Sunday, October 30, 2005

Roundup for Oct 24 - 30, 2005

Meaning, purpose, ego, anger and yearning were important subjects in Blogmandu posts last week -- and this is before getting to the politics-focused posts! In the political sphere, Plame and 2,000 Deaths were prime topics.

Meaning and Purpose

In a series of posts, Jeb of Wondering on the Way has targetted the very heart of religion. The group of posts is categorized as Analogs of Reality. This week, Jeb posted Number 6, "Meaning and Purpose."

Almost immediately, following a warning to readers, Jeb posted questions central to any human's existance:
  1. Does life ultimately have meaning?
  2. Is there some ultimate purpose to life?

Acting as our most excellent guide, Jeb hacks through the thick growth of ideas to essential elements that allow a confrontation with these questions. He identifies and explains the four approaches an individual can take to face meaning and purpose: Teleological, Existential, Abandoned Search and Denial.

Jeb shows how these approaches manifest in Christian and science-orientated individuals before he comes to the more-interesting Buddhist confrontation with these perennial questions. Jeb has put up a masterpiece of a post that will benefit all those who carefully read it.

Another dazzling philosophy-centered post of the week was put out there by Justin in his blog American Buddhist Perspective. Justin writes about the tension between being ordinary and among the ordinary in opposition to becoming a philosopher or being philosophical and, by necessity, looking at the world from on-high and objectifying it. How can one be in the world and of the world at the same time? How can one avoid being in two places at once and not anywhere at all?

Writes Justin, "But the philosopher may also reenter the world, gently; in the words of one of my teachers, 'he becomes fully human, fully normal.' He sees the divinity/enlightened nature of others as reflections of his own. He does not see and recoil from the flaws of the world. He acts fluidly within the world. "

Practice leads in the direction of Perfection

Haiku of this zen life writes of ego loosening its death grip and finding she is becoming more authentically herself. “[M]y desire to be thought of in certain ways, my fear of embarrassment, my concern for what people think are becoming less prominent.”

John of My Zen Life has a burst of maddog anger coming from the inundation of suffocating gimme-gimme advertising pitches. At the end of his post, he laments, “It’s times like these that just make me want to abandon this world and go live off the grid up in the hills somewhere.” He must be referring to the electrical grid. Electrons are a blogger’s heroine.

Miranda of Mt Metta Journal writes of working with Kuan Yin to adjust her life and actions and improve her orientation toward others. She is finding that, ironically, her developing compassion is turning her toward seclusion. "I don't want to become a total recluse; I like people the way I like jazz - when the mood hits, and in limited doses." she writes.

James, The Buddhist Blog blogger, quotes the Dalai Lama who tells us, essentially, to forget yearning for Nirvana, “lead a good life, honestly, with love, with compassion, with less selfishness,” and THAT will put you on the path to your forgotten goal. James concludes, “Stick to [these] basics and you cannot go wrong in my opinion.”

The Plame Game

Early this week, Zataod of Zen and the Art of Dreaming colorfully predicted “coal for Fitzmas” with regard to Plamegate. “Cheney and Bush are the key players here. Their henchmen are just following orders, but I think it's those underlings that will take the fall.” As we now know, only one “henchman” ended up taking a hit – from a multicount indictment.

James of Genius of Insanity reported on the Republican effort to discredit Fitzgerald in advance of any issuance of indictments. One point of hypocracy: “Even though Republicans nailed Clinton to the wall over perjury when it comes to one of their own it's a ‘technicality.’”

Neolotus of Free Thinker reposted a piece from Geopolitical Intelligence Report explaining the importance of the Plame affair. A couple of cogent sentences: “Rove and Libby had top security clearances and were senior White House officials. It was their sworn duty, undertaken when they accepted their security clearance, to build a ‘bodyguard of lies’ -- in Churchill's phrase -- around the truth concerning U.S. intelligence capabilities.”

Terrance of Republic of T still thinks bad times may be ahead for Karl Rove, identified as Official ‘A’ in the indictment of Scooter Liddy.

Mumon of Notes in Samsara wrote several posts the day the indictments where handed down. One ended happily and piercingly: "I wish all of you a safe and merry Fitzmas. May we remember it's true meaning."

Two Thousand

The Buddhist blogha took note of the milestone of two thousand American deaths in Iraq.

Ryan of Ryan’s Lair looked at the cold statistics. “The current war is costing America roughly 63 KIA per month. This war is vastly cheaper, in terms of American lives, than nearly all of our previous conflicts.” And parsed meaning from pathos-ladened reporting on the milestone as, “the incredible isolation of Americans from war and other forms of suffering, and our ability, perhaps not unrelated, to dwell in an ethical or emotional space utterly free of context and history.”

