Monday, September 18, 2017

One Dharma




He says they are all the paths to Enlightenment, his is just one, there are others. I guess that begs the question, which route is best for you?

But I want to finish up on One Dharma.

On p. 137 of One Dharma Goldstein Writes, "Instead of "who's right?" the question becomes, "What  learn from this teaching? Can it help me free the mind from clinging?""

One Dharma p.183 "...in light of the One Dharma, there is a way of seeing all the different perspectives as a manadala of skillful means, each contributing to our liberation."

It's been said many times that Buddhism isn't a religion of belief, but a religion of practices. Meditating, chanting, prayer, ethics, devotional, confession, activism, generosity, aesthetics, adoption, veganism, and on and on... There is no orthodoxy, there is only orthopraxy, and even that is among various teachers. Every teacher creates a new dharma.

This is not to say we can't have clear expression of a sangha, an order, a practitioner, a teacher. I like to think my blog as a record of my explorations, mostly cultural, of the world around Buddhism, with interjections about practice and sangha, etc.

One Dharma p. 191, "The foundation of nonsectarian Western Buddhism is the understanding that whatever the various descriptions of awakening or the path may be, the words themselves are not the experience. It is only in our own direct realization that transformation occurs. Freedom is the vital issue, not our ideas about it."  

This introduces the idea of Western Buddhism, what ever that will develop into, if we don't blow ourselves up because of lame guy pissing contents that involve nuclear weapons. Talk of virtues is fine and all that, but what you do matters most.

As you can see, I'm moving onto my next Dharma book. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche has a fair amount of books you can read. I'm not sure if I'm going to do the practices, but waking up and saying what the photo has above wouldn't be a bad practice.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Skeptical Vegan

Starting to read The Skeptical Vegan. Cori says they are good recipes. Here is a quote from the forward written by Victoria Moran, vagans are responsible "...that we're killing half a billion fewer animals in the US annually than we were ten years ago."


interesting?

I haven't been close to the TBC for the past 5 years, but I'm on Facebook and still have many friends from the TBC. This post is supposed to be open to anyone, so I choose to repost it here:

A very good article by Kulananda posted in Shabda but open for anyone to read.
_______________________________________________________
What Unites Us, What Divides Us
Posted by Kulananda on Thu, 14 September, 2017 - 12:18
Kulananda
What I Said (and Didn’t Say) at the Combined Area Order Weekend
A little while ago, Dhirangama and I went to Adhisthana for the Combined Area Order Weekend. We travelled there with some trepidation as neither of us has spent much time in Order gatherings for many years and we wondered what we’d find.
It was good to see several old friends and I was delighted to hear Vishvapani’s landmark talk. We missed Lokeshvara’s closing talk, but I’ve since caught it online and very much appreciated what he said.
It was the openness of the programme that drew me to brave a cold and wet weekend with 300 other people at Adhisthana. The Order is a rich and diverse collection of individuals, the organisers told us, come and tell us what you do – how you’re contributing to the project of spreading the Dharma in the world.
I was very pleased to get that email. I’ve advocated for that attitude for many years and couldn’t turn the invitation down. I offered to give a talk on “What Unites Us, What Divides Us” and also to lead a workshop on the work I do bringing mindfulness into organisations and with leaders. The organisers took me up on both of these and I’ll say something about my talk below.
My over-riding impression of the weekend was of a new openness. The receptive attention with which people listened to Vishvapani, for example, as he spoke some humbling truths. When last I was at such an event the overall tenor was somewhat more triumphalist, defensive and very much more homogenous. We’re going through turbulent times in the Order and I was impressed by the Convenors’ willingness to admit that diversity and try to hold the space open for everyone.
What I Said in My Talk (More or Less) and Further Reflections
I can’t give a fully accurate version of my talk, “What Unites Us, What Divides Us”, because I never made notes and I didn’t record it. But here’s the gist of it – along with a few more thoughts.
I began with a sketch outline of my biography in the Order, including my complex relationship with Bhante. Over the last decade or so I’ve struggled on and off with a question: how can I keep to my ordination vow of loyalty to my teacher while I’m sometimes critical of him?
Increasingly this has come to seem to me to be a central problem at the heart of our Order. Can we be critical of Bhante, questioning aspects of what he has said at times and some of the ways in which he’s behaved, while still holding to the heart of his fundamental teachings?
This is, I believe, an existential question for the Order as a whole. If we can allow for that kind of nuance and complexity in our relationship to Bhante and some of his teachings, we can hold together as an Order. If not, then I fear we must split. I believe that the attempt to unite Triratna by insisting that Bhante occupies an unquestioned and sacred place at the heart of our mandala has failed – and will fail over and over.
As a man, Bhante has his strengths and his weaknesses. Some of us may wish to look only at the brightness, and it is considerable, but when you insist that we all do that and that the brightness is all there is, then other voices and other stories crowd in and the project fails.
Here’s some of my own story. It is partial, for sure. We write and re-write our autobiographical memories all the time and things change. The past isn’t stable. No doubt there are other views on the same events. I don’t insist on any absolute factual accuracy here. But I do hope I can prompt a helpful conversation.
As a recently ordained Order member, I’d begun an intimate relationship with Bhante in 1977 and was suddenly and starkly dropped from that in 1979. One moment we were very close, living together at Padmaloka, seeing each other several times a day, then one day – without warning or discussion – I was simply dropped. It was as if I ceased to exist in his world – almost literally. He came down to breakfast, I said hello, he ignored me as if I were invisible and didn’t speak to me again one-to-one for many months. His attention turned to another young man. That led to my leaving Padmaloka in a state of furious confusion. I went to London and founded Windhorse Trading.
After a year or two I made my peace with what had happened. Bhante and I never discussed it and I returned to work for him in various ways in the years that followed. I don’t know what his side of the story was, but for my part I let it all drop.
I love the Order and am grateful to Bhante for having founded it. I’m hugely grateful to him for having helped me to the Dharmic perspectives I take on things. I would never have arrived at these without him. They are a gift beyond price.
But towards the end of my time as a member of the Preceptors’ College and increasingly since then, my love of the Order and my gratitude to Bhante have come to be mixed-in with perceptions that are increasingly critical of how certain aspects of his personality play out in the Triratna project. I believe that our collective failure to address these leads to unreality and distortion. It can leave an almost cultish-ness at the heart of things that, I believe, will ultimately be our downfall.
I’ve given much of my life to the Order. For the 28 years between 1977 and 2005 I lived my life very much at the heart of things, co-founding the Cambridge and North London centres, being presidential in Croydon, Dublin and North London, starting the communications and liaison offices, working as Bhante’s secretary from time to time, becoming the overall Order Convenor for a time, being a Public Preceptor and an early member of the Madhyamaloka community, privately ordaining 20-plus Order members, writing books for Windhorse Publications and so on.
But in 2003 I’d come to the end of my tether at Madhyamaloka – then the home of the Preceptors’ College. The five years leading up to that point had been riddled with crises and difficulties – the FWBO Files, the first Guardian article, Yashomitra’s letter, to say nothing of the onset of Bhante’s visual impairment. By 2002 Bhante had fallen into a state of insomnia and extreme anxiety. He couldn’t be alone for more than a few minutes, literally, and needed constant company and reassurance.
The dynamics of life at Madhyamaloka were never easy. In the twin shadows of Bhante on the one hand and Subhuti on the other, I struggled to find any space for meaningful initiative. Much of the time I accepted that – I even thought of my deference as a spiritual practice of sorts – but I now see how unwise it was to have given over so much of my own agency to theirs.
Following the publication of the FWBO Files in 1998, Vishvapani, Cittapala and I had worked hard on our Response. I was never happy with that document. Bhante was still loathe to give a full account of his sexual activity and we were assured by those responsible for our activities in India that too frank an account would be incendiary there. In any event, the Files themselves were riddled were inaccuracy and over-statement and we did our best to address these and redress the balance. But in the end our Response felt a bit like a fudge. That left a bad taste.
But it was just the start. Over the next five years crisis followed crisis and we never seemed able to get on top of things. On reflection, I think there was something fundamentally flawed in the model of leadership we were struggling to implement. There was a lack of clarity about lines of authority and we weren’t entirely clear about what kind of leadership team we wanted to be (and whether we had any real authority anyway – Bhante was always there, casting his shadow).
I felt an increasing claustrophobia with life at Madhyamaloka. By 2003 it was time for me to move on.
Recently, Bhante has spoken of his complex personality and how that has shaped the Order. Much of that rings true. But in speaking of his personality as though all of its features were entirely positive in the second piece he wrote on theme he has detracted from an earlier statement where he seemed to acknowledge that that complexity had led him to act in ways that weren’t in accordance with his position.
As I write, I feel my reluctance to go into this territory. But from my discussions with certain College members over the past few years and in some of the documents we’ve all been sent, I sense what has been a strategy for forging unity in Triratna by insisting on Bhante’s place in the centre of our mandala. And when you insist on Bhante’s position at the centre of the mandala, and try to use that to forge unity, then that necessarily calls for a discussion of the complex personality around which we are being asked to cohere.
From my own observations and experience, for example, there appears to me to be an element of Bhante’s personality that is marked by caution at best and anxiety at worst. That can play out as a need to control the world he’s a part of and I sense echoes of that same tendency in some of what has emerged at times from Adhisthana and the College.
So much of what I hear from College members and others about ‘the need to preserve Bhante’s legacy’ seems to me to carry imprints of elements of Bhante’s complex personality that he never spoke about in his recent article on the theme.
Am I alone in sensing a whiff of vanity, for example, in some of what Bhante wrote about in his second piece about his personality? Indeed, in much of what he’s written about himself? Or, in fact, the whole ‘legacy project’? Is that too an aspect of his complex personality? Those of us who have lived with Bhante have sometimes been maddened by his unflinching self-certainty – should that be in the mix too? And then there is that anxiety – the apparent need for constant control.
By 2003 I couldn’t bear the confining tension of Madhyamaloka any longer. I left there and went to Abbey House in Cambridge, where I could focus on my friendships and various presidencies, spend more time with Dhirangama who lived nearby, and get my masters’ degree in Mindfulness-Based Approaches at Bangor University completed.
I became increasingly drawn into the rapidly unfolding ‘Mindfulness Revolution’ which seemed to me to be opening extraordinary opportunities for those of us concerned with bringing the Dharma to the modern world.
One of the things I found so liberating about leaving Madhyamaloka, stepping aside from my various Triratna duties and going on to develop my current career teaching mindfulness, is that it enabled me to get down off the pedestal I occupied in our little self-enclosed Buddhist world. In a sense, it allowed me to join the rest of humanity.
In the Order, I was Kulananda, with a kesa and status. Big fish, small pond. Now, in the very much wider world of organisational consultancy, I’m Michael where I work. No big deal at all. Just another greying guy with a home, a marriage, and a method to pitch. If what I say is helpful, great. But I’m nothing special. When I came off it, it was liberating – and revealing – to see how much I’d relied on my old pedestal.
That speaks to me of something one of my colleagues at the Centre for Mindfulness in Bangor mentioned when we were discussing the many and various Triratna Order members who have trained there. “They’re so obviously well-trained” she said. “They can meditate well, and they can communicate. But they’re often strangely arrogant.” I get that. I wonder whether the ‘specialness’ we get from our membership of the Order doesn’t somehow infect some of us in unhelpful ways.
I spoke next about my love of the Order. In all my travels through the modern Buddhist world when working for the Liaison Office I never found any Sangha remotely like it. I spoke of my gratitude to Bhante – how my understanding of the Dharma, the lenses through which I perceive, were his gift and how happy I am with that.
And I spoke of my deep sadness and dismay at seeing how Bhante’s apparent anxiety and need for control appear increasingly to have come to inform the attempts from him, from Subhuti and from others centrally engaged in our project to stamp a template of unity on the Order – and how that just doesn’t work. In fact, from where I sit, the very attempts to forge unity that were embodied in the 7 papers that thudded into our in-trays with such authority (endorsed by Bhante, no less) seem to have divided more than they united us.
Part of my dismay at that came from my sense that the Order is in many ways actually already united. We share so much, we see things so similarly in so many crucial respects.
To illustrate this, I invited those listening to my talk to stand up and gather in the middle of the room, just getting a sense of comfortably being together in that space. I then said that I was going to call out a variety of statements and, so long as they were in accordance with these, they should just stay where they were. Together. But if any of my statements made them uncomfortable or if they disagreed with them, they should just find another place to stand that somehow accorded with their position in relation to what I said.
It was a crude, rough and ready exercise and my lack of a nuanced knowledge of the most recent discussions certainly impacted it, but I hope it made my point – at least to some extent.
I began with the easy pickings. What follows isn’t an exact replication of what I said, but it went something like this:
“Going for Refuge is primary, lifestyle is secondary.”
(pause)
“The ten precepts are an adequate template for the ethics of a committed Dharma life.”
(pause)
“Pratitya-samutpada is the central Buddhist doctrine, although not only expressed in terms of the 12 nidanas…”
“Spiritual friendship is a crucial spiritual practice and a vital support to practice…”
“Engagement with art and culture can be hugely supportive to spiritual life…”
“The many and various historical and cultural expressions of Buddhism contain the same underlying ineffable truth – and by and large they can be understood in terms of one another…”
“The are no higher teachings, there are only deeper understandings….”
And so on. I listed these ideas to edge of the audience’s boredom. There was a twitch or two at the clumsiness of my expression in this section, but nothing that broke the sense of unity.
That’s my main point. As an Order, we have been given these extraordinary gifts – the products of Bhante’s deep understanding of the Dharma and of the tradition. They are beyond price. And they are the source of our genuine unity.
But then we come to what divides us. Here, my statements were sometimes not adequately informed by a more nuanced understanding of current conversations. I was trying to show that the ways some try to control and unify things actually end up driving us apart.
So –
“The Order was founded by Bhante and he has the exclusive right to define it…”
There was a lot of movement.
“There is no need for Order members to visit other Buddhist teachers. In fact, that is discouraged….”
More movement.
“Friends and Mitras ought not to do insight meditation practices…”
“A picture of Bhante ought always to be on the shrine of a Triratna Centre…”
“Deep spiritual friendships between men and women aren’t possible…”
“You cannot go deeper at a mixed event…”
“Couples ought not to teach together at centres and on retreats…”
And so on.
The room became pretty mobile.
I talked about how it seemed to me that statements like these seemed to be expressive of a kind of anxiety. How, rather than unifying us around a single ideology and methodology, they actually drive us apart.
Now it’s not that all of the statements above were contained in those 7 papers. Possibly none of them were. But versions of some of those statements will have been spoken at seminars with Bhante I’ve attended over the years, they’ve been spoken at dinner tables with him and they are expressive of a more general tendency to want to control that stifles innovation and experiment. When we are asked to cohere unreservedly around Bhante and his teachings, statements like these – and many, many more – are in the mix.
Following the publication of Subhuti’s papers I have had so many conversations with distressed friends who wondered whether those papers really meant that they ought to resign from the Order. Was there any conscious intent at work, I wonder? A feeling that the Order would be better-off without people like me in it?
Like many of us I’ve given hugely to the Order over the years. I’ve invested a great deal of my life in it and I love it. I’ve no plans to leave and I don’t see why I should.
I’m troubled that at this weekend, for the first time, I heard a deeply committed Order member and long-standing friend of mine talking about the desirability of schism. That does seem to be where we stand – on the brink of breaking apart. In his talk Lokeshvara, who I don’t think wants a schism, told us that he’s not afraid of it. I’m not so sanguine. It would, I think, be psychically devastating. It would set in train hundreds of betrayals and leave a wake of unresolved conflict that would echo on and on (and find expression in any number of internet rants and press-releases for ages to come).
Can we avoid it?
I believe that it would help if we can all somehow genuinely allow for the true complexity of Bhante’s character. He has so many good qualities that have informed the culture of the Order. And yet he can sometimes be anxious and controlling. Many of us speak of how kind and empathic they’ve found him to be. And clearly much of that capacity vanished when it came to some of his sexual dealings. Much of what he has said is profound and wise. Some of it has been daft and plainly misogynistic.
In his more recent article on his complex personality, Bhante says that “… personal experience has shown me that it is better to keep one’s sexual relations and one’s spiritual friendships separate.” That may be true, but I wonder if it doesn’t miss the point. What I think has bothered many people much more is the extent to which so many of the stories that are emerging have revealed the way in which Bhante sometimes failed to treat his sexual partners with kindness and sensitivity. How he failed to see their side of things and the impact that he had on them. That apparent lack of kindness and awareness of others has in its turn impacted the respect others have for him.
So yes – Bhante is complex. And it’s not all positive. Can we live with this complexity and ambiguities it throws up?
Can Bhante’s need to contain and control be something we can grow beyond, so that we can be open to other influences and other approaches? Can we be really free to innovate and develop new approaches or must everything be passed through an august committee before we try it?
Can we learn to live with one another’s differences of approach, seeing the underlying unity that binds us together?
Can we allow one another to hold different views on Bhante and still remain one Order? Can we love and hold to those central teachings while taking a more rounded and ambiguous view of the person of the teacher?
I know there are people in the Order, possibly many, who will read this with a twinge of anger and maybe even disgust. How could I, having spoken of all the good things I’ve received from Bhante, speak so disrespectfully of him?
Truly, I mean no disrespect. But I believe we need to hold a more grounded, realistic picture of the man and his legacy. We need to stand in the truth of things or else we topple.
I absolutely don’t insist that my view should be adopted. To anyone who reveres Bhante much more unreservedly, and who has read this far, I put a gentle challenge. I can live with you taking the view of Bhante that you do and I can accept that you and I are both members of this wonderful Order. I don’t need you to abandon your views and attitudes for us to co-exist in the same Order or for that Order to flourish. Can you allow me that same space? If so, we have no problem. If not, I fear there are painful times ahead.
When one of my grand-daughters was four she told us about the baby chicks they had incubated in her class. They were so nice to hold. “But you mustn’t hold them too tight,” she told us, “because then you’ll make them dead.”
It’s the same with the Order. Hold it too tight and you make it dead.
There’s so much that unites us. We share so much. But if we’re going to stay together we need room to breathe.
I think this calls for another approach to leadership in the Order and Triratna.
I don’t know what currently goes on in the College and other bodies. From where I sit the College is strangely mute. I don’t doubt their goodwill, their sincerity or that they’re doing their best to manage the ongoing torrent of crises. But the last defining leadership statements I heard were from Subhuti, speaking somehow as if for Bhante, in tones that were often unhelpful.
If we’re to hold together we need outspoken voices at the top which embrace the whole of the Order and convincingly allow it to be what it is before trying to encourage it any new directions. We need a leadership that accepts us for who we are, rather than trying to prune us into a more amenable shape. That’s not easy as we grow increasingly fractious.
In his talk at the Order weekend Lokeshvara shared a tenet of the Mennonite Church – “Unity in Principle, Freedom in Action”. That’s good. And he quoted Bhante from the Survey – “Though the doctrine is the same for all, the method may be applied in a manner that is peculiar to each.”
More of that kind of voice, less attempt to control, and maybe we can stay united.
What I Didn’t Say in My Talk (But Should Have)
When I outlined my biography, I didn’t talk about my marriage to Dhirangama and how my life has changed since we got married. I said nothing of the family I’m now a part of – my step-daughters, sons-in-law and four wonderful grandchildren. The relationships I have with Dhirangama and the rest of the family bring me a depth, a richness, and a groundedness that I’d not previously found. Dhirangama is a constant source of love and support – and she very ably keeps me from getting over-inflated!
Family life is rich in joy and sorrow. Through mine, I feel a connectedness with the rest of humanity that was sometimes lacking when I gazed at the world from the ivory tower of my elevated position in the Triratna mandala.
Dhirangama was present at the talk and not acknowledging her or our family as part of my biography was weird and insensitive of me. I deeply regret it. After all, it’s a large part of my current existence.
Around the time Dhirangama and I got married in 2007, several other Order members were coming to the end of their willingness to maintain ‘semi-detached’ relationships. Many of us were beginning to feel the need to make our commitment to our partners publicly manifest. There was a merry flurry of marriages.
Speaking personally, I have loved Dhirangama deeply all the time we’ve been together and it seemed to me to call for an element of hypocrisy on my part to treat our relationship as if it could somehow be relegated to a ‘periphery’. But I know that for several of my friends in the College and at Madhyamaloka, our marriage felt like a betrayal. There were a few stark absences from our wedding.
After the talk a good friend of mine came up to me and pointed out to me how much I had myself participated in the culture of sometimes harsh certainty that prevailed in the Order and amongst its leaders for much of the time I was at Madhyamaloka. I immediately saw that was true. In fact I’ve uncomfortably known it for some time and I regret it. I was very much signed-up to the prevailing ideology for most of that time and looking back, I see that I wasn’t always kind in the way I tried at times to get others to toe the Triratna line. If any reader of this was harmed in any way by the stands I sometimes took and by the way I sometimes spoke, I am truly sorry and ask for their forgiveness.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for bearing with me. I’ve said a lot – maybe used too many words. But I’ve been away for a while and I begin to feel that it may just be possible to come back. I’m still a little hesitant. My work is rewarding in so many ways and makes so many demands on my time. That work still feels like a good way to be fulfilling the dream of helping to change the world for the better which brought me into the Order in the first place. But maybe there’s now more overtly space for people like me in the Triratna Mandala. I hope so.
(I am happy for this article to be read by anyone)

