Monday, November 30, 2009

Runner's Orgasms

Went to the bookstore to see if there were any unbelievable after-Thanksgiving sales. There wasn't anything for me, as it turned out, so i went home and bought Eihei Dōgen: Mystical Realist online — but while browsing in the Running section at the store, i did notice this chapter title in one book: "The Runner's High Is Like An Orgasm."

Hmmmmmm..... now that has to make one stop and think. Does this mean i'd have more luck in life if i replaced my photos on the online dating sites with new ones of me in my running shoes and tights? Or, conversely, does that explain why my short, fast tempo runs are great but i find it so difficult on those long, slow early morning weekend runs? I wonder if there really is a connection or if he was just trying to sell books????


DHS 19/100

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The World Outside

DHS 18/100

Time For A Walk

Time for a walk
   in the world outside
      and a look at who I am
Originally I had no cares
   and I am seeking
      nothing special
Even for my guests
   I have nothing
      to offer
Except these white stones
   and this clear
      spring water

Musō Soseki
Sun At Midnight: Poems And Sermons

Originally, no cares. Then life, and, well.... there goes the "no cares." In the mountains, in a monastery, in retreat, it's easy to get back to that. Search for nothing special. Let the greatest presents you can offer guests be reality. But, occasionally make the time to take a walk. Outside. Back to this mundane world were the rest of us live. Can you stay on the path or do you get lost? Here's where exams are administered. Who are you now?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who Cares?

[M]an's way to liberation and perfection lies through an increasing impersonality. It is his ancient and constant experience that the more he opens himself to the impersonal and infinite, to that which is pure and high and one and common in all things and beings, the impersonal and infinite in Nature, the impersonal and infinite in life, the impersonal and infinite in his own subjectivity, the less he is bound by his ego and by the circle of the finite, the more he feels a sense of largeness, peace, pure happiness. The pleasure, joy, satisfaction which the finite by itself can give, or the ego in its own right attain, is transitory, petty and insecure. To dwell entirely in the ego sense and its finite conceptions, powers, satisfactions is to find this world forever full of transience and suffering...

[T]he finite life is always troubled by a certain sense of vanity for this fundamental reason that the finite is not the whole or the highest truth of life; life is not entirely real until it opens into the sense of the infinite. ...

For the impersonal, the infinite, the One in which all the impermanent, mutable, multiple activity of the world finds above itself its base of permanence, security and peace, is the immobile Self. ... If we see this, we shall see that to raise one's consciousness and the poise of one's being out of limited personality into this infinite and impersonal Brahman is the first spiritual necessity. To see all beings in this one Self is the knowledge which raises the soul out of egoistic ignorance and its works and results; to live in it is to acquire peace and firm spiritual foundation.

Essays On The Gita

It's hard to explain
These things called life, age, and death
Then again, who cares?

That's the question, isn't it? Who cares? Who? What? No door prize for anyone that says "I do." :-(

DHS 17/100

Road Kill 5
Neither fast nor slow
Just one foot then the other
But oi vey, my lungs!

Friday, November 27, 2009

DHS 16/100

DHS 16/100
Getting worse rather than better, i'm afraid....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No One Saw What I Did

I hadn't intended to write anything today, but i've been laying in bed reading a few poems in that wonderful anthology A Book Of Luminous Things and the below poem by Bronislaw Maj forced me to get out my computer and say something ... anything ... before the thoughts go away overnight.

A Leaf

A leaf, one of the last, parts from a maple branch:
it is spinning in the transparent air of October, falls
on a heap of others, stops, fades. No one
admired its entrancing struggle with the wind,
followed its flight, no one will distinguish it now
as it lies among other leaves, no one saw
what I did. I am
the only one.

One of the great things about poetry is that if 100 of us all sat down and read the same poem, all 100 of us could well walk away with a different interpretation of its meaning. Each of us would approach the reading from different perspectives; different ages, different social status, different life experiences, different genders, different educations, different attitudes towards the spiritual, different beliefs, different ideologies, different prejudices and biases, different mental and emotional states at the time of the reading, and on, and on. And all of this means each of us views the same poem through different lenses.

I'd bet that my read of this poem is completely different from what the author intended. In fact, after i read it, i actually blinked and reread it wondering if i was way off track. But, i just can't shake it.

First off, reread the poem, but as you do, read the words "no one" as if they had quotes around them. This "no one" isn't "nobody" or "no person," but me or you after having spent time meditating under the maple tree, after the mind has finally quieted down, after thoughts have finally stopped, after the ego has finally disappeared. By taking that inward step, "I" am no longer there, but "no one" is there, taking everything in. "No One," because all labels that could be used to place me in a category have disappeared. "No One," because there is nothing that you can pin on me to set me apart from anything else. I am not Some One any more, it is my original self sitting there. Observing.

