Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Master and the Thief

One evening, Zen master Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras when a thief entered his house with a sword, demanding "your money or your life!"

Without any fear, Shichiri said, "Don't disturb me! Help yourself with the money, it's over there in the drawer." He then resumed his recitation. 

The thief was startled by this unexpected reaction, but he proceeded with his business anyway. While he was helping himself to the money, the master stopped and called, "Don't take all of it. Leave me some to pay my taxes tomorrow."

The thief left some money behind and prepared to leave. Just before he left, the master suddenly shouted at him, "You took my money and you didn't even thank me?! That's not polite!"

This time, the thief was really shocked at such fearlessness. He thanked the master and ran away. The thief later told his friends that he had never been so frightened in his life. 

A few days later, the thief was caught and confessed his theft at Shichiri's house. However, when the master was called as a witness, he said, "No, this man did not steal anything from me. I gave him the money. He even thanked me for it."
--- --- ---
So, unbelievable as it may be, seems I have a stalker on the loose. Why I should have one is beyond me, but it seems that I have. He has done all the things that stalkers do, including drive-bys, several "fan" sites, letters sent hither and yon, and some awfully naughty vitriol directed to those who he thinks are close to me.

Now, a stalker doesn't want money.

What a stalker wants is attention.

The police in the city where he lives -- not far from where I am sitting right now -- tell me their experts have determined this stalker fits the "escalating danger profile," and they have asked me to help them make their case... for my own safety, or so they say.

I feel that if I do this, I may give the stalker what he wants -- attention -- and of course I am tempted to give him what he wants. Isn't that the generous thing to do? Give people what they want? Isn't that what Shichiri did in our story, above?

However, a stalker doesn't want just any attention. He wants the attention -- the undivided attention -- of the one he stalks. In this case, if I give the stalker what he wants, I am left with a paradox. Were I to give him my undivided attention, would I not become his stalker?

Interesting thought, isn't it?

By satisfying the stalker, I would myself become the same.

Do you think he would be angry with me?

Of what use is it to become angry with the stalker? Through anger, whatever small merit you might have accidentally accumulated is burned in the flash of an instant -- gone forever. Through anger, you give rise to 21,000 male dons, and populate your world accordingly. Through anger, you give rise to sickness in the upper part of the body. Truly, I have learned through experience, that anger is a complete downfall unto itself.

Stalkers begin by professing their undying love and devotion. When their expectations are not fulfilled, that love and devotion turns to hatred and obsession. Some are capable of doing great violence -- some assassins, for example, begin as zealous partisans. When the police express their concern, they do so on valid grounds, for he does fit the profile: lack of achievement, inability to maintain relationships, deviant lifestyle, financial problems, status frustration -- all the palette of failures that push him to commit one final act of desperation.

But, while I understand the concern, I cannot share it. Not with this stalker, for he only stalks himself and his only destruction is self-destruction. A directionless, sad and lonely, middle-aged man on a bus, iPod in his hand, nodding his empty head to a broken beat --- committing the coward's long, slow suicide.

I think the stalker is angry at himself, and he displaces this anger toward himself by directing it toward me.
"How could I have been such a fool!" he cries. "The great Me, who cannot be deceived!"

He knows that I know the extent to which his credulity demonstrates his emptiness, and his sly notion of self does not wish to be so known.

"I was set upon by a demon!" he cries. "For only a demon could deceive the great Me!"

But, how easy it is to fool this stalker! All I have to do is put up a mirror, and he will bluster, and posture, and call out my name. Truly, it is as if, every time he looks, he sees me in that mirror -- laughing at him -- reminding him of his emptiness.

And once, he even thanked me for it!

To repent the conditions of one's generosity is to create the conditions for one's own poverty.

Slowly, slowly... catchee monkey.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 30, 2010

As Much As You Can Relax

The last time I ever spoke to one of my teachers, he told me, "As much as you can, relax." Going through some papers today, I came upon a letter from him, dating from around the same period, where he wrote the same thing. 

Obviously, this seemed important, once upon a time.

As long as you remain entangled in something that gives you "identity," such as "I am a Buddhist," or "this is Samsara," or "I am a yogi," or "I am relaxing," realization will remain entirely foreign to you. 
Imputed status is the problem, not the solution. 
It is like digging a very long tunnel, not knowing that it will eventually end at an impenetrable wall. You are quite busy, shoveling great quantities of dirt, and expending all sorts of energy. You have a hopeful expectation that your effort will end in some reward, so every day, you are digging a little more. 

You are encouraging other aspects of your life to buy in,  urging yourself on, running around looking for tunnel coaches, and tunnel cheerleaders. You are soliciting advice about what sort of shovel to use, and reading up on dirt. Maybe you think you are in Stalag XVII or something, and you want to believe you are digging your way to freedom.

Every day you dig your tunnel, and every night it gets all filled back in again. Oh! It is like building Samye! 
"Attachment to the pathless path as a goal
ensures that the place of release remains obscure;
light and darkness, existence and nonexistence,
permanence and transience, cause and effect,
all eight, are congruent with boundless space
and whoever seeks the parameters of emptiness fails,
like a blind bird trying to reach the end of the sky:
what is ineluctable cannot be contrived by man,
and knowledge without purpose is endless."
So, Longchenpa wrote that, and in the auto-commentary, also wrote that practitioners of the gradual approaches are, "obsessed by attachment to the dogma that gives them identity." Specifically, he wrote:
"Personal identity is composed of concepts of arbitrary positive or negative attachment in dualistic perception; spiritual identity is concocted by imputing dogma to a field of absence, particularly the obscenity of clinging attachment to our various philosophical views, modes of meditation, behavior and spiritual goals."
I want to offer the opinion that if you are sitting around in this or that dharma center or racketeer temple, subscribing to corporate organization, acquiring all the books, and beating yourself senseless with projects, there is probably a ragged edge on your spirituality. Maybe, if you fearlessly look at yourself, you will even find that you have drowned your spirituality in religion's bottomless river.
I want to offer the suggestion that maybe it is time to climb out of the water, drag yourself up on the riverbank, and let the sun dry you off. Then you can sit under a tree or something, chewing on a blade of grass. You can even go fishing in that self-same river, using a line with no hook. Sooner or later, a fish will throw himself upon the bank, right at your feet. Then you will have a similarly situated friend with whom you can share your orisons.

So, I remember that when I heard and read my teacher's advice, I thought I should learn how to be relaxed. Learning how to relax can be very stressful, you know? So many things to think about. It happened that I exhausted myself relaxing. Then, when there was rather hopelessly nothing left to do, I can say that I  finally understood relaxation was naturally present all along, and all my activity had been for less than nothing.
So, this was very relaxing, you understand?

