Once upon a time the Bodhisattva – the Enlightenment Being – was born into a high class family in northern India. When he grew up he gave up the ordinary desires of the everyday world and became a holy man. He went to the Himalayan Mountains where 500 other holy men became his followers.
He meditated throughout his long life. He gained supernatural powers – like flying through the air and understanding people’s thoughts without their speaking. These special powers impressed his 500 followers greatly.
One rainy season, the chief follower took 250 of the holy men into the hill country villages to collect salt and other necessities. It just so happened that this was the time when the master was about to die. The 250 who were still by his side realized this. So they asked him, “Oh most holy one, in your long life practicing goodness and meditation, what was your greatest achievement?”
Having difficulty speaking as he was dying, the last words of the Enlightenment Being were, “No Thing.” Then he was reborn in a heaven world.
Expecting to hear about some fantastic magical power, the 250 followers were disappointed. They said to each other. “After a long life practicing goodness and meditation. our poor master has achieved ‘nothing’.” Since they considered him a failure, they burned his body with no special ceremony, honors, or even respect.
When the chief follower returned he asked, “Where is the holy one?” “He has died,” they told him. “Did you ask him about his greatest achievement?” “Of course we did,” they answered. “And what did he say?” asked the chief follower. “He said he achieved ‘nothing’,” they replied, “so we didn’t celebrate his funeral with any special honors.”
Then the chief follower said, “You brothers did not understand the meaning of the teacher’s words. He achieved the great knowledge of ‘No Thing’. He realized that the names of things are not what they are. There is what there is, without being called ‘this thing’ or ‘that thing’. There is no ‘Thing’.” In this way the chief follower explained the wonderful achievement of their great master, but they still did not understand.
Meanwhile, from his heaven world, the reborn Enlightenment Being saw that his former chief follower’s words were not accepted. So he left the heaven world and appeared floating in the air above his former followers’ monastery. In praise of the chief follower’s wisdom he said, “The one who hears the Truth and understands automatically, is far better off than a hundred fools who spend a hundred years thinking and thinking and thinking.”
By preaching in this way, the Great Being encouraged the 500 holy men to continue seeking Truth. After lives spent in serious meditation, all 500 died and were reborn in the same heaven world with their former master.
When Buddhists from all around the world want to gather together to share their knowledge, inspiration, and experience, there is no one place they can call home. Many Buddhist leaders have shared the vision of creating a permanent home centered in a major temple housing statues of the ancient Buddhas, surrounded by smaller temples built by the various different sects and organizations as the capital of Buddhism. Furthermore, it would be open and accessible to the general public, an inviting and beautifully designed space in which to experience the rich diversity of Buddhist culture and practice all in one place.
This concept was very well supported by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. So, a search for a proper site began in early 2010. After visiting and considering several different locations and potential sites, the present project site at the Holy Heavenly Lake was most favored by the search team. A key factor in the decision for this project site was the presence of the lake, which made possible the vision of a spiritual oasis, in the form of a harmonious water garden that both physically and symbolically connects the various sects to the central temple. Holy Heavenly Lake is a holy site. Below the Holy Heavenly Lake, there is an underground river going from the south to the north, which is as wide as the Yangtze River. And there is a crystal lake with crystal gems lying 450 feet below the ground.
In 2015, the site and the initial conceptual site plan were presented to His Holiness, who expressed support for both. It was further decided that a Residence for His Holiness would be constructed next to the Main Temple. All major sects of Buddhism – including Zen, Pure-land, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug— expressed their commitment to establish their temples or Dharma Centers in the compound. This will be the first time in history that all of the major sects are gathered at one location.
on February 14, 2019. The City of Hesperia where the Holy Heavenly Lake is located held a public hearing to discuss the matter of building the Buddhist City at the Holy Heavenly Lake and subdividing the land for various Buddhist sects to build temples in the city. The result was that the city agreed to let the project move forward. The meeting was held on the first day, and the nagas and dharmapalas showed their praises through a tremendously holy manifestation on the next day. Huge amount of clear water suddenly flow rapidly on 15th with waves lifted by its billows over the riverbed above the underground river, although the riverbed has been dried for many years. It runs northward like an endless tide from a river of hundreds of miles in length.
We believe that the Buddhist Town at the Holy Heavenly Lake will fulfill the myriad wishes and bring about prosperity in every undertaking!
Below are the videos showing the beautiful landscapes and inspiring events that have happened at this holy site:
Joy of Awakening
The Inner Light
Dharma Assembly for Medicine Buddha’s Holy Birthday
Hua Zang Si is my favorite sacred spiritual worship place in the bay area. In there I find peace, relaxation, and harmony, and a home for my soul. I have gone there many times, to chant the sutra, join the meditation sessions, and participate in Dharma assemblies.
