Living with Wisdom, Compassion and
the heart of dharma
from a universal perspective
For a number of years we have hosted periodic Sunday gatherings at our home in the Bay of Plenty, N.Z. In the mornings, between 10 and 11:45am I would give a class which was then followed by a shared lunch. These gatherings became a time for remembering what is deeply meaningful and important, and for helping to strengthen a sense of dharma community both locally and throughout the world.
With the coming of covid and the various periods of ‘lock-down’ we began to Zoom the gatherings and gradually more and more people joined us. There were a dozen to twenty people meeting in our home and 50 to 70 people joining via zoom. Participants, ranging in age from early 20s to mid 80s brought with them a wide diversity of backgrounds and interests. People joined from Canada, USA, Brazil, Australia, NZ and Europe. Some logged in from hospital beds, mountain tops and moving vehicles. Some had extensive experience in Buddhist study and practice, and some had little or none. Regardless their situation and circumstance, all felt moved to find a meaningful way of living.
A word on the recording quality. We began the year recording the zoom sessions and then making them available to the participants. Unfortunately the quality of sound and picture for the first two sessions is quite low. From the third session onward, our techie wizard, Stephen Martin-Rolsky, arranged to make HD recordings which improved the quality immensely. Because the files were so big they became unmanageable for most people, so he created the Green Dharma Treasury You Tube channel and we have posted all sessions there to be easily available for viewing.
A Self Retreat
This series could serve as a general guide for do-it-yourself contemplative exploration to be carried out in the midst of daily living. You might listen to a class or a part of one and then spend some time putting the suggestions into action, experimenting with them in the context of your daily activities and relationships. When your enthusiasm for that angle of exploration wanes, then listen/watch a bit more and continue. I have listed the various publications and poems I refer to at the end of this post so that those who are interested can pursue their investigations even further.
A General Outline of Contents
Session #1, (Feb 20, 2022)
Introducing the over-arching theme for the coming year.
This class was unusual in that due to covid and a last minute rescheduling of Mary’s hip replacement surgery the session was given entirely on-line with only Mary and Stephen present in the room. As a result the class begins in slow rambling way as I felt my way into speaking to a screen and reconnecting with people who would under other circumstances have been physically in the room with us.
– Theme for the year
– Lumps and process
– Nagarjuna’s “Verses from the Centre”
“I bow to all buddhas who teach contingency . . . and ease fixation.”
– Gradual path and instantaneous path
Session #2, (March 13, 2022)
The Heart of Dharma: the beingness that is our living.
A View of All Encompassing Dharma Work, from a universal perspective – Life exploring life.
– The first 18 minutes consists of a prolonged guided meditation with comments:
– “I come from my mother, and mother I be, forest and sky and thee.”
– The main body of the class begins 18:30.
– Listening our Way into connectedness
– Non-listening as a way of inducing forgetfulness
Why are there so many sadhanas and practices and how to choose which to follow?
What must I do to be saved – to live well, to survive the situation we find ourself in?
Developing confidence and competence in contemplative investigation.
The three natures (svabhava) – three aspects of beingness and how this shapes our dharma practice
Remembering that we are radically present.
(NOTE: In the video, I mentioned that I would post some writing on the Three Natures. This project turned into something much bigger and has yet to be completed.)
Session #3, (April 10, 2022) (HD recordings)
Murmurations of Reality: Introducing ‘Eco-sattva’ and the Six Parami
– Greetings and guided contemplation
– Main class begins, 14:00
– Further thoughts on confidence and competence.
– Holons and Wholes
– Human as bodhisattva/eco-sattva
– Visuddhimagga – The inner tangle and the outer tangle . . . who can untangle this tangle?
– Networkings within networkings
– Our true home – the on-going communion of all life
Introducing – Sila, Samadhi and Prajna and the Six Parami
– Dana-parami, exploring living though the lens of profound generosity.
Session #4, (May 8, 2022)
Active Training in Eco-sattvaship and Generosity
The dharma is to realized by the wise, each for him or herself.
– Equating, Wisdom, Compassion and Non-clinging Awareness with Sila, Samadhi and Prajna, the 6 Parami and the work of an eco-sattva.
