Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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If anyone is interested…

The First Annual
Wisdom of Mindfulness Retreats Myanmar
TWO 15 DAY INSIGHT MEDITATION RETREATS FOR FOREIGNERS
AT THE MAHASI MEDITATION CENTRE, YANGON (Burma) MYANMAR

This historic event marks an unprecedented opportunity for Westerners to practice
mindfulness meditation where the world-wide mass lay meditation movement began.

TWO SPECIAL RETREATS
Retreat 1: Jan 3-17, 2016 (open to all) (25 spaces)
Retreat 2: Jan 24-Feb 7 (for meditation teachers) (25 spaces)

Further details and online application at:
http://www.thewisdomofmindfulness.org


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Wisdom Publications Has A New Website and DRM-free EBooks

Our friends at Wisdom Publications have asked that we publish information about their newly-designed website:

The new content-rich website of Buddhist publisher Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org, is now live. The clean new design makes it easier than ever for readers to find the books and information they want and to share it with others.

New site features include:

  • Expanded book pages, complete with excerpts and tables of contents. Browse before you buy.
  • In-depth author pages containing biographies, photos, and social media links
  • Books organized into special interest collections including Wisdom Academics, Mindful Living, Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada, Zen, Buddhism and Psychology and Children’s, making browsing simpler than ever
  • The Wisdom Blog, packed with book excerpts, quotes, interviews, original posts, and more to engage the audience.

Additionally, Wisdom Publications is now offering DRM-free ebooks for sale on the site. The books are delivered simultaneously in three formats (PDF, ePub, and Mobi), allowing readers to download them onto multiple devices and preserve them in their personal libraries for future device migration.

Visit the new website today at www.wisdompubs.org.

Note: Digital-Dharma has no connection with Wisdom Publications apart from admiration for the books they publish.


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Review: Living Fully — Finding Joy In Every Breath

When I opened Living Fully I was expecting another Buddhism for the masses sort of thing. I’ve known of Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche for some time, but had read only a couple of excerpts from his writings. Having become accustomed to the seemingly compulsive efforts of a variety of commentators to, in the words of Mark Twain, “Shed darkness upon this subject,” I expected another instance of what I’ve sometimes referred to as Buddhism lite.

Let me hasten to add that I find nothing wrong with popular writing about Buddhism and dharma. We all had to start someplace on the path, and these steppingstones are only slippery when the reader decides she knows enough to go out and practice without finding a teacher. While it is true that anyone can find enlightenment in an instant, it is also true that the more one practices mindfully, the more likely it is that the instant will come to pass. Unhappily, I have read the work of many teachers who fail to emphasize the essential nature of a teacher-student relationship, and I don’t think those worthies are imparting all that a seeker needs to know.

In any case, Living Fully is not that kind of book. I was slightly put off by the imperative style, until I realized that this is essentially a book of short dharma talks. If I were fortunate enough to embark on a prolonged retreat, I would certainly take this collection with me. The individual chapters, comprising a couple of pages each, would make perfect reading before meditation sessions.

Nor is it a book for beginners. Rinpoche’s writings, while not at all inaccessible, lend themselves more to contemplation by those with some understanding of basics, such as the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and Precepts, than to folks just approaching the subject. Had I run across this book fifteen years ago, I would have thought it pretty impenetrable. As it is, I look forward to again mining it for such gems as these.

When we finally achieve the things we desire, we fear losing them, and this triggers constant anxiety. There is a feeling of sadness and frustration born of out inability to make the world conform to our hopes and expectations.

That is as clear an explanation of a major aspect of dukkha as I ever expect to read, and worth of twenty minutes contemplation all by itself. And again…

It is senseless to continue chasing after the things that have failed us in the past….

and

The best approach is to focus on your own faults. When you condemn others for their shortcomings, think, “This must be my fault. I am causing suffering for myself by being judgemental. I am rejecting what I don’t like, and accepting what I like. I will become bound in an endless cycle of accepting and rejecting.”

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a basic understanding of Buddhist thought. For beginners, however, the writings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn, or some of the popular teachers such as Joko Beck and Chuck Hagen might be a better place to start. Finally, however, I have to say that Living Fully is a must for those serious about expanding their practice.

Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, Living Fully – Finding Joy In Every Breath, New World Library, Novato, California, 2012.


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Put This On Your “Must Have” List For June

I just received an advance reader’s copy of “This Truth Never Fails,” by David Rynick, from Wisdom Publications.  I’ve only gotten a few pages into it, and I’ll be posting a full review later.  However, I wanted to give you a heads-up on this one, since it may be the most important book about Zen thought to hit the shelves this year.  It’s due for publication in early June.  Put it on your list.


