Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Five Favorite Dharma Books Meme

I've been tagged by TMcG of TMcG to name five favorite dharma books on my reading list. The last two items top my reading list, since I haven't read them yet -- but are both in transit to me.
I'll tag three people: Justin, Justin & Danny

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I've been tagged ...

... to share seven "random or weird things" about myself [by Michael, indirectly].

So, for me:

  1. In a crowded auditorium at Ft. Mason in 1983, with a dozen competitors, a heckling MC, and local-celebrity judges, I won a stand-up comedy competition at the San Francisco county fair [due solely, I can assure you, to the fact the material I wrote was far the best, not that I was comfortable in front of people].
  2. When I was 25 I was hospitalized for a week when at work, suddenly, I couldn’t move one side of my body. [Today, I can’t tell you which side it was.]
  3. I am an astronaut, not a Statey -- if the same reason applies to me that Mark Wahlberg’s character said applied to Leo’s character in The Departed.
  4. I can’t tell left from right. It is, I understand, a not uncommon but rather weird problem. It is easy to compensate for -- when I tell myself ‘snap your fingers’ my reflex is to snap the fingers on my left hand -- but it is annoying. If you ask me directions on how to get somewhere, I will tell you while snapping my fingers a bunch of times. It’s not a problem driving because I know that the driver’s side of the car should be nearer the middle of the road than the frontseat-passenger’s side.
  5. I have all the problems of a perfectionist, but I wish I was much more perfectionistic -- since my life’s a shambles and I make a lot of mistakes -- but it is just like a perfectionist to feel this way. Indeed, I realize my perfectionism hobbles my life much more than I realize. Still, I wish I was much more of a perfectionist so that things in my life would be closer to being perfect, even as I realize and dismiss the idea that getting over my perfectionism would be what’s best for me. [Well, really, I don’t at all believe that. Indeed, I don't believe I am a perfectionist and think that I should become one -- which God knows, and wholly coincidentally, is just like something a perfectionist would think.]
  6. I am a stigmatic: A big flat round brown mole is at the top of one of my feet. [I can't tell you which one without taking my socks off.] It looks like the head of a rusty ancient nail. There is no bleeding around it or anything.
  7. Having been raised while my age was in single digits in Oklahoma where they talk funny, I thought for a long, long time that people were also known as “human beans.”

Friday, November 02, 2007

FlailingFruit: Falling Fruit, the new podcast website, launches into a sea of green.

Two-thirds of the Buddhist Geeks have teamed with eight others to form the webspace Falling Fruit, which is the new home for the "Buddhist Geeks" podcast series and a second, new podcast show -- as they‘re calling it -- "Conscious Business."

The digs at the new space are very nice, but the rollout, otherwise, is disappointing and, even, ominous. Buddhist Geeks, as a cottage business, had promise to extend its reach as the three Geeks ripened their skills as interviewers. It’s early, yet, of course, but this new enlarged enterprise is, maybe, a sharp turn downward, with indicators it embraces gobbledygook, and has become inveigling, and consciously rigidly politically correct.

With the launch of the new webspace comes the first Conscious Business episode and a new Geeks podcast that is really an abridgement of an interview conducted earlier for The TechSattva [which is yet another pod casting series that isn’t (yet?) on the “fruit” menu].

The idea of “Conscious Business” is not new. It is another in a long series of liberal management theories that have foundered in the past, all seeming to suffer from the same flaw: they attach heavy-duty philosophical underpinnings to a business enterprise that distracts it from the effort to focus, be efficient, and provide quality, appropriate goods/services. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for truth, justice and Superman being involved in the American Way. It is just that succeeding at business is a hard slog, and the competition is tough, often run by snakes in suits. I just think it’s been proved that a department of Feel Good just doesn’t help. Employees have enough problems without a supercilious management horning in on their off-hours lives. And a new flood of meetings keeping them from being productive.

Still, the pod show Conscious Business might be good, except it all seems narrowly conceived and rigged to ballyhoo and push the hosts’ fixed conceptions and aid their careers. An objective interview show CB isn’t. Hosts Theo Horesh and Duff McDuffee are leadership and life coaches [which I think we can take to mean “consultants”] involved in liberal-sounding enterprises in the Boulder, Colorado, area. They keep the banter humming in their first podcast [Or, if not they, the audio editor], and are colorful, interesting characters, but the show has the fatiguing drone of an aggressive sales pitch.

The website [“network” in hyped conscious-speak] is a “conscious media for people who care” and the show “explore[s] how consciousness emerges out of the sea of our own enterprises.” And, somehow, passively listening to the show is “joining the dialogue” while we must “prepare to be transformed.”

The ideas and show springs from Fred Kofman’s book from a year ago, called Conscious Business. In the middle of the podcast, the hosts, and their special guest Mark Wilding, delve into the word conscious as if doing so informs them of the management model. It all makes as much sense as trying to understanding baseball’s American League by discussing the word American. Thus the podcast discussion about intense awareness is ironically unaware.

At one point, the special guest cites Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception and interprets it as “the idea of really getting clear about what I’m really seeing and recognizing that I can project on the world and I can sort of override what’s actually going on with what I want to be going on. So, to be aware of that and to be conscious of that and be careful to really try to see what’s actually going on and be clear about that.” The poor special guest had spiraled into a fit of gobbledygook, but that is perhaps appropriate, since, unmentioned is the fact that Huxley’s book is all about his clarifying and confusing 1953 trip on 4/10th of a gram of mescaline.

The show is worth a listen as a stark instance of Boomeritis Buddhism on display. It is classic green vmeme, the hosts unwilling to look beyond their own POV while demanding that others be open to, and embrace, their perspective.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Roundup on October 17, 2007

Five quick items for today: Eric in Baghdad; a monk nowhere; the world all around us; Justin in conflict; and Radiohead in your DVD player.

Boys with Guns

Eric, the Zen Traveler is just finishing up his tour of duty, I guess you could call it. He’s not a soldier, but an American contract employee in Baghdad. This from his post “Speechless”:
…At the end of the Festival of Eid all of the children receive presents, much like the Christmas tradition. You'll never guess what every little boy gets. TOY GUNS!!! This is wrong on so many levels. The streets are full of little kids pointing plastic AKs at everything and everyone. When I first witnessed this I was utterly mortified. …
Homeless Monk

Detail from blog banner
Yuttadhammo as pictured from a detail of the banner atop The Truth is Within.
The monk Yuttadhammo of Truth is Within [formerly called Yuttadhammo] has put up a post called “Closing Time.” He is reluctantly, suddenly leaving Wat Sanku, in Thailand, where he’s been living, undertaking forest practice, due to a longstanding disagreement with the abbot. It seems, perhaps, trivial and selfish on my part, but I hope the title of his post doesn’t mean he’s closing his blog! No, no, not now, especially. He must continue to blog! Yuttadhammo thinks he knows where he will next be going, but just in case, anyone have room for a homeless monk? [UPDATE: Yuttadhammo has added additional posts that pop up on the feed but not from the homepage at the blogsite: "A Hard-Knock Life" "Anew" and "Happy in Unhappiness." Help orphaned monk.]

detail from graphic
A detail from the nature picture that tops Dave's post.
Appreciating the World

Environmentalist Dave Pollard is not a Buddhist, but Buddhism comes up now and again in his blog How to Save the World. Dave’s latest post is a long, beautiful essay called “What makes us care about nature?” A question he asks is whether it is necessary for us to experience important matters first hand -- do we have to be there? -- in order to understand and get involved. Perhaps Darfur, poverty, global warming and violence are too distant from us to relate “emotionally, viscerally.”

