Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Resolution

I think my specifics of personal development are transitory and sometimes not transitory enough (there are dynamics I am working on in psychotherapy). But for the most part, I think I can safely say, that every year, all the time, I wish to deepen my taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. To fully elaborate that would be quite a spectacle. Just to give a sliver, I mean following the ten precepts more closely, among other things. To be more specific about that is to do less harm, be more generous, speak more truthfully and harmoniously. Elaborating taking refuge could be endless, it's very rich, deep.

Let's just say meditation, Dharma study and spending time with spiritual friends are key. Being kind and mindful are key. Keep it simple. I think simplifying is a big key for me. I want to read the Dharma more slowly, really put into practice what I'm reading (when appropriate). I want to be kinder. I want to really push myself to expand my awareness of others, and thus my kindness to them. I want to aim for more clarity. I want to keep pursuing the questions and not know, unlearn. I want to tolerate the ambivalence of not knowing, develop my Keat's negative capacity. It goes without saying I want to be kind, gentle and supportive to my wife and sons. They are big teachers for me. I want to learn from them. And I want to extend that to everyone. I want to live with more metta. And I want to be on time to work, so I'd better go.

two people

Originally uploaded by Trebor Scholz' Photos
Nothing to say, I just know these people, thought it would be funny to blog it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Reading Pema

I'm reading Pema Chodron's book on Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara. There's a part when Shantideva goes on and on about how you should not blame people for how they act towards you because in a way it's just the circumstances, and their abilities and perhaps you would do the same thing with the same circumstances and abilities. But a new study out, reported in the New York Times Science section, reports that we actually feel more pain if a person means to harm us. I'm not going to treat people like they're a force of nature, mechanistic. Of course I do agree that difficult people are an opportunity.


There is an article in the Science Times section about lying. A study showed that students lie two times a day, regular workers lie one time a day. People feel guilty until they realize the got away with it. Turns out other primates lie as well. There's a correlation with brain size and lying, the larger, the more likely you are to lie. Not sure what that is about.

Telling the truth is hard, it makes life easier to lie when someone asks me if I've done something that I consider absurd, or I would get into trouble if I told the truth. I see it as another aspect of how I push away pain and cling to pleasure. I do so at the cost of my integrity, my own peril. I am in process of working to evolve towards more truth telling.

On a couple of occasions I was in a meeting with the head person where I worked, and they were exploring strategies of how to lie. In one meeting I asked if we could consider telling the truth. My boss saw that as an aggressively challenging statement, very angry.

I've always thought about not just truth and falsity, but also do I speak the deeper truths, as Bante suggest in his talk on the ten precepts. When I'm angry I'm lose myself and I'm carried away. But do I also describe things in their depths. Do I have the verbal acuity and insight to describe what is really going on?

The ten ethical precepts have 4 on speech.

I have a friend who really seems to examine these precepts. I've looked in on these a few times on retreat, and there was a time where I looked at one of the ten precepts throughout my day. There are some talks on the Eddinborough Center page (temporarily out of order), where Smritiratna talks about his efforts to speak truthfully. He warns people before he says, "do you really want to know, I'm going to tell the truth." Seems he applies it to questions about how someone looks, which they are often looking not so much for an exact aesthetic approval, but maybe reassurance that they don't look horrible. Sometimes "telling the truth" can be cruel. I think harmony must be preserved, and the other person's mind must be taken into account, the expression of the truth must also be kind and not meant to hurt. Now sometimes the truth does hurt and it's appropriate to give a tough love. But I would say that is more rare than the times when you need to craft your message to be kind.

I think non-violent communication is a model of communication.
First you make an objective observation, then states your feelings, then state a need, then make a request. For example, "You guys are not using your inside voice. I feel overwhelmed by the volume. I need to have a home that is not very stressful, I feel like home is an oasis from the stress of outside life. Please keep your volume to an appropriate inside level." Perhaps it's elaborate and too complex at times. I really feel like speaking about how you feel, instead of combining what's going on and how you feel, instead of the accusation, "your so noisy!" you're less judgemental and it helps the other person figure out how to behave. Of course it takes more time than some heavy handed stuff, perhaps with parenting. Anyway, that's my imperfect example of NVC.

NVC is the opposite of lying. I think you avoid pratfalls and look to what would be virtuous.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Keep Me In Your Heart A While

I recommend this book.

Keep Me In Your Heart A While: The Haunting Zen of Dainin Katagiri by Dosho Port is an interesting exploration of a relationship with a teacher in the modern American Zen context. With quotes from Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Warren Zevon he gives the fuller elaboration to the Zen spirit. He shares with us his tension between two schools, one that uses koans and another that doesn't. He shares with us his experiences with his teacher.

Reading his book I confront a question, I touched on in a comment on a book review of Stephen Batchelor's book Buddhism Beyond Belief on Wildmind.
Bodhipaksa sees it, if I understand his comment correctly, as condescending to point to this distinction between consolation and confrontation, to value confrontation over consolation. I have to keep that in mind because I respect his opinion.

So after bringing the above up, I want to set it aside, and give a few quotes. First is from Ayya Khema "It might feel as though meditation brings more dukkha than we had before, but that is only because we have finally admitted it and see it clearly." (p.43 Be an Island).

There have been times when I talk to people about going on retreat. People often quip, "that must be relaxing." Well, not usually for me. Usually it's disturbing, unsettling, challenging. There have been times when I've found a new level of contentment or peace, but mostly it's been very challenging.

Dosho Port uses the phrase, condescendingly perhaps, that his Dharma is not a warm dharma-hug. It's not intended to increase numbers of a religious institution, but to increase depth, to actually help people to improve. He talks about the process of disillusionment about what one initially hopes will happen on the spiritual path. In some ways I wonder if the distance we are from the goal suggests an extreme reaction to try to get us closer to it. After all, how many enlightened people have we met? And would we really notice if someone was enlightened because of our own lack of development?

So I guess my question is, if you're addressing yourself and not others, is it not OK to have a confrontational and not a consolation approach? But don't forget about Bodhipaksa.

I asked my friend what he thought. He talked about karate and tai chi. The people who do tai chi probably would get a lot from karate. The people who do karate, would probably get a lot from tai chi. So, if you're gung ho for confrontation in spirituality, you might do with more consolation. And the other way around.

I began to reflect on my own ideas of consolation. One friend told me about a conforting Green Tara fantasy he had once, where she's hugging him comforting him, and that's what he needed in that moment of hard meditation. I thought more. I thought about metta. I love it that my order has focused so much on metta. Mental positivity is something very important, and something I struggle with at times. Would it be condescending to tell people they need more metta. I sometimes experience it that way, but I do need more metta. I alternate every other day, but I struggle at times with it. Does the confrontational approach have enough metta? Is it tough love, or tough metta?

By the way, there's a lovely talk by Jnavaca called What's The Metta? on the Padmaloka site.

So this book that is out in January 2008 has lovely elements to it, and got me thinking quite a lot, and I highly recommend this personal journey, with much wit and insight.

They announce the book is being released now, so I'm releasing this review.

Dosho Port has a blog here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

second thoughts on all night meditation

As much as I suffered in the all night meditation, I think I expanded my ability to meditate by doing the marathon.

