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Welcome Page 3: Meditation

Welcome Letter from the Abbot President

PAGE 3

welcome

 

 

Dharma name, “Wuyi”

 

Meditation

 

I started meditation at eight years old learning gymnastics. I competed regionally, doing backflips with a full twist and spinning around the high bar and such. Gymnastics is rated as the most difficult sport in the world. You have to visualize your routine and you have to be focused, healthy and strong. As a teen I started bodybuilding and martial arts, Daoist meditation, Zen and yoga, studying Western esotericism and ancient religion.

Before I started at the University of Iowa studying Business and Political Science, I joined the Episcopal Church, finding myself a member of the choir, the music committee and the liturgy committee. It was just for a couple of years but the experience left a lasting impression on me. That is also where I met a gifted couple who introduced me to an English knight who is also an Anglican priest, theologian and theoretical physicist. Our conversations were my introduction to the Science vs. Religion debate.

While the knight of the realm defended his faith, agnostics and atheists point out that faith without evidence, which is the very cornerstone of religious belief, is precisely the antithesis of skepticism and science. In my view, intuition is our ultimate compass and guide, and there is no blanket rule for the compatibility of science and religion; it depends on the philosophy of the individual. One might, for example, take the view of Joseph Campbell or retired bishop John Shelby Spong. Religion can be understood as erring mortal human’s relationship with the eternal, the supernatural can be viewed with skepticism, and tradition can be maintained while illuminated by historical perspective.

I had been studying Lectio Divina on retreat with a small Catholic Benedictine monastery in Illinois and I told my friends about oblation, which I was considering. My friends became oblates at Saint John’s Abbey in Minnesota, the largest monastery in the United States, also a Benedictine monastery, staying there for six months while I house sat. I also stayed at Saint John’s Abbey for a week with them. I was welcomed graciously by the Roman Catholic monks, even though I was a chorister (and not an especially good one) with the Episcopal Church.

I became a 32nd degree Freemason between Alexandria, Virginia and Washington, D. C. I was made a Mason in a courtesy third degree ceremony by Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22. The lodge was named such because George Washington served as the first Master of that lodge. During this time I met my Zen teacher, a Korean Soen Buddhist monk, taking my lay vows and receiving my Dharma name, Wuyi, “Depends on Nothing.” When I moved to Java I started a small online fraternal fashion company with my friend and protégé, who had worked with the oldest Masonic regalia supplier in the world, founded in London 1638. Then I focused on building two membership organizations and he started the Illuminati regalia company.

 

“Westminster Abbey” by Canaletto, 1749

 

After college I enjoyed visiting historic religious houses such as, among others, the National Cathedral and St. Paul’s K Street in Washington, D.C.; Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia; Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan, New York; St. Basil’s Cathedral in the Red Square, Moscow, Russia; the Royal Chapel in Copenhagen, Denmark; Santa María la Blanca and the Museo Sefardí in Toledo, Spain; Notre Dame in Paris, France; Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, Scotland; Temple Church and Westminster Abbey in London, England; St. Alban’s Cathedral in Hertfordshire, England; and the cathedrals and several chapels at the English universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

After my marriage I had the pleasure of visiting temples in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. I had the privilege of meditating at the Temple of Heaven in the Forbidden City, home of the Chinese emperors in Beijing. I meditated at the Daoist Louguan Terrace at Mount Zhongnan in Shaanxi Province, where Laozi is supposed to have written the Daode jing, and White Cloud Temple in Beijing, the headquarters of the Chinese Daoist Association. I visited the prominent Daoist Tai Shan Monastery in Shandong and Confucius’ Tomb in Qufu City, Shandong.

I was able to spend time at the White Horse Temple, the first Buddhist temple in China, and the Shaolin Monastery, where Chan/Soen/Zen Buddhism and kung fu were born. I have been to Longshan Temple in Taipei, Taiwan. I travelled to Po Lin Monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong and stopped at the Daoist Wong Tai Sin temple in Hong Kong. I also had opportunity to enjoy the Hindu Sri Krishnan Temple and the adjacent Chinese Buddhist Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on Waterloo Street, Singapore.

I visited the ancient Buddhist temple ruin at Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam 1350-1767, outside of Bangkok, and the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho in Bangkok, Thailand. I explored Sensō-ji Buddhist temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo’s oldest temple, originally of the Tendai sect, dedicated to Guanyin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.

