Friday, August 31, 2012

Dying Practices for Buddhists

Dying practices for Buddhists.  This is a rather unusual concept for Westerners and maybe some new Buddhists from Asian countries.  Dying practices have been a part of Buddhists life since the beginning.  What I am teaching you now is the standard practice of Chinese Buddhist temples.  It is a part of Pure Land schools around the world.

What is dying?  Dying is the end.  The absolute ending of you as you know yourself in this body shell.  There is no more after this.  No more you.  If you feel scared then it's useful for you to start this practice while you live an active life now.  Dying is the ending of your breath without assistance, leading to the end of your heart beating.  It in actuality is a rather longer than you thought process, made complicated by your own willpower and the body attempt to protect itself by living until it can't.

To the family is very distressing to see you weaken, and struggle for breath (body takes over making you die in stages so your passing is smoother and from your own perspective you don't seem to notice-brain protects you), comfort medications and attentive hospice nurses help 100% make this passage smooth.  However, the end happens, the final breath... a minute later or so the heart actually stops beating.  The shell body is dead, a final removal of body waste is quick and efficient (modern hospices have the dying wear disposable diaper pants).  Your family mourns, your mind is free of the shell body and you begin to peruse your new found freedom safely for 49 days if you care to stick around and visit family and friends.  Still afraid? Hope you keep it in perspective death comes to us all, some in tragic ways, others by illness or natural aging.


Purpose:  Mind Calming to enter Pure Land, training in mind calming with directed willpower to enter the Pure Land also improves removal of attachments to body and moderation of emotions but this is all side effects of a practice of Mindfulness.  Remember all Buddhists seek Enlightenment as a result of Buddhist practice and study.

Do not use this or any Buddhist practice for mental health issues, nor any "cure" for for lifestyle, stress, medical replacement or supplement.  It is never the purpose, the only reason is for seeking Enlightenment.  Everything else is Karma, genetics, your habits, addictions, etc.

Method 1

Reciting the Buddha name practice of 1 time, 3 times, 7, 14, 21, 49, 54, 108 times.  This is simplest method.

Namo Amitabha Buddha (Sanskrit version:  naa-moe  ah mee ta baa  booda)

南無 阿彌陀佛  namo amituofo (Chinese version:  nah moe  ah me toe foh)

I bow to Immortality Buddha      This is the literally the correct version.

Versions in print elsewhere use "Infinite Life or Infinite Light"  Buddha.  This means literally Immortality.
I bow to Infinite Life Buddha              
I bow to Infinite Light Buddha

Some liturgical texts in some places use these.
Homage to Infinite Life Buddha                              

I strongly will never support this as it's a rift from Church of England Christian or protestant versions of liturgies.  It's not accurate.  We are not honoring a King in the Roman Empire.  I will never approve of it.  It's outdated sources that often we see in our emerging Buddhist liturgies.  Cast it out!!

I return and rely to Infinite Life Buddha

This is  a Thomas Cleary version.  I think it is pretty as practice but not good mind training.  We didn't forget the Amitabha Buddha, we are seeking Amitabha Buddha.  Amitabha Buddha did not ask you to rely on him.  All the practices in Pure Land are meant to be self-regulating and self-willed.  Amitabha Buddha can be invited to come to meet you, even you wishing him to come to you but it's first time meeting for us all. This phrase is in the Catholic English Mass "I return and rely"  directly.  Not Buddhist in origin.

NOTICE:  No standards exist in English liturgies, and really the facts are in this great world is that nobody cares except those worldly scholars who are trying to make their mark in this Saha world.  So pick a version you like and have an affinity for.

Method 2

Read the Amitabha Sutra (short or longer version)  as a practice, learn the meaning and the Pure Land teachings.

Then you recite the sutra with out analysis for 1 time, 3 times, 7, 49, 54, 108 times a day.

