Sunday, January 21, 2018

Book of the year

Looking through my books and posts from last year, I didn't read any great books that were published in 2017, so I can't give out a best book of the year award. There are so many books that are out there free, so many talks that are free. I know the writers who teach the dharma and sell their books don't make a killing. I'm sure they fund their various philanthropies.

I did read Psychotherapy East and West, and that's an interesting book, but I guess I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't a Buddhist psychotherapist or liked Alan Watts. I like his writings and that is why I'm reading his collected letters. I find his rhetorical style interesting, I study him as a writer.

I'm reading books on love, like Big Love, but I don't know if you would call it Dharma. I do read books as Dharma whether they are or not, but that's a personal decision.

The books that might be under consideration, Sharon Salzberg and Robin Wright's Why Buddhism Is True, I didn't finish. Salzberg's book seemed like a repeat of a past one. And I don't need scientific confirmation that the Dharma is good for me. True for me is good enough.

I wanted to Mark Epstein's new one but that's published this year. I wouldn't mind taking a gander at Unsubscribe. And I wouldn't mind looking at The Lost Art of Good Conversation. There's a new translation of Milarepa's songs I wouldn't mind reading. And Joan Halifax's new book isn't out yet. The Best Buddhist Writing series ended in 2012. I am enjoying Meditation Saved My Life but that was published in 2016.

The above books haven't come to my library last time I checked. Anyone have any good book suggestions?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

spoiler alert



I've had glimpses of insight, a connection to everything, I've felt a weird kind of hallucinatory love. At the time, I didn't think much of it. I guess I've been trained to think peak experiences are distracting, not to be aimed for, just enjoy and then keep moving forward. I didn't even tell anyone when I was on retreat and I was the wind, the leaves, the trees, the roots, the ground, everything.

I go the other way with that now. I think I needed to take them more seriously. That I could descend into a negative place, and forget these things, was not good. I need to remember them, and act on them.

Spoiler alert! Do not read forward if you care about seeing Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams (Amazon Prime). It's kind of like Black Mirror (Netflix), they are episodic scifi, but just amazing.

The first episode is about going on a holiday. Some computer thingy reads your mind and sends you on a vacation. A woman who is leading a lovely life, goes on one out of stress. She ends up in a guilt fantasy--she can't believe her luck, so her holiday is a worse life, but she can get off on suffering for what she feels guilty about in real life. But in the course of things, it becomes confusing which is her real life. She imagines that the suffering life can't be her holiday and gets stuck in the suffering life.

I feel the same way about the spiritual life. It can't be as awesome as it seems. But it is. There's a phrase from the big book, "rocketing into a fourth dimension." I need to remember that. I don't need to choose the suffering life.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

227 rules

"Should any bhikkhu knowingly deprive an animal of life, it is to be confessed." The above is from the 227 rules of conduct for a Theravadan Buddist Monk.

I think in this day and age you can assumed that eating meat caused the death of animals. To split hairs the carnist says did they kill it specifically for you? Decreasing the demand is what should be done for a multitude of reasons.

There are some far out rules. You can't dig in dirt or ride in a boat with a nun, except to cross a river. You can't be alone in a room with a woman with the door closed. Reminds me when a female psychotherapist left the door open for an orthodox man. I thought that was so bizarre at the time. With all the men losing their jobs because of sexual misconduct, maybe it's not so weird.

Who is the accused famous person who you find after Weinstein? I just saw Dustin Hoffman has been accused by 4 women. Do you gotta show your penis to women when you hit a certain age? Of course Hoffman is no Buddhist monk, rather a Hollywood movie star, with a different set of expectations.



Other recent thoughts: I've been reading Chogyam Trungpa's Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness. There are two slogans that sort of got to me. One is "Drive all into one." This means that your wife leaves you, you inherit money, you lose your job, you find a sangha that works for you. Up and down life goes, but I often think, "if such and such just didn't happen," or, "This person made this wrong decision that negatively impacted me." It's all about driving pain away and pulling pleasure towards you. So you can come up with a proliferation of reasons why things have turned for the worse, but in the end it's all our relationship to our resistance to what is happening. It's easier said than done, but not resisting what must happen because of circumstances is good. The confusion for me comes when it looks like you might be able to change things. It's never really clear.

He gives good advice about how to take mindfulness off the cushion. He talks about being a child of illusion. When you're sitting, because you can't move (much) and don't have distractions like googling to gratify curiosity or playing music from India while you read an Indian author, you just notice what your mind is doing. Off the cushion it's not so obvious that you're mind is telling stories. So to "be a child of illusion" is to regard your thinking as you do similarly while on the cushion.


I've been reading Jack Kornfield's first book that came out in 1977. There is a kind of skepticism that writing a book would be useful, but still he interviews a bunch of teachers from Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. He was one of the first people I read when I started digging into Buddhism.

Finally, I got a collection of Alan Watts letters which looks interesting. I like to read people's letters.

Hope everyone has good holidays. My pharmacist said that to me, and I asked him what his background was. He's a Muslim from Pakistan and he came here in '72 on a visa because he was a pharmacist and America needed them at that time. He offered to sign up for the military but Vietnam was winding down and they didn't need him. He told me two horrifying stories of being worked over at airports. Once when he was going to his father's funeral they accused him of being on drugs because his eyes were red from crying in grief because his father was his best friend. Sounded terrible. Anyway, happy holidays.












Friday, December 15, 2017

Contemplating the Buddha


My two gurus. The Buddha has shown me so many things about my mind, and launched great curiosity. My daughter is so curious, kind and she can fall asleep on a dime and be happy on a dime, she gets over things quickly. She challenges me to be my best every day.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

#3

I've gotten away from moving through the 37 Bodhisattva practices: #1 and #2 are done.

The third practices is:

By avoiding bad objects, disturbing emotions gradually decrease
Without distraction, virtuous action nationally increase
With clarity of mind, conviction in the teacher arises.
Cultivate seclusion--This is the practice of the Bodhisattva

That sounds like advice from a Theravadan. The cannon of Mahayana texts comes after the word of the Buddha, though they says they are part of it. It is riffing off the life of the Buddha, combating a sort of isolating self spiritual pursuit. The Bodhisattva goes for Enlightenment with everyone.

Today we have all the texts and don't have to be sectarian, there is one dharma. It's a false dichotomy arhant/bodhisattva. One needs to retreat at times and develop with practices.

There's a group on Facebook called Western Buddhism. People ask questions and post logical conundrums. I want to ask people what their practices are, what do they do, and does it work and how it works.

I have gotten nothing but the culture that if you want to criticize someone, look at yourself. It does not behoove your practice to criticize others. Anyway, we can only control our spiritual lives. Energy invested in progressing yourself instead of criticizing others, is the ideal. It's not that we can't comment on others practices. It's just more like frivolous speech that it is harmonious speech.



Bodhisattva fever

Started reading Training The Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa. He's got interesting language, "bodhisattva fever" and "cosmic monster". The book based off the seven point mind training. They are useful slogans that because of their small nature are open to wide interpretation but are best studied with a teacher. There are many version of explication available, even though this used to be a person to person oral teaching.

I can't but help think of his reckless behavior causing suffering. I won't go into. He had that crazy wisdom and tried to shake things up. He had a military unit in Shambhala. Watch the movie Crazy Wisdom. I think they cut out some of the more negative consequences in the release version.

He was among the few survivors who got out, lived a challenging life, with a terrible car accident. He founded Shambhala which is an amazing thing in itself. Founding a sect of American Buddhism or western Buddhism is no small feat. Lots of good in his life.

I agree with bell hooks that the good doesn't erase the negative in terms of using the word love. There has been a lot of abuse by Buddhist teachers. After the Weinstein effect, many people are complaining about abuses of power. I am not immune to sexual misconduct. America gobbled up Trungpa's teachings because Buddhism was new to America. Nevertheless I am reading his book with my critical faculties alive. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Love continued

In all about love, the chapter on mutuality was a bit challenging to hear, but I can't say hooks is wrong. She contends that men seek out partners to mother them, to preserve their peter pan-ness. Men want to be loved without having to extend themselves and evolve, able to not communicate when they don't want to. Women are then put into the nagging position and that is when men can use violence to shut up the nagging. hooks puts the blame for this whole situation on men, and suggest that blaming women or even trying to see it equally at fault, is to not see the situation clearly. I'm sure these themes are developed further on her book about men and love.

She discusses divine love and romantic love. I remember in college I thought Gitangali by Tagore was about romantic love, but it was about divine love. Boy was I embarrassed.

Now I'm on the chapter of loss. She talks about love of death versus love. She quote Fromm, and that got me thinking about the death instinct. I think we're in an era of the death instinct. I think policies of government are known to increase deaths. Until we can cherish all life, I'm afraid we're doomed. I should speak, I hardly control my own negativity, acting in my own self interest is hard somehow.

The book is an up and down mixed bag, but I'm really enjoying it. I find it worthy of following her thoughts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Love

bell hooks had a powerful chapter on greed in her book all about love. I'm not going to summarize or quote it. It moved me a lot.

hooks thinks the best way to get love is to avoid romantic relationships and have a circle of family and friends who are truly loving, that stand the test of time. She thinks small communities are best for this.

I've gotten friendly with a Colombian woman at the park, who has a daughter one month younger than mine. She says in NYC, people are not friendly because everyone is wary and rightly so. But someone at the park with a child is unlikely to whip out a gun. I work to build community in my neighborhood. Unfortunately everyone worth being friends with works and comes home to gork at the TV. Mothers at the park are interesting but primarily concerned with the children, I have to run after my daughter when she runs away, which is not conducive to conversation. I'm thinking I'm going to make more of an effort to befriend the males that live near me. But to tell you the truth, I do want to move to a small town, I'm over NYC.

In the mail I have 2 more books on Love, never mind all the ones hooks recommends. The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters is by a doctor with a doctorate, Armin A. Zahed, a professor at Johns Hopkins medical school.

Big Love is by Scott Stabile who is an inspirational writer from Brooklyn.