A Buddhist Bible, by Dwight Goddard 12.28.13, 1.25.14, 2.22.14
D, G1, G2, D
The introduction and foreward to this book address the connection between Taoism and Buddhism, which is explored more in depth later. There is actually a version of the Tao te Ching included in A Buddhist Bible, though shorter than the 109 page version of Witter Bynner – 35 pages long.
It is interesting that many practices come together around the same concepts, in different forms, such as the Catholic rosary and other practices. Similarly, this book brings together a range of traditional Buddhist texts with other influences. It speaks to the various paths that eventually converge in the same understandings.
One participant felt the same feeling in reading the introduction passage about the author as he had with a Journey in Ladakh. The feeling is around the first noble truth – that our existence is suffering. Similarly, it was about a westerner going into Nepal and reacting to all that he is encountering, much as Dwight Goddard must have experienced in going to the Orient.
There is also reference to the Tao, in that all names create separativity. We discussed this in the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, in that naming something carves it out as something separate from God. It creates wrong view. Naming and differentiation, activities of the mind, create suffering versus the unity and oneness found in seeing it all as part of the whole.
Existence is beyond the power of that which can be described. The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao…
Tao is Eternity, the underlying true reality, the essence of existence.
A question arose as to why Rama chose the Witter Bynner translation of the Tao te Ching? Rama explained that some authors’ writings take us closer to the truth – the vibration behind the words, as much as words can take us to that experience, have a higher level of purity. Similarly, the version that Rama recommended for the I-Ching was also the purest. One student applied that knowledge by studying these books very closely. She could feel the purity in the translation, versus feeling more of the author in the book.
This discussion provided a nice foundation for the next call, at the end of January, which happens to coincide with the Chinese New Year!
1.25.14 – M, E, D, V, L
In the second call, we lightly discussed the Tao te Ching, Diamond Sutra and 4 Noble Truths.
Suffering is clinging to existence
V – Everything is impermanent
Fundamentally westerners think that if we suffer, there is something wrong with us. Buddhist philosophy shakes that up. It says that that IS the nature of existence. You won’t escape it. Being a sentient being, we can come to see that the attachment is what is more painful than the actual experience.
The mind is the source. We are all responsible for our evolution. But it can be difficult to distance ourselves, and that is why we practice, to understand the mind.
We had a general discussion around the individual self vs. the universal self. One person compared it to being in the Garden of Eden – we start to think of and separate ourselves from God. What is the existence of a soul? A soul can see with its body, experience emotions, but it is difficult to see our eyes with our own eyes. We get caught up in the movie and experience ourselves as separate. Our daily drama in the world maintains that separativity. (Page 114.)
Rama said that we have 10 or 15 seconds to change your thought as you are processing. But you have to first be aware that you are having it. Then we can shift, in an instant. “You should meditate on all the questions of the experiences of the mind,” page 178.
One participant said she noticed that she have given the Buddha a very stern voice when hearing his commentary, as she read. “I was a little angry with myself, at first --why did I create that for someone who wanted to share light? So I tried to soften it.” Just realizing how she was talking to herself was part of her process.
Page 226 started a section which addressed the highest experiences of the boddhisattvas. One person pointed out how much they enjoyed these descriptions. Sometimes it was a very practical thing that brought them to enlightenment, but each so magical and unique. Hearing, tasting, breathing and cognition by the mind were all examples of how they harnessed the senses and their daily experiences to eventually carry them to enlightenment.
Sexual energy was dealt with in this book more from the perspective of austerity – that if you could keep that vital energy from being wasted in sexual relations, it could be used for awakening.
Rama didn’t tell us that we couldn’t have sex, but he made sure we all understood the dynamics of gaining and losing energy. The choice was then up to us to go into those experiences with full awareness and understanding that people often lose energy in their sexual relationships.
He also explained how different yugas (periods of existence) have different needs. Householding might have been more aligned with a certain time. Today, marriage is less important than it was in the past. He did point out that sexual relations are draining, particularly for women, and that it is good for not only women, but men, to have some time to be in their own energy.
An ST1 understood that the new students were in a more playful energy around sex, and the older students were more in power. Rama had explained that the main way people lose energy in sex is in the thoughts that occupy their minds when they aren’t having sex. Going over and over thoughts about someone is an energy line that someone can traverse and use to take energy from us, particularly if they are not in a high state of mind. The type of energy that would be lost would be an occult (hidden) energy. A siddha master would either need to be celibate or have enough control over their mind that they were unaffected by the experience.
A mother in the group mentioned that she often feels she is meditating for her entire family. So that energetic sharing can be a positive force, as well. “I meditate and work with my family as well. I take them with me… We listen to the music together.”
Diamond sutra – Conclusion
“We need to discard all grasping after conceptions of one’s selfhood, other selves, living beings, and a Universal Selfhood, and also all ideas about such conceptions and ideas about the non-existence of such conceptions, which are unreal. They are a boat we use to get across a river, then the boat is no longer needed.” (Pg. 106)
Tao teh King – Pages 407, 408
There are two ways to realize the Tao – 1) put away all thoughts and desires or, 2) Concentrate both true intention and sincere devotion.
This path is for lay people, not so far along on the path. “I really enjoyed reading all the basics over again… We’ve read this before, but it was nice to read it step by step… This time I understood much more clearly, that which has been explained before. I felt comfortable and relaxed with the material.”
G2 - 409 - #8 Tao teh King – “The highest virtue is like water; it benefits everything without exciting rivalries. We should be like water, choosing the lowest place which others avoid. “ We need to flow like water through our lives. It is easy to think of water as a flow, then apply that to life.
M - It is better to read this and understand it, take it in, than read it and not understand. It is good that we are taking extra time.
