Tag Archives: buddhism

december buddhist carnival – the not so fluffy edition

hello there. been looking forward to this edition of the buddhist carnival for quite a while because the last one was a bit on the stunted side, what with being busy with NaNoWriMo. so this month’s edition has a bit more meat on it; in fact, your teeth will get quite a nice workout. i’m calling this one the not-so-fluffy-edition for reasons that will become easily evident.

the poem!
we always start this with a poem. first zafu frog. thank you for contributing the poem this month, pithy and true:

there is a rule that man’s a fool,
he wants it hot when it’s cool.
he wants it cool when it’s hot.
always wanting what it’s not.

“i don’t know”
zen moments talks about not knowing. having been confronted, uncomfortably, with the question of “and what do you do?”, he finally found an answer:

it came to me in the shower, while absent-mindedly washing my hair, when i wasn’t trying to solve anything.

in anyone’s life, there are going to be times when everything seems to be going well, and when you have a sense of purpose, when you are clear about where you’re going in life.

but in the same life, there are also bound to be times when it’s not clear, times when you do not know. for some people these might be brief interludes. for others they might last longer, until things change.

but it’s impossible to have that kind of uninterrupted certainty for a whole lifetime.

so in anyone’s life, there are going to be times of not-knowing. and that has to be ok.

this reminds me once again of the best thing i took from seeing the dalai lama this year: his utter confidence in shrugging his shoulders, grinning, and saying, “i don’t know.”

ignoring vs. responding
at sword mountain, a blog that talks about zen and aikido, a question from a student regarding irritating questions.

the answer is non-trivial. to investigate this, you should consider this question from two points of view, your own and the questioner’s.

– from your own, ask: if i ignore a thought, where does it go?
– from another’s, ask: is ignoring a question not itself an answer?

once an something becomes part of your consciousness, you have no choice but to respond. so, how does one properly respond? zen looks for precisely the same thing that aikido does:

a clear, spontaneous, and appropriate response to your circumstances that restores harmony.

fake buddha quotes
bodhipaksa here does a noble deed – he throws light on a fake buddha quote:

“when words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”

like many fake buddha quotes, this one has a nice sentiment. the buddha often talked about the virtue of words being true and kind, but the language of “changing the world” is not something the buddha is recorded as using.

this deserves some thinking. the buddha talks about change as a condition, not as something that we engineer. at the non-phenomenal core rests changelessness; realizing that is what buddhists hope for, not changing the world. in the process of that realization, we notice that phenomena (words, weather, people, etc.) change. the bodhisattva – the person who has realized or fully comprehended changelessness – remains in the world of phenomena and works to do the right thing but she or he is not specifically intent on “changing the world”. one moment at a time, she or he feeds a homeless man, waters a sapling, pets a cat. she just does it. a changed (different?  better? more realized?) world is a side effect.

the connection with the title of my blog does not escape me, especially since i just wrote about it in my previous post.  definitely something to think about.  thanks for the inspiration, bodhipaksa!

fake buddha teachers
over in finland, at the possible way we have another blogger talking abot fake.  a bit of a rant, aptly titled  true zen (TM) – order your DVD right away!

sometimes some are thinking that buddhist practitioner should keep his/her mouth shut and close his/her eyes when others are doing terrible things against buddhism and other people. man, that is so lame… being a buddhist doesn’t mean that you have to close your eyes and cry in the corner

buddhism and the vikings
let’s stay in northern europe for a moment longer. zen dirt zen dust has a guest blogger who talks about the parallels between buddhism and asatru, a (revived) old norse religion

i am an asatruar. asatru, literally translates from old norse as “true to the gods”, is the modern revival of the old norse spiritual belief system.

i share with buddhists the notion that my actions have an immediate and lasting effect on myself, and by extension this world, and positive actions create a positive world. even though, to me, these actions may have implications in the next world, my primary concern is that beneficial actions benefit those close to me now, and detrimental actions are harmful to this world and to those i hold dear. much like buddhist philosophy, as i understand it, i am emphatically concerned with my impact on the world as it is now, and i strive to perform just and honorable actions for the sake of the world around me

no earth-shattering insights, just hard work and no expectations
the good people at the tricycle blog discuss the memoirs of former tibetan buddhist monk stephen schettini novice: why i became a buddhist monk, why i quit and what i learned. schettini is now the director of thequietmind.org and says

i don’t promise perfect peace, earth-shattering insight or transcendental breakthroughs. on the contrary, i ask my students to work hard, and especially to beware their own expectations. we’re all twenty-first century grownups and as much as we want to believe in easy solutions and magical formulas we know perfectly well that a down-to-earth approach will pay off more than all the mantras, visualizations and promises of enlightenment on the world wide web.

