The Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 3, 2002


In This Issue

1. Book Review- Journey to Heavenly Mountain
2. Haiku poetry and Microsoft
3. The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies
4. Train to be an End-of-Life Counselor
5. Ruins being renovated
6. The Dharma Samtana



* Living a Monk's Life at Chinese Temples in a Quest to Expand the Soul

JOURNEY TO HEAVENLY MOUNTAIN: An American's Pilgrimage to the Heart of Buddhism in Modern China; By Jay Martin; Hohm Press: 244 pp., $16.95 paper


Mike Meyer is a writer at work on a memoir of his travels through the Middle Kingdom.

June 22 2002
Daytime visitors to China's Buddhist temples often walk away feeling
anything but spiritually cleansed. Fleeced is more like it. The nation's
ancient religious tradition, the Communist Party's official atheism and a
burgeoning market economy have produced a wealth of restored temples that are at once revered, rebuked and revenue-generating.

At night, however, Chinese temples become themselves again, or at least the best version of themselves that they can. After the tour buses depart and the stall-holders pack up, the smell of incense overpowers that of cash; tranquillity replaces bustle.

It took me years of living in China to realize that temples should be seen
on overnight visits--that they are still religious sanctuaries, not museums
and fun fairs. Jay Martin is a much quicker study. In 1998, the Claremont
McKenna College professor embarked on a summer-long stay in southeastern China's temples, a bit of spiritual tourism documented in "Journey to Heavenly Mountain." Unlike most recent books about China, "Journey" is neither a travelogue nor memoir of the country's rapid economic evolution, but of its spiritual one. "I haven't come to look at [China], but to be a part of it," he writes.

Yet the people and places Martin encounters and describes so precisely--from venerable masters on mist-shrouded mountains to island-bound, angelic tour guides and devilish boatmen--are only part of the tale. "Journey" is about Martin's own quest to expand his soul by merging into the breaths of the multitudes around him--including those who turn temples into tourist traps.

At his first stop, at Lingyin, the Temple of Inspired Seclusion, he is
momentarily taken aback by what feels like Disneyland mixed with Notre Dame.

A travel writer would stop the account there. Yet Martin is after more than
a description, a simile and segue to the next adventure.

"I could easily be cynical about Lingyin," he admits. "But actually being
plunged into it without preparation and premeditation makes me see that I myself, and all of us, are put together in the same way--a bit of commerce here, some shallow pleasures there, old memories, new desires, new landscapes along with ancient plantings, and all fused with an authentic heart and a sacred soul--we are made of such assemblages. I came to China to live in Buddhist monasteries and revisit my soul. But I see here, right at the outset, that my quest is much more complicated than I thought.... I realize that if I am to find myself at all, it must be in the multitudes and varieties that I possess, the shallow along with the deep, and my very human, superficial desires along with my yearning for a bottomless divinity."

Martin ensconces himself in the life of a monk, taking residence in temples
for two months, rising at 3 in the morning to pray. "I am content. Warm,
drawn in, bowing and kneeling, following the group. The chanting begins, I am a Buddhist now. Then it is over. But--of course--not over, since it will
resume tomorrow and never end until the world does. And if the Buddhists are right, the world will never end."

The monks accept him as part of the community. That Martin is an American matters none; some monks aver that he lived at the temple in a past life and came back. Nor does it matter that the order's newest monk is Catholic. A colleague reasons, "Catholics are on their way to becoming Buddhists. You are just a little bit ahead of other Catholics in the journey."

Buddhism, an abbot explains, holds that to reach the Buddha inside
ourselves, we must enlarge our kind heart by cleansing ourselves of desires. Martin asks what desire is most difficult to give up.

"Beauty, the beauty of women," replies the 71-year-old monk.
Another abbot confesses that his greatest desire is his computer, which he uses to download the spiritual precepts called sutras.

"The desire to possess the attractions of society," says another. Others say it's the desire to understand quickly and the wish to rise above people. For Martin, the question vexes him. How can he read a book, for instance, without desiring to read?

By the end of "Journey to Heavenly Mountain," Martin realizes that his
deepest desire is the same one which drives the reader to turn the page: to find out more. Yet he has no intention of giving it up, for he concludes
that "desires are inseparably woven into the mottled tapestry of life." And
the soul was not what he thought it was, nor is China some enormous
refueling stop where one can top off the spiritual tank merely by pulling in
and opening one's wallet: "A talk with a tree can bring as fine a vision as
an expensive journey to consult the wisest man in the farthest reaches of
the universe."

