Sunday, March 18, 2018

The opposite of Buddhism, still want to get rid of here

Sometimes thoughts are so vivid in my head, I can't shake them for a while. I always say when there's a train of thought coming through, step off the tracks and just let it go by.

A few times people have told me to take responsibility and then went on to say that they had no choice which undermines their point, which really confuses and befudles me. I know when I'm in the wrong I can't nit pick against someone's point, nobody cares, that's why I'm pointing out the contradiction in a blog post.

It would be better to say, "when you did what you had to do, I did what I had to do." That is deterministically consistent.

Or when, "when you made your poor choice, my choice was easy." That is free will consistent.

But to say "when you made your poor choice, I had to do what I had to do." Well, that's free will and determinism. Hey, maybe that's perfection of wisdom.

I'm pretty sure the Buddha would say the determinism versus free will debate won't get you enlightened and the Muslims would call it zanna. I know when I'm in the wrong it's not the time to point out that people are not consistent.

But still. Making a point needs to be clear and not distracting. Probably the least corrected situation is attacking someone in the wrong because nobody cares. "You're losing focus on how wrong you were." Another misdirection evoked by the way someone communicates then blamed on the person getting the heat. Piling on, blame the victim.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


There is a paradox in the seeking in the spiritual life. In the Buddhist tradition you look inwards, but to see guidance outside yourself, you can get support. We don't always assess things properly, don't necessarily see when we're snookered. You can get dramatic and say kill the Buddha. Being too self reliant, you might not hear the teachings that you need.

There's another paradox in syncretism. Do you seek the path that is pointed to by all the traditions? Is it fair to co-opt tricks and turns from traditions that have different goals? Is heaven and grace here and now a kind of enlightenment?

Find the Seeker takes a syncretic approach by looking at Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Stoicism, mystical and metaphysical poets, New Age gurus and Christianity. It has me asking these questions.

There is a part of me that wonders if Buddhism needs other ideas. I don't have a problem with people enjoying other traditions to enhance a Buddhist project. I don't have people who don't want to define things and put them in boxes. I don't have a problem with people enjoying traditions outside Buddhism. You own your path. I just wonder if I need anything else besides the Buddhist teachings. I certainly read other things, but it's just a matter of exposing myself. Perhaps I'm afraid it's not all contained in Buddhism. I want to make sure. Usually I find that I don't need anything besides Buddhism. I don't like it that I'm wary of some teachers, their reputation isn't that great. Perhaps some found good. I'm not against anyone finding good in a teacher. I sometimes wonder if some teachers just tried to churn out stuff to get a following or to maximize their sexual partners or to feel grand, but I didn't really know them, and I shouldn't comment not knowing. I can only go on what seems to me, and I try to have a sense of how well I know things. We have to be superficial because we can't be interested in everything. We have limits. Some books just somehow raise my hackles. Am I just too comfortable with my teacher? One talk I listened to discussed how you should absorb yourself in a tradition quite a while to give it a fair chance. Some people are more faithful and some people are more promiscuous with a tradition or traditions.

I feel like there is a saturation in spiritual books. We're chock a block with them. Some people are into The Secret. Or A Course Of Miracles. I've had lovely conversations based on these books though I have not read them myself. I like Marsha Linehan. There's an intersection between psychology and spirituality. I used to encourage people to explore their spiritual life.

I ask for people to send books to me, and then I get a big pile of books that I don't want to read once I read a few pages. Then I go months and months. I can't seem to control the flow of books, too much for a time, to little for a time. I haven't been reading as much as I used to. I gobbled up books there for a while and I've reread and reread quite a lot of books. Certainly I've missed a lot in gluttony and indigestion. Nowadays books tend to lose me in the introduction. I've been reading a lot of novels instead. I try to push nonfiction but it grates on me at times. You have to give library books back, even though modern apps allow for easy renewal. I've got a list of books I can get out of the library and continue to read. Every once in a while I pick up a book I was reading and finish it and wonder why I quit reading it. I must be currently in the process of reading about 40 books. I read a Mary Oliver poem almost every day.