gentle, peaceful buddhists – an illusion?
the following is anything but a heartwarming story: it’s about a mob of buddhists attacking a christian church in sri lanka. at the american buddhist, there is an insightful comment on it. the writer was working at a military hospital in sri lanka and met a young soldier who wanted to become a suicide bomber and kill tamils.

this soldier was ordained as a monk when he was five years old and spent his time until the age of 18 in various temples in kandy, ampitiya and colombo. he told me that since he entered the robes most of the nights he was sexually molested by older monks. some nights he was raped by five or six monks. he disrobed and joined the military as an escape route. the traumatized soldier focused his anger not towards his abusers but towards the tamils. after hearing this firsthand account whenever i see monks go in to violent protests i suspect the elements of sexual trauma.

while this is sad and alarming, it serves as a reminder that just calling yourself buddhist doesn’t do a thing. buddhist, hindu, baptist, atheist – we’re all capable of committing atrocities. “we” – that includes me. if i don’t keep my awareness sharpened and my heart soft, i, too, can fall into the trap of violence – subtle or otherwise.

losing more illusions
how does one reinvigorate one’s practice after losing the illusions that brought one to practice in the first place? hard core zen has something to say about that. it’s a different kind of illusion than the one alluded to above – it’s the one that many of us first had when we started tinkering with meditation and buddhism. the neat (and sometimes infuriating) thing about buddhism is that it helps lose all illusions – the ones we don’t like but also the ones that decorate our lives with cute stickers and fluffy rainbows.

working with people who are homeless
another story about someone who decided to stare reality straight in the eye, about a lot of things. this woman’s experience with buddhist communities have been mixed.

she would have continued living at the zen center, but she began to run into problems there.

when the zen center asked her to train a group of beginning monks to assist with the homeless meditation program, drakka pushed back. “how do you train people to be alright with homelessness?” she refused.

fortunately, that didn’t deter her. this is a great article on how jana drakka keeps working with people who are homeless, regardless of the obstacles.

15 women bloggers
finally, here’s a list of 15 great women buddhist bloggers.

that’s it for this month. hope you found a little tidbit that can accompany you on your path. good day buddha, good day dharma, good day sangha.

image by @No4

november 2009 buddhist carnival

middle of the month: it’s buddhist carnival time! being all busy with NaNoWriMo, this is a quickie version – a little taste from the blogosphere, a buddhist smorgasbrod:

a zen tale from secret forest

the disciple threw stones in the water all day long. the next day, the master told him:
“do throw a stone in the water.
“why, that’s absurd! i won’t do that.
the air stood still like the surface of the lake.
“what have you learned today? ” asked the master.
“that i don’t have to do everything you tell me to do.
the neutral light unveiled a matte reflection of the leafs of the medlar tree.
“it’s a lot more than you learned yesterday.

***

we all tried so hard. and it didn’t seem we wound up any more loving or enlightened, just uptight. i remember how we disapproved of those who’d given up their vows, stopped being monks. “he disrobed!” people would say in a voice hushed and aghast, as if the guy had been waggling his private parts in a schoolyard.

that’s part of a very interesting entry by guttersnipe das about wrestling with spirituality.

***

dharmafied offers a video of the compassion mudra.

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learning from a cat: from on the training floor

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idra’s net = internet? need i say more?

***

zen and the art of playing pool from my twitter friend, barking unicorn

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what happens when you get impacted by no impact man:

do you know this expression, “i’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs?” it’s a british expression. you know like when you don’t have any teeth and you’re like that (mimics gumming food) it’s like sucking eggs. so if you teach your grandmother to suck eggs, you’re teaching your grandmother to do something she already knows how to do? so when i say this to you, you already know this…

there’s no antagonism between living happily and living environmentally.

***

and finally, a bit of blasphemy from mind on fire.

image by heiwa

blog action day: buddhists and climate change

once again, blog action day and the october buddhist carnival fall on the same date. let me present to you, then, a few colourful strands from that corner of the blogosphere where buddhism and climate change intersect.

icebergs are buddhist monks
we always start that buddhist carnival with a poem. here is an excerpt from yann martel’s long poem that was part of guy laliberte’s poetic social mission which he broadcast from space. it features a water drop speaking:

icebergs are buddhist monks i send forth,
released into the world from the great monasteries of the poles.
their mantra is the blue light humming within their frozen cores.
their message is peace and oneness,
but alas they simply vanish.
every year monks leave me and never return.

read the rest here.