His beautiful, kind, hopeful post ends thusly:
As Daniel Quinn says … in Beyond Civilization:
People will listen when they're ready to listen and not before. Probably, once upon a time, you weren't ready to listen to an idea than now seems to you obvious, even urgent. Let people come to it in their own time.
Yet I think it is in all of us to listen, to hear the voice of all-life-on-Earth, to become a part, to reconnect, to fall under the spell of the sensuous. For twenty years I became deaf to it, it stayed inside me, waiting to re-emerge.

It is in our bones, our DNA. No experience required. We are who we are, and at heart we are all wild creatures, in love with this wild planet and every living thing within it. It is just a matter of time before each of us is ready to listen. Ready to come home.
Buddhism and War

I confess. I prompted it with an email. Justin Whitaker has posted "Buddhism and War" in his blog American Buddhist in England. In his post, the Buddhist Philosopher considers an online essay by Prof. P. D. Premasiri (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka) that says, in the Theravada canon, there is no justification for war.

A second online essay, a response to the first, written by Justin’s advisor, Prof. Damien Keown (Goldsmith College, Univ. of London), says there is justification for use of force, even to the extent of a just war.

Justin finds no conflict between the two essays, but I think his argument tortured. Premasiri and Keown look at war from different vantages: The first, from the vantage of the individual Buddhist and his psychology or personal predicament. Keown looks at it from the vantage of society as a whole. Justin, it seems to me, is set on splitting the difference when he determines that only wholly defensive wars are justified.

I think that Buddhism and War is an important issue for us to consider with the ongoing war in Iraq, perhaps inevitably escalating into a civil war; wars and threats of wars elsewhere in the world; and the terrible and frustrating situation in Burma.

Whether we are wholly opposed to violence or support efforts in Just Wars meant to stop oppression, men and women (and children) are dying in our name, and are dying in ways and by means which we share responsibility for in this interconnected world. We have an obligation to learn what we can so that we will be informed during any effort we undertake to move the world in the direction of peace.


Scott Mitchell reviews Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows, in the buddha is my dj. He writes about two tracks: “’Weird Fishes‘ has blown me away. … ‘Faust Arp’ has some beautiful combination of acoustic guitar, strings, and Thom York's ever-haunting voice that's going to deserve a second listen. Or a third.“ Of interest, if you download the album, you pay whatever you think is best.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Roundup for October 13, 2007

A quick roundup for today, as I hope to begin, again, to get this blog doing its roundup, meta-blog thing. There is lots and lots of stuff of great interest going on in the buddhoblogosphere and in nearby islands of kindness. Here, a taste:

Buddhists in the Military Blog

Bernie Simon of The Careless Hand offers a tepid recommendation of a group blog for Buddhists in the military, called Buddhist Military Sangha: An Online Resource for Buddhists Associated with the United States Armed Forces. Bernie writes, rather pessimistically, “It's fairly new and looks promising, but new blogs have a way of falling over and dying.” I suppose that’s true and could, sadly, be said of the soldiers, themselves, too -- which is, I guess, what Bernie's alluding to. The eight-member Blogger blog has a light posting history since its start on July 26, but is very, very well written, fully capably done, with many helpful links for soldiers in its sidebar. It looks solid, like a young Marine officer, and I'd bet it'll be a stand-up blog for a good long while.

A recent post by Navy Lt. Jeanette Shin is a Dharma Talk in observance of Halloween that looks at “horror films with a Buddhist theme.”

Danny Fisher of Danny Fisher wrote about the Buddhists Military Sangha in a post in early August. In the fascinating comment thread, Ray King, a UK citizen and member of the Amida Pureland School, wrote, “I'm interested in trying to understand how a buddhist reconciles his faith with belonging to the US military.” Lt. Shin responded, “What happens if we just got rid of our military? Do you think persons everywhere will have peace and happiness? … Kind thoughts and words alone will not protect our cities and our temples (or for that matter, Hindu temples, Christian churches, AND Muslim mosques, or any other place of worship) from people who would like to see them gone. The Reason we have the freedom [to] practice Buddha-dharma is people who serve in the military.”

Danny then wrote a long, thoughtful three-topic response that an abridgment by me would not do justice. [Read it here.] His conclusion, with respect to America’s military presence in Iraq: “At some point, everyone connected to this war needs to own their accountability and respond. They have to refuse service, refuse to pay taxes, refuse to sign over funds, demonstrate, and so on. A Buddhism that would excuse us from looking at the realities and the complexities of war is unacceptable.”

For my part, I recently wrote that I wouldn't mind seeing a precise, surgical American military assault in Burma. I regret that sentiment, maybe. From passages I have visited today at Access to Insight, Buddha offers no comfort to warriors. Most germane to the matter is this from the Sumyatta sutra, ch 42.3 "To Yodhajiva (The Warrior)". Here, a bit of it, quoting Buddha:
When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, his mind is already seized, debased, & misdirected by the thought: 'May these beings be struck down or slaughtered or annihilated or destroyed. May they not exist.' If others then strike him down & slay him while he is thus striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the hell called the realm of those slain in battle. But if he holds such a view as this: 'When a warrior strives & exerts himself in battle, if others then strike him down & slay him while he is striving & exerting himself in battle, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of devas slain in battle,' that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."
The Great Michael O'Keefe

Michael O’Keefe, the Oscar-nominated actor (for The Great Santini) who, among much else, did a knock-your-socks-off job with a role during the third season of The West Wing where he played a very noble reporter, plays Barry Grissom in George Clooney’s new film Michael Clayton, which is getting boffo reviews after opening yesterday. In his non-thespian meatlife, O’Keefe is a Zen Priest and member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, which can mightily show in his performances, or not, dependent on the role. Here’s the page on Michael at IMDb. Here, an article from five years ago about O’Keefe’s work teaching meditation in Northern Ireland, posted at the official Michael O'Keefe website, . Get hip to Michael O’Keefe, y’all.

Sharon Salzberg pulls a Buddhist full Ginsburg

Interesting bits of news tell us that Sharon Salzberg is in upcoming podcasts from both of Buddhism Online’s quality producers of such, the IDProject and Buddhist Geeks. In baseball terms, Salzberg has converted a double play. In Sunday-morning-talkshow terminology, it’s a full Ginsburg when you get saturation coverage.

Ethan Nichtern began his The IDProject newsletter, which I received yesterday, with these words, “This past Wednesday night, our Guest Lecture Series attained new levels of awesomeness with a visit from Sharon Salzberg, one of the foremost meditation teachers in America (soon to be available on The Interdependence Project podcast).”

Vince of Buddhist Geeks put up a picture of fellow Geek Ryan Oelke in his personal blog, Numinous Nonsense, with a caption that began with this sentence: “Ryan doing the voiceover for this week’s Buddhist Geeks episode w/ Sharon Salzberg.” Vince tells us Geek Gwen Bell conducted the interview.

Could it be that Salzberg has a new book out? From a search at Amazon, I find she has a 30-page book/2 CD/contemplation cards package called Unplug coming out in five months. She might be plugging that. [The title may be a reference to The Matrix idea of joining The Real World OR may focus on the simpler idea of relieving stress OR both. “You gotta unplug, man,” said Kroy to Keanu’s coppertop Neo.] She also has a mass paperback version of her 2004 book Lovingkindness coming out next April, published by Shambhala.

Update: The podcasts have been posted. Here are links to Susan Salzberg's three-part podcast with Buddhist Geeks [#1, #2, #3] and the IDProject's 21st Century Buddhism, "GUEST LECTURE: Interdependence and Lovingkindness."


As many of us learn, tangential to our study of Ch’an (Chinese Zen), the number eight is considered lucky by those in China and by Chinese whom have emigrated worldwide. Thus it is no weird coincidence that the summer Olympics are set to begin in Beijing on August 8, 2008, at 8:08pm (or, maybe, eight seconds and eight nanoseconds thereafter).

