Thursday, April 29, 2010

while i can, PB&J from Saturday.
Spent entire day in Williamsburg. Dinner at tavern in heart of historical area. Seafood fricasse 100x more delicious than heavenly. Maybe 1000x. Enjoy it

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In Hancock, Maryland. Will get to Williamsburg tomorrow.

Monday, April 26, 2010


DHS 166

Given the nature of the trip i'm setting out on, it's fitting that i saw two interesting sports related articles in the news this morning.

First: Oh the pure and simple beauty of a well executed play resulting in an out in baseball. Now imagine 3x the beauty (link):

Second: If i wanted a hero, this woman would certainly rank right up there near the top of the list. She is an amazing example for all: Running down a dream: Leg amputee makes U.S. track team

Lastly, some final thoughts from that beautiful anthology A Book Of Luminous Things as i get ready to set out — tomorrow morning.


One scene as I bow to pour her coffee: —

Three Indians in the scouring drouth
huddle at the grave scooped in the gravel,
lean to the wind as our train goes by.
Someone is gone.
There is dust on everything in Nevada.

I pour the cream.

William Stafford


In The Middle Of The Road

In the middle of the road there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
there was a stone
in the middle of the road there was a stone.

Never should I forget this event
in the life of my fatigued retinas.
Never should I forget that in the middle of the road
there was a stone
there was a stone in the middle of the road
in the middle of the road there was s stone.

Carlos Drummond De Andrade

Not a lot of comment is needed; both are already very clear. One points to the sad life we normally live inside our cocoons, only occasionally looking up to notice the world as it passes by our window, then quietly closing that internal window and closing ourselves back inside. Is this really the way to live a life? Is this really the way to experience this one and only life we will live? Is this really the way to be the best person we can be?

The other points to just the opposite. If you put your mind to it, you can train yourself to notice the smallest details; not everything, but a lot more than we normally do. At the end of my ride will i remember the stones in the road that i swerve around instead of riding over? Will i remember the cardinal in the tree watching me ride by? Will i remember the Day Lillies blooming on the side of the road at that intersection? Will i remember the child that waved to me from her front porch when i stopped in front of her house? Will i remember that beautiful sunset after a day of rain in the Appalachias? Will i remember the small details? Can i keep myself awake throughout the day, day after day — open, awake, aware, alive?

Will i?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Show Me Your Face

DHS 165

Only one more Daily Heart Sutra before leaving on my trip...

Don't know why working through the last items on my To Do list as i get ready to say "I'm ready to leave" makes me think of Rumi, but he was on my mind all day today as i checked several items off the list. I considered reposting the YouTube video Become The Sky, which i could never tire of, but decided instead to post a few others that i like as well.

Say I Am You

I am dust particles in sunlight.
I am the round sun.

To the bits of dust I say, Stay.
To the sun, Keep moving.

I am morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am wind in the top of a grove,
and surf on the cliff.

Mast, rudder, helmsman, and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on.

I am a tree with a trained parrot in its branches.
Silence, thought, and voice.

The musical air coming through a flute,
a spark of stone, a flickering in metal.
Both candle and the moth crazy around it.
Rose, and the nightingale lost in the fragrance.

I am all orders of being, the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence, the lift, and the falling away.

What is, and what isn't.

You who know, Jelaluddin,
You the one in all, say who I am.
Say I am you.


And now that you know the words, here's the video version:

"Say who I am. Say I am you." And while Rumi could have said it, he wanted more than just words; He wanted to see. Like all good pilgrims, he went Looking For Your Face and when he found it, told us of this wonderful experience:

Beyond ecstasy
Each breath each heartbeat is all
Face to face with mu

Saturday, April 24, 2010


DHS 164

"The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation — to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life. Nothing matters now but this adventure. Travelers jostle each other to board the train where they crown together for a journey that may last several days. After that there is a stony road to climb on foot — a rough, wild path in a landscape where everything is new. The naked glitter of the sacred mountain stirs the imagination; the adventure of self-conquest has begun. Specifics may differ, but the substance is always the same.

"Travel brings a special kind of wisdom if one is open to it. At home or abroad, things of the world pull us toward them with such gravitational force that, if we are not alert our entire lives, we can be sucked into their outwardness. Attentive travel helps up to see this, because the continually changing outward scene helps us to see through the world's pretensions. With its phantasmagoric, kaleidoscopic character laid bare, we see it for what it truly is — perpetually perishing maya — and the world loses its wager. We can understand how perpetual wandering can be a spiritual vocation, as with dedicated pilgrims and sannyasins."

Huston Smith
In his Forward to
The Art of Pilgrimage:
The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

Pilgrimage, for me, is different from ordinary travel in three respects, and Huston hits on two of those above, and implies, sort of, the third.

Pilgrimage is not just a vacation, it is an attempt at self-challenge: challenging yourself physically, challenging yourself mentally, challenging yourself spiritually, or some combination of all three. The purpose of pilgrimage is to figure out who you are, what you are, where your limits are, and whether or not you can push yourself past those limits into a more expansive life, a more expansive way of looking at life, a more all inclusive way of looking at everything in life. If your trip entails no measure of challenge, then you are not on a pilgrimage.

Huston is exactly correct when he says that for those who are open to it, a very special type of wisdom will make itself available to you if your trip is a true pilgrimage. The key is you have to open yourself to it, and this doesn't mean simply showing up for the show. Being open requires taking a knife to everything you thought you are, everything you thought made up that person who lives inside your skin, inside your head, and shred it to pieces — all so that the pilgrimage can rebuild you from the infinite wisdom that is Life.

But, this requires more than just arriving on the island. You have to arrive with a question, or questions. You can open yourself completely, but if you don't have any questions, you won't be ready for an answer that may appear. You have to show up with a question that is so intense that it is burning you up. You have to know what it is that you want, what it is you aren't seeing, what it is you need to get. You won't know the answer to the question, that is what Life will provide, that is the wisdom that will appear, but you have to have the question. Without that, you are wasting your time.

As Huston said, "To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life. Nothing matters now but this adventure." Nothing else matters. Nothing. The only thing that matters is asking the question, over and over, continuously, and opening yourself, turning yourself inside out, making yourself completely available to the answers that will, for the sincere, be offered.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Believe It Or Not

DHS 163

You See What You Already Believe

"Once upon a time, two shoe salesmen, from different companies, were sent to an African country to explore the market for shoes. The first shoe salesman hated the assignment and wished he didn’t have to go. The second shoe salesman loved the assignment and saw it as a great opportunity for advancement in his company.

"When they each arrived in the African country, they studied the local market for shoes. Then they both sent telegrams back to their head offices. The first salesman, who didn’t want to be there, wrote, 'Trip has been wasted. No market in this country. Nobody wears shoes.'

"The second salesman, who saw this as a real opportunity and believed that he could make something of it, said in his telegram, 'Wonderful trip. Market opportunities unlimited. No one wears shoes.'"

Create Your Own Future
Brian Tracy

As i have said before, reality, your reality, is determined by your beliefs. Change the way you think, change the way you interpret you perceptions, change what you believe is true, and you change your reality. Change your reality and you change your life. Change your life and your happiness soars through the roof.

