Friday, January 27, 2006

Roundup for Jan 22 - 28, 2006

It's a great week in the Buddhablogosphere with a strange Amazon tribe, a carnival, dreams, enthusiasm, the land of the Thinnies, the Vinny awards, Buddha's thoughts on true love, a Woody Allen movie and Brad being Brad.

I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest …

Both beesucker of Authentic Personality and kimberly of this zen life take note of a New York Times article about how the brains of political partisans work. Here’s the core finding which beesucker quotes: “With their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix.”

The article goes on to tell us, “It is possible to override these biases, Dr. Westen [the lead author of the study] said, ‘but you have to engage in ruthless self reflection, to say, All right, I know what I want to believe, but I have to be honest.’”

Says kimberly in her post: “relating it to zen, it seems that the more one practices noticing beliefs as they arise, the more one enables the brain to be flexible and not get stuck. so i see: i am holding a very strong belief. my task is to engage the energy of mindfulness and start to look for signs of the ‘opposing belief’ in my personal situation. to try to see ‘evidence to the contrary’ of how i am perceiving things.”

A Carnival’s in Town

Will is the barker and his blog thinkBuddha is the main tent as Will & blog host the Progressive Faith Blog Conference Carnival this weekend. A carnival, in the sense used here, is a blog digest [like Blogmandu], only one that ‘travels’ – setting up tent as a post in different blogs from week to week. Blogmandu, being stationary, is more like a county fair, I guess.

Will tells us that ProgFaithBlogCon “is an attempt to bring together bloggers of various religious affiliations who share an agenda that could more or less be called ‘progressive.’”

Buddhist blogs found listed on the PFBC website’s blogroll are Eternal Peace, Hoarded Ordinaries, thinkBuddha and WoodMoor Village. Dave Bonta's Buddhism-flavored blog Via Negativa, though not on the 'roll, is regularly featured. All of the above, except Hoarded Ordinaries, are participants in this week's carnival.

Right Enthusiasm

An old interview of Ngak'chang Rinpoche about enthusiam gets the attention of beesucker of Authentic Personality. In the Q&A beesucker cites, there are these cool words of the rinpoche: “ If someone is enthusiastic, you could enter into their enthusiasm – even though the subject of their enthusiasm might not resemble anything about which you might be enthusiastic. One can be enthusiastic simply because someone else is enthusiastic – because that, in itself, is delightful.”

Says beesucker his/her-self about it all: “if someone were to put on a movie that we weren’t particularly interested in, we might just get up and walk out of the room. [To me, this seems] like going in the wrong direction. [The right direction, it seems to me is] what Zen Master Seung Sahn calls ‘together action’. That we can act in harmony with those around us and get some bliss out of that - as opposed to constantly striving to be entertained by what we feel is ‘worthy’ of our time.”


Zataod invites you to dream. Zen and the Art of Dreaming wants to amass a group of dreamers [that is, sleep dreamers, not fanciful idealists] for a blog that collects the plots/stories/images of dreams. Zataod writes, “I've found in the past that sharing dreams can be a interesting and rewarding experience, and I've found the members of a dream group can feed off each other in terms of the vitality of their dream life.”

Meantime, Will of thinkBuddha wants excellent haiku and appropriate photographs for the first in a series of high-quality literary pamphlets. See details in Will’s post, “Haiku Wanted!

Life without distinct numbers and colors

A post by Jayarava in Bricolage tells us about an amazing Amazonian tribe that lives without words for numbers and distinct colors. An article in J. Crow’s that Jayarava links to is astonishing. It tells us that linguists and anthropologists are flabbergasted by the tribe’s strangeness.

The existence of the tribe is causing some experts to re-evaluate the accepted idea of a universal language instinct. A discarded concept, the Whorfian thesis, that hypothesizes that “language determine[s] the nature and content of how you think” is seeing new light.

Why is this important to a Buddhist? Well, of interest relating to all of this is a poem by W. S. Merwin in whiskey river this week, about forgetting how to add, forgetting the alphabet, forgetting a lot else and which ends with these two lines:

forgetting it all until everything
is continuous and whole again
A tributary from whiskey river …

Another vibrant quote has been netted from the deep tawny waters of whiskey river:

For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight.
- T S Eliot
More lines from the poem are presented and a biographer’s thoughts about Eliot’s interest in mysticism are explored in a post following up on whiskey’s find in Yaddha, Yaddha, Yaddha, a blogged department of Zen Unbound.

Two Types of Online Folks

Chris, the Cycling Platypus: the happy cycling buddhist, finds that there are two distinct types of online personas. He is definitely of the first type, which he estimates as 90 to 99% of the population, who are “good people.” “actually very nice,” “real friends,” “easy going,” “that pretty much just roll along with life and are happy with the world.” The rest are “the rude people,” who “make snide comments,” “who aren’t really happy,” and “come online to vent … anger and frustration.”

