2014年9月5日

A Book is a Treat in Prison

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Dear Ven. Xianzhong

Amituofo! Just read this short local article below and thought it might inspire you by knowing that establishing the prison library programs is so much appreciated and considered a very worthwhile cause. Although the story does not pertain to dharma literature, it does show that distributing books in general does make a profound impact on many lives.



Title: A Book is a Treat in Prison

"Emerald Oil, a gas station on the corner of Lake Murray Boulevard and Baltimore Avenue, not only boasts about having the lowest gas prices in La Mesa, but it also has a wide variety of free books and magazines!

The owner of Emerald Oil said that some books were donated by a 'mystery man' about a month ago.  Then, last week, the man showed up and unloaded a truckload of books and left.  He has since shown up with more, leaving them on a table outside the store and including a 'donations' jar. The only downside is that people are allowed to take one book per visit.

In this instance, the books were a present to the community from a man who wanted to do something good.  

The man's name is Larry and, in a way, he went from zero to a hero.  A fit man of about 42, Larry said he had spent some time in prison for doing drugs.  He said that the prisoners used to fight over books.  In prison, a book was Larry's big treat.  After he got out 20 years ago, Larry said he started grabbing as many books as he could.

When asked about his dreams, Larry said he wanted to open a thrift store one day and keep supplying books."

2014年7月31日

菩薩寺北加州監獄弘法的報告


美國菩薩寺除了每星期在南加州訪問監獄進行佈教弘法之外,每三個月去一趟北加州監獄佈教弘法。這一 次從七月13日至28日共十六天北加州監獄弘法的行腳非常順利圓滿。我們這次訪問了十四家監獄,成立了16個新的佛教圖書館, 有91 個受刑人受三皈五戒。非常感謝一切的因緣。如果沒有大家的發心,受刑人們修道的事完全是不可能的。我們非常感謝所有參加美國菩薩 寺監獄弘法的菩薩們。我們認識的義工們也好,不認識的護持者也好,網路的義工們也好,都不斷地協助我們監獄弘法的活動。有的捐贈佛教書籍,有的參加每 月$10護持的活動,有的介紹我們的活動給親朋好友,所有這些都是在幫助菩薩寺監獄佈教的發展。 我們此次能夠成立16個新的佛教圖書館,我們想要感謝所有幫助書籍方面捐贈的菩薩們。書籍對受刑人來說是如意寶,我們訪問的每一家監獄,百分之七十的學生 都是通過閱讀佛學書籍認識佛法而來參加我們的活動。我們到目前為止在19家監獄已經成立了60個佛教圖書館,再一次感謝大家,由於你們的發心,在監獄才能 有這麼多佛教圖書館成立,真是感恩大家的護持。

三皈五戒是學佛人要做的第一個功課,我們成立了佛教圖書館之後,在監獄裡的法友們也發心受三皈五戒,這次我們有91 個受刑人受三皈五戒,今年到目前為止總共有153個人發心受三皈五戒。看到他們慢慢了解受戒的重要性,給了我們很大的希望及鼓勵。除了上課,傳戒,成立圖 書館之外,我們還成立佛學班或僧伽班。到目前監獄總共成立了三十六個佛教團體,我們希望他們自己精進用功辦道,所以在監獄裡成立僧伽班也很重要。

如果因緣具足,得到足夠的支援,我們九月底會再去訪問他們,以上是美國菩薩寺這個月去北加州監獄弘法的報告,感謝大家支持,阿彌陀佛!

2014年7月12日

看見希望的種子」



尼泊爾菩薩沙彌學院設立因緣
https://www.facebook.com/ibsnepal?ref_type=bookmark

幾個月前,我向顯中法師問安時,他提到 IBS Sramanera School of Nepal 尼泊爾菩薩沙彌學院的構想。最近從臉書上看到幾個天眞可愛的小孩那種認真學習的表情,覺得好感動。我對這個沙彌學院的設立很好奇,問了顯中法師是什麼因緣,使得 lBS 菩薩寺會設立辦理這樣的一個學院。

原來他的師父 慧光和尚,到印度尼泊爾朝聖許多次,一來是看到當地許多貧苦的孩子,心中就想如何幫助這些小孩,讓他們能夠有機會學習。二來是看到佛法在印度的衰退,心裡很難過。這麼神聖的佛法是從印度傳播到世界各地的,不要說亞洲多數國家的國民信奉佛教,就連歐美各地目前也有許多人信仰、推崇並且依教在奉行。而佛法誕生的印度,卻少有人學習了。如何將佛陀的教法再重新回到它的發源地,是菩薩寺想要努力的目標。

