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Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

Teachers and Talks Thursday

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

Thursdays will be a day to feature teachers and talks that I have sat with or are familiar with through their writings. As I think back over my 27 years of spiritual practice I’ve had the honor, pleasure, and good fortune to learn the dharma in many different ways from many different teachers.

Before I started practicing vipassana meditation in 1989 with S.N. Goenka, my journey “officially” started in 1983 when I was introduced to Siddha Yoga (the spiritual practice and guru featured in Eat, Pray, Love; stay tuned for a number of entries on Gurumayi that have been rekindled by the popularity of this book and movie).
AKwbuddhaatmet-thumb-350x262-14316.jpgThe other teachers I have met include (in no particular order): Tara Brach (already featured), Shinzen Young (already featured), Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Melissa Myozen Blacker, Florence Meyer, Ferris Buck-Urbanowski, Susan Woods, Grace Schireson (see a book review), Barry Magid, Jason Siff, Joe Bobrow, Larry Rosenberg, Corrado Pensa, S. N. Goenka, Master Bo In Lee, Taihaku Gretchen Priest, Mu Soeng, Ram Dass, Gurumayi Chidvilasanada, Swami Muktananda Paramahansa*, Swami Nityananda, Bhagwan Nityananda*, Swami Chetananda, Hosal Dorje Rinpoche, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 
Teachers whom I have not met in person and know and respect through their writing include Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Thich Naht Hanh, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Sri Ramakrishna, Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, Ken Wilber, Stephen Batchelor. and many others. Of course, The Buddha, would be on this list.
Some of these teachers I have known directly and others indirectly through a lineage, reading, and talks. They have all shaped my spiritual path over the past 27 years. 
*These teachers I never met in person, face-to-face, but have had direct encounters with in meditative states. They are the guru of my guru’s guru. 

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Does a Tiger Have Buddhanature?

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

It’s Wisdom Wednesday. The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant recounts the story of a wounded Siberian tiger that tracks and kills the poacher, Vladimir Markov who had previously wounded him. After being shot in the paw the tiger went to Markov’s cabin, killed his dogs and destroyed everything with Markov’s scent. He encircled the cabin, leaving a ring of his tracks. He sat and waited and eventually killed Markov on his return. This story is corroborated by Yuri Trush, the game warden who investigated Markov’s death and leader of an anti-poaching squad. 

We think of vengeance and murder as uniquely human capabilities, but in this story, the tiger apparently demonstrates the sentience required to commit what Yuri Trush described as “no random killing”. “It was a case of premeditated — and justified — murder.”

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It would be one thing if the tiger killed Markov on the spot. That would just be instinct.  But the murder took place long after the injury and in a remote place relative to the site of the injury. 

Is it fair to say that we underestimate the cognitive capacities of animals? Does this action suggest sentience on behalf of the tiger? This possibility is both chilling and fascinating.  

As my miniature version of the Tiger (a seven pound “grey tiger”) lies sleeping next to me, I think about these questions in regards to him. So, too, to my 100 pound Rhodesian Ridgeback. 

What do you think? Was this tiger sentient? That is, did he have self-awareness? Was he able to imagine a future and make choices about it. Did he make a conscious decision to stalk and kill Markov?

I’m not an ethologist, so I don’t know the answer to these questions and I’m not even sure they could answer this question with certainty. I’m interested to know what you think. If this tiger is sentient what then? What are the implications for us?

There is a famous exchange in the history of Zen where Joshu was asked if a dog has buddha-nature. His response: “mu” (no-thing/emptiness). Can a tiger discover his or her own buddha-nature? Perhaps the answer is “mu”!

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TED Tuesday: Swami Dayananda Saraswati: The profound journey of compassion

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak
Starting with Karen Armstrong’s introduction of the Charter for Compassion, TED presents a series of talks from multiple religious perspectives on the issue of compassion. Watch Swami Dayananda Saraswati here speak about compassion from a developmental perspective. Be big, be whole he urges to open the gates of compassion. Until then, “fake it until you can make it!’

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Metaphor Monday: Mushroom Circle Sangha

posted by Dr. Arnie Kozak

On a recent Thursday our meditation group gathered in the Exquisite Mind Studio for one of our weekly meditation practices. We sit in a rectangular “circle” around the perimeter of the room. The energy was particularly strong that day.

One of the participants likened us to a mushroom circle and felt the energy moving around our circle. She described the feeling inside of her as Perrier bubbles.
According to Wikipedia, mushroom circles are a community just as people who meditate together are a community.”Hidden in the soil is a huge network of threadlike mycelia. Mushrooms are not individual organisms. Rather, they are just one part of the mycelia lurking beneath the ground.” 

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The sangha is the community of people who follow the teachings of the Buddha or more generically anyone who engages in mindfulness meditation. When the sangha meets we touch that invisible, underground sense of connectedness that gets obscured by our busyness and the stories of “me” that constantly engage us.

On that Thursday afternoon, the energy that enveloped perhaps came from that subterranean connectedness. In the “middle world” of Newtonian physics we don’t appreciate the interconnectedness of everything. Boundaries appear to be distinct. We appear to be separate entities. But at the quantum level these separations disappear. We are all just one energy with no clear boundaries. Perhaps we get a glimpse of that when we meditate. Whether we actually do, it certainly feels as if we do.

Thanks to Ellie Bryant for providing this wonderful metaphor. Ellie is the author of 


While in Darkness There is Light: Idealism and Tragedy on an Australian Commune and other books. Visit her website www.louellabryant.com

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