Master of Buddhism Course

This is a blog for the course comments from the Master of Buddhism course through the Universal Life Church Seminary.
The course can be found at Buddhism Course.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson Two

Master of Buddhism Lesson Two

1. Which of these guidelines do you think is the most important? Why?
It is difficult to isolate one guideline from the others. they are all so
interconnected. But to me, the most important
guideline is Right Action. It seems to me that actions that are not thought out
completely have the probability of
hurting other people. Lying, stealing, sexual misconduct and becoming intoxicated
seem to cause more problems in society
than some of the other guidelines such as misdirected speech. Intoxication especially
leads to much trouble and has
destroyed many homes and families. The results of an addiction in the family leaves
lifelong scars for all involved.

2. What is the unifying concept of these guidelines?
Relief from suffering is what brings all of these together. Each one of these has
at its core the intention of alieving

3. What do you think the Buddha would have to say today about "Right
Livelihood?" Can you think of any
positions in today's workforce that he might use as an activity one should avoid?
This is a very difficult question to answer. There are obvious lines of work that
are harmful - such as those dealing
with criminal behaviour. But many other jobs may also lead to the suffering of
others. A person would have to carefully
consider the full spectrum of actions that result in the particular job that they are
engaged in. The manufacture of
arms is one that comes to mind as we can see tragic results from the use of firearms.
Yet others might argue that if
used responsibly there would be no problems. Still, if there were no guns available,
irresponsible use would be
Another example might be the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs. Although a
great stride forward to the relief of
chronic pain sufferers, irresponsible use causes difficulty. Even the fact that some
pharmaceutical drugs cause
dependency is a problem itself.
Each individual must decide for them self if they are involved in Right
Livelihood. One must think deeply on the
possible aspects and weigh the pros and cons of each.

ULC Buddhism Course Lesson 2

1. Which of these guidelines do you think is the most important? Why?

Right mindfulness would be the first building block to all other actions. One must find a place within thought that is free of hate, self-recrimination, and anger. Anger, hate, and negative ideas, lead to wrong action, wrong words, mistreatment of self and others. With right mindfulness one can lead a peaceful existence with no harm to none, beginning with self. Hate and anger are the worst enemies of any human being, causing illness and one to be shunned. Those who ban together in anger cannot be trusted. Developing a mind of peace is the correct path to all else.

2. What is the unifying concept of these guidelines?

Living in peace. Through peaceful living one will wish to serve others, to carry a message of peace, love and well being. People who are at peace are like magnets, others are drawn to them and walk away feeling good. To live in peace equates to love, doing that which is right, and serving human kind.

3. What do you think the Buddha would have to say today about "Right Livelihood?" Can you think of any positions in today's workforce that he might use as an activity one should avoid?

The Eightfold Path is the culmination of Right Livelihood. A wage earned through service, no harm, and providing products that enlighten and further health is Right Livelihood. Though some would feel that this would include butchers and hunters. 
Workplace activity that Buddha would wish one would avoid? Several come to mind, but following the Eightfold path, as stated butchers, hunters, and farmers who raise animals for food.

Buddhism Course lesson 1

1.  As with any story, fable from long ago, it is natural that certain facts may have been embellished to help get a point across. who will be able to verify accuracy?  Who is to judge whether any religions have verifiable proof as to their origins?  I believe the story of Siddhartha rings true, and may be the product of fact molded with myth and legend. however, I think it does not matter because the essence is contained in the teachings, which I believe are sound and worthy for someone to follow. rather than spend time on verifying the origins, time could be better spent on deciding whether or not the teachings have relevance to the world of the individual.

2.  Enlightenment, to me, is the harmonizing of the inner voice to the outer reality. it will have different meanings to different people, but may have basic similar points, such as happiness, contentment, etc. however, happiness and contentment are variables and will be conditional on personal circumstances. for me, enlightenment would mean freedom from grief, and at its basest, to die happily before my own family members. this may sound natural and even selfish, but is my idea of enlightenment.

3. I believe enlightenment may be possible, and truly hope it is. of course, it will be very personal, as one person`s enlightenment may not satisfy someone else. rather than seek it, i feel it should come naturally, so that you feel that  a particularly great moment cannot get better.  naturally, this will be followed by bad days and disappointments, but if one can string together many of these little daily enlightenments, no matter how small, it could result in a more permanent condition. i hope i may achieve a perfect state sometime, but do not think i need to go out and aggressively seek the perfect condition. i really believe that with time and experience, i may string together enough rainbow days to find myself on the path to enlightenment.

