In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

May your 2012 be filled with peace.

Friday, December 30, 2011

NYC New Center!

Here's a cause for rejoicing: The Kadampa Center in New York City is getting a new home!
Their current location has many limitations, most notably its small size: For years now, people have been packed into their General Program classes, and I'm told they've even had to turn people away.

Check out the photos and description of their new space:
Also note that Chakrasambara Center is now a special center, called a "KMC."

As you can imagine, real estate is very expensive in the city, even during an economic slump.
If you want some good karma, generate your biggest mind of love for all, and then make even a small donation; imagine how many people will benefit.

You can also make donations to our Seattle Kadampa Center or the International Temples Project, which is creating new Temples all over the world, as well as schools (!), hotels, retreat centers, etc.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Protector Day

The 29th of every month we celebrate our Dharma Protector, Dorje Shugden, who helps us with our spiritual practice. It's a good day for making prayers.
As Shantideva says in Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, in some of my favorite lines, in a book that has a lot of great lines:
"May I become a protector for the protectorless,
A guide for those who travel on the road,
And, for those who wish to cross the water,
May I become a boat, a ship, or a bridge."

Car Blew a Gasket ...

... but I am happy to report that we (Richard, Dachog and I) did not.

It was a live example of the teaching in How to Solve Your Human Problems about inner and outer problems.:
"Our problems do not exist outside our mind. The real nature of our problems is our unpleasant feelings, which are part of our mind.  When our car, for example, has a problem, we often say, 'I have a problem,' but in reality it is not our problem but the car's problem. ... By differentiating between animate and inanimate problems like this, we can understand that the real nature of our problems is our own feelings, which are part of our mind."

I remember the first time I heard this teaching, at Summer Festival. It was brilliant! So wise!
One Teacher told us it's as if we don't have enough problems of our own - we feel obligated to take on all the problems of the things around us : )
More recently Gen-la Dekyong went on to explain that our problem is our attachment to our car, having a car that runs.

Here's the story, a few days old (as I said yesterday, I'm a bit behind):
Thursday we were driving out to Eastern Washington to spend Xmas with Richard's sister Susie when Richard noticed the car's temp was very high. I am so glad he stopped in Cle Elum to have it checked out. Both the Shell station and the mechanic they referred us to diagnosed a blown head gasket. Neither of them charged us. [You can insert your own car-ma pun here. One of my friends in college wore a pin that said, "My karma ran over my dogma."]
The word "blown" is misleading - it's not like a blown tire, which makes it hard to control the car and can be very dangerous. We didn't notice any particular event, just the temperature indicator, and the car still functions, although it's potentially dangerous.
I remember trying to find the problem - my mind habituated to thinking that a broken-down car was a problem - but mostly I kept thinking, "We're safe; we're safe." We weren't in an accident. No one's injured or sick. We're with each other. We have food. The sun is out. I did have to apply a bit of patience waiting for the towtruck, which took an hour, as we were warned it would.
The Buddhas were looking out for us - we could have been stranded by the side of the road, in a place where there's no cell-phone reception, in the cold and snow ....
Also there were recently a few pieces in the local paper about high towing fees in Seattle. In fact, there's no limit to what they can charge, and stories about $2,000 fees for towing within the city. Our charge came to $300 for 90 miles, and we did not have towing on our insurance or the Gold AAA membership.

Just for fun: This is what Richard posted on Facebook. He rode inside the car with the dog, on top of the towtruck; Dachog and I rode inside the cab of the truck with the driver. Richard said his experience was like being in a sleigh. Then we talked about the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, picturing him in his sleigh, on top of the big bag of all the presents he'd stolen from Whoville.

Rudolph the red-strobed wrecker
Hauled a lot of heavy loads
And if you ever saw him
You would even say he towed.

All of the other tow trucks
Wanted him to come and play
They couldn't see why Rudolph
Had to work for Triple A.

Then one sunny solstice day
Santa called to say
"Rudolph with your big flatbed
Won't you tow away my sled?"

