Friday, April 19, 2019

The Study of Suffering

I'm reading The Book Thief and I add it to the books about Germany during WW2, and the holocaust. There are so many books about this time and this particular brand of suffering. It makes you want to eat, the food shortages. It is a journey in to European culture and Jewish culture. Now I alternate between Israeli and Palestinian novels. This is a hot spot of conflict in the world.

But you can also read memoirs of ordinary abuse, or the abuse like a woman being educated and shot for it. It's hard to imagine the ban on education, I think education is so important, but the death instinct has forces

I'm also reading about the Irish potato famine. I'm one thirty second Irish (Great Grandfather) and perhaps more, who knows in the slush of American heritage. A northern european mutt, adding in Ecuadorian heritage to my sons and some Cherokee for my daughter. The smoosh of genetics.

I was particularly offended by a father giving away Katherine in Taming of the Shrew and someone recommended I read "Traffic in Women" by Gayle Rubin. The article helps to explain how women were given away by men, from an anthropologist viewpoint.

Despite one black woman conservative saying there is no racism in America, I read extensively of the African-American literature. I worked with a man who talked about getting paid less than his white co-worker. I apologized to him for my race. In social work school I learned that to deny racism was perhaps the racist thing in the world. To deny the existence of others suffering is a common strategy. The horrified anxiety of seeing others suffering causes us to turn our gaze and deny it. That didn't happen.

It's much easier to blame the victims of systematic violence, racism, sexism, classism. Since this happened to you, then you must have somehow asked for it. If you are poor in America you must be doing something wrong. You have a challenging school? Raise above. People do raise above and get out, you can do the same.

Forget reading, look at the homeless person you next see. I worked as a social worker for many years and saw suffering up close. I'll forever be unable to unsee what I saw, though I have blocked and forgotten quite a lot of it. People are suffering. Turn on the TV and watch the wars around the world. A lot of suffering you see is through a book or the TV but you also see it in real life. Perhaps you are stuck in an Emergency waiting room, or you drive past a car accident. You can't avoid suffering, experiencing it yourself or seeing it in others.

While religions can cause suffering, they are also one of the few institutions that suggest to not avert your gaze, to reflect on it. Can you keep your gaze on suffering when you see it? Do you notice the efforts to push it away, the horrified anxiety we feel.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness

Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness
If I have harmed anyone in any way, either knowingly or unknowingly through my own confusions, I ask their forgiveness. If any one has harmed me in any way, either knowingly or unknowingly through their own confusions, I forgive them. And if there is a situation I am not yet ready to forgive, I forgive myself for that. For all the ways that I harm myself, negate, doubt, belittle myself, judge or be unkind to myself, through my own confusions, I forgive myself.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Hildegard von Bingen

I can't blog now about how wonderful this movie was, but I'd like to begin the post for my thoughts as they come to me. Turns out there are 4 other movies about her on Amazon Prime, and 3 of them are free. I watched one called Vision. It was subtitled. That led me to Hildegard, a 45 minute drama in English. Then I watched the one based on a one woman play, that was enhanced for the film.

Seeing so many different shows about her, they each had a different slant, but they all this various aspects of her raise to believing in her visions, and the help of her brother, the taking on of the authority and establishing her own monastery, and her intensity and challenges. She developed a relationship with a younger woman who had visions too, and once documentary noted that her disciple was more read for a while.

Then I read the Wikipedia entry on her: Hildegard von Bingen, "was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany."

"Hildegard was elected magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136; she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165. One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play. She wrote theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems, while supervising miniature illuminations in the Rupertsberg manuscript of her first work, Scivias. She is also noted for the invention of a constructed language known as Lingua Ignota."

