Friday, March 27, 2020


Suddina of Kalanda's parents didn't want him to renounce the worldly life, and go forth, go for refuge from the Buddha. He went on a hunger strike, and thus his family relented.

His wife didn't have a child and the family wanted an heir. So Suddina had intercourse three times with his wife, and she got pregnant.

When this got back to the Buddha he had some harsh words (p. 159 The Life of the Buddha):

"Misguided man, it were better for you (as one going forth) that your member should enter the mouth of a hideous venomous viper or cobra than to enter a woman. It were better for you that your member should enter a pit of coals burning, blazing and glowing, than to enter a woman."

He claimed Suddina was pursuing the opposite of the Dharma--surprised there isn't word for that. I know Mara personifies the opposite, or Samsara is where you live. Ignorance is what causes us to live in samsara and listen to Mara. UnDharma, I guess.

And thus the rules is created: "Any monk who indulges in sexual intercourse is defeated: he is no more in communion."

To be expelled from the Sangha is quite an offense even if it is temporary suspension. There was almost a schism in the sangha when a monk felt that he was being unfairly persecuted for leaving some washing water by the bathroom (post).

I'm inclined to see his act as one of compassion, and am surprised at the vigor of the rebuke. That people don't take the straight path to goal is fairly common. But whenever I see the Buddha as being harsh or something, that always puts me in check. Am I resisting the teachings of the Buddha by dismissing this as a later insertion by some vinaya crazed monk? Also the Buddha's teachings were specific to each monk, to each sangha, to each situation, so perhaps this monk was a lusty fellow who needed an extra push. Maybe it wasn't the kindness it was put out to be my imagination.

And three times, everyone knows the intercourse motion is about flushing out another man's sperm, the first time give her the best shot at getting pregnant, he was flushing his own sperm out by continuing. Wait three days and try again if you're unsure. Although she is more likely to get pregnant if she comes, so maybe it took three times to get her there, and that was the deciding factor in her pregnancy.

With stillness, simplicity and contentment is the opposite of the sexual misconduct 3rd precept of 5. I prefer the positive reaching to the hand slap of the negative precepts.


The same Brit Hume that says it's entirely reasonable to sacrifice the elderly for the economy (I always thought Logan's Run was far fetched...) once suggested that Tiger Woods does not have the concept of redemption because he is a Buddhist. He doesn't have the Christian concept of redemption, but luckily Christianity doesn't own all the spirituality words.

Finger Necklace, or Angulimala, was a brutal murderer, who found the BuddhaDharma through the Buddha, and became a monk. There were times when people who had family murdered by him would throw things at him. But he persisted in the BuddhaDharma path, and became an arahant. If that's not redemption, then I don't know what is.

All he has to do is look at the Wikipedia article (linked previously) to see how each religion determines the concept for them. I saw someone on Reddit ask why everyone assumed everyone was a Christian. It's Christianity presumption. As if that's the only religion that exists, similar to hetrosexual presumption, assuming that is the only kind of sexuality that exists.

I'd also say Milarepa is an excellent example of redemption in the Buddhist religion.

For those who say Buddhism is not a religion, I'd say that they were going along with the Christian presumption that religion is about god. I disagree. But I'm quite happy to see Buddhism as a spirituality instead of a religion. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Chapter 9 The Life of the Buddha

This chapter is a grab bag of stories left over from the first 20 years. The wonderful story of Meghiya is one. It is filled with what you can do that is not meditation, to work towards the goal.

The thing I found most interesting was the Buddha's going through the 5 elements and pointing out how they are indifferent. The 6th element practice is something I've done a bit on retreat. I did it off retreat, and I felt like I was breaking apart, and realized that I can only do that meditation in a really supportive environment like a retreat. Then after that, the Buddha lists meditations for various problems:

"Practice loving-kindness to get rid of ill-will. Practice compassion to get rid of cruelty. Practice sympathy to get rid of apathy. Practice equanimity to get rid of resentment. Practice contemplation of loathsomeness in the body to get rid of lust. Practice contemplation of impermanence to get rid of conceit 'I am'. Practice mindfulness of breathing; for when that is maintained in being and well developed, it brings great fruit and many blessings" (p. 123)

I find it interesting that sympathetic joy helps one with apathy. I find it interesting for the AA people that equanimity gets rid of resentments. I find it interesting that contemplation is part of the path, makes me think of Ratnaguna's book On Reflection. And it makes me think that MOB, mindfulness of breathing is the paramount meditation.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Conflict in the early sangha

Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli (Chapter 8):

This happened in Kosambi. Don't let the story mark the town as one thing, because it is many.

The offense was that a leader left grey water at the toilet. At the time when someone caught him, he did not know it was an offense. The other leader said since it wasn't intentional, it was not an offense, but then later said it was an offense and spoke out against the offense.

It hardly seems like much to get worked up about, but sometimes when you are very mindful you can be a bit precious about things. There is also some conflict, a power struggle, which is not acknowledged, between the two leaders.

The leader was suspended. He sent out to his people to come and defend him. Many of his followers were loyal to him even though he was suspended.

When alerted to the situation, the Buddha was concerned about a schism. He talked to the suspending leader. The Buddha said essentially to be more worried about schism than the offense, to not pursue the matter. He went to the offending monk and told him to not challenge the suspension because schism is worse than being suspended wrongly.

So I wonder what happened. I guess the offending monk stayed away until the end of the suspension, though the suspension would have been withdrawn.

That was I did when I was a teacher and two students were in conflict, I would "shoot both ways," so that neither felt like they got their way. You need to stop doing this, and you need to stop doing that.

It is a fundamental problem in the world that there are rules in society and there are some people who do not follow them.

I think this is one of the great problems with the current presidency. The conventions of the presidency are not being followed. It freaks a lot of people out, it's destabilizing to people who do not protect him out of ideological defensiveness. That is also something they take glee in, which is a further offense. Win at any cost not matter that the whole fabric of society is smashed. Out of partisanship they pretend not to see it, then later flip the script. The party that wants to run things so they can prove that running things is wrong, don't expect good government, and wreck up the whole place.

When the sangha insisted on continuing the quarrel, the Buddha finally just left, deciding that he could not say anything to them that would de-escalate the conflict.

I find that a fascinating story. No miracles, no reverence, keeping the Buddha on the right side. He was told they would settle it. I've always found this story really interesting somehow. "There is no fellowship with fools." It's better to be alone than in conflict. Being alone is preferable to disagreeable company.

When the town stopped giving them food, because it was seen as not respecting the Buddha to send him away, they went to the Buddha to resolve their quarrel. The offending monk said it was an offense, and the Buddha told them to reinstate him because he saw the offense.

Then there is the report of harmony with Anuruddha, Nandiya and Kimbila. I've always loved those names because of their harmony. Whoever got home first would set things up. Whoever got home last would clean up. They agreed on the various tasks and asked for help when needed. Nobody shirked any duty and they thought on each other with loving kindness in public and privately.

