Sunday, August 02, 2015

looking into the sun


It's not easy to see yourself clearly. There's a kind of confidence one needs in oneself to connect with the Sangha, to go for enlightenment. Pureland Buddhism feels foreign, feels like you're relying too much on other power, hoping to reborn in a pureland just because of your devotion to a mantra. I believe more and more in mappo more and more as I go along. It's hard to read Pureland texts. There's one free on Amazon that I downloaded: Wisdom of the East Buddhist Psalms translated from the Japanese of Shinran Shonin. There is so much free Dharma it's hard to feel like paying for a book. Reading this book I have tried to go past my knee jerk reactions to Pureland. This is a major tradition in Buddhism and I'm curious about it. I'm still not super connecting with it. I've been exploring the idea of faith in Buddhism after reading about it in the lovely book of Subhuti's: Mind in Harmony. I can't gobble it down, I need to savor it and chase all the trails of thought as I read though it. And one of those detours was into Shinran. I prostrate to Shinran when I do the refuge tree prostration practice, which is an maximalist practice that is about faith in the tradition. I need to learn more about the TBC refuge tree. You can read more about the practice in Teachers of Enlightenment: The Refuge Tree of the Western Buddhist Order.

Simplicity

I'm at once impressed and feel like I could never do what the Amish do in rejecting technology.

Lancaster County is a center in Pennsylvania of Amish. The Amish are similar but different then the Mennonites. These Pennsylvania Dutch speak a Swiss-German, and aren't Dutch but are German or Swiss in origin. They probably don't have more than a quarter of a million people in the USA. Their rules for order is the called the Ordnung. Their relationship to technology is supposed to be following the will of god. Anyway, in our modern world it's a curiosity that such a community can exist. You can see the simplicity of their lives in the signs they have. A wonderful book to see that is Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Security

Watching that documentary on Chogyam Trungpa, I thought it was silly that he created a kind of military unit, for a Buddhist community. But I know someone who is involved in the famous church in Brooklyn and he's part of the security team there. He talked to me about the bible study group in South Carolina, where a guy sat for an hour with people studying the bible and then shot everyone but a witness that he spared out of a sadistic desire for someone to tell the story of everyone being shot. This is the world we live in here in the USA. Where you need security at your place of worship.

In the show The League, one of the wacky characters Taco, thinks Security is a football team. He says he's a fan and chants "go security" when ever a security guard goes by. But he doesn't help out a woman when she is being robbed even though he's wearing a security jacket. I love absurdist humor because I feel the world can be so absurd. That a beloved community needs security breaks my heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Quote

"Without taking the humble journey of inclusiveness, our spirituality will tend to be idealized, disembodied projections and immature escapism." p. 19 Time to Stand Up by Thanissara. 

Quote

"We need to see how easy it is for us to be manipulated by the media toward prejudice against others whom we designate as nonhuman with no right at all, or less than human and unequal. We need to understand how when we objectify and denigrate those "outside" ourselves we find an easy receptacle for our unacknowledged fears, aggression, and pain; how in that process we miss so many opportunities for more consious solutions to conflict." p.19 Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism)  

ordinary

Reading The Making of Buddhist Modernism, there was lot of talk about enchanting and re-enchanting, losing meaning and valorization of the ordinary.

Then I started watching Daredevil on Netflix. The ordinary is something that the hero sees past, deeply into even though he's blind. His super power is his hearing and focus. He can sense so much that he's unstoppable. It's just the ordinary that he senses more deeply. The fight for justice is portrayed in comic book simplicity, and then with moral ambiguity and confusion. There is an interplay between enchantment and disenchantment, ordinary and extreme.

Sherlock Holmes sees past the ordinary and collects information to create penetrating insight (into a crime).

James Joyce has a layer of the ordinary and the mythic in Ulysses. The interplay between sacred and profane is a very modern dance.

I can choose to be bored by my commute home, or find all the mystical opportunities.

You don't hear people use the word profane that much, as an opposite of sacred. "I had a profane day." I'm trying to dip into The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion, but I haven't gotten that far. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Engaged Buddhism

Reading Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism) feels somehow important. Thanissara is articulating an engaged Buddhism that makes sense to me. I need things articulated, it's hard to articulate everything for yourself, we really stand up on our civilization that supports us.

She presents an alternate imagining of the Buddha's life to The Buddha's Wife: The Path of Awakening Together, where the Buddha consults with his wife before he goes off. She imagines that to be more compassionate, they were partners.

She focuses on how there is a strand of Buddhism with leads to quietism and withdrawal from the world, and that that might have worked in the past, but today our world is in danger. Samsara is burning. Why get involved in the illusionary world? But Nirvana is the same world. We are living in climate change, and we can see a kind of momentum that is suicidal. We need to consciously change that momentum together.

