Friday, March 24, 2017

Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf

What is this life of mine?
Rambling on, I entrust myself to fate.
Sometimes laughter, sometimes tears.
Neither a layman nor a monk.
An early spring rain drizzles on and on.
But the plum blossoms have yet to brighten things up.
All morning I sit by the hearth,
No one to talk to.
I search for my copybook
And then brush a few poems.


To a Visitor

Listen to the cicadas in treetops near the waterfall;
See how last night's rains have washed away all grime.
Needless to say, my hut is as empty as can be,
But I can offer you a window full of the most intoxicating air.


The Teachings

Buddhist Teachings are provisional whose purpose is to promote the alleviation of suffering through not holding onto attachment. The Teachings are not a means of explaining the Universe. The Teachings are simply words that may help us realize Freedom.

The Teaching of Buddhism

The central intention of all Buddhist Teaching is the alleviation of stress, anxiety, discomfort, suffering—in short, dukkha.

This is what the whole things is about. This and this alone.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Secular Buddhists

One recent consequence of modernity's encounter with the dharma is that secular Buddhist spaces have sprung up in various parts of the world. Scattered individuals and groups are committed to a practice of the dharma but have no affiliation with a traditional school of Buddhism. These spiritual nomads tend to be informed more by writings and podcasts from across the Buddhist spectrum than by a teacher of any particular lineage. Their sense of belonging to a community may be more virtual than actual. When they meet together in person, the location is as likely to be the living room of a city apartment as a Buddhist center. Though wary of the inflexible beliefs, uncritical devotion, and patriarchal institutions of the Buddhist religion, they may nonetheless value the facilities of and benefit from the training offered by more traditional groups. Some are refugees from such organizations. They have devoted many years to a specific Buddhist lineage, only to leave because they can no longer in good faith accept its doctrines, endorse its polemics of exceptionalism, or submit to the authority of its leaders. Others continue happily to identify themselves as Christians, Jews, or nonbelievers while pursuing a heartfelt practice of the dharma.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

Taking Buddhism Off Its Romantic Pedestal

Buddhist institutions and teachers are human and subject to human failings. In this regard, Buddhism is no different from any other religion. But it can trick Westerners, bemused by its novelty and unfamiliarity, into thinking that it might have avoided the ossification and corruption that tend to seep unnoticed into any establishment that has come to take its authority for granted. Only by taking Buddhism off its romantic pedestal and bringing it down to earth gives us a chance to imagine what kind of culture the dharma might be capable of engendering in a secular world grown wary of charismatic priests and inflexible dogmas.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

Imperfect People

As the lives of Mahanama, Pasenadi, Sunakkhatta, Jivaka, and Ananda illustrate, the early canon reveals a community composed of imperfect people who struggled to apply the dharma in their very different lives.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

The Practice

Dharma Practice takes place where you are at this moment. The Practice is your most caring/care-full response to the conditions you face here and now. There is no ideal form or model of practice, perfect for all time, to seek to conform to. The Practice evolves as life evolves.

More Laity Than Monastics

There are not only one hundred, or five hundred, but far more men and women adherents, my disciples, clothed in white, enjoying sensuality, who carry out my instruction, respond to my advice, have gone beyond doubt, become free from perplexity, gained intrepidity, and become independent of others in my teaching.

~The Buddha

Note: At one time monks and nuns wore saffron and lay men and women wore white.

U Dhammaloka, the First Known Modern Western Convert to Buddhism—The Dharma Takes Place on the Very Ground on Which You Stand

There are records of a Greek becoming a Buddhist mendicant—called Dharmarakshita—less than two centuries after Gotama's death. In modern times the first Westerner to take this step, as far as we currently know, was an itinerant Irish laborer, atheist freethinker, and political agitator born as Laurence Carroll (or O'Rourke) around 1856 and ordained in Rangoon as U Dhammaloka in 1900. Details of this remarkable man's life have only recently come to light through the dogged research of three scholars: Brian Bocking, Alicia Turner, and Laurence Cox. The picture of Dhammaloka is still incomplete—there are long gaps in his biography, and the date and place of his death remain a mystery—but enough is known to allow this long-forgotten radical to upset much received opinion about the nature of early Western converts to Buddhism.

Carroll/O'Rourke emigrated to the United States sometime in the 1870s or 1880s, crossed the continent, and made his way by ship to Japan. He eventually arrived in Burma, where he found employment as a tally clerk for a logging company. He may have become a novice monk as early as the mid-1880s; he received full ordination in July 1900. From this time until his disappearance from the public record fourteen years later, he was a temperance advocate and a vociferous opponent of Christianity and colonialism. For Dhammaloka, "a bottle of 'Guiding Star Brandy,' a 'Holy Bible' and a 'Gatling Gun' " served as interconnected symbols of the British attempt to undermine the traditional values of Burma in order to bring the country firmly under colonial rule. Found guilty of sedition in 1910, he received a light sentence. His preaching activities led him far afield: to Japan, Siam, Singapore, Ceylon, and Cambodia, even Australia. In 1914 a Christian missionary report has him directing the Siam Buddhist Freethought Association in Bangkok, which is the last we hear of him.

