Monday, November 29, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: November 29 - December 5, 2010

NOTE: We can take a deep breath, and enjoy a generally productive and not altogether unpleasant change from last week's wild energies. This is the final week in the tenth lunar month, and from a Western perspective, this week we enter the year's final month. Well, that was quick, wasn't it? Where did 2010 disappear? The time favors the impending Western holidays. This is not to say that the year's energies are entirely submerged -- we will see typical Tiger, and last week's conditions may continue to vex -- but, this is a good time to turn one's attention to the personal and pleasant aspects of life. Dare we say it? This is a good time to relax and try to enjoy yourself. We see clear indications of bounty, plenty, and gain, albeit with a few glitches. Be very careful of minor accidents -- a normal precaution this time of year. Our bottom line advice for the week? Practice generosity.

November 29, 2010 - Chinese 24th, M-T-K 23rd. Sheep, Gin, White 6. Acquisitions are featured today, and generally favorable material circumstances, but beware of accidents.

November 30, 2010 - Chinese 25th, M-T-K 24th. Monkey, Zin, Red 7. Good day for women and children. Generally favorable circumstances. If you have a special someone -- or, you are looking for a special someone -- this is a good day to let them find you.

December 1, 2010 - Chinese 26th, M-T-K 26th. Bird, Zon, White 8. Note omitted day in Tibetan practice. Dakini Day observed today. Anniversary of Tsongkhapa. Good day to give gifts, or acquire things for the home, but beware of disagreements.

December 2, 2010 - Chinese 27th, M-T-K 27th. Dog, Li, Red 9. Extremely favorable energies. Rapid, decisive actions will be met with favor. Good day for travel.

December 3, 2010 - Chinese 28th, M-T-K 28th. Pig, Khon, White 1. Today is zin phung. Mixed messages. You can meet with success, but not without cost.

December 4, 2010 - Chinese 29th, M-T-K 29th. Mouse, Dwa, Black 2.  Take caution against seasonal maladies such as colds, flu, and so forth. If you are out in crowds, might consider the mask and the hand sanitizer.

December 5, 2010 - Chinese 30th, M-T-K 30th. Ox, Khen, Blue 3. Today is sojong. Today is nyi nak. No promising energies observed. Actually, today may witness mass casualties or unfortunate accidents.

Naga observations for the tenth month. The nagas are sleeping this month. No offerings are useful. Don't raise flags on the 7th or 19th lunar days.

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.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Thrung Thrung Karmo

Reports are just in that the famous black cranes have landed in Bhutan -- home of the Black Crane Festival. Records show that the crane population has been increasing over the past three years, which is very good news. Folks who were out counting the first flock to arrive saw 107 cranes -- the 108th crane was hiding, and counting the people.


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Thursday, November 25, 2010

In the Name of Rain

In many of the Buddhist lands, children are taught that Shakyamuni Buddha manifested as a Buddha because, with utmost compassion, he could not bear to witness the prevalence of animal sacrifices attending holidays. Perhaps you may recall hearing something like that in your own youth.

In the Americas, quite literally millions of the ancient fowl misnamed as turkeys have died in the name of today's holiday, called "Thanksgiving." So, I want to give them their due. Actually, turkeys have been sacrificially dying in the Americas for thousands of years, and Thanksgiving is only the latest excuse. Long before the somewhat mythical pilgrims landed here and betrayed the humanity of the somewhat mythical natives, turkeys were being sacrificed in the name of water -- yes, water -- and in some cases, to a god named Tlaloc.

Tlaloc is the Mesoamerican god of water, and the longer you study Tlaloc, the stronger your suspicion becomes that he functions as the Aztec version of a naga king -- possibly even a dragon. -- but, is he really? Is he that, or is he a controller? The image above, from the Palace of Tepantitla, in the ruined city of Teotihuacan, northeast of Mexico City, depicts a fresco archaeologists have named "The Paradise of Tlaloc." To place it in historical perspective, the fresco was painted well before Padmasambhava came to Tibet, and certainly flourished around 600 CE, in what was then one of the largest cities in the world. The image below is Tlaloc in all his glory, from the 16th century Codex Rios.

In his readable survey of southwest prehistory, House of Rain, author Craig Childs informs that turkeys, "were killed in place of humans, their heads ritually cut off as offerings to water spirits," and their corpses were placed interstitially in the spaces between spaces. According to Childs:
"among the modern clans of the Hopi who are descended from the Anasazi, turkey feathers represent the scintillating underworld, their white, flat tips symbolizing water churning up from underground. Turkey feathers are planted in fields to attract rain. Some of the surviving tribes far south of here, in southern Mexico, Central America, and South America, believe that the turkey represents Tlaloc, one of the most powerful and ancient gods in the Americas, a governor of water said to live underground in the House of Rain."
So, who is this Tlaloc? The academics teach that he is the easiest of the deities to identify: he has "goggles formed by two serpents that meet in the center and join to form the nose, and a serpent moustache framing the mouth from which emerge two fangs. His color is blue." We note that he is adorned with a crown of heron feathers, and a net of clouds.

A master of water, a master of serpents; snakes and feathers, in the net of clouds. Hmm... might know somebody who fluently empathizes in those circles.

There could be some logic to it. After all, the same ocean's vagaries impacted both the home of the garudas and the home of the Tlalocs. El Nino gave unusually warm temperatures and abundant rainfall. La Nina gave unusually cold temperatures and a dry season (we are currently in a La Nina year). It is likely that men in both places sought clues from the spirit and animal worlds to understand and possibly influence both conditions.

Regardless, my purpose in writing this post is not to debate Tlaloc, ambient rainfall, ocean temperatures in the Pacific, or our dear friends the garudas. 

My purpose in writing this post is to encourage you in the direction of tofu, rather than turkey. Nobody likes to hear that sort of thing this time of year, so I had to slip it in between the pages.

Happy Thanksgiving, from Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, where we never miss a chance to give you a nudge.

Let your rain be the rain of compassion.


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Treasure Trove of Blessing and Protection

A few years back, I was really struggling with serious medical issues, so more or less in desperation, I jumped on a plane and went to China. Western medicine was doing its job well enough, but I needed something more. You can find doctors in China who can work miracles. You can also find medical restaurants in China -- your doctor prescribes your diet -- where you literally eat your way back to health, so that is what I resolved to do.

I left in a hurry, and the state of my health at the time was such that I considered the question of whether I would ever return something of a toss-up. Thinking thus, I left all of my books and pechas behind, in the hope that others would find them useful. I was already missing them half-way over the Pacific.

Mike Dickman, in Sundarijal. 
One of Dudjom Rinpoche's old students.