Resolution?


The above was just a quote I liked. There's an opposite one about how good action pile up as well.


On page 120 of the hardback edition, Goldstein writes, "As the different traditions are now meeting in the West, is it possible to to hold the various perspectives--bodhisattva versus arhant--without creating an irresolvable sectarian conflict of views"

Page 130, "Rather than solidifying and then polarizing these two approaches to bodhicitta, as happens with sectarian attachments, we can see them as two sides of the same principle, helping to balance out the dangers that may arise from each one by itself." 

It was, I suppose, a matter of time, before these were treated as a sort of perfection of wisdom koan. So there is no resolution, except to say there is something beyond that both sides can inform, and you are clinging to sectarian views to see a contradiction. I have felt that way at times, that there was something beyond what someone saw as an apparent contradiction and to seek those out was to try and find a way to not go deeper, and to dismiss. I feel that way many times about carnist arguments.

I also remember Sayadaw U Pandita saying two people are on a road in the fog. I tell one to go left and I tell the other to go right. Both move towards the center of the road, but they see my instructions as contradictory.

When I worked with special education students at job sites, I would often realize that students didn't have a concept or a principle that lead to poor judgment. 

Even more close to home, I have been given a "dope slap", and been told to get a lobotomy, when I didn't see some higher principle, by my so-called friend and preceptor. I took umbrage at the time, and it's given me a lot to meditate about. I spent a retreat just watching my brain get angry at something he said, for 2-3 days. I worked to get back to the object of meditation when in the shrine room, but out on walks by myself I indulged the thoughts. Nobody is perfect. Sometimes finding out how people hit at you mentally in weird ways isn't easy at times. Usually further talk can resolve the issue. I think this is why friendship is so important in the spiritual life. Some people just don't know how to be friends with you. Sometimes I don't know how to be a good friend, and that has kept me isolated, which I don't mind because I'm an introvert. True friendship is deep and doesn't easily get off the tracks. You can't get rid of true friends, even if they tell you the hard things you need to hear. Sometimes also you have to give up on a friendship attempt because there's just too much to overcome, and it would almost be like you were a door mat to remain in the relationship. Or so people tell me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The biggest thing you can do to help the envirnment

Just watched Cowspiracy and What The Health. (Both on Netflix in the USA by the way.)

Now I've said I have 3 reasons to be vegan: Ethical, Spiritual, health and Environmental. I actually list environmental last, but these two movies really make the case that if you really love the environment and yourself, then you should be a vegan.

