Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My most popular posts

Just spent some time looking at the posts that got the most views. Quotes from other people tend to be the big winners. Sometimes subjects that perhaps don't get much content on the internet, found some expression here. Sex Tantra Magic got some hits. I had to delete one that over 1K hits because the link was broken. Over a hundred views seems a lot to me.

A lot of links are broken. I have preserved things by cut and pasting. The internet is ephemeral. Though this blog is almost 14 years old, there is no reason I know of it won't go out of existence today except Google seems to be chugging along OK at the moment.

I was looking for Red Lotus Momma, who did a guest blog, and I can't seem to find her any more. Some people go big time and erase juvenilia? Some people have qualms about putting themselves out there on the internet.

I found a bunch of drafts that I didn't publish because there were questions about the post I could not answer, or they were negative. I almost published some that perhaps could be published.

I'm tempted to go through and copy edit, update thoughts, clear out unclear thoughts, and delete or fix broken links. Blogs are a first draft of sorts. I didn't know how to do links at the beginning and I just recently figured out how to do links where they open a new tab instead of taking you away from the blog (you check a box...).

There are not a lot of comments on my blog. I think having to have an account on Blogger is a hinderance, but it's the same for Tumblr and the various wordpresses. The internet has changed a lot in the past 14 years. The rate of change of the world is the theme of a geezer, but I feel it more and more.

#3

Past 37 practices of a Bodhisattva by Geshe Sonam Rinchen:
-1
-2

What follows is my commentary on the root text. Read the Geshe's commentary. I'm development my own thinking, and it's not necessarily meant to teach anyone, though if it helps, great. I am a hugely flawed human being who can demonstrate lack of integrity. Better yet is having integrity. I work to progress, am not an example of perfection.


3

By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions
      gradually decrease.
Without distraction, virtuous activities naturally
      increase.
With clarity of mind, conviction in the teaching
      arise.
Cultivation of seclusion--
     This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.





Read the Geshe's commentary. He has his own take. I riff on my take to develop my thinking.

Paradox is not a problem in Buddhism. Do I contradict myself? I am large, I contain the multitudes.

You retreat from life to shore it up, if you're an introvert. Nobody is just one thing, so the extrovert goes out into the world and seeks to do good if you are a Bodhisattva. It's hard not to get caught up in the whirl of life, carried away until you are on your death bed wondering where the time went. Life is endless going forth, retreating back to lick your wounds or celebrate success, or wonder at all the neutral phenomenon. All to often it can be about collecting stuff.

Anyone who has done Metta meditation will know that it's hard to pay attention to the neutral. Attraction and aversion are so much more interesting.

Modern times present many distractions, I feel lucky I only had a black and white TV for my early years. Color TV, then Cable lead to all sorts of distractions, HBO, MTV, Cubs games. What chance to kids have nowadays. My son brought his switch to school, and someone thought he had a switchblade. In a way, you must watch out of the sharp edge of video games. They present a neater world, where you can definitely build up, succeed, win, and other things our mind likes to feel good. Another form of addiction to add to mind altering substances, shopping, sex, food, approval, relationships, chaos... Try to gain insight into patterns.

Part of clarity is not being easily distracted. Clarity is rare nowadays.

How many people do you know who have gone on a solitary retreat for a week? A month? A year?

It was after my solitary retreat that I was very social on a retreat. I obviously needed solitary time to come out of my shell. Sometimes I go on retreat and want to be alone but I'm too enticed by others to stay to myself. Others are endlessly fascinating. Watching other people's retreats is fascinating.

Why not be on retreat constantly, meditating, reflecting, communicating?


Benjamin Franklin's Parable of the Whistle

"When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.  
  This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.  
  As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.  
  When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, This man gives too much for his whistle.  
  When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, He pays, indeed, said I, too much for his whistle.  
  If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle.  
  When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.  
  If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.  
  When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!  
  In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.  
  Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle." -From the letters of BF.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Eight Great Places: An internet pilgrimage

I've been looking to go on pilgrimage via the internet to the 8 great places. I took this internet trip over 8 days, here is what I found:


Lumbini: This is where the Buddha was born. His mother took a bath in the pond before birth. You can see the actual place the Buddha was born. I found this video of a young woman who went to visit. Sothy Thoeng is from Cambodia and wears monk robes, and has some interesting footage. This footage was uploaded March 8th 2018, so it's pretty recent. He also walks around the village with close-ups on cute children and visits a gift shop. Here is another video in English. This video includes some areas around this that are of interest. The video is by Royal Mountain Travels of Nepal.

