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Monday, November 30, 2009

Global Warning and Eating a Meat Based Diet.

This is a short 3 minute video. PLEASE watch it. It won't take much time out of your day but the effects could be monumental.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mass Animal Killing Takes Place in Nepal.

PTI, November 24, 2009

Kathmandu, Nepal -- Despite appeals to halt the centuries-old custom of animal sacrifice, Gadhimai festival on Tuesday started in southern Nepal with millions of devotees flocking from various parts of the country and India. Thousands of buffaloes are waiting to be sacrificed at the Gadhimai Mela, the largest "animal slaughter" in the world.

It is estimated that some 35,000 to 40,000 buffaloes, which are brought mostly from India, for the world's largest ritual sacrifice at the temple. French actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has sent a letter to President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, asking him to stop animal sacrifice at the festival. "I personally find it hard to imagine that your heart can withstand such cruelty, knowing that you, being the head of the country, are ultimately responsible," she wrote. Tibetan Buddhist master Lama Zopa Rinpoche had requested all Buddhist centres and students to read the Golden Sutra and pray for halting the killing.

James: Nepal!! You're breaking my heart!! This story makes my stomach churn with sickness to think of 35,000 to 40,000 innocent animals being slaughtered in the name of spirituality??? I try to be very open minded about religious customs but this is one that I can't be silent over. To be sure this is mass genocide. I see these animals as no different than human beings so this ritual killing horrifies me to the point of nausea. It surprises me that Hindus would engage in such carnage especially given how sacred cows are to them--both cows and water buffaloes are of the bovine family. This "festival" seems in total contradiction to that as well as the teaching of Ahimsa (do no harm, practice non-violence). It is said that to kill a cow in Hinduism is like killing a Brahman so how do they reconcile this festival with that teaching?

It's not my place to tell Hindus what to do in their religion but I beg of them to contemplate how this festival could be in keeping with ahimsa and the sacred veneration of cows. I'm trying not to let anger slip into my heart over this so I will follow the advice of Lama Zopa to read and contemplate the Golden Sutra today (also known as the Golden Light Sutra). It is a sutra that is often coupled with a vow to domestic animals killed that they might be reborn in the human realm. It is usually done by those who have killed animals and wish to atone. I will also be reading and contemplating the Lankavatara Sutra and especially Chapter 8, which speaks of animals and eating meat. I dedicate any merit or good will cultivated from this to all the animals slaughtered during the festival and to the participants that they might realize the suffering they are causing and end it. This is interesting timing with the coming of Thanksgiving here in America. Another holiday where people slaughter animals and come together as friends and family. I don't understand why animals have to be killed in order to celebrate family togetherness. Below I have put together some of the main points of Chapter 8:

Thereby I and other Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of the present and future may teach the Dharma to make those beings abandon their greed for meat, who, under the influence of the habit-energy belonging to the carnivorous existence, strongly crave meat-food. These meat-eaters thus abandoning their desire for [its] taste will seek the Dharma for their food and enjoyment, and, regarding all beings with love as if they were an only child, will cherish great compassion towards them. Cherishing [great compassion], they will discipline themselves at the stages of Bodhisattvahood and will quickly be awakened in supreme enlightenment; or staying a while at the stage of Śrāvakahood and Pratyekabuddhahood, they will finally reach the highest stage of Tathagatahood. Indeed, let the Blessed One who at heart is filled with pity for the entire world, who regards all beings as his only child, and who possesses great compassion in compliance with his sympathetic feelings, teach us as to the merit and vice of meat-eating, so that I and other Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas may teach the Dharma.