In my heart, I wish the same for you, and that is the only reason I share this little story.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Oldest Known Photographs of Tibet?

This photograph of Samye, taken in 1900-1901, comes to us from the Imperial Russian Geographical Society by way of the American Geographical Society. This comes from a collection that some claim as the oldest known photographs of Tibet, now available online from the University of Wisconsin (they claim copyright for the digital images).  

Actually, I think there may be some earlier British images, but above is certainly the oldest known photograph of Samye, one of three in the collection.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Mangalam Center for Buddhist Languages

This is one of those "Darn! I missed it!" posts. The Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages, at 2018 Allston Way, Berkeley, California, has concluded a summer program consisting of a thorough-going re-examination of the Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra, as expressed in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. The aim was to examine standardized terminology for translating Buddhist texts into Western languages. 

As we reported here back in 2006, in 1999 a Japanese research team, working in the basement of the Potala, accidentally discovered a 9th century manuscript of the Vimalakirtinirdesa Sutra, in Sanskrit. This was later published by Taisho University, in three volumes, and made quite a stir. Prior to this, the work was known in the Chinese and Tibetan, but lost in the original Sanskrit. Although not explicitly stated on the Mangalam website, sounds like this is what they spent the summer examining.

This was a USD $2,250. program, which of course took it right out of the hands of anyone save grad students on grants. UC Berkeley and the Ho Center at Stanford are co-sponsors of Mangalam.  Love the scholars, but hope they get around to realistic, affordable programs for practicing Buddhists one of these fine days.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pissing On Hitler

I was going to title this post, "Hitler Had A Buddha Nature," which is of course quite true, but this post is not about Hitler. This post is about the singularly media enabled, psycho-technologically supported culture of hatred we have been creating for the past few generations.

It is a political characteristic of human beings -- and most particularly those human beings who seek to have power or control over other human beings --  to create, dehumanize, and demonize figurehead enemies. 

As an example, the Office of Strategic Services once paid a psychoanalyst -- it was Walter Langer -- to do a remote personality assessment of Adolph Hitler, and conclude, for historical consumption,  that  Hitler's sexual preferences included what are euphemistically known as "golden showers." According to Langer, Eva Braun's exclusive role in Hitler's life was to pee on him. Whether she did or not is immaterial. Obviously, the relationship between Hitler and Eva Braun had at least some bourgeois elements: they chose to marry before committing double-suicide. 

These were human beings, but OSS had a brief to diminish them in the minds of the German people.

This is in fact a very process of statecraft: we create national enemies, making them the locus of all our energy and effort, the over-arching excuse for every national excursion and adventure. This has been going on for centuries -- the ancient Romans used it to crank up excuses for hegemony -- it has been going on for the whole of modern history, and it is going on right now, so I don't think anybody finds this a particularly novel or unfamiliar notion. 

Indeed, hatred of a commonly acknowledged enemy is a way we reaffirm our hive mind. Do you hate Hitler? Good! You're decently one of us! You don't hate Hitler? Something wrong with you? You want an ass-kicking, or what? There is a social penalty for not hating, you see?

What makes our historically recent episodes interesting is the role, beginning with the World War of 1939 - 1945, of state-managed mass communication. Our grasp of mass communication, and strategic influence -- I think they might call that "public diplomacy" these days -- has greatly enhanced our ability to crank up and vilify enemies on a scale that would make ancient emperors drool with envy.

What used to be called psychological operations have become so deeply informed by the masses of behavioral data now available that tactical persuasion of target populations is downright easy: a mere technical exercise in selective use of media organs and subliminal triggers. If you want an example, order up the lightly fictionalized motion picture Wag the Dog from Netflix, and give yourself a crash course in how it really, really is.

It is my thesis that America teaches its citizens to hate on command. Further, that we have so confused ourselves, we mistake our hatred for nobility. What a terrible weakness! I wish I did not feel this way. I wish I could feel that America teaches its citizens to love. What a wonderful strength!

Or, what is so much better -- reach a point beyond love, hate, confusion, control, and the figurehead enemy that renders one impervious to the seductions of dualistic thinking. Just toss notions of weakness and strength right out the window.

Cults also use the figurehead enemy as a means of inducing self-sustaining group loyalty. In this corner, we have Fearless Light Leader. In the opposing corner, we have Hated Dark Enemy. Throw the rule book out the window: we're on a Divine Mission. Look how heroically Fearless Leader struggles to overcome Dark Enemy! An inspiration to us all!

So, if today, you have the chance to take candid inventory, how many figurehead enemies will you find? Well, there are the overt, national enemies: Bin Laden jumps to mind. Then, there are the covert, class enemies: Big Oil, this or that political party, and whatever. These are followed by the infidels: all those who don't believe as we believe. Close on the heels of the infidels are people we don't know but just don't like because we're not supposed to like them. Bringing up the rear are personal enemies: people we do know, and hate for a wide variety of general and specific reasons.

You know, in Buddhism, we are taught to line up all our friends and beloved relatives on one side underneath the refuge tree, and then all our enemies under the other side of the refuge tree. We sort of equalize the whole matter in one fell swoop, by taking everyone along with us to refuge in the Triple Gem. 

In some nominally Buddhist cults now operative in America, the teaching is a little different. Adherents are taught to go on Twitter and mercilessly attack cult enemies morning, noon, and night, ridiculing their deceased parents and so forth, making up all sorts of nonsense. If they don't have any enemies, they just craft them up, and proceed to argue with themselves.

Naturally, to enforce all of this hatred takes a great deal of energy and deception. But, why bother to deconstruct what we already understand? To point at the deceiving haters is one thing -- tantamount to being a deceiving hater one's own self -- but to recognize the root of a general process that is taking place in every corner of our lives is quite another.

By dividing the world into "them" and "us," we are setting the stage that allows us to be manipulated. It is no use whatsoever to blame Fearless Leader for any of this, when we, ourselves, are directly responsible. Pissing on Hitler is just a symptom: a sneeze of the cold. 

Pissing on Hitler is not the underlying cause of anything save more pissing and more Hitlers in the bewildered prison of Castle Samsara.

I wish we could begin to eradicate the deeply rooted culture of hatred in this country, and replace it with something a bit more kind. But, I am not naive enough to think that change will come in result of philosophical paradigm, or social movement.

