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Paramita of the Month: Patience

Patience
March is here again and despite the blustery, wet weather we can also know that the spring that will soon arrive brings forth an abundance of the new. Some of these new situations will be joyful, others will test our patience. With that in mind, let’s practice the third of the paramitas, patience, which is so beautifully explained by HH Dilgo Kheyntse Rinpoche in the text below.
 
 

From The Heart of Compassion, HH Dilgo Khyentse’s commentary on The Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva.

TRANSCENDENT PATIENCE

27

For a bodhisattva who desires the joys of virtue,
All who harm him are like a precious treasure.
Therefore, to cultivate patience toward all,
Without resentment, is the practice of a bodhisattva.

There are three kinds of patience. The first is to bear without anger whatever harm people may do you. The second kind is to endure without sadness whatever hardships you may experience for the sake of the Dharma. The third is to face without fear the profound meaning of the Dharma and the boundless qualities of the Three Jewels.

For the first, when you feel you are being harmed by someone, remember that the harm that person may be inflicting on you (or on someone dear to you) is the direct result of you yourself having harmed others in the past. Reflect that this person is so overpowered by delusion that he or she is as if possessed, and cannot resist harming you. As a result of this harm, he or she will have to suffer in samsaraʼs lower realms in a future life. When you think how terrible that will be, you will feel only sadness and pity rather than anger.

Remember, too, that if you can patiently accept all this harm, many of your own past negative actions will be purified, and you will accumulate both merit and wisdom. Indeed, this person who appears to be harming you is therefore doing you a great kindness, and is a true spiritual friend. As an expression of your gratitude, dedicate whatever merit you have accumulated to him or her.

Seeing all such situations in this way, train yourself not to get upset when someone harms you, not to seek revenge, and never to bear the slightest grudge.

Moreover, when you look even more deeply into what is happening, you will see that the person beings harmed, the person doing the harm, and the harm itself are all totally devoid of any inherent existence. Who is going to get angry at delusions? In these empty phenomena, what is there to be gained or lost, to want or to reject? Understand it all as being like the vast, empty sky.

Now for the second kind of patience, enduring hardships for the sake of Dharma. In order to be able to practice Dharma, it may happen that you have to endure illness, or suffer from heat, cold, hunger, or thirst. But since these short-term sufferings will help you purify your past negative actions and, in the long term, reach ultimate buddhahood, accept them with joy, like a swan gliding into a lotus pond. In The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shantideva says:

Is a man not relieved when, though condemned to death,
He’s freed, his hand cut off in ransom for his life?
Enduring likewise merely human ills,
Am I not happy to avoid the pains of hell?

The third kind of patience is to have the deep, inner courage that it takes to be ready, out of compassion, to work over many aeons for the sake of beings and to face without any fear the highest truths of the teachings—that ultimately all phenomena are totally empty by nature, that emptiness is expressed as radiant clarity, that there is a buddha nature, a self-existing primordial wisdom that is uncompounded, and an absolute truth beyond the reach of the intellect. If you are afraid to accept the reality of emptiness, and criticize practices such as the Great Perfection by which the true nature of all phenomena can be realized, you are rejecting the very essence of the Dharma and are preparing your own downfall into the lower realms. When Lord Buddha taught the profound teachings on emptiness, some of the monks who were present reacted to the deep truths of the teaching with panic so intense that they vomited blood and died forthwith. These truths are by no means easy to fathom, but it is of the utmost importance to try to grasp their true meaning, and not to have a negative view of them.

These three kinds of patience should be developed with the aid of wisdom and skillful means.

To practice the paramita of patience is essential, so that you can never be overcome by anger, hatred, and despair. Once you have entered the path of the bodhisattvas, you should in any case have kindness in your heart for all beings, seeing them as your former parents. So when people are against you and do you harm, you should have even more love, dedicating all your merit to them and taking all their suffering upon yourself.

Indeed, adversaries and people who try to harm you can be powerful sources of help on the bodhisattva path. By bringing about situations that would normally trigger your anger or hatred, they give you the precious opportunity to train in transforming those negative emotions with patience. On the path, such people will do you far more good than any well-disposed friend.

Now, Shantideva says:

Good works gathered in a thousand ages,
Such as deeds of generosity,
Or offerings to the blissful ones—
A single flash of anger shatters them.

And in the Sutra of the Meeting of Father and Son it is said:

Hatred is not the way to buddhahood.
But love, if constantly cultivated, 
Will give rise to enlightenment.

So if you react to an enemy with hatred and anger, he will certainly be leading you to the depths of the hell realms. But if you know how to see such a person with the deepest loving-kindness, he can only lead you toward liberation. No matter how much harm he tries to do you, it will only do you good. The difference is crucial. You may have studied various teachings and meditated for a while, and even feel rather proud of it. But if, as soon as someone says a few bad words to you, you burst with anger, that is a sign that you have not let the Dharma really permeate you—it has not changed your mind in the least.

Shantideva also says:

No evil is there similar to anger,
No austerity to be compared with patience.

If the land were full of sharp stones and thorns, you might try to protect your feet by covering over the whole countryside with tough leather. But that would be a difficult task. It is much easier to put the leather just on the soles of your feet. In the same way, even if the whole world is full of enemies, they can do you no harm as long as you keep loving-kindness and patience in your mind. Whatever apparent harm they do you would, in fact, help you on the path to enlightenment. As it is said:

When you encounter the emotions’ formidable army,
Don the solid and excellent armor of patience;
Thus, unscathed by the weapons of harsh words and vindictive blows,
Pass through them to reach the land of nirvana.

There is no peace for a person whose mind is filled with anger and hatred. Anger and hatred need to be subdued by the great army of patience, for they are your only true enemies. It would be impossible for you to experience harm if your own anger and hatred had not, in the past, brought about the causes from which the present harm arises, like the returning echo of your own voice.

Look, too, at the true nature of harm itself. It is as ungraspable as writing on water. Let resentment vanish of its own accord, and as soon as the fiery waves of thoughts subside, let everything become like an empty sky, where there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

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Joins Us for a Zen Koan Retreat with John Tarrant Roshi

We welcome the public to join us for a special short sesshin with John Tarrant Roshi, co-hosted by Nalandabodhi Seattle and Pacific Zen Institute.

Meeting the Golden Haired Lion

Thursday evening 3/24/2016 — Sunday midday 3/27/2016

The Koan:

A student asked Yunmen, “What is the pure and everlasting body of reality?”
Yunmen said, “A fence of flowers and healing herbs.”
The student asked, “What’s it like when I reach there?”
Yunmen said, “Golden-haired lion!”

photo by Andrew Ross

Please see our Event for details and registration.

 

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Introduction to Buddhism

Wednesdays, March 23 — July 13, 2016
 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm at Nalanda West

 introforestThis will be a 16-week cycle of teachings on introductory and foundational Buddhist topics.

The introductory courses in the Nalandabodhi Path of Study explore the basic principles of Buddhism and lay the foundation for deeper studies, including being introduced to the views of different Buddhist schools. Each of these courses consists of four or five classes.

All are welcome!  These classes may be attended as a course or on a drop-in basis. Discussions led by Mitra teachers and senior students. The courses are free; donations are accepted.

The accompanying sourcebooks by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche are available for purchase at the Nalanda Store.  It is recommended that the class readings be done prior to each class.

The series is the pre-requisite for the Hinayana and Mahayana curricula.

Meditation instruction for 10 minutes begins at 7 PM before each teaching.

Information contacts:
Stuart Horn stuarthor@gmail.com
Nadine Selden  nadine.seldenNB@gmail.com
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Sunday Morning Meditation

New Schedule for Sunday Morning Meditation

Starting February 14th we have a new format for the Sunday morning meditation at Nalanda West. Everyone is welcome, and meditation instruction is available.

10:00 – 10:30 AM : Shamatha/calm abiding meditation with instruction
10:30 – 12:00 PM : Meditation practice (sitting & walking)
12 Noon : Open house with brunch

Once a month on Sangha days, we will practice Open Heart Circle from 9:30 – 10:00 AM.

About Sunday Morning Meditation

The Nalandabodhi practice path begins with a basic resting meditation practice called calm-abiding or shamatha. Nalandabodhi, Center for American Buddhism Seattle holds meditation practice sessions most Sundays from 10:00 am – noon in the main shrineroom. Everyone is welcome, and meditation instruction is available.

Walking meditation every half hour or so.

Feel free to drop in or depart any time.

While shamatha meditation is common to several spiritual traditions and has many techniques, all forms of shamatha are designed to help calm the mind and bring forth its natural qualities of spaciousness, clarity and attentiveness. Practice Instructors (PI) work with newer students to determine which technique is most beneficial and at what point to introduce another shamatha practice. For basic instructions on how to meditate, see “How to Meditate“on the Nalandabodhi International website.

Meditation is offered on Sundays unless there is a conflicting program. Refer to the Nalandabodhi Seattle Calendar page to confirm that meditation is taking place.

 

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One Common Thing

written by Diane Brooks

Organized chaos prevails every Friday afternoon in the sprawling basement of Seattle’s University Temple United Methodist Church.

Soup Kitchen

Homeless denizens of the University District fill the high-ceilinged space, a much-appreciated refuge from the cold, drizzly winter weather. Volunteers hand out sandwiches and hot coffee; men and women await their turns for a hot shower and laundry services (provided twice-weekly by the nonprofit Urban Rest Stop); drug addicts drawn by the church’s needle-exchange program stick around to socialize or to shop at the weekly Thrift Store that temporarily occupies half the room.

“It’s a little ecosystem,” said Rev. Pat Simpson, senior pastor of the church. The Thrift Store, for instance, uses its proceeds to buy sleeping bags, backpacks, underwear and food for homeless clients.

“It’s one of the most heart-warming places of the city,” she said.

In the basement kitchen, more volunteers are busy preparing the Friday Feast — a free, restaurant-quality meal attended by about 150 people each week.

When the weekly “feast” ends at 7 p.m., most of the dining tables will be cleared away as the basement space transitions back into the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter. ROOTS (Rising Out of the Shadows) provides overnight shelter, dinner, hot breakfasts and showers for homeless people ages 18 to 25. Bunks and floor mattresses provide sleeping spots for 45 young people each night.

Members of Seattle’s Nalandabodhi sangha recently turned out to help with multiple Friday Feasts, as part of the international Tibetan Buddhist organization’s focus on homelessness. Each year the global sangha celebrates Lhabab Duchen, one of four annual festival days commemorating special times in the life of the Buddha, by engaging in a mindful activity that emphasizes community engagement.

“It’s a real inspirational time for us to really put our meditation into action and walk our talk,” said Nick Vail, a co-director of the Seattle sangha, during a related Nov. 1 panel discussion at Nalanda West.

This year’s topic was inspired by the May visit to Seattle by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Youth homelessness was the focus of his public talks at Seattle Center.

The recent Nalanda West panel included Kristine Cunningham, executive director of ROOTS; Meredith Arena, a former case manager for Seattle’s YouthCare shelter for ages 13 to 23; and Nalandabodhi member Darcey Quinn, whose 44-year-old brother is homeless, living on the streets of Oakland, Calif.

Quinn said she occasionally searches him out, just to give him a loving hug and her telephone number. She understands he doesn’t want her help, so she always sets an intention before she sees him, to remind herself that she’s not there to “save” him.

“I’m really grateful that we are getting involved with homelessness, because it is helping me understand my brother a little bit better. It’s helping me understand me a little bit better,” Quinn said. “I went in (to ROOTS) thinking that I was going to be identifying with all the folks coming through, and looking at them like my brother. But instead I found I really was focusing on the folks that were there helping, and being really grateful towards them and thinking of all the people who’ve helped my brother, and who are helping my brother.”

She recalled one visit to Oakland, when she found her brother squatting in an apartment.

“The first thing he said to me, when he saw me, was ‘Don’t judge me. Don’t judge me.’ That is something that I remember because when we’re afraid, we have a lot of fear, we judge. So … when I see my brother, or I go to ROOTS, I try to not let my ego and my fears take hold, so that I don’t judge, and I can be more genuine in the experience with people.”

Nalandabodhi provided its ROOTS volunteers with a suggestion sheet about how to connect their mindful activity with their Buddhist studies and meditation. Before going, for instance, it’s helpful to explore one’s feelings, expectations and motivations. While working, one might work with emotions using “mindful gap” and patience; watching the wandering mind; noticing what’s not being accepted. At the end, a dedication of merit and a debriefing – with others or via a journal – might be valuable.

“I thought that sheet was very helpful – making us stop and really think. It gives you a quality of being present, which is helpful, rather than thinking of this as one more thing to check off your list,” said Genko Kathy Blackman, a Nalandabodhi member as well as a priest at Chobo-ji, Seattle’s Rinzai Zen temple.

“For me, it’s coming back to the lines from Shanti Devi that every morning I always say,” she said, as she sliced yellow onions for that evening’s entree – chicken curry with rice and brussel sprouts. “I have a phrase I use as a shortcut: ‘Help not harm.’ Coming back to it over and over again.”

Sharing her workspace was Michelle Bromberg, 23, who also walks a spiritual path when she volunteers at ROOTS.

“I started out interested in helping people in a secular way. But now I’m inspired by my faith to serve,” said Bromberg, a Byzantine Catholic. “Christ calls us feed the hungry and clothe the naked, so it’s nice to be able to do that here.”

Travis Gowin, who has lived on the streets for four years, sat in a basement corner, writing in his journal. He recently turned 26, so he no longer can sleep at the ROOTS shelter. Now he typically spends his nights beneath an awning of University Book Store. He carries his possessions – mostly clothing and his blanket – in a black garbage bag.

Friday Feast is open to anyone, not just ROOTS residents. So Gowin still comes by on Fridays, to hang out and eat. He has a strong philosophical bent, and he shared some of his personal views as they related to the volunteers cooking his dinner.

“Ambient unity among human beings can produce enhanced spiritual development and experience,” he said. “We influence our environment at a subatomic level, and we change the environment through our intentions and practices. Your intentions affect other people. I send out energy to people with either a hope, faith or spiritual intention that other people will do it as well.”

Dzoghchen Ponlop Rinpoche, founder of the international Nalandabodhi organization, two years ago requested that his students do “one common thing” to benefit our world. This has evolved into a global sangha commitment to donate time and resources to charities that help children, teens and young adults.

In addition to the Seattle work with homelessness, Lhabab Duchen projects within other Nalandabodhi centers and study groups include:

Germany — Members are making donations to two organizations that help refugee children. The SOS Children’s Villages give medical care, food and clothing to children of refugees coming from Syria to Europe, food, clothing, etc.). Refugio works with traumatized refugee children in Munich.

Hong Kong — Members are making donations and signing up as tutors for Principal Chan Free Tutorial World, which helps low-income, underprivileged children with their homework.

Mexico City — Members will visit and donate to Casa de las Niñas Ciegas, an orphanage for blind girls.

Halifax, Nova Scotia — Members are assembling an “apartment starter kit” to donate to Phoenix House, to help a young adult, couple, or single parent ready to start out on their own.

Toronto, Ontario — This sangha has an ongoing link with The Children’s Book Bank, which provides free books and literacy support to children in low-income neighborhoods. Members donate cash and new books.

Vancouver, B.C. — This sangha has partnered with Aunt Leah’s Place, which works with foster kids and teen moms.

Tucson, Ariz. — A generous member donates to two local groups that serve homeless youth: Youth on Their Own and EON, which serves mostly LGBTQ youth.

Boulder, Colo. — The Boulder sangha has an ongoing connection with Attention Homes, a program for homeless and at-risk youth.

Philadelphia, Penn. — Members donated umbrellas and backpacks filled with toiletries to Youth Emergency Service, which offers immediate housing to homeless and runaway youth.

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