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Lions Roar : January 2016
Do Buddhists believe in heaven and hell? Yes, but not in the same way other religions do. According to Buddhism, mind has the ability to create any conceivable self, environment, and experience. So the Buddhist cosmos contains numberless, perhaps infinite, beings of different bodies, sense faculties, and realms. Their experiences range from extreme pleasure to extreme pain, and everything in-between. We can also see these realms as psychological rather than “real.” All of us have experienced the hell of extreme anger and the heaven of great joy. Buddhists traditionally identify six realms in samsara, the wheel of cyclic existence drive by our belief in a fixed self. One of these—the human realm—you and I are experiencing right now. These realms seem very real to the beings who “inhabit” them. But then, so did the dream you had last night. I’ve been reading a lot of Buddhist books and now Iwanttofinda teacher. How do I go about it? Finding a teacher is like falling in love: you can’t make it happen but you’ll know when it does. Whether you call it serendip- ity, auspiciousness, or karma, trust it will happen when the moment is right. All you can do is create the right conditions. Is your reading pointing you toward a particular school of Buddhism? Then take the next step and attend some classes or retreats. Meet teachers, do the practices, and get a feel for different communities. Explore other traditions, too. See where your longing for a deep and personal rela- tionship with a teacher leads you. But don’t force it or pressure yourself, and don’t get too attached to your preconceptions—there’s a good chance your teacher will not be who you expected. But don’t feel you’re wasting your time now. This period of practice, study, and searching could be one of the most valuable stages of your journey. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? INSIGHT MEDITATION SOCIETY ON THE DAY CELEBRATING love in 1976—Febru- ary 14—three young meditation teachers passionate about bringing the Buddha’s teachings to the West established what would become a spiritual home to tens of thousands of Americans: the Insight Meditation Society (IMS), founded by Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield. Situated in a former Catholic monastery in Barre, Massachusetts, IMS is now one of America’s most important Buddhist centers. The Retreat Center offers more than thirty meditation courses annually, ranging from weekends for beginners to the famed three- month silent vipassana retreat. At the Forest Refuge, experienced meditators undertake personal retreats for in-depth practice and study. Along with Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, founded by Jack Kornfield, IMS is the flag- ship of the North American-wide Insight Meditation community. One of the largest and most influential schools in American Buddhism, it has helped define Theravada practice in the West. The Insight Meditation community that got its start at IMS now includes mediation groups throughout North America, including major centers in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and other cities. The rigorous Insight Meditation teacher training program has produced many of Western Buddhism’s most respected teachers, such Sylvia Boorstein, Trudy Goodman, Gina Sharpe, Gil Fronsdal, Christina Feldman, Rodney Smith, and many others. IMS founders Goldstein, Salzberg, and Kornfield remain among American Buddhism’s bestselling and most important teachers. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at