Sunday, February 21, 2010

More on Tiger

The Dali Lama has commented on Tiger Woods. I find it so fascinating that the leader of one of six Tibetan groups, is seen as a kind of pope of Buddhism, when in fact Buddhism has been very good at resisting a central authority. Even in my own realitively small fledgling group, the former FWBO, now know as Triratina Buddhist Community. I wonder what other Buddhist leaders are going to be questioned by journalists.

I can't be bothered to verify if this is true, but according to this article, the home of Brit Hume, Fox has edited out his statement about Buddhism. I like it, in the comments someone calls it "Faux Noiz".

This article quotes Tiger as saying he doesn't believe in Enlightenment.

I believe in Enlightenment. Today on our practice day I'm going to talk about the 3 Fetters, which if they are broken, lead to stream entry. Your being has a momentum that will end in Enlightenment. It is seen as a realistic goal.

Tiger might consider this lovely talk to help clarify his ideas of Enlightenment.

And here's a link that collects links on this subject.

Friday, February 19, 2010


He says in his statement today,

"I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it. Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught."

I can't help but think of Brit Hume and his suggestion that Tiger move to Christianity for the forgiveness. I wonder if Tiger was specifically addressing that, or if he was just saying what was important to him.

I think it's interesting he called it a "Faith". I think of it more as a path, faith isn't really emphasized in Buddhism.

This inside and outside distinction is interesting too. Security? I think it's more about happiness. Anyway, it's not far off.

So our most famous Buddhist continues to retain the label.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wildmind Book Review

It is my utmost honor to be published in Wildmind for a book review. Bodhipaksa is an excellent editor and an awesome writer. I can't wait till his book comes out. I read some drafts. I think after The Essential Sangharakshita, it will be the second most important book of the decade. I don't think I like the book because he's a friend and editor. Sometimes he freaks me out with his intelligence, stillness and wisdom, in a good way.

You know, I'm just one person, and the way I feel about books from within the order is different from books produced outside the order. I've been totally dragging my feet on a book review on Milarepa by Sangharakshita because the book just freaks me out it feels so deep. I have a feeling this by book Bodhipaska will be in my all time top 10, which include Vessantara's Meeting The Buddhas, A Survey of Buddhism and Know Your Mind by Sangharakshita, Stephen Batchelor's Buddhism Without Belief, The Hundred Verses of Advice by Dilgo Khyentse & Padampa Sangye, A Deeper Beauty by Paramananda, Touching Enlightenment by Reginald Ray, Zen Mind, Beginners Mind, and Nothing Special.

Monday, February 15, 2010


It came as the biggest surprise to me that mantra and puja would effect me. On the last retreat, a new one infected me. I think in a way that's the power of a rock and roll chorus. I've been singing, from Neil Young:

Old Man, take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you
I want someone to love me
the whole day through
take one look in my eye
you can see it's true

Now what does that mantra say? It's about indentification with the father. It's about the desire to be love, but to be loved all day. It's about looks in the eye, but I think it's also being loved for your true self, being a subject and not an object that functions for other people. For someone to want to know how you feel, regardless if it hurts them a bit, so that there's greater intimacy.

It's poetry that can't be reduced, like "jewel in the lotus" with is "om mani padme hum" I can't help but look as popular music as worldly and sometimes not good mantras. Sometimes.

I can't help add in, after the fact, this posting about song fixing the damaged mind.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

quote from a spiritual memior

I enjoyed this quote from This Side of Nirvana by Sara Jenkins:

"Looking back at how others seem to have guided and eased my journey, those who were the most helpful were not (as far as I know) attempting to do anything for me. They were simply following their own path." (p210)

I find it interesting how we influence each other and what fosters positive change in people.

I have read probably 8 Buddhist memoirs, and I'd say this is the best one I've read: Good writing, good storytelling, spiritual insight and friendships, not too long. I like Sangharakshita's 5 memiors, but they are so long and really try to cover his long life, they are not as focused as this single volume. This is an honest account of an average person's struggles in practice on the path.

I think the other memoirs don't give away as much of the struggle, they were people who just took off. Sangharakshita's story is amazing in many ways, but also not so much of our times. To actually go forth the way Sangharakshita did, without any possessions. All the famous people and famous times he lived through are cool.

Friday, February 12, 2010

How did I get into Buddhism?

A friend asked me: How did I get into Buddhism?

There are some factors that contribute to that fatal day in the summer of 2002, when I first took a meditation class with Vajramati. I mark that day as the beginning of more actively becoming a Buddhist through meditation and spiritual fellowship.

Growing up, my mother and father were atheist secular humanists. I think that’s still what they are. One set of grandparents were Baptist, the other Episcopal. So I spent my summers going to church and learning the Christian doctrines. I love my grandparents. They were trying to inculcate me in their tradition. But I never cottoned to Christianity. Never felt it. As soon I can could think I was justifying why I didn’t believe in God. In part it was what drew me to philosophy. How can you say that god does not exist? Now let me be clear. I have friends who do embrace a theistic spirituality and I see the beauty it has for them. I'm not saying people shouldn't embrace the spirituality they find works for them. I'm not saying it can't be beautiful. I'm just saying it did not work for me, and that that was important because I would later find something that did work for me.

In college I read some Zen stuff. I think I understand where they are coming from now, I enjoy the perfection of wisdom, like the idea of transcending dualism. My mother was born in Japan during the occupation; my great grandmother was called “Ba”, short for obasan. But it seemed like an exotic confusing aesthetic, and I didn’t have the context to really understand it. I had no spiritual community or meditative experience.

I watched my stepfather meditate twice a day since about the age of 8, and I’d always wanted to try it. So at the tender age of 35, the age the Buddha became enlightened, I tried a meditation class. Every step I have taken has confirmed me it is the right path. After a month, I stayed after the meditation class for the free Dharma discussion. I happened to be unemployed at the time, and I read a lot of Sangharakshita. In my opinion he has the best exposition of Buddhism. I’d say The Essential Sangharakshita is an instant world spiritual classic, virtually a Mahayana sutra.

I’d also note that I had read some more Buddhism along the way, especially Charlotte “Joko” Beck. I think that’s when I realized the psychological benefits of meditation without actually doing it. I collected little Hotei statues every time I went to a Chinatown. Why was I drawn to these statues? Why was that the thing I collected? Not sure. Now I know Hotei is a folk hero. Now maybe it’s a superficial act, but I feel it’s a kind of response to an icon of Buddhism. There are all kinds of responses. There are many paths and many techniques and many practices that are useful on the path to enlightenment. I feel opening up to that has really helped me.

So I take meditation class in 2002. All spiritual traditions can use meditation, but Buddhism takes it further. The insights can be parroted, but you gain insight only when you grok these meditative insights. You can learn the mindfulness of breathing and be of any denomination.

So the more and more I delve into it, the deeper I’m drawn toward it. I’m a fairly incredulous person. What I like about the practical spiritual teachings that lead to enlightenment is that it’s not a philosophy, nothing to quibble about. Does it work for you? Then it’s Dharma. The idealism of the Yogacara is a kind of way of being that leads to enlightenment, not something to refute philosophically. What you’re experiencing matters. You test it in your own experience. Your experience is part of the equation. Yogacara makes sense with meditative experience.

Reading Stephen Batchelor’s Buddhism Without Belief, I realized there was a path in Buddhism that doesn’t force me to believe in reincarnation. All Buddhist traditions have reincarnation, and I don’t want to dismiss it because it’s foreign. But the point is, it’s a pragmatic course of action, and belief isn’t really what is important. I had found a spirituality that didn’t require me to swallow something I didn’t believe in. I’m not motivated by getting a good rebirth. If that works for someone, well, more power to them.

I also liked Batchelor's confrontation, even if sometimes you want some consolation in spirituality.

I got into meditation. I did a practice day where we meditated a few times consecutively, and then I went on a weeklong retreat at Aryaloka. That blew my mind. I’m still trying to process what happened. I highly recommend going on retreat.

So I became a mitra (friend) and then asked for ordination, and gone on the most awesome retreats, with the most awesome people. Every step I take makes me more confident this is the path for me. This blog is about my journey towards ordination, and hopefully beyond.

I suppose I’ve gloss over the revelations of the spiritual friendship, Bodhisattva Ideal, the use of archetypal Buddhas, mantra. Up till I took the meditation class, all was preparation to make me receptive to the Dharma, spiritual friendship. Sangharakshita’s exposition of the Dharma has clarified so many things for me; he’s a spiritual genius. So many friends along the way have added to my understanding, all the generous teachers who have come. I’ve learned so much listening to Dharma talks from Free Buddist Audio. I happen to be listening to Subhuti's Rambles Aroudn the Yogachara. I have an old post that lists my favorites (at the time, but still holds up pretty true).

That’s an answer to how I became a Buddhist, how I found Buddhism and a little about what it does for me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Brit Hume of Singapore?

There's a post on Shambhala SunSpace, that has videos of ministers slagging off Buddhism.

In the end, I think of section 64 of the patience chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara, is my ultimate response:

"My hatred toward those who revile and violate images, stupas, and the sublime Dharma is wrong, because the Buddhas and the like are free of distress."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

this side of nirvana

In Sara Jenkins spiritual memoir, she writes, "I tried to pretend that it was all as wonderful in the moment as I knew it would be in retrospect." (P.28).

I think quote captures Jenkins' style, she's honest in her yearning and where she is. What is this feeling that we could be a better person, and yet we need to stay grounded in who we really are?

I find how we work with spiritual ideals really interesting. It's so tempting to just ape being a good Buddhist, for me. The more silent you are the more others can project spiritual depth onto you. The challenge is to open your mouth and create a real relationship with others, who really know you and have a sense of what you can be. It's lovely to be seen not for just what you are, but also what you would like to become. This is something you have to be in tune with someone else to really grasp more or less accurately. Finding these deep relationships is not easy in this world of distraction and struggle for existence, which really means a comfortable existence with the right about of entertainment gadgets (for me, for me, I'm always just really talking about my experience, I can't really presume to know you, dear reader). Writing this I think I need to think more about my digital distraction! I'm going close my laptop and go meditate!

PS--Over at Bodhi Tree Swaying, he shares his lovely musical taste.

Also just read Jayarava's lovely post.

And I just found this lovely new blog: Insight Young Voices, about Dalit youth in India.