Thursday, August 28, 2014

Simple, but not Easy, Vow

                                   May I engage and nurture this present moment

Morning comes to Eagle Lake

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Namaste is Waiting

     Every event, every living being - including yourself, and every inanimate object, waits for you to recognize it as Buddha.

     At all times, "we 'stand alone between heaven and earth' (as the Buddha proclaimed after his birth) - and walk together."
       Bonnie Myotai Treace, Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, Spring 2014

Pete McBride, National Geographic

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Commitment to Benevolent Inexhaustibility

     Mystics, shamans, and artists seem to share a tremendous capacity for perseverance. Taoist sages live very long lives ("immortals") so as to evolve as much as possible spiritually. Perhaps the ultimate in benevolent perseverance is expressed in the Buddhist bodhisattva vow:

               Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
               Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
               Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
               Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to realize it.

     "Knausgaard has his own artistic commitment to inexhaustibility ... which manifests itself as a kind of tiring tirelessness."
       James Woods' review of Knausgaard's book "My Struggle":

     But why would this critic describe it as "tiring" tirelessness? Could there not be an energizing form of tirelessness?

Jonathan Chua Kiat, National Geographic

Monday, August 25, 2014

Artistic Freedom - Authentic Leadership

     "Knausgaard believes that to create literature of lasting value, a writer must try to carve out a freedom from the strictures of society, to stand outside the realm where consideration comes before honesty. It’s an important principle, he thinks—but it carries no weight on a human level."

       Evan Hughes on Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard:

     The choice to exercise this freedom means giving up compulsive living - constantly running from (aversion) or running after (craving) ghosts, phantasms & vapors. This choice frees up time & energy to cultivate something of value. See:

Richard Kelley, National Geographic

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Flashes of the Unconditioned

     James Woods wrote a very long, but very interesting review of Knausgaard's book "My Struggle" - - here's part of it:

      "And suddenly he is in tears, arrested by 'an oil sketch of a cloud formation from September 6th, 1822,' and unable to explain his reaction. What is he feeling? 'The feeling of inexhaustibility. The feeling of beauty. The feeling of presence.' He has always been unsettled by paintings, but has never found it easy to describe his experience of them — 'because what they possessed, the core of their being, was inexhaustibility and what that wrought in me was a kind of desire. I can’t explain it any better than that. A desire to be inside the inexhaustibility.' The moment he looks back at the Constable sketch, 'all my reasoning vanished in the surge of energy and beauty that arose in me. Yes, yes, yes, I heard. That’s where it is. That’s where I have to go. But what was it I had said yes to? Where was it I had to go?'"

Kevin H, National Geographic

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Shining Character

     "Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, was once asked, 'Why do we do meditation?'
     He answered, 'To polish our character.'
     To polish something is to make it shine. Polishing our character is not that different from polishing anything - a wood carving, a silver candlestick, a glass lens, an inlaid tabletop, a model clipper ship. Why do we want anything to shine? Why do we want ourselves to shine? For the joy of it, I think. I can't think of a better reason.
     Why do such things give us joy as human beings? Why are we made the way we are? I cannot answer such questions. Spiritual practice is not about why, it is all about how."

       Lewis Richmond: Work as a Spiritual Practice. A Practical Buddhist Approach to Inner Growth and Satisfaction on the Job. Broadway Books, NY, 1999.

Бирюков Юрий, National Geographic

Friday, August 22, 2014

Concentration, Loving-kindness and Peace

     It's fascinating how as we "act out" progressively less, we see more & more clearly how fear & anxiety used to (& still do at times) fuel our unskillful behaviors. Acting out (behaving inappropriately) seems to be a dysfunctional attempt at escaping from our own fear & anxiety. 
     Another common dysfunctional, pre-action escape route, is avoiding present reality via the mind. We play games with the past or future to disengage from the present, particularly from the physical discomfort of the complex, poorly controllable present situation. Only in our dreams is reality simple & controllable - so we spend a lot of time daydreaming.
     Yet it's complete, open mind-hearted engagement with our own depth and whatever's at hand in the present moment that constitutes being fully alive. Intentionally we notice & let go of all the obstacles to this state of vital presence. Dipa Ma said, "In my mind there are three things: concentration, loving-kindness, and peace." Everything else is dead weight.
Jet, surveying her domain

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Koan of Everyday Life

     "Human life itself, the mystery of being thrust into the world by birth and swept out of it by death, is an imponderable puzzle, one that we can try to ignore but cannot escape. So much of what passes for 'ordinary' life is, when seen through different eyes, not ordinary at all, but full of potential for spiritual learning. To practice the koan of everyday life means to confront every situation as though it were a profound spiritual question."
       Lewis Richmond: Work as a Spiritual Practice. A Practical Buddhist Approach to Inner Growth and Satisfaction on the Job. Broadway Books, NY, 1999.

     Also see:

rok urankar

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Observer Self

     There are degrees of letting go of being self-centered, thus seeing what is happening within & around oneself from an objective, detached, "observer self" perspective. As we transcend the ego (frightened child), we start inhabiting, being stillness, silence, timelessness, vastness.

Eagle Lake morning, June 2014

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Displacing Rather Than Suppressing

     It's very easy to be less than skillful, even for long-time meditation practitioners. Instead of observing with curiosity whatever arises, it's very easy to automatically judge & banish whatever we don't like, compulsively grab whatever we want, and thus miss much of the rest of life
     The "hardware" for this approach-avoidance dichotomy resides in every human brainstem. A lifetime of continuous mindfulness training allows us to override autopilot, and thus live increasingly more wisely.
      “When I find myself full of fear or desire, I remember that I am dealing with a brain and nervous system that has been hard-wired for millions of years for these emotions. Then I apply one of my favorite mantras, ‘I’m perfectly human.’ When I sit in meditation as a human being rather than as an individual, I feel I am part of a collective effort on the part of our species to right itself, to find a new sanity. As Robert Thurman says of meditation, ‘It’s evolutionary sport.’ In the light of that big perspective, I thank you for being on my team.”      Wes Nisker

Pippo of Villa Zuccari, Umbria, Italy

Monday, August 18, 2014

Transcending Simplistic Concepts AND Suffering

     "What's asked of us is a kind of integrity, not an idealism. When you're a child, at first you see your parents as all good or all bad, depending on how they are that day. And later on you can hold that they are complex, that they have all of those parts.
     And maybe spiritual practice, to put it in another language, is about seeing life with irony, and metaphor, and complexity. And it confuses our mind to see that there's something good and something painful, all mixed together;  that birth and death come together; that the world isn't just black and white; nor that there's a perfect teacher with everything else being no good. But that there's metaphor, and irony, and complexity, and humor, and tragedy - tragedy in the Greek sense: that no matter what we do sometimes, we will suffer, and birth & death. All these are confusing to the mind. And if you try to figure it out and try to create perfection, you can't.
     But what they can lead you to, and what looking at your relationship to teacher or spiritual practice can lead to is a development of the heart; is a greatness of forgiveness; and wisdom; and a capacity of the heart to come to rest, even though things aren't black & white, because they're not black & white; an ability to be at peace; and to love, and to appreciate & feel gratitude, even for things that are mixed - which is everything. ...
     And sometimes through the disillusionments, and the pains and the difficulties, we come not with our minds - our minds can't do it - with our hearts to see the irony, the complexity, the many levels, the metaphor of it, the incredible dance of our life - and something else shines. It's like Anne Frank's diaries, even in the midst of all of that suffering, she saw that there was some other reality. There is another reality, that's in us. There's a sacredness, a dignity that we can find. And sometimes it's not until we're deeply disappointed for a while that we reclaim that in ourselves."

       Jack Kornfield "Transmission - Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers - In-depth reflections and teachings on the student-teacher relationship." 

Halifax homes

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Foundation for Meditation Practices

     "Just as an artist cannot paint in empty air, so it is futile to begin vipassana practice without a basis in morality and understanding of the law of kamma. Without these two things, there will be no surface, as it were, to receive concentration and wisdom. In some meditation centers, morality and kamma are ignored. Not much can result from meditation under these circumstances."

       Sayadaw U Pandita. "In This Very Life. The Liberation Teachings of the Buddha." Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA, 1992.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Actualizing Perfect Freedom

     "In the famous book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Richard Baker Roshi describes his teacher Suzuki Roshi, a Zen master, as: 
     'a person who has actualized that perfect freedom that is the potential for all human beings. The flow of his consciousness is not the fixed repetitive pattern of our usual self-centered consciousness, but rather arises spontaneously & naturally from the circumstances of the present. The results of this, in terms of the quality of life, are extraordinary: buoyancy, vigor, straight-forwardness, simplicity, humility, serenity, joyousness, uncanny perspicacity, and unfathomable compassion. His whole being testifies to what it means to live in the reality of the present. Without anything said or done, just the impact of meeting a person so developed, is enough change another's whole way of life.'

     At their best, our teachers become mirrors to us. ... To be in the presence of a wise teacher reminds us that we're not the limited beings that we take ourselves to be."

       Jack Kornfield "Transmission - Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers - In-depth reflections and teachings on the student-teacher relationship." 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Extraordinary Teacher

     "... an extraordinary teacher can teach not just the content of experience, but can point us back to our own knowing.   ...   The transmission from a spiritual teacher points us to the mystery of incarnation, to awaken from the small sense of self, to shift our identity from what is called 'the body of fear', the limited sense of ideas & thoughts we have about ourself, and to remember that we can manifest as wisdom, spaciousness, understanding, compassion, that we each have our own Buddha-nature, and that we can embody this in this life, and in this world." 

       Jack Kornfield "Transmission - Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers - In-depth reflections and teachings on the student-teacher relationship." 


Thursday, August 14, 2014

What Can Be Taught? What Can Be Learned?

     "The transmission of spiritual teachings is the transmission of the possibility of love, of freedom, of awakening, of living in a joyful & liberated heart."

       Jack Kornfield "Transmission - Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers - In-depth reflections and teachings on the student-teacher relationship." 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Free Will and Buddhism

     Many of us start to wonder about free will, especially on hearing about the suicides of fine people like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
     But the central message of the Buddha's teaching is that there is an end to suffering, and that the power to end suffering is in our own hands, in this lifetime (not by suicide).
     We ourselves can, with intelligence, kindness, energy & perseverance, create the causes & conditions, to progressively improve our quality of life, right here, right now. We are BOTH the carrot AND the nurturing gardener; BOTH the grandchild AND the wise, loving grandparent.

       Sayadaw U Pandita. "In This Very Life. The Liberation Teachings of the Buddha." Wisdom Publications, Boston, MA, 1992.

Sunrise at Vic's Point

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


     In his superb Sounds True CD set "Transmission - Receiving the Living Wisdom of Spiritual Teachers - In-depth reflections and teachings on the student-teacher relationship." Jack Kornfield uses the phrase "unshakable freedom of heart."          


Photo: P. Michael Lovas