ACI LA Newsletter

appy New Year! Welcome to the ACI-LA January 2010 newsletter.

A big thank you to everyone who so kindly donated their precious time and energy to all the beautiful teachings and events that took place at the Mahasukha Center last year.

We happily begin 2010 with these offerings of richly inspiring classes to begin your new year with peace, grace and wisdom to give you guidance and support throughout the coming year.

ACI Review Course XVIII - The Great Ideas of Buddhism - part III with Cliff Spencer, January 9th, 23rd and February 13th.

Bok Jiinpa IV - Setting Your Meditation on Fire with Lauren Benjamin, every Thursday beginning Jan 7th.

The Heart Sutra with Summer Moore, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Jan 16th and 17th.     

Dharma Free-For-All with ACI-LA Teachers, Jan 12th.

Guided Meditations with Rick Blue continues on Sunday evenings.

The following special Mahasukha yoga classes are offered this month along with the usual schedule of exceptional yoga classes provided each week.

YSI presents Tibetan Heart Yoga 4 Teacher Training with James Hall, January 27th - January 31st.

YSI presents Yoga Sutra Chapter 4 with Stephane Dreyfus and Jessica Kung, January 28th - 30th, February 1st - 3rd.

These 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:

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, just around the corner. (To see the full description, go to


This Month
A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
Darin's Digital Funhouse
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)

When to Aspire and When to Accept

As we have noted in past newsletters, the spiritual life can often seem confusing, replete with paradox and shot through with seemingly contradictory directives. One such perplexity that we have discussed previously is the tension between aspiration (working hard for change) and acceptance (affirming and surrendering to the realities we cannot change).

In November's issue of this newsletter, we argued that it's important to do both -- to work hard AND relax. But we didn't go on to think about when to do which, when to aspire and when to accept. How do we know when it's the right time to work hard and make progress toward attaining our goals, and when it's our best bet to stop making efforts and just "go with the flow"?

I think we can see this dichotomy in what are known in Buddhism as the two "wings" of the spiritual life - "method" (inclusive of both the moral restraint of ourselves and the selfless love for and compassion toward others) and "wisdom." Any authentic and effective spiritual path will have versions of both of these components, and any individual who hopes for success will need to include both in his or her practice. But upon analysis it seems as though the two are making very different demands of the practitioner. One asks us to work hard, and the other to relax.

The method side of things provides tools for self-improvement. It teaches us how to develop our morality, our love and compassion, as well as our mindfulness and ability to concentrate. We progress in our cultivation of these and other virtues in order to build up, little by little, what is called our "collection of merit" which eventually produces our physical appearance as a Buddha.

The wisdom constituent of a spiritual life relates to our understanding of the true nature of things - our realization of how things really are. We learn to recognize how things exist (they do exist inter dependently) and how they don't (they do not exist in dependently) in order to emerge from our all-encompassing delusion. On this side of things we overcome what are termed our "obstacles to omniscience" and accrue the "collection of wisdom" that will, at the time of enlightenment, bring us the mind of a Buddha.

While the two wings are certainly from one point of view complementary and mutually reinforcing, from another angle they require very different - even opposing - things of us. Method is motivated by the desire for things to be different than they are: we wish that our own and others' present suffering would come to an end.   Wisdom manifests when we stop being deceived about the true nature of things, when we acquiesce to the facts of life instead of unrealistically wishing that they be different.

Method concerns our aspirations; wisdom entails acceptance. Method is developed over time - we seek to become happier, kinder, better people ourselves, and we wish that others also become happy and no longer suffer. But wisdom is discovered in the here and now - we acknowledge and accept things the way they really are and give up our delusions based on how they seem to us or how we wish they might be. Method is about becoming - becoming different, better people and bringing about a different, better world over time. Wisdom is about being - being present fully, here and now, in the real world rather than inhabiting a dream-like (or, more often, nightmarish) mirage fueled by ignorance and denial.

The attributes developed on the method side of things - compassion, benevolence, altruism, mindfulness, etc. - are positive qualities that we generate and cultivate through training over a period of time. But because wisdom is simply matching our awareness to reality itself - because it is merely the correct apprehension of how things really are - it is not really something that needs to be developed. Wisdom appears when obscurations, distortions, and hallucinations are dispelled; wisdom arises when falsehood ceases.

Wisdom is not cultivated, it is realized . While such realization of the truth can be experienced with different intensities (ranging from a mild sort of intellectual suspicion to a deep, direct and life-changing existential event), at bottom wisdom is nothing other than the awareness of what always has been, is now, and always will be. For wisdom to manifest there is nothing to do, only things not to do. Wisdom comes about when there is a cessation of falsification . We stop mistaking our illusions for reality; we accept things the way they are instead of clinging to misconceptions and projecting our fantasies.  

