Monday, September 12, 2011

Every moment is Karma

We always recite Namo Buddhaya Sitan – “Homage to the Buddha, success!”

Success is self-confidence and understanding. In Buddhism, we have no self which exists on its own; we only have truth. We take the time to investigate the reality of who we are, we don’t just accept the conventional belief in self. We are here speaking, but it is not about this concept of you or me. It is about action.

No you, no me. If you listen to me, that is the action of listening, not about the concept of you. And if we have good action, then we become good, and if we have bad action we become bad. What we must develop is the courage to avoid bad things and do good things. We must employ compassion, esteem for right things, self-confidence, and self-acceptance. We must speak with confidence, and we must accept our role in life.

Yes, we do have predispositions. We have seven aspects of karma. If you kill people you will have a short life; if you do not kill people you will have a long life,. If you are angry by nature, you will become ugly; if you have a lovely nature, you will become beautiful, always smiling and happy. If you harm other beings, you will become ill; if you do not harm, you will be healthy. If you are jealous, you will be forlorn and friendless and no will be able to approach you; if you are not jealous, you will have many friends everywhere.

It is like your coming here. You have come for peace, and now you have many Cambodian friends,. You are not a jealous person. You have the goal to help, and therefore people love you. People have become your friends.

If you are a miser you will become poor., if you are not a miser, then you are very well off. If you look down on people, are very proud and haughty, your mind will become ignorant. If you respect everybody, because the whole world is your house and all human beings are your mother, then you will become very wise.

You must have su, shi,po, li. Su means to listen, chi means to think, pu means to question, and li means to record. To listen, to think, to question, to record, these make you become very wise. If you don’t have them you become very ignorant. This is the law of the Dhamma.

Yes. You are what you associate with. Wisdom comes from listening.

Every moment is karma, physical karma, mental karma. Karma simply means action.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Journey to the Heart

"The highest form of happiness in the world is peace. And it's a step-by-step process that begins and ends in the heart."

"Cambodians are very patient."

"We have to prefer the vigilance of struggle. We have to listen with patience and forbearance. Everyday from the beginning, in the middle, and to the end. Every breath in and every breath out. Every posture, sitting, standing, and walking, is important. We have to achieve perfection."

"Buddha always walked. I walk everywhere. I walk with the people. Walking is good exercise."

-- Maha Ghosananda


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Maha Ghosananda's education

My first teacher Venerable Choun Nath, the Sangharaja of Cambodia. That was quite a great honor for such a young monk.

As a novice, we followed the Three Trainings – in morality, concentration, and wisdom. These three things go together like the head, the body, and the limbs. And we learned the Eightfold Path: Right Understanding; Right Thinking; Right speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; and Right Meditation.

That is the path of the Buddha, to overcome these three things: greed, hatred, and ignorance.

All the Buddha’s teachings are about ‘compositing.’ Everything in life follows four formulas: when this is existing, that comes to be; with the arising of this that arises; when this does not exist, that does not exist; with the ceasing of this, that ceases. Every moment is like that. It is the universal law. It is the Dhamma.

Morality was taught to us by five precepts: to refrain from killing; to refrain from cheating people by word, and to refrain from intoxicants. This always goes together with compassion, right livelihood, good conduct, loving speech, mindfulness, and clear comprehension. This is Buddhist morality.

We put wisdom into action by taking care of the present moment. In speaking, be rightful, lovely, timely, and useful. This is the right verbal action. And physical action, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t’ commit adultery. And develop compassion, right livelihood, right conduct. Create mindfulness and comprehension. Don’t’ drink poison, so that your mind can become clear.

You know, we have thirty-eight blessings. First among them is to associate with a wise man. You are who you associate with. In Buddhism, this actually has many meanings. We are what we eat, what we drink. If we drink good things, we become healthy. If we drink poison, we will die. If you eat the world, you are the world. If you understand it, you understand the Dhamma.