That change will come one at a time, when we finally tire ourselves sufficiently enough to pause, and see the real enemy: the false friend who has lied to us for so long.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: July 26 - August 1, 2010

NOTE: Sorry to say, but strife is indicated. The energies point to an outbreak of hostility or martial adventure, and danger lurks for the unwary. In war, truth is the first casualty, and that lesson will come home for some of you this week, as you meet the result of your own deceptions. It will take skill to navigate this dangerous week, so here is my advice: give peace a chance. This week's warning shots are just that: if they seem troubling, then consider how much worse the battle will be. Keep your own counsel, and stick to your practice.

July 26, 2010 - Chinese 16th, M-T-K 16th. Pig, Gin, Green 4. Today is a duplicated 15th on the Kagyu calendar, but we are not observing that (duplicated 16th here). This is an unfortunate day in most respects, but life goes on. Engage in Vajrakilaya practice to remove obstacles. Medical treatment possible. Avoid commerce. Make no purchases.

July 27, 2010 - Chinese 17th, M-T-K 16th. Mouse, Zin, Yellow 5. Note duplicated lunar day in Tibetan practice. Hostility and conflict operative today. Don't begin travel today.

July 28, 2010 - Chinese 18th, M-T-K 17th. Ox, Zon, White 6. Get together with the sangha (or friends) today, and try to boost energy all around. Good day for travel.

July 29, 2010 - Chinese 19th, M-T-K 18th. Tiger, Li, Red 7. Negative aspects abound today. Travel east or west possible. Not a good day for surgery.

July 30, 2010 - Chinese 20th, M-T-K  19th. Rabbit, Khon, White 8. Today is baden. Negative aspects still abounding. Protector practice indicated. Friday always best for surgery.

July 31, 2010 -  Chinese 20th, M-T-K 20th. Rabbit, Khon, White 8. Increase possible. Protector practice still indicated.

August 1, 2010 - Chinese 21st, M-T-K 21st. Dragon, Dwa, Red 9.  Today is zin phung. Some material increase possible, but mixed messages abound in every other matter. Surgery out of the question. Travel east typically possible, but guard against accidents.

Naga observations for the sixth  month: Five really good days this month --  lunar 8, 15, 25, 29, 30, and offerings also possible on 4, 17, 18.  Ten bad days -- 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thrangu Monastery Canada: Grand Opening

Today is the grand opening of the new Thrangu Monastery in Vancouver, Canada, and they will be attempting a live webcast. General details may be had by clicking here. This is the newest, and one of the largest, Tibetan-style structures in North America, and enjoys broad, non-sectarian support. Friends of mine will be in attendance, conveying my best wishes. The webcast begins around 10:00 a.m., Pacific time, and will run all day until 4:00 p.m. Along with Thrangu Rinpoche, there will also be a talk by Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche in the afternoon. This is a major event, and you will not be disappointed.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 23, 2010

David Petit (1955 - 2010): Husband of Lama Tsultrim Allione Passes

David Petit (11 August 1955 - 22 July 2010), dedicated co-founder of southern Colorado's truly beautiful Tara Mandala, energetic stupa builder, and beloved husband of Lama Tsultrim Allione, has suffered a fatal heart attack during his sleep. The following statement has been released:
David Petit (1955-2010) would have been fifty-five August 11th. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the third of six children of Peg and Robert Petit, and later moved to New Hampshire with his family. At the age of sixteen he went to Europe and began studying in the Anthroposophic communities in England and Germany where he graduated from college, stayed for thirteen years, and became a famous performer and teacher of Eurythmy. He had his own dance company there with his first wife Leslie, and then they returned to the United States and were divorced in 1987.

In 1989, through the Waldorf School in Springs Valley, New York, David met Lama Tsultrim. It was instant recognition when he heard her name mentioned by another teacher in the corridor of the school. Her children attended this school and David taught them theater and Eurythmy. After they met, they fell deeply in love, and this love has gone on for the last 21 years. David took on the responsibilities of co-parenting Lama Tsultrim’s children, being her partner in all ways, and supporting her vision. First, he helped build a stupa dedicated to Tara at their house in Valley Cottage, New York. Then, together they found the land that became Tara Mandala on Sept 18, 1993. At Tara Mandala, the first land project was building another stupa, which David did with his own hands and the assistance of a few people from the native rocks of the land. It is dedicated to Nyala Pema Duddul, was completed in 1999, and consecrated by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. From the first yurt and tepee to the incredible Tara Temple, nothing at Tara Mandala would exist without David. He also kept watch over the finances and worked in his own way with the spirits and animals of the land. To this end, during ten years of outdoor kitchen every summer, there were never any disturbances from bears. David has been a pillar of strength, forbearance and constant support for Lama Tsultrim and her family, who all adored him.

One thing that many people do not know about David is that he was a very great practitioner of Dzog Chen. In conversations with Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche during the past twenty-four hours, Rinpoche told Lama Tsultrim that she should tell people this. He was an advanced practitioner of Tögel, and in the last two years he moved ahead through the four visions rapidly. A few days before he died, he told Lama Tsultrim that he felt his body was disappearing, dissolving. Rinpoche suggests that everyone attempt to mix their minds with his mind, as he was definitely liberated in the Bardo of Dharmata, and he has complete confidence in this. If the Sangha does this it will benefit them greatly. In the last weeks Lama Tsultrim and David had many particularly poignant and deeply felt times, with expression of profound and ever increasing love.
Cremation will take place at the stupa at Tara Mandala at dawn (5:50 am) on July 24th, 2010. Everyone is welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers please make offerings to Tara Mandala for which David gave his heart and life force.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Whole Lot of Noise About Silence

"the perspective of eternally free open space"

So, here we are...

Any minute now, something could go in a direction radically different from the blue birds engraved on the compass of fond expectation. One minute you are watching ribbons float from your beloved's perfect tresses while the music swells. The next minute parts of you are flying away, clutched in somebody's talons. 

Bees go heavily armed to extract nectar essences. Flies go unarmed to dance the fandango on shit. You can examine fright and flight on land sea and air, but sooner or later, everybody gets trapped in the long second that lasts forty nine days. Since we are supposed to be Buddhists, we are supposed to practice that long second. Target practice and shadow-boxing. Since we are supposed to be Buddhists, we are supposed to meditate.

So, meditation....

How do you begin or end that which has no beginning or ending?

A lot of people spout a lot of nonsense about meditation: a whole lot of noise about silence. The very best authorities on the subject tend to regard things rather more simply. The very best authorities promise that if you just ride the bus without concepts for a week, a fortnight, or a month, then you will never, ever have to go anywhere on the bus. 

