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”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Exercises on Mindful Breathing

Exercises on Mindful Breathing

The monastic community is practicing during the Rainy Season Retreat from January 4 to March 14 at Deer Park Monastery with the lay community. This 83-minute dharma talk in the Ocean of Peace Meditation Hall takes place on Sunday, January 18, 2004 at the beginning of the third week. Both audio and video versions are available with this post.

It takes about 5-minutes to work through some technical difficulties before the dharma talk begins. During that time Thay reflects on a few small things like the freshness of the air in Deer Park and the upcoming Year of the Monkey. The monkey is in the mind. Our practice is not to force the monkey to stop, but to become aware of the movement of the mind. We don’t try to suppress our mind. 

Last time we spoke about how to become fully present and fully alive. The practice is so easy that it would be a pity if you don’t do it. The power and energy of mindfulness is available because we all have the seed of mindfulness in our consciousness. If we keep the energy of mindfulness, concentration, and insight then we are good continuations of the Buddha. But we also live in forgetfulness and we can transform this with the flower of mindfulness. Garbage and flowers. We are like organic gardeners that can produce the flowers of peace and happiness. Our happiness arises from elements of affliction and we don’t need to be afraid of the garbage. We don’t need to run away from our pain and sorrow. 

Mindful Breathing Exercises

The Buddha offered very simple and effective methods of practice. We can master these methods and we can no longer be afraid of sickness, fear, despair, or even death. In the Sutra on Mindful Breathing, the first exercise is simply breathing in and out. Simple identification and awareness. Thay offers several methods on how to follow our in breath and out breath. When mindfulness is there, then concentration is there too. Concentration is born from mindfulness. This first exercise proposed by the Buddha is so easy and so simple. It is for our enjoyment. It is a gift. And when we practice mindfulness, we are a Buddha. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Aug. 18, 2018

Buddha Buzz Weekly: Aug. 18, 2018

Thai monks struggle with obesity, an exposé revisits allegations against Noah Levine, and the U.S. makes exceptions on Myanmar sanctions. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Matthew AbrahamsAug 18, 2018

A botched restoration of a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue in China. | Photo via Weibo

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Too Many Buddha Bellies in Thailand

Monks in Thailand are struggling with obesity, the New York Times reports. While excessive weight is a problem across Thailand, nearly half of monks there are obese, the Times writes, citing a study by Chulalongkorn University. In response, the Thai government has been urging local Buddhists, who give alms to monks as a way of generating merit, to provide the monastics with healthier food. The biggest offender is sugary drinks, officials found. The monks fast every afternoon and will often consume sweetened drinks to help keep their energy up. The beverages, combined with a sedentary lifestyle and offerings that include processed and pre-packaged foods, have led to increased health problems, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

New Allegations at Against the Stream

A exposé by the online publication Jezebel has revealed new details about the accusations of sexual misconduct facing Against the Stream (ATS) founder Noah Levine. While the exact nature of a Los Angeles police investigation and an accompanying internal ATS probe into Levine’s conduct remains unclear, the Jezebel report found that Levine may have as many as seven to ten accusers. Insiders also spoke about the spiritual leader’s inappropriate behavior, noting that he makes “misogynistic” jokes in the workplace. The report also took a critical look at Levine’s finances, saying he reportedly earned $200,000 a year and had ATS foot the bill for many of his expenses.

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Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment

Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment

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The U.S. women’s suffrage movement that formally began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 reached its apotheosis in the halls of Congress on this day in 1920: The Senate joined the House in approving the Nineteenth Amendment, securing the right to vote regardless of gender. Thus, this day marks the final victory in a legal challenge that lasted seven decades.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention) and Susan B. Anthony wrote the amendment in 1878. They waited as the Senate ignored it and then, after stalling for nine years, rejected it. They re-introduced it in 1914, 1915, 1918, and early 1919; each time Congress voted it down. Meanwhile, however, Mary Chapman Catt was working another angle, convincing state legislatures to institute women’s suffrage laws. As a result, fifteen states passed such laws, priming the pump of support for the Constitutional Amendment.

The impact of this amendment can hardly be measured. It fully enfranchised women whose fathers and brothers and husbands could vote. It countenanced women’s desire to practice democracy beyond the domestic sphere. It gave women direct, rather than symbolic, access to representational government, the right to be represented and to represent themselves, opening opportunity for female leadership at all levels.

For many women the Nineteenth Amendment did not immediately lead to access to a ballot. Most black women — and men — still could not vote because, despite the Fifteenth and now Nineteenth Amendments, their rights were suppressed by Jim Crow laws. Nevertheless, as a landmark legal victory, the Nineteenth Amendment wedged a foot in the door of universal suffrage.

