Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 27 Jan 02 10:59
(fom) Sun 27 Jan 02 11:05
I'm a tourist (chrys) Sun 27 Jan 02 11:11
Practice. For me this is the thing that distinguishes Buddhism from 'western' spirituality, though I recognize that there are veins of practice is western spirituality. I was brought up Catholic, but early on was troubled by the hypocrasy between word and deed of most fellow parishioners. (Support for the Vietnam war, racism, etc. etc.) I remember deciding as an adolescent that I couldn't trust most of the role models I was offered and when in search of new ones. One Sunday afternoon I heard a recording of a talk by Alan Watts.... slipped by slippage reports
Chris Florkowski (chrys) Sun 27 Jan 02 11:12
That should read 'went in search'
Gary Gach (ggg) Sun 27 Jan 02 15:07
What a wonderful environment in which your buddha-nature was nourished from an early age, Felicity! No doubt thorny at times, but you're very lucky to have such supportive models. Have you thought of founding a Celtic Buddhist order? And, along the way, from there to here, have you had to make adjustments within your mysticism? I mean, have you found confirmation of things you already knew? As well things that you didn't. And I don't know, but unless a Catholic renounces, isn't a Catholic always a Catholic? How does that play out in terms of Buddhism? And I'm grateful again to hear I have a reader. I hope you enjoy, Scott; keep me posted. (Actually -- as an aside, I invite all readers to tell me what they'd suggest might be changed as well as what they liked. I'm working on revisions for future editions, as we speak, and incorporating also in the website.) And I recognize your conundrum. And <chrys> slipped in with the answer. We can discuss of course, but I'd unhesitatingly say the $64,000 Answer is practice. Without that, the majority of books and tapes and even retreats and such will be just that ... "over there," somewhere, while the present moment remains in front of our nose. Actually, the topic of practice is occurring in a wider phenomena, right now, only within the past five years: people now making real *for themselves* rather than repeating by rote. I think you see it in the revival of interest in prayer, for example: making a space for the sanctity of life, throughout our lives, in our everyday lives. I'm not knocking armchair anything, mind you. I'm one myself; like right now, dig? Armchair laptop keyboard flatscreen horizon. Just to put a slightly finer point on it, the path is not trod by intellect alone. That's one of the essential natures of it. Yet there's a tremendous investment in that intellectual identification as being "it," that we can think our way through. (I always smile when I see people put their hand to their brow, in concentration: like, is that where mind is?) There's no hurry. & everything is at stake. It might take time to find a teacher and a community that feels *warm." Not necessarily light but warmth. And you might already be practicing in ways that you don't quite realize already. So if there's too much noise in your life for you to reduce the noise in your life ... well, just reach in and carve out five-ten minutes a day to sit with that. Making that space for that chance to take place that less noise is possible even in your current set of circumstances. And seeing if returning to it regularly, and nourishing it ... making it ten to fifteen minutes, say ... creates MORE space in your life. So? Oh, before I go (a meeting of The Turning Wheel), I'm sure we're all (also) waiting for Chris to drop the other shoe ... and tell us, when in search, went in search, hearing that phenomenal laughter of Watts ... ... ...
Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 27 Jan 02 16:03
> And I don't know, but unless a Catholic renounces, isn't a Catholic > always a Catholic? Well, I opted to not get confirmed at 12 years old. Seemed like a renunciation at the time.
nape fest (zorca) Sun 27 Jan 02 17:11
the nuns told us that you could never be an ex-catholic. you could only be a lapsed (read: BAD) catholic. i've clearly opted for the latter. and when forced to espouse a belief, now say buddhist. not for any ritual or structure but in some harmonic with general beliefs. it fits oddly well with my papist upbringing.
Gary Gach (ggg) Sun 27 Jan 02 19:39
Wow, Scott! You were unlearning before you were a teen. I don't know what the church position on confirmation is, as to having a choice about it. Spinoza was my hero in Hebrew school, but I 'spoze if I'd never gone on and been bar mitzva I might not still identify as a jew. & so how does Buddhism fit in with your upbringing, Zorca? (I don't 'spoze *your* parents told you not to pay any attention to the nuns ... )
the invetned stiff is dumb (bbraasch) Sun 27 Jan 02 21:08
My oldest daughter blew off confirmation. The rev really tried to work her over, but that gave her more courage. I think for a lot of catholics it's a pretty automatic thing, but the doctrine says that it is a point where you can and do make a choice.
