Saturday, December 17, 2005

30. Dream

I had my first Sangharakshita dream. I dreamt I was studying with Nagabodhi and him. Then we were all having a study break, and it was more of the sangha, Vajramati was there. Then we were touring the area, giving Sangharakshita a tour. For some reason the tour led to the NYU library, Bobst. I was going to show him where his books were (not really where they were in the library, but some other made up dream space). And they were moving his book. Sangharakshita had an idea, and he wanted to look up his book that began with the title "Knowledge..." and I went off to try and find it. But they were moving too much stuff. Sangharakshita found this old "European" space invaders game, and said, "I'm really good at this," and began playing. But there was also a Moo aspect to the game, and Sangharakshita said, "I wrote a part there, attributed to an Oxford team." I was wondering if they should try to publish that, and I saw him giving information to an old girlfriend on how to get some kind of information about selling her art. And I saw his handwriting, and I thought, "I wish I had a note from Sangharakshita."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

29. Kamalashila

We were graced with the presence of Kamalashila last night. We had a meditation and a question and answer period. He seems like a wonderful guy. I wish I could go on his month long Total immersion retreat next summer. Subadasi (sp?) came along too. Sita was so kind to host the event, even after she sprained her ankle. It was a wonderful evening.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

25. The Four Acceptances

With loyalty to my teachers I accept this ordination.

In harmony with friends and brethren I accept this ordination.

For the attainment of enlightenment I accept this ordination.

For the benefit of all beings I accept this ordination.

This was the theme of the last GFR retreat which I got to participate for the weekend. These acceptances repeated in the ordination ceremony.

I met Dhammarati, president of the preceptors college. Naghabodhi gave a good talk on the first acceptance. I missed the other lectures. Vajramati reports at the end of the retreat, the mitras were getting up at 4:30 to meditate. I got a lot of benefit out of the weekend. I hope to go on the week GFR retreat before the N. American order convention in June.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

28. Nagabhodi

We had a visit by Nagabhodi this week. I had dinner with him, and then we went to sangha night. He gave a good teaching. Very inspirational.

Friday, October 21, 2005

27. Historical Buddha

The Historical Buddha by H.W. Schumann was very interesting to me. The historical buddha is important to me, in that it highlights, what the spiritual and metaphorical Buddha means to me. I am not afraid of being disillusioned about the real buddha. I was. He was a sexist, classist, prejudiced imperfect human being. But he achieved a transcendent state, and as they say, "sundered the bonds that caused him suffering." Thus he is a spiritual hero of mine. Tradition holds that he was the first to enlightenment. That is my goal.

It's quite amazing what we know about this fellow who lived 2,500 years ago. Dates are interesting. BC and AD are Christian concoctions. To secularize it, people write B.C.E. and A.D.E., but it is still in reference to Christ. I saw the Jewish faith just recently celebrated the year 5766. I think if you begin time from the time of the Buddha's enlightenment, then the year is 2533. Of if we base it when the Buddha was born, the year is 2568.

Henceforth, I see it as the year 2533. I will conform to the usual date for work, banking and other transactions, but I see it as the year 2533.

The Buddha was sexist from my world view, my time, my country of origin, my intellectual heritage and experiences. I believe women are equal. The Buddha essentially said so when he said women could become arhants, but not enlightened.

The buddhist was classist in that he humiliated the uneducated lower caste order members when the made theoretical dharma mistakes.

He was prejudiced in that he didn't allow people with leprosy, boils, eszema, tuberculosis or epilepsy join the order. In his defense, some people tried to join the order because of free medical services provided by some supporters. He was also ageist, he was reluctant to ordain older members.

He left his son, when he was born. The writer suggests possibly that as a condition of leaving and leading the homeless life of a samana, he got permission by producing a heir. Plus he was not enlightened yet. Anyway, which is better to be enlightened or a good father. In his circumstances, that was his choice. My hope is that that is not my choice.

But these things place him in his time, human foibles. He is human, not omniscient. He rose above his time in an important way that is unimaginable now with our distractions, materialism and worldly ambition.

I learned the first ones to hear the Buddha teach the dharma, were merchants, who were wandering by when he came out of his meditations. There was geography, social context, competing teachers and personalities. I found this book very interesting, and I quite enjoyed it.

It gave a historical narrative, until the history goes weak, and then Schumann shifts to the dharma, and other general considerations of the time. I wasn't so interested in the dharma part, as history. I liked his examination of the rules, the sangha, looking at the Buddha psychologically.