It's all in your hands and your hands alone.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cause And Effect: What Are The Odds?

DHS 162

"In physics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle had a profound influence on science and eventually earned him a Nobel prize. This principle states that, even though it is scientifically possible to determine exactly how a class of particles will behave in general, it is not possible to predict exactly which of those particles will behave that way specifically. As a result, there always exists a degree of uncertainty in physics, no matter how sound the general theory.

"In human terms, it is possible to predict that about 5 percent of Americans will achieve a net worth of $1 million or more in the course of their working lifetimes. But it is not possible to determine in advance exactly which ones it will be. We can only be sure about the degree of probability.

"In terms of health, happiness, and longevity, a certain percentage of people are going to lead wonderful lives, raise happy, healthy children, make a real contribution to their work and their communities, and live to be 80 or 90 years old. We just don’t know for sure exactly who they will be.

"Here is the key to creating your own future: Whatever you want, do everything possible to increase the probabilities of your achieving it. Even one small factor can spell the difference between success and failure.

"Your primary goal should be to increase the likelihood that you will be one of those remarkable people who achieves greatly and makes a real difference with his or her life. And this is very much in your own hands.

"To realize your full potential, free yourself as much as possible from randomness and uncertainty. Organize your life in such a way that the probabilities of achieving your goals are extremely high. Learn the cause and effect relationships between what you want and how to get it. Take complete control over every part of your life and create your own future. You must leave nothing to chance."

Create Your Own Future
Brian Tracy

(My underlines)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oi Vei... Not Again...

DHS 161

"[W]e say that cause and effect are one. Every action is complete in each moment as both cause and effect, for each action is both the cause of other things and the effect of other things.

"In a way, right here and right now, space and time, are all abstractions. What makes space and time real? You, your very being as you are gives space and time significance. It is easy for us to understand that without space and time we cannot survive. The reverse is also true. Without our very being, no space, no time, no history, and no world exist. In other words, our very life itself is the process of the creation of the world, of everything.

"This is what I mean when I tell you all the time to take good care of yourself, according to the position you have and the work that needs to be done. In doing so, you extend your practice into your daily life, unifying everything as is. If this is not happening, then make this your practice. Nothing is binding you. If you feel that something is binding you, what is it? How do you take care of it?

"Please have deep conviction and trust in yourself to be truly Yourself. There is no other way. By doing so, you will have a very deep confidence and respect for yourself. Going one step further, since the life of each of us contains everything, taking care of yourself is taking care of everything else, do you see?"

Appreciate Your Life:
The Essence of Zen Practice

Taizan Maezumi

Somewhere in his book Each Moment Is The Universe, Dainin Katagiri also talks about this, if i remember correctly. I seem to remember him saying it's not important that you understand your life, how it's unfolding, or why it's unfolding as it is. He admitted that he had no clue how his life turned out such that he was leading a monastery in the northern US. Understanding the whys and why nots isn't what's important; what's important is to accept all of your life and in doing so, to take your practice out into your daily life.

How does that old classic quote go? "Lord, grant me the ability to change the things in my life that i can change, the patience to accept those things that i can not change, and the wisdom to know the difference." Something like that; i know it is different, but this is the way i always remember it. I think this is what both Maezumi and Katagiri are talking about. Accept your life. 100% of it. The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Change what needs changing when you have the ability. Accept what you can't change and work with it in your practice. Use it as the fertilizer that makes your practice grow.

Know that everything you do is both a cause and an effect. But accept that karma is not some fatalist notion that predetermines what you will do and be. You are in control of your life. You can choose what to do with your life. You can choose who you will be. Be confident in your abilities and your choices. Trust yourself. Trust the dharma. Trust Life.

Make your entire life your practice. Make your entire practice your life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Exposing Yourself

DHS 160

A couple of nice quotes form the wonderful anthology of pilgrimage travel stories, Pilgrimages: Adventures Of The Spirit:

I stood on the banks of the Barun River, alone. I thought about how hard I was trying—trying to walk fast enough, to say the right thing, to understand the right way—trying to get it right. In Hedangna, I had novels to read and a tiny room with a door I could shut, a door that, oddly enough, was what protected me from this stark realization of my solitude.

For the past five days, these barriers had been stripped away, and this sudden and complete exposure made me acutely aware of the gap between my world and the world of my companions.


During the whole trip, I felt an ache in my chest, a longing that would not go away. I thought there mist be a place, somewhere, where I could be held, here, no here. on the inside. If only I could get to that place, I was sure the yearning would disappear. Now I realize that this feeling of aloneness is not something that ever goes away. It is always there. underneath the words spoken, inside my boots.


We make pilgrimages to sacred places, but the places themselves are not inherently sacred. We enter the sacred when we let go of the fear of being exposed. Only when I gave up trying to hide what was inside did the boundaries between us begin to dissolve. And in the moment I felt most alone, I realized I was never alone. The sacred, as [Roberto] Calasso writes, is always there "waiting to wake us and be seen by us, like a tree waiting to greet our newly opened eyes." It is simply up to us to let ourselves see.

Ann Armbrecht Forbes

Or this beautiful one by someone who did the Shikoku Pilgrimage on a bicycle:

Days spent on the bike leave me with time for thinking. Realizations dawn slowly, the result of hours of uninterrupted cycle meditation. While never a disciple, I too am searching. However, it is not karma I hope to gain. Through my travels and my life in Japan, I am searching for new new horizons and challenges. I want to push myself beyond what is comfortable—both mentally and physically—in order to test my own spirit. I want to discover myself: my boundaries, my strengths, and my weaknesses. It is not the succeeding lifetimes that concern me; I want to fully experience the present and to discover new vistas, not only around me, but within me as well.

Tara Austen Weaver

To which i remind myself of the Marcel Proust quote i gave a few days ago: "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Having new eyes. Discovering new vistas within. Opening yourself. Exposing your boundaries; your barriers. All of these are what can be found on the road when the road is traveled wisely. All of these are what lie in wait, ready to pounce on those who willingly cut themselves open, exposing their fears, their uncertainties, their stereotypes, their ideologies, their biases, their habits, and their many, many weaknesses.

For most of us life is too easy, and therefore too complicated. In order to protect the ease, we hide behind routine, convenience, and surplus. A few, though, know that by stepping out of their routines, by putting themselves in places or positions where convenience is nowhere to be found, and by living lives on the sparser side of simple, they find that life opens up. Time opens her doors allowing here and now to envelope them, expanding who and what they are, and allowing them to see that you can never be alone — because in that eternal and unlimited dimension that is here and now, we are all one and one is all we. Form is not different from emptiness, emptiness is not different from form. Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness is exactly form. And the same is true for Feelings, Perceptions, Mental Formations, and Consciousness.

"I want to discover myself." "It is simply up to us to let ourselves see." Well said, indeed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another Beautiful Day

DHS 158

Lunchtime at Messenger Marsh

Posting this picture just to prove that i am out there training. :-)

Saturday, April 17, 2010


DHS 157

Without going outside, you may know
the whole world.
Without looking through the window,
you may see the ways of heaven.
The farther you go, the less you know.

