“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away” – Shing Xiong

Saturday, May 31, 2014

everyday, fall down get up

a daily practice for me, and for anyone who is critical, demanding, driven, is forgiveness. This is why it is good to be interacting with others, they inspire us to screw up and then have to forgive ourselves and go on and try again.

Thought, speech and action in the four stages - after, during, as whatever it is is arising and preparation before.There are so many benefits to this practice, the preparation part especially makes living a conscious life enjoyable and rewarding.

These teachings are missing in so many lives but it does no good to read the news and keep up with current events because these things are misleading, destructive and distracting. Paying attention to the present moment, doing the practices, makes an impact in ways worry, frustration, fear and sadness cannot.

Do not think a Buddhist doing nothing is doing nothing. They are laying the groundwork for goodness everywhere.

Friday, May 30, 2014


The controversy in Theravada Buddhism reflects the violence against women worldwide. Of course Theravada is not immune from such problems, we are at the heart of it.

We invited such conflict when we began the path of practice because we invited the supreme challenge, to be the best we can be. What is that? The US military motto? No, it's really what we are up to. We must master ourselves, transform ourselves, lose our 'selves' to benefit all beings.

Likely without goading we would be lazy and remain insensate to our own lacks and failings, because of such goading we are spurred to work harder, to energize, to apply effort with bravery, kindness, and gratitude. The cultivation of generosity compassion and wisdom is the best thing we can do, the best response we can have to news from distant lands or scenes of brutal injustice right in our own daily lives.

When we pick up our intention and restart the regular effort it must be balanced, it cannot be harsh or demanding, it must be kind. Otherwise we generate friction, heat and waste products that threaten to undo all our good intention. Often harshness is the result of fear, this has to be investigated and acknowledged so it can be let go of.

So the process takes patience. This is efficient practice, it takes time and must be started well before the acute need is upon us to be of most benefit. I take this into the day as a wake up call for present moment awareness, be here now. This is the most essential activity.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

How does the Buddha Dhamma teach us to deal with frustration and disappointment?

How does the Buddha Dhamma teach us to deal with frustration and disappointment? Sensei gives us many teachings, but here is one by another Buddhist monk who echoes her in a different voice.

Please click this link to go to Sujato's blog, same place as the one on the sidebar, to hear the expectedly excellent talk by Ajahn Brahm given in response to the rejection of his presentation to the UN, a rejection by the Buddhists involved. The original talk was to support gender equity but this second one is the response, and is even more important - enjoy, it is about an hour long but so worth the time.


ahh, Sensei has been investigating the history of meditation, the meditation that the Buddha probably used, was familar with or exposed to. The culture the Buddha was born into was already accomplished in rich spiritual traditions that incorporated meditation extensively. He was a reformer, a revolutionary who emphasized the importance of "taking it off the cushion."

She is adding two books to the recommended reading for those interested in pursuing further development in meditation: "Meditation and Its Practices, a definitive guide to techniques and traditions of meditation in yoga and vendanta" by Swami Adiswarananda and "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali" by Sri Swami Satchidananda.

If Sensei recommends them you can count on the information being well presented with clarity and depth.

Awakening Stillness Qigong is the style developed by Sensei that enhances the practice of seated meditation as well as offering the usual benefits to body and mind. Great Determination sangha has a huge advantage here because the Qigong adds so much to the meditation.

We are working on the book that accompanies the class and may even make a new DVD, probably over June break we will be able to really dig into that project.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


have used the words generosity compassion and wisdom a lot lately, maybe should clarify what this means and even revisit the pitfalls of language.

Generosity will mean something different to each of us. Because we each have so many differences in background, expectations, and constitution the language is a crutch to help us communicate, not communication itself.

We forget that in our educational system and forget that in our busy lives and sometimes forget that in our efforts to communicate. We often mean different things when we use the same words and ignore the dissonance or tolerate a little lee way.

When we really come to an understanding it is a place beyond words. We feel it rather than think it, there is a sense of connection and pleasure. This is facilitated by stillness, quietude, non judging. To achieve this we meditate and practice, laying the foundation for unobstructed experience.

