The Contemplative Order of Compassion – A New Look at an Ancient Path

Directly inspired by the example and vision of Dharma Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Tiep Hien community, the Contemplative Order of Compassion is a community of monastics and lay persons, who have committed to living their lives in accordance with the Five Precepts of Mindfulness and the Fourteen Monastic Precepts — a distillation of the Bodhisattva Ideal of Mahayana Buddhism.

The Contemplative Order of Compassion (which includes the Spiritus Project Intentional Community and Contemplative Monks of the Eightfold Path) is a non-sectarian, intentional spiritual community, drawing on the Upayayana Buddhist Tradition, Benedictine-Camaldolese and Primitive Franciscan contemplative spirituality and non-dualistic (Advaita) philosophy. The aim of the Order is to actualise the Boddhisattva Ideal by studying, experimenting with, and applying a postmodern Buddhist Dharma in contemporary life.

Deeply inspired by the examples of our elder spiritual brothers, Thomas Merton, Anthony deMello, His Eminence Tsem Tulku Rinpoche,His Eminence Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the Venerable Master Thich Nhat Hanh (whose own order served as the working model for our humble endeavour), ours is a spiritual path based on the revealed wisdom of the Four Noble Truths, and grounded in the traditional Four Spirits; namely, the spirit of non-attachment from views and opinions, the spirit of direct experimentation on the nature of interdependent origination through meditation, the spirit of appropriateness, and the spirit of skillful means.

While we are non-sectarian, post-denominational and radically inclusive, our community is comprised of individuals, for whom various spiritual traditions and cultural practices play a central role, as they grow in their understanding of the Dharma. The Contemplative Order of Compassion supports and encourages these diverse individual expressions of spirituality, and rejects all forms of dogmatism, creedal statements and imposition of any religious rituals, traditions, scriptures or doctrines on its members. Ours is a path that includes the postmodern Buddhist philosophy, without struggling to define what Western Buddhism means.

We are predominantly considered non-theistic, in that our community does not recognise the need to view what is commonly referred to as “God” as a person or Cosmic Being, but rather embraces a pure, beginningless and undefinable Energy (which may be called matter, Love, Spirit or even God, if one is so inclined) as “the Eternal Principle”. (cf: Dhammapada 5)

This does not mean that we are atheists. It simply means that we understand the mystical teaching of Rav Yeshua ben Yusef, and the leaders of the Gnostic “Christ Movement” in a more universal, metaphysical and non-fundamentalist sense, and that our understanding of sacrament and symbol are likewise more universal. We find no need to anthropomorphise the inexpressible, beginningless energy of the universe into a “creator god”, and celebrate, acknowledge and revere the primitive and ancient paths, which relied upon such archetypes to convey greater spiritual truths within the limited scope of their culture and experience. It is our belief that in the 21st century, we must move beyond denomination and dogma and begin to work toward a broader understanding of what we must do to alleviate suffering for all sentient beings, and that is our sole objective.

We welcome any individual who wishes to follow a radical path of compassion, service to humanity, and personal discovery to join us, either as a member of our Secular Associates (whose primary vehicle is the Spiritus Project), or through entry into the course of monastic study, in which one is eventually ordained according to the original principles of Buddhism and the ancient Apostolic tradition, once called “The Way of Christ”. The path we follow, and the spirituality into which our monks are ordained is simply referred to as “the Dharma of Compassion.”

“If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.”

~ from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Ma’s Always There – Remembering My Root Guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati

gategate

Twenty-one years ago, I had my photo taken at Kashi Ashram. It was taken just after the conclusion of Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati’s weekly darśana (live public teaching). Just 20 minutes earlier, Ma gave me my Dharma name, Gurudas.

We were fortunate that on the Friday, although Ma was actually holding a “closed darśana” for the residents of Kashi, Hanuman Kurt, Ganga-das and I were permitted to attend. We sat there, in the Dattatreya Temple, singing and chanting some familiar and some unfamiliar Hindu bhajans, and then began to chant the Hanuman Chalisa, followed by a bhajan to the Mother. Suddenly, someone said, “She’s coming!” and everyone stood, as Ma entered the Temple, escorted by her attendants.

Ma taught with a clarity and presence that immediately let one realise that they were in the presence of the archetypal Mother. And as she began with a guided meditation, I began to hear as clearly as the day he said it, the words of my first monastic Teacher, Lama Thubten Yeshe, telling me I would have one greater teacher after he left his body, and that teacher would be my true Tsawa Lama.

The past twenty-one years were filled with good times and rough times. But there was always Ma… consistently there… letting the chaos unfold, and then watching it dissipate.

She was there, at the Names Project Memorial Quilt, when we added my late partner’s panel. She was there, when I was told by the doctors that I might not make it out of the hospital, after the third bout with pneumocystis. When I shattered my arm, in a Parkinson’s related accident, a month after the Gandhi Award ceremony, she was there, doing pujas for me, and she told me that she would be there when I was ready to come home.

She would encourage me each time another of my books were published. During my last phone conversation with Ma, she would tease me, asking “When are you going to build a Buddhist monastery at Kashi, so that I can get my hands on my Buddhist monks and get them into shape?”

Many things changed over the years at Kashi, and in all of our lives… but one thing remained constant, and that was the Guru’s love for her spiritual children. It was a love that would get me through all the men and women dying in my arms over the past 18 years… It was a love that helped me carry the frail body of my beloved Dean up and down the stairs, as he battled cancer, in 2005… and which comforted me, when he died as a result of homophobia in the healthcare system.

None of our lives will ever be the same, and will be immeasurably richer for having sat at Her Lotus Feet, even for so short a time. And Her beautiful legacy lives on in each of us, as she now sits upon the dais prepared for her in our hearts… where the Guru lives on.

Khenpo Gurudas Sunyatananda on Google+

Living the Dharma

In this video, Khenpo Gurudas Śuntyatananda, abbot and spiritual director at Sarvodaya Ladrang in Lancaster, PA, shares some thoughts about our indwelling capacity for happiness and healing, as found in the Dharma of Rav Yeshua, the Christed One.

mult-dec2008Directly inspired by the example and vision of Dharma Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s Tiep Hien community, the Contemplative Order of Compassion is a community of monastics and lay persons, who have committed to living their lives in accordance with the Five Precepts of Mindfulness and the Fourteen Monastic Precepts — a distillation of the Bodhisattva Ideal of Mahayana Buddhism.

The Contemplative Order of Compassion (which includes the Spiritus Project Intentional Community and Contemplative Monks of the Eightfold Path) is a non-sectarian, intentional spiritual community, drawing on the Upayayana Buddhist Tradition, Benedictine-Camaldolese and Primitive Franciscan contemplative spirituality and non-dualistic (Advaita) philosophy. The aim of the Order is to actualise the Boddhisattva Ideal by studying, experimenting with, and applying Buddhist Dharma in contemporary life.

Khenpo Gurudas Sunyatananda on Google+