“Learning how to die” and “Why Meditating on Death May Bring Joy to Life”: What the Buddhist Teachers Say About End of Life, Dying, and Palliative Care

“Learning how to die” and “Why Meditating on Death May Bring Joy to Life”: What the Buddhist Teachers Say About End of Life, Dying, and Palliative Care

Leonardo da Vinci is credited as saying, “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” This may be a discouraging thought for some, but Buddhists view end-of-life meditation as an uplifting and powerful practice. “Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but…

Prominent Scientists Declare “All Non Human Animals… Are Conscious Beings.” The Dalai Lama Protests Chicken Slaughter. An Orangutan Won Non-Human Rights Over Zoo Keeper. What Do the Teachers Say About Non-Human Compassion?

Prominent Scientists Declare “All Non Human Animals… Are Conscious Beings.” The Dalai Lama Protests Chicken Slaughter. An Orangutan Won Non-Human Rights Over Zoo Keeper. What Do the Teachers Say About Non-Human Compassion?

A prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists and other experts made a strong declaration, endorsed by Stephen Hawking, affirming that all “nonhuman animals… including octopuses” are sentient and feel emotions such as fear and happiness. In Argentina, an orangutan won non-human rights against his zoo-keeper. Recently, in the news, a monkey won the rights to…

What the Dalai Lama and Patch Adams Have in Common: Laughter, and Compassion, the Best Medicine

What the Dalai Lama and Patch Adams Have in Common: Laughter, and Compassion, the Best Medicine

If you laugh when you are ill, you feel better. (Mom always said, “Laughter is the best medicine.) If you laugh in the face of sadness, you transform grief. If you giggle at your own stupidity, you learn wisdom.

Namaste: Respect Overcomes Pride, a Universal Greeting, and a Sign of Reverence

Namaste: Respect Overcomes Pride, a Universal Greeting, and a Sign of Reverence

Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” It is more than just politeness—bowing is a cure for ego and pride.

“Designer Dharma” or “Dharma-Lite”—What the teachers say about picking and choosing Buddhist core beliefs such as rebirth and karma

“Designer Dharma” or “Dharma-Lite”—What the teachers say about picking and choosing Buddhist core beliefs such as rebirth and karma

By Lee Kane, Editor, Buddha Weekly  ” The eightfold path is often represented as a wheel with eight spokes. Pick a wheel with just one or two and it won’t take you very far.” — Mark Vernon [13] “Some traditional Buddhist teachers tend to serve “Dharma-Lite” like “Coca-Cola Lite,” rather than “the Real Thing” Dharma,”…

What the Teachers Say About Emptiness: Removing “Lazy Nihilism” from Shunyata — or “How Deep the Rabbit Hole goes” and “How Big is the Moon?”

What the Teachers Say About Emptiness: Removing “Lazy Nihilism” from Shunyata — or “How Deep the Rabbit Hole goes” and “How Big is the Moon?”

What do big moons, lazy nihilists and rabbit holes have to do with Shunyata? Yesterday I read a feature on Space.com which became the inspiration of this feature: “The ‘Big Moon’ Illusion May All Be in Your Head,” by Joe Rao. This led to rabbit holes and lazy nihilism. Bear with me, I come back to the big…

Practice Overload and Too Many Commitments: Advice From the Teachers — Don’t Become a Spiritual Materialist

Practice Overload and Too Many Commitments: Advice From the Teachers — Don’t Become a Spiritual Materialist

Practice overload in Vajrayana Buddhism can become a top-of-mind issue for devoted practitioners who collect many initiations. If you are feeling stressed over your commitments, if your practice is not satisfying because of “practice pressure,” then “our practice becomes worse than paying tax to Uncle Sam,” joked Gelek Rinpoche at a Vajrayogini teaching. “At least,…

The Psychology of Buddhist Prostrations: The Humble Bow, a Meaningful Method to Connect with Buddha Nature

The Psychology of Buddhist Prostrations: The Humble Bow, a Meaningful Method to Connect with Buddha Nature