Her spiritual intensity, calling out the venial leaders, and her music are amazing. Cut and paste her name into Spotify and listen to angelic music. She is amazing.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Maha-parinibbana Sutta quote

"...the monk, nun, male lay follower, or female lay follower who keeps practicing the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma, who keeps practicing masterfully, who lives in accordance with the Dhamma: that is the person who worships, honors, respects, venerates, & pays homage to the Tathagata with the highest homage. "

Friday, April 05, 2019

The Lotus Sutra Translated by Burton Watson chapter 16 quote

"Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, the Buddha's work, I have never for a moment neglected." The Lotus Sutra
Translated by Burton Watson, chapter 16

Friday, March 29, 2019

Archbishop Scroop from Henry IV part 2

I've always been interested in the specious reasoning of so-called spiritual people to be violent.

Here is the justification from Archbishop Scroop for warring:

we are all diseas'd
And with our surfeiting and wanton hours
Have brought ourselves into a burning fever,
And we must bleed for it; of which disease
Our late King, Richard, being infected, died.
But, my most noble Lord of Westmoreland,
I take not on me here as a physician;
Nor do I as an enemy to peace
Troop in the throngs of military men;
But rather show awhile like fearful war
To diet rank minds sick of happiness,
And purge th' obstructions which begin to stop
Our very veins of life. Hear me more plainly.
I have in equal balance justly weigh'd
What wrongs our arms may do, what wrongs we suffer,
And find our griefs heavier than our offences.
We see which way the stream of time doth run
And are enforc'd from our most quiet there
By the rough torrent of occasion;
And have the summary of all our griefs,
When time shall serve, to show in articles;
Which long ere this we offer'd to the King,
And might by no suit gain our audience:
When we are wrong'd, and would unfold our griefs,
We are denied access unto his person,
Even by those men that most have done us wrong.
The dangers of the days but newly gone,
Whose memory is written on the earth
With yet appearing blood, and the examples
Of every minute's instance, present now,
Hath put us in these ill-beseeming arms;
Not to break peace, or any branch of it,
But to establish here a peace indeed,
Concurring both in name and quality.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Buddha and Shakespeare

Not sure if I can swing a narrative for all these links. I've been obsessed with Shakespeare lately and recently explored the antisemitism in Merchant of Venice. So today I just googled Buddha and Shakespeare.

Here is a link about how we create our worlds with our minds, with Hamlet quote.

Wise Attention points out that Shakespeare helps us to imagine different perspectives. They are both heroes of consciousness for him.

This person looked for similarities after being on retreat.

Here is a review of Buddhism, Shakespeare, and deconstruction.

Here is a review of Whacking Buddha: The Mysterious World of Shakespeare and Buddhism, by Mark Lamonica.

There is another book Buddha and Shakespeare. It came out in 2004 and there are no reviews of it on Amazon.

I had thoughts on how to avoid harm after reading Jo Nesbo's Macbeth.

I've also explored the idea of fathers giving away daughters in marriage and the oppression of women.

Shakespeare has replaced my study of the suttas, and Dharma. I don't know if it's possible to have overload but since 2004 I've been reading a lot of Dharma and I wanted to cast a wider net. I read as a Buddhist now.

And yet I still like to hear biographies of Thai Forest Monks.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Article on animal consciousness in the Atlantic

"Apart from Pythagoras and a few others, ancient Western philosophers did not hand down a rich tradition of thinking about animal consciousness. But Eastern thinkers have long been haunted by its implications—especially the Jains, who have taken animal consciousness seriously as a moral matter for nearly 3,000 years." (ROSS ANDERSEN MARCH 2019 ISSUE Atlantic)

"Female trout “fake orgasms,” quivering as though they’re about to lay eggs, perhaps so that undesired males will release their sperm and be on their way. We have high-definition footage of grouper fish teaming up with eels to scare prey out of reefs, the two coordinating their actions with sophisticated head signals. This behavior suggests that fish possess a theory of mind, an ability to speculate about the mental states of other beings."

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Roy on Caste

You've been vocal against the caste system in your fiction as well as your non-fiction. How do you navigate your own caste identity?

