Saturday, October 20, 2018

A story I hadn't heard before

When it came out that the Buddha was going to let himself die, his stepmother asked if she could go first, and she led many of her elderly cohorts with her. Here is a female who's attainments were great, and Analayo suggests with all the men about, reflecting on her would be a good antidote. She did something amazing and you 'd have to read Analayo's translation to get a sense of it. What a lovely book, my best book of 2017 so far.

He says that exhaling is relaxing and inhaling is energizing. I guess that's true broadly, but I feel like so much goes on with the breath.

I wonder what it would have been like to grow up with Buddhist parents. Instead I found Buddhism in 2004.

Reading and listening to talks and audio books is one way I keep connected to the Dharma. Listening to The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Mysticism: The Essential Teachings was off-putting in several ways. First the collection was a hodgepodge. One minute we were skimming the surface, another we were plumbing the depths. The second problems was that the actor reading the book mispronounced so many Tibetan names, and even English words. Even so, the influence was positive, I was more kind at work.

What should I read next? I've been working my way through Shakespeare but I always am reading a Dharma book.

Monday, October 01, 2018


(Rupa at DHARMADHARA (Lake Country CA)) 

I noticed that sleep was not on list of asceticism the Buddha tried (link to book I've been reflecting on). But he could easily meditate all night and probably for several nights. Just like eating, bathing and breathing, sleep serves a function to the mind, to reset and refresh. We don't have limitless energy. Having children and working at night, I have pushed through some of my conceptions about how much rest I need. In the end it's the middle way. You don't ignore your needs, but you don't indulge yourself and put comfort first always. You can't progress on the path without extending effort.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Reincarnation was one of the ideas that seemed like a religious metaphysic that did not correlate with Buddhism's minimalist methodologies. The Dharma is a way to move towards enlightenment, that is all. If believing in something helps that, OK, but mostly understanding that everything is impermanent is more likely to help.

Conditionality has a funny psychological effect. If you think about causes and conditions long enough you can imagine yourself as everyone on the subway. You can see in their body language, how they are dressed, what they are doing--their whole being. I have been everyone and I will be everyone.

Every day we wake up is a new rebirth. But that is not what they thought in ancient India. And my above metaphor might not be what they meant--empathy into all existence.

The Wheel of Life is a specific take on conditionality. It leads you through how life is perpetuated. The gap between sensory input and what you conclude from it is where all the mistakes are made.

Was the Buddha's recollection of past lives an opening up of realizing conditionality? Did it give him confidence to think he'd been working on enlightenment for aeons? It's the whole of human evolution that has been working on enlightenment.

I can't help but think of Forever War and Forever Peace. They have created robots that fight for you, but being connected to your platoon leads to enlightenment, so they get you out quickly, you can only work in short shifts. Would we all be enlightened if we were connected deeply with our minds. That is the hope of empathy.

Analayo is pointing out that the Buddha realized past lives in his book. Realizing past lives is a step in the progression of the Buddha's enlightenment. Analayo wrote a book about Reincarnation, and in a talk I watched, he talked about little kids who recite the sutras, though they can't even read and don't speak the language they are reciting the scriptures in. His idea is that probably only reincarnation explains this phenomenon. I'm not convinced. I'm more convinced that as the Buddha neared enlightenment he remembered past lives. In my mind that was an insight about conditionality and my experiences on the subway that I could imagine all these lives. I can imagine being Caesar or even Trump's reactive arrested development.

The short upshot is that I feel like reincarnation is less unimaginable.

More of a problem in modern times is believing in moving towards enlightenment is possible and significant.

I met a Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist in my neighborhood. I was so excited.

Reincarnation was a big reason Stephen Batchelor turned from Tibetan Buddhism to Korean Buddhism, and later developed Buddhism Without Belief.

Conditionality is the thing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Chapter 6

It's amazing that the Buddha knew there was more out there. He'd tasted the heights of pleasure (for a heterosexual) by living in a house where there were only women and they were there to please him. He left his family and home to search. He went to 2 teachers who could do amazing meditations. But still they were not enough. He spent years in ascetic practices--fasting, bearing the elements (heat, cold, wet), physical discomfort, controlling his breathing.

The idea of transcending desires, Nirvana, was his goal. To go beyond illness, old age and death. His mind control was so good he was not even overwhelmed by the painful feelings of his asceticism.

Any temporary victory did not lead to not having a struggle again and again.

It is just like meditation. We can only not take up the unwholesome ideas. It is a gradual method, repeated again and again. Here are the strategies for addressing unwholesome thoughts (from Analayo):

-turn to something wholesome.

-think of the dangers of giving into such an unwholesome thought.

-set aside the issue at hand.

-gradually relax the motivational force behind thought.

-forceful suppression (You don't use an emergency brake all the time, you use it sparingly in extreme cases).

Sunday, September 16, 2018


(from the Ruben Museum)

"..saddha is precisely the confidence that it is possible to liberate one's mind from hinderance and defilements." (Analayo 2017)

For some reason this quote catalyzed something for me. The idea that you can actually liberate yourself from hinderances and defilements. For me that means they won't even be gone, but they will be surrounded with mindfulness such that one can be active instead of reactive.

The hinderances of restlessness, doubt, sense pleasure, sloth and ill will. I had to google 5 hinderances to remember ill will.

The defilements are the kleshas:  ignorance, attachment, and aversion which lead to anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, etc.

Friday, September 14, 2018


Previous practices of the Bodhisattva:

#1,  #2,  #3,  #3 . OK, so I did #3 twice. Now onto #4

Loved ones who have long kept company will part.
Wealth created with difficulty will be left behind.
Consciousness, the guest, will leave the guest-house
     of the body.
Let go of this life--
     This is the practice of the Bodhisattva

We can't fool ourselves that things are permanent. Our sun will expand and encompass the earth, so even the planet that seems so stable and forever, in the cosmic perspective, will end. Things can be ours for a long time, and change is more difficult when we lose someone who's been in our life for our whole life, like a parent, or perhaps a house you've always lived in. Humans are conservative, we don't like change. We do like change for the better, but you can't just siphon out the bad.

Even though you can't take money with you after death, it's great to have money. Looking at the larger picture realistically is important. Through penny pinching my grandfather who grew up during the depression saved a lot of money and invested it, and did well. He did a lot of amazing things with his money but of course he's gone now and can't enjoy it. But think of the Carnegie libraries they built and other social infrastructure. You can have an amazing lasting impact. Maybe it's just in children or the effect you had on other people in your life. Those traces can't go away all together.

Nobody has an original idea. There are some amazing new scientific discoveries and you know, the first 5 minute mile. The Buddha was the first to present enlightenment to everyone. Who knows if someone got there and didn't communicate it, it's hard to imagine someone wouldn't. But you go to college, watch TV, and you're filled with memes. There's one Buddhist who thinks we're Meme Machines. Shakespeare never created a plot, but he created dialogue in a plays that brought humanity to new heights. Every lama in Tibet created their own Buddhism. I could not accurately convey Sangharakshita's dharma, because I just don't know it enough. I must create my own. Even these excursions into the 37 practices is my attempt to make sense of the practices.

Letting go is not easy, to the things we like. Leaving a job you hate is a relief. Letting go refers to the internal resistance not to accept the passing of things we hold onto unrealistically. It's bound to happen, we're human. That's the human drama. Watch any TV show and it's about fighting to let go of something, in many different ways.