You can't take footage of being inside the temple that has the rock that denotes the place of birth. It seems like a bazillion temples sprung up. Even at the main site with the stone, it seems like there are many things to look at, archaeological sites. I like seeing all the tourists. I wonder what I would chant. I know various chants, but one doesn't come to mind that would be appropriate at the birthplace of the Buddha. I suppose anything positive would do. In a way, all these sacred places are inside our hearts.

There is an Ashoka pillar there. The archaeology is interesting. I would see the rock where he was born and the pillar and the rest while interesting is perhaps not relevant. Of course, you could not get away from all that and you'd have to enjoy the journey, and I'm sure you'd find something of special meaning. The Wikitravel site reminds us to "Circumambulate the stupas and other sacred objects in a clockwise direction." I would head to the Maya Devi Temple first. That is where the rock is, and where the pillar is. There is also a flame for peace that burns constantly.

This is the only site in Nepal, so why not learn about Nepal with Canadians on a budget.


Bodh Gaya: If I could only go to one place, I would go here. It has the descendant tree of the original tree the Buddha got enlightened under, the Bodhi Tree.

Videos: Asia Art Museum of SF has a short video. This short travel video visits the tree at dusk. This video gives a lot of backgrounds and is 26 minutes, and has commercials you can skip after a few seconds.

So I've heard you can rent time, there is a system to follow regarding space before the tree, an authority you go to plan time closer to the tree.

I like to imagine the Buddha gesturing to me to come and sit with him. I try to imagine that every time I sit down.


Sarnath: This is where the Buddha first gave a sermon. There is an Asoka Pillar here with the three lions on the top, which is also an emblem for India. The Dhamek Stupa is perhaps one of the earliest stupas, completed around 500BCE. There are at least 2 other historic stupas nearby. Sarnath has a museum as well. Supposedly the Buddha stayed at Mulagandhakuti Vihara his first rains season.

In all these places you take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This site seems more Dharma as this is where the teachings began. It might be a good place to read the ancient texts. I've read Crime and Punishment in Leningrad, Voyage of the Beagle in Galapagos. I love pairing travel with reading the most appropriate book. Take your Majjhima Nikaya or Digha Nikaya with you. They are big books, so maybe The Life of the Buddha: According To The Pali Canon. Or the Dhammapada. I guess I would have a book if I were doing this journey offline, for all the places.


Kushinagar: This is where the Buddha was supposed to have had his parinirvana. There is a stupa where his ashes are supposed to be underneath, the Parinirvana stupa. Here is a short video of Nirvana Chaitya. Here is a short video of the Ramabhar Stupa. Here is a short video of the Matha Kuar Shrine.


This concludes the 4 main sites. The following are lesser sights: ShravastiRajgir:SankassaVaishali

Looking at the map, it would take 64 hours according to Google maps to drive every place in the order above. Going to each place in order would take 64 hours driving. Skipping the last 2 places could cut down on the driving quite a bit.



I also want to see the Milarepa tower. Click on the Google Map and zoom in and out, pretty amazing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Fasting

I've been looking into fasting. A friend has been experimenting with it and I've been talking to him about how he does it and what it means to him. He is doing it for health reasons, but I see some spiritual potential.

I had a friend who did the master cleanse and reported good results. It always freaked me out a bit and I was very scared to contemplate the possibilities. Quite impressive.

One Chan perspective is that the Buddha became enlightened after he quit fasting as an approach. Neither running toward or running from pleasure is the path, the middle way is to run in neither direction.

The Chan fellow's name is Rev. Heng Sure and he reports an unsuccessful 18 day fast. He also has a cool blog that has some good photography.

