FPMT » Mandala http://fpmt.org Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:03:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The New Mandala Is Here!http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/the-new-mandala-is-here/ http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/the-new-mandala-is-here/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 18:45:50 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=44973 read full article]]>
COVER PHOTO: The full moon behind the Dharma wheel and deer above the entrance of Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, Tibet, 2014. Photo by Matt Lindén.

COVER PHOTO: The full moon behind the Dharma wheel and deer above the entrance of Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, Tibet, 2014. Photo by Matt Lindén.

The new, redesigned Mandala magazine is in the mail to supporters of the Friends of FPMT program and students who receive Mandala through FPMT centers and projects that offer it to supporters as a benefit. 

With our reimagining of Mandala we hope we have created a timeless print publication that will inspire FPMT students and help them strengthen their practice of Dharma.

In this issue, learn about the importance of death awareness practice and of knowing how to enjoy death as taught by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Also featured, the biography of the great Buddhist master Khunu Lama Rinpoche; Ven. Robina Courtin writes about the creation of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s book How to Enjoy Death; an interview with Tibetan Buddhist scholar Elijah Ary; and we remember Dharma pioneer Ven. Ann McNeil; plus much more.

In addition to the print issue, we’ve published several online-only pieces, including a new advice on practicing patience by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, an interview with Buddhist scholar Anne Klein and “The Life of Khensur Jampa Tegchok” by Ven. Steve Carlier. For this and more, see Mandala July-December 2015.

Mandala is offered as a benefit to supporters of the Friends of FPMT program, which provides funding for the educational, charitable and online work of FPMT.

The new issue is available through the FPMT Foundation Store.

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The Good Lifehttp://fpmt.org/mandala-today/dharma-realities/the-good-life/ http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/dharma-realities/the-good-life/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 20:00:25 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=44870 read full article]]>
Artwork by Ven. Tsapel

Artwork by Ven. Tsapel

By Ven. Chönyi Taylor 

With the launch of the new, redesigned Mandala today, we are happy to share the most recent Dharma Realities column by Ven. Chönyi Taylor, who has been contributing to Mandala‘s online edition since 2010.

Positive psychology is about dreams. Our New Millennium version is a dream of unending health, vitality and, hopefully, lots of money. Our New Millennium dreams may be different in content from other times, but not intention: we want to be happy.

There is a long history to positive psychology, dating at least back to the Greek philosophers. Epicurus had the idea that our life should be happy, tranquil, peaceful and free from fear. We should not experience pain and we should be able to manage our own lives within the company of friends. This has been updated by Martin Seligman in his description of positive psychology:

The good life consists in deriving happiness by using your signature strengths every day in the main realms of living. The meaningful life adds one more component: using these same strengths to forward knowledge, power or goodness.

Positive thinking as an antidote to unhappiness and dissatisfaction is not new. In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale wrote The Power of Positive Thinking. Back then, being happy meant being born into a white, middle-class, nuclear family. It was the start of a massive rise in advertising on the heels of radio, TV and films. Happiness was also defined by possessions: a car, refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner, things that became essential household items. It was an unrealistic dream. It was a 1950s version of positive psychology. You can make it work, and if you don’t, then you are a failure.

Vintage schoolbook illustration Fun with Dick and Jane, 1951. http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2014/12/04/revisiting-thanksgiving-1960-pt-ii/

Vintage schoolbook illustration Fun with Dick and Jane, 1951. http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2014/12/04/revisiting-thanksgiving-1960-pt-ii/

The storybook characters Jane and Dick taught me to read, and for my four-year-old self, they were the example of what children and family should be, of what my family should be. The stereotype, of course, was rarely realized. My mother tried her best to live it out, but we kids and my father’s health, constantly undermined her efforts. The stereotype was a 1950s version of what positive psychology would generate. Unfortunately, our family did not meet the criteria. My mother was a fan of Norman Vincent Peale. She was not often happy.

Trends in psychology come and go. We have had post-Freudian psychology, existential psychology, humanistic psychology, gestalt, being-psychology, transpersonal psychology, hypnosis and mindfulness in the last 50 years. Each of them promised the good life. The latest one is positive psychology.

The Buddhist version of the good life is quite different. The path to happiness is realized through the four noble truths. Suffering is not denied, it is recognized as an integral part of our ordinary lives (the first truth). Suffering arises from ignorance, grasping, clinging as described the twelve links of cyclic existence, all of which generate a mind habituated to these thoughts (karma and the second noble truth). Yes, there is an end to our suffering (the third noble truth), but it requires a lot of hard work (the fourth noble truth) and the development of the six perfections: generosity, patience, courage (enthusiasm), concentration (deep meditation) and enough wisdom to really understand how we misinterpret reality.

There is no mention of “signature strengths” or “power.” Instead, we have the six perfections of the bodhisattva. Knowledge has a much deeper meaning than Seligman’s concept of intellectual advances, since it includes the profound wisdom realizing emptiness. And “goodness” is no vague concept, but anything which does not harm others.