Wayne Cuthbert, japan.

Buddhism Course lesson No.2

1. I think No.8, Right  Concentration, is the most important. it is a time when one can reflect on any actions that  may have caused distress to anyone, and seek resolve to correct them. to use this time to also think about actions that can be improved upon, not only those actions that need correction.

2.  I believe love and compassion are the unifying concepts.

3. Maybe Buddha would be surprised at the extent of selfishness in todays world. this also includes the escalating wars around the world, caused through misunderstandings in both politics and religion, and the failure to invoke love and compassion on a greater scale. maybe if more people followed the concept of Right Livelihood, there would be less greed and discontent between people and countries.

I believe Buddha may use the example of a stock broker as one activity that should be avoided. of course this could be extended to banking and other areas, that use peoples money for speculation to make profit, even I when  they know they may lose that money.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Course Lesson 3 by Rev. Cuthbert

1.  It may be if the followers wanted to twist the meaning for their own gain, but I believe that the essence of the teaching is quite clear and seems reasonably free from misinterpretation also  particularly that many forms of Buddhism, from different areas, all seem to agree on the same foundation of principles.

2.  I would need to think before i acted and reflect on my faults as have been pointed out to me by my wife. i I am too stubborn and do not listen carefully enough to other people.  I am also guilty  of wanting many things, things that I really do not need. this is a fault of desire. basically, I would need to think more before i act.

3.  I truly believe they are inside, and that is what I believe Buddha is trying to teach us, not to seek from the outside, but to look within for answers.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church Seminary


Buddhism lesson 4 Answers by Rev. Cuthbert

1. You believe timing was right in that many countries were undergoing some internal conflicts, and rulers saw Buddhism as a vehicle to bring stability to the people. the concepts of Buddhism are very peaceful, and rulers may have seen a way to make people put the focus for safety and peace back on the individual, rather than having to shoulder total responsibility themselves. Nirvana is a personal event, and an individual must lead a peaceful and sharing life to enter Nirvana. this would cause the people to think  and look introspectively.

2. A change of leadership and a growing dissatisfaction with everyday life within a country helped the spread of Buddhism. Missionaries also helped spread the word by giving people hope for salvation by personal means, and not at the whim of a god or ruler.

3. How to look within oneself to judge if a decision is right for the benefit of the majority. mainly, to make judgements after ensuring that all aspects of the Dharma have been met, and trying to decide for the benefit of  humanity instead of self.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Lesson 5 answers

1. I find it a little unsettling, as I do not know how much bad karma I have carried over, and how this will affect my future ,in which class i am re-birthed. can I ever atone enough, or how many lives must be lived to atone before entering Nirvana? of course, we all strive to do good, but we can never be sure if our actions are major or minor misdeeds.

2. Yes, most people I know belong to the hungry ghosts. a few i have known have belonged to each group, but very few, in this life-time, have i known to belong to the Gods.

3.  I think that the biggest difference is that with Buddhism, you have a chance at re-birth and the possibility to move up and out of hell. with Christianity, it seems once committed, you are in hell forever and a day.

wayne cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Lesson 6 - ULC

1. It should be to help you focus on the teachings of the Dharma, wherin you can concentrate on what you need to do to better your chances of enlightenment in the future. in a way, i guess it could be personal, but on the other hand, one is striving to help others to salvation, so it could be seen as a personal act for the benefit of others.

2.  Trance-like state, praying to other gods, cult-like mystcism, rejection of the Christian way of life. Westerners may see meditation as a threat to their known religion, and may even feel that a meditator is part of a terrorist or other cult. it is all in the fear of the unknown and ignorance.   Buddha has taught followers to rise above ignorance.

Universal Life Church

Buddhism lesson 7 by Rev. Wayne

1. Yes, it could be a teacher if we learn how to live our remaining life to the fullest, and know that we have reflected on death, accepted it, and do our best for a better rebirth.

2. One can plan for the end and remove the mystique and fear of dying.  however, too much reflection on death could make you morbid and take too much valuable time and effort away from concentrating on a positive remaining life.