One chilly October morning, a leaf, the last of countless leaves, finally drops to the ground, joining all the other leaves in a pile after floating slowly this way and that, circling lazily to the right for a while and then just as lazily to the left before settling onto the heap.

As this is happening, someone sits quietly in meditation beneath the tree; aware of all that is happening, but not focused on any of it. In the outside world there are countless differences. It is October, it is chilly, there are multiple leaves, with most on the ground but one left on the tree. In the outside world, there is discrimination, there is me and you, there is me and a tree, me and a leaf, a leaf on the tree and a leaf on the ground. There is movement, there is up on the tree and down on the ground. There is struggle and there is final peace and acceptance. There is a beginning and an end.

In the inner world, though, there is none of that. There is just "this," and that includes everything and nothing, it includes all of space and all of time, or, more accurately, neither space nor time exist apart from everything else. The leaf is space, the tree is space, the falling is time, the leaf drifting in the wind is space and time manifesting as a falling leaf.

And "no one" is also included, sitting under the tree as the leaf drifts down in front of his seat. No one admires the beauty of the experience, no one admires the gracefulness of the process, no one sees all of the leaves lying under the tree. No thoughts were required or wanted. There was no observer or observed, just an experience.

But, without intellectualizing it, No One did notice one thing more important even than the falling leaf. No One saw what "I" did during this period: "I" had gone away, "I" had disappeared, "I" had stepped out of the way leaving No One to stand alone, uncovered, unhindered, unencumbered.

"I" realized that there was no separation between it and the rest of the universe. There is just existence. There is just Being. "I am the only one." Of course. If there is only One, how could I not be the only one? And No One smiled when he saw the lesson learned.

So, with all that under your belt, reread the poem from that perspective. It's incredibly beautiful.

Boy am i glad i decided to read a few poems tonight. That was a great one!

DHS 15/100

DHS 15/100

A quiet Thanksgiving holiday today. I hope everyone took a few minutes today to think about what they are thankful for in their lives, and maybe to ask themselves, What is the one thing that is the most important to you? Can you narrow it down?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Henro Family

The henro trail is like a two sided coin — there's the internal aspect that i seem to write about often, maybe too often, and there's the external aspect, which doesn't get enough exposure here i'm afraid. In an attempt to remedy that this is about that outer aspect of walking the henro trail.

Someone once sent me an email asking if i would consider doing the henro together and doing it as a very strict religious pilgrimage. To make a long story short, i declined. Yes, i can hear many of you shouting, "What? After all this crap you've been writing about the Heart Sutra and Kūkai and oneness with life, and all that other stuff? I can't believe i'm reading this."

But, it's true, i did decline. While all of that is important to me, there is more to the walk than just that. For me there are very definitely two sides to this walk; an objective side and a subjective side. Yesterday's post called "Pilgrimage" was a typical example of how i see the subjective side. The henro trail is like an active retreat where you have the chance to look inside, deeply inside, yourself and try to understand who and what you are, to try and understand what it means to be alive, to try and understand what it takes to live, not just a good life, but just to Live. What does it mean to be "alive?" It's a gift, so what duties and responsibilities came along with your accepting that gift?

The other side of the trail is the objective side, the side that deals with all the other people you meet and all the experiences you have. And this is a big part of the pilgrimage for me. The people of Shikoku are some of the most wonderful people in the world — at least when it comes to their interactions with henro. Once they know you are a henro, you are welcomed unquestioningly and wholeheartedly. There is little most people wouldn't do for a henro. I believe there is nothing they wouldn't do for a henro in need. Nothing.

One of the daily pleasures of the henro experience is simply meeting and talking to all of these people. Do they ask stupid questions sometimes? Sure. Do they stare and make me feel like an oddity sometimes? Sure. Do they make it obvious that i'm a foreigner sometimes? Sure. Do they ever make me feel unwelcome? NO. Absolutely not. Never.

During these encounters the conversations can be short and superficial or long and spiritual. And, for the most part, the path it follows depends solely on your attitude and openness. While talking they will fete you with drinks and food, they will repair your backpack, they will give you a back or foot massage, ... they will do almost anything. The only thing they ask in return is that you answer a few questions, frequently pointed questions, like who are you, where are you from, how old are you, how tall are you, how much do you weigh, are you married (and then why not, in my case), what's your religion, why are you walking the henro trail, do you think Japanese women/men are good looking, do you like Japanese food, how many brothers and sisters do you have, and on, and on, and on...

