Friday, November 27, 2009


Om Mani Padme Hum

This is the most sacred of all Tibetan Buddhist chants. It literally translates to "OM, jewel in the lotus, Hum". It is endlessly translated in depth and it is said that all of the teachings of the buddha are within these six syllables. It is Chenresig's mantra of great compassion, and Chenresig is considered Tibet's protector. It is considered the national mantra of Tibet, and it is the Dalai Lama's mantra. It can be heard all throughout Tibet, and can be seen on prayer flags, prayer wheels and carved in stones.

When you recite this mantra it is imperative to think about it's meaning. The meanings are so vast, and widely interpreted that you can probably study and read about it indefinitely. So, the brief introduction I am giving here is just that.

OM; is made up of three letters, A U M. It is called the source of all sound. These are symbols for the practitioners impure mind, body and speech as well as the pure mind, body and speech of a buddha. The question is can we transform the impure to the pure. All buddhas started out like we do, and along the path became enlightened. It is a gradual process that happens as we follow the path.

The path is laid out by the next four syllables:

MANI; translates to jewel and symbolizes striving for love, compassion and enlightenment. The jewel is enlightenment and with enlightenment comes the end to difficulties, Samsara and brings solitary peace.

PADME; translates to lotus. The lotus is a symbol of wisdom. It grows through the mud but it shows not one speck of the mud it came through. Just as we can grow and achieve wisdom despite what we come through, we don't have to carry those things on or with us. In wisdom, all of the defilements, negativity and ignorance go away. There are so many types of wisdom, the realization of impermanence, non-self...the list can go on and on. We strive for everything the lotus symbolizes.

The last symbol, HUM; translates to I am. I am compassion and wisdom. It indicates indivisibility. It is achieved by an indivisible unity of wisdom and compassion.

The six symbols are also associated with the six realms of existence. You will find as you study, many interpretations of this Mantra. It is up to the practitioner to discover the depth of it's meaning and intrinsic value for them.

Visualization of a buddha or bodhisattva along with this silent mantra is an excellent meditation method. ~Om Mani Padme Hum~

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Three Jewels of Buddhism

The Refuge Prayer

I go for refuge in the Buddha, the enlightened teacher, I commit myself to the enlightenment;

I go for refuge in the Dharma, the spiritual teachings; I commit myself to the truth as it is.

I go for refuge in the Sangha, the spiritual community; I commit myself to living the enlightened life.

These are what's known as the Three Jewels of Buddhism also known as the Three Treasures. The Three Jewels are a core element in all schools of Buddhism. In Buddhism making a commitment to awakening is known as taking refuge. The refuge ceremony is one of the first thing a new Dharma student does. The Buddha made his commitment without a formal ceremony and so can we. It is a matter of making a heartfelt commitment to the way of the truth and seeking refuge in the three jewels.

Taking Refuge in the Buddha: means you are seeking spiritual awakening. Traditionally, the Buddha component means seeking a qualified teacher of the Dharma such as a Guru. Buddha never presented himself as a god or savior, but as a teacher. He is not there to save you, rather it is up to you to save yourself. This jewel, is about committing to seeing things as they really are, truth uncolored by our own beliefs or prejudices. It is making the connection with the Buddha within. It is finding and relying on the purity of our heart and mind and trusting your intuition linked to them.

Taking Refuge in the Dharma: is a commitment to a life that reflects truth. Dharma is the official body of Buddhist teachings but also refers to the teaching the universe provides for us. It is seeing and accepting reality exactly as it is and managing to joyfully live that truth. Living with joy and happiness within the confines of truth is the path to enlightenment. The Three Poisons, are referred to as the main source of unhappiness or feeling dissatisfied.
Poison One: Ignorance of the Truth. In Buddhism ignorance refers to being deluded or confused. Our view of the world and the happenings we live are colored by our own desires. We see things as we would want them to be, we rationalize and create our own stories. Seeking the truth is a process that continues until we reach enlightenment.
Poison Two: Attachment. We can be attached to habits, behaviors, people, things, wealth, ambition, success... the list is endless. Those attachments most times become our lives. Within Poison Two are jealousy and pride. We attach and identify ourselves by our possessions and accomplishments. I am a doctor, lawyer, or I own a Mercedes. It is the tying of our pride to these things that halts the path to enlightenment and awakening. Jealousy of possessions, prestige, 'I want', are all tied to ego as is pride. In order to achieve happiness, releasing our grip on these attachments, letting go of our ego based view of reality is essential.
Poison Three: Aversion. When it comes to this Buddhist teaching, aversion translates most closely to dislike. We usually form aversions from our attachments. We base our happiness on our attachments, and when we are unfulfilled or upset by that person or thing, that disappointment turns to dislike. Dislike can then lead to hatred. It can be the simplest of things like going to buy the pair of shoes you fell in love with and they don't have your size. You become obviously upset and the poisons are at work. On a mid-level, we fight with a loved one and then we feel dislike, we avoid them. It is a pattern or cycle of behavior. Dislike, anger, hatred; one can follow the other. Your are unfulfilled by your work, but you stay because it is in your comfort zone. You dislike your job but dislike change as well. The three poisons work together and are a huge source of pain. It is through the Dharma that we can change this cycle.

