Generosity on this Path of Love

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Chinese Statue at Wat Arun, Bangkok

Together on this path of love, we can try to make a small difference in someone’s life.  What else is there to do?

Sister Chan Khong

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I’m in China this month studying and practicing at Putuoshan, an island dedicated to Guanyin since the last millennium.  My husband and I received generous scholarships from a Chinese and American organization and are grateful for the opportunity to share our experience when we return.

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Earth Goddess confirming the Buddha’s Awakening

The Buddha and the Earth Goddess, Luang Prabang, Laos.

After sitting for seven days under a Bodhi tree, some 2500 years ago, The Buddha was challenged by “Maras”, nightmarish demons questioning the authenticity of his realization. In response to the Mara’s attack the Buddha touched the earth asking for witness to his enlightenment.

In the mythology of Southeast Asia, when the Buddha touched the ground, the earth goddess rose up and wrung an ocean of water from her hair. The earth shook and the demons vanished.

He reconciled the demons of self doubt, perhaps his version of the inner critic.  He was wrestling with his capacity to take what he had learned and communicate it effectively in the world. In his meditation, the Buddha discovered a path to relieve suffering in the world.

When we humbly touch the earth as our witness, we touch into the truth of our own being and discover confidence. We ground in the groundlessness of an ever shifting reality.  We wring ourselves of illusion and allow the demons of our imagination to dissolve in the ground of awareness.

The earth goddess represents the “ground” of our experience in the here and now.  She symbolizes the feminine principles of relationship, the cycles of life and humility.  Humus is the root of the word humus, the fertile decaying material of the soil, not unlike the mud from which a lotus grows.

The Female Buddha book has arrived!

CLICK HERE to find out more about The Female Buddha book and other lovely gifts including notecards, photos and a weekend workshop in Februrary, 2012.

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Be the Lotus: Emerging From the Mire

Lotus Buds

Don’t you know that afflictions are nothing more

than wisdom?

And that the purest of blossoms emerges from

the mire?

  Benming

Lotus Buds, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus represents the interdependent nature of samsara and nirvana, or suffering and enlightenment. Blooming out of the muck and mire of worldly existence into a pure, beautiful flower, the lotus blossom represents the enlightened mind.  The lotus bud symbolizes inner purity and our potential to awaken at any moment.

Lotus Bud Bouquets, Flower Market, Bangkok, Thailand

The lotus buds have begun to open and will be bought by individuals and families to offer at temple sites through out Bangkok.
Mother and Daughter offering Lotus Flowers

Mother and Daughter Offerings, Wat Phra Kaeo, Bangkok

These two women offer individual lotus blossoms, incense and candles at an altar to Guanyin within the Royal Palace complex in Bangkok.  The presence of Guanyin figures at sites in Thailand is seen in large cities where Chinese practitioners also come to visit. Guanyin is becoming an important figure for a growing number of Thai women.

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Dear friends,

The Female Buddha book is available this Christmas!

You can receive a signed gift copy by donating through the Indigogo Campaign beginning Nov 1. through Dec 7.  Other valuable gifts include notecards, photographic prints and a weekend workshop in February.

Go to www.thefemalebuddha.com to see the offerings. Be the first to receive a book  and support a great cause.

Yours most appreciatively, Deborah

P.S. don’t miss the Discovering the Female Buddha slide presentation and lecture in Boulder on Fri, Nov 2, 7 – 9 pm.  READ MORE

Deborah Bowman with Guanyin statue

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see more images at www.thefemalebuddha.com  or  www.luminousbuddha.com

The Generosity of Guanyin in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Guanyin on a Dragon

We practice generosity with others and with ourselves, over and over again, and the power of it begins to grow until it becomes almost like a waterfall, a flow.  We practice kindness with others and ourselves, over and over again, and this is who we become this is what feels most natural.

 Sharon Salzberg

When I first starting looking for images of Guanyin in Bangkok I headed out to Chinatown.  Like many of our big cities in the United States, Chinatowns may be found throughout the world.  The large cities and coastal town of East Asia were particularly popular for  immigrants when times were hard or there was political repression in China.

The Chinese practiced a form of Buddhism giving devotion to Guanyin and brought many images of the her to the shores of Bangkok where only images of the original Buddha are found.  I discovered the mural above adorning the walls of an outdoor temple amidst a busy street in the heart of Chinatown.