I also raised 181 pounds for youth in India.
Thank you to all who donated money!

There's an account on FWBO news.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Guest Post

Hi! I'm Red Lotus Mama. Steve asked me to guest post since I am a mother of a 3 year old daughter who practices yoga and tries to live a Zen lifestyle.

I started practicing Hatha Yoga in 2000 simply because I was interested in this tiny studio I walked by every day. After my second class I was hooked. I walked out of every class drenched in sweat and feeling like pulled taffy. My mind would be clear and my soul at ease.

When I got pregnant I attended a prenatal yoga class near my home that I loved. Then moved 25 minutes away to a neighborhood that doesn't have a studio. I purchased ZenMama Prenatal Yoga Workout and practiced at home every morning. I attended a regular yoga class at my office gym and simply modified the poses to accommodate my bulging belly. I loved being pregnant and yoga made me feel even more beautiful.

Spirituality has always been more of a challenge for me. I was raised Catholic, but now most of my friends and family would call me "lost." I haven't found an organized religion that seems to suit me. When I got pregnant my mother constantly told me that I it would be important for me to raise my child with a religion ... Christianity preferably. I am not against it, but everything in my being fights that concept. I believe that I am in control of my path to serenity and that a higher being has given me the tools to make my path and learn from my choices. I want my daughter to believe that she is in control of her path, that life is richer when you are good and respect others and nature, that there is a higher being and more to modern day solutions.

Since I live near the Chopra Center I started turning towards meditation and ayurveda. While I was pregnant I read 100 Promises to My Baby by Mallika Chopra. After my daughter was born I began reading one passage a day from The Parent's Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents. It is a wonderful guide on how to approach parenting in a much more peaceful and thoughtful manner. I believe there is so much to learn from Eastern practices.

I have started introducing yoga to my daughter too. She is pretty good at downward dog, one legged downward dog and (of course) happy baby and is getting better at tree pose.

downward dog

Now if I could just get her to sit still for meditation!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

12 hours completed

We raised money for Indian Youth.

Here is a photo. One with me.

My experience was that it was grueling. We started at 9pm. I got a second wind around 4, but after that, from 5 to 9 was a very hard slog. It was funny, we heard a party going on into the night, past 3am at least.

I get this feeling meditating a lot, that as a friend said, "I'm coming out of light speed."

In the end, my knees hurt, it took a huge effort to keep my eyes open, and not lay down, and I started to itch and twitch. I've never been great at sitting totally still, but as the night progressed I got worse and worse. Quite a challenge, for a worthy cause. The fund raising totals are not in yet, but we raised some good money.

My hope is that however hard this meditation was, it's all uphill from here. I don't think I'll ever feel as challenged as I was after 5am. I think the other thing it impressed on me, is that like a marathon, you can run one without training, but it make you suffer more. If I do this again, I'm going to lay down some days of longer meditation to try and get in shape.

Thank you to everyone who participated and worked hard setting up the shrine, organizing, and serving the tea.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Dharma Burger

An aspiration of mine has been to get a Dharma burger recognized on Worst Horse.

He defines the website: "The Worst Horse aims to cover the ever-colliding worlds of pop-culture, subculture, and Dharma — which is to say, essentially, Buddhism."

He writes in defining a Dharma Burger:

“Dharma-Burger” is, actually, any example of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables.

It happened! I've seen an ad for an ATM that included the Buddha. I finally got a photo of it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Effective Practice

You don’t need a lot of initiations or shelves groaning with Dharma books and Sanskrit dictionaries to make your practice effective. Just reflect on what it really means to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, and do you best to live in accordance with that. Perform the puja and try to absorb and really feel what you are chanting and saying. Reflect on the five or ten precepts and use them as a touchstone to see how your practice could be improved. Cultivate spiritual friends. Meditate regularly. Just one or two practices are enough: the mindfulness of breathing to develop clarity, and the metta bhavana for positive emotion. Perhaps you could reflect on the Noble Eightfold Path, and specifically on how to put it into practice. You might have a string of mala beads and one or two pictures, plus a few books, including one or two anthologies of the sayings of the Buddha, and a few favorite lectures on tape or disk. This is all you really need by way of intellectual equipment to take you as far as you want to go. If your practice does not keep pace with your theoretical understanding, if what you read is not being put into action, all that reading is probably hindering your practice. Milarepa goes on to explain that ‘in the teaching of Marpa’s line’ – the Kagyu or ‘whispered’ lineage – special emphasis is placed on actual practice as opposed to any kind of verbal proliferation.

(p.196-7 of The Yogi’s Joy by Sangharakshita)

He also writes later in his document "What is the Western Buddhist Order?" also known as his last will and testament:

"My teachings pertaining to method, and therefore those of my disciples, all centre,
directly or indirectly, on the act of going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma, and
the Sangha. These comprise all the practices that I have myself taught: for instance,
the observance of the Five or Ten Precepts; the performance of the Sevenfold and
Threefold Pujas; the practice of meditation, in the framework of the System of
Meditation; the group study of the Buddhist scriptures; the cultivation of spiritual
friendship, and the enjoyment of poetry, music, and the visual arts as aids to the
spiritual life. These teachings pertaining to method are connected, directly or
indirectly, with the Buddha’s teaching of pratītya-samutpāda through the sequence of
positive, spiral nidānas, for all these teachings contribute, in one way or another, to
my disciples' progress to ever higher levels of being and consciousness, even from
the mundane at its most refined to the transcendental. Looked at from another point
of view, they contribute to the deepening of my disciples' going for refuge, so that
from being provisional it becomes effective, and from being effective it becomes real
in the sense of being irreversible."

From that I take the basic of practice is meditation in accordance with his system of meditation, following the precepts, group study of the Dharma, Puja, cultivating spiritual friendship and enjoying beauty.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Shambhala Sun

Shambhala Sun has good blog, where I found this article.

My thought is that being .7% of American population is an extreme minority position. I find a collective history very important.

Celebrating Buddhism in America: 30 Great Years

By Barry Boyce

Buddhism in America has changed dramatically in the three decades since the Shambhala Sun was founded. It’s been a fascinating time of growth, scandal, deepening practice, and ever-increasing impact on American society. The late Rick Fields, a former editor of the Sun, wrote the definite history of Buddhism’s early days in America. Now our senior editor, Barry Boyce, picks up the story.

In the mid-1970s, Rick Fields embarked on a little journey. It began simply enough, with a piece commissioned by Stewart Brand (the Whole Earth Catalog founder) for his Coevolution Quarterly. In “Beginning Buddhism,” Fields, who later became editor of the Vajradhatu Sun, set out to explain for “my father, my mother, and many other people” why Buddhism was important and relevant in the “rocky, concrete soil of America.” Working on the article sparked journalistic wanderlust in Fields, and as such pursuits are wont to do, the cataloging of Buddhism’s arrival on Western soil got out of control. He decided to track down all of the many paths Buddhism followed as it worked its way west. Eventually, his story would start with the Buddha and leave off in the late seventies. The resulting four-hundred-page book ended not with a stirring conclusion, however, but faded to black with an air of “to be continued…”

[Read whole article here.]

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I'm thankful.

