UU Sangha


Vol:V Number: 2
Journal of the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship
Spring 2000

Do We Know How To Live?

Douglas Phillips

A number of us here have been quite dedicated to our contemplative practices for many years, while others are new to retreat and meditation practice and maybe need less effort to maintain touch with our wonderful beginner’s mind.  We have all embarked on this retreat together from exactly the same place.  Whatever is in this moment is what is most true.  Some of us have practiced with koans, some with breath awareness, others with centering prayer.  Some have been on retreats before of varying length and may bring a variety of experiences and ideas of what it means to have a contemplative practice and how to attempt to integrate that practice into our daily living. One challenging way to do this is to ask ourselves the question, “How am I living really?”  “Do I know how to live?”  One might say that the only true teacher who always gives clear, true teaching, is what we call Life.  In conventional terms I may refer to this as “my life,” but when we look closely is there a separation between “my life” and “Life”?  Although we won’t go into this much in this talk, this sense of possession, I-Me-Mine, can create tremendous confusion and seemingly endless opportunities to suffer

If we really examine how we do our daily living, what do we see?  Where do we notice that we are living with compassion and clarity?  Where do we notice the arising of greed, aversion, hatred, confusion?  When do we live out of separation or ambivalence?  Since we are always in relationship with someone or something, relationship presents a wonderful opportunity to see exactly where we are moment to moment.  It is a clear and unerring mirror that reflects back with great precision just what is and just who we are.  It is a compassionate yet demanding teacher if we are willing to bring the light of awareness to that reflection

And, of course, as does any worthy teacher, relationship teaches us in infinitely varying situations.  How do we interact with our significant others, colleagues at work, our sitting neighbor who goes to sleep, the food on our plate, the person in the line ahead of us, or the driver in the next car?  Do we experience them as companions on the way or obstacles to an idealized way of how we think it should be?  Can we begin to see when we are creating suffering, discontent and conflict in the moment in relationship?  When we hold up a mirror, what is really there?  A good mirror reflects exactly what is there, nothing more or less.  Can we simply see what that is without judgment, explanation, or any other act of addition, subtraction, or multiplication?  To allow life to be our teacher, we must have the courage to surrender to just how it is now.  If we have been cultivating awareness of breathing, noticing its many and varied changes, seeing how the body is while breathing, how the feelings and states of mind that arise are, noticing the impermanence of it all, we have a wonderful way to begin to relate to the rest of our life, feeling, and mind, we may begin to notice that all of the rest of life seems to behave in the same way.  That which arises passes away.  It has no enduring continuity and if we try to grab onto or push it away, matters only seem to get worse.  As we look further, we may discover that which is referred to as “I”, “Me” or “Mine” is not exempt from this and we being to experience a freedom that not only affects the way we live, but can be the way we live.

One of the many simultaneous blessings/curses of living in this period of time is that we have an almost endless variety of methods to live our lives through.  But unless we can answer the question, “Do I know how to live?” at the very least we have more to do.  Because our lives are not to be measured by the number of retreats we have sat, concentration states we have reached, koans we have solved, or transmissions we have received.  It is to be measured by how we relate to our children, parents, friends, strangers, enemies, colleagues, our food, drink, our bodies, our trash, our water, all other sentient and non-sentient beings—to Life.  How do we actualize our formal practice moment to moment in our daily living?  The Buddha said that he taught just two things: suffering and the release from suffering.  Suffering is always inter-actional with something or someone.  Let us look together: How am I doing right now?  What does the mirror reflect?

Douglas Phillips, Ph.D., has trained in both the Zen and Vipassana traditions and has been teaching insight meditation for eight years.  He is a psychologist in practice in Newton, MA, an Episcopal priest, adjunct professor at Andover Newton Theological School, and Clinical Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School.  He has been deeply influenced by the teachings of the Thai forest Tradition, the Christian Desert tradition, and the writings of J. Krishnamurti, and leads retreats at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY.  Dr. Phillips will be our speaker at our workshop at General Assembly this year.

Listening to Silence

by Debby Saint

Yun Men said, “I don’t ask you about before the fifteenth of the month, try to say something about after the fifteenth.”  Yun Men answered himself for everybody:  “Every day is a good day.”

