Sunday, December 22, 2013

Danna (Giving)

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With Christmas on the way, I was curious what Buddha's teachings had to say about giving so I searched Access to Insight. He actually had a lot to say about giving and considered it one of the essential preliminary steps of practice. The merits of giving are beyond comprehension.

At the end of the Danna (Giving) Sutta, he explains:

"Just as it is not easy to take the measure of the great ocean as 'just this many buckets of water, just this many hundreds of buckets of water, just this many thousands of buckets of water, or just this many hundreds of thousands of buckets of water.' It is simply reckoned as a great mass of water, incalculable, immeasurable. In the same way, it is not easy to take the measure of the merit of a donation thus endowed with six factors as 'just this much a bonanza of merit, a bonanza of what is skillful — a nutriment of bliss, heavenly, resulting in bliss, leading to heaven — that leads to what is desirable, pleasing, charming, beneficial, pleasant.' It is simply reckoned as a great mass of merit, incalculable, immeasurable."

It's a short sutta that can easily be read in it's entirety here:
Dana Sutta: Giving" (AN 6.37), 
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013


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Mucalinda statue, below the Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya

In the weeks following Buddha's enlightenment, he sat in seven week-long meditation sessions, "sensitive to the bliss of release".

During the sixth week, a sudden, out-of-season storm cloud rose in the sky, bringing seven days of intense rain, wind, cold and darkness. At that time, Mucalinda, the mystical serpent king, ascended from his dwelling, coiled his great body around Buddha seven times and spread his massive hood over the Buddha, not to let the elements disrupt his meditative state.

Mucalinda thought to himself, "Don't let the Blessed One be disturbed by cold. Don't let the Blessed One be disturbed by heat. Don't let the Blessed One be disturbed by the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and creeping things."

When seven days past, Buddha emerged from his deep concentration. Mucalinda, seeing that the storm had passed uncoiled himself from around the Buddha and took the form of a young man. Placing his hands over his heart, he stood before Buddha giving homage. 

Acknowledging the significance of the event, Buddha exclaimed

"Blissful is solitude
for one who's content,
who has heard the Dhamma,
who sees.
Blissful is non-affliction
with regard for the world,
restraint for living beings.
Blissful is dispassion
with regard for the world,
the overcoming of sensuality.
But the subduing of the conceit "I am" —
That is truly
the ultimate bliss."

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Quoted text from 
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. 
Access to Insight 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our Greatest Accomplishment

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In the known history of human existence, the Buddha's enlightenment, in my opinion, is our greatest accomplishment. The selfless pains and trials he passed through, without the aid of instruction or guidance, in relentless effort to understand the condition of suffering for all beings.

Through the round of many births I roamed without reward, without rest, seeking the house-builder. Painful is birth again & again. House-builder, you're seen! You will not build a house again. All your rafters broken, the ridge pole dismantled, immersed in dismantling, the mind has attained to the end of craving.
—Buddha Dhp 153-4

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Bodhi Day (Enlightenment Day), December 8th

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Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya

Today is the day, on the Gregorian calendar, that the Buddha's enlightenment is celebrated.

Thanks, An Upright Stone, for the reminder!

"When the mind was thus concentrated, purified, bright, unblemished, rid of defilement, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, I directed it to the knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations. I discerned, as it was actually present, that 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the way leading to the cessation of stress... These are fermentations... This is the origination of fermentations... This is the cessation of fermentations... This is the way leading to the cessation of fermentations.' My heart, thus knowing, thus seeing, was released from the fermentation of sensuality, released from the fermentation of becoming, released from the fermentation of ignorance. With release, there was the knowledge, 'Released.' I discerned that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world."

-from Maha-Saccaka Sutta: The Longer Discourse to Saccaka (MN 36)
translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. 
Access to Insight.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

the non-duality of suffering

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A line from Seon Master Daehaeng's Dharma talk that I'd lost while while writing the last post suddenly returned to me as I crossed the street coming home from a student's house tonight.