It's hard to report on all the book gave, it gave a lot. I've always wanted to learn more about the context in which the Buddha came up with his ideas. To see what is cultural, and what is really dharma. I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, so I'll end. Read the book.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

27. Rough draft

I'm sick of working on this. I don't think anyone reads this blog. But none the less, here is an essay on fatherhood and buddhism.

Buddhist Fatherhood: The first year and a half

“Progress in the Buddha's teaching is always made by individual, as such, whether bhikshus or lay people. The conditions for either may be different, but, as we have seen, significant spiritual progress - including the realization of high levels of Insight-has been made by very many people who have had the responsibilities of family life. They have not treated this as an obstacle. Fundamentally, the Buddha's teaching tries to reach the hearts of those who will listen, wherever and in whatever circumstances they may in.” from Lay Life and the Buddhist Tradition by Hridaya

Everyone's circumstances are different, though if you want to see similarities you can see that instead. My circumstances are that my wife is Catholic, and I am a Buddhist. We have one child, after trying for one for a many years. I was 36 when we had our child, which a new book reports as good, because children of parents over 30 supposedly do better in school. Good thing we didn't succeed earlier, according to that fact.

We went for infertility treatment. Like all medical situations, with many options, the least invasive is tried first. My wife went on Clomid, a fertility enhancing drug. They checked out my sperm. They were fine, athletic and plentiful, with the requisite percentage of healthy ones.

It turns out even the supposedly monogamous humans have killer sperm just in case someone got there just before you. Humans are midway between the really monogamous primates, and promiscuous primates.

The next step is to implant “washed” sperm directly onto the eggs, when my wife is ovulating. We tried that once and it worked! The plan was to try that 3 times, before moving up to the next level: in vitro fertilization. We never got that far, I feel rather lucky to be spared that.

Our son was born April 14th 2004 at Long Island Jewish Hospital by C-section. My wife did not dilate enough, and began to get a fever. There was micomium in the placenta, and our son was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where the huge fellow was surrounded by his less fortunate premature and small peers. It was a rather trying time to have my son in the NICU, but he came out OK and has thrived since birth. I grew from that ordeal.

More circumstances: I was finishing up my masters in social work. When my wife was done with her maternity leave, I was unemployed, and thus took care of my son. My wife got the summer off, because she is a teacher, and for many days he had us both around. I had 6.5 months with my son before I went back to work, for which I will be eternally greatfull.

While in Italy 90% of nursery school is subsidized by the government, in America only 10% is subsidized by the government. I luckily married an Ecuadorian woman who's mother offered to baby sit my son William. She works in the evening cleaning offices, and had the daytime to watch him. Childcare was taken care of, and I did not have to set up a nanny camera, and watch it each night in dread for the horrible footage that is sometimes shown on TV. We have a large supportive extended family.

Up to childbirth, I meditated every morning for 2 years, for 40 minutes, minimally. I went on retreats, I attended sangha and mitra gatherings. I decided I wanted to deepen my practice by going for refuge in an effort to seek ordination with the F/WBO.

When William came along, everything went, for a while. No more running, yoga, meditation, reading. I often have trouble brushing my teeth or going to the bathroom, though it's gotten a little easier, as I have adjusted, and learned to get ready in the morning with a toddler, for work.

I have tried to get up early in the morning to meditate. Sometimes it works. My son had irregular sleeping patters, and sleeps enough in the day not to require the amount of sleep I need at night. I've read that children adjust their sleeping patters to spend more time with their parents.

I laugh when I read in Jae Woong Kim's book Polishing The Diamond about his teacher Baek Sung Wook breaking his “dependence on sleep”. At times the book has a mythical quality to it, which my sometimes rationalist mind balks at. I don't see myself breaking my attachment to sleep any time soon. I have meditated after getting up in the night to feed my son. One sutra describes the enlightened man as not drowsy. More evidence that I'm not enlightened. And yet I still want to bridge the gap between me the Buddha.

I've delineated 64 different kinds of tiredness (really 8 in their combinations). Work and parenthood do not go together very well, forget adding on energetically seeking refuge. I've lost my buffer. When I was a teacher, and I was especially tuckered out, I would just go to bed early. Not possible with a child. The demands of children are great, especially in the early years before they have language.

My wife is a sleep camel, she stores sleep in her hump on the weekends. I'm not sure how she does it. She's more of a binger, getting it when she can, accepting it when she can't. I'm more the slow and steady wins the race type. I need my recommended daily allowance of sleep. Every once in a while my wife has a bit of a break down, cries and takes a 4 hour nap. Tired and steady is there to pick up the very infrequent slack.