Chapter 7: The Life of the Buddha

Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli:

This is the chapter on admitting women into the sangha. The Buddha's stepmother, the woman who raised him, nursed him, when his mother died soon after he was born. She wanted to join the sangha. The Buddha initially said no but she came back and he gave 8 conditions, and she accepted them.

Now is this where I think like I do with Shakespeare? With Shakespeare I don't think he's anti-semitic or misogynistic or racist, no more than the average person, he just captured these forces in his plays. Merchant of Venice has a depiction of a jewish man, from the standpoint of a playwright in a country that banned jewish people. And Taming of the Shrew is just how women were handled then, women were married off by their fathers. And Othello was just how Moores were treated in those days. Our interpretations of the plays can be racist as well, supposedly John Adams thought Desdemona deserve being killed for marrying a black man.

Anyway, I'm not sure how women were treated in the Buddha's time, but there is an amazing book that captures women going into the spiritual life, and might be the first feminist spiritual classic: Therīgāthā. I found it a really powerful book when I read it on retreat. It wasn't the theme of the retreat, I just find I can read a lot deeper when I'm on retreat, and I found it very inspiring.

So was the Buddhist sexist by applying 8 rules for women? Was he capturing the sexism in the society to apply skillfully?

Could he have given a simple yes, let them in. I don't know, but that's what I would do from my unenlightened perspective twenty five hundred years into the future, from America, who's only had the Dharma for 200 years, only about a tenth of the Dharma's existence on Earth.

I do know that one of the amazing monasteries in the USA is led by a woman: Sravasti Abbey. I'm not aware of any sex scandals in that sangha--the plague which most large sanghas in America have had to face, why I would recommend smalls sanghas. Everyone owns their own spiritual life and I wouldn't let anyone put some idea on mine that would limit it, or my daughters.

There is also a prophecy that because women were let into the sangha that the Dharma would be on earth for less time. I'd say that if anyone trots that out, it's a hook for people who want to blame women and have negativity towards them, so what out for anyone who brings this up.

The Life of the Buddha: Chapter 6

Further thoughts on The Life of the Buddha, a collection and translation by Nanamoli:

There was a poor tailor who saw all these huts put up for the monks and he thought he would like one. He built one, but it was slanted and fell down. He did that three times, and started complaining to the monks. The monks told the Buddha and he told a story about animals helping each other out. I might have told the story where first he directly told some monks to go build that tailor a hut. But it's clear that the Buddha believed in spreading the wealth, resources, charity. He didn't say forget him, just focus on getting enlightened monks.

It seems they build some crude monasteries for the many monks.

I imagine when hordes were converting to the path, there must have been great social disorder. The Buddha made a rule that you have to get your parents permission to go forth. One day everyone was in the village working their usual way, and then another there were a bunch of people with bowls and robes walking along, begging for their food. I wonder if there was anyone left in the kitchen to make food for all the monks. One guy got a ironed robe and a nice bowl and the Buddha didn't like that.

Though eastern and Buddhism seems to be pro-family there is a bit where the Buddha illuminates the suffering within the family, in an effort to pry those from taking refuge in the family. Interesting.

One king got teachings from the Buddha but another didn't, and I wonder if there was jealousy with those whom the word spread slowly. I estimate it took 2378 years for the Buddha's message to make it to America where I live. I'm jealous it took so long to get here.

To further integrate with society he had the monks not wander around during the rains. They were tramping all over the crops and causing problems, so the Buddha asked that the monks stay in one place during the rainy season.

I'm watching Eugene Onegin on the Met Opera free streaming and this is adapted from Pushkin, who created the "superfluous man"--an unmindful dilettante who mucks everything up and misses opportunities and hurts people.

Friday, March 20, 2020


Acting as if you have Coronavirus is probably the best course of action.

Since you don't know if you're a carrier who is asymptomatic, if you assume you are, you won't pass anything onto another. Usually I assume we don't know much, and I don't like assuming one side of a binary situation. You either have it or you don't. If you assume you have it, then you will act in such a way as to not spread it. If you assume you don't have it because you are sick you might pass it on. Therefore it is best to assume you have it.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Simone Weil: Philosopher of compassion

"Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating."

I read a novel that mentioned Simone Weil in passing and I didn't know much about her so I got a biography of her to read. I'm writing about her here because she was a Christian Mystic and very interested in suffering, and she had some interesting ethical ideas. I think she was a Bodhisattva.

I think it's cool that the internet has three different examples of how to pronounce her name: One, two, three. This one is different.

She was born in Paris in 1909. Her brother was a math genius, her mother was an frustrated/oppressed female who wasn't allowed to be a doctor, so she channeled her energy into her children. Simone was among the first women to go to college, and because of her confrontational style was sent far away to teach as part of the French system. Her nickname was the Red Virgin and she was sent to Le Puy that had a red virgin statue, a 9 hour train ride from Paris that her devoted mother would travel once a month to care for her.

She taught laborers philosophy and other subjects to help them pass exams to get promotions. She had an ascetic side, and an androgynous style, and always had those glasses and haircut. Her students in Le Puy admired her devotion and her limitations. She was a Marxist for a while and believed in the redemption of work, evolved to revolutionary syndicalism. She worked on a fishing boat and remained connected to the fisherman who gave her a chance to work on his boat during a vacation. She was a kind teacher, but she was cruel to her student peers when she was in school, cutting one friend off for a year when he used a source in a presentation that she did not approve of. Her family still invited him over for dinner and she just ignored him for a year. She dismissed the author of the Second Sex in their one meeting. She was sickly and would push herself to the point of a breakdown, and had an eating disorder. She would go to Berlin and live with a working class family to further political action.

To follow her life, is to go through some interesting European history. It is better to read a full account instead of my outline but I thought it was funny that a right wing newspaper likened her to "...mushrooms that grow on hummus." They didn't like her supporting the unemployed and poor rights, but in the end they didn't force her from the school and the work program got a raise and better conditions! She would go to the nearest industrial city and teach workers on the weekend, and generally seemed to agitate for the the good with a full schedule of activities.

Like Hemingway and Orwell she went off to Spain to fight against Franco. She stepped in a pot of boiling water and was pulled out of the fighting.

She went to the USA because her parents wouldn't go without her, and she wanted to save them. But she went back to London. Like Walt Whitman she wanted to be a nurse on the front lines. She died before she could go. She died at age 34. She had tuberculosis but refused to eat more because others were so hungry. Was it a kind of suicide to not eat enough to recover?

From Francine du Plessix Gray's biography, "Might not her reluctance to join the Church have been equally impelled by her need to renounce all forms of satisfaction--by her spiritual anorexia?"

The biography says she discovered Milarepa at the public library in NYC. Googling Simone Weil and Buddhism I found this bibliography. He notoriously starved himself as well, turning green from nettle soup. I think she liked his asceticism.