Guanyin has a willow branch in one hand displaying her gentle nature and a vase pouring healing nectar in the other hand.  She rides the back of a dragon on ocean waves with confidence and command.  She is known as the one who hears the cries of the world.

This outdoor temple was part of a Charity Medical Center sponsored by a Buddhist association.  When I went to the door I was asked if I needed medical attention and was touched by their generosity.

Guanyin at Charity Medical Center

At the back of the temple was this life size statue of Guanyin in the male form.  When Buddhism came to China in the 2nd century Guanyin was known by his Indian name, Avelokitasvara.  By the 8th century many depictions were painted and sculpted as  female. Today you will see statues in East Asia that are male, female or androgynous.

Guanyin in Chinatown

I discovered this last image of Guanyin at the back of another temple that was closed for the day.  As you can see many individuals leave sweet and kitschy items to honor her presence.  In the next post I will share more of my photos of the feminine Guanyin found throughout the temples of Bangkok.

For additional inspirational images and quotes go to : www.thefemalebuddha.com  and www.luminousbuddha.com

Contented Moments

Crow on Buddha

Contented moments are the potential of every moment.  Actually all moments are contented.  When they’re not, it’s because the mind has made a mess of them.

Sylvia Boorstein

 

This photo is from the Shwedagon temple in Burma where my husband and I visited last December.  The quote is from Sylvia’s book It’s Easier Than You Think.  Her sense of humor is something I could use right now!  I’ve been working hard to get photos ready for printing for my book The Female Buddha.   These last details are about to make my hair stand on end.  I think a little crow is helpful about now.

 

 

For more photos and inspirational words go to: www.thefemalebuddha.com

www.luminous buddha.com

Photos of Guanyin at the Bangkok Flower Market

Making Lotus Bouquets Making Lotus Bud Bouquets

These photos were taken in Bangkok at the Flower and Produce Market.  I was working on a project to photograph images of Guanyin and happened on this lovely setting while searching for temple sites.  I felt as if I had encountered Guanyin embodied!

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Purple and Yellow Flowers

Altar Decorations

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Making Altar Arrangements

Woman Making Altar Bouquets

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Loading Truck with Flower Arrangement

      Sending Floral Arrangements to the Temple


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Contemplating the Buddha at the Market

          Buddha at the Produce Market

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Two women stringing flowers


              Stringing Flowers for the Temple 

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All the delightful things of the world–sweet sounds, lovely forms, all the pleasant tastes and touches and thoughts–these are all agreed to bring happiness if they are not grasped and possessed.

But if you regard them merely as pleasures for your own use and satisfaction and do not see them as passing wonders, they will bring suffering.

Be aware of the paradox, for if you are blind to the way things are you will not be able to make out anything, even though you might be right on t0p of it.

The teaching about the way things are is not a way to enlightenment for someone who is still fill with desires or who still longs to be a this or a that.  But those who do understand it will become beings of distinction, dispersing all the forces of confusion.

The Buddha

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More inspirational words and photos at

Open Engagement: Relationship and Empathy

Spirituality is the movement from our prison of self-blame and self-preoccupation to an inclusive and open engagement with life.
-Sharon Salzberg


This week I’ve been under a deadline to write an academic paper for a conference I attend every year in Bangkok sponsored by the International Association of Buddhist Universities.  I have struggled to write again as a scholar after enjoying the free flow of sharing as a blogger, personally and upfront.

I’ve fallen behind in my blog schedule and just realized that a few fragments from the paper I’ve been laboring on addresses Sharon’s invitation into a more open engagement with life.  Here are some excerpts on relationship and empathy, topics addressed in my paper: Slang, Freud and Buddhist Psychology: Clarifying the Term “Ego” in Popular, Psychodynamic and Spiritual Contexts.  Quite a mouthful.

Relationship

The Buddhist concept of interdependence informs our understanding of relationship and the natural reciprocity inherent in all of life.  While a psychodynamic perspective understands the autonomous development of the individual as a necessity, Buddhism points to the danger of the extremes of self-sufficiency creating a false sense of “I.” This “I” or ego manipulates and misperceives self and other.

Suffering in relationships stem from the extremes of independence and dependence.  One is marked by the painful experience of isolation and the other is an immature fusion where our demands on others do not reflect our chronological age.  Learning to walk the interdependent path begins with the practice of attending to the present moment, seeing through the impermanence of past wounds and trusting the guidance of our teachers to mirror our yearning for compassion and liberation from suffering.

The Bodhisattva Vow, to liberate others before oneself counters the tendency of the individual to attend to oneself and not the other.  From the Buddhist point of view we are all narcissistically wounded in clinging to the “I” and it’s delusional views and habits. Waking up requires the development of clear seeing and the reversal of painful self-centric patterns in relationship.

Empathy

Compassion is Buddhism is related to empathy as it is based in entering the experience of the other.  The Latin root of the word refers to having deep feelings (passion) with (com) another.  Compassion implies a further response of an action to bring relief to the passion (suffering) of the other.  In this case passion is understood as the impossible desire to escape “what is.”

A compassionate response can pierce the ego-encasement that an individual has built to protect him or herself from pain.  Compassion acknowledges and accepts loss and other feelings imagined as too big to bear.  Compassion understands the ultimate boundarylessness of experience and the natural exchange continuously occurring between all beings.

In the Buddhist view any wall created to protect the self from others is the creation of ego or a false sense of self.  At the same time Buddhism does not deny the uniqueness or the different experiences of each human being.  The task to hold both a relative and an absolute understanding of self and “no-self” is embraced on the path of liberation. Holding this paradox we open to embracing other and “no-other” as well.

If this were a blog I’d add it’s kind of like having your cake and eating it too!

Action + Acceptance — Art Therapy Serves Sex Trafficked Girls

Acceptance does not mean passivity. We may try to accept things as they are, but that doesn’t mean if, for example, a situation is unjust that we don’t try to change it.
Diana Winston

There is so much pain and suffering in this world that is hard to accept.  I have a friend that is working on a project to bring art therapy to young girls who have been used in the sex traffic industry so I’ll start there.

Slavery and rape are more accurate words for the unspeakable crimes committed against children throughout the world.  “Traffic” and “industry” says how far off course humanity has veered.

The reports on girls abducted or sold on the black market is horrifying.  The latest stories and the mounting statistics tug heavily at my heart.  I admire those who challenge the transgressions in the streets and in the halls of government.

How can we accept these despicable acts?  Not easily, but if we don’t fully accept the injury we can never address the suffering. When we accept the truth we face it, look it in the eye and let it in our hearts.

No wonder it’s so hard to accept. Our heartstrings are inevitably intertwined with the distress of others the moment we make contact.  Acceptance means connection and responsibility. Response-ability is the measure of an open heart.

With endless access to the suffering of a world torn open by the media’s onslaught we are faced with a mighty big task.  Every one of us must honestly ask ourselves whom we are able to serve: a young girl, a neighbor, our grandfather?

Every year I am struck by the ignorance of a childhood fiction that the world was on a trajectory of improvement.  The 50’s myth was shored up by a mistaken belief that every disease would be cured, technology would solve any problem and increased understanding was uniting humans across racial differences.

Yet every year my eyes are opened to greater suffering and doubts about a future on our planet. Child slavery points a laser beam on that uncertainty.

So how do we choose to serve?  How we know our capacity? How do we keep our hearts open?

My friend Sue is finding her edge developing a service-learning project for her art therapy students at Naropa University.  The Naropa Community Art Studio International is planning to take their healing work to Cambodia to support and empower survivors of sex trafficking.

She’s Partnered with Transitions Global, an organization that provides a safe environments where girls can heal through intensive trauma therapy and sustainable life and job skills training.

Raising funds through crowdrise and throwing marathon-painting parties the students are on their way to working with the Cambodian girls next summer.

Do I need to believe in a myth?  Absolutely not.  Can I accept a world of hurt?  It’s a little easier with friends like Sue.



Broken Open: Loss and Love

I have no desire to fix my mind so it will not feel saddened by loss.  I want to feel deeply, and whenever I am brokenhearted I emerge more compassionate.  I think I allow myself to be brokenhearted more easily, knowing I won’t be irrevocably shattered.

Sylvia Boorstein


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PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

Describe a time of being brokenhearted.  How has it made you more compassionate, more shatterproof?  What do you want to convey to someone in the midst of loss?  

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My mother’s death tore at the vestiges of a very thick wall surrounding my heart. I was
a hard nut to crack and her death rocked me to the core. I was thirty-three and she was
sixty-five and dying of lung cancer. She started smoking at age twelve.

