Nuggets From Ron Epstein's Call

Posted by Amit Dungarani on Sep 15, 2018
 
This past Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Ron Epstein.

Ron Epstein, Ph.D., is a Buddhist scholar and practitioner. A prolific writer, translator, ethicist and activist regarding the modern application of Buddhism and Buddhist ethics, he is author of the recent book, Responsible Living: Explorations in Applied Buddhist Ethics--Environment, Animals, GMOs, and Digital Media (March 2018). Dr. Epstein is a graduate of Harvard University, the University of Washington, and UC Berkeley. Born in Kentucky to a Jewish family, he turned to Buddhism in the 1960s and found himself living in the same run-down apartment building in San Francisco as a Chinese monk, Master Hsuan Hua, who turned out to be a contributing figure in bringing Chinese Buddhism to the United States in the 20th century. And so at the age of 24, Epstein commenced his life-long study and practice of Buddhism with the Venerable Master Hua, and went on to help found Dharma Realm Buddhist University.

We'll post the transcript of the call soon, but till then, some of the nuggets that stood out from the call ...
  • Enlightenment is not an experience. Enlightenment is a complete/total transformation of your inner being whereas experience as experience can be an indication of internal transformation. Having an experience is fine, so long as we don't get attached to it. In the west, we get into trouble because we get too much into the "experience" (too much attachment) but many of those experiences are not connected to inner based transformation.
  • What it means to be a Buddha is one who has perfected their wisdom and compassion. Wisdom is seeing things as they really are…how causes and consequences really operate in our daily lives. Compassion really has to do with helping to end the suffering of all living beings. And while grandiose sounding in terms of a goal, it comes back to mindfulness. If we can be mindful, in every thought moment we have a choice to make. Are we going to act selfishly or unselfishly in that thought moment – in each of those moments, whether consciously or unconsciously, are we choosing to act in a selfish way or unselfish way.
  • Just becoming mindful is not enough. You have to do it in the context of the five precepts and act with the correct intention. What is the mindfulness for? Because true mindfulness is important for the next step of choosing how to act in each thought moment.
  • We always have to come back to the fundamental question of "Who am I?" None of the other stuff matters. Whom am I in the moment and in the context of our entire life journey.
  • I couldn't emphasize more the importance of the five precepts to Buddhist morality. They shouldn't be looked at as restrictions but rather aides on the Buddhist path.
  • He also shared: "The other thing that concerns me about digital media is the blurring of lines beyond sentient beings and explaining everything in terms of data, as though data were the underlying reality of the world."
  • Here is a link to the pivotal painting that Ron mentioned that helped him shed his out layers of the self: The "Secret Five" Bodhisattva
  • Here are a few of the books/readings he mentioned during the call:
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen! A special thank you to Stephanie for being a wonderful moderator and guide for our call. Lastly, a large thank you to both Ron for spending his morning with us, sharing so many insights and to all of you for co-creating this call as listeners and submitting great questions.

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Comments (2)

  • Trishna Shah wrote ...

    Loved this insight especially in the context of how the purpose behind “mindfulness” is being misunderstood as it becomes a more “popular tool” in society: “Just becoming mindful is not enough. You have to do it in the context of the five precepts and act with the correct intention. What is the mindfulness for? Because true mindfulness is important for the next step of choosing how to act in each thought moment.”

  • LuAnn Cooley wrote ...

    Thank you for hosting and this wonderful write-up. I had a last-minute cancellation (due to the hurricane) so was able to join the call and was so grateful as it truly made the day and the weekend better. It was rich with ideas so your nuggets are a wonderful way to sort out a very deep conversation.