顯中法師是從印度拉達克來的,也在尼泊爾待過很多年,他對尼泊爾當地比較熟悉及了解。所以就從此地開始進行。針對他們的目標,為了幫助窮苦的小孩,特別找一些家裡貧苦或父母已不在的孤兒,有的是父母離異,有的是家裡孩子太多無法上學,總之是比較需要幫助的小孩。目前收了十幾個孩子。這些孩子都來自佛教家庭,父母都很歡喜送他們到此地來學習,孩子本身也有意願將來可以選擇出家。目前沙彌學院沒有自己的處所,先租了一個地方。有一位老師照顧他們的生活起居、教育他們,並且訓練他們如何過叢林生活。學習的課程有英文、數學、尼泊爾文、中文及佛學。

二千五百多年前,釋迦摩尼佛在菩提樹下夜睹明星悟出宇宙的真理。之後四十九年,佛陀一直從事傳播真理的教育工作。他的大弟子智慧第一的舍利弗尊者,就是在路途上遇到佛陀的弟子馬勝比丘,為其莊嚴及安詳的威儀所攝受,就很尊敬地請教他的老師是誰?教些什麼法?就因為馬勝比丘對他說了:「諸法因緣生,諸法因緣滅,我佛大沙門,常作如是說。」這個偈頌,引導他入了佛法聖人之流。

舍利弗尊者心中牢牢記著,他是因為遇見馬勝比丘的關係,才能夠得遇佛陀,而證得涅槃。所以他總是禮敬馬勝比丘所在的方向,夜晚入睡時,頭也朝向馬勝比丘所在的方向。尊者只要與馬勝比丘住同一個寺院,在禮拜世尊後,他一定馬上去禮拜馬勝比丘。可以知道他對於能夠得遇佛陀、能夠聽聞到正法,是多麼地心存感激。

佛陀入滅後,佛法從印度開始傳播到世界各地。目前我們能夠聽聞佛法,能夠依止善知識,我們是非常幸運的。可是佛法在印度,卻漸漸萎縮,傳播不順利。今日 lBS 菩薩寺的慧光和尚及顯中法師,有意願、有目標想要將佛法回饋到這個發源地。他們在沙彌學院播種,希望這些學生將來成為佛教的棟樑,能夠自利利他,不但將佛法再次在印度發揚光大,還能傳揚至世界各地。

我看見希望的種子播灑在土裡,衷心祝祷它發芽、成長、茁壯、成為大樹。

2014年3月30日

Whole Day Retreat in Prison



On March 13, 2014, on the first anniversary of its formation, the Shanti Sangha, a small group of dedicated Buddhist Practitioners, was blessed to convene its first annual All Day Meditation Retreat.  This special event was open to persons of all faiths and practices.  It is very rare to have such quality events such as this in prison and we are all very grateful to have had this opportunity to learn meditation from Venerable Xian Zhong.  This event was organized by Venerable Xian Zhong and Shirley Tam of the International Bodhisattva Sangha.

Venerable began the meditation retreat with a discussion on virtue, that is, he discussed with us the value in maintaining a set of personal rules.  These are very important.  Without these rules for ourselves our meditation will be unstable.  While our minds are becoming concentrated, even slight memories or residual feelings associated with bad behavior can disrupt the meditation.  A mind that is undisciplined is weak.  A mind that willingly undertakes personal rules of conduct becomes strong and the concentration becomes more productive.  Virtue is the basis of integrity.  Integrity is keeping the promises you make to yourself and others.  As integrity relates to our meditations, we need to set specific periods of the day for them, keep the lengths of our practice times consistent, and practice each and every day without fail.  This is integrity in practice.

Venerable Xian Zhong then explained to us some of the many benefits of a regular meditation practice.  These include having no worries, finding contentment and realizing true happiness.  Worries, he explained, come from thoughts of past and thoughts of the future.  When we focus on our meditation objects, these thoughts are less and less likely to arise, and after some practice, they don’t trouble us much.  Contentment comes when, during practice, we realize that all we really need in this moment is this breath.  Letting go of everything else gives us a deep sense of freedom.  Meditation will help you understand the true essence of life, and that with this understanding, you will be free from all dissatisfaction.  This is true happiness, not the kind of happiness that is temporary.  There are, as well, many other bonuses received from meditation.  They include: sleeping well, relief from daily stress, and having more mental clarity in our daily lives.  The ultimate goal of our overall practice is to be free from all mental afflictions, and meditation is one of the major tools available to us as we work towards that goal.


