Prepare Now: Meditation teacher Allan Lokos’s harrowing, inspiring story

"Burma was just opening up so it was an honor to go, recalls Lokos of his ill-fated trip. Desmond Tutu was reported to be praying for the crash's victims and to exclaim, "Oh, thank God!" when he'd heard Lokos and his wife, Susanna Weiss, has survived. "That's like a five-star blessing," Lokos's friend and mentor Sharon Salzberg joked. (Photos: Lokos, by Donna Svennevik; Crash, by AFP/ Ye Zar Ni / Myanmar Police Force.)

“Burma was just opening up, so it was an honor to go,” recalls Lokos of his ill-fated trip. Desmond Tutu was reported to be praying for the crash’s victims and to exclaim, “Oh, thank God!” when he’d heard Lokos and his wife, Susanna Weiss, has survived. “That’s like a five-star blessing,” Lokos’s friend and mentor Sharon Salzberg joked. (Photos: Lokos, by Donna Svennevik; Crash, by AFP/ Ye Zar Ni / Myanmar Police Force.)

Death can come at any time, so the Buddha warned us to get ready now. Knowing that helped Buddhist teacher Allan Lokos after a terrible plane crash. Rod Meade Sperry tells Lokos’s harrowing but inspiring story inside the current, July 2014 Shambhala Sun — and it’s now online for you to read in its entirety. Just click here.

Subscribe to Shambhala Sun and receive the special e-book “How to Meditate” — in addition to a great discount

howtomeditateWant to learn more about how meditation can help us develop calm, awareness, wisdom and love?

Subscribe to the Shambhala Sun today; you’ll save up to 62% on your order and receive a free digital booklet of great meditation teachings from the pages of the Shambhala Sun. Click here.

Inside you’ll find great meditation teachings from Pema Chödrön, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Joan Sutherland, and more. And you’ll save up to 62% off the newsstand price.

How to Meditate: Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche on Mahamudra

In Buddhism, wisdom is not something we acquire or develop— it is who we really are, the true nature of mind. Through Mahamudra meditation, says Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, we relax into the emptiness, clarity, and awareness of ever-present buddha wisdom.

Buddhism is rich in methods for working with the mind. One of the most renowned and powerful is the ancient wisdom tradition known as Mahamudra. Originating in India, the view and practice of Mahamudra gradually spread across Asia and today has reached the West. As a philosophy, it aims to communicate clear knowledge of the true nature of the mind. As a meditation practice, it is designed to bring about that experience swiftly and unmistakably.

Mahamudra is a contemplative Buddhist tradition known for its simplicity. The practice is to be genuine, relaxed, and aware in every situation in life, to accept and appreciate who we are. To engage in its profound methods, we aren’t required to change our lifestyle, and any message contrary to that is not a true Mahamudra teaching. The practice of Mahamudra is an experience of our mind that’s completely free and joyful, no matter what our life brings us. It points us to mind’s true nature. Continued »

The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment…

From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Eva Bulath. Andy's comment: “Rich, lush color: you probably don't expect to see it in a wet sidewalk. This is lovely example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

Cast your eyes upon the sage, there on his *silver* donut throne

silver-homerbuddha

Two years after the appearance of the Homer-Simpson-as-Buddha statuette, the toy is now getting a new release in a silver “Silver Anniversary” edition, marking 25 years of The Simpsons on the airwaves. From the marketing copy: “Meditating with a pretzel in one hand, and a giant donut beneath him, Homer, at long last, has found his inner peace. [...] Inspired by The Simpsons episode “Goo Gai Pan”, in which Homer poses as Buddha to gain entry into an orphanage in China.”

If you want to order one, you’ll find it (for example) here, at MagicPony.com. We won’t tell.

Novelist Rajeev Balasubramanyam takes you on a real-life “American Pilgrimage”

RajPublicity-200x300“Vegas encapsulates all the reasons why I should be going to America — fame, money, sex, glamour, the American Dream,” writes novelist Rajeev Balasubramanyam (In Beautiful Disguises; The Dreamer) on his blog about his “American Pilgrimage.” “If I want spirituality I should surely go to to India, not America, reversing the journey my parents originally made in the Sixties.”

So one might think — but in fact Balasubramanyam’s travels, which come after a dozen or so ten-day Vipassana meditation retreats, will take him to Thich Nhat Hahn’s Deer Park Monastery, and to Crestone, Colorado — a hotbed of Buddhist activity despite its “stationary population of only 73″ — as well as American landmarks like the Grand Canyon. (Las Vegas, ultimately, will get a pass.)

