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News and Dharma from the Portland Buddhist Priory
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Enlightenment Day.
Dear Friends,

All of Buddhism is made possible by the efforts of Siddhartha Gautama, a regular person determined to find a way to do something about suffering. In his search, he awakened to the deepest nature of existence: he was enlightened and became the Buddha.

Each year in December, Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's Enlightenment and this year we will be having the festival of the Buddha's enlightenment on Sunday December 8th at 10:30am (meditation begins at 9:30am). This Sunday will also be our December family day so feel invited to bring family and friends. The morning will conclude with a festive, informal tea.
Precepts Ceremony

Over the past few months, a few people have mentioned that they would be interested in taking the precepts and are unable to go to Shasta Abbey for the Jukai retreat. While it is very nice to be able to get to that retreat, for a variety of reasons, that can be difficult so, I am thinking that it would be good to have a precepts ceremony, or lay ordination, here at the temple some time early in the new year.

Taking the precepts in a formal way, that is, making a public commitment to working on keeping the precepts in our regular daily lives, can be a helpful step in deepening ones meditation practice. My present idea is to have the ceremony on Sunday, February 9th and if you would like to take the precepts and don't foresee being able to get to Shasta Abbey for the Jukai retreat, let me know before the first of February. Even if you have mentioned your interest to me in the past, it would be helpful to have a "yea" or "nay" for this particular date. There is planning and preparation involved and it will be helpful to know who would like to participate in advance.

Here is a link to a booklet I put together recently about the precepts; it is a compilation of writings by teachers of our tradition and gives an overview of the precepts from a few different perspectives. 

You can also find here, a series of lectures I gave on the ceremonies of Jukai which talk about different aspects of taking and working with the precepts.

If you would like a printed version of the booklet or recordings of the lectures, let me know.
 
Regular Schedule

Working Meditation Morning

Working meditation can be a helpful way to learn to integrate practice into our daily lives as well as help the temple in a practical way. You are welcome to join us Saturday morning December 14th at 9am.


New Year's Eve Meditation Vigil and Ceremony

For a quiet way of commemorating the transition to the new year, you are invited to spend the evening at the temple for a little extra meditation and a short ceremony. The evening will conclude around 10:30pm.


Transfer Of Merit Ceremony

When we do a positive action in our lives we create good, or merit, and, having created merit, we have the opportunity to share that merit with the world. The transfer of Merit ceremony is an opportunity to both generate merit and to give it back to the world. Our next Transfer of merit Ceremony will be on December 22nd.

For other upcoming events and details of the Priory schedule, please go to our calendar page.

Alms Bowl

Your kind offerings of practice, work, money, food and other things keep the Priory open for the benefit of all beings. We are deeply grateful for your support.

Recently, in addition to your kind and essential financial support, we received:

Persimmons, pears, frozen vegetables, tofu, eggs, other fruit, tea treats, lentils, canned beans, rice ramen, tomatoes, avocados and more help with raking leaves and other work around the temple. Thank You!

For more information on the Priory needs, visit the website: Supporting The Priory.
 

A Bit Of Dharma

Baggage

One of my esteemed teachers, Rev. Master Koten of the Lion's Gate Priory in British Columbia, once shared an image of practice: practice (or maybe he said life, I can't remember his exact words so maybe it is best to think of it as "life with practice") is like getting onto a train platform with all your baggage and realizing that the train you want to catch is leaving the station. You try to run along to catch the train with your mountain of bags and you realize that you have a choice, you can either stay on the platform with all the baggage or you can let it go and get onto the departing train.

Although the "baggage" can be anything that we hold onto from the past, today I am thinking of all those hurts and grievances that we accumulate about our friends and family and co-workers: all those people we come in contact with who have been or are important to us in our lives. When we hold onto some slight or grievance, we are insuring at least two hurts for ourselves, the original barb and the hurt we get for repeating the thing in our mind. Each time we repeat the thing in our minds, we can get a new hurt or, seen another way, we reinforce the tie we are making to the original hurt.

Depending on the nature of the hurt it can be very difficult to let a thing go, but if we do not make the effort to let go (and I am talking about "letting go", not pushing the thing away) a hurt can just hang around causing a nuisance for an untold amount of time. When I talk about letting go of this kind of baggage, I am talking about letting go of the mind's habit of rehearsing a hurt; or rehearsing how the hurt could have been different; or rehearsing how the person who did the hurtful thing could have handled it differently at the time of the hurt; or could handle it differently now; or rehearsing how other people could have handled the thing differently either now or in the past. In talking about letting go of something like this, I am not suggesting that the hurt was right or that the we are wrong in feeling the hurt or that we should think that other people treating us badly is somehow ok.

What I am saying is that letting go of a hurt in our own mind can be the first step in allowing ourselves to heal and can open up a clarity of mind to take constructive steps to deal with the external situation. The Buddha suggested that if we are shot by an arrow we should not get sidetracked into asking who shot the arrow or what their intent was or anything like that, instead, we should just get on with pulling the arrow out. Pulling the arrow out is letting go of the hurt. This kind of letting go is one aspect of what is going on in the Christian practice of forgiveness.

We normally think the we would like to feel connected to the beings around us and it is profoundly true that we are already connected to the world, whether we are aware of it or not. When we take in a hurt and hold onto it by chasing it around in our minds, we are establishing an extra connection to another person, we are establishing a tie that binds us in a way that increases suffering rather than soothes and supports us in the way that our basic connection to What Is does. The letting go that I am talking about, the radical forgiveness of the Christians, is a way of severing that tie. This severing is a positive and powerful thing in that it allows us to focus on what we can most directly influence: our own mind. With this severing we are no longer dependent on someone or something external to us so resolve our suffering; our suffering then is just a matter for us and Buddha Nature.

When we let go of a hurt or any baggage from the pas,t it is an act of faith in our inherent connection to the Fundamental Life; it is an expression of that connection.

Again, letting go in this way does not stand against taking any particular external steps. Sometimes, in working with this, after determining to let go of a hurt, I have decided that it is not good for me to associate with another person but sometimes it has seemed good to carry on, maybe a little wiser if not also sadder. What action we will need to take becomes a matter of our wise discernment which can be more easily seen for the letting go. 

As I write this, I am reminded that I once had a very difficult time with this sort of thing and I realize that I really have found that by diligently working on letting go of baggage in this way, I have somehow become more nimble in letting the harshness that comes my way slide past me. In a way, I have learned to not take it in as easily.   
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