Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Maha Ghosananda

Expand Messages
  • Weasel Tracks
    The Theravadan Patriarch of Cambodia, Ven. Maha Ghosananda, passed into Parinirvana a couple of days ago. I saw him in 2001 at the Cambridge Buddhist
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 14, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      The Theravadan Patriarch of Cambodia, Ven. Maha Ghosananda, passed
      into Parinirvana a couple of days ago. I saw him in 2001 at the
      Cambridge Buddhist Association, right after the events of 9/11/01.
      Thought I would share my journal entry.

      ---Weasel Tracks

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~O~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      The Venerable Maha Ghosananda

      01/10/05

      October 3rd, Wednesday, I went to the Cambridge Buddhist Association
      to sit and to hear the Ven. Maha Ghosananda speak. Ghosananda,
      outside of Cambodia during the bombing and the Pol Pot regime,
      labored with great effort and often courage to help rebuild Cambodia,
      and was four times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Some details
      are at

      http://www.peckham.demon.co.uk/13Ghosananda.htm

      A somewhat frantic email from Dharman pleaded for help setting up at
      the CBA for the visit. Apparently, everyone else assumed, as I did,
      that others would answer. I have the excuse of living out of town,
      but I went in a bit early to see if there were any odds and ends
      requiring an extra hand. Dharman said he would assign me something,
      and then went off in a flurry. As I was doing the various things to
      get ready for zazen -- remove watch and affix to belt, loosen belt
      two notches and unbutton top button and lower fly one-third, extract
      juzu from pouch, etc. -- a woman in her thirties came into the
      coat/waiting room, and asked if I was one of the people in charge. I
      belonged to that sangha, yes, could I help? She informed me that she
      had studied there at the CBA with Lama So-and-so, did I know him?
      Then she asked if it would be alright to do her Vajrayana meditation
      during the sitting period. I told her that anything but zazen was
      strictly forbidden. And the monks can tell! When it seemed that she
      was taking me seriously, I said that the CBA, though generally
      tending to a Zen format, was non-denominational. Oh, good! She was
      looking for a sangha like that!

      Dharman blew in and asked me to look in the ivy that covered the
      ground in the front yard for a key to a Mercedes that belonged to one
      of the trustees. It would free him to do other things. How did it
      happen to be in the front yard? Long story, he said, declining to
      explain. He pointed out the areas where it could not be, and the
      areas of greatest likelihood, and gave me a bicycle lamp held on the
      head like a miner's light, to go search in the dark in the impossible
      ivy that held its leaves horizontally above the ground at precisely
      two-and-a-half inches. "There! Now you look Welsh! Do you write
      poetry?" "Doesn't everybody?"

      After a few minutes, the lamaist student, Angela, came out to help.
      Of course, she started where Dharman had said the key would not be,
      and would then go over the ground I had just searched. But I was not
      inclined to give directions, and doing anything for the sake of the
      sangha was a worthwhile thing, even if useless. The ivy was such that
      several eye passes might still miss a single key, so more eyes were
      welcome. Angela pattered away at me. Sometimes her voice was an
      unintelligible murmur in the sound-dampening vegetation under the low
      bush-trees, and I just grunted acknowledgement that I had heard her,
      though I had no idea what she was saying. And of course, she found
      the key! She gave me the key to give to Dharman, and I gave it back
      to her saying she deserved the glory. She said, "Oh, but I don't need
      any merit. Do you need any merit?" Probably. But more to save on
      pointless argument, I just gave Dharman the damn key.

      I realized I was a bit thirsty. Ven. Dharman Stortz Shakya had just
      come out of the kitchen and closed it behind him. I entered and found
      two diminutive people there about the size of American 7- or
      8-year-olds. Was one of them Ghosananda? But would he wear white? We
      exchanged polite bows and I signed that I wished to take some water.
      As I did, I decided that these people were female Asians, one old and
      one older than that. We again bowed with many smiles as I left,
      wondering if I had caused any difficulties with minor precepts.

      Back in the foyer and about to take my seat in the zendo, I saw an
      elegant East Asian woman descending the mansion's stairway. She
      reeked of serenity! She wore a high-waisted dress, the style of which
      I associate with Korea, though I would have guessed her to be
      Japanese, with a black top and sleeves and bell-like white flaring
      skirt. I gasshoed to her and she returned it with utmost grace.
      Behind her, Ven. Pannalaka was all smiles when he saw me, and after
      gassho, took both my hands in his.

