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A little poetry

All night long space of silence
Spontaneous this flow seen doing and not doing of the sky
Holiday this flower holiday this flow/ they ever



You’ll find the way


Thikse monastery. This statue of the Maitreya ...

Thikse monastery. This statue of the Maitreya Buddha is about 30 ft tall! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I pay homage to the guru, suffused with grace.

Please grant your blessings.

Please help me, a beggar, to practice.


Although you children, members of the current generation,

live in towns infested with negativity,

the dharmic connection remains.

Having heard the Buddha’s teaching

you sought me out-

this will keep you on the path.

By constantly accumulating merit you will get more devoted.

Blessings will enter your being

and the two kinds of realization will grow.


But even if you do all of this,

it’s not much help unless you reach full attainment.

I tell you this out of compassion.

Listen closely, my young friends.

When you’re alone,

do not think about the entertainment available back in twon,

or the maras will appear in your mind.

Then inward, and you’ll find the way.


When you meditate, apply patience, and hard work.

Contemplate the problematic nature of samsara, and the uncertainty of the time and place of death.

Avoid craving pleasurable things.

Then courage and patience will grow in you.

You’ll find the way.


When you request advanced teachings,

don’t long for learning, or to become a scholar.

If you do, desires and common behavior will dominate you.

You’ll throw your life in the trash.

Be humble and modest, and you’ll find your way.


When various meditation experiences arise

don’t be proud and excited about telling others,

or you’ll offend the dakinis and mothers.

Meditate evenly and you’ll be on your way.


When you’re with your guru

don’t overthink his positive and negative traits,

or you’ll find mountains of faults.

You’ll only find the way through faith and loyalty.


When you go to dharma gatherings with your brothers and sisters,

don’t try to be the first

or you’ll stir up anger and desire,

and cause problems for your vows.

Adjust, understand each other

and you’ll find the path.


When you beg for alms in town,

do not use the dharma

to deceive or manipulate others,

or you’ll force yourself down a lower path.

Be honest and genuine, and you’ll find the way.


Remember, especially, at all times and places:

don’t show off. Don’t be arrogant,

or your confidence will be overwhelming

and you’ll be bloated with hypocrisy.

If you abandon deception and be natural

you’ll be on track.


The person who has found the path

can pass on the blessed teachings to others.

Such a person not only benefits others, but himself as well.

Then, generosity is the only thought remaining in his heart.

– Jestun Milarepa

English: Three large statues of the Buddha at ...

English: Three large statues of the Buddha at Dharma Flower Temple in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holidays 2012

One thing people talk about is whether they’ve gotten Christmas trees yet. My family has not, yet. No lights either, although we’ll be getting both. I’ve enjoyed seeing people’s displays outside going up, mostly trees wrapped in lights, sometimes more complicated setups.

I’m going to write a little about the holidays in relation to the talk I’ll be giving tomorrow at the Rowley Public Library (Mass.).

So this is some self-promotion (come see the talk! it’s free!) but also based on stuff I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last year or so, and of course, having celebrated the holidays with varying degrees of success since I was a kid. All of this is in the context of the dharma, and of meditation practice. That’s pretty odd, in a way, although to someone who meditates, it all becomes part of a kind of stew, it all gets brought in together.

I think one direction I could take this in, which I won’t, but it would be interesting- why would a Buddhist think about celebrating Christmas? There are so many problems with that- the commercial aspect, the religious aspect, the fact that there are a number of Buddhist holidays. Worth thinking about.

Instead I think I want to write about, briefly, the idea of holidays as legitimate spiritual experiences. In one way, that’s the big question starting out- if you’re going to examine how you celebrate the holidays, in terms of spiritual practice and the path, you have to look at the possibility that holidays are not a good way to practice for a variety of reasons-

the aforementioned commercialization

not being a natural fit with your beliefs (Buddhist Christmas, Yogic Hanukah, Christian Halloween)

randomness of celebration

it being merely social or conventional

So that’s a start. Obviously, my bias is more towards the legitimacy of celebrating (eccentric) holidays as spiritual practice. Some responses to the previous problems:

Don’t do it in an overly commercial way. Don’t buy too much. Even if making presents doesn’t seem appealing or good enough, you can celebrate in do it yourself ways as far as decorating, food, and so on. Bottom line, I think, has to do with seeing that the craziness of the commercial aspect of the holidays is not pleasant, and not wholesome.

If it’s not a fit, fine. I’m greedy, though. And I like some of the holidays. (Not New Year‘s so much, because I’m not great with crowds, don’t really drink much, and I get my own, better, New Year’s in February.) Even if the fit is not completely apparent, I want to enjoy the food I’ve always eaten, some of the music (some of it), some of those old movies. This is nostalgic. That is not necessarily a problem. Another angle- there’s just tremendous energy involved in this stuff, having to do a lot with the group feeling. I enjoy that. I find it interesting, and want to make the most of it.

This one goes like this- these days are not inherently special. It’s just a day on a calendar. The day you got married, the day you were born, the day something amazing happened, these can feel like significant days. The day something very old happened, maybe something you’re not psychologically or idealogically invested in, is just another day. This used to be a big one for me. At this point it somehow seems unimportant. So what? The atmosphere exists, whether or not I’m going to contemplate Christ’s birth, or his resurrection, or the spirits going to walk among the living once a year.

(As a side note, I think part of my thought about this has to do with looking at contemporary American culture, so-called irony, and self-mockery. These fit under what one teacher called “frivolousness” the last two, that is. My very rough and unstudied understanding- at a certain point in recent history, lots of modern people lost faith. Religion, as well as the humanities, hadn’t protected us from terrible tragedies on a global scale. People felt they couldn’t assume the traditional way of having faith, of going along with the rituals and calendars, worked. The traditions seemed corrupt, bankrupt, a way to corral people, take their money, and worse. This contributed to a view of everything being equal. There was not high culture, and low culture. You could appreciate all of it. This was because, in part, it was all garbage. You could mock all of it, and find some distance, some safety, some perspective. Clearly, I have a problem with this kind of ironic remove. Watching a cheesy movie can be fun, and it’s also not the same as watching a movie that was carefully made, that touches you, or moves you.

The holidays, I’m positing, used to have more power. People’s lack of faith, their lack of connection to their traditions, especially in America, although I’d guess in many places that have modernized, led to disconnection from the rituals and experiences of the holidays. People doubt the holidays. I think this is a missed opportunity.)

(Another side note- there are other responses to the randomness objection. One is about the actual contemplation of the meaning of a holiday. Personally, this one doesn’t do it for me exactly, but it’s there, and is legitimate, I think. So, Christmas could seem random, but if you connect to some of the ideas it embodies, then it becomes about that. It’s about the teachings a holiday embodies. Another, more interesting to me, response, is seasonal/natural. Holidays are specific to times of year. As seasons shift, things feel different. There are actually real energies that come into play at various times of year. It’s not just about the temperature changing. It’s not just a matter of nostalgia or association. Energy changes as nature shifts with the seasons. It follows that holidays connect to this. I’m enjoying playing with this idea, and practicing with it. It’s, as they say, “a bank of energy.” That’s worth exploring.)

The last one is easy enough to take apart. First, saying something is merely social or merely conventional is misguided. Social norms, conventions, what you could call a larger body language, are really powerful. How often do you just jump outside of those norms? They’re really powerful. They shape everything. Second, this begs the question: why would such social experiences arise? Why would people engage in them? Why would they last? It’s not enough to see a habitual pattern and dislike it. You have to do something more.

I wrote a lot more than I thought I would about that. Sorry for not including lots of little pictures to make it more fun. If you can, come to the talk tomorrow, in Rowley. It will probably be very different from what you’ve just read. Happy holidays!

christmas 2007

christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

Fall Classes are almost here!



Yes they are.

There will be some free classes, and some classes that are modestly priced this Fall.

Fall Schedule

(subject to change)

Sundays   (Sep. 16-Nov. 4)

10-11:15 am      Sitting and walking meditation (free)

11:30-12:45      Buddhist Psychology

Mondays (Sep. 17-Nov. 5)

1-2 pm    Meditation Basics 1

7-8:30 pm   Recycled Art

Tuesdays (Sep. 18- Nov. 6)

7-8:30 pm   Writing the Ocean

Fridays (Sep. 21-Nov. 9)

6-7:15 pm    Bardo

7:30-8:45 pm   Taking Up the Challenge

More details soon.



Sign up for one of my classes (dharma art, meditation 101) by the end of the week, and get a free dharma book!

Contact me via the site, or email me.

By Friday night!



What book, you might ask? Could be…

Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

Sun of Wisdom

Practice of Lojong

No Time to Lose!


"Science Friday" Recommendations

"Science Friday" Recommendations (Photo credit: LollyKnit)

More notes from interactions


Milarepa (Photo credit: MarenYumi)



“It’s like the sun. The sun and the rays are not separate.”

“Yes! I have lots of recommendations for books you could read. You should read Milarepa, 100,000 songs of Milarepa… It’s like milk, pure milk. You can churn milk into cheese, into butter, into cream, but you have to churn it.”

“You don’t go to a restaurant and worry about if there is chemicals or poison in the food… you just eat the food… it’s the doubt..”

me- “So doubt is the problem.”

lama- “It’s a very big problem.”

“You should go out more [with your wife.] Don’t just stay home, boring boring. Go out. [Your marriage] has two legs. You can’t walk with only one leg. You have to use both legs to walk around.”

me- “When I try to generate bodhicitta, it’s easier for me to use music, then when I can feel it. Is that ok?”

“Yes, that’s ok for now.”



The thing

The thing about the buddhadharma is that it’s terrifying. It’s comforting sometimes, and it’s good, but it’s also terrifying. Sometimes it feels like someone showing it to you is holding your head underwater, or trying to kill you. This is really not the point of it. It’s supposed to end suffering, and that’s frightening.

The expectation process, and love that circus


Evstafiev-russian-circus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This expectation process seems, for me, like some kind of faking-it thing, acting. I want to seem to know what I’m doing at all times, and expecting various things is like a magical process of trying to make them happen, or give a kind of appearance of them happening. It’s like conjuring up a feeling or presence of things happening.

I think this inkling is positive and true in a way, but gets distorted easily into unrealistic expections for the mind. The mind will not conform to expectations, hopes, and fears. Practice helps remind and establish this as a habit; by seeing the mind doing its loopy thing a million or a trillion times, you start to get the idea. It’s a mind. That’s what it does. It’s like a circus. You don’t expect the circus to be an office and do paperwork. A circus is a circus. Get some popcorn!


"circus" (Photo credit: thaiz_mm)

The mind does lots of ornate and fantastic things, maybe like a circus full of monsters and deformed beasts, and it also labels. The idea that things are not their labels is one “thing” I got right away, or thought I did. Not only do you think and plan and reconstruct all the time, you give names and categories to things. It’s like that moment. There’s that thing that I know. It’s a fan.The TV is making sounds.

Instead of hearing and seeing, you get a slightly shady version of hearing and seeing- labels. Would that you could just rip the labels off, but you can’t. That seems to be part of problem and confusion with psychedelic experiences; they promise to bring you to some direct experience of reality, when they just push certain buttons, tending to give the illusion of direct experience.

List of U.S. state foods

List of U.S. state foods (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very advanced practice #2

I should be charging you an arm and a leg for these teachings, since they are so advanced and powerful. Maybe I’ll design some kind of correspondence course soon- get totally 1000% enlightened in eight weeks, only 39.95.

It helps to have read the other post about the “most secret practice” involving lying down, and relaxing.

In this version, let yourself get overwhelmed. Enjoy some blaring TV, radio, iPhone, busy rushing around, stress, video games, texting. People say that things are getting more and frenetic, more hectic, more stressful by the day. Enjoy that. Have fun and go crazy with it.

When you find yourself overwhelmed and jangling in response to being very overstimulated, turn the stuff off, lie down (works best in your room, inside) and relax. Think a bit. Let the thoughts play out. Let the overwhelm and stress work themselves out as you just lie there and think.

Oftimes, new Buddhists learn about living a disciplined life, removing distractions, quieting down. I think that is very good, and potentially excellent. At the same time, lots of people are unable to do this. They’re just not there. You could say that they’re having so much fun with their life that they don’t see the benefit of narrowing things down, turning off stimulators and distractors like a blaring TV, or a chattering that won’t stop.

This is just fine. Don’t feel guilty at all if you need that stimulation via computer or TV.

Just let it drive you crazy, and then take a moment or two to relax, and let yourself think.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a promise that you will stop thinking. It’s okay to think. This is not a promise that you will “find peace,” or even a claim that such peace even exists at all.

Aragón Televisión

Aragón Televisión (Photo credit: macfacizar)

A little reminder of the reminders

The four reminders are a basic practice.

As I see it, this means it’s both a starting point, and a potential end point. They say that for a lot of practices, if you really do them well, that’s enough, enough to create realization.

This can be contemplated formally or informally. Formally would be sitting on a cushion, maybe in front of a shrine of some sort, repeating the reminders in your mind, and seeing what thoughts arise. Informally would be just reminding yourself throughout the day. You’d probably be reminded anyway, by things that happen.

1. Precious human life

2. Impermanence

3. Karma

4. Samsara


A very brief explanation:

1. We have a life. This is precious for a number of reasons. It’s not a waste, or a total mess. It’s not utterly meaningless, and it’s not just a chance to indulge. It’s precious.

2. People, places, things, ideas, always change. This includes death.

3. There is cause and effect. Importantly, this affects YOUR mind. You may not know how having an argument with someone will play out in one day, or one year, or a lifetime, BUT it’s pretty easy to know how it will change your mind. Your mind changes things, and things change your mind. It’s a “feedback loop.”

4. This feedback loop sometimes (sometimes?) feels unpleasantly like a whirlpool. Things can get worse. They can get better, and then worse. There’s always the self-conscious and anxiety of having an ego. However, this “samsara,” frustration, suffering, as deep rooted as it seems, is not fate, is not a condemnation, is not something we have to ignore.

Not VERY brief. My apologies for any glibness, mistakes, or errors.


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