Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Hey dudes. I just got back from Detroit Rock City where I spent the weekend at the Still Point Zen Center. A lovely time was had by all (my journalism teacher said never to use that phrase). It's a great place. They do way too many damn prostrations, though. Still, they got a good thing going out there in Detroit. It's Korean style Zen, which I've never done before.

Gotta go make an Ultraman promo now. See ya!

Carl & Zen

I came upon this interview the other day, and thought ya'll might be interested. It's an interview with Jungian analyst, James Hollis. I saw a brief TV interview with Hollis and was intrigued, and when I Googled him I found this article from Enlightenment Magazine (which I never read). In any case, he does talk about zen, and ego-consciousness. Interesting!


ditch the buckwheat?

And just when I'm in the market for my very own cushion I read a comment that says stay away from buckwheat. I've been sitting on rolled up pillows and whatnot and was going to buy something better, but thought I'd ask advice before plunking down the money. What SHOULD I be looking for? Round? Square? 8 inches tall? 12?

For some perspective, I'm in my 40s, fairly fit, with short legs and I'm relatively flexible, with one caveat - a bad knee. I bunged it up four years ago (running windsprints of all things) and it pretty much aches all the time. I can sit in half-Lotus, quarter Lotus, whatever you call it when one leg is on the floor and the other's on top of the other leg or calf. When I first sit down, the pain in the knee is pretty bad, but it gets less over time, or goes numb more likely. Right now, though, I absolutely cannot walk when I get up from sitting, usually a half hour or so. I read accounts of people "jumping up" after sitting to run talk to their teacher or whatever and it just floors me that anyone could even contemplate any motion at all other than a long agonizing stretch before hobbling along.

All that said, is there something I should be looking for in a zafu to help make my sitting more comfortable?

Monday, February 27, 2006

What Is This?

"It's only a trap if you don't know what a trap looks like." I've read that in a few comment postings over the last week or so, and it's a wonderfully zen-deadpan turn of phrase...

But what does a trap look like? Does it look like a zen alarm clock, or like happiness, or like Enlightenment; does it look like permenance? After all, how else is a trap baited but with something appealing, something desired? If I wanted to catch my dog I'd set the trap with peanut butter; if I wanted to catch my little brother I'd set the trap with Salma Hayek; if I wanted to catch myself I'd set the trap with my own eternal soul. It's a comforting idea, the soul, the atman, that spiritual intelligence.
What would that trap look like? Would I know it when the box dropped over me?

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Have any of you heard of this? Thoughts?


Also, here's a pic of my retooled altar. What do y'all think?

Comment moderation

Well, the open blog experiment was interesting, but things are starting to get a little out of control. We just got a white power racist spam posted as a comment (it's been deleted, don't bother looking). Don't those people have anything better to do with their time?

So I'm closing things up a little. I've turned on comment moderation. Members' comments get approved automatically. Non-members' comments will be e-mailed to me for approval before they get posted to the blog. I thought this would require some trickiness on my part, but it turned out that's the way Blogger works by default, so it was easy as pie.

I'll try to look through and approve the non-member comments daily, but I make no guarantees. I reserve the right to go on a month-long vacation without notifying anyone, during which time no comments would be allowed at all except for members.

Friday, February 24, 2006

No talking for ten days! shush!

I'm thinking about going here next month http://www.pakasa.dhamma.org/
Is anyone familiar with this type of "zen camp" thingamajig? any thoughts or shared experiences would be appreciated.
I don't meditate too often ( I can't seem to fit it in to my daily schedule as often as I would like to) and I thought that going to the camp might be a good way to jump start that.


Is there a Buddhist perspective on this? Me and my lady friend are sort of doing it. Well, more she is, I'm happy with just her honestly. But I was wondering, does it represent non-attachment or just being greedy or? All thoughts appreciated.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Feeling better

I'm a beginner in zen, so forgive me if this...aww, screw it. I'm not going to qualify my question. It is what it is.

What do you all think about the issue of personal suffering? What I mean is, I took up zazen and Buddhism in order to feel better. Doesn't everyone?

I'm in a bad mood today/tonight, and am going to sit w/ it and see how things go.

While I'm trying not to talk myself out of my bad mood, the fact that I'm sitting and choosing (or attempting to choose) not to "pick up" any more negative thoughts means I'm trying to cheer myself up in a way.