Then there's the people you meet at the lodging each night. A handful of people, all tired from a long day of walking, all freshly bathed and beginning to relax, all gathered around a table covered with delicious looking and smelling food, many with a cold beer in front of them, all being pampered by the Okami-san (owner, and usually a woman), all with a smile on their face and a laugh on the tip of their tongue, and all with experiences that they enjoy sharing, no, that they look forward to sharing.

It's like sharing war stories: stories about blisters, sore shoulders, hard climbs up steep trails, about walking in the rain, an interesting goof-ball that stops all passing henro in the previous town, the great service at one particular minshuku, the amazingly delicious food at another minshuku. Stories about every aspect of the henro trail that each and every one of us experience. And if someone isn't willingly offering their share of stories the others will poke and prod in order to draw them out of you.

The stories are told and retold night after night over glasses of cold beer and cups of hot tea. If you happen to be staying the night with another henro you've met before, you pretend that you haven't heard their stories before and laugh right along with the rest of the other henro as if it was the first time you have heard it.

Once you become a henro, you join the Henro Family, whether you want to or not. Your acceptance is immediate and complete as soon as others know you are walking the henro trail. And if you open yourself to the rest of your new family, your henro will be immensely more pleasurable and memorable.

DHS 14/100

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I ran across this beautiful quote from Macrina Wiederkehr's book Behold Your Life while online this evening.

A pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a hallowed purpose. Every step along the way has meaning. The pilgrim knows that life giving challenges will emerge. A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. New insights are given. Deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.

From what i can see in the book's preview on Amazon, it looks like i'm going to have to check this out at the library and spend a few weeks with it on my zafu. Granted it is firmly grounded in Christianity, but judging by this quote and the preview it should be quite thought provoking.

There is so much about this paragraph that i like. From the very beginning she makes it clear, "Each step along the way has meaning." Notice that she didn't say "each stop" along the way. Especially as this applies to Shikoku, what meaning and significance there is to be discovered in a henro's life on the trail will not be found at the temples you stop at but between the temples; along the streets and roads walked throughout the day, day in and day out, week in and week out, month after month. Each step of the way has the potential to open your eyes, to open your mind, to open your heart a little more than the previous step.

Will challenges occur along the way? Absolutely. Blisters, sun burn, hunger, fatigue, anger, self doubt, pride, and disappointment (with yourself and others) are just a few of the obstacles that will try and block your progress along the henro trail. As Marcina says, this is not a vacation. If it is, then it is not a pilgrimage. And if it is a pilgrimage, your accomplishments will be measured by the strength you bring to bear against these challenges, by the determination and perseverance you bring to the trail, and by the amount you grow as one by one they are set aside and you walk past them.

"New and old places in the heart are visited." I find this interesting because she clearly says that it is those previously unseen and/or forgotten corners of the heart and not the mind where insights and understanding will occur. All true henro know that it is when the mind is quieted and the heart is listened to that the real stories are heard.

And she's right, there are uncountable old, dark, and dank places in all our hearts that we prefer not to visit because we know what we will find there. When walked well, the henro trail helps air those corners out, letting the ghosts and goblins free and letting the sun and fresh air in. At the same time other doors will be opened, those that we've seen but didn't have the courage to open before, or simply wouldn't make the time to open before, and those that were completely unseen and unknown, or that we may have read about but didn't know they existed in our hearts.

Another reason i like this sentence, though, is because it so closely ties into the significance of the Heart Sutra on the henro trail. New and old places of the heart [sutra] are visited. As i have mentioned earlier, i think several weeks of a henro's walk, if not the entire walk, could be spent contemplating the meaning of just these few phrases of the sutra:

Mu ku chū metsu do; Mu chi yaku mu toku; I mu sho tokko.

There is no suffering, origin of suffering, cessation of suffering, or path leading to the cessation of suffering; There is no wisdom or attainment; For there is nothing to attain.

If there is nothing to attain, why strive? Why sit? Why walk the trail? Why bother? But as you walk, the "Why?" is constantly being explained if you truly, quietly, and non-judgmentally listen. Birds singing, gentle rain falling, sun shining, waves washing the beach, settai being offered, settai being accepted, another demand for ¥300 at the Nōkyōjo, the sound of the Heart Sutra being chanted, a dog barking, an old grandmother trying to tell you where you missed a turn, the Walk/Do Not Walk sign playing music telling you that it is OK to cross the street, the sunrise, a shouted "Irasshaimase" as you enter the convenience store, the noisy traffic keeping you awake as you're trying to sleep in a henro hut, ...

