IBS Prison Program
On Sunday, July 30, 2017 Karuna Valley Sangha was blessed with a visit from Venerable Xianzhong and Venerable Yong ( Kai Zhao Fa Shi). Ven Yong flew 18 hours from Malaysia to visit several prisons and teach meditation. It was a rare and precious opportunity for the Sangha to have two teachers with us for a whole day! In the Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Gampopa says there are three references pointing to why we should attend to a spiritual master. 1. Scripture, 2. Logic, 3. Simile. A spiritual master shows us how to accumulate merit and purify obscurations. A spiritual master is like a guide when traveling to an unknown place, like an escort when going to a dangerous place and like a boatman when crossing a big river. Venerable Yong is a monk in the Forest Tradition.
On a personal note, I immediately felt comfortable with Ven. Yong the moment I met him. I presented a Khatha to him and he laughed as he blessed me and said, “Ah, I have to give you some protection.” He questioned me about my practice and asked me to show him how I chanted OM MANI PADMEI HUM. Then he asked me to chant it the way Chinese chanted it. He also asked me how I practice Samatha ( Clam-abiding ). I said he was supposed to be teaching me how to reach Samatha. But he just stood there expectantly until I told him. In a situation where I would normally feel embarrassed or awkward, I felt absolutely comfortable. Ven. Xianzhong was so encouraging as the “ Silent observer “of all this –which helped me feel tremendously at ease. Somehow it seemed perfectly natural for me to tell a monk who is lifetime my senior how to achive or practice calm-abiding. I will cherish this personal time with a true meditation master. I felt entirely at ease talking with Ven. Yong and understood him perfectly. This is why I was surprised when he began to teach in Chinese with Ven. Xainzhong translating. I believe we had a true communication of the heart.
I observed the easy way in which Ven. Xian Zhong and Ven. Yong interacted and this set a relaxed tone throughout the day. You can feel the spiritual energy emanating from them but they make it seem so “normal “and “matter of fact. “I think their manner with one another somehow allowed us to be more receptive. Venerable Yong selflessly opened with a question and answer period in order to get a sense of the Sangha and tailor his teaching to our individual needs. He encouraged us to have the wisdom to leave the past alone and have no expectation fro the future; to live in the now for the now.
Learn to accept what happens with contentment. Train your mind for calmness ( Samatha) then look at he past and the future objectively to know you are growing in wisdom. Looking at the past causes suffering- looking at the future causes worry and suffering. Metta ( Loving kindness) meditation teaches us to see things clearly. The following are some notes on Ven. Yong’s teaching to the Sangha
Teaching on Mediation:
- We do not deny that our five senses do not bring us happiness. This is impermanence
- Learn to rely on the internal – not the external.
- Let go of attachment
THREE KINDS OF HAPPINESS
- Happiness of sensory level- External
- Happiness of shutting off sensory level: Rely on mind itself- internal
Train your mind to let go of past and future and live in the present.
- The happiness of letting go of the mind in now. We keep going to the past ( or the future) with the mind. Let go of the mind in the now and let go of all suffering. In meditation, it is important to have a single object to focus on. Have an object for meditation. There are four kinds of meditation in Buddhism. Today we will learn only two because our time is limited.
First, begin by focusing on a chant; you can use mala beads if you wish but later you will train yourself to let go of them. The chant can be whatever you resonate with but if it is a long one, You will progressively shorten it until you end with changing only one word or sound repeatedly. Buddha ( Budho) is the one we used today. (We chanted and meditated for fifteen minutes).
Second, meditate on an object ( be objective, no like or hate toward the object). The object of this meditation is the breath.
- In mindfulness of the breath meditation- do not use the five senses. Breath naturally- do not control the breath. Focus on the object ( the breath) under your nose and above your upper lip. Rest your attention easily and naturally.
- Inhale… exhale.. keep the mind focused on the same spot for the duration of the meditation.
- Your mind will become calm- the object will be bright because the mind is clear.
Again, focus your breathing under your nose and above the upper lip. There are only three prerequisites for this meditation:
Gampopa ( Jewel Ornament of Liberation ) also says that there are three steps to receiving teaching from the spiritual master: Preparation, the actual Teaching, and the consequences. Preparation means to receive the teachings with the mind of enlightenment (bodhichitta). While actually receiving the teachings one should regard oneself as the patient, Dharma as the medicine, and the spiritual master as the physician. Listening to and firmly practicing the Dharma should be regarded as recovering from the sickness. As a consequence, the faults of being like a pot turned upside down, a leaking pot, and a pot filled with poison will be avoided. Venerable Xian Zhong and Venerable Yong set it up so that all three of these steps were fulfilled!
We saved time at the end of the teaching cycle so that the men could have some one-on-one time with the monks. This is one of my favorite parts of the day because in these quiet moments you can see the Sangha members ‘sincerity shine through. They approach the monks with great tenderness and respect and for their part, the monastic give fully of them to each of us.
Venerable Xianzhong’s commitment and dedication to our spiritual growth and well-being so appreciated. We are deeply grateful to him and to everyone at International Bodhisattva Sangha. You always bring us, without fail, exactly the teachings we need the most.
By President of Karuna Valley Sangha