At a crossroads in practice

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At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:03 pm

I’ve posted this at another site or two, because I’d like as much guidance and perspective as possible.

For me things happens quickly, perhaps impulsively is a better word, so I'm looking for some tempering of my possible impulsiveness in this. This has come about from a combination of factors, and influence of reading here and there.

I am becoming more and more interested what I see as the simplicity of full-on Buddhist practice, especially Pure Land. Something in the past 24 hours has hit me like a vajra from the blue about it. That single-pointed devotion and meditation on Amitabha, emulation of the compassion of Avalokiteshvara, and the wisdom of Mahāsthāmaprāpta seems like one-stop shopping. Maybe it's laziness on my part, and looking for an easy way at work here, and that I really don't understand. That's where I need to be set straight by this august sangha.

However, I feel quite, if not overly, invested in the Hindu deities. Let me outline a few things, then I hope someone can take it from there and help me put all this together.

1. I am a Deist; I believe there is a God. Whether one calls it Brahman, a Cosmic Consciousness, a Cosmic Unity, or it is even Adi-Buddha, I believe something is there. Sure, I say some supplicative prayers and prayers of thanks which I think are more for my own mindfulness rather than for "God". This is not entirely against Deism, because there are Deists who pray.

2. I believe in the deities, whether they are Buddhist, Taoist or Hindu, as beings on other planes who may or may not help us. I think they do help; experiences in my life seem to indicate it as more than mere coincidence or dumb luck. But I can’t know for certain.

3. The over-investment I feel I've had in Hinduism is not unlike a former Christian having a hard time shaking certain beliefs. Can I eventually come to not picture Vishnu, Shiva or Krishna as the anthropomorphic representation of God? Can I consider them as devas, not God himself? Yes, I think I can. In fact, I really dislike the idea of a personal anthropomorphic God. Do I need to have representations of them, murtis, on my altar and in my shrine? Mm... I don't think I do, except only to represent aspects of reality like Saraswati representing wisdom and the arts, as well as the dispelling of ignorance (think of Manjushri) ; Narasimha representing protection; Hanuman represents strength and devotion; Krishna teaching duty and single-pointed devotion in the Bhagavad Gita (which btw, I believe paved the way for the Buddha... really); Rama for doing one's duty no matter what; all of these for mindfulness of those aspects. Besides, I like the pretty colors of the pictures and statues. :D But I don't pray to them or chant their mantras.

4. In meditation on this, I've come to feel that Buddhism is the natural continuation or evolution of Hinduism.

5. So, am I ready to make the leap?
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Simon E. » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:26 pm

Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:39 pm

1. I am a Deist; I believe there is a God. Whether one calls it Brahman, a Cosmic Consciousness, a Cosmic Unity, or it is even Adi-Buddha, I believe something is there. Sure, I say some supplicative prayers and prayers of thanks which I think are more for my own mindfulness rather than for "God". This is not entirely against Deism, because there are Deists who pray.


This is the biggest thing, everything else you mention does not really conflict. The question here is, do you believe "it" created the world. i.e. samsara, or do you believe that samsara has always been, do you believe "it" was a first cause of the world or not? This is a really big question, and from what I can read, it's this that will ultimately answer whether or not Buddhism will be comfortable for you to just jump into. In Buddhism samsra is causeless, there is no purpose to it or anything, and no one made it...to put it in shorthand. Related to this, do the Four noble truths square with your experience, do they echo as true somehow? Just judging from theists I know (including my wife), the part that generally throws for a loop is that Buddhism denies a first cause, and the Buddhist idea of samsara seems very dark to alot of people I think.

I think if you're that interested though you should just start practicing, you can get alot out of Buddhist practice without needing to "believe" the whole worldview, the teachings are there regardless of whether or not you wholeheartedly accept everything, and almost every Buddhist I know has different views ..witness this site lol.

.
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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: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:50 pm

Simon E. wrote:Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:


Thanks... this something that I'm feeling and inuiting, not intellectualizing. I overthought things in the past, but that is the past. Now it's feelings. In that case it's like Nike: "Just Do It".
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Alfredo » Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:53 pm

I love Hinduism too, but that doesn't make me a Hindu.

Believing in God would not disqualify you from being a Buddhist. (Perhaps you might contemplate what you mean by "God.") And believing in devas such as Indra is actually rather traditional.