how much impact?
one of the criticisms that guy laliberte received was that he frivolously spent millions on his space trip, money that could have been spent much more wisely down on earth. the next article is in a similar vein. one city is one of beliefnet’s buddhist blogs. the next post is a discussion of colin beavan’s no impact man. paul griffin, the author of this blog entry, mentions another review of the book by elizabeth kolbert

kolbert, a seasoned environmental reporter (her 2006 three-part series “the climate of man” was terrific), sharply criticizes beavan’s project, calling it a “stunt” and “shtick.” she compares beavan’s book, along with alisa smith and james mackinnon’s “plenty: eating locally on the 100 mile diet” and vanessa farquharson’s “sleeping naked is green: how an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 266 days,” to thoreau’s “walden.” she claims that all of these books, thoreau’s included, are mere stunts.

griffin uses this criticism to muse on the perhaps false dichotomy between personal and political activism. is the no impact man, who spent a year leaving as small of an ecological footprint as possible just middle-class cute? or does his influence reach deeper? it’s a question that most of us bleeding-heart-do-gooders often ask ourselves. i don’t think there is an easy answer bit i also think it’s an important question to revisit once in a while.

buddhist declaration on climate change – walking the noble eightfold path
towards froglessness discusses the buddhist declaration on climate change and points out how the noble eightfold path lays out ways in which it can be walked in an environmentally conscious way, for example

right mindfulness – we have a responsibility to use the world’s resources carefully, with gratitude, and to share examples of good practice

right concentration – we have a responsibility to focus on the issues at the heart of our modern malaise, both spiritual and material

who is nature?
andre from belarus – it’s nice to have a voice from outside north america – gives a general overview over a buddhist answer to the climate challenge, citing thich nhat hanh:

we classify other animals and living beings as nature, acting as if we ourselves are not part of it. then we pose the question ”how should we deal with nature?” we should deal with nature the way we should deal with ourselves; we should not harm nature… human beings and nature are inseparable.

nonduality
the vancouver buddhist fellowship, a socially engaged local group, also talks about nonduality – the nonduality of ecology and economy, pointing out that

what motivates our economic system is the drive to use anything and everything (now “natural resources,” including “human resources”) to create something that is really nothing. we don’t usually notice the absurdity of this because we are preoccupied with the more and more that the system produces. the fact that so many of us already have more than we need is addressed by manipulating our awareness, in increasingly sophisticated ways, so that we always want something else that we don’t yet have. it’s always the next _______ (fill in the blank) that will satisfy us.

max frisch said that technology is the knack of arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it. that’s why modern technologies fit so well with consumer capitalism, which works to transform the whole biosphere into consumer goods. together they are making mother earth into a gigantic walmart.

duality
paul gilding at ecobuddhism, on the other hand, talks about duality – the crazy-making experience of looking at what science seems to clearly indicate on the one hand, and what happens in many boardrooms on the other hand:

it is very clear when you listen to these scientists and read their peer-reviewed reports that, on any calm and rational analysis, we should be preparing for a carbon reduction war. yes, a war – with all that implies about focus, effort and sacrifice. the threat posed is, after all, a “clear and present danger” and the response should be strong, global and immediate. this should be a ‘whatever it takes’ moment.

then i shift into the parallel universe. i spend time in corporate boardrooms and listen to the analysis of business executives who explain how we mustn’t damage the economy by “over-reacting”. they explain their concern about protecting jobs and economic growth, how we must not jeopardise “our” (insert india, china, south africa, USA, australia etc) national competitiveness by acting “early” because, after all, without a global solution what difference will our actions make anyway?

(thanks for reminding me of this blog, george!)

the himalayas, part 1

apa sherpa , the world record holder for mt. everest ascents, has once again scaled the world’s tallest peak, but this time as a member of WWF nepal’s climate for life project.

apa reached the summit on the 21st of may as part of a ten person team, six of whom made it to the top. the idea behind this project was twofold. one to highlight climate change and place a holy bhumpa at the peak personally blessed by the venerable rinpoche of tengboche (buddhist spiritual leader). (the bhumpa is an eight-inch tall copper-made sacred vase which contains 400 elements including precious metals, buddhist relics, shreds of robes worn by venerated monks, holy water and soil, among other things).

the rest of the article is here http://cycleforchange.wordpress.com/2009/05/25/climate-for-lifes-apa-sherpa-reaches-the-peak-of-everest-for-the-19th-time/

the himalayas, part 2

[in december of 2008,] high up in leh, ladakh, one of the most remote and mountainous areas of india, over 1,500 people gathered for a beautiful display of their concern for climate change and their call for a world returned to less than 350 ppm co2.

ladakh, like more and more places around the globe, is already facing real challenges in face of climate change ” unpredictable weather, floods, and the prospects of diminished water supply from glacial melt. all this and more, is reason enough for the people of ladakh to stand up and call for bold action around the world as they did today.

a bit more wisdom, please
the wisdom quarterly american buddhist journal features a number of articles on climate change. while they are interesting (for example, an article on climate change in canada’s nunavut, formerly known as northwest territories, and another article on how climate change nurtures the growth of diseases) they are reprints from news services, not original articles. it would be interesting to have a commentary on the wisdom quarterly’s buddhist views of these world events (i’m thinking of the good work alexander does in this area with his commentaries from a baha’i view.)

