Posted in Buddhist community activities, Buddhist Health and Wellness, Dharma Talks, On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Sangha – laying the foundation

This carries forth the idea of Sangha mind. The words I used in the last post and an attempt to flesh out the idea with what we already know. I am hoping that most still have good memories or notes from their ordination training. I still do!

Stability in our practice was determined by our training, our ability to embrace as much as possible the teachers guidance, our core training while at our preceptors temple learning the ropes and our willingness to stay on the path after ordination.

What we uphold after we ordain is key to our monastic life. How we actually carry out our daily lives is key to our laity that come to us for help and our success in helping them by teaching dharma and our future years as elders in the Maha Sangha.

We individually are responsible for ourselves…en total. Not our teachers or our temples. We are. The sum total of “I” is still here, still doing stuff, still typing at this computer trying to relieve people of doubt about the power of the robes, the stabilizing force of our training, the ability of Vinaya to guide our path and our own power to succeed.

We are even in our dreams monastics. Even in our private moments, spazing out (freaking out) over bills we can’t possible figure out to pay, or facing homelessness in the winter, or seeing our elders decline into babbling fools (not aimed at anyone…love my elders!…respects to you who read this, no harm, prostrating just in case your offended). 

When your in a private moment freaking out, just remember this. Your on a stage in your full robes, freaking out and your elders are there with more invited elders from other temples and so are the laity who came to just see you. Your alone on the stage. Do you still want to freak out? I hope the answer is no.

Keep yourself from freaking out by staying calm, see emotion remove from the situation, then respond to the situation then completely let go of it.  My first monastic friend is a monk a bhikkhu Ven. Zhang Ji who often said in Chinese “Fang Xia” which means let go!. So simple words, so valuable advice.  It saved me. It helped me remember to act on it. Thank you Ven. Zhang Ji.

My next monastic friend was a bhkshuni Ven. Jin Xin who gave me a recitation book. Her advice was to recite the morning service as my mind was jumbled full of interior talking because I was really stressed over separating from my husband with a toddler to support and lots of rejection letters from potential employers! I was scared! I couldn’t calm myself while I was trying to survive. So stabily after a long while happend due to my persistance to use a service in a foreign language which I struggled to pronounce!

I got so much comfort from the morning and evening service, even I didn’t know they were the LengYan Zhou and the Amitabha Sutra. Very good for stabilizing your mind. I stablized my discomfort inspite of the situation not changing for a real long time, but I survived it and my kid grew up very well. I learned to trust the mundane daily practice rather than depend on the glittery fluff of immediate gratification or grandiose events hoping for immediate relief.

Karmas cause and effect well we all got those, but we do not need raise our emotions to such a desparate level to deal with life’s problems. Stable mind relies on practice that is mundane even boring. This is what you do for yourself while you trod that Path. Think of the humbleness of when you were lay person listening to the service enjoying it, gaining benefit from joining it to right now, when you are the one performing the service and enjoying it benefitting from knowing so many people are there with you benefitting from joining in with you. What a treasure life you have!

If you are Sangha and suffering from serious problems like schizophrenia, serious health problems, depression, physical or verbal abuse or other serious problems you must get yourself help. If you need medication then get it. If you need police then call. If you need therapy take it. If you need something in the real life that will ease your body while you cope with your mind then do it! Surgery, medicine, good food, good Sangha community, stable place to live….this is your responsibility to achieve to allow you to cultivate the Path, if you lack in the basics or have one of these or other obsticles you then need to deal with it first.

Created modern things, methods that exist in the world are your tools too. Just because internet was not around in Buddha’s time doesn’t make it no less a poweful tool for dharma teaching.

Medicine has come along way since people suffering from mental health problems were tied to a stake to live out their lives in destitution and shame. Medical advances in treating bodily problems have made for many quick recoveries in what would have never been possible in Buddha’s times.

No excuses for not taking advantage of such things in modern life now.  Shame on you if you don’t, but if you lack money then understandable. But at least there is medicaid for low to no income people in the USA and overseas many national health programs exist. It’s your duty as a Sanghan to take care of yourself so please do it.

