Dharma Glimpses are short dharma teachings from Bright Dawn Lay Ministers.
Here are some podcasts from Bright Dawn Way of Oneness podcast page.
And here are some more Dharma Glimpses in written format on our Bright Dawn Blog.
Dharma Glimpses are short dharma teachings from Bright Dawn Lay Ministers.
Here are some podcasts from Bright Dawn Way of Oneness podcast page.
And here are some more Dharma Glimpses in written format on our Bright Dawn Blog.
Check out our the new Bright Dawn Lay Minister blog to get your weekly dose of dharma.
Though the title is trite, what I want to say is not. Since what happened this weekend in Charlottesville Virginia, I have been thinking of the young woman who was murdered standing up against hatred. Personally I think there should be more coverage of her. Do you know her name? What do you know about her? I am ashamed that I know more about what the president didn’t say then about her. I want to stand up against hate because of what happened to her, not because of what the president did or did not say. She is a victim of home grown terrorism and the manifestation of hatred here at home. Our hearts and compassion go out to her friends and family and to the other victims harmed that day. We stand untied with them. I want to share something with you that I wrote earlier about this event.
Today I have been seeing a lot of fury filled posts and posts with the popular meme of Punching a Nazi, meme’s for your page and T Shirts if you want. I can understand why after this weekend. Punching a Nazi meme has been popular for a while among some of my more “progressive” friends and seems so tame considering what happened.
It is at times like this, overwhelmed with the horror of events like what happened in Charlottesville, that we need to be mindful. No matter how good it would feel, personally right now, to punch a Nazi…I would not nor would I tell another to punch a Nazi. This is not a skillful response to hatred. That doesn’t mean we don’t put our very bodies on the line to protect our brothers and sisters. We will.
The Buddha taught that hate cannot overcome hate. That doesn’t mean we can’t be angry. Anger in the face of injustice can motivate us to action. But what kind of action? Punching Nazis, spitting in their faces, spraying pepper spray at them is not skillful action and it can lead us to swallow the same poison of blind hatred. It is important to know anger and hatred are not the same. Melvin McLeod has taught that, “Anger is the power to say no. This is our natural reaction whenever we see someone suffer—we want to stop it.” We can and must stand up to the poison of hatred in our society, and in ourselves. Is our anger the kind of “wise anger” that motivates us our of love for our brother and sisters or is it the passionate volatile anger that does not come from love but from our own fear and suffering? Can we recognize this reality in ourselves? Do we know the difference?
The Buddha taught that “Hatred ceases by love”. It would be naïve to think the Buddha was teaching that by simply loving a Nazi you’re going to transform them.(though it can). But on a larger scale, hatred fuels hatred regardless if it is righteous or not. It is true though that in time only love can remove the fuel from the fire. Punching a Nazi only adds fuel to the fire, Even if you shut him or her up it doesn’t change anything, they will rise again more convinced of the righteousness of their hatred.
We see now see the attempt to use a moral equivalence by the President and the “Right” media machine to somehow diminish their complicity in sowing seeds of hatred and fear for short term political and financial gain. There is no such moral equivalency. Period.
At the same time some progressives on the left are allowing themselves to be co-opted by the right with their “Antifa” aggression and hatred. I understand this being of Jewish ancestry and being human. But trying to shut down free speech and taunting the haters only feeding the beast they are trying to slay with “righteous anger” and indignation.
In our fellowship we follow the saying, “Do no harm but take no shit.” Let us help one another in our practice of compassionate yet bold action to say “NO” to suffering and social injustice and to manifest “wise anger” in our efforts to effect change.
Kakuyo Leibow Sensei.
The cause of all pain and suffering is ignorance.
I have been thinking of this lately. About how many of us suffer but we do not know why we suffer, we are ignorant to the real causes and conditions of our suffering. I have also been thinking of a different kind of ignorance. It’s funny the things that bring other things more in focus. It was the simple reflection on the sound of the word itself. Mouthing out the word slow, by its syllables, I realized a simple thing, the word Ignore is at the heart of ignorance.