Hua Zang Si, an impressive-looking temple located in the center of the Mission District in San Francisco. The building was formerly the St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, built in 1903, and has been repurposed as a Chinese temple. To me it is really a friendly symbol that different religions can coexist in harmony.
The large outside facade of the temple is painted red color, made the building a very outstanding and eye-catching landmark in the neighborhood. Red is a good color in Chinese culture that symbolizes auspiciousness and warding off evil spirits。
Once entering the temple, I feel like I am in another world. The marvelous statue at the entrance of the temple is an oversize representation of a jolly, laughing Buddha: Maitreya Bodhisattva (the next Buddha in this Saha world). It is such a warm welcoming sign. The big belly not only means jolly, it also means tolerating those intolerable things in the world. So when you look at the statue, you will start to feel that learning Buddhism is happy and kind.
Walking inside, the first floor is Shakyamuni Buddha Hall. The golden statue of Shakyamuni Buddha is a very dignified-looking Buddhist statue. On the left side is the one thousand-armed and one thousand-eyed Guanyin Bodhisattva, an awe-inspiring statue. On the right side is Skanda Bodhisattva, a standing majestic full-body armored statue. With a sword in hand, Skanda Bodhisattva is a Buddha Dharma protector, and it is believed he can subjugate demons and evil spirits.
The second floor is Amitabha Buddha Hall. The twenty-one-foot-high statue of Amitabha Buddha (designed by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III) has been generally recognized as the most majestic Buddhist statue in the world. It is an extremely solemn sight. The color painted on the face is so lifelike, one feels like seeing the real Amitabha Buddha from western paradise. The Buddha’s eyes seem alive as well, looking down at all beings full of compassion and love. Every time when I look at the Buddha, I feel so moved and touched, tears fill my eyes. I can’t help but to kneel down and pray wholeheartedly: Please Buddha save me from the birth-death cycle, please take me to the western pure land. I feel my whole body melted into the compassionate gaze of the Buddha.
In the center of Amitabha Buddha hall, there is a large circular mandala on which a Yun sculpture (carved by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III) depicting Mt. Sumeru is placed. In that Yun sculpture are shariras (sacred relics) of the Shakyamuni Buddha for worshipping.
Directly facing the Amitabha Buddha is a tall Dharma altar, there is a huge blue Dorje Chang Buddha image. Dorje Chang Buddha is also called Buddha Vajradhara or Ruler of the Vajra Beings. In the entire universe, Dorje Chang Buddha is the first Buddha with form and is the highest Buddha. That is, the highest leader of Buddhism in the entire universe came into being in the form of Dorje Chang Buddha. It was Dorje Chang Buddha who began transmitting dharma and saving living beings in the dharmadhatu. As a result, Buddhism was born and the Buddha-dharma began spreading.
In front of the image of Dorje Chang Buddha are photos of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III. Dorje Chang Buddha has come to this world twice. The first time was in the form of the holy and venerable Vimalakirti, who was Dorje Chang Buddha II. The second time was in the form of H.H. Wan Ko Yeshe Norbu, who is Dorje Chang Buddha III.
These photos were true records of the holy miracle Buddha Dharma. On October 18, 2012, H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III within ten minutes, reversed his appearance back to a youthful look. This incredible Buddha Dharma ever practiced successfully by Guru Rinpoche long time ago in Tibet.
Hua Zang Si has many Holy Treasures , make sure you check them out at the corner of this hall as well.
The third floor contains a library of Buddhist scriptures.
The backyard — a city oasis in the shadow of surrounding Victorians — is home to a magnolia tree, which the faithful say rained nectar for three days, along with a miraculous lotus tub used in the bathing of the Buddha and heavenly beings.
Further back, there is Dharma protector pavilion, a statue of the Dharma Protecting Deity Guan Yu was installed inside.
Guan Yu took refuge in Master Zhiyi at Yuquan Hill. He then manifested great supernatural power and constructed the Yuquan Temple overnight on a barren lot, where he resolved to become a protector of Buddhism. That is why, upon the plea of many Buddhist practitioners, he was recommended to be the Dharma Protecting Deity of Hua Zang Si.
Hua Zang Si is different from other temples that propagate only one sect within Buddhism. It teaches all of the various sects within Buddhism. If you want to know and learn Buddhism, Hua Zang Si is the best place to start with.
