Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism...


The Kagyu tradition is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is famed as the school of meditation practice. One of its alternative names is ‘the practice lineage’.

The translator

The origins of the Kagyu tradition in Tibet go back nearly a thousand years. In the 11th century a layman called Marpa made three journeys to India in search of Buddhist teachings. There, he studied under famous Indian Buddhist masters, such as Naropa and Maitripa. Having brought their teachings back to Tibet, Marpa the Translator, as he became known, transmitted them to students who gathered around him.

The mountain hermit

Marpa’s chief student was a man called Milarepa. While still young Milarepa had been responsible for the deaths of many people in a family feud. Remorse for his actions led him to turn to the path of the Buddha. Under Marpa’s guidance he devoted his life to meditation. After years of solitary meditation in caves in the Himalayas he attained enlightenment. The name of Milarepa has become synonymous with supreme spiritual endeavour and achievement.

“Buddha cannot be found through searching,
look into your own mind.”  Milarepa

The doctor

Among Milarepa’s followers, the foremost was a doctor called Gampopa, After his wife and children died in an epidemic, Gampopa committed himself to dharma practice and became a monk. From Milarepa he received the teachings Marpa had brought back from India. In time, he established a Buddhist centre in his home region, where many people came to study and practise.

The Karmapa

From the time of Gampopa onwards, the Kagyu teachings spread throughout Tibet. One of those responsible for their growth was the first Karmapa. One of the chief disciples of Gampopa, he too achieved enlightenment. He also became the first in a line of incarnate masters (the first in Tibet) known as the Karmapas – ‘the ones of Buddha activity’. Under their guidance the Karma Kagyu tradition, as it became known, flourished in Tibet until modern times. The present Karmapa is the seventeenth in the line. Like his predecessor the 16th Karmapa, he has visited Kagyu Ling Buddhist Centre in Manchester.

The great seal

The key meditation practice in the Kagyu tradition is mahamudra. The term means ‘great seal’ and signifies the way in which the enlightened practitioner ‘seals’ everything he or she experiences with their realisation of emptiness. Neither the phenomenal world nor mind itself have any essence by which they can be grasped. In this respect they are inseparable, in a unity that is fluid, all-embracing and eternal. Mahamudra meditation is the effortless relaxation of mind into its natural state accompanied by direct insight into the true nature of mind, which can also be called buddha nature.


Psychological Drama...


It's About Time!...



Insanity, Hypocrisy, or Both?...


Timeless Wisdom of Rumi...


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Our World Needs A Lot More Of This...


Antidotes to Destructive Emotions...


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks online from his residence in Dharamsala, HP, India on Emptiness and Compassion as Antidotes to Destructive Emotions as part of the Science & Wisdom of Emotions Summit organized by Mind & Life Institute and the Awake Network on May 5, 2021. His Holiness speaks in Tibetan with a simultaneous English translation by Thupten Jinpa.

Focus on Yourself - Not Others....


Thursday, July 21, 2022

Abortion... One of Life's Moral Complexities...


Buddhism and Reproductive Choice

Buddhism, like the other religions of the world, faces the fact that abortion may sometimes be the best decision and a truly moral choice. That does not mean there is nothing troubling about abortion, but it means that Buddhists may understand that reproductive decisions are part of the moral complexity of life.

A thoughtful commentary on Buddhist views on abortion is provided by James Hughes, PhD, who teaches Health Policy at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and is Trinity’s Associate Director of Institutional Research and Planning. Dr. Hughes was a Buddhist monk. He is also the Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and its affiliated World Transhumanist Association.

In an essay on his website, Dr. Hughes writes that there are varying views among Buddhists, with Western Buddhists most likely to have an attitude of general moral tolerance. He quotes author Margot Milliken:

Given the present political and social climate, we are in danger of losing the legal right to choose abortion. While I do not believe abortion is something that should be legislated against, I do feel it is an option that should not be taken lightly. Even if it seems that the best choice is to terminate a pregnancy, we must acknowledge we are ending a potential life. This seems more honest than acting as if our “pro-choice” stance does not involve taking life, even though we may assume that that life is not fully realized, conscious or developed.

