Fall 2011 Letter from the Editor

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Hello again and welcome to the late fall edition of the Mahasukha newsletter!  I hope this finds you happy and well rested after the Thanksgiving holiday.  Whether you gathered at an old family table, with loved ones or strangers, over turkey or tofu, I hope it was a holy-day.  To take the time to stop and count your blessings in a meaningful way is such a beautiful custom.  I am so grateful for my blessings: my holy dharma teachers, my loving husband, my healthy and intelligent children, my now cancer-free mother, a roof over our heads that doesn’t leak…the list goes on for miles.  We are all so fortunate.  But I was truly saddened to see so many people around me spacing out on this undeniable fact.   So many conversations centered on football and the onslaught of the holiday shopping season as people passed around the mashed potatoes.

Since then, I’ve wondered how to keep the spirit of Thanksgiving alive all year long.  After all, if we’re really getting into our practice, if we really understand how precious and rare this opportunity is, every single day of our human life should be Thanksgiving.  My family and I have started to give thanks everyday by teaching our daughters the traditional Buddhist grace.  We say it out loud every evening before dinner.  Anyone that has taken refuge vows has committed themselves to dedicating the first portion of anything they eat or drink to the Three Jewels, but my husband and I were fulfilling this vow silently.  I guess we’ve decided to live the Dharma loud and proud!  Even though my oldest daughter thinks this custom is very strange indeed, my four year old loves it, and goes around saying “Thank you thank you om-ah-hum” at every given opportunity.

Another practice I’ve dusted off is the recitation of a mantra given to me by the Ven. Sumati Marut.  It’s a mantra we all know and love, and if you haven’t done a round of it on your mala beads lately, today is a great day to start.  OM I HAVE ENOUGH AH-HUM.  Really and truly we do have enough, so stop shopping!  Shopping is not synonymous with giving; shopping is not the reason for the season, shopping perpetuates a belief that there is something outside of you that could make you happy.  I think to focus some much time and attention on what you need to acquire on a day that should be spent in thanks for all you have is inappropriate at best and downright shameful at its worst.   For the sake of your sanity, put the sale ads down!  Take a moral stance, don’t buy anything!  Be a rebel, stand up for Thanksgiving!  Yet to do that, to save the spirit of this beautiful holiday, you can’t stop giving.  Get it?  Stop being a mindless consumer so you can learn what it really means to be generous.  Give as much as you can as often as you can.  Giving is the first of the six perfections; as such it is an activity we should do with great joy.  If we want to have things to be grateful for, we have to be kind and generous first.  Please give, but give with wisdom.  The gift of your time, the gift of your love, the gift of wisdom is something that continues to give and grow with each passing season.

The themes of giving thanks and sharing wisdom are explored further in this edition of the newsletter.  Rhondda Smiley very kindly wrote an open letter to the sangha expressing her thanks for the Mahasukha Center as well as her wish to see it continue to grow and thrive.  Ryan Dally wrote this month’s Teaching Spotlight after traveling to LA to receive a teaching in person on how to debate and really hone the intellect.  Pictures from this past summer’s activities are shared here, as well as several articles on how we can include children in our practice, an activity the center would like to develop in the coming months and years.  I hope the following articles are helpful and interesting to you; please send any comments, questions, or submissions to me directly at ivydally@gmail.com.  Happy Holidays Mahasukhis!

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