Hi,

Something New!!! This newsletter is a plain text version, with a PDF version attached... The PDF version gives me more control over the look and feel of the UD Newsletter without having to deal with HTML... And it is easy to forward to anyone who might be interested in reading the newsletter... If you have any thoughts on this, please email me - Kusala@urbandharma.org

Peace... Kusala

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The Urban Dharma Newsletter - December 15, 2006

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In This Issue: Buddhist Christmas

1. New Translation: The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng
2. Buddhist Christmas - Samten Tsomo
3. A Buddhist Christmas Tree ...Weekly Sermon
4. A Buddhist Christmas Story ...A Christmas Story from the Lotus Sutra
5. Christmas Dharma ...by Lama Thubten Yeshe
6. Christmas Practice ...Santoshni Perara
7. "Giving loving kindness at Christmas" - by Sian Spanner
8. Converting Christmas ...By Rev. Oswin Hollenbeck

-------------------------------


HI,

In this issue, a heads up on a new translation of the ‘Plateform Sutra, and some articles on Buddhism and Christmas... I found a 2003 Newsletter I put together on Buddhist Christmas and thought it was worth revisiting... Happy New Year :-)

Peace... Kusala


1. New Translation: The Platform Sutra: The Zen Teaching of Hui-neng (Hardcover) - by Red
Pine (Translator)

Hardcover: 400 pages Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard (November 28, 2006) Language: English
ISBN: 1593760868

Amazon.com Review - At last a good translation of the Platform Sutra!, December 4, 2006 -
Reviewer: Bill Butler

I eagerly anticipate any new book from Red Pine (Bill Porter), and this is another wonderful
achievement from this great translator and seasoned Zen practitioner.

The text of the master Hui-neng's teaching is clear and straightforward, and Red Pine's notes bring
great value as in his past books. He's a master of translation, but also of interpreting ancient
Chinese culture, as he's shown in his brilliant translations of ancient Chinese poems.

Hui-neng's teaching on thoughts and thinking during meditation (section 17) are particularly helpful,
in a time when Zen meditation is so often misunderstood as an escape from thoughts.

This will easily replace Yampolsky's translation both in clarity and, at least to this non-scholar, in
accuracy, since it's based on a more ancient and reliable source text.



2. Buddhist Christmas - Samten Tsomo

http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art47961.asp

As a western Buddhist I put up a tree and hang lights in the month of December. The holiday I
celebrate has nothing to do with the birth of Christ, the winter solstice or any other religious
celebration that falls in the month of December. We put up a tree and stack piles of unneeded
products that more then likely would never been bought and wait until the extended family gathers
around to open and enjoy them. Sounds like Christmas, but it's not. No one in my family is Christian
and we do not celebrate the birth of Christ.

Since it is a widely celebrated day with most businesses closed and many people off from work, what
is a person who wants no part of the festivities to do? I figure there are several options available.

Volunteer

There are always plenty of opportunities to volunteer on December 25th It seems as though
everyone is looking for someone to help serve up a meal to those less fortunate. But why only that
one day? People go hungry everyday, serving food one day a year when the atmosphere is all about
helping others isn't true charity.

Put up a tree and or give/get gifts

Why not? For many people it's a tradition even if the religious meaning behind the day is not
observed. It’s a day to get together with family that you don't see everyday. The lights and
decorations are beautiful. The food's great. You can put up a tree and decorate your yard with
beautiful lights and maybe have a giant snow globe? Why not exchange gifts with friends and family?
I love Secret Santa’s and going to Christmas parties. One of my favorite things to do is to go to the
cathedral and listen to the choir. The symphony here does a beautiful program every year and it is a
tradition for my mom and I go every year. My son really enjoys visiting Santa’s Village -not to hot on
sitting on some strangers’ lap but he's 3, so it's to be expected. I can assure you he doesn't frown
on getting new toys, though I doubt he has made the connection yet.

Shop Shop Shop!!!