Buddha’s teachings are very easy! There is no need to make them complicated. You must do three things only: to refrain from evil, to do what is good, and to purify the mind. That is all.

Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. It is realistic. Dharma means truth. The trust is realistic. People are fighting because they still have hatred, they are against each other. But we tell them that everything is changing every moment. Breathing-in changes into breathing-out.

Every moment is like that. Life will change into death.

This is the first teaching of the Buddha – impermanence. Because of impermanence we suffer. We cannot stop things from changing. And we cannot control suffering because we are ultimately not permanent ourselves. We are therefore selfless. We have no permanent self. We are only a composite. Our own body is composed of elements: air element, water element, earth element, and also elements of consciousness, element of space. Everything changes. Even hatred will change.

Only the Buddha has escaped this cycle of life.

Loving the Evil Minded

"Should a person commit evil, let one not do it again and again. Let one not find pleasure therein, for painful is the accumulation of evil." Dhammapada 9.11

Both the noble and the good are embraced because loving-kindness flows to them spontaneously. We also love unwholesome evil-minded people, because love embraces all beings, whether they are noble minded or low minded, good or evil.

The evil-minded are the ones who need loving-kindness the most. In many of them, the seeds of goodness may have died because warmth was lacking for its growth. It perished from coldness in a world without compassion.

[The Khmer Rouge did evil] did evil because they cling to hatred, so they are fighting always. They are pushed by the desire for power. They want to become prime minster or something. They want name and fame. And they want money. That is why they are always fighting.

[We can forgive them.] We always say, ‘Hatred is never pacified by hatred. Only through love is hatred pacified.’

That is the eternal law. I also remind people that the wars of the heart always take longer to cool than the barrel of a gun. We must heal through love, but it takes a bit of time. We must go slowly, step by step.

[Human beings are not essentially selfish and violent.] There are four categories of man. Some are violent and some are very peaceful. We compare these to light and darkness. Some people come from the light and again enter into the light. Some people come from the light but go into darkness. Some people come from the darkness but then go into the light. And some people come from the darkness and return to darkness. These are the four kinds of people. [Nipata Macala Vagga]

What decides if a person goes into light or darkness? According to the teaching of the Buddha, it is decided by mindfulness. Here! Now! This!

You are here, now, in this present moment. When I am speaking, you are listening. When you are speaking, I am listening. We are nowhere else but here. And when we are here together you and I have to speak the truth: right speech, lovely speech, timely speech, and useful speech. When these things happen, we are happy.

Why is there violence in Buddhist countries? These people do not know about the essential teachings, or they do not know how to apply them. Theory, practice, and enlightenment go together. Theory without practice us useless. If you write very good things, but you do not follow the teachings, then it is useless.

If you are mindful, you are a Buddha. Mindfulness is in the present. The past is already gone, the future has not yet come. You must take care of the present moment. The present moment is mother of the future. You and I speak at this moment about peace, and in the future it will give birth to many benefits, many children, in many countries.

The past is our teacher. it teaches us. The past is mother of the present.

[From The Future of Peace, by Scott Hunt]

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ghosananda in Providence and Lowel

The Brittish monk Ajahn Sucitto visited Maha Ghosananda's small temple in Providence, Rhode Island in 1988, and described the meeting in an old newsletter.

Sucitto was meeting with the Unitarian minister Tom Ahlburn, a friend of Ghosananda, who lived in a small temple catering to the Cambodian refugee community of Providence.

"Although Venerable Maha Ghosananda’s English was patchy, his delightful presence, and the plight of the refugees had motivated Tom to get involved with the Wat Khmer," Sucitto said. "And when I gave my talk to the group, Venerable Maha Ghosananda was there beaming with delight, as was normal for him."

“After the talk, Tom and his wife drove us over to the Wat Khmer on the other side of town where we were to spend the night. It was the rough side of Providence, broken-down streets, boarded up houses -- and as we got out of the car, Tom suggested that perhaps it wasn’t such a wise idea to go pindabaht the next morning."