This mindset will be part of the ideas into which all the other practices are set.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

quote from Analayo book, chapter 3

Continued reflections on A Meditator's Life of the Buddha.

"[When] a thought without sensual desire arose in me, I thought of it much. [When] a thought without ill will arose in me, I thought of it much. [When] a thought without harming arose in me, I thought of it much."

My first thought was that everything is sense desire. When I feel sympathetic joy that my parents are traveling to Machu Picchu in the spring, the joy I feel is a sensual pleasure in my mind. Perhaps they mean non-mind sensual pleasures. Like I need to adjust my pillow my neck hurts. That's a sense desire thought. I say adjust yourself, don't stay uncomfortable.

In the end I know roughly what wholesome and unwholesome thoughts are. Some lead to ruin and come from a small place, are selfish. Others are more large minded, take in the family, the community, the cosmos. The suggestion is to just label thoughts, and usually the changes follow just noticing. Some thought and reflection might go into examining patters and whether thoughts are wholesome or not.

And then the paradigm of wholesome thoughts are contained in metta, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Meditator's Life of the Buddha

Reading Meditator's Life of the Buddha by Analayo, there are two interesting changes in the legend of the Buddha.

The first is that instead of meditating as a young adolescent under a tree, the story is that he had a series of reflections about sickness, aging and death. Not that the two are exclusive. Perhaps the reflection led to meditation. Analayo points out that it's hard to believe he never saw these 4 sights in the legend where he goes out and sees these things for the first time. Perhaps instead he was preoccupied by these things for a long time.

Second is that his stepmother cried when he cut off his hair and put on robes. So he didn't sneak out in the night, or maybe he did, but everyone knew he was going during the day. So that tender image of him gazing on his wife and infant son, well, everyone knew he was going. His family was very much involved in his decision to leave, which does seem natural in those times.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

A koan I'm pondering

I am a man of constant sorrow, 
I've seen trouble all my day 
I bid farewell to old Kentucky, 
The place where I was born and raised 
(The place where he was born and raised)
For six long years I've been in trouble, 
No pleasures here on earth I found 
For in this world I'm bound to ramble, 
I have no friends to help me now 
(He has no friends to help him now)
It's fare thee well my old lover 
I never expect to see you again 
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, 
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)
You can bury me in some deep valley, 
For many years where I may lay 
Then you may learn to love another, 
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)

I am a man of constant sorrow, 
I've seen trouble all my day 
I bid farewell to old Kentucky, 
The place where I was born and raised 
(The place where he was born and raised)
For six long years I've been in trouble, 
No pleasures here on earth I found 
For in this world I'm bound to ramble, 
I have no friends to help me now 
(He has no friends to help him now)
It's fare thee well my old lover 
I never expect to see you again 
For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, 
Perhaps I'll die upon this train
(Perhaps he'll die upon this train)
You can bury me in some deep valley, 
For many years where I may lay 
Then you may learn to love another, 
While I am sleeping in my grave
(While he is sleeping in his grave)
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger 
My face, you'll never see no more 
But there is one promise that is given 
I'll meet you on God's golden shore 
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)
Maybe your friends think I'm just a stranger 
My face, you'll never see no more 
But there is one promise that is given 
I'll meet you on God's golden shore 
(He'll meet you on God's golden shore)

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris.

Korean pagoda with fans

Some spiritual cheerleading for myself, I hope it helps you.

The battle with the possible is to not trip up on hubris. While imagining that you can become enlightened, that you can significantly move towards enlightenment, you can slip into hubris. The overarching pride that leads to mistakes like Noah Levine's fall. He built an amazing movement, and it's still going in NYC with Dharma Bums, and Josh Korda, but it seems it's closing out west. Korda, I think got Dharma Punx so Noah started Against The Stream, which will be closing down.

To create a movement is amazing. Personally, I fell away from his teaching when I read he couldn't handle it in a monastery, and had to go to the beaches in Thailand. His father was a spiritual teacher, though his mother wasn't with him. I never really got the California punx over hippies thing.

But I've been on retreat with Josh Korda and also listened to his talks, and he's quite insightful. If I had more energy I'd be involved in his sangha.

Some joke that Sangharakshita had no charisma, so that his movement of the TBC can't be claimed to be built on his charisma. Since I've never met Noah Levine, I can't comment on his charisma. I have read 3 of his books.

As we watch men fall from grace as sexual exploitation becomes less allowed in our society, there is hope that we are building a more sane society in a time when things seem to have gotten out of wack. The rapid changes brought on by technology are straining humans ability to adapt and there are considerable growing pains.

The children's show Masha and the Bear, Masha says, "I didn't want to, I just did." I told my daughter she can't use that excuse.

"That wasn't me," is the refrain from a Brandi Carlisle song. "Did I go on a tangent?!"

I haven't read Man Against Himself by Menninger, of the famous Menninger Clinic, but the idea that we have many self defeating behaviors is a key one in my life. To act in one's own self interest is surprisingly difficult. We can lock it down and lose our inspiration and fluidity, dynamism. Or we can let loose and get messy. Life is messy. That sexual misconduct hurts people is terrible. Something that at it's best can transport one in a celebration of life and intimacy, can be twisted to harm someone. It's the age old problem--desire can lead us astray, and our irrational efforts to extend the unextendable, lead us astray. We forget to kiss the joys as they go by, and try to make out with them. There is another way. We need fans to feel comfortable, but chasing after comfort will ultimately founder on the fact that life is uncomfortable. We can train ourselves to not over chase comfort. Now I don't mean we don't work to be comfortable. I tend to try to go the extra yard to impress sometimes. Never forget the middle way between asceticism and hedonism.

(Levine's response in a video on FB can be seen here. He claims none of the people were students and he essentially told his board for directors, they investigated and found what he said was true. My therapist talked about people revealing their clay feet...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Family life for me

Family (with small children) sangha is harder than community sangha for me, and friends who go away (their home). Family exposes all your impatiences, cuts through the grandiosity. Being the adult around a child, being honest about housework with your partner, I'm finding honesty a challenge, though I'm also working to ask for help and confessing my limitations and struggles. The prefect place to grow. In a way, that's why they have communities and monasteries. To challenge one all the time.

Sangharakshita thought that if you worked in a right livelihood business, attended the center and lived in a single sex community of Buddhists, then you would essentially be on retreat all the time, and make the progress you make on retreat, in your regular life. And you wouldn't need to be in a monastery.

In the west we don't give out free lunches to Buddhists, though to be sure religious organizations can raise funds in the west, look at the mega churches. I wonder how much of the retreat from religion is just not wanting to part with time and money for a hollow lifeless religion. Spirituality takes upturns after deadening periods, and the Buddhism in the west is very vigorous and mostly Mahayana. I'm not trying to downgrade the Theravadan, it's just the one monastery I know if within driving distance is supported by Thai Internationals and Immigrants. I'm sure there are others, but I think another monastery is supported by International and Immigrant Sri Lancan folk. They essentially import their culture onto American soil, which has room for many. While amazing and vibrant transplants, they are hybrids that it will take time to fully blossom.

Family life is big on ethics, trying to develop positive habits and routines, civilize and culture the youth into good citizens who will be successful, and take responsibility for their lives. I always feel like I can communicate better, be more generous, have more equanimity, problem solve better. Not too many people are confident in these modern times. It's hard to imagine Trump not having insight into his own bluster, but the sad thing is that he's dragging us all along with his self deception.