The bus will not depart for elsewhere. Maybe the bus will be frozen like the frozen pixels of the bus, above. The frozen pixel bus freezes and thaws itself automatically. Tell me: how could you possibly ride this frozen pixel bus? This shining, empty, temporary bus cannot take you anywhere.

A click makes it all disappear.

So, meditation...
I must confess I never gave it very much thought.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, July 19, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: July 19 - July 25, 2010

NOTE: The summer has been proceeding by fits and starts, but here, finally, is some clear sailing. In conventional terms, this should be a "lucky" week for dharma practitioners. The high point comes Tuesday and Wednesday, so plan your moves around those two days. Tap the brakes Friday and keep it in the garage on Sunday. The annual wandering of the lamas is in full swing. There is an enormous amount of beneficial spiritual activity taking place all over the planet, and that energy is beginning to take effect. Will there be alarums and excursions? This is samsara, right? Will the elements make themselves known? This is planet earth, right? Nevertheless, in your own sphere this can be a week to remember. As my teacher so famously said: "Whatever you do, strongly do."

July 19, 2010 - Chinese 9th, M-T-K 8th. Dragon, Zin, White 6. Today is zin phung. You will overcome obstacles today, albeit with some possible disagreement, but on this energetic day you can and very probably will prevail. Under ordinary circumstances today is not particularly ideal for significant surgeries, but as this is actually a Medicine Buddha day (and also Tara day), these are not ordinary circumstances.

July 20, 2010 - Chinese 10th, M-T-K 10th. Snake, Zon, Red 7. Note omitted lunar day in Tibetan practice. Guru Rinpoche's Birthday. An excellent day. Material increase more than likely. Make jewel offerings today. Under no circumstances harm trees or the water element. Travel to the south or southwest excellent, other directions are so-so. Don't make promises you cannot keep.

July 21, 2010 - Chinese 11th, M-T-K 11th. Horse, Li, White 8. Drubjor. An extremely auspicious combination of energies treats today with a large dose of old-fashioned good luck. Take me to the highway and show me a sign? Here is your sign. Super day for sang.

July 22, 2010 - Chinese 12th, M-T-K 12th. Sheep, Khon, Red 9. Nothing lasts forever, so while that feeling of trepidation seems useful, or even necessary, all you need to do is wait out the glitch. Not so good for medical treatment, and surgery is right out of the question.

July 23, 2010 - Chinese 13th, M-T-K  13th. Monkey, Dwa, White 1. If you don't try to set terms or run the show, today will be just fine. Back off just a notch, don't try to rush things, and you'll be pleased with the result. Travel good to the east or north.

July 24, 2010 -  Chinese 14th, M-T-K 14th. Bird, Khen, Black 2. Positive energies today, pointing to success in all matters. Medical treatment possible. Avoid stairs. Good day for making requests. Today is the Third Karmapa's anniversary.

July 25, 2010 - Chinese 15th, M-T-K 15th. Dog, Kham, Blue 3.  Today is zin phung. Beware illness, over-exertion, fatigue, and accidents. A very good day to stay home, rest, and placate the nagas. Stay out of the garden today. Don't cut or wash your hair. Don't disturb water in any way. Today is sojong. Today is also Gampopa's anniversary.

Naga observations for the sixth  month: Five really good days this month --  lunar 8, 15, 25, 29, 30, and offerings also possible on 4, 17, 18.  Ten bad days -- 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Politics, Religion, and Envious Time: Free the Karmapa

Somebody is employing political means to obstruct the Karmapa's compassionate intentions toward the West.

It is tempting to blame India -- after all, they are the ones who denied his exit visa for Europe a while back, and his exit visa for the United States just yesterday, so no Karmapa at the First North American Kagyu Monlam.
"The Karmapa was scheduled to attend prayer sessions being organised by Karma Triyana Dharamchakra centre in Woodstock in New York, but Indian authorities refused to grant him permission to visit there," said the Karmapa's secretary Gompo Tsering. "We fail to understand why restrictions were imposed on his movement as the tour was purely a religious one."
It is tempting to blame Indians, as they have been known to shoot themselves while cleaning their diplomatic pistols, but I am not one who jumps so quickly at shiny bait. How does it serve Indian interests to upset those quietly powerful Tibetan Buddhists who are strategically employed all over official Washington?

Likewise, it is tempting to blame the Chinese, but the Chinese are the smartest politicians on the face of the planet. They have absolutely no reason to pressure India to block the Karmapa's travel. People who think that the Karmapa is somehow the Dalai Lama's "successor" don't understand the playing field, or how to dissect purely journalistic notions.

Now, I used to work in politics, so I have a dirty mind. I spend about an hour each day saying sorry to the dakinis for all the wicked things I did in political service. I figure at this rate, I should have a complete confession in their hands by about the third future lifetime -- the first time I'll be able to enjoy the salad bar while walking on two legs, with no wings or a tail, or having to watch out for a swatter.

Cock-eyed optimism aside, because I used to work in politics and have a dirty mind, I am sitting here making a list of all those individuals and factions who profit from Karmapa's inability to travel freely. I am putting checkmarks next to every name on that list. Do they have the motive to obstruct? Do they have the opportunity to obstruct? Do they have the means? There are a few other factors, but you get the idea.

The list is short and not so sweet.

If I was still in the rackets, I would spin up a witch hunt and start examining the bank accounts of those individuals directly responsible for the Karmapa's troubles. Their bank accounts, those of their relations, and the purses where their wives keep nail money. While this was in progress, I would start looking at the out-linkages to little issues like the hair of one hundred thousand dakinis, and all the rest of those dusty corners where light hardly ever shines.

If that didn't work?

All things being equal, it doesn't take all that much to keep a Gulfstream G550 in the air.  I been in 'em. Not like it takes a government or anything, if you get my meaning.

Unless they want to put the Karmapa under house arrest like Aung San Suu Kyi, somebody in India better think this thing all the way through, because the Karmapa's real bodyguards are not a loss for heads and hands.

Now, you can change destiny -- I know because I have done it -- but, you cannot oppose forces of nature: what I like to call historical imperatives, or the primordial writ large. The ages are littered with the corpses of men who opposed the Will of Heaven. The Indians know that. The Chinese know that. Their ambitions almost always take this into account.

It is a historical imperative that the dharma take firm root in the West. It is a historical imperative that the Karmapa have fluent, frequent, safe, and unrestricted contact with the West. His predecessor died in Illinois, and since he never did anything without the pure intention to benefit beings, that sends me a strong message.

