Friday, April 30, 2010

Yeah, Genpo Merzel ain't the Zen

People don't write me, thankfully, like they write Brad Warner about these things, but I would tend to agree with him.

Even though  us Rinzai folk are more "enlightenment-centric," the fact is, it still takes us years to do what Mr. Merzel claims to be able to do before lunch time.

This practice is not a quick fix; never was, and for those that are hurting (why else would anyone come to Buddhism?) Big Mind ™   is simply too fraught with danger to be considered in any way skillful means.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some Buddhist news items...

Which might not get much mention elsewhere...

  • Here's a short biography - I'm not sure why - on the founder of the Jogye sect in Korea.  What's interesting to me is that, as in Rinzai Zen, there's an emphasis on post-enlightenment training.  Enlightenment is not seen as some kind of thing that only the few get, or if you passively sit for decades you might get, but as something that is understood to be an outcome, though not the goal in itself, of sitting.
  • Evidently in Thailand, at least some monks are against the government.  I'm not following this very closely, and the most time I've ever spent in that country is a couple of hours in the Star Alliance lounge, but I do hope they come to peace soon there.
  • The English language version of China News has a story on the Tibetan monks helping out in the Yushu region.  I'd guess the government didn't mind them helping out, and I'd also guess that some of the media reports about the Chinese government and the monks in this region were somewhat overblown. I wish some of the bloggers in the America-centric Buddhist blogosphere would understand that the Chinese are not, contrary to what the Dalai Lama said, interested in eradicating Buddhism.  They just don't want Pat Robertsons.
  • Lama Chuck Stanford answers the question from a Buddhist perspective (more or less), "Why is my faith not growing?"  I'd have given a somewhat different answer, such as, what do you expect it to be anyway?   He's right when he says that it's inaccurate to see faith as " as an accomplishment or a personal possession," but when he gets into the "vision thing," well, I beg to differ. Although I agree with the sentiment, "If you are dissatisfied with your level of faith, you may, in fact, be dissatisfied with how you are relating to the world," I would add if you are dissatisfied with your level of faith, you should ask yourself why that is so, and in that, you should have great faith. You'll get an answer if you let that question permeate your marrow.

And that's my take on the news of Buddhism for today...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXV

I'm using this translation, and of course nobody authorized me to say anything.

This section is best summed up in two sentences; this one:

The Bodhisattva-Mahasattva is said to have grasped meaning well, when, all alone in a lonely place, he walks the path leading to Nirvana, by means of his transcendental wisdom (prajna) which grows from learning, thinking, and meditation, and causing a revulsion first at the source of habit-energy by his self-knowledge (svabuddhi), abides on the stages of self-realisation where he leads a life full of excellent deeds.

And this one:

Further, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who is conversant with words and meaning observes that words are neither different nor not-different from meaning and that meaning stands in the same relation to words.

Words only point the way.  Although they arise from discrimination, they can lead out of it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I realize that there's heavy emotions around the Panchen Lama, Dalai Lama, etc.

Isn't it the case that it's a bit of a heavy trip to lay on a kid that he's the emanation of a key Bodhisattva? And then, on top of that, to embroil a kid in a tug of war of geopolitics?

I don't think it was a good idea that the Chinese might have continued this process, and do realize that occasionally these guys - funny how they're all guys - resign their positions and such.

But with all the recent scandals in other religions, and the ongoing scandal in the Catholic Church, can't we at least recognize that the "find the kid who's the incarnation of the dead lama" game is one of those practices we can do without?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Regarding that odious new Arizona immigration law...

I see Danny Fisher's highlighted what Amnesty International is doing about it, but I guess it hasn't dawned on many people yet that this bill is an epic fail, just in slow motion.  I mean, are they really going to go after Canadians?

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXIV

I'm using the translation here, and as usual, and I'm just doing this as myself, to get myself to read this stuff...

The point of this section is: to what kind of thought is the term wrong discrimination applicable?

These thoughts arise when people are grasping, and when discrimination is evolving.

