Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Heart Mantra


1. (Sanskrit) Tayata: Om! Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate. Bodhi, Svaha!
2. (English) This is to say: Om! Gone, Gone, Gone Beyond (to the Other Shore of Liberation),  Gone Altogether Beyond. Oh, What an Awakening, All hail!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chung Tai Monthly Newsletter

文/美國佛心寺禪修班學員 Jeanna Salinas  

  Most of us are familiar with the story of Krisha Gotami, the woman who upon the death of her young child went to Buddha and asked for his help. He instructed her to go to each house in the village until she found a family that had not experienced death and to ask of that family a mustard seed. She was then to bring the mustard seed back to Buddha. 

  She went from house to house but was unable to find any household that had not been touched by death. As she continued to search for a family untouched by death it gradually occurred to her that death was universal. There was not a family that had not experienced death. Everyone dies and realization was her first glimpse of the nature of impermanence and the futility of grasping. 

  Losing a loved-one through death can be a dark and difficult time, and for some perhaps the most difficult time we are to face during our lifetime. Often, the threatened loss of someone dear can provoke more fear than a perceived loss of our own self, especially when it involves the loss of a child. But as in the case of Krisha Gotami, children do die. As do parents. As do spouses. As do siblings. 

  However, the most precious Dharma has provided a path to gradually develop the perspective and insight not only to endure, but to learn from our losses, and to find and maintain the inner peace and happiness that comes from the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha. 

  One of the first teachings that we are taught is that of impermanence. This teaching is very clear and we are taught to look for ourselves at this impermanence and how it affects everyone universally. By the recognition of impermanence we obtain the true picture that shows us that everyone suffers at the hands of death and once we accept this, the natural progression becomes one of learning how to let go. Recognition of this need to let go brings us to a different perspective. 

  We learn to see how futile it is to grasp and the more that we can embrace the idea of impermanence, the easier it is to let go in times of personal loss. When this realization becomes anchored firmly in place, we then through our practice and training, learn to turn our loss outwardly into compassion - compassion for others who have also experienced the sadness of death, and compassion for those who have not yet realized the truth of impermanence and nonattachment. 

  Buddha has given us the teachings that allow us to turn the darkness of grasping and attachment into the light of compassion. When we experience a loss, through our training and practice we are able to experience the loss, but at the same time, experience it through the perspective of one who understands impermanence and is able to still see the sky through the clouds. 



  面對至親的死亡、失去所愛,可能是一段灰暗困苦的日子。甚至對某些人來說,這是他們一生中最為艱苦的時光。通常,害怕失去親人的感覺遠比失去自己的生命更令人恐懼,特別是當一個人失去了自己的孩子。但是,就如同在瞿曇彌的公案所見,小孩會往生,正如我們的父母、 配偶、兄弟姐妹也會往生一樣。





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chung Tai Monthly Newsletter, No 149 (III)

文/ 美國佛心寺禪修班學員 Mark Cunningham
  I first started reading and observing Buddhist principles and material a couple of years ago. This past fall I started attending "Beginning Meditation Classes" at Buddha Mind Monastery in Oklahoma. I wanted to find a teacher who could teach me better ways to practice and help to guide me and share their experience with me as tried to deepen my efforts of practicing the principles that I had read about.

  The more that I read and, more importantly, the more that I tried to "apply" what I read to my life, the more I felt it was becoming a "truthful way of life" for me. Not only did it enhance some of the spiritual practices and principles that I was already making a part of my life, it offered a "hope" for me in crossing through some areas of my life that are still causing me to suffer, and maybe more importantly than just me, they are areas of my life that also have caused suffering for others that are dear to me too.

  While I am far from "enlightened" I know in my heart of hearts that I am on this path and that while I am just a beginner, I know that there is some power or pull "within" that keeps moving me in a direction of growth in a positive way.

