Reflections on an hour with a Buddhist monk

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 1.04.24 PMAt 16, my oldest child is taking a class on world religions. So far, she’s studied a variety of religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism and Judaism. I am amazed at all she’s learned and believe the broader world perspective at a younger age could serve her well going forward.
Personally, I’ve been curious to learn about other cultures and religions since I was young, but without an opportunity to learn formally, I’ve made a point to seek chances to learn on a personal level.
Just this week I had the pleasure of meeting with the Venerable Tsering Phuntsok, a Buddhist monk who has been visiting the area. During our time together, he explained four truths of Buddhism — each a good reminder, regardless of religious beliefs.
The first truth was regarding the preciousness of human life. He explained that Buddhists believe that because our human life starts with our mothers, our mother is the first person we honor.
After a discussion about the importance of honoring our mothers, he suggested that I consider the many other people I know who have played roles in sustaining and nurturing my life. He explained the importance of honoring them as well. Then, he asked me to think about all the other people I don’t know who have touched my life through the years.
For example, he asked me to consider all the food I’ve eaten through the years. He asked me to consider all the people, animals and plants that have given to nurture and sustain my life — the person who planted the beans for my soup, the person who picked the beans for my soup, the person who transported the beans for my soup, the person who packaged the beans for my soup, the person who sold the beans for my soup — and the list goes on. He then explained the importance of honoring each of those people, plants and animals that gave and served in the process of nurturing me.
“In a sense, all of these things contribute to giving, sustaining and nurturing your life, and so we honor them too,” he said. He took that a step further and compared all the living things around us and their role in giving us life to our mothers.
“Look at all beings as your own mother. So wherever you go, you can feel at home,” he said. “It becomes easier to fit anywhere.”
The second truth was all about the impermanence of everything — including my own life and the lives of those I love, including my parents, my siblings and my children. None of us are permanent. Our time in this life is finite.
“We can’t learn everything in this life here on earth. We can’t completely love everything either. But, we do what we can while we can, and then we will have the chance to learn and love more in the next life,” he said.
He explained that by accepting the impermanence of everything, we become more peaceful because we live each day knowing that no state will last.
Thirdly, he spoke about cause and effect — karma. When you give positive, you get positive. When you give negative, you get negative.
Lastly, we spoke about the importance of recognizing the suffering of others and in nature. I need to give further consideration to this tenant to grasp it more fully.
He said, “Change is suffering.”
To not surprise, there are parallels to other religions for most of these thoughts. Our conversation gave me food for thought for the week. If you would like to meet the Ven. Tsering, all are invited to the Phuoc Minh Monastery, 7311 W. Congress in Duson. The temple is also housing the Jade Buddha for Universal Peace, a giant Buddha carved from more than four tons of gem quality stone. All are welcome, but today is the last day the Buddha and Ven. Tsering will be in Duson. There will be a 10 a.m. ceremony and the Buddha is available for viewing until 6 p.m.

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