Sleepiness and meditation don't mix. I have gone in patches of meditating regularly, but my meditation practice is spotty often. I don't go on weekend retreats with quite the store of meditation I once had. Now I know what it's like for those people who don't meditate regularly and go on retreat, I have more sympathy for that.

My reading is down. I've always trying to shift away from reading so much Dharma. I read in absence of sangha and out of exhaustion and inertia not to meditate. I have missed opportunities to meditate.

I've tried to compensate in other ways. Chanting mantras while driving to work. Falling asleep to Sangharakshita lectures, which Naghabodhi jokingly says is joining a long lineage of dharma practitioners in the F/WBO. I put up posters of Manjushiri and Green Tara in the living room, and photos of the 8 manifestations of Padmasambhava in the kitchen. In my office I have Buddha, Prajnaparamita and Padmasambhava. I try to keep the ideals vivid and present to me as much as possible.

The Metta Sutra has come to mean more to me, as my love for my son has opened up depths of love in me. In my metta meditation I flesh out the neutral and person in discord, at times with the thought, “they have a mother and a father.” I realized that during the naming ceremony, where Vajramati gave William the Buddhist name of Jyoti, meaning light or flame. I called him “sparky” when he was in the womb, and his flame has burned brightly ever since. Srimati says similar things in her essay on the FWBO web site

Naghabodhi asked me, how has being a parent effected my practice. Having that question in my mind has been helpful to help me to see it that way. I've always wished for more pure circumstances to “practice” but I've become aware that this desire for purity or exoticism is a red herring. “Right here, right now” is a kind of a Buddhist motto. Don't imagine the gold pot of perfect conditions over the rainbow.

I'm not sure if it's my blinkered existence or what, but I live more in the moment. Part of it is mindfulness, living in the moment. When I became a teacher, I realized I had a lot of issues to work on. And when I became a therapist, I realized I have lots of issues to work on. Same too, with being a parent. It stirs up a lot, including thoughts of mortality, ironically, with the cycle of life so present. It challenges me, calls me to the higher evolution.

It puts great stress on a marriage at times. In some ways I feel abandoned by my wife, at times, as she feels abandoned by me.

I read Srimala's book Breaking Free: Glimpses of a Buddhist Life with the hopes of finding out how a woman taking care of 2 children found the time to meditate. I suppose it was a fools errand, because she does not discuss the difficulty. Perhaps even more foolish is the idea that you could read a book to find out how to find the time to meditate.

One thing parenthood has given me is an appreciation of meditation. It can really make a big difference in how I approach my day, how I handle stress, how I interpret challenges.

A friend of mine expressed the fear that not having children was a sign of immaturity. At the time I reassured him that that was hogwash. My sangha friends are the most attuned to and open to my son, they seem more mature than everyone else, even other parents.

As Sangharakshita says in his lecture to parents, “you are up against it.” When there is only time for 1 of the 5 things that you usually do, you learn to prioritize. Parenthood is one good way of breaking my clinging to pleasurable and relaxing activities.

Seeing another human being develop is a very interesting and rewarding process. There are a million little experiences that I have felt to be good for me. But I would not say it was more necessary to be a human being than anything else.

My female sangha friends have rid me of the delusion that all women want to have children. Padmasuri touches on her debate briefly in her wonderful book but little dust.

Fatherhood has certainly slowed down my attending retreats and doing sits, which has slowed down my ordination process, if you see it as a punch the ticket, follow other's instructions point of view. Like all things, there are pluses and minuses, and in many ways my practice has deepened as a parent. It has helped my practice, though not obviously so at times. As a year and a half of fatherhood has come and went, I have a new confidence that I can handle the problems life throws me.

Exoticism appeals to me. Could I move quicker towards enlightenment if I meditated under the Bodhi tree in India? If I went to England to live in a community and work in a right livelihood business? I'm certain that would speed my “development”, but I have responsibilities. Each path is different. The FWBO does not require it's ordained members to leave their family, like the Buddha did, under very different circumstances.

The Buddha left his child to go find enlightenment. In the modern nuclear family that would create more harm that it did in the past when families were more connected. I read in Sid Brown's excellent book The Journey of One Buddhist Nun: Even Against the Wind about a woman who's father left her family in dire times to pursue the spiritual life. I don't want to harm anyone by going for refuge. I know the wages of losing a parent, my father left my mother when I was young, and it had a very profoundly negative effect on me.