There are some good reasons to believe that Nietzsche was interested in Eastern philosophy during his lifetime. In the Antichrist he states:
“Buddhism, I repeat, is a hundred times more austere, more honest, more objective. It no longer has to justify its pains, its susceptibility to suffering, by interpreting these things in terms of sin—it simply says, as it simply thinks, ‘I suffer’”
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 23
Buddhism, as a pessimistic and decadent religion for Nietzsche resembles Christianity but it seems that he had far more admiration for Buddhism. He inherited most of his understanding of Buddhism from Schopenhauer, who considered his own pessimistic philosophy a European relative of Buddhism.
Schopenhauer, in his research into Indian philosophy, appears to have attained the most comprehensive understanding among nineteenth century German thinkers of a system of Asian thought.
Although Nietzsche did read about Buddhism, it was usually second-hand and westernised, he was predisposed to react to Buddhism in terms of his close reading of Schopenhauer. Many Buddhists have since disputed Schopenhauer’s comprehension of their religion.
Influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche criticised both Christianity and Buddhism as forms of nihilism, where the will to nonentity prevails over the will to life. However, he soon feared the rise of pessimism in Europe would culminate in the triumph of the weary and passive nihilism.
It is important to know that Nietzsche was not a nihilist as some suggest, stating that the modern man would have to create his own values through a Revaluation of All Values, leading to the Ubermensch, affirming the world and saying yes to existence, the pinnacle of self-overcoming.
The foundation of his critique of Buddhism is his characterisation of Nirvana as a nothingness and as a form of nihilism. However, this does not best describe the Buddhist path.
There are Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. The first one is the acknowledgement of duhkha or “suffering”, an inseparable characteristic in the realm of Samsara, which suggests that human beings, at the time of death, are reborn to a realm determined by their karma. It is the cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence.
If we stop here, we can see why Nietzsche considers it nihilistic. However, this is but one of the noble truths. The second one is the origin of this suffering which comes from craving, desire or attachment and the third one states that there is an end to suffering, by letting go of this craving. This leads to the final noble truth, which is the path that gives way to renouncement of craving and the cessation of suffering, following the Noble Eightfold Path, which liberates one from Samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth – achieving Nirvana, the cessation of all afflictions, actions, rebirths and suffering that are a consequence of afflictions and actions.
Nirvana refers to the realisation of the “non-self” and “emptiness”, marking the end of rebirth by stilling the fires that keep the process of rebirth going. This is what Nietzsche thought of as a longing for nothingness. However, it is not a longing for nothingness, it is simply the end of Samsara. Thus, different from Schopenhauer’s pessimism, Buddhism starts pessimistic but ends with the positive experience of Nirvana.
It is not an escape from the world, one begins with the suffering inherent in life, one is to overcome pleasure and pain, before beginning a mindful examination of one’s self and reality as perceived by the self. Upon this examination, one realises that there is no self, but only the combination of mental and physical states (skandhas).
This realisation of non-self is also misunderstood. It is not a destruction of a self, but rather a rejection of the existence of a self. Buddhists believe that the concept of “emptiness” means that all things are empty of inherent existence, there is no such thing as inherent existence, everything arises mutually. Thus, negation in the East does not have the same pessimistic connotation that it has in the West.
Perhaps the most serious misreading we find in Nietzsche’s account of Buddhism was his inability to recognise that the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness was an initiatory stage leading to a reawakening.
Throughout Nietzsche’s books and notes, he refers to different aspects of Eastern philosophy on more than four hundred occasions, and in several of these he claims to be interested in it.
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic, he does indicate its profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly, this is important to note. And even if Nietzsche despised sacred texts, he upholds the beauty and grandeur of them as literary documents.
Nietzsche’s interest in studying Buddhism seems to be seeing it as a psychological symptom, as well as a historically embedded phenomena. Having chosen Buddhism to comment on might be in line with his idea of having the courage to engage with worthy adversaries. He states:
He (the Buddha) does not advocate any conflict with unbelievers; his teaching is antagonistic to nothing so much as to revenge, aversion ressentiment. And in all this he was right, for it is precisely these passions which, in view of his main purpose, are unhealthful.
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 20
Here he agrees on the Buddha’s doctrine, which is opposed to the feelings of revenge, antipathy and ressentiment. And in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he said:
“For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms”
Nietzsche’s conceptions of the Eternal Recurrence and Samsara, Zarathustraand Bodhisattva (a person who is able to reach Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings), the Transvaluation of All Values and Nirvana, are all examples of similarities.
In his analysis of the self, Nietzsche contended:
“the subject is only a fiction: the ego of which one speaks when one censures egoism does not exist at all”. This is remarkably similar to the Buddha’s doctrine of non-existence of the self.
Nietzsche’s philosophy may have been much more similar to Buddhism than he might have realised. This should not be surprising, given Nietzsche’s respect for the Buddha and that Buddhism concerns itself with one of the basic problems with which Nietzsche was grappling: the structure and meaning of the human condition.