The word ignorance in English is passive, “a lack of knowledge, information or experience.” This kind of ignorance refers more to how we don’t realize our reality is not reality, or that there is no abiding self. We are ignorant to the inherent emptiness of all things. This kind of ignorance can be as simple as never having heard of the Four Ennobling truths, or a guy name Siddhartha. But the ignorance I have been thinking of the more active form which takes its energy from the verb; to ignore. This is different from the other ignorance since this ignorance is not passive. One who ignores is one who, “refuse to take notice of or acknowledge; to disregard intentionally.” This active ignorance is different from cultivating a not knowing mindset, which can be a powerful practice of freeing ourselves of fixed ideas. It is a kind of active, ego preserving ignorance that I have been thinking about. I was thinking of this because of something I read recently in a book titled, Awakening from the Daydream by David Nichtern, a book about the Buddhist Wheel of life.
In the Buddhist Wheel of life there are the six realms of existence at the hub of the wheel is ignorance; both passive and active. The more active ignorance is the core aspect, the core mindset found in the Animal realm. As Chogyam Trungpa’s writes, “The animal realm is associated wit stupidity: that is preferring to play deaf and dumb, preferring to follow the rules of available games rather than re-define them. ” Here we are “ignore” information that would require us to change. We do that alot. Trungpa goes on to say, [we] completely ignore such possibilities. If somebody attacks you or challenges your clumsiness, your unskilled way of handling a situation, you find a way of justifying yourself, find rational to keep your self-respect. You are not concerned with being truthful as long as your deception can be maintained in front of others.
This is an active ignorance. But this type of cultivation doesn’t just happen in the animal realm of being but, according to Nichtern, is also found in the other realms, especially when looked at through the lens of our everyday experience. How does ignorance play out even when we find ourselves in what could be considered one of the god realms? Let’s look at it from an everyday mindset perspective.
For us Westerners, it could be said we live in both of the god realms, we are dancing between them from moment to moment, generation to generation. Most of the things we want we can go to the story a select from 12 different kinds and get immediate satisfaction. We live at a level of wealth and prosperity that most of the world can only dream of. We consider all of this not a gift but a “right”, I have earned this. Traditionally, those in the god realm find themselves there because of good karma and from a small perspective we could think that they have “earned” the right to be there. We do that. Many Americans see our country, or “way of life” as proof of our social virtue, as if we are somehow special and “exceptional” and deserve our prosperity. And that is not just socially constructed but has seeped into religious thinking, think of the popularity of the “gospel of prosperity” taught in some churches. Far from the homeless, communalist, and agitator that was Jesus.
Being in a god realm frame of mind, we like it, we want to stay in it, we want to freely enjoy it, we don’t want to think of consequences, or it ending, of how it affects others, etc. As Nichtern writes,
“we have to cultivate a certain kind of ignorance, actively ignoring any aspect of our experience that is unsettling or disruptive in mood. “
This is very true when we are faced with our impact on the planet as westerners. It is also true that the cost has been more felt by the poorer nations where we get the raw materials from. Those is the god realm mindset, “cultivate ignorance” by denying global warming, by buying cheap products and ignore the fact that they are produced by child labor or that the children making our jeans work in dangerous and toxic environments. This is also true in the Jealous god realm mindset, where we want what the ‘gods of finance” have and we don’t care if we have to get rich on the backs of others so we can live the high life, live in the realm of the gods above us. We cultivate an ignorance of the other and the suffering, anything that can get in our way of achievement. Maybe the election of 2016 was symptom of living in the jealous god realm too long. Some forms of Ignorance are not passive but active. We want we have and don’t want to lose it. That being said, how are you in your own life cultivating ignorance? I think in a real way, the reason we are trapped in the endless wandering of samsara is because we are continually cultivating the opposite of awareness. Each time we turn aways from the teachings that sing to us everyday, when we refuse to see ourselves reflected in the faces of others, when we refuse to open up, or accept things as they are, when we feed every self-justification and machination to get or keep that insubstantial thing that is desperately hoped will give final satisfaction and security, we cultivate ignorance and perpetuate our suffering.
As I look at my life, I realize how much I have cultivated ignorance. I have ignored things that looked me straight in face, and were so close I could feel their breath on my skin…a failing marriage, smoking, a drinking problem, childhood wounding, the fact that what I was doing was re-wounding myself and others. This was true when I spent days or years in the mindset of the Animal realm, I chose not to see but to seek after the distraction of sex or alcohol. Sometimes I think my television watching and Facebook scrolling is how I still cultivate ignorance. Doing so has only given me a first class ticket to spend sometime in the arid environs of the Hungry Ghost realm, or subway ticket to the cold and hot Hell realms of the world’s injustice perpetrated against me. Even with all the Buddhas that were always there waiting for me, I chose darkness over light, I cultivated ignorance, gloried in it. But the compassionate light of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas found me. It was the clanking of the six ringed staff (representing the six realms) of Jizo that finally woke me up. …. and still, at times I find myself cultivating ignorance. I don’t want to do this anymore. As Dogen taught, I am going to seek to know myself to forget myself to be awakened by a myriad of things.