The mindfulness you can gain is from the corrective thinking and good habit of sending out merit to all sentient beings.  In case you don't know it you benefit yourself greatly, your immediate family, and all your friends.  Even the fact you are exposing your pets to the sutras will make it very likely that in their next life they can become humans who will encounter Buddhism in their lives.

Some of my books will help you get started.
These are large print in English and in Chinese with hanyu pinyin

  morning service  (Surangama mantra in English)
  Evening Service (Amitahba Sutra shorter) * use this for beginning practice
 7 Day Retreat Service, Clean Altar Service

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sangha Activists non Western approach

Sangha activists have always existed.  In fact, my own tradition has several and mostly they are unknown in the West.  Why is that?

Perhaps those in the West who claim to be activists are actually not.  They are not effective.  They show too much emotions, too much law breaking, too much noise, spouting slogans and stink of commercialism.


Sorry for you.  But really when you apply the 8 fold Noble path in daily life you get a much better short term result.  If you further take refuge and 5 precepts you can have longer term results, if you are fully ordained and well trained you can effect immediate results.

Those householders and not necessarily Buddhists often haunt the Buddhist temples.

They haunt will on the hunt.

They hunt for unwitting Sangha to support their cause.

Sadly some are coerced into a cause, donations  held in front of their noses perhaps, but alas that would be just sheer guesswork. Some have interests in stopping suffering to children, animals, women, gays, forests, migrant workers, slaves, elderly, environment, the hungry, politics, and the war shocked.  What ever the noble intention the Sangha member has; it turns ugly rather fast if they are in the public eye, often pushed into waving signs, shouting, screaming at the law, screaming at the public conducting themselves in manners that are extremely deplorable and shameful for Sangha. Even worse the extreme is suicide in a public way, in horrific ways like burning themselves, forced by others out of misguided desperation for change.

But we live in America or the West you protest!

I say those in robes who have faith, practice diligently, uphold their full Vinaya precepts, uphold Bodhisattva ideal by practicing it daily (not in substitution for Vinaya precepts which are not less than Bodhisattva precepts/ordination) are the ones with Right View. Right Effort in this case is to stand up to support those who ask for their help directly by conducting Buddhist services for the persons who ask, addressing issues in their dharma talks skillfully, and helping householders create solutions that work by pulling together skilled concerned persons of any faith or no faith at all who can effect changes.  That means it's ok to make media statements, ok to offer comparisons and support in counseling, services, social media, join in public debates skillfully, join in committees, join in communities that are not violent, not proponents of bad behavior or break the laws of their country.

Not all is fair in life, but that does not mean lack of public address to a situation is not the same as not caring about an issue.  What matters is how long a change can be considered stable, and long-lasting.  But then that is the issue, everything changes, we are always in flux.  Situations of dire nature today are later resolved and then disappear, only to reappear later in time.

Moderation and decorum are still in effect of public Sangha behavior.  Screaming, shouting, shaking fists, waving signs, burning or supporting someone to burn, blocking law, blocking workers, blocking businesses, blocking public access.... All are not appropriate to Sangha behavior.

Sangha need to be leaders and as such in robes obey and conform to Vinaya guidelines regarding behavior.

Two Buddhist Brides Wed in Taiwan  This is an English article.
Recently Ven. Zhao Hui from Taiwan received flaming on Facebook and elsewhere for her public action of Blessing Wedding for a gay couple (two women) who had been partnered.  It was reported around the world as groundbreaking, one for she is a woman presiding in such a leadership role and two the gay couple was groundbreaking and advocating for Taiwan to address the issue of gay marriage in the first place.

I am aware of various Elders,  all of them happen to be bhikshu, who have come down in the recent past against gays and surmise why they are gay and they do not support the lifestyle, discuss loosely the impact and rejection by those gays who want to become ordained fully and the potential harm those who do not give up the lifestyle after attaining robes.  They are not in touch with the reality of householders who are gay, they spend too much time analyzing and nothing about doing.  It contrasts greatly with the actions of Bhikshuni who are providing counseling, programs, and services to LGBT groups in their countries.