Generosity is commonly thought of as giving and often associated with Dana in Buddhist circles but it is much more a practice to soften and expand the heart-mind, to enhance flexibility and gentle the energy around us. It begins at home with the self, and is tied to just being. Just being allows investigation into what is most beneficial. Without the interference of the inner critic, just being shines a light on what it might take to make us really happy. This is a gradual process of discovery for most and it requires persistence and encouragement from within. Everyone has to do this for themselves, can't do it for others and others can't do it for you. This is a very primary practice of generosity, just being. Just being means developing tolerance and when we can tolerate ourselves we can extend this to others. When we allow just being we are giving very generously by dropping the shoulds. All these "I should be doing this, I should be doing that," are greedy, harsh and unmindful. Letting go of that has a huge impact, a ripple effect that is helpful.

The definition given above is an example of non linear thinking. There are many ways to think of generosity, it can be about providing funds or goods, it can be about tolerance and forgiveness, it can be about gratitude and appreciation too.

Sensei gives several practice suggestions (see the workbook) for cultivating generosity and a lot of the practices overlap so the same practice can be used with different intentions. For instance wishing passersby freedom from suffering and living in happiness can be a practice of generosity as well as compassion

that's it from the soapbox today, be well, and if you read this leave a comment, thanks

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Link

I have added a link to Bhante Sujato's blog. I referenced his blog before on May 1st. He and Ajahn Brahm are great feminists in Buddhism today. His post of May 23 includes a talk by Ajahn Brahm that was banned from the United Nations Day of Vesak conference perhaps because it challenges Buddhists around the world to be aware of and responsible for the Dhamma regarding women and how that would impact the world at large.

For me it highlights the ordination experience and our worldview at Great Determination. I am so fortunate to be the student of a bhikkhuni who questions everything and acts from the Dhamma nothing else. The concerns of activists are a great temptation to anyone participating in the world we live in and all of us must choose at each moment to act in accordance with the generosity compassion and wisdom we have cultivated in our practice.  The temptation comes from the appeal of passion. But the clarity we gain in practice reveals that passion obscures reality. It puts blinders on those who allow it. Furthermore,  "Don't resist or push away, soften," is the principle of spiritual aikido we advocate here. Stop arguing, just do it, and be kind in response to opposition.

Sangha Meeting

I didn't intend to write about the meeting but saw this quote shortly afterward:

"Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power." -Lao Tzu

The Taoist sage encapsulated a foundational teaching of the Buddha Dhamma with that pithy statement. Many will disagree but my opinion is that the two paths parallel each other in several respects. People like to see similarities among many of the world's religions and there are, no argument here. When Taoism and Buddhism combined in China, which came about because of the cultural inclination to include rather than replace, and was of course not intentional but an organic influence upon both, the result was magical. We are so fortunate to be present to enjoy the two flavors of dhamma together.

At the sangha meeting this morning we talked briefly about Dhamma being real - palpable, verifiable and useful, not just quotable theory. The Buddha taught how to master self and why mastering others is without value not just in the teachings but also by example through speech and action. Sensei elaborates and illuminates further self mastery tools in the workbook, the missing peace.

We also talked about the gradual path, and how meditation changes over time. About the value of methods in training on and off the cushion with the recognition that methods are just methods and attachment to any particular method is not beneficial, how this applies to all aspects of duality and the development of discernment.

Venerable spoke about a book she read recently in which the author advocated discarding all methods and just dropping judgement at once and altogether. Then we talked about the value of methods in training so long as they are recognized for the training tools they are. No need to keep the training wheels on the bike after we can keep our balance without them. Present moment awareness is stabilized by training in the roots of happiness - generosity compassion and wisdom.

From my perspective as a junior almsperson this is where authentic deportment is cultivated, right along with 'supernatural' powers. Stamping behavior with a certain brand of deportment is a curious reaction to not being in the moment. Sensei remarked (I paraphrase) "there can be no harm done when one is purely present without judgement, in non-duality." However for average humans living daily lives the present moment is removed from awareness and obscured with preferences. That brought about the disciplinary guidelines of Vinaya and Emily Post and every culture on earth. It is also the motivation for training in the fourth noble truth, to avoid the stamp and embark on an exploration of the wonders that enfold us.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Buddhism 101

Rajju Jim had a good Zen offering the other day:
 "don't seek the truth only drop attachment to your opinions."

I have to hear a lot of stuff about Buddhism in studying traditional Chinese medicine, and most of what I hear is so "just not right." It brings to mind the Dhamma regarding teaching and what a wise gift that was to have included in the Dhamma itself. And then there is a quote of the Buddha on the wall here: it says 

"the greatest prayer is patience."

Patience, kindness, gratitude are like the secondary color wheel while Generosity Compassion and Wisdom are the primary colors, it seems sometimes to me. I have opinions that differ from others but work to see that that is all they are. I love the Buddhism we practice at Great Determination and in my humble opinion:

1. The Four Noble Truths are the commonly shared understanding and belief among Buddhists, not Kamma and reincarnation.
2. Generosity, compassion and wisdom are the roots of happiness, they are cultivated through practice and meditation.
3. Anger, greed and delusion are the three poisons we work to ditch from our thoughts, speech and actions.

But other people are of different opinions, we can all back up our opinions with some sort of written or traditional reasoning. These are called facts and they form in religions, science, economy, ecology, medicine, laws and governments, all walks of life. When attachment is dropped facts can be overturned and disproven at the drop of a hat, and that's a fact!

Buddha Tattoo

British nurse sues Sri Lanka over Buddha tattoo ordeal

Cultural Buddhism has the same pitfalls as any religious right. The news from Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka in the past decade are devastating to the image westerners had of a peaceful Buddhism. Years ago people would often say things like "at least Buddhists never waged war." Sadly harm is propagated so easily yet beauty is so often overlooked or easily forgotten. This is the realm we live in. It is up to us to counteract the three poisons and build with the roots of happiness. Every moment has its ripple effect, the law of Kamma. Be productive, it may not seem like it but whatever we do in our little part of the world right here right now makes an impact in places and beings far far way, count on that. Generosity, compassion, wisdom cultivated on and off the cushion, that is the work, the practice. Keep it up.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

juvenile black capped night heron

Watched this fella catching polywogs in the pond this afternoon during Medical Qigong class, thank you Fairbanks Ranch country club for posting about these cool birds. There are often visitors to the ponds at Douglas Park in Santa Monica,  the other day a Great Blue heron, and a little Snowy Egret is a regular. The turtles are all different sizes, the mallards have ducklings and the sound of running water is great to sit by.

Monday, May 19, 2014


mind is the forerunner of all unhappy states, mind made are they, if one speaks or acts with an unskillful mind suffering will follow even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draft ox.
mind is the forerunner of all happy states, mind made are they, if one speaks or acts with a skillful mind, happiness will follow just as one's shadow that never leaves.  -Verses of the Dhammapada

Not one thing have I seen that creates such suffering as an untamed, untrained, unguarded and unrestrained mind, yet not one thing have I seen that creates such happiness as a tamed, trained, guarded and restrained mind. -Buddha

Ya can't just snap your fingers and change things. Jim used to have a saying about a tree needing to take time to grow strong roots to withstand the wind. That's why the middle way is a gradual path, practice takes time and persistence. Also it is rare to find an accomplished guide, even historically there are few that have not failed. Those that succeed are not apparent to the benighted. When I think of this and the experience of this life it is like setting sail, it is a great thing to be right here right now. The practice is its own reward and how sweet it is...

The Way Kids See It

Ordination Pedigree

So, Ummm,,, was thinking about the infinite universe, like sitting by a window watching the view when a rock hit the window. It was a message from Venerable Sudhamma who is registering folks for the Western Buddhist Monastic Gathering. The form had a place for what was highest ordination and who was ordaining master which I had filled out but I listed the full ordination master in the box under the date of novice ordination. So I corrected the form to include both  novice ordination master and full ordination master.

Now the thing is, Sensei ordained me when the Bhikkhunis ordaining Venerable Dipa rejected us.

