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5 Dec
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This Is Possible

Last night our Dharma Book Group had a great discussion about this line from In the Buddha’s Words, by Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“For Early Buddhism, the ideal householder is not merely a devout supporter of the monastic order but a noble person who has attained at least the first of the four stages of realization, the fruition of stream-entry.”

We don’t talk much about stream-entry in our weekly sangha, so I thought it might be helpful to post this explanation of what that is, again by Bhikkhu Bodhi from In the Buddha’s Words:

“The stream-enterer abandons the first three fetters: identity view, that is, the view of a truly existent self either as identical with the five aggregates or as existing in some relation to them; doubt, about the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha, and the trainings; and the wrong grasp of rules and observances, the belief that mere external observances, particularly religions rituals and ascetic practices, can lead to liberation.

“The stream-enterer is assured of attaining full enlightenment in at most seven more existences, which will all take place either in the human realm or the heavenly worlds. The stream-enterer will never undergo an eighth existence and is forever freed from rebirth in the three lower realms–the hells, the realm of afflicted spirits, and the animal realm.”

To which I would like to add these words from the Buddha:
If this were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

20 Dec
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The Gift of Wise Speech

At our Dharma Book Group last night, we discussed the chapter on Wise Speech in Jospeh Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. We were sitting by the fire, in front of a lovely Christmas tree (thank you, Anne), so it seemed fitting to talk about Wise Speech as a Generosity practice.

What is Wise Speech?
It is spoken at the proper time; what is said is truthful; it is spoken gently; what is said is beneficial; it is spoken with a mind of lovingkindness…One speaks at the right time, in accordance with facts, speaks what is useful, speaks of the Dharma…One’s speech is like a treasure, uttered at the right moment, accompanied by reason, moderate and full of sense.

When we lie, we are usually trying to hold on to something — to power, to a view of ourself, to whatever we fear we will lose if we told the truth. When we speak harshly, we’re doing the same thing. Same when we gossip or say something malicious or divisive. Or when we just go on blathering about something that’s of no use or interest whatsoever…whose only purpose is to try to prop up our fragile sense of self. This is grasping. It’s not helpful. It’s not even pleasant!

So dear reader, my gift to you — and to the world — is the intention to practice honesty and goodwill by not speaking (or writing) in ways that are false, harsh, divisive, or mindless.

It’s a gift to you; but it’s also a gift to myself.

Pass it on.

15 Dec
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To Pass from Entanglement to Peace

The topic for tonight’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma Discussion is Wise Intention, which doesn’t get a lot of “air time” at drop-in meditation groups, probably because what it means is to cultivate the intention to practice Lovingkindness, Compassion, and Renunciation. Just mentioning the word “Renunciation” is often enough to send people heading for the exit! (Mentally, if not physically.)

But here’s what Bhikkhu Bodhi has to say in his excellent little book, The Noble Eightfold Path:
Desire is to be abandoned not because it is morally evil but because it is the root of suffering. Thus renunciation, turning away from craving and its drive for gratification, becomes the key to happiness, to freedom from the hold of attachment.

“…To move from desire to renunciation is not, as might be imagined, to move from happiness to grief, from abundance to destitution. It is to pass from gross, entangling pleasures to an exalted happiness and peace, from a condition of servitude to one of self-mastery. Desire ultimately breeds fear and sorrow, but renunciation gives fearlessness and joy

“When we methodically contemplate the dangers of desire and the benefits of renunciation, gradually we steer our mind away from the domination of desire….

“Real renunciation is not a matter of compelling ourselves to give up things still inwardly cherished, but of changing our perspective on them so that they no longer bind us. When we understand the nature of desire, when we investigate it closely with keen attention, desire falls away by itself, without need for struggle.”


People always want to talk about giving up chocolate when the topic of Renunciation comes up, but I don’t think it’s about giving up something delightful because someone says it’s not “good for you.” What I’ve found instead that it’s about letting the shackles fall away when you realize that what you’ve been doing (thinking, saying,…OK, eating, etc) is not really working for you!!!

25 Oct
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No Thanks, I’ll Pass

sisyphus-1Our KM group met last night to discuss the chapter on Renunciation in Joseph Goldstein’s Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. The word “renunciation” has a lot of negative connotations, but in this case we’re not talking about depriving ourselves of joy and comfort and pleasure. We’re finding peace and ease by releasing ourselves from the “addiction” of habitual patterns.

Joseph talks about “the wisdom of no, when we recognize that some things are not skillful, not helpful, not leading to happiness. At those times,” he writes,”we can practice saying, ‘No thanks, I’ll pass.'”

But we are often so used to our habits — even our painful, stress-causing habits — that we forget they can be changed.