I don't have a caste identity, because I am not a Hindu. A lot of people thought my father was a Brahmin, but he was not. He was a Brahmo Samaji, who then became a Christian. But that argument that only Dalits can write about Ambedkar or one shouldn't write about Gandhi—that's an opinion, but I don't agree with it at all. My caste identity is totally muddled; I don't fit in anywhere. The RSS keeps putting this thing out that she is actually a Christian, as if that immediately means I would grow horns. Everyone says whatever they like.

As for criticism, you can't react to it in some stupid way—you have to accept that it is a complex thing, and you have to take care of what you are saying and why you are saying it.

India is so complicated—people outside can't fully grasp the way caste operates. People think if you write in the vernacular, you are a radical person. But that's not true because the vernacular itself is colonised by the upper castes. A lot of radical Dalits choose to write in English, for instance. There are so many streams of things that are happening.


I forget where I got that photo and I'm trying not to steal and give credit, get permission, so if anyone knows, please let me know.

If suffering is a cue to turn to the Dharma, then we shall have plenty of cues. One recent article I felt grateful to read was by Robina Courtin, whom I'd never heard of before. Here is a quote:

"Attachment is such a simple word, but it’s multi-faceted. At the most fundamental level it’s that feeling of neediness deep inside us; that belief that somehow I am not enough, I don’t have enough, and no matter what I do or what I get, it’s never enough. Then, of course, because we’re convinced that’s true, we hanker after someone out there, and then when we find the one who triggers our good feelings, attachment manipulates to get him, convinced that he’s the one who will fulfill my needs, make me happy. Then we assume he’s our possession, almost an extension of myself."

I've been reading Montaigne's essay: That to study philosophy is to learn to die. I see Hamlet read it. There's a part in it where I thought of the 6 Element meditation, that Bodhipaksa teaches so well. This essay is pretty hard to read, and I've read a lot about death: How We Die, Denial of Death and When Breath Becomes Air. (I've been reading Montaigne because he was an influence on Shakespeare. I'm currently reading A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is pretty trippy. Quite amazing.) Attachment to life is the ultimate attachment.

One of the things about the TBC is that they don't do some of the modern presentations, they don't use the word attachment that much. That's more of an IMS word.

I'll end with a quote from Jane Eyre:

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

Meanwhile the fear of people listening to themselves and not chasing the twin muses of capitalism and tyranny, was blown up in China.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

In The News

The Smithsonian has a great article on the Diamond Sutra.

Two teachers are facing the consequences of their actions.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Zen at War

The history of internment is not a glorious moment in American history. Zen at Work points out that Buddhists were not immune to nationalism, to pro-war statements. I'm not saying that to justify any cruelty, I'm just saying it wasn't a sure shot to say "Buddhists" are not warlike ever. There is other evidence that "Buddhists" can be violent.

A nation doesn't have one religion. A nation therefore can't practice a religion because it is not unified. Sure, there are "Buddhist" countries. If you consider genocide by a Buddhist country, then that disproves a country practices a religion. I don't believe a true Buddhist can commit much violence, but even a vegan diet includes the death of insects due to machinery. How to you consider others and minimize violence is the question.

I hope American can maintain some religious freedom, and not just for majority sects of Christianity. Tricycle has an interview with Williams, who has a book about practice in the internment camps for Japanese Americans, which is called American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War. It looks like an interesting story and history. I am curious about Buddhist's experiences and practices, Japanese-American experiences.

Internment is similar to the wall. We can accept any problems but if one Japanese-American causes trouble, that is too much. Angel Mothers, not the original group, but the radical right wing group who co-opted the term, that takes exception to their children dying at the hands of a non-citizen. As if being murdered by a citizen would somehow be acceptable, as if a dead child isn't horrible enough. Indeed 1200 children have died since Parkland, for our love of guns and America's misinterpretation of the constitution. Democrats should definitely abuse presidential powers and declare an emergency for more gun control when they inevitably regain the white house.

