Rebecca Li Dharma Talk on October 9, 2017

Please join us Monday, 10/9/17 at Yardley Friends Meeting House on Main Street in Yardley Borough.  Rebecca is a wonderful Dharma teacher. Click here to listen to earlier talks from Rebecca at BSBC.

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Come to Yardley Harvest Day and stop by to see us this Saturday

Yardley Harvest Day is this Saturday, September 16th from 10AM – 5PM. The Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County has a table at this annual event and welcomes anyone to stop over to chat or if interested, linger for a while to meet and greet visitors.

We are on the corner of E. College Ave and  River Rd.
“The Yardley Harvest Day Committee is proud to present the 2017 50th Anniversary Yardley Harvest Day, located in Downtown Yardley Borough and is one of the Borough’s most treasured traditions.  The event is scheduled, rain or shine, on Saturday, September 16th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  along Canal Street, E. College Ave., S. Bell and the field adjacent to Fitzgerald Sommer Funeral Home.

Once again,  Yardley Harvest Day will emphasize the many unique aspects of living, dining, socializing, shopping, working and enjoying one of Bucks County’s most historic and best communities.

Downtown Yardley is an idyllic setting for this community gathering, which showcases the Delaware Canal and the Delaware River.  Yardley Harvest Day features unique artist and crafters, music and great food, historic and educational tours, and local civic groups and businesses.”

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If I Only Had a Self


On Monday evening (September 11, 2017), the Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County was fortunate to have visiting Zen teacher Andre Teasan Halaw practice with us. It was a very engaging and lively discussion.

This is a blog. These opinions or reflections are my own and do not represent those of the Sangha or perhaps anyone else, but I thought it might be worth to share as they resonated with me on a personal level in terms of putting my ongoing practice into perspective. As such, maybe it might do the same, to even a small extent, for you.

On the seemingly “never-ending” journey to become a better person.

It’s interesting. I typically do not mention my practice to anyone that themselves does not have some sort of practice of his/her own. This is not out of embarrassment or even out of fear of sounding “preachy” as I would go out of my way to not express myself that way. It is more out of the concern that those who are not actively practicing themselves might mistake this as some sort of view that I consider myself of a more self actualized stature, which of course, is nonsense.

However, as one learns about the Dharma, it sometimes is difficult, (at least for me), to separate the lesson from a feeling as if I am “less than” or an imposter. Of course it is true that this journey should be one in which meditation and mindfulness helps us be more open and aware but at the risk of beating ourselves up every time we get hooked by an angry thought (let alone a reaction as opposed to a response) this could be a hard goal to live up to. Here is where perspective is healthy.

During our discussion, we spoke a bit about this. Meditation, like other activities I might partake in, are, for me, about trying to be a more authentic (and hopefully) better version of myself but not a completely better or different person.

There are plenty parts of me I wish just were not so. We are, as we learned, a compilation at this very moment of many causes and conditions. To strive for better personhood sounds like a transformation that is unrealistic as opposed to a better version of who we are. Here’s a metaphor I thought of that helps me: I would like to look like George Clooney on his way to the Oscars but that’s not going to happen. I can buy a suit, however, and tailor it to fit me in a way that looks the best on me. I am creating a better (looking) version based on the person I actually am, not one that I wish I was. (But don’t worry, I won’t be buying a suit any time soon.)

Connection, flow and driving stick shift

Andre Teasan Halaw spoke about this idea of all things being connected, which many of us have heard, read or spoke about before. His example was around hearing crickets and trying to identify the “I” that is doing the hearing. When we are in “flow” such as at a great concert, during a game, playing music or sports, for example, we essentially lose the separation between connecting at that moment and the one who is actually experiencing it.

I really appreciated this as I have, at times, experienced this myself during a great comedy set or music performance. However, for me, the same flow or connection that allows these positive experiences causes undue suffering during more difficult times. In fact, the ability to not separate during a difficult exchange is a challenge. This is when Andre Teasan Halaw explained that our experience is like driving a stick shift car where we shift into the appropriate gear for which the situation calls. So, during a more difficult exchange, it is perfectly ok to establish the distinction between the self and the experience in order to become more of the observer of the feelings occurring, which again, is aligned with meditation.