Venerable then instructed us on the basics of breath meditation.   This form of meditation, he explained, “is not strictly a Buddhist practice.  There are many religions, paths and practices that use various forms of meditation for various reasons.  Everybody breathes from the day we are born to the day that we die, we breathe.  A breath meditation, therefore, can be done by everyone.  However, many different meditation forms that you might take up in your own personal practice, breath meditation is the most fundamental and forms a solid foundation for all of the other techniques.  At the heart of it, this not a breathing exercise.  We are only going to watch the breath.  We are going to label each breath with counting, say from one to ten, or simply with the word “Breath’”.  Each time that we catch the mind wandering we gently bring our attention back to the breath, again and again.  We soon find that our focus is stable, our breathing becomes slow, deep and regular.  This focused activity should last for the entire period of breath meditation.  Exiting the meditation should be performed mindfully without sudden motions.”

The eating meditation instructions, that Venerable gave us, were very simple: be silent while eating, take up one mouthful at a time, and chew each mouthful many times before swallowing.  Venerable promised us that if we all took up an eating meditation that, in addition to the benefits and bonuses of a basic mindfulness program, we would all lose weight and experience fewer intestinal problems.

After our lunch meal, we practiced walking meditation.  Venerable instructed us on the three main aspects of this meditation which include the “step” itself, which is the object of focus, our “posture” during this meditation, which is upright, our hands in a comfortable position and our gaze on the shoulder of the practitioner ahead of use, or if we were alone, on the ground about six feet ahead.  Our “attention”, the third aspect, where we are mindful of is on the pressure of the ground on the soles of our feet.  We are to be aware of “lifting” “moving” and “placing” of each foot, making smallish half-steps to maintain balance.

Venerable then gave us instruction on sleeping meditation.  He explained to us the reasons for sleeping in the “lion’s position” on the right side:  The heart is now on top, which aides in circulation, and breathing while asleep.  We were instructed on the proper thoughts to have while we fell asleep:  thoughts of gratitude, thanks, and being mindful to transfer the merits of all of our skillful efforts to all others, so that they too might benefit.  We should fall asleep with thoughts of compassion for others, with the thought that we rest so that we may serve others better, and have thoughts of loving-kindness for all beings.  Venerable instructed us on the specific signs that our sleeping meditation is successful.  We would feel refreshed upon waking, energetic with sharpened senses we would note that our sensory perceptions are heightened.  We would not be grumpy or irritable. Our first thoughts would be on the welfare of others and we would be awake and ready to be of service.

Venerable instructed us lastly on Metta, or Loving-kindness meditation.  He pointed out to us the vast connections that we actually have with everyone else, using the example of the clothes that we wear and all of the good, hardworking people who make our clothes a reality:  from the famer, to the factory workers who make the cloth, to the seamstresses and tailors who cut and sew our clothing for our benefit and welfare.  There are thousands of people who are directly invested in the manufacture of our clothes.  This example involves just our clothing – the same applies to those who make our food, our energy, our transportation, our medicine, our public safety – everyone.  Everyone alive right now, directly or indirectly, is invested in our benefit and welfare, and we should repay them in kind.  Our loving kindness meditation began as a repetition of a simple phrase, “May I be happy”.  This feeling of self-happiness was then extended to our family, our friends, our teachers, our co-workers, all the people we knew, all the people we know of but don’t know personally, all of the people in our country, all of the people on the planet, all living beings on the planet and finally, extending this simple wish to all living creatures throughout the universe wherever they may be, without discrimination.  This was a very deep, powerful meditation.

We are all very grateful to have had this rare opportunity to be taught meditations by Venerable Xian Zhong, and we take our responsibility to practice these instructions seriously.  We thank him and Shirley Tham for all of the good that they do.

Guan Ze ( )
The Shanti Sangha, China California
March 17, 2014

2014年3月9日

Brother's Letter

Dear IBS;
Thank you very much for your visit to C.C.I. Tehachapi on Sunday, February 9th. I enjoyed your visit very much, and it was very meaningful to me. I already look forward to the next time you have the opportunity to visit.
I have been studying Buddhism for only the past 9 months. Initially, I was only interested in learning mediation practice. However, as I learned more about Buddhism, the more I found a sense of spirituality that I could identify with. I grew up in Protestant Christianity. I went to Christian schools, graduated from a Bible College, and served in the ministry for several years. In Christianity, I always felt like I was trying to be someone different whom I was never able to be no matter how hard I tried.
What I find so refreshing in Buddhism, is complete acceptance of ourselves exactly the way we are. I find the practice of mediation to be a more practical way of dealing with the mind, than relying on some supernatural. Force to change our minds for us.
I have been in prison since 2002, and my expected release is in 2022. I truly believe that the practice of Buddhism can be very beneficial for me during the last 8 years of my incarceration. I have recently started doing my chanting and mediation practice every morning from 4 am to 5am. It is a time when the dormitory is always quiet, and, after a night’s sleep, I am alert and ready for meditation.
My predominate source of information about Buddhism is from the books we have in our Chapel. Every Sunday afternoon, our sangha meets for meditation and Dharma talks. Every week I check out books and CD from the Buddhist Library. Every day of the week I spend time reading Buddhist literature and listening to Dharma talks on CD. The information I have gotten from books has been an invaluable help in my meditation practice and in understanding the Dharma. With the information I have read, I have been able to choose a practice for myself.
After your visit to C.C.I, I was very encouraged to continue in my study and in my practice. I hope to stay in contact with I.B.S. throughout my incarceration and be an active member of your sangha.
Sincerely,
Zachery Raymond