  No doubt, the losses and failures in my life have been the biggest catalyst for lasting beneficial change in my life. To date, one of the biggest losses or troubles that I have ever had to face was alcoholism; many of the principles that I was taught in rebuilding my life and overcoming alcoholism are central to the Noble Eightfold Path. Self-examination (Right Mindfulness and Right Understanding), amending relationships (Right Action), and helping others are all principles that I try to practice in my life.

  Where does tolerance fit in? Buddhism has helped me to be able to better practice tolerance for others. My intolerance for others and not allowing them the dignity of growing as they are supposed to grow in their own time is a guarantee for a disaster in my relationship with others. Meditation and contemplation in how to better understand them have helped me to have a more kind and tolerant view towards others.

  Sometimes the best that I can do is to "step back" from the moment until a later time when I have a chance to let the "emotions of the moment" subside and clearer thinking prevail. Now those are nice ways of saying it and on paper it sure looks a lot better than how it might really happen in real life. Some days life just seems to "come at you", and all the spiritual tools in the world can't stop that. BUT, they do give me some assistance in how to respond.

  I have always been fond of the story of the boy that was trying to learn to play the guitar. When you first are learning to play the guitar putting your fingers in the right spots for the chords is very awkward, sometimes uncomfortable. You strum the strings and a noise that is similar to the sound that the chord should make comes out of the guitar. The more you strum, the better the sound becomes. That is just one chord. Eventually the teacher has you move from one chord to another, it doesn't flow anything like a beautiful song for some time as you practice. At first it isn't always a pretty sound, but in time with more practice eventually you become able to make that "joyful sound" that you had hoped to be able to make one day.

  That to me is how the spiritual life seems to work too. I will be able to play a beautiful melody in my life.









Chung Tai Monthly Newsletter, No 149 (II)

文/ 美國佛心寺研經班學員 Tania Herman
  There are many sounds produced from many sources. They are loud and some even deafening. The rumbling of the cars, the typing on the keyboard, the discussion in the monthly meeting, the arguing of the children in the back seat, and the commercials for toys on TV, to mention a few.

  Although loud sounds continuously bombard my ears, it is possible to listen to silence. When I pay attention to silence, I can perceive deeper thoughts and analyze my actions. Buddhism teaches me to be mindful. When I hold still to a situation, it allows me to choose how I'm going to react to it. I can observe the lesson and save myself from feeling pain or inflicting pain on others.

  Being mindful helps me practice tolerance, and tolerance brings me peace. Practicing tolerance frees me from regrets and expands my view of the world surrounding me.

  I can stay in line at the store and not be angry because the cashier is too slow; maybe I would be too in her situation. I can drive and not be bothered by the cars that cut in front of me; maybe they have an emergency. I interact with people of different religions, cultural backgrounds, and races, and accept and respect those differences.

  My perceptions were modified when I started practicing Buddhism. I became aware of the control I have over my choices. Tolerance is like the gift that keeps on giving; the more I practice it, the more tolerant I become, and with this, the more peace and tranquility I achieve.






Chung Tai Monthly Newsletter, No 149 (I)

文/ 美國佛心寺護法會諮詢委員、研經班學員  Blaine Frierson
  Mahayana Buddhism for the westerner is a complete reorientation of life. In the West, you are trained to take initiative, to reach out, to move forward. It is said, 'If you don't do it, who will?' Being aggressive is the way to success and accomplishment; Those who wait don't eat; Those who procrastinate don't succeed. Yet, Buddhism teaches the opposite.

  In the West we are also told in our education system to define every item to its most minute degree, and to logically separate those definitions by making distinctions. The so-called critical method of study encourages students to contrast, compare, and make critical distinctions. This is the opposite of Buddhism and thus leads to a different path.

  In Mahayana Buddhism, we are taught to 'just sit', to not make distinctions, to not compare and contrast. When we try to assert ourselves, shoving forward into life, we become lost.When we wait, or, just sit, the world and everything in it comes to us! The whole world manifests itself in us. We do not manifest ourselves in the world; we allow all beings, sentient and non-sentient to manifest themselves through us. This is practice. This is enlightenment.