The Apprentice where only you can say “you’re fired!”

George Price, who is part of our Sangha, had a great comment during our discussion which really resonated with me. He suggested that our meditation practice is much like playing a musical instrument. For a musician to get to the place where he/she is playing the instrument in a way that is seamless – not even thinking about where the fingers get placed on the guitar, for example – takes years of practice. The mechanics of learning to play and then moving toward playing in a way in which it is as much about musicality as it is about technique (if not more) takes commitment, time, patience and practice.

Our meditation practice is no different and for me, this was a notable change in thinking. I am in the apprentice stages of my practice. I am learning to come back to the breath, note thoughts, be mindful even when not in meditation and work toward non-grasping, non-attachment and non-self. I may be in this stage for the rest of my life. However, as I practice, there will likely be more moments where my set point for gratefulness, response versus reaction and general living in the moment is positively moved. This is really all I can hope for without shouting “you’re fired” to myself before my time is up.

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9/11/2017: Visiting Zen Teacher Andre Teasan Halaw


September 11th: Visiting Zen Teacher Andre Teasan Halaw joins us again with a special Monday Night Retreat – from 7PM-9PM! All Are Welcome!

Suggested Donation: $10 – As usual no-one turned away for inability to donate. 

Andre is a Zen teacher in the Five Mountain Zen Order. In July of 2016, Andre received Dharma Transmission from his teacher, Zen Master Wonji Dharma.

Andre Doshim Halaw, in his book “No-Mind: Realizing Your True Nature”:

“The Absolute is the root of all existence. ‘Existence’, in its broadest sense, refers to everything that is. Anything that we can hear, see, smell, taste touch, emote—basically anything that can be sensed or perceived—exists. The totality of all that exists composes ‘existence’ or ‘being’. This includes us and the world in which we live. Not just the material dimension, but all that is in the full existential sense of the term.

Yet, existence is not everything. There is more to reality than just what exists.

Enter the Absolute. The Absolute is not the opposite of ‘being’; it is the very basis of it. Everything—from the moon and stars to a lump of coal—has the Absolute as it true nature. As Paul Brunton, student of the revered Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi, writes, “Every conceivable kind of form comes out of the seeming Void into time and space.”

You can visit Andre at his Zen blog Original Mind or on Twitter. He has several books available on Amazon.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact him at

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Third Annual Month of Gratitude

August is “Gratitude Month!”

It has become a BSBC tradition to celebrate the practice of gratitude this month each year. The essential Buddhist view that all things are impermanent and pass away can easily lead us to feel vulnerable and fearful, but it can also help us to be deeply grateful for all the goodness and beauty we have in our life right now. Our discussions and practice this month offer the opportunity to join with the BSBC in cultivating gratitude for this life:

gratitude buddha

~ Open Discussion on “Forgiveness & Gratitude”

~ “Gratitude Practices”

~ “Sharing Gratitude”

Please join us these nights as we explore these important teachings of the Buddha.

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Stepping On The Buddhist Path Through Gratitude

Open Discussion on “Forgiveness & Gratitude”
Stepping On The Buddhist Path Through Gratitude
Theme: Gratitude

Discussion led by Phil Brown, President
with help from David C. Clark, Co-Chair Program Committee

Share your Gratitude with us on Appreciation Destination

gratitude for website



One of the three marks of human existence according to Buddhist thought is impermanence (anicca in Pali). The idea that all things are impermanent and pass away can easily lead us to feel vulnerable and fearful, but it can also help us to be deeply grateful for all the goodness and beauty we have in our life right now. Some aspects of life may not be what we would prefer, but Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that there is always sufficient reason for us to experience happiness in the moment – beginning with the wonder of our breath – we can breathe in calm, joy, happiness. We can practice being grateful for our breath, even when many other aspects of life are quite difficult.


The Science Supporting Gratitude Practices

There have been a number studies that document many benefits of practicing gratitude. Neuroscience tells us that our brain has a built-in negativity bias (in Rick Hanson, 2011) – preparing for bad times and threatening situations provides a survival advantage. For the same reason, we tend to remember painful experiences more than pleasant ones.