Main class begins at 20:00
– Sila-parami, wholesome relating;
– The Five Wholesome Life Trainings as a stimulus for deep contemplation – how an eco-sattva lives his or her realisation. (The verses Tarchin taught from can be found in Daily Puja and in Reflections and Prayers: Nurturing Life of Natural Awakening)
The path of the eco-sattva – to make this, appreciation of the inter-being nature of everything, real.
Session #5, (June 5, 2022)
Importance of Community and Patience
– Guided meditation, a communion of Welcoming, Breathing, Presenting
Main class begins 10:00
– Sangha Introducing a “community of friends in dharma”.
– Expanding our sense of community until it is immeasurable.
– An eco-sattva community; a green dharma community
– a universal sangha involving the whole ecology of life supported by the bodhisattva vow/aspiration. as a way of living and practice.
Bodhisattva/ Eco-sattva Vow/Aspiration
“However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest. . . .”
(This version of the bodhisattva vow can be found in Daily Puja and in Reflections and Prayers: Nurturing Life of Natural Awakening)
– Universal Bodhicitta
– The 6 Parami as the expression of Engaged Bodhicitta 47:00
Patience – Ksanti-parami 50:00
patience as forbearance, acceptance, poised readiness, surrender.
– quote from Brunnholzl’s “Straight From the Heart”
Session #6, (July 3, 2022)
Skilful Use of Energy – Virya-parami
– Guided meditation for first 12 minutes
– Questions and observations from listeners
– “I am animate , I am an animal, I am born from life and living … ” poem 35:00
(These are the first lines of a longer poem called We are in this Together)
– The parami as an expression of basic aliveness
Considering the 4th parami virya-parami, skilled and effective use of energy; – 43:00
– persistent, gentle, translucent nudging
– working with the 4 efforts; crudely, and in a more refined way.
– ever more refined understandings of wholesome – this nectar of naturalness that you are – effortless flow..
– the courage and willingness to take in hand, the life you find yourself in.
Session #7, (July 31, 2022)
Samadhi #1 – a general overview of samadhi and meditation
– Guided meditation for first 20 minutes.
– Ongoing questions and observations. 22:00
– love as clear seeing; to see is to be seen, to love is to be loved
Main class on samadhi begins 37:28
–Reading and explicating the first 3 stanzas of “We are in this together”
Many translations of samadhi depending on context;
– a continuity of caring and enquiry, absorption, meditation
– samadhi as the continuous activity of attunement, growing from deepening and integrating the previous four parami
– samadhi as the state of original balance(ing)
– to acquire , or move towards, or cultivate integration or wholeness
– a state of equilibrium, centeredness, con-centra-tion
– a state of utter attunement
– the 6 parami as 6 facets of a dynamic whole, this mystery of the living that we are.
Session #8, (August 28, 2022)
Samadhi #2 – Settling into our coal face, our “working face”
– Prayer as remembrance of what we deeply value and know, 7:16
– Inviting observations or questions 10:00
– sequeing into Samadhi at 21:00
– Main class begins 26:30
– samma-samadhi – the full richness of here; the ever-present immediacy of now
– “renunciation is the legs of meditation, so our gurus say”
– learning the art of resting more fully into being “the full richness of here, the ever present immediacy of now”
– Essential Practice – a union of samatha and vipassana
– in the natural flowing of whatever is occurring, cultivate a continuity of . . .
– What is profoundly nourishing ease? What is samatha?
– samma-samadhi and the Brahma Vihara: loving kindness, compassion, empathic joy and equanimity
– waking up in the calm
– what is knowing? are there many domains of knowing
More from the poem, “We are in this Together” 1:05:00
– samadhi as a continuity of caring and enquiry
Session #9, (September 25, 2022)
Samadhi #3 – Domains and Dimensions of Thought, Thinking and Relational Knowing
‘Bit’-samadhi (sankhara-samadhi) vs complete samadhi (samma-samadhi)
– David Wagoner’s poem, “Lost” 8:00
– Wrestling with the problems of thought and thinking and knowing from an evolutionary perspective. 13:00
– a story of here to there; and there to here. 19:30
– Mind as “that which knows”
– 6 domains of relational knowing: emergent corporeal, inter-corporeal, subjective, inter-subjective verbal, & story
– the nature of knowing, of mind, of minding
Many of the seminal ideas in this section have come from contemplating the writings of Maxine Sheets-Johnstone and Daniel N. Stern.