Like the earthworm with which he boasts conversing on a forest walk, Martin burrows deeper and more expansively than the creature's form suggests. The worm doesn't get to respond, but the dozens of Chinese that the author meets do. It is these touching encounters that teach him, and us, the most about the soul; and they make "Journey to Heavenly Mountain" a rare, refreshing temple trip.

2. A Haiku Error Message

* In Japan, they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with Haiku poetry messages. Haiku poetry has strict construction rules - each poem has only 17 syllables; 5 syllables in the first, 7 in the second, 5 in the third. They are used to communicate a timeless message, often achieving a wistful, yearning and powerful insight through extreme brevity. Here are 15 actual error messages from Japan that are the essence of Zen:


Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.


The Web site you seek
Cannot be located,
but Countless more exist.


Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.


Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.


Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.


Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.


First snow, then silence.
This thousand-dollar screen dies
So beautifully.


With searching comes loss
And the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.


The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao-
until You bring fresh toner.


Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.


A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.


Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.


You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.


Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.


Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.


3. Society of Buddhist- Christian Studies

* The Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies has picked its theme, location, and date for our 7th International Conference--WHEN: AUGUST 6-10, 2004 WHERE: LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY, LOS ANGELES, U.S.A. THEME: HEAR THE CRIES OF THE WORLD: BUDDHISM AND CHRISTIANITY IN DIALOGUE

4. End of Life Counselors

* Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It’s my great pleasure to announce the second year of our innovative program to train End-of-Life Counselors. Your assistance in helping to identify appropriate candidates would be deeply appreciated. The one-year End-of-Life Counselor Training is designed to provide individual practitioners with the essential clinical competencies, counseling skills, and spiritual training to function as contemporary "midwives to the dying." The ultimate intent is to train and establish a national network of counselors who can provide education, advocacy, and spiritual guidance to individuals facing life-threatening illnesses, their family/friends, and/or the systems that serve them.

The End-of-Life Counselor Training presents a new paradigm in care of the dying to help address a growing need in our culture. With the diagnosis of life-threatening illness most individuals and their family/friends are confronted with complex care decisions, difficult psycho-social issues, and some form of spiritual crisis. They often feel overwhelmed and unprepared. While there are now numerous options for end of life care and support, negotiating the maze of services and choices is enormously challenging.

Access to a knowledgeable and skilled practitioner who can assist one
through this new, uncertain time and territory would be a great asset. The End-of-Life Counselor is well informed and can educate about the existing services and options without being restricted by a single model. As an advocate the End-of-Life Counselor assists the client(s) in determining how to best utilize services, support and relationships to meet their individual wishes near the end of life. As a skillful guide the End-of-Life Counselor can accompany, counsel, and explore—reaffirming the spiritual dimensions of dying.

The program offers the opportunity to study with outstanding leaders
offering unique perspectives including:

Ram Dass, Author, Spiritual Leader,
Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen: Author, Co-Founder & Medical Director, Commonweal Cancer Help Program,
Dr. Charlie Garfield: Author, Founder, Shanti Project,
Frank Ostaseski, Founder & Guiding Teacher, Zen Hospice Project,
Zoketsu Norman Fischer, Author and former Abbot, SF Zen Center,
Angeles Arrien, Author & Anthropologist,
Ange Stephens, Marriage and Family Therapist,
Rabbi Alan Lew, Author, Spiritual Leader, and
Dr. Frances Vaughan, Psychologist, Author.

The deadline for applications is September 30, 2002; we will accept only 35 candidates.

This is an exceptional opportunity for the right individual. Several
organizations have sponsored staff members during the first year of the
program. This has allowed them to serve their clients in a deeper fashion
and offer new services, as well as passing on the richness of the training
through staff development.

Please share this email with your students, colleagues, and friends who also might be interested in applying for the training. The full information and a downloadable application is available on our web site.


If you would like us to mail you brochures or promotional posters simply
reply to this email with your address and we will get them right to you.


Frank Ostaseski
Founder Zen Hospice Project

5. Buddhist Ruins

* Orissa Buddhist ruins being renovated to attract tourists

Bhubaneswar, June 30 (ANI):

Tourism Minister Jagmohan on Saturday visited the 2,200-year old ruins of a Buddhist site in Orissa.

The 3rd century BC ruins at Ratnagiri, Udayagiri, Lalitgiri, located on
three hills of the Assia range about 90 kilometers northeast of state
capital Bhubaneswar, are regarded as the earliest Buddhist monastic complex. Chinese traveller Hiuen T'sang found it to be the seat of a flourishing Buddhist university called Puspagiri.