Achieving more of a balance in how we view our day-to-day and moment-to-moment experience can have many benefits. For example, at the physical level scientists report stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and better sleep for people who regularly engage in gratitude practice. At the psychological level, people report experiencing more positive emotions such as joy and pleasure, and being more optimistic and happy. Gratefulness also contributes to being more outgoing, forgiving, helpful to others, generous and compassionate. And, not to worry, you won’t lose your attentive edge if you take on a more grateful way of viewing the world. And it does not mean that you give up noticing or responding to difficulties or loses in your life, or injustice in the world. Think of it as an experiential middle path, or middle way in the Buddhist tradition.

  • In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
  • A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to report higher levels of alertness, and determination, and have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based).
  • A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
  • Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.
  • In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.
  • Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).
  • A 2005 study led by Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, found that completing a gratitude exercise every day for one week led to increases in happiness that persisted for six months.

The Practice: The Three Good Things Gratitude Journal

Ron Emmons, one of the main psychologists who has studied gratitude, defines it in two parts:

First, it must include an affirmation of goodness, that there are good thing in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received, something outside ourselves. Second, it must include identifying the source of this goodness, where it comes from. For example, if I affirm I am grateful for the fresh ear of summer corn I am having for dinner, I need to consider and think about all the people it took to put that ear in my hands: the seed producer, the farmer who planted and grew it, the folks who made the combine harvester, the trucker who brought it to the store. We can think even more deeply and appreciate the soil, sun and water without which the corn could not have grown.

This simple practice is effective because it not only helps you remember and appreciate good things that happened in the past; it can also teach you to notice and savor positive events as they happen in the moment, and remember them more vividly later on. By reflecting on the sources of these good things, the idea is that you start to see a broader ecosystem of goodness around you rather than assuming that the universe is conspiring against you.

Here are the instructions – modify if necessary, without judgment:

    1. Commit to spending 5 to 10 minutes, preferably at the beginning or the end of each day writing about, or at last noting with some detail, three things that went well that day, or that you are grateful to have in your life, large or small. They may be people, events, experiences of nature or ourselves. If you chose something that you accomplished, focus on what contributed to that accomplishment outside of yourself.
    2. In your writing describe why you think these things happened or are available to you, what the source of the choice is for your feeling of gratitude. What are some of the causes or conditions that brought this source of gratefulness to mind, into your life?
    3. Allow yourself to feel good about each entry in your journal, let it affect you, breathe into it.
    4. Contemplate, or bring into your meditation practice the question: Can I see how impermanent are the causes and conditions that brought that source of gratefulness into my life? Can releasing attachment to these three things bring a degree of freedom to me and increase my feeling of gratitude for this precious human life?



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Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta

Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta
Theme: Energy

Discussion led by David C. Clark, Co-Chair Program Committee

What is Viriya/Virya? The parami of Viriya, or paramita of Vīrya, is the perfection of Energy. In Buddhism it is often defined as effort or diligence, but the root of the Sanskrit word literally means “Hero.” It also serves as the etymology for the English word virile. In the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism, there are traditionally three types of diligence: Armor, Virtue, and Compassion. The Sangha will explore these dimensions in this way:

~ Character & Courage: The Development of Virtues
~ Spiritual Training: Studying the Teachings
~ Benefiting Others: Awakening the Bodhichitta

How do we practice Wise Effort and maintain Zeal?

Vīrya (Sanskrit; Pāli: viriya) is a Buddhist term commonly translated as “energy”, “diligence”, “enthusiasm”, or “effort”. It can be defined as an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities, and it functions to cause one to accomplish wholesome or virtuous actions.

You have to be honest with yourself, and slowly start to change your life into one that is more conducive to practice.