As i posted earlier today, "Transcend discrimination of opposites, discover total reality, and achieve detachment. This is complete freedom." These opposites, contradictions, and dichotomies in our lives are all hidden in those old, dark, corners of our hearts and the explanations we hear all day show us where those hiding places are so we can set them free.

Blessings are indeed received on the henro trail, many in the form of settai received from perfect strangers; people who offer you gifts with no expectation of anything in return, with no thought of exchange, with no thought of who you are other than a passing henro. But please understand, the blessing is not in the gift, but in the reciprocal acts of giving and receiving. They give and you receive at the exact same time as you give and they receive. Can you see the dual exchange? No, not dual, that's wrong, it is all one simultaneous exchange passing in both directions. Do you see?

Can a simple walk change your life forever? Absolutely — if you have the guts to let it. As T.S. Eliot said, and i never, ever, get tired of repeating, "Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go."

Do you have the guts to take the risk?

Transcend Opposites

DHS 13/100

"There are always some cliffs or hills in flat land and high mountains always have a few flat areas. Like this, enlightenment and illusion exist together. ... Transcend discrimination of opposites, discover total reality, and achieve detachment. This is complete freedom."
Shōbōgenzō: Shinjingakudo

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bad Weather

Foggy all day. Don't know why so just spent the day sitting and watching and wondering. Chilly weather? Dark early? Who knows. Even riding my bicycle across town for a cup of coffee couldn't loosen it. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

DHS 12/100

Sunday, November 22, 2009

DHS 11/100

DHS 11/100
Forgot one "Mu" in "Yaku Mu Mu Myō Jin" :-(

Was online this afternoon looking for a copy of the Japanese-English Buddhist Dictionary (NichiEi Bukkyō Jiten). I'm really surprised (shocked, actually) that i could only find it in two places. One in Jerusalem, where it was $95 + $35 shipping, and one on Amazon Japan, where they want over $100 + $40 shipping (plus eventual credit card exchange rate fees). Everyone in the world lists it as a reference in their bibliography, so how can this be so hard to find? $140 is just too expensive at this time of my life so i guess this is one of those things that goes on a wish list for later. Sighhhh......

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Do Good

DHS 10/100

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, "You must love your neighbor as yourself." However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. ...

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. ...

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ... If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.
--Galations 5:13–5:26--

[A] person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good to all people, ...
--Galations 6:7–6:10--

A Present Called Hope

What would it be like, a present of hope.
Gift wrapped and tied up with a fancy bow?
In a simple box, nondescript, with a lid that doesn't match?

Would the box be big? Small?
Would it be heavy? Light as a feather? Or somewhere in between.
Would it be bright, arresting red? Polka dots? Plain white?

What would hope sound like?
If you rattle the box while holding it to your ear
Would you hear it whisper to you?

Would you hear it call your name?
Telling you to wait
As it struggles to get out?

If someone hid it under the bed so you wouldn't find it
Would the dog sniff it out as it makes its morning rounds?
And tell you there was hope to be found if you looked?

Who gives such presents anyway?
Whimsical people, i wonder.
Optimists, inclined to dreaming.

Or maybe dreamers.
And believers.
And those who won't give up.

Or idealists and romantics.
And those who throw pragmatism to the winds
Just to see what might come of it.

What would it be like, a present of hope?
Gift wrapped just for you.
And offered when you expect it the least.

Friday, November 20, 2009


DHS 9/100
(Incredibly distracted. Couldn't focus for the life of me — and it shows.)

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


It's hard to be clearer than that. Guests come and go all day at your guesthouse. Some just come in, look around, and then leave. Some check in and stay awhile. Some are wonderfully pleasant. Some come bearing presents and leave happiness and a smile on the table by the door as they leave. Some trash the house, shit in the corners, and do everything they can to disrupt your life. Welcome them all. Treasure them all. Learn from them all. Look for the lessons they teach and welcome those into your life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Raiders Of The Shaolin Temple

If you have time to spare and want to watch a great movie, here's one recommendation:

Raiders Of The Shaolin Temple
Part 1/9
Part 2/9
Part 3/9
Part 4/9
Part 5/9(1)
Part 5/9(2)
Part 6/9
Part 7/9(1)
Part 7/9(2)
Part 8/9
Part 9/9

I could watch movies like this day in and day out. This is great entertainment and i never tire of them.


DHS 7/100

Things To Think

Think in ways you've never thought before
If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message
Larger than anything you've ever heard.
Vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats.

Think that someone may bring a bear to your door,
Maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose
Has risen out of the lake, and he's carrying on his antlers
A child of your own whom you've never seen.