  We wait. This is the secret to the Buddhist principle of tolerance. By its definition tolerance does not force itself on other beings. It waits. It listens. It watches the breath. It counts the breath. It watches the watcher.

  Tolerance may be defined as the practice of permitting a thing of which one disapproves. It may be also called patience, or long-suffering. In tolerance, we wait; we make no distinction; we do not judge; we see the others as ourselves-us.

  As not good, not bad. We allow the intolerant person to manifest themselves through us. This is neither good, nor is it bad. It is not approved and it is not disapproved. It merely exists.

  As a young male growing up in the United States, I was trained to not allow anyone to overstep their boundaries with me, to prevent aggression by another, and to 'stand up for myself.' This is in contradiction to Buddhism.

  My profession is practicing law. When I first started practicing, I wrote one of my first letters to another lawyer, making a demand. The old lawyer called me and said 'you need to watch what you say in your letters, for, if you are too demanding you may be committing extortion on others.' I have remembered this lesson forever, but I have never really quite understood the philosophy behind his words.

  In Buddhism I have learned the logic behind the lesson. To practice the Buddha Way one must be patient, kind and tolerant. When a person becomes aggressive or raises his/her voice towards me, I try not to speak and say little, to allow them to speak their piece before responding. Then, when I speak, I speak with power; I speak from the heart.

  The Buddha way is waiting and being one with the world. The world is one through your sitting. The world comes to you. You do not go to the world. The peace that passes all understanding will come when you wait, if you are tolerant.









  現在回想起來,是佛法讓我了解這個事件背後的道理。也就是說,在成佛之道上,必須要學會忍耐、慈悲和包容。當別人攻擊我或對我大聲嚷嚷的時候,我學會儘量不要回應,讓他們先把話講完,我再回應。於是,當我開始說話時,我的話變得更有力量,而且它完全發自於內心。 成佛之道有賴於靜觀及與世界融合無礙的智慧。世界的真實相貌會因你的靜觀而自然呈現,這不是強求而來的。當你能靜觀和包容時,一種由於全然了解而生的寂靜之心,自然現前。)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Grand Master Wei Chueh

True cultivation is to practice all good deed, without any attachment whatsoever.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Words of Wisdom from Grand Master Wei Chueh

The Principle of Causality (cause and effect) in Buddhism actually teaches us to depend on our own diligent efforts. If we understand our life then we can direct our life. If you can perceive these truths clearly, then you can understand your fate and create/establish your fate.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The New York Times: Mindful Eating as Food for Thought