This is a Buddhist koan; a koan is a story used to help develop understanding of our spiritual practice.  So in the story Yun Men, a great teacher, asks his students to say something, anything, about what is like after passing of the full moon, the symbol for attaining wisdom.  They all just sat there, so he gave them the answer.  “Every day is a good day.”  This is what I want to talk about today—the great joy to be found in this spiritual practice. We speak of emptiness; today I want to talk about the great joy of emptiness.  Where do we find this vast emptiness, this great joy?  It is in our everyday lives.  This deep spiritual meaning is in our ordinary lives; caring for the children, tending the garden, drinking really good coffee on the patio surrounded by roses, listening to the birds sing and the cars whiz by, taking a nap, having breakfast with friends.  It is in the tenderness of Peanut, my 17 year-old dog, and Little Kitty, my young cat, sleeping paw to paw with Lily, the 4-week old, one-eyed kitten nestled between, head cocked and looking up.

There is great meaning and depth in what brought you through the door this morning, whether this is routine, just what you do on Sunday morning, you are curious about the Zen group, you are searching, or you are seeking comfort.  There is great spiritual depth and meaning in our being together, right here, right now.  It is in the ordinary.

The only way I know to talk about this spiritual practice is to talk about my ordinary life.  In Zen, the small questions of our own lives lead us to the awareness of this vast emptiness, this great joy.  So today, I speak of my own small question, of my own spiritual practice.

I work as the Native American Program manager for an agency of the federal government.  For the past five years, my relationship with my counterpart in the Washington Office has been ugly, differing views on policy questions have turned into vicious personal attacks.  It has been very painful for me.  Three weeks ago, there was a meeting of all the program managers in a small town north of Santa Barbara.  I missed the first day because of a work conflict.  I arrived irritated because I had to be there, irritated because I had to get up early, irritated because I had a rough flight in a small plane, irritated because it was expensive, irritated because my staff had been given a hard time about my not being there.  But mostly, I just arrived irritated and I stayed that way.   Through visits with old friends, through a beautiful talk by the spiritual leader of a local Indian tribe, even through a walk on the beach, I stayed that way.

I took this experience into my meditation, not replaying the events, or justifying my actions, thoughts, and feelings.  But to go into the silence asking myself—What do I learn from this?  How do I walk through this wisdom gate?  For two weeks, this was with me and I was getting nowhere, I was Yun Men’s student, sitting there going, “Duh.”

Tuesday night I was talking to my Zen teacher talking about a number of things—the arrangements for his visit next weekend, about the koan I am working on and my Zen practice, how I could feel my practice shifting, how I was resisting that, how I had not been able to find compassion for my colleague, how I had been really mean to someone at meditation the night before.

As we talked he asked me, “ Whose life are you living?”  It was like the old Zen stories: Zen master asking a strange question and the student becoming enlightened or in my case, having a small insight.  I had been more in my colleague’s life rather than my own.  I was spending more time reacting to my colleague than I was being myself. I was telling myself story after story about what was going on.  I had not been at home in my own life and that is what this practice is about—being at home in our own lives.  So this week I have been coming home to my own life.  What does this mean?  What is it like to be at home in your own life?

When we are at home in our own lives, we laugh easily; we smile at strangers; we are generous and have much to give.  We are kind.  When we are at home in our own lives, we allow our children to be who they are—not who we think they should be.  We allow ourselves to be who we are, not who we think we should be.

When we are at home in our own lives—we are flexible, able to do what needs to be done with ease.  We respond to others’ reactions with “Oh, well.”  When we are at home in our own lives—our relationships do not have to meet prescribed patterns.  There is deep meaning in what they are.

When we are at home in our own lives, the universe is our home.

When we are at home in our own lives—according to Baisao, an early eighteenth century Chinese poet:

I’m no Buddhist or Taoist
Nor Confucianist either,
I’m a black-faced white-haired
Hard-up old man.
You think I just prowl
The streets selling tea?
I’ve got the whole universe
In this tea caddy of mine.
When we are at home in our own lives, we are not afraid of pain; it is exquisite.  I remember that when my father died suddenly, too young; the doctor offered my mother sedation.  She said, “I loved him.  Do they think I don’t want to feel this pain?”