These are thoughts that have not been thought in light of the point that the nature of the objective world which is no more than the Mind itself, and thus manifest as dualistic views of being and nonbeing, and are effects of the habit-energy of "philosophers," and take external objects as "real."

However, "discrimination does not evolve, nor is it put away. But, Mahamati, for the sake of the ignorant who are addicted to discriminating the multiplicity of things which are of their own Mind, it is said by me that discrimination whose first function is to produce effects takes its rise owing to the attachment to the aspect of multiplicity as characteristic of objects. How otherwise, Mahamati, can the ignorant and simple-minded have an insight into the Mind itself which they discriminate, and see themselves freed from the notion of an ego and what belongs to it, and also freed from the wrong conception of cause and effect? "

These notions of non-duality are far from trivial, despite the fact that the concepts here have been repeated numerous times throughout the text. But evidently the distortion of discrimination gives rise to distortions of the views of the Mind, as the relationship between Mind and perceptions is distorted via the very act of discrimination.



Friday, April 23, 2010

Regarding Hakuin's Precious Mirror Cave

I still haven't gotten entirely through the book, but I will say that at the very least:

  • It's useful to read books like this because you can see how very much of what's taught today goes "way back."  Hakuin's influence on Zen cannot be over-emphasized, unless, I guess, you're one of those "Soto-only" folks, in which case, you don't know what you're missing.
  • It's also useful to read this because even though some material seems like a repetition of earlier works (much of Chapter 1 is covered in Wild Ivy), the repetition is useful in itself.
I'll have more to say later.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More from Guà Jiǎ Chan Si (掛甲禪寺) &c.

Very ornate statuary all throughout.  I did not photograph the Zendo, out of respect for them, but it would have been on the right in the photo below.  The first two characters I'm told are "Bright Mind" or the like, though I can't make that out myself...

You'd never know a huge shopping mall is 2 blocks away.

With that, I'll be resuming Lankavatara sutra blogging soon.

Oh, and thanks to "Online Christian Colleges" for the mention as an "Enlightening Buddhist Blog."  That's rather kind of you

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thought I was at 大悲禅院 but was really at 掛甲禪寺

I was in Beijing last week, and as anyone who is remotely familiar with geopolitics and corporate ethics might guess, that's why this blog took a short hiatus.  On Saturday, friends of my wife were kind enough to accompany me to Tianjin, which I recommend as a side journey from Beijing.  It's a beautiful city, although, like most places in Northern China, every building could use a good power washing, thanks to the dust storms from Mongolia.

I had hoped that my friends would have guided me to Dà Bēi Yuàn Chan Si (大悲禅院), but instead
Guà Jiǎ Chan Si (掛甲禪寺) which would mean either "Hung up Armor Imperial Temple" "Suspended Highest Zen Temple" or some combination between the two.  (Evidently armor was hung up in the temple, if babelfish is to be believed.) If you search Google maps, they're not far from each other, and it was interesting that there's actually two Chan temples close to each other, given the fact that there's no Chan temples I've found in Beijing.

And frankly it was probably the better deal.  I was able, through my wife's friends, to speak with the monks there. There were a couple in their 20s, and a couple in their 40s. Perhaps there are more there, but these were the only ones I met.   They are a Lin Chi school temple, and they said their temple was over 1000 years old.  Like the Rinzai school, they still do koan practice, and are oriented towards the attainment of enlightenment experiences. They do not, however, have any contact with Buddhist monks and temples outside of China, which is a pity.  I managed to see their Zendo, which they would not let me enter; they said one needed permission from the head teacher, who was not there that day.

As is typical in Chinese temples in this era, they mix and match many forms of Buddhism for the populace;that's why there's traces of Pure Land, Tibetan and other forms of Buddhism lurking about here.

But the fact is this is indeed a Chan temple; their Zendo looked just like that of my teacher's in Japan.  Which of course brings up the point: if there are people practicing here, they can't but sooner or later bring forth a great teacher, despite the years of great hardship they have endured.

