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PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2010 11:04 pm 
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Please, if you would be so generous and kind, read my story and the plea that follows.

(To read a shorter version, I'm putting asterixes right above the really important part, so start there and read down from there)

I have not been a practitioner of Buddhism for very long, just about a year and a half, but all my life I have been highly spiritual, and, since being a child, wanted to be someone completely devoted to a religion and their causes. Growing up, I was a very devout christian and aimed to be a pastor. Then, in my mid teens, I realized Christianity was not the path for me. In the years following, my life was very tumultuous and chaotic. It seemed without faith fueling me, I lost motivation in most things, and, for some twisted teenage rebellion oriented reason, I felt that becoming an apostate of Christianity meant I no longer had a moral structure to follow. I committed many wicked deeds, and mental illnesses I had worsened exponentially. Then, as I hit rock bottom, living in a homeless program at the age of 20, having a 6PM curfew only mere weeks after I had been out partying until 6 AM, I discovered Buddhism. It was revealed to me by a very precious friend of mine, John, and it helped restore my sanity and give me structure and direction in life. Toward the end of my stay at the living program, John and I agreed that we would become Monks together. We had spent the months before my leaving talking and reading and practicing Buddhism (we're both Karma Kagyu, by the way). Shortly after I was welcome back into my parents' home (a whopping 3 hours away from the monastery, which seemed even farther since I don't own a car), I took refuge and was given White Tara empowerment. But, since I was so far removed from my Buddhist friend and the peaceful place we lived in, and plunged into the suburb and city which, if described as Samsaric, might be an understatement, I became distracted. I indulged in worldly pleasures like going out to bars, and chasing after women. In fact, for a long time, romance was my number one priority, and my desire to start a family one day is the reason I told John I would not become a monk.

Over the time that has passed, I have tried time and time again to get onto and be more serious about the Buddhist path. It has been described to me that often when one begins practice, many, many obstacles come up to deter you from the path. Obstacles came up that I could not see were obstacles, and I kept drifting off from the path. Until recently. In the past couple months, I started becoming more serious about Buddhism. I also knew distractions would be coming, and I was prepared. When I met a girl who seemed to be all I wanted in a woman, I simply explained to her that she was an obstacle in my path to Enlightenment, though, in a different way that caused a lot of laughs and led to us being friends. In accordance to wanting to overcome obstacles, I began saying the White Tara mantra many times.

*******************************************

In the time I have practiced, I have had very few realizations. Most of the teachings I just processed intellectually, and one of the biggest things I hadn't realized was the nature of Bodhicitta. I understood what it was and that it was the right thing to do, but I didn't FEEL it. I would briefly include "all sentient beings" in my prayers and practice, simply because I knew it was the right thing to do, not because I felt the need to do so. However, this all changed recently. My mother gave me a book she had gotten in the 80s which was a Buddhist Sutra. I had no idea what tradition it belonged to, but it said it was translated from sanskrit to chinese to english, so I figured it must have been Mahayana, and I was right- It was a pureland book. However, despite the pureland nature of the book, what the book was most about was the hell realms. In it they gave a "brief description" that wound up being more than 50 pages long. Never before this had I realized how terrible the hell realm, and all lower realms must be. Then, earlier today, I was standing on my porch, contemplating the hell realms and the immeasurable suffering sentient beings experience there, and I finally had a realization- that of Bodhicitta. So suddenly, so awe-inspiring, I suddenly felt so much compassion and love for all sentient beings, and then upon realizing, and truly realizing, the suffering of those in the lower realms, I began to weep and sob in compassion and sorrow for a good while. Then I sobbed some more when I knew in my current state I did not have the power to liberate such beings. But then, I was filled with joy and positive energy, remembering that I lived in the age of Dharma, and not just Dharma, but with Tantric practice, which by doing such one can become attained in one lifetime. It was then I was able to let go of my desire to have romance and selfish things like that, and that I finally agreed to join John on the path of becoming a monk and a Bodhisattva.

However, I was also struck with fear. I feared that in my very samsaric surroundings, that somehow the realization would be taken away from me, that I would be swallowed by all the things around me- the loud music my roomates play and refuse to turn down when I want to meditate, that they drink to intoxication often, and then have many shallow materialistic people around. And I- so far from the Monastery, from the Gurus and the Sangha, became afraid of losing what I had just gained.

I began praying, nearly nonstop, to White Tara, feeling that the more I said the mantra, the less likely the realization would fade from me. I also prayed that I would not become attached to such a realization, only that it was so precious and such an important tool in becoming a devout Buddhist.

So, I request from you, if you are empowered to do so, please say some White Tara on my behalf. Even if you do not believe this realization can be lost, then please do it for the obstacles I am bound to face in the future as I am entering into serious practice. If you could even mutter just one mantra for me, I would be indebted to you greatly. On the other hand, if you are not empowered to practice white tara, simply, if you could, say a prayer on my behalf to the Buddha. Again, I would have tremendous gratitude for such an act.

Thank you all for listening, may you all be blessed and achieve all you wish on the path of Dharma.

-Sonam Zangpo

_________________
http://www.facebook.com/szangpo

http://www.facebook.com/kyle.labonte <- This is my more active facebook, if you want some real discussion

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

"The world is dark when you're depressed; your thoughts have the power to invent your world." -Courage Wolf

"It is more important to be kind than to be right."
(I acknowledge I do not follow the quote above this, that is why it is there! so I will be reminded every time I post! :) )


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:08 am 
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 7:48 pm 
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Hi SonamZanpo,

You are experiencing some difficulties now, but try to think about impermanence: life doesn't suck forever!

