Citta Bhavana Ashram Opening Speech


Citta Bhavana Opening Poster

 

The Ashram is officially open! Come visit us in world any time. Below you can read the speech that I gave after the guided meditation. Our opening address:

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for coming and showing their interest and support today! None of this would be possible without each and every one of you. A special thank you must be given to Sunshine, Swami, Rhia, and Lyle for all of their amazing work and support in making this beautiful sim come to life.

I’m going to try to make this speech as short as I can. I know how much we all want to get to the food and dancing! But, I’d like to share with you a bit of what we’re about.

I am a yoga teacher in real life, and the community that grew between the people in the training inspired me to pursue deep, raw, and pure relationships in all aspects of my life. Over the years, SL has been a big part of life for me. I’ve been able to meet the most amazing people here and form some of the strongest bonds with people from all over the world. Despite our cultural differences, the distance between us, and our philosophical or religious beliefs, we were still able to connect with each other. This is what I’m looking to provide here; a space to learn from each other in a supportive and caring environment and community.

There is a quote from Osho that I’ve always held true to my heart. It goes like this:
“My whole teaching consists on two words, “meditation” and “love”. Meditate so that you can feel immense silence, and love so that your life can become a song, a dance, a celebration. You will have to move between the two, and if you can move easily, if you can move without an effort, you have learnt the greatest thing in life.”

I built this ashram with the purpose of having a space for these two concepts – meditation and love – to grow. Both of these things take effort to start, which can also be considered action (even non-action is a form of action). All action is composed of four things: intention, awareness, method, and manifestation. We must have the intent to pursue something, an awareness of what exactly that something consists of, a method of how to do it, and finally we will be able to manifest it.

For instance, you want to have tea. Your intention is just that, wanting tea. The awareness will be of what sort of tea and when, these sorts of things. The method is standing out of your chair, going to the kitchen, boiling the water, picking the tea, pouring the water, etc. The manifestation is when you actually follow through with this action.

You may or may not know that the word ‘karma’ literally means ‘action’. Many people think of karma as a factor of fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen, we call it “bad karma.” But this interpretation of karma is misunderstood. Karma is really human action composed of the four things I mentioned before. It does not control us. In fact, we control it with intention, whether consciously or subconsciously. When we utilize action (and remember, even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma.

The term ‘ashram’, which comes from the sanskrit root ‘srama’, means “giving the meaning of making an effort towards liberation (moksha).” Liberation, in some schools of thought, is liberation from the cycle of karma and dukkha, otherwise known as the cycle of suffering. At this ashram we ask you to invite into your life what you want to share with others as well as yourself since we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. It is through positive, intentional action which we are able to change our perspectives and lessen our suffering. I strongly feel that as a community, we can provide the support and friendship that we all wish for along our journey. And, because of our amazing diversity, there may be something for everyone.

The name of the ashram is Citta Bhavana, meaning ‘cultivating heart/mind.’ Bhavana on it’s own means ‘spiritual cultivation.’
All the events here are organized to support this inner growth in some way or other, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, discussions, dances, music, ritual etc. Our hosts and guests come from many traditions from around the world, and are not limited to one path or another. Instead, we believe that all paths are useful and that each person will find meaning in different perspectives. All things offered here invite you to examine your self and those around you rather than telling you how things should be.

All of us come from other communities in SL, some of whom have regular events. We are not here to replace them, but rather to supplement them. You may notice on our calendar we list some events from other communities. We do this so that all of our hosts are aware of events they should not overlap with, so all of our communities can exist together in harmony. All of us here believe that each individual follows their own unique path through life, and we hope to provide space for that to flourish even more.

There are a few main areas around the sim for you to explore. Lyle was kind enough to build this beautiful waterfall for us (huge thank you!)! This is the Music and Gallery Area, where we will have regular world-music events and an art gallery. If any of you are artists who would like to take part in the gallery please contact myself or Sunshine for details. There is a forest campsite meeting area, where Rhia and various others will host philosophical dialogues. Swami has a beautiful skybox set up with a library, a video screen, and a stage for performers. And up the hill you may be able to see the big building. That is the main ashram building, with space for meditation and yoga, casual discussions and many other things. Please feel free to have a look around at your own convenience.