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Sangha mind – how do we monastics do it?

How do we sangha (ordained in vinaya monastics) do it? How do we face and overcome our obstacles? Well, the answer is as simple as your basic training while still a novice.

The core of the training is learning to do everything differently that you did as a layperson. Dressing, eating, standing, sitting, talking…all the basics are relearned.

Why? not becuase you did it wrong all your life but because you do it more mindfully when you are a monastic. There are benefits to doing this, it frees you to focus on tasks at hand without thinking about clothes or your life as layperson distracted with makeup, perfumes or cologne, wife, hubby, kids, or job.

Also it forms the foundation for your monastic life. When you trained during your ordination did you not listen to the teachings of the acaryani or acarya? They were filled with ideas on handling your monastic life.

Sangha mind is a way of living your monastic life so that you become – the bhikshu or the bhikshuni who bears, supports themselves entirely free of their habitual responses to the same obstacles faced in their laylife or repeated situations or people due to karmic links.

The freedom of choice to respond the same old way or a deliberate response to not and create a new response is the idea of stable mind that I call Sangha mind.

Like being on a stage in your most private moment and all your elder teachers are there to watch you respond. Do you sink back into habits? Do you overcome the habit? Do you create something new and beneficial? Do you create harm? If your response is habitual as the life you led before lay life then you fail to uphold the respect of your elders and yourself but least you use this as a moment to beat up yourself…don’t…you learn where you are in this habit. Then your resolve is to eliminate the habit. Then with time you actually do that. It’s not immediate, it’s not easy, it’s not fluffy feel good type of stuff. But once done your peaceful, satisfied and stable.

Is not the private life as public as a stage?

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Fluffy dharma talks not our style

Ok think for bit. When you used to be Christian or not. If you ever went to church and heard the sermons, some were regular light seasons. And some were just for fillers, or as the trade name by a Father slipped to us then peer ministers as forever known as “fluff”.

I’ve never understood why it would be necessary to have a “fluff” series of sermons on hand until I became ordained. I totally sympathize with the minsiters in the God centered religions. Because they have to limits on how much scripture they can offer to their congregations. And there are fixed expectations and limits to tolerance of what they can offer in their sermons.

People are brilliant in what they want to receive in their religious path. They have comfort levels that they do not want trounced on on Sundays or Saturdays. It may be the same for Buddhist except for one thing.

And that one thing is the Path. only our feet trod on. The guidelines we have are taught by Buddha and his disciples have carried those teachings into our modern lives through succeeding generations of Sangha. What we have is choices in how and where we choose to learn from and if we can be accepted for instruction by a master.

And my view is no different from any other ordained Sangha member. We have for over 2,500 years been upholding Buddhas teachings, our teachers have carried their masters lineages to us for us to carry on in our future generations. And consistency is the key here, not fluffy words.

We have the duty to keep our studies of the Tripitika and our practice as Vinaya monastics even faced with so much pressure to conform to our western ways and people. Fluff will not help you with reality, it only comforts for a moment. What helps is the hard work of study, practice and precepts! Really!

Well, I am one of those masters and I still have to trod the Path for myself. I am very acutely aware of the need for Sangha to modernize and explore different teaching ways for students of Buddhism and disciples in our modern times. However, not much has changed in the content and how we would approach teaching someone and training ourselves. That’s the beauty of it, methods, cultural acceptance, society, lineage in methodology or capability of the master all come in to play with so many variables, it’s really a treasure that people should appreciate that accessible Sangha reside within their community.

Most people go to temples for the first time expecting unrealistically that with that visit all their questions are answered, all their problems are solved and all their wishes come true. Well wouldn’t that be nice!

They want fluff. But what they need is the homework. Right! you say, homwork is for those years spent in school! Wrong! You owe yourself the effort to study sutras, practice methods Sangha teach you to help yourself achieve your wishes, overcome your obstacles, and progress and walk the Path yourself.