Many modern Buddhists are hesitant to practice ancient physical methods—prostrations, mudras, physical offerings—and can often only be convinced if they can somehow psychologically rationalize it. For example, deity practice is often “psychologically” categorized as “making a connection with your inner Self”—Buddha Nature in Buddhism, “Self” in Jungian psychology.     “Prostrations are a wonderful way…

The First Doctor: Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru — Empowering You to Heal

The First Doctor: Medicine Buddha Bhaisajyaguru — Empowering You to Heal

In times of pain, sickness, or stress, my first thought of “remedy” is quiet meditation with the most sacred Medicine Buddha mantra. Inevitably, arthritis pains subsides in my case, and I’ve avoided most of the colds and flus that go around my business meetings— knock on wood. I give Medicine Buddha, exercise and good nutrition…

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Great Buddhist Peacemaker, Honoured with Catholic Peace Award, recipient of the 2015 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Great Buddhist Peacemaker, Honoured with Catholic Peace Award, recipient of the 2015 Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award.

It may seem a little unusual for Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to be honored by a Catholic annual award, particularly as the past recipients are notably populated by great Bishops, priests, monks and sisters, but anyone familiar with “Thay’s” life would more likely react, What took so long? The mission of the award makes…

“Putting Compassion on the Scientific Map”: Compassion Boosts Happiness/Health; and Research Indicates That Practicing Buddhists Are Happier than Average.

“Putting Compassion on the Scientific Map”: Compassion Boosts Happiness/Health; and Research Indicates That Practicing Buddhists Are Happier than Average.

“There is something about conscientious Buddhist practice that results in the kind of happiness we all seek.” Dr. Paul Ekman, University of California San Francisco Medical Centre. Intriguing research indicates that generating the compassionate mind—particularly all-embracing compassion for all beings—can have tangible health benefits. The research used a protocol dubbed a “Brain Stress Test” to…

Meditation Marathon: Buddhist Monk Kogen Kamahori Endures Nine Days of No Food, Drink or Sleep — Social Media Commenters Quick To Criticize

Meditation Marathon: Buddhist Monk Kogen Kamahori Endures Nine Days of No Food, Drink or Sleep — Social Media Commenters Quick To Criticize

On Wednesday Oct 21, 2015, Buddhist Monk Kogen Kamahori emerged from a dangerous nine-day ordeal that included no food, no drink and no sleep—while reciting precious sutras. To many Buddhists, the feat of mental discipline is both admirable and valuable, both as an example for others, and as a legitimate austerity method of denying craving…

The Better Way: Standing Meditation? For those with injuries, arthritis or a sleepy mind, standing can help us achieve mindfulness

The Better Way: Standing Meditation? For those with injuries, arthritis or a sleepy mind, standing can help us achieve mindfulness

“You can meditate walking, standing, sitting or lying down” Buddhist monk Noah Yuttadhammo. “Standing is a moderate form, and can be used to calm you down or wake you up.”

Visualization Activates the Mind; Mindfulness Stills the Mind — Which is Right for Your Buddhist Practice?

Visualization Activates the Mind; Mindfulness Stills the Mind — Which is Right for Your Buddhist Practice?

Many Buddhists — and non-Buddhists — practice mindfulness to still the mind. In Buddhist practice, this stilling of the “monkey mind” has many advantages, and can help us glimpse reality as it truly is — the wisdom path to eventual enlightenment. Other Buddhists — and non-Buddhists — practice forms of visualization. Deity visualization in Vajrayana…

Buddhism Could Now Be the 2nd Largest Spiritual Path with 1.6 Billion or 22% of the World’s Population According to Some Recent Studies

Buddhism Could Now Be the 2nd Largest Spiritual Path with 1.6 Billion or 22% of the World’s Population According to Some Recent Studies

Buddhism has never been a “propagation” spirituality. Actively seeking out “converts” is discouraged for the most part. Individual spirituality is emphasized more than group activities. Some people don’t even think of Buddhism as a “religion”—certainly not an organized religion with dogma. So, it is with sense of optimism—without pride or attachment?—that we report the latest…

Rebirth Part 2: Is There Scientific Evidence of Rebirth?

