Wednesday, July 31, 2013


"The unrestrained wander about the world disguised as the well-restrained."

(p. 104 Buddhist Ethics, by Hammalawa Saddhatissa quoted from Samyuttanikaya)

"A fool is not company. The solitary walk is more worthwhile; a fool is no companion."

(p. 105 Buddhist Ethics, quoting 3 different place, including Dhammapada)

"Let no one neglect his own good for the sake of another's, however great. Let it be that, having understood the ideal, he engages himself in it."

(p. 115 Buddhist Ethics, quoting the Dhammapada)

The above quotes suggest not associating with others, not doing things for others. The Buddha of course thought the middle way was important. So we should probably walk between spiritual isolationism and spiritual gregariousness, between altruism and egoism.

In the end you can quote to justify anything, but judgement and common sense are to be your guide. Reflecting on behavior, ethics with others is important on the path to enlightenment. The path of ethics, meditation and insight starts with ethics. Getting one's house in order leads to the gladdening. To stop hurting others is a noble quest. It calls for groundedness and compassion, imagination about others experience.

Monday, July 22, 2013


The refuges are as follows:

Buddham saranam gacchami (I go to the Buddha for refuge)
Dhammam saranam gacchami (I go to the Dhamma for refuge)
Sangham saranam gacchami (I go to the Sangha for refuge)

I use this in devotional chanting, and it's a formula that has surprising depth. Sangharakshita thinks that it is what defines a Buddhist.

From Saddhatissa's Buddhist Ethics p. 31:

"Saranam, however, does not denote exclusively "refuge," and in the comprehensive sense in which it should be taken lies the relationship of the Buddhist to the Buddha, which will eventually determine his whole attitude for the Sanskrit Monier Williams gives: "Sarana: protecting preserving. (Vedic. say rakkhake, Rgveda VI. 47. 8; one who protects or preserves; a protector, preserver, defender. (a) n. help, defense; a refuge, place of refuge, sanctuary, asylum (sometimes applied to a person); a private apartment, closet; a house, habitation, abode, lair, resting-place (of an animal)." Regarding the Pali we have Rhys Davids and Stede: "Saran: (Cp Vedic.)...shelter, house, refuge, protection etc," Buddhadatta Mahathera gives: "Protection, help, refuge, a shelter""

(footnotes omitted, also I excluded the diacritics because I don't know how to include them yet)

Buddha and Kshitigharba


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Beginning of Theragatha

My hut is roofed, comfortable, free of drafts; my mind, well-centered, set free. I remain ardent. So, rain-deva. Go ahead & rain.

from Theragatha

Sunday morning thoughts

Reading Buddhist Ethics so far, the introductions were not bad. Usually I skip those, but they were not bad.

The first chapter got technical quite quick. What struck me was that ethics is placed in the context of meditation, the hindrances, the jhanas. Ethics might be an expression of meditative depth.

That certainly grounds me. I make mistakes when I'm not meditating that I might not make if I were meditating. I'm going to go meditate now. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

thoughts of the day

Increased awareness can lead to problems. When you open up to the close calls between cars and buses and motorcycles and trucks on the roads of New York City, close calls happen every second. It's really terrifying. When you drive you have to be confident. But if you really think about how dangerous it all is, that is scary.

Metta and the other Brahma Viharas, helps us to frame things in a more positive compassionate way. Connecting with the spirit of Avalokiteshvara, you feel the interconnections that make it impossible to hurt yourself/others.

I saw a Bob Marley documentary the other day and began to like this song. Of course it has some things I don't believe in, but sometimes with some people you feel them raise above their tradition and speak to something universal.

"One Love / People Get Ready"

One Love! One Heart!
Let's get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin' (One Love!);
Hear the children cryin' (One Heart!),
Sayin': give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin': let's get together and feel all right. Wo wo-wo wo-wo!

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love!);
There is one question I'd really love to ask (One Heart!):
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner,
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own beliefs?

One Love! What about the one heart? One Heart!
What about - ? Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love!);
So shall it be in the end (One Heart!),
All right!
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.
One more thing!

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armagiddyon (One Love!),
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom (One Song!).
Have pity on those whose chances grows t'inner;
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation.

Sayin': One Love! What about the One Heart? (One Heart!)
What about the - ? Let's get together and feel all right.
I'm pleadin' to mankind! (One Love!);
Oh, Lord! (One Heart) Wo-ooh!

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Let's get together and feel all right.


I've been doing a sort of manta, "one love, one heart, lets get together and feel all right." I can't stop thinking about these two opposed leaders who got up on stage, and Marley got them to hold hands together. I'm going to watch a Leonard Cohen documentary next because it's coming off netflix soon.

