Tag Archives: Buddhism

Recounting The Life of the Buddha

By Tracy Simmons

Statue of Siddhartha Buddha/Fotopedia Photo

More than 2,500 years ago an Indian prince, Siddhartha, abandoned his privileged life in order to understand how to overcome suffering. Eventually, he became the Buddha, “the Fully Awakened One,” attaining peace through transforming his own mind. He spent the next 45 years teaching others how to do it too.

Next month, on Sharing the Dharma Day, the Sravasti Abbey community will examine the lessons Americans can glean from the Buddha’s life story.

According to a press release, the Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma) explain how to live ethically and avoid harming others, how to develop love and compassion and how to cultivate wisdom that understands the nature of reality. Learning and living these teachings — and sharing them with others — is the purpose of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery near Newport.

One Sunday a month the abbey opens its doors to people of all faiths and backgrounds who would like to know more about the Buddha’s teachings and to share in community fellowship.

Topics for each month’s Sharing the Dharma Day are drawn from the books of its founder and abbess, Ven. Thubten Chodron. Topics for 2012 are based on “Buddhism for Beginners.”

According to the abbey, Sharing the Dharma Day includes a guided meditation and Dharma talk, vegetarian potluck lunch and facilitated discussion.

Sharing the Dharma Day is from 9:45 a.m to 3 p.m. on April 15.

The full Sharing the Dharma Day program is available here.

Meet Sicco Rood, our kindness, compassion and understanding contributor

Sicco Rood

Sicco Rood is originally from The Netherlands, and has lived in the United States since 1992.

He began exploring spiritual ideas in his teenage years and was drawn to those who followed a path of understanding, kindness, compassion and non-separation. This led him to Zen Buddhism and the practice of meditation. Rood is an active member of the Zen Center of Spokane.

He hopes that people regardless of faith, persuasion, and wisdom tradition, will come together to help heal the divisions among people and the systems created, as well as animals and the earth. He believes that authenticity, compassion, tolerance and the realization we are not separate, are essential in understanding each other and as responsible caregivers to the planet, he said.

He is married to Kristina and together they have three rescued dogs.

Eating meat can be good for the soul

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

One of the first questions people ask me about Buddhism, and one of the topics becoming more and more of an issue in the American psyche, is a question regarding diet.  Are all Buddhists vegans? Are they vegetarians?  Do you eat meat?  Why? The answer is no, not all Buddhists are vegans or vegetarians.  I eat meat, and I enjoy it.  But the last question “Why?” is a trickier one to answer.  I will endeavor to explain this dietary and lifestyle decision and the exact role Buddhism plays in it.

Many Buddhist are vegetarian or vegan, and many of these individuals choose to abstain from eating meat because of reverence and respect for the reincarnated souls within the life that we share this earth with.  Others still choose not to eat meat because they believe it perpetuates suffering in animals and people, or that it is bad to consume the negative energy of that creature’s death.  These are very legitimate ideas, which I can understand completely. However, I have chosen a different path.

I believe there is nothing inherently negative about consuming meat. I see it as a natural part of our being. Our bodies are designed to consume many different types of foods and convert them into energy.  We have developed teeth and metabolisms specifically designed to utilize meat along with fruits, vegetables and grains.  Denying our bodies one form of fuel is denying ourselves a piece of our nature.  A spider is not wicked for eating the fly, nor is there malice in the bear’s consumption of fish.  In my interpretations of Buddhists teachings I have found it is important to understand and embrace the physiology of the body in order to understand one’s existence.  It is counterproductive to my enlightenment to fight a part of my nature.

Before the Buddha achieved enlightenment he spent years denying his body nourishment of any kind, bringing himself to the extremes of starvation, attempting to remove the needs of his body from his mind.  At this point the Buddha came to the realization that he needed to nourish his body to allow his mind to reach a state of tranquility necessary for complete understanding and enlightenment. Once he nourished his body, enlightenment became possible. In this story of the Buddha’s enlightenment, it explains how austerities can become a hindrance to enlightenment. Perhaps it is a bit extreme to consider a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle an austerity.  However it is a lifestyle of denial, which I believe is in direct opposition to the lessons outlined in the story of Buddha’s enlightenment.

