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6/14/2010

Stepping into A New Realm



High School was a nightmare for me. I shiver at the thought of cliques shouting out their daily popularity index for their favorite cheerleader, back-biting and finger-pointing too often played out in the bathrooms for some reason, slick rumor mills and imitated moves meant to seduce in those pre-pubescent bodies. Unkindness was reserved for their targets, but really for the perpetrators.

Unfortunately, high school continues for many who never grow up.

In one of my first tastes of a women’s leadership workshop, I was dumbfounded by a list of shadows named. I never knew this was a common experience among women; I thought I was alone in my experience.

For twelve years I tried to drop my civil rights investigator knack at detecting discrimination until I reached a comfortable place where I was more often looking beyond gender, race, color, creed, religion etc., and seeing into the Buddha nature of each being I encountered.

Stepping into the territory of women of spirit and faith not only affirmed some observations that I never acknowledged but also made me realize that I was more comfortable among religious women. I am a straight though celibate nun, mind you, but “It’s just a feeling” that I am more comfortable with spiritual women. Not Asian religious fundamentalists of any tradition and not men who control and overpower. I sometimes dismiss “this feeling” because it is nothing rational or logical, and yet I am comforted and comfortable with how feelings are accepted as valid and intuitions are considered important among women of spirit and faith. Though I am very good at being logical and analytical, I cannot find all the answers through thinking. I stop thinking for answers.

This non-analytical and non-linear stream of consciousness is precisely what many spiritual seekers practice, including me on my Buddhist path. This and other inner spiritual methods may resonate with women who are interested in depth and deepening, perhaps more so than hands stretched toward the sky in the hopes of a hand extended in return.

This type of thinking (non-thinking mode), capable of being mastered by both men and women, requires awareness, egolessness, collaboration, being open to or even embracing differences through non-judgment, care, kindness and compassion. Qualities lacking in many earlier models of leadership, now more than ever, need to be brought to the fore.

6/13/2010

A Chinese Mahayana Nun’s Many False Names

A pointed finger or stutters sometimes replaces my name. Why? English speakers have trouble pronouncing it, and which part? Is it just Guo? Is it pronounced Go, Gwo? Cheen – is it Chin or like Cheetos with an “n”? And with or without the Reverend as a title? Or is it Sister, Venerable or some other honorific?

I appreciate people asking, and yet sometimes I do not seem to have a strong preference. I wonder in my head: Who am I? Will you ever know me?

I went with Cheen or Reverend Cheen because I think it is easier for people. It is also part of the Chinese Buddhist tradition to only call a monastic by his or her unique part of the Buddhist name (in my case, Cheen) plus the title “Dharma Master”, so it would be most polite to call me 琴法師 (Dharma Master Cheen). OMG! I much prefer the casual friendliness of the western culture considering the sound of that!

Creating an identifier easiest for people was the exact reason that my father gave me my legal name “Linda” at the age of ten when our family immigrated to the United States. Just try and pronounce Long-Chyn! And I don’t even have a long chin! Actually, it’s a meaningful name that contains a Chinese character that loops to my father and his siblings’ names; similarly, the names for my father and his siblings contain a Chinese character that loops to my grandfather’s generation. The linked characters together mean “prosperity” or “universe” etc. Each person also has a unique character to his or her first name.

Having used “Linda” as a label for nearly 30 years, I then tried to completely erase that identity. I discovered permanent remnants of Linda in not only the identity of my spirit, psyche and social circles, but most certainly on social security papers! Yes, papers may be biodegrade, but that "Linda" is in the records for a long time!

I also discovered that my Buddhist names (yes, there are a few – inner, outer, refuge, novice, ordained, aliases and perhaps some posthumous name will be granted me) contain those meaningful connectors too. Sometimes they become said reasons for hierarchy and oppression.

And I don’t know whether it’s a cultural thing or it is the virtue of respecting the Triple Gem (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, of which I am a monastic member), but there are all kinds of grand titles that accompany every little nun like me! But again, it is for those who call on this entity to earn the karma of being respected in turn when respecting others, especially toward members of the Buddhist monastic order, according to Buddhist thought.

Etiquette grew out of this idea and perhaps the Asian culture aided it. Monastics uniformly have the surname of “Shr”, a transliteration for "釋" in Chinese , which is a transliteration for the Sanskrit "Shakya", the family name of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. For Chinese monastics, this Shr is sometimes confused with Shi (師), transliteration for the abbreviated version of Dharma Master or Dharma Teacher (法師).