The same wackado principle was in place at Riker's Island when I worked there. COs could bring in drugs to sell and use, rape prisoners, and commit all manner of crimes, and whatnot, but if you weren't a CO, they made sure you were not carrying in any contraband and I had to go around and around the checkpoint to get scanned.

It's the us/them thinking. So much othering. Call me unpatriotic if you want, but I want to live in an inclusive America that works to solve real problems, not just keep "others" from creating problems.

I feel a connection to Japan because my mother was born in Japan in 1947 (to Americans during the Occupation).

I note that Iniesta, a legendary central midfielder who played for Barcelona FC for 16 years, is enjoying his time playing for Kobe in Japan. There they don't see losing as quiet as tragic, and perhaps have a more zen attitude. Sounds so sane.

I hope we can distinguish those who are mistakenly violent in the name of spirituality, and those who truly work towards truly practicing ideals. This discernment will help to avoid idiot compassion.

The hope going forward is that being Buddhist won't disqualify one from being American. I can imagine things turning a way that will make it "un-American". Don't forget that Buddhism was hounded out of its birthplace in India, through competition, conversion and absorption. The burning of Nalanda is a low point. America's love of religious freedom isn't that firm that you can say it can't happen here.

The end of Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193

The raise in American Buddhism is interesting to me. "Though the religion born in India has been in the US since the 19th century, the number of adherents rose by 170 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to the American Religious Identity Survey. An ARIS estimate puts the total in 2004 at 1.5 million, while others have estimated twice that. "The 1.5 million is a low reasonable number," says Richard Seager, author of "Buddhism in America." This is from the Christian Science Monitor in 2006. "

"People are looking for experiential practices, not just a new belief system or a new set of ethical rules which we already have, and are much the same in all religions," Surya Das says. "It's the transformative practices like meditation which people are really attracted to."

The Pew Center write, "The number of Buddhists around the world is expected to increase between 2010 and 2030, rising from 488 million to about 511 million. However, the global Buddhist population is projected to decline after 2030, falling to 486 million by 2050, roughly where it was in 2010."

It is considered dramatic for Buddhists to become around 1% of America. Twelve percent consider Buddhism as an important influence, 25-30 million people.

Buddhist have been persecuted in the history of Earth. And have done persecuting.

My job is to work to decrease the harm I do to others, to think about others and understand the context that I am in, with empathy, and see the larger picture than just my own selfish comforts, pleasures and avoidance of pain. To work towards embodying and exemplifying the ideals I find attractive and aspire to.

And as usual the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi has some answers for fostering peace: "While the endeavor to achieve peace may often be frustrating, we should remember that nothing truly worthy can be achieved without effort. Peace and justice may be slow to arrive, but we will never obtain them without a struggle."

Monday, February 18, 2019

The clogging burden of a guilty soul

"The clogging burden of a guilty soul." Bolingbroke in Richard II, act one, scene 3. He's condemning Mowbrey. In the spiritual life the most control you have is over your life. It's best to worry about yourself, though of course we always talk about others to figure ourselves out and how to relate to others.

I never really believed it when the fellow in Crimes and Mistermeaners skips away, as though he is untouched by his crimes.

You can justify your actions when you do something that is not so good, but in the end when you hurt people, there's a kind of mark (if you ever hope to be empathetic).

I always think about the gladdening. The gladdening happens when you're ethically clear and don't have negative stuff to "clog" and "burden".

In the Anapanasati sutta, mindfulness of respiration, after you've tuned into the breath and tuned into the body, you listen for the positive effects of the meditation. I think like metta, you can't force these things. Most in metta I look at things that might block the flow. Same thing with the gladdening. What is blocking the flow of gladdening.

I probably take refuge in confort, pleasure and convenience most, but I try to take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. I've also been practicing some bardolatry.

Later in scene 2, act 2, Bushy says to the Queen, "lay aside life-harming heaviness."

Meditation can go wrong if you don't have the proper supports for the insight, "I had come to believe, simultaneously and sequentially, that I was: dead, alive, omniscient, immortal, non-existent, gay, straight, telepathic, a flower, a pulse of pure energy and a nuclear bomb."

