Thursday, 18 August 2022

Street Level Zen: Alienation

Sea-mail. Youve got mail! (6980032762)

"How badly people want to talk to someone. They cannot make anyone hear them unless they scream, but they seldom really scream. Instead, they put letters in bottles and throw them into the sea of strangers, and the letters always seem to say, 'Save me, save me'.

Peter S. Beagle

(Photo courtesy of Šarūnas Burdulis and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 17 August 2022

WW: New t-shirt

(Each summer I gift myself a new t-shirt. This is last year's; I forgot to upload a photo of it then.)

Appearing also on My Corner of the World.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

The Gospel Koan

Luke 13.29-35 and 14.10 (CBL BP I, f.15r)
"One of the monks, called Serapion, sold his book of the Gospels and gave the money to those who were hungry, saying:

'I have sold the book which told me to sell all I had and give to the poor.'"

From the Tales of the Desert Fathers, recounted by Fr. Thomas Merton OCSO in The Wisdom of the Desert.

(Photo of a page from a 4th century book of the Gospels, handwritten in Coptic on papyrus – perhaps the very book Abba Serapion sold that day – courtesy of the Chester Beatty Library, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, and Wikimedia Commons.)

Thursday, 4 August 2022

What the Buddha's Master Taught Him

Ānāpānasmṛtizazen, more or less – was the practice the Buddha's own instructor taught. It's a fairly mutinous, fundamentalist take on the subject, for a time and place where meditation had, as Christian Meditation master Laurence Freeman would later warn, become freighted with liturgy and expectations.

To this day, similar straightforward, unmuddled models are typical of contemplative schools across religions. For the Great Sangha, the primordial source of instruction is the Ānāpānasmṛti Sutra, according to which the entire form amounts to following the breath and addressing bodily drives, with an eye to drawing them down to a functional minimum.

This is still canon Zen, with allowance made for minor variation among schools and individuals.

Of course, this being Buddhism, we also immediately undertake to audit proper application of this too easily-memorised method against a multi-level numbered diagnostic, to wit, the Seven Factors of Enlightenment.

Your performance steps include:

• Smṛti, or mindfulness, leading to consciousness of objective reality, and – in direct contradiction to current Zen teaching – contemplation of dharma teachings.

• Dharmapravicaya, or analysis, employment of which leads to insight.

• Vīrya, or disciplined perseverance (note the relationship of this Sanskrit word to "virility"), i.e., consistent repetition of sitting.

• Prīt, joyful transport, which happens if you're doing it dutifully. (And more importantly, doesn't if you're not.)

• Prashrabdhi, peaceful abiding, though that's the opposite of caring about literally any of this. Leading to:

• Samādhi, an abiding state of mindful awareness.

And finally:

• Upekshā, detachment. You no longer invest in winning or losing, unseduced by the myriad delusions of separate existence, material progress, or personal esteem. Also described as "the death of ego".

It's possible I was a bit irreverent up there, but in fairness to myself, there's just something absurd about "don't-knowing" in seven explicated stages; refusing to admit that out loud amounts to dishonesty. Still, as a rough guide, the Seven Employee Improvement Goals are worthwhile; informed contemplation of same can in fact keep your head in the game.

As long as they don't become the game.

And according to the Buddha, the practice of ānāpānasmṛti in this fashion ultimately leads to the Big W: the release from suffering.

Which teaching is exact, per my experience.

For short periods, anyway.

But I'm not done yet.

(Photo courtesy of Mattia Faloretti and>

WW: Siamese friend

Appearing also on My Corner of the World.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

WW: Windfall

(Found this brand-new pair of bike gloves beside the highway today, about 30 yards apart. My size and everything.

Normally, when this happens on a bike trail, I leave the lost article where it is, or hang it up in a prominent place for the owner to find. But you can't leave stuff on the road shoulder; passing cars quickly reduce it to rubbish. And, as is often the case on roadsides, there was no effective place to display these. Finally, when you lose something on a trail, you can retrace it, if you judge the time and effort well-spent. But on the road system, you're turning right and left and things get complicated fast.

And these aren't the most expensive gloves, to say no more. Had I lost them, I'd probably not re-ride a long trek, if I even noticed they were gone.

Sometimes you just have to accept the unearned blessings of futility.

May my involuntary benefactor profit from the karma points accrued.)

Appearing also on My Corner of the World.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Dualism Koan

"At a peace rally in Philadelphia in 1966, a reporter asked me, 'Are you from North or South Vietnam?'

"If I had said I was from the north, he would have thought I was pro-communist, and if I had said I was from the south, he would have thought I was pro-American.

"So I told him, 'I am from the Center.'"

Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching.

(Photo courtesy of Luke van Zyl and