Mindful Eating as Food for Thought

Jennifer May for The New York Times
Diners wait until everyone is seated at the Blue Cliff Monastery. More Photos »
TRY this: place a forkful of food in your mouth. It doesn’t matter what the food is, but make it something you love — let’s say it’s that first nibble from three hot, fragrant, perfectly cooked ravioli.
Jennifer May for The New York Times
A road sign shows the way to the monastery. More Photos »
Now comes the hard part. Put the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry.
Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.
Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating.
The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel. In one common exercise, a student is given three raisins, or a tangerine, to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, musing on, holding and patiently masticating.
Lately, though, such experiments of the mouth and mind have begun to seep into a secular arena, from the Harvard School of Public Health to the California campus of Google. In the eyes of some experts, what seems like the simplest of acts — eating slowly and genuinely relishing each bite — could be the remedy for a fast-paced Paula Deen Nation in which an endless parade of new diets never seems to slow a stampede toward obesity.
Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs somesalad.
“This is anti-diet,” said Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, a pediatrician and meditation teacher in Oregon and the author of “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food.” “I think the fundamental problem is that we go unconscious when we eat.”
The last few years have brought a spate of books, blogs and videos about hyper-conscious eating. A Harvard nutritionist, Dr. Lilian Cheung, has devoted herself to studying its benefits, and is passionately encouraging corporations and health care providers to try it.
At the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, Prof. Brian Wansink, the author of“Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” has conducted scores of experiments on the psychological factors that lead to our bottomless bingeing. A mindful lunch hour recently became part of the schedule at Google, and self-help gurus like Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Freston have become cheerleaders for the practice.
With the annual chow-downs of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday behind us, and Lent coming, it’s worth pondering whether mindful eating is something that the mainstream ought to be, well, more mindful of. Could a discipline pioneered by Buddhist monks and nuns help teach us how to get healthy, relieve stress and shed many of the neuroses that we’ve come to associate with food?
Dr. Cheung is convinced that it can. Last week, she met with team members at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and asked them to spend quality time with a chocolate-covered almond.
“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves,” said Dr. Cheung, who, with the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, co-wrote “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.” “That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’ ”
The topic has even found its way into culinary circles that tend to be more focused on Rabelaisian excess than monastic restraint. In January, Dr. Michael Finkelstein, a holistic physician who oversees SunRaven, a holistic-living center in Bedford, N.Y., gave a talk about mindful gardening and eating at the smorgasbord-friendly headquarters of theJames Beard Foundation in New York City.
“The question isn’t what are the foods to eat, in my mind,” he said in an interview. “Most people have a general sense of what the healthy foods are, but they’re not eating them. What’s on your mind when you’re eating: that’s mindful eating to me.”
A good place to try it is the Blue Cliff Monastery, in Pine Bush, N.Y., a Hudson Valley hamlet. At the serene refuge about 75 miles northwest of Manhattan, curious lay people can join Buddhist brothers and sisters for a free “day of mindfulness” twice a week.
At a gathering in January, visitors watched a videotaped lecture by Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced tik-nyot-HAHN), who founded this and other monasteries around the world; they strolled methodically around the grounds as part of a walking meditation, then filed into a dining room for lunch.
No one spoke, in keeping with a key principle of mindful eating. The point is simply to eat, as opposed to eating and talking, eating and watching TV, or eating and watching TV and gossiping on the phone while Tweeting and updating one’s Facebook status.
A long buffet table of food awaited, all of it vegan and mindfully prepared by two monks in the kitchen. There was plenty of rice, herbed chickpeas, a soup made with cubes of taro, a stew of fried tofu in tomato sauce.
In silence, people piled their plates with food, added a squirt or two of condiments (eating mindfully doesn’t mean forsaking the hot sauce) and sat down together with eyes closed during a Buddhist prayer for gratitude and moderation.
What followed was captivating and mysterious. Surrounded by a murmur of clinking forks, spoons and chopsticks, the Blue Cliff congregation, or sangha, spent the lunch hour contemplating the enjoyment of spice, crunch, saltiness, warmth, tenderness and like-minded company.
Bill Wingell for The New York Times
Prof. Brian Wansink at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab has studied the psychological causes of binge eating.More Photos »
Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times
Dr. Lilian Cheung of Harvard's School of Public Health is a proponent of mindful eating. More Photos »
Some were thinking, too, about the origins of the food: the thousands of farmers, truck drivers and laborers whose work had brought it here.
As their jaws moved slowly, their faces took on expressions of deep focus. Every now and then came a pause within the pause: A chime would sound, and, according to the monastery’s custom, all would stop moving and chewing in order to breathe and explore an even deeper level of sensory awareness.
It looked peaceful, but inside some of those heads, a struggle was afoot.
“It’s much more challenging than we would imagine,” said Carolyn Cronin, 64, who lives near the monastery and regularly attends the mindfulness days. “People are used to eating so fast. This is a practice of stopping, and we don’t realize how much we’re not stopping.”
For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.
“As we practice this regularly, we become aware that we don’t need to eat as much,” said Phap Khoi, 43, a robed monk who has been stationed at Blue Cliff since it opened in 2007. “Whereas when people just gulp down food, they can eat a lot and not feel full.”
It’s this byproduct of mindful eating — its potential as a psychological barrier to overeating — that has generated excitement among nutritionists like Dr. Cheung.
“Thich Nhat Hanh often talks about our craving being like a crying baby who is trying to draw our attention,” she said. “When the baby cries, the mother cradles the baby to try to calm the baby right away. By acknowledging and embracing our cravings through a few breaths, we can stop our autopilot of reaching out to the pint of ice cream or the bag of chips.”
The average American doesn’t have the luxury of ruminating on the intense tang of sriracha sauce at a monastery. “Most of us are not going to be Buddhist monks,” said Dr. Finkelstein, the holistic physician. “What I’ve learned is that it has to work at home.”
To that end, he and others suggest that people start with a few baby steps. “Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Dr. Cheung said. “You’re not supposed to be able to switch on your mindfulness button and be able to do it 100 percent. It’s a practice you keep working toward.”
Dr. Bays, the pediatrician, has recommendations that can sound like a return to the simple rhythms of Mayberry, if not “Little House on the Prairie.” If it’s impossible to eat mindfully every day, consider planning one special repast a week. Click off the TV. Sit at the table with loved ones.
“How about the first five minutes we eat, we just eat in silence and really enjoy our food?” she said. “It happens step by step.”
Sometimes, even she is too busy to contemplate a chickpea. So there are days when Dr. Bays will take three mindful sips of tea, “and then, O.K., I’ve got to go do my work,” she said. “Anybody can do that. Anywhere.”
Even scarfing down a burrito in the car offers an opportunity for insight. “Mindful eating includes mindless eating,” she said. “ ‘I am aware that I am eating and driving.’ ”
Few places in America are as frantically abuzz with activity as the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but when Thich Nhat Hanh dropped by for a day of mindfulness in September, hundreds of employees showed up.
Part of the event was devoted to eating thoughtfully in silence, and the practice was so well received that an hourlong wordless vegan lunch is now a monthly observance on the Google campus.
“Interestingly enough, a lot of the participants are the engineers, which pleases us very much,” said Olivia Wu, an executive chef at the company. “I think it quiets the mind. I think there is a real sense of feeling restored so that they can go back to the crazy pace that they came from.”
It’s not often, after all, that those workhorse technicians get to stop and smell the pesto. “Somebody will say, ‘I ate so much less,’ ” Ms. Wu said. “And someone else will say, ‘You know, I never noticed how spicy arugula tastes.’ ”
And that could be the ingredient that helps mindful eating gain traction in mainstream American culture: flavor.
“So many people now have found themselves in an adversarial relationship with food, which is very tragic,” Dr. Bays said. “Eating should be a pleasurable activity.”

