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What are you listening to? A letter from Kadam Lucy

Dear KMC Community,

My dad said on Skype yesterday that we’d all get through 2020 if we stay cool, calm, and collected and if we are nice to everyone, lol. He said, “That is what you are teaching everyone, isn’t it?”

Buddha does indeed explain how we can be IN the world, as it were, without being OF the world – helping others in a practical way but without feeling helplessly swept along by everything and everyone that seems to be going wrong. Rather than being stymied by the discouraged guilty thought, “I am not doing enough,” we need the contentment that leads to inspired action, “I am doing enough.” We need not be dangling like a puppet on the strings of aversion, uncontrolled desire, and confusion, but more like a Weeble that bounces back to center however hard it is pushed.
Firm, stable refuge in our heart starts with a knowledge that underneath it all we have hearts of gold, there is sanity. We have everything we need inside us and nothing truly to be worried about. If we steadily deepen our reliance on wisdom and love, we come to possess an inner calm and coolness under pressure. This also has us automatically tuned into the inspiring wisdom and bliss of all enlightened beings.
Question is, how can we deepen this reliance? I find it very interesting that at both the International Spring AND Summer Kadampa Festivals this year, Venerable Geshe-la shared this as his message to us all:

“Hello to the International Kadampa community. I would like to offer you the following message based on The Stories of Rebirth by Arya Sura. I would like to explain the benefits of listening to Dharma teachings.”

Why the emphasis on listening to Dharma? Partly, for reasons I talked about in my last letter to you, I think it may be because at least some of us might be spending a bit too much time listening to things that are NOT the Dharma of wisdom and compassion, and that could indeed even be the opposite. We need to be responsible, educated citizens, for sure, with an election coming up and injustices to be addressed. But with fewer IRL places and people for us to hang out with these days, we may be getting too helplessly sucked into the endless virtual noise, speculation, and inappropriate attention that just seem to take us further and further from the truth. I have seen that tendency in myself and had to nip it in the bud a few times, so I know what I’m talking about. As the great Indian Master Atisha puts it:

“Avoid places that disturb your mind, and always remain where your virtues increase.”
I would submit that we apply this advice not just to physical but to virtual places. Less time on CNN/Fox News, more time on Buddhist TV! Less time in our echo chambers, or vainly talking at people, and more time doing practical things to actually make a difference in the lives of our families, community, and country. As the saying goes: “Less drama, more Dharma.”
I thought in this letter it’d be nice to go over these benefits, if you have time! (If it’s too long for one coffee break, come back to it later! 😊)

1. Listening to Dharma teachings is a great light that eliminates the darkness of our own and others’ ignorance.

We have been in this discombobulating darkness since beginningless time! It’s too long. To break out of the dystopian worlds we keep projecting for ourselves with self-grasping ignorance, we need to listen to teachings on reality more and more deeply.
It is hard to see that this light is even there, however, if we get stuck down a rabbit hole.
2. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best wealth that cannot be stolen by thieves and which gives great meaning to our human life.

Our external resources have always been unstable and subject to decline, which seems more obvious than ever in these days of economic uncertainty. But increasing the inner wealth of spiritual experience actually helps us so much more than any amount of outer wealth could ever do – in the short term it gives us the riches of contentment (that we can also take with us through death), and in the long term it leads us to lasting happiness and freedom.

Listening also includes reading Buddhist books – for example, you could start working your way through the 23 totally inspirational works by Venerable Geshe-la. How about that for a meaningful and fool-proof life plan to acquire wealth?!

3. Listening to Dharma teachings is a weapon that destroys our enemy of confusion.

We need a sword of wisdom to cut through the never-ending hallucinations of samsara. One bit of advice I find useful: When reading or listening to stuff that I find confusing or provocative on the internet etc, when I am not sure who or what to believe, one thing I ask myself is, “What would Buddha believe?” We are Buddha’s followers, so follow him.

4. Listening to Dharma teachings is our best friend who will never deceive us and from whom we receive our best advice.

Time is short and it is easy to waste it. Unlike the greatest conspiracy theorist of them all – our own self-grasping mind – listening will only ever tell us things we need to know for greater happiness and freedom.
We might come to prefer hanging out with Dharma more than anything else. We will never feel lonely again with this friend around.

5. Listening to Dharma teachings is a relative and friend who remains loyal even when we are impoverished.

6. Listening to Dharma teachings is the supreme medicine that cures the disease of uncontrolled desire, anger, and ignorance.

Indirectly, listening also helps us overcome all physical diseases. It certainly helps us deal better with them.

7. Listening to Dharma teachings is a powerful opponent that destroys great faults.

8. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best treasure because it is the foundation of all fame and resources.

By listening, we create positive mental actions that are “hundreds of times more powerful than verbal and physical actions,” according to Venerable Geshe-la. These create the karmic causes for everything we could ever want.
9. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best gift through which we can benefit all living beings.

I think we’d all like to help as many people as we can, given the choice? Through listening to Dharma, we become a source of refuge and strength for others, and a good example of how to be happy and carefree. Eventually we become a Bodhisattva and then a Buddha, helping everyone every day.

10. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best method to make countless living beings happy.

Please memorize, contemplate the meaning again and again and then put it into practice day by day, month by month, year by year.
I will also pray for you and your families.

With much love,
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso”

Summer is winding down and we are about to enter our Fall scheduling – indeed, I don’t know if you’ve seen the forecast, but next Tuesday temperatures are set to plunge 50 degrees and it’s going to snow! (Only in Colorado!) Longer nights and colder days give us the perfect opportunity to cozy up to our local Buddhist TV station. Hopefully you’ve come to see that we try to provide something for everyone. (Help us out — tell your friends that too if you can. And fill in Alex’s Survey to give us valuable feedback.)

It’s a great idea to make a schedule that we can stick to – if you haven’t done so already, for example, how about joining in on Thursday nights?, where we will be taking a consistent in-depth look at Introduction to Buddhism, with the support and encouragement of fellow Sangha. More info: http://kmc-co-backup.local/buddhism-in-depth
Those of you who have been attending for a while, you might even think about joining our Teacher Training Program on Sundays! – for all the reasons listed above, our world could do with more Dharma teachers. Click here for more on the study programs of Modern Buddhism.

Much love and prayers,
Kadam Lucy

Post by Kadam Lucy James
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