In case you are not confused enough, here is an all-too-linear listing of the names by which I have been identified.

Metamorphosis: 王隆琴 (Wang Long-Chyn), Linda Long-Chyn Wang, Guo Cheen/果琴, 釋親弘, 釋近廣, Reverend Cheen/果琴法師

I love my late teacher, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua – see, there’s another title with no last name and sometimes referred to as Master Hua – and how he designates true names for himself such as Tiny Ant, Crazy Monk, Little Mosquito, Living Dead Man, Monk in the Grave, etc. More importantly, these are expressions of the lightness of his ego, an attitude toward the status quo and like Thich Nhat Hanh’s poem in an earlier post, “Please Call Me By My True Names”, an easy understanding of how connected we are, so connected that we readily morph into each other and all beings.

Now, that’s freedom I can lick by licking all those many names!

6/07/2010

A Prescription for Happiness: A Twelve Step Program

If only I were slimmer. . .
If only I had the money to . . .
If only so-and-so were my partner . . .
If only these people knew who I will be someday . . .
If only I were born into a different family . . .

We fantasize about how perfect our lives would be if and only if those “if only’s” were realized. We imagine how the requisites, if met, would make us complaint-free and happy forever and ever.

Start observing all the movies, programs and advertisements that promise to increase our happiness, directly or indirectly, if we buy what they are trying to sell. Pay attention to the externals that we desire and buy to make us happy or happier.

I chased after achievements all my life. I told myself how I wanted those grades in elementary school, high school, college, and graduate school. I pursued the similarly illusory success in the real world. When I thought I had made it, it was a let down, a “dreadful hoax” as Alan Watts observed.

A sense of deep dissatisfaction and restlessness remained despite the external approvals. I sought meaning. I learned to let go, first the peace and recharge from temporary letting go’s for a day, a weekend, and a week or longer retreats. Then I learned to let go for the long run by joining an order of monastics. People whom I thought would support my path of peace turned out to be petty and controlling. I was evicted from where I thought was my life-long retreat only to pick things back up again.

Through it all, I started to notice what makes me happy from within and built on that. Internal happiness is free, within my control and cannot be taken away by anyone. This time, I was to let go of the self that wanted to let go. The self is the ego, which is linked explicitly with the phenomenon of "othering," rather than the sturdy sense of self that is by any reasonable measure a healthy thing. In Tenzin Palmo's words, it is "this tight little sense of solidity in the center of our being which is 'me,' and which therefore makes everything else into 'non-me.'" Ego is not so much a thing, then, as a condition: a narrowness and a paralysis and a grievous limitation.[1]

To generate internal happiness, therefore, simply stop thinking about ourselves and help others. The less we think about ourselves and the more we help others, the happier we will become. Our brain secretes positive chemicals corresponding to our positive emotions.[2] When we help someone, we are being generous with our time and personal resources. We are being brave because we are not afraid of losing out while we are helping someone else, instead of ourselves. Plus, we experience the feeling of love and well being when we help someone. [3]

Hence, I learned to apply the law of cause and effect to my advantage, which is the law of attraction in the mind, with speech and with action: do onto others as you would want done onto you.

For instance, I started giving away what I could, such as packed lunches with notes of encouragement for the homeless I know I always see when I go downtown. Although I had no bank account, no house and no income at the time, I felt that I had enough to share. As a mendicant, I relate to the homeless. Consciously I was not asking for anything in return, and yet I felt reassured of my current and future abundance because, after all, I have so much to share. In addition or perhaps due to the messages that my body and mind receive in not having to panic about poverty, I attract rather than repel opportunities for further material abundance.

When I am afraid, I notice the sudden onset of anxiety attacks. I acknowledge those thoughts and sensations, then notice the other side of the coin of fear, bravery. I never feel one side unless I own both sides. Someone who has never known happiness could not tell you what sadness feels like, someone who has never known sickness could not tell you what health feels like, and someone who has never experienced poverty could never know wealth when they encounter it. So I put, for the time being, that seemingly feeble part of me to use. The more I use that muscle to help others alleviate their fears, the more my personal fear diminishes or dissipates.

With sound intentions and balanced mindfulness, we reap what we sow, but the “we” is redefined. By helping others sow, all involved reap similar effects. Do unto others as we would want done onto ourselves is not only a moral imperative but a practical strategy for getting what we want in life.