Thus the sage knows without traveling;
He sees without looking;
He works without doing.

Tao Te Ching
Chapter 47
Lao Tsu

In this chapter of his book, Lao Tsu emphasizes the fact that the henro trail is not necessarily a physical trail along which one must travel. The henro trail can, and is for many, that quiet place where you simply sit and be; that place where the commonly accepted dualities of the world are allowed to settle and drift out of existence. Then it is no longer you sitting on the zafu but simply being on the zafu. It is no longer you looking at the world, including yourself, but being seeing what is, as it is, right here, right now.

Marcel Proust said the same thing many centuries later when he reminded us, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

But by reminding myself of these simple facts, i don't mean to imply that my zafu is any better a henro trail than a physical trail like that on Shikoku. It's not. A pilgrimage on my zafu is certainly a lot cheaper than a pilgrimage on Shikoku, but it's not more valuable. Personally i prefer the physical trail but that's simply because i can walk a lot longer than i can sit.

The key to a successful pilgrimage is keeping in mind Lao Tsu's and Marcel Proust's words while you are walking. What's important is not the temples, what's important is not the chanting, what's important is not anything you can see or do. What's important is what you don't do — and how you do it.

When the emperor asked Bodhidharma how much merit he had gained by building numerous temples and supporting countless monks, Bodhidharma replied that he had gained no merit. None. Why? Because those had been done with the thought of gain predominant in his mind. They had been done for personal gain. That's not the henro approach.

When you walk the trail, just walk. It's not Bendan walking the trail, it's just walking — until the map tells you it's time to stop walking. When you eat your lunch, just eat. It's not Bendan eating yet another bland sandwich or another bento from the local convenience store. When you take a break, just sit. It's not Bendan sitting and thinking about the last person he met, or how hot is it, or how distracting the rain is. It's just being on the henro trail with no thoughts of gain or loss, no thoughts of praise or blame, no thoughts of fame or fortune, no thoughts of good or bad, no thoughts of difficult or easy.

As you walk along, don't look at objects out there, as opposed to you, in here. Don't compare, don't judge, don't criticize, don't praise. Just see. See everything. Experience everything. Let it come into your perception and let it go away. Don't miss anything by not trying to see something.

Walk the trail without walking. No subject interacting with an object. The henro trail isn't something distinct from you. The henro trail is the trail, you, everyone you see, hear, and interact with, the temples, the shops, the gas stations, the garbage cans, the toilets, the dog pissing on the tree, everything. The henro trail is existence manifesting here, now, moment by moment, breath after breath.

Does this mean a real henro is a mindless slug? Absolutely not; far, far from it.

When you can see all of this, you have found the henro trail.

Friday, April 16, 2010


DHS 156

Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
Mastering others requires force;
Mastering the self needs strength.
He who knows he has enough is rich.
Perseverance is a sign of willpower.
He who stays where he is endures.
To die but not to perish is to be
eternally present.

Tao Te Ching
Lao Tsu

Here in the thirty-third chapter of his book, Lao Tsu makes it clear just what we can accomplish while traveling on the henro trail — whether that's in a pair of boots on the Shikoku Henro Trail, on a bike saddle on the US TransAm Henro Trail, on any number of other henro trails around the world.

All too often, because of the nature of our society, our culture, and our current philosophies, our daily lives are dominated with knowing and mastering others. Life is looked at as a zero sum game — if i am going to succeed, if i am going to get ahead, if i am going to lead a good life, then that means i have to do so at the expense of others. Most people won't admit they think that, maybe because they don't realize they do, but you can see it in debates currently raging in the US such as those on the topics of health care and financial reform.

A great many people oppose all kinds of reform, and they say it is because they oppose governmental intervention. I don't believe that, though. I believe these people fear that if more people are given access to health care then their health care options will be restricted or reduced in some, currently unknown, way. They fear financial reform because this will, in some currently unknown way, hinder their chance to hit the jack pot, to achieve the American Dream, to make it rich.

People think that in order to succeed you have to succeed at the expense of someone else; for you to move up, someone else can not. People believe that to have a "successful" life they need to know and master everybody else to ensure they come out on top. And this is why this country is in such bad shape. There no longer exists a culture that recognizes the benefits of knowing and mastering yourself and the rewards inherent in accomplishing these.

It takes a henro trail to give you the time and nourishment needed for any serious attempt to learn how to do this. This trail doesn't have to be in a pair of boots or on a bicycle, it can also be on a zafu in a quiet room in your house, or at a spiritual center, or at the beach. It just needs to be somewhere that feels nourishing, somewhere quiet so that your mind can settle down, somewhere unprovoking so that "you" can slip away and peace and understanding can come forth.

"Walking the henro trail" is synonymous with "knowing and mastering yourself." This walk requires long periods of quiet, long periods where you shut your mind off and stop talking to yourself. This walk requires countless hours of effort until the incessant internal dialogs are finally brought under control and you start to see those gaps between your thoughts, those silent beacons inviting you inside for a visit with your real self.

It takes strong will power and sometimes (almost) unbearable amounts of perseverance. At the start of the trip you will wonder what you have gotten yourself into. You will wonder how to get yourself out of it. But when you endure long enough, suddenly, you will get a glimpse of who you aren't. You will get a glimpse of that "you" standing completely naked, stripped bare of all the adjectives that it usually uses to clothe itself in attempts to define itself and to impress others. If you endure long enough you will not only get a glimpse of nothing but also understand why that glimpse brought tears to the corners of your eyes.

It is on the henro trail, any henro trail, where you learn that dying is a reason to rejoice. Where you learn that dying and then continuing to walk leads you directly to eternity. Where you learn that when you have enough to keep you alive on this walk you not only have all you need, you are unimaginably rich.

This is what the henro trail is, and Lao Tsu knew it well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Used Toilet Paper

DHS 155

Just in case it's not clear, the title pertains to the Daily Heart Sutra.

This is an extended quote from another of my favorite books, The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. If you haven't read it, turn off your computer, go out and buy a copy, and get started tonight.

~Begin quote~
[King Milinda] asked Nagasena: "When someone is reborn, is he the same as the one who just died, or is he different?"

Nagasena replied: "He is neither the same, nor different... Tell me, if a man were to light a lamp, could it provide light the whole night long?"


"Is the flame then which burns in the first watch of the night the same as the one that burns in the second... or the last?"


"Does that mean there is one lamp in the first watch of the night, another in the second, and another in the third?"

"No, it's because of that one lamp that the light shines all night."

"Rebirth is much the same: one phenomenon arises and another stops, simultaneously. So the first act of consciousness in the new existence is neither the same as the last act of consciousness in the previous existence, nor is it different."

The king asks for another example to explain the precise nature of this dependence, and Nagasena compares it to milk: the curds, butter, or ghee that can be made from milk are never the same as the milk, but they depend on it entirely for their production.