Mahāmati, in this long course of transmigration here, there is not one living being that, having assumed the form of a living being, has not been your mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter, or the one or the other, in various degrees of kinship; and when acquiring another form of life may live as a beast, as a domestic animal, as a bird, or as a womb-born, or as something standing in some relationship to you; [this being so] how can the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who desires to approach all living beings as if they were himself and to practise the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any living being that is of the same nature as himself? There is no logic in exempting the meat of some animals on customary grounds while not exempting all meat.
James: In other words, you wouldn't eat your dog or cat so why eat any other animals? I have read the sutras that speak of Buddha saying eating meat is o.k. for monks because they can't be picking and choose what food to accept and not accept. I also know that in some countries the climate does not permit much vegetable growing and some people need meat for the diet though that is being questioned by modern science. So I do not believe Buddhism requires vegetarianism but I do think it is a helpful practice to help cultivate compassion and non-violent attitudes. I try not to be judgmental and forceful when it comes to vegetarianism because that doesn't help convince people of vegetarianism but instead drives them away and causes more suffering. I just let the sutras speak, give my own opinion (it is my blog after all) and as is just in my view -- let people decide for themselves. I do think, however, that we can all agree (or at least most of us) that is "festival" in Nepal is barbaric and excessive. I hope that one day soon it will be abolished.

Om shanti shanti shanti (Hindu mantra of peace).

~Peace to all beings (especially today, water buffaloes in Nepal!!)~

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thank-You Tibet!

James: When you think of the awesome power of the Chinese Communist Party and the relative weakness of Tibet one would think that Tibetan culture would have been extinguished like a butter lamp being blown out by a cold, Himalayan wind. Countless Tibetans have fled Chinese occupied Tibet for decades upon decades but the most important aspect to the exodus was the knowledge carried out with these hearty folks -- especially the monks and elders. They have carried with them the sacred and historic traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and the greater Tibetan culture. So while Tibet itself is still under siege the Tibetan heart is alive and beating strong. Tibetans have been adopted and taken in by the world and all have benefited. Tibetans are given sanctuary to ride out the storm of religious intolerance and militant occupation of their homeland and the world has been given access to the precious jewel of Tibet -- Tibetan Buddhism.

To be sure Tibetans must long for home and be greatly pained to see their homeland changed so much. As well as obviously worrying for their friends, family and fellow Tibetans still living in that stunningly beautiful country. However, if any peoples are prepared to outlast and actually thrive due to such change and upheaval it would be the Tibetan people. That is because most of them are Buddhist and as we fellow Buddhists know the core of the Buddha's teachings are on how to deal with suffering and change. Surely some Tibetans wanted to stand and fight--and some did but the majority knew it was better to push that ego aside and move on toward India and the greater Tibetan diaspora so that their culture could survive. If they would have stayed to fight then they would have probably been nearly completely wiped out as a people and as a culture. Their traditions would have been lost under the dusty, dirty boot of oppression but as it is their culture is alive and well in dozens of countries keeping the flame burning.

Thich Nhat Hanh has often spoke of what it means to have a home and what is our true home. He like the Dalai Lama is an exile from his homeland. In Nhat Hanh's case, Vietnam:

Who amongst us has a true home? Who feels comfortable in their country? After posing this question to the retreatants for contemplation, I responded. I said: “I have a home, and I feel very comfortable in my home.” Some people were surprised at my response, because they know that for the last thirty-eight years I have not been allowed to return to Vietnam to visit, to teach, or to meet my old friends and disciples. But although I have not been able to go back to Vietnam , I am not in pain. I do not suffer, because I have found my true home.

My true home is not in France where Plum Village practice center is located. My true home is not in the United States . My true home cannot be described in terms of geographic location or in terms of culture. It is too simplistic to say I am Vietnamese. In terms of nationality and culture, I can see very clearly a number of national and cultural elements in me –– Indonesian, Malaysian, Mongolian, and others. There is no separate nationality called Vietnamese; the Vietnamese culture is made up of other cultural elements. I have a home that no one can take away, and I feel very comfortable in that home. In my true home there is no discrimination, no hatred, because I have the desire and the capacity to embrace everyone of every race, and I have the aspiration, the dream to love and help all peoples and all species. I do not feel anyone is my enemy. Even if they are pirates, terrorists, Communists, or anti-Communists, they are not my enemies. That is why I feel very comfortable.