A Twelve Step Program to Happiness

1. Compassion

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, vow to cultivate compassion and to learn the ways of protecting the lives of people, animals and plants.[4]

2. Generosity

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, vow to practice generosity by sharing time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need.[5]

3. Faithfulness

Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, vow to cultivate responsibility and learn ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society.[6]

4. Honesty

Aware of suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to the suffering of others, vow to cultivate loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering.[7]

5. Mindfulness

Aware of our thoughts, emotions, speech and physical sensations, label them as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral instead of creating entire dramas around them

6. Non-duality

Acknowledge that for every aversion or attachment that surfaces, we also embody their opposite.

7. Non-judgment

Note that stressors are effervescent and let cease the discriminating analytical mind’s critiques and aversion.

8. Pause

Take a few deep breaths and open ourselves up to the consciousness of the body, to a higher level of consciousness or to the universal hum.

9. Presence

Enjoy being fully present in the now, without worries about the past or the future. Abide in the open spaciousness and stillness, savoring any sense data that come to us at that point and any messages that emerge for us.

10. Action

Do onto others as we would want done onto us. Use the law of attraction to bring the effect we want into our lives by committing some small act of kindness everyday.

11. Dedication

Direct the invisible capital from our good deeds and kind thoughts to ourselves and others.

12. Gratitude

Be grateful for all that we have and received.

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. And therein lies happiness.

[1] Carol Lee Flinders. Enduring Lives: Portraits of Women and Faith in Action. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

[2] Michael Anthony. How to be Happy and Have Fun Changing the World. http://www.howtobehappy.org/free-happy-e-book.html

[3] Michael Anthony. How to be Happy and Have Fun Changing the World. http://www.howtobehappy.org/free-happy-e-book.html

[4] Thich Nhat Hanh. For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.

[5] Thich Nhat Hanh. For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.

[6] Thich Nhat Hanh. For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.

[7] Thich Nhat Hanh. For a Future to Be Possible: Commentaries on the Five Wonderful Precepts. Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1993.

6/05/2010

Making History with the Buddhadharma!

Translating the Commentaries to the Flower Ornament Sutra Now!
弘揚佛法於西方!

I'm inspired today to share an idea for how you can make history for the English-speaking world. I believe you are kindred protectors of the Dharma who would wish to bringing Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries on the Avatamsaka Sutra 華嚴經疏鈔by National Master Qing Liang清涼國師 into English for yourself, Westerners and English-speakers all around the world.
I am living up to a vow of helping to share the Dharma in the West and English-speakers by translating Buddhist texts. Please see the translated preface to the Commentaries to the Avatamsaka Sutra. Just by reading the draft translation will give you shivers of awe, understanding, and strengthened Bodhi resolve. Read the English and Chinese preface here -- http://www.thecompassionnetwork.blogspot.com/
Read the Chinese in its entirety here – http://player12345.myweb.hinet.net/web/C8.htm
This is exquisite and enlightening literature that will awaken our understanding of the mind, cosmology, the magic of interconnectedness to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It is knowledge that will broaden our minds and humanity’s minds in a whole new way.
The catch is that this translation has only begun. We need that extra bit of excitement, juice, and support to get it started. This can be an opportunity for a movement of merit-making and blessing-building. Time, talent and treasures are all welcome.
If you're with me in recognizing that this translation simply has to be completed (and soon!), here is our three step-idea for how we do it by creating a big wave of buzz this week:
* Read the translation
* Donate $1 at The Point today to help make it and gain access to it - more gets your name in the credits!

* Invite 5 friends to read the translation and do the same today - I've put an invite sample below.
Simple! For ten minutes and $1 or more, you can be a history-maker for Dharma in the West!

In Infinite Interconnectedness,
Guo Cheen

******Template below this line*****

Dear friends,

Let's make history for the Buddhadharma! Check out the following translation and if you're as inspired as me by its lofty and all-embracing principles, pass it along to 5 friends today and help it spread like wildfire.

http://www.thecompassionnetwork.blogspot.com/
I'm donating $1 to translating the Commentaries and Sub-Commentaries to the Avatamsaka Sutra and I'll announce its completion to 10 friends when it comes out, which shows the translator(s) that they have support and will persist. I invite you to join me in doing the same.
The world needs more ancient wisdom that wake us up and this text can deliver. Let's make it happen!