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Roundup of Recent Whatnot on September 18, 2007

Today, I've posted Whatnot - blogs that are new to me, developments and non-developments. Interesting stuff I'm eager for you all to know about.


Scott Mitchell’s “the Buddhoblogosphere” is still in beta mode. The august August 10 launch has us in version 0.9 [public beta]. Scott tells me v. 1.0, “the re-visioned site,” will be online sometime in the upcoming week.

An earlier post on the MetaBlog [Scott's blog about "the Buddhoblogopshere"] tells us that ideas were aswirl in Scott’s head, aided by users’ suggestions, on what the Buddhoblogosphere is to become. Will it continue as a Buddhist hub and directory as it is in version 0.9? or become “ meets Facebook with the simplicity of Craigslist. For Buddhism.”? We’ll see. But somewhere along the line Scott will need to gather a large contingent of Buddhists to contribute to and participate in what he is building. Crowds have not participated in v. 0.9. I guess "if you build in, they will come" is only guaranteed to work in the movies.

The big ideas Scott has for his webspace may have outgrown the limitation suggested by its title. Scott’s not saying, but don’t be surprised if there is a name change in store for the Buddhoblogosphere.

UPDATE 9/18 12:15pm: Scott has delivered his re-visioned webspace. Now called DharmaRealm, and moved to, "its mission of documenting everything in the Buddhist web" has been "re-imagined as a social bookmarking site."


Justin (aka Shonin) of Ordinary Extraordinary has started a new group blog, titled Progressive Buddhism. The blog’s goal is, as expressed at the top of its sidebar, “… looking at Buddhism in the light of modern knowledge, free from over-attachment to ancient dogmas; looking at the best ways to integrate Buddhism into Modern/Western societies; discussing and encouraging an empirical or scientific approach; seeing insight and awakening as a living tradition not just a historical one.”

Another Justin (aka, Buddhist Philosopher) who solo blogs American Buddhist Perspective; Nacho of WoodMoor Village Zendo and Shikimyo are attached to the project. In Justin/Shonin’s announcement nearly a month ago, seeking group members, he wrote that he has high hopes of adding a few prominent Buddhists to the team of bloggers at PB. Stephen Batchelor and Susan Blackmore are named.

It would be a 500-1 longshot for Justin to snag Batchelor [q.v. wiki] for the group. And Batchelor's no prize. His latest post to his blog at the Tricycle website was ten months ago. Prominent Buddhists are typically lousy bloggers, often blogging rarely when prompted to do blogging duty and usually blogging overtly self-promoting words. Batchelor is wonderful in many of his books, is a brilliant wordsmith, but doesn't get 'out of himself' enough to blog decently, IMOO [ie, in my overt opinion].

Sue Blackmore [q.v. wiki] is far the more interesting possibility for PB. She regularly blogs articles in areas of her expertise for the UK Guardian's comment is free. But it's not really blogging, and it's surely not free; it's paid-for op/article writing. It would be a coup to get Blackmore for Progressive Buddhism. Perhaps she'd do it for the opportunity to express herself in more purely Buddhist terms than she's done for the Guardian. But she likely would not be willing to give away for free what she can do for pay when writing is basically her job, what she does to put bread on the table. That is, unless Justin has an in with her.

Here’s a blog that is new to me - and an excellent one it is, too: Zen Traveler. A pretty interesting and exciting life blogger Eric has with an occupation that you have to believe is an unusual one for a Buddhist. He’s a bodyguard who works in the most troubled regions of the world - and that very much includes Iraq and its capital, Baghdad. Eric puts up a short post nearly every day which usually includes one of his wonderful photographs.

The last few days, Eric has been in close proximity to the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki at The Palace. See his posts “Interview at the Palace” and “Interview at the Palace, the Aftermath.” Another recent post remarks on the resilience of Iraqi children. It includes a heart-warming picture of three smiling kids.

BTW, Eric does not work for Blackwater, which is a security provider just ousted from Iraq, according to an article on the front page of the New York Times yesterday.


TMcG of TMCG is delighted by the work of the trio that present the Buddhist Geeks podcasts. She links to the most-recent interview by the “superpowerful Buddhist Geeks,” and then writes, “So many great interviews being done by the Geeks these days. Great job.”

But that most-recent episode, called What did Jessica Alba Eat for Breakfast?, is a monologue for more than the first half of its 23 ½ minute running time. When Gwen Geek finally engages, things get better.

[The cutesy title of this subsection mocks Buddhist Geeks episode-title silliness. It comes from something Gomez Addams said to Morticia. In Addams Family-speak it means some essential element is missing from something that could be great. We all like an egg in our martini, right? Gomez's full quote was "Can you imagine a roast aardvark without an apple in its mouth? It's like a martini without the egg."]


Another Buddhist blog I want to tell y’all about is, blogged by Robert A. Sim, a high-powered scientist with a doctorate of some sort, keen on Buddhism with an occupation that has him working on cutting edge robotics. Hopefully, he'll be the first to develop a robot that can sit for hours and hours without wobbling. Sorry. I'm sure there was a joke in there, I just didn't find it.

Recent posts have been on surge-o-nomics, health/diet, science, robotics, happiness -- and in a post a month ago, Robert jumped into a discussion that began over at The Buddhist Blog on the wisdom of teaching religion to kids. James of TBB had endorsed atheist writer Richard Dawkins's view firmly against indoctrination of kids into any religious view. Wrote Robert, "My two cents on this debate are that, speaking as a parent here, you can't help but rub off some impression of your worldview on your kids. Dawkins is unrealistic to suggest that kids shouldn't be taught religion but he knows that in a hypothetical universe where that link is broken there are likely fewer suicide bombings and deaths-by-exorcism. (Fewer divorces, too, as the stats play out). I mean, what exactly does he suggest we do in order to prevent any 'worldview transference'? In any case, I'm as much against the teaching of fanaticism and intolerance to kids as Dawkins or any other reasonable person but I think the argument is lost because it is impractical."

Robert is also in the great habit of periodically posting what he is grateful for that day. Very IOC.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Climate Change: Crisis or No Crisis?

Graph shows result of ten efforts to measure global temperatures of the past thousand years. Source of graphic: Global Warming Art
The huge issue of Global Warming finds opposing viewpoints within the land of Buddhoblogistan. Most recently, ~C4Chaos of the eponymous blog put up a post titled “IQ2 Debate: Global Warming is Not a Crisis.” Independently, on the same date, Ajahn Punnadhammo of Bhikkhu’s Blog posted “Facing Facts,” where he tells us “First, the [global warming] situation is beyond serious.” Strange -- isn’t it? -- that an issue that should be wholly the province of scientists to determine what’s what finds advocates on the far sides of the matter among non-expert Buddhists.

C4 presents as evidence the arguments of author Michael Crichton in a debate which he and his team "won," demonstrating that the challenges of what relatively minor climate changes might occur will be met by human technology and creativity. For his part, the bhikkhu quotes an article in New Scientist where it suggests, if nothing is done, we have a radically different planet in store for us. With his post, Ajahn Punnadhammo presents a map of Florida with a much diminished land mass.

Other buddhobloggers that I track that have posted “no crisis”-leaning posts are hokai of hokai’s blogue who posted an echo of C4’s post: Joshua Zader of Mudita Journal who posted “Putting Science before Politics” which quotes an article in the Chicago Sun-Times titled “Alarmist global warming claims melt under scientific scrutiny” and Matthew Dallman of The Daily Goose who quotes an article that says, “So why do the pessimists think we won’t adapt to another change in climate? Why are they hyperventilating about what is likely to be a relatively minor environmental shift?”

