Uncertain steps...

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Uncertain steps...

Postby Monsoon » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:47 am

Hi everyone!

After having a bit of a toe-dip in various threads I now understand just how much out of my depth I am at the moment. Lending truth to the saying about not testing the depth of the water with both feet I guess!

Anyway, as some may recall my daily practices involve (in random sequence - because I fit them in where possible, but try to make a fixed pattern if I can):

1. Yoga - Salute to the Sun, at dawn and dusk (recently increased from just dawn)
2. Taijiquan - very important part of my life. Long time practitioner of hand form and several weapon based systems.
3. Qigong - various forms depending on my daily needs (tends to be either zhan zhuang, baduanjin, swimming dragon or another ji ben nei gong set - apologies for those who are unfamiliar with Eastern energy work)
4. Chanting - Heart Sutra in Mandarin (I use a YouTube video to singalong with and I sing through just once each day)
5. Zuochan (zazen) usually for 15-20 minutes, watching the breath.
6. Recital of Namo Amituofo.

Sorry for all the mixing of terms and languages. I seem to have picked up a number of tools along the way and tossed them all into the same toolbox.

Coupled with the above I have also read (or soon to be read) some texts (though do not profess to understand them very well), mainly, in no particular order:
1. The Diamond that cuts through lllusion - Thich Nhat Hanh
2. The Heart of Understanding -Thich Nhat Hanh
3. The Dhammapada - transl. G Fronsdal.
4. Finding our true home - Thich Nhat Hanh
5. The zen teaching of Huang Po - transl. J Blofeld
6. Peaceful Action, Open Heart - Thich Nhat Hanh
7. The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching -Thich Nhat Hanh
8. The Book of Tibetan Elders - S Johnson
9. Peace is Every Step - Thich Nhat Hanh
10. Zen Keys - Thich Nhat Hanh
11. Shobogenzo - Dogen (on the back burner until I find more time to give it a good go)
12. Discourse on the Four Establishments of Mindfulness - from the Plum Village website
13. Discourse on the Full Awareness of Breathing - from the Plum Village website
14. The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation - Shramana Zhiyi (on it's way from the UK!)

And of course I have an interest in Daoist energy work and thus have a number of books by authors such as Mantak Chia, Yang Jwing-Ming and Damo Mitchell.

The problem that I have, which I touched upon in other threads, was that my practices lack any real structure or direction. On the advice of others (Greg, JohnnyD, Nilasarasvati, Kirtu, KimO, Jikan, Mandala - apologies if I left anyone out), I have decided to take the sacred bull by the horns and front up to one of the local groups. Initially this will be the Diamond Sangha guys (I have already contacted them and they have some beginner's nights, so next week it is!).

Furthermore, today I had the privilege of being with a few feet of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Man! Can he talk or what? :D I sat spellbound for over an hour as he answered our questions. However, what really touched me was that when he first came into the room he noticed a person in a wheelchair just in front of me and he immediately approached them and, I don't know whether this is the right way to put it, bowed to them (head to the floor) before engaging them in a whispered conversation. As he did this my perception was that his entire attention and care was concentrated on this one person in its fullness. It doesn't really matter if my perception is incorrect (IMO) but the act was somehow unexpected (never seen him before) and actually brought a tear to my eye (which was a touch embarrassing for a chap). And oh boy, does he have an infectious laugh!

Long and short of it is that in a few weeks I will swing by the Dharghey Centre and have a taste of Tibetan Buddhism as well.

We will see how it goes from there.

What might be useful for this forum though is if the other far more senior lay members and venerables would give some thought to outlining some potential structured approaches for anyone who finds themselves interested in learning more but perhaps only have the internet as a resource. Ultimately a good library is useful but it takes a lot of time to understand it all, whereas some good directed reading both for theory and for practical matters. I realise that some of this information is contained within the various sub-fora. Perhaps it is time to produce a small online guide to practice for complete beginners?

As can be seen I have a leaning toward Pure Land and Ch'an, but I think I am quite an eclectic sort of guy so am happy to rummage around in other traditions - unless this is a bad thing, which would go in the guide!

Maybe such a thing already exists and I have yet to find it (highly likely I would imagine given the low level of my intelligence), but sometimes an extra big sign saying "Are you lost? Please head this way!" would be a great help.

:namaste:
Let peace reign!