It’s the perennial problem: US would be perfectly happy if only we could do something about THEM.

Gull-lover’s Travels: To the land of the Thinnies

From a recent post in foot before foot: the photo blog, keyboarded by F. Kwan:
I have been lifting weights for about a week and I can already see some changes. … It's so wonderful in this contrary life when something works the way it should. A mostly vegetarian diet, moderate exercise and weight training work. I have proven it over and over again. Now I just hope I can keep the weight off.

I am entering into an entirely new world: the unchartered territory of the Thinnies. It is a place I have never been in all my years on this earth. It is a true bildungsreise, a journey of growth and development.

F. Kwan also posted wonderful pictures of birds and trees this week, but no gulls. They probably don’t get to the middle of Texas this time of year. Her remarkable photos include a defiant robin, a regal cardinal, and spidery-stemmed trees. And the really cool car, titled “bildungsreise” [education+journey in German], is wonderful, too. Oh, best of all the beautiful smile hovering above the sexy torso.

Enlightenment is a stupid word anyway

Over at Hardcore Zen, Brad is being Brad: “Enlightenment is a stupid word anyway. I hate even saying it, it sounds so pretentious and flowery. The concept of Enlightened Beings is like something from a bad fantasy novel. If you want to believe in stuff like that, go right on ahead. You will not get my support.”

Recommendations, Ho!

In a thinkBuddha post, Will enthusiastically recommends the new Woody Allen film Match Point. “It is an impressive, and deeply serious film, unafraid to tackle large themes: the role of luck in human life, ethics, justice and betrayal.”

Following fulsome remarks about the movie, the long post segues into thoughtful ideas about the meaning of karma, and the problems it present.

Vincent Horn of the same-name blog announced his Blog Awards for the recently concluded year. Winners of the Vinny are …

It’s a wonderful assortment of excellent blogs, worthy of a read – even if every one isn’t Buddhism related.

And here are the awards of ebuddha of Integral Practice, which we’ll dub the eBuddhys:

A post this week by Moose in his The Contemporary Taoist praises Vinny-winner Steve Pavlina’s post “How to Build a High-Traffic Web Site (or Blog).” Moose was inspired by the piece. [In what is perhaps a result of that inspiration, Moose promises perspiration in revitalizing The Contemporary Taoist, which has been laggard of late.]

James, The Buddhist Blog blogger was eager to read Old Path, White Clouds some weeks ago [See this prior B’du Roundup.] Now that he’s into it, it is clear he likes it. He likes it! He likes it! In a sumptuous quote from the book, beautifully graced with a magnificent painting by James’s comrade artist Katherine Skaggs, Buddha explains true love.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Roundup for Jan 15 - 21, 2006

I had Great Expections for this week. And my expectations were met. It was the best of intellectual weeks and it was the worst of intellectual weeks -- with a call for more beautiful, personal, narrative blogging.

But beware, the posts I found may have fallen out of the date range I set for this roundup by a few handfuls of hours. "What the Dickens?" you say. So be it. I'm an artful dodger.

On with The Stream, already in progress, flowing as streams do ...

The whole of Jiki Sen Peg Syverson’s post “swimming with the fishes” in Zen Odyssey will explain this excerpt:

… our thoughts and emotions, which dart here and there, swim together in schools, and compel our attention. But we need to be aware of the medium from which the thoughts arise and in which they are held, or we will drown in our own lives.
William of Integral Options Café uses Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development to begin an exploration of spiritually-advanced intimate relationships. He then proceeds to do the same using the stages of Spiral Dynamics. Interesting (and convincing) stuff this exploration of Will’s. Further, this is only Part 1. More must be acomin'.

All of William's posts this week were extraordinary. One was called “Equanimity and Compassion.” Here’s a paragraph:
Equanimity is the act of aligning ourselves with that movement of Spirit, that drive, the Eros of evolution. When we are aligned with Eros, when we feel compassion for all beings, when we are no longer attached to the pettiness of ego, we are free in the truest sense of the word.
Vincent Horn in his eponymous blog does something unusual for him: He shares a quote he likes. It’s a good one, explaining the “form is emptiness; emptiness, form” conundrum. Here it is:

Avalokita looked deeply into the five skandhas of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness, and he discovered that none of them can be by itself alone. Each can only inter-be with all the others. So he tells us that form is empty. Form is empty of a separate self, but it is full of everything in the cosmos.
– Thich Nhat Hanh in The Heart of Understanding

In a post titled “What’s wrong with Suffering?” Amadeus of Dharma Vision writes, “The only thing we can do is control our actions and speech and treat others in the same way in which we would like to be treated. This may not stop suffering, but it may just make life a little more bearable for those we are in this life with.”