The king then asks: "If there is no being that passes on from body to body, wouldn't we then be free of all the negative actions we had done in past lives?"

Nagasena gives this example: A man steals someone's mangoes. The mangoes he steals are not exactly the same mangoes that the other person had originally owned and planted, so how can he possibly deserve to be punished? The reason he does, Nagasena explains, is that the stolen mangoes only grew because of those that their owner had planted in the first place. In the same way, it is because of our actions in one life, pure or impure, that we are linked with another life, and we are not free from their results.
~End quote~

What reminded me of this was a lecture i was listening to this morning on a DVD course called "Consciousness & Its Implications." In it, the lecturer gave this interesting example. (I'm going to pass it on, but not dwell on the answers he proposed.)

Suppose Lao Bendan owns a boat; an old wooden boat, that he called Bendan. Over the years, because everything wears out, Lao replaces rotting or broken pieces of wood here and there, replaces sails as they wear out, replaces equipment as it wears out, etc., until in the course of time, every piece of every thing on the boat had been replaced.

Is it now the same boat as it was when it was first built? Is is still the Bendan or is it a different boat? If you say the same, how is that possible, nothing is the same as when it was built. If you say different, when, exactly, did it become different?

Now to take the example a little further. Suppose a friend of Lao's happened to be pretty smart and every time Lao threw away some of the wood from his boat, or one of the old sails, or a piece of broken equipment, he would secretly collect it, restore it, and store it in his garage.

After Lao had completely replaced everything on the Bendan, his friend took all the now restored old pieces and put them back together, in effect creating a clone of the original Bendan. It' looks exactly like the original Bendan. It is built from the exact same material as the original Bendan. It is, for all intents and purposes, the original Bendan put back together again.

Which boat is now the real Bendan? Lao's? His friends? Both? Neither?

I find this a fascinating line of reasoning because it's not as abstract as some may think. We, as living human beings, are not the same as the human being we were born as. All of our cells have been replaced, nothing today is the same in our bodies as they were when we were born. Nothing. Yet you still think you are the same person. Are you? Why? Why not?

If you, today, can still consider yourself the same person even though absolutely every part of you has been replaced, why would you say that there can be no rebirth?

Interesting dinner conversation.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Myths Of Who We Are

DHS 154

I saw this article by Bill Quigley in the news today on the web site Common and was flabbergasted by the facts and figures he points out to us. Maybe i'm naive, but i thought the US was better than this. High infant mortality? High child poverty? Low spending on childcare and early education? Here? In the US? We should hang our collective heads in shame.

I go on record that i am proud, very, very proud, to consider myself a liberal and to know that i value compassion, people, and the welfare of all more than how much money i have in my savings account. I'm proud of the fact that i believe "everybody's" welfare is just as important as "my" welfare. I'm proud of the fact that i support affordable health care for all Americans. I'm proud of the fact that no one will ever use "greed" as one of the ways to define who i am.

"Nine Myths about Socialism in the US

"Glenn Beck and other far right multi-millionaires are claiming that the US is hot on the path towards socialism. Part of their claim is that the US is much more generous and supportive of our working and poor people than other countries. People may wish it was so, but it is not.

"As Senator Patrick Moynihan used to say “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. But everyone is not entitled to their own facts.”

"The fact is that the US is not really all that generous to our working and poor people compared to other countries.

"Consider the US in comparison to the rest of the 30 countries that join the US in making up the OECD – the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. These 30 countries include Canada and most comparable European countries but also include some struggling countries like Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Turkey. See

"When you look at how the US compares to these 30 countries, the hot air myths about the US government going all out towards socialism sort of disappear into thin air. Here are some examples of myths that do not hold up.

"Myth #1. The US government is involved in class warfare attacking the rich to lift up the poor.

"There is a class war going on all right. But it is the rich against the rest of us and the rich are winning. The gap between the rich and everyone else is wider in the US than any of the 30 other countries surveyed. In fact, the top 10% in the US have a higher annual income than any other country. And the poorest 10% in the US are below the average of the other OECD countries. The rich in the U.S. have been rapidly leaving the middle class and poor behind since the 1980s.

"Myth #2. The US already has the greatest health care system in the world.

"Infant mortality in the US is 4th worst among OECD countries – better only than Mexico, Turkey and the Slovak Republic.

"Myth #3. There is less poverty in the US than anywhere.

"Child poverty in the US, at over 20% or one out of every five kids, is double the average of the 30 OECD countries.

"Myth #4. The US is generous in its treatment of families with children.

"The US ranks in the bottom half of countries in terms of financial benefits for families with children. Over half of the 30 OECD countries pay families with children cash benefits regardless of the income of the family. Some among those countries (e.g. Austria, France and Germany) pay additional benefits if the family is low-income, or one of the parents is unemployed.

"Myth #5. The US is very supportive of its workers.

"The US gives no paid leave for working mothers having children. Every single one of the other 30 OECD countries has some form of paid leave. The US ranks dead last in this. Over two thirds of the countries give some form of paid paternity leave. The US also gives no paid leave for fathers.

"In fact, it is only workers in the US who have no guaranteed days of paid leave at all. Korea is the next lowest to the US and it has a minimum of 8 paid annual days of leave. Most of the other 30 countries require a minimum of 20 days of annual paid leave for their workers.

"Myth #6. Poor people have more chance of becoming rich in the US than anywhere else.

"Social mobility (how children move up or down the economic ladder in comparison with their parents) in earnings, wages and education tends to be easier in Australia, Canada and Nordic countries like Denmark, Norway, and Finland, than in the US. That means more of the rich stay rich and more of the poor stay poor here in the US.

"Myth #7. The US spends generously on public education.

"In terms of spending for public education, the US is just about average among the 30 countries of the OECD. Educational achievement of US children, however, is 7th worst in the OECD. On public spending for childcare and early education, the US is in the bottom third.

"Myth #8. The US government is redistributing income from the rich to the poor.

"There is little redistribution of income by government in the U.S. in part because spending on social benefits like unemployment and family benefits is so low. Of the 30 countries in the OECD, only in Korea is the impact of governmental spending lower.

"Myth #9. The US generously gives foreign aid to countries across the world.

"The US gives the smallest percentage of aid of any of the developed countries in the OECD. In 2007 the US was tied for last with Greece. In 2008, we were tied for last with Japan.

"Despite the opinions of right wing folks, the facts say the US is not on the path towards socialism.

"But if socialism means the US would go down the path of being more generous with our babies, our children, our working families, our pregnant mothers, and our sisters and brothers across the world, I think we could all appreciate it.

"Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. There is a version of this article with footnotes for those interested."

The Dalai Lama is right when he says:

"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive."


"Ahimsa or non-violence is a powerful idea that Mahatma Gandhi made familiar throughout the world. Non-violence. It is something more positive, more meaningful than that. The true expression of non-violence is compassion. Some people seem to think that compassion is just a passive emotional response instead of rational stimulus to action. To experience genuine compassion is to develop a feeling of closeness to others combined with a sense of responsibility for their welfare. True compassion develops when we ourselves want happiness and not suffering for others, and recognize that they have every right to pursue this.