Metta,

Monsoon
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Dan74 » Tue Jun 11, 2013 11:25 am

Sounds like a great plan, Monsoon! Good luck with it!!!
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby mandala » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:35 pm

Well congratulations for jumping right in!
Look at you go... wonderful that you got to experience the Dalai Lama and his infectious laugh ... enjoy checking out the dharma centres!

I hope to hear how it goes.

:smile:
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Seishin » Tue Jun 11, 2013 1:45 pm

All you need and looking for can be found on BuddhaNet, they have an e-learning section which starts at the beginning and I always recommend this to beginners.

Buddhism is HUGE and can be a little daunting. It will take years before you begin to grasp it and years more before we can fully understand it. but don't let that worry you. We all started at the same place :smile: Take your time, ask questions and keep practising, especially in groups. All major rivers start as a trickle. :tongue:

Gassho,
Seishin.
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jun 11, 2013 4:37 pm

Good to hear you are finally going to get your feet wet!

Diamond Way are quite light (as far as Tibetan style traditions go) in their group practice sessions. Their emphasis is on getting people to do the Kagyu Ngondro. This is quite good if you want a structured approach. I would have thought you would have tried the "mainstream" Gelugpa group that you talked about, especially after your encounter with the Dalai Lama.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Astus » Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:42 pm

Chan and Pure Land practices have no general structures, it is whatever the teacher says or what you follow. So for that practically any Chinese or Vietnamese community/temple is a good place to go. If you like Thich Nhat Hanh (based on your list of books), their website also contains teachings and he has introductory works too.

Besides the BuddhaNet site, for East Asian Buddhism there are some good places to start.

Buddhism in Every Step - Ven. Xingyun's teachings covering lot of subjects
DDM - Free Literature - some of Ven. Shengyan's introductory works; there are also videos
Buddhism of Wisdom & Faith: Pure Land Principles and Practice - Thich Thien Tam's great summary of the Pure Land teachings
White Wind Zen Community - they provide distance training in Soto Zen
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jun 11, 2013 6:47 pm

My only advice is look for a local place and teacher as you are doing, and think a bit about which tradition(s) you are attracted to and what direction you want to go in, and why. Whenever possible read about the doctrine and practice methods of the schools you are interested in.

Barring that though, Buddhanet has some very good texts on basic meditation advice as was mentioned:

http://www.buddhanet.net/ftp10.htm


Buddhism is a huge subject though, think about the different cultures it has manifested in, it has a huge number of different forms and presentations..the thing is to figure out which things really resonate with you, and be as honest as you can with yourself in the process.

If you are trying to just figure out "what should I do daily", shamatha or some kind of seated meditation is a pretty standard, safe answer I think..and the above link has plenty of advice you could get started with, or to help you along if you are already doing this.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Jun 11, 2013 7:07 pm

There is a saying to the effect that "Fools think they know everything, the wise think they know nothing".
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Monsoon » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:48 pm

Thanks everyone for the encouragement and suggestions. I was totally unaware of Buddhanet (my Google-fu is obviously a bit pants). Anyway, one tradition at a time seems right to me considering the fairly heavy usage of time with other daily activities.

Greg, I will get around to the Tibetans but right now I guess keeping it simple might be preferable - hence the SZ group going first.

I think my motivation to post the OP was two-fold:

1. To ask for advice on choosing directions and resources
2. To ask whether what I am doing so far is someho wrong?

Anyway, I really appreciate the responses.

:namaste:
Let peace reign!

Metta,

Monsoon
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jun 11, 2013 8:58 pm

Monsoon wrote:Thanks everyone for the encouragement and suggestions. I was totally unaware of Buddhanet (my Google-fu is obviously a bit pants). Anyway, one tradition at a time seems right to me considering the fairly heavy usage of time with other daily activities.

Greg, I will get around to the Tibetans but right now I guess keeping it simple might be preferable - hence the SZ group going first.

I think my motivation to post the OP was two-fold:

1. To ask for advice on choosing directions and resources
2. To ask whether what I am doing so far is someho wrong?

Anyway, I really appreciate the responses.

:namaste:


I wouldn't even open the "wrong" can of worms on here lol, asking people on here about that is likely just to lead to frustration for you..personally while I appreciate knowledge and info from everyone here, the only people I consider qualified to get answers about what is personally right or wrong as far as practice are teachers, I wouldn't make decision based on what you read here necessarily, just take the information and sift through it. think about it..without someone knowing you, having a certain viewpoint or tradition, and having the insight to figure that stuff out, how they can say what's right or wrong at this point?