John of Inveterate Bystander posted a terrific essay on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem which shows the limits of logic and seems clearly to disprove the idea that a computer could ever have the qualities of humans [or, I might add, other sentient beings]. The essay then beautifully veers off into quantum mechanics, Bell’s Theorem, Schrodinger [without his cat] and ancient Sanskrit teachings of the Vedanta. Here’s a snip:
It's just that we are part of the system trying to find out what we are. That's where Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem comes into play. We are what we are looking for, as St Francis of Assisi is alleged to have said. Or, the eye cannot see itself, nor can consciousness.
Why Blog?

Michael of One foot in front of the other begins his post “Yoo-hoooo … we’re all in here!” with the sentiment that the Buddhist blogs he’s been frequenting are a near-complete waste of time. “Dogen … said that calling someone a ‘Buddhist scholar’ was a supreme insult. I think I'm beginning to understand why.” he writes. But in the last line in his post he says “Mea culpa. Rather than being above this criticism, I’m right in the thick of it myself.”

Sean of Wandering the Pathless Land, in a post titled “Back to Narrative” questions himself about where his writing (including blogging) is going. He writes, “[The blogs I love] to read are always ones that provide insightful stories into people’s lives. … You can see the wisdom just naturally emerge. It’s amazing. … I don’t know why I stopped doing that here. I far prefer to write small narratives and stories over political or philosophical mini-essays.”

Nacho of WoodMoor Village Zendo’s post “What do we Blog About?” reacts to Sean’s entry and discusses the beauty of Kimberly’s narrative blog this zen life and then writes, “Regarding what I blog about and how so, I'm happiest when I post things that in the process of writing and blogging spark insight into my life. Those can be of any type, but mostly they stem from genuine confrontation with stumbling blocks, with practice, with the daily ‘grind.’ Typically, I encounter a situation that just stops me, and makes me sit and embrace the issue, myself, and others with mindfulness.”

After a month of not posting to My Zen Life, John posted “Crisis,” an open letter to his readers. “I am currently in the midst of what you might call a ‘crisis of faith.’ That’s the reason for the sporadic updates to this website. I don’t know what I’m doing with this website anymore. I just feel so lost.” he wrote.

Platypus Moves on Down the Road

Chris of Cycling Platypus [aka, I am Cycling Platypus] has pulled up stakes at Modblog, moving his blogging operation to a new web location with new everything and a quite handsome display. Reset your bookmarks and RSS feed, y'all. In a Jan 23 opinion post, Chris has interesting things to say about the two types of online personas. You can read that post now -- but Blogmandu will wait till next week to write up a proper intro [this paragraph being added well after most readers will have read this post].

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Roundup for Dec 19 - Jan 14 [Part 4 of 4]

This is the fourth and last post in a series catching up on great posts in the BuddhaBlogosphere during the past month. From here, you may read about Zenchick's great Christmas, Scott Wichmann's great past year, a Danny Fisher sighting, death and the Creator, a board game, cat litter, two moons and porn.

Great Christmas, Great Year.

Matthew’s blog links to and highlights the central message of a great Zenchick Christmas post. The message, for Matthew, is “being seen” in Zenchick’s day-after-Christmas message, “receiving.” I don’t doubt for a moment that Matthew is right, but there are additional ways for readers to look at Zenchick’s heartwarming look at her Christmas.

Scott of Scott Wichmann Online tells of his spectacular, eventful 2005 in a post titled “WHAT A YEAR!!!” The guy was a triple threat – athletically, spiritually, and on the stage – as well as as a mentor/friend, husband and blogger. Scott is a comedy star in Richmond, Virginia, particularly after his critically raved performance in “Scapino.”

Trev of The Sound of Diesel Musing, as careful readers of Blogmandu are already sure to know, had a great year, too, culminating in the recent release of his first album, “The Parachute EP.”

Danny Fisher sighting

Danny Fisher whose short-lived eponymous blog made a splash in the Buddhist-blogs pool early last year is waist-deep in blog water again with The Buddhist Chaplains’ Sangha. It’s a multi-contributor blog, but Danny is clearly the mainstay, contributing all but one of the posts since its launch in September.

Gathering Clouds, Lightning Bolts

Gareth of Green Clouds has been on a heavy philosophical bender this new year with posts that ask the hard questions and have garnered long comment streams. Of particular interest are posts on Death and Dying and relating to Richard Dawkins’ opposition to the idea of a Creator.

