feel you are being gently invited to come along on a significant journey.

Stations for purchasing books were set up at the Church, along with "lama boards" where you could purchase and send a book to a lama. Following the talks, the Geshe Michael and Lama Christie stayed to sign books and greet a long line of appreciative audience members. In addition to the book sale and signings, a prolific, (and delicious) bake sale was held the 1st evening to make it possible for young American students to go and study with the monks of Sera Mey Monastery in India.

All proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to the Kalmyk Temple, in Freewood Acres, New Jersey, to help them preserve their temple for many years into the future.

For ACI-LA, and those in Los Angeles, this was hopefully the beginning of more visits from these extraordinary lamas.

For more information in the book visit:

For more information on ACI-LA visit: /



ACI-LA teacher Cliff Spencer interviewed
by Sal Gallina

Q- Where were you born & when?

A- Birmingham Alabama- 1972. I was the middle child. I have an older brother & a younger sister.

Q- What is your educational background?

A - I graduated from Mountain Brook High School. I have a degree in English & Theater Arts.

Q - What type of work did you do before you became a furniture maker?

A - I worked in the L.A. film industry doing set design & art direction. I did this for about five years then went to New York. There I was acting & writing in live theater & working part time.

Q - How & when did you start making furniture?

A - At the time I was working part time in an office trying to get my acting & film thing going, but it wasn't enough money,& not working out. I met someone who was a window designer & who had a wood shop. I had experience in building sets so the transition into building displays for windows was easy. So I began working in wood shops in N.Y. & L.A. While in L.A. I was working in what you might call a professional cabinet shop. I was doing films part time & and part time wood work. At this time I gave up the the film business and started working on furniture full time. I met my wife Liegh and we went to Colorado for about a year and a half. While in Colorado we became engaged. At this time I was working in a very professional cabinet shop, getting more experience & learning as much as possible. I started doing my own designs. So in 2004 we left Colorado and came back to L.A. & then started my own shop.

Q - How & when did you meet your wife Liegh?

A- We met in 2002. We were living in the same apartment building. When we came back from Colorado we were married.

Q - When was Scout born?

A - August 30th 2005. Which is my birthday.

Q - When did you first come into contact with the Dharma.

A - I was living in New York and I had an apartment in the East Village, a first floor walk up. At that time 1995 -96, I was pursuing an acting career and working in a wood shop. I came home from work one day and found there had been a fire in the apartment building. It was three months before they began repairs. They started with the first floor store front then rented it out. After that I started seeing Monks and Nuns coming and going they were putting a book store together, The Three Jewels. I went in and asked if they needed any help and met Annie Pelma. I started meeting her in the morning for meditation, started taking some classes and courses.

Q - What is your rule of thumb as to teaching or dispensing spiritual information when you are out and about in the world...on the job, back home with friends and family?

A - Be a compassionate listener and if needed cause and effect could be brought up but not necessarily in the guise of Karma.

Q - Had you taught in any other way before you started teaching the Dharma?

A - No.

Q - When you were going through the 18 formal courses, did you have any difficulty with any particular aspect of them, and did you find anything that you might call easy learning?

A -In course 15,the Mind Only School, the different levels of emptiness,the varied characteristics of the other Schools. In the beginning I had a little difficulty with understanding the gradations of the Six Flavors. On the other hand, I found meditation what you called easy learning.

Q - To those new students and to those students who have a few courses completed or almost completed, what advice would you give to them?

A - The task of the Lam Rim is completely individual, be happy about who you are and what you are doing, not to worry about others. Just be clear on who you are and what you want to do, and do it nicely.

Thank You Lama Cliff. Please continue to teach..please continue to teach..please continue to teach.



Part four of a continuing series by Rene Miranda

My Holy Lama teaches that contentment is entry-level happiness. He even wrote a mantra to convey this message: "Om, I have enough, ahum." How freeing! To realize this moment is another appearance in a process we call life, to allow the unfolding.

Aparigraha is defined as non-possessiveness. In Sanskrit, a means "not,"pari means "about" or "around," and graha means "to grasp." Master Patanjali wrote in the Yoga Sutra, chapter two, verse thirty-nine: "Aparigrahasthairye janmakathamta sambodah." Geshe Michael Roach and Chiristie McNally translated this as, "If you persevere in overcoming possessiveness, you will be able to see your other lifetimes." BKS Iyengar translated the same verse this way: "Knowledge of past and future lives unfolds when one is free from greed for possessions."

Why is this true? One reason I can think of is that when one's mind is uncluttered by thinking of the things we believe we own, by the thoughts we think we must follow, we can see our true nature. We are constantly blocking ourselves from joy with the very things we think will make us happy. It is like shooting oneself in the foot. It is a mistake. Thank goodness! If we create the reality we live in, we are in control. With understanding, we can create ultimate happiness for ourselves and for others.

So, I guess getting rid of all our stuff is the ticket to happiness, right? Ha! It's the same mistake. Whether grasping to or pushing away some thing in order to feel good, we are giving the power of our mental wellbeing to the object. In a short time we will find the new gadget is no longer "happiness producing," or the object we got rid of is still gone yet we are unhappy again.

As always it comes back to understanding karma and emptiness. The way our world appears to us is directly correlated to the how well we have taken care of others in the past. By detaching from the need to react as if we need to grasp right now, we plant the seeds to know all times. Amazing realizations and peace in the moment. Sounds good to me.