There's no need for you to swing between extremes (bar hopping vs. monastic life). It's entirely possible for you to have a stable and deep daily Buddhist practice while having a girlfriend and treating her kindly. You don't need to forsake one for another.

If you feel in need of a blast of bodhichitta read Shantideva:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/x/nav ... 05749.html

That is great that you feel strongly about learning Buddhism. However, you should also remember that the true nature of your mind is infinite wisdom and compassion and that it has the capacity to purify all negativities and you are never without it. It is like the sun which is always shining behind the clouds. You and Tara are of the same essence--especially since you received the empowerment for her practice. Your body is Tara's body. Your speech is Tara's speech. Your mind is Tara's mind. You can take it even further and try to see all beings (even annoying people who play loud music) as Taras. Samsara can be seen as being inherently pure. Purity doesn't only exist in a monastery.

Also don't forget about the mani mantra: OM MANI PEME HUNG. It contains everything necessary and has been recommended by countless masters over the centuries. I saw the Dalai Lama recently, and he recommended that people should recite it at least 21 times a day.

And one of the core aspects of bohdichitta is compassion. You should meditate on compassion every day. In this way, you will not lose anything and will improve gradually. If your compassion is increasing, you are headed in the right direction.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2010 8:54 pm 
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Dear SonamZangpo,

Your story reminds me very much of having been hit with the true dissatisfaction of samsara. I've heard that it can be experienced as very painful, just as you described. And your realization of the magnitude of bodhicitta is equally moving. Although on the surface one seems positive and one seems not as pleasurable, but both have moved you deeply on your path judging by how you've described it. So it's my very humble opinion that both of these experiences are so wholesome.

I would be happy to say mantra on your behalf. Please keep us posted on your situation and how things are going if you're comfortable doing so.

Kindest wishes,
Laura


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:12 am 
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SonamZangpo,

I recited more than 108 mani mantras for you. We'll see if it helps. But I think the best thing is for you to recite it yourself.

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Luke


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 9:54 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:52 pm
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Hello all! Thank you so very much for your help. It has... helped!

I woke up today in a pretty sarmsaric mood. My huge burst of devotion and faith seemed to have left me, and I was saddened. However, as the day went on, I found that it wasn't lost, but stored, and was released at just the right moments. Someone had given me an application to live at a monastery, and I was putting off filling it out. Then, I was thinking maybe I'd put off trying to go there until the new year. Putting things off in my mind. However, as I tried focusing on worldly, samsaric things, I couldn't; I simply became too bored in how meaningless and lacking of depth they were. Then, I lay in my bed, staring at the wall, pondering to myself, and coming to the realization that leaving these worldly things behind is not losing things in a negative way. We do not mourn losing a zit or an illness or an addiction. All these things are distracting, and, having devoted most of my life to them, I have found myself not where I want to be, not feeling how I want to feel. So, one can only conclude that these things are contributing to my problems, not solving them.

So, things are going in a good way. I am not SOOO... I don't know the word... over enthused or manic about Buddhism as I was yesterday, but after calming, my baseline faith at rest has, overall, risen greatly.

_________________
http://www.facebook.com/szangpo

http://www.facebook.com/kyle.labonte <- This is my more active facebook, if you want some real discussion

OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA

"The world is dark when you're depressed; your thoughts have the power to invent your world." -Courage Wolf

"It is more important to be kind than to be right."
(I acknowledge I do not follow the quote above this, that is why it is there! so I will be reminded every time I post! :) )


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 01, 2010 3:01 pm 
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SonamZangpo, You should remember that samsara exists within monasteries, too. Monasteries are amazing places which are full of blessings, but they are not perfect places and many ordinary things also happen there. Perhaps, you'll have to do many chores, or maybe you'll have to share a room with a monk who snores loudly. It's not like everything inside will be all rainbow light and bodhisattvas.

In any case, you should try to maintain a regular meditation practice. One hallmark of monastic life is routine. If you don't like strict routines, then being a monk is probably not for you. Just daydreaming is not good. You need to observe what is happening in your mind at every moment. You need to use as much time as possible to work towards attaining enlightenment for all living creatures. This also means appreciating how fragile human existence is and how death could come at any moment (you could get hit by a bus, murdered, etc.).

You should really reflect on the Four Thoughts which Turn the Mind to the Dharma:
http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/buddh ... /dha03.php

Being a monk is also a big responsibility because you are so visibly representing the Dharma. If you act badly while while wearing a monk's robes, you not only bring shame to yourself, but you also bring shame to the Buddhist tradition.

And transforming oneself into a bodhisattva takes a great deal of effort even inside a monastery. You need to be willing to work hard and suffer in order to benefit other beings. If you understand karma, you will realize that you can start benefiting others right this moment (there is no need to wait until you enter a monastery): you can meditate and dedicate the merit to all sentient beings, you can be kind to others, help homeless people, buy animals who would be slaughtered otherwise and set them free, etc.

Perhaps, if we have good enough karma, Ven. Huifeng will stop in here and give you his thoughts about what it really means to be a monk in a Mahayana tradition.

In any case, good luck with your future plans.

Luke


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