3.  I have converted to Pure Land Buddhism, which teaches there are no rebirths , as Amida absolves all karma,if you make it to the Western Pure Land. Personally, i am believing in my Nembutsu and know that i will be accepted by Amida Buddha. i know what will happen when and after i die, as Amida, Kannon and Seishi will take me to the Pure Land. this i believe unconditionally, therefore what is more important to me is the here and now, so that i can enjoy my time here and  plan for my Birth, not rebirth, when the time comes. on a different note, I thank you so much for this course as it motivated me to learn more. i live in japan with my japanese family, and have reached out and accepted the teachings of Jodo Shu Buddhism. the catalyst certainly came from your wonderful course, so a big thank you from me.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Lesson 8

1. a person must have more faith in themselves, and not rely on a god to absolve their sins in order to reach heaven. having faith in nirvana requires one to rely on self-power, to expect multiple rebirths in order to correct past bad karma. this runs contrary to many main stream religions, particularly when someone can have the chance to ultimately become a Buddha through entering nirvana.  a person cannot become god or Jesus Christ, or Muhammed if they enter their heaven.

2.  I thought of a pearl, and have composed a short tanka, a Japanese poem ;
a pearl
a shell opens
to reveal a glowing pearl
protected from outside abuses and
born afresh, pristine.
the rotten, decaying shell is cast aside,
a new life is born.

Wayne Cuthbert
Buddhism Course

Buddhism Answers for Lesson 1 by Rev. Travis

"1. Does the story of Siddhartha Guatama, particularly in the years before he became the Buddha, ring true? Is it legend or hearsay? Does it matter?"

Yes, the story rings true, but with embellishment. I think the core points are true.  I think it is important that Siddhartha was a real human being, as this keeps the possibility of enlightenment in the human realm.

"2. What does enlightenment mean to you?"

To know what one truly is, and dissolve the lie of the encapsulated, long-lasting, separate self.

"3. Do you believe that enlightenment is possible? Is there more than one way to be enlightened? If so, what?"

Enlightenment is imminently possible.  I think there is a paradox of enlightenment - ultimately the end is always the same, but there are many unique paths to that end.  You must know yourself, but the way a person gets there, and the methods used, are many.

- Travis
Universal Life Church

"Free your mind..."
~ Morpheus in "The Matrix"

Buddhism Course lesson 9 - Rev. Wayne

1. The Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, Adhimmada Pitaka.
2. 20,000., as Buddha said, `take what you want from the sermons`. I think his disciples interpreted his wishes as accurately as they could. accurate is a relative term, as all second-hand information is embellished by the teller, hence we will get a slightly different nuance from numerous re-tellings. the fact remains that all Buddhist sects agree on the  basic tenement, which signifies that what the Buddha spoke has been respected down the years until now. that is about as accurate, or faithful, as we can hope for.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Lesson 11 by Rev. Wayne

1. Mahayana is based on sutras, and are believed to contain the teachings of Buddha. also, Mahayana believes that all people can attain enlightenment, not just monks and nuns. Theravada relies on the self for salvation, whereas Mahayana believes in the other power, in order to save all souls, not just self.
Mahayana believes in the concept of Bodhisattva, wherein a person returns to help humanity find salvation.

2. to attain Bodhcitta, one must return and help everyone attain salvation before personal Buddhahood can be acheived.

3. the appeal in Mahayana is that it is a simpler and more approachable way to enlightenment, particularly in the world today, wherein people are busy and do not have the time to attain salvation through self power. the various practices of the Holy way, as opposed to the Pure Land Way,  are numerous and may be too dificult for the modern man to understand.

wayne cuthbert

Buddhism - Lesson 12

Buddhism Course Lesson 12

1. It is said that Zen cannot be  described, and as descriptions need words,  they will fail Zen. yes, when i got a hole-in-one at  golf.

2. One must  always keep trying to unlock the answer, and part of the solution is to find a gate where a gate  should be.

3. It is mysterious and defies normal logical reasoning. maybe some people are looking for differentness in their life.

Wayne Cuthbert

ULC Buddhism Course - lesson 13

1. The mystique of secrecy, the fact that many well-known celebrities practice, the aura and Tantric sex may all contribute to popularity in the West, but for the more serious person, the fact that enlightenment may be achieved in one lifetime must be an important reason. of course, the popularity of yoga may also help tie -in to the popularity.

2. I prefer Mahayana. i have taken vows into Jodo Shu, the Pure Land Way revealed through Master Honen. Pure Land and True Pure Land are the two most popular Buddhist sects in japan. i have been living in japan for 30 years, and have a Japanese wife and two daughters. of course, my wife`s relationship has a big effect on my choosing Mahayana, but apart from that, i truly believe in, and appreciate the fact that one can achieve birth in the Western Pure Land by calling on the name of Amida Buddha. one does not need to meditate, read scripture, nor any other practice except to honestly and truly call on the name of Amida Buddha. whilst some may say this is the easy or lazy way, it all comes down to faith, and doing what one sees as the best Way.