I am thankful Vajramati came to New York City and taught me meditation, that he remains here to build the sangha here in NYC. I'm thankful to Dhammarati for coming across the pond for GFR retreat. I'm thankful to all the other order members who support the ordination process in the USA. I'm thankful for the order existing, so that I can seek ordination into it. I am thankful to Sangharakshita for founding the order, and all that went into that.

I am thanksful for the teachings, which have been passed on. I am thankful for the sangha which allows me to support others, and supports me in my efforts to close the distance between myself and the Buddha (still a long distance, but getting shorter).

I am thankful for my wife who has not tried to block my spiritual development. Though she dislikes me leaving the family for whatever reason, she negotiates within her level of comfort, and that allows me to go on week long retreats. At times I have not gone on retreat, done things with the sangha. But there is a balance and I am confident that we can continue to negotiate this balance. Of course my wife is more to me than the freedom and sensitivity around the issue of this spiritual path. She is much more to me than that, and for that I am also grateful.

I am thankful to my boys for their spiritual challenges, the way they have exposed areas for growth.

From William's Wonder Years

I am thankful to my family, past, present and future. I am thankful to those who have supported me, allowed me to have the strength to be at the level I am. I am thankful to the level of support I get from the family today, in so many ways. I am thankful for what I expect will be further support, and my being able to support others, in the future. I could go on about specifics, but I won't. It takes more than a village to raise a child, but one village has been my family. I am truly grateful for them, including my in-laws, the family I married into.

I am thankful to all my academic teachers. Teachers in schools are a gift. I thank them all past and present. I am thankful to the government and country which created these fine schools, and sustain them. I am thankful for the school my son's go to, and all the excellent teachers and staff there.

I am thankful to all the medical personnel who have sustained my health.

I am thankful to all my friends throughout my life. I treasure past and present friendships.

I'm thankful for all the people that support my existence. The people who built the co-op I live in, the people who grow, harvest and transport and store my food. The people who sustain the wonderful subway, built roads, all for swift transport. I'm thankful for the amazing technology that allows me to learn more and communicate.

I am grateful for my abilities, including the one to be thankful now.

A Thanksgiving Message

To be honest I haven't really followed what is going on in Burma. But watching this video, I feel the passion for the worthy cause, as Danny Fisher updates us on the situation there. He is thankful for his liberty, which is not a given in Burma. Watch this important message.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Bodhipaksa is coming out with a new CD set on Sounds True.

He already has many find CDs available.

You can also get them through Wildmind.

Buddhist inspired furniture.

Mindfulness test.

More on the Buddha Boy.

There's another Dharma Burger on Worst Horse.

Bodhipaksa also has a post about parenting and happiness.


Wow, e-mail, blogging and I've raised some money! If the donations quit now, I would have brought in the most money. I think that's healthy competition. I don't think I'll win, I hope others raise more money. Go and donate.

And Danny Fisher is providing blogging support to get the word out.

Buddhist youth - boys

Buddhist youth - boys
Originally uploaded by FWBO photos

Donate money for NYC-FWBO all night meditation.
The cause supports Buddhist youths.

Here's the letter I sent out to family, friends and peers:

Dear family,

I will be meditating for 12 hours (all night) beginning December 12th to raise money for youth in India. Please support me and the youth of India.

The ex-untouchable movement, lead by Ambedkar over 50 years ago, is a more than worthy cause. This hero Ambedkar, when he was a kid, had to sit outside the school and look through the window because he was "untouchable". Imagine that. He ended getting 2 Ph.Ds and helped to write India's constitution, which outlawed caste prejudice. And yet caste prejudice and abuse still thrive in India for the ex-untouchables. People are frequently murdered. There are many grizzly details that are shocking and horrible. Caste prejudice is an abomination.

To combine spiritual individualism and spiritual altruism, we've created an event to test ourselves, and raise money for a worthy cause, like getting sponsors for a running marathon. But this is a meditation marathon.

To support me and the worthy youth in India, please follow the link and donate:

Unfortunately you can only donate in pounds. The exchange rate is about 2-1, though the dollar seems to be strengthening, so I donated 5 pounds, which is about $10-11. About one dollar for every hour I meditate.

Thank you for your attention,

Friday, November 07, 2008

Great writing sites by FWBO

I've blogged about free talk and other great sites. Here are my favorite sits of writings.

First is Free Buddhist Audio's transcripts of seminars and other writings.

Then there is Wildmind.
It's does not emphasize the FWBO, is more about meditation, but it does branch out from there. Many wonderful book reviews and essays.

Cittapala has a wonderful site with some excellent writing. I've read The Bodhisattva's Reply, and other writings, on vegetarianism, on the 6 Element Practice.

Another good site for writing is writing by Vishvapani.

He also has a lot of good article on the FWBO Discussion page, which is incidentally another good area for writings by FWBO people.

No list of FWBO writings is complete without two leading writers: Vessantara & Kamalashila.

Don't forget the seminal writings of Bante on his site, where he gives away free books.

Finally, a list of all the FWBO blogs is here.
From Jayarava to Svarnaprabha.

There are many other wonderful sites, if I've forgotten something please add it in the comments.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Right effort questions

Ayya Khema in her book Be An Island, asks questions, to question oneself if they are giving right effort: "Have I really tried today? Have I extended myself to my personal limit, or did I take it as easy as I could today? Did I try to increase my self-discipline a little more than yesterday? Did I try to get up five minutes earlier? Did I try to remember two more lines of the teaching? Did I try to sit longer in one position or concentrate a little longer? Did I have fewer negative thoughts today?" (p. 73).

What would my questions be to test my right effort? What are yours? Would you write different questions? Perhaps memorizing text isn't as important to you, but maybe being kinder is, so how would you ask that? Shoot me a comment to let me know if you have different right effort questions for yourself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

check out

Mahamudra and Dzogchen: Thought-Free Wakefulness By Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche.

It's posts like this that makes me think I need to start FriendFeed.
I've gotten a job and I'm not going to be able to blog as much as this blissful 2 months of unemployment allowed for.


There's a fascinating article I found on Integral Options Cafe by Thanissaro Bhikkhu about egolessness, which compares it with western psychological ideas. He doesn't attribute John Welwood to the idea of spiritual bypassism, but we can fogive that. I downloaded the PDF (couldn't find the original source page). Interesting.

While I don't think that top Buddhist teacher's health egos proves that nobody from the east needs therapy, only Buddhism, I do agree with this suggestion: "One way would be to read the ancient texts with new eyes. Instead of assuming that the not‐self teaching is counseling egolessness, how about assuming that it’s part of a regimen for developing a healthy ego?"

This is also interesting: "As for the concept of not‐self, the Buddha would advise using it whenever unskillful attachment to things or patterns of behavior got in the way of your happiness. In effect, he would have you drop unhealthy and unskillful ways of self‐identification in favor of ways that were more skillful and refined."

Finally, "If you open your mind to the idea that the Buddha was actually advocating ego development instead of egolessness, you see that there’s nothing lopsided or lacking in his understanding of healthy ego functioning. In fact, he mastered some ego skills that Western psychology has yet to explore, such as how to use right concentration to satisfy the desire for immediate pleasure; how to develop an integrated sense of causality that ultimately makes a sense of self superfluous; how to harness the ego’s drive for lasting happiness so that it leads to a happiness transcending space and time."

Now do you need psychotherapy to become enlightened? I don't presume to know what people need, but I have found both of them very useful, complimentary projects and areas of thought. I'm not trying to take over Buddhism with psychotherapy or vice-versa. For me, there is great synergy between the two areas, modes of personal development. I have no problems with Thanissaro Bhikkhu not going to therapy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

6th sense: vestibule

I've heard there are 11 senses, or a larger number than the usual 5. Here's an article in the Times about a 6th sense.

I think everyone has some sensory integration issues. My son didn't like the swing at first, but we learned that swinging helps with the vestibule sense.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Judo Shinshu

I was looking at the Buddhist Church of New York City, because I had read Raising Buddhist Children from a father Buddhist blogger of the Jodo Shinshu persuasion. And I found this video of Reverend T. Kenjistu Nakagaki. He gives some brief meditation instruction and teaches some chanting. I have seen him events that collected all the Buddhist organization in NYC. The 8th Level Buddhist suggests that Jodo Shinshu is the most children friendly form of Buddhism. Made me wonder if I should take the boys for a service.

Also, I'm following Wild Fox Zen blog.
There is a free 1144 page translation of Dogen's Shōbōgenzō


Originally uploaded by Milk Thunderstorm
I found an interesting Flickr site, including this photo of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lokamitra in the news

Lokamitra has an article about him, republished I think, on BNN.

I have not met him, but I have met his friends and co-workers from India, and correspond with one of his assistants (who is, I think, getting ordained soon--sadhu!). I hope some day to travel to India and meet him. And Lokamitra

I sometimes fantasize about going to India and pitching in with the good work being done out there, in the fights against the injustice against Dalit's or ex-untouchables. Meanwhile I'm trying to establish myself in a career (meaningful and I think right livelihood) to support my wife and small children (another good cause). I hope to travel to India before my children go off to college, but I'm not sure if that's realistic. Who knows, the future is uncertain. Nothing is given. My wife declined my suggestion of living in India for a year. So I wish I could go there and pitch in. I can see the worth of such work.

Lokamitra did get there 34 years ago, and I admire him for that.

Another friend is involved with the work out there, and more likely so in his upcoming retirement. Another friend, who is visiting soon, has been out there and wrote a book about it called Jai Bhim, which used to be free on Sangharakshita's site, but now I can't find it. You can get it on Amazon. There are 4 copies for a dollar, used, but with s&h it's $5.

I'm trying to read The Prisons We Broke, which is described as follows on the website: "Writing on the lives of the Mahars of Maharashtra, Baby Kamble reclaims memory to locate the Mahar society before it was impacted by Babasaheb Ambedkar, and tells a consequent tale of redemption wrought by a fiery brand of social and self-awareness. The Prisons We Broke provides a graphic insight into the oppressive, caste and patriarchal tenets of the Indian society, but nowhere does the writing descend to self-pity. With verve and colour the narrative brings to life, among other things, the festivals, rituals, superstitions, snot-nosed children, hard lives and hardy women of the Mahar community. The original Marathi work, Jina Amucha (serialized in 1982 and published as a book in 1986) re-defined autobiographical writing in Marathi in terms of form and narrative strategies adopted, and the selfhood and subjectivities that were articulated. It is the first autobiography by a Dalit woman in Marathi, probably even the first of its kind in any Indian language."

I say I'm trying to read it, because it's like the sun, it hurts to look at such horrors. I'm reading it slowly.

If you want to donate money to what I consider a worthy cause, check out the website of Jumbudvipa. I don't know what they would do with American money, they only have ways of giving in India, England and Taiwan, but I'm sure they'd cash a check. When I get out of the red, and we're in a position to be giving away money again, I hope to test that theory.

To get one small sliver of some of the negative stuff going on there with caste based oppression, check out the blog Atrocity News. I dare you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Thurman video

I like the way Thurman talks about not being enlightened, but still getting something out of being a Buddhist, in this video.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lama Zopa Rinpoche quotes

I wrote an informal review of his new book, How To Be Happy. I wanted to follow up and write some more quotes I liked, so here they are:

"The mind of most of us ordinary beings is like a headstrong toddler. We can't just do everything the mind says and give it everything it says it wants--just as we can't with a toddler. That would lead to a very ill-mannered child indeed! It is a very dangerous to do everything the mind says." (p.61)

"Whether you work in a Dharma center, at home, or anywhere else, your attitude should be that you are there for other beings to make use of. When you don't have this attitude you should be the master and other beings your servants, your work become a problem. When you have this attitude, your work becomes a pleasure--even though it is the same. When you change your attitude so that beings are the master and you are the servant, the problem is stopped, and there is only enjoyment. Then no matter how hard the work is, and even if you don't succeed in it, you enjoy it." (p.72)

Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra

Rev. Danny Fisher has a good post on the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra, whith many good references.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Top 15 Free Buddhist Audio Recordings

Here's a list of my favorites and recommentations, not by Sangharakshita, from the FWBO archives at Free Buddhist Audio. (I've listened to most of Sangharakshita's talks. I don't even want to do a top 15 of his talks, just go listen to them all in chronological order.) This might just be a testament to my spiritual immaturity, that I don't appreciate a talk, so if you're not on this list, don't worry. None the less, I often recommend talks here, so I thought I would just list my favorites as of today. This list may change.

1. The Dharma and Denial by Manjuka. I create a false spiritual self, and this talk helps me to see past that to be more true and authentic.

2. Vessantara is a leading teacher in the FWBO. He takes us with him on some of his journey in a talk called Learning From Tibetan Buddhism. There's a lot of talk about seeing teachers outside the FWBO and this is an exploration of that. Note he consults with Sangharakshita and he's always given him permission.

3. Kamalashila has a blog. He's got many good talks and some meditation lead throughs. I recommend this talk: Our Work as Teachers and Practitioners. Following on #2, this talk suggest you devote 10 years to your school of choice before you branch out into other schools.

4. Any of Parami's 4 talks are great, but to pick one, Energy at it's Most Abundant. She has visited NYC several times and given very inspiring Dharma talks. I think she could have many more than 4 talks, but alas I'll be grateful for what I can get.

5. After Sangharakshita and Subhuti, Padmavajra has the most talks on Free Buddhist Audio. And the most at Padmaloka site, for that matter. To pick a favorite, I'll say listen to this one: Talk 1 on the Diamond Sutra: Taking Mind to it's limit. There are 10 which can be found here. He's a very good speaker, I really recommend all his talks.

6. I haven't yet met Viveka outside of talks and reading her writing (unfortunately sparse at this point), but my friends say she's awesome. Listen to Mindfulness as Sadhana. She also has some great meditation lead throughs.

7. Dhammarati is an awesome dude. Here's Breaking the Mould. When he speaks, people listen. He's got another talk as well that is very good.

8. Subhuti has the second most talks. I like the mind training text, and found his deep discussion of it, with his incisive mind to be illuminating: Eight Verses for Mind Training. See all 4 talks here. I listened to these a few times before they started to really click. He's a deep man, listen to his talks.

