Friday, November 17, 2017

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/17/17

“When we truly become aware of what we are doing with ourselves and how we are mistakenly using the gifts and talents God has given you, pride and fear dissolve. We begin to move towards humility and trust. This opens space for love to manifest and, as a result, we are able to fulfill our purpose.”
Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma: What Is Freedom?

What is freedom? It is nothing more, and nothing less, than life lived awake.

—Ken McLeod, “Forget Happiness

Awaken Mantras

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Via Jake Sasseville‎ / The Largest Baha'i Facebook Group Ever: OPENLY BAHA’I, OPENLY GAY, OPENLY PROUD.


im editing this poem-essay
at the end of my second pilgrimage
at the Tel Aviv airport
in Israel.

i dedicate it
for my Atlanta friend,
a Baha’i recently back from pilgrimage
who shared it may be his last
because he’s gay
and doesn’t know
how much longer
he’ll be accepted
as an out, gay Baha’i.
he’s 26.

i write this poem-essay
for my Baha’i friend from Colorado
who I met in israel
who’s best friend serves the Faith
endlessly, with a pure and radiant heart—
all activities —
but doesn’t call himself Baha’i,
and won’t,
because he’s gay.

i write this poem-essay
for my dear friends fiancée in Europe
who wants to support her man
and his journey with Bahá’u’lláh
but texts me torn,
unable to reconcile why she’d ever
support a Religion
where she perceives gays
as unequal.

i write this poem-essay
for my friend in Germany,
who I met in israel,
who doesn’t understand
why her lesbian friends
can’t love Bahá’u’lláh
and be married, too.

the stories flowed
dozens, everywhere i go.
there are probably hundreds more.

it’s the conversation
beneath the conversation.
the whispers
beneath the deep love
for the Baha’i Faith.

this is for you
this is an invitation.

doesn’t matter
that you may not be
being gay and open
and — God forbid, proud —
without needing to be
flamboyant about it,
is rare in any organized Religion—
including the Baha’i Faith.

the teachings of the Baha’i Faith
include preserving unity at all costs,
independent investigation of truth,
the oneness of God, Humanity & Religion
and bringing oneself to account each day—
it’s all between You and God,
no one else.

it was hard as hell coming out
as an openly gay guy
who was also a Baha’i —
when almost no gays
are out, or comfortable taking.
and it’s taken almost a decade since
to become really proud of it.

there aren’t many openly gay Baha’is
that don’t feel shunned
or judged
or as if their beloved community
believes they’re wrong,
or sick,
or have some sort of illness.

i have heard the stories —
was invited to the secret
underground Facebook groups
and saw a fragmented group
of incredible humans,
doing God’s work,
who have allowed
a worldwide community’s
misunderstanding of gay
to dim their own light.

we need openly gay Bahai’s
and we need you now.

ive seen friends not know
how to talk about the gay thing
at feasts or devotionals,
or when sharing the Faith with others,
or who don’t know how to share
Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings on marriage
without appearing homophobic.

we can do better.

the world needs gay Bahai’s
who come on pilgrimage
who hold devotionals
who raise children
and help us continue to build
beautiful communities.

the world needs gay Baha’is
who talk as openly
as this.

this is an invitation.

come out of the closet
and be your best version of you,
serve humanity,
be kind
and know that your love
for Bahá’u’lláh
is more important
than anything else
in the world.

when I wrote my book in 2012
i talked very little about being gay
and very little about being Baha’i.

i was ashamed
and didn’t want to feel
or be told I was wrong.
or worse: be whispered about.

and i got emails
got called out big time —
from South America to Illinois
repressed or shamed bahais
or those serving on LSAs
that were critical of half-out gays
in their communities —

they were all asking me:
“How did you reconcile
being an openly gay Baha’i?”

like I somehow have the answer...

and it threw me into a tizzy
because I realized I had reconciled
and I don’t really even have the answer.

i was openly gay
and love Bahá’u’lláh,
but I had buried dealing with this
as far in the closet as I once was
for 24 years.