Kip Anderson dramatizes how eating meat leads to the most pollution and destruction of the environment, more than transportation by far, more than anything by far. All the envirnmental organizations don't mention that because their bread is buttered by big business that is invested in carnism. Then he demonstrates that health organizations don't mention how deadly meat is, even though they claim to be to help diabetes or cancers...

I think first about the ethical precept to not lie. They lie like tobacco companies did. They suggest you eat meat, which helps you to get diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease. The best way to cure these things is to eat a vegan diet. There's really no logical reason to eat meat. Or consume meat products, which health wise are just as bad. That is what changed me from vegetarian to vegan. The health factor is so much better for the vegan diet.

My doctor always tells me her macrobiotic friend still got cancer. So what? It's not a one to one correspondence, but it is a factor. But it gives you so much more energy to eat vegan.

Go watch these two movies and talk to me.

My friend thought What The Health over stated their point, which undermines the point, by having a woman who needed hip replacement to be walking around. She still needs hip replacement. But her energy level and whatnot still improved greatly.

People focus on transpiration or whatnot. That's nothing compared to being vegan. The meat industry, the dairy industry is creating all the environmental problems. Go watch these two documentaries. They have a similar format and form, same director.

One Dharma

I was wondering if One Dharma would resolve the arhant v. bodhisattva debate, which of course I realized is no problem. The Buddha was in 2 sanghas and had an independent group of 5 that he lead, but when he learned what he learned he taught it to everyone. He taught the first 60 arhants, and told them to disperse, no two going in the same direction. So you can be in a sangha and even lead a little group even if you're not enlightened, but once you get more experience of that, you need to pass on what you have learned. There is also a question of how much you can pass on, but you don't know that, so you just keep trying even if the way is quite difficult, subtle, and hard to grasp. That's now how he addresses it, but that's what I thought reading him.

The next question I have is if mappo presents a problem for one dharma. Mappo is the idea that we have degenerated so much, that nobody can get enlightened any more, so you have to chant a mantra and hope to be born in a pure land. Goldsetin says it's an error to thin nobody is enlightened, or that you can't become enlightened. So how does he resolve the motivation for pure land Buddhism. Is it not Buddhism, or are there more than one Buddha Dharma.

There were interesting notes about his practice. Even though he was taught in the Vapassana tradition at the beginning ( Anagarika Sri Munindra,[12] Sri S.N. Goenka,[12] Mrs. Nani Bala Barua (Dipa Ma) and the Venerable Sayadaw U Pandita.[12] Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche,[12] Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche), he does Tibettan meditation to start his morning. He touts the Bodhisattva Ideal. Lets see where he goes with Pure Land, which I think is part of the one dharma. Put another way, Goldstein sees all the traditions as contributing to one dharma (so far, p 118).

Friday, September 08, 2017

One Dharma

 I started One Dharma today. The book came out when I was just getting into Buddhism, but I'm just getting to it now. It's one of the books in the Queens Library, which I love, so I got it as a library book. I'm going to read about the 4 reflections when I wake up tomorrow.

(I note there is a "one dharma" retreat at Buddhist Insight retreat center which will be lead by a Tendai leader. This is Japanese Tendai, not Chinese Tendai.)

It's an old idea, there is only one dharma. So how do you account for all the different traditions and different practices? So far the execution of the book has been OK.

In other news, Mastering the Addicted Brain is by a Thai-American who writes about the importance of meditation. It's very concise, practical and comprehensive. An ideal book for someone new to recovery, and anyone who wants to brush up on recovery principles and ways.


Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar, and the Rohingya

I've found a few links to explain, from a perspective of course, what is going on in Myanmar. I am not sure how accurate these things are but they help uncloud the sentiment "how can a nobel peace prize winner not speak out."

I almost hesitate because I know so little. Mostly I just see the article in the Times. Wikipedia focuses on the persecution. If there has been a systematic Muslim plot of aggression, then it seems less one sided. If there is a reason to "fight back", as I'm sure there is, then there must be more to understand. I honestly don't know how accurate these posts are, except the last one the Washington Post is a reputable newspaper, so that one I would stand by their accuracy more.

I will note that Nalanda, the great Buddhist university of ancient times was burned by a king who was Muslim. An expansionist group who picks on peace loving people isn't cool. Think about how terrible the settlers of America were to the peaceful Native American tribes. I wish aliens came down and found them before Columbus, and worked with them. There's a funny bit in Futurama where the centaurs are peaceful, and when someone starts to take over their land, they remember that they won't fight. Absolute pacifism does not seem tenable. Fighting Hitler was a justified war if there ever was one. Not that America carried it out the most gracefully or generously. My first wife roared once that GB was still paying off what they borrowed. I don't know if that's true or not, but she was a history student.

Anyway, information or not, I post these so I can read them through, they look interesting.

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/09/the-rohingya-of-myanmar-pawns-in-an-anglo-chinese-proxy-war-fought-by-saudi-jihadists.html#more

https://www.facebook.com/notes/htet-nay-lin-oo/sensemaking-on-certain-controversies-surrounding-rohingyas-personal-perspectives/10154172650815098/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/worldviews/wp/2017/09/06/the-shameful-silence-of-aung-san-suu-kyi/

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Just do it



Every once in a while I get the "shut up and meditate" feeling about my blog. My blog is an attempt for me to process thoughts and explore culture, ask questions. In the end of the day, as fun as Buddhist culture is, I could just meditate.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Stranger In The Woods

The Stranger In The Woods is a journalistic non-fiction novel of sorts about Christopher Thomas Knight, who lived 27 years in Rome Maine woods. He said hello to a hiker once in the beginning, but basically with minimal contact was alone for 27 years. He had a radio so he knew what was going on in the world when he wanted to. He reports he even got into talk radio for a while. He was arrested in April 2013.

The crime he committed was that he stole from people's houses to live, thousand of breaking into houses and stealing food, sleeping bags, batteries, watches, books and propane. He never built a fire to keep warm in the Maine winters. He did use a propane stove to make tea, and would wake up in the middle of the night and walk around to make sure he didn't freeze to death and let his sleeping bags dry out. They would collect moisture while he slept in them.

He had spiritual insights where he was one with everything, spent a lot of time in reflection, but only meditated when he thought he was going to die in the cold. His spiritual insights were not so great that when he was captured, that he could deal with being imprisoned, and then the ordeal of the programs he had to get through to satisfy the courts. He took apart engines in a shed for his brother to pay for his room and board. He had to check in every day by phone and be seen once a week by his probation officer. He follow the rules strictly because he didn't want to stress his family out any more. His father died, but his mother was till alive and he had some brothers and a sister.

Supposedly the website Hermitary debated whether Knight was a true hermit. They disliked his theft. After he was caught, there were a few people who felt a kind of safety his thefts deprived them of.

At first I thought it was a novel, the way the first chapter was written. I even put the book down for a while. But when I picked it back up, I read the "note on reporting" at the end of the book.

He drank beer and ate lots of sugary foods to fatten himself up for the winter. That was the basis for putting him in a co-occurring disorders program, which he did well in and graduated. Whether he was on the autism spectrum or had schizoid personality disorder could be debated. When asked why he did it, he could not say.

Today in a Maine paper, there's an article about he has to pay back the police for building a road to get to his campground. The book goes into detail about his campground and I'll skip over that. The article in today's paper says that the state is suing him for the money needed to create a road to his camp to haul things away. He doesn't want to have to pay that.

Like the lovely book Hermits, the discussion of solitude follows from people who prefer to be alone. Mr. Knight said he was never bored. He was never lonely. Knight steals to survive, but others have gone into solitary retreat, and arraigned for regular food drop off. There was a time in England when every wealthy land owner paid a hermit to live on their land.

The author asked the question, how long has he been alone. He went on a hiking trip where he was alone for a few days. My answer is that I did a 7 day solitary retreat, where I talked to someone in the middle when I asked for help for a window that almost fell out. I talked to a chap while we got a ladder and pushed the window back in. So I had about 4 days in solitary. How long have  you been alone for?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

info


I've been using this to help me chant and visualize the Vajrasatva Mantra. I guess I could crop a little out.

I've been listening to excellent readings of these English books about Thai Forest Dharma.

