Archive for April, 2011

Taking Care of Ourselves First: An Argument for Self-Care

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Let’s face it, if you’ve had the interesting karma to grow up within a household influenced by cultures other than the United States of American one, you’ve probably experienced the habit of caring for others before yourself. Your mother was probably this way: while you and others in your household were eating scrumptious platefuls of her cooking, she was gnawing away at the flesh left on bones and pits of fruits to give you the “best.” Your father has probably accused you of being “selfish” because you were doing what was best for you and not for the good of the family the way he was working 60-80 hours a week to pay for everything for everybody.

But how can you take care of others when you yourself are not happy and well? How can you have the energy to give when you barely have the energy to get through your day? How can you support others in their struggles when you are ravaged by your own troubles and problems?

If you are able to do it, it’s probably a noble but mediocre attempt because it’s not a 100% effort. Your intentions may be completely whole-hearted and divine but your methods may be flawed. So then what?

You must take care of yourself first!

Nourish your body with enough sleep and rest, nutritious foods and drinks, and physical activity and you will have the ability to get through everything with energy and strength. Take care of your mind by providing it with plenty of chances for problem solving, novelty, and skill building and you will be keen and alert. Feed your soul with meaningful activities, positivity, and goodness and you will shower yourself and those around you with the same.

Do you want to be that grumpy mother who’s snapping every 10 minutes at her family because she is exhausted and unsatisfied with her life? Can you accept your life if you are a father who works so much in order to provide for your family’s needs but you never have the time to spend with them? How long can you go if you are a friend who always supports and helps others but doesn’t allow others to help you?

Think of it this way: when you are well and happy, you can shine like the sun. If you can shine like the sun, you can shine on everyone and everything around you. How wonderful would it be if everyone were to shine?

-UN

It’s a Part of Nature

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Over a month ago, I was watching Ajahn Brahm’s lecture, “Transcending Disasters,” on Youtube during my free time. Little did I know that an actual natural disaster would strike – the tsunami in Japan. According to the news, the major earthquake had left Japan in shambles with its buildings in ruin and its citizens homeless and without basic amenities.

It’s hard to avoid the question of, “Why?” when the disaster had left the people of Japan in such a terrible situation. We may find ourselves asking, “Why did this happen to them? What did they do to deserve this misfortune?”

However, the reality is that bad things just happen; it’s a part of nature. As much as we would like to figure out why things played out the way they did, it just doesn’t work like that. All I kept on thinking about was what Ajahn Brahm had been saying. He had speaking the truth all along: Natural disasters happen, for they are part of living in the world, and what matters in the end is how we deal with these natural disasters.

We could easily spend a lifetime pitying ourselves and others for the tragedies we experience, or we can acknowledge that bad things happen, then help one another the best we can, and ultimately grow from these experiences. I choose the latter.

~Guest post from Grace, President of the UCR Buddhist Student Association (BSA)

 

Attachment

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

In Buddhism, we often hear about letting go, so that we can be free of suffering. From the few things we should let go, one of them is attachment, that we may experience everyday.

As the small, or bigger attachments to objects


Or attachment to persons


Sometimes, it seems to come from a good intention


But in the end, it always causes suffering. As simple as it is, small attachment causes little suffering, and big attachment causes a lot of suffering. Recognizing it is the first step towards understanding it. See the attachment when it arises, and acknowledge it. Observe when it grows, and when it hurts. Understand that it is the natural course of attachment, and start to let it go. Feel the peacefulness.
I believe that attachment is part of human nature, and that everyone experiences it and its consequences. But by understanding the nature of the attachment, how it appears, and how it goes away, we can reduce the suffering, and better appreciate moments in our lives. And by understanding that everything is impermanent, we can free ourselves from the fear of losing, and truly enjoy what we have.

 

- T

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Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring (again)

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Growing up as a Western Buddhist, I have always felt somewhat envious of my friends who enjoyed movies based on Western religions. As a teenager, I witnessed several friends going to watch The Passion of the Christ and coming away with a deeper understanding and appreciation of their religion. I longed for this kind of religious experience but thought that I would only achieve this through reading scriptures and attending ceremonies.

A co-worker let me borrow the film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, and Spring. I was a bit skeptical. Buddhism has been addressed in American cinema. Yet, this is usually from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism (whose practice seem far from my practice of Theravada Buddhism). I decided to watch the film and was refreshed to find that it focused on the practice of Mahayana Buddhism. Despite this fact, the teaching illustrated by this film can be appreciated by all Buddhists.

The film takes place in spring at a Korean monastery which floats on the water of a serene lake. The monastery is inhabited by an elder monk and his young disciple. As the movie progresses, the seasons change; each season presented a new lesson to be learned.

