The Urban Dharma Newsletter... July 30, 2002


In This Issue:

1. Buddhism Sites Aim for "Right Path"
2. Collaboration among Asian-Americans in Atlanta cuts across many cultures
3. Book Review- Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with fearlessness and Grace
4. Temple/Center of the Week: The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas
5. Nothing Special...
By Tom (Ksanti) O'Connor
6. Newsletter Archives


1. Buddhism Sites Aim for 'Right Path'

The Moscow Times- Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2002

* The Russian Internet could be your ticket to nirvana.

The Zen.ru ( http://www.zenru.org/ ) Internet portal at klein.zen.ru says it aims to help people find the "right path" by offering more than 1,000 texts on far eastern traditions, "psycho-physical" training and the latest developments for improving one's psycho-physical state.

"It is a collection of interesting and helpful information for those who wonder about how the world is built, how a person can combine what is saintly and pure inside him with that which is base in the world, how he can combine his internal universe with the external and how he can combine understanding and action," Alexander Klein, the head of the project, says in his lecture "The Internet as an Element of the Path."

Zen.ru is part of a larger network of web resources on the Russian Internet devoted to Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies and has links to a number of those sites, including Lotus' Site at ariom.narod.ru.

Much like Zen.ru, Lotus, which bills itself as the "modern instrument of the seeker," offers a huge library of texts and other materials devoted to Eastern philosophy. By clicking on the Lotus section, a number of the author's works -- such as "The Eight Noble Imperfections of the Modern Seeker" -- are listed to the right of a large picture of Lotus himself with what appear to be beams of energy emanating from his forehead.

Visitors to both Zen.ru and Lotus' Site also can find about the School of the Second Logic, which the sites say offers Internet conferences "aimed at developing in participants a number of qualities, abilities and habits necessary for an active and full life in the modern world." Klein heads the School of the Second Logic, which is based on what he calls the "technology of thinking."

2. Collaboration among Asian-Americans in Atlanta cuts across many cultures.


Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

* Members of the recently formed Governor's Commission on Asian-American Affairs include Vietnamese, Chinese and Pakistani-Americans.

Both illustrate the complex diversity of the metro area's growing Asian immigrant population, which reached nearly 136,000 in 2000, according to the census.

Unlike the city's fastest-growing immigrant group -- Latinos -- community service organizations, businesses and government officials have found that there's no "one-size-fits-all" approach to dealing with the Asian-American community.
Latinos share a common language -- Spanish -- and religion, mostly Roman Catholic.

Indian immigrants alone are adherents of five major religions -- Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism. Chinese immigrants speak seven major dialects and many subdialects. Mandarin (or Putonghua) is spoken by more than 70 percent of the population. Non-Chinese languages spoken widely by ethnic minorities from China include Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur and other Turkic languages.

Then there are Japanese and Korean residents, to say nothing of those from the Malay archipelago in Southeast Asia.



The 2000 census showed 135,959 metro Atlantans are Asian, an extremely diverse group that includes Indians, Thais, Indonesians and Japanese. Previously, Pacific Islanders were included in this category. Here is the breakdown:

Asian Indian: 37,162
Bangladeshi: 939
Cambodian: 2,727
Chinese*: 21,111
Filipino: 5,988
Hmong: 1,097
Indonesian: 582
Japanese: 5,083
Korean: 22,317
Laotian: 3,596
Malaysian: 158
Pakistani: 2,990
Sri Lankan: 152
Taiwanese: 1,453
Thai: 1,562
Vietnamese: 23,996
* except Taiwanese
Source: Census Bureau


The potpourri of languages, cultures and religions make for an Asian-American community that is as diverse as it is vibrant.

Several organizations have cropped up to try to build bridges among the polyglot Asians. They have sprung up around politics, business and professions and social events.

Last weekend, about 10,000 people from Asian-American communities gathered at the Atlanta Botanical Garden for the ninth annual Asian Cultural Experience. Mutiara Tan, one of the organizers, said it was rewarding to see Vietnamese-Americans talking to Chinese-Americans and IndonesianAmericans talking to Indian-Americans.

Eleven countries were represented, up from two -- China and Japan -- the first year.

"Our mission is to educate people about the Asian community and to learn more about ourselves," said Tan, a native of the Indonesian island of Java and an accounting manager for Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate management firm. "I learn more every time I attend an event. Before I didn't know much about Chinese and Vietnamese culture."

Jung-Ha Kim, a board member of the Doraville-based Center for Pan-Asian Community Services, agrees. "There are lots of different conflicts and challenges," Kim said. "It's not just a mistake for the dominant culture to lump all Asian-Americans together. It's impossible."

