Reflections: Classes and Workshops

What I Have Learned at Buddha Gate
by Bob Clark

I have learned that I have a lot to learn. I have learned that when I am stuck in life, when I need spiritual support and if my intention is pure and heartfelt, then Buddha will provide a place for me. I begin to find my way home to my true self and my divine source. I am grateful for the discovery of Buddha Gate.

What We Have Learned from Buddha Gate Monastery
by Joe Yeo and Sheena Tan

It was by sheer chance that we were introduced to Buddha Gate Monastery in March 2004 by a fellow neighbor. Before going to the Monastery, our family lives had been in helter skelter caused mainly by our ignorance, doubts, suspicion, anger and greed that we were unable to identify the reason why.

Unfortunately, these factors rule the major portion of everyone’s life, but we are unable to find a solution to resolve all the differences until we came to the Monastery. Afterwards, we realize what causes unhappiness, the power of the mind and the true meaning of being a Buddha.

Everyone in the Monastery is extremely helpful, and they support us to work towards achieving happiness. Having been at the Monastery for the last nine months, our lives have undergone a total change and we are so much happier, contented and most importantly, able to apply all the teachings form Buddhism to change our lives.

Calligraphy and Buddhism
by Mae Hoag / Chuan Ming

Learning Chinese Calligraphy is not only the acquisitions of an artistic skill but also a workshop in which Buddhist principles can be practiced. It required diligence to persevere in mastering the tools of break and ink to create forms that have energy, proportion and fluidity. It takes a commitment to practice, to dedicate oneself to repetition, knowing there are no shortcuts and that this resolve will result ultimately in an esthetic achievement one might not have thought possible as a beginner. On my work table I keep a motto which states: “Nothing is difficult to one who is diligent.” This has provided encouragement during times I was ready to give up, not believing I had the requisite ability.

Tolerance and patience are needed as a beginner for the inevitable mistakes and the awkwardness felt in handling unfamiliar tools and materials. Through acceptance of this initial situation, one can discover that progress and accomplishment are possible. Just abandon preconceived notions regarding time of achievement and personal ability!

It is not a permanent state!

To practice calligraphy is a meditation providing an opportunity to focus and concentrate while being totally absorbed in the formation of each stroke, oblivious to external sounds and activities. Attention to breath must be paid to execute characters which are decisive and forceful. Both time and self disappear. Practicing can be both a spiritual and artistic expression, a transcending experience leading to greater awareness and mindfulness.

Coming Home
by Harvey Saitzyk

Sometime, in early 1960, while attending city college, I became interested in finding out the meaning of life. Between class breaks, I would sit in my car and write all my thoughts in a notebook. I thought I could think out the meaning of life. The notebooks were lost and the only thing I can still remember to this day is one thought that I wrote “the only secret to life was that there was no secret.” The meaning of life was simply before my very eyes. The problem was, I could not see it or did not know how to see it. Toward the end of the 1960’s, I joined the military. The USA was still engulfed in the Vietnam war. While in the military, I continued my searched for the meaning of life. With the protests against the war still raging, hippies experimenting with LSD, and the movement toward eastern philosophy, life to me seemed more absurd. After two unsuccessful marriages, and several unproductive jobs, the compulsion to seek and “answer” or “way” became stronger. I decided to enroll in a few religious evening courses.

I took a course in Judaism and the Old Testament. I thought this course would guide me back to my Jewish heritage and a meaning to my life. The course only clarified that the Old Testament was written by prophets and writers whose writing could be divided, by historical periods, into “J” and “Y” documents. This course stimulated my interest in Buddhism, Chan and Taoism. I found myself searching out and collecting books on Buddhism, Chan and Taoism. My library was growing, but I was not growing. During this time, I met a wonderful woman of Islamic faith. We fell in love and married. I began to study Islam. Particularly Sufism. In the 1990’s I became interested in Existentialism. I was fascinated with Camus’s “Life is Absurd”, Martin Heidegger’s “Search for the Meaning of Being” and Satre’s “Human’s Make their own Meanings”. I could see similarities in the concepts of European Existentialism, Sufism and Eastern ways of thoughts. I became a lay scholar researcher of philosophical and religious ideas and practices. I realized that I could not make a commitment to a practice. All I had done was to gather hundreds of concepts about the different ways toward enlightenment. I had now reached a state of confusion. One day I was thumbing through some poems by Sufi Mystic Rumi. A line of his poetry sparked an inner yes. The line read “die before you die”. Yes, that was it. I had to die to all the illusions created by my ego. It was a positive realization, but it carried with it a great fear. I quickly discovered that it was just this fear of dying to the ego that held me back from making a commitment to a practice. For forty years of my life, I thought that I could think my way to enlightenment. How wrong I was. It took a lot of courage to take my first step toward a practice.