Some themes of the movie include compassion, karma, lust, anger, and atonement (which is widely-practiced in Mahayana Buddhism). The over-arching theme of the film is impermanence. We see the young disciple grow throughout the film to ultimately, take the place of his teacher. Also, the changing of the season also reflects the idea of impermanence: nothing lasts forever.

Watching this film was both a heart-warming and heart-wrenching experience. The young disciple was especially adorable and the moments he spends with his teacher are truly endearing. Watching the young monk as a boy made it difficult to watch him making foolish mistakes as a young man. What was truly moving about this film was the way I felt a connection to the characters. Moreover, my connection to the characters made me think about my own life. What mistakes have I made? What have I learned? What will next season bring?

The hallmark of a good movie is the way you feel after watching it. Having watched this film, I had many questions and thoughts which not only pertained to Buddhism, but to my life as well. Although I can hardly compare my “religious experience” to my friends, I believe that learning about Buddhism doesn’t have to be solely through scriptures. While Buddhism remains as a minority in film, that doesn’t mean it has been left out altogether.

I attached my favorite part of the movie. Enjoy!

-Jen/Nita

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The Adventures of Monk Baldy

Friday, April 15th, 2011

 

The incredibly dangerous, metta-filled adventure of the great monk baldy.

-Delphine/Dhammasukha/Phap Lac

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A Cup of Tea

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?

-Sunbrye

Anger Relief

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

“Don’t get mad, get glad.”

That phrase you might know from the Glad bag commercial. I agree with that 100%. That saying is a true-life expression. If you’re living in anger, let it go and be happy.

As the quote says:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who is burned.” -The Buddha

Holding on to anger makes your mental state disintegrate. Anger causes stress and stress is very deadly at a certain point. Think of it this way, stress is a battlefield created in your mind.

So next time you get angry let go and feel the loving feeling inside.

Don’t get mad, get glad.

~Hubert

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Reminder: YWP Gathering on April 9th

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

10:30am – 12:30pm @ Sakyamuni Buddhist Meditation Center, Riverside, CA

(Please meet at the side house)

Friendship and communication are essential parts of our lives, yet it can be challenging for many of us to build and maintain good friendships and communicate effectively with the people in our lives. The Young Wisdom Project (YWP) invites you to spend a fun day learning about friendship and communication from the perspective of the Buddhist teachings! All are welcome, especially young people ages 15-30. Food and drinks will be provided. Hope to see you there!

 

Mo’ Metta Mo’ Betta

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Metta, or loving-kindness, is a pure, unconditional, and selfless love for yourself and others. According to the Buddhist Teachings, metta is defined as the strong wish for the happiness and well-being of yourself and others, and words and actions that flow from this wish. Loving-kindness and wisdom go hand in hand.

Metta is radically different from our conventional and sensationalized Hollywood understanding of romantic love, which is typically based on desire, attraction, possessiveness, and self-interest. Metta is a form of love that is boundless and doesn’t discriminate. It isn’t based on your relationships, identity, preferences, or any other conditions, including what the other person has done for you lately!

You don’t share metta with this person but not that person. You don’t just share it only with people you like of a particular gender, race, personality, or status; you share it with other living beings without exception. And unlike “respect”, which is so conditional and relative, metta is both unconditional and constant. It can be described as a universal and unattached love since it seeks the happiness of literally all living beings, without limit and without seeking anything in return. In other words, metta is a “true love” that doesn’t revolve around “me”, “mine”, and “I.”

Just ask yourself when was the last time you even considered the happiness and well-being of not just your family, friends, partner, but ALL living beings? Metta isn’t just a nice pleasant thought or wishful thinking; it is a way of life and an attitude, a state of mind and being, and a skill that you can develop and improve with practice. By practicing it, we are literally training our minds and expanding its capacity to be kind and loving, positive and caring. We are also learning how to love in a wise way that doesn’t create suffering for ourselves and others.

And the good news is that everyone is capable of this kind of love. In the words of one wise monk, “It is a miracle that such a love exists, and that every single human being has the ability to develop it.” To start cultivating loving-kindness, you have to start with yourself first and foremost. The sincere aspiration for your own happiness and well-being is the very foundation of your happiness and all positive actions you do for yourself and the world. The Buddha once said that we can search the entire world and not find someone more deserving of loving-kindness than OURSELVES.

It’s not hard to spot people who have strong metta; in fact sometimes you can feel the energy of metta when they enter a room. And then there are those great beings who have made a profound impact on human history by embodying loving-kindness. Take a moment to think about just how powerful of an act this can be – to do our best to express and radiate kindness through our thoughts, words, and actions, at all times and at all places. Metta truly is a “love revolution”, a revolution that starts in the heart and ripples out into the world.

~Guest post by ST