With all the great deals out there who wouldn't want to take the opportunity and get a few things
that they will need over the next year. As a homeschooler I can find tons of fun educational items,
books and toys cheaper and almost within my budget the weekend after thanksgiving and the weeks
leading up to December 25th then I could most of the rest of the year.
On the side of non-needs I can get all those really neat toys that my son doesn't need but would
really like to have. I can find adorable suits for him to wear for the coming year. In case you are
wondering it's next to impossible to find a bow tie for a toddler (ring bearer) in August without
buying the full tux and at that age it's cheaper to buy then to rent.

I was able to afford a new computer thanks to the Black Friday sales. I have to say that it is really
nice to be able to get on and check my e-mail without the computer crashing, everytime.

Meditate

Since almost everything is closed, why not take advantage of the day and meditate? A full day with
nowhere to go and nothing to, sounds like a perfect opportunity to just meditate.

You could always put a Santa hat on a Hotei statue. The legend of Hotei is strikingly similar to that
of Santa Clause that many westerners grew up with. Hotei, sometimes called the laughing Buddha, is
known for his big belly and the huge cloth sack that he carries full of everything precious. The sack
holds children, sweets and food and it never empties. Hotei brings luck and happiness to the poor
and to children. Hotei statues also seem to be one of the most recognized if not, the most well
known figures in Buddhism.


From The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives... December 23, 2003


3. A Buddhist Christmas Tree ...Weekly Sermon

http://www.manitobabuddhistchurch.org/sermons/52.htm

“Every major religion has an important holy day sometime between mid-November and mid-January.
Not one can claim to own the season entirely unto itself. ” This is the third year I have begun my
annual Bodhi Day message with this idea. Bodhi Day is the date we celebrate of Shakyamuni’s
enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Our Buddhist community in the Manitoba Buddhist Church
celebrates early in December this appearance of Buddhahood in our world.

This is an important date for the entire Winnipeg faith community, as well, because it gives those of
the dominant faith a chance to acquaint themselves with those who share the Holy Days. The
interaction of the faith communities has not always been a pleasant story, as the events of Sept. 11
have shown. I just returned from an intensive meditation/study session in Kyoto.

The English speaking newspapers there had several articles about the future of religion in light of
the recent war. One article argued impressively that all of the religions need to re-examine their
truth claims in the wake of Sept. 11 events. It is indeed touching to see how some of the faith
communities are reaching out towards each other, sometimes hesitantly, beyond their faith enclaves.

It is surely true for our interracial and interfaith community at the Manitoba Buddhist Church.

My question for these Holy Days in 2001 is this: why should we have to depend on Sept. 11? Is it not
possible to reach out to one another in light of the Holy Season? Then our reactions would be more
pro-active rather than merely reactive. Will the war move us in the direction of a society of
religious robots in cookie-cutter faith ghettos? Will the loss of democratic rights in the face of
terrorism lead also to the loss of religious freedom?

The Holy Season offers us a way to face these questions. We may start by asking forgiveness,
offering forgiveness and seeking theological accommodations for ‘the others.’ In that spirit, I ask
forgiveness for any insult directed towards those of another faith. I also sincerely forgive those
who have persecuted Buddhism in the name of their faith. I further pledge to seek theological
accommodations that view other faiths as participants in the power of the saving grace emanating
from deep within my own.

So, once again I will erect my Buddhist Christmas tree, my Bodhi Tree. There will be dragons,
elephants and fantastic birds from our sacred stories, the Jataka Tales. For the post Sept. 11
world, I will also include a symbol for other faiths. This will be a kind of Interfaith-Bodhi-
Christmas-Tree for the Holy Days. I am most anxious to see what kind of gifts Santa Claus will leave
for me under this kind of tree. Fredrich Ulrich, Sensei Manitoba Buddhist Church.



4. A Buddhist Christmas Story ...A Christmas Story from the Lotus Sutra

http://www.manitobabuddhistchurch.org/children/4.htm

One time a young man inherited 4 farms form his father. He also married his childhood sweetheart.
He celebrated his good fortune by building a great house with servants and many rooms.