Too, genkaku in an Oct 22 post to his eponymous blog, looked at the statistics of the war, somberly. “I don’t care much where anyone stands. Whether a person believes the cause to be ‘just’ or ‘unjust,’ still there are the facts – or the best guess at the facts. … The premise is that based on facts, people can make informed decisions.”

James of Genius of Insanity dedicated a post to the fallen soldiers, and later presented an excerpt of an AP report that says the Iraqi death toll in the war is 30,000 – or, possibly, much higher. Says James, “The Iraqi's have sacrificed much. Let's hope that things continue to improve for them.”

Terrance of Republic of T linked to a political cartoon in an Atlanta paper that formed the 2,000 names of the dead soldiers into a question: WHY?

Harvests and Kudos

New in the Blogmandu firmament is Hardcore Zen, keyboarded by Brad Warner, author of a book that also uses that in-your-face moniker. The book is greatly admired by several Buddhist bloggers.

Warner’s blog gets recommendations this week by both John of My Zen Life and M of Zen Filter. Writes John, in opening words to a short post loaded with exclamation marks, “Hey! I just found Brad Warner in the blog-o-sphere! He’s blogging now, very cool!!” Writes M: “You've read the book, here's the blog.” In a post a few weeks ago, Chalip of Zen Under the Skin wrote that one of the book’s chapters was helpful at “uncovering the mystery of the [Heart] sutra” for her.

Blog posts recommended in Zen Filter this past week: A post by marlaine of it is in me about anger and an inspirational post from the blog Inspirations, comparing words of Stephen Covey and Thich Nhat Hanh.

Zataod of Zen and the Art of Dreaming names his “Cool Blog of the Week” which is [drumroll and eggroll, please] OneManBandwidth: An American Professor in China. It may not be Buddhist, but it is east Asian – which almost counts. Written by Dr. Lonnie B. Hodge, who is a business consultant, among his many professions, the blog is always interesting and has amazing graphics.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Roundup for Oct 17 - 23, 2005

Blogging is, if anything, more like the kind of pamphleteering the framers
had in mind when they guaranteed "freedom of the press" than is the New York
Times or Washington Post.
-- Michael
Kingsley in Slate, 10/20/05

If not an altogether happy week, it has certainly been an interesting one in the blogoBuddhaspere. A guaranteed successful retreat, depression, death and Gross National Happiness have all left their mark.

This is This … unusual autobiography technique.

Cliff Jones, blogmeister of This is This, is doing something pretty damn spiffy. He’s writing his autobiography, called “The Sum of All Years” in daily blog entries, with each entry telling the story of a year in his life – starting at age one. Cliff tells us, “The Sum Of All Years is an autobiography where the word count for each post is [equal] to the corresponding age for that entry.” His first three entries are: “The Sum of All Years – 1”: Born. “The Sum of All Years – 2”: Stood up. The Sum of All Years – 3”: We moved south. This week, Cliff completed years eight to fourteen. According to his profile, Cliff is 33 years old. By the time he’s done, Cliff’ll be writing short paragraphs. [Afterthought: In China, babies are born at age one; but elsewhere, other than American racehorses, the age at birth is zero. Shouldn't Cliff have a "The Sum of All Years - 0" entry?]

Modest Requirements

Vincent Horn writes in his eponymous blog of accomodations during a three-month silent retreat at Insight Meditation Society's Retreat Center in Massachusetts: "Bedrooms are simple and small, with a pillow, two blankets and a foam mattress on a low bed frame. ... Very simple and spare. Just like I like it…" Vincent is near completion of the first month of his stay. BUT this entry, like the others during the past month, are preceded by a note which tells us, "This is a post I prepared before going on retreat, so I could keep a small flow of content on while I'm gone..."

Now, I hate to be a stickler for journalistic ethics, but How can Vincent know in advance that he hasn't been given a second pillow? or that the mattress isn't giving him a sore back? or that the place isn't infested with rats?

I will be eager to read Vincent's blog two months from now to read how wonderful he knew the retreat was before he left for it. That Vince: I think he already had that "insight" thing down pat.

Up Close and Personal

James of The Buddhist Blog put up an astoundingly well-written and interesting post about his mental health difficulties. Samsara for James comes with being buffetted by schizoaffective disorder, which carries all the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (inc. mania and depression). Following is a snippet from the post where James describes dealing with an episode of depression:

The prevailing way to deal with depression in Buddhism seems to be meditating on compassion and and loving-kindness towards our depression. It is very easy for me to have compassion and loving-kindness toward others but often I forget to have compassion and love toward myself. This is probably one of the reasons that my physiological depression becomes worse with a lack of self-love and compassion.

So this morning I sat with my depression and just showed it love and compassion. I talked to it and told it that I understood it was warning me to "stop and listen." I told it that I loved it and thanked it for being so concerned about me and my life but that it could now go. I understood the lesson it was trying to teach me. I no longer needed it to fertilize the seeds of happiness that would soon grown and blossom out of the depression.