Schumann suggests that the Buddha could have actually talked about taking up the homeless life, to go on his search, with his parents. That he left the day is son Rahula was born, because that was their condition of letting him go. The Buddha had an arrainged marriage, and in the end, the only way he could escape the life he did not choose, was to have a son, to ensure the line could be passed onto his son. Perhaps having a son freed him from being an heir.

These are very different circumstances than mine. My wife and I had been trying to have children, because we wanted them. To nurture, to share the joys and sorrows of a child. To try and do what we see done poorly as teachers. In a world where often people decide not to have children, because it would interfere with their lifestyle, we chose this non-materialistic path. To be sure, you can view your children materialistically, just like you can the spiritual life. For me children are part of the spiritual journey. It connects to my history of compassion, my desire to enlarge my ability to see and alleviate suffering.

I'm lucky that my wife supports me in my spiritual pursuits even though they are not hers exactly. She doesn't undermine me, she tells me to meditate more than I do, and while I sometimes use her as an excuse when I don't want to meet up with the sangha, because I'm tired, she really isn't the excuse. I must take responsibility. Sometimes I am tired, sometimes I don't always do the things that are best for me. The ethical edge can be seen all around me.

After years of trying to conceive, a second child turned out to be easy. On September 23rd at 5:54pm, my second son was born.

In the TBMSG/F/WBO lifestyle is secondary, commitment is primary. I don't have to cut my hair or debate which shoulder to wear my robe over.

To conclude I would like to make a sweeping generalization about the ease at which children help you with the spiritual life. I think it's easier to disprove the extremes.

While fatherhood has most assuredly made it more difficult to meditate, in the short term, I would not necessarily assume that means I have not grown spiritually. In fact, I would say I have developed a spiritual urgency that I might not otherwise have developed. I envy my peers who can go home to an empty home and meditate all night, all day on the weekends. To my mind, they do not take advantage of their opportunity. Yet, neither did I when I didn't have children.

Additionally, fatherhood is just one of many challenges in our society, that take us away from meditation, sangha. I have to admit that I have continued my dharma study, that is the easiest for me to keep up. There are small moments when I can read some, and at work. And I honestly haven't take the opportunities to meditate like I would. My point is Milarepa had to build a tower and tear it down. The Buddha had to leave his family. Everyone goes through spirtual trials and conflicts. It's all part of the journey. I have chosen parenthood.

I can not say that fatherhood has energized or transformed my spiritual life. I feel like it was a necessary step for me. I have no regrets. And I keep open the question, “How has fatherhood helped me go for refuge?” By asking that question I create my reality. So in that sense, fatherhood is a self fulfilling prophecy for me, it will improve my going for refuge.

Also, the Boddhisattva ideal, the vow I hope to take when I get ordained, makes me know deepening my commitment to the refuges is going to be messy. There's no neat clean easy way to enlightenment. It's not some spa weekend, not a series of steps, like putting a bike together. It's a struggle, an ordeal, and I welcome that. There are many other conditions to struggle against, if I want to be completely honest. I have many false refuges I could eliminate.

Turn it around the other way. I think Buddhism has helped me as a father immesurably. Charlotte Joko Beck reports meditating and having to come to grips with some of her unskillful behaviors as a mother. I'm not saying I don't have to come to grips with similar things, but at least I have the resource of meditation to help me through this difficult path. My whole being, my seeking refuge has informed my fatherhood, and tested it.

On September 23rd 2005, at 5:54 pm E.S.T, my second son was born. He is healthy and the mother is recovering well.


Cittapala's The Bodhisattva's Reply: An Explanation of the Western Buddhist Order, has informed my conceptions and language in this essay.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt reports on the fact that parents who are over 30 have children who do better in school.

How The Mind Works by Steven Pinker reports on the killer sperm.

Italy 90% subsidized and USA 10% is reported in a video called Childhood, shown on PBS.

The Historical Buddha by H.W. Schumann.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

26. reporting in

Reporting in last night, was a very positive experience for me. But greater than that was to listen to everyone else report in. Quite a powerful activity. Jason reported he benefitted it greatly to me personally. Everyone is so wonderful, so amazing, so inspiring.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

25. Borrowed Body

Borrowed Body by Valerie Mason-John (aka Queenie, aka Vimalasara) is a first novel by a WBO order member. This harrowing autobiographical novel traces her experiences in fosters homes, reuniting with her physically abusive mother, meeting her African half sister, a return to foster homes, and incarceration. It reminds me of City of One, Angela's Ashes, All Over But The Shoutin', The Glass Castle, and all those horrible childhood memoirs. Also The Painted Bird, a lovely miserable novel of abuse on children during World War 2.

