Tarchin Teachings

  • Download as a pdf May this be for all of us! Blessed with a life-giving intuitive sense of belonging, A capacity for radical inclusivity and a cellular knowing of home; Breathing refuge as living presence, An immeasurable communing of self and other, I prostrate in all directions to the magnificence of creation. At the heart of all spiritual experience, whether it be religious or secular in form, dwells a sense of empowering trust and deep seated confidence that everything, at every level of being, is profoundly inter-linked and inter-dependent. The universe reveals itself as a magnificent confluence of immense diversity and dynamic wholeness. "Touching the Earth" is a contemplative practice that integrates body, speech and mind in a way that can help transform this often transient and somewhat ephemeral intuition into a tangible experience arising in the very midst of the life we are living. Phrases such as touching the ground or touching the earth are rich and evocative images. Ecologically, socially, economically and biologically; all life is about relationship. This living that we are, emerges from the matrix of living that is the earth, our shared mother – intimately linked with an even larger father/mother, the sun. To truly touch the earth or ground is to know our roots, to feel grounded and well earthed in this communal dancing of relations and relatings. Familiarizing with this way of being in every situation and circumstance of our living transforms everything. Through conceptually, emotionally and physically touching again and again and again, this living loom of creation-unfolding, we gently and thoroughly awaken to the very ground and groundlessness of being and becoming. In Buddhist scriptures, on the so called 'night of the awakening', the Buddha-to-be, in a moment of being plagued with doubts and negativities, reached out and 'touched the earth' and in the insightful embrace of that 'touching', realised the profound blessing of knowing/trust in the interbeingness of everything and everyone. He was unshakably home. The Basic Practice Contemplating the ecological ground – sensing this matrix of living beings and processes – in wonderment and appreciation, I touch the earth. Contemplating the ancestral and cultural (the genetic and historical) ground of becoming – feeling this vast river of talents – with profound gratitude and appreciation, I touch the earth. Contemplating my teachers and mentors; an ocean of inspiration – feeling your presence within and around me – with unending respect and gratitude, I touch the earth. Realising that myself and these three have never been separate, I touch the earth. Letting go of negativities and clinging, I touch the earth. Radiating lovingkindness to all beings, I touch the earth. An Expanded Version   –1 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; I open the doors of appreciation to the vast ecological ground of becoming. I feel myself intimately partnered in a dynamic matrix of living process; a multi-leveled unfolding of uncountable interdependent manifestations of embodied knowing. With each breath, I breathe with a photosynthesizing world. My body, speech and mind are expressions of air, water, earth and radiant solar energy; weavings of becoming; journeyings of atoms, molecules, cells, and organs. This living world that I am, is an immeasurable dancing of physiology, organisms, bio-systems, planets, solar systems and cosmic arisings. I sense the rivers and oceans in my blood and tears. I feel the mystery of transforming vegetable and animal flesh, the continuous coming into being and passing away that is my body, feelings and thinking. With awe and wonderment, sensing the begininglessness and endlessness of everything that is, experiencing this unbroken wholeness of being as the very ground and soil of life, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM (embodied communication and mind). Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while sensing the union of myself and this vast display of wholeness unfolding. On each exhalation I relax more deeply in this grounding. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up.     –2 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; I open the doors of appreciation to the ancestral and cultural, (the genetic and historical) river of becoming. My mother and father, aunts and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents; a beginningless chain of ancestors extending back as far as I can imagine. I feel the presence of entire societies, peoples migrating across the earth, meeting new challenges, discovering ways of surviving, passing on knowledge to future generations, a braiding river of talents, flowing through as an eternally creative now. I feel your presence in the shape and workings of my body, the dance of my senses and the play of my attitudes: hopes and fears and beliefs and values – skillsets of emotion and understanding. I sense the history of mammalian life; the mystery of living forms weaving the story of becoming that is this planet making itself known through me and around me. I feel these ways of living flowing out into my children and my children's children, generations of ancestors yet to come: life-skills in healing, educating, growing food and building shelter; traditions of arts and sciences, religions and philosophies. Feeling this vast repository of talent and knowledge empowering my body, speech and mind – experiencing this as the ground and soil of life itself – with profound wonderment and respect, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while feeling the union of myself and these myriad sources of talent and knowledge. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into this ancestral and cultural ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up.   –3 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; I open the doors of appreciation to all those who have been master-teachers1 for me: yogis, gurus, mystics and mentors of many lineages and traditions; artists, musicians and philosophers; scientists, adventurers and writers; educators, social activists, healers, and friends; – teachers who through being profoundly immersed in life-long apprenticeships with rich and meaningful living, have inspired my unfolding in the direction of Wisdom and Compassion. I open the doors of appreciation to teachers of the past, teachers in the present and teachers yet to come. I feel your presence inspiring and shaping me in innumerable wondrous ways. You are expressions of the very foundation of my being, reminders of what is truly functional and meaningful. Sensing your influence in my body, speech and mind; with deep gratitude and profound appreciation, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat, and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while feeling the union of myself and these luminous expressions of guidance and inspiration. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up. 1'master-teachers' – We all have had many teachers in the course of our living but some have been what I think of as 'master-teachers'. These are the special people in our lives who have touched us in profound and meaningful ways, inspiring a flow of something beautiful and good in our lives.   –4 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; with deepening confidence that myself and these three great treasuries, these three faces of the ineffable ground of being, (ecological ground, ancestral ground and ground of inspiration) are not separate in the least; sensing the unbreakable wholeness of totality, a seamless un-pin-down-able mystery appearing as the fullness of now; with awe, vitality and presence, resting in the blessing of non- separation, the spacious openness of interbeing, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while feeling the mystery of union revealing itself in every moment of knowing. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up.   –5 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; I recognise how clinging to patterns of body, communication and conceptualising, are habits inherited or arising from this same triple ground. Feeling the suffering of clinging, the struggle of trying to make permanent that which is impermanent; feeling the anguish, pain, hopes, fears and confusions of uncountable beings weaving these present patterns of dysfunction and defensiveness in my own being; with courage and determination to uplift everyone, letting go of clinging in body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while completely letting go in every aspect of my being. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up.   –6 – Standing; feet firmly upon the earth, I soften into my bones and muscles, my whole body, swaying in space, a dancing of fine adjustments supporting this upright posture. Breathing in and breathing out; I feel the tides of air – the ebb and flow – an endless intimate exchange with a living world. Present; all my senses are open: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking. Standing, breathing, present; experiencing a vast glow of kindness and interest for every manifestation of life; radiating lovingkindness to all beings of present, past and future, with a deep wish that everyone recognise the true nature of being; with body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there, physically touching the earth while feeling the healing presence of lovingkindness flowing out in all directions, supporting and nourishing every arising manifestation. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations I mindfully stand up. After finishing the practice, sit in meditation; smiling, breathing, present; appreciating the immensity of life in all its grandeur. Then finish by 'sharing the merit'– aspiring that through practising in this way, all beings will come to know their own true nature. Further Hints and Comments 1) This practice could of course be adapted for any posture. If you are sitting you might reach out with a hand and touch the earth. If you are lying or walking you could be acutely aware of the sensations of your body on the bed or your feet upon the ground. 2) If you are just beginning this practice, first learn the general format. Feel free to use your own words, one's that touch you most relevantly. The words I have used in this expanded version are just to give a hint at the immensity of these themes. As you familiarise yourself with the spirit of these contemplations, you may find your language becoming simpler as you silently deepen into a mode of being that is rich and multidimensional. At this point simply remembering the 'basic practice' can be sufficient to evoke vast experience. 3) Explore each of the three aspects of the ground as an unbroken flow. The continual flowing exchange of materials and energies, revealed in a dancing of transient forms that all together compose this ecosystem of life. Talents of past generations flowing into you and out through your children and your interactions with others. Guidance and inspiration from the past and present, flowing through you and inspiring all the beings that you meet. In the experience of true refuge everything becomes a living expression of flow and transformation – an unbreakable wholeness of being and becoming that involves the entire universe. 4) Come to know the triple ground, not just intellectually, but with your body, your feelings and your felt-sense understandings. 5) Do each prostration in a smooth unhurried manner as if the entire practice was an exquisitely sensitive body awareness exploration similar to that found in some forms of Tai Chi or Kum Nye or Feldenkrais awareness-through-movement work. (If you are involved with the Tibetan practice of 100,000 prostrations, after completing these six and before you sit in meditation, you could continue with the more traditional form of prostration, infusing your practice with this knowing of the presence of the Triple Ground.) 6) Learn to see other beings; family, friends, strangers, co-workers, enemies and so forth as expressions of this vast creative ground – this total field of all events and meanings. 7) Practice the essence of touching the earth in every moment of the day - walking, working, cooking, driving the car etc. Not stepping out of the ground for an instant! Like the water of all rivers returning to the great ocean of being – at rest, attentive, loving, appreciating, respectful, responsive, clear and even, – we discover a profound sense of connectedness and belonging. We could call this 'Living Refuge'.   Part Two of Touching the Earth (with six additional prostrations) – mind and knowing and effortless naturalness – As your dharma explorations mature and deepen you will likely find yourself engaged with questions about consciousness and the nature of mind and knowing. When this becomes your experience and having thoroughly explored "Touching the Earth in Six Prostrations", then try adding these further six to your meditations so that you now do twelve prostrations in all. May they support a deepening of insight and joy!   –7 – Standing, breathing, present; experiencing the empty, open dimension of all these forms and processes, I look for an essence and find nothing whatsoever to grasp. Being spacious openness – resting in itself – with body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground resting there for a while, physically touching the earth and deepening into the spacious openness of inter-being. On each exhalation I relax more into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations and I mindfully stand up.   –8 – Standing, breathing, present; experiencing this boundless openness as itself, a display of lucid clarity, a dancing of myriad dimensions of knowing; with body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there for a while, physically touching the earth while recognising the clear, knowing, cognising nature of this present arising experience. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations and I mindfully stand up.   –9 – Standing, breathing, present; experiencing the entire world of appearances as an unimpeded and interrupted play of responsiveness. Flowing as a beginningless endless weaving of inter-becoming – in which everything and every situation, at every level of being, is mutually affecting and responding to and with, every other thing and situation – with body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the ground, resting there for a while, physically touching the earth, sensing this unimpeded, seamless matrix of inter-responsiveness. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations and I mindfully stand up.   – 10 – Standing, breathing, present; abiding in and as the Great Moving2, the Utterly Complete3, a mystery beyond description yet clearly apparent; with body, speech and mind, I touch the earth. Contemplating in this way, I bring my hands together in a gesture of prayer and touch them to my forehead, throat and heart, with the mantras OM, AH, HUM. Then I lower myself down to the floor, resting there for a while, physically touching the earth while surrendering into a flowing presence that is effortlessly natural and utterly beyond words. On each exhalation I relax more deeply into the ground. After three or four unhurried inhalations and exhalations and I mindfully stand up.   – 11 – Standing, breathing, present; I touch the earth.   – 12 – Smiling, breathing, present; May all beings touch the earth. When you have finished, share the merit and continue in wonderment. Sarva Mangalam   2 Great Moving – This is a pointing towards the experience of Mahamudrā. 3 Utterly Complete – This is a pointing towards the experience of Dzogchen.
    Touching the Earth (in six or twelve prostrations) by Tarchin Hearn
  • The knowing that I am is the behaviour of the ocean of being which is all there is to know by the knowing that I am. Like understanding the weather, there are countless factors, some large in form, or long in time, some of micro dimension – transient sparks, so many factors communing together making our life and living. Most of the factors are out of our immediate control. Yet . . . with compassion filled understanding and vivid ongoing alertness, we can learn to ride the waves of our living with integrity and heartfelt respect. I am born from this earth but I can’t control culture, ancestors, or the unfolding ecology. However, my every gesture and action of body, and thought, contributes to the community of life – this living earth. This is the root Dharma. We are all brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, fathers, and mothers of each other. The robustness of Life – adapting and changing over billions of years is due to the immeasurable diversity of our family. The delicacy and fragility of Life is also due to this diversity. What each person does sends ripples throughout the fabric of life. What each of us does, matters! As Chimé Shore once wrote in the ‘Foundation Chorus’, “Respect for nature, love of life, the blessing of the human birth, born from nature all of us, I will remember and give thanks. I am a human being, endowed with nature’s gifts, unique, alive, each one of us, I will remember this.” “Born from nature, all of us.” Born from the earth. Indigenous to this place. My actions are ultimately inexplicable. They are the results of too many situations and circumstances to accurately predict. A Darwinian might call this random mutation. My actions trigger ripplings of response throughout the web of existence which, in turn, triggers further adjustments in me. This could be called natural selection. Wisdom is to respect the un-pin-downable nature of this unbreakable wholeness of Nature. Compassion is to cultivate skills in sensitive observation and multi-levelled responsiveness, to be able to participate with balance, reverence and wonderment. As this becomes our basic stance of meeting life, we rediscover our true home. We are indigenous peoples. We are born from this earth. This is Dharma This is natural law. This is what is happening. This is what teaches us. Through the endless waves of birth, development, wellbeing, old-age and death, May we reflect to each other, our true nature. With love to everyone. Tarchin August 28, 2016
    Native to this Earth by Tarchin Hearn 
  • Loving Kindness at Wangapeka Here is a meditation practice based on a broad love of nature. It could be adapted to any location. Include the categories of creatures that live in your environment. Slowly read through the text letting the words merge with a relaxed appreciation of your breathing. For example, as you savor the movements of your body breathing in and breathing out, simultaneously think; “may I be well and happy”. Then breathing in and out again; “may all my cells and organs function in joyous harmony”. Breathe mindfully and caringly with each section for as long as you wish. This approach was adapted from a meditation composed by Lama Mark Webber. It emerged in its present form during the three week retreat in 2008 called, ‘Observation and Wonderment’. As part of their practice, participants made lists of all the living beings they encountered during the day. You could do this in the course of your daily life; around your home or at your place of work. During the day, carry with you a small notebook and pencil. Every time you see a living creature/plant/being that you haven’t noticed before, jot down its name in your book along with any observations that stand out for you. If you don’t know the official name of the creature, then make up a name that will enable you to recall it. At the end of the day, use your list to revisit all these beings. Then, linked with your breathing, do the following practice. Change the name ‘Wangapeka’ to the name of wherever you are and adjust the list of creatures appropriately. If there are no fish where you are then you wouldn’t include that category.   May I be well and happy, may all my cells and organs function in joyous harmony. May I be a radiant manifestation of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity and provide support for the unfolding of all life forms. May this land called Wangapeka be experienced as a living matrix of radiant intelligence, a supportive realm for the unfolding of beings. All atoms and molecules (uncountable numbers) may each and every one of you be happy and function well in harmony. All single celled creatures, (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All tiny multi-celled creatures (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All moss (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All shelled creatures such as snails and molluscs (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All arthropods such as insects, spiders, and crustaceans, millipedes and so on (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All shrubs and bushes (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All flowers, grasses, and lichen (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All trees, (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All amphibians (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All fish (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All birds, (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. All mammals, including humans (list all the ones you have seen) may each and every one of you be well and happy and move in the ways of awakening. May the entire community that is Wangapeka realise the great peace of Nirvana   First published on Tarchin Hearn's website Green Dharma Treasury. Photo Credit David Pooch  