Reports from the Buddhist Frontlines

gendaku tells us that, according to an internet bulletin board post, Buddhism has been voted the most-tolerant religion, but the blogger warns, "As Buddhists, we pay attention and take responsibility. Taking responsibility does not mean basking in false, if much-supported, notions. Being encouraged is one thing. But falling into the belief trap is like shooting yourself in the foot."

JackZen of the blog jack/zen is impressed with the New Orleans Vietnamese community. "In the midst of widespread fragmentation, victimizing government dependency, bureaucratic finger-pointing, and chaos, this tiny community is fast becoming the story of what happens when healthy social networks encounter disaster."

In a wonderful post, Justin in American Buddhist Perspective, listening to a movie score, finds he’s not engaging his loving-kindness meditation practice quite so often as he thinks he should. He then muses “Eventually, so the story goes, our love and our awareness become boundless, and nothing in the world can break that. We become walking emanations of joy and understanding. We still live in the real world, but things 'out there' no longer dictate how we feel 'in here'.” The sweet music plays on, getting "a little deeper, a little richer."

Atanu Dey [At a new day?] of the blog Atanu Dey on India’s Development explores the national measurement GNH, or Gross National Happiness, that Bhutan’s government uses to understand how things are going there. Bhutan is a mostly Buddhist nation in the Himalayas. The GNH is somewhat like America’s Consumer Confidence index, but it attempts to be a measurement of personal well-being rather than one of feelings of economic security of a populous. Atanu is not impress with this measurement tool, preferring something fully objective. See Atanu’s posts GNH is Grossly Silly and GNH: The Cat’s Meow.

A Child and the Question of Death

Nacho of WoodMoor Village Zendo writes of his effort to explain death to his young son in a long post “Death and the Child, Part II,” a follow up to a post three months ago. Both now and three-months past the boy told his father at bedtime, “Dad, I don't want to die, but I know I have to.”

Nacho writes, "We talked a bit about how our love, our goodwilll, our deeds, survive our physical death. But this is understandably a difficult concept, and I don't expect it will bring him comfort immediately. ... We also talked about how many people believe in some kind of heaven, paradise, or afterlife where we meet again, and how he is likely to hear much of that, because it brings comfort and solace to people. I did tell him that I did not believe in such places."

Nacho asks readers, “How do you handle these conversations?”

genkaku had a similar experience -- though much less onerous -- with his boy, when, on the way to football practice, he was asked, "Papa, if you could be dead or alive, which would you pick?" Writes genkaku, "How nice it is to hear someone address one of those elephants in the living room, one of those questions which, when unaddressed, keeps shrinks in business."

Manufacturing Future Shock

Terrance of Republic of T often asks his readers for thoughts on books he should read. This week, he asks them for something by Noam Chomsky, whom he’s never read. Meanwhile, John of Inveterate Bystander has written a post called “Manufacturing Consent VIII: European Public & Media” which tells us there has been a decline in good information and news analysis. At the same time, meditateNYC’s Wednesday Blogma leads us to genkaku who finds wisdom in Paul Simon’s lyrics to “59th Street Bridge Song” [Slow down, you move too fast; you gotta make the morning last …]. Genkaku says, “This is a wily world, I imagine: Even ‘faster than a speeding bullet’ cannot catch up.” And then, there’s this: Kristian of Wandering where you will is in an angsty place, writing, “[It’s gotten] to the point where I'm not really sure whether this input is real, or whether it's something I've created over the years, slowly evolving and changing, some times this, some times that.. some times good, some times bad.. some times encouraging, some times devastating.. Am I becoming nothing at all?” This is also a week where it was revealed that TV Guide, for many years the top-selling magazine in America, stopped providing program listings, since that had all gotten too woolly and complex for a nationwide zine, reincarnating itself as a TV fan-mag.

The links in the paragraph above fit together, somehow. Each is a wonderful blog entry [except for the TV Guide thing], still I’m going to have Patrick Fitzgerald look into it and issue indictments. As to Kristian's angsty post, it's titled "The best is yet to come," so at least K's life is or will be on an upward path; he's not metamorphosing into a bug, like Georg Samsa [or, is it Samsara?], or otherwise is stuck in some Halloween-goulish Kafkaesque castle.

Harvests and Other Kudos

This week’s meditateNYCWednesday Blogma” recommends posts in, gendaku and The Buddhist Blog. M of Zen Filter is keen on blogs this zen life, citing the wisdom in a recent post there, Kirin Pal because of its nice quotes, and My Zen Life which is clever and interesting.

Republic of T, Terrance Heath’s mostly-political blog, where T bills himself as “Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.,” has been honored twice recently (1) with a big, fat quote in the Washington Post Express and (2) by prominent mention in Daily Kos, an uber important liberal political blog. Said Daily Kos in the leadoff to their report, “Kossack TerrenceDC of the excellent Republic of T, had a diary on this subject [the Millions More March] that scrolled off very quickly yesterday and it deserved more exposure; I've excerpted snippets in this diary.”

