Monday, April 11, 2016

Dhammakaya History 101

Meditation Group - History 101

Last blog entry was almost 3 years ago! As of today, this blog will have more activity! For the past few years, most of our activity has been posted on our facebook fanpage, and other channels, but when it comes down to it, blogging is the best way to expand and truly capture class discussions, summaries, teachings etc.

Since this is the first blog in a long time, I’d like to start out with a little history of our meditation group. We had our first meditation session in 2004, we then held a second session in 2006, and both were a huge success! We didn’t begin to formally meet on a weekly basis until 2007. The beginning of the group  had many challenges, but we persevered and today we are a solid group!

Our success in spreading meditation since 2007 would not have been possible without the vision and support of Venerable Dhammajayo, Abbot of the Dhammakaya Foundation. Today, we have hundreds of Dhammakaya centers throughout the world helping to instill meditation practice, morality, and wisdom to its members.

Year-to-date, our meditation group has helped introduce meditation to thousands of people, with countless testimonies of people who have experienced the many benefits of meditation from stress relief, health benefits, more wisdom etc.

In addition, all of our centers throughout the world  have similar initiatives to spread peace and wisdom, thus making the world a better place and helping to make the vision of our Abbot, Venerable Dhammajayo, a reality, “World Peace, through Inner Peace.”

Below are some  pix from our very first session in 2004, followed by 2006. In addition to a video on the history of our Dhammakaya Center:

May 2004

August 2006

Dhammakaya History

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kathina Ceremony - October 27, 2013 ~Georgia Meditation Center

Georgia Meditation Center  Katina Ceremony - October, 27 2013

You are invited to a very special day for us at the Georgia Meditation Center! Please mark October 27, 2013 on your calendar and join us for the auspicious occasion:

Sunday, October 27th - Marks the Kathina Ceremony, which is a robe offering ceremony, presented to monks who have completed their 3 months rains retreat period. In addition, on October 20th, we had meditation members ordain for Kathina Ordination. Kathina ordination is a 7 day period and ends on October 27th, with the commencement of the Kathina Ceremony. It is an excellent opportunity for our members to be a part of the Sangha during such a meritorious celebration.

Schedule for Sunday October 27th below.

Kathina Ceremony
Katina refers to the offering of the special robe (Katina civara) prepared and presented to monks who have completed the three-month period of retreat called Vas in Sinhala, and Vassana in Pali, meaning the period of rain. Katina literally means ‘firm,’ or ‘solid,’ because the offering of a Katina robe helps to earn solid good karma. The Katina Ceremony is over 2500 years old. It is a monastic tradition preserved and observed by Buddhists all over the world because it is an extraordinary opportunity to acquire merit once a year.

Three Gems of Great Value
In Buddha’s time the Triple Gem, which Buddhists the world over venerate was a visible reality – the Buddha, and the Dharma that he evolved and preached, and the Sangha, whom he assiduously trained in mastering his teachings, were all alive. After the Buddha’s passing away the Triple Gem in its entirety was personified in the institution of the monks, who are therefore rightly called the sons of the Buddha.

When it Rains Monks Must Stay Indoors
According to our earliest records, monks did not stay in one place for long periods of time. They traveled distances, from place to place, teaching and preaching the dharma and meditating. As stated in the Mahavaggapali the Buddha instructed the monks thus, “Go forth, O monks for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, for the welfare, benefit and happiness of gods and men.”

As time passed, the Buddha was made aware of the difficulties the monks faced when traveling during the rainy season, which usually lasted for three months. As a result the Buddha established the practice of Vas or a retreat during these months of rain when monks would be domiciled in a single monastery. Monks commence the retreat usually starting on the full moon day of the month of July and ending in October.

Although the origin of Vas is related to the rainy season, the Buddha’s intention of recommending this practice had loftier intentions and objectives. In time the ideals and practices of the retreat season, transcended the issue of the rainy season and acquired more profound depths and meaning. The Buddha transformed this rainy retreat to a period of intensive practice of the Dhamma. Monks were advised to limit their traveling and spend more time dedicated to spiritual practice and sharing of the Dhamma with lay people. Lay followers are also advised to closely associate with monks and spend their lives committed to spiritual practice.

Invitation to the Monks
On one occasion during the time of the Buddha a prominent chief lay lady disciple, Visakha expressed her desire to offer a special piece of cloth to each monk and invite monks for Vas observation in the monastery. The Buddha accepted the invitation. Following this custom, Buddhists follow the practice of inviting monks to go into retreat and the invitations is called vas aradana.

It is customary for prominent supporters to invite the monks formally to observe the retreat in a temple or other dwelling place. If the monks accept the invitation, the hosts would assume responsibility for providing all the needs of the monks during this period, and this is done with diligence as it is regarded as highly meritorious. Vas provides an opportunity to lay Buddhists, to express their devotion to Buddhism and to the Sangha with diligence.

Monastic Confessional
At the close of the Vas retreat, the monks perform the pavarana ceremony. During this ceremony, the monks get together and invite one another to point out their faults and lapses. It is friendly and constructive criticism and almost invariably well received. The practice is intended to help the monks purify themselves.

Another benefit of the pavarana ceremony is that it could also help to keep the monastic rules alive. Retreat spent together provides the monks with an opportunity for in depth evaluation of their spirituality and commitment as monks. Each member of the Sangha (community of monks) has equal rights regardless of hierarchy to point out lapses and errors in judgment and conduct of others for the good of the whole Sangha. This tradition is one of the earliest examples of the development and evolution of democratic norms and ideals in human civilization.

At the end of the pavarana, the Katina ceremony proper is held. Robes can be offered to monks any time. The offering of a Katina robe is of utmost significance to a Buddhist who knows the meaning of it, and is of curiosity to someone with no knowledge of it.

Why is the Katina Robe Special?
The Katina robe is significant because during the three-month Vas period, Buddhist monks are required to remain fully dedicated to purifying themselves through the rigorous practice of meditation and moral conduct. As the monks end the retreat and come back to society, they become deservedly worthy of offering and veneration as ‘punnakkhetta’ or ‘field of merit’ to the fullest extent possible. A robe offered to such a monk potent with spirituality and dedication to religious living at this time, helps one to earn solid merit or good karma.

The offering of the Katina robe is considered immensely meritorious since it involves three months of preparation and dedication. The ceremony become important and meritorious because of the potency of the merit gathered during the period of retreat, both by the monks and the devotees. The Katina robe is symbolizes the successful culmination of the rainy retreat. 

And Now for the Robe!
The main event in the Katina ceremony is the offering of the special robe known as the Katina-civara to the Sangha. This ceremony is meant to be performed with devotion and is an occasion of religious significance for Buddhists all over the world.

Offering of the Katina robe started during the time of the Buddha. A group of monks went to a place for retreat. At the conclusion of the retreat they returned to visit the Buddha. On the way they were caught in a heavy downpour of rain and one monk got more wet than the others. The Buddha seeing this monk, advised the monk to accept an extra robe as a Katina. The extra robe was always given to the one who needed it the most. There are many traditions and rituals of offering a piece of cloth to monks in the name of Katina.

Chance to Gain Great Merit
Katina is the most significant merit making ceremony performed by Buddhist communities in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Laos and Cambodia. Vas is also the time for lay Buddhists to express their devotion and practice generosity by providing their temples with the requisites for maintaining the temples and the inhabitant monks. It is an important period for gathering merit for both the layman and the monks. During this period devotees are given the opportunity to learn the Dharma from the monks by listening to sermons, getting involved in dhamma discussions, participating in meditation programs, and listening to pirith chanting. It is a time to get blessings for good living by performing and participating in religious ceremonies. Monks help the community to lead a pure life, emphasizing the importance of practicing the Five Precepts and teachings of the Buddha.

More significantly Vas is a time to strengthen ties and form bonds between monks and the laity. As spiritual leaders, monks guide the lay people towards ways of resolving problems with compassion and understanding, thereby forming strong bonds with the community. Monks dwelling in one place during Vas have more time to communicate with the laity on a one to one basis. They get the opportunity to listen to the problems of the laity and provide solutions to live a stress free life.

For the above-mentioned reasons, the offering of the Katina robe is considered one of the greatest meritorious deeds. Whatever else is offered to a monk on Katina day is also considered meritorious on this special day. It is even said that one who offers a Katina robe, to a monk who has observed the spiritual guidance given by the Buddha with diligence and commitment, even on a single occasion in his lifetime, would in samsara when he is born over and over again-never be in want or destitution and never to be reduced to rags for want of clothes.

Glory of Giving
One of the stanzas chanted during Katina glorifies the greatness of the merit which one gets from performing Katina. It says that even this solid earth, or a solid rock or a piece of diamond could tremble, shake and break at times. However, the merit obtained by offering of Katina cannot be nullified by anything until one achieves the ultimate goal of Buddhist aspiration which is Nirvana.