What We Owe to Others: Simone Weil’s Radical Reminder (NY Times)

American Weil Society

Enlightened by love 5 part podcast by David Cayley

An Encounter with Simone Weil. A filmmaker Julia Hazlett is inspired by "Attention is the rarest and purest for of compassion." a quote from Weil. She also grooves on, "always do what will cost you the most." Here is a NY Times article about the movie. Turn on the subtitles to get French translations when people speak French. If you don't have Amazon Prime, it's on Vudu with commercials. What I get from this movie is how integrated she was, she really put into practice her beliefs. She quit eating sugar in solidarity with the soldiers during WW1. Hazlett weaves in her own questions about her father and her brother's suicide. Could she have prevented them from committing suicide? What if she had given them more attention and less judgement? I think it's a mark of grief to wonder what more could I have done.

In Our Time BBC

WikiQuotes of Simone Weil

Writings in translation/English by Simone Weil

The Illiad or the poem of Force.

Oppression and Liberty

Attention: Awaiting God

Gravity and Grace

Factory Works

Lectures on Philosophy

An Anthology

Secondary Works

Susan Sontag on Simone Weil

by Robert Chenavier Simone Weil: Attention to the Real chapter one

The ''Seriousness'' of Simone Weil by FREDERICK C. STERN (a book review of George Abbott White, ed., Simone Weil: Interpretations of a Life)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Shakespeare practice

You can read literature with a Dharma eye, to develop insight. And you can work on issues along the way as well. For instance, I noticed my mind wandering when I was reading Richard the 3rd. Just like when my mind wanders when I'm watching my breath. Second, I noticed a need for patience, a very important virtue. I wanted Shakespeare to get to it, I lost the pleasure in the moment and language and drama. So I get to work on concentration and patience. But it's the insight that I like. Here is Queen Margaret (Margaret of Anjou) on impermanence:

I call'd thee then vain flourish of my fortune;
I call'd thee then poor shadow, painted queen;
The presentation of but what I was;
The flattering index of a direful pageant;
One heaved a-high, to be hurl'd down below;
A mother only mock'd with two sweet babes;
A dream of what thou wert, a breath, a bubble,
A sign of dignity, a garish flag,
To be the aim of every dangerous shot,
A queen in jest, only to fill the scene.
Where is thy husband now? where be thy brothers?
Where are thy children? wherein dost thou, joy?
Who sues to thee and cries 'God save the queen'?
Where be the bending peers that flatter'd thee?
Where be the thronging troops that follow'd thee?
Decline all this, and see what now thou art:
For happy wife, a most distressed widow;
For joyful mother, one that wails the name;
For queen, a very caitiff crown'd with care;
For one being sued to, one that humbly sues;
For one that scorn'd at me, now scorn'd of me;
For one being fear'd of all, now fearing one;
For one commanding all, obey'd of none.
Thus hath the course of justice wheel'd about,
And left thee but a very prey to time;
Having no more but thought of what thou wert,
To torture thee the more, being what thou art.
Thou didst usurp my place, and dost thou not
Usurp the just proportion of my sorrow?
Now thy proud neck bears half my burthen'd yoke;
From which even here I slip my weary neck,
And leave the burthen of it all on thee.
Farewell, York's wife, and queen of sad mischance:
These English woes will make me smile in France.

This is from Act 4, Scene 4. Queen Margaret was King Henry VI's wife, and then Edward took over, and then Edward died, and his brothers were erased, so that Richard could step into being king. So what we have in this part of the scene is Queen Margaret (H6) Queen Elizabeth (EIV) and Richard's mother all talking about how horrible he is. Then in parallel to Act 1, scene 2 (where he tried to get the widow of the murdered man to marry him), he works to convince the mother of the princes Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, that he should marry princess Elizabeth to consolidate the regime.  Another harrowing dialogue of the oily Richard trying to persuade of marriage to make a queen.

I probably alternate between this blog and my Shakespeare blog, where I read through Shakespeare chronologically, and now I am on my second reading of Shakespeare with the 2020 Shakespeare Project.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Arati, one of the three daughters of Mara

Page 63/4

Arati is converted by the Buddha:

"Tranquil in body, with liberated mind
Contriving nothing, mindful and detached,
Knowing Dhamma, absorbed without thought-roving,
Unangy and unanxious, unperplexed..."

Mara is not happy,

"Fools! You have tried to split a rock
by poking it with a lily stem.
To dig a hill out with your nails,
To chew up iron with your teeth
To find a fooding on a cliff
With a great stone upon your head,
To push a tree down with your chest
And so you come from Gautama frustrated."

Friday, March 06, 2020

Comments on Chapter 4 The Life of the Buddha

I don't like it that Yasa's father, mother and Yasa's father's ex-wife are not named. His 4 friends have names, but then the 50 friends are nameless. Sixty one new disciples seem crowding, you could almost imagine the act of going forth might become a bit of a fad. I wonder if any of them renounced the monastic life.

The time you need to put in to gain insight is glossed over, things happen fast. I can't help but think that some people might get the impression that it's easy or only easy if it's the Buddha who teaches you. I'm not forgetting Upaka. But looking into Upaka, it seems he later joined the sangha.

The beginning with Yasa having 3 palaces and only women is similar to the story of Siddhartha. It almost feels like a formula.

The original conversation ritual is to shave your head and beard, salute the disciple of the Buddha, and give the triple refuge.

I'd always thought the Buddha's mother was the first female disciple, but it looks like Yasa's mother was the first female disciple.

It seems that merely recognizing Mara for who he is, is enough for his power to evaporate. I'm struck by how it's similar to Padmasambhava would pin a demon and look at them to depower them.

On the way to Benares he converts a party of 30 who went out for a picnic. The he meets the 3 Kassapas, who had a thousand disciples all together. The Buddha stayed in the "fire hut", which might be like a sauna? Even when the Buddha tamed the naga in the fire hut, and had devas visit him, Kassapa still thought he was more advanced than the Buddha. The Buddha realized he was cramping Kassapa's style, and went off so as not to interfere with his upcoming ceremony. There was some business about nagas helping the Buddha clean a refuse rag that impressed Kassapa but he still maintained his superiority. He got an apple and other food times quicker than Kassapa. He allowed wood to be split. The miracles continue till Kassapa is finally convinced the Buddha's powers are greater than his.

I feel like it is a contradiction to use "miracles" with the Buddha to convince people not to chase after pleasures reactively and cling to them.

There's a grizzly image of a crab without legs, that is meant to be Mara when you can identify him/her and are beyond the influence.

I get indigestion from so many rich ideas, I need to lay off the rich mental foods for a little while.

Many more great things in this chapter.

Three Lesser Known Trees

After spending 7 days to consolidate enlightenment, he went from the Bodhi tree to the Ajapala Nigrodha, in which a column symbolizes this tree,

Then he went to the Mucalinda Tree after 7 days.

