fredag 30 januari 2015

Bookreview: Mahayana Buddhism, the doctrinal foundations of Mahayana Buddhism


This is a book about a branch of the Buddhist tree, the Mahayana Buddhism. 
It covers not only the branch and leaves of the tree, but also takes a look at the root, and the stem holding the branch up.It is an scholarly book made by an scholar. And it shows. 
The reference pages alone is 30 pages long. 
Do note though, this is not an introduction for the beginner. 
Each side in the book is crammed to the max with facts, names, dates, terms, and sad to say, his own views.
The author, Paul Williams, is a Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy and Co-director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol. 
That means he's a scholar, used to reading scholarly texts, which is why I again and again, ask myself, why?!?
Don't get me wrong, its a very good book. 
His writing is good, clear and the issues are discussed in an interesting way which gets me, as a reader, interested in reading more. He presents the history, central texts and teachings, and disputes of the Mahayana with more or less well-focused discipline.

He presents a core text and then adds the rest as notes to the text, which gives 120 (!) pages of notes. 
And that in a book of 440 pages. I don't see that as an problem, it is actually helpful sometimes when you read. It gets you some kind of flow in the storyline. Alas if you are not used to reading books like these I can see a problem...

The problem I have with this book, is that, now and then, he puts in his own thoughts and views in the mix and muddling it up. If this had been any fluffy pinkcloudbook about Buddhism, I can see some people doing like that. But this is an scholarly book on Buddhism done by a Buddhist scholar in an scholarcontext. 
You don't do that. 

Despite some minor setbacks this is by far the best allcovering introduction on Mahayana Buddhism in english out there. It is not something you begin with but as you feel the need to get your feet wet, this is your perfect companion on the trip.

Thank you for your practice.


söndag 25 januari 2015

Drama and Dharma

“ What is drama and what is dharma?
I guess you could say that drama is illusion that acts like truth and dharma is truth itself- the way things are, the basic state of reality that does not change from day to day according to fashion or our mood or agenda. To change dharma into drama, all we need are the elements of any good play: emotion, conflict, and action – a sense that something urgent and meaningful is happening to the characters involved.”
  • "Rebel buddha on the road to freedom", dzogchen ponlop, p. 2

The dramas in our lives can happen on both an big and small scale.
They often start out with “facts”, then concepts, emotions and “truths” gets added to the storyline and we are really getting ourselves ready for the big stage.
The thing is also that the more time we spend in this storyline, the more hooked we get by it and we begin to think about it as “The TRUTH”, rather than just another imaginery play.
The important things to remember is that we can, at any time, realize that we are in a play and look out over the theatre to see the real truth, that these stages of life are just that, stages.
And, also, that it is all good practice, because without the theatre, the storyline and the stage, we can never realize our starpotential, that yes, YOU are a star.
Deal with it, kiddo.

Thank you for your practice.


onsdag 7 januari 2015

The Dark Cave


"-Master, they threw a snowball at me!
-And what did you do before that?
-Sometimes nothing is enough."

The scene with the dark cave in ”Empire strikes back” is a good teaching about life.
As Luke is about to enter he asks "What's in there?" and Yoda replies "Only what you take with you" which leads up to that Luke straps on his weapons. Yoda then tells him he wont need them, but he continues on in with them. In the cave he meets Darth vader, we hear the iconic sound of the lightsaber and realize that Luke has drawn it first.
A short bout continues, where Luke cuts off Darth vaders head, only to see it transform into his own face.

What happens in the dark cave is an reflection of our own doing/being, much like the snowball.
If you do something, something will happen.
A coin has two sides, you can't have one without the other. 
Like newton's third law of physics states: To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.
There is no question about it.
The real question is: are you ready for the reaction?


article: cup of coffe


This is the english translation of an article in an Swedish  Magazine.

"Such being the truth, we must learn that there are many appearances and grasses throughout the earth and that each grass and each appearance are not apart from the entire earth. Holding this view is the point of departure for training. When we reach this sphere of our journey's end, there is one grass and one appearance. We sometimes meet the appearance and sometimes not; sometimes we meet the grass and sometimes not. Because it is only time of this sort, uji is all time, and each grass and each appearance are time. In each moment there are all existences and all worlds. Try to think - Are any existences or worlds separated from time?"
- Shobogenzo Uji (Dogen)

Dogen was an zenmonk in 1200-century Japan and is considered the founder of Sotozentradition. Seemingly contradictory starting points often lay the foundation for his view, with multiple perspectives simultaneously. To gain insight into Dogen reasoning, we can, based on the above text, examine his theory of current-time (being-time / Uji). In his view space and time is both existent and nonexistent simultaneously. All of space and time is here and now, which is in line with modern quantum physics thinking.

