In the side yard, Amida Buddha sits on a jutting granite boulder under an arch we cut out of a fat rhododendron bush. Every May the rhododendron erupts, surrounding the Buddha with soft pink blossoms. Throughout this profligate display, he sits unmoved in the semi-dark of his shallow cave. In a few days, flower petals will fall all around him, turn brown, and blow away on the wind. Later in the spring, a row of Irises will bloom, creating a blue capped phalanx on either side in front of him. Still, he will sit serenely as the deep blue flowers open, wither, and die. In the fall, pine needles and leaves will scud their way into his enclosure and rest in his lap. Winter snows completely cover him.
Through every season - every change - he sits - and constantly tries with the considerable force of his example - to teach the blockhead in the yellow house next to him.
Useless Old Stick of Wood
~ Seong Cheol Kun Sunim ~
The more you try to impress others, the more you become nothing but a madman doing a futile dance and the more you stray further and further away from cleansing the heart. So you see, if you wish to cleanse the heart, you have to become totally useless and worthless, a complete failure in the eyes of the world. For the eternal, you have to sacrifice everything and turn your back on the world. You have to become someone who can be rejected by everyone, someone who can be despised everywhere, and someone who is dedicated to one thing and one thing only: cleansing the heart.
Not a single other thing matters.
277. "All conditioned things are impermanent" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
278. "All conditioned things are unsatisfactory" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
279. "All things are not-self" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
“Buddha and the Five Ascetics"
"I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Varanasi in the Game Refuge at Isipatana. There he addressed the group of five monks:
"There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth. Which two? That which is devoted to sensual pleasure with reference to sensual objects: base, vulgar, common, ignoble, unprofitable; and that which is devoted to self-affliction: painful, ignoble, unprofitable. Avoiding both of these extremes, the middle way realized by the Tathagata — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
"And what is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding? Precisely this Noble Eightfold Path: right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This is the middle way realized by the Tathagata that — producing vision, producing knowledge — leads to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding.
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the cessation of stress: the remainderless fading & cessation, renunciation, relinquishment, release, & letting go of that very craving.
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: precisely this Noble Eightfold Path — right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration…..."
"Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: Setting the Wheel of Dhamma in Motion" (SN 56.11),translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
Peace Pagoda - Leverett MA
The first Peace Pagoda to rise in the US.
The only other one in the US is in Grafton NY.
Constructed under the auspices of the Nipponzan-Myōhōji monks.
The monks say that the pagodas are prayer made visible.
There are Peace Pagodas in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
where Americans incinerated over 150,000
Japanese people, mostly
my first meditation teacher many years ago
warned us to be careful about getting
involved with the dharma.
he said that encountering the dharma is like
walking along in the softest mist. you won’t know you’re wet
until you’re drenched to the bone. and then,
there’s nothing to be done.
"There is real power here of course. Deep power – but it is not the power we most of us choose or even acknowledge a lot of the time. Because instead of being something grand and beautiful and strong and safe-making, that which Jesus both reveals and shares over and over again is a power of quietness and fluidity and give. Not, then, the victor’s power to impose – even to impose mercy and graciousness and generosity. But rather the vanquished one’s power to remain no matter what; to be broken and broken and broken and still (in Christ’s case at least) to be love through it all -- not as a result of a choice or a decision so much as because that is His nature – always and everywhere and no matter what to be love.
This for me, and at least this year, seems to be the message of Easter: not that love triumphs, or even wins in the end, but simply that love remains. Which is to say that no matter the circumstances – no matter the depths of defeat, or even of death, it cannot be cut off, or snuffed-out, or twisted, or turned into something it is not. ….."
Excerpt “Love Remains"
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by "Accept disgrace willingly"?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called "accepting disgrace willingly."
What do you mean by "Accept misfortune as the human condition"?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
“Tao Te Ching"
Gia Fu Feng - Translator
"One hour and then another.
Inexorably march, step by step.
Whenever I meet you, we each smile.
But who is it who drags your corpse around?"