Consider These
O.K., so you don’t happen to live in a Buddhist monastery. You can still give mindful eating a spin by incorporating a few chilled-out gestures and rituals into your regular calorie intake.
WHEN YOU EAT, JUST EAT. Unplug the electronica. For now, at least, focus on the food.
CONSIDER SILENCE. Avoiding chatter for 30 minutes might be impossible in some families, especially with young children, but specialists suggest that greenhorns start with short periods of quiet.
TRY IT WEEKLY. Sometimes there’s no way to avoid wolfing down onion rings in your cubicle. But if you set aside one sit-down meal a week as an experiment in mindfulness, the insights may influence everything else you do.
PLANT A GARDEN, AND COOK. Anything that reconnects you with the process of creating food will magnify your mindfulness.
CHEW PATIENTLY. It’s not easy, but try to slow down, aiming for 25 to 30 chews for each mouthful.
USE FLOWERS AND CANDLES. Put them on the table before dinner. Rituals that create a serene environment help foster what one advocate calls “that moment of gratitude.”
FIND A BUDDHIST CONGREGATION where the members invite people in for a day of mindfulness. For New Yorkers, it’s an easy drive to the Blue Cliff Monastery, about 90 minutes north of the city: bluecliffmonastery.org/ on the Web.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 New Year Blessing Words from Grand Master Wei Chueh

Harmony Brings Out the Splendor in Life

~ Grand Master Wei Chueh