Saturday, April 26, 2008

DVD Review

Earth Rising, Heaven Descending

The first disk, I approached with a reverential view—these were the sacred origins, albeit on DVD, of Bante, and his spiritual journey, which I have read about in his memiors.

It’s a cheap form of pilgrimage to watch a DVD, but that was the air of it. I do the prostration practice, mostly on retreat. Watching this DVD is a form of taking refuge in the refuge tree of the Western Buddhist Order.

I’m sure there’s all kinds of backstory in the first video, but I watched it alone. Someone said that the guy who lead tours has died. One of the fellows on the trip I knew through Jalaka. I think last I read he was off for the 4 month ordination retreat in Spain. He’s dissolved his Facebook identity in anticipation. I wish him well.

When I saw the second disk of Earth Rising Heaven Descending, I felt very sad about the paltry existence of the FWBO in America. Compared to Bante’s spiritual energy and commitment—I can’t but help but be embarrassed. Maybe his experiences are so strong that they could reach out that far.

Some friends are in this video, and it’s cool to see them in video. In a way the video is so unflattering about America, that I’m glad I’m not in it. I missed out for some reason on getting together with the gang in NYC for the shoot. I have a feeling one of my sons were born or something like that. Anyway, watching the video with my private preceptor was useful because he could fill in some of the gaps in the video. It’s an interesting video, not without it’s quirks.

I won’t repeat some of the gossip I’ve heard about other’s reactions to disk 2, but some have taken offense to the portrayal. I’ve also heard some were offended before seeing it, and then they were not after seeing it. As stated above, my dominant feeling was that of embarrassment and hope. I hope the order can grow in America.

I haven’t seen the other DVDs listed on the web site, I’m curious about those now.

Book Review

Book Review: A Deeper Beauty by Paramananda

I read this book on retreat, several years ago. My friend said he knew Paramananda from San Fran, and that I’d like the book. So I read it quickly on retreat, remembered liking it.

In my early days of Buddhism, I would quickly consume books. I had a kind of reading style, where I just plow through things. What sticks, sticks. What doesn’t, well it might go into my unconsciousness, and maybe it’s not that great of writing, but maybe something further on down the path will be more apropos for me. I have read hundreds and hundreds of pages to find a few interesting paragraphs that seemed to capture everything.

So one time I recommended a bunch of lovely talks on to a friend, and she pointed out to me she hasn’t asked for that, and that in fact, she doesn’t guzzle the Dharma like I do. She is very careful about what goes in. I thought about that. My private preceptor is like that too. Hum. Something to think about.

I’ve moved through the majority of the FWBO recommended texts oeuvre, including all of Bante’s memoirs. Time to reread. It’s interesting the books I’ve reread: A Survey of Buddhism, Know Your Mind, The Boddhisattva Ideal, The Yogi’s Joy. I’d like to reread the new books on Metta and Mindfulness. I want to reread Meeting The Buddhas by Vessantara too.

So to make things lighter in mitra study, I recommended A Deeper Beauty by Paramananda. The mitra group ultimately dissolved, but I don’t like to quit a book I started reading, so I reread it, more slowly this time.

Here is a quote I liked from the book, that captured my changes in reading style:

P. 61 “It seems all too easy for modern life to become one continuous rush tainted with frustration and a feeling that there is never enough time to do anything with care and sensitivity. So it is very useful practice just to take one’s time. The truth is that if we can take pleasure in what we do and be mindful, we will find we have more time. Our relationship with time itself will change. Time becomes full of life rather than second by second stealing our life away.”

I struggle with an over programmed life. I feel very cramped by my obligations. I yearn for this mindfulness in every moment approach, but have yet to achieve it.

Here is another quote I liked from the book, which also reminds me of Pema Chodron’s work:

P. 79 “Being alive to ourselves does not mean putting everything right, having everything sorted out, knowing exactly where you are going and what you will find. Rather, it is a state of openness that allows us to be surprised by our own response to the world. This openness is found more often in a state of not knowing than one of knowing. Emotionally it is a sense of being responsive to our own feelings; being open-hearted. This open-heartedness is an openness to ourselves as much as to others, it is a taking care of ourselves in the sense of allowing the heart to have its say. It is a state of being that is difficult to maintain as it means we have to allow for the complexity of feeling, and we have to make room for all of ourselves.”

I like being surprised in myself, even if it’s negative, because that’s very useful. I’m learning in my psychotherapy training that opening up to all our subtle experience, being alive and vulnerable is the heart of the work, and why we don’t do that, and how to support people and myself in doing that.

Here is another quote I liked from the book:

P. 83 “Spiritual practice cannot then ignore the darker parts of ourselves. The meditator needs to look with compassion into the depths of the heart, and find what has been neglected and hidden away. Perhaps we will be surprised that the very things we have disregarded and hidden in the mud can, when cared for and led out, prove to have the ability to moisten, and bring new life to, the imagination.”

This last quote reminds me of one of my favorite talks on, by Manjuka, called Dharma and Denial. I’m working on transcribing the talk. I’ll either post it here when I’m done or send it to It speaks to the wholeness I strive for.