I also like this one, it's IMS.

I've been checking my links for broken links.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Flare by Jonathan Maas

Trying to live a frugal life I get free science fiction novels from Freebooksy. It's not just scifi, you can pick your genera. It's used, I think, to increase sales so that it looks like lots of people are buying a book. Looking now Flare is 99 cents, not free.

This book won an award, and even though obscure, means something, so I checked it out.

This book comes in 3 parts. An apocalyptic survivalist adventure, the theological discussion and then a kind of working through of the discussion.

The question is whether you would like to live in a kingdom of peace (Isaiah 11:1-9) or be realistic and live in the world of dog eat dog. The question is not which one is more realistic, fits better with what we see in the world. Rather it asks you whether you would want to live with a bunch of monks or in some kind of mad max kind of world, beyond the thunderdome.

Of course we know the answer. We'd rather live in a monastery than Mad Max world. Now the novel spins of and explores these ideas in concrete ways. In the book, the shelter has to keep people out, and a hero of the book can't forget others. In a way, that's the Christian way. But to really keep a kind of pure land, you need to keep people out.

There are some people that would choose the Mad Max world for the adventure. I'm not denying that. And you could go live in the Mad Max world and try to build a pure land, a kingdom of peace.

Then I was in the park with my daughter who is a year and a half.






I talk to the people in the park. There is a nanny from the Philipines. The mothers are from India, Russia, Albania, Poland, Israel and all over the Asian and Hispanic world. It's a truly New York City park, a melting pot or a tossed salad, which ever you prefer. The people are sweet. They offer food to my daughter. When she takes someone's toy, I intercede and encourage her not to grab and to share. Nobody gets away with any egregious behaviors.

Then the local preschool comes over. They are a great preschool that is inclusive for children with disabilities. The women (mostly) who work there are angels. Same situation, if someone pushes someone or grabs something, they get a quick speaking to.

I realized that was about as close to a pure land as I was going to get. Ever since reading Great Faith, Great Wisdom, I have listened to, read and thought about the pure land scriptures. I guess they are similar to the Kingdom of Peace from Isaiah.

They talk about the pure land being filled with jewels, but I think of a more sparse setting, with just really well crafted buildings and furniture. Lots of green, gardens with variety. The birds sing the dharma. The food is amazing. The technology doesn't glitch, and leads you to others, and is open source. All projects have a cooperative platform. Nobody is in a rush.

The park has garbage, New Yorkers in truth are dirty, don't feel like holding onto something until they see a garbage. My daughter picks up the garbage and puts it where it belongs. Sometimes older kids are mean and a ball comes whizzing into a small children area. I throw the ball out into the field that is empty, but the kids just go back to where they were playing. It's not perfect. Sometimes I get snubbed by another parent, or I say something unskillful. I still think it's the closest I get to a pure land.

I have an image of a woman with a book studying. Her husband is chasing the children around. Usually Judaism can be seen as sexist, but these two worked it out. There is hope of raising above to equality, fraternity and justice for all.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité



barefoot gen

I read this manga about the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Reading the wikipedia article on it, I learned there were 150 people in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One guy is famous and lived to be 93, his name is Tsutomu Yamaguchi. Imagine being in Hiroshima for business, and boom. Then he goes home to Nagasaki and feeling better goes to work and boom, another one drops. He must be in that moment, what is it going to rain atom bombs?!
The manga covers the wacked out nationalism of Japan, thinking their emperor was a god, and how devotion to the country was a society norm. In a way, it's hard to see how they make the Japansese give up without the atom bomb. WW2 is the only just war I can think of, for America. As terrible as dropping an A bomb on a city is, did it ultimately prevent further deaths? That might be a utilitarian argument for dropping the bomb. I think taking life like that is wrong, but I'll never be president even though I'm old enough, because I'm too idealistic about peace. It certainly was a wake up call for Japan and as presented wasn't totally unprovoked. Unintended consequences of such fierce nationalism. We're supposedly responsible for the consequences of our choices. Nobody would ask for that and consequence blindness is everywhere.

The air raid that preceded the bombing, gave everyone a false sense of security and the bomb went off without people being in their air raid shelters. Then the terrible fires killed many who were trapped by fallen buildings. What a horrible thing.

There's a book called Zen at War, about how even Buddhist participated in this nationalism and militarism in Japan. And that reminds me that ethnic Buddhists can justify war. There's a book called Buddhists at war. I feel like anyone truly following the path could not participate in war. But that's just my opinion and I'm not going to say someone who self identifies as a Buddhist who is in war is not one to their face. I just don't think they are really Buddhists just like I don't think America is really a Christian nation based on it's actions. America is a cultural Christian nation, but when it comes to really following the doctrines and the path, that doesn't really happen.

So my next graphic novel is Palestine. Another thorny subject.

Monday, July 03, 2017

books



I love writing, and that's why I do this blog. If anyone reads it or gets something positive out of it, it's a bonus. My first blog was called "Howling Into The Void", and I suppose I think that's what my blog does.

Along the lines of writing, there is a lovely new book about the healing power of journaling and writing called The Story You Need To Tell. Sometimes to progress in the spiritual life you have to clear away some of the underbrush and while I've just started this book, I think it has lots of potential and will update.

Another interesting book is The End Of Your Life Book Club. It's really a memoir by someone who worked in publishing, of his time after his mother's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Some cancers are curable, and some are no so much. But she does get some time, and the portrait that emerges of Mary Ann Schwalbe is that of a Bodhisattva. The book delves into mindfulness and Buddhism a little bit, but Ms. Schwalbe worked for refuge organizations, worked at schools, and at the end of her life she worked to get a library built in Kabul. She is friendly, energetic, smart and humble. I found some books I want to read, but it really wasn't that interesting about books in the end. It made me want to call my mom.

The book review in the Times clearly didn't read the book because it calls her "Marry AnnE Schwalbe", which book points out was not her name, there was no E and the end of Ann. That makes me feel so superior and then ashamed that I like to feel superior.

The mother was trying to convert her son to the spiritual life, but she was really cute, she thought God would like a prayer from a heathen better than the faithful because they are more rare. Her son doesn't really feel it, but the closeness of the relationship to my mind was a kind of mettaful relationship. I find heathens can often be much more spiritual than the religious. They certainly do better on religious quizzes. I can't find the source of that, but I swear I read it somewhere.

Contemplating the realness of our impending death, is one of the thoughts to help one focus energy into the path of Buddhism, and this book helped. It's also a book about the love of reading. This book came out in 2013, but I love to review books that were not just published. Makes me feel less like a shill for publishers.

Monday, June 19, 2017

New practices.




I'm glad I'm reading The Purpose and Practice of Meditation slowly. It's so rich and dense.

There's a practice called Kasina. You get a real colorful dot in front of you and you stare at it a long time. Then you close your eyes and stare at it. And the goal is to get it to a point where you see the internal dot as vivid as you see the real dot. I'm trying to do that to work on my visualization meditation.

Sangharakshita has visualization meditations, including Vajrasatva, the primordial Buddha, and one of his teachers said that saying the 100 syllable mantra 20 times a day is good for purifying oneself. There is also a sweet visualization. It got me looking at visible mantra to see the seed syllable. I want to get a hard copy of that book, in case the site goes down. The internet seems to have this illusion that it is permanent, but I don't think it is. I'm pretty sure people pay monthly fees to keep websites up.

On my first retreat, which was like 9 days, at midnight on New Year's Eve we chanted the Vajrasatva mantra at midnight. I learned it off a recording someone passed to me, which I have since lost.

There are all these special little things, that are hard to get, and disappear quickly. I have this weird mindset where I want to collect things in my brain in case I'm in a prison camp. I have a puja book that was typed out, and is now hard to find. I have lots of little puja things that I got here and there. Even pujas are hard to come by. There's an esoteric one included in The Purpose and Practice of Meditation, and I can't remember why I didn't think I would ever do it, but I was excited to see it. Anyway, hopefully Bodhipaksa will keep that page up and the website will be up for a while, hopefully.

I had the mantra memorized, but I found that I don't have it memorized at the time. I'm going to re-memorize it, and try to do it 20x a day. And I want to see if I can really see a visualization. I think these things have come to me just when I needed them.

