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.  

Sunday, September 20, 2020


 

Hey, Everybody!

 

Beginning November 1, 2020, we will be having a Sunday evening meditation at Wat Phothisomphan, 2560 SE 14th Street, Des Moines.  The hall is quite large, more than 4,000 square feet, so we’ll have plenty of room to distance socially.  We’ll also be wearing masks to protect each other.

 

Here are some thoughts on group meditation.  

 

In a broad, general sense, most people meditate for the “benefits” outside of meditation, not just for the meditation experience itself.  Some folks meditate to gain enlightenment, some for esoteric knowledge, some for “union” with God or Brahman or Ultimate Reality, some because it is part of a “program.”  Meditation in a group seems to “deepen” or “enhance” progress towards whatever goal they have.  I think a lot of this has to do with the environment group meditation creates, but some would talk about shared energies, good vibes, and so forth.  Whatever explanation one chooses, group meditation is, at times, very profound.   People who meditate together commonly report a buoyancy that the group provides, carrying them further into meditation than they could travel alone.  

 

For most people, meditation is part of a lifestyle.  Meditating in a group can help to reinforce that lifestyle.  It is comforting, exciting, and sustaining to be a part of a shared activity.  Or, in the case of meditation, perhaps a shared non-activity?  <GRIN>   Shared activities, in this case group meditation, can also build a sense of fellowship; of belonging to a community.  We experience the company of “like-minded” others.  In the midst of “doing nothing” together, there is often a shared experience of “meaningful togetherness.”  Bonds form and relationships deepen.  

 

With time, the group builds an environment of trust and confidentiality, and the members will talk about their inner and outer experiences (and their interpretations of those experiences), what difficulties they might have encountered in their practice and ways they have surmounted them.  When we discover that other people have encountered many of the same difficulties, and have discovered ways to overcome them, we are less likely to feel discouraged during the “dry spells” which we all endure, or to get overly inflated when we experience those elevating “highs” meditation produces.  Solitary meditators – those who never practice with a group – are more likely to misunderstand their experience, and to get frustrated by the bogs and marshes they stumble into. 

 

One of the most frequently encountered difficulties is incorporating practice into one’s daily life.  Group practice offers opportunities to explore with others how they have managed to do this, and also helps motivate us to continue to practice.  Meditating with a group can provide the motivation we need to find time to practice.  

 

Group meditation can also further our knowledge and understanding of meditation itself.  We can listen and ask of others about their experiences.  If there is a Teacher, Master, Guru, Guide, etc., we can check our practice, gain understanding of the nuances of practice, and perhaps learn new techniques.  We may also be able to roughly judge where we are on our path to our goals.  We can learn from the other members’ feedback.  If we talk about our experiences and problems and success, other group members’ feedback can help us to understand what is occurring.  We discover that the other people are having many of the same experiences.  

 

It has been pointed out to me than many people who practice meditation are individualistic and/or non-conformist, and “groups” don’t fit their lifestyle.  This is true.  To be part of a group means we must conform in some ways.  For example, there are “time” issues.  The day or time of day may not be to our liking.  The length of time the group meditates may differ from the time we meditate.  Some people meditate for 15 or 20 minutes, and some mediate fro one or two hours or longer.  While some groups will allow meditators to come and go during group sessions, others are quite strict about conforming.  If one’s ideas about how a group is to function are in conflict with the way the group functions, stress (dukkha?) ensues.  These are issues for discussion.  Some folks may choose to not be part of a group.  

 

It has been pointed out to me that it is common for a number of different “ideologies” to be found among meditators, and that explanations of experiences and techniques usually reflect those ideologies.  Do I expect everyone who is a member of the a group to subscribe to my ideology?  Honestly, no.  We of differing ideologies and diverse personalities find “common ground” in the silence of group meditation.  Since there's nothing to argue about in silence, meditators from different traditions and ideologies can practice together and support each other.  Furthermore, membership in a group where there is respect and trust can provide opportunities for investigating the “Truth” statements put forth by myself and others.  And I encourage everyone to investigate!  

 

I was recently asked the question: “What qualifies you to lead a mediation group?”  The short – and smart-alecky – answer was “Well, I can read a clock, I have the hand-eye coordination to ring a bell, and I can count to three.”  But I knew the person was really questioning my “authority.”  So I explained that the regular practice of meditation is sort of like an extended visit to a strange city.  One wants to find someone familiar with the layout of the city, but also someone knowledgeable about the good restaurants, the bad neighborhoods, and where to get the best price on good incense.  I’m that someone.  I’ve practiced regularly for more than 40 years, and I’ve studied for that long, or maybe even a little longer.  I know the “territory,” and have functioned as a guide for more than 30 years.  And nobody’s gotten lost.

 

So, if anyone wants to join us, every Sunday we have scheduled the start time as 6:30 p.m. for now.  We can adjust that earlier or later as the group needs.

 

Hope to see you November 1st!

 

 

Bhante Dhammapala

Life is a struggle.  Suffering is optional.  




Thursday, July 16, 2020

On Hate

 

It is a strange time to be a Buddhist in the United States.  So much hate.

 

Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of an accurate perception, an accurate assessment of “self.”  Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of perceptual acuity, objectivity and critical thinking.  At the same time, Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of compassion and lovingkindness.  Buddhist training/practice leads to the development of a moral sense.  For many, Buddhist training/practice leads to the active engagement with the world while renouncing hate.  

 

So much hate.

 

There’s a lot of hate being spewed out there.  Hate towards the police.  Hate towards the government.  Hate towards people of color; Blacks and Browns.  Hate towards Whites.  Hate towards Asians.  Hate towards LGBQT. 

 

There’s hate aimed towards Conservatives, Liberals, Reactionaries, Progressives.  I see/read/hear hate towards Joe Biden; towards Donald Trump.  Hate is being aimed at senators, representatives, state and local legislators, governors, mayors, council-people, and the like.  

 

Hate is aimed at Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and a myriad of less-well known religious groups.  

 

Hate is aimed at the poor, and at the rich.  At the homeless and at the mentally ill.  Hate is aimed at the well-educated, and the poorly educated, and at the uneducated.  

 

So much hate.  Reminds me of some of the lyrics from a 1970-something song by Kris Kristofferson:  

 

“Eggheads cussing rednecks cussing 

Hippies for their hair

Others laugh at straights who laugh at

Freaks who laugh at squares

 

Some folks hate the Whites

Who hate the Blacks who hate the Klan

Most of us hate anything that 

We don’t understand.

 

Cause everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on.  

Who they can feel better than at any time they please.  

Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty decent folks can frown on.

If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me.”

 

-0- Jesus Was A Capricorn by Kris Kristofferson -0- 

 

Hate is, as we know, the expression of a strong emotional attachment to a desire for things be a way other than the way they are.  Hate is attachment to wanting things to be “my way,” and not the way we perceive them to be.  Hate is a pattern of thoughts, words, and deeds.  Hate is often a self-justifying mechanism for those thoughts, words and deeds.  And when we dig into hate – the thoughts, words, and deeds – we find hate to be a lot more complex that what I’ve just described.  Hate has sociological, anthropological, biological, psychological and historical aspects to it.  But simplistically, we aren’t getting what we want, and we blame the object of our hate as the cause.  We want things to change and they don’t.  We want things to remain as they are, and they change.  We blame the object/person/people for the reason(s) things aren’t the way we want them to be.  We have some picture of a “better” world, or a “better” society, or a “better” life, and the object of our hate is keeping us from realizing that picture.  We believe things would be “right” if the object of our hate didn’t exist.

 

As we know, most of the time our beliefs regarding the object(s) of our hate, our situation, our displeasure, are delusional.  Our beliefs don’t accord with objective reality.  But we cling to them anyway.  We cling to our ignorance.  

 

Hate and fear are often emotional siblings.  We fear something, and we learn to hate it.  Fear operates pretty much the same way as hate.  We want, or expect, reality to be a certain way, and when it’s not we experience that emotionally as a “loss’ or a “threat” of loss.  The hormones kick in, and we feel a strong need to act to rid our reality of the source of that threat or loss.  Of the source of that discomfort. 

 

Hatred is learned.  We cling to our delusions, we cling to our ignorance because our beliefs are so emotionally charged.  We REALLY want Reality to conform to our wishes, our desires.

 

Hatred can be unlearned.  Buddhist training/practice can help. 

 

Something to think about.

 

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Words Are Goopy!

Words Are Goopy!

 

These are troubled times, no doubt.  And while there are lots of contributing factors, one of them is the fact that words are goopy.  Any given word, or set of words for that matter, can have more than one meaning.  And correctly so.  

 

So maybe if we practice good communication, in Buddhist parlance, “Right Speech,” we might start contributing to lessening the troubles.  For example, there’s a phrase floating around, “Black Lives Matter.”  And it is obvious that not everybody gets the same meaning from that phrase.  For some people it is the name of a movement whose aim is to eradicate white supremacy, a campaign against the violence and racism so prevalent in our society, an effort to bring justice, healing and freedom to black people.  For some, “Black Lives Matter” is an anthem, a rousing and uplifting chant, used to rally the troops, to add energy and momentum to marches.  For others, “Black Lives Matter” seems to be something akin to a slogan, a motto, a memorable phase to advertise a cause.  Sometimes it seems to be “code” in one language which isn’t “decoded” very well in an other language.  And for a lot of people it is a phrase which divides people into “us” and “them.”  It pits one group against another.  It is an aggressive, in-your-face challenge.  Using the phrase, “Black Lives Matter” is a threat.

 

And for everybody, it points to a problem.  

 

Might I suggest that good communication is important if we are to solve some of the problems we’re facing right now?  So if I ask you, “What do you mean by ‘Black Lives Matter’ please don’t get upset.  I’m aware that the phase can have many meanings, and I’m wanting to understand what you are saying.  If I ask you to define what you mean by “Fake News,” it’s not that I’m disputing what you’re saying, I’m trying to understand what you’re saying.

 

Bear with me.  Be patient.  Be kind.  

 

Be clear in your thoughts, words and deeds.  Practice Right Speech.  It will go a long way in solving our problems.