As the children were born the man bought many toys. He filled the children's rooms with toys of
many colors and sizes. The children loved to play for hours in their nursery.

One day a fire broke our in the house. The father shout, "Run everybody." Naturally he expected his
children to run out of the house with them. But they didn't follow the mother and father outside to
safety. The parents called and called to the children, but they did not want to leave their wonderful
toys. A neighbor who had come to help out with the fire suggested that they lure the children
outside with more new toys. "But we don't have any," said the father. "We'll just make them up,"
suggested the tear faced mother as the flames grew hotter and hotter.

"Come on out," shouted the father and mother together. "We have horses, carts, jumping frogs,
mechanical dolls, bows and even a monkey."

The children left the burning house and their beloved toys to see the new ones and thus were saved.
When the smoke cleared from their eyes they saw the house destroyed. They also noticed that
there were really no new toys to be seen at all. For the first time in their lives they knew what it
was to have nothing and be very grateful indeed.


5. Christmas Dharma ...by Lama Thubten Yeshe

http://www.fpmt-osel.org/teachings/christmas.htm

Teachings given to Western students at Kopan Monastery on Christmas Eve

When we see each other again on Christmas Eve for the celebration of Holy Jesus' birth, let us do
so in peace and with a good vibration and a happy mind. I think it would be wonderful. To attend the
celebration with an angry disposition would be so sad. Come instead with a beautiful motivation and
much love. Have no discrimination, but see everything as a golden flower, even your worst enemy.
Then Christmas, which so often produces an agitated mind, will become so beautiful.

When you change your mental attitude, the external vision also changes. This is a true turning of the
mind. There is no doubt about this. I am not special, but I have had experience of doing this, and it
works. You people are so intelligent, so you can understand how the mind has this ability to change
itself and its environment. There is no reason why this change cannot be for the better.

Some of you might think, "Oh, I want to have nothing to do with Jesus, nothing to do with the Bible."
This is a very angry, emotional attitude to have towards Christianity. If you really understood, you
would recognize that what Jesus taught was, "Love!" It is as simple and as profound as that. If you
had true love within you, I am sure you would feel much more peaceful than you do now.

How do you normally think of love? Be honest. It is always involved with discriminations, isn't it?

Just look around this room and see if anyone here is an object of your love. Why do you discriminate
so sharply between friend and enemy? Why do you see such a big difference between yourself and
others?

In the Buddhist teaching, this falsely discriminating attitude is called dualism. Jesus said that such
an attitude is the opposite of true love. Therefore, is there any one of us who has the pure love that
Jesus was talking about? If we do not, we should not criticize his teachings or feel they are
irrelevent to us. We are the ones who have misunderstood, perhaps knowing the words of his
teachings, but never acting upon them.

There are so many beautiful sentences in the Bible, but I do not recall reading that Jesus ever said
that without your doing anything whatsoever -- without preparing yourself in some way -- the Holy
Spirit would descend upon you, whoosh! If you do not act the way He said you should act, there is no
Holy Spirit existent anywhere for you.

What I have read in the Bible has the same connotation as the Buddhist teachings on equilibrium,
compassion and changing one's ego-attachment into love for others. It may not be immediately
obvious how to train your mind to develop these attitudes, but it is certainly possible to do so. Only
our selfishness and closed-mindedness prevent us.

With true realizations, the mind is no longer egotistically concerned with its own salvation. With
true love, one no longer behaves dualistically; feeling very attached to some people, distant from
others and totally indifferent to the rest. It is so simple. In the ordinary personality, the mind is
always divided against itself, always fighting and disturbing its own peace.

The teachings on love are very practical. Do not put religion somewhere up in the sky and feel you
are stuck down here on Earth. If the actions of body, speech and mind are in accordance with loving
kindness, you automatically become a truly religious person. To be religious does not mean that you
attend certain teachings. If you listen to teachings and misinterpret them, you are in fact, the
opposite of religious. And it is only because you do not understand a certain teaching that you abuse
religion.