Then all the wreckers loved him
As they shouted with a smile
"Rudolph the red strobed wrecker
You can net three bucks a mile!"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Not an Empty Seat

Sorry ... catching up.
Here's some fodder for rejoicing: KMC Washington had a Xmas Eve service that was completely packed! There was not an open seat in the expanded gompa - we even had to carry up some chairs from downstairs. I heard there were 150 people! Lots of brand-new people; lots of families.
People seem to like the candle-lighting ceremony at the beginning, where everyone gets a small votive to light and place on the shrine table. We also had luminaria outside and beautiful evergreen decorations downstairs.
Gen Khedrub gave a nice teaching about patience and giving, as well as encouragement for a regular meditation practice, even a small one.
There was food afterward, savory and sweet, although I confess I slept through that part. I was planning a short rest, but the next thing I remember was Richard waking me up to go home.

We have a similar event scheduled for New Year's Eve.
May it bring many people to the Temple and may they find real peace.

Nice Photo of Kees

Leanne sent me this nice photo of her brother.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Kees, Suzanne's son, Leanne's brother, passed away yesterday.
Please keep them all in your prayers.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Longer-Term Patience

Slowly, slowly, slowly, I am coming to understand patience better.
Next thought: Umm ... you didn't expect to understand patience quickly, did you?

When I used to think of patience, it meant trying not to be annoyed while standing in a checkout line or waiting for a traffic light to change.

But now I'm aware of deeper kinds of patience - for one, during meditation.
My main distraction used to be wondering how much time was left for meditating.
It was like the kids in the back of the car on a road-trip, always asking, "Are we there yet?" Even when you've just pulled out of the driveway. Such an antsy mind.

Enjoy the ride; enjoy the scenery; enjoy your practice. We're taught it can be like going from joy to joy - there's a reason it's called the joyful path. Doing mandala offerings during retreat last week, it felt like a kid building sandcastles on the beach, and it was fun being as absorbed in them as a kid at play.

I'm also learning patience with my practice overall. At US Festival this year, Gen Samtem advised us that we should enjoy practicing where we are. In fact, he noted, it's the only place we can practice. Our problem is that we try to practice where we're not. We make ourselves unhappy by having unrealistic expectations, imagining that everyone else is a better meditator. After hearing this advice, it may seem like commonsense, but I found it such a valuable insight. So true. So helpful.
Gen-la Dekyong added that it's our self-cherishing setting us up for a fall: Our self-cherishing thinks we should only do things we can immediately be good at. It then berates us for our lack of instant success, discourages us from continuing, and tells us to quit.

What strikes me is that this patience has a quality of contentment.
Gen Khedrub is strong on this subject: He talks about simply spending time with your meditation object, letting the minutes go by, peacefully absorbed.

Ultimately I'd love a realization of patience as defined in How to Solve Our Human Problems:
"Patience is a mind, that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much  more than gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means welcoming wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are."

My Xmas Wish List

It may look familiar if you've seen my bucket list ; )

Attain the realizations of:
* 3 Principle Aspects of the Path
* Generation Stage
* Completion Stage

Can you guess my birthday wish list?

Monday, December 12, 2011

If Rats Can Do It ...

I don't usually post news articles in this blog, but a few days ago there was an article that describes how a free rat will try to release a captive one, and it was such a powerful image for me. If rats can generate empathy, certainly I can develop compassion and bodhichitta.

As it says in another article about the same research, "In repeated tests, rats freed another trapped rat in their cage, even when yummy chocolate served as a tempting distraction. ... The rats could have gobbled the chocolate before freeing their partners, but often didn't, choosing to help and share the goodies."

From the neurobiologist who conducted the research: "I would suggest that helping is what we are biologically programmed to do. You have to suppress that biological tendency to not help. If we owned up to our biological inheritance a little bit more than we do, we would be better off."