So, on the way to my destination, I stopped in Hong Kong, to visit my favorite Buddhist bookstore. That is where I first encountered Mike Dickman's amiable translation of the Le'u dBun Ma, or "Seven Chapter Prayer." It is small, it is tight, it is handy, and it is indispensable. For the next several months, I carried it with me everywhere, and matter of fact -- I carry it with me still.

I want to earnestly recommend this book to each and every one of you. In the Nyingma world, this particular practice is a fixture, and one can be assured of very quick results. In some certain respects, one could consider this practice the very foundation.

You can obtain a copy for a little more than ten bucks from Amazon -- click this link -- or from Buddhist booksellers worldwide. You will be glad you did.


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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Sutra of Golden Light Translation

Those readers who faithfully follow Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar will recall the great esteem in which we hold the Sutra of Golden Light. Indeed, back in '09, we ran a piece which discussed the matter in very direct terms. You are encouraged to click the link.

Recently, there has been an important development in the world of those who have special appreciation of this sutra. The Sugatagarbha Translation Group has decided to translate the complete, twenty-nine chapter version into English, and thereafter, to arrange for the sutra's free distribution.

To explain, only the twenty-one chapter version is currently available in the English language -- eight chapters are missing, and some of these individual chapters are longer than the entire twenty-one chapter version as it presently stands.

The benefits of this project -- which is expected to proceed over the next year -- are considerable. We therefore want to encourage generous sponsorship. Works like these do not happen by accident, nor do they proceed in a vacuum. You cannot look at something like this, nod your head, and then say, "let somebody else do it." In order for a project like this to reach fruition, you have to become involved. An enormous amount of merit devolves from this decision, not only for yourself, but for all sentient beings.

The chance to participate in the definitive English translation of an important, core sutra is something that will reverberate far into the future. Even we cannot know the extent of the result. Please consider this carefully, and then click this link to the special site that the Sugatagarbha Group has established. Learn how you can help.

The Powerful King of Sutras:
If you listen to it, it is extremely profound,
And if you thoroughly investigate it, it is profundity itself.
This Sublime Golden Light I shall expound.

The Buddhas of the Four Directions
Through bestowing blessings, have consecrated it:
Akshobhya in the eastern direction,
Ratnaketu in the southern direction,
Amitabha in the western direction,
And Dundubhisvara in the northern direction.

In order to extinguish all misdeeds,
There is this sublime auspicious discourse
That exhausts all negative karma,
Bestows all happiness,
Eradicates all suffering,
Is the foundation of the state of omniscience,
And is well-adorned by all resplendence.
Granting blessings, this I shall proclaim.

Sentient beings whose senses are defective,
Whose life-spans are exhausting or are degenerating,
Who are without abundance and what they desire,
Whom the gods have turned against,
Who are hated by their loved ones,
Who are endangered by planetary influences and the like,
Who are not harmonious with one another,
Who are afflicted by a decline in material wealth,
Who are stricken by grief and misery,
Who are in fear, or in poverty,
Who have inauspicious planetary and constellational influences or curses,
Who are threatened by intolerable negative spirits,
Or who see bad dreams
Following grief and fatigue,
Should bathe well, render themselves clean
And listen to this sublime Sutra.

Should those with virtuous intent and pure mind
Adorn themselves well in clean garments,
And listen to this Sutra -
The profound experiential domain of the Buddhas -
Then through the awe-inspiring power of this sutra,
The afflictions of all living creatures,
The likes of which are extremely unbearable,
Will be forever pacified.

They will be offered protection
By none other than the Guardians of the Universe themselves,
Together with their ministers and powerful lords of assembly;
By myriads of billions of yakshas,
By the Great Goddess Sarasvati,
By the Goddess Who Dwells in the Nairanjana [River],
By Hariti, Mother of Bhutas,
By the Earth Goddess Dridha,
By the Brahma Kings and by God Kings,
By the incredibly powerful Kings of Nagas,
By Kings of Kinnaras and Kings of Demi-Gods,
And likewise by the Kings of Garudas.

They, with their clans and might, will arrive,
Together with their mounts,
And without distraction day and night
Will offer protection to those beings.

I will fully expound this Sutra on the profound,
The Buddhas’ dimension of experience,
The secret of all Buddhas,
Difficult to find in billions of eons.

Those who hear this sutra,
Those who cause others to hear it,
Those who rejoice in it,
And those who make offerings to it,
Will have offerings made to them for billions of eons
By gods and nagas,
Humans and kinnaras,
Demi-gods and yakshas.

For beings whose merit has declined,
The store of their merit
Will grow to become limitless, and likewise, beyond measure
And inconceivable.

Intensely shall they be cared for
By the Buddhas of the ten directions,
And also by the Bodhisattvas
Engaged in the profound.

Clad well in clean garments,
Wearing pleasantly-scented clothes,
Settling firmly in a mind of love,
Without distraction, one should make offerings.

Render the mind spotless,
Put forth effort to make it expansive,
And make the mind intensely clear:
Then listen to this sublime Sutra.

Those who listen to this Sutra,
Will be eminent among humans,
Will attain well a human existence,
And will live a life of fortune.

Those into whose ears
This sublime discourse resounds
Will have their roots of virtue refined,
And numerous Buddhas will praise them.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Updating Ogyen Tulku's Schedule

Samadhi Island, a Taiwanese center under the spiritual direction of the Ninth Ogyen Tulku -- seen above in a stunning photo composition with his predecessor, Dorje Chang Palden Yeshe Zangpo, the Eighth Ogyen Tulku -- has a satisfying program scheduled for this season, inclusive of basic instruction, empowerments, phowa instruction, and New Year rituals. The direct link to the complete schedule may be found by clicking here.

You can also obtain further information by consulting Rinpoche's web site or blog.

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Following A Spiritual Master: Updated Notes On A Buddhist Cult

Racing chainsaw, with a Yamaha motorcycle engine.

"I believe that one day, our capacity to make excuses for doing that which we should not do will run head-on into the tree of our excuses for not doing that which we should do, and all excuses will finally be recognized as having the same origin."

I received a disturbing note the other day, and I let it lay around, wondering if I had any interest or responsibility in the matter. It was a note from someone who I met in Sedona, Arizona, while babysitting the unruly children of the Buddhist cult Kunzang Palyul Choling. I reproduce a portion of the note below,

The note calls into question New Age "Jetsunma" Alyce Zeoli's practice of interfering in the relationship between her students and their doctors. She has a considerable track record of forcing students to go "doctor shopping" until they find one who will prescribe the same psychiatric medications that she uses! While that was the immediate subject of the note, what it evoked for me was the larger question of loose cannons on the deck.

Hence, the subject of today's post.