The trip is being made possible thanks to The Hemera Foundation, which has created fellowships for artists and writers who’ve maintained long-term meditation practices to do meditation retreats, followed by writing retreats, with a view to integrating the two practices. Each fellow is given two mentors, one for meditation, and one for writing. Balasubramanyam’s writing mentor is award-winning author and Shambhala Sun contributor Charles R. Johnson.

Follow the “American Pilgrimage” on Balasubramanyam’s blog, here.

Don’t miss this: NY Times on Would-be Ambassadors of Shangri-La (Updated)

“Tom Hugo seems to be well-versed in Chinese, and he evidently cares deeply about the Tibetan people,” writes Andrew Jacobs in his excellent piece from Monday’s New York Times. “There’s only one problem with Tom Hugo’s Twitter account.” You’ve probably already guessed what it is.

As Jacobs goes on to explain, “Tom Hugo” is just one of a sea of people who are enthusing about all things Tibetan — when they shouldn’t be. Read the full story here.

Tuesday update, also from the Times:  “Just hours after The New York Times posted an article about bogus Twitter accounts dedicated to spreading pro-China propaganda — and a Tibetan advocacy group demanded that the company take action — Twitter appears to have hit the kill switch on a score of the suspect accounts.” More here.

How to Meditate: Pema Chödrön on “Signs of Spiritual Progress”

The concept of success on the spiritual path is pretty suspect. After all, isn’t it a journey without goal? But there are some ways, says Pema Chödrön, we can tell if our practice is working.

It is tempting to ask ourselves if we are making “progress” on the spiritual path. But to look for progress is a set-up—a guarantee that we won’t measure up to some arbitrary goal we’ve established.

Traditional teachings tell us that one sign of progress in meditation practice is that our kleshas diminish. Kleshas are the strong conflicting emotions that spin off and heighten when we get caught by aversion and attraction.

Though the teachings point us in the direction of diminishing our klesha activity, calling ourselves “bad” because we have strong conflicting emotions is not helpful. That just causes negativity and suffering to escalate. What helps is to train again and again in not acting out our kleshas with speech and actions, and also in not repressing them or getting caught in guilt. Continued »

Video: Imogen Heap goes to Bhutan; inspired musicmaking ensues

She went to Bhutan for “the amazing scenery, to meet people I didn’t know much about, and to discover a new culture,” says musician Imogen Heap — and sure enough, all of this has come into play in her new music. In this behind-the-scenes clip behind the making of two new songs and their videos, Heap explains how the sights and sounds of Bhutan — temple bells, the crackling of fires, the thwick of an archer’s bow, Buddhist monks and nuns chanting, “somebody shoeing a horse,” — inspired her and actually became part of her work.

It all makes for very enjoyable watching. And once you’ve done so, view the videos for the two songs (links open in new windows): Click here to watch Cycle Song. | Click here to watch Climb to Sakteng.

Thanks to our friend Steve Silberman for the tip.

Pitch in and help Against the Stream open their new San Francisco meditation center

Via Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society: “For over a decade, people from all over the Bay Area have been getting together every Friday to sit in silent meditation and learn from a phenomenal group of dharma teachers including Vinny Ferraro, Gene Lushtak, Matthew Brensilver, Megan Cowan and more. If you’ve meditated with us over the last couple of years, you know this well: we’re packed to capacity! To help keep up with our growing community, we’ve added two new weekly meditation groups, and launched several weekly Refuge Recovery meetings to offer our community a Buddhist approach to recovery from addiction. But the final piece of the puzzle is to bring all this and more under one roof.” …And that’s the goal of Against the Stream’s new IndieGogo campaign, which will open the doors to a brand new center in San Francisco.

Visit the IndieGogo campaign here to donate now. Against the Stream needs to raise $30,000 — so every dollar helps, and every extra dollar raised can be used for needed finishing touches, meditation cushions, and more.

And: don’t miss “A Refuge from Addiction,” a look at “Refuge Recovery” — through which Against the Stream’s Noah Levine and his colleagues use Buddhist principles and meditation practices to help people take refuge from the terrible suffering of substance abuse. It’s important, effective work, and it has something to offer us all. That’s in the September 2014 Shambhala Sun, available in the beginning of October.

How to Meditate: Judy Lief on Mind Training

2012 07 LiefWhat happens on the meditation cushion is one thing, but how do we bring our spiritual practice into the rough and tumble of daily life, where it can really benefit ourselves and others? Judy Lief says the fifty-nine mind training slogans will help us to be more skillful and loving in all our relationships.

The teachings on mind training, or lojong, are an invaluable aid to practitioners because they show us how the wisdom and skillful means of the Mahayana can actually be put into action. They show us how to make it real.