"Compassion compels us to reach out to all living beings, including our so-called enemies, those people who upset or hurt us. Irrespective of what they do to you, if you remember that all beings like you are only trying to be happy, you will find it much easier to develop compassion towards them. Usually your sense of compassion is limited and biased. We extend such feelings only towards our family and friends or those who are helpful to us. People we perceive as enemies and others to whom we are indifferent are excluded from our concern. That is not genuine compassion. True compassion is universal in scope. It is accompanied by a feeling of responsibility. To act altruistically, concerned only for the welfare of others, with no selfish or ulterior motives, is to affirm a sense of universal responsibility."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Save Myself? Oh Please... Who's That?

DHS 153

Today's view from my favorite lunch spot. Perfect day to ride a bike.

"We should know that the only way we can make something ... extraordinary happen is to acknowledge the fact that what different types of beings see ... is different, and we should reflect on that fact. What does it mean to see things the way another being sees them? It means to forget the self, to let go of our own perspective. This can be very hard to do, especially when we feel very strongly about our particular point of view. We need to see that the world is large and diverse and that there are many different ways of seeing. To be skillful in working with other people, we need to be able to perceive things the way others perceive them.


"If you don’t have the mind of inquiry, the mind to probe the depths of your own consciousness and the nature of the universe, you’ll waste your time, you’ll waste your life. 'What is it you’re calling mountains, rivers and the earth?' Indeed, indeed. It’s that. It’s me. It’s neither. It’s both. If it’s not any of those, what is it?

"How will you protect mountains, rivers and the great earth if you don’t know what they are? How will you save yourself if you don’t know who you are? Who or what are you saving? Who are the sentient beings that we chant about in the Four Bodhisattva Vows? What does it mean to save? With that question, in that state of consciousness, the whole of reality can flash through your mind in an instant. What are you left with? 'Xiushan thereupon attained enlightenment.' The final line of the commentary raises the question, 'But say, what did he realize?'"

Seeing Through the Eyes of Another
Daido Loori
(Online Dharma Discourse)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Full And Complete Self

DHS 152

"Motivation is the need, drive, or desire to act in a certain way to achieve a certain end. Basic needs are strong motivators. When I am hungry or thirsty or cold, or when I am in obvious danger, I am impelled to do something about it. I am wiling to attack the problem head-on: I do what must be done.

"Whereas drives push, desires pull. I have desires for many things. I want self-esteem. I would like to be a hero. I wish to have peak experiences. I pray for that perfect communion with another person. And as I sit here at the typewriter I am trying to write a perfect essay.

"Making allowances for differences in vocation and avocation, I presume you would say much the same. Our needs, drives, and desires — the stuff or our lives — do not vary to any great degree. Yet our motivation does. I see about me people who, in philosopher William James's expression, lead lives inferior to themselves. And I suspect that I do the same. We could all be artists and athletes and heroes. We could all care for orphans and widows and visit the sick. We could all be catchers in the rye, each in his or her own unique and particular way announcing the Creator's intentions at our birth. We could be our best. But we are not.

"Our only excuse is ignorance. We are unaware of our capabilities. We do not realize that each one of us is the marvel of the universe. We should read the geniuses of our past. Heed Emerson: "I preach the infinitude of the common man." We sell ourselves short, and our lives as well. When our horizons narrow, our goals do also. We settle for a comfortable passing grade. We groove through life, effortlessly passing our days. But the intensity of our art — our life — and therefore our joy, passes as well. But that is part of the bargain.

"...When people look at the highest goal, the intensity of motivation increases in two ways. First, in the strength of the desire to achieve. Whatever is necessary will now be done. One look at the grandeur of the Matterhorn gives the true mountaineer all the inspiration he needs! The year's preparation that precedes his climb is now automatic. The climb becomes the reason for existence.

"I am reminded at the start of each new year of the reasons why I should try to do better than I think possible. New Year's Day, however is but one of 365 mornings each year that can afford me a new start toward glory. Life, to this runner, is an uphill race that becomes progressively more difficult. There is no time for dallying. Each day requires its own spur.


"My end is not simple happiness. My need, drive, and desire is to achieve my full and complete self. If I do what I have come to do, if I create the life I was made for, then happiness will follow. The problem in motivation is not the dedication and effort and sacrifice needed to get what we want, it is knowing wht it is we could and must want to begin with.


"I am never content with contentment. I am uneasy when things go easy. 'Don't take things easy,' said a great physician, 'take things hard.' Doing one's absolute best becomes the criterion.

"...Unconcerned with what others are doing, driven by the need to do our best, we make the effort and we make it more often. And for those few moments, we become the equal of anyone on this earth."

Personal Best
George Sheehan

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Patiently Being

DHS 151
Pretty bad tonight. Amusingly (to me, at least), about halfway through my mind flashed back to the year i studied calligraphy with a teacher, back in '88 in a small town west of Tōkyō. I was not only the only foreigner in her class, but the only adult — all the other students were elementary school kids. I was the teacher's pet pupil. The lady that cut my hair had convinced her to take me in. ("Go on, he's amusing. You won't stop laughing at his Japanese...") Anyway, about halfway through tonight's DHS, all of the sudden i was sitting in that class, in that small, cluttered, packed to the gills, room with one door leading outside and shoji doors leading to her kitchen, and she was putting another big red mark through one of my attempts at calligraphy and telling me what was wrong with it. And then i popped back to tonight, and immediately made a mistake. Oh well.....


Just to be clear, i want to point out that when, in a previous post, i said that the mossy doormat in front of my porch reminded me of Mary Oliver's poem Landscape, it wasn't simply because of the reference to moss in her poem. No, the connection in my mind was my reference to the doormat on my front step having reinvented itself, as compared to Mary's reference to the moss, trees, and crows simply being what they are. My thoughts about my doormat, and the subsequent remembrance of Mary's poem, reminded me that there are various ways of looking at this world. My thoughts had been on learning to become something new when you can't be what you wanted to be and Mary's thoughts were distinctly spiritual.

The first clue of that in her poem was when she said that moss could lecture on "spiritual" patience. Why include the word "spiritual?" If she had left that out, would it have changed the message? Moss is patient; it just sits there. That's patience. Right? Well, not spiritual patience. Patience, in the usual sense of the word, seems to imply waiting stoically for an outcome or an appropriate time to act. This patience, normal patience, is forward looking — it's sole focus is not on the present, but on the future, on the time it might be deemed proper to act.

Spiritual patience, on the other hand, seems to be the opposite. It is a focus on the present, nothing but the present. This moment, here, now, is all that occupies your mind. Yes there is a future; yes you have some interest in that future, but being patient means asking yourself, "Am i on the right path? Am i on the path that leads towards where i want to go? On the path that leads me to the result i would like to see?" and then simply focusing on living in the present moment while allowing that path to unfold in it's own way and in it's own time. You may not see your result this week, or this month, or this year, or in this lifetime, but you know that as long as you stay on the path, it will come. You sole job at this point is to focus all your efforts on living the present moment.