When someone knocks on the door, think that he's about
To give you something large; tell you you're forgiven.
Or that it's not necessary to work all the time, or that it's
Been decided that if you lie down no one will die.

Robert Bly

The sad fact of life today is that almost nobody anymore is willing to think in ways they aren't used to. We think and live in ruts, as deep as the Grand Canyon and as wide as the Pacific Ocean. While millions, if not billions, of people are willing to think of world peace, imagine all six billion of us actually demanding it of our politicians. Imagine that you hugged two people tomorrow and that they promised to pass it forward, and kept that promise. Could everyone in the world be hugged within one 24 hour period?

Imagine no inner-city gangs. Imagine no organized crime. Imagine no children dying of starvation. Imagine a solution for homelessness. Imagine no prejudice or bigotry. Imagine waking up tomorrow and finding that greed has disappeared from the face of the earth. And anger and hatred had become unacceptable traits; not by law, but by universal choice. Imagine that everyone has decided that starting tomorrow, no one would do anything to anyone else that they didn't want to happen to them. Imagine that compassion was more important to people than the material possessions they could collect.

And imagine that when the naysayers stood up and tried to tell us how stupid and naive these ideas are, they were booed off stage, put in their place, and ignored. Imagine this in every country of the world. Just think of the possibilities.......

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


DHS 6/100

"Hey, Lao."


"You ever think much about it?"

"'Bout what?"

"It. You know, the big picture."

"You mean that big screen at IMax? I told you, i don't have the money to go."

"No, stupid, i don't mean the IMax, i mean it, everything, the big kahuna, the whole enchilada."

"Nope. Why? Don't tell me you believe all that stuff you've been reading..."

"No, of course not. (quietly sliding his copy of the Heart Sutra into his back pocket and out of sight) What do you take me for?"

"Then why you bugging me with stupid questions when i'm trying to take a nap?"

"I was just thinking. You know, how it says that this Kanjizai guy was practicing the Perfection of Wisdom, whatever that is, and then saw that the five aggregates are empty?"

"Jesus, just say it so i can get back to sleep."

"Well, after that it says he passed beyond all pain and suffering."


"And, well, i mean, that sounds kinda nice. I think. Doesn't it?"

"So, do it, for cryin' out loud. Is that what you woke me for?"


"How what?"

"How do i do it?"

"Siggghhhhhh. (shifting into a sitting position) Listen, my friend, when was the last time you sat still for more than 41 seconds without turning the TV or radio on?"

"When i was too young to reach the TV remote on the coffee table."

"That's my point. Here, take this. (handing him the kitchen timer from next to his cushion) Set it for 30 minutes and go sit by the window. Pretend the window is a TV screen and just watch everything that passes across it. Don't think, just watch like you do at any other movie. Notice everything that's happening, but don't analyze any of it. See everything that appears, but don't try to label any of it. Just try to sit quietly. When you find yourself daydreaming, focus on the movie. When the timer dings, get up, grab a drink of water, go to the bathroom, and then go back and do it for another 30 minutes. Grab my cushion and sit on that. Then come back when the timer dings the second time."

"That's it? What about that practice this Kanjizai guy was doing?"

"Stop pissin' me off and let me sleep. Just go sit and don't come back for an hour.

Monday, November 16, 2009

BS Disclaimer

In an interesting article in the current issue of Tricycle Magazine called "Dharma Wars," one particular quote was considered important enough to merit a cloud of it's own and large bold lettering.

Anybody with a keyboard is instantly allowed to
present whatever they've pulled out of their butt
as if it were the dharma.

I agree wholeheartedly, and accept that everything you read online should be suspect until you can verify reasons allowing you to believe it. And that includes this blog. I once considered calling my blog "Essentially Nothing... Conversations With Myself," but assumed no one would read it but me so left off that last part. It started off as just a fun hobby, then morphed into a place where i could continue my journal entries about the pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, and has since gotten out of hand and drifted into completely uncharted waters as well.

That being the case, i warn anyone who reads my words — i write under the name Lao Bendan not because i think it is a cute and snappy name, but because i happen to think that is true. So, don't believe anything i say out of hand. If you can't verify it in your life, consider it bull shit.

With that said,....
DHS 5/100

P.S., Lao Bendan = Stupid Old Man.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


The Gate
I had no idea that the gate I would step through
to finally enter this world

would be the space my brother's body made. He was
a little taller than me: a young man

but grown, himself by then,
done at twenty-eight, having folded every sheet,

rinsed every glass he would ever rinse under the cold
and running water.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I'd say, What?

And he'd say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich
And I'd say, What?

And he'd say, This, sort of looking around.