And, finally, Douglas Eye of Hundred Mountain Journal recommends Blogmandu to his readers: “It's a good way to discover and stay atop what's up in the blogoBuddhasphere.” Thanks, Doogie.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Roundup for Oct 10 - 16, 2005

Guilt, euthanasia, emptiness, compassion, peace, bike rides, watermelon and Swedish are on Buddhism-flavored bloggers' minds this week.

From the Blog Sangha...

Foguiera, in her blog foot before foot [formerly known as f. kwan and before that Fogdux], tells us she is beginning to learn Swedish. She writes, "There are few things, regretfully, that cause a true ecstatic thrill in me. One of them is photography. The other is learning a new language. It truly is better than sex, because it's the alleged reason for it: intimacy. You're actually meeting the person speaking the target language on a brain cell level. It doesn't get any more up close and personal than that.

Wondering on the Way explored guilt this week. Jeb writes, “To believe that being interconnected with others means somehow we are collectively guilty or responsible for everything that goes on the world, and all the acts of violence committed isn’t rooted in Buddhism at all.”

Emptiness is on Gareth of Green Clouds mind. Early in the week, he quotes Tenzin Palmo re the nexis of emptiness and merit. Later, in a series of three posts -- Emptiness Part I, Emptiness Part II, and More Emptiness -- he contrasts the Geluk and Nyingma schools' teachings, peers into the nature of Ultimate Reality and takes some instruction from Nargajuna.

Rumi and Thich Nyat Hahn help out as Hundred Mountain's Douglas eyes a snakey grey tree trunk of a thing and gleans an elephantine helping of wisdom. "We harm ourselves day-by-day, [by] large and small infractions and infarctions. No god can save us, although protector spirits abound."

Via Negativa's Dave finds peace in a watermelon and writes the week's most provocative opening paragraph in a wonderful entry called "Holes." That paragraph follows:
If only the personal weren't, as they say, so political. If only the person-holes called leaders were a bit less personable. If only the suction from those walking vacuums weren't always so goddamn difficult to resist.
Adela, the mercurius blogger, quotes lyrics from Bowie's "Planet of Dreams" and tells us, "Our planet is facing the greatest problems it's ever faced so don't get bored in solitude. A dream we dream alone is only a dream. A dream we dream with others can become a reality."

Cycling Sam of sam i am checks in to update us on his situation after a month away from bloggery. Money (lack of), Work at the bike shop (too much of), School and Career Choosing exert pressures, but the open road beacons. “I’ve been doing many of the shops' group rides and I am continually the one setting the pace or being attacked ‘to test me.’ Today I rode like a man possessed up to Bee Caves …”

Reading by Lamplight

The blogger of everything is illuminated is indefatigable, pulling together delicious long and heavily-researched entries on rather esoteric topics that are Zen related or about works of European philosophers from the distant past.

This week, Peace speaks in a book the eii blogger found, written by Erasamus, a German humanist, in his 1506 book ‘Plea of Peace.’ “The dominant tenor of Peace’s talk is the complaint of being recklessly treated, devalued and demoted, while humans lavish endless praise and honors on warfare, the source of death, destruction and misery.”

An entry, “Poetry inspired by the shakuhachi [a Japanese flute],” introduces us to poems little known in the West and to some of the peccadilloes of 15th Century Zen poet and priest Ikkyu Sojun. “Ikkyū was among the few Zen priests who argued that his enlightenment was deepened by consorting with pavilion girls. He entered brothels wearing his black robes, since for him sexual intercourse was a religious rite.”

Another entry, “Shobogenzo and online resources” is, as its title suggests, an introduction to Dogen’s great work with a bounty of links to the book from a project at Stanford engaged in completing a full translation of this work and other great Soto texts.

Reconciling Buddhism and Euthanasia

Euthanasia is examined this week in The Buddhist Blog. Writes James, "How much suffering must someone go through before our compassion allows them to pass on peacefully? What lessons can be learned in slowly watching yourself (or a loved one) die from cancer ... wracked in pain? You might say that the terrible suffering teaches that suffering is inevitable, but what if you have already learned this great teaching? Or, you might answer that modern drugs allow the patient to be quite comfortable during the dying process. [B]ut I would argue then, 'Isn't that already a form of voluntary euthanasia?'"

James cites an entry in Nacho's WoodMoor Village Zendo last March and utilizes a very helpful article on the topic by Buddhism guide Anthony Flanagan at the webspace to explore the contentious topic.