Every time we listen to the sound of the bell in Deer Park or in Plum Village , we silently recite this poem: “I listen, I listen, this wonderful sound brings me back to my true home.” Where is our true home that we come back to? Our true home is life, our true home is the present moment, whatever is happening right here and right now. Our true home is the place without discrimination, the place without hatred. Our true home is the place where we no longer seek, no longer wish, no longer regret. Our true home is not the past; it is not the object of our regrets, our yearning, our longing, or remorse. Our true home is not the future; it is not the object of our worries or fear. Our true home lies right in the present moment. If we can practice according to the teaching of the Buddha and return to the here and now, then the energy of mindfulness will help us to establish our true home in the present moment.

James: The Dalai Lama and many, many Tibetans understand this concept and thus where ever they are, they are home. We should all do this regardless of what country we live in. We could be living in our home country yet still feel disconnected from it, which can make us feel isolated and maybe even ignored. If, however, we follow the advice of The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh then we will never feel alone where ever we go because home is not a place but rather a state of being/mind. Our true home travels with us and can be accessed at any time. It can not be taken away regardless of how many foreign soldiers might occupy our country. So, In recognition of the survival of Tibetans and Tibetan culture, 2010 will be a year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tibetan resilience. An organization called, Thank You Tibet! is setting up a community online to find creative ways to honor Tibetan culture and people. If you have some time and the inclination do check it out because who amongst us hasn't benefited in someway by Tibetan culture?

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Spiritual Experiences and Spiritual Realizations.

In Buddhism, we distinguish between spiritual experiences and spiritual realizations. Spiritual experiences are usually more vivid and intense than realizations because they are generally accompanied by physiological and psychological changes. Realizations, on the other hand, may be felt, but the experience is less pronounced. Realization is about acquiring insight. Therefore, while realizations arise out of our spiritual experiences, they are not identical to them. Spiritual realizations are considered vastly more important because they cannot fluctuate.

The distinction between spiritual experiences and realizations is continually emphasized in Buddhist thought. If we avoid excessively fixating on our experiences, we will be under less stress in our practice. Without that stress, we will be better able to cope with whatever arises, the possibility of suffering from psychic disturbances will be greatly reduced, and we will notice a significant shift in the fundamental texture of our experience.

- Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche, “Letting Go of Spiritual Experience,” Tricycle, Fall 2004. Special thanks to Phil for the quote.

James: When I first started practicing the Dharma and meditation in particular I would have these spiritual experiences such as a feeling as though I was floating while meditating. I have had amazingly vivid and seemingly real dreams of being visited by great Buddhist teachers during deep contemplation while sitting. However, in my opinion they are like empty calories in the long run of my practice. It's like eating a gooey, sugary treat while hiking, which gives me an explosion of tasty pleasure but in the long run it is empty of the kind of energy needed for sustained progress along the path. If I indulge in these sugary treats too much then I get a stomach ache and realize that the special treats if indulged in too much can cause more suffering than benefit.

Spiritual experiences like moments where visions of enlightenment break through my ego-mind barriers and tempt me to obsess over them like a sugary but empty food. They are shiny objects for the ego-mind to latch onto and use to claim some sort of exceptionalism, which (I have found in my personal experience) is a result of placing too much importance to these experiences

When I have had spiritual experiences they are quick bursts of exciting phenomena experienced while meditating that explode into my mind like a bright comet, which enthrall me but burn out quickly. I find, however, that realizations are rare but that they, unlike a comet are like earthquakes that shift, shatter and altar my life forever. For example, it was nice, entertaining and tantalizing to feel so at one with things while meditating that it felt like my body was blurred and blended into the surroundings like I was the subject of an artist's painting. Whenever I feel this, it always makes me happy but is nothing like actually realizing (and thus seeing) emptiness in all things and places without having to induce it through deep meditation.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Are (Some) Buddhist Magazines Behind the Times?

Lately there has been a lot of tension between Buddhist magazines and the online Buddhist community. These magazines sadly are missing the point behind the rise of the Buddhoblogosphere. It being a representation of how popular Buddhism is becoming in America but more importantly with how it's becoming popular with others besides the traditional American Buddhist core -- rich, white academics on the two coasts.