Usually, the foremost scriptural authority on the topic of how to follow a spiritual master is considered to be Asvagosha's Fifty Verses on Guru Devotion (Bla-ma Inga-bcu-pa), written circa the first century. Although various commentaries, glosses, and interpretations have been produced at various times and places, to serve various purposes, it is to Fifty Verses that all Tibetan lamas turn for the last word.
So, what does Asvagosha have to say about the qualities of an authentic spiritual master? Surprisingly, or not, he says it all in just three verses:
A disciple with sense should not accept as his Guru someone who lacks compassion or who is angersome, vicious or arrogant, possessive, undisciplined or boasts of his knowledge. (Verse 7)
A glance at Zeoli's criminal history should be enough to establish that she has, in the past, become so violent with students that she was arrested. [UPDATE: As of August 11, 2009, the putative victim of this incident has recanted her statements, and now, more than a decade after the event, states that she perjured herself.] As to viciousness and possessiveness, one need but consider the behavior of her students to get a glimpse at her "teachings." This includes burglary to steal medical records; using donated funds to maintain "attack" sites directed at her critics, and whistleblowers; burning her ex-husband in effigy; the practice of a rather pathetic attempt at black magic; perjury; extortion; illicit drug use; threats of violence... the list is extensive, and well documented in the book Buddha From Brooklyn, by Washington Post investigative reporter Martha Sherrill, which I commend to all readers.
It is interesting to note the reviews of this book -- and there were many -- point out that Zeoli, "is as much an invention of her followers as she is of her own ego." This brings us to Asvagosha's next verse:
(A Guru should be) stable (in his actions), cultivated (in his speech), wise, patient and honest. He should neither conceal his shortcomings, nor pretend to possess qualities he lacks. He should be an expert in the meanings (of tantra) and in its ritual procedures (of medicine and turning back obstacles). Also he should have loving compassion and a complete knowledge of the scriptures. (Verse 8)
Zeoli cannot give empowerments. She cannot conduct rituals beyond the most rudimentary observations common to all first year dharma students. Her knowledge of Buddhism is such that she employs ghostwriters to prepare her books and lectures. Indeed, her former husband, Michael Burroughs, who used to be one such ghostwriter, has eloquently observed that her knowledge of tantra is "virtually non-existent."
Here, from a site maintained until recently by Michelle Grissom, of Seattle, Washington, the former nun who Zeoli was arrested for assaulting, is an insider's view of Zeoli's teachings. [UPDATE: Ms. Grissom has now (August 11, 2009) rather elaborately recanted her statements, but I think it is interesting to read what she had to say in the past.]
KPC Teachings

Note that there is no stable philosophy at KPC. The belief system perpetually changes.

Jetsunma pulls her ideas from multiple religions and many of her teachings contradict each other. Students who have observed logical inconsistencies have asked questions and been taught that they are merely "seeing their own arrogance and pride." Like most cults, as documented by Dr. Margaret Singer, KPC's teachings are not intended to be understood. Students are reduced to parroting, nicknamed the "Jetsunma-said" syndrome.

KPC's formal Buddhist teachings encompass a muddled mix:

- some Hinayana Buddhism, with an emphasis on monastic vows and an invented concept of "group karma."
- vaguely understood Tantricism which is considered to largely apply to Jetsunma's superior capacity while the students are not expected to be able to practice.
- a rather bogglingly misunderstood rendering of Yogachara where "mind only" refers to a student perceiving their own faults in the teacher (therefore Jetsunma has no faults, and any criticism the student has boomerangs).
- quite a heavy emphasis on Buddhanature teachings. These are interpreted as largely pertaining to Jetsunma, i.e., she is the living embodiment of Buddhanature, the door to enlightenment, while students have only the seeds of Buddhanature; therefore total devotion to Jetsunma is the quickest route to enlightenment.
- an element of Vendanta Nondualism from her early teachings.
- rote recitation of Dzog Chen nature of mind teachings from Guenther's translation of Longchenpa's Kindly Bent To Ease Us reduced to catch phrases.
- Madhyamika and teachings on emptiness play a limited role, regarded as something only Jetsunma has the capacity to understand.
- a strong emphasis on "pure view" which is defined specifically as seeing everything Jetsunma does as perfect. Many of her illnesses are blamed on the "incorrect view" of the students.

Various New Age concepts continue to be taught to the first wave students in restricted teachings (lay lines, power spots, crystals housing energy, apocalyptic ideas, a mish-mash of Hopi shamanism, Neo-Christianity, etc.), and tapes of her old channeled teachings still circulate.

Former students need to recognize that they been introduced to a scrambled version of Buddhism where basic concepts have been redefined to suit Jetsunma's needs. The words are often the same, but the meaning attached to them is not the same as Tibetan Buddhism. It is a bit like being shown the color "blue" and told that it is "green" – when you are told "green" you will picture the wrong color, and respond inappropriately. This is difficult to sort and will look like a personal misunderstanding but actually your interpretation is consistent with every other KPC student's. When students appear to recognize the words, Lamas assume that they've been taught correctly. Start over from scratch.

On the plus side, Jetsunma hasn't given many teachings since 1992. Her ex-husband Michael claims that he researched her early teachings, and the tapering off does coincide more or less with his departure. Her more recent teachings draw largely from her latest fads (diets, Anne Rice books, Star Trek, fitness) and her justifications for the same.

Students have to go through stages of acceptance at KPC, just like any cult.

Main students and newbies

First someone is a "newbie." They're given a very Buddhist spiel and viewed largely as a source of donations to "make a connection to Jetsunma." If the newbie doesn't show up for more than Sunday classes, they stay at newbie level.

If the newbie begins to do work for the temple (the very wealthy are fast-tracked, meet Jetsunma, etc.) they slowly become one of the "main students." Those are given a mailbox at the temple, access to the temple voicemail, email, and intranet. The email is largely a bombardment of money and labor requests for Jetsunma couched in love-bombing and ego-stroking, KPC being crucial to the future of Buddhism in the west, etc., etc.

First, second, and third wave students

Among her main students there are three permanent hierarchical circles around Jetsunma: her first, second, and third wave students. Most newbies can't hope to be more than a second wave student as this is based on when the member joined. It's presented as a special karmic link to Jetsunma and to KPC's mission. The first wave students are the ones who joined when she was channeling the prophet Jeremiah. Second wave students joined when she first started teaching Buddhism. Third wave students are considered more karmically distant from her, and represent KPC's "expansion phase" into the world. However, Jetsunma can declare that someone is a "late arriving" first or second wave student as happened with her ex-husband Karl.

The first and second wave students (with select additions) are treated with subtle privilege and are invited to secret teachings from Jetsunma that veer very, very far from Buddhism, involving crystals and predictions of world disasters, meridians of energy through the planet and so forth.