Kopan Monastery monks help distribute drinking water, Kathmandu, Nepal, April 2015. Photo via Facbook, Kopan Monastery School.

Kopan Monastery monks help distribute drinking water, Kathmandu, Nepal, April 2015. Photo via Facbook, Kopan Monastery School.

A positive life is represented here by the Kopan monks helping out after the Nepal earthquake. They do not seem to be concerned about signature strengths, or about power or goodness. They are not blissed out or self-centred; they are not striving for “the happy life.”

The good life can be painful.

Ven. Chönyi Taylor is a registered Foundational Buddhism FPMT teacher and an elder for the Discovering Buddhism at Home Course. She is the author of Enough! A Buddhist Approach to Working with Addictive Patterns (Snow Lion, 2010) and has been published in Mandala, Buddhadharma, Dharma Vision and Sangha Magazine. She is a founding member and member of the training committee of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists and an Honorary Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychiatry at Sydney University.

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How to Make a Million Mantrashttp://fpmt.org/mandala-today/how-to-make-a-million-mantras/ http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/how-to-make-a-million-mantras/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 18:27:07 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=42238 read full article]]>
Prayer wheel at Land of Medicine Buddha, California, US, January 2015. Photo by Laura Miller.

Prayer wheel with 64 billion OM MANI PADME HUM mantras at Land of Medicine Buddha, California, US, January 2015. Photo by Laura Miller.

When someone tells you a prayer wheel contains so many millions or billions of mantras, do you ever stop and think, “How can they all fit in there?”

In the latest online feature from Mandala, Donna Lynn Brown shares the inside story on printing mantras on microfilm, which is not quite as simple as it sounds. FPMT student Tai Vautier, working with FPMT Education Services, has been involved for many years making high quality microfilm mantras accessible to Dharma students. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“… Getting as many mantras as possible on the film, while keeping them legible, was Tai’s aim. At first, using an old Ditto machine, she copied mantras from Lorne Ladner’s book, Wheel of Great Compassion: The Practice of the Prayer Wheel in Tibetan Buddhism, but shrinking made these illegible. She then got the original of one set of Lorne’s mantras, which had come from the office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This she scanned and edited in Photoshop. She managed to get an astonishing 880,000,000 manis onto a 2,000-foot (610-meter) roll of microfilm. But although the mantra remained readable, the master, due to the shape of the Tibetan letters, was too fragile to withstand the constant duplication needed to fill large orders. While this master is still available for small jobs, a sturdier one was needed. Tai worked long hours in Photoshop to thicken some parts of the Tibetan letters and spread others apart, in effect designing her own font in order to create mantras that were readable after reduction, and didn’t cause the film to weaken with heavy use. …”

The microfilm printed from master copies that Tai helped create fills prayer wheels and stupas all over the world. Read more in “The Inside Story: Microfilm, Holy Objects, and the Passion of Tai Vautier.” 

More information on mantra microfilm, including ways to order it for stupas and statues is made available by FPMT Education Services on FPMT.org.

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Bringing Dharma into the Corporate World: Rasmus Hougaard Talks about the Potential Projecthttp://fpmt.org/mandala-today/bringing-dharma-into-the-corporate-world-rasmus-hougaard-talks-about-the-potential-project/ http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/bringing-dharma-into-the-corporate-world-rasmus-hougaard-talks-about-the-potential-project/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 18:55:06 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=41668 read full article]]>
Rasmus Hougaard, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, US, February 2015. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Rasmus Hougaard, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, US, February 2015. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Rasmus Hougaard is the founder and managing director of the Potential Project, an international program based in Copenhagen, Denmark, that works with corporations and organizations to equip their leaders and employees with methods to be more more kind, clear-minded, focused and efficient. Mandala managing editor Laura Miller talked with Rasmus in February 2015, during a visit to Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon, US. 

“I think there are two things that should always be there in mindfulness: one is the ethical component and the other one is the compassionate component,” Rasmus said. “Without those two, I think you have lost the essence of mindfulness. Our presentation of mindfulness is coming from Buddhism. You can’t take away from that, and you can’t disregard all of the masters of the past that have said that mindfulness, ethics and compassion go hand-in-hand. You can’t have real mindfulness without having compassion. So it is a big part of our program, although not obviously. We don’t tell our clients, ‘We teach compassion in our ethical program,’ because they would never engage with us. We tell them instead that we are coming with a mindfulness program that will make their employees more effective, more calm, more kind, and then we introduce ideas of compassion once we’re in the door.”

Read the complete interview as part of Mandala‘s March online feature. 

In case you missed last month’s online feature, “Memorization: Beneficial Exercise for the Mind,” you can read it now. You can also still take a look at January’s online feature: “Jeffrey Hopkins’ Transmission of Honesty.”

If you like Mandala’s online features, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work as well as the education programs of FPMT.

