Thursday, December 31, 2015

Addiction and Buddhism links

I celebrate 90 days clean and sober. Looking for websites for a blog post helps me out to find out what resources there are out there on the web. Of course there is not an app for resisting urges, gaining insight into triggers, and communing with sober friends, but our mind seeks out what the mind wants and our life is a self fulfilling prophecy so spend time directing your mind to what you want. And if it's sobriety, here are some helpful links for the Buddhist:

Buddhist Recovery Network

12 Step Buddhist: They even have a free course you can take on it.

Refuge Recovery: This is my next book, Noah Levine.

Kevin Griffin: I've read his book twice.

The eight steps of recovery from TBC has a facebook page: I'm reading that book right now. They also have a page on the TBC website.

A Book list

AA Big Book

Friday, December 25, 2015

Namo Amithabha

Book awards 2015

Festavus Kludge

This photo is what I saw in the Buddhist florist shop near my house. They tossed in a manger scene, because it's a business, and heck, I'll believe anything for a buck. And so the great materialistic holiday begins, where parents give presents to young children, to let them know that cultural appropriation is about steam rolling others and materialism. Meanwhile spiteful America rejects Syrian refuges because all muslims are terrorists. But righteousness is such an intoxicating emotion, and as I celebrate 83 days sober, I try to "dial instead of file" (other's numbers), because addiction is cunning, tricky and powerful. In the photo you can see the legs reflected on my vegan partner, who carries our baby girl, who is expected Valentine's Day. I watched Gary Yourofsky discuss compassion yesterday, towards all beings, and there are some images I can't unsee. Meanwhile Bob Thurman says Buddha loved Jesus too. Christopher Titmuss shared the link on global warming. What does all this hodgepodge mean? That we've got to find the silver linings for ourselves, but nihilism doesn't help me to stay sober, and taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, is my festivus for the rest of us, appropriating Christmans for a Buddhists, as their ancestors appropriated Saturnalia for Christmas. May the light of the BuddhaDharma shine down on you during this festivus season.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Service and Silence

Rugged individualism is encoded into the American soul, for better or worse. For me it's worse, because I need to reach out and connect due to my personality and history. Independence and integration on the other hand is an important aspect in advancement, and the old saying goes that you have to be someone before you can realize that you are nothing.

I read Charlotte Joko Beck's books just before I began meditating, so maybe the "nothing special" (and now I'm reading Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are) attitude made me not communicate with others when I was on retreat and felt like I was one with everything. Or when I felt the gushing humungous love of the Buddha walking with me. Or when I kept doing 5 Elements meditation outside a retreat, and started to go a little crazy.

As a modern psychological person, threading self and others is no easy job, and everyone has a unique take on it, even if you have been liberated from the tyrany of . Some are overly selfish. Some are overly self sacrificing. I've become aware that you can't just slap "middle path" on everything, the Buddha just used it between asceticism and hedonism, but maybe it could be extrapolated here as well, because doing for others can often be an act of asceticism and denial of hedonism. Of course altruism is the path to happiness, but it's a difficult path, so those extremes are not so true. Finding out how to be useful to others isn't easy, and just wanting to be useful isn't enough. Being around wanting to be useful can be enough sometimes. Being present to need and neediness is also a gift.

I was at a wonderful AA qualification where the guy talked about a friend who told him the key to happiness was doing service, and not talking about, silence. Now AA is all about anonymity and writing about it on line is to be questioned, but I don't think I've given too much away, this idea isn't exclusive to AA. I find that it was a powerful message to me. AA is a beautiful community that does not accept outside donations, and is only about sobriety, and does not wish to engage in controversy. In a time when we're all looking at our smart phones, it's cool to enter a room and speak to people face to face. Joining a community is the opposite of rugged individualism. Connecting with others in all their glorious imperfections, brokenness and bewilderment. The strange thing to me is that I had spiritual awakenings, and I knew that substance abuse was covering up unwanted feelings--and yet I cross the invisible line. There an article in the Times about breaking anonymity. I'm adding "recovery" to the blog description today, which I am exploring. On the one hand the organization is about principles and not people. And it wishes to avoid controversy. And it wishes to keep other's information confidential. Also if someone falls off the wagon, and they were identified with AA it could be bad press. Lots of layers of complications. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015


from Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan’s Most Rigorous Zen Temple
By Kaoru Nonomura
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
Paperback  $16.95  Publication date:  September 2015
© 1996, 2015 by Kaoru Nonomura
Published by Kodansha USA, Inc.