The naga supposedly wrapped his body around the Buddha and he meditated for 7 days like that (p. 33 of The Life of the Buddha)

Then he went to the Rajayatana Tree and sat for 7 days feeling the bliss of deliverance. A Brahman came along and asked him an abstruse metaphysical question and he says you can't call yourself a Brahman until you've attained something.  

Then 2 merchants named Tapussa and Bahalika, who are considered his first lay disciples. They brought rice cakes and honey. They took refuge in the 2 jewels, though they didn't include the sangha  jewel, which they were the first two to join.

Then he went back to the Ajapala Nigrodha tree, where he came up with the 5 spiritual faculties. He was visited by Brahma Sahampati. Then he comes up with the 4 foundations of mindfulness: body, feelings, consciousness, mental objects. Mara confronts him and the Buddha realizes who he is and that causes him to lose his influence. He wonders if he should teach the teachings, maybe he could just enjoy himself meditating under trees the rest of his life. But Brahma Sahampati urges him to share the vision with the world because there are being with little dust in their eyes.

He wants to teach his old teachers, but they have passed away. So he decides to teach the 5 ascetics who attended him when he almost starved himself to death. They were in Benares, in Deer Park at Isipatana, the Resort of the Seers.

He continues meditating for a while now that he's decided to go, and then when he goes he runs across Upaka. He senses great spiritual attainment and the Buddha pronounces his attainment, and Upaka who is a monk, says, "May it be so, friend."

This provokes the question, would you know if you met a Buddha that they were a Buddha?

When he gets to the 5 ascetics, they accuse him up giving up the quest. He says he didn't, and he succeeded. They accuse him again. Again he asserts he didn't quit the quest and that he succeeded. Then he asks them if he ever talked like this before. Then you get the first famous sermon, the first turning of the wheel of the dharma (of which there are 3). I think it is captured in this sutta, which ends,

"Then the Blessed One exclaimed: "So you really know, Kondañña? So you really know?" And that is how Ven. Kondañña acquired the name Añña-Kondañña — Kondañña who knows."

Angkor Wat

I saw this video today, it's three and a half minutes. Angkor Wat is in Cambodia. It was converted from a Hindu temple in the 12th century. It is a prime tourist attraction. It is 3.4 miles north of the modern town of Siem ReapEncyclopedia Britannica has a neat three and a half minute video as well, including the efforts to maintain and prevent the inevitable erosion of the temple. 800 plus years is a pretty long time for a structure to exist, but it is a symbol of the country, on its currency. During medieval times a million people lived in this thriving center.

Angkor Wat was “rediscovered” in 1840s by the French explorer Henri Mouhot, who wrote that the site was “grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome.” (history channel) You can read his two books on Gutenberg.

UNESCO launched a major restoration campaign after naming it both a World Heritage site and a World Heritage in Danger in 1992. (Business Insider--great photos)


In the Empty Mirror, the author decides to do three days of intense meditation. He is warned against it by his spiritual friend. He is insistent. But after half a day, he finds it hard and quit. Then he decides to go home.

I would say that he hasn't prepared himself for such a trial, and sets himself up for failure. There is a relentless obsessive tightening of the screws in the Buddha's path. I'm not sure if just doing what a Buddha would do, fake it till you make it, really works. I think if you're in tune with your progress, and it blossoms organically there is plenty of room for effort and will, but it isn't just railroading yourself through it.

The Buddha is not reborn because he has stepped out of conditionality and abides in the transcendental. That part of him, the Dharmakaya, is deathless. It is trancendental, mystical, beyond conditioning and words.

The karma of his life are the teachings that have somehow miraculously come down to us. For 90% of the history of Buddhism the teachings did not hit the Americas. We are just starting to understand the teachings here.

The shadow of Buddhist spiritual efforts is that I don't want to be enlightened. I don't want to stop feeling lust for women, I don't want to stop enjoying sense desire, from body and mind. I don't want to transcend my conditions.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Five dreams

The Buddha has 5 dreams that foreshadow his victory in discovering the hard thing he was striving for (p.22 The Life of the Buddha Nanamoli)

1. His body is huge like Gulliver, and spreads over India.
2. He dreams of the 8 fold path.
3. He would have many come in with cloth to be his students (like the white grubs that covered him when he was awake).
4. White birds would come from the 4 directions and sit on his feet (representing the 4 castes).
5. He used to get dirty walking around in the dust, but he would get food and what he needed without being greedy, deluded or clingy, because the people would respect his way of being.

The Life of the Buddha

I'm reading The Life of the Buddha edited from the Pali Canon by Nanamoli. (I didn't know that Nanamoli was 54 when he died. He only had 11 years to learn and create his books.)

Nanamoli mentioned an Italian friar I'd never heard of Filippo Desideri or Ippolito Desideri, who went to Tibet in 1712. This may be the first exposure to Buddhism by a European but he doesn't publish his book in his lifetime. He wrote books to try to convert them to Christianity. Back in Italy there was all kinds of sectarian conflict. Part of that got his report of his findings not published. I bet there are some pretty good stories in there.

Getting into the text of The Life of the Buddha, I find it amazing that the Buddha went to the two best teachers and learned everything they knew and was offered to take over, and in the second case to be the leader. The first one I think he realized the nothingness of everything, and with the second it seems like he went into the formless dhyanas, of neither perception nor non-perception. But I don't know.

The Buddha talks of subduing fear and dread while being in groves (not the forest or jungle). What I think this points to is a systematic increasing of difficulty, pushing himself harder and harder, but also understanding that certain tasks were necessary to get to the place to develop insight. This is not all he has to subdue.

He has 3 similes, and the first is that trying to make a fire with wet wood won't work. He thinks bodily and mentally yearn for sensual desire will lead to pain when striving in the spiritual life. Even if you withdraw one, and still have mental desire for sensual desire, you can't start a fire with a wet stick. It is only when you withdraw bodily and mental urges for sensual desire can you reach the higher levels of spirituality. There's a lot of talk of the guarding of the gates of the sense, and I find it interesting that you have to conquer desire before you become enlightened--I thought that was a result. But I think the point is that there is a gradual mastering before you can go to a higher level.

You can't subdue the mind with the mind, nor the body with the body. He tried to squash his mind in his jaws, he tried to not breath. These early attempts left him exhausted. Finding the energy didn't work with these methods. He sits by a fire and takes great heat. Then he tried not to eat. He became deathly ill starving himself, his hair fell out, he became emaciated, he probably got nutritional diseases like rickets, beriberi and scurvy. The search had to continue.

He is near the Lilajan River (Wikipedia), what the text says the Neranjara river (photo). Namuci comes to him. Namuci is called Rakshasa on Wikipedia, and he's an asura, or a mythical deity. Also Mara is there.