This is old news to most anyone reading this and even for me it sounds like the proverbial beating a dead horse. But since ordaining as a novice have heard so much controversy and discussion around various members of the Sangha today here in the states regarding the dates they were ordained and who ordained them and whether it was acceptable or not, whether the reporting of their experience is accurate or not, whether there might be some claims that are less than complete, really reflecting the difficulty many westerners have had becoming ordained.

For us this is like discussing the pedigree of a dog who enjoys agility challenges, it is immaterial. I remain student of Sensei since she is focused on the practice not the lineage. No doubt about it - that is the heart of the matter. When frustrated with one another we will often say we are utterly incompatible but highly complementary. I tend to like structure and form but that is not as productive and I can see that, so her practice provides instruction for me that is very beneficial.

Venerable has a lengthy court case that details the reasons she undertook to ordain me herself and why this is acceptable and appropriate for the time and place, very Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck-ish. She had to develop this to help me cope with the isolation and seclusion we live in. By reiterating it to me periodically she softens the liver qi constraint that occurs in me when contact is made between those with legalistic inclinations and ourselves. The proverb about living in a glass house comes to mind. Our practice is to let go, repeatedly. Bring it up, let it go, fall down, get up - until all the chaff is blown away and only the purified emotions remain. To those who have supported us and continue to bear with these efforts I thank you and apologize for the staleness.

Thing is - as the onion peels each layer feels fresh to the one inside. This layer is a projection of what those who rejected us will respond like when they find out that Sensei ordained me herself. It is just a projection, which is a story - and see what stories do? Devastating, no good at all.
This is the practice, recognition and then substitution, substitute something better to think about. Another appropriate technique from Sensei’s teaching of the Dhamma would be to take on the suffering of anyone else feeling the same way, since I feel this way I might as well suffer for others feeling the same way so they don’t have to. Another way is to embody an avatar of compassion or wisdom, this is a marvelous practice. There are many others - see her workbook.  

Once upon a time Sensei was told that Buddhism is not a self help practice, but indeed how else could transformation take place?  As Mahatma Gandhi said, “ As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I found some interesting articles here


that validate Sensei's teachings once again


"SuttaCentral’s Vinaya coverage now includes:
  • Correspondences for Vinaya rules, totally some 14,000 individual instances of rules across 45 texts."
 thank goodness for the Buddha's common sense  and impeccable intention to bring clarity to us. As is recorded in the Vajjiputta Sutta: 

"train in reference to those three trainings: the training in heightened virtue, the training in heightened mind, the training in heightened discernment"

these are the three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path:

Heightened Discernment: best understanding and best intention
Heightened Virtue: best speech, best action and best livelihood
Heightened Mind: best effort, best mindfulness and best meditation

nothing is left out, nothing is unclear, persist and do your best, never forgetting the Buddha layed out GUIDELINES for our benefit, not rules.

new view at website

futzing around with website created link to this blog, hope you enjoy the new look.

Monday, May 5, 2014


we have a lot of work to do, nunks that is...not just nunks but anyone pursuing a spiritual practice path. What comes to your mind when I put that out there?

That was space in which to reflect. Did reform come to mind? Did personal discipline? Did the world at large? Did the Sangha?

I was actually just thinking about our practice, the continuous effort of minding the mind, guarding, restraining, taming and training the mind. When disharmony arises observing the turbulence manifested is absorbing and then observing the resumption of calm is also and this is the practice we share at GD.

It is so good to remember this when hindrances jostle to the head of the line. It is a challenge to stay rooted in this effort rather than making plans and responding to conditions and participating in discussions not centered on that effort, after all the discussions can be so close, so almost about the practice. But then a check in with the heart reveals that no, the discussion is just about decorum or deportment or translation or some other artificial construct and its importance fades away. Excitement fades away and Stillness shines forth again. All is well.