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Learning to Die in the Anthropocene

I am a bad Buddhist. I don’t meditate every day, and some weeks, I feel lucky if I find the time to meditate at all. I go to zendo in rare spurts, a few weeks on, months off. I kill mosquitoes, flies, and moths. I drink, though no longer to excess. I’ve managed to rationalize continuing to eat meat. I’m often impatient and snarky with people, angry at them for blocking traffic, for being rude or thoughtless, for moving through the world in a haze, unconscious of the life flowing around them.

Look out! Look up! Just look! I want to shout. I am suspicious and proud and sometimes cruel, inconstant in my compassion. I don’t steal and I don’t lie, but I’m vain about that; after all, honesty is one of my best qualities. And yet for all my vanity, I’m a hypocrite, too: I dissemble and misrepresent and omit.

And then there’s the whole “I” problem. Not only do I fail in all these all-too-human ways, fumble the dharma, wander from the Buddha way, spread unnecessary suffering and sometimes even wallow in it, but I feel guilty and ashamed that I—marvelous “I,” wonderful “I,” oh-so-special “I”—have fallen so far below my image of myself, this ideal of a perfect Buddhist me, the beautiful butterfly “I” that will erupt when I become a bodhisattva. So far below! And even more: I’m guilty about my lack of devotion. “I” have career plans, worldly ambitions, hopes for the future outside and beyond achieving spiritual enlightenment.

I believe in this “I.” I won’t give it up. I want this “I” to succeed, in this world, in this particular cycle of pain and illusion, even if it means—as it does—making decisions that I know full well contradict the dharma. The path is clear, but I do not take it. The light shines, but I turn my face away. I remain willful, ignorant, suffering, anxious, dissatisfied, every day tying myself to the wheel of samsara. I know it. I keep doing it.

Another confession: I’m a bad environmentalist. I teach at Wesleyan, and I drive there from Brooklyn once a week, some two hours each way, adding my little bit to the mass of atmospheric carbon dioxide heating the planet. I’m flying all over, too, for academic conferences, journalism assignments, and a book tour: this year alone I’ve flown to Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Ireland, in addition to less polluting trips to the west coast, Miami, Texas, and so on. My partner composts her food scraps, dragging a bag of coffee grounds and onion skins to the park every week, but I don’t bother. I recycle only when it’s convenient. I buy coffee in cardboard cups and throw the cups away.

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Good Vibrations: A Buddhist Music Playlist

Music has long served as a bridge between the ordinary and the divine. And while the early vinaya [monastic code] required monks and nuns to abstain from listening to or playing music, the Buddha’s teachers were preserved through chanting and oral recitation of the canonical texts. As Buddhism spread across the world, methods of transmission changed, as did the way music was used as a part of the tradition—as mantras, offerings, and celebrations of insight. Today, music is used by various Buddhist schools to help cultivate focus, express devotion, reflect on life, or just to relax.

Tricycle has collected some of our favorite examples of Buddhist music, including music by contemporary Buddhists, music inspired by Buddhist thought, and music from centuries-old traditions. Some examples are surprising, while others are standards that warrant listening anew. They are all united by a common theme of drawing us in to contemplate awakening or encouraging us to enjoy the moment.

“Silly Boy Blue” – David Bowie

In 1966, David Bowie knocked on the door of the Tibetan lama Chime Rinpoche and said, “I want to become a monk.” But when Chime Rinpoche heard that Bowie’s talent was music, he advised “Don’t become monk; you do the music.” And that’s what Bowie did. He first developed a fascination with Buddhism and Tibet at 19. The song Silly Boy Blue was inspired by the description of Lhasa in Heinrich Harrer’s 1952 classic Seven Years in Tibet and the Potala Palace, Tibet’s traditional seat of government.

“Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” – Tina Turner

Tina Turner converted to Nichiren Buddhism in 1974 after an attempted suicide. She credits chanting with giving her the strength to leave her troubled marriage with Ike Turner and find peace. To show her gratitude, she recorded the mantra Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo on her album Beyond. The chant, which is central to Nichiren Buddhism, embodies the vow to embrace and manifest one’s buddhanature. Directly translated, it means “Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law,” referring to the Japanese title of the Lotus Sutra. Turner brings her trademark soulful, resonant vocals to the monotonic chant, giving it an urgency and rawness that’s deeply moving and inspiring.

“Chöd – In Praise of the Sacred Feminine” – Ayya Yeshe and IndiaJiva

Chöd is a powerful tantric practice for cutting through ego delusion in order to reach liberation. Here Australian Tibetan Buddhist nun Ayya Yeshe chants praise invoking the 11th-century Tibetan yogini Machig Labdrön, one of the founders of Chöd, accompanied by music from IndiaJiva (Vicki Hansen and Ronni Ragel).

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