And it's popular not because we proselytize but because people investigate it and find it helps them. They are missing this bigger picture that America is quite well suited for the reason and rationality of Buddhism. Americans are trained in the scientific method. So it is refreshing to many of us to find a way of life (Buddhism) that is not only o.k. with questioning authority and the truthfulness of things -- It encourages it (as is seen in the Kalama Sutra), which I see becoming one of the root sutras/suttas for many American Buddhists. However, many (not all) in the American Buddhist establishment do NOT like the spirit of the Kalama Sutra when it involves them. They do NOT like to be questioned, debated or challenged.

A lot of times the articles printed in these magazines are deeply cerebral dissections of esoteric sutras and discussions around issues that rarely touch the average Buddhist practitioner. And while I actually do like digging through sutras/suttas, I'm using it as an example to show that many of these magazines aren't getting the average man's point of view on Buddhist practice. I'm not saying one way of learning is better than another but I just wish that the elitists didn't look down their nose at those of us who respond well to online interactions. It has helped a lot of people and broadened Buddhism a great deal. Is it perfect? Of course not but it deserves more respect than it is sometimes given.

Buddhist blogs tend to be (not always) more approachable and easier to relate to as we discuss how the Dharma affects our direct, day-to-day lives. We might not always have the glossy pictures, so-called experts and titles before and after our names but we live in the real world where we don't have time on our hands to spend hours and hours at the temple or sangha (if we so lucky as to have one near-by in the first place). We are just average people like most people in this world including those looking into Buddhism for the first time. A recent article wrote that seeing the Buddhist community discuss their disagreements isn't flattering and might turn away practitioners. I think that's disingenuous at best but at worse betrays a desire to scrub Buddhism of the "dirty peasants" that are apart of Buddhism as much as peaceful, smiling monks.


The "Question Authority" picture is in part in response to the idea espoused by some in Buddhists circles that we Buddhists are to just sit down and shut up and follow our "leaders" regardless of what they say. This is called the, "Argument from authority logical fallacy" which says, "Source 'A' says, 'p'. Source A is authoritative. Therefore, 'p' is true." This is a fallacy because the truth or falsity of the claim is not necessarily related to the personal qualities of the claimant, and because the premises can be true, and the conclusion false (an authoritative claim can turn out to be false).

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Throwing Mud.

I was recently mentioned in Tricycle magazine in not the best light and since I wasn't given a chance to respond to these charges in the article, I'll do so here. I was criticized for defending myself when attacked by commenters -- especially when they level that criticism with rudeness. I can listen to advise and criticism but not when it is done with rudeness and anger. Here is the article, Dharma Wars. Below is my response to the article:

I am the author of "The Buddhist Blog" mentioned in the article and I would have hoped for the author to have contacted me before using my words. As well as ask me for a comment on his article. Anyway, I have never claimed to be a teacher, master, monk, rinpoche, ordained or enlightened. If you read in my profile it states that I'm just an average practitioner trying to travel the path on the middle way.

The reason I reacted to Twisted Branch was because of the aggressive manner in which he leveled his criticism. I don't mind criticism but since I'm not a Buddha or Bodhisattva I still get hurt when people I don't know attack me for being something that I am not. So of course I'd do what any red blooded person still struggling with samsara would do -- defend themselves and their blog. I have worked hard to establish my blog as one of the top blogs addressing Buddhism today. That said this doesn't make me an expert but a kind of "Buddhist columnist." I don't appreciate being attacked and my integrity as a Buddhist questioned just like you probably wouldn't like it either.

We Buddhist bloggers are often attacked by mainstream columnists for Buddhist magazines but what makes our columns any more controversial and misinformed that some of the ones I've read in these magazines? I've read editorials and articles in your magazine and in other places that are debatable. So this isn't just a blogosphere thing.

I titled my blog, "The Buddhist Blog" not because I think it is the last word on Buddhism but frankly because I couldn't think of anything else as a title!! I didn't realize that it was causing such a stir amongst people. I guess I should change it to "A Buddhist Blog" so as not to offend anyone but I have had that title since the beginning and changing it would only confuse my readers. I honestly didn't think it would be that big of a deal to people. Maybe I should put it to a vote on the blog. I try really hard to be a fair minded but passionate blogger and I try hard to write posts that show the peaceful side of Buddhism but I will defend myself when attacked. And being still human I will say some controversial things from time to time.