Here are some of Gareth’s words on looming death:
The myth that I will still be here tomorrow has a very real affect on the way I live today, I can see this very clearly in my own actions; the way I take less care over things than I should, because it will work out alright, in the end; the way I put things off until tomorrow, or make plans for the far future – while coasting along in the present.
On the Creator controversy [Is there? Isn’t there?], Mark of Writing to Reach You waxes long and wanes not in his cleverly titled post “What if there were two moons in your sky?” An excerpt
I wonder, can I believe/practice Buddhism, yet believe some of Christianity too? Certainly I believe Jesus of Nazareth existed, and was definitely a Holy being. Maybe God and Buddha are the same--the Christian God not acting out of love for His creations and pact of free will, and the Buddha not acting due to being only omniscient, yet not omnipotent. Christ's definitely something like a Bodhisattva, that much is true.
Games People Play

Jeff Wilson, who keyboards Tricycle Blog, writes in praise of the board game Wheel of Life [aka, BuddhaWheel?]:
The board is actually a reproduction of the famous Buddhist motif of the realms of samsara, and your goal as a player is to escape the wheel and become a Buddha; of course, once you become a Buddha you can opt to go back and help others still stuck, so in a way the game doesn't have any end at all.
Will of writes on the same topic, seeming a bit negative, at first, about the game, which he has read about but is yet to play. He writes,
… I tend to avoid board games because [of the latent] Napoleon within who surfaces from nowhere with a terrible lust for the ultimate conquest. … And whilst board-game manufacturers like to show pictures of happy families crouched around a board with smiles upon their faces, an image of sublime domestic harmony, my own long and bitter experience has been that at any one time, at least one of the players will be hunched into a glowering ball of resentment as they peer out at the board through half-closed eyes, brooding over the humiliation of defeat, comforted only by the thought that, eventually, the game will end.

There is no such comfort when it comes to the Wheel of Life. … You will plunge, to use an image from Shantideva, from one supremely generous act to another – shedding lives and limbs on the way – as joyfully as an elephant leaping into one cool lotus pool after another on a hot afternoon.
And now for something completely different …

M of Zen Filter shows us a Zen litter box.

Zen Porn

In what will surely be one of the more interesting Buddhist blogosphere posts of aught-six, Shokai of Water Dissolves Water writes about a website titled Zen Porn and offers his general thoughts about the idea of the site, and the ready connections and difficulties of putting Zen and porn together. Here’s an excerpt from Shokai’s long and graphic-rich post:
Sensei points out that to fall in love requires an enormous leap of faith, overlooking the facts that our lovers are really just big sacks of skins containing organs and fluids and bone. We choose to ignore that the bodies that we crave so much also emit excrement, urine, pus, blood, sweat and tears. So another tactic for Zen porn might be to remind us of the impermanence of all things, including our bodies.
The Religion of Hope

Zenmar, the Dark Zen Mystic, writes in his blog, The Buddhist, that Buddhism is the religion of hope. His words are in opposition to that of Buddhist physicalists. Here's a snip:
The nature of that which animates us is called many names in Buddhism such as "the light of the self", "the radiant mind", "thatness", "the pure will", "the Bodhi mind" and so on. It is also the very process of nirvana by which we come to unbind ourselves from our investment in the material which causes us to be reborn in many and varied worlds of suffering.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Roundup for Dec 19 - Jan 14 [Part 3 of 4]

This is part three of a four-part sequence, highlighting some of the best Buddhist-flavored blog posts during the period Dec. 19, 2005 - Jan. 14, 2006. Mmmm, more good stuff -- but we begin with a little pain ...


Beesucker of Authentic Personality writes about what Buddha teaches regarding pain, “It seems that when we have pain or sickness there are two feelings - the physical discomfort, and then the feeling that we wish we were not feeling bad. … It seems that this second type of feeling is unnecessary - we can approach our physical problems with equanimity (I think that’s a better word than detachment). We can do this through a thorough understanding and acceptance of impermanence - knowing that all things are subject to change and growth and finally decay, including our body.”


In a gonzo post titled “fear and loathing,” the girl of auspicious coincidence writes, “I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate everything that I’ve ever written, including everything I’ve ever written that I love. … I’ve noticed that the best things that I’ve written have usually been written around a lot of heavy duty sitting practice. I need to get my ass to a dathun and just sit and then get my ass home and just write.”

Robert of Beginner’s Mind writes about the day before when the wheels came off and he and his poor dog had a rough time. In conclusion, he writes, “… I'm still uncomfortable about my mind state yesterday. I was about as far from mindful as you can possibly get without breaking the law. I suppose everyone has ‘those days’ now and then. But, Oh Boy! I need more time on the cushion.”

