Tag Archives: Zen

The Practice of Contemplative Photography

The Practice of Contemplative Photography

by Andy Karr and Michael Wood

Shambhala Publications

As some of you may know, I am a bit of an amateur photographer. I came acrossed this book a year or two ago when I was browsing the Shambhala website, looking at what books they had upcoming. I was sent a digital copy of this book for review, but decided right away to buy it. This is huge. Other than my school books, I haven’t bought a brand new book in years. But this was extraordinary from the first images I saw. Plus, it’s a photography book. You need to hold this thing in your hand.

But it would be wrong to call this just a photography book, or just a book aimed at photographers. All students of Buddhism could appreciate this book. And that’s because contemplative photography isn’t about photography, it’s about seeing. It is a practice that directs our awareness away from conceptual thinking, and focuses it into an art form. From the book:

The practice of contemplative photography connects us with this nonconceptual awareness and strengthens that connection through training. The practice itself has three parts, or states. First we learn to recognize naturally occurring glimpses of seeing and the contemplative state of mind. Next we stabilize that connection through looking further. Finally we take photographs from within that state of mind.

The pictures alone in this book are worthy of any coffee table, certainly. But when a closer look is taken, the images inspire and help you to focus on the ordinary in extraordinary ways. I can’t reccomend this book enough. Again, this book is not just for photographers, but for everyone who wishes to see clearly.

But for the photographers out there, the book offers five different “assignments” to help in this art form. I’ve included some of the photos I’ve taken below for each different assignment.

Light

Color

Texture

Space

Simplicity

If you’re looking for more on contemplative photography, please visit the following sites:

Seeing Fresh – a website set up as sort of an extension of the book. There are discussions happening there, as well as a place where you can upload your own photos for the different assignments. I have a few photos up there too.

Shambhala Archives – Chögyam Trungpa’s photography – a collection of the late master’s work

Measart – a great photographer that has some very vivid contemplative photography

Dharma/Arte – A Brazillian (site is in both Portuguese and English) site that blends art, creativity, and dharma. A wonderful project.

108 Zen Books Tumblr blog – another dharma practitioner’s artful tumblr blog

Video of an Interview with author Andy Karr on Shambhala Sunspace

Seer Seeing Seen – my friend Shane’s tumblr blog with some great photography

Of course, there’s my tumblr blog where I post my photos and other dharma tidbits as well.

And on October 15th, there will be a live broadcast on the web with author Andy Karr. Click here for more information on that. 

Cheers.

10 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Buddhism

Empty Bowl

Infuriated with the stress of it all, the student closed his laptop in anger. He got up from the flat wooden chair, stretched his back and wondered out loud “what good is it all?” He wondered what good any of this talk of “Buddhism” ever got him. What good any of this “Zen” had ever done for him. For all his talk little benefit could shine through at that moment.

“Where is this Zen?” he thought. “What good are these koans I keep in my head, or the effort to focus on my breath and turn down the chatter in my mind that only returns moments later? Where is this Zen?”

He turned and saw an empty metal bowl on the floor that his son had been playing with earlier. Now it sat among the quiet clutter of midnight, reflecting the lone light left on for the student to work by. In that moment the Universe expanded forever, eternally empty was the vessel without name. Shining. Brilliant and Empty. Form with no form stretched across the cosmos until –

“Bowl”

Of course it was a bowl. But when it was a bowl, it was no longer empty. Filled it was again. Stories of Japanese masters pouring tea and chopping wood filled the student’s head. Now he wondered “what happened to this zen?”

Now he looked at the bowl deeply. It was empty, and he knew that, but it wasn’t the same knowledge of the bowl he had moments prior when all that he knew of the bowl dropped away. He tried to get back there again, but realized the folly in that pursuit.

What now was he left with? Ahh! Before, it was no longer a bowl. Then once it was a bowl, it was distorted. Bowlness, he thought, was all that could be thought about the bowl tonight.

The student turned off the light and went to bed.

4 Comments

Filed under Buddhism

The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing

Awakening has nothing to do with outward actions or appearances. It is only achieved by ceasing conceptualization. There is no benefit in shaving your head, taking precepts, or wearing robes. Nor is there any disadvantage if you own a home, work in the secular world, and have a spouse and children. People in the secular world who cease conceptualization awaken. Monks and nuns in monastic communities who do not cease conceptualization remain in delusion.

These are the words of Louie Wing, the fictional character author Ted Biringer brings to life in The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing. This is a masterful work that gets right to the heart of Zen. It is inspired by The Platform Sutra of Hui-Neng and provides a very direct and profound explanation of some Zen philosophy. Ted delves deep into prajna, the five ranks of Zen, and some excellent commentary on the Genjokoan. But when I say deep, I don’t mean that the book just drones on and on with complicated metaphysics. Rather, Louie Wing takes on the role of a fierce bodhisattvha, using his wisdom and teachings like Manjushri’s sword, cutting deep but precisely into the real matters of Zen.

The book provides a departure from most books on Zen you might find at Barnes and Nobles or some other such store. Rather than hold your hand while you mindfully wash the dishes, The Flatbed Sutra cuts right to the heart of the matter, revealing the path of compassion and wisdom in the Zen tradition, focusing on prajna and non-conceptualization. That’s not to say that this book is some sort of harsh, ‘hardcore’ approach to Zen either. Rather, it is styled in the fashion of the Chinese and Japanese classics from which the body of wisdom we know as Zen emerged. It is direct, but not in a know-it-all way. It is classic in its approach, yet the context that Biringer gives to Louie Wing makes the Flatbed Sutra accessible to all students of Zen.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Every student of Zen should read this book at least once;  it is one I will likely keep on my shelf and come back to again and again for years to come.

Cheers.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Buddhism

Another Hsu Yun poem…

 

 

Found this poem, thought I would share

The water and my mind have both settled down
Into perfect stillness.
Sun and moon shine bright in it.
At night I see in the surface
The enormous face of my old familiar moon.
I don’t think you’ve ever met the source of this reflection.
All shrillness fades into the sound of silence.
But now and then a puff of mist floats across the mirror.
It confuses me a little
But not enough to make me forget to forget my cares.

