Youtube Channel: The Compassion Network

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5/31/2010

TCN Buddhist Center

Moved to North Seattle and into a studio that is the new TCN Buddhist Center! Come by and tell a friend in the area to visit!

TCN Buddhist Center
11024 2nd Ave. NE
Seattle, WA 98125
upper corner unit in the building center of the block
Email: TheCompassionNetwork@gmail.com
Tel: 253-332-6752

Open any time where there is an activity on the schedule below:

TCN Buddhist Center Calendar(2)

5/29/2010

Learn Rare Buddhist Teachings Firsthand!

OBJECTIVE
Translate the Commentaries and Subcommentaries to the Flower Garland Sutra.
TERMS

If we reach at least $791 by June 29, 2010, then We will translate the first fascicle of the Commentaries to the Sutra in one month.

Here is the preface to the Commentaries by a preeminent Buddhist monk who taught seven Chinese emperors:

大方廣佛華嚴經隨疏演義序

   唐清涼山大華嚴寺沙門澄觀述
至聖垂誥。鏡一心之玄極。大士弘闡。燭微言之幽致。雖忘懷於詮旨之域。而浩瀚於文義之海。蓋欲寄象繫之跡。窮無盡之趣矣。斯經文理。不可得而稱也。晉譯幽祕。賢首頗得其門。唐翻靈編。後哲未窺其奧。澄觀。不揆膚受。輒闡玄微。偶溢九州。遐飛四海。講者盈百。咸扣余曰。大教趣深。疏文致遠。親承旨訓。彷彿近宗。垂範千古。慮惑高悟。希垂再剖。得睹光輝。順斯雅懷。再此條理。名為隨疏演義。昔人云。人在則易。人亡則難。今為解釋。冀遐方終古。得若面會。然繁則倦於章句。簡則昧其源流。顧此才難。有慚折中。意夫後學。其辭不枝矣。

The Preface to An Elaboration on the Meaning of the Commentaries to the Great Means Expansive Buddhas Flower Garland Sutra
By Sramana Cheng Guan of Tang Dynasty’s Avatamsaka Monastery, Qing Liang Mountain

The final teachings of the utmost supreme sage reaches the most ultimate and mystical in the singular mind’s mirror. By the candle, Bodhisattvas vastly and comprehensively proclaim the subtleties of these words. Though they may be forgotten in the zone of meanings interpreted, they are extensive like the sea of literary meaning. If you wish to know the elephant overall, you must begin by understanding its footprints; that way you will reach inexhaustible meanings. The principles to this text are said to be unattainable. Xian Shou grasped rather well the mystical intricacies contained in the Jing Dynasty version of the sutra translation; but those of latter generations were not able to peek into the profundity contained in the enchanting compilation of the Tang Dynasty edition o of the sutra translation. Cheng Guan does not accept superficial conjectures; instead he willfully expounds on its fine esoteric points which occasionally brim over the nine continents and soar above the four seas. There had been more than hundreds of speakers, I really do not mean much. The meaning of the great teaching is profound and the commentaries reach principles afar. By personally inheriting the instructions that are close to contemporary schools of thought, they become models who will last for millenia. Worried or confused over lofty awakenings, I hope that you will further dissect the principles so that we may behold its light and comply with their elegant intent. Furthermore, these principles are called the proclaimed meanings in the accompanying commentaries. People in the past said, “Things are easy when people are around; things are difficult when people are gone.” Hopefully these explanations today will reach those throughout lands and times. Though people come face to face with this text, they may grow weary of the passages due to their complexity or they may be blind to their source due to the simplicity of the text. Considering these difficulties, I shamefully compromised in the hopes that students in the future will not go astray in their understanding of the meanings.

Badges

5/23/2010

Women of Faith and Spirit: Exploratory Conversation 2

What is the special contribution of women to spiritual leadership?

An exploration with 25 women on the leadership style, paradigm and next steps for women of faith and spirit.

5/16/2010

A Buddhist Offering: Anticipations for Science

Inspired by the Wisdom 2.0 Conference and the recent research on neuroplasticity, I offer some musings that scientists may consider for further research. I am not a scientist and certainly would skew the data were I to do research given my likely preferential intent with the outcome; fortunately, I am merely someone who grew up with a scientific education. Affirmed by scientific research more often than not, I look forward to more resonances between science and Buddhism.

Inner World


Stanford University’s pioneer researcher, Phillip Goldin, shared his research data on two types of meditation: samatha and vipasannā, or focus and open awareness. Each produces unique signals in the brain.

I am intrigued and wonder what the brain imaging data might show for the meditative practice of dhyāna, or zen koans inquiring into the "I", the self, by asking "Who?" "Who is this I?" "Who is it that is reading?" "Who is it that is listening?" "Who is it that is smelling?" etc. What might the brain show when it is being contemplated upon as nonexistent?