Meantime, those that see a real crisis ahead include, in addition to Ajahn Punnadhammo, Danny Fisher (of Danny Fisher) with, most recently, "On Buddhist Evironmental Activism," and also in “Vegetarianism, Buddhism and the Climate Crisis,” and last year's “Stop Global Warming”; and Sujatin (of lotusinthemud) with many posts on the climate crisis in recent months, including “al gore sees 'spiritual crisis' in global warming” and “world needs to axe greenhouse gases by 80pct: report.”

I haven’t tried to (and probably couldn’t) gather statistics to prove it, but my sense of it is that bloggers everywhere, including those in the greater Buddhist community, seem to see the climate-change issue through the prism of their political position. Buddhist bloggers who have a demonstrated liberal bent see a crisis acoming, while the more conservative among us are highly critical of evidence of a climate change or doubt what change in climate might come will present worrisome problems.

But why should that be!? Should not anyone’s position on whether there is or whether there ain’t a pending crisis be wholly determined on an objective basis, taken direct from the unbiased instruction of The Science Gods!? Should not the scientific consensus be the sole authority?

Perhaps rather obviously, this matter, like so many others, demonstrates that we tend to see what we are looking for. We diminish the significance of evidence we prefer not to see and place on pedestals anything that confirms our beliefs/suspicions/expectations or the beliefs of those in our political tribe. Thus, we inhibit our ability to look out on the world with objectivity, to see with clarity whatever is true.

Still, while I don't doubt all the Buddhist bloggers' global-warming posts come from compassionate hearts directing wise, truth-seeking minds, some of the posts that are being written are flat wrong and, fifty years hence, will prove to be ridiculous.

From my wet finger in the wind, I have been convinced that the bhikkhu, Danny and Sujatin are far the most correct here. A concensus has gathered. The scientific community tells us human activity is warming our planet and a crisis is nigh.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dharma Dan to Return as a Guest at Buddhist Geeks

Daniel Ingram
Daniel Ingram, aka Dharma Dan, appears to be on his way back for a second go-round at Buddhist Geeks. What I learn from a blog by hokai d sobol in hokai’s blogue is that Dan and hokai will be together in a forthcoming BG pod cast series hosted by Geek Vincent Horn. In his post, hokai calls Ingram “the arahat extraordinaire,” and links to his free online 300-page book in pdf-format, “Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book.”

The relatively obscure Dharma Dan has been the surprise hit, the best guest they've reeled in thus far, in the seven months that Buddhist Geeks has been casting pods. The three-episode audio posts where Vincent interviewed Ingram have gathered long comment streams with Dan answering questions and elaborating on his thoughts as BG listeners/readers express their delight or complaints with what they heard. [The second episode has an astonishing 88-item-long comment stream, at the time I write this. In that stream are many interesting and long comments by both Dan and hokai.]

Ingram is an intense, fast-talking fellow, eager to discuss issues that have been semi-hidden or taboo. Specifically, he earnestly discusses the true nature of Enlightenment, which does not make those who attain it perfect, imperturbable or sublime.

Here is a snippet from the first of three [1, 2, 3] episodes in the Ingram interview that Buddhist Geeks posted last Feb/Mar. Here, Ingram describes the onset and attainment of Enlightenment:

Essentially what happens is layer by layer of your consciousness and experience- you begin to notice that those things are not split up in the way that we thought they were. There’s not the independent, discrete, steady, continuous, controlling, observing, isolated entity in the center of it all that is either thinking or observing thoughts or doing or, you know, being done to or, you know, whatever it is. That sense of things progressively begins to be weakened until finally the last hints of that illusion just suddenly stop.

And the nod of perception that was clouding things and making us think that we were a subject or a doer or an independent entity or a continuous person is gone. That said, all the processes that were there making us think that - to use paradoxical language. All those processes of identification of thought, of emotional life, of psychology, of thinking the word I, of intention, all the sensations of the body, thoughts, and everything that went into that are still there essentially happening as they did before. So, they were causal and empty before that and they are causal and empty afterwards and suddenly that‘s just understood.

And that’s at once a good thing in that it does tend to help the system function as best it possibly can, given the limitations of the human condition. And yet it’s also, having stripped away the sort of defense mechanism of the sense of a center point, one is left intimately connected and integrated with reality in a way that you now can’t get out of. And that has a certain sometimes excruciating and embarrassing aspect to it just owing to the nature of humanity.

Terrific stuff, in my estimation. The whole 3-part pod cast is terrific.

Unhappily, as excellent as Ingram has been as an interviewee, I have been disappointed with his online book. The book seems to flow back and forth, changing from being subjective to objective, dispassionate to personal, serious to jokey, even in the midst of a sentence. Ingram also seems to be obsessed with what the reader might want or need from the book vis-à-vis what Ingram can or chooses to provide. It‘s clear to me the book needs to be more-sharply focussed. If that could happen, it should be published and I would buy a copy in a jiffy.

hokai is a long-time premier Buddhist blogger in addition to being a “practitioner of dharma, lecturer and meditation instructor; apprentice in shingon buddhism; translator and publisher.” He is founder and editor of Dharma Treasury. He lives in Croatia. I will be interested to hear hokai for the first time. His blog is written in American English - rare for a European. I will be curious to see if I can discern US pronounciations in the midst of his expected Croatian accent.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I-I's CEO Robb Smith Responds

I was happy to see that Robb Smith, Integral Institute’s new CEO since ~May 1, 2007, responded, in his eponymous blog, to Blogmandu’s review of I-I’s disclosed finances, through August, 2006. He provides some additional insight that nonattentive outsiders, like me, didn't know or hadn’t understood.

First off, Smith tells us that subsequent to the fiscal year ending 8/31/06 that was reviewed, and before he came onboard as I-I CEO, Integral Institute “was incurring significant operating losses and its survival was threatened.” Smith writes that “Donor nerves account for the lower Institute donation activity at the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007, with the Q4'06 management upheaval understandably making folks nervous about the efficiency of their support.”

Smith doesn’t refer to the June, 2006, Earpy Dust-up [See last paragraph in this section of the write-up on Wilber in wikipedia for some objective info on Earpy and its aftermath.], where Ken Wilber chose to attack his critics in a blog post with subsequent claims that it was all a beautifully engineered “test.” Likely, it was all a Rorschach-like test, of sorts, meant to expose -- or, at least, embarrass -- his critics. In Wilber’s mind, and in that of his like-minded (if not sycophantic) supporters, the Earpy episode may have succeeded at some level, but my guess is that Earpy more so than anything else is the cause of the downturn in donations -- just as Earpy has been causal for a massive loss of respect for Wilber in the blogosphere and the burst of critical activity in Frank Visser‘s website, Integral World.

The end-of-06 “management upheaval” that Smith refers to is the mass firing of staff -- I-I’s first CEO, Steve Frazee, and others brought to I-I by Frazee that Wilber saw as loyal to Frazee and not to him.

Smith tells us that his new management team is “more stable” and helps I-I “by giving our very generous donors the comfort of knowing what direction we're heading” and that donations have increased, as a result. I am glad to hear this, and hope that it is true, but this claim of openness is contradicted by Smith's statement in an interview he did with Keith Bellamy of Integral Leadership Review (June 2007 issue) where he says, "Don't tell people a lot about what you're going to do, because the best outcome is that you meet their expectations, the worst is you don't." Also, management stability is very much dependent on how much the organization structure has changed such that the new team is insolated from Ken Wilber foolishness so that the organization can build on Ken Wilber genius. This insolation cannot happen if the Board of Directors isn’t Integral and courageous.

Very troubling in this respect is the sock-puppeting that new I-I Board of Directors member John Mackey was engaging in to boost his company, Whole Foods, in its effort to acquire Wild Oats. This was activity that is not only very much not Integral, it is perhaps criminal, and if it isn’t it should be criminalized. It would be a very positive sign to learn that Mackey has been removed from the Board. This should happen very soon, if it is going to happen at all.

