Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nansen cuts the cat...


Ms. Palin is getting ready for the debate at a time of enormous uncertainty about a highly complicated issue, the unfolding crisis on Wall Street, which makes preparing for the face off especially hard.

And the McCain campaign appears to be leaving nothing to chance. Ms. Palin will spend her preparation time at Mr. McCain’s vacation compound in Sedona, with her husband and children.

I guess they don't have to go to school.


If you get beyond the cultural bias, you might see something...

But none of Nansen's monks can say a word and he kills the cat. Is it fair to kill a living creature just to make dramatic point? A fair question, but one that will toss you right back into the midst of the monks' original argument.

That night when Nansen tells Joshu what happened, Joshu immediately puts his sandals on his head and walks out. What do you make of that? How is putting your sandals on your head "saying a word" of Zen? The danger here, of course, is if we think Joshu's gesture has some deep, esoteric "Zen" meaning. People have interpreted that gesture in all sorts of ways. Some say it's a way of illustrating how topsy-turvy the arguing monks thinking was. In Aitken Roshi's commentary on the case, he says that in old China putting your sandals on your head could be a show of mourning. Maybe a Catholic would automatically make the sign of the cross when hearing about a death. Whatever it "means," it was simply Joshu's spontaneous response to the story, and the immediacy of that response stands in stark contrast to the monks (who up until then had no shortage of words) standing around speechless when asked to "say a word".

Traditionally, Nansen and Joshu are said to each wield a sword: Nansen the sword that kills; Joshu the sword that gives life. Nansen's sword cuts through all thought, all dualism. Nothing is left. What then? Joshu shows how we must respond from that place of no thought. It's not enough to empty our heads of dualistic thinking, we must act.

And, no, no way, no how, the kid's education is not less important than whether Ms. Palin can get to snooker Americans and wind up vice president; she's still snookering Americans.

Life is still suffering, and may be imposed for any of a variety of reasons or no reason at all.

Let's say a word at the right time.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't get me wrong:

Kenshou (見性) really does happen. It'd be a big deal, except for the fact that it's damned true that nothing changes as a result of it (nor needs to change).

It also doesn't happen because you shell out $50K to someone.

A point I've been making, although not here:


Maybe next time, we will listen more closely to financial theorists who think in abstract, general terms. Consider the Long-Term Capital Management debacle in 1998, when the Federal Reserve leaned on financial titans to rescue a massive hedge fund and stave off global fallout. Lots of people hold that the moral of the LCTM story was the failed thinking of two of the firm's founders, Robert Merton and Myron Scholes, both of whom were Nobel Prize-winning financial theorists. In fact, the collapse of LTCM was largely due to the overconfidence of bond trader John Meriwether and some of his other LTCM colleagues, who were gambling in the markets. The disgraced Merton has been working for the last decade trying to build better risk-management systems, mostly to little avail. Maybe he will be heard now. People still seem to want to trust businessmen who have made bundles and have a huge investment bank behind them, rather than listen to experts who are thinking about the fundamentals of risk management. We would have been better off this month if we'd been ignoring the former and listening to the latter.

There's nothing inherently wrong with derivative securities, constructing products that hedge, and so forth. They are like glass or knives: they can be very useful or very harmful. Used properly derivative securities can indeed reduce exposure to risk, provided all sides of the transaction are properly capitalized.

But use 'em for pure leverage, and therein may lie perdition.

But people will use them for better risk management, because they can be used that way.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Teachers, teaching, instant enlightenment, etc.

I've been spending entirely too much time in the comments section of Hardcore Zen lately, mostly because I share Brad Warner's...how is it we say in le monde de la société...ah yes, concern about Genpo Roshi.

Especially here.

Many of the Soto folks think we Rinzai folks expect that with ridiculously rigorous training we can "speed up" "getting enlightened."

It doesn't work that way.

See here, for example.

The instructions to the first koan (公案) couldn't be clearer. No, really.

You have to build up to the point where the "enlightenment" happens.

And nowhere does it say you have to shell out $50K to do it.

Monkeys and public speaking

Josh Marshall delves into primate anthropology.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I just heard Bernie Sanders on the radio saying...

The richest 400 families in the USA made about $679 billion during the current Bush regime.

I understand that financial crisis might cost upwards of $700 billion.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


I appreciate all the good work some folks are doing on the net for the Buddhist stuff & the idealism & spirit of folks such as Danny Fisher, but there's been some trillions of dollars of net worth lost so a few lucky duckies can pocket billions, and I'd just note that it kinda causes lots of suffering in its own right...

Update: Danny Fisher: no blank check for Wall St.

Yes. Sign the petition.

I did.

Why the bailout is bad for dummies...

a) no oversight for treasury department, b) no way to tell how much is the "right" amount to pay for these toxic securities...

This Naked Capitalism article is worth reading.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Void bless 'em

This type of story used to be the kind to get blood boiling. Now I think it inspires envy more than anything else:

To understand what it’s like to work on the railroad — the Long Island Rail Road — a good place to start is the Sunken Meadow golf course, a rolling stretch of state-owned land on Long Island Sound.

During the workweek, it is not uncommon to find retired L.I.R.R. employees, sometimes dozens of them, golfing there. A few even walk the course. Yet this is not your typical retiree outing.

These golfers are considered disabled. At an age when most people still work, they get a pension and tens of thousands of dollars in annual disability payments — a sum roughly equal to the base salary of their old jobs. Even the golf is free, courtesy of New York State taxpayers.

With incentives like these, occupational disabilities at the L.I.R.R. have become a full-blown epidemic.

Virtually every career employee — as many as 97 percent in one recent year — applies for and gets disability payments soon after retirement, a computer analysis of federal records by The New York Times has found. Since 2000, those records show, about a quarter of a billion dollars in federal disability money has gone to former L.I.R.R. employees, including about 2,000 who retired during that time...

“Short of the gulag, I can’t imagine any work force that would have a so-to-speak 90 percent disability attrition rate,” said Glenn Scammel, long one of Capitol Hill’s top experts on railroads. “That defies both logic and experience.”

Why should Carly Fiorina be the only one to _____?

Seriously, yeah, yeah, yeah, but public sector employees aren't the ones ripping me off.


Regarding this comment on this other article: My work - intellectual property created by me - appears in more cell phones than either Brad Warner or Gempo roshi have sold books by about a factor of geez, I dunno, somewhere between 100 X and 1000X.

It doesn't mean much, Buddhism-wise, of course. On the other hand, if you want your cell phone to work...

I too have quibbles about "Big Mind"

If you can find this spot in Chiba prefecture:

You will come to a temple complex founded by Tetsuo Sokatsu Zenji Daiosho:

He was a Dharma heir of Shaku Soen, and a Dharma brother of D. T. Suzuki, and it is in this lineage of Rinzai Zen in which I train. Not well, mind you, but it is my lineage.

And in this lineage in which I train we don't do any kind of mind-games. We definitely don't have instant enlightenment, but when things are going it's


Friday, September 19, 2008

And now for something completely different...

I used to think Brad Warner was a bit gimmicky for my taste, but I'm changing my opinion.

I'm Mumon and I approve this ad...

It's so nice to see a campaign being fought hard

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

John McCain: Anti-child.

What else can I glean from his new ad? (See E. J. Dionne, I'm not going to link to it.)

The Republicans are so greedy and drunk with power that they will risk even more kids be molested by lying about progressives who propose such legislation in order to keep their stranglehold on power.

Oh, and Sarah Palin?

Child abuser.

You learn something new every day... and today

it's about the works of Suzuki Shosan (鈴木正三), samurai Zen priest who lived 1579- 1655.

Turns out he was highly critical of Christianity, publishing a book (evidently the government liked it enough to publish it), called Ha Kirishitan (破切支丹), which has the nice passive title "Crush Christianity."

From the tiny snippet I've been able to read online, though, it's as harmless as Dawkins in its arguments.

Except for that "Southern Barbarian" thing. But evidently we were all barbarians to them.



Anyhow, evidently he's buried near Takao-san, near Hachiohji, which happens to be a suburb of Tokyo.

And he's noted at that website for his publication of 破切支丹.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

They don't make 'em like they used to...

The Groove Tube, c. 1974.

Monday, September 01, 2008

In case you forgot they were bad guys...

Amy, Friggin' Goodman?

C'mon do they want to be stereotyped as thugs?

Daily Kos McCain’s Abramoff Problem: CliffNotes Edition...

If you missed this Kos diary, you might still think McCain's some kind of "reformer."