“Roads come into being as people begin to travel with new purpose in places previously unmarked, each miniscule step helping to wear a path in the ground.” (p. 12)

“However valuable the act of eating may be, without the corresponding physiological process of waste elimination, the life of the individual could not be maintained. This too is completely natural. The natural human act of elimination is, like all of life itself, replete with truths, and this is what maintains the harmony behind the existence of all things.” (p. 46)

“Among all the thinking that human beings do, the question ‘Why?’ has always been predominant. Undoubtedly it has played an enormous role in helping to bring about what we call progress. But in the course of each day’s round of activities at Eiheiji, the question ’Why?’ is virtually meaningless. Delving into the rationale for every single action would mean that nothing ever got done smoothly. What is essential is to accept without question what you are asked to do, and throw yourself into it entirely. There is no room for subjectivity.” (p. 97)

“In my old life, I ate without reflecting in particular upon the act of eating as such. I ate when I was hungry and stopped eating when I was full. Any thoughts I had on the subject concerned how to get the tastiest food possible, no more. But here at Eiheiji, eating was a major undertaking. It was not a question of hunger or satiety, or of food tasting good or bad. The point lay in the act of eating itself. Eating was the Dharma, the essence of Buddhist teaching, and vice versa.” (p. 99)

We lined up again and circled clockwise around the central altar, each one bent forward from the waist with his hands heldpalm to palm and his head bowed. Circumambulation, a form of worship going back to ancient India, is the act of moving around a sacred object. Moving in a clockwise direction also suggests the east, the symbolic source of life, and beyond that the south, also associated with the sun. . . .Outside all was radiant. Everything that met my eyes shone brilliantly in the rays of the new-risen sun. The buds on the old plum tree in front of the Buddha Hall would surely swell to bursting in the spring sunshine of the long-awaited day.” (p. 112)

In the Christian monastic tradition, work is a means of supporting a life of prayer. Continued prayer is the goal, work is the means. But for Zen practitioners, work has inherent spiritual value and is integral to the life of discipline.” (p. 195)

The box was full of washrags that were made from worn and faded scraps: bits of old flannel nightgowns, cotton kimonos, and thin hand towels, stitched together in multiple layers with stout thread. . . . I picked up one of the cloths and asked myself if I had ever put anything to such long use. After a lifetime of throwing things away one after another without a second thought, the sight of so many carefully saved rags was like a dash of cold water in the face. . . . From that day on, I kept one of the washrags from the old people’s home in my desk drawer,and sometimes, when I was feeling down, I would slip it out and look at it. Every stitch was replete with the burning spirit of someone whose faith had stayed strong over a lifetime. In the warmth and solidarity of that person’s handiwork, I could laugh away the frailty of my heart.” (p. 245)

“Yet life’s very unpredictability is what makes it interesting. Though I had no way of knowing where I might be or what I might be doing the following New Year’either, I was heartened by the thought that uncertainty can be a dynamic, life-giving force. Whether such a thing as destiny might exist, I couldn’t say. Rather than worry about it, I wanted only to go on believing in the reality of my own existence, day by day.” (p. 284)

“Devoting oneself to sitting, getting used to sitting, and conquering the pain of sitting are all equally pointless. The only point in sitting is to accept unconditionally each moment as it occurs.” (p. 292)

“Days at Eiheiji are relentless in their sameness. For a while in the beginning, the monotony was upsetting and bewildering to me. Day after day, from the moment we got up until the moment we went to bed our time was strictly regimented, without variation. Over and over we repeated the same routines without end and without question. What was that monotony about, I used to wonder. But now I realize that apart from a few special days now and then, life mostly does consist of one dull, insignificant day after another. Human beings are attracted to drama and variety. The humdrum we hold in disdain. Wrapped up in the routines of our daily lives, we let them slide by unnoticed. But I believe that hidden in these ordinary, unremarkable routines of life is a great truth that requires our attention.” (pp. 292-293)

“By contemplating life as it is, stripped of all extraneous added value, I found I could let go of a myriad of things that had been gnawing at my mind. Through the prosaic repetition of Eiheiji’s exacting daily routines for washing the face, eating, defecating, and sleeping, this is the answer that I felt in my bones: accept unconditionally the fact of your life and treasure each moment of each day.” (p. 293)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Pardoned turkey