We accept, for example, change and impermanence and cease to foist our chimeras of permanence and stability upon a world that will never validate or conform to them. Change will never change into changelessness no matter how much we wish it. Wisdom accepts and affirms the changing nature of things. It encourages us to relax into the uncertainty of change instead of trying to arrest it - and suffering as a result of this futile tilting at windmills.

Wisdom also requires acceptance of the fact that there are no essences to things or beings, very much including ourselves. Wisdom regarding the emptiness of selves is simply the correct identification of what is and has always been. There has never been a "self" to things or beings. Our idea that things have essences is a complete fantasy with no connection to the real world.

When we just stop the reverie and adjust our view to the reality of things, wisdom emerges naturally and without effort. There is nothing positive or constructive to do here; wisdom occurs when we stop defying reality and wake up from our self-imposed dream state.

Method, on the other hand, encourages us to never be complacent about the suffering of ourselves and others. As opposed to the fact that things are impermanent and have no essence, suffering can be changed. It is, in fact, because things are "empty" of permanence and self-nature that they can be changed. Method incites us to strive for and aspire to a changed and ultimately perfected state. And it is instigated and underwritten by the recognition that things and beings are changing, and therefore are changeable . The wisdom that entails the acceptance of the reality of change therefore makes possible the conviction that one's compassionate aspirations for the end of suffering are realizable and not just airy-fairy pipe dreams.

Things cannot be changed in the moment, however. Wisdom recognizes and accepts not only change but also the nature and laws of causality that guide change. One such law is that there is always a gap between the time of the cause and the time of the effect. And because of that gap we can't change the present in the present .  

The present is a perfect culmination of past causes. Once those causes have come to fruition, there's no point resisting or striving against the reality they have brought about. From the point of view of wisdom, there is no sane alternative other than to just relax and accept that which you cannot change - i.e., the ever-changing present.

But the method side of our practice motivates us to aspire to change the things that we can change - i.e., the future. The present may be the perfect effect of past causes, but it also repositions as the cause of future effects. What we do in our present won't change the present but it certainly determines the future.

Wisdom calls upon us to accept what we cannot change. We can't change change no matter how hard we try, and we can't change the present in the present no matter how dissatisfied we are with it. There's no point in any strategy other than acceptance in these cases. But if the future is in our hands every moment, then it also makes no sense to be anything other than diligent in creating the causes and conditions for a more agreeable time to come. The latter suggests it's best to work hard, the former encourages us to relax.

And to just give the wheel one last spin: One of the best ways to create better karma and work to fulfill one's aspirations for an improved future is to begin by embracing the present, as it is. Being upset about what one can't change cannot but be sowing negative seeds for the future. Unhappiness about the present - wishing that things that cannot be changed instantaneously were different than the way they are - tends to be continually self-replicating and never-ending. Contentment, on the other hand, arises only when discontentment ends, when one accepts the here and now.

Aspiring to total acceptance may turn out to be the highest aspiration one can cultivate.

With all good wishes,




ACI LA Newsletter


Fourth Annual Thanksgiving Group Retreat: "Blissful Path to Bliss" 2009 - South Lake Tahoe

For me, there is simply no better way to spend Thanksgiving than by silently cultivating gratitude amongst the trees, lake and snow of idyllic Lake Tahoe . For four introspective and highly rewarding days that is just what I did, along with scores of other angel-beings from the ever-expanding network of ACI sanghas around the country. As skillfully and humorously as ever, our dear Lama Marut guided us along the steps of the path - joyfully exploring the seemingly endless nooks and crannies of the Lam Rim.  As a perfect compliment to the teachings, each morning we also enjoyed the highest caliber of Tibetan Heart Yoga classes as well as awe-inspiring guided meditations.  And as if this were not enough, the new venue - Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center - offered warmth, comfort, and delicious vegetarian meals that made "blissful" the only appropriate adjective to use. This retreat weekend was truly a miraculous experience, culminated by a vows ceremony so inspiring it brought tears to my eyes.  I feel so fortunate to have shared in all this love, joy, enthusiasm and wisdom.  This is truly what Thanksgiving is all about.  Thank you Lama Marut.  Please keep teaching. Please keep teaching. Please keep teaching.

Thanks to Joshua Stern




A year of

Letting go
And holding on

To quiet breaths

Tiny smiles
In millions

Mischievous twinkles
In eyes of mothers
Expected and unexpected

No death through
No life

Grasping un-grasping
Through sudden insights
That took
Of lifetimes
To birth

That is because
It isn't





Check out this lovely article on silence from Ode magazine. The photograph of the snowflake is not to be missed.

