Newsletter, April 2007.
Please explore the articles and other events we are helping to organize, such as the Buddhist summer camp. We will also send out a newsletter to those who join our association.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Time: 9:30 AM -12:30 PM
Chinese Community Church
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
*Bhante, our monk, teaches the virtues of disciplined life and says meditation should start on time even if there is only one person.
Bee and Say Lee have volunteered to help work on this newsletter, which is a work in progress. If you would like to write something for the newsletter also, please email us. We hope to send out the newsletter two weeks before each monthly meeting.
We are also helping to organize the Florida Buddhist Summer Camp in Orlando this Summer.
Rick Ferriss has been helpful in suggesting some articles for us to look at.
Tom Lacey has been working hard to improve the look and relevance of the website as well as to get more members from meetup.com and other internet sources. Tom, like you too, volunteers so hard for the sake of loving-kindness (see box below).
One of the things we can do for publicity is to post fliers in local libraries. If you would like to volunteer for this please let Tom know. It is easy since the word document for our flier is on our website. So all you have to do is print out about ten pages and put them in your local library or community center.
Other places we can place fliers are Chinese grocery stores or new age or spiritual stores, or even some Chinese restaurants if you know the owner.
-->> Download May 19 flier (.doc)
It is very important to get more members. So if you have a friend who might be interested, please let him or her know about our group.
It is also important to read and reflect upon Buddhism and to practice unselfish acts in our daily life. Tom reads many things. It is good to have an open mind and to reflect upon many things. Recently Tom read Liao Fan's Four Lessons (Ming Dynasty) and has listened to the late Alan Watts (who popularized Eastern religious ideas).
By next meeting we will have a bookshelf and some Buddhist books for borrowing.
(more to come)
Loving-kindness is selfless love, the unconditional desire for others to be happy. (The opposite is meanness.)
In Buddhist practice, loving-kindness is offered freely and
without any expectation for personal reward or benefit. This
kind of offering can be sensed by others as positive and wholesome.
It is especially important to offer loving-kindness in times of
personal hardship and poverty, in times of societal distress, and in times of human-caused or natural catastrophes. Buddhism teaches one to be particularly alert to being unreservedly kind; it teaches one to make the giving of loving-kindness a practical, omnipresent habit.
Always being kind is not only one of the most effective teachings for the benefit of others, but it also produces calm and peace in those who practice it. (full article)
Events We Are Helping to Organize!
Dimplankara Miami Meditation Retreat
Compassion is the empathetic feeling that urges us into action to benefit others and ultimately to end suffering. (The opposite is pity.)
Being compassionate is an outpouring of our own internal happiness, a happiness that we find increasing in ourselves the more we practice the Buddha’s teachings, the more we practice kindness and compassion. (full article)
Professor Chih Shin Shieh
Sutra of the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings
Dates: Sunday, April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 6:00 p.m.
Wheel Meditation Society
Professor Chih Shin Shieh has helped the promotion of Dharma teachings among Chinese-American communities since 1994. He has helped to form Dharma study groups in various cities throughout Florida and was president of the Florida Chapter of the Buddha's Light International Association. He is a layman Dharma lecturer and has given presentations in several East Coast states.
Dr. Shieh came to the U.S. in 1981. He has a PhD in Oceanography and an MS in Marine Science. He is currently a Research Professor at the University of Central Florida where he works as an Environmental Consultant.
Directions: Take US 19 to Nursery St. Go West to Unity Church at corner of South Haven Drive.. Park in Southeast end of parking lot of church. Follow stone trail to entrance. Map
Equanimity is the tranquil state that comes from greeting each moment, each situation, with an open heart and mind, neither hindered by preconceptions nor overpowered by
the delusions of everyday life (The opposite is anxiety and stress.)
As long as we practice giving generously and selflessly of the Four Immeasurables, as long as we are inclined to continuous and ever-increasing good behaviors, as long as our giving is heartfelt and pure, altruistic and non-judgmental, it benefits us as well as others. It produces the blessings of a peaceful and progressively less stressful life, the trust and dependability of living a morally upright life, and the happiness that derives from the courage and confidence of a solid practice. (full article)
Zen and Liberation of the Mind
Third Session of the Middle Way Buddhist Association, April 14, 2007
Notes on Dr. Sheih's Meditation Instruction
In the first session on meditation, Brother enumerated the following steps for beginners to heed.
a) adjust body position to achieve a physically stress-free state so as not to affect the focus (hence minimizing the benefits of meditation) by first bending the body, while in the single lotus (left leg on right or right leg on left) or double lotus sitting position, so that the bottom is partly suspended, then sitting back, thereby attaining a stable foundation.
b) Take care of the environment by having free air circulation, but not having the air stream directed at you, and placing shower towel over the legs to keep the knees warm.
