Thursday, 30 January 2014

Kyôsaku Kyôsaku

Two days ago I found this teaching in my Twitter feed:

"Treat non-useful thoughts like undesirable smells: don't dwell on them, don't identify with them, don't get attached to them, don't get lost in them - simply let them float away."

It's Zen at its trenchant best: laconic, practical, self-evident. A classic and useful taste of humanity's most down-to-earth religion. I immediately stored the passage for a later Kyôsaku and went about determining credit. (It was attributed only to "tad".)

After some digging, I discovered that "tad" is not a guy, it's a business. Specifically, it's something called The T.A.D. Principle, which is apparently a book, though the advert is coy on this point. It's even coyer about a later product, the 21-day meditationSHIFT Programme, which costs $29 and promises to revolutionise your life, though it too is evidently 15th century technology. (I could be wrong; neither of these "works" is described as a book. They aren't described as anything.)

About here you'd expect me to go off on a rant about New Age self-help hucksters. And I'd like to. But the thing is, I've spent some time perusing T.A.D.'s promotional copy, and found not a word I could dispute. It's all straight-up conventional Zen. Great stuff, in fact. No doubt the testimonials ("Thank you for teaching me how to meditate, and how to get control of my runaway mind! [emphasis original]") are sincere and authentic.

And while that $29 price tag (fair price for a book of this kind, if it is a book) is technically selling Zen – and that's immoral – your local Zen master might put the bite on you for much more. Folks have paid thousands; even tens of thousands. And frankly, if you've reached the place where you can't breathe – from grief, depression, or other forms of world-weariness – a handful of coppers spent on the right book could save your life.

So I guess my only serious objection is the implied claim that the unnamed author or authors invented this stuff. Which he, she, or they did not. If the marketing snippets are representative, this is plain old brilliantly effective Zen. To be sure, the word "Zen" appears nowhere on the site, but so long as the author or authors don't assert some bogus copyright, the karmic implications seem moderate.

On the other hand, my patented Crusty Old Hermit Programme is cheaper and quicker than other leading brands. If you click before midnight tonight, you can take advantage of our Special Introductory Offer: to wit, nothing less than the FULL TEXT of our Dynamic Life-Coachment S.E.L.F.-Training Modality:

"Get over yourself."

Free to you, because you look like a nice person. But I wouldn't say no to a cup of tea.

(Portrait of original crusty old hermit Bodhidharma courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

WW: The Painted Ship Classic

(Another exciting Puget Sound regatta. Don't leave yet; when the tide swings they actually sail backward!)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Death's Roadies

Turkey Vulture ( Cathartes Aura ) - Flickr - Andrea Westmoreland

Jim mowed the lower pasture, and when he had gone a trio of turkey vultures circled down on wide, translucent wings to snap up snakes. In silhouette they might have been teratorns, all fullback shoulders, sunburned heads, and dangling yellow talons – yet without, I gratefully noted, the sixteen-foot wingspan. Plenty big all the same, taking flight only reluctantly at my approach, circling and grouching over my head at snatching altitude, as if by genetic memory.

Sinister bastards. Not Death's doormen. More like its roadies.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of Cathartes aura courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Andrea Westmoreland.)

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

WW: Jade plant in flower

(Apparently they do this.)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Robe Chant


On this holy path
I travel, like the monkey
I am. Crap in hand.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of Mandrillus sphinx courtesy of Malene Thyssen and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

WW: Vole in the headlands

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Heart of Karma

Three things you must always say when they are true, and must never say when they are not true:

I'm sorry.
I love you.
You can count on me.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

WW: Winter sun

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Kanzeon Meditation

Fictional bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin, Guanyin, Kanzeon, Kannon, Gwan-eum, Quan Âm) incarnates a specific insight about the nature of reality, chopped down to a simplistic platitude in the marketplace. The platitude is "Bodhisattva of Compassion", a role most evident in one of his many avatars: the Virgin Mary. (This primordial figure has both genders, befitting the quality she represents. Unfortunately this is more insight than the average monkey can chamber, so in India he's usually called a man; Western Buddhism, with its Christian influence and largely female direction, almost always cleaves to the East Asian tradition that she's a woman.)

But the original Sanskrit – "Lord Who Looks Down" – is a better description of what this bodhisattva actually does. Avalokiteshvara doesn't intervene on anybody's behalf; she's not a patron saint (actual existence being a prerequisite for that job) or goddess. He just, like, looks down. Why? Because she's a compassionate dude.

The more active face of this universe is something sailors readily perceive, because they have an ongoing relationship with another infinite, unfathomable entity that will happily kill you without a second thought. No, not happily. Indifferently. To have contempt for you, it would have to realise you exist. And it's 'way too busy for that.

But the universe has another nature that's just as important: opportunity. In this infinitely generous life, we can grow, learn, change. Practice. An endless stream of bricks bounces off our skull, but every one of them has a note wrapped around it. Kuan Yin looks down from heaven, sees your suffering, and says, "Come on, crow meat! You're hurting both of us, here. Practice, dammit!"

Because the universe wants you to succeed. It may not be snuggly and cute and sweet-smelling, but every problem here is its own cure. And if it weren't for the pain, we'd never be motivated to reach it.

As one of Fudo's crew, I don't meditate much on Avalokiteshvara. But the new year puts me in mind of her. In this moment, more than others, folks think about the paths they arrived on, and those that lie ahead. Along the way we acquire great weights of resentment, and an equally crushing load of denial. We ignore life's windfalls, and our own role in pumping pain into it. But mostly, we deny the simple opportunity it gives us.

This ain't hell. We can get out of this.

Some time ago the following meditations invented themselves while I was sitting. I return to them from time to time, when the burden grows great. Therefore, in steely Fudoesque anticipation of 2014, I offer them to all seekers, in the hopes they may be of help to other enlightenment practices.


I forgive myself for not being perfect.
I forgive others for not being perfect as well.
I forgive my judges for not knowing the whole truth.
I forgive humanity for containing evil people.


I honour the progress I've made.
I honour the roads of others as well.
I honour those who evolve with courage.
I honour this life for the opportunity to practice.

(Photo of Guanyin Bodhisattva statue courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation's Southeast Asian Art Collection, and the Walters Art Museum.)