In the Kalama Sutra, the Buddha suggests you stay away from intellectual speculation, and focus on your ethics. In Buddhism there is no orthodoxy, there's only orthopraxy.

I feel like the 5 precepts are better than the 10 commandments, because you don't have to believe in anything. They are rules that would suit you to follow. In the ten commandments, you have to me a monotheist.

I'm going to read Buddhist Ethicsnow.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pema Chodron quote

“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.” Pema Chodron

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Mark Epstein quotes on desire

"From the Western, Puritan point of view, it’s always been seen as dangerous, devilish, the enemy. From the Eastern spiritual point of view—as adopted by many Western practitioners, at least—it has the connotation of something to be avoided, a poison. As a psychotherapist, I’ve been trained not to avoid the so-called “real stuff’—anger, fear, anxiety—and this certainly includes desire. Desire is the juice. It’s how we discover who we are, what makes a person themselves. I wanted to try to explore how to work with it more creatively. "

 "Different teachers have different approaches to this: some recommend avoidance of temptation or renunciation, while others talk about meeting desire with compassion. Another strategy is to recognize the impermanence of the object of desire for instance, by countering lust with images of how disgusting the body really is."

"Other teachers say that desire is really just energy that we have to learn how to use without getting caught by it."

"The Buddha’s point, I think, was that by renouncing clinging we actually deepen desire. Clinging keeps desire in a frozen, or fixated, state. When we renounce efforts to control or possess that which we desire, we free desire itself."

"It may not be so much that we have desire as that we are desire. Try- ing to renounce desire is like trying to renounce yourself. This isn’t the way to see the emptiness inside. But clinging is different. We can renounce clinging without estranging ourselves from desire."

 "Can you give your lover the freedom of their subjectivity and otherness? Admit that they are outside of your control?"

"One thing that has helped me think about this is the psychoanalyst Jessica Benjamin’s theory that there are two kinds of desire. A male desire (present in both sexes), which knows what it wants and is going after it, which is all about trying to obtain satisfaction. And a female desire, not just in women, which is more about interper- sonal, and intrapersonal, space. The male desire is about doing and being done to, while the feminine desire is about being. Think of a baby at the breast. In one version, the breast is trying to feed the baby—it’s forcing itself into the baby’s consciousness, or the baby’s mouth. In the other version, the breast just is. The baby has to find it, discover it, for herself. It’s almost like our culture is hip to “male” desire, assaulting us constantly with “you want this, you want that.” It’s so much in the object mode that it doesn’t yield the room for what she’s calling a femi- nine desire, which is “Give me some space to know what I really want.” "

"A famous psychoanalyst named Otto Kernberg speaks of sexual union as the experience of a lover revealing himself or herself as a body that can be penetrated and a mind that is impenetrable."

"...the Buddha taught not only abour suffering, but about the end of suffering. Desire is only a problem when we mistake what’s ephemeral for an object, something we can permanently grasp. It’s only suffering because we don’t understand."
From an interview in Tricycle

Friday, July 05, 2013

Quote from Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“Give in to this impulse, give in to that impulse, obey your thirst. It’s good for the economy, it’s good for you spiritually. Watch out, if you repress your desires you’re going to get tied up in psychological knots.” The lessons our culture teaches us—to go out and buy, buy, buy; be greedy, be greedy; give in, give in—are all over the place. And what kind of dignity comes from following those messages? The dignity of a fish gobbling down bait. We’ve got to unlearn those habits, unlearn those messages, if we want to revive words like dignity and restraint, and to reap the rewards that the realities of dignity and restraint have to offer our minds."

From Thanissaro Bhikkhu from tricycle teachings: addiction

4th of July

Liberal commies like me have a harder time expressing patriotism because we feel so let down by the promise of equality and justice. There is no doubt that the middle class is shrinking and we have drifted right into the politics of hate. What's to be proud of there?

God fearing red blooded Republicans seem to have won. The vapid anti-government talk of personal responsibility, white washes structural inequality, racism, poverty, and the limited reductionism of the republican victory. I take no pride in the anti-community, greedy darwinism of the Reagan dawn.

Even Nixon sent poor people large tax rebates in the mail, no stigma. Current republicans are indifferent to others suffering, justifying it by talk of enabling the poor and cycles of poverty. I happen to work with the poor and know what they are talkin about, but disagree about whether we are smart enough to work with that.

And the neo-liberals have allowed it all to happen, went gently into the night. Chaney may have had lots of Halliburton stock, but I challenge democrats to rid themselves of this stock. Oh, no wait, greed is good. No wait, greed isn't good. We need to two party system to throw out corrupt politicians on both sides.

