Sunday, April 20, 2014

You are NOT what you are looking for--Dharma talk

You are NOT what you are looking for. What most people are looking for--some notion of an ideal self as perfection or a spirit of some sort--is an idea, not a reality. When seekers are told that they ARE what they are looking for, their conviction about this self-concept solidifies further. Since striving, in the form of internal strife, is part of the very problem that seekers are trying to escape, all conceptions of self and seeker must be seen for what they actually are--mere ideas. Then both seeker and sought evaporate.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Next Time There's a Gap - Dharma talk

Here's a wonderful Dharma talk, delivered by my student and good friend, Andrew Hyeonjeong Condouris. It's fantastic!



Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Beyond Non-duality (Part 2) - A Dharma talk

In this talk, the second of a two-part series, I address the common Mahayana interpretation of Enlightenment--insight into Emptiness and nonduality. I encourage you to look beyond the realm of all conditionality, beyond even nonduality, to the unconditioned Absolute.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Beyond Nonduality - A Dharma talk

In this talk, the first of a two-part series, I address the common Mahayana interpretation of Enlightenment--insight into Emptiness and nonduality. I encourage you to look beyond the realm of all conditionality, beyond even nonduality, to the unconditioned Absolute.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Heart Sutra: A Meditation Manual



I recently completed writing a new book, a commentary on the seminal Buddhist text, the Heart Sutra. It's called The Heart Sutra: A Meditation Manual, and as its title suggests, I interpret the sutra to be a meditation manual, rather than an exposition on the fundamental emptiness (sunyata) of all reality, as it is traditionally understood. Here is a sample: 


There is no singular thing called Buddhism; there never has been. To suggest that there is one entity with that name undermines the rich and diverse manifestations we refer to under the generic rubric called “Buddhism.” 

Among Buddhists, there is no consensus about what constitutes “Buddhism.” For some, it’s encapsulated in the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, for others it’s the universal truth of emptiness or interconnectedness, for still others Buddha Nature or Tathagatagarbha constitutes the Buddha’s Awakening. Let’s not forget the salvific orientation of the Pure Land traditions or the religious devotion of East-Asian “cultural” Buddhists. That’s not even mentioning esoteric or Tantric Buddhism. 

Simply put, there is an enormous variety of viewpoints, interpretations, and priorities in the labyrinth we commonly call Buddhism. So despite what some reductive and legislative pundits claim, there is no orthodox Buddhist doctrine. 

I have read many commentaries on the Heart Sutra, all of which implicitly claim to offer the official approach to understanding the text, as if there were only one way to interpret the sutra.

There isn’t.

Dependent Origination—the teaching that nothing can exist on its own, and therefore all phenomena are empty of self-existence (sunya)—is the traditional lens through which commentators interpret the Heart Sutra. There is, however, another way to approach the text, and Buddhism itself, which I shall offer here.

Nature Origination, derived from such influential texts as the Avatamsaka Sutra and the Awakening of Mahayana Faith, takes a completely different stance. This approach views all phenomena as being empty precisely because their true nature is actually the Absolute, Suchness, or Buddha Mind, the Reality that transcends all dualities and descriptions.
According to Nature Origination, this is what the Heart Sutra communicates through a series of negational commands. "You are not your eyes, ear, nose...so look beyond them to your true nature, the Absolute."

Like many influential spiritual texts, I feel that the Heart Sutra does not explicate, it points. It is not interested in describing Nirvana in the way that the Avatamsaka Sutra does; the Heart Sutra actually offers a series of practices to realize Nirvana for oneself. This is where my reading differs from most other commentators', for I see the text as being prescriptive rather than descriptive. What other interpreters view as an explanation of reality—interdependent and empty—I view as an actual blueprint for practice. In this regard, I regard emptiness as a command or a verb, as in "Empty your mind!" of its contents.

Like many influential spiritual texts, I feel that the Heart Sutra does not explicate, it points. It is not interested in describing Nirvana in the way that the Avatamsaka Sutra does; the Heart Sutra actually offers a series of practices to realize Nirvana for oneself. This is where my reading differs from most other commentators', for I see the text as being prescriptive rather than descriptive. What other interpreters view as an explanation of reality—interdependent and empty—I view as an actual blueprint for practice. In this regard, I regard emptiness as a command or a verb, as in "Empty your mind!" of its contents.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You are Not That - Dharma talk

What you are can never be located in time, space, or mind. What you are defies all objectification, for as the Tao Te Ching says, "The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao." If you can hear it, see it, smell it, think it, then that is NOT it. The true Buddhadharma is formless; it is that which precedes all subjects and objects. In order to discover your original face, eliminate all of those things that you falsely identify with as your-self. Spot them and realize that you are NOT them. They come and go according to conditions, your true nature does not. So what are you? Don't be limited by words or thoughts, for you are ultimately beyond them all.

Introduction and sound engineering by Tom Inzan Gartland.


My new book is out!

Available now


The Heart Sutra is the most famous of all Buddhist texts. Thousands of commentaries have been written about it, but none of them like this one. In this fresh and original interpretation, Andre Doshim Halaw challenges conventional readings of the Heart Sutra by arguing that the scripture is not actually an exposition about emptiness (sunyata) as it is commonly read, but in fact a meditation manual. Drawing upon his experience as a Zen teacher and meditation instructor, Andre demonstrates how the sutra uses the ancient Indian meditation technique called Neti-Neti (meaning "Not this, not that") to reveal the Absolute, the unconditioned reality of all Buddhas.