Photo by David McNamera, MRO

This is the Way I Express My Gratitude

· Dharma Discourses, Open Access · ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi

In the Mountains and Rivers Order we have two paths by which a student can practice and realize Buddhadharma—a lay training path and a monastic path. These make up the fourfold sangha as established by the Buddha: female and male monastics, and female and male lay students. The lay and monastic students together create an interdependent and co-dependent body that is sangha. Each path has its own integrity and is mutually dependent upon the other, and the differences between the two paths helps to give each its vitality.

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A True Life

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

What is a true, reliably grounded, fulfilling life? The question of what is true can haunt us, fueling our underlying dis-ease and motivating us to explore and even make major life changes. But rare are the opportunities to unravel the skein as thoroughly as through spiritual inquiry. The taking up of a simple life of generous service sounds appealing, an antidote to all kinds of suffering, not to mention a place of refuge and nurturance. But how do each of us find and genuinely live that true and fulfilling life?

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Fundamentally Perfect

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche

Our fundamental nature is intrinsic. No sane, intelligent human being is impeded from being in touch with this basic nature. There is no one standing between you and it, no one is appearing like a mara to perform dances of distraction. At any given moment, each one of you—even with no understanding of Buddhism—has the natural potential to realize you are completely and inseparably united with your intrinsic wisdom nature. You have never been separate from it for a moment. It is not a sometimes- there-sometimes-not quality or an adornment that’s been attached or added on to you.

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Photo by Jolan Martinez

Practicing With Demons and Dragons

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Hakuin Zenji

I went to the Shoin-ji and became a monk at the age of fourteen. Beginning that very same spring, I began serving as an attendant of Nyoka Roshi. During this period I read my way through Five Confucian Classics and studied the literary anthology Wen-hsuan from cover to cover. When I turned eighteen, I accompanied Kin Shuso to the city of Shimizu, where we were admitted to the assembly of monks at the Zenso-ji. In the course of one of the lectures there, the story of Yen-t’ou the Ferryman came up. Wanting to learn more about the life of this priest, I got hold of a copy of Praise of the True School, and Kin and I read through it on our own. I learned that Yen-t’ou had met a violent death at the hands of bandits.

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You Can Change the Story, My Spirit Said to Me as I Sat Near the Sea

· Poems · ,

by Joy Harjo

I am in a village up north, in the lands named “Alaska” now. These places had their own names long before English, Russian, or any other politically imposed trade language.
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The Path of Love

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Belden C. Lane

Discernment is the spiritual task of sifting through what is illusory in our lives to discover what is authentic. It’s the process of making decisions that are compatible with who we are.  One of the gifts I bring back from wilderness trips is the clarity of purpose that’s apparent in everything I meet there. Things in the natural world know inherently how to be what they are. Discernment is naturally embedded in them as instinct. Only we humans struggle to figure out who we are and what we should be doing. As poet David Whyte observes, we are the one species able to resist our own flowering.

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The Interior Castle

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Teresa of Avila

While I was beseeching Our Lord today that He would speak through me, since I could find nothing to say and had no idea how to begin to carry out the obligation laid upon me by obedience, a thought occurred to me which I will now set down, in order to have some foundation on which to build. I began to think of the soul as if it were a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal, in which there are many rooms, just as in Heaven there are many mansions. Now if we think carefully over this, sisters, the soul of the righteous man is nothing but a paradise, in which, as God tells us, He takes His delight. For what do you think a room will be like which is the delight of a King so mighty, so wise, so pure and so full of all that is good?

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The Writing Life

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Annie Dillard

You climb a long ladder until you can see over the roof, or over the clouds. You are-writing a book. You watch your shod feet step on each round rung, one at a time; you do not hurry and do not rest. Your feet feel the steep ladder’s balance; the long muscles in your thighs check its sway. You climb steadily, doing your job in the dark. When you reach the end, there is nothing more to climb. The sun hits you. The bright wideness surprises you; you had forgotten there was an end. You look back at the ladder’s two feet on the distant grass, astonished.

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Photo by Steve Jurvetson

Giving Rise to Discernment

· Articles & Essays, Open Access · ,

By Thanissaro Bhikkhu

We meditate, developing mindfulness, developing concentration, and after a while we begin to wonder, “When is the discernment going to come? When are the insights going to come?” And it’s important to look at what the Buddha has to say about what gives rise to discernment. Mindfulness and concentration are prerequisites, but there’s also more. And in searching for that “more,” it’s especially instructive to look at two sets of qualities that the Buddha said lead to Awakening—the Five Strengths and the Seven Factors for Awakening—to learn their lessons on what gives rise to discernment, what’s needed for these insights to arise. Otherwise you can meditate for twenty, thirty, forty years—as Ajaan Lee says, you could die and your body could dry out on the spot—and still not gain any discernment, because you’re lacking some of the proper qualities.

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Photo by Garen Meguerian

To the Monastery

· Articles & Essays · ,

By Thomas Merton

When I finally got off in Bardstown, I was standing across the road from a gas station. The street appeared to be empty, as if the town were asleep. But presently I saw a man in the gas station. I went over and asked where I could get someone to drive me to Gethsemani. So he put on his hat and started his car and we left town on a straight road through level country, full of empty fields. It was not the kind of landscape that belonged to Gethsemani, and I could not get my bearings until some low, jagged, wooded hills appeared ahead of us, to the left of the road, and we made a turn that took us into rolling, wooded land.

Then I saw that high familiar spire.

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