From Daito, thirteenth century:

No umbrella, getting soaked
I’ll just use the rain as my raincoat.
When we are at home in our own lives, our hearts flow through our fingertips.

When we are at home in our own lives, we experience the great joy of emptiness.  Or from my youth:

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
Down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy,
Down in my heart, down in my heart to stay.
When we are at home in our own lives, we sing.  When we are at home in our own lives, “Every day is a good day.”

One poet who is really speaking to me now is Anna Swir.  She expresses this deep spiritual joy:

Happy as something unimportant
And free as a thing unimportant.
As something no one prizes
And which does not prize itself.
As something mocked by all
And which mocks at their mockery.
As laughter without serious reason.
As a yell able to out yell itself.
Happy as no matter what, as any no matter what.
As a dog’s tail.
As the daughter of a southern Christian minister, I cannot end this sermon without an invitation.  So, I invite you to listen to the silence, to hear in that silence what it is you need, to find the great joy and meaning, I invite you home to your own life.

Debby Saint is a UU Zen practitioner in Arizona.

The Buddha Who Is To Come
by Mike Young

One of the first things that I need to say about Buddhism is that there is nothing that you are required to be, to be a Buddhist.  There is nothing that you are required to believe to be a Buddhist.  There is nothing that you are required to do to be a Buddhist.  Indeed, the actions, the celebrations, the things that Buddhists do vary wildly from country to country.  What follows is not Zen, or Tibetan, or anybody else’s Buddhism.  It may not be your Buddhism.  It is Mike Young’s Buddhism.

There is this wonderful myth in Buddhism.  The myth is that Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni was not the first Buddha.  There were others before him.  There will be others after him.  Specifically, Maitreya, the Bodhisattva of loving compassion, is to come in the future.  I’m sure that when American missionaries stumbled across this fascinating Buddhist myth they must have experienced considerable consternation.  They must have said, “Wow!  That’s kind of like Christianity.”  Some of them must have said, “That’s just the devil trying to copy and confuse.”  And there must have been those who said, “Hmmm, is it possible?”

There are people who hold the tradition that after Jesus was buried and before he rose Jesus went off to other places to preach to those who hadn’t had a chance to hear the gospel.  Jesus, after all, said,  “I have sheep which are not of this pasture.”  Is it possible that Quetzalcoatl and the Buddha who is to come are echoes of those visits?  Some believe so.

But there is an interesting twist to the Maitreya story, for it functions at two levels, as so much of myth does.  Joseph Campbell, in his TV programs and books has, to some extent and for many of us, retrieved the notion of myths from those days when “myth” meant a lie, something that wasn’t true.  Joseph Campbell’s attempts to help us understand the nature and function of myth let us begin to see that the ancient myths of our species are those narratives and stories that pick up and crystallize a piece of what it feels like to be a human being.  They can both report and evoke that experience.

At one level the myth says that there is another Buddha who is to come.  The second layer of the myth is that the Buddha who is to come is indeed you.  It is your own Buddha-nature as your understanding of who it is that you really are begins to unfold.  It is not that you are quite inadequate the way you are and need to achieve something completely different.  Instead, the Buddhist teaching is that you are already Buddha.  In your own selfish and self-deluded involvement in the minutiae of daily life, and in the confusion of misunderstanding the way your own mind works, you may not have figured it out yet.  You are Maitreya, the Buddha who is to come.

Here is where the issue of beliefs comes back in.  If you sit and really pay attention to your own life, everything that Buddha taught is available to you as well.  Or so Buddhists assume. There aren’t any esoteric hidden secrets.  All of it is available to everyone.  This is part of what is meant by the notion of the Buddha nature that is common to us all.

Buddhism is not a place to stay.  It’s not a set of behaviors that you do or things that you believe and you get to the place where, “Aha, I am enlightened!”  If that ever happens, please know that you’re mistaken.  Buddhism is better described as a raft for crossing the sea of ignorance.  If perchance you should in fact cross that sea, what do you do with the raft that you used to get across?  It would be dumb to carry it around on your back afterwards, right?  It is an instrument, a vehicle.