***

what do you/i/we take from all this? nonduality and duality; the personal and the political; water and ice; mountains, higher than most can imagine, and stuffy, air-conditioned boardrooms. what would buddha do? what IS buddha doing?

the dalai lama in vancouver

last week i had the pleasure again to see the dalai lama. the topic of the talk was women and peacebuilding. i’d like to share with you my notes, taken down as closely as possible in his delightful language.

this is the third time i’ve seen the dalai lama. one of the things that i enjoy about these talks is that they always underscore the same message, but from a slightly different angle. also, simply being in the presence of the dalai lama (even when he falls asleep partway through the session, as he did this time, so exhausted from his super demanding schedule) is inspiring. not because he is grave and religious. he is the funniest head of state i’ve ever encountered; a trickster, really. you know that smile that he always shows? it’s the smile not only of happiness but of someone who delights in having fun and making jokes, and that comes through all the time in his talks. and like any true comedian, he is irreverent, he always looks at the status quo and says, “hmmmmmmmmmm ….”.

another thing i absolutely love about him is the ease with which he says, “i don’t know.” wouldn’t it be wonderful if more people in authority would simply say “i don’t know” when they don’t have an immediate answer to a question? no spinning, no ignoring the question and talking about something totally different, no pretending you know … so refreshing!

the quotes below reflect in a small way, i hope, the dalai lama’s commitment to compassion, his view on the role of anger, the importance he places on motivation, his urging us to take action, his deep respect for diversity, his global thinking, and his deep passion for the environment, the alleviation of poverty, and the central place of education.

the dalai lama will be back next year, i hear. we here in vancouver are very lucky to have been chosen by him as the dalai lama center for peace and education.

compassion practitioner

some anger also have role

harsh method does not mean we feel anger towards the person

anger immediate motivation

be content and still outraged

serious concern for wellbeing of humanity

anything that is harmful, you oppose

“what is your greatest fear?” “environment. gap between rich and poor, not only on international level but also on national level.”

frustration creates anger, sometimes violence

the female? good talk, i like it

they call me many things. god king, living buddha, monster, feminist – don’t matter

if no more dalai lama – no important

in case female dalai lama can be more effective – why not?

where is compassion? in the slums

media should pay equal attention to the positive things

“do you feel optimistic about the world?” “oh yes! our life starts with compassion! our life begin with lovingkindness”

this body go well with peaceful mind

we need motivation

compassion really also from the beginning to the time of death

human nature gentleness

whenever i meet young people, i give them hope and importance

peace starts within ourself. then that creates a certain atmosphere

will we be an extremist for love?

the facts should be written down, and then there will be a change in consciousness

everything tight, fear, distress: no creativity

there must be opportunity to express human potential

different country, different situation

whole world become like one community, then implement local situation – but same goal

i want to say yes to everything!

research and education very essential



image by elton melo

buddhist carnival – september 2009 edition

welcome to the september edition of the buddhist carnival, where we showcase treasures from the buddhasphere. today we have compassion and helping hands, cockcroaches, sleep, returning to the centre and a bunch of (no)selves. as always, let’s start off with a poem:

we dance around in a ring and suppose;
but the secret sits in the middle, and knows.
– robert frost

thank you, zenbananas, for giving this to the buddhasphere.

compassion – even when it is difficult

this blogger extends compassion to the person who ended the life of george tiller, who died earlier this year because of his commitment to helping women who need abortions

in mahayana buddhism, the bodhisattva kshitigarbha, best known by his japanese name of jizo, is the helper of beings who suffer in the hell realms and of children who die before their parents, including those who are stillborn, miscarried, or aborted. for the past day i have been thinking that jizo will protect dr. tiller, who did his best for the unborn whom jizo helps to good rebirths. as i was reading about him this morning, i realized that jizo will help the doctor’s murderer, too, if he wants to get out of the hell he’s in.

for the rest of the entry, read here.

and the new heretic makes friends with cockroaches

instead of swatting at and smashing and scurrying about the roaches so i could paint, i simply talked to them (yes i talked to them) or at other times just waited and thought kind words towards them, and asked them to move so i could paint… and they moved out of the way.

buddha’s judas

saradode shares an interesting dream; she reflects it was about betrayal, and makes a connection between the biblical judas and bddha’s brother-in-law, devadatta

as for devadatta, the scriptures…assign him a role that is similar to judas in the gospel story.

