Category Archives: black swan

These are my personal posts of how I came to the Dharma and my current understandings of it. The title is a play off a book called “How the swans came to the lake”, which is the most definitive history so far of how large numbers of people raised in Judeo-Christian-Capitalist faiths came to study and practice the methods of various lineages, especially from the 1950’s onwards. Legal notice: Some of what I say here is my own opinion and conjecture. Posts appearing in here should NOT be considered to be the official word of any of the teachers I am a student/disciple of or the lineages I practice under.

The Dharma to sleep

I have a lot of friends that, for various reasons, get by with only a couple hours sleep a night due to worry. In this hyper-speed hyper-linked culture, this seems to be endemic.  One could take all kinds of medications with some really, really strange potential side effects (“strange violent dreams?” “anal leakage?” ) to get to sleep. However, there are also methods from the Buddhist tradition that I’ve found useful for myself that could be an alternative to drugs that may make you wake up in the middle of the street outside your home holding a bloody knife with bile flowing out of your bum and no idea how you got there.  I am presenting some of these now in hopes that it might be of benefit.

I should also mention that these methods below can bring all kinds of benefits potentially much more profound than a good night’s sleep if done after one’s first cup of coffee during waking hours.

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Prayers to the Protectors

I’ve been asked to say a few words about the Dharma protectors, one of the most unique – and most easily misunderstood – aspects of Himalayan Buddhism.  These are said to be beings that specifically guard the Vajrayana tantras and tantra practitioners, up to a point.  The dharma protectors (who are known in sanskrit as Dharmapalas, dakas, and dakinis) can be understood in many ways.  The most common protector is Mahakala. Continue reading

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August 12, 2013 · 3:20 pm

“Being a Dharma Elder”

Monday, October 12, 2009

I thought it should be ok if I share a little bit Her Eminence Mindrolling Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche said about what it is to be a dharma elder. For those of us who have been at this dharma thing for over a decade (as I have now, since the first retreat I did with Khandro Rinpoche in 1999 – which to me is really the beginning of when I got serious about Dharma (and also, since it was the first time I took refuge vows, it technically marks my becoming a follower of Buddha’s way too)- it is important to think about the importance of discipline for elders. and her explanation of how compassion comes out of emptiness:

“…as elders who hold titles, dharma is given more in action than spoken works. The elders in this sangha must always make sure their actions are diverging from ordinary way… We need to be a step ahead in better conduct, maturity, generosity, kindness, simplicity, revulsion, unifying meditation and post-meditation.  The conduct of discipline and self-awareness enhances one’s own understanding and unifies the view and meditation. One becomes a wish-fulfilling jewel for others. Your conduct itself becomes a strengthened voice for dharma.” Continue reading

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Shantideva never sounded like this!, or, Glass Compassion (Movement 8)

As a tie-in with Khandro Rinpoche’s teachings on the Bodhicharyavatara, I thought it would be cool to include Movement Eight of Symphony No. 5: Requiem, Bardo and Nirmanakaya by ‘New York Minimalist Composer Phillip Glass *‘ which draws most of the words of the choral piece from Chapter 3 of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara which Khandro Rinpoche specifically stressed should be brought into the continuum of one’s being.

Mr. Glass also uses words from Chinese philosopher Mencius and from a 1st Century wandering ascetic Rabbi that seem to be conveniently ‘forgotten’ by some of his supposed modern-day followers.


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Change and Impermanence

Just a time lapse of the four seasons set to the song “Just Another Day” by musical icon Brian Eno. Nice graphic reminder of change and impermanence.

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Thoughts from Weekthun at Mindrolling Lotus Garden, Feb 16 – 24

This was my view for most of the week. I was down at Mindrolling Lotus Garden from the evening of Saturday,  February 16 until the morning of Sunday, February 24 doing a program that was all so-called ‘simple’ sitting meditation day after day for at least 7 hours a day.  Khandro Rinpoche has been saying for years how much she admires the model Chogyum Trungpa Rinpoche set up which is still done in the Shambhala centers of a month-long version of such sitting known as Dhatun, and she has made it clear she would like to see something similar happening at Lotus Garden. Continue reading

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What it means to ‘take refuge,’ Part 1

I’ve been asked by a few people to explain the whole concept of Refuge practice in the Buddha-dharma. I’ll do this as a two-for-one: I’ll cover the actual refuge ceremony and how it applied to my life (and changed it), and then the ‘turbo-charged’ version of refuge: Prostrations, the first part of what are called the “extraordinary preliminaries” or ngondro in Tibetan. This is where things start to get ‘interesting’ (some would say “Are you insane?”) since ngondro includes at least 100,000 prostrations. I say ‘at least’ because there is one lineage that requires 300,000 prostrations in the course of the ngondro.  As you will find out, I ended up IN that lineage.

But first: H.E. Khandro Rinpoche explaining Taking Refuge.  Everything she says supersedes anything I say. 🙂 Continue reading

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Vajra yana Buddhism – A Brief Explanation of Buddhist Mantra Practice

I’m finally taking a stab at an explanation of what tantra in the Buddha-dharma is and what it isn’t. There are a lot of misconceptions, which haven’t been helped recently by a controversial ex-monk who has been giving some bizarre interviews to the mainstream press after his ex-wife’s lover was found dead in a cave outside the retreat center he founded. So, to combat that for some and to clarify for myself, I am writing this bit.

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Remember Four Things (The Four Reminders)

(Originally posted Friday, September 5, 2008)

I’ve been asked by a few people to talk about ‘The Four Reminders”, which are in the Tibetan (/Bhutanese/Nepalese/etc.) tradition the very bedrock of the Buddhist path. Everything else is built upon these. as my teacher Khandro Rinpoche has said many times, “Any obstacles that can’t be overcome, it’s simply because one has not contemplated the Four Reminders enough.”

For you non-buddhists, this will give you a good overview of the core of what we practice.

So, here they are.  At the top of each, I will include the traditional passage from the Karma Kagyu and the Drigung Kagyu describing each of the four.  I will also include how -I- contemplate them daily, in hopes that some of you might be able to adapt it to your own practice lives.

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Top Five Dharma books for beginners

Several  people  have asked for reading suggestions, since there are so many dharma books out there.  It is really, really difficult to know where to start.  So, here is my list of a beginner’s guide.  I start with the disclaimer that I am mostly coming from the so-called ‘Tibetan’ form of Buddhism.  This is not meant to suggest it is ‘better than’ other forms. It just happens to be where I am. SO, without further ado:

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