Shambhala

An open letter to President Obama from the Buddhist Teachers Network

"Official portrait of Barack Obama" by Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project - https://change.gov/newsroom/entry/new_official_portrait_released/. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama.jpgTO PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
from the BUDDHIST TEACHERS NETWORK

URGING YOU TO ADDRESS ANTI-MUSLIM VIOLENCE AT THE UPCOMING ASEAN MEETING IN BURMA/MYANMAR

Dear President Obama,

We as 381 Buddhist Teachers in America represent a large community that is deeply concerned about the growing anti Muslim violence in Myanmar and across Asia, and the plight of the 1.3 million Rohingyas, many forced to live against their will in inhumane internment camps and permanent ghettoized communities. We know you have been supportive of all Burmese people and have encouraged peace and reconciliation across the nation. Your upcoming visit to Burma is an important opportunity to strengthen your capacity as a peacemaker. We urge you to once again express concern for Burma’s Muslims and Rohingyas in your public speeches and as well as in your diplomatic engagements there. We believe you can do so in a positive way, honoring the Burmese legacy of tolerance and Metta, values shared across all the great spiritual traditions, as nations including our own face challenges of injustice and prejudice. Thank you for your care in this matter that affects so many lives in Burma.

Yours Respectfully,

Dr. Jack Kornfield, Spirit Rock Center. Woodacre, CA
Hozan Alan Senauke, International Network of Engaged Buddhists Berkeley, CA
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Chair, Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), President, Buddhist Association of the United States (BAUS), Chuang Yen Monastery, Carmel NY
Dr. Robert Tenzin Thurman, Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Dharma teacher, Menla Mountain Retreat Center, Phoenicia NY
Dr. Reggie Ray, Dharma Ocean Foundation, Boulder and Crestone, CO
B. Alan Wallace, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, CA
Lama Surya Das, Spiritual Director, Dzogchen Center, Cambridge, MA
Gina Sharpe, New York Insight Meditation Center, NY, MY
Carol Wilson, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Dr. Rick Hansen, San Rafael, CA
Will Kabat-Zinn, Spirit Rock Mediation Center, Woodacre, CA
Dr. Donald Rothberg, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Gil Fronsdal, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA
Lama Palden. Sukkhasiddhi Fdtn. Fairfax
Trudy Goodman, InsightLA, Los Angeles, CA
Tara Brach, Insight Meditation Center, Washington, DC
Sylvia Boorstein, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Roshi Joan Halifax, Abbot, Upaya Zen Center
Pamela Weiss, SF Insight, San Francisco, Ca
Sebene Selassie, director New York Insight Meditation Center, New York, NY
Venerable Dr. Pannavati, Co-Abbot, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage
Venerable Pannadipa, co-abbot, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage
Acharya C Dhammaratana, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage
Susie Harrington, Desert Dharma, Moab, UT
Steve Armstrong, Vipassana Metta Foundation, Maui, HI
Kamala Masters, Vipassana Metta Foundation, Maui, HI
Matthew Brensilver, PhD, Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society , San Francisco, CA
Jane Baraz, Berkeley, CA
Art Jolly, Oakland, CA
Dr. Nikki Mirghafori, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Narayan Helen Liebenson, Cambridge Insight Meditation Center
Cambridge, MA
Konda Mason, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Maureen Shannon-Chapple, InsightLA, CA
Kokyo Henkel, Santa Cruz Zen Center, CA
Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Village Zendo, NY, NY
Santacitta Bhikkhuni, Aloka Vihara, Placerville, CA
Kate Lila Wheeler, Compassion Sangha
Somerville, MA
Tempel Smith Spirit Rock Center. Woodacre, CA
JoAnna Harper, Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, Los Angeles, CA
Erin Treat, Durango Dharma Center, Durango, CO
Richard Shankman, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Gregory Scharf, Insight Meditation Society, Barre MA
Ralph Steele. Buddhists of New Mexico
Stan Lombardo, Kansas Zen Center, KS
Daishin McCabe, Soto Zen Buddhism
George Pitagorsky, NY Insight Meditation Center, NY
Zipporah Portugal, Insight Meditation Society NYC, NY
Kirsten Rudestam, Insight Santa Cruz, CA
Kathryn Turnipseed, Albuquerque, NM
Bill Spangle, Kagyu Changchub Chuling, Portland, OR
Dora DeCoursey, Kagyu Changchub Chuling, Portland, OR
Lori Wong, Insight Meditation Central Valley, Modesto, CA
Kirtan Coan, Winston Salem Dharma Community, NC
Rev. Gaelyn Godwin, Houston Zen Center, Houston, TX
Claire Stanley, Ph.D., Vermont Insight Meditation Center, Brattleboro, VT
Rev Christine Palmer, Soto Zen, Mill Valley, CA
Jeanne and Steve Lowry, Gathering Waters Sangha, Milwaukee WI
Rev. Eido Frances Carney, Olympia Zen Center, Olympia, WA
La Sarmiento, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, MD
Gordon Peerman, Insight Nashville, TN
Ruby Grad, Portland Insight, Portland, OR
Dr Pawan Bareja, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Ann Buck, InsightLA, Los Angeles, CA
Janice Clarfield, WestCoast Dharma
John Mifsud, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Ayya Dhammadhira, Mahpapajapati Monastery, Pioneertown, CA
Rev. Judith Randall, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Wildecy de Fatima Jury, EBMC, Oakland, CA
Daniel Bowling, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Shell Fischer, Insight Meditation Center, Washington DC
William (bill) Brooks, Insight Meditation Community of Fredericksburg, VA
Gary Buck, PhD., Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Francesca Morfesis, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
Elizabeth Rapaport, Albuquerque Vipassana Sangha , NM
Jundo Cohen, Treeleaf Sangha
John Blackburn, Tennessee Community of Mindfulness, TN
Deborah Ratner Helzer, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, MD
Vanee Songsiridej, MD, Peace Sangha, WI
Ron Vereen. Durham, NC (Triangle Insight Meditation Community)
Gary Singer, New York Insight, NY
Susan Orr, Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group, CA
Dosho Port, Great Tides Zen, Portland, ME
Cornelia Santschi, Newark Community Meditation Center, Newark NJ
Katy Wiss, Westchester Insight Meditation Community, Danbury, CT
Maureen Fallon-Cyr, Durango Dharma Center, CO
Lesley Grant, Marin Mindfulness Institute , CA
Oren J. Sofer, Oakland, CA
Susan Bachman, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA
Don Morreale. Colorado Insight Meditation Community, CO
Carol Cook, Prescott Vipassana Sangha – Prescott, AZ
Patricia Dai-En Bennage, Mt. Equity Zendo, Jiho-an, Muncy, PA
Zenkei Blanche Hartman, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Katherine Barr, Durango Dharma Center. CO
Judith Roitman (Zen Master Bon Hae), Kansas Zen Center, KS
Rev. Nonin Chowaney, Nebraska Zen Center / Heartland Temple, NE
Ocean Gate Zen Center Shinshu Roberts/Jaku Kinst
Sharon Beckman-Brindley, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville, VA
Denis Martynowych, Seattle WA, Seattle Insight Meditation Society
Richard A. Heckler, PhD, Pundarika Foundation, CA
Mary Helen Fein, Mountain Stream Meditation, Nevada City, CA