The inner circle

Within the first and second wave students there is an additional hierarchy, also measured by "closeness" to Jetsunma: her friends, consorts, and family. The ones within Jetsunma's inner circle are considered to be especially blessed and closer to enlightenment, but walking a razor's edge because they can be kicked out of her inner circle at any time.


Retention is largely through fear and appealing to the students' self importance. Students are told that KPC is the future of Dharma in the West, bringing a form of spiritual awakening that is tailored to them through their special connection to Jetsunma, and to Americans, from Jetsunma's "Ngagma" lineage. If the students fail to successfully internalize her teachings, then these will be lost to the future generations. Worse yet, if the students turn away from Jetsunma, even subtly in their minds (this is not clearly defined), they are told that they will drag their families with them to the hell realms in their next life. If students have any doubts they will harm all sentient beings. The monks and nuns face similar threats if they don't stay ordained.

Doubts specific to Jetsunma's behavior are handled through blame-shifting: anything the student thinks about Jetsunma is just a reflection of their own minds, i.e., they're seeing their own faults, not hers. For example: "Why does Jetsunma need such a high salary?" is answered with, "You must have a lot of fear and grasping surrounding money in your own mind."
Here is what one visitor to Zeoli's group had to say of their experience:
"Over the past two years I have visited Jetsunma's temple in Poolesville MD many times. I have first-hand experience with it, and I have talked with some of the people who are described in the book. Based on my own experience I can say that Martha Sherrill's book is an accurate portrayal of Jetsunma, her temple, and her followers. Everything I have seen myself is consistent with Sherrill's book.

"I first visited the temple because I was looking for expert instruction in Buddhist meditation practices and/or "lo jong" (mind training). I did not find it. I soon found that I was already more knowledgable about such things than even the "ordained" monks. The only meditation training I found was so superficial that you might as well just go buy Herb Benson's book "The Relaxation Response".

"At the temple I almost immediately got a gut-level feeling that something was wrong here. Subsequent visits only made that feeling increase.

"The people at the temple seemed to avoid me. I found them evasive and difficult to engage in conversation. No one could explain what the 24-hour prayer vigil was about, or even what "prayer" meant to a Buddhist.

"I heard Jetsunma speak at one of her visits to Poolesville, and it was like a time-share sales pitch. It was a high-pressure pitch to become one of her students. It was both peculiar and disturbing.

"On another occasion I heard an announcement from Jetsunma (delivered by proxy) that the lack of maintenance on the stupa garden had caused her to fall ill. Unpaid landscaping work however would remedy the situation. At that point I finally realized that Jetsunma's followers were crazy.

"I thank Martha Sherrill for alerting the world to an organization that looks like a Buddhist temple, but which is really a dangerous cult.
This brings us to Asvagosha's final verse on the subject:
He should have full experience in both ten fields, skill in the drawing of mandalas, full knowledge of how to explain the tantras, supreme faith and his senses fully under control. (Verse 9, emphasis added)
Above, is a heart-felt appeal for assistance from Zeoli's (now former) personal attendant of many years. It begs the question: who or what is in control of the senses? The psychiatric medications or the gin?
Above is another observation from the same attendant -- someone who was with Zeoli for over two decades -- explaining "many of her students are bipolar," and decrying Zeoli's drug dependency.
So, the issue becomes very simple -- so simple that it might best be left unspoken, were it not for the damage being done to innocent people -- why would anyone with the slightest respect for Buddhism choose to involve themselves in what is, demonstrably and indefensibly, a dark cult of psychiatric patients built around another psychiatric patient who cannot stand the litmus test of Asvagosha's Fifty Verses?
The inmates are running the asylum in America's Dharma Disneyland. One can only hope that the leadership of legitimate Palyul organizations around the world will stop relying on a policy of benign neglect, and instead deal with the problem head on, before any more wreckage accrues on the roads around Poolesville, Maryland.
We have a Jonestown type tragedy in the making.
That is a prophecy.
If you have a son, or daughter, or loved one involved with this cult, the time to arrange an intervention is now. There are plenty of places for them to practice legitimate Buddhism that do not involve living in a state of constant fear and turmoil, being drugged against their will, and being taught a convoluted doctrine of "enemies of the truth."
UPDATED : The history of extremist religious cults in America is littered with tragedies that could have been prevented. Doomsday revelations are usually present somewhere in the mix, and Zeoli -- who has on occasion claimed herself to be the "ruler of a faraway galaxy" (!) -- certainly fits the profile of an apocalyptic cult leader: like Jim Jones, right down to sexual exploitation of the "students," both male and female. The tons of food that were stockpiled at her heavily armed Arizona compound, in anticipation of a "Y2K meltdown" that never happened, later became traps for unwary animals, several of which were killed. Watch for like and similar conduct surrounding 2012. Zeoli's modus operandi involves generating "enemies" or "great disasters" as the locus for fund raising. She very cynically calls them her "bad daddies." There has already been at least one suicide I know of surrounding Zeoli. Will there be more as 2012 approaches? Or, is Zeoli, whose house of marked cards becomes ever shakier under the combined weight of binge spending and investigations into her finances, planning a "grand finale" for herself and her ever-dwindling flock of cult monkeys?
Here is some advice:
Don't drink the Kool-Aid!

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Sedona, the Succubus, and the Stupa

This is fundamentally a story about a stupa in Sedona, Arizona, built on shaky ground. However, as it develops, our story blossoms into a larger, cautionary tale about neurotic obsessions and fringe dharma organizations in the United States.

As you read this story, it is important to remember that the people involved firmly believe they are doing the proverbial "right thing." They believe that they are crafting the future of Vajrayana Buddhism in America.

To be fair, I think it is equally important to remember that herein you will find one person's opinion.

As it happens, I came to know these people, but I did not come to appreciate their belief in themselves. To the contrary, I developed the opinion that they present an obstacle to the future of Vajrayana Buddhism in America. I have been exploring their actions and worldview in a series of posts here at Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar, of which this is close to the last I will present on the subject.

Then we will move along to other matters.

As regular readers of DTBA already know, there is a former hairdresser from Brooklyn, New York, Alyce Zeoli by name, who is believed by herself and a small number of others to be an emanation of Mandarava. She is also a formally recognized tulku of the Palyul faction of Tibetan Buddhism. That she is a reincarnated entity having some connection to Tibetan Buddhism -- albeit currently unschooled and unconventional -- is, I think, really without question. To be unschooled and unconventional isn't very important. Whether she is an emanation of Mandarava is a matter for further consideration.

