Reflections

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Cara Berman

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I have found the breath-counting technique to be very helpful in my meditation practice. After settling in to my posture and drawing my attention inward, I become aware of my breath. Breathing is the most natural activity of living, and we do it all the time unaware of its flow through our bodies. By focusing my awareness on my exhale, and counting its length, I become grounded in my body and the present moment. I am able to pay attention to how my body feels and any unconscious areas of tension or stress.

Once I am settled into my posture and aware of my breathing, I start to notice my thoughts. My mind loves to categorize the day, what I have done and what else I need to do. Sooner or later I realize that I have forgotten my breath, and go back to counting my out breath. Usually what arises next for me are emotional responses to events past or anticipating the future. Perhaps I had an argument that week that was upsetting. As the emotion threatens to derail my meditation I recognize it as yet another form of thought and return my attention to the breath.

I have come to realize that I am not my thoughts, my real essence lies in the awareness that I notice between my thoughts, the space in between. As a Westerner this is a very foreign concept but one that I experience as I practice breath-counting meditation. It is as if the thoughts are a cage and my awareness a key to unlocking the door to freedom. I feel that our thoughts give us such a narrow construct of what life is, and if one is in challenging circumstances it is easy to become discouraged and to feel powerless to change your life. Meditation is the key to realizing the power each person has to perceive their life differently, with kindness and courage.

Perhaps the most important aspect of myself I have developed since studying breath-counting meditation is that I am less judgmental of others and it is easier to notice when I get caught up in reacting to events. I can notice and cut through my ego’s defensiveness and realize that I have control over my emotions, they do not rule me. Sometimes it takes me a while to come to this awareness, but it is much more often than I used to!

Practicing breath-counting meditation and coming to class at Buddha Jewel Monastery has opened these doors of perception for me, so that I can catch a glimpse of the freedom and joy that is inherent in each moment. I am very thankful for the opportunity to study meditation at Buddha Jewel Monastery!

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Steve Williamson

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In. Out. In. Out.

For the past eight months, each observed in-breath and each observed out-breath has microscopically altered the trajectory of the consciousness I’ve called “I” for the past 55 years. Like many beginners, I sought something new. Instead, I’ve discovered the little-by-little losing of things old: old habits, old impurities, old expectations.

It’s been subtle to be sure. So subtle I might ask myself: “Was that little patch of me that just sloughed off, was that my precious pride or the rough edge of ego? “Sometimes, I have to squint to recognize the progress. Still, I’ve been delighted to rediscover that underneath my exterior scales lies my old clearer and kinder self, a hidden treasure trove of my basic goodness. Not yet observable to others perhaps, but real nonetheless.

Back again…and again…to this moment…then to this moment…then to this moment. This path of breath-observing has been challenging to my Western mind, accustomed more to reliving the past or pre-living the future. And yet back to the breath, I uncover both questions and gratitude. Currently, three questions arise:

  • Who is this observer of the breath whom I call “I”?
  • How can I become kinder, more compassionate?
  • What about Right Livelihood?

Sometimes, gratitude responds to the questions. Gratitude for this new exploration of reality, of mind. Gratitude for our Buddha Jewel Monastery founded a few years ago in one of our nation’s most racially, economically and religiously diverse neighborhoods. Gratitude for our shifus and my classmates for their commitment to sharing the Dharma. And gratitude for the Buddha.

With beginner’s mind, I have few lessons to offer, but three steps have helped me with my path. First, I journal my daily meditations. When my practice stalls, I persevere because a previous journal entry recalls the profound value of simply observing.

Second, I’ve begun a second meditation some days–at work for 10-20 minutes–to cool the heat of the workaday world. Third, I try to breath-observe while walking to and from work: In-In-In. Out-Out-Out. Three steps for each in-breath, three steps for each out-breath.

Breath-observing has launched me on a new space and time trajectory–more here, more now–than where I was headed only eight months ago. While I mostly observe my breath in solitude, I am drawn to meditating with others, either in the Monastery with classmates or at home with my wife. I believe this is because my consciousness isn’t so separate from others. This breath-observer whom I call “I”is interconnected with other consciousnesses, just as I’ve always deeply observed.

In. Out. In. Out.

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Steve Williamson

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Driving South from Columbia City down Rainier Avenue, it’s easy to miss the Buddha Jewel Monastery at Kenyon Street on the left. If you’ve spotted it, you might wonder: who attends there, what goes on, and why has it plopped down into our community? Is it a good place to take meditation classes?

