Wednesday, March 3, 2021



 causing or tending to cause objects to slip 
 liable to slip from the grasp, a position, etc.
 not to be relied upon
 liable to change; unstable

An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me
 that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind
 with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct.

 I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind 
by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book,
the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book,
 is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience
 that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, 
consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures
 is like eating paper currency.

Therefore the Book that I would like to slip to my children
 would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, 
not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary
 medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual
 point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, 
for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back
 to it again and again for hidden meanings or for
 clarification of obscure doctrines.

~ Alan Watts
from The Book on The Taboo against knowing who you are

find your real being

There will be marriage, there will be children, 
there will be earning money to maintain a family; 
all this will happen in the natural course of events, 
for destiny must fulfill itself; you will go through it without resistance, 
facing tasks as they come, attentive and thorough, 
both in small things and big. 

But the general attitude will be of affectionate detachment, 
enormous goodwill, without expectation of return, 
constant giving without asking. 

In marriage you are neither the husband nor the wife; 
you are the love between the two. 

You are the clarity and kindness that makes everything orderly and happy. 
It may seem vague to you, but if you think a little, 
you will find that the mystical is most practical, 
for it makes your life creatively happy. 

Your consciousness is raised to a higher dimension, 
from which you see everything much clearer and with greater intensity. 

You realize that the person you became at birth 
and will cease to be at death is temporary and false. 

You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, 
gripped by desires and fears. Find out your real being. 

What am I? 
is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. 
Go into it deeply.

~ Nisargadatta

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

a parable


Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled,
the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold
of a root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge.
The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man
looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting
to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. 
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started
to gnaw away the vine.  The man saw a luscious strawberry
near him.  Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked
the strawberry with the other.
How sweet it tasted!
~ Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings 

Monday, March 1, 2021

can't see what they can’t see



People can't see what they can’t see. 
Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall,
 trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion. 
No amount of reasoning and argument will get through to them, 
unless we first learn how to break down the walls of bias. . . .

Confirmation Bias: We judge new ideas based on the ease with which they fit in with and confirm the only standard we have: old ideas, old information, and trusted authorities. As a result, our framing story, belief system, or paradigm excludes whatever doesn’t fit.

Complexity Bias: Our brains prefer a simple falsehood to a complex truth.

Community Bias: It’s almost impossible to see what our community doesn’t, can’t, or won’t see.

Complimentary Bias: If you are hostile to my ideas, I’ll be hostile to yours. If you are curious and respectful toward my ideas, I’ll respond in kind.

Competency Bias: We don’t know how much (or little) we know because we don’t know how much (or little) others know. In other words, incompetent people assume that most other people are about as incompetent as they are. As a result, they underestimate their [own] incompetence, and consider themselves at least of average competence.

Consciousness Bias: Some things simply can’t be seen from where I am right now. But if I keep growing, maturing, and developing, someday I will be able to see what is now inaccessible to me.

Comfort or Complacency Bias: I prefer not to have my comfort disturbed.

Conservative/Liberal Bias: I lean toward nurturing fairness and kindness, or towards strictly enforcing purity, loyalty, liberty, and authority, as an expression of my political identity.

Confidence Bias: I am attracted to confidence, even if it is false. I often prefer the bold lie to the hesitant truth.

Catastrophe or Normalcy Bias: I remember dramatic catastrophes but don’t notice gradual decline (or improvement).

Contact Bias: When I don’t have intense and sustained personal contact with “the other,” my prejudices and false assumptions go unchallenged.

Cash Bias: It’s hard for me to see something when my way of making a living requires me not to see it.

Conspiracy Bias: Under stress or shame, our brains are attracted to stories that relieve us, exonerate us, or portray us as innocent victims of malicious conspirators. 
Brian McLaren
from Why Don’t They Get It? 
Overcoming Bias in Others (and Yourself

observation of ourselves becomes very superficial


Everywhere society is conditioning the individual, 
and this conditioning takes the form of self-improvement, 
which is really the perpetuation of the 'me', 
the ego, in different forms.
 Self-improvement may be gross, or it may be very, 
very refined when it becomes the practice of virtue,
 goodness, the so-called love of one's neighbor, 
but essentially it is the continuance of the 'me', 
which is a product of the conditioning influences of society. 
 All your endeavor has gone into becoming something, 
either here, if you can make it, or if not, in another world;
 but it is the same urge, the same drive to maintain and continue the self.
Being free of society implies not being ambitious, 
not being covetous, not being competitive; 
it implies being nothing in relation to that society 
 which is striving to be something.  
But you see, it is very difficult to accept that because you may be trodden on, 
you may be pushed aside; you will have nothing.  In that nothingness
 there is sanity, not in the other...  
As long as one wants to be part of this society, 
one must breed insanity, wars, destruction, and misery; 
but to free oneself from this society - the society of violence,
 of wealth, of position, of success - requires patience, inquiry, 
discovery, not the reading of books, the chasing after teachers,
 psychologists, and all the rest of it.
If one is capable of studying, watching oneself,
 one begins to discover how cumulative memory is acting 
on everything one sees; one is forever evaluating,
 discarding or accepting, condemning or justifying, 
so one's experience is always within the field
 of the known, of the conditioned. 
  But without cumulative memory as a directive, most of us feel lost, 
we feel frightened, and so we are incapable of observing ourselves as we are. 
 When there is the accumulative process, which is the cultivation of memory, 
our observation of ourselves becomes very superficial.  Memory is helpful
 in directing, improving oneself, but in self-improvement there can never 
 be a revolution, a radical transformation. It is only when 
the sense of self-improvement completely ceases, 
but not by volition, that there is a possibility
 of something transcendental, 
something totally new coming into being.
~ J. Krishnamurti
from talks given:
August 7th, 1955
 August 28th, 1955