Lack of deep understanding leads to partisanship. The ego feels, "I am a Buddhist, therefore
Christianity must be all wrong." This is very harmful to true religious feeling. You do not destroy a
religion with bombs, but with hatred. More importantly, you destroy the peacefulness of your own
mind. It does not matter if you express your hatred with words or not. The mere thoughts of
hatred automatically destroys your peace.

Similarly, true love does not depend on physical expression. You should realize this. True love is a
feeling deep within you. It is not just a matter of wearing a smile on your face and looking happy.
Rather, it arises from a heartfelt understanding of every other being's suffering and radiates out
to them indiscriminately. It does not favor a chosen few to the exclusion of everyone else.

Furthermore, if someone hits you and you react with anger or great alarm, crying, "What has
happened to me?" this also has nothing to do with a mind knowing the meaning of true love. It is just
the ignorant preoccupation of the ego within its own welfare. How much wiser it is to realize, "Being
hit does not really harm me. My delusion of hatred is an enemy that harms me much more than this."
Reflecting like this allows true love to grow.

*** These teachings came from a wonderful book we once had at our center called Silent Mind, Holy
Mind, a collection of talks given by Lama Yeshe at Kopan Monastery at the end one of the early
month-long Kopan Meditation Courses. Western students had gathered on Christmas Eve, feeling a
little out-of-place and unsure of what to do with their feelings of "missing out on Christmas," most
of their early spiritual practice in this life.

Lama, sensing their confusing feelings, had them go to the meditation hall where he gave these talks
about Christmas and Buddhist practice. These were recorded and later became the book published
by Wisdom Publications. Our copy at the center has long-ago disappeared and the book is no longer
in print, but this excerpt remains and we share it here with our Net-Friends. Merry Christmas!



6. Christmas Practice ...Santoshni Perara

http://www.buddhacommunity.org/christmas_practice.htm

The wintry nip is already in the air. By mid-November, the shops will herald in the shopping season.
From the first sighting of tinsel in the high street, commercial Xmas will be rolling on with Xmas
cards, Xmas shopping, carols , the Xmas hit single, Xmas lights, turkeys, food, and more food,
alcohol… I don’t have to go on; we know what the Xmas frenzy can be like.

It’s difficult not to get swept by the infectious euphoria of the Xmas tide… or, if as Buddhists, we
feel that Xmas is not for us to celebrate, we can easily become cynical Scrooges or merely join in
for the sake of family and tradition. Can this mass midwinter celebration of the Christian world hold
anything for Buddhist practitioners?

A Buddhist practitioner is a full-time "reflecter". As such, we can use this opportunity to reflect on
the many aspects of Christmas. The midwinter solstice heralds the birth of Spring; daylight
gradually overtakes the long nights of winter. The hope and joy of the birth of another year
coincides with the celebration of the birth of the Christian prophet. Remembering in this manner
the birth of a wise, compassionate teacher we can reflect on the ever-present potential for
goodness and truth to manifest through the human heart and mind. All religious traditions celebrate
the birth of their prophet or teacher. This is a time of showing gratitude for their life, their
example and their teachings.

What I like about the significance of Wesak, the Buddhist equivalent of Christmas, is that it
incorporates not only the birth, but also the enlightenment and the "parinibbana" of the Buddha. A
Buddhist contemplating birth also reflects on "death", as any conditioned phenomena, be it thoughts,
feelings, or actions, that arise will also cease. However, in between birth and cessation exists the
potential for transformation – the potential to go beyond birth and death. That is the significance
of the Buddha’s enlightenment on Wesak full moon day and Jesus’s transfiguration at Easter.

For those who follow the teachings of the wise, every birth of a new day, a new year, a new thought,
emotion or activity, is an opportunity to transcend the conditioned realm of birth and death.
The Buddha outlined what needs to be done to break free from the darkness of our ignorance. Isn’t
it significant that lamps, lanterns and lights feature in festivals that celebrate the birth of a great
teacher? It is symbolic of how their teaching brings the light of wisdom which dispels the gloom of
ignorance.