I feel as though you misrepresented my blog is adding this quote after the exchange between Twisted Branch and myself:

“People who purportedly are teachers—whether they’ve been given transmission or not—are seen as Zen authorities online,” she says. “Sometimes students get swept into currents of basically malevolent speech. How can that be what the Buddha taught? I’m very concerned about it.”

Again, I'm not purported to be a teacher. I go to great lengths to say this in many of my posts as people who regularly read my blog know. I can't be responsible if people consider me an authority because I don't claim such a title. I simply put forth what I'm thinking about on issues involving Buddhism. As well as how my practice is going, etc. "If ego is wrapped in opinion" which it might be to a degree then aren't you just as guilty as you claim some of us bloggers are? We're not Bodhisattvas in the Buddhosblogosphere -- we're just average folks trying to figure out the Dharma in our day to day lives. We don't always represent the Dharma best but then again neither do many who write in your magazine and other Buddhist magazines. We all just try to do our best.

Post Script: But hey!! At least my blog is being advertised!! They say that bad press is good press so let them say what they'll say. It just seems like this author wasn't familiar with my blog as they took one exchange with a rude reader and made it appear as if I argue with every commenter on my blog. They also make it sound like debate is bad in Buddhism. One can debate and still do it with love and respect. It doesn't always mean people hate each other. However, that said I'm about to vent a bit since the author of this article cited didn't give me the common courtesy to tell me I was being featured in a major publication.

I'm a bit tired of what I see as, "Marsh mellow Buddhists" who think the Buddhist community should always just smile and agree on everything. They are practitioners who seem to believe that "true Buddhists" don't still struggle with samsara. These people sometimes give off an air in my opinion of fake peace and tranquility. They wear these pseudo smiles thinking that you have to just force yourself to be happy, o.k with everything and everyone. In other words, "fake it until you make" it -- make it meaning Buddhahood. I don't get that logic but these fakers make all the right postures, say all the right things but look like cult members with their artificial smiles, textbook answers and elitist posturing that they are better Buddhists because they supposedly never get angry or say a bad word. That's at least what it appears they are trying to portray to me and Zen history isn't devoid of some serious debates within monasteries even.

This is the real world -- my practice isn't all gumdrops, unicorns and rainbows. It's often tough, ugly, gritty and a bit messy but that's the real world isn't it? If we don't get down in the mud of our lives then how are we ever going to find the lotus seed of enlightenment to water and experience unfold? It's easy to put on a show that makes you look like some Hollywood version of a Buddhist practitioner who rises above the fray of the messiness of samsara but rare is the being who truly encompasses such a state. I'd rather be a bit rough around the edges at times, on the fringes of accepted, elitist Buddhism but real and true to who I am then use Buddhism as a costume to try on once a week to wear about other costume clad wannabes. I'm not enlightened, I'm not perfect and I do get pissy sometimes but so do you -- even if you don't show it in the social circles you frequent. So spare us the "holier-than-thou" lectures Zenshin Michael Haederle. I find it sad and hypocritical that you misrepresent me as claiming to be an ordained teacher and then insinuate that I'm leading people astray but then you go on to tell us all how to behave in the Buddhoblogosphere!!!

---End of Transmission---

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Obama Calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to be Released.

Pro-Burmese Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (right) with her former spiritual adviser, The Venerable Buddhist monk Thamanya Sayadaw who is now deceased).

By VIJAY JOSHI, Associated Press Writer Vijay Joshi, Associated Press Writer
Sun Nov 15, 9:11 am ET

SINGAPORE – President Barack Obama on Sunday told Myanmar's junta to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an unusual face-to-face interaction with a top leader of the ruling military. Obama delivered the strong message during his summit with leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations, which included Myanmar Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that Obama called on Myanmar to free his fellow Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, and end oppression of minorities.

A joint statement issued after the summit — the first ever between a U.S. president and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — devoted a paragraph on Myanmar, a major irritant in relations between the two sides. But the statement did not call for the release of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years under detention by the military regime. It only urged Myanmar to ensure that the elections it intends to hold in 2010 are "conducted in a free, fair, inclusive and transparent manner."