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Jeffrey Hopkins’ Transmission of Honestyhttp://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/jeffrey-hopkins-transmission-of-honesty/ http://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/jeffrey-hopkins-transmission-of-honesty/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 18:00:49 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=39240 read full article]]>
Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Dr. Jeffrey Hopkins, now 74, is professor emeritus at the University of Virginia and one of the world’s top scholars of Buddhism. He has published 42 books, acted as His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s translator, and had a long academic career during which he trained many prominent Tibetan Buddhist scholars and translators. He currently leads UMA Institute for Tibetan Studies. Dr. Hopkins has been remarkably open in public about a wide range of matters, such as his initial lack of faith in His Holiness, past-life memories, a near-death experience, his youthful delinquency, his sexuality, and so on.

Donna Lynn Brown interviewed him in December 2014 to find out what lessons his honesty might hold for other Buddhist practitioners.

Dr. Hopkins, what is the source of your frankness? Why are you so open?

I was born in 1940 in Barrington, Rhode Island, and I was in my teens in the 1950s. There was a group of us who were disgusted by the aims that were being presented to us: merely making money and so forth. There was a lot of rebellion that was focused against the dishonesty of society, which gradually in my own mind became a matter of seeking my own integrity. My own integrity meant a great deal to me.

I was part of a juvenile gang that got into difficulty with the law, in the sense of increasingly violent pranks, drinking and so forth. It was a relief when I went to a liberal prep school where students were given a great deal of responsibility for their own governance. Despite all my acting out at my public school, I responded very well in that kind of environment, and got excellent grades, because we were respected as people, which is something I had lacked prior to that. Then, in my first year at Harvard, I read Walden by Henry David Thoreau and I was inspired to leave Harvard for the woods of Vermont. I stayed in a small one-room cabin and read, wrote poetry, walked a lot, dreamt out my recurrent trapped dreams, and I believe at that point, began finding my own integrity. And I kept returning to that kind of life.

I was inspired by Herman Melville’s novel Typee, which is set in the Marquesas, north of Tahiti near the equator, and Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence about the artist Paul Gauguin, who painted in the South Seas. It was 1960 and when Vermont got too cold for the wood heater, I went to the woods in Rhode Island. When that got too cold, I shipped out of New York as a passenger on a freighter to Tahiti. I had gotten used to meditating in Vermont on the lake that was down below, and by gazing off into space. On the freighter I would lie on my back and stare upward, filling my mind with the blueness of the sky. The Pacific Ocean was clean and tremendously calm and I filled my mind with that. I didn’t have a visa for Tahiti and after a while some official noticed this and asked me to leave. I used all but my last $15 to take a seaplane to Hawaii. It was nuts, but it was a search for my own integrity.

You were among the earliest scholars to show respect for Eastern scholars, and acknowledge what you learned from them, rather than claiming that you knew more than your “native informants.” Where did your intellectual honesty come from?

This was related to my attitude of searching. Why would I pretend that what l learned from a Tibetan scholar was something I put together myself? Why would I treat these people as somehow different from myself? I thought it was very important, extremely important, to treat every Tibetan scholar fairly, to give them credit for their part in producing any book. I was criticized for this by other professors in my own field. But it just made more sense to have, say, Lati Rinpoche, be a co-author, than to footnote everything he said. In time, people came to understand what collaboration meant. The old saying of “East is East and West is West” doesn’t carry over to how you treat people on the title page of a book.

Photo courtesy of Donna L. Brown.

Photo courtesy of Donna L. Brown.

By making clear what came from others, you revealed that the Western scholar wasn’t always the final expert. Did other academics criticize you for that?

Yes, they did, and I just chose to ignore it. I spoke recently at the Tsadra Translation & Transmission Conference about singing my own song, and what I meant is that certain priorities needed to be righted, and we would right them by how we acted and what we did. It means acknowledging the help you receive and the roles others play, and if those roles are prominent enough, then the person deserves equal billing as the author or the translator. If I couldn’t have understood the text without somebody informing me of its meaning, then that person has played an equal role in its translation even if they don’t know English, because I couldn’t have translated it otherwise. Not to mention the person’s contribution to the footnotes or the explanation that goes along with the translation. This approach has come to be generally accepted. And then also I wanted to point out that many of the academic concerns that Tibetan and Mongolian scholars have are similar to ours. Both sides can learn from the other, though I don’t like talking about sides. I think we are all more or less in the same soup.

Sometimes in Dharma centers people avoid sharing their real views or feelings. This helps maintain harmony, but at a price. It makes me wonder about the balance between building community and nourishing the individual.

I would compare it to when I started in academia. At that time, there was a lot of shouting among scholars. I thought it had a lot to do with how little we knew about the subjects we were talking about. And I had to admit that of myself also. I was so egregiously, embarrassingly ignorant on many of these topics. I could see how I could stumble into trying to cover up my ignorance by shouting or making a big fuss over something I knew that somebody else didn’t know. And then I tried very hard to avoid doing that, and to create an atmosphere in which I was not doing this. I think as this profession and its members have become more educated, there’s been less need to yell at each other, and this may be true in Dharma centers also. I’ve found in the two translation conferences I’ve been to, and many of these translators are members of Dharma communities, that we have no need at all to shout at each other or show off what we know because we are deeply impressed by what we don’t know. We are really happy to hear about these topics from our colleagues and friends who do know something about them. Then it’s easy to get along.

