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Lions Roar : January 2017
MAUREENBARLIN I’ve been invited to a Buddhist center. I want to go, but I worry that the chanting aspect of it might weird me out. Unless you have church-going or carol- singing in your past, the idea of vocalizing with strangers, in synch, may indeed weird you out. But don’t let that stop you. Bud- dhists chant to deepen their understanding of and sense of connection to dharma con- cepts. Chanting is also an act of together- ness and selflessness: you’re not chanting to be heard as an individual, but to contribute to a collective voice. It’s not for nothing that the classical Zen advice is to chant “with your ears, not with your mouth.” While some chants are in English, some are more about pure sound, and others may be in other languages, without translation. But if you’re comfort- able with the Buddhist concepts you read about in Lion’s Roar, you can be pretty sure you’re not going to chant something you’d find objectionable. Of course, you don’t have to join in if you don’t want to, but we hope you’ll try it. You’ve nothing to lose, and at the very least a new experience to gain. Buddhist teachings say that I should put others before myself. But they also say I should have compassion for myself. How do I do both? Most religions teach that we have a choice between being selfish (bad) and being self- less (good). Surprisingly, Buddhism doesn’t do that. The Buddhist principle is the “two benefits”—what’s truly good for me is also good for you, and vice versa. You can see this in your own life. When you have love and kindness toward yourself, it is easy to be compassionate and kind toward others. And when you are loving to others, your own life is joyful and happy. This is the case for all positive emotions, thoughts, and acts. They always have two benefits—for others and for yourself. The reverse is also true. The selfishness we normally identify as negative is always the result of greed, anger, or ignorance. Anything driven by these three poisons harms ourselves as much as others. In the end, there’s no contradic- tion between your best interests and those of others. Pursue the enlightened self-interest of love, compassion, and gentleness, and both you and everyone around you will benefit. It’s the great win-win. ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? STUPAS STUPAS ARE ONE OF THE MOST recognizable forms of Buddhist architecture, dotting the landscape in all Buddhist countries. Like Buddhist temples, their style differs from culture to culture, but the basic struc- ture remains the same. At its simplest, a stupa is a dirt burial mound faced with stone, often containing relics or religious objects and used as a place of meditation. The Great Stupa in Sanchi, India, is the earliest known stupa, dating back to the fourth century BCE. The largest stupa in the world is Borobudur in Indonesia. While the different sections of the stupa have various symbolic meanings, its basic shape has come to rep- resent the seated Buddha when he achieved enlight- enment. The square base represents the Buddha’s crossed legs as he sat on the earth; the middle section, called the hemisphere or mound, is the Buddha’s body; and the conical spire at the top represents the Bud- dha’s head. There may also be a wooden pole within the stupa representing the Buddha’s spine or central channel (avadhuti). There are five types of stupas: the relic stupa, containing the remains of the Buddha and his disciples; the object stupa, containing objects that belonged to the Buddha or his disciples; the commemorative stupa, marking an event in the Buddha’s life; the symbolic stupa, represent- ing aspects of Buddhist teachings; and the votive stupa, erected to make a dedication or to accumulate merit. To build a stupa, transmissions from a qualified Bud- dhist teacher are necessary. When visiting a stupa, practitioners circumambulate it clockwise as a medita- tion practice, focusing on the endless cycle of rebirth (samsara) and the eightfold path that leads to freedom from suffering. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at