~ Barry H. Gillespie, Handyman

Four Right Exertions:

1. Restraint (saṃvara): to prevent unarisen unwholesome mental states from arising
2. Abandonment (pahāna): to abandon unwholesome mental states that have already arisen
3. Cultivation (bhāvanā): to develop wholesome mental state that have not yet arisen
4. Preservation (anurakkhaṇā): to maintain and perfect wholesome mental states already arisen

Without the engagement of energy, without the engagement of effort, without the engagement of intention; there is actually nothing intrinsically transforming about sitting down. Cat’s do it really well…

~Christina Feldman


Exertion is surrendering completely into attentiveness again and again. Exertion is being utterly straightforward with whatever arises. Exertion is doing whatever needs to be done, and doing so as completely as possible: taking a complete step, a complete breath, touching completely, hearing completely. This is complete and wholehearted practice.

~ Ven. Jinmyo Renge Osho, White Wind Zen Community

Awakening the Bodhichitta

 Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart’ or ‘attitude.’ Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlightened,’ or ‘completely open.’ Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. Even the cruelest people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious animals love their offspring. As Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche put it, ‘Everybody loves something, even if it’s only tortillas.’”

~Pema Chodron

There are many defensiveness shielding our heart. So now that we have to remove all the defensiveness; so much that we are able to love everyone in this Universe. That heart is the Bodhichitta; the heart of the Buddhas; the heart of the bodhisattvas. It is a heart without any defensiveness. Can you imagine that… we can have a heart without any defensiveness?[sic]

~ Anam Thubten

Buddha nature is boundless Energy. What are we doing that we’re not expressing that? We’re closing it down by our attachment to things and our holding on to wrong views. That’s why the first thing to give rise to Virya is generosity.

~ Lama Shenpen Hookham

Four Bodhisattva Vows

All beings without number I vow to liberate.
Endless blind passions I vow to uproot.
Dharma gates beyond measure I vow to pass through.
The great way of Buddha I vow to attain.



EXERCISE: Splitting off in to small discussion groups, consider what it means to experience Viriya within the traditional three components: Armor (Development of Character & Courage), Virtue (Development through Ritual & Teachers), and Compassion (Development through Benefiting Others). Having been assigned a specific component, explore practical, pragmatic, constructive, or tangible actions we can take, or habits we can let go of, to generate Energy in our daily lives, especially in our spiritual and/or meditation practices. Be prepared to share your Best Answer(s) with the Sangha.

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Spiritual Training: Studying the Teachings

Spiritual Training: Studying the Teachings
Theme: Energy

Discussion let by Philip Murphy

A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
– Albert Camus

If only we arrange our life according
to that principle which counsels us
that we must always hold to the difficult,
then that which now still seems to us
the most alien will become what we
most trust and find most faithful.
– Rainer Maria Rilke

Viriya: Persistence; energy

[The pāramīs] are the noble qualities such as giving, etc., accompanied by
compassion and skillful means, and untainted by craving, conceit, and views.

Viriya: Persistence; energy. One of the ten perfections (pāramīs), the five
faculties (bala; see bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammā), and the five strengths/dominant
factors (indriya; see bodhi-pakkhiya-dhammā). [Viriya, or energy, is the fifth of the
ten perfections, preceded by the development of generosity, virtue,
renunciation, and wisdom; and followed by patience, truthfulness, determination,
loving-kindness, and equanimity.]

The perfection of [Viriya, or] energy is bodily and mental work for the welfare of
others, accompanied by compassion and skillful means…

[Viriya, or] Energy has the characteristic of striving; its function is to fortify;
its manifestation is indefatigability; an occasion for the arousing of energy,

or a sense of spiritual urgency, is its proximate cause.
From Access to Insight

Framing Question, for Discussion:

How has Viriya, or energy, impelled you forward on the path of practice?

Before opening for discussion, Philip played Stevie Wonder’s hit Higher Ground.

“This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more, and to value the fact that I am alive.”

~ Stevie Wonder


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Character & Courage: The Development of Virtue

Character & Courage: The Development of Virtue
Theme: Energy

Discussion led by Phil Brown, President

Character and Courage: The Development of Virtue

The practice of the Virtues necessary for the attainment of truth too often takes second place to the intellectual acquisition of facts, and more and more facts — an avenue that leads to spiritual sterility.

