Tuesday, July 25, 2017


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


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.