Gary Gach (ggg) Sun 27 Jan 02 22:16
Ah, kids! Our future!! Has anyone heard of "emotional intelligence" being taught in the schools? It's a simple process of being able to observe / be aware of one's feelings, rather than have them pull one by the nose. The founder, Daniel Goleman, studied in India, but hasn't mentioned such-like. It seems to be spreading quite well ... quite usefully. Oh, and this just in ... someone in the Buddhist Peace Fellowship mailing list (www.bpf.org) just passed along this website: http://www.udabuddha.com/ musical, animated, show 'n tell. I haven't mined the whole thing, but the opening was quite nice. (tell me, does it proseyletize).
(chrys) Mon 28 Jan 02 12:42
Like <esau>, I only got your book a few days ago and have only browsed it thus far. One thing that creates a kind of dissonance on first glance is the impression that Buddhism is 'easy'. This is no doubt in part the result of the format of the 'idiot' books have, and I don't wish to suggest Buddhism is hard to grasp, but my clearest apprehensions of what Buddhism has to offer have been deep and complex and not what I'd consider graspable. In fact - an hour later, I might be hardpressed to even describe the experience. The other thing - most of these experiences have been in a sangha, that it, in the presence of others making an effort. Now that sangha may have been the aikido dodjo, or a retreat, or the grocery store. Daily practice is a support, but hasn't bore fruit (for me!) as much as a sangha has. brought. On the other other hand, I think the methods *are* graspable.
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 28 Jan 02 15:55
<deep bow> I'm honored by that response, <chrys>. 'Tho * I'd appreciate if you explain a little more about what's graspable / ungraspable * I don't know exactly how to respond to your sense of dissonance. Of course I didn't write the cover copy ("enlightenment has never been easier") and turned red in the face when I read it, fresh out of the box. Now or eventually I probably ought to unpack the "Idiot's" bundle. But, sticking with this thread, a major part of my writing the book was with a motto by Albert Einstein written over my head: "Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler." For "things" read "Dharma." There's a wide range in Buddhism, you know, between easy-as-pie /// snow flake /// birdcall in an empty valley ... and conundrum-like propositions, such as "sunyata." This latter, usually translated "emptiness," I've tried to make easier to comprehend, for example, by explaining how it means "empty OF [any separate permanent identity"] and doing so in a context of other related concepts (impermanence, suchness, interbeing). "Interbeing," the word coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, is another example: perhaps easier to grasp "dependent co-arising." And I tried arranging things in order of easy, intermediate, more advanced. And that's my unpremeditated, spontaneous response -- -- really eager to hear more on your reaction. Initial, and otherwise. And I think you'd packed a second thread in there, <chrys>, no less interesting. I wonder if you might elaborate a bit more about practice and community (sangha). They're separable?
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 28 Jan 02 16:11
(Is it self-slippage when I backtrack myself in?) There might be something, like a chord, in between something <chrys> and <esau> said, that might be worth my noting. When I addressed the conundrum, <esau>, I didn't want to sound like I was prescribing any kind of Self-Improvement Regimen. I should be very cautious about doing so. Not entirely because this raises the philosophical infinite regression of what self is improving what self; moreover, going in with a notion of getting something out of it is a recipe for dissatisfaction. Like a romantic obsession that's a set-up for disillusionment. Ok? You practice to practice. You breathe to breathe. You sit to sit. Becoming more aware of them, in a one-pointed way, you see for yourself how that investment in attention and awareness rewards itself. And I wonder if such avoidance of any self-improvement scheme is what you've just referred to <chrys>, at least in part? If so, you'll find that the text makes it very clear: while there are things you can try, and news you can use, the book states it isn't a Do-It-Yourself Manual, and couldn't ever be. Ultimately, if you want to go beyond armchair buddhism, you'll find a sangha and engage in everyday practice. Yes?
the invetned stiff is dumb (bbraasch) Mon 28 Jan 02 16:11
I enjoyed reading your use of the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction lyrics, 'you can't always get what you want' and 'you get what you need'. Who'd a thunk that Jagger and Richards were channeling the Buddha? The Buddha nature is indeed everywhere, if you know how to look.
(chrys) Mon 28 Jan 02 16:48
Graspable: I guess I mean something that can be 'explained'. I started reading this afternoon and see the huge task you took on - *explaining* the immensity of Buddhism - not just it's cultural incarnation and history, but it's essence. You took on the role of teacher. And a teacher who is dissadvantaged - being unable to assess whether understanding is taking place. Yikes! Blessings on you for rising to this tremendous task.