"As the breeders of industrial monstrosities know, most Americans prefer light meat to dark. By picking out the birds with the thickest and widest chest muscles, poultry scientists have bred varieties that by conforming to the desires of shoppers have lost the ability to grow to full adulthood without leg, lung, and wing problems. A pardoned turkey is not necessarily a lucky turkey."

from the blog Ramble

Monday, November 30, 2015



I just meditated with 2623 people, with Insight Timer. I have meditated 300 days with this device, which isn't so good because I've had it a while.  I just looked at my messages and a bunch of people thank me for meditating with them. I even know some of them. I have .2 meditation a day average, nothing to be proud of. This is the second time I meditated this month. I haven't been doing so good in my practice of meditation.

I used to meditate every day for 40 minutes for years and years. I took a wrong turn and it's amazing how that leads to others. Every choice matters so much, the things you do really are what you are. Your hopes and aspirations mean something too, but not quite as much if you don't act on them. Seeking integration is not such an easy thing. Binge watching Master of None till 2 in the morning, I distract myself, and fill my mind with another's art. That is a mixed bag. I whole heartedly endorse the project of getting back to primary experience, tuning in to what's going on, gaining insight into ourselves and the stories we generate.

I finished the text part of After Buddhism. (Here is a review with interesting comments.) Now it's translations and modernizations from the Pali Cannon. I'll take my time reading those. I quite enjoy Batchelor's synthesis of Buddhism and the current times. His problems are similar to my problems--how do you make it all make sense with what I  know from my times. I appreciate his efforts. Not sure if I can make a puja out of the text. Not sure if I want to go over his axioms of secular buddhism.

I continue to enjoy Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are. I'm not always a fan of the Zen aesthetic and way of Buddhism, but Burkett seems like a solid guy, who tells things well. I read it aloud to my partner, and she is impressed at times. Last night, she was surprised at the abrupt end of a story, but that's what I mean by the Zen aesthetic. It tweaks your desire for the full narrative, instead jolting you into consciousness of your own mind. Not a bad project. It can feel put on at times, but not when a master practices it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Just started reading After Buddhism

I'm not sure what I expected from Stephen Batchelor but After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age turns out to be a close reading of the Pali Cannon. It reminds me of Buddhist Saints in India: A Study in Buddhist Values and Orientations. After the introductions, the first chapter is on Mahanama. Ever heard of him? I've always loved Batchelor's writings, and I can tell this is one of his best books. I'm only 10% in, but based on the first 10%, I have that feeling.

My reading of the Dharma can be superficial or profound, depending on my view. I can see why right view is such a crucial step on the path. I hope that I'm less superficial. That I'm not just reinforcing my own ego tendencies, but working to develop as an individual so I can tear the whole edifice down as I mature. Suggesting right view can be a little like proselytizing. I like the way AA does it, they just share their experience, strength and hope, they're not telling anyone else what to do. I call that the soft sell, where you don't feel the ego of the salesman, the message of the sale potential shines through. Here's what I've gotten from putting myself at the feet of the Buddha. And yet, it's not about blind obedience. Mahanama was too zealous, too blind a follower at the beginning.

There's also an interesting discussion of how a tree leans in a direction, that is connected a bit to stream entry. It points to the importance of an orientation. I think of the spiritual friend that just started bowing to the Buddha statue every time he passed it in his house.

In AA they talk about a power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity. I've never understood the concept of God, but conditionality is a power greater than me. I don't have the power to change this basic law. I sew the seed of doubt by imagining an uncaused event. I don't think that would disprove causality, not one anyway. There'd need to be a sort of consistent set of uncaused events, and that itself would probably be figured out as somehow caused. An uncaused event that had uncaused conditions to create it seems unlikely. More likely my doubt is based in pathological attachment issues. Nobody can be trusted, but causality isn't a somebody, it's what seems to be the way the world works. Miracles are just unlikely events that we can't see all the causes and conditions. My doubt can be turned to my understanding of causality, and opening to the wonder. I think in a way spirituality is at the heart of that, no matter how you answer the big questions. Batchelor defines religion as about life and death, and that is OK with me, because I live in this secular world that doubts the thin part of the wedge of hegemony, and the pedagogy of the oppressed. I understand my ability to not swallow the party line. And yet action needs a direction. I don't always face my suffering. I'm tempted to pontificate about others, but the other is me that I'm trying to fend off.

