My primary interest and passion in life is Buddhism and mediation, or the Dharma.
I have had a developing interest for most of my life, but my practice began in earnest in late 2013. In December 2015, I took ten lifetime Upāsakā precepts from my primary teacher Upāsakā Culadasa (John Yates, PhD.). This is a significant commitment that I strive to live up to:
A dedicated lay practitioner (men: “upāsakā”, women: “upāsikā”) makes full Awakening, the ultimate goal of the Buddhadhamma, his or her number one priority in life. Every other kind of worldly goal is either transmuted to become a means to that end, or is set aside. Work, family life, and personal relationships all become a part of an Upāsakā or Upāsikā’s daily practice. Decisions regarding choice of career and jobs, and the acceptance of additional job responsibilities or promotions, are made based on their impact on Dhamma practice. Friendships and other communal involvements either continue because they are conducive to Dhamma practice, or fall away naturally, simply because they are in conflict with it. New friendships and other community activities take their place, ones that support the practice. Commitments and responsibilities to family are not only upheld, but transformed into powerful opportunities to practice and understand the Dhamma more deeply.
What do you get out of this practice?
I practice so that I can gradually realize Awakening, which Culadasa describes as follows in his book The Mind Illuminated:
Awakening means understanding reality as it is, rather than as we mistakenly believe it to be. is also means understanding the true nature of the mind. Through realizing this truth at a deep, intuitive level—as opposed to a merely conceptual level—true wisdom is gained, freeing us from ignorance, delusion, dissatisfaction, and su ering. Prior to Awakening, we are trapped not by external conditions, but by our own misperceptions and prejudices.
Awakening usually happens incrementally, by stages. The Theravada distinguish four incremental “paths” of Awakening known as sotāpatti, sakadāgāmi, anāgāmi, then arahant. The Mahayana distinguish a larger number of incremental stages called bhumis.
I hope this Awakening will in turn make me a more capable force for good in the world. My greatest desire is for all sentient beings to be free of suffering, free from ill will, filled with loving kindness, and truly happy.
Although I do not claim to have reached any stage of Awakening, this practice has already provided tremendous benefits to my life, including greater peace, equanimity, and happiness.
Is Buddhism a religion?
There is a certainly a world religion called Buddhism. There’s plenty of dogma, rites, and rituals in the Buddhism practiced daily by millions of people all over the world, but they still get benefit from this practice.
Personally, I have come to discover that the core teachings of Buddhism (the Buddha-dhamma) represent a secular and non-theistic science of mind and reality. It seeks to end human suffering through virtue, training of the mind, and wisdom derived through direct experience (rather than blindly following dogmatic beliefs). No religious conversation or faith beyond an appreciation of our innate capacity is necessary to realize the benefits of these teachings.
What is your practice background?
I follow and teach the Śhamatha-Vipassanā technique as described by Upāsakā Culadasa. In particular, I am a very big fan of his book “The Mind Illuminated.” What I find so extraordinary about Culadasa (pronounced “chew-la-dasa”) is:
- He possesses an extraordinary understanding of the meditation and mind from his ~40 years of meditation,
- he has direct access to the historical instructional texts through his understanding of Sanskrit and Pali,
- he is an excellent teacher because he has taught physiology and neuroscience for many years,
- his lineage is novel in that it combines teachings and practices from both the Theravada and Kagyu traditions.
In addition to his excellent book, Culadasa offers hundreds of recorded teachings, guided meditations, and Q&A sessions on his website, DharmaTreasure.org. I am currently in Culadasa’s two-year meditation teacher training program and I am authorized to teach the basics (through Stage 4) of his tradition.
I also study with Culadasa’s student Tucker Peck, who in addition to being an overall wonderful person is also also a thoughtful teacher and friend. In addition to teaching meditation classes in Tucson, AZ, he offers an online “eSangha” on Google Hangouts that gives meditation students like me a weekly opportunity to ask questions and motivate and inspire one another.
I have also studied a little with Segyu Rinpoche of Juniper Path, who along with several extraordinary collaborators have spent over a decade translating bona fide Tibetan Buddhism (Gelugpa) for Western audiences.
I sincerely appreciate the profound scholarship of Khentrul Jamphel Lodrö Rinpoche. He studied in 11 monasteries under 25 teachers before becoming Khenpo (teacher) of Dzamthang monastery in Tibet. He was recognized as a Rimé master—a “master of all traditions”—by Lama Lobsang Trinley in 1997 and conferred by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2003. Khentrul Rinpoche comes from a Jonang lineage, and he is the holder of the Jonang Kalachakra.