For the Buddhists who believe they should avoid consuming negative energy, I say this lifestyle may be folly.  A fundamental element of Buddhism is the interconnectedness of all things alive, dead or inanimate. Avoidance of suffering is desperate and futile; our lives are equal parts birth and death, hallelujahs and holocausts, and everything in between.  Separation from places, entities or events is merely a product of perception.  With that in mind I say you can no more avoid the consumption of negative energy than you can avoid the inhalation of carbon dioxide.  It is everywhere, effectively inseparable from our lives.  The key is to accept its existence and thrive because of it instead of despite of it.  When Mara (the Buddhist equivalent of the devil) confronted the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, Buddha did not ignore him or deny his existence.  He accepted Mara’s presence and responded with peaceful resolve, weakening the perceived power of Mara over the world around him.  No meal, person, or plot of land is completely devoid of negative energy, therefore our time as Buddhists should be spent trying to accept the existence or suffering whilst striving to rise above it.

While choosing what to eat may not seem like a profound religious decision to everyone, it can be a powerful tool in building spiritual resolve.  I choose the life of a Buddhist omnivore purposefully; I wish to nourish my body and embrace my place in this world of suffering.  With this action I intend to find a path of understanding that elevates beyond self, suffering and perception. With acceptance of the cycle of life, suffering, death and rebirth I can see beyond the transient powers they hold.

How do we stop a drop of water from evaporating?

Editor’s Note: This guest column was written by a SpokaneFAVS reader who currently resides in London.

Guest column by Lisa Tully

Flickr photo by tinney

Many of us are working super hard on a daily basis with one common dream that just about gets us up in the morning — that holiday coming up in the way too distant future!  As we grind away time flies by so quickly that before we know it we are packing our bags and joyfully putting the out of office responder on the emails.  In those days running up to the ‘getting away from it all’ life seems like a bit of a Disneyland.  Nothing can get to us because we are blissfully getting out of dodge.  Sound familiar?

Fast forward to the holiday itself and there we are having the time of our life, meeting all sorts of magical people and breaking all our diet rules.  Yet unfortunately that wonderful speed of time that brought our holiday around so quickly doesn’t slow down when we get there.  Before we know it we are back staring at our computer screen with 500 emails to answer and an auto responder to cancel that we can’t remember how we activated in the first place! All we can see ahead of us is another year that seems to be getting in the way of us feeling happy.

Now if we have been on the type of trip that enabled us to do a bit of self-development work then the chances are we are feeling even more isolated and alone than ever before on top of everything else.  Our problems have all potentially bubbled to the surface after our ‘soul diving’ and are making a mess all over the place.  Taking time out is so needed but I would like to suggest that taking care of wellbeing afterwards so we can maintain our happiness momentum is just as important.

I experienced a big bout of the post holiday blues after a wonderful time in India.  Feeling at my wit’s end I ended up having a reading with a lady called Carmel Robb who is based in my homeland Ireland.  She is a channel and gives guidance on any area of your life you request.  Upon seeing my current state at the time she gave me a warning that at the time I understood, but still struggled to implement.  She said, “Lisa your heart is in India and you are in London, and that leaves you very vulnerable.  To make the right choices you need your heart here to guide you.”

So I went around for the next few weeks trying to see through the eyes of my heart, trying to feel once again from the inside out.  Then along came another great opportunity.  A Tibetan master was in town down at my local Buddhist centre, Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche, and I booked a private audience with him.  The title ‘tulku’ is given to a reincarnated master and I wanted to see what guidance he could add to the whole situation.