At the onset of his mental collapse, he even came to identify himself with Buddha:
“I have been Buddha in India, Dionysus in Greece.”
However, on the whole, this impression is deceptive.
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Eastern Philosophy and Nietzsche | Buddhism and Hinduism
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic (wrongly), he does indicate their profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly.
Green Tara (Jetsun Drolma) statue from the Gyantse Kumbum Pagoda, Pelkor Chode Monastery, Gyantse, Tibet
H.E. Tangtong Gyalpo Bodhisattva (1361-1485)
It is through the understanding and practice of the Buddha-dharma that one becomes a holy person–a living jewel. Sainthood in Buddhism has a somewhat different meaning than that held in Christianity although both refer to people who live an exceptionally holy life, are very compassionate, and can demonstrate certain “miracles.” In Buddhism it also means one who has become enlightened—been liberated from the cycle of reincarnation and all its related suffering. The Christian saint aspires to be born in the Christian heaven, but this is not the goal of a Buddhist. A Buddhist saint is one who has escaped samsara or existence all together and gone beyond what is possible in the heavenly realms. A Buddhist saint would live in the Dharma realms or wherever he choses to be to help living beings. A saint in Buddhism is one who, like the Buddha, has become enlightened and realized his or her original nature, possessing the skills and wisdom of a Buddha. They have gained control over life and death and are thus liberated from the cycle of reincarnation. This is true happiness!
In Buddhism saints may not lead what is normally thought of as a “conventional” life. There are many examples of Buddhist saints who exhibited most unorthodox (“deliberate“) behavior. Examples of these kinds of happy, crazy saints are Han-shan and Shih-te, eccentric Ch’an (Zen) hermit-monks from Tang Dynasty, as well as Monk Ji-gong and Birdnest Roshi, but there are many others including the crazy yogis of Tibet like Padmasambhava, Virupa, Manjusrimitra, Tsang Nyon Heruka, and Tangtong Gyalpo. Saints can manifest in innumerable forms and may appear as humans or animals or live in other dimensions.
Japanese hanging scroll by Hashimoto Gaho of Han-shan and Shih-te (Kanzan and Fittoku), eccentric Ch’an (Zen) hermit-monks from Tang Dynasty, whose poetry is popular in the west.
It is important to know that one cannot fully understand what takes place on higher levels of the path. For example, those on the first Bodhisattva stage do not know about what takes place on the second Bodhisattva stage and so on up the path. Those on the second Bodhisattva stage see those on the first Bodhisattva stage as having impurities. Even those on the tenth Bodhisattva stage see those on the ninth Bodhisattva stage as having certain impurities. It is natural that the impurities and obscurations of those on the lower levels would be greater than those at the higher levels. Nevertheless, those who are kind and benefit others can guide and transform living beings no matter where they are on the path. However, ordinary beings and those at the lower levels of the path cannot possibly understand the behavior of true holy beings.
The key features of the various paths to becoming a holy being are summarized in the chart “The Way to Become a Holy Being or Saint.” It is useful to think of these paths as stages on the way to becoming a Buddha. It is interesting to note that the other world religions are also included as initial stages on the way to buddhahood in as much as they teach compassion, loving kindness, some aspects of morality, and discourage evil. Some also teach various forms of training the mind in meditation. Bodhisattvas do not only incarnate as Buddhists to help living being. The three pure precepts of Buddhism—cease evil, do good, and help others—can be practiced in many forms.
You must remember that ALL sentient beings are evolving toward the perfection of being a Buddha, whether they know it or not, and whether at the moment they may be very confused and behaving in foolish or even evil ways. This includes the minions of Mara and the demons of hell as well as the devas or gods in heaven.
A Buddhist Tale from Tibet Adapted by Elisa Pearmain
The children at the village school laughed at Chunda. They said that the boy was a simpleton because no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to learn to read or write. But the adults of the village were fond of Chunda, for he had a kind heart, and though he was a wisp of a teen, he was always willing to help, running an errand or sweeping a front yard.
Chunda admired his older brother Raj above all else. Raj, who was a couple of years older than Chunda was a bright scholar. When he turned 16, he decided to move to the city to study Buddhism at the monastery. Chunda begged to go with him, and his brother found a way for Chunda to live at the monastery and to earn his keep by working. At the monastery Chunda swept the yards, and clapped the dirt from the sandals of the monks as they came in for the evening meal. He watched and listened as the young monks sat in long conversations. How he wished that he could join in, but he would remember how the children had laughed at him, and his shame always drove him away.