A community’s insistence on people toeing a line may have a lot to do with being neophytes. And the number of times that neophytes repeat the name of their organization or their lama really strikes me as a sign of weakness. Let’s just stop doing that. Still, within the monastic community, there are rules. Outside of the community, you don’t say nasty things about the community, because that disrupts the image of the community, and spreads gossip and so forth. But that implies that there can be criticism within the community. You’ve got to air differences and so forth. You should. But you can’t be arguing all the time, or sharing everything you think. Nevertheless, a healthy community has to have some way of airing what’s going on. You can’t be covering up all the time because it will explode, and the disharmony that will result from that is not going to be helpful.

On a personal level, I try to make the chance of hypocrisy less by admitting in public some of the things that I’m up to. For example, I gave a talk in a city recently and I was really surprised when the people there gave me some money, in envelopes, afterwards. But then also, at the same time, I was very greedy about that money. I kept wondering how much was in each envelope. And I was very careful to put those envelopes down beside me (laughs) so that nobody would walk off with any of them. And I mentioned it to my host afterwards, admitting how greedy I was about it. I try to make this a habit. I don’t make up stuff to disclose, because there’s plenty of it without making anything up. I may not disclose everything, but at least a whole lot of it. Disclosing it relieves tension, whereas hiding is really counter-productive, because when you hide, you have to simulate the opposite – and, wow, you just get into trouble. I get into trouble!

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Is this an aspect of the path? Does not being open reduce energy available for practice?

I think that’s very, very true. Energy is wasted by hiding, and what you are hiding gets worse and worse the more you hide it. It’s self-destructive. You know, sometimes when I talk about morality, I’ll just say, “I’m embarrassed about what I am saying, but in any case, I’m trying to present what the books teach as it’s written, and I’m not claiming that I can actually enact this, I want to be clear.” That makes it a lot easier to talk about it. If it’s compassion and the fact that I get angry in certain situations, then it’s easy for me to talk about what I get angry at and use that as an example. Being frank about myself undermines my own negative reactions.

But we have to be judicious about what we say. We can’t be stupidly open. It’s not easy.

Buddhadharma focused its Winter 2014 issue on abuses of power in Dharma communities. One theme was “no more secrets,” because abuses flourish when people deny, cover up, or ostracize those who speak out. What are your thoughts on this?

I’m not an active member of any group. I’m a member of groups, but from a distance, which gives me a certain safety valve. I don’t give any quarter to lamas and so forth who act contrary to moral codes. To me that’s simply improper. If I’m asked about that person, I just say what I’ve heard, I don’t cover up, or at least I hope I don’t. I’m open about what I’ve heard and I’ll say, “Beware.” Covering up or pretending that seemingly ill behavior is the way great lamas behave – I’m just not going to say that. I think that’s simply wrong.

You have mentioned that your relationship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very frank. How open should we be with our lamas?

It depends on what the lama can stand! The lama may not want to hear about it. And then what can you do? You may have to go find some other lama, if that’s what you need. Like with anyone, your friends for example, there are certain subjects that some people don’t want to hear about. Even your closest friend may not want to hear about your stomach troubles. So you don’t talk about it. And how much can anyone stand to hear about your sex life? Or your health problems? Even if you’re at death’s door, five minutes is the max. It’s a bore. You shouldn’t expect more than that.

Westerners seem to value openness more than Tibetans. Is there a cultural difference?

I don’t think Tibetans are different from us. Maybe they are getting away with being secretive about how they are running things here (laughs). They are just getting away with pretending that this is the way that they do it. Tibetans among themselves give each other a hard time. They hold each other to account. Whereas some of them come over here and act as if they are kings or queens. They’ll do whatever they can get away with. You don’t have to let them.

Some Westerners, like you, say they have past life memories. While this may come from a desire to be special, there must be some who really were practitioners in the past. Should people be open about memories if they have them? What about the narcissism factor?

I was faced with this during the five years I was at Geshe Wangyal’s monastery in New Jersey in the early 1960s. People would come to visit and talk about their past lives. They were usually princes and princesses. I was looking forward to the day when someone would come and say they were a garbage collector. It’s something that kept me from telling my own story because I didn’t want to be put in the category that I was putting these people in, which has to do with their own aggrandizing imaginations. With myself, I felt what memories I had were rather ordinary. I had to inspect those few memories to figure out what my so-called status was. I didn’t feel glorious. I had to deduce from a few pieces of information what my status might have been. It took a long time for that to come through. I’m suspicious of people who remember themselves as having been very glorious.

Still, I stay neutral on whether people should talk about memories. Although I’m suspicious, I’m not going to put it down. I know in my case that these are actual memories, so I know that does occur. But I wouldn’t blame anyone for being highly suspicious if I told my own story in any detail. They might think, “The guy’s a nut!” I’ve had that kind of thought with respect to others. But some people have related their stories to me, and their memories are not self-glorifying. I don’t have any reason to question them. I do accept for sure that people remember.