c) Exercise minor adjustments by relaxing progressively various parts of the body, starting with the head, forehead and moving toward the bottom.
d) Focus on the breathing action.
e) Keep eyes slightly open to stay awake, mouth slightly agape and tongue touching the top of the teeth to facilitate air flow.
f) Other ways of keeping focused are staying fixed on one thought, though it’s better to try not to think, chanting Buddha’s name (Amitabha), and focusing on Buddha’s statue that evokes respect.
g) If the mind starts to drift away, stop and bring the wandering mind back. The most important thing is to realize where your mind is.
h) While any time is a good time to meditate, doing it in the early hours of the morning does have its advantages such as the environment is likely quiet and we just start on a new fresh day.
i) The length of time considered enough depends on the individuals. For Brother Shieh, his focus is beyond the sitting moment as meditation is one mechanism to help one to learn.
j) There is inherently more challenges to doing individual meditation as then a conducive environment may be at a premium.
Notes on Dr. Shieh's Talk on Zen
In his introductory remarks during the ensuing Dharma talk, aptly named Wisdom Class, Brother Shieh explained that while Buddhism acknowledges the importance of self in the sense that we are to find the solution to our own problems, it also points out the problem of self attachment.
After writing down several terms associated with Zen: silence, still, and stasis, without elaborating further "of what", he invited the attendees to name the first thing that came into mind when the word Zen was heard. The candidates include: calm, peace, floating/suspended, question, lost connection, peaceful meditation. This diversity of views reflects the working of individual minds, each being a response born out of past personal experiences and conditioned by individual circumstances. In other words, each exhibits awareness of his/her own mind.
In the material world, we see things in the binary mode, a dichotomy of good and bad, of right and wrong.
However, the essence of Zen, which is the heart of Buddhism, is non-dichotomy, or undichotomized dharma. We should distinguish, but without attachment. A particular conception, such as that of Zen itself, could also become an attachment.
Buddha's teaching can be likened to a vessel/boat that would enable us to cross the ocean. However, once we reach the other shore, a proxy term for enlightenment, we should let go of the boat and not carry it with us onshore.
To learn Zen requires thinking. Therefore Zen is silence, stillness, and stasis of the mind, a state of being that is not restricted to when we are not in motion.
In the same vein, wisdom is free from annoyances and afflictions, a state described as the liberation of the mind manifested by having no attachment to the past, the present, and the future. This is Zen as enunciated by the Sixth Patriarch of the Zen School through his verses: Detachment from external appearances; Not to be disturbed internally.
Conversely, sin in Buddhism is a state of mind associated with annoyance and affliction. It’s all in the mind, and the way to attain peace is to change the way we think. Brother Shieh also said that being absolved on sin in one's own mind does not mean that others will not want to punish you, but you will accept your punishment peacefully, that you are already free from affliction within.
Tolerance connotes a disparity in status between one who tolerates and one who is tolerated. Tolerance is not a virtue in Buddhism because it implies judgment or condemnation of others. Instead, Buddhism favors acceptance. Virtue lies in understanding and accepting others. We do not heap accolades on some as good, nor do we condemn others as bad. In this way, there can be true equality despite the perception of imperfection in others.
The Buddhist worldview is one of connection as nothing occurs just from this moment. While the past has gone, we should learn from the past.
Detachment is understanding that all occurrences/disappearances are based on “conditions”. There is no need to point fingers in a relationship that has gone sour, but we do need to work hard to improve the conditions, and to stay away from the wrong/bad conditions.
In this respect, it’s imperative that we observe the Five Precepts, the basic Buddhist Code of Ethics, which stipulates no killing, no stealing, no misconduct, no false speech, and no taking alcoholic drinks, so as not to generate bad karma. Brother Shieh said that drinking is not favored in Buddhism because it leads the devout to disrespectful behavior, so that others would not have respect for you, and also that it subtracts from awareness and mindfulness. There is nothing more precious than clarity of the mind.
When asked about whether it was better to live securely among those of good nature than to accompany those with afflictions, Brother Shieh said that those who were very secure in themselves could live without be affected by any conditions, but that for most people, it was better to avoid conditions that could possibly lead to affliction. It depends on the strength and wisdom of the individual. Great patience is needed to overcome great anger.
Before adjourning the 3rd session, Brother Shieh reiterated that the Buddha nature is in all of us, and that what differentiates us, the laymen, from Buddha, the Enlightened one, is that we have not eliminated all illusions and attachments.
Say Lee, Tampa, Florida
Loving-kindness and compassion lead to a feeling of sympathetic joy -- to finding joy within when we see the
success, prosperity, and happiness of others (The opposite is jealousy.).