Saturday, February 16, 2019

silk and Gandhar

I thought this website expressed the dilemma well: 

"Do we go on killing billions of innocent insects or do we somehow stop silk production, which actually accounts for less than 0.2% of the total textile production in the world.

But what about the fact that silk production is a very important tool for economic development, especially in the rural areas of developing countries? Labor-intensive, high income-producing silk production (sericulture) can be found today in over 40 countries. The majority of households involved in this economy come from Asia with China employing over 1 million people. India is second in production, employing over 700,000 households, but India is the largest importer and consumer of silk.

It may be the answer can only be a personal one to avoid silk and pass the information on to others who may not know how silk is produced.

We could instead choose to promote man-made fibers such as nylon, olefin, polyester and rayon instead of silk. But even that decision can constitute an ethical dilemma. These fibers are made from chemicals and petroleum derivatives and we are becoming more and more aware of the effects of these products on global climate change and environmental pollution."


They discovered a bunch of statues in Gandhara. It was along the Silk Road:

Here is an article about the subject.

Saturday, February 02, 2019


Are "Westerners" allowed to decorate with a Buddha? Why would anyone worry about what someone has in their living room? There's all kinds of thinking that, with my personality, am against, but I don't imagine that impressing my personality on others is a worthwhile project.

There are billboards in Buddhist countries that are against whatever that is. What a thing to be against.

Link 1 is a photo

Link 2 is an article with photos. A monk opines:

“That’s only a symbol. From my point of view, the real Buddha is not in there, the real Buddha is inside you. When you wake him up, you understand everything clearly, and then you see that Buddha is just a symbol.”

That said, he understands why some people get up in arms about the use of the image.

“For beginners, they feel the image is the Buddha, but for advanced people or those with understanding, they dont mind, they don’t care.

“Buddha is not on a statue or anything else outside, it’s in my mind. Anything that happens outside my head, does not affect what happens inside.”

Now that's the kind of thinking that strikes me as clear and spiritual.

Link 3 is a reddit discussion about the issue

To me this is a kind of move towards fundamentalism, and someone commented that it was a political ad.

What if a bunch of fundamentalist Buddhist invaded America? That would be bizarre wouldn't it.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

In the moment

"A famous story tells how, while sheltering in a cowherd's hut, the king got a telling-off from the cowherd's wife. Why? He accidentally let her cakes (or bread) burn on the fire when he forgot to watch them." From the BBC website about King Alfred.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Ulysses S. Grant

Do you see bodhisattvas everywhere?

I'm listening to Ulysses S. Grant's memoir and a history book on him and I can draw this picture:

Grant going amongst the fallen on the battlefield giving them water and small comforts that he can offer.

Grant hiring black men and paying them wages in Missouri where everyone else has slaves and did not like him hiring workers, and working alongside them.

Despite depression, introversion, a propensity to be swindled, inattention to details and alcoholism, he comes alive with a sense of justice about the issue of abolition and honoring his commitment to a country that educated him to raise to General during the Civil War and later becomes president.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Challenging myself

Latest vegan TEDx talk. Actually it came out in April 2018. I have been a vegetarian on and off in my life since I learned you don't need to eat meat in a nutrition class at the University of Wisconsin. I've been a vegan off and on since my best friend, and my life partner converted. The three main reasons for veganism, for the environment, for health and for ethical reasons are perhaps the best way for me to enact my ethical hopes.

Meanwhile in Burma there's a monk who preaches war: The Venerable W. And he's a Donald Trump fan! The NY Times has a review of the documentary. I didn't know anything about the 969 Movement.

I am really attracted to the ideals of Buddhism. The reality of a Buddhist nation can be different. Living in a Christian country, I dream of living in a Buddhist country.

I believe this is why Pema Chodron beats on the drum "start where you are." We've got to keep our eyes wide open. Where are we really. Let's be honest.

There was a recent article about William James and Josiah Royce. It said that James believed that we know so little about the world that we should be tolerant of others. I thought that was pretty cool. Royce said that loyalties mark out being. I'd like to read more about this. Ever since I read that article, I've been asking myself what am I really loyal to?

It's a bit like the refuge question. What do you take refuge in. Really, not just what I wish I was taking refuge in. When I'm exhausted working through the night, I meditate. It is so hard to meditate in exhaustion and being more mindful of exhaustion can be painful. But I emerge from meditation more mindful and integrated. It is worth it.

When I buy a hamburger on the way to work because I'm hungry and that is a cheap option, I am not being loyal to my vegan ideas. This is a deeply held belief of mine, allegedly, but the reality is that I slip from time to time. "I am not enlightened yet" is a great moral excuse, but I need to challenge myself to ask why. I must not hold the belief too closely.

I believe we will make the most hay by challenging our own lack of integrity. The land mines inside me are what I need to watch out for. The lack of tolerance inside me is what I look out for. The lack of integrity inside me, is what I need to look out for.

I don't mean we can't criticize others and play out this internal battle in the large stage.

I don't know why ethical struggling isn't the main conversation. I think people hide their struggle with living up to their ideals because if others knew their struggles, they would be giving away negative self information.

Never mind that a 10 year old has figured it out about veganism.

Friday, January 25, 2019

2 stories in the News

Birth of Liquid Desires: Consigne: gâcher l’ardoise totale? = Instructions: ruin the total slate

1. Buddhist gambler donates winnings of $671K. Scott Wellenbach "Wellenbach has donated his poker winnings because he doesn’t feel comfortable making money off of a game that leads others to addiction and suffering. In the past, Wellenbach has supported various causes focussed on housing, health care, food, education, and human rights." according to Lion's Roar. He won $72K in 2017 and pledged it to a nunnery. He talks about his conversations around the poker table as being some of the best he's ever had. He lives in Halifax, Canada. He estimates he's donated over a million in winnings.

2. The person who impregnated a woman in a coma is a christian hip hop artist. I went and listened to his group Sleeplessouljaz, with his sister, and the first thing he says is, "I just want to know what God has to do with a little booty shaking, a little whiskey drinking, a little sex sex here, shhh, don't tell nobody," and then goes on to sing the rest of his song Fake Face. The irony. Perhaps he had some sort of presentment. We all struggle with what we wish to be, and what we really are. Honesty about that is important.

Regardless of the faith, the divorce between the head and the heart is a source of misery and tragedy according to Shakespeare (or is it Edward de Vere?).

In the one case, a person with integration through meditation, enters a potentially intoxicating situation and the world comes out better.

In the second case, a spiritual person loses his way because his heart doesn't match up with his head.

Sunday, January 20, 2019


From Love's Labor's Loss: Berowne act 4, sc 3:

"You found his mote, the King your mote did see,
But I a beam do find in each of thee"

This reference is from  Matthew 7:1-5

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Scientific Buddhism

I read a new website Scientific Buddhism. Someone's been reading their western philosophy and believes in hard determinism. I like the idea of free will, whether or not it's a fiction. I actually have a friend who is a determinist. He still strives for self actualization, which hard determinism might seem to be against, but really is neutral. Determinism is probably true, but what I find interesting is the diversity of belief in real people, not the best paper debating free will and determinism. "Logic is a bird twittering in my ear," said Spock to confound the robots.

Buddhism can be combined with anything. Other religions and ideologies. To make a living there are people who consult with companies to help inject mindfulness into business. I like the Atheist Buddhism of Stephen Batchelor for some reason. It's quite appealing to me, and I really enjoy reading his books. I also like Buddhism and psychotherapy. I like Buddhist fiction, whatever that is.

My friend who respects and reveres science does not base his life on it. When I send him articles about how good meditation is, he doesn't care. So how far is his belief in science, if he doesn't act on it. He loves technology, that is his refuge.