Sangharakshita says westerners tend to want to try newer and newer practices, and talk a lot about meditation, while the Tibetans he knew tended to just do practice and talk amongst spiritual friends. I've been doing metta and mindfulness of breathing for 14 years and they are my 2 core practices, and can be expanded to the Brahma Vihara's and the 14 stage Mindfulness of breathing on a retreat or intense practice day, but I'd like to try these two new practices, to add in.

May all being be happy, may all being be well.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Sex

José Ignacio Cabezón has an article on Sex, that looks at it through the Gelugpa tradition. He raises a very interesting question, or rather points out a conflict. On the one hand, we don't want to just easily dismiss elements of the tradition that don't make sense to us. On the other hand, we want to not just take views uncritically and follow them, just because they are in the tradition. 

The Dali Lama points to Tsongkhapa. Looking at Tsongkhapa you come up with the conclusion that heterosexuals can have sex 5 times a night, and lesbians get a free pass, but you can't be male on male gay. That somehow seems wrong. Gender and sexuality should perhaps be treated equally. 

My first thought was, what about the Pali Cannon where the Buddha suggests to a fellow that it would be better to put his penis in a snakes mouth, than it would be to have sex with his wife because she wants a child before he goes off fully being a monk.

This brings up the question of monk versus lay, and I've always liked the phrase, "neither monk nor lay" because it points to an obvious duality. 

My understanding of Sangharakshita's problem with monasticism, is that you couldn't really know if all 5 monks were following the vinaya, all the way back to the Buddha. Ajahn Chah got a little twisted up by it for a while too. 

The literal interpretation of merit, has the lay only allowed to give stuff to the monks, when clearly there are people who don't follow the vinaya who seem to be more advanced than a rule follower, seem to do more for the propagation of Buddhism. 

OK, so we won't get into the monastic versus lay trap. My understanding of Sangharakshita is that you follow the ten precepts as principles and not literally. Sexual misconduct is fairly straight forward in these times. If someone feels hurt by sexual contact, then it's not good. Infidelity, sexual abuse, rape and other forms of coercion are wrong. The whole gay and female issues from Christianity are not to be followed. Thich Nhat Hanh's thing is monogamy. Otherwise you hurt people.

There is a book that collects the recent history of Buddhist misconduct. I can't seem to find it at the moment. John Stevens, a professor in Japan, has a kind of sexy take on Buddhism, and wrote an erotic Buddhism novel. He thinks the rice milk the girl gave the Buddha after he gave up asceticism, lead to sex. You can imprint prudery or libertine thoughts to Buddhists.

I like the approach of not pretending we are there yet, being honest and authentic, and not watering down the ideals because they are hard, and not punishing ourselves with the ideals. The idea is to transcend the worldly winds, to transcend reactivity, to not build up plans to just get pleasure and push away pain, or if you do, realize the path is the best fun.

There is no exploitation of vulnerable people seeking guidance, and no shock when it turns out Buddhist leaders have clay feet. There's avoidance of the harm of making sexuality wrong, and there's no pretending that wild sexuality isn't harmful.

We are not in the summer of love, the birth control pill didn't just become available, and there is a HIV epidemic, that in part thrives on the secrecy from the shame of homosexuality.

Sangharakshita jokes that any book called Tantric Sex Magic would sell easily. I've even used it to gain traffic on my website, along with "how can I die". That feels immature now. Sanghrakshita was sick recently and he apologized for any harm her caused with his experimentation in the aftermath, because he had been reflecting while in the hospital. I know a lot of people who, in retrospect, see they have caused harm. I have caused harm. So it's an important area to keep our eyes wide open to. Take responsibility for our actions so we can own our lives and our progress through it.

If we go back to our pagan past, we see that sexuality isn't something to be avoided, it is celebrated. In ancient Rome it was against the law not to be married and have 3 children. I'm reading a book on Marcus Aurelius and read a book on ancient Rome and it's kind of refreshing to see fewer hang ups. Of course they had their rules. It wasn't OK to be homosexual for me after 18. Before that it was fine, but after it, it wasn't. I read about Lupacallia where men run around naked and whip women in the naked butt with whips made out of goat skin. Now I don't think that just because something was in the past, they were better times. I'm just saying that in the history of humanity, we have had some interesting celebrations of sexuality.

Now birth is one of the steps on the wheel of life, that leads to greed hatred and delusion. One might get the idea that a good Buddhist would not have children. They do hinder one's free time to meditate, that is for sure, but once again, if you value your practice, parenting shouldn't be a barrier. Here we are getting into a personal decision that I've made, and don't want to come down either way on this one. I've realized how important the Dharma is to me through being a parent, and I have felt a level of love that I've never felt before (A Path for Parents).

So conclusion? A complicated set of questions from monastic versus lay, to how to go about the spiritual life, and the recent history of Buddhism. As always, live the questions.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

watching desire



Watching desire, I see that while I'm watching my daughter, I want to read, and when she goes to bed, I quickly get tired of reading. Actually that's not true, I read till I get tired, but my attention does wander.

Children are the ultimate gurus. My daughter continually exposes my "working ground" and how far I am from my aspirations. I find myself extremely upset at a little girl in diapers who hardly weighs anything and comes up to my hips in height. The little tyrant. She very much wants her way all the times and everything is hers. And yet the love I feel for this imperfect being...

I don't try to get rid of desire and act at a spiritual level that I am not at yet. Very much a work in progress, like everyone.

#2


37 Practices of Bodhisattvas

The Thirty-Seven Practices of Boddhisattvas is from the Gelug tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the tradition that the Dali Lama is in. I have read this book before. I want to go through the 37 practices one at a time. The first one is here.


#2 Attached to your loved ones you are stirred up like water.
Hating your enemies you burn like fire.
In the darkness of confusion you forget what to adopt and discard.
Give up your homeland--
This is the practice of the Bodhisattvas. 


This one is about "going forth". The Buddha left his home, family, comforts, to seek an end of suffering.

Sangharakshita gave everything up and wandered into the homeless life. He regretted giving up his passport when he tried to go to Cylon, but maybe the order would not have been the same way if he had.

Comfortable middle class people look to go forth metaphorically, but we can not discount actually just leaving the home conditions. Children demand a lot of attention and financial support, you work and then come home to parent them. There is no time off. If you have discipline, like I did for many years, you can raise your mindfulness up--perhaps to suffer more. Then one day you just can't any more. You're not there. You realize the home life can't support individualistic spiritual development. So your family becomes sangha and you go on the Bodhisattva path, wishing to raise everyone up with you. In the face of worldly suffering we shatter apart like Avalokiteshvara, and then are put back together by the love of Amitabha. It's no surprise that love is the archetype that becomes popular, even though metta is not personal, and yet it's personal like a mother loves her only child--sprayed out onto the world. You know as a parent that you can't always control things, you just try to ride the waves, the various forces that threaten one. 

The secular world preaches a kind of individualism and materialism that can be twisted into a spiritual materialism. I used to yearn for a center for my order. I got excited when SF got a retreat center outside the city. I became obsessed with all the beautiful cathedrals the Catholic church has. Have you seen this teacher, that teacher? You flew in there and did a retreat there once?! You can treat Buddhism like the Rubins, and create an art museum, or a gallery, or a salon. You can develop a podcast, a blog, and on and on. Tweeting your way to enlightenment in 140 characters or less, you use all the aids to feel spiritual, and yet it doesn't take enough hold, you forget and have a good meal or you read a good book or you watch a great new series. Oh, sure work is a drag, but I like it that my books come within 2 days, and we need a new bullet blender, and wouldn't it be nice if baby had a new onesies? She's growing out of her current ones.

The passive personality person uses Buddhism to buttress the pathology of inaction, the edict to do nothing, and watch others suffer because of that decision. "Suffering is inevitable for those not far on the path, it can help one to wake up." But the crisis of parenting has woken you up to suffering and you figure out ways to abdicate the role and raise free range children.

