The Bunnysattva Sangha
THE BUNNYSATTVA SANGHA OF TRIBECA
88 Grove Street, Greenwich Village, New York
Note that the Tribeca Sangha has its Center, not
in Tribeca where it logically ought to be, but in
the West Village, which makes no sense at all.
Remember, you need to a reservation to visit the
Center, except during visiting hours Sunday. Write
Mandy Buick for details at email@example.com
MEDITATION AND PRAYER
A Talk by Patra Chosnyid Skybamedpa
Tuesday, December 22, 1998, at 7 p.m.
at The Bunnysattva Sangha, 88 Grove Street
Patra: Tonight I want to talk about meditation. I've asked all of you to meditate every day. I think, all but one of you, I've asked to meditate for an hour each day. For those who have time and can do a little more, maybe a little longer would be better.
Remember, you are beginning students. There is no one advanced here -- not even me. We are beginners together.
Or perhaps you all had some good karma, and so you earned the right to a little spiritual instruction. If you had a lot of good karma, you would have a Realised Master. But with just a little, maybe you get someone like me.
The real reason I am a teacher is that my Master asked me to do this. I am not particularly qualified, as far as I can tell. But with the help of my Master, I can help you, or at least some of you, to begin on the spiritual Path.
In the same way, you come to me with an open heart, and for you, I represent the Truth. So you feel good, you feel peaceful, maybe even blissful. It's not because of me, it's because of you. It's because of what you bring with you.
Not everyone experiences what you do. You bring it with you. The Truth is within you. It is in your heart. Seeing me might stimulate you, make you remember that Truth. But it comes from within you, not from me. It isn't because I'm advanced that you experience this peace, this love. It's already in your heart.
Now, meditation is the English name for what we are doing. It is not the best word for it. The connotation isn't quite right. It sounds a little like mediation -- and also like medication. (laughter) Neither of these things is much fun. And spiritually they don't free you.
In China what we call meditation is called Ch'an. In Japan it is called Zen. In Sanskrit, it is Dnyan.
The purpose of meditation is to wake up. Completely. But by itself, medittion is not enough. No one has ever become Realised by meditating. I know there are stories of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, that imply that he attained Perfection through meditation -- but they are not true. Meditation, by itself, will not bring you to spiritual Perfection.
The cause for every action that we do is an imprint on the mind. Our minds are imprinted; you might say, grooved. These imprints are called Sanskaras. It's a Sanskrit word, and it just means impressions.
Our minds are imprinted with millions of these impressions, Sanskaras. They motivate us to wake up in the morning, and they are behind every desire we experience. They are what make us want to do things, and they are the cause of all our happiness and all our misery.
Where did we get these impressions, these Sanskaras? We have been collecting them down through the ages. In our past lives we accumulated millions of impressions. And now, in this life, we have to get free from them.
Sanskaras are not physical. They are grooves or engravings on the mind. They are in the world of mind -- what is called the Mental World. Each of us has a Mental body in the Mental world, just as we each have a physical body in this physical world.
As a matter of fact, these physical bodies we all identify with and carry around wherever we go, they are each the physical reflection of the Mental body, which is on the Mental plane. We each have a Mental body, a Subtle body, a physical body. Unfortunately, most of us only experience the physical body, and we think it is the be-all and end-all of existence. Actually, it's just a reflection.
Back to Sanskaras. Meditation is one of the ways we can get free from impressions. It is not the only way. It isn't the best way. It's one of the ways.
One analogy that has been given is that the Sanskaras are the dirt in our minds. Meditation is like a broom or a vacuum cleaner. When the mind is all cleaned out, it reflects, like a clean mirror, the infinite light that is within us.
There is one problem with this analogy. Sanskaras are actually the stuff of our minds. Take away the Sanskaras and nothing is left. No mind. When you remove all the Sanskaras, the mind disappears. It is finally destroyed. And this destruction is a good thing. Because with the death of the mind comes real birth.