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King of Bhutan Weds

PUNAKHA, Bhutan — Placing an embroidered silk crown on her head, Bhutan’s “Dragon King” married his longtime girlfriend Thursday in a small, private ceremony mixing Buddhism and medieval tradition, in the heart of a huge monastic fortress in the country’s former capital.

It was a strong reaffirmation of Bhutan’s ancient traditions, of continuity in a time of a change, but also in some ways a symbol of this country’s gradual emergence into the modern world.  More >>>


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Buddha World: The Mission To Build A Buddhist Amusement Park

As bizarre as it sounds, there really are some folks building a Buddhist-themed amusement park in Thailand.  And, even more bizarre, when you read about what’s being done it makes perfect sense.  I put it on my list of things I’ll regret not having done when I’m facing the bardo.

But I can do the next best thing, and so can you.  A couple of young filmmakers are attempting to raise enough money to fly to Thailand and make a documentary about the park.  (No, I don’t know if they have deer in the park, so don’t ask.)  Folks have underwritten their travel and living expenses, and they’re trying to raise $4K by August 26th for equipment and other expenses.

Subscribing with a reasonable donation (minimum is $1.00) will get you various bennies like a DVD of the finished film, etc.  This is a great chance to be a part of a worthwhile effort to spread Dharma awareness.  Give the website a look, and if you think it’s worth a few bucks, cough some up.  It may be the closest you’ll ever get to a trip to Thailand.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/buddhaworld/buddha-world?ref=live


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What will be the direction of American Buddhism?

GARRISON, N.Y. — Crosses still adorn one wall of this former Roman Catholic monastery, but a 6-foot golden Buddha now anchors the main room. The meditation hall, also used as a meeting space, is where the luminaries of Buddhism in the West recently gathered to debate.

The issue they were facing had been percolating for years on blogs, in Buddhist magazines and on the sidelines of spiritual retreats. It often played out as a clash of elders versus young people, the preservers of spiritual depth versus the alleged purveyors of “Buddhism-lite.” Organizers of the gathering wanted the finger-pointing to end. The future of American Buddhism was at stake, they said….

Read more: http://www.appeal-democrat.com/articles/generational-108402-shift-american.html


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Compassion and Forgiveness WMS 2/24/18

There is a well-known Buddhist lesson concerning two monks who were traveling and came to a muddy stream.  There they observed a woman who was hesitating to cross, apparently concerned about soiling her clothing.

The older monk approached the woman, bowed, and then picked her up and carried her across the stream.  He set her down, bowed again, and he and his younger companion continued on their way.

That evening, while they were eating their rice, the younger monk said, “I don’t understand.  As monks, we are to have no contact with women, yet you picked that woman up and carried her in your arms!”

The older monk said, “I put the woman down at the side of the stream.  You are still carrying her.”

That’s how we are.  We cling to thoughts and ideas, worrying them and twisting them around inside our heads, causing all sorts of turmoil and accomplishing nothing in the way of our journey toward spirituality.

To me, spirituality is about things of the human spirit: understanding, compassion, forgiveness, love, willingness to contribute our efforts to help others, humility (at which I fear I’m not all that successful) and things of that sort.  Compassion and forgiveness are especially important, because clinging to the resentments that prevent those qualities from shining forth causes us so much unhappiness.

Compassion is, essentially, seeing things from another’s point of view, and being willing to do what we can to alleviate their suffering.  Forgiveness is compassion toward ourselves.  It is not about “freeing” the other person from anything, but about freeing ourselves of the unhappiness that is caused by being unforgiving.

Like the young monk, we sometimes carry things along with us after the reality has changed and, in our very human way, often blow it up in our minds until it forms a nearly impassable barrier to true spiritual growth.  Not until we realize that forgiveness does not involve condoning a wrongful act, but is simply choosing to accept, and move on with our own lives, can we expect to get beyond it.  That doesn’t mean that we have to invite the person to dinner, but only that we need to learn to put down our own burden after we have crossed the stream.


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Gender and religion: Where nuns fear to tread

The controversy over a Thai Buddhist nun successfully petitioning an Indian court to gain control of a temple has raised broader questions surrounding the administration of temples overseas. It has also highlighted the ambiguous role nuns, or mae chi, face within the structure of Buddhism in Thailand.

via Gender and religion: Where nuns fear to tread.


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Reviews of Brad Warner’s “Sex, Sin and Zen” on Tricycle Editor’s Blog

You guys have read my review (which is also excerpted), but the other three give a different perspective. Check ’em out.  Check out the reviewers’ blogs, too.

