ACI LA
MAY 2009


ACI LA Newsletter

elcome to the ACI-LA newsletter. May is a very significant month to Buddhists all over the globe, as it is the month of the celebration of Wesak. This festival is the most important day in the Buddhist calendar being a celebration of the birth, enlightenment and passing away of Gautama Buddha. The day is spent honoring the Buddha’s life and His universal message of peace.

This month is filled with teachings and yoga classes as usual at the Mahasukha Center, but don’t miss, “Jump-Starting Your Practice: Advices on How to Cultivate Joyful Effort,” from Master Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life with Venerable Marut. He will also be teaching on “The Spiritual Teachings of Jesus and the Buddha”. These three teachings occur on May 25th , 26th and 27th. Please check the calendar at the end of the newsletter for times or www.aci-la.org for full descriptions.

Another class not to miss is Rick Blue’s teaching on Dharma 101: Books, Bowls and Sacred Scrolls, Vol. 2...the nuts and bolts of a daily dharma practice. This informative, hands on series will address practical questions that might not be covered in specific formal study classes. It will be a fun series which will explore how to keep a Six Times A Day Book.

The special Yoga Offering this month will be a class on Tibetan Heart Yoga Series 6 with visiting teacher Julie Upton.  Julie will teach this flowing sequence, created by Lady Niguma, on Sunday May 10th, from 3-6 pm. 

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

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 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
Dharma Flix
Darin's Digital Funhouse
Dharma Website of the Month
Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
Upcoming ACI-LA Classes
How You Can Help
Thank You
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A Word on Wesak

On Wesak Day, Buddhists all over the world and in all traditions, celebrate the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Gautama Buddha. It is the main Buddhist festival of the year, Buddha Day (Vesak or Vaisakha in Sanskrit), and falls on the first full moon day in May, except in a leap year when the festival is held in June.  

Wesak is also a time for feeling great joy and happiness by concentrating on activities such as decorating and illuminating temples, painting beautiful scenes from the life of the Buddha, and providing vegetarian food to devotees who visit the temple to pay homage to the Buddha.

Those who celebrate Wesak make special efforts to bring happiness to the unfortunate like the aged, the handicapped and the sick, by giving cash gifts and offerings to various charities.

The Buddha gave us invaluable advice on the best way to celebrate Him. He reminds us that all things must pass away and when we die, only the dharma is eternal so we should strive to follow His teachings with faith and devotion.

A wonderful way to celebrate Wesak is to take a moment to contemplate what you are doing with your precious life and to renew efforts to live useful and noble lives, practicing loving kindness to bring peace and happiness to all.

 

 

 

Thousand-Arms of Ecstasy

A Thousand Arms of Ecstasy… Sound good?  This article is actually about service, but when we become Buddhas “service” and “ecstasy” will be synonymous, so I don’t think the title is completely inaccurate!

  • How not to serve. First of all we have to get rid of the notion that through serving we are going to lose something – our time, our resources, our peace of mind, or our coveted “leisure time.” It’s also completely mistaken to think that we are doing our Lamas some kind of “favor,” for our holy Lamas never need anything from us at all.

 

  • Who to serve. The greatest service we can do is toward the highest karmic objects, the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and the Lama who is all three in one. We can do community service and such, but if we serve the Three Jewels we are becoming part of a much larger mechanism that works far more efficiently to truly help others than our usual band-aid approaches.
  • Why to serve. Through the great kindness of our Lamas, when we are asked to help them and their projects we are being given the opportunity to create the highest karma possible. Service also helps us with our practice of renunciation; when we serve our Lamas’ mission we should try to renounce our ideas of selfish advantage. We can use service to overcome the selfish tendencies in ourselves and instead cultivate a bodhisattva motivation that moves us toward genuine bodhicitta. Service can also be an opportunity to deepen our understanding of emptiness. This is perhaps the most meaningful aspect to service -- through surrendering to the Lama and just doing it, we can have some small realization of the emptiness of ourselves; that those preferences and particularities we are attached to as “me” are not at all hard-wired.