My feeling is it's another line of thinking, perhaps the commonsensical voice with Namuci. He says to live. Mara tells him to push on. Thus Mara can also be a voice of unhelpful asceticism. He does a kind of rope a dope of psycho babble from the times, to try to convince him to go on. Here we come on an interesting word, "accidy" which is an archaic word for torpor. He speaks of all these virtues with military metaphors Siddhartha would have understood, and suggests it is a virtue to die in battle. He's never met Falstaff.

That is when he thinks of the dhyana meditation he had with his father was doing a ceremonial first ploughing of a field, and he was sitting under a tree meditating. He berates himself for avoiding pleasure altogether. The pleasure of meditation is OK! He ate some boiled rice and bread. His 5 disciples of asceticism are disgusted and leave him. This is the 3rd spiritual community that he leaves or is rejected by. This is the first one that rejects him!

Once he finds enlightenment he will find them and they will overcome their disgust at him for abandoning asceticism and listen to him. Perhaps because of what they saw him do before he tried another path. But he didn't go off and tell them what he was up to. He just follow the thought that meditation was the path. But now he also was pretty good at not eating, so in a way I bet eating after not eating a lot, he felt health surging back into his body. He pushed himself to the brink of death, and it was there that he knew the limit. He could go that far this way. What I'm seeing is someone who did a lot of experimentation, trial and error. But there was an overriding idea that there was something there past what he could see--that is what amazes me.

Well, that's just in the first chapter and a little into the second one, with my thoughts, read the book it's pretty awesome.

2378 years to get to America

Lets says that Buddhism arrives in the USA in 1820 when Chinese immigrants begin immigration. You could say that in 1849, when larger numbers came, that Buddhism really arrives for sure. But let's say 1820.

The Buddha was born in 558 BCE. There's a lot of debate about this. I don't mean to gloss over it, but for addition sake we need a number.

That means Buddhism took 2378 years to get to the USA from India/Nepal. Today you can zip an email there in seconds. The world has changed quite a lot.

Additionally you could say that Buddhism has been in the USA for 200 years. It has been in the USA only about 10% of its existence. One tenth of its existence.

In 1965, monks from Sri Lanka established the Washington Buddhist Vihara in Washington, DC, the first Theravada monastic community in the United States. That's 55 years in the USA.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

The Empty Mirror by Janwillem Van de Wetering

I love the monastery memoir, and I'm reading this one: The Empty Mirror by Janwillem Van de Wetering. It got a really beat up, and falling apart copy from the library.

The book is an early entry into the conversation of Buddhism in America, and seems to be fending off some weird ideas that aren't really around today. He's not exact in his understanding and teaching of the doctrine, IMHO. I like it that he talks about his pride spurring on his practice with others.

Janwillem van de Wetering passed away in 2008. He was in the Daitoku-ji monastery in Japan in the 50s. His teacher was Oda Sessō of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.

This type of Zen is practiced in NYC at New York Zendo Shobo-Ji. They have a full calendar. They have an interesting reading list.

He says Buddhists can't go to war. That was what I felt when I went a certain depth into war. But "Buddhist" countries have gone to war. The superficial culture of a nation who identifies with Buddhism can go to war. In fact the temples supported the Emperor of Japan in his wars. Van de Wetering didn't know.

I found it funny that he imagined he was controlling a beautiful woman with his mind, when on the subway, in the chapter called A Little Black Magic.

You think you've heard all the Zen stories. Well, I never heard of Bobo-roshi, or Friar Fuck, even though I've read Lust for Enlightenment. Maybe I just forgot it.

After a year he moves out of the monastery to live with a friend who is following the path and they go to the monastery to meditate at 3am and in the evening.


""You read too much," the master said. "I told you you shouldn't read so much. You identify yourself with all sorts of heroes and fools and try to swallow their experiences. It isn't wrong to read, but it shouldn't lead to dreaming, or living through another person."" (p.39)


Publishers Weekly


I liked this post


Here is a PDF of the book

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Evan Thompson's Criticism of Buddhism Modernism

From Sam Littlefair's excellent interview with Evan Thompson

"Buddhist modernism is the idea that Buddhism is either not a religion or is fundamentally different from other religions. I challenge that idea by pointing out that the, that the formative concepts in Buddhism — the whole Buddhist way of looking at the world: that existence is unsatisfactory, that liberation comes from the realization of not-self — those are religious notions.

Buddhist modernism says that science has shown that there is no self. It uses science to try to legitimize Buddhism. I argue that the scientific story about self is actually much more complicated than that. It’s not that “science says that there is no self.” Science says that self is a construction, and, from a scientific point of view, it’s actually a very useful and functional construction. Whereas, from the Buddhist perspective, it’s a problematic illusion.

I also criticize a recent form of Buddhist modernism that is sometimes called neural Buddhism, which is the idea that neuroscience shows the validity of Buddhist meditation by showing how Buddhist meditation changes the brain in beneficial ways and (again) proves that there really isn’t a self — because, if you look inside the brain, there is no self to be found. So, I argue that, first of all, the evidence for the effects of Buddhist meditation on the brain are very tentative. There’s a lot of hype around that. And, it’s not really the right way to think about what meditation is. Meditation is as much a kind of ritual, communal practice as it is something that occurs in an isolated individual, inside their head. Many of the beneficial effects of meditation may come from the community support structure and the sociality of the practice

Then, when Buddhist modernists say that Buddhism isn’t a religion and try to use science to justify Buddhism — that’s an instance of misunderstanding what religion is and what science is and the relationship between religion and science. Religion is about communities, texts, traditions, and practices that give meaning to life and life’s great events, like birth and death. Religion has frameworks for understanding those events. And those frameworks have to do with community and, and shared practices and rituals. And science is about the knowledge that we acquire when we are able to agree publicly and inter-subjectively on modes of investigation, ways of testing things, tools — like mathematics — that we can use to model and check things. Asking whether science and religion are compatible or incompatible is like asking whether religion and art, or science and art are compatible or incompatible. It’s not the right kind of question to ask. Religion isn’t inherently incompatible or compatible with science. It depends on how you practice religion and how you think of science."

He wrote a book about how he's not a Buddhist.

Later he goes on to say, "“You know, this isn’t really about seeing things as they are. This is about learning to sculpt your experience in a certain way. You’re being given certain concepts, like impermanence and moment-to-moment arising and you’re using them to attend to your experience in a certain way, and you’re accentuating things in your experience, and you’re not speaking — because it’s a silent retreat — so you’re internalizing these instructions and concepts in a powerful way. And you know that everybody else is doing this. And this is kind of a collective social construction that we’re all reinforcing for each other. It’s as much about creating a certain mode of experience as it is about revealing anything pre-existently there.”"

He writes, "My criticisms are meant to be friendly ones that grow out of my own involvement with Buddhism and my belief that it really is a very fundamentally important human tradition. But, I want to bring these things out and have people reflect on them."