Thanks to Tere Abdala-Romano




"Our life is the spelling of an answer."
Rabbi Abraham Heschel

Thanks to Denice Bartels

"If beings knew, as I know, the results of sharing gifts, they would not enjoy their gifts without sharing them with others, nor would the taint of stinginess obsess the heart and stay there. Even if it were their last and final bit of food, they would not enjoy its use without sharing it, if there were anyone to receive it"

Atisha Itivuttaka 18

"At the moment of waking up,
before getting out of bed,
get in touch with your breath,
feel the various sensations in your body,
note any thoughts and feelings that may be present,
let mindfulness touch this moment,
Can you feel your breath?
Can you perceive the dawning of each in breath?
Can you enjoy the feeling of the breath freely
entering your body in this moment?
"Breathe in I smile,
breathe out I calm my body,
dwelling in the present moment,
it is a wonderful moment."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Do not speak- unless it improves on silence.





Encounters at the End of the World

A film by Werner Herzog ; the description sounds dark, but, filmically it's stunning under ice and water scenes, explorations and descriptions ask us to see the world in ways we may not have contemplated. It is an astounding look at the world's most inhospitable landscape, the South Pole.

And one for children:

Jane and the Dragon

The drawn quality of animation is wonderful.  The moral and ethical tales of a young girl's quest to become a knight and her relationship with her best pal the dragon are important stories about growing up and address contemporary issues as well, including gender and personal responsibility. I recommend it for children; and bet that parents would enjoy watching it with them! Results of a Google search included video of how the animation is created, something of interest to artists in our midsts perhaps.

Both submitted by Denice Bartels




Barbara Kingsolver's 'The Poisonwood Bible' told by a young American girl living with her family in Congo. [I'd been through the area she wrote about and hoped she could capture the spirit, smells and sounds of the place and its people. She described it all and down to the squish of mud under one's feet.] Her characters face moral and ethical dilemmas in stories in which she weaves her knowledge of flora and fauna, history and coming of age.

Thanks to Denice Bartels


Darrin's Digital Funhouse


Visit the Live Video page on the ACI-LA site to see all the current and archived broadcasts on Ustream.TV.

Email Darin 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 Just create a profile at (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!


ACI LA Newsletter

Dharma Website of the Month

JustGive makes it quick and convenient to find and donate to a particular cause or charity through their complete database of nearly 1.5 million charities. 

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:

"Giving Yourself a Different Backstory," "Guided Meditation on the Teachers in our Lives," "We're Stuck with Causality."

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:

SPECIAL TEACHINGS - by donation except where noted bellow

Tuesday, January 12th 7:30-9:30pm

Saturday and Sunday, January 16 and 17, Time TBA
THE HEART SUTRA, with Summer Moore
Contact: Summer Moore

Wednesday-Sunday January 27th - January 31st 12-5pm,
Cost: $250 early registration for the whole weekend by Jan. 13.
         $275 after Jan 13.
         $35 per class drop-in rate.
Contact: Rebecca Stanley:
See flier for details!

Monday-Wednesday January 28th - 30th, February 1st - 3rd, 7-10pm
YSI presents YOGA SUTRA CHAPTER 4, with Stephane Dreyfus and Jessica Kung
Cost:$250 early registration for the whole weekend by Jan. 14.
        $275 after Jan 15.
        $35 per class drop-in rate.
Contact: Rebecca Stanley:
See flier for details!

DHARMA - by donation only

Mondays, 7:30-9:30pm
ACI VIII: Death and the Realms of Existence With Cliff Spencer

Saturdays, January 9, 23 and February 13 1:00-3:00pm and 3:30-5:30pm
ACI REVIEW COURSE VI: The Great Ideas of Buddhism, Part III, with Cliff Spencer

Thursdays, beginning January 7th 7:30-9:30

MEDITATION - by donation only

Sundays, 6:30-8:30pm
Guided Meditation, with Rick Blue

YOGA - suggested donations are listed. 

No one will be turned away for lack of funds
For details go to (link to)
Please contact (link to)

Mondays   6-7pm
All Levels, with Jessica Larsen/ Rebecca Stanley
Suggested donation: $10

Wednesdays 6-7pm
Beginners, with Sarah Canfield
Suggested donation:  $10

Wednesdays 7:30-9pm
All Levels, with Sarah Canfield
Suggested donation: $10

Friday January 8th, 15th, and 22nd 12-1pm
All Levels, with Sarah Canfield
Suggested donation: $10

Saturdays 9:15-10:15am
Beginners, with Sarah Canfield
Suggested donation:  $10

Saturdays 10:30am-12pm
All Levels, with Sarah Canfield
Suggested donation: $10

Sundays 2-3:30pm
All Levels, with Rebecca Stanley
Suggested donation: $10



ow You Can Help

Help the Mahasukha Kula Great Retreat Fund

Please check out the dharma related items for sale at CafePress!!!
All profits go directly into the retreat fund:

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. Catherine Eaton produces the newsletters and would joyfully appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to Catherine at by the 20th of the month.