ACI LA
APRIL 2009


ACI LA Newsletter

reetings to all and welcome to the ACI-LA newsletter! April is the month of the diamond and a month of openings and blossomings.

It also marks the start of the second year of the Mahasukha Center - from an unfinished warehouse, the Mahasukha Center has grown into a sanctuary of authentic dharma and yoga traditions for application in today's modern world. As a community we work together to be happy and to serve others, and gain the tools and resources to practice wisdom and compassion.

We are honored to have Lama Marut with us to mark the year anniversary of the center. On the first of this month, Lama Marut finishes the last of three nights of teachings on, "The Three Yogas of The Bhagavad Gita".

On the weekend of April 17th, 18th and 19th , we welcome David White to the Mahasukha Center to teach the basics of the mother of the world's languages, Sanskrit. By the end of the weekend he promises to have us reading the full Devanagari script in this fun and intense weekend that includes yoga classes on Saturday morning and a first ever Mahasukha Center Kirtan on Saturday evening.

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: www.aci-la.org

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 www.aci-la.org/great_retreat.html)

 

This Month
Contributions
A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
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 Home

ACI LA Newsletter

A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)

"What Makes You a (Western) Buddhist?"

If Buddhism is going to take root in the West - and in our own lives -- we must indigenize it. Buddhism cannot last here as a foreign religion for more than a generation or two. If it is to survive here and now, we must Westernize and modernize it. It is our job to help "morph" Buddhism into a Western religion, just as when it was brought into China, Japan, and Southeast Asia it adapted to those cultures.

Some of the necessary adjustments are obvious. The traditional Asian patriarchal structure of authority has got to go. And the exclusion of the laity (as well as nuns) from the highest teachings and practices of Buddha's dharma will also by necessity need to change as Buddhism comes into a culture where monasticism does not play the same role as it has in Asia. Buddhism will have to be less sexist and less hierarchical and exclusivist if it is going to take root and play a meaningful role in the modern West.

In addition to these institutional changes, the dharma must also be translated into our own language. We must put the Buddha's words into our own words; we must make the Buddha's teachings speak directly to us. Part of this translation project, in its largest sense, will involve utilizing modern delivery systems for propagating the dharma: Web sites, podcasts, twitters. . . whatever is at hand! Buddhism in the West, like pretty much everything else, will have to go digital.

But there is obviously a danger in going too far in the morphing process, of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In the effort to make it acceptable to modern sensibilities, much of what is presented as Buddhism in the modern West has little resemblance to what the Buddha taught. If Buddhism is morphed to such an extent that the core is lost, it will no longer be Buddhism at all.

A well-known Western scholar and practitioner, for example, has claimed that one can maintain an agnostic stance towards some of the teachings of the Buddha - that there can be a Buddhism "without beliefs." Among the supposedly dispensable tenets is the difficult (for Westerners) doctrine of rebirth. While agnosticism about rebirth is technically not included, the denial of past and future lives is specifically listed as a classical example of "wrong view" in the scriptures. And the reason for this is fairly obvious: without factoring in past and future lives, the idea of a karmic law is undermined (for we don't always "reap what we sow" in this same lifetime), and when that happens the whole edifice of Buddha's dharma begins to crumble.

Many of the prominent figures in Western Buddhism interviewed in the popular iTunes podcast series entitled "Buddhist Geeks" seem also to be somewhat embarrassed about what the Buddha actually taught. Most people would agree that the "Four Noble Truths" encapsulate the core of Buddha's dharma: life is suffering, suffering is caused, there is an alternative to suffering, and there is a method for achieving that alternative. But the notion that one can completely overcome and transcend suffering - defined as "birth, old age, sickness, and death" - is sometimes nowadays replaced with the idea that Buddhism is simply a psychological tool to help us deal better with stress in this life. Overcome death? Come on! Let's be realistic here!

