Kindness

uni2Mindshift Monday…

“There is an almost sensual longing,”
wrote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin,
for communion with others, who have a large vision.”

“The immense fulfillment of the friendship
between those engaged in furthering
the evolution of consciousness
has a quality impossible to describe.”

A scene from A WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOVE documentary on the life of Mother Teresa. Express archive photo
A scene from A WONDERFUL WORLD OF LOVE documentary on the life of Mother Teresa. Express archive photo

What will you do today
to advance the evolution of consciousness…
to bridge the gaps in our mutual understanding?
To bring compassion and awareness
where it has been forgotten?

It is not by seeking to do grand things,
like the barbaric orangutans in politics…
but instead, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta would encourage, “to do small things with great love…”

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Letting Go of Boundaries

boundary_fullMaster Thich Nhat Hanh once observed, “Most of the boundaries between traditions are artificial. truth has no boundaries. The differences are mostly in emphasis.” Letting go of the perception of boundaries can free us to experience a deeper, quieter, and more still version of Truth. In the Buddhist tradition, we call that place of letting go, “calm abiding”.

I’ve often thought it interesting that some Buddhists, especially in the Tibetan tradition are so quick to pontificate that “all phenomena are empty,” and yet they get their uttarasanghas in bunch so easily, decrying this monk’s lineage or that teacher’s orthodoxy! If phenomena are empty, then doctrine and dogma are equally empty, and all wisdom paths ought to be given the same respect.

A couple months ago, I was approached by a number of practitioners, who wanted to know if I would consider reinvigorating the Contemplative Order of Compassion as a centre for wisdom and dharma.  And I agreed to give it some thought, as I took into account many of the areas of my work and practice at the end of the year. It is something I am still giving a great deal of thought.

Some have encouraged me to consider incorporating the order back into an institutional organisation, so that we could have access to greater funding for the projects that impact so many people’s lives.

I’m not sure that will ever be a good idea, as who and what we are arose from the journey out of institutional religion, to a place where post-denominational expression of ancient teachings and new thought philosophy could be unencumbered by dogma and doctrine.

cropped-zenkonweb31.pngOthers have suggested that we formalise the beliefs and teachings in such a way that Zenkondo becomes a spiritual path itself. And I think we’ve done so already, without allowing it to become another institution or religion.

It may be time to explore the possibilities of forming a greater community, possibly even a physical community again. Time will tell.

In the meantime, let’s simply agree to let go of the idea of boundaries, and begin working toward expanding the work of compassionate service to others. And we will be well on our way to rediscovering what the future holds.

During Time of Spiritual Attack

During the time of spiritual attack or psychic oppression, it can be helpful to call upon the Universal Mind in the form of mantrayana, to restore balance.

Each of us is an energetic being — an expression of the One, Beloved, the Ek Ong Kaar — and as energetic beings, our thoughts take the form of energy.

If you find that a person or persons are consistently directly negative energy your way, creating what is called a spiritual attack or psychic attack, this mantra is a simple, but powerful way to reflect that energy back upon the one or ones from whom it originates.

“Alak Baba Siri Chand Di Rakh”

sirichand

Yogi Bhajan would teach us that this mantra calls upon the assistance of Baba Siri Chand, who was the son of Guru Nanak, the first Guru of the Sikhs. Baba Siri Chand was a devoted yogi who renounced the world in favour of spiritual practice. I have always had a special affinity for Baba Siri Chand, from my teens onward.

He would accompany me (in my heart)on my walks around the ashram during the periods between 2 AM and 3 AM, when I would begin Kali puja on the Mother’s Path. He would sit with me in my heart when I sat in the Gurdwara and chanted the Mul Mantra on Kashi’s sacred grounds.

Mindful of what’s taking place around me and mine tonight, I lift my voice and chant, “Alak Baba Siri Chand Di Rakh!”

 

A New Year begins…

black_buddhaAs a new year begins, I am reminded of something the Enlightened One once taught his students,

“An enemy can hurt an enemy, and one who hates another can harm him; but one’s own mind, if wrongly directed and undisciplined, can do far greater harm than either of these.”

Are you willing to discipline your mind in 2015?

There is a prescription in the Tao, which says, “Kneel down, open your heart and hands. Give. Only emptied hands can then receive.”

If we take the time to still ourselves, and enter the fullness of the present moment, where our hearts, minds and hands can open and offer the world whatever we can to alleviate suffering, we free ourselves of those attachments, which may be preventing us from receiving the abundance that is our birthright.

We’ve all made mistakes in the past. Some of us have run away from our spiritual practices, when we didn’t like how uncomfortable it became to be held accountable. Others turned their back on community, when we couldn’t have our way. Some didn’t want to give up the extravagance of our materialistic world, or the abuse we were putting our bodies and minds through, and so we pushed our spiritual practice out of the picture.

None of that matters right now.

