Reflecting on his journey, Alex likened his initial engagement with meditation to a hobby, similar to biking. The early benefits were tangible—feeling calmer, less stressed, and experiencing improved sleep. However, it wasn’t until he attended immersive retreats that the depth of his connection with meditation truly unfolded.
During these three to four-day retreats, Alex found himself engrossed in a comprehensive practice involving mantras, prayers, meditation, Dharma talks, and various temple activities like Soji cleaning. This immersive experience marked a turning point, a deeper level of connection that had previously eluded him or, perhaps, had not been fully accessible.
As he consistently attended retreats, Alex’s relationships with teachers and the Sangha (spiritual community) began to flourish. Regular practice, encompassing not only sitting meditation but also embracing the broader philosophy of life, soul, love, and purpose, became pivotal. The transformation wasn’t instantaneous, but rather a gradual flowering over time.
In this phase of his journey, Alex started to perceive meditation not just as a practice but as a profound philosophy that permeated every aspect of his life, sparking a deeper understanding and connection with his own purpose and the world around him.
Over nearly two decades, Ben has come to recognize the profound importance of these commitments. Refuge, he asserts, is the cornerstone of Buddhism, emphasizing the understanding that lasting happiness comes from one’s own mind. Delving into the ancillary elements of Dharma and Sangha, Ben highlights the Vajrayana perspective of Buddha as the quality of one’s own mind, emphasizing the enduring stability of the mind amidst life’s fluctuations.
As Ben delved into meditation practices, he encountered the rigorous nature of working with the mind and the challenges that arise when confronting deep-seated impressions. He emphasizes the demanding nature of meditation, especially in the Vajrayana tradition, where the difficulty lies in confronting one’s own mental obstacles.
The bodhisattva vow, particularly the commitment to work diligently for the benefit of all beings, became a driving force for Ben in his practice. He acknowledges the arduous nature of the path and the temptation to prioritize personal well-being over the demanding work of meditation. However, Ben found motivation in the altruistic nature of the bodhisattva vow, recognizing that practicing solely for personal gain would lack the sustaining power needed to navigate the challenges of the spiritual journey.
Ultimately, Ben finds strength in his initial commitment made in 2002, regularly renewing his dedication to refuge and the bodhisattva vow. He emphasizes the transformative impact these commitments have had on the past two decades of his life, shaping his perspective and providing a guiding force in his daily practice.
Clare reflects on a pivotal point in her spiritual journey, which occurred when her child was born. Holding her newborn in her arms and practicing Tara meditation during late-night breastfeeding sessions, Clare grappled with the challenges of parenthood and sought guidance on how to protect her child from life’s pains.
In those moments, Tara’s wisdom resonated with Clare, reassuring her that there is no absolute protection. Instead, she was encouraged to face life fearlessly, learning and growing through the experiences. Looking back, Clare simplifies her approach to parenting by dealing with what is in front of her, emphasizing kindness, gentleness, and positivity in raising her child. Choosing the path of nonviolence, she avoided being a harsh authority figure, opting instead to encourage, excite, and praise her child.
Grateful for the Dharma’s influence on her parenting philosophy, Clare recognizes the importance of allowing her son to be himself rather than molding him to fit her expectations. Her son, now 24, appreciates the supportive and positive environment in which he was raised.
Despite the challenges of parenthood, Clare continues her daily practice of meditation, acknowledging that the Dharma serves not to replace engagement with the world but to guide her in skillful and mindful interaction with it. The practice provides her with an understanding that everything is impermanent and subject to change, helping her navigate life’s difficulties with an overarching perspective.
In the initial half of her life, Cynthia found motivation in pain and suffering, leading her to reject a life marred by suicidal thoughts and addiction. Drawing parallels with the teachings of the Buddha, she emphasizes the significance of taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha as a transformative step. Cynthia relates this commitment to the 12-step program, highlighting the irreversible nature of the decision once taken. Trust, a concept previously elusive to her due to a challenging upbringing, gradually became a cornerstone in her spiritual journey. Learning to trust herself, discern teachings, and identify trustworthy spiritual guides, Cynthia describes a slow and deliberate process that culminated in her taking refuge in 2005 with Rinpoche. Through cross-referencing various spiritual teachings and practices, including the 12 steps, pathwork, and the diamond approach, she recognized a common thread that resonated deeply with her. This alignment reinforced her trust in the path of Buddhism, fostering a sense of inclusivity and ultimately leading her to take refuge.
Dottie reflects on the transformative impact of her introduction to Noon Tog and the concept of refuge in her spiritual journey. In her local community, lacking a resident lama, they were dependent on the periodic visits of a lama to conduct ceremonies, including the refuge ceremony. Dottie recalls that, initially, the refuge ceremony was conducted during the lama’s visits, and it was only later that Michael began leading refuge ceremonies regularly.
When she first participated in the refuge ceremony, Dottie found it to be a significant and meaningful commitment. The vows and the ceremony brought tears to her eyes, leaving her with a deep sense of purpose. Despite not fully understanding the significance at the time, she took the vows seriously and felt a strong connection to the ceremony.
Over the past seven years, Dottie has experienced peculiar feelings related to past lives, a concept she hadn’t given much thought to previously. A past life regression many years ago left her with unexplained emotions, which resurfaced upon joining the Dharma Center. Although she can’t explain the connection, Dottie believes her journey to the Dharma Center may be linked to a past life, making the refuge ceremony even more significant.