Bill Bennett redux

Chalip of Zen Under the Skin has added a perhaps-final word on a topic that has roiled the Buddhist cybersangha since Bill Bennett made some disturbing comments on his radio show September 2 that included these words [that Bennett would object are out of context]: "if you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Chalip agrees in large degree with sentiment by Nacho in WoodMoor Village Zendo and by Terrance in Republic of T that sentiment in the Black community is widely on the order of "What else is new?" Chalip explains – to which Nacho and Terrance would likely agree – that that remark does not imply that Bennett’s words were innocuous. “This does not mean that we [Blacks] are not disgusted when public figures (or any other figures) make these statements. We simply bump up against racism in our daily lives. We might not have fire hoses or dogs turned upon us, but we share common experiences that remind us that racism is alive and well.”

Chalip then comes to her central point [directed at Nacho, but truly a more-open and general question]: Nacho seems to be looking at this through the lens "You're either a part of the solution or you're part of the problem" and is (quite passionately) trying to be part of the solution. I applaud his motives. But the sum of his argument is the belief that people need to change. They need to change what they say. They need to change what they believe. They need to change how they view and respond to matters of race. They need to ‘know better.’ So I want to ask him What changes people?” Later in her post, Chalip answers her own question, “People don't change because we want them to. People change because they choose to.”

Chalip writes that she is in sympathy with a point made in a post on Oct. 9 by Jeff in ZenDiary: “Stop externalizing racism: it is truly ‘inside’ all of us to the degree that we participate in activities that foster and sustain racial oppression.” Says Chalip, “We all need to own up to our own hypocrisy …, we need to own up and take responsibility if we really want to do something to eradicate the [problem]. Jeff makes a valid point... clinging to the fact that we don't purport racist attitudes while we support policies that prolong racial oppression only carries us 1/8th of the way.”

Real compassion

Eric of Virtual Zen is hearty this week in a series of moving and wonderfully written entries. Following are words about and links to two of them: Early in the week, he directs his words to a specific, unnamed reader of his blog, saying “My heart has been opened completely by reading of your pain -- that wrenching, gut tearing pain you've been put through.”

At the end of the week, alone in a hotel room, he writes of coming to hate everyone and everything and hate where he’s living and that he's finding “solace only in the bottom of a Absolut Mandarin bottle.” But then he concludes, “Things are so much calmer now - even in the whirling maelstrom of my career … and I can see myself much more clearly as the person I truly am. Perhaps its the sitting, perhaps its the time and/or distance from what I was going through - but now I know that I am truly blessed, truly loved, truly.”

A Bushel of Shining Read Blog Entries
[And not a bad apple in the bunch]

Jeb of Wondering on the Way has boxed “Blog Harvest 4” this week, highlighting posts from luminous emptiness, Green Clouds, this zen life and jack/zen. Meanwhile, this week’s “Wednesday Blogma” over at the meditateNYC blog praises entries in Notes in Samsara,, Zen Under the Skin and Keep Trying. And over at Republic of T, Terrance has chosen an entry in WoodMoor Village Zendo as one of his Friday "10blogs."

Ryan's Lair alerts us to the complete English translation by D.T. Suzuki of the Lakavatara Sutra, found at a Russian website. Buddhology adventurer Ryan credits "the all-seeing eye of Iain Sinclair," who blogs Jinajik, for the discovery. Speaking of finds, be sure to explore Jinajik, a cornocopia of exotic, fascinating wonders relating to Vajrayana.

And at Zen Filter this week, more compassion-touched Zen Buddhism sites are brought to the fore. Among them are three blogs found and recommended by Mark: digitalZendo Blog, Wondering on the Way and Dharma Crumbs.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Roundup for Oct 3 - 9, 2005

In the cyber-village of Blogmandu this week we find happy fathers; the nexis of baseball and Buddhism; The Devil; a promise of two lively Buddhist novels; karma; octopuses miered in red ink; social engagement; and the Heart Sutra.


Fatherhood is big in Blogmandu this week. Terrance of The Republic of T. is eloquent writing of his absolute love for young son Parker. In his post “Being Daddy,” Terrance ends with these words of awe: “[I] thank the stars, the universe, or whatever has given me the life that I have. I don't know how I got it, or what I did to deserve it, but I'm glad it's mine and shall never stop being grateful for it.”

In My Zen Life, John Soper is dazzled by his charming six-year-old, Amy during a morning when his daughter dances to a Gloria Esephan song and they share a pancake breakfast in the kitchen. Writes John: “heaven on earth!! at times like these i just love being a daddy!“

Robert has a picture at his blog, Beginner's Mind, of one-month-old Ethan.

Meantime, Woodmoor Village Zendo's Nacho writes about assuming the parenting duties of his wife for a few days, leaving him in total charge of young Phoenix and Terra.

The Heart Sutra

Both J.E. of Everything is Illuminated and chalip of Zen Under the Skin posted long, wonderful, scholarly pieces about the Heart Sutra early this week.