Rebirth Part 2: Is There Scientific Evidence of Rebirth?

The concept of reincarnation and rebirth has successfully captivated human beings over the ages. Although the terms “Reincarnation” and “Rebirth” are often used inter-changeably, there is a significant difference between the two concepts. Reincarnation is normally understood to be the assumption of another body by a permanent self or a “soul”. According to this doctrine, after…

Drumming for a Wakeful Mind

Drumming for a Wakeful Mind

Mokugyo are instantly recognizable by their entirely unique and pleasant penetrating sound that almost seems to hypnotize with it’s intensity. The use of the fish drum is nearly universally used in ritual and private meditation amongst most forms of Zen or Chan, Mahayana Buddhism and Pure Land Buddhism. (See video below of monk playing fish drum.)
By whatever name—mokugyo in Japan, muyu in China, mock gnu in Vietnam, moktak in Korea, shingnya in Tibet—the piercing pang, pang, pang of the fish drum can be heard at virtually all rituals. Any chanting of sutras or mantras is likely to accompanied by the trance-inducing wooden fish drum. Taoists and Shinto practitioners have also adopted this powerful little drum.

In Chan and Zen traditions, together with many Mahayana Buddhist traditions, variations on the fish drum are used to symbolize wakefulness, keep us alert, and to add sound and blessings to chants.

Why use a drum

We use a drum in meditation to keep us wakeful, mindful, alert. At the same time, the stimulating sound, entirely unique in percussion, has a trance-like effect, allowing something of an altered state of meditation. The sound’s uniqueness also instantly evokes sacredness. The sound travels, apparently on forever, penetrating all of the illusion we call our world, and carrying our mantras and sutras along.

Fish drum doesn’t always look like a fish

The fish drum is hand-carved out of a single block of wood, then hollowed out, smoothed, carved with symbols, then lacquered. Small mokugyo sit on a cushion to make sure the sound is pleasant. Larger temple muku normally rest on a temple stand. When struck by a wooden mallet, with or without felt or rubber striking tips, the sound is entirely unique.

The fish drum doesn’t always resemble a fish. Large fish drums, suspended in Chinese temples, are elaborately carved into fish and painted with gold and red. These giant fish are struck each morning and evening to help us remember all the fish in the sea, and to remind us to be wakeful.

What does it mean?

Because the fish never sleeps, it becomes a symbol of awakened meditation and even enlightenment. Since most fish adapt to have large eyes, to see in the murky waters, they also represent penetrating sight, overcoming illusion and attachment.
Fish is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism
The fish is one of the eight auspicious symbols in Buddhism, accepted by all streams of Buddhism. This auspicious symbol is normally two golden fish, symbolic of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers and represents good fortune in general. Striking the drum reminds us, with each piercing strike, to remember the lessons of the eight auspicious signs.

The other symbols are:
• the Lotus, one of the most recognized symbols, standing for the beauty and clarity of enlightenment and the true nature of all beings because the beautiful flower reaches out of the muck

• the Parasol, symbol of royal dignity and protection
• Conch Shell horn representing the sound of the Dharma penetrating the universe to release all beings
• the Banner of Victory: symbolizing Buddha’s victory over Mara, who represents passion, fear of death, pride and lust
• the Vase, filled with sacred items, the never emptying vase is always full and represents long life
• the Dharma Wheel: the eight spoked wheel representing the eightfold path taught by Buddha
• the Eternal Knot: a never-ending symbol that signifies that all phenomena are linked.

Larger fish drums are often hung outside temples.

Fish symbolism

The fish is a universal symbol of well-being, happiness, prosperity in freedom in all of Asia. This symbolism is partially because fish are always active and a source of a good life, but also because in India—the well-spring of enlightenment—the Ganges river (and its fish life) are sacred.
Good fortune fish are a major part of Feng Shui in China and aquariums are often prominent in homes to bring happiness and prosperity.

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