That's what the moss was doing. That's all the oak tree was doing — just like a fragile flower would do. And that's what the crows were doing. When they spent the night dreaming of what they wanted their lives to be, they didn't dream of being famous, or rulers of the world, or successful beyond belief, they thought about what they are. Their dreams were of being. Their dreams were of doing what crows do, with their strong, thick wings. And when they woke, and were startled by Mary, they did what crows do; they jumped into flight.

Being. Becoming. Two different and opposing concepts. There's nothing wrong with becoming, and all the dreams that go along with that, as long as you keep in mind that this is all a part of the relative world. And as long as that world is firmly founded on an understanding of being; just being. The relative you will only be truly content and happy becoming when the ultimate you understands and is content with being.

Two coins, one side.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thin Ice On Shit Creek

DHS 150

I know it's not all that rational, but i've decided to go out on a limb and go skating up shit creek, even though i know full well that the ice covering is very, very thin, and i have no clue where i've stashed my paddle since the last time i saw it.

That translates to ... i'm going to spend some money that is nowhere to be found in my budget, in fact it's not even in the same house as the computer on which i keep my budget. I got an email from The Teaching Company today telling me that for one day they were discounting all of the courses in their catalog. Up to 75%. One day only.

I checked, and the set of both How to Listen To and Understand Great Music & Understanding the Fundamentals of Music, both of which i've already said i want, and which normally sells for $955, is on sale for $220. Even with $30 shipping, that's close enough for me to convince myself that i can rationalize it and say it's affordable.

This comes with an additional cost, though. Buying both of them means that i am now going to be forced to keep my current laptop until sometime in 2011, instead of replacing it later this year as i had planned. Adding another one year to a computer normally wouldn't be such a big deal, but my laptop is not just on it's last legs, it's already lost one of them so is down to one last leg with half the toes missing.

  • The battery is held in with duct tape.
  • The case is broken (with a small piece completely broken off) near the PCMCIA slot and that is all covered and held together with a layer of duct tape and a layer of electrical tape over that.
  • There is another 1" crack on the other side of the PCMCIA slot that i'm just ignoring and hoping that it heals itself. If it spreads more i'll have to cover that with tape as well.
  • The side of the case to the left of the monitor is cracked from the monitor all the way to the edge. I'm ignoring that as well.
  • One of the keys came off (actually i broke it off while trying to get the keyboard off because a couple keys wouldn't work once) and i can only get it back on halfway. That means, of the two pieces that should hold it on i figured out how one of them works and attached that. I can't yet figure out the second one so the key flops up and down sometimes. Figuring this out is one of my projects for the summer.
  • The guts of the jack where you plug in the electrical cord all fell out a couple months ago. I used pliers to get the plug in and now have it taped in place with duct tape so that it can never come unplugged. I'm afraid something will blow up if it does because when you look inside the hole all you see are two small wires with no insulation anywhere around them.
  • When you turn on the computer, or sometimes even just pick it up wrong, the power management software gets confused and starts cycling back and forth between "AC Plugged In" (which means a bright screen) and "Running On Batteries" (which means a dim screen). Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,... it's sort of annoying. I found out, by accident, though that if you ignore it and just start an application, like Thunderbird, Firefox, or Open Office, that shocks the system back to reality and it settles down. Until you pick it up wrong. But, once you get it settled down it's usually OK for the rest of the day.
  • The CD/DVD drive no longer pops open when you push the eject button, you have to pry it open.
  • While i can listen to CDs with no problem, when i rip a CD to my hard drive, it won't rip the last bit of the CD for some reason. It just stalls and hangs up like the thing-a-ma-jobber with the laser on it in the CD drive stops moving. Even though if all i want to do is listen to it, it works fine. I think.
  • You can no longer open local copies of html files just by double clicking on them, you have to open the browser first and then go to File/Open File. This one confuses me. I think Windows is broken somehow.

So you can see, accepting to keep this computer for another year is not an easy sacrifice. I now back up my computer almost every day because i expect it to blow up at any time. But, i really want those two courses. And i'll be gone for three months so by the time i get back in late July, i'll have forgotten that this was a questionable decision. When i get back, they'll just be there on the book shelf crying to be opened and all will be well.

Besides, i canceled my TV Japan subscription and that saves me about $40/month, i canceled caller ID on my phone and that saves me about $10/month, and now that summer is coming i will almost never drive my car so that could save another $20/month. I think this is doable. Easily. With these cuts in the budget, the DVDs are almost a freebie; i'll never notice the expenditure.

And i'll learn something new, something enjoyable, and something incredibly important to life — the basics of classical music theory.


With just two weeks of riding left before i leave on the TransAm ride, i'm supposed to be out there riding 50 miles a day with all my panniers on board and loaded. But, i'm not. Riding in these constant winds is already hard enough, i just can't make myself add to the work load by hanging 4 sails on the side of my bike. I do ride with my small(ish) run around town library/grocery store panniers, but i carry those just to hold a jacket, my thermos of tea, and some lunch.

These flags can tell you more about today's winds than a paragraph of my words. I snapped this on the way home, so this is what i was fighting all the way south and southeast, and as crosswinds on the western portions of the ride back home.

Then to top it off, i got curious about a road i hadn't ridden on before, and after a few miles, .... it turned into a gravel road; rather new gravel, so thick and soft from time to time. Needless to say, it wasn't fast (i ended up in 1st gear plodding along at about 5 mph) — although the scenery was beautiful.

I'm a farm boy at heart, i think, because i feel very comfortable when there are farms and fields around. For most of my rides, since i ride to the south, this is what i see:

With another sheepish grin, i'll confess that i threw in the towel early today and came home after 38 miles, even though it felt like 58 miles and i'm pooped.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Testing sending a short message from my mobile phone. Beautiful weather today!

Reinventing Who You Are

DHS 149

Not quite, but very close to full bloom:

Four or five years ago i threw an old door mat at the foot of the stairs of my front porch because i was doing some work there. About a week later, i noticed that it had reinvented itself and made a new life as the home of some beautiful moss. It has been doing it's job well over the years and i just can't make myself remove it. In fact, i'm thinking of throwing down another one next to it.

Which reminds me of another of Mary Oliver's beautiful poems:


Isn't it plain the sheets of moss, except that
they have no tongues, could lecture
all day if they wanted about

spiritual patience? Isn't it clear
the black oaks along the path are standing
as though they were the most fragile of flowers?

Every morning I walk like this around
the pond, thinking: if the doors of my heart
ever close, I am as good as dead.

Every morning, so far, I'm alive. And now
the crows break off from the rest of the darkness
and burst up into the sky--as though

all night they had thought of what they would like
their lives to be, and imagined their strong, thick wings.