– What is thinking? Thinking is linking.
– samma-samadhi as all the linkings
– Let go into the dance of knowings that you are.
Knowing is experience and experience is knowing
Further reflections on “We are in this together”.
– Learning our bodies. We are continuously gestating in the womb of the world.
– Thinking as knowing, hence many domains of thinking, not just verbal or conceptual.
Session #10, (October 23, 2022)
Deepening Understanding; (Prajna) Wisdom
– Reading the contemplative poem ” Flax Talk”
– Reviewing the Way of the Eco-sattva; 6 Parami as being foundational truths of existence.
– Beginning to consider wisdom, prajna 42:00
– sherab (Tib.) => the inherent curiosity and inquisitiveness of one’s own mind which is very precise and playful at the same time
– yeshe (Tib.) => spontaneously present ever fresh awareness
Comments on prajnaparamita perfection of wisdom teachings in general, and brief pithy teaching on “The Heart Sutra”.
– Poem about Avalokitesavaro looking deeply into full mandala of experience . . . and seeing.
– Wisdom as a way of being
– Me sitting here is composed of non-me-sitting-here elements.
– Eco-sattva is being the ecological experience in action
– Translating sunyata.
Guru Prayer by Dudjom Rinpoche: “Since pure awareness of nowness . . . ”
– apprentices learning the art of being this cresting wave of now.
Session #11, (November 20, 2022)
A Summery of the Year’s Themes – “the heart of dharma practice”
– a summary using experimental movement, sound and concepts
– Main class begins 16:00
– Reflecting on the theme of the year, ” Living with Wisdom, Compassion and Non-clinging Engagement:the heart of dharma from a universal perspective”
– the universality of dharma
– not something we ‘practice’; but what we actually are
– invitation for participants to offer questions 30:20
– increasing confidence and competence in inter-dependency,
and how to nurture it
– pointing out true meditation; familiarizing with being completely real
– the already-here-path
“The Heart of Dharma Practice” 47:30
– descend with a view that is all-embracing; and ascend with the conduct of attentive caring
– A request for ordination
– A Circle of Blessing prayer
Books or Printed Matter
Stephen Batchelor; Verses From The Center: A Buddhist Vision of the Sublime
Karl Brunnholzl; Straight from the Heart; Buddhist Pith Instructions
(his comments on patience can be found on p. 502, fn293)
Tarchin Hearn; Daily Puja (available on Green Dharma Treasury)
Tarchin Hearn; Reflections and Prayers: Nurturing Life of Natural Awakening (available on Green Dharma Treasury)
Tarchin Hearn; This Nectar of Naturalness (available on Green Dharma Treasury)
David George Haskell; Sounds Wild and Broken
David George Haskell; The Forest Unseen
David George Haskell; The Songs of Trees
Sister Palmo; The Garland of Morning Prayers
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol; The Heart of the Matter
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone; Insides and Outsides
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone; The Primacy of Movement
Daniel N. Stern; Diary of a Baby
Daniel N. Stern; The Interpersonal World of the Infant
I come from my mother and mother I be . . . Can be found in “This Nectar of Naturalness”
We are in this Together; https://greendharmatreasury.files.wordpress.com/2022/11/we-are-in-this-together.pdf
Lost, by David Wagoner
Flax Talk, by Tarchin Hearn (found on p 18) A Sheaf of Poems, 2001 – 2010
Poem about Avalokitesavaro, by Tarchin Hearn (found on p 15) A Sheaf of Poems, 2001 – 2010
Guru Prayer, by Dudjom Rinpoche found in Daily Puja (Fifth Edition)
A Circle of Blessing by Tarchin Hearn, found in Reflections and Prayers: Nurturing Life of Natural Awakening (available on Green Dharma Treasury)
David Haskell’s recording referred to in Session 2