 

~Hsu Yun

2 Comments

Filed under Buddhism

The long journey out of the self…

Today David over at The Endless Further has a wonderful post up about the magic found in poetry, please check it out if you have the chance.

image of Roethke sourced from jungcurrents.com

It got me thinking about one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke, whom I haven’t dealt much with in years. Roethke is from my hometown of Saginaw, MI, and there are places he mentions in his poetry that were literally my old stomping grounds:

Out Hemlock Way there is a stream
That some have called Swan Creek;
The turtles have bloodsucker sores,
And mossy filthy feet;
The bottoms of migrating ducks
Come off it much less neat.

I used to dig in Swan Creek for golf balls to sell to golfers at the nearby hole-in-the-wall course. My father went through the ice of the creek as a youth while snowmobiling. It is a beautiful yet unassuming body of water. It really is just a creek. Creek creeks creek.

Upon digging around for some of my favorite works of his, I ran across the following two gems, and couldn’t help but be struck by the similarity to some of the old Chinese Ch’an masters works. The first poem is titled Journey into the Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
— Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.
The first thing that jumps out is right there in the first line, “journey out of the self”. The rest of the poem goes on to describe the traps and hazards our phenomenal mind throws at us in our attempt to escape its binding reach.
 
Another that I stumbled upon was In a Dark Time:
 
In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
I hear my echo in the echoing wood–
A lord of nature weeping to a tree,
I live between the heron and the wren,
Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.
What’s madness but nobility of soul
At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
I know the purity of pure despair,
My shadow pinned against a sweating wall,
That place among the rocks–is it a cave,
Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

A steady storm of correspondences!
A night flowing with birds, a ragged moon,
And in broad day the midnight come again!
A man goes far to find out what he is–
Death of the self in a long, tearless night,
All natural shapes blazing unnatural light.

Dark,dark my light, and darker my desire.
My soul, like some heat-maddened summer fly,
Keeps buzzing at the sill. Which I is I?
A fallen man, I climb out of my fear.
The mind enters itself, and God the mind,
And one is One, free in the tearing wind.

To me, this is all about finding the true self, making sense of the observer watching the observer phenomenon, feeling trapped that there is no hope, no way of getting to the Source.

Roethke suffered from depression not long into his life, fueled by the tragic deaths of his uncle and father that both occurred when he was 15. This colored many of his later works, though it is for his lighter, “greenhouse” poems that he is more well-known. These poems revolve around his direct experience and contact with nature and the beauty he found growing up around his uncle’s greenhouse in Saginaw (only a couple of miles from my childhood home). At the young age of 55, Roethke died of a heart attack in a swimming pool on Bainbridge Island, here in Washington. According to wiki the pool has since been covered and a Zen rock garden has apparently been placed on top. His remains are a stone’s throw from many of my great-grandparents and their siblings.

I’m not claiming that Roethke was Zen, or a Buddhist or anything of the sort. If anything he seemed to be a sort of pantheist or transcendentalist or something of that sort. But the problems that he digs at are universal, and strike at the heart of Zen. His desire to find pure Mind and make sense of it all mirrors the path of the 10 Ox Herding images well.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the magic that Roethke helped bring to the world. Cheers.

4 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Other

Faith in Mind

As my time is limited these days, one of the ways I maintain a connection to the dharma at work is to listen to a few chants over my headphones. My favorite of which is currently Faith in Mind, or Affirming Faith in Mind (it is sometimes attributed to Jianzhi Sengcan, but that is under debate and unlikely to be proven). To me, this verse/poem points to many of the most important Buddhist teachings like karma, conditioned existence, dukkha, the Four Noble Truths, awakening to pure Mind, and non-conceptual wisdom. And it does all of that without the overlays of ancient Chinese culture that some might find bewildering or off-putting. It is a powerful work, one that will speak to many over countless generations.

I’ve included the text below. You can also listen to it being chanted here.

The Great Way is not difficult for those who do not pick and choose.

When preferences are cast aside the Way stands clear and undisguised.

But even slight distinctions made set earth and heaven far apart.

If you would clearly see the truth, discard opinions pro and con.

To founder in dislike and like is nothing but the mind’s disease.

And not to see the Way’s deep truth disturbs the mind’s essential peace.

The Way is perfect like vast space, where there’s no lack and no excess.

Our choice to choose and to reject prevents our seeing this simple truth.

Both striving for the outer world as well as for the inner void condemn us to entangled lives.

Just calmly see that all is One, and by themselves false views will go.

Attempts to stop activity will fill you with activity.

Remaining in duality, you’ll never know of unity.

And not to know this unity lets conflict lead you far astray.

When you assert that things are real you miss their true reality.

But to assert that things are void also misses reality.

The more you talk and think on this the further from the truth you’ll be.

Cut off all useless thought and words And there’s nowhere you cannot go.

Returning to the root itself, you’ll find the meaning of all things.

If you pursue appearances you overlook the primal source.

Awakening is to go beyond both emptiness as well as form.

All changes in this empty world seem real because of ignorance.

Do not go search for the truth, just let those fond opinions go.

Abide not in duality, refrain from all pursuit of it.

If there’s a trace of right and wrong, True-mind is lost, confused, distaught.

From One-mind comes duality, but cling not even to this One.

When this One-mind rests undisturbed, then nothing in the world offends.

And when no thing can give offense, then all obstructions cease to be.

If all thought-objects disappear, the thinking subject drops away.

For things are things because of mind, as mind is mind because of things.

These two are merely relative, and both at source are Emptiness.

In Emptiness these are not two, yet in each are contained all forms.

Once coarse and fine are seen no more, then how can there be taking sides?

The Great Way is without limit, beyond the easy and the hard.

But those who hold to narrow views are fearful and irresolute; their frantic has just slows them down.

If you’re attached to anything, you surely will go far astray.

Just let go now of clinging mind, and all things are just as they are. In essense nothing goes or stays.

See into the true self of things, and you’re in step with the Great Way, thus walking freely, undisturbed.

But live in bondage to your thoughts, and you will be confused, unclear.

This heavy burden weighs you down– O why keep judging good and bad?

If you would walk the highest Way, do not reject the sense domain.

For as it is, whole and complete, This sense world is enlightenment.

The wise do not strive after goals, but fools themselves in bondage put.