3.  I think that being born with Buddha -nature is beneficial, and that one must strip down to reveal this inherent characteristic, rather than starting from scratch and trying to create perfection. it is always better to start with perfection enclosed in impurity. this way, stripping away the impurities will reveal the goal.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

ULC Buddhism Course lesson 14

1. To remind ourselves of what it is to be a Buddhist. to strengthen faith and belief, and to have a basic code of conduct across the differing Sects of Buddhism.

2. No, the precepts should be undertaken with true committment, to make sure the true Way is followed. a light infraction may be pardoned if a lesson is learnt and the transgressor realises the wrong and corrects it.

3. It means to spread the Word of Buddha to those who have not heard it, and to spread compassion to all.

Wayne Cuthbert
Universal Life Church

Master of Buddhism – Week Three Questions and Answers

Master of Buddhism – Week Three

1.      Could the fact that the Dharma wasn't written by the Buddha himself be problematic? If so, in what ways?
         A: I think it could be problematic for some. However, the message of the Dharma, that of promoting peace and good within oneself and others, is a good message, and appears to capture the essence of the teachings of the Buddha.  I would doubt all of the Dharma is 100% correct and in line with the teachings of the Buddha, but overall the meaning of the Buddha's teachings come through clear and concise enough.

2.      Imagine you are preparing to go for refuge. What necessary changes would you need to make in your life first?
         A: I would need to put more of an effort into being mindful, and finding the ability to sit longer as would be required at the Sangha.

3.      When going for refuge, are you relying on forces outside of yourself for peace of mind, or are the Three Jewels ultimately found inside yourself?
         A: Each of the Three Jewels was manifested outside of oneself. It is these outside forces that one finds the refuge of the three jewels within themselves.
John M. Stephenson

Buddhism Course Information

Buddhism is founded on the teachings of Buddha who did not subscribe to an immortal soul or supreme deity (God).

Christianity is founded on the belief of Jesus Christ as the son of God who was crucified and died to pay for the sins of man then resurrected from the dead. Those who believe this in their heart and confess it to others can call themselves Christians.

There difference is very subtle!  Both belief systems are nonscientific and also provides a way for common people to tackle real hardships of the world.  The major difference is scale of influence. If some powerful empire will follow a saman belief system and spread it across 1/3 of the world.  It'll become something like Christianity.  SO in that sense the belief systems which are regional with limited institutionalization are usually termed as shamanism.

My own spiritual path is very complex in the sense I am not a healer nor a shaman I am an individual who believes in Christianity but also studies other beliefs through my studies I do not lean one way nor the other as a bias for any religion but try to think rationally through each belief.
No, I believe they are both different due to their complexity.
The path of shamanism is via the axis mundi i.e. the central pivot between heaven and Earth.

Rev. Andrew

Buddhism Lesson 15 - Rev. Cuthbert

1. I think not, as they are the backbone, or meaning, of Buddhism. as Buddha said, we are not an individual, but are dependent on others for our existence. we exist because others exist. we help and are helped. we teach, and we learn. Monks, nuns, laypeople are all part of this cycle, of giving, receiving both in physical and spiritual terms.  I guess a reasonable analogy is, could a school exist if we had no teachers?

2. To receive inspiration from the Buddha, as we can no longer learn from direct teachings. a pilgrimage can give us spiritual motivation and put us in close contact with the Dharma and Sangha, represented by the objects  and places we visit on our  pilgrimage.

3. Maybe in ancient times, the reliance may have been more of a physical reliance, in relation to food and shelter. in modern times, maybe spiritual matters are more to the forefront, in relation to the fast-paced and ever changing modern society.  So, I believe that now, spiritual reliance is greater than physical reliance.

Wayne Cuthbert, japan
Universal Life Church

Buddhism Lesson 16

1. Maybe it was thought she may wield  influence over Buddha. Buddha may have thought that he needs to be free of attachment, and her proximity may , in itself, be a reminder of attachment, hence his disciples may think Buddha does not want to let go of attachment. it may be difficult for those monks who must instruct and chastise her because of her relationship to Buddha.

2. I think it is a loss as women have so much compassion and wisdom to contribute. the Sangha is for the benefit of helping society, and women are the best at knowing what women need.  Many women would undoubtedly prefer to confide and seek help from another woman. in this way, lay women may be drawn closer to the teaching of Buddha.