The next thing I wanted to share with you is our private skyboxes. We have six skyboxes set up which you can rent free of charge at the main landing point. They are intended for those of us who are homeless and need a place to change or relax or whatever it is you want to do. The very last thing I will take your time with is our events for the next week. We have at least one event planned for every day this coming week. Sunday we have the beautiful and talented Sandia Beaumont playing her piano for us at 3:30pmSLT. Monday, Swami is starting a four day series on “Reflections of South Asian Spirituality” at 10amSLT (same time every day); as well as Rhia’s discussion on the Nature of Faith at 2:30pmSLT. Sunshine will play a dharma talk over the stream on Tuesday at 12pmSLT.

Unfortunately, my RL has demanded my attention this week so I won’t be around for all of these, but any of them will be here to answer any questions and act as hosts. I have complete faith in their abilities to manage this place while I am away.

You can join the group “Creativity; Karma” for notices.

You can find our calendar on the blog which I posted in local chat.
http://cittabhavanaashramsl.blogspot.ca/p/calendar.html
Once again, thank you all so much for your support today and hopefully for many more to come! There is pie by the deck, as well as games and activities scattered around the fire. I will be walking around with tea so please feel free to grab one off the tray if you’d like.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu…May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Namaste _/\_ Thank you.

Response to “How Does Samsara develop?” by Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso


“How Does Samsara develop?” by Ven Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

First, please take a few minutes to listen to this video. My response is below.

Through sitting in awareness, emptiness, we can see the five aggregates as a construction of our sense of I, or our Self. We can see that these things are necessary for the construct of the self, but that they are hindered by the Self; this idea of mine or ours, rather than accepting something for just what it is. All of our views are biased by our sense of I. It wants to control how we see and experience the world. But the world exists outside of this body, mind, and spirit. It exists outside of the forms, perceptions, sensations, formations, and consciousness. It exists in emptiness, or “merely emptiness” as Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso so eloquently put it.

Emptiness is easy to see, but harder to understand. I get glimpses of it, but rarely does it stay in sight. There is this type of language that is ultimate, where people constantly ask “who is talking?” to try to get people to realize emptiness. But in order to communicate we must use relative language: “I am talking.” In order to share the dharma we must accept that this relative language is necessary. I struggle with it when writing these notes because in my experience of meditation and contemplation, there is no “I” contemplating. The thoughts are just coming and going and Awareness is watching. But, to put that into words, I must use these terms. It is the only way we can learn from each other.

Experiencing life through the five aggregates and the senses is like living through a kaleidoscope. It’s hard to make sense of what is there, and in order to understand our lives and their place in it, our awareness creates these words like “I” “You” “Other” “That” “This”, and makes us see the world as duality. For me, it was very hard to let go of these terms, and now it is very hard to accept their use and importance.

Samsara, to me, is necessary, and expected while we are in these bodies. Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso seemed to be saying that the five aggregates create suffering, but I’m wondering if it isn’t a little give and take. The cycle of samsara happens, always. It happens whether we are here to experience it or not. The fact that we see it as suffering is what causes us to suffer. Perhaps the five aggregates are not merely to blame, though they make us seem separate from it, and therefore as though it is happening *to us*, rather than around, through, and within us. It is happening *as well as* us. How we perceive it is what changes it from just an experience to something external and offensive.

I think what Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso was trying to say was that when we realize emptiness, when we can step back out of our sense of I and see the world as a process rather than a fixed entity, samsara starts to break down and becomes merely a part of that process, which is soon to change.

Meditations on Non-duality


First, please watch the video below. It’s 12:46 so you can do this in a short time.

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Does everything exist as non-dual? Everything has a mere appearance, but does any of it have essence? Nothing has individual essence, therefore everything is non-dual as we perceive it as mere appearance of essence, when it is in fact empty.
Geshe-la mentions form as body, but form is everything. Body is made up of mountains and rivers, goats and birds, air and fire. Form is everything we perceive in a dual nature, which is really non-dual. Form is ever changing, flowing, shifting, walking like mountains walk. Stillness and emptiness are non-dual. Stillness is perceived, when really nothing is ever still. Even in physics we see that atoms are constantly vibrating, gravity is working on our atoms making them move around each other like planets and suns. Stillness exists only in the present moment, only to our perception, but really, form is empty of stillness. Form is empty of form.
If the world exists as non-dual, why do we perceive it as dual? Our attachment to ignorance and self-grasping. By recognizing the non-dual nature of things we can be released from attachment, grasping, avidya.
A quote came to mind: “When the wave forgets that it is the ocean, that forgetting process is Avidya.” We are each waves in the vast ocean of non-dual existence, and we have forgotten that we are part of the ocean.
Further reading:
Avidya Tree