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

silent language



When the monks had found their homes,
they not only settled there, 
for better or for worse,
but the sank their roots into the ground
and fell in love with their woods...
Forest and field, sun wind and sky, 
earth and water,
all speak the same silent language,
reminding the monk that he is here
to develop like the things that 
grow all around him... 
~ Thomas Merton
from the introduction to
When the Trees say Nothing
 edited by Kathleen Deignan

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

the rock and the wind


there are five courses of speech that others may use when they address you;
their speech may be timely or untimely,
true or untrue,
gentle or harsh,
connected with good or with harm,
or spoken with a mind of lovingkindness or with inner hate... should train yourself thus: 
Our minds will remain unaffected,
and we shall utter no evil words;
we shall abide compassionate for their welfare,
with a mind of lovingkindness...
~ the Buddha

Is that so?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parent owned a food store lived near him.
  Suddenly,  without any warning,  her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents angry.  She would not confess who the man was, 
 but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
In great anger the parents went to the master.   "Is that so?"  was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. 
 By this time he had lost his reputation,  which did not trouble him, 
 but he took very good care of the child. 
 He obtained milk from his neighbors and 
everything else the little one needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer.  
 She told her parents the truth - that the real father of the child
 was a young man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness,
  to apologize at length,  and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing.  In yielding the child,  all he said was: "Is that so?"

~ from 'Zen Flesh Zen Bones',
 compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki
Self-portrait by Hakuin Ekaku

Sunday, February 21, 2021



What is transcended is not responsibility for one’s misdeeds;
rather it is the model of sequential piling up of one’s actions
 in such a way that one is forced to react unskillfully in the future.
 Dōgen’s “great practice” is the bodhisattva practice
 of incorporating and responding to the whole of our situation,
 thereby deeply seeing cause and effect. 
As soon as we return to the totality of this moment’s complete expression, 
we are not caught by anything. Even though we are still subject to the repercussions
 of our past actions, we are free to respond skillfully
 in the present moment.

If we have been rude to someone in the past and that person is wary of us,
 our total participation in this moment of meeting that person
 will not necessarily take away the effects of our past meeting. 
What it will do is free us to respond skillfully in this situation. 
Since we are not caught by “piled up” or overlapping experiences, 
we are freed to enact the new paradigm of “great practice.”

Another example: If you are playing baseball and you drop the ball, 
you don’t let your mistakes “pile up.” You must forget dropping the ball
 and be present for the next opportunity to catch the ball. 
Holding on to a past mistake will often hinder your ability
 to respond skillfully in the present, although you still file away your mistake
 and make adjustments. 
From the point of view of practice this would translate to
 making a mistake, acknowledging the mistake, atoning for that mistake,
 and moving on from the mistake.

Dōgen points out that our understanding of self 
can become a fixed idea of accumulated traits or experiences. 
He observes, for example, that spring, autumn, and ourselves
 are independent moments that are not the results of being piled up. 
He writes, “This means that we cannot see the four elements
 and five aggregates of the present as our self 
and we cannot trace them as someone else.” 
The self is both independent and the totality of all being-time. 
We are no-self and a particular self at the same time, 
caught by neither and more than both.
 In the case of practice-realization, we are not waiting
 for a particular set of experiences to line up or pile up,
 thereby creating the circumstances for realization. 
Realization is present in each moment. 
Realization is each moment. 
It is true that we may progress in our practice,
 but realization is not predicated upon a particular set of circumstances, 
since it is actualized being-time: a response to our current circumstances.

In concrete terms, this means we must engage and fulfill
 our understanding of practice in each moment,
 not putting it off. A student once said,
 “I know what is skillful, 
but I don’t want to do it right now.” 
This kind of procrastination usually arises when our small self 
is trying to avoid facing a situation that will cause us to look at our own faults. 

~ Shinshu Roberts
from an article on Dōgen in Insight Journal
 Barre Center for Buddhist Studies  
excerpted from Being-Time: 
A Practitioner's Guide to Dogen's Shobogenzo Uji:
 Wisdom Publ. 2018
art by Van Gogh

blaming the past



We must abandon completely the notion of blaming the past
 for any kind of situation we’re in and reverse our thinking
 and see that the past always flows back from the present.
 That now is the creative point of life. 
So you see it’s like the idea of forgiving somebody, 
you change the meaning of the past by doing that. 
Also, watch the flow of music.
 The melody as it’s expressed is changed by notes that come later.
 Just as the meaning of a sentence—
you wait till later to find out what the sentence means… 
The present is always changing the past.