I'm grateful to my grandfathers and fathers, grandmothers and mothers, who fought for a better America. I hope to have to courage to fight for a fair and just America. An America that doesn't need to flex it's muscle through the military, but flexes it's dignity with restraint and wisdom.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Current Pop

"...when the self become a selfie — when people start approaching themselves and others as things, to be posed, bartered or possessed, rather than as beings with rich and infinitely various inner lives —morality becomes destabilized, making it difficult to determine the difference between a playful risk and real one, or even between violation and fun."

This is from an excellent article from The Record: Music News from NPR, which includes videos, called "When Pop Stars Flirt With Bad Taste".

The article ends: "Party music creates a space where the things that do run us — whether they're good things, like ethical codes or laws protecting the vulnerable, or painfully restrictive ones, like the grind of money-making and the trap of consumerism — seem to give way, and a space opens up for exploring desire, sensuality, and the unexpected. Blurred lines can lead to exciting new places. But sometimes we need to draw them, for ourselves, again."

I hadn't seen these videos all the debates are about and a few seconds into each one is enough for me. The phrase "guarding the gates of the senses" comes into my mind. The freedom to explore one's sexuality is not something someone else gives you, it's something you claim or take for yourself. But as the first quote points out, the objectification of people isn't what sexuality is about. We lose the rich inner lives.

My partner said after I showed her some videos and read the article to her, "You know how we teased that all the old people should go onto an island somewhere? Well, now I want to go to that island."

Wednesday, July 03, 2013


"Bhikkhu Bodhi, an outspoken western Buddhist monk, has warned: "absent a sharp social critique, Buddhist practices could easily be used to justify and stabilize the status quo, becoming a reinforcement of consumer capitalism." Unfortunately, a more ethical and socially responsible view of mindfulness is now seen by many practitioners as a tangential concern, or as an unnecessary politicizing of one's personal journey of self-transformation."

This is from an excellent article called, "Beyond McMindfulness" by Ron Purser and David Loy.

Also, "In their branding efforts, proponents of mindfulness training usually preface their programs as being "Buddhist-inspired." There is a certain cachet and hipness in telling neophytes that mindfulness is a legacy of Buddhism -- a tradition famous for its ancient and time-tested meditation methods. But, sometimes in the same breath, consultants often assure their corporate sponsors that their particular brand of mindfulness has relinquished all ties and affiliations to its Buddhist origins."

And this: "But mindfulness, as understood and practiced within the Buddhist tradition, is not merely an ethically-neutral technique for reducing stress and improving concentration. Rather, mindfulness is a distinct quality of attention that is dependent upon and influenced by many other factors: the nature of our thoughts, speech and actions; our way of making a living; and our efforts to avoid unwholesome and unskillful behaviors, while developing those that are conducive to wise action, social harmony, and compassion."

I thought a lot about this when I was reading Mindfulness For Dummies. First off, I think it's a wonderful book, and I recommend it. But I have often wondered at the denuding of the Buddhist roots, as stated above, in the mass marketing of mindfulness by people who want to make a living off of it. The Dharma is supposed to be free. When you turn to marketing, to sell ideas, a presentation of ideas, then you're selling a presentation of ideas. Old time Buddhist might guard ideas because people were not "ready" for them. But today you can go pretty far on reading ideas. Sangharakshita talks about intellectual indigestion. You get too much before you are ready for it. The information age has created an open source Buddhism, which is good, but it lacks the social supports of integrating all that information.
There's a conflict in a way, people want to pursue their joy, and that means there's a million yoga teachers, and a million meditation teachers. I was at the library today and I almost got a Buddhist book because I've seen so much advertising for it. The spiritual marketplace is fiercely contested, and bought.

I actually like to look at all the ads in Tricycle and other Buddhist magazines. But I've never bought anything from them.

Spiritual materialism isn't just buying cool rupas and great meditation benches, it's also going on retreats with name dropping teachers, and going to foreign countries to study with teachers. It's hard to know if that's really what's required. Maybe you can stay where you are and deepen your practice by your own efforts, and the support of a good local sangha.

Of course generosity is about putting your money where your values are, but it's also a subtle way of increasing the money for a sangha. I've gotten the softest sell at Buddhist centers, but there have been times where I got a harder sell on giving to the community than I did in Christian churches.

Which all goes to show you that you can never turn off your critical faculty, and that if someone pitches you from a spiritual angle, that's just another pitch. Good spiritual friends exemplify, and don't ask anything for it.

I've heard people coming off long retreat, get people wanting them to give them the gist of it, without doing the work. You don't really need anyone else, you just need to go deeper into yourself. Of course the community is good for support. Giving it, not necessarily getting it.