Friday, December 28, 2012


This nice story about our practice, from The Path To Bodhidharma, by Shodo Harada Roshi.

"At Sogenji is the story of the master whose bath-water was far too hot. He told the disciple who was in charge of the bath that day to bring some cold water. At that time, of course, there was no faucet to make the water start running. The disciple had to go all the way out to the well, pull up a bucketful of water, take the water into the bath, and then go back to the well again to bring up another bucketful of water, and go back into the bath with it. Many times he went back and forth from the well bringing cold water. When the bath was finally cooled to just the right temperature, the master said, 'Okay, that’s good enough.'

"When he said 'that’s good enough,' the monk took the little bit of the water that was left in the bucket and dumped it out on the floor. He put the bucket upside down and, thinking his work was finished, prepared to leave. His teacher was furious and said, 'What are you doing?' The monk was amazed and did not understand why, when he had just finished his job, his teacher was suddenly angry at him. The master said, 'You thought there was only a little bit of water left in that bucket, so you dumped it out so carelessly. Why, just because it was a little bit of water, did you not perceive how to give that little bit of water life? If you had taken it outside you could have put it on a flower, you could have given it to a tree, you could have used it for the vegetables in the garden.'

"The master knew and was telling the monk that in one drop of water, even in the slightest drop of water, there is an entire universe of energy and functioning. We must make our efforts so that we are using what comes to us totally --- if there is a lot of water we can use it in a big way, but with even the smallest drop of water we should put our efforts totally into taking the life of that one drop seriously and using it in the best possible way. That is what doing our practice is all about."

How often do we simply dump the 'little bit' out rather than using it wisely? "I'd give my seat to that elder woman, but i think she gets off in just a few stops so why bother." "I know i just walked past a dime laying on the street, but it's only a dime, so..." "Hey, can i call you back later, my TV show is getting ready to start." "I know i won't eat it all, but i might as well cook the whole package because there won't be enough left for another meal anyhow." "I won't meditate this morning since i don't have time for the whole half-hour." "Yes, yes, yes, i know we don't wear shoes in the house, but i'm just going to tip toe to the refrigerator and get that bottle of water i forgot." "I know it's too long, but set the dryer timer for an hour; that way when we check it later we know the clothes will be dry."

How careful are we with our practices? How often do we let convenience overrule conscientious awareness. How often do we unconsciously let a line be drawn between our 'practice' and our 'daily lives?'

Our practice is our daily lives.

p.s., i posted this earlier, but HERE is someone who lives his practice.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Why, Oh Why?

Why do some authors feel so absolutely compelled to rub my nose in my own stinking piles of dung??? It's like some authors sit down and gleefully say, "Hee, hee, hee, I'll get that idiot in Lockport again today. Watch this!"

"Maharajji tried to comfort me; he patted me on the head, he sent for milk and fed it to me. He was crying and I was wailing and wailing. And when I got all finished with my wailing, he said to me, 'I thought I told you not to get angry?'

"I said, 'Yeah—but you also told me to tell the truth, and the truth is that I'm angry.'

"Then he leaned toward me, until he was nose to nose and eye to eye, and he said, 'Give up anger, and tell the truth.'

"I started to say, 'But...'—and then, right at that moment, I saw my predicament. See, what I was going to say to him was 'But that isn't who I am.' And in that instant, I saw in front of me the image of a coffin, and in the coffin was an image of who I thought myself to be. And what Maharajji was saying to me was 'I'm telling you who you're going to be, after you're finished being who you think you are.'

"Then I looked over at all those people, all of whom I detested, and I saw that one layer down, one tiny flick of the lens, I loved them all incredibly. I suddenly saw that the only reason I was angry with them was because I had a model of how I thought it ought to be, which was other than the way it was. How can you get angry at somebody for being what they are? You're trying to outguess God. They're just being what God made them to be—what are you getting angry about? Somebody lies to you? They're just doing their karmic trip. Why are you upset? 'Well, I didn't think they'd lie to me!' Ah, expectations—there's your problem. The next time you get angry, look closely at what you're angry about. You'll see you're angry because God didn't make the world the way you think it should have been made. But God makes the world the way She makes it!"

Ram Dass
Paths To God: Living The Bhagavad Gita

Even if i ignore the "God" part, it all is so very, very, true. Too true. Pisses me off when my nose gets all smelly....

Friday, December 21, 2012

Intricate Designs

Completely forgot that i had promised to upload this picture. This is the door between my living room and dining room. Originally, the space above the door was solid and covered in wallpaper to match what can be seen on the walls. I opened that space up and made what was called in the old days, a transom, who's purpose back then was to allow the hot air that accumulates at ceiling level to move to another room where there might not have been a heat source.

After opening the wall i framed it in wood then built the lattice work that you see now. It has completely transformed the look of the room.

(Click to enlarge)

Went to the movies for the first time in a decade today — a treat from my sister. We went to see Lincoln, a movie i thought was going to be about the Civil War. (How can any sane person call any war civil??????)

I know i may have been the only person in the US that didn't know this, but much to my surprise and delight, the war only played a trivial part in the movie — it was all about Lincoln's push to get the Congress to pass the 13th amendment to the the constitution.

Section 1.
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

At the time of its passing, a great many people in this wonderful country of ours were convinced that this ensured the doom of all our forefathers had fought for, that it forebode the certain decline and eventual destruction of all we held dear, that we held to be true and just.

