Friday, December 31, 2010

spiritual books

So I'm enjoying a spiritual book by a friend in my spiritual community. He's ahead on the path, but we're in the same community. He's done years of meditation, friendship and study. I come along and pick up his book, and I can glean some of the insights he has developed. He's picked up some modern research to see if the results jive with current findings and lo and behold they do, he's found many many interesting studies. He's gleaned insights from an advance meditation practice.

So my question is, is that fair, or is it spiritual bypassism. John Welwood has, to my knowledge, coined this phrase. Where you use spirituality to not change, you just quickly and quietly incorporate this new system into your personality structure.

Is it fair for a person to go up the mountain for years of spiritual work, and then when he comes down we ask him all our pressing questions. They've put in some serious work, and you skip along and say, "hey, I don't want to do that kind of work yet, but can you just give me the secret and I'll skip the work please."

On the other hand, we learn from our elders, those ahead of us, that is a good thing. We seek guidance, and perhaps we're not trying to skip any work, but we just want to find some inspiration and mould our insights and clarify our vision of where we truly want to head.

I suppose the difference between the two is the approach to the book, whether it's a fickle fad, or whether it's the tenacious patient approach of a mature spiritual aspirant who has chosen one's tradition. And even if you're a dilettante or still on your spiritual journey of exploration to see what best fits you, that's OK too.

I feel the pull to go deeper, really commit to my spiritual life, and not get so swept up into irrelevant things. I want to simplify my life, unplug from distracting technology, and be alive as possible. At times I'm tired, and want lighter fare, lack of intensity.

As much as I like Living As A River, he's riffing off a meditation practice I mostly do on retreat, and is meant to be practiced in the run up to ordination, according to the system of meditation developed by Sangharakshita. I don't have a large enough well of metta to practice it regularly. Even if I am in harmony with the ideas and conclusions of his profound book, have I put in the work to really put into place his suggestions and really loosen up my ideas of self, to dwell in mindfulness and kindness more consistently and deeply? Sangharakshita has a quote to the effect that if the average westerner put into practice 10% of what they "knew" they would be doing good. Am I putting what I believe into practice. We are always not exactly there, we're unfinished projects in process, which is fine.

There's always a balance between pushing myself along and attacking myself when I'm in a depressive mood. If I dismiss spiritual ideals, I become poor, untethered, there is nothing to disentangle, no path to head on. If I use the ideals to beat myself up, I'm just reinforcing my own pathologies and smallness. If I use my ideals to spur myself along, then I use them properly, neither holding them too tightly nor too loosely.

So as I head into the new year, I wish to recommit to meditation, spiritual friendship, study of the word of the Buddha, continued ethical reflections based on the ten precepts, simplifying life, living mindfully and kindly, with an ever increasing appreciation for the reality and conditions, meanwhile keeping an eye on the transcendental as my reference point.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


In Living As A River, Bodhipaksa writes, "The Effects of loneliness on health are so powerful that isolation is as bad for you as smoking cigarettes" (p248)

This winter I've noticed two kinds of loneliness this holiday season. Family loneliness and friend loneliness. One patient has no family but has friends, so Xmas is hard, but New Years is not. Another patient has family but not the chum group he desires, so Xmas is fine but New Years is a crisis.

Ever since I went to social work school the effects of a positive social network have been trumped, and I find myself trying to sell the need for a network to my isolated patients. A friend of mine even said that in the 70's there was a book that essentially said that therapy was for these types of people, though I have the other type, manic hyper-verbal, charismatic as well. They suffer from affect regulation issues, though in a pro-social way, and are usually tolerated by others, though in a crucial way others have not yet helped them to completely manage their emotions and they suffer from self invalidation and obsessions. Alas trauma can clip the wings of the very gifted as well.

Just before the above quote, Bodhipaksa was writing about mirror neurons, which I first read about in Philip Bromberg.