It was Horace who mentioned carpe diem, usually translated as "seize the day," and those who use the phrase usually forget the context in which said mention was made.
"Don't ask (it's forbidden to know) what end the gods will grant to me or you, Leuconoe. Don't play with Babylonian fortune-telling either. It is better to endure whatever will be. Whether Jupiter has allotted to you many more winters or this final one, which even now wears out the Tyrrhenian sea on the rocks placed opposite -- be wise, strain the wine, and scale back your long hopes to a short period. While we speak, envious time will have already fled. Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the next."
Well, anyway, that's just one more rendition.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Global Ecological Crisis: An Aspirational Prayer

When I pray one-pointedly, with fervent faith and devotion,
To the master Padmakara, to Padmapani, venerable Tara and other deities
In whom the Three Precious Jewels are all gathered,
I beseech you to direct your enlightened intention compassionately toward us
From the invisible expanse of reality!

All aeons of time that are illustrious in lifespan and merits are destroyed
By ill-intentioned thoughts and deeds, and by evil barbarity.
Will you not therefore direct your enlightened intention compassionately
Toward living beings who, lacking positive opportunities,
Commit an enormous mass of degenerate actions, embodying the five degradations?

Due to rapacious greed that covets the world’s resources
Trees and forests are cut down and so forth,
Causing an imbalance of the rain water element.
May you swiftly and compassionately protect
Living beings who fall into such disastrous circumstances!

In order that countless diverse machines might be brought into service
There is unlimited excavation of mines, and through these actions
The abodes of celestial, aquatic and terrestrial spirits are imbalanced.
Grant your blessings therefore that afflictions associated with the elements might be assuaged!

The air is being polluted by billowing clouds of smoke from countless factories,
And through this primary cause,
The whole world trembles due to unprecedented diseases.
Grant your blessings that it may be protected from such states of misery!

In particular, due to insatiable desires and cravings,
Coarse human behaviour pulverizes the physical world and its organisms,
Giving rise to an imbalance of the four naturally occurring elements.
Grant your blessings therefore, that the mundane aggregates
Might be pacified right where they are, without causing harm!

The poison of global warming due to the harnessing of machines in all places and times,
Is causing the existing snow mountains to melt,
And the oceans will consequently bring the world within reach of the aeon’s end.
Grant your blessings that it may be protected from these conditions!

Moreover, there are incurable skin diseases that arise
From the breaching of the natural ozone canopy
Which inhibits the intolerable and terrifying poisonous radiation of the sun.
Grant you blessings that these may be pacified, remaining behind in name alone!

In brief, dependent on strong desire and craving,
This world generated by ordinary past actions
Is beginning to be swiftly transformed into a desert.
Grant your blessings that the negative past actions which are responsible
Might cease, right where they are!

Although the entire mass of defects that afflict the physical world and its living organisms
Has been engendered by the dissonant mental states associated with past actions,
Comprising all primary and secondary dissonant mental states,
Even so, through the unfailing power of truth, of the Three Precious Jewels,
I pray that all the points of this aspirational prayer may be fulfilled!

(This prayer was composed by Ngawang Kunga of the Dolma Palace, throne holder of Sakya, in accordance with the repeated exhortations of Dr John Stanley, conveyed with the great clarity of higher aspiration, with regard to the impending catastrophe that now confronts the environment and living organisms in all parts of the world. May its aspirations be accordingly fulfilled! Translated by Dr Gyurme Dorje.)

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 16, 2010

First North American Kagyu Monlam

As most readers already know, the First North American Kagyu Monlam is currently underway in New York. 

Bloggers in attendance are reporting that on Chokhor Duchen, Thrangu Rinpoche bestowed the Akshobya empowerment to a crowd of approximately 700 people and one special guest.

Here, from the Kagyu Monlam's official blog:
"At the conclusion of the empowerment, Rinpoche sat patiently at the front of the stage in a chair, blessing each person with the vase of water consecrated with the mandala of Akshobya. One of the more interesting participants waiting in the line was a large white rabbit, carried by a loving friend in a small cardboard box. As the woman brought her rabbit to Rinpoche for blessing, he smiled, touched the vase right between the rabbit's ears, and trickled blessed saffron water on its head!"
Rabbits are well appreciated in the Kagyu tradition. The 13th Karmapa was particularly fond of rabbits, and you often see one depicted in paintings of him. Why this is so, is a study unto itself.

Here at Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, we extend profound respect and best wishes to Thrangu Rinpoche, to all attendees at the First North American Kagyu Monlam, and to the peerless Wisdom Dakini who assisted the bodhisattva in rabbit form.

Things are not as they seem, nor are they otherwise.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heart Sutra In Massachusetts for Chokhor Duchen

Ogyen Tulku has returned to the United States from Taiwan, and at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday the 15th of July -- Chokhor Duchen - will be teaching the Heart Sutra at Gospel of Grace Church in Springfield, Massachusetts. You can get further details from the Buddha of Compassion Society website.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: July 12 - July 18, 2010

NOTE: Earth spirits are featured on Monday and Tuesday. Usually, when we see this particular pattern, we see some risk of geological upset, i.e. earthquakes and so forth. The season is important, as this week we enter the sixth month. That aside, the week is built around Chokhor Duchen, on Thursday: one of our so-called "ten million days." The next such day won't be until late October, so make the most of this one.

July 12, 2010 - Chinese 1st, M-T-K 1st. Monkey, Zin, Red 7. Today is yan kwong. Gains are possible today, but at some risk of discord.

July 13, 2010 - Chinese 3rd, M-T-K 2nd. Dog, Li, Red 9. Today is zin phung. Note omitted lunar day in Chinese practice. Gains are probable today, with little chance of opposition.

July 14, 2010 - Chinese 4th, M-T-K 3rd. Pig, Khon, White 1. There may be some concerns today, so conserve your energies for later success. Good day for long life practices.

July 15, 2010 - Chinese 5th, M-T-K 4th. Mouse, Dwa, Black 2. Chokhor Duchen. The effects of actions, whether positive or negative, are multiplied ten million times today (next such day in October).

July 16, 2010 - Chinese 6th, M-T-K  5th. Ox, Khen, Blue 3. You can make forward strides today, despite some tendency to opposition.

July 17, 2010 -  Chinese 7th, M-T-K 6th. Tiger, Kham, Green 4. Negative energies today, pointing to fatigue and failure.

July 18, 2010 - Chinese 8th, M-T-K 7th. Rabbit, Gin, Yellow 5.  Today is Baden, so no prayer flags. Success and accomplishment possible.