      I thought, What a whole lot of communication just happened between
      myself and all these people with perfect understanding of wishing
      each other well-being, though we might have difficulties expressing
      anything else in words.

      For some reason, Dharman thought sitting Rinzai-style, facing in and
      facing the people opposite, would provide more room. I took a seat
      not too far from, and opposite to, where I thought the Venerable
      would be sitting. Angela sat in a corner a few seats down from me. We
      were fifteen minutes early -- I could observe (without moving my
      eyes) other people taking their seats. The Asian woman in black and
      white dress sat two seats to my left, all her motions epitomes of
      grace and precision. A slight man with rakusu sat between us. A
      Westerner in rakusu and brown robe sat between me and Angela.
      Directly opposite me were a middle-aged woman and a grey-bearded man
      who seemed together -- they had come out from the inner part of the
      mansion with Dharman earlier and my impression was that he had been
      giving them instruction. To their left, a dark man in robes. To their
      right, where Shodo Harada-roshi and his interpreter had sat and where
      I expected Ven. Maha Ghosananda, the two small women in white took
      their places.

      The temple bell in the stairwell was rung by Ven. Pannalaka, though I
      don't know how I know that. Five minutes later, the large rin was
      struck three times to signal the beginning of zazen. Ten minutes
      later, the bearded man opposite seemed to catch himself, as if he had
      been falling over in sleep. From then on, he fidgeted more than
      anyone else I ever noticed fidgeting in a zendo, shifting leg
      positions, hands flying all over. I thought I could hear Angela
      shifting a bit as well. The sitting seemed longer to me than the
      usual thirty minutes. Dharman later mentioned something about having
      a "full period" first.

      The kinhin line formed -- there were no gaps, it was a continuous
      string of persons all through the zendo rooms. Never saw that before!

      At the klack! of the blocks, I was right next to my seat, disoriented
      for a split second, wondering where it was that I was supposed to go!
      As I sat down and before I put on my glasses, I had an impression of
      a middle-aged white woman on a Florida beach in a bright, bright
      orange dress and matching sunhat, sitting at the head of the two
      lines of zabutons in the main room. It was Maha Ghosananda, right
      shoulder bared, but otherwise wrapped in an almost dayglo orange
      kesa. His hat seemed like a knit cap of the same color, the size of a
      turban, riding unsteadily on his head. His skin color would not be
      unusual on a Vermonter in March. Guess he doesn't get out in the sun
      much any more, due to his age and health.

      Dharman spoke, saying we had an extended first period to leave the
      second period free for Ven. Maha Ghosananda to speak. He helped
      people in the auxiliary areas bring in their zabutons and zafus and
      arrange them at our end of the room facing our guest. Angela, holding
      out her zafu, rather loudly told Dharman, "In my tradition, we don't
      use these to meditate!" The monk just looked at her kind of blankly
      and kept on trying to arrange the room. I turned about 45 degrees
      toward him in a relaxed cross-legged posture. Others hugged their
      knees or maintained zazen posture. Dharman placed a cup of tea by
      MG's right knee, but the elder did not seem to notice. He did see the
      cup placed by his left thigh by one of the white-clad women, and took
      a sip. I and the audience slipped into a relaxed, respectful waiting
      for the words to begin.

      After many long minutes, I glanced at MG's face. His eyes were
      closed. He did not seem to have any inclination toward speech -- I
      thought he was meditating! My "relaxed" posture became strained
      without all those little movements we do unconsciously, and I envied
      the man on my left, who had kept zazen posture. I thought of how Rev.
      Matsuoka once got up during a zazen service to do something in the
      back of the temple, and I became certain that he had lost track of
      time -- the usual eternity of zazen stretching into a hellish mix of
      being stuck in my own escalating desires and fears, and dependent on
      the uncertain attention of this mysterious man. David Chadwick
      related an episode when Suzuki-roshi likewise got up and took a walk,
      doubling the time for a sitting. Was the Venerable's silence a
      teaching? I thought it just as likely that he suffered some amount of
      senility and misunderstood what was expected of him. I tried to
      unobtrusively adjust my posture back to zazen position. (Amazing how
      loud and obvious such movements are in a quiet zendo!) The Asian
      woman in black and white placed her hands on the floor, then
      straightened into zazen also. The poor man opposite me was going
      through a worse hell than I ever did, judging from the amount of limb
      movement he was making. The whole zendo seemed to fall into one or
      the other mode: calm return to zazen, or anguished, but (pretty much)
      silent, bewilderment.