I hate to sound like a psychoanalytic wonk but I like formulated experience, describing inner experience in it's rich flora and fauna. Sometimes I can't fall asleep because ideas are swooshing around my mind. I remember taking up 2 days contemplating an offense on a retreat. It's hard not to be precious and self obsessed examining your experience to try and transcend it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

More on violence and buddhism

NY Times had an interesting article, with an interesting quote: "There is a philosophically problematic presupposition that also figures into widespread surprise at the very idea of violence perpetrated by Buddhists -- that there is a straightforward relationship between beliefs people hold and the likelihood that they will behave in a corresponding way."

I'm guilty of violating my core beliefs, spectacularly so, but I do think there is a "straightforward relationship between beliefs people hold and the likelihood that they will behave in a corresponding way." It's called integrity. Unless you're on Arrested Development and part of the Bluth family, there is an expectation between words and actions. Maybe not if you're the president of the USA, and his staff, but for everyone else. (I never realized how much I expect from the president of the USA until a president seems so unpresidential--I often realize my beliefs after I have violated them. I need to be more proactive.)

The writers goes on to say that we are not transparent, we are opaque, and we never really know what we're going to do or for why.

The writers are Dan Arnold and Alicia Turner, and they go on to suggest that what ever people believe, the same wide range of human failings will always be present. A sort of conservation of failings belief? In dumping the metaphysic that people might be influenced by their beliefs, they seem wise and savvy, but do they create another unbelievable metaphysic?

I feel like the second I stepped into Buddhism, it was all about exemplifying and inhabiting a belief in doing well for others, and not just saying it. That's the whole point. Now, we're all in process and we're unlikely to be enlightened so there will be a gap between our aspirations and our behavior. I'd say "hate the sin but not the sinner", but we are what we do, so the sin is the sinner. We can see people for what they hope to be. The point is to be realistic that there will be a gap, but also not make that an "alli alli in come free".

I did like it that the article pointed out that the colonizers, the British, started splitting the country's groups by saying the Buddhists were peaceful, and that the Muslim and Hindu were not. There are peaceful strains in both those religions, they could have worked to unite, but as colonizers they were more about exploiting. So the idea that Buddhists are non-violent may have a history in colonialism.

But I still think we should be able to follow belief to action. I'm not willing to give that up.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Someone asked my opinion

What do I think about gun control?

I'm against the NRA. When I taught current events, I read the paper a lot and I noticed about once a year a father shot his daughter when she jumped out of a closet to surprise him as a joke. I've always been for gun control. I posted a link on my FB page about how the second amendment was for slavery. There is clear evidence that stricter laws would lead to less gun violence, and banning this assault rifle would stop people being murdered by it. Sure they could use other guns and bump stocks, but it might not be quite as an efficient murdering of humans machine.

The parallel with car is talked about--cars kill many people but we accept the risk. It's just that cars are for transport and guns are for killing. I'd be OK with getting rid of cars and only having mass transit. I'd love to bike to work on roads that don't have cars, like you sometimes see in China. I spent my childhood biking to school. I actually think we should have car laws that make them smaller. There has been an arms race to make cars bigger and bigger for "safety". I think an unintended consequence is that we're using up fossil fuels faster and polluting the environment. Unintended consequences:

Thoughts and prayers does nothing, and the focus on "mentally ill" people not getting fire arms is offensive. So because I have depression I can't get a gun? If 2/3 people have a diagnosis in the lifetime, how mentally ill must a person be? What's the line? Again I think we run up against the fact that everyone has murderous rage inside them at one time or another and can act on it or not act on it. Most people don't act on it. There is no brain scan or chemistry test that can tell if someone will act on it.

Someone posted about a big knife attack in China saying getting rid of guns doesn't stop violence. Of course that person didn't kill as many people and was subdued quickly even if they inflicted damage in the meantime. That black presidential candidate said you've got to attack the gun shooter. Now he's in charge of housing in America and is trying to sabotage housing in America. And there was a guy with a gun there, and he did nothing. Now the whole country tries to shame him. Not everyone goes charging into a gun fight.