It can be smart to reject the mind control of religion. The critique that religion just turns everything on end, fun becomes bad, unpleasant becomes good--feels true in some cases. On the other hand, you need to think about everyone else more. I don't think we all have to be ceaselessly self sacrificing, we're not all going to choose abnegation as our faction. But following Ayn Rand down the rabbit hole of selfishness isn't better. A true individual isn't a scumbag, a piker or a conciencia, and can imagine other's experience, and feel the interbeing. The me/you balance is never solved conclusively.

I don't think there is any avoiding that our theories of life are like pulling rabbits out of a hat. That's what a guy said to me in the philosophy of science class. Science is pretty cool, but if you've read The Logic of Scientific Discovery, you know it's not exempt from fads and pigheadedness. A modern person will balk at the traditional beliefs that seem so naive if you look at them through the lense of science. But if you see spirituality as binding us together, you see it for the social aspect that helps bind us together. When my grandmother was sick, she got so many casseroles. Not having that kind of community is a loss to me, even if you have to put up with some malarkey.

Evidence based practice in social work is a sham. Some study about child welfare in Kansas City might not apply easily to New York City. Child welfare is a hard game that won't yield to easy solutions. We are advancing in our knowledge of the social science, but it's a battle of inches, and can be perverted. Evidence based practice feels like a liberal way of defeating the hooey of conservatives. And yet we're moving too slowly to decriminalize substance abuse, which has been proven to solve many problems in Portugal. The unintended consequences of prohibition were a needed corrective in the thesis and antithesis of early America, which was considerably alcoholic. Johnny Appleseed wanted more apple cider. We're too sophisticated now to just have a moral approach to substance abuse. Marsha Linehan proved DBT works, but she also believes clinicians with good instincts can bring about any system.

What I learned in philosophy is that every theory can be defeated. Not always true might be a motto of mine even if Kant was a rock star. Godel's Theorem or Turing's similar results proved you could not reduce everything to one true science and know it to be true. There's no one area of study you can focus on and then coast the rest of your life. You have to work all the time to keep learning, in many different areas. That is the higher evolution.

Science without heart has lead to nuclear bombs, global warming and the current ADHD of technology. Shakespeare warned us not to divorce our heart from our intellect: "My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy." (The Third part of King Henry the Sixth Act 3 scene 1)

So if you like science and you like Buddhism, cool. You want to do some head banging philosophy with your Dharma. Try some madhyamaka. OK. Sure, when you meditate, you can develop some amazing sophistications and abilities with your powers. How about some heavy metal Buddhists.

We also need simplicity sometimes and the simple truths of being kind to others because we are all connected, is an insight I can't erase. It's a simple experience that sounds like a cliche, but was profound and hard to express. All those books that prove Buddhism scientifically contribute, I'm sure, but leave me cold. I'm sparked more by poetry, myth and the dialectic. I know in my heart that the dharma outlook is important for me. That's all I need. And it's through meditative experience that I move closer towards the Buddha, my hero.

I hope the blogger of Scientific Buddhism enjoys his journey. I'll be interested to see how things go for them.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Full embodiment

Lion's Roar had an article that caught my interest with Jack Kornfield and Trudy Goodman answering questions from Sandra Oh.

"...we teachers often teach what we ourselves need to learn how to embody more fully!" I'd say that was true of teachers and non-teachers.

Kornfield also points out that in sanghas where the teachers came from another land and stayed here, there is a felling of the country they came from. IMS teachers didn't stay so the American teachers have a more American flavor.

Kornfield also points out the diversity and inclusiveness in American Buddhism. I wonder if we could ever get to a point where we wouldn't even have to make a point of being inclusive, it would be a shoulder shrug progress like the gay governor of Colorado.