Linda Ruth Cutts , San Francisco Zen Center / Green Gulch Farm Zen Center / Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, CA
Amy Selzer, New York Insight Meditation Center, NY
Ani Gilda Paldrön Taylor, Portland Sakya Center, Portland, OR
Janet Lipner, Buddhist Peace Fellowship
Kate Wylie, Vermont Insight Meditation Center, VT
Shinchi Linda Galijan, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
Howard Cohn, Mission Dharma, San Francisco, CA
Susan Ezequelle, Insight Meditation Center
Rikki Asher, Chan Meditation Center, Rego Park, NY
Charmaine Henderson. New York Insight Meditation Center and North Fork of Long Island Insight Meditation Sangha
Rev. Edward Keido Sanshin Oberholtzer, Lewisburg, PA
Joseph Priestley Zen Sangha
Shinge Roko Sherry Chayat, Abbot, Zen Studies Society, Livingston Manor, NY
Caverly Morgan, One House of Peace, Portland, OR
Charles A. Lingo, Jr
True Seal of Virtue, Chan An Duc, Breathing Heart Sangha, Mindfulness Practice Center of Atlanta, Decatur GA
Stephen Brown, Berkeley CA
Lisa Ernst, One Dharma Nashville, TN
Susan Kaiser Greenland, Inner Kids, CA
Keri Pederson, Seattle Insight Meditation Society, WA
Tenney Nathanson (Sensei), Desert Rain Zen, Tucson, AZ
Rev Furyu Schroeder, Abiding Abbess, Green Gulch Farm, San Francisco Zen Center, CA
Debra Seido Martin, Zen West/ Empty Field Zendo, Eugene, OR
Santussika Bhikkhuni, Karuna Buddhist Vihara, Mt. View, CA
Arthur Silacci, Prescott Vipassana Sangha, Prescott, AZ
Rev. Therese Fitzgerald, Dharma Friends, Maui, Hawai’i
Alicia Dougherty, Prescott Vispassana Sangha, Prescott, AZ
Toni Greene
Camille Hykes, Natural Dharma Fellowship, Boston, MA
Anna Suil, Santa Cruz, CA
Shinzen Young, Vipassana Support International
Deborah Alberty, Vipassana Sangha
Richard Brady, Mountains and Rivers Mindfulness Community.
David Lawson, Still Mountain Buddhist Meditation Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Martha Wooding-Young
Barbara Casey
Chan Linh Thong, True Spiritual Communication, Peaceful Refuge Sangha, Ashland, OR Kristi Holmstrom
Dr. Karen Hilsberg, Order of Interbeing, Culver City, CA
Laura Goldstein
Rik Center, Mindfulness Care Center, San Francisco, CA
Myokei Caine-Barrett Shonin, Myoken-ji Temple/Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Texas
Houston, TX
Ernestine Enomoto, Honolulu Mindfulness Community, Honolulu, Hawaii
Helen C. Morgan, Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley
Rev. Keiryu Lien Shutt, AccessToZen.org
Kristen Larson, NO Sangha – Diamond Sangha lineage, Port Angeles WA
Lhundup Jamyang (Marleen Schreuders), FPMT
Shastri David Stone, Chicago Shambhala
Andrew Palmer, Sensei, Open Source Zen (Vast Refuge Sangha, Wet Mountain Sangha, Springs Mountain Sangha), Colorado Springs, CO
Douglas Kaishin Phillips; Empty Sky Sangha; West Cornwall, CT and Lexington, MA
George Bowman Zen Priest, Furnace Mountain Zen Community, Clay City, KY
Joan Sutherland, Roshi, Awakened Life & The Open Source, Santa Fe, NM
Younes Mourchid, Spirit Rock, Woodacre, CA
Leslie Baron
Gretchen Neve, Shambhala Center of Chicago
Jeanne Anselmo, Plum Village Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh
Leslie Rawls, Dharma teacher, Charlotte (NC) Community of Mindfulness
Kenn Duncan, Prescott Vipassana Sangha, AZ
Mahin Charles, San Francisco, CA
Ven. Bodhin Kjolhede, Abbot, Rochester Zen Center, Rochester, New York.
Shoyo Taniguchi, Ph.D.
Kaye Cleave, San Francisco, CA
Jill Allen
Cynthia Loucks, Prescott Sangha, Prescott, AZ
Tubten Pende, Santa Cruz, CA
Annik Brunet, Sukhasiddhi Foundation, Fairfax, California
Jack Lawlor, Lakeside Buddha Sangha, Evanston, Illinois
David I. Rome
Myoshin Kelley
Susan Antipa
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Zen Center of NYC
Venerable Chang Wen, Buddhist Monk, Dharma Drum Retreat Center, Pine Bush, NY
Noah Levine, Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, Los Angeles, CA
Ann Barden, Insight Meditation Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Karen Drimay Gudmundsson, Gelongma FPMT, Land of Medicine Buddha
Rev. Konin Melissa Cardenas,
John Yates PhD Dharma Treasure Buddhist Sangha, Upasaka Culadasa
Susannah Freeman White
Glenda Hodges-Cook, Louisville Vipassana Community, KY
Dr. Gareth Sparham
Philip Davidson & Kay Davidson, Mindfulness Meditation For Richmond
Tsechen Ling, University of Michigan, University of California
Ruben L.F. Habito, Maria Kannon Zen Center, Dallas, TX
Gerry Shishin Wick, Roshi, Great Mountain Zen Center, Berthoud, CO
Nancy Baker,NY, NY, No Traces Zendo
Jacqueline Mandell, Samden Ling, Portland, OR
Ethan Nichtern
Bruce Wilding
Rev. Shinkyo Will Warner, Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community, KY
Michael Schwammberger – Chan Phap Son
B. Alan Wallace, Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies
Tim Olmstead, The Pema Chodron Foundation, The Buddhist Center of Steamboat Springs. CO
Dr Daniel M. Ingram, MD
Sheridan Adams, IMCB
Tim Geil, Seattle Insight Meditation Society
Gyalten Palmo, Tse Chen Ling Center
Jonathan Landaw, Land of Medicine Buddha, Soquel, CA
Dr. Libby Howell, Desert Lotus Sangha, Phoenix, AZ
Rev. Ronald Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco, SF, CA
Lorne Ladner, PhD. Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center.
John Dooley, Prescott Vippasana Sangha, AZ
David Chernikoff; Boulder, CO; Insight Meditation Community of Colorado
Maria Janca, Sangha in Prescott AZ
Josh Korda, Dharmapunx New York + Againsthestream
Chas Macquarie, President, DZIMC
Stephanie Tate, Glass City Dharma, Toledo, OH
Rev. Henry Toryo Adams, San Mateo Buddhist Temple, San Mateo, CA
Kenneth Folk
Rev. Maia Duerr, Upaya Zen Center, AZ
Matthew Daniell, IMS, Barre MA & IMC Newburyport, MA,
Dr. Nicholas Ribush, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, Lincoln MA
Dharmacharini Viveka Chen, Triratna Buddhist Order, SF, CA
Amy Miller, Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT)
Ani Samten Palmo, Sebastopol, California
Helen Farrar, IMCW, Buena Vista, VA
Jill Shepherd, IMS, Barre, MAr. Danny Fisher, Greensboro, NC
Chan Phap Tri, Rose Apple Society’s Center for Contemplative Practice, VT
Dr. Jan Willis, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GA
Anne Klein /Lama Rigzin Drolma, Dawn Mountain Tibetan Buddhist Center, Houston, TX
Leslie(Lhasha) Tizer, Insight Meditation Tucson, AZ
John Orr and the New Hope Sangha
Jill Hyman, Insight Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women
Grace Gilliam, East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA
Erin Selover, Berkeley, CA
Wendy Garling, Garden of Dharma, Concord, MA
Rev. Nomon Tim Burnett, Red Cedar Zen Community, Bellingham, WA
Rachelle Quimby, Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA
Terry Ray, Insight Meditation Community of CO
Ed Mushin Russell, Prairie Zen Center, Champaign, IL
Caitriona Reed & Michele Benzamin-Miki, Manzanita Village
Barbara Brodsky, Deep Spring Center, Ann Arbor MI
Roberta Orlando, San Francisco, CA
Marinell Daniel, Woodacre, CA
Koshin Paley Ellison, New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, NY
Joel Levey
Michael Dempsey, Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley, CA
Augusta Hopkins, San Francisco Insight, CA
Rodney Smith, Seattle Insight Meditation Society, WA
Jason Murphy-Pedulla, Insight Santa Cruz, CA
Amma Thanasanti Bhikkhuni, Awakening Truth, Colorado Springs CO
Esteban and Tressa Hollander