Borrowed Body too becomes bewitching once you adjust your tolerance for observing suffering, another finely written book about personal suffering that will most likely not get the recognition is deserves because most people must avert their gaze.

Horrified anxiety is my mental muscle lactic acid. I try to increase my tolerance by watching horrible movie and reading these kinds of books. To transform suffering into understanding and empathy for others is a nobel quest to me. It is the goal of Avalokita to end all suffering, as preposterous and impossible as that may seem from a limited person. The psychotherapy group I lead has recently drifted into the topic of whether you can love your enemy, they are all Christians. I convert the thought into the boddhisattva idea, the aspiration of alleviating all the suffering. You try, that's the point.

I tried to drive my car like the Buddha. But it's just too hard. I have too many habits that involve harsh speech, unskillful thoughts. So I gave up, frustrated. My mental states got even worse when driving. So I have returned to my goal, but attempt to eliminate the frustration, because the impossible seeming goal is better than not having the goal. If you do not get discouraged, the goals of spirituality are helpful. At least it is so for me.

I recognize Vimalasara's suffering, and thank her for sharing it publicly in such a well written book.

Additionally as therapist, I define behaviors, defenses, coping skills, and appreciate the delicacy and the closeness in which she observes her own behavior. And the honesty. I can only guess at how accurate and close this was to the experience, because it's a novel and not a memoir. But it must be rooted deeply in her experience. This is my kind of novel. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

24. Confession

A Confession

... whatever evil, cruel act was done by me previously, I will confess it all before the Buddhas. Whatever evil I have done by not attending to my parents, by neglecting the Buddhas, by neglecting the good; whatever evil I have done by being drunk with the intoxication of authority or with the intoxication of high birth or by being drunk with the intoxication of tender age; whatever evil I have done, bad thought, bad word, by an act badly done (or) by not perceiving a mishap; whatever evil I have done by the application of foolish reasoning, by a mind dark with ignorance, under the influence of an evil friend or by a mind distracted by impurities, under the compulsion of sport or enjoyment or through the influence of anxiety or anger, or enjoyment or through the fault of unsatisfied wealth; whatever evil I have done by my associations with ignoble people, by reason of envy and greed, or by the fault of guile or wretchedness; whatever evil I have done through failure to gain mastery over my desires by reason of fear at the time of approaching troubles; whatever evil I have done through the influence of a flighty mind or through the influence of passion and anger or through being oppressed by hunger and thirst; whatever evil I have done for the sake of drink and food, for the sake of clothing, for a reason involving women, through the various afflictions of impurities; whatever evil of body, tongue and mind, bad action accumulated in threefold manner, I have done, together with similar things, I confess it all.

--p.10-11 The Golden Light Sutra, translated byR.E. Emmerick, reprint of the 3rd edition 2001(with parentheses taken out for readability)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

23. Padmasuri

There are two books by female FWBO order members. Srimala's Breaking Free is aptly titled, "Glimpses of a Buddhist Life". I wanted to find out how she meditated with two children, but she never told me. Similarly Naghabodhi wrote about India in his book Jai Bhim! Dispatches from a peaceful Revolution. While the two previous books are worthy in their own way, I found Padmasuri's book But Little Dust: life amongst the 'ex-untouchable' buddhist of india topped both in their project by going deeper.

Padmasuri's book is in 3 sections. There was the time she worked there as a nurse and acclimated herself to some degree. There is a middle section of fiction, that perhaps conveys a woman's life in India. And in the final section she is a Dharma teacher, traveling all over India.

I particularly wanted to know more about a retreat she briefly describes, how she came to the decision not to have children. I also wanted her to update the book, because the first edition was in 1990, the second in 1997.

But what she gave me was rich and provoked me to more thought. I've been corresponding with Anil in Pune, and quite enjoyed getting more information about his conditions there. There are no other books like this one, I searched on Amazon. I liked her description, too, of the project of taking Buddhism to India. Or rather supporting it in India. She called it a coals to Newcastle project.

I also quite enjoyed her description of a trip to a cave where Padmasambhava meditated.

I'm going to see if Alyssa wants to borrow it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

22. Advice from Me to Myself

Advice from Me to Myself by Patrul Rinpoche

Vajrasattva, sole deity, Master,
You sit on a full-moon lotus-cushion of white light
In the hundred-petalled full bloom of youth.

Think of me, Vajrasattva,
You who remain unmoved within the manifest display
That is Mahamudra, pure bliss-emptiness.