In addition, when I meditate on Equanimity, the being I most often use for aversion is rats. (I didn't even want to see the animated movie Ratatouille.) So knowing that they have good qualities is helpful for that too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Be Tired

Here's a subject I know something about ...
One of the qualities of Kadampa Buddhism, as anyone who's been to a General Program class knows, is that it's very practical. It's designed to be used in our life, no matter what's going on. For example, when I'm fatigued from chemo, I can still practice. When I'm fatigued, I notice my mind is much more vulnerable to negativity, so it helps to have a repertoire of easy, positive activities. Here are a few things I do, starting with the less obvious.

* Stare at the line drawings in Geshe-la's books - I learned about this very recently. Gen Khedrub told our class that he'd made himself a booklet of photocopies of all the drawings. CarolF, who's a longtime practitioner, also recommended this to me: She said there's something about the simplicity of black and white that works well when you're tired.

* Roll mantras for filling statues - it's a virtuous, low-impact activity. My mother-in-law, the nun Dachog, is in charge of statue filling at our Center, so that connection may have been what pulled me in. You can roll them to fill your own statues or give them to your Center if it fills statues.
I realize this wouldn't be a good activity if your hands were in pain from arthritis, say.
If you're not familiar with the process, Tharpa has a booklet that explains everything; the accompanying CD has all the mantras that you can print from your computer. I recommend a good papercutter; we use this one.
Tips: Remember to recite the special mantra when you've finished a roll, and don't forget the Correcting Mistakes mantra for the lotus.
I also do this when visiting family (Richard's family, that is - I wouldn't do this at my Dad's because it would seem strange). We like to sit around with each, but not always doing something together like playing a game or doing a puzzle. Sometimes it's nice to be in each other's company without feeling compelled to talk.

* Pujas - I'm greedy for blessings, but sometimes the only way I can make it is to lie down in the back. (I confirmed with my Teacher this was OK.) At our Center I'll put out 2 zabutons (the big cushions) and lie down  parallel to the shrine; I do try to sit up for the special parts, like tsog offering, mandala offering, tea offering and the long-life prayers.
Note: When Gen-la Dekyong was the RT in Seattle, she told us it was inauspicious to lean on the walls of the gompa.

Yoga of Napping - Sometimes it's wiser to give in to the need to rest, rather than fight it. Thankfully we have this Highest Yoga Tantra practice (if you've received Vajrayogini and Heruka empowerments).

Taking meditation - this is one of my favorites, so I'm able to do it when I'm tired. Pick your own favorite.

* Reciting mantras is also a favorite. There's even something comforting about just holding my mala.

* Rejoicing is easy and virtuous. Teachers explaining this practice often mention that you can do it lying down. It's as simply as being happy at anyone's good qualities or virtuous activities.

* Reading Dharma of course. When you're tired, it works better to just read a paragraph or even a sentence, over and over.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Definition of "Friend"

I think of a friend as someone who brings out the best in me.
It used to be a select (small) group, but since I've started learning Lamrim, I am trying to have more equanimity and make it encompass more and more beings. For one thing, I'm trying to feel friendly toward more and more people, which used to be really hard for me, because I was scared of them and of what they'd think of me.

Now that I am trying to be a friend of the world, I can still use that definition: I can learn something from every being I meet, see, or think about. We learn that we achieve liberation and enlightenment in dependence on 2 groups of beings: Buddhas, of course, but we also ordinary beings, who help us practice compassion, patience, etc.
My Guru is my supreme spiritual friend.
You are my friend.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prayers for Sue

While you are praying, please dedicate for Sue Hulley of Saraha Center in San Francisco. Many of you know her because she has taken care of us as a gompa steward at Summer Festival. She is now on hospice but has a peaceful mind, as you might expect from her.
I am so sad at this news.
Good thing I'm on renunciation today. Not that I needed more "ammunition" - we've all got to get out of here.

Channeling the Guru

While I was trying to meditate on emptiness this morning, after absorbing my Guru and mixing my mind with his, I pretended I actually had his mind. It was helpful - another angle on emptiness - and fun. What would it be like?

Update on Hazel

Speaking of inspiring practitioners ...
Despite her poor health, Hazel is planning to do her first Vajrayogini counting retreat! She says that the most comfortable position is on her meditation cushion.
May her body cooperate so that she can become very close to the Venerable Lady and enjoy a blissful retreat.
For her treatment, she is relying on Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (that's us); please keep sending your prayers to her.

