Sunday, June 30, 2019

Joy Harjo

"Watch your mind. Without training it might run away and leave your heart for the immense human feast set by the thieves of time."

From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Addicted to information: Idle curiosity

I imagined that learning was somehow free from addiction and pure goodness. But this article from NeuroscienceNews.Com shows that facts are also part of the reward system that gets all wrapped up in addiction:

"“To the brain, information is its own reward, above and beyond whether it’s useful,” said Assoc. Prof. Ming Hsu, a neuroeconomist whose research employs functional magnetic imaging (fMRI), psychological theory, economic modeling, and machine learning. “And just as our brains like empty calories from junk food, they can overvalue information that makes us feel good but may not be useful–what some may call idle curiosity.”"

I've been reading a history of America and looking lots of things up on Wikipedia. There were woman who fought in the Revolutionary War: Deborah Sampson GannettMolly PitcherAnna Maria Lane, Sally St. Clair and Margaret Corbin.

We joke about "surfing the internet" is like going down the rabbit hole, a reference to the great curiouser and curiouser book Alice In Wonderland. It turns out always looking at our phones is a kind of addiction.

I've always seen curiosity as a virtue, but I suppose everything can be turned into a vice.

Could this be applied to the whole industry of celebrity gossip? Could this be applied to wanting to know more about Shakespeare, when there's little biographical information?

They outlawed slaves learning to read because they might get big ideas, or learn about all the slave rebellions going on all over the place.

The information age has changed a lot of things. Caskets have gone down in price because people learned you could get caskets for cheaper somewhere else.

Where are the stories where information hurt people? I know that drug information did not decrease the amount of drug use, like it was hoped.

Sangharakshita talked about a kind of dharma indigestion where people knew too many exotic practices and dharma but were not really putting any of it into practice. Nothing was valued or sacred it was all just gorged information.

Maybe we should call it not the information age, but the clickbait age, slowing down to rubber neck.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Poem by Sangharakshita

The Minor Poets

Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Coleridge
Are godlike spirits; we are men,
And cannot always brook their splendour –
The Minor Poets please us then.

The singers of the lesser vision,
Who never soar beyond our ken –
When we grow tired of greatness, they,
The Minor Poets, soothe us then.

Oppressed by fears, by doubts bewildered,
From Melancholia’s cluttered den –
For all their charm, for all their solace,
The Minor Poets, we thank them then.

Faded bindings, dusty edges,
Words underscored by studious pen –
Rejoice to see them on the shelves,
And praise the Minor Poets then.

Came across this poem when I googled "Sangharakshita and Shakespeare". I love "Melancholia’s cluttered den". There was a guy who wrote on the r/Shakespeare subreddit about his depressed feeling in realizing he would probably not be able to surpass Shakespeare. I don't really worry about that, but I think in a way that "cannot always brook their splendour". Maybe not.

Not sure if Sangharakshita means to list his top 4 favorite poets. We can't ask him anymore because we lost him last year.

He died at the same age as my grandfather. In the refuge tree, we imagine all our fathers and mothers over our shoulders. In the refuge tree is Sangharakshita and his teachers in the "teachers of the present" 9.

Turning away from reading the Dharma is something I'm doing more and more. I've been reading through Shakespeare. At a certain point, everything is Dharma.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Julian of Norwich

Been listening to Julian of Norwich's Revelations of Divine Love. I saw someone was reading it on Goodreads, and was interested. I missed her holiday May 8th. I find that Christian mystics can write interesting things even if I don't buy into their whole scheme of things.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Mindfulness Conspiracy

The Guardian has an article entitled The Mindfulness Conspiracy. I'm honestly getting a little tired of people generating articles about subjects they that ends up being reinventing the wheel. I dismissed the article when I read someone thought it was clickbait. Clickbait is such an important concept. I find myself clicking on links that never contain the photo on the original link and ends up being a slide show. I don't click on slide shows any more. Just can't do it no matter how cool all the old photos are. I'm also struck by the line from Lenon, "nobody told me there would be days like these."

The subheadline is, "It is sold as a force that can help us cope with the ravages of capitalism, but with its inward focus, mindful meditation may be the enemy of activism." Right there I disagree. I think of the wonderful book Time To Stand Up by Thanissara.

Taking care of yourself is profoundly revolutionary and supports the revolution, despite what Ronald Purser, the author of the article, says. I would also suggest that turning inward ultimately helps people to tune into injustices in the world, and mindfulness can focus one's energies for change. The Bodhisattva ideal is all about helping others. The idea that unhappiness resides within us doesn't mean that we don't need to seek to redress injustice outside of us. Understanding the barriers to metta, compassion and sympathetic joy is incredibly revolutionary. I would argue that that is the work that needs to be done by those in the yang of politics who's policies lead to the death of Americans. Just to pick one example, our love of guns leads to the murder of 350 children every year.

I suppose there is the antidote to all this mindfulness rediscovery. Some people have adverse reactions. Often people who are repressing things, or unstable mental structures that come down with change. The problems with people on intense retreats are often that people are not supported through the intense times. I didn't tell my preceptor that I had a deep meditative experience and other meditation problems. But I've learned along the way, and I'm not impatient to iron out all my wrinkles. I just learned an idea that helps me with compassion meditations. The world where you have a guru who sniffs out all your problems is perhaps more spiritual materialism or good luck.

I don't really know if there was a time of deep friendships and deep human interactions. You could make the case that technology has taken us away from that. I don't know if either of those thoughts are true. Objectivity about mind is one gain in meditation. I already had epistemic character, but it took it to another psychological level.

Assuming mindfulness is a "magic panasea" isn't a great place to start. If there's one thing about mindfulness, I've come to realize, there are no magic panaseas.