Integral Life

In his post, Robb Smith also tells us (which was news to me) that Integral Life, Inc., is a new entity, a private corporation, that now owns the business-like revenue-creating sources [video sales, consulting and seminars] of the non-profit, Integral Institute. Integral Life will also “manage Integral Institute for a far lower overhead - and eventually pro bono.” Thus, it appears, Integral Institute becomes purely the think-tank it is sometimes described as, funded by donations.


In his subsequent post, Robb Smith addresses the issue of anonymity and writes, “At Integral Life we are considering the move to using real names in the community.”

This sounds good to me, mostly because the act of reporting “anonymous” and pseudonymous donors on I-I’s 990 disclosure form undermines its function and the social benefit of non-profit openness.

I would suppose if Integal Life (and Integral Institute?) does put in place a real-name rule for the hoped-for benefit of becoming more of a real community, it would promote more-Integral behavior. It would, at least, deter acts of sock-puppetry.

But would ~C4Chaos have to choose between his birth certificate name or changing his name to his nom de web which starts with a tilde? Would a judge allow it? Recently, a judge somewhere disallowed parents of a newborn to name their son 4Real, thus rending the chosen name NOT for real. Perhaps I-I could grandfather in C4’s use of his nom de web, if he were to promise not to give I-I more than $4,999 in any given year [thus keeping C4 under the donation-reporting requirement]. I would hate to find out C4’s birth name and learn it is something terrible, like Adolf Schicklegruber.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Integral Institute: A review of disclosed information

This is a non-expert analysis of the latest annual Private Foundation filing (aka, Form 990‐PF) of Integral Institute Inc. Integral Institute (hereforward referred to by its popular abbreviation, I‐I) was founded by Ken Wilber as an organization to propagate his expanding vision of all things Integral.

The most recent filing is for the organization’s fiscal year ending August 31, 2006. One of the lesser functions of the 990-PF is to provide the public with information about charity-related organizations. [Its General Purpose is to “figure the tax based on investment income, and to report (to the IRS) charitable distributions and activities,” according to IRS filing instructions.] The document was probably first available to the public sometime between January 15 and the middle of April of this year. I asked I-I to provide me with a copy recently and received it quickly in a friendly, no-fee method, over the Internet. [Thanks, I-I.] It’s not fresh data nor a fountain of highly relevant facts, but it provides some insight as to where I-I has been and how careful the institute is with its funds; where it is with some promised forthcoming activities; and if it is itself Integral in meeting its responsibility to disclose to the public what it is up to.

The financial data is pretty much viewed through a glass, darkly. You can get some idea if the organization is extravagant with funds (It seems not to be.), but what you can learn solely from an examination of a 990 can only barely suggest if assets are being efficiently utilized … or not.

With it’s filing, I-I did disclose extraordinary detail regarding its assets, including a 6-page Depreciation and Amortization Report on office equipment and furnishings. Funnest factoid: An asset called “Cell phone for Ken” was nearly five years old and had a book value of five bucks. Worthwhile fact: I-I has lots of computers and equipment, with none of it seeming out of line with what an outsider would wildly suppose the organization needs. There are a couple mildly expensive computers, with many others mid-range in price. It is hard to tell for sure, but it seems that I-I takes care of it’s office equipment (or keeps it, anyway) for the duration of its depreciable life and beyond. These are rough but encouraging indicators that I-I is careful spending its money.

The most positive sign of care with funds might be that I-I paid nothing to Ken Wilber or the institute’s other officers or directors. Nor were they receiving any benefits, deferred compensation or utilizing an expense account. Too, there was no one on the payroll for the year ending 8/31/06 getting paid $50,000 or more. After at least five years, I-I still shows signs of being a dynamic start-up. There was growth at the bottom line: Net Assets increased nearly 14% to over 2/3rds of a million dollars.

There is an indicator the private foundation was in the process of a change of status, converting to a public charity. A checked box on the form tells us the foundation “is in a 60-month termination under section 507(b)(1)(B).” That section reference indicates the pending change in status. [That is, I googled it to figure out what it meant.]

Very discouraging is the observation that I-I keeps most of its assets in cash, savings or temporary investments but receives very little in interest from them. Average amounts in these categories during the year were over $400,000. From this, a simple formula on the form computes a “minimum investment return” of over $20,000, but I-I reports revenue from interest and dividends of just over $8,000. Obviously, with earned interest/dividends of less than 2%, it suggests I-I lost an opportunity to pick up an easy 12 grand.

Also disappointing is I-I’s report of contributors. I-I is required on Schedule B of the form to report persons or groups or entities that have given the organization $5,000 or more. Though the penalties for failure to disclose are extraordinarily lax -- the donor can be denied a tax deduction or I-I might be subject to a $10 fine per instance of nondisclosure -- the information can be important beyond the IRS confirming donors’ tax deductions. The information alerts future contributors of those who might be influencing the organization. This is important in the same way that politicians’ reports of contributors has a beneficial social function of revealing influencers.

I-I reported that two of its contributors, in the amounts of $5,000 and $10,000, were “anonymous.” This constitutes a failure on I-I’s part to meet substantiation requirements to keep proper records OR is an overt refusal to properly report.

Also, the name given of I-I’s largest contributor, “Al Mare Kooli,” without an address, is suspect. Though I-I’s current accounting manager identifies the name as accurate and being that of a gentleman of Estonian descent, a quick googling indicates that the full name searched as a phrase is part of the name of a school in the Estonia capital, Tallinn. Of the three words in the contributor name, the first two are Italian for “of the sea” or “by the sea,“ and the last word is Estonian for “school” or “scholastic.” Indeed, Tallinn is on the coast of the Baltic Sea and the “School on the Rocky Seashore” -- Rocca al Mare Kooli or Rocca al Mare Kool -- has a very extensive web presence.

Another google-researched interpretation of the suspect name of I-I’s biggest contributor reveals that the “last name,” Kooli, is a character who is the jester in service to Shiva, the lord of the cosmos, in Indian theatre. Thus, the name is possibly a ruse, a joke, a hoax, meaning “The Jester of the oceanic Kosmos” or that the donor is like a jester in service to Ken Wilber, the lord of the kosmos. Anyway, it seems unlikely that the full name can have really been on any person’s birth certificate.

Possibly, the faux contributor name is an anigram of the person’s real name, which could be Marie Lookal, Alma Olokier, Mara Lookile, Oriole Kamal, Omar Ali Kole or Allie Markoo. Ken Wilber has used anagrams before. We all may recall when The Ken briefly was going by the name “Wyatt Earpy,” which has letters that can be rearranged to read “A pretty way.” So, if Ken Wilber -- or Ben Wilker, if I may cleverly call him that -- thinks that using anigrams is “a pretty way” to proceed, we may expect to see him use them extensively. You crafty bastard! I’m on to you, Ben!!

If I-I acts as a participant in misreporting information on its tax documents, that is neither cool nor kooli. And it certainly ain’t Integral.

Of more meaningful interest is the whirl of activity at I-I that generated nearly $2½ million of revenue and nearly as much in expenses. From the raw figures the 990 Form gathers, there is nothing that seems outrageous. Fundraising expenses were less than 10% of contributions. That’s excellent. The rule-of-thumb is that 35% would be excessive.

Nearly 30% of I-I’s revenues come from contributions. Over 38% is Gross Profit from sale of goods. From best I can determine, these goods are primarily comprised of video sales. 32% of revenue comes from consulting and seminars. Disappointing was the disclosure that only something over $1700 came in from IU [Integral University] courses. IU, as of August, 2006, seems little more than a twinkle in Ken's eye.

While this blog post may not generate great interest, I will be eager to see I-I's next filing - and to report on it - to see how things have changed. Exciting stuff -- to me, anyway.

Friday, July 13, 2007

John Mackey: Yet another nefarious Friend Of Ken?