We are given a new opportunity in this present moment to step back onto the path. We have the beauty of this moment to make new choices, and to forgive ourselves and others, so that those things we cling to… which cause our hands to be so tightly clenched… can be released, and our open palms can receive the good that has been waiting for us all along.

Karmapa_prayer

And that is why, each year, on January 1st, and again at the start of the Lunar Year (Chinese New Year), we open the doors to our contemplative community and welcome back anyone who has previously gotten off-track, taken a break, or walked away.

No need for explanations. No need for apologies or drama. You are and always have been welcome here.

This year is especially poignant, because the Contemplative Order of Compassion will begin a new chapter in its organic unfolding and evolution, and for this reason, we want to welcome home anyone who is ready to help redefine what it means to be a post-denominational, post-religious, contemplative community, dedicated to sustainable living, the six dimensions of wellness and cultivating the disciplined mind.

Jai Ma!

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Reflecting Back Over the Past Thirty-two Years

dc-gmAt times, it seems hard to believe that it’s been that long, but reflecting back over the past thirty-two years since I took my vows, on the night that Franciscan Companions of the Immaculata (which would later become the Contemplative Order of Compassion), has been a bittersweet journey.

I couldn’t imagine doing things any differently, and can honestly say that it has been a humbling privilege to have walked this path for a little more than three decades.

Our lives were entrusted to the Divine Mother, whose embodiment of the Immaculate Heart of Mary would remind us that a life of surrender to the Dharma, and serving those who suffer was the path to which we’d been dedicated body, mind and soul. It wouldn’t always be the easiest path, and it would require untold sacrifices, but it was the only path I could imagine for myself.

1972copyThis special day reminds me of so many people who served along side of us, but especially of the three co-founding brothers, and the fourth, who would join us shortly thereafter. They’ve all left their bodies now, as have the two bishops who presided with me over the community in those earlier days.

A few months after my profession of vows, I met my upa-guru, Lama Thubten Yeshe for the first time (in this life), and it would be some years later, that Lama Yeshe would point me in the direction of meeting my Root Guru, Ma Jaya (Tenzin Yangchen Ma).

Nine years of serving as the abbot six monastic houses, and 29 years of serving as the spiritual director of the Order itself, brought me into direct contact with so many dedicated men and women, for whose service to the sick, the poor and the dying I will always be grateful. Some left us to pursue more traditional paths. Others left because they didn’t find the demands of monastic/ordained life suitable. Still others, lacking the commitment to their practice, couldn’t handle the decimation of ego and the demands of accountability, and felt like they were being “picked-on”. All will remain my spiritual children for lifetimes.

At one time, students fought over who would do what, to personally and financially support the work we’re doing. Today, only one student donates all that she possibly can. The others all have convenient excuses for why they do nothing to support our work. And that has severely limited the reach of that work around the country. Yet through this medium, I can continue to try to inspire others to do what they can to alleviate suffering, and teach them to recognise the causes and conditions in their own minds, which create that experience of suffering, so that they might eliminate them in themselves.

For those precious few who still walk the path in these degenerate times, I thank you. And for the one, precious child, who continues to support our work, I offer my heart-felt gratitude and love.

 

Transitions and New Beginnings

ImpermanenceAlan Watts once said that “(t)he only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”

This is a time of transitions and new beginnings for me personally, and for our sangha.

We’ve been quite fortunate to have enjoyed our time at Abhaya Dana Abbey, and have cultivated some lasting memories over the past ten or eleven months, as we explored the possibilities for starting a Dharma community in the Harrisburg area.

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Memorial Day from a Buddhist Perspective

Candles of Remembrance are lit in my small shrine today.

A Reflection on Memorial Day from the Buddhist Perspective

What is Memorial Day from a Buddhist perspective? How do we observe a day that traditionally has become associated with honouring those who died in the service to their countries, when we recognise that the boundaries of wars and violent conflicts are delusional lines drawn in the sand of a broken mind? For me, as a spiritual teacher, and a contemplative practitioner, whose roots transcend denominationalism and religion itself, there must be a way to make skilful use of this day, like every other, and to bring some kind of witness to a suffering world.

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Summer Time – Where’s the Focus of Your Dharma Practice?

the big buddah and cherry blossoms

Where is the focus of your spiritual practice?

It’s almost summer time, and the evenings are filled with the sound of birds chirping and the ashram’s running brook reminds us of the constant flow of the river of samsara, and the impermanence of phenomena in our lives.

In this first segment of Dharma Wisdom, we take a look at our priorities, and examine whether or not our Dharma practice holds the place it ought to in our lives.

How about you? Where is the focus of your dharma practice? Share with us in the comments below, or join our online discussion at Google Plus.

Our work is only possibly because of the financial support and dedication of those who value this work. If you find value in these teachings, and would like to help us continue to spread the Dharma in the Ten Directions, please make your contribution now.

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