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Medicine Buddha

Statue of Medicine Buddha, Sangye Menla

Statue of Medicine Buddha, Sangye Menla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Tibetan Buddhists, the practice of Medicine Buddha is something you can do. This connects to a few larger questions:


– what is the view of healing?

this happens in the context of body ailments, and especially mental/emotional ailments

in light of the problem of “spiritual materialism,” how much and what kind of healing do we want or need?

is “healing” just some sort of New Age promise, some sort of scheme?


– doesn’t this connect to ideas about fixing, transforming, and recognizing?

fixing- there are some big issues that could shorten lifespan, and impede practice- good to fix these, right?

transforming- just as with emotional issues, all issues could be transformed into their positive versions (too much heat into warmth and compassion, too much cold into clarity and precision, something like that)

recognizing- things are essentially good and pure, even illnesses and problems


of course, the last two seem at odds, and hashing that out is beyond me at this point


– ideas of people as “broken” and needing to be healed, and good and bad sides to this

ideas of people as good, fine, and good and bad sides to this

being too hung up on needing to fix things

being too arrogant about things beings fine


– since a lot of this seems very individualistic, what about more social applications of healing?

social problems seem localized in some ways— how do you address this?


Weekend workshop: Karma


One very good way to learn about meditation, or deepen an already-established practice is workshops. Longer retreats, say, a week, are excellent. It can be hard to find the time or money to attend such long retreats, though. Shorter workshops are a good option in this case.

I’m offering a three-day workshop on karma in July.

The dates:

Thurs July 12 7-8

Friday July 13th 7-9

Saturday July 14th 10am-6pm

We’ll do two main things: learn about karma, and practice mindfulness-awareness meditation. The latter is a meditation practice fundamental to Tibetan Buddhism. Of course, you don’t need to be a Buddhist to try it out.

So what is karma? That’s what we’ll find out. The focus will be on habits and patterns in our lives: what they mean, and how they work. For anyone frustrated with trying to start doing something new, or trying to stop a negative habit, these teachings can be useful. Although “karma” is sometimes used in a way that seems mystical or strange, the approach we’ll take will be more common sense, and down to earth.

Call or email to register. The classes are taught at a yoga/dance studio in Newbury MA. The cost for the three days will be $75. Discounts apply.

New Milarepa

Milarepa statue, Pango Chorten, Gyantse, Tibet.

Milarepa statue, Pango Chorten, Gyantse, Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What’s new?

Since last time, a new class (the poetry one) has started. There’s a workshop coming up in July. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of longer retreats, if that could work somehow (at the Newbury location).

I’ve been working a little on reworking Milarepa’s songs. Here is some.

This lonely spot where my hut stands

is pleasing to the buddhas, a place where realized  beings live,

a refuge where I live alone.

Above Red Rock Jewel Valley

white clouds glide by.

Below the Tsang river gently flows.

Vultures soar between the two.

Bees are humming among flowers,

intoxicated by their fragrance.

In the trees,  birds play,

filling the air with their song.

In Red Rock Jewel Valley

young sparrows learn to fly,

monkeys enjoy leaping and swinging,

and other animals running and racing.

I practice relative and ultimate bodhicitta and love to meditate.

All you local demons, ghosts, and gods,

my friends,

drink the nectar of kindness and compassion,

and then go home.

Milarepa May 3

I’m going to try write more later about this. For now, a short one.


On the “Chronicles” website, there’s a series of talks on Milarepa. In the commentary on one talk, the idea is presented that Milarepa’s life involves family troubles, conflicts just like our own. Milarepa was an ascetic yogi for most of his life, I believe, but in contrast to that, his story also includes ordinary stuff, stuff that is “relatable.”

A few years back I found a free download of a Trungpa Rinpoche talk somewhere online. It was entitled the “Origin of Suffering,” but was mistitled, and was actually a track from a teaching on the 100,000 songs of Milarepa, this particular talk focusing on the principle of the dakini. Milarepa, while meditating, encounters a dakini, a feminine spirit embodying certain energies. Dakinis, whether you think of them as spirits, or as energetic events, are associated with both “inspiration” as Rinpoche put it, and chaos- plague, war, famine.

The dakini seems esoteric and Tibetan and superstitious even, but it’s very real and ordinary. One way of looking at it- it’s like the Al Bundy aspect of life, the sitcom aspect. You just can’t win. Things keep falling apart and falling apart. You’re part of a “cosmic joke.” Another way of looking at it is in terms of your own subconscious and its influence on you/itself. You keep hearing voices, and they influence you, sometimes to be mean, or crazy, or habitual. Those subconscious pulls are the dakini, or dakinis.

paraphrased from talk:

“It’s not enough to … try to be good, try to do right.. under the surface, other energy aspects are creeping…”

Milarepa … new moon eve

In the last one, Milarepa was supplicating, that is to say, he was calling to his teacher, his guru. His longing and devotion were clear.

(I apologize for the sometimes glib tone. If it’s out of a lack of respect for Milarepa in any sense, or the material, then that’s my mistake, and most definitely my arrogance. Also, note the role of the teacher here. This is typical of Tibetan traditions. It’s not the only way, although it’s the main way in Tibetan Buddhism. But my point there is: if you’re getting intrigued at all by the Buddhist path, please don’t freak out because there’s the whole guru/devotion thing. That’s something I believe in, or am working on, personally. BUT it’s not the only way. So if the emotionality or the hierarchical nature of the guru/student thing freak you out, don’t jump ship. They freak me out too sometimes.)

Okay, so Mila was supplicating his teacher. He felt lonely, and missed his sangha. Then, his teacher appeared in a cloud of rainbow light. I’m going to skip, for now, over most of the story/prose sections. Here, the main lesson that leaps to mind is: the teacher and disciple are not separate, or they’re not THAT separate. The separation can be bridged, or the already-bridgedness can be revealed. Anyway. On to the next.


Inspired by the vision of his teacher, Mila sang:

“When I see my teacher’s face

and hear him speak,

the energy of my heart is stirred,

the heart prana of this humble hermit.

When remembering my teacher’s dharma,

respect and reverence appear in my heart.

His blessings enter my being

and my kleshas are exorcised.

My heartfelt song, the one before,

you must surely have heard, teacher.

Somehow, though, I’m still stranded in darkness!

Please grant me your protection.”

(So, in spite of his teacher’s appearing right in front of him, Milarepa is not satisfied. He stills feels confused. He still suffers. What’s basically a miracle has arisen, and Mila still is not happy. So, one way to read this- even at a high level of “realization,” people still want more. They still suffer, crave, and fail to appreciate actual miracles happening right in front of them. Other ways to read this- Mila wants to continue the interaction. He longs for his teacher, and just saying “thanks, ok” at the appearance of the vision would mean the end of the interaction. He keeps it going, realizing the value of talking to and learning from his teacher. Another reading- he’s a little crazy about receiving blessings from his teacher. He longs, he fantasizes, he pines. This kind of spiritual emotionality is encouraged, odd as it seems to a lot of people.)

“Indomitable effort

is the best thing I can offer to my guru.

The best way to make him happy

is to bear the difficulties inherent in meditation.”

Milarepa 4/19

So, in the previous part, Milarepa was talking about his teacher, how he wishes to see him.


“The more I meditate, the more I long for my guru.

Is Dagmema still living with you?

I’m more grateful to her than my own mother.

If she is there I’ll be happy.

Though the journey is long, I’d be happy to see her.

Though the road is perilous, I’d like to join  her.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.”


(Dagmema was Marpa‘s wife, Milarepa’s teacher’s wife.)


“I would be so happy to join in the gathering there.

Maybe you’re practicing Hevajra.

Although I’m simpledminded, I do wish to learn.

Although I’m ignorant long to recite.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


Maybe now you’re giving the four intiations.

If I could join you all, I’d be so happy.

Though I have hardly any merit, I want to be initiated.

Although I’m too poor to offer much to you,

I desire to be initiated.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


Maybe now you’re teaching the six yogas of Naropa.

If I could be there, I’d be so happy.

Though I’m not hardworking, I want to learn.

Though I am not persevering, I want to practice.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


The brothers from Weu and Tsang might be there.

If that’s the case, I’d be glad.

Even though I’m not as realized as they are,

I’d like to compare notes.

Though in my faith and longing, I’ve never really been apart from you,

I’m tortured now by my need to see you.

This painful longing tortures me.

This is agony. I’m suffocating.

Please, guru, relieve my suffering!”

Classes and meditation

Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana




Sunday meditation is now from 8-9. Not too early!

Classes start soon: Intro to Buddhism, Meditation 101, and Dharma Art.

Here are some brief descriptions.


A look at Buddhist tradition: practice, theory, schools. Learn about the origins of Buddhism in India, and the historical Buddha. Learn about how Buddhism has mixed with the cultures of Asian countries. Learn about core concepts, such as mindfulness, karma, compassion, and suffering. This class will combine history and culture with practical experiential training. There’ll be lecture, discussion, and very short meditation periods.

Mondays and Thursdays, April 23-May 31

6-7:30 pm




This class will explore the basics of Tibetan Buddhist meditation. We’ll focus mainly on mindfulness (“shamatha-vipashyana”) meditation. This technique has been taught for thousands of years. It is common to all Buddhist schools. Many consider it useful in a secular sense: not limited to Buddhists. Certainly, all are welcome, interested beginners, and seasoned practitioners. There will be some discussion, but we’ll spend longer periods in sitting and walking meditation. We will also try some other meditation techniques. However, because mindfulness is the foundation of other practices, we will spend most of time practicing that. This class will be a prerequisite for future, intermediate classes.

Tuesdays, April 24-May 29

6-7:30 pm





Art has been used for ages to express the connection between man and his world. Art and magic are closely related. Buddhism has a long history of both secular and religious art. This tradition invokes wisdom through artistic means. We will not focus on the formal elements of traditional art. Instead, we will learn about how art can transform the mind (through perceiving and creating). Practically this means we’ll learn about Buddhist theory, we’ll meditate, and do art in class. No previous experience required. Basic materials will be provided at no extra cost. Feel free to bring extra art materials.

Saturdays and Sundays, April 28-May 27

Saturdays 10-11:30 am                     Sundays 11-12:30 pm



Ask me if you have any questions! Classes will begin in a few weeks. Discounts do apply, so have a look at the “discounts” page.          978-462-9737                 Newbury MA


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