As a working-class itinerant who takes the outrageous step of adopting the beliefs and garb of a colonized people and then publicly denounces the religion and culture into which he was born, Dhammaloka stands in stark contrast to the cultured, bookish figures of Allen Bennett (Ananda Matteyya) and Anton Gueth (Nyanatiloka), who have, until now, been regarded as the first Western Buddhist monks. Bennett (1872-1923) was a frail British intellectual, trained as a chemist, who became an enthusiastic occultist and close friend of Aleister Crowley. Gueth (1878-1957) was born in Wiesbaden, privately trained as a classical musician and composer, and became an avid reader of Arthur Schopenhauer before becoming interested in Buddhism. Both men were ordained in Burma shortly after Dhammaloka, but there is no record that either of these middle-class Europeans met or had anything to do with the fiery Irish vagabond.

For Dhammaloka, homelessness was not the idealized gesture of renunciation made by cultured men living in simple but comfortable hermitages but a harsh, uncertain lifestyle of which he had firsthand experience. He was not the only poor white man who drifted through Asia at the end of the nineteenth century, eking out a living on the periphery of empire. It would have been entirely natural for itinerants to seek hospitality in Buddhist monasteries, where they would have been provided with food and shelter without charge. Possibly, some of them also were ordained as monks for shorter or longer periods. But since the lives of such men were rarely documented, by either themselves or others, they tend to leave no trace. Today we might see them as forerunners of the Beats and hippies who also wandered through Asia on a shoestring budget and likewise often ended up in Buddhist monasteries.

Even today, the fragments we know of Dhammaloka's life challenge the widely held view of Buddhism as a tradition grounded in scholarship, meditation, and retreat from the affairs of the world. Here we find a man who lived outside the norms of polite Western society, a bhikkhu who engaged in passionate rhetoric, a radical who embraced the suffering of the oppressed. In addition to being the first Western bhikkhu, Dhammaloka was also the first Westerner to practice a Buddhism that was vitally engaged with the challenges of secularization.

Dharma practice takes place on the very ground on which you stand, as the life of U Dhammaloka shows. It is your most caring/care-full response to the conditions you face here and now. There is no ideal form or model of practice, perfect for all time, to seek to conform to. Although Dhammaloka founded a Buddhist Tract Society in Rangoon in 1907, which published, among other things, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man and The Age of Reason, his dharma finds its most compelling expression not in what he wrote or printed but in his public, bodily acts.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Doing the Good

Buddhists are encouraged to do good deeds not for the sake of gaining a place in heaven. They are expected to do good in order to eradicate their selfishness and to experience peace and happiness.

~K. Sri Dhammananda

Impeding the Practice

A debilitating stroke, a patriarchal culture, a despotic government, an oppressive religion, grinding poverty: these can prevent our flourishing just as effectively as our own greed and hatred.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism


Far from impeding the teaching and the practice of the Buddha-Dharma, the world view of modern science provides a sound and fertile foundation.

No Disputes

I do not dispute with the world; rather, it is the world that disputes with me. A proponent of the dharma does not dispute with anyone in the world.

~The Buddha

Monday, March 20, 2017

One Should Not Kill

All tremble at violence;
all fear death.
Putting oneself in the place of another,
one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

All tremble at violence;
life is dear to all.
Putting oneself in the place of another,
one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

                                                         ~The Dhammapada, verses 129 and 130

West Michigan Baked Tomatoes

5 large ripe tomatoes, diced, with their juices
1 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground balck pepper to taste
2/3 cup of sour cream
5 tablespoons of mayonnaise (not salad dressing or salad cream)
Chopped fresh marjoram to taste
Chopped chives to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix all the ingredients except the chives.

Put the mixture into a buttered, shallow baking dish.

Sprinkle with the chives.

Bake, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve while hot.

This recipe will serve 4 to 6 people.

Michigan Farmer Cabbage Stew

2 tablespoons of butter
1 small onion, chopped
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups of white or green cabbage, chopped fine
3 cups of water
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of evaporated milk

In a deep, large sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the onion until just tender.

Add the potatoes, the cabbage, the water, and the salt and cook covered, over low heat, until the potatoes are tender.

Stir in the milk and heat to near boiling.

Transfer to a warmed serving plater and sprinkle with the paprika.

Serve at once.

This recipe will make enough for 4 to 6 people.

Michigan Farmer Green Tomato Relish

2 cups of chopped green tomatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 teaspoon of mustard seed
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of prepared mustard

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool.

Chill for several days to allow the flavors to blend.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 pints of relish.

