Thursday, November 30, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dalai Lama essay

When I attended his yearly spring teachings in India (which were, incidentally, the Lamrim teachings compiled by Atisha, or so I have heard), I found an essay by the Dalai Lama in the form of a small pamphlet sitting in a free section of a tiny, dusty bookstore next to the Monastery. Its was titled "Compassion and the Individual.” I read it and fell into love again. Please read this. It's long, but it is so important.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Raigo, Omens, death, Meister Eckhart, Paintings, and more.

The Raigo

Buddhism has many very interesting beliefs about death. For example, and first of all, different Buddhist traditions focus on different experiences of death, all maintaining that whatever you believe and practice will happen at death will happen. And so, some traditions choose to believe and dream that Amida, the Buddha of Infinite Light, flanked by the Bodhisattva of Wisdom and Compassion, (Kannon and Manju), will arrive and merge with your mind at the moment of death, transporting you instantly into a “Pure Realm.” This scene is known as the Raigo.
Now, what if we restated that to say that the moment you die God appears to you flanked by Wisdom and Compassion to take you away to paradise. Sound familiar?
This idea of what will happen the moment you die is not unique to Pure Land Buddhism at all. All major religions have a scene like this, I think. but what is particular to Pure Land Buddhism is the way they use this belief: They use it as a way to prepare for the moment of death.

By focussing and imagining deeply and often what will happen at death, we co-create our death experience as well as prepare for it. Some people, if they really want to see Jesus at death and have prayed for that, as their mind dissolves durring death, it will produce that image or dream. "The Archetypes" or deeply rooted psychological images are also said to surface during death, because the surface layers of the conscious mind dissolve and uncover these deeper patterns or images. In this way, you may come face-to-face with "The great Mother" and then watch her dissolve into your mind. And there is, of course, the unanimously agreed upon experience of the "Great Light" and "Tunnel."

The Tibetan tradition emphasizes a series the visual phenomena and interior experiences that occur at death. Some traditions believe you will dissolve into a rainbow of light. Other say you will meet many deities, some peaceful and some wrathful, but all merely creations of your mind. Some say that your consciousness will condense into a tiny ball of light and shoot out the top of you head and then mix with All Space. And some believe you will dissolve and die in the same way you fall asleep every night and wake up in another body. This new oil panting is one popular version of the “Raigo” or the scene at death where Infinite Light comes down to you as you die to transport you into the Mind Realm of Heaven.

And here are notes for a book I am working on.

Intro to Part 2: Omens
The individual identity, or who you THINK you are, wants things. This
Identity is suspended momentarily when beauty is apprehended, for the moment of beauty is a moment of satisfaction. Beauty suspends all desires and therefore, it suspends the identity that desires. We become at once, instead, a simple opening, a naked awareness, or a mirror, simply and naturally reflecting whatever light or sound is happening around (or within) its reflective surface. We become the eye of Spirit, which can only see itself, and thus, can only see beauty, because no dirty or ugly or
evil thing can be seen or be present with Godhead, and because Godhead is, of course, perfect or complete in every way, even in the imperfections. Whatever is touched by light becomes light.
Beauty, then, can be seen as a trigger, an omen, a portal, to that pure realm, to that pure awareness, to that Glimpse or awakening to the Lucid Wakefulness that is Godhead.

CH. 3 The Practice and Use of Omens
OMENS are Triggers
Part 1. Ways to use omens.
First, designate any animal to be your omen. I often use rabbits, crows, cranes, and dead things. But you choose whatever animal is meaningful for you. And make sure it is an animal that you see often. (Like at least once a week, or better, once a day.) Seeing your omen will actually take place more and more frequently as you use this practice.) Designate your animal as a certain kind of omen. Whenever you encounter your omen, think:
--Oh, my omen! Something important is happening.
Or for dream trigger omens:
--Oh, my omen! I am dreaming.
Or for death reminder omens:
--Oh, my omen! I am going to die. Could be today.
Or for angle omens:
Oh, my messenger omen. I will think about love, the love my mother
had for me, and fill up with appreciation right now.
Or thunderbolt omens:
Oh, my thunderbolt omen. I will wake up and be alert to what is
happening right now, and will BAM! break through my time infatuated thought train!.
Or a mindful omen:
Oh, my mindfulness omen. I will bring my attention to my breath and my
walking. Thank you omen for reminding me.
It is good to talk to your omens as if they are alive and can
Communicate with you.

In this way, omens will be like tiny mirrors scattered across your day. Or like tiny teachers. Other omens could be litter, babies, old people, barking dogs, dandelions, feathers, road kill, clocks, beautiful stones, the moon, the smell of flowers, the smell of shit, dejavou, or crazy coincidences. If you don't know what omen is
best, pay attention today at what tiny objects catch your eye and create a pause or a glitch in your experience. Feathers do this for me all the time. I am walking or riding my and I suddenly see a beautiful gray feather, smooth, elegant, and slicing into the sidewalk like a knife. If you ask the universe to send you an omen, then it will and an omen find you shortly afterward. And your omens will follow you into your dreams. This is one of the most important uses of omens, known as Dream Omens. Which is why “dream trigger” or “reality testing” omens are very good to have plenty of. When you come across the omen in your dream, you will stop and habitually say, "Hey, my dream omen. I'm dreaming!" You use dream omens to become lucid. A great dream omen for me is lust. Every time I have a sexual or lustful desire, like if I see a beautiful person and I imagine them naked or something, that is an omen that I am dreaming. Hah! Cause I am dreaming! I use my habit of lusting as a habit of awakening. Then, when I have a sexual dream, I can recognize the image as a dream, wake up in the dream and become lucid. As the Tibetan book of the Dead says over and over, “Recognition and Liberation are simultaneous.”

If you use omens you are simply utilizing the phenomenal world appearing in your awareness in a positive and empowering way. The mind will always take an object. You might as well give it something positive. And that includes thinking about death. If you think about death every time you see a baby, or an old person, or a crow, you will be well prepared when the actual moment of death comes. Also, you
will become more aware of the fleetingness of life and an appreciation and powerful motivation to live everyday to the fullest will arise. Death omens are the most powerful teachers.

Mindfulness omens. Bring your mind back to your body, your present experience, your life, your being, and your identity. Not lost and scattered amongst the hallucinations, hypnotized by memories and dreams, worries and concepts, but bring your mind back to itself, which is an awareness, clear, present, open and full of immediate reality. What a wonderful gift to give yourself and the universe.

CH. 4 Paintings
Have you ever encountered a scene, like an old lady feeding birds at the park, or an eagle sitting on top of a naked tree, or a single flower growing out of the sidewalk, or a range of maintains sitting on top of a river of clouds…have you ever encountered such a scene and thought "Wow, this looks like a beautiful painting." Why does it look like a painting, of all things? Because paintings also contain the same capacity to blow you away; to take you away and away and away, all the way out of your clinging, dissatisfied mind and into an awareness of infinite release and spaciousness and acceptance. These beautiful scenes can enliven our creative core, that empty, creative field where all quarks and thoughts and moons get their power, get their body, get their existence, reflect their beauty, and merge with everything
else. This is the creative nature in us that is identical to God, for in the beginning God created us in Its image, which means It created us creative. I love Meister Eckhart, a Christian mystic: "When God made man, he put into the soul his equal, his active, everlasting masterpiece…God's is-ness is my is-ness, and neither more nor less." And in the same way that God
loves Its creation, not as Its creation but as Itself, when we see beauty, we love it, not because it is out there and separate from us, but because it is in us, it is our very nature being project out and then shining back at us. Beauty, like
everything else, comes from our own minds, our own Beingness.

And why does this happen so vividly during beautiful scenes or beautiful paintings? Maybe it is because these things bring us into the present moment. And, to quote Eckhart again, "The soul who is in this present moment now, in her the Father
bears his one-begotten son and in the same birth the soul is born back into God.” Eckhart then says, “It is one birth, as soon as she is reborn into God the Father is begetting his only Son in her."
Paintings can usher us into the deep depths of Presence, into Reality, into the present
moment, or contemplation, or mindfulness (and, to add an important point, a connection I make between Buddhism and Christianity in order to be pointing to similar referents is that "mindfulness" is anther word for "the holy spirit"). And from there the art can shine a light onto the surface waves and you can see, even if just for a moment,
that all the waves are made out of water, or are made out of Now, and are, Mysteriously, made out of You.

So, beautiful scenes can help you descend into the still depths of
Being, the most subtle and powerful dimension of life. And here you
can come face to face with God, with Goddess, your own deepest core, your own truest essence, unborn, undying.

Nature can show us directly that there is only unity for there is not a
wall or line or boundary anywhere in nature. Artists know this well,
because whenever we try to draw a still life or a nude figure, we look for
lines that we can copy, but we can never find any. All the contours
are always shifting, changing, falling off into space. Just look at your hand. Try to find the edge of your hand and you will fall off into infinity. Outlines
become transparent. Reality seems to shimmer as a rainbow colored
cloud of smoke, a seamless flow and flux of light. One Blood rolls
and unrolls an endless circulation of being through All. "I am a
fountain of blood in the shape of a girl." Sings Bjork. The great
Emptiness, the Great Spirit, sings "I am a fountain of blood in the
shape of a universe."

And who would deny this? The mystics stun and astonish us by simply
declaring the basic, divine fact: God is within.
But not just within our very being, but within every single
manifestation ever. And not just present as some eternal Oneness, but as the Present Moment Now. And not just within everything, but also embracing everything, as a cell embraces molecules, as trees embrace cells. Every stone, every leaf, every nook and cranny is embraced by infinity, is imbued with Spirit, bathed in Spirit, in the same way the earth is bathed in light. There is no point anywhere that is not totally permeating with Being, with Spirit, with Suchness. For, as Eckhart put it, "God is not only a Father of all good things, as being their First Cause and Creator, but
He is also their Mother, since He remains with the creatures which have from Him their being and existence, and maintains them continually in their being. If God did not abide with and in the creatures, they must necessarily have fallen back, so soon as theywere created, into the nothingness out of which they were created." He then adds "God is infinite in his simplicity and simple in his infinity. Therefore he is everywhere and is everywhere complete. God is in the innermost part of each and every thing."

The Christian Mystic has it right! I sing with my heart!

But then my friends asks me, "So what if there is unity? How does this knowledge of unity benefit the world in any practical way?" That is such a good question. And there are many ways to approach the answer. My first intuition is towards compassion. It is my strong belief that by piercing through the veil of separation we can discover a vast wellspring of power and love within. An immeasurable source of joy, peace, love, compassion/fearlessness (Also known as the "Four Immeasurable" in Buddhism). And this allows us to care for others like we never have before because we can now honestly,
without any doubt, see others as intimately connected to ourselves. I have heard that Jesus, for example, said that there are two laws that we must obey. One, love the Lord (which is our own highest or deepest nature) and two, love
others as you would love yourself. Well, by seeing the unity beneath (or above) we can love others as we love ourselves because we can see clearly that ultimately the others our self. There is only one Self, one Soul. One Love, One Being. One Universe, One Is. Love others AS yourself, for there is only one Self, or God. Emerson: "It is one Light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is one Soul which animates all men."
"From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and
makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all."

Stunning, Emerson. Very clear.

And it is my belief that we all intuit this truth. We all know we are
divine. We all know that we are not mealy our bodies. We all see beauty and know that we are thus beautiful.

When I am asleep, my physical body is asleep, is nowhere to be found, but I am
still here. I am in a dream body, sometimes flying over the world,
sometimes swimming with whales, but I am still there.

a nice little quote from Eckhart:

"I have occasionally spoken of a light in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable. . . . This light is not satisfied with the simple, still and divine being which neither gives nor takes, but rather it desires to know from where this being comes. It wants to penetrate to the simple ground, to the still desert, into which distinction never creaped, neither Father, Son nor Holy Spirit. There, in that most inward place, the light is satisfied, and there it is more inward than it is in itself, for this ground is a simple stillness which is immovable in itself."