The One Way knows no differences, the foolish cling to this and that.

To seek Great Mind with thinking mind is certainly a grave mistake.

From small mind come rest and unrest, but mind awakened transcends both.

Delusion spawns dualities– these dreams are nought but flowers of air– why work so hard at grasping them?

Both gain and loss, and right and wrong– once and for all get rid of them.

When you no longer are asleep, all dreams will vanish by themselves.

If mind does not discriminate, all things are as they are, as One.

To go to this mysterious Source frees us from all entanglements.

When all is seen with “equal mind,” to our Self-nature we return.

This single mind goes right beyond all reasons and comparisons.

Stop movement and there’s no movement, stop rest and no-rest comes instead.

When rest and no-rest cease to be, then even oneness disappears.

This ultimate finality’s beyond all laws, can’t be described.

With single mind one with the Way, all ego-centered strivings cease;

Doubts and confusion disappear, and so true faith pervades our life.

There is no thing that clings to us, and nothing that is left behind.

All’s self-revealing, void and clear, without exerting power of mind.

Thought cannot reach this state of truth, here feelings are of no avail.

In this true world of Emptiness both self and other are no more.

To enter this true empty world, immediately affirm “not-two”.

In this “not-two” all is the same, with nothing separate or outside.

The wise in all times and places awaken to this primal truth.

The Way’s beyond all space, all time, one instant is ten thousand years.

Not only here, not only there, truth’s right before you very eyes.

Distinctions such as large and small have relevance for you no more.

The largest is the smallest too– here limitations have no place.

What is is not, what is not is– if this is not yet clear to you, you’re still far from the inner truth.

One thing is all, all things are one– know this and all’s whole and complete.

When faith and Mind are not separate, and not separate are Mind and faith, this is beyond all words, all thought.

For here there is no yesterday, no today, no tomorrow.

 

Hat tip to Marcus for sending me the link to the VZC awhile back. The text used in this post, however, is from the Portland Zen Community site.

 

 

Cheers.

Comments Off on Faith in Mind

Filed under Buddhism

No cushion; no Zen. No cushion; zen.

People come to Buddhism for all types of reasons, and apply the teachings in just as many ways. For some it serves a religious purpose, for some a “way of life”, others a philosophy and so on. Whatever it may be for you, it seems as if it would be quite useless if its only benefits were found in one location, one posture, one turn of a phrase. I too often see people talking about how “just sitting” is the path to enlightenment. Or that only the full lotus posture will do when sitting in zazen, or more importantly that zazen happens on a cushion.

While inching toward a full lotus posture and regular meditation schedule are invaluable tools on this crooked path of Zen, they will leave us out naked in the cold if we leave our practice there with them. I have no desire to take up a path that isn’t able to be carried everywhere I go. Zazen must be the manifestation of whole-hearted inquiry into that mind-stuff of Buddha nature, and Buddha nature is not trapped on my pillow.

I’ve mentioned that recently my life schedule has become more than full. As such, my practice must evolve if it is to survive. I have no wish to take up the path of Zen for the label alone, nor do I wish to take it up just for those 20 minutes I could sit on a pillow and stare at my bookcase. So right now what Adam’s Zen looks like is reading a sūtra a day, practicing the paramitas, and throwing myself into polynomial factoring-zazen.

I haven’t the time to meditate. It isn’t there. And even if I were to attempt it, I guarantee I would just fall asleep 30 seconds into it anyway. So I practice my zazen in Math class. I found that I was making silly, elementary mistakes with some of the problems that were coming up because I was rushing or not checking my work  or some other mindless reason. Now I make sure and breathe the problems in, and breathe the problems out. It is helping my studies, and further more it is helping me glimpse at my monkey mind and find the cause of its monkey-nature. It is something quite unexpected.

This is something new for me, being able to see my self for the monkey that it is. In the past I’ve found it is easy to let that monkey turn into a stubborn ape, and when that happens it can seem as though hope is lost. That you’ll never be able to penetrate deep inside the luminous cavern of Buddha nature as long as that damn dirty ape stands in the way. But I’m seeing that ape less and less these days.

So this is where I will take Zen, and where Zen will take me for now. Off to math class I go.

4 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Personal

Heart of the Buddha

Oregon Coast

No need to chase back and forth like the waves.

The same water which ebbs is the same water that flows.

No point turning back to get water

When it’s flowing around you in all directions

The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world…

Where is there any difference?

~ Hsu Yun Heart of the Buddha

I’ve been sporadically reading a bit of Zen/Chan poetry lately. Some of it I dismiss fairly quickly. Quite a bit of it doesn’t speak to me, though I know the reasons for this are many (they’ve been written by wisdom, meant to be read with wisdom). But some of it takes you somewhere.

Heart of the Buddha is one of those poems that really shouted out to me, even though it was just a whisper. I like the water analogies used in Buddhism, as I think they are usually the most accurate descriptions of mind, dualism, and non-conceptual awareness one can use that people can easily relate to. This poem in particular opened up to me almost instantly. Here is what I found:

No need to chase… – chasing, grasping, reaching, swimming – none of these actions will help you to realize Buddha nature. Buddha nature is not something to be found while scuba diving on a treasure hunt.

…back and forth like the waves – this is samsara. The phenomenal world of dukkha leading us here then there then here then there. We’re all chasing. And we’re all swimming with the tide.

The same water that ebbs is the same water that flows – this line brought many thoughts to mind. The same ‘stuff’ that brings us pain is the same ‘stuff’ that brings us pleasure. Buddha nature is defilement, defilement is buddha nature. No samsara apart from nirvana. Water waters water.

No point turning back to get water – That which we are chasing we have already left behind. Seeking Buddha nature outside the self is like searching for a wave already crashed back into the ocean.

When it’s flowing around you in all directions – no self no buddha. Our deluded mind is creating all this samsara around us, when we are able to free our deluded mind, we can find the heart of buddha, which is all around us. But when we turn back and seek, it is again unreachable.

The heart of the Buddha and the people of the world… where is there any difference? – This is just the non-dual nature of reality. Again, no nirvana apart from samsara. Also I felt like this pointed at the 10th Ox Herding picture a little, in the idea of bringing Buddha nature back down into the marketplace, or back to be with “the people of the world”.