i understood right away that this was what my dream had been about. i kept reading, and came to the story. devadatta had become (or had always been) egotistical and ambitious, and wanted to take control of the sangha from buddha. he plotted to kill him, but that didn’t work.

the book described how devadatta then “decamped” with 500 or so of buddha’s monks, whom he had convinced that buddha had become “given over to luxury and self-indulgence.” as i read that part, my lip began to twitch quite violently (one of his ways of getting my attention), and i saw, again, “last supper.”

devadatta’s plan, however, failed, and the monks returned to buddha. the next thing i read stunned me:

some texts tell us that devadatta committed suicide; others that he died before he was able to be reconciled with the buddha.

this dream really intrigued me. my first thought was, how do we betray ourselves in life-denying ways?

return to centre

a beautiful image and a few quick thoughts on this topic:

“things get crazy and we forget to work from our center.”

so, i began to think, “how can i start to do that again?”

well, tonight, grace summed it up at the beginning of our meditation practice at blue heron sangha.

“tonight we begin as we hear the sound of the bell, returning to our center.”

somehow the realization came that we begin to work from our center again by returning to our center. and, how do we do that?

start with something simple. pay attention to something. anything. breath is always good.

sleeping and samsara

liza solomonova, a graduate psychology student from montreal, blogs about sleep, dreams, and states of consciousness. in this post she reports on allan wallace’s shamatha project

the goal of such practice is to experience the subtle level of consciousness, a ‘substrate consciousness’ from all mental stuff originates and into which it essentially returns. every one of us experiences this ‘substrate consciousness’ when in deep sleep, in dreamless state, there is no identity, no imagery, virtually nothing, as if our ‘self’ is dissolved into something more basic. similarly at the moment of death, according to buddhist thought, we experience this subtle essential state of consciousness. in a metaphorical way, we die every time we enter deep sleep. and then… from that subtle consciousness, from that non-discursive state – dream arises! a whole world, a whole new and compelling identity (it is new if you are not lucid dreaming, of course) is ‘born’, and with it a whole range of emotions, feelings, sensations and so on. as the first rem cycle is over, we ‘die’ again, return to the deep sleep. and then another dream arises, and with it a whole new world, which probably has nothing to do with the previous dream world, and is only marginally related to the world of our waking life. and then we die again…

the self – what self?

in a fabulous (and long) interview with zen teacher shinzen young, interspersed with illuminating videos, har prakash khalsa delights us with shinzen young’s take on the nature of the self and enlightenment as it is perceived in buddhism, hinduism, christianity and the jewish tradition. here are a few excerpts from his thoughts on the self:

hpk – when you say “the perception that a thing inside us called a self” goes away, do you mean completely away?

szy – the ambiguity is the word perception. the actual word is ditti in pali, or drishti in sanskrit, which i think you know means “view”, literally. in this context ditti or drishti refers to a fundamental paradigm, or concept about something. so in this case perception is perhaps not the best word. it’s more like the fundamental conviction that there is a thing inside us called a self disappears. according to the traditional formulation after enlightenment that never comes back. however, if by perception of self we mean momentarily being caught in one’s sense of self, that happens to enlightened people over and over again, but less and less as enlightenment deepens and matures.

i like to analyze subjective experience into three sensory elements: feel (emotional-type body sensations), image (visual-thinking) and talk (auditory-thinking). those sensory elements continue to arise for an enlightened person forever. sometimes when the feel-image-talk arises the enlightened person is momentarily caught in them but even though they’re caught in that, some part of them still knows it’s not a thing called self. that knowing never goes away. the frequency, duration and intensity of identifying with feel-image-talk diminishes as the months and years go on as you go through deeper and deeper levels of enlightenment. there are exceptions, but typically it takes months, years, indeed decades learning how not to get caught in feel-image-talk when it arises.

so to sum it up, what disappears at enlightenment is a viewpoint or perception that there is a thing inside this body-mind process called self.

… and more (or less) self …

ambud has a series of posts on critics of buddhism. here he, too, reflects on the idea of no-self, a concept that is hard to grasp for anyone, let alone critics who typically haven’t spent a lot of time steeping themselves in buddhist ideas.

the author stumbles and misstates his argument by equating anatta with nonexistence. buddhism isn’t nihilistic, anatta refers to soul-lessness; the idea of non-self in the ultimate sense. anatta isn’t an argument against a ‘self’ as defined by physical properties etc., of which we are all aware, it is instead, a statement about that which has no inherent existence, that which is caused.

if you have any articles you’d like to see here, let me know. the next edition comes out on october 15.

image by axel buehrmann

august 2009 buddhist carnival

here’s the buddhist carnival again! last month my blog was still sick and the carnival didn’t happen. glad to be back for august. the buddhist carnival is a romp / surf / drive / ride through the buddhist blogosphere (blugghasphere?) and today’s menu brings you posts on music, fashion, family, war, wishy-washy buddhism, persisting through the agony of sesshin, homelessness and creativity.

buddhist rap
we always start with a poem. this is from a paper entitled buddhism in music – a bit longer than your typical blog post but well worth the read. he includes the lyrics by british rapper maxi jazz, a follower of the nichiren (SGI) path.

my story stops here. let’s be clear,
this scenario is happening everywhere.
and you ain’t going to nirvana or “far-vana”,
you’re coming right back here to live out your karma
with even more drama
than previously. seriously.

buddhists on the catwalk
from chaplain danny:

the associated press has a story today about buddhist monks in japan “[hitting] the catwalk in tokyo…in a bid to spread buddhism among younger people in this rapidly aging society.”

reaching out to family
the ex-bipolar buddhist, a fellow canadian, reprints a moving letter to his family. it’s such an old story: more often than not, we tend to take our families for granted, or even shy away from them. when that family is truly toxic, that may be a good idea. but many families are just – well, normal. garden-variety dysfunctional. busy. a bit indifferent. not quite who we’d have for close friends. in that case, reaching out to them, reminding ourselves of our bonds, is a beautiful and in a way heroic thing. here’s a bit from the letter:

the only way to feel loved is in the present moment, and we are only able to act with mindfulness in the present moment.

i won’t be able to tell you i love you after i’m gone. and i won’t be able to give you the answers or the love you need and deserve. i can only do that now.

emasculated by buddhism?
the new heretic vents on what some might call wishy-washy buddhism. there is an interesting conversation in the comment section where, among others, c4chaos takes me to task on my use of the concept of the middle road.

truth does set us free, but noted that all of their examples were warm and fuzzy, flowery, and that the truth is not always that way. truth is truth. sometimes it is not flowers and sunshine. the truth is that person who you are afraid of hurting you, may, in fact, hurt you. or, to take the opposite position, you may be deluding yourself into thinking that someone is good for you when the truth is that they are bad for you. the truth is that you may be overweight, maybe that other person is more attractive than you, and maybe your sister is going to always score just a little bit higher than you on that test in school. so what? really, so what? that truth is also liberating, and can set you free. isn’t the point to embrace reality? being trapped by irrational fears that are holding you back from enjoying real life is delusion. however, fooling yourself into thinking that life is a bed of roses all the time a delusion that holds you back as well. embrace the reality of the situation, and then you can effectively deal with your shit.

seriously, i think there has to be more “suck-it-up-ness” and “deal-with-it-ness” in the practice.

read here for the rest.

sarah palin and a vow
no need for comment here, i’d say:

i, lazybuddhist, vow to avoid any and all coverage of sarah palin. i shall refrain from participating in discussions about her, and in particular giving into my urge to rant about her. my hatred of her only diminishes me. the energy that would be expended in palin bashing can be much better channeled into something positive and worthwhile.

want to read more? here it is.

the agony of sesshin
genkaku’s blog is one of my favourite spots in the blogosphere. today he speaks of something that has been a huge challenge for me ever since i started meditating back in 1969: the discomfort of sitting in meditation. he compares it to the pain of childbirth:

without trying to compare levels of agony, anyone who has been to a sesshin or extended zen buddhist retreat has probably felt some of the same writhing wrath as the crossed legs burn like fire or the sorrow seems unbearable. who the fuck dreamed this up?!

and yet …

women have more than one child.
zen students go to another sesshin.

analysis (selective amnesia, virtue, greed, etc.) doesn’t interest me much in this realm. what interests me is what actually-factually happens. in the face of what happens now, ‘meaning’ and ‘explanation’ can piss up a rope. analysis can take a hike. whether agonizing or glorious … this is it.

and we do it again.

buddhism – maybe not as peaceful as we always thought
buddhism is all about awakening to reality, isn’t it? ok, so here’s a piece of reality:

buddhism has always been portrayed as the religion of peace. “there has never been a buddhist war,” i’ve heard many times over the years. when the sakya kingdom was threatened with invasion, the buddha sat in meditation in the path of the soldiers, stopping the attack. when the indian king asoka converted to buddhism, he curtailed his military escapades and erected peace pillars. when the dharma came to tibet, it is said that the barbaric tribes were pacified. during the vietnam war, buddhist monks set themselves on fire to protest the fighting.

and now a new study emerges that will radically shake up this view of buddhism. zen at war is a courageous and exhaustively researched book by brian victoria, a western soto zen priest and instructor at the university of auckland. victoria reveals the inside story of the japanese zen establishment’s dedicated support of the imperial war machine from the late 1800’s through world war ii. he chronicles in detail how prominent zen leaders perverted the buddhist teaching to encourage blind obedience, mindless killing, and total devotion to the emperor. the consequences were catastrophic and the impact can still be felt today.

here is the rest of this book review.

bearing witness to homelessness
over the weekend of july 17, 18, & 19 a poet, a zen priest, an industrial designer, a mental health professional and a manager of a soup kitchen took to the streets of boston to bear witness to its homeless.

we only took the clothes on our back, no money, no bedding, no tooth brush, no jewelry, no credit cards, & no desire to do anything but aimlessly meander for three days throughout the city of boston. what did we find there? parts of ourselves that we did not know existed.

buddhism, creativity and the arts
and we come back to the beginning. this event sounds very exciting; i hope we’ll have something like that here in vancouver one day. i signed up with the ning group right away.

the focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between buddhist thought/practice and creativity with specific reference to the arts. does buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? the theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. the event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds buddhist and non-buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. the exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with buddhism.

if you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to www.dharmaarts.ning.com/ – the site of the dharma arts network (dan) which was launched at the conference, or the london buddhist arts centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.

what are we going to have for the september buddhist carnival? i don’t know. but if all goes as planned, it’ll be on the 15th.

june 2009 buddhist carnival

kuan yin in the grassfor those of you who are not familiar with this blog, every 15th of the month i post a collection of posts about buddhist topics.  it all started as a contribution to blog carnival in november 2007.  over time, i emancipated myself from blog carnival but the name remains.  blog carnivals are themed “readers digests” of the blogosphere.

so – what do we have today?

a poem – wu!

first link, as always, a poem.  this is from an article on philip whalen’s poetry at the poetry foundation.  here’s a little teaser

unless i ask i am not alive
until i find out who is asking
i am only half alive and there is only

wu!
(an ingrown toenail?)

growing up buddhist

jaimal, author of saltwater buddha, a book that looks at the spiritual side of surfing, had an interesting article in the buddhist magazine tricycle a while ago about growing up in a hippie family

my rebellion was characterized by a nuanced differentiation strategy of the karl rove variety: i framed my parents as flaky new age hippies with buddhist leanings-the spirit rock type. i sneered at my mom’s angel books and my dad’s yoga guru, who changed his name every few months. meanwhile, i would break free of their fluffiness and be the real deal. i would become a northern california buddhist without a trace of hippiness, an endeavor that i now realize could be compared to living in france and shunning cheese.

the full article is here.

decency is the absence of strategy

william harryman, who has contributed much to this carnival, had an interesting little tidbit on his friendfeed the other day from chögyam trungpa rinpoche:

it is of utmost importance to realize that the warrior’s approach should be simple-minded sometimes, very simple and straightforward. that makes it very beautiful: you having nothing up your sleeve; therefore a sense of genuineness comes through. that is decency.

gay men, straight women, non-duality and kuan yin

here is a reference to some research that points out the similarity between certain functions  in the brains of gay men and straight women.  the author then makes a noteworthy connection between this finding and androgyny in buddhism:

one of the most revered figures in buddhism, avalokiteshvara is often seen as androgynous. in the form of avalokiteshvara this bodhisattva is seen as a man but when referred to as guan yin (kuan yin/kannon) he/she is seen as a woman. this makes total sense to me as avalokiteshvara/guan yin is seen as the bodhisattva of compassion and thus seems perfectly natural as that compassion is spread to all beings equally regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

avalokiteshvara/kuan yin is literally the embodiment of non-duality in regards to sexuality.

the rest of this article is here, on the buddhist blog.

dr. monster and buddhism as a religion

an interesting article at god knows what on the history behind the religious aspects of japanese buddhism today, as describedin this excerpt:

the day-to-day life of buddhist priests of all sects was filled with the performance of exorcisms, funerals, distributing healing charms, and spells for rain. many of these rituals were for intended for apotropiac purposes, banishing monsters, limiting their negative effects, or transforming the curses of ancestors and kami into blessings.

(what might surprise people is that with the removal of certain rituals like ‘spells for rain’ this description still largely applies to the day-to-day life of buddhist priests and monks in most buddhist countries, including japan.)

western, eastern and psychiatric buddhism

buddhism.about.com brings up a number of worthwhile points in response to our own douglas todd, religion writer at the vancouver sun:

douglas todd of the vancouver sun (see also “we’re cool!“) has another interesting commentary, this time on buddhism and psychiatry. he notes that for the past several years all manner of prominent buddhists and prominent psychiatrists and psychologists have been coming up with buddhist-related practices to promote good mental health hygiene.

todd makes two points. one, he says, the psychotherapists don’t acknowledge that “ideals such as compassion, respecting human dignity, overcoming negative emotions and practicing awareness” are also found in judaism, christianity and islam. “practicing loving kindness, for instance, is the central teaching of jesus and the church.”

generosity

genkaku is one of my favourite buddhist writers; my husband and i have been following him for years.  his words are always light and full of common sense.  here he talks about generosity:

in buddhism, there is a suggestion that its followers engage in “dana” or giving/generosity. on the face of it, it sounds very much like dropping a buck in the christian plate during sunday services. and there’s nothing wrong with that either — donating to monks or nuns or beggars or institutions that uphold a convincing direction or faith.

but today i wonder if the most profound act of generosity does not lie in this: to offer yourself as best you can.

it’s a little tricky, since in order to offer yourself, you would first have to know who you were.

always maintain a joyful mind

linda lewis offers the lojong slogan: always maintain a joyfulmind and reflects:

when we are sick or in debt or experiencing loss or difficulties, we know from experience that neither complaining nor blaming helps.  we know that despair only solidifies the problem.  that is why sakyong mipham rinpoche advises us “to practice more when we have difficulties, and to practice more when we have life changes.”

then, rather than emoting and over-loading others with our latest greatest drama, we face the music, and are better able to deal with our troubles.  as mipham rinpoche also says, “some problems can be solved by talking…but some things are solved by not talking. that’s called practice.”

meditation practice

c4chaos explains his algorithmic approach to meditation:

step 1: focus out – i focus on the sensations of the breath. i note the sensation of the “rising” and “falling” of the abdomen. when attention wanders i note it and then gently go back to noting the sensation of the rising and falling. sooner or later awareness shifts or deepens.

if i feel a sense of deep relaxation, i proceed to step 2.

if i feel a sense of vibrations or waves, i proceed to step 3.

step 2: focus on rest – i focus on the restful sensations of the body and note it as “relaxed.” i then place some attention on the darkness/brightness in front of my closed eyes and note it as “blank.” i alternate between noting “relaxed” and “blank.” then i let go… sooner or later awareness shifts or deepens.

if concentration is poor and keeps wavering, i go back to step 1.

if i feel a sense of vibrations or waves, i proceed to step 3.

step 3: focus on change – i focus on the vibratory/wave sensations. i note it as “flow”, “expansion”, “contraction”, and “gone.” from here i just let go, ride out and surrender to the vibratory sensations while noting it as best as i can.  sooner or later awareness shifts and the vibratory sensations disappear.

if concentration is poor and keeps wavering, i go back to step 1.

if i feel a sense of deep relaxation, i proceed to step 2.

that’s it. simple as pie

that’s it for this month.  see you back on july 15!

image by mags

self-discipline

a small child learns self discipline through aikido, a type of martial artskerr cuhulain is my favourite wiccan author so i was delighted to find out he now has a blog. kerr cuhulain believes in cultivating virtues (he calls them codes of chivalry), and proposes to focus on a specific one every month.

may is related to self discipline.  in thinking about that, i looked around the net to see what others have to say about it.

for example, alfi questions the ideas behind self discipline, especially in a teaching context, and  peter bankart compares western psychotherapy with buddhist approaches, linking the concept of self-discipline to right effort.

but as so often, steve pavlina takes the cake.  i don’t know why i don’t read his blog more often (hm, would that be part of self discipline?) – the guy is a genius in the way he clarifies concepts and encourages action.  he has a whole series on self-discipline.

here he compares the development of self discipline to developing muscle.

if you can only lift 10 lbs, you can only lift 10 lbs. there’s no shame in starting where you are. i recall when i began working with a personal trainer several years ago, on my first attempt at doing a barbell shoulder press, i could only lift a 7-lb bar with no weight on it. my shoulders were very weak because i’d never trained them. but within a few months i was up to 60 lbs.

similarly, if you’re very undisciplined right now, you can still use what little discipline you have to build more. the more disciplined you become, the easier life gets. challenges that were once impossible for you will eventually seem like child’s play. as you get stronger, the same weights will seem lighter and lighter.

don’t compare yourself to other people. it won’t help. you’ll only find what you expect to find. if you think you’re weak, everyone else will seem stronger. if you think you’re strong, everyone else will seem weaker. there’s no point in doing this. simply look at where you are now, and aim to get better as you go forward.

oh, and when i was about ready to post list little entry, i checked out @spiver on twitter today, who is working on a self-discipline project for a month.  among other things, she offers this quote by david allen, of getting things done fame:

stress comes from breaking your commitments to yourself

okay, i’m going to get off the computer now and do some things i have promised myself to do.

what about you?

image by felipe vieira