Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sasaki & Shimano...

I was thinking about blogging about how the "Rinzai-ji Witnessing Council" released its "findings" but couldn't find the right way to express it, and perhaps I still can't.  I'm still ambivalent about it, though I think the text I've read about it seems rather impartial, and the regarding the findings, who can disagree with that?

On  the other hand,  this is still stuck like flypaper.  It may be this Council has done some good.  I don't know.   The good that it might do can only be expressed in the future actions of others,  taken on motivation at least in part of what that Council reported. 

Is that going to be so?

That's a lot of conditions for that to be the case.  So I have my concerns otherwise about this - I think Rinzai-ji might have found these findings out via other methods.

My concerns are underscored by the news of Eido Shimano suing the Zen Studies Society.  I've got to give credit to Adam Tebbe for only putting in some of the aspects of Shimano's complaint relating to  compensation.   But I think other aspects of the complaint speaks to the larger aspect I'm alluding to here.  In particular:

  • A 4% cost of living adjustment?  In 1995?  What were they thinking?  Inflation hasn't been at 4% in decades, and certainly wasn't in 1995.
  • Have you any idea what a co-op at 333 E69th St. goes for?  Now Shimano's sangha was, at the time, quite well off, to be sure, but this is quite valuable.  
  • Both of the above points seem to include no provisions for what might happen if the finances of the Zen Studies Society went south. It is possible, that like everything else, there was an attitude of paying minimal attention to the nuts and bolts of things like this.
Still, one might imagine that perhaps Shimano might not mind, given all that's happened, that the details of his "outstanding" leadership of the ZSS might come to light in a court of law,  but I don't think it's about that at all. 

Huge loss of face. It's about that, but really what would anyone expect?

That's why I am concerned.  I think there needs to be a certain amount of cynicism to balance out kumbayasity.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Pro-Life" and the Great Matter of Life and Death

The anniversary of Roe v. Wade has been seized on by conservative Christians as a day to muster support for the overturning of the decision that legalized abortion.

From a Buddhist perspective, the idea that a zygote is a human being - the reductio ad absurdum of this position of "human life begins at conception" that conservative Christians tend to take - is rather troubling, to say the least, on a number of grounds.

It is true there is the precept not to kill, and that precept is Number One on the Buddhist charts, so to speak.  But killing takes many forms.

Moreover, particularly within the Zen and death are not so separated.

In fact, the more we learn, the more it seems that science has things to say on this as well in agreement with the premise that life and death are not so separated; historically it hasn't always been easy to tell - hence wakes.

But we've brought back people who've flatlined, as I understand it.  Not many. According to RadioLab, most people who get CPR aren't resuscitated, and many die with broken ribcages, to boot.

But the fact that we've brought a few back is enough to demonstrate the point.

From the Zen perspective, the important project is the resolution of The Great Matter of Life and Death.  It is this very project which - whether one's a Buddhist or not - gives our lives their raison d'être.   Or, if you don't like that, maybe Carl Sagan's "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself" might better suit you.

My point there is not religious sectarianism per se, but the fact that the pro-life movement, not only in equating born people with zygotes, but with the very premise of the pro-life movement trivializes life and death.  It trivializes life and death by the very reduction of life and death to a relatively small number of  phenomena.  Is the being's heart beating? Is there an EEG? Is the being "viable?" 

Those questions miss The Point by light years.  And the actions taken by some folks in the the anti-abortion, pro-women's death crowd, are, in a certain sense also violations of the First Precept, as is their reliance on those brain functions closer to the limbic system, um, to make their points. 

It is also a violation of the First Precept to cause or prolong another's suffering.  Much of what what we do to incarcerated people  could be considered a violation of the First Precept.

So to  reduce Life and Death to a set of rules to be followed No Matter What guarantees a morally repugnant solution.   I realize that many people sincerely adhere to positions that lead them to dictate what others should do with their bodies.   I would counsel such people to go more deeply into the question. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

How I got started in what I do...

I think this is a pretty good explanation of how I got interested in the whole field of wireless stuff...sometime in 6th grade or so I did a report on the electromagnetic spectrum...I think my teacher didn't get a C...oh well...

The world in which we dwell is quite deep...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The pedophile the Dalai Lama...

This post is not what you think it might be about.  I was reading this post by Barbara about conditioning and the "struggle within," which is overall a post with which I can agree, support, etc. etc. 

In the post Barbara referred to the Dalai Lama as "His Holiness the Dalai Lama." 

And I said to myself, "Why does she refer to him as His Holiness?"  I was reminded of the parent company of, the New York Times Company, and their stylistic view (at least it was in the past) of how people are mentioned in the paper: the person's name is always introduced as it is commonly known) first, followed by "Mr." or "Ms." if it's only an ordinary person, and "Governor" or "President" or "Pope" etc. if it's someone else.  That was the policy of the NY Times; it may still be, I haven't checked lately.  So, if Meat Loaf were his real name, the 2nd reference to him would presumably be "Mr. Loaf."

I try (often fail) to maintain stylistic conventions with this blog: I try to render names in kanji/hanzi whenever I can, and I don't  refer to the Dalai Lama as "His Holiness." 

Why "His Holiness?"

In my last post I referenced Rinzai's written sayings, and how such things as robe colors, moods, etc. are "just things we put on." So "His Holiness" is a robe, an aspect, a rendering of the Dalai Lama. You could call the guy down the street as "His Holiness" too.  Might be a good practice. "His Holiness Rush Limbaugh." He probably wouldn't get the point though, at least not within 24 hours of when this post appears.   

So it is with the most socially repulsive folks in our society as well.  They're not separate from us. They're not us, but they're not not us either. 

Ultimately, I am not so concerned as to why Barbara's stylistic conventions differ from mine. It's not important except as a means to practice, and  we're fellow practitioners practicing amidst our own aggregates, and that's profound.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The "struggle" to "maintain spiritual beliefs": Who's struggling? What beliefs?

A few tweets....

Well, where to begin?

I saw their blurb for the movie, which I'd actually see under certain conditions which aren't particularly relevant to the point of this post.  They're not relevant because I'd want to see the movie to find out who the characters are in this documentary.

But the original tweet is what got me... a Buddhist journal, one of the prestigious ones, is, to raise money, if I'm correct,  showing a film "about the struggle to maintain spiritual beliefs."

For quite a few years I practiced Buddhism before I told family.  My mother's reaction was interesting; at first she said "Are they a cult?"   People are people even if they're Scientologists, even if they are  in a cult, or if they think they're not in a cult. 

I was hearing a dharma talk podcast by Genjo Marinello on a bit from Rinzai. (I'm going to be lazy today and render the Japanese versions of the names solely in romaji.)  He was reading a text that mentioned Sekkyo. My version of the story:

Guy later referred to as Sekkyo comes up to Baso with an arrow. He says to Baso, Any deer 'round here?" Baso says, "Who are you?" Sekkyo, traipsing all over the place with a bow and arrow goes for the obvious: "A hunter." Baso says, "Any good with that stuff?" Sekkyo, again stating the obvious says, "I have to be; I'm a hunter." Baso says, "How many deer can you kill with one shot?" Sekkyo replies, "One deer for one shot." Baso says, "Then you're not much of a shot. "Sekkyo says, "Do you know how to shoot?" "Yep," Baso replies. "How many deer can you shoot with one arrow?" "The entire herd with one shot." "But since they're all sentient beings, why kill them all?" Baso replies, "If you get that much, why don't you shoot yourself?" "How can I do that?," Sekkyo wondered...

Marinello reads this as about the value of life...there's more to the story, but that's what I've put up on Facebook primarily because I was struck by Sekkyo's and  Baso's understanding of what it is to hunt, and what it is to kill.  There's folks I know that I would love to be able to transmit that understanding.    My point is that the ideas of "spiritual" "beliefs" never enter here.

Here's a translation of the relevant passage from Rinzai:

Master Sekkyô‘s teaching was quite unique. He searched for a true person with the tip of an arrow, and all the students who came to see him were terrified.
As for this mountain monk‘s way today, it is genuine creation and destruction, playing freely with spiritual transformations. Entering all kinds of circumstances, wherever I go, I am unconcerned (buji). The surroundings do not affect me. When people come to seek the Dharma, I welcome them, immediately discerning their state of mind. But they don‘t recognize me. Then, I deliberately wear different robes. Students create their own interpretations and get drawn to my words and phrases.

What a pity! Blind idiots! Seeing the color of my robe, they notice it as blue, yellow, red or white. Then, when I take it off and enter the state of purity, they see me and become filled with delight and desire. When I relinquish that, too, they are at a loss, and run around crazily, asking where my robe is. Then I ask them, "Do you know who it is who is changing the robe?" Suddenly they turn around, and recognize me.

Virtuous monks, don‘t acknowledge the robes. The robes cannot move by themselves. It is the person who wears the robes. There are many kinds of robes, such as the robe of purity, the robe of the unborn, the robe of bodhi, the robe of nirvana, the robe of the patriarch, the robe of the Buddha. 

Virtuous monks, these names are none other than a change of robe. The breath coming from your ocean of vital energy brings your teeth and tongue into motion, thus expressing words. Clearly know that those words are like phantasms. 

Sekkyo's search for a true person succeeded, or so  I've read (and Marinello relates), when one of his students in sanzen  (参禅 ) when confronted by Sekkyo's drawn bow, replied something to the effect of opening his robe to reveal his bare chest and stating, "Well, that arrow can take life, but do you have one that can give life?"

There's a struggle, to be sure, to engage folks who are simply not using the data, so to speak, who are untutored in the 4 noble truths, etc. But it is not a struggle of belief in any way.  It's a struggle of engagement, of practice.

Of course, they are simply wearing different robes; we have robes they have never even seen, let alone put on. 

It's a hard lesson, because it's easy to express in ways that won't do a damned thing to make the situation better, that don't arise from seeing the 10,000 things that were just right to bring this arrangement of aggregates together to bring to the mind such phenomena. 

Looking at the gun ownership situation in the US, it's easy to engage the other side from a place where their minds won't be changed.    Moreover, the questions and issues put forth in Zen-land are probably quite frightening to these folks not using the data:  YOU WILL DIE! No matter who much firepower you pack and no matter where you pack it, and no matter against whom.  AND YOU ARE NOT SEPARATE FROM ANY "CRIMINAL" !

In response it's possible you'd get an attempt at a witty retort chortle past the graveyard, and a subject change. 

But they're still folks who've never seen the wardrobe, so all those words and images are like phantasms.

And of course, I'm not separate from any criminal, gun extremist, etc. etc. and neither are you.   But the Great Matter of Life and Death will neither be resolved with firearms nor is in any way relevant to per se, save as yet more aggregates, phenomena, etc.

Regarding  the extremists, thought, I just wish they'd consider how they appear, though...wish they weren't so fearful. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Two Cents about Jeff Bridges on "The Daily Show"

Ok,  I'm not posting this from non-discriminating mind.  Or maybe I am, because ultimately it's just not that important at all.  

Jeff Bridges' portrayal of practicing Zen as kind of being like a stoner with a clown-nose saying "Wow, everything's interconnected" and "Bernie is a real Zen master" because somebody said so just isn't that important.

That's not to mention the Dudist sayings as "really being about Zen."

I wonder what was going though Glassman's head when he went through with this exercise.  I mean, Glassman's  written some good things.  But does Glassman realize that this stoner-association thing is hardly a ringing endorsement of why one would focus the mind on just doing what it's doing or focusing the mind on the mind before the koan?  Does Glassman realize that by portraying Zen solely as a jokey, lighthearted endeavor he's not putting forth the real power and depth that this practice can be? Couldn't Glassman have just said, "Look, Jeff, if anyone asks what Zen is, after the first bit from the 丹田 at least mention about the Buddha, Bodhidharma, ..."

Jeff Bridges is a pretty good and well known actor, a rich man, etc. etc. etc. He can get a gig on The Daily Show because of that. 

But is this really going to help transcend suffering? 

On the other hand, I suppose that if Hakuin had been watching the Daily Show with me, and Bridges responded with the clown noses when Stewart asked about what Zen is, he'd likely have turned to me and said, "Is that so?"  Or called  me a pit dwelling fool or something.

It's completely ridiculous, but it's just not important.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The real issue with guns

I don't often get political, but every now and then there's a right wing person who makes comments that are more public than they ought to be, at least for the sake of said winger.

I think a lot of this mentality of guns in America is too tied into attachments to things, and the gun does this at a fundamental level for many - as far as I'm concerned, unless the threat to someone is more than plausible, they probably don't need a gun.

Now, I'm not against gun ownership, and frankly, if one is out in the country it is more than plausible that one might be threatened by any number of beasts.  Moreover, as I've written elsewhere I cannot but have an esthetic appreciation for the design of something like a  357 Magnum, not to mention a 日本刀, a real Japanese sword.  I myself don't own one; I don't have any plausible threats and despite my esthetic sensibilities, I do realize these are rather dangerous things to keep around us when we're mired in greed hatred and ignorance more than we need to be.

But this idea of "bad guys" versus "good guys" and that "we" "good guys" "need" guns to protect us and "our stuff" against the "bad guys," well, that's just reeks of poisons.

I'm actually embarrassed for folks who make such arguments.  They just don't know how they appear.  

They appear as fearful.  And fearful of death more than anything.

Admittedly, death's a biggie. But it's something with which we all need to come to terms.  And one cannot come to terms with death with a gun.  It's impossible.

Friday, January 04, 2013

行捨, equanimity

行捨 and 業者 -  pronounced  ぎょうしゃ - are homonyms, evidently. 

I'm looking for a word in Japanese, and I don't know if I can find the right word.  It ought to be there. Perhaps it's the word for harmony, or balance.  But I haven't found it yet.

What I do know is that the word I'm looking for is what I'm trying to convey when the proper viscosity of ink is reached, so that it is absorbed by the brush just right so that it can be put onto paper just right.

Thankfully, with the help of my wife, I've figured it out to a certain extent.  Paper, ink,  brush, and ink stone must all be in harmony with each other, which must all be in harmony with the mind of the 書道人. And when it is...!

It's amazing.  Doing 書道 is a form of practice that emerged from the mindset of this understanding of the  道.

I'll be posting some more soon.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

And yet...

I can't really fault Dogen for his sentiments.  But that bearded guy from India said the certain things to Emperor Wu immediately pointing to something profound. Peace, love, and understanding all come about in the same way as greed, ignorance, and hatred.  It's more expeditious to practice one set than another.  But regardless of which set is met, it's expeditious to maintain equanimity, though at times it can be awfully trying.  Attachments are the ecosystem of flypaper in which we dwell.

Be careful out there.

It's easy to see how to screw up.  It's harder not to screw up.