Noble friendship helps us along the way. Noble friendship with my better self as well. To open oneself up to the wonder is perhaps a quixotic task. You don't know if you're listening to the coconut headphones (cargo cults). Be an individual and follow me--that can be a paradox or a Steve Martin joke. Surely there are instincts and desires that are less than noble. Hearing both voice, your inner voice and the voice of the noble community and working to reconcile the two and not lose yourself hasn't always been easy for me.

Strive on my brothers and sisters.

Sunday, November 01, 2015


I'm really enjoying Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are. Anandi thinks it's amazing. I've been reading it out loud to her. Some books the deep spirituality just seeps through the words. This is one of those books. I'm only 25 pages in but I highly recommend this book on what I've read so far. He was a student of Suzuki (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind) and Katagiri. He started a project of trying to help the homeless in Minneapolis.

Watching the Star Trek: Voyager episode gave me lots of thoughts about avoiding reality, day dreams and having a vision. Reading Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You AreBurkett talks about Man's Search for Meaning, and how people who could think about life after the camps were the ones who survived. I've also read Daydreaming : Unlock the Creative Power of Your Mind. The thing is to be mindful about what it is and not take it for what it's not. In the dream only the dream.


In the episode the doctor loses track of reality, and that is a problem. I think a lot about the reality principle in conflict with the pleasure (or avoidance of pain) principle. He's embarassed by his desire to be more regarded, loved, respected.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Thomas Traherne

Subhuti quoted Traherne, so I'll be studying him this weekend. You can download from Librivox his Centuries of Meditation. I also paid 99 cents when I couldn't find a version on line for free, but perhaps there is one: Centuries of Meditations. Subhuti quotes the following poem:

You never enjoy the world
aright, till the Sea itself 
floweth in your veins, till
you are clothed with the 
heavens, and crowned with 
the stars...

Friday, September 11, 2015

odds and ends

I finished Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple on my labor day camping trip. I don't have too many thoughts about a book at the end, that's why I review as I'm reading it. It's a good book and if I won the lottery I'd go to Joshua Tree with Anandi and see where she grew up and then maybe fly to Japan and do a retreat at Eiheiji. But I'll forget my interest in that probably in a few years, we'll see.

I had my kindle along with me as the backup for books on the trip and read Mind in Harmony: The Psychology of Buddhist Ethics. I've been savoring that book for quite a while.

When I got home I started in on Moonlight Leaning Against an Old Rail Fence: Approaching the Dharma as Poetry. It's a Zen book with poetry and exposition. It's like Milan Kundera, who writes a novel with a metaphor, and then he goes on an on to interpret the metaphor in his own novel. It also reminded me of two Zen people who seemed to love stories and wrote profoundly interesting books about with stories.

I've been dipping into Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism). This is the antidote to political apathy. I have political apathy. I must say I sometimes think that the 47% who think the way they do, we can't have a society that tries to do something right, because so many people are not in favor of the government doing things. They pollute government with their self fulfilling prophesy, and run so that they won't do things, and yet ironically often do quite a lot and like Reagan raise taxes. For every example that proves the conservative viewpoint, there's a counter example. One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens.  There is very little real dialogue about politics, and I'm not sure if there is much changing of opinions. Isn't Bernie Sanders lauded for the fortitude of sticking to his position. A political philosophy is an assumption, not to be proven. A political pragmatist utilitarianism still has a political view about the greatest good. There's no consensus on what the greatest good is. For the Democrat it's high speed rail. For the Republican it could be high speed rail of there's no government involved. I happen to share the viewpoint of Thanissara, so the book just says quite well, what I already think. I just wonder if the more my 47% stand up, if the more the other side's 47% stand up to neutralize it, and prove that government doesn't work. The wild west mentality still exists here in America.

But sometimes there comes a hero. Longmire has been saved by Netflix. I love the way Longmire crumples of legal papers and yet tries to work within the law with integrity. He's not easily swayed, and he pays deep attention. He's a man of action who utilizes all his brains. The book is set in Wyoming, but the show is set near Santa Fe, which I dearly love. I watch shows on Netflix sometimes just for the scenery. This show came sometimes drag, but there are high points, and character development. A hero in the postmodern world of antihero.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Further thoughts on Eat Sleep Sit

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple records the intense first year in a monastery. People get sick from Beriberi. Anandi says all they have to do it not eat white rice, eat brown rice instead. Or they could take a vitamin B1 supplement. Seems like an easy fix. I'm not sure if they are trying to make it any easier for some reason. There is an element of masochism.

