Saturday, December 24, 2016


Sangharakshita, in the meditation anthology, talks about saying "sit" instead of "meditation". His take was that sit is casual, where as meditation implies more the right effort involved. I thought that was interesting.

He also says when you're tired, you are in your lower nature. Better to take a nap than meditate.

I've been enjoying the novels of Haruki Murakami, which I feel has a Buddhist element to them.

PS--This is my most popular post by far in 2016.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Hannah, the movie

There aren't a whole lot of Buddhist movies that I know of. On Netflix now, Hannah is about Hannah Nydahl, a Danish woman who set up 550 centers for Kagyu Buddhism. Woof. She had a husband who seemed to support her as well. I hate to say this, but I'd never heard of her before. Quite inspiring. They had a cute marriage as well. Then there's the whole China/West split in the reincarnation of the Karmapa, one the Chinese recognize and one the West recognizes. Wikipedia has a page on the controversy. I think spiritual biographies can be difficult because you have to be part of the sangha to really appreciate it. 

The days are getting longer

In The Purpose and Practice of Meditation Sangharakshita suggests that 2 hours of meditation a day are the minimum. He's quite careful to say that's a rough guide and that there are many factors and you should consult with your spiritual friends. Even so, that's an interesting goal, to get up to 2 hours a day. The best I've done is 40 minutes every morning for quite a while. The goal he says is to get contact with the transcendental, the dhyanas.

He said he burnt his meditation journals, but that if you're not "too precious" they are good things to keep so that you can remember good experiences when you're down and other patterns. The Insight app has a journal in it. I switched to prompt journal when I'm done with meditation.

After the final bell rings, I review the hinderances and the 3 characteristics of existence.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice

Looking into the various pagan holidays, Saturnalia the master serves the slave. I don't really have any slaves, and I'm not sure who my masters are. I won't get into that. Yule you eat until the log burns out. That's not going to happen. The holidays celebrate the sun, and there's usually family gathering, gift giving. I wish I wasn't in the city, there could be a big bonfire.

If I was going to do a sacrifice, maybe I could go electronics free. That's not happening this year. Maybe throw away extra clothing and books and whatnot. Usually I call family on xmas, before my conversion from a nominal Christian/atheist, to Buddhism, so I can certainly call family today.

I did find a holiday in December in Thailand, where you do Tonglen at the full moon in December. Seems most Buddhist holidays are not in December. Although there are many different celebrations around the world.

The best thing would be to connect with sangha, meditate, talk, listen and read Dharma. Perhaps do a special puja that may not be unique but dedicated to winter solstice. I could not find a winter solstice Buddhist puja.

Anyway, amongst those who have set rituals I wish you a happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler is my new favorite writer. I've read 9 of her books and I have 3 left. Her series' go from 4 books to 3 books to 2 books. The last one about the parables, the heroine develops a new religion which states, "God is change." Instead of enlightenment, she wants to get humans into outer space. The two books equal about the most bleak dystopian novels I've ever read, but I found it interesting that she chose impermanence as her god. I couldn't recommend her more highly.

Life 2007-2009

This TV show has a main character that is influenced by what seems to be Zen. He's in the moment. He listens to tapes. It gave him something to read while he was in prison. He was wrongfully convicted and returning to being a detective, he is also very wealthy from the mistake the state made. He hired a friend from jail to be his financial advisor. His partner is a beautiful woman of middle east origin and the captain ends up being from New York. Usual cop drama. They talk about competing theories of murder and work to test their hypothesis. Somewhere towards the end, questioning someone leads to a confession.

There's not much to say except that Buddhism is becoming a part of main stream culture. Supposedly the show is filmed in New Orleans, but the show is set in LA. The west coast is more influenced by Zen than the east coast, but there's a lot of Zen out here too.

Monday, October 17, 2016

With Mindfulness, strive on

In college, many moons ago, I was in an aesthetics class. I read Arthur Danto's book The State of Art. Aside from the Tilted Arc stuff, there was the argument that we are at the end of art, that all the major schools have been created, we're just playing around with what's been created. Indeed Danto's next book is After The End of Art.