What's the zen view on that?

Is happiness the ultimate goal? A fortunate byproduct? Impossible? Am I supposed to even want to feel better?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Buddhism for Humans

It took several years for me to fully embrace Buddhism. Although I found “Buddhist” concepts to be interesting and admirable, I initially felt it was an exotic religion in which the symbols, superstitions, and rituals were far removed from my own experiences. It was not until I was exposed to the teachings of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu that I was able to fully embrace Buddhism. These teachings then led me to Zen, which is a path unto itself.

I thought I’d share a summary/book report of my first exposure to the teachings of Buddhadasa Bhikku. The book/transcript, “Handbook for Mankind” served as a slap in the face for me; it caused me to question everything I had previously I thought I “knew” about Buddhism.

I hope you all find it interesting…

The teachings of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

What is Buddhism? Is it a religion? If we are to refer to Buddhism as a religion, we must recognize that it is a religion based on intelligence, science and knowledge, rather than superstition and faith. As such, Buddhism is not concerned with invisible beings, ritual magic, and the afterlife.

Buddhism is a practical system of thinking and living. Through the study and practice of Buddhism, we strive to gain a clear understanding of the true nature of things, or "what is what," and live our lives accordingly. The objective of Buddhism is enlightened awareness and the corresponding elimination of suffering and the source of suffering.

Examine your own life and thoughts and ask if you truly understand what is what. Even if you know what you are, what life is, what work, duty, livelihood, money, possessions, honor and fame are, would you dare to claim that you know everything?

If we truly understood what is what, we would never act inappropriately; through this combination of clear understanding and appropriate actions, we would free ourselves of the causes of suffering. As it is, we are ignorant of the true nature of things, so we behave more or less inappropriately and, as a result, we suffer the consequences of our thoughts and actions.

Buddhist practice is designed to teach us how things really are. To know this in all clarity is to attain the Fruit of the Path, and live a more balanced, fulfilled life. Through continued practice, we seek to obtain even perhaps the final Fruit, Nirvana, enlightenment, or the complete quenching of craving and suffering, and a perfect awareness of the way things are.

A Buddha is an enlightened individual, one who knows the truth about all things, one who knows just what is what, and so is capable of behaving appropriately in all situations, with respect to all things.

Clear awareness through the practice of Buddhism brings an end to the source of suffering, anxiety and depression. When we come to know what is what, or the true nature of things, disenchantment with things takes the place of fascination, and deliverance from suffering comes about automatically.

At the moment, we are practicing at a stage where we still do not know what things are really like. Specifically, we are at the stage of not yet realizing that all things are impermanent and not "selves." We don't as yet realize that life and all the things we desire, rejoice over and become infatuated with are impermanent, unsatisfactory and not "self." It is for this reason that we become infatuated with those things, liking them, desiring them, rejoicing over them, grasping at them and clinging to them.

When, by following the Buddhist method, we come to see things clearly, we recognize that they are all impermanent, unsatisfactory and not "selves." There is really nothing about anything that might make it worth grasping at or clinging to. Once we realize this, there will immediately come about a slipping free from the controlling power of those things.


Parts of this discussion were copied directly from
"Handbook for Mankind," the teachings of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. All of the material was inspired by the same teachings, with segments rewritten for the sake of communication with people unfamiliar with basic Buddhism and Sanscrit and Thai terminology.

For more information, visit http://www.buddhanet.net/budasa.htm

A Conversation between a Zen Master and a Tibetan Lama

The teachers, seventy-year-old Kalu Rinpoche of Tibet, a veteran of years of solitary retreat, and the Zen master Seung Sahn, the first Korean Zen master to teach in the United States, were to test each other's understanding of the Buddha's teachings for the benefit of the onlooking Western students. This was to be a high form of what was being called _dharma_ combat (the clashing of great minds sharpened by years of study and meditation), and we were waiting with all the anticipation that such a historic encounter deserved. The two monks entered with swirling robes -- maroon and yellow for the Tibetan, austere grey and black for the Korean -- and were followed by retinues of younger monks and translators with shaven heads. They settled onto cushions in the familiar cross-legged positions, and the host made it clear that the younger Zen master was to begin. The Tibetan lama sat very still, fingering a wooden rosary (_mala_) with one hand while murmuring, _"Om mani padme hum"_ continuously under his breath.
The Zen master, who was already gaining renown for his method of hurling questions at his students until they were forced to admit their ignorance and then bellowing, "Keep that don't know mind!" at them, reached deep inside his robes and drew out an orange. "What is this?" he demanded of the lama. "What is this?" This was a typical opening question, and we could feel him ready to pounce on whatever response he was given.
The Tibetan sat quietly fingering his mala and made no move to respond.
"What is this?" the Zen master insisted, holding the orange up to the Tibetan's nose.
Kalu Rinpoche bent very slowly to the Tibetan monk near to him who was serving as the translator, and they whispered back and forth for several minutes. Finally the translator addressed the room: "Rinpoche says, 'What is the matter with him? Don't they have oranges where he comes from?"
The dialog progressed no further.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hope this is okay to post about...