But just the opposite has proven true. Granted that the battle for equality didn't end there, that many would say it still has a long way to go, but those brave men who had the courage to stand up and be counted for justice, good, and rightness, proved that we Americans on the whole are willing to do what is right.

I imagine that today, right now, as i type this, the exact same types of conversations are taking place in Congress, that the exact same type of backroom dealing is taking place, that the exact same sweat is being shed by those who refuse to stand up for rightness even though they know that what they stand for is wrong.

It is time for America to admit that we have a gun problem, that this addiction is tearing our society apart, tearing cities and families apart, that if it is not stopped soon, we will no longer have the ability to hold our heads high in front of our peers worldwide.

This isn't about mental illness. This isn't about failed school systems. This isn't about violent video games and movies. This isn't about the right of hunters to own guns. This is about a moral failure. This is about a disease that has infected an entire society, a disease prompting all of us to avert our eyes and change the subject just as long as it's not our schools or our children.

It is time to admit that all of those needlessly killed are our children, are our brothers and sisters, are our mothers and fathers and aunts and uncles. Guns kill, no matter what the NRA says. Guns kill. And it may be your child next.

If those brave people had the courage to stand up for the 13th amendment, why do we not have the courage to stand up now? Look in the mirror and ask yourself that tonight as you tuck your child in bed or as you say goodnight to your parents. In some cases, for the very last time.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bottom of The 12th -- Still Tied

Of all the books I've read, or reread, this year, I was sure that Shohaku Okumura's Realizing Genjokoan was going to be the best. I haven't finished it yet, but will soon, and even before reaching the end I know I'll reread it next year. Having said that, though, it fell off its pedestal today.

This morning I started reading Ram Dass' Paths To God: Living The Bhagavad Gita, and am blown away, head-over-heels in love. Between stints in the basement putting the finishing touches on some woodwork (picture tomorrow after the stain dries), I've done nothing but read all day, which means, unfortunately, that I'll finish it too soon.

"Paths" isn't another commentary on the Gita, but a commentary on what it means to live a life based on the Gita. What it means to get out of the way of Life so that it can manifest in you. What it means to see Life without a 'you' in it. What it means to see that you are Life. And while I have read other books by Ram Dass, each time I did, i ended by simply put the finished book on the shelf in the library and thinking something like, "Hmmm... Interesting ideas. What should I read now?" "Paths" is very, very different.

The question I'm considering now is a) is it because of the ideas he puts forth?, b) is it because of the way he wrote it, the way he's putting forth the ideas?, or c) have I just fallen helplessly in love with the Gita?

The Gita is such a beautiful book and each time through it I see so much more than I did previously. It's one of those books that's easy to read once and say, "Nope, doesn't apply to me, I'm not a Hindu." And if that's where you stop, you don't know what you're missing.

I haven't been writing much lately — there's this ongoing battle in the house between the desire to hash ideas out by getting them down on (virtual) paper, i.e., the blog, and simply enjoying silence and letting all the thoughts and ideas leave in a huff because I refuse to give them the attention they so crave. Lately the silence has been winning.

With the start of the year, though, I hope to force myself to be a little more vocal again, and I think I'll start by talking about these two books: "Paths" and "Realizing."

So with just a few weeks left (less if the 21st is the end), it's looking like I will never be able to choose one favorite book for the year. Oh well, I could have worse problems than having to choose between two great books.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Spent the late afternoon and early evening with a wonderful guest — Nisargadatta Maharaj. I find his thoughts so in common with my own. He says that our spiritual growth takes place in four stages:

- At the lowest level is our normal everyday conditioned existence. We live our days with our hopes, fears, desires, beliefs, book knowledge, and the countless other beliefs that we have been taught, actively and passively, to be "true." We live our days believing that this body and mind are who we are.

- With some amount of meditation we can see above this falsehood. We can see that above and beyond all those conditioned beliefs, what is really "true" is that "I Am." I am; no more, no less, but the old conditioned beliefs are now seen to be false, to not be who we are. Everything we believed before is seen to be impermanent, constantly changing, coming and going, so it can not be used to define who we are. We are above all that.

- With more meditation we are able to reach that place where we see that even this "I Am" is temporary. Just by saying "I Am," you still have one foot in the old objective world. Therefore, even this, too, can not be who we are. In meditation, you can crawl between any two thoughts (my analogy, not his) and come to that place where you see that simple consciousness is the holder of even that "I Am." "I Am" can come and go, but this consciousness remains. We are this consciousness and it begins at the moment of conception, even though "I Am" may take a year to develop after birth.

- With dedication, perseverance, and a relentless drive to go further, though, you can get to where you can see that even this consciousness is changeable and temporary. If you go mad, or use drugs, or get unbelievably angry (etc.), your consciousness takes a different appearance. It manifests differently. Therefore, being temporary, being changeable, it too can not be who you are.

- You come to See that above this consciousness that manifests as your physical body/mind, that manifests as the physical world, there is simple, all encompassing, ever present Awareness. Absolute awareness. That manifests as your consciousness, my consciousness, as everyone and everything. This unchanging omnipresent Awareness is who we are, and we have reached the end of our search.

Does this Awareness know itself? No, it simply Is. It can only know itself through a manifested consciousness. This awareness always is, whether or not there is a conditioned being, a non-conditioned I Am-ness, or even a manifested consciousness.

Our goal is to focus on the awareness, and nothing else. Seek it, not the conditioned experience that many people call enlightenment, which can come and go, can change — hence can not be the ultimate state.

Seek this ultimate awareness.