Later, "...the recognition of the diversity of intellectual, philosophical traditions and the importance of their interaction, without shutting down a conversation by affirming allegiance to one."

Also, "The Buddhist communities that I was interacting with had very much a Buddhist exceptionalist attitude, a sense of having found the true path, a sense of superiority, of sanctimony. While, at the same time, they were filled with interpersonal human relationship dynamics, often involving a lot of sexism and in some cases abuse of women on the part of the teachers. So, as a result of all of those different elements, it became important for me to really think about and clarify both philosophically and personally what my relationship to Buddhism was. And that, in effect, is what led to this book."

Fascinating stuff. I better stop quoting. Go read the article linked at the top. And read other articles by Littlefair, he's quite a journalist.

But I liked this line of thought: "I would object to an idea of authenticity or purity — the idea that I’m a member of a tradition and it’s the authentic and pure one. If it’s “authentic and pure” that means that it’s insulated unto itself and has a special, unchanging inner teaching that isn’t shaped by the world and history and context and culture. I think that’s just false. Everything is always changing and interacting with other things. That’s the world in which we live."

Friday, January 31, 2020


I'm really attracted to the old Norse mythology, I really need to read about it. What I did read was The Overstory by Richard Powers and theme of the book was that trees are awesome. There were great characters that work to defend old growth Redwoods and the forests. I thought the book was a collection of short stories, but they were introductions to the characters, but then the main body of the book weaves them all together into interesting stories that have interesting insights.

I told my cousin, any book that references Aldo Leopold, John Muir and Thoreau is cool in my book.

Another mark of a good book is that I look up a lot of things. I kind of hoped that Dr. Patricia Westerford existed, but I read that she was modeled on Dr. Suzanne Simard. I wish she'd written the book in the novel, but it turns out that Peter Wohlleben wrote The Hidden Life of Trees, which is my next book to read. Turns out trees communicate with each other and do all sorts of amazing things:

Dr. Patricia Westerford says "We found that trees take care of each other. Collective science dismissed the idea. Outsiders discovered how seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly. Outsiders discovered that trees sense the presence of other nearby life. That a tree learns to save water. That trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks."

Turns out there are a ton of trees that are older than Jesus.

I suppose Buddhist fiction has a Buddhist theme or Buddhist characters that lead to Buddhist struggles, or oh heck, I don't know. But The Overstory has a leitmotif of Buddhism appreciation, and one of the characters allegedly gets enlightened. I think. I'm a bit skeptical because there's no mention of her meditating prior to meditating all night. The ancient literature has people becoming enlightened after a deep insight experience, like Bahiya of the Bark garment. He hears the words, "in the seen, only the seen, in the heard, only the heard..." and becomes enlightened. He was a spiritual seeker for a long time, though and was told that he didn't have it all and sought out the Buddha. He's also famous for dying when a crazed bull runs him over just after he got enlightened.

I found the character who studied the psychology of human blindness fascinating as well.

Fascinating book, best novel I've read in awhile.


Trees and the Sacred

Tāne Mahuta (New Zealand)

Lady Liberty (Florida)

Cleyera japonica

Old Tjikko (Sweden)

Notable trees in NYC

Best book of the decade

I'd say Great Faith, Great Wisdom: Practice and Awakening in the Pure Land Sutras of Mahayana Buddhism  – June 21, 2016 by Ratnaguna  (Author), Sraddhapa (Translator) is my favorite book that I've read from the past decade.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Imagine that

I love science fiction and Jemisin is on the top of my list of to reads. I love Octavia Butler. I like Nnedi Okorafor. I want to read Samuel R. Delany

“I was at some stupid-assed retreat, and I kept ducking out to take calls from my agent,” she told me. Pillai won the auction, with a six-figure bid that included a commitment for two more books. “I started screaming,” Jemisin told me. “People at the retreat were, like, ‘Should we call somebody?’ ”

From interesting New Yorker profile of Nora Jemisin

Also from the article: "In 2013, she gave an impassioned speech about race in the genre, noting that a white supremacist had just run for president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Though he lost, he had secured ten per cent of the vote, prompting her to criticize the “great unmeasured mass of enablers” who had been silent. The former candidate, in turn, called her an “ignorant half-savage” in a racist screed. Jemisin told me, “That touched off a whole big foofaraw.” Threats of violence poured in. She scrubbed her online presence and began to vary her commute."

Also, "Accepting her third Hugo, Jemisin stood at the lectern, with the rocket-shaped award beside her, and declared, “This is the year in which I get to smile at all of those naysayers, every single mediocre, insecure wannabe who fixes their mouth to suggest that I do not belong on this stage, that people like me could not possibly have earned such an honor, and that when they win it’s ‘meritocracy,’ but when we win it’s ‘identity politics.’ ” Holding up the award, she added, “I get to smile at those people, and lift a massive, shining rocket-shaped finger in their direction.”"

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Buddhist Holidays 2020

Full moons were meant for gathering with the spiritual community, the sangha. These holidays are on full moons with the exception of Bodhi Day, because the Buddha didn't become enlightened on a full moon. As always you can develop rituals and devotional activities on these days and create your own tradition. This is a living and breathing tradition in America where I am, and bringing devotional and rituals from other traditions can be OK if they are done with a Buddhist spirit. Every day is a Buddhist day if you are a Buddhist, but holidays are an excuse to shake things up and do something different.

January 10th - Mahayana New Year. This day celebrates the altruistic element in the spiritual life, the importance of thinking of others, the giving of the self in the aid of others, and the insight that we are all interconnected and what you do to others, you do to yourself.

February 9th - Nirvana Day. You could read the 500+ page The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, or you could read for favorite excerpts. This is the day that the Buddha went to parinirvana. As all holidays, you can chant (puja), gather, rejoice in merit, meditate, and recommit to the spiritual life. This might be a good day to do charnel meditations if you do such a thing. You could imagine what you want people to say at your funeral and plot a course based on that.

Magha Puja is Sangha Day - March 9th. This day celebrates the spiritual community in it's wide definition and in it's narrow definition. Gathering with others to discuss spirituality should be of optimal importance today. The joys of gathering and friendships are celebrated. A great excuse to get together with spiritual friends. You'd contact your kaliana mitra, your special spiritual friend, on this day, and thank them for their friendship. You can always do a solo puja if you are alone and do metta for all your friends, and everyone, because it's not just friends that help you on your spiritual journey. You could also read the scriptures which were lovingly memorized by the sangha. It is a good day to show respect to the elders that support and carry the tradition. It is traditional to read the first sermon on this day.

Vesak Day - May 7th. This day celebrates the birth, and life of the Buddha. Hoist the Buddhist flag, sing song, light incense, do a puja, read the teachings, listen to a teaching by a living teacher. This can be a day to recommit to precepts that you follow. You can put offerings on the shrine at your center or at your home shrine. Doing things for others, bringing joy to others is always a good idea, but if you can think of something like that today, all the better.

June 5th - Royal Ploughing Ceremony. When the Buddha wondered what to do after he'd explored all the existent traditions but still felt he'd not hit on what he was looking for, he remember back to the day he'd sat off in the trees on the royal ploughing day, and reached a deep state of meditation. He thought to explore that route further and that course correction was what led him to his enlightenment. Thus aside from a Asian farming festival day, this can also be a day when you consider course corrections. It's a kind of easter and rebirth day. The fertility of the spiritual life should be celebrated. You can think about the seeds you wish to plant in your spiritual life and wish to harvest.

July 5th - Dharma Day. You could again read the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion. This is the day you celebrate the teachings that lead to enlightenment.

August 3 - Oban Day. This Japanese celebration concerns the ancestors. Maybe a kind of day of the dead, you can reflect on all the important people in your life that are gone. A kind of global day of mourning and celebration. It is also a family reunion holiday opportunity. Gather with your family and let them know how much you love them.

Also called Hungry Ghosts Day: Chinese: "Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is veneration of the dead, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths." And, "...releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities."

December 8th - Bodhi Day. This is a celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment (not on a full moon day). What is enlightenment? How did the Buddha obtain it? Celebrations around this. You can read the Maha-Saccaka Sutta. The tradition says that the Buddha saw the morning star when he opened his eyes after enlightenment. Consider meditating all night until you see the morning star. I don't know, you could do a silly children's play where Mara is defeated. This is the day Siddhartha became the Buddha. It would be a good day to get a Buddhist name that captures your aspirations.

There need to be September, October and November holidays but I couldn't find any. In America, September is Labor Day, which is back to school for many, end of the harvest. October is Halloween, and November is Thanksgiving. These are lovely and you can inject Buddhism into those holidays. And of course December 25th is Buddhamas, when you celebrate winter solstice by giving presents to young people and loved ones, for people who grew up with the culture of Christmas and Hanukkah, but transform it more in line with your own beliefs. You can light candles along with Hanukkah. You can also celebrate the spiritual teachers of other traditions and eat their birthday cake.

I got to refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha (to the best of my unintegrated abilities). So those three days Vesak, Dharma and Sangha days plus Bodhi Day, I'd say they are the 4 high holidays.

Tibetans will have a lot of other holidays to celebrate Dakinis (Every 25th of each month) and whatnot, such a rich and beautiful tradition. Every tradition will emphasize various things.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Scandals Continue

Ani Pema Chodron stepped down from Shambhala. Read her letter. In case they take it down I'm going to reprint it here:

January 14, 2020
Dear Acharyas and Shambhala Board Members:
I send New Year’s greetings and my love to you all.
I’m writing to let you know that I have decided to step down as an acharya.  As you know, I haven’t actually served as an acharya for a long time, and I have been considering retiring for a few years.  And now, the time has come.
When I read the recent letter from the Sakyong saying that he wished to start teaching again and would do so for all who requested, I was disheartened.  I experienced this news as such a disconnect from all that’s occurred in the last year and half.  It feels unkind, unskillful and unwise for the Sakyong to just go forward as if nothing had happened without relating compassionately to all of those who have been hurt and without doing some deep inner work on himself.
Then came the letter from the Board informing the Shambhala community that they have invited the Sakyong to give the Rigden Abhisheka in June, and I was dumbfounded.  The seemingly very clear message that we are returning to business as usual distresses me deeply.  How can we return to business as usual when there is no path forward for the vast majority of the community who are devoted to the vision of Shambhala and are yearning for accountability, a fresh start, and some guidance on how to proceed?   I find it discouraging that the bravery of those who had the courage to speak out does not seem to be effecting more significant change in the path forward.
I understand that the Board’s decision to invite the Sakyong was based on the compassionate intention to benefit the 125 people who wish to take the abhisheka in order to continue on their path.  But for me, personally, to have the very first indication of how we are going to manifest be that we are returning to business as usual is shocking and also heartbreaking.
I feel that as a community committed to creating an enlightened society, we deserve something better than business as usual.
Hopefully, it’s not too late to reverse this trend.  For instance, the Board could be proactive and invite a few small groups of people with differing views to propose ideas for how we can go forward – ways that include everyone in the community and that provide accountability for all that has happened.  If the Board could then make it their priority for 2020 to start to implement some of these plans … that, in my opinion, would be very wise.
I will close by just saying thank you very much to the acharyas for continuing to teach and help the community and to the Board for the admirable work they have done to stabilize the community’s finances and to establish a new and more efficient code of conduct.  Nevertheless, I do not feel that I can continue any longer as a representative and senior teacher of Shambhala given the unwise direction in which I feel we are going.  
Yours in the vision of the Great Eastern Sun,                                                                         
Ani Pema aka Pema Chödrön

Thursday, January 16, 2020


Don't think you need to take a hallucinogen to have a spiritual experience. I have had them from meditating a lot, though I wouldn't say meditating a lot is recommended with a goal. If you're on a retreat, and something happens, then great, but don't expect that. Meditating with expectation is counter productive. I think that's what the Zen people get right--nothing special, just sit.

Watched Graham Hancock's talk on YouTube. His Wikipedia entry considers him a pseudo-scientist. It's pretty damning. He may have propagated some cockamame ideas in his time.

He points out that it's for adults, and in my mind that's 25 or older, when the brain finally settles down from adolescence.

 Not sure when he started to suggest that all the problems in our times would be solved by connecting with our spirit through hallucinogens. There is a certain alienation that is undeniable in our leaders. Whatever that could expand their consciousness, I'm not going to put my eggs in any one basket.

Very interested in his description of the Albigensian Crusade. It was a 20 year war against people who had merely ideas. The Cathars were wiped out in a crusade of Catholics. They believed in an active evil god, it's kind of Taoist in there being 2 gods, two forces. There was also a profound reluctance to tell others what to do, so there were different variations. Women were not oppressed. It's not hard to project your beliefs onto a movement that lost most of its literature.

Another phrase Hancock used was, "another Abrahamic death cult," to describe the forces that lead to the crusade.

Hildegard of Bingen was against it. I've watched a bunch of movies about her and wrote a blog post. She was a pretty interesting nun, but I think wrong about supporting hate towards other spirituality groups. If she did in fact do that. You can speak out against something and still not want them wiped from the planet. Not sure what she thought on that.

Still want to read Michael Pollan's book How To Change Your Mind.

Brad Warner in his Letters To A Dead Friend about Zen, in chapter 19, writes fairly persuasively that hallucinogens are not a gateway to spiritual realization.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

"The energy of love is necessary for me."

NY Times

David Marchese: Did the nuns’ anger damage your relationship with religion?