As I was chanting from the TBC Puja, which I have modified in by adding in things. I've added conciliation and atonement. Instead of chanting to Padmasambhava twice, I chant pratityasamitpada:

Imasmim sati, idam hoti.
Imass’ uppādā, idam uppajjati.
Imasmim asati, idam na hoti.
Imassa nirodhā, idham nirujjhati.

I learned to chant that 8 years ago, my how time flies.

Amongst the mantras I add in a Milarepa mantra:

The TBC is an ecumenical order, which means inclusive of all the sects. So I can read pure land sutras, I can read it all. I've been into the Teravadan books from Amaravati. I feel like I could hang out with any sect and get something from it. In a way, I feel Buddhism, like art, is at an end. You've all these kinds and really you can mash up what ever you want. Of course it's good to get an order and a sangha and a program of progress to have regular steps instead of irregular steps. Even Batchelor writes a book called After Buddhism. Some people want an American Buddhism. It's hard to imagine what that would mean. There is a movement to take Buddhism away from the secretive teachers, an open source Buddhism. Sangharakshita talks about spiritual indigestion, too many rich doctrines.

Like everything, you can never give up your will, negotiating your own spiritual shoals is all your business and nobody else's. The fight against ossifying orders, keeping the spiritual life alive can be challenging at times. With mindfulness, strive on!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Higher Power

So my partner had some time to blog, so I'm inspired to blog.

Chapter 4 in The Philosophical Baby talks a lot about Buddhism and consciousness. Gopnik suggests that because babies are experiencing everything as new, they are more conscious. They need more anesthetic for surgery. In a way they are little Buddhas. I have treated my little sprog as my teacher, just as their brothers are my teachers as well.

For that matter my daughter's mother has positivity, energy, patience, wisdom and kindness oozing out her every pore, and she teaches me quite a lot. Sometimes family life is your sangha.

Been reading The Buddha In Me, The Buddha In You. It's a positive encouraging book by a life coach who also follows Soka Gakkai.

I stopped reading The collected works of Ajhan Chah, because it seems to be an elaboration of just do it. I've gotten a lot from what I've read so far, but I've stalled in the book because he says put down the book and go meditate. Good advice. Great teachers always point away from their talks and books and suggest meditation. I'll get back to it eventually. I put down a lot of books and come back to them when the spirit moves me.

I've been reading One Breath At A Time for the third time and finding it rewarding. I'm still stuck on the whole higher power thing.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Spring Azures

Spring Azures - Mary Oliver

In spring the blue azures bow down
at the edges of shallow puddles
to drink the black rain water.
Then they rise and float away into the fields.

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,
and all the tricks my body knows―
the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,
and the mind clicking and clicking—

don’t seem enough to carry me through this world
and I think: how I would like

to have wings—
blue ones—
ribbons of flame.

How I would like to open them, and rise
from the black rain water.

And then I think of Blake, in the dirt and sweat of London—a boy
staring through the window, when God came
fluttering up.

Of course, he screamed,
and seeing the bobbin of God’s blue body
leaning on the sill,
and the thousand-faceted eyes.

Well, who knows.
Who knows what hung, fluttering, at the window
between him and the darkness.

Anyway, Blake the hosier’s son stood up
and turned away from the sooty sill and the dark city—
turned away forever
from the factories, the personal strivings,

to a life of the the imagination.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thicket of views

I don't want to enter into the controversy and sectarianism of Japanese Buddhism. I did find a anit-SGI blog that is pure land:

A thought occurred to me reading The Buddha In Me, The Buddha In You, that perhaps I need to read up on Nichiren before I compare it to the SGI teachings. That brings up another question. Should I trust the SGI translation of Nichiren's Daishonin? I can't find another translation online.

And I could reread the Lotus Sutra.

