Monday, March 31, 2014

The Importance of Community by Julia King Tamang

My friend and Dharma sister Julia King Tamang recently posted this wonderful encouragement on the listserv of the Kagyu Changchub Chuling center in Portland Oregon. Her message is especially touching for me, who has been a member of the KCC community for many years, but is hampered from participating in many KCC events by geographical distance and, admitedly, by my hermitical proclivity, which in this case is no virtue. Don't do as I do, do as Julia advises: Those of you who have communities nearby, cherish them! And those of you who do not have a strong community nearby, practice cultivating one, day by day by day, small act by small act. As Julia suggests, by the time you really need it, it will be too late to start building...


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Dear Community,

Today I am feeling the importance of community in the most poignant way. This afternoon I did some hospice work with someone in another city (not coming to KCC), who at the time of death, feels lacking in spiritual community. It's a case of not understanding that one had to build it before it was needed--because when one needs it most, it is too late to start building. Depending on the generosity of strangers is risky business. Your job, your wealth, your beautiful house and car---these things will not nurture you when you need it most. People will. Choose the emphasis in your life carefully.

Especially for our mid-to younger community members, I want to remind you, tenderly, that community is a jewel. A precious resource that one tends all one's life, in each stage, however one can. We never know when our personal and family needs will exceed our resources. A child or spouse or family member may fall ill and you may need help. You may lose your job and need food or shelter. You may feel despair and need comfort. Over and over you will need someone to listen. These and so many times, it is so wonderful to call out to your community for help. To the degree that you have invested in your community, they will respond.

Sometimes we hold the mistaken view that we should not burden our community with asking for help. I believe that this is not true. I think when we have given, we should ask. Receiving is an aspect of generosity practice. Even if we have not given, asking and receiving will inspire us to give--so even then it is beneficial.

Community is also such a fine platform for sharing the brighter spots in life. Your community shares in your accomplishments, your victories--even your mastery over the smallest bad habit. Human beings are meant to have this support. Sharing it heals and strengthens both the giver and the receiver.

KCC has faults and struggles like all human communities. But over and over I see and value what we do for each other. Sangha is indeed a refuge. If your challenges are deep enough, you will be glad to have even a pesky friend come to help you. :) And if we let it happen, even enemies can become friends in times of need.

I offer sincere gratitude for all of you who are supportive to each other. Buddhism certainly has no claim on kindness. All authentic spiritual traditions emphasize coming together in life's journey.

I gently encourage those of you who are not yet woven deeply into the fabric of the community to begin to work in that direction, however small. I assure you, you are welcome here.

Julia King Tamang
Associate Teacher, Kagyu Changchub Chuling

BONUS READINGS: here and here are a couple of Lekshe's Mistakes. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Insight #1 - Impermanence

Just notice, as often as you can, that each and every experience arises, is here for a while, and then disappears. Just that simple. But really take in the reality of impermanence. Recognize constant change in the thinking mind, feel it in the feeling heart, know it in the sensing body.
Sensations, feelings, thoughts, memories, impulses, actions -- they appear and then they disappear. Notice that over and over. Take it in until you have no doubt that arising and passing is what every experience (and every thing or phenomena) does. That is the basic nature of every thing.

Usually we are so caught up in trying to make pleasant experiences arise and stay, or trying to make unpleasant experiences disappear, or we get lost in the details of mental and emotional dramas, that we don't notice the basic characteristic all experiences and things share: their impermanence.

On the cushion, in formal practice, settle into the grounded body. Connect with the breath, whether you find it at the nosrils, the chest, or the belly, whether the breath is long or short, deep or shallow, fast or slow. Let the whole breathing body gradually calm down, and then open to the direct perception that each and every experience is slipping away. Alternate grounding-calming with opening-seeing. Experiment with going back and forth between calming and seeing until they begin to happen at the same time.

And then in the midst of daily activities, just notice as you can how experiences and phenomena are arising and passing away, moment after moment. When we're busy our recognition of constant change is fleeting, but the power of fleeting insight accumulates over months and years.

Let the implications of the fact that everything is changing sink deep into your bones. Know in mind, heart, and body. Live that knowing in the choices of life day to day. Let it remind you that this fleeting world is precious. That we have some choices within a world of momentum and contraint -- and those choices matter; they lead to suffering and regret or to freedom and peace.

Closely related to the impermanent nature of everything is their interdependence: each thing depends on causes and conditions, not on our preferences, and the inevitably unsatisfactory result of grasping at what we find pleasant and rejecting what we regard as unpleasant. As impermanence is directly perceived and known, really known and accepted, then craving and struggling and the confusion which causes them come to an end -- especially the illusion that we are a fixed self separate from experience.

Here is Buddhadasa’s two-step method of insight meditation:
  • Breathe in and out with awareness, until you are just calm and cool enough to... 
  • Examine experience as it arises, seeing that nothing -- not sensations, not feelings, not any of the mind’s activities -- are permanent, ultimately satisfying, or separate from the causes and conditions that are coinciding to make the experience arise. 
For a more complete outline of breath~insight, click here.

Not forgetting

Removing old impurities does not mean forgetting things, forgetting the body, extinguishing the mind, (or) stopping thoughts; it is necessary to remove impurities in the midst of action in order to accomplish the task. This is because the Tao is alive, in movement; it is neither material not void. We use worldy realities to practice the reality of the Tao, and use human realities to cultivate celestial virtues; both striving and nonstriving, comprehending essence and comprehending life, the endless work must all be done in the midst of activity.

~ from The Taoist I Ching (translated by Thomas Clearly, p.191)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Grasping and what's underneath

We grasp for three things: pleasure, self (defining and defending), and oblivion.

No object, sensation, idea, or behavior can ultimately satisfy.

Turn from what you grasp at, whatever it is.

Turn to the grasping itself -- the sensations of tension-impulse-reaching.

Gently open to the tension or conflict underneath.

Rest there, gently curious, open.