It is also believed that the merit, or the positive karma, gained by the offerings at the Katina ceremony could reduce the negative effects of other minor bad karma one may have committed. One would be blessed with long life, happiness, good health, good complexion, physical strength, peace and wisdom in this life and many more lives to come until one attains Nirvana. However, it is important to remember the receiver of the Katina robe needs to be spiritually cleansed and worthy of receiving such a glorious offering to get the maximum benefit from the offering. What makes Katina ceremony a wholesome meritorious deed, is not the ceremony itself, but the spiritually and purity of the monks in retreat and the devotion and commitment of the laity. The totality of this will bring most merit and make it a solid good karma.
(Katina Ceremony Author: Swarna Wickremeratne, Book: Buddha in Sri Lanka)

Georgia Meditation Invites You!
We would like to invite our meditation members to come and witness this wonderful ceremony with us filled with an abundance of merit gaining experiences, held this year on October 27, 2013. Feel free to come at any time that is convenient for you, but it is recommend to come before the alms offering portion of the day, which is where lay people offer food to the monks and there is always plenty of food prepared by many to offer to the Venerables, so please join us! *Please wear white which helps to promote inner peace and brightness.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How Should a Non-Believer in the Law of Karma Conduct His/Her Life?

Dhamma Discussion Topic June 19, 2013

If you did not attend Meditation Class last week be sure to catch-up with us, this is a great article that talks about the benefits of having Right View with regards to Karma. Karma is a universal phenomenon regardless of religion, read below to find out why!

We  are  living  in  an  age  where  scientific  discoveries  have  caused  great  advancement  in technology and tremendous changes in society.  Human beings have gone from agriculture to industry  and  now  to  the  age  of  information  in  just  a  couple  of  centuries.    In this age of information with its fast and extensive network of communication, the world has become a global village.

Scientific advancement and the corresponding changes in society have an impact on how we think and what we believe.  In ancient times, people believed in things that they could not see such as deities.  This kind of belief was the origin of theism on which many religions were based. Some of these religions remain to this day.  With technological advances, people began to put faith in what could be rationalized and proven.  During the time period where theism reached its pinnacle and had worldwide influence, there was an Italian physicist and astronomer called Galileo.  He had made discoveries that had a negative impact on theism.  As Galileo gained popularity because of his discoveries that could be proven and rationalized, he was persecuted by the dominant religion of the time throughout the rest of his life.

Different forms of theism persist until now with some modification to fit better with the current age.    Education  plays  an  important  role  in  developing  human  intelligence  and  intellect. Recent surveys in regards to religious belief have been conducted in many countries and it was found that more and more people do not subscribe to any religious belief.  Some people think of religion as being nonsensical because its teachings cannot be proven.  Some people do not see any advantages that can be gained from having a religion.  They would just as soon live without any religious obligation or restriction.

The results of these surveys are worrying because if people do not subscribe to a religion, how would it affect society and the world at large?  Without any religious principles to guide the way one should conduct ones life, one would become further and further distant from morality and other ethical standards.  The difference between right and wrong becomes more and more blurred.  One becomes increasingly materialistic and lives life as one pleases.  When that is the case, what good then can come out of ones life?

The student has probably learnt about the origin of different religions and found that most religions provide useful teachings that foster a happy lifestyle and peace in the community. Here we will mention only Buddhism, which is the religion about cause and effect.  The Buddha taught us how to live our lives so that we can be happy in this, next, and future lifetimes and ultimately until we can rid ourselves of all defilements.  Even the great scientist Albert Einstein acknowledged that Buddhism shared the same principle as science in that it is all about logic.

For individuals who do not subscribe to any religion, which include those that disbelieve in the Law of Kamma, the Buddha gave concrete instructions for how they should live their lives. These Teachings were recorded in the “Apannaka Sutta.  Here, relevant teachings of this Sutta which will enable the student to understand the way non-believers in the Law of Kamma should conduct their lives.  The student can then act as a virtuous friend to these people and help them to live a happy life in the present and to have a safe journey in the round of rebirth.

For this purpose, only one example will be given here.   For a more in-depth study on the teaching, the student should consult the “Apannaka Sutta.

