Monday, October 17, 2016

With Mindfulness, strive on

In college, many moons ago, I was in an aesthetics class. I read Arthur Danto's book The State of Art. Aside from the Tilted Arc stuff, there was the argument that we are at the end of art, that all the major schools have been created, we're just playing around with what's been created. Indeed Danto's next book is After The End of Art.

As I was chanting from the TBC Puja, which I have modified in by adding in things. I've added conciliation and atonement. Instead of chanting to Padmasambhava twice, I chant pratityasamitpada:

Imasmim sati, idam hoti.
Imass’ uppādā, idam uppajjati.
Imasmim asati, idam na hoti.
Imassa nirodhā, idham nirujjhati.

I learned to chant that 8 years ago, my how time flies.

Amongst the mantras I add in a Milarepa mantra:

The TBC is an ecumenical order, which means inclusive of all the sects. So I can read pure land sutras, I can read it all. I've been into the Teravadan books from Amaravati. I feel like I could hang out with any sect and get something from it. In a way, I feel Buddhism, like art, is at an end. You've all these kinds and really you can mash up what ever you want. Of course it's good to get an order and a sangha and a program of progress to have regular steps instead of irregular steps. Even Batchelor writes a book called After Buddhism. Some people want an American Buddhism. It's hard to imagine what that would mean. There is a movement to take Buddhism away from the secretive teachers, an open source Buddhism. Sangharakshita talks about spiritual indigestion, too many rich doctrines.

Like everything, you can never give up your will, negotiating your own spiritual shoals is all your business and nobody else's. The fight against ossifying orders, keeping the spiritual life alive can be challenging at times. With mindfulness, strive on!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Higher Power

So my partner had some time to blog, so I'm inspired to blog.

Chapter 4 in The Philosophical Baby talks a lot about Buddhism and consciousness. Gopnik suggests that because babies are experiencing everything as new, they are more conscious. They need more anesthetic for surgery. In a way they are little Buddhas. I have treated my little sprog as my teacher, just as their brothers are my teachers as well.

For that matter my daughter's mother has positivity, energy, patience, wisdom and kindness oozing out her every pore, and she teaches me quite a lot. Sometimes family life is your sangha.

Been reading The Buddha In Me, The Buddha In You. It's a positive encouraging book by a life coach who also follows Soka Gakkai.

I stopped reading The collected works of Ajhan Chah, because it seems to be an elaboration of just do it. I've gotten a lot from what I've read so far, but I've stalled in the book because he says put down the book and go meditate. Good advice. Great teachers always point away from their talks and books and suggest meditation. I'll get back to it eventually. I put down a lot of books and come back to them when the spirit moves me.

I've been reading One Breath At A Time for the third time and finding it rewarding. I'm still stuck on the whole higher power thing.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Spring Azures

Spring Azures - Mary Oliver

In spring the blue azures bow down
at the edges of shallow puddles
to drink the black rain water.
Then they rise and float away into the fields.

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows―
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking—

don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like

to have wings—
blue ones—
ribbons of flame.

How I would like to open them, and rise
from the black rain water.

And then I think of Blake, in the dirt and sweat of London—a boy
staring through the window, when God came
fluttering up.

Of course, he screamed,
and seeing the bobbin of God’s blue body
leaning on the sill,
and the thousand-faceted eyes.

Well, who knows.
Who knows what hung, fluttering, at the window
between him and the darkness.

Anyway, Blake the hosier’s son stood up
and turned away from the sooty sill and the dark city—
turned away forever
from the factories, the personal strivings,

to a life of the the imagination.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thicket of views

I don't want to enter into the controversy and sectarianism of Japanese Buddhism. I did find a anit-SGI blog that is pure land:

A thought occurred to me reading The Buddha In Me, The Buddha In You, that perhaps I need to read up on Nichiren before I compare it to the SGI teachings. That brings up another question. Should I trust the SGI translation of Nichiren's Daishonin? I can't find another translation online.

And I could reread the Lotus Sutra.

"The teachings are endless, I seek to master them" is a Bodhisattva vow line, which I can't find a TBC version of at the moment.

My own opinion is that reducing Buddhism to chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra, well that just doesn't feel like the best practice. I think ethics, meditation and wisdom are very important. Chanting and faith are lovely too.

I am interested in a way about it because once on a solitary retreat, I had the thought that I would not get enlightened in the current circumstances of my life, which is basically Mappo, a basis for the Nichiren Buddhism. But just because I thought it doesn't mean it's true. And Nichiren meditated for 20 years. I can't believe that he got nothing more out of that than a mantra.

Pure Land Buddhism, which is not one thing really, is the most popular sect of Buddhism, mostly concentrated in Japan and China.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Finished Abundant, Exhalted, Immeasurable by Pasanno, a Theravadan from the lineage of Ajahn Chah, from the Thai Forest Tradition. It put Metta in the context of a Buddhist practice pretty well, in the tradition of the elders.

Started The Buddha in Me, The Buddha in You by David Hare.

Been thinking about my fear of success, what stops me from going deeper. I've been very itchy lately, I need to figure out what I'm allergic to.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


A quote from a movie written by one of the creators of BoJack Horseman:

Here’s the problem with everything. As soon as you get something you want — it’s no longer a thing you want, it’s just a thing you have, and then you want the next thing. So I’m starting to realize maybe I’ll never be satisfied. ... I’ll find the girl of my dreams, I’ll get married and I’ll have kids. Then, like a week later, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is [expletive].’ ”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nina Simone

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer

Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin'

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Mass participation
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know

You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

That's it!


I watched the documentary on Nina Simone and once again I'm struck by the thought that we'll never solve our problems until everyone has a certain basic worth. She wrote the song after a fire was set in Birmingham and little girls died. You can read the Wikipedia article.

An interesting press release from Tibetan Nun Project

All 20 Nuns Pass Final Round of Geshema Examinations

Seattle, WA: Twenty Tibetan Buddhist nuns have just made history, becoming the first Tibetan women to successfully pass all the exams for the Geshema degree, equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Exam results were announced by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration. All 20 candidates for the degree passed.

Their success fulfills a longstanding wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and marks a new chapter in the development of education for ordained Buddhist women and is a major accomplishment for Tibetan women. 

The Geshema degree (a Geshe degree when awarded to men) is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. These women pioneers have accomplished a level of scholarship and Buddhist training that, until recently, was only open to men. 

The Geshema examination process is an extremely rigorous one that takes four years in total, with one round per year each May. During the 12-day exam period, the nuns must take both oral (debate) and written exams. They are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts. In 2011, a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years training in India, became the first female to receive the Geshema title.

The new Geshema nuns will formally receive their degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special ceremony at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod in southern India.

This occasion is also a milestone for the Tibetan Nuns Project, which was founded in 1987 to provide education and humanitarian aid to Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India. A number of the Geshema candidates were illiterate when they escaped from Tibet. To reach this historic milestone, the Tibetan Nuns Project had to build an educational system from the ground up.

“Educating women is powerful,” says Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project. “It’s not just about books. It is also about helping nuns acquire the skills they need to run their own institutions and create models for future success and expansion. It’s about enabling the nuns to be teachers in their own right and to take on leadership roles at a critical time in our nation’s history.”

Earning the Geshema degrees marks a turning point for the nuns. This degree will make them eligible to assume various leadership roles in the monastic and lay communities, previously reserved for men.

The Tibetan Nuns Project supports 7 nunneries in India as well as many nuns living on their own for a total of nearly 800 nuns. Many are refugees from Tibet, but the organization also reaches out to the Himalayan border areas of India where women and girls have had little access to education and religious training.