J.E. dives in with a very objective assessment, relating the sutra's history and how it's been studied. He found an online source for 42 [!] different English translations of the sutra, which gives him a task ahead of finding the best one. J.E. then tells us some of the content and significance of the sutra and touches on commentary relating to its deepest meaning.

chalip's approach is more personalized and comes from a different angle. A class she took on the sutra has led her to look to contemporary sources to delve into its riches. A chapter in Brad Warner's Hardcore Zen, and the book There Is No Suffering by Ch'an Master Sheng-Yen were starting places for her, to which she added online finds, including an article by Thanissaro Bikkhu and the insights of Thich Nhat Hanh.

It's a Ball

A homerun of a post in Scott Wichmann Online tells us of Scott taking refuge with the Venerable Llama Norlha Rinpoche at Ekoji Buddhist Sangha. In grateful thanks, Scott gives Rinpoche a baseball. Here's a chunk of the text:

In Buddhism, there is a Diamond Sutra and four guideposts on the journey to enlightenment (The Four Noble Truths) -- In baseball, there are four bases on the path, which is shaped like a Diamond.

Buddhism also respouses an eightfold path of conduct which leads to the extinction of suffering...: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. This year in the VBC, I play Right Field. Go figure.

I also wore the number 3 in a conscious decision to ‘take refuge’ in the triple jewel while I was on the field. Good thing my teammates didn't know, or they would think I was crazy.

I pointed out to Llama Norhla Rinpoche that there are 108 stitches on a baseball, there are 108 beads on a Catholic rosary, and there are 108 beads on a Tibetan mala-- An auspicious number!!

Rinpoche smiled, looked deeply at the ball, looked back up at me, smiled again, and said-- quietly, simply, and sincerely, 'Thank you.'

Karma Conscientiousness

A post in Woodmoor Village Zendo has started a discussion on karma. WVZ blogger Nacho doesn't believe in afterlife or reincarnation, instead seeing it as “how our actions outlast us, how the consequences of those actions have repercussions that reverberate broadly.” He writes, “I see Karma as a very human interplay between actions and the consequences, results, effects of such actions in this world. I cannot escape also paying attention to the concept of Vipaka, or results (effects). Karma is cyclical in that even the results or effects of our actions can generate other effects, can influence other actions, which in turn generate more results...”

Jeb responds to Nacho's post in Wonderings on the Way, writing that, being a “cosmic view guy” “I have a strong intuition of justice, that consequences of people's actions return to them.” Adds Jeb, “One of the stumbling blocks for me in Buddhist karma and rebirth was the justice of it. If there is no self to be reborn, why would I ditch this mirage of self and attempt to live other than hedonistically without regard to consequences as long as I could defer them beyond this lifetime?”

Social Action Buddhism

Another issue Nacho took the lead on this week in Woodmoor Village Zendo is the necessity of social action motivated by one's Buddhist practice. Writes Nacho, “The issue is not new, and will not go away. This issue is a dialectical one, it doesn't have one answer, and the potential for wisdom lies in our wise engagement with it, rather than in striving to solve it as if it were a math problem.”

Jeb engages the topic in Wonderings on the Way by examining the complexity of it. “The role of engaged Buddhism has been a koan for me. As all koans, it forces me out of comfortable 'truths.' What is the right Buddhist position on wars? the Iraqi war, given the reality of Saddam Hussein's terror? the Iraqiwar, now that we've destroyed the infrastructure? Rwanda? the next Rwanda? I have only concluded that there is no pat automatic answer that is right for everyone. Buddhism doesn't give me an answer.“

Independent of the Nacho-Jeb exchange, Justin of American Perspective blogged about the Dalai Lama's reflection about taking action in the world to improve the human lot. In conclusion Justin writes, “It is a constant back-and-forth, or dialectic, between thought and study on the one hand, and action in the world, on the other. At some point the study is much less important and action is most necessary.”

Book These Guys

Both Robert of Beginner's Mind and Terrance of Republic of T intend to write a novel via the NaNoWriMo [i.e, National Novel Writing Month] program, which prods those who register with the website/organization to complete a speedy 50,000-word novel [the approximate length of The Great Gatsby] in the thirty days of November. Says Robert, in nervous anticipation in a post titled “Uh oh,” “Well, I guess I've stepped in it big time.” Says Terrance, “I have a little over three weeks before I start my (*gulp*) novel. That's three weeks to figure out what in hell it's going to be about.”

What The Devil!?

Douglas Imbrogno's Hundred Mountain Journal blog is back, frisky as ever, after a nearly three-month idle period, with seven posts this week, including a chunk of text from Stephen Batchelor's Living with the Devil. Here's the first sentence, to whet your appetite: “At the heart of the Buddha's awakening lies a counterintuitive recognition of human experience as radically transient, unreliable, and contingent.”