Scott Underwood (esau) Mon 28 Jan 02 18:15
Looking back, I'm not exactly certain what I was asking. Maybe--thinking of this part of your answer: > You practice to practice. You breathe to breathe. You sit to sit. At what point is one no longer meditating and instead "practicing Buddhism"? I think the friends I referred to might say, well, I enjoyed my sitting but I'm not a *Buddhist.*
(fom) Mon 28 Jan 02 18:37
You guys are asking such great questions... I'm curious what Gary has to say about that practice versus practice question, too. That is, I go to my little group and sit and sing and ring a bell and so forth, but their teaching is that (even though all beings are from the very beginning enlightened, of course) one isn't really practicing Buddhism until he or she has signed on with a teacher and started practicing in a focused, structured way -- not just dropping in on Wednesday nights and participating. I believe it's Khenpo Konchog Rinpoche, a wonderful Drikung Kagyu lama, who says it's OK to take up to 19 years (and in some cases more) to find your "root teacher." So if you're not really practicing until you have accepted a root teacher, and you're in the 19-year period, what ARE you doing?
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 28 Jan 02 18:45
Thank gawd for the Well: one single mouth isn't enuf to say it all. Not even one crazy enuf to try, like mine. Thanx for the blessings, <chrys>. I hope you find them returned; and soon. Many paths have little road signs about this too. "The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon." "Where shalt thou turn if thou dost not seek the light within?" (We're back to billboards, again. Now what if they a billboard for a saying of Blake, or Lao-tzu!?) Now as a writer, it becomes an interesting question to be able to speak of it -- and then even more so to be able to give each reader a sense of how to ... on their own. And those dawg-gone Stones! It just shows to go you! Buddhanature is, like you say, (bbraasch), everywhere. -- One of the really interesting projects in thist light, for me, was, in my previous book, an anthology, sharpening my ability to discern the buddha nature. Took me five years, and it still continues (http://word.to/whatweb.html). For instance: what makes one haiku resonate more with the Buddha, and another more with, say, circus life; and what difference? I invite any and all such poems, haiku, song lyrics, ad copy, slang expressions, etc. (I recently heard one in a movie you wouldn't think to be Buddhist at all, "Monsters, Inc." ----: "Oh, no! Once you give a name to it, you become attached!") And this links in to <esau>'s excellent question: but is it Buddhist? Well, I don't know if the Taliban, say, is Buddhist -- 'tho without non- Buddhists there wouldn't BE Buddhists (if you follow the logic of that; like, yin-yang). Big question <esau>, and this is largely why I wrote the book. There are, for example, excellent books on meditation, which incorporate all sorts of traditions. But, while we hash this around, may I make one essential distinction? When we say "meditation" here, we do a disservice to the eight-fold path by saying that meditation is the whole path. It's not. Along with meditation (effort, mindfulness, and concentration) there comes wisdom (outlook/view, and thought), and let's not forget conscious conduct (ethics) -- (speech, action, and livelihood). So maybe you never sit at all, but concentrate on your habits of speech. Begin wherever; where you are. ... the idea, the ideal, the practice is ... not to divide meditation to "over there" on a cushion, leaving all the rest, somewhere else. Anyway, so we continue ...
Scott Underwood (esau) Mon 28 Jan 02 21:05
> So maybe you never sit at all I think it's in the early part of "Writing Down the Bones," one of the first books on Zen that I read, where she recounts her teacher telling her that writing can be her practice. It made me think that there's a lot you can do that isn't meditation and yet might still be a form of mindful practice. Digging a ditch or building a fence. Maybe a life spent in subsistence farming is the embodiment of the eightfold path -- all without having any knowledge of Buddhadharma (to use your term). (In fact it was this thinking that led me away from Christianity, since I couldn't understand how a completely moral farmer living in, say, rural China and living a thoroughly "Christian" life without having ever heard of Christ would be denied heaven.)
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 28 Jan 02 22:04
Ah, so! Exactly, <esau>. Washing the dishes, putting the keys in the car, answering the phone -- it's all an opportunity for practice. Meditation: one-pointed concentration; mindfulness. Eating an orange, being aware of eating an orange. Slice- by-slice. Bite-by-bite. Only eating an orange; nothing else. (Ever notice people pulling off one slice while they're eating another?) (Too easy? Too hard?) You'll find too legend and lore along the path of the Buddha replete with tales fully ascended masters you might not recognize 'cos they're cobblers and housewives ... ... ... some I shoe-horned into the book ... such as Hui Neng, the Chinese zen patriarch who was reportedly an illiterate woodcarrier and attained enlightened on the spot one day, Shazam!, just like that ... ... I couldn't fit in the lifestory of Shinran Shonin, who left the priesthood (renounced renuncation?) -- having found TEnlightenment' too difficult for the common person ... & went on to become a patriarch of the Pure Land tradition; http://shinmission_sg.tripod.com/honganmissionsg/id14.html .) So!
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 28 Jan 02 23:03
tales OF fully ascended ... and found 'Enlightenment'
Chris Florkowski (chrys) Tue 29 Jan 02 04:56
Gary, the book has an almost conversational pace and feel. Part of this comes from the insertion of many personal anecdotes and examples. I'm wondering how it feels to have your personal life so revealed in the context of a book on Buddhism.
Gary Gach (ggg) Tue 29 Jan 02 09:09
(so ... well, the last half of the book, 7 chapters, are devoted just to various applications ... work, relationships, arts, etc.) & too, that example of a farmer in China <esau>, I wonder too about anyone who'd have him or her wait till after death to reach the Kingdom of G-d. The kingdom of the spirit, the sacred realm(s), the pure land, is now. ("It not now ------------ when?") (Is that waiting due to the Fall? Adam & Eve having eaten of the apple, their ancestors now must plough and farm the Garden....?) Gee, these questions are all so gooood: Thank you! Well, as you've surmised by now, <chrys>, I like talking / writing about the creative process ... about equally with talking/writing about the Buddha. Like the writer, Natalie Goldberg ("Writing Down the Bones," "Wild Mind") who <esau> mentioned, I've found writing to be an essential of my particular path. The Path of poetry, or writing. (I think Natalie's teacher to whom you refer would be Katagiri Roshi: a beautiful teacher!) Anyway -- gosh! -- come to think of it, I never thought so clearly about your question as you've stated it, #47, till now <chyrs). Or if I did before, reconstructing afterwards is different. So I guess I felt no difficulty about revealing anything personal. E.G., I think it's chapter 8 where you get the mystic vision from when I was four. Is there anything that feels *too* personal? If it makes reading more conversational, then -- as long as there isn't more chatter than matter, and that it's civic, nothing embarassing to anyone, etc. -- I've accomplished my aim. I hope it doesn't show, but you know writing this kind of book entails a number of genres, logistically: the chapter on the life of the Buddha is biography, the next chapter on the spread of his teachings is history, and so on. I wouldn't call my book a memoir, by any stretch -- any more than any other life activity. I guess it was never an issue for me because in the context of Buddhism ... my personalizing the material might encourage the reader to do so too, hopefully ... I've found that to be true for me .... like the most personally revealing book by Thich Nhat Hanh, "Fragrant Palm Leaves - Journals 1962-1966" is one of his most enlightening ... ... and, in this context, unconditionally trust the sangha of my readers ... the essential supportiveness of sangha, community ... ...like, here we all are, with each of our hard drives like all on each other's hard drives, in the Web, talking, amongst ourselves ... about life- decisions, turning points, deep beliefs, etc. ... the sangha of the Well ... the Well as sangha ... ... (what's the #1 motto of writing workshops? "Write about what you know." ... now if someone would teach be to be terse ... ) ... ... and, lastly, because in this context there's no duality, E.G., personal vs. public, episodic vs. panoramic, etc. At least, I'd tried to find that balance. Pace -- I don't know. You'd have to tell me about your sense of that. please.
Linda Castellani (castle) Tue 29 Jan 02 19:08
Also, just out of curiosity - What's in the table of contents?
Gary Gach (ggg) Wed 30 Jan 02 00:52
Hi, <castle>! Well, short answer -----: the table's online <http://awakening.to/table.html A little longer answer, for here -------: the basic architecture is modeled after what's known as Triple Gem, -- that is, the Buddha (the one who awakens us in this life); the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha and the path to them); and the Sangha (the community who follow the Path). So, first, there's the life of the Buddha; how the teachings spread to various countries; American Buddhism; and interfaith (comparisons with yoga, Christianity, Judaism, etc.). Then there's the essential teachings. the Three Jewels and the Four Noble Truths; the Eightfold Path; the Precepts; and such concepts as impermanence, interbeing, emptiness (transparence). Etc. Next, after an introduction to setting up your own practice, and some basics of meditation, the major traditions are set forth: Vipassana (also known as Insight); Zen; Vajrayana (Tibetan), and Pure Land. Plus -------- there's a fourth section (the second half of the book, in length), showing these things in action in various contexts: relationships, work, food (consumption), popular and fine arts (sports, music, movies, painting, literature, etc), science (psychology, new physics), engagement (feminism, deep ecology, prisons, race, the dying), and events and places (celebrations and destinations for pilgrimages). Plus the usual amenities of forewords, glossary, etc -- including a one- pager tear-out at the front the encapsulates the essential teachings that I call a one-page book (how Buddhist!).
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