I came to know Zeoli when she telephoned me, and introduced herself. This came on the heels of a long exchange of emails and telephone calls with several of her students, who believed I might be able to help snap her out of a depression. We traveled to meet one another at her ranch in Young, Arizona, and spent just under a month together, before separating for the holidays. One month later, she invited me back, to her center in Sedona, Arizona, and ultimately, asked if I would serve as the Chief Operating Officer of her entire organization. I accepted, but the matter ended badly, when I discovered serious financial and other irregularities, and turned over the entire dossier to federal law enforcement.

The rest, as they say, is history and all too predictable. Where before, they used to send me love letters, her followers now stand on street corners, shouting their hatred to the stars, singing that Tenpa is not a tulku. That is perfectly fine. They only know what they have been told: they do not have the minds to see for themselves. They are only doing what they have been taught to do, and that is to hate the people who their teacher teaches them to hate. Here is what I teach: if it helps you to believe that I am not a tulku, then I am not a tulku. If it helps you to believe that I am a tulku, then I am a tulku. What I might believe is germane only to me. One moon, you know?

The Succubus

In October 2007, Zeoli's closest attendant contacted me, and told me that Zeoli was pacing the floor over her obsession with a "succubus" in Sedona, Arizona.

Note that the individuals mentioned are reliably reported as Zeoli's former romantic interests.

Strange as it may seem, I hear things like this all the time -- usually from rather unattractive, post-menopausal women who have lost a boyfriend or husband to someone younger. At the time, it seemed to me that Zeoli was suffering the disintegration of yet another interpersonal relationship, and the "succubus" was nothing more that the neurotic projection of her own mind.

In January, 2008, Zeoli wrote to me following a telephone call in which she discussed the "succubus." You will note her suggestion that "a couple of your wives" might be somehow involved. You will also note her following question:
"You wanna slay this bitch? I'm serious. Thing is once you start we gotta get them all or things get real spooky."
Indeed they do... indeed they do.

I asked her if she wanted her husband back, and she replied that she did not. However, she went on to describe her "succubus" in some detail. I invite you to read her description, and all the while I would like you to keep in mind that she (and her followers) believe that not only is she an emanation of Mandarava, but she quite literally is Mandarava. They entirely miss the point that Mandarava emanates without cessation, in countless forms. Having read her description, I want you to ask yourself: is this one of those countless forms?

Note the paranoia in Zeoli's letter, above, coupled with delusions of grandeur ("we are dharma"). When you put personal stress together with paranoia and unbridled aggression ("ya wanna slay this bitch?") you get a bad, bad cocktail.

The Stupa

When I took the reins of Zeoli's organization, the stupa which she maintains in Sedona was USD $54,000 in arrears, with a USD $700,000 balloon payment due by November 2008.

Zeoli was unwilling to commit any funds to bring the stupa current. Instead, she allocated her resources to the purchase a USD $1 million personal residence in rural Maryland, and at a time when her organization was crying poor to the stupa's note holder, she took a USD $300,000 windfall profit from the sale of a "donated" home in Arizona, and put it in her purse.

Beginning in March 2008, her organization came under intense scrutiny by the I.R.S. Criminal Division, with particular emphasis on dealings in the State of Arizona. Zeoli's reaction to this was to order all of her followers to abandon Sedona and rally around her in Poolesville, Maryland. She also took the unprecedented step of basically putting the stupa up for sale. To justify uprooting her Arizona followers, Zeoli claimed that there was a "black cloud of negativity" hanging over Sedona, and yes... you guessed it... the "succubus" was on the rampage again.

I am almost entirely certain that this is not what the many people who donated money to build this stupa had in mind. It is also a very sleazy real estate deal. For around $700,000 you can buy the note and own the whole thing. What they want you to do is to (1) pay off their note, (2) give them a $600,000 profit, which they can then use to pay off Zeoli's personal residence, and (3) leave them ownership of the stupa. Also, they do not disclose that you will also almost certainly be buying your way into an audit. This is right livelihood?

Why Bother?

So, why bother with this? I could be very wrong, but I think it is important to closely examine what becomes of Buddhism when it contacts American crazy.

If this sort of thing were confined to Zeoli and her little band, we could easily dismiss the entire matter as a one-shot aberration. But, there are shades of this happening, in greater or lesser degrees, in many places around the world. Sedona is not the only "stupa real estate development" known to this writer, nor is Zeoli the only "queen for a day" launching branded products to support grandiose schemes.

I want to ask you... is this the future of Vajrayana Buddhism in the West?

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Befhel ist Befhel: the Nazi Sangha: Updated X 2

Ours is supposed to be the religion of loving kindness and compassion. Each and every action we take is supposed to be motivated by our concern for the welfare of all sentient beings. Most, if not all, of our religion's greatest masters agree on one point: you can equivocate on virtually every aspect of Buddhism save the foundation -- you cannot equivocate on the issue of kindness. In the absence of loving kindness, compassion, and concern for the welfare of all sentient beings, nothing you do in the context of Buddhism means a thing.

Not a thing.

Ours is not supposed to be a religion of hatred, revenge, or jihad. We are not supposed to be bigots, xenophobes, or militants. We are supposed to practice the ultimate form of "turn the other cheek," which is "turn the other mind." Yet, somehow -- and I cannot pretend to know or even guess where or when -- these basic messages got lost for some of us. When they did, it set free a demon that is threatening to destroy -- yes, destroy -- Buddhism in the United States.

I gave that demon a name -- I call it the Nazi Sangha.

-- -- -- -- --

Nowhere in Buddhism is it written that you have to participate in burning an effigy of your "spiritual director's" ex-husband.

Nowhere in Buddhism is it written that you have to steal medical records of people who criticize you -- I think Nixon did that with Ellsberg, didn't he?

Nowhere in Buddhism is it written that you mount public smear campaigns against individuals who, for whatever reason, have decided to leave and seek teaching elsewhere.

Nowhere in Buddhism is it written that you have to take turns slapping a member of your organization who has experienced a personal crisis.

Nowhere in Buddhism is it written that you have to take psychiatric medication simply because your "spiritual director" takes psychiatric medication.

But you... you, the Nazi Sangha... you have done all of these things and more.

The annual summer retreat at KPC, Poolesville, Maryland. As the above records indicate, well over an hour of the opening session was devoted to visiting here.

Befhel ist Befhel, literally, "order is order," is the underlying concept of the Nuremberg Defense: "only following orders." Every chance it gets, society has condemned the defense on both moral and legal grounds. Indeed, Nuremberg Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

So, my question today is simple albeit rhetorical: is the Nuremberg Defense no less reprehensible when applied to a renegade "sangha," as it is when applied to war crimes?

Over the course of the past few months -- if not the past two or three years -- I have received several letters from members of western "sanghas," all to the same general effect. They have, for whatever reason, decided to leave their milieu and take up interests elsewhere. In response, they have been stalked, abused, pilloried, and cursed by their former comrades. They write with doubts and many, many questions that boil down to one question: is this Buddhism?