I'm not scribing a perfect recitation of Chong Go Sunim's translation but in my own words/understanding, Seon Master Daehaeng taught us that there is not your suffering and my suffering, nor is the suffering of different people, different beings more or less. There is only suffering. We all suffer equally. Suffering is not dualistic. Because you suffer, I suffer. Because there is suffering we all suffer. We are all one. Therefore, we should do whatever we can to not breed more suffering but to cease it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Precepts ceremony at Hanmaum Seonwon, November 17th, 2013

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It was a special day together yesterday with my old friends and Dharma Brothers, as much for the ceremony as for the simple company of dear and wonderful friends. Something we've all been struggling with is being isolated from friends and even just a single hectic day together helped fill the void. We all recognized how great it was for our paths to meet again, especially in this way.

Chong Go Sunim did a lot of running around for us, providing us royal treatment at the ceremony. We had front row seats for the ceremony, just behind the group of monks on the right (nuns on the left). After a few minutes of meditation, a video made of Daehaeng Kun Sunim before she passed was projected beside the main shrine which seemed to bring her to life and I could truly feel her presence as she looked out upon us. A dharma talk she had given on the precepts was played which Chong Go Sunim later translated for us. What I was able to retain of it, and I may be totally botching it, was that the five precepts are the gateway but when we let go of "I" we also let go of the precepts. However, when "I" is dissolved and we see all beings, every single being in the universe, is ourself, we natural hold the precepts because when other is self, how could we cause harm? One does not even need to "know" the precepts to hold them. Simply not doing harm to others, one will naturally follow the precepts. Every opportunity to help, no matter how small, must be taken. If you were to come across a struggling worm, wriggling on the sidewalk, help it to a safe place. There are no words to express what it means to help in this way. Our thoughts and intentions come back to us perfectly. Hurry, hurry, come, become a Buddha. (Chong Go Sunim, please correct me if I'm terribly off, even even a little!)

Then, the Juji Sunim (Abbess) of Hanmaum gave the precepts, with a stronger emphasis on the doing aspect than what not to do, asking if we will do it after each one, and we repeated our intention to uphold them. Once that was done, the monks form a long row of assembly lines, preparing incense stick to mark our arms with. Chong Go Sunim told us it was the luck of the draw as to which monk burned as, which didn't really matter to me at all, but I sarcastically whined to him in my best imitation of a spoilt child, "But I want Juji Sunim to do mine~~~." "And that's why it's the luck of the draw!" he responded.

I went to the nearest nun, bowed, held out my arm, and she pressed the three incense sticks into my arm. It doesn't hurt too much, but the sting did make me flinch. I thanked her for burning me, which sounds a bit odd if you decided to think about it, with palms together and bowed again. Before leaving, Chong Go Sunim snuck us over to great Juji Sunim, who was set up in the middle. I bowed to her and she motioned for my arm. She planted the incense into my flesh much firmer than the other nun had and though I didn't flinch, hers hurt! I wondered if she knew how bad I'd been since initially taking them five years ago... haha I didn't even notice at first, but the ember of one of the stick had actually stuck to my arm and continued to smoulder. As I returned to Chong Go Sunim and Marcus, I noticed the thin line of smoke rising from my arm. "Sunim," I called, with a bit of a tremble, "do I have to leave it there or can I put it our" "Uh, you'd better but it out right now." I was joking, but I actually didn't mind the extra-strength burn. Chong Go Sunim once said that the mark left by the incense will open doors for you in the unseen realm, I'm hoping that one will open them really wide! (^_^)

Thank you to my friends, Joe, Marcus, Chong Go Sunim, thank you to Daehaeng Kun Sunim (Zen Master Daehaeng), Juji Sunim, and all the nuns and monks at Hanmaum Seonwon (One Mind Seon Center), and thank you to the 3000 other people who joined us on Sunday. May the karmic momentum of the day be long lasting and far reaching.

Later, at Bongeunsa

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Juji Sunim's burn is the top one, with the black spot in it! (^_^)