      I felt sorry for that man opposite, and somewhat concerned about
      Dharman's state of mind. I glanced at him, sitting just behind MG.
      Dharman seemed to be in zazen as well. It was not my problem. It
      really was not a problem at all! Pannalaka sat in the timekeeper's
      seat, apparently untroubled by the peculiar situation. How would this
      end, if MG sat until the signal to end the period was given, and the
      period would not end until MG had finished talking? Speech must start
      if it is to end.

      I observed the "tension" between tension and calm in the zendo,
      feeling one, then the other. I wished for the agitated man to know
      that there was no reason to be either anxious or bored. Perhaps this
      unplanned strangeness would count as a great lesson in the man's
      life. It was teaching me that my reactions had changed greatly since
      Matsuoka's zendo. Entertainment, observation, amusement, wishing for
      resolution, confidence that it would happen, and just breathing.

      Finally, after about an hour, Dharman rose from behind MG, bowed
      deeply before him and, still kneeling, requested whether he could ask
      a question. The elder assented. "How should we as Buddhists respond
      to the recent attacks?" "Forbearance!" Buddhist practice is based on
      three things: forbearance, wisdom, and [Something else -- sorry!
      Generosity?]. Forbearance is the most important.

      At first, I followed him with difficulty. Was he another Asian
      Rorschalk inkblot, providing an opportunity to clothe the foreign
      teacher with wisdom discovered from within oneself? My ear got used
      to him quickly, though. Especially as he repeated the same teachings
      several times, to a variety of questions. Evidence of senility, or
      merely worn-in teaching that had proved its worth?

      "There are 84,000 Dharmas! They are all contained in feeling!
      Mindfulness is the key to it all. Be mindful of your breath --
      breathing in, breathing out. Buddha Gotama said that a person
      unmindful of their breath is already dead. When you listen to me and
      I speak well, you have a good feeling. When you listen to me and I do
      not speak well, you have a bad feeling. When you listen to me, but
      you are not mindful, that is a neutral feeling. The body is a vehicle
      and mindfulness is the driver -- you do not want a vehicle without a
      driver.
      "Buddha asked his son, Rahula, 'What is the first Dharma?' Rahula
      could not answer, so Buddha answered for him, 'The first Dharma is
      eating!' Everything is eating everything else -- the eye eats sights,
      the ear eats sounds, the tongue eats tastes, the nose eats scents,
      the body eats feelings, the mind eats thoughts!
      "Buddha asked his son, Rahula, 'What is the second Dharma?' Rahula
      could not answer, so Buddha answered for him, 'The second Dharma is
      cause and effect.'
      "Buddha asked his son, Rahula, 'What is the third Dharma?' Rahula
      could not answer, so Buddha answered for him, 'The third Dharma is
      three kinds of feeling -- pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral.'
      "Fourth Dharma -- the Four Noble Truths!
      "Fifth Dharma -- the five aggregates!
      "Sixth Dharma -- the six senses!
      "Seventh Dharma -- the seven limbs of enlightenment!
      "Eighth Dharma -- the Eightfold Noble Path!
      "Ninth Dharma -- the nine Transcendental States!
      "Tenth Dharma -- the ten wholesome acts!"
      MG went on to describe the Buddha's dying words, "Life and death
      are like a dream and vanish while you hold them -- take care!" He
      said, "This is the last, the 84,000th Dharma, and it comes back to
      mindfulness."

      Others ask various configurations of the same question: How are we to
      deal with the terrorist attacks? The ancient Venerable replied with
      various configurations of the above. It was useful to me to hear it
      several times, to understand what he was saying. Essentially, we
      already know how to react, personally, according to Buddhism. We find
      the calm within our emotions, however hard or easy that may be.

      A younger monk (about my age or younger -- I find it difficult to
      guess the age of Asians) spoke of being in the bombing of Cambodia.
      Half a million tons of explosives were dropped in four years on the
      previously peaceful and economically content Cambodians. Richard
      Nixon and Henry Kissinger ordered the bombing on the idea that the
      Viet Cong were using Cambodia as a stage to attack South Vietnam
      from. If every ton killed just one person, that's a half-million
      dead! And each bomb left a pond where there was fertile rice paddy.
      The young men of the villages were infuriated, and Pol Pot armed them
      with weapons the Chinese were quite willing to deliver. When the U.S.
      withdrew from Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge turned on the populations of
      the cities, calling them American lackeys, and killed them. And then
      the Chinese demanded payment for the weapons, so there was not enough
      rice.