Several people mentioned page 462 – “Of all thy good qualities, a wishful purpose is the principle cause.” It makes it seem attainable.
Regarding the control of one’s mind, Rama used to say, “it is a decision”. We decide that we no longer have room for petty thoughts. We have to consciously direct our minds to the brightest and highest states.
D - Quote from 202 – “Ananda! What do you understand when I speak of the world of sentient beings? … I mean the whole complicated process of change that has been going on endlessly and its ever-shifting manifestations and positions. … Moreover, this endless process of change has been going on in the past, is going on at present, and will be going on into the endless future. Because of the vast, incalculable number and permutations of these changes everywhere and forever, the false and arbitrary conceptions of all sentient minds have been ever-flowing and interweaving together in a most bewildering process of manifestation and evolution and involution, and this ever-shifting and bewildering process of change makes up the world of sentient beings.”
Bookclub 3 – M, D, G
Overall, I found this book very accessible. It was very clear, yet very subtle. The thing I took away is that the easiest way to attainment is patience.
D - Pg. 360 – Goes back to the Boddhisattva vow – to save all sentient beings from suffering… Also there are a lot of reminders of impermanence, that this is all an illusion. I also had some insights on the Bible.
M - Pg. 436. – ‘The wise man is not always learned. The learned man is not always wise.’
M - Pg. 462. – The wishful purpose: “The Lord Buddha said, of all thy good qualities, a wishful purpose is the principal cause.”
M - Pg. 575. – Forgiveness and Patience. In the story of Milarepa, it was his Aunt who was originally the cause of his grief, who was also the reason he was spurred on to his path (of renunciation).
Additionally we talked about the importance of patience and zeal in practice.
One person pointed out that the work with the mind is the core of the book. We have to consciously decide not to dwell on the negative. In the book they refer to it as Mara. Rama called it opposition. While it is important to acknowledge, dwelling on it can pull you into negative states of consciousness.
Yes, that was the same thing he said about women and sexual intercourse… don’t keep thinking about it.
The story of the two monks who reach a river. One offers to carry a woman across, then leaves her on the other bank. They continue their journey. Later the other monk say’s, “I can’t believe you carried that woman across the river! You are a monk!” The other monk said, “I set her down on the bank, it is you who are still carrying her.”
We had a lively discussion around attachment versus preference. We can use the mind to develop detachment to outcomes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have preferences.
G – Looking at attachments, it is about watching the mind, then steering it away from decisions that can cause suffering. Desire is the cause of the suffering. Desire causes problems if it is not dharmic. Today I was looking at kitchen sink faucets… I had desires for some, but others felt ‘right’. If I bought the one that was based on desire, I would suffer.
M – How did you make the decision?
G – It was my second visit. I asked someone who knows hardware to explain which was the highest quality. This was often a criteria that Rama used. So I narrowed it down to 3. I felt one that was closest to perfection within my budget. It was not dharmic to buy the best of the best. There was a correct one for me, within my budget.
D- So, budget is part of the dharma. We don’t want to act based on desire, but on dharma… Rama lived without desire. But it doesn’t mean that I might not buy the red shoes.
M - The best quality, is not usually the bargain version.
D - Vibration matters, but it could be on sale that day!
G – Yes, so go with no desire, go with what is right, what is dharmic.
D – Yes, so renunciation is a path, but not everyone’s dharma. G – So is the path of denial.
M - Subtle things affect our consciousness. I changed rows at the supermarket because the clerk was rude to the person in front of me. I didn’t want to experience that.
G – Yes, so we can become more discriminating. Everything matters.
D - There is a great list in the book about the 10 Grevious Mistakes (P. 607.) It talks about this very thing – how to know what is right and how subtle the distinctions can be between what is correct and what is adharmic.
D – Yes. These are our choices -- which way you drive to work. Take this street or this way… Go through this cashier and that cashier. Dharma is very personal. Someone else might have felt their dharma was to give that person a completely different experience than they’d already had that day.
M – I don’t want to dwell on the negative. I see it in my life. Why am I dwelling on it? It comes from my youth. Why does my mind go back to things that are painful? I tell myself, “Don’t look back! Look forward! “
G- Yes, they are just clouds. That cloud is gone. These tiny things that our mind tries to dwell on… they aren’t worth dwelling on.
D – There is a great analogy in the book: When hit with a poison arrow… just pull it out. Don’t dwell on how it got there. Why. What your karma is to receive it…. Just pull it out! Change your thoughts!
D – Rama said all heavens and hells exist within our mind. Someone will see the beauty of the day another not. We have the freedom to choose.
Pg. 525: It is not the sense organs, nor their fruits that are defiled under all circumstances. It is when attachment arises from them. So if there were a goal it would be something akin to: keeping ones balance, irrespective of circumstance.
Pages 498-499 discuss the dishwasher, who became the 6th Patriarch. He was content and was not seeking acknowledgment from others (5th patriarch). His understanding came from meditation, he was just in another state of mind. His mind was free! While all these other monks are vying for influence, he is just doing his job as a dishwasher.
There were some great definitions in the book as well:
Prajna – Transcendental wisdom
Maha -- high
Sambhogahkaya – Keeping a perpetual state of right-mindfulness
Nirmanakaya – One clear thought can cause prajna to shine forth.
Dharmakaya – clear light
Pg. 556 – The mind is by nature pure. There is nothing to crave or give up.
Pg. 553 – Realization happens through the mind, not the cross-legged position.
This call connected this book to the reality of how I can learn to control my mind. It came back to the things that we are each struggling with in life.
Pg 655 - Drop the entangling illusions – strive for realization through dhyana / meditation.