Just some thoughts of mine. Yours?

Cheers.

7 Comments

Filed under Buddhism

10 from 2010

I thought I would do a quick ego fluffing year-in-review type post. Here it goes:

1. The biggest thing that happened this year was obviously the birth of my daughter Zoa. She is now 3 months old, and sassy as hell. It is still really weird for me to think that I’m the father of 2! children. A family of four. How the hell did that happen?!?!

2. For awhile there I thought my job and company was in jeopardy. We’ve weathered the storm and I remain gainfully employed at a company that I am proud to work for.

3. Next week I start school. I’ll be taking 3 classes, working full-time, and trying to spend as much time with my family as possible. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up the 3 classes at a time thing, but the more I can, the sooner I’ll have my degree. And then the sooner we’ll be more financially secure and stable (at least, that’s the plan….) so hopefully I can last at that pace until summer of 2012.

4. This year I changed blogs, joined twitter, wrote for Elephant Journal and shifted the focus of my content here. I’ve been trying to be more aware of how I spend my time online, as well as how much time I spend here. So far the process is evolving nicely. I also started a photo blog which is sort of on hiatus at the moment until I have more time to snap some photos. But I am tied only very loosely to it, so it will just sit there for now. And I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with not posting here regularly. No pressure.

5. I decided to focus my dharma practice in a more Zen-centered path. I’m enjoying what I’m learning, and struggling to put it all into practice. I’m inching my way forward, but forward nonetheless.

6. Last year I made some resolutions. Let’s see how I did:

  • 1st – no more meat. Verdict: fail! So I don’t eat meat for any meal, whatsoever. I don’t order any meat when we eat out. But my son is a very picky eater. Some of the things he will eat are meaty. Sometimes he doesn’t finish his food. So I eat it. I’d rather it didn’t go to waste considering the manner in which it got to our dinner table. I don’t care if that makes me a non vegetarian or not. I didn’t make the choice about my diet in order to provide myself with a label or status.
  • 2nd – a more committed practice – verdict – fail! I wanted to chant daimoku twice daily and such, but I didn’t. In fact, I decided not to continue practicing strictly in the Nichiren tradition anymore. However I have found other ways to integrate other practices and study into my life. So whatever.
  • 3rd – incorporate meditation into my practice – WIN!!! Yeah, I’ve meditated a bit this year. Nothing strict or regular, but I have. And I’d like to find more time to do so, but not sure how that is going to work with work/school/kids/wife/need to shower and eat.

7. This year my only resolution is to be a better husband and father, and to do my best to be there for my family and balance all of my commitments.

8. The best book I read this year is probably The Eight Gates of Zen. Although I’m currently digesting The Flatbed Sutra of Louie Wing and it is really, really good.

9. Here are the 4 posts I wrote this year that I am most proud of:

Affirm life, Do not kill – it was a post around some of my thoughts/feelings on abortion.

My Personal Internet Usage Policy – this one got the most hits I’ve ever had on one day (400 something) and got really good reception. I even saw some people who said they printed it out and hung it by their computer!

Bringing us back to shore – no one else seemed to like this one, but I did damn it!!!

My Team – I wrote this on July 4th, and it actually has nothing to do with sports, though I think my metaphor got lost. Oh well, I dug it.

If you had a particular favorite that I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments.

10. I discovered that I am now that old guy that doesn’t enjoy any newfangled music! Seriously though, I’ve been able to find very little new music that I like anymore. Here are a few gems that I was able to find:

Chiddy Bang (my interest in hip hop in general is declining, but groups like this and a few other indie MCs out there are keeping my iPod fresh for the time being)

Alberta Cross – excellent Canadian band my friend turned me onto. A distinct Neil Young influence, something I don’t mind in the least.

 

Iron and Wine – amazingly talented music. So talented, you’ll likely never hear it on the radio.

Ray LaMontaingue – ‘soul’ is the first word that comes to mind when listening to Ray LaMontaingue as he plays with all of his and then some.

And the award to the catchiest damn song I heard all year (or was it last year? I don’t remember, I’ve just been unable to get it out of my head):

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Home

 

Here’s to 2011. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Years.

Cheers.

3 Comments

Filed under Personal

Just Patience.

The Great Bodhisattva of Patience wields a fiery spoonful of pudding!

I’m finding more and more that I’ve reached a bit of a plateau when it comes to this blog and Buddhism in general. Part of the reason I started this blog was to openly explore the dharma as I started on the path. I am nowhere near any kind of expert, realized master, or authority or any such person when it comes to Buddhism. But I do feel like I have a grip on enough of the basics that I have little where else to go as far as the online world is concerned. I’m finding more and more that what I’m looking for isn’t here, but lies closer to where my feet are planted, and my fingers meet the keyboard.

After awhile the basics start to get boring. I can only read the same thing said a million different ways so many times before it becomes Geography class. Geography class was always required in middle and high school. But it was useless. Once you learned where Bolivia was, that was it. But we had to learn where Bolivia was and what their climate and chief exports and natural landmarks were year after year. But nothing changed. Most of the basic concepts of Buddhism are like this, at least on an intellectual level. And quite frankly, you can only do so much with text.

Also quite frankly, you can only do so much while sleep deprived. I haven’t had but maybe 4 good nights of sleep in the past 2 years or so. Kids can do this to you. My kids do this to me. My wife has it worse. So I haven’t been meditating, and I struggle to even read the past few weeks. For my son Corbin, it’s been a struggle to get him to go down for the night. Once he does, he’s been mostly sleeping through the night (finally, after almost 2 years) but wakes between 5-6am. This wouldn’t be too bad if our daughter Zoa would allow us to put her down to sleep at a decent hour, but she’s a bit of a night owl and frequently won’t lay down for the night until between 11pm-1am.

Needless to say, I’m running short on patience. Patience with my wife, children, situation, self, work, strangers, family, you name it. It manifests in many forms. Anger, rudeness, non-compassion are the usual ones, though cold distance is there at times as well.

Concepts are great, but they don’t mean shit off the paper.

Spiritual traditions are great, but they don’t mean shit if you can’t apply them to your life. They don’t mean shit if they can’t help you deal with your issues in a way that brings about real, actual change. And those changes don’t mean shit if you can’t use them to better deal with those you love the most and keep the closest.

So I’m dedicating my practice to the pursuit of patience.

Patience.

                 Patience.

Patience.

It really couldn’t be a better time to do so. Financially, we’re hoping to put ourselves in the house market by the end of 2011. This will take work, sacrifice, and a ton of patience and non-attachment. Starting in January, I’m going back to school to pursue a degree in Enviromental Policy and Planning. The A.A.S. part will hopefully be done by Summer 2012, but looking down the road this is going to be tough. I’m going to have to put in a lot of work for this, and working 40+ hours while trying to be a family man and go to school full-time is going to really test ability to remain patient, calm, and present.

Oh, and I have 2 kids! Wow! They are a daily test of patience. My son’s new favorite game is just to knock shit over. He walks up to a chair, and just knocks it over, bam! Vacuum? Bam! High Chair? Bam! Our neighbors below must love us…

So what I’m getting at here in this long “me me me” post is that what I really need to do is forget some of my loftier dreams of group meditation or kensho and just go for what matters most to my life right now: developing patience. My family will thank me for it. I will thank me for it. To me it is more beneficial than digging through Nagarjuna’s thoughts on Dharmadhatu, though I do hope to make it there someday as well. Right now my practice needs to meet the pavement where I commute daily, in hope that my passengers will benefit.

Cheers.

16 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Parenting, Personal

Jataka Tales, Zen Practice, and Daily Life

 

 

Once long ago, when Brahmadatta still reigned in Benares, the bodhisattva was born as a crow. In time he became the leader of a great, raucous troop of crows, nearly a thousand strong, that lived in the cemetery…

So starts The Wise Crow Jataka, presented in Chapter 6 of Endless Path. The Jataka tales are a collection of stories that supposedly tell the tales of Shakyamuni Buddha’s many previous lives. The Buddha appears in many forms, from God to crow, and from King to beggar. An obvious moral teaching can be at the heart of each tale, similar in some respects to Aesop’s fables. From my experience, in Western convert communities, the Jataka tales are generally seen as children’s stories, rather than important moral lessons for all practitioners. Enter Rafe Martin.

Rafe Martin is the author of several books, including The Banyan Deer, Straight to the Heart of Zen, and One Hand Clapping: Zen Stories for All Ages. With Endless Path, Martin has found 10 Jataka tales that relate directly to the 10 paramitas (also known as the 10 perfections). In so doing, he brings them off the children’s shelf and into the lives of every modern-day Buddhist, young and old.

The he uses is almost like that of a koan. First he presents the Jataka, each one given fresh new life as an original telling, all with a dash of Zen. Then he spends a few pages extolling commentary on each one. Martin’s commentary stays with the contemporary theme in order to reach a modern audience as diverse as the characters we find in the Jatakas. This is definitely the first Buddhist book that I’ve ever read with references to President Obama, iPods, and 9/11. His commentary roams from personal narrative to a bit of Buddhist history, and covers the morals, ethics, and finer details of each tale wonderfully.

Rafe Martin breathes fresh new life into these wonderful old tales, and in doing so, provides us with a much-needed perspective into our individual lives and practice. He doesn’t really touch on whether or not these stories actually took place. Certainly there are those out there that believe they did, and there are many out there that see them as nothing more than folklore and stories left over from a far-away culture. Instead, Martin prefers taking up the task of telling each story, and bringing out its full potential to a modern audience. It doesn’t really seem to matter here if the tales are true or not, because they are reflections on our own lives, here and now. In his commentary, Martin shows that each Jataka stands on its own, fiction or non, because the lessons we take from them can affect us deeply, here and now.

Something we fail to realize is that this life, right here, now, is a Jataka in the making. We might not be a talking crow or a monkey king, but we do each have our own stories of struggle developing these 10 perfections, developing the life of a Buddha. Something that I appreciated while reading these tales was how much the Buddha struggled through his previous lives! It wasn’t always so easy for him, and sometimes he failed miserably. It should give us hope then, that the struggles we work through here in this life are not just the mud of life, but they have the potential to become the very thing that drives us on this difficult path we walk.

I wholeheartedly recommended Endless Path to any practitioner out there. There are lessons we can all take away from these Jatakas and Martin’s commentary on them. As I said, these tales are for people of all ages. So those of you out there with children have the added bonus of being able to read these tales to them, and maybe create your own commentary, something that touches you and your family.

 

Cheers.

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Buddhism

On and off the shelf

It’s about 1am on Thursday night, and we’ve just got our 1 month old daughter, Zoa, to sleep. It’s been and on-and-off (mostly on) struggle to get her down at night. And then my son Corbin wakes up. I go in, try to comfort him, but nothing works. I’m not able to get him back to sleep until nearly 5am, and then have to wake up at 6:45 to head to work.

In this 4 hour period I go from rage to depression to fear to calm to half-asleep to happy. No where do I find my Buddhism. Why? Because it is in its usual resting place, the shelf.

The Literal Shelf:

I haven’t meditated since before my daughter was born, which was a month ago. My son has been sleeping less at night, sometimes waking up for 4-5 hours, sometimes 30 minutes at a time 3-4 times a night. Or sometimes he sleeps right through. My daughter hasn’t been going to sleep well either. I used to do my meditation routine at night, right after everyone was in bed. Meditate, or sleep… meditate, or sleep…. not really a hard choice on my part now. Setting up the altar and meditating in the morning isn’t really an option, as I wake up with my son (anywhere from 4:30am-7am) and there is no chance in hell I can sit staring at the floor with him running around loose.

So right now, my Buddhism sits on the shelf, in the form of a book usually. I’ve decided that for now, study shall suffice, at least until we can get some kind of regular night-time and sleep routine going. I realize that meditation is only a tiny part of Buddhist and Zen practice, I do. I realize that really living the path means bringing the teachings with you into the mud of life. But I’m having enough difficulty just remembering to take out the damn trash, let alone to do it “mindfully”. I have no teacher, no formal sangha. My knowledge is a lacking, and my insights are few and rare. Right now study isn’t just a way to practice while being convienent, but is a necessary and important part of my practice for today and tomorrow. I simply wish I had the time, capacity, and patience to bring “it” off the shelf more often. Which brings me to-

The Figurative Shelf:

I notice more and more that the times when I’m “being a Buddhist”, come short and fast, and they are gone. I can remember to breathe from the hara, but then it’s gone as soon as my breath leaves. And when I remember again a few minutes later, I kick myself when I look at all the crap I filled my head up with in between.

But much of my life is no different from this. Those feelings I had late the other night, they came and went faster than I would have admitted at the time. I’m finding most of my life resides on the shelf. Little stories I have of “me” to be taken down and checked out when convenient. Some of them barely get out of their usual space before they come right back, while others are near impossible to put back once taken.

 

Anger in its many forms is one of these. Stress, rage, loneliness, burden. This story I call “Only my self and the fire” is an old and familiar one. One too familiar, and not old enough. I know how harmful it can be, yet its pages suck me in and keep me there longer than I’d like. But eventually a chapter or two in, and I realize how many times I have read this one, and how it always ends the same. As time passes I’m finding that it goes back on the shelf a little easier each time, and that it takes me a page or two less each time to get it there. Progress.

There is another, one titled “Riding on Cloud 9 in Fantasy Land”. This story sits on my shelf more often than not, but when I pick it up, I am transported. Taken away to a place where nothing can harm me. No bill collectors are allowed here and everyone has a perfect credit score. People don’t fight. Kids sleep through the night. Cats scoop their own litter box. Cars repair themselves for free. Everything works out in the end here. This book isn’t just hard to put back on the shelf, it’s impossible. The only way to get it back on the shelf is if another one of my stories knocks it out of my hand. I don’t like it when that happens. I really enjoy that story.

And this goes on and on and on. These novels and short stories that I’ve created for me and about me, are constantly going from hand to shelf, hand to shelf. The speed at which must be quite dizzying to onlookers, as I know it wears me out. And to top it off, there are times at which the books and stories I’m grabbing seem to have no real rhyme or reason, other than to grab them and hold on.

I’ve done this for years and my shelf is in disarray. Unfortunately, I’ve been viewing Buddhism and spirituality as just another story, to take on and off the shelf. If I had the presence of mind, I’d open up the pages, and realize that they aren’t things to be taken off the shelf and put back on at a whim. No, these are much more powerful. They are a Dewey Decimal system to keep these books organized. Help me clean them up and put them where they go. Separate the fiction from non-fiction. Buddhism and spirituality are there for when it’s time to let some of these books go, and reduce some of my inventory.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time to do this type research needed into these very special ‘books’. They are there at home now, sitting on that damned shelf. Too often I leave them on that shelf, ignored until they are to be picked up when convienent.

In a flurry, on and off they go.

But they are an empty shelf!

Just hear without the noise.

Unite heart and mind.

Cheers.

12 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, Personal

Blood into Wine into Mind

 

Last night I watched the movie Blood into Wine. It’s the story of Maynard James Keenan and his partner-in-wine Eric Glomski and their journey into vinting. The movie itself is excellent, and tells quite the story. For those that don’t know, Maynard is the front man of the legendary rock band Tool, as well as A Perfect Circle, and the Ringmaster of his current solo project Puscifer. A quick read of his wiki pages lets you know that he also went to art school (paid for by his time in the Armed Forces) and tried his hand at stand-up comedy, inspired by Bill Hicks, someone he admired greatly. Truly a jack-of-all trades. At first mention, you might think that this was just another rock star putting his name on something he thought was cool in order to promote himself and earn a few more bucks. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maynard fell in love with wine and then wanted to know more. Discover more. Put himself into it fully. For Maynard, this led to starting his own vineyard and winery.

For those of you that are familiar with Tool and Maynard, you know the air of mystery that surround his projects. Tool has gone out of their way to avoid the media side of the rock-industry. Rarely posing for photos, making interviews rare if any. At some shows they won’t even address the crowd. They simply come up on stage, play their asses off, and leave. A friend of mine went to see them in Michigan, and told me that Maynard spent almost the entire show behind the drum set, facing the back of the stage. But with the lighting and music and the entire experience, he said it really didn’t matter. If anything, it made the experience of the show even better.

This movie not only gives you a close look at two guys that are crazy about wine, but it provides a rare look at Maynard himself, with the mask he usually wears taken off. What we see is a man that is uncomfortable around people in so much that he really isn’t a people person. He seems to keep his circle close (even when that circle includes Patton Oswaltd and Milla Jovovich) and even when interacting with those, he lets others direct the conversation, mostly appearing that he’d rather be somewhere else. And if this movie is any indication, that somewhere else is digging in the dirt on his vineyard, picking grapes, planting vines and keeping animals from eating his crops.

Maynard does draw a couple of comparisons between his music and his vinting. He tells us that the process is very much the same in that with his music. It is an authentic process, one that is involved with discovering the medium fully (be it music or wine) while at the same time, leads him to a higher plane of self discovery. When you listen to Tool’s music, you can hear their jam-band element come across, and it almost seems as if the band is there just to support the music as it happens naturally; that they are just as much a part of the music as they are its creators. Maynard takes the same approach to his wine in that he isn’t out to please critics or change the world of wine, but rather to give life to something he put his whole being into.

There is something rather Zen Master about Maynard’s whole approach. He refuses to perpetuate his own celebrity status. Rather than appear on reality TV shows or VHI, he only feeds his fans a tiny morsel of himself, and lets them use their own magic to come up with the rest. He rarely answers questions directly; instead his answers come from the relative way in which he engulfs himself and his work. He seems much more interested in the process than he does the final product. This just reminds me that the principles at work in Buddhism can be found anywhere, and are indeed universal, no matter what their context.

Anyway, if you enjoy documentaries at all, you should see this movie. It’s a great introspective into one man’s life and passion, and regardless if you are a Maynard fan or not, you will appreciate the way this story plays out.

 

Cheers

 

1 Comment

Filed under Other

The Eight Gates of Zen and Invoking Reality

 

John Daido Loori, Roshi

Recently I read both the Eight Gates of Zen and Invoking Reality; both titles by the late John Daido Loori, Roshi. For awhile now I’ve been looking for a presentation of Buddhist practice tailored to a Western convert such as myself that didn’t also strip the dharma of all of the culture that it has inherited over its many centuries of evolution. Well, these books are it.