Taking Refuge in the Sangha: Sangha translates to community, a community of Buddhists and sentient beings. It is a spiritual community with it's beautiful healing energy. That energy is generated by it's dedication. It is vital that a Sangha work at keeping it's individual energies. Groups have a tendency to become conforming and the lemming or herd mentality takes over. To keep a positive spiritual community means being aware of heart and warmth and that each journey is individual.
Taking refuge in The Three Jewels is the first step in ending the cycle of Samsara and moving closer to achieving enlightenment and Nirvana.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Dalai Lama Quotes

This is my simple religion: There is no need for temples, there is no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is the temple; the philosophy is loving kindness and compassion.

Today, more then ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.

We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.

Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion.

With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world.

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

I find hope in the darkest days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.

If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do no harm to them.

If you have a particular faith or religion, that is good. But you can survive without it.

In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.

It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

My religion is simple, my religion is kindness.

Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old friend passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.

The purpose of or lives is to be happy.

The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.

Last but not least one of my top favorites:

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individuals own reason and critical analysis.

The Dalai Lama

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Karma in Sanskrit translates to action-result. In Buddhism Karma is a cycle. Everything we think, feel and do has consequences. It is cause and effect. Every action brings about a reaction. Karma is not fate or a justice system from the cosmos at large. Karma shapes our lives even before we are born and from birth on. This does not mean however that because we think and do good that the world will treat us well. The Karma of others can still lead to one being treated poorly. This is not a reflection of you, but a reflection of a collective Karma.

Karma is complex, and an endless looping cycle. "Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we've been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we've got." ~Thanissaro Bhukkhu~

It is imperative to work hard at right thought and right action. It is equally imperative to not make this effort with the goal of being rewarded. We work at right thought and right action as part and parcel of being buddhists and this should stand on it's own merit. Nothing we think or do occurs in a bubble. What happens, the Karmic consequences of these thoughts and actions are affected by countless interrelated Karma and cannot be predicted.

We all reap exactly what we sow. We may have sown it a hundred years before, or in this very day. It is important to understand you are the master here, not a victim. Everything we think do or say makes a difference. It is liberating to know that in each and every moment we have within our grasp the possibility of changing the future. Break your patterns, do something enlightened, compassionate and wise. Transform your existence. You can be reborn spiritually in the immediate.

"The fear of death and infernal rebirths due to my evil actions has led me to practice in solitude in the snowcapped mountains.
On the uncertainty of life's duration and the moment of death I have deeply meditated.
Thus I have reached the deathless, unshakable citadel of realization of the absolute essence.
My fear and doubts have vanished like mist into the distance, never to disturb me again.
I will die content and free from regrets.
This is the fruit of Dharma practice. "~Milarepa~

Milarepa's work on that mountain top changed his Karma and he was spiritually reborn. So much so that he reached enlightenment in a single lifetime.

What joy, hope and optimism there is in this message. It is something we can all aspire to and achieve. It is our choice, it is our hard work, and we are the master of our own fate. How amazing that Nirvana is within reach for each and every one of us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Eightfold Path

1.Right Understanding
2.Right Thought

3.Right Speech
4.Right Action
5.Right Livelihood

6.Right Effort
7.Right Mindfulness
8.Right Meditation

This path is not meant to be followed in number order. You don't need to achieve the first before moving on to the second. The aim is to apply all to your life at the same time.

To clear up any confusion about the term Right used here interpret it as Appropriate. The intent is to see things with an open mind, free from our own prejudices, or beliefs.

Wisdom: Wisdom is not about intellect, but about insight and understanding and gathering truth through your own experiences in the world:

Right Understanding is also called right view. Again it is about viewing happenings as they are without our own issues to color them.
Right Thought also known as right resolve, is about the intentions behind your actions. Intentions should be without harm to yourself or anyone else.

Morality: These are basic ethics to apply to your every day life:

Right Speech would of course pertain to how you use your voice, no lying, gossip, or harming another's reputation with your words.
Right Action is fairly simple, do the right thing, don't steal, kill, commit adultery, ethical behavior should always be the goal.
Right Livelihood would be work that is honorable and healthy for yourself and others.

