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Lions Roar : May 2016
evening. It’s also helpful to add some contemplative practice in the form of short recitations. Many Buddhists like to start the day with a recita- tion of the Metta Sutta, declaring their aspiration to bring loving- kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity to all beings. There is no better goal for the day! Many Mahayana practitioners also like to recite the Heart Sutra, so the day ahead is flavored with both compassion and the wisdom of emptiness. In the evening, you can do another short meditation and then dedicate the benefit of your day to the enlightenment of all sentient beings. For an excellent instruction on starting and ending your day with dharma, go to www.lionsroar.com/ set-your-intention-rejoice-in-your-day/. It’s pretty common these days to talk about someone’s “karma.” Usually it means someone got what they deserved, or that something that happened was predetermined. What do Buddhists really mean when they talk about karma? The Dalai Lama has said that of all Buddhist concepts, karma is the most difficult to understand. The simplest way to look at it is as cause and effect: Negative actions or mind states like aggression produce suffering for yourself and others, now and in the future. Love, selflessness, and other positive qualities create benefit. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about karma as the seeds we plant in our minds that will bear fruit as suf- fering or happiness. It’s said that if you want to know your past karma, look at the state of your life now. And if you want to know your future karma, look at the state of your mind now. That’s why the Buddhist understanding of karma includes free- dom—in every moment we can choose the seeds we plant of our future happi- ness or suffering. The twist is that the ultimate benefit comes from producing no karma at all, which is one definition of enlightement. But until then, the safest choice is to concentrate on creating postive karma. The Buddha’s eight- fold path, also known as the fourth noble truth, is a good guide. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? THE RAKUSU HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED about that bib-like garment that Zen priests and some lay practitioners wear around their necks? (It was also worn by three people on the cover of the first issue of Lion’s Roar.) Called a rakusu, it’s a miniature version of the Buddha’s monastic robe. Since the Buddha’s robe was said to be a patchwork of discarded fabrics, rakusus are made of different fabrics sewn together in a patchwork pattern that resembles a brick wall. Typically practitioners sew their own rakusus as part of their preparation to take the Zen precepts. The color of the rakusu varies according to tradition and temple. Commonly in the West, novice priests wear black while fully ordained priests wear brown. The back of the rakusu is white, and often the student’s dharma name, their teacher’s name, the date and place of the precept ceremony, and some words of wisdom from the teacher are written there. On the back of the collar there is a stitch that denotes the sect of Zen to which the practitioner belongs. Though its true origins are uncertain, some link the rakusu’s development to periods of persecution of Buddhism in China, when monks might have worn the rakusu secretly under their everyday clothes. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at