I like Stephen Mitchell’s take in Parables and Portraits:

“We tend to think of Sisyphus as a tragic hero, condemned by the gods to shoulder his rock sweatily up the mountain, again and again, forever. 

“The truth is that Sisyphus is in love with the rock. He cherishes every roughness and every ounce of it. He talks to it. Sings to it. It has become the mysterious Other. He even dreams of it as he sleepwalks upward. Life is unimaginable without it, looming always above him like a huge gray moon.

“He doesn’t realize that at any moment he is permitted to step aside, let the rock hurdle to the bottom, and go home.

“Tragedy is the inertial force of the mind.”

19 Oct
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May We All Be Happy


Note: I’ll be entertaining an out-of-town friend starting tomorrow, so I’m taking a little break from posting while she’s here. Check back again on Monday (10/24). 

In the mean time, I leave you with the prep work I’ve “assigned” for the Let’s Talk Dharma discussion group that meets at my house tomorrow evening. The topic is Wise Concentration, and the homework is a talk given by Tempel Smith, who spent a lot of time doing metta as a concentration practice and who tells a really great story about the purification process (aka “meltdown”) he went through on a long metta retreat. (The story has a happy ending.)

You can listen to it by clicking here. May you be happy!


(That’s me with Tempel and a group of dharma buddies when we were in Burma!)

15 Sep
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Every Seat in the House

img_5792No time for a proper post, so instead I’ll share this photo of my living room, which I’ve just gotten ready for the “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion tonight…by bringing in every single chair in the whole house!

12 Sep
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Who Could Ever Stand It?

pikachu_gone_crazy____by_moon_manunit_42In preparation this Thursday’s “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion on Enlightenment, I offer this quote from Buddhadasa’s teaching on Nirvana for Everyone:

When causal conditions are not present, mental defilements [greed, hatred, and delusion] simply become extinct. Even though the extinction may be temporary, even thought there is only temporary coolness, the phenomenon has the real sense of nirvana.

Hence, temporary nirvana does exist for for those who have some defilements left; temporary nirvana nourishes all sentient beings.

If defilements were with us day and night without ceasing, who could ever stand it? Living things would either die, or become insane…and then die. One survives because there are periods when the fires of defilements do not burn. Temporary nirvana keeps all of us alive and well, and is a nourishing condition, normal to life. 

17 Aug
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It Is Possible


As I posted earlier, the homework assignment for tomorrow night’s “Let’s Talk” Dharma discussion, is to listen to Jack Kornfield’s talk, “Labor of Love — Right Livelihood”. In it, Jack quotes Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859):

“It is possible to have outer liberty and still be enslaved. The time may come when men and women are carried away by the pursuit of wealth and lose all self restraint. In their exclusive anxiety to make a fortune, they neglect their chief business, which is to remain masters of their own life and heart.”


21 Jul
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According to How We Act

future will ariseI’m still getting ready for the “Let’s Talk Dharma” discussion on Karma (which meets tonight at my house!), so I’ll just post a quick quote from Ajahn Sucitto’s really wonderful book on the topic: Kamma and the End of Kamma. (click here for free e-book)

“The past is not dead; its effects carry potential. The future will arise according to how we act on that.” 

5 Jul
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Let’s Talk Dharma

KAMPONG THOM, CAMBODIA - JANUARY 13: A statue of Buddha is seen at a temple in Kampong Thom province on January 5, 2016 in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Kampong Thom is Cambodia's second largest province by area. There are a number of significant Angkorian sites in the area, including Prasat Sambor Prei Kuk and Prasat Andet temples. (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images)

For those of you who haven’t already heard, I’m starting a new “Let’s Talk Dharma” Discussion Group. Here’s the email announcement I sent out yesterday:

*** As many of you know, I am in the middle of a 2-year Community Dharma Leader (CDL) training program led by Spirit Rock. The focus of the program right now is on learning to develop/organize/teach day-long events and multi-week series of classes. We are encouraged to take a creative approach to this, so instead of offering a standard introductory course on basic Buddhist teachings, I’ve decided to try a series of once-a-month Dharma discussion “classes”, each focusing on a single topic of interest. Thus:


When: 3rd Thursday of each month, beginning July 21, 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Where: My house (in Dogtown)
Format: 20-minute sit, teaching on a selected topic, Q&A, discussion
Cost: Dana (This means the teachings are offered freely. Donations to support these teachings will be freely accepted.)
July 21: The Buddha’s Teaching on KARMA
August 18: The Buddha’s Teaching on RIGHT LIVELIHOOD
September 15: The Buddha’s Teaching on ENLIGHTENMENT
October 20: To be determined
November 17: To be determined
December 15: To be determined
Note: SPACE IS VERY LIMITED. You do NOT need to attend every session, but for each session you do attend, you WILL NEED to RESERVE YOUR PLACE.

For more information and/or to sign up, email Jan here.