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Archive for April, 2010

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver

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I have had my dream – like others –
and it has come to nothing, so that
I remain now carelessly
with feet planted on the ground
and look up at the sky –
feeling my clothes about me,
the weight of my body in my shoes,
the rim of my hat, air passing in and out
at my nose – and decide to dream no more.


William Carlos Williams

” The most exquisite paradox: As soon as you give it all up you can have it all. ”  Bab Ram Dass


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By David Loy

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

– Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Because it emphasizes mindfulness of our thought processes, Buddhism encourages us to be wary of antithetical concepts, not only good and evil, but success and failure, rich and poor, even the duality between enlightenment and delusion. We distinguish between the opposing terms because we want one rather than the other, yet the meaning of each depends upon the other. That may sound abstract, but such dualities are actually quite troublesome for us. If, for example, it is important to live a pure life (however I understand purity), then I need to be preoccupied with avoiding impurity. If wealth is important for me, then I am also worried about avoiding poverty. We cannot take one lens without the other, and such pairs of spectacles filter our experience of the world.

What does this mean for the duality of good versus evil? One way the interdependence of good and evil shows itself is this: we don’t feel we are good unless we are fighting against evil. We can feel comfortable and secure in our own goodness only by attacking and destroying the evil outside us. And, sad to say but true, this is why we like wars: they cut through the petty problems of daily life and unite us good guys here against the bad guys over there. There is fear in that, of course, but it is also exhilarating. The meaning of life becomes clearer.

We all love the struggle between good (us) and evil (them). It is, in its own way, deeply satisfying. Think of the plots of the James Bond films, the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films. In such movies, it’s quite obvious who the bad guys are. Caricatures of evil, they are ruthless, maniacal, without remorse, and so they must be stopped by any means necessary, We are meant to feel that it is okay – even, to tell the truth, pleasurable – to see violence inflicted upon them. Because the villains like to hurt people, it’s okay to hurt them. Because they like to kill people, it’s okay to kill them. After all, they are evil and evil must be destroyed.

What is this kind of story really teaching us? That if you want to hurt someone, it is important to demonize them first – in other words, fit them into your good-versus-evil story. That is why the first casualty of all wars is truth.

Such stories are not just entertainment. In order to live, we need air, water, food, clothes, shelter, friends – and we need stories, because they teach us what is important in life. They give us models of how to live in a complicated, confusing world. Until the last hundred years or so, the most important stories for most people were religious. Today, however, the issue is not whether a story is an ennobling one, a good myth to live by, but the bottom line: will it sell?

The story of good and evil sells because it is simple and easy to understand, yet from a Buddhist viewpoint it can be dangerously deceptive. It keeps us from looking deeper, from trying to discover causes. Once something has been identified as evil, no more is there a need to explain it, only a need to fight it.

By contrast, Buddhism focuses on the three unwholesome roots of evil, also known as the three poisons: greed, ill will, and delusion. In place of the struggle between good and evil, Buddhism emphasizes ignorance and enlightenment. The basic problem is one of self-knowledge: do we really understand what motivates us?

In a passage from the Sutta Nipata, Ajita asks of the Buddha, “What is it that smothers the world? What makes the world so hard to see? What would you say pollutes the world and threatens it most?”

“It is ignorance which smothers,” the Buddha replies, “and it is heedlessness and greed which make the world invisible. The hunger of desire pollutes the world, and the great source of fear is the pain of suffering.”

Because this view offers us a better understanding of what actually motivates people – all of us – it also implies a very different way to address the problems created by ignorance and desire and violence: not a new holy war against evil, but a less dramatic struggle to transform our own greed into generosity, ill will into love, and ignorance into wisdom.

David R. Loy is Professor in the Faculty of International Studies at Bunkyo University, Japan, and a Zen student. His most recent book is A Buddhist History of the West: Studies in Lack (SUNY Press, 2002).

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everywhere

And joy is everywhere;
It is in the Earth’s green covering of grass;
In the blue serenity of the Sky;
In the reckless exuberance of Spring;
In the severe abstinence of grey Winter;
In the Living flesh that animates our bodily frame;
In the perfect poise of the Human figure, noble and upright;
In Living;
In the exercise of all our powers;
In the acquisition of Knowledge;
In fighting evils…
Joy is there
Everywhere.

Rabindranath Tagore

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Albert E not so square

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
– Albert Einstein

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nothingness dancing

“One imagines that he is deeply, perpetually, unavoidably aware of something he calls “I” or “me.” The philosopher then baptizes this thing his self or perhaps his mind, and the theologian calls it his soul. It is, in any case, something that is at the very heart of things, the very center of reality, that about which the heavens and firmament revolve. But should you not feel embarrassment to talk in such a way, or even to play with such thoughts? As soon as you begin to try saying anything whatever about this inner self, this central reality, you find that you can say nothing at all. It seems to elude all description. All you can do, apparently, is refer to it; you can never say what is referred to, except by multiplying synonyms – as if the piling of names upon names would somehow guarantee the reality of the thing named! But as soon as even the least description is attempted, you find that what is described is indistinguishable from absolute nothingness. Then when you realize that you began by fearing nothingness, that it was this invincible nothingness that was making you miserable, driving you toward madness; when you go back and review your thought and feeling and find it leading to the most familiar thing imaginable, you feel like a child caught making faces at itself in the mirror. You feel like a child plunged into anxiety by a skin blemish or ill-fitting pants, the absurdity is so overwhelming.”
Richard Taylor
Metaphysics

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shadow and light

shadow and light

“In a movie theater, you look at the screen, you never look at the back. The projector is in the back. The film is not really on the screen, it is just a projection of shadow and light. The film exists in the projector, in the back, but you never look at that. Your mind is at the back of everything. Your mind is the projector. But you always look at the screen – at the everything.

When you’re in love, the person is beautiful. When you hate, the person is ugly. You never become aware of how the same person can be beautiful and ugly.

The only way to reach the truth is to learn how to be immediate in your vision. The mind is the problem, because the mind projects its images on the screen you’re looking at. What you see is just your projection. And there are as many worlds as there are minds, because every mind lives in his own world.

We get caught up in projecting movies of our own making onto the situations and people surrounding us. Instead of taking responsibility for our own expectations, desires and judgments, we attribute them to others. A projection can be good or bad, beautiful or ugly, disturbing or comforting, but it is still a projection that prevents us from seeing reality as it is. The only way out is to recognize the game.”
– Osho

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