In Sri Lanka, people celebrate Wesak by lighting hundreds of patiently hand-crafted paper lanterns.
So, as those lights are switched on in Regent Street this year, we can renew our commitment to the
Noble Eightfold Path which enables the practitioner to embody the luminescence of wisdom by
dispelling the darkness of ignorance.

We can regard this season for giving and receiving gifts as an intensified practice of dana and we
can remind ourselves that generosity does not only consist of giving material things, but also of our
time, labour and love. Dana, hangs together with sila (Xmas festivities provide a good opportunity to
be mindful of the fifth precept!) and bhavana (less TV on Boxing Day?). We can send out messages
of metta and mudita.

We can practice karuna towards those for whom Xmas is a time of hardship and trauma – the
homeless, the elderly and the millions of turkeys going to slaughter. And, we can experience Xmas
with equanimity by not slinking away from it with aversion and cynicism or getting caught up in the
mindless commercial euphoria but with the knowing that as with all such events, Xmas festivities will
arise and cease but what is going to be of value are the changes that may have taken place in us in
the space between. Happy Christmas!



7. "Giving loving kindness at Christmas" - by Sian Spanner

http://www.meditateinlondon.com/articles/11_giving_at_christmas.htm

In this article Sian Spanner considers how she will deal with Xmas at her in-laws. Sian believes that
the key to peace and happiness at Xmas is attained through giving loving kindness.

This year I will be spending Christmas with my in-laws. Since making this decision in August, we have
all been in talks about dietary requirements, gifts, guests, transport arrangements etc. Coupled with
these talks has been the odd outburst of angst, frustration, door slamming and tears which appears
to accompany the very thought of being in a confined space with ones family.

The truth is I would love to spend my end of year holiday with my friends at a Buddhist Centre. I
would like to believe that my motivation is to spend the time meditating on compassion. In reality I
just want to have a rest, enjoy the quiet and not have to make too much effort with other people.
Already, from the point of view of Buddha’s teachings, I am making a mistake. At the UK Dharma
Celebration in October Gen-La Samden, the Deputy Spiritual Director of the New Kadampa
Tradition, very kindly pointed this imprisoning habit out to us. He asked us why we bring so much
harm to others and ourselves? Why the door slamming, why the tears, why the anger? Why would I
rather be in a Buddhist centre this Christmas?

Gen-La explained that whilst the mind is under the control of delusions (e.g. anger, attachment) we
have complete conviction that the way we perceive a situation or a person is true. Based on this
perception our minds react in an unbalanced way. For example, for me Christmas with my friends =
good (happy), Christmas with the in-laws = bad (unhappy). It’s as though I have unearthed ‘the truth’
of what Christmas with the in-laws is actually like and consequently I will relate to them in a
negative way. This is how we cause so much harm. This is what causes our anxiety, our pain, our
anger, and our disappointment especially at Christmas when we are ruled by our expectations.

Gen-La reminded me that the judgement my mind has reached is not an objective truth; it is actually
just a subjective reality. This means that how I perceive a situation depends entirely on my state of
mind, there is nothing coming from the side of my in-laws that is inherently good or bad. We can put
a lot of energy into creating the best conditions but if our mind is unhappy then we will not enjoy
ourselves or be of benefit to others. An example of this happened only this week when I met one of
my best friends in one of our favourite restaurants and my mood was so negative that neither of us
enjoyed ourselves. Alternatively, if we have a happy, peaceful mind any given situation can become a
source of enjoyment and we will be able to help and inspire others."

So, if our experience depends upon our state of mind, what minds would be of benefit this
Christmas? I am sure that the subjective reality I would like at Christmas is one rooted in love and
compassion. In reality it is not my in laws that I am dreading but my state of mind. I fear the
negative feelings that arise when my mind loses its patience, kindness and love. Gen-La very
beautifully encouraged us to open our hearts to the beings around us, not just those who make us
feel nice. He said, “… our hearts should melt when we meet people. When was the last time your
heart melted?” Good question.