The demands of modern life are many. Run to your car so you don't get a ticket. Try not to soak through your shirt on the subway before work. Take your son to soccer practice 3 times a week. The way utilities and electronics break down is a kind of lesson on impermanence. I remember seeing a light bulb in California that has been on since 1901. You can't even work a 9-5 job any more, those jobs are gone. I knew a guy who worked all night and his wife worked all day and they somehow raised their children in-between work and sleep. Was it only a fantasy of the 50's that women could be house wives? Everyone would like just a little more, one more notch up the class ladder.

Eating with moderation is difficult. I finish off the things my two year old doesn't eat. Meditation is difficult, but if I prioritize it, it's not difficult. Lack of sleep is a technique used in some zen monasteries, to challenge our attachment to comfort.

Zen Bunnies

The little books of quotes can be good for changing one's mindset without getting bogged down in a whole line of discourse. Welcome into the fold of collections is Zen Bunnies, which includes cute pictures of bunnies with the pithy saying.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Anamist, pagan, Taoist, humanist, Buddhist

I'm an animist, pagan, Taoist, humanist, Buddhist with American Christian and Jewish cultural roots, a Northern European mutt from my ancestors. I'm a straight edge vegan in spirit and an omnivore historically with serious periods of vegetarianism. I'm so curious about the ancient ones and keep up with the new.

My partner said the exact same thing I'm always saying to her (in her personality), "there are too many unknowns to plan."

She is a mastermind, plans, plans, plans compulsively, plans successfully. She rules where ever she is, or spins in frustration because she doesn't. She doesn't plot to take over, she doesn't want that stress. She wants a more simple life despite her urge to take over and do things right with foresight.

Then I thought her personality is not ideologically committed if she can say that.

Then I wondered if I was ideological about my personality. My first thought was Taoism, which really tries to put words to my feelings that come out in Murphy's Law and other ways, about the nature of things.

We're all connected by systems and the small things we do matter. In the cosmological sense, we are pretty insignificant. And yet we are connected, and that makes being vegan meaningful.

My first ex-wife said that the way way I liked jazz was unusual. I like the idea of it, improvisation, the African-American history, the musicianship. Every performer creates a unique composition every time. I guess she wanted me to love an artist, or a kind of jazz. I sometimes find jazz hard to listen to and even unpleasant. I think of Fred Armisen's comedy for drummers where he plays jazz and raises his hand when he's bored, pretty quickly. Sometimes the solos can be difficult to follow. Sonny Rollins' solos can go on for a long time when you tune out a little.

As I age, I see the impermanence to the grand schemes of myself and others, I see the unsatisfactoriness of pleasure seeking, how desperate we are for certain kinds of pleasures, at times, how sort of desperate and manic the endeavor is. I see how people change with different circumstances, and while self esteem is important, self development and integrity, that ultimately we're all beholden to circumstances. There are other systems, like genetics, or personality, that seem to hold sway in the personal experience.

I like celebrating equinox, full moons and the cycles of earth. I imagine trees have personalities and rich back stories. I imagine sprites, and naiads in the water, a rich unseen life. Not because I don't fully understand science and conventional wisdom, but because it feels more rich and alive. I like the old rituals and old cultures that spring up to cope with the world before technology took over. Father sun is the most natural phrase, even though I don't have the direct teachings of the Anasazi.

I love pictures of wild pagan festivals. I love Where The Wild Things Are.

I love the idea of hozho.

I like Kintsugi.

I can go on and on and I will in this blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2018




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The Supreme Path The Rosary of Precious Gems

I've been reading The Supreme Path The Rosary of Precious Gems, Gampopa's 280 yogic precepts. Gampopa was a student of Milarepa. The precepts are pithy statements that focus the mind. 

At one point he references the Kali-yuga and that is the Indian idea of living in degenerate times. I was struck by this point: "Rulers will become unreasonable". There are all sorts of things that seem to resemble our time, like the issue of widespread substance abuse.

"One must know that misfortune, being the means of leading one to the Doctrine, is also a guru." This idea is one that really took hold of me, and helps me quite a lot.

I've been reading The Supreme Path The Rosary of Precious Gems, Gampopa's 280 yogic precepts. Gampopa was a student of Milarepa. The precepts are pithy statements that focus the mind. 

At one point he references the Kali-yuga and that is the Indian idea of living in degenerate times. I was struck by this point: "Rulers will become unreasonable". There are all sorts of things that seem to resemble our time, like the issue of widespread substance abuse.

"One must know that misfortune, being the means of leading one to the Doctrine, is also a guru." This idea is one that really took hold of me, and helps me quite a lot.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Happy 4 Noble Truths Day!

Independence day celebration in America is a perfect opportunity to go over the 4 noble truths. Sangharakshita says something to the effect that just like the taste of salt in the sea, the taste of freedom is a part of the Dharma life.

The Mnemonic way of remembering the 4 noble truths is as follows: Dukkha, samudaya, niroda, marga:

1. Dukkha: a feeling, a felt experience of discomfort, disease, pain, suffering. Infatuation of sense pleasure stops us from seeing dukkha. Nobody is saying life is only suffering, there are many great pleasures. But the idea is that those little moments of pleasure sort of put us onto a path of chasing desires and pleasure that, well, it's just going to be a chase that will be mostly unsuccessful. Thinking about things we want is much easier than than thinking about satisfactions, even if we keep a gratefulness journal. Trying to focus on things we are grateful does shift the focus a little, but it won't get rid of the human reaching for more.

(I think that's some of what Christianity is reaching for with the Garden of Eden myth, with God as the ultimate prankster. Hahaha, you are thrown out of paradise.)

(Dukkha is shared with Hinduism but in Hinduism the goal is to understand the ultimate nature of the self, where as in Buddhism we are taught that there is no ultimate nature of the self, it's conditioned.)

Condition existence has it's limitations. You can build a wonderful life, but you will not escape aging, illness and death. How many times have you been disappointed because things didn't come out the way you wanted them? It almost seems like life is set up to fall short of our hopes. You could see life as a process of making important relationships and then saying goodbye to them.

Seeing into dukkha is a key insight in Buddhism, reality, that has depth and can keep growing. Like so many of the things you can read about Buddhism, you can say, "oh yea, I get that," but over years and years of dedicated practice, you see how your understanding and appreciation can grow and develop. You can look at dukkha without getting depressed.

Think about insecurity, fears and safety. I see gated community with guards. I think about looking at people on the subway. Think about how in a city you can't go a long time without hearing an ambulance. I think about temperature--it's so easily too hot or too cold. Think about the news. Even when everything is going well, you want it to continue. I feel this on a retreat or camping. I think about litter, urban decay, someone puking after a night of celebration, divorce court, venereal disease.

Dukkha is one of the three marks of existence, namely dukkha ("suffering"), anatta (not-self), anicca ("impermanence").

2. Samudaya: The root of dukkha which is craving. You can get a moment of satisfaction but how many times have you gotten something and it just feels empty. Or you get something wonderful and it's gone so soon. I see my grandmother when I say hello, then so soon, saying goodbye. She loved to be around family so much and they all went away.

The link on Wikipedia for samudaya leads to the twelve nidanas which is a key teaching. The wheel of life is a visual representation of it.

Hedonism doesn't work. This is the push towards spirituality, the desire for something more. If there was no dukkha there would be no religion or spirituality. We try so hard to make ourselves happy, it can really help you with empathy to think that. Donald Trump is really just trying to be happy, and push away pain. Look at the whole life of rock stars. There is so much substance abuse and early death, fading into obscurity.