Now my aspiration, my vow is to be like Haya Akegarasu, to dispel ignorance by heeding what he wrote in Shout of Buddha,
“Don’t pass by things you don’t understand as though you didn’t see them at all…. want to see everything.. want to see through the bottom of things,…want to touch everything, to taste everything, to transcend, to enlighten, to embrace everything.”
Yes! I want to embrace everything. Let us free ourselves of ignorance by opening our eyes, our minds and our hearts to everything, having the courage to look into the heart of life, to look into the darkness, to look into the light and not turn away from any of it, to no longer cultivate ignorance and by not doing so wake up.
Lately I have been thinking of all the out of work Bodhisattvas wandering around smiling with signs saying, “ Will Gladly Share Merit” as people shuffle by with their heads down, some saying, “No thanks, I don’t need any.” Others just pointing at the goody two shoes, laughing at them, “them bleeding heart liberals” they say, “You gotta earn your own merit boy”, while they walk around dissatisfied, and hollow, singing, “ I built this! I built this!” scratching their heads because they still feel so unsatisfied.
I think I have always been attracted to the idea of a Bodhisattva. I appreciate the traditional concept of the vow taking and the rebirth back to everyday life, the suprahuman powers to take on a myriad of forms to guide us, help us, teach us and sometimes even pull us begrudgingly toward awakening and always willing to share with us the merit of their compassion. I also appreciate the more expansive everyday conception of the Bodhisattva as expressed by Taitesu Unno when he writes that the Bodhisattva can be, “anyone who meets the challenge and provides care for the needy…whether that person knows anything about Buddhism or not.”
In the more traditional Mahayana Buddhist view point there is the idea that our positive deeds, acts or thoughts generate a sort of spiritual energy or power that can be accumulated. This concept is fundamental to the idea of Karma and Buddhist ethics. This view extends to the idea that the merit that is generated by our skillful actions can be shared with other beings. In the early Theravada, it was with deceased relatives. In the Mahayana that was expanded to all beings. The Bodhisattva “shares” his merit with all sentient beings to help them toward enlightenment. Taking to its logical conclusion we see the life and career of Dharmakara Bodhisattva who becomes Amida Buddha. In the more expansive and less religious definitions, also seen in the writings of Gyomay Kubose and Thich Nhat Hahn, the more mundane merit generated by these Bodhisattvas can come in very concrete and everyday ways. Something simple as a hand up, a listen and a place to be safe. Both kinds of Bodhisattvas can be recognized by their practice of Ksanti, their practice of patience, patience with us and our struggle to receive their help. Patient and out of work until we accept their gifts. The awakened Bodhisattva knows as Sunada Takagi has written that life is, “as much about graciously receiving as it is about giving”.
The practice of receiving, let alone even asking for help is challenging for many of us. The first time I really, open heartedly asked and accepted help wasn’t until I was in my late 40’! All those Bodhisattvas in my life offering their merit and their compassion and me walking past them, sometimes with my head down, other times mocking them. In my delusional thinking I believed that to need help was to be weak and to be weak was to be unlovable.
I think at this point it is important to realize that receiving is different than taking. We take food, love, money all the time. The difference between the two is that when we take, our small-Self is saying, “ I earned this!” When we get love from our wife or our children, when we get kudos at work, when we eat a lovely meal, we aren’t receiving the love, acknowledgement or food; we see ourselves as earning it. We take it because it is ours. A similar strain of this construct is when we see ourselves as unworthy to receive anything. This can manifest as self-doubt and shame. In both strains we are stuck in seeing giving and receiving as economic exchanges but how could it be any other way? I was never taught how to receive. How about you? Most of us have been taught that it is better to give than to receive but how can that be since to give you need to have someone to receive? Proportionally it doesn’t add up.