Buddhism and Hinduism obviously do have a close relationship, though one might quibble about the role of the Vedas. Anyway, don't feel like you have to renounce any symbol of your spiritual ideals, even if they are not always 100 % Buddhist. It's okay to be somewhat conflicted. (Saraswati is a fine Buddhist yidam, however!)
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jikan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:04 pm

Jainarayan wrote:
Simon E. wrote:Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:


Thanks... this something that I'm feeling and inuiting, not intellectualizing. I overthought things in the past, but that is the past. Now it's feelings. In that case it's like Nike: "Just Do It".


There you go. You have nothing to lose! :woohoo:
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:07 pm

Jainarayan wrote:
Simon E. wrote:Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:


Thanks... this something that I'm feeling and inuiting, not intellectualizing. I overthought things in the past, but that is the past. Now it's feelings. In that case it's like Nike: "Just Do It".


I don't remember where it's from, but there is a piece of traditional advice that's something like "if there is something in Dharma you don't understand, drop it until later"..i'm sure i'm butchering it but the point stands, you don't have to understand everything to practice, just focus on what resonates with you are go for it.
"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: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:13 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
1. I am a Deist; I believe there is a God. Whether one calls it Brahman, a Cosmic Consciousness, a Cosmic Unity, or it is even Adi-Buddha, I believe something is there. Sure, I say some supplicative prayers and prayers of thanks which I think are more for my own mindfulness rather than for "God". This is not entirely against Deism, because there are Deists who pray.


This is the biggest thing, everything else you mention does not really conflict. The question here is, do you believe "it" created the world. i.e. samsara, or do you believe that samsara has always been, do you believe "it" was a first cause of the world or not? This is a really big question, and from what I can read, it's this that will ultimately answer whether or not Buddhism will be comfortable for you to just jump into. In Buddhism samsra is causeless, there is no purpose to it or anything, and no one made it...to put it in shorthand. Related to this, do the Four noble truths square with your experience, do they echo as true somehow? Just judging from theists I know (including my wife), the part that generally throws for a loop is that Buddhism denies a first cause, and the Buddhist idea of samsara seems very dark to alot of people I think.

I think if you're that interested though you should just start practicing, you can get alot out of Buddhist practice without needing to "believe" the whole worldview, the teachings are there regardless of whether or not you wholeheartedly accept everything, and almost every Buddhist I know has different views ..witness this site lol.

.


The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path make a lot of sense to me. Something I realized is that one aspect of my suffering and attachment is "what would happen to my animals (dogs and cat) if something happened to me?" I worry about them. That's attachment, and what I think we're supposed to get over. If we don't or can't, we're bound in samsara.

I don't believe there was ever a "Let there be light" sort of thing, or a "time before". It raises the unpalatable question"what was God doing before he got to work creating?" Me no likes that. I think things have always existed and always will exist. If there is a God, it is existence itself. Like Tom Bombadil... Frodo asked Goldberry just who Tom Bombadil is; she responded by simply saying "He is". And actually, whether it created the world or not is really immaterial because we are here, and our goal is to get out. Wondering, thinking or worrying about who or what created this doesn't do anything to further the story line.

I've been studying and reading up on Buddhism, the various schools, and incorporating (or trying to) some of the principles into my life and beliefs, so that part is not sudden. I'm experiencing a drifting towards it. In fact, if I could go back in time, I would probably opt for following Buddhism rather than a theistic tradition. The impulsiveness I mentioned has to do with the final jump in leaving behind and cutting the ties to an anthropomorphic God. Heck I left Christianity because I didn't hold with it. So I jumped from the frying pan into the fire running from Christianity to Hinduism, with even more deities and a fixation on advaita, dvaita, monism, mono/polytheism, etc.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:18 pm

Alfredo wrote:I love Hinduism too, but that doesn't make me a Hindu.

Believing in God would not disqualify you from being a Buddhist. (Perhaps you might contemplate what you mean by "God.") And believing in devas such as Indra is actually rather traditional.

Buddhism and Hinduism obviously do have a close relationship, though one might quibble about the role of the Vedas. Anyway, don't feel like you have to renounce any symbol of your spiritual ideals, even if they are not always 100 % Buddhist. It's okay to be somewhat conflicted. (Saraswati is a fine Buddhist yidam, however!)


:thanks: I guess I'm looking for someone to pat me on the head or take my hand and say "OK, we can cross the street". :mrgreen: Or, as seem to be the responses "nope, you are not off the mark". You can see how I view God in my post back to Johnny Dangerous. That pretty much sums it up.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:19 pm

Jikan wrote:
Jainarayan wrote:
Simon E. wrote:Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:


Thanks... this something that I'm feeling and inuiting, not intellectualizing. I overthought things in the past, but that is the past. Now it's feelings. In that case it's like Nike: "Just Do It".