"Mindfulness zealots" tend to be people who have decided to make a career out of what they love. Purser writes, "And yet mindfulness zealots believe that paying closer attention to the present moment without passing judgment has the revolutionary power to transform the whole world. It’s magical thinking on steroids."

Perhaps he is attacking mindfulness without the Buddhism, and it's community, ethical structure, the history of the Bodhisattva ideal? He says, "Mindfulness is nothing more than basic concentration training." Um, I don't think so. Oh, what he is talking about is secular mindfulness, which is often used to lure in wary Christians who worry about betraying their families. Meanwhile nuns and priests go on retreat and realize something was really missing in their spiritual practice. If nothing at all, with just mindfulness you might become aware that you need ethics, community and positive goals that don't hurt other people. Did he go along to a Sith meditation class?

"The neoliberal order has imposed itself by stealth in the past few decades, widening inequality in pursuit of corporate wealth." It's hard to argue that we have not taken a step back in inequality recently, all the indicators I've read about suggest that things are getting more unequal. To pick out mindfulness as the culprit, well, that does feel like clickbait.

"Stress has been pathologised [sic] and privatised, and the burden of managing it outsourced to individuals." Um, that's been going on since dot.

Taking responsibility of one's life does not conflict with looking at the larger forces with society. He's buying into the either/or dichotomy of the yin and yang of politics. We can tell people to take responsibility for their lives, and work on the greater forces. Conservative would have you not work on the larger forces, and buy into this false dichotomy. Work on individual forces and larger forces. It's the same claptrap of saying that psychotherapy blames the victim. No, it empowers the victim, and you can also wake up to work on the larger forces.

Here is the hedge that totally undercuts his point: "But none of this means that mindfulness ought to be banned, or that anyone who finds it useful is deluded. Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged." Now all of a sudden? Not sure if he's aware of all the good done by spiritual communities in the world. In fact by realizing our inter-being, it's hard to imagine what he is talking about, except in the either/or dichotomy of the yin and yang of politics.

It's hard to imagine a "mindfulness industry" being such a force in society. How about the "social work industry"? That one tuned me into the suffering of the poor, and how unfair and blaming the victim it is, how larger forces grind people into dust sometimes. I met a social worker once who thought psychotherapy was easy, changing the larger forces was hard. Great, you focus your energies where you think it will do the most good. But you don't lift yourself up by putting others down. Again not either/or.

So many phrases, "so-called mindfulness revolution". I know so many people that will disagree with this article. One of the fetters is the fetter of superficiality--thinking that rites and rituals are ends in and of themselves. I think McMindfulness is really just superficiality.

The franchising of mindfulness is blanding it of idolatry so Christians don't get twitchy. Anyway, you bring your ethical system to whatever you do. You can teach mindfulness all you want without an ethical system attached, but even so I think humans have a natural ethical sense that can't be gotten rid of. I would prefer to beat the drum of veganism that in my opinion is the largest personal act you can do to improve the world. No mention of that.

Superficiality and spiritual materialism are well known problems. Keep fighting against them. "because what it offers is so easily assimilated by the market, its potential for social and political transformation is neutered. " So don't neuter it. Did you really think the revolution would come from an industry? It's like he feels the revolution industry has been sidetracked. It's kind of funny to even imagine the revolution industry. I see revolution as lead by woke individuals or just ideas having their time in a widespread way.

When I read, "A truly revolutionary mindfulness would challenge the western sense of entitlement to happiness irrespective of ethical conduct." I think about how you have to promise toys to children to get them out of the burning house, but once they get outside, what they find isn't toys, but is so much better. Selling Buddhism through happiness is misguided but does capitalize on a psychological research obsession of a few years ago. I would argue that revolutions are lead not by angry people but by people who fight injustice and can keep their equanimity.

"Perhaps worst of all, this submissive position is framed as freedom." I think facing our minds is profoundly unsubmissive.

His critique of neoliberalism is fine. Unfortunately the conflation of mindfulness collaboration isn't really proved. But it got a long post out of me, so for that I am grateful. But look up Joanna Macy and then tell me mindfulness isn't about everyone and everything. It's called Systems Theory baby.

On a positive note (the world really is getting better) Bhutan is supporting female monastics, countering valuing just men. The good work done by Bhutan Nuns Foundation.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019


Here is a short video about this book by the author so you can get a brief sense of her.

I've noticed "felt sense" being used a lot amongst Buddhists. I read that phrase first in Eugene Gendlin's book Focusing.

Lama Palden Drolma in 1987 she founded Sukhasiddhi Foundation in the SF Bay Area (Fairfax is north of San Francisco), a Tibetan Buddhist center in the Shangpa and Kagyu lineages. Her teachers were Kalu Rinpoche, HH Karmapa the 16th, Jamgon Kongtrul, Tai Situpa, Bokar Rinpoche, Dezchung Rinpoche, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, HH Dudjom Rinpoche, and the Dalai Lama.

One thing I like about this book is that she talked about how others suffering can enter our body and reside there if not processed. By inviting suffering in and metabolizing it, the negative energy is diffused. You visualize a vajra which is the indestructible absorber of suffering smoke.

I'd imagined a lint filter, that you had to keep cleaning out, but I like the vajra much better. I have a vajra on my shrine. I keep seeing Dr. Farnsworth saying, it's dolomite baby.

I like the way she writes and there are many different versions of how to do the meditation of tonglen, even for the non-Buddhist in this small book. 

Times Review of George Will’s latest book

“Today’s culture is a reason for thinking that perhaps people should be a bit more circumscribed by manners and mores, and would be improved by a pinch of awe about something other than their own splendor.” 

They inevitably cast a shadow on what passes for conservatism in the Republican Party today. Their values are domination; gut-thinking; cultishness; recklessness; fundamentalism; and the preference for raw power over letting things be.”