The Book of Virtue


“A state is governed through regular means,
A war is conducted through irregular means,
But it is through doing nothing that one seizes the universe.
How do I know this is so?
The more taboos and prohibitions rule,
The poorer the people become.
The more one relies on good tools,
The more disorder rages.
The more ingenious minds there are,
The more frivolous luxury develops.
The more ordinances multiply,
The more bandits swarm.
That is why the sage says:
‘I do nothing
And the people improve.
I remain silent
And the people govern themselves.
I undertake nothing
And the people grow rich.
I desire to be without desires,
And the people rediscover simplicity.'”

An old lesson for our world from one of the great Ancients, Lao Tzu.

A Bit On Buddhism and Karma and Rebirth.


I posted this on a Google+ community today, and I thought it was worth sharing here. Original post can be found here.

In no way am I learned in Buddhism, but I happen to have a community about karma and creativity. Here is a bit of my beliefs: Many people think of karma as fate, or determinism. But, really, karma is creative. It is unbounded. The common interpretation is when someone has something bad happen to them, we call it “bad karma.” But this common interpretation of karma is misunderstood. We typically see karma as an uncontrollable factor in our lives, based on past lives. But, the literal translation of karma is “action” – human action. It does not control us. In fact, we control it. When we utilize action (even non-action is a form of action), we are influencing karma. The reason to be compassionate should not be in anticipation of receiving it in return, or being reborn in a better life, but because it’s the right thing to do. Invite into your life what you want to share with others; we are all connected. If any one of us suffers, all the rest of us suffer. Everything you create in your life, every intention, thought, and action, will shape the rest of your creations. In every moment there is rebirth, in every moment there is death. We are always changing. But we are in control of that change. We can be whatever it is we want to be. Be creative with the way you live your life. Be aware of every moment, every thought. Be the witness, but also be the creator.

Rebirth, to me, does not only mean rebirth into a new life after death of this body. Rebirth happens in every moment, every breath, every blink of your eye, and every passing thought. I think on this scale, the Buddha was referring to karma as intention and consequences of action in this lifetime, in this moment and the next. Why put off to the next lifetime what you can do in this one? Karma is creative action/intent/thoughts. Karma is effective now, tomorrow, next week, and next lifetime. Perhaps there is no scientific proof for an afterlife, but there is very logical proof that there is death and birth within yourself and all around you in every moment.

Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, or rebirth, the teaching of karma can be utilized here and now. Why would you not want to give and take good things in your life? The consequences of these actions/intentions/thoughts start now, and will continue forever, whether forever is until this body dies or until the soul reaches nirvana, or whatever else may be out there.

Be the witness to your thoughts, and you will see this cycle of birth/death/rebirth. Be the witness to your breath and feel it all arise, and fall away. A great friend and mentor often says, “Give what you don’t need to the Earth, and let her recycle it for you.” Maybe all the answers aren’t clear now, maybe they never will be, but your intentions and thoughts and actions undoubtedly influence your future, so be conscious of them.

A close friend once told me, “Your thoughts are not your own.” and, “The truth is in mirrors.” We are all reflections of the world around us, and every thought has been thought before. Our thoughts, emotions, sensations, are not our own. We are the witness to the events and phenomena that go on in this world, in this body. There is no “I”, simply because nothing is the same. “I” am not the same person “I” was this morning, yesterday, or last year. Physically, your entire body replaces itself every ~7 years. Your cells are constantly dying and regrowing, your liver cells live for around 150 days, your skin replaces itself every 2-4 weeks, hair replaces itself every 2-6 years, etc. All the organs in your body, all the bones and muscles, are constantly replacing the dead cells with new ones. And with that, your personality, your thoughts, all change in moments, not even considering days or years. There is no “I”, no “self”, because nothing is permanent. (For more neat statistics, refer here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1219995/Believe-lungs-weeks-old–taste-buds-just-days-So-old-rest-body.html)

To me, rebirth doesn’t resonate as a new body and a new life necessarily, but a cycle in this body, in this life. Perhaps the same way that karma sticks with all this change in this body (which is only really this body for a few more minutes), works the same with another body, in another lifetime.