The Buddhist Stupa or pillar at Lalitgiri and extensive ruins of brick
Pagodas, sculptured stone portals and esoteric Buddhist images at this site are now being renovated and restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. Spelling out a programme to develop the complex as a major tourist site, Jagmohan said: "We have worked out a scheme and our broad view will be to keep the monuments in all absolute glory. And then around it at a distance of at least about a kilometre there should be no structure around it and we will only landscape that area. And at the point where there is some sort of a structure of Yatri Niwas (guest houses run by the Tourism Department), all human activity will be concentrated at that point.. where some sort of tourist cottages will be built."

The rock edicts, pillars and Stupas at the complex are believed to have been built soon after the bloody Kalinga War of 261 BC by Emperor Ashoka who later converted to Buddhism.

6. The Dharma Samtana

* by Clive Sherlock

The Middle Way (Volume 72: 3) November 1997

Once we have settled into the practice, how we function as human beings
becomes apparent, and so we start to get to know ourselves. There is a
continuing stream of thought-moments, each one giving way to the next. These moments of consciousness are called dharmas, elements of consciousness, and their flow is likened to the flow of a stream called the dharma-samtana (samtana meaning stream, flow).

With awareness we can be here with what is: silence . . . an aeroplane flies overhead . . . somebody sneezes . . . a thought arises . . . silence . . .

The flow of moments of consciousness is always present without a break but we are not always aware of this. Every moment of consciousness is a dharma arising, coming to be, evolving, decaying, and ceasing to be, as the next one arises, evolves and ceases to be, and so on, giving rise to a stream that is always changing, in flux, impermanent. The contents of the stream, which constitute consciousness, are peculiar to each of us because what occurs inside is different in each of us. The Buddha said that all compounded things are constantly changing; that there is no " I ", no self, that remains constant. But it seems to us that there is, that I am constant while the phenomena of the world about me change. Consciousness is an ever changing series of reflections of images of the outer and inner worlds. What makes up consciousness from moment to moment is a series of dharmas which include thoughts, ideas, mental images, sense impressions, awareness and so on. We can see a tree and be aware - know we are seeing a tree - or we can see a tree and not be aware - not know we are seeing a tree.

The purpose of Buddhist practice is to discover life by living it in conscious awareness - not speculating about it and so living it unawares. The way that leads to this conscious awareness involves paying careful attention to what is being done now. Attentive awareness is often translated as mindfulness, which has the sense of (my) watching, whereas the meaning in Buddhism is not personal to me, " I ", as an agent doing the watching. It is just awareness and does not involve, or need, a doer: awareness " is ".

Life cannot be realized through conceptual thought, although most of us like to think it can and have firmly held beliefs about this. We habitually cling to what we like and reject what we do not like and so cannot live life freely as it is: pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent. For example, listening to what is being said now, the talk dominates the flow of dharmas. But one person might not be listening because he is thinking of how he liked that last point and all the implications of it; another is daydreaming; another thinking about what he is going to do this afternoon; and yet another of what he disagrees with. All such thoughts depend on the balance of forces, dharmas, within us.

As what is heard comes in, it is interpreted, assessed, criticized and
judged according to our individual make-up. We might say, " Yes, I agree
with that, it makes sense. " Or we might say, " I'm m not sure about that ". In fact, I disagree with it. " It is a matter of whether what is heard matches our existing ideas and, if not, what other factors (such as the desire to change or to follow the Buddha's Path), which are also dharmas, influence us in accepting what is heard or rejecting it and sticking to our own ideas. This illustrates how dharmas as forces influence each other and so mould us, affecting what we do and so our lives generally.

The stream of consciousness, dharma-samtana, is changing all the time as we see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think. The dharma elements flow like a stream which is forever evolving as other influences shape it and alter its direction. The dharmas in each stream can affect those in other streams in this individual, thus changing his or her make-up, and also the dharmas in other individuals, thus influencing them. Thoughts, sensations and emotions arise due to causes, the most significant of which are the effects of past actions. These effects manifest now because of present conditions. Having arisen, dharmas exert their influence by conditioning those dharmas arising in their wake in the next moment in the flow. Each dharma has been influenced and shaped by its predecessor. In this way what is put into the stream now has effects in the future and is the basis of karma.

By no means are we aware of all dharmas but they nevertheless exert their influences. Having been to the Summer School we might find that in a few weeks something reminds us of what was heard here. This in turn might influence our reactions, which will therefore have changed because of what entered the dharma-samtana, the stream of dharmas, earlier. In this way, the effects of practising the Buddha-dharma now will come into play weeks, or even years, later depending on the situation. Life is always changing, always projecting into the future and becoming. How we react to what comes in through the senses will set in motion new streams of dharmas.