Saturday, April 6, 2024

In one of our recent Dhamma Group meetings, it was pointed out that the Pāli word, “sammā” begins each of the tags for the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path.


As a reminder for those of you who need one, the Noble Eightfold Path is the discipline which, when followed religiously, leads to the cessation of dukkhā. Dukkhā being that state of being in which we find ourselves when our desire for Reality to be a particular way, our belief that Reality is a particular way and/or our insistence that Reality must be a particular way, isn’t congruent with Reality as we are experiencing it. Dukkhā is most often translated as “suffering,” but that is really too restrictive. See previous blogs from past years for a fuller account of the concepts dukkhā subsumes.

Sammā is most frequently translated with the English adjective, “Right” – Right Perspective, Right Resolve, etc. Some other English words which have been used to translate sammā include, “Proper,” “Correct,” “Skillful,” “Wise,” “Ennobling,” . . . .

If we think of each of the eight factors of the Path as a practice with an end result of reducing/eliminating dukkhā, then “Right Effort” becomes an abbreviated way of saying, “the Effort which is efficacious in the reduction/elimination of dukkhā.” Or, if we choose to focus on the two primary causes of dukkhā, avijjā (ignorance and delusion) and taṇhā (the desire that Reality be “my way;” the attachment to the notion that my desires can be met, should be met, must be met; the drive for self-gratification), then Right Effort becomes “the Effort which is efficacious in the development of wisdom, the eradication of delusional thinking, and the effort which results in the effective management of attachments and desires.” Lots of words. The point here is that sammā is used in a specific context, the context of the Four Noble Truths. What’s to be taken away is that sammā is pointing us towards practices which lead to nirodha: the cessation of dukkhā.

Another point that was alluded to is that words are goopy. Words can have a multitude of meanings and shades of meanings. Words only partially represent “reality;” they actually point to our concepts about reality. And many, many Buddhist texts and teachers have noted that there is “reality” which is subjective and is created through language and our experiences with the world, and the concepts we construct linguistically out of those individual experiences.

But . . . as the wise and compassionate Thích Nhất Hạnh (read some of his books: you’ll get a whole new perspective on how to live life), and so many others, have noted, there is an objective Reality out there and it is possible to directly experience that Reality by bypassing our subjective conceptual concepts. Some teachers, particularly in the Zen traditions, but also in the Vajrayāna, Theravāda, and any number of Mahāyāna lineages, go so far as to say this is the goal of practice; that establishing oneself (one’s not-self?) in non-conceptual Reality, one can then perceive Reality directly, as it is, not filtered through our ignorance, delusions and desires. And according to the teachings of some traditions, in so doing, one realizes one’s “true Being,” e.g., Buddha nature. And with the realization of that, comes the dissolution of ignorance, the eradication of delusion and the extinction of desire. This, they say, is Nirvāṇa.

So the Discipline, the Training, The Middle Way, The Noble Eight Path is a practice. It’s the practice of living right.

On another note . . . 

On Sunday, April 28, 2024 we’ll be hosting A Half-Day of Meditation at the Pure Land Center: Pure Land Hall, Suite D, 8364 Hickman Road, Clive, IA 50325. We’ll begin at 8:45 a.m. and wrap things up about 12:00 noon. This event will be particularly useful for those who have never attended a meditation retreat; for those who are not so experienced with meditation, and for those who want to renew their practice. Please come at 8:45 if you would like instruction in sitting practice or walking meditation. 

Everyone who practices a silent, sitting meditation technique, regardless of tradition or orientation is welcome. As always, participation is free, and there will be a potluck lunch.

Please register by email at by the end of the day on Thursday, April 25th.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

 We are now having a Thursday evening Dhamma Group in addition to the long-standing Wednesday evening meeting.  Wednesdays we still meet at

Pure Land Hall, Suite D 

8364 Hickman Road

Clive, Iowa 50325  USA

Thursdays we are meeting at 

Phothisomphan Meditation Monastery

2560 SE 14th Street

Des Moines, Iowa 50320. USA

We will be facilitating a couple of meditation events, one in September and one in October.

