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Letter of Encouragement
from Brother ChiSing
August 18, 2010

Brother ChiSing's smiley face We have now completed two weeks of the ten-week Spiritual Practice Period. How are you doing so far? If well, wonderful! And if not so well, wonderful also! Simply let go of the past which is not real and begin anew RIGHT HERE and RIGHT NOW, which is the only Reality. And there is no need to place expectations on the future, which is also not real. Begin Anew Here and Now TODAY. All that is past is contained in the NOW, and all that will be future is contained in the NOW. Past, present and future are all HERE in the NOW. You can only heal the past in the NOW, and you can only co-create the future in the NOW. You can only remember the past in the Present, and you can only plan for the future in the Present. So, begin anew HERE and NOW. "Present moment, wonderful moment."

Some of you have asked me some practical questions regarding the Ten Spiritual Practices, so I will share some of my answers with all of you:

  1. In regards to the Chanting practice, it can be very powerful to chant out loud, but it is also fine to do so silently (such as at the beginning and end of a meal, when needing to be discreet in public). The main key is the concentration and oneness of body and spirit, mind and heart, during the minute of silent or vocalized chanting. Make sure your whole being is present in the one minute of chanting in serene sincerity. Feel or visualize the Infinite Light in the center of your body. Feel or visualize the compassionate presence of the Buddha or a Bodhisattva. Dedicate the power of the chanting to others. Gratefully acknowledge the blessings you are already receiving. And entrust yourself deeply and completely to the Three Refuges of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha (the Awakening Heart, the Awakening Path, and the Awakening Community).

  2. Namo Amitabha
  3. Also, some of you may need to switch to the longer or the shorter mantra. If you feel bored with just "Amitabha," then switch to "Om Namo Amitabha Buddhaya." But if "Om Namo Amitabha Buddhaya" feels like a long chore, then switch to a heartfelt devotional calling of just simply "Amitabha" like the way a child trustingly calls upon his or her "Mama" or "Papa" (or like the way a lover sweetly calls out the name of his or her beloved). You may use your fingers or mala to count ten recitations of the mantra. You can do more, but ten is the minimum.

  4. The "easy" Amitabha practice needs some intentional planning and follow-through to become easy. Really, it's just five chanting times before noon and five chanting times after noon. Most of the recitations are taken care of if you just simply chant at the beginning and end of each meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) which is already six of the ten times. Then, if you simply chant upon waking and upon going to bed, that's a total of eight of the ten times. Very easy, which leaves just consciously remembering to chant while traveling to work and traveling back from work. I've noticed that many of you who have been eating lunch at the DMC for the Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday lunch meditation hour don't even pause for prayer but just dive right into eating (and if you can forget to do this at a MEDITATION Center, how many more of you are forgetting to do this elsewhere!?). It's time to re-commit to prayer before EVERY meal. This is going to take a conscious choice on your part. You don't have to chant out loud with hands together at the heart; you can just close your eyes and chant silently for a minute before each meal. If you feel too embarrassed to even do this silent pause in public, re-examine why you feel ashamed of taking refuge in the Infinite Light. I know many devout Christians who have no problem praying before their meals. This is admirable. We have a spiritual practice that is just as important and powerful. Why should we be ashamed of the Infinite Light? "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." So let it shine. Of course, if you absolutely just cannot overcome your feeling of embarrassment, then please choose to go to the restroom before each meal and silently chant in private in the bathroom. Also, don't forget to chant at the end of each meal too. This might take some getting used to, as most of us have never ever done prayer at the end of a meal before, only before a meal.

  5. It is fine to do the Amitabha practice at other times of the day besides at the recommended times. However, try to do at least a whole week of the practice according to the recommended times before improvising. And please don't just simply lump the practice into one time in the morning or one time at night with a longer recitation; the point of this practice is to plug into the energy of mindfulness throughout the day in short moments, and not just to do the 100 recitations all in one lump. Of course, if you have gone through a whole day without chanting at all, then please by all means chant 100 times upon going to sleep. Don't ever let a single day go by without chanting at least one recitation of "Amitabha" or "Om Namo Amitabha Buddhaya" by the end of the day during this 10-week Spiritual Practice Period.

  6. Please don't be too lax in your practice, but also please don't be too hard on yourself if your practice isn't perfect. It's not meant to be perfect; that's why it's called a practice, not a perfection. In fact, when we hit our internal or external resistances, this is precisely what our practice is meant to be doing, allowing us the opportunity to face our resistances while practicing. This is where the growth and the insight takes place in our practice. Most of us have the erroneous belief that our practice is only all about serenity, peace, bliss, spiritual experiences, visions, Divine messages, or encounters with celestial beings. WRONG. These pleasant by-products can and do often occur in our practice, but that is not the main function of our practice. The point of our practice is to grow, to gain insight, to learn to let go of false beliefs, and to transform self-centeredness into wisdom and compassion. And this is sometimes blissful, but many times quite challenging and uncomfortable.

  7. Think of this 10-week Spiritual Practice Period as a gradual practice. Here is one possible scenario -- During Week One, you are very enthusiastic and are totally gung-ho with all ten practices. During Week Two, you realize that maybe just focusing on two main practices, such as chanting and meditation, is all you can realistically do. During Week Three, you maybe start getting lazy and forget about the practice. Week Four, perhaps you revitalize your commitments and try to practice more intentionally. Week Five, you finally see at least one whole day where you did all the practices completely. Week Six, you are able to do the chanting practice 100% for seven days in a row without a break. Week Seven, you start feeling spiritually proud, and this attitude plummets you into either laziness or a blockage in your practice. Week Eight, you "begin anew" in humbleness and "Beginner's Mind." Week Nine, you suddenly experience a spiritual breakthrough or awakening. And Week Ten, you share the light of your practice with all beings everywhere through lovingkindness meditation and Amitabha chanting that resounds from your heart 24/7/365 non-stop, even during sleep. And then, after 10-10-10, you start all over again, stumblingly, humblingly, faithfully, gratefully....forever and ever (secret: Enlightenment never ends!). Amitabha!

  8. See if you can do all ten periods of chanting for at least one day each week, with the goal of being able to do the chanting practice 7 days in a row nonstop by the end of the 10-10-10 Spiritual Practice Period. Just because you haven't been able to do it yesterday doesn't mean you can't do it today or tomorrow. Just begin anew. The point of having ten weeks to practice is to be able to realize at least one day or one week during that whole time when we have fully practiced deeply and consistently. This is similar to our daily morning meditation practice in which we sit silently in stillness for at least 20 minutes so that we will truly touch at least just one minute or one breath or even one moment of BEING-ness which is enough to set the tone of the whole rest of the day. One moment of mindfulness is enough. But it takes some time to get to that one transformative moment.

  9. Well, there are a few more questions and answers, but this letter is starting to get a bit long, so I'll wait til next week to continue. Please remember to consciously acknowledge that 100 other persons are practicing along with you during these ten weeks, and let yourself feel all of our support each time you chant or do another practice. And consciously give your support to the other 100 persons each time you chant, meditate or practice. Many of you will be able to tangibly feel the collective energy of support. I felt it twice so far during chanting last week. Wow, very powerful! Thank you for your support! Please know that I and many others are supporting you too.
OM NAMO AMITABHA BUDDHAYA,
Brother ChiSing

Buddha

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