"The teachings are endless, I seek to master them" is a Bodhisattva vow line, which I can't find a TBC version of at the moment.

My own opinion is that reducing Buddhism to chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra, well that just doesn't feel like the best practice. I think ethics, meditation and wisdom are very important. Chanting and faith are lovely too.

I am interested in a way about it because once on a solitary retreat, I had the thought that I would not get enlightened in the current circumstances of my life, which is basically Mappo, a basis for the Nichiren Buddhism. But just because I thought it doesn't mean it's true. And Nichiren meditated for 20 years. I can't believe that he got nothing more out of that than a mantra.

Pure Land Buddhism, which is not one thing really, is the most popular sect of Buddhism, mostly concentrated in Japan and China.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Finished Abundant, Exhalted, Immeasurable by Pasanno, a Theravadan from the lineage of Ajahn Chah, from the Thai Forest Tradition. It put Metta in the context of a Buddhist practice pretty well, in the tradition of the elders.

Started The Buddha in Me, The Buddha in You by David Hare.

Been thinking about my fear of success, what stops me from going deeper. I've been very itchy lately, I need to figure out what I'm allergic to.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


A quote from a movie written by one of the creators of BoJack Horseman:

Here’s the problem with everything. As soon as you get something you want — it’s no longer a thing you want, it’s just a thing you have, and then you want the next thing. So I’m starting to realize maybe I’ll never be satisfied. ... I’ll find the girl of my dreams, I’ll get married and I’ll have kids. Then, like a week later, I’ll be like, ‘Oh, this is [expletive].’ ”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nina Simone

The name of this tune is Mississippi Goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer

Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too damn lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin'

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"

But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Mass participation
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know

You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam

That's it!


I watched the documentary on Nina Simone and once again I'm struck by the thought that we'll never solve our problems until everyone has a certain basic worth. She wrote the song after a fire was set in Birmingham and little girls died. You can read the Wikipedia article.

An interesting press release from Tibetan Nun Project

All 20 Nuns Pass Final Round of Geshema Examinations

Seattle, WA: Twenty Tibetan Buddhist nuns have just made history, becoming the first Tibetan women to successfully pass all the exams for the Geshema degree, equivalent to a Doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Exam results were announced by the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration. All 20 candidates for the degree passed.

Their success fulfills a longstanding wish of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and marks a new chapter in the development of education for ordained Buddhist women and is a major accomplishment for Tibetan women. 

The Geshema degree (a Geshe degree when awarded to men) is the highest level of training in the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. These women pioneers have accomplished a level of scholarship and Buddhist training that, until recently, was only open to men. 

The Geshema examination process is an extremely rigorous one that takes four years in total, with one round per year each May. During the 12-day exam period, the nuns must take both oral (debate) and written exams. They are examined on the entirety of their 17-year course of study of the Five Great Canonical Texts. In 2011, a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, who spent 21 years training in India, became the first female to receive the Geshema title.

The new Geshema nuns will formally receive their degrees from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at a special ceremony at Drepung Monastery in Mundgod in southern India.

This occasion is also a milestone for the Tibetan Nuns Project, which was founded in 1987 to provide education and humanitarian aid to Tibetan Buddhist nuns living in India. A number of the Geshema candidates were illiterate when they escaped from Tibet. To reach this historic milestone, the Tibetan Nuns Project had to build an educational system from the ground up.

“Educating women is powerful,” says Rinchen Khando Choegyal, Founder and Director of the Tibetan Nuns Project. “It’s not just about books. It is also about helping nuns acquire the skills they need to run their own institutions and create models for future success and expansion. It’s about enabling the nuns to be teachers in their own right and to take on leadership roles at a critical time in our nation’s history.”

Earning the Geshema degrees marks a turning point for the nuns. This degree will make them eligible to assume various leadership roles in the monastic and lay communities, previously reserved for men.