i was angry
and lashing out
the world was against me
and no one else was openly gay
and Baha’i
and proud.

ive dealt with it
by talking about it
by living my life,
and not hiding.
by laughing
and consulting.
and not acting
like a victim
but as a strong
human being.

these days
i live lightly,
don’t understand everything,
question way too much,
laugh way too loud,
date publicly,
and always turn my will
and my life
over to the care
of God.

that’s what being
an openly gay Baha’i
is like.

one cannot be shamed
unless one holds that shame already
(and if you hold it,
you can let it go).

one cannot hide
unless you feel
there is something
to hide
(being seen is healthy).

this is an invitation.

for the closeted gay Baha’is
know that you’re not alone
and I have been loved
since the first day
I said ‘I’m gay.’

id even say
being gay
has brought
a love
and a light
and an understanding
to the communities
ive been lucky enough
to be apart of.

you can be a beacon, too.
you’ll deal with some crap,
but all that crap,
it’s the pain of the Other —
or the Community —
the Others inability,
or the Community’s inability
to accept
who they really are,
in the face of you accepting
who you really are.

by the way,
if gays weren’t a natural occurrence
natural selection
would’ve ended it generations ago.

think about it.

1 in 12 in the animal kingdom
and humanity
gay gay gay.

whether or not they’ve been out,
gays have been bringing about
a more conscious,

there are too few gays
in the beautiful Baha’i Faith.

there are new studies
showing that after 3 boys
are in any one woman’s womb,
every boy after
has a 33% higher chance
of being gay.

science is starting
to catch up.

it’s a natural occurrence,
we are nature’s design
nature’s beauty,
community builders,
artistic expressers,
kindhearted listening ears,
and a whole bunch of beauty —
and while this might trigger some,
the science is emerging.

James O’Keefe’s Ted Talk
It’s about survival not sex”
is a radical shift
in scientific explanation
and it will move you.

it’s time to get on with it
to come out the closet,
and for communities to make it
a safe celebration
when folks do come out.

it’s not enough to accept
communities must celebrate.

it’s hard to do any work —
especially bringing the world together —
like Bahai’s so earnestly are doing —
and I’ll let you in on a secret:
it’s about 10x harder
if you’re repressed
or the ones that are doing
the repressing.

let it go.
celebrate the gay bahais
that come out,
or those investigating
the Writings is Bahá’u’lláh.

celebrate them you people,
we haven’t done a good enough job
making it safe
for all types
to walk on through.

there are those
who will love Bahá’u’lláh
but who won’t conform,
where abidance will be an issue
and we need to show folks
they are welcomed
and they are welcomed now!

7 years since my last pilgrimage
praying at the most Holy Thresholds
in the most beautiful place on earth,
in gardens that are perfect,
that cause emotion from the deepest parts...
a once in a lifetime opportunity
twice in my 32 years.
blessed beyond measure.

here’s to living,
loving and accepting

the time is now.
this is an invitation.

J. Sasseville.
Haifa, Israel.
November 5, 2017.

Via Lion's Roar / How to Practice Shamatha Meditation

Shamatha meditation—mindfulness or concentration—is the foundation of Buddhist practice. Lama Rod Owens teaches us a version from the Vajrayana tradition.

Shamatha means “peaceful abiding” or “tranquility.” Also called mindfulness or concentration meditation, shamatha is an important introductory practice that leads to the practice of vipashyana, or insight meditation.

The purpose of shamatha meditation is to stabilize the mind by cultivating a steady awareness of the object of meditation. The traditional practice of shamatha uses different kinds of supports or anchors for our practice. Eventually, this leads to practicing without supports and meditating on emptiness itself in an open awareness. For this particular practice, the instructions will be for shamatha meditation using the breath as the focus of our practice.

Shamatha mediation allows us to experience our mind as it is. When we practice shamatha, we are able to see that our mind is full of thoughts, some conducive to our happiness and further realization, and others not. It is not extraordinary that our minds are full of thoughts, and it is important to understand that it is natural to have so much happening in the mind.