3. I think He would tell them not to focus on their differences, but on their similarities, and their duty to promulgate the Dharma.  Also, to use their uniqueness for the benefit of society, to move beyond Man vs Woman, and to put more effort into resolving inequities between Man vs. Inhumanity.

Wayne Cuthbert

Master of Buddhism Lesson 2

  1. Which of these guidelines do you think is the most important? Why?
The guideline which I think is the most important is right understanding. This is because I believe that all of what we are, including our actions and our makeup begin in the mind. That is, we are our brains. When we begin to form our thoughts or interpret what is presented to us, much care needs to be taken before we act on those thoughts. We need to see what we perceive for what it really is and not simply act on it without regard for consequence or repercussions.

  1. What is the unifying concept of these guidelines?
I think that the unifying concept is when "suffering" is understood and acted upon with a realization that everything is interconnected, it can end and can be transformed to not only attain a better mental state for oneself but for everything we come into contact with not only physical but emotional as well.

  1. What do you think the Buddha would have to say today about "Right Livelihood?" Can you think of any positions in today's workforce that he might use as an activity one should avoid?

The Buddha might say that right livelihood is something people need to focus more on and less on their material, social, or economical status. People should focus more on why they are in the position they are in and why they think they need (or needed) to get there. For example, people still find it necessary to accumulate things to out do one another. There are so many people I know who simply work just to own a brand new car. The financial stress alone is enough to set the suffering wheel on warp speed. Then there are the illegal drugs dealers. Because of all the immediate money they can attain, they tend to not consider thinking about the personal suffering or effect it has on everyone and everything else.

Two examples I can think of which the Buddha might say to avoid would be testing consumer products on animals (e.g. makeup, drugs, etc), the tobacco industry (e.g. cigarettes and chewing tobacco). Both of these not only have a huge potential to affect the immediate animal or person using the products but can also place a long-term mental and physical burden on them as well.

Lesson 17 Buddhism by Rev. Wayne

1. living in Japan, I prefer Ullambana, called Obon in Japan.  It is interesting because Obon is mixed between the traditional Japanese religion of Shinto, and Buddhism. as is the case here, the two go very much hand in hand. whilst offerings and prayers are made for the dead, the festival itself takes on a Shinto nature, with a portable shrine being carried through the streets, which are turned into food stalls, etc. to make a carnival atmosphere. each town has its own traditional dance, which is done accompanying the parade of the shrine. people will go to both temple, Buddhist, and shrine, Shinto, to pray for ancestors.

2. Do not kill, even insects. let life be, and allow living beings to interact, which is a Buddhist tenement that all beings are dependent upon each other. in essence, let life flow in its predetermined direction. This saying could also illuminate the teaching of Buddha, that He be allowed to settle within you, then move on to help other beings to enlightenment.

3.  I do not think so. Buddha preached to not take life, so the act of eating meat is not taking life, in the real sense. in Japan, a Buddhist country, meat eating is common and not frowned upon.

Wayne Cuthbert


Master of Buddhism Lesson 3

1.     Could the fact that the Dharma wasn't written by the Buddha himself be problematic? If so, in what ways?

I would think that the Dharma could be problematic since it wasn't written by the Buddha. One simple reason could be a biased interpretation. For example, a person who wrote down what they were taught could alter the actual meaning to fit some other agenda or belief of the time. Think of how many things we are taught or told and don't necessarily think they are the best for us, so we decide to choose a different path. Or perhaps some of the Buddha's teachings may not have been fully remembered and some things may have been replaced with what "fit: best to fill in the gaps. However, having said this, I still feel it is up to the individual on the path to figure out for him or herself if what they are presented with works or makes sense for them to attain at least some closeness to being enlightened. I believe this is why the teachings include the Three Jewels or scenarios in which to acquire guidance.

2.      Imagine you are preparing to go for refuge. What necessary changes would you need to make in your life first?

I think one of the most important changes would have to be time or giving up things to be able to go for refuge. What I mean by this is: there are many things in our lives we could easily do away with to make room for a better mental state or awareness. For example, too much time with television, movies, computers, cellphones, drinking, or whatever temporarily preoccupies one from their suffering. I think when certain distractions are removed, refuge would be much easier to take in.

3.      When going for refuge, are you relying on forces outside of yourself for peace of mind, or are the Three Jewels ultimately found inside yourself?

