Thursday, April 26, 2012

the impact of technology TED talk by Sherry Turkle

beautiful video

Bhikkhu Bodhi interview quote

"What sort of training have you had in meditation practice?

"During my early years in Sri Lanka I did very little intensive meditation. This was not my ordination teacher’s mode of practice; he integrated regular periods of meditation into his day-to-day life. When I later practiced intensive retreats on my own, I used anapana-sati [mindfulness of breathing] as my sole meditation subject. But after some time, I found my mind became dry and rigid, and I felt the need to soften and enrich it with other types of meditation. Thus, at different times and under different circumstances, I learned the practices that constitute the “four protective meditations”: recollection of the Buddha, the meditation on loving kindness, the contemplation of the repugnant nature of the body, and the recollection of death. Throughout my life as a monk I have made extensive use of these four meditation subjects. I have also done occasional extended retreats at hermitages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Regretfully, though, because of my poor merits and the debilitating headache condition, I have not reached any attainments worthy of a true practitioner."

(I got this from Theravada Dhamma Blog, which I was alerted to by Bodhi Tree Swaying Blog.  Here is the Wikipedia entry on Bhikkhu Bodhi.)

In my order it's always said you should alternate Mindfulness of Breathing with Metta Bhavana, and I find it interesting that only doing MOB he said, " my mind became dry and rigid, and I felt the need to soften and enrich it..."  Perhaps it is a simple point, but concentration leads to emotional positivity and then spiritual death, a la Sangharakshita's System of Meditation.  It's possible to develop concentration and not use it for the good.

I don't follow Bhikkhu Bodhi's ideas of literal merit.  It's possible it's an quirky accident that was a cultural belief of the times.  Maybe not, and maybe Bhikkhu Bodhi has a more sophisticated and deep view than I am aware of.  But it doesn't seem that way in this post.  Remember sometimes it's other's merit that causes things, or physical causes or systems that don't have to do with one's purity of heart.  I think the point of over interpreting merit is that purity of intentions is so important, and it's hard to tie up all the disparate strands in oneself, it's not a simple effort, we are never a finished project, IMHO

a simple prayer

(I'm reading Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche's Living Fully, (p 25), and it has the following prayer in it I wanted to share:)

May I act with pure motivation.
May I part from selfish ways.
May I bring Joy and happiness to others.
May I free them from pain and sorrow.
May I have a big and open heart
That encompasses the whole world.


He's from the Dzogchen tradition.  I can't find much about him that is not from his website, so don't know much more than reading the book and watching the video.

Here's a video of him:

He reports he sees himself more as a westerner than a Tibetan.  He says, "what we need here is the essence of Tibetan Buddhism."  Which implies that he can take away the cultural aspects of Tibetan Buddhism.

"The essence of the book is to be natural."

The project of building a a western buddhism continues, so fascinating to me.  What is cultural, was is the essence? What are the cultural and devotional expressions that we will develop in American, and in the TBC?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

informal book review on goodreads

Alone with Others: An Existential Approach to BuddhismAlone with Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism by Stephen Batchelor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought--what do I want to read? and I wanted to read this book.  It's a book that tries to update Buddhism with existentialism, among other things.

I've read it before, after I read what I think is his best seller, Buddhism Without Belief.  I wanted to see if it stood up the way I remembered it.

Batchelor is skeptic, doesn't want to just follow the herd, and is an original independent deep thinker.  I've met him in person and he's a swell guy.  I think my only criticism of him is that he hasn't built a movement, and doesn't seem to value deep friendships the way my order does.  Now, I can't actually know how deep his friendships are, but when asked who was sangha to him, he reported other celebrity Buddhists.  I find that hard to believe.

At times the jargon of Existentialism feels a bit forced, but for the most part this book is filled with gems of insight.  It touches on all the major important ideas of Buddhism, and feels congenial with my tradition, which is inclusive, but it also hits home at similar points.  While this is a short book, it is jam packed with important stuff, that makes it hard to write a general review.

This rich book will be reread by me, hopefully in the future.

Like many books, this book leads to other books.  I want to read Heiddiger's Being and Time, I think a better understanding of that book would help me to see more what this book is trying to do.  But this books stands on it's own.

I'm not tempted to read the Christian theologians he does, but I'm happy to read the nugget he finds.  I've read all his Buddhist books, and reread Buddhism Without Belief, and this one.  I think this one might be his best, though for the average reader I'd probably read his last one Confessions of an Atheist Buddhist, which is the fullest memoir to date.

View all my reviews

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Rereading: Alone With Others

I've really been enjoying rereading this book by Stephen Batchelor:  Alone With Others.  I've read everything of his  on Buddhism, some of his translations, but not his books his Ancient Greek for Dummies, Medieval History for Dummies and Tibet Guide.  I've reread Buddhism Without Belief.  And now I felt this book call to me from the bookshelf, and I've been thoroughly enjoying it.  It's short too, you could absorb it over a day.