Sunday, September 16, 2018

confidence

(from the Ruben Museum)

"..saddha is precisely the confidence that it is possible to liberate one's mind from hinderance and defilements." (Analayo 2017)

For some reason this quote catalyzed something for me. The idea that you can actually liberate yourself from hinderances and defilements. For me that means they won't even be gone, but they will be surrounded with mindfulness such that one can be active instead of reactive.

The hinderances of restlessness, doubt, sense pleasure, sloth and ill will. I had to google 5 hinderances to remember ill will.

The defilements are the kleshas:  ignorance, attachment, and aversion which lead to anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, etc.

Friday, September 14, 2018

#4

Previous practices of the Bodhisattva:

#1,  #2,  #3,  #3 . OK, so I did #3 twice. Now onto #4


Loved ones who have long kept company will part.
Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind.
Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guest-house
     of the body.
Let go of this life--
     This is the practice of the Bodhisattva


We can't fool ourselves that things are permanent. Our sun will expand and encompass the earth, so even the planet that seems so stable and forever, in the cosmic perspective, will end. Things can be ours for a long time, and change is more difficult when we lose someone who's been in our life for our whole life, like a parent, or perhaps a house you've always lived in. Humans are conservative, we don't like change. We do like change for the better, but you can't just siphon out the bad.

Even though you can't take money with you after death, it's great to have money. Looking at the larger picture realistically is important. Through penny pinching my grandfather who grew up during the depression saved a lot of money and invested it, and did well. He did a lot of amazing things with his money but of course he's gone now and can't enjoy it. But think of the Carnegie libraries they built and other social infrastructure. You can have an amazing lasting impact. Maybe it's just in children or the effect you had on other people in your life. Those traces can't go away all together.

Nobody has an original idea. There are some amazing new scientific discoveries and you know, the first 5 minute mile. The Buddha was the first to present enlightenment to everyone. Who knows if someone got there and didn't communicate it, it's hard to imagine someone wouldn't. But you go to college, watch TV, and you're filled with memes. There's one Buddhist who thinks we're Meme Machines. Shakespeare never created a plot, but he created dialogue in a plays that brought humanity to new heights. Every lama in Tibet created their own Buddhism. I could not accurately convey Sangharakshita's dharma, because I just don't know it enough. I must create my own. Even these excursions into the 37 practices is my attempt to make sense of the practices.

Letting go is not easy, to the things we like. Leaving a job you hate is a relief. Letting go refers to the internal resistance not to accept the passing of things we hold onto unrealistically. It's bound to happen, we're human. That's the human drama. Watch any TV show and it's about fighting to let go of something, in many different ways.

This mindset will be part of the ideas into which all the other practices are set.





Wednesday, September 12, 2018

quote from Analayo book, chapter 3

Continued reflections on A Meditator's Life of the Buddha.

"[When] a thought without sensual desire arose in me, I thought of it much. [When] a thought without ill will arose in me, I thought of it much. [When] a thought without harming arose in me, I thought of it much."

My first thought was that everything is sense desire. When I feel sympathetic joy that my parents are traveling to Machu Picchu in the spring, the joy I feel is a sensual pleasure in my mind. Perhaps they mean non-mind sensual pleasures. Like I need to adjust my pillow my neck hurts. That's a sense desire thought. I say adjust yourself, don't stay uncomfortable.

In the end I know roughly what wholesome and unwholesome thoughts are. Some lead to ruin and come from a small place, are selfish. Others are more large minded, take in the family, the community, the cosmos. The suggestion is to just label thoughts, and usually the changes follow just noticing. Some thought and reflection might go into examining patters and whether thoughts are wholesome or not.

And then the paradigm of wholesome thoughts are contained in metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Meditator's Life of the Buddha

Reading Meditator's Life of the Buddha by Analayo, there are two interesting changes in the legend of the Buddha.

The first is that instead of meditating as a young adolescent under a tree, the story is that he had a series of reflections about sickness, aging and death. Not that the two are exclusive. Perhaps the reflection led to meditation. Analayo points out that it's hard to believe he never saw these 4 sights in the legend where he goes out and sees these things for the first time. Perhaps instead he was preoccupied by these things for a long time.

Second is that his stepmother cried when he cut off his hair and put on robes. So he didn't sneak out in the night, or maybe he did, but everyone knew he was going during the day. So that tender image of him gazing on his wife and infant son, well, everyone knew he was going. His family was very much involved in his decision to leave, which does seem natural in those times.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

A koan I'm pondering

I am a man of constant sorrow, 
I've seen trouble all my day 
I bid farewell to old Kentucky, 
The place where I was born and raised 
(The place where he was born and raised)
For six long years I've been in trouble, 
No pleasures here on earth I found 
For in this world I'm bound to ramble, 
I have no friends to help me now 
(He has no friends to help him now)
It's fare thee well my old lover 
I never expect to see you again 
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, 
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)
You can bury me in some deep valley, 
For many years where I may lay 
Then you may learn to love another, 
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)


I am a man of constant sorrow, 
I've seen trouble all my day 
I bid farewell to old Kentucky, 
The place where I was born and raised 
(The place where he was born and raised)
For six long years I've been in trouble, 
No pleasures here on earth I found 
For in this world I'm bound to ramble, 
I have no friends to help me now 
(He has no friends to help him now)
It's fare thee well my old lover 
I never expect to see you again 
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, 
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)
You can bury me in some deep valley, 
For many years where I may lay 
Then you may learn to love another, 
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger 
My face, you'll never see no more 
But there is one promise that is given 
I'll meet you on God's golden shore 
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger 
My face, you'll never see no more 
But there is one promise that is given 
I'll meet you on God's golden shore 
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris.