A Blogmandu Special Report, by Tom Armstrong

This from Daniel Brook in the Huffington Post:

Jonathan Swift couldn't have thought up a better satire. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market and avowed libertarian, just got caught exploiting imperfect market information and scheming to rip off consumers by building an organic food monopoly. Libertarians claim the market should be left alone to regulate itself, while progressives have long argued that investors need accurate information from companies about their finances and consumers need competition to get the best price. Apparently John Mackey is just the kind of nefarious businessman we need government to regulate.

As today's [7/13] New York Times reports Mackey was caught posting on Yahoo Finance's bulleting board under a pseudonym pumping up Whole Foods' stock and blasting its rival Wild Oats Markets. (Not content just to trick potential investors, he even praised his own coiffure: "I like Mackey's haircut. I think he looks cute!" he wrote under the pseudonym Rahobed, a corruption of Deborah, his wife's name.) The posts were discovered during a Federal Trade Commission case stemming from Whole Foods' attempt to acquire Wild Oats.

Update, from the 7/16 NYTimes Online: "For executives like Mr. Mackey, sock-puppeting [the act of creating a fake online identity to praise, defend or create the illusion of support for one’s self, allies or company] is probably more gratifying than effective in swaying opinion or stock prices — until they get caught. Then it is embarrassing, and for chief executives, at least, potentially illegal. Laws carefully prescribe what executives of public companies can say. The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site Friday night that the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun [an informal] inquiry into whether Mr. Mackey violated security laws with the posts. ... [T]he consequences could be damaging to the company, if not to Mr. Mackey. Securities lawyers say the Federal Trade Commission might use the comments to scuttle Whole Foods’ proposed acquisition of ... Wild Oats .... Wild Oats may also use the comments as the basis of a lawsuit against Whole Foods. "

Among Ken Wilber’s 2nd-tier friends are Adi Da, Marc Gafni, Andrew Cohen and John Mackey. With friends like these, who needs Integral Psychology or Integral Economics or Integral Ethics? Speaking of Jonathan Swift, I now consider time spent studying the 2nd Tier in the works of Ken Wilber Gullible’s Travails.

Here, from Mackey’s blog at Whole Foods where he expounds on his version of Integral thought. This from Matthew’s blog at Zaadz, audio where Wilber and Mackey talk about Zaadz CEO Brian Johnson, yet another high-profile FOK. [You can read about Zaadz and Brian “13” Johnson, here.] And here, glowing praise of John Mackey in a magazine Mackey founded.

The beat goes on. Someday, we may notice a pattern forming that might tell us something ...

CORRECTION 7/20/07: An earlier version of this post quoted the NYTimes as saying the SEC inquiry was "formal." The Times' quoting of their source saying it was "formal" was correct, but the Times later added a correction addendum to their article to say that the inquiry by the SEC was informal, according to the SEC. The Times' reporting on the possible consequenses of the inquiry was not changed/corrected. ALSO, per I-I CEO Robb Smith in a comment below, John Mackey is not a member of the I-I Board of Directors. Wording in an earlier version of this post that said he was has been deleted.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Roundup on July 12, 2007

In today's B'du, Live Earth slips, Ego could use a massage, Darfur needs saving, the Geeks as French Royalty, airport art, a suicide and Moore v. CNN.

Slippery Rock

Both Ajahn Punnadharmmo of Bhikkhu’s Blog and Cliff of everyday zazen point out the irony of the huge multi-venue Live Earth Concert being used to draw attention to global warming.

The modest-living Canadian bhikkhu writes
The hard fact is that if we can stop this warming at all (which is doubtful, curly light bulbs or no) it can only be done by massively scaling back our (meaning the rich countries) lifestyles. Use less power, travel less, consume less. In many cases it may not hurt to eat less. Nobody wants to face up to that yet, and probably won't until Mother Nature scales back our lifestyles for us, the hard way.
Cliff’s sentiment is similar,
… i’m not sure if such grand gestures [like the Concert] help but the intention is good. … as in all things, it comes down to individual effort. concern is not enough. it’s what i do that matters.
The Concert may or may not have helped much. News reports tell us the TV ratings for the event were terrible, but this may have been well-compensated for by a big online viewership.

Leggo my Ego

Gary Stamper takes co-credit for stirring up interest in the Seattle area over whether the feminine perspective is a bar to enlightenment [Andrew Cohen says it is in the current issue of his magazine, WIE. Stamper in Integral in Seattle and his partner, Anyaa McAndrew, in Goddess on the Loose explain why it’s not.] Now, Gary has blogged on another aspect of this, likely to stir more interest and debate: The Ego killing connection. Gary suggests that it is those with the biggest ego that advocate egocide and that in their ego-bloat want to drag off everyone else’s egos with theirs to a flaming death in Ego Hell. Contrariwise, Gary prefers a course of making friends with one’s ego and credits the Total Integration Institute when he makes this observation about the ego: “It's a valuable tool that, when befriended, allows us to be more fully integrated in our felt sense body experiences during this existence, rather than living the masculine approach of Eros without the integrated being of the feminine Agape. … En­light­en­ment is not masculine. Nor is it feminine. It's not emptiness. It's not fullness. It's all of the above, integrated into our human experience as fully and complete as humanly possible. It is ‘multi-dimensional whole being and Integration.’” [B’du reporter disagrees. Murder the ego monster, I say.]

The Stream

Danny Fisher of the same-name blog has submitted a vid question for the CNN/YouTube debate later this month that conjoins global-warming’s coming disasterous effects with the on-going crisis in Darfur. Danny also has posted a YouTubed ad from the Save Darfur Coalition that he hopes we all will see.

Let them pod cake. The Buddhist Geeks spend much of the time in their latest pod cast grousing over how busy, busy, busy each of them is which constraints them from bothering to respond to listener comments. This follows the prior episode where much of their time is spent marketing their T‐shirts to listeners. I guess I just don’t understand these ALL ABOUT WONDERFUL US pod casts. It’s Geek to me. What interviews have been really good have been so because of the interviewee, not because the three Geeks are impressive, polished interviewers or charismatic celebrities. Get over yourselves, Geeks!

Amadeus of Dharma Vision writes about the art to the right that appears in Portland International Airport. Many are protesting it's display there.

Bill of Integral Options Cafe writes touchingly about the loss to suicide of a friend he knew from the gym. The friend was a prominent, beloved Tucson obstetrician-gynecologist and "[b]y all accounts, ... one of the kindest and gentlest men you might ever meet."

I've been following the Moore-CNN saga because of a couple posts by Bill of the IOC. A crappy fact-skewing piece of reporting by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical reporter, that thrashed Michael Moore's documentary Sicko, propelled Moore into a pasting of CNN's Wolf Blitzen a couple days ago. Later, Moore and Gupta faced off on CNN's Larry King Show. Follow-up reporting on Moore's blog and the Huffington Post and elsewhere show that Moore's facts are pretty solid and Gupta's journalism is corrupt and corroded.

I'm leaving out a lot, but this is all there's time for. I'm busy, busy, busy, you know. S'later.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Roundup on July 6, 2007

No theme, no meme, just stream, today. Here are some quick words on some of the excellent posts just a click away, out in the Buddhoblogosphere [and maybe a little beyond, into the Integral savanna] that popped up during this young month:

Recently, kathy wilden [A Soto Zen Priest who blogs Monterey News], offered a comment to a Danny Fisher blog post re the virtues of vegetarianism in aiding our fragile planet in which she suggested that stemming population growth was the most important thing we should try to do. Independent from that, but relating to it nonetheless, a post in Matt Holbert’s integraljournal provides a synopsis of Kenneth Boulding's forthright set of three theorems, from 1971, for addressed the population problem. The theorems are “THE DISMAL THEOREM” “THE UTTERLY DISMAL THEOREM” and “THE MODERATELY CHEERFUL FORM OF THE DISMAL THEOREM.” Pretty dismal stuff. Lots of misery and starvation to be found there.