I've tried to read justifications on why we can't get rid of guns, and the articles are basically mumbo jumbo as far as I can tell. I can't even read discussions on FB because I get angry pretty quickly. In my mind we don't need guns. There was a joke that we need to reclassify schools as uterus and then the right would want to not kill anyone in them any more. There are so many contradictions and hypocrisy. When they point out the hypocrisy of cars, I just don't see it personally.

I know quite a lot of people who like their guns and believe strongly in the right to bear arms. I've seen a lot of people pick apart that so called right. In the end, I don't see people being persuaded one way or the other. Our president has sharpened the partisan divide, brought America apart.
People talk about Switzerland where they have a similar gun to people ratio and there isn't any problems. So what is the problem? I guess they don't need stricter gun laws.
They used to have people jumping off the empire state building, and then they put a net there. Of course you can jump onto the net and crawl to the edge, but it actually stops people from jumping. I believe you can do things to protect people. I don't think guns are necessary in our world any more. You can still have sporting clubs and whatnot, and still get the joy of gun shooting and whatnot. I've gone hunting, though I never got anything. It's not about getting rid of hunting culture. It's about killing less humans in a rage. Hunting culture actually helps with a respect for the violence. Hunting often has respect for the animals as well. Hunting with a bow is seen as superior because it's harder.
The liberals parallel the hoops you have to jump through to get an abortion or drive a car. I'm not a fan of government, I'm starting to lean right on this issue a little, or maybe understand it more. I wish we had less government more and more as I move through life. Not sure what homeland security does that other agencies don't do.

I remember when my uncle didn't renew his gun license for his guns. The sergeants came to the door and asked for them. My aunt said they were in the country and that they absolutely could not come in. But the guns were in the house. It kind of makes a mockery of licenses.
I think our modern society is sick. And we need to treat it as such. There is an array of solutions that would allow the gun nuts to keep their guns and just not let new people get them, and phase it out: Buy back programs; Australia took away the right to have gun. 

In England my ex-father in law had a gun, but he also had to have a gun safe bolted to the house, which was a good thing because his crazy son and daughter were the kind of people who would do such a thing (not my ex-wife or her older sister, but the 2 youngest were nuts). Seemed reasonable. But in the wild west of america we want our guns to be available for protection. 

I think we are less safe with guns and while I was brought up to shoot guns and have shot them many times, in many different situations, I don't really want gun around.
This whole thing makes me sick and I've felt helpless since I began reading articles about fathers shooting daughters in the 90's. I know friends on FB who love their gun collections, have a history in the military. I don't want to take away their guns. Just make it harder to get them moving forward. Let rodeo contestants ride their horse around shooting targets all they wants. Just evolve and phase it out. Which is what will happen but not soon enough for me. 

I resolved the issue in my head in the 90's. Loving children more than guns is what it will take. And the corruption of politicians taking NRA money needs to be exposed and they need to be voted out of office. I was sad to see that that guy that ran with Palin who some like, was on the take. We have to change the system. 

I'm in favor of teachers walking out, students walking out, any kind of protest. But I have little hope. I've been through this so many times. I don't have the patience. There's too many fuck faces who believe in the right. Even my supervisor in my first internship posts photos of his guns. He's a social worker in NYC, what's he need a gun for? A cop friend when he came over would put his gun up high so children couldn't get it when he came over. Come on. We can be mindful about guns and not stupid to keep them out of the hands that they don't belong.

I had a friend in high school who hammered a bullet and got shot in the wrist. You can say he was stupid or his parents were stupid for allowing him access. I think if it's harder to get to these things, then things like that don't happen. The world is evolving quickly and we're working on reducing fatal errors. Nobs on medical equipment are being standardized. Pilots and doctors have meetings where they can discuss their errors without fear of repercussions in an effort to cut down on mistakes. Safety is preached everywhere, OSHA and safety officers are everywhere. Somehow we have to go dumb on gun? They're that special to us now? I think it's a fiction that the NRA spreads that any creep will end up with outlawing them outright. I wish that were true. It's going to take longer to evolve there than my lifetime. Please, let us progress.

