Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Householder Upasaka tradition.

The face of Buddhism is often recognized by serene monks and nuns wearing red or saffron robes, but this isn't the whole story of the path that the Buddha laid out.

During the time of the Buddha's life, he taught both lay householders, or upasaka, as well as monks and nuns. Both were collectively referred to as the arya-sangha, not just the monks and nuns. The term 'upasaka' means 'practitioner of virtue', or  'one who contributes'. The upasaka (female upasika) were prominently featured in the many sutras of the Buddha and were among his main disciples, including Anathapindika, Visakha, King Pasenadi, King Bimbisara, and Doctor Jivaka.

The upasaka or householder became known the 'white robed sangha', for much like our white collar professionals they were of various classes and were engaged in the world in various ways. The upasaka was a person committed to their practice, they were not just culturally Buddhist or a non-monastic. The Buddha mentioned specific qualities that characterized an upasaka, those being taking refuge in the Three Jewels, observing ethical precepts, frequenting teachings to hear and contemplate the dharma, observing additional vows on sojong days, making offerings to the Three Jewels, and contributing to the dharma.1

There are four types of upasaka based on their observance of vows.

1. Refuge Upasaka- takes refuge in the Three Jewels but does not observe any of the five lay vows.
2. Single Precept Upasaka- in addition to refuge observes one of the lay vows for life (the five lay vows of not killing, not stealing, not lying, avoiding intoxicants, abandoning sexual misconduct)
3. Several Precept Upasaka- in addition to refuge holds several of the lay vows
4. Complete Upasaka- in addition to refuge holds all five of the lay vows

Regardless of your commitment to observing vows of conduct, you are able to progress along the four stages of enlightenment until you take the bodhisattva vow and enter the Mahayana path.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Entering the stream.

The journey of self-awakening and discovery takes many forms. The way of the bodhisattva is that of the great vehicle, with the intention to awaken for the benefit of all beings. It is the intention of bodhicitta that makes this a superior vehicle, because the scope of the practice is greater than traveling the path for your own benefit.

Until you take the bodhisattva vow, you traverse the common stages of the path, known as the four stages to enlightenment. These four stages are the stream-enterer, once returner, non-returner, and arhat. These stages can be traversed either as an upasaka, or lay person, or as a monk/nun.


The stream-enterer is said to have 'opened their dharma eye', meaning they have an intuitive grasp of the dharma and unshakeable confidence in the Three Jewels. The stream-enterer has abandoned the first three of the ten fetters that bind oneself to the repetitive existence of samsara.

The first fetter is the belief in a permanent identity, what we would call a soul or self. The stream-enterer has given rise to the wisdom of selflessnes, or anatman.

The second fetter is doubt or skepticism about the Buddha and his teachings. The stream-enterer has gained experience and knows first hand the benefit of practicing the teachings.

The third fetter is attachment to rituals or rites. The fixation here is that something outside of ourselves is going to save us, some ritual, some event. The stream-enterer knows that it is their own effort that will enable them to traverse the path and experience liberation.

The stream-enterer is said to have no more than seven rebirths before they achieve the state of cessation.


The once-returner is the second stage to enlightenment. The once-returner is so called because they will only have one more rebirth before they attain the state of cessation. The once-returner has abandoned the first three fetters and has significantly weakened the three poisons of attachment, aversion and ignorance. Through their practice they have gained familiarity with letting go of the arising of the three poisons, thus having a glimpse of the state of cessation in their own practice. In regard to the fetters, the fourth fetter is attachment and the fifth fetter is aversion or malice.


The non-returner is the third stage of enlightenment. The non-returner has taken their last human birth, and is destined to attain the state of cessation in the intermediate state after death. The non-returner has completely abandoned attachment and aversion, but has not completely eliminated ignorance and the higher fetters of meditative equipoise.


The arhat is the fourth and final stage of enlightenment. The arhat has actualized the state of cessation and has severed the cycle of repetitive existence. To actualize the state of cessation the arhat has abandoned the five higher fetters, which are fixation to meditative experiences of the form realms, fixation to experiences of the formless realms, arrogance, excitement and ignorance.

The form and formless meditative absorptions, or dhyanas, are absorptions in the state of samadhi that lack the liberating aspect of insight into the true nature. The Buddha actually learned the eight dhyanas from his Jain teacher Ramaputta after he had set out on his own journey of awakening. The Buddha saw through his own experience that these absorptions lacked the liberating aspect. As skilled experts in meditation, we need to recognize when we are falling into these meditative states and strive to uproot our fixation.

After one has let go of the fetters of fixating on meditative experience, one can fall prey to arrogance and pride due to one's 'accomplishment'. This is the slippery slope of spiritual materialism and is sure to trip us up on the path.

Excitement is the ninth fetter, for at this point one can become elated or overjoyed with the prospects that lie just ahead. This excitement can lead to restlessness and agitation and further delay complete fulfillment.

The last fetter to be abandoned is ignorance, confusion about who we are and the nature of the world around us. It is the root of samsara, the last tether to be undone.

I hope you can recognize the connection of these four stages of enlightenment with the way we move through the four noble truths in our practice. If you understand how these are connected and develop then the journey ahead becomes clear.

Fully understand dukkha.
Let go of the arising of the three poisons.
Actualize the state of cessation.
Practice the path.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

March Meditation Workshop

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location: 

Sunday, March 10, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PDT) 

Wise Orchid Taijiquan & Qigong
2002 East Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122

View Map
Share this event:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Join us for a weekend workshop on the foundations of the Dzogchen view and meditation. Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection, is the heart essence of all of the Buddha's teachings. These teachings reveal how we can live more deeply in the world in a simple but direct way.
  • Be introduced to the unique Dzogchen view
  • Learn how to recognize and rest in the nature of mind
  • Learn how the practice of resting unfolds to reveal pure presence
  • Understand how we stray in the practice and how to eliminate errors in our meditation
No prior meditation experience necessary, advanced students welcome.

We hope you can make it!

Friday, February 22, 2019

A sanctuary gifted to the Buddha.

Anathapindika (A-natta-pin-dika) was the foremost of the Buddha's lay male disciples. He was praised for his generosity and humility, but also for the sharpness of his intellect. His faith and devotion to the Buddha and his teachings were unshakeable.

It was Anathapindika who offered the Buddha the sanctuary outside Shravasti known as Jetavana. Jetavana, or Jeta Park, was a beautiful forest grove located in the hills outside the city of Shravasti. It was quiet and secluded, yet easy to get to from the city for people to attend to the Buddha's teachings and for the monks to go for alms each morning. The park itself was beautiful, with groves of trees,  a large lotus pond, and a vihara. The vihara was a simple structure with a central hall, dwelling places and walkways.

Anathapindika gave birth to the vision for offering the Buddha this sanctuary upon their very first meeting. Anathapindika was a successful businessman who had been visiting his brother-in-law during a business trip to Rajgir, about 350 miles east of Shravasti. Rajgir was the capital of the Magadha kingdom ruled by King Bimbasara. Anathapindika had been there many times on business and always stayed with his brother-in-law who was also a successful businessman. On this occasion Anathapindika arrived to find his brother-in-law quite preoccupied with the arrival of the Buddha the next day. Anathapindika found himself inspired by his brother's description of the Buddha and decided to stay for his arrival.

The next morning he awoke early and set out to Veluvana, the Bamboo Grove, where the Buddha was going to be that day. The sunlight was just starting to illuminate the eastern sky, a light fog still hung in the trees. Birds were singing, proclaiming the arrival of the day. In the distance, Anathapindika saw a lone figure silently walking, his gaze steady, his every step intentional, consummate. Anathapindika hesitated, not wanting to disturb the monk.

"Come, Sudatta."

Anathapindika was startled by this address, for no one knew his birth name and surely he had never met this monk before. Anathapindika knew he must be in the presence of the Buddha, so he prostrated himself before the Buddha and approached. "Thank you, blessed one, Bhagavan. How are you?"

"Thank you, kind sir. I am well. Well, indeed, for I have gone beyond all that gives rise to suffering and discontentment." Anathapindika, of sharp intellect, quickly picked up what the Buddha was saying, that there are things in this world that lead us to pain and dissatisfaction, and that we can go beyond those very things. The Buddha, seeing his interest and natural wisdom, continued to teach him. He spoke to him of generosity and virtue, of the illusoriness of sensual pleasures and the benefits of letting go of reactivity. When the Buddha saw that Anathapindaka was attentive and serene, he taught him the Four Noble Truths. Anathapindika understood all of these teachings, and without any hesitation or doubt became a stream-enterer. His Dharma eye opened, he invited the Buddha for a meal at his brother-in-laws the very next day.

The next day, after offering the meal to the Buddha, he requested that the Buddha visit Shravasti and that he would like to offer him a sanctuary there. The Buddha answered, "The Buddha enjoys peaceful places." Anathapindika was elated at the Buddha's consent.

It is in this way that Anathapindika became a devout student of the Buddha, searching out and finding the beautiful gardens of Jeta Park, and going on to support and sponsor many teachings in that place. For the rest of his life Anathapindika continued to support and provide a safe sanctuary for the Buddha's disciples to engage in their practice free from distraction.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Each and every thing.

This cup of tea.
A blooming flower.
The trees bending and waving in the wind.
Silent observance.
Each and every thing,
beckoning you,
calling you to presence,
asking you to bear witness
to it all,
while holding onto
nothing whatsoever. 
This perfection of generosity,
is not the giving
of every thing,
but being open
to every thing.
Every thing
is an offering,
as an expression
of pure presence.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Shariputra encounters the dharma.

Assaji was one of the Buddha's first students. He was among the five present when the Buddha gave his first teaching on the four noble truths, when Kondanna's Dharma eye was opened. Assaji was rather unsure of his practice. He was committed to the practice of the Dharma under Gotama Buddha's direction, yet he lacked the confidence in his experience in order to actualize the resultant state.

At one time, Assaji was in the city of Rajgir going out for alms after his morning meditation session. He walked the city streets graciously, his gaze was steady, his every step intentional, consummate.