Dharma Book of the Month

Stages of Meditation
A commentary by His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama
on three works by Master Kamalashila

The Stages of Meditation is an oral commentary by the Dalai Lama on the second of three works by the ninth-century Indian Buddhist scholar Master Kamalashila. They were all called bhavana krama (Stages of Practice), and written at a time of great disagreement in Tibet, in order to establish correct understandings and practices. This is a work held in high regard by the Dalai Lama - he often returns to it in his teaching - and this book captures that.

Although now twenty years old, the Stages of Meditation demonstrates once again the amazing ability of the Dalai Lama to present both the immediate material with great clarity, and also to place it in the wider context of the greater understandings of Mahayana Buddhism. At the core of the wisdom understandings is the practical alchemy of real meditation, which needs to be properly learned and practiced in order to move from conceptual understandings to direct experience. Kamalashila offers this practical learning, but in a very terse way, and the Dalai Lama's careful (though often also very succinct) commentary provides the necessary bridge to allow us to take and effectively use what is being described.

This book rewards careful reading - not only is it a practical introduction to meditation practice, but it also forms an excellent short introduction (from Kamalashila and the Dalai Lama both) to Mahayana - and it would be my choice if I were restricted to one book on the proverbial desert island. As the Dalai Lama comments "This text can be like a key that opens the door to all other major Buddhist scriptures."

Submitted by David White


Darrin's Digital Funhouse

Email if you want in on the Digital Sangha list to get reminders about what's coming up or need help to view the archived teachings.

Instructions for the Live Broadcasts or archives:

1) Go to the appropriate channel link.

2) To view archives - Scroll down to the section titled "Mahasukha's Video Clips" and click on the appropriate thumbnail picture (as you roll over the various thumbnails the names of the videos will pop up) and watch on the Video player at the top left hand side of   the screen.

To watch a Live Broadcast - type your name into the chat room to announce who you are and where you are from (optional). If you aren't getting anything in the viewing screen (top left) then refresh your screen every minute or so until you do. We try and go live 10 minutes or so before the program starts. Turn off any other internet programs for a cleaner feed.

3) For a 'Full Screen' picture you can click on the 2 intersecting squares logo beside the "MENU" button on the main viewing window.

Twitter into Happiness!

Get little pearls of Lama wisdom sent straight to your cell phone every day via text message!

Lama Marut gives us another way to keep ourselves mindful of how to be happy by sending out "Dharma Twitters" via Just create a profile at (it takes 10 minutes max) and then text "follow Lama Marut" to 40404 from your cell phone. There are 135 people signed up and getting the daily Lama love right now!!! If you have any problems email and he'll help you get in on the goodness.

Get a little Lama love in the middle of your busy day!


ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Website of the Month

Your old kicks needn't end up in a landfill. Organizations like Shoe4Africa (the Web site opens with a video) and One World Running donate used sneakers to overseas athletes. Nike will transform worn-out shoes (of any brand) into Nike Grind, which is used as a surface material for basketball courts and running tracks.

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.


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:
"Upsetting the Apple Cart," "Hardwired to be Happy," and "Transforming Problems Into Opportunities." 

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:

March 1 st , 8 th , 15th, and 22 nd 2009 (Sun)
Mind and Body Alignment Yoga Series with Rick Ruzzamenti
Teacher: Rick Ruzzamenti
Date: ongoing - every Sunday morning in March
Time: 1:00am - 2:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds
Contact: Claire Thompson

March 3rd, 10 th , 17 th and 24 th 2009 (Tuesdays)
Guided meditation class with Sal Gallina
Teacher: Sal Gallina
Date: Tuesday nights
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: or call 310-454-6168

Feb 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th, 2009 (Wed) 7:30 PM - 9:30 AM
Worldview Yoga - All levels - with Mira Kingsley
Teacher: Mira Kingsley
Date: Wednesday nights
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30 PM
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire Thompson

Feb 7 th , 14 th , 21 st , and 28th, 2009 (Sat) 9:15 AM - 10:15 AM
Worldview Yoga - Beginners with Sarah Canfield
Teachers: Sarah Canfield
Date: Saturday mornings
Time: 9:15am - 10:15am
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $8 per class - No one will be turned away due to lack of funds
Contact: Claire Thompson

Feb 7 th , 14 th , 21 st and 28th, 2009 (Sat) 10:30 AM - 12:00 noon
Worldview Yoga all levels - with Sarah Canfield
Teachers: Sarah Canfield
Date: Saturday mornings
Time: 10:30am - 12:00 noon
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 per class - No one will be turned away due to lack of funds
Contact: Claire Thompson

March 2 nd and 9 th 2009 (Mondays) 7:30 AM - 9:30 PM
ACI Formal Study Course 4: Proof of Future Lives, with Cliff Spencer
Teacher: Cliff Spencer
Date: Monday nights, Beginning January 5th
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only

March 2 nd , 9 th , 16 th and 23 rd , 2009 (Mondays) 6:00 PM- 7:00 PM
Worldview Yoga Beginners/All levels with Jessica Larsen
Teacher: Jessica Larsen
Date: Monday nights
Time: 6:00pm - 7:00 pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only.
Contact: Claire Thompson

March 5 th , 12 th , 19 th , and 26 th 2009 (Thursdays)
Dharma Essentials XIV: Lojong-Developing the Good Heart
Teacher: Lauren Benjamin
Date: Monday nights
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30 pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only.

Mar 30th, 2009 (Mon) 31 st (Tues) and Apr 1st, 2009 (Wed)
Three Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita, with Lama Marut
Teacher: Lama Sumati Marut
Date: March 30, 31, April 1
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: at Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public


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
* Add a link to ACI-LA website on your blog.


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.