Listen up, old bad-karma Patrul,
You dweller-in-distraction.

For ages now you've been
Beguiled, entranced, and fooled by appearances.
Are you aware of that? Are you?
Right this very instant, when you're
Under the spell of mistaken perception
You've got to watch out.
Don't let yourself get carried away by this fake
and empty life.

Your mind is spinning around
About carrying out a lot of useless projects:
It's a waste! Give it up!
Thinking about the hundred plans you want to accomplish,
With never enough time to finish them,
Just weighs down your mind.
You're completely distracted
By all these projects, which never come to an end,
But keep spreading out more, like ripples in water.
Don't be a fool: for once, just sit tight.

Listening to the teachings — you've already
heard hundreds of teachings,
But when you haven't grasped the meaning of even
one teaching,
What's the point of more listening?

Reflecting on the teachings — even though you've listened,
If the teachings aren't coming to mind when needed,
What's the point of more reflection? None.

Meditating according to the teachings —
If your meditation practice still isn't curing
The obscuring states of mind—forget about it!

You've added up just how many mantras you've done —
But you aren't accomplishing the kyerim visualization.
You may get the forms of deities nice and clear —
But you're not putting an end to subject and object.
You may tame what appear to be evil spirits and ghosts,
But you're not training the stream of your own mind.

Your four fine sessions of sadhana practice,
So meticulously arranged —
Forget about them.

When you're in a good mood,
Your practice seems to have lots of clarity —
But you just can't relax into it.
When you're depressed,
Your practice is stable enough
But there's no brilliance to it.
As for awareness,
You try to force yourself into a rigpa-like state,
As if stabbing a stake into a target!

When those yogic positions and gazes keep your mind stable
Only by keeping mind tethered —
Forget about them!

Giving high-sounding lectures
Doesn't do your mind-stream any good.
The path of analytical reasoning is precise and acute —
But it's just more delusion, good for nothing goat-shit.
The oral instructions are very profound
But not if you don't put them into practice.

Reading over and over those dharma texts
That just occupy your mind and make your eyes sore —
Forget about it!

You beat your little damaru drum — ting, ting —
And your audience thinks it's charming to hear.
You're reciting words about offering up your body,
But you still haven't stopped holding it dear.
You're making your little cymbals go cling, cling —
Without keeping the ultimate purpose in mind.

All this dharma-practice equipment
That seems so attractive —
Forget about it!

Right now, those students are all studying so very hard,
But in the end, they can't keep it up.

Today, they seem to get the idea,
But later on, there's not a trace left.
Even if one of them manages to learn a little,
He rarely applies his "learning" to his own conduct.

Those elegant dharma disciplines —
Forget about them!

This year, he really cares about you,
Next year, it's not like that.
At first, he seems modest,
Then he grows exalted and pompous.
The more you nurture and cherish him,
The more distant he grows.

These dear friends
Who show such smiling faces to begin with —
Forget about them!

Her smile seems so full of joy —
But who knows if that's really the case?
One time, it's pure pleasure,
Then it's nine months of mental pain.
It might be fine for a month,
But sooner or later, there's trouble.

People teasing; your mind embroiled —
Your lady-friend —
Forget about her!

These endless rounds of conversation
Are just attachment and aversion —
It's just more goat-shit, good for nothing at all.
At the time it seems marvelously entertaining,
But really, you're just spreading around stories
about other people's mistakes.
Your audience seems to be listening politely,
But then they grow embarrassed for you.

Useless talk that just make you thirsty —
Forget about it!

Giving teachings on meditation texts
Without yourself having
Gained actual experience through practice,
Is like reciting a dance-manual out loud
And thinking that's the same as actually dancing.

People may be listening to you with devotion,
But it just isn't the real thing.

Sooner or later, when your own actions
Contradict the teachings, you'll feel ashamed.

Just mouthing the words,
Giving dharma explanations that sound so eloquent—
Forget about it!

When you don't have a text, you long for it;
Then when you've finally gotten it,
you hardly look at it.

The number of pages seems few enough,
But it's a bit hard to find time to copy them all.
Even if you copied down all the dharma texts on earth,
You wouldn't be satisfied.

Copying down texts is a waste of time
(Unless you get paid) —
So forget about it!

Today, they're happy as clams —
Tomorrow, they're furious.
With all their black moods and white moods,
People are never satisfied.
Or even if they're nice enough,
They may not come through when you really need them,
Disappointing you even more.

