Archive | June 2013

Simply Giving and Receiving

“Ultimately, realizing yourself and taking care of all beings is one and the same reality. Wisdom and compassion are precisely the same thing, but that’s not where we start in practice. The corrective measure is always to let go of yourself, forget yourself. Ultimately, wisdom is compassion, but what keeps you from realizing true wisdom is putting yourself before others. Giving is an expression that heals this tendency and is the very manifestation of the identity of self and other, of wisdom and compassion. Buddha’s accomplishment as a sage, as a spiritual being, is not measured by his solitary sitting. If that’s all he did, we wouldn’t be here. His accomplishment is manifested in his dana, in his giving, his teaching.”
Senior’s Talk by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj Osho
Featured in Mountain Record 27.3, Spring 2009

Have you ever thought of wisdom and compassion as being the same thing? Selfishness, ultimately, is unwise. It is simply not bright to treat people badly and then expect them to respect you or vote for you.

It reminds me of Republicans and Hispanics. Republicans still don’t get it. Not offering a path to citizenship is a virtual guarantee of perpetual electoral irrelevance. Imagine you are a Hispanic 18 year old and were born here (the USA). You can vote in the next presidential election. A GOP politician is on TV saying something stupid about self-deportation. Are you going to vote for that moron? You don’t need to be deported because you were born here. And who wants to vote for a politician or party that threatens to deport your recently-arrived relatives? Republicans (and everyone else, including myself) need to stop and think about how their actions and words might come off to others.

The point is this: what goes around comes around. Taking other people’s perspectives into account is the best guarantee that, when you (we white people) become a minority, someone might listen to you and take you seriously. We are all connected. To cut off Hispanics is to cut off one’s foot. Don’t be shocked if it gets infected and angry.

My quote was from a Buddhist. However, Christians have the same concept, the Golden Rule: treat others as you would want to be treated. My mom’s grandfather was from Poland. My mom’s dad took huge offense at Polish jokes.

Healing comes from apologies (words) plus restitution (meaningful action) plus a continued change in behavior. We have a lot of making and waking up to do.

Sources of Misfortune

“It is wrong to think that misfortunes come from the east or from the west; they originate within one’s own mind. Therefore, it is foolish to guard against misfortunes from the external world and leave the inner mind uncontrolled.” – The Buddha

This quote is anti-paranoid. It doesn’t mean no one is out to get you; it means that if anyone gets you, it’ll probably be yourself.

I’ve known plenty of paranoid people. They have been uniformly conservative in political orientation. I believe the reason that so many conservatives believe the world is ending is because they instinctively understand that their world is ending. Their dominance in America is history and they know it on some level.

In reality, most of us cause the bulk of our own troubles. Others need not give us grief; we can do that just fine ourselves. From what I can tell, pretty much everything is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our suffering is at our own hands.

I believe problems come in two basic varieties: individual and group. And we are responsible for both whenever we create them alone or together. Conservatives focus on individual issues and responsibility. That’s good. Liberals focus on groups and larger dynamics. That is also good. Liberals often don’t take personal responsibility for their behavior; likewise for conservatives and their corporate effects upon others. Each can see the other’s hypocrisy crystal clearly.

We need to get our acts together, alone and in groups. It sounds so easy and so isn’t. It starts within the individual, goes out to the family, then the neighborhood, city, state, region, and nation. If I am a whole person, I can radiate some of my wholeness outward. And outward it goes.

Living in the Present

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” The Buddha

Like most people, I have a hard time abiding by this saying. I tend not to live in the past. I am very guilty of living in the future. I didn’t get an MBA so I could care take for the next umpteen years. But that’s where I am. When Barry got cancer, I had to consider the future, now. Where did I want to live? Who would want my house? What was worth transporting?

Then there are the people that live in the past. When I first started going to the church I attend, I helped out on one of the baking days. I was helping to layer baklava. The women were talking about their loved ones who had passed. I thought “Wow. This church sure has seen a lot of loss lately. This is a congregation in mourning.” Then I heard someone ask when a particular person had died. The answer was some time in the early 70s.

One thing I have seen I this: people that live in the past don’t have a promising future. It’s like driving a car while staring at the rear view window. Crashing and burning are just a matter of time. I’ve seen it.

Still, I am guilty of living in the future. I’m sure how much to prepare for Barry’s demise ahead of time. It’s hard to live in the present when I just don’t want to be here anymore. That makes living in the present more urgent. If I live in the future now, how will I not do so later? I’m thinking now of living in the future. That seems like an ironic waste of time.


Attachments, Pros and Cons

Recently, I’ve been feeling strangely detached from others’ dramas. I’ve wondered if this is normal, that kind of thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that not being attached is ultimately the only way to be helpful to people.