This is the avenue of practice we choose at great determination. The Dhamma and the Discipline are ever present, crystalline and vibrant but how are they known? They are tested, weighed and evaluated by utilizing discernment developed in meditation. This makes for a slow and humble approach, a gentle and respectful review of events that is not without humor. Written guidelines are applied with generosity, compassion and wisdom. The hazards of comparing, measuring, and adhering to strict interpretations is recognized and the harm in them assiduously avoided.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Clarification or obfuscation?

Sammuditta writes: 

Could you elaborate on this for me, please? From your blog:
"Lately she likes to say, 'We are all winners in the end.' This is the realization of oneness, we are one and we are now and all is what it is."
Do you mean we are one(Brahman) as in advaita, or do you mean interdependent origination? The former would be one extreme but the latter could still fit into advaya(beyond one/many, existence/nonexistence, self/nonself, etc...).
This was most likely taken out of context but since I haven't been there in awhile I was curious.
Thank you for your time.

Hi, it's been awhile, glad to hear from you. As you know, Sensei is not one to approach the Dhamma from such an academic perspective. Following her practical teachings helps me to alleviate suffering in my own mind and thereby not contribute to others suffering, perhaps even help.

So I mean "One" as in we are all interconnected, inseparable, duality is delusion. So to alleviate others suffering we must alleviate our own. She means there is no need to worry, no benefit in distress, worry and distress focus on the negative and close the door to the positive. How is that not duality? There is the essential paradox, as small minds we create duality to analyze, to discuss, to consider. The problem comes when we get attached to the categorization we applied and believe in its reality. Non duality is Oneness when we drop attachment to good and bad, positive and negative, then the potential is unlimited and our cultivation of the roots of happiness bears fruit. We are not applying just one strategy but several including attending to our own position in time and space.

In applying the teachings we each interpret, evaluate and implement them according to our own natures. Sensei bases the lessons in Dhamma but it is taken as a whole not sectioned out, it would be less effective for her to relate each point she makes to a particular passage. 

Welcome back, I am glad to say this not where a discussion of terms takes place, this is where we breathe generosity compassion and discernment right now and realize that terms like 'Brahman, advaita, and interdependent origination' are windows; here we are trying to open those windows to fresh air. Did I? or did I pull the shade unintentionally? I certainly don't have her discernment yet. I am only acting out of an intention based in cultivation of generosity compassion and wisdom, which I freely admit I could be doing better at. It is a persistent effort, a lot of effort, but it feels good.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

global warming

one of our most esteemed colleagues has a widely read blog ( http://sujato.wordpress.com/ )
where lately he discusses global warming at length. Sensei brought it to my attention. The community responding to his blog is quite chatty, intellectual, well educated, wordy. Unlike Great Determination where the focus is more on implementing the practice with our immediate experience. If this sounds judgmental I apologize, we are just notably different which I find interesting, not a bad thing. In fact I am so glad we are different, it is refreshing to have variety in perspectives.

I too am concerned about many things in the news, I read about the environment, people (including animals), science, technology, medicine but most of the time I keep sensei's discussions of Dhamma in mind and shed that light on what I take in. One of the most repeated lessons we work with is be here now. This is not callous, not indifferent, rather it is responsible. I am responsible for my well being which affects those I come into contact with and those they come into contact with and so on. By not becoming focused on the negative I am open to the positive and by cultivating an attitude of gratitude I encourage marvelous experiences to manifest every day and then cultivate awareness of them and celebrate the wonders presenting to my appreciation moment by moment.

This is our response to things like global warming, cruelty, injustice, exploitation, indifference. Perhaps you are familiar with Aikido, where no resistance is offered rather the motion or force presented is facilitated but with a different intention, trajectory and outcome than it originated with. Much the same is the way Sensei guides us in responding to our perceptions with Dhamma. If someone is consistently acting with aggression, unkindness, hostility it is time to practice compassion meditation; if there is a need, a lack, a wish it is time to practice gratitude; if there is sadness, fear, worry it is time to practice acceptance. The way Sensei leads us at Great Determination Sangha to implement the Dhamma is utterly practical.

With global warming and other big picture items it is time to practice trust.  Lately she likes to say, "We are all winners in the end." This is the realization of oneness, we are one and we are now and all is what it is.