The lojong teachings include instruction in formless meditation, in the practice of “sending and taking” (tonglen), and in postmeditation practice—putting our meditation into action in our daily lives. These teachings are attributed to the great tenth-century Buddhist master Atisha Dipankara and became widely known after the Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa arranged and summarized them in a collection of fifty-nine mind-training sayings or reminders. Often referred to simply as the Atisha slogans, these encapsulate the essence of what it means to practice the Mahayana. The Atisha slogans are a blueprint for practicing the bodhisattva path in fifty-nine easy steps.

The power of the slogans is that they break down the Mahayana ideal of loving-kindness for us. Rather than simply giving general guidelines on how to be a true practitioner, they actually spell it out in detail. Continued »

Naropa to host Radical Compassion Symposium in October, featuring Joanna Macy, Dan Siegel, Vandana Shiva, Bernie Glassman, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Lama Tsultrim Allione, Noah Levine, Melvin McLeod, and more

Sakyong Mipham, Joanna Macy, Dan Siegel, Noah Levine, Vandana Shiva, Bernie Glassman Roshi, Lama Tsultrim Allione, and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche are just some of the presenters scheduled to appear at the Radical Compassion Symposium.

Sakyong Mipham, Joanna Macy, Dan Siegel, Noah Levine, Vandana Shiva, Bernie Glassman Roshi, Lama Tsultrim Allione, and Ringu Tulku Rinpoche are just some of the presenters scheduled to appear at the Radical Compassion Symposium.

October 16-19, 2014 at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado:

Join Joanna Macy, Dan Siegel, Vandana Shiva, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Lama Tsultrim Allione, Noah Levine, Shambhala Sun Editor-in-Chief Melvin McLeod, and other international activists, contemplatives, and scientists for this gathering focused on one of the most dynamic and critical topics of our time: compassion. (See the complete list of presenters here.) Compassion is “radical” when it moves beyond “being nice” or giving to our favorite charity, and becomes the very foundation of all our actions, the signature of our society. Living with an open heart, meeting the world as it is, and cultivating compassion in action – these are some of the themes of this transformative weekend.

For more information, visit: www.naropa.edu/radical-compassion

Help Kickstart “The Dalai Lama Film”

“Be a part of HH The Dalai Lama’s legacy,” reads the announcement from Lemle Pictures, “by helping to make a film His Holiness calls part of his ‘Spiritual Will.’ With your help, The Dalai Lama Film will capture His Holiness’s wisdom, humor, and compassion and spread it throughout the world.” The documentary, now in production has launched a Kickstarter campaign, complete with the usual host of premiums for donors. Watch the trailer above, and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign here.

The “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the moment…

maiz

From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Lis Maiz. Andy’s comment: “The light and color on the stairs, the open door to the sky, and the soft textures of the darker walls all combine to make a very pleasing perception. This is great example of fresh seeing.” Continued »

“Buddhists Betray the Teachings” — Jack Kornfield on the anti-Muslim violence in Burma

Ethnic Rakhine men lurk outside homes burned in one of the many episodes of violent conflict between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities, June 2012. Photo by Reuters.

Ethnic Rakhine men lurk outside homes burned in one of the many episodes of violent conflict between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities, June 2012. Photo by Reuters.

A religion known for nonviolence is being used to fuel a genocidal campaign against the Muslims of Burma. Inside the coming, September 2014 Shambhala Sun, Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, who recently returned from Burma, urges us to join the call for peace. His full article appears below — you can also download and share this PDF of the article — along with with helpful contact info for showing your support and sharing your voice, and the full text of an open letter, “World Buddhist Leaders’ Response to the Growing Ethnic Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar.”

Neither in anger nor hatred
Should anyone wish harm to another.
—The Buddha, in the Metta Sutta

On the surface, upcountry Burma is not very different than it was in 1971, when I first trained there as a monk in the monasteries of Mahasi and Sunlun Sayadaw. The green and dusty landscape is dotted with temples and golden pagodas. There are poor hardworking farmers and small towns with colorful marketplaces. The Burmese people remain extraordinarily gracious and goodhearted, the nation a revered center of Buddhist teachings.

But now there is also fear, an underlying tension spreading across the country. I recently returned from working in Burma with peace activists and for Partners Asia, supporting schools, shelters for orphans and battered women, HIV programs, rural clinics, and other amazing projects across the land. I found amid the positive changes and slow movement toward democracy a growing religious and ethnic intolerance and conflict.

News reports show monks crisscrossing Burma using Buddhist teachings to encourage violence and the passage of inhumane laws. Here in the West, people are shocked. Isn’t Buddhism the religion that preaches against violence and killing? Are these stories true? How can we understand them? Continued »