Over time, practicing shamatha meditation calms our thoughts and emotions. We experience tranquility of mind and calmly abide with our thoughts as they are. Eventually, this leads to a decrease in unhelpful thoughts.

When we experience stable awareness, we are then ready to practice vipashyana, in which we develop insight into what “mind” is by investigating the nature of thoughts themselves. In the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, the ultimate goal is to practice calm abiding and insight in union, which opens the door to realizing the true nature of mind.

Traditionally, shamatha practice is taught through instructions on the physical body and then looking at the meditation instructions themselves.

To read the full article and more click here


Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/16/17

“We often think there is nothing to be improved in ourselves or in our lives, but in truth, we’re just stuck in our own comfort zone. Tricking ourselves into thinking everything is fine prevents us from becoming aware of what is keeping us paralyzed. We need to do the necessary healing work to move whatever is stuck, but it’s only possible to heal that which has been already diagnosed; it’s only possible to transform that which has already been identified.”
Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma: Maturing through Hardship

We don’t wish for suffering, but once we understand how to be in relationship with it, it becomes the means through which we mature as loving and wise people.

—Thanissara, “The Grit That Becomes a Pearl

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - November 15, 2017

When we have the compassion that comes from understanding how it is, we don't lay a trip on anybody else as to how they ought to be. We don't say to our parents, "Why don't you understand about the spirit and why I'm a vegetarian?" We don't say to our husband or wife, "Why do you still want sex when all I want to do is read the Gospel of Ramakrishna?"

A conscious being does all that he or she can to create a space for being with God but does no violence to the existing karma to do it.

- Ram Dass -

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/15/17

“We are prevented from gaining awareness of our life’s purpose and realizing our dharma by the many layers of unlove. These layers manifest in the form of hurts and resentments, pacts of revenge, fear and hatred. In order for us to realize our dharma, we must remove these layers because this lack of love blinds our perception of our purpose.”
Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma: Karma Is Defined by Choice

Karma means that we are not defined by our situation but rather by the choices we make.

—Gyalwang Drukpa, “How to Combat Fear

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Via Daily Dharma: How Habits Stick

Sticking to the precepts requires constant self-monitoring, discernment, and effort, but there comes a point when the practicality, the boon, of the thing sinks into the organic body and saturates one’s actions. Violating the precepts gets harder to do.

—Mary Talbot, “The Joy of No Sex

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/14/17

“What prevents you from being aware of unity is an agitated mind. Compulsive thinking not only prevents the perception of beauty, but it also prevents you from producing beauty. An agitated mind can only reproduce agitation, even in the form of art. All ugliness is the result of a mind agitated by the ghosts of fear, hatred, suffering and ingratitude.”
Sri Prem Baba

Monday, November 13, 2017

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/13/17

“A friend is someone who wants to see the other shine - who wants to see the other happy, celebrating life without wanting anything in return. But this is very rare on this planet. Here, it is every man for himself. All the challenges we face today are because we don’t develop this dimension of love called friendship. Selfishness is in charge of life on this plane.”
Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma: Seek Out Real Change

The validity of a teaching has nothing to do with the qualities of the teacher. All that matters is whether, when put into practice, it can effect a real change in the way you live.

—Stephen Batchelor, “Why I Quit Guru Devotion

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - November 12, 2017

The devotional path isn’t necessarily a straight line to enlightenment. There’s a lot of back and forth, negotiations if you will, between the ego and the soul. You look around at all the aspects of suffering, and you watch your heart close in judgment. Then you practice opening it again and loving this too, as a manifestation of the Beloved, another way the Beloved is taking form. Again your love grows vast.

In Bhakti, as you contemplate, emulate, and take on the qualities of the Beloved, your heart keeps expanding until you see the whole universe as the Beloved, even the suffering.