Kim understands the problems firsthand.

She was born in South Korea to North Korean parents. When she was about 3 years old, the family moved to Japan. For a spell, Kim said she thought she was Japanese, "but with Kim as a last name I soon found out differently and I was treated very differently. In Japan, Koreans and Chinese were treated as sub-citizens."

Even today, the challenges persist.

Recently, the center sponsored a workshop on resolving generational differences within the family. Organizers had five translators on hand. They also had to be aware of the cultural nuances.

"It makes the workshop more lengthy," Kim said. "One needs to work twice or three times as hard to prepare for a workshop."

Asian immigrants have landed on U.S. shores since the mid-1700s. In 1763, officials recorded the first settlement of Filipinos in America. They escaped from Spanish ships in New Orleans and fled to the bayous.

The first major wave of Chinese immigration occurred after 1848 after gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. Most came as a cheap source of labor to work the mines, railroads and other industries, according to the Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, a Los Angeles-based organization.
Over the next century, Asian immigrants moved to major U.S. cities such as New York and to the West Coast. But Georgia and the South didn't see a major influx of Asian immigrants until the late 1960s, said University of Georgia demographer Douglas C. Bachtel.

In subsequent years, Asian immigrants and refugees came to the Southeast as a result of the growing economy and job opportunities, he said.
Lani Lee Wong, chairwoman of the Georgia Commission on Asian-American Affairs, remembers when she first moved to Atlanta 25 years ago the community was so small that if she heard someone speaking Chinese or Javanese, she would automatically go over and introduce herself.

"Now we see so many different people that we just don't do that anymore," she said.

And with that growth has come greater diversity.

The largest groups are Indians, Koreans, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Many of the Asian-Americans interviewed say those and other communities remain largely separate, particularly among first-generation immigrants and refugees, "who tend to stay inside their own ethnic group," said Steve Choi, who is president of the Asian American Coalition and of Korean ancestry. The biggest issue, they say, is language.

Second- and third-generation Asian-Americans tend to have few barriers separating them, in part because they are either bilingual or speak English. They've also grown up in America and are more integrated into the culture.
Even some Asian-Americans question whether everyone belongs in the same category. Until recently the U.S. Census Bureau included Pacific Islanders as "Asian." The category also includes Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis.

Should those communities be included with Koreans and Japanese?

"It's quite unnatural for us in the Asian-American community," said Choi, who is also vice chairman of the governor's commission. "But Indian and Pakistani cultures are just as much, if not more, foreign to us as American culture. There's almost no contact."

Choi's was among the early voices calling for a state commission to address the concerns of the overall Asian-American community that would be representative of all ethnic groups and nationalities. During a recent meeting members listened to an Afghan immigrant recount problems she experienced on her job because of her dress. They also heard about an Indian doctor who alleges he was beaten by police during a traffic stop.

Commission member Farooq G. Soomro said it's in the communities' best interest to work as one.

"That's where the power comes in," said Soomro, a director of the Pakistani-American Community of Atlanta. "By working together you're pooling your resources, your voice, your vote and your money. There's power in unity. At the end of the day, we're all Asian-Americans."

3. Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with fearlessness and Grace

by Angel Kyodo Williams

* http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140196307/wwwkusalaorg-20/


In this exquisite primer on Zen Buddhism, author and ordained Zen priest Angel Kyodo Williams is not trying to convert African Americans into a new religion. Instead, she is simply presenting Zen principles and practices that emphasize living a life of grace and self-acceptance. Having faced the daily challenges of growing up black in America, she is especially adept at showing how these Zen principles apply to the African American experience. "People of color are especially in need of new ways and new answers to the separation and fear we face each day," Kyodo Williams writes. "It wouldn't be a stretch to say that as black people, more than most groups in this country, we live our daily lives with the distinct taste of fear in our mouths.... While the principles offered here are not an antidote to the underlying reasons for our fears, they can give us a different way to approach them."

Kyodo Williams offers a savvy yet tender voice as she walks readers through the basic principles of Zen. It's hard to resist her invitation to take on the numerous sensible vows that lead to enlightenment, such as staying true to the warrior spirit while "committing ourselves to practicing good." The bottom line is that this is a book about claiming the strength, compassion, and integrity that dwell within everyone. And although it speaks to the particular needs and trials of the African American community, readers of all colors and walks of life will find this an irresistible invitation. --Gail Hudson

Spiritual Awakening... Amazon.com- Reviewer: A reader from Texas

The book was a gift in every way. Ms. Williams has demystified the East and made Zen down to Earth. As an African- American woman, I've been searching in vain for a spiritual home. Thanks to Ms. Williams, I think that I've found one. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for guidance on her/his spritual path.

4. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas

* http://www.drba.org/

Who we are:

We are the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA). We are monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen, elders and kids. The DRBA is a religious community with members in the United States and Canada, in Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere. The link we share is our connection with our founder and teacher, the Ven. Master Hsüan Hua (1908-1996). From so many different walks of life we each heard the sound of the "lion's roar" of Dharma and followed our hearts towards the Path of cultivation taught by the Ven. Abbot.

How to find us:

You will find us at any of twenty-some institutions. Some are convents, residences for nuns; some are monasteries where men cultivate the Way. Some large centers, such as the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, near Ukiah, California, contain both men and women monastics, as well as lay families. Soon our webpage will offer you detailed maps for finding directions to the largest of our Way-places. You can also find us in our schools which we devote our time to, in our Sutra translations, and in our periodicals, magazines and newsletters. More on these below.

How we practice:

We follow the "Five Schools" of the Mahayana style, that include:

1. Precepts, moral rules, called the Vinaya School;
2. Meditation, called the Chan School; our teacher is the 19th Patriarch of the Wei-yang lineage.
3. Studying Dharma-teachings, called the Scholastic School;
4. Mantras, called the Esoteric, or "Secret School"; and
5. Chanting the Buddha's name, called the Pure Land School.

We celebrate Buddhist holidays year round, and live a rigorous, wholesome, ascetic life that has been part of the Sangha's style dating back to the Buddha's time.

Our normal day:

We get up early! We recite "morning recitation," at 4:00 AM and get to sleep somewhere after 10:00 each night. A selection of schedules for our individual Way-places is available to whoever would like.

What we eat:

We are strict vegetarians; some of us are vegans. We take the Buddha's injunction to be compassionate seriously. We enjoy pure, nutritious vegetarian cuisine. Our diet is simple, but visitors to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas report that our food fills the stomach in a delightful way. In combination with the unsurpassed flavor of meditation we aspire to "take the bliss of Chan as our nourishment," and be "replete with the joy of the Dharma."

What you won't find:

At our Way-places you won't find people asking for money; we do not charge for our Dharma-events. You won't find hugs and back rubs, or hot tubs, you won't find bullies or cliques, you won't find televisions, radios, dancing, gambling, alcohol or cigarettes. The CTTB is a game preserve, you won't find animals being killed or eaten. The attitude of cherishing life - - nothing has died in anger or hatred on the property for twenty-one years - - makes for a peaceful and secure atmosphere.

5. “nothing special”
... by Tom (Ksanti) O'Connor- Dharma Teacher- IBMC

In about six weeks four of us are to receive our brown robes. It marks a significant milestone in our practice. And this summer, during our monks training, I feel that Rev. Karuna has been setting traps to help us on our journey.

We’ve been reading about what monks do, what they experience. There’s Thich Nhat Hahn’s Stepping Into Freedom which is for novice monks (say age 10) and not being that young you realize just where you stand in the scheme of things. The other is Roshi Jiyu-Kennett’s Zen is Eternal Life.

As a Westerner she too seems to have started late. She asked her teacher how to go about her studies and he answered, “Expect nothing, seek nothing, just live.” For a person who had traveled around the world to study it did not seem at the time an adequate answer. But it was a skillful one.

As skillful as Rev. Karuna’s inviting her students to the Vesak celebration in Santa Ana. “And wear your robes.” We arrived and became part of the procession of monks and nuns. Hundreds of people were there. Many bows. We were ushered down to the front.

And I lived out the actor’s nightmare. That’s the one where you find yourself on stage, in a play, and have no idea what the play is, who you are in it, and what your next line is. I was suddenly in a ceremony, in Vietnamese, on the altar, on ABC Vietnam (they were filming it) and expected to just proceed. But all I had to do was chant, bow at the appropriate times, and bathe Baby Buddha. And because I was at the back of the line I could pick up what was expected. I got through it.

And then I figured out the lesson. As a Westerner our minds work overtime to analyze, criticize, and figure it out. We are looking for what Chogyam Trungpa calls Credentials. In Santa Ana I didn’t have my credentials in order. But at that ceremony no one was looking for credentials. That was the lesson. I was just part of an equation. There was a ceremony to be performed. It needed monks and nuns. A statue of Buddha. And a congregation. Since I was in robes, I was a monk. Anything more was my own concern, they had what they needed.

