Urban Dharma Weekly Newsletter... July 9, 2002


In This Issue:

1. Buddhism: Compassion, Wisdom are the keys to reality.
2. Indianapolis Mayor Issues World Tibet Day Proclamation
3. Book Review- One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism.
4. Freeware and Gifts of Dharma for "Mac" users.
5. Article- Thus I have Heard
6. Temple/Center of the Week: The Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara


1. Buddhism: Compassion, Wisdom are Keys to Reality- by Michael Kerze, Ph.D ...The Tidings... Friday, June 28, 2002

* Editor's note: With this column, The Tidings continues an ongoing series on other religions and their relationship to Catholicism today.

From the outside of a nondescript office building on Third Street near Western Avenue, a person would never imagine that inside are the enormous halls and huge statues of the Buddha of Kwan Um, a magnificent Korean Buddhist Temple.

I certainly did not know what to expect the morning I walked up the stairs into it for the first meeting of the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue. I was among 14 people, both Buddhist and Catholic, invited to form the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the Archdiocese and the Buddhist Sangha Council of Southern California. Thirteen years later the dialogue continues, considerably enriching the lives of its members and the relations between the two communities.

What is important, the Buddha taught, is to look at the human condition and the suffering in it, and work to alleviate it within ourselves and within others.

Over half a million Buddhists live in Southern California. Like the Korean Temple I walked into, Buddhist temples and centers are found throughout the region. Some are as large as Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights and some, like the International Buddhist Meditation Center, are a collection of houses near downtown Los Angeles.

Like me as I stood before the facade of the office building on Third, Catholics might not recognize that a wonderfully rich religious tradition flourishes behind the everyday appearances of the streets we drive down and the people we meet, work with, and live next to. What makes Buddhism so important?

Buddhism was founded in India by Siddhartha Gautama (c.583 B.C.E.), a prince who renounced the life of luxury and comfort he was raised in. After an arduous process of study, asceticism and meditation, he discovered the Four Noble Truths, and became the "Buddha," the one who is awake, the enlightened one. For more than 40 years he taught a community of monks, nuns and lay people, that has grown into the world wide religious community of today.

The First Noble Truth is that all is ultimately unsatisfactory, dukkah. More than suffering, it means that ultimately nothing is permanent because everything changes, including ourselves.

The Second Noble Truth taught that the source of the unsatisfactoriness is tanha, thirst or craving, which arises out of the ever-changing desires of the egoistic self. The Third Noble Truth is, simply, to end the unsatisfactoriness, end the craving. Nirvana, "extinguished," is the term used for this.

The way to Nirvana is the Fourth Noble Truth, the Eightfold Path: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. The point of the path is to end suffering through wholesome action, ethics and intention; intellectual knowledge is not enough.

Buddhists are neither theists nor atheists; they are non-theistic. Whether God exists or does not is not the point. What is important, the Buddha taught, is to look at the human condition and the suffering in it, and work to alleviate it within ourselves and within others. Only we can reach enlightenment; no one else can do it for us.

Ethics, meditation and wisdom comprise the necessary foundation for extinguishing the grasping ego - but, once extinguished, something of monumental importance occurs. Because nothing is "self," there is no distinction between us and others; their suffering is our suffering. Compassion arises spontaneously.

More, probably, than any other religion, Buddhism emphasizes that compassion and wisdom are the key to reality. Here is found one source of the deep connection between Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity teaches, "God so loved the world that he sent his only son" to suffer and die, forsaking godhead for humanity out of compassion. We are called to follow Jesus, to embrace our suffering like he did, for the sake of the salvation of all the world.

This is something Buddhists might understand. In Mahayana Buddhism the bodhisattva is central. This is the being who vows to work for the salvation of all beings, even if it means embracing this world of suffering lifetime after lifetime.

Buddhism spread from India into South and Central Asia and then to Japan, developing into three schools. Theravada, the Buddhism of the Elders, is found in Sri Lanka and Thailand. Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, flourished in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Especially important are the Pure Land and Zen Schools. Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, is the Buddhism found in Tibet led by the Dalai Lama. All schools and their ethnic variations are represented in Southern California.

Buddhism remains monastic at its core. Here it is deeply akin to the Christian monastic tradition. Is it any surprise, then, that Catholic and Buddhist monastics have been visiting, staying with, and learning from each other? The Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, which formally began in 1978, had its roots in Thomas Merton's experience with Buddhism in the years before his death in 1968.

Today, thousands of lay Christians are learning the benefits of Buddhist meditation practices while Buddhists are learning from Christians how to effectively promote social justice to address societal injustice and the dukkah it causes.