Rev. Myo-O Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Dharma Dance Sangha in Minneapolis, MN
Wendy Zerin, MD, Insight Community of Colorado Boulder, CO,
Rev. Wendy Egyoku Nakao
Cynthia McAfee, Kensington, CA, Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley
Deborah Kory, Berkeley, CA
Joseph Curran, Insight Meditation Center of the Mid-Peninsula, CA
Rev Joan Hogetsu Hoeberichts, Heart Circle Sangha, Ridgewood, NJ
Samu Sunim, Zen Buddhist Temple, New York, NY
David Rynick, Abbot, Boundless Way Zen Temple, Worcester, MA
Larry Mermelstein, Nalanda Translation Committee
Sarah Bender, Springs Mountain Sangha, Colorado Springs, CO
Deborah Todd
Elizabeth Hird, Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Hai Nguyen, Sinh Thuc Meditation Center, Wardensville, WV
Eric Rodriguez, Ventura, CA
Pamela Kirby, Redwood Valley, CA
John Makransky, Foundation for Active Compassion,
Bodhipaksa, Triratna Buddhist Order, NH
Diane Perea, Berkeley CA
Ven. Seikai Luebke, Pine Mountain Buddhist Temple, Maricopa, CA
Gail Ganino, Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, Berkeley, CA
Ajahn Prasert Avissaro, Wat Buddhanusorn, Thai Buddhist Temple, Fremont, CA
Liz Brown, Berkeley, CA
Mushim Patricia Ikeda, East Bay Meditation Center
Bruce Kristal
Tulku Sherab Dorje, Blazing Wisdom Institute
Bhiksuni Thubten Chodron, Sravasti Abbey, Newport WA
Rev. Sumi Loundon Kim, Buddhist Families of Durham, Durham, NC
James Baraz, Insight Meditation Community of Berkeley (IMCB) & Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Chris Crotty, Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, Cloucester, MA
Rev. Heng Sure, Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, Berkeley, CA
Diana Winston, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
Heather Sundberg, Mountain Stream Meditation Center, Nevada City, CA
Kenneth Keiyu Ford, Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul, MN
Diana Lion, Berkeley, CA
Guy Armstrong, Spirit Rock Center, Woodacre, CA
Erin O’Connor, New York Insight, Brooklyn NY
Hal Nathan, San Francisco, CA, Partners Asia
Anushka Fernandopulle, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Charmi Neely, Mindfulness Meditation Group of Staunton-Waynesboro, and Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville, CA
Dr. Janice Sheppard, Madison Insight Meditation Group/Madison Vipassana, Inc., Madison Metropolitan Area, WI
Byakuren Judith Ragir, Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul, MN
Charles Agle, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Washington, DC
Amy Predmore, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville, Charlottesville, VA
Wes Nisker, Spirit Rock, Woodacre, CA & YogaKula in Berkeley, CA
Gendo Allyn Field, Upper Valley Zen Center, White River Junction, VT
Rev’d James Ishmael Ford, Boundless Way Zen Buddhist Network, Providence, RI
Sosan Theresa Flynn, Clouds in Water Zen Center, St. Paul, MN
Rev. Jill Kaplan, Zen Heart Sangha, Woodside, CA
Jennifer Stanley, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Washington, D.C.
Rev. Genjo Marinello, Seattle Zen Temple
Josho Pat Phelan, Chapel Hill Zen Center, Chapel Hill, NC
Silvia Garcia Pereira, Insight Meditation Community of Washington,
Mitra Bishop, Mountain Gate, Ojo Sarco NM
Rev .Jisho Warner, Stone Creek Zen Center
Anna Roudebush, Insight Fort Wayne, IN
William F. Mies, Arnold, MD
Barbara A. Lahman, North Manchester, IN
Ann Herington
Iris Diaz, Oakland, CA
Peter Schneider
Tamara Dyer
Rev Robert Schaibly/Brother True Deliverance, The Order of Interbeing
Angie Boiss, Floating Zendo, San Jose, CA
Kay Davidson
Eiko Joshin Carolyn Atkinson, Everyday Dharma Zen Center, Santa Cruz CA
Marjorie Markus, NYC, Community of Mindfulness
Kathy Schwerin, Community Dharma Leader, Dharma Zephyr Insight Meditation Community
Haju Sunim/ Linda Lundquist, Zen Buddhist Temple, Ann Arbor, MI
Catherine Brousseau, Insight Meditation Community of Washington
Rev. Zenki Mary Mocine, Abbess Vallejo Zen Center, Vallejo, CA
Les Kaye, Kannon Do Zen Center, Mt. View, CA
Rev. Domyo Burk, Bright Way Zen, Portland Oregon
Devi Weisenberg, Inverness, CA, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Taigen Dan Leighton, Ancient Dragon Zen Gate, Chicago, IL
Dr. Bill Knight, Muskoka Mindfulness Community
Manny Mansbach, Vermont Insight Meditation Center
Cornelia Shonkwiler, Middle Way Zen, San Jose, CA
Susan Lee Bady, Brooklyn Sangha of New York Insight Meditation Center, NY
David Silver, Insight Meditation Community of Charlottesville, VA
Tonen O’Connor, Milwaukee Zen Center, WI
Daniel Terragno, Rocks & Clouds Zendo, Sebastopol, CA
Trish Magyari, Insight Meditation Community of Washington (IMCW), Baltimore, MD
Joen Snyder O’Neal, Compassionate Ocean Dharma Center, Brooklyn Center, MN
Barbara Rhodes, Kwan Um School of Zen
Stephanie Golden, Brooklyn NY and of NY Insight Meditation Center
Jennifer Jordan, IMCW Family Program
Abby Cassell, NewYork Insight, Brooklyn Sangha
Elizabeth Fryer, St Louis Insight
Ann Pendley, Knoxville Insight Meditation, TN
David Flint, Dharmacarya, New York City, NY
Jon Aaron, New York Insight Meditation Center, NY
David Loy
Jim Dalton
Robert Beatty, Portland Insight Meditation Community
Debra Kerr, Oakland, CA, Alameda Sangha and East Bay Meditation Center, CA
Merra Young, Rivers’ Way Meditation Center, TCVC, Common Ground Meditation Center, Minneapolis, MN
Nina Wise, San Rafael, CA
Soren Gordhammer, Santa Cruz, CA
Jill and Bruce Hyman
Gil Fronsdal, IMC Redwood City, CA
Meg Agnew, Dharma Wisdom Seattle Sangha
Kitsy Schoen, East Bay Meditation Center
Ellen Furnari, PhD, Buddhist Pathways Prison Project, Solano prison, Vacaville, CA.
Hugh Byrne, PhD, Insight Meditation Community of Washington, Silver Spring, MD
Chaplain Eileen Phillips, BCCC, Mt Stream Meditation Center and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Tere Abdala-Romano
Bob Stahl, Guiding Teacher Insight Santa Cruz, CA
Frank Ostaseski, Founder, Metta Institute, CA
Jayla Klein, Insight Santa Cruz, CA
Anna Douglas, Spirit Rock, Woodacer, CA
Philip L. Jones, Silent Mind Open Heart Sangha, Columbia, MO
Jennifer Kim, New York, NY
Leslie Tremaine
Rebekah Laros, Spirit Rock Meditation Center, CA
Brian Lesage, Flagstaff Vipassana Meditation Group, AZ
Nina Nagy, New Canaan, CT
Gregory Gerber
Jeff Scannell, Montpelier Insight Meditation, VT
Elaine Retholtz, New York Insight Meditation Center, NY
Laura Crawford Hofer, Eugene, OR
Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D., Awakening Dharma, San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Anne Briggs, Insight Meditation Community of Chestertown, Chestertown, MD
Alice Alldredge, Open Door Sangha, Santa Barbara , CA
Devon Hase, Madison City Sangha
Nancy Hilyard, Oceano, CA
Berget Jelane, San Jose Insight Meditation, CA
Barbara Poe, Prescott Vipassana Sangha, Prescott, AZ
Kerry Walsh, San Anselmo, CA
Luke Lundemo, Jackson MS Meditation Group, MS
Jai Uttal, San Anselmo, CA
Tomi Kobara, Awakening in Deep Refuge sangha – East Bay, CA
Nancy Taylor, Teton Sangha, Jackson Hole, WY
Elissa Epel, Ph.D., UCSF, San Francisco, CA
Russell Long, Ph.D., San Francisco, CA
Sakula Mary Reinard, Portland Friends of the Dhamma, Portland, OR
Michele Ku, Yes, East Bay Meditation Center, Berkeley, CA
Betsy Rose, Berkeley CA & Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Gayle Markow, San Francisco, CA
Philippe Daniel
Arpita Brown
Jessica Graham, Eastside Mindfulness Meditation , Los Angeles, CA