Her illness came five years after a climbing accident where I sustained long-term injuries.
I had learned to grieve my own losses. This was different. Her dying broke through my
compulsive habits and stripped me clean of an eating disorder. I was feeling life so fully
I couldn’t stuff down my feelings with food anymore.

She was a quirky, sad, funny and beautiful lady. She turned me on to bugs and Indian
Paintbrush and the smell of rain through a rusty screen door. If my brother and I would
plead long enough she would cross her eyes, make the “funny face” and we’d be rolling
on the floor with laughter.

A dark veil would overcome Mom at times followed by raging tears and slamming doors.
The rest of us would tiptoe around the house for a day or two. She seldom talked about
the tragedies in her life but we gathered stories about her father’s alcohol induced death,
her mother’s early death from overeating and the loss of her older brother in WWII.

The learned family pattern of walling off pain was a strength in hard times and an
obstacle to deepening relationships. We were lucky to have a bond of love but often
didn’t know how to express it. My father’s mantra was “don’t cry.” Compulsions and
addictions dot our family tree.

In my work as a psychotherapist I spend a lot of time helping people cry. It’s the best
revenge. I’m not telling my Dad but I plan on crying my eyes out when he passes. He’s
ninety-three and tells me not to waste my time grieving when he dies. I love him and I
know better now.

~*~

This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.

Inner Aloneness: Listening and Learning

We need to be willing to risk the loss of external affirmation and approval if we are to know ourselves deeply.  We need to be willing to risk listening to ourselves as well as others.  The validity of our spiritual path can only be qualified by our own experience and understanding.  Through a path of contemplation and meditation, we can untangle the conditioning that leads us to prostrate ourselves before authority.  By cultivating a deep inner aloneness, we can nurture our inner resources of awareness and understanding.  A vision of our uniqueness is born, an authentic vision of who we are as opposed to who we have been told we should be.

Christina Feldman

PHOTOGRAPH/WRITE:

When have you risked listening to yourself contrary to others? Have you struggled with developing an “inner aloneness?”  Clarify what have been the dangers, the rewards?  

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 This quote strikes at a core issue that has given me the most painful and productive lessons of my life.  Prostrating before authorities and ignoring my inner intelligence almost killed me.

Over 35 years ago I was smitten with a passion for working in the wilderness and exploring its terrain through climbing.  In technical situations involving ropes I was not always emotionally equipped to sort out what was best for me when others gave commands.

On a day when I was sick and upset I chose to listen to someone else over my own instincts and suffered a terrible climbing fall in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  I am very lucky to be alive yet sustained the loss of an eye and seriously injured my ankle.

For years after the accident I dreamt of climbing down anything and everything vertical.  My spiritual work was to come down to earth and to be in my body.  Brought to my knees, my psychotherapist held my hand and helped me grieve.

Before this experience I don’t think I ever knew an inner aloneness.  I now know it is the work of a lifetime.  Slowly I have learned to listen more closely to internal prompts, sorting out what is my truth from others.

While accomplishing much on the outer level to care for my basic needs, there are many subtle levels where I still grapple with confusion in making difficult decisions.  A significant example in my current life concerns the publication of a photography book I’ve worked on for the past five years.  It is my baby.

The proofs of the book from the printer have been miserable. The colors are off and the resolution has been poor.  I’m waiting on a third set and looking at other options.  I’ve created my own publishing company to make a high quality book affordable and all the decisions rest in my lap.

I know I need to wait until it looks right, even if I lose money and have to start all over.  Can I trust myself to do this?  Will I say “no” or let a few things slide because I don’t want to let someone else down?  It’s so my tendency to pretend everything is OK.

I’m putting this out to you because it helps to have a witness to my actions.  I know my friends will not collude with the self-sacrificing side of my personality.

In this very moment I get how little I have admitted to how painful this has been.  Arrgh.  Arrgggh.  Aarrrggghhh!!

You just helped.  I know you are listening.  I know someone shares the inner resources of awareness and understanding.  I know it is possible for me too.

Your kind response is appreciated.

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This post is a part of the 14-day The Female Buddha community dialogue visual arts and writing invitation. Artist Deborah Bowman has gathered inspirational quotes from global women teachers to reflect on your life travels and creative practice.
Feel free to  reply to today’s prompt on your own blog. Share your link in the comments.
Join the dialogue on The Female Buddha page on Facebook@thefemalebuddha on Twitter and #14Buddha hashtag.
                                                                      ~*~