Chunda’s brother noticed his brother’s sadness and longing, and spoke to him. “Chunda, perhaps you could study to be a monk as well.” “But how could I become a monk?” He asked, “I can’t read or write, or memorize?”“ There is more to becoming a monk than book learning. Go to see the Buddha (who was the master of the monastery at that time) and tell him your wishes. He is wise, and compassionate.” So Chunda went and sat before the Buddha who quickly saw that he was an honest young man of pure heart. He gave Chunda just one line of scripture to learn. It was the first of hundreds that each monk was expected to learn by heart. “Give up negative actions. Free yourself from negative thoughts.”
Chunda tried and tried to learn the short passage, but he had to repeatedly ask for help, and once he had learned the first line, he would forget it when he began to learn the second. Chunda returned to the Buddha and told him what had happened. The kind man sat in silence for some time. Finally, an idea occurred to him. “Chunda, you are a hard worker are you not?’ he asked. “Yes master.” “I would like to give you a special job. I want you to sweep the temple hall each day. Can you do that?” “Oh yes, teacher.” Chunda said, jumping up with delight. “That is something I can do well.” “Very well then, Chunda. I will give you the job of sweeping the temple. That is all that you must do, but as you sweep the floors you must speak these two lines to yourself, over and over: “Sweep away the dust, sweep away the dirt.” Can you remember that?” “Sweep away the dust, sweep away the dirt. Yes, that is easy, because that is what I will be doing!” Chunda set off to begin his work. Every day he did sweep the temple, all day long, and as he swept he kept up a rhythm, “Sweep away the dust” he would say with each sweep out, and “Sweep away the dirt,” with each sweep back. Often he would get lost in thought and he would forget to say the lines. Luckily the other monks knew what he was supposed to be chanting, and they would remind him, and he would go back to is work. “Sweep away the dust, sweep away the dirt.”
Then one day the Buddha came upon Chunda who was standing still, thinking hard about something. “Chunda, where is your mind right now.” “Oh sorry, Master, I should be sweeping,” No, Chunda,” he smiled, “share your thoughts.””Well I was thinking that you are a wise man, and you have given me these lines to say about something that I know how to do. When I remember to say them I feel at peace. You have not given me any more lines. Do you mean for me to learn something more from this?” “Yes Chunda. You have found the peace that is there for us in the present moment. Now I want you to think about this: You are sweeping clean the dirt from the temple. Think also about sweeping clean the inner dust and dirt in your mind.” “But what are inner dust and inner dirt?” “Well, Chunda, think of the nature of dust and dirt: They cover what is beautiful and clean, and cloud what is clear. And dust and dirt often cover those things that are old and of no more use to us. It is also the nature of dust that we can see it in the air, but when we grasp for it, it is not there, just like thoughts of the future or the past. Think on this and notice when your thoughts are clouding you from the present moment, and causing unhappiness, and notice when you cling to old ways of thinking.” Chunda went back to sweeping.
One day Chundra noticed that he was often longing to sit with the other students as they talked about the things they were learning. “But,” he would think to himself, “I am not worthy to sit and talk with the other monks and students my age, for I cannot read nor write.” This way of seeing and thinking was like dirt, it was an old way of seeing himself that kept him from happiness. “I should sweep these thoughts from my mind.” He thought. “Sweep away the dust, sweep away the dirt.” He felt peaceful again. Another time he noticed that he was often living in the future wishing, “If only, if only I could read and write like the others, then …” These wishing thoughts were like dust. He was always trying to grasp things out of his reach, and missing the present moment. “Sweep away the dust, sweep away the dirt.”
Chunda went and shared his insights with the Buddha who again smiled. “Ah Chunda, you are doing very well. Tell me, can you stop and enjoy the beauty of a clean temple after you have swept?” “Yes, master.” “Good then, ” smiled the Buddha, “I hope you will now remember to also stop to notice the simple joy of a clean inner temple, as well as an outer one.” Chunda did stop to notice, and he continued to sweep the inner dirt, and the outer dirt, and to stop often to experience the peace of the present moment, and the simple joy that was there when all negative thoughts were gone. And in this way Chunda continued to sweep, to chant and to ponder on the nature of grasping and clinging, and the peace of living in the present moment.
In time the other students noticed his peace, and began to talk with him. He was able to share his wisdom with other monks. As the years passed his wisdom and inner peace grew. He became known as The Broom Master, and many came to hear his simple, yet profound wisdom.
Sources: Conover, Sarah, “The Broom Master” in Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents, (Spokane, WA: Eastern WA University Press, 2001) pp. 68-71.Lama Surya Das, “Greatness of Heart is What Counts,” in The Snow Lion’s Turquoise Mane: Wisdom Tales from Tibet. Pp. 45-48.
Sautrantika: One of the early Indian schools of this tradition. Also known as the Sutra-Only School because it focused on just the discourses of the Buddha.
