Monday, September 3, 2007

by Julia Liebeskind

Lady Wisdom
Mother of Compassion
You have poured an ocean of blessings on this confused traveler.

When I felt shaken
You supported me.
Now I know support as steadfastness of practice.

When I felt engulfed
You touched me.
Now I know relationship as seeing things just as they are.

When I felt cold and alone
You warmed me.
Now I know kindness as both embrace and discrimination.

When I felt blown around
You sheltered me.
Now I know activity as doing what needs to be done.

When I felt lost
You showed me the way.
Now I see signposts everywhere.

When anger arose like a herd of mad elephants
You stood still and let them pass through you.
Now I know anger to be a wave of energy.

When desire arose like a bouquet of deliciously scented flowers
You received it gracefully, and set it gently down.
Now I know to smell desire and then to let it rest.

When everything seemed at peace
You heard the whimpers of the starving dog in the undergrowth,
took her in, and fed her.
Now I know that looking can never stop.

Lady Wisdom
You have led me this far.
Please stay with this restless traveler
Until I wake from my dream.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What is it?

An Arrow to the Heart is an exciting, trail-blazing, non-traditional translation and commentary of the Heart Sutra, an ancient and highly revered Mahayana Buddhist text.

Available in September, 2007, this commentary takes an unorthodox approach to unraveling the mysteries of the Heart Sutra.

The Heart Sutra is a concise presentation of the emptiness of all experience. Almost cryptic in its brevity, it confounds and inspires all who read it. (See post below for the text of the Heart Sutra.)

Free of the cultural clothing in which Buddhism came to the West, An Arrow to the Heart goes straight to the heart of the Heart Sutra. In the tradition of Hakuin and others, McLeod’s unpredictable turns consistently derail any conceptual understanding of this classic Buddhist scripture. Instead, he throws the reader into the very emptiness the Heart Sutra describes. The result is a sense of previously unsuspected possibilities that illuminate every nook and cranny of your life.

It’s also a delightfully irreverent combination of wit, irony, prose, and poetry. If you are looking for a traditional commentary on the Heart Sutra, this is probably not the right book. This book is for people who aren’t afraid of having the ground pulled out from under them.

Only in the last few years have senior Western teachers such as Ken McLeod started to write commentaries that truly mix the culture and style of Western thought with a deep respect and understanding of such traditional texts as the Heart Sutra.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What do other teachers say about this book?

Spoken in a voice that is neither pious nor academic, hectoring
nor detached, An Arrow to the Heart is a fine example of the new
wave in contemporary Buddhist writing. In its quietly re l e n t l e s s
way, this pithy and unorthodox commentary to the Heart Sutra
leaves you withnowhere to stand but right here.
-- Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism Without Beliefs

To read this book is to sit at the knee of a multifaceted and multitalented teacher as he unfolds the Dharma. It is a unique tapestry woven of several elements, each engrossing on their own: a gathering of original and lyrical poems of enlightenment, an unfolding of erudite commentary on the sutra, and an interesting collection of religious and secular quotations relevant to the sutra. I encourage you to savor it one page at a time.
-- Chozen Bays, author of Jizo Bodhisattva: Modern Healing and Traditional Buddhist Practice

What will it look like?

Gail Gustafson and Jeff Bickford generously provided this photo for the cover of An Arrow to the Heart.

Who is Ken McLeod?

Ken McLeod is one of the more innovative teachers of Buddhism today. Known for his ability to explain difficult and subtle teachings, “he distills the nature and purpose of Buddhism to make it accessible for any newcomer without dumbing it down.” (Phil Catalfo, Yoga Journal, July 2001 in a review of Ken’s first book Wake up to Your Life).

Formerly a translator for Kalu Rinpoche and other lamas, Ken has taken the same innovative approach to translation, consistently going beyond traditional terminology to express Buddhist teachings in clear, precise, contemporary English.

Ken’s private practice model of one-on-one consultations roiled the Buddhist world in the ‘90s only to become an accepted way of working with students. He has pioneered new retreat formats, integrating daily individual interviews and practical application exercises with traditional meditation and teaching. And, recently, he set up a development program for teachers who want to work outside established centers and institutions.

Ken began his studies in 1970 under the tutelage of the late Kalu Rinpoche. After completing two three-year retreats, he was appointed to teach in Los Angeles. In 1990, he established Unfettered Mind through which he teaches classes and retreats and sees people individually. In recent years, he has worked as a corporate consultant, advising senior executives at the highest levels of corporate America. With degrees in mathematics and years of experience in traditional Tibetan Buddhism, Ken is uniquely able to bridge the gap between contemporary life and traditional approaches to spiritual practice.

Sutra of the Heart of Lady Perfection of Wisdom

I bow to Lady Perfection of Wisdom

Thus have I heard. At one time Lord Buddha was staying at Vulture Peak Mountain in Rajagriha, with a great gathering of the monastic sangha and the bodhisattva sangha.

At that time, Lord Buddha entered an absorption, called Profound Radiance, in which all elements of experience are present.

At the same time, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, was looking right at the experience of the profound perfection of wisdom and he saw the five groups to be empty of nature.

Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Shariputra asked noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, “How does a son or daughter of the noble family, who wishes to practice the profound perfection of wisdom, train?”

Addressed in this way, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, said to venerable Shariputra, “O Shariputra, a son or daughter of the noble family who wishes to practice the profound perfection of wisdom looks in this way: see the five groups to be truly empty of nature.

Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, concept, mental formation, and consciousness are emptiness.

Therefore, Shariputra, all experience is emptiness. It is not defined. It is not born or destroyed, impure or free from impurity, not incomplete or complete.

Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no concept, no mental formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind, no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mind object; no eye element up to no mind element and no mind consciousness element; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin, no cessation, no path; no pristine awareness, no attainment, and no non-attainment.

Therefore, Shariputra, because, for bodhisattvas, there is no attainment, they rest, trusting the perfection of wisdom. With nothing clouding their minds, they have no fear. They leave delusion behind and come to the end of nirvana.

All the buddhas of the three times, by trusting this perfection of wisdom, fully awaken in unsurpassable, true, complete awakening.

Therefore, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, the mantra of great awareness, the unsurpassed mantra, the mantra equal to the unequalled, the mantra that completely calms all suffering is not a ruse: know it to be true. Thus, the mantra of the perfection of wisdom is said in this way:

om gaté gaté paragaté parasamgaté bodhi svaha

Thus, Shariputra, do all bodhisattva mahasattvas train in the profound perfection of wisdom.”

Then Lord Buddha arose from that absorption and praised noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, saying, “Well done, well done, o son of noble family; thus it is, thus it is. One practices the profound perfection of wisdom just as you have taught. Those Who Have Gone This Way also rejoice.”

Then venerable Shariputra and noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, titans, and sky spirits, rejoiced and praised the words of Lord Buddha.