There you go. You have nothing to lose! :woohoo:


:thanks: :namaste:
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:36 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Jainarayan wrote:
Simon E. wrote:Why not ? You dont need to believe anything about water in order to swim do you ?
No belief can take you to your natural mind. No belief can obscure it either.
You don't need to add anything. You don't need to lose anything.
:smile:


Thanks... this something that I'm feeling and inuiting, not intellectualizing. I overthought things in the past, but that is the past. Now it's feelings. In that case it's like Nike: "Just Do It".


I don't remember where it's from, but there is a piece of traditional advice that's something like "if there is something in Dharma you don't understand, drop it until later"..i'm sure i'm butchering it but the point stands, you don't have to understand everything to practice, just focus on what resonates with you are go for it.


I'm a cherry-picker at heart.

What resonates is, as I said in the beginning, single-pointed devotion and meditation on Amitabha, emulation of the compassion of Avalokiteshvara. I feel a gentleness and compassion there that I never felt even with Jesus or Krishna. I especially could not get close to Krishna or Rama, despite trying very hard. It seems as if Amitabha is calling me. It wasn't until I read something that was just in passing that a light bulb turned on and I heard ding-ding-ding.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:42 pm

Yeah, Chenrezig practice was the first thing that has ever thrown a fire on my temper..even after just a few practices, I was able to be more open, listen to people more, pay less attention to my own little world of anger and feel genuine compassion that isn't interrupted by the constant stream of crap in my head, so I feel ya:)

You should go check out a Pureland practice, or alternately if there is a Tibetan center that does a public Chenrezig, this practice is of course Avalokiteshvara who is often shown as an emanation of Amitabha, and often the Sadhanas and visualization will also reference Amitabha.
"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: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:57 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, Chenrezig practice was the first thing that has ever thrown a fire on my temper..even after just a few practices, I was able to be more open, listen to people more, pay less attention to my own little world of anger and feel genuine compassion that isn't interrupted by the constant stream of crap in my head, so I feel ya:)


I have a printed copy of the Chenrezig sadhana. I never performed it, but I feel very close to Chenrezig/Avalokiteshvara nonetheless. As you can see, he's my avi. I'm in no way perfect in it, but I've even noticed an increase in my compassion (though some days and some people make it harder than others).

You should go check out a Pureland practice, or alternately if there is a Tibetan center that does a public Chenrezig, this practice is of course Avalokiteshvara who is often shown as an emanation of Amitabha, and often the Sadhanas and visualization will also reference Amitabha.


I'm going to look into these things now. I think there is a Mahayana center not too far from me. And this is what Google Search is for. I was reluctant before because I was trying to meld bhakti to Krishna, whom I thought was my ishta-devata/yidam, and Chenrezig. But it caused a conflict, especially given that, while Krishna is a real character and adorable, I don't feel a closeness.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Wed Oct 30, 2013 7:28 pm

Jainarayan wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, Chenrezig practice was the first thing that has ever thrown a fire on my temper..even after just a few practices, I was able to be more open, listen to people more, pay less attention to my own little world of anger and feel genuine compassion that isn't interrupted by the constant stream of crap in my head, so I feel ya:)


I have a printed copy of the Chenrezig sadhana. I never performed it, but I feel very close to Chenrezig/Avalokiteshvara nonetheless. As you can see, he's my avi. I'm in no way perfect in it, but I've even noticed an increase in my compassion (though some days and some people make it harder than others).

You should go check out a Pureland practice, or alternately if there is a Tibetan center that does a public Chenrezig, this practice is of course Avalokiteshvara who is often shown as an emanation of Amitabha, and often the Sadhanas and visualization will also reference Amitabha.


I'm going to look into these things now. I think there is a Mahayana center not too far from me. And this is what Google Search is for. I was reluctant before because I was trying to meld bhakti to Krishna, whom I thought was my ishta-devata/yidam, and Chenrezig. But it caused a conflict, especially given that, while Krishna is a real character and adorable, I don't feel a closeness.


OK, so as I'm reading and learning more about the practice, I found these sadhanas and printed them in booklet form. http://s151421314.onlinehome.us/nbp/doc ... ebsite.pdf
http://www.kagyu.org/ktd/mani/images/ch ... _short.pdf
http://kdk.org/images/Amitabha_Sadhana_v2.pdf

1. I chant Namo Amitabha Buddha several times daily, but I was wondering if it's OK to chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well.

2. Do I do only the Amitabha sadhana, or do the Avalokitesvara sadhana as well, or do the Avalokiteshvara sadhana alone? I kind of think I do just the Amitabha sadhana.