Vaibhasika: An influential early Indian school in north-west India also of this tradition. Its version of the Abhidharma, the Mahavibhasa (The Great Book of Alternatives), was the basis for Vasubandhu’s Abhidharma-kosa that is still studied in Tibetan monasteries and considered to be one of the five classic commentaries or treatises that should be mastered.
Theravada (Lineage of the Elders): This is the form of Buddhism that was transmitted very early to the South-east Asian counties of Sri Lanka (247 BCE) and Burma (272-236 BCE) and later to Thailand (1260), Laos (14th century), Cambodia, and southern Viet Nam. It was between 25 and 17 BCE that the Pali canon or scriptures were first recorded in Sri Lanka. In America it is also popularly known as vipassana or Insight Meditation. The most conservative branch of Buddhism, the Theravadans based their practice exclusively on the Tripitaka of the Pali Scriptures and are the only remaining school evolving out of this tradition. Their focus is the practice of mindfulness, which involves cultivating an awareness of one’s thoughts, actions, and body to become aware of what one does and one’s motivation. This is a prelude to a direct understanding of the transitory, conditioned nature of existence. Theravadans take refuge in the three jewels and follow the five precepts of no killing, no stealing, no inappropriate sex, no inappropriate speech, and no ingesting substances that befuddle consciousness. Monastics must be celibate and cannot claim to have supernormal powers. The goal of one following this path is to become an arhat. It has become a popular form of Buddhism in the United States. Some modern western leaders in this school have questioned if enlightenment is possible or even a useful goal, stressing more the integration of Buddhist concepts and theories with Western psychology and therapy.
When Shakyamuni Buddha lived on this planet over 2500 years ago, he transmitted dharma to the many disciples who followed him. After the Buddha’s Parinivana, one of the Buddha’s foremost disciples, Venerable Mahakasyapa, became the head of the sangha and presided over the First Great Council at Rajagrha that was held to codify the Buddha’s teachings. He was known for his accomplishments in the dharma.
Ananda, the Buddha’s younger cousin and known as “the assistant who heard much,” became the second patriarch in this lineage after Mahakasyapa passed away. As a condition for becoming the Buddha’s attendant, a position he held for 24 years, Ananda requested no preferential treatment and that the Buddha repeat for him any teachings he might miss. He was gifted with total recall and at the First Great Council repeated all of the Buddha’s teachings from memory. His recitation became the basis for the Sutras in the Tripitaka. When Guru Padmasambhava reincarnated eight years after Shakyamuni Buddha left this world, it was Venerable Ananda who transmitted the special dharma that Shakyamuni instructed him to transmit.
The sangha divided into many sects based on different interpretations and emphasis. The main split was between what became known as the Sravakayana (or Path of the Arhats) and Mahayana (or Path of the Bodhisattvas) Vehicles. Of the eighteen or so lessor vehicle sects, only the Theravada School has survived. This is the dominant form of Buddhism practiced in Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Today there are over 100 million Theravada Buddhist worldwide with a growing number of temples and groups forming in the West as the people of Southeast Asia migrate to the West.
Many Westerners have also gone to Southeast Asia to study and have brought their own form of usually lay practice to the West, often referred to as Insight Meditation or vipassana. Theravada monasteries have developed in the U.S. that train western monastics, notably the Bhavana Society Forest Monastery and Meditation Center (Sri Lanka) in High View, West Virginia, and Abhayagiri (Fearless Mountain) Monastery (Thai) also in the forest monk tradition in Redwood Valley, California.
What are Buddhist Beliefs? All living beings have the same basic wish to be happy and avoid suffering, but very few people understand the real causes of happiness and suffering.
We generally believe that external conditions such as food, friends, cars, and money are the real causes of happiness, and as a result we devote nearly all our time and energy to acquiring these. Superficially it seems that these things can make us happy, but if we look more deeply we shall see that they also bring us a lot of suffering and problems.
Happiness and suffering are opposites, so if something is a real cause of happiness it cannot give rise to suffering. If food, money, and so forth really are causes of happiness, they can never be causes of suffering; yet we know from our own experience that they often do cause suffering. For example, one of our main interests is food, but the food we eat is also the principal cause of most of our ill health and sickness.
In the process of producing the things we feel will make us happy, we have polluted our environment to such an extent that the very air we breathe and the water we drink now threaten our health and well-being. We love the freedom and independence a car can give us, but the cost in accidents and environmental destruction is enormous.
We feel that money is essential for us to enjoy life, but the pursuit of money also causes immense problems and anxiety. Even our family and friends, with whom we enjoy so many happy moments, can also bring us a lot of worry and heartache.