Korean pagoda with fans

Some spiritual cheerleading for myself, I hope it helps you.

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris. While imagining that you can become enlightened, that you can significantly move towards enlightenment, you can slip into hubris. The overarching pride that leads to mistakes like Noah Levine's fall. He built an amazing movement, and it's still going in NYC with Dharma Bums, and Josh Korda, but it seems it's closing out west. Korda, I think got Dharma Punx so Noah started Against The Stream, which will be closing down.

To create a movement is amazing. Personally, I fell away from his teaching when I read he couldn't handle it in a monastery, and had to go to the beaches in Thailand. His father was a spiritual teacher, though his mother wasn't with him. I never really got the California punx over hippies thing.

But I've been on retreat with Josh Korda and also listened to his talks, and he's quite insightful. If I had more energy I'd be involved in his sangha.

Some joke that Sangharakshita had no charisma, so that his movement of the TBC can't be claimed to be built on his charisma. Since I've never met Noah Levine, I can't comment on his charisma. I have read 3 of his books.

As we watch men fall from grace as sexual exploitation becomes less allowed in our society, there is hope that we are building a more sane society in a time when things seem to have gotten out of wack. The rapid changes brought on by technology are straining humans ability to adapt and there are considerable growing pains.

The children's show Masha and the Bear, Masha says, "I didn't want to, I just did." I told my daughter she can't use that excuse.

"That wasn't me," is the refrain from a Brandi Carlisle song. "Did I go on a tangent?!"

I haven't read Man Against Himself by Menninger, of the famous Menninger Clinic, but the idea that we have many self defeating behaviors is a key one in my life. To act in one's own self interest is surprisingly difficult. We can lock it down and lose our inspiration and fluidity, dynamism. Or we can let loose and get messy. Life is messy. That sexual misconduct hurts people is terrible. Something that at it's best can transport one in a celebration of life and intimacy, can be twisted to harm someone. It's the age old problem--desire can lead us astray, and our irrational efforts to extend the unextendable, lead us astray. We forget to kiss the joys as they go by, and try to make out with them. There is another way. We need fans to feel comfortable, but chasing after comfort will ultimately founder on the fact that life is uncomfortable. We can train ourselves to not over chase comfort. Now I don't mean we don't work to be comfortable. I tend to try to go the extra yard to impress sometimes. Never forget the middle way between asceticism and hedonism.

(Levine's response in a video on FB can be seen here. He claims none of the people were students and he essentially told his board for directors, they investigated and found what he said was true. My therapist talked about people revealing their clay feet...)


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Family life for me



Family (with small children) sangha is harder than community sangha for me, and friends who go away (their home). Family exposes all your impatiences, cuts through the grandiosity. Being the adult around a child, being honest about housework with your partner, I'm finding honesty a challenge, though I'm also working to ask for help and confessing my limitations and struggles. The prefect place to grow. In a way, that's why they have communities and monasteries. To challenge one all the time.

Sangharakshita thought that if you worked in a right livelihood business, attended the center and lived in a single sex community of Buddhists, then you would essentially be on retreat all the time, and make the progress you make on retreat, in your regular life. And you wouldn't need to be in a monastery.

In the west we don't give out free lunches to Buddhists, though to be sure religious organizations can raise funds in the west, look at the mega churches. I wonder how much of the retreat from religion is just not wanting to part with time and money for a hollow lifeless religion. Spirituality takes upturns after deadening periods, and the Buddhism in the west is very vigorous and mostly Mahayana. I'm not trying to downgrade the Theravadan, it's just the one monastery I know if within driving distance is supported by Thai Internationals and Immigrants. I'm sure there are others, but I think another monastery is supported by International and Immigrant Sri Lancan folk. They essentially import their culture onto American soil, which has room for many. While amazing and vibrant transplants, they are hybrids that it will take time to fully blossom.

Family life is big on ethics, trying to develop positive habits and routines, civilize and culture the youth into good citizens who will be successful, and take responsibility for their lives. I always feel like I can communicate better, be more generous, have more equanimity, problem solve better. Not too many people are confident in these modern times. It's hard to imagine Trump not having insight into his own bluster, but the sad thing is that he's dragging us all along with his self deception.

The demands of modern life are many. Run to your car so you don't get a ticket. Try not to soak through your shirt on the subway before work. Take your son to soccer practice 3 times a week. The way utilities and electronics break down is a kind of lesson on impermanence. I remember seeing a light bulb in California that has been on since 1901. You can't even work a 9-5 job any more, those jobs are gone. I knew a guy who worked all night and his wife worked all day and they somehow raised their children in-between work and sleep. Was it only a fantasy of the 50's that women could be house wives? Everyone would like just a little more, one more notch up the class ladder.

Eating with moderation is difficult. I finish off the things my two year old doesn't eat. Meditation is difficult, but if I prioritize it, it's not difficult. Lack of sleep is a technique used in some zen monasteries, to challenge our attachment to comfort.

Zen Bunnies



The little books of quotes can be good for changing one's mindset without getting bogged down in a whole line of discourse. Welcome into the fold of collections is Zen Bunnies, which includes cute pictures of bunnies with the pithy saying.