3. Do I do the sadhana(s) in English or attempt chanting in Tibetan? My Tibetan really sucks but I heard Lama Kathy Wesley chanting, so I could listen to her for pronunciations. I guess it's going to be quite a while before I can memorize them, so I will need to use the printouts. I suppose that's OK?

Sorry for all the questions, but I think that about covers it.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Sat Nov 02, 2013 5:15 pm

Over the past few days I think I found the answers to my questions:

Jainarayan wrote:OK, so as I'm reading and learning more about the practice, I found these sadhanas and printed them in booklet form. http://s151421314.onlinehome.us/nbp/doc ... ebsite.pdf
http://www.kagyu.org/ktd/mani/images/ch ... _short.pdf
http://kdk.org/images/Amitabha_Sadhana_v2.pdf

1. I chant Namo Amitabha Buddha several times daily, but I was wondering if it's OK to chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well.
Not necessary, but it won't hurt, depending on one's goals.

2. Do I do only the Amitabha sadhana, or do the Avalokitesvara sadhana as well, or do the Avalokiteshvara sadhana alone? I kind of think I do just the Amitabha sadhana.
It seems the Amitabha sadhana requires empowerment; the Avalokitesvara sadhana does not, and is open. Because Avalokitesvara is an emanation of Amitabha, by defalt one is connecting with Amitabha.

3. Do I do the sadhana(s) in English or attempt chanting in Tibetan? My Tibetan really sucks but I heard Lama Kathy Wesley chanting, so I could listen to her for pronunciations. I guess it's going to be quite a while before I can memorize them, so I will need to use the printouts. I suppose that's OK?
It is probably better to learn Tibetan, and listen to the recordings as I perform the sadhana. Eventually I'll improve and memorize it.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby greentara » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:52 am

I believe devotion is hardwired into our brain. There's an old story about an ascetic, he found that he could no longer bring his mind to think of God, do japa or any other spiritual practice. He asked the teacher for help and was told that this was not a problem, that all his practice had carried him to this moment and it could be left behind now because it had served its purpose.
Look at it from the point of view that until now your spiritual practice has served its purpose, but no more, drop it and move on.
A word of caution remember you're not working with a teacher but relying on your own intuition, which of course may be totally right.
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:58 pm

greentara wrote:I believe devotion is hardwired into our brain. There's an old story about an ascetic, he found that he could no longer bring his mind to think of God, do japa or any other spiritual practice. He asked the teacher for help and was told that this was not a problem, that all his practice had carried him to this moment and it could be left behind now because it had served its purpose.
Look at it from the point of view that until now your spiritual practice has served its purpose, but no more, drop it and move on.
A word of caution remember you're not working with a teacher but relying on your own intuition, which of course may be totally right.


:namaste: Thanks greentara, you are right about dropping, or at least not worrying about the externals. Especially because I don't have a teacher. Unfortunately, looking high and low around here yields nothing. So to that extent, I recite the Three Jewels and Namo Amitabha Buddha several times a day, the Bodhisattva Vow and Prayer, Amitabha Dharani, Dedication Prayer, Tara Dharani, Usnisa Vijaya Dharani and Nilakantha Dharani. I occasionally go to the altar, light candles and incense, and that's pretty much it anymore. I realized that's enough for me. :smile:
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby justsit » Sun Nov 03, 2013 2:09 pm

Try either KTC in Shamong or Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Center in Howell.
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby Jainarayan » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:32 pm

justsit wrote:Try either KTC in Shamong or Mahayana Sutra and Tantra Center in Howell.


I've looked into MSTC in Howell, they have some beginner /intro-to-Buddhism classes. Those would be good. Their practices, so far listed on their calendar are for the initiated. There are a few other centers in Middlesex and Monmouth counties that are Zen oriented. I don't know if that would be for me. Shamong Twp. is really far away. I'm going to have to keep looking, and hoping that a new center springs up somewhere. We have the same issue with yoga and tai chi centers. For the population density of NJ, we're pretty culturally bankrupt in the center and south of the state. Everything is concentrated, understandably so, in the Hudson, Essex, Bergen county areas.
Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273
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Re: At a crossroads in practice

Postby justsit » Sun Nov 03, 2013 5:51 pm

Yes, many practitioners travel great distances to see their teachers. And of course, dharma centers aren't like churches, with one on every corner and attendance every week the norm. In this area, it is not unusual to travel to the "local" dharma group 1 1/2h drive each way once a month, and actually only see the main teacher yearly. Making the effort is actually practice. :smile:

Those who live "close" to a dharma center are indeed fortunate.
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