William of tells us about [and shows us] the spiffy meditation space he recently set up for himself. “I suspect that anything that makes my meditation space a bit simpler and tidier can’t be a bad thing; and a single cushion is so much better than a huge pile of folded pillows.” he writes. “Of course, having said all this, it’s only a cushion. Back in the day, they’d just use a pile of grass heaped up, or simply sit on the bare earth, at the foot of a tree…”

Dave of Dharma Crumbs writes, after being away from bloggery for seven weeks. He looks back wistfully at a retreat in 2001 in the Santa Cruz mountains:
Totally not knowing what was going on in the rest of the world I spent each day doing meditation in a brambly field, down by a small pond. Sitting under a sapling on a rock, I would do meditation. … My attention was mostly occupied by the hundreds of dragonflies as they dipped to the water and danced to avoid the fish. They mated in the air, zoomed jaggedly, a multi-colored frenzy of bio-helicopters. Day after day for three weeks, I watched this miniature world of flight and color birth and death, mating and being eaten, fighting over mates, being plucked from the air by birds. Now wherever I go, hiking, kayaking, I look for water and dragon flies who magically delight me.
whiskey river put up a delicious quote about sitting (and other things) on Jan. 14. Here 'tis:
If you can sit quietly after difficult news, if in financial downturns you remain perfectly calm, if you can see your neighbors travel to fantastic places without a twinge of jealousy, if you can happily eat whatever is put on your plate and fall asleep after a day of running around without a drink or a pill, if you can always find contentment just where you are, you are probably a dog.
-- Jack Kornfield

This was posted on MLK Monday, a couple days past the roundup range of this Blogmandu entry, but I can’t resist. Grand good words by F. Kwan in foot before foot: the photoblog [formerly, Fogdux & F. Kwan & foot before foot]. I should inform the uninitiated that F. Kwan is writing about her three former selves and her current manifestation of self where she mentions four individuals in the last sentence of this quote:

Dr. King's dream was not ridiculous. We have a long way to go, however, from the mountaintop to the promised land. All our brothers and sisters of whatever hue and f/stop are equal to share in poverty and the reduced opportunity that is early twenty-first century Third World America. I wish I could write something hopeful and encouraging, but that person, along with the obese individual and the aspiring spiritual leader, have disappeared, leaving only the scrawny, bitchy photographer, who can do nothing but cough due to a lingering cold.


Jayarava writes a rave [i.e., posts to his blog The Jayarava Rave] that begins by looking at the nexis of creativity and mental illness and takes us through an experience of his, imagining he was coming to blows with a dharma teacher. “One of the ways the Dharma works is by getting us to look into our habits of thinking. We habitually see ourselves as this sort of person, and not that. We like these things, but not those. These kind of people, but not those. These are just mental habits acquired over the years. One of my mental habits is to imagine the worst, to imagine that I will come into conflict with people and that they will try to hurt me. Once upon a time this was in fact true, but it is not true now. By looking into these habits, and seeing the consequences of them I have begun the process of gaining a choice in how I imagine the world. It is quite clear that how I imagine the world is critical to how I experience the world.”

By Chance -- Avalanche

Both Bill of Eternal Peace in a post titled “The Swinging Door,” and James of The Buddhist Blog in a post titled “‘I’ is just the Swinging Door that Moves” put up this quote of Shunryu Suzuki:
If you think, “I breathe,” the “I” is extra. There is no you to say “I.” What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale. It just moves; that is all. When your mind is pure and calm enough to follow this movement, there is nothing: no “I,” no world, no mind nor body; just a swinging door.
The quote was recently posted in Beliefnet and comes originally from Suzuki’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Writes Bill, “I am sure that I speak for many when I say that this book was my first, glorious introduction to Buddhist practice. It was 1976. I was living in a beach house working minimum wage. A housemate was a guitarist. His girlfriend gave him the book and he passed it on to me. A small stone dislodged by chance -- avalanche.”

Silly Heart

Clarity, scribe of Clarity’s blog, writes from Cologne, Germany, where he’s to present at a teachers’ training conference and he’s nervous as hell. “The words of Cheri Huber's teacher kept coming to my mind as I was preparing: ‘You will do for others, what you would never do for yourself.’ I would've quit a thousand times if it were not for this silly heart that I carry that wants to offer itself to others.”

Truth and Consequences

Two Davids, Chalmers of fragments of consciousness and Bonta of Via Negativa, join the fray, and write about the fray and frayed reputations of truth-challenged writers.

Chalmers’s main interest is J. T. Leroy and the meaning of the term “J. T. Leroy” if, as is suspected, the person who we have been led to believe is J. T. Leroy does not exist. There are novels attributed to Leroy, so, clearly, in a sense, Leroy DOES exist. Writes Chalmers,
There are] descriptive as well as causal constraints on reference: for example, it might be required that for someone to qualify as the referent of 'J.T. Leroy', they have to fit Leroy's purported life-story well enough, and no-one does. Of course this is tricky: no-one says that James Frey did not exist, because his purported life-story was greatly exaggerated. And even with the largely fabricated life-story of Helen Demidenko, people are inclined to say that Helen Demidenko is Helen Darville. If the Leroy case were more like these cases, then presumably we would say that J.T. Leroy exists and wrote the novels, but that Leroy did not do most of the things that he/she claims to have done.
Bonta begins his post, mostly about James Frey, with this provocative comment:
In response to people who wonder why an anarchist would refuse to shoplift, I'm fond of saying that no one demonstrates greater subservience to the concept of private property than a thief. In fact, I agree with Proudhon that, in a certain sense, all property is theft - but never mind that now. I'm more interested in a parallel insight suggested by the James Frey case: that no one depends more upon the strict adherence to a literal concept of truth telling than a liar.

Switching off the light

Dorian has ended Electric Blue Moodiness abruptly after 16 months. Left as a concluding message, an interesting quote by the enigmatic author of Catcher in the Rye:
Many have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them-if you want to. Just as someday if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."
-- J.D. Salinger
Do other things for now, O Dorian. Then, return.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Roundup for Dec 19 - Jan 14 [Part 2 of 4]

This is part two of a four-part sequence, highlighting some of the best Buddhist-flavored blog posts during the period Dec. 19, 2005 - Jan. 14, 2006.

Stronger than Bridge Cables

Chica of Van Gogh Chica has been putting up some thoughtful posts lately. Her post “Solitary” is particularly poignant, a small masterpiece, reflecting on the limits of what she is able to do for others when caring for herself requires effort and when, for the time being, at least, there seem to be limits to what her system of sensibilities can put up with dealing with the problems and mayhem others present.

These issues are ones Buddhists tend to avoid in various psychologically dodgy ways, but Chica tackles ‘em head-on. Here is a central paragraph:

I care for some who are on a self guided path to harm and after many efforts at an intervention, I have pulled away because it was draining me with frustration and worry and their denial was stronger than bridge cables. I constantly re-check my thinking on this as I do not want to confuse giving them their freedom and respect of their choices to rescuing attempts -- which I do feel they need. It is hard to watch and do nothing. But I cannot do anything to change another's world view and experience. Only be there, love them; which is actually tremendous. But it does not feel that way to my friends in crisis or self misery. They are blind to it. But I remain there in my heart and try to not absorb it. It is real hard. It gets to me a lot.

Sean of Wandering the Pathless Land writes that he has put up a new [and exciting] website: [ ]. Sean notes that the word “blangha,” meaning the sangha of Buddhist bloggers, was first coined by Nacho of the Woodmoor Village Zendo blog [and has gained some currency from a widening circle of use on the internet.] Writes Sean re the new website…

I created because I thought it would be nice to have just one site to visit and see all that’s going on in the blangha in a single glance. I also wanted a place that made it easy to find new and inspiring information or resources. The creation process was relatively simple, but please note that this is only the first version. …

Comments, questions and suggestions for improvement or additional features are always welcome.
The Blangha’s Energizer Bunny

INTELLIGENT DESIGN is surely the Energizer Bunny of the Buddhist blogosphere. It keeps going and going and going and going as a frequent posting topic, mostly because it is a favorite of Woodmoor Village Zendo's Nacho, who is to the ID issue what Voltaire is to France. A “Goog It!” of the website, which is almost wholly used for the blog, turns up an awesome 512 hits for the phrase “Intelligent Design.” Yowza!

It the past month, Ajahn Punnadhammo of Bhikkhu’s Blog has rushed in, showing bravery and compassion, to parry and thrust with Nacho, across the blog transom, regarding the ID issue and others associated with evolution and the nature of life.

In a Dec 23 post, titled “One More on Intelligent Design” in Bhikkhu’s Blog [you’ll have to scroll down to find the post; Bhikkhu’s Blog has no permalinks], Punnadhammo, the abbott of Arrow River Forest Hermitage [btw: located ~ 20miles west of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada], explains his December 2 Toronto Star column on ID and rebuts Nacho's Dec 15 WVZ post “Creation Debate Not Irrelevant to Buddhism.”

Here’s a snippet from early on in the Dec 23 post:

“I do agree with [Nacho] that the Intelligent Design issue shouldn't be irrelevant to Buddhists from a public policy perspective. … But is the issue of creation vs. evolution relevant to Buddhism philosophically? In one sense no; the Buddha himself said we can never know the ultimate origin of things and that speculation about them is fruitless. In another sense yes, because the debate as it is currently formulated in most venues is one between two opposing miccha-ditthis (false views or heresies) specifically called such by the Buddha in the Brahmajala sutta and elsewhere.”
On Dec 27, with a post in WVZ titled “A Reply to the Bhikkhu – Synopsis,” Nacho, an assistant professor of rhetoric and ethics at Willemette University in Oregon, says quite a bit. [Not synoptic, this!] Here’s a piece of it:

The Bhikkhu notes that there is at least another unacknowledged alternative besides the usual perspectives of Creationism/Intelligent Design and the Scientific theory of evolution. He identifies a position grounded on a Buddhist understanding of dependent origination, one that still safeguards a telos, a purpose in life: “There seems to be a teleology in evolution that is unaccounted for.” In his reply he states his inclination to believe this “unaccounted for” teleology, but he does not provide any solid support for it. He primarily relies on arguments for the complexity of consciousness to support his assertion of an evident teleology.
On Dec 30 in his Bhikkhu’s Blog, Punnadhammo posted “The Ongoing I.D. Controversy” [You will need to scroll down to find this post; Bhikkhu’s Blog has no permalinks.]. Here’s a snip:

…[F]or the record, I definitely do not hold that there is any intelligent design, much less a designer. However, that does not mean that I subscribe to the idea that the observed data can be entirely explained by a mechanistic evolution either. … I accept the claim that natural selection is one factor driving evolution; I am very doubtful that it is the only factor. … Instead, my idea is that mind ought to be recognized as a separate class of natural phenomenon with a formative power over matter.
On Dec 28, in a WVZ post titled, “A Reply to the Bhikkhu, II,” Nacho retorts. Here’s a piece of it:

I think the Bhikkhu wants us to, at the very least recognize, that there is uncertainty. To that I will subscribe. As he tells us the Buddha stated, we might never know the ultimate causes, or origins of things. I think that is probably correct. There will be more to find out, there will be mystery, there will be uncertainty, there will be incompleteness and non-trivial questions that theoretical accounts cannot satisfy. I think Godel put it rather succinctly, all complex logical systems are inherently incomplete. My commitment is to remain with a scientific worldview as we continue to make sense of much of our experience. I am inclined to believe that there are other ways of knowing in the world, but I do not admit to supernatural ones.
On Jan 6, Ajahn Punnadhammo posted a couple of entries, the last before he took a break until February for a meeting he is attending in Thailand. In one of the Jan 6 entries in Bhikkhu's Blog, he addressed a subissue in the ID & life discussion he is having with Nacho [and with others of his readers] re celebacy and its impact on evolution. [I won’t go into all of that, here in Blogmandu.] His other, last entry before his break is titled “Buddhism and the Philosophy of Mind.” Here, the bhikkhu steps back from the ID or evolution or life or meaning discussion and sets things in context of Buddhism. He writes that both physicalism [mechanistic evolution] and the duality of the 'ghost in the machine' are conceptual mistakes, so far as Buddhist teachings are concerned.

Here is bit of the essay, the full text of which you can find in Bhikkhu's Blog if you scroll to Jan 6:

… I firmly believe that any attempt to base a Buddhist philosophy and practise on materialism or physicalism is going to be a practise without fruit, or at least the highest fruit. The Third Noble Truth promises an end of suffering, and this is only to be had by realization of the Unconditioned. This is impossible if one holds that only Matter is real; how could there be an Unconditioned in such a universe? We can see that skeptical Buddhists always perforce redefine the goal from transcending samsara to reconciling with it.
Meantime, the great Dave Bonta offers his views on the ID debate with a long rich post titled "Defending Creation from the Creationists" in Via Negativa. Dave writes of his annoyance with the Christian Right crowd that disengenuously promotes Intelligent Design masking their clear, real purpose to inject study of Christian beliefs into the ciriculum of schools. Dave then uses information in a recent issue of Christian Century to make several cogent points. Writes Dave,

the advocates of ID limit the realm of the sacred to whatever lies beyond human comprehension or rational explanation. Worldwide, few truly religious people from any tradition would make such an elementary mistake. ID advocates are as reductionist as the scientists they critique.
The Magic of 3

Justin of American Buddhist Perspective wrote an ambitious three-post series on “The Magic of Three.” Here are introductory words from the first post of the three:
There is something magical about the number '3'. We all know of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) of Catholicism and the Three Refuges (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) in Buddhism. But also in Philosophy this '3' comes up in The True, the Good, and the Beautiful. What is it about '3' that holds us all in its grasp?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Roundup for Dec 19 - Jan 14 [Part 1 of 4]

Oop. Got behind in my roundups, so I'm putting up a series of posts this MLK extended weekend covering the prior holidays period and a little beyond! So there may be a few recent memories in these batches of oatmeal-cookie-like roundups -- strands of tinsel in your lover's hair, memories of New Year's grogginess -- but the postings are still as fresh as a whiff of morning air.

Bowled over ...

Robert of Beginner’s Mind leads us to the paragraph that follows, in a post titled “Weight I,” in Soen Joon’s One Robe, One Bowl:

Everyone says it: pain is not our natural state. Pain is present in life, and especially for the small self that wants so much to be a part of life. But that small self is not natural, either. The pain is a warning that we're moving closer to a central silence, where the small self has no relevance--and so no life. It's like magpies and their nests. The closer you come to the nest, the more the magpies scream. They're trying to distract you, and yet they're simultaneously telling you you're right where you need to be to find the nest. Just don't get distracted.

