OK, so I'm no restaurant critic. But I want to notice the good vegetarian restaurants in NYC because it's not easy to be a vegetarian. I struggle, I have to call myself a semi-vegetarian at this point. I come home exhausted, and the food that's leftover has meat in it. I know I create demand when I eat it, so maybe I need to go firm again. Another strand is that I'm trying to respond more genuinely and not so pressured, so I want it to come from my heart, which might be a cop of but is what I'm going through in my struggles to evolve to a complete vegetarian. I do home to evolve to not even using eggs or milk.
The first restaurant is a romantic favorite: Dani's. It's a special place for my wife and I. I had the pumpkin ravioli last night and I love it. They also have a very good beer selection, I get Three Philosophers. It's the one restaurant I don't mind waiting for a table. And you have to, we went there Monday at 5:15pm, and it was full up (though we got a table). Also it's a good date night place, because there's a cool movie theater there with independent films.
I love Buddha Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant. I usually get the fake chicken. I think my criticism of this place is that I don't want fake meat, I want vegetarian food, but that's a small matter. A plus to this place is that it has a parking lot! Also next door is an India grocery where you can get some good breads.
There are so many Indian Food restaurants. My friend who moved to Canada, used to like to go to Jackson Diner, which is often rated well. I liked it before it became so famous and remodeled, but maybe it was already famous then. It's a bit of a warehouse. You can go next door and get roughly the same meal, but somehow I go there.
Next is Dojo's in Manhattan. I have spent so many good sangha meals there. Also it's very affordable. I get the Hijiki Tofu Dinner which is $4.95. I often substitute french fries for the more healthy rice. It is centrally located off Broadway on 4th Street in the NYU neighborhood, near where we have sangha night and practice days in Soho.
If you want variety, then the buffet at Temple in the Village, is for you. The Japanese-American family that runs this place is polite. I get a little of every green thing there. With the buffet you can get what ever you like. I used to go there when I went to NYU and I've met sangha there as well. Great place. Very healthy.
Uptown, near Columbia, where the highest concentration of NYC sangha resides (2 people makes a concentration) is this lovely cheap restaurant, Roti Roll. One guy I overheard, didn't like the cleanliness of the place, but I haven't seen anything dirty. Yummy roti rolls!
For more money, in the same neighborhood, and another favorite sangha hangout, where I've spent lovely times with visiting order members, is Awash. This Ethiopian restaurant serves you the food on bread that you rip off and grab the food with. A lovely tactile experience, you eat with your hands.
No restaurant review of NYC is complete without Zen Palate. Their location off Union Square makes it good place to eat when you're there.
On 6th Street, between 1st and 2nd is a kind of Little India, but supposedly it's more Bangladeshi. I usually like Ghandi Indian Restaurant.
So these are the restaurants with vegetarian options which I really enjoy in my neck of the woods in Queens, upper west side near Columbia and around NYC. These restaurants make it easy to be a vegetarian. I wish there were more like them.
"Meditation takes gumption." p.7 of Bhante Genepola Gunaranta's Mindfulness in Plain English.
I've taken a bit of a Dharma holiday, and by that I mean a holiday away from the Dharma. I often try to surround my life with the Dharma through meditation, listening to Dharma talks, reading, spending time with friends by various means.
What happens if I stopped that, and saw what suck, reminded myself of what I lose when I don't do those things?
What happens is I don't feel as healthy, aware, centered, honoring what is important to me. I feel like I've lost my vision, I'm adrift, unmoored.
It's a bit of a crisis for me. How do I get it back? I'm going to have a big powerful retreat in a month and I really want to build up to it. In part I'm exhausted from work and family life, but I'm also not doing the most nourishing things I could be doing.
Another strand, is that reading The Essential Sangharakshita, I wonder if I can whip up the requisite intensity. This landmark book carries the most intense bits of Sangharakshita's corpus. I felt like I had to wear oven mits to hold the book. Can I sustain that amidst my ambition to be a good father, to be a good therapist to my patients? I have divided my energies into three big projects. Maybe they have synergy between them.
So another strand is the question, can I infuse what feels nonspiritual with the spiritual? Can I get spiritual nourishment from work and family life? I think the answer is yes, but it really works most when I surround myself with the other supports, like meditation, friendship and study.
So reading this quote this morning from Bhante Genepola Gunaranta helped me. I got up and meditated. I realized that what I'm trying to do isn't the usual thing, but that it's the thing for me, and that I really need confidence in my path, that I'm learning even as I try experiments that fail.
I think also I've kind of thrown myself into the Dharma willy nilly. I want to target myself more, be more judicious, really cull the wisdom I have gained about what's truly nourishing.
I've notice sometimes in myself and others, they can take the insights and use them to feel dispirited, when they could easily be empowering. Maybe my little experiment has shown me what is really important to me. I must do the best I can under the circumstances and work to improve the circumstances.
"You can make a great deal of effort, but if it does not include an effort to create more favorable conditions, you are almost wasting your energy. On the other hand, you can be in the most favorable conditions imaginable, but if you are not making an effort, what use are those conditions? Both are necessary." THE ESSENTIAL SANGHARAKSHITA page 629
First I’d like to indicate what is for me simpatico, before I review.
"There is never going to be a kind of spiritual welfare state. The goal for everyone is to be oneself a creator of a Pure Land, not an endless consumer of spiritual goodies." (p112 Living Ethically by Sangharakshita).
From the Dhammapada (p.44 Gil Fronsdale edition):
“Purity and impurity depend on oneself; No one can purify another” River of Fire, River of Water by Taitetsu Unno is subtitled “An Introduction to the Pure Land tradition of Shin Buddhism”
My initial instinct is that I don’t want to chant a mantra to be reborn in Amitabha’s pure land, that feels too much like praying to get into heaven. But I like Blofeld’s quoting another in saying, “"All the sects are like beads on one rosary." (From Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin). So my question is what can I learn about the devotional from this tradition?
One thing I don’t like about Pure Land is mappo (as posted earlier). Even if you could prove it, and I don’t think you can, I think it has a whiff of a self-defeating idea. We can create our own pure lands.
The idea that meditation is elitist is also suspect (p.3). To say one aspect of Buddhism is superior is restrictive, reductive. Pragmatically for a person, that’s fine, but to state categorically shows a little sense of objectivity about the Buddhist tradition and the path of others. It seems true that if you focus just on mantra recitation you will develop that ability more. But restricting one’s practice to only one item of practice when there are so many feels artificial. It was a development perhaps about the rigidity of the situation in Japan at the time.
The idea that garbage is good, that you can ease into reality by just dropping all the intellectual stuff, and just being devotional is appealing. But you have to be careful not to just rewrite bad as good.
I have to admit that I prefer confrontation to consolation in spirituality.
I don’t feel the connection between the mantra and all the powers he attributes to it—that you appreciate the negatives and accept them; That you raise above your small self with “other power”. He does talk about good things, and it is good to accept yourself fully and work to grow beyond your small self. In a way this book felt like Subhuti’s withdrawn book Women, Men and Angels; It’s exquisitely argued, but I wonder why. If Pure Land eschews the elitist intellectual, than why use their language? I feel like poetry would be more persuasive. Milarepa eschews the academic lamas of his time, and so he sings songs. Feels bizarre to have a well reasoned intellectual justification of devotion. In Sangharakshita’s Ritual and Devotion, I felt like the book wasn’t intellectual, it was just persuasive.
I have to say I do like it that Buddhism appreciates it’s rebels, it’s heretics. Shinran and Honen broke with a rigid tradition, so in a way I appreciate their innovative spirit.