Safe journey to you, my friend, and enjoy the path that you’re on, as it is forever changing!

A Bit On ADD/ADHD/OCD


I attended a yoga workshop this weekend that dealt a bit with energy, input and ADD/ADHD. We as society are trying to sculpt each other to act and think in certain ways. We expect people to ignore all the input their senses pick up on, in order to “fit in”. In my experience, yoga and meditation both work for the opposite – to settle into your mind and truly feel reality. Don’t ask anything of it, don’t expect anything from it, but just sense it. There is so much going on in this world, so much energy flowing through and around us and so much other life. How can we expect people, especially children who are completely open and sensitive to all this, to stop noticing it? Many of us adults have built up walls and barriers to it all, stuck ourselves in a kind of cell where nothing can get in so we can stand up to societies expectations – go to school, get good grades, be a good athlete, get a job, contribute to society, have a family, etc. When really all we need to do sometimes is sit and breathe. Let our senses notice; become one with the earth. Perhaps people diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are simply more attuned to the reality around us, and less blocked up with walls shoving it all out. I know people with OCD and ADD/ADHD will find a way to let out all this energy that they are receiving from the world around them. Some tap, some draw, some organize, some make noises, whatever it is, it is just a way to release the energy that you are attuned to. Perhaps these diagnosed people aren’t in a bad place, aren’t different than us, but are just more open and receiving the energies around them, which is what we as yogis, Buddhists, meditators, etc. are all looking for. Sure, it can be frustrating and make you anxious, but is that because we as society tell you it’s wrong? When working with yoga and meditation, you learn ways to let it pass through you and back into the earth without letting it fill you up. In other words, you may always have an empty cup. Inner peace. I hope you may find a path to help you along your journey. Just remember to breathe. Don’t let your thoughts become you. Notice, but don’t hold on. Namaste, my friend.

Originally posted as a reply to a question on Google+: https://plus.google.com/116772688653951753345/posts/8cZhzLSj72E

“Organizing in the Natural World” by Michael Stone


The following is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Stone, found in his book “Awake in the World”. Find it on the Centre of Gravity website, along with his other books.

“Organizing in the Natural World” by Michael Stone

“For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world. Our life is endless, in just the same way that our field of vision has no boundaries.”
-Wittgenstein, Tractus Logico-Philosophicus
What does it mean that our field of vision has no boundaries? I look into a river and see fish and stones and there is nothing other than everything. It’s a cold winter day, and my son wanted to have a long bath before school this morning. He said the water was just “really hot snow.” Before it can put an end to its own elaborations, the mind creates the world out of boundarylessness. Such union is the basis for the mind-body-world to begin with. These words are just the words of winter. Winter writes itself on the branches and grasses. but when I am in stillness, I can’t find the line between those branches and the limbs of my body.
Although a person is not exactly water and earth and air and fire, we are also not separate from those elements either. We are not separate or identical to the elements. If we search for any one thing we can pinpoint as objectively real – one thing we really depend on for our existence – we will fail. We can’t land on one defining characteristic.
The yoga that precedes “this” and “that,” “mind” and “body,” is percolating through your every movement today – every thought, word, and deed. Everything you think and feel and do is temporary. Everything you see and hear is passing away. This reminder of death in life is following each and every one of us. A simple and gentle reminder but relentless nevertheless: don’t drift. Don’t squander your life. Mind is not just a human function or organ but the natural condition of living systems. Wherever there is life there is mind. Biological systems, from embryos to social insects, get tremendous mileage by using vast numbers of easy-to-find, unreliable components to achieve complex evolutions reliably. One year after a forest fire, the land is itself on fire- teeming with insects and other breathing creatures.
Mind is always organizing. We humans classify the raw data of our experience by giving it name and form. Mind is what puts name and form together. When we can see that our mind is a kind of synthesizer, we can step back and watch the choices that our minds make moment to moment. The greatest freedom we have is being able to clearly see that in any given context, we have choice. We can decide what kind of attentions and attitude we bring to the object showing up here and now. And it can change. This life and death cycle of thoughts and attitudes reminds us that choice is always present. There is immense freedom in choice. How we pay attention is a liberating resource.