REGULAR WEEKLY CLASSES:
| Monday: 8pm, Rockaway Beach
| Tuesday: 7pm, Bushwick
| Thursday: 7pm, East Village
| Monday: 8pm, Rockaway Beach
| Tuesday: 7pm, Bushwick
| Thursday: 7pm, East Village
The Rockaway Summer House is a retreat center by the beach in New York City easily reachable via subway train.
Since December 2016 we have been offering free meditation retreats and a mix of other wholesome activities and wellness programs. Retreats are residential and the Summer House can accommodate up to 20 overnight guests.
By BHANTE SUDDHĀSO * Art AARON GLASSON *
When one first encounters Buddhism, it is not uncommon to be confused and overwhelmed by the bewildering array of seemingly dramatically different forms of Buddhism.
This is unsurprising. On first glance, it seems impossible to find common ground between the austere aesthetic of Japanese Buddhism and the byzantine visage of Tibetan Buddhism, or to reconcile the multi-stage meditation training of Theravāda with the single-step directness of Soto Zen. However, as one digs beneath the surface one begins to discern the common threads that tie them all together: the heart-essence of the Buddha’s teachings found in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.
The question then becomes: How can we see all contemplative Buddhist traditions as only superficially different manifestations of the same core essence? And perhaps more relevantly, how can we form a clear picture in our minds of a complete and valid path to liberation?
The truth is that there is no easy answer to such questions. It is only through contact with experienced members of each tradition, deep study of their guiding texts, and dedicated practice of their contemplative techniques that we can begin to make sense of how the various traditions all come together as a unified whole. This is why our organization, Buddhist Insights, is non-sectarian: by encountering the orthodox teachings of each tradition as presented by monastics from that tradition, one can start to recognize the commonality of those traditions.
So when we start our exploration of Buddhism, it is useful to start by getting an overview of a variety of traditions. There may be one tradition which you feel strongly drawn towards; if so, then immerse yourself in it as completely, thoroughly, and devotedly as you can. Once your knowledge of that tradition is well-grounded, it can serve as a ‘home base’ from which you can venture out to explore other traditions in more detail: your root tradition gives you a solid point of reference for contextualizing the practices and concepts of other traditions.
For example, I started my own practice in Soto Zen, a form of Mahāyāna Buddhism. However, even after several years of practice in that tradition, I came to recognize that my understanding was still relatively shallow. While I knew a lot of Zen sayings, I didn’t have the proper context within which to correctly comprehend them; and without a basis of correct comprehension, my meditation practice was of limited benefit. So I started seeking further afield; I investigated other forms of Buddhism, and at the time I was personally drawn to Theravāda for two main reasons: it offered an ancient, profound, and thoroughly expounded intellectual framework for understanding Buddhist practice, as well as a wide variety of meditation techniques for dealing with the similarly wide variety of mental obstructions I was encountering in my practice.
So after five years of Zen, I went to study at Abhayagiri, a Theravāda Buddhist monastery. Living there for several years, diving deeply into Theravāda texts, and intensively practicing Theravāda meditation techniques led me to a solid understanding of the Buddhist path: at last I had a clear picture of what enlightenment was and what was necessary to reach it. Unfortunately, I also developed a dismissive attitude towards Mahāyāna; since my own experience with Mahāyāna had produced much more limited results than my experience with Theravāda, I concluded that Mahāyāna represented an inaccurate corruption of Buddhism and summarily rejected it.
And so I continued to devotedly practice Theravāda Buddhism; but as time went by and my practice deepened, I found the feeling of my practice was increasingly similar to what I had experienced during Zen training. I also began to draw parallels between the Zen perspective and the Theravāda perspective; in particular, it dawned on me that the Zen sayings which I had initially misunderstood were meant to be approximations of ultimate reality, whereas Theravāda teachings are focused almost exclusively on conventional reality. My failure to correctly understand Zen teachings was due to my misapprehension of them: and with the proper perspective established, they came into focus as representing a seemingly different approach to the same conclusion: namely, that whether it is Theravāda or Soto Zen, we are all trying to achieve enlightenment by understanding the Four Noble Truths, following the Noble Eightfold Path, perceiving the Three Universal Characteristics, and overcoming the Three Poisons (desire, aversion, delusion).
With this recognition, I began to examine the other Mahāyāna schools through a similar lens: instead of rejecting them, I sought to see how they could be understood as paths to enlightenment – the same indivisible enlightenment accessible through Theravāda and Soto Zen. And once again I found the same core essence could be found in each Buddhist tradition: the core essence of practice culminating in liberation through non-attachment. So while each form of Buddhism appears different, they are each aspects of that same essence leading to the same goal: Nirvāna – freedom from suffering paired with complete understanding.
Would you like to read more? You can find more writings by Bhante Suddhāso on www.bhantesuddhaso.com
Ajahn Brahm is the popular Buddhist teacher to a growing international audience of people keen to learn meditation and develop a deeper spiritual understanding. He is also the founding father of an emergent Australian forest tradition of Buddhist monasticism focused on being true to the original roots of the Buddha’s Teaching of Dhamma and Vinaya. www.bswa.org
Rev. Myo Denis Lahey is the Abbot at Issan-ji (Hartford Street Zen Center) as well as Practice Leader at Valley Streams Zen Sangha in Sacramento, California, and has previously served as head of practice (Tanto) at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. A Dharma heir of Tenshin Reb Anderson, he serves as Treasurer for the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of North America (SZBA) and is a member of the Association for Soto Zen Buddhism of Japan (ASZB). Raised in an observant Roman Catholic home, Myo was drawn to religion and spirituality at an early age and found Zen Buddhism in his teens. He began sitting in 1969 and practiced with many San Francisco Zen Center practitioners and teachers, including Dainin Katigiri-roshi, Kobun Chino-sensei, Yoshimura-sensei, and Issan Dorsey. Myo studied Sanskrit at UC Berkeley for ten years.
(Amma) Thanasanti Bhikkhuni started meditating in 1979. From that time she consciously committed to awakening and envisioned living her life as a nun. She joined the Ajahn Chah lineage and community of nuns living in England where she received higher ordination in 1991. After 20 years, she returned to the U.S. as an independent nun and founded Awakening Truth, a 501c3 religious non-profit whose mission is to awaken joy, compassion, and peace through pervasive love and awareness. In August 2010, when she had been a nun for 19 years, she was ordained as a Bhikkhuni in the historic first dual Theravada Bhikkhuni ordination to be conducted in North America. Ayya Tathaaloka is her preceptor. She blends rigor with gentle loving encouragement to find your own way – finding a balance between fierce holding of the Dhamma and compassion, tenderness, humor and empowerment. She extends an open invitation to stop, inquire, and recognize what is true and liberating at the core of all existence. Currently she is based at the Awakening Truth Learning Center in Santa Rosa California.
Ajahn Piak is one of Thailand’s most respected teachers of Dhamma and meditation. As a child and young man Luang Por Piak did not have much interest in religion or meditation. It was when he was studying for his Masters in New York that Luang Por Piak began to develop an interest in cultivation of the mind. On the subway, for example, while heading to work, he would find his mind naturally observing and converging on his breath. There he found both pleasure and peace. He also noticed that he was able to wake up in the morning at whatever time he wished simply by mentally determining the time the night before. Even if he’d spent most of the night at a party, he’d still wake up exactly at the predetermined time. These experiences made him curious about how the mind worked and led on to an interest in meditation.
After returning to Thailand, Ajahn Piak then received monastic ordination from Ajahn Chah of Wat Nong Pah Pong Monastery on July 3rd, 1976. In 1981, when Ajahn Piak had been ordained for five years, a piece of property was offered outside of Bangkok for the establishment of a branch monastery. Ajahn Chah asked Ajahn Piak to live there as the abbot. It was unusual for a monk to be asked to take on so much responsibility at such a young age, but Ajahn Piak had had quick progress in his Dhamma practice and was also native to that region. Initially surrounded by rice fields as far as one could see, within ten years his small monastery had been completely engulfed by Bangkok’s urban sprawl. Noise, heat and pollution notwithstanding, AjahnPiak has remained a refuge of peace and soothing coolness within the heart of Thailand’s largest city.
Geshe Jampa Kunchog Pryor is an American monk from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A monk for over 40 years, he has received a Geshe degree, the highest scholastic achievement in the Gelug tradition, and has full knowledge of both English and Tibetan. Gelong Jampa Kunchog is the first American to have spent over twenty years in India, studying at Sera Jey Monastic University the five primary areas of Buddhist philosophy. He is the founder of Scholastic Institute Chokyi Gyaltsen (SICGU) and SICGU DhargeyPublishing, undertaking the study and the translation of Sera Jhe Monastery’s curriculum in the West.
Venerable Chang-Hwa is the Director of Chan Meditation Center. After completing monastic education at Dharma Drum Sangha University in Taiwan and receiving full ordination in 2005, Venerable served as Director of the Department of International Relations and Development in DDM Taiwan. In addition to her current position as Director, Ven. Chang-Hwa also supervises DDM Dharmapala Groups in North America, gives public lectures and leads meditation programs. Venerable Chang-Hwa holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Venerable is fluent in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and English.
Venerable Kottawe Nanda, the resident monk of the Long Island Buddhist Meditation center was born in Sri Lanka in 1966. Ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1977 he received his higher ordination in 1985. Ven. Nanda had his primary education at the Sri Nanananda Vanavasa Buddhist Institute, Waturuwila, Sri Lanka from 1977 to 1983 under the most Venerable Waturuwila Sri Ñanananda, the Maha Nayake Thero of the Syamopali Vanavasa Nikaya (Forest-dwelling-sect). He earned a Tripitakavedi Degree (Bachelor of Tripitaka) at the Bhikkhu University of Anuradhapura in 1989 and a Master’s degree in Buddhist Philosophy from the University of Kelaniya in 1991. A teacher of Buddha Dhamma, he is well versed in meditation techniques and practices.