The Buddha's claim to perfect enlightenment (the permanent end of suffering and attainment of highest bliss, together with omniscience and the ability to emanate countless clones) has in some segments of Western Buddhism been dismissed as "obviously" impossible. Or even worse, the goal of Buddhism has seemingly been completely re-envisioned by at least one influential Western teacher who claims to be an "arhat." Traditionally, an arhat is someone who has entered nirvana, the state of the permanent cessation of all mental afflictions and the suffering that derives from them. In this new version of the goal, however, it seems that there can be a nirvana which does not entail the total end of suffering and all mental afflictions (let alone the omniscience and emanation capacity that accompanies the Mahayana idea of enlightenment). Furthermore, it seems that this goal can be achieved pretty much in one's spare time: "I've done this stuff while holding down jobs, having relationships, and pursuing graduate studies. I did it in a few weeks or months of retreat time here and there with a lot of daily practice. My total retreat time from beginning to arahatship was about 8 months with the longest sit being 27 days."

This is an "enlightenment" for modern times: relatively easily and quickly attained, and one with characteristics well within the realm of rational expectation. I once heard the Dalai Lama berate Westerners for thinking that somehow they could easily and without much effort achieve the same goal the historical Buddha reached only through complete renunciation and years of strict discipline and hard work. But perhaps His Holiness had not heard that the goal itself was being reinterpreted in such a way that we Westerners could actually achieve it without such sacrifices, toil, and investment of time.

There is thus a trend toward simplification, demythologizing, and "reasonableness" in some sectors of modern, Western Buddhism. "Let's be rational here," these folks seem to say. "Let's take what we can accept and just leave behind what appears to be too pre-modern, too unscientific, too difficult to accept." And let's still call what we're left with "Buddhism." While some contemporary Buddhists are regarded as radical for sporting full-body tattoos and multiple piercings while hanging out in punk bars, a more profound counter-cultural statement might be to just adhere to what the Buddha actually taught!

Given all this, it is noteworthy that one of the hippest, savviest, and modern of the Tibetan Buddhist lamas, Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse (director of The Cup and Travellers and Magicians), has recently published a book with the provocative title What Makes You Not a Buddhist. Without adherence to certain foundational and fundamental teachings of the Buddha, the author claims, it is meaningless to say you are nevertheless somehow a "Buddhist." In his book, Khyentse identifies the core of Buddha's dharma as the so-called "four seals": the impermance of all things, the fact of suffering, the doctrine of emptiness and no-self, and the possibility of nirvana or perfect peace.

While I would agree that all four of these propositions are equally important and definitive, it seems that much of the trouble some Western "Buddhists" have with real, hard-core Buddhism centers especially around the third. For without a true understanding of what emptiness and no-self really mean and entail, much of Buddhism might indeed seem outdated, superstitious, or just plain impossible.

Without a real sense of what is made possible by the fact that nothing has an inherent and therefore unchangeable essence, one might want to ignore the more radical claims of the Buddha - that death and all other forms of suffering are overcomeable and that the perfection of self and the world is possible. Buddhism then can be repositioned as a kind of "inner science" of meditation, or just another psychological or therapeutic technique for stess relief, rather than a full-blown religion with full-blown religious claims.

As Arya Nagarjuna writes, "For the one to whom emptiness is clear, everything is clear. And for the one for whom emptiness is not clear, nothing is clear." If one understands that everything, without exception, is empty, then everything (also without exception) is possible. But if one's understanding of emptiness is shallow or limited (thinking, for example, that some things definitely aren't empty, that mortality, or scientific laws, or human limitations have some kind of essential immutability), then one will soon hit a wall when it comes to the more revolutionary claims of a spiritual teacher like the Buddha.

Emptiness does indeed make everything possible. Which is why the Buddha was right 2500 years ago in India, and is still is right in the modern West: Suffering can be overcome. Full enlightenment is possible. The world can be transformed into a paradise.

There is nothing that is not perfectable, because there is nothing that is not not perfectable. That is the teaching of emptiness.

And that is, arguably, the core of Buddhism.

Buddhism can and should be morphed in all kinds of ways, re-presented in modern, Western language and cultural idioms. But any version of Buddhism that does not incorporate the core of emptiness also does not provide a real alternative to the suffering of samsara. Anything less than the full embrace of the radical claim that, because everything is empty, all unhappiness can be overcome and total perfection is possible - anything less than that will not do.