How many of you have altars? I just finished making myself one.

I have incense, a candle, an offering of water, a gong/bell thing I just bought today, and a wee little Hotei statue.

Does it matter how things are arranged? What if my Buddha statue is the smallest thing on the altar? Is that bad at all?

How important do you all find altars?


I'd love to see pics of people altars, by the way!


Here's a picture, just to bring my post to life.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Template Vote - comment now!

OK, now is the time to once-and-for-all decide which template to use for this blog, and then we can get back to discussing more interesting topics.

One vote per person please. Only contributing members' votes will be counted.

Pick your favorite template and put its name in a comment on this post. Comments in other posts will not be counted, so only vote here.

The vote will close at midnight, Eastern US time, Tuesday. At that time (about 48 hours from now) I'll count the votes and install the winner.

The choices are:
1) The current template (no change)
2) Kristal's template: http://www.testforgris.blogspot.com/
3) Justin's template: http://spottheinvisibledog.blogspot.com


I actually was vegetarian before I became a Buddhist. I was interested in Zen Buddhism then, but hadn't started practicing Zen until a couple years after I stopped eating meat.

In 1999, the Makah tribe in Washington State, USA, got legal approval to hunt whales in the tradition of their ancestors. After they successfully hunted and killed a gray whale, I was pretty conflicted about the issue. On one hand, I support of the rights of Native Americans under the treaties that the US government has agreed to. On the other hand, I love sea mammals. I used to have incredibly peaceful and joyful dreams of swimming with whales and dolphins. I had an intuitive sense that the Makahs were on the wrong side of this issue, morally if not legally. But I couldn't justify it in my own mind.

Is all hunting wrong? I don't think so. I imagine that if I were a Makah living without agriculture in the fifteenth century I would join the hunt proudly, and join with my tribe in gratitude to the whale for giving up its life to keep the tribe alive.

But I couldn't shake the idea that this killing was wrong, because none of the Makah in today's society would suffer, even a little, if they didn't kill this whale. And that led me to look at myself. What's the difference between a cow and a whale? I imagine the whale is probably quite a bit smarter, but how exactly do you measure that? And is our intelligence the only thing that makes us valuable as living beings? How do I justify the killing that's done on my behalf?

So I became a vegetarian, as an experiment to see if I could do it and stay healthy. Agriculture provides us with plenty of nutritious food. I have been vegetarian for almost seven years now, without any dietary modifications besides giving up meat. I get plenty of protein from beans, grains, and dairy products, and I'm in great health. And I'm happier with my eating habits.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Zen and evolution

Ok, I've written what I could on this subject on my own blog. You're invited to read & comment if it's of interest.

The short version is this: it's easy to discard the beliefs of a religion or the superstitions of a culture and many scientists and critical thinkers have done this - but it's hard to discard the beliefs programmed into us genetically - and it is from this programming, this trance, that students of Zen are working to free themselves.

To see how I came to this conclusion you're best bet is to read my original post. This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately - reconciling Zen with science, especially biology (since it seems the connections with modern physics are pretty well known).

I imagine there is someone who has reconciled biology and Zen before, but I'm clueless who this might be. I'd love to hear your feedback - I could be WAY off the mark (since I know a lot more about biology than Zen!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

And now, for something completely different

I think it's a good practice to read through this every so often.