"In the Wat itself, which was just a simple tenement house, there were posters giving notification of the plans to purchase a center which would be a place for meditation and Dhamma teaching, for medicine, for education and for Khmer culture - it was quite a visionary complex. Maha had found a suitable area of land outside Providence and was asking people to make donations to the tune of half million dollars, which, from the impoverished state of the Wat, seemed way out of reach."

“But Maha Ghosananda, beaming with confidence, was another story. Early next day he breezily suggested we go out on alms round and despite Tom’s initial apprehension, the matter was clinched when a local Cambodian man came in, lit up with glee, and ran out to tell nearby families that the bhikkhus were coming."

"We put our bowls over our shoulders and walked out to the street – and things started to happen. People came tumbling out of their houses, rushing backwards and forwards bearing bowls of rice, loaves of bread, and fruit, and eagerly wedged them into our alms bowls."

"Some people put envelopes with money in to our bowls. Tom diligently collected the money, the loaves of bread, and the things that wouldn’t fit in, or weren’t suitable for monks to carry; and we chanted blessings, and they chanted sharing of merit with the dead, and we chanted some more. And all along this street in Providence, there occurred this wonderful enactment of devotion to the Triple Gem."

"And for those few moments, that back street in the rough side of Providence turned into something more like the Devaloka."

"Providence (the bounty of the divine) never seemed so rightly named as at that time. The refugees certainly weren’t developing any great degree of tranquility, there didn’t seem to be much concern about practice, yet their lives had a foundation of faith in the Triple Gem that gave them a real strength. And one saw how it was going to be possible for them to get their half million dollars and establish their center. I felt that if we, in our hearts, could learn from those people the transforming power of faith, it would have repaid the west ten times over all the foreign aid that has ever been given; because if we don’t learn that, we will surely just wither away through lack of joy."

Visiting Lowell, Massachusetts

Ajahn Sucitto next went to vist the temple Maha Ghosananda had founded in Lowell, Massachusetts.

“…Venerable Karuniko and I were invited to the Wat Khmer in Lowell, where Maha Ghosananda had founded another temple for Cambodian refugees.…There are thousands of Asian refugee families in Lowell because it’s an industrial town and there are jobs to go around."

"In one of its homely suburbs stands the Wat Khmer, a large refurbished hall of little charm. Apart from samanera Dhammagutto, who had invited us and who is American, there were five bhikkhus resident there of various Asian nationalities."

"The abbot Ajahn Khan Sao, and another monk were Cambodian forest bhikkhus. Dhammaguto gave us some accounts of the horrors of the Khmer rouge…building the temple."

"Ajahn Khan Sao felt that his main practice was in helping the Cambodians to begin again. They would come to him with their problems, and sorrows and quarrels, and he would tell them to stop , forget and begin again – a very direct teaching. Dhammagutto talked about times when people would come for chanting on behalf of their dead relatives: the monks would start chanting at 6pm in the evening and finish at 3 in the morning. It put some balm on the wounds."

“Dhammagutto, the only American, had decided to become the night watchman, and walked around the Wat at night with a big stick, and through his wits and his quick tongue bluffed and challenged the people who threw rocks at the windows or tried to break in."

“So the place, like Dhammagutto himself, was battered and not very tranquil, but had the features of a good environment for practice: commitment, morality, plenty of opportunities for giving and patience, and not much chance to think about yourself. We felt a glow in the heart at being there.”

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Age of Materialism is Over

The Buddha taught that inner peace is a transformative power in the world.

Meditation has the power to solve all the problems of the world. Meditation has the power to bring personal happiness to the individual, and to achieve World Peace.

The human race is facing tremendous challenges unprecedented in the history of the world.

Young people worry about so many problems: Environmental devastation and global warming; extinction of species; population explosion; clash of civilizations with wars and genocides; globalization of militant-materialism and nihilistic hedonism; out-of-control technology; atomic weapons; fundamentalism; human trafficking and slavery. The list could go on.

We now live in the “Post-Modern” age, they say, the “New World Order.” It is the end of the world as we know it. Something new is coming. But what kind of world will the future bring?

What will be the character of the “New World Order?” Will it be the expansion and intensification of the present world order of greed, anger and hatred, and ignorance? Or will it be a time of peace, security, well being and sustainability? The choice is in our hands. If we keep going on the path we’re on, we’re going to end up where we’re headed. If we want to end up in a different place, then we have to go a different direction.

In meditation, we can have an inward transformation, an awakening, that will help us see new directions, an alternative future to the one we’re now facing. Meditators can help show the world a way to meet the challenges bearing down upon us with increasing urgency.

When the Buddha attained awakening under the Bodhi tree, he said he had a shattering realization that greed, hatred, and ignorance is the cause of all the suffering in the world, both personal and collective.

The Buddha said all the suffering of the world arises out of ignorance - not understanding the nature of reality - not seeing clearly. In our ignorance, we cultivate passions of greed and hatred. When greed and hatred are expressed in the organized social realm, greed is manifest as consumer culture. Hatred becomes manifest as militarism and war.

The more desire we have, the faster we will destroy the earth.

Globalization is the rapid and aggressive expansion and intensification of this militaristic consumer culture to every region of the globe. This process has been underway for a long time – the expansion of the “free market” of materialistic consumer culture.

Mahatma Gandhi, almost seventy years ago, pointed out the disaster that would ensue when heartless “modern civilization” was fully realized. “There is no end to the victims destroyed in the fire of civilization. Its deadly effect is that people come under its scorching flames believing it to be all good. They become utterly irreligious and, in reality, derive little advantage from [civilization]…When its full effect is realized, we shall see that religious superstition is harmless compared to that of modern civilization….”

We are living in the last days of modern materialism. But what will come next?

I heard a physicist on National Public Radio discussing Werner Heisenberg and quantum theory, and he said the real meaning of quantum theory is that “the age of materialism is over.”

The old Newtonian-scientific understanding of the world as a machine, or dead matter of natural resources available for our exploitation and consumption, is no longer workable. The earth is not a machine, it is alive. The earth, the universe, is alive and mysterious, and mind pervades the universe. There are many dimensions beyond what we can perceive with the senses.

The second lesson of quantum theory, he said, is that the human person is part of the universe; the human person is not a detached observer of the material universe. Consciousness and mind are interactive with the material phenomenal universe.

As the Buddha discovered a long time ago, “everything arises from an ocean of mind. All that we are arises from the mind. With the mind we create the world. If we think and act with unskillful mind – full of greed, hatred and ignorance – then suffering will arise in the world. If we think and act with skillful mind – generosity, compassion and understanding – then happiness will arise in the world.”

What kind of world will the future bring? It is up to us to create that world, and meditators can show the way. Inner peace is a transformative power in the world.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dhammayietra means Walk in Truth

This is a dharma-talk Maha Ghosananda gave in preperation for the 1995 Dhammayietra

Dhammayietra means to walk according to the Dhamma; that means with compassion, a pure heart, wisdom and step by step.

It means to be mindful, and to pacify your mind, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down. The people walking behind us are bound to follow our example.

We have to have both faith and wisdom; these two have to be balanced and we should know the mantra used by King Jayavarman 7th , “Om mani padme hum." The head has to be at the same level as the heart, and compassion has to be used with wisdom. Like a bird has two wings, or a human has two feet, you have to use both. It is the same with compassion and wisdom. If you use only one foot it would be difficult to walk.

We’re going to replant trees. The King, the Father of the nation, has said we have to do this for the sake of the rainfall. We live in the environment. If the environment is not healthy, then we cannot live properly. Sometimes there is too much smoke or too much dirt. The forest will help to purify the air and regulate the rainfall.

Between 1970 and 1995 half of the forest in Cambodia was cut down. Even trees as old as the civilization of Angkor have been felled and exported. This loss of trees is disturbing the natural balance, causing more droughts and more floods and destroying the natural wealth of the Tonle Sap lake.

We have to explain to people that felling trees will lead to very bad consequences for the people who do it, for their families, their country and for the people of the whole world. The Universe has inter-relations. If we’re suffering then the other part of the world suffers as well. If we have drought, then the other part of the world will also experience problems.

Trees are very important. Like in the life of the Buddha, the Buddha was born under a tree, he found enlightenment under a tree and he passed away under a tree. Our houses are built of timber; trees provide us with fruit. We owe a lot to trees and to nature in general nature is very important.

To have peace with our neighbor, we have to respect each other. Geographically, we live side by side – we can’t move away from our neighbors. And after all, human beings are brothers and sisters. We may be born as a Vietnamese or as a Thai – or a Thai may be born as a Cambodian. Therefore there is a saying:

The world is our home and all human beings are our brothers and sisters – to love them, to help them, to serve them is our duty and our religion. This is included in the ten supreme virtues. All human beings are our mother. Sometimes we take birth as a man; sometimes as a woman. The Buddha once took birth as a woman, and he made a vow to be enlightened as a Buddha.

We can turn our suffering into joy. You have to experience the suffering yourself, and also see others suffer. Like the Buddha – he experienced suffering himself and he saw others suffer – he saw the suffering of birth, aging and death – and then he felt compassion towards his son, his wife, his mother and father and all sentient beings throughout the world.

King Jayavarman 7th always had compassion towards his subjects. He said he was more concerned about his subjects than about himself. He said the suffering of his subjects affected him more than his own suffering. King Jayavarman, who constructed Angkor Thom, had such a feeling towards his people. The four faces of Angkor Thom represent loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. If we follow these boundless qualities – loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity – then happiness will come and the war will end.

We simply tell people the truth. When you are hungry you need food, when you are thirsty you need water. We do not blame anybody but ourselves. If we blame other people they become upset. But we have to tell people the truth. We have to explain why we suffer – we suffer because of craving, aversion and illusion. If we want happiness, we must practice generosity, morality and meditation – and transcend the world.

Ordinary people can be creators of peace: There is little we can do for peace in the world without peace in our minds. And so when we begin to make peace, we begin with silence – meditation and prayer.

When we stabilize our posture and calm our mind, we can realize peace within ourselves. Then we can radiate loving kindness to those around us – our family, our community, our nation and the whole world.

Peacemaking requires compassion. It requires the skill of listening. To listen, we have to give up ourselves, even our own words. As we come to trust one another, we discover new possibilities for overcoming conflict. If we listen carefully, we can hear peace growing.

Peacemaking requires selflessness. There is little we can do for peace as long as we think we are the only ones who know the way.

Peacemaking requires wisdom. Peace is a path that is chosen consciously. It is not an aimless wandering, but a step-by-step journey.

We are advised to be mindful and to believe in the law of karma. Good deeds will bring happiness and bad deeds will bring suffering. If you kill, then ultimately you yourself get killed – you have a short life, whereas if you don’t’ kill, your life will be long.

We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples that are filled with human suffering. If we listen to the Buddha, Christ or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos and the battlefields will then become our temples.

We must remove the landmines in our hearts which prevent us from making peace – greed, hatred, and delusion.

We can oppose greed with the weapons of generosity. We can oppose hatred with the weapons of living kindness. We can oppose delusion with the weapon of wisdom and understanding.

Peacemaking begins with us. As we make peace for ourselves and our country, we make peace for the whole world.

We always want a lot, but everything starts form the little thing. We were born as a tiny being and now we are adults. We want to reach the horizon in a few steps – and don’t realize that the important thing is here and now. All will come to the same thing in the end. Breathing in, breathing our, word by word – we have a lot of words now. Everything progress by the same principles – step-by-step.