2014年3月4日

What IBS has done for me



2 years ago, I took my vows as a Buddhist, by vows I mean take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.  It has changed my life forever.  Before I took my vows I had a crazy monkey mind, reaction to everything was impulsive.  I lived in constant anger and I got angry one night and I hurt someone.  I lost control and I had no compassion.  I allowed my anger to dictate my life.  I played a lot of sports in my youth and had a good time.  It was an escape to an abusive situation I found myself IN.
So what is my current understanding of Buddhism.  As luck would have it, I already had a wide understanding in Buddhism, without knowing it.  I know thus far that Buddhism is more than a religion, my understanding of Buddhism was that it was just different I really had no formal idea of what it was.  I was drawn to it because of the quiet aspect of meditation.  It seem as those who practiced Buddhism had a certain calm in them.  I for one love the quiet,  loud noise is a distraction for me.  Unfortunately, I learn about Buddhism in prison, some how it was not so unfortunate.
Since I took my vows 2 years ago, I found it to be so much more.  My personality is such that I had already detached myself from the “world” by default, by my incarceration.  What I’ve come to find out is that “prison” is a defacto Monastery.  Within the last two years I’ve been a real fan, the logic, the nonlinear dynamic of Buddhism, The Dept.  My understanding is like a vast ocean and I could only hope to grasp it like a true Bodhisattva.
Thanks to IBS, Shirley Tam, Danny Tam, Ven Hueiguang and Ven Xian Zhong.  I am a better person.

With Metta
Micah Harris
President Gems of the Valley Sangha

2014年3月2日

My Daily Practice

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Dear IBS

First of all I want to thank you for visiting us here at CCI and giving us those great teachings.  I also want to thank you for all you are doing for Buddhism.  You asked me to tell you all the prayers I do in a day so here they are:

The Increasing Effect Mantra, The Mala Blessing Mantra, Mantra for Blessing the Feet, Blessing the Speech, Dependent Related Heart Mantra, Request for the Lama, Taking the Eight Precepts Preliminary Prayers, Refuge, Generating Bodhichitta, Purifying the Place, Offering Prayer, Offering Cloud Mantra, The Power of Truth, Invocation, Mantra and Praise with Prostrations, Seven Limb Prayer, Short Mandala Offering, Inner Mandala Offering, Prayer for Taking Precepts.  But when I do the Precepts Prayer, I only say the first five.  And that is it for my morning prayers after I do that I have been doing 108 prostrations.  I did not have time for 500.  And then around dinner time I do, daily prayers, prostrations to the Seven Medicine Buddha’s, General Confession, and then I recite the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.  And the before bed I do, Taking Refuge in the Three Jewels Prayers.  I recite the Three Principles of the Path by Lama Tsong Khapa, and then I do, Vajrasattva Purification and recite the mantra 108 times.

I also do meditation 1, 2 or 3 times a day but mostly just 2 times.  Right now I’m reading, Essentials of Mahamudra, by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche.  I’m also reading in the Buddha’s words ____ from the Pali Canon, again.  After I read those I’m going to read, Essential Mind Training, which is a number of Tibetan Mind training classics such as Boddhisattvas Jewel Garland, by Atisa, Seven-point Mind Training and a great number of others, and after that I’m going to re-read, Liberation in the Palm of your Hand, a Lam-Rim by Pabongaka Rinpoche.  Is there any books that you could recommend to me and where to get them?  You asked me how long I have been practicing Buddhism, well I have been interested in it my whole life when I was very young and I saw a movie on Tibet.  I was drawn towards it, but sadly nothing came of it.  While I was growing up I suffered from depression and always felt like there was always something missing from my life, so I started acting out getting high on weed, beer, stealing, having sex.  I still feel like something was missing so I started to think something was wrong with me.  While in jail fighting my case, I asked my Mom to get me a Buddhist book and when I got it I was like wow!!! This is what I have been missing all along.  I wish I would have gotten into it much earlier in my life but that was my Karma.  We4ll I hope to hear from you soon.

With love and respect

Taylour Jordan



P/s – My dad, Patrick is in the ICU, please say a prayer for him.