Nearby, the ascetic Shariputra, a disciple of the skeptic Sanjaya, witnessed Assaji going for alms. He witnessed him moving graciously through the streets, his steady gaze, his every step intentional, consummate. Inspired by Assaji's presence, he felt compelled to question him, to find out how his teacher was, to learn the dharma that he was practicing. Not wanting to disturb Assaji during his alms round, he followed him from a distance.

When Assaji finished going for alms, Shariputra approached him, asking him, "Bright are your eyes, my friend, and radiant your complexion. Who is your teacher? What is the dharma that you practice?"

"My friend, there is a great contemplative who has gone forth from the Sakyan family named Gotama Buddha. He is my teacher. It is his dharma that I practice and rejoice in."

"What is his teaching? What does he proclaim to be the true dharma?" asked Shariputra.

"My friend, I am new and just beginning to practice this Dharma. I cannot explain it in detail."

Shariputra continued to press Assaji for the teachings of Gotama, asking "Tell me a little or a lot, I just need to know the essence. What use is there in a lot of explanation?"

Assaji, composed, present, spoke to Shariputra:

om ye dharmā hetu-prabhavā
hetun teṣāṃ tathāgato hyavadat,
teṣāṃ cha yo nirodha
evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇa soha

Whatever phenomena arise from a cause, 
those causes have been taught by the Tathagata,
and their cessation too,
has been proclaimed by the great practitioner of virtue.

Shariputra, the wanderer, the ascetic, heard this Dharma from Assaji. His dharma eye opened, "Whatever is subject to arising is subject to cessation. Even with just this Dharma, you have penetrated to the deathless state, unseen and overlooked by us for countless ages."

This is how Shariputra became a student of the Buddha. Shariputra became one of the Buddha's foremost students, known for the breadth of his wisdom and understanding. 

Adapted from the Upatissa-pasine.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Cancelled: Sunday workshop

The meditation workshop this Sunday is going to be cancelled due to the upcoming snowmageddon here in Seattle. Please be careful and enjoy your time at home this weekend.

A good time for a solo daylong retreat!

Retreat Guide

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Lifting each other up.

From the Kosalasamyutta on diligence:

The Buddha said: On one occasion, the mendicant Ananda approached me, paid homage to me, sat down to one side, and said: "Venerable sir, this is half of the holy life, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship."

When this was said, I told the mendicant Ananda: "Not so, Ananda! Not so! This is the entire holy life Ananda, that is, good friendship, good companionship, good comradeship. When a mendicant has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, it is to be expected that he will develop and cultivate the noble eightfold path."

There is a journey that we are on, a pilgrimage to the center of it all. It is a great unfolding, an interweaving, and the connections that we make along that journey are important.

The relationships that we have along the way inspire us, pick us up, remind us of why we are here.
It is not about becoming something that we are not,
but reminding us of the person
that we already see
in ourselves.
And being true to that.

Thank you good friend. Comrades indeed!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Upcoming Meditation Workshop

Event to be held at the following time, date, and location: 

Sunday, February 10, 2019 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (PST) 

Wise Orchid Taijiquan & Qigong
2002 East Union Street
Seattle, WA 98122

View Map

Join us for a weekend workshop on the foundations of the Dzogchen view and meditation. Dzogchen, or the Great Perfection, is the heart essence of all of the Buddha's teachings. These teachings reveal how we can live more deeply in the world in a simple but direct way.
  • Be introduced to the unique Dzogchen view
  • Learn how to recognize and rest in the nature of mind
  • Learn how the practice of resting unfolds to reveal pure presence
  • Understand how we stray in the practice and how to eliminate errors in our meditation
No prior meditation experience necessary, advanced students welcome.

See you on the cushion!

Friday, February 1, 2019

A first glimpse at the ground of being.

When we are introduced to rigpa, or pure awareness, we discover authentic presence, which is actually a rediscovery of our natural state of being. In that moment of union, everything is interconnected and we develop an inner coherence in which all that appears and exists is resolved just as it is. The elusive secret of how to live our life is plainly revealed before our own eyes with nothing more to be done. The world around us becomes a dance in the pavilion of space as we step out from a way of becoming and enter into a way of being in the world.

What we awaken to is the very presence that hides in the heart of the human condition. That pure awareness becomes the source from which we continually shape our life and the world. Living fully in the world, but no longer overwhelmed by the world, genuine purpose and understanding arise anew.

This opening of the 'Dharma eye' requires reorienting ourselves and is often disorienting. No longer propelled by confusion and reactive emotions, we need to rely on careful attention and mindfulness to explore our new place in this emerging world. Time and again we must leave behind the tendency to slip back into the self-involved narrow lens of dualistic mind, self and other, me and mine. Recognizing the tendency to shut down, hold back and get hooked as a call to presence, we slowly learn to orient ourselves towards whatever is arising and thus weaving authentic presence into the very fabric of life.

No longer needing to deny the wounds and suffering inherent to the human condition, we continually rediscover ourselves as authentic human beings capable of loving ourselves and others, and ready to share the gifts we have brought to life within our own natural condition.