The Shurangama Sutra specifically recommends this meditative inquiry through the sense organ of ear, as opposed to the eye, nose, tongue, body or mind, the sounds, sights, smells, tactile objects of touch, or thoughts, the ear consciousness, eye consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness or mind consciousness. What does our brain show when we use different meditation methods based on an aspect of a sense faculty? How does the speed of the sense data affect the quality of our meditative experience, e.g., the speed of light for images versus the speed of sound? How much of the sense data do we absorb then mimic, become inspired or depressed through mirror neurons?

Mirror neurons appear to intersect with the Buddhist idea of consciousness, of which there are six sense consciousnesses that collect data, a seventh consciousness that transports the data and an eighth (ālaya ) consciousness that acts as a repository. According to the Consciousness-Only School of Buddhism, all sense faculties, bodies, lands and realms all come into being because of the ālaya consciousness. Here is Thich Nhat Hanh's translation of a verse from Verses Delineating the Eight Consciousnesses:

How immense is the Unfathomable Triple Store!
From the deep ocean of the Store arise the seven waves of the seven
evolving consciousnesses,
This consciousness receives impregnation, preserves all seeds and also the
body, organs and environment.
It is the one who comes first and leaves last,
being truly a master of the house!

Obviously the implication here is that every piece of sense data we come across is experienced by the brain as a personal encounter, as if being perfumed. What programs, education methodology, life style choices can we create and promote to elevate us so that we and our children become kinder, wiser and more at peace? (I have some ideas if anyone is interested in hearing more!)

Outer World

The fascination with finding the ultimate building block may have moved beyond materialism, but it is still an attempt at conceptualizing the universe or multiverse. Quark is now shown to be the conceptual elemental unit, and it is 99% emptiness. The string theory makes sense of the "point" and vibrating waves but may be struggling in some mathematical fog.

On the matter of numbers, there is a metaphorical and metamorphosing relationship between zero, one, ten and infinity in Buddhist texts. I was struck by the string theory's ten dimensions, which parallels the Avatamsaka Sutra's cosmology. Ten is the number of dimensions for worlds. Each dimension continuously multiplies itself into multiple dimensions; hence infinity. And yet infinite and multiple galaxies fold into one thought or one hair pore, and finally experiencing time and space non-conceptually.

With one dharma, all dharmas are created; with all dharmas, one dharma occurs. Dharmas cannot escape their interrelatedness and can never stand on their own. Infinite conditions of the Dharma Realm come into being because of the mind alone. . . In endless layers, the one and the many accommodate each other; the large and the small enter one another; the one is the myriad dharmas and the myriad dharmas are just the one -- they interpenetrate and pervade without obstructing each other. (A Brief View of the Avatamsaka, a manuscript.)


The idea is demonstrated with one candle and ten mirrors.(See sample photo here.) The zero of the absence of inherent nature in the material candle is embodied in the one candle. The one candle is reflected in the ten mirrors while each of the ten mirrors further reflect ten more. The repetition occurs so that we see infinite candles.

I also offer ten theories and their analogies according to the Avatamsaka cosmology for possible scientific exploration:

1. The theory of totality. For instance, one drop of water in the ocean is replete with flavors from hundreds of streams.
2. The theory of transcending dimensions of space. For instance, a small television set can display what is happening in different parts of the world.
3. The theory of mutual accommodation. For instance, lights from a thousand lamps in a room interfuse.
4. The theory that the attributes of dharmas are just the inherent nature. For instance, waves and water cannot be apart from one another.
5. The theory of manifesting noumenon. For example, one individual can simultaneously be a son at home, a manager at work, and a parent at school without impeding one role over another.
6. The theory that the inherent nature of each phenomenon does not debilitate one another. For example, one Buddha may sit in a minute dust mote to turn the great Dharma wheel and establish the land of jeweled kings on the tip of his single hair.
7. The theory of inexhaustible nature. For example, the sheen of pearls referred to in the Indra's Net metaphor intersect, making appear layers upon layers of reflections.
8. The theory of knowing autumn with one leaf. For example, casually pick an item or an event and see infinite Dharma Realms.
9. The theory of the nature that transcends time. For example, one flies through a hundred years in a night’s dream.
10. The theory of role reversals. For example, one Buddha emerges in the world and thousands of Buddhas guard that one Buddha.

Behavioral Indicators


It appears that most of the research on a core virtue being studied, compassion, measures some form of proactive giving, whether monetary donations or a helping hand. There may be more indicators of compassion for researchers to consider.