Marie Howe

Just for a minute, maybe 30 seconds if you don't think you have the patience for longer, stop looking at your monitor and look around your surroundings. Don't focus on anything, but notice everything. Don't label anything, don't acknowledge knowing anything, don't pretend to understand anything, then relax your focus completely and look around again and feel everything.

This is what you've been waiting for.

DHS 4/100
(with a brush almost out of ink, but i was at the library so didn't have a spare cartridge)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

DHS 3/100

After posting this and looking at the picture, it was immediately obvious that i had missed four kanji somewhere. In reading through it, it turns out that i missed Ze mu jō shu near the end. I guess this is not an unsurpassed copy. Sighhhh...... i'm not going to rewrite it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

DHS 2/100

For most of a decade, i considered one segment of the Heart Sutra more than all the rest as an absolute favorite.

Fu ku jū metsu dō

There is no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, nor path leading to the cessation of suffering.

For the longest time that seemed like the heart of the sutra. Stop clinging to the message. The sutra isn't saying that everything is empty with the exception of the Four Noble Truths. No, even those are empty. It seemed obvious that a true understanding of what the Buddha was saying had to include letting even the message go.

Then, sometime last year it dawned on me — as important as it is to give up clinging to the Four Noble Truths as absolutes, that was wasted effort if i didn't know why i was giving them up.

I wrote a little about this in a blog entry that i called Egomaniacs late last year. In it, i quoted Paulo Coelho from his book The Pilgrimage as he said "The only reason for seeking a reward is to know what to do with that reward."

Likewise, i wondered about the Four Noble Truths. If i give them up, i should understand why i'm giving them up; beyond the obvious "Emptiness" of the concepts. If there is wisdom in giving them up, where does that wisdom lead?

And slowly, after years of fermentation, the next section made its appearance. No longer just the next few kanji, now they seemed to stop my hand. I used to miss them all the time because my conceptual brain froze on the previous line. Now it was as if they were crying out for attention.

Mu chi yaku mu toku; I mu sho tokko

There is no wisdom, nor is there attainment; For there is nothing to be attained.

"Stop searching for the masters of old, search for what they sought," as someone once wrote in calligraphy for me, and which still hangs on my dining room wall.

Stop searching. Stop! Just STOP! Quit looking for the Buddha's wisdom, the words in all the thousands of books that explain, dissect, summarize, hypothesize, categorize, idolize, and everything else they can do to those words.

Go past that. What was he looking for? Not what was he saying, but before that — what was he looking for before he tried to say anything at all. Forget what he said, what did he see? He sat under the tree and swore he wouldn't get up again until he had found it. Found what? (And the answer doesn't involve words.)

Mu toku; I mu sho tokko

There is no attainment; For there is nothing to attain.

Sweet Jesus! Holy Cow! Mon Dieu! OMG! There is nothing to attain. Nowhere to go. Nothing to find. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to learn. No one to become. No end of the rainbow. No pot of gold. That stinky fool of a human being sitting on my zafu is it! Shit for brains and all!

...And, unfortunately, this is now my favorite segment of the sutra. Unfortunately, because i wonder what else this new blindness is causing me to overlook. But, hey, grasping is what Lao Bendan's do; it's what they're good at. I'll get over it some day. I hopeassume.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

DHS 1/100

This is the first in a series of 100 posts about the Heart Sutra called, simply because i have no imagination, DHS, or Daily Heart sutra. For the next 100 days (50 before the end of the year and the first 50 of the new year) i'm going to commit to writing the Heart Sutra. There are few days that i don't say it, but i have gotten out of the habit of writing it, and this is an attempt to publicly embarrass myself into getting back into that habit. On some days i may say something about it, but i don't plan to say anything most of the time.

DHS 1/100

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Explaining The Henro

Some say the henro trail is long
That a henro needs dedication and perseverance
That walking is difficult and sometimes painful

Others say there is no henro trail
Nor a henro with any particular characteristics
That to say someone walks something makes no sense

Some try to explain by adding
Others try to explain with subtraction
Does sense come from nonsense or vice versa

How do you explain the beauty
Of the morning sun rising in the east
As you bow before the first temple of the morning

The cool wind blowing through the bamboo
On a hot afternoon
Of climbs and descents

The smile offered with settai
At yet another convenience store
Where you stop for onigiri for lunch

How do you explain
Without adding more words and ideas
The truth of it all

How do you explain the love
That people shower on you all day
As your lives touch for 30 seconds

The respect you are given
By all you meet
For just being who you are

How do you explain the emptiness
That has filled your life to the brim
And nourished your entire being

Nothing of substance is offered
Nothing of value is taken
Yet this value and substance enriches the world

Some say the henro trail is something
Others say it is nothing
Both miss it even as they hit the bulls-eye

How do you explain it all
When you and it aren't separate
And only a henro remains

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pure Practice

A man will not be a mystic until he is like the earth,
     both the righteous and the sinner tread upon it;
and until he is like the clouds,
     they shade all things;
and until he is like the rain,
     it waters all things,
     whether it loves them or not.