Now if you have ever had an audience with a high level Buddhist practitioner you will understand it when I say that sometimes you can feel like you are wasting their valuable time.  We go in with our heads filled full of stories and dramas, which they seem to slice through straight away with their liberating words of wisdom.  Then you still have three-quarters of the time left! What to do?  Sure enough this happened to me but it was so worth it plus I had brought along a statue for blessing to fill in the inevitable gaps!

Upon sharing my plight of leaving my heart behind in India and not really wanting to be in the here and now of day-to-day reality he replied with, “You need to have your mind in India, and your heart here in London.”  So simple right? Easy to do? Well I hold it close every time I find myself wanting to be back where it was better, so I can fully apply the wisdom of my own heart to guide myself back there again.  I strive to keep a calm mind and an open heart to the opportunities  all around us to bring about lasting happiness.  And I make sure I surround myself as much as possible with like-minded people who are also on a path of growth. The trick to stopping a drop of water evaporating is to place it in the ocean. So simple right?

Lisa Tully runs spiritual group tours to India which her two Tibetan friends Lama Buga and Lama Kalden.  She takes people to attend teachings by the Dalai Lama and learn meditation, she does this work to open hearts and expand minds way beyond norm.  And who better to help do that than the Dalai Lama himself? Read her blog at: www.spiritualbackpackersindia.com

Holiday season is a sacred time for Buddhists, too

By Blogger Pearce Fujiura

Blogger Pearce Fujiura

This week many Buddhists are celebrating the Mahayana New Year. However, because it’s from a different cultural tradition than my own, it’s not an event that I celebrate.

I am a Japanese Buddhist, specifically Nichiren. My family and I celebrate Shogatsu, which is celebrated at the same time as the Western New Year.

My family has always celebrated Shogatsu by pounding a sweet rice paste, called Mochi, with other members of the Japanese community. We do this using large wooden mallets known as Kine (pronouced Key-neigh) and a large stone mortar called Usu (pronounced oo-sue).

The mochi pounding (mochitsuki) is about building community and also about reflecting on yourself and your spiritual awareness.  For me, the mochitsuki is not a religious ceremony, but instead marks the end of the celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

In Japan, the celebration of Buddha’s enlightenment begins on Dec. 8 and ends 30 days later on Jan. 7. During this time I celebrate the moment that the Buddha obtained enlightenment as well as the many paths to enlightenment that have been found around the world. It is a time to reflect on my own path and the steps that I am making towards finding my own way.

I love this time of year because it reveals to me how unique each of our journeys are, yet how they are each valid and correct in their own way.  While I may misstep along the way, I am still traveling and growing and learning.  This time of year reminds me to celebrate that knowledge and take reverence in the knowledge and path of others.

Like many Buddhists, I think that the principle of these celebrations and traditions can easily be understood and practiced by people of all faiths who use the holiday season to reflect on family, self-improvement, embrace, or even celebrate the newness of the moment and of the year.

Why I’m a Buddhist

By Blogger Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

When I decided to become a Buddhist in high school, it felt like an easy transition for me.

Partially because I come from a Japanese family of practicing Buddhists, but also because Buddhism is in many ways an easy religion. It is a religion of flexibility, it wraps its arms around the culture and experiences of the practitioner and draws the essence of those thoughts and traditions nearer to its core. This makes the everyday life of a Buddhist easier in that it is filled with allowances instead of restrictions, and decisions instead of dogma. However, these decisions are not always simple ones, as a Buddhist I must make my choices with my eyes wide open.

The Buddha was once quoted as saying, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

I don’t interpret this as an invitation to cynicism or skepticism. Rather I view this quote along with my understanding of all the teachings of Buddhism as a treatise for open-minded consideration, willingness to grow, and a plea to understand not just know the world around us as well as ourselves. It is the application of mindfulness in the doldrums of daily routine that has helped me find happiness in all aspects of my life. The beautiful thing about this philosophy inside of Buddhism is that it can be applied to the lives of practitioners of any faith to bring them happiness.

I would like to use this blog as a forum to discuss how my interpretation of Buddhism has affected my daily life, and hopefully reveal the importance of our choices in our happiness and in the human experience.