-James A. Long


A Review: Virtue in Buddhism


The Paramitas or Paramis (perfections): Dāna (generosity), Sīla (proper conduct), Nekkhamma (renunciation), Paññā (wisdom), Viriya (energy), Khanti (patience), Sacca (honesty), Adhiṭṭhāna (determination), Mettā (Good-Will), Upekkhā (equanimity). Practicing these creates an atmosphere of trust, respect, and security.

The Four divine abidings (Brahmaviharas) are seen as central virtues and intentions in Buddhist ethics, psychology and meditation. The four divine abidings are good will (also translated as loving kindness), compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. Developing these virtues through meditation and right action promotes happiness, generates good merit and trains the mind for ethical action.

The Five Precepts (taking refuge): to abstain from taking life; from taking what is not given; from sensual misconduct; from false speech; from intoxicants, which are the basis for heedlessness. These are not commands but a set of voluntary commitments or guidelines to help one live a life in which one is happy, without worries, and able to meditate well. The precepts are supposed to prevent suffering and to weaken the effects of greed, hatred and delusion. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

The Parami of Viriya — Energy


May I be energetic, vigorous and persevering! May I strive diligently until I achieve my goal! May I be fearless in facing dangers and courageously surmount all obstacles! May I be able to serve others to the best of my ability! (Buddhism in a Nutshell)


Energy, from which spring persistence and determination for the seeing of the truly real, (Practical Advice for Meditators)

Two examples:

  • Sound is not a thing that dwells inside the conch-shell and comes out from time to time, but due to both, the conch-shell and the man that blows it, sound comes to arise: Just so, due to the presence of vitality, heat and consciousness, this body may execute the acts of going, standing, sitting and lying down, and the 5 sense-organs and the mind may perform their various functions.


  • Just as a wooden puppet though unsubstantial, lifeless and inactive may by means of pulling strings be made to move about, stand up, and appear full of life and activity; just so are mind and body, as such, something empty, lifeless and inactive; but by means of their mutual working together, this mental and bodily combination may move about, stand up, and appear full of life and activity. Damma Wiki

For discussion:

  • What are the core ethical values that are important to you and drive your life?
  • What does it take to engage these values in different situations?
  • What is the relationship between energy and living one’s core ethical values?


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Lama Gursam – Monday, August 14, 2017!

Join us Monday 8/14/2017 for a day with Lama Gursam.  The topic of his talks will be “Practice of Meditation”
4- 6 p.m. – Guided meditation and light yoga practices that support meditation
6-6:30 –  Brown bag dinner with Lama and BSBC friends participating in the meditation session
7-9:00 p.m. Dharma talk and guided meditation: all cordially invited
9-9:30 Reception for Lama

Suggested donation of $10 for guided meditation $15 for evening $20 for both.

All are welcome despite ability to donate.

lama gursam website

Lama Gursam went to monastery at a very young age, received teachings as a monastic, and studied and practiced as a monastic. Then Lama Gursam went to study in Tibetan University Sarnath, Varanasi, India to get both bachelors and masters degrees in Buddhist Philosophy, History, and languages. Upon graduation he received a special award for scholastic achievement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

After university Lama Gursam was requested to assist His Holiness the Chetsang Rinpoche. Lama volunteered for five years as an assistant, as a teacher, and helped with many other duties.

Lama Gursam then completed the traditional three year retreat. Since then every year Lama has gone on retreat in various mountains, including some of Milarepa’s caves. He then returns for six months each year to provide teachings in the West. He also leads pilgrimages to holy places in India, and Nepal.

Lama teaches in English, and always tries to focus on the practical application of the Dharma in everyday life.

Buddhist Sangha of Bucks County is a peer group of community members interested in the benefits of meditation.

We meet every Monday at 7 PM at the Yardley Friends Meeting House for meditation and discussion. All welcome.

Learn about the teacher at

The sangha does not charge fees for our services, but asks for donations according to how you value what we offer within your means to offset the cost of rent and the program. The teacher Dana supports Lama’s travel and service projects of his Bodhicitta Foundation

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Click link to Download our flyer for this event to share 

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