Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is there really enlightenment?


That's yet another simple answer to a simple question.

Friday, October 24, 2008

in case you ddn't know what I was saying...

also while I'm at it

And also while I'm at it...

I'd like to record this a la 1980s Billy Bragg, as solo, highly distorted electric guitar, and with a much more bass voice than Ochs:

And while I'm at it...

If you've seen this:

I hope you appreciate this:

I generally detest Al Yankovic, but I'm a sucker for palindromes. Especially these days.

What I missed growing up on Long Island...

If it were now, they'd sue the Beatles for theft of intellectual property.

I would.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No, Brad you must get your hands dirty...

Brad Warner sometimes is spot on with what he says, particularly about Buddhist trendiness and other nonsense pretending to be Buddhist.

But he's not exactly spot on here...(which I found through his blog of course.)

It’s none of my business who you vote for. I’m sure you agree with that. But I’ve been pretty horrified by what I’ve seen from a number of American Buddhist teachers who think it is their business. Way too many Buddhist teachers and Buddhist centers in this country think that Buddhism and liberal politics are one and the same. Four years ago when Dubya won a second term I was contacted about contributing to a book about “Buddhist reactions to the re-election.” Writers were invited to talk about feelings of loss, disenfranchisement, and powerlessness as if not a single Buddhist in the United States had supported the Bush campaign. I wanted to write about how amazing Bush was just to provide some balance. Trey Parker said the most punk rock thing you could do in LA was walk into a party and say, “I think George Bush is awesome!” Same in the world of American Buddhism. The book never came out. Good.

My own teacher’s teacher, Kodo Sawaki, said, “The right wing is completely wrong. The left wing is also completely wrong.”

Both wings may be completely wrong, but that doesn't mean that there isn't one obvious choice to make. There is one path more likely to lead to greater suffering than another.

I don't have time or space for a digression on existentialist ethics here, but to me Buddhism is heavily informed by existentialist ethics starting from the position that we're all in this together.

We're going to get our hands dirty one way or the other. No choice is indeed a choice. Obama's nuclear policy will almost certainly backfire at one point, but will likely lead to less starvation overall.

So while I can sympathize with Warner when he says:

Just don’t get your panties in a bunch if your guy loses or celebrate the ultimate triumph of good over evil if he wins. I‘m sure all of you politicos reading this will say you already know that. But any scan of the TV when the results are announced will prove otherwise. All that elation and all that hopelessness ripple outward like a wave.

I would also emphasize that what is going on right now in the United States is, to put von Clauswitz's dictum backwards war continued by other means. It's a surrogate virtual civil war, dammit.

And the stakes really are that high, and to take a "punk" insouciant attitude is simply not possible if you're paying attention.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

After a while, there are constraints that limit you...

Why Buddhism?

Fisher's answer quoting Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche is I think, not enough. See my post below.

But beyond that, after a bit of practice, you realize that there is no other way in which skill can be applied to alleviate and transcend suffering.

Why Buddhism?

I think Kafka had a good answer, though it wasn't obviously about Buddhism:

"Alas," said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."
"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.

Surely we can do better than Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What it is...

There's a Whole Bunch of Crap happening right now; much of which I can't really mention here.

But having read a number of Buddhist blogs over the past few days, and informed by the major Crap in which I'm wading at present, please keep in mind:

  • It's not about "bliss."

  • It's not about "flashing on Big Mind."

  • It's not about appreciating a cup of tea. At least not in its entirety.

  • It's not just about Burma.

  • It's not about being trendy.

  • It's not about having or not having a philosophy of mindfulness.

  • It's not about expressing some religious alternative to monotheism.

  • It's not about having the true bestest Buddhism.

It is about the fact that suffering is ubiquitous in this life, and there is a cause of suffering, and there is transcendence of suffering and a means of transcendence.

This ain't hype fortunately. Because when you're wading through a Whole Bunch of Crap All at Once, chances are, the ability to mitigate suffering if not entirely transcend it proves to be useful to yourself and those around you.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Go to page 211


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Sound of One Hand

It's more than a sentence. The capping phrase is kind of obvious...

What is the Sound of the Single Hand? When you clap together both hands a sharp sound is heard; when you raise the one hand there is neither sound nor smell. Is this the High Heaven of which Confucius speaks? Or is it the essentials of what Yamamba describes in these words: "The echo of the completely empty valley bears tidings heard from the soundless sound?" This is something that can by no means be heard with the ear. If conceptions and discriminations are not mixed within it and it is quite apart from seeing, hearing, perceiving, and knowing, and if, while walking, standing, sitting, and reclining, you proceed straightforwardly without interruption in the study of this koan, you will suddenly pluck out the karmic root of birth and death and break down the cave of ignorance. Thus you will attain to a peace in which the phoenix has left the golden net and the crane has been set free of the basket. At this time the basis of mind, consciousness, and emotion is suddenly shattered; the realm of illusion with its endless sinking in the cycle of birth and death is overturned. The treasure accumulation of the Three Bodies and the Four Wisdoms is taken away, and the miraculous realms of the Six Supernatural Powers and Three Insights is transcended.

From p. 164, Yabukoji, in The Zen Master Hakuin: Selected Writings, Translated by Philip B. Yampolsky, Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1971.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stuart Lachs: just listen

If you don't know who he is, and you train in a Zen Buddhist tradition, you should know who he is.

Listen here.

There's a reason Stuart Lachs has went to all those Zen centers all those years.

And still practices Zen.

Damn, I've been lucky.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

If you're going to vote in November or know somebody who will

You need to read this bit about McCain in Rolling Stone.

At Fort McNair, an army base located along the Potomac River in the nation's capital, a chance reunion takes place one day between two former POWs. It's the spring of 1974, and Navy commander John Sidney McCain III has returned home from the experience in Hanoi that, according to legend, transformed him from a callow and reckless youth into a serious man of patriotism and purpose. Walking along the grounds at Fort McNair, McCain runs into John Dramesi, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who was also imprisoned and tortured in Vietnam.

McCain is studying at the National War College, a prestigious graduate program he had to pull strings with the Secretary of the Navy to get into. Dramesi is enrolled, on his own merit, at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in the building next door...

On the grounds between the two brick colleges, the chitchat between the scion of four-star admirals and the son of a prizefighter turns to their academic travels; both colleges sponsor a trip abroad for young officers to network with military and political leaders in a distant corner of the globe.

"I'm going to the Middle East," Dramesi says. "Turkey, Kuwait, Lebanon, Iran."

"Why are you going to the Middle East?" McCain asks, dismissively.

"It's a place we're probably going to have some problems," Dramesi says.

"Why? Where are you going to, John?"

"Oh, I'm going to Rio."

"What the hell are you going to Rio for?"

McCain, a married father of three, shrugs.

"I got a better chance of getting laid."

Dramesi, who went on to serve as chief war planner for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of a wing of the Strategic Air Command, was not surprised. "McCain says his life changed while he was in Vietnam, and he is now a different man," Dramesi says today. "But he's still the undisciplined, spoiled brat that he was when he went in."...

Then there's torture — the issue most related to McCain's own experience as a POW. In 2005, in a highly public fight, McCain battled the president to stop the torture of enemy combatants, winning a victory to require military personnel to abide by the Army Field Manual when interrogating prisoners. But barely a year later, as he prepared to launch his presidential campaign, McCain cut a deal with the White House that allows the Bush administration to imprison detainees indefinitely and to flout the Geneva Conventions' prohibitions against torture.

What his former allies in the anti-torture fight found most troubling was that McCain would not admit to his betrayal. Shortly after cutting the deal, McCain spoke to a group of retired military brass who had been working to ban torture. According to Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former deputy, McCain feigned outrage at Bush and Cheney, as though he too had had the rug pulled out from under him. "We all knew the opposite was the truth," recalls Wilkerson. "That's when I began to lose a little bit of my respect for the man and his bona fides as a straight shooter."

McCain crashed his plane too many times.