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“Fearless at Work” by Michael Carroll

fearless at workI jumped at the chance of reviewing ‘Fearless at Work’. A close workmate in my business died very suddenly before Christmas. She went to sleep one night and didn’t wake up. I miss her. My workload has temporarily doubled and I’m practising the art of muddling through, with a brain befuddled by shock and grief. So I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of ‘Fearless at Work’ in engaging with this particular phase of life.

The stated aim of this book is to draw on Buddhist philosophy and the practice of mindfulness in helping readers to become more confident and open to possibility in their work lives. Michael Carroll is the founding director of an organisation called ‘Aware at Work’, has held a number of executive positions and is a long-time student of Buddhism. In his words in the introduction, this book is about ‘sitting down and being still’ (original italics) and he refers frequently to ‘mindfulness-awareness practice’.

Title: Fearless at Work
Author: Michael Carroll
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 9781590309148
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

‘Fearless at Work’ is divided into five parts, with each themed part exploring various ‘slogans’ to reflect upon, memorize, apply the slogan at work each day and so on. Some of my favorites slogans, to give you a flavor, were: ‘Face the fierce facts of life’, ‘Lean in’, ‘Be vividly present’, ‘Where’s the edge?’ and ‘Be a spiritual fool’. Carroll points out how his development and use of slogans is inspired by the tradition ‘lojong’ or mind-training practices originating from Tibet in approximately the 12th century. In detailed appendices Carroll outlines what he calls his: ‘traditions of fearlessness’, including Kagyu-Nyingma meditative disciplines and Shambhala warrior practice.

Carroll’s writing style is passionate, conversational and sometimes entertaining. I really appreciated his overall message about living fearlessly:

“Distracting ourselves from a life we are afraid to live comes in many forms, some simple, some potent, some pathetic, others complex” (page 161);

“The slogan: “Where’s the edge?” reminds us that living in harmony is not about being free from conflict but about being free to live life fully” (page 44).

Having read this book, I’m left in little doubt that Carroll is a dedicated Buddhist student and most likely a very helpful and inspiring guide to many folk going through organizational change. He is clearly very passionate about his work and how he applies what he has learned from studying and practicing the Dharma: the teachings of the Buddha, as well as a number of other spiritual practices.

Yet I find I’m disappointed. Carroll indicates early on (page 7) that the book is based on a “simple, practical gesture: sitting down and being still”. Unfortunately very little of the content and method of this book reflects this intention. Carroll refers to ‘mindfulness-awareness’ practice throughout but omits to define what he means by this in the body of book, instead only including references to ‘traditions of fearlessness’ in the appendices. The reader is given no indication in the main body of the book what Carroll personally means by and practices in relationship to ‘mindfulness-awareness’ practice.

Carroll’s pace, tone and the sheer density of the book’s content doesn’t, in my mind, conduce to the contemplative practice which he invites in the book’s introduction. Many of his 38 slogans, explored throughout the five parts of the book, are more akin to sound-bites of his own thoughts, anecdotes and examples, rather than an invitation to the reader to reflect upon their lived experience or draw very deeply on practical workplace examples.

It’s not immediately clear to me why the book is entitled ‘Fearless at Work’. Much of this content applies to life in general, rather than just life at work. The examples and anecdotes which do refer to work seem to be largely based upon work in the corporate world, so I imagine Carroll is writing with this readership in mind. I have to admit that by two-thirds of the way through the book I started to lose interest. Not because Carroll doesn’t have interesting and important things to say, but because of the slogan structure and content. The clarity with which he explains each slogan is variable and pithy to the point of sometimes not quite saying enough for me to fully understand his point. In the end the book felt more like a slogan ‘shopping list’ than an invitation to reflect on work, life and practice. In this sense, it didn’t much resemble what I know of the flavour of traditional ‘lojong’ practice, even though that was his original inspiration.

Learning each of the slogans didn’t encourage me to want to sit down and reflect on them, although I did give that a go. I didn’t find them especially potent and inspiring, as advertised on the back cover. He includes Dharmic ideas but often these are not sufficiently ‘unpacked’ to throw light on each of his slogans. On occasions I found his slogans interesting, poignant and entertaining, but not particularly conducive to contemplating fearlessness. I had one or two ‘aha’ moments, so all was not lost, but this isn’t a book I would hurry to recommend. I found one of his others — ‘The Mindful Leader: Ten Principles for Bringing Out the Best in Ourselves and Others’ — much more helpful and better-written.

