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.