Count the Ways

On the eighth day of October, Via Negativa's Dave Bonta offers Eight Ways of Looking at an Octopus. Here's fit the first:

1. They are voracious predators, though they have no backbone - no hard parts at all, in fact. They often change color to match their prey, and when threatened, they attempt to hide in a cloud of ink. And sometimes, for no known reason, they go on a frenzy of self-consumption, ending in their own death. Republicans?

Bountiful Harvest

Wonderings on the Way has a new feature, “Blog Harvest,” where Jeb gathers delicious mostly-Buddhist blogs he's plucked from the Internet aether. His finds this week include Everything is Illuminated and whimsical mystic. Check out all three of the Blog Harvest posts on one webpage with all eleven of Jeb's recommendations thus far, aready to visit you on your monitor right now. Jeb tells us there is “No warranty of enlightenment, express or implied. Side effects may include karma, ego pain, and detachment. Consult your monk if you experience any of these symptoms.”

Working a similar field, meditate NYC has a weekly feature “Wednesday Blogma.” On the list for October 4 is this: Dale, who blogs mole, has started a spinoff temporary blog, 100 Days,devoted to a meditation committal with a blog entry for each day. October 9 is Day 32, so there is time for one and all to join in or post a comment.

Weekly Buddhist blog recommendations!? A good idea seems to be catching on.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Roundup for Sept 26 - Oct 2, 2005

Some intelligent voices in Blogmandu [the Buddhism blogosphere] waxed wise this week, including new finds, blogs American Buddhist Perspectives and Everything is Illuminated; Intelligent Design and Bill Bennett's unintelligent radio comments caught bloggers' attention; while delicious quotes and snazzy tattoos also stained our tasty electronic subuniverse.

Heady Stuff

Justin Whitaker keyboards the heady blog American Buddhist Perspectives: Buddhism. Philosophy. Life. from Bristol, UK, where he is finishing up an MA in Buddhist Studies. He has a wonderful entry “Philosophy: Fear of Nonsense in Blogging.” Justin writes, “I guess its not just in blogging, but in life in general. That hesitancy in the moment of conversation, that lost opportunity to speak from the heart, the fear of nonsense and judgment. I've been feeling a bit of all of these lately and I'm only slowly coming to realize why.”

He makes several forays at explaining the why. Here’s most of the first one: “It's that inside/outside block, the hypostatization/reification of outward circumstances as beyond my control and thus controlling me, where in fact all I have is my own dissonant and disordered mental states discoloring and disfiguring an otherwise beautiful world around me. Clear enough? It seems clear to me. Clearer at least.”

See. I told ya it was heady stuff. Justin's words can also be found in The Buddhist Channel this week where, in a letter, he explains the Buddhist orientation on homosexuality.

Meantime, the anonymous Irish Zennist who blogs Everything is Illuminated ended the week with the announcement of a several-day blogging hiatus in order to “read about Aristotle’s notion of agent intellect (commented by Saint Thomas Aquinas), Saint Augustine’s notion of ground of the soul (abditum mentis), Dietrich of Freiberg’s equation of these two notions, [practice] latin, [write] in the latin Vicipaedia and [think] about putting together an organized library of zen texts in various languages.” Some guys have all the fun.

Our man of the mountaintops, the verse-atile Dave Bonta, offers several poems of Paul Zweig's in entries [#1 & #2] this week in Via Negativa. Here is the beginning stanza of one poem, “Snow”:
Love is all we could manage,
Its particles floating from the hard rim of the air.
Our tracks were clear in the fresh chance
Heaven threw behind us. The pain
Went on searching behind your face,
The snow went on falling.

And in Ryan’s Lair there’s another adventure in Buddhology: Excitement crests as four – count ‘em, FOUR -- historical linguistics professorship vacancies open at three premo universities. That’s the equivalent of four Supreme Court vacancies opening up at once, Ryan tells us. [Professors must be dying like flies. Funny, this news hasn’t yet appeared above the fold in the NY Times.] That Ry. Must be looking for work.

Mighty ID-Indemnifying Ideas

Woodmoor Village Zendo’s Nacho, a university professor, posts very frequently against a peeve of his: ID, aka Intelligent Design. His newest, raging against the Dover, Pennsylvania, school board has caused ripples in the Buddhist blogosphere. Says Nacho, “I really would like people to realize that we are constantly being fed a diet of pablum about this so-called controversy. There is no controversy of this nature in the scientific community.”

Jeb posted a supportive response in a cleverly titled post, ID Ology, in his blog, Wonderings on the Way. He wrote, “I think the basis of the dispute is much different than it appears to be, despite the pushy, in-your-face attitude of many who promote ID. … The real argument is about meaning and values. Does life have a purpose if things just happened, if everything is just random coincidence playing out to a pointless if not miserable end? If life has no purpose, does it have meaning? For most religions, purpose and meaning are inextricably entwined. They are not the same for me.”