Update on Kees

Please keep those prayers coming for Suzanne's son. He's a little bit better, though still in ICU. His situation is so complicated. Suzanne is very happy with his team of doctors at the UW Medical Center, but they still have trouble figuring out what's going on. Because he's paralyzed, his body will be in pain - it will react seizures or a fever, for example - but he can't identify where the pain is. Can you imagine? The docs mostly rely on tests, but sometimes they can't do imaging or other tests if they can't get his body into the position needed.
Today he's scheduled to get  "trach" (tracheotomy tube) put in his throat, so that they can remove the airtube in his mouth, which Suzanne said will be good. I say "scheduled," because his situation changes so fast. It's a dramatic teaching in impermanence.

Suzanne is such an amazing practitioner. I am so inspired by her. She's keeping a peaceful mind and taking care of herself. She's even doing her Kadampa art projects on her laptop in Kees's room!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Lesser-Known Sources of Protein

This is simply an article about my diet, which I hope might be useful to some of you, but there's no Dharma in it, except in the sense of taking care of your body - the vehicle that can bring so much benefit to others - like an ambulance team takes care of an ambulance.

Because I am not eating beans (green, pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo), based on a food-sensitivity test my naturopath gave me, and trying not to eat too much soy, and I don't generally eat meat ... what do I do for protein?
I'll confess I've been eating wild Alaska salmon 1x/week at the suggestion of my naturopath, because it's considered anti-cancer. I have very mixed feelings about this. Every time, I thank the fish for giving up its body for me and generate bodhichitta, promising myself to use my body in the service of others.

* Chia seeds -
My naturopath just told me about these; he learned about them from a patient. They're associated with barefoot runners in Northern Mexico who are famed for their ability to run long distances.

* Lupin seeds
The NY Times had a recent article
"Lupin seeds have been used as a high-protein food for over 3,000 years around the Mediterranean, and as for as long as 6,000 years in the Andean highlands of Latin America. ...
Lupin seed is also nutritionally superior to soy in several respects, according to some researchers. A comparative study of lupin seeds and soybeans published by the F.A.O. in 2003 found that lupin seeds had a higher protein content, at 35 percent to 40 percent, against soybeans’ 24 percent to 32 percent. ...."
They sell it at a place called the Vegetarian Butcher in the Netherlands, among other places.
I haven't tried them yet - just thought this was interesting.

* Quorn - mycoprotein (fungi family, which includes mushrooms and truffles) - comes as burgers, roasts and nuggets. It's what we had for Thanksgiving. Good in stir fry and many other dishes. I like the taste and the "mouth feel." Some people say it bothers their stomach.

* Field Roast - a grain meat that comes as deli meat, sausages, and loaves
Made in Seattle : )

* Quinoa - I have a favorite recipe that has mandarin oranges, raisins, oil, nuts, scallions; it's good on fresh spinach.

* Almond "yogurt" (for smoothies) and almond milk (for cereal). Today I'm going to try almond-based cheese, Swiss style, on the vegetarian reuben sandwiches R makes at the Temple - they are so good.

* Coconut milk in black tea

* Rice protein powder - I've also heard there's pea protein powder, which would have less sugar. That's what I'm buying next. Add to smoothies.

* Goat's milk cheese, if you're craving cheese - my naturopath said it's the best animal variety, and my husband found some support for that when he did Internet research (I don't like the texture - or the idea - of soy cheese). Will eat the almond cheese instead if it's any good.
There was a large variety of cheeses made from goat's milk available at my co-op - not just the kind of French cheese I used to think of as goat.

Not So Obscure Sources of Protein I'm Eating
* Nuts of course, including the 1 Brazil nut a day for selenium I mentioned in another post.

* Free-range organic eggs from the co-op

Gen-la Public Talk Thurs Jan 12

In Vancouver, 5 mins from Tilopa Centre at
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial Drive, Vancouver    

Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door.  For tickets and more info, see

I plan to attend.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bound for Enlightenment

Have you noticed how much the gompa at Majurshri Centre is like an airplane?