And the dismal just keeps on comin'! Michael Bauwens of P2P Foundation writes of "The Coming Dark Age." It seems it is inevitable. "But there is also good news is this scenario, ... [a Dark Age is] actually a necessary occurence for the overall growth of humankind, a kind of socially necessary collective regression, much like the same principle of regression in the service of the ego used in psycho-analysis." Right. The positive side of the Black Plague.

Bad Boy Al of In Pursuit of Mysteries offers a couple of meaty, clever rebel quotes from a pair of authors. Here's the first sentence from one: "If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts."

M. Alan Kazlev of Integral Transformation offers an update on his book-in-progress. He's retitled it "Integral Metaphysics and Transformation" and says this: "... I'm making the language a bit snappier and more provocative; the previous drafts were rather too tame. I was trying too hard to be polite, and I think a lot was lost as a result. There are times when one has to speak out strongly and boldly."

Bernie Simon who "jots and scribbles" The Careless Hand writes about the the body of a Russian lama, dead for 75 years, whose body has not decayed. Bernie tells us there are many other stories of Buddhist masters whose bodies did not decay. The masters put themselves in a state somewhat akin to samadhi. "According to Abhidharma, you cannot die or be physically harmed while in samadhi. There are stories in Tibet of yogis meditating in caves who accidentally fall into samadhi and are discovered many years later, their hair grown to their waist and fingernails grown into claws." Btw, an article, borrowed from Interfax, on the dead lama's body has been posted to The Buddhist Channel.

moe of Mystery of Existence builds a list with sublists, all about a thought. And a non-specific one, at that.

Gary Stamper of Integral in Seattle recommends Bill of Integral Option Cafe's vid on Crazy George Bush. It's a satire, based on "Gnarls Barkley's Crazy" that Bill found.

Speaking of Gary, he is outraged at the latest issue of Andrew Cohen's What is Enlightenment? magazine. He writes in Integral in Seattle, "Andrew Cohen and Ken [Wilber] talk about enlightenment for women and how [women] have to get past and give up their sexual (feminine) power in order to become enlightened. ... Andrew totally fails to [understand] that there might be different approaches to enlightenment."

Bill of Digital Dharma borrows a quote from an great old column in Zbohy about sobriety. Here, two sentences: " The person who desires change must reach his physical, spiritual, emotional and mental bottom. A good candidate for salvation is one who has no more answers and no more plans."

Mushin of Love, Truth, Beauty, Pluralistic Spirituality links to several posts that tell us the next Buddha will be a collective.

Dave of Via Negativa writes an Independence Day poem. It begins, "Independence Day:/the hunters gather/for archery practice/in the woods."

~C4Chaos of the same-name blog writes - from Ireland! - of patriotism on his first July Fourth as an American citizen. "To me, patriotism is a step towards 'selflessness.' Patriotism is stepping into a bigger ethnocentric circle, where motherland is one's nation (instead of one's tribe) and people are one's fellow citizens (instead of one's kin)."

Meantime and contrariwise, Danny of Danny Fisher quotes Howard Zinn from an article in The Progressive. "On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed. ... We need to assert our allegiance to the human race, and not to any one nation."

James Ure of The Buddhist Blog wishes us, or America, a Happy Interdependence Day. Quoting an article, "Beyond Fireworks," James writes, "... freedom is different from independence. Independence implies that we are not dependent on others -- that we are autonomous, able to act on our own. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are completely dependent on others and we can do nothing on our own."

PeterAtLarge of The Buddhist Diaries wishes everyone a Happy Fourth, but with a kicker: " guys might have done better to stay with us Brits--but we're working to re-colonize this place. Have you noticed how many British accents you hear these days? We're working underground to re-civilize the barbarians. Not much success so far, I have to say. Ah, well."

Paul Cox, A Blue Eyed Buddhist, writes there is "Still a horrible war going on ...". "One thing that we might tend to forget is that there’s still one hell of a tough war going on in Iraq. I still believe that the US should draw down its forces there; I think we’re probably doing more harm than good, and we don’t have much of a dog in the fight." Paul recommends that for perspective we should all read Michael Yon's "Bless The Beasts and Children, about a massacre that occurred in Iraq. The regular media doesn’t report it for any number of reasons, but they should."

This is self explanitory. Gregor of Entering the Path writes a post called "Wearing Down the Mountain." Here is its beginning lines: "My mind tends to wander quite a bit during the beginning of a Zazen session. The shear volume and randomness of the thoughts that pop up are really amazing. The mind can be a strange thing, and I’m convinced that my own is overactive to the extreme."

Meantime, Cliff of everyday zazen is wearing down his carpet. He writes, "but the carpet, like my habit, has worn down in some places only. maybe the path i walk isn't broad enough."

hokai of hokai's blogue begins a series of posts called "History and Dharma" this month. It is all dense and meaty, geeky and Integral and requires a lot of focus and attention to read if you are as stupid and ignorant of hokai's references as me. Nonetheless, I'm digging into it, and, in the beatnik sense, diggin' it and I recommend y'all click on over there and do the same. Here, a bit of a foretaste on what it is about: "What I'm interested in is how states & structures co-arise, in other words, in which ways and to what extent they affect each other? Has anything changed in that influence from premodern to modern to postmodern? Is our role in that relationship somewhat different due to the growing awareness of such distinctions?"

Tom Morgan of In the Becoming Undone is pretty excited. His first book of poetry, On Going, comes out Monday.

ebuddha of Integral Practice offers a YouTubing of Eckhart Tolle this week. It is terrific. The message is that if instead of reacting to life's content that arises in the NOW we become aware of the NOW ITSELF, the undercurrent of stillness, we may realize that we are IT. Content and "the story of 'me'" becomes no longer problematic.

Serendipitously related to the Tolle Tube, is a Johnny Newt The Invisible Cat post, some of which reads. "do not cling to your delusions of what you wish the world could be or how the world should be, lets open our eyes and see the truth around us, be it harsh or painful let your open eyes destroy the mirrors of illusion"

Ian Sinclair of Jinajik links us to "an exhibition of some of the oldest documents of Sanskritic culture."

The identical twin brothers Smith report they are working hard in central Asia. Michael of Kathmandu for You is sending manufactured goods from Kathmandu to his US home in New Orleans. He writes, "I hope to set up regular shipments of certain items to raise awareness and money for the education of monks and nuns in Nepal." Dan of Kham Abiding writes from Tibet on July 4, "Today I worked hard to get off the job as quickly as possible, like A Good American. ... A lot of the girls cried at our year-end party the other week, and I didn't see any reason to uncork a small river before their examination. I returned my key, negotiated my phone bill with the building manager, and found a car to Kangding. Besides, I've always kind of sucked at goodbyes. I get reminded of change fairly often, but have difficulty expressing the right emotion at the right time."

Heather of K'vitch loved the new movie A Mighty Heart. "Economic, well acted by everyone, gut-wrenching, inspiring, filled me with horror at the same time as it painted Pakistan as a wonderful place.

Speaking of heart, and mighty ones at that, the mighty Sujain of lotusinthemud quotes the mighty Pema: "If you follow your heart, you're going to find that it is often extremely inconvenient."

Jack offers a long, thoughtful post in Mind Mountain about anger, generally, and toxic emotions of his own. He begins, "I’ve never had much difficulty with an explosive temper. Rather, my form of poison is a grinding arthritic frustration with the eventual effect of judging people very harshly in my mind, though less often in word or deed."

Whoa. morganells of morganells has a long post putting Truths together. Excellent stuff. It weaves the Truths from Buddhist perspectives through to discoveries from particle physics.