Sympathetic joy is an infinitely wide mood, a state utterly removed from suffering. It is a joy that is not concerned with any personal profit or loss; it is a joy utterly
devoid of ill-will toward others. It is an unconditional joy for others, completely free of any dualistic preconceptions or judgments. (full article)
Questions from Members
Cheryl Williams emailed Lily with ten questions to answer for her World Religions class that she is taking. Lily decided to ask Bhante to provide the answers. Below are Chery's questions and answers from Bhante Dhammawansha (transcribed over the phone and edited by Tom Lacey).
1. What are the 3 most important texts, or studies that Buddhists should follow?
You can read the book, What the Buddha Taught, which contains the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada by Walpola Rahula
2 . What made you decide to choose Buddhism?
Buddhism is a way of life. I grew up in a Buddhist family. Buddhism is "come and see," practice and a way of life rather than a religion.
3 . I believe that Buddhism is more honest, and holds people responsible for their own actions; How would you compare Buddhism to Christianity?
I am not an expert in Christianity. Buddhism stresses honesty, responsibility, humility and love. There are many shared virtues.
4 . What would you consider to a good path to Nirvana for the average person?
Practicing the Middle Way, the Eightfold path.
5 . What are the Buddhist philosophies about the afterlife and reincarnation?
It is a circle. How you are reborn does depend on how you live in this life. Buddhism doesn't really talk about reincarnation but about reproducing life, recreating life. It is like the Mango tree. We are not the same person throughout our life or in the next life. It is more like electricity that goes into the earth, into the wind, cold and heat.
6 . Do Buddhists believe that a person's karma is paid during a life cycle, or do they believe that you pay for what you have done when you die, as the Christians do?
It is more like cause and effect, which can happen in this life too. If you kill with a gun, you will eventually get killed in a similar way. So the effect on yourself is more immediate but can also be lasting.
7 . How would Buddhists explain why the world is in the state that it is, and do Buddhists believe that there is a change in the evolution of the Human race going on right now?
There is more focus now on mundane things, on external things, such as materialism. The result of such selfishness is violence. We have duties to each other, but now people only emphasize rights and not duties.
8 . Do Buddhists believe that the Human race, as a species, have it's own karma, like a person does?
9 . What do you think is the best contribution that Buddhism makes to The Human race? I think that it is the fact that Buddhism teaches you to be responsible for your own salvation, and your own actions. What do you think?
Yes, you are responsible for creating your own destiny and share in the destiny of others. Buddhism emphasizes responsibility, including social responsibility.
10 . What, if any, are some prophesies of the Buddhist religion, and what is the importance of the White Elephant?
Buddhism does not make prophesies. It is more than talking about the past and the future. The future is unknown, mysterious. Buddha thought that people might go away from the Dharma and this would cause bad things to happen in the world. Good things follow the good Karma, so this is predictable. Practicing the good and developing good karma can change a bad fate to a good destiny. A murderer can become a Saint, and vice-versa. The source of the good is the mind. Emotions come from thoughts, how you develop your consciousness. Without consciousness, all is confusion.
Other local events some members are planning to attend
(This does not constitute an endorsement)
ps: The Tampa Bay Chapter of Buddhist Peace Fellowship meets the second Sunday of each month in north St Petersburg. Meetings include a period of silent meditation, a discussion of a writing on engaged Buddhism, business meeting and informal visiting. More information is at:
Below is a Press Release for the Middle Way Buddhist Association
Pinellas Park, Florida, April 17, 2007.
The Middle Way Buddhist Association has classes in both Chinese and English!
The Middle Way Buddhist Association has Dharma classes in both Chinese and English! We also have activities and a class for children.
Buddhism welcomes everyone. Having people from different cultures and backgrounds gives our group a diverse atmosphere. And being a new group, it is a good place to meet new people who are enthusiastic about exploring Buddhist ideas and discussing philosophy in general.
Our first meeting had thirty people in attendance with many coming from Sarasota and beyond. Our discussions are on an introductory level but include serious questions of a wide ranging nature. Our meetings begin with group meditation at 9:30 AM the second Saturday of each month.
The discussions and enthusiasm carried over to the vegetarian lunch which followed the meeting. Eating good vegetarian food makes you feel better about yourself and other creatures in the world.
The Middle Way Buddhist Association encourages its members to get involved in unselfish and peaceful activities for the sake of loving-kindness.
The next meeting is on Saturday morning, May 19, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and will be held at:
The Chinese Community Church
4600 78th Ave., N.
Pinellas Park, FL 33781-2427
For additional information please contact: Tom Lacey (727) 455-1056 or Lily Lee (941) 306-3358
We have also been actively organizing on the internet. RSVP at http://buddhism.meetup.com/508/
Middle Way Buddhist Association, 4600 78th Ave., N., Pinellas Park, FL 33781-2427