All this politeness, keeping up a
Courteous demeanor —
Forget about it!

Worldly and religious work
Is the province of gentlemen.
Patrul, old boy — that's not for you.

Haven't you noticed what always happens?
An old bull, once you've gone to the trouble of
borrowing him for his services,
Seems to have absolutely no desire left in him at all—
(Except to go back to sleep).

Be like that — desireless.

Just sleep, eat, piss, shit.
There's nothing else in life that has to be done.

Don't get involved with other things:
They're not the point.

Keep a low profile,

In the triple universe
When you're lower than your company
You should take the low seat.

Should you happen to be the superior one,
Don't get arrogant.

There's no absolute need to have close friends;
You're better off just keeping to yourself.

When you're without any worldly
or religious obligations,
Don't keep on longing to acquire some!

If you let go of everything —
Everything, everything —
That's the real point!


This advice was written by the practitioner Trime Lodro
(Patrul Rinpoche) for his intimate friend Ahu Shri
(Patrul Rinpoche), in order to give advice that is tailored
exactly to his capacities.

Monday, August 29, 2005

21. Shantinayaka and Amala

I had a good retreat, even though I was craving to go on the whole retreat, and not just the weekend, and I wanted to cram a bunch in because this might be my last retreat in a long time.

Driving up alone was OK because I listened to Sangharakshita lectures. I'm in the lectures on the Gold Light Sutra, which has a chapter on confession. And I called my father in California, which was a pleasant conversation.

I wasn't the only one late, Seth and Andrew ended up not getting there till all the activities were over too. I got to talk to them on the porch when I arrived, and that was nice. I woke Bill up when I went to my room, but he was nice about it.

Here's what the web site says about the retreat:

'Meditative awareness is more akin to hearing well than seeing clearly....' (from Stephen Batchelor, Living with the Devil). On this meditation retreat we will practice Mindfulness and Brahmavihara meditations to open our awareness and refine our ability to hear the 'cries of the world', to receive life as it is with all its pain and joys. As we cultivate stillness and quiet within we discover open space in which empathy and equanimity can be developed.

The retreat will be dedicated to Avalokitesvara, quintessential Bodhisattva of compassion.

Shantinayaka was ordained 15 years ago, in 1990. He taught at the London Buddhist Centre for 5 years and then moved to the West coast of the USA, helping to run the Seattle Buddhist Center for 8 years, teacher-in-residence at the San Francisco Buddhist Center for 1 year, and now based in Vancouver B.C. Has lead a number of meditation retreats over the years based on the contemplations outlined in the Anapanasati Sutta and the Brahma Viharas.

Amala was ordained in the year 2000. She has been studying and practicing Buddhism for more than 30 years. Amala is currently Director of Aryaloka Buddhist Center where she teaches many introductory classes and leads study groups and retreats. Amala has a particular interest in meditation. She has worked intensively with foundation mindfulness practices (Anapanasati and Satipatthana) and Bodhicitta practices over the last several years.


So Amala and Shantinayaka were the leaders. We meditated at 7, 10:30, 3 and 7 with a puja to end. Amala did Saturday and Shantinayaka did Sunday. We went into silence after the afternoon sit, though I walked and talked with Sita and Andrew before I left, and hugged Alyssa.

So good company, good leaders, wonderful setting inside the retreat center and out. I went for a walk along the river and disturbed the meditation of many frogs. I actually think frogs are good meditators, they sit very still. I had some deep sits. Some good thoughts based on what Amala and Shantinayaka said. I always love the food, though I'm afraid I seasoned the food too hot for Betsy. I liked Betsy's enthusiasm. I liked Sheila's poise. Sunada was there, and I had a good conversation with her while we prepared dinner, before we went into silence. And I had a very good talk with Sita.

The drive home was wonderful because I got to know Seth better, and he drove, thus saving me some energy I'll need for today to go back to work. A lovely lovely retreat, many thanks to everyone and especially Shantinayaka and Amala.

Friday, July 01, 2005

20. Anil

I've started a correspondence with Anil in Pune, India. I am quite excited. I hope I don't snow him over with details about my life, I hope I'm a good correspondent. I feel very lucky that he sent an e-mail to Vajramati asking for people to correspond with to bridge the gap between east and west in the order of F/WBO & TBMSG. A worthy goal.

Sangha night on Tuesday was good. I like meditating with the group. We have good discussions and it's good to hear Dharma talk. But I rush home, and I'm exhausted, because I have so much energy and have trouble falling asleep. I should go to sleep now, while I have the opportunity. I still cling to comfort.