Truly receiving is something different from taking. There is an inherent humility. There is an openness of heart, an acknowledgement of our interdependence and an awareness of our dependence on a myriad of things. Receiving is a place of openness and courage in that it implies a vulnerability; we may ask for something in that open space and not get it. Yet in realizing our lack of control, our inability to fix love, joy and peace in place by somehow earning them, those very things arise naturally. Everything I receive is a gift, a gift to me and a gift to the give. An ever expanding circle of giving, where in the end there is no giver, no receiver and no gift. A gift is not something earned and the “merit” offered by all the Bodhisattvas is a gift of love of boundless compassion as they watch on in our attempt to control the world. When we insist on ‘earning our keep” and we do not receive the gift , we miss out on the boundlessness of grace that is offered us by everything and by all of our patient Bodhisattvas waiting for us. I try to remember that even in the Dharma, what we receive from the teachings is so much greater, exponentially greater, than anything we put into the teachings.
In a previous paper I wrote about the Way of the Nembutsu is the path of gratitude. Before the path can open up there is the receiving; receiving the teachings and the compassion of the Buddhas and for us Pure Land leaning practitioners, receiving and entrusting in the compassion offered by Amida Buddha manifest in the formless form of his Pure Land. For me the Way of the Nembutsu is the path of receiving the grace of Amida and all the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, of setting aside calculations, schemes and dualistic and conceptual thinking, of sitting and chanting in an awareness of the abundance of the Buddhas and the Dharma and the Sangha. I challenge myself and you to make room in ourselves to receive, to receive the abundance the Buddhas have to offer us.
When we turn toward our Bodhisattva ready to receive, she turns around her sign and on the other side our no longer out of work Bodhisattva has written this line,
“The buddhas say come, come, and dance.”*
And we dance.
Read our latest newsletter by clicking on the Buddha.
Featuring: An essay by Jennifer Munson on finding her way to the Salt Lake Buddhist Fellowship. Elesha Morris gives us a guided meditation for grounding and gratitude, Myoshin looks at writing haiku as Buddhist practice, plus Buddhist spoken word, and teachings from Koyo Kubose.
There was a beautiful discussion on our Facebook feed with great tenderness and concern. It is an example of spiritual friendships and on how to deal with what happened in Orlando and I wanted to reiterate what was shared and make a formal statement on behalf of our community as our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy. The Buddha taught that the world is suffering, and wherever their is greed, delusion and hatred there will be suffering. Our practice is not separate from samsara but in the midst of it. I love this story of Kwan Yin, seeing and hearing the endless suffering in the world, “she became so disheartened that…Her body shattered in great agitation and despair. Despite this, She did not just give up — Her consciousness called to the Buddhas for help. Of the Buddhas who came to aid her, one was Amitabha Buddha, who became her teacher and Buddha. With the Buddha’s Great compassion, she attained a new form — one with a thousand helping hands of Compassion coupled with the eyes of Wisdom in each palm. With this, she renewed her vow to saving not just limited sentient beings, but all sentient beings.” It doesn’t matter if this is a myth or not what matters is it tells us to seek support from spiritual friends, and from the Great Compassion, that is available and never stop our practice. While we can deplore the actions and the behavior, it is important to remember and sit with the suffering of all involved including the person who committed the atrocity. This in no way excuses the behavior and isn’t meant to minimize the suffering of the people who lost their lives and the impact to those that loved them. Rather it can bring you to a place of healing and compassion. This is really hard to swallow at first and we can only do it when we’re ready.. Never give up, keep going.
“ This realization of oneness. It involves the highest type of communication and respect. IF your life is realized in the this sense…you would see that the whole world supports you. You exist because others; everything supports your life. This totality, this oneness evokes a gratitude and a great joy beyond explanation.” Gyomay Kubose
We live a life immersed in grace; the grace of being supported by all things at all times. We are supported by the solar system, by the sun that continually lights our world and drives the processes that help the earth to give us air to breath, water to drink and food to eat, that helps us to see, We are supported by the smallest things, to the largest. We are supported by microbes and bees that help create the food we eat, and by all the trees that help us breathe. The bees give us grace every day, the trees give us grace, and there is also the grace given by our ancestors down through long passages of time; so much grace given that is still within in us now. We are all interdependent and existent in this very moment. In the midst of our diversity and interdependence we can come to direct realization of Oneness and by doing so we can communicate our respect and gratitude for them, for all of life, for all the gifts which in oneness we have received and which are unmerited.
For me, namu amida butsu is an expression of this oneness and grace, an expression of Buddha-nature. The Oneness that Gyomay Sensei is writing about in the above quote, is for me personified as Amida Buddha. Because of Oneness I exist and therefore I exist because of namu amida butsu. This is how I understand the idea among some teachers, that the nembutsu is simply an expression of gratitude for all that Amida Buddha has done for us. My practice of chanting the nembutsu is a form of the highest form of communication and respect. Through this practice I cultivate a recognition / realization of Oneness, and all that Oneness does for me every day, and this brings forth the fruit and joy of gratitude.
