Thursday, 28 April 2016

Monkey vs. Fish

In Humania, surrounded by constant demands on your attention, you can believe your mood is imposed from outside.

This is a dangerous error.

On the mountain, far from the jigging distractions of the monkey house, it's clear that your skull is a roiling fishbowl.

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo of monkeys watching a very large fish bowl courtesy of Daniela Baeza and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

WW: Kitty kryptonite

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Koan of Tradition

Nepal - In the Morning Light, Kapilavastu (9239973510)

An aspect of Meditation in the Wild (Rusty Ring review here) that I greatly appreciated was author Charles S. Fisher's relentless pursuit of verifiable history in our practice models. This, as he points out, is hard to come by, given the piecemeal nature of early Buddhist documentation. Nevertheless, Fisher found many thought-provoking differences between current teaching and historical fact; I listed several in my review.

But I left out the most compelling, for more thorough consideration later:

The Shakyas, Fisher says, had no king.

Let that settle in for a minute. This is the approximate Buddhist equivalent of saying that Christ wasn't poor. It throws shade on a central element of our world view, and poses some provocative questions.

And as it turns out, my brother Charles was precise: not only were Gautama's people – a northern nation called the Shakyas – democratic, they weren't even Brahmins. In other words, the entire Buddhic origin story is false; Gautama was not in fact a prince. Nor was he a member of the immutable, unattainable Indian overclass. He was probably a Kshatriya, that is, an ordinary citizen, albeit at the top of the common heap.

The Sākyans evidently had no king. Theirs was a republican form of government, probably with a leader, elected from time to time. The administration and judicial affairs of the gotta [clan] were discussed in their Santhāgāra…
(Note that final word, which clearly shares etymology with "sangha".)

I suggest that this inconvenient truth is in fact a gift, and that employing authentic Zen don't-know-mind will smelt it into usable gold. Therefore, may I respectfully suggest we question ourselves on this matter – without, as is our practice, answering – in the following vein:

  • How does our renewed knowledge of the Buddha's true origins change our understanding of his perspectives and motivations?

  • Why did we change the story?

  • What does it mean that we changed the story?

  • How does the factual version challenge us?

  • Scare us?

  • Uplift us?

  • How about the mythical version?

  • Are we required to correct this misconception?

  • In what ways might the "enhanced" story endanger authentic practice?

  • Can facts endanger authentic practice?

  • Can both versions coexist in our practice?

  • If so, how?

  • If not, what are we called to do, as individual Zenners?

  • Is this a problem?

And so on.

Peace and progress to the nation of seekers.

(Photo of morning in Kapilavastu, Nepali city of the Buddha's birth, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

WW: Concentration

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Half A School

"Diyo" oil lamp “I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education.

"My request is:

"Help your children become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.”

(From a letter written to teachers by a Holocaust survivor. Teacher and Child, Haim Ginott.)

(Photo courtesy of Sam Shrestha and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

WW: Winter kill

(Deer bones found on the forest floor.)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Competitive Meditation

Finally! A competitive sport I can letter in. If any corporate types are reading this, I'm looking for sponsors. I'll sew your logo to my robe.

(By the way, the reason the Bangladeshis always win these tournaments is because they bring 110 percent to their game. And as any Zen coach will tell you, that's a lot of nothing.)

I hear the WWF is looking for a merger. (That's the wrestling organisation, not the wildlife fund.)

This Saturday, at Zenola Gardens! Extreme Zazen! BE THERE!!!

(Get it?)

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

WW: Cat-petting meditation

(Just like the Buddha used to do.)
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