Our birth into these bodies is not the real birth. The real birth is when we get free of all the garbage we have collected in our past lives -- and in this life. We become empty -- naked. We realise our original state, our original Perfection.
To do this -- to realise the original state -- you have to have a Master. That is why all genuine traditions say, Find a real Master. Without the help of the Master, you cannot attain Perfection.
Why can't we do it ourselves? Because we are trapped in a dream. A dream of individuality. We believe with full force in our individuality. The dream is so powerful that it takes someone who has already awakened to shake us out of it.
Only one person ever attained Perfection without the help of a Master. And that was the very first man, who became the first Buddha. In the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, they call this first man Adam. In Hinduism he is called Adi Shankara, or Shiva. In Buddhism, he is called Samantabhadra, or Kuntu-Zangpo, or the Adi-Buddha. Adi means first, so the Adi-Buddha is the first Buddha.
This first man, who became the first Realised man, became the Master of all Masters. He is the source of all spirituality. Well, that is not exactly right, because we are each the source of all spirituality. It is within us. But until we become conscious of it, fully conscious -- Perfected -- the source appears to be somewhere other than ourselves. And that source is what we call the Adi-Buddha -- the Ancient One.
Let's get back to meditation. Why do we meditate? To free the mind from ignorance. To get clear. I have given each of you simple individual meditations, and if you practice them wholeheartedly and regularly, you will gradually begin to feel that life is worth living. You will find your center. You will understand, at least a little bit, why we are here. You will begin the spiritual Path.
But never think that meditation, by itself, is enough. It has to be part of a complete program of remaking your life. It's not enough to sit still in a corner a few minutes a day. We have to live a different kind of life entirely. We have to break with tradition, you might say, and take to an entirely new direction.
From childhood we have been taught to follow our desires. When you want something, you go after it. I want a drink, so I go get a soda. I want a sandwich, so I go to the refrigerator -- or to the deli. I want to see a movie, so I go to the theater -- or pick up a video. We have been trained to follow our wants.
Who trained us to chase after our desires? Some people blame it on their parents -- but it's not their fault. It has been going on generation after generation since before recorded history. Somewhere along the line, way back, we went off track. We lost touch with our original nature. We got addicted to wanting things. Now we spend all our energy going after the things we want -- and avoiding the things we don't want.
The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, often says that there is one thing that all beings have in common. Not just humans, but all beings. That one thing is, we want happiness, and we want to avoid suffering.
Now I am going to tell you a spiritual secret. Listen carefully. It's such a simple thing that it may go right over your head:
Real happiness comes from making others happy.
No one knows this. We think that if we fulfill our desires, we'll be happy. We think if we get away from the things that torture us, we'll be happy. But it doesn't work. Whenever you fulfill a desire, there is a kind of temporary satisfaction. It lasts a few minutes at best. Then another desire comes up to the forefront. And you go chasing that other desire. And it goes on and on. So by trying to fulfill desires, we cannot find happiness. All that does is keeps us running around in circles.
So to get real happiness, we have to give up desires. How? By serving others. If we try to make others happy, our ego, the individual selfish self, gets weaker and weaker. And eventually it dies. Another name for this technique is selfless service.
The world selfless is key here. Not just any service will do. It has to be done without any thought of self. You have to try to make others happy, without looking for your own happiness. And you have to forget completely that you are serving. Not easy.
Now, meditation is important. It helps you understand who you are. It clears away some of the Sanskaras. But without trying to help others, without striving to make them happy, meditation won't take you to the goal.
When you meditate, it's important to understand that the reason for meditation is not for yourself -- not for your individual spiritual advancement -- not for your personal happiness, or peace of mind -- but for the advancement of everyone. We meditate, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. Why? Because we are all one.
The deluded little ego-mind will tell you that you are a separate entity, an individual. But the truth is, you are all. When we wake up, we understand this; we see it directly. But until then, we have to settle for an intellectual or an intuitive understanding. There is no separation between us. We are all one.