I'm not gay, bi, nor transgendered, never was; not even in my past lives memories.

Being a Sangha member does not make you gay nor does having disciples or becoming a friend to those people who are gay or bi or transgender, nor does supporting their rights, nor does being in community doing normal Buddhist activities with proper focus on the Vinaya, that has the privileged of being that mature and diverse to welcome them as laity.

Being in favor or human rights and in this case the rights of gays to marriage is not a declaration of gayness or indication of gayness.  It's stupid and very childish to assume so, I had to delete a Chinese poster who asked in an APP on Facebook if I was gay would they sleep with me!  So stupid! What arrogance they had to post that!

However, everyone regardless of gender, gender choice, or gender attractions deserves protection under their country's laws, inheritance rights, marriage services, full family services, counseling that is unbiased and non-coercive, full social security inheritance of spouses/partners, rights to employment with out bias, rights to retirement without bias, rights to defend their country in military service without bias or hate crimes, full access to legal services... and anything else the straight or majority in their countries have to offer.

Having said the above it bears repeating, Sangha are not to engage in debates about sexuality, sexual orientation, or support those that do.  That matter of sexuality is a private matter of householders.  We can offer only counseling to help people who want advice on how to apply Buddha dharma to their daily practice so they reduce their own suffering.

As Sangha we lead, we need not spout,shout, or force on others views on a vast array of worldly concerns.

We are supposed to live as left-home persons not as householders.

Here is some advice for those who insist on worldly names for themselves by using coercion.

If you as Sangha are so concerned about the rain forest then you better move there and help conserve it. Do not engage in politics, protests, nor coercion.

If you as Sangha are so concerned about human trafficking then go to those kids and rescue them yourself, join the local law enforcement and provide lifetime counseling to those kids stuck in those hell-holes, and the families that support them or are created by their own bodies.

If you as Sangha are so concerned about the suffering of LGBT community get involved with counseling them, provide lifetime Buddhist services for them without fear of catching something, stand up professionally and join the law, psychiatric, medical, social services, family counseling, community activities of non-sexual nature, join in politics as last resort by addressing the lawmakers, forming petitions without coercion by just announcing the existence of services and petitions or a what can you do to support this LGBT community page.  Ven Chao Hui is a leader with compassion, she offered only one Buddhist service to a happy couple.  She spoke in support of gay rights.  There is a list of of many good things to do. What can you do?

If you are Sangha so concerned with hunger, then cook for the hungry; go to the famine places with lots of money, resources for farming, resources for counseling, medicine, and doctors and nurses. Most of all be prepared to offer grieve counseling to the remaining survivors.

If you are Sangha so concerned with freedom of Tibet or engages in political protests, genocide of non-Buddhists, or any type of violence against another, then you are on the wrong path.  If you can't understand the Vinaya guidelines then you should not shame your robes and elders with political protests, screaming about how unfair the law/govt is, engage law breaking and worst of all supporting suicides by self-immolation in the name of politics or killing another human being.  The last act mentioned is immediate parjika and you should disrobe.

We have many Sangha who are rescuing abandoned babies, children and elderly.  We have many Sangha who are teaching the poor, educating the youth in their community, conserving the environment in their daily life, engaging in public works projects that help whole districts, collecting donations for the hungry, cooking for the homeless, providing free medical care to anyone who is in need.  The reason so many are unknown to you is that we are very, very busy and too busy to step in front of a camera or arrange a press conference or a protest.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Walking as Sangha actually doing it!

Walking in public. How we deport ourselves as Sangha matters to us.  There are times I just plain wonder about myself though.  Due to my injuries in hip and back my walking is just not up to par with regular folks.

I feel ashamed when people make embarrassing or rude comments about my walking. I want to walk perfectly, but the recovery process of my hip and legs is awfully slow.