In Indonesia I meditated at Borobudur in Yogyakarta, the 8th-9th century Buddhist temple with 72 stupas with buddha statues inside; and two temples in Jakarta on the island of Java: the Chinese klenteng Kim Tek Ie Temple and the Buddhist Vihara Mahavira Graha Pusat. I also explored the Hindu Pura Besaki temple complex on the slopes of Mount Agung in Bali, and visited the Tanah Lot temple in Bali.

 

Tanah Lot Temple in Bali

 

There are many important temples and monasteries I still want to see in the East and the West. I intend on writing about each of these important sites with intriguing histories and functions in the world. My blog articles may not always be fast-paced, intriguing reading but they do always leave a trail of breadcrumbs into the most interesting and informative stories on this planet. I also condense a large amount of data into a short account. I consider my work to be more useful than entertaining. I hope my writings appeal to a large spectrum of society but they are sculpted primarily for the seeker of wisdom. To you, I offer my service with humility and goodwill.

I never imagined this is what I would be doing. I didn’t go to some exclusive and prestigious school like Oxford or MIT and get a PhD; I went to the University of Iowa and got my four-year Bachelor’s Degree. I did not get to advance in my career as a curator because I moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where my wife grew up with her family, so my child could receive advantages I never had.

I believe I can still make the world a better place and the best way I can do that with my experience and skills is by sharing wisdom through my blog, Science Abbey, and uniting smart people with the Order of Science. Call me sentimental, but just as the ancient monks used the production of books as a form of meditation, so the modern monk can use work on a laptop as a form of meditation.

 

longshan

Longshan Temple, Taipei, Taiwan

 

Meditation is at the core of religion, beyond dogma, beyond beliefs, and ultimately it transcends even the illusory duality of the mortal and the eternal. It is the science of meditation, with meditation on science, which will put human beings on the path that will allow them to reach their full potential, rather than continue as superstitious animals. The world changes one person at a time.

If someone in your life is a jerk, a sociopath or a narcissist, you doing meditation is not going to fix them: but it will make them easier to deal with insofar as you will be calmer and more objective in your response to them. Practice identifying logical fallacies and techniques of the narcissist will also give you an upper hand in managing such types of people.

My secret to staying calm is that I do mindfulness meditation based on what Daoist and Buddhist monks have been doing for over two thousand years. It is also a state of mind cultivated in Christian convents and monasteries, by Jewish Kabbalists and by Muslim Sufis. Today this mental exercise is practiced regularly by a secular humanist group at Harvard and is promoted by “Harvard Business Review” due to scientific studies on how effective it is. Doctors, CEOs, military leaders and celebrities are also realizing the benefits of mindfulness meditation.

 

Buddha Amitabha statue, Borobudur, Java

 

The Zen master Dogen’s Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen (Fukan zazengi) instructs the meditator to find a place to sit, put down a thick mat and place a cushion over it. Sit in the half-lotus or full-lotus position with your left foot on top of your right thigh. Wear loose clothing, preferably robes, and arrange your attire neatly. Rest your right hand on your foot or leg and place your left hand in your right hand, touching the tips of the thumbs.

Sit up straight, ears aligned with shoulders, nose aligned with navel, and avoid leaning in any direction. Keep your lips shut and teeth together, resting the tip of your tongue on the front of the roof of your mouth. Keep your eyes open looking past the tip of your nose and breathe softly through your nostrils.

Mindfulness or meditation this way is just keeping the mind empty and tranquil, letting thoughts and feelings rise and pass, always bringing the mind gently back to that calm place to rest in silence. I consider this resting in silence to be equally important daily as a shower, brushing teeth and flossing.

The Mayo Clinic affirms that moderate exercise done one half hour per day, five days a week, is optimal. So, let us try the same with meditation until we have more information about optimal cycles. The Daily Offices of the Order of Science were designed to this end. Reading the Daily Offices and actually doing them are two completely different things. They may look strange at first, but doing them will change your life for the better. It will change the energy around you, it will change your state of mind, and it is scientific, empirical technology designed to improve human life.

I have been meditating regularly for a quarter of a century and I still feel like a beginner. I learn more about the mind and the universe every day. I am always learning something about meditation and community. I have lived a life of celibacy and poverty for over eight years, somewhat as a recluse, living with my wife and daughter and tended by servants. Following a regimen of daily meditation and study I developed a rule for a secular scientific order of monastics.

 

 

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