Sacred West

Buddhism and Modern Life

Sacred West header image 1

Two Accumulations: Merit and Wisdom

December 26th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: Death

Why do we need both merit and wisdom, they asked us in a recent class I was taking?

This morning I thought, well, because we’ll be reborn, for one thing (unless we do really well in the bardo).

And when we’re born, for a time there won’t be a lot of wisdom going on. We’ll want our karma to magnetize not just the right parents but the right teachings from our parents, and from life, as we develop in our formative years. This can be such a great asset for the rest of that lifetime.

I think of investing now for a better return down the road.

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments

The Functional Power of Gentleness

October 30th, 2008 · 2 Comments · Filed under: Practice

Like many new Buddhists in the West, I had an overlay of moral encouragement applied to concepts such as gentleness. I didn’t realize that it has a purely functional purpose as a core practice instruction.

Gentleness is the way to stay in one’s own being even as one regards the world of the ten thousand things that seems to exist outside our fabricated selves. And this becomes a practice one can perform as a training exercise.

Read the Full Story...


In Distress Energy Arises

October 28th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: Practice

In distress
Energy arises,
Power from ourselves,
Freely available,
Released at need.

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments

Put On Shoes, Throw Freedom Away

October 20th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Filed under: Practice

We can watch ourselves close down our spacious mind in order to fabricate a wall of comfort around ourselves, and we can train through meditation techniques to strip this wall back away again.

Waking from sleep is a good time to watch the wall get built. I’m always astonished at what a simple trick it is happening to me, and yet how unresistingly I get pulled into this delusion.

Read the Full Story...


The Practice Is Letting Go, Not Getting To.

August 25th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Filed under: Practice

I wondered, as I’ve so often wondered: why exactly is it so very hard to rest in this place? We’re supposed to be resting the mind, resting in open sky, resting in mahamudra. If it’s so restful, then tired as I am, why don’t I want to stay here?

Read the Full Story...

→ 1 Comment

The Open Technique Of Mindfulness On The Breath

August 25th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Filed under: Practice

The breathing technique in Shambhala Training’s Level I class is the so-called “open technique”, where the inbreath is not regarded, and one simply waits for the outbreath, merging with the outbreath, becoming the experience of the outbreath, dissolving with the outbreath, and waiting at the end, in the gap, simply waiting.

Fellow Dharma practitioner Chodpa was writing recently about not finding the breath, not finding anything real there, having turned to Shamatha from a long time in the space of mahamudra, and I think he would have liked the teaching of this Level I beginner weekend. The breath, it turns out, is just a place to find yourself lost.

Read the Full Story...

→ 1 Comment

Shambhala Training Level One Gets To The Moment

August 25th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: Shambhala Training

Shambhala Training’s introductory class of Level I can often be a wearying experience, as I well recall, for meditators to sit endlessly all day and face up to just how much hard work it is to return one’s focus of attention to something so ever-present and simple as one’s own breathing.

But not in this class. This weekend was buzzing with active pursuit of the moment itself, nature of mind, nature of thought, and ways and means to get down and meditate.

On Saturday morning, barely into the first trial run at the experience, one participant wanted to know why we can’t hold the moment, when we can hold all the other junk we call our thoughts. She talked about dotting the “i” of the moment, and learned of course that the dot is moving, the “i” is moving, and it’s all moving.

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments

Nothing is Wasted

August 24th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Filed under: Practice

This may sound like ordinary words, but I see recently that I’m in a trap of my own making.

And so it occurs to me that I must also be in the freedom of my own making.

Read the Full Story...

→ 1 Comment

Taking the Breath As You Find It

August 18th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Filed under: Dharmic

I think many of us when we start mindfulness meditation with a focus on the breath have some initial work to do just finding the breath, sorting it out from the waterfall of thoughts in our minds.

Dharma practitioner Chodpa, after some time with a more formless meditation and now practicing Shamatha again with focus on the breath, has the opposite problem. He can find the breath okay, but it doesn’t seem to be anything.

Read the Full Story...

→ 1 Comment

Strong Back Soft Front

June 24th, 2008 · 4 Comments · Filed under: Practice

This morning I pondered the rightness of having a strong back, and of having a soft front. Shambhala teaches as a foundational instruction having a “good head and shoulders”, and the notion is accompanied by having an open front.

The strength of our uprightness doesn’t belong in our fronts. When we assert ourselves too harshly, our strength leaves our backbone, and comes to our face, our mouth, our heart, and manifests unbalanced, as passion or anger or fear or shouting or discourtesy.

Read the Full Story...


The Karmapa Comes To New York

May 20th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: Dharmic

His Holiness the Seventeenth Karmapa, the leader of the Kagyu lineage, is in America as this is written.

Acharya Eric Speigel, of the Shambhala lineage – and once a teacher of mine in Austin for a weekend class on death and dying – sent us a lovely and touching account of the Karmapa’s landing and teachings in New York.

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments

The Gap

April 7th, 2008 · No Comments · Filed under: books

I started reading The Time Falling Bodies Take To Light, a classic on mythology, which I had never read. I was struck first by William Irwin Thompson’s awesome power of writing, and then very soon into the Prologue by these 111 words:

The Fall is not only once and long ago; it is recapitulated in each instant of consciousness. The unfallen world beyond time remains as a background to the figured beats of the heart in our world of serial progression. Like the white page that surrounds the darkness of each letter you are reading here, eternity surrounds each heartbeat, and as the contemplative watches his breath, he can move out of time through the doorway which opens in the interval between each heartbeat. Each open space is a spiritualization, each beat a materialization; and both are sacred, for in one is the spiritualization of matter; in the other, the materialization of spirit.

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments

In Search Of Non-Existent Self

January 9th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Filed under: Practice

Can the self be found? Is the self even necessary? A beginning practitioner in the Buddhist methods of inquiry relates his first experience of looking for the self, and watching it shy away from discovery, seeming to flee from the present moment. He notes with surprise the giant claim of ownership that we assume to be ourselves.

But what does this feel like? How do we experience this? As a practitioner of buddhist meditation, and a student of the Dharma, this is how one looks for the self – read on.

Read the Full Story...

→ 1 Comment

never born never dies

December 14th, 2007 · 2 Comments · Filed under: Dharmic

A friend sent this over:

There is only one thing, from the very beginning,
infinitely bright and mysterious by nature.

It was never born, and it never dies. It cannot be
described or given a name.

What is this “one thing”?

An eminent teacher wrote,
Even before the ancient Buddhas were born,
One thing was already perfectly complete.
Even Shakyamuni Buddha could not understand it.
How could he transmit it to Mahakashyapa?

There is one “thing” that is never born, and never
dies. For this reason it cannot be named in any way,
or expressed, or depicted.

The Sixth Patriarch of Zen once addressed the assembly
thus: “I have something that has no name and no form.
Do any of you see it?”

Zen Master Shen-hui immediately replied, “It is the
essence of all Buddhas, and also my buddha nature.”

Due to this answer, Shen-hui cannot be considered a
legitimate heir and descendant of the Sixth Patriarch.

– Zen Master So Sahn (1520-1604)

Read the Full Story...


Sogyal Rinpoche

November 15th, 2007 · No Comments · Filed under: Dharmic

All beings, everywhere, suffer; let your heart go out to them all in
spontaneous and immeasurable compassion.
-Sogyal Rinpoche

And who is Sogyal Rinpoche? Read on, and watch this clip on meditation…

Read the Full Story...

→ No Comments