FREE MEDITATION SESSIONS
In lieu of in-person meditation practice sessions at Windward Buddhist Temple, which is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, we are offering Zoom Meditation on every 4th Saturday at 10:00 to 11:00am. We offer guided Tibetan style meditations, alternating with Shamatha, Tonglen, and Heart Sutra.
After meditation practice, we meet at 11:00 to 12:00 for Virtual Coffee. Meet new people, chat about what's on our minds and how our practice might help us cope with these difficult times.
Please click on the Meetup logo below to sign up for either or both meetings. Anyone from Hawaii is welcome. Any questions, please contact email@example.com
Virtual meditation practices are also offered on multiple days and in three time zones by Katogcholing, our parent sangha. Visit webitate.katogcholing.com for details.
When we reflect on the situation of living beings, we see that all beings are searching for happiness and trying to avoid suffering. All of our activities are directed toward that purpose. We focus on the external world, on objects outside ourselves, and hope to find genuine happiness there. But if we depend only on our external circumstances for happiness, we find that they don’t last. Their nature is to change. We can find some temporary happiness in the external world, but it’s not long-lasting or genuine.
We can find a genuine sense of peace and well-being within ourselves. Peace comes about when our thoughts begin to calm down. Only through working with ourselves, with our mind, can we find peace. It’s not something to be bought in the marketplace.
When we meditate, we begin to calm the busyness in our minds. Our thoughts, especially our negative thoughts, begin to calm down. We need a point of focus to calm our minds. The simplest method for calming our mind is to focus on the breath, an object that is uncomplicated and from which we are never separate.
Shamatha [Calm Abiding Meditation]
“Whatever kind of practices we are working with or trainings we are engaging in – whether according to the sutras or the tantras -- what makes our practice very powerful, very strong, or effective is Shamatha. Adversely if our mind is not able to rest one-pointedly absorbed or focused within those trainings, our mind will be constantly distracted by any and all kinds of discursive thoughts and emotions that arise, so it is not calm, it is not usable, and it cannot accomplish those things in an easy way. Consequently Shamatha is a crucial element of whatever practice or training we are doing." —-Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche
Take a seat on a cushion on the floor or in a chair. Keep your back straight and slightly lower your gaze to rest in the space in front of you. Allow your mouth to be slightly open and the jaw relaxed.
Notice your breath as it enters and leaves your body. Begin to count your breaths. Count each inhalation and exhalation as one breath. Continue counting until you reach twenty breaths, then begin again with number one. If you lose track of your count, gently begin again with number one. Alternatively, you can count your breaths using a mala (Buddhist rosary). With each breath, count one bead until you have completed one round.
Notice as thoughts rise, but don’t follow them. Allow your focus to remain on the rising and falling of the breath. If you find yourself carried away by your stream of thoughts, return to following your breath.
Rather than doing one long session where you get tired or bored, do short sessions many times each day. Also, take breaks within sessions. For example, if you’re just beginning, you might count twenty breaths and then take a short break. If you feel comfortable with a longer session, that’s also fine. The main point is not to be too tight in your focus. We need just enough attention to remember our reference point.
Most importantly, have a noble intention as the motivation for our practice. Have a kind heart and wish that your meditation practice be of benefit to others.
Long Term Goals
We want to have intentions and a perspective that is beyond the more immediate and temporary side effects that can come about with meditation. We want to have a much bigger, broader, long-term view on why we meditate, on why we practice. We want a view that is looking at working with our mind now – at this point – as an ordinary sentient being, and up until we are able to achieve an ultimate state of happiness that is devoid in its entirety of all forms of suffering. Until that is achieved, there is a need for practice – for meditation. Our practice should have this broader view and goal in mind. We are not just looking for the momentary wellbeing and peace that we naturally have as soon as our discursive, disturbing thoughts of the present begin to calm down with some meditation. That is more of what is considered the immediate effect. The ultimate goal is one that is a much broader picture consisting of looking at our experience in its entirety in a much more profound way on many levels. Slowly, over the course of time, with that broader perspective and continually working with our mind, we are bringing ourselves to that goal.
If Shamatha is the most foundational practice, Tonglen is the most transformational of all practices. Tong means “giving” and Len means “taking” in Tibetan. In this meditation, we give others all our happiness and take in all their suffering, using the breath. This seemingly counterintuitive practice is one of the most effective ways to awaken Bodhicitta or enlightened mind of altruism. Bodhicitta is the fast track to Ultimate Happiness or Nirvana. What are you waiting for?
Please go to katogcholing.com/recordings to listen to a free teaching on Tonglen.
The Heart Sutra
The Heart Sutra is the single most frequently recited meditation text in the entire Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Containing all the key points of explanation found in the sutras regarding the true nature of phenomena, it is the quintessence of Buddha's teaching on Emptiness.
Emptiness refers to the fact that no thing -- including human existence -- has ultimate substantiality, which in turn means that no thing is permanent and no thing is totally independent of everything else. In other words, everything in this world is interconnected and in constant flux. A deep appreciation of this idea of emptiness thus saves us from the suffering caused by our egos, our attachments, and our resistance to change and loss.
The Heart Sutra can shatter any conceptual formulations one may have about life and the world. One of the most profound teachings of Buddhism, it is not easily grasped by logical reasoning. To understand emptiness, it helps to let go of the rational mind and surrender to a spiritual journey of the heart-mind. By letting go of concepts and duality, and contemplating in deep silence, embracing emptiness can lead to ultimate liberation. Or at least, a gradual reduction of discursive thoughts and growth of appreciation of a vibrant present full of potential and serendipity.
Why is it called the Heart Sutra? Because it is the only sutra in which Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva who is the embodiment of compassion and loving kindness, is present as the speaker. Without a soft heart and compassion, there is danger that the teachings on emptiness can make our hearts even harder and drag us down the road to nihilism.
That is why every Heart Sutra practice begins and ends with loving kindness.
Experiencing the Heart Sutra is a truly rare and precious opportunity, as the Buddha himself stated, "The recipient of teachings on the Heart Sutra obtains the benefits and qualities of having received teachings on all sutras on emptiness (21,000 pages long)."
Medicine Buddha Sadhana
Medicine Buddha is a practice that promotes healing for ourselves and others. It addresses all diseases and afflictions---mental, physical or spiritual---through purification of negative karma and mental obscurations. Ultimately it helps facilitate progress on the path to enlightenment.
In July, Katogcholing held a three-day Medicine Buddha Retreat online, so that more practitioners were trained in this authentic and powerful practice. In October 2020 Katog Mati Ling started offering Medicine Buddha Meditation, as a special service to ailing members of the Hawaii community.
This is an advanced practice for those who have received empowerment or permission to practice. Here are some recommended resources for preparation and study:
Recorded teachings on Medicine Buddha by Rinpoche from Katogcholing.com/recordings
Book by Thrangu Rinpoche on the Medicine Buddha is one of the best authentic English explanations. The visualization is a bit more elaborate than our version of Katog Choling, but keeping that in mind, one would get many useful details about the Medicine Buddha and the Medicine Buddha practice, from this book.
For those with faith, who are already in the Vajrayana Path (have taken refuge and received at least one empowerment), here is HH Dalai Lama giving the Medicine Buddha empowerment in 2008: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7YfVfmzOIs