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Ask Auntie Suvanna

Auntie SuvannaEver despair at how to cultivate lovingkindness for Dick Cheney, or ponder the effect of anti-depressants on Buddha Nature? If so, check out Auntie Suvanna, who applies her unique wisdom and wit to your queries about life, meditation, Dharma, family and relationship issues, or anything else that comes up. Why not write to her and tell her your troubles?

Dear Auntie,
I’m concerned that all the images I’ve seen of female Bodhisattvas are well endowed with decidedly non-sagging, bodacious breasts. I realize these are images of “ideal” women who are only 16 (so the sagging hasn’t set in yet). But, as a less well-endowed woman, I’m wondering if there is any kind of breast-size requirement to become a Bodhisattva. Seems like it.
Sincerely, Breast Envy

Kuan Yin, B-cup BodhisattvaDear Breast,
Come, Breast, hold my hand, fly with me over North America and Europe. Now we are over the Indian subcontinent … heading north and up, up and up, getting a little chilly, crossing a huge mountain range, over Tibet, just a little further… and now… who’s that down there? It is a kind-looking woman holding a vase. Oops, she seems to be spilling something … do you see her? She is being worshiped by a billion people. This is Kwan-Yin, the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion. I don’t think she could be anything larger than a B-cup. She seems a bit older, too. So you see, she has done just fine.

Until one has become a Bodhisattva, it’s probably better not to extrapolate too much about the breasts and other anatomical wonders in Tibetan and Indian Buddhist iconography, not to mention Victoria’s Secret catalogs. But, you may ask, what if I get Enlightened on the way to the plastic surgeon? There is always the possibility, however small … just remember that you can be a Bodhisattva: all you need is the avid wish, and a human body of any shape.

Dear Auntie,
Is it possible to become Enlightened while taking anti-depressants, or does it just feel more possible?
Yours, Ms Informed

Dear Ms,
Perhaps you are referring to what has been called “psychopharmacological nirvana,” an effect that can be produced by some anti-depressant cocktails. Here we find yet another case of the august Sanskrit word “nirvana” being reduced by common usage to meaning nothing more than “lots o’ fun.” You perhaps know that Enlightenment is the English word for nirvana, meaning not what Jean-Jacques Rousseau achieved in 1752, but what Siddhartha Gautama achieved even longer ago — that is, the perfection of Compassion and Wisdom, which at least suggests knowledge of the benefit of Selective Seratonin Re-uptake Inhibitors.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can turn to some of the questions asked – usually silently or using bells – within the Rinzai Zen community. Does a person with deficient serotonin have Buddha Nature? Does a person who addresses this lack by virtue of anti-depressant drugs have Buddha Nature? Are anti-depressants intoxicating? Is karma pharmaceutical? Could a pig ever fly?

So let’s see. What was your question again? Oh yes, it’s hard to say exactly what makes E. more possible, Ms, or seem more possible, but Auntie Suvanna thinks you’re highly likely to be on the right track.

Dear Auntie,
If your ex-partner phones you to say that the cat you’d jointly adopted is ill and could you put her (the cat, that is) in your “prayers and meditation”; and if I asked if I could also put her (the ex) in my meditation and she says “yes, if you want,” do you think that means there’s a chance of some, er, healing? Or is it just another way to humiliate me and I should simply concentrate on the cat?
Signed, A Confused Male Buddhist

Dear Confused,
You probably realize that “concentrating on the cat” is an ancient practice wherein monks who are distracted by thoughts of romance imagine themselves being torn limb from limb by either a tiger or an aggressive salesperson. However, I cannot in good faith recommend this practice to you, as it seems that said partner has already exhausted quite a few ways of tearing you up and, as you suggest, may be looking for more. Concentrate on healing yourself, Confused — your letter made Auntie Suvanna sad. Dunk that torch you’re carrying in the sweet waters of loving-kindness. Only after a year of this should you then begin to focus on the cat.

Ever despair at how to cultivate lovingkindness for Dick Cheney, or ponder the effect of anti-depressants on Buddha Nature? If so, check out Auntie Suvanna, who applies her unique wisdom and wit to your queries about life, meditation, Dharma, family and relationship issues, or anything else that comes up. Why not write to her and tell her your troubles? Email AuntieSuvanna

Ask Auntie Suvanna is written by Suvarnaprabha, who practices at the San Francisco Buddhist Center Triratna Buddhist Community

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Comment from paulette
Time: May 3, 2008, 11:13 pm

Dear Auntie, I work in a very Christian environment and was happy to discover a co-worker sporting Buddhist memorabilia at her work site. I want to have a relationship with this woman because I believe we have a lot in common. At least spiritually. However, all my attempts to get to know more about her have been thwarted. She never reveals anything. Most of my co-workers don’t like her. I’m starting to think she’s a bit of a freak and I don’t know if I should pursue this. Have any ideas?

Desperately Seeking Sanity

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Comment from Auntie S
Time: May 8, 2008, 10:07 am

Dear DSS,
Please write to me (with more info please!) at auntiesuvanna@gmail.com

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Comment from Jane Alexander
Time: September 4, 2008, 2:16 pm

re: enlightenment and antidepressants.

Auntie S I have enjoyed reading your responses here. I have personal objections and bias about drugs and meditation experiences.

I have been on a variety of psychiatric meds as well as street drugs and enthoeogens.

I also subscribe to a multi dimensional aspect of being. Physical, energetic, emotional, mental, psychic, karmic, etc. etc

Due to my personal experiences with meditation and drug effects I can not ever recommend combining them really. Short term use, perhaps maybe. A muscle relaxant, a pain killer, perhaps maybe.

These drugs effect all layers of being. You can not tweak the physical without tweaking some aspect of the mental and emotional. It’s all connected.

Antidepressant use is not a short term event. It’s an ongoing brain chemistry alteration that has semi permanent changes in brain function, cellular messaging and neurotransmitter production the longer you are on them.

In short, it gives you a chemical imbalance and creates artificial brain states and distortions of consciousness.

I actually made a video about it called Meditation, spirituality and drug effects

perhaps you can weigh in your opinion.

Frankly in my experience if you want to get to the heart of consciousness, perceive the mindstream and gain stillness then your mind must be clean. You can gain beginner level progress with relaxation and some mind slowing on many different kinds of drugs. I won’t deny that is possible.

However perceiving the real undistorted lens of consciousness is advanced meditation that is denied to those people on mind altering drugs of any kind, regardless.

At some point in your meditation you must come face to face with why you are on (mind altering )drugs no matter the type and you must let go of that crutch for a bit to find the real you inside.

If you manage to do that, in the case of the woman on SSRIs, if you find the real you sans the drugs, if you have some real stillness built up you may accidentally encounter your pure unmitigated consciousness. When that happens, you might fall in love with yourself and life and you will never be chronically depressed again.

You will be depression resistant and you will never need drugs. The light of universal love and self awareness will sustain you.

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