In recent years our understanding and control of the external world have increased considerably, and as a result, we have witnessed remarkable material progress; but there has not been a corresponding increase in human happiness.
There is no less suffering in the world today, and there are no fewer problems. Indeed, it could be said that there are now more problems and greater unhappiness than ever before. This shows that the solution to our problems, and to those of society as a whole, does not lie in knowledge or control of the external world.
Why is this? Happiness and suffering are states of mind, and so their main causes cannot be found outside the mind. The real source of happiness is inner peace. If our mind is peaceful, we shall be happy all the time, regardless of external conditions, but if it is disturbed or troubled in any way, we shall never be happy, no matter how good our external conditions may be.
External conditions can only make us happy if our mind is peaceful. We can understand this through our own experience. For instance, even if we are in the most beautiful surroundings and have everything we need, the moment we get angry any happiness we may have disappears. This is because anger has destroyed our inner peace.
We can see from this that if we want true, lasting happiness we need to develop and maintain a special experience of inner peace. The only way to do this is by training our mind through spiritual practice – gradually reducing and eliminating our negative, disturbed states of mind and replacing them with positive, peaceful states.
Eventually, through continuing to improve our inner peace we shall experience permanent inner peace, or “nirvana.” Once we have attained nirvana we shall be happy throughout our life, and in life after life. We shall have solved all our problems and accomplished the true meaning of our human life.
From Kindness <A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom For Children and Parents>
By Sarah Conover
Unlike the Buddha, Kisa Gotami grew up very poor. Her family had little food to spare. She often felt weary, hungry, and weak and so was called Kisa-meaning”frail”-Gotami. When Kisa Gotami married, she moved into the house of her husband’s family: the custom in India at the time. But because she came from a humble background, her new family treated her harshly until the day she gave birth to a child. She was respected now, with her new baby boy. Kisa felt proud and happy. Her new son was the light of her life. She cherished everything about him-his delightful laughter, his eager brown eyes, his toothless smiles. But one terrible, tragic day, the boy was taken by a sudden illness. His death overwhelmed poor Kisa. She bundled him in warm blankets and held him tightly to her chest. Crazed with grief, she stumbled from house to house, begging for medicine that would bring him back to life. But instead of helping, people mocked her madness. “Crazy woman!” they jeered. “How can a person be brought back to life!” Hours later, Kisa Gotami stood in the street, wretched and disheartened.As she wept over her child,a kind man passing by studied her.To himself he said, ”This poor woman has lost her mind from sorrow. I think I know how to get her the medicine she seeks.” He placed his hands firmly on her shoulders.”Dear woman, please let me help you.The wisest of men, a man named the Buddha, resides at a monastery nearby. I will take you to him and you can ask his advice. If anyone has medicine for your child, it is he.”
He led her to the monastery where she found the Buddha teaching, at the front of a large group of monks and nuns. From the edge of the crowd she shouted,”Teacher, teacher! My name is Kisa Gotami. I am desperate! Please, my son needs your medicine!”
The crowd made way for Kisa to reach the Buddha. As she stood before him, he observed the child’s lifeless face.”You did well in coming here for medicine, Gotamit the Buddha comforted her.”Here you will find the help you need. But first, before l can save your child, you must do something for me.You·must return to the city from which you just came. There, find me a single mustard seed and bring it back.”
Kisa Gotami’s face lit up, for she thought this a simple task in exchange for her son’s life.”Most important of all,”said the Buddha,”the mustard seed must be from a family in which no one has died. Go now, make the rounds of the city and·ask at every home. Bring me back just one mustard seed from such a family.”
“Thank you good sir!”said Kisa happily. She turned and hurried back to the city.At the very first house she stopped and knocked at the door.An old woman answered. She easily gave Kisa Gotami a mustard seed-all India used them in cooking. But just as the seed was placed -in Kisa’s palm, she remembered the Buddha’s further instructions. ”Oh, pardon me. Before I take this, I must ask you, has anyone died in this family recently?” The old woman’s head lowered. She fell silent. When she raised her face, there were pooled tears in her eyes.I’m sorry to say the answer is yes,” replied the old woman. “ My dear husband died six months ago.”
“I am so sorry; said Kisa Gotami.”Thank you for your kindness, but I cannot take this seed.”
A few minutes later she knocked at the door of a house with children running in and out of the entrance,chasing each other in play.A young woman saw Kisa standing in the doorway, and came to greet her. Some of the children stood behind the young woman’s skirt to hear what the stranger wanted. “Can I help you?” she asked Kisa Gotami.
“I have been sent here to find special medicine for my son. I am looking for a single mustard seed from a household in which no one has died;’ said Kisa.
