Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I'm not looking down on the Buddha, but it is an interesting viewpoint in the photo. You see his hand and knees quite clearly.

Reading The Purpose and Practice of Meditation, Sangharakshita's experience of sort of rigid insight meditation practices are in the 70's in England. I guess I wouldn't have kept that in the collection, it's out of date. I'm reading The Best Buddhist Writing 2010, Vajrayana teachers are teaching calming meditation. Listening on Insight Timer, Theravadan Buddhist are doing visualization meditations. They are all getting us in touch with our bodies and the breath. When I was visiting Zen Mountain Monastery the lovely woman giving us a tour talked about doing metta. I think with the internet we've gotten to a place where all the forms of meditation are available. I listened to a Taoist meditation that seemed rather Buddhist except for the music in the background. Reading Working With The Five Hinderances, there's a kind of Start Where You Are kind of ethic, no dharma and denial. There are no easy work arounds, and you need to avoid spiritual bypassing (coined by John Welwood). It's as though people really are doing a Survey of Buddhism, looking at the breadth and depth of Buddhism.

Looks like there's a copy of the survey for $4.04 in the USA, which is the lowest price for a used book on Amazon. The Best of Buddhism books are 1 cent, but then there's $3.99 in shipping and handling. So after all the free books out there--and there are quite a lot of them--the $4 used book is quite thrifty.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hinderances and circumstances

Another aspect of the hinderances is that they are very ego driven, and therefore they are an opportunity to observe the self. It's almost crushing to admit you have hinderances, or greed, hatred and desire. The hope is to turn desire into Dhammachanda, which is desire for the Dharma life. I like that concept.

Ajahn Theradhamma also talks about circumstances. He talks about the importance of generosity to help break the hold on self but excoriates the lay who leave after giving stuff, and miss the meditation. Theravadan tradition is plagued by the lay/monastic split.


Thinking more about Ajahn Theradhammo's book The Five Hinderances, it's almost a Padmasambhava point--that you don't get rid of the hinderances, you work with them. He also says something I've never heard, that working with the hinderances is in the 4th of the 4 items of mindfulness in the Satipatthana Sutta, which would make my waiting 14 years less of a mistake. I had a feeling that that might be a unique Theravadan tradition take on the Sutta because I don't remember that from other books. Some of my books are on Kindle, and I guess I didn't think to search them when I was looking up the Hinderances in my books: Living With Awareness and Satipatthana. I'll have to look into those books, along with the others I mention in the last post. The other thing I feel coming in the book is discussion of circumstances. Theradhammo sort of dismisses them because if you're a monk they're all taken care of supposedly--though Ajahn Chah, seems to think it's a problem with the Thais.

Been thinking lately I'm a Theravadan in the morning, Mahayana in the daytime, Zen in the evening and Pure Land at bedtime. I read a Theravadan book or the pali cannon in the morning before I meditate. During the day I try to add positivity to the world, the Bodhisattva ideal. In the evening I usually do a Pure Awareness meditation. And I fall asleep listening to a pure land sutra.

It's interesting that in the Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra that the Bodhisattva who's pure land it is, covers the pure land with his tongue, and then he can describe it. Wow, that's a big tongue, a very descriptive tongue to be able to taste a buddhafield.

The other interesting thing I've noticed listening to Shorter Sukhavativyuha Sutra, is that it says, "He feels the Buddha with his body, he feels the Dharma with his body, he feels the Sangha with his body." That goes along with all the somatic emphasis in our alienating world, including most spectacularly Touching Enlightenment, by Reginald Ray the founder of Dharma Ocean. That's a splinter off Shambhala, though perhaps splinter minimizes the greatness of the movement. If I wasn't in an independent phase and lacking in funds to fly to Crestone Colorado, which oddly has many many Buddhist outfits (8), and also has Richard Baker's outfit, famous to me from the book Shoes Outside The Door.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Five Hinderances

I started reading Working With The Five Hinderances by Ajahn Theradhammo (I think his name means strong with the Dharma, but it could also mean the Dharma is strong, I'm no Pali scholar). He is part of the Thai Forest Tradition. I think I was taught the five hinderances in my 2nd or 3rd meditation class, but I've pretty much neglected them until somehow I decided that was something to focus on 14 years later. It's been a real revelation. Like you notice a plank you have always walked on was riddled with termites and really you've been floating on air, mis-walking over it for years. To me the Dharma isn't chasing sticks like a dog, but turning to face the stick thrower.

Here is Theradhammo's alternate translation of the 5 Hinderances:
1. Reaching out for sense stimulation: wanting, longing for, desiring sense pleasure. (Sense Desire)
2. Any kind of pushing away of experience: resistance, irritation, aversion. (Ill Will)
3. Lethargy and drowsiness: Lacking driving power, lethargy, not having vigor or lacking energy, unwieldiness, laziness, sleepiness, drowsiness, dullness of the mind. (Sloth and Torpor)
4. Worry or scruples: Remorse, worrying about one's unskillful actions. (Restlessness and Anxiety)
5. Sceptical doubt, uncertainty, perplexity specifically with regard to the teachnigs or the training, or even self doubt about one's ability to do the practice. Confusion, worry, which causes indecision, wavering and vacillation and paralysis. (Doubt and Indecision)

The things in parenthesis are the categories was taught that can be found in Change Your Mind by Paramanada and Meditation by Kamalashila. I honestly don't know if Kamalashila's new book called Meditation is the same book, with a different subtitle, or whether it's a fresh new book, or whether it's like a second edition after he edited and re-wrote the new one. 

Anyway, they are both from the TBC, which is the tradition I learned my meditation, have gone on many retreats and was in the ordination process for many years. I learned in NYC with Vajramati in 2002.

Looking into my other books, there's no index listing for hinderances or five hinderances in A Survey of Buddhism the 1947 classic by Sangharakshita. Bhante Gunarantana has 2 chapters on distractions, which are pretty useful in Mindfulness in Plain English. One of my friends who left the TBC went to Bante G's outfit. I thought Mindfulness for Dummies would have something on it, but not in the index, nor with some cursory glancing through the book.

Needless to say, my desire for sense experience is both physical and mental. All the struggling, even if I'm not pushing but just noting the hinderance gives me doubt. Remorse, which is a part of restlessness and anxiety, kept me from meditating for years. I even did a few flow charts in my mind, then realized they were mental sense pleasure perhaps. It's funny certain things seem irresistible to think about in meditation and yet after I don't give a second thought. Anywho, I'm trying to think about them outside the meditation.

I hope I can complete the 365 day challenge on the Insight Timer. I have 26 consecutive days beyond the year challenge. But quantity is not quality and I was very struck by the idea of mis-meditating.

I'll update you on further revelations as they come.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Vegan 2017

I don't really believe in new years resolutions, because I'm always taking steps forward (sometimes backwards temporarily) and the end of the calendar year isn't the only time for reflection and aspirations to move towards the Buddha, to close the distance between us. Winter is a good time for reflection.

Anywho, one aspiration for me is to be more and more vegan. I know farmers kill insects and other things when they harvest plants. If you really care about plant suffering, you would only eat plants because meat needs more plants for a little meat. But the people who bring up the plants have feeling arguments aren't really sincere about plant feelings. The goal is to reduce suffering in the world, and going vegan clearly, unequivocally does that.

Going vegan isn't an easy things. There will be things you miss. I will admit in 2016 I made few slips, when my vegan sponsor (Anandi) wasn't around and when there were leftovers from my sons, who are not vegan in the fridge. My daughter will be vegan.

Anandi got an instant pot for the holidays. I'm hoping she will write something about it on her wonderful blog: Under the Influence of Food. I try to fill in some spaces when she's not into blogging with my complementary blog: Under the Influence of Cori. Cori is Anandi by the way, that's her buddhist name.

I'm still struggling to get through Eating Animals because it's so horrific. I'm still struggling to watch Earthlings or Cowspiracy. I did watch Gary Yourofsky. I did watch the year in vegan review.

The preponderance of evidence helps me to make the leap, I at first thought impossible. Cittapala took down the Complete Vegetarian, and a bunch of other excellent essays, but that was also part of it. And it always helps to have friends who go the "whole hog". One of my friends and his girlfriend are very passionate about veganism, and that really helped me see the light.

I was reading The Complete Works of Ajahn Cahn and he was saying just eating rich from the begging rounds once a day is a Dhutanga. In Eat Sleep Sit people dropped out because of nutritional deficiencies that Anandi said could be solved by going from white to brown rice.

I read to get a feeling of sangha, to be with someone. I know reading a lot is often seen as not the way to be a Buddhist. Luckily, I don't have a great memory, so I'm not a know it all.

So we're off to find vegan food at a restaurant now.

My favorite places include Veggie Castle, Panorama of the silence-heart,  and Smile of the Beyond. The latter two are Sri Chinmoy joints. I read Cartwheels in a Sari, and the subtitle is "growing up in a cult". Tamm sees it as a cult. The workers are very nice, and the place doesn't bother me. The first place is a Guyanese place. 

Best book of 2016

The runners up are Radical Dharma, Time To Stand Up and The Buddha's Wife.

In an age when legitimate concerns are ghettoized in "identity politics" I relish the black and women's voice. It is a time for political activism, time to stand up. It is a time to work together in connection. These three books begin to shore up the lack of black and women's voices, and suggest a path of activism, or literally discuss engaged buddhism, needed now more than ever since we have a president elect who seems to steam past anything but his limited selfish concerns. I hope I'm not put on an FBI watch list for saying this, but I think he's already done enough to be impeached. I hope he doesn't send some goons out here to punish my dissension against his views. Many say give him a chance, but he's already shown who he is. His New Year's Tweet contained more warning than love. But I digress.

The winner of the 2016 Going For Refuge Blog Book Award (GFRBBA) is Great Faith, Great Wisdom. Also available is the author reading the sutras the book is about. This book follows up on the excellent The Art of  Reflection, which won the 2011 GFRBBA. Ratnaguna has a great talk on Free Buddhist Audio.

I liked Great Faith, Great Wisdom because it discussed the pure land sutras in a way the modern Buddhist who is an ecumenical Buddhist can appreciate. An ecumenical Buddhist is one who takes the whole of the Buddhist corpus as their inspiration, every school, throughout history. Is there one Buddhism, or many Buddhisms? I'll table that debate for another post.

Past Winners Include: 2012, 2015. Turns out I haven't been as consistent about the GFRBBA as I wanted to be, since 2004. Since I don't always use labels, it's hard to search it up.

Other notable mentions for 2016 include Subhuti's Mind In Harmony. Just go look at a video of Subhuti on YouTube, and you'll see his passion. He really writes from experience, he teaches all over the world, going to places like India and Turkey. But looking into it, I think it came out in 2015.

Eight Step Recovery is also a quite notable addition to the corpus of recovery Buddhism. Kevin Griffith is the standard with One Breath At A Time, but Eight Step Recovery presents a purely Buddhist approach without any other recovery philosophies like AA.

Tibetan Pop Star: Ani Choying Drolma

Ani Choying Drolma is supposedly the Tibetan pop star, according to Lion's Roar. Check her out on Spotify.

She has an awesome charity for nuns.

You can follow her on Facebook.