I suspect that's why people keep harping on about finding an actual sangha, detailed questions about right or wrong can really only be answered by someone who knows you, and has enough insight to answer them. In addition, you will probably feel more secure in the answers you receive.

Shamatha meditation though, is pretty similar in all traditions i'm aware of, so I mention that as something that you can just start doing right now using things like the Buddhanet texts without worrying about whether what you're doing is right or wrong, since nearly all traditions can only be helped by meditative stabilization of some kind. Alot of the other stuff, Yoga, Taiji and whatnot...Buddhist will have all kinds of different answers about whether that stuff is right or wrong, compatible or not, your mind will explode at all the different claims lol.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Jun 11, 2013 10:43 pm

Monsoon wrote:Greg, I will get around to the Tibetans but right now I guess keeping it simple might be preferable - hence the SZ group going first.
Sorry, my mistake, I thought you meant Diamond Way Sangha, not Diamond Sangha! By all means go for whatever your karma draws (pushes?) you towards! :smile:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Nilasarasvati » Wed Jun 12, 2013 3:00 am

Monsoon this is AWESOME!

I can't believe you met HH The Dalai Lama! That's absolutely insane! A huge blessing and an (the most?) auspicious gatekeeper to welcome you into the buddhadharma :namaste:

Umm the only thing I had to say when I saw your list of practices was..."wow that reminds me of me." I used to have a spiritual buffet table, practice Hindu Bhakti yoga, Hatha Yoga, Sikh Kundalini, Taijiquan, Baguazhang, Qigong, all in one day...all I can say was that I eventually got so worn out pulling myself in all those directions (and trying to keep all of them up everyday) that ended up tossing almost all of it overboard when I finally found "THE" path. If you feel like I did...sort of stretched-thin...try focusing on only one or two... whatever seems the most in line with the mindfulness and insight you're reading about in Thich Nat Hanh's books.
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby lobster » Wed Jun 12, 2013 4:47 am

There is a saying to the effect that "Fools think they know everything, the wise think they know nothing".


Glad to hear you taking certain uncertain steps . . . :woohoo:

As we all know thinking is no substitute for knowing. Your practice regime seems balanced to your needs. No doubt it will modify itself.
You can only really be advised to take steps . . . and some are even unable to consider that advice . . .

What are your next steps? :popcorn:
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Monsoon » Wed Jun 12, 2013 6:54 am

Lobster, I am sure there is a whole subtext to the first part of your post that has passed (ironically) over my head?

Next steps, as indicated, go to Soto! Kinda rhymes.Will give them 4 weeks of attention, and then off to the Tibetan group for 4 weeks or attention. I will let the first group know that I am in the process of trying to find what fits, so they don't think I am simply abandoning them!


Nilasarasvati, I didn't actually get to meet HH as such, just 3-4 yards away. It was a Q and A for the interested staff/students at the university for about 1.5 hours, before he went to another venue to deliver a peace talk to the paying public. I would have been happy to pay for the Q & A but as a member of staff I was allocated a ticket. Pure serendipity quite frankly. It was pretty awesome though :twothumbsup:

EDIT 1: regarding the smorgasbord of activities there, it really boils down to 2 distinct groups. The yoga, devotional and meditation practices are all done together in one session, and the qigong and taijiquan are done together in another session. Each group comprised of complimentary practices, so it seems like one big practice instead of lots of little bits. I am also a practitioner of Hua Yue Xin Yi Liu He Ba Fa Quan, though that's something most people don't know about me. :crazy:

Edit 2: Regarding TNH, I am not sure why I have so many of his books. I bought Zen Keys about 15 or 16 years ago, read it and occasionally dip back into it. That led to me getting Peace is Every Step and so on. He is an easy author to understand. For instance I prefer him to Red Pine when looking at Buddhist books, but Red Pine has a very good Dao de jing out, which I also have. I wonder if it is a good idea to stick with the first author one finds...

Anyway, back to the topic: I have another query!

1. Glancing at the mountain of Buddhist literature available, is Buddhism in danger of being labelled a scholar's religion?
2. If the answer to No.1 is 'yes' , and I think it is, then where does that leave the majority of lay practitioners?

I have seen it argued on another forum (LinkedIn actually) that people in Buddhist countries grow up with Buddhist ideals and understanding permeating the whole culture, and that this is why Western practitioners will 'never get it'. However, I have yet to meet a lay person from one of these countries that actually studies the scriptures. I am sure such people must exist, though my sample set is not huge. Most of the people I have met seem to do no more than (apparently) go through the motions of paying respects to Buddha on auspicious days.

