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 a New Year, a New Intro

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westcoast_buddhist



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PostSubject: a New Year, a New Intro    Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:48 pm

My experience with Shasta Abbey started when I was 15 (I'm in my mid-20s now). I was quick to identify myself as a Buddhist and soak it all up. I listened to talks, read the books, and eventually found myself fighting to understand that elusive thing they called "enlightenment."

When I was 17, I left the US to live in Thailand and continue studying Buddhism. I was apprehensive about learning their sitting/meditation techniques, mostly because I felt my zen teachings were more comfortable and "correct." I gave into Vipassana, and after I spent hours and hours meditating (and sleeping on those concrete beds  funny ) I had a moment of realization.. an understanding of truth and I had to make a decision in my life. I had HEARD IT from Shasta Abbey monks, but it was not something I had EXPERIENCED until training with Thai forest monks.

After a year in Thailand, I had to make a decision whether to continue training or pull the reins back and experience life a little. I ultimately choose to give up training, and found myself lost (and perhaps still lost) spiritually. My passion for everything in life is gone, gone with the "non-attachment" dogma of my teenage years. I feel disconnected from reality, but strangely I don't feel emotional about it.  uhoh 

Places like Shasta Abbey make it easy to jump into Buddhist training, in that respect I appreciate what they did for me. But, it's disturbing how a lack of experience is hidden under the guise of paradoxical teaching and other complexities etc IMO this is dangerous... A respected monk at shasta abbey once said during a dharma talk, "Just last week I learned how to meditate." He probably meant that his meditation is always evolving, but I was left wondering..

IMO truth in Buddhism comes from the oldest discourses. You may disagree, but this is something I know to be true from Buddhadasa Bhikku's teachings. Mahanya/Theravada/Tibetan traditions have all changed the teachings into country specific religions. It was especially bad in Thailand with all the mystical stories of the monk turning salt water to tap water and saving villiages etc 

Similarly, Shasta Abbey is filled with what I call "Dharma Fluff." I was subjected to countless rituals to honor made up deities, but at the same time I was expected to realize those deities were just teaching concepts. IMO that made it hard to define a practice in my mind, I felt like it was missing something (and that was real dharma about non-attachment).

Well, that might have been too long-winded for the intro section but it covers my spiritual training and my concern about the OBC. I never felt like shasta abbey was a cult, and I wouldn't warn anyone from going to their retreats. I moved on simply because I wasn't getting teachings that I thought were true and beneficial. I have to thank them for fostering my original interest in Buddhism, and the hospitality they've always shown me.

With regards,
WCB
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:44 pm

hi WCB, and welcome to the forum -  it's great to have you join us. Much of your post resonates with me, and I will be back shortly to say more, just wanted to give you a quick welcome.

best,
Lise
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Thu Jan 02, 2014 2:10 am

Of course we do not know what you did when you experienced life a little, but to loose passion for life is always rather unfortunate,yet from a young age you had the guts to explore the world and areas of life which are difficult,which makes me feel passion and you are never far apart . Finding and refinding oneself is so difficult when one does not feel right about oneself,and so easy when one does feel OK,
Welcome and hope you join in with your views.
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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:20 pm

Hello again, West Coast. 

Sleeping on concrete beds is part of Vipassana? I wonder how people do that, I'd think you wouldn't get any sleep and couldn't function the next day. I guess it helps to be in your 20s when trying things like that.

About losing your passion for life - do you ever feel this could be a hold-over from earlier indoctrination (from whatever source)?  The kind where some monks will tell you that to be excited/enthused/involved with something is the same as clinging to it, and indulging in delusion, therefore a sign of deficient training (and who wants that label).  I don't know if this applies to you at all, possibly you didn't get that kind of distorted and harmful instruction. Many have, and it can take awhile for the mind to get clear of that kind of rubbish. My take on Buddhism is that we can and should explore, experience, embrace and enjoy all of life that we can, if for no other reason than to appreciate being human and honoring the gifts we're given as humans.

I too prefer the oldest discourses. I'm at a point where I don't have to know that any particular aspect or belief about Buddhism is "true", and I'd rather pare everything down to as basic as it gets. Just the Pali Canon is enough at this point. I used to go to different temples, explored the possibility of joining other sanghas, but there was, each time, so much overlay of cultural beliefs, stories, sacred myths, traditions that didn't make sense & couldn't be questioned. It's just too much to slog through, for me. Others do fine in that environment and are helped by it, so I'm not knocking it for everybody. 

If it wasn't for your age and life history, I'd wonder if we weren't sat next to each other at some of the same Shasta retreats, where I'd sneak in conversations with fellow guests.  I remember being confused by some monks who'd say "Avalokiteshvara is an aspect of compassion, she was not and is not a real being who lives somewhere or is someone you can pray to".  Then at the next dharma talk we'd get a monk who waxed lyrical with examples of how "Kanzeon has directly helped people who appealed to him during times of great distress - he is after all the One Who Hears the Cries of the World". The only point of consistency I noticed, among the various monks' talks, is that they could flex the definition (or interpretation) of these deities in order to support the points they were trying to make during a particular talk. There didn't seem to be much theoretical consistency among them, at least when I was there (01 - '06).

It's good that you had a positive experience with SA and are continuing to go on in your exploration.

Please do continue to post, and feel free to resurrect old discussions with new comments. There is always someone around who likes to chat  yes   Once again, welcome!