Even when I was visiting a monastery, the laywomen quickly named me the "Dancing Master" due to my sway being exaggerated because of the hip injury.  I was in lots of pain and needed my walker.  But I was trying to tough it out and used one cane until it was too extreme, then I pulled out the second cane and to my relief the edge was taken off within a few days.  But their sneering kept up.  I felt so sorry about that.

Deportment in temples is important and I know it.  When you can't deport yourself well due to an injury like mine you have got to face it's reality.  Hiding away is not an option, no matter who sees you. Elders see you and the laity are quick to make rude remarks about you in front or behind you. That's life.  You are judged on this image rather quickly and it stays in their brains long after you leave.

I've had the unfortunate injury for years after leaving the temple where I suffered pressure to lift well beyond my capacity and denied access to medical and proper amount of exercise.  That's the way it was both good and bad, it was my lot. Being American I always thought that it would not be that way in America.  But in actual experience it was and is not always up to you exactly how you want to live your daily life in community.

I am not saying community is bad. It's great! I am a big fan of living in community.  But it is important to be very familiar with your hosting community or your residing community. You need to investigate each one so most of your criteria are being met, it won't be possible to meet all of your expectations but as I found out, you need to be focused on healthy living and access to fresh air and the design of the place be very beneficial  to your need of exercise and good fresh food.

If you find yourself in a situation like I have where your body is injuried and you are in a temple or monastery.  You have a right to ask for accomodation, and being caring monastics they can offer advice and try to work around your injuries.  You should have access to health care providers to deal with your condition.  If you can get some health insurance, if you cannot then try to see if they have visiting doctors... most if they don't have health insurance will have a pretty good program where visiting nurses, doctors and specialist will come monthly or every 2 weeks. Find out where and how to arrange visits.

Social services will come to you if you need them.  Call them. Ask for a home visit.  They have people who do this in all 50 states.

Physical therapy.  Seek a professional.  If you can't try to use common sense and a plan set up by your doctor.  Do yoga, gentle exercises of 30 seconds a movement or learn something like Taijichuan or swim
BTW modest swimwear is available, just search for it.  Amazon has lots. If you can just buy a swimsuit and wear your monastic shirt over it with cut off pants or baggy shorts. That's good enough.

More later... Here is me doing physical therapy retraining my hip and back to do our bowing practice in Chinese Buddhism.  My PT people were great, they fixed up a homemade bowing platform from a step and some soft cushions.  It works well.  Let your PT ppl be a part of your Buddhist practice, they will get benefits and become more excited and the good seeds get planted in that way!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fall Harvest Refining Buddhist cultivation

This year fall is seeming to arrive early.   Here in Iowa the whole state has been dealt a devastating blow with an early spring drought that has not seen much rain.  We are facing rising corn prices and other crops as well due to the extensive damage done with the heat wave we had all summer long.

How are we to progress with so much economic stress? The cost of living is horrifically rising again; gas is going up, that means heat and electric will rise too. Facing hardships which has been non-ending since the worsening economic crisis of the Bush era presidency policies of greed and corruption.

The answer in mind training is to remain consistent in your daily practice and even if your schedule is interrupted you still embrace study of Buddha dharma while you are in a pause or even in a few minutes of an erratic frenzied life.

Carry your practice into your chores.  Vacuum the floor, sweeping or mopping are repetitive actions that allow you to clean thoroughly and meditate with awareness. Dusting regularly is another good action. However, as much as you like to try to say it, shopping is not meditation it is actually an addiction; a short term anti-anxiety solution with the only result in less cash, more debt if you use credit and lots more stuff in your home.

Built in pauses in your daily schedule in  or out of monastery life.  Find them, use them. Treasure them.

As Fall approaches gather in the harvest. Count your benefits, see the result of your efforts. Store what is valuable and that can carry you through the long cold Winter and nurture you welcoming the Spring in new growth.

I bow to Immortality Buddha (Namo Amituofo!)