Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Politics & Double Standards

Republicans puzzle me. Greatly.

Cain is being run through a grinder about his alleged extramarital affairs and will probably be forced from the race. At the same time, the man who has surged to the top of the list, Newt Gingrich, is a proven unethical cheat and people seem to love him. He's on his third marriage after cheating on both of his first two wives. While serving in congress he was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for unethical behavior.

How can any republican look another person in the eye and say that they believe in ethics??? An unethical cheat is better than all other possibilities?

This really puzzles me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Your Face

In your face all day
Forcing you to look and see
Just Now won't let up

Actualizing Ordinariness

From the Hotsumujōshin (Developing The Supreme Mind) chapter of Dōgen's Shōbōgenzō:

"The National Teacher Daishō said, 'Walls, tiles, and stones are the ancient Buddha mind.' We must study carefully where walls, tiles, and stones exist. You must question where and how such things are actualized. 'Ancient Buddha mind' is not Kūo Buddha, who existed aeons ago. Rather, it is just the ordinary everyday life of human beings. In such kind of life we sit and find Buddha. This is called the mind of resolve for enlightenment.

In general, the working of hotsubodaishin (the Buddha-seeking mind) is developed from hosshin (the initial awakening of the mind, the resolve for enlightenment); other than this, there is nothing. Awakening the mind of enlightenment is to make Buddha by holding up one blade of grass, or to make the sutras with a piece of wood.

That ordinary, everyday life of human beings. Putting gas in the car, preparing the kid's lunch, washing the dishes after a meal, dusting the shelves and washing the floor, paying the bills, disagreeing with your brother, picking up your dog's poop, mowing the lawn, commuting in rush hour traffic, sitting through a half-day meeting, reading a chapter before bed, ...

It's in that life, that completely ordinary life, where our practice of zazen is the most important and the most natural. That very life is zazen. But because it is difficult, we take some time out from that practice each day to sit on a cushion, where practice is easy, where everything is stacked in our favor. Then it's back to our practice.

The mind that resolves for enlightenment also actualizes walls, tiles, and stones. Actualizes all that exists; all that doesn't exist. That mind, my mind, your mind, our mind, mind, is that Buddha in that one blade of grass.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deciphering Designs

A friend received the below medallion from her mother and asked me if the design in the middle was actually a kanji and had a meaning. Unfortunately i had to tell her that i don't recognize a character in it, but am posting it here for others to look at.

Does anyone recognize a character here? (Click to enlarge it) If it's not a Japanese kanji, could it be a Chinese hanzi? Or two? Or one, dublified? Or maybe i'm right and it's just a pretty, symmetrical pattern? What thinks anyone?

OK, while i'm waiting for a response, i guess i might as well write something — it's been a while. The rice cooker is going and won't be done for another half hour, a fresh beer is sitting on the coaster by the chair, some beautiful, calm-inducing Indian flute music is playing in MediaMonkey,... so, with nothing else to do, here we go....

In a paper i'm reading called "The Five Buddha Families and The Eight Consciousnesses," Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche lays out in a nice clear way the five meditational buddhas of Tibetan Buddhism, the klesha each represents, which one of the five skandha each symbolizes, and the one wisdom (of five) embodied in that buddha.

This is interesting because the same categorization technique was used by Kūkai as he established Shingon in the 9th century and it is still studied today at his monastery on Mt. Kōya.

God no, that's way too boring for Thanksgiving eve. Forget i wrote that.

I woke with a start, and with heart racing glanced across the room, but it didn't take a second to realize that what had woken me was Phoebe crawling into the bed. When i raised my eyebrows and shot her a quizzical "what's going on?" look, she put her finger on my lips and with her lips to my ear whispered "Shhhh. Don't say anything, just enjoy." Before i could utter another word, with a giggle and that devilish smile that i had come to know over the past year meant "hang on for the ride... if you can," she dove under the covers.

With her parents in the room down the hall, i knew we were playing with fire, but everyone that knows Phoebe knows that she will get what she wants when she's in one of these moods.

No, no. That's not what i meant to type.... Sorry, Dave has told me i can't post stories like this here. Something about making Google mad.