We often assume the idea that time flows from the past through the present to the future and that events such as that
here and now we drink a cup of coffee, can never be turned into an event in the there and then.
Dogen also pointed out that the past is just “a memory”, and that the future is “a dream”. In this way, the past and the future is illusions. He wonders on what we need for the words "current / present” , if there exists a past or future, as these concepts really only exists as a concept opposed to the present's concept?

Dogen wrote that the time never had a direction, but that everything depended on everything else, and being a perfect jewel right where it is. Similar to a flood, there is no upstream, downstream or here on the river, if we see it as "just the river." Although a river flows downstream, you can not have downstream without an upstream. And so we flow downstream into upstream. Similar thoughts are also in modern physics, where it is asserted that all timelines actually has two directions. The future flows into the present flowing further into the past, and vice versa, that is, everything is connected.

Because each location on the river is "just the river" so is every drop of the river "just the river". Every drop of the river flowing into each other drop of the river. So what happens to a drop is the time and being (time-being / Uji) of every other drop.
The picture can naturally grow outside the river and eventually include all beings, the universe, everything. So when you drink a cup of coffee, the whole universe drinks a cup of coffee. If you do, here and now, the whole universe is here and now, drinking a cup of coffee. Which means that, by extension, a cup of coffee, is here and now, drinking itself ...

But the ultimate question must surely be, do we have time for a cup of coffee?

 Thank you for your practice.


Bookreview ”solens hjärta”- ”The heart of the sun”


Lama Ngawang was an Tibetan lama who got to sweden in 1976 at the request of his holiness the 16:th Gyalwa Karmapa and honorable Kalu Rinpoche. 
He saw to it the Stupa in Fellingsbro was made, founded an Tibetan Buddhist centre in Tar, Nograd County, Hungary and he also ran the Buddhist center in Stockholm until his death in 2011.

"When we practice Dharma, our minds doesnt become discriminatory, we need no longer be one-sided when we desire to help someone. We are impartial and no longer distinguishes the good or bad practice. We walk a middle ground. If we exercise without discriminating against other religious traditions, then we find it all in our own practice. If we follow a tradition while we also believe that all the other traditions are worse, then it's pointless to be in no tradition at all. Such a view destroys everything.
All schools have been part of our tradition. "

This book consists of oral instructions that has been given at the Buddhist center Karma Shedrup Dargye Ling in Mälarhöjden, Stockholm. 
The teachings was then translated from Tibetan into Swedish by interpreters and has been edited by Elin Lagerkvist.

According to the book, and people who had met him, Lama Ngawang had favorite lyrics which he often told when he taught. 
You also see this in the book, as phrases and quotations from these keep popping up again and again in the book.

We are currently reading this book as part of the bookclub in the sangha here in skövde, and i look forward to the discussions that will arise, because they will be plenty if you go by all the things that is taken up in this book.

The book covers some of the basics of Buddhism such as Samsaras six worlds, the six paramitas and suffering. 
It also covers things like mind, meditation and chenrezig. 
This is all covered in a “thick Tibetan-Buddhism sauce” which is sometimes spread so thick that even some of my friends, who follow the tibetan Buddhist path, thought it a bit hard to swallow.

The texts in the book are edited talks done by an, what must have been, wonderful man. 
The image of an smiling man permeates through the texts presented in it. 
The texts themselves have been ordered into ”sections” ranging from the six realms of samsara to ”why do we meditate” in a very nicely edited version which the book book presents in an orderly and good fashion.

The downside is that it´s clear that it is talks that has been given, written down and edited. 
This is prominently clear when reading the texts and there is no real continuation or theme to the texts that is presented.

It is full of nonbuddhist truth, halftruths, and what must be teachings from the Tibetan Tradition, which i have not taken part in, which also gives an air of an edited talk, not really finished yet. 
Furthermore there are some things lacking, and you sometimes wonder who's opinion is displayed, Lama Ngawangs or the editor, Elin Lagerkvists. 
This gives me a bad taste, as i almost feel that his lifeteachings are tainted, which i think wasn't the purpose.

Now, don't get me wrong, the book is brilliant sometimes. 
I look forward to reading version 3 of it, the one after the next-next editorialredoing, if we ever get there. 
But i guess we will. 
Because Lama Ngawang was one of the important forefigures when Buddhism came to Sweden, and this is his written teachings.

Nevertheless, i find myself continuing reading the book with an smile on my face and an interest of whats coming next, as, all in all, it is an good book about Tibetanflavoured Buddhism, and in the end you shouldn't judge a book by its cover...

In the meantime, Thanks Elin Lagerkvist, it made an good reading in my Sangha here, and also gave birth to a lot of good discussions.

Thank you for your practice.