~ Chan Master Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud)
Another way of expressing James Carroll’s writing in the post below - from the mountains of Korea in a tradition that pre-dates Mr Carroll’s by some 500 years:
“They say that paradise is in the west. So the Sixth Patriarch HuiNeng asked where the people in the west went if the people in the east chanted and went to the paradise in the west.
If you open up the eye, you’ll see that everything lives in the great light. In fact, we, too, are nothing but the great light. So if you realize that everyone is buddha, and respect and serve them as such, then you’ll come to see that paradise is right here, right now, in all directions."
Translated by Brian Barry.
Here is a bit of Buddha-dharma on this lovely Easter Sunday morning. This excerpt is from former Paulist Father James Carroll’s book “Christ Actually"
“Instead of merely longing for a fulfilling (and peaceful) future, Christians were called on to find the reign of God in the present (even tormented) moment. They were encouraged to shift their gaze, from the other world to this one. Eternal life is not what happens then, but what happens now “Afterlife” and this life are inextricably intertwined. Such rejection of temporal oppositionalism- then versus now- amounts to a transformation of the meaning of time. “Eternity” is an opening of human perception, not an endless stretch of hours, days, eras, and eons… The call is to find the sacred in the depth of life, not in the breadth or length of it."
~ James Carroll via Cathedral Church of St Paul, Boston ~
Every day life fairly brims with groundlessness - we bump into it all the time - that unsettling fact that there is nowhere solid to stand. There is nowhere we can say to ourselves once and for all “This is it!” Most of us deal with groundlessness by ignoring it in one way or another - busyness, drinking, food, drugs, religion, TV, shopping, some combination of those things - you name it. There are places, however where it is particularly difficult to elude the great truth of groundlessness. In fact, they are veritable red-hot crucibles of it.
A medical waiting room is one such place where we sit our asses down and have a direct encounter with groundlessness. Nicely decorated with comfortable furniture, stocked with the latest editions of popular magazines, they are nonetheless emotionally charged cauldrons where we come face to face with great uncertainty and where many times we will end up being yanked from the life we thought we were living into unfamiliar, scary territory.
In places like waiting rooms where groundlessness abounds, it matters not one whit what is on our kindles, or what new tunes are on our carefully curated Spotify playlists, or what newly manufactured calamity is being fed to us via the office TV playing Fox News… There is no escape. Groundlessness sits before us, a black bottomless pool, breathing, waiting.
Teachers from all lineages tell us the same thing: the only effective means of engagement is to let go of expectations and step in..
A kalpa is a measure of time - a very very very long time. It has been explained in Buddhist literature by a couple stories (there may well be others):
Our lives are so tiny against the vastness of time. Our accomplishments - even the ones generally considered mighty - are so small. The very best of us are no more than a single raggedy thread of Spartina blowing in the wind - scratching away at a towering sand dune. If this little blue rock we are all on were to blip out of existence right this instant, the entire universe would proceed with its business for another billion kalpas - completely and totally unruffled.
In the harsh white light of this howling indifference - kindness and compassion are the only things that make any sense at all as we amble together through our three score and ten.
"Some people think that the longer you can sit, the wiser you must be. I have seen chickens sit on their nests for days on end! Wisdom comes from being mindful in all postures. Your practice should begin as you awaken in the morning. It should continue until you fall asleep. Don't be concerned about how long you can sit. What is important is only that you keep watchful whether you are working or sitting or going to the bathroom.
Each person has his own natural pace. Some of you will die at age fifty, some at age sixty-five, and some at age ninety. So, too, your practice will not be all identical. Don't think or worry about this. Try to be mindful and let things take their natural course. Then your mind will become quieter and quieter in any surroundings. It will become still like a clear forest pool. Then all kinds of wonderful and rare animals will come to drink at the pool. You will see clearly the nature of all things (sankharas) in the world. You will see many wonderful and strange things come and go. But you will be still. Problems will arise and you will see through them immediately. This is the happiness of the Buddha."
~ Ajahn Chah ~
"...you mistake all the little noises in your head for true knowledge…"
~ Birdman ~
In addition to the above quote - which is Buddhism 101,
another teensy bit of Dharma is stuck inside this clip...