New And Collected Poems: Volume One
Mary Oliver

God, don't let me die
Unless my body goes too.
Without dreams, what then?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rock 1-Toe 0: But Gensha Wins The Match

DHS 148

"If you really understand yourself,
everything else
nothing but your life.
That's where the place of no yin and yang is.
See. Dogen Zenji says here,
'If one examines the ten thousand dharmas
with a deluded body and mind
one will suppose that one's mind and nature are permanent.
But if one practices intimately and returns to the true self
it will be clear that the ten thousand dharmas are without self.'
Always somehow this is the key.
We are so much caught up by the self, see.
Always I, mine, me.
I have a problem
I have a pain
I have a friction
I am unhappy.
Return to the true self intimately and see
ten thousand dharmas are without self.
Then what happens?
Ten thousand dharmas become your life
and that's what true self is.
Gensha says,
'The world in the ten directions—
nothing but one bright jewel.'
Chosa says, 'Ten thousand dharmas—
the world in the ten directions
is nothing but the true body.
The true human body,
that's what all ten directions are.'
What kind of awareness is that?

Gensha's ten directions are nothing but
one bright jewel.
When you really see your life
with that wisdom
everything is nothing but your life.

Later when Seppo was getting old
there were 1500 monks.
Being one of those hundreds of monks
what can you do?
So two years [Gensha] was there;
then he decided to go some place else.
Maybe he was thinking
'There are too many monks staying here.
Maybe it's not so great.
Better go and study somewhere else.'

Anyway, he leaves and on the way
he runs into a sharp rock and hurts his toe.
What happens?
This body and mind
body, made of four elements
which are empty,
and if it's empty
where does this pain come from?
Those who will attain in such a clear way
are a little different.
If we bang into something,
'Ouch!' that's all
or maybe we just complain
'Who put this here!'
Banging into stone,
'God damn dumb rock!!!'
Isn't it?
His reflection is something different, see.
Where does that pain come from?
Having body
having nothing
where does that pain come from?
Being nothing
how come it's so painful?
Then he attained realization.
Isn't it marvelous?

To explain is easy.
You figure it out, see."

Teaching of the Great Mountain
Zen Talks By Taizen Maezumi

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Until Then...

DHS 147

Here's today's picture of the cherry tree in front of my house. It's looking gorgeous today, although it's been raining all day, there's a chance of snow tonight, and tomorrow's high temperature is forecast to be in the mid-40's, so i don't know what will become of it by tomorrow night. Better enjoy it while it is showing off this afternoon.

And here's another shot of the tree that i just snapped from the safety of my desk while waiting for GIMP to open:


"Even within cyclic existence, much of our happiness and satisfaction actually derives from altruism and sense of caring. These qualities offer us unlimited benefit, even in everyday life. Therefore, we should share the sentiments expressed by Shantideva in his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, where he stated that we should wish to be of service to and utilized by all other sentient beings, just as are the earth, mountains and trees. When we think about altruism in such depth, we will realize that independent self-interest, the interests of the individual I, are totally meaningless, and will truly understand what Shantideva meant in that beautiful verse towards the end of his Guide, which I quoted before but will mention again:

"For as long as space exists,
For as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.

"When you dedicate your entire being, your body, speech and mind, to fulfilling the single goal of being of benefit to others, you can say that true happiness has begun and you have entered the path to full enlightenment."

Illuminating The Path To Enlightenment
Dalai Lama

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Freeze! Drop It! Slowly...

DHS 146

Boy was i wrong about my cherry tree. It may be in full bloom this weekend — even though the first blossoms popped open only yesterday! I looks like a third of the tree opened late this morning as the temperature started to climb. I'll post another picture tomorrow.


"Spiritual practice must be carried out quietly and calmly because a passage to freedom opens to you only when you deal with right now, right here. So under all circumstances, whatever feeling, emotion, or idea your dualistic human consciousness has produced, just accept it. Then, next, don't attach to it, just let it go, let it return to oneness. Then you can return to oneness. This is nothing but practice in action. This practice is naturally pure and clean. So right in the middle of sitting zazen, try to receive your body and mind and use them in peace and harmony. That is called the wheel of ignorance.

"It is difficult to receive and accept oneness because human speculation doesn't catch it. But if you practice with full devotion, finally you will come to the final goal—silence. When you touch the core of existence and see the fundamental truth, there is nothing to say; you are just present in silence. This silence really makes your life alive. Then, even though you don't say anything, your silence has lots of words, demonstrating the truth in a physical and mental way, which can be seen by others. This is Buddha's teaching appearing through the form of a person who sees into the pure and clear depth of human existence."

Each Moment Is The Universe
Dainin Katagiri

Sitting in silence
Letting go of everything
Drop into oneness

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blossoms They Are A Comin'

DHS 145

Last year i cried for months when my Weeping Cherry tree (Shidarezakura) in the front yard went on strike and refused to show more than about 6 blossoms. I still think the gods of Personal Development were furious with me for quitting my job, but my sister is an PD god atheist and says it had something to do with a late hard freeze, or some nonsense like that. This year, barring unforeseen weather, things should be much, much better. Those gods are well known to have short memories. The tree is covered with blossoms in waiting and i found the first ones popping open when i got back from my bike ride this afternoon.

It's not a good picture (no pictures i take are good; it's a skill i'm woefully deficient in), but here is the tree. It started out 10 years ago with a trunk about 2 inches in diameter and about 6 feet tall. The trunk is now about 10 inches in diameter and it is about 35 feet tall. They told me when i bought it that it would get about 20 feet tall and the branches would spread about 6 feet. The branches now spread about 20 feet. When it blooms, i'm in Japanophile heaven!

(Click to enlarge)

And these are the first few blossoms that have poked their beautiful heads out.

(Click to enlarge)

As soon as it comes to full bloom in about two or three weeks (?) i'll sneak out late some night and sprinkle a bottle of beer around the trunk while dancing naked and chanting a very special, and secret, mantra that an old and wise monk taught me long ago in order to show the PD gods that i do take them seriously.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


What a roller coaster ride. Just got home from a shortened 23 mile bike ride. Rode the last mile in on again–off again drizzles as i raced approaching rains home, and according to the online weather the expected storm is just about here. The winds are 24 mph from the SSW with gusts to 39 mph. There were times again today when the flag on the back of my bike was blowing in the same direction that i was riding, even though i was doing 20 mph! Wish i could get a picture of that.

Rides like the ones i've been doing this week (i.e., in strong winds and questionable weather) always make me think of a talk i want to buy someday, even though the priority is almost nil, by Swami Amar Jyoti called We Perceive Only What We Are. It's not that i think he's a great speaker, i don't, but i just love the title of the talk and wonder how he would say what we know he would say.

I can't see how anyone can even question the validity of the statement that how we perceive the world, our place in it, and our interactions with all the other inhabitants... is completely guided by who we are, what our mental state is, our preconceived notions and ideas, our desires and hates, our emotional state from minute to minute, etc. As Swami says, we perceive what we are. Only. No more, no less. I see no way to dispute that, even if i were want to try.

Think the world is a dangerous place? Then it is. Think people are generally bad, greedy, and out to screw everyone they can? Then they are. Think life is a bitch? Then it is. Think someone is an arrogant, egotistical asshole? Then he is. Think the world is a beautiful place? Then it is. Think it is full of wonderful and varied experiences that could thrill you for innumerable lifetimes? Then it is. Think there may be a few bad people here and there but predominantly people are good and generous? Then they are. The world is only what you perceive it to be and how you perceive is 100% governed by your frame of mind.