      The monk described how he and most felt about America from what he
      saw of it from movies and its policies in Southeast Asia. Americans
      were guided by three motivating desires: power, money, and sex. But
      then he had become a monk and traveled in his studies, escaping death
      in Cambodia and eventually living in the U.S. What a surprise to see
      how beautiful this country is, and how wonderful its people! The
      terrorists must see America the same way as he once did. If only the
      government would embody in its foreign policies the fairness natural
      to most Americans!

      Angela said something about there always being light in the darkness.
      "Yes!" MG said. "Life consists of pairs of opposites. When we have
      darkness, we can find the light!"

      At one point Angela asked if it were proper to recite her protective
      mantras for our military. I was struck by the peculiarity of the
      question, a Vajrayanic point being put to a Theravadan in a
      non-denominational setting. Ari L.'s personality formed in my mind!
      Angela's behavior made a lot of sense if she had borderline
      personality disorder. But the elder smiled and said, "Do not make
      'my' military! Remember Anatta!" For some reason, that broke a
      tension in the room and people chuckled. But Angela said, in a voice
      audible enough at least as far as my ears, "But he didn't answer my
      question!"

      It was ten o'clock when Dharman ended the meeting. We would have had
      refreshments, but the monks had to rise early to prepare for the next
      day's monks' meeting. I saw my friend Peter in the coat room and lost
      track of Angela, though I was curious about her mental state on
      leaving. I wondered whether she still thought this sangha suited for
      her.
    • Weasel Tracks
      ... Well, he was little. But I think he was usually with a retinue. That s the trouble with being a hierarch. I think some of the national vinayas of the
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 14, 2007
      • 0 Attachment
        >Was Ven. Maha Ghosananda the little monk in saffron robes who used
        >to ride the bus throughout the US without any money in his pockets?

        Well, he was little. But I think he was usually with a retinue.
        That's the trouble with being a hierarch.

        I think some of the national vinayas of the Theravadan monks prohibit
        contact with money, though. Might need to rely on novices or
        laypeople to handle that.

        ---Weasel Tracks
      • Pat Stacy
        The Theravadan Patriarch of Cambodia, Ven. Maha Ghosananda, passed into Parinirvana a couple of days ago. I saw him in 2001 at the Cambridge Buddhist
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 14, 2007
        • 0 Attachment

           

          The Theravadan Patriarch of Cambodia, Ven. Maha Ghosananda, passed
          into Parinirvana a couple of days ago. I saw him in 2001 at the
          Cambridge Buddhist Association, right after the events of 9/11/01.
          Thought I would share my journal entry.

          ---Weasel Tracks

          .
          Very engaging post, WT, thanks. Well written. I felt like I was sitting with you.
          Was Ven. Maha Ghosananda the little monk in saffron robes who used to ride the bus throughout the US without any money in his pockets?
           
          Pat

          _Very engaging post, WT_,_._,___
        • Lee Love
          ... not ... Like sex, it all depends on your mind. Lee in Mashiko, Japan
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 14, 2007
          • 0 Attachment
            On 2007/03/15 01:58:31 PM, Pat Stacy (pstacy@...) wrote:

            >
            > Just out of curiosity, does anyone on this list think having money or
            not
            > having money have anything to do with awakening?

            Like sex, it all depends on your mind.

            Lee in Mashiko, Japan
          • Pat Stacy
            ... From: Weasel Tracks To: U-Zendo@yahoogroups.com Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:05 PM Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] Maha Ghosananda I think some of the national
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 14, 2007
            • 0 Attachment
               
              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:05 PM
              Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] Maha Ghosananda



              I think some of the national vinayas of the Theravadan monks prohibit
              contact with money, though. Might need to rely on novices or
              laypeople to handle that.

              Just out of curiosity, does anyone on this list think having money or not having money have anything to do with awakening?

              Pat


              .