The bit where Michael Keaton holds up the
flower and tells her she can’t see it.
Echoes of the Buddha and Mahakashyapa
- the flower sermon -
As I wrote a year ago, I changed adhesive technology for locking barrel knots. I switched from using "Hard-As-Nails" clear fingernail polish to Gorilla-brand Super Glue. I did this to get a faster cure time with way less outgassing.
My experience with the Gorilla Super Glue has been great. It dries fast with no discernible odor. And so far - knock wood - I have not heard of rosaries/malas coming undone.
Over the last year, I’ve learned to be sparing with the super glue and to work it into the knots with a toothpick or some other small pointed tool. I discovered that If I just put a big dollop of the glue on the knot - it would invariably dry cloudy white - ugly.. uck…
What I find is that by working the glue into the knot, the glue gets deeper inside the knotting cord fibers and when the glue dries - it dries clear. The resulting knot will be darker and shinier than the unglued knots, but there is nothing to be done about that - unless you want to glue *all* the knots on your rosary / mala - something that is both time consuming and completely unnecessary.
Happy Mala/Rosary Making!
Whatever merit there may be in this work,
If winter in my neighborhood took a selfie, this is what it would look like - dark - brooding - with more than a little menace. There is not a shred of Norman Rockwell or Maxfield Parrish bucolic loveliness. No. This is the look of a season that wants you dead and will bide its time until you make a mistake.. This is winter sitting on your chest with its hands around your throat, slowly and inexorably increasing the pressure on your windpipe...
And to think - this is how it feels for me - ensconced as I am (however precariously) inside a drafty house in a rich little town.. I can’t even imagine how it is for men, women and children who are sleeping on the street or subject to the tumult of shelters or worst of all are being stored in Marty Walsh’s House of Mercy and Generosity in the South End.
The whole thing - daily shoveling - ice melting - house inspection - roof raking - the constant vigilance - the constant worry - has put me in a foul mood and has provoked a tic whereby I check the long range forecast over and over for any sign of warming temperatures.
Yesterday afternoon after purchasing another 50 lb bag of calcium chloride pellets, I was doing the daily shoveling / icicle removal tour of the estate when it hit me.
All is right with the world.
In fact - it can be no other way.
This winter is a months-long symposium on the First Noble Truth - life is dukkha.
Furthermore, this winter is a visitation from Yamantaka, the wrathful manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri. Yamantaka appears out of great compassion in order to aid those karmic voyagers too stuck in their delusions - too adhered to their notions that life ‘should’ be free of suffering. Yamantaka is here for the hard cases - like me - those beyond the help of Manjushri’s flaming blade of discernment.
Welcome Yamantaka - do your work. Free me of my silly cravings for comfort and security..
“The nature of our immortal lives
Our lives are not our own.
From womb to tomb, we’re bound to others.
~ Sonmi-451 - Cloud Atlas ~
“We fire missiles from the sky that incinerate families huddled in their houses. They incinerate a pilot cowering in a cage. We torture hostages in our black sites and choke them to death by stuffing rags down their throats. They torture hostages in squalid hovels and behead them. We organize Shiite death squads to kill Sunnis. They organize Sunni death squads to kill Shiites. We produce high-budget films such as “American Sniper” to glorify our war crimes. They produce inspirational videos to glorify their twisted version of jihad.”
~ Chris Hedges ~
“Christianity is something to do, not a philosophical puzzle. It comes about not when someone affirms a creedal proposition, but when someone does something. It is a way to be witnessed, not a proposition to be proven.”
(via AZspot.net ~ Philip D. Caputo)
Like - for example - what I saw today on Tremont Street - one person offering a just-purchased, still-in-the bag, warm, savory lunch sandwich to a hungry brother.. for instance.
"What we call uncertainty here is the Buddha. The Buddha is the Dhamma. The Dhamma is the characteristic of uncertainty. Whoever sees the uncertainty of things sees the unchanging reality of them. That's what the Dhamma is like. And that is the Buddha. If you see the Dhamma you see the Buddha, seeing the Buddha, you see the Dhamma. If you know aniccam, uncertainty, you will let go of things and not grasp onto them.