Buddha has given us many methods to generate these minds and there is one that has particular
relevance at Christmas. In his book Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, the Spiritual

Director of the New Kadampa Tradition, writes:

“All living beings deserve to be cherished because of the tremendous kindness they have shown
us…Even simple pleasures such as going for a walk or watching a beautiful sunset can be seen to be
the result of the kindness of innumerable living beings. Our skills and abilities all come form the
kindness of others; we had to be taught how to eat, how to walk, how to talk and how to read and
write. Even the language we speak is not our own invention but the product of many generations…All
the facilities we take for granted, such as houses, cars, roads, shops, schools, hospitals and cinemas
are produced solely through others’ kindness. When we travel by bus or car we take the roads for
granted but many people worked very hard to build them and make them safe for us.”

Just contemplating this can give rise to very lovely minds, such as minds of gratitude and love. By
meditating on the benefits we receive through the actions of others we can gradually develop a good
heart to those around us. When our heart is open and warm our minds relax, our defences disappear
and others enjoy being with us because they feel cherished.

Following this it is natural that we shall be able to act affectionately and kindly to others. Small
gestures like getting up early and taking a cup of tea to everyone in bed, or just simply asking what
we can do to help, feel effortless. The warmth that arises gives us the energy and inspiration to be
of benefit to others. This is a transforming and beautiful experience for everyone.

We all complain that Christmas has become too commercialised, that it’s has lost it’s meaning. We
would all love to have a peaceful and happy time. Gen-La proposed that we have a responsibility to
live wisely and act compassionately. What better gift could I give to my in laws this Christmas?



8. Converting Christmas ...By Rev. Oswin Hollenbeck

http://www.serenereflections.ca/Articles/Articles2002/ConvertingChristmas.html

Buddhist Winter Holiday Decorations

Buddhist winter holiday decorations represent in visual form what the world and universe looked like
when Shakyamuni Buddha realized enlightenment. These decorations also are derived from
descriptions of various Pure Lands presided over by a celestial or transcendental Buddha such as
Amitábha (Amida), which are again, from our tradition’s point of view, representations of Nirvana or
enlightenment. As we adapt Buddhism to a western culture, Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett, the founder
of our Order, was innovative and creative in drawing freely from Christian and pre-Christian
northern European (pagan) symbols and customs to allow our Buddhist winter holidays to fit into the
surrounding culture.

Buddha’s enlightenment is traditionally observed in northern Buddhism (China, Japan, Korea) on
December 8th. Temples of our Order often schedule the public celebration of the holiday on
December 25th or on a December Sunday convenient for the laity. Gifts representing the Dharma
and other offerings of love and gratitude are appropriate.

Jewel Trees

Jewel trees represent the Bodhi-tree, the beautiful Indian fig tree with shimmering heart-shaped
leaves under which the Buddha realized enlightenment. Any sort of tree will do—Throssel Hole
Buddhist Abbey in England uses an artificial tree resembling the original Bo tree. Pine trees in the
East, and by extension other conifers, are considered to symbolize the Eternal, since they are evergreen,
that is, not changing with the seasons.

These trees are described in the Scriptures as “bejeweled, heavy with blossoms and fruit,” strung
with garlands and nets of flowers, jewels, and bells, all of which radiate and reflect light. Most of
our traditional Christmas tree ornaments can be seen to have Buddhist meaning.

Jewels

Jewels are precious and beautiful. In ancient times there were seven gems especially valued: gold,
silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, ruby or pearl, and carnelian.1 Jewel-like ornaments can represent
the Three Treasures, the Teaching or a portion thereof, or the wish-fulfilling jewel (often a pearl),
the Buddha Nature within each of us which can satisfy the Heart’s deepest longing.