On one occasion, the Buddha asked the Brahmins and the wealthy men of Sala City, “Do you have a favorite Master who can inspire you to have faith because his teachings are logical?” The people answered in the negative.  Therefore, the Buddha took the opportunity to give the “Apannaka sermon where He cited different dogmas as well as the advantages and the harm of each dogma and concluded with the instruction on right conduct.  A part of the teaching concerning two groups of Brahmins that have opposing views can be cited as follows:

The 1st Group:  These people believe that alms-giving has no consequences, aid-giving has no consequences, revering those who are worthy of our reverence has no consequences,  bad  Kamma  has  no  consequences,  the  hereafter  does  not  exist,  etc. Members of this group refuse to perform good deeds but commit only misdeeds.  They are immoral. They have “Wrong View, “Wrong Thought, and “Wrong Speech.  They are enemies of Arahats.  For members of this group, the Buddha gave the following advice:
If the hereafter does not exist, after these individuals die, all will be well.
If the hereafter does exist, these individuals will be reborn in the States of Loss and
Woe, the States of Unhappiness, the Place of Suffering, the Hell Realm.

Even if the hereafter does not exist, regardless of whether these individuals view is right or wrong, they will still be condemned here and now for their conduct.
If the hereafter does exist, these individuals will receive two forms of punishment:
1) They will be condemned in the present for their conduct.
2) They will be reborn in the Hell Realm.

The 2nd Group:  These people believe that alms-giving has consequences, aid-giving has consequences, revering those who are worthy of our reverence has consequences, etc. As  a  result,  members  of  this  group  abstain  from  any  misdeed  but  perform  only wholesome deeds.   They are moral.   They have „Right View, „Right Thought, and Right Speech. They are not enemies of Arahats.
If the hereafter does exist, after they die they will be reborn in the States of Happiness, in the Celestial Realm.
If the hereafter does not exist, regardless of whether these individuals view is right or wrong, they will most certainly be admired for their conduct in the present.

If the hereafter does exist, they will receive two rewards:
1) They will be admired in the present for their conduct.
2) They will be reborn in the States of Happiness, in the Celestial Realm.

The Buddha taught that the first group of Brahmins had “Wrong View whereas the second group had “Right View. He also advised wrong-viewed individuals on how to change their view such that they could conduct their lives accordingly.  He gave the second group of Brahmins confirmation that their view was correct and they could confidently continue to follow their dogma.
This teaching can be applied to non-believers in the Law of Kamma or in any religion because it provides them with a guiding principle by which to live their lives.  Whether they believe or disbelieve in the reality of this world and the hereafter or the Law of Kamma, they can at least conduct their lives in such a way that they can meet with happiness in the present by not incurring condemnation from other people for their misdeeds.  And just in case death is not final and the hereafter does exist, they will not have to endure horrific suffering in the States of Loss and Woe.  Therefore, the belief in the Law of Kamma provides only advantages to its believer. It provides the correct roadmap for how to live our lives.
In conclusion, the main point of this topic is to enable the student to look at the Law of Kamma from different angles and to gain a deeper understanding of the law.

In conclusion, the main point of this topic is to enable the student to look at the Law of Kamma from different angles and to gain a deeper understanding of the law.

Class Photos June 19, 2013:

Edison & Alba Geromele Testimonial Dhammakaya Meditation

Edison & Alba Geromele Testimonial Dhammakaya Meditation

Edison and Alba Geromele have both been members with us for over a year and almost never miss a weekly meditation session! Edison and Alba really impressed me with their testimonial. Truly inspiring indeed! I actually learned a few things myself! Enjoy!

Georgia Meditation Circle is an affiliate of the Georgia Dhammakaya Meditation Center. Our meditation group meets every Wednesday at 7pm, the group was formed in 2007 with the support of our then Abbot, Venerable Nine, and today with the support of our current Abbot, Venerable Sanguan, along with the current staff members of our center. Today, six years later we have helped introduced meditation to over 2000 members! The commitment of our core members is the reason for our continued growth. 

Karl Rosenblum Testimonial Dhammakaya Meditation

Karl Rosenblum Testimonial Dhammakaya Meditation

The dedication of our core members is the reason for our meditation group’s success in meeting every Wednesdays since 2007. Today, six years later we have helped introduced meditation to over 2000 members! Here is a testimonial from our member Karl Rosenblum, he has been a member with us for over a year. If you need inspiration to meditate listen to the testimonials! I have 3 more coming! For now let me present Karl Rosenblum. Enjoy!