The Lotus Sutra includes a parable where a house is on fire. The father wants to lure the children outside with a promise of greater pleasures, they won't leave the house because they are having too much fun playing and don't notice the fire. Think of kids at the park who don't want to go home and their parents are trying to drag them away. Fire is an important idea in Buddha. Things are burning. The arrow is in the air. The new toys outside the burning house is the Dharma, meditation, spiritual community, the vision and path that leads us away from the futile effort to not suffer.

3. Niroda: is a release, ending of suffering, is possible. There exists liberating insight.

Realizing a possibility is amazing. I think about realizing things I can do on the computer or the revelation of a city or a museum, a view on a mountain top, or skiing, or sex. It's amazing to know there is more than just chasing sense pleasure. The toys outside the burning house are fun, even if they were not what we thought they were.

4. Marga: The path. The eightfold path. I'll do a post on that tomorrow. There is a path towards radical waking up. We can relate to dukkha with equanimity.

Here is a good talk on the 4 noble truths based on the Sattipathana Sutra by Vajradevi of the TBC. (Vajradevi has a good article on Vajrapani on Wildmind). I have based my post on this talk, so this is also a footnote. Her presentation is more clear, she is not responsible for my muddled presentation.

Eightfold Path

The eightfold path is the path leading out of suffering, the 4th noble truth. I learned VESALEAS (/vessel ease/) in Vision and Transformation, which is called something else now I think. I can't help but think of Sangharakshita's talk on regular versus irregular steps in the path. This will be a brief overview and I will go over each one in detail the following days. Wikipedia has VRSALEMS (/very Salems/).

1. Perfect vision (view, understanding): Conditionality. Understanding on some level why, how and where you are going with the Dharma.

2. Perfect emotion (resolve): Focused peaceful renunciation.

3. Perfect speech: honest, helpful, kindly speech

4. Perfect action: Ethics, the 10 precepts guide. I have learned that making mistakes has had a negative impact on my practice.

5. Perfect livelihood: Not putting obvious suffering in the world.

6. Perfect effort: preventing unwholesome mental states.

7. Perfect awareness (mindfulness)

8. Perfect samadhi (dhyana)(Concentration)

Here is Sangharakshita's talks on the Noble Eightfold Path given in 1968. He does it better than me, don't hold him responsible for my botched expressions.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


"...another morning I may be no more than an unpaid babysitter for the antics of my mind in the playpen of the meditation cushion."

Paul Weiss from Moonlight Leaning Against an Old Rail Fence

Monday, June 25, 2018


Support the Rohingyas.

Listen to Vishvapani: The problems of a Buddhist state. "Buddhists are only as good as their actions, and I fear that some of the actions we’re currently seeing are very bad indeed."

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tenzing Palmo

Tenzing Palmo was born in 1943 named Diane to a fishmonger in London's East End. Her father died when she was 2. She was sickly and did well in school and on IQ tests. You can read all about her in Cave In The Snow. Unfortunately the book is not written by Penzing Palmo.

It is notable that she vowed to become enlightened as a woman. A bold statement when you can be reincarnated as a man and have an allegedly easier path. Anyway, she didn't so much see herself as a woman, as a child.

There are many videos of her teachings but this one is the one I watched. She talks about how selfish meditators don't really get the point of Buddhism, and it should improve their lives and those around them.

There's an interesting article in the Times about a study where meditation in the work place decreased motivation. I don't know if their production went down, it's possible people are too motivated at work. There were no gains in terms of productivity for meditating.

Anyway, dipping into a little of info about Tenzing Palmo today, watching videos and reading Cave In The Snow. I'm hoping to read the book to my daughter when she gets older.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

My most popular posts

Just spent some time looking at the posts that got the most views. Quotes from other people tend to be the big winners. Sometimes subjects that perhaps don't get much content on the internet, found some expression here. Sex Tantra Magic got some hits. I had to delete one that over 1K hits because the link was broken. Over a hundred views seems a lot to me.

A lot of links are broken. I have preserved things by cut and pasting. The internet is ephemeral. Though this blog is almost 14 years old, there is no reason I know of it won't go out of existence today except Google seems to be chugging along OK at the moment.

I was looking for Red Lotus Momma, who did a guest blog, and I can't seem to find her any more. Some people go big time and erase juvenilia? Some people have qualms about putting themselves out there on the internet.

I found a bunch of drafts that I didn't publish because there were questions about the post I could not answer, or they were negative. I almost published some that perhaps could be published.

I'm tempted to go through and copy edit, update thoughts, clear out unclear thoughts, and delete or fix broken links. Blogs are a first draft of sorts. I didn't know how to do links at the beginning and I just recently figured out how to do links where they open a new tab instead of taking you away from the blog (you check a box...).

There are not a lot of comments on my blog. I think having to have an account on Blogger is a hinderance, but it's the same for Tumblr and the various wordpresses. The internet has changed a lot in the past 14 years. The rate of change of the world is the theme of a geezer, but I feel it more and more.


Past 37 practices of a Bodhisattva by Geshe Sonam Rinchen:

What follows is my commentary on the root text. Read the Geshe's commentary. I'm development my own thinking, and it's not necessarily meant to teach anyone, though if it helps, great. I am a hugely flawed human being who can demonstrate lack of integrity. Better yet is having integrity. I work to progress, am not an example of perfection.


By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions
      gradually decrease.
Without distraction, virtuous activities naturally
With clarity of mind, conviction in the teaching
Cultivation of seclusion--
     This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.

Read the Geshe's commentary. He has his own take. I riff on my take to develop my thinking.

Paradox is not a problem in Buddhism. Do I contradict myself? I am large, I contain the multitudes.

You retreat from life to shore it up, if you're an introvert. Nobody is just one thing, so the extrovert goes out into the world and seeks to do good if you are a Bodhisattva. It's hard not to get caught up in the whirl of life, carried away until you are on your death bed wondering where the time went. Life is endless going forth, retreating back to lick your wounds or celebrate success, or wonder at all the neutral phenomenon. All to often it can be about collecting stuff.

Anyone who has done Metta meditation will know that it's hard to pay attention to the neutral. Attraction and aversion are so much more interesting.

Modern times present many distractions, I feel lucky I only had a black and white TV for my early years. Color TV, then Cable lead to all sorts of distractions, HBO, MTV, Cubs games. What chance to kids have nowadays. My son brought his switch to school, and someone thought he had a switchblade. In a way, you must watch out of the sharp edge of video games. They present a neater world, where you can definitely build up, succeed, win, and other things our mind likes to feel good. Another form of addiction to add to mind altering substances, shopping, sex, food, approval, relationships, chaos... Try to gain insight into patterns.

Part of clarity is not being easily distracted. Clarity is rare nowadays.

How many people do you know who have gone on a solitary retreat for a week? A month? A year?

It was after my solitary retreat that I was very social on a retreat. I obviously needed solitary time to come out of my shell. Sometimes I go on retreat and want to be alone but I'm too enticed by others to stay to myself. Others are endlessly fascinating. Watching other people's retreats is fascinating.

Why not be on retreat constantly, meditating, reflecting, communicating?