A friend told me about the Buddha Gate Monastery. After much debate with myself. I decided to visit. I met and talked with the Chan Master of this beautiful establishment. I met the Abbess Master Jian Pin. I told her my story and the Abbess looked into my eyes and said that it was my karma to come to the Buddha Gate Monastery. I had a feeling that I had finally come home. She suggested me to attend the meditation class. My first meditation experience in Buddha Gate was no an easy task. I experienced the “monkey mind”. However, after many attempts, my mind has begun to settle down. Now each time I meditate, my mind becomes more and more stable. I let the thought come and go and try not to identify. My body still becomes resistant to the sitting meditation. It will probably take many years of practice. In the class Master Jian Pin teaches me that all my mental activity is my mind constructing an illusive reality. This is the reality that is created by my ego. My ego has created my world of pleasure, doubt and fear. This is the me that comprehends the world in terms of its need for security, nourishment, protection and attention. It’s my ego stillness is a death. Meditation is a way to slowly die into life, to die and be reborn to the life. Meditation at Buddha Gate and the teaching of Master Jian Pin are a unique and exceptional combination. If this is my karma, then I am pleased to know that I am home.

Reflection upon The Acolyte Class
by Sylvia Huyhn (Chuan Xin)

What would you like to get out of the Acolyte class?
Having to learn the Buddhist practice as a student at Buddha Gate Monastery is already very overwhelming because at first there is much to learn. Therefore, the only way one person can perfect it is to practice.  Being able to attend class helps us achieve that.
As for being on the Acolyte team, it is an honor.  It gives us an opportunity to understand the reason why we are doing certain duties.  Having the understanding of why we walk a certain way or what the preparation is and means, gives me the opportunity to help the people attending the ceremony.   Also, the ultimate goal is to make the ceremony go as smoothly as possible.  I also see the reason why we have the class and meetings.  It is so we can work as a team, even if there are any language barriers.  Therefore, attending the Acolyte meetings and class will help us understand the flow in preparation so we can succeed during the ceremony.  Another thing I noticed as an Acolyte is timing.  We depend on each other on timing things right to make everything go smoothly.  For me, once I accomplish this, it makes me feel good.
I appreciate all the Dharma Masters for teaching us and pointing out the mistakes we make so we can correct ourselves and not make the same mistake.  Practice makes perfect.  For us, lots of practice makes a step closer to perfection.  I feel that as long as we are willing to accept the correction then we are benefiting.
To answer the question, “What would I like to get out of the Acolyte class?” it is to be able to understand what we are doing during the actual duties.  Knowing the etiquette and the meaning of why we do it satisfies our curiosity.  Once we have an answer, then our mind can rest.  Before, I would wonder why are they doing that or what is that for?  How do they know when a certain thing is to be done?  So it all boils down to the knowledge and wisdom we can attain from whatever the Dharma Master is trying to show and tell us.
Reflection
Pam Rubio, Buddhist Practitioner since 2003

When I entered the gates of Buddha Gate two years ago to practice meditation, I had no idea that I was entering into the gates of my very own mind. Learning to understand my mind has given me the opportunity to discover the Truth beyond all doubt!

My mind kept me a prisoner to my many sufferings caused by my arrogance, anger, rudeness and deceit. I was trapped by external conditions. Trapped by Fear.

Following the practices and disciplines of the Dharma has lead me to cultivate my very own mind. Simple, but profound teachings. Now I know I am responsible for my own hell or heaven. Freedom from fear.

Maybe I will never be a Buddha…in this life! However, I have been awakened to the Truth beyond all doubt. Truth has given me Freedom, joy, peace, and wisdom. I am no longer trapped in the prison of my own delusional mind. The Gates of Buddha Gate has lead me on my own personal journey to enlightenment. Thanks to all the Shifus.

Garden Of The Mind
by Bessie Yu (Chuan Yun)

In the garden of the mind,
remove the seeds of ignorance,
greed, and anger.
Cultivate the soil with kind thoughts
so that the sprouts of good deeds
and the flowers of enlightenment
can flourish
and open to the sun of wisdom.
Know that
a garden is never finished.

A Pigeon and our Practice
by Eric Cox

A mother pigeon built her nest in the eaves of our neighbor’s house recently. My wife, my grandson, and I have watched how patiently she sits on her eggs. Day and night she sits calm and still, even when our big dog runs along the wall underneath her nest barking loudly. Or when we walk by taking out the trash. Yesterday my grandson and I were bouncing a big red ball against our house; when it bounded up striking the eaves right next to her, she was gone in a rush and a flurry of wings.

But very soon she was right back in her nest, quiet and composed as if nothing had happened. Thinking of her now as I sit on my meditation cushion, I’m reminded of what Master Jian-Sheng said recently in class, “Wherever you are, that is where the mind should be.” I too can aspire to sit as the mother pigeon, without expectation, with patience and calmness, no matter how loud the barking dogs of worry, or how wildly the red balls of thought bounce through my mind. Back to the breath, back to where I should I be – which is where I am!