That brings up the question, do we follow what the Buddha did after he became enlightened, from our unenlightened perspective, or do we do the same things he did on the path to enlightenment.

Another aspect is the Dhutangas a set of monastic guidelines that involve not eating after noon, daily fasting. I'm thinking about trying not to eat between solar noon (12:52p) to sunrise (544a) tomorrow. I'll report in if I follow through.

Bhante Dhammika has an interesting blog as well, and he has a post on fasting.

listened to a talk by people who walked out of their home without money, food or a phone for 2 days. The three people discuss their different experiences of going forth. They begged and got to eat. The copper moved them along, begging being illegal in Birmingham. They slept on cement one night and then in the park the second night. It seemed like a cool friendship activity, they learned who were the best beggars and confronted many fears.

For me the thought is that like running a marathon or challenging fears by bungee jumping or skydiving, you test your limits and build the confidence needed to push hard for the spiritual life.

In the end, I think veganism is a kind of fasting from the flesh and products of animals, that eliminates many options that the society in the USA like. Not eating after solar noon would also be a perhaps the second best practice. And fasting could also be a confidence-building and healthy thing to do, in the conventional sense where you fast for days without eating.

Monday, May 07, 2018

anger management quote?

From page 8 of the hardcover edition of Being Wrong:

"...it is surprisingly difficult to get angry unless you are either convinced that you are correct, or humiliated and defensive about being wrong."

I think anger is about control and trying to enforce your vision onto others in a world of different visions. This points to an interesting impact in emotional regulation and equanimity.

Here is an idea that heats me up. Surely the world would be a better place if we thought more into the future and made a decision based on how it would effect our grandchildren. But that's not the only viewpoint. Many people suggest we don't really know much about the future. Some make the here and now primary, forget the metaphysic of the future.

I am humiliated and defensive about my mistakes.

The irony of a so-called friend suggesting I'm not accountable is that I take too much responsibility. It was in that moment that I truly understood that he didn't know me.

Here is another quote from lovely page 8:

"Witness, for instance, the difficulty with which even the well-mannered among us stifle the urge to say "I told you so." The brilliance of this phrase (or its odiousness, depending on whether you get to say it or must endure hearing it) derives from its admirably compact way of making the point that not only was I right, I was right squared, maybe even right factorial, logarithmically right--at any rate, really extremely right, and really, extremely delighted about it."

Quote by Kathryn Schulz

Page 6 of Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz:

"...we live in a culture that simultaneously despises error and insists that it is central to our lives. We acknowledge that centrality in the very way we talk about ourselves--which is why when we make mistakes, we shrug and say we are human. As bats are batty and slugs are sluggish, our own species is synonymous with screwing up."

Monday, April 30, 2018

the still small voice

As an upshot of the English civil war, Quakerism was created. The regular person sought inwardly for the still small voice that would lead them. I'm taking a course on Quakers on Future Learn, another chapter in the fascinating history of spirituality on the planet earth.

I live in Flushing and there is a famous Quaker Meeting House, built in 1694. I've walked by it several times and read the plaques.

My uncle, the architect Charles Thanhauser, went to Friends high school in Philadelphia and had a fondness for the Quakers even though he was a secular Jew. His memorial service was held in the Friends meeting house off Gramercy Park. 

Friday, April 27, 2018

equanimity

I was thinking that people who don't do metta meditation might not have a practice where they work to imagine themselves into stranger's lives, beyond assessing from a distance whether some is a threat or not.

Related but different is the benefit of the wisdom of equality. In the final stage you can work to equalize metta towards everyone. It's an antidote for the overwhelming wild cathexis of relationships. Equanimity comes from having a little distance towards your own drama.

Ratnasambhava is the bodhisattva that personifies this quality. In the icon, he reaches down toward the earth, but unlike Shakyamuni who is touching it to show who is witness to his claim to be enlightened, Ratnasambhava has his hand up in the giving mudra.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Beauty Standard Denialism

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about the movie I Feel Pretty. It's an interesting rumination on beauty standards. It admits that women shouldn't be punished for choosing to play the game and trying to make it fun. But there are qualms.