Dr. Michael Kerze is Catholic co-chair of the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue, and has taught religious studies at Loyola Marymount University and St. Monica High School. For more information about the Los Angeles Buddhist Catholic Dialogue go to http://www.kusala.org and follow the links, or contact the Archdiocesan Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, (213) 637-7555.

2. Indianapolis Mayor Issues World Tibet Day Proclamation

* The International Tibet Independence Movement is very pleased to announce that Mayor Bart Peterson of Indianapolis has recognized July 6, 2002 as World Tibet Day. Mayor Peterson issued a very strong proclamation about the urgency of helping Tibetans to regain their freedom and the importance of preserving Tibetan culture. This is the first time such a proclamation has been issued in Indianapolis.

3. One Dharma: The Emerging Western Buddhism- by Joseph Goldstein

* Click the link below to go to Amazon.com "One Dharma" book page

( http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0062517007/wwwkusalaorg-20/ )

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com: Insight Meditation cofounder Joseph Goldstein ponders the possibility that all Buddhist teachings could be distilled into One Dharma. As Buddhism continues to grow in the West, Goldstein shows us the value of uniting this movement rather than allowing it to become fractured by its subtle differences. He does not advocate a watering down or mixing up of the various traditions. Rather, "We can practice each of them in its own integrity and come to a genuine depth of understanding." Readers who are wary of a scholarly analysis of Buddhist nuances need not worry. Goldstein (The Experience of Insight) relies on personal anecdotes and accessible language to explore the common themes in all Buddhist teachings. Though purists will no doubt quibble, Goldstein believes that following one Dharma is the way the West will be won, weaving together the methods of mindfulness, the motivation of compassion, and the liberating wisdom of nonclinging. "These three pillars--mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom--are not Indian or Burmese, Japanese or Tibetan; they are qualities in our own minds." --Gail Hudson

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A revolutionary contribution to Buddhist thinking that will be accepted by many as the road map for Western Buddhism
Book Description

We are living in remarkable times. A genuine Western Buddhism is now taking birth, writes Joseph Goldstein, one of America's most respected Buddhist teachers. The birth pangs include controversy and conflict -- and fear that genuine teachings may vanish as traditions converge in the melting pot of American practice. But Goldstein recognizes a possibility, indeed a at potential, for the essence of Buddhism to survive on Western soil, in Western minds.His visionary synthesis points a way for Buddhism to grow and flower while remaining rooted in the teachings of the great Asian schools -- from India and Burma to Tibet and Japan. Marked by a simplicity derived from the Buddha's own pragmatic response to life, Goldstein distills the essential question that is at the base of all the traditions: What works to free the mind from suffering?He provides a brief historical overview of early Buddhism and explores the mind-changing reflections that bring us to the Dharma path -- the teachings of liberation, free from sectarian attachments. Upon this foundation Goldstein then shows how the great masters from all traditions have pointed to the essence of ultimate freedom. This is the best kind of Dharma book: one that is based on personal experience rather than on theory, accessible to newcomers and seasoned practitioners alike, and rich in practical ways to cultivate the qualities of an awakened mind and heart.In One Dharma one of America's foremost Buddhist teachers presents the central teachings and practices of the emerging Western Buddhism in clear, personal language. In One Dharma we discover the essential points common to all Buddhist teachings.

4. Freeware and Gifts of Dhamma

( http://home.nycap.rr.com/compleatmac/index.html )

* This is Freeware for all you "Mac" and "Apple" users... Sorry "Windows" folks... Just click on the link above, and download your favorite Dharma.

The Dhammapada
is a collection of 423 Buddhist verses, arranged by topic into 26 chapters. This application randomly generates one of the verses each time it is opened, and contains the entire text, which can be browsed or read in the conventional, linear way.

Wheel of the Teachings
is a gentle adventure game, incorporating Buddhist principles. As you walk through a painted landscape, your goal is to find the 8 hidden wheels (the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path) and 4 hidden books (the Four Noble Truths).

The Udana is a collection of short suttas, each culminating in a short verse uttered by the Buddha. "Udana -- Exclamations of Buddha" randomly generates one of those verses each time it is opened, making it a nice addition to the Startup Items folder.

The Itivuttaka
is a collection of 112 suttas from the Pali Canon in mixed prose and verse, known for being accessible, appealing and concise. "Itivuttaka -- Sayings of the Buddha" randomly generates one of the verses each time it is opened.

"Verses of the Elders" contains inspirational verses from the early Buddhist monks and nuns. This application randomly generates one of the verses each time it is opened, making it a nice addition to the Startup Items folder.

5. Thus Have I Heared ...by Trevor Leggett

The Middle Way (Volume 74: 1) May 1999

* Buddhist sutras begin with ‘Thus have I heard’, Evam maya srutam. Evam means something like ‘So it is’; it is translated as ‘Thus’ but it implies that this is what actually happened. And maya srutam means ‘has been heard by me’. The Japanese for evam is nyo-ze, ‘like this’. So evam could be translated as ‘So it is’, ‘So it was’. Nyo-ze is sometimes used by a Zen master when he gives approval to an answer. He says ‘nyo-ze’, ‘like that’. It has the sense that this is correct and did happen. ‘Thus have I heard’ could mean that it is just a rumour.

The traditional Indian doctrine is that the soul is impregnated through the ear, through hearing. This is quite an important thing, especially in our modern world. We read, and a great deal comes to us by reading, but reading classically has three great defects from the point of view of spiritual truth. The first one is that when we read we can skip, and we often do. When we hear, we don’t skip. The speaker delivers the message, we receive it, the soul is impregnated through the ear, not through the eye where we can select what we read. The second point is speed. Some of us read quite fast; when we were young and arrogant we would read down the middle of the page, assuming that most of it was nonsense. I would read down the middle until a word caught my eye and then I would read the sentence. But, when we hear, the speed is determined by the speaker and the speed is part of the importance of the message. So our eye doesn’t distinguish; it reads quickly and very often superficially, racing over the words. Those are two defects then, that we skip and that we read fast. The third thing that we lose is intonation. The Master of Novices at Eiheiji, one of the great training monasteries in Japan, once said, ‘An absolute amateur can write an article of several pages on Zen and make no mistakes; but if he utters one word, you know his spiritual state immediately.’ When he’s writing he may be quoting the words of people who really did know and experience, so there is no mistake. But if he utters one word, even if he is speaking those same words, you know his spiritual state at once; it may be no deeper than words.

Our Western alphabet is peculiarly featureless; the letters are all the same size. To that extent the Chinese characters have an advantage over our alphabet because the Chinese and Japanese characters consist of pictures. They do have a living association in them. For instance, knowledge, spiritual knowledge or perception, in our language it appears as – p e r c e p t i o n, ten letters all the same size, all in a line with not very much difference between them. An ‘e’ and a ‘c’ are almost the same. However, the Chinese character for perception consists of: at the top, the abbreviated character for plant life, then the character for mouth, then the character for bird, then the character for an eye and then a man. These elements come together in the single character. So when you read the Chinese character for perception you have a living impression; it is not just the dead letters of the alphabet.

From the point of view of study there are two recommendations which are made from tradition. One is that we should master one small book which we do not read in the usual superficial way. The second is that we should have this text available in the form of sound.

In modern times we can find someone who has some spiritual capacity to record it on tape for us, or record it ourselves. We may not be experienced readers, but when we record a text for ourselves the reading is generally good because we are not ham-acting in order to impress others. No, we are doing it out of sincerity, for ourselves to learn the text. It is a good idea to learn by hearing the texts. The traditional way was to learn the text by heart.

People complain that old people in this part of the world are simply thrown on the junk-heap, but that is not the problem at all. It is not that the world thinks they are junk; it is that they themselves think they are junk because there is something wrong with our presentation of age. We should think, without bringing God or cosmic purpose into it, if nature intended that old people should be junk, then they should die at 50; genetically we should die at 50. When the children have grown up and have taken control of the business, then the old people, consuming but no longer producing, should die. They are supposed to be senile but in fact there is no need for the mind to decay. Titian painted one of his finest masterpieces, Tarquin and Lucrezia, when he was 83. Goethe completed his masterpiece Faust, which is said to contain some of the best poetry in Europe, when he was 82. Hokusai was just a poster artist until his late fifties. He took to meditation and produced these wonderful pictures. The Wave is probably one of the most famous pictures in the world. He did that when he was 71 and he went on painting until he was 88. Verdi’s greatest tragic opera, Othello, was completed when he was 72 and Falstaff, an amazingly youthful opera, when he was 80. So nature doesn’t intend that the mind should decay, crumble away and become senile but, like muscles, the mind has to be exercised. Every morning we should learn by heart one or two verses; it is easier to learn verse than prose; but it can be done. If the mind is exercised it will not decay. Something like The Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold, although old-fashioned, is attractive verse and can be learned easily. In this way the mind is kept alert both mentally and spiritually.

6. The Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara

* http://www.glbvihara.org/

The Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara reflects the hopes, aspirations and energies of a tiny community of Buddhists primarily in the Michigan Great Lakes region and in southern Ontario. Our Temple is committed to disseminate Buddhist teachings in the region and to provide emotional or spiritual help to people of any faith. Our primary goal is to be a center for inner peace for all Buddhists and non-Buddhists in the Great Lakes area to practice the teachings of the Buddha in their own way. 


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