I'd get rid of them all together or heavily regulate. But the more realistic program is to gradually decrease their accessibility. It already works in the cities. We don't want people spraying bullets in heavily populated areas.

I go down the line. I'm against nuclear weapons, war, killing animals, and killing the ability of people to have babies with a safety net. It's not until we can treat all life as precious that we'll truly have justice on our planet.

So don't arm teachers, don't expect teachers to dive in front of children, don't expect teachers to charge a shooter, don't put more guns out there as a deterrent. Don't delude yourself into thinking we could get rid of guns all together, and don't treat the right to bear arms as something so sacrosanct, it's just another money making scheme that doesn't work if people are murdered;You just lost another customer.

The gun culture of America is not going away any time soon, and as atrocity after atrocity shows, we don't react with a clamp down on guns. I hope the youths for gun control speak out more and more, and the culture eventually fades away, when murder no longer becomes acceptable.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Bits and bobs.

I’m reading History of God, which has been very interesting. It’s kind of a comparative religion course by the great mind of Karen Armstrong. It’s includes Buddhism in it’s contemplation. I've been tempted to quote it many times. Some real fascinating stuff.

I can't get past the unmoved mover. This remote God doesn't get involved, it's hard to connect with it. When you take it into the trinity, there's a big question of whether Jesus was God or whether he was some sort of intermediary. My inclination is to think of Jesus saying he's the son of god, as saying we're all the son of god--which is not the doctrine.

The parallel between Theravada and Mahayana and Judaism and Christianity is interesting. Because the Jews were displaced so much, they had to get by without the temple. So they made everyone into a rabbi. In Theravada only the monks can go for it, but in Mahayana everyone can go for it, and doing good acts is quite good. There are many rules for the Jews, there are many rules for the monks. But there are broad principles in Christianity and the Mahayana.

I'm attracted to the do good Christianity, but as Karen Armstrong points out, it's a kind of minority of Christians who believe in that stuff. I still agree with the Buddha that getting all twisted up about God doesn't help one to move towards enlightenment. I still find the book interesting in terms of the history of religion. I need to know more about Christianity because it's used so much in literature and in America.

I've been thinking a lot about attention and control. It's hard to not control the breath when I'm paying attention to it. It take a fair amount of meditation to release the control and just watch. I parallel that to some parenting struggles.

A swell guy in the sangha passed away but he left us one of his play lists. I found it to be pretty good.

I got an interesting looking book called Find The Seeker that I'm slowly looking into.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book of the year

Looking through my books and posts from last year, I didn't read any great books that were published in 2017, so I can't give out a best book of the year award. There are so many books that are out there free, so many talks that are free. I know the writers who teach the dharma and sell their books don't make a killing. I'm sure they fund their various philanthropies.

I did read Psychotherapy East and West, and that's an interesting book, but I guess I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't a Buddhist psychotherapist or liked Alan Watts. I like his writings and that is why I'm reading his collected letters. I find his rhetorical style interesting, I study him as a writer.

I'm reading books on love, like Big Love, but I don't know if you would call it Dharma. I do read books as Dharma whether they are or not, but that's a personal decision.

The books that might be under consideration, Sharon Salzberg and Robin Wright's Why Buddhism Is True, I didn't finish. Salzberg's book seemed like a repeat of a past one. And I don't need scientific confirmation that the Dharma is good for me. True for me is good enough.

I wanted to Mark Epstein's new one but that's published this year. I wouldn't mind taking a gander at Unsubscribe. And I wouldn't mind looking at The Lost Art of Good Conversation. There's a new translation of Milarepa's songs I wouldn't mind reading. And Joan Halifax's new book isn't out yet. The Best Buddhist Writing series ended in 2012. I am enjoying Meditation Saved My Life but that was published in 2016.

The above books haven't come to my library last time I checked. Anyone have any good book suggestions?