I think initially one would seek out refuge because they are in need of guidance from a more experienced or advanced source of wisdom from where they currently believe they are at. It is the basic function of learning. I do believe in the end however, what we take from the three Jewels and how we use it to transform us is all within ourselves. As long as we remain open to teachings and lessons so that we can continue to transform our suffering and not dismiss what conflicts with our current beliefs and biases – the Three Jewels will continue to influence us and we will nurture them as they do us.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Master of Buddhism Course by Rev. Judith Wolf

Master of Buddhism
Final Essay
Dr. Judith G. Wolf
One wonders whether Eastern spiritualism, dominated by Buddhism, has been a calming influence during the trauma of the recent earthquake and tsunami. I can only wonder at the apparent calm of the general reaction. Contrast that to the hysteria of those in the United States who denounce the birthright of our president or shout falsehoods to the general public usurping their exalted places as congressmen and senators.
The lessons of the Buddhists are to be extoled. If everyone in the world followed their basic tenets, we would have a world of peace. It might be relatively easy to wish only good for all people, or hope that all humans are free from suffering. It is not so easy to be generous to ones' enemies, to be forgiving, to hope that a person is free of suffering no matter what he or she has done to you. It is also not easy to rejoice in and feel proud of those we do not know. And finally, it is particularly difficult for many to see all beings as equal.  The latter is demonstrated by the degree of racial discrimination that exists in the world; by the suffering imposed on people by those who perceive themselves as different and better.
But if at least some of us try to cultivate Buddhist virtues, it is a start. By practicing generosity, ethical behavior, patience, joyous effort and concentration, we can perhaps generate the wisdom of emptiness; the wisdom to know that the reality as we see it is a function of our projections and misunderstanding it is empty of these falsehoods. On the other hand, is trying to cultivate Buddhist virtues so different from trying our best to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, sometimes described as the heights of virtue that God desires of all his children?
I believe that there are many paths to God and to living the life that God desires us to live. Buddhism is one of them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Final essay Druidism

What an interesting discourse!  I enjoyed that the lessons utilized a variety of authors, giving different perspectives, opinions and expressions of Druidism.  The overview was one of the traditions language and history of the Druid clans.  I did notice there is similarity between the celebration of holidays between the Druids and the Pagan practices.  It does seem like the modern day Druids, especially in America have turned towards the folly of the celebrations, maybe not the seriousness of the 'old days'.  The history of the Druids is also left to interpretation due to the lack of documentation.  It is not easy to grasp the real life style of how these people went about their daily living.  Their gods/goddess are brought to life by the holidays they celebrated.   I would have enjoyed being part of the simple life, the closeness of the clan and the strong support to Mother Earth, respecting all living animal and plants, showing concern for the environment.  I see a correlation between this idealism and the Native Americans.  Would it not be wonderful if this concept was shared in the present day!
My personal curiosity on Druidism stems from my heritage of being Irish.  My grandfather came from Cork County as a child to America.  He was a proud Irishman, and in hind sight I now wish I could have learned more from him regarding his heritage.  At one time I had a past life regression, one of my previous lives was served as a seer within the Druidism culture.  I also worked the Templars as a seer.  In this time frame I was well respected and protected by the Templar's for my abilities.  For these two reasons I was drawn to experience this discourse to learn more and to see if any of the information brought back a memory for me of my past life.  Each week I read new information and yet at the same time I felt I already knew what was being lectured . . . interesting . . .
The one section I really enjoyed was the language and written words/symbols.  I made a set of divination sticks, using the Ogham alphabet with their meanings and interpretation.  I use these sticks regularly to receive guidance and am amazed at their accuracy.  I loved working with the lettering of Ogham and symbology.
My overall critique of the class is positive.  I was a little overwhelmed by the holidays and figures presented.  This class offered so much information and was very well presented.  Thank you for the opportunity to join in this class.
Rev. Constance J. Hitts

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson 1 - The Beginning


1. Does the story of Siddhartha Guatama, particularly in the years before he became the Buddha, ring true? Is
it legend or hearsay? Does it matter?

It is sensible to believe that history is coloured by the person relating the events. When it comes to important
historical figures, such as Siddhartha Guatama or Jesus, it is reasonable to think that elements of certain events have
been exaggerated to make the historical figure seem larger or more important, or to increase the impact of the event
upon the reader. It is difficult to believe, for example, that a person - even one in a rich palace - can be kept from
the knowledge of sickness, ageing, and death. Since Siddhartha is said to have been a clever lad, would it not seem
probable that he would wonder why certain members of the household were older or younger than he? Does it not seem
likely that he would have experienced common colds or, like most young and curious boys, played with insects and seen
them die?