Is this Buddhism, indeed.

I used to take these letters with a grain of salt, until I witnessed the Nazi Sangha in action, Although some of this has already been exposed in various other forums, I do not have the stomach to go through the catalog of outrageous behavior here -- it is quite simply too offensive to the human heart.

When called to task, those responsible for perpetrating these offensive outrages have offered one uniform defense for their conduct: we are only following our teacher's orders. Our teacher is grand and glorious. We are grand and glorious.

I'm sorry, but I don't see grand and glorious.

I see bullshit bullies who traded brownshirt for burgandy.

A comment from one of the victims, to a post back in 2008,
reminding us of events in 1996 -- yet a decade later and
the Nazi Sangha is up to its old tricks

UPDATE: The author of the above has now (Aug 11 09) recanted her statements. See here.

- - -

If you, or someone you love, are trapped in a Nazi Sangha, here is some Tibetan for you, done phonetically, so it will be easy to say:

May hindrances, obstacles and mistaken guides be tamed!

Say it three times, click the heels of the ruby slippers, then pack your bags and go find a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who actually teaches Tibetan Buddhism. As the ex-husband of the lady in the photograph, above, so eloquently explains on his web site, she isn't teaching Tibetan Buddhism. As the ex-attendant of the lady in the photograph, above, so eloquently explains on her web site, you are being swindled to support a lifestyle. If you want to stay in a cult, then stay in a cult... only, please... please do not contaminate Buddhism by calling yourself a Buddhist.

It isn't the damage you do to Buddhism that is the issue here... it is the damage you do to yourself. By following a mistaken guide, you are being led into the depths. You need to understand that you have a moral choice available at all times.

You can choose to stop confusing intrigue and constant turmoil with actual sitting-on-the-stone practice. While your hearts are corrupted and brittle with anger and hatred, of what use are a million prayers? Ten million prayers?

- - -

I am not a teacher. I don't take students because I don't know anything to teach. So please, don't think of me as someone who wants or needs the driftwood of the Nazi Sangha to land on his beach.

I am just a guy who has made every mistake it is possible to make on the long road of bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West... and an even greater number of mistakes on the even longer road of being human.

I just have this tendency of wishing others might profit from my mistakes.

-- -- -- --

"In my present life and in all my births in beginningless and limitless samsara, in all the places that I have taken birth, I have performed negative and destructive karma, I have helped others to perform it, and I have rejoiced in others’ performing of it.

"I have stolen the possessions of stupas, the possessions of the Sangha, that of the Sangha of the ten directions, I have helped others in stealing it, and I have rejoiced in the stealing of it.

"I have performed the five grave actions of limitless consquence, I have helped others in performing them, and I have rejoiced in the performing of them.

"I have entered into the totally taking up of the path of the ten non-virtuous actions, I have helped others to enter into it, and I have rejoiced in others’ entering of it.

"Through whatever karmic obscurations I have, through their obscuring power, I will go the sentient beings’ hells, I will go to the abodes of the animals, I will go to the land of the hungry ghosts, I will be born in a remote border region, I will be born as a primitive, I will be born as a long-lived god, I will be born with sense-faculties incomplete, and I will be born as a holder of wrong views.

"All of those that there are, whatever karmic obscurations there may be, from such things as not offering service during the arising of a buddha, before the Buddhas, the Transcendent and Accomplished Conquerors, who have timeless awareness, who have deeper vision, who have power, who have valid cognition, and who see through their transcendent knowledge, before their divine eyes, I openly admit them! I confess them! I do not conceal them! I do not hide them!"

That's Erick Sherab Zangpo's translation of the Bodhisattva's Confession of Downfalls: The Arya Three Heaps Sutra, by Shakyamuni Buddha.

It doesn't mean that you recite this, mindlessly, and then go right out and start crap all over again. What it means is that one considers things very deeply -- a fearless self-appraisal, as they say -- and then one resolves to throttle down the head-long dash to Hell.

Don't come here.

Go to the source.

Because there comes a point in time when your teacher -- as damaged as she is -- is no longer the problem.

You are the ones who are only following orders.


Why is this important? Simply because we have an instance of an uneducated western "teacher" exhorting her gullible western students to break one of the forty-six branch vows, and this in the context of her own violation of one of the eighteen root vows:

"15. Falsely claiming to have realized emptiness. Falsely claiming to have the full realization of the emptiness of inherent existence of self and phenomena breaks this root vow. It is a specific form of lying, whereby you deceive others into believing that you have special attainments. It is not necessary to claim explicitly that you have high realizations to break this vow. Just implying that you have high realizations also incurs the downfall. An example would be to suggest to others that if they practice according to your instructions they will also gain great powers and spiritual attainments. Or to say, 'If you practice the three principal paths diligently you will gain similar experiences of bliss to my own!' The Buddha said that even when you have attained the paths of insight or liberation you should never openly say to others, 'I have this or that realization' or 'I have attained this or that path'. Publicly stating such things will only cause confusion and suspicion. Cynics will believe that you are lying to improve your status and reputation, and the gullible will follow you blindly rather than because of the quality of your teachings. Deceiving other people into thinking that you have realizations when you do not is particularly dangerous. Tibetans have a poor opinion of the person who boasts about his qualities and claims to have special clairvoyance or an ability to communicate with the Buddhas. On the other hand, we have the greatest respect for the truly humble practitioner who hides his attainments and leads a quiet and simple life practicing the Dharma diligently."

The branch vow in question was broken when, one by one -- and "only following orders" -- members of the Nazi Sangha stepped forward to strike the nun that their "teacher" had just assaulted: an act of pure cowardice unequalled in the history of western Buddhism:

"8. Forsaking those who have broken their moral discipline. These people will need advice and help with relieving their guilt. They should not be treated with contempt or be ignored."
The "sangha" in question is a collective of anger and hatred. Their behavior continues unchecked to the present day. If we allow this to pass by unremarked, then how are we different from those who stood by, silently, while the nazis went about their wickedness?

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The 4:20 Out of Poolesville

This post is very, very close to my final thoughts on certain matters arising from Cult Buddhism in America. As promised, we will be dropping this subject in the very near future. Nevertheless, because it is a compelling issue, and because it does impact the lives of many people, we address it herein.

A few things have always struck me about the subject of my research, the Jetsunma Cult, of Poolesville, Maryland, and I would like to address them in no particular order -- sort of "thinking aloud," if you will -- and, as always, I'd like to hear your thoughts, as well.

I. The "Flying Lama" on Track Nine

I am informed and believe that New Age "Jetsunma" Alyce Zeoli habitually uses marijuana. She, herself, has directly admitted this to me, and her close, personal attendants have supplied the details. It is, I believe, therefore an established matter that she is what any one of us would immediately recognize as "a doper." Her personal attendants report that she keeps her stash in a box by her bed, has bongs, pipes, and hookahs in the house, and gets wrecked on a nightly basis.

