Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Abandon Laziness

We can never be sure how long we will be in the bardo of the living. No one can say. When and where we will die is always uncertain. It is completely unpredictable. No matter how rich or clever you are, you can never know how much longer you have to live. Since we're not sure how long this life will last, Guru Padmasambhava advises us to abandon laziness.

Now is the time to increase appreciation and gratitude for our life situation, to arouse ourselves and make a joyful effort to realize great results. We should develop confidence in our way and be happy in our endeavors. Don't just assume that you are worthless and incapable. Don't let this opportunity slip by and have cause for regret. Learn to work effectively, happily, and with commitment.

Venerable Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
from a commentary on Zhi-Khro

I love the energy of these two paragraphs. The bold, joyful, and resolute sense about it. No hesitation. No wasted words trying to mitigate worries or possible offenses.

Even though I have done a lot with my life already, and have a long resume filled with "good works," I sometimes struggle with laziness.

When laziness is considered as a form of unneeded delay, then I see it as a frequent "friend" hanging about this house of my life. Unneeded delay can appear in almost any form. It might look like the stereotypical forms. The lounging about. The not doing anything. The putting in no effort. I'm that person sometimes. For many of these days, though, it might be in the form of busy, of doing something called work, or even of doing spiritual practices, if they are done to avoid something else. I'm that person sometimes as well.

Noticing this is helpful in my opinion. Noticing without berating yourself. And yet also noticing without going too soft on yourself.

A lot of modern spiritual teachings stop at the not berating yourself, which I think is a mistake. Because our world is so full of distractions now that a person can learn to drop off the inner judgment, but still get lost amongst the tide of non-essentials coming their way.

Zen folks like to talk about discipline, but I don't think that's quite it. Commitment, with joy, seems more true to my ears. May we all tap into this along our various paths.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Zen Bicycles and Living Colonial Ghosts

Although I haven't been writing a ton here, I have been writing a whole lot elsewhere.

My current post over at Life as a Human webzine may be familiar to longtime readers of the blog. I continue to use the Jizo chant while bicycling, cutting through whatever anger and discontent arises.

Over at Turning Wheel magazine, I have multiple new posts, including a long poem on the ghosts of colonialism, as well as a revised version of the Eckhart Tolle posts you read here last month.

Enjoy, and have a great Sunday!

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Short Note to Any White American Buddhists, Yoga Practitioners, or Others Who Feel Threatened By "White Supremacy" Discussions

I wrote these points as a response to comments I received on an old post on American Buddhism and race. In light of the Trayvon Martin case, and the seemingly endless rounds of back and forth about all things race and racism, I'm offering them again.

1. Respond to criticism or perceived criticism of your spiritual practice by practicing.

2. Many of us white folks "overdo" race talk. Few of us are willing to sit with race like a koan, listen for whatever wisdom is there "behind the curtain," and then speak from that.

3. Minimizing, denying, blaming, trying to "fix," and/or judging are the standard forms of acting out in response to something we don't like, or don't want to hear. Knowing that, now what?

4. If I choose to not listen to the pain and suffering beneath someone's words today, they’ll be someone else expressing something similar tomorrow.

5. Forget trying to get all your ducks in a row. You have to act, or not act, as it is, moment after moment.

And I'll add a number six to this list.

6. Racism is ultimately a heart/mind issue. Both on the individual level, and also collective level. It's poisons can't be removed by rational debate and statistics.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Buddhist Violence in Burma

Hey Friends! I'm doing a three part series on the violence by Buddhists against Muslims in Burma this week. It's been challenging to write because there's just so many layers to what's happening, and it's damn sad as well. But I think Buddhist practitioners outside of Burma should take note, if already haven't. Definitely says a lot about how causes and conditions can come together to bring about great suffering.

Here are the links to the first and second posts.

Update: please read the final installment here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do Convert Buddhists Need God?

I found this post interesting, in part because of its provocative title. Which I rephrased above as a question.

From the blog:

When I write that people need God/no God, what I mean is that they should be asking themselves what they are overlooking by rejecting a particular perspective on life, by dismissing a particular orientation to existence. What can't they see or feel or understand because the narrative of life, the universe, and everything that they have embraced and which is bound up in their sense of identity, is closed to certain points of view?

I myself have gravitated between God and no God, including "Who cares?" and "What does it have to do with me? The same with religions such as Buddhism and Christianity and philosophical movements such as compassionate or engaged Humanism.

Yesterday, I was part of a team that visited another organization to discuss potential partnerships. Zen center is currently considering moving, and with that has opened up space for other ideas as well, including developing new collaborations. The organization we visited had a focus on spirituality and healing, with what appeared to be a loosely Christian flavor, although they're folks who explore across spiritual/religious borders. After we walked through their building, a former Catholic convent, our executive director commented on how she was pondering the differences between a Zen aesthetic and a more Christian one. Eventually, one of their folks brought this comment back up and corrected the "Christian" attribution, but I think what was happening there was more about this God/no God issue. And how spaces look and feel based on which side of the fence those who organize them tend to fall on.

During the early days of my blog, I had a lot more heat around these issues. There was within me a "need" for some sort of clear demarcation between theistic religions and Buddhism, for example. Even though I also rejected the fixation on solely rational approaches to the dharma, and what felt like atheistic dogma being applied to our practice.

Something has softened around all of this now. My views haven't changed a whole lot, but the clinging to them is less.

And yet, the wrestling with such issues as "secular Buddhism," or is there a God or not, have been most fruitful for my practice. It's not so much that convert Buddhists "need God," but more that we need to maintain a life of questions. To not give in to the seductive voice of "I know the truth and that's that."

Monday, July 8, 2013

Witnessing Absurdities: Deep Seeing as a Skill for Decolonizing Activist Work

From my new post over at Turning Wheel:

" I want to take a look at one of the elements I think has been lacking in many other American social change efforts: deep seeing or right mindfulness. By right mindfulness I’m speaking of it both as awareness of what’s present “inside” each of us, and also skillful attention to what’s present in the social, collective realm. The first step to waking up, and breaking the chains of a destructive pattern or social system, is simply being able to see what’s present. Not what we think is there. Not what someone else told us is there. But actually witnessing and taking in fully what’s there before us."

Head over there now to read the rest of it.

Also, I have a few other topics I'd like to write something about this week. Hopefully, I'll have time to put up another post here soon. We will see.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A New Sangha of Social Action

Hi Everyone! I've been hard at work over the past week on some new material. As of July 1st, I am the new Guest Editor over at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship's Turning Wheel magazine. It's totally exciting, and to get us all started, here's my first TW post. Enjoy!