Archive for the ‘buddhism’ Category

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

Autumn leaves turning.
This feeling is not final.
Nor this feeling. Nor this

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

breathing in. i am space.
breathing out. the cosmos smiles.
impermanence is.

-dennis landi 2009

Guided Meditation On Impermanence

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Centering Meditation

- Bell
Breathing in,
I am present in the here and now.
Breathing out,
I am happy to be here
Breathing in, Presence
Breathing out, Happiness
- Bell.

(repeat if necessary)


Well this is my last leading of the AES Sangha, and I don’t think I have to tell you that I will miss all of you a lot. I’ve prepared something that addresses my reticence to leave all of you.

Last Saturday I was able to spend seven hours at a meditation retreat led by Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi, and American nun, at the Tushita Center.

She presented several excellent brief outlines of guided meditations that each lasted about 10 to 15 minutes. One of the ones that she presented was a Guided Meditation on Impermanence.

I’ve chosen to go give my own version of this meditation today, because I personally have a problem with embracing change. As a child growing up in the Foreign Service, I never really got over leaving my friends and school every few years and it’s the main reason why I really didn’t go overseas again for about twenty years and certainly not for extended periods of time.

However, I also have a personal problem with the purportedly Buddhist concept that since all things are impermanent, detachment from the physical world is the path to personal peace and perhaps even enlightenment…

So for the second part of the reading I will read an excerpt from Mark Epstein’s “Open To Desire”, which I feel promises to flesh out the concept of Buddhist asceticism and serve as a balancing weight for the first meditation. I’ll only read the first ten pages of his introduction, but that is enough for you to get the thrust of his thesis, I think.

Meditation on Impermanence


Breathing In
I consider that a static, unchanging reality is an illusion.
Breathing Out
I open myself to change.


Breathing In
My mind is a kaleidoscope of cascading images
Breathing Out
Is my mind still? Or is it moving?


Breathing In,
I suck oxygen into my lungs and ultimately into my blood.
Breathing Out,
I release my breath in a stream of carbon dioxide atoms that were in my body for a brief time.


Breathing In
I am aware of my heart beating, pumping my blood-flow,
carrying oxygen to every cell in my body.
Breathing Out
My heart is still beating, but is it the same heart?
Is it the same blood? Are my cells the same?


Breathing In
I consider the idea that there are 150 different types of cells in my body: skin cells, blood cells, nerve cells, bone cells, brain cells, muscle cells, hair cells, kidney cells, heart cells, liver cells, spleen cells, mucous cells, eye cells, and others.
Breathing Out
I consider that each of these cells has a different life-span, and they constantly die and replace themselves throughout my life span.


Breathing In
I consider that my seven skin layers of dermis and epidermis shed like a snake and replace themselves every 21 to 28 days. I generate a whole new heart every 8 months. I synthesize a whole new liver every 5 months. The surface layer of the mucosal lining in the intestines quickly replaces itself every 3 to 5 days. Because skeletal bone cells are made up of a harder matrix of substances it can take up to 7-10 years for bone cells to die and replace.
Breathing Out
Consider the idea that everyone in this room right now gets a whole new body every 7-10 years. Even my brain will replace itself, entirely.


Breathing In
I know that there is a tiny universe beyond the cellular level. Where atoms contain sub-atomic particles separated by relatively vast distances, whirling around each other at an incredible rate, never still and never the same from one-micro-second to the next.
Breathing Out
I know that at the sub-atomic level my body is mostly space, where transient energy passes.


Breathing In
I am aware of the world outside my body and mind. I and the Earth and the other planets are whirling around the sun. The Sun is on its own interstellar trajectory, and the biosphere of the earth is totally dependent upon the sun and the rain to fuel the lives of every animal and plant.
Breathing Out
I see that the universe, and all things in it, are in motion and never still.


Breathing In
I am aware of the illusion of a non-changing reality and that the attempt to cling to things that I don’t want to change is a major cause of suffering.
Breathing Out
I acknowledge change. I won’t necessarily embrace it, but I acknowledge change and will try to not let it be a cause of suffering.


-dennis landi © 2009

I am free…

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

When Thich Nhat Hanh visited India in 2008, I was lucky to be part of an “intimate” gathering of all the sanghas in New Delhi to welcome him.

This is the first thing he said:

“I am Buddhist, but I am free of Buddhism…”

I’ll never forget this basic teaching.

Loving-kindness Guided Meditation

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

AES Sangha, New Delhi, India
APRIL 14TH, 2009.

Centering Meditation

— Bell

Breathing in,
I am present in the here and now.
Breathing out,
I am happy to be here

Breathing in, Presence
Breathing out, Happiness

— Bell.

(repeat if necessary)



Today I thought I would present a Loving-kindess meditation.

First I will read a short passage, “Momma Zen” written by Karen Miller, published in the “Best Bhuddist Writing, 2007″, by Shambala Sun. I think she quickly captures the essence from whence all loving-kindness emanates…

Just so you all know what to expect, I’ll briefly outline the basic elements in a Loving-kindness meditation.

Stages of Loving-kindness meditation.