Rosie Perez: It tainted it. The abuse that I endured at the hands of nuns made me the type of person where I don’t believe in anybody’s dogma. I don’t buy it. It’s just a form of control. I do believe in energy. That’s my religion. The energy of love is necessary for me. That’s what I pray for. People are like, “How come you pray when you say you don’t believe in the Catholic Church?” I say, “Because I made my own church.”

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The Rise of Skywalker: Spoilers

Spoilers start below, so maybe skip this post if you haven't seen it and want to see it. My therapist said he hadn't seen any of the movies, and I was kind of shocked. I know Michael Kay hasn't seen any, that makes me think less of him. And I was in the park talking to a parent and they hadn't seen the movies. So I guess it's not a universal thing to see the movie, and love the space opera.

I was 10 when I saw the first Star Wars movie. The movies have imprinted on my psyche, and I passed on my love of the franchise to my children. My son liked the second trilogy, and saw himself as Anakin, and my younger son saw himself as Obi Wan.

I heard in one talk on Free Buddhist Audio, that one order member in the TBC wished he was a Jedi. I've sort of seen a parallel with Samurai, fighting for justice, through being mindful and cool headed.

One of the tattoos I would consider is the Jedi symbol. The unalome is a Buddhist symbol, but tattoos are not considered good in many Theravan countries, so I've decided not to get one, in the hopes that one day I would travel to one of those countries.

When the 3rd trilogy started to come out there was excitement at being able to see the movies again. My sons wished to see the latest movie with me, but because of availability there was a bit of a wait and one of my sons wanted to just see it. But we got to see it together.

As I sat in the theater before the movie, I had an almost pre-meditative stance of relaxing my body, tuning into my body, and committing to my object of focus. Instead of my breath, it would be the movie.

SPOILERS: The Rise of Skywalker

The movie reveals some interesting connections. Rey is the grandchild Palpatine. Rey chooses to be a Skywalker instead of a Palpatine. When they had the picture of Lea and Luke at the end, where she is choosing her parentage, I thought of the TBC refuge tree. As a Buddhist I choose to be inspired by the teachers of the past.

I realized Star Wars is more of a fantasy movie than a science fiction movie, and the increase in powers of the force helped clarify that for me. I wasn't aware healing was an aspect of it. Rey seems to have quite a lot of powers. The force was conceived by George Lucas as a non-denominational power of spirituality.

When I walked out, I wondered how to neutralize the Palpatine in Trump. I wish the fight between good and evil was that easy. That rallying the forces of good was pretty easy. They could do a whole movie about raising the troops to come fight the death star armada. I thought about D Day when the English helped a retreat, all those private boats coming to rescue the military across the channel. If only knocking out the coordinating things was as easy as knocking out one coordinating bit of technology. They transferred it to another ship but they knocked that out, so why not transfer it to another ship? Seemed a bit simple, I thought about the Borg Vinculum, and my friend making fun of that idea.

Anyway, it was a bonding activity with my sons like fishing or hunting might be to some fathers and sons. 

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Ovid's report of Pythagorean Vegetarianism from Metamorphosis

Bk XV:60-142 Pythagoras’s Teachings: Vegetarianism

There was a man here, Pythagoras, a Samian by birth, who had fled Samos and its rulers, and, hating their tyranny, was living in voluntary exile. Though the gods were far away, he visited their region of the sky, in his mind, and what nature denied to human vision he enjoyed with his inner eye. When he had considered every subject through concentrated thought, he communicated it widely in public teaching the silent crowds, who listened in wonder to his words, concerning the origin of the vast universe, and of the causes of things; and what the physical world is; what the gods are; where the snows arise; what the origin of lightning is; whether Jupiter, or the storm-winds, thunder from colliding clouds; what shakes the earth; by what laws the stars move; and whatever else is hidden; and he was the first to denounce the serving of animal flesh at table; the first voice, wise but not believed in, to say, for example, in words like these :
‘Human beings, stop desecrating your bodies with impious foodstuffs. There are crops; there are apples weighing down the branches; and ripening grapes on the vines; there are flavoursome herbs; and those that can be rendered mild and gentle over the flames; and you do not lack flowing milk; or honey fragrant from the flowering thyme. The earth, prodigal of its wealth, supplies you with gentle sustenance, and offers you food without killing or shedding blood.
Flesh satisfies the wild beast’s hunger, though not all of them, since horses, sheep and cattle live on grasses, but those that are wild and savage: Armenian tigers, raging lions, and wolves and bears, enjoy food wet with blood. Oh, how wrong it is for flesh to be made from flesh; for a greedy body to fatten, by swallowing another body; for one creature to live by the death of another creature! So amongst such riches that earth, the greatest of mothers, yields, you are not happy unless you tear, with cruel teeth, at pitiful wounds, recalling Cyclops’s practice, and you cannot satisfy your voracious appetite, and your restless hunger, unless you destroy other life!
But that former age, that we call golden, was happy with the fruit from the trees, and the herbs the earth produced, and did not defile its lips with blood. Then birds winged their way through the air in safety, and hares wandered, unafraid, among the fields, and its own gullibility did not hook the fish: all was free from trickery, and fearless of any guile, and filled with peace. But once someone, whoever he was, the author of something unfitting, envied the lion’s prey, and stuffed his greedy belly with fleshy food, he paved the way for crime. It may be that, from the first, weapons were warm and bloodstained from the killing of wild beasts, but that would have been enough: I admit that creatures that seek our destruction may be killed without it being a sin, but while they may be killed, they still should not be eaten.
From that, the wickedness spread further, and it is thought that the pig was first considered to merit slaughter because it rooted up the seeds with its broad snout, and destroyed all hope of harvest. The goat was led to death, at the avenging altar, for browsing the vines of Bacchus. These two suffered for their crimes! What did you sheep do, tranquil flocks, born to serve man, who bring us sweet milk in full udders, who give us your wool to make soft clothing, who give us more by your life than you grant us by dying? What have the oxen done, without guile or deceit, harmless, simple, born to endure labour?
He is truly thankless, and not worthy of the gift of corn, who could, in a moment, remove the weight of the curved plough, and kill his labourer, striking that work-worn neck with his axe, that has helped turn the hard earth as many times as the earth yielded harvest. It is not enough to have committed such wickedness: they involve the gods in crime, and believe that the gods above delight in the slaughter of suffering oxen! A victim of outstanding beauty, and without blemish (since to be pleasing is harmful), distinguished by sacrificial ribbons and gold, is positioned in front of the altar, and listens, unknowingly, to the prayers, and sees the corn it has laboured to produce, scattered between its horns, and, struck down, stains with blood those knives that it has already caught sight of, perhaps, reflected in the clear water.
Immediately they inspect the lungs, ripped from the still-living chest, and from them find out the will of the gods. On this (so great is man’s hunger for forbidden food) you feed, O human race! Do not, I beg you, and concentrate your minds on my admonitions! When you place the flesh of slaughtered cattle in your mouths, know and feel, that you are devouring your fellow-creature.’