The two above examples are just two examples of possible spiritual bypassism, coined by Wellwood. So even in the spiritual life there are dangers, why not dangers in the monastic life. You can learn to focus in precious circumstances and become a hot house flower? Spiritual individualism rears it's ugly head again.

The co-dependency of most relationships help us to not embrace the freedom we are afraid of. Freedom is truly scary if you take responsibility for where you are now. It's only you that has kept you from becoming enlightened. How did you put yourself into this situation you find yourself in?

I don't like the buddha nature doctrines because even if you are already enlightened, or it's funny how easy it is, you still need to figure out how to uncover it. This might be a Hindu doctrine, and Hinduism tries to absorb Buddhism the way Judaism tries to consume Christianity. Jesus was not trying to create a new religion. It's actually Paul who does that.

In all the contradictory doctrines of world religions, we get that it is beyond reasoning, more than a feeling, more than everything we can imagine, and therefore it's OK that we don't get it. It's OK to be ignorant as long as we chant a mantra or say a prayer. Spirituality for the masses becomes religion that ossifies flexible ideas, and sets up hierarchies, and abuse. Worldly teachers commit worldly mistakes, and there is a crisis of faith. We edge more into the archetypes than the saints, real history proves nobody is beyond reproach. So for Buddhism it's faith that Buddhadharma is really something worth going for, and not just saying that the end of suffering has been found by transcending desire by making your consciousness box a certain size such that venial cares recede and maybe even disappear. The goal of being creative instead of reactive is worth striving for and as millions set upon the path, many are quickly waylaid by the concrete needs of others. Or maybe they are on the Bodhisattva path. We can get ishkabibble or crazy like a fox. If you live on the side of a mountain and can meditate all day, you can hone that mindfulness and have some insights, but nothing is guaranteed and maybe you need worldly challenges to uproot complacency. Oh it's all so confusing just pick you path and experiment and see what happens. You can understand that at least. Your precious practice with the cutting edge where you're challenged to take the larger perspective goes on and on and on. Some great teacher comes in and does something selfish and you think, oh, I was being unrealistic all along, just be natural.

I've tied myself into a knot. 

The goal is freedom and not an unfeeling unthinking freedom. There is no easy path. Nobody can market a sect of Buddhism that has the right one and true path because at this time it's open source, and because everyone is unique, has different abilities and pasts.

So you go forth from what you know, you go forth from comfort, you go forth from dogma, heresy and you just study the dharma and try to practice the lofty ideals, push yourself to give up more, push yourself to be kinder, push yourself to be authentically evolved, not false self aping what it means to be spiritual. You don't stand on a chair and say you don't exist because someone will kick you in the shins and you'll see quite quickly that in fact you do exist. A humility is needed, bragging about achievement is the first sign of lack of achievement and therefore not to be believed. Sorry Ingram. You can parse the path but I haven't heard the thunderous silence.



Friday, April 28, 2017

Sobriety



My Buddhist friend is traveling to lead a retreat in India, and asked if I had any words about addiction. I ended up writing him 3 e-mails.

Here is the first one:

Addiction is trying to keep the party going, but it's meant to be an infrequent thing. It always hides difficult emotions and thoughts. As a Buddhist there is a specific precept out of 5 to forbid. Avoid the habit because the progression of the disease means you need more and more to not feel bad. It may even take a decade or more. Alcoholism is an equal opportunity obsession and allergy. Anyone can get it, rich or poor. If you aspire to follow the Buddha avoid drugs. Get support if you have a problem, isolation is an aspect of addiction. May you be happy, may you be well my brothers and sisters in India, from America.

Here is the second one:

You asked me to write about addiction for our brothers in the dharma for your next retreat. I dashed off a quick response, that might be short and the one you want to read to them.

I think I also left out another aspect of addiction--delusion that you are not harming anyone. You could also call that magical thinking. The idea that you can drink and that only hurts you is a fallacy. Supporting the industry harms others. Anyone you come in contact with will be adversely affected. Your family most definitely is affected. The fantasy that you work and provide for the family so you deserve a drink is an especially pernicious thought. The idea that others are doing it, so that it is OK is another pernicious thought. The road to recovery, and it's a lifelong journey, is to connect with others who value sobriety. Please reach out to others and commit to sobriety. May you be, happy may you be well.

Here is the third one:

Another thing to remember is that the default reaction is to denounce the alcoholic and suggest that they are morally weak. But the disease model means you treat it the way you would cancer. You bring kindness. What an addict needs is being hugged closer, not pushed away. So find a way to suspend your judgements, and protect yourself from exploitation and your own harm, and be there for your friend with addiction problems. It's only through a solid relationship that you can chip away ever so lightly at the delusion that it's not affecting a person. Consult friends and get support if you are in contact with someone with addiction because it will be hard, frustrating, annoying, challenging and off putting. It becomes a negative feedback loop that leads to more and more isolation. But the buddhist goes against the stream and seeks to cure the suffering of the world. Be like Ksitigarbha, go into the hell realm and help out your brothers and sisters. You are strong enough.

May you be happy, may you be well.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sloth and torpor



As we know from a previous post the "sloth and torpor" hinderance can fully mean: Lethargy and drowsiness: Lacking driving power, lethargy, not having vigor or lacking energy, unwieldiness, laziness, sleepiness, drowsiness, dullness of the mind.

In chapter 146. Getting Rid of Drowsiness (VII 58A) of the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, the text suggests 8 ways to cope with drowsiness. This isn't just for meditation, it's probably if you're also reflecting or even communing with sangha, perhaps anything you do.

1. Do not give attention to a thought that leads to drowsiness. For instance if I think about all the things I have to do, I get drowsy sometimes. Or perhaps a particularly hard issue. Now meditation is not thinking and not not thinking. You have an object of focus or even no object of focus, and when thoughts come up you usually just let them pass by. But still there are thoughts that will lead to drowsiness and you can just not pick up those thoughts. I suppose these countermeasures can also be for reflection, you could be reflecting and this hinderance can come up.

2. You can think about the Dharma, what you have learned and mastered. Perhaps if you're drowsy you've lost the flow of where you are heading, your vector, your aspirations. If you think about the Dharma and why you're even doing this. Motivation is important to get you though the tough times, the dark night of the soul, and through drowsiness. This should be personal and I'm just going to riff now about what I could think about.

I go straight to condition co-production, Pratītyasamutpāda, 12 nidanas, the three marks of existence, the shortness of life. I try to think and feel my way into those insights. I think about peak experiences where I really felt it with my whole body. I think about how healthy I feel after the effort of a retreat or a concerted effort practice time. I think about the life of the Buddha, his 4 sights that got him to go forth. I think about Mara's challenges to the Buddha. I can think of great books I have read about the Dharma. I can see the TBC refuge tree, or modern teachers who are inspirational that are not on that tree, I can do an alternative female refuge tree, I can visualize Avalokiteshvara with a thousand arms helping others,  Amithabha and love, Manjushri with his sword, Padmasambhava with his little mustache, Milarepa with all the funny images of him that I have, him green from eating nettle soup so much, singing his songs. I've been reading a lot about the 6 element practice, so I could see the 6 elements flowing through my body, my body as a temporary collection of those 6 things, a river if you will. I can visualize real people I have met and gotten to know a little bit who represent aspects of the Dharma, and Shakyamuni. I can say in my head mantras that energize me, remember sitting in the shrine room with my dharma brothers chanting. That always gives me energy. I can even visualize beautiful mental snap shots I have taken in nature. I can visualize Aryaloka, Jikoji, Garrison or camping spots where I meditated. I'm getting energized just writing this. 

3. You can recite the dharma. We don't memorize as much these days, but I have the heart sutra memorized in English. I have the refuges and precepts memorized from Pali. I know the Vajrasattva mantra.

I want to memorize the Ti Ratna Vandana. I have much of the 7 fold puja memorized. I have read the Diamond Sutra many times as a ritual. There are other pujas as well. Some of the puja links I have in past blog posts are dead, unfortunately. I have a folder of printed out pujas, because I had that fear that they would disappear. I've worked on a few pujas myself, but have not completed them. I could energize myself to complete them! There are so many possibilities here.

