Ahhh, did you catch that…

I can remember Summers as a kid in New York, people sitting outside in the warm Summer nights, us kids running around sometimes stopped in mid-career by the wonder of lightning-bugs=blinking; and sometimes an adult might say to another. “Ahhhhh! Did you catch that little breeze that just came through?”

Enjoying respite or mild change in current condition and not complaining.

And that brought me to this.

Prediction of super-hot-life-threatening weather covering most of the country. 

Various species are dying off and the ecological balance has shifted away from being rectified, ever. Extinction can’t be undone.

We have poured poisons into and onto the Earth in such quantities that the destruction set into motion cannot be undone. Cannot be undone! 

The science is solid and provable, although open to theoretical/religious quibbles. 

Sadly, it’s real hard to find evidence pictorially on mainstream media, not because it doesn’t exist, but because making people uncomfortable is not the way they earn their money. 

We have created the beginning of a new darkness and are being enjoined by the perpetrators (that includes us all at the levels of greed and an insistence on comfort and ease), to just kind of trust them and science to get us out of the mess, we’ve created.

If we took out all the stuff under our kitchen sinks, and out of our garages and workshops, and add all the pesticide and herbicide stored by all the various means and poured them onto the earth next week all at once, within a year America would begin to turn visibly into a vast wasteland. Since we’ve already poured that much, X50, or more in the last 70 years, the processes are happening a tad slower because when we started our chemical warfare, life was still cyclical.

That former cycle has transformed into downward spiral.

All the kids entering Elementary School this year will be adults in an un-sustainable world more like a Hell than what we can all remember of nice Summer evenings.

What prompted the above was a series of FB posts I saw from folks that live in rural communities, stating how grateful they were that those communities poisoned the air and environment around sufficiently (City truck spraying), so that they won’t be bothered by a few mosquito bites while they enjoy a Summer’s eve in comfort. 

Sadly their grandchildren won’t have that same joy, because the delicate balance that we exist within requires and has a “use” for all living things and in twenty years we will have killed off 25% (give or take) of life on the whole Earth because we insisted on being comfortable and efficient. 

 

Cheerfully apprehensive that

Things Will Work Out

Eventually; we stagger about

Delirious from our insistence

That things will work out. As

They say in advice circles,

Good luck with That…

Walla Walla, Red Pine…

Had a great treat yesterday, I went to the Walla Walla Saturday Farmer’s Market to get a few veggies and baked goods and visit with some friends who have a booth set up. 

As I was walking out of the market area, I saw four or five people sitting on the grass and chatting, and one of them looked somehow familiar to me, and I stopped and asked the gentleman if his name was Bill Porter. He said yes. 

Bill Porter is well known in the Buddhist world that I’m familiar with, as a dedicated and talented translator of Buddhist writing from the Chinese. He has also authored a couple of books having to do with his experiences traveling in China and doing research in venerable temples, with Venerable teachers, Buddhist hermits dead and alive; and great masters of Zen and Buddhism in general.

I laughed at myself a bit later because I acted like a starstruck fan, which I was; still a fan though. 

My favorite heroes are those who labor quietly and attempt to shed light on our humanity by living meaningful lives. Red Pine, which is the name Bill Porter translates under, seems to be like that. Then again he may be a terrible person, but I suspect that he is the former. 

What makes him important to many who read him is that he brings an experiential quality to his work. Certainly there is scholarship involved and apparent but he ain’t just supposin’ a lot of stuff that he thinks the author meant. While, also doing just that; because that’s what translation kind of has to be. He seems to come at it from some understanding (actualized), of the practice.

Anyway, it made my day and expect I’ll go visit him at some point. His friends who had to listen to me gush for a few minutes may not have been aware that this guy was a sort of rock star for some old-coot students of the Way in a smallish corner of the large Buddhist Universe, but he is.

The few dozen of you who (perhaps on a good day the number is that large), read this bloggy-babbling, (bobbly-blagging) check him out.

I’ve seen some of his poetry and I suspect he’s the real thing; I can’t judge it because I do Schmoetry, my personalized delusion-natter, so I may know what is not poetry, then again who am I to say.

If you are a student of Buddhism, other cultures and ways of being and are not familiar with him, use The Google.

 

The No Where

Is Here. No Now

Too. Not Two.

Nary a One.

Quatch Kopf!