Buddha was Buddha because he paid attention.  Everything he taught is equally available to you if you pay attention, if you do it.  Your teacher, ultimately, is not Siddhartha Gautama Sakyamuni Buddha.  Your teacher is Maitreya, the Buddha who is to come, your Buddhahood.  It is, indeed, in dealing with the thwarting and the frustration and the actual experiences of your life that your own awareness of your own connectedness emerges.  Not that teachers are not useful, but notice that the most valuable function of a teacher is not to give you the faith.  Indeed, if I as a teacher could hand you a wrapped and tied-up package that contained all of the things that you needed to know, believe and do, if I could hand it to you so all you had to do was to pull the pretty bow on top and it would open and unfold and you’d be there, I would have been stealing from you.  Buddhism is not a theft.  It isn’t even a gift.  It comes closest to being a goose.  A good teacher will goose you.  A teacher will thwart you.  When the teacher sees you running down blind alleys, the teacher will say, “I suggest you go back and try a different turn of the path.”  Or the teacher says, “Aha, look at this block that you don’t want to look at, that you keep going around instead of through.  Maybe you ought to take that block apart and go through it.”

Unfortunately, the image of the raft that goes from one shore to another leaves the impression that this is a trip that you go from one place to another.   You are already where you need to be.

One of the traps here is our tendency to assume that all I have to do is follow my conscience, follow my own personal intuition.  If your conscience and intuition are like my conscience and intuition, the definition of a conscience is that small voice inside that tells me I’m right whether I am or not.  The small voice inside that says, “Familiar.  You know how to do this.  Stick with what’s familiar.”  Whereas, not always but frequently, the path I need to tread is the path into uncharted territory, my own uncharted territory.  On the other hand, the Buddhist tradition insists that the teachings, the learnings will fit.  They are not alien, disjunctive, strange, esoteric things.  They will fit.  Here, too, is where Maitreya, your Buddha who is to come, is the teacher.  For, even if the piece that fits is not quite right, it is important that we listen and pay attention to our own journey.

One of the UU principles is that you ought to believe whatever it is in fact that you do believe.  You’ve heard people say, “I’m a Two-Seed-in-the Spirit, Evangelical and Reformed Expiationist, but I don’t practice it.”  The only way to grow intellectually,  emotionally, spiritually, IS TO PRACTICE IT!  To be who you are, not someone else.  It is your path, your journey, your life.

Do you know the incredible sculptures by Michelangelo called “The Prisoners”?  The huge blocks of granite have a figure just beginning to emerge from the stone, as if Michelangelo had stopped a third of the way through a sculpture.  But they are finished pieces.  As a child, did you ever try carving a boat out of Ivory soap ?  You had a nice sharp knife and you tried to cut that boat out in one smooth cut.  What did you end up with?  A lapful of soap chips.  But shaped one slice at a time, the boat emerges.  And because it’s Ivory soap, it floats.

Our spiritual journeys, our life’s path is like that.  Very few of us ever change by being turned 180 degrees around, BANG! and doing something totally different.  We learn by paying attention to the pieces of our own lives and that path itself shapes us.  There is a oneness which you are.  It does not have to be achieved or created, only discovered.

One of the earliest, perhaps even the original symbol of Buddhism, was a simple imprint of the Buddha’s footprints.  Whose footprints are the Buddha’s?  We are challenged by the teacher to follow in Buddha’s footprints, to follow Buddha.  Whose footprints did Buddha follow in?  He followed in his own.  These are your footprints.  Follow them.it.

Reverend Mike Young has been the minister of The First Unitarian Church of Honolulu since 1995.  He has also served Unitarian Universalist churches in Tampa, Los Angeles, and Palo Alto.

I Am Awake: The Origins of Buddhism
by Richelle Carmichael Russell

I was in the philosophy section of a local book store.  It had the usual assortment of feel-good, self-help books mixed with a solid variety of Buddhist writings.  I was alone except for a man dressed in a business suit and whose mahogany skin looked as if he was of India-Indian heritage.  Indulging in a private pleasure of speaking to strangers, I remarked,  “This is a very eclectic collection, but some of it seems quite good.”  He responded, “I have stopped looking for God in any of these books—I have looked for 45 years.  I have come to realize that all true wisdom cannot be written down.  The truly enlightened have no need to document their wisdom.  In Buddhism, with the Jains, and others it was all written later as the “P.R.”  I now stick with cook books” (he held up a cook-book).  I laughed and said, “Bon Appetite!”  Then off he went, cook-book in hand.