Meditation is what most folks do. The next set of introductory classes begins Tuesday, May 6 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The class meets weekly for twelve sessions. No cost, nothing needed, and no thoughts required. In fact, the idea is to leave thoughts behind to discover the jewel within each of us. Simply please wear comfortable and modest attire and socks.

Buddha Jewel Monastery is far from a cloister. It’s purposefully open to our local community. Who participates in activities at the monastery? Mostly neighbors. Some have a background in Buddhism, but for most, Buddhism and meditation is a new exploration. Attendees at Buddha Jewel Monastery mirror the population of our Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, International District, and Renton communities–our hood.

Some attend to learn how to meditate: sitting, walking, or working meditation. Others are training their minds by listening to Dharma talks and practicing those principles in daily life.

Children naturally gravitate to meditation, and Children’s Meditation Classes teach them to be focused, respectful, compassionate, harmonious, and truthful. Longer adult retreats range from half-day to two days. Art appreciators enjoy exploring the statuary, calligraphy, and paintings. Classes in vegetarianism, ceramics, and flower arranging are also offered.

When I first stepped into Buddha Jewel Monastery, I didn’t quite know what to expect. That uncertainty both frightened me a bit … and lured me in as well. I wanted to learn about Buddhism and how to meditate, and I’ve discovered a couple of years later that, like our neighborhood and life itself, meditation is a diverse experience. Some days I struggle to focus; other days I settle in.

This jewel in our hood, Buddha Jewel Monastery, is welcome to everyone, and the jewel within each of us is likewise a worthy exploration.

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唐秀燕(傳晏)

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深心感動因緣的不可思議。在偶然的機會遇見佛寶寺的幾位師父,成就了我真正踏入佛門開始禪修的因緣。從前只知在事上修持、誦經、拜懺,依然不減妄想、我執、我慢的習氣。2009年元月進入精舍,依照法師們安排的課程,經過一年循序漸進地薰修法理,對於因緣果報絲毫不假的道理更有所領會,一切善業、惡業皆從心中產生出來,也就是我們的貪、瞋、癡三毒所招感而來。回想兩年多前入加護病房到親人的往生,得到不少啟發,世間無常,生命只在呼吸間,所謂病由業生,一口氣不來,萬般帶不去,唯有業隨身,更應用短暫的色身精進用功。想到今生有緣生而為人,具備修行能力,又有機會遇善知識,得以聽聞佛法,心中即充滿無盡的感恩,故成就佛道是我生生世世的功課。[/expand]

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Ben McDonald

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We are blessed to have the Buddha Jewel Monastery in Seattle. I have tremendous gratitude for the Shifus who traveled half-way around the world for our benefit.

Before attending the meditation and Zen classes, I practiced mindfulness without knowing that it was a Zen practice or even Buddhist one. The classes at Buddha Jewel validated and helped refine many of my beliefs and practices through verbal instruction and meditation.

The Dharma lectures are deep but they are taught to our western culture. The meditation retreats are a special opportunity that I take advantage of as often as possible. I have learned so much about myself and others.

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Devi Acosta

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I hardly ever came to the temple but on December—when I was struggling with remorse of something shameful I did—I felt a calling to go to the monastery. I asked my mom if I could go with her and volunteer. And ever since then, I started cleaning weekly on Saturdays and became more involved by taking classes on Mondays. My old wisdom has been refreshed but what has truly changed me is by becoming a vegetarian and “re-learning” kindness and compassion all over again and practicing it.

The thought of becoming a vegetarian was from watching a documentary movie but what really helped me put my feet firmly on the ground was when I came to the realization that eating meat is eating a living being. And animal with a life and spirit, virtues and misdeeds, just like us. And who knows—they could have been our parents in our last life! And after about four weeks of going vegetarian, I am determined and keep saying “no” to meat.

Another thing that changed me is remembering kindness and compassion. I have already known about it but I had forgotten it. For a while, my kindness and compassion had been limited to a certain amount of people and things. But now my kindness has increased to almost anyone—good or bad—who crosses my path. Sometimes even my enemies.