Naga observations for the sixth  month: Five really good days this month --  lunar 8, 15, 25, 29, 30, and offerings also possible on 4, 17, 18.  Three bad days -- 1, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 16, 19, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Visit With the Beauty of Xiaohe

I spent an entire day with an old girlfriend -- a 3,800 year old girlfriend to be exact -- when I was finally, after much anticipation, able to visit the Bowers Museum in Orange County, California, to attend their "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition. The lady in question is the justly famous "Beauty of Xiaohe:" the mummified, Bronze Age remains of a Caucasian woman recovered from western China's desert. Astute readers will recall we examined this subject last December, in what surprisingly became one of the most popular posts we have ever published.

This is a world-class presentation, displaying state-of-the-art curation, that really is worth a visit. The  exhibition displays important archaeological finds along the Silk Road, in juxtaposition to huge, life-sized, photographic murals depicting the exact location where the objects were found. This gives you the sense of being at the site yourself, encountering the artifacts precisely as they were first encountered by the archaeologists.

Support for the exhibition is first class. The catalog is well done, and they have the full range of Silk Road scholastic studies -- virtually everything of substance now available in print -- available for immediate purchase. I decided to get The Tarim Mummies; Ancient China and the Mystery of the Earliest Peoples from the West, by J.P. Mallory and Victor H. Mair. I like this book for its coverage of the so-called Subeshi witches.

This was an incredibly difficult collection to bring -- negotiation took several years -- coming all the way from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in Ürümchi, China. Much of the credit for the exhibition's success in that regard goes to  philanthropist Anne Shih, a most cultured, charming, and persuasive Taiwanese lady who should probably be working in the Department of State. Mrs. Shih is also the one who convinced the Chinese government to allow her to bring a collection direct from the Potala -- the Bowers Museum's justly famous exhibition "Tibet: Treasures from the Roof of the World."

Mrs. Shih has an eye for the evolution of Buddhist art, and she tries to cultivate this interest in others. In consequence, the Bowers is developing special expertise in the area. This, of course, is what interests me the most, and I was pleased to see that the Silk Road exhibit also included Buddhist artifacts for examination. 

I particularly like to see things from the Tang dynasty (June 18, 618 – June 4, 907) -- things from Padmasambhava's time. You know, we sometimes look at Padmasambhava's era and get a sort of unnatural view. So, it seems helpful to examine the various cultural forces that greeted his arrival in Tibet through the medium of examining the era's arts. You quickly see that the suppositions we bring to study of Padmasambhava's life and times are not always realistic.

One of the things we find -- and it seems we are finding more and more evidence of this -- is that there were already numbers of blue-eyed Buddhists; indeed, it seems they were already about  and abroad for several centuries before Padmasambhava's time.  One likes to speculate about what sort of Buddhists they might have been.

Regardless, the "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition at the Bowers ends on July 25th, after which it travels to Houston, and then on to Philadelphia, where it is scheduled to open in February 2011. By the way -- the "secret" of this exhibition is that many of the artifacts predate the known Silk Road by some 2,000 years, demonstrating a much earlier, and flourishing West to East exchange -- a "global village" of sorts, operating well before anyone previously suspected it was possible.

Of course, we have always known that Westerners come in contact with Buddhism several centuries before Tibetans do -- but recent scholarship is coming closer to establishing that Westerners come in contact with Buddhist beliefs at the very time of Shakyamuni Buddha himself. We are also coming closer to establishing the earliest contact between Westerners and tantric beliefs. 

I would like to thank the fine people at the Bowers -- some of whom I have known for over twenty-five years -- for making my visit there so pleasant and memorable.

The Beauty of Xiaohe
Blue-Eyed Buddhists in the Ninth Century
Silk Road Archaeology: What If?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 09, 2010

Tarthang Rinpoche Restores Swayambhu Stupa: Rejoice

"These signs and sufferings will awaken the mind of a man, and
disgusted with the human condition, favoured in his actions and
governed by sympathy and compassion towards the sufferers, he
will dedicate himself to the restoration of the Great Stupa. He
will aspire to the highest human achievement and fulfill his wish
to rebuild perfection." -- Padmasambhava

His Holiness Trulshik Rinpoche, Supreme Head of the Nyingmapa is in that helicopter you see in the above photograph, performing the re-consecration of the Swayambhu Stupa, following completion of the complete restoration sponsored by Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche. This is in fact the first restoration in over ninety years, and the fifteenth restoration in the last 1500 years.

Here you see the final step in the restoration: the pata, or hanging belt, with the great seal of the Tibetan Nyingmapa Meditation Center, in Berkeley, California -- the seat of the authentic Nyingma lineage in the West -- above which is the dedication plaque, composed by Trulshik Rinpoche in honor of the Great Being, Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche, the living emanation of Padmasambhava, and prophesied restorer of the stupa.

Here, the belt is being taken in procession around the stupa, before being hoisted and installed on the West or Amitabha side.
"And all living creatures engaged in the restoration of the
Great Stupa, after three reawakenings, are reborn with the body
of a man or god, a pure vessel for the nectar of Dharma, and
finally attain Buddhahood in the Western Buddhafield of
Sukhavati, the Pure Land of Bliss. Whoever has put trust in the
Great Stupa, whoever has found joy in the nature of the Great
Stupa, whoever has shown devotion to the Great Stupa and whoever
rejoices with the Bodhisattvas when the Restoration of the Great
Stupa has been completed, after seven rebirths, sits at the head
of the Vidhyadharas in the Infinite Palace of Lotus Light in the
Glorious Copper Coloured Mountain of Ngayab in the southwest. Any
living creature who envisions the Great Restoration with his eye,
or hears its vibration with his ear, or imagines it in his mind
or feels it with his body has all traces of unknowing action, the
stains of sixty-thousand great aeons of ignorance, removed from
his mind. All men engaged with the Great Being in the Restoration
of the Great Stupa either with or without understanding, trust or
devotion receive a part of his supreme realization and spiritual
power, and arriving at the end of human experience, they live in
the Reality of the Vidhyadharas at the feet of Orgyen Rinpoche

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Longchenpa's Prophetic Message to Western Buddhists

Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa, or Longchenpa (1308 - 1364) needs no introduction. There is no aspect of Buddhism as it was practiced in Tibet that is not touched -- and touched profoundly -- by his smallest word. Longchenpa is indeed identical with Guru Rinpoche.