 

  • How to serve.  Master Shantideva in the Guide gives us direction here:

    At the very beginning appraise yourself
    To see if you have the resources needed,
    And then decide to act or not.
    The very highest thing to do
    Would be not even to start a thing [if you can’t finish it];
    But once you have begun then never allow yourself to stop.

So what is service?  Service is an opportunity. First, decide that you can do it. Then accept the mission with gratitude. Communicate when you’ll complete it. Drop almost everything to get it done, and do it with joyful effort! 

And then don’t let anything stop you from finishing it!

 

 

THE THREE YOGAS OF THE BHAGAVAD GITA
Lord Krishna’s Advices on How to Live the Good Life
As taught by Lama Marut

 

The Yoga of Action (Karma Yoga)

Arjuna, Warrior extraordinaire, was called upon to put down a skirmish in one of the provinces of India…not unlike the fighting between the Hatfields and McCoys in the United States or The Healys and Campbells of modern day UK. No one remembers the initial disagreement of who said what or did what to whom. It just took to the streets.

Arjuna had a Charioteer whom he called upon to take him to the war zone. It was his boyhood friend, save for the color of his skin, blue. Arjuna paid no never mind as he was caught up in the moment of the job at hand. A charioteer, a jitney or cab driver, a teacher, a guru, a transporter of others from place to place, came to take him to quell this latest bit of unrest. 

Upon arrival at a bluff overlooking the skirmish, Arjuna recognized some of his kin and said, “Hold on a minute I can’t get involved in this”. Attachments and mental afflictions had just reared their heads. “Some of those people are my relatives. I am very good at what I do and somebody is going to get killed. I must remain loyal to my family.

Krishna gives his masterful wisdom as what is now called the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, The Song of the Celestial One, as the heavens opened with a light so bright that he and the surrounding area almost blinded Arjuna.  This left no doubt in Arjuna's mind that this presence was an Enlightened Being. Krishna tells Arjuna, “You can’t escape karma by not doing your duty. Renunciation is not enough. Do the job you were called upon to do. Make your actions as your yoga practice with understanding. Be detached from the results”.

Krishna tells Arjuna, “Whatever you eat, do, sacrifice, give, do as an offering to me and you will be freed from the bonds of karma. One who is unselfish, whether suffering or happy, patient, content and self-controlled is dear to me. The one who is not intimidated by the world or the world by him is dear to me. He who is equal to enemy or friend, whether hot or cold is free from attachments, indifferent to praise or blame is dear to me”. Why, wonders Arjuna, did Krishna first appear to him with the face and actions of his old friend?
To Be Continued…

This is the first of a three part series on this teaching, submitted by Marie Tolbert

 

 

MAKING OURSELVES ‘FOREIGN’: A SANSKRIT WEEKEND WORKSHOP WITH LAMA DAVID

We all sat there expectantly, in a circle. I don’t know what others were thinking; I was thinking flashcards and struggle. But David began by asking us to “open ourselves up to the language.” He suggested that the boundaries of ‘self’ are fortified by the language we speak: the way it works, the sounds it uses and the conceptual shapes it imposes upon ‘self’ and phenomena. He told us we project ourselves as ‘english-speakers’ and define ourselves by the way the language compels us to conceive ourselves and our world. And as long as we try to force sanskrit into the english structure, we will be fighting against sanskrit. He suggested that, instead, we relax the walls of that structure and the concepts of ‘self’ and ‘other’ it imposes, and welcome the sounds and shapes that sanskrit suggests. Rather than seeing it as foreign – awkward, different and bouncing off the walls of the familiar – we relax the rigid walls of how we ‘speak’ ourselves. Let sanskrit help us ‘speak’ ourselves more openly – not demanding that it take our shape but allowing it to shape us. And we realized we were in for something unexpected and exciting.

We began – by chanting.

We chanted the sounds, with no association to how those sounds correlate to english, just exploring the ways to shape our throats, tongues and lips, to intone and express the ancient ‘speech’ of our inner bodies, arising from the sound of ‘a’. An amazing realization – these sounds are not letters that will make words and then sentences. They are vibrations and processes of fluid expression!     

Only then did we learn the official names of these positions; break them down into short and long vowels, hard, soft and nasalized consonants, and then associate the squiggles to the ‘letters’ that english suggests.

Then out came the charts. But David patiently insisted that we not write the english correlates – because they are not really correlates but rather, only a way we would contain, restrain, constrain possibility. We fought him on this – we, who find comfort in the familiar, in believing that we can lock down a language of expression and meaning. Instead we drew the squiggles while chanting the sound each represents, trying to bypass english correlation, letting the sound speak and represent itself.  And then we practiced the a flow of sounds, not stringing discrete sounds together but moving through them along the sutra (line at the top.)

That was the first evening and day.

During the second day – chanting at regular intervals – we watched and practiced the squiggle-letters changing shape, either in small ways to combine sounds, or in larger ways to flow from one sound to another – with beauty – that evokes pleasure and ease (?) in the speaking. Another amazing realization: in seeing the squiggle-letters change shape depending on what precedes and follows them, and the ‘words’ change sound depending on the same thing, we were getting a teaching on the interdependence of all things – of ‘other’ on ‘self’ and vice versa!! Discussions of conjugating verbs and declining nouns – meaning the representations changing sound and shape depending on their relationship and function in a sentence – even more deeply embedded interdependence. There are no distinct words for “I” or “You” in sanskrit – these emerge only relationally, through forms, actions and objects. “I” or “You” do not exist except in relation to actions of body, speech and mind, towards others!  Interdependence, emptiness, karma – compassion and ethics – all embedded in speech.

Only after this – after seeing that we were embarked on a much deeper teaching than just turning sanskrit into english – did we try to actually ‘translate,’ accompanied by David’s patient insistence that we not struggle against the foreign but open ourselves to it – including the confusion we felt.

...If I’ve given the impression that it won’t take a lot of work, making flash-cards and putting in brute hours of study and memorization to actually read and understand sanskrit, then I have mis-represented it.  But what David gave us, besides the basic tools, is a realization of how learning this ancient and unique language could transform our lives, and the motivation to do just that. 

Thank you Lama David, from the bottom of our interdependent hearts. Please come back and teach, please come back and teach, please come back and teach.

Submitted by Lauren Benjamin

 

 

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ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma: Thelma and Louise

Recently, in the midst of three evenings of sublime teachings on the Bhagavad Gita, Lama Marut suggested that the students consider the predicament of the eponymous characters at the end of Thelma and Louise. My thoughts traveled back to the air conditioned summer theater and the racing heart that anticipated their decision which ends the film. The Bhagavad Gita, as you’ll remember, is the story of the valiant warrior, Arjuna, and the crisis he faces when arriving at the battlefield; the Kulukesetra; the field of Karma. Instead of looking down and seeing a gathered enemy, he sees the faces of his own family. Deeply distraught and overwhelmed by the impasse, Arjuna turns to his charioteer, Krishna to help him decide what to do.  Much like Arjuna, Thelma and Louise, face a daunting impasse. At the end of their long run and wild escapades, they must decide to turn back, into the hands of waiting police or to drive their ’66 Thunderbird into the abyss of a deep canyon. What is intriguing to the careful dharma student is that Thelma and Louise refuse to give back the freedom they have enjoyed in the course of the film and instead surrender to the unknown. When we can see that because we live in Samsara we are like Thelma, Louise and Arjuna, we live constantly in the grip of choices that could never satisfy us. That is, of course, until we surrender.

 

Explicit Dharma: The Mahabharata

Following the wonderful teachings on the Bhagavad Gita by Lama Marut, I would be remiss not to recommend the interesting screen adaptation of the Mahabharata by Peter Brook. The epic poem was first condensed by Mr. Brook to a nine hour stage version and then further reduced to a six hour version for theatrical release. The version available to us now is a four hour program for broadcast and DVD release. In Mr. Brook’s version, the elusive concept of dharma suffuses all. In one of his commentaries for this television version, Mr. Brook explains how the story focuses on a remorseless conflict between cousins, the Pandava and the Kaurava. That conflict, he notes, is "not between good and evil, but between order and chaos, between dharma and its opposite." He adds: "Everything that preserves dharma is of essential value. Everything else merely helps the world slide deeper into darkness." Indeed.

Dharma Flicks submitted by Mike Parry

 

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Darin's Digital Funhouse

LIVE VIDEO BROADCASTS of MAHASUKHA TEACHINGS and ACI Formal Study Course

Visit the new Live Video page on the ACI-LA site to see all the current and archived broadcasts on Ustream.TV, including Lama Marut’s 3 Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita and Geshe Michael and Lama Christie’s Spiritual Partner Teachings:
/live_video.html

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.

 

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.

 

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

http://www.bringyourown.org/
This is a wonderfully creative and informative “green” website.

And another:
http://www.ecobuddhism.org/
A Buddhist response to global warming

 

If you come across a site that you’d like others to know about, please notify Catherine at www.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:
“Anger Begets More Anger,” “The EZ Form To Enlightenment,” “Training Ourselves In Selflessness,” and “Breaking and Losing Our Vows.”

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

 

May 3, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st 2009 (Sun)
Guided Meditation
Teacher: Sal Gallina
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

May 4th, 11th and 18th (Mon)
ACI Formal Study Course 5: How Karma Works, with Cliff Spencer
Date: Monday nights, Beginning April 13
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: cliff.spencer@aci-la.org

May 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th (Fri)
Dharma Essentials I: The Principal Teachings of Buddhism, with Rick Blue
Date: Friday nights
Time: 7:30pm – 9:30 PM
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: donation-based community class
Contact: rick.blue@aci-la.org

May 9th, 16th and 23rd (Sat)
ACI Formal Study Course 16 (Review): The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part 1, with Lindsay Crouse
Saturday, May 9: Class 1 - 12:30pm-2:30pm
Sunday, May 10: Classes 2 & 3 - 10am-2:30pm
Saturday May 16: Classes 4 & 5 - 10am-2:30pm
Sunday May 17: Classes 6 & 7 - 10am-2:30pm
Saturday, May 23: Classes 8 & 9 - 10am-2:30pm
Sunday, May 24: Class 10 - 12:30pm-2:30pm
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Registration is requested.
Contact: lindsay.crouse@aci-la.org

May 10th, (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

May 10th, (Sun)
Tibetan Heart Yoga Series 6 with Julie Upton
Teacher: Julie Upton
Date: May 10th
Time: 3:00 pm- 6 pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: $20 suggested donation
Contact: Claire.thompson@aci-la.org

May 4th, 11th, and 18th (Mon) 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Mahasukha 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 6th, 13th and 20th, (Wed) 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Mahasukha 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

 

May 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th 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

May 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th 2009 (Sat) 9:15 AM – 10:15 AM
Mahasukha 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

May 2nd, 9th, 16th,23rd and 30th 2009 (Sat) 10:30 AM - 12:00 noon
Mahasukha 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

 May 21st, 2009 (Thu)    
Dharma 101: Books, Bowls and Sacred Scrolls, Vol. 2 ... The nuts and bolts of a daily dharma practice
Teacher: Rick Blue
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2009
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30 pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Supported by Donations. Open to the Public
To register: email Rick Blue or call 310.454.6168.     

May 25th, 2009 (Mon) -- May 26th, 2009 (Tue)
Jump-Starting Your Practice: Advices on How to Cultivate Joyful Effort, from Master Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life with Venerable Marut
Teacher: Venerable Sumati Marut
Date: Monday, May 25th and Tuesday, May 26
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Lauren.Benjamin@aci-la.org 

May 27th, 2009 (Wed)               
The Spiritual Teachings of Jesus and the Buddha, with Venerable Marut
Teacher: Venerable Sumati Marut
Date: Wednesday, May 27th
Time: 7:30pm to 9:30pm
Location: Mahasukha Center
Admission: Free and open to the public; donation only
Contact: Lauren.Benjamin@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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