A Day of Meditation

Sunday, September 4, 2022

9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Pure Land Hall, Suite D 

8364 Hickman Road

Clive, Iowa 50325  USA


Please register by 5:00 p.m. Thursday, September 1, 2022. 


A Day of Meditation

Sunday, October 2, 2022

9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Dhammarama Temple 

1200 W Iowa Avenue

Indianola, Iowa 50125  USA


Please register for this event by 5:00 p.m. Thursday, September 29, 2022.

As always, participation is free, but we need to know how much food to prepare, so we ask you to register by sending an email to:

Join us to expand your knowledge and to deepen your meditation practice.

Friday, January 28, 2022

It’s still early in 2022, so I thought I’d post this as a quick “review” of a fundamental concept: dukkhā.

According to the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (The Discourse on Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion), the problem in the human condition is “dukkhā.”

Dukkhā is a word, and words are by nature “goopy.”  That is, they may have different meanings under different circumstances, or in different contexts, or with different people.  Words point to concepts.  Concepts are also goopy.  So, it behooves us to “define” our words and concepts when we want to communicate clearly and accurately. 

Here’s a modern understanding of the what the word/concept “dukkhā” is:  Dukkhā is that state of being we find ourselves in when confronted with a Reality that is incongruent with the Reality we expected or the Reality we desired.  So, dukkhā is.  All living, sentient beings will have moments of dukkha because that’s the way they/we are.  We’re not so smart, knowledgeable, informed, insightful, and wise that we always “see” Reality as it really is.  The Pali word for this is “avijja.” 

And we tend to be attached to our desire for self-gratification:  for getting what we want, when we want it, the way we want it.  The Pali for this is “tanha.”  

So “dukkhā” is the problem, and the two-fold cause of dukkhā (samudaya) is the combination of avijja-tanha. 


The “solution” (nirodha) to the problem comes from practicing the Noble Eightfold Path:  

Sammā-diṭṭi – Right knowledge, view, understanding, perspective.  Having knowledge that corresponds to reality as it is, and the attendant views, perspectives, understandings accompanying such knowledge. 

Sammā-saṇkappo – having the right resolution, intentions and aspirations to extinguish taṇhā, to eliminate dukkhā.

Sammā-vācā – speaking (and by extension, writing) honorably, honestly and accurately; choosing our words and expressing ourselves in such a manner that dukkhā is minimized or eliminated.

Sammā-kammanto – virtuous, moral behavior, and by extension behavior that is contextually, situationally, socially and culturally acceptable.

Sammā-ājīvo – Right livelihood, lifestyle, life.  Earning one’s livelihood through a means which minimizes dukkhā, and by extension, living one’s life by a means that is virtuous, meritorious, benevolent, compassionate, non-violent, et cetera.  A life that is, in short, in harmony with the conduct and principles of the seven other practices of the Eightfold Path.

Sammā-vayāmo – making an effort to understand and to conform to the teachings.

Sammā-sati – practicing mindfulness of oneself, one’s mental, physical emotional and social functioning, and mindfulness of one’s physical and social environment, the impact of the environment on oneself, and impact of one’s existence on the environment.

Sammā-samādhi – practicing focused, concentrative, absorptive meditation.  

Feel free to post comments.

More to come . . .


Sunday, November 7, 2021

Hey, Everybody!


Ariya Magga Buddhist Missionary Society is looking for land - a bunch of acres, some wooded, some arable - for an ashram consisting of a 200 guest residential meditation center, a 5 to 10 monastic monastery and a farm to raise organic vegetables and fruits for the local market. We would like to have 200 acres, plus or minus, with at least 150 of those tillable.  


We've only just begun fundraising, but as of this date we've got about $12,000 in donations and pledges. 


According to a usually reliable source (thanks for looking this up, Sook) “The 2020 ISU Land Value Survey shows a 1.7% increase in average Iowa farmland values from November 2019 to November 2020. The average statewide value of an acre of farmland is now estimated at $7,559. This modest rise is the third increase in Iowa farmland values over the past six years, and a second consecutive rise.”  Let’s say $8,000 an acre, times 200 acres is $1,600,000 (figured that in my head) just for land.  


Building a single-story commercial office building in this area will cost an average of $238–$286 per square foot.  The buildings as conceived will top out about 90,000 square feet.  Let’s say at approximately $300 per square foot, we get roughly $27,000,000. 


What with delays, price increases, cost overruns, etc. we have set a goal of raising $30,0000,000. We have a long way to go.  


Right now, we would benefit from someone helping us with the creation of “Architectural Conceptual Drawings” of the project.  Basically, pretty pictures of what the place MIGHT look like.  We could use these in our fundraising efforts.  


Feel free to contact us for more information, or if you can help out. Donations of energy, time, skill, knowledge and experience will be greatly appreciated.  For details on what we need, and when, please text or message (Facebook) for details.



In the meantime, if you’re in the Greater Des Moines Metropolitan area, join us Wednesday evenings at 7:00 for meditation and discussion.


Dhamma Group

Pure Land Hall, Suiite D

8364 Hickman Road

Clive, Iowa  50325



Hey, Everybody!


Ariya Magga Buddhist Missionary Society is going to be moving.  The new address is:


Ariya Magga Vihāra

(Noble Path House)

4565 Woodland Avenue, Unit #1

West Des Moines, Iowa 50266


We will start the orderly transition probably the weekend of November 20th.  The relocation will be complete by December 31st.


After the first of the year 2022 we’ll host a Sunday Dhamma Group and Pot Luck at the new location – details to be announced.  You’ll still be able to join us Wednesday evenings at 7:00 for meditation and discussion.


Dhamma Group

Pure Land Hall, Suiite D

8364 Hickman Road

Clive, Iowa  50325


In the meantime . . . 


Donations of energy, time, skill, knowledge and experience will be greatly appreciated.  For details on what we need, and when, please text or message (Facebook) for details.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Hey, Everybody!

So far things are going well.  So the plan to resume the Wednesday evening Dhamma Group on 19 May at 7:00 p.m. in the Pure Land Hall is still a go.

The Dhamma Group is an opportunity for people who practice sitting meditation and have an interest in gaining greater understanding of “Dhamma/Dharma” however it is construed, to gather in convivial discussion where we can gain some insight into how we can improve the quality of life for ourselves and everybody else.  

We will be using a semi-structured format beginning with a short, guided meditation: this will be  followed by the introduction of a topic (or two), on which we will spend 20 to 30 minutes in discussion.  We will close with a 30-minute meditation, silent meditation..  Comfort breaks can be taken at any time.  Total time about 90 minutes. 

The world is making progress on controlling the spread of COVID-19, but we’re not there yet.  So, we will practice mitigation: wearing masks, keeping a distance of 6 feet or more, and being mindful of how the virus spreads.  

Hope to see you Wednesday, 19 May at the Pure Land facility, 8364 Hickman Road, Clive, IA 50325

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Hey, meditators!


If all goes well we plan to resume the Wednesday evening Dhamma Group on 19 May, about a month from now. 


To protect everybody, we will be maintaining the recommended social distancing, and we will wear our masks.  That being the case, you might want to try meditation while wearing a mask, just to get used to it.


As we said, if all goes well.  You can do your part to help things to go well: get your COVID19 vaccination, wear your masks and diligently practice good public health measures.  


We’ll see you at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, 19 May at the Pure Land facility, 8364 Hickman Road, Clive, IA 50325

If you would like instruction in meditation, please contact us through Facebook or via email.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Fasting is a Piece of Cake

Words are goopy.  