There is also an element of the protestant work ethic. Work is good in and of itself. Is that Zen work ethic? Should it even identify with a sect of religion? Perhaps there's a religious work ethic. Is there a secular work ethic or a profane work ethic? I think the "greed is good" ethic is a profane work ethic.

Buddhism in Birdman

I saw Birdman the other day and really enjoyed it. I watched it the next night too. First off I love Raymond Carver. But there are Buddhist elements to the movie. The lead character starts the movie off by floating in his meditation. There's a kind of magical realism in the movie, which you don't know whether it's true or subjective, or just a gimmick. But then there's a part where he's upset and he keeps saying, "it's just a mental formation," which is a Buddhist idea. Then the kicker is when he asks the critic if she can see a flower in front of her. It's reminiscent of Kassapa getting enlightened when the Buddha holds up a flower.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Eat Sleep Sit

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple has had an effect on me. I was feeding the cats, and I wondered if I could be more intensional with it, if I could create a ritual. I made sure to scrape out everything in the cans. Preciousness without waste seems to be part of the ritual. At work I wash my hands and then use to towel to clean the toilet, even though it's not my mess. Ananadi said, "why don't you do that at home?!" We don't have paper towels.

The Vinaya is the part of oral teaching, written down hundreds of years later, that encapsulate all the rules the Buddha came up with to help people live together with mindfulness as the monastic tradition was beginning. Dogen's Shobogenzo is the rules for conduct in the Eihei-ji are derived from this book. Every act seems to be prescribed. In a way that could be comforting to not have to think, but just learn the routines, rituals and manners. They meditate 3x a day for 40 minutes, and there are work periods and study and there are rotating duties, and no duty is considered less, and it's just a matter of taking turns. You can get up at 130am to study, but everyone goes to bed at--I forget, I think it's 9pm. Most get up at 330AM. Each day has a confession of mistakes, and the violence that happens is off putting for Ananadi, and she doesn't buy the justification, but the author seems to feel like it strips away his imperfect outer shell.

There's a brief video on YouTube, of a monk tearing around the monastery ringing a bell, waking everyone up, that stuck in my head.

When someone makes a mistake ringing a bell, everyone knows. One time the bell broke and the guy ran around trying to vocalize the sound. It seems pretty intense. Supposedly you can do a 1 or 3 day retreat, and I've put that on my list of things to do when I win the lottery, which is to say I can't afford to follow my interest unless I get weirdly wealthy suddenly.

The refuge tree of teachers and inspiration for the TBC does not mean we have to sit facing a wall because that is how Dogen does it. It is an option and if you do a retreat in this sect, it helps to know what you're getting into. Dogen's example is an inspiration for us, and helps us to learn the tradition of Buddhist greats. I bet everyone could write a Shobogenzo of sorts for their particular circumstances. The Vinaya is not so much taken literally in the west, and is more about thinking about mindfulness and harmony in your actions. The TBC is working to define the essential elements, but Bhante has often talked in terms of principles, so there's a reluctance to explicitly define actions. I imagine a TBC ceremony looks pretty sloppy to Soto Zen eyes. Or maybe not. I've felt great harmony in being in the shrine room with my dharma brothers, and thought their actions were mindful.

More than other memoirs of zen, this book explicitly shares the nitty gritty of Soto Zen, and is therefore valuable for the praxis information. You learn about Dogen, Japanese culture and a form of practice that stretches back into time, that is strangely attractive to me.

That many of the people who do the 2 year training course at Eihei-ji are the eldest sons of father's who own temples, is not as much to my liking, I prefer choosing, but again, like the rules, having a strict plan in some ways is appealing the way an arranged marriage. All the strum und drang is taken away from choices. But there are people who go who are not eldest sons, and they are valued too. I don't know where they end up, but they are welcome.

Here is another video on this topic.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kauru Nonomura

Eat Sleep Sit: My Year at Japan's Most Rigorous Zen Temple is a memoir, translated from Japanese, of a year at a Soto Zen monastery, following the tradition of Dogen. I read the beginning to Anandi and she thought the violence was not very Buddhist, the way the senior monks treated the new people. It's against the rules to resist the beatings. The rules for going to the bathroom are quite involved, and you snap your fingers three times before and after, and recite bathroom prayers. I do'nt want to say this is an anal sect, but it seems about control. I think discipline is important and each tradition has it's own ways. This is the sect where you meditate facing a wall.