Among the works written late in his life is the following, beautifully translated by Ken McLeod as Thirty Pieces of Sincere Advice. We have featured Mr. McLeod's really rather stunning work here before, and recommend a click-'o-the-link to his treasure trove of Dharma. Like most translators, he could also use your support, so when you visit his site, give serious thought to generosity.

Now, despite the title of this post -- which is deliberately stinky -- there is no hermeneutic evidence that Longchenpa wrote the following for those in the West who are sporting with "teaching" Buddhism and "building" Buddhist institutions. Taken literally, anyone would be disposed to say that he wrote it as a reflection of conditions and observations in 14th century Tibet. 

However, I defy any intellectually honest person to read these words and say they are not prophetic. I defy anyone to say they are not applicable -- and that is uniquely applicable -- to those in the West who like to think themselves wildly involved with transplanting Buddhism as practiced in Tibet, whether we are talking about indigenous Westerners or the legion of lamas who have come to tame them. 

Maybe we should not confine this to Westerners, but also include the empire builders of Taiwan, Singapore, India, and elsewhere -- everywhere the dreaded words "we need ... " are uttered -- so if it seems I have unfairly singled out Westerners, then I do apologize, albeit not very sincerely.

Matter of fact, to relieve the problem of specific censure or approbation -- which I have admittedly introduced with the single-minded intention of disturbing you enough to actually read the translation --  I defy anyone, anywhere to read these words and not see themselves.

Because what we have here is a handy catalog of all the stuff that gets in the way -- all the stuff that keeps on getting in the way -- all the stuff we do instead of doing what we should be doing. Here, in a few terse passages, is the road map into and out of every practitioner's blind canyon.

This work is not confined to any one time or place. 

This work arises because we are human. 

Read, memorize, or print out and stick on the wall.

Prophecy is not about then, but now.


From the infinite sky of your pristine awareness, the totality of experience,
and the great clouds of your aspirations and prayers
Warm rays of compassion and showers of elixir stream down,
Ripening the three forms in the fields, your students' minds.
I bow to you, my teacher, my protector, supreme among the Three Jewels.

With stronger aspirations I might have joined the practice lineage.
I didn't make the effort and now enter the twilight of a meaningless life.
I intended to follow the ancient masters, but I've given up and I see others like me.
So, I'll outline these thirty pieces of sincere advice to evoke some determination in me.

Too bad! You've built up a large following, one way or another.
You look after a large institution where all the right conditions are present.
But it's all just a basis for conflict and ideas like "This is mine."
Live alone - that's my sincere advice. 

In public ceremonies you heal children or subdue demons.
You give your capabilities away to the crowd.
Because you really want food and money, your own needs cloud your judgment.
Tame your own mind - that's my sincere advice. 

You collect a lot of pledges from the poor
And use them to build big monuments, help the needy, and so on.
The good works you do cause others to live badly.
Goodness must be in your mind - that's my sincere advice. 

You've taught the Dharma to others because you wanted to be famous.
You cleverly keep a large circle of admirers around you.
To take these to be real is the seed of pride.
Limit your projects - that's my sincere advice. 

You earn money by trading, charging interest, cheating or other dishonest ways.
Although you make large offerings with your accumulated wealth,
Good actions based on greed lead to the eight conventional concerns.
Cultivate non-attachment - that's my sincere advice. 

Although you think you're serving the welfare of beings
By acting as a guarantor, witness or advocate to help settle others' disputes,
Your own opinions will inevitably assert themselves.
Don't be concerned - that's my sincere advice. 

Your political power, wealth, connections, good fortune and reputation
May spread all over the world.
When you die, these things will not help you at all.
Work at your practice - that's my sincere advice. 

Managers, assistants, directors, and such
Provide the infrastructure for both communities and religious institutions.
But your involvement in such matters gives rise to worry and concern.
Limit your business - that's my sincere advice. 

You take what you need, images, offerings,
Books, cooking gear, whatever, and stay in solitude.
Right now you have it all together but later difficulties and disputes arise.
Don't need anything - that's my sincere advice. 

In these difficult times you may feel that it is helpful
To be sharp and critical with aggressive people around you.
This approach will just be a source of distress and confusion for you.
Speak calmly - that's my sincere advice. 

Intending to be helpful and without personal investment,
You tell your friends what is really wrong with them.
You may have been honest but your words gnaw at their heart.
Speak pleasantly - that's my sincere advice. 

You engage in discussions, defending your views and refuting others'
Thinking that you are clarifying the teachings.
But this just gives rise to emotional posturing.
Keep quiet - that's my sincere advice. 

You feel that you are being loyal
By being partial to your teacher, lineage or philosophical tradition.
Boosting yourself and putting down others just cause hard feelings.
Have nothing to do with all this - that's my sincere advice. 

As you carefully go over the teachings you've studied
You may think that picking out others' mistakes is real understanding.
You will just build up a lot of negative fixations.
Keep your perception clear - that's my sincere advice. 

Mindless talk of emptiness ignores causation.
You may think the ultimate teaching is that there is nothing to do,
But when you stop the two ways of growing , your practice will wither.
Cultivate these two together - that's my sincere advice. 

You think that you will enhance your practice by taking a partner
And transforming sexual energy in the context of the third empowerment,
But the path of non-retention has snared many great meditators.
Keep to the natural path - that's my sincere advice. 

Giving empowerments to those who aren't ready,
Or even distributing sacred materials in large gatherings,
Leads to abuse and causes commitments to be broken.
Be precise - that's my sincere advice. 

You may think that you practice deliberate behavior
By going naked in public and shocking people in other ways.
Such actions just cause ordinary people not to trust the Dharma.
Be impeccable - that's my sincere advice. 

You work at being ethical, learned, and noble
So that you will be the best person in your district.
But from this peak you can only fall to a lower status.
Be moderate - that's my sincere advice. 

Wherever you live, in towns, spiritual communities or in isolation,
Don't seek out special friends.
Don't be close or at odds with anyone, no matter who is around.
Be independent - that's my sincere advice. 

Maybe you appear deferential and appreciative
To your faithful supporters who provide you with your livelihood,
But in deceiving others you only entangle yourself.
Treat everyone equally - that's my sincere advice. 

Countless books on divination, astrology, medicine and other subjects
Describe ways to read signs. They do add to your learning,
But they generate new thoughts and your stable attention breaks up.
Cut down on this kind of knowledge - that's my sincere advice. 

You stop arranging your usual living space,
But make everything just right for your retreat.
This makes little sense and just wastes time.
Forget all this - that's my sincere advice. 