The Eight Gates of Zen is a manual written to explain the path being taken by a student at Loori’s Zen Mountain Monastery in New York State. The path takes up the Eight Gates (zazen, study with a teacher, academic study, liturgy, right action, art practice, body practice and work practice) and combines them with the 10 ox herding pictures to form a disciplined and formative way of practice. For the home practitioner such as myself, this book serves as a reminder that practice happens “in the mud of life”, and shouldn’t be put away with your meditation cushion after your daily zazen.

To me, it seemed as if the entire purpose of this book was to speak directly to the Western convert, espousing the dharma in a way that held on to its traditional roots while at the same time being an expression of our current time and culture here in North America. If you are looking for an introduction to Zen or Buddhism, I don’t think this book is the right one. Loori assumes you already know something about the basic terms being used and have a general knowledge base to work with. Terms like teisho, satoori, Mu; these are all used freely and if someone has no experience with these, they’d have to spend a decent amount of time making notes and referencing the vocabulary used. Thankfully I have enough experience with the language being used here, and this book seemed aimed at someone at right about my level (though it will be something to work with for years to come).

Loori makes it a point to establish two different paths for monastics and the laity, something which makes sense to me. I have no desire to take up the path of a monk; I have a family that I love very much and want to spend as much time with as possible. But this isn’t an obstacle as far as Loori sees it. Here he has laid out a path for the lay person that is just as involved, engaged, and intimate as the path for the monastic. However at the same time he brings us back to the heart of it by explaining that the two paths really are one, and that we both “leave home” in some sense.

I found the content in the book extremely well presented, it was clear (as much as Zen can be of course ;)) and the material was laid out so well that one could use this book as a study point for many years (which is something I know I will do). Additionally, in the end of the book Dogen’s Mountains and Rivers Sutta appears, the sutra that Loori drew much of his inspiration from. Upon first reading I really love this sutra, and plan to study it more intensely in the future. Following that, there is a Zazen checklist (wonderful for a beginner like me), an “Introduction to the Zendo”, Jukai, and a section of Daily Liturgy. For me the Daily Liturgy will definitely come in handy (anyone know of an audio version of the Heart Sutra being chanted in English?) as it will give me something new to recite and chant if I so choose. Also, at the end there is an extensive “recommended reading” list that I plan on working my way through over the coming years (decades?). Seriously if you haven’t read this book, go get it. So far this has been the best book on Buddhism I’ve read yet. It was engaging, poetic, and concise.

There were many “a-ha!” moments throughout the book, but none for me as powerful as the following paragraph in the chapter “The  Still Point: Zazen:

The very first sitting of the rank beginner, whether properly or improperly executed, is at once the complete and perfect manifestation of the zazen of countless Buddhas and ancestors of past, present, and future. From the zazen of countless Buddhas and ancestors, our own zazen emerges. From our own zazen, the zazen of countless Buddhas and ancestors is realized. As a result, we all live the life of Buddha, transcend Buddha, have the mind of Buddha and become Buddha.

I don’t know what it was about reading this, but all of a sudden there was this moment where the teachings of the Lotus Sutra were put into perspective, and it was as if for the first time I was really getting the Lotus Sutra. I don’t know if that makes any sense or not, but reading this really helped. I think it was just his style, and delivery to a Western audience that seemed to put much of the Lotus Sutra into a perspective that I could understand.

 

 

In Invoking Reality, Loori presents for us the moral and ethical teachings of Zen in the context of the Three Treasures, the Three Pure Precepts, and the Ten Grave precepts. From the beginning Loori states:

Enlightenment and morality are one. Enlightenment without morality is not true enlightenment. Morality without enlightenment is not complete morality. Zen is not beyond morality, but a practice that takes place within the world, based on moral and ethical teachings.

Living the precepts is living the life of a Buddha. Nothing could be clearer having read this book. It is quite a short read (only 97 pages) and in that sense did leave a little to be desired. I think he did a fantastic job of describing the precepts, how they function, and their role in our daily lives and practice. In Invoking Reality Loori assures us that the precepts are not some stagnant set of rules to follow, but they are a living, breathing dynamic system to follow in order to live this life as a Buddha. The whole phenomenal universe is co-dependant, constantly originating, coming and going. The 16 precepts are a response to this transitory nature of the universe we live, work, and breathe in.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, though I felt at times Loori got lost in his poetry. I love his style of writing but when presenting the 10 grave precepts, more specifics would have helped since this book seemed to be geared toward and introduction to Buddhist (Zen) ethics and morality.

This book is an excellent reminder that Buddhism is a moral and ethical system, and to divorce our practice from this realization is to divorce ourselves from the Buddha and what he taught. I plan on reading some more of John Daido Loori’s works in the future. Truly his was an original voice in Western Buddhism, one that has spoken to me directly. I appreciate his appeal to traditions of old while crafting something original and meaningful to a new audience in the West; all while focusing on the “mud” of life and dharma.

Cheers.

10 Comments

Filed under Book Review, Buddhism

A Zen cage for my monkey mind: my journey into Buddhism (part 2 of 2)

 

So in my post yesterday I gave a little background into my motivations for taking up this Buddhist path. For me, recollecting this was an important part of my current journey. Ever since breaking ties with SGI, I’ve been fine being an “unaffiliated” Buddhist. However, I’ve been realizing more and more that this type of path is so crooked and covered in brambles that I’m never likely to make it far. I know myself enough to know that “loose-knit” just isn’t going to work for me.

On my last post a commenter asked if committing to a particular school was necessary (I go this question on Twitter as well). I don’t think that it is absolutely necessary. However, rather than finding it limiting or too narrow, I find practicing within a framework more liberating. I have no real access to a real life teacher/dharma center/sitting group which makes focus hard enough as it is. Family matters are my primary concern, along with my 40+ hour/week job. So for me, establishing at least some type of framework will be liberating in the sense that I’ll be a little less scattered and a little more focused in my pursuits.

So I’m leaning toward Zen. That’s something I never thought I’d say actually. In the beginning I thought Theravada was the path for me, being as close as one could get to one of the original schools of Buddhism. That was important because at the time I was only really concerned with what The Buddha™ taught. I thought that Zen was so far off from anything the Buddha taught that it shouldn’t really be called Buddhism. I also thought that since the Mahayana sutras were probably not conceived until well after the Buddha died, that made them invalid on some level.