And what if I want to contact this "light in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable," which is actually identical to God, or in god's image? Where do I find it and how? Well, the spiritual teachers tell us it is within and it is through meditation or contemplative prayer that we can discover it. But that is not the only way, for this essence or soul is our very nature, and thus can be felt or known inwardly as our own truest self right now. Now! Not sometime in the future like after death or after years of spiritual practice. For anything that has a beginning in time, including a spiritual realization, will have an
end in time, and thus is not ultimate and permanent and "uncreated," but is passing and relative and just another experience (as apposed to the SPACE in which all experiences come and go. and that SPACE in which everything arises, like this room and these thoughts and words and that sound, is the Empty Clearing or Field of the Soul or Godhead. To quote Eckhart, a Christian!, again, "the Soul that is one with God is free of all names and barren of all forms, totally free and void, just as God is void and free in himself. It is totally one and simple, as God is one and simple, so that we can in no manner gaze upon it." And I would say that we cannot gaze upon it or see it because it is the ever-present Seer, not anything seen. And the Seer
is (in Buddhism) pure Emptiness, Empty Consciousness, out of which seen objects emerge.
("If you see the Buddha, kill the Buddha!" because no object seen can
ever be the true seer, or your own real Buddha nature.) Eckhart continues, "There the "means" is silent, for neither a creature nor an image can enter there. The soul knows in that place neither action nor knowledge. It is not aware in that place of any kind of image, either from itself or from any other creature...You should love him as he is, a not-God, not-mind, not-person, not-image, even more, as he is a pure, clear One, separate from all two-ness. You should love God mindlessly, that is, so that your soul is without mind and free from all mental activities, for as long as your soul is operating like a mind, so long does it have images and representations. But as long as it has images, it has intermediaries, and as long as it has intermediaries, it has neither oneness nor simplicity." In this state of formless and silent awareness, ( nirvikhalpa
samadhi or formless absorption, or pure awareness without and object), one does not see the God or Soul, for one IS the God or Soul, and knows it from within, feels it from within, knows it more than anything else, for it is the one thing it has never not known, the one thing that is always known. The simple feeling of being. What is there before any memory or though, before any inward story is told. (God can know his creations, but he can only BE himself. you can know relative truths, but you can only BE the Ultimate truth or Condition or Self). This quote from Eckhart made me immediately think of the twelve-link chain of causation in Buddhism. The similarities are fantastic, actually. Eckhart says that mind creates images which create intermediaries which create multiplicity or separation. Buddha put it this way: Ignorance creates Mental Formations which create Consciousness which creates Name & Form which then creates the Sense Gates (senses), which create Contact which creates Feeling which creates Craving which creates Clinging which creates Becoming (a separate-self sense or ego that then can suffer from clinging and wanting permanence in a world that is impermanent) and this then creates “Birth” which leads to “Aging” “Sickness” & “Death”. (and this happens every moment, not just at the beginning of your life). And it SHOULD happen, dog gonnit, for if none of that happened, we would not get to manifest at all, let alone grow and evolve in compassion and love and discover our individuality and therefore our divine essence and so it is not bad that the chain of causation happens. It is a little funny and maybe ridiculous to break it all down like that. (the Buddha loved breaking stuff down. He loved using numbers to organize and teach about Enlightenment), And it is said that if you are sensitive or mindful enough you can actually see all twelve stages of causation take place every moment the idea of a separate self arises and then has a thought. (out of the Empty ground of Pure Awareness or Soul, the
self-sense arises as an idea that then wants something, feels separate, and suffers, was born, will die, and thus fears its death. This self, you, then completely forgets its origin, the empty awareness that is aware of the room and these words right now and was not born or created and thus will never die. And then death is a dissolving of that separate self-sense or movement of mind into the empty ground of Pure Mind, or I-Amness. Omens can help dissolve that self-sense throughout the day and into the night.

CH. 5 Omens

We could say that the universe is primarily composed of quarks or atoms. A scientist or an atheist might favor that view. An artist, or postmodernist, or even a mystic might say that the universe is really composed primarily of our symbols, since symbols is all we really know and see.

And it seems that the tendency of these symbols or their “perceivers” is to issue
forth meaning. I put “perceivers” in parentheses because it is ridiculous to say Perceiver as if it is separate form the perceived symbols. How the symbol is perceived, experienced, cognitively registered depends so much on the perceiver, their language and cultural background, etc. but anyway, it appears I am condemned to breathe meaning into whatever I can get my hands on, even the great Meaningless. We first project the separate symbols onto the seamless emptiness and then reflect the symbols back, reflect about the symbols, and make them meaningful.

But don't ever ask an artist "what does that mean?" for to put a symbol (that is not a word) into word form is to some degree kill or extinguish its communicative power. If it stays a symbol then its reach can extend way past our linguistic or thinking mind, past our language, deeper into the deepest depths of our being.

And the deeper dimensions are what are communicated by symbols, not words. Symbols and images came to us before words and language. They are deeper, or more fundamental structures in our minds. (Actually, I’ve read that in evolution it went irritability, sensation, perception, impulse, image, symbol, then concept. )
However, there is also no denying that words can also transform us. Words actually trigger images, feelings, transformation.
Sometimes after reading great scripture or poetry I feel my interior depth reach deep into the heart of the world, and, at the same time, I feel my heart open to embrace more of the world, of the Light, of the mystery and the love.

Amida Buddha and the Bodhisattvas.

Amida (or God: the higher or deeper self) can only work his grace and enlightenment into this world through the Bodhisattvas, and the Bodhisattvas can only work because of the grace of Amida.

Jesus came to earth. He did not want to stay in the absorbed Union Bliss and completion with God, with Eternity, but wanted instead to enter the stream of time and suffer with us all. That is the bodhisattva. And, in my opinion, any soul that actually
wants to stay on earth and suffer and give help to others is already in Heaven. There head or their heart is Heaven, breathing love and compassion in and out of the body, which is the earth.
Abide as heaven,
Embrace the earth.

And lonely heaven can embrace the earth in a wise and compassionate fassion. The sky embraces the clouds. The ocean embraces the waves. The body embraces the cells. The one embraces the many. "The sun sheds his light upon all creatures, and anything he sheds his beams upon absorbs them, yet he loses nothing of his brightness." Eckhart.

As soon as you begin to embrace the earth, embrace your pains, embrace your relationship problems, your sexuality, embrace your suffering, as soon as you begin to embrace your self, you begin to operate from a more spacious, higher, or deeper identity. As you ascend into the One Eternal Presence, you also descend, identify with, and care for the many, mortal presences, (the presents!).

Gifts of grace.
Each glowing with the inner light of a sun, of the son, born directly out of god as God. Eckhart the Christian mystic speaks of
the three types of knowledge. The first is empirical from the senses, the second is cognitive and rational form the mind, and the third is soul intuition, "the exalted power of the soul, a power so high and
noble it is able to see God face to face in his own Self. This power knows no yesterday or day before, no morrow or day after (for in eternity there is no yesterday and no morrow): therein it is the
present Now."

Can you, right now, feel into how thick and pregnant the present moment is, a luminous womb out of which all you senses are buzzing with activity, all worlds are arising and falling; can you see the mirror condition beneath all changing things, or What Eachart calls "the simple core which is the still desert onto which no distinctions ever creep." "The unnamable nothingness that is God." Lets plunge into the abyss of nameless nothingness. The light in the sole that is uncreated.

Sometimes I think Jesus is a character made up by the disciples as a symbol for the tries and terrors and pains and responsibilities and transformations our own souls will unfold as—each one born directly out of God, as God, each one awake in a body on earth, God's Body, our Body, suffering, teaching, doubting, and ultimately dying, but only to be resurrected, reborn in a union we had from the beginning. And, the important point is that after the torture, after the crucifixion, the
humility and sacrifice and surrender , Jesus, (the Christ in us(our own compassionate nature), ascended into heaven WITH his body. Not without it. He left nothing behind. He, as well as his human body filled with sex and suffering and flesh and separation, ascended, or descended, or transcended into a heaven awareness embracing it all as creations of itself. "God loves all creatures, not as creatures, but as God."

D.T. Suzuki "Love enters into the enlightenment experience as one of
the constituents, for otherwise it could not embrace the totality of
existence. The enlightenment does not mean to run away from the
world, to sit cross-legged at the peak of a mountain, to look down
calmly upon the bomb-struck mass of humanity. It has more tears than
we can imagine."

Detachment is important though. It is the first step. Fleeing the many and returning to the One. Detachment is very important, for as long as you are attached to something, or many things, there are others you are pushing away, and so complete detachment soon turns into complete embrace. A powerful quote from our Christian friend
Meister Eckhart, "Perfect detachment is without regard, without either lowliness or loftiness to creatures; it has no mind to be below nor yet to be above; it is minded to be master of itself, loving none and hating none, having neither likness or unlikeness, neither this nor that, to any creatures; the only thing it desires is to be one and the same. For to be either this or that is to want something. He who is this or that is somebody; but detachment wants altogether nothing. It
leaves all things unmolested."

Once the self can empty itself and be selfless, or once it can live in
total freedom and release, equanimity, or "perfect detachment," God
(your higher self or potential) can take hold of the soul without any
resistance, wherein the soul can then discover its unity with all
things, resulting in an infinite embrace and compassion toward all
things, sacred and profane, just like Jesus had. Or so it seems.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bathroom Surprise, My Daily Schedule, and Thanksgiving

I was at a bar the other day singing Karaoke with the Yanagis (my Japanese “God Family”) and I found this picture in the bathroom. It's a print of one of my paintings. The owner bought it at my exhibition last summer. Also, here are some photo pieces I have hanging around my apartment.

And for those of you who need to know, here is my schedule.
I wake up round 6 usually, right before the sun gets up. I like to be present for the beginning of the day. I imagine it’s like being present when a baby is born. I get to meet the day right as it begins. If I don't lie in bed for an hour listening to classical music,
I sit up, get into child’s pose, and think about my dreams and recite my morning prayer: “May I enter into this new dream with kindness, compassion, care and consciousness. May I use the day to benefit others.” Then, I do kryia yoga, (breathing exercises/ pranayama), brush my teeth, turn on the stove for tea, and then I meditate in front of the shrine in my room for about 30 minutes (sometimes only like five min. And sometimes I only do some walking or biking meditation on my may to school). However, meditation is not just done on the cushion, and I try to bring attention to my breathing and be as mindful as possible through the entire day.