I did get to listen to Sangharakshita lectures driving to work from New Jersey today, which feels dharmic.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

19. Some links

18. spiritual urgency, courageous effort

When William woke at 5, I got up, even though it's Saturday. No work to get me up. But it's the only quiet time, and I like to meditate first thing in the morning. I made some coffee and read Sayadaaw U Pandita's book In This Very Life. He writes about courageous effort and spiritual urgency. Vajramati was talking about discipline of Milarepa. He said, "let me go home and tell them I'm going to be here." Milarepa said, "either stay or go and don't come back." So he stayed and became one of his top disciplines with great commitment to the three jewels. Having a child has taught me the importance of spiritual urgency, courageous effort.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Metta Sutra

Metta Sutta: The Buddha's Words on Kindness

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in saftey,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

The Heart Sutra

the heart sutra
The Bodhisattva of Compassion,
When he meditated deeply,
Saw the emptiness of all five skandhas
And sundered the bonds that caused him suffering
Here then,
Form is no other than emptiness,
Emptiness no other than form.
Form is only emptiness,
Emptiness only form.
Feeling, thought, and choice,
Consciousness itself,
Are the same as this.
All things are the primal void,
Which is not born or destroyed;
Nor is it stained or pure,
Nor does it wax or wane.
So, in emptiness, no form,
No feeling, thought, or choice,
Nor is there consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind;
No colour, sound, smell, taste, touch,
Or what the mind takes hold of,
Nor even act of sensing.
No ignorance or end of it,
Nor all that comes of ignorance;
No withering, no death,
No end of them.
Nor is ther pain, or cause of pain,
Or cease in pain, or noble path
To lead from pain;
Not even wisdom to attain!
Attainment too is emptiness.
So know that the Bodhisattva
Holding to nothing whatever,
But dwelling in Prajna wisdom,
Is freed of delusive hindrance,
Rid of the fear bred by it,
And reaches clearest Nirvana.
All Buddhas of past and present,
Buddhas of future time,
Using this Prajna wisdom,
Come to full and perfect vision.
Hear then the great dharani,
The radiant peerless mantra,
The Prajnaparamita
Whose words allay all pain;
Hear and believe its truth!
Gata gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha

Thursday, June 16, 2005

17. Vajramati

I met with Vajramati last night. We went to a crepe place. Good catching up with him. I've decided to focus more on going to sangha meetings on Tuesday night for a few months, and forgo the alternating of seeing him and then going to sangha meetings. I need more meditation support at the moment. I was worried he would be offended or off put, I do really appreciate his taking time out for me. And it's been wonderful to deepen our friendship. But right now I think I need to meditate more. It's such a struggle with children, a child, my sonny boy. He's woken up at 5am today, and he's taken a long time to go back asleep. So I'm going to meditate today. Monday-Yes, Tuesday-no, Wednesday-no, Thursday-yes!

Monday, June 13, 2005

16. Dayalocana

Ten years ago Dayalocana was ordained in the F/WBO. I don't know her except just a brief hello, but she's a leader up at Aryaloka, an important outpost of the FWBO in North America, on the eastern seaboard. Congratulations to Dayalocana!

I meditated this morning, I actually got up at 6 am. I think I'm going to skip mindfulness of breathing, in favor of the Bramha Viharas: metta, karuna, mudita & upekkha.

I read some of the first long discourse. Been reading Sayadaaw U Pandita's book In This Very Life also.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

15. 8 manifestations

I put up the 8 manifestations of Padmasambhava in the kitchen, so I can be inspired when I'm in there.

I tried to meditate this morning, after a while. It was ragged, rough.

Sunanda lost a nephew, the sangha wishes Sunanda well.

I dip into Tara Bennett-Goleman's Emotional Alchemy sometimes.

Difficult day, my birthday around the corner. Narcissism and entitlement are on the rise.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

14. Subhaddasi

Subhaddasi was here, and we profited greatly from his visit. He talked on Tuesday, Sangha night, and Saturday, a meditation day that Faye graciously hosted, and Vajramati cooked for. No more log of order members I have met, but it was an important visit.

This blog loses out to my mindfulness of William blog.

I've been reading Vessantara's Tales of Freedom. I'm always tired, overwhelmed, so I do try and repress my feelings, but I think where I am, is what I am, and I need to be more connected. I want to have more of an emotional calling for the three jewels.

How can I go for refuge more effectively? How can I manifest giving more emotionally? How can I meditate more, more effectively? How can I read more for quality than quantity? These are my present questions.