Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time


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Would You Rather Be Right, Or Would You Rather Be Happy?

An overpowering need to be right is born of perfectionism, pride and fear. Some people would risk a relationship, rather than admitting they were wrong, or that someonesoap else’s point of view might be valid – at least for that person. Those of us who carry around that character defect – and the writer is most assuredly in recovery from know-it-all-ism – are often (or often have been) so unable to admit that there are two sides to most things that we have been willing even to alienate loved ones: We’d rather be right than loved.  More…


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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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Book Review — The Misleading Mind, by Karuna Cayton

Karuna Cayton, a psychotherapist and practicing Buddhist, has written an interesting book for non-Buddhists who are looking for ways to make their life more manageable. Based on the 2600 year-old principles of Buddhist psychology, it covers the general range of the Four Noble Truths and the eightfold path, but in a fashion that does not require extensive knowledge — any knowledge at all, really — of Buddhist teaching and principles.

“It is odd that we can describe our hands or our face but if we’re asked to describe our mind we can only offer vague, nebulous descriptions. That’s because, not examining the mind, we don’t know the mind. Knowing how our mind really functions is the first step to mental balance and health and, yes, greater happiness. We need to become explorers – curious about our idea of self, our mind, our emotions, how they function and how we can master them. As such, we’ll seek the knowledge, contemplation, and wisdom to become our own best therapist. Our discoveries become the pathway to solving our problems and revealing a happier and healthier way of being.”

The ideas covered in The Misleading Mind will not come as anything new to those who have even casually perused the Buddha’s teachings. However, in approaching them from the perspective of people with no knowledge at all of suffering and the causes of suffering as understood by Buddhists, Cayton has illuminated corners that may not have been examined even by long-term practitioners. These principles are presented in a way that is accessible to non-Buddhists, and at the same time can profitably be considered by experienced students.

Finally, unlike many writers, Cayton does not minimize the need for continuous, long-term work to effect the changes he promises.  While reasonably gentle, he insists we understand that we are the “captains of our souls,” that we have to work for what we desire, and that the ultimate responsibility for our happiness rests upon — and just above — our own shoulders.

The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them, ©2012 by Karuna Cayton. New World Library.


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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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Safety Margins

I came as close to using drugs last night as I have in over 20 years.  My experience — totally unexpected — draws a line under the reasons that we have to keep our heads in the right place, have supports available, and the several other things involved in maintaining our sobriety.

Safety Margins – Sunrise Detox Blog


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Hitting The Curve Balls

In our company, I’m the field supervisor.  I’m the one who has to go deal with things when the site supervisors either can’t handle them or aren’t available.  That happened to me this morning.  A call at 8:00 AM changed my day, and practically all the chores (and fun) I had planned for the day are trashed: the price you pay for being a boss.

As I was rushing through the things I had to get done, I was thinking about how easy it was, compared to the way I would have dealt with the same sort of thing when I was active in my addictions.

Read more at the Sunrise Detox Blog, then subscribe to its feed.


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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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Forest of Light

Sofan Chan paints lovely images of the Buddha in bright primary colors.  For some reason I find them very much in the spirit of the Buddhism that I practice — focused on obtaining peace, often happiness, and occasional joy by looking at the world as clearly as I am able at a given time.  (I’m not saying I’m good at it, I’m saying that my efforts bring me peace and joy — what’s not to like?)  Anyway, if you’d like to see more of Chan’s work, even purchase some, click the image.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with the artist whatever; I just like the work.


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Quote

Science does itself a disservice if it pretends to be capable of answering all meaningful questions. Religion likewise sabotages itself when it dismisses findings of science in favor of pretty myths. To be truly powerful, both science and religion need to change and grow, hand in hand. Truth is more nearly to be found in unity of intellect and emotion, or unity of self and non-self. It is in that elusive place of balance where we become aware that the essences of things are not one way or another.

White, David M (2010-11-26). Zen Birding (p. 9). O-Books. Kindle Edition.


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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.