I've always had the fantasy of joining a monastery. A friend who actually lived at one for some time said it was more challenging than you'd think. I haven't really read a memoir of being in one, so this book is greatly appreciated, even though I doubt I would enter such a violent monastery. I wonder even if that is a possibility in the USA. What attracts me is the simplicity and commitment to the path. What repels me is the retreat from the world. I've been thinking about the Bodhisattva path recently, one of engagement with others. Maybe that's why I'm interested in seeing the other side of things.

The back blurb says this 1996 book was a sensation in Japan. It's taken 19 years to get an English translation by Juliet Winters Carpenter. Not that she took that long to translate this book. (Click on this link to learn more about JWC.)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates

P. 98 Between the World and Me:

"To acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always been declared itself and turning towards something murkier and unknown. It is too difficult for Americans to do this. But that is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind."

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Between the world and me

Coates doesn't take the turn into religion and I thought, well, his journey is very spiritual. He doesn't go into conventional religion, but questions, and delving into the self and the nature of humanity and ideals and all spiritual in my book. Religious institutions don't own spirituality. My atheist friends are some of the most spiritual people I know. And they do better on religious quizzes.

But I was thinking about something I read in social work school about how some immigrants turn to spirituality and high religiosity because of feeling dispossessed by society, powerless.

I thought about the connection between mental health and high religiosity--that can be a symptom of someone going round the bend. But I had a patient once that just talked about the bible the whole time and I really liked him. He was exploited by others, and was too passive, but he had schizophrenia. His spirituality was well developed and beautiful.

My own turn to spirituality happened when I was moving from teaching to social work, that's a challenging time, but certainly not the most challenging.

We have to distinguish between crazy, disempowered and desperate spirituality and effective spirituality, and I think Coates has effective spirituality.

Coates spirituality is about curiosity. One of the ideas of Zen is utmost wondrousness. That is one of my slogans. That is what I would call my books if I had the attention span to finish a book.

Just as the great documentaries by Ken Burns (Jazz, Civil War and Baseball) are about race, race is at the heart of American history. Curiosity about race is what it means to be American, from the closed end solution of exploiting it, to ignoring it, to addressing it, there is a continuum.

Coates explorations is specific but it raises to the great universal in it's fierce engagement in what it means to wake up. I wonder if my son, when he turns 15 and I tell him to read this book, will even know who Treyvon Martin is. It was his son's bitter grief, the disillusionment, the unconsolable injustice, that gets Coates to write this heartfelt letter to his son.

I read about the book in a NY Times book review, and then from a Buddhist blog. Waking up includes racial consciousness in America. I'm only on p. 70, but this is a can't miss book in my humble opinion: Between the World and Me  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

square kivas

I asked the ranger at the Coronado Historical Site why the kivas were square. He said they don't know. Reading The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest, David Roberts suggests that they stopped doing round Kivas because the Conquistadors built their churches over them. So don't make them round any more and the stupid colonizers won't know about them. They found one pueblo where the invaders didn't put the church over the kiva. They used it as a land fill for trash.

The disrespect for people's spirituality and the worldly use of spirituality for worldly gains in the "new world" the colony of New Mexico. The murder, rape and general big bowl of wrong of colonization.

I think about open source Buddhism, the idea that secrets should not be kept and hoarded by the hierarchy. On the other hand we can get spiritual digestion from eating too many rich practices, that you don't really do.

The pueblos don't aspire to a universal religion--they want to manufacture their own and don't feel the need to proselytize or vet their practices by converting others. Sounds like a healthy stable self esteem.

The suggestion is that secrecy is part of the power of spirituality. There is also a culture of not standing taller than others, not showboating or maybe some kind of institutionalized chopping down strivers.

My son told a story. There was a Jewish kid in his class. When ever anyone offered him something, the kid asked if it was kosher. The kids started joking, "is that chair kosher?" That is cruel, but there are aspect of religion that are meant to keep people different, that slides people towards only being with their community. "Goy" is the word for non-Jews.