“Sex, Sin and Zen” on the Tricycle Editor’s Blog


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Upcoming Auction of Daido Roshi’s Photographs

via Shambhala Sun

A silent auction to benefit Zen Mountain Monastery’s new Zen Arts Hall will be held at Ramscale West Village Lofts at 463 West Street, 13th fl., New York, NY 10014. Proceeds from the auction will go to the building fund for Zen Mountain Monastery’s new Sangha House, an 8,200-square-foot LEED-certified building that will provide a venue for exhibitions, performances, lectures, and conferences that will encourage the exploration of art as a spiritual practice.

John Daido Loori (1931-2009) was the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York and the founder and director of the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Buddhism. Devoted to maintaining the authenticity of Western Zen training, Loori Roshi was known for his unique adaptation of traditional Buddhism into an American context, particularly with regard to the arts and the environment and the use of modern media as a vehicle of spiritual training and social change. He was an award-winning photographer and the author of over twenty books, including The Eight Gates of Zen and The Zen of Creativity.

www.mro.org/silentauction


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The Angry Monk: Zen Practice for Angry People

I love this line: “Wait a minute, there’s always at least one [asshole]. So if I’m looking around the zendo and I can’t find him—guess who the asshole is!”

And this one: “…spiritual work isn’t always ‘instructive’—it’s transformative, and this kind of transformation can get messy. The Sanskrit term for this is clusterfuck.

Zen practice is good for angry people. The form is tight. It squeezes that deep red heart-pulp, pushing up emotions from way down inside you. A lot of stuff comes up when you do this practice. Zen gets your juices flowing. And with these juices come seeds—the seeds of your behavior, your character, your anger, all flushed out into the open for you to see.

The Angry Monk: Zen Practice for Angry People


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Book Review: Sex, Sin and Zen, a Buddhist Exploration of Sex – by Brad Warner

Apart from their both being Buddhist teachers, one does not often think of Brad Warner and the Dalai Lama in the same context.  Over the years, I’ve come to see that as a mistake.  Warner and His Holiness have one major thing in common: no matter what they write about, at the end you’ve gotten a good education in basic Buddhist philosophy and practice.  They give good Dharma.

One of the things that I find most charming about HHDL’s writings is the way he sticks with the basics.  My understanding of practice is that it is about incorporating the Eightfold Path into my life.  Many writers and teachers, even Zen teachers, get carried away with the details and seem to forget that Buddhism is about living, not about having scholarly discussions.  Both Brad and His Holiness manage to make their teachings accessible — albeit in radically different ways — without getting bogged down in esoterica.  I like that.  A lot of my own practice has been about getting over myself and my IQ, and they both help me a lot when it comes to simplifying my thinking.  Steve Hagen is another favorite for the same reason.

Sex, Sin and Zen* is not an attempt on Warner’s part to pontificate about what “good Buddhists” are supposed to believe with regard to the beast with two (or more) backs.  What it really comes down to is a very personal exploration of Buddhist ethics and teachings as they seem to him to apply to situations that he has experienced, or heard, or been asked about.  He doesn’t claim to have the answers — is, in fact, excruciatingly careful to make it clear that these are personal decisions — yet he provides a first-class framework to use in thinking about such issues as they apply to us.  I mean, this book includes an entire chapter devoted to examining the practice of well-known porn star Nina Hartley, and how she incorporates Buddhism into her work and marriage.  It would take a writer with a background in blogging for “Suicide Girls” to even dream of pulling that off — but Warner does, and we feel as though we learned something. (I felt a couple of shifts in my attitudes while reading it, and I consider myself about as sexually liberal as you can get.)

Of course the book is written in Brad’s eminently readable — albeit sometimes joltingly non-traditional — style:

We reflect on the effort that brought us this piece of ass
and consider how it comes to us.

We reflect on our virtue and practice, and whether
we are worthy of this piece of ass.

We consider sexual greed to be the obstacle to freedom of mind.

We consider this piece of ass to be good medicine to sustain our lives.

For the sake of attaining the Truth we now receive this piece of ass.

And:

If you’re too goddamned horny to think straight, then perhaps the best way to avoid misusing sex is to log on to Suicide Girls, or whatever website you enjoy, masturbate furiously, be done with it, and then go out into the world more mellow, less sex-crazed, and less likely to misuse sex in a far more damaging way.

See what I mean?

Sex, Sin and Zen may shock you, it may leave you flabbergasted at the idea that an ordained priest of any religion would think it appropriate to write in the way that Warner habitually does.  But you know what?  You won’t be bored; you won’t feel you’ve wasted your time; and — unless you work hard** at avoiding it — it will give you a lot to think about.

____________________

*Available in your favorite bookstore this Labor Day weekend.

**Hee hee, I said, “hard.”

Disclaimer: the writer was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the publisher.