Benjamin Franklin's Parable of the Whistle

"When I was a child of seven years old, my friends, on a holiday, filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they sold toys for children; and being charmed with the sound of a whistle, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my whistle, but disturbing all the family. My brothers, and sisters, and cousins, understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I might have bought with the rest of the money; and laughed at me so much for my folly, that I cried with vexation; and the reflection gave me more chagrin than the whistle gave me pleasure.  
  This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, Don’t give too much for the whistle; and I saved my money.  
  As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I thought I met with many, very many, who gave too much for the whistle.  
  When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, This man gives too much for his whistle.  
  When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by that neglect, He pays, indeed, said I, too much for his whistle.  
  If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake of accumulating wealth, Poor man, said I, you pay too much for your whistle.  
  When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable improvement of the mind, or of his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations, and ruining his health in their pursuit, Mistaken man, said I, you are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too much for your whistle.  
  If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses, fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, Alas! say I, he has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.  
  When I see a beautiful sweet-tempered girl married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, What a pity, say I, that she should pay so much for a whistle!  
  In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value of things, and by their giving too much for their whistles.  
  Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain things in the world so tempting, for example, the apples of King John, which happily are not to be bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the whistle." -From the letters of BF.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Eight Great Places: An internet pilgrimage

I've been looking to go on pilgrimage via the internet to the 8 great places. I took this internet trip over 8 days, here is what I found:

Lumbini: This is where the Buddha was born. His mother took a bath in the pond before birth. You can see the actual place the Buddha was born. I found this video of a young woman who went to visit. Sothy Thoeng is from Cambodia and wears monk robes, and has some interesting footage. This footage was uploaded March 8th 2018, so it's pretty recent. He also walks around the village with close-ups on cute children and visits a gift shop. Here is another video in English. This video includes some areas around this that are of interest. The video is by Royal Mountain Travels of Nepal.

You can't take footage of being inside the temple that has the rock that denotes the place of birth. It seems like a bazillion temples sprung up. Even at the main site with the stone, it seems like there are many things to look at, archaeological sites. I like seeing all the tourists. I wonder what I would chant. I know various chants, but one doesn't come to mind that would be appropriate at the birthplace of the Buddha. I suppose anything positive would do. In a way, all these sacred places are inside our hearts.

There is an Ashoka pillar there. The archaeology is interesting. I would see the rock where he was born and the pillar and the rest while interesting is perhaps not relevant. Of course, you could not get away from all that and you'd have to enjoy the journey, and I'm sure you'd find something of special meaning. The Wikitravel site reminds us to "Circumambulate the stupas and other sacred objects in a clockwise direction." I would head to the Maya Devi Temple first. That is where the rock is, and where the pillar is. There is also a flame for peace that burns constantly.

This is the only site in Nepal, so why not learn about Nepal with Canadians on a budget.

Bodh Gaya: If I could only go to one place, I would go here. It has the descendant tree of the original tree the Buddha got enlightened under, the Bodhi Tree.

Videos: Asia Art Museum of SF has a short video. This short travel video visits the tree at dusk. This video gives a lot of backgrounds and is 26 minutes, and has commercials you can skip after a few seconds.

So I've heard you can rent time, there is a system to follow regarding space before the tree, an authority you go to plan time closer to the tree.

I like to imagine the Buddha gesturing to me to come and sit with him. I try to imagine that every time I sit down.

Sarnath: This is where the Buddha first gave a sermon. There is an Asoka Pillar here with the three lions on the top, which is also an emblem for India. The Dhamek Stupa is perhaps one of the earliest stupas, completed around 500BCE. There are at least 2 other historic stupas nearby. Sarnath has a museum as well. Supposedly the Buddha stayed at Mulagandhakuti Vihara his first rains season.

In all these places you take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This site seems more Dharma as this is where the teachings began. It might be a good place to read the ancient texts. I've read Crime and Punishment in Leningrad, Voyage of the Beagle in Galapagos. I love pairing travel with reading the most appropriate book. Take your Majjhima Nikaya or Digha Nikaya with you. They are big books, so maybe The Life of the Buddha: According To The Pali Canon. Or the Dhammapada. I guess I would have a book if I were doing this journey offline, for all the places.

Kushinagar: This is where the Buddha was supposed to have had his parinirvana. There is a stupa where his ashes are supposed to be underneath, the Parinirvana stupa. Here is a short video of Nirvana Chaitya. Here is a short video of the Ramabhar Stupa. Here is a short video of the Matha Kuar Shrine.

This concludes the 4 main sites. The following are lesser sights: ShravastiRajgir:SankassaVaishali

Looking at the map, it would take 64 hours according to Google maps to drive every place in the order above. Going to each place in order would take 64 hours driving. Skipping the last 2 places could cut down on the driving quite a bit.

I also want to see the Milarepa tower. Click on the Google Map and zoom in and out, pretty amazing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018


I've been looking into fasting. A friend has been experimenting with it and I've been talking to him about how he does it and what it means to him. He is doing it for health reasons, but I see some spiritual potential.

I had a friend who did the master cleanse and reported good results. It always freaked me out a bit and I was very scared to contemplate the possibilities. Quite impressive.

One Chan perspective is that the Buddha became enlightened after he quit fasting as an approach. Neither running toward or running from pleasure is the path, the middle way is to run in neither direction.

The Chan fellow's name is Rev. Heng Sure and he reports an unsuccessful 18 day fast. He also has a cool blog that has some good photography.

That brings up the question, do we follow what the Buddha did after he became enlightened, from our unenlightened perspective, or do we do the same things he did on the path to enlightenment.

Another aspect is the Dhutangas a set of monastic guidelines that involve not eating after noon, daily fasting. I'm thinking about trying not to eat between solar noon (12:52p) to sunrise (544a) tomorrow. I'll report in if I follow through.

Bhante Dhammika has an interesting blog as well, and he has a post on fasting.

listened to a talk by people who walked out of their home without money, food or a phone for 2 days. The three people discuss their different experiences of going forth. They begged and got to eat. The copper moved them along, begging being illegal in Birmingham. They slept on cement one night and then in the park the second night. It seemed like a cool friendship activity, they learned who were the best beggars and confronted many fears.

For me the thought is that like running a marathon or challenging fears by bungee jumping or skydiving, you test your limits and build the confidence needed to push hard for the spiritual life.

In the end, I think veganism is a kind of fasting from the flesh and products of animals, that eliminates many options that the society in the USA like. Not eating after solar noon would also be a perhaps the second best practice. And fasting could also be a confidence-building and healthy thing to do, in the conventional sense where you fast for days without eating.

Monday, May 07, 2018

anger management quote?

From page 8 of the hardcover edition of Being Wrong:

" is surprisingly difficult to get angry unless you are either convinced that you are correct, or humiliated and defensive about being wrong."

I think anger is about control and trying to enforce your vision onto others in a world of different visions. This points to an interesting impact in emotional regulation and equanimity.

Here is an idea that heats me up. Surely the world would be a better place if we thought more into the future and made a decision based on how it would effect our grandchildren. But that's not the only viewpoint. Many people suggest we don't really know much about the future. Some make the here and now primary, forget the metaphysic of the future.

I am humiliated and defensive about my mistakes.

The irony of a so-called friend suggesting I'm not accountable is that I take too much responsibility. It was in that moment that I truly understood that he didn't know me.

Here is another quote from lovely page 8:

"Witness, for instance, the difficulty with which even the well-mannered among us stifle the urge to say "I told you so." The brilliance of this phrase (or its odiousness, depending on whether you get to say it or must endure hearing it) derives from its admirably compact way of making the point that not only was I right, I was right squared, maybe even right factorial, logarithmically right--at any rate, really extremely right, and really, extremely delighted about it."

Quote by Kathryn Schulz

Page 6 of Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz:

"...we live in a culture that simultaneously despises error and insists that it is central to our lives. We acknowledge that centrality in the very way we talk about ourselves--which is why when we make mistakes, we shrug and say we are human. As bats are batty and slugs are sluggish, our own species is synonymous with screwing up."

Monday, April 30, 2018

the still small voice

As an upshot of the English civil war, Quakerism was created. The regular person sought inwardly for the still small voice that would lead them. I'm taking a course on Quakers on Future Learn, another chapter in the fascinating history of spirituality on the planet earth.

I live in Flushing and there is a famous Quaker Meeting House, built in 1694. I've walked by it several times and read the plaques.

My uncle, the architect Charles Thanhauser, went to Friends high school in Philadelphia and had a fondness for the Quakers even though he was a secular Jew. His memorial service was held in the Friends meeting house off Gramercy Park. 

Friday, April 27, 2018


I was thinking that people who don't do metta meditation might not have a practice where they work to imagine themselves into stranger's lives, beyond assessing from a distance whether some is a threat or not.

Related but different is the benefit of the wisdom of equality. In the final stage you can work to equalize metta towards everyone. It's an antidote for the overwhelming wild cathexis of relationships. Equanimity comes from having a little distance towards your own drama.

Ratnasambhava is the bodhisattva that personifies this quality. In the icon, he reaches down toward the earth, but unlike Shakyamuni who is touching it to show who is witness to his claim to be enlightened, Ratnasambhava has his hand up in the giving mudra.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Beauty Standard Denialism

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about the movie I Feel Pretty. It's an interesting rumination on beauty standards. It admits that women shouldn't be punished for choosing to play the game and trying to make it fun. But there are qualms.

That got me thinking standards in general. There are standards and then their are ideals. Standards are something everyone can do and then ideals are often pretty hard to achieve but point in the kind of direction. Any ideal can be turned against someone and used wrong. You can take the spiritual ideal of becoming enlightened, and then beat yourself up for falling short. I'm sure you can do the same for standards. When I think of standards, it's probably someone else using it to point out to someone how they are falling short. If you apply that voice to yourself, it's not going to be great. Then again, living up to the usual standards in society would probably help society move smoother, and not being a difficult person can be a noble goal. When I try to think of a person, though, it feels like I'm trying to sheep dog someone back into the herd. I have qualms about doing that. Be who you are and let the chips fall where they may. I don't so much blame Trump for being who he is, I'm more just embarassed about what that means about America. I'm performing my own denialism about America.

So it's a useful game to reflect on standards and where and how do they apply. Is the standard of womanhood in Catholicism to get pregnant without sex, or is that taking an ideal too far? Marianismo is a real thing, just as I suppose Buddhismo is a real thing. Macho Buddhist posturing that goes past the fake it till you make it push. Again, I feel like it's taking an ideal and just using it wrong, unrealistically and out of proportion, to use it to ill effect.

Can a terrible person still be a Buddhist? I suppose they can up to the point in which what they are doing is against the ideals and vision of Buddhism, and then it becomes dishonest. Is anyone a full Buddhist who is not enlightened. I judge Myanmar for their obvious atrocities against their own people. I must also judge myself as falling short as a Buddhist. As I judge others as cultural Catholics who pay lip service to the ideals, Buddhism would suggest to point the finger at yourself. And yet I'm so far from the ideal. My unexamined trauma confusions have led me astray.

Causes and conditions have created a trajectory and it's hard not to follow that out. I can't imagine that I haven't gained just a little more ownership of that trajectory though that might just be a useful fiction to get me more motivated. The goal of enlightenment is to move through the uncaused and unconditioned, though it becomes a by mystical when you talk about the transcendental because you can't accurately talk about it. Spirituality isn't something rationality can tame, but you can tame your rationality with spirituality.

Authenticity is the antidote for taking standards and ideals wrong. Be honest with what is going on and the limits of fake it till you make it. Be honest about where you are pushing yourself outside the limits of what you really inhabit. Inhabiting where you are seems to one of the drums many teachers beat on. Finding out where you really are is the goal of the inward journey. We are also our ideals and vision that guide us, even when we fall short. I hope that Amanda Hess can accept it that she fall short of the beauty ideal, and blokes like me find her physical appearance fine (thank you for asking), find her intellectual chops as more rounding out the whole person. Relate to your ideals in a healthy way and it's great your conscious of them. Are spiritual ideals the most important ones to reflect on? I'm pretty sure she doesn't need my musings, just like Amy Schumer--well, I bet she likes the review because it's good journalism.

Please write what movies helped you to reflect on spiritual ideals in the comments, and how.

The French movie The Innocents, about the Polish nuns who turn up pregnant after being raped by retreating troops during WW2. It exposes my judgementalism about nuns, and then thoughts about spiritual institutions--they should not care how things look and just take care of people. I have ideals about a spiritual tradition that is not even my own. I cast them in terms of my own ideas about the great spirituality that all religions participate in.

Another movie is Into Great Silence. I never got around to finishing the movie when it was available to me, but I hope some day that I can.

Another movie is Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall... Spring. I still cringe at people setting fire to themselves, what a horrible way to go--their point is that they are beyond that. I thought the climbing the mountain with a stone dragging along was a bit contrived, but to be honest, thinking about it, it makes sense. I can't help but see him doing his karate on the ice and slipping and falling, which he hides by quickly getting up.

I love Milarepa as a person and the movie that highlights his anger at relatives doesn't focus on the part of his spiritual life that I want to. Perhaps that is my own prejudice. Maybe I want to see the striving not the grist for the mill.

I'm sure more movies will come to me and I can write about them. Thank you Amanda Hess. My reaction to your reaction is a profitable line of thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

what I'm reading

Sorry, I keep accidentally posting here for other blogs. Ugh.

I'm reading a biography of Yogananda at the moment. I'm both repelled and fascinated by Hindu gurus. I haven't read much on the subject, so why not read this. I see converting to Buddhism from Hinduism as a political act. Hinduism has the idea of caste, which includes the untouchables, a classification of a human being that should not be. So I'm repulsed. But it seems Hindu gurus are part of the history of spirituality, so I want to know more. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

vegetarian subtext

In The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams, she talks about how Charlotte's Web and Frankenstein have a vegetarian subtext. The stories are about how you should have empathy for animals and not eat them.

In w/ Bob & Dave on Netflix (in the US), among the first skits is one about men playing poker who have unrealistic dreams. One guy is Jewish and wants to become the first pope. Another guy wants to move to Hollywood and become a big movie director. Another wants to become a judge. They make fun of the guy who wants to stop eating meat.

The world is inverted, absurd goals are realistic and realistic things are absurd. They make fun of him for saying he will quit meat. They order a pizza with pepperoni and he he can't hold onto his resolution. And the others go on to do what they said they would do.

They are mocking how hard it is to quit meat, though with the American mindset it's more realistic to dream big, the idea of the American dream, you can do what ever you set your mind to. But not eating meat is crazy, undoable. 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Demolishing Wrong View

In Sangharakshita's latest essay "A Passage to America" he says:

Though there is a great deal of suffering in the world, much of it is due not to natural evil but to the morally evil behaviour of other people, especially as supported by this or that ideology. It is not enough, therefore, that we should seek to popularize mindfulness and metta, desirable as this may be. We have also to demolish the wrong views that undergird morally evil behaviour, and I suspect that work of demolishing them will be one of Triratna’s main tasks for a long time to come.

I guess you live the question as to how to best demolish wrong views that lead to suffering.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Where I'm at

Approaching art as though it's dharma is a way to incorporating... I want to say the spiritual life into the spiritual life. Perfection of wisdom moment.

Santa Clara Diet is about blood lust incorporated into the suburban lifestyle. She can't help herself, and they try to just brush it under the rug. Her husband cooperates to the best of his ability. Every day is a crisis of our desires and society's expectations.

Love, on Netflix, is about love and sex addiction. A woman who made poor romantic choices tries to pick a sensitive man, who is himself in need of assertiveness and insight. They try to grow up but it's also got a great sense of place about L.A.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is about abandoning everything to be connected to those you desire. She is smart and has willing accomplices. In the end she goes to jail after living in suburban L.A.

I tried to start reading Getting Off by Erica Garza. I've stalled even though it's a short book. This book is set in L.A.

I'm also reading A History of God which is in some ways an interesting history of human earth religion.

The movie version of Never Let Me Go is depressing, hard to finish. It's in a future world where people are grown specifically to donate organs.

The phrase "chasing the dragon" refers to trying to score drugs, addiction. Addiction is a matter of degrees. How impatient are your to fill up and empty out, the stomach, the bladder, the sink of dishes, the fridge of food?

Altered Carbon has been adapted by Netflix and is about how loving someone always makes a weakness, leads to exploitation, can be used against  you. That's a kind of man romance narrative, reluctant lover. Women throw themselves at him he never initiates. That's not how the world works, thus male romance. They call it tech noir.

Just enjoyed Fun House. It's an intense graphic novel about coming out, literature and self discovery. Now I'm reading First Landing. This is a good book on Mars. Mine is not so good. I wrote a Mars novel, and I've had my first reader read it. I'm going to be getting some feedback today hopefully. I like to think I'm perfectly OK with it sucking. But I think it's been read, so bravo for me. A novel written that is read by at least one is a success. Not sure how much I want to draft it. I could see drafting it the rest of my life, or just letting it go now. I already started on the second novel.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The opposite of Buddhism, still want to get rid of here

Sometimes thoughts are so vivid in my head, I can't shake them for a while. I always say when there's a train of thought coming through, step off the tracks and just let it go by.

A few times people have told me to take responsibility and then went on to say that they had no choice which undermines their point, which really confuses and befudles me. I know when I'm in the wrong I can't nit pick against someone's point, nobody cares, that's why I'm pointing out the contradiction in a blog post.

It would be better to say, "when you did what you had to do, I did what I had to do." That is deterministically consistent.

Or when, "when you made your poor choice, my choice was easy." That is free will consistent.

But to say "when you made your poor choice, I had to do what I had to do." Well, that's free will and determinism. Hey, maybe that's perfection of wisdom.

I'm pretty sure the Buddha would say the determinism versus free will debate won't get you enlightened and the Muslims would call it zanna. I know when I'm in the wrong it's not the time to point out that people are not consistent.

But still. Making a point needs to be clear and not distracting. Probably the least corrected situation is attacking someone in the wrong because nobody cares. "You're losing focus on how wrong you were." Another misdirection evoked by the way someone communicates then blamed on the person getting the heat. Piling on, blame the victim.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


There is a paradox in the seeking in the spiritual life. In the Buddhist tradition you look inwards, but to see guidance outside yourself, you can get support. We don't always assess things properly, don't necessarily see when we're snookered. You can get dramatic and say kill the Buddha. Being too self reliant, you might not hear the teachings that you need.

There's another paradox in syncretism. Do you seek the path that is pointed to by all the traditions? Is it fair to co-opt tricks and turns from traditions that have different goals? Is heaven and grace here and now a kind of enlightenment?

Find the Seeker takes a syncretic approach by looking at Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Stoicism, mystical and metaphysical poets, New Age gurus and Christianity. It has me asking these questions.

There is a part of me that wonders if Buddhism needs other ideas. I don't have a problem with people enjoying other traditions to enhance a Buddhist project. I don't have people who don't want to define things and put them in boxes. I don't have a problem with people enjoying traditions outside Buddhism. You own your path. I just wonder if I need anything else besides the Buddhist teachings. I certainly read other things, but it's just a matter of exposing myself. Perhaps I'm afraid it's not all contained in Buddhism. I want to make sure. Usually I find that I don't need anything besides Buddhism. I don't like it that I'm wary of some teachers, their reputation isn't that great. Perhaps some found good. I'm not against anyone finding good in a teacher. I sometimes wonder if some teachers just tried to churn out stuff to get a following or to maximize their sexual partners or to feel grand, but I didn't really know them, and I shouldn't comment not knowing. I can only go on what seems to me, and I try to have a sense of how well I know things. We have to be superficial because we can't be interested in everything. We have limits. Some books just somehow raise my hackles. Am I just too comfortable with my teacher? One talk I listened to discussed how you should absorb yourself in a tradition quite a while to give it a fair chance. Some people are more faithful and some people are more promiscuous with a tradition or traditions.

I feel like there is a saturation in spiritual books. We're chock a block with them. Some people are into The Secret. Or A Course Of Miracles. I've had lovely conversations based on these books though I have not read them myself. I like Marsha Linehan. There's an intersection between psychology and spirituality. I used to encourage people to explore their spiritual life.

I ask for people to send books to me, and then I get a big pile of books that I don't want to read once I read a few pages. Then I go months and months. I can't seem to control the flow of books, too much for a time, to little for a time. I haven't been reading as much as I used to. I gobbled up books there for a while and I've reread and reread quite a lot of books. Certainly I've missed a lot in gluttony and indigestion. Nowadays books tend to lose me in the introduction. I've been reading a lot of novels instead. I try to push nonfiction but it grates on me at times. You have to give library books back, even though modern apps allow for easy renewal. I've got a list of books I can get out of the library and continue to read. Every once in a while I pick up a book I was reading and finish it and wonder why I quit reading it. I must be currently in the process of reading about 40 books. I read a Mary Oliver poem almost every day.

I hate to sound like a psychoanalytic wonk but I like formulated experience, describing inner experience in it's rich flora and fauna. Sometimes I can't fall asleep because ideas are swooshing around my mind. I remember taking up 2 days contemplating an offense on a retreat. It's hard not to be precious and self obsessed examining your experience to try and transcend it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

More on violence and buddhism

NY Times had an interesting article, with an interesting quote: "There is a philosophically problematic presupposition that also figures into widespread surprise at the very idea of violence perpetrated by Buddhists -- that there is a straightforward relationship between beliefs people hold and the likelihood that they will behave in a corresponding way."

I'm guilty of violating my core beliefs, spectacularly so, but I do think there is a "straightforward relationship between beliefs people hold and the likelihood that they will behave in a corresponding way." It's called integrity. Unless you're on Arrested Development and part of the Bluth family, there is an expectation between words and actions. Maybe not if you're the president of the USA, and his staff, but for everyone else. (I never realized how much I expect from the president of the USA until a president seems so unpresidential--I often realize my beliefs after I have violated them. I need to be more proactive.)

The writers goes on to say that we are not transparent, we are opaque, and we never really know what we're going to do or for why.

The writers are Dan Arnold and Alicia Turner, and they go on to suggest that what ever people believe, the same wide range of human failings will always be present. A sort of conservation of failings belief? In dumping the metaphysic that people might be influenced by their beliefs, they seem wise and savvy, but do they create another unbelievable metaphysic?

I feel like the second I stepped into Buddhism, it was all about exemplifying and inhabiting a belief in doing well for others, and not just saying it. That's the whole point. Now, we're all in process and we're unlikely to be enlightened so there will be a gap between our aspirations and our behavior. I'd say "hate the sin but not the sinner", but we are what we do, so the sin is the sinner. We can see people for what they hope to be. The point is to be realistic that there will be a gap, but also not make that an "alli alli in come free".

I did like it that the article pointed out that the colonizers, the British, started splitting the country's groups by saying the Buddhists were peaceful, and that the Muslim and Hindu were not. There are peaceful strains in both those religions, they could have worked to unite, but as colonizers they were more about exploiting. So the idea that Buddhists are non-violent may have a history in colonialism.

But I still think we should be able to follow belief to action. I'm not willing to give that up.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Someone asked my opinion

What do I think about gun control?

I'm against the NRA. When I taught current events, I read the paper a lot and I noticed about once a year a father shot his daughter when she jumped out of a closet to surprise him as a joke. I've always been for gun control. I posted a link on my FB page about how the second amendment was for slavery. There is clear evidence that stricter laws would lead to less gun violence, and banning this assault rifle would stop people being murdered by it. Sure they could use other guns and bump stocks, but it might not be quite as an efficient murdering of humans machine.

The parallel with car is talked about--cars kill many people but we accept the risk. It's just that cars are for transport and guns are for killing. I'd be OK with getting rid of cars and only having mass transit. I'd love to bike to work on roads that don't have cars, like you sometimes see in China. I spent my childhood biking to school. I actually think we should have car laws that make them smaller. There has been an arms race to make cars bigger and bigger for "safety". I think an unintended consequence is that we're using up fossil fuels faster and polluting the environment. Unintended consequences:

Thoughts and prayers does nothing, and the focus on "mentally ill" people not getting fire arms is offensive. So because I have depression I can't get a gun? If 2/3 people have a diagnosis in the lifetime, how mentally ill must a person be? What's the line? Again I think we run up against the fact that everyone has murderous rage inside them at one time or another and can act on it or not act on it. Most people don't act on it. There is no brain scan or chemistry test that can tell if someone will act on it.

Someone posted about a big knife attack in China saying getting rid of guns doesn't stop violence. Of course that person didn't kill as many people and was subdued quickly even if they inflicted damage in the meantime. That black presidential candidate said you've got to attack the gun shooter. Now he's in charge of housing in America and is trying to sabotage housing in America. And there was a guy with a gun there, and he did nothing. Now the whole country tries to shame him. Not everyone goes charging into a gun fight.

I've tried to read justifications on why we can't get rid of guns, and the articles are basically mumbo jumbo as far as I can tell. I can't even read discussions on FB because I get angry pretty quickly. In my mind we don't need guns. There was a joke that we need to reclassify schools as uterus and then the right would want to not kill anyone in them any more. There are so many contradictions and hypocrisy. When they point out the hypocrisy of cars, I just don't see it personally.

I know quite a lot of people who like their guns and believe strongly in the right to bear arms. I've seen a lot of people pick apart that so called right. In the end, I don't see people being persuaded one way or the other. Our president has sharpened the partisan divide, brought America apart.
People talk about Switzerland where they have a similar gun to people ratio and there isn't any problems. So what is the problem? I guess they don't need stricter gun laws.
They used to have people jumping off the empire state building, and then they put a net there. Of course you can jump onto the net and crawl to the edge, but it actually stops people from jumping. I believe you can do things to protect people. I don't think guns are necessary in our world any more. You can still have sporting clubs and whatnot, and still get the joy of gun shooting and whatnot. I've gone hunting, though I never got anything. It's not about getting rid of hunting culture. It's about killing less humans in a rage. Hunting culture actually helps with a respect for the violence. Hunting often has respect for the animals as well. Hunting with a bow is seen as superior because it's harder.
The liberals parallel the hoops you have to jump through to get an abortion or drive a car. I'm not a fan of government, I'm starting to lean right on this issue a little, or maybe understand it more. I wish we had less government more and more as I move through life. Not sure what homeland security does that other agencies don't do.

I remember when my uncle didn't renew his gun license for his guns. The sergeants came to the door and asked for them. My aunt said they were in the country and that they absolutely could not come in. But the guns were in the house. It kind of makes a mockery of licenses.
I think our modern society is sick. And we need to treat it as such. There is an array of solutions that would allow the gun nuts to keep their guns and just not let new people get them, and phase it out: Buy back programs; Australia took away the right to have gun. 

In England my ex-father in law had a gun, but he also had to have a gun safe bolted to the house, which was a good thing because his crazy son and daughter were the kind of people who would do such a thing (not my ex-wife or her older sister, but the 2 youngest were nuts). Seemed reasonable. But in the wild west of america we want our guns to be available for protection. 

I think we are less safe with guns and while I was brought up to shoot guns and have shot them many times, in many different situations, I don't really want gun around.
This whole thing makes me sick and I've felt helpless since I began reading articles about fathers shooting daughters in the 90's. I know friends on FB who love their gun collections, have a history in the military. I don't want to take away their guns. Just make it harder to get them moving forward. Let rodeo contestants ride their horse around shooting targets all they wants. Just evolve and phase it out. Which is what will happen but not soon enough for me. 

I resolved the issue in my head in the 90's. Loving children more than guns is what it will take. And the corruption of politicians taking NRA money needs to be exposed and they need to be voted out of office. I was sad to see that that guy that ran with Palin who some like, was on the take. We have to change the system. 

I'm in favor of teachers walking out, students walking out, any kind of protest. But I have little hope. I've been through this so many times. I don't have the patience. There's too many fuck faces who believe in the right. Even my supervisor in my first internship posts photos of his guns. He's a social worker in NYC, what's he need a gun for? A cop friend when he came over would put his gun up high so children couldn't get it when he came over. Come on. We can be mindful about guns and not stupid to keep them out of the hands that they don't belong.

I had a friend in high school who hammered a bullet and got shot in the wrist. You can say he was stupid or his parents were stupid for allowing him access. I think if it's harder to get to these things, then things like that don't happen. The world is evolving quickly and we're working on reducing fatal errors. Nobs on medical equipment are being standardized. Pilots and doctors have meetings where they can discuss their errors without fear of repercussions in an effort to cut down on mistakes. Safety is preached everywhere, OSHA and safety officers are everywhere. Somehow we have to go dumb on gun? They're that special to us now? I think it's a fiction that the NRA spreads that any creep will end up with outlawing them outright. I wish that were true. It's going to take longer to evolve there than my lifetime. Please, let us progress.

I'd get rid of them all together or heavily regulate. But the more realistic program is to gradually decrease their accessibility. It already works in the cities. We don't want people spraying bullets in heavily populated areas.

I go down the line. I'm against nuclear weapons, war, killing animals, and killing the ability of people to have babies with a safety net. It's not until we can treat all life as precious that we'll truly have justice on our planet.

So don't arm teachers, don't expect teachers to dive in front of children, don't expect teachers to charge a shooter, don't put more guns out there as a deterrent. Don't delude yourself into thinking we could get rid of guns all together, and don't treat the right to bear arms as something so sacrosanct, it's just another money making scheme that doesn't work if people are murdered;You just lost another customer.

The gun culture of America is not going away any time soon, and as atrocity after atrocity shows, we don't react with a clamp down on guns. I hope the youths for gun control speak out more and more, and the culture eventually fades away, when murder no longer becomes acceptable.