The Sangha

Over the centuries the term "community" (sangha) has tended to be monopolized by monastic institutions. In fifth-century BCE India, by contrast, the word sangha denoted republican societies (such as Malla and the Vajjian Confederacy) that were governed by assemblies rather than monarchies (such as Magadha and Kosala) that were ruled by a sovereign lord. Not only did Gotama explicitly model his community on that of a republican society, but he repeatedly stated that the assembly of his followers was fourfold: it consisted of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, male adherents and female adherents. Moreover, this community was to govern itself by adhering to an impersonal body of laws (dharma) rather than deferring to the will of a senior mendicant ) like Mahakassapa). And, crucially, membership of the noble community (ariyasangha) was to be determined not by social status but by stream entry—not by whether one was a renunciant or a householder but by whether one had made the eightfold path one's own.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

Another Kind of Society

In the parable of the city, Gotama [the Buddha] compares himself to a man wandering through a forest who chances upon an ancient road. Following it, he reaches the ruins of a city. On leaving the forest, he reports this discovery to the local king and urges him to rebuild the city, which once again becomes "prosperous, well-populated, attained to growth and expansion.*" This story is one of the few occasions in the canon that provides a clue as to how the Buddha saw his dharma enacted through the structures of the world. By comparing the ancient road in the forest to the noble eightfold path, he implies that the goal of the path is not the transcendent experience of nirvana, achieved through the cessation of death and rebirth, but the building of another kind of society, based on understanding the four great tasks as a function of the principle of conditionality. Although the redactors of the canon struggled to make this parable fit with the orthodox goal of bringing existence to an end, its guiding metaphor of a thriving, bustling city strongly resists such an interpretation.

Gotama depicts the city as a space that encourages human flourishing through the provision of economic opportunity ("prosperity"), security ("ramparts"), family life ("well populated"), and leisure ("parks, groves, ponds"). A city is a civic space where individuals can live in close proximity as "rational, sociable agents who are meant to collaborate in peace to their mutual benefit.**" Since the dharma has no place for either the providential designs of a Creator or a divinely ordained social hierarchy, the realization of the city's potential lies squarely in the hands of human beings who enjoy equality.

~Stephen Batchelor, in after buddhism

* Nidanasamyutta, Samyutta Nikaya

**Charles Taylor, in A Secualr Age

Spring Cucumbers

5 large cucumbers
2 tablespoons of salt
2 cups of sour cream
1/4 cup of wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of minced chives

Trim and peel the cucumbers. Slice them thinly. Place them in a salad bowl , Sprinkle with half of  the salt, stir carefully, sprinkle with the rest of the salt, and allow to stand for 30 minutes.

Drain the liquid from the sliced cucumbers.

Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (the longer they sit the better the flavor).

Macaroni Salad

Adonis by Johann Kluska

4 cups of uncooked macaroni
4 dill pickles, diced
1 cup of cooked peas
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
1 tomato, quartered

Coo the macaroni. Drain it an allow it to cool slightly.

Combine the macaroni with the pickles, the peas, and the mayonnaise in a salad bowl.

Garnish with the eggs and the tomato.

Lord Cernunnos Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

The Vernal Equinox

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Buddhism For Beginner and Longtime Practitioner

We are what we think.

Be kind,
be careful,
be yourself.
Think before you act.
Love your neighbor.
Pay attention.
If you're unhappy,
look in a mirror to find out why.

Do the good.
Avoid the non-good.
Purify your mind.

Just as a bird needs two wings to fly, even so we need two wings to live an aware and civilized life. We need the wings of wisdom and compassion. The wings are of equal importance.

All conditioned things are impermanent.

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
Do no believe in anything because it is rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not even believe what I [the Buddha] tell you simply because you have respect and affection for me.
But after observation and analysis when you find that something agrees with reason and is conductive to the good and the benefit of all then accept it and live up to it.

The past is a memory. The future is a fantasy. All we have is this moment.

Always remember, the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

The Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple and Zen Center

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The All

The Buddha said:

Students, I will teach you the all. Listen to this.

And what, students, is the all? The eye and forms, the ear and sounds, the nose and smells, the tongue and tastes, the body and sensations, the mind and its contents. That is called the all.

If anyone, students, should say—'Having rejected this all, I shall make known another all'—that would be a mere boast on their part. If they were questioned, they would not be able to reply, and, further, they would end up frustrated. Why? Because, students, that all would not be within that person's domain.

~The Samyutta Nikaya

Caraway Potatoes

3 pounds of small new potatoes
3 tablespoons of caraway seeds
2 teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of melted butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Scrub, but do not peel the potatoes. Cut them in half.

Combine the caraway seeds and the salt in a saucer.

Press the cut edge of the potatoes in the caraway-salt mixture and place them cut side down on a greased baking sheet.

Brush the melted butter on the potatoes and bake them for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender.