Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Birth and Death

Birth and Death are elements of natural time. They help time obscure eternity. They are a mask on the face of our real selves.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Āditta Sutta - the Buddha's 3rd sermon

            At one time the Blessed one was living near Gayā, at Gayā’s head, with a thousand bhikkhus. Then the Blessed One addressed them:

“Everything, monks, is burning. What, monks, is everything that is burning? The eye, monks, is burning, form is burning, eye-consciousness is burning, eye-contact is burning. The feeling that arises dependent on eye-contact, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral, that also is burning. With what is it burning? It is burning with the fire of passion, the fire of hatred, the fire of delusion. I declare that it is burning with the fire of birth, decay, death, grief, lamentation, pain, sorrow, and despair.

The ear, monks, is burning, sound is burning, … and despair.

The nose, monks, is burning, odour is burning, … and despair.

The tongue, monks, is burning, taste is burning, … and despair.

The body, monks, is burning, touch is burning, … and despair.

The mind, monks, is burning, thought is burning, … and despair.

Seeing thus, monks, the well-informed noble disciple is disgusted with the eye, is disgusted with forms, is disgusted with eye-consciousness, disgusted with eye-contact. He is disgusted with the feeling that arises dependent on eye contact, whether pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. He is disgusted with the ear … with the nose … with the tongue … with the body … with the mind, with thoughts, with mind-contact, with the feeling that arises dependent on mind-contact, whether pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.

Being disgusted, he is dispassionate, being dispassionate he is freed. Being freed, he knows he is free, and he knows, “Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been fulfilled, what should be done has been done, there is no more of this.”

Thus spoke the Blessed One. Those monks delighted in what the Blessed One had said. And while this discourse was being delivered the minds of those one thousand monks were liberated from defilements without any remainder.

Eating is a fire, breathing is a fire, the fire is the mouth of the Gods who accept this offering and that to is a burning ... 

Just a frog

There is the absolute and the realization of the expressions of the absolute.   Love is such a realization.  A sunset is such a realization.  Living and dying are such a realization. Time has noting to do with eternity; time is simply what obscures eternity from our perception. A frog can sit on a lily pad for a million culpa and still just be a fucking frog.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Walking Zen.

       The other day I was sitting in a crowed restaurant. I saw this elderly man trying to walk among all the bustling people fighting for their place in the buffet line. His was taking small careful steps, walking very slowly and more over with a focus and intent that can only be described as mindfulness.

       All the people around him were focused on the mechanics of getting their food and getting back to their table to eat. He on the other hand, probably due to his own frailty was focused completely at the time on walking.
      As I observed him I suddenly had several realizations about “walking meditation” or “Kinhin” as it is called in Japanese Zen and “Cankama” in Pali, as practiced by the Theravadin monks of Thailand and Sri Lanka.
       This was one of those slap your own forehead moments when you are absolutely positive you’re the last person in the auditorium to get the joke.
        Frankly I had never really utilized our sessions of Kinhin for much more than an opportunity to bring the circulation back into my lower extremities after a long period of sitting meditation (zazen). My focus was almost always on getting the feeling and blood back in my legs.
       In that moment I saw that walking mediation was truly a powerful form and practice. It became clear to me that done with true mindfulness it could be the bridge between  sitting on the cushion and my everyday life and activity, if done correctly it was Zen in action. It would be the ground for a steady and alert mind as I walked into my daily activities.
        As we baby boomers age and become afflicted with arthritis, broken hips slipped or ruptured discs I can see Kinhin becoming more and more a way we older folks can practice Zen, not just as a break between the “real” Zen, but as a powerful meaningful practice.  It can be practiced almost every where and by almost every one. I know this seems stupid but realizing all this made my heart feel very good.

(A Navajo Indian Prayer of the Second Day of the Night Chant (anonymous)

In beauty may I walk.

All day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons may I walk.
Beautifully will I possess again.
Beautifully birds . . .
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk.
With dew about my feet may I walk.
With beauty may I walk.

With beauty before me, may I walk.
With beauty behind me, may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me, may I walk.
With beauty all around me, may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.

It is finished in beauty.
It is finished in beauty.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


With the loss this Saturday of my wife of 35 years I have been cut in half. I can not even feel the loss, I am just numb. Can half a person sit and find wisdom? I can now speak to some but have nothing to say to anyone. I do not dream.

This morning early in the hours of the day, I told myself I must finish what I have started. Her death was not about me, her life was not about me, she is the one who is taking the journey past knowing, not I. All this pain is mere self indulgence and ego.

All that I have chosen to accept, rebirth Karma and the words of the tathagata say I will dance this dance with her a million times and a million more, that we will spin off through eternity in different guises and different aspects sharing tears that will fill the oceans and joys that will light the sky’s of a million worlds.