I tell this story because I want to respond to his decision to stop seeking the truth in any written form.  Admittedly, he may not have completely given up—since we spoke in the Philosophy section after all. . . But let’s take his remarks at face value.  It’s true that most of the writing of the great religions was taken down many generations later—this is certainly true for Christianity and Buddhism.

It is part of my job to peruse and stay abreast of books, particularly in the religion, philosophy, and psychology/self-help sections.  I gladly snack and rarely am I completely fed.  We should talk about the manner in which we explore the world religions as we do.  Unitarian Universalists are unique in that we draw from many sources for our nourishment.  We must do so respectfully, and opening ourselves to the new insights they may bring.  The feast, for us, is in the whole process:  gathering the ingredients, mixing them up, simmering, and dining at the world’s table for the main course.

Join me in a taste of Buddhism.  It began with one person.  When India was afire with his message, people came to this person asking what he was.  Not “Who are you?” but “What are you?”

“Are you a God?” they asked.  “No.” He replied.  “An Angel?”  “No.”  “A Saint?”  “No.”  “Then what are you?”  The Buddha answered, “I am awake.”  His answer became his title, for this is what Buddha means.  The Sanskrit root budh means “awake” and “to know.”  While the rest of humanity was dreaming the dream we call the waking human state, one of their number roused himself.  Buddhism begins with someone who woke up.

So, from the life of one individual—the Buddha—there was a new philosophy, a new religion (the Buddha does not care what you name it) a new way to live was discovered.  To be truly awake was a new way to be.

The story of the Buddha’s life is lovingly told in legend.  He was born around 563 B.C. in what is now Nepal.  Siddhartha was his given name and the family name Gautama.  His father, Suddhana, was the ruler of a kingdom, his mother was the queen.  According to the customs at the time, he was married quite young, at age 16, to a young woman named Yasodhara.  They lived together in a palace with every luxury.  He had everything:  social prestige, looks, wealth, a wife and child, and a throne he would inherit.  Despite this, however, in his twenties he became despondent, leading him to entirely abandon his lifestyle.

One day, despite all efforts to protect him from confronting any of life’s pain and suffering, he came upon a gaunt, diseased, and crippled old man.  This so affected him that he was moved to renounce his material comforts, leaving his wife and child at age 29 to wander as an ascetic, studying with religious teachers.  This did not satisfy him.  So, he abandoned all religious traditions and decided to go his own way.  One evening, seated under a tree at Buddha-Gaya, at the age of 35, Gautama attained Enlightenment.  He was from then on known as the Buddha, the Enlightened One.

After teaching for 45 years, Buddha died at age 80 around 483 B.C.  Some years later his stories and lessons were recorded in the Tipitaka, written in Pali, an ancient Southern Indian language.  It is important to remember that Buddha was just a man, and his insights could have come to anyone, they are available to all.  The core of these teachings are the Four Noble Truths or what is described as the arising and cessation of dukkha.  Dukkha is loosely translated to mean suffering, but that is often misunderstood by Westerners.  It does not mean that life is all suffering and pain, nor is it pessimistic.  Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic, it asks us to look directly at the world, our lives and to face what is meaningless, draining and burdensome.  Buddhism is described as the physician for the ills of the world, the diagnosis is that we suffer from dukkha, and the solution laid out in the Four Noble Truths.

The first Noble Truth is to acknowledge that there is dukkha in existence, that there is suffering.  It is difficult for us to acknowledge that much of our existence is painful—particularly in our liberal, optimistic faith.  But most of us know that to some degree it is true.  The Unitarian Universalist minister, Khoren Arisan may have said it best:  “life is a tragedy full of joy.”

Having acknowledged that there is pain and suffering in our existence, the Second Noble Truth is to observe how, after our birth, the pain of existence has entered our lives.  This is called the arising of dukkha.  Buddhists believe that the pain and suffering of our existence comes from the universal human desires:  greed, attachment and ego-fulfillment.  At some level, most of us can relate to this problem.  Take me for example.  When I was a kid, I challenged both of my sisters in a contest at the breakfast table.  “Let’s see who can eat her oatmeal with the most brown sugar on top.”  I was certain that I could win, (which was the only reason I made up the contest in the first place).  The contest was on and we each dumped heaps of brown sugar onto our bowls of hot cereal.  As anticipated, I poured the most brown sugar on, virtually emptying the box onto my hot cereal and then I ate it.  Technically I won, and certainly I gloated, but really I lost since I couldn’t face eating a bowl of oatmeal for the next 20 years!

As adults, there are more serious repercussions from our unmitigated greed and ambition.  There is a man who shared a very personal insight.  He realized that something incredible had happened to him about the time he was too old to be appointed as a Department Chair at the university he taught at—his life-long ambition.  He discovered that he was no longer looking at his closest friends and colleagues wondering when they would die or be dismissed due to scandal, thereby creating a vacancy.  He had never realized he was doing this, but his own concern for “moving up” had led him to see these colleagues as obstacles to his own happiness.  His success could come only on the heels of their tragedy.  He had turned himself into a lonely, jealous, bitter person.  His lectures became harsh and judgmental, and he blamed others for his unhappiness.  Now he finds that he has out-grown that sense of competitiveness.  He can welcome colleagues as friends.  He can serve as an unofficial mentor to younger professors.  Nothing has about his job has changed but something inside him, and now he can look forward to his remaining years in active teaching as being gratifying.

When we fill our lives with things, push ourselves to be number one at any cost, we are curiously unfulfilled and even lonely despite our accomplishments and our lovely acquisitions.  According to Buddhism this is not real living, it is a sleep-walk, even a nightmare, from which we must awake.

The Third Noble Truth is the cessation of dukkha.  It is stepping off the wheel of life, that illusory cycle of desire, ambition and consumption.  The most well-known Buddhist tale is of the raft.  The Buddha and one of his monks come to a river that they must cross.  They decide to build a raft and then cross the river in it.  Once they have reached to the other side, the monk places the raft on top of his head carrying it with him he walks on dry ground.  The Buddha asks him:

“Why do you continue to carry the raft when we
have already crossed the river?  The raft helped get
us to the other side.  It has already served its
purpose.  Now, as you continue to carry it, it has
become a burden.  You must lay the raft down and
continue on.”
Buddhism helps us to recognize our burdens that are no longer useful, that we must lay them down to move more lightly on our journey.

The Fourth Noble Truth is the Middle Way.  During his life, the Buddha discovered that he was satisfied neither with the ultimate luxury and status in the secular world, nor was he content with the otherworldly life of the ascetic from his traditional Hindu religion.  Rather, he chose the middle path, as the best way to find truth, meaning and peace in everyday life.

When I am preparing my sermon, I find it helpful to go for a walk.  Very close to where I live is Interstate 90.  I can walk up a seldom-used emergency ramp that brings me just a few feet away from all eight lanes of this busy cross-continental freeway.  Cars and trucks bustle by in both directions 24 hours a day, some heading all the way to the Pacific shores from the Atlantic.  As I stand there, I notice that each truck and each car is like a single passing thought, a single passing moment in the stream of life.  Standing still, I am completely awake, fully present, with a feeling of great peace and inter-connection.

To Buddhists, life is cyclical and like a stream.  Each moment is connected to the next, each moment uniquely affecting the next.  The Middle Path, which is the heart of Buddhist practice, helps us to step off the spinning wheel of life, out of the stream of unthinking, unknowing, half-awake existence.  The Middle Path is so important it is broken down further into the Eight-fold path, which is a more detailed instruction on methods of paying attention.

Buddhism is attractive and useful to Unitarian Universalists for many reasons.  One is that Buddhism is not abstract or otherworldly but deals with the everyday.  Buddhism seeks to address our everyday relationships with our partners, our children, the people we work with, friends, and ultimately, ourselves.  Buddhism is not so much a religion or a philosophy but a way of life.  It does not need a messiah because it is ultimately up to each of us.  It helps us step out of the race of consumption and ambition.  By taking the middle path, we are able to conduct our lives with greater mindfulness, peace and compassion.   We can say, simply, “I am awake.”