She has also built an elaborate, paranoid web of secrecy and denial about this topic that has negatively impacted her entire organization. In fact, when I weigh all I know and have been told about the matter, I come to feel that it is one of the central features of her organization's morbidity: a complete obstacle to her own psychological well-being.

So, the thought that strikes me is simply this: "Why bother?" Why not just be up-front and say, "You know, I have a personal issue with this," or even, "hey.. its medical!" Why not work to overcome this addictive behavior? Why not transform the poison into nectar?

I am asking this American "Mandarava" directly --- Stop wriggling for a few minutes, and tell me why you feel the need to keep lying about sucking that glass? Don't you know that it only hurts you and those around you?

II. "Why would Penor Rinpoche... ?"

This question always comes up: "Why, if Alyce is so over the top, would Penor Rinpoche not say something?" This question only comes from people who never sat down with him at Namdroling, and put it to him directly. It subsumes the larger question that one also hears, which is:" "Why would Penor Rinpoche enthrone a loony?"

There is no question in my mind that Alyce is a tulku. No question whatsoever. However, that and a dollar will get you on the bus.

There are, quite literally, hundreds of disinterested witnesses who will be glad to tell you of the numerous occasions when Penor Rinpoche directly warned people: "She doesn't listen to me, she doesn't listen to anybody, she refuses to take teachings... yes, I enthroned her, but she is broken, so if you want to take teachings, take them elsewhere."

Naturally, he was polite and compassionate with her and her immediate coterie. Naturally, he wanted her to be cared for. But, time and again, he issued direct warnings about her reliability.

I am informed and believe that on one occasion near the end of his life, he actually wept in disappointment when hearing reports of her conduct. I think it is a clear sign of their estrangement that Alyce did not even bother to attend his memorial services -- she was too busy with her "musical career."

So, the thought that strikes me is this: "Why care?" If this gal doesn't respect her teacher, and her lineage, enough to slow down and take teachings, why should anybody give her the time of day?

III. Clear and Present

Here is Maria Jaoudi, writing in the Los Angeles Times:
"She is ... a rather complicated, if not thoroughly secular, person, given to certain personal and temperamental indulgences (megalomania, lying, verbal abuse, to name a few). She is also physically violent; in one instance, she hits a disciple in the face. She also accepts a $100,000 yearly salary while her students go into debt to pay her."
It is not just naughty old Tenpa and the Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar blog -- whatever the hell that is -- that sounds the alarm. It is not just the very confused Michelle Grissom, or the book Buddha from Brooklyn. I had contact with Alyce and her cult that lasted roughly four months. She has been doing business for over twenty-five years. When I called in a nationally recognized fraud investigator, it was to examine the detritus of those twenty-five years, not some recent disaster. If I evaporate tomorrow, there is still that twenty-five years' worth of lies and grasping standing there, silently screaming witness to the truth of greed and avarice.

Alyce Zeoli baked her cake a long time ago.

Yet, Alyce maintains over a dozen "hit sites" directed against DTBA -- cyberstalking that is paid for with 501(c)(3) temple money, and staffed by "ordained" personnel, inclusive of one site where she personally posts the latest efforts of her poison pen, albeit anonymously.

So, the thought that strikes me is simple: "Why?" If she and her organization sit around most days, plotting some sort of abstract revenge because we outed her drug use, psychiatric disability, double dealing, and tax evasion, why not look to the real source of the problem: the twenty-five years' worth of their own screw-ups, that now puts them in the path of the bankruptcy that faces them down the track.

IV. The Monkey Trap

Hey! Kiddies! I did not come to break your rice bowl.

I came because you asked me to, and if you had not asked me to, I would not have come. I did not come looking for you... you came looking for me. You can lie, deny, and equivocate, but we both know it is the truth.

It is called a Monkey Trap.

You make a little hole in the coconut, just big enough for the monkey to reach in. You put a peanut in there, for the monkey to grasp. The monkey reaches in, grasps the peanut, and can't remove his paw.

He is too greedy to drop the peanut, so he stays trapped.

Open your hand, and walk away.

Don't get trapped in the wreck of the Flying Lama, 4:20 out of Poolesville, with stops on the way to Vajra Hell.

V. Sigh

Longchenpa said:

In these decadent times one may reproach the crude people around one.
Although one thinks it will be useful to them,
it is just the source of poisonous thoughts.
To utter peaceful words is my advice from the heart.
The best thing to do at this point is concentrate on the much larger catalog of my own faults, and do nothing at all about stirring bubbles in the broth. But, you know... I keep thinking about the victims of this madness.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: November 22 - November 28, 2010

NOTE: Hostile energies have been raising the "noise" for weeks, and this week could see the reason why. Whatever you have to do, then do it on Tuesday. If that includes laying in extra supplies, candles, batteries, and strong locks, then so much the better. As to travel? Definitely sit this one out. Thanksgiving travel? Haven't missed it in thirty years? Miss it this year. Either you will wind up sleeping in the airport, or that family get-together will descend into a brawl. Government agencies will be taxed to the maximum this week, and issues of national security will come to the fore on a number of fronts. There will be death, misadventure, cruelty to animals, and extreme tension. Madness in the name of religion or tradition will be everywhere. Mankind is in an uproar and so are the elements -- expect strong messages from water and earth.  Make no mistake: this is a dangerous week in a dangerous year. The good news is, we have the tools available to deal with this sort of thing, so sit down and use them. Lions, tigers, bears, devils, witches, miseries -- all these can be tamed by taming your mind.

November 22, 2010 - Chinese 16th, M-T-K 16th. Pig, Gin, Red 7. Today is  zin phung. No quick moves today. Do not take chances, and do not take charge. Very negative indications.

November 23, 2010 - Chinese 17th, M-T-K 17th. Mouse, Zin, White 8. Today is drubjor. All matters you attempt should meet with an auspicious outcome. Good day to buy a car -- speaking personally, I'd make it a four-wheel drive. Better yet, take the car money and go build four huge prayer wheels. 

November 24, 2010 - Chinese 18th, M-T-K 18th. Ox, Zon, Red 9. Avoid arguments or conflicts of any kind today. Do not commence or deliver hostility. Just sit back and watch.

November 25, 2010 - Chinese 19th, M-T-K 19th. Tiger, Li, White 1. Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Today is also baden, so do not raise prayer flags. See yesterday's advice. This day is marked by worry and even outright distress.

November 26, 2010 - Chinese 20th, M-T-K 20th. Rabbit, Khon, Black 2. Clear indication of conflict and martial wickedness.

November 27, 2010 - Chinese 22nd, M-T-K 21st. Snake, Khen, Green 4.  Note omitted day in Chinese practice. Today is a major yan kwong zin phung conjunction. We will see geological activity proximate to today. Good day to take the counsel of friends. You might not be as happy as you wish.

November 28, 2010 - Chinese 23rd, M-T-K 22nd. Horse, Kham, Yellow 5. Increase possible but fraught with immediate danger.

Naga observations for the tenth month. The nagas are sleeping this month. No offerings are useful. Don't raise flags on the 7th or 19th lunar days.

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.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mercy for the Wild

So, that is the sunrise here the other day. Lately, the planet Venus is appearing low on the eastern horizon, about three o'clock in the morning, which is when the day usually begins for me. It is amusing to whack the drum, and ring the bell, while the planet's reflected light disappears in the daylight. Life on earth can be so beautiful.

Life on earth can be so trying.

You may recall that in our annual astrological prognostications for this wild year of the Iron Tiger, we said, "This year may witness terrible cruelty to animals, so it is important to see to animal welfare as much as possible."

Alas, as a glance at the news will confirm, it seems that we were right. There have been numerous, notable incidents of animal cruelty this year -- and of course, this week, we bear witness to the annual, mass foulness to fowl known as "Thanksgiving." Quite candidly, I do not find a year in recent memory when I have seen so many, terrible reports of wickedness done to wild creatures. Even domestic pets have suffered, to the extent that one suspects collective madness -- or, more to the point, growing cultural insensitivity.

So, what to do? Where to begin?

This is a purely personal opinion, but I think the best way to begin is to set up a boundary, and to declare everything within that boundary a cruelty-free zone for the critters. This does not take very much in the way of materials or logistics, and is a measure well within almost everyone's reach. This boundary can encompass your house and grounds, or even your apartment. 

The important thing is, you are designating a particular space where you are willing to take responsibility. 

Last year, we ran an item entitled Certifying Buddhist Wildlife Habitats, and I would again like to bring this resource to your attention. Also, last November, we ran an item entitled Signs and Wonders, that discusses Buddhism and environmentalism in philosophical terms. We actually received quite a satisfying response to those items, and some others like them, and were pleased to learn that we inspired some concrete action.

One of the best online resources I have seen on this general subject is a piece by Jamyang Norbu, that discusses wildlife and nature conservancy in old Tibet. We linked to this piece in our item For the Birds, published last December, and also -- in a somewhat different context -- in our item Cuckoo for Commentary, published this past summer.

I want to encourage you to follow some of these links, and investigate what might be involved with commencing your own efforts. Once such measures are underway, you will begin to notice tangible results almost immediately. Members of the de facto "focus group" that supports Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar will readily attest to this. For the past couple of years, I have been documenting the changes we have seen in the immediate environment, using dated photographs of animals, birds, insects, plants, and weather.

Since we designated boundaries, protected populations have gone up, the critters have mostly stopped trying to eat each other, there has been increased diversity in population, and we are getting more than our fair share of rainbows.

If you choose to go this route, I believe you will find that the "wave effect" extends into every corner of your life, and more importantly -- all life around you.

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Dalai Lama Signals His Retirement

The Dalai Lama has directly stated that he intends to retire "within the next six months," and also speculated about the possibility of "some kind of deputy Dalai Lama or something. I do not know what kind of appropriate name. I do not know... someone carrying my sort of work."

The story is running in the Economic Times of India, based on a recent broadcast interview.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Ava for Example

"Merely by keeping this same tantra with them,
without meditating, they will fall into a state of meditative stability;
without studying, they will understand teachings;
without being taught, they will be familiar with spiritual instruction;
without receiving explanations, they will naturally understand the tantras;
and without practicing the stage of development, 
they will behold deities directly."
--The Conjunction of Sun and Moon

Before Ava Lavinia Gardner (1922 - 1990) was Ava Gardner, she was Ava Gardner. Ava Gardner did not have to practice being Ava Gardner. To the contrary, all she had to do was be herself. Since she managed to naturally, effortlessly, and spontaneously be herself, she was that indivisible essence of being referenced by the generally agreed-upon name Ava Gardner.

Whatever qualities, characteristics, legends, or descriptions we wish to ascribe to the being referenced by this name, such qualities, characteristics, legends, or descriptions neither define nor delimit Ava Gardner.

If, for example, you say Ava Gardner was a remarkably beautiful woman, employed as a motion picture actress for the whole of her adult life, who liked to smoke, drink, and roll around on the sheets, you will have missed entirely the equality and purity of Ava Gardner as a natural manifestation of timeless awareness.

If you attempt to apprehend Ava Gardner by comparing her to all those women who are not referenced by the name Ava Gardner -- saying, "This is Ava Gardner," and "This is not Ava Gardner" -- you will be unable to experience the spontaneous presence of Ava Gardner as neither divisible nor indivisible purity.

Similarly, if you say that Ava Gardner engaged in effort in order to become Ava Gardner, i.e. that Ava Gardner was in some fashion the result of such effort -- such effort being viewed in this instance as the "cause" of Ava Gardner -- then the always-abiding Ava Gardner, effortlessly present, will be lost to you.

If you make an offering of your understanding of Ava Gardner to Ava Gardner, then in just this sense haven't you separated yourself from Ava Gardner? More to the point, haven't you divorced yourself from your own unified, essential being-as-inseparable from the basic ground that neither contains nor omits Ava Gardner or you?

If you selectively mine characteristics you have fictitiously attributed to Ava Gardner,  and then use them as a basis of imputation, saying, "Oh, she drinks like Ava Gardner drank," or "She dances like Ava Gardner danced," or "I wish I had Ava Gardner's lips," or "I wish I could have kissed Ava Gardner's lips," then you have imprisoned Ava Gardner in a referential state that directly opposes her actual, empty, non-referential state.

In the West, it seems there is a problem distinguishing between the practice of Buddhism as a graded, inquisitional exercise in dialectics, and the pass-fail, snake-in-bamboo practice of Vajrayana. Since Tibetan teachers have been coming to the West for the past four decades, and the problem still persists, I thought I would forget the whole thing and watch television instead.

There was an old Ava Gardner movie playing, and I watched that for a while.

Some people keep birds in cages. In South-East Asia, you can buy them at temples and set them free. I did that once myself, in Bangkok, only to watch them wheel around in the sky for a few minutes, and come back to the bird sellers, there to be sold again. Actually, the birds and the bird sellers are bodhisattvas, who manifest in this fashion in order to provide the opportunity to create merit. So, this is fictitious merit,  accrued in a fictitious circumstance, dedicated to fictitious beings, and subject to being exhausted.

Remind you of anything?


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