Monday, January 18, 2010

For Dr. King, With Love

Today we honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you're on Twitter, you've seen the outpouring of loving-kindness towards one another along with a feast of Dr. King quotes being circulated. It's quite beautiful. People from all over the world honor this man.

I've loved Dr. King since I was a child. I naturally gravitated to his message of hope and of peace obtained through non-violent means. I grew up in a military family, with the fallout of the Vietnam War evident all around me. I saw how war divides nations and makes enemies of friends. I saw how war leads to repeated conflict and inevitably, to more war. I saw how families lose loved ones to war and how that loss does not only take place through death. Even at a young age I understood the insanity of war and the reasonableness of peace.

Because of Dr. King, I grew up with deep faith in such things as peace and civil rights. I heard and read his speeches throughout my youth. Today I learned that Dr. King nominated the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize way back in 1967. What a testament to his belief in upholding compassion and non-violence no matter who or what the source.

As I write this, I'm moved to tears by the ceaseless waves of love that continue to wash over the people in all nations as a result of this one man. I pray for Dr. King's auspicious rebirth. May he return again and again to benefit beings.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


While I'm working on my next post, please enjoy this wonderful piece by Carl Sagan.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Words

Wow, I am one stubborn nun. Our temple has a long-standing New Year's Eve tradition, but for one reason or another I've never been able to make it. Last year I was absolutely sure I'd get there, but I wound up in the hospital and got released late New Year's Eve. This year, there was a winter storm alert for New Year's Eve-- icy, windy, freezing rain. A great night to stay out late and drive down rural roads with deer leaping out, right?

Right! I may be in rough shape physically, but I can sure find the strength to dig my heels in when I want something. And it totally worked.

At ten o'clock the sangha gathered to do the Guru Rinpoche practice called "Shower of Blessings." It's a beautiful practice and accumulates great merit that is then offered to all beings. 2009 was a tough year for me. One of the toughest I've had, actually. Spending the last couple hours of it chanting the pure syllables of the 7-Line Prayer was enough to bring tears of joy to my eyes. It was delicious. Surrounded by our beautiful sangha, the precious altars and thangkas, all the blessings the walls of the temple have seen, I inwardly expressed deep gratitude to Jetsunma for making it all possible.

When we finished the practice, we spent awhile meditating and contemplating aspirational prayers for the new year. We meditated in silence until midnight. Then the first words we spoke were our Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows.

Refuge Vow
I take Refuge in the Lama.
I take Refuge in the Buddha.
I take Refuge in the Dharma.
I take Reguge in the Sangha.

Bodhisattva Vow
I dedicate myself to the liberation and salvation of all sentient beings. I offer my body, speech and mind in order to accomplish the purpose of all sentient beings. I will return in whatever form necessary, under extraordinary circumstances, to end suffering. Let me be born in time unpredictable, in places unknown, until all sentient beings are liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Taking no thought for my comfort or safety, precious Lama (Buddha), make of me a pure and perfect instrument by which the end of suffering and death in all forms might be realized. Let me achieve perfect enlightenment for the sake of all beings. And then, by my hand and heart alone, may all beings achieve full enlightenment and perfect liberation.
~ Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo

We lit candles and offered them on the altars while making silent aspirational prayers. I offered mine at the "Twenty One Taras" altar. Tara is the mother of all Buddhas. She is active and powerful. She hears the cries of all beings and responds instantly when called on. Jetsunma was recognized as the emanation of White Tara, so praying to Tara has a special significance for her students.

Everywhere in the world there is suffering. I prayed for Tara to bring swift comfort to those who need it-- for miraculous cure of all disease, for an end to hunger, poverty and conflicts great and small. I have confidence that Tara heard my prayers and that there is less suffering in the world today as a result.

It was the best New Year's Eve I ever had. I pray that yours was, as well.