In his introduction, Carroll emphasises that sitting down and being still sounds easy but is ‘exquisitely demanding’. To my mind he misses an opportunity in this book. Had he expanded some of the content of Part II ‘Taming the mind’ and a few of the other chapters from Parts III and IV — which are aimed more directly at helping readers to create the conditions for both effective meditation practice and life at work — the book would have unfolded more closely in line with his stated aim. Had there been a little less breadth and more depth with more emphasis upon meditation practice, the book would certainly have helped me with the exquisitely demanding work of being still amidst work pressures and feeling fear. As it stands, for my personal taste at least, this book has a few design faults and doesn’t touch in closely enough to the Dharma.

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“The Five Mindful Keys to Communication,” by Susan Gillis Chapman

5keysI first started reading The Five Mindful Keys to Communication while waiting for my daughter at the airport. At the same time, a text came in from a young friend, announcing that he was probably going to be indicted by the FBI. It was difficult to keep my mind on the reading at this point, and yet I found solace there too, as one of the main themes in the book is working with fear. Even though most of the advice regarding fear centered around communication with others, I found it very helpful when communicating with myself that evening.

The author, Susan Gillis Chapman, is a marriage and family therapist, who has been teaching mindfulness meditation for over thirty years. She has an MA in Buddhist and Western Psychology and studied under Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Pema Chodron. Students of the Dharma will recognize many foundational concepts throughout the book, such as the illusion of the false self and the pitfalls of craving, which are clearly incorporated in her Five Keys:

  1. The Key to Mindful Presence: Awake Body, Tender Heart, Open Mind
  2. The Key to Mindful Listening: Encouragement
  3. The Key to Mindful Speech: Gentleness
  4. The Key to Mindful Relationships: Unconditional Friendliness
  5. The Key to Mindful Responses: Playfulness

These chapter headings seemed very promising to me, and indeed, there were some inspiring passages and engaging anecdotal stories. At times, though, I found the book to be repetitive and somewhat unorganized. Throughout the book, Chapman uses slogans and metaphors to convey her message: Green, Yellow and Red light communication patterns, having a ‘we-first’ versus ‘me-first’ mentality, and open/closed communication. After a while, I became mildly annoyed by the slogans and frequent use of ‘we-first’ as a label for how to communicate; and yet, outside of my reading I did find myself reflecting that I should ‘be careful, because the light is yellow’ when feeling irritated by a friend’s comments.

Title: The Five Mindful Keys to Communication
Author: Susan Gillis Chapman
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 9781590309414
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

Another theme is the practice of staying open in communication and not putting up barriers or becoming defensive. For me, this is the essence of mindful communication; staying open and gentle, even in conflict. Chapman provides strategies to accomplish this throughout the book, but they all basically come down to maintaining mindfulness and unconditional positive regard. I appreciated her reminder that these barriers not only cut us off from each other, but from ourselves.

Early on I found the repetition to be reinforcing, because it is sometimes so difficult to remain open and mindful in communication. But I have to admit that, toward the end of the book I was skimming much of the content. Luckily, I did catch a real gem toward the end of the book that lists four progressive steps to compassionate activity when faced with a person who is truly contemptuous, angry, and regards us as the enemy.

Other features of the book include journal exercises (which are embedded in the chapters), a self-reflection guide, a glossary and a section called “Stepping Stones”. This last section was one of my favorite parts of the book, and the one I will most likely return to again. “Stepping Stones” is an overview of the main concepts of the book, structured into seven steps to help the reader avoid mindless communication patterns.

Chapman states in her closing that she is convinced that these keys to mindful communication have the power to restore peace and harmony in our society. Though keeping an awake body, tender heart, and open mind are, in many situations, overwhelmingly challenging, I think she is absolutely right, if only we are able to, “transform fear into love, and to bring that love into our lives for the benefit of others.”

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Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Available from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

The Mind and Life Conference (ML), a production of the Mind and Life Institute, is an almost yearly gathering of Western scientists and Tibetan Buddhists, led by the His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso). Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality is a product of the 2002 conference, the tenth (X) in the series.

The Mind and Life Institute emerged as “a bold experiment” in 1987 from the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Adam Engle, and Francisco Varela. Between ML IX and X, co-founder and visionary scholar Francisco Varela passed away, a tremendous loss for all of us who seek knowledge in the realm of consciousness studies. Varela has been ably replaced by Richard Davidson (author, most recently, of The Emotional Life of Your Brain).

Among the luminaries attending past conversations are neuroscientist Antonio R. Damasio, philosopher Owen Flanagan, psychologist Daniel Goleman, anthropologist and Zen priest Roshi Joan Halifax, psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, Cistercian monk and founder of the Centering Prayer movement Father Thomas Keating, cellular geneticist and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, and philosopher Evan Thompson, among many, many others.

The Scientific Coordinator at ML X was:

  • Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Professor of Physics at Amherst College

Participants were:

  • Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness, the XIVth Dalai Lama of Tibet
  • Michel Bitbol, M.D., Ph.D., Directeur de recherché at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, France
  • Steven Chu, Theodore and Frances Geballe Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University
  • Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., Professor of Biology at Washington University
  • Eric Lander, Ph.D., geneticist, molecular biologist, mathematician, and the founder and director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genome Research
  • Prof. Dr. Pier Luigi Luisi, Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Matthieu Ricard, Ph.D., Author and Buddhist monk at Shechen Monastery in Kathmandu and French interpreter since 1989 for His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Arthur Zajonc, Ph.D., Professor of Physics at Amherst College

The interpreters were:

  • Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., President and chief editor for The Classics of Tibet Series produced by the Institute of Tibetan Classics in Montreal, Canada.
  • B. Alan Wallace, Ph.D., Visiting Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

When I began reading this book, my expectations, based on watching videos of the last several Mind and Life Conferences, no doubt skewed my experience of the book at first. Having seen those videos of recent conferences, I kept waiting for the book to get into the dharma, but that is not the book’s purpose, although there is certainly some Buddhist philosophy later in the book.

As one might guess from the list of Western scientists present at ML X, the topic was the “nature of reality,” and the book is essentially a condensed summary of how Western science makes sense of life, consciousness, and the universe. The first chapter looks at the elementary particles from which matter emerges, then moves through complexity theory (2), the complexity of life (3), how life unfolds (4), the human genome (5), and then consciousness to ethics (6). Along the way, there are interviews with Matthieu Ricard, Richard Gere, and His Holiness the Karmapa.

Readers interested in a crash course in the fields of physics, biology, and psychology will receive a solid grounding in the areas where theory is well-established and a sense for the open questions with which researchers still grapple. The conference structure allows that each day features a morning session of scientific explication and an afternoon discussion session. Pier Luigi Luisi does a good job of presenting this flow of the five days, although there are a couple of adjustments in the timeline in the interest of literary coherence.