~ Alan Watts
art from the book: If you come to Earth
by Sophie Blackall

Saturday, February 20, 2021

no matter where I am


In the peaceful places of my life, wherever I may find them,
 I will search for you. In the midst of the crowd, 
I will look for you. In the sound of laughter and weeping,
 I will listen for you. You are around me, within me,
 beside me, no matter where I am. 
You are everywhere at once and always.
 When I go up to the highest point of joy I know, you are waiting for me. 
When I fall to my lowest point, you catch me.
 When I am alone in the deep night, you hold me. 
You are forever, in all places, in every moment. 
You let me go at the right time. You release me to the open air.
 You trust me. And I, in all that I do, and say, and believe, trust you.
 I have since the beginning. I will until the end. 
You are my creator, my simple truth, 
what I believe and why I believe,
 the sum total of my life’s experience.
 I have made my choice and pledged my love.
 I am in this with you, in every way I can be, for as long as I can be, 
until your mystery surrounds me and the next dream begins.

~ Steven Charleston
Citizen of Choctaw Nation
retired Episcopal bishop of Alaska
with thanks to louie, louie

Monday, February 15, 2021

who speaks


Who speaks the sound of an echo?
Who paints the image in a mirror?
Where are the spectacles in a dream?
Nowhere at all - that's the nature of the mind!

~ Tree-Leaf Woman, (8th - 11th c.)
tantric Buddhist women's song
from Women in Praise of the Sacred
painting: undergrowth by Van Gogh

Sunday, February 14, 2021

to clear away


The true purpose of all spiritual disciplines is to clear away
whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us. . . .

It will be in order to suggest certain simple aids to this end. 
One of these is the practice of silence, or quiet. 
As a child I was accustomed to spend many hours alone in my rowboat,
 fishing along the river, when there was no sound 
save the lapping of the waves against the boat. 
There were times when it seemed as if the earth 
and the river and the sky and I were one beat of the same pulse. 
It was a time of watching and waiting for what I did not know—
yet I always knew. 
There would come a moment when beyond the single pulse beat
 there was a sense of Presence which seemed always to speak to me. 
My response to the sense of Presence always had the quality of personal communion. 
There was no voice. There was no image. There was no vision.
 There was God. 
Howard Thurman
from Disciplines of the Spirit
 photo above by Jordan McChesney
 with thanks to Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation 



Friday, February 12, 2021

already broken



Once someone asked a well-known Thai meditation master,
 "In this world where everything changes, 
where nothing remains the same,
 where loss and grief are inherent in our very coming into existence,
 how can there be any happiness?
 How can we find security when we see that
 we can't count on anything being the way we want it to be?"
 The teacher, looking compassionately at this fellow,
 held up a drinking glass which had been given to him earlier in the morning and said, 
"You see this goblet? 
For me, this glass is already broken.
 I enjoy it, I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably,
 sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns.
 If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. 
But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over
 or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, 
I say, 'Of course.' 
But when I understand this glass is already broken,
 every moment with it is precious.
 Every moment is just as it is and nothing need be otherwise."

When we recognize that, just as that glass, 
our body is already broken, that indeed we are already dead, 
then life becomes precious and we open to it just as it is, 
in the moment it is occurring.
 When we understand that all our loved ones are already dead -
 our children, our mates, our friends - how precious they become.
 How little fear can interpose, how little doubt can estrange us.
 When you live your life as though you're already dead, 
life takes on new meaning. Each moment becomes a whole lifetime,
 a universe unto itself.

When we realize we are already dead, our priorities change,
 our heart opens, our mind begins to clear of the fog of old holdings and pretendings.
 We watch all life in transit and what matters becomes instantly apparent:
 The transmission of love, the letting go of obstacles to understanding, 
the relinquishment of our grasping, our hiding from ourselves. 
Seeing the mercilessness of our self-strangulation,
 we begin to come gently into the light we share with all beings. 
Taking each teaching, each loss, each gain, each fear, each joy,
 as it arises and experiencing it fully, life becomes workable...

If our only spiritual practice were to live as though we were already dead, 
relating to all we meet, to all we do, as though it were our final moments in the world,
 what time would there be for old games or falsehoods or posturing? 
If we lived our life as though we were already dead, 
as though our children were already dead, 
how much time would there be for self-protection 
and the re-creation of ancient mirages?
 Only love would be appropriate, only the truth.

Stephen and Ondrea Levine
Excerpt: Who Dies?
with thanks to being silently drawn

work perfectly realized

In work perfectly realized 
there is no thought of reward, 
no love of procedure, 
no seeking after good, 
no clinging to goals, 
whether of attainment 
or of god himself.
~ Meister Eckhart 
art by Harlan Hubbard, "Below Madison," 1934