Nothing special. Just do it. Just live.

Right. Easier said than done. At least in Western mode. Chogyam Trungpa talks about “credential sickness” and just being aware of it. Because the practice does require living differently. But different doesn’t make it special. As soon as we think it’s special it becomes a credential and loses its value as a part of the practice. The cushions, mats, robes are just part of the world of the Zendo. Just the way it is.

In Stepping into Freedom there are sixty-eight Gathas, sixty-eight short verses to be recited with everyday activities. Things like:

Taking the First Steps of the Day
Walking on the Earth
Is a miracle!
Each mindful step
Reveals the wondrous Dharmakaya.

Every activity is given attention. We are to become mindful, become aware of the reality of the activity—which is very different from the way most of us live. Anyone driving in LA sees the “multi-tasking of the commute”—cell phone calls, coffee, shaving, while making a left hand turn.

We spend our lives individuating. Making me, ME and you, You. Separate and distinct. Creating the story of MY life with me as the star and everyone else supporting players. And we create references and categories. The You I know does this, makes this much (or little), knows these people (or doesn’t), came from here, is going there. We conceptualize and categorize for easy use and handling.

Not very Zen-like.

The Hsin Hsin Ming attributed to Seng T’san, the Third Chinese Patriarch, has this to say about that:

Trusting In Mind
The Great Way is not difficult,
Just don’t pick and choose.
If you cut off all likes and dislikes
Everything is clear like space.
Make the slightest distinction
And heaven and earth are set apart.
If you wish to see the truth,
Don’t think for or against.

This doesn’t mean to not see what’s there. It means to see what is there—without filtering it through words, concepts.

It ends with:

Trust and Mind are not two.
Not-two is trusting the Mind.
Words and speech don’t cut it,
Can’t now, never could, won’t ever.

So where does that leave one? With the practice. With sitting Zazen. Joko Beck says it is just sitting there. It’s not about seeing colored lights—although that can happen. It’s not about having nice feelings, or becoming calm—and that can happen. Or becoming “spiritual” whatever that means. It really is just about sitting there. Hearing the sounds around you. Noting what is going on. Observing. Experiencing. Being here. That’s all.

But we don’t really have much interest in “Being Here.” Our minds wander off on their own. Much of our practice is just noting where it went. Into some kind of fantasy. It depends on our particular bent. Movies a la James Thurber.
Conversations with absent friends. Or enemies. Righting wrongs. Revenge. Afternoon dalliances. Almost anything is better than sitting on a cushion. But that is what is, what we are doing, what life is at this moment.

And that is what we can always trust. Perhaps the only thing we can trust. Life is what it is. We just have to accept it. Nothing special, just what is. We can always rely on that and rest in that. If I became ill could I rest in that? I must because that is what is.

Of course, it only works if we can take the “I” out of it. Take the ego and non-existent self out of it. The “I” demands that the bad go away and good stay forever. The “I” wants this and doesn’t want that. The “I” makes the emotional investment. Our practice is to observe how the investment is made. Rev. Jhana had us create an emotion during one of his Dharma talks. We sat here and conjured up an emotion from nothing and then got rid of it.

We should note our thoughts and try to step back from them. Put a label on them. See that they are just an energy fragment. Joko Beck feels that if we “persistently label any thought the emotional overlay begins to drop out and we are left with an impersonal energy fragment to which we need not attach.” The practice is to work with this “until we know it in our bones.”

When we know it in our bones then we can act from reality. Without the delusions—“deluding passions are inexhaustable, I vow to end them all”—we can experience life as it is.

The moon’s the same old moon
The flowers are just as they were
Yet now I am
The thingness of things.

Surangama Sutra

A questioner asked the Buddha: “I would like to know about the state of peace, the state of solitude and of quiet detachment. How does a person become calm, independent, and not wanting to grasp at anything?”

“A person does this,” replied the Buddha, “by eradicating the delusion of ‘I am.’ By being alert and attentive, he begins to let go of cravings as they arise. But whatever he begins to accomplish, he should beware of inner pride. He must avoid thinking of himself as better than another, or worse or equal, for that is all comparison and emphasizes the self.

“The person should look for peace within and not depend on it in any other place. For when a person is quiet within, the self cannot be found. There are no waves in the depths of the ocean, it is still and unbroken. It is the same with the peaceful person. He is still, without any longing to grasp. He has let go the foundation of self and no longer builds up pride and desire.”

Sutta Nipata

So we just live and act and do what needs to be done. Nothing special. Just like the haiku:

An old pond—
A frog jumps in,

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