Ram Dass

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/12/17

“The experience of creation and the perception of beauty are phenomena that are only possible to an empty state of mind. If the mind is full of thoughts and information, nothing new can arise and beauty cannot be manifested or perceived.”
Sri Prem Baba

Via Daily Dharma: Nourish Awareness in Conversation

Applying right speech is difficult in the beginning . . . but if you practice every time you talk to someone, the mind will learn how to be aware, to understand what it should or should not say, and to know when it is necessary to talk.

—Sayadaw U Tejaniya, “The Wise Investigator

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Via Lion's Roar / Where Will You Stand?

American Flag, 1977 by Robert Mapplethorpe.

If we are to uphold the dharma, says Rev. angel Kyodo williams, we must stand up to racism and expose its institutionalized forms—even in our Buddhist communities.

We are at a critical moment in the history of the nation as well as within the Buddhist teaching and tradition in America. This is the “back of the bus” moment of our time. Fifty years after civil rights laws were laid down, it is clear that these laws were enshrined within a structure that continues to profit from anti-Black racism. The necessary bias that the system requires in order to perpetuate itself has permeated our sanghas, and in this very moment, Buddhists are called upon to put aside business as usual. If you have ever wondered how you would have shown up in the face of the challenge put before white America when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, upending the accepted social order, now is when you will find out. Will we actually embody our practice and teachings—or not? It is a clarifying moment about who we are as individuals and who we have been thus far as a collective of people laying claim to the teachings of the Buddha, waving the flag of wisdom and compassion all the while.

Our inability as a nation to atone for the theft of these lands and the building of wealth, power, and privilege on the countless backs and graves of Black people is our most significant obstacle to being at peace with ourselves, and thus with the world. The Buddhist community is a mirror image of this deep internal conflict that arises out of a persistent resistance to playing its appropriate societal role, even as we have available to us rigorous teachings to help us do the necessary work.

As demographics shift, ushering in greater pools of racially diverse seekers, this reluctance promises to be our undoing. We simply cannot engage with either the ills or promises of society if we continue to turn a blind eye to the egregious and willful ignorance that enables us to still not “get it” in so many ways. It is by no means our making, but given the culture we are emerging from and immersed in, we are responsible.

White folks’ particular reluctance to acknowledge their impact as a collective, while continuing to benefit from the construct of the collective, leaves a wound intact without a dressing. The air needed to breathe through forgiveness is smothered. Healing is suspended for all. Truth is necessary for reconciliation.

Will we as Buddhists express the promise of, and commitment to, liberation for all beings, or will we instead continue a hyper-individualized salvation model—the myth of meritocracy—that is also the foundation of this country’s untruth?

The work of dharma communities is the same work of the America that wants to live up to its promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is to kick the habit of racism, cultural dominance, and upholding oppressive systems. More poignantly, our challenge, our responsibility, our deep resounding call is to be at the forefront of this overdue evolutionary thrust forward. Why? Because we chose to position ourselves as the standard-bearers of an ethical high ground. And we have the tools and teachings to do so.

Much of what is being taught as Buddhism in America is the acceptance of a kinder, gentler suffering that does not question the unwholesome roots of systemic suffering and the structures that hold it in place. The expansive potential of the dharma to liberate us from suffering is in danger of being rendered impotent because it is held in subjugation to the very systems that it must thoroughly examine.

Thrust into the Western socioeconomic framework that puts profit above all, and coupled with a desire to perpetuate institutional existence at the expense of illuminating reality and revealing deeper truths, the dharma has become beholden to commodification, viewing it as inescapable and de rigueur.

The dharma’s authenticity and integrity are thus compromised.

What is required is a new dharma, a radical dharma that deconstructs rather than amplifies the systems of suffering, that starves rather than fertilizes the soil that deep roots of societal suffering grows in. A new dharma is one that not only insists we investigate the unsatisfactoriness of our own minds but also prepares us for the discomfort of confronting the obscurations of the society we are individual expressions of. It recognizes that the delusions of systemic oppression are not solely the domain of the individual. By design, they are seated within and reinforced by society.

Whose Liberation?

The attention of our nation has rightfully turned to the policing of black and brown bodies. From above, it looks like just black and brown folks are being policed and while you may feel bad, you are free.

But here is the truth: policing is expressing itself through the state. The police force is the institution carrying out a specific mandate—a mandate that expresses a survival need of the social construct that we inhabit.

That mandate is to control black bodies.
The need is to have the constant specter of the other.
When the other exists, it strengthens your need to belong.
Your belonging is necessary for compliance.
Your compliance maintains the system.
You are policed, too.
You are policed by your need for belonging.
Your need for belonging requires control of the other.
Or at least the illusion of it.
You are policed through the control of my body.
You are policed, too.

Once you are aware of how you are being policed, you can begin the process of self-liberating—this time from a place that recognizes the mutuality of our liberation rather than suffering under the delusion that you are doing something for me. There’s an intimacy in that realization. And because dharma is ultimately about accepting what is, it can undermine the need for control that keeps you invested in the policing of my body—thus freeing yours.

The Social Ego

To lean into this aspiration, you must confront the fact that “whiteness” is a social ego as void of inherent identity as the personal ego. However, you have identified with it as much as your very own name, without being willing to name it.

Just as the ego-mind is a construct that constantly reinforces itself, so, too, does the construct of whiteness. It builds structures and systems of control and develops attitudes and views that maintain its primacy and sense of solidity so that whiteness can substantiate its validity. One could call it the Mind of Whiteness.

The construct has been designed so that White America—and by extension white dharma teachers and practitioners—lives inside the prison of that small mind. Without intentional intervention, you cannot see over the wall of the reinforcing perspectives that affirm and perpetuate the White Superiority Complex. The complex would disintegrate if the vastness of your own racial bias were illuminated, but until such time you remain in ignorance, blind to the reality before you. This blindness is necessary to escape the sheer anguish of how pervasive this complex is, how you unerringly participate in it, and how seemingly inescapable it has become.

Just as the ego-mind cannot be used to work its way out of its own construct, the Mind of Whiteness cannot be used to see through the veil of its own construct. As Buddhists, we are gifted with precisely the tools and methodologies needed for the project of deconstructing, but that lens of awareness must be placed outside of the construct of whiteness. As a direct result of privilege, white practitioners and teachers have mistakenly entitled themselves to place the lens of awareness inside of whiteness, hence they are unable to see its machinations. Only when we choose to live the dharma in a radical way—with a motivation toward complete liberation—can our work begin.

So we sit. And we feel. And we let what arises do so until the resistance is worn down or moved through or even until it overwhelms us. On the other side, we see a glimmer of something that we couldn’t get a handle on because we were trying so desperately to avoid it. We begin to see truth. When we catch hold of it, we can finally see the patterns of our participation in not-truth emerge. With the clarity of a steady mind and courage of a true heart, what has always been there begins to reveal itself, emerging from behind the fog of the ego-mind of whiteness.

White dharma practitioners who are unable to acknowledge the pain caused by decades of resistance to addressing this misalignment will be exposed—they will no longer be able to use a veneer of dharma as window dressing while milking the benefits of the system. Their veil of mindfulness will be seen through as thin, and their once-wise words, henceforth, will land with a thud.

No one group, community, or institution has the answer, but each of us can call forth the willingness to offer our best, claim responsibility for our worst, and fold it all into the continuous moment-to-moment practice of simply being present to what is. If your practice is not attenuating greed, hatred, and ignorance—the social expressions of which are the delusions of supremacy, racism, and oppression—then you need to change your practice.

Adapted from Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah, forthcoming June 2016 from North Atlantic Books.

Make the jump here to read to full article and more

Via Sri Prem Baba – Awaken Love / Flower of the Day: 11/11/17

“We have been conditioned to think compulsively and this makes us lose the connection with beauty. We look at a landscape and we don’t see it: we listen to music but we don’t hear it. This happens because the mind is busy trying to sort and label. The most that can arise is a shallow interpretation of what the senses are interpreting, but not a real experience of truth.”
Sri Prem Baba