a buddhist carnival, 8th edition

a buddha statueit’s july 15th – buddhist carnival day! here’s what we have.

the face before you were born
as usual, i like to start with a poem, and want to thank linda for sending one. i am quite taken by how she ties the experience of becoming a grandmother with the buddhist idea about “the face before you were born”

“this could feel a little cold,”
the ultrasound technician warns,
warming the electrodes”or something
more benign”to place upon my daughter’s
swelling belly, bringing life to the idea
of her yet unborn child, at twelve weeks
now revealed”

a nimble gymnast, flexing, leaping, kicking
in a dark internal sea…sound waves coursing
tides within the muscular gymnasium,
and there,

upon the screen, a face appears”
the face you wore before you were born.

cold waves, heavier than light, unveil
the secret sac in which you float and dance:
a private glimpse through some impossible

your face swims into view”an upturned nose
and certain gaze, before your soul has met
its match in union with such princely flesh;
a clay-vessel bobbing briefly in a red river,
soon to be caught in the rushes and rescued
to our world, this side of deliverance.

read here for the rest, and go here to look at that little face.

what’s buddhism, and what isn’t?
chris from martial development, one of my favourite contributors to this carnival, has a fantastic article about what is and isn’t zen. i want to stand up and clap loudly, yes, yes yes!!! by the way, he, too, remembers the face linda speaks of.
the contrasts chris offers are, in my mind, pretty clear cut. an old koan is zen, a body lotion is not zen. i get that.

i’d be interested, though, in a discussion about the grayer areas. there was an article in tricycle, the buddhist magazine, about the topic a while ago: if a fashionable guru sweeps into town and offers all kinds of little “how to become a buddhist in 5 steps” workshops, how good is that for buddhism? are people helped by being introduced to (hopefully) useful concepts, or are they hindered by getting a false impression of buddhism? (btw, questions like this can be raised in other contexts, as well. for example, i’m reminded of an interesting conversation on josh bancroft’s blog about the intent versus the business of information technology)

at any rate, for now i heartily recommend you look at chris’ article.
another example are people on the internet who show an interest in concepts that are often associated with buddhism, without necessarily going deeply into the more traditional texts, philosophy and practices of buddhism. hueina su, one of my oldest blogging friends, had submitted an article featuring jill bolte taylor’s interesting experience with a shift of consciousness: nirvana is only a thought away. she says this

to have inner peace and balance, you need to make a conscious choice to live in the present moment. when you are completely “in the moment”, there is no stress.

how similar is this and the rest of what she says in her article to ch’an master hsin yun’s poem, star and cloud?

star and cloud

by hsing yun

i love the starry sky at nighttime,
i adore the fluttering clouds during daytime.
no matter what kind of night we see,
there will always be stars in the sky,
no matter what kind of day we face,
there will always be clouds in the sky.
sparks of starlight extend the boundaries of life,
masses of cloud symbolize freedom in life;
beautiful flowers cannot remain blooming forever,
the shiny moon cannot be full all the time.
only stars! they will be glittering and shining forever bright.
blue skies cannot appear clear all the time,
the sun that generates warmth will never leave its orbit.
only clouds! they will never be intercepted but float freely up high.
at nighttime, there are glittering stars,
and at daytime, there will be floating clouds.

i would also like to thank the authors of the following articles:

what is tithing?
religion: bondage and freedom
is the ego necessary for survival?

that’s it for july. if you have a post about buddhism, please submit it here for the next carnival. it’s scheduled for august 15, 2008.


(image by cataua

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