Is it inevitable that I drive to work, instead of take mass transit or walk or bike? I suddenly thought about the carbon imprint of my next vacation. My partner has been into the local food movement, locavore for quite a while, but we still shop in our plush supermarkets where everything is always in season.

I like the way Thanissara connects colonialism, slavery, and all the various forms of exploitation are part of the equation as we scramble at the crumbs of our dying earth. The book I'm dying to read after reading interesting reviews is Between the World and Me. There is such a dismissal of race in this society by the dominant culture, that is utterly startling.

I think of Danny Fisher, who blogs and writes and tweets about various global issues, I'm sure there are other blogsattvas, but he's one I've read a fair amount of.

Joanne Macy's Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Suny Series, Buddhist Studies) was an empowering revelation. I might feel puny in this world, but I'm also not without ability to impact others.

I grew up with a connection to the natural world. I was on my bike and in trees from an early age. I live in NYC, and feel a bit alienated from nature, but at least I'm not like some of my relatives building a house where there was none, further decreasing unsettled land. I think one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do is move to the city, use mass transit, don't have a single family dwelling. And yet paradoxically that causes my children not to be as connected to nature as I was. There is hope for them yet, hopefully the hikes and camping and explorations of the world give them a sense of the world and it's complex and interlocking systems that are currently in great peril. They seem so smart and capable, full of potential.

Watching Jupiter Ascending, there are aliens that harvest earth's energy, because life is about consumption. There are larger universe problems than earthlings exploiting the earth. It's hubris to think we're alone in the universe.

Anyway, I read a lot of books at once, and I've just started Time To Stand Up, but I am finding it quite interesting and recommend it based on what I've read so far.

Monday, July 20, 2015

First chapter of Buddhism for Couples.

One of the many gifts of mindfulness is that as you get older, there can be a feeling that you've seen it all before. Surprisingly Buddhism for Couples: A Calm Approach to Relationships had some information that I had not read before, and I have a little quibble after reading the first chapter. My quibble was that "studies after studies" show that a two parent family is the best. For a writer who uses footnotes, it was curious that she didn't footnote that.

I think better than the nuclear family is the extended family and a support network and friends who help out. I moved to NYC to help out my aunt and uncle with her twins and it was quite a wonderful experience. Sure there were times it felt like drudgery. It's also quite a good birth control. There are quite enough children in the world, go help someone else out. Why do they have to be yours? The responsibility of your children is that you're the last line, when nobody else cares. I think the best and simple way to be a good parent is to be present. From there all else unfolds.

But beyond my little quibble that it's more the support network, there were many interesting insights that I won't give away in the first chapter. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mindful Driving

Mindful Driving

The other day I tried to drive mindfully after meditating. I've had a series of reflections after that.

I know people who don't drive because they are scared. It's the risk taking adolescent that helped me to get into this guided missile that could kill someone very easily. So the first tension I feel is between safety, and thrill seeking. Smokey and the Bandit was a formative movie in my tween years (I was 10 when it came out). I like the phrase "petal to the metal".

But that part of me that speeds through dicy traffic situations is also the part of me that sometimes gets almost in accidents. New York City is pretty crowded, and to drive here is not an easy thing. It's not for shrinking violets. But we can become intoxicated with the impatience of NYC, where someone can give you a pre-emptive honk just before the light changes, so you look up from your phone to see it. The powerful beast of a car that in Montana would give you great power to travel distances, in NYC is reduced to a slow crawl, that can be beat by pedestrians and bicyclists. The beast is leashed, and though the speed limit was recently lowered from 30 to 25, I don't see any evidence that this rule is being followed. When there is open road ahead of you, it's not hard to get up to 60mph before awareness creeps in. You often see cars shooting down a road and think "that's too fast." It's all that pent up energy and power being unleashed for a second.

But I'm not that adolescent any more, in fact I'm dealing with the sequelae only, ghosts and residue, not that person. I would absolutely feel terrible if I ever hurt someone with the car. I have been in a few fender benders,  but nobody was hurt, and of course insects are killed. I'm not sure if I've killed a rodent, I know I've wondered a lot if I killed something, but there's been no confirmation.

So after thrill, safety, there is the question of fuel efficiency. How you drive a car can really matter. I had one co-worker who had a very heavy foot. I enjoy the excitement of acceleration sometimes. You can accelerate to a low top speed to get a flavor of the excitement in the city. But once again thrill is the opposite of fuel efficiency as it is for safety: To lift my foot from the accelerator when I see a red light. Sometimes car will go around you with annoyed irritation. Accelerating to the red light seems like a waste to me. There are times when I drive with the best fuel efficiency and I see the mile per gallon go up on the fancy readout. But then I feel too much pressure, and I can't sustain that attitude for very long. It's a deeper state of driving and my resolve and concentration are not yet good enough. I know there is room for growth in my mindfulness, and that reminds me of the surprising depth that keeps me on this path.

Then there is driving taking into account the emotions of the people you're driving. I know sometimes I've been too close to another car, or went to fast for the comfort of the person in the front seat. Sometimes people are impatient with my show safe driving. Taking into account the passengers, but not getting carried away is another axis of mindfulness for me.

Then there is the kindness, a kind of opposite of road rage. You let someone in, you don't get irritated at their selfishness. You don't get angry at someone driving erratically, you worry about them and give them a wide birth.

I like to give people rides. Transportation is a real issue in NYC and giving someone a ride can be a small kindness that helps one move toward the gladdening.

The question of destroying the planet with car exhaust is a real one. Fossil fuel dependence is a significant problem. I love that character in I Heart Huckebees. Tommy Corn. I have faith that humanity will find a solution when the fossil fuels run out, and I hope it's not a Mad Max kind of world. The dystopia movies warn us against what might happen, as resources become more scarce. The dependence of fossil fuels is of concern. I accept it that I'm using them and have a level of dependency. As someone who rode my bike through high school and college, I have a lot of biking under my belt, but not recently. I yearn to go back to the days when bikes were so convenient. The crazy traffic in NYC does not make me feel very safe riding a bike, even where there are bike lanes. Maybe that's where I need to rechannel my thrill seeker, my risk taker. I don't like being sweaty when I get to work, that's another barrier. Sweat was pouring down my shirt once on the subway and I felt really embarrassed. It can get hot in NYC in the summer. I love it when the 5 borough bike ride goes past and you seen tons of bikers. I've always yearned to live in a carless city. Until that day, I will try to drive mindfully.

Mind In Harmony

I am consciously reading Mind in Harmony slowly, savoring it. It is the deep kind of book that hits me very deeply, inspires, shows a way forward and also helps one to see all the work I need to do and the importance of resolve in that journey. I know book reviews that bow down to a book that is very profound are often not helpful. What you want is the why to that, but unfortunately when something is much deeper than you, it's hard to articulate why. It's the emotional bowing down that feels significant to the reader. There is too much to express about it. I'm not even half way done with the book, but I know it will be my favorite book of the year, maybe my favorite book of the decade. I've quite enjoyed trying to wrap my mind around Know Your Mind by Sangharakshita. I have not so much delved into the Abhidharma tradition that this book is based off of, and the 51 mental events. This book finally boils this all down so that I can understand the importance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mythology

Reading A Short History of Myth, Armstrong talks about how rocks are imbued with the divine. I have rocks on my shrine. I fancy myself some who is modern and fights against the inflation of meaning at times. I've been asking about sacred and profane in this blog, at times.

The book The Buddha's Wife: The Path of Awakening Together reimagines the story of Yashodra, sees the Buddha and his wife as a couple, not as a solo journey, and provides a flourishing of alternative opportunities for the transcendent principle. Yashodra is probably not historically true, but it is part of the mythology of Buddhism.

Do I need a mythology to help me get to work? Do I need a mythology as a parent? New York City is packed with psychoanalytic institutes. Why is the Jungian one the most expensive?

I've been working to be more practical, I think about the Monty Python skit where there is a philosophers soccer game. Nobody is kicking the ball because they're all thinking and then one of the philosophers stops thinking and starts kicking the ball, dribbles down and scores a goal.

I think about a painting at MOMA I saw once called "The indifference of Sisyphus". Instead of the drudgery of rolling a rock up a hill just to roll back down, Sisyphus is having fun, enjoying the process.

This morning I've been thinking about the great mother and the great father. It was father's day, and I think about all my male ancestors over one shoulder and all my female ancestors over my other shoulder. I think about someone in my life that I lost, and the cycle of life.

And the sky. There is talk of "big sky mind" in Buddhism. Armstrong talks about the sky being a connection to the divine. As a non-theist, for me the divine is the transcendental principle, the three jewels are my higher power. I love the sky, I think it's the most reliable source of beauty in my life. If you get a sadhana practice, you imagine your special Bodhisattva in the sky, connecting it to this special place.

There is a vastness in the sky, which can lead to reverence. Bowing to my shrine, bowing to the refuge tree, bowing to the Buddha, Kuan Yin, Manjushri, I open myself up to the wonder.