4. Pull your ear lobes. Rub your limbs. 

5. Wash your face. Look around, look at the stars.

6. Visualize a bright light (presuming it's night).

7. Walking meditation.

Alternating sitting and walking meditation is a way to get a lot out of a practice time. I have to go outside to walk most of the time, and people often come up to me and ask if I have lost something because I'm walking slowly, looking down. But early in the morning or late at night nobody does that. I can walk up and down my hallway sometimes without feeling too claustrophobic. Sometimes a faster mindful walk can be good too, if I have a lot of energy.

8*. Take a nap. 

On my first retreat, I was so tired, when the meditation bell was rung, I launched myself onto a couch and was instantly out in a lovely nap. Meditation takes energy, until you get to a certain point, and when I meditate, the first few days of a retreat, I often catch up on sleep. Then I tend to be more awake, and sleep less, but that is another problem. Calming oneself down from a late night puja or whatnot isn't easy for me, so sometimes I would skip the puja to get a good night sleep.

I tend to follow the program exactly at a retreat, and nap when I can if I'm tired. I probably follow the schedule too exactly, I missed an important meeting once because I wanted to follow the retreat schedule and wanted to meditate. I do make a point of skipping one meditation if someone wants to go on a walk with me. Walking with a dharma brother is important too. I listen to my body and if I feel overwhelmed, and I feel a physical resistance to going to meditate, I take a walk in nature instead and try to figure out what is going on while on the walk. Otherwise I just push past it, sometimes just following the schedule is a comfort and not thinking about it you can slide into deep practice. Sometimes I add in meditation, waking up early, or sitting on after a meditation.

I was excited to see a Pali Cannon chapter on sloth, and wanted to share it with the world. May all being be happy, may all being be well.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

31 bodily fluids

I'm reading Sangharakshita's meditation anthology, and he's on the subject of the contimplation of the repulsiveness of the body. The practice is not objective truth, it's just a counter to sexual attraction. Supposedly there are 31 bodily fluids. I thought, "you know you're a buddhist when you know what synovial fluid is, and why you need to know." I looked up a modern list of fluids. Aqueous humor is the fluid in your eyes.

My old saw about this practice is that I can dismantle a gorgeous woman into disgusting parts, but the problem is that I put it all back together. But today I was thinking, that my line, but does it have to be true. And thus I was freed of that thought.

Start Where you are.

I continue my readings of the Pali Cannon. One such incomplete translation is Numerical Discourse of the Buddha. This came out before the Complete Translation, which costs $52, and $60 for the kindle version. Anywho, there is some fascinating stuff in here. One was a concise section that called itself a Dharma Explosion (VI, 65). One where thinking about looking at women is lack of chastity (VII, 47)

So the question for the modern reader who is neither monastic nor lay, is how do I negotiate these standards. The standards of Buddhism can be quite strict if you really follow them, even if you look at them not as literal but principles. Start where you are is Pema's mantra, so you look at where you are. The idea is that when you are enlightened, coitus will no longer present itself as something one moves towards. As an ordinary human who is not enlightened you will feel the pull of sexuality. Even if they are celibate, they will have memories, enjoy the sexually attractive form, see a beautiful woman and your jaw will drop. The phrase "cutting edge of your practice" fell out of favor at Aryaloka when I was there, but it is a useful idea. Where are you in renouncing reactively going for pleasure and pushing away pain. The goal is to be creative and not reactive. The Buddha got to a place where he did not even come close to a sexual though adjacent.

Many people see these lofty goals and see it as unrealistic, non human or part of what the man wants, for you to be an abnegation type so you suffer the indignities of twenty first century capitalism, but also wants you to spend spend spend for compensatory indulgences. It is revolutionary to defy that expectation.

Healing the body with the mind

Meditation Saved My Life is an example of healing the body with the mind. Phakyab Rinpoche claims to have healed his leg of gangrene, among other things. Then he begins to tell his life story. He once got lost and slept outside, and when he was found he was dry even though it was raining.

There is scientific evidence that positive thinking can improve one's recovery. Can it go this far? Miracles are often exaggerations to draw one's attention to potential. Are this man's claims exaggerations or real. It is for you to tell.

As a modern reader, I feel the split. Hoping to believe, but not seeing this as something as part of my worldview. Now I know there is more on heaven and earth than is contained in my philosophies.  I don't want to miss the potential by not believing.

My own personal body ailments are the result of aging. Touchy back, dodgy ankle, soft shins, a head that does not like being hit. All past injuries and wear and tear. Can these things be transcended by the mind? I'm sure they can to a certain degree, and the more positive and focused I am, the less they really matter in a way. I'm on page 44, but I intend to work to read this book with an open mind.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Words at the Threshold

Started reading WORDS AT THE THRESHOLD by Lisa Smartt. This is a book about what people say at the end of their life. It spawned the database www.finalwordsproject.org.

I see this type of reading as facing death. What the charnel grounds meditation did for people with that option, the literature on death does that for the cerebral readers of the west. The Denial of Death has been a seminal text for me, and I wish not to defensively avert my gaze, but to see it as the larger tapestry of impermanence, conditioned coproduction. Our world is sanitized. It's hard to get close to death. There are no charnel grounds to go meditate at.

When Smartt used the phrase "word salad", it was to disparage the concept as someone who doesn't understand. She reports the metaphors of dying can elude us, but can make sense often.

Reading this book I wrote relatives and asked about last words in the family. I thought about what I'd like my ending to be like. Taking a look at it, I decided some CDs I want to listen to: Bud Powell,  Grant Green, Lester Young, Billie Holliday, La Traviata, La Bohem, Hydrogen Jukebox and Satyagraha. The books I want read to me. I'd like the satipatthana sutta read to me, the diamond sutra and other perfection of wisdom texts, the precious garland, the bodhicaryavatara, songs of Milarepa, the Lotus Sutra, the sutra of the golden light, the lankavatara sutra and the pure land sutras, a survey of Buddhism.

Sangharakshita wrote about the 6 element practice, which he learned from Yogi Chen, and how it's another way to look at dismantling, seeing that there is no essential self. Sangharakshita suggests you only really do that one on retreat, in an environment where deep practice is supported. I kept doing it after one retreat because I had a white light experience, and I started to feel like I was dying. That's the whole point, a spiritual death, to be reborn, but it calls for supportive conditions and the workaday life is not supportive. I do it a few times when I build up my practice, but I also let it fall down to rebuild again. Or rather it falls down despite my best efforts at vigilance. You can listen to a version of the meditation on the Insight Timer, lead by Bodhipoksa. Here is the free buddhist audio search. Do this practice within the community, don't do it without connecting to a tradition of your own choosing.

Then there is volunteering at a Hospice, like Norman Fisher discusses in one of his essays. I'm considering that.

May you be happy, may you be well.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

chapter 5

Alan Watts' book Psychotherapy East and West, treats Buddhist liberation as another boondoggle by civilization to tame humans. So you can imagine his last chapter is going to be a bit of a letdown. His suggestion is to dance with life, a full eroticism with all of life and not just the genitals.

He is as usual eminently quotable: "The type of human being who submits to this culture is, almost literally, a zombie." He is talking about the human who submits to technology. At times like these he doesn't nail down his insight cleanly, he is more like a continental philosopher who uses philosophy more like an art, than a logic inquiry. His statements are suggestively artistic.

In another place he quotes a 6000 year old Egyptian he quote from a Fromm book: "Our earth is degenerate...Children no longer obey their parents." Boy, wish everyone heard this. I hear this kind of statement all the time. It comes from nostalgia for a past that didn't exist, like the mother who tells her children she would never do this or that as a child, but really she did.

In the end this book is impressionistic. I can't help but think how Watts ended his life divorced from his wife, fired from his job, living like a total genital hedonist. What he actually did with his ideas does not seem to be where I want to end. His rhetoric can have a liberative feel to it, but it's target is vague and unclear, and does disentangle the bewilderment and confusion, the fog we all walk through in the world we find ourselves in. It does encourage one to believe in themselves and be bold, which might be useful to the insecure. In the end it is an interesting meditation on psychotherapy and the guru relationship, even if it fizzles out, after it gains some momentum.