The Great Heart of Wisdom Sutra

Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva while practicing deep Prajna Paramita
Perceived all five skandhas were empty and was saved from suffering and distress
Shariputra, form is no different from emptiness
Emptiness is no different from form
That which is form is emptiness
That which is emptiness is form
Feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness, the same is true of these

Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness
They do not appear or disappear
are not tainted or pure
do not increase or decrease

Therefore in emptiness no form,
no feelings, perceptions, impulses, consciousness
no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, mind
no color, sound, smell, taste, touch, object of mind
no realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind consciousness
no ignorance and also no extinction of ignorance
and so forth until no old age and death and no extinction of old age and death
no suffering, origination, stopping, path
no cognition also no attainment

with nothing to attain
the Bodhisattva depends upon Prajna Paramita
and (his) mind is no hindrance
without any hindrance no fear exists
far apart from every inverted view
(he) dwells in Nirvana

All Buddhas in the Three Worlds
depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain complete unsurpassed enlightenment

Therefore know the Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra
is the great bright mantra
is the utmost mantra
is the supreme mantra
which is able to relieve all suffering and is true, not false
so proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra
proclaim the mantra that says
gone, gone, gone beyond
gone all the way beyond, Bodhi Svaha!

Template Madness

Well, so far we've got two sweet templates to choose from... Thanks, K'vitch, Kristal and Justin!

Kristal's: http://www.testforgris.blogspot.com
Justin's: http://spottheinvisibledog.blogspot.com

I'll wait through the weekend in case anyone else wants to take a crack at this. If you want to submit a template, put a link to it in the comments below before Monday, and on Monday we'll have a vote.

Flux posted a screenshot of another template... if you want to submit that, put a link to the code in the comments on this post (or an example site I can grab the code from like the links above).


Okay, lovelies...

My friend's playing w/ some looks. Check it out here: www.testforgris.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Not very zenny, but hey, the eye is important

My friend Kristal tweaked my blog. She's willing to tweak this one.

Anybody have any suggestions on features? A look?

Repression Vs Letting go

How can I know if a thought has been let go or has been repressed?
I kinda thought this was obvious: When I repress thoughts/urges they come back stronger, so I can tell which ones I've repressed.
But then I realized that sometimes repressed thoughts often take ages to re-surface.
So how can one know if one is on the right path and not just repressing everything again?
(I hope this makes sense. And I hope I'm not the first to post m(..)m )

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cosmetic issues

If there's any consensus that the name of this blog, or the template, or anything like that needs to change, I'm certainly not tied to the way it's set up now. Let me know what you think!

Once your name shows up on the list of contributors on the right, you should be able to add a new post to the blog by clicking here and logging in with your blogger account:


Comment here for membership

UPDATE: We are not accepting new members at this time. But please feel free to comment on posts that members have put up. Your posts will be moderated, so they may take a little while to be added to the conversations. When we do open membership again, the non-members who have been regularly contributing valuable and interesting comments will receive contributor invitations via e-mail.


On Brad Warner's blog, Hardcore Zen, JohnDoe suggested that people might be interested in an "open blog." This sounded like an interesting idea to me, so I set this up. JohnDoe suggested some rules, here they are, slightly modified:

1. I'll give membership/posting privileges to anyone who puts their e-mail address in a comment below. I reserve the right to revoke those privileges at any time, for any reason. Most especially posting offensive material. But also flooding the blog with post after post of irrelevant stuff. Let's mostly keep the focus on Zen, OK? NOTE: membership is not required to comment on other people's posts. Just to make new posts, headlines, etc.

2. The owner acts as a silent host not a content provider... sometimes. I'll post stuff too, but I expect to be a minor contributor, equal to everyone else. I'm just the guy who volunteered to enforce the rules and be the target of vitriol for people who don't like the way things are going.

3. The owner reserves the right to remove authors and content which is deliberately offensive or illegal. This rule is arbitrary and final. Posters and commentors are expected to treat others with respect. I will try to keep a hands-off policy as much as possible. Arguing is expected, but keep it polite. No personal attacks, name-calling, etc.

4. The owner reserves the right to freeze or nuke the blog. But that probably won't happen. If I lose interest, and there are other people who are still posting actively, I'll just make one of them the admin and remove myself from the member list.

I need your e-mail address in order to add you to the list of members for this blog. So if you want to write your own posts here, put your e-mail address in a comment below. Once I've sent you the 'blog member invitation', I'll delete your comment to help protect your e-mail address privacy.

When you get the member invitation in your e-mail, click the link in the message. That will take you to the blogspot.com login page. Log in, and you can put new posts on this blog. That's all there is to it!