9. What Self, What World by Chistopher Titmuss. This talk encourages and exemplifies engaged Buddhism. He's also quite funny.

10. Violence and Emptiness by Suvarnaphraba. This is fundamental to me psychologically like talk #1. A personal favorite. She's also very quirky and funny. She's come to NYC too, thank you Savarnaphraba. She has a blog.

11. Manjuvajra has two scary deep talks. Listen to his talk on Ethics, and get a feel for depth in the spiritual life. Ditto for his other talk here. He also has great talks on, in my opinion, the second greatest free talks site at Padmaloka. But to create a favorite 10 there is another blog entry for another time. Go check them out, they are of a high quality.

12. Ratnaguna has two awesome talks. His last one we listened to on practice day. He's a study leader in the FWBO and a had depth.

Standing on emptiness is an awesome talk
. I have probably listened to this talk the most of all of them, in part because of the depth and in part because she talks softly. Well worth the effort.

14. Touching The Void is a cool talk. I haven't seen the movie or read the book, but after this talk you don't really need to. Awesome.

15. This talk on Padmasambhava is not for all, but I really like it.

I'm probably going to remember some cool talks after I post this, but I don't want to work on this any longer. I'll just add them in comments. Please feel free to add your own in the comments too.

Honorable Mention:
Finally if you want a walk through the Noble Eight Fold Path here's some talks by Smritiratna at the Edinburgh Buddhist Centre site.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Worst Horse

Usually this is a great site that points out the use of Buddhist images in advertising and body vows, tatoos. But he's recently begun to add altars, which are fascinating as well. Thank you Worst Horse.

Book Review

How To Be Happy by Lama Zopa Rinpoche is packaged as a gift book. In a way it's hard for me to imagine how a book that exhorts you onto the path towards Enlightenment as a gift you give someone, like a box of chocolates, but actually, it is a gift. Just not the sweet confectionery kind. It might just be the best possible gift. The irony is that this book was published with the support of the Hershey Family Foundation, a foundation with $65 million in assets, giving out $3.2 million in grants by the end of 2006. Is someone in the Hershey family a Buddhist? Or sympathetic to Buddhism? That is so cool. With the profits of sweet confections, comes the Dharma confection. The exuberance which the teachings are taught is perhaps sweet.

This book is more like mind training verses, it's not consolation it's exhortation. Go meditate! The project of turning around in the seat of consciousness is huge. To suggest that ordinary pleasure is a trap, isn't consolation, it's confrontation of the highest kind. To challenge our ordinary approach to pleasure is truly revolutionary.

This small hardback is the kind of book I put in my car for when I'm waiting for someone, or in the bathroom, for a daily brief reading. It also might be a good book to read at the park while your kids play.

This book is presumably a collection of quotes from Lama Zopa Rinpoche's talks, since it's edited by Josh Bartok (who seems to have studied in the Zen tradition mostly) and Ailsa Cameron (who from what I can tell on the web is a journalist and editor and seems to be involved with editing for Wisdom Publishers and FPMT, where in the latter she's affixed "Venerable". She must have taken a special ordination, and perhaps is a teacher.). The book is published by Wisdom Publishers.

The quotes are inspirational quotes which suggest the project of spiritual development through meditation and reflections on suffering. While most of them move me, the references to reincarnation don't motivate me. For me this book is 99.9% inspiring.

The book makes me ask questions. For instance, "Each of us is completely responsible for the happiness of every other being. Each of us has this universal responsibility. It's completely up to us. When you work with your mind, what you are doing is real, ultimate solution for world peace--and not only peace on earth, but for all the being in all the numberless universe." (p.33).

This reminds me of a talk by Christopher Titmuss on Free Buddhist Audio. As the Wikipedia entry on the link of his name suggest, he promotes engaged Buddhism. In his talk he suggests that it is not enough to just try and change yourself. You need also to try and change the world.

I feel of two minds about this. On the one hand, I do think one of the kindest things you can go is to set your own house in order. On the other hand, I think you need to work to act on the world to make it a better place, apply your insights and try to work externally in the world. To be honest, I'm not so great at that. While my work is on the good end of the spectrum of right livelihood, and I work hard to raise my children well, I have not been very political or community oriented. Growing up with parents who marched for peace during the Vietnam War, I romanticize working for social justice. More than romanticize, I think it is important. I have worked in a soup kitchen briefly. I suppose it's an unanswered koan--what will I give to the world?

In the FWBO the model is to teach meditation and build a center, and create team based right livelihood businesses, develop spiritual friendships and perfect your generosity.

The quote indicates the connection between working on the inside and working on the outside. Is he collapsing just working on yourself as helping the world? I don't think so. I think from self development flows helping out the world. It's always a balance.

Later he says, "When we feel compassion for a person or an animal--any being at all--we wish that being to be fre from suffering. When our compassion is strong, we don't simply wish for this but actually do something about it. We ourselves take responsibility for freeing that being from suffering." (p. 37).

This is why compassion is so overwhelming for me. When you realize the suffering of other people, it implies some action. Very quickly I am overwhelmed. From one person, to family, to community, to city, to state, to world. Woof. Challenging stuff.

There are many interesting quotes in the book, I could bloviate further. Go out and buy it. It is thought provoking and inspirational. Not all Dharma books are intense books you read in a quiet place. Some have short snippets that you can read in the odd moments of a distracted worldly life.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Recent thoughts: Pudgalivadan, music and lists

Reading A Concise History of Buddhism by Andrew Skilton, who's Buddhist name is Sthiramati, is interesting because he summarizes in a way I have not read yet--by countries. I guess I never get tired of these one book histories of Buddhism. This one is only 200 pages but it's dense. At times I wish he would go into things more. I haven't been able to read about Pudgalavadins, which is a school that asserts an essential self that only gets uncovered when someone is enlightened, and he contains a small section on them, which I greatly appreciate.

This school is a kind of reaction to the no-self Dharma. No-self ideas are counter intuitive to me. Of course I think we do need to discover ourselves to transcend ourselves, our small selves, that working for others is the best thing we can do, and that there's less self about as you become more mature. The more coherent and integrated you are the less likely you will act defensively and are less vulnerable to fragmentation and interpersonal contagion. The no-self doctrine can be misused by people with poor sense of self, and low self esteem. I'm a Pudgalivadan.

But I also feel strongly reading books like The Saturated Self by Gergen and The Meme Machine that identity is contingent, constructed.

Then there is the whole Buddha-nature ideas. One blogger has a recent post on that. There is some concern that this doctrine is creeping Hinduism and not real Buddhism. I can't really tell whether it is or not.

Here are some interesting links:

In the news are some India devotional recordings about Asvagosha, go check them out they are free at

Richard DeWald talks about his experiences in the FWBO-NYC on his blog
, and his ultimate decision to return to Zen.

Danny Fisher has a list of Buddhist movies. You know how Buddhists love lists, and I'm no exception!

Check out this post on mudras! I love it! I don't think I'll use them myself at this time, but I am so interested in this.

Here's an article about an Australian Buddhist-Therapist. Cool beans!

Here is an interesting article on mindfulness of eating.

BNN has an article on Dalit experience.

Finally, I'm going to be doing more book reviews, so watch out!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I've done a few posts on vegetarianism. But I've been thinking about it a lot lately because I slipped. My laziness plus entitlement lead to some convenient thinking. I'm recommitting today. I read Bodhi's book, and it's convincing. I think I need to look at some horrifying videos to drill the point home to me. Check out PETA's web site.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ayya Khema

I finished reading Ayya Khema's autobiography I Give You My Life.

Here's some reviews and summaries.

She led a pretty interesting life, from fleeing Nazi Germany, to living in Glasgow and Singapore. She got married and moved to San Diego. She got divorced and met another man and traveled all over the world. It is only about half way through the book that she discovers Buddhism.

The second half doesn't really resemble a spiritual memoir. It's more like summaries and bullets. She writes like a journalist, and there's very little reflection. She doesn't debunk the German stereo type. She's a sort of Buddhist Albert Ellis, at times.

She has done some good things organizationally and she's obviously a charismatic person to be able to give so many talks, teach so many people. She falls within the Theravadan tradition.

While I won't recommend the book as an autobiography or as a spiritual memoir, I did find it an easy and agreeable read. For those who are interested in the history of Western Buddhism and famous Buddhist women's experience, it helps to flesh out the story of Buddhism in the West.

I've read Being Nobody, Going Nowhere, which I recommend as solid dharma, and I've ordered another book. Supposedly she has over 25 books which are edited from her talks, like so many Buddhists.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

virtual community?

Jayarava has an interesting essay suggesting in conclusion, "I'm not very enthusiastic about the possibilities of virtual communities or even virtual sanghas as a substitute for the real thing. There is no substitute for personal contact. I would argue that virtual community is not like community for practical purposes: "virtual community" is an oxymoron. There's nothing like the real thing..."

Face to face is good, preferred. Building sangha is very important. But what if you're not in a city with a thriving Buddhist center (for me FWBO)? What if you don't have the real thing so much? I travel to see Vajramati once a week, but the mitra group broke up, I can't make sangha night till May because of a prior commitment. It's no substitute but, I'm afraid, it's a good supplement when there's not a lot of the real thing around. I need to dig harder to make the real thing happen. Meanwhile...


Creativity is valued in the FWBO, so it's interesting to get an outside view of creativity. Read this article by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi from Psychology Today in 1996.

All credit due, I found this at Integral Options Cafe.

Friday, September 19, 2008

concentration vs mindfulness

Check out this link, that asserts concentration is not mindfulness.

One pointed is an aspect of mindfulness, and concentration is it's near cousin, so is absorption, but for me mindfulness has a quality of kind, non-judgemental observation, that leads to continuity of purpose and skillful behavior and speech, among other things. I don't know who this Theravadan teacher Ajahn Sumedho is, but he's got a book.

There's truly an ocean of Dharma. Do I need more? I need to put in place what I already have.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fuel saving tips & musings

Here's an article at Ecobuddhism about how to save fuel, from a blog which seems promising.

Living in NYC is perhaps one of the best things you can do for the environment. More public transportation, housing doesn't leak heat because many live in buildings, and we don't spread out, destroying untouched land. Ironically, the best thing you can do for nature is to get out of it. I find that many people who "love" nature, love it to death by being in it. My "nature loving relatives" buy land and build a house where there was none before. Drive long distances for groceries.

I can't blame them. I want to live closer to the earth. I feel alienated from the nature that I love by living in the city. But the fact is, if you really love nature, you get out of it, and live in the city. That's the best thing you can do for the environment. Would I say that's a moral imperative, people need to move to the city? I think people have to do what they feel in their heart is right for them. If that means we're going to destroy the planet...

I guess I wonder if we have the foresight to head off the disaster. Does that mean I'm hopeless, and don't have faith in myself and the human race?

Pessimistic people are more often right, but they also don't lead as good as lives as optimist. So while in assessing and predicting, I think pretty dire. But I do hope that we can be more intelligent and more far sighted, with leaders who can think more about the future than getting re-elected. We do the best we can. We are puny, have little impact in this world, but there are some people that have a big impact, and who knows, maybe that's you (or me).

We are interconnected, so we do have power to change things. I don't think the battle is just inside us either, we need to take the battle outside ourselves and be engaged with the larger world. I recognize that that's not easy for me and be realistic. I want to be as kind to you as I am kind to myself. Attaching myself doesn't help, and I can easily use my carbon imprint to attack myself, my lack of control over myself. I can extrapolate that to others, their lack of control. I think we all have a little Eliot Spitzer in us all. While fighting corruption, he himself is corrupt.

That doesn't mean he didn't do some good, and it's good to fight corruption in government. I think the poverty of the 3rd world makes corruption inevitable, and makes it so hard to help out there.

So I try to be the change I look for in the world, and try to lead others along with me, try to give my children a sense of the importance of the larger systems of the earth, give them a larger view of things. I am empathetic to ecological causes, but I'm also realistic about myself and others. I have all the parts of what everyone else has, so I think about the larger picture and I am selfish and destroy our world. There is inevitable destruction, but we could be a little more judicious and think about the issue. My plea is to think about the issues and live more consciously. It will send us on a road to saving the planet, but we need to go further, and I'm trying, we're trying. I see it, so keep up the good work, and reach for more.

Goodbye Conscious Mom

I wonder if blogging takes me away from more essential things, like relating face to face, meditation, exercise, being outside, cooking, cleaning, paying attention to my kids (not right now, they're at school). If I blog in spare moments, I'm not avoiding those things, I feel like I have the space. In those tiny spaces, I could rest, and not be so active, think.

It does help me to process what I'm learning and express myself. But I wonder if my energy could be better spent elsewhere. That's really an issue of time management and priorities.

I admire The Conscious Mom, who is closing down her blog. She's also signed off Facebook as well. The link will be dead, so you can look at it for the time being. I will miss seeing pictures of Maia, and having a kind of tangentle relationships with acquaintances and friends from far away. I do think long distance computer surveillance does have it's uses, and there's an article from the times that suggests that.

So while I admire what she's doing, I'm not ready to do it yet myself. I hope some day to get there. Gives me something to think about.

Meditation News

You can always go to Wildmind to see the latest in meditation news, but I'll pass on ones I read. I don't personally need any more validation for the fact that meditation is good, an amazing life changing activity, life enriching. I love talking meditation with others who meditate. Anywho, here's an article about why meditation is good.

Anne Harrington, a Harvard University history of science professor, says, "Long-term meditation rewires the brain and can make a person happier and maybe even healthier,"

Harrington said, "In a 1969 study conducted by Robert Keith Wallace, monks who had been meditating for 20 or 30 years showed levels of attentiveness that were 30 times higher than those of controls."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Kobat-Zinn on radical acceptance

via Danny Fisher

I think this is a simple but very hard to put in place idea, and is at the heart of mindfulness. You learn radical acceptance in meditation if you are there, because things arise and you just watch them, watch how you try to get them away, and watch how they pass away of their own accord. I love this idea, I need to watch this video every morning to let it's lessons sink in.

Sangharakshita has said that most people have enough Dharma and information to head towards enlightenment. It's the really knowing it and acting on it, and incorperating it.

list of Buddhist and Buddhish blogs by Danny

Danny has a list of Buddhist blogs.

What's the point of reading a bunch of Buddhist blogs? Hasn't Emmerson already told us the virtue of self reliance? That what and how we feel is really enough, we don't need to be validated by others, we don't need others to think for us.

On the one hand, we have to do it ourselves, nobody else can help move us closer to the Buddha. On the other hand, we're all interconnected, and the arising of the Bodhicitta is in the context of others. We need others to care about, to overwhelm us. It's another part of the dialectic of being a Buddhist, which includes withdrawal vs. engagement, self vs. other, indulgence vs. control, and so many more polar opposites.

Also beware the premature synthesis.

TV Review of show on Link TV

Not on my cable, but here's a review with a video of a show from the NY Times.

My feeling about Tibet is--when are the Chinese going to get out?! Reading the article, I can't imagine that somewhere someone in China doesn't have a twang of guilt and regret. Are they so entitled that they can just take countries? The silver lining is that I think the Dali Lama shows us how to react gracefully to this, without resorting to violence. Perhaps they can have another velvet revolution.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tejananda's system of meditation

from Dhammarati.

It's a nice graphical text representation about how meditation works in the FWBO. It may only be interesting to people in the FWBO. But I find it fascinating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Exploring the refuge tree of the FWBO, we come across Dilgo Khyentse. He has a lovely website that includes some written teachings.

I love his book The Hundred Verses of Advice.

The FWBO refuge tree is explained in this essay by Kulananda.

Here's a search on YouTube with his name, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, that includes many videos.

I'm not sure if it's legal, but here's a video of the movie by Matthieu Ricard called The Spirit of Tibet. He died in 1991 according to the video which is shown in 5 parts here. I watched the videos and there's lots of good footage of him, and gives some background to his importance.

Sangharakshita has a talk about him.


The Sutra of The Great Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva can be found on the Wikipedia entry by clicking on the hypertext. You can find others by googling it. The mantra for Ksitibarbha is "om ksitigarbha bodhisattva yah", according to Teachers of Enlightenment.

I'm not sure when I'll get around to reading that, honestly. I "discovered" Ksitigarbha on retreat a few months ago. I'm just following up my interest when I was reading Teachers of Enlightenment about Milarepa and checked out the entry on Ksitigarbha, which led to Meeting The Buddhas and checking out the Ksitigarbha entry there. Meeting The Buddhas is an amazing book, about all the Bodhisattvas, the mythical personifications of the qualities of enlightenment. Teachers of Enlightenment is about the FWBO refuge tree, the people on it.

I'm reading 100,000 Songs of Milarepa right now. I'm on the amazing chapter 28 and 29, which are a real highlight for me. At times the songs can seem boastful or lists of lists, but others phrases will catch me and I will feels the greatness of his songs.

If you don't know anything about Milarepa, drop everything and read about him. He's got a cool life story and he's amazing. He should be part of any basic human cultural awareness, whether you're a Buddhist or not. Here is a version of his life story with pictures.

It's a huge book and I pick it up and put it down. I've been dragging my feet to write a review of The Yogi's Joy. I just feel overwhelmed by the greatness of the book. So I thought I would read through all of the songs just to give me the confidence to read the book a 3rd time, and really attempt a review.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I didn't get up there for the artwork done by Tibettans, but here's a link to some photos on the web, a Buddhist mother's blog that I follow.

7 years in Tibet guy's photos

Here's a link to the guy who wrote Seven Years In Tibet, and his photos from them.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

list of fiction

Danny has come up with another interesting list of Buddhist fiction. I have to say I've only read 4 of the books mentioned here--I'm aghast. Lost of books to order! Thank you Danny.

Friday, September 05, 2008

list of memiors

The incomparable blogger Danny Fisher has blogged a list of Buddhist of memoirs that is useful. I added Precious Teachers by Sangharakshita.


The Dhammapada is a book of saying from the Pali Cannon. The Pali Cannon is what the monks could remember of what they memorized from what the Buddha said, written down hundreds of years later.

The Dhammapada was the first book from the Pali Cannon that I was introduced to. It makes excellent reading for a father at the park with his children, because I can read a few sentences, walk away and return. Of course more concentrated reading of it is advised, but of all the Pali Cannon, I find it the best for going to the park. I took a picture of my copy against the playground.

There are over 50 translations listed on the Wikipedia entry about the Dhammapada, but they don't list the free one by Sangharakshita that can be gotten here. It is a PDF file.

My reading style, because I'm a parent and character style, isn't as concentrated. When Sangharakshita wrote A Survey of Buddhism, his famous magnum opus, he talked about looking at the breadth and depth of Buddhism. I'm afraid I'm not as deep and insightful, but I am more able to follow the breadth of study. I like to read a lot. I am working to read more deeply and closely, to linger and not be so fickle in my reading. But reading (potentially, possibly) the words of the Buddha (in translation) is for me a way of keeping my eye on the Dharma. I am a worldling, and worldings forget, they get wrapped up in the world, forget the dharma. The Dhammapada addresses the motivation and concentration one needs to keep the continuity of purpose to work towards closing the distance between the Buddha and me, which is my goal.

As I finish off the book today, I know it will come back in my rotation soon, because it's pithy sayings fit nicely into my spending time at the park with my kids. I hope I can linger more, work to grok the sayings. Some feel more true than others, some energize me more. So I'll use those, but I'll also strive to glean more out of the ones I don't really cotton to, yet. There are 423 sayings in Sangharakshita's translation to choose from. It's been said if you really understand even just one of these sayings, you can become enlightened. So I shall strive for greater depth.

This is also in line with the idea that I probably have been exposed to enough Dharma to be enlightened, I just need to really understand it. "More and more of less and less," is one of the mottoes of the FWBO. We live in an age of probably over 60 English translations of the Dhammapada. I only need one.

Having said that, study is an important part of my practice. Not so much what I learn, but in the deepening of my understanding of the way things really are.
The process of grappling with what past and present masters have written is a way of keeping my head in the game, as they say. I like it that the FWBO is ecumenical, meaning inclusive and nondenominational. I can read all the Buddhist literature, and don't define a small subset as the true Dharma.

And yet I do like to go back to the Pali Cannon. And I do go back to Sangharakshita's teachings as a touchstone. I choose his translation over others. I have not had much time to explore other movements, as much as I am interested in reading leaders books. I have spent my Buddhist life inside the FWBO, and while it's not perfect, I had a feeling the other day that I have such strong, long and deep connections with friends in the FWBO, that I'm not really looking for another sangha.

Vessantara and Kamalashila have talks on Free Buddhist Audio about the dangers and virtues of exploring other teachers and sanghas. Kamalashila suggests investing 10 years at least in one sangha in his talk. Vessantara has always consulted with Sangharakshita, and been given permission to explore other teachers, he reports in this talk.

I think feeling the tension of opposite ideas is a key that you're onto something. Depth vs. breadth, fidelity vs. promiscuity, engagement vs. withdrawal, self vs. others. Sangharakshita warns against premature synthesis.

I hope to highlight verses from the Dhammapada that I liked, in the future, but I wanted to write a general bit first about the Dhammapada.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

solitary retreat videos

I went on a solitary retreat last February. It was lovely.