Walking down the street there were a bunch of children coming out of a nursery school. The teacher asked, "Do we talk to strangers?" A bunch of kids said "YES!" I've started to talk to strangers to the chagrin of my kids.

The way you childhood went has a big effect on whether you see others as positive or threatening.

Watching The Divergent Series: Insurgent last night the group abnegation, they are farmers who think positively in a jungle of a world. They are steam rolled by the police.

There are so many variables of circumstances in spirituality, in the age of the internet, and more flow of information. I can't help thinking about Secrets and Lies, in my flight of ideas, and how the the Pueblos control of information about their spirituality seems a bit prescient.

Kwan Yin

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mary in the new world

We went to the New Mexico History Museum to see paintings of the divine. They have a book: Painting the Divine: Images of Mary in the New World. I wondered if you could consider Mary a Kuan Yin, but then I decided we did not need to reduce one tradition to another. You could says the archetypal giving female divinity, the divine mother, but they are rather distinct traditions with different stories.

The imagines that got Ananadi crying were at the Verve Gallery, where pictures of oil spills and the consequences of our fossil fuel hunger are evident.

Views and clouds are fun to see:

The mountains that end her are called the Sangre De Cristo.

I'm reading a book about the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, and lasted for 12 years: The Pueblo Revolt: The Secret Rebellion That Drove the Spaniards Out of the Southwest  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Coronado Historical Site

The Coronado Historical Site is a multicultural settlement, that has round Kivas and a square kiva. You can go into the kiva with a ranger. The ranger Ethan was very knowledgable and communicated very well. The little bit sticking out of the square is the air shaft, and faces east, where the sun rises. We need a spirituality that reveres nature, does not see it as something to exploit and master.

You can't take pictures inside because they are sacred. I compared the Tibetans, who when they were driven out of their country by anti-religious Chinese, began to spread their wisdom because they were dispossessed, and like the Jews, became nomads, people without a country.

The ranger said the natives were originally open and shared their spirituality and it was used against them. Reminds me of work a little. I remember once I asked a woman what she was renouncing during lent, and she said that was private. I respect that. So I think thinking about that today I felt more respect for the desire for privacy in spirituality.

Inside the square kiva there's a hole, and I can't help but think that there are spiritual rebirth ceremonies, among other things. It's a sacred space. They did all this complicated taking of the wall stuff, and peeling off the layers. There was a book that was printed in 1963 that has photos of all the murals: Sun Father's Way. The Kiva Murals of Kuaua. Beautiful amazing stuff.

My boys put on some conquistador armor. There was a beautiful barrel cactus in bloom.

You could see the Sandia mountains that are next to Albuquerque:

And the Rio Grande.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

climate justice

There's a really good section in Mind in Harmony about hatred, and how it's a confusion. Seems to hit it right on the head. This book is amazing to me, I savor it, I can't just plow through it.

I'm also enjoying Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism). She talks about her experiences of trying to blaze a trail into the Dharma, in a tradition that does not have female teachers.

I was reading Tricycle. There's a fascinating interview of Naomi Klein. Her suggestion is that since narrow viewpoints have not stopped the climate crisis, we need a larger view, one that eliminates systems of exploitation. We have to care about everyone to address the climate crisis. We won't solve the climate crisis if it's OK for some people to suffer, and others not to suffer. Climate Justice is the concept she puts forth.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Santa Fe

Off to visit my parents (half of them) in Santa Fe. There are three books I have read that give me a feel for Santa Fe:

Banana Rose: A Novel is by Natalie Goldberg is perhaps the most famous novel set there in recent times.

Savage Pilgrims: On the Road to Santa Fe is a quirky memoir by a guy who really like D.H. Lawrence.

The crown jewel of book, perhaps not about Santa Fe, but by an author who spends some of her time in Santa Fe is The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom. This is basically a modern Buddhist sutra that cannot be missed. I love this book.

And if you'd like a historical potboiler, I've enjoyed Santa Fe Passage.

Please add some books in the comments, I need books to read about Santa Fe.

Silence by Shusaku Endo

"It's easy enough to die for the good and the beautiful; the hard thing is to die for the miserable and corrupt" p.38 Silence.

I picked up this book by the Japanese Graham Green because Stephen Batchelor recommended it on his Facebook page. It's about missionaries in Japan in the 17th century when Christianity was forbidden.