            • Weasel Tracks
              ... I think there s a relation. Money is easy to get hung up on, like sex. Celibacy is another thing those vinayas prescribe. I ve known sincere spiritual
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 15, 2007
              • 0 Attachment
                >
                >From: <mailto:weaseltrax@...>Weasel Tracks
                >I think some of the national vinayas of the Theravadan monks prohibit
                >contact with money, though. Might need to rely on novices or
                >laypeople to handle that.
                >
                >Just out of curiosity, does anyone on this list think having money
                >or not having money have anything to do with awakening?
                >
                >Pat

                I think there's a relation. Money is easy to get hung up on, like
                sex. Celibacy is another thing those vinayas prescribe.

                I've known sincere spiritual people to explore voluntary poverty, and
                I've been close to it myself, though I never had the faith to make a
                total plunge.

                I've heard that among the Russian Orthodox there was a custom for a
                person so moved to renounce all effort to further their own lives,
                but working freely on behalf of anyone else in the village. They gave
                away everything they did not immediately need. Such people were
                readily supported by their villages, and were considered spiritual
                elders. Seems hard to fake such a commitment, since village life was
                so intimate.

                Such a life might give awakening an opportunity. Such a life might be
                a good expression of awakening.

                That said, the conscious and clear handling of money and the whole
                economics of life is no less a vehicle for spiritual expression. In
                one way, more money equals more freedom. The judicious use of money
                can greatly enhance the functioning of the Dharma, individually and
                collectively.

                But money is like fire, like sex. Terrible to let it get out of
                control or addicted to it.

                ---Weasel Tracks
              • Louis-Dominique Dubeau
                ... First a comment on Weasel Track s comment. I am not a specialist in the Vinaya but I ve read enough to know that Weasel Track s comment is correct but
                Message 7 of 7 , Mar 16, 2007
                • 0 Attachment
                  On Wed, 2007-03-14 at 20:58 -0800, Pat Stacy wrote:
                  >
                  > ----- Original Message -----
                  > From: Weasel Tracks
                  > To: U-Zendo@yahoogroups.com
                  > Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 6:05 PM
                  > Subject: Re: [U-Zendo] Maha Ghosananda
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > I think some of the national vinayas of the Theravadan monks
                  > prohibit
                  > contact with money, though. Might need to rely on novices or
                  > laypeople to handle that.
                  >
                  >
                  > Just out of curiosity, does anyone on this list think having
                  > money or not having money have anything to do with awakening?
                  >

                  First a comment on Weasel Track's comment. I am not a specialist in the
                  Vinaya but I've read enough to know that Weasel Track's comment is
                  correct but things change so we should not be surprised if we meet
                  Theravadan monks handling money.

                  Now, to address Pat's question. Let me first say that what follows here
                  is an ad lib on Pat's question. I'm not responding to any specific
                  position, either real or imaginary.

                  I do not think that having money by itself is a sign of delusion and not
                  having money by itself a sign of awakening. Everything in Buddhism is a
                  matter of relationship, since there is no substance (no self) to hold
                  onto. So the question is: what relationship do we have to money? If we
                  are aware of that relationship we can see how we use money to further
                  our egos or even how money uses us. If I work like a dog to keep a
                  flashy lifestyle, perhaps my money is using me!

                  Another angle to this question is: should we forcibly give up material
                  things in the hope of awakening? I don't think so. My take on practice
                  is that if we practice correctly, we'll eventually see for ourselves
                  what we should give up. We'll be ready to give it up and when we do
                  give it up, it won't really be "giving up" because (to me, anyway)
                  giving up implies sacrificing something. If we truly find that a
                  certain thing is just plain harmful, we can abandon it without the
                  feeling that a sacrifice has been made. This is a view of the path that
                  relies on the faith that we're all able to attain wisdom and are able to
                  act wisely once we've attained wisdom. This being said, some sort of
                  seclusion from material things *can sometimes* be a good practical
                  device to break attachment. In the example of someone working like a
                  dog to keep a flashy lifestyle maybe a temporary seclusion to a remote
                  area to live with very modest means for a while can bring about the
                  realization that a flashy lifestyle is not necessary to be happy. But I
                  think this works only in some cases and should not be made into a rule:
                  "thou shall give up sex, money and booze otherwise you're not a good
                  Buddhist". My experience with forcibly giving up is that whatever is
                  given up comes back with a vengeance because I was not ready to give up
                  but when I'm ready to give up, I give up although in fact I'm not giving
                  up. (See above for the exegesis of this last thought.)

                  With Metta,
                  Louis
                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.