The Tibetan Nuns Project supports 7 nunneries in India as well as many nuns living on their own for a total of nearly 800 nuns. Many are refugees from Tibet, but the organization also reaches out to the Himalayan border areas of India where women and girls have had little access to education and religious training.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cycles of practice

On the resources page of Dharma Punx NYC, I found out about Small Boat, Big Mountain which you can get at the Amaravati site. This book is written by Ajahn Amaro, when he was co-teaching a retreat with a Dzogchen teacher.

I've decided to meditate in weekly cycles. One week of the Brahma Viharas. My complimentary reading could be Living With Kindness. Through all this I could read The Purpose and Practice of Meditation. Both by Sangharakshita.

Then I'm going to do the mindfulness of breathing for a week, sometimes 4 stage, sometimes the 16 stages in Breath by Breath by Larry Rosenberg.

Then I'm going to do just sitting for a week. I can read all kinds of Zen, Chan or Dzogchen books, but also Small Boat Big Mountain.

Then I'm going to do the 6 element meditation for a week. I could read Living as a River by Bodhipoksha or I could skip to the next stage and begin to read Teachers of Enlightenment if I begin to feel too unglued.

Then a week of prostration practice and reading any of the books referenced in Teachers of Enlightenment.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Sattipathana Commentary by Analayo

There are many great figures in this dense book that lost me a few times. This is the last figure in the book. I read a review that said it's the kind of book you read a few times. To my chagrin I paid for it, not knowing you can get it for free. It's an interesting book from the Theravada perspective. Feels like a profound book that I will read again.

I also read recently and enjoyed First Buddhist Women which is a commentary on the Therigatha. Fascinating stuff. Getting to the root of Buddhism. Putting things in context. So two books that I recommend to support your Dharma study.

Friday, June 03, 2016


Above 1008 Green Tara's for your consideration.

Here's a PDF of some holy places of the Buddha taken in 2009.

I added Buddhaghosa's Dhammapada Commentary to the right list of links.

I'm on the dying days of the Buddha in The Life of the Buddha. I guess I've been reading it since 2003, but I recently picked it up and will probably finish it.

I'm really enjoying Awakening Through Love. Ananadi really liked the bits I read to her the other day.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Refuge Recovery Phone Meetings

**Open Refuge Recovery Phone Meetings**
Mondays, 6:00PM PDT/9:00PM EDT
Book Study: Guided meditation, followed by a topic-by-topic study of Refuge Recovery
Thursdays, 6:00PM PDT/9:00PM EDT
Book Study: Guided meditation, followed by a paragraph-by-paragraph study of Refuge Recovery.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 6:00-6:45AM PDT, 9:00-9:45AM EDT
Sitting Group
Guided meditation, followed by fellowship.
Call 641-715-3580, access code 431384# for live meetings.
Call 641-715-3589, access code 431384# for recorded meetings.
Recorded Meeting Listings
Contact Information:
(323) 454-3145 (Voice/Text)
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Tuesdays, 12PM EDT
Wednesdays, 10AM EDT
Friday, 7PM EDT
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Contact Information:
Anne at and Kelly at

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


At the Corner Store - Alison Luterman

He was a new old man behind the counter, skinny, brown and eager.
He greeted me like a long-lost daughter,
as if we both came from the same world,
someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city.

I was thirsty and alone. Sick at heart, grief-soiled
   and his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter 

coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register
which were still and always filled
with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.
Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,
these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips,
Stacked – up beer boxes and immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water
and he returned my change, beaming
as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open 
    cherry trees,
as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,
and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime

over the counter and the plastic tub of red licorice 

This old man who didn’t speak English
beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s 
so that when I emerged from his store

    my whole cock-eyed life  -
    what a beautiful failure ! -
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

   Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards,
mad with passion behind their chain-link fences,
   and in the driveway of a peeling-paint house
   a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae.

Praise Allah!  Jah!  The Buddha!  Kwan Yin,
Jesus, Mary, and even jealous old Jehovah!

For eyes, hands
 of the divine, everywhere.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How did I miss this book?