* We have the pilot (Geshe-la) in the front, along with his co-pilot (Gen-la Dekyong, or whoever else is teaching). They are flying us to enlightenment on what I like to think of as NKT Airlines.

* VIP section in the front, where the seats are wider and more comfortable than in coach.

* 2 main aisles with seating on either side, with windows at the edges.

* This is the real give-away: We have people called "stewards" (remember when flight attendants were called "stewardesses"?; some of you are probably too young), who are responsible for our safety and comfort. They check our (boarding) passes on entering and make sure our bags are not too big to carry on. They also serve water if you need it.

* Safety instructions over the audio system: "...go for refuge to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha" and the directions on bodhichitta, which requires getting yourself to enlightenment first because it's the only way we can really be of benefit, which my Teacher likes to compare with putting on our own oxygen mask before helping those around us.

* Security checks for bags.

P.S. EllenM adds: We get views of blue skies behind the clouds of our delusions.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Relying on Sangha

We had a day course on Refuge Sat with Gen Khedrub, where we learned about how to rely on the 3 Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Of the 3, relying on Sangha can be the hardest to understand. It makes sense to rely on enlightened beings and what they teach, but how can you rely on ordinary people, who can be unreliable? We're all deluded after all.

One traditional analogy for the 3 Jewels is that they are like the doctor, the medicine, and the nurses. I don't know where I'd be without my nurses. Like ordinary nurses, they can offer practical tips about what the doctor has prescribed ("mix the L-gluatamine with apricot nectar or tomato juice"), to make it possible to actually do it.

One of the ways we go for refuge to Sangha is for encouragement. For example, I was inspired by Carol and Ken in our local Sangha, who are doing their Preliminary Guides, and have even finished a couple! Now I, too, am keeping track of my daily prostrations and water offerings, and have a sheet for tallying my mandala offerings as well. I'm in no rush. Drop by drop, we fill the bucket.
I'm also encouraged by my discussion partners in class who know their outlines and who can summarize what we're studying. I don't want to disappoint them when it's my turn.

We're taught that our Resident Teacher is Sangha too; for example, I consult with him about what retreat I'm thinking about doing.
I can't imagine where I'd be without Sangha - probably in a ditch by the side of the road (as my Mom used to say), in the spiritual sense.
Maybe it even helps that they're deluded - they know what it's like, on a chilly December morning, to prefer a warm bed to a hard cushion. (I've learned to call on Vajrapani then.)
They can make prayers for us, and they pray with us.
They keep us company on the path.

In the end, who knows who they really are? Before I went to my first Festival, someone recommended borrowing a video of Geshe-la teaching to get used to his accent. He gave the teaching that we could be the last ordinary being in the world - that everyone around us is an emanation of a Buddha. I've always found that quite plausible.

My Sangha have instructions to lock me in the gompa if I ever talk about following the samsaric path ; )

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Bucket List

My list of things I want to do before I die - it's quite short.
Less scary than sky-diving. More meaningful than visiting all 50 states.

Attain the realizations of:
3 Principle Aspects of the Path
Generation Stage
Completion Stage

Send tips!

In the cancer movie 50/50, a black comedy, the hero has a big emotional flare-up the night before his surgery. Among his regrets are that he's never even been to Canada - which is unintentionally funny because, although set in Seattle, the movie was actually filmed in Vancouver. Dude, you're IN Canada!
Am I recommending the movie? The main character's pretty appealing, but it's very much a Hollywood treatment of the disease: Somewhat shallow and not quite real. It might a good introduction for people who are scared of cancer - or even people with cancer - because they don't know what it's like.

P.S. Yesterday someone at the my Center made the connection for me between "bucket list"' and "kicking the bucket."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Prayers for Hazel

Please make strong prayers for my good friend Hazel, who is the Admin in Tucson. Her body has advanced cancer, and it is advancing. May it beat a hasty retreat and dissolve into emptiness. Peace to her, her husband, daughters, and parents.

Thank you.