Here's a video of Suvarnaprabha while she was on a solitary retreat, speaking to the video camera spontaneously.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I found some maps of Buddhism in the world at Wikipedia. Basically it's in the east. It's not completely updated, but interesting graphic representation none the less.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

video about Tibet that's not long

Judaism and Buddhism

Judaism is a beautiful religion. I've read The Gift of the Jews. My step-father is Jewish, and I went to some Seders. I went to camp Shalom one summer and learned how to sing Hava Nagila. I worked for 12 years at a school that had holidays for the Jewish calender, and another agency that was owned by someone who was Jewish. An uncle also is Jewish. I live in New York City which Jesse Jackson famously called Heimie-Town. I even live on the edge of a more orthodox neighborhood, where ironically my step-father grew up (considering we met in Madison Wisconsin, and more importantly my mother met). I have some Jewish friends who I don't see enough of.

Which is a long winded way of saying why I like this link, that Sarah Jessica Parker is the latest Jew-Bu.

Here's a quote from the article: "What’s a Jew-Bu? ‘It’s a synthesis of Judaism and Buddhism intended to grasp the best of both religions,’ explains one Hollywood power-player who has been a Jew-Bu for the past decade. ‘It combines Buddhist thought with Jewish theology and structure, in effect incorporating Buddhist traditions such as meditation and chanting into traditional Judaism.’"

And here's a quote about famous Jew-Bu's: "Famous entertainment industry Jew-Bu’s include Leonard Cohen, Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Jerry Seinfeld, Gwynneth Paltrow, Larry David, Jeff Goldblum, Al Franken and Whoopie Goldberg, among others."

Another interesting quote: "Chogyan Trungpa, to talk about forming the Oy Vey school of Meditation."

Also, Lama Surya Das is famously raised Jewish and converted to Buddhism. Same with Jack Kornfeld

Here's another post on the JuBu phenomenon. In the article it says in the FWBO Kulamitra is of Jewish origins.

peace prize

My first link to a Korean site. Lokamitra won a prize for his work with the ex-untouchables in India. Here's a link to a Korean video about it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Parenting article in Tricycle

"In some ways, it feels as if incorporating children (and other human realities) into Buddhist practice is the last frontier for most practice centers, modeled as they are on a rarified, monastery-inspired retreat model (which, incidentally, is a specialized activity even in Buddhist countries)."

Read here.

Following link, I found a Dharma games site.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

history of FWBO video

I haven't seen it yet, but I will watch this about 45 minute video, on the history of the FWBO.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sunday, July 27, 2008


So I asked for ordination into the Wester Buddhist Order several years ago, and they have retreats for the men about once a year. This year the retreat was held at Jikoji. It was lead by Dhammarati, who did a wonderful job. We studied the eight point mind training.

One revelation on the retreat was to find out more about Ksitigarbha. The retreat was on bodhicitta, and I learned a new meditation to facilitate that. Because my last retreat was solitary, I found it was easier to take refuge in the sangha.

The word vipaka was used a lot. It's the fruit of karma.

Also, I was mortified to find out I was the only one who didn't know what Quinoa was. Turns out it's nutritional content is good, it is a more complete protein.

Bookending the trip was a visit to my father and stepmother in Livermore. Tomorrow I fly home and I look forward to being reunited with my wife and children.

Friday, July 18, 2008


In searching trichiliocosm, I found Rigpa Wiki, which is, "an online encyclopedia and media library of Tibetan Buddhist teachings designed especially for students of Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche."

I'm reading Conze's The Perfection of Widson in Eight Thousand Lines, which came out in 1958. I bought the book, but you can find a PDF file of it here.

In thinking about my approach to the upcoming retreat that begins at 3pm today, I quote the following verses from the The Perfection of Widson in Eight Thousand Lines:

If someone would say, ‘On condition that you have shattered Mount Sumeru,
You will be one who will attain to the foremost enlightenment.’
And if he [then] effects a thought of fatigue or limitation [to his efforts],
Then that Bodhisattva is affected by indolence.

But when there arises to him the mindful thought, ‘That is nothing difficult.
In a mere moment Sumeru [will] break up into dust,’
Then the wise Bodhisattva becomes one who puts forth vigour.
Before long he will attain the foremost enlightenment of the Leaders.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Comedy and the lama


I'm visiting my father and step-mother before the retreat. They are kind and good hosts. Meditating is OK with them, they give me space to prepare for my retreat. I'm adjusting to the time zone, recovering from the flight. I'm excited to begin tomorrow.

I'm enjoying a memior called Turtle Feet, about a guys time as a monk in Dharmasala. It's Jack Kerouac without the booze, more intelligent and really spiritual, but with the intense over the top friend, and the odd assortment of characters.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


My ride will be outside in 5 minutes. I'm sad to leave my family. I'm tired from all my responsibilities. I'm excited to go on a trip, to see the guys, to be on retreat. I felt the mindfulness increasing as a kind of anticipation of retreat. Six years isn't a long time, but I have done retreats every year and in the early years I did a lot of retreats before the kids came along.

I was talking at work about how it's hard to lift up the responsibilities when I return from retreat. Time passes, I know, and soon enough I will be back. To be mindful through it all is my goal, and to spend time with friends. One pointed and in the moment, flexible and kind. Open and willing. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

sexy waiting

Batchelor writes in Living With The Devil, "The practice of waiting is to learn how to rest in the nirvanic ease of contingent things. yet waiting is not passive inaction any more than emptiness is nothingness. As an alert stillness that cradles perplexity, it is the ground from which we can respond in unpredictable ways to life's unfolding and the inevitable encounter with others." p 117.

It's been suggested that my path is that of the perfection of patience, so I thought this was interesting. My friend intimated something similar, surprisingly.


Stephen Batchelor's book, Living With the Devil, is really good. He's talking about the metaphor of the path, and notes that in other languages you can say "pathing" as a verb.

He write, "The art of creating a path is to do neither too much nor too little." There are many great quotes about path. Tomorrow I go on a sangha hike with Alyssa and Maria, so the term path is even more poignant. I might xerox some pages to read while we're on the hike.

We were lucky enough for Batchelor to agree to meet with the NYC FWBO sangha, when he was in town promoting the book, and he was generous enough to give our sangha a copy of the book. I never got my hands on it, even though I was generous enough to share it when he handed it to me. I broke down and bought a copy for myself. He's one of my favorite Buddhist authors. I highly recommend his books, and especially this one.

Also of note, there are some good talks of his on the Upaya web site, in the podcasts. He also share some talks on his site.

The incomparable Bodhipaksa reviews Batchelor's most famous book Buddhism Without Belief on Wildmind. I couldn't help but add my 2 cents reading his review...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh has so many books, I read a few, but then I think I've pretty much seen the scope. But I saw on Marsha Linehan's list of recommended books, one of his books which I hadn't read, and got it: The Miracle of Mindfulness. I would put it amongs the classics of mindfulness: Living With Awareness by Sangharakshita, and Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. Shunryu Suzuki is the subject of a new DVD which Bodhipaksa reviews on Wildmind.

It's a beautiful book to savor, reread, meditate on, to try and grok.