In the latest bicycling news, Alberto Contador has finally had his day in court and will now wait for the expected January release of a verdict in his attempt to get away with doping case of suspected doping.

As a surprise witness, Contador's lawyers produced a young Spanish herder who testified under oath that he had personally raised the cow in question. He also testified that he was certain beyond any doubt that he had seen it eating grass near the window of his hut while he (the herder) had been watching a PBS television show about Cherybutt Chernoble Cheerieo that nasty shit that we all know was inside the steak that Alberto purportedly ate.

Under cross-questioning, the herder expressed shock that prosecutors questioned his status as "expert witness," saying that he watched PBS everyday and pointing out that he was certain that he had seen a show pointing out the correlation between what you watch while you eat and the effects that can have on your health and physiology.

Ooops, the rice cooker just beeped, so i'll have to finish this another day. If you have any ideas about the medallion, please let me know.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Remember at least one thing you are grateful for tomorrow. More if you can.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Had an unusual dream last night. Actually, it was early this morning because i woke up from the middle of the dream and immediately wanted to go back to sleep to finish it. I can't remember the last time i had a dream that made me want to go back to sleep to reenter it.

I should have typed this up as soon as i got up instead of eating breakfast and reading the news because i've already started to forget large chunks of what happened, but what made it interesting is still there so i'll recount that.

My two sisters and I were apparently all applying for a job at an inner city school. I say 'apparently' because i don't ever remember talking or reading anything about the job itself, but everything about the experience speaks to this being about becoming teachers.

The three of us walked to the building (school?) where the interviews were going to be held, a typical old red-brick multi-story inner city building. When we went in, the elevators were small (and crowded with other candidates) with well worn wood paneling on all the walls.

We went up to the 57th floor and were greeted by two guys sitting behind a receptionist-like counter. It was a big open room, painted white and desperately in need of a repaint. The wood work was intricate and had probably been considered a marvel "back in the days." Just a few small windows let in enough sunlight that if felt warm and cozy. When we told the two guys what we were there for, one of them went into a side room to get the information we needed.

The next thing i remember is that the three of us were seated in large over-sized chairs in the open area in front of the reception counter and the guy who had gone to get us our information was with us and explaining the procedure to us.

As he explained it, the written test we had to take was long and would take a substantial amount of time. Therefore, they gave it out to candidates before hand so that they could study it and get prepared. As he said this, he pointed to an adjacent room, empty except for rows and rows of long wooden desks spanning the width of the room. That room had windows the entire length of the two outside walls so was flooded in sunlight.

After explaining the test (which took awhile, but i don't remember it), he pulled out a small video camera and told us that he was loaning it to us because we would each be required to make a short video of "something," i don't remember what anymore. It seemed odd, but even though i don't remember the specifics, i remember wondering what the purpose of it was as it seemed to be making a video of something very mundane, very ordinary. Something about people.

A lot more is gone, but the next thing i remember is walking down a hallway (on our way out?) when someone asked me to tell a story to the students. The students had been gathered in the auditorium and they wanted me to go up on stage and "make something up, tell them a story of make believe," or something like that.

I would love to see that actual auditorium because it was an amazing place. Like the rest of the building it was old, but not worn out. Well, and lovingly, used might be the best description. Everything was wood, well worn wood, polished to a deep brown color by the sweat and oily hands and elbows of the hundreds of thousands of kids that had passed through it over the many years.

The room was narrow, maybe 20-30 seats wide, but deep enough to hold all the students, the furthest back of which faded into shadows. The lighting wasn't dark, but it was old incandescent lights which left the room a warm golden color, mainly up near the stage. The small stage was just as old and had a hollow sound to it as i walked across it to the sole chair in the middle.

I only remember fragments of what i said, but it went along these lines:


I'm supposed to tell you a story of make believe, but that's not my forte, so instead, let me tell you about a friend of mine who's whole life revolved around made up stories.

Richard looked like an average guy, seemingly no different from any one of you. He dressed just like everyone else, acted just like everyone else, and in no way stood out in a crowd.