Well that was then and this is now. I’m finding that Zen is a practice that better suits a lay person with my motivations than others I’ve encountered and looked into. I’ve realized that it doesn’t really matter if the Buddha delivered the Mahayana sutras or not, because they and the schools that use them work; for me the proof is in the pudding. I should also state that my decision to pursue Zen didn’t come about because of an aversion to another school. I don’t care about who is right or wrong. Dharma pissing contests are as important to me as Protestants who squabble over whether baptisms should consist of water splashed on the head or being submerged in a Louisiana swamp. I’m choosing this path because it speaks to me, not because all the other ones don’t.

It seems to me that Zen very much focuses on the nature of mind, but brings it down into the dirty marketplace of life. Particularly I have an interest in the Rinzai school and their greater focus on koans (I also so far enjoy Hakuin more than I do Dogen) though as I said without a teacher/center close by it doesn’t really make any sense for me to narrow things down that much. I also understand some of the limitations I’ll face by “going it alone” for the time being, but I’m fine with that. I have much to study, and a meditation practice to integrate more fully with my daily routine. Maybe once things are settled a bit with the baby and I figure out what I’m doing about school in the winter, I’ll drop by a temple in Seattle a few times next year and find out if that’s something I want to pursue with regularity in the future.

So there it is. For now I’ll be using a Zen cage to trap my monkey mind. That doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly adopted a set of beliefs and now believe in the greater Zen dogma. For me it’s more like a rusty compass to help me get where I’m going.

Cheers.

14 Comments

Filed under Buddhism

“The Importance of Ritual (and Irritation)”: Guest Post by Maia Duerr

 A shout out to Adam and to all his blog audience as we commence this big Buddhist blog swap. This is the first time I’ve participated in the blog swap. It’s a lot of fun to dip into someone else’s pool, and to have Shane Hennesey of Zenfant post on my blog, The Jizo Chronicles.

The way this works, all of us who volunteered for this endeavor were matched up with another blogger, and we were to write something for his or her blog. We each suggested a topic to write on, and then Nate Montigny  put these into a hat (was it a real hat or a digital hat? I wonder…) and assigned a topic to each of us. The topic I suggested was “how do you practice with irritation?” The one I was assigned was “the importance of ritual in your Buddhist practice.” I didn’t understand that we weren’t going to write on the topic we suggested… and so I have to tell you, I am irritated that I have to write on a topic other than irritation. I guess that is perfect. I may end up writing about both topics here. 

First, ritual. I grew up Catholic, and I mean really Catholic. Twelve years of Catholic grammar school and high school at St. Andrew’s, in Pasadena, California. This was in the 1960s and 70s, so if you can imagine the scenes in the Meryl Streep/Philip Seymour Hoffman movie “Doubt,” you’re not far off. Okay, maybe not quite that bad, but we were definitely steeped in ritual and nuns and priests. I can remember being herded from our classrooms across the street to the big church every Friday for Mass. When I was growing up, the post-Vatican II Church was just on the cusp of “modernizing,” so I have some faint memory of the mass being said in Latin when I was very young. But most of what I remember is that awkward transition to guitar masses and the priests trying to act very hip. 

Even so, there was still a great deal of ritual. During big masses like Christmas and other holidays, the altar boys, dressed in black robes with a splash of red and white garments, would carry large bronze urns filled with incense and swing them around on their way up to the altar. The most ritual-intensive part of the liturgy was around the consecration of the ‘host,’ when the priest held up the golden chalice and whispered some kind of secret incantation as the bread and wine allegedly turned into the body and blood of Christ. It was wild. So when I encountered Buddhism later in my life, I was already pretty comfortable with ritual. I started practice in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition where there was actually less of it. But by the time I hit Soto Zen, I was happy to see the black robes come out again and hear all the chanting in morning service. I know this can be a turnoff to some people, but I felt right at home. Maybe that’s why there are so many ex-Catholics who seem to turn up in the ranks of Zen Buddhism.

 Over the years, something really valuable I’ve discovered is that it’s important for me to personalize those rituals a bit more, otherwise they can end up feeling kind of dead after a while. In the past couple of years, I’ve created a morning ritual for myself that has really helped me to feel much closer to my practice. When I sit on my own at home, I end the sitting period by lighting incense and then chanting a set of three vows that are close to my own heart – not something that someone else has come up with. This seems to go to the core meaning of ritual for me – it’s a remembrance of things that are close to my soul, that vitalize me for the day ahead. 

Finally, a few thoughts about irritation. After my irritated moment about not getting the topic I wanted for this blog, I realized how much irritation has permeated my practice. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Really, irritation has permeated my life and I would guess that is true for you as well.  I remember one of the first things that my root teacher, Roshi Joan Halifax, said to me: “We spend most of our lives circling around the drain of resistance.” I thought that was fabulous and I’d never heard it before. It’s so true, only the problem is we usually don’t realize how resistant we are to “things as they are.” Irritation really seems to get at the heart of the First and Second Noble Truths, that there is suffering in life and that suffering arises when we resist what’s going on. I’m not sure I can say I’ve experienced any less irritation in my life since I’ve been practicing meditation. In fact, maybe even more. Or maybe it’s just that I am more aware of it (damn awareness!). Sometimes it seems that just about anything can trigger the irritation: the loud breathing of someone else in the zendo (and it’s always someone else, not me!), the co-worker who drives me crazy with his stupid questions, the method for choosing the blog topic that I didn’t have a say in… If it’s not one thing, it’s another, as Gilda Radner would have said. 

One saying that’s made the rounds in many Buddhist settings is that when we practice and live together as a sangha, we are like a bunch of hairy potatoes being washed in the same bucket of water together, continually rubbing each other clean through the process of bumping up against each other in our irritation. If that’s the case, I am getting to be a very clean potato. 

Thank you so much Maia! Wonderful!

For a list of all of the other blogs participating in the swap, head over to Precious Metal. My post is up at Peace Ground Zero, so check it out! Cheers. -Adam

6 Comments

Filed under Buddhism