Through the first half of the book, the Tibetan contingent offers little opposition to the Western model of physics and biology. However, when the topic eventually shifts to consciousness in the latter part of the book, the different perspectives on consciousness fully emerge. Western science, or at least the more forward-thinking version presented in these conferences, theorizes that consciousness is an adaptive, complex, and emergent property of the brain, making it clear that not all consciousness researchers believe it is fully reducible to the physical brain. The Tibetans, however, strongly disagree, holding that consciousness consists of gross and subtle consciousness, with the gross level based in the body and its sensations/perceptions and the subtle level shaped by the brain, but not subordinate to it. In fact, many authors who work in the interplay between Tibetan Buddhism and Western science believe consciousness exists independent with or possibly from – and ontologically prior to – matter and life (such B. Alan Wallace).

Here is the Dalai Lama’s explanation of the Buddhist view:

[W]e ask what consciousness actually arises from. What is it that turns into consciousness? According to Buddhist principles, consciousness can arise only from a continuum of phenomena similar to itself, in the same way that formations of mass-energy give rise to formations of mass-energy. It is a similar continuum. Subtle consciousness is a radically different type of phenomenon; therefore it can arise only from phenomena similar to itself. Matter, configurations of mass-energy, is radically dissimilar to consciousness. … Matter cannot transform into or become consciousness. (p. 181)

The Dalai Lama admits that this view is a form of dualism, and suggests that Western science has its own dualisms, such organic and inorganic matter. But he also argues that dualisms are inherent any time there are two things and not one, and “Dualism makes sense only in relation to a very specific context.”

Eric Lander tried to challenge the Dalai Lama on the rather esoteric nature of the gross/subtle distinction, asking if this doctrine is not simply an unproven but accepted assumption in the absence of any evidence, logic, or proof. His Holiness countered, however, with an argument based in the scientific method he learned from his Western teachers.

First of all, it’s not true that this is merely an assumption. There’s an empirical basis that is repeatable. There is a systematic training that can lead to the empirical conclusion that a continuity of consciousness transcends the limitations of one body, one life. This is not something unique to Buddhism; it preceded Buddhism, and it is not embedded in one ideology or one belief system. There are different modes of meditation within Tibetan Buddhism, different avenues to that experience. (p. 182)

What the Dalai Lama presents here is the essential nature of scientific inquiry. There are three steps: (1) Instrumental injunction, to know this, do this practice or experiment; (2) Direct apprehension, an immediate experience of the data generated by the injunction; and (3) Communal confirmation, comparing your results with others who have performed the same injunction (Wilber, 1998). His Holiness argues that other monks in other disciplines have replicated the reality of subtle consciousness in their own experiments, so there is a communal confirmation.

Where this leads, of course, is into the ongoing conflict between subjective, introspective knowledge (first-person) and objective, observational knowledge (third-person). Western science and, indeed, Western philosophy still struggle with admitting that first-person experience has any scientific validity. In fact, Massimo Pigliucci, in his rant against a review of this book by Michael Bond in Nature magazine (13 November 2008), argues that “‘a science of introspection’ is an oxymoron.” In fact, he states that introspection “is not and cannot be ‘science’ because science is based on the idea of independent verification of empirical findings” (para. 7).

Fortunately, the scientists and philosophers who engage in these dialogues with the Dalai Lama are more open-minded. While several of the Western scientists admit lacking the meditative experience necessary to make sense of the Tibetan worldview, they are nonetheless curious and seek some form of understanding that fits within their own worldviews. For now, however, both sides are somewhat entrenched in their own perspectives, but we benefit from their efforts to hold their own views more lightly.

Notes:
Pigliucci, M. (2008, Dec 6). “Consciousness, Meditation, and The Dalai Lama.” rationallyspeaking.org.
Wilber, K. (1998). The Marriage of Sense and Soul: Integrating Science and Religion. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

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Fully Alive: A Retreat with Pema Chodron On Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change

fully alivePema Chodron was the first North American born woman to become an ordained Bhikkhuni. She teaches in the Shambhala tradition begun by her mentor and teacher Chogyam Trungpa. Meg Wheatley, who assists her teaching on this retreat, has a Ph.D. from Harvard and has long been interested in system dynamics. She is a prolific author and has traveled to every continent to learn and teach about how human systems function properly or fail. Both women have sound instruction to offer concerning how to navigate beautifully in life — this life that can only be impermanent.

The focus of the retreat is a modern-day Hopi prophecy. Ani Pema indicated that the prophecy was requested from Hopi elders. The prophecy describes the way that all beings should expect to live for the future. My heart and mind opened to receive it, as it was read, first by Ani Pema and then by Meg Wheatly.

Here is a river, flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid;
willing to cling to the shore.
They are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know, that the river has its’ destination.’
The elders say, ‘Let go of the shore.
Push our way into the middle and keep our heads above water.’
They also say, ‘See who is there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, the time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves.
Banish the word struggle from your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration;
for we are the ones we have been waiting for.

Ms. Wheatley tell us that old ways of thinking are simply outdated. Culturally, we tend to hold rigid ideas about how we should or should not react to stimuli. She discusses the differences in how we think of things. She suggests that our thinking should be be like flowing water. Our expectations often remain fixed and rigid in culturally accepted patterns, what she calls ‘rock logic’. We as humans should learn to let our patterns of thinking flow, change and adapt to circumstance. That, to her, is how we stay in the middle of the stream.

Title: Fully Alive: A Retreat with Pema Chodron.
Author: Pema Chödrön and Meg Wheatley.
Publisher: Shambhala
Format: DVD or Audio CD
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk (4 CD set only), and Amazon.com as a 2 DVD set or as a 4 CD set.

The first thing one notices when Ani Pema speaks is the quiet joy with which she relates her message. While listening to her teaching, which I welcomed as dry soil welcomes a kind rain. My meta mind, my observer/narrator, was simply absorbing that calm joy at being where she was. Her desire to be of benefit to the world is inspiring.

It was a challenge to take in all of this teaching. The weekend was broken up into separate lessons, every one of them at once simple and complex. Once I had seen the entire recording I realized that every teaching was about the same thing from a fresh perspective. The ways to approach this prophecy are many. There are so many paths one can take to live beautifully. All who witness this will have something to take away from it depending on the experience of the practitioner. On a cautionary note, I feel some of these concepts might be overwhelming for beginners.

The most difficult lesson for me in this retreat was the charnel grounds teaching. I have read about Tibetan burial practices. The idea of meditating in the charnel ground; the place where the human remains are and where there may be ghosts and scavengers, is potentially terrifying. The viewer is asked to mentally view themselves in the most fearful place they can imagine. It is not an easy lesson. Living beautifully requires us to stay aware and open in the most challenging situations. It teaches that we must be peaceful warriors, ready to accept the suffering of the world and change it if we can, in any way we can.

The notion of remaining open and non-reactive to the things that trigger the most fear in us … well let me just say that I did well to be aware of my reaction. My first response was to wonder, Haven’t I just spent six years learning to create compassionate distance to those reactions? I believe that If I had heard this when I had just entered the beginning stages of practice, my fear response might have hindered me.

The layers of redundancy between the sessions also convey the many approaches there are to take from the core of this compelling study into our daily lives. It took me a week to watch this five hours of the retreat. I would watch an hour and simply absorb. I meditated on every section of the lesson. It simply took time and compassionate focus.