You say, ''Don't break my glass!'' Can you prevent something that's breakable from breaking? If it doesn't break now it will break later on. If you don't break it, someone else will. If someone else doesn't break it, one of the chickens will! The Buddha says to accept this. He penetrated the truth of these things, seeing that this glass is already broken. Whenever you use this glass you should reflect that it's already broken. Do you understand this? The Buddha's understanding was like this. He saw the broken glass within the unbroken one. Whenever its time is up it will break. Develop this kind of understanding. Use the glass, look after it, until when, one day, it slips out of your hand... ''Smash!''... no problem. Why is there no problem? Because you saw its brokenness before it broke!"
~ Ven. Ajahn Chah - “Still, Flowing Water” ~
"What do people mean when they complain of solitude? It is a good thing to be alone and undisturbed. If you follow the world, then your heart is captured by defilements from without, and you are easily led astray. If you mix with men, your speech is agreeable to the ears of others, but it comes not from your own heart. You jest with them, you quarrel with them, now hating, now rejoicing, and there is no end thereto. A thousand decisions must be made, and loss and gain are ever present. Upon delusion follows drunkenness, and in drunkenness you dream. Such is the way of all men - hurrying, hastening, infatuate and blind."
~ Yoshida Kenko - Essays in Idleness ~
According to Wikipedia a “shit stick” is:
The statement “The Buddha is a shit stick” was allegedly first uttered by Zen Master Unmon some time in the 9th or 10th century in China. According to an early compilation of koans:
Unmon was not being outrageous for the sake of being outrageous. He was trying to liberate the young monk from his attachments to forms and ideas, because forms and ideas - as helpful as they can be sometimes - get in the way of realizing the fundamental point. Unmon was in effect saying “Forget about your ideas of Buddha. They can’t help you. In fact, they will derail you. So - the buddha is a shit stick."
Not understanding Unmon's point - otherwise known as the “mistaking the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself” syndrome is at the root of much suffering and sadness on the part of many adherents in all spiritual paths. Sometimes - attachment to form and ideas can even lead to the ultimate error - killing each other over our shit sticks.
Our symbols and our liturgies and our holy clergy and our beautiful churches and our hymns and our temples and our rosaries and our holy medals and our prayers and our statues and our Holy Writs are not the moon - they are only fingers pointing more or less in the direction of the moon. They are aids and nothing more. In the end they all become hindrances and so must be regarded only as a thrown together raft that we use to get from one side of a river to the other. Once on the other side - the raft must be abandoned.
So - if all the worldly manifestations of our spiritual paths are not “It”, what is “It”? That is the very most important question….so much so that Korean Monks I have known have spent endless hours sitting and facing the wall with that exact question embedded in their guts like a ball of red hot iron. “What is it?”
Sounding much like the old Zen Master Unmon, Father Bede Griffiths, a Benedictine Monk who spent much of his life in India as a Sanyasin, had this to say about the “It.”:
Or - as Lao Tzu wrote 2500 years ago “The Tao (way) that can be spoken is not the true Tao (way)."
The Buddha is a shit stick.
~ Charles Wright - Lonesome Pine Special ~
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
In the Episcopal Church, 12/31 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The feast is about the jealous ruler Herod who learns of the birth of a possible new rival and sets out to kill all the newborns in the kingdom. Joseph learns in a dream that this is about to happen and he goes home by another way with his wife and child.
By many accounts - the massacre of the innocents is fiction. Lack of historicity makes it not one tiny bit less true today. There are all manner of Herods roaming the countryside, corporate Herods, governmental Herods, religious Herods, and worst of all the ten thousand Herods living in our own minds that drive us to act on ignorant and shortsighted impulses. The Buddhists call these Herods the kleshas - defilements like greed, hate, delusion, conceit, wrong views etc. Whatever they are called - they lead to suffering.