I heard about this book on a Dharma Punx retreat: Awakening Through Love which came out in 2007. I went back and looked at my 141 posts I did in 2007 and found a lot of dead links I need to tighten up. The illusion is that the internet is impermanent. It is not.

The author is supposedly the Dharma heir to Lama Surya Das, John Markansky. He's a professor at Boston College.

The quote that got me to begin blogging about this book is as follows: "how can we make a world safer if we ourselves are not a stable port of safety." (p. 4)

It got me thinking about a book a supervisor suggested to me about couples therapy: The Intimate Enemy, which is out of print but you can find a $4 used copy on Amazon at the moment. (They say it's $.01 but there's $3.99 shipping and handling so the cheapest used book you can get on Amazon is $4).

I've been looking for a book on the brahma viharas ever since I went on my first week long retreat. I often say I'm trying to get back there. It blew my mind.

Putting brahma viharas into Amazon I found one 47 page introduction that costs $2.99 by an IT and media professor. Might check it out later. Also I found a page of talks on Free Buddhist Audio. Guess that is what I'll be falling asleep to for the next few weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Coming June 14th

I always get a little excited when I read these words. I chant them in my pujas. This is a photograph from the book Radical Dharma. Amazon has it coming out June 14th. I found the sharing of experience about race, sexuality and America fascinating.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


I found this draft from a while ago: Oct. 28 2011

Learning about Satyagraha, the opera by Philip Glass, in preparation for attending it at the Met soon. I'm listening to it now.

Here's from Wikipedia:

"The title of the opera refers to Gandhi's concept of non-violent resistance to injustice, Satyagraha, and the text, from the Bhagavad Gita, is sung in the original Sanskrit."

Satyagraha means insistance on truth, a cool concept.

I can't believe it came out it premiered in '80. Feels very fresh to me.

From Glass' site, I learned:

The first two acts each contain three scenes; the last is one continuous scene. Each act is dominated by a single historic figure (non-singing role) overlooking the action from above: the Indian poet Ravindranath Tagore in Act I the Russian author Leo Tolstoy in Act II, the American Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr in Act III.

And that there's apparently a DVD.

my mala

I found this in my drafts for 2014

My partner gave me an awesome mala a while ago.

I've used the mala to do mantras.

My son did an Our Father on my mala the other day.

Rev. angel Kyodo Williams' Warrior-Spirit Prayer of Awakening

Rev. angel Kyodo Williams' Warrior-Spirit Prayer of Awakening:

May all beings be granted with the strength, determination and wisdom to extinguish anger and reject violence as a way.

May all suffering cease and may I seek, find and fully realize the love and compassion that already lives within me and allow them to inspire and permeate my every action.

May I exercise the precious gift of choice and the power to change that which makes me uniquely human and is the only true path to liberation.

My I swiftly reach complete, effortless freedom so that my fearless, unhindered action be a benefit to all.

May I lead the life of a warrior.

(From Radical Dharma p.93-94)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Radical Dharma

I have long noticed that the Dharma seems to be for white people. From posting lyrics to quotes from Ta-Nehisi Coastes to quotes from Thanassara. If we are to go to enlightenment with all, we need to invite all the voices to be heard. My lack of awareness is part of my spiritual bypassing. Brushing aside the racial discussion by saying "I'm color blind," is to invalidate people's experiences where people were not color blind. Whites are quick to disavow racism and blacks often comfort them in their anxiety. I think increasing the anxiety is needed. I have heard deeply disturbing stories. A cursory reading of AA literature will make one understand not everyone's circumstances are the same and the color of one's skin can change that equation.

Started reading this book: Radical Dharma. I have always hoped for a plurality of American voices in the Dharma world. I have not read William's book Being Black. Radical Dharma is an anthology of essays with Lama Rod Owens and Jasmine Syedullah.