You make an effort at practice and become a good and knowledgeable person.
You may even master some particular capabilities.
But whatever you attach to will tie you up.
Be unbiased and know how to let things be - that's my sincere advice. 

You may think awakened activity means to subdue skeptics
By using sorcery, directing or warding off hail or lightning, for example.
But to burn the minds of others will lead you to lower states.
Keep a low profile - that's my sincere advice. 

Maybe you collect a lot of important writings,
Major texts, personal instructions, private notes, whatever.
If you haven't practiced, books won't help you when you die.
Look at the mind - that's my sincere advice. 

When you focus on practice, to compare understandings and experience,
Write books or poetry, to compose songs about your experience
Are all expressions of your creativity. But they just give rise to thinking.
Keep yourself free from intellectualization - that's my sincere advice. 

When a thought arises, the key is to look right at it.
When you know about mind, the key is to be right there.
Although there isn't anything to cultivate, the key is to keep cultivating.
Keep yourself free of distraction - that's my sincere advice. 

Act from emptiness knowing the effects of your actions.
When you understand not doing, observe the three vows.
With non-referential compassion work to help beings
Keep the two ways of growing inseparable - that's my sincere advice. 

I've studied with many learned and masterful teachers and received their profound instruction.
I've read some profound sutras and tantras and understood a little of them.
But I don't practice what I know. It's too bad. I just fool myself.
So, for me and those like me I offer these thirty pieces of sincere advice.

May the good from writing these verses with this attitude of determination
Guide all beings out of the desolation of existence and bring them great joy.
May we follow the way of the buddhas of the three times, their followers and the ancient masters,
And become their great and powerful offspring as well.

Thirty Pieces of Sincere Advice was written by Tsultrim Lodru out of some slight feelings of determination. Ken McLeod translated this work because it spoke to him. Tenpa reprinted this work because it flat out shouted to him.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

One Hundred More Moon Reflections

Your own understanding, or lack thereof, of the precise character of your association with another human being can tear out your heart when you least expect it.

It can take years to get over the surprise.

A little thing can haunt your mind: a picture that will not stop flickering.

It is just no use to ask why, or wish it otherwise. Rivers of rice whiskey spilling into oceans of  tiny tears do not wash even one moment of it away.

Much, much worse is the long, dry day when a wild July wind brings it all back, and you are forced to tell yourself yes, it really happened, and yes, this is all that's left. It doesn't have anything to do with love. It has everything to do with being human, and a random trigger that squeezes the memory of the excited sweetness of summer past.

Take a deep breath.
Those songs I composed for you; really, I also composed them for myself.
Those poems I wrote for myself; really, I also wrote them for everyone else.
Those things I did for myself and others; really, I did them for nobody.
Those prayers I never offered because I stopped running from moon to moon.
Back and forth on the Kowloon Canton Railway, every stop from Tsim Sha Tsui to Lo Wu engraved in bone: the white birds that rise when we pass through the New Territories, circling over the backyard gardens, where the city of the fragrant harbor and stinky streets turns into green before it meets another gray. The flowers shift their faces to watch the flashing windows pass as the train's long, rushing breath inhales the afternoon.

Cyclic existence is cyclic existence.

Everybody is either talking on a cell phone or staring at a cell phone. Everybody changes SIMS between Tai Wo and Fanling. The younger ladies are establishing rank with luckless variations on Louis/Luxury Vuitton/Vinyl. The floor is blocked with cheap plaid carry totes so big you wonder how the older ladies manage. Are they smuggling Hong Kong back to Shenzhen in pieces, one trip at a time?

Where does Hong Kong go when 九廣鐵路 disappears into 深圳地铁 ? Even Mong Kok isn't Mong Kok anymore but Mong Kok "East."

Ah ya, Mong Kok is Mong Kok. They say that if you stand in Mong Kok, you are standing in the most heavily populated place on planet earth. If you stand there long enough, you will see everyone you ever wanted to see. 

The catch is, you can never get tired of waiting. If you get tired of waiting, and blink your eyes, you'll miss the one you've been waiting for.
I know this from experience. 
I went there, and I waited for what seemed a very long time. 
Finally, I got tired. 
I did not see you there.
Maybe I did not see you there because I had already seen you there?
Because I did not see you does that mean I have extinguished you? The thoughts and emotions are finally dead? Are they cremated on the fire of your memory or buried in the memory of your fire? It doesn't have anything to do with love. It has everything to do with being human, and the appeal of rhetoric between stations.

I close my eyes. 

Is your only reflection at Mong Kok?

Songs, poems, things, and unspoken prayers unravel over and over, like a string wound and unwound around a finger. When the very fact of any given situation negates any conceivably useful  question, the only thing left to do is make an offering of all forms appearing.
All forms appearing in the vast three thousand worlds,
I offer as the supreme mudra of body.
Please grant the siddhi of unchanging form.

All sound, and sources of sound, appearing in the vast three thousand worlds,
I offer as the supreme mudra of speech.
Please grant the siddhi of unimpeded speech.

All mind’s discursive thoughts in the vast three thousand worlds,
I offer as the supreme mudra of mind.
Please grant the siddhi of undeluded mind.

All happiness and suffering in the vast three thousand worlds,
I offer as the mudra of auspiciousness.
May all sky be pervaded by great bliss.

If suffering, I will bear the suffering of all beings.
May the Ocean of Samara’s suffering dry up.
So, my dear --

It is again July everywhere people measure by months and summer where they measure by seasons and I am not waiting in Mong Kok with songs, poems, things, and prayers spinning around my finger anymore. Every "I Love You" is engraved in bone just like the KCR stations. The birds have not yet come to rest and the old gardens are faded snapshots along the railway river. The narrow wind is now but a desultory breeze.
I am an old garden
beside a river
no better than its shores,
where flowers no longer
turn to the light
but become stained glass
that admits color, not life.

I am an old garden
no one is left to harvest,
where nothing else matters
except the weathered glories
of sun, moon and stars
fallen to the ground
like neglected bounty.

I am an old garden
where once you paused
and inhaled the afternoon;
where the things you planted
grow wild without you,
as careless as your promises;
careful as wind across long grass.

What was it that guided your heart?
The wind, the long grass,
or one hundred more moon reflections?
My dear! If you ever find yourself struggling to fix a situation you simply cannot fix, stop traveling back and forth, struggling to fix the situation.

Fix your gaze instead.

This is for a flickering picture of the Kowloon Canton Railway, as it was for me one summer past. In the key of A, for guitar, and the rabbits.

Lao Dongxi

Stumble Upon Toolbar