Dave Platter took on a part of Jeb’s post in his meditate NYC blog’s weekly feature, the Blogmandu-like "Wednesday Blogma." Citing a quote in “ID Ology” where Jeb talks about “adherents of the ID community … often [being] vociferous in the condemnation of Muslim theocracy,” Dave muses “Is our anger at Intelligent Design-ers tapping a similar well? Perhaps we, too, see in them ‘the familiar face of our enemy from within.’ ” In the comments section of his ID Ology post, Jeb says he doesn’t know if what he wrote was “a dig,” as Dave put it, but bemoans “the world suffer[ing] through revolution after revolution that fails to do anything except change those who hold power.”

Concept This

The compassionate Buddhist crowd over at LiveJournal have blog entries that sometimes turn into lively forums. A good example this week begins as a question asked by homestarmy42: “Does anyone know of some good books on the nature of self in Buddhism?”

There are many responses, most suggesting spiffy books.

The longest, most-thoughtful response comes from Padmadelic. He writes, in part, “If the Buddha's anatta (no self/not-self) teaching is misunderstood, it can leave us seeing ourself as a bad person for having desires, ... [a]nd it can even lead to us getting very confused about whether we exist or not! ... Actually, Buddhism teaches that there is no FIXED self. Nothing is permanent. We do not have an eternal soul. This teaching should be understood within the context of ancient India, where the dominant tradition of the time taught that we have an eternal Self (Atman) and that the point of religious life was to get to the stage where this self becomes united with God (Brahman). ...” [BTW, check out Buddhist musician/tramp Padmadelic/Padma's website for a blast:]

Racist Slime or Insensitive, Stupid Slip?

The political issue of the week was surely Bill Bennett's radio remarks, where in a bit of a tangle of issues he gave voice to the idea [or, perhaps, absurdist "thought experiment"] of aborting all black fetuses. Buddhists' perspectives on Bennett's words, in posts and appended comments, ranged from citing Bennett as clearly racist to finding his words to be, probably, merely insensitive and stupid.

In Genius of Insanity, James wrote "This obvious racist is not only refusing to apologize for his disgusting comments but he has now said that HE is the one who deserves an apology!!!" The post spurred a stream of dozens of comments.

In Woodmoor Village Zendo, Nacho posted twice on the topic [Here, and then here.]. After blasting Bennett, he wrote, "Racism survives as a mechanism of power not only in those that articulate support for past racist and discriminatory attitudes, but through those who would have us relegate such attitudes to anywhere but our present and future, those who are blind to white privilege, and those who see race from an essentializing perspective."

Chalip wrote in her blog, Zen Under the Skin, "If we think we can eradicate racism by denouncing people because they make outrageous statements, we miss an important point. Racism has receeded so far into the background that we don't really notice it. I believe racism is more dangerous and has more potential to harm when we see it in play in the subtle ways we deal with each other as members of different races than in rash, broadly publicized statements."

Terrance of Republic of T writes "It’s not a far leap to understanding that many Americans — even if they would never dream of saying so in public — silently agree with Bennett’s basic [bigotted] sentiment. Why? Because it was surprisingly easy for even some well-known liberal bloggers to come to Bennett’s defense. That makes it all to clear just how deep thinking like Bennett’s goes."

Elsewhere in Blogmandu

Virtual Zen’s Eric shows off his tattoos as part of an interviewed conducted by Sage Grouse.

Chalip of Zen Under the Skin, while desperately seeking Sunyata, pretty much finds it in a class called Understanding the Heart Sutra and in her independent studies of the sutra. She shares her happy finds in a long blog entry. She writes, "[I]f we extend emptiness as a mode of perception to everything around us, the suggestion is that we cannot find the 'eye-ness' in an eye any more than we can't find the 'I-ness' in ourselves."

In whiskey river this week, a nice chunk of wisdom from Zoketsu Norman Fischer surfaces. Here’s one sentence: “Thought includes the aroma of our being alive, but it also includes so much that is made, so much of doing and piling up, that it tempts us necessarily away from ourselves.”

Haiku of this zen life offered some wisdom, too – a comment that isn’t a comment following a one-sentence quote from Pema Chodron. This is the quote: "Enjoy your life without rejecting problems or suffering. How we suffer will be our practice."

John Soper, who formerly scribed the long-existent and singled-out-for-praise-by-Beliefnet blog Dharma Path, aka John’s Dharma Path, now has a new blog he shepards, a direct replacement, titled My Zen Life. In it this week, there’s a nice entry that tells the story of how Zen found him. A quote he shares at the end of his essay explains his ongoing commitment to his practice:
“Our main focus is in putting ourselves in the presence of the divine truth very directly and allowing our life to align with it.”

~ Ejo McMullen, resident priest at the Eugene Zendo in Eugene Oregon.