Bayezid Bistami
9th Century Sufi

The thing i like about this is the reminder that success on the path isn't measured by what you become or what you achieve. Instead, it reinforces the truth that realization is manifested in what you do.

A realized person is as solid and immoveable as the earth — their life no longer sways this way and that in the winds of emotions, delusions, beliefs, and stories. Both sinner and the saint are seen for what they are, fellow human beings on the path of life.

A realized person is as protective as the clouds — offering their protection to all without thought of reward or gain, without thought of merit or need, without thought of who or why.

A realized person is as supportive as the rain — nurishing everyone and everything with no discrimination or prejudice. Nourishment is simply provided to all, with each to receive according to their needs and capabilities.

I guess that's the definition of a Bodhisattva, the person who vows that all others come first, before any thought of yourself, before even the thought of 'before.'

Makes me sit and take stock of my life. Who am i leaving out of my rain storms? Who have i told to stay out from under my clouds? How many miles have i drifted off course as i let my emotions and ignorance blow me here and there willy-nilly?


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Agashi, Saranghe. Chongma.

I was watching a Korean movie while eating dinner and it emphasized for me one of the biggest differences between Asian cultures and that here in the US. This emphasis didn't come from the plot or story line, but was just part of the webbing that held all of the characters together. It was completely incidental to everything else that was happening. But/And, every Asian movie would probably have the same element.

For example, in one scene, two families are getting ready to eat together in one room and one of the younger women was asking them all to do something first. When she talked to each of the other people, she never used their names but used titles instead. She used,

Omma: Mother
Appa: Father
Ajushi: Mister; used to address the father of the other family
Ajuma: Ma'am; used to address the mother of the other family
Harabuji: Grandfather, and what she calls the grandfather of the other family
Oppa: Used to address her older brother and the older son of the other family
Onni: Older sister

Not one name is used, but everyone knew who was being talked to. I kind of like that system. Of course, if it were used to keep people in 'their place,' i would rant and rave against it, but i like the idea of everyone always keeping in the back of their minds that other people deserve a certain amount of respect simply because they deserve it.

It's become somewhat of a joke with me as i watch these movies. The subtitles will read something like "Bill, have you seen Frank or Mary?" while the spoken dialog will be "Oppa, have you seen Ajushi or Onni?" It's interesting to me how they switch cultures as they subtitle it. It also makes me wonder what else i'm not catching in the dislocation between speech and subtitle, given that i don't speak Korean.

I'm not at all convinced we in the west have gained anything by not adopting a system like this and, instead, move straight to first names 22 seconds after meeting someone.


Wind Chime Teisho

What need to explain
Planting bushes, hearing chimes
Ching, ching, ring, ring, ching

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Moon, No Dust

Dusty henro trail
Full moon shining high above
Ten thousand things lost

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beginner's Mind

Ran across these interesting paragraphs online this morning:

Why is it so difficult to adopt and accept that everything flows? We use lots of energy to categorize and squeeze our perception of the world into a frame and into predictable patterns. We create expectations and illusions, which are always broken. And then we get disappointed. Again and again.

How about accepting the uncomfortable fact that we are not in control? Just take life as it comes, without any expectations — humbly. Less sorrow and far fewer surprises. Everything is new, and nothing is surprising. Everyday is an adventure and brings something new and exciting. No need to fear anything since uncertainty and change are realized facts of living, like breathing. One can worry less and concentrate more on living. One moment at time with a flexible mind.

For the most part, i agree with the first paragraph and have said so before. Our lives are determined by our expectations, our perceptions, and our beliefs. What we assume and expect to see happen will be seen and happen. One of the worst things we all do is to categorize each and every perception and thought, as it is being perceived and thought, into this box or that, with this label or that. We then view our world in terms of those boxes and labels.

I'm not so sure, though, that i accept the assertion that our expectations will always be broken; that we will always be disappointed. In fact, now that i have written that sentence, i'm sure i don't accept it. Some expectations are not illusions. Some expectations are valid and reasonable. Which ones? Those that are not based on illusions.

I expect that a daily meditation practice, maintained over many years, will bring benefits to my life. Do i know that for a fact. No, but it's not based on illusion, rather it is based on the teachings of people who have done the same thing for thousands of years.