I also would like to carry around Chapter 7 entitled “Unfixing Ourselves”. Often when I tell new people that I’m going on retreat, they say, “oh, that must be relaxing.” Read that chapter if you’ve ever said that and you’re interested in seeing why meditation is not about “stress relief”. It reminded me a lovely little book of essays that the same friend that happed me to this book, gave me, called Hooked!: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume. We have a basic reaction to the work driven consumerist society we live in, and I think seeking meditation as stress relief is a kind of symptom of that. I think even in San Francisco they market meditation as stress reduction. I wondered why there were no FWBO representatives in Hooked!. The FWBO is small in America where the writer is from.

The book affects me more when I read it slowly. I think about how it’s hard to do the things of Buddhism instead of acquire knowledge about Buddhism. Bante says more and more of less and less. I think the sexy dharma talk by a famous teacher isn’t the way to deepen your practice, but it might inspire you to dig more. This is a book about practice. I know all the stories he presents in it, but he uses the familiar stories well, draws out his meaning of them quite well. It’s enjoyable to join Paramananda as he works to share how he leads a more meditative life.

I thought of sending this book to my fathers. I suppose I would like someone like Paramananda to have raised me, to teach me this way of being from the beginning. I like this book. I recommend it. I will strive to live the teachings and teach them to my children. The dharma shines through this lovely book.

And he has a book review on Wildmind.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

lyrics, video of a song

I like the theme song to the Enterprise Star Trek series. I've been looking for positive songs to sing to my boys when I put them to sleep. I sing puff the magic dragon, Softly and Tenderly, Mercedeze Benz and The Times They Are A Changing. I occasionally chant a mantra. I want to add some more into the rotation. So here's one song I'm trying to memorize, and after that is the video.

It's been a long road
Get'n from there to here
It's been a long time
But my time is finally near
I will see my dreams come alive at last
I will touch the sky
And they're not gonna hold me down no more
No they're not gonna change my mind

'Cause I've got faith of the heart
I'm going where my heart will take me
I've got faith to believe
I can do anything
I've got strength of the soul
No one's going to bend nor break me
I can reach any star
I've got faith
I've got faith
Faith of the heart

The following videos are extended versions of the song, I can't find those lyrics.

And here is the singer, Russell Watson, singing it live:

why I meditate, in other's words

I don't like to repost Dharma Dew from Tricycle. I read somewhere, in praise of a blog, "it's not just a collection of things they find on the internet." I'm afraid my blog is guilty of being a collection of Dharmic things I find on the net, often. Never the less, I found today's Dharma Dew very meaningful. I feel this way about meditation.

"When we sit down to meditate, we are trying to transcend our everyday consciousness: the one with which we transact our ordinary business, the one used in the worlds market-place as we go shopping, bring up our children, work in an office or in our business, clean the house, check our bank statements, and all the rest of daily living. That kind of consciousness is known to everyone and without it we can't function. It is our survival consciousness and we need it for that. It cannot reach far enough or deep enough into the Buddha's teachings, because these are unique and profound; our everyday consciousness is neither unique or profound, it's just utilitarian. In order to attain the kind of consciousness that is capable of going deeply enough into the teachings to make them our own and thereby change our whole inner view, we need a mind with the ability to remove itself from the ordinary thinking process. That is only possible through meditation. There is no other way. Meditation is therefore a means and not an end in itself. It is a means to change the mind's capacity in such a way that we can see entirely different realities from the ones we are used to."

- Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I've listened to the talks posted on Reginald Ray's web site, and they are quite good.

The Shape Of The Order

Lokabandhu has been writing about information about the order on the FWBO/TBMSG News website. Here is the 6th installment. The order is getting older, fewer people are living in communities, the order has grown to over 1,500, and male to female ratio is evening out--in the past there were much more men.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Originally uploaded by FWBO photos

This is a photo that includes OMs in the order, making up Avalokiteshvara. I found out about it originally on the FWBO/TBMSG news web site, and from there followed it to the Flickr photo. Prety cool. Lokabhandu was working on it when I met him, when he swung by NYC. It's nice to see it done and shared! Thank you Lokabhandu

new talk

The order recently had a celebration of the order turning 40 (my age, coincidentally), and I'm hoping some talks will be coming out on soon. Dhammarati has graciously offered up his talk, in a link from his blog.

Dhammarati is humble and candid, he's striving for clarity and fidelity. He appreciates a good challenge.

Living in a small backwater of the FWBO, I feel a kind of kinship with people by listening to talks. I spend time in the car and falling asleep listening to the talks.

I've probably spent the most time with Dhammarati, of any visiting order member, because he's been hostage to me as we drive up to Aryaloka from NYC because I have a car. I have striven to make use of the opportunity. He's actually done some good work mediating between my private preceptor and me. I am grateful for his existence. And to give the world a second talk, I feel gratitude for that. He has a talk on, which I have listened to many times, called Breaking The Mould

He talks specifically about the FWBO way, in this new talk, so for those new to the Dharma, I might not start here. But if you're interested in the FWBO way, it's not bad. Breaking The Mould is an awesome talk, maybe listen to that one first.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I found a page for a Buddhist psychotherapist I like, John Welwood. I've read one of his books, Towards a psychology of awakening, and I'm reading an essay off the page.

I found his page from Integral Options Cafe, an intense blog. If you had only one blog to read, I might choose this one, though even then it's too much.


Since I have a computer at work, I usually use it for stress, and work. But occasionally I look at the NASA photo page, and I find some beauty, and that connects me to the beauty in the world, my ideals, positivity. Here's one page to access it.