Georgia Meditation Circle is an affiliate of the Georgia Dhammakaya Meditation Center. The meditation group meets every Wednesday at 7pm, the group was founded in 2007 by Bee Intakanok Prete and her brother Nat Intakanok, with the support of our then Abbott, Venerable Nah, and today with the support of our current Abbott, Venerable Sanguan, along with the current staff members of our center. The commitment of our core members is the reason for our continued growth.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ann Munkel-Laffoon Testimonial Dhammakaya Meditation

The dedication of our core members is the reason for our success in meeting every Wednesdays since 2007. Today, six years later we have helped introduced meditation to over 2000 members! For the next six weeks I will upload a new testimonial given by a few of our core members. I would like to thank Ann Munkel-Laffoon, Karl Rosenblum, Mike Howard, Alba and Edison Jeromel, and Islene Born for their commitment to helping us spread inner peace. There is nothing that makes me happier than hearing stories that give me the dedication and motivation to continue to grow our meditation group here in Atlanta. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being my virtuous friends, the very best kind! And with that may I present Ann Munkel-Laffoon.

Georgia Meditation Circle is an affiliate of the Georgia Dhammakaya Meditation Center. Ann has been a member with us for two years and this is her testimonial. The meditation group meets every Wednesday at 7pm, the group was founded in 2007 by Bee Intakanok and her brother Nat Intakanok, with the support of our then Abbot, Venerable Nine, and today with the support of our current Abbot, Venerable Sanguan, along with the current staff members of our center. The commitment of our core members is the reason for our continued growth. We have a total of 5 testimonials that will be shared each week starting with this one. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dhamma April 10th Wed Meditation Class – There will always be obstacles in life

Happy Birthday to My Hero!

April 7

Dharma – There will always be obstacles in life

This past Sunday (April 7) at Alms Offering Service, for the Dhamma portion, Venerable Na Long spoke about a lady at our center who has been coming to the center every day, and has never missed Alms Offering. However today, her seat is empty. The Venerable went on speaking about this lady’s situation and the wisdom that we can gain. The Venerable stated that there will be challenges and obstacles in life, but we must always stay the course and use the accumulation of merit as your refuge.
  •   I was asked by a lay devotee to write about this ladies incident since there is wisdom that one can learn from her situation.
  •   I will share this story with you now

There is a member at the temple that started coming since the inception of the Georgia Meditation Center in 1998. She never missed an Alms Offering Service held every Sunday and always is in attendance for all ceremonies. She is very involved at the center always helping to motivate others to accumulate good deeds, and has introduced many to join the center and attend service. She conducts her life accordingly to the teaching of the center with daily practice of meditation, upholding the 5 precepts, and acts of generosity. She truly is an inspiration for others and is a true virtuous peace leader. She has proven time and time again, by her actions and service to the center how dedicated and genuine she really mother.

Recently, an unfortunate situation occurred, my mother was injured.  All I could wish for is merit not to fail my family now, wishing that for any situation that might be heavy to be light instead, and for my mom to ultimately be fine. I am so relieved to say my mother will be fine, and her scars will heal. My mother has proven that she is not only a warrior with the ultimate love for her child, but she is also a soldier of goodness. She is my hero, and my captain, who has guided me to be who I am today, a lover of doing good for the world, a soldier for peace.

The next day after her injury my mother asked for us to go to the temple to accumulate more good deeds for our family. She reminded us (myself and my brothers) that when it comes to relaying on anything we must rely on our good deeds to get us through, and that she knows she is protected, because of all the good she has done thus far.  My mother is a great example of perseverance of accumulating good deeds and believing in merit no matter what. That though challenges come in our life we will not back down, and wonder why our goodness did not protect us. When it comes to Karma we just never know what consequence will bear its fruit, all we can wish for, if unfortunate situations are to occur due to remnants of Karma, let them be light, not heavy circumstances. We have confident and faith in the good deeds that we accumulate and our goodness and virtues will always protect us. And even if it doesn’t, we will realize that sometimes some things are just meant to be and we have no control. And that my friends is Karma. Believe in Merit, Believe in doing good and recall on them to protect you.

Today is my mother’s birthday and to celebrate her birthday she made an offering to the Venerable. I wanted to share her story with you in hopes that it may help inspire you to accumulate good deeds for yourself by meditating, upholding precepts, and acts of generosity, her story is one that we can learn something from. Those of you who know my mom, know how dedicated she is in accumulating good deeds.  Instead of buying her a present, she asked each of her children (me, Nat, and Timmy) to share in making a birthday offering with her, she wanted no material object, but rather wanted to make merit. Since monks meditate 4-6 hours a day, and uphold 227 precepts, for us, we believe they are our fertile fields of merit. Thus, just like a seed that is to be planted, we should be selective with the type of soil we plant the seed in, the more fertile the soil the better the yield. Likewise, the more purified a person is, an act of good deed towards that person, accumulates a high return of merit accordingly.  Merit and Demerit are behind all things, accumulate only good deeds, and protect yourself. Believe in merit. It is real!

A photo of my family performing merit offering together: