Thursday, 30 October 2014

Not-So-Fast Kyôsaku

Celadon Seated Arhat with Underglaze White Slip

"Arhats, who have reached their last birth and think they are done with it all, are unable to raise their thoughts to supreme enlightenment."

-- Paraphrased from The Prajna Paramita Sutra on the Buddha-Mother's Producing the Three Dharma Treasures, or The Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 Lines, Chapter 2, Preamble.

(Photo of celadon arhat figurine courtesy of the Korean Copyright Commission and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

WW: Strange bedfellows

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Dharma Combat

Chùa Hoa Yên Hermits are sometimes accused of cowering in the woods, hiding from reality. Cloistered monks too, of huddling behind their walls. These are the delusions of a snotnosed civilian; both are battlefields, every minute of every day, and no foxhole for atheists.

Thus I've discovered what all forest monks know: that most of what we call "getting over" grief and hurt is just distraction. On the mountain it all comes back: the jagged jobs, the ruined relationships, the opportunities missed and messed. Harm I did others, harm they did me. And all the times I've been left for dead.

Old wounds reopen, raw as recoil. And there is no morphine: no television, no radio, no music or books. You have to sit with it.

Sit with it, stand with it, sing with it, sleep with it.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of Chùa Hoa Yên in Quảng Ninh, Việt Nam, courtesy of Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

WW: Pacific staghorn sculpin

(Leptocottus armatus [I think].)

Thursday, 16 October 2014


Everyone has a room to air.
Everyone has a soul to bare.
Everyone has a horn to blare.
Everyone has a cause to care.
Everyone has a task to chair.
Everyone has a doubt to dare.
Everyone has a bent to err.
Everyone has a hull to fair.
Everyone has a flame to flare.
Everyone has a growl to glare.
Everyone has a hound to hare.
Everyone has a glove to pair.
Everyone has a call to prayer.
Everyone has a chance too rare.
Everyone has a crow to scare.
Everyone has a song to share.
Everyone has a snipe to snare.
Everyone has a coin to spare.
Everyone has a debt to square.
Everyone has a scowl to stare.
Everyone has an oath to swear.
Everyone has a page to tear.
Everyone has a road to there.
Everyone has a robe to wear.

Komuso Buddhist monk beggar Kita-kamakura

(Photo of Fuke Zen monk courtesy of Urashima Taro and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

WW: Mysterious sand castle

(Every October this team of wheelbarrow-pushing men appears on the beach in front of my house and proceeds to spend the entire day building an immense, elaborate sand castle. They mould the bastions with buckets, garbage cans, and pre-made plywood forms, and surround them with a deep, precisely-engineered moat. Then they abandon their work to the waves, which are usually at the gate by this time. Six hours later, the whole project is nothing but a shapeless puddle with a few islands in the middle.

I have no idea who these men are, where they come from, or why they observe their annual rite at this cold and blustery time of year, but I choose to see their art as a comment on defence spending.)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Happy Las Casas Day!

This week I'm seconding a motion by The Oatmeal's Matthew Inman to see Columbus Day repurposed as Bartolomé de las Casas Day. Las Casas, originally a conquistador, repented of his horrific sins, became a Dominican friar, and evangelised Mesoamerican First Nations during the period of contact. Unfortunately for Power, he turned out to be a Christian Claude Anshin Thomas, decrying the mind-numbing brutality and utter lack of respect for human life that characterised the European invasion of the Americas. Worse yet he documented them, first in Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias (also available in English) and then the more comprehensive Historia de Las Indias.

In the sordid history of colonialism, Las Casas stands out as one of the few Christians who practiced what he preached. (Literally.) He's a favourite of mine because he experienced (and again, documented) personal spiritual growth over his lifetime; convictions he adopted early on – such as supporting the African slave trade by way of avoiding the enslavement of his own flock – he soundly and publicly rejected after further meditation. I've found that this capacity to delve and change, even if it means admitting transgression, is the highest morality, and those who practice it are the most trustworthy of people.

Rather than repeat Matthew's case here, I'll just link to his own excellent and highly readable proposition. As a history nerd I can tell you that his characterisations of Christopher Columbus, the other conquistadores, and the good friar himself are historically accurate, as is his description of how Columbus Day became a thing in the United States and many Latin American countries. (Thanksgiving immunised us against it in Canada; one of the things I give thanks for on this day.)

Therefore, in emulation of Seattle and Minneapolis (though I don't much care for "Indigenous Peoples Day"; Las Casas Day is short, inclusive, and to the point), I encourage all jurisdictions to convert this holiday into a tribute to the courage and conviction of a man who stood against the tide and practiced his true religion in the face of overwhelming opposition.

May we follow in his footsteps.

(Photo of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, by Felix Parra, courtesy of Alejandro Linares Garcia and the Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City.)

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

WW: Rowan berries

(Sorbus americana; technically called "sorbs".)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Autumn Haiku

the troops of autumn
touch down in a blitzkrieg of
small helicopters

(No maple seeds where you live? Make your own.)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

WW: Swainson's thrush

(Catharus ustulatus)