Words from an American Lama
All local community members already know this, but since the website is still up it’s worth noting: KTC Minneapolis closed in 2012. Lama Pamela Holtum retired and there was no one to take over the space, so unfortunately the doors had to close.
Many thanks to all who meditated and practiced with us during the many years we were open and warm wishes on your path. There are many wonderful Buddhist organizations in the Twin Cities. Whether with a community or own your own, practice is the cornerstone of Buddhism and if you keep practicing you will reap results.
The following quote written by eminent scholar and Buddhist practitioner of note Robert A. F. Thurman is from his introduction to The Way Of The White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda.
…as we begin the twenty-first common era century in hopes of not repeating the violence of the world wars and genocides of the previous ones – it is crucial that we face up to some important lessons that Lama Govinda tirelessly taught. Western culture, based on the religious forms of Christianity and Islam, which, in Lama’s words, “lost themselves … by overpowering the human mind through the dictatorship of a partially world-creating and at the same time world-negating spirit,” is still relatively uncivilized, focused on the external conquest of other civilizations, violence, war, imperialism, and a rampant need for material possession and self-aggrandizement. Contrary to its inflated self-image, it is not the most advanced culture the world has yet seen. Its very developed material technology is, in fact, put to the childish uses of violent destruction and thoughtless consumption. Its worst problem is its foundational confusion, which leads those of us under its thrall to feel disconnected from nature. Hence we tend to be not responsible for the consequences of our actions, and distract ourselves from the extreme danger of destroying everything in our path by the irrational promise of either a blissful salvation by an absolutely disconnected omnipotent “God” or else a blissful oblivion.
Hence our barbarous culture – I do not call it a “civilization” – poses the ultimate threat to planetary life, to all the human beings of other more ancient and better balanced cultures, all other life forms, and the eco-system itself. … The urgent need, therefore, is for we bearers of ths unbalanced, disconnection culture to rediscover our interconnection with the rest of life, our infinite responsibility to ourselves and all other living beings, the extreme negative danger of our continuing on the path of destruction and consumption, and the positive potential for us to find a reliable happiness within our own souls, to conquer our own inner negative habits, and to cultivate our infinite capacity for love and joy.
The Buddhist world movement is not accurately thought of simply as a “world religion,” undersood as a set system of beliefs and institutions that parallel those of religions. It can be viewed that way with some validity – indeed both proponents and opponents do so – but it is only one-third a religion at most. It is more fundamentally a way of living and a pattern of ethics, a basis for numerous civilizations that emphasized individualism, wisdom, gentleness, altruism, and universal equality. And it is a way of understanding the world, a tradition of sciences based on the possiblilty of human beings developing a complete and accurate understanding of the realities of life and death. Its fundamental teaching intends to help beings understand their causal interconnection with all life, find the causes of all their sufferings, intervene to prevent those causes from giving their effects, and achieve the evolutionary goal of enduring and shareable happiness. It is therefore just what the victim/bearers of a confusion, violence-, and greed-based culture need to cure their self-imprisoning malaise and world-endangering malfunction.
Here’s a list of helpful websites collected by our sangha:
PBS has a wealth of segments on climate change.Excellent information.
The 2007 National Day of Climate Change Action. An amazing grass roots arising.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is an international panel on climate change developed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Goddard Institute for Space Studies: research at GISS emphasizes a broad study of global climate change.
Let us pray for world peace, social justice, and environmental balance, which
begin with our own breathing.
I breathe in calmly and breathe out mindfully.
Once I have seeds of peace and happiness within me, I try to reduce my selfish
desire and reconstitute my consciousness.
With less attachment to myself, I try to understand the structural violence in the
Linking my heart with my head, I perceive the world holisitically, a sphere full of
living beings who are all related to me.
I try to expand my understanding with love to help build a more nonviolent
I vow to live simply and offer myself to the oppressed.
By the grace of the Compassionate Ones and with the help of good friends, may
I be a partner in lessening the suffering of the world so that it may be a proper
habitat for all sentient beings to live in harmony during this millennium.
- Sulak Sivaraksa, from Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide To Making The World A Better Place, Melvin McLeod, ed. (Wisdom Pub. 2006)
Buddhism is one of the great world religions. Buddhism is non-theistic. It is not about God. It is about the Tibetan word which points at the ground of all being. We translate that Tibetan word into English as “mind,” but the Tibetan word does not mean what that English word mind means – not even close.
Our English word “mind” frequently means something as small as an epi-phenomenon of brain – not even close. Not even in the ball park.
We often use the word consciousness in place of the Tibetan word for what Buddhism is about. “Consciousness” comes closer, but the real issue is fundamental to the summit Buddhists wish to attain – words don’t go there.
The “ground of all being” can be looked at directly – but words, with their extraordinary limitedness, can not be used to label it; especially in the West where we have no experiential cultural habits. We value the intellectual. We value the material. We imagine ourselves to be separate. We believe our shadow belongs to what it’s projected on: everything is out there. This whole package is a long, long, non linear way from looking directly at the ground of all being.
But still, we can use the word consciousness to talk about what Tibetan Buddhism… all Buddhism… is about.
There isn’t a single pregiven world lying around out there waiting for all and sundry to see. Different phenomenological worlds – real worlds – come into being with each new level of consciousness development.
- Ken Wilber, Integral Spirituality, p 168.
The levels or structures of consciousness bring forth different world views.There isn’t something out there and we take different pictures of it. World views arise in consciousness. The actual states of structures that we’re in co create the world that’s arising. Bigger views lessen miscommunications. Understanding the structures of your own mind helps you understand the structures that you are bringing forth, and ultimately how to transcend all of them.
- Ken Wilber, Spirituality in the Modern World, DVD.
As part of our routine meditation practice, many of us take a bodhisattva vow, a promise to live our lives and pursue our meditative development so as to benefit all sentient beings. It sometimes sounds rather abstract. Such motivation, however, can result in profound changes in the way we live.
Here are some thoughts by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, taken from the Buddhist Ecology Link, a newsletter distributed through the Network of Buddhist Organizations (NBO):
“I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for his own self, family, or nation, but for the benefit of mankind. Universal responsibility is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world peace, the equitable use of natural resources and, through concern for future generations, the proper care for the environment… The natural environment sustains the life of all beings in the world; it is important that we all take whatever steps we can to preserve and maintain it before it is too late.”