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Tag: Buddha (Page 1 of 2)

The Middle Way in Love

Guru Rinpoche

The doctrine of the Middle Way (Skt. madhyama-pratipad, Tib. ume lam) is one of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. According to Theravada Buddhism, the term “Middle Way” is used for the first time in Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which is perceived as the first teaching that Buddha Shakyamuni delivered after his awakening. In this text the Buddha explains the Noble Eightfold Path as a middle way of moderation between the extremes.

In Mahayana Buddhism the Middle Way refers to the understanding of the emptiness (Skt. shunyata, Tib. tong pa nyid) that transcends the extremes of existence and non-existence. The Middle Way School of philosophy, known as Madhyamaka, was founded by the 2nd century Buddhist teacher Nagarjuna and represents the idea that all phenomena are empty by nature: at the conventional level, they do exist, but ultimately they are empty of inherent existence.

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No Matter What

By Master Huijing; English translation by Jingtu

No matter what, Amitabha’s Fundamental Vow
Is like diamond, never changing.

No matter what, Amitabha thinks of me
Like a mother remembers her child, never abandoning it.

No matter what, Amitabha is with me
Every moment, never letting me go.

No matter what, sinful sentient beings
Need Amitabha and the deliverance of his Fundamental Vow.

No matter how contaminated and impure,
False and hypocritical are sentient beings,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how sentient beings desire and detest,
Are deluded and vicious,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how deep beings’ offenses and heavy their afflictions,
However intense their sufferings,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

No matter how beings commit the Five Gravest Offenses,
Or slander the Dharma and lack self-cultivation,
Amitabha’s deliverance never changes.

Because the Fundamental Vow exists, our minds are at ease,
Hope arises and people turn virtuous.

Because no matter what, no matter what,
Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance is certain,
Amitabha Buddha’s deliverance is certain.

Postcard from Raymond: The Gaze of the Divine

“Look at me. Behold, encounter, and meet me.” Two of my favourite expressions of sacred art can be found in Cave 148 at the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang, along the Chinese route of the Silk Road, and the beloved icon of the Holy Trinity in the Orthodox Church. While all art forms of the holy presume some form of physical or emotional engagement with the devotee or viewer, these two specific artistic forms demand to meet your eyes, quite literally. For the eyes are windows to the soul (figuratively in the Buddhist mind), and what better to invite human wonder and devotion than for the divine itself to meet our eyes?

The Buddha in Cave 148 is of Shakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha of our world-system. He is in his state of Parinirvana, in a position of final repose as he leaves the world of existence and non-existence tracelessly. His head and body are massive, dwarfing the visitors that shuffle into the yawning, man-made cavern. Move slightly to the left or right of the Buddha’s head, and you will see something extraordinary – the Buddha gazing at you tranquilly, eyes shifting, silently attentive to your presence. It is an intentional illusion put in place by the long-gone sculptor – one that goes a step beyond the usual Dunhuang setup of having the Buddhas and bodhisattvas “meet” your gaze when you prostrate before them (there are several caves with statues that do this). That is, after all, the position you should approach the enlightened ones with.

There is no concept of Original Sin in the Orthodox Church – a concept that has plagued the Latin Church with guilt for more than a thousand years. The Trinitarian motif is also, I find, far more affirming than the Western Church. Three angels are seated at table, representing the Three Persons in One God. Yet there is an empty seat at the table, the one that is closest to the viewer. The viewer is invited to join the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost at the table, in full communion. Only then will the feast be complete.

Holy art that meets the viewer’s gaze with its own invokes the meeting between mortal creatures of decay and consecrated eyes. This art compels confession and conversion. It transforms lives and makes us aware of the greater forces behind them: presences beyond the stars and outside of the universe. Where their eyes wander, we scramble to go too.

Fathers and Sons: The Buddha and King Suddhodana

Raymond Lam

Siddhartha and Suddhodana in the Tezuka-inspired animated feature film Buddha.

This Sunday will be Father’s Day in Hong Kong. Most young people, luckily, will get to enjoy the 18th with their old men. In the grand scheme of things it’s not uncommon for kids to lose their father (or both parents) earlier in life. In the end, we all are destined to be orphans. We just hope to be orphaned as late as possible. We want our parents to stay with us well into our adulthood; by that time we’re hopefully emotionally mature enough to let go when the time comes.

When I look at so much of fiction and pop culture (not just the classics like King Lear or Chinese literature but also Batman, Superman, or Star Wars) I realize just how important the father-son archetypal relationship is to our collective folk memories. The father, be it through presence and nurture or absence and distance (or even a combination of both), shapes what the son becomes. Or, the son becomes what he is in defiance, or in spite, of his father.

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Postcard from Raymond: Pax Buddhica

Apparently it had only been a few centuries, a mere heartbeat in the eternally present minds of the holy men he had been hosting. How did one fellow – one gentle, wandering teacher – found this new religion? How did he establish a movement so great that long after his death, lords and kings would be prostrating before his image alongside his clean-shaven followers?

Huvishka, emperor of the Kushans, Maharaja of all Central Asia, equal of the Caesars in the west and Tianzi to the east, was still pondering that question as he listened to his monastic guests chanting briskly before his newly built Buddhist shrine.

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The Art of Emptiness

Grace Ko

Liu Kuo-sung, Symphony of Sun and Moon, 2015. Ink and colour on paper.

Liu Kuo-sung, Symphony of Sun and Moon, 2015. Ink and colour on paper.

Art has long captivated us and yet, even though art historians and philosophers have spilled much ink over its nature, we still can’t fully define it. Recently, notable American artist Trevor Paglen revealed what he thought art is, which really impressed me. “Art,” he said, “is about making invisible structures visible, the better for viewers to grasp the operations of the world around them.”

It made me ask, “How can we understand the world we live in? Do we need to understand the countless other lives that intersect with ours?” Is that what art does?

In The Diamond Sutra, the Buddha said to the senior monk Subhuti, “This is how the bodhisattva mahasattvas (enlightened great beings) master their thinking: Many species of living beings—whether born from eggs, from the womb, from moisture, or spontaneously; whether they have form or do not have form; whether they have perceptions or do not have perceptions; or whether it cannot be said of them that they have perceptions or that they do not have perceptions, we must lead all these beings to Nirvana so that they can be liberated.”

The Buddha also asked Subhuti, “Do you think that the space in the Eastern Quarter can be measured? Subhuti, can space in the Western, Southern, or Northern Quarters, above or below, be measured?”

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The Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth

Craig Lewis

1a
Theravada monks file silently across the Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth at Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand.

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A Monkey’s Tale Retold

Steve Braff

By leoplaw on DeviantArt

By leoplaw on DeviantArt

It is said that in the ninth year of the Buddha’s ministry a quarrel arose between two parties of monks. One party consisted of experts in the disciplinary code, or the Vinaya laws; the others were experts in the Dharma, or the teachings. The Buddha tried to settle the quarrel peacefully, but finally, when his efforts failed, he left them without a word, taking only his bowl and robes, and retired to the Paileyyaka Forest.

During his time in the forest, a monkey king, ministering to the needs of the Buddha, brought him honeycomb as an offering. The Buddha first refused the gift, for living larvae were in the comb. So the monkey king brought fresh comb of which the Buddha gratefully ate. The monkey was so overcome with joy when the Buddha accepted his gift that it broke his heart. The monkey king died but was rewarded for his generosity by being granted a place in heaven.

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The Flower Ornament Vistas of Guan Yin Temple

Raymond Lam

Guan Yin (1 of 40) copy

“Pay respects to the Buddha first, then to me,” advised my preceptor once, when we visited him at his monastery, Guan Yin Temple. “Because we take Refuge in the Buddha first, then in the Dharma, then in the Sangha.” He was implying that compared to the Buddha images of our temple, he was actually a secondary priority. In a world where people scramble over each other to obsequiously bootlick a popular teacher or flatter and fawn on a celebrity teacher, a master who knows he is a flawed mortal creature is the real kind of teacher that should be revered.

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Am I a Buddhist?

Graham Lock

From shutterstock.com

From shutterstock.com

I have recently seen a few YouTube vids of talks and discussions in which renowned Dharma teachers assert that there can be no Buddhism without rebirth, and in a couple of cases they go as far as to say that those who don’t believe in rebirth shouldn’t call themselves Buddhists. Debates about this issue have, of course, been rumbling on at least since Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism without Beliefs, and probably for a lot longer. I’m not going to get into the debate about rebirth here, but just for the record I don’t believe that rebirth happens and I don’t believe that it doesn’t happen. I just don’t know (and yes, I have read Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker, and no, I am not a committed materialist).

So I suppose that in the eyes of some people I am not a Buddhist.

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