I expect that if i don't get rid of hatred from my life it will affect my life for the rest of my life in ways that i can't currently see; in ways that i may never see, even as they are happening. If i do learn to let it go, my life will be better for it. Do i know that for a fact? No, but i expect it because countless teachers of every faith have said it is true and shown it in the way their own lives have unfolded.

That second paragraph, though, gives me problems. It's absolutely true that in the grandest scheme of things we are not in control of our lives. Life happens. And then it goes away. Until it comes back again. Only to go away again. Only to ...

But, on the relative, this is your day-to-day life, level, we are very much in control. We can choose to live the life of a renunciate, living on nuts and berries in the forest or we can choose to get an education and run a business, making rules and policies that affect possibly tens of thousands of people's lives. Or we can choose one of the 6 billion plus other possibilities, since for every person alive there are different possibilities. At this level, it would be pure foolishness (IMHO) to simply accept life as it comes, to go with the flow accepting anything and everything that happens to you as fate.

No need to fear anything? How does that one-liner definition of courage go? When everyone around you is afraid, and you're not, maybe you just don't understand the gravity of the situation.

Poincare is quoted as saying "Doubting everything and believing everything are two equally convenient solutions that guard us from having to think." That's the trap i see this author falling into. Some people think they know everything, think they have the answer to everything, and suffer because of that. This author seems to be advocating the other extreme: don't believe anything, but don't worry, what happens always happens for a purpose, and since it happens it must be right, so don't be afraid. Nonsense.

For me, it seems obvious that Shunryu Suzuki got it right with his concept of "Beginner's Mind," although he says i came from Dōgen, not himself. Walking right down the middle between knowing everything and knowing nothing, he says, "... [T]he most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our 'original mind' includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few." [My emphasis]

The expert's mind is closed off behind walls of certainty. The beginner's mind is always open to the possibility of learning, seeing, hearing, being something new. That's how i want to live my life. Certainty equals stagnation. Stagnation equals a stoppage of growth. A stoppage of all growth equals death.

"Worry less and concentrate more on living." I can agree with that. But, react to your life with your intelligence not just your instincts. Our brain has evolved into what it is for good reasons. It would be a waste to set it aside in favor of our instincts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Three Types of Pain

According to my book of running, there are three types of pain that we runners have to deal with.

Type One is like a whining kid behind you in the checkout line of the grocery store. He's whining and whining and whining and whining and whining and whining and ... and just will.not.shut.up. Man is this annoying — until you just tune it out and concentrate on something else: a magazine on the rack next to you, the different types of gum for sale, the woman running the cash register, anything that you can focus on. Likewise, as you're running along, a pain shows up somewhere. But, once you focus on something else, like your breath, the road going by under your feet, or the scenery around you, the pain disappears. No big deal.

Type Two is like a whining kid, one of your own kids, at the dinner table. She's whining and whining and whining and whining and whining and whining and ... and just will.not.shut.up. Problem is, it's your kid and your dinner table so it is impossible to tune out and you certainly can't just leave. You can threaten, you can swear revenge, you can cajole, you can plead, but until the whining stops, you are stuck listening to it. Or, figuring out what is really wrong and solving it, in which case it will stop. Likewise, as you're running along another pain shows up. This time no matter what you focus on it won't go away. You now have to make a decision — it's a bother, i can't seem to ignore it, but can i tolerate it until i get home? It will be with me for the entire run, is that OK? And that's where you leave it; you come to a temporary truce and agree that the two of you will have to share the run because you aren't going to stop and it isn't going to go away. But that's OK because you know there won't be any real harm done.

Type Three is like a whining spouse. He/She's in your face, and whining up a storm. You turn this way, he/she follows. You turn that way, he/she follows. You say you're busy and promise to listen later, he/she gets closer and whines louder. There is no compromise and there is no way out. You know that if you don't stop what you're doing RIGHT NOW and deal with it, your butt may get kicked from here to the equator. If you don't focus on what's being said, you are in for bodily damage. You know that if you value your life you have to stop and find a solution before taking two more breaths. Before the next breath if you can stop what you are doing quickly enough.

A type three pain showed up in my right hamstring during today's run. By the time i got to my two mile marker i knew that i was being stupid to think i could gut it out; one more step could mean trouble. It took me 19 minutes to run that far, it took most of an hour to turn around and walk back to the house. Sigghhhhhh......

I guess i'll take the rest of the week off and start running again next Monday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Zen Retreat

Half day leaf retreat.
Rake in hand, branches above.
Some raked up, some fall.