Mental Discipline: It is training yourself to focus, using the power of your mind to attain wisdom and morality, not giving in to laziness or distractions:

Right Effort is engaging to practice the Dharma in your every day life. Efforts should be aimed at suiting all involved, and will sometimes be pleasant and will sometimes require more severity. In each situation it will be different.
Right Mindfulness is being present in the moment. All that you do, think and feel is about the moment you are in. It is very important not to be harboring thoughts of the past or future especially if they are not constructive.
Right Meditation is about quieting the mind, to stop the constant restless thought processes that generate so much of our suffering. For those new to the practice of meditation it is OK to start with focusing activities such as visualization.

This is a very basic explanation of the Eightfold Path. As we get further along it will come up again in more depth.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Four Noble Truths

1. All life is suffering.

2. The cause of suffering is desire.

3. Suffering can be ended.

4. The way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.

The interpretation of this Dharma is crucial to truly understanding it.

1. Duhkha in Sanskrit is commonly translated as suffering. It would more accurately include the meanings; imperfection, bothersome, impermanence or just unsatisfactory. It is the impermanence of all things, happiness, life, relationships, possessions, the constant flux that is life that it refers to. Although we may get great joy and have wonderful things in our lives, we are still aware of the underlying disturbing factors. We must acknowledge this first Noble Truth. It is the gate to spiritual awakening.

2. What is it we desire that causes our suffering? We suffer because we desire to hold onto things that are not permanent. Greed , anger and ignorance, the three poisons feed desire. We want things, we want to win, we want power. Buddha teaches the doctrine of no-self. The self does not exist as a spiritual entity, just a temporary personality. If we can rid ourselves of the notion of a fixed self then we can start to rid ourselves of the desires that cause suffering.
3. Suffering is associated with Samsara, and all of the impermanent things in the world, so conversely, the end of suffering is part of realizing nirvana, the goal of enlightenment, oneness with the universe. The path to Nirvana is in The Fourth Noble Truth.

4. The end of suffering is the Middle Way. It is a balance between Samsara (being of this world) and Nirvana (release from this world or the Samsara cycle). The Noble Eightfold Path is divided among three goals. Wisdom, Morality and Mental Discipline.

Vajrayana: The Tibetan Buddhist Religion

Buddhism is a religion with some basic tenets that give you a practical approach to daily living. It is both intellectual and intuitive. Buddhism ultimately manifests itself entirely in the life of the person practicing it. There are no deities as in Christianity or Judaism. No book of words that reveals all the answers to life and the cosmos. Buddhism is about personal realization. Whatever is written, even in the Buddhist scriptures or sutras, becomes completely dependent on he who lives it. Because Buddhism does not have a god/creator the argument continues whether it is a religion or a philosophy. There is philosophy to be found in all religion. Buddhism is a religion, it has fundamental truths and a distinctive approach to living. Religion is about beliefs, faith, heart and even intuition. Any religion at it's core provides a compass by which we are to live, and a way to look at life, death and the world at large. Buddhism does all that and more and it is without question a religion.

"I believe the purpose of all major religions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts, Every major religion has the potential to create this. The greater our awareness is regarding the value and effectiveness of other religious traditions, then the deeper will be our respect and reverence toward our own religion, other religions, and religion in general." ~The Dalai Lama~

An Introduction to the History of Tibetan Buddhism

The founder of Buddhism is Siddhartha Guatama. The word Buddha means awakened one. Buddhism has a special gift for helping people calm their minds and learn to live more happily. As Tibetans have been forced into exile by the Chinese invasion of their homeland, they have shared the gifts of Buddhism with other nations. This is a gift to all facing the difficulties of life in this world. This is perhaps the only good that has come from the "Buddhist Holocaust". The Dalai Lama speaks freely about the history and problems of Tibet, and his own growth from the experience. "Not having a sheltered life and having to suffer and struggle has helped me to grow. Worldly difficulty can lead to faster spiritual growth and greater strength of mind." ~Dalai Lama

Buddhism was brought from India to Tibet by Emperor Songsten Gampo in the 7th century. The buddhist Dharma (teachings) are concise and powerful. It was the Buddhist wisdom that slowly worked it's magic on the people of Tibet making them more happy, gentle and peaceful. After a few centuries the Tibetans worked very hard to make the Buddha Dharma the center of their lives. It took one thousand years for Tibetans to succeed in establishing Buddhist ideals in the government itself. The 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century integrated the sacred and the secular. The entire Tibetan social system centered on people's spiritual development according to the Dharma.

The extinction of Tibet, as well as it's culture would affect all humanity. I am adding this appeal, this call to arms, for all peoples to help the Tibetans preserve the treasure that is their cultural heritage. Public support and sympathy toward the Tibetan cause is needed. It is especially crucial, for anyone practicing Buddhism to understand what is at stake here. The Tibetan traditions have been maintained now for many years outside of it's home. This may not last over time, and the sacred land of Tibet is vital to it's long term survival. Active support of this cause is not just politics, it is Dharma.