I really liked this quote from Trudy Goodman:

It takes courage to move out into the world—to work to heal oppression and violence in our culture. It’s courageous to extend our efforts in awareness to call for racial, social, and ecological justice. Engaged compassion means making sure that practitioners who have been on the margins of American Buddhism are more fully represented in our communities. What a joy and privilege it is to study with more Asian-American Buddhists, more Black and Brown teachers. To practice with all kinds of people from all walks of life, united in our love of the Earth, our ancestors, our children, and our descendants!

There is more in the interview transcript about Buddhism and Psychotherapy mixing together.

Ethical concerns

Kamala Harris points out that when we wake up in the night worried about things, it's not as a democrat or a republican.

Cory Booker talks about love as motivation in politics.

Here are things I'm worried about:

1. Your phone tainted by the misery of the 35,000 children in Congo's mines

2. The oceans are warming faster than we thought they were.

3. Myanmar has jailed 2 journalists who help expose the genocide going down there.


Reading Me and Shakespeare by Herman Gollob has been wonderful. He found the religion of Judaism that he wasn't really brought up with, and Shakespeare. Reading Shakespeare was part of his spiritual awakening. I started reading Shakespeare last year. The plan is to read through the whole of the plays and poems. I'm afraid this blog is going to suffer as I devote myself to the Bard, but I'm planning a post on Macbeth for Going For Refuge Blog.

Reading the word simony in Me and Shakespeare, I had to look it up: buying or selling of something spiritual or closely connected with the spiritual. Sounds like spiritual materialism to me. I apply all spiritual insights to myself. Projecting them onto others doesn't work, I'm mostly in control of myself. I say mostly because I'm not fully in control of myself and it's really hard to control others, though a positive influence in others through exemplification is not to be sneezed at.

Simony got me thinking how I covet retreats, books, audiences, museums. To me spirituality is living to the fullest (mindfully) and in doing that we're inevitably kinder. Coveting the hyper health of lots of meditation assumes you can't practice deeply in regular life. You can! I was always warned that being in a monastery wasn't as fun as I imagined it, but I still yearn for that life.

I love the Dali Lama saying kindness is his religion. Retreats certainly enhance mindfulness, but the focused meditation wears off and is hard to carry over in the worldly life. One suggestion (by Sangharakshita) is to live in a single sex community, attend the local center, and work in a right livelihood business. That is the equivalent of being in a monastery to some extent. I made the choice to have children and have responsibilities, but that doesn't mean I can't work towards a supportive community.

I can be mindful about mindfulness wearing off after a retreat, and bringing insights from retreats into your regular life. My desire to always be on retreat is a little like my desire to travel. There's a part of it that likes being served meals, and not worry about cleaning or responsibilities beyond exploring. It's not realistic to be constantly exploring and learning and developing insight. After the Ecstacy, the laundry was one of the first books I read on Buddhism. It's a great book and a great slogan for using the Dharma not for escapism, definitely a temptation as I'm a dreamy type.

Awakening The Buddha Within was the first book I read in my conversion to Buddhism, if I don't count all the crazy Zen stuff I read in college that I didn't even understand as Buddhism, and I wasn't meditating. Little did I know was that there is a tidal wave of Buddhism books. While reading is an important part of my practice, I want to apply my Buddhism to reading fiction, history, psychology, poetry and nonfiction.

So what I want is to not buy spirituality but to inhabit, utilize, work for spirituality in all my circumstances, and not imagine more pristine circumstances where maybe there I could pursue this urge. Perhaps that why I find Pure Land Buddhism so distasteful--the idea of putting off that striving--which is probably a misreading of Pure Land. For me Pure Land Buddhism would be about making this world a pure land, though pure is perhaps a strange word. The pure land is an inspirational goal, a fantastic place that captivates the mind, and is very much about the spiritual life. An important aspect of the spiritual life is to strive, even if inhabiting is also important. Start where you is is the drum that Pema Chodron beats on, and it is a worthy drum to beat on. Thump thump thump.

I'm reading Love's Labor's Loss, and it's about, inter alia, the dangers of following utopian ideals. I think you could do worse than Bardolatry. Lowell said Shakespeare is the poet of experience.