Rev. Richelle Russell is a Unitarian-Universalist minister.

General Assembly Report
by Dorris Senghas

June may seem a long time away—at least it does to me, with the mountains of snow here in Vermont—but  the General Assembly office is already hard at work setting up the program for Cleveland.  I would like to give you our plans for GA that are already in place. Our lecture/workshop will be on Friday June 22nd from 6:15 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  Dr. Douglas Phillips, psychotherapist, parent, and meditation teacher, will explore the possibilities in taking spiritual practice off the cushion.  Don started Buddhist studies in the Zen tradition; for the last decade he has been a student of Vipassana mediation with Larry Rosenberg at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center. There will be opportunity for questions and discussion with Doug after his talk.

Once again this year we will have a table in the exhibit hall. Last year was the first time we had a table, and it was very successful. Twenty-six people signed on as UUBF members. We had three books for sale, all of which sold out! They were This Very Moment by our own James Ford, Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, and Opening the Lotus by Sandy Boucher. In addition we gave out dozens of copies of James’ pamphlet, The Faith of a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist as well as many copies of our UU Sangha.  We answered many questions from interested folks who stopped by the table. If you would be interested in volunteering to assist at the table please let me know. It really is a very interesting task.

Finally, something new this year.  We have been assigned the Van Sweringen in the Sheraton Hotel for meditation every morning (Friday through Monday) from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.  We have yet to decide how this should be set up.  Suggestions are welcome.

We would also like to have a time for a general meeting of all UUBF members at GA. This has not yet been worked out: perhaps after our speaker on the 22nd.  The next UU Sangha will update you on our plans.  See you in June!

Dorris Senghas is the President of the UU Buddhist Fellowship.

Avatamsaka Sutra   Chapter 40 (excerpt)
On Entering the Inconceivable state of Liberation through the Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra

 “Sudhana, to accommodate and benefit all living beings is explained like this: throughout the oceans of worlds in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, there are those born from eggs, the womb-born, the transformationally born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, life spans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different deportments, clothing and diets.

“It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike. Also there are footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and without thought, and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought. I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will serve them all equally without difference.

“I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.

“Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. Why is this? It is because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the Mind of Great Compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they develop Great Compassion. From Great Compassion the Bodhi Mind is born; and because of the Bodhi Mind, they accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.

“It is like a great regal tree growing in the rocks and sand of barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The regal bodhi-tree growing in the wilderness of Birth and Death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefiting all beings with the water of Great Compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ wisdom.

“Why is this? It is because by benefiting living beings with the water of Great Compassion, the Bodhisattvas can attain Supreme,  Perfect Enlightenment. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could achieve Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.

“Good man, you should understand these principles in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect Great Compassion. By using the Mind of Great Compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

“Moreover, good man, to transfer all merits and virtues universally is explained like this: all the merits and virtues, from the first vow, to pay homage and respect, up to and including the vow to accommodate and benefit living beings, I universally transfer to all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm and to the limits of empty space. I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to shut the door to evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods and that of Nirvana. I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring about with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi. The Bodhisattva cultivates transference in this way.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still transfer all merits and virtues endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth and mind never weary of these deeds.

“Good man, these are the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas’ Ten Great Vows in their entirety. If all Bodhisattvas can follow and abide by these Great Vows, then they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. They will be able to accord with the path of Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment and complete Samantabhadra’s ocean of conduct and vows. Therefore, good man, you should know the meaning of this.”

“Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him, these Great Vows alone will stay with him. At all times they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, he will see Amitabha Buddha, the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva who contemplates at Ease [Avalokitesvara], the Bodhisattva Maitreya, and others. The appearance of these Bodhisattvas will be magnificent and their merits and virtues complete. Together they will surround him.

“This person will see himself born from a lotus flower and will receive a prediction of Buddhahood. Thereafter, he will pass through an immeasurable, incalculable number of eons and, with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in the ten directions.

“Before long he will sit in a Bodhimandala, subdue the demonic armies, accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, and turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. He will cause living beings in worlds as numerous as the fine motes of dust in Buddha lands to develop the Bodhi Mind.  According with their inclinations and basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity. To the exhaustion of the oceans of future eons, he will greatly benefit all living beings.”

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