Friday, April 18, 2014


I quite enjoyed watching this video this morning.

On thing that strikes me about this video from 1993, 21 years ago, is that Bhante thinks about the consequences to others. Pratityasamutpada is the first thought. If someone references a red herring of other's behaviors, then he suggests people focus on themselves. He demonstrates a kind of democracy, in that they voted on whether to add a 11th precept, and it failed. He discussed the differences between the west and India, where drinking is more taboo. He talks about his own example, where he quit drinking all together even though he likes a drop of wine during a meal, because of the impact of others. I really like it that he supports the freedom of others, but shows such a kind example. Another tac he takes is that fine, you look at one example, but what about the majority example, can you see that? Finally he does say that there is to be no drinking in FWBO centers, now renamed TBC.

In all my time with the TBC, they were dry events, except parties. I do remember someone asking if I was fit to drive, after I'd had some beer. At the time I thought that was annoying question, but I think it's a fair question.

I have been reflecting a lot on drinking lately. I have brewed my own beer, and there have been times in my life when drinking did take energy and money from me. I do think I have alcoholic tendencies, and there were a lot of people in my life while I was growing up who you could say drink too much.

I remember in one of Bante's memoirs, he drove across Europe, and was astonished by how much of agriculture was given up to wine, and I think he said he stopped drinking at that point, because while he liked a little, he thought the world had devoted too many resources to drinking and he did not want to participate in that.

He also talks about contributing to the culture of bragging about drinking, and the effect that might have on other people.

One time when I wrote in the reporting journal of men who have asked for ordination, that I got tanked with my preceptor, and someone condemned me from Sri Lanka. I remember being very tired the next day for a retreat inside a prison. But in the end it went well. I think being in jail was very stressful for me, and that may have contributed to the drinking. Also some people bought us a round when we were about to leave, and they wanted to talk about Buddhism.

I guess I remember some bit in Milarepa where he drinks and thinks he gets enlightened. But if you look at that story, that is the only instance of drinking, and he's laid of lot of ground to get to the point, and maybe the drinking released some inhibitions. They talk about Ananda not being enlightened and wanting to join a counsel of remembered speech from the Buddha, but you had to be enlightened. This made his efforts more tense, but just before he fell asleep, he relaxed and achieved enlightenment.

What I think is interesting in all this is that it's a case by case example, and that you must consult with your spiritual friends. Friendship is the emphasis. They don't want to judge others. I really find the desire not to judge others as really important.

Bhante also uses the phrase "pseudo-spiritual book keeping" to refer to someone who says, "well, I don't drink so I can be a little lax with the speech precepts." Bhante says you must apply yourself to all the precepts and not look for excuses not to.

My son wants to use the computer to play Minecraft, so I'll edit this later.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Savage Pilgrims

Reading Savage Pilgrims: On the Road to Santa Fe, Shukman quotes D.H. Lawrence, "...Which I am I..."

This could be interpreted 2 ways. Is he talking about the multiplicities within oneself, or is he talking about interconnectedness? Either way it's cool. I wonder if that's what the Buddha was thinking about when he talked about rebirth. How we all have a John Malkovich inside of us.

A surly troubled youth asked me the other day, "why do you care?" He was referring to the negative choices he was making. I think now my answer is interconnectedness. I think that's what the Bible is getting at when Christ says what you do to the least of me, you do to me. I feel like that my conservative friends have lost that insight.

Lawrence goes on to talk about a prayer to Saint Catherine. Again, it's ambiguous because there are lots of Saint Catherines. The most famous one is a virgin who every time she converted someone to Christianity, they were murdered.

It's hard for me to imagine Christian persecution in Christian America. It's the Christians who are doing the persecution here. It's not hard to see when people feel like they are closer to the truth, they can, out of insecurity, turn it into intolerance.

But a Bluesman (or woman) doesn't turn suffering into revenge.

What I like about Savage Pilgrims is that Shukman takes his own spiritual journey, and he's trying to shuck off his conditioning, and get closer to the bone, and embrace his freedom. I've only read 67 pages, but it's a beautiful travel memoir so far.

the path

I haven't meditated in yonks. I asked myself why I haven't been. My answer was that I had lost the habit. How would I refind the habit? A commitment. How does one go about following through with a commitment? Thinking about it is my first thought. Why do I want to meditate? I hope to be more aware for the sake of others.