This teaching suggests that we must be open to the suffering of the world, and remain particularly aware of how difficult it can be. With the love and compassion we have learned, we are charged to do what we can to ease the suffering of the world. We must be ‘warriors’. By definition a warrior is not a reactionary. A warrior is calm, even-minded and able to love all beings while still being aware of suffering. That is the strength of the warrior.

So many teachings are about the damage done to the eternal self by continuously reacting, and getting hooked, to use Meg Wheatly’s terminology. When we fuel the embers of those alarming events or situations that trigger us it is easy to let old habits take over. We react with fear, craving or isolation. We let the ember of suffering in what ever form it presents itself, turn into conflagration by feeding it through our old patterns of response.

All of our old patterns were where we were, once; we, I, you, started somewhere. Hopefully, we can learn to love everything about what led us to now. At every point on any path that we may be, we can choose to love all beings. There seem to be only a few ways to get to that place and they all involve being fearless. They all seem to require that we learn ourselves very well. Then, when we are self-strong and loving, we must gather together as a single monolithic “us” and celebrate. We can beautifully accept, without reacting, that everything changes.

There comes a time where we must trust in our practice. We must walk or swim into the middle of the river and be available to the rest of the needy suffering world. We may share as much as we will, to let all beings know that this alternative path is available and potentially so pleasant. Once we own our suffering we can let it move through us as if we are not even here.

More than anything else, we must learn to understand that open acceptance and genial love is the thoughtful response. This is the skillful way to respond. The more we patiently and beautifully practice living always in the now, the more we encounter every moment with the understanding that it is unique and new. Compassion is the authentic response.

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Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche featured in new documentary

Stephen Pedersen, Chronicle Herald: What is uncommon about Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, the king who is the subject of Johanna J. Lunn’s 72-minute documentary, An Uncommon King, is that he is a chogyal, an earth protector, a king of the dharma, a lineage holder, protector of the Shambhala teachings, which focus on secular meditation fostering enlightened society.

Those teachings and that story are part of Nova Scotia history, ever since the Sakyong’s father, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, moved his international headquarters from Colorado to Halifax.

It took Lunn three years to tell the story.

“About five years ago,” Lunn said in a recent interview, “a …

Read the original article »

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Natural Brilliance, by Irini Rockwell

The subtitle of Irini Rockwell’s new book, Natural Brilliance: A Buddhist System for Uncovering Your Strengths and Letting them Shine, reads like a self-help book, and, yes, it is emphatically about helping ourselves. Yet, as you might imagine from a Buddhist teacher, the emphasis of the book is very much about helping us out of ourselves. As Irini writes, “When we are fully present … there is a tangible experience of the boundary of self dissolving and a sense of mingling with sights, sounds, smells, tastes.” Throughout “Natural Brilliance,” Irini acknowledges the richness and basic goodness of our inner world and offers a set of teachings that mean to guide us on the path toward transcending our self by becoming our best self.

Title: Natural Brilliance
Author: Irini Rockwell
Publisher: Random House
ISBN: 978-1-59030-932-2
Available from: Random House, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

Irini Rockwell, is a senior teacher in the Shambhala community and a student of Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Her first book, The Five Wisdom Energies: A Buddhist Way of Understanding Personalities, Emotions, and Relationships (2002) grew out of her work with the Five Wisdoms Institute where she is currently the director and senior teacher.

The five wisdom energies are the dimensions of a comprehensive system in Tibetan Buddhism for describing and understanding everything we think, feel, say and do: in short, it is a conceptual system for making sense of our human experience. The five wisdom qualities are:

  • Spaciousness (Buddha)
  • Clarity (Vajra)
  • Richness (Ratna)
  • Passion (Padma)
  • Activity (Karma).

Irini calls this system of qualities a “model of human dynamics.” Each of these qualities plays out in our personal experience in both dysfunctional and constructive traits. Gaining an understanding of our own unique energy patterns gives us a context for our strengths and weaknesses and the awareness to change in healthy ways. The energy of Karma, for example, can manifest in us skillfully as ‘productivity’ while at different times it can also manifest unskillfully as ‘manipulation’. The trick, as we gain awareness of these conditioned patterns, is to allow our inherent wisdom to guide us toward more skillful behavior.

In the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, these five qualities are overlapping aspects of an all-pervasive energetic dimension of reality that affects our inner world, our interpersonal world, and our relationship to our environment. The five wisdoms are inherent in all of us and can be drawn on at any time. When we begin to understand the unique ways that the wisdom energies play through our own person, we are enabled to redirect the energies in ways that offer us positivity, creativity, productivity, spaciousness and ultimately inner peace.

For Irini, “understanding sense perception is key to understanding reality.” Being grounded in a deep awareness of our sense perceptions frees us from attachment to our thoughts and feeling and grants us a certain spaciousness as we open out of the self-limiting world of thoughts and feelings. The experience of selflessness comes as we begin to drop our mental and emotional preoccupations (conditioning) and experience our wordless, thoughtless, immediate relationship with the world. In our day to day living, however, we become caught up in our busy minds and emotional reactivity and block our direct experience of our sense perceptions:

“In general, we don’t experience; we conceptualize…We cloud direct experience and thus have a dull, distorted view of our world. We cannot relate to ourselves or the world in a genuine way.” (Natural Brilliance page 37)

The five wisdoms are pointers that guide us back to a direct experience of our senses and back to an authentic relationship with ourselves and our world.

Natural Brilliance, in following its precursor, The Five Wisdom Energies, has the more directed purpose of applying the five wisdoms to our personal, social, and professional lives. The second part of “Natural Brilliance”, for example, a good two thirds of the book, is dedicated to applying the five wisdoms to leadership development and productivity in the workplace. Specific chapters address mindfulness, personal authenticity, intimate relationships, working with others and cultivating wisdom in our professional arenas.

In the chapter titled, “Engaging Effectively,” for example, Irini shares with us specifics about how to bring our understanding of the wisdom energies in ourselves and others to bear on workplace dynamics, communication, creativity and conflict resolution. Irini uses case studies, personal anecdotes and detailed exercises to explore the possibilities of engaging with others without reactivity and bias. She offers the five wisdom framework for skillful communication which is based on clear understanding and mindfulness.

To the uninitiated, the five wisdoms system can feel confusing and foreign. Like with reading a good novel, I was a few chapters in before I began to ‘get it’. Still, Irini writes with a real passion for the well-being of others and what seems like an uncompromising authenticity. Her personal narratives and real life examples are both instructive and entertaining. As a vehicle of self-understanding, personal enrichment and a tool for engaging with others, the five wisdoms model is intensely powerful.

For many of us, engaging with the five wisdoms will be an opportunity to release our attachment to our fixed views of ourselves and open to our beingness as a conduit for wisdom and deep interconnectedness with all things. The five wisdoms offer a thorough template through which to view our personal world, both inside and out. One could only benefit from integrating this perspective into their lives.

“What we come back to again and again is that fundamentally our sanity is intrinsic: we are good, sane, intelligent people. We have a soft spot and can relate to the world in a gentle way. When we experience a sense of well-being, we know this.” (“Natural Brilliance page 73)

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Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47

Adam Yauch, one of the founders of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died of cancer at the age of 47.

Yauch, who went by the name MCA, had been battling cancer since 2009.

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist, who actively supported Tibetan causes.

In 1994, he established the Milarepa Fund — an organization dedicated to the promotion of nonviolence — and became a leader of the movement to liberate Tibet from Chinese occupation. The fund was named after the 11th century Tibetan singer-yogi Milarepa, and was originally intended to distribute royalties from Yauch’s Beastie Boys’ 1994 songs “Shambhala” and “Bodhisattva Vow,” which had sampled the chanting of Tibetan monks, to support Tibetan independence.

He organized the first “Tibetan Freedom Concert” in San Francisco in 1996.

 

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“Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness” by Chogyam Trungpa

As a long-standing Western Buddhist, my curiosity was piqued by this book. Work, sex and money are crucial issues to all of us, so I was interested to hear what Trungpa said.

Chogyam Trungpa was a major figure in the establishment of Buddhism in the West – particularly in North America. He was the founder of Vajradhatu and the Naropa Institute, two major achievements in themselves. But he did more than this.

Born in Tibet in 1940, and recognised as an infant as a major Kagyu tulku, he intensively trained in monasteries with Jamgon Kongtrul and other eminent teachers, later receiving full ordination. After dramatically escaping Tibet in 1959, he eventually arrived in Oxford University in 1963. Together with the spiritual movements he founded, he also wrote many Buddhist classics: Meditation in Action (1969), Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (1973), and The Myth of Freedom (1976), among many others.

Title: Work, Sex, Money: Real Life on the Path of Mindfulness
Author: Chogyam Trungpa
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 978-1-59030-596-6
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store, Amazon.com Kindle Store, and Amazon.com.

In addition to his Dharma teaching, he was a poet, artist and playwright. He was also experimental and controversial. He was outspoken at a time of cultural change in the West, and was widely criticised for his seeming alcoholism and promiscuity. He died in 1987.

This volume is published by Shambala and edited by two disciples, Carolyn Gimien and Sherab Chodzin Kohn, and brought out in 2011 by Diana J. Mukpo, Trungpa’s widow.

The book is a compilation of seminars and talks on work, sex and money given in the early 1970s, but with some additional material from as late as 1981. His audience ranged from hippies though to businesspeople.

Trungpa’s book is divided into seventeen chapters. There are seven chapters addressing work, four dealing with sex, and the remaining six chapters devoted to money.

I found this a ‘curate’s egg’ compilation – good in parts. Some of the chapters are rather hard going, while others seemed insightful and rich. With the hard-going parts, I longed for more examples of his Dharma points, and cultural context. This is not a beginner’s book. But the lectures on work make useful reading, even forty years on.

In the seven chapters on work, Trungpa covers many themes, such as the sacredness of society, and our need as practitioners to be open to it – a radical idea at the time. The first three chapters don’t really address work per se, but really give a critique of modern society, and how self-centred and ego-based its individuals are. This is ground that is covered more fully in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. Real spirituality, he asserts, is an acceptance of the world as already spiritual. He emphasises the centrality of meditation practice for Buddhists in modern life, if we are to grow. Buddhists get it wrong in two ways, he says: Firstly, leading packed lives where we have no space for creativity, and secondly, being too afraid of the creative process, so that we don’t try.

Trungpa unpacks these two flawed approaches in Chapter Four, explaining that they are both manifestations of the ego and of materialism. He warns against materialism, pointing to the underlying psychological materialism that underpins them. Heaviness, fascination, meanness and possessiveness are hallmarks of this kind of mind, he observes. He outlines ways forward, such as guarding against laziness, ‘earthing’ yourself at work, simplifying your life, and being in the present moment. Our primary tool for working with the materialistic mindset is Meditation in Action.

In the chapters on work, Trungpa stands back and observes the modern world from the eyes of a traditionally trained tulku, yet he himself knows the modern world intimately. It is a broad Dharmic overview he’s giving us, applied to our working lives, and some of it isn’t nice at all. Writing this review in 2012 – the Digital Age, it seems that Trungpa’s outlook is as relevant as ever.

Yet Trungpa sees this materialistic world as fruitful for Dharma practice, particularly through the developments of areas like discipline, work relationships, ethical practice, awareness and creativity. In Chapter Five, ‘Overcoming Obstacles to Work’, he explores ways of working with frivolity, daydreaming and interpersonal conflicts. Despite his good perspectives, there are no worked-out practices here, After all, this is the 1970s, and Buddhism is still new in the West.

The chapters covering sex, I found the least interesting, and at times, hard to stay with. After overviewing sex from a traditional Buddhist take on the dhyanas (blissful meditative states), Trungpa asserts that our Western approach to sex is too frivolous and guilt-ridden. We fail to see that sex is really about a deeper, sacred communication between people, which is imbued with respect. It should be more like an offering than an act. Our approach imprisons us, he claims.

Love, he sees as ego-based, delusional and even animalistic. He peppers the chapter with stories, which I found were of mixed value. He goes on to explore sexuality from the viewpoint of the traditional monastic practice of celibacy, as a way to skilfully deal with desire — examining the source of our desire in the mind, rather than suppressing it.

These explorations are interesting, but I think don’t offer much concrete guidance for disciples. There is no teaching of sexual ethics, or of skilful ways forward. He seems to be suggesting that we acknowledge our primal desires, and then transform it into vajra passion, an ego-less bliss of the transcendental. But it isn’t clear how we might do this, should we want to.

Trungpa also explores family relationships and karma. Amongst what can appear as gross generalisations regarding family life, there are a few little pearls of wisdom, e.g. the need for parents to not see their children as property – an extension of their egos.

He also touches on marriage, but says nothing especially original or instructive for the modern practitioner.

Trungpa makes more useful points around the subject of money. The six chapters cover many themes; e.g. money karma, business ethics, and panoramic awareness. Despite some unproductive sidetracks he is stimulating, and gives his observations and experience of the subject. For instance, he explores the relationship between spiritual institutions and money and how this so easily leads to power games. Trungpa isn’t approving or disapproving of money in itself, he simply says that if you have some, then it is nice to spend it on something creative.

He also looks at business ethics and warns against secrecy, double-dealing and poor integrity. Buddhist businesspeople need to be exemplars of business ethics. Moneymaking can lead to good or bad karma. The choice is ours.

Trungpa’s final lectures cover karma and what he terms ‘panoramic awareness’. Work, sex and money all create karma, and we should see that. Awareness is his central point, and that if we want to be happy, then there are no short cuts; we need to act skilfully. Finally, he asks who the ‘I’ is that wants to be happy? He then explores shunyata and non-duality, and concludes by emphasising that by working creatively with work, sex and money we can realise it.

Throughout this all, he constantly strives to raise our awareness and give us a deeper perspective on our financial outlooks. Personally, I wanted more practical emphasis on simplicity, and how to make your money-earning a useful means to spiritual development. I would also have liked an exploration of dana, or giving.

But then, perhaps, that’s not the point of this book. Trungpa taught in depth on these subjects in other contexts. This book, as you would expect from the title, is an exploration of work, money, and sex, and although the quality of that exploration is variable and sometimes incomplete, Trungpa is insightful and stimulating at times. Despite the book’s shortcomings, Western practitioners will find food for thought here.

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