Sunday
Mar042007

How Long Should I Chant?

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In chanting. as with most things we do, it's not the time involved as much as the focus and quality. If I sit on a meditation cushion in the chanting hall and chant for an hour with wandering thoughts one after another, I may look impressive but my chanting will be mediocre.

If however, I find that I have five minutes before I need to do something and quickly settle into my chanting, the benefits of my focused chanting can far outweigh my hour of wandering thoughts chasing one another around my head. Our focus should be on both quality and quantity, not just quantity.

This question of how long leads to another question, "When should I chant?"

With so much to do today, it can be difficult to find the ideal time to practice. It is tempting to wait until we can do some "serious" chanting. When we are home or at our Buddhist center and have a few hours to really get into our practice.

If we wait for ideal conditions, we will end up spending very little time chanting. Most of us do not yet have enough good fortune to have ideal conditions. So we need to be appreciative and work with what we do have. It's far better to chant for ten or twenty minutes a day than wait for that one long weekly chanting session. As with all our practice, we are training to do things more effectively. As we become more skilled at focusing on "Amituofo," we will create the goodness that can result in improved practice conditions. With better conditions, comes more chanting time and more focused chanting.

 

Saturday
Mar032007

To End Suffering

"I teach suffering, its origin, cessation, and path. That's all I teach," declared the Buddha over 2500 years ago.

The first of the four noble truths is dukkha, usually translated as suffering. At every moment of our life, we are undegoing some degree of dissatisfaction. The Buddha began with the reality of suffering because if we do not realize that our lives are suffering, we will have no incentive to transcend the cycle of rebirth.

When we understand how we suffer, we will realize that all others suffer in the same way. And just as we wish to end our suffering, we will gradually give rise to the wish to help all beings end their suffering and attain happiness.

Friday
Mar022007

Spotting Causality

956849-787008-thumbnail.jpgTracing retributions back to their karmic cause is tough when the retribution takes lifetimes to occur. But we can all see causality functioning in our daily lives.
 

When we ignored an opportunity to help someone, we felt guilty. When we failed to do the work we were supposed to do, we felt depressed. Speaking harshly to someone, we became unsettled and agitated. This is cause and effect. We do something and we experience the consequences.  

Over time, and with awareness, we will discern patterns. When we act in certain ways, there are the same related feelings and results. As this pattern makes itself clear, we will realize that negative actions result in distress, while those that are positive result in contentment and peace.

Thursday
Mar012007

Chanting as Meditation

Perhaps one of the questions I get most often is similar to the following one.

"Since Buddhism is not a religion, one can be of another faith and at the same time practise Buddha Recitation! Isn't Buddha Recitation a form of religion? Please clear my confused understanding!"

My response to this individual and to others with the same questions is that one can have a religious faith and still learn and practice the Buddhadharma—the Buddha’s teachings. It is like going to school. When we got to school to learn, there is no need to give up our religion.

In my classes, there are Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths as well as those who do not practice any religion. I have been invited to speak at various churches because what I teach about becoming more peaceful and selfless complements the church's teachings.

Chanting "Amituofo" is a form of meditation. It's a way of calming the mind by focusing it on one thing. The primary aim of this form of meditation is to achieve a mental state of "one-mind undisturbed," a state in which the mind focuses solely on its meditative subject.

We chant "Amituofo" to focus our thoughts on a perfectly awakened being who has perfect wisdom and compassion. When I listen intently to the sound of waves, I am not worshiping the ocean. When I meditate by concentrating on my in-breath and out-breath, I am not worshiping my breath. In such chanting, listening intently, and concentrating, I am simply focusing my thoughts on the virtues I wish to perfectly develop. I am not worshiping.

In the same way, people who are not Buddhists can chant a Buddha’s name to develop the qualities that lead to awakening.

 

Wednesday
Feb282007

Go Veggie and Reduce Global Warming

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·   It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.

·   Half the rainforests in the world have been destroyed to clear ground to graze cattle to make beef burgers. The burning of the forests contributes 20% of all green-house gases. Roughly 1,000 species a year become extinct because of the destruction of the rainforests.

·   The billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows who are crammed into factory farms each year in the U.S. produce enormous amounts of methane, both in their digestive processes and from the feces that they excrete. Scientists report that every molecule of methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in our atmosphere.45 Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency show that animal agriculture is the single largest cause of methane emissions in the U.S.46 Raising animals for food is causing global warming. GoVeg.com (45 “Global Warming: Methane,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 8 Mar. 2006. 46 “Sources and Emissions: Methane,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2 Jun. 2006.)

·   According to University of Chicago researchers, adopting a vegan diet makes a bigger impact in reducing global warming than does switching to hybrid car does.

·   Raising animals for food, a 2006 United Nations report said, is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale ….” (Ed Ayres, "Will We Still Eat Meat?" Time, 8 Nov. 1999.)  

·   In the U.S., 70 percent of all grains, 80 percent of all agricultural land, half of all water resources, and one-third of all fossil fuels are used to raise animals for food. GoVeg.com