Joshua of Mudita Journal was no fan of Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth before. Now, he cites an article in the Chicago Sun-Times that ticks off seven instances where there is scientific evidence to refute significant claims in the documentary.

ryan of Nine Out of Zen finds motivation to do zazen from David Chadwick via Brad Warner.

Justin of Ordinary Extraordinary writes about the nexis of Zen and Love. I don't buy the usually brilliant Justin's thinking here. I would say Zen is about moving from ordinary to extraordinary and is not so much about love. [But, of course, Zen comes in many flavors.]

In a post called "Conditioned suffering," Zenmar, The Zennist, writes, "The Buddha teaching isn’t really about impermanence and suffering. What kind of spiritual physician would the Buddha have been to tell the many, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, that life is 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short?' The physician Buddha only gave the diagnosis of a disease to those who thirsted for phenomena. [For those who see with the third eye and break] the spell of phenomenal embodiment, they win nirvana."

The meaning of meaning and its significance: Kalsang Dorge's post in The-universe-is-all-in-my-head is great, heady stuff I've read twice and am still trying to get my head around. Here's a snip: "...Seeing and formulating is a basic requirement in order to exist as an intelligent being. Meaning is the operating system for the accomplishing person. ... The bases of meaning being realized, allows for new modes of thought. And perhaps these methods could be called "Meaning Processors" as these produce new meanings either directly or indirectly and they undo meaning in certain cases so that meaning becomes simpler, more general and therefore much more powerful."

And Th-th-th-th-tha-th-that's all, folks. Happy seeking.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Roundup on July 1, 2007

A picture by Michael, Gratitude, new blogs and the stream from recent days are on the card today of what's fresh and interesting in the buddhoblogosphere.

Picture This

Three details from a recent photograph in One Foot in Front of the Other.

Copyright 2007 Michael

Michael of One Foot in Front of the Other astounds me with his photo­graphy -- though he is no less inter­esting a writer of prose and poetry in his blog. At right, are three details from a recent photograph. A basketball flies into the trees, on its way toward the basket, posed perfectly to capture the name of its maker. Three players under the basket look like a grouping from The Last Supper. Two players’ shadows tell us the action that just happened. The details are scaled diferently, for display here. But you get the idea. Somehow, Michael squeezes a lot that is interesting into a single snap.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. - Melody Beattie

Beginning March 9, 2006, Bill Harryman, in his Integral Options Café blog, started a 30-day regimen of Gratitude Blogging, "an experiment [where he committed himself to posting] one thing each day for which [he was] grateful." His first statement of gratitude was simply this: "Today I am grateful for a good friend who called me to arrange a lunch date."

On his 30th day, Bill was still going strong and finding himself to be expansive. His sentiments on Apr 7 weren’t a single item, but a list: "So many things to be grateful for, so today I will choose just three: canned protein drinks (taste bad, but do their job), clients who want to change and do their part to make it happen, and Kai's comments on my efforts at haiku (very helpful)." And he finished with the trailing tagline "What are you grateful for?"

Bill’s gratitude-posting regimen lasted well past the thirty days he committed himself to, but eventually, he did stop. But he has started up again with daily gratitude postings rather recently. And he blogged some gratitude today, hooray.

A week ago, I came upon an article that cites a study on the benefits of gratitude. The 2003 study, "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life" tells us "that a conscious focus on blessings might have emotional and interpersonal benefits."

While we all seem to think we know what gratitude is, categorizing it and understanding what raw gratitude is is open to some dispute. As you might suppose. Try categorizing your own emotional states. But, rather non-controversially, gratitude is slotted in among clusters of other emotions that are pleasant, positive and interpersonal.

But there is an element of negativity in gratitude, for some, and this can be why many people are reluctant to explore and expose what they are grateful for. Gratitude can arouse feelings of indebtedness and one's lack of value to society.

Without going into the details of the impressive-seeming study and unpacking the statistical analysis of the collected data [which is well beyond my ken these days, anyway], it is reported that "participants in the gratitude condition reported considerably more satisfaction with their lives as a whole, felt more optimism about the upcoming week and felt more connected with others than did participants in the control condition. ... Therefore, it appears that participation in the graitude condition led to substantial and consistent improvements in people's assessments of the global well-being."

Thus, Gratitute seems very Buddhist and healthful for one's spirit and the community one lives in. Blog on, Bill. We all can be grateful for your gratitude-blogging regimen as something we may, ourselves, take up. What else might we be grateful for?

Birth Day

It is a birthday. Lucid Nomad began a new blog just this weekend, titled An Open Book: Of Mindfasting & Enlightenment. Mindfasting is not a term I'm familiar with. Lucid Nomad describes it in one of four posts already up. Quoting Alan Fox of the University of Delaware, Lucid Nomad writes,

"Mindfasting ... is emptying the mind of artificial constraints to open it up and make room for the appropriate natural response to occur. It therefore involves the elimination of rigid, dogmatic, formulaic attitudes and habits, and our self-identification with them."

Another new - practically brand new - blog is The Hinterlands, written by Gregor of Entering the Path. The Hinterlands is where Gregor intends to post words and photography from his hiking adventures in the back country.

It's not a birthday for the blog Buddhism and Conflict Resolution, an Amida Trust blog. It's been around four and a half months, but is new to me. The blog describes itself thus, "We aim for this weblog to be a source of guidance and inspiration for those people following the dharma who seek to resolve confict situations. Effective resolution is characterized by finding an agreement between two opposing ideas which engenders commitment, avoids harmful emotions and actions, and safeguards principles and relationship."

Ryan Oelke has a fairly new blog, begun last March, called Ryan Oelke, to add to the four he already had going - Buddhist Geeks, of course; the long-lived all-quadrants-all-the-time Integral Awakening; the valuable group blog Anxious Living and his blog in the Zaadz community. Ryan also informs us there's yet another blog, Tumblog, out there that he hasn't yet done much with. Ryan Oelke (the person) tells us that Ryan Oelke (the blog) is to be his "central campsite on the web," to be used for "personal/business" purposes. This makes sense since the new blog is at

The Stream

James Ure of The Buddhist Blog had a profound, touching experience helping people who were recipients of free meals at a nearby Presbyrterian Church. "As I filled each persons cup I concentrated on them as if they were the only person in the world. I saw the water I poured as precious gold. On such a hot day these folks gulped water as if it was the only thing that mattered--and in that moment it was. In that moment, offering them water was the most important thing I could do."

iPhone, uPhone, we all moan for iPhone: We find that ~C4Chaos of the same-strange-name blog is "sourgraping" for an iPhone in addition to drooling over it all, while Nagarjuna of Naked Reflections is "uncommonly excited" about them, but won't get one right away, if ever, even though he's "dazzled by its elegance and seamless multi-functionality." But in the midst of all the mad interest, Carlos Rull of suggests that we "iChill" and says we should enjoy "the iFlowers and the iOcean [and] go for an iWalk."

Sean of Deep Surface recently wrote of his father's death which happened suddenly while the two of them were on vacation, walking along a beach on Waikiki in 1984. The father was just 43 years old. In a follow-up post, Sean writes, "The images of that day with my Dad are vivid, but they exist only in my mind. Even what I do remember has grown fuzzy and lost details over the years. It’s clear to me that even the most defining moments in my life are not real in this moment. All my memories can be described this way - imagined stories of the past, incomplete and inaccurate. Even so, still being able to deeply feel the emotions related to those stories feels like a gift. When I can accept my memories as illusion, with no more reality than a novel, they are easier to savor as they arise."

After rather recently wiping out his blog, MikeDoe of DoeDo is back into heavy blogging, again. A current topic is creating, wearing and modelling a line of men's skirts. It is a very surprizing topic, fully unexpected, from the manly Mr. Doe.