Over the years, Richard had convinced himself that he was nothing special. He walked to the same job, in the same office, at the same desk, day after day and year after year. He always wore the same style suit, never changing even the colors or the button patterns. Same hobbies, same interests. Year after year. Nothing in his life varied except the date on the calender.

He walked to the same deli every afternoon for lunch and talked to the same people. Told the same jokes and laughed at the same stories.

Richard had convinced himself that this was all he was; an average guy, lucky to have a respectable job, content to be alive. It didn't even occur to him that all of this was make believe, that he had invented all of it and that he was actually more.

I remember painting a picture of his life, but all of that is gone now.

Until one bright sunny day at the park. Why he went to the park would always be a mystery to him but one clear, bright day, he went, and as he walked up the small incline leading into the park, he.....

Man!, why didn't i write this when i woke up... that's were the memories stop. I remember talking more, but now can't remember what i said. While it doesn't seem all that great of a story in memory, in the dream i remember the hall being completely silent with the kids leaning forward to catch every word of the story. Now i wonder what was said, but the next memory jumps to this short piece of the ending...

Now let me be clear, Richard isn't any different than any of you here in this room. None of you are ordinary. None of you are limited. None of you should be "content" to be alive.

Like Richard, you all, no, we all, myself included, live in a make believe world. A world limited by our own thoughts. A small world, walled in by our own misbeliefs, our own unwillingness to question what we have been told about who we are.

Like Richard before going to the park, we are locked into these small lives only by our unwillingness to test the door, our blind belief that this is all there is.

It's not. You don't need a key to open the door and escape — all you need to do is walk over and push it open; it's not even locked. You can walk out to freedom anytime you work up the courage to be more than you can imagine.

You're students, that's your job at this stage of your life. You have a lot to learn. Do it, and do it well. But don't let yourself live in Richard's make believe world of mediocrity.

There will be a day in the near future when you leave this place. When you do, don't settle for just good enough. Do settle for what everybody else is, has, does, thinks, believes. Don't settle for make believe. Demand reality. Find someone who can point you towards that door and dare to open it. Dare to walk out free. Dare to be more than anyone can ever believe you can be.

Be brave. Have the courage to Live!

While i don't remember more, i do know that this wasn't a story of Richard waking up to miraculous powers, becoming a super hero, or anything like that. It was a story of a person's spiritual awakening. I'd love to go back and hear the whole talk. Did the students yawn and complain after the talk? Did they buy into it? I don't remember. I'd also love to see the school again. It was so incredibly vivid, so comfortable, almost like i had been there before.

Wish i could go back to sleep and relive it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


"Silence and self-control are disciplines of the mind. ... We usually associate silence with speech – the absence of speech. Real silence, however, is a desire-free, disturbance-free, peaceful mind. When there is peace of mind, the self is seen, and all ignorance-born, self-imposed limitations come to light and therefore disintegrate. A mind that is thus ever peaceful, ever alert is itself meditation."

The Song of God

I'm sure I have mentioned it before, but sitting on your butt isn't all there is to meditation. We should look to our zafu as no more than the place where we learn how to meditate and where we regularly return to perfect it. It is like your desk in a school classroom, it's where you learn the skills needed to live a better life, not what life is all about. The real practice of meditation takes place everywhere else — throughout the day, in all situations, with everyone we meet. Meditation is the method we employ to face the world, and in using it we find that we have unlimited abilities to handle what life throws at us, unlimited abilities to grow.

Siting on the zafu is where we get our eyes checked and any necessary corrective eyewear supplied. It is where we learn to see who we really are, who "WE" really are, or, maybe a little more accurately, what "WE" really is. It is here that we learn to see through the delusions we have taken for granted all our lives.

Once the glasses are in place, then, and only then, can we truly say we are ready to deal with the world, because before then, what we think we see, what we "know" we see, is only an illusion. So, submit to the discipline, find that silence tucked away between two thoughts, and then with your new eyes, get off your butt and use those skills in every other aspect of your life.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Found on the side of the road during today's run.

Road Kill 11

What's this thing called life
Temple bells ring the answer
This this this this this