How I would rather that the Christians were correct, that she resides in their heaven, and that once in a million eons the dammed are allowed out of hell for a short time, the so called Refrigerium. Then I could visit her and we could laugh for a while. But I think not.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


      Causality describes the relationship between causes and effects, is fundamental to all natural science, especially physics, and has an analog in logic. It is also studied from the perspectives of philosophy, computer science, and statistics. I think it is fair to say that the study of and analysis of Causality Is fundamental to our so called modern scientific world view. All of the so called Laws of Newtonian Physics were simply statements of material causality.
      We humans have always had a very practical interest in why things are occurring as they do. History has also shown that as a species we are simply unable to accept the idea that things “just happen” without an underlying explanation as to what caused these things to occur. This resistance to the “shit happens” world view has in fact served the human race well.
       Learning what has killed the sheep is an important step in protecting the herd. Was it wolves, bad clover or space aliens? If a sheep herder is to succeed he has to have an answer. Knowing what causes to things to happen has allowed us to survive and prosper. In cases where an obvious cause is not discovered, humans may attribute the events to miracles or to evil supernatural agencies. But the one thing we have always rejected is the idea that events are just random, that things occure without a cause. There is a learned preference for some alternative to saying that something occurred without there being a reason for it.
       I have found that in both Tibetan and Chan Buddhist teachings there is a very fundamental teaching as to what a student of Buddha must have as a mind set if he or she is to proceed successfully. In his book on the fundamentals of Buddhism Geshe Kelsang Gyatso states these clearly. In “Master HSU Yun’s discourse in the CH”AN HALL” Lu Kuan Yu quotes his master , Hsu Yun, ( Hsu Yun was perhaps the greatest Chan master of the last century) as stating these very same criteria that Gaytso avers as fundamental to Tibetan Buddhism.

As stated by Master hsu Yun the prerequisites to all Ch’an training are:

1. Firm Belief in the law of causality (i.e. Karma)

2. Strict observance of the rules of discipline ( i.e. The Ten Major Precepts)

3. Faith: The firm belief that the Buddha’s teachings are true, not false and that we all have the tathagata’s wisdom within us.

      These three basic mindsets that both these schools teach have become antithetical to modern Zen. Teachers like Brad Warner’s head would explode at the mere sounding of these teachings. In every modern so called book on Zen I see clearly the modern Deism and the new religion science’s worldview that disconnects spirit and matter. I don’t see these modern Zen teachings as Zen founded but rather a result of the now faltering “rationalistic” world view of the 19th and 20th centuries.
       Perhaps the least supported one of these mindsets in modern Zen is the very first one; a firm Belief in the law of causality (i.e. Karma). Despite the fact that causality is fundamental to all our so called modern sciences and despite the fact that virtually every social system presently in the world operates in the firm belief in causality modern western students of Buddha reject the very idea of spiritual causality. Even quantum theory has several theories of causality. So I must ask myself why so few modern students of Buddhism feel comfortable admitting to the idea of Karma.
       Modern quantum theory suggest that everything material is also mental and everything mental is also material that matter isn’t different from mind. That form is emptiness and emptiness is form. Why then should the law of causality not rule the entire spectrum of reality?
      I can only believe that as the world view of the last so called modern era crumbles this resistance to the nature of Karma will fall away.
       Maybe one day American Zen teachers will again feel entirely comfortable teaching the above three “prerequisites to all Ch’an training”.

Mind and Matter

      Back before westerners got involved in Buddhism there was no discussion about whether or not Buddhism was a religion. To the Buddhist in the east Buddhism was his religion and not a so called philosophy of natural law. All of these attempts to make Buddhism not a religion began when people simply couldn’t squeeze it  into the same mold as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
       The very term “religion” in most Americans world view is simply another word for theism. As science and “enlightened” thinking progressed a new world view developed even among Christians that any idea of spiritual or mystical or magical beliefs was all to be labeled “superstition”. Physiologist in the west have even developed a clinical term for what these oh so rational scientists see as horribly irrational world views, they call it magical thinking.
       The Christians philosophers of the 17th century developed the idea they called Deism. A Deist typically rejects supernatural events such as prophecy and miracles, tending to assert that God (or "The Supreme Architect") has a plan for the universe that is not to be altered by intervention in the affairs of human life. That is to say they adopted Mechanistic thinking - the universe is a machinelike entity that God simply made wound up and sits back uninvolved and observes as it ticks away.
        As the new religion of Science took root in western thinking this idea of the Universe as a giant clock work mechanism was the underling view of the material world. In 1642, the year Galileo died, Isaac Newton was born. Newton was a mathematical genius whose laws of the physical universe became the handbook for Mechanistic thinking for centuries.
       The new religion science created a worldview that disconnects spirit and matter, in fact a world view that rejected the very idea of spirituality. Of course the problem was that we simply couldn’t escape our own awareness of spirituality. Philosophers and scientists and every kind of so called rational thinker have for the last two hundred years spent hours upon hours writing, arguing and “proving” that there is no such thing as spiritual matter or matters. The communist tried to stamp it out, burned murdered and savaged their own cultures relentlessly for a hundred years and still have been unable to convince the majority of humanity that they are nothing more than a temporary, meaningless assortment of organic sludge. Then of course the scientists delved deep enough into matter to discover the so called Quantum theory.
       A quantum system is represented mathematically by a wave function. What is so frustrating to the worldview that has developed over the last few centuries is that Quantum theory is generally regarded as one of the most successful scientific Theories ever formulated but its view of reality is much closer to the so called classical “mystical” worldview than modern scientists would allow. The standard interpretation of quantum theory implies that all the macroscopic objects we see around us exist in an objective, unambiguous state only when they are being measured or observed. This leads to the suggestion that  it is consciousness that collapses the wave function and thereby creates reality. In this view, a subatomic particle does not assume definite properties when it interacts with a measuring device, but only when the reading of the measuring device is registered in the mind of an observer.
          This was of course the bases of a major school of Buddhist philosophy, the mind only school, a thousand years before Newton was born. The similarity between these two theories of reality has caused great conflict in both science and Buddhism with each system of beliefs now frantically trying to integrate the other into itself.
            In considering all of the above, and yes Dorothy Zen is a Mind Only School, I have come across another issue that I would like to address in context with this sundering of spiritual and material in our world view: “Causality”. Causality then will be the subject of my next Blog.