You need to make sure you are sitting right. Your back should be straight. You should get as comfortable as you can, but not slump. Your legs need to be crossed. Only those who really cannot cross their legs should meditate in a chair, with legs dangling. I don't mean you have to sit in the full-lotus posture -- that isn't necessary, not for beginners. But crossed legs helps a lot. There are a few other things. I'll tell you about them individually if I haven't already.
A healthy attitude is this: I am just going to sit awhile. It doesn't matter what my mind does. The important thing is just to sit quietly. Sooner or later your mind will slow down, and you will begin to enjoy it. Rome wasn't built in a day.
Anger is energy. It is misdirected energy. The trick is to learn to let the energy flow, without harming yourself or anyone else.
Suppose you are thinking, 'I hate so-and-so.' What do you do? Think a counter-thought. Like, 'I am all love.' Even if it doesn't seem to be true, underneath, it is true. If you are thinking, 'Life sucks,' think the counter-thought: 'Life is good.'
Here is an affirmation I use myself. It is from Meherwan Rinpoche.
'I am meant to be happy, to make others happy.'
When we are depressed, we bring others down. So it is not selfish to want to be happy. It is an unselfish desire. If I am happy, I can share that happiness with others. So when you feel down, tell yourself,
'I am meant to be happy, to make others happy.'
Say it out loud. Or repeat it silently. The main thing is, understand it. By finding happiness, I can lead others to happiness. If I am sunk in depression, I help no one. And we are meant to be happy. It's our destiny.
And we can participate in that destiny today. By choosing to be happy. We can't always change the outer circumstances, but we can always work on our inner attitude. Maybe I have an illness, or a disability, or I have no mate -- I'm lonely. Maybe I can't change the physical circumstances, at least not right now. But I can choose to be happy. Irrespective of how bad or how limiting things seem. Be happy anyway.
When you are in pain, you can still be happy. When the world is falling down all around you, you can still be happy. They don't teach this in school. Your parents didn't tell you. It is a spiritual secret. It is your right to be happy, and you can claim that happiness at any time. The secret is to let go of the circumstances and be happy anyway.
Lust is the desire for sensations. Craving. If you want to feel something, it's lust.
Greed is the desire for possessions. If you want to have something, or someone, if you want to own it, that's greed.
Anger you all know. It generally comes about because our lust or greed or our pride are thwarted.
Pride is the desire to feel special, to be respected, to be unique.
Now to get free from lust, greed, anger and pride, you can't approach them directly and fight with them. They are too strong. We have gotten habituated to them over many lives. We are addicted.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, they talk about a Higher Power. They say you need the help and grace of a Higher Power to get free from alcohol, or free from drugs. This is true. Only a rare person can break this kind of addiction by will-power.
The Higher Power is called by many names, but there is only one Higher Power. Christians call it God, Jews call it Adoshem or Elokeem. Muslims call it Allah, Hindus call it Paramatma. I call it Buddha.
Suppose you have five identical sweaters, each with a different label. One sweater says Calvin Klein, another says Gucci, a third says Prada, a fourth says J. C. Penney, a fifth says Dolce & Gabbana. The sweaters are exactly alike. Are you going to be confused? No, you just ignore the label. The same is true for the one Reality which different traditions call by different names.
Now, prayer is a way of making contact with that Higher Power. Christians, Jews and Muslims pray to God to make that contact. Hindus too. In Buddhism we may have a different way to describe the process, but it's the same process.
There is a being that lives within each of us. It is our real self. It is our Higher Power. Sometimes it is called the Higher Self. It is our Buddha-nature. Now, some people are more comfortable thinking of this being as impersonal. They imagine it as a state or kind of consciousness. That is all right.