My meditation always begins with anna-panna and zazen, and then I will sometimes chant and do visualizations like guru yoga or deity yoga. I might also do tonglen. And sometimes I just sit and watch my mind think about stuff.

After sitting meditation I usually check the news and my email, drink my favorite kind of green tea, eat breakfast (usually cereal or nuts and fruit) after which I take a shower and/or shave, if I need to. It’s cold here now so I like to take a shower to warm up (even though the pranayama and yoga really warms me up and enlivens/clears my mind. I’m really awake after the “lion breathing” and kriya, more than any coffee could make me.

So then, around 7:30, I take out the trash of the day (either paper, plastics, pet bottles, cans and glass, burnanbles (food and old clothes), or non-burnable items such as batteries, broken ceramics, or dirt.) Then it’s off to school on my bike. I must be at school by 8. I usually have 3 or 4 classes all day, and the rest of the time I'm either studying Japanese, reading, napping, or hanging with the kids. At 4 I go home, relax, read, paint, email, write. I might go to the public bathhouse with a friend or alone. I might go shopping for food. If it’s Monday, I go to a restaurant to teach the owner’s eleven-year-old son English for an hour, and then I eat a free dinner (a bagel sandwich with pepper and cream cheese and egg and vegetables, salad, and pumpkin soup. Yum yum!) . If it’s Tuesday I will go to a private Japanese lesson at the community center (five bucks for an hour!) and, if it’s Wednesday or Friday I’ll try to go to Shorinji Kempo. Oh, and every Wednesday I visit an elementary school during the day.

You could say I have lots of free time. FREE TIME! Sounds like a kind of spiritual protest slogan. But I usually feel like I don't have much free time. I always have something to do. Especially with this blog and a painting show to prepare for in January and a solo show next fall. And re-reading the Harry Potter books is also very time consuming.

I had the Yanagis over for Thanksgiving dinner. They gave me a beautiful sweater and lots of food. I made a vegetable curry, bbq tofu, fruit salad, rice, and trail mix. Mrs. Yanagi, this beautiful woman who is always laughing and smiling, showed me photo albums of her wedding, pictures of their father (who died last year of cancer) and of there other son (who died about ten years ago when he was four. A drunk driver hit him after the fireworks festival). Their 15-year-old son, who is also one of my students, is the only man in the house now. He lost his brother and his father. So Sad. And yet he is one of the most charming guys I know. The entire family seems happy and peaceful. And they sure are generous. It’s incredible.

I woke up early Friday morning to meet my American family with the I-cam for Thanksgiving and it was kind of sad because I could imagine how much fun they were going to have seeing all the extended family later that night. I had to go to school. However, I realized for the first time that it isn’t just talking to family that is so wonderful. It’s just standing next to them in the food line. Handing them a plate. Smiling at them. Being with them. Feeling the atmosphere of family.
I missed out this year, but I at least got to spend time with a family here in Japan. And thankfulness still filled me up and sent tears running down my face.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


All these videos have been compressed so the quality and sound are pretty bad. sorry.

Here is a video I made a while back about water and light.

and one about the Saijo festival, Chiiori, Naoshima, and a japanese car garage

and the video of Rick and Shikoku

and the short version of my Trip to Kansas

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rick and Shikoku Video

I've just posted the video 'Rick and Shikoku" on youtube. link to the right. Unfortunately, because the video had to be reduced in order to share, the quality is pretty bad, and you miss much detail (like the crows flying across the sky near the beginning) but I think you will all get the general idea. If anyone knows a better way to convert imovies to export, let me know.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Kuma, the 44th temple, Meditation

So, pictured here is my trip to Kuma so see my friends Rob and Chris, as well as the 44th temple on the 88-temple pilgrimage. All over the forest were these large snake-like worms that were iridescent. There are 4 pictures of them. At the entrance of the temple was a dead snake. Also in Kuma there were crossed vajras (a buddhist symbol representing the nondual nature of total realization), stenciled on the light posts leading up to the temple. near the bottom of this blog post, notice the three animals--the lizard, the crab, and the frog, all sitting together next to the road. Then, notice the frog jump onto the crab's face. Also, at one of my schools I found this poster clearly showing two ways to avoid getting an STD. Also is a poster that explains why eye contact helps convey your heart. The principal at the local high school committed suicide last week and here is a picture of some students being questioned by the media. There is also a better picture of my new painting. Oh, and if you want to hear about Rick's visit to Shikoku, and learn a little bit about his kindness and unbelivably warm love, visit his blog. there is a link to the right.

And now a ramble I typed this morning as a kind of advice for meditation.

Advice to a Meditator

At the beginning of meditation, (whether it be zazen, vipassana, tonglen, ana pana, dzogchen, guru yoga, or whatever) be sure to FIRST rest as the non-seeking mind. This is very important. If you go at the meditation with the motivation to help improve yourself in any way, that self-centeredness can get in the way of opening your mind up to its deepest nature and potential. It can get in the way of a fair, even, interpretation of what is going on in the moment. It can limit the cultivation of true compassion. But, by first resting in the aspect or your mind that is already complete and satisfied, already embracing everything arising, (that mirror mind condition already witnessing), by abiding as that basic wakefulness you already are, all practice will arise out of that space as a gesture of your own primordial self, actually helping to dissolve the karmic traces and habits, while also strengthening your attention and clarity. This will greatly help you progress along the path.

This is known as “Just Sitting” or “Having no Goals” or “Developing Bodhicitta.” And it is to be done at the beginning of meditation. Then, from this non-conceptual space that is the nature of your mind before you do anything to it, let the meditation take form and explore its energies and insights.

In high school when I started studying the world’s religions, what I liked most about Buddhism is that it emphasized what it called my “Buddha Nature.” Buddha Nature was said to be the already enlightened and Pure Awareness that was my deepest Self. It maintained over and over that there is an aspect of my current condition that is already enlightened, or released from AND embracing everything in the universe. Free and Full. This Spacious Buddha Nature, “Luminous” “Open” “Vast Conscious Emptiness ” just like a mirror was said to embrace everything inside it, while also changing none of it. The Mirror Mind. The Buddha Mind. The Buddha Nature.

It would be like Christianity emphasizing The Kingdom of Heaven Within, or the God Within, or The holy Spirit, and not as some Spirit that I must invite and then pray and hope it enters into me and my life, but a holy spirit that is already occurring as the foundation of my experience; a Holy Spirit that is actually my deepest Self right now and right now and right now; the Omnipresent aspect of God or the Godhead. (Christianity in its more popular forms instead seems to emphasize the sinful, impure nature of my mind. Which is fine, for that is an important perspective to have, but not when it claims to be the entire show. For, what is the awareness that is aware of the impurity? Isn’t that awareness in some important ways free from the impurity it is aware of?)

There is, of course, Buddhahood as the great Other Awareness, The Great Goal, The Great perfected state of total Compassion and Wisdom. Or, there is God, the great Goal, the Great Other giving the universe in grace and glory to all who are. But Buddhism, alongside emphasizing Enlightenment and Buddhahood as a future state, also taught and emphasized Buddhamind or Buddha Nature as the current condition. It even emphasized a Dharmata, or the Buddha Mind that is the great, active, moving system and body of the manifest universe.

And by keeping all these three spiritual entities in mind—Buddhahood (Great Other), Buddha Nature (Great Self), and Buddha Mind (great System of manifest Thusness or Isness)—it is possible to simultaneously Be all Being, Become all Being, and be in Aw or worship at all Being. (These three bodies are also known as the trikaya, or the mystical holy trinity)

There are none to liberate so I vow to liberate them all! The truth is too vast to know so I vow to know it all! The Self is not attainable, so I vow to attain it for the benefit of all life! These kind of paradoxical impulses in the mind can then flower and intermesh as living planes of liberated experience or senses occurring in and as your Being-in-the-world.

So, advice to a meditator.

Don't forget to exercise all three of these aspects of the Buddha into your practice. Because developing compassion and selflessness needs to be rooted in altruistic thinking which puts others before itself, it is advisable to first rest as the non-seeking mind, the already enlightened present Moment you already are, and then, from that Self, begin to concentrate on the breath, or use tonglen and breathe in the suffering of others in exchange for your happiness. Or recite the mantra, or practice calm abiding or single-pointed attention. Usually, all these things are done to improve your condition, yes? To build mental energy, to cultivate more compassion, to intensify and prolong the realization of Clarity and Emptiness. But if you are going at it from that Goal-oriented impulse (which is another dream of the ego), it may keep you locked into your desiring self, and actually strengthen you sense of separateness and alienation and ignorance. But if you first rest as the already enlightened mind, Basic Wakefulness, Buddha Nature, that is not seeking anything but is aware of all desire and seeking, your practice will self liberate in the vast space of being, and not strengthen egoic habits but act only as generous and self-perfecting currents being cultivated within the energetic space of your own primordial body. This then certainly helps transform negative karmic traces and plant seeds for future happiness, purifying body, speech, and mind, to be open completely to what is, while also not strengthening any egoic habits still lingering around, secretly using the time of meditation for its own benefit. By resting as the non-seeking mind first, all compassion or trained concentration will instead dissolve your separate self sense and liberate the ego into its own ground: the energetic, transparent emptiness that is also acting as the entire display.