“We cannot help you. l am sorry. We lost our mother two years ago;’ stated the young woman quietly. “For many months I was so unhappy I didn’t know how to go on” One of the boys reached up to hold her hand. She clasped his little fingers and continued,”But I knew I had to help my father take care of my brothers and sisters. That’s what my mother would have wanted. I’m sorry we have no such special mustard seed for you:’
And so Kisa Gotami continued to the next house, and then to another, asking for the single mustard seed. But always, someone had lost a beloved-a brother or a sister, a grandparent, an aunt or cousin, a mother or father. The list grew longer and longer. After a time, nightfall came. People snuffed out their oil lamps for the evening. Kisa Gotami sat down, resting against a tree. She gazed down at her son in her arms.
Studying him closely, she felt a gradual change in herself. Not a single household she had visited today lived untouched by death’s sad hand. Many suffered just as she did now. She was not alone. And somehow, with these thoughts, her grief lightened just a bit, and she returned home. The next day, at first light, Kisa Gotami readied her son for his funeral. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she wrapped him in clean cloth and said farewell. After the funeral, Kisa Gotami went back to the monastery to speak with the Buddha.The Buddha dearly saw in her face that she had come back to her senses. He asked,”Gotami, did you bring me a tiny grain of mustard?”
“ No, teacher. I am done looking for the mustard seed. I know that in the whole city, in the whole world, there is not one family, not one person, free from the certainty of death. It is the way of all living things-we must at some time leave one another.”
”And where is your child, dear woman?”
”At last I have said good-bye to him. I felt terribly alone in my grief, but now I know there are many others who have lost what they most cherished. We must help each other, as you have helped me.”
Kisa Gotami, brought back to her right mind from her search for the mustard seed, became a very wise and compassionate woman. It is said that she never left the Buddha after her return to the monastery. And that from her experience, she was able to comfort many, many others in her lifetime.
The moral is : All fear death, all hold life dear. Feel for others as you do for yourself. Remember this and cause no harm.
After graduate school, I moved to Wilmington, Delaware. I lived in a very nice neighborhood, with many towering trees, a beautiful pond and grassy land. Wild animals often jumped in your view: squirrels, raccoons, birds, sometimes even deer. I loved to walk around, especially after rain, with the fresh air and tranquil blue sky making me feel so calm and peaceful. However, I found there were some little inconvenient spots where earth worms would drown in the small rainwater puddle. I knew earth worms couldn’t breath in water, that they would die in the puddle. I always tried to find a twig to pick up the worms gently and then put them in the grass. I didn’t have any other thought when I did this, I just didn’t want to see them die. I did not realize this little good deed would save me later.
One day I went to visit one of my friends, and he showed me a picture he got from a temple. It was a painting of The Three Holy Beings in West Paradise, and I was deeply attracted by image of Amitabha Buddha and Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva. I felt a great compassion flow from the paper into me. I bowed to the holy beings involuntarily. My friend gave me the picture and a small booklet about buddhism. I framed the picture very elegantly and set up a small sacred altar in my home. Maybe because of my Karmic condition, I started to chant the name of Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva in front of the holy image whenever I had the time. I also read the small booklet. It told me a brief history of Buddhism, and the law of Karma — cause and effect exists everywhere and every time. What kind of actions you did, will bring you what kind of effects. Seems to me like what goes around will comes around. At that time, I didn’t disagree with it but also didn’t truly believe in it.
One year later, I had my first baby. After the delivery I was very weak, because of the excessive blooding. Taking care of a newborn was a lot of work, and sometimes I didn’t even have strength to cook a meal for myself. My husband was traveling a lot, and when he was not at home, I felt very scary at night for no reason. One night I was so exhausted. When I fell asleep I saw a very fierce man whose whole body was black except for two big white eyes, and he held an iron ring and tried to attack me. I was so frightened, I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move. At that very moment I saw Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva like the purest white angel stand on my head, and then that evil black demon disappeared immediately. While I was still half awake and half dreaming, I felt the floor lamp in my room lighten up, and on the ground I saw many earth worms. Suddenly I heard a voice telling me that because I saved those earth worms before, so I have been saved this time.
I completely woke up, and came to the altar. I deeply homaged to the greatly loving and compassionate Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva! I was so grateful for being saved by the holy Bodhisattva! I prayed to the Bodhisattva sincerely, to please protect me and my baby.
My prayer did get answered, for very soon my mother got a visa after being rejected twice. She could now come to the US to help me go through the most difficult time in my life.
Now I truly believe in the Buddhism teaching. I practice cultivation diligently every day. And I hope I can attain liberation in my life and have the opportunity to help people be free from suffering, frightening, and sorrow.
I deeply wish all living beings have a happy and prosperous life with good health and an abundance of good fortune!