Dr. Ian Stevenson of the University of Virginia looked into a lot of reincarnation stories, and checked some against facts he could track down. One of the points that he made was that quite a number of people remembered their past lives because they died in the midst of violence. It was quite often not a case of great spiritual attainment, but that there was some violence that impressed on them what was going on, and that caused the memory.

Canadian tulku Elijah Ary has been open since childhood about his past life memories and went through a lot of difficulties.

I know Elijah Ary. I find his story quite poignant. He and I had quite opposite trails. He has been open throughout and I’ve been closed throughout. I actually forgot it for quite a while and then even after I remembered, it was decades later that I was willing to talk about it at all except with a couple of people. It’s been quite a journey for him, and I really respect what he’s had to go through to be this open. He paid a huge price. For me, coming out as gay was a big step at the time I did it, but coming out as remembering your past life, as far as I’m concerned, is much larger than that.

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

Professor Jeffrey Hopkins, Maitripa College, Portland, Oregon, United States, September 2011. Photo by Marc Sakamoto.

What does it really tell us if someone has past life memories? Does that make them special now?

I think that Dr. Ian Stevenson’s story about people remembering because they died in the midst of violence indicates that it doesn’t automatically make you special. What will make you special is what you do in this lifetime. If you think about it, that is true of anybody, recognized or not.

Liushar Thupten Tharpa, who was the equivalent of foreign minister in the old government of Tibet, went out to greet His Holiness the Dalai Lama when he first came to Lhasa; Liushar told me he was watching the little child to see if this was the right one. But he didn’t come to any conclusion then whether this was the right or the wrong child. Later he was this Dalai Lama’s representative in New York, after which he came to our monastery in New Jersey, and then stayed on in the USA as a permanent resident. Then the Dalai Lama called him back to Dharamsala. There were a number of years during which Liushar had not seen this Dalai Lama in action on the home front, although he had visited India for important events. Anyway, after he went back to India, I saw him. He said, “Do you know what he is doing?” and he recounted to me how busy this Dalai Lama was conducting ordination ceremonies, teaching, giving initiations, all of the many things he was doing. And he said, “Now we can say he is the incarnation of Avalokiteshvara.” You see? By way of his actions! That question about whether there were signs that he was the last Dalai Lama was totally wiped out. It didn’t matter. His Holiness’ actions were sufficient. Whether he was or not didn’t make any difference because in his waking day he was endlessly performing these actions.

While you are open about many things, you also choose to keep certain things private, such as your own attainments, and ways you’ve helped others – for example, with their books or academic work.

There’s a tradition about not being open about your own attainments and your own deeper experiences, and I don’t even tell my friends. It’s out of the question, I feel, that I’m going to talk about these things. As for helping others, it’s important to do – and keep quiet.

Any final thoughts on honesty?

If honesty became one’s only watchword, one could become a pain in the ass, and narcissistic, and a total bore. I hope by giving an interview like this, pretending to be honest, I don’t create a trap for myself! That I would become infatuated with this – really. And start deliberately acting this way, thinking, “I’ve got to be honest! I’ve got to find something to be honest about!” And turning myself into not just a 25- or 50-percent jerk but a 75- or 90-percent jerk (laughs). Warn me if I do. Tap me on the shoulder and say, “Hey Jeffrey, you are turning into a 100-percent jerk.”

We are basically incapable of saying who we are, and when we start doing that, we really have to be careful, because we aren’t going to be right. There may be some grain of truth – but also some grain of foppishness. I’m trying. I’m still trying to find my own integrity.

“Jeffrey Hopkins’ Transmission of Honesty” was produced as an online feature by Mandala Publications, and is supported, in part, by programs like Friends of FPMT.

Donna Lynn Brown is a regular Mandala contributor and a student at Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon, US.

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Technology and Mindfulnesshttp://fpmt.org/mandala-today/dharma-realities/technology-and-mindfulness/ http://fpmt.org/mandala-today/dharma-realities/technology-and-mindfulness/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:08:52 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=38052 read full article]]>
"No Time to Save the World" by Vaun Raymond. Photo: http://vaunraymondblog.blogspot.com.au/2006_11_01_archive.html. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

“No Time to Save the World” by Vaun Raymond. Photo: http://vaunraymondblog.blogspot.com.au/2006_11_01_archive.html. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 License.

By Ven. Chönyi Taylor

There was a time when I nearly killed myself, but for the attentiveness of the driver of the car coming towards me. I was so absorbed in a problem I was trying to solve that I was totally unaware of where I was, that is, that I was crossing the road. This was well before the days of mobile phones. Now the ubiquitous phones appear to be responsible for many more people putting themselves in danger through the same lack of awareness of surroundings. They, like me, are being intensely mindful. But, something is not quite right. It must be the technology.

New technology tends to have a bad press. Once we were warned against the act of writing, the new technology of the early Greeks. Socrates thought that writing would create forgetfulness because people would not use their memories. I doubt whether this is the earliest example of “inattention blindness,” also known as “lack of mindfulness.” How often did our Stone Age ancestors lose their prey through inattentiveness? Certainly we know that hunters need to be both patient and alert at the same time. Writing is, and was, nothing more than a different form of attentiveness. It may or may not assist our memory skills, but the world has not fallen apart because we can write.

Then we were warned about reading books. This was not a big problem before the breakthrough technology of the printing press. Now anyone could read so long as they had been taught the alphabet and phonetics. It is the cornerstone of primary education.

There is the wonderful story of the 15th-century Luddite, abbot Johannes Trithemius, who was no fan of the printing press, because he thought that the printing press would make monks lazy.1 Copying meant that you worked hard, which was better for the soul than just reading. He also thought that this newfangled printed book was not as nice as the old copied book. That reminds me of the arguments against ebooks: they just are not as nice as the old paper books and they do not smell the same.

Now it is the rise of the internet and the mobile phone which is going to make a mess of our brains, according to Nick Carr in the Wall Street Journal. The problem is division of attention, which becomes locked into our brains.2

Inattention. Also known as “lack of mindfulness.” Mindfulness, being good, implies that its opposite, inattention, is bad.

Take mobile phones, for example. They are also blamed for “inattention blindness.” People walk into cars, fall into ponds, and even kill others by texting while they are driving. We are warned about the ability of our phones to give us an illusion of connectedness while actually creating the opposite. This becomes locked into our brains.

What we seem to be sacrificing in all our surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion.3

In other words, modern technology gives us new ways to be distracted.

Is this so?

Mindfulness necessarily creates inattention to whatever we are not being mindful of.   

Inattention can also be called: concentration, distraction, inattentiveness, preoccupation, absent-mindedness, daydreaming, dreaminess, reverie, wool-gathering, abstraction, staring into space, obliviousness. Some of these synonyms are good and some are not. Where would we be without daydreaming, reverie, staring into space, brainstorming? These are also opposite to mindfulness. Studies of the creative process show that both daydreaming and attentiveness are required in the process of creation, but at different times. J. P. Guilford, the great psychologist, coined the terms “divergent thinking” and “convergent thinking.”4 We need both.

So, mindfulness which is being directed towards the phone screen is not being directed elsewhere. That does not mean we are incapable of being mindful, it only means that we have chosen to be mindful of one thing without thinking about the consequences. And having something “locked into our brains” is just current jargon for “learning.” Rather than being alarmed by these brain changes, it would be better to recognize that the neuro-circuits can also be unchanged. In other words, we create habits and we break them.

This is true, too, of our Buddhist practices. We can develop mindfulness as an aspect of meditation and as we do that we are inattentive to any problems happening around us. Meditation, wisely, can be single-pointed concentration (convergent thinking) or analytical meditation (divergent thinking). Post meditation is the time for creating merit that is to generate deeper and wiser states of mind, of wisdom and of compassion. Creating merit also requires both convergent and divergent thinking. How can I benefit this sentient being, the mouse and its decidedly unhealthy droppings? Divergent thinking. I want to do this without killing the mouse. How can I trap it without killing it? Ah, here is an idea that might work. Let me put it into practice. Convergent thinking. Both these states are necessary if the meditation or the creation of merit is to be successful.

What really matters is not attentiveness, or even short burst thinking, but the wisdom which realizes we are not paying attention to what really matters at any one time.

Then, of course, there is our motivation that turns everyday activity into Dharma practice. But that is another topic.

Ven. Chönyi Taylor is a registered Foundational Buddhism FPMT teacher and an elder for the Discovering Buddhism at Home Course. She is the author of Enough! A Buddhist Approach to Working with Addictive Patterns (Snow Lion, 2010) and has been published in Mandala, Buddhadharma, Dharma Vision and Sangha Magazine. She is a founding member and member of the training committee of the Australian Association of Buddhist Counsellors and Psychotherapists and an Honorary Lecturer in the Discipline of Psychiatry at Sydney University.

1. Mike Masnick, “A Fifteenth Century Technopanic About The Horrors Of The Printing Press,” Techdirt.com, February 25, 2011 <https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110119/05022912725/fifteenth-century-technopanic-about-horrors-printing-press.shtml>

2. Nick Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, W.W. Norton & Co., 2011

3. Nick Carr, “Does the Internet Make You Dumber?” Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2010 <http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704025304575284981644790098>

4. J. P. Guilford, The Nature of Human Intelligence, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1967

 

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Belated Obituary for Jacques Haesaerthttp://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/belated-obituary-for-jacques-haesaert/ http://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/belated-obituary-for-jacques-haesaert/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://fpmt.org/?p=35521 read full article]]>

 

Jacques Haesaert. Photo courtesy of Ambroisie Association.

Jacques Haesaert. Photo courtesy of Ambroisie Association.

In September 2014 during the CPMT 2014 meeting, managing editor Laura Miller met with student Françoise Majeste who revealed that a close student of Lama Yeshe and a long-time student of Institut Vajra Yogini in France – Jacques Haesaert – had died over five years ago, but had never been honored in Mandala. We’re happy to now share this tribute to Jacques’ life from his friends and students.