Other people expect me to share their opinions and are often upset when I don’t. When I do not take their offense personally, then they are further offended. On the other hand, when I get involved emotionally involved with people’s dramas, then I get upset and my relationships get unnecessarily complicated. Given that I am in an essentially unwinnable position, I may as well not tax my emotions and health.

Doubting myself doesn’t help. When I question myself, then I am intellectually and emotionally entangled, which doesn’t enable me to be helpful to others.

I guess there aren’t really any pros of emotional attachments. I still have love for people; I just don’t get sucked into their dramas.

Embodying the Transcendent

“To embody the transcendent is why we are here.” Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, p. 81

This is the book I am reading now. It is amazing. Its pages practically shine with wisdom. Whether one takes the reincarnation concept literally or not, you can feel the compassion, clarity, and poignancy of the author.

What are you embodying? If someone looked at you this minute, what adjectives would they come up with?

I am not talking theology, philosophy, or any –ologies whatsoever. Let’s not pretend that words are a substitute for experience. I am talking about that soft tenderness of living without a false sense of security. This is a willingness to be open, wrong, available, foolish, or whatever. It is an acknowledgment of complexity, that one cannot have all the answers.

I’ve been living from this space for a couple days now. It is not comfortable, but it is real. It feels very strange. I’ve felt it before, but I’ve always run away from it. It seems to have caught up with me. I’m not sure what to do with it. I suspect this is my new normal. Weird.


Encountering the Body of Wisdom

“We can think that peace can only come when the conditions are right. How long have we been waiting for those conditions? How long will we keep on waiting? Is forever long enough? The Buddha didn’t want to wait. He was convinced that it wasn’t a matter of waiting or changing one’s environment. He had a sense that the conditions to discover real peace are always present within a changing world; this peace is the changing world itself. That’s the body of wisdom. Its manifestation in the changing world is its functioning.”
Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei
Blue Cliff Record, Case 90
Zhimen’s Body of Wisdom Featured in Mountain Record 28.1, Fall 2009

How long do we wait for things to be just right to fulfill our dreams or become the people we know we need to be? Things are always changing, but not necessarily in directions that would be helpful to us.

One thing I find annoying is commercials for universities that proclaim you can get your degree “in your spare time.” What a load of manure. That’s not how education works. It requires a real commitment of one’s time, not just the extra minutes between “important” activities.

If you want peace, develop peacefulness within oneself. Peace cannot be obtained by clinging onto objects or experiences for dear life. One must let go. Acceptance of change is a big part of life. It’s becoming summer here. Already, there are some leaves on a few trees that are brown, probably a tree health issue, but it looks like a preview of autumn. This is shortly after it just turned spring from an unusually lingering winter. Change is reality. Stasis is delusion.

I would never have gotten my MBA if I had waited for better conditions. Nothing waits. I have gone through so much grief in the past few years: watching classmates leave the state, watching my husband’s health slowly deteriorate, seeing my church slowly shrink, and the like. The hopes, dreams, and ties that bind, dissolving, leaving me empty and free. Freedom and grief seem to go together. Peace is the acceptance of change.


Trust Your Own Perfection

“Here’s the key equation. Believing in this fact, practice according to this fact. What is the fact? Your completion and perfection. Believing it, practice according to it. Do zazen as if you were complete, letting go of the thoughts that present a limited version of yourself, resting in non-attachment.”

Trust Your Own Perfection

Posted on April 6, 2013

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei

Gateless Gate, Case 45: Wuzu: Who Is That Other?

Resting in non-attachment, in my mind, means letting things be. They will be as they are anyhow. Non-resistance is the only sane response to a world gone mad. It’s like the saying “Don’t mud wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

It sounds so obvious, but some people feel obligated to fight evil. I’ll leave that to them. Meanwhile, I will light a candle.

My own philosophy is to do my best to keep my own hands clean. That can be harder than it looks. At times, it has meant walking away from organizations I’ve had a lot invested in emotionally and financially. Not all churches, for example, operate in an above-board manner. The one I am leaving certainly doesn’t. Then they are offended that I don’t want to participate in their sleazy shenanigans. They can do as they please. I have higher standards and don’t play

political games. I’ve also had a boss that expected me to lie for her. That’s not going to happen, either.

My focus in life at the moment is taking care of my husband. I have my MBA now and am confident regarding my ability to support myself when need be. I have enough knowledge to discern the lingo of underhanded practices. I am fluent in euphemisms and rationalizations.

There are truly evil people in this world. And people play their games, sometimes for just sheer survival. I don’t want to be put in that position. It’s one of the reasons I keep debt as low as I can: so I don’t have to compromise with the sleazy to survive. I try to stay far away from people I know have low or non-existent ethical standards. Maybe that sounds paranoid. However, if you cooperate with people you already know are unethical, others will logically and rightly conclude that you share their lack of ethics. Things can get ugly quickly.