In the blurbs on the first pages, Sharon Salzberg reports she doesn't agree with everything said in the book. I suppose I see it as a report of experience, so it's hard to say it's not true. I had a bit of a reaction to "White Dharma". It's hard to imagine following the breath as racist, but the white capitalist patriarchy we live in is a context to the breath so why not? Can I follow black Dharma? The answer to me is no, because that's not my experience. I can bypass less. I grow by learning about other's experience.

I'm not sure how "radical" the Dharma is in this book, to include black voices, but I am also reluctant to quibble with a person's word choices to express their experience. Maybe it gets radical further in. I think the Dharma is pretty radical on it's own. That Ms. Syedullah has gained racial consciousness in meditation seems like a good thing. These three authors fleshing out their thoughts seems a productive and useful contribution. I'm more inclined to think "long overdue".

Only 25 pages in, I like the phrase "homeleaving". It flows better than "going forth". I realized today that again the challenges of parenthood are challenging me to change and adapt.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Long Time No Blog


First off, I finished Great Faith, Great Wisdom. Excellent book. Didn't know what to say about it, so I guess I didn't blog. I could have blogged along the way. Many interesting ideas and history and ways of looking at practice. Been falling asleep to the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra every night.

Second I went to visit Zen Mountain Monastery. Did a little tour they were kind enough to take me on. It's quite an impressive facility. Had a really good feeling there. Interesting stories, and community, friendly.

Third I went on a Dharma Punx retreat at Garrison Institute. Also been listening to Josh Korda since falling asleep since then. The retreat was also led by Jessica Morey who started Inward Bound. I hope to send my sons on a retreat at some point.

Fourth, I got some time to read on retreat, and I have been gobbling up The Life of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Did you know the Buddha could touch his ears with his tongue? The whole 32 marks thing doesn't make sense to me, but there was a lot that I really liked reading this book. Hope to finish it soon.

Finally I'm looking at my rupas, tankas and images of the Buddha a lot as I carry my baby around, and I say mantras to her. I also read

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New Book

Somehow I missed Great Faith, Great Wisdom coming out March 8th. I'm 21 days behind. I know I want to read this book, because The Art of Reflection was such a good book. The other thing is that being in recovery, faith and other power is a important topic.

Reading it so far I learned about the Taima Mandala, which is also explained here.

I haven't been reading so much lately because I've been judging myself to need to put the teachings into action, not read more. But reading the Dharma keeps it in my mind, and I appreciate that, even if it's secondary to being kind or meditating.

I'm going to be falling asleep to Ratnaguna reading pure land sutras.

Also he references an article, by Aaron Hughes called Imaging The Devine.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

calm so deep

Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still.
W. Wordsworth (1770–1850)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reader response

Finished reading Eight Step Recovery. I enjoyed the integration of Buddhism and recovery. Many interesting thoughts on shame spirals and self pity that I needed to hear/read.

Now I'm reading Against the Stream. I laughed at the idea that the ascetics abused him by calling him a "food-eater" Anandi says, "tough crowd." Even though it's absurd to think eating food is wrong, I've always thought that perhaps a period of asceticism would be good, even if it is adolescent. Adolescents tend to swear off things. I recently heard the concept Straight Edge Vegan, which would also eradicate any animal products you own, no medication, no intoxicants, and sex. I can't help but hear the AA, "refrain progress not perfection."

Reading about the 4 sights, which Mr. Lavine the 4 messengers, I thought about how we shunt people way into hospitals and nursing homes and funeral homes, you don't really see sick, elderly or dead people that much. They are swept up pretty neatly.

You also don't see that many religious people around. Every once in a while you see a nun or some orthodox Jew, but even the Hindus you see, it feels more cultural their garb than religious. I have seen a few Tibetan monks on the subway and in Central Park. My recent sighting of monks on the street might have been a sham. I guess you don't have to wear you spirituality on your sleeve, but I wouldn't mind moving towards the Tibetan model where one out of five men were monks. Now that system has it's troubles and whatnot, but I say just moving towards it more. Not in current America. I think there are some monks in New York City, but I can't imagine there are many. Of course I don't mean to perpetuate the dualism of monastic and lay. You hear all kinds of things about the Catholic monks. Thomas Merton was an interesting person. How many famous monks can I call to mind, in all traditions. I could probably list about 50 great spiritual leaders, but I could also list 50 MLB or 50 NFL players. Most of the ministers I met were pretty worldly and didn't seem very enlightened.

I'm not sure what I think about Levine calling the ascetics "Sid's homies". His language is a certain kind of casual, and you can either take that as updated language, or kids language. Or both or neither, but it's not too distracting for me. I was sorry to see his father died the other day, even though I haven't read any of his books. He does have a forward in this book, and has the lovely phrase "teen-monster".

Other reading: I have been thinking a lot about Milarepa lately. I started reading again The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, which I read from 2005-2011. Might take 6 years to read it again. I've also been slowly working my way through The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation: A Source Book of Teachings, which seems out of print, and I couldn't somehow find the kindle version to link to either. You can still get used copies.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

live the questions

Among the best advice I ever got was to live the questions, from someone who got it from Rilke.

Reading Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha's Teachings to Overcome Addiction, I've gotten stuck of the following questions:

1. What does my suffering look like?
2. How do I create more suffering in my life?
3. What have I gained from creating more suffering in my life?
4. What has creating more suffering in my life cost me?
5. What do I need to do to lessen the suffering in my life?

I'm going to be living these questions for quite a while.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Obeisance to Manjushri

Obeisance to Manjushri

Obeisance to my Guru and Protector Manjushri,
Who holds to his heart a scriptural text,
symbolic of his seeing all things as they are;
Whose intelligence shines forth as the sun,
unclouded by delusions or traces of ignorance;
Who teaches in sixty ways with the loving compassion
of a father for his only son
all creatures caught in the prison of samsara,
confused in the darkness of their ignorance,
overwhelmed by their suffering.
You, whose dragon-thunder-like proclamation of Dharma
arouses us from the stupor of our delusions
and frees us from the iron chains of our karma;
Who wields the sword of wisdom, hewing down suffering
wherever its sprouts appear,
clearing away the darkness of our ignorance.
You, whose princely body is adorned with the one hundred
and twelve marks of a Buddha;
Who has completed the stages achieving
the highest perfection of a Bodhisattva;
Who has been pure from the beginning.
I bow down to you, O Manjushri,
With the brilliance of your wisdom, O compassionate one,
Illuminate the darkness enclosing my mind,
Enlighten my intelligence and wisdom
so that I may gain insight
Into Buddha’s words and the texts that explain them.

Saturday, January 09, 2016


I passed a test yesterday. I went to an Italian place and didn't get any cheese. Got a veggie wrap. I've decided to be vegan in the new year, a little before that. Of course I have had some slips, but Anandi refocuses me by asking me what my motivation is. So thought I would write about it.

Four reasons to be a vegan:

1. Spiritual: It hurts me to hurt others. Eating animals for meat, or milk, butter, cheese, eggs and honey all exploits animals. Meat violates the first precept, and dairy violates the second precept. The point of ethics in spirituality for me is to allow me to go deeper into spirituality. My meditation is deeper when I'm in harmony with the world. When I think about my impact on the world, I recognize the interconnectivity. The rudeness in which a dairy farmer can exploit the milk from a cow is quite horrible. Someone said, what if plants feel. OK, I think they do feel. But if you really care about plants feeling, you would only eat plants, because animals eat more plants. To reduce the harm to plants, and the environment, you would eat plants. You gotta eat. Just like, I don't think, you need to allow bacteria and viruses plague your body, or let mosquitos feast on your blood, I think you also need to eat. The least harmful way is to eat plants. But people who bring up that plants have feeling aren't really concerned about them. They are into carnism, and the best argument for that is "I want to and it's not illegal yet." But I think it's import to make their own ethical choices, and I'm not perfect. I just wish to develop and feel the gladdening of not harming others. It may seem puny, but I think everyone has an impact in the world.