I’m no responsible for your mind. You are. Just you. It’s your duty to yourself to be stable, healthy and make the effort in your life. Buddhism offers many ways to do that. Sangha who are ordained in Vinaya are the traditional teachers you can rely on for dharma teachings.

Face reality it’s alot more enjoyable without the fluff.

Posted in Buddhist community activities, Dharma Talks, On the Path, Precepts Holders, Vinaya

Dharma Teaching with Technology

Dharma teaching by Sangha with technology like computers, websites, APPs for itouch, ipad, and such. It is clear technology will quickly leave us behind as beneficial instruments of modern dharma teaching. Also if we do not accomodate the way people learn now versus the way we used to learn then it will also cause lags in motivating people to explore in detail as they are capable of doing on their own or in dharma classes.

First explore the community in which you live right now,  not where you want to live.

It’s easy to miss this one, because don’t we all have goals in our ideal community?  Me I really like to live somewhere else. Why? Only  because I am so isolated here because there is no temple nearby and hardly anyone visits me to ask for dharma teachings or services.  And I am not able to raise funds for one in these past 4 years. If funds came then it would be easier to sponsor monks and nuns to come here to live and help lay the foundation for the community.  Right now I’m just practicing patience until the situation resolves itself or I am on my way to live in a temple community.

This town where I live has a university community separate from the town community. Residents of the town community are largely concerned with their own lives and going or not to church or mosque or synagogue. But every one where is waiting for someone else to provide a place to practice Buddhism; specifically me.  I haven’t money for that. I’m a sangha member without community here.  The only bhikshuni for the entire state. It takes more than one to do this and a generous group of benefactors.

The university community hasn’t touched one effort on my services or called beyond the first and only invite to a world religions course in 2006. They have their own links with a japanese nun in the southern Iowa with her own place who has connected years before I arrived here. She is in her own system and not interested in sharing mine. So that’s a dud for now, I’m open to working with her but she has not called me only once in 2006 just to respond to my calls to her.

We got 3 temples in the capital. But there is a language problem right away and nobody from the Wat called me back. Also the Vietnamese places are not open to englsih programs at this time, just doing everything in Vietnamese but we share common traditions being they are Pure Land. I just want to be in a place where I don’t have to learn another language as it takes quite awhile to get it down and you want to know it to be in harmony with the rest. So it has been fruitless for me but I send high reccomendations for the public to visit these wonderful dharma places. I wish in the future to work with all of them.

Develop online presence

Blog, facebook, twitter, wordpress, typepad, blogger, etc. Get a free website. But..do not count on Buddhist forums for serious dharma discussions, there have been many attempts to invite Sangha to participate but the rudeness and the eventually blasting towards uncouth posters who just want to do their own thing or denegrate Sangha always prevails or there some ppl who are on power trips and rip apart anyone they feel they can, Sangha are really not respected by moderators or forum founders. It’s a pity maturity is just not there.

more later.. Amituofo

ok, now about the time it takes to do some of these things. It has taken me all week to figure out some sites since I’m not always on this computer to do it efficienty.  Also it’s scary to jump into donation buttons and messing around with learning the ropes of online banking or any other thing you have to be responsible for in dharma teaching. Like raising funds or accepting funds so printed material can be paid for for those who are not online or to use during study or services.

Fundraising

The biggest concern of everyone in our modern life as monastics. It should be a higher priority that it is. We have too many alturistic types in our moanstic sangha. Or they willingly put their heads in the sand not facing this reality until it’s in their face. What churches do and other non-Buddhist communities do works very well. Some parts of it can lend itself easily to our communities. What upsets ONLY most nonBuddhists is that we would consider this or ask for donations. well it’s done in most Asian temples as a matter of course quite easily.  The westerners get mad and huff and puff (and I might have been one of those types when I first visited a temple too!) about putting in to the community financiallly but really they use alot of services and materials expecting all the while it is free to them. Demuring to these types is not useful to help our communities sustain themselves even most don’t have healthcare becasue of this problem. Just scraping enough money to have food or pay for mortgages or rent and utilities.  Use the web is impersonal and easy.