You need to trust your own completeness. If you let other people convince you that you need their approval, you just gave away your power and any shred of common sense you may have had. I, personally, have done that for religious figures in the past. It breaks my heart how I have so willingly emotionally regressed for the approval of authority figures. I have drunk the Kool-Aid more than once. If your gut says No, listen. Your gut understands what your brain cells haven’t figured out yet. Your gut has already connected the dots. If you wait for your brain to catch up, it may be too late. 

Excavating the Moment

 “I see your heart. Why should there be even a moment of fear? This practice is the basis for the exhortation that each one of us has to surpass our teachers, surpass our ancestors. We do it by abiding in this dharma state completely, by taking responsibility, respecting what has been offered, and using it exhaustively. We exhaustively practice intimacy with what is available to us in every moment.”

Posted on April 6, 2013

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei


I like the word “exhaustively” because it says everything. It’s like drinking life to the dregs. No leftovers or excess. There is no way to avoid using resources. We must eat, bathe, use toner if we have an office job, etc. But we can make sure we are wasting as little as possible. This is part of the “reduce” and “reuse” aspects of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”

But how do “we exhaustively practice intimacy with what is available to us in every moment”? This about being deeply where we are, not fantasizing about being elsewhere. (That is hard for me.) I think of it as excavating the moment.

Respecting what has been offered helps us to be good guests wherever we may be. Unless you own where you are right now, you are a guest. You are representing someone else as part of their group: family of origin, in-laws, your alma mater, whites, blacks, employees, men, women, Gen X, whatever. You never just represent yourself. To be gracious is to be a good example of the groups you belong to. If someone offers something in good faith, accept it in the spirit offered. Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

I guess the point of all of this is simple: it’s never just about you. We are all part of a bigger picture. What part do you want to play?


Manifesting Our Virtue

Manifesting Our Virtue

“From the vantage point of practice, there is no difference between taking care of a tiny detail or finding oneself in the midst of a maelstrom. When we rest within practice, there is spaciousness and limitlessness of possibilities and the space is opened up to others. All beings can walk in and walk out in freedom, and they can discover something about themselves that was not possible to see before they arrived. The heart of your practice is their welcome. This isn’t a congratulatory statement. As Buddhist practitioners, this is the only thing there is, this is what we commit to, this is what it means to “ride the clouds and follow the wind,” to give free play, to allow ourselves to rest in our dharma state.”

Posted on April 6, 2013

Dharma Discourse by Konrad Ryushin Marchaj, Sensei

This quote expresses the spirit of what I admire about Buddhism: equanimity, spaciousness, responsibility, freedom, and equality. What do you do? Whatever needs to be done or is next, in the most drama-free manner possible. Our commitment is not to a leader, deity, or dogma. It is commitment to real life. This is what I have always sought in my religious endeavors. I am so glad I found Buddhism before I died. These qualities are what I want to embody. They would make me the most useful to mankind in general.


Realms and Attachments

“Buddhism teaches that the realms of existence we can dwell in range from the hell realm, which is unending agony and pain, to the realm of the gods. The life in the realm of the gods is good, where you can have all that you want. …As soon as those conditions change, you will find yourself in a very different realm. And so, even though it is pleasurable while you are there, you can’t stay. It is still a realm marked by dukkha. It’s not yet a place of liberation. To move beyond that, you have to give up all attachments.” The Journey of Not Taking a Step, Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Sensei Featured in Mountain Record 26.3, Spring 2008

I like this quote because it shows that even the most exalted of experiences are temporary. Freedom doesn’t come from having all your needs met—it comes from escaping automatic pilot. Most “needs” are manufactured, anyway. Once you have enough food, clothing, shelter, medicine, transportation, and communication, everything else is consumerist obsession. Food doesn’t mean steak; it means beans, rice, veggies, and fruit. Transportation means a way of getting from point A to point B, not the most prestigious vehicle. You get the idea.

Automatic pilot is the ultimate enemy. There is a saying I love: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Thinking the same things leads to the same actions which lead to the same results, ad nausuem.

You get things exactly the way you want them and then life happens and they change. What can you do? The things are not the issue—it’s the attachment to them being a certain way. I know some very generous rich people and some lower-class borderline hoarders.

Maybe I have a negative view of life, but sometimes I feel like life is just a matter of making the best of various bad situations. Of course, I probably created many of the bad situations I was in years back, but I make an effort to not create any drama myself anymore.

The problem is that liberation from automatic pilot is painful. It is emotional withdrawal in the addictive sense. Liberation means getting out of the comfort zone. People don’t want to be liberated from comfort. They want sweet emotional foretaste of emotional death: denial. The only way life can reach such people is by increasing their level of pain beyond tolerable levels.

I feel like I am in withdrawal. I feel very raw emotionally. I am feeling every nuance of emotion and it is more annoying than satisfying. I want to escape, badly, but there is nowhere to escape to. I really don’t want to create future bad consequences for my actions now. This is the journey of not taking a step, not taking a step into escapism and numbness.