But if others of us want to personify that state and call it a person, a being, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not a mistake. Because the Reality is so far above our limited conceptions. That Higher Power, that God, that Buddha, is beyond our concepts of personal or impersonal. We can't possibly imagine it. Or him. Or her. He or she or it is beyond any categories created by our narrow little minds.
So for those who visualise the Highest as a person -- and that is a totally legitimate thing to do, if it feels natural to you -- prayer is meditation. You talk with God, or with Buddha, or with your Higher Self. You tell him, or her, your problems. Just like you would tell a very close friend. And God, or Buddha, or Paramatma will listen to what you say, and guide you toward Truth. He or she may even speak to you, just as I am speaking now.
Q. But isn't that delusion? Thinking God talks to you?
In the same way, one can imagine a relationship with God, or Truth. But it is also possible to really have that relationship, not as an illusion or a dream, but really. The infinite can personify in any way. There are no limits on infinity. God is infinite consciousness. We call it Buddha or Buddha-nature, but it is the same. The Enlightened Being. When we reach the end of the spiritual Path, we find that, all along, we were that being. We were never anything else.
You may think that to talk to God, or to hear him speak, is a delusion. But the real delusion is to think we are anything else but infinite, enlightened Being. What the Buddha realised, under the Bodhi Tree, is our birthright. We are destined to attain what he attained. Some sooner, some later. If we work hard, sooner.
Any more questions?
ABOUT OUR NEW CENTER
by Mandy Bell Buick
The new building is pretty nice. It's at least seventy years old, brick, three stories, with a little garden in the back. It faces on Sheridan Square Park, a small one with benches and pigeons and a few pretty trees, enclosed by a wrought iron fence.
The basement has been converted into twelve meditation cells, a bit cool but not too damp, for retreats. The first floor has a library, a meditation hall, two bedrooms and a big eat-in kitchen that faces on the garden in back. There are fireplaces and window seats, which I like a lot.
The second floor has three bedrooms, a living room, and a study. The third floor has some small servant's rooms (people used to have servants back in the twenties and thirties) and a little room we call the Prayer Room because it has an unusual spiritual atmosphere.
The library has been stocked with all sorts of spiritual books by Retlaw Tsoy, who has arranged them by tradition: Buddhist, Vedantist, Mystical Christian, Sufi and so on. There are also quite a few Nero Wolfe mysteries and funny novels by P. G. Wodehouse. Feel free to bring books you like for the library, but do clear them with Retlaw.
The new building is a gift from an elderly gentleman who wants to remain anonymous. It needs a lot of work, but it's just fine for our needs right now. The main problem is a leaky roof, and we have pots to catch the water all over the upper storey. There's also a dangerous place where the floor is giving way on the second floor. We have it roped off, and hopefully it won't fall on anyone.
We are having an open house every Sunday. If you'd like to come, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you the hours. Don't just drop in, as there are usually several students on retreat or keeping silence.
Patra speaks once or twice a week. If you'd like to attend one of his talks, let me know. We also have an occasional concert, and there are group meditations and chanting every so often. Aerna Otatop leads a study group called "Master of the Month." They read and study the life and teachings of the Masters of the past.
Here's a more detailed map, to help you find the Center. It's on Grove Street, which runs east-west, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. If you're walking west from Sixth Avenue, take Waverly Place: it turns into Grove Street. Grove Street is south of Eighth Street and north of Third Street. Please enter quietly and don't stamp your feet -- it disturbs the people on retreat in the basement.
We are hoping the Bunnysattva will visit us around Christmastime. If you want to be informed when we know more, be sure to write me.
The goal of Buddhism
is to become a Buddha.
Anything less than that
is selling yourself short.
Patra Chosnyid Skybamedpa
To learn more about the Eastern School of Broad Buddhism,
go to The Eastern School Home Page.
To see last summer's Bunnysattva Sangha Tribeca Home Page,
go to Bunnysattva Sangha Tribeca.
All text on this page is copyright 1999
The Eastern School of Broad Buddhism
Om Bunnysattva Soha