Best,
Lise
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westcoast_buddhist



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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:49 am

Lise wrote:
Hello again, West Coast. 

.....
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Please do continue to post, and feel free to resurrect old discussions with new comments. There is always someone around who likes to chat  yes   Once again, welcome!

Best,
Lise


With the correct wooden "pillow" the concrete bed isn't too bad lol.  It was an important teaching tool for me, and it definitely helped that I was 17 during my first rains retreat. In my initial post, I mentioned Vipassana and I was referring to my mental exploration of anicca, dukkha, and anatta. In that respect, I began to appreciate the concrete bed's ability to keep my mind very alert at night. funny 

Regarding my detachment from reality and lack of interest in life (sounds dramatic lol). I can't say for sure, but I think it was from how seriously I took the training in my teenage years. I was meditating for hours a day and gradually understanding more about life. But, there was a few things that I read/or was told by Shasta Abbey monks that proved to be major blocks in my ability to relax and just meditate:

Quote :
"monks will tell you that to be excited/enthused/involved with something is the same as clinging to it, and indulging in delusion, therefore a sign of deficient training (and who wants that label)." 


This was a huge huge concern of mine^^ (DELUSION -> the mantra of OBC ; how can I know what's right if I'm the delusional one lol)

Quote :
"The only point of consistency I noticed, among the various monks' talks, is that they could flex the definition (or interpretation) of these deities in order to support the points they were trying to make during a particular talk"

^^ I could not have said it better..

In addition, I was unable to sit still (which I now know is from essential tremor), and I kept reading in Rev. Master Kennetts books about how once you reach a deep level of meditation, you'll be able to sit still. I was frustrated with myself for things like that, so I blamed my attachments in my teenage life as the blocks to my enlightened state of existence etc. I know all of that is rather silly, but back then I was awkward like that, it had to be done right!

In my mind I know that non-attachment is fundamental in understanding buddhism, I just feel like Shasta Abbey pushes it to hard on the lay people. I almost felt like I was being guilt tripped into joining their temple!! how could I be so lazy in my training to want to stay a lay person?  funny 

The crazy thing is I thought I was completely alone in thinking all this, I never talked to any other OBC person about it and the monks made me feel like it was just a little step in the training I'd get over soon. Thinking about it.. maybe they were right  funny
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westcoast_buddhist



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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:40 am

chisanmichaelhughes wrote:
Of course we do not know what you did when you experienced life a little, but to loose passion for life is always rather unfortunate,yet from a young age you had the guts to explore the world and areas of life which are difficult,which makes me feel passion and you are never far apart . Finding and refinding oneself is so difficult when one does not feel right about oneself,and so easy when one does feel OK,
Welcome and hope you join in with your views.
 
I appreciate your wisdom on this subject. When I was in Thailand I had a moment of clarity as I looked in and reflected on what "buddhism" was for me.. I turned my back to that realization because I wanted the ups and downs of life, I wanted the adventure, the emotion, the feeling like my life was unique. The problem was, I never got the passion back from that moment, the detachment only gets worse and worse. And now, its like I know something to be true (buddhism) but I'm avoiding it for reasons unknown.. I don't want to feel passionate about life because I don't care about life. I'm probably sounding a little sociopathic, but it's like i'm stuck on some auto-pilot loop, it doesn't stop because I don't care if it stops.
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Sat Jan 04, 2014 2:13 am

I would say that genuine passion for life--genuine passion for being in existence, as awareness itself--is manifested when we let go of attachment.

It sounds to me like you are stuck in the gate.

You can't let go--and you can't enter into life with passion.

Chisanmichael, as always, has I think, nailed the issue with great insight here.

I would say that the crux of the reason we pull back from life entails some form of existential trauma.

The real challenge is, therefore (perhaps), to understand and resolve, the existential dilemma of life, itself.

As Michael says, you seem to be already well on your way to doing so!
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:03 am

Westcoast,compared to me you are a young man,it doesnt mean I know more or have done any better,but I don't like to hear my young friends say they have lost the passion and somewhere or other Buddhism or spirituality has gotten in the way. 
Maybe a funny conception of meditation or practice has come between you and your life. You left the concrete bed to live and so you should,I think you are an innocent young man I do not think your living would take you where perhaps you should not go,but live you should so much that there is no gap between you and your life,and please leave behind anything that comes between you and your life even Buddhism and practice  itself.It would be great to get old and wrinkly like me and not only have your own teeth but to have really lived.
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jack



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PostSubject: Re: a New Year, a New Intro    Sat Jan 04, 2014 11:27 am

westcoast_buddhist wrote:
IMO truth in Buddhism comes from the oldest discourses.

I've also found this to be generally true. There's a lot of cultural embellishment there, too, but the common themes among the sutras are very clear and consistent.

With those as a foundation, it's much easier to see and discard the distortions of later teachings such as Zen or Tibetan Buddhism. Sometimes those traditions have added insights that are worthy of consideration. Truth isn't something "pure" that has been captured anywhere. There are only pointers that one can use to find it for him/her self.


westcoast_buddhist wrote:
passion for life

For me a workable analogy is that of playing with intensity and joy. There's passion involved, but at a deeper level one is always still aware that it's only play that will eventually end. It works for me; there's great freedom in realizing  that at the end of the day, the score doesn't have any significance.
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