So it is likely that elements of truth have been embellished to enhance the importance of the Buddha. All cultures have
myths and legends. This particular one is important because it sets into motion the idea of the Buddha as having a
driving goal that motivated him (finding relief from sickness, old age and death). This frames the entire Buddhist
philosophy because seeking relief from suffering is the central motivation of Buddhism.

2. What does enlightenment mean to you?

Enlightenment is the slow process by which we come to know how our minds work. We come to see that much of what we take
for granted is simply "stuff" that we've made up - then we act upon those thoughts as if they're true! We spend a lot of
time defending these thoughts and pushing them onto other people. Enlightenment is understanding that these things don't
matter, but that there is something that does matter; other people. The world seems to work like a giant cosmic fan and
whatever we throw out at it is simply redirected right back at us. So it is quite true to say that how we treat others
IS how we treat ourselves.

3. Do you believe that enlightenment is possible? Is there more than one way to be enlightened? If so, what?

Enlightenment is possible if we spend time thinking about things of this nature. Many different people and many
different spiritual traditions have found this - though they may have different names for it. It seems that the key
element to finding enlightenment is frequent periods of thought - just thinking about life and how it works and why
things are the way they are. We sometimes call this prayer or meditation - or even just sitting quietly in the garden
watching the world go by!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Shamanism Course Essay

  I would love to start out with the dictionary telling me that a Shaman is a priest or medicine man or woman that has the belief that they can change or influence. Also noted that it is a religion based on spirits. OK!  That defines most religions and most people.  I saw a sign saying " I wonder why someone didn't do something about it, then I realized I was someone."

  Most  of my life I have had friends & strangers come to me and just start to tell me their problems. I wondered if I had Psychology stamped on my forehead.  So I let spirit lead me to become a Minister (through ULC). Then this is where I was confronted with men only are Ministers, Right! Then spirit guided me into studies on Master of Religion & diploma on  a Bible Course, then a Diploma in Psychology. I have been a Nurse since 1969, now working for over 10 yrs with the elderly. I am a Reiki 3 rd degree practitioner/master. Spirit has not led me to become a full  Master. My time is spread in other interests, to be a Master would require my full attention.  This last paragraph sums up to spirit guiding me & training me to be the Shaman I am today. Five years ago a Shaman friend dubbed me with the name "Crowbird", my power animal & spirit guide.

   I have made several type & bought numerous drums. In drumming I have entered  lucid states that I have talked to my spirit guides & visited others on another plain. In being a Shaman I find that I not only can I  help the sick but also have the knowledge to find lost things. I know what my husband is going to say before he says it. That gives him the goosebumps. I also have the gift of seeing others that have passed on. I guess like a move, " I see dead people". My grandmother had this gift & told me, when I was very young, that I also had the gift. I have aided many a soul to pass on.
  I understand that different cultures have different attitudes on what a Shaman can be or do. I understand that most people believe a Shaman is mostly Native American based. Doing the study course " Master Of Shamanism" I have learned about other culture practices. This is like a key opening new doors. Doors that have stood there for ages. Waiting on me to journey in. I have been drawn to Stonehenge & Sodona knowing that this is another energy point for me.

  I am able to do Out of Body & waiting to meet the Old Souls on another plain. With this study guide I am now able to do so.  I am also an Indigo Child, knowing that being a Shaman is in the plan for time of changes. I have become a Gate Keeper for United Christians for Israel. I can proudly say that when time of change happens I'll be able to guide all souls to their destination.

  All in all, I believe that this study is like putting the topping on the sundae. I know that being a Shaman is something that  has to be earned, can to be something inherited, can be a way of life helping for all the other puzzle pieces to fit as far as knowing where your life has been & knowing where you need to go. On my folder, where I keep my print outs on all 19 lessons, I have wrote, "God leads me down this path".  On Facebook I state that I am a Minister/Shaman.  AND PROUD TO SAY IT. I lived in the wilderness, 5 yrs., living off the land, raising all my own own food, vegetable & meat. This has  also prepared me for what is to come in the future.

  Now I look forward to meeting other Shamans/Ministers/Indigos.  I hope others reading this will take this course, it is going to be like a guide  & understanding to the future.
                                                                                                                                          Rev. Kathy Mostoller, Minister/Shaman

Master of Buddhism Essay

Master of Buddhism Essay

The Master of Buddhism course by Tricia Stirling was instructive and very helpful in jogging my memories of Buddhism classes long ago.  She lays out the history of Buddhism, its legends and its evolution in a concise way that holds your attention and keep you looking forward to the next lesson.  Particularly useful, is the way she quotes from Buddhist scriptures and gives references to where you can look for more information in each particular form of Buddhism be it Theravada (teaching of the elders), Hinayana (the lesser vehicle), Mayahana (the greater vehicle), Vajrayana (the diamond vehicle) and all the subdivisions derived from them. 