That got me thinking standards in general. There are standards and then their are ideals. Standards are something everyone can do and then ideals are often pretty hard to achieve but point in the kind of direction. Any ideal can be turned against someone and used wrong. You can take the spiritual ideal of becoming enlightened, and then beat yourself up for falling short. I'm sure you can do the same for standards. When I think of standards, it's probably someone else using it to point out to someone how they are falling short. If you apply that voice to yourself, it's not going to be great. Then again, living up to the usual standards in society would probably help society move smoother, and not being a difficult person can be a noble goal. When I try to think of a person, though, it feels like I'm trying to sheep dog someone back into the herd. I have qualms about doing that. Be who you are and let the chips fall where they may. I don't so much blame Trump for being who he is, I'm more just embarassed about what that means about America. I'm performing my own denialism about America.

So it's a useful game to reflect on standards and where and how do they apply. Is the standard of womanhood in Catholicism to get pregnant without sex, or is that taking an ideal too far? Marianismo is a real thing, just as I suppose Buddhismo is a real thing. Macho Buddhist posturing that goes past the fake it till you make it push. Again, I feel like it's taking an ideal and just using it wrong, unrealistically and out of proportion, to use it to ill effect.

Can a terrible person still be a Buddhist? I suppose they can up to the point in which what they are doing is against the ideals and vision of Buddhism, and then it becomes dishonest. Is anyone a full Buddhist who is not enlightened. I judge Myanmar for their obvious atrocities against their own people. I must also judge myself as falling short as a Buddhist. As I judge others as cultural Catholics who pay lip service to the ideals, Buddhism would suggest to point the finger at yourself. And yet I'm so far from the ideal. My unexamined trauma confusions have led me astray.

Causes and conditions have created a trajectory and it's hard not to follow that out. I can't imagine that I haven't gained just a little more ownership of that trajectory though that might just be a useful fiction to get me more motivated. The goal of enlightenment is to move through the uncaused and unconditioned, though it becomes a by mystical when you talk about the transcendental because you can't accurately talk about it. Spirituality isn't something rationality can tame, but you can tame your rationality with spirituality.

Authenticity is the antidote for taking standards and ideals wrong. Be honest with what is going on and the limits of fake it till you make it. Be honest about where you are pushing yourself outside the limits of what you really inhabit. Inhabiting where you are seems to one of the drums many teachers beat on. Finding out where you really are is the goal of the inward journey. We are also our ideals and vision that guide us, even when we fall short. I hope that Amanda Hess can accept it that she fall short of the beauty ideal, and blokes like me find her physical appearance fine (thank you for asking), find her intellectual chops as more rounding out the whole person. Relate to your ideals in a healthy way and it's great your conscious of them. Are spiritual ideals the most important ones to reflect on? I'm pretty sure she doesn't need my musings, just like Amy Schumer--well, I bet she likes the review because it's good journalism.

Please write what movies helped you to reflect on spiritual ideals in the comments, and how.

The French movie The Innocents, about the Polish nuns who turn up pregnant after being raped by retreating troops during WW2. It exposes my judgementalism about nuns, and then thoughts about spiritual institutions--they should not care how things look and just take care of people. I have ideals about a spiritual tradition that is not even my own. I cast them in terms of my own ideas about the great spirituality that all religions participate in.

Another movie is Into Great Silence. I never got around to finishing the movie when it was available to me, but I hope some day that I can.

Another movie is Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall... Spring. I still cringe at people setting fire to themselves, what a horrible way to go--their point is that they are beyond that. I thought the climbing the mountain with a stone dragging along was a bit contrived, but to be honest, thinking about it, it makes sense. I can't help but see him doing his karate on the ice and slipping and falling, which he hides by quickly getting up.

I love Milarepa as a person and the movie that highlights his anger at relatives doesn't focus on the part of his spiritual life that I want to. Perhaps that is my own prejudice. Maybe I want to see the striving not the grist for the mill.

I'm sure more movies will come to me and I can write about them. Thank you Amanda Hess. My reaction to your reaction is a profitable line of thought.