This has tied into something that I have been thinking about and that is gratitude, gratitude as a form of awakening. A few years ago I had an experience in the midst of great suffering, where something shifted and I was overwhelmed with an intense gratitude for everything I had experienced and everyone I have ever known, even for just a moment. I spent hours going through my email list sending out heart felt thank yous to everyone on. I think even companies whose email list I was part of even got a thank you and I am sure a few who received the emails, shook their heads. I called friends, I reached out to as many as I could to share my gratitude for their very existence. In this space of gratitude, I wept and I laughed. It was confusing at first because of the amount of tears that fell. I remember thinking why am crying so hard? I am not sad so why am I crying? I realized that for me this is how deep and profound gratitude expresses itself. Later on, this experience also helped to me realize that for many years I had seen “love” as the highest emotion, the goal of religious practice. I have had experiences of profound love for all things, where I loved even the street sign that I was standing under, and yet that night I experienced something even more expansive and sublime than “love”; I experienced an unbounded gratitude. Writing this now and remembering what it was like, the lines from last week’s report are even more profound “ We should always be ready to die, able to say, “thank you for everything”. In some ways, that is what I experienced that night, the “thank you for everything” and remembering it helps me to understand what Gyomay Sensei was teaching.
I like what Jeff Wilson, a Jodo Shin minister has written, “in Shin Buddhism our main focus is the practice of gratitude. We practice simply to give thanks for what we have received. It’s a small shift in one’s perspective, but when pursued, it can be transformative.” This came home to me the other night when I was holding my little boy in my arms, he was cuddled against my chest and I was just feeling him breathe and thinking how much I loved him and I just repeated thank you, thank you, thank you and the love I was feeling already, expanded exponentially and was enfolded into an ever expanding gratitude. I think the cultivation of gratitude is an important practice because it acts as a catalyst that can expand positive states of consciousness. Cultivating gratitude, by recognizing and by expressing it, manifests more gratitude and deepens our awareness of Oneness.
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
Namu amida butsu
May it be so.
from a Blog post by Jaffe Cole
I have always wondered about this quote from the Pali Cannon, a famous quote by the Buddha, used by many a rugged american individualist, those mindfulness practicers that follow a more “up by your bootstraps” kind of Buddhism. I like the context in which Jaffe Cole puts the quote.
” A common cliche we often hear today is to follow nobody but yourself. We are our own gurus, our own masters. We don’t need teachers or anybody to show us the way. We are the Way!
This advice is often bolstered with this (in)famous quote from the Buddha:
Therefore, Ānanda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge…
Modern lingo pegs it as “Be your own refuge”. Or something like that. But let’s quote the whole text, which comes from the Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana Sutta:
Therefore, Ānanda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.
The Buddha actually advocates taking the dhamma as our refuge. The dhamma includes the sangha (and the Buddha), so rather than this quote pointing to a arrogant attitude of “I know what’s best for me”, it rather points to a modest accepting of the Triple Gem as the guiding light in our lives. The Buddha never intended for everybody to just go out and read a few books and then make up their own paths, which is what “spirituality” primarily consists of today.
Moreover, consider the context in which this sutta was spoken. Was he preaching to locals in a village? Was this shouted from the proverbial rooftops? Obviously not. He was speaking to his most advanced and dearest disciples, almost all of who were already arahants themselves. In other words, this is not advice that the Buddha would dish out to “worldlings” like us. He might tell us to take the dhamma as a refuge, but I can guarantee he would not tell us to be our own gurus and that we should follow whatever we “feel is right.”
We all follow somebody or something, whether we recognize it or not. We often overestimate our own spiritual attainments. A good sign to know if this is the case to ask yourself how well you’re doing spiritually. If you consider yourself advanced, this is an indication that the opposite is true. Almost none of the saints of any religion have considered themselves advanced. In fact, the contrary is true. Whether Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim — the great spiritual teachers had guides and followed the precepts of their religions until their ends. Furthermore, they were often disillusioned with their own lack of attainments, complaining of sins committed or hearts still unpurified.
We all follow something or somebody. If we think we’re beyond following, then this simply means that we’re following our own feelings and whims, which are unreliable, unstable, and prone to be manipulated by the world.
see original below.