But the thing that changed me the most was putting all of my knowledge into practice. “Knowledge is knowing but wisdom is doing it.” And ever since I have attended the monastery, I have been putting my knowledge into practice. I have become less stingy with money and more generous. I have constantly donated wholeheartedly to the temple—even if it is just two dollars, I still give because I know that I owe the temple so much—much more than two dollars. Every dollar counts but what really counts is the good feeling of giving. And that is the same feeling I get when I give money to friends or relatives when they ask me for it.

There is so much for me to learn but I have learned so much already—ever since I started coming here to the temple. I am deeply grateful for helping me cope with my troubles, reviving my old wisdom and changing me so much in just three months.

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Hector A Acosta

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This is my first year being the member of the Buddha Jewel monastery, I give thank to Buddha Dharma because it helps me a lot in my life.

To me, being a Buddhist practitioner is a real challenge. Because I have to accept all the responsibility of all wrong actions I made in my life. But something that makes me happy is all the teaching I receive from those excellent masters and teachers let me understand the Buddha way and my direction.

I know if I study the Dharma and do more practices, I will pay my Karma debts which are the sufferings I brought to many sentient beings and myself.

I also know that I have to do my homework every day and work hard on my practices to obtain my illumination – Buddha nature. By doing so, I can find all the answers to solve my problems.

I would like to give thanks to all masters and teachers for all the methods and the Dharmas we received.

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Judy Cole

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I came to Buddha Jewel Monastery since last April.

I found out that I am happier and have more confidence about myself now. I also did things that I could never do before. I actually designed my own kitchen and the price is way below budget. I was a little afraid of quietness before, now I love the quietness. I also do less shopping then before, only buy the thing I need and accumulate much less garbage. I no longer point my finger to other person instead I point it to myself most of time.

The classes are just awesome. They really help me to look at things differently. The teachers are absolutely wonderful and I do believe they are the best in the world.

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Maria Ponce Acosta

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In a short period of time being at Buddha Jewel Monastery my life and family have been blessed. To come to study and have access to the Sutras has been and is the major Treasure received in this lifetime, and for that I will never get tire to thank you all. All the Shifus in this monastery really deserve the title of Children of Sakyamuni Buddha. Because with great compassion, tolerance, hard work and skills, share and explain the teachings so clear like pure drinking water when we are thirsty. They are humble and loving, they are true Buddhists. And if they resemble the whole Sangha and in this way also the Grand Master, and the Grand Master the Buddha I sure want to be like you, bringing hope, care, love, etc. to sentient beings, until the ultimate enlightenment. Thanks to coming to Buddha Jewel I have learn the importance to study the Dharma to put an end to so much ignorance, so let me list the following:

How unnecessary we engage in wrong actions that bring terrible consequences. We create our own Karma.
The Noble Eightfold Path
The Six Paramitas
The importance of stop eating meat, to stop wars, to stop the cyclic of enmity and wars, for compassion toward others and stop global warming.
The Great Surangama Sutra. When I pronounced the mantra, the second time the craving of eating meat was eradicated from my mind.
How to live in harmony with society and the world.
The power of meditation
Certainly my life and family has been transform toward the Dharma for all of this and what the next blessings I will always be thankful. [/expand]

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Sandy McDonald

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My personal experience after discovering Buddha Jewel and Buddhism

For many years, I had a Buddha statue and read many books on Buddhism. Until I stepped into The Buddha Jewel Monastery those were just nice words I’ve read. I experienced what it was like to practice Buddhism directly from the masters.

From the outside some may say this has been the worst year of my life, lost my business, home, many jobs. Many family members got gravely ill, and many other hardships. I was luckily given the tools to deal with everything from a Buddhist perspective. There is no bad. For me I believe this was the best year of my life, I went on a pilgrimage to Taiwan, participated in a seven day retreat, and studied many profound teachings of the Buddha. As a result, I look forward to simple living, everything is a lesson in attachment and impermanence.

I have been volunteering at the monastery for awhile and I am surprised that there aren’t many more people signing up to do this. I have one on one time with the masters; therefore I learn a lot about the Dharma and the practice, this is very helpful in addition to a weekly class. I am very grateful for discovering the monastery so close to my home and have introduced many of my friends to the classes and events.

I often wonder why the restaurants and the bars are crowded and the Dharma classes have only a few people. I understand why it is called a jewel now; precious and rare to encounter. I think with all of the work put into the Buddha Jewel and its events and classes more and more people from the nearby neighborhoods will examine their life and turn to the monastery for guidance.

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