My standby meditation is mindfulness of breathing the TBC way, with 4 stages. I've done the 16 stage anapanasati on retreat, but it's just so involved. Not that I don't like a little insight even when I'm calming myself.

I take a look inside, and it's a foul rag and bone shop. And yet, to look at that a little, it dusts the shop a little, it doesn't look as bad. Perhaps one of the reason why people don't meditate and do therapy is that when they tune in, they don't particularly like what they see. For me, that's the whole point. You drag stuff out into the daylight and it loses it power. It's a painful process and I accept my resistance to it, forgive my foibles, weakness, imperfections. I'm a middle aged man with the same old problems, but then I tell myself about the spiral. The upward spiral. It's all to a point. Even if I'm knocking at the door of the spiral staircase, that is worth it.

They say spiritual traditions make sense of suffering. Nietzsche suggests you get too comfortable with suffering, but I think he misses the point. The grace to accept what is happening isn't easy to come by. We stick the second arrow in. One is enough. Pin down the demons and stair at them. They don't go away, but they lose their power.

So to confirm why I meditate, I reflect on the path. Meditation is the path. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Walking prayer

With beauty before me, may I walk
With beauty behind me, may I walk
With beauty above me, may I walk
With beauty below me, may I walk
With beauty all around me, may I walk
Wandering on the trail of beauty, may I walk
Navajo: Walking Meditation

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

digital intelligence

From an essay: When The Factory Turns Cold:

"The French revolutionary (and Karl Marx’ son in law) Paul Lafargue wrote “The Right to be Lazy” in 1883 that the “proletariat has allowed itself to be seduced by the dogma of work.” In his provocative tribute to the merits of laziness, Lafargue refuses to privilege work over all other pursuits (Lafargue). No, this is not a call for a population of couch potatoes; it is rather a refusal of the configuration of the work society. Kathi Weeks, a Duke University professor, explains that Lafargue’s extravagant refusal of work is not a refusal of productive activity. Lafargue speaks out against the ideology of work as highest calling. Weeks points to the autonomist Marxist critique that does not only focus on alienation and exploitation but also on the overvaluation of work itself (Hoegsberg and Fisher 151).

At first, such demand may sound outlandishly elitist. How could we possibly unlearn our extreme work habits, our overvaluation of work? Who’d pay the bills. Really, who can afford this? In her excellent book The Problem with Work, Kathi Weeks supports demands for basic income and shorter work hours.

For Weeks, the problem with work would not disappear if invisible labor would be more visible and appropriately compensated. The problem is not only about the degradation of skill, low wages/exploitation, and discrimination. It’s about “securing not only better work, but also the time and money necessary to have a life outside of work.”(Weeks 13) Do you remember the times when people still had hobbies and knew how to take a vacation?

The refusal of work is really a refusal of the way work is organized. Concretely, proposals for unconditional basic income, discussed intensely and for a long time in Europe, would make that possible."

I quoted my favorite part of the essay but it's so much more than that section. It questions our use of the internet in smart ways, and brings a kind of mindfulness in digital interactions. Wonderful essay.

Preciousness of life

From page 42 of The Path To Awakening: How Buddhism's Seven Points of Mind Training Can Lead You to a Life of Enlightenment and Happiness:

"The dharma teachings explain in detail what a precious human life is. It is by no means a mere generalization. Rather, the precious human life means precisely you. You can practice the dharma and so your life is precious: you have the freedom to pursue the dharma; you have time to attend dharma lectures, you have the intellect to understand the meaning: and you hare physically able to do the practice. It makes you realize how lucky you are."

Monday, March 17, 2014


"It must be mentioned here that even today some things are kept hidden from all but the most serious practitioners. Here, wit it comes to the teachings on ultimate bodhicitta, much will remain unwritten." p. 28 The Path to Awakening.

I don't think that should keep one from addressing the seven point mind training, but it could make one wish to study them within a tradition.

I think some writings make one meditate. Some writings make one seek sangha.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday thoughts

So I've begun to read The Path To Awakening: How Buddhism's Seven Points of Mind Training Can Lead You to a Life of Enlightenment and Happiness.

There is a 6 page introduction to the teachings of the Buddha. I have not heard the teaching about the various turnings of the wheels. I have heard the teaching the three lakshanas.

In the introduction by Shamar Rinpoche he says he doesn't want his teaching to be secetarian, but then the first paragraph of the explication of the root text he says this is the primary teaching in the Kadam School. I think he can have it both ways, I don't get so caught up on contradictions, I see it more as a dialectic. There is something good about understanding what your tradition really is.

With Buddhism hitting the wide world, with the invasion of Tibet in 1950, culminating in the Dali Lama fleeing in 1959, you get the teachings going into a lot of different cultures, and that process can be like sifting for the gold. With Tibetan Buddhism spreading over the world, other traditions have found the west to be more open. Zen, Theravada and other traditions have seen an opening of receptivity and curiosity in the west. The dirt of culture drops out. Actually, I don't see culture as dirt, but it is important to see what is culture and what dharma transcends culture, and what culture does to the dharma. And dirt is a positive association for me, live rich soil is so important. This whole interplay between culture and dharma is interesting and important.

One of the things in America is that secular mindfulness is about denuding Buddhism of all the various sort of religious aspects. No foreign chanting, no weird drawings, no foreign rituals.

One of my facebook friends noted a study that showed meditation did not help with stress relief as much as therapy and medication. I'm OK with that, because to make meditation into stress relief is not really the Buddha's intention. That might be one of the things that's needed to progress on the spiritual path, and that might just be trying to curb some of the negative aspects of materialism, the idea that life is all about amassing the most possessions possible. People torque themselves up to a high pitch to succeed, and then need a way of winding down, when they realize alcohol or drugs come at a price. You can turn to meditation for that, and that might help, and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just not particularly Buddhism, we have to be frank about that. You can use meditation to enhance your materialistic quests for security, housing, exquisite experiences, and status. This is why the military and the business world like secular mindfulness.

Phil Jackson can be the Zen basketball coach, and make millions and millions of dollars. And I am happy for him, and I'm really glad the Knicks are looking into him running the Knicks. But I don't see him as particularly Buddhist, and all the stuff about Zen and him is really overblown. Just like the Zen of Steven Jobs. I'm happy for people to be open to outside influences, but Steven Jobs doesn't really need to be co-opted by Zen to make Zen any better. I don't want Buddhism to become a kind of Scientology where it's really about making it in Hollywood. It's not some in club that is exciting because it's an in club.

People need a lot of metta though. I could use more. My partner was saying that the other day, people just need to try and be a little nicer. She thinks that would make our world a better place. There's nothing wrong with meditation making you nicer to people. Lets just be clear what our intension is. Are we meditating to be nicer so we can make more money or are we just meditating to be nicer. Are we meditating to move towards enlightenment, not matter how far off that might be? In the acceptance verses in the ordination ceremony of the TBC, you accept ordination for the sake of enlightenment. I've heard people disavow enlightenment, it seems to far off, it's said you can't know what it is until you are that. I personally see that as a denial of what the Buddha did as being special, that you can do it, and that it's worth aiming for.

Seven Point Mind Training

The Path To Awakening: How Buddhism's Seven Points of Mind Training Can Lead You to a Life of Enlightenment and Happiness arrived in the mail today. This is by Shamar Rinpoche. The Shamar Rinpoche version is translated and edited by Lara Braitstein.

I've read Becoming a Child of the Buddhas: A Simple Clarification of the Root Verses of Seven Point Mind Training a number of times and have studied it in study groups. This is by Gomo Tulku, translated by Joan Nicell. When you google Gomo Tulku, you get the rapping lama, which I think might be another incarnation. It's hard to untangle the thicket of lineages and teachers. But the one thing to know is that the Seven Point Mind Training might not be a standardized text, and might have different version in different traditions. The whole point of it is to have pithy short verses that pack big punches, so they are changed over time, and each lineage will see various versions as the best one. And then someone translates them into English.

The Seven Point Mind Training goes back to teachings of Atisa, through Checkawa Yeshe Dorje. So the various versions will be based on these. So we're reaching back to Atisa through a number of teachers and a translators.

This one by Shamar Rinpoche, is from the Kadampa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, though the teachings reach out into the modern movements, and other traditions. If you were in that tradition, you'd probably read this version first. I read the Gomo Tulku version as recommended by the TBC. I have no idea why or how that came to be the one to read at that time.

I've listened to talks from FBA on it. I don't know what's going on with their search engine, but I can't find the specific talks.

What strikes me in my memory is that all this stuff has to be critically evaluated, and made sense of. But if you spend time on them, they can come to have great meaning. And that is why I'm excited to read this new version of the teachings. I will check back with you when I get into the book.