Flowing Mountains Sangha
A Community of Mindful Living in the Tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in Helena, Montana.
Meets every Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm
@ Mountains & Rivers building, 825 Helena Ave
FORMAT: Walking & Sitting Meditation: 6:30 & 7:00 pm; Program: 7:30 pm; Closing: 8:30 pm
Flowing Mountains is actively served by four Order of Interbeing members, as well as many committed practitioners. Our OI members are as follows:
Sandra SuZanne ("Zan") Murray, a writer and editor, and co-founder of Flowing Mountains. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, and handcrafts.
Jonathan Matthews, a professor at Carroll College and a co-founder of Flowing Mountains. He is also a national champion racewalker.
Stan Voreyer, a retired mental health care provider. He has taken Thay's advice of living a non-busy life to be his foremost practice.
Ann Kuntzweiler is exploring right livelihood through life coach certification.
Flowing Mountains August programming schedule:
In August the sunlight is bright and the air warm. The life of summer is effulgent. Plants and their flowers abound with color. Embracing this variegated array can nurture seeds of vitality and happiness in us. This month, on the second Tuesday, we will focus on Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion. May this quality of compassion shine and penetrate our lives and all that we encounter, as brilliantly as this day’s sun.
Recitation and reflection on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, led by Jonathan
A talk on the Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, presented by Rafael; discussion will follow.
Brother Phap Man, a monastic in the Plum Village - Order of Interbeing tradition, will visit us and present a talk followed by discussion.
Reading and discussion on Nothing To It, Chapter 9 – Meditations on Death, facilitated by ‘the year to live’ study group.
First Thursday breakfast at the No Sweat Café at 7 a.m., August 1st.
Walking and Sitting meditation from 6:30 – 7:30p.m. (Zendo location: 825 Helena Ave.)
In the second hour from 7:30 to 8:30 there may be a recitation, a presentation, or a reading usually followed by a Dharma Discussion.
This Dharma Sharing time is an opportunity to practice deep listening and mindful speaking. We speak from the heart about topics that emanate from our life and practice in ways that benefit others as well as ourselves. We encourage all to take three mindful breaths after someone has finished and before and another begins.
“Taking refuge in the sangha means putting your trust in a community of solid members who practice mindfulness together. You do not have to practice intensively—just being in a sangha where people are happy, living deeply the moments of their days, is enough.” -- Thich Nhat Hanh
Manjushri Bodhisattva Talk 7-9-2019 for Flowing Mountains Sangha by Jonathan Matthews (Chan An Son — True Retreat Mountain)
<<We invoke your name, Manjushri. We aspire to learn your way, which is to be still and to look deeply into the heart of things and into the hearts of people. We will look with all our attention and openheartedness. We will look with unprejudiced eyes. We will look without judging or reacting. We will look deeply so that we will be able to see and understand the roots of suffering, the impermanent and selfless nature of all that is. We will practice your way of using the sword of understanding to cut through the bonds of suffering, thus freeing ourselves and other species.>>
I’ve prepared some brief introductory words that I hope will stimulate an interesting Dharma Discussion for us.
A little reminder about our programming focus this summer into fall…. Why are we spending 5 months focused on Bodhisattvas? It is because our Zen Buddhist tradition is part of Mahayana Buddhism. All sincere practitioners in Mahayana Buddhist traditions aspire to Bodhisattva practice. In Mahayana Buddhism, a bodhisattva is someone who has generated bodhicitta, a sincere wish or vow to save all beings, a compassionate orientation of mind to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings. Mahayana means “Great Vehicle.” This refers to the metaphor of Buddhist practice as a raft that one paddles across the river of life from the shore of delusion and suffering to the far shore of enlightenment and peace. Rather than a solo raft, carrying one individual to enlightenment, the Mahayana Buddhist paddles a raft that is large enough to carry all beings without exception to enlightenment and peace: the Great Vehicle.
Manjushri is the bodhisattva that is the personification--the archetype, example, and model--of Buddhist practitioners’ dedication to achieving the insight (vipassana), the perfection of wisdom (prajna paramitata), that releases one and all from suffering. Manjushri means "Gentle Glory" in Sanskrit. In the Heart Sutra that is chanted in all Mahayana traditions, we state that it is great insight/understanding/wisdom that relieves suffering, that leads all to the peace of enlightenment.
In artwork, Manjushri holds a sword to cut through the fetters of ignorance. This symbolic representation supports the idea that wisdom is our natural state and our task in our Dharma practice is to cut through the harmful delusions that trick us into thinking that reality is different than it actually is. Having false beliefs/concepts/perceptions about reality, about how things actually are, is what causes us to suffer.
A conceptual understanding of a thing is not the thing itself. A perception of a thing is not the thing itself. For example, imagine two people walking side-by-side together. The walking enacted by this couple is the thing itself. Someone’s explanation of this walk or of walking more generally is a conceptual understanding of the thing. Each of the two walkers has his or her individual perception of the walking experience, but neither of these individual perceptions accurately and completely captures the walking that they are enacting.