She emphasizes the resonance and sense in the teachings about refuge, equating it to putting down the baggage one carries. The concept of refuge, as explained by her teacher, aligns with her understanding of finding a place where one can release burdens and experience a profound sense of peace and understanding.
Jackie reflects on the process of deciding what to study within the vast realm of Buddhist traditions, emphasizing the importance of deep immersion in one tradition rather than sampling multiple ones. Upon discovering the Bompard tradition, she felt an immediate connection and made a committed decision to study it exclusively. The richness and depth of the curriculum within the Bompard tradition were compelling enough for her, leading her to forego exploring other traditions.
Jackie discusses the concept of refuge within the Bompard tradition, noting that while it’s occasionally offered by particular teachers, it’s not necessarily considered a formal step in the curriculum for training the mind. She personally took refuge with one or two teachers, considering it more of a heart-based connection to the teacher and the tradition rather than a mandatory checkbox in her spiritual journey.
Intriguingly, Jackie touches on the stories within the Bompard tradition that describe individuals becoming lighter and realizing the space within their bodies as they progress in their spiritual practice. While these tales may seem fantastical, she finds a parallel between ancient wisdom and modern scientific discoveries. Her scientific curiosity is piqued by how ancient systems of medicine, energy work, and breathing align with findings from contemporary instruments, prompting her to stay engaged and explore these aspects further.
For Jackie, the commitment to her chosen tradition is not only driven by the depth of its teachings but also by a sense of curiosity about how ancient knowledge aligns with current scientific understanding. Her journey is not just a spiritual exploration but a quest to bridge the gap between traditional wisdom and modern scientific insights.
In discussing the approach to refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, Joe emphasizes the importance of developing one’s inner teacher. He explores the idea that the readiness to find a teacher is linked to the maturity of the student’s mind. Joe likens the relationship between a student and teacher to a hook and a ring, emphasizing the necessity of a receptive mind for the teacher’s guidance to be effective.
He delves into the concept that personal growth requires attention to both internal and external factors. Joe asserts that inner transformation, represented by positive thinking, serves as the cause, while the teacher functions as a condition for progress. He highlights the need for constant self-correction and the cultivation of qualities like good thinking, compassion, and faith.
Joe discusses the progression from recognizing a teacher’s good qualities to developing the inner teacher. He encourages sharing Dharma knowledge, emphasizing that teaching is a powerful tool for personal learning. Joe reflects on the inclusive presentation of the Three Jewels—Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—and underscores the transformative impact of taking refuge in these principles.
In challenging times, such as the current global situation, Joe finds solace in refuge, particularly in his positive thinking. He emphasizes that regular practice of refuge and positive thinking helps in navigating difficult circumstances, fostering patience, kindness, and compassion. Joe advocates recognizing and encouraging positive qualities in oneself and others, viewing all beings as potential teachers on the path to enlightenment.
In 2013, Kalpana decided to attend a week-long retreat, initially planning to go alone. However, her husband, intrigued by the serene setting and nature-loving aspects, joined her. The retreat, set in a tranquil space with simple requirements, resonated with Kalpana. She found a community not focused on preaching but on sharing a healthy way of being.
Previously consumed by others’ health issues as a doctor, Kalpana discovered a new perspective on stillness and calmness within the alertness. Reverend Song’s teachings emphasized integrating calmness into daily life rather than fixating on prolonged sitting sessions. This approach appealed to Kalpana, who struggled with extended periods of stillness.
Moving meditation practices, such as Tai Chi and Qigong, became integral to her spiritual journey, seamlessly blending with the principles of Yin Yang from her Chinese medicine background. Kalpana embraced daily practices, finding moments to pause and regain composure amid life’s challenges.
In 2015, her husband faced a severe bone marrow disease, prompting a minister’s unexpected visit and healing presence. Witnessing their compassionate care, Kalpana felt a profound connection with these ministers, considering them her teachers. This transformative experience led to her family, including her son and daughter, joining a retreat in 2017.
Acknowledging her shift from a teacher to a humble student, Kalpana took the step of receiving a Buddhist name and undertaking daily practices. This formalized her commitment to the spiritual path in August 2017, marking a significant point in her ongoing journey.
Mingo recounts their spiritual journey, initially transitioning from Christianity to agnosticism during their teenage years. Curious about various religions, they explored different belief systems, including Islam, Hinduism, and others. Buddha’s renunciation of yoga and Hinduism intrigued Mingo, prompting a deeper exploration of Buddhism.
Engaging in practices like meditation and yoga, Mingo found a unique connection to Buddhism, appreciating its down-to-earth approach compared to other religions. Their mindfulness training from martial arts contributed to managing anger and eventually led them to examine alternative spiritualities like hermetic thought and pagan traditions. Mingo sought to understand diverse communities, challenging preconceptions shaped by their Christian upbringing.
The concept of unity and the pursuit of the highest good resonated with Mingo, solidifying their return to Buddhism. The Three Jewels, particularly the missing element of community, became a crucial factor in Mingo’s spiritual journey. Embracing Buddhism for its inclusive and compassionate community, Mingo emphasizes the open-mindedness and acceptance within the Buddhist circles they participate in.
Annual update on progress of project.