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