So, first, abide as the Enlightened Non-seeking Mind, and then express that Buddha Nature through your practice. As it is said, we do not sit in order to attain the Buddha Mind, but in order to express it. The Buddha Mind cannot be attained, because it is impossible to avoid. Buddha Mind is none other than the already occurring present Moment.

And so, with that in mind, practice diligently everyone!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the primordial sphere

Here is a poem i wrote today and a picture of my newest painting. sorry it's out of focus; ill get a better picture up later.

Relaxing into the primordial sphere
all thoughts and images move through me as
a rainbow or a dream,
and grasping at the play of light on
the ocean of my mind, grasping at it is
compassion and embrace.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Rick and I first met at Drew Conley’s house about 4 years ago and it was love at first sight, as some might say. Friend love. He asked if I liked Ken Wilber and I was so happy to have found someone who read Wilber, and who was also a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner.

Thursday morning Rick arrived in a taxi in front of the Junior High school I was working at and he spent the entire day helping me teach about Halloween. Most of the kids made him Welcome to Niihama cards. That evening we visited the secret Zen garden and then the super market to buy food for the vegetarian potluck I was hosting that night and…here is the part of the story that is unbelievable…my “Japanese God Mother” of sorts (the mother of the family that often invites me over for dinner) saw us buying fruit for a fruit salad at the supermarket, asked if we could come over for dinner and when I said we were actually having a potluck at mine and if she and her kids cold come over she insisted on buying all of our groceries, including some more that she gave as presents (fruit, juice) and, if that is not totally amazing, she arrives at the dinner with three more bags of groceries, not for the dinner, but for my fridge and freezer! And she did my dishes. They then invited us out to dinner the next night, and they went to the train station to say bye to Rick and Kieran, and she showerd Rick with gifts and food for his host family! becasue she new he wouldnt have time to shop! what Kindness!

Friday we went to Matsuyama to see Dogo Onsen (the oldest onsen in Japan) Ishiteji (the 51st temple on the 88 temple circuit), teh Glass museum, and my friend Mai perform at a small festival. Here are pics of paper crane offerings, as well as offerings to Jizo, the deity for dead children, Mai performing (he gave me goosbumps he was so good), and a 3-D Womb Mandala found deep in the caves behind the temple. Yup. The womb mandala is one of two used in the mystical sect of Shingon Buddhism and it represents the “luminous realm” of the active, physical world of feelings and colors and sounds and form, while the Diamond mandala represents unchanging Emptiness.

Saturday we climbed Mt. Ishizuchi, the tallest mountain in Western Japan. As you can see at the top is a shrine and rest area. Can you see Rick's legs as he stands at the edge of the tallest peak. It was so dangerous. don't tell my mom. The pictures explain everying fairly well. Walking up the mountain I looked ahead of me and saw the handful of friends that decided to come with us and I almost started to cry. An amazing rush of appreciation filled up my heart, appreciation for their kindness, for their style, for each of their lives and bodies working hard to climb this mountain covered in sunlight, jewels surrounded by jewels all glittering in sunlight and friendship, luminous forms unfolding and connecting and reflecting Love…

That night Trisha came over and we talked for hours with Kieran and Emily (who were also staying the night) about talking, about communication, about semiotics. For example, if we want to have a conversation about love, “love,” we need to first agree upon a definition of love so that we all are talking about he same experience. But, if Keiran says “Ok. Im not talking about the Love for my mother or for the mountain, im talking about a kind of devotional feeling I have for my lover,” well, all those words have different meanings for us…and we'd need to define all those words. For example, “by devotion I mean..” and those would just point to more words, and it soon spirals out of control, with no real referent for us to talk about. But we must find a referent, or co-create one, or the conversation will never be clear, and we will not be able to understand each other. So, we all kind of agree to assume or make beleive that we are talking about he same experience. It was a fascinating conversation. More on this topic later.

The next morning we visited the Zen Monastery to sit with the monks and receive teachings from the head abbot. The End.
Pictured is also the reworking of an old painting. Its called sky womb.

May all beings be Free and in Love.

Blog Archive