He also quotes from a pamphlet from the Japanese-American Buddhist Churches of America:

It is the woman carrying the fetus, and no one else, who must in the end make this most difficult decision and live with it for the rest of her life. As Buddhists, we can only encourage her to make a decision that is both thoughtful and compassionate.

He concludes:

That many Buddhists are politically tolerant of abortion despite personal reservations suggests their recognition that their discomfort with abortion is not a fundamental moral objection, as with slavery or torture, but a personal and emotional one.

For a fuller understanding of Dr. Hughes’ perspective, please read his entire essay.


A morally honest and sensible approach to abortion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Have You Forgotten Life in the Pursuit of Things?...


A Buddhist Perspective on Evil...


Learn Religions - Evil is a word many people use without thinking deeply about what it signifies. Comparing common ideas about evil with Buddhist teachings on evil can facilitate deeper thinking about evil. It is a topic where your understanding will change over time. This essay is a snapshot of understanding, not perfect wisdom.

Thinking About Evil

People speak and think about evil in several different, and sometimes conflicting, ways. The two most common are these:

  • Evil as an intrinsic characteristic. It's common to think of evil as an intrinsic characteristic of some people or groups. In other words, some people are said to be evil. Evil is a quality that is inherent in their being.
  • Evil as an external force. In this view, evil lurks about and infects or seduces the unwary into doing bad things. Sometimes evil is personified as Satan or some other character from religious literature.

These are common, popular ideas. You can find much more profound and nuanced ideas about evil in many philosophies and theologies, eastern and western. Buddhism rejects both of these common ways of thinking about evil. Let's take them one at a time.

Evil as a Characteristic is Contrary to Buddhism

The act of sorting humanity into "good" and "evil" carries a terrible trap. When other people are thought to be evil, it becomes possible to justify doing them harm. And in that thinking are seeds of genuine evil.

Human history is thoroughly saturated by violence and atrocity committed on behalf of "good" against people categorized as "evil." Most of the mass horrors humanity has inflicted upon itself may have come from this kind of thinking. People intoxicated by their own self-righteousness or who believe in their own intrinsic moral superiority too easily give themselves permission to do terrible things to those they hate or fear.

Sorting people into separate divisions and categories is very un-Buddhist. The Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths tells us that suffering is caused by greed or thirst, but also that greed is rooted in the delusion of an isolated, separate self.

Closely related to this is the teaching of dependent origination, which says that everything and everyone is a web of interconnection, and every part of the web expresses and reflects every other part of the web.

And also closely related is the Mahayana teaching of shunyata, "emptiness." If we are empty of intrinsic being, how can we be intrinsically anything? There is no-self for intrinsic qualities to stick to.

For this reason, a Buddhist is strongly advised not to fall into the habit of thinking of himself and others as intrinsically good or bad. Ultimately there is just action and reaction; cause and effect. And this takes us to karma, which I will come back to shortly.

Evil as an External Force is Foreign to Buddhism

Some religions teach that evil is a force outside ourselves which seduces us into sin. This force is sometimes thought to be generated by Satan or various demons. The faithful are encouraged to seek strength outside themselves to fight evil, by looking to God.

The Buddha's teaching could not be more different:

"By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another." (Dhammapada, chapter 12, verse 165)

Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects us.


The word karma, like the word evil, is often used without understanding. Karma is not fate, nor is it some cosmic justice system. In Buddhism, there is no God to direct karma to reward some people and punish others. It is just cause and effect.

Theravada scholar Walpola Rahula wrote in What the Buddha Taught,

"Now, the Pali word kamma or the Sanskrit word karma (from the root kr to do) literally means 'action', 'doing'. But in the Buddhist theory of karma, it has a specific meaning: it means only 'volitional action', not all action. Nor does it mean the result of karma as many people wrongly and loosely use it. In Buddhist terminology karma never means its effect; its effect is known as the 'fruit' or the 'result' of karma (kamma-phala or kamma-vipaka)."

We create karma by the intentional acts of body, speech, and mind. Only acts pure of desire, hate and delusion do not produce karma.

Further, we are affected by the karma we create, which can seem like reward and punishment, but we are "rewarding" and "punishing" ourselves. As a Zen teacher once said, "What you do is what happens to you." Karma is not a hidden or mysterious force. Once you understand what it is, you can observe it in action for yourself.

Continue reading BELOW the FOLD.

The Six Perfections... Mahayana Buddhism


The Six Perfections in Practice

Each of the Six Perfections supports the other five, but the order of the perfections is significant also. For example, the first three perfections--generosity, morality, and patience--are virtuous practices for anyone. The remaining three--energy or zeal, meditation, and wisdom--are more specifically about spiritual practice.

1. Dana Paramita: Perfection of Generosity

In many commentaries on the Six Perfections, generosity is said to be an entry way to the dharma. Generosity is the beginning of bodhicitta, the aspiration to realize enlightenment for all beings, which is critically important in Mahayana.

Dana paramita is a true generosity of spirit. It is giving from sincere desire to benefit others, without expectation of reward or recognition. There must be no selfishness attached. Charity work done to "feel good about myself" is not true dana paramita.

2. Sila Paramita: Perfection of Morality

Buddhist morality is not about unquestioning obedience to a list of rules. Yes, there are precepts, but the precepts are something like training wheels. They guide us until we find our own balance. An enlightened being is said to respond correctly to all situations without having to consult a list of rules.

In the practice of sila paramita, we develop selfless compassion. Along the way, we practice renunciation and gain an appreciation for karma.

3. Ksanti Paramita: Perfection of Patience

Ksanti is patience, tolerance, forbearance, endurance, or composure. It literally means "able to withstand." It is said there are three dimensions to ksanti: the ability to endure personal hardship; patience with others; and acceptance of truth.

The perfection of ksanti begins with acceptance of the Four Noble Truths, including the truth of suffering (dukkha). Through practice, our attention turns away from our own suffering and toward the suffering of others.

Accepting truth refers to accepting difficult truths about ourselves--that we are greedy, that we are mortal--and also accepting the truth of the illusory nature of our existence.

4. Virya Paramita: Perfection of Energy

Virya is energy or zeal. It comes from an ancient Indian-Iranian word that means "hero," and it is also the root of the English word "virile." So virya paramita is about making a courageous, heroic effort to realize enlightenment.

To practice virya paramita, we first develop our own character and courage. We engage in spiritual training, and then we dedicate our fearless efforts to the benefit of others.

5. Dhyana Paramita: Perfection of Meditation

Dhyana, Buddhist meditation is a discipline intended to cultivate the mind. Dhyana also means "concentration," and in this case, great concentration is applied to achieve clarity and insight.

A word closely related to dhyana is samadhi, which also means "concentration." Samadhi refers to a single-pointed concentration in which all sense of self falls away. Dhyana and samadhi are said to be the foundations of wisdom, which is the next perfection.

6. Prajna Paramta: Perfection of Wisdom

In Mahayana Buddhism, wisdom is the direct and intimate realization of sunyata, or emptiness. Very simply, this is the teaching that all phenomena are without self-essence or independent existence.

Prajna is the ultimate perfection that includes all other perfections. The late Robert Aitken Roshi wrote:

 "The Sixth Paramita is Prajna, the raison d'ĂȘtre of the Buddha Way. If Dana is the entry to the Dharma, then Prajna is its realization and the other Paramitas are Prajna in alternate form." (The Practice of Perfection, p. 107)

That all phenomena are without self-essence may not strike you as especially wise, but as you work with prajna teachings the significance of sunyata becomes more and more evident, and the importance of sunyata to Mahayana Buddhism cannot be overstated. The sixth paramata represents transcendent knowledge, in which there is no subject-object, self-other dualism at all. 

However, this wisdom cannot be understood by intellect alone. So how do we understand it? Through the practice of the other perfections--generosity, morality, patience, energy. and meditation.