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HERE IN BODH GAYA
 
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, India

Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya, India

We arrived in Bodh Gaya the end of January but it feels like we’ve been here much longer than that! Bodh Gaya is a small, dusty town west of Varanasi in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Traditionally a farmland, it’s common to see cows, goats, chickens and dogs wandering the streets but it’s become quite a bustling tourist and pilgrimage destination. People from all over the world come to visit and pay homage to Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, who meditated and nearly starved himself to death before realizing what he called the Middle Way, when he became enlightened. It happened 2500 years ago, but somehow the energy of the place makes his presence very much alive today through the many people gathered around the holy site under the famous Bodhi tree making offerings and reciting prayers.

Just outside the Mahabodhi Temple complex, which is where the main temple and Bodhi tree resides, is a busy hustle and bustle of beggars, children, and those who are disabled, sick and aging asking for money as well as many street vendors selling flowers, butter lamps and much more to the visitors. The Buddha’s first teaching in Sarnath called the First Noble Truth where he stated, “There is suffering” is alive in every moment in Bodh Gaya. The harsh conditions have weathered the local folk and it all becomes part of the greater picture as to why the Buddha chose to become enlightened here. Perhaps if he chose an area where people were really healthy, rich or overall doing well then his teachings wouldn’t have such resonance.

Our lives here have been quite simple. We’re staying in a guest house about 1/2 mile from the complex. We eat all of our meals at the Tibetan Om restaurant, which mostly consists of Momos (Tibetan dumplings) and Banana tsampa (wheat porridge). The food is delicious and homemade by a very kind Tibetan family. We visit the Mahabodhi temple each day and practice. And we also have been practicing at Tergar monastery. I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be here, it’s profoundly inspiring for our practice and I hope to benefit others more in the future.

Posted by Kate Dutton on February 17, 2019.

 
LETTING GO
 
Calligraphy by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

Calligraphy by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s a few days before we fly to India. I’m going through my belongings, packing things up and donating items. It feels good to start the year off with clearing out some things I don’t want or need anymore and preparing for the journey ahead. But of course there’s a resistance to change, a resistance to letting go of the home I created the past year and the uncertainty ahead. While this process of clearing out and packing up is going on, there’s a framed calligraphy hung on the wall. It was painted by one of my teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh and says, “Let Go.” What I have learned from the teachings is that letting go is about accepting what is going on in the present moment. It’s not about not caring or being indifferent. It’s about being open and adaptable. Similar to how the body becomes more flexible when doing the yoga asanas, the mind can become flexible, too. And when the mind is open in that way, the light of our heart and mind shines forth. From my experience, this isn’t a linear process. It’s not like all the sudden I wake up one day after years of practice and realize, “Okay, I finally let go!” It’s a back and forth - sometimes I let go a bit here but then my attachment comes back about that other thing. Every time I go through a transition like this, it’s yet another test. Can I let go a little more than last time? Or is it the same old familiar resistance? Can I finally put what I’m learning into practice? Not sure yet, but either way I’m going to India soon!

Posted by Kate Dutton on January 24, 2019.

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PRACTICING EQUANIMITY
 
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

In my practice, I’ve recently been contemplating equanimity. Equanimity is one of the Four Immeasurables found in many Buddhist teachings. The Four Immeasurables are love, compassion, joy and equanimity. A definition of equanimity is something like mental and emotional stability when faced with experiences that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. Why is equanimity important? In general, most people have a strong attachment or aversion to certain things whether it’s particular people, situations or different sense perceptions. (sights, smells, sounds or tastes) This can cause all kinds of suffering. When you want to go out to eat at your favorite restaurant and you find out they’re closed - that’s attachment, or when you go out to eat at your favorite restaurant and you don’t like the food you ordered - that’s aversion. Equanimity teaches us to be flexible and adaptable in different situations. When our hearts and minds are open anything is possible, and the whole world can fit in our heart. 

There’s also a strong correlation between equanimity and compassion. Many of the teachings say it’s important to try to treat every human as though they were your mother or someone else you love. Occasionally this is much easier to imagine than to put into practice! There are those moments when people annoy each other, but imagine a world where the kind of care and concern directed towards each other as though each person’s life was significant to the wellbeing of all lives. Life is very precious and I think equanimity helps awaken the compassion that is already there within our own hearts. 

Posted by Kate Dutton on December 8, 2018.

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