Anything less is not Buddhism.

With all good wishes,

Marut

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ACI LA Newsletter

ontributions

The Siddha Kankaripa
by Irma Gomés

The Siddha Kankaripa, The Lovelorn Widower My Dakini-woman, my queen, my lady!
The visible form of my pure awareness,
Form not separate from me, nor yet a part of me,
The phenomenal appearance of empty space:
She is beyond compare and beyond words.

In Magadha there once lived a householder of low caste. He married a girl of his own social status and settled down. He was not an immoral man, but caring not a whit for the virtuous life that leads to spiritual freedom, after tasting the delights of connubial bliss he became obsessed with sensual pleasure. He experienced peaks of undreamed ecstasy. However, while he was still more than content with his lot, believing that this world alone could fulfill all his desires, his beloved wife came to her appointed time and died. He carried her corpse to the cremation ground, and there he broke down and lost himself in sorrow. His mind and will paralyzed, he was unable to tear himself away from his beloved's corpse. It was in this state of despair that an enlightened yogin found him and asked him what was wrong.

"Can't you see the state I'm in, yogin?" he cried. "The loss of my wife is the end of this glorious life for me. It's as if I've just had my eyes torn out. No one on earth can suffer more than this."

"All life ends in death; every meeting ends in parting; all compounded things eventually disintegrate. Everyone in this samsaric world suffers; suffering is the nature of this wheel of existence. So why grieve? Why guard this corpse that's no different from a lump of stony clay? Why don't you practice Dharma and eliminate pain?"

"If there is a way out of the confusion of this existence, please show me, yogin," the bereaved man begged.

"The Guru's instruction is the way out," the yogin told him.

"Then please give it to me."

The yogin initiated him and empowered him in the precepts relating to the insubstantial seed-essence that has neither center nor circumference. Then teaching him how to meditate, the heartbroken lover was instructed to avoid thinking about his dead wife, but to visualize her as a Dakini, as indivisible pleasure and emptiness, without substance and without self. Thus he entered into meditation, and after six years had passed all thought of his dead wife as a woman of flesh and blood had become a state of pleasure and emptiness. The clouds in his mind dissolved, and the experience of the clear light of pure pleasure arose within him. Just like the poison dhatura leaving the mind and taking with it all hallucination and delusion, the poison of bewilderment and unknowing left his being, and he saw the reality of unalterable truth,

The sudra householder of Magadha gained mahamudra-siddhi and became known to the world as Kankaripa. He taught the Buddha's Word to many beings in Magadha before rising into the Dakinis's Paradise.

 

 

Blessing
Submitted by Shannon Clements Perry

Let me begin by explaining what we mean by blessing when we talk about a lama's blessing or the blessing of the Dharma in the Buddhist context. Blessing must arise from within your own mind. It is not something that comes from outside, even though we talk about a lama's blessing or the blessing of the Three Objects of Refuge. When the positive qualities of your mind increase and negativities decrease, that is what blessing means. The Tibetan word for blessing can be broken into two parts--byin means "magnificent potential," and rlab means "to transform." So byin rlab means transforming into magnificent potential. Therefore, blessing refers to the development of virtuous qualities that you did not previously have and the improvement of those good qualities that you have already developed. It also means decreasing the defilements of the mind that obstruct the generation of wholesome qualities. So actual blessing is received when the mind's virtuous attributes gain strength and its defective characteristics weaken or deteriorate.

--from Stages of Meditation by the Dalai Lama, root text by Kamalashila, translated by Geshe Lobsang Jordhen, Losang Choephel Ganchenpa, and Jeremy Russell, published by Snow Lion Publications

 

 

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

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Darrin's Digital Funhouse

Email darin@aci-la.org 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.

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/spiritualpartners

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dharmaofdrama

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/wheeloflife

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/aci-course-4---proof-of-future-lives

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/festival-of-bliss

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/buddha-yoga

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/aci-course-7---bodhisatva-vows

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 www.twitter.com. Just create a profile at www.twitter.com (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 darin@aci-la.org and he'll help you get in on the goodness.

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

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ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Website of the Month

The Girl Effect

Adolescent girls are uniquely capable of raising the standard of living in the developing world. Girls are the most likely agents of change, but they are often invisible to their societies and to our media. Check out this website and see how you can help.

www.thegirleffect.org

This is a great site for Buddhist education and information:
http://www.buddhanet.net/index.html

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

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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 www.aci-la.org

This Month's Dharma Podcasts:
"Contentment, Here And Now,"and "Anger Is Our Enemy," and "The Advantages of Forgiveness."

Weekly videocasts: /mg-video.html

Audio podcasts : /mg-podcsts.html

Audio Downloads: The "Recent Teachings" section on www.aci-la.org 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 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

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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:
//medialib/index.php/calendar

Apr 1st, 2009 (Wed)
Three Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita, with Lama Marut
Date: April 1
Time: 7:30 - 9:30pm
Location: at Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public
Contact: info@aci-la.org

April 12th, 19th, and 26 th 2009 (Sundays)
Guided Meditation
Teacher: ACI-LA Senior Teacher
Date: Sunday nights
Time: 6:30pm to 8:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: info@aci-la.org

April 13th, 20th, 27 th (Mon) 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Worldview Yoga - All levels - with Jessica Larsen
Date: Monday nights
Time: 6:00pm - 7:00 PM
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: donation-based community class
Contact: Claire.Thompson@aci-la.org

April 15th, 22nd, 29 th (Wed) 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
Worldview Yoga - All levels - with Mira Kingsley
Date: Wednesday nights
Time: 7:30pm - 9:00 PM
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $12 suggested donation. No one will be turned away due to lack of funds.
Contact: Claire.Thompson@aci-la.org

April 16th, 23 rd and 30 th 2009 (Thu)
Bok Jinpa II -Set Your Meditation on Fire 1
Teacher: Lauren Benjamin
Date: Ten Thursdays beginning April 16
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: lauren.benjamin@aci-la.org

April 4th, 11 th , 18th, and 25th, 2009 (Sat) 9:15 AM - 10:15 AM
Worldview Yoga - Beginners with 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@aci-la.org

April 4 th , 11 th , 18th, and 25 th 2009 (Sat) 10:30 AM - 12:00 noon
Worldview Yoga all levels - with 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@aci-la.org

April 13 th, 20 th, and 27th 2009 (Mondays) 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
ACI Formal Study Course 5: How Karma Works, with Cliff Spencer
Date: Monday nights, beginning the 13th
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: cliff.spencer@aci-la.org 

April 17 th , 18 th and 19 th (Friday - Sunday)
Sanskrit Basics in One Weekend with David White
Date and Times: Friday April 17, 7:30-9:30 pm
Saturday April 18th 12:30 - 5:30 pm (with a break)
Sunday April 19th 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (with a break)
Location: Mahasukha Center
Suggested Donation: $50 - $200 sliding scale
work study scholarships available
Contact: Claire.Thompson@aci-la.org
Registration for the whole weekend is required - no drop-ins.

April 18 th - Saturday evening, 6:30-8:00 pm.
Kirtan with Claire and the Clear Light Band

Apr 25th, 2009 (Sat)
"Iron Man" - Potluck Dinner and Dharma Flick, with Cliff Spencer
Date: Saturday April 25
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Bring Potluck
Contact: cliff.spencer@aci-la.org

April 26th, 2009 (Sun)
Coffee, Donuts & Buddhist Debate with ACI-LA Senior Teachers
Teacher: ACI-LA Senior Teachers
Date: ongoing - every other Sunday morning
Time: 10:00am - 12:00pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public
Contact: info@aci-la.org

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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 lauren.benjamin@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.
* Have accounting skills and/or are familiar with Quik-Books
* Add a link to ACI-LA website on your blog.

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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 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 floatingrock@gmail.com. Catherine Eaton produces the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine at eatoncat@verizon.net by the 20th of the month.

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