Flowers

Flowers seem to be a favorite, almost universal offering, pleasing to see in beauty, form, texture,
color and scent. A full blossom often represents enlightenment. Various flowers have specific
meanings in Buddhism, such as the lotus, representing the path of training, and the plum blossom,
symbolizing the Zen transmission.

Fruit

Fruit, being the product of the flower, can represent the results of training and the deeds of merit
we practice on the Bodhisattva path, such as charity, benevolence, tenderness and sympathy. They
are nourishing and sweet. The Healing Buddha Bhaisájyaguru often holds in His hand a piece of fruit,
representing the medicine of meditation or the Dharma.

Lights

All of the above, as well the Buddha Himself and everything around Him, emanated and reflected
light, the true nature of the universe. Also, the moment of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment occurred
when He saw the morning star rising in the eastern sky.

Bells and Drums

Jewel trees are sometimes described hung with bells which tinkle musically in the air. Devas
(heavenly beings) and celestial musicians beat drums and make other “pleasing music”. Sometimes the
trees themselves mysteriously produce music. All of these can represent the sound or voice of the
Dharma.

Garlands and Nets

All of the ornaments above frequently hang from garlands and nets, which together with chains,
tassels, and banners often drape the jewel trees.

Other traditional ornaments

With a bit of imagination, other traditional ornaments may be “converted” for use on a Buddhist
jewel tree: angels become devas and celestial musicians; birds approximate dragons and garudas, or
become another source for the beautiful music; snowflakes remind us of impermanence.

Other Buddhist symbols

There are also many other Buddhist symbols which lend themselves to being fashioned into
ornaments: the Wheel of the Dharma (Dharmachakra), a conch shell (representing the Voice of the
Eternal), the knot of Eternity (representing the everlasting love of the Eternal), and other of the
“eight auspicious symbols” used to venerate the Buddha.2 Stupas of various sorts and designs can
represent different traditions and cultures. Animals with specific symbolism such as lions,
elephants, and dragons may be used, as well as other animals from the Jataka tales with special
significance for you and your training. Lastly, ornaments in which one places a photo work well for
favorite Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arahants, your master or teacher, or members of your family or
loved ones. Use what works best for you and your family and friends.

Scriptural references for “jewel trees” and adornments: From the opening of The Avatamsaka
(Flower Garland) Sutra, one of the traditional Scriptures of the Serene Reflection Meditation
(So¯to¯ Zen) tradition:

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was [residing] in the land of Magadha, in a state of
purity, at the site of enlightenment, having just realized true awareness. The ground was solid and
firm, made of diamond, adorned with exquisite jewel discs and myriad precious flowers, with pure
clear crystals…There were banners of precious stones, constantly emitting shining light and
producing beautiful sounds. Nets of myriad gems and garlands of exquisitely scented flowers hung
all around. The finest jewels appeared spontaneously, raining inexhaustible quantities of gems and
beautiful flowers all over the earth. There were rows of jewel trees, their branches and foliage
lustrous and luxuriant.

The tree of enlightenment was tall and outstanding. Its trunk was diamond, its main boughs were
lapis lazuli, its branches and twigs were of various precious elements. The leaves, spreading in all
directions, provided shade, like clouds. The precious blossoms were of various colors, the branching
twigs spread out their shadows. Also the fruits were jewels containing a blazing radiance. They were
together with the flowers in great arrays. The entire circumference of the tree emanated light;
within the light there rained precious stones, and within each gem were enlightening beings
[Bodhisattvas], in great hosts like clouds, simultaneously appearing….The tree of enlightenment
constantly gave forth sublime sounds speaking various truths without end.3

From The Scripture on the Immeasurable Life of the Tathagata, a chapter of The Lotus Sutra:
Tranquil will this realm [Pure Land] of Mine be, ever filled with devas and humans in parks and
groves, amongst towers and palaces bedecked with gems of every kind. Under bejeweled trees,
heavy with blossoms and fruit, may these beings take their delight and play, whilst devas beat their
heavenly drums, ever making pleasing music, and showering down coral tree flowers upon the Buddha
and His great assembly.4


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