Wednesday, January 8, 2020

On retreat with Bhikkhu Bodhi (Day 1)

Eds., Wisdom Quarterly; Bhikkhu Bodhi (BAUS); Lankarama Buddhist Institute (Dhammausa)
If I did not become the world's most prolific translator of Buddhist texts into American-English, I would have become a stuffy philosopher from the Claremont Colleges of California.

There were too many people to count accurately, with 60 signed up online (DBM 1, DBM 2, DBM 3) and between 50 and 70 present to see the inauguration of Bhikkhu Bodhi's weeklong meditation-study retreat in Los Angeles.

We pored over the texts, with a bound set of handouts of many sutras, references, and charts put together by Ms. Y (, the woman responsible for inviting this venerable scholar-monk two years ago after flying to see him at Chaung Yen Monastery in Upstate New York then making all of the event arrangements in coordination with Lankarama Buddhist Institute, San Gabriel Valley, La Puente, Los Angeles County.

How it all began
Breaking headline: The Buddha Shakyamuni did NOT leave his wife and sneak out of the palace as we have all been taught in the allegory of the Buddha's life!

That story or jataka fable is found in the commentary to DN 14, but the sutra itself says that those events took place in the life of the Buddha Vipassi 91 aeons (kalpas) ago, thus relegating this instructional story to mythology.

Made known is the Path to Freedom
How the Buddha actually left, what he was thinking as he set out on his noble quest -- to get away from rebirth, aging, death (Ariyapariyesana Sutta, MN 26), himself being subject to them -- which was that he would seek the end of rebirth, the unailing, and the deathless (amata = nirvana).

He realized it was ignoble to, himself being subject to these things, seek for possessions subject to these things. It would be far nobler to find what is free of them.

He began so slowly, with such basic things that one would have thought nothing was going to happen. Then came the sidebars, the added knowledge, the extras, answering our questions, clarifying point of contention. He was miraculously able to answer anything with chapter and verse references right out of his head. He at 75 is well and happy, spry and sharp, much more lucid than when we last saw him in New York.

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