However, a direct appeal from Obama carries more weight as he is the most powerful leader to have conveyed the message directly to a top Myanmar official.

James: It's easy to feel compassion for the Burmese when we know that we are an extension of them, however, we must all be careful not to have pity toward them. Compassion is selfless in that it places the needs of others at the same level as our own and motivates us to give freely of our time, talents and resources to help ease that suffering a bit. Pity is feeling sorrow for someone's situation but then doing nothing about it. Or helping someone out of a feeling of obligation, which is based on your needs rather than those suffering. You're helping them to make yourself feel better because you silently judge them for being in the position that they are in. And when I say "you" I mean me as well. It is empty compassion. Pity comes from a place of believing that if the object of our pity were only like us then they wouldn't be suffering. As if we don't have a lot of suffering to deal with in our own regard!! Money and freedom aren't necessarily recipes for happiness and freedom from suffering.

True compassion should be extended toward the junta as well because true compassion is unbiased regardless of a person's actions. It's easy to pity the generals but not have genuine compassion because we've made the judgment that they are undeserving of relief from suffering. Yet who amongst us is free from delusion and unskilllful actions? We all have a lot of karmic rocks in our samsara backpack to carry around. We know that using violence, oppression and fear does not bring those leaders happiness. They are clearly suffering and true compassion seeks to ease suffering -- period. It has no prerequisites, no qualifiers, no judgments and no selectivity. There is a saying in America, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." Another saying goes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." In other words when we show compassion to all sides out of motivation to help all beings be free from suffering we realize that it helps all sides.

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reggae Koan.

This guys is one of my favorite artists. Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jewish Reggae/hip-hop artist. I'm a big fan of reggae and find the rhythms especially soothing, inspirational and enlightening. The lyrics in reggae are often about social justice, peace, love, spirituality and harmony and like a lot of music it brings about a sort of musical satori. Music is a powerful force in my life and one that often acts as guide along the middle-path between somethingness and nothingness. I especially like this lyric from Matisyahu's version of this Bob classic, which is a kind of reggae koan:

Everyman thinks that his burden is the heaviest.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Be fully Alive. Buddhism and Multi-Tasking.

How can you be alive when only your body is there and your mind still wanders in the past or in the future? You are not really alive. You are not available to you. You are not available to your beloved ones. So come home to yourself in the here and the now; be fully alive and your true presence profits yourself and profits your beloved ones.

~Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

James: My A.D.D. makes me good at multi-tasking, however, multi-tasking means my attention and awareness is split. That means that I'm not really present for either task. As a consequence I often find it takes me longer to do both projects than if I just do one thing at a time. I have found that the antidote to this false reality is meditation where we practice and learn to let go of all distractions to the present moment. It trains us to realize that there are no short cuts along the way. It may seem slow but putting one foot in front of the other will never lead us astray because then we are fully present and keenly aware of the path.

Whereas in trying to do several things at once we will likely be distracted as we pass important signs, which then increase our chances of getting lost along the way. In doing so we end up making our journey longer, harder and full of suffering. Once we realize that the supposed short-cut was in reality a false moment, it reveals itself for the dead-end it inevitably is and we then have to backtrack to find the longer but well traveled main path once again. The same applies with the past and the future as Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of in this quote.

In ruminating over the past we are no longer putting one foot in front of the other. Instead by doing this we are basically sitting down in the middle of the trail. We are frozen in time, which keeps us from doing anything at all because the present moment is abandoned and the present moment is where life happens. It's like we go into hibernation mode in which, we slip deeper and deeper into a dream where we constantly replay the past hoping somehow it will change. It's like sleep walking through life. In fantasizing about the future we can easily get lost in our vision of a better life. Therefore we get lost in this fantasy world and inevitably when we realize that our fantasies can never become reality we suffer in coming to the awareness that life and precious time has passed us by.

I know that it's a bit early to make goals for the new year. That said, I am going to work on reducing my multi-tasking to the bare essentials like reading road signs as I'm driving so that life no longer passes by me. I'd rather live a so-called "boring life" than live in a fantasy world.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Heart Sutra Mantra.

Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha!! This is from the Heart Sutra mantra, which speaks of transcending thoughts and concepts to reside in the pure essence of being at peace and at one with all. Oneness that is beyond all dualities. In my understanding, to be able to reside in that place of balance between somethingness and nothingness, regardless of circumstances is tasting the enlightenment of Nirvana.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is This?

---This is a long post but I had a moment of realization in real time that I wanted to write out---

In the Korean Zen tradition, there is a method of meditation that uses the question “What is this?” to cultivate concentration and inquiry together. As you sit or walk in meditation, you ask constantly, “What is this?” Repeating this question develops concentration because it returns you to the full awareness of the moment. As soon as you become aware of being distracted by past events, anxieties about the present, or future dreams, you ask “What is this?” This way, the power of questioning dissolves distraction. You don’t repeat this question like a mantra, but with a deep sense of questioning. This is not an analytical or intellectual endeavor. (You have to be careful not to ask the question with the head but with the whole body; sometimes it is recommended to ask with the lower belly.) You are not asking about anything specific, and you are not looking for a specific answer. You are just asking meditatively, experientially, opening yourself to the whole moment, to the questionable and mysterious aspect of life itself and your place within it. You are asking because you truly do not know.

James: I hadn't heard of this technique before but I like it and can see how it would be helpful in focusing on the present moment. I like that it doesn't focus on a specific, linear thought but on the essence of the moment. In addition, it seems like a good technique because it invites us to use our senses rather than our minds. It is our senses that pick up on the subtle aspects from moment to moment that we so often miss and it is those subtleties that provide me a lot of perspective. For instance, deep listening helps me remember that there are infinite events occurring simultaneously on infinite levels. It makes me realize how much I miss throughout the day. It takes me out of the constrictive, analytical confines of my vacuum sealed brain where isolation breeds delusion and into simply being with it all.

It has been my experience that when we can just "be" with the moment that suffering is no longer so painful. It simply is apart of the moment but when I am sealed off in the penthouse that is my brain I lose touch with the greater moment. I can only see, feel and think about pain, suffering and heartache, which isn't bad to deny such feelings. In fact, it's good to just feel what you feel because I have found the worst way to try and deal with suffering is to try and deny it. However, the suffering isn't the totality of the moment and to focus only on that is to unnecessarily intensify the suffering. Such as right now I'm pained to realize that winter is coming and thus shorter days. I mourn the loss of sun in the late afternoon and last night all I could feel was the darkness and it became so intense that it really dug into my brain and depression ensued.

Well, that makes sense as all I allowed my mind to experience was the darkness and how that usually means depression. Well, part of it is biological as I have a mental illness but a lot of it isn't. Of course I was going to end up depressed if the only thing I allowed to myself to experience in that moment was the darkness and obsessing on hoping it wouldn't make me depressed!! My brain is good at self-fulfilling prophecies as I suspect all of ours are. Yet tonight as I type this out I am constantly posing that question, "What is this?"

So while I am focusing on the computer I am also enjoying the sunset outside the window. It is opening up my experience so that I see both sides of the darkness coin. Yes, It is getting dark but I get to enjoy an amazingly colorful sunset and that should cause me to rejoice!! It does!! The sunlight is not just simply saying "good-bye" but it is putting on a show for me, which has given me a whole new outlook on dealing with the early sunset. We may mourn the loss of daylight but each night we get a wonderful, brilliant, vibrant and ever changing show of lights, shapes and colors. It's as if the sunset is saying, "I know the darkness is difficult sometimes but if you pay close attention each evening I will make that darkness not seem so long with a daily show of fireworks!!

How could I be totally overcome with depression if I allow that part of the moment to come through too. There are so many amazing blessings that nature and even humanity bestow upon us every moment if we but let them in. It's not that my moments of suffering are all that is possible at any given moment but that my mind closes itself off to any other moments occurring simultaneously that might help me deal with the suffering. So ask yourself, "What is this?" See if it helps you as it does me.

PHOTO CREDIT: Thai Temple Statue Sunset by Hn on Flickr.

~Peace to all beings~

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