‘Being’ is a verb

b0923da898e06fd546a3056aca225110Rebirth and reincarnation are not synonymous. Reincarnation presupposes a permanent self or soul that takes on various bodies sequentially. Rebirth is simply the continuation of action.

Buddhists do not ‘believe’ in reincarnation. We simply observe the evident continuation of existence through countless transformations.

‘Being’ is a verb, not an entity. We ‘are’ what we do, and manifest the form that is most suitable for our actions. Form follows function.

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The Most Important Dialogue

10245567_757148934340491_4942097859831713377_n― What, Venerable Lord, is the rewarding advantage of morality?

― Freedom from regret, Ananda.

― And what is the advantage of freedom from regret?

― Joy that produces bliss, Ananda.

Bliss then generates happiness;

Happiness enables concentration;

Concentration facilitates vision and knowledge;

Vision and knowledge bring disillusion and detachment;

And Disillusion and detachment induce direct experience

Of certain and complete mental release.

Buddha Shakyamuni, Anguttara Agama

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Bright Aisles, Dark Alleys

10349086_10205392592715415_7257494644106864853_n―a brief address by Tashi Nyima to the Richardson Interfaith Alliance (TX) during the Thanksgiving Observance

There is a quote in tonight’s program that reads: “Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from the taking of life, we dwell without violence, with the knife laid down —scrupulous, full of mercy— trembling with compassion for all sentient beings.”  ―Buddha Shakyamuni

When people think of Buddhist monks, if they think of us at all, they imagine that we dwell in clouds of incense, smiling serenely, unperturbed, meditating on nothing. But, as you just read, we are not called to drift placidly in emptiness, but to “tremble with compassion for all sentient beings”.

I thought that the mention of ‘trembling’ was just a rhetorical device, until late one night, returning with my Teacher from visiting with refugees, when we passed by a dark alley and heard the cries of fear and pain of a youth who was being beaten by a group of men.

Without hesitation, my Teacher approached the men, and smiling broadly, asked them if it would not be much more ‘fun’ to beat up two Buddhist monks instead of one young man. I was not smiling broadly. I was not smiling at all. You see, Buddhist monks vow not to resort to violence, even to defend ourselves. We do not fight. We were going to get pummeled.

Surprisingly, the beating stopped, the men laughed nervously, uttered some choice profanities, and left. Perhaps they imagined we were Shaolin monks, ready to rain our secret Kung Fu moves on them…

After making sure that the young man was safe and in the care of emergency responders, I asked my Teacher if he had known that we would not come to harm. He responded that he did not, but at the very least, we could have taken some of the blows, and not all would have fallen on that one young man. And then he told me soberly that it was our duty, when confronted with suffering, to get in the way, to stand between those who would do harm and those who would be hurt.

I am here tonight not to speak in lofty platitudes, but to get in the way. Not all abuse happens in dark alleys. Much unspeakable cruelty takes place in the brightly lit aisles where we purchase the flesh of animals, their eggs, their milk, their skin, their wool, their feathers, and their fur. Those brightly lit aisles conceal the horrible darkness where animals are confined, enslaved, tortured, and slaughtered for our pleasure. I will not share with you the gory details, but the awful truth is there for you to see, as plain as day.

What makes some beings worthy of compassion, while others seem to merit only our disdain? Is it intelligence? Is it the ability to speak? Is it the actions we perform? No. Are we not called to feel compassion for the dull, the dumb, the infirm, and the disabled? Beings are worthy of compassion because they are sentient —they suffer, they feel pain.

To desire only to reduce the suffering of human beings is nothing but extended selfishness. Are we not called by all the Holy Ones, the Prophets, and the Teachers of all faiths to care for all, even for the least among us?  Did Jesus Christ not say: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”?

I come to you tonight not to judge you, but to implore you to look upon ALL our fellow sentient beings, human and non-human, with compassion. If we cannot prevent the cruelty they suffer, at least let harm not be inflicted for our pleasure, paid with our money, and executed in our name.

We cannot speak sincerely of compassion while confining, abusing, and slaughtering our fellow sentient beings. Compassion begins in our shopping carts, in our closets, in our kitchens, on our plates.

If I have made you uncomfortable, I apologize. I am not here to fight, but to get in the way. I humbly stand before you, as the Buddha instructed, trembling with compassion …for you and for all beings. May all attain the union of wisdom and compassion!   om mani peme hum

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Most Important

10388076_718921501524889_3635897041547771218_nOur view of the continuum of cause and effect in our and others’ lives is narrow and shallow —and necessarily so, given our limited momentary perspective. While we do know that there is no effect without a cause, we cannot easily identify where in the continuum of action any particular cause may be found.

The actions that we perform now will produce their specific effects sooner or later, and the seeds of our current experience may have been planted recently or long ago. These seeds only fructify when ancillary conditions favor their expression, just like an acorn requires earth, moisture, and sunlight to sprout.

The continuum of our experience reaches far into the past and will stretch far into the future, until full enlightenment. What is most important now and always is to live this moment with kindness and compassion.

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Suchness Revealed

buddha-troianiAfflictions are not real, therefore they are called empty.

If one gives rise to these afflictions, then wisdom will not arise.

When one does away with these afflictions, then we speak of Buddha Nature.

Buddha Nature is Suchness revealed

by the dual emptiness of person and phenomena.


If one does not speak of Buddha Nature,

then one does not understand emptiness.

—Vasubandhu, Treatise on Buddha Nature

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No Contention

563083_682879455056453_453709045_nThe five aggregates belong to causes and conditions.

If they belong to causes and conditions, they do not belong to me or others.

If they do not belong to me or others, they have no owner.

If they have no owner, there is no one who grasps them

If there is no grasping, there is no contention.

Non-contention is the practice of those who follow the Dharma.

Just as a hand moving in empty space

touches no object and meets no obstacles,

so the Bodhisatvas who practice the equality of emptiness

transcend the illusory world.

—Manjushri, Maharatnakuta Sutra

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The Worst of Wrong Views

10247251_301763966641723_8106996463809295512_nIf one thinks that one has realized emptiness

and becomes attached to emptiness,

then one regresses in the pursuit of the Dharma.


It is better for one to hold a wrong view of the self

as massive as Mount Sumeru

than to arrogantly hold the view of emptiness.

Why? Because all views can be eliminated by emptiness,

but the view of emptiness cannot be eradicated.

—Buddha Shakyamuni, Maharatnakuta Sutra

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