In past studies of Buddhism, I was struck with core similarities between Buddhism and mystic Christianity.  I was reminded of this again as I read through the lessons of this course, in particular the one on monasticism.  Christians seek union with God which relieves us from our suffering, Buddhists seek release from the suffering and the cycle of rebirth.  In Christianity, it's taught that God is love (1 John 4:8) and so when a Christian is told that the greatest commandment is to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:36-40), they are essentially being told to Love the Greatest Love with all their heart, mind, and soul, and to love others as themselves.  In Buddhism, compassion and love for those who are in the midst of the cycle of rebirth leads Buddhists to help guide others to their release and to also be filled with compassion and love.  Love and desiring to help others to be released from the bondage of behaviors that bind them to their inner darkness are both present in the two religions. 

Accepting the five precepts was another similarity I found with Christianity.  In the 15th lesson, it's stressed that to go against the five precepts after taking them on was to be in a worse state than before accepting the five precepts. The same has been said about Christians after baptism, that to return to a previous state of sin (or in Buddhism, it would be wrong living), is worse than not to have accepted the faith at all.  There are many such parallels between the two religions.  The point system described in this lesson assigned to meritorious deeds is also like the Catholic system of indulgences, as well as the practice of going on pilgrimages to places their religious leaders were born, preached, or performed miracles at. 

An ideal set forward to Christians, to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, is very similar to what is found in The Teaching of Buddha, published by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, Tokyo,  "Lay followers should always keep in mind that sooner or later they will be obliged to part with their parents and families and pass away from this life of birth and death; therefore, they should not become attached to things of this life but should set their minds on the world of Enlightenment wherein nothing passes away."  It's nice to see this much harmony in the spiritual traditions.  I can see why Thomas Merton was drawn to Buddhism as well as to his own faith. 

This course sets out the different paths of Buddhism, goes into the practices of laypeople, and provides history and background that makes it sensible and easy to understand.  I'd definitely recommend this course to anyone seeking to learn more about Buddhism.

Rev. Janet

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson 1

1.Does the story of Siddhartha Guatama, particularly in the years before he became the Buddha, ring true? Is it legend or hearsay? Does it matter?

I think the story of Siddhartha before he became the Buddha has some elements of truth in it like any story. Yes I believe Siddhartha was a real person and a prince. Yet beyond this and how exaggerated the stories are and how he came to be is another question which can not be entirely answered. This is because all of the history and teachings of the time were handed down through word of mouth for many generations before they were actually written down in some form (not to mention different interpretations and various schools of thought having a hand with the history). To that end, I would say that it is more legend than fact. However, the embellishments and allegories in much of the history seem to make good use of conveying and setting a framework for the path the student of Buddhism would take. For example, what better way to illustrate the idea that everyone suffers (i.e. sickness, aging, and death) than by having a great prince who has been sheltered for the first 29 years of his life with every luxury and want fulfilled to suddenly have his whole world turned upside down when he comes into contact with the common "afflictions" of life. He then comes to a realization that those things are inevitable for everyone whether they are a prince or not.

I do not think it matters whether the story is legend or hearsay. It is all about what we take from it and how we use it. The main goal of Buddhism is to end one's suffering and like any teaching one has to figure out if it works for them.

2. What does enlightenment mean to you?

Enlightenment to me means being free of a burden or burdens. A burden in the sense of something that creates a constant cycle of suffering. For example, being attached to things which make us unhappy at the thought of losing them. Or, dwelling on situations which make us upset instead of figuring out why they happened in the first place. Sometimes we even remain ignorant of the past until it happens then get upset all over gain. Enlightenment is the cessation of these things or the recocgnition and

3. Do you believe that enlightenment is possible? Is there more than one way to be enlightened? If so, what?

I do believe enlightenment is possible if we lead a mindful life. That is, understanding how our actions will affect other people, the environment, and ourselves. If we reflect on: the things we do, the way we think, the way we perceive life, the way we view every thing – we can at least begin on a path to end suffering by transforming it into something much more positive.

I think that the path to enlightenment can be different depending on the person and what they take from their lessons from a teacher, book, or any other number of sources. Were there only one way, then Siddhartha would not have spent a large portion of his life trying to find it.