2. Ethical: It's just wrong. I don't really want to elaborate more on why. We don't need meat. We don't need that much protein and it's one of those things we will look back in the future and say, "... and they also had slavery." The ethical can be part of spiritual, but in this secular age, people can get nervous when people talk religion. So lets talk ethics. What is the greatest good--utilitarianism. The amount of suffering off weighed by the pleasure of eating meat surely cannot be justified. Your taste buds change when you stop eating meat and dairy, and you get the same pleasure. So the pleasure you get form eating meat is artificial, and can be changed. How about principles? The idea that we are the superior species and that we have a right to eat the non-humans is just wrong. You can align such thinking with slavery and sexual abuse. You can quote any religious source, but what makes that true? I'm arguing outside my Buddhist ethics, in a secular ethics, utilitarianism. You can't make a Kantian deontological argument either for meat eating. Vegan diet is the most ethical approach to eating.

3. Environmental. You may notice these all overlap. Spiritual, ethical, environmental and health are interrelated, and I'm not trying to perpetuate a dualism. As I wrote, I'm trying to remind myself why I'm doing what I'm doing because there's quite a pull towards not doing it. Going that extra step from vegetarian to vegan is quite hard for me. I'm from Wisconsin and I love cheese. I love butter. I love eggs. I love honey. Giving up meat is one thing, but giving those up too, is a hard thing. You basically can't eat out any more. Which is generally good, because it's well known that eating out isn't the healthiest thing to do and costs more, and the culture of America is meat eating ("Christian", Materialistic, Racist, Sexist, etc.). I prefer to fight the good fight, and I love the environment, this glorious earth that sustains us earthlings. I sing the Sesame Street song when I say earthlings. I take my sons hiking so they can get more of a connection, but I wonder if people who live in the city feel the connection others do. My aunt and uncle built a house where there was none, to appreciate the great outdoors, but by doing that they reduce the colonized by humans aspects of the world. I think the best thing you can do for the environment is to live in the city. It should come as no news that we're destroying the earth with our short sighted decisions, and corporate greed is one of the sources of that. Getting wholesome food from farmers is an antidote to that. Reconnecting from the land to the table is part of that. Thinking about our own impact on the environment is part of that. I love Thoreau, John Muir, and Aldo Leopold. I have been to the Amazonian rainforest. My hope is that we can treat the world as precious, be smart and work with nature. Not create frankenfood and try to sustain an unsustainable lifestyle.

4. Health. I know the least about this one, but I do know my partner read The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health, and became a vegan. I guess I thought cheese and butter were not as bad as meat, but I think that this study suggests that going vegan is the healthiest thing we can do. It's almost taboo to suggest that anything less than that is wrong on 4 different levels, and I'm afraid to make bold pronouncements, because I could cave in, and not be a good representative. Even when I'm not vegan, I wish I were. I hope I have to fortitude to pull it off.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Porgy and Bess "I got plenty o' nuttin'"

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin'

And nuttin's plenty for me

I got no car, got no mule

I got no misery

De folks wid plenty o' plenty

Got a lock on de door

'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em

While dey's out a-makin' more

What for

I got no lock on de door

Dat's no way to be

Dey kin steal de rug from de floor

Dat's okeh wid me

'Cause de things dat I prize

Like de stars in de skies

All are free


Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin'

And nuttin's plenty for me

I got my gal, got my song

Got Hebben the whole day long

No use complaining

Got my gal, got my Lawd

Got my song

Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin'

And nuttin's plenty for me

I got the sun, got the moon

Got the deep blue sea

De folks wid plenty o' plenty

Got to pray all de day

Seems wid plenty you sure got to worry

How to keep the debbel away


I ain't frettin 'bout hell

'Till de time arrive

Never worry long as I'm well

Never one to strive

To be good, to be bad

What the hell

I is glad I's alive

lyrics by
DuBose Heyward