Shusaku Endo died in 1996.  Reading in the age of the internet is fun, I've looked up a lot of things to learn more about Japanese culture. I did not know about the twenty six martyrs of Japan, for instance. I've got a hard copy, which I enjoy the feel of, but I am coming to appreciate the ability to look something on my reader without having to switch devises. Is that lazy or what?

My mother was born in Japan during the occupation, and there were always Japanese prints in my grandparent's homes. I have read quite a bit about Japan, and have always been fascinated by other countries outside of the USA. The USA seems so provincial sometimes, it's a huge country and many people don't even bother to get passports. I love living in NYC where the world comes to live.

I have not detected any traces of how Buddhism effected the efforts to spread Christianity in the east yet in the novel, but that's why I'm reading it. I'm struck at how sexy it is to smuggle something in, and how suffering for your religion has it's appeal. It kind of informs my buddhist practice in a Christian country. NYC is more than Christian, there's a holy war with Islam and Judaism, hedonism and materialism as well. It's easy to make fun of the spirit of multiculturalism and tolerance, but that is what I love about NYC. Unfortunately multiculturalism is often boiled down to food, and my favorite Sushi place is Kyoto in Kew Garden Hills. I haven't been to the new Sushi Yasu since it moved to Austin Street, but I bet it's the same.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

looking into the sun

It's not easy to see yourself clearly. There's a kind of confidence one needs in oneself to connect with the Sangha, to go for enlightenment. Pureland Buddhism feels foreign, feels like you're relying too much on other power, hoping to reborn in a pureland just because of your devotion to a mantra. I believe more and more in mappo more and more as I go along. It's hard to read Pureland texts. There's one free on Amazon that I downloaded: Wisdom of the East Buddhist Psalms translated from the Japanese of Shinran Shonin. There is so much free Dharma it's hard to feel like paying for a book. Reading this book I have tried to go past my knee jerk reactions to Pureland. This is a major tradition in Buddhism and I'm curious about it. I'm still not super connecting with it. I've been exploring the idea of faith in Buddhism after reading about it in the lovely book of Subhuti's: Mind in Harmony. I can't gobble it down, I need to savor it and chase all the trails of thought as I read though it. And one of those detours was into Shinran. I prostrate to Shinran when I do the refuge tree prostration practice, which is an maximalist practice that is about faith in the tradition. I need to learn more about the TBC refuge tree. You can read more about the practice in Teachers of Enlightenment: The Refuge Tree of the Western Buddhist Order.


I'm at once impressed and feel like I could never do what the Amish do in rejecting technology.

Lancaster County is a center in Pennsylvania of Amish. The Amish are similar but different then the Mennonites. These Pennsylvania Dutch speak a Swiss-German, and aren't Dutch but are German or Swiss in origin. They probably don't have more than a quarter of a million people in the USA. Their rules for order is the called the Ordnung. Their relationship to technology is supposed to be following the will of god. Anyway, in our modern world it's a curiosity that such a community can exist. You can see the simplicity of their lives in the signs they have. A wonderful book to see that is Signs of Lancaster County: A Photographic Tour of Amish Country.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Watching that documentary on Chogyam Trungpa, I thought it was silly that he created a kind of military unit, for a Buddhist community. But I know someone who is involved in the famous church in Brooklyn and he's part of the security team there. He talked to me about the bible study group in South Carolina, where a guy sat for an hour with people studying the bible and then shot everyone but a witness that he spared out of a sadistic desire for someone to tell the story of everyone being shot. This is the world we live in here in the USA. Where you need security at your place of worship.

In the show The League, one of the wacky characters Taco, thinks Security is a football team. He says he's a fan and chants "go security" when ever a security guard goes by. But he doesn't help out a woman when she is being robbed even though he's wearing a security jacket. I love absurdist humor because I feel the world can be so absurd. That a beloved community needs security breaks my heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


"Without taking the humble journey of inclusiveness, our spirituality will tend to be idealized, disembodied projections and immature escapism." p. 19 Time to Stand Up by Thanissara. 


"We need to see how easy it is for us to be manipulated by the media toward prejudice against others whom we designate as nonhuman with no right at all, or less than human and unequal. We need to understand how when we objectify and denigrate those "outside" ourselves we find an easy receptacle for our unacknowledged fears, aggression, and pain; how in that process we miss so many opportunities for more consious solutions to conflict." p.19 Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth -- The Buddha's Life and Message through Feminine Eyes (Sacred Activism)