So Zen is getting by in China, evidently; Tianjin as at least two Chan temples, which was more than I'd thought.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm back

I'll have more to say about this later...

Friday, April 09, 2010

OK, this is REALLY the last post for a while...about that Tiger Woods & Slate Article

Indeed, when you think of Buddhism's place in mainstream American consciousness, it's most often seen as, if not a punch line, then a fashionable cause (think Tibet), a counterculture relic (think the Beats and their psychedelic '60s followers), a marketing gimmick (think "Zen" teas and glossy yoga magazines), a quasi-spiritual travel itinerary (think generations of Western backpacker-seekers in Asia, among whom, I confess, I must count my younger self)—or some combination of the above.

For the most part, outside of religion departments and the pages of Buddhist magazines and blogs, it's rare for Buddhism to be seen squarely and simply as what it is: a vibrant global religion and spiritual practice that's been offering "balance" and "centeredness" for 2,500 years and counting...

I think the legacy of the '50s and  '60s is still not being given the credit it fact, I know it.

What these writers leave out is a very, very simple fact: at the time, the 50s, that is, it was existentialism that was the prevailing Western philosophy, and its descendants, post-modernism(s) and deconstruction were the most relevant (and ultimately useful, yes useful) philosophies of the later decades.

Why is this relevant, other than the confluence of your author's understanding of these philosophies and your author's own life experiences and troubles led to his embrace of Buddhism?

Well, I'll tell you.    Because these philosophies were not born out the idea that smoking cigarettes in coffee shops and listening to poetry accompanied by bongo-drums was cool.  No, the thing is, these philosophies were born of the zeitgeist of that era: the ravages of World War II brought about by the most civilized people the world had known a mere decades after their civilized parents brought forth World War I (and mutatis mutandis w.r.t. the Cold War).

These philosophies - as a form of proto-Buddhism as I see it - provide a cogent explanation of why Western "Enlightened" Man (in the Western Enlightenment Philosophy sense)  got it wrong (and the Marxists and Idealists did too).  And because of these philosophies, Buddhism looks even more cogent, as it can be practiced to a degree to which horror and suffering can indeed be transcended.

There's a business in bashing the '50s and '60s that continues in the media, even in mainstream publications like Slate.  But the fact is, generations of Europeans, Asians, and more than a few Americans have Gasped at the Horror that had been wrought by the Cool Kids.  Not enough people have though; huge swaths of the Middle East, the Southern US, and Africa have not been privy to this Gasp of Horror.

Of course, too many hippies never had this Horror experience either,  or drew lessons that taught that denial and escape were possible, and that's why many of them in the US wound up in megachurches and listening to right-wing trash media.  But enough did, and thus Buddhism has seriously taken hold in America, whether or not the official media grants it recognition.

Last post for a while...

I'm off to travel, and expect that there will be interesting experiences afoot, about which I really can't talk at the moment.

Let's just say that I anticipate extra to say in business-speak? ...challenges.

Not because of anything I've done, mind you, about which I'm aware.

And that should make it all the more interesting.

Good thing I do this Buddhism thing.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Buddha/My Anniversary/Japan Buddha Birthday...

I was watching the heavily hyped "The Buddha" on PBS last night,  but the suffering was a bit too much for me at the time.  That is to say, there was a lot of dukkha present in my home life, which is thankfully gone now.

What I saw of it was OK, though a bit too Tibetan Buddhist Exile in its presentation.  Can we please refrain from using the Dalai Lama as some sort of "official" spokesman for Buddhism, and Robert Thurman from playing the part of the Buddhist scholar?  Not that there was anything at all I disagreed with in what Thurman and the DL said about the Buddha and Buddhism, but it's exactly the same problem as having Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell or Al Sharpton on Larry King.

The Dalai Lama, like the aforementioned other gentlemen is too tainted by the political agitation they have publicly taken to be considered purely as a spokesman for the religion itself, which is substantially more apolitical than you might infer from the DL's political statements.  Furthermore, the man's a Living Dharma Burger. His public image fits that definition:

A “Dharma-Burger” is, actually, any example of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables.
And that's my review.

But today is my wedding anniversary, the 6 month anniversary of my mother's death, and the Japan Buddha birthday.
I cannot say enough good about my wife; I'd read some other guy somewhere (oh, yeah, this guy at, of all places, the Huffington Post) about how marriage highlights one's own faults, and the only way to make peace with one's partner is to look at one's own faults.  

It's quite true.  This religious life is quite special.  In my experience many religious orders have tried to stress benefits of non-marriage but I think that guy to which I hyperlinked is on to something: 
Marriage is a mirror, a reflection of all our faults. We cannot fool our partners for long. The powerful thing that occurs in marriage is intimacy- not the physical but the spiritual kind. It has been said that the real meaning of the word is realized when it is spelled out phonetically- "in to me see". The wise individual will seize the opportunity that marriage presents to see him/her self with clarity and to remove any negative traits that block the way to peace. Spiritual progress (peace) comes only through struggle; the internal struggle between our good qualities and our bad ones, i.e. patience vs anger, understanding vs fault finding, etc. There is no experience I know more suited to provoke and intensify this struggle than marriage.To arrive at true peace we have to come to grips with our arrogance, anger, and impatience. We cannot go around them- we have to transform them.This involves an intense war, a true holy war, if you will. The ego is a formidable opponent and does not want to lose. Many people go to church, temple or mosque one day a week to become better or more spiritual but the irony is that the real church is what they drove away from a few minutes before, namely their own home, where the sermons are no longer words but are actually hammered out in their marriages.
 I'm also glad to see "spiritual" encoded to mean "peace" (hence  woo-free)  but I'd be more happy with "convivial" defined not with the standard definition, but, after Ivan Illich (also see the Wikipedia page)  more to the point of its original meaning: living together.

It takes skill to live together well, to be convivial in its truest sense.

Marriage, the most intimate of ways to live together, is therefore the best practice for the skill of living together.

And so today, in the spirit of a newly born Buddha somewhere - maybe in your neighborhood, I'll be remembering my mother and her way of doing this practice, and my wife.  Before a huge trip.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Light to little or no blogging in the next few days...

I'll be leaving on Friday on a business trip, where I probably won't have much chance to do any significant blogging, but when I get back there should be some interesting pictures on this blog.

On the trip I'm going to have to do "business trip practice."

It won't be easy practice.

And I'll have a review of Hakuin's Precious Mirror Cave.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXIII

Yes, I'm using the translation here, and as usual, and I'm just doing this as myself, to get myself to read this stuff...

The question in this section:

What is the characteristic of the realisation by which I and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, becoming thoroughly conversant with its meaning, may quickly attain the highest enlightenment, and, relying upon themselves, will not be led away by any speculations or philosophies?
 The enlightened state has

nothing to do with words, discriminations, and letters; that it leads one up to the realm of non-outflows; that it is the state of an inner experience; that it is entirely devoid of philosophical speculations and [the doings of] evil beings; and that, destroying philosophical speculations and [the doings of] evil beings, it shines out in its own inner light of attainment. These, Mahamati, are the characteristics of the realisation.
And, regarding  the teaching about enlightenment

It is variously given in the nine divisions of the doctrinal works; it keeps one away from the dualistic notions of being and non-being, of oneness and otherness; first making use of skilful means and expedients, it induces all beings to have a perception [of this teaching] so that whoever is inclined towards it, may be instructed in it.
The phenomenal world "resembles a dream," by contrast, but in Nirvana there is no greed, anger, folly or personal ego or desire, which "starts" the phenomenal world.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

On My To-Do List: Write an Actus Formalis Defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica

Even though it probably comes to no good at all, I really should do it.  I'm kind of appalled that there are records that still list me as part of the Roman Catholic Church.  It seems to me that that is almost, if not actually defamatory, or certainly could be under certain circumstances

Evidently though, they don't like it when people actually do try to make it formal, though.

But I like tweaking bureaucracies now and then.  Still, it's a form of right speech in this case.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 3, Section LXII

Standard disclaimer: I'm   using the translation here, and as usual, and I'm just doing this as myself, to get myself to read this stuff...

At that time, Mahamati made this request of the Blessed One: Pray tell me, Blessed One, about the being and non-being of all things; and when myself and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas are freed of the notions of being and non-being, may we quickly attain supreme enlightenment.
The answer seems somewhat timely given recent events...

People of this world are dependent on two things, Mahamati, that is, they are dependent on the idea of being and on that of non-being, and they fall into the views whereby they take pleasure either in nihilism or in realism. They imagine emancipation where there is no emancipation.
Now, Mahamati, who are the people dependent on the notion of being? It means this that they regard the world as rising from causation which is really existent, and that the actually existing and becoming world does not take its rise from causation which is non-existent. This will not be the case if the world is something non-existing. They thus talk of the really-existing world as arising from the reality of causation. This is the realistic view of causation as held by some people.
Now, Mahamati, what is meant by being dependent upon the idea of non-being? It means, Mahamati, admitting greed, anger, and folly, and yet discriminating as regards the non-reality of what makes up greed, anger, and folly; and, Mahamati, there is one who does not admit the reality of things because of their being devoid of individual marks; and there is another who, seeing that the Buddhas, Sravakas, and Pratyekabuddhas are free from greed, anger, and folly, because of all things being devoid of individual marks, [think that greed, anger, and folly] do not exist.
Now, Mahamati, who of these is the one doomed to ruin?
Said Mahamati; Blessed One, it is he who, admitting greed, anger, and folly, yet refuses to admit them.
 The Blessed One said: Well said indeed, Mahamati! Again thou hast indeed spoken well, Mahamati! Not only is he himself doomed to ruin because of his notion of greed, anger, and folly as existent and yet as not-existent, but he ruins even the character of the Buddha, the Sravaka, and the Pratyekabuddha. Why? Because the passions are not to be taken hold of innerly and outwardly, because they are neither different nor not-different. Mahamati, greed, anger, and folly too are not to be taken hold of innerly as well as outwardly; they have no substance of their own and they are not to be admitted; Mahamati, as there is no reality in the nature of greed, anger, and folly, [he who fails to understand this] is the one who ruins the character of the Buddha, Sravaka, and Pratyekabuddha.

 He goes on to state:

The Buddha, Sravaka, and Pratyekabuddha are by nature emancipated as there is in them no cause for being bound and binding; Mahamati, [on the other hand,] where there is a state of being bound there are the binding and the cause of bondage.

Discrimination of either being or non-being is held to be a wrong view here as well, and either is coexistent with intellection, and when intellection ceases, being or non-being cease to arise.

Bits like this are kind of like bits  of a map of samadhi...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Not much to report today, but I will have a word on the Pope

I am a product of the American Catholic school system. I went to grade school and high school in Catholic Church schools. The high school chaplain in the school I a attended later became infamous for groping the boys, allegedly.

That aside, for a while the high school was a good place for a while; much less so today especially since they went right wing (then it was nicely liberal).

But the grade school, there was the epitome of the most oppressive, abuse-filled, thinly veiled and projected anger and rage, the quintessence of the abusive father as deity school of "spirituality."  No, I was never sexually abused there, but there was the time, when I was six years old, that  the pastor of the church let loose the Doberman while I was being disciplined in the principal's office.  But perhaps I digress.

That folks such as this one, as well as these think it's either cocktail party chatter or an excuse to defend these  people who persist in the arrogance of a pretense of absolute moral authority is appalling.

I say, forget about the recent events.  Joseph Ratzinger has been harboring Bernard Law, and that should tell you all you need to know.

This isn't an anti-Catholic or a pro-Buddhist thing, it's simple safety and protection for humanity. Forget about the "pope resigning." Let him be brought to justice.

Of course, they too, are awakened ones, even if they're unaware.  But non-duality does not imply that it's OK to drink gasoline.

And that's my Holy Thursday sermon.