All concepts about, and perceptions of reality are imperfect and incomplete. And yet, prior to the insight of enlightenment, which is a direct insight into reality, concepts and perceptions are tools we use to help us to practice. Even though concepts are incomplete ways to understand things, we can problematically feel rather certain about the truth of concepts that we hold, based on evidence we perceive. Those concepts can be wrong, because our perceptions may be wrong or incomplete, or our analysis of the evidence we perceive may be faulty. For these reasons, the Buddha emphasized practices as the way to understanding, rather than the adoption or analysis of particular conceptual beliefs. It was from his own meditative practice that the Buddha achieved his insights about how things actually are, rather than through logical conceptual proofs. The Buddha calls us to wholehearted practice to realize the wisdom that frees us and all beings from suffering. Manjushri is the symbolic representation of the wholehearted wisdom practice that the Buddha calls on us to enact.
So, my proposal for our practice today is that the Buddha’s insight about interdependence is the singular foundation-stone, the bedrock of wisdom on which the whole of Buddhist practice is built. The realization of the interdependence of all things is the most necessary Dharma Door to Wisdom that our invoking of Manjushri expresses our sincere intention to enter. All other Buddhist insights and practices depend on this one insight of interdependence. This is the reason why Thay named his sangha the Order of Interbeing.
Interdependence. Interbeing. These are the most common ways in our tradition for us to refer to the concept that explains this central insight about reality achieved by the Buddha. However, I find Dependent Co-Arising to be the most useful way to refer to this insight about reality. This way of expressing the experience of truth reminds us of the flavor of Thay’s statement, “When conditions are sufficient, things manifest.” I feel that this way of expressing the concept of Interbeing most fully emphasizes all beings’ dependence, in each moment, on all other beings for their very lives. Our initial arising in the world, our birth, depended on so many others, arose together, in that moment, in symbiotic cooperation with many other beings and forces, the vast majority of which are impossible for any human to perceive. Our continuing lives, in each moment, depend on so many other beings, so many other causes and conditions, most of which are impossible to perceive, due to the infinite multiplicity of factors affecting us, the multidimensional web of causes and conditions expressed as our lives in any moment. It is ecologically false to claim that we are independent beings, which is our unexamined way of thinking about ourselves. Instead, the evidence clearly describes that we are Dependent Co-Arisings.
We are almost to the discussion portion of our evening, where we will all, together, respond to my proposal that the Buddha’s insight about interdependence is the singular foundation-stone of wisdom on which the whole of Buddhist practice is built. As a prelude to this discussion, let’s bring to mind the Three Dharma Seals that Thay identifies. May we accurately consider these Dharma Seals as effects of Dependent Co-Arising? These three Dharma Seals are Impermanence, No-Self, and Nirvana (the truth of suffering and the path to freedom from it). The concept of a Dharma Seal comes from the historical practice of authorities confirming the authenticity of their writing on documents by imprinting on the document the pressed image created by a uniquely ridged metal seal (making a specific mark in ink or wax) that only the person of authority possesses. Therefore, anyone seeing this document, upon seeing the authority’s seal, has confidence that the document is a genuine creation/expression of the authority. Again, the concept of the Three Dharma Seals is the idea that any true Buddhist teaching must address Impermanence, No-Self, and Suffering and the Way to freedom from it, Nirvana. My proposal is that these Dharma Seals are effects of Dependent Co-Arising. Also, can we accurately say that the concept of Emptiness is founded on Dependent Co-Arising? Why or why not? Let’s also consider the Dhalai Lama’s statement, “My religion is kindness.” How can the practice of kindness and compassion be accurately explained as being founded on Dependent Co-Arising? Additionally, how can the Precepts, the Mindfulness Trainings, each and all accurately be understood as founded on perceiving reality as Dependent Co-Arising? Also, how can the 4 Noble Truths (Suffering, Its Causes, the fact that Suffering Can be left behind, and the Path that enables one to leave behind suffering), and the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha’s practical instructions to reach the end of suffering (Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration), how can this 8-part path of practice be understood as being founded on Dependent Co-Arising? Finally, how can our sitting and walking meditation, our moment-to-moment practice of mindfulness and concentration, be understood as the realization of Dependent Co-Arising?
Not much to talk about, huh? Address any part that moves you. With Manjushri as our inspiration, we have only the rest of this hour to cut our bonds of ignorance, realizing the wisdom that is our birthright. May we and all beings be brought to full, right, and universal enlightenment by 8:30!
[The discussion that followed expressed the wisdom of the twenty present members of Flowing Mountains Sangha, building our collective understanding and strengthening our community.]
1st Tues: Mindfulness Trainings (guidelines for ethical living)
2nd Tues: Bodhisattva Path Consideration and Practice
3rd Tues: Sharing the Way (teachings, talks)
4th Tues: Nurturing Wisdom & Compassion (discussion, guided practice)
Flowing Mountains Sangha
River & Mountains Bldg.
825 Helena Ave.
Helena, MT 59601