 

 

Here and now and how…

Interesting couple of weeks for me, I’ve been going into the State Prison a bit more recently because of special events; a Buddha Day, Asian Pacific Islander Celebration Day, and two days ago a visit from a monk associated with International Bodhisattva Sangha, which is sort of Western based but has strong international support, especially from Taiwan, and does a lot of out-reach to Prisons and homeless.

They refer to themselves as practicing “Humanistic Buddhism’ on their website. Sadly, the prisoners were not apprised of the change of timing with regard to this visit and there were just a few that showed up. Although the offerings made to the prisoners is not to be judged by numbers, if at all; I felt bad that more hadn’t shown up because this monk, Venerable Xianzhong-shi, is a very good, clear and direct teacher. I learned a lot from him, especially how to stay clear and on-topic when discussing the Dharma. Perhaps “learned” was not the right word, I saw, again, how one can be an effective teacher if one stick to basics, knows the basics from personal experience and can stay ‘within’ oneself.

I’ve always had a problem staying within myself, but I was encouraged by his example.

Then just a few minutes ago, I was reminded of two little teachings, in that they are partial lines from two differentSoto Zen scriptures (Sutras/chants), that like all ‘little’ teachings, go quite far and change as time goes on.

One of them is    ”and- should you lost become, there will arise obstructing mountains and great rivers…” 

and the other “—May we in the temple of our own hearts dwell—amidst the myriad mountains…”

There’s a lot there to look at,

Quietly, over period of time.

How much time does one have?

Yeah, it comes and goes so

Fast, I really need to be

Here to see it come and go.

 

temporal looper…

For some reason this story has popped out of me about six or seven times in the last few weeks. It has a relevancy to my daily life in Buddhist training and it’s a good story, I’ve got lots of them, some of them a bit truer, than others but all of them true.

Back in the mid-70’s I was standing on the sidewalk in front of a North Beach bar in San Francisco, The Columbus Cafe on Green Street, with three other guys because we wanted to have little more privacy in our conversation. 

I was in my late twenties, two of the guys were in their forties and one in his 60’s. The guy in his sixties was named Johnny Fazano, he had been a boxer in the 1930’s and had about 80 Pro fights, and who knows how many “smokers” he may have boxed in. Smokers, are fights that can take place in a hotel room, a basement, some small arena in the country, or any place with room with no professional sanctioning, usually for a purse that’s determined by how many guys are in the various fights and how much was put up by various backers for an array of cash prizes.

(Dean Martin was boxer in his youth and made money boxing in smokers, before his singing career was being formed, he was the only real tough guy in the “Rat-pack”. I digress. BTW, Mrs. Dean Martin, and that’s what everyone in the bar called her, because she was the 1st wife of Dean Martin drank four cocktails every day at a bar called The Hunter Club on Geary St. which was on the street level of The Hunter Apartment building, and that bar was interesting, to say the least. Still digressing)

Johnny was a feisty, angry, old tough-guy who spent many hours in that bar and played a lot of cards at the back table, often arguing with somebody about something. Interestingly, in that bar, there was another guy named Johnny Fazano, same name, different part of Italy, who was the exact opposite in demeanor and behavior from this one (What are the odds? Two Johhny Fazano’s? Super low, that’s what.).

Anyway, there’s four of us out front, maybe 11:00 a.m., and a woman walks past us heading towards Columbus Ave. and she’s one of those people that you see maybe a dozen times in your life, she was stunningly beautiful, in dress, carriage and looks. My head turned as she walked by and followed her path and my little Yearning/Dream Engine was in high rpm’s. 

Johnny Fazano’s raspy voice (He’d been punched in the throat many times in his boxing career.), came to my ear as he said, “Somewhere, there’s a guy that’s tired of her.” in an observational but not demeaning way.

I thought. Impossible!

Here was a neighborhood guy talking to a no-show-longshoreman who carried a .45, the best thief/pick-pocket/bartender in North Beach, and me; giving us some some insight into several of the basic teachings of the Buddha. 

My lifestyle in those days precluded me living as a Buddhist, but like everybody in North Beach I had read enough noise about Buddhism to be attracted to it, you know intellectually barstool style.

Johhny, at that time was spending some time with a famous San Francisco personality who had made a name for herself in Roller Derby on a national level, he was for sure someone who had been around the block many times, and it was actually a kindness this guy was doing when he made that observation. He was trying to put out some good basic teaching about life and how to look at it in a bigger picture way that maybe, one could actually suffer less by thinking things through on the spot, not afterwards.

He, of course had many ways of increasing his own suffering, and that of others through all the aspects of his anger, but in some ways he obviously had some insight; whether he actually applied those insights to himself is questionable but that was good teaching. Pearls before a swine (by Chinese Zodiac, I am a Pig).

Also, I thought; “What the hell would you know about it, old man?”

Now that I’m older than Johnny was then it’s fair for me to ask myself if I’ve learned anything, from all the good teaching I’ve had on the streets and in the Sangha. I think I have but I also still harbor a lot of a younger me.

I still have unrequited yearnings, but I see the pattern and have a place for them. I still think, “what the hell do you know about it?” way too often and I still wish there were some elegant way out of, “standin’ on the street, shootin’ the breeze an’ wishing I were, elsewhere”. Mentally, you know.

My ideas about this and

That are based on them

And those and why and 

When ’n how and should

Gonna wish, I would and

Could, and then, I can see;

Oh, yeah. A dream about

Forgetting. Now, I remember!

It is never to late, or too soon.

4th of July…

243 years have gone by since a small group of people in a corner of a large empire declared themselves free from domination by a distant elite and government.

This 4th of July celebration is being co-opted as a personal celebration of a small-minded third-rate hustler from New York. How we got to this point is all in the history books, from which we can extract a version of history that is compatible with one’s general outlook, education, intelligence, aptitudes, abilities, proclivities and interests. All those are the variations on the basic premise of people doing their best (by God), to live with a set of principles that are skewed towards fairness, equality, tolerance and compassion.

A celebration of a liar, cheat and thief, I know the type very well as I have been all three myself, I also know that it need not be a permanent condition.  However, it does require a degree of self-awareness and contrition to change it.

A “Celebration” that he has aimed at himself, all the while co-opting the heart and all that is best of the great American experiment and ongoing improvement exercise that is the U.S.

AND is also those who have given their lives, through death, commitment and career; so that this Commander-in-Chief, as he likes to style himself, can act like a Dictator. A small-time one, at that.

A time of mourning for a dying dream is what this July 4th 2019 signifies to me. A celebration of corruption and ignorance that ushers in the end of the Great Experiment.

I have tried hard to keep this type of opinionation to myself, so I’m ambivalent as to its usefulness or necessity and can offer no cure to the problem which this 4th of July is emblematic of. We have the elections, but the powerful forces that set things up for the on-going bufoonery keep us content by catering to our shallower greeds and delusions. Such is life. It always changes into opportunity if I can continue to look up, rather than down.

Ultimately the True refuge

Lies within, and Its true Nature

Does not calibrate the Things

Of the world by our Standards.

Thankfully, that is the Way.

karma, def…

I was having a conversation with someone this past weekend and was surprised again at the truth of the old saying. “When you presume, you make a ‘pre’ out of ‘su’ and ‘me’…or something like that.
Anyway, I had assumed (Oh, that’s it!), that this person understood some basic aspects of Buddhism, like karma. My presumption was based on the fact that they had studied at a Buddhisty school in Colorado. Apparently basic Buddhism was not part of requirement to attend (1st presumption), so they hadn’t a clue as to what Karma was; the general misunderstanding that’s current in the West, is thinking that it is a sort of fate or destiny.
I tried explaining (probably ‘mansplainin’), that the word Karma has a sense of “action” or volition to it, and that all Karma produces an effect or consequence. In other words, everything we do, say, or even think intentionally, has a consequence somewhere.
And, that all karma is reaped through feeling alone.
So, in that sense it is an actually useful/helpful way for us to learn how to behave with fewer consequences, through reduction of unhelpful actions on our part.
It’s really quite simple. Except for the fact that this simple teaching has to be learned and apprehended by us humans (we who come pre-packaged and pre-disposed to act on feelings), often with only a small dose of reasoning as input. Lots of rationalizing though.
As I was driving through the Blue Mountain early Sunday morning, I was thinking about that presumption of mine and some of the aspects of karma, and the teachings that it flows from.
We are born un-sinful, mostly pure; but, contain some karma that has been left over from some previous time. Good karma and bad karma are usually bundled in some fashion into every birth, so we have tendencies and proclivities from day one. After age 5-7, we become further formed by school, environment, family, culture and society so that we start adding more karma to the mix we came with and this process continues. At death a remix occurs to be distributed onward to other beings. From a Buddhist point of view, a life that is lived more harmoniously, equanimously, and easily with other beings and the world, leaves less karma that will need future help ‘downstream’.
Most of us are just slightly aware of this and live life at the expense of others and the world. So, we grow older and crabbier, and more confused, sometimes ungraciously; because we haven’t been able to see past our own noses. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just an unexamined thing. Human.
So, we may die in distress and wish it were otherwise, or had been otherwise, etc:
To get back to the Blue Mountains.
7:00-ish is beautiful and all was at peace. The reality is that all of that beauty may be converted to ash by the time the rainy season starts. Now that’s always been the reality. but now we can sense the higher probability of that happening. We accept the fact that we are personally dying and life gets more difficult as we age, that has its own difficulty.
But, how do young healthy people accept the fact that they will die young and uncomfortably, because of the carelessness of those that came before them? It wasn’t done on purpose, it was just a build-up of un-examined actions and un-intended consequences and the delusions that motivate most of us. All build-ups are composed of small, seemingly insignificant things being added to the pile of whatever
We are dealing in widespread consequence of greed and selfishness, and most of that was wrapped up in good intentions. It’s the stuff of Shakespear, but we’re all in this particular tragedy set in motion by the various greeds.
In the meantime, we all still have the same options before us, how can we actually help the situation. Like someone said. It ain’t over ’til its over.

 

and, it is never too late to
accept and let down the
fence around the heart
how can any one help
any one can start now
i want to start here,
now flows thru it

Prisoners of our minds…

I went to the Washington State Prison yesterday for one of two annual events that a local meditation group set into motion some years ago, along with bi-weekly meditation sort of get-togethers for five different groups of prisoners. The two annual events are called Buddha Day and sort of celebrate Buddhism and its Founder (Year 2563, in Buddha Calendar),  with the prisoners. There is a larger Celebration in May and a smaller one for another “side” of the Prison, which was yesterday.

There were 15 prisoners, four guards and their Sgt., as well as one of the Prison Asst. Chaplains present, as well as the main volunteer of the local group and myself. Lunch was served, chicken with all the trimmings , as well as with two vegetarian options and chocolate ice cream for dessert. Really good food and lots of it, and not the usual fare the prisoners ordinarily get, but sort of a gourmet offering because the volunteer paid for it and the kitchen went off-menu a tad.

We had two shortish talks on Buddhism and a longer discussion/question period. It went well and we had great participation, good comments and questions. The Prison staff were great in their helpfulness and the Chaplain was very respectful and took  pictures of all attending, individually with the “presenters”, so attendees could share with families, etc: Nice touch!

My part was a role as a teacher in the sense that many very basic Buddhist teachings are rarely given in those settings, simply because of attendance variability along with interest variability. Those two factors are very much contingent, and central, aspects of general prison culture, in that groups of “associates” are always open to an opportunity to get together in a variety of settings that may not actually be of interest to most of them.

There are various efforts being made so that the groups get smaller because then they will be more focused on actual religious practice and teaching rather than social time amongst people with other agendas. It will be interesting to see how this little experiment works out. As in all group endeavors there are differences of opinion about all of it, every which way.

Personally I’m struck by the fact of the rigors of prison life and with the variety of social and mental conditions, how many of the basic Buddhist teachings are readily apparent as being of practical use to the inmates. I tried both days to stress that Buddhism is mostly an experiential process, because one has to engage on many levels with changing how one relates to oneself and how one does things; how one relates to others and how one does that; how one relates to the things (objects as well as situations), in one’s life and how one does that.

And, we begin that willingness to change by looking at how we currently do all that; and that meditation is one way to get different perspective on ourselves, through ourselves. The next part is often, what do we, practically do, to effect afore-referenced change of view?   And for that, the Buddha and his followers have passed down the Eightfold Noble Path and all the Precepts that are practical and actionable guides to actual conduct, behaviors and deportment.

I can remember that “Deportment” was on the back of my Elementary School Report Cards as a category of gradation within “Behaviour”. I always did very poorly in all those along with scholastic achievement. I was well rounded throughout my turbulent school career. In English too. Huh?

Anyway, It was wonderful to deepen some acquaintances and friendships and start others, while simultaneously challenging my own training and practice by doing my best to adhere to what the Buddha taught in all of this endeavor and, to be willing to be wrong and perhaps learn more. I’m sure I’ll revisit this. Future time.