The good news in both traditions is that there is, as John’s Gospel says, a light shining in the darkness. My Buddhist brothers and sisters call the light that cannot be overcome, Buddha Nature or Foundational Mind. My Priest refers to the “indwelling Christ.” The work of our lives then is to attain - to awaken to - what we already are: Buddhas, members of the mystical Body of Christ.
My offering for all of us who are beset by the ten thousand Herods is this humble, ancient, Buddhist prayer:
May we be happy
May we be safe
May we awaken to the light of our true nature
May we be free.
"The country seems bigger, for you can see through the bare trees. There are times when the woods are absolutely still and quiet. The house holds warmth. A wet snow comes in the night and covers the ground and clings to the trees, making the whole world white. For a while in the morning the world is perfect and beautiful. You think you will never forget.
You think you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can't remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise. Speaking of these things tells you that there are no words for them that are equal to them or that can restore them to your mind. And so you have a life that you are living only now, now and now and now, gone before you can speak of it, and you must be thankful for living day by day, moment by moment, in this presence.
But you have a life too that you remember. It stays with you. You have lived a life in the breath and pulse and living light of the present, and your memories of it, remember now, are of a different life in a different world and time. When you remember the past, you are not remembering it as it was. You are remembering it as it is. It is a vision or a dream, present with you in the present, alive with you in the only time you are alive."
~ Wendell Berry ~
(Quote Via Whiskey River)
“Sacred space is where you can be yourself. And by that I mean you can feel what’s going on inside, and it’s ok to do that. And you don’t have to worry so much about your performance. What it looks like to everyone else… And you can study and see what you can find out - see what you notice - see what makes sense to you - carefully observing how things appear and disappear - and how there doesn’t seem to be anything you can count on - and yet - given that there’s nothing you can count on, there’s the possibility of being at home in your own body, in your own mind, and in this place and this time.
One of our most well known ancestors, Dogen, says when you find your place where you are - practice occurs - and you actualize the fundamental point."
As part of a recent Dharma talk given at San Francisco Zen Center - Zen Master Edward Espe Brown expounded on the act of receiving the Eucharist.
Ok - that’s not entirely true..
Actually - Ed talked about being struck with the Keisaku - “the encouragement” stick - by his teacher - and yet - many similarities:
“Suzuki-Roshi had a stick - and he would hit you…. when Suzuki-roshi hit you, everything disappeared - everything - there was no up or down - there was no forward or back - there were no thoughts - no feelings - you couldn’t even say there was something or nothing. It was really quite remarkable. And then, often times you would think 'Well, wait a minute - where’s reality - how was I doing that? Wait a minute! There must be some way to put these things together so that it seems like there’s a world and there’s people and there’s me. Where are they?’ Then you would see if you could get some sense of reality back again."
~ Edward Espe Brown ~ “The Mind that Seeks the Way"
“The desert accepts my homage with its customary silence. The grand indifference. As any man of sense would want it. If a voice from the clouds suddenly addressed me, speaking my name in trombone tones, or some angel in an aura of blue flame came floating toward me along the canyon rim, I think I would be more embarrassed than frightened - embarrassed by the vulgarity of such a display. This is what depresses in the mysticism of Carlos Castaneda and his like: their poverty of imagination. As any honest magician knows, true magic inheres in the ordinary, the commonplace, the everyday, the mystery of the obvious. Only petty minds and trivial souls yearn for supernatural events, incapable of perceiving that everything - everything! - within and around them is pure miracle."
~ Edward Abbey ~
"Prayer is based on the remote possibility that someone is actually listening; but so is a lot of conversation. If the former seems far-fetched, consider the latter: even if someone is listening to your story, and really hearing, that person will disappear from existence in the blink of a cosmic eye, so why bother to tell this perhaps illusory and possibly un-listening person something he or she is unlikely to truly understand, just before the two of you blip back out of existence? We like to talk to people who answer us, intelligently if possible, but we do talk without needing response or expecting comprehension. Sometimes, the event is the word, the act of speaking. Once we pull that apart a bit, the action of talking becomes more important than the question of whether the talking is working-because we know, going in, that the talking is not working. That said, one might as well pray."
~ Jennifer Michael Hecht ~