I was just wondering whether people with autism don't have mirror neurons, a dot I have not connected when he speculated that they don't. I have two Aspergers type children, whom I work to draw them out into a shared reality, or more connected with others reality, when their own internal worlds are so vivid, much more vivid than the external world.

So I vote for Living AS A River as the best book of 2010. Bodhipaksa talks about so many different and interesting studies. One I keep coming back to is the idea that was literally can't imagine our non-being because the use of our imagination injects ourselves into things and to not inject ourselves into non-being leads to an inability of not grasping existing.

Now there's always a danger I'm riffing off someone, not in their intentions, but I think Bodhipaksa was making this point about our imaging our own non-existence.

There's a meditation on a corpse, and I've done a meditation set in the Bodies exhibit set up by Tricycle some years ago. I can imagine a world where I don't exist, but in my imagining, my existence is kind of implicit. Our knowledge of the world is through our senses and the stories we tell about that input. But imagine no input? That is hard. Sleep is the closest thing to that, we gratefully (mostly) close our eyes and fall into a temporary slumber of non-existence. And yet we dream, and wake up a little bit. It's no surprise death is called The Big Sleep, which is also the title of a famous Raymond Chandler novel.

I was watching the PBS documentary on the Buddha, which is quite beautiful in much of the artistic images it shows about the Buddha's life. Thinking about the 4 sights, illness, old age, death and the spiritual seeker.

As I get swept up into my worldly life, I am more and more conscious about how I am distracted from my death. Illness happens occasionally, and apparently there's a terrible virus going around NYC. I have suffered for a full week with the worst virus I've ever had. I kept wanting to say last words in case I didn't wake up, I felt a lot of self pity for what turned out not to be my sickness into death. I kept telling myself, this is preparation, practice, I can learn to do this better. If there's one thing you notice, it's when some people are sick they feel a little entitled, they grasp at what they feel they lost out in life, they become childlike in a not so flattering way. Getting sick gracefully isn't easy.

At 43 old age is becoming more and more imaginable. I had a beer at a bar, where the bartender was born while I was a Junior in college, I was twice her age. I was in a grocery store, and I said, "are young teenage women taking over the world," because all the cashiers were teenage women. I'm imagining old, though I easily forget all my visits to nursing homes. I have unvivid trace memories, but I can remember the feeling of horror and revulsion at seeing people grimly holding onto life past it's usefulness.

I'm seeing more clearly the actions to my consequences, that my youthful outlook and denial help me to overlook.

The holy life was at one time attractive to me, I yearned for escape into a monastery. I think that was escapism. Now I think I see more clearly the feet to the fire aspect of that way of living and I'm a little scared.

It was such an awesome thing that the Buddha went forth.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Regret to inform you of the passing of Vidyajyoti

She passsed away this morning, a few days short of her 72nd birthday. Here's a video of her.

She was a traveler who visited NYC frequently, and the NYC sangha appreciated her valued presence, she will be missed.

The official announcement.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Living As A River

I found a link to Bodhipaksa's original essay on the 6 elements in Tricycle.

He's getting amazing reviews on Amazon. "Bodhpaksa's book is literally the most amazing thing I have ever read, period - and I'm a well read guy, I've studied Carl Jung's writings, dozens of books on spirituality and volumes on Cosmology and Astronomy. I can honestly write tha...t I have never read anything that left me with such a sense of clarity..."

I have to agree. I've stalled a little bit on the chapters I've already read, but I'm voting it for book of the year.

I'm going to have to go on line and update his entry on Wikipedia, there are some inaccuracies. It could use a photo too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2 links

I wanted to share a link about a personal spiritual journey. There are 5 posts, and you can find the other links off this one. It's a personal account of a retreat, by a fellow I've met before who is an interesting guy.

The second link is a book review. This is a blog by Marnie Louise Froberg, a Canadian who lives in northern India who is open to all schools of Buddhism.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Those who say that the Buddha himself partook of flesh calumniate him.

(Sangharakshita in The Eternal Legacy, p193)
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Lankavatara Sutra

I found this book on my shelf and gave it a first read through. I noted that Sangharakshita hasn't done a seminar on it, while he's done many seminars on Mahayana Sutras. When you listen to the brief two comments on Free Buddhist Audio, he just summarizes it, and does not linger on it. He seems to know about it. He says it's a yogacara sutra, important in Ch'an Buddhism and very influential.

Padmavajra says it's a complex and rich sutra, and a grab bag, and reiterates what Sangharakshita says, that it was Bodhidharma's favorite sutra.

I read the "Epitomized" version, based on DT Suzuki's translation, compiled and edited by Dwight Goddard, which unfortunately cuts out the chapter on vegetarianism, which I was looking forward to reading. Another chapter is cut out as well. Other versions are more expensive, and here are versions on line, check out the Wikipedia page on the Lankavatara Sutra.

Perhaps it was good for me to read this streamlined version, because it is quite a complicated text. I can't say I got it, but there were times when I was reading it that I felt something strongly stirring in me, and it had an effect on me. I would like to study it more in depth.

I'm not a idealist, though as time goes on and on, I forget about the world of truth and move more towards the world of subjectivity. In a crucial way, we do make the world with our minds. When you work with a couple in therapy, the biggest foe to harmony is one's perception of truth. If you can get the couple to appreciate the other person's subjective reality and listen to their experience, then there's a better shot of blending together, instead of fighting it out for the truth, even though I often agree with the truth seeker. There's a school of psychoanalysis called intersubjectivist, and Wikipedia lists Stephen Mitchell as one, I'm not sure if that's true, but I'm dying to read Jessica Benjamine.

Looking on Goodreads, I find only 3 members comments on it, one longer one and two short comments. I was aghast when a commercial played on goodreads, so I'm not recommending that site any more. Anyone know a book social media site that is commercial free?

More importantly I'd appreciate any good links about the Lankavatara Sutra, as I try to learn more about this sutra. Seems very important and I'm surprised there's not more on line about it. I'm a bit hesitant to read Suzuki's book on it, outside the expense, because of a recent negative evaluation of him in the Western Buddhist Review, which has a new issue out by the way!

I will note Jayarava's essay on his excellent blog.

Also The Eternal Legacy has a chapter on the sutra, which I will read now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Parents quotes from the Anguttara Nikaya

From page 42-43 of the Thera and Bodhi anthology of the Anguttara Nikaya, the Numberical Discourses of the Buddha:

"...there are two persons one can never repay. What two? One's mother and father."

He goes on to suggest that if you carried them on your back for 100 years, that would not pay them back. Then he says:

"Parents do much for their children: they bring them up, feed them and guide them through this world."

can't figure out how to write in a book on goodreads

I want to write Living As A River as book of the year on Goodreads, in Firefox there is a box, but when I click it doesn't send it. And on Chrome it doesn't even show the write in box. So I don't like only having the preselected choices, and the fact that their websites don't work on two popular browsers. Not sure why I'm pasting their code into my blog, maybe you can have more success voting for your favorite book.

Vote for this book!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


"...sloppy thinking may even hinder one's spiritual development." P. 159
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Monday, December 06, 2010


Free Buddhist Audio is an evolving website. Recently they have put up more audios, as they allow people to upload talks from their centers: Aryaloka, Manchester, LBC. This has unlocked series from the vaults and perhaps more were just coming out like a historical series, one by Sona and one by Ratnaguna and a bunch of talks on the refuge tree.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Legend of Buddha 2004 animation movie

One day searching I found an animation movie about the Buddha's life. It seemed like it might be appropriate for my children, but alas, it was $40 used on Amazon.

Today I was searching for it on Netflicks, hoping to find it, so I could get it. It's not even listed on Netflicks, not by the director or the two lead actors.

All I could find out about it was that it was made in India, and came out in 2004. India submitted it to the Oscars for India in 2005. IMDB doesn't have much info on it, nor does Amazon. One article says it cost $1.5 to make.

A quick look at the google results shows torrents are available, but I see little critical attention. I found a version on YouTube, and watched it. See the first one of 12 sections below, and read further to see my review, which might make you not want to watch it. I think the scant commentary on the internet, the crickets show that it's not well received. The one review I did find was lame, simpleminded.

Review: I found the beginning fantastical, over the top, sensationalist. Great, draw the kids in so they will enjoy the show.

But the inaccuracies made the movie not even worth it on that level. He only saw 3 sights before he decided to leave? The dialogue was hokey and cliche riddled. Macalinda protects him from rain before he gets enlightened? Mara visits him as he's leaving his father's palace? The woman just walks up and offers him milk, he doesn't almost drown first? Did they have any actual Buddhist consultants on the movie?

I took offense to this movie. I was hoping to find a cool movie that I could show my kids. This is not the one. No wonder there are crickets on the internet about it, and no wonder it's so hard to find information about it. Avoid it unless you enjoy picking out inaccuracies, or even pointing out the spiritual simplicity of it. Unsmooth story line, weird animation, and just an over all lack of not getting Buddhism. The search for good material for my children continues. What a disappointment.

I'm going to try the PBS special next, which I hear was good, but probably not for children. I know Clear Vision released some stuff for children, so I'll check that out too.

I think many Buddhist were afraid to slam the movie, right speech and all. My goal is to evaluate it so people decide whether to invest time watching it, and hopefully save them time and possible money and internet downloading time. The movie wasn't worth it, avoid!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

two books connect in practitioners mind

I'm trying to read two books as quickly as I can so I can review them. But they are both so awesome, I find myself slowing down to fully grasp the profundity.

One is Living As A River. As I meditated this morning, I thought about the dust mites eating my discarded skin, making my studio apartment less dusty in fact.

The second book is Face Martin's Endless Path. This book is the best book I've ever read about the Jataka Tales.

He was talking about the tale where a past Buddha to be, gave himself to a hungry tiger, as meat. In seeing yourself as meat, you radically deconstuct the pompus self, similar to the deconstruction of the self in the six element practice, like in Living As A River.

In the second tale in Martin's wonderful book, I came across a stunning tale that was much more worldly. I won't tell it to you, but must just refer you to this excellent book.

Also Bodhipoksa has an interview here, which you can listen to. And here that you can read.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Flaxseed spread!

What does flaxseed spread have to do with my spiritual journey, you ask?

Well a friend of mine who works for a wonderful non-profit, which helps businesswomen, gave me a free sample of Laxmi's flaxseed spread. I put it on bread and it was yummy. The story is that she wanted a healthy alternative to peanut butter, which has too much salt, sugar and fat. The flaxseed spread is high in omega 3 and high in fiber. Tastes good too. I tried it and it was good.

So some yummy vegetarian treat is something to rejoice in! Check out Laxmi's website. I think finding creative dishes for the vegetarian is important, helps one reduce unkindness.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

worst horse found this video

Living As A River quote

"Only 1 percent of the genes in the human body are human." p. 159

"We are more virus than we are human: or to put another way, to be human is to be mostly viral. At a genetic level, you are mostly not you." p. 161

Monday, November 29, 2010


"You are a recycled star, become aware." P. 135 Living As A River by Bodhipaksa.

Monday, November 22, 2010

bodhisattva vow

Sentient beings are numberless
We vow to liberate them
Delusions are inexhaustible
We vow to transcend them
Dharma teachings are boundless
We vow to master them
The Buddha's enlightenment is unsurpassable
We vow to embody it.
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Friday, November 19, 2010

fail photo link

Things That Are Doing It: Buddha FAIL - Epic Fail Funny Videos and Funny Pictures
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So I went on a retreat at Aryaloka a few weeks ago on the 6 paramitas, and we reflected on what we think was generous in others and what we had done that was generous.

I got Endless Path in the mail the other day and have enjoyed the introduction. I could tell I would like this student, friend and editor of Philip Kapleau. Full disclosure, I haven't finished his classic text The Three Pillars of Zen.

I like Zen, but sometimes I feel like it's too ethnic and sometimes it can be a kind of willfully aped style, that just isn't natural to me. I am meaning to go to the local Ch'an center just to learn about another sangha and to supplement things when my fledgling sangha doesn't have any program and I want something. My home sangha is the TBC, and I've explored outside it very little, but I want to being out more in the world of Buddhism. If I lived in England I could live in the heart of the TBC. In many places you can really get involved. San Fransisco has a booming TBC center. They might be starting a retreat center too, soon, I think they just bought a place outside SF. (And of course Manjuvajra founded Boston, Aryaloka and SF in his time in America, check out his deep video.)

Anyway, back to Dana, or generosity. In the first chapter of the Endless Path by Rafe Martin, he talks about generosity, and the example is sacrificing oneself to a tiger so the tiger can feed herself and their cubs. It's a pretty steep expectation.

I have blown myself out for my boys, for family, friends and patients, and in a way I get the feel of this. I was thinking about the stress parenting causes, and how it feels to literally shorten one's life due to stress, and to not be bitter about that or complain. You know the parents who blame their children for heart attacks or their own problems with life (literally true, I have a patient who's father blames her for a heart attack he had). Open handed generosity is a gift without strings. So much of what we give is in the hopes of return or because we can't get out of it. But to be really generous and not expect anything from it, that is even more generous.

To give, and allow people to be themselves, not to give to try to modify someone. A woman on retreat said she gave a single mother money to buy her children clothes and the woman went off to California for a week. She shrugged her shoulders, and said, "that's probably what she needed more than clothes for her children." To trust other people in their own autonomy and self determination. It's so easy to think we know better. I had a patient who was very upset talking about a friend who was a high powered business woman, and gave it all up to be a clown. She did not trust her friend to follow her heart, she could not imagine that being a clown could in any way be being true to oneself.

The desire to have other people not be other than who they are, is a kind of generosity. I struggle with someone who I want to have different thoughts and feelings, because they impinge on me.

There's also the question of idiot compassion. Sometimes help can be enabling, or not even useful. I can't tell you how many times people have given me things I don't actually want, that is a burden to take, not just an inconvenience. So we have to be in tune with people, though to be sure, mistakes in trying to be generous are probably less worse than mistakes in selfishness, we probably make those more often.

One of the reasons I'm so burnt out after a day of work is that I give myself, give who and what I am. But mostly it's about my patients, so I really have to be careful when I'm talking about myself, I have some narcissism, and I really want the sessions to be about my patients. Giving my attention, really trying to listen deeply and compassionately takes a lot of energy. I sometimes feel like I'm just an energy philanthropist. I give my energy to my kids, to my clients, to my friends and family. When I do things for myself, it's so that I can give some more. Compensatory indulgences are just emotional soothing, trying to repair myself to get back into the game, even if some of them are not as nourishing as I think they are.

When we break down the barriers between self an other, we can give more openhandedly. When the container is bigger, it's just a natural thing. I think in Manjuvajra's video, in my previous post, he's grown up, renunciation for him isn't a painful giving up. Similarly generosity is a kind of growing up that sees our inter-being and just does what mindfulness makes obvious when you are closer to reality and not all up in your mind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

self video

Living As A River.

So I want to bang out a wonderful review of this book, but I'm finding that it's so rich that I like to linger over it. So many interesting tidbits, food for thought. It's the kind of book I read after meditation, camping or on retreat. I have to be ready for it.

(I once had to read a book 3 times to review it.)

I wonder at why the 6 element practice is so challenging for me, I freaked out once when I was doing it a lot, after a profound meditative experience of it on retreat. In the TBC it's mostly used up in the run to joining the order, but it's also taught early so you are familiar with it, and just because you can get close to your experience in any meditation and this is just another one. Anyway, I keep asking myself why is tearing the self apart so threatening?

But the book is more intellectual, so it's not really a meditation book, in a way. I think it has larger appeal, and it really is opening up my ideas about the self.

You can listen to Bodhipaksa on Free Buddhist Audio.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

video about painting of Bante

from Triratna Buddhist Community Blog

informal review on goodreads

Learning from the Heart: Lessons on Living, Loving, and ListeningLearning from the Heart: Lessons on Living, Loving, and Listening by Daniel Gottlieb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I eschew self help type books. The line between insipid simplifications and positive suggestions is so thin. I would not naturally pick a book like his up.

Sometimes I like a simple obvious inspirational books, and I've taken a run at quite a few.

I feel pretty full of facts and information, or not want the challenge of a more theoretical book. I'm enjoying process so much more these days. So I don't totally look down my nose at this kind of book.

I am in a book club at my sons' school, and I've always wanted to be in a book club. This is what they chose to read. So I read it.

I've teared up many times reading this book. It's a touching book.

I think Gottlieb is a JewBu, because he quotes Buddhists, and talked about coming off a retreat, and feeling like the gains were quickly lost. There's a lot of implicit Buddhism, though he doesn't make it explicit, though at times he runs straight into it and talks about the Buddha's ideas about desire. But he also talks about God and the divine.

He's not just a Buddhist, he's a psychologist and a human. It made me wonder about my obsession with the Dharma. Maybe I need to loosen up and be a little more free ranging for a while. I liked his Jewish stories. It's a very spiritual book, and not offensive to me in any ways (it's easy to offend me with facile comments about God).

He tells good stories, and I felt his advice was pretty good about trying to accept things more. He includes poetry and has written a really good book in my opinion. I like his messy authenticity, his commitment to get closer to the bone.

I think much of his insight comes from having quadriplegia. He has to just sit and experience his emotions. Instead of distracting or doing something. He has to just sit there. He shares the wisdom of this experience.

He's also donating the proceeds to charities! Amazing. I can get behind this book on another level.

View all my reviews

Buddhist Erotica out November 1st , 2010

Got an advanced copy of this little book coming out Nov. 1st 2010. It provoked a lot of thoughts.

First off, I have to note the destructive and liberating elements of sexuality. Many sanghas have been turned upside down by the power dynamics that lead to sexual expression. I also wonder whether there has been some liberating elements. Bante is his last will and testament suggested that his experiments in sexuality did not lead to anything that was useful.

Sexuality is natural, human and can lead to quite a ruckus. I think the positive ethical statement about sexuality is to lead life with "stillness, simplicity and contentment", and sexuality can certainly be the opposite of that.

Buddhists in the good ol' USA will surely have grown up in a confusing context of Christian sexual ethics, and the sexuality of materialism, where exciting body parts are used to sell merchandise, objectifying over intimacy. It's a task to shirk off the Christianity, materialism and not embrace the hedonism.

I had a patient once, who was a beautiful rising pop star. She said sarcastically, "Buddhist men haven't transcended desire!!!" She felt their lust as much as anyone else, maybe more. In away, being more mindful, you get in tune with all of yourself. And that can lead to some interesting place. My experience, like Bante's, is that sex is not really helpful to the spiritual life, but then again, not much is helpful except the sangha (sometimes) and your own pure will and effort.

I once drew a mandala of my life, and put yellow over it to mark sexuality, and while I saw it stained yellow, another person saw a rocket ship that propelled my practice along. So I think I still have some work to do shirking my Christian conditioning about sexuality.

On another level, I have read erotica, first reading it in Nicholson Baker, and then branching out. It's a kind of safe way to explore sexuality and sexual excitement. I find erotica an interesting genera. This may be reading this book in a way that it was not intended, but that happens all the time, right?!

Sangharakshita joked in Creative Symbols of Tantric Buddhism, that if you wanted to sell a book, include the following words: secret, tantric, sex and magic. I think John Steven's title includes three of them.

Often times, when I read books that feel like ethnic Buddhism, where basic Buddhism has gone by the wayside, and ethnic expressions of culture predominate, I see the book more as a cultural study than as a study on Buddhism. I am no expert of Japanese culture, but I note it has spawned many interesting sects of Buddhism. How accurate this is about a subset of a subset of Japanese culture, only John Stevens really knows. He claims in an afterword that it is based on many things.

I found the book a smooth enjoyable read, and it challenged me in some ways. To imagine the Buddha accepting rice milk from a lovely maiden after quitting the acetic practice, and then to suggest that he slept with her, well, if Buddhism believed in blasphemy that would make me wonder. But there's no such thing as blasphemy in Buddhism, Sangharakshita has expressed that clearly in one of his booklets. Who knows it was 2,500 years ago he walked this earth. It was before he transcended desire. It's hard to imagine he had the energy after coming quite close to death, but I've often been surprised at energy arising when I thought I had none.

So in the end, I really enjoyed this book, and found it thought provoking.

Friday, October 15, 2010

camping poem

Hawk soaring
Gliding on the updraft
Takes no notice
As if we were not there
On the bluff overlook
Where chipmunks squeek
Crickets, critters and marmots
Make entire lives

Last night, hiking in,
The glint of deer eyes
In the flashlight light,
Spooked, then fascinated.

Green dappled with
Red, orange, yellow, brown, grey and blue blue skies
Poems, ideas, songs
And silliness
Skitter across my mind
Scudding like the infrequent cloud,
In my big sky mind.

I even felt bored a few times
Not the "I'd rather be doing
Something else" feeling
But a good clean boredom
Of health.
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reading Living As River

I've always been very interested in the question that intersect with Buddhism and Psychoanalysis. The question of no-self, is often confusing when you translate it into modern parlance. Everything about our present times says we need to develop a positive sense. Reading Living As A River, I have been thinking more on this.

There is a phrase, "you have to be somebody before you dismantle the self." So that brings up the question--do you need to create a positive sense of self, and then dismantle the self, or can you just go straight to dismantling? Which would be best in the psychotherapy situation?

Perhaps it's not even a question. A therapist will just ask questions and then, the patient will choose their course. On the one hand I do have values as therapist, but I do value self autonomy, and the patient choosing their course. Values: curiosity, hope, kindness, courage, sense of purpose, emotional balance, bearning loss, integrity and emotional use of theory is Buechler's list.

So, when I wrestle with this question, I really want my patient to wrestle with it, though we're always sharing the journey, and I can think about it too.

Is there a difference is letting go of a negative sense of self, and developing a positive one. Also developing a provisional positive sense of self is allowed. Bodhipaksa is good at clearly defining what sense of self he's against. It's a permanent one, not a provisional one.

I've been asking myself why is it so hard and scary to dismantle myself? I find it very threatening. I've freaked out in the past doing this meditation practice, and I think I need a bigger well of positivity to buffer me through the fearful times. I think it is a misunderstanding on my part. This book is great at clarifying. This is the perfect book for me right now in my spiritual development.

I would also note, that reading his section on the 3 fetters, he's streamlined it for his purposes in this book. I've heard a few talks on this from him and others, and they are a special list for me. You can tell that he's battened the hatches, as he's heading for a destination. He's sensitive to his writing purpose. I think Bodhipaksa's a really good writer. And yet each paragraph sends me off into a reverie of thoughts and feelings. This is a book for lingering and rereading.

I saw on one of his tweets that he hasn't read The Power of Mindful Learning. I read this book a while ago, and all I remember is that you look to notice changes. In a way the change blindness suggests that we forget to look for changes. I like to look for changes in people, I don't treat them as static.

Monday, October 11, 2010

living as a river

Triratna Buddhist Community News: Living as a River - new book by Bodhipaksa

I started reading this intense book this weekend. It is very well written and spiritually deep with a synthesis of the Buddha's teachings and modern research. An amazing work, which sends me off into reverie every paragraph.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


So I should probably give a little account of my last retreat at Aryaloka, which by the way is celebrating it's 25th anniversary--Yahoo! It almost closed down a few times, and it has an interesting and glorious history. I listened the the chairperson's talk last night. Dayalocana is awesome.

It was on the transcendental principle, and Sangharakshita's first chapter in A Survey of Buddhism.

I have read the survey many times by myself, but I've never studied it with others, and that was really awesome! My group was led by the great Nagabodhi who wrote Jai Bhim!: Dispatches From a Peaceful Revolution, among other things.

So as usual, retreats provide an amazing collection of things, which can be generalized by the phrase "supportive conditions." Good vegetarian food, lots of meditation, Dharma study and friendship in a lovely setting. I took walks along the river and around the neighborhood in Newmarket. I use these wonderful men as my reference point in the world. The last batch of photos here are all from Aryaloka, so just scroll down and look at the pictures.

The retreat is bookmarked on both ends by a ride up with a good friend and a ride down with a good friend, and friendship was abounding on the many walk and talks I went on with these good men. I'm going to be going on more retreats coming up and I will definitely be on this yearly men's ordination retreat next year.

Here is the retreat schedule if you missed it scrolling down.

There were many great talks.

Reporting out, I comment on how healthy I feel when I'm on retreat. I just feel really healthy, my best self. Thank you to everyone, including Sangharakshita for the order he created that allows for this retreat. Thank you to Vajramati for teaching me meditation 8 years ago. Thank you to Dhammarati and Nagabodhi for coming across the pond. Thank you to Danakammala for cooking! His last retreat where he's in charge of cooking (so he says). Thank you to all the other order members who participated and joined in. Thank you to my brothers in the Dharma in our journey towards ordination. Well done!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

retreat photo

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white Tara

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Bante Quote

From Crossing The Stream essay 'Where Buddhism Begins - and Why It Begins There':

"Only when a man feels strongly will he act effectively. It is for this reason above all others that Buddhism starts not with a concept but with a feeling, not with intellectual postulation but with emotional experience."

Three Cheers for Tanka

Three Cheers for Tanha
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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Subhuti paper mobile
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screen porch Rupa

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gifts from above

and a mug
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five niyamas

free buddhist audio : : "rambles around reality 2010 - the five niyamas 2" by subhuti
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repaired Rupa

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broken Kshitigharba

arm with staff broke off
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blue Rupa

in library
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inside dome

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in library
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Hare's translation of Sutta Nipata 1076

"When all conditions are removed, All ways of telling are removed."
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standing Buddha

you see this just before going upstairs to the shrineroom.
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Quan Yin stepping down

bad lighting and details, but you can feel her compassion in action.
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daily retreat schedule

6:30 wake up bell
7:00 refuges and precepts, 40 min. sit (MOB) then walking meditation till...
8:00 second 40 min. sit (metta)
9:00 breakfast
10-11 individual study
11:00 prostration and refuge tree visualization practice, then walking meditation till...
12:15 just sitting 30 min
115 lunch
330-530 study group
6 dinner
730 Dharma talk
845 puja

In between activities I often walk and talk with a brother in the Dharma about the spiritual life. Also there is a rota to prepare and clean up after meals. All meals are vegetarian.

We are studying the first chapter of the Survey of Buddhism by Sangharakshita, on the transcendental principle.
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aryaloka at night

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Rupa in entrance

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Punya brought this Rupa, used to be pink.
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Quan Yin

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painting at aryaloka

the Buddha
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the road to Aryaloka

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sign at entrance

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Rupa and dome

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from entrance to Aryaloka
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Quan Yin at Aryaloka

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Sunday, September 12, 2010


"I must lie down where all the ladders start,
in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."
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bante quote from survey

(p.47 9th edition) "Ernest students of Buddhism living in a non-Buddhist environment should meet for discussion, as well as for group study and meditation, as often and as regularly as possible."
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