Phase 1) Loving acceptance of self by overcoming feelings of self-doubt or ill-will towards others. This technique consists of identifying four types of persons to develop Loving-kindness towards:

i) A Respected or beloved Person, perhaps a teacher

ii) Your Dearly Beloved: a family member or close friend.

iii) A Neutral Person you have no particular feeling toward, for example a shop-clerk you see every week.

iv) A Hostile Person: someone you are having difficulty with.

Phase 2) Directional Pervasion, where we systematically direct the feeling of Loving-kindness to all points of the Compass.

Phase 3) Non-specific Pervasion, where we radiate feelings of universal love.

In this process we transition from a particular attached love to an unconditioned, all-embracing quality of loving-kindness.

I will be presenting the guided meditation with the “Breathing In / Breathing Out” framework that I associate with Thich Nhat Hanh style of guided meditation and this Sangha…


The Reading

[Begin reading story, "Momma Zen", by Karen Miller.]

— Bell

The Guided Meditation

Breathing in
In my mind I see my teacher

Breathing out
I smile with love to my teacher

Breathing in, my teacher
Breathing out, I smile

— Bell

Breathing in
In my mind I can see my parents

Breathing out
I smile and bathe my parents with loving-kindness

Breathing in, I see my parents
Breathing out, I smile lovingly

— Bell

Breathing in
In my mind I can see my close friend

Breathing out
I bathe my friend with loving-kindness

Breathing in I see my friend
Breathing out my friend is wrapped in loving-kindness

— Bell

Breathing in
In my mind I see someone for which I have no particular feelings, perhaps a shop-keeper I see once a week…

Breathing out
I send loving-kindness to this person

Breathing in I am neutral,
Breathing out I send Loving thoughts to that person

— Bell

Breathing in
In my mind I see a person with whom I am having difficulties

Breathing out
I send loving thoughts to this person with whom I am having difficulties

Breathing in – Personal Difficulties
Breathing out – Love

— Bell

Breathing in
I touch the loving-kindness within me

Breathing out
I give loving-kindness to myself

Breathing in, loving-kindness
Breathing out, loving-kindness

— Bell

Breathing in
I visualize dharma practitioners all over the world

Breathing out
I reach out and touch with love all other dharma practitioners, east, west, north, and south

Breathing in, I see all friends who are practicing
Breathing out, I touch them all with love

— Bell

Breathing in
In my mind I can see the universe and all beings

Breathing out
I radiate love to all beings

Breathing in, the universe
Breathing out, love to all

— Bell

-Dennis Landi

Buddha Path Haiku 2009

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

Buddha Path Haiku

To Patna we came
Where the Buddha’s ashes lay
And his stone likeness

To Bimbasara’s
Kingdom, we took a bus.
The Bamboo Grove was cool.

And Vulture Peak,
Where Tathagata walked, rose
Above the rocky plain.

And then Nalanda
Manifested, a university
Of the Buddha. Gone.

To Bodh Gaya, we bused.
Mahabodhi Temple was
A coral reef of Buddhism.

Tonglen Meditation
Taught me that the Tibetans
Know something about Mind.

At Sarnath the Stupa
Rose above our sangha, as
Shantum spread the dharma.

And Varanasi
Hummed like a sitar wind.
“… mahadevi shambho…”

-dennis landi © 2009

why did?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

why did gautama sit under the peepal tree?
to shade himself from the sun.

why did siddhartha sit under the peepal tree?
to shield himself from the rain.

why did the Buddha rise from the Bodhi Tree?
to shine as the sun.

why did the Tathagata rise from the Bodhi tree?
to fall like the rain.

-dennis landi © 2009

What is Right Action in the 21st Century?

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

As part of his enlightenment, the Buddha discovered the Eightfold Path which is right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. In reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Old Path White Clouds which is an elegant telling of the life of the Buddha, it is clear that the Buddha felt his Eightfold Path to be in perfect accord and harmony with the planet upon which he found himself in the fifth century BCE. And so “right action” was in accord with Nature as the historical Buddha experienced it at that time. As Gautama developed his system of Practice to be transmitted to others, the Precepts emerged and became institutionalized within a community of practitioners. One striking characteristic of the precepts is that they are a way for humans to live in harmony with nature. I phrase my observation this way, because I have seen no evidence so far that it was the Buddha’s intention to live in harmony with nature. Instead, if we study Gautama’s spiritual journey up to his Awakening, I think we can see that Nature was the crucible through which the Buddha emerged, awakened. It was the lens through which he experienced reality. At the time of Gautama’s Awakening the Earth was a planet that was in balance, sustaining a rich and diverse biosphere within which humanity could easily live in harmony. To me there seems to be“rightness” to the idea that the Buddha’s world-view could be anything but harmonious with Nature.

But the Planet Earth circa 400 BCE is not the Earth of today. Our biosphere is rapidly changing. Species are dying and humanity will soon be hard-pressed to live easily with the Nature of the future. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth website sums up the current global warming threat to our planet, which an overwhelming majority of scientists agree is man-made. We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are too-rapidly melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing. To quote from Al Gore’s website:

1) The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.

2) Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.

3) The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.

4) At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.

5) If the warming continues, we can expect catastrophic consequences. Deaths from global warming will double in just 25 years — to 300,000 people a year.

6) Global sea levels could rise by more than 20 feet with the loss of shelf ice in Greenland and Antarctica, devastating coastal areas worldwide.

7) Heat waves will be more frequent and more intense. Droughts and wildfires will occur more often. The Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050.

8 ) More than a million species worldwide could be driven to extinction by 2050.

What is Right Action today in a natural world in peril by human actions? Is it the same Right Action as 2500 years ago, when our planet was in perfect balance? In a world in balance perhaps Right Action is to do nothing … at least, nothing to disturb that balance.

We no longer live in that world.

What do we do now? What is Right Effort, now? Right Thought?

On September 28th, 2008, I attended a dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh in Dehradun, in India, where he defined for us:

Right View: a view of inter-connectedness, interbeing.
Right Thinking: Ecumenism, compassion and peace.
Right Speech: Speech that is motivated and guided by compassion.
Right Action: Physical action that protects or saves.

I am very grateful for this teaching and I will let it guide me as I continue to ponder my questions.

    The sacred moment vs. civilization

I have also been contemplating what I can sum up as the sacred moment vs. civilization.

How are they connected?

For the sake of discussion, let us define the “sacred moment” as that moment of key insight into the nature of reality that gives the individual a satori, or personal peace or salvation or happiness or bliss. Perhaps we found the sacred moment through Advaita or Mindfulness or a traditional means for spiritual practice such as prayer or religious ritual, or perhaps through theatre or dance.

Mindfulness is a wonderful key into the ultimate realization of nonduality and interbeing; but where are these realizations manifested on the world stage?

How do we bridge or link the personal to the global?

Over the years, I have pondered the problem of formulating a system of spirituality that isn’t blatantly designed to control the masses and amass power.

In the West, individuals who have found their spiritual traditions bankrupt of integrity and out of step with their 21st Century needs have begun to discover portals into a simpler and direct spirituality embedded in the core traditions of the East. From the ancient concept of Advaita a.k.a nonduality to the simple but powerful technique of mindfulness, Westerners have found a personal path to psychological clarity and soundness.

And yet the geographical regions from where these ideas originated and incubated for thousands of years remain under the cloud of poverty, political oppression (to varying degrees) and ecological degradation. This observation alone should suggest that there is no readily accessible ramp between personal enlightenment and social utopia.

Personal spiritual and psychological wellness is crucial and yet it doesn’t appear as if that, by itself, could perhaps trigger a transformation in our world leadership (as a collective) to realize that our behavior as a species on this planet has caused and is causing massive changes in our global climate that will in turn adversely affect the biosphere within which we must coexist with all other living beings. Other skillful means at the societal level must also be employed to bring about a paradigm shift in the way we live on this planet, I suggest. Al Gore’s skillful means of the use of multi-media come to mind.

I am a Westerner. It seems to me that “looking inward” to achieve a personal realization of True Emptiness, of interbeing is a new beginning for many of us in the West. Perhaps we in the West should look upon this spiritual discovery as a new Birth Day into an inter-connected universe where we do have the means to shrug off the dualistic “us versus them” mentality, to not just help ourselves but everyone else who suffers in the world. After all, if we have achieved the insight of nonduality, or True Emptiness, then Global issues matter, too, do they not? If “I am Thou” then “We are Global”, I think.

I think, with the newly acquired faculty that gives us Insight, we need to redirect its gaze outward into the world. Not merely as a means of observation but as a means of intentionality which can ultimately be recognized as UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
What is it about being human and living in human society that prevents us from helping those who suffer and ultimately solve the problem of suffering at its root? Why have we not yet collectively mustered the resolve, the ingenuity and the basic wherewithal to make it happen?

Where do we start? What baby-steps can we take to begin to change our current social paradigm? What kind of new social organizations can we create to leverage that sense of the “sacred moment” to help us bring new tools to bear on the global problems that we all must solve, collectively? Where is the “on-ramp” between personal peace and global peace? I am ready to help figure out how to build one, if we, as a species, don’t know how to do it yet.

Time, Space, Impermanence and Non-self…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

From the point of view of time, we say “impermanence”, and from the point of view of space we say, “non-self”. Things cannot remain themselves for two consecutive moments, therefore there is nothing that can be called a permanent “self”.

- Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Heart Of Buddha’s Teaching, Chapter: The Three Dharma Seals, page 132.

[poem] I am thou

Friday, June 13th, 2008

I am this because of that.
I am that because of this.
I am in that. This is in me.
I am in this. That is in me.
My mind is in that. This is my mind.
My body is in that. This is my body.
When this body dies, I am in that.
When that body dies, I am in this.
When this mind dies, that mind does not.
I am not that if I am not also this.
This is not me if that is not me.
I am not, if you are not.
I am you and you are me.
We are not this if we are not also that.
We are in me, and we are in you.
I am us and you are us.
I am thou.


- dennis landi © 2008