    Loving Kindness of Nature by Tarchin Hearn
  •  May 22, 2010 Written in response to a request from Chani G. to support a community in which a mother of three has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. If there are a group of friends that care for each other and wish to meditatively support each other it can be good to periodically come together in a circle and meditate. To support the flow of contemplation, create an arrangement of beauty and inspiration, (flowers, offerings, candles, a bowl of water and so forth) in the centre of the circle. Someone can read the following on behalf of everyone and, if you have one, they can sound a gong or bell between each section.  As the reverberations feather into silence, everyone can settle with their breathing and allow the contemplation deepen. Read slowly, giving time for the meaning behind the words to sink in.   ———————————————————-   Sometimes the most wonderful things to do are the simplest.  Sitting together with friends.  Breathing with the world and feeling our deep connection with all of nature. Life is a mystery.  When we try to grab it, it slips from our fingers.  Delicate, fragile and poignant in its transiency.  So precious.  So easily over-looked or taken for granted.  Yet when we surrender in faith and trust and wonderment, everything seems readily available and utterly here and extraordinarily perfect in all its ‘just as it is-ness’.  Let’s breathe with this for a while. Our physical substance is deeply flowing through each other, breath through breath, carrot through human, human through trees, mother through child, child through mother.  You are part of my environment.  I am part of your environment.  We shape each other.  We are made with and for each other.  Me, you, carrots, trees – all of us. Our emotions – the rich, constantly dancing shifting of metabolism, cell chemistry, muscle/bone balancings and more – are coupling in intimacy with the emotional shiftings of those around us.  We are co-emotioning, languaging and linking at myriad levels of feeling and response.  Dancings of empathy and deep shared knowing.  What you do affects me.  What I do affects you.  What we do affects each of us.  What we do together as a community affects the world. Our thinking, dreaming, imagining, remembering, and associating is mutually dancing with the mental processings of countless other beings.  Opening to the immensity of these linkages.  Our lives swim through each other in myriad wondrous ways. Our bodies, emotions and mental abilities are profoundly and irrevocably interwoven within themselves and with countless other beings.  Let’s breathe for a while and open into a deepening direct knowing of this living mystery.   Resting, breathing, present; We feel, within us and around us, the presence of our teachers, guides and mentors, those particular beings who have inspired us to grow in the direction of wisdom and compassion. Resting, breathing, present; We sense the great braided river of history, a backwards branching tree of ancestors that eventually includes every being and creature that has lived; a river of talents and abilities, flowing through the landscapes of time, this beautiful world unfolding. Resting, breathing, present; We experience  our intimate connection with all living beings.  Breathing in, – gifts from the green plants.  Breathing out, – gifts to the green plants.  Feeling the moisture in our bodies and knowing that it was once a cloud, a drop of rain, a snow field, and a tear.  Breathing with a deepening sense of  gratitude and connection.  We are all parts of a living earth. Looking into the whole of yourself, feeling the magnitude and mystery of all the connections and linkings that are necessary for you to be you, you discover you are immeasurable. Looking into the whole of another living being, and sensing the magnitude and mystery of all the connections and linkings that are necessary for them to be them, we see that that they too are  immeasurable. We finish the meditation by breathing softly, gently, caringly and respectfully, and releasing into a place of warmth and wonderment in our hearts – hearts as big as the world. Feel the presence of  _______ (the name of the person needing healing) and _______ (the names of their close family members). Feel the presence of each of us with them and them with us, and breathe with the aspiration that we may accompany each other and support each other in this precious journey of unfolding life and love. Sitting in this stillness, imagine everyone being bathed in a radiance of healing and whole-ing. (gong 3xs) Recite together: By the power of these wholesome activities, May our lives be rich with awakening. Living thus, may we abandon all unwholesomeness. Within the endless river of birth, illness, old-age and death May we help all beings to realise their true nature. Sarva Mangalm,  Sarva Mangalam,  Sarva Mangalam All is Blessing   – First published in Green Dharma Treasury ©Tarchin Hearn
    Deep Healing By Tarchin Hearn
  • I’d like to begin by briefly sketching out some personal events that led to the ideas in this essay/poem.  In my early 20s, while at Kalu Rinpoché’s monastery near Sonada, India, I participated in an ancient ceremony in which I and a few other young men, in the presence of a community of monks, yogis and dedicated practitioners, shaved our heads, took vows and exchanged our lay clothes for the buddhist robes of a novice monk (getsul). A few years later, in Canada, in a longer and more elaborate ceremony, I received the full gelong/bhikkhu ordination from H.H. the 16th Karmapa. In 1977, I was invited to Ottawa, and began what was to be a life of teaching and dharma exploration which took me to many countries and led to my meeting and interacting with a great many people. I look back on that time as a monk and am ever grateful for the many ways it shaped my attitudes and way of being in the world. The twelve years I lived as a monk was personally very beneficial but by time I was 36, I found myself increasingly questioning various dissonances I experienced, particularly in terms of the hierarchic structure of the ordained community and the sometimes not so subtle patriarchal attitudes towards woman, children, relationships and non-monastic life. In order to harmonize the universal approach to dharma that I encouraged wherever I taught – what later I came to think of as a path or way of natural awakening – and to stay true to an inner sense of integrity, after much soul searching, I publicly ‘disrobed’. Far from being a moment of ending something, it felt like a stepping forward, a further deepening into the mystery of life and living. On the day of Vesak, the first full moon in the month of May that marks the awakening of the Buddha, surrounded by friends and students, and feeling the palpable presence of all my mentors and teachers, I announced my intentions and restated my aspirations and vows in words that felt deep and fresh and meaningful. It was a very special day that strengthened us all in a communal endeavor of life unfolding. Over the years many people have, on different times and occasions, asked me for a lay ordination. When the situation felt right, in the midst of their community, in a ceremonial manner, I would have them repeat verses of refuge, the five training percepts both in universal and tradition forms and the bodhisattva vow. To remind themselves and others of this deepening commitment to a life of dharma they could then, in appropriate situations, wear the maroon upper robe of a lay practitioner.  Some years ago, I received an e-mail from a dharma student in England asking how to make herself a robe. I wrote the core of the following essay and called it “How to Stitch a Robe; reflections on ordination and divine ordinariness.” It was posted on Green Dharma Treasury. Recently, I received a similar request and I shared with that person this earlier essay; expanded with a number of edits and additions. I‘m posting it here, hoping it will speak to others who might be at a comparable stage in their journey. Taking Robes Embracing a Life of Natural Awakening; Reflections on Ordination and Divine Ordinariness Robes are like onion skins. When you peel off one layer, another is revealed. Even if you keep peeling off the layers, you will never arrive at a central core or essence of onion-ness. All you will have is a pile of old wrappings . . . and a lot of space. It’s not so rare for people, at some point in the course of their lives, to feel a stirring, a calling or perhaps a deep pull to join a religious order – in Buddhist parlance, ‘to take robes’. It seems that most manage to ignore this disturbing ‘wobble in normality’, or if unable to do so, they end up rationalizing it away: a medieval nostalgia, an adolescent fantasy, totally impractical, a meaningful thing to do but . . . maybe later, when I’ve finished my current projects and obligations! Yet beyond desires to escape from rat races and lives of stressful trivia; or urges to be part of a respected community that is dedicated to thoughtful study, contemplation and active compassion; there flows a deeper yearning to free one’s self from society’s pervasive addiction to fragmentation and continual conflict and instead, to flower as an integral part of this evolving world/universe – part of a community or sangha of life-unfolding wholeness. In some traditions, a novice would actually sew their own robe. More than cloth though, in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, robes or clothing represent thoughts, concepts, attitudes and mental habit patterns, as if we dressed ourselves in our own, (and society’s) concepts and beliefs. From this perspective, we might think that entering the religious life should involve taking off clothes rather than putting them on! In spite of this, the setting aside of secular clothing and the wearing of robes or some kind or religious garb or insignia can be part of the process of transforming one’s life – an outer visible sign of an inner invisible process. For young monastics, struggling with ego dreams, caught in the ancient and largely unconscious pattern of seeking approval and affirmation from parents or mentors or peers, the physical robe itself can become a focus of concern and it’s not uncommon for a considerable amount of thought and energy to coalesce around it. Robes can be a way of creating and maintaining a more solid identity, a kind of badge of belonging. This is far from maturing into a soft, easeful naturalness; a playful, no big deal, attitude to identity. The true religious life is not possessed by any school or tradition. It grows from reality itself. It is older than time and wiser than any wisdom teaching. In this spirit, here is a meditation on how to stitch a robe. Perhaps more than that, it is a meditation on natural awakening, ordination and divine ordinariness! She was born into this extraordinary world; a living planet, a dancing of millions of interdependent species, this mystery that grows us; flowerings of wonderment, reverence and awe. It’s what we are. It’s what we’re in. It’s who we’re with. It’s where we are, – and . . . why we are. It’s what she was, is and will be, in spite of exponential population growth, leading to masses of people living knee to elbow, cheek by jowl, mingled together in cities, with oceans of anxiety, jungles of fantasy, storms of desire and frustration, and all the while shopping to survive, lost in a global culture of technology and mechanisation, that, driven by market forces, requires ever increasing human intervention, micro-management, and coercive control. In a heartfelt moment of nostalgia and deep aspiration, her parents named her Sophie to remind themselves (and their daughter) of a world of living wisdom, a world that was, moment by moment, bit by bit, one creature after another, gradually slipping away.  She grew in body and spirit and interrelatedness. She might have gone to a regular school. She might have been ‘successful’. She might have striven to get somewhere, to prove herself, to be someone but instead, somehow . . . She fell into a life of deepening and discovery, cultivating the ancient arts of kindness and communal being-ness, and clear-seeing presence, and unrestricted reverential enquiry. She explored how bodies and minds of myriad species are weaving together this mystery of nowful presence. She cultivated awareness practices of buddhadharma and meshed them with science, personal healing and social responsibility to enter a way of living that, in an age of anxiety and uncertainty, was awesomely inclusive and joyously life affirming.  One day she decided to take robes; to commit herself to a life of health and naturalness and service. This is her story. It could be your story. As you sew your robe, do a mantra of loving-kindness with each stitch. Consider this robe that clothes you: the robe of your body, the robe of emotions, the robe of thoughts, and feelings and memories, the robe of relationships, of friendships, companionships, and casual meetings through life, the robe of blessings and teachings and teachers, the robe of all your ancestors, leading back to the beginnings of earth, and the robe of your current life activities, rippling out in myriad ways and directions, reverberating into unknowable futures through the lives of all you touch. Consider how you are clothed in stardust, galaxies and the gravity of celestial bodies. Consider all the lives that nourish you, support you, and lend their beingness to your being. Blue-jay, maple and may-fly, Tui, flax and cricket. And every once in a while, consider what is there when there’s no robe, when there is totally relaxed, unassuming, nakedness! Who is it that is stitching? Who is hosting these threads of your life – this visible robe of love and clear seeing for the nourishing of everyone? Life is not a journey, we are eternally here. Life is not a learning, there is no knowledge to accumulate. Life is not a testing, there is no authority to judge. Dwelling in a space of love, tendrils of curiosity reaching forth in all directions, we feel our way, softening and sensitizing into the richness of community, a living world within us, around us and through us. Apprentices of wonderment and awe, probing and questioning, sampling and savouring with calm abiding and vivid discernment together exquisitely intermeshed, we touch our home, this world, of you and me and all of us together, precious  beyond words. At the time of the Buddha, robes were simple clothes made from discarded fabric, sometimes bits of tattered cloth from funeral shrouds. Sewing these many pieces together symbolised a joining of the many interdependent aspects of our life; aspects that are also parts of other being’s lives. The making and on-going mending of a robe was an opportunity to contemplate wholeness and connectedness; this seamless garment, this cloak of many colours. Wearing such a robe would remind us of the wholeness and inter-beingness of life and provide the opportunity for others to glimpse a possibility of wholeness. To be clothed like this goes along with a willingness to be truly seen, and to see. Originally, the robes were utterly functional – just as wholeness is utterly functional! They were worn to keep warm or cool, to stave off biting insects, protect from the sun and to preserve a basic modesty. Today, religious traditions have, by and large, lost touch with the simple, straightforward and practical. They have replaced the grace of divine ordinariness with institutionalised ‘ordination’. For many seekers, the robe is bought ready-made off the rack, and we are prided or shamed by the richness or poverty of the colour and weave. We might ask what need have spiritual beings for needles and threads? With our air-conditioned buildings and pesticide protected nature, robes have lost most of their original functions. Today they more often serve to identify the wearer as being a religious ‘someone’ who belongs to a particular cult or tradition. Robes have become uniforms, badges of office, tokens of authority and myriad other segregating and separating functions – far from the original, natural intent. Imagine being blessed with the recognition of a deepening sense of universal community and communion; an easeful yet powerful confidence/trust/faith in this unfolding life of natural awakening. Imagine making yourself a ‘robe’ and then sitting in the felt sense presence of all living beings, including your mentors and spiritual guides, friends and acquaintances, students, clients and co-journeyers in this awakening world. Imagine expressing to all these beings your deepest, heartfelt aspiration to flower in wisdom, compassion and non-clinging awareness, using words that spontaneously arise from your heart or traditional prayers that inspire and fill you with a sense of vibrant immediacy. Natural awakening is all around. It is closer than hands and feet. It is the luminous presence that graces all appearance. Natural awakening is freely available. It cannot be packaged, bought or sold. It was not invented by individuals or cultures. It self-reveals in the deep passion – the ever fresh stillness – of immeasurable love. Natural awakening is Mystery transcending. Radically imminent yet ever ungraspable, Natural awakening is the vast expanse of what you are the dynamic energy of suchness in action. Natural awakening is all of me present with and for all of you. I/thou – truth embodied Resting Knowing Ah!!!!! To glimpse the wholeness and unity of beingness, To value the vast dancing of diversity, and the unique one-off-ness of each precious individual, To marry these two, – seamlessly – in the temple of our lives, This is to enter the ancient and venerable order of divine ordinariness. Each day brings opportunities for a fresh ordination. Each moment of living we don our robes anew. One morning, in such a moment, the following verse blossomed in my mind. Whispering through the cells of my body, Reminding me of how I might move through the day. It could be your voice. It could be our prayer. May it touch us deeply.   Being the fullness of the human animal that I am, Uniquely clothed in this continuously morphing collage of sentience, Abiding in the monastery of a world that is utterly and profoundly alive, I wander in unpretentious openness, wonderment and service. sarva mangalam all is blessing Embracing a Life of Natural Awakening; Reflections on Ordination and Divine Ordinariness by Tarchin Hearn I’d like to begin by briefly sketching out some personal events that led to the ideas in this essay/poem.  In my early 20s, while at Kalu Rinpoché’s monastery near Sonada, India, I participated in an ancient ceremony in which I and a few other young men, in the presence of a community of monks, yogis and dedicated practitioners, shaved our heads, took vows and exchanged our lay clothes for the buddhist robes of a novice monk (getsul). A few years later, in Canada, in a longer and more elaborate ceremony, I received the full gelong/bhikkhu ordination from H.H. the 16th Karmapa. In 1977, I was invited to Ottawa, and began what was to be a life of teaching and dharma exploration which took me to many countries and led to my meeting and interacting with a great many people. I look back on that time as a monk and am ever grateful for the many ways it shaped my attitudes and way of being in the world. The twelve years I lived as a monk was personally very beneficial but by time I was 36, I found myself increasingly questioning various dissonances I experienced, particularly in terms of the hierarchic structure of the ordained community and the sometimes not so subtle patriarchal attitudes towards woman, children, relationships and non-monastic life. In order to harmonize the universal approach to dharma that I encouraged wherever I taught – what later I came to think of as a path or way of natural awakening – and to stay true to an inner sense of integrity, after much soul searching, I publicly ‘disrobed’. Far from being a moment of ending something, it felt like a stepping forward, a further deepening into the mystery of life and living. On the day of Vesak, the first full moon in the month of May that marks the awakening of the Buddha, surrounded by friends and students, and feeling the palpable presence of all my mentors and teachers, I announced my intentions and restated my aspirations and vows in words that felt deep and fresh and meaningful. It was a very special day that strengthened us all in a communal endeavor of life unfolding. Over the years many people have, on different times and occasions, asked me for a lay ordination. When the situation felt right, in the midst of their community, in a ceremonial manner, I would have them repeat verses of refuge, the five training percepts both in universal and tradition forms and the bodhisattva vow. To remind themselves and others of this deepening commitment to a life of dharma they could then, in appropriate situations, wear the maroon upper robe of a lay practitioner.  Some years ago, I received an e-mail from a dharma student in England asking how to make herself a robe. I wrote the core of the following essay and called it “How to Stitch a Robe; reflections on ordination and divine ordinariness.” It was posted on Green Dharma Treasury. Recently, I received a similar request and I shared with that person this earlier essay; expanded with a number of edits and additions. I‘m posting it here, hoping it will speak to others who might be at a comparable stage in their journey. Taking Robes Embracing a Life of Natural Awakening; Reflections on Ordination and Divine Ordinariness Robes are like onion skins. When you peel off one layer, another is revealed. Even if you keep peeling off the layers, you will never arrive at a central core or essence of onion-ness. All you will have is a pile of old wrappings . . . and a lot of space. It’s not so rare for people, at some point in the course of their lives, to feel a stirring, a calling or perhaps a deep pull to join a religious order – in Buddhist parlance, ‘to take robes’. It seems that most manage to ignore this disturbing ‘wobble in normality’, or if unable to do so, they end up rationalizing it away: a medieval nostalgia, an adolescent fantasy, totally impractical, a meaningful thing to do but . . . maybe later, when I’ve finished my current projects and obligations! Yet beyond desires to escape from rat races and lives of stressful trivia; or urges to be part of a respected community that is dedicated to thoughtful study, contemplation and active compassion; there flows a deeper yearning to free one’s self from society’s pervasive addiction to fragmentation and continual conflict and instead, to flower as an integral part of this evolving world/universe – part of a community or sangha of life-unfolding wholeness. In some traditions, a novice would actually sew their own robe. More than cloth though, in the Tibetan Vajrayana tradition, robes or clothing represent thoughts, concepts, attitudes and mental habit patterns, as if we dressed ourselves in our own, (and society’s) concepts and beliefs. From this perspective, we might think that entering the religious life should involve taking off clothes rather than putting them on! In spite of this, the setting aside of secular clothing and the wearing of robes or some kind or religious garb or insignia can be part of the process of transforming one’s life – an outer visible sign of an inner invisible process. For young monastics, struggling with ego dreams, caught in the ancient and largely unconscious pattern of seeking approval and affirmation from parents or mentors or peers, the physical robe itself can become a focus of concern and it’s not uncommon for a considerable amount of thought and energy to coalesce around it. Robes can be a way of creating and maintaining a more solid identity, a kind of badge of belonging. This is far from maturing into a soft, easeful naturalness; a playful, no big deal, attitude to identity. The true religious life is not possessed by any school or tradition. It grows from reality itself. It is older than time and wiser than any wisdom teaching. In this spirit, here is a meditation on how to stitch a robe. Perhaps more than that, it is a meditation on natural awakening, ordination and divine ordinariness! She was born into this extraordinary world; a living planet, a dancing of millions of interdependent species, this mystery that grows us; flowerings of wonderment, reverence and awe. It’s what we are. It’s what we’re in. It’s who we’re with. It’s where we are, – and . . . why we are. It’s what she was, is and will be, in spite of exponential population growth, leading to masses of people living knee to elbow, cheek by jowl, mingled together in cities, with oceans of anxiety, jungles of fantasy, storms of desire and frustration, and all the while shopping to survive, lost in a global culture of technology and mechanisation, that, driven by market forces, requires ever increasing human intervention, micro-management, and coercive control. In a heartfelt moment of nostalgia and deep aspiration, her parents named her Sophie to remind themselves (and their daughter) of a world of living wisdom, a world that was, moment by moment, bit by bit, one creature after another, gradually slipping away.  She grew in body and spirit and interrelatedness. She might have gone to a regular school. She might have been ‘successful’. She might have striven to get somewhere, to prove herself, to be someone but instead, somehow . . . She fell into a life of deepening and discovery, cultivating the ancient arts of kindness and communal being-ness, and clear-seeing presence, and unrestricted reverential enquiry. She explored how bodies and minds of myriad species are weaving together this mystery of nowful presence. She cultivated awareness practices of buddhadharma and meshed them with science, personal healing and social responsibility to enter a way of living that, in an age of anxiety and uncertainty, was awesomely inclusive and joyously life affirming.  One day she decided to take robes; to commit herself to a life of health and naturalness and service. This is her story. It could be your story. As you sew your robe, do a mantra of loving-kindness with each stitch. Consider this robe that clothes you: the robe of your body, the robe of emotions, the robe of thoughts, and feelings and memories, the robe of relationships, of friendships, companionships, and casual meetings through life, the robe of blessings and teachings and teachers, the robe of all your ancestors, leading back to the beginnings of earth, and the robe of your current life activities, rippling out in myriad ways and directions, reverberating into unknowable futures through the lives of all you touch. Consider how you are clothed in stardust, galaxies and the gravity of celestial bodies. Consider all the lives that nourish you, support you, and lend their beingness to your being. Blue-jay, maple and may-fly, Tui, flax and cricket. And every once in a while, consider what is there when there’s no robe, when there is totally relaxed, unassuming, nakedness! Who is it that is stitching? Who is hosting these threads of your life – this visible robe of love and clear seeing for the nourishing of everyone? Life is not a journey, we are eternally here. Life is not a learning, there is no knowledge to accumulate. Life is not a testing, there is no authority to judge. Dwelling in a space of love, tendrils of curiosity reaching forth in all directions, we feel our way, softening and sensitizing into the richness of community, a living world within us, around us and through us. Apprentices of wonderment and awe, probing and questioning, sampling and savouring with calm abiding and vivid discernment together exquisitely intermeshed, we touch our home, this world, of you and me and all of us together, precious  beyond words. At the time of the Buddha, robes were simple clothes made from discarded fabric, sometimes bits of tattered cloth from funeral shrouds. Sewing these many pieces together symbolised a joining of the many interdependent aspects of our life; aspects that are also parts of other being’s lives. The making and on-going mending of a robe was an opportunity to contemplate wholeness and connectedness; this seamless garment, this cloak of many colours. Wearing such a robe would remind us of the wholeness and inter-beingness of life and provide the opportunity for others to glimpse a possibility of wholeness. To be clothed like this goes along with a willingness to be truly seen, and to see. Originally, the robes were utterly functional – just as wholeness is utterly functional! They were worn to keep warm or cool, to stave off biting insects, protect from the sun and to preserve a basic modesty. Today, religious traditions have, by and large, lost touch with the simple, straightforward and practical. They have replaced the grace of divine ordinariness with institutionalised ‘ordination’. For many seekers, the robe is bought ready-made off the rack, and we are prided or shamed by the richness or poverty of the colour and weave. We might ask what need have spiritual beings for needles and threads? With our air-conditioned buildings and pesticide protected nature, robes have lost most of their original functions. Today they more often serve to identify the wearer as being a religious ‘someone’ who belongs to a particular cult or tradition. Robes have become uniforms, badges of office, tokens of authority and myriad other segregating and separating functions – far from the original, natural intent. Imagine being blessed with the recognition of a deepening sense of universal community and communion; an easeful yet powerful confidence/trust/faith in this unfolding life of natural awakening. Imagine making yourself a ‘robe’ and then sitting in the felt sense presence of all living beings, including your mentors and spiritual guides, friends and acquaintances, students, clients and co-journeyers in this awakening world. Imagine expressing to all these beings your deepest, heartfelt aspiration to flower in wisdom, compassion and non-clinging awareness, using words that spontaneously arise from your heart or traditional prayers that inspire and fill you with a sense of vibrant immediacy. Natural awakening is all around. It is closer than hands and feet. It is the luminous presence that graces all appearance. Natural awakening is freely available. It cannot be packaged, bought or sold. It was not invented by individuals or cultures. It self-reveals in the deep passion – the ever fresh stillness – of immeasurable love. Natural awakening is Mystery transcending. Radically imminent yet ever ungraspable, Natural awakening is the vast expanse of what you are the dynamic energy of suchness in action. Natural awakening is all of me present with and for all of you. I/thou – truth embodied Resting Knowing Ah!!!!! To glimpse the wholeness and unity of beingness, To value the vast dancing of diversity, and the unique one-off-ness of each precious individual, To marry these two, – seamlessly – in the temple of our lives, This is to enter the ancient and venerable order of divine ordinariness. Each day brings opportunities for a fresh ordination. Each moment of living we don our robes anew. One morning, in such a moment, the following verse blossomed in my mind. Whispering through the cells of my body, Reminding me of how I might move through the day. It could be your voice. It could be our prayer. May it touch us deeply.   Being the fullness of the human animal that I am, Uniquely clothed in this continuously morphing collage of sentience, Abiding in the monastery of a world that is utterly and profoundly alive, I wander in unpretentious openness, wonderment and service. sarva mangalam all is blessing By Tarchin Hearn January 12, 2016
    Taking Robes – Embracing a Life of Natural Awakening; Reflections on Ordination and Divine Ordinariness By Tarchin Hearn 
  • Yesterday, I was asked a question about transforming negativities.  As often happens when an interesting theme is raised in class, my largely unconscious thinking process continued in its mysterious workings, merging many streams of experience, and this morning these thoughts emerged.   Young children know about wrestling.  Do you remember what it was like?  When we wrestled with our friends there was rivalry but also, it seems, a desire or a need to stay close.  Wrestling requires intimate body contact.  It’s muscular and sweaty, filled with hot breathing and pounding hearts.  It isn’t usually about trying to destroy our adversary; punching or kicking would be better for that.  Wrestling says, I want to be close, to stay in touch, but I want to be in control.  This rough and tumble play appears to be a necessary part of healthy development for many types of mammals.  Think of kittens, puppies, mice, chimpanzees and bear cubs.  For us humans, it is a way of coming to know our opponent in a deeper-than-words way and, whether we ‘won’ or not, we emerged physically stronger, and often broadened in emotional and social skills.   As a metaphor, wrestling can reveal much about how we relate with our psychological demons such as fear, anger, desire, depression, jealousy, pride, conceit, lust, worry and confusion; the list can sometimes seem endless.  As the old phrase goes, we can’t live with them and, unfortunately, it seems we often can’t live without them.  We wrestle with our demons and are wrestled by them, and in the process, we come to know them in different ways, just as, in a strange way, they might come to know us.  As with our childhood experience, when we wrestle well, we can emerge physically, emotionally and socially stronger.   From a Buddhadharma perspective, we could think of various ways of wrestling with difficulties. Perhaps it comes down to personal style; unique patterns of metabolism and habit pattern;  distinctive ways of dealing with the messy work of living with others.  In this short essay I will touch on four ways of wrestling the demons of negative or disruptive emotional patterns.  We might even think of them as four forms of practice in the sense that practice can make us better at something, even if that ‘something’ is not particularly what we want.  The four are: rejection and control practice, transformation practice, loving-kindness practice, and letting be in a fluid equanimity that is beyond both practice and non-practice.   Rejection and Control Practice We all know this one.  Anger, fear, jealousy, irritation, conceit; any one of a pantheon of personal demons can erupt in the midst of our experience.  Instinctively a complex pattern of defence arises that involves our entire body/mind/community.  We try to blame it on others; hide it from others or deny it to ourselves – which is really a complicated attempt to hide it from ourselves.  We try to diagnose it, control it, medicate it, surgically fix it, or heal it.  We try to rationalise it, excuse it, accept it.  We dally with thoughts of violence; destroy it, annihilate it, find the ‘final solution’.  We don’t want to wrestle with it.  At this moment, stealth bombers and pre-emptive strikes are more our style.  We would rather stand back and remove the problem at a distance without allowing it to touch us.  In today’s world of self-help and personal development, sizable industries have been built up around myriad wondrous forms of rejection and control practice.  Do you know this one?   Transformation Practice Whenever we meet with an ‘other’, whether it be a person or a difficult inner feeling, both ourselves and the other, are transformed through the activity of this meeting.  When I am interacting with you, you are simultaneously interacting with me.  We are both transforming in the process.  This analogy can also be applied within ourselves.  When I ‘meet’ with an emotion, both ‘me’ and the emotion are transformed through the dynamic of the meeting.  For example, I could meet with my own anger and subsequently become frightened, or defensive.  Or, I could unconsciously identify with the anger and become even more angry.  These kinds of response are not usually thought of in terms of ‘transformation’, even though they are examples of me transforming more and more deeply into a demon of negativity and ill-will.   In Buddhist meditation practice, there is a process for ‘transforming negativities’ that involves meeting a difficulty in a fresh and insightful way.  Instead of a negative state drawing forth more negativity, we learn to respond in a different way so that negativity begins to invite curiosity and investigation, which in turn supports a transformation of the originating negativity.   Techniques of ‘transformation’ involve experimenting with our body postures, with the way we are using our five senses, with emotional biases, with our well established beliefs and expectations, and with configurations of relaxation and tension.  An overarching quality of transformation practice is interest-filled experimentation and exploration.   Loving-kindness Practice Working with transformation practice, our understanding of the mutual shaping that happens every time we wrestle with an object, will refine and deepen.  Intuition may lead us to wonder about the border between self and other, between subject and the object.  In the stillness and clarity of meditation, it may become increasingly apparent that subject and object are intimately linked in a process of dynamic structural coupling and that the sharp difference we perceive between ourselves and our experience is, in fact, somewhat nebulous and contrived.  With this in mind, we may find ourselves wondering what we actually mean by ‘transformation practice’ when, wherever we look, we can only see endless transformations within transformations transforming further transformations.  Transformation is the nature of life-in-process.  It is the inherent plasticity of the nervous system, the adaptability of all parts of a sentient organism.  From a very large perspective, it is the constant mutual evolving of all levels of the bio-sphere.   Gradually we begin to glimpse all experience as a ‘dancing immensity of creative flux in the act of embodiment’.  Now the question of transformation may be eclipsed by larger questions, such as; what is actually going on here?  Or, how might one live well in the midst of this constantly transforming creative dynamic?   Sliding, hovering, tantalizingly close but sometimes frustratingly just out of reach, is a deepening sense that these questions are pointing us in the direction of a radical degree of loving-kindness, a way of living through love and wonderment.  This is a whole new dimension of wrestling, a fundamentally engaged curiosity or, as it is described in many Tibetan texts, a stance of ‘fearless compassion’.   Letting Be in Fluid Equanimity Beyond Practice In the beginning we were wrestling with demons, trying to do, we knew not what.  We, our body/mind/communities, were living out questions that we didn’t even know we were asking.  Who am I?  Who are you?  What is it all about?  What is expected of me?  What do I need to do?  Through this continual inner wresting, our question refines and refines.  The need to fix, gives way to the need to look and to understand.  The need to look and understand gives way in the embrace of radical loving-kindness.  As we feel our way into ever more subtle realms of question/engagement, even the need to cultivate loving-kindness shows signs of gently vanishing into an indescribable letting be, a naturally fluid equanimity which is beyond crude definitions of practice or non-practice.  Here in the midst of living that is rich and meaningful yet beyond easy attempts to pin down with words, there is still the delicate gentle stirring of breath and question.  For me today, it is a question of effortless integration in the midst of precise, detailed, energy filled activity, even when interacting with beings who are not particularly interested in these considerations.  How is it for you?   © Feb. 22, 2010 Tarchin Hearn. Published on http://greendharmatreasury.org You can find more specific guidelines for working with difficulties here under PRACTICES: “Working With Difficult States”
    Wrestling with Demons by Tarchin Hearn
  • It has been nearly 10 years since the body of Namgyal Rinpoché dissolved into the wider life of the planet.  His dying spurred many of his students to begin teaching and to share their understandings of dharma.   Throughout this time, I have been asked by a good number of people to express my views on the ‘Namgyal lineage’ or ‘Namgyal lineage of teachings’.  Two years ago I was asked to write something on this topic but the timing didn’t seem quite right and it has taken till today to finish this short piece.  Although this article refers to The Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in NZ, it could just as easily refer to any other centre for study and practice that has been established through his inspiration.   The need to identify with a ‘Lineage’ reveals an ancient tendency still strongly operating in the human psyche.  It is the desire to bolster our sense of well being and belonging by identifying with a broader family, clan, or tribe.  Not just me, but us!  Although this tendency can be supportive, it can also be part of a process that ends up partitioning the universe into ‘us’ and ‘them’.  It can become even worse when it drifts towards categorizing people as wise or deluded, orthodox or heretic, special or ordinary.   Throughout his many years of teaching, Namgyal Rinpoché continuously urged us to drop such divisive sectarian tendencies and to come to know our wholeness; our kinship with all life.  Again and again, in myriad situations and circumstances, he inspired us to refine our powers of awareness and appreciation, often using tools from classical Buddhist schools but also adapting methods and techniques from other sources – as long as they were useful.  He encouraged us to be of service to others; to share what is best in us with all that we meet, humans and non-humans alike.  He challenged us to live with passion and compassion, and to nourish these qualities in each other.  The degree to which those of us involved with Wangapeka take these pointings to heart and, using our intelligence and integrity, our courage and conscience, put them into practice – the degree to which we do this, would be a demonstration of how well his life and work has shaped the activities at Wangapeka.   In a way, his teachings were not unique.  He was unique.  But so too are you, and so too am I.  He encouraged us to explore buddhadharma – not just Buddhism; not this system or that system.  He urged us to free ourselves from clinging to ‘isms’.  The central core of what he taught is what myriad sane people throughout history have taught, namely that as humans, we walk through life on two legs.  One, is the leg of curiosity and deepening enquiry.  We could call this non-clinging awareness.  The other, is the leg of compassion or helping others that we meet along the way.  The two coordinating together in a seamlessly integrated harmonious movement, is to walk in the way of wisdom.  Everything else he taught was simply detail and elaboration, appropriate for those who he happened to be interacting with at the time.   This approach to living is unpretentious.  It invites each person to a path of personal responsibility and mutual respect.  It honors the vast unknowableness of the universe and encourages an attitude of mindfulness, love and wonderment for this great mystery of life.   Rinpoché often said; “If you would honor me, practice what I teach.”  Personally, I think we could forget about identifying ‘Namgyal Lineages’ or even ‘Namgyal lineages of teachings’.  We could abandon fussing over who is a ‘lineage teacher’ and who isn’t.  Instead, we could roll up our sleeves and, helping each other on the way, get on with living fully and compassionately, for the sake of all beings.  This would be a meaningful honoring of his life – and of our own.   © Tarchin Hearn January 2013
    Namgyal Lineage or Walking On In Freedom by Tarchin Hearn
  • From our Archives: This article was written for the 2010 Newsphere.     Dear friends, both old and new, Wangapeka is one third of a century old. Many changes have happened in the world since it was established. Children have grown up. People have moved. Adults have aged, retired, and some have died. Today Wangapeka is poised on the edge of transition. Where and what it will transition into is uncertain. The situation is this. The people, living at or near Wangapeka, who have put in so much work for so many years to facilitate the running of the Educational Trust and the Wangapeka Retreat Centre property, are seriously running out of steam. For the Wangapeka to continue there needs to be new people coming forward to infuse inspiration, practical skills and dharma guided decision making to actually run the Trust Board (which is legally required by the government). There also needs to be fresh new staff come forward to live and work at the centre. These needs are pressing and immediate. For more than 30 years, the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre has been a focus for deeply valuable experience and inspiration for many people, not only New Zealanders but from many other countries as well. Just a few days ago, one of the meditators said to me after an interview; ‘I’m so thankful that there are places like this. They are so precious.’ I think this could have been said by many people. Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre was one of the first residential centres for Buddhadharma in New Zealand. Quite a few people who later became key supporters and organisers for many of the current Buddhist facilities throughout NZ received their initial teaching and impetus through their experiences at Wangapeka. The centre continues to look physically good, courses continue to be scheduled, the bank accounts are currently in the black but the human infrastructure, the Trust Board and residential staff, are becoming very thin on the ground. In the day to day administrative and functional side, the centre seems to be drifting toward a staffing crisis that, if not resolved, could threaten its very existence. Wangapeka has flourished over the years primarily on the flow of immense amounts of generosity and good will on the part of countless people. The centre was never envisioned as a business. (It has unfolded both legally and at heart, as a charitable trust.) It has been a loose, transient community of multi-talented people willing to collectively cultivate a vision of non-sectarian buddhadharma through living and working together as friends on the path of life. At the beginning, the teaching and example of Namgyal Rinpoche was a continuous source of inspiration and cohesion for the wide-spread membership. His encouragement to value our intelligence and integrity in order to bring forth innovative yet well grounded expressions of buddhadharma has inspired many decades of fruitful exploration. The situation for Wangapeka has changed dramatically from what it was when it was founded in the mid 70s. Increasing government regulations have added massive amounts of accounting work, forms to be filled, by-laws to be addressed, and red tape to be navigated. The larger society of N.Z., in which Wangapeka exists, is driven even more than it was, by money and business models which inevitably seep into and affect the spirit of how Wangapeka is run. Land caretakers and office staff are often people who are not familiar with the vision of the teaching as it has unfolded here. In such situations, it is understandable that they might approach their time at Wangapeka as if it were normal paid job. When this happens there can be a disconnect between being office staff or land caretaker, and being a contributing part of a community of friends in dharma. Many of the buildings at Wangapeka are decades old. Without a long term core of residents who have a vested interest in caring for them, little details, like a tiny unnoticed opening can lead to a building being full of rats and mice at which point it is a massive undertaking for one caretaker to address. Deeply connected with this situation is the fact that our resident bodhisattva, Michael Elliott, who has given the last 30 years of his life to building and maintaining the infrastructure of Wangapeka is now 83 years old. He is in good spirits, is physically active and he is still attending to many details of maintenance which everyone has come to assume happens here. Mike is now moving into semi-retirement. He will not be here for ever! In the early years when many people spent months at a time at Wangapeka, there was concern to not have people living permanently on property. (Michael was an exception.) This was to guard against the possibility of the centre to being too coloured by the personal needs of any resident and also to encourage a situation in which all visitors could feel quickly at home. Now, people mostly visit Wangapeka for specific courses and the staff are the only continuity. Since they are often ‘hired’ to do a job, they don’t necessarily embody the vision of dharma-in-action that is what has been so special about Wangapeka. In the light of this, Mary and I both find ourselves wondering if perhaps the Trust needs to move in the direction of having more long term residential staff who regard their time here as part of their own life-path of unfolding; staff that can form the core of a fluid community of friends in dharma that are working together with the board; visiting teachers, course organisers, course participants and casual visitors, to maintain and facilitate Wangapeka as a place of refuge for humans and non-humans alike. This is a heart felt appeal to our friends on the path. If you have ever considered living here at Wangapeka and contributing your skills in empathy, caring, love and commitment to helping others; along with your talents for office work, maintenance, land care and general housekeeping, now is the time. Wangapeka needs people who aspire to make every aspect of their lives, their path of awakening. It needs people with some maturity and stability of vision and practice in intelligent, well grounded yet innovative buddhadharma in action. This is not a business. It is not a ‘job’. It is really a vocation. Unfortunately, it takes a rare breed to live this way as it seriously goes against the ethos of economic rationalism that is driving NZ and much of the world today. Please get in contact with the board and let them know in what ways you could help. The Trust is currently advertising the positions to be filled. This is an unavoidable necessity, however, the work here is not just a ‘position’. It is really an opportunity for some special people, to further cultivate their life-path of devotion and love in action. Wangapeka has been a significant and precious place for many people. May it continue to be so. with warm good wishes in the dharma Tarchin and Mary P.S. Over the years, many hundreds of people have had uplifting involvement with the Trust. Many of them have fallen off the various mailing lists. If you can think of anyone who may value the existence of Wangapeka and who might be interested in helping, please pass on a copy of this letter to them.
    Wangapeka in Transition by Tarchin and Mary
  • 'Dharma' is a rich and bounteous concept. Common translations give us words or phrases such as truth, teaching (particularly spiritual teaching), natural law, law of nature, phenomena, process and 'thing'. It's difficult to grasp in all its dimensions – as is our life. What does it mean to 'live a life of dharma'? To devote yourself to dharma? Living truth, living teaching, living natural law, living phenomena, living process, living thing. It takes an entire evolving staggeringly alive planet to bring forth just one innocent, vulnerable, freshly born human being. And yet . . . this was how each one of us began.   A mother; a living being, a person, a weaving of relationships happening simultaneously at many levels: water, soil, sun and air; molecules, cells, organs and organism; bacteria, fungi, plants and animals; and all of these mysteries, embedded in the worlds of her mother and father, grandparents, great grandparents and extended communities; oceans of hopes and fears, beliefs and uncertainties, potentialities and possibilities. And joining with your mother is an entanglement of motives and movements, neurons, hormones and matrices of distant families tracing a pattern through time – your father.   Egg nuzzling with sperm, mysteriously revolving in space, chemically morphing to allow in, not any sperm but that particular sperm. Two cells of germination, beings, not even vaguely human looking, coming together and dying to their separate self-ness in the process of becoming a symbiont called you. I once read that we share 50% of our genome with a banana! Chemically, at the stage of fertilization, we are not much different from a chimpanzee. We are a co-creation of lives and species and cultures and mystery, and we need all of this to exist. We are conceived from, in and with, a living world. This is our home. It's what we are. It is our body and it's total functioning gives rise to our mind – the field of knowing that we are. We are bigger than most people think! Please pause and breathe and settle into the fullness of being what you are, where you are. Welcome to the mystery of your living.   A human being is so much more than a particular biological form.   A human being is also a potential, flowering into the universe – a potential that is different from the potential of bananas and chimpanzees. In a spiritual sense, physical birth doesn't seem to be enough to make us fully human. We are born as animals with roots in the worlds of plants, micro-organisms and the natural environment. As such, we have an in-built potential for self-oriented awareness and self-interest-driven caring. We share this mode of awareness with dogs and cats, with birds and fish, in fact, with all other animals. With education, either intentional or serendipitous, some of us slowly continue the adventure of becoming human. Lex Hixon, in his beautiful book, "Mother of the Buddhas" states that a human being is not merely an outer physical form but an "inward potential for panoramic awareness and selfless compassion". Each one of us emerges from the ineffable dance of life-unfolding, through a symbiosis of vast multi-dimensional awareness and selfless compassion. To realize fully what we are is to realize our potential. This is what it means to live a life of dharma, to devote ourselves to truth in all its mystery. The central purpose of all dharma practice is to bring forth this panoramic awareness and selfless compassion, in other words, to cultivate a well balanced, thoroughly integrated, vibrantly alive, humane human becoming.   Respect for nature, love of life, the blessing of the human birth. Born from nature, all of us, I will remember and give thanks. I am a human being, endowed with nature's gifts. Unique, alive, each one of us, I will remember this. (by Lama Chime Shore - "Foundation Chorus")   Many Buddhist texts present a vision of six realms, or modes, of experience. Although some people insist on regarding the six as descriptions of the objective world, a more sophisticated understanding might see them as six common modes of experience that we all encounter, at least to some degree, in the course of our growing into human-ness. A hell state is a way of living that is dominated by anger, hatred and irritation. The hungry ghost or preta state is one dominated by chronic hunger/need/desire. Look at how much of your life is taken up by shopping and acquisition. 'Globalization' can look suspiciously like 'preta'-ization! Animal states reveal a marvelous potential for awareness and certain degrees of caring and co-operation, but it is pretty much self referencing. Titan states are dominated by aggressive competitiveness and jealously, chronically comparing themselves and their achievements with those of others. Think of the huge drive of the upwardly mobile executive class. Deva or radiant states are dominated by complacent satisfaction and the take it for granted-ism of class privilege and material wealth. Finally, as we mentioned earlier, the human state reveals a potential for panoramic awareness and selfless compassion.   Take a good look at your life. We are shape shifters, constantly morphing from one state into another. What kind of creature are you, right now as you read these words? Are you an dancing expanse of panoramic awareness and wide open, all-embracive compassion? Or are you a manifestation of longing and hunger, or a tight ball of reactivity, or a tightly conditioned tunnel of me-centred awareness? Have you actually realized your humanness or are you something else?   I don't think there is much value in seeing the six realms or states as levels or hierarchies of being, with hell at the bottom, devas at the top and human conveniently, though somehow usefully, situated in the middle. The six describe a range of common modes of being, ways of perception and engagement, and it's likely you know most of them if not all of them, with considerable intimacy.   In ancient Buddhist teachings a true human being was synonymous to being what was called a true bodhisattva, a being (sattva) in the process of (bodhi) awakening to their human birthright, that mysterious potential for panoramic awareness – think multi-dimensional responsiveness – and selfless compassion. From this perspective, to live a life of dharma is do all that we can to realize that potential; to bring to sublime perfection the art of opening – lightly, gently, and wondrously into the fullness of all that we are. A profound realization on the path of dharma is when it dawns on us that we are all in and on this journey of life unfolding together. In the real world, relationship is not optional. We live with each other. We need each other, in this case, 'we', meaning all participants in this unfolding world.   With this in mind we remember our 'life practice' – bringing forth an attitude of friendship and open hearted attentiveness in the midst of all our life engagements. Our dharma practice is to become fully human! May we do it richly and well!   I am a human being. Endowed with nature's gifts. Unique, alive, (and this applies to) each one of us I will remember this.   This life of dharma doesn't have a fixed idealized form, not monk or yogi, social worker or recluse, When you are human, this life of dharma looks like your life. When I'm human, it looks like my life. When we live together as a healthy, evolving community, beautiful forests, pristine reefs, healthy soils, bountiful oceans, caring families and tribes, then we will recognize that this living world, this awakening Being is truly our home.   Imagine you hear a knock on your door. You go to answer it and find to your delight a dear friend that you have not seen for some time. You instantly smile. A smile of surprise, of welcome, of inviting in. Life is constantly knocking on our door. We answer and find a feeling, a thought, a memory, a physical sensation. How do we meet them? With suspicion, irritation, a sense of obligation or salivating desire? Or can we sense a smile of welcome.   Soften into your body for a moment and sense your muscles, bones and organs. They are constantly relating with each other. Cells are relating to cells. Molecules are relating to molecules. Might it be possible to soften in a way that allows each one of these 'beings' to meet in a stance of welcome – to touch each other in ways that bring forth smiles rather than 'frowns'. Then, our body/mind/community begins to sing!   This is how we begin, at least, this is how true humans begin.   We emerge from the mothering/fathering universe of everything. We grow into the world of oneself with gifts of unique competence and individuality. Then discovering our humanness, we plunge passionately and reverentially back into the universe. Bodhisattvas birthing bodhisattvas for the benefit of all.          
    A Life of Dharma by Tarchin Hearn
  •  When we feel centred, we feel good. Gone is the sense of being crowded or rushed. What remains is a lovely spacious quality that is profoundly healing. Try this exercise while you're sitting. With a bit of familiarity you'll be able to do it while standing or even when walking.  Sit comfortably and take a few full deep breaths. All the way in and all the way out. As you exhale let the body relax into the chair; deeper and deeper.  Front With your eyes open, become aware of the space in front of you. Note the various objects and get a feeling for the distance they are from you. In your imagination, look right through and beyond them. If you are sitting in a room, you may see the wall and then imagine the street on the other side of the wall and the houses across the road and the trees behind them and the beach and the sea and the sky and so on. Extend your sense of space in front as far as your imagination will allow. The main thing is to develop a tangible feeling of a vast space in front of you.  Behind Then go through the same process behind. Imagine you have eyes in the back of your head and expand the feeling of space as far as you can in that direction. Add this to the feeling of space in front so that you are held in a sandwich of space.  Right and Left Now do the same process with the right direction and then with the left. Strengthen the sense that you are at the centre of an infnitely large wheel of space.  Up and Down Finally, become aware of the space above you. Extend it up, through the roof and out to the stars. Then add the awareness of the space below; the foor, the ground, the bedrock and possibly right out the other side of the planet. Once you have established all of these directions, (front, back , right, left, up, and down) then intensify the feeling of being in the centre of a vast sphere of space. Recognise the quality of mind that is present at this moment. It may feel wonderfully calm and at the same time very alert.  Try taking this state into your daily life. With practice, you will be able to contact the feeling of being spaciously centred in but a matter of seconds.   This meditation is excerpted from Meditative First Aid by Tarchin Hearn, you can download or read online the whole booklet here: http://www.wangapeka.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/EbookMeditativeFirstAid.pdf
    Centred and Spacious Meditation by Tarchin Hearn
  • This exercise is particularly good for people who are feeling depressed. The first time you do it, get some soap bubble blowing equipment and spend a bit of time blowing bubbles. Observe the bubbles very closely and feel the way they float.   Part One Now imagine that you are inside a large soap bubble. Feel and see the swirling colours around you. The bubble is bright, alive and constantly moving. Work on this until the feeling of the bubble is very strong. If it helps you can play some relaxing music in the background. Imagine that this bubble is an embodiment of your energy field.  Part Two Once you have a feeling for the bubble then gently focus on your breathing. Imagine that there is a channel of golden light from the crown of your head to the tip of your spine. Each time you breathe, the energy in this channel grows brighter and there seems to be a dancing dialogue between the golden column and the swirling rainbow bubble. With a bit of practice you will fnd that you can develop this very quickly.  Part Three Now think of a situation in your life when someone has done something hurtful to you or that you have done something hurtful to another. Or think of a time you were sick or in an accident. Think of any situation that caused you to lose energy. Anger, guilt, resentment, fear, pain etc. All of these diminish one's energy feld. Think of a specifc situation, and then mentally call out for that energy to return. Ask it to come back to you. As you do this, imagine the energy in the form of streams of coloured light coming in from all directions of space. They dissolve into the bubble and strengthen it. Think of another situation and ask the energy to return. Feel it coming back and merging with the swirling colours of the bubble. Go through as many things as you can think of that have reduced, or diminished your energy in some way and invite the energy to return. This work is not an analysis of negatives. It is a positive restoration. Simply acknowledge the negative energy draining situation, and call back the energy.  Part Four After you have contacted enough memories, shift the focus back to the breathing. Feel the dynamic play between the column of golden light and the bubble. Each one strengthens the other until both feel brilliant and radiant.   Part Five At the end let the energy of the bubble merge with the energy of the golden column. Then let this soft radiance difuse throughout your body. Mentally wish that any positive energy or realisations arising from doing this work be for the beneft of others.    This meditation was inspired by the work of Janet Goodrich's book, Natural Vision Improvement, and is excerpted from Meditative First Aid by Tarchin Hearn, you can download or read online the whole booklet here: http://www.wangapeka.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/EbookMeditativeFirstAid.pdf
    The Healing Bubble Meditation by Tarchin Hearn
  • This is an excellent exercise for healing physical problems. It is also very good preventative medicine. As you become more familiar with it you’ll find that you can do it in the midst of daily activities. It’s easy and pleasurable. The most difficult thing is remembering to do it when you need it. Eyes Smile a genuine warm, happy smile. Do it right now as you are reading this. Feel the sensations around your eyes. You don’t only smile with your mouth. You smile with your eyes. Recognise the feeling around your eyes. They may seem light, twinkly, quick-moving, warm, humorous, spacious, crystal-like. People describe the feeling in different ways. Front Line Once you have contacted the sense of the smiling, bring that feeling into your cheeks and jaw. Imagine you are smiling down through your face. Feel the muscles relaxing. Then smile down into your throat. Spend a few moments there, smiling and relaxing and then move down to your heart. At each point rest for a few breaths and smile a warm friendly feeling into the area. It may help you to imagine a smile in the area itself beaming back at you. It’s not so important to relax an area as to come to a warm loving acceptance of whatever is taking place there. Don’t linger too long if a tension doesn’t want to let go. Just move on to the next point. Smile into the heart and the circulating blood. Imagine thousands of little smiles travelling all through the body. Smile into the lungs. Feel the smile moving with the breathing. Then smile into the other major organs; the liver, the pancreas and spleen, the kidneys and the adrenal, then the bladder and lastly the genital area. This sequence is called smiling down the front line. If at any point you lose the feeling of lightness or goodness, then return to your eyes. Physically smile a real smile. Recontact the feeling and continue where you left off. Middle Line When you have finished the front line then return to the eyes and smile your way down the middle line. Make friends with your digestive system. Begin with the eyes. Then smile into your mouth, tongue, and throat. You may experience saliva forming. Take a big swallow and imagine the saliva as a present of bubbly smile-essence being sent down to the stomach. Smile warmly into the stomach; a great big belly smile. Spend a little time here before moving on. Now smile down through the intestines, into the rectum and finish with the anus. This last bit will improve the ability to absorb nutriment and will help heal any problems connected with elimination. Back Line Return to the eyes and recontact the feeling of the smile. Now smile warmly down the back line. Direct the smile to the right or lef side of the brain. Smile in there for a while and then go to the other side. Then smile into the middle of the head to warm the pineal, pituitary and hypothalamus gland areas. Then slowly smile your way down the spine, if possible, one vertebra at a time until you come to the base of the spine. All Together Lastly, return to the eyes and smile your way down all three lines simultaneously At the beginning, don’t worry if you can’t complete the whole process in one siting. If you find an area particularly interesting then stay there as long as you like. If it is not so interesting, then move on after a few breaths. Eventually you will find that you can smile through the whole body quite quickly with noticeable effect. The whole point of this work is to develop a warm smiling acceptance of whatever is going on in the body. This acceptance often leads to the dissolution of tensions. Try it. This meditation was inspired by the work of Mantak Chia, and is excerpted from Meditative First Aid by Tarchin Hearn, you can download or read online the whole booklet here: http://www.wangapeka.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/EbookMeditativeFirstAid.pdf Banner image by Alex Grey, to see the whole image and his other art please visit his highly recommended website by clicking here: http://alexgrey.com/art/paintings/soul/sunyata/
    The Inner Smile Meditation by Tarchin Hearn
  • Woven throughout any overt subjects that we may teach are hidden attitudes and approaches, embodiments of living, that flavor everything that we say and do. Though we may not intend to do so, inevitably we teach what we are. We demonstrate beingness – for those with the sensitivity to ‘see’. If our primary concern is for reputation, admiration, or approval, we template others into that shape. If we are concerned about money, power, and possessions, we template that on others. If our concern/involvement is love, inclusivity, reverence, humility, and compassion then this is what we ‘teach’, no mater what the public form or subject of study, be it dharma, mathematics, carpentry or cooking. As we realize this, ‘teaching’ (in terms of conveying particular knowledges) slips into the background and ‘quality of being’ takes up centre stage. In fact, our quality of being is the stage, and the actors, and the audience, and the theatre, and the ecological and cultural world, in which and by which, it developed. Our moment by moment quality of being reveals the whole shebang! So, what are my concerns, my assumptions, my questions and curiosities, my visceral understandings about life and living? And do I want to imprint them on others? Through teaching we share an approach to living, revealed in the depth and scope of our inner question, our particular flavor of curiosity and way of touching the unknown. What is my approach? What am I actually doing? What ‘doing’ am I? What is my question, my passion, my wonderment? Answers and solutions are transient and ephemeral; dependant on time, place and context. But the flavor of my question suffuses my interactions with everything. It perfumes my perceptions, conceptions and understandings. Some flavors of questioning or questing can widen us in ways that enhance our dignity, grace, here and now practicality, and sense of expansive presence. Others can narrow us, shrinking and tightening while all the time comparing in order to see if we conform to expectations, whether we are right or wrong. Something of the teacher rubs off on the student as simultaneously something of the student rubs off on the teacher. Buddha called this the transmission that is no transmission. For those of you aspiring to teach, and those of you who may never have considered yourselves in the role of teacher – like it or not, we are all involved – please contemplate this and take it to heart. with good wishes to all Tarchin For 40 years Tarchin has studied and practiced in both Theravadin and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. For 12 years he was ordained as a monk. Since 1977 he has taught in many countries and has helped establish a number of centres for retreat and healing. Tarchin is an Elder of the Wangapeka. Tarchin has recently finished an essay called ‘Education and Buddhadharma’ which can be found at www.greendharmatreasury.org.
    A Note for Aspiring Teachers by Tarchin Hearn
  • People today seem to be tragically addicted to seeking future goals and results. We idolise planning and striving. It applies to virtually every realm of human endeavour. Results driven education, healing, eco-activism, industrial/military applications, business and so forth. Wise investment now in order to harvest a big gain later on. This way of living is so ingrained in our culture that as you read these words, some of you may think, ‘Yes, so what’s the big deal?’ We are immersed in media messages telling us that now isn’t good enough but tomorrow could be, if we just buy this and consume that. Sensible people worry about the future, put money into retirement funds, secure their old age, plan for tomorrow. Collectively we have invested in these dreams to such a degree that we admire those who have big plans, who talk up the future, who passionately worry about future outcomes. Amazingly, it doesn’t even seem to matter if the whole thing ends up being nothing but hot air. Sadly this applies just as much, and sometimes even more, to religion and dharma and paths of healing and awakening. We are striving for health, or enlightenment, or God, or realisation of Buddha-nature. We are striving to be aware, to dwell in the ‘present moment’, as if the present moment had become a marketable commodity. We are so focused on the future, on imagined scenarios of attainment, or the fear of non-attainment, that we are constantly tripping over what is immediately under our own two feet. As we fall, we bruise and abuse and damage ourselves and others around us. Sitting in the early morning light and contemplating these affairs, it occurred to me that here in Australia, surfing might be a beautiful hint at a different way of being. When surfing, what is important is not what is in front of us but what is welling up under us. We ride on a continual cresting wave of fluid change. Our skill has nothing to do with dreams of beach heavens and post-surfing parties and romps in the moon lit sand. Surfing skill has everything to do with exquisite sensitivity to water and wind, to muscle and felt body sense. We can’t control the wave. We learn to ride with what is. We do have the capacity to intentionally make adjustments in tune with the shifting of the world of this very moment. We are participants but not controllers. We are initiators but simultaneously we are part of a shaping beyond our control. Resting in an ocean of living process. The waves, rolling across the surface, have been stirred by the collective winds of all the activities of all the myriad beings of this world. This is the ground of becoming, our ocean of becoming. As bodhisattva surfers, our senses are alert, refined and fully focused on each ephemeral nuance of now. Our bodies, these magnificent temples of co-operating cellular intelligence, are continually responding to the morphing of experience within and around us. They are shifting and changing, in ways that enable a miraculous integrated functioning of cells and organs and bodily systems. A homeo-dynamic process of healthy embodiment. The wave we are riding is a tumbling of water molecules, uncountable moments of experience all rolling as one – the shape of our life. Molecules of inspiration; teachers and mentors, books and philosophies; encouragements to flower in wisdom and compassion. Molecules of talent and ability, a billion year flowing repository of ancestors and social unfolding. Lives interpenetrating lives, structurally coupled, collectively transforming. Currents of knowing, flowing with and through each other, tumbling madly with rivers and mountains and creatures and sky. And we rest in and on this measureless wave of becoming, savouring its uniqueness and constant freshness. Actually, we are the wave. Never departing from the surfing nowness. Flying in the spray. Pirouetting in the vastness. Thoroughly engaged. Pliably solid in this place of creative change. A la la hoh! You’d think that all surfing Australians must be enlightened!
    Surfing and Dharma by Tarchin Hearn
  • How do we learn? How do we grow into mature, loving, wise, competent human beings? Does our vision of our place in the universe actually correspond to the biological realities that shape us? Do our religious and moral aspirations harmonize with our mechanical and energetic interactions with the rest of the world? Where do we find our sense of togetherness? Where do we humans fit? Can we discover a way to become, once again, native to this place, this living world, our home. Can we rediscover our belongingness in life? Reverencing the great mystery of education I flex and bend and move in the flow of your unfolding wisdom. May all beings realise the blessing of profound aliveness and dance their lives in the flowering of wonderment and love. The practice of buddhadharma and the process of meaningful education, are deeply related. Buddhadharma is more commonly associated with Buddhism which, of course, is viewed by many as a religion. Education is usually associated with secular schooling. Yet each has something to contribute to the other. I’d go so far to say that richly developed, each contains the other. For readers unfamiliar with the term, the Sanskrit word buddhadharma is made up of buddha plus dharma. The bu in buddha derives from bodhi which means to awaken, to unfold or to flower. It gave rise to our English word bud, as in flower bud. The ha part, is the natural sound of laughter, joy, and surprise, which are often outer indications of inner well being and harmonious good functioning. Buddha therefore means joyful unfolding or awakening or perhaps even the flowering of joy! Dharma has many meanings such as truth, phenomena and natural law but in Buddhism it is often used in the sense of ‘teaching’. Broadly speaking, buddhadharma can refer to any teaching or guidance that supports joyful awakening; the unfolding or flowering of joyful good functioning – both in an individual and simultaneously in their surrounding community. In it’s widest sense, buddhadharma, doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Buddhism! I find it useful to make a distinction between buddhadharma and what I sometimes think of as ‘Buddhism-dharma’. Buddhadharma is universal. It’s all around us and it becomes visible wherever there is skilful encouragement and opportunity to unfold in compassion, wisdom and awareness. It can be lived and realised by Christians and Buddhists, by agnostics and atheists. It has been cultivated by Sufis and scientists, artists and health workers. Buddhadharma is alive and happening in many different types of communities all over the world. What I sometimes call ‘Buddhism-dharma’ refers to the teachings of traditional Buddhism. Hopefully, this Buddhism conveys something of true buddhadharma but sometimes traditions become sidetracked into preserving cultural beliefs and biases that have little to do with cultivating love, freedom and profound understanding, which is surely what good teaching or education should be in aid of. Education is a process of nurturing, or from a utilitarian point of view, training or conditioning an individual so that he or she can function well in the society in which they live. The idea of education sometimes carries a sense of preparing young people so that they can contribute to fulfilling the needs of society. I’m sure many people could agree with these definitions – even the Minister of Education. Where this becomes tragically limited is in situations where we seem to have a very narrow understanding of society and hence its needs. The society we are mostly concerned with today is almost inevitably a human one. The other species we live with barely get a mention. And even narrower, it is often an exclusive group of humans, ones that share a common set of largely unconscious assumptions, biases and beliefs about the nature of reality. Today, the majority of us seem to have fallen into a collective amnesia, forgetting that we are part of an immeasurably larger society called a living world; a world of animals, plants, fungi, micro-organisms, river catchments, mountain ranges and plate tectonics. We are all part of this togetherness, brothers and sisters, neighbours and collaborators, all of us together. Our lives and the activities of our living, interweave, back and forth, over and under and through each other; this living world, this rich diversity of form and understandings that comprise the very substance of our beingness. Education shapes society but society also shapes the forms of our education. What kind of education do we give our children when daily, we collectively and helplessly bow to the god of market forces? …when massive amounts of human industry are devoted to building and selling weapons designed solely to kill and maim beings? …when we excuse and condone lies and deceit in politicians and business executives as long as they don’t break any laws? …when nearly everything is measured in terms of money and economic performance, and instant gratification is the hallmark of a successful life? What kind of education do we support when justice and unpretentious honesty are often dismissed as naive or sometimes even unrealistic idealism? The second half of the twentieth century saw a quiet yet significant revolution in the healing professions, with a growing acceptance for the idea of treating ‘the whole person’ instead of trying to deal with a collection of disconnected symptoms. In its more expanded forms, the whole person was seen as something or someone embedded in, or continuous with, their extended family or whanau, with their society, and with the surrounding ecosystem. Ultimately the whole person is intermeshed with the whole existing world and any approach to healing must take this into account. The good functioning of an individual is linked to the good functioning of every other living individual. We desperately need a similar revolution that will expand our understanding and practice of education. A good starting point would be to recognize that education surely involves much more than just pouring facts and figures into young peoples’ brains. In the so called modern world, we tend to think of facts and figures as ‘hard data’ when, in truth they are more often just palatable prejudices or currently popular understandings or interpretations, that help to ensure a continuity of societal beliefs and action. Recently in a BBC interview, NZ’s Prime Minister John Key was confronted with the results of a detailed scientific study that found that many of the rivers and lakes in NZ were significantly polluted. The interviewer asked why, in the light of this study, NZ was continuing to brand itself as clean and green. Mr. Key said that people were entitled to their opinions but that he rejected those findings as he could find other ‘experts’, that would give a different opinion which would show that NZ is 100% clean and green. This is a case of hard data looking more like a Rorschach ink-blot test! Good education involves so much more than developing the basic literacy and numeracy skills that spokespersons for the ministry of education seem to value as paramount. Real education, complete education, education in completeness or wholeness, is a process of drawing forth all the qualities that are precious in a human being; for example, the capacity for love and empathy and creative thought, along with courageous straightforwardness. It cultivates our capacity to be curious about all manifestations of life and to consciously participate in the life affirming shaping of this living world in which we find ourselves. In practical terms, an education system must always serve the needs of society but we need to have the broad mindedness and honesty to recognise that meaningful society is much bigger and more multidimensional than we usually imagine. Serving society (as biologist, writer and lover of life, Aldo Leopold, once put it), requires that we support, ‘the integrity, stability and beauty of the (whole) biotic community’. Each one of us is born into a vast interweaving of matter, energy and knowing that is already in process. It’s what we are. It’s all through us and around us and it has been going on for 13.5 billion years; as it says in some Buddhist texts, since beginningless time, or for incalculable aeons, or inconceivable kalpas. However expressed, whether with numbers or poetry, there is every indication that the unfolding of life was going on before we as individuals began and will likely continue after we end. This ‘already happening, ongoing process’ can be seen in two ways. It is the wholeness or totality of nature, unfolding and diversifying in the direction of increased discernment and knowing, thus nourishing a wider and wider range of unique yet totally intermeshed individuals. This is evolution in action. At the same time, this process involves each individual, feeling, with their own particular talents of perception and awareness, towards a lived appreciation of connection, a sense of unity accompanied by an increasing sense of understanding, wonder, devotion, reverence and awe. Nature diversifying into ever more refined ways of being and knowing, and, individual discernment and knowing intuiting its way into a sense of wholeness and living mystery; this intermingling yin–yang of life is the natural ground from which, and within which, we all emerge and grow. Going by many names, it is sometimes called God, or Totality, or Wholeness or ‘the pattern that connects’. In Buddhism it is known as the dharmadhatu, the basic space of phenomenon, the immeasurable expanse of inter-being, or the total field of all events and meanings. It is also called bodhicitta, often translated as the heart/mind of awakening. Bodhicitta is a central theme in Mahayana Buddhism and is perhaps something that should be discussed in secular schools. As we saw earlier, bodhi means awakening or unfolding. It is both the impersonal ‘totality of being’ unfolding as a delicate, unique, and transient individual, and, the individual, awakening to the totality. Each movement utterly pervades the other and together they reveal a mysterious whole. This twofold bodhi is playing out in citta, the heart/mind of one’s individual knowing and experience. Heart is God appreciating each detail. Mind is each detail appreciating God. Both movements together reveal a complete mandala, a rich a vibrant human being. For some people, this two-in-one truth is an inspiring and beautiful thought. For a smaller number, it is a lived experience, a true life of blessing. Most of us though, were brought up by adults who, in the course of their lives, lost touch with the great mystery of living that they are. As if through osmosis, we absorbed and embodied our parents’ hopes, fears and prejudices until, gradually, like the moon eclipsing the sun, these narrowed attitudes and approaches to life restricted our potential for clear seeing and we too lost sight of the interconnected unfolding of life that we are. Shaped by social, economic, political and philosophical views, we drifted into ever more partial ways of experiencing. The universe became a collage of separated bits, sometimes co-operating, often competing and almost always in threat of isolation, guilt and fear of abandonment. Bodhicitta became more and more hidden. Ironically, it can even be hidden through becoming a Buddhist and then naming a concept called ‘bodhicitta’ while not simultaneously realising that bodhicitta is what is doing the naming! Imagine being born to parents who lived and appreciated this ancient and ongoing dance of life unfolding, who then nourished it by affirming the unique and precious vastness of your being, who encouraged you in a wide ranging investigation of all the myriad details of life, who demonstrated to you, at that early impressionable age, a fundamental approach to living that is deeply imbued with love and wonderment and a sense of fresh, spontaneous curiosity. This is the heart of buddhadharma in action. It also begins to look like the foundations of very good education. A big step towards meaningful education involves honouring and appreciating the dual mystery that we are; this mutual shaping of inner and outer, of self and other, of body and mind, of subject and object; this seamless dyad of individuality and wholeness. This is the nature of each student. It is the nature of each teacher. Encouraging it to flower and function well is the heart and foundation of good education. With the economic cutbacks of today we often see schooling and education reduced to a pouring in of facts and figures and experiences. Eventually the student is stuffed. Sometimes this supports a conceited belief that the world we have learned to know, is the way the world really is. Sometimes the weight of the ‘stuff’, crushes everything about us that is truly alive and we survive as automatons, replaceable units in the mechanical workplace market of life. Rather than force feeding students with facts and experiences that will help them to maintain the world that we, the older generation, have grown accustomed to, education should be primarily engaged in drawing out, or drawing attention to, the qualities of being that can help us creatively meet with each new situation that arises in the journey of our communal living. This includes meeting with earthquakes, environmental degradation, economic collapses and political turmoil. How can we do this? We need to explore and investigate our bodies, how they work and how they intermesh with others at multiple levels, from micro to macro. We need to understand our feelings and the way we colour experience with values of good and bad, liking and disliking. We need to learn the skills of unravelling tangled emotions and the resultant physical sensations. We need to grapple with how the world of our knowing arises ever-fresh, moment by moment – a weaving of body, speech and mind, self and others. We need to refine and augment our powers of observation through each of our senses. These are our gateways to the world, the potentially sensitive points of meeting with others. We need to cultivate the art of resting at ease and awake, in states of not knowing everything, and not being able to know everything. We need to let go of the fear driven compulsion to freeze reality with the hammers and nails of dogmatism and certainty. We need to cultivate the whole mandala of aliveness, capacities for thinking, feeling, sensing and intuiting. We need to value diversity and its vast, creative, ultimately unknowable dance, called living. We need to cultivate the potential that is in each of us to be utterly present for each other. We need to learn the arts of tolerance and forgiveness and occasional apology and restraint. Buddhadharma and secular education have much to offer each other. Education can offer microscopes, literature, art and cultural history and a tradition of scientific enquiry. This would take Buddhadharma into the 21 century with a relevance that would be felt by all. Buddhadharma can offer ways of cultivating attentiveness, appreciation, forgiveness, mindful presence and healing. These skills would enhance and round out the school curriculums honouring and respecting the deep intelligence and potential that is in each of us. Buddhadharma and education belong together. They augment each other and skilfully joined would help us humans tackle the challenges that will increasingly face us in the times to come. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with teachers from many traditions and backgrounds. Some of them teach in schools; primary, secondary or tertiary. Some teach healing arts; psychotherapy, body work, counselling and various forms of medicine. Some teach meditation and a range of spiritual approaches to living. In these times of tightening budgets and increased anxiety about the state of world and where we are all going, it is more and more vital for our own well being and for the well being of those we teach and interact with, that we live day by day with our feet solid in the ground of here and now wonder and appreciation, in all its vastness. My aspiration is that these thoughts on education and buddhadharma will in some small way serve to strengthen our willingness and ability to do this. Postscript I began this essay on education and buddhadharma a number of years ago. It was originally intended to be part of a reflection on the aspiration and purpose of the Wangapeka Educational Trust, a study and retreat centre in the South Island of New Zealand that I have associated with for many years. Somehow in the flow of circumstances, that early draft fell by the wayside; lost in a pixel cul-de-sac on my hard drive. Recently it popped into view and in the light of momentous geologic events this year in New Zealand, I was inspired to rewrite it, making it, I hope, more broadly relevant. For months, the great taniwha of plate tectonics has been flexing its muscle, hammering Christchurch and the surrounding area with three major earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks. Many people were killed or injured. Thousands of homes were damaged if not destroyed. Hundreds of business have collapsed. Adults and children of all ages have been traumatized. Life as many knew it, and expected it to be, has been turned upside down as parts of the city sink back into a wetland swamp and other parts are entombed under fallen rock. This happened in the same year as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. One friend, living in Christchurch, who runs the administration side of a small school that was badly damaged in the first earthquake, has miraculously found time to write periodic uplifting e-mails to friends and extended family. After the third quake, which really knocked the stuffing out of many people who were already barely coping with the first two, she shared some observations which, in spite of the trauma that is widespread, reveals a breadth of vision and aspiration that is wonderfully uplifting. Describing how parents, teachers and children supported each other emotionally, and physically, adapting to broken plumbing, stuck doors, jammed windows, and cleaning up mud and liquefaction so that the school could continue, she wrote; ‘I hope I am around to see these children as they mature into the business, public and political leaders of the future. I suspect that when that time comes, Christchurch will have been the home of a disproportionate percentage.’ Many schools have been disrupted by closures but deepening the skills of being truly human, the skills of being present and curious and capable of sharing in the very midst of an ever changing and unpredictable world, the gift of knowing what is important and being able to let go of what isn’t; these lessons have continued. The school of life-experience hasn’t closed. The personal maturing that comes with remembering and appreciating the value of friendship and the wisdom of community, for many in Christchurch, these learnings have actually accelerated. Meanwhile, on television, in addition to reports of great courage and human kindness, we see, politicians, bureaucrats, and other officials, sometimes clearly out of their depths, waffling and justifying and red taping the process of recovery in a desperate attempt to fit in with and conform to, an already bankrupt and dysfunctional economic system. These are telling demonstrations of the results of an education system that has done little to prepare them for the reality of being part of an evolving living world; a world with earthquakes, with climate change, a world that is an interweaving of biology, geology, meteorology, sociology and much more, a world that we share with all species, a world that we are awesomely and humbly privileged to be a part of. The coming together of all these occurrences has nudged me towards finishing this essay and for all of that and all of you, I am thankful.
    Education and Buddhadharma by Tarchin Hearn
  • The following words were triggered October 30/06, through staying with Brian and Loraine and playing with their children, young Thomas and William. Young, I was often driven by fear. Dreams of black outline hells annihilation, torture, abandonment, a dark lattice of shapeless gut twisting lowgrade terror. Survival strategies of bravado and bluster and angry striking and withdrawal and hiding conceit and deceit and exaggeration A prisoner with fantasies of being a hero, trapped in the endless labyrinth of isolation, and yearning, and rootless distrust and gales of feeling and tsunamis of emotion, - alternating storms and sunshine blasting through the landscapes of my body. One day, it seems, I accidentally discovered the power of embodiment and ran and kicked and skated, and skied and exhilarated and all the time faking and faking hiding a rot in my core, an unworthiness, a bleakness that occasionally burst out in moments of explosive madness. And all the time something trying to understand, to explain, to rationalize the spinning web of the world into something graspable and . . . safe. Remembering the standing waves in the rapids of this river, the famous ones, the ones that everyone who rafts this wild untamed torrent always has to pass. The hormones of puberty girls, boys and intimacy and social norms and military mindsets and money and power and responsibility and needing to smash everything while terrified to burn any bridges And through all this … Grace … and Amazement … Awe … and Revelation. God speaking through the church organ. Blinding light refracting the universe of an ice storm bringing the normal world to a halt. Meadows, like grass oceans rolling out to eternity. Crows talking on a wire Smells of worms in the spring after rain. Crabs and urchins and tiny darting fish in the rippling shadows of a barnacle encrusted wharf. The smell of sea and the cry of soaring gulls. It seems that much of my childhood was a cataclysm of prolonged birth Ambivalance Why is it that some beings are pierced by the conundrum of existence, from their very beginning - while others seem to roll along in a blanket of cushioning baby fat as if, while journeying to the vestibule they pause for a rest and somehow don’t resume their journey for thirty years or till the stirrings of death? Twenty years old and spying a raft, Namgyal, big enough to float me off the shoals of family, culture, obligations, conventions demands, compulsions, obsessions and on … the list is vast, Respite-care while the pain of the raw places settled and I grappled with a framework and thrilled with the possibility of mastering the world. Ah the conceit! the arrogance! The feeling of being a hero Climbing out of samsara Treading on the heads and shoulders of anyone who would serve the purpose. Ah the naivety! the blessing of compassion which was deeply intertwined with longing for love. Mad with confusion but endowed with the ability to feel, to be moved, to empathise even though mixed up with cocktails of conflicting aspirations. And the miraculous growing the shaping of understanding and capacity of is-ness How can there be a more authentic demonstration of bodhicitta in action? This unique unfolding quest. A strengthening confidence. A settling into the ground. A life journeying of deepening richness. The door opening to letting be in the innate juicy intimacy of vast interbeingness. A resting with less and less compulsion to do and more and more richness of doing - these words an attempt to glimpse the real journey, a sense that to a degree they describe the journey of everyone. To be born to emerge to stand upon the earth to let go into the earthing, this groundless, indescribable living mystery. This measureless carpet of becoming that rolls out before us, step by blessed step, This braided river widening and widening in myriad dimensions until it knows itself to be the sea. Reflecting further on this schooling in living; It could be useful to regard the central curriculum as one of navigation and survival; Tubes 101, tunnels 302, forests, deserts, canyons, mountains, oceans, and boundlessness. Flowings, and pulsings, and snuggings and stretchings Expanses, and volumes, and shrinkings and stasis, networks and networkings … We self organise and flower through each and all of these, - sensible and metaphoric - along with all the objects and happenings that one finds in each of these realms. We concentrate on one main theme at a time, sometimes for months or years on end, exploring and surviving and then being thrown into the next. Occasionally juggling three or four together How do they fit? How does it function? And later, pausing at a vista, we recognise that we have been familiarizing ourselves with the instruments of an autopoietic orchestra of creation. this co-operative self-building universe of knowing. And the music of musing births ephemeral modes of appreciation the singing – a chorus of wonderment awakening. And oh, how many become becalmed in a back eddying – a particular landscape of safety or paralysis a descending amnesia a forgetting of all a fragmenting of energies, broken concentration reluctance to engage - as if engagement were an option. We’ve all been there it’s part of the quest. In summery then; What is maturing? … A deepening confidence of process. A trusting in all. A freedom to be joined, to engage, to surrender, jazzing with the music of the moment, nudging a program of beauty creating that ultimately exceeds any need to describe itself in words. Silence Joy Peace Authentic presence Dragons cavorting in the waves Geese and Garudas painting universes with the tracks they leave in the sky.
    Emotional, Felt-Sense Myth by Tarchin Hearn
  • In 1977 I was invited to Ottawa, Canada, to be resident teacher in a newly formed dharma house. I shared the house with seven other people. One of the residents was a bank manager during the day and she often came home from work, complaining about the problems arising in her staff; individuals not able to get along with others. There were frictions due to jealously, compulsions to control, and manipulations arising out of unacknowledged personal needs and projections; in other words, the usual messiness of an average group of people, thrown together in a working situation. At that time in Ottawa, we were founding a new dharma group and were looking for a suitable name. In the light of Laura’s bank experience, I thought how wonderful it would be to have a staff that is crystal clear and caring, and so we named the group, ‘Crystal Staff’. This was a personal aspiration and was also our aspiration together, as a group. The ‘crystal’ is the clarity. The ‘staff’ has the work of caring for each other and for the ‘clients’. Today, nearly 33 years later, I feel the clarity and caring of any group of people working together, is still centrally important, not only for small local groups, but for all us humans as staff members of this living planet. In the unfolding of Wangapeka, from time to time, interpersonal difficulties will inevitably arise between members of the staffing community. This is not a sign of something fundamentally wrong. It’s just humans, trying, in this case not so successfully, to live well together. It does however become a problem if we, while aspiring to living lives of unfolding dharma, forget to use the dharma teachings and practices in the daily process of learning and growing and resolving our problems together. It becomes a problem if we forget our dharma skills and allow the difficulty to slip underground where it can fester in the dark and sometimes become much bigger than it needs to be. When difficulties arise, please remember to check that your meditation and dharma practice is nourishing you. To live in community and be available for each other it is so important to be well nourished and to have frequent moments of being inspired with love and wonder for life. When our cup is full, then we can overflow, supporting and giving to others. If our practice is not nourishing, then it is essential that we remember to create a space in which we can re-taste the qualities that sustain us, both for our own well being and for the well being of the sangha. At the early stages of the path it is all too common for the aliveness and juice of our practice to slip away leaving us tight and grasping and, eventually exhausted. Keeping our personal dharma explorations alive and well, is the responsibility of each one of us. Becoming skilled in this so that we find ourselves relying on the dharma in times of difficulty, is a sign of maturing practice. If you find yourself in a period of difficulty, strengthen your formal meditation. Re-read inspiring teachings. Breathe with the green plants and the larger living world. When we know the support of true refuge and feel our larger aspiration to awaken wisdom and compassion in the midst of every activity; when we have a sense of being grounded in a miraculous and living world; then, whatever we do will become a reminder of wholesome living, not only for ourselves, but also for our companions on the path. In this way, our own life and practice can become a gentle, non-verbal reminder for any of our companions who may have temporarily forgotten their larger view. Living and working together, it is vital to continuously cultivate the ability to see the immeasurableness, the talents, and wholesome aspects of each other. Given the tendencies of ‘modern’ culture, it is all too easy to be seduced into criticism, negativity and blaming. Everyone will have areas of weakness and lack, but in order to work well together and to bring out the best in each other, we need to recognise and support the good and not reinforce the bad. If we do see negativity in another’s actions, this is a precious opportunity to look into our own incapacity for love and allowing. It is an opportunity to pause; to back off, to soften and water the flowers of forgiveness, patience, compassion and deepening understanding. All of us who are staff at Wangapeka need a regular, daily contemplation on the profundity and preciousness of community in all its myriad aspects. To highlight this, it helps to reflect briefly on the misery of dysfunctional community. Contrasting these two (the preciousness and the misery) can clarify what is important. What makes any community is communication. A community or sangha, is really the publicly perceivable form or body of a fluid, many tiered, matrix of communication. Communication, along with a capacity for embracive seeing/understanding, is the invisible functioning body of community. We all come to Wangapeka bringing our particular bouquet of foibles, hopes, fears and aspirations. Being a charitable trust that aspires to be open to all beings, we don’t have a choice as to who we will live and work with. Recognising that this is an unavoidable fact of being part of the Trust, we can see that sangha or community is something that has to be worked on. It deserves to be worked on. It doesn’t just happen automatically on its own and it certainly can’t be imposed by decree. Having remembered refuge, aspiration, love and wonderment, in the very bones and marrow of your being, then use the methods and hints in ‘Sangha Work’ which grew out of many years of experience with dharma groups, and with the Wangapeka in particular. Sangha work can never unfold through cliquiness or divided groupings of allies and enemies. Sangha work requires deep aspiration and an intuitive sense of our common rootedness in the living world and a willingness to take the risk of giving it yet another try. During the three years of the ‘School of Living Dharma’, many participants found a weekly ‘Touching Base in Community’ and periodic ‘Beginning Anew’ ceremonies to be a great support. While remembering the taste of ease and calm deepening in your body and mind, reflect on the purpose of Wangapeka. Then, consider how W.E.T. is part of a larger human world which has all too much war and exploitation and violence at myriad levels. Shift back and forth between the suffering and the wonderful potential for healing that places like Wangapeka can provide, and refresh a sense that your participating in W.E.T. is a glorious opportunity for collectively cultivating lives of love, caring and the valuable skills of conscious community. May our living and working together be an example of dharma in action. Together, may we bring forth — Something Beautiful for the World. ‘Sangha Work’ is available in the form of an e-book. Click here for the Introduction and table of contents of Sangha Work and a link to the entire 68 page PDF text.
    On Being Staff by Tarchin Hearn
  • Click the Manual image to download the book This Karunakarma manual contains essays, contemplations and practical exercises to support a community of friends in the Dharma. Explore the tools for a healthy and happy community. The Karunakarma Series are published as A4 coil-bound manuals. Introduction and Table of Contents for: Sangha Work Essays, Contemplations and Practical Exercises to Support a Community of Friends in Dharma: Tools for a Healthy and Happy Community © Tarchin Hearn, published by Wangapeka Books; Karunakarma Series Volume III, 2006 Do you have a sense of community, a sense of sangha? If you don’t, how can you find it? Assuming you have a community, does it work, does it function well? What can be done to get it working? How can we recognize sangha, heal sangha, unfold and strengthen sangha? All of these explorations come under the term, sangha work. All of life is relationship – relationship in action. Atoms are relationships of electrons, protons and neutrons. Molecules are relationships of atoms. Minerals are relationships of molecules. Cells are relationships of all the above, both within and outside the cell membrane. Groups of relatively stable relationships are communities. One person could be considered a community. Our body is a continent inhabited by countless micro beings, a living fabric of interacting relationships. This seemingly separate human body inhabits the relating bodies of others which we call the biosphere. The world is a sangha, a community of interbeing. It’s what we are. Relating is co-operating and in the co-operating, we form a larger whole. In spite of so much ambivalence and difficulties in the area of relationships, relating is not an option. It’s already happening. Rather than struggling over whether to relate or not, a much more meaningful question is how can we relate in ways that are healthy and support wellbeing in everyone? Sangha is a Pali word meaning community. When I use the term ‘sangha work’ I am using the word ‘work’ in an intentionally ambiguous way. When we say a clock works, we mean it is able to keep the correct time – it’s functioning. Sangha work is the work of discovering real community and realising that it has been functioning well, since the beginning of life. The entire world is sangha in action. ‘Sangha work’ is work to bring forth a knowing of community – a sangha that is an interweaving of the talents and energies of many beings which all together make up a larger, functioning whole. Sangha work is relationship work. It involves doing what is necessary to cultivate a potential that is in everyone – the potential of being profoundly present for each other. Sangha work is work to awaken our valuing of community. It is work to enable us to interact skillfully together, even when difficulties arise. Sangha work involves actively nourishing whatever strengthens community. It means living in a continuum of bright, alert, responsive, well grounded, presence. Sangha work supports us in waking up to the vastness of what we are and, in so doing, developing the strength and confidence to be able to appreciate and interact with a diversity of talents and understandings in others – talents and understandings that are sometimes very different from those that are in us. Pragmatically, sangha work is about exploring how we can live together in ways that are mutually supportive. This is dharma in action. What is community? Where does it begin and end off? Are there different types of community? What is special about a dharma community or sangha? How can we deepen our understanding of community? How can we deal with problems that arise between community members? How can we raise community to the highest level rather than sinking, through the tyranny of the group, to the lowest common denominator? How can we support community while simultaneously supporting the uniqueness of each individual? This booklet is a compilation of essays and ideas that have been collecting on my hard drive and percolating in my mind for many years. Some of these writings are fairly complete while others are unfinished but I have decided to include them, polished and unpolished, in the hope that they will stimulate fresh thinking and perhaps some discussion and experimentation. Much of this writing has arisen in response to direct, real experiences of living at the beautiful Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in New Zealand as well as spending time at many other centres devoted to dharma. Please don’t try to read straight through this booklet as I have made little effort to link the various articles in a smooth and progressive way. Instead, I invite you to read a section and then to contemplate it. How do these themes arise in your own experience? Can you allow these ideas and explorations to intermingle with the vastness of your life experience and in doing so, bring into being something that is fresh and new? If you can, then perhaps you will take it one step further and share your fresh understandings with your own immediate community. May we have the courage to see and be seen, to hear and be heard, to meet all beings with kindness and interest and, to touch each and every difficulty with patience, love and deepening understanding. May our efforts nourish the seeds of sangha work everywhere. Contents of Sangha Work Introduction What is Sangha? Some Thoughts on Sangha An Open Letter Levels of Sangha and Various Bits and Pieces Four levels of Sangha Two Levels of Engagement in Sangha Two Ways of Structuring a Dharma Sangha A Traditional Meditation On Sangha Contemplations to Support a Well Functioning Dharma Community Five Themes to Contemplate The Five Training Precepts Precepts in Positive Expression Bodhisattva Vow Further Explorations Strengthening and Healing Sangha Touching Base in Community How to Do Touching Base in Community Touching the Earth (adapted for sitting) Mini Touching Base Sangha Sharing How to do Sangha Sharing Heart Sounding Immeasurable Resolving Conflict A Few Thoughts Towards Resolving Conflict in The Sangha Sila (ethics and wholesome relationship) Some Practical Suggestions A Formal Sangha Meeting for Resolving Conflict How to Run A Formal Sangha Meeting Ethics (poem) Beginning Anew A Few Random Thoughts Concerning Difficult Situations Sangha Resources for Wangapeka Sharing the Merit To download the complete e-book of “Sangha Work” in PDF format (68) pages, click here
    Sangha Work by Tarchin Hearn
  • Ten simple exercises that will help balance your energies and bring more vitality into your life. They are presented in a direct way, unaccompanied by any theory, for people who just want to get on with a practice that will strengthen the body's natural resistance to illness and speed the healing process. Meditative First Aid was first published in 1990, and was so popular that it was reprinted in 1999. Due to its continued popularity it again became out of print in 2004. Rather than issuing another reprint Tarchin has made it available to be downloaded free of charge from this website. May this electronic version be as beloved as the printed book. Introduction to: Meditative First Aid Meditative First Aid Dear Reader This booklet arose as a result of a telephone conversation with my mother. She had been peripherally involved with healing and awareness practice for many years. During our conversation I asked about her health and she, with a slightly embarrassed voice, “confessed” she was now on medication for high blood pressure. When I inquired if she was doing any meditative work to help her condition, she replied that she had dabbled in many books and teachings and methods without really practising any of them and now that she really needed something, she didn’t know where to begin. I reflected on this for a number of days and realised that her situation was not unique. Many people understand that physical health and mental attitudes are intimately related. Many people have been exposed to a broad spectrum of New Age and Eastern inspired teachings speaking of personal development and healing. There are bookshops brimming with attractive volumes on the subject and yet, when it comes right down to it, one or two simple exercises that you actually do are worth far more than contemplating the many exercises one could do. The seed idea for this book was planted. Here are ten simple exercises that will help balance your energies and bring more vitality into your life. They are not accompanied by any theory or teaching. There are books enough on this. These are really presented for people who just want to get on with something direct. Think of them as meditative first-aid. If you practise them on a regular daily basis they will strengthen your body’s natural resistance to illness and speed the healing process. They will also help relieve headache, depression, high blood pressure and insomnia and any general conditions of stress. Out of a vast range of exercises, I have found these ten work particularly well for people, being both easy to learn and easy to do. Best of all, they are effective and most of them can be done in fifteen minutes or less. I suggest you begin by browsing through the book and trying the ones that appeal to you. Eventually you may want to work more deeply with some of them. In that case take an exercise and practise it once a day for a week. Then take another and practise it once a day for a week. Just continue like this until you’ve worked through all the ones you like and then go through the cycle again. Each time you repeat an exercise you will go a little deeper. Eventually you will come to appreciate the calm, clear centre of openness and loving-kindness that nurtures all of us. © Tarchin Hearn published by Wangapeka Books, 1990 To download the complete e-book of Meditative First Aid in PDF format (23 pages) click here.
    Meditative First-Aid: A Doorway to Health by Tarchin Hearn
  • Download Common Sense Retreat We are pleased to announce the availability of a free PDF, e-book version of Tarchin’s recently revised ‘Commonsense Retreat’ ‘Common Sense Retreat’ is a small booklet introducing some broadly practical considerations that will help support a solitary retreat. It was originally written in 1984 to help introduce people to the use of retreat huts at the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in N.Z. Though based on general Buddhist principles, it will speak to people from a wide range of traditions and backgrounds. It touches on themes such as one’s motivation for retreating, basic preparation, the environment or place for retreat, physical health, diet, basic mindfulness practice, and how to smoothly emerge from retreat. Click here to download the entire 10 page booklet, Commonsense Retreat PDF. Karunakarma Series: Volume IV Excerpt from Commonsense Retreat by Tarchin Hearn Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I simply mean a well ordered life. So constantly give yourself to this retreat and renew yourself. The doctrines you visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin. – (from chapter 4 of ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, 121 – 180 AD) HISTORY ‘COMMON SENSE RETREAT’ was first published June 1984, in response to a request from the Management Committee of the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre in New Zealand. At that time they wanted some written material to introduce people to the use of their solitary retreat cabins. It was hoped that these basic instructions would serve as a guide for modern day hermits as well as informing people who were simply curious. 'What are they doing in those huts?' Today there are vastly more teachers and many more published teachings than were available in 1984. In spite of this, requests for copies of the original Commonsense Retreat Booklet continue to arise. This e-book version of Commonsense Retreat was prepared in response to those requests. The suggestions in this booklet are derived from Buddhist traditions of meditation that are 2500 years old and are offered for retreaters who are without personal instruction before or during their retreat. The topics are general in nature, in fact to some people – just commonsense, and though they have surely passed the test of time, they are not meant to be a substitute for specific, detailed instruction that can come through a personal trusting relationship, with an experienced living teacher. Finally, I'd like to thank Bill Genat and Mary Jenkins for their thoughtful editing. BACKGROUND RETREATS ARE AN OLD and venerable tradition. Throughout the course of human history, in many different cultures, they have been undertaken by both individuals and by groups. Generally, a retreat allows a person to temporarily get away from the daily routine of their life in order to engage more fully in an exploration of particular interest. People have retreated for a wide variety of purposes. It can be a time for study, for writing or for the creation of art. It may provide space for respite and healing. It may be part of a religious quest, an opportunity for contemplation, for vision, insight and deepening experience. In the great traditions of meditation and contemplation, centuries of experience have led to an understanding of how best to approach and most fully utilize a retreat situation. In Buddhist traditions a practitioner would usually attend a number of group retreats during which, with the guidance of an experienced teacher, they would cultivate the skills needed for successful retreat work. In general, these basic retreat skills would be developed before any solitary work was attempted. In schools of Tibetan Buddhism, a three year, three month and three day retreat (three stars, three moons, three suns) was, and still is, practiced. Traditionally, the meditators would be cloistered together with a teacher and during that time, in addition to following a rigorous schedule of meditation practice, they would receive a continual stream of practical guidance and instruction. At the conclusion, each yogi would then have the option of entering a solitary hermitage, going out into the community to teach, or repeating the three year retreat. One of my teachers, the Venerable Kalu Rinpoché, did three, three year retreats, back to back, before then going into many years of solitary practice! In the Catholic Cistercian Order, a monk had to be over the age of 40 and well tested in the communal situation before he was permitted to become a hermit. Even then, a trial period for a few months was undertaken to make sure this vocation of solitary contemplation was right for him. These traditional trainings helped to ensure that a yogi entered solitary retreat with clear aspiration and intent, with an eager if not joyous outlook on the opportunity, and with a degree of competence that would enable them to look after their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. In essence, a practitioner needs to have a firm understanding of what they are undertaking. For most contemplative traditions this comes down to cultivating a continuity of presence, awareness and love. MOTIVATION OVER THE YEARS, I have come across a wide range of motivations for going into retreat; some helpful and some less so. Here are some less helpful ones: Because someone said that it would be good for me. Because my friends are doing it. Because my friends will be impressed. Because I'm angry or depressed about the world and want time out. Because I'm having difficulties with inter-personal relationships and perhaps by going into retreat, I'll sort everything out and then, when I come out of retreat, all will be fine. Because I'm in the grip of a medieval fantasy of leaving the messy world of human relationships in order to commune with a loving being or some form of pure spiritual energy on some other plane. And here are some more helpful ones: Because I have been cultivating mindfulness in daily life and would like an opportunity to deepen my practice. Because I am beginning to sense how everything is interconnected and I would like an opportunity to explore this more thoroughly. Because the quiet simplicity of being in a retreat situation can support a more refined exploration of the areas of living I am passionate about. Because I value the opportunity to strengthen a continuity of loving attentiveness. The motivation that carries you into retreat will powerfully influence the type and quality of experiences that occur. If your general attitude tends to be ego-centered and defensive, there is always a possibility of falling into negative brooding states, a cycle of struggles brought on by over expectation and dissatisfaction with your results. If, however, your life motivation is to grow and unfold through cultivating deeper understanding for the benefit of others and this motif of compassionate involvement and loving-kindness is central to your strivings, then you have the energy most conducive for successful retreat work. Be honest. If feelings of insecurity and self-concern are your primary motivations then this is probably not the time for solitary practice. Rather than retreating in isolation, you would benefit more from the support of wholesome friends and competent, loving, guidance. Check your over-all feeling for the work. Do you see it as a time for advance, for new dimensions and discoveries or is it an attempt to escape? Of course, there is nothing wrong with escape. ‘Wise is the being who runs away and lives to fight another day’, or better still, 'lives to love another day'! But for retreats of more than two weeks duration this cannot be the prime motivation. What you probably need is not so much an escape from the difficulties of life but new refreshing experiences. Retreat is not a time for stewing in your problems. So far we have considered our overall life motivation or attitude. Another aspect, however, is equally important. Many people seem to have the idea that it is enough just to be in retreat. Unfortunately this is not the case. Retreat is a place to do work, to raise question and to explore. Are you clear about what you intend to do there? Namgyal Rinpoché often said that good retreat work is actually advance work. Solitary retreat should have the feeling of a science laboratory, a place for methodical and systematic investigation; a place to peel away, with a modicum of loving detachment, the veils of partial views, hopes, fears and unclear thinking, in order to reveal the natural underlying state of health and inter-connectedness that is the foundation of all of us. PREPARATION PREPARING FOR RETREAT requires a little common-sense. First of all you should be in a state of reasonably good health. How are your teeth? Before a long retreat, it might be a good idea to have a physical and dental check-up if you have any doubts. Assuming that you are physically fit enough to function in the environment where you will retreat then take care of any outstanding business and social commitments that you may have. For example, if you intend to go into full retreat with no outside contact, it would be compassionate to let your friends know that you won’t be reading, or responding to correspondence, during the retreat time. There’s not much point sitting in your idyllic hermitage thinking, or even worse worrying, about things that you have neglected to tidy up. Try to fulfill any obligations before starting. In brief, do your best to ensure a physical and mental ambiance which gives you the greatest space and opportunity in which to unfold. ENVIRONMENT IN MANY OF HIS TEACHINGS, the Buddha would urge people to, ‘pay attention to detail’. This pithy advice has value in virtually any activity and especially in retreat. Try to take it to heart. Do what you can to arrange your environment so that every detail in it is resonating balance, harmony and uplifting inspiration. On a daily basis your room should be swept clean and kept tidy. In general you’ll probably benefit from a simple uncluttered space. If you do choose to have objects in the room, let them speak of beauty and integration. Many retreaters forget how powerfully the mind picks up subtle messages. A little dust, a pile of clothes, dirty pots. There is a basic law of mind that you tend to become what you meditate on. Cluttered environment supports a cluttered mind. Spacious environment supports a spacious mind. Pay heed to this. In addition to keeping your hut tidy, make sure there is lots of fresh air and during the day let the sunshine in. An environment that is clean, simple and natural will greatly support the unfolding of any positive exploration. PHYSICAL HEALTH MEDITATORS, IN THE NAME of being 'spiritual', often neglect their bodies. Try to remember that everything that happens in your body is reflected in your mind and vice versa. In order to keep your body healthy and flexible, do some physical exercise each day. This could take the form of yoga or any other body awareness movement exploration. It could involve daily practicalities such as mindfully chopping wood, working in the garden or carrying water to your hut. A lot of unnecessary negativity arises through excessive physical inactivity. If you are retreating for an extended period it might be a good idea to break the routine once a week by taking a long walk. You’ll find this change of environment very refreshing, especially if your practice is becoming a bit stale. Caring for your body also extends to diet. If you are trying to impress your friends or your inner judge/critic as to what an accomplished ascetic you can be by fasting, not moving, and so on, you may as well forget about awakening. The path of awakening is ultimately a path of balance. The Buddha called it the ‘Middle Way’. You are called to this work of growth and discovery and for that you need the support of a healthy, balanced diet. Going into their first solitary retreat, many people come to the shocking realization that they are not very aware of what foods their body needs or even how much it needs. They may discover that, even as an adult, they are still eating what ‘mommy’ gave them or, on the other side of the same coin, they eat some extreme diet in reaction to mother’s cooking. Are you balanced in this area? Here are some basic guidelines for a good solitary retreat diet. At the beginning, let your diet be similar to what you are generally used to, both in terms of content and in terms of how much you eat. As the retreat progresses, if any changes must be made, make them gradually, so that the effect of this new diet doesn’t dominate your experience. Whenever possible, eat natural, unprocessed foods, fresh fruits, vegetables etc. The question of whether or not to eat meat is a big consideration for some people. For many beings, a meatless diet tends to be a bit more supportive for deep meditation work. However, if you are used to meat in your daily diet and feel unsatisfied without it, then be sensible and eat some. The food you eat or don't eat is to aid your meditation, not to cause you difficulty. Many meditators find it better to have their main meal at midday and eat just a light evening meal. This can help you be less drowsy as you meditate into the evening. Since you are probably not getting the same amount of exercise that you are used to, it would be a good idea to eat foods that are easily digestible. This avoids backup in the system with accompanying gas and stomach pains. If you are sitting a lot it may be a good idea to go easy on beans and to make sure that things like brown rice, cauliflower, cabbage and so forth are well cooked. You will undoubtedly learn as you go. In general have variety in your food. Be creative in your preparation; use both the cooking and the eating as a meditation. Above all, avoid obsessional extremes. A balanced and varied diet will support a balanced, interested state of mind. THE ACTUAL WORK OR MEDITATION PRACTICE AN INTRODUCTORY BOOKLET such as this is not the place to give specific meditation instructions. However, the following hints will probably help, no matter what form of practice you are following. When beginning a retreat it is wise to ease into meditation, gradually increasing the number of hours of formal meditation practice, a little each day, until you have reached your full discipline. Keep in mind that it usually takes a few days for the average meditator to settle into their practice. The less experienced meditator will probably take a bit longer. It is helpful to begin each day by reflecting on your aspiration, your reason for being in retreat. In traditional Buddhism, this might take the form of contemplating refuge, the bodhisattva vow, the parts of the body, death and impermanence, and the four immeasurables (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity). These contemplations can be found in my booklet “Daily Puja”. Whatever outer form these morning reflections take, the intent of them is to inspire a tone of exploration for the day; a calm clear mind of interest, suffused with loving-kindness, dedicated to the work of compassion. At the conclusion of each day, a brief review may prove to be useful along with a conscious aspiring to share the wholesome energies of the day with all beings for the support of their growth and development. In this day and age, the opportunity to do retreat work is increasingly rare and precious, so use your time to the full. Avoid unintentionally drifting into, verbalisation – speculative fantasy. Uncontrolled fantasy will inevitably lead you down the path of the five classical hindrances. First, desire for something other than what is happening sneaks into your experience. This almost always leads to some degree of frustration which then transforms into irritation and ill-will. The physical and mental tensions of ill-will use up much of your energy and gradually you sink into a state of lethargy and dullness. This can give way to an agitated state of restlessness and worry. In the end we come to a great swamp of skepticism and sometimes even depression. If you find any of these states occurring, gently bring your attentiveness to your breathing. Cut through negativity with the sword of interest-question. What is it? How does it arise? How does the universe, in all its wondrous complexity, give rise to all this! ©Tarchin Hearn 1984, 2011
    Meditation Retreat Manual by Tarchin Hearn
  • with warm thanks to Karen and Rob and many others June 2006 Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre Inevitably these things will happen more as one gets older. This year, hardly a week goes by without receiving a request for prayers. Please pray for someone. Please hold someone in your prayers. To tell you the truth, the more I'm asked this the more I find myself pondering, what does it actually mean? With a sense of the ineffable mystery of the universe, what does it mean to pray for someone? Surely we are not being asked to join in mere petition. Begging for mercy or for help; pleadings of desperation pouring forth from sadness and fear of imminent loss. Prayer as bartering, a kind of marketplace exchange. Prayer as anger or righteous indignation, it's not fair, we want justice. Prayer as the outflow of desperately needing to DO something, even though it does sometimes feels like 'just sending kind thoughts'. Prayer as payment, I'll do this, you give me or him or her, health or success or whatever. Prayer as control, tweak the DNA, fine tune the microtubules, reprogram the cosmic computer in a preferable way. All of this trying, all of this efforting; outflows of pain and sadness and the messy wreckage of broken connections. Of course there is also prayer as celebration, co-mingling and falling together, tumbling through the sharp door of grief into an ocean of love. We mould each other, teach each other, shape each other; cajoling, pleading, reverberations of feeling and memory. What a blessing! Each moment; unique, fresh, never-to-be again-ness, alive to this, suchness resting, you reminding me and me reminding you of all that is precious; a bursting gratitude for having danced with each other in a way that was with no other. Surely prayer that heals - even in the face of dying - is a mystery of aliveness, an unfathomableness described with four tiny letters; l,o,v,e. Linking, coupling, grieving, celebrating, discovering, losing, laughing and lightening, living together, merged and mingled. A need for prayer is life's invitation to all of us. The knock on the door. The message on the answer machine. An invitation to drop the pretence, the falseness, the façade. Drop the procrastination, the game playing, the toeing of the party line, the keeping up with the Jones, the fear of being different, the fear of failure - the fear of being real! Let us have the courage to ask each other for prayer, for help, for upliftment. Let's send out the invitations and then, resting in trust, let us dance abundantly with all that joins us. In this context, perhaps it does makes sense to pray for someone when they are not capable of praying themselves. This is a mystery, a place of guardian angels, of sambhogakayas and inexplicable linkages. Remembering a friend; an adventuring, struggling, drowning, pioneering through illness friend. Remembering this wondrous being of vast dimensions. Joining this memory to the piercing screech of blackbirds as they distract a morepork from their territory and the evening breeze gently rustling the limbs of the trees. Breathing with the thought of you while opening to the perfect weaving of lifetimes and lifelines ... becomings and unbecomings in countless realms and dimensions. This is my prayer, your struggle tugging my heart, drawing my mind to what is eye moist and wondrous. Perhaps even better than praying for someone is to pray with someone. Isn't that what we are doing? We touch each other drawing forth awakeness, amazement and sometimes blessed peace, and sometimes all of these together! Ah, you are weaving me into the world. Humming with the birthing/dying mystery of countless beings, immense gratitude explodes in all directions - a profound embracing. In the last few months, so many people, have reverberated through my being as prayer. People I know, friends of friends, people I've heard about, creatures, species, water-sheds and ecosystems. The years go by. The list gets longer; this listing of gain and loss, this blessing of mystery, this savouring and celebrating of each vast boundless moment. We pray together, we live together, we struggle together, we love together, we feed all beings together. E, Ma Ho! May all beings join in the banquet! But – let's not get carried totally away. Sometimes we forget. Do you know what I mean? Blessing seems gone. Loss is all around. How then can I pray? At times like this: Pray with your body. Feel the tensing and relaxing of your muscles as prayer, the beating of your heart and the tides of your breathing as prayer, the movements of digestion and elimination as prayer. Enjoy and explore your posture as prayer, sitting as prayer, standing as prayer, walking as prayer, and lying down as prayer. Pray with all your activities, working as prayer, playing as prayer, exercising as prayer. Pour the nectar of exquisite attention into whatever you are doing, moment by moment, so that that too becomes prayer. Prayer without ceasing. Life without ceasing. Pray with your voice. Sing, chant, call out all the names of all the beings you love. Speak from your chest, from your belly and feel the resonance of your voice loosening all the fibres of your being. Let the murmur of poetry and wondrous things ride on your breath, cadences of deep caring, choralling down into the marrow of your bones. Let your talking stop and surrender into the great silence. Listen to the whisper of your heart-knowing, a symphony of cells, a dance of intelligence. All around, spiders, trees, birds, and landscapes, myriad beings, talking, broadcasting, weaving you into their weaving. We see each other. We hear each other. We respond to each other. We are not alone. Com-unication, the activity of coming into union. Our languaging together is the prayer of the universe. Your every whisper – the prayer of 'as it is-ness'. Pray with your mind. Release into stillness and feel the motionless motion of knowing of the world, and - being known by the world. Allow the gates of memory to fall open and enter the mandala of your life. Thanking where thanks are due. Forgiving when forgiveness is needed. Peacemaking when peace is right. Celebrating all the ordinary miracles that somehow were taken for granted. Blessing and supporting where blessing and support are needed. Letting go of regret. Letting go of 'yes buts'. Letting go of 'shoulds' and 'oughts' and things not accomplished. Let your mind be a prayer and allow yourself to dwell in the beautiful. Day by day - body, speech and mind - living life abundantly, generously, humbly. In this way perhaps our entire life becomes prayer. June 13 06: It's one of those mornings. Five-thirty a.m. and luminous. The light is rose-ing salmon grey-pink, silhouetting the peaks, a celestial water colour washing the canvass of my mind, transforming a chill metal-blue dawn into a visual symphony of saturated colour. The air is dense. Everything is so extraordinarily still, it seems, that by simply opening a space of caring, I can feel pin prick crystals emerging one by one, billions of them, a gloaming of frost falling silently into our world, clothing the blades of grass, the bracken fronds and marble leaves. Bellbirds, tuis, blackbirds, grey warblers and south island tomtits are waking, one bird, and then the next; a squeak, a twitter, a stretch of silence, a peep, another silence, then a raucous chatter; arpeggios of liquid clinks and bloonks, until avian breakfast chatter is bouncing up and down our little valley. Everyone's talking! Light, colour, stillness, exuberance, fluid breath, feet planted in the earth; it seems the whole world is blessed. Resting in this pristine wonder, thinking of you, thinking of me, sharing this holiness, savouring the luminosity. Surely the knowing of such a moment, this absolute ordinariness, this perfection of everything – just as it is – surely this is the very heart of prayer. A single beech leaf. blushed gold pastelling incrementally to a viridian hint of summer long gone, flittering tumbling pausing in a moment of perfect levitation then changing pace and direction zigging and zagging falling down the staircase of the sky and thwapping ever so delicately into a waiting puddle. Imagine the limpid surface; intimately, effortlessly, echoing a golden leaf spiraling ever bigger and clearer, details of veins and ragged edges, turning in space Does the puddle have any kind of aqueous expectation? a tiny almost imperceptible thwap pushing the surface tension, liquid drum skin stretching earthward receiving, gathering, then springing outward a flawless catch and rebound concentric rings of mirror-like crystal a rippling world observed by fantail and the sparkling of my neurons in breath-holding recognition of something miraculous. Surely this too is a kind of prayer? After breakfast, sitting on the porch of Triple Gem ... a bowl of becoming, petals of knowing opening and closing within and around. River sound swooshes and hums with the light, pine auras of blinding whiteness, individual needles, – some neurotransmitter has turned up the magnification! and suddenly as if from nowhere a harrier ... two harriers! (Everything has become slow motion.) hovering, gliding, sliding on the dense thickness of frosted air rising in the waves of warming light while visions of far away friends and yogis in meditation and earthworms wrapped in their dark warm beds and micro-organisms in the stream and each separate leaf and needle all of us and all of this together weaving an elegant tapestry of beauty and meaning. Surely this is prayer in action. A middle size fly is buzzing in the sunlight exploring the wall of my hut seeking whatever flies seek on pristine wintery mornings His eyes are so big! where did he spend his night? Something feels immense and perfect life thrumbing as the earth turns and illumination races down the face of Jones's ridge a waking of newness a heart glow of breath-catching gratitude a perfect eternal moment a life worth living Surely knowing this is the blessing of prayer. may all beings be well may all beings be happy sarva mangalam
    What Does It Mean To Pray? by Tarchin Hearn
  • Wangapeka Word-Play Wangapeka Educational Trust I roll the words on my lips and tongue, savoring the magical meanings revealed anew in the shifting patterns of dancing wholeness, this arising knowing that is all of us. In Maori, Wangapeka means ‘valley of the ferns’. I’ve also heard it translated as, a ‘learning corner of the area’. Given the presence of bracken in the valley, I can understand the ‘fern’ part. However, I confess a liking for ‘learning corner’. Sometimes for fun, I have contemplated Wangapeka as if it were a Tibetan or Sanskrit word. Wang is short for wangkur meaning empowerment. Ga is from gaté which is the verb for coming, going and being. Pe, the short form of phat, is the mantra for cutting through delusion. And ka is the wide open space of knowing. Wangapeka an ongoing empowerment that cuts through delusion and leads into a wide open space of knowing; a learning corner of the area. How extraordinary to find this in a South Island valley of bracken! If ‘education’ was a Buddhist term, it might derive from e plus dukkhara; to lead out of dukkha! In Sanskrit du usually indicates something bad or dysfunctional. Kha is the sound of the crow as it flies through space. Kha, kha, khaaaaaa . . . so dukkha is a dysfunctional space, a place of struggle, a place of dissatisfaction and suffering. Of course, ‘education’ is an English word which derives from the Latin ducere, ductum, to lead and ‘e’ which indicates direction outward. Ductum also happens to be associated with aqueduct, viaduct, conduct, deduct, and conducive. Good education is conducive to flow. It is some sort of living structure that facilitates crossing the dips and valleys in our lives. Education leading out from a less functional space into a place of love and understanding; into a place of greater knowing/experiencing. Although the ‘Trust’ part of our name, defines a legal status, being a N.Z. registered charity, the human experience of trust opens into love and empathy and a deepening recognition of one’s interconnectedness with everything. In Buddhism the word for trust is saddha. A worthy aspiration; to have education in groundedness, love and trust. Trust faith, confidence, groundedness love. And so, the ordinary is revealed as extraordinary; the name of both an organization and a process that has touched, and continues to touch, the lives of so many beings. Sarva Mangalam © Tarchin Hearn 08/11 For 40 years Tarchin has studied and practiced in both Theravadin and Mahayana schools of Buddhism. For 12 years he was ordained as a monk. Since 1977 he has taught in many countries and has helped establish a number of centres for retreat and healing. Tarchin is an Elder of the Wangapeka. Tarchin has recently finished an essay called ‘Education and Buddhadharma’ which can be found at www.greendharmatreasury.org.
    Meanings of the Word Wangapeka by Tarchin Hearn