Is riding in weather like today hard? Yes, absolutely. Does that make it a bad day? No, in no way. All the flowers have started to bloom. Yards and fields are green again. There are lots and lots of birds out there. Softball and baseball has started in the local parks again with kids out playing and having a great time everywhere. And the wind gives me lots of opportunities to work on the legs as i fight up hills, already hard just because hills tend to be hilly, against 39 mph wind gusts. What a great workout, and i didn't even have to sign up for a gym membership. :-)

DHS 144

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Music Theory

DHS 143

Someone told me long ago that in order to keep ourselves mentally "fit," we should attempt to tackle and learn a new subject every six months. I've always liked that philosophy and this goes a long way in explaining why i am that proverbial "jack of all trades, master of none." Having said that, though, i think it will be time to tackle a new subject when i get back home at the end of July. It seems like i have read nothing except Buddhism, Vedanta, Yoga, and "Success," or personal development, for the past year. It's time to move the sheep to a new pasture.

I spent the better part of yesterday morning, last night, and this morning watching parts of the Teaching Company course String Quartets of Beethoven. The lecturer, Robert Greenberg, is astoundingly good at his job. He is passionate about his job, knows and understands the material inside and out, has a great sense of humor, and delivers a great lecture. It's fascinating to see how he can make the difficult, and sometimes obscure, music theory behind the quartets so easily accessible.

So, i've decided that i need to broaden the knowledge i've learned in this course, which focuses solely on the theory as it pertains to Beethoven's string quartets, and get a better handle on classical music theory in general. All Teaching Company courses go on sale at least once a year, so the next time i see Understanding The Fundamentals of Music on sale i'm going to buy it and start on this subject area. I'd also like to buy How to Listen To and Understand Great Music, but it will be a looong time before i can afford this course, even when it goes on sale. Maybe near the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Each course always comes with a great bibliography, so i'll see what Greenberg recommends for a book before buying something that i can also study as i go through the course. Sounds exciting.....

Friday, April 2, 2010

Throwing In The Towel

DHS 142

What adjective is stronger than "brutal?" According to the online weather, the winds this afternoon are 24 mph SSW, with 34 mph gusts. It felt worse out on my bicycle. I threw in the towel and come home after 20 miles today; riding a bike in these winds is almost like work, and riding a bike (for me) is never supposed to be anything but fun.

Interesting news, though. While riding, i stumbled across what looks like a brand new Vedanta center out in the boonies on the north side of town. The sign said Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, and a quick search online shows that it belongs to the Ramakrishna Math religious order. The sign said they are open 9-7, but the parking lot was empty and i couldn't see any moving bodies in any of the windows.

I may have to ride out some day and check them out. Just introduce myself and see what literature they have to offer.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Failing Bio 101

DHS 141

Have been reading Krishna Menon's Notes On Spiritual Discourses this evening (pdf copies can be found online easily). One of the notes pulled me right out of Vedanta and back into Zen. Note 46 is:

What is meant by "Water does not flow"?
Water as water, or as the element water, is both in the flowing water as well as in the stagnant water. So the flowing-ness or the stagnancy does not go into the make of water. Therefore, water does not flow, nor does it stagnate.

Similarly, the ‘I’-principle is both in activity and in inactivity. Therefore it is neither active nor inactive. The ‘I’-principle shines unchanged: before, during and after every activity or inactivity.

This method, of understanding the objective world and the ‘I’, not only establishes one’s self in the right centre, but also destroys the samskaras relating to them.

Remind you of anything? Reminds me of Case 29 of the Mumonkan, or Gateless Gate

The wind was flapping a temple flag, and two monks were arguing about the flag. One said, "The flag is moving." The other said, "The wind is moving." They could not agree, no matter how hard they debated. The sixth patriarch, Eno, happened to come by and said, "Not the wind, not the flag. It is the mind that is moving!" The two monks were struck with awe.

Mumon's Comments:
It is not the wind that moves, it is not the flag that moves, it is not the mind that moves. How shall we understand the sixth patriarch? If you gain an intimate grasp of its meaning, you will see how the two monks, intending to buy iron, got gold. The patriarch could not repress his compassion for the two monks, and so we have this disgraceful scene.

Wind, flag, and mind moves,
All confirmed as guilty of error.
Only we know our mouth is opened,
we do not know our speech went wrong.

To which Kōun Yamada added this commentary (in part) in his book The Gateless Gate: The Classic Book of Zen Koans:

There is another interesting story in the same category as this koan. During the Tokugawa period in Japan, a venerable master of the Sōtō sect by the name of Sonnō lived in Sendai. One day one of his disciples came to visit, bringing melons as a gift. The master, much pleased with both the gift and his disciple, suggested they try some of the fruit. Sonnō said, "It's very sweet." "Yes," replied the disciple, "It's very sweet." Then the master smilingly asked, "What do you think, is the melon sweet or the tongue sweet? If the melon is sweet, the sweetness has nothing to do with the tongue. If the tongue is sweet, the sweetness has nothing to do with the melon. Where does the sweetness actually come from? Try to tell me that!"

At this point i would have run for my life. As soon as the master started smiling you knew he had a weapon hidden somewhere and was ready to use it, but the disciple was much braver than i could ever be so he tried to offer a response.

The disciple thought for awhile and then replied, "It comes from the causal contact of the tongue and the melon."

Uh oh..... that came right out of Biology 101 or Buddhism 101. Even i know better than trying that one. I think he just asked for a beating.

The master retorted, "That answer is merely from the theoretical standpoint of Buddhism. It contains no experience of the Zen monk!" The monk asked him, "If so, where does it actually come from? Please give me a turning word."

Cheeky bastard, brave soul, or someone deeply committed to finding the Truth? Oh well, he asked.

Master Sonnō gave him the following instruction: "Where does it come from? Even the Buddhas and Patriarchs cannot tell you. If you search for 'where,' you will find the whole universe is the melon and that there is no tongue outside the melon. Or you will find that the whole universe is the tongue and that there is no melon outside the tongue. In the world of reality, there is neither subject nor object. The real fact transcends both mind and things. We call it the essential activity of no-thinking, which has been transmitted from Buddha to Buddha, from patriarch to patriarch. From now on you must exert yourself all the more intensely." The monk was deeply impressed.

Now let us look at the koan in the present case. Is the situation not the same? If you say the wind is moving, the wind is all and is quite alone in the universe. There is no flag or mind outside the wind. If you say the flag is moving, the flag is the only thing in the universe. There is no wind or mind outside the flag. If you say the mind is moving, the mind is all. Nothing exists outside of it. The true fact transcends all these three, and what is that? You must search for it deeply by yourself.

Yamada continues but finishes by making his point perfectly clear:

But from my point of view, Mumon, too, was was mistaken to comment as he did [the mind is moving] because the true fact transcends all moving and non-moving. It is just....what?!

Don't you love it when they spell it out so clearly? It is just....what?!

It's just... well you know
This and that and nothing more
One coin with no sides?