Mahayana Buddhism names the Ten Pāramitās as practices for Bodhisattavas, enlightened beings who wish to be compassionate to themselves and others, and these are:

1. Dāna pāramitā: generosity, giving of oneself
2. Śīla pāramitā : virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct
3. Kṣānti pāramitā : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
4. Vīrya pāramitā : energy, diligence, vigor, effort
5. Dhyāna pāramitā : one-pointed concentration, contemplation
6. Prajñā pāramitā : wisdom, insight
7. Upāya pāramitā: skillful means
8. Praṇidhāna pāramitā: vow, resolution, aspiration, determination
9. Bala pāramitā: spiritual power
10. Jñāna pāramitā: knowledge

Rendering these in more specific actions for contemporary observation, I consulted the Brahma Net Sutra's prescription for Bodhisattvas. Here are a few indicators of compassion for consideration:

* Refrains from fault-finding, slandering, or gossiping about others.
* Accepts blame and endures humiliation and slander on behalf of others.
* Seeks conciliation and forgiveness humbly, rather than revenge.
* Counsels others to change for the better.
* Refrains from selling or storing deadly weapons.
* Promotes conflict resolution and peace.
* Maintains a vegetarian diet to reduce demand for slaughter.
* Cares for the elderly and the sick.
* Rescues the dying, including creatures large and small.
* Commits no arson.
* Leads with just use of authority, inspiration and service.
* Committed to help widely and for the long-term.


May this offering of random thoughts lead to the understanding and application of wisdom and compassion. May all beings be happy and at ease.

5/09/2010

The Limits of Compassion

Happy Mother’s Day! No one believes in me and sacrificed more for me than my mother. I see that mothers are the most compassionate beings indeed -- toward their own children.

Paul Ekman calls “tribal-bound compassion” the problem of our time, of our century. Until we untangle ourselves from this limitation, until we focus on global compassion and love all beings like our own children, we may end up destroying ourselves.

Why not bottle compassion as a potion for sale?

Since recent studies show how compassion releases oxytocin, endorphins and other biochemicals in the brain, perhaps we can bottle compassion to make us feel good, to make others be good to us, and to dominate the world with this magic? Oh, wait a minute, there are already labs out there bottling these chemicals. So why are we still so anxious, distressed and unkind?

In a society obsessed with quick fixes, we want our enlightenment and virtues in the next 15 days, or money back! Unfortunately, or fortunately, the process of being compassion evolves and is experienced from moment to moment until a lifetime or more goes by. To master the art of compassion requires patience, commitment and vigilant moment-to-moment mindfulness. There are no magic pills, but just as Alan Watts reflects, life, as "in music, one does not make the end of the composition, the point of the composition." It was a musical thing where we were supposed to sing or dance while the music was being played.


How do we become more compassionate?

Well, yes and no. . .

No, we do not become more compassionate because compassion is inherent, as more and more research such as those at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good show. Children help and comfort others in distress without the presence of parents, rewards or "warm glow". We are compassionate by nature, unlike much of the negative psychology tells us. There is no attaining compassion because we are already compassionate. It is more likely that we rediscover our compassion.

So yes, we need to practice to clear away any dust that covers our inner gem of compassion. Much of the practice takes an awareness that may require words at first; but at a certain point of inspiration, "elevation" or experiential, the narrative we construct falls away and there is only the open state of interconnected sense of compassion.


Is anyone undeserving of compassion?

This question struck me somewhat like a zen koan. My mind's gyration came to a grinding halt for a lack of a response. In that moment of pause, a plane of consciousness without conceptions and constructions reveals itself.

Easing out of that spaciousness and squeezing back into the reflective and analytical brain, I notice the perhaps unexamined arrogance in this question. Is compassion a basket to be handed out? Is someone or some collective playing God or judge, determining the how, how much and what for those "deserving" of compassion? Is there a definitive segregation between those distributing compassion and those receiving compassion?

I would imagine and certainly hope that at any time we can BE compassionate and accept compassion. (Actually, accepting compassion is often a way to be compassionate.) In my theoretical mode, I would further examine the perspective from which this question is posed, and that is, compassion cannot possibly come from a place of hierarchy, as if a hand-me-down to a lower echelon. Com-passion, together in passion, can only occur with the realization of interconnectedness, where me becomes we, especially with the realization that we are all in this together.

By claiming that someone is undeserving of compassion, we are essentially denying compassion for ourselves.


Is there politics in causes based on compassion?

Certainly, people can jockey for power in anything, even over virtues and the race to be more virtuous. We like to think that the line between good and evil is impermeable—that people who do terrible things, such as commit murder, treason, or kidnapping, are on the evil side of this line, and the rest of us could never cross it. The Stanford prison experiment and the Stanley Milgram shock experiments revealed the permeability of that line. Some people are on the good side only because situations have never coerced or seduced them to cross over. Pressured by high stakes, even those working for compassionate causes let their uglier heads rear.

In a world where there are more than enough struggles, we alleviate suffering and bring happiness by not engaging in any tug of war, but focus on areas where we can be compassionate. As Jimi Hendrix says, "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."


Is there such a thing as a Compassionate Corporation?

Saw a few high-tech entrepreneurs with huge hearts at the recent Wisdom 2.0 Conference. These business leaders know the value of doing good is good business and have been encouraging enlightening growth for individual employees, their corporate culture and the society at large. Seattle became the first Compassionate City, I expect to see first Compassionate Corporations, first Compassionate Universities, first Compassionate Congregations, first Compassionate Countries and others to join the ranks soon!

"Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move the hearts of men." -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe