Buddhist monk teaches courses in Rockport next week

By Gail McCarthy, Gloucester Daily Times, January 10, 2008

Gloucester, MA (USA) -- Buddhist monk the Venerable Lama Marut returns to Rockport to kick off the new year with a spiritual message for people of all faiths.

His visit is hosted by Asian Classics Institute-Cape Ann, formerly known as the Cape Ann Shanga. The group evolved after Marut's first visit here more than three years ago. The following of residents kept growing into a group that meets regularly.

To support the efforts of the group of Buddhist students, Marut has made it a point to return to Cape Ann each winter. He has been part of a retreat held at Windhover in Rockport for the past three summers. He was first brought here by Lindsay Crouse of Annisquam.

Marut, who earned a doctorate degree, is an ordained monk with an easy humor, and down-to-earth style. He is spiritual director of both the Asian Classics Institute-Cape Ann and the Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles. He is professor emeritus of religious studies at University of California, Riverside. He teaches Buddhist philosophy, meditation and practice around the world.

"It is truly rare in this country to encounter authentic Buddhist courses for Americans that are so clear," said Crouse.

Marut will be in Rockport from Jan. 15 through 18. There will be afternoon teachings, where he will teach a full review course of the Asian Classics Institute, which will give an overview of Buddhism.

In the evenings, he will talk in a less formal format at the Rockport High School auditorium on the subject of emptiness.

"That is a confusing Buddhist term, which refers to the emptiness of the self. That just means that we have an idea of 'me' that really doesn't exist. Where is 'me'? We certainly exist, but not in the way we think we do," said Crouse. "For me this is one of the most exciting teachings in all of Buddhism because it opens up a vista of possibilities. It means that our definitions of our self - including ugly, stupid, victimized, depressed, bad at math etc. - don't exist permanently. They're just ideas, or concepts in our minds. And through meditation and practice the mind can change."

All teachings are free and open to all who are interested, though donations are welcome.

Crouse said Marut is not presenting "cookie-cutter teachings."

"These are the real thing, and we are very fortunate that he is so committed to teaching on Cape Ann. Everyone is welcome, even if they've never heard of Buddhism. We'll have fun, and we'll learn," she said.

In a telephone interview, Marut explained that the sacred principle of emptiness fundamentally means that people have infinite capacity and capability to change themselves and their lives.

"Everything is changeable and that's the good news of Buddha," said Marut. "If you are not happy where you are, you have an ability to change. The evening teachings are about how can we employ this very philosophical principle in our everyday life to change it for the better."

Marut wants to support the Cape Ann group that sprung up in the wake of his teachings here.

"They are enthusiastic and they make it very much a gratifying experience to come to a place where there is follow up and they have taken the initiative to make it an ongoing community of practitioners. That's why it's so impressive on Cape Ann. They are seemingly hungry for the information, for the connection to this spiritual tradition and they are very appreciative," he said. "They have formed a community, and they support each other so it's like a magnet for me to come here."

Gloucester's Phil Salzman is eager for others to share in these teachings. Salzman, who has been part of the Cape Ann group, said the community is fortunate to have Marut return to give these lessons.

"Many Cape Ann residents have attended and found his teachings helpful and fun," he said. "Lama Marut is a very special teacher with an ability to teach and motivate with humor and joy."

Salzman noted that Marut's teachings are not for just the benefit of his students.

"They are for everyone who is interested in their own spiritual lives and learning more about the Buddhist world view and practice," he said. "The evening teachings on emptiness have application to all people regardless of their background or religious identification."

If you go

* What: Teachings by Buddhist monk the Venerable Lama Marut, Jan. 15 through Jan. 18

* When and Where: Afternoon teachings from noon to 4:30 p.m. will be held at the Rockport Community House. The courses includethe principal teachings of Buddhism, Buddhist refuge, applied meditation, how karma works and more. In the evenings, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., he will talk in a less formal format at the Rockport High School auditorium on the subject of emptiness.

* Details: For more information, contact Salzman at 978-283-3543 or -email cape_ann_sangha@yahoo.com. For more information on Marut, visit www.lamamarut.org.