Be aware the essay isn't centrally about only pain and silence, but books, writing and the ineffable, too.

The War on Christmas, SOLVED

Speaking of Beginner’s Mind's Robert, he solved the ‘Happy Holidays’ v ‘Merry Christmas’ imbroglio. He writes,
… I propose that people use the phrase associated with their personal religion to everyone they meet. The recipient, understanding that the utterer is being kind, would then reply with the appropriate phrase from their tradition.So, when a Christian says to a Buddhist, "Merry Christmas!" the Buddhist might respond by bowing, or with the term "Namaste." There, is that so hard?
Coolbuddha of Bringing Buddhism to the Masses observes the war during Christmastime in the UK. A snippet from late in Cool’s cool essay:
let's not be afraid to mark Christmas. Although the backsides of some of the PC brigade can be quite large, we don't have to disappear up there yet. But, let's have less hype, and, PLEASE, can a few more shops be allowed to open on Christmas day?

The genius of Dave Bonta, scribe of Via Negativa, never fails to amaze. His set of penis poems [there are a lucky seven of them] are delightful, insightful and a scream. And they are gathering a comments stream of praise (and bad puns) longer than, well, something. Here’s a PG-rated snip from the first poem:

I bent to kiss my reflection in her silver toenail polish.

It was 2:00 in the afternoon. I traveled her spine's high ridge with the eyes of a newt, looking for a stream in which to molt.

The hard nuggets of her name slowly melted as I rolled them back & forth across the hollow left by my missing tooth.

We're Shrinking! Shriiink - ing! Oh, what a world! What a world!

Bill Gardner of Eternal Peace travels and reads and has observed that the Buddhism section of bookstores everywhere is shrinking! Bill offers up a four-point list on the situation, the first of which could’ve been, but is not, Book availability is suffering. Bill does not offer an 8-point plan on how to right the situation. Here’s one of Bill’s hypotheses on why Buddhism might be losing it: “The Christian section has grown (particularly the Christian-themed novels).” Yeah, yeah. Blame the infidels.

In an effort to check on Bill's assertion, I visited the Barnes & no-longer-quite-so Noble in the city of Citrus Heights. It was alarming how few Buddhism books they now carry.

It is in my nature ...

Douglas Eye of Hundred Mountain Journal gets grim two days before Christmas, quoting the Dalai Lama and linking to TNH and adding his own words to a skullful Death Meditation. Here are HH’s words that Doogie quotes: is in my nature to grow sick,
I have not gone beyond sickness.
It is in my nature to grow old,
I have not gone beyond old age.
It is in my nature to die, I have not
gone beyond death.

One's passions are enlightenment

Peaceful Turmoil
’s Tinythinker, much impressed by a post in Chalip’s Zen Under the Skin, delved further into Maitreya Buddhist Seminary page of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom. Tiny reposted the thoughtful eight-item list of Everyday Admonitions for Dharma Students found at the website that is also posted at Zen Under the Skin. Tiny also posted the society’s stark list of what it thinks are the five major pronouncement of Mahayana teachings. One or two items, I think, are a tad controversial, perhaps, but it is worthy of much consideration, in any case:
1. All sentient beings are buddhas.
2. Samsara is Nirvana.
3. One's passions are enlightenment.
4. We are an interrelated whole.
5. Everyday life is the Way.
Writes Tinythinker with respect to the above list, "The idea that Affliction is Bodhi ["One's passions are enlightenment"] ... made sense as my effort to understand the riddle of mind came to a minor fruition. Just as a lotus blooms in the mud, Bodhi blooms in afflication. Bodhi isn't the absence of pain or emotion, as some seem to believe."

Good Michael's Health

Michael of One Foot in Front of the Other suffers from parathyroid cancer, a troubling, challenging, damnable condition that he cites as incurable in the subheading of his blog. But his most recent post heralds an opportunity to combat the disease.
A visitor to my blog took note of my medical condition, and mentioned it recently to a friend of hers, a medical researcher at a major U.S. university.It turns out that this researcher developed an experimental drug that may be helpful for people like me …

The blog visitor gave me the researcher's e-mail address and we began a correspondence. The drug is now being tested in clinical trials at four hospitals in the United States, one of them the hospital where I'm being treated. …

Is all this a coincidence?
I don't think so.
Everything happens for a reason. Everything is interconnected. I don't think there's anything mysterious or magical about it.
A couple of weeks ago, Michael learned of an interesting good omen: “A co-worker and friend of mine is a nut for anagrams. He has a gift for analyzing names and all their possible letter permutations. Tonight, on a whim, he came up with an anagram for my first and last names: HEALTH MIRACLE.”

Good health to you, kind Michael.