I suppose what I am getting at is do the laity (me included) stand any real chance of realisation without scriptural study?

That's probably a real stoopid question but I'll leave it there anyway (just in case it's not... but it probably is... )
Let peace reign!

Metta,

Monsoon
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby lobster » Wed Jun 12, 2013 8:04 am

I suppose what I am getting at is do the laity (me included) stand any real chance of realisation without scriptural study?


Yes
In fact the only thing stopping progress (me included) is 'the experts'.

The Buddha, sat down, settled down, watched the mind circus :popcorn:
and . . . :woohoo:

:meditate:
The rest is just questionable . . .
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby muni » Wed Jun 12, 2013 9:41 am

Hi Monsoon,

Your signature says "let peace reign".

When peaceful ( Buddha) nature, always there but temporary hidden, is seen by correcting oneself by one of the helpful methods, the universe is perfect and no thing is there to correct.

Four Noble Truths is a nice guidance.

"True happiness is based on peace.”
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh.

:namaste:
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Monsoon » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:45 am

Hi Muni,

My signature is kind of a play on words: Let peace reign (rain) and metta, Monsoon!

(not terribly funny, but I get a little childish sometimes - probably too often).


I understood what you meant though and thank you for the reminder.

:namaste:
Let peace reign!

Metta,

Monsoon
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Dave The Seeker » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:13 am

Monsoon, I'm glad you're trying to find the path that fits you.

I can only imagine being in the presence of HH The Dali Lama, it must have felt....peaceful/serene.

Buddhism in all forms I believe, is the science of the mind. We are all trying to calm our minds and learning how to control our negative thoughts/emotions and to free our minds from the attachment to things that are demeritus.


:namaste:
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby muni » Wed Jun 12, 2013 11:52 am

Monsoon wrote:Hi Muni,

My signature is kind of a play on words: Let peace reign (rain) and metta, Monsoon!

:namaste:


Great. :smile:

Buddha Nature is said to be Simple Nature but due to our karmic garbage, there can be a lot of digging work to help, in order to see clear. Grateful for the many different teachings of the Buddha!
Some need lots of scripts, some not, some need this, some that....
Wise say each of us are perfect when we are cleaned from our artificial idea about what we are. Since from that idea, all garbage start.

Thank you. Metta. :namaste:
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Re: Uncertain steps...

Postby Nilasarasvati » Wed Jun 12, 2013 10:26 pm

Monsoon:
1. Glancing at the mountain of Buddhist literature available, is Buddhism in danger of being labelled a scholar's religion?


IN danger yes, but only if misunderstood.

There's a common number--they say the Buddha expounded 84,000 teachings to subdue the 84,000 negative emotions of beings and to relate to the 84,000 different types of beings. However, the teachings are as simple or as complex as we need them to be. Om Mani Peme Hung is the entire Buddhist path, all 84,000 dharmas in six syllables. Go repeat this in a shack somewhere until you've accumulated 100,000,000 repetitions with the right motivation and view, and you have everything you need (so they say). Likewise, if you want, you can learn how to make endlessly ornate Mandalas that take weeks for great masters to paint, do Lama dances, perform exorcisms, build temples according to Buddhist geomancy, commit thousands of pages of text to memory, blah blah blah! It's whatever you need it to be. However much you want. Whatever is appropriate for you. And of course I'm really only using examples from Tibetan Buddhism.

I'm not sure what other traditions say, but in the Tibetan systems you have a trifold approach to the Dharma: Study (or "hearing" the Dharma), Practice, Contemplation. Some schools emphasize Practice. Some schools emphasize Study/Contemplation more.


Most teachers say you have to hear the Dharma again and again and again and contemplate it before it really starts to make any sense. Practice builds your merit so that you can consummate and absorb the teachings better and better. They are a cycle. All necessary, but many say you must really begin with serious study, inquiry, critical interpretation, etc.

There are two kinds of scripture: Sutra (the words of the Buddha like the Heart Sutra) and Shastra (the commentaries written to explain those by realized masters and other enlightened beings, examples being Dogen Zenshi's writings or the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva). Finding a teacher you really like and going on youtube or their website and listening to them...WAY better than any other method for me. For others, reading again and again from one text.

All your TNH books seem...well I would get overwhelmed. I'd put most of them away and focus on just one or two. If you like, I'll PM you some video teachings from teachers who I really love and helped me out a ton. r
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