Take the word “toast.”  When you read that, what did you think of?  A noun, i.e., a piece of bread that has been browned by exposure to a heat source?  The call to honor someone by raising glasses and drinking together?  Some person held in high regard?


Or when you read (heard in your head) “toast,” did you think of a verb form; the browning of the bread, the raising of the glass?  Or possibly warming your toes in front of a fire?  


And then there’s the use of toast to mean someone is done for, finished; “Man, now he’s toast.”  I’m not sure of the part of speech that would be.  Haven’t studied grammar in maybe 50 years.  I do know this:


Words are goopy.


Take the word “white.”


What does “white” mean?


            - to an artist? 


            - to a house painter?


            - to a physicist?


            - to a racist?


            - to an anti-racist?


Do you have the same visceral/cognitive response to: 


            - white people


            - white power 


            - white superiority


            - white supremacy


            - white privilege 


Does “white” have the same meaning in each of these phrases?  If you are “White?”  If you are a “Person of Color?”


Words are goopy. 


Words serve a couple of functions.  Words can function as “signs.”  Words can function as “symbols.”  


“Signs” indicated the probable presence or occurrence of something.  Footprints are a sign that someone passed there.  Signs deliver information and instructions.  “Falling rock.”  “Caution.  Wet floor.”  The word “Men” posted on a bathroom door.  Something that is a “sign of the times.”


“Symbols” represent something.  Symbols “stand for” something.  Symbols point to something.  Most often symbols are concrete and represent something abstract.  A finger pointing at the moon.  As symbols, words represent, or stand for, or point to concepts.  The word/symbol “dog” points to a concept of a four-legged animal.  And “dog,” for mature users of language, is differentiated from “horse” which is also a four-legged animal.  


Words are goopy.  


Many, if not most, words can function as both a sign and a symbol.  The word, “Women” on a placard on a bathroom door is a sign giving information/instructions, while the word “Women” in the sentence, “Women rule the world!” is a symbol pointing to a concept something like “all adult female humans.”  


This goopiness of words can be humorous.  For a Buddhist monk fasting is a piece of cake.  Words can be confusing.  The little boy with the broken arm’s mother said she ran into the back of a truck which was parked at approximately forty-five miles an hour.  Words can be misleading, as when political types “spin” a response.  


Words are goopy.


Some more than others.  Some folks have emotional attachments to words, and/or to the concepts they point to/represent.  Attachments that other folks lack.  Think “cat” people and “dog” people. We don’t all share the same conceptual matrix, so some words have strikingly different meanings to different folks.  Negro.  Black.  African.  Caucasian.  White. American.  Conservative.  Liberal.  Victim.  Rebel.  Criminal. 


Words are goopy.


“Well,” you say, “yes, but so what?”  Well, words matter.  That’s the so what.  Not just the words we utter aloud, or write on social media, or commit to paper, but also the words in our heads.  The words we use in our inner dialogue.  For example, “can’t,” as in “I can’t take this pandemic any more!”  The Reality is that you can, but you don’t want to.  “I can’t stand all this politics!”  The Reality is, you are “standing” the politics, but you don’t like it.  And the stronger your emotional attachment to your words, the stronger your urge for Reality to conform to your conceptual framework of how Reality should be, the stronger your drive for self-gratification, the greater your experience of dukkhā.  


The Dhamma teaches us to practice “Right Speech.”  We do this by being mindful of the words we choose, and mindful of the impact of our words on our thoughts, and deeds, and mindful of the influence our words have on others.  


Words are goopy.


And some of you will be offended by some of the thoughts expressed here.  Some of you will take exception to ideas herein expressed.  For some, these comments will be little more than interesting.  And for some, totally uninteresting.  The hope is that some of you dear readers will have a small epiphany, a little “aha” moment, a flash of insight.  Post a comment, if you like.


Words are goopy.


Words matter.


Something to think about.