Jacques Haesaert, 67, died in Graulhet, France, July 2009, from a stroke

By Marilyn Magazin and Brigitte Jordan on behalf of the members of the Ambroisie Association

Five years have gone by since our doctor, teacher and friend, Jacques Haesaert, passed on. When he died in July 2009 at the age of 67, we were so unprepared and perturbed that none of his many students in France and Spain thought to send an obituary to Mandala magazine. Jacques was a member of Institut Vajra Yogini in Marzens, France and benefited not only his patients, but also his many students who came to his introductory classes on Tibetan medicine at the institute and his in-depth study programs. Now in remembrance of him, we write this biography as a tribute to him and his work.

Jacques Haesaert was passionate about learning and taught himself to read even before starting school in France. His personal studies of biology, natural medicine, the powers of plants and minerals, archeology, religions, Egyptology, cooking, music, to name a few, surely helped him assimilate Tibetan medicine later on. As well as working in France, Jacques spent many years in Africa and later worked in the Phillipines with local healers.

In 1974, his spiritual search brought him to India where he had his first contact with Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and the medicine practiced in this country. In Nepal he became a disciple of Lama Thubten Yeshe who encouraged him to study Tibetan medicine. Jacques followed Lama’s advice and studied many years in Dharamsala, India with Dr. Ama Lobsang Dolma.

We do not know all the details of his many years of study, treating and accompanying patients in India as a Tibetan doctor, but we do know that he also studied with Dr. Tsering Dinggang and worked for some time with the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa in Calcutta, with the most destitute of people.

In this 1982 forward, Lama Yeshe praises Jacques' work writing "Jaques Haesaert has studied with us for several years ... He has researched extensively into all aspects of Tibetan medicine, culture, mind psychology and religion. His work is authentic, and his style is good."

In this 1982 forward, Lama Yeshe praises Jacques’ work writing “Jaques [sic] Haesaert has studied with us for several years … He has researched extensively into all aspects of Tibetan medicine, culture, mind psychology and religion. His work is authentic, and his style is good.”

In 1981, Lama Yeshe asked Jacques to share his knowledge with the Western world in a way that was adapted to the special needs of the people living in those places in actual times. After returning to France, Jacques treated patients and taught for the rest of his life.

As well as a practicing Tibetan Buddhist, he was also a Christian and Bible scholar. Jacques often made parallels between passages in the Bible and teachings of Buddha.

Faithful to the ethics of a Tibetan physician, he expected no pay for his consultations, only accepting offerings. In his later years, he made only two appointments a day so he could remain for hours with each patient in order to treat the patient as a whole and help the person to understand the cause of his ailments, and not just treat his symptoms.

Jacques always intended to write a book so many people could benefit from the knowledge and wisdom he accumulated over so many years, applying Tibetan medicine to the West. He wanted to help Westerners discover the extraordinary and practical knowledge offered by this system. For him it was important to show, through Tibetan medicine, how people can become responsible for their mental and physical health, conscious of their potential for happiness, love and wisdom, and of the errors that would lead them to suffering.

Just months before passing on, after years of our begging for them, he gave to us, his students in France and Spain, his nearly finished book that he used for his classes. He compiled it over decades and organized the information into chapters used for his teaching. Jacques explains important teachings from the medical tantras and elaborates on many aspects of what is health and disease, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment. Moreover, he explains many aspects of Tibetan medicine from a Western point of view.

We, his students and members of the Ambroisie Association, are in the process of translating it from French to English, Spanish, and German. It was his heart-felt wish to help preserve the extensive knowledge and wisdom that is Tibetan medicine from being lost or diluted.

You can find Jacques’ piece “Nature the Great Healer” in the June 2004 issue of Mandala.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche requests that “students who read Mandala pray that the students whose obituaries they read find a perfect human body, meet a Mahayana guru and become enlightened quickly, or be born in a pure land where the teachings exist and they can become enlightened.” While reading obituaries we can also reflect upon our own death and rebirth, prompting us to live our lives in the most meaningful way.

More advice from Lama Zopa Ripoche on death and dying is available on Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s advice page.

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Mongolian Sutra Reading Picnic for His Holiness’ Birthdayhttp://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/mongolian-sutra-reading-picnic-for-his-holiness-birthday/ http://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/mongolian-sutra-reading-picnic-for-his-holiness-birthday/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://fpmt.org/mandala/?p=33252 read full article]]>
The students of Golden Light Sutra Center negotiated the terrain around Aglag Monastery with ease, Mongolia, July 2014. Photo courtesy of

The students of Golden Light Sutra Center negotiated the terrain around Aglag Monastery with ease, Darkhan, Mongolia, July 2014. Photo courtesy of Ven. Tezin Tsapel.

Ven. Tenzin Tsapel, director of Golden Light Sutra Center in Darkhan, Mongolia, reports on the group’s celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s July 6, 2014 birthday:

A group Golden Light Sutra Center students went on a sutra reading picnic for His Holiness’ birthday celebration. We hired a mini-bus for the two-hour drive to Aglag Monastery, 13 kilometers (8 miles) off the Darkhan/Ulaanbaatar road. As we drove in, the valley became quite narrow, and heavily treed, very green and culminated in small, steep mountain with unusual natural rocky outcrops, enclosed by a ring of mountains. From the car park we walked up the step gravel drive to the main monastery and cluster of buildings. The center piece was an ornately painted monastery building with a commanding view. 

We settled in to recite the Vajra Cutter Sutra in front of the central Amitabha altar and then joined the stream of visitors upstairs paying respect to the holy images and Buddha relics and viewing an odd assortment of mythical beast models.

The path led behind the main building and around a very beautiful but very steep and slippery mountain track past numerous carved holy images, mantras and syllables, as well as a few obstacle-course rock formations. My initial concern for some of the older members of our group gave way to respect as our hardy Mongolian ladies made their way around mountain. We stopped on the way for some birthday cake and fruit and made our way to the grass base for our late picnic lunch.     

Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.

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Choe Khor Sum Ling Enjoys Discovering Buddhismhttp://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/choe-khor-sum-ling-enjoys-discovering-buddhism/ http://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/choe-khor-sum-ling-enjoys-discovering-buddhism/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:00:10 +0000 http://fpmt.org/mandala/?p=32765 read full article]]>
Ven. Tenzin Namdak teaching at Choe Khor Sum Ling, Bangalore, India, April 2013. Photo courtesy of Choe Khor Sum Ling.

Ven. Tenzin Namdak teaching at Choe Khor Sum Ling, Bangalore, India, April 2013. Photo courtesy of Choe Khor Sum Ling.

“As part of the ongoing Discovering Buddhism course at Choe Khor Sum Ling, we recently organized a four-day non-residential retreat,” said center member Shanti Gopinath in an email to Mandala in July. “Under the adept guidance of Ven. Tenzin Legtsok from Sera Je, students reflected and meditated upon the outlines of two topics from the program: ’The Spiritual Teacher’ and ’Death and Rebirth.’ The meditation sessions invigorated all that we learned theoretically in these two modules. The retreats included reflection and guided meditation. Ven. Legtsok’s pragmatic approach to the reflection, contemplation and meditation process made the concepts easier to understand, clearer and deep seated in our minds.”

“Bangaloreans are mostly a staunch working community and so a non-residential retreat in the heart of the city was well received. Participants were happy to break away from everyday monotony and the distractions of ordinary life.

“Our next four-day residential retreat in August 2014 will be at Gyume Tantric Monastery in Hunsur. The retreat will be led by Ven. Tenzin Namdak from Sera Je. The retreat will incorporate guided meditations focused around the topics outlined in the Discovering Buddhism modules ‘All About Karma’ and ‘Refuge.’ Gyume Monastery is in a Tibetan farming settlement four hours’ drive from Bangalore and is a perfect setting for our next retreat.”

Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.

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Dharma Idea: Blessing Kayak Paddleshttp://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/dharma-idea-blessing-kayak-paddles/ http://fpmt.org/fpmt-community-news/news-around-the-world/dharma-idea-blessing-kayak-paddles/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://fpmt.org/mandala/?p=33232 read full article]]>
Kayak paddle with Namgyälma mantra, Waldo Lake, Oregon, US, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Mandala Publications.

Kayak paddle with Namgyälma mantra, Waldo Lake, Oregon, US, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Mandala Publications.

A third-year Maitripa College student sent Mandala this idea on how to use the Namgyälma mantra to make kayaking a more beneficial experience. “The Namgyälma mantra is extremely powerful,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaches. “It is the main mantra to purify and liberate beings from the lower realms, purify negative karma, and help those who are dying or have died ….” Here is her account:

During a rituals and ethics class, we learned about water tsa-tsas. While kayaking one day, I started thinking about how many times my paddle was in the water. I wondered if there was a way to do something like the water tsa-tsas with my paddle. 

Waldo Lake, Oregon, US, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Mandala Publications.

Waldo Lake, Oregon, US, August 2014. Photo courtesy of Mandala Publications.

I came across an article about Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s Namgyälma mantra board and blessing all the creatures in the water and whomever comes in contact with the water. I put two and two together and started asking around about a way to put a mantra on a kayak paddle.

The mantra that I used is actually a bumper sticker that I got through the FPMT Foundation Store. Before putting on the sticker, I first did the Jorchö practice and recited some of the mantras I found in the tsa-tsa book. Afterward, I dedicated the merit. Since it’s important to protect the mantra, I cover both of the paddle blades with stuff sacks for storage, taking them off before paddling and putting them back on when I’m done.

The new stickers have really changed the way I treat my paddles and my mindset while paddling. I recite a mantra most of the time as I paddle and dedicate at the end of the kayak outing.

The Foundation Store, managed by FPMT International Office, provides Dharma materials and supplies to interested students around the world. All proceeds from the shop are used to further the charitable mission of FPMT Inc.

Mandala brings you news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and of activities, teachings and events from over 160 FPMT centers, projects and services around the globe. If you like what you read on Mandala, consider becoming a Friend of FPMT, which supports our work.

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