Geese

I wrote the following a year ago or so…

What percentage of the Earth is covered in water?

It is not 2/3 or there-abouts.

It is 100%.

Water is not just liquid.

Not just ice.

But also a gas.

Water vapor covers the entire globe.

Most of the globe has a surface of liquid water, the Oceans.

Some is covered with solid water, ice, the Glaciers.

All is covered with water gas, as water vapor in the atmosphere.

In you live in Upstate New York, in the snow belt, lots of water is white, as snow, and lots of snow.

In the winter, white is the color.

Covering the trees, covering the ground, the cars, the houses. The sky is white, snow falling from white clouds.

All is white, and sounds are muffled, insulated, a warm -15 Fahrenheit.

Leaving the house one morning, 10 years ago or so, begging the car’s engine to turn over, which it does, and while the engine block defrosts, i brush off the 8 or so inches of fresh snow off the car, that has been falling all night. The snow is still falling, and heavy, thick and deafeningly quiet. A silent, persistent and relentless dumping. Utter beauty.

Then, in the quiet of early morning i hear them.

The unmistakable honking from Canadian Geese, loud, but muffled, and strong, and constant. Powerful. I can’t see them above me, just hear them.
I stop and just listen. and float my minds eye up and up and up to the flock …
and imagine them, in an arrow shape, honking…

what can they see but white?

is that why they honk? to ‘see’ each other, and the ‘see’ upcoming dangers, like a low level sonar, like bats?

do they honk to keep from dying? to keep their spirits strong and focus their neurons onto the ridiculous task they are performing?

Pause.

slowly the honks fade away and I never got to see my friends up in the sky, but their power shot straight into my heart.

then my heart sank, as i felt their strong purpose, then i had to focus on my purpose…. get my car cleared and get my ass to work…

But, it didn’t sink for long, as their spirit lifted mine, and kept part of my heart with them, flying free and hard, without sight, into the white light, with no doubts…

Damn, those geese are smart.

Meat and Potatoes

Why am I a vegetarian?
Firstly, I want to say when I did eat meat, I loved it. I loved the taste of it and I do miss it sometimes still today. So why have I sacrificed something I enjoy in this life? The answer to this is multi-faceted.
When I was a little boy, two of my aunts were (and still are) vegetarian. This was not too abnormal to me as it never was made into a big deal. It was, however, odd in 1970’s America! I remember once one of my aunts going to Burger King and ordering a Whopper without the meat! This was before they had salad bars/salads. I thought this was funny! They were my ‘kooky’ aunts! Lol.
Also, when I was a little boy, I remember one dinner time at home. We had London Broil, a nice cut of beef that was a special meal for us. I remember the big slab of beef placed on a platter in the center of the table to be carved/cut after it was cooked. It sat in a pool of red liquid and I asked what it was. My dad said it was the blood from the animal. I was freaked out. I didn’t want blood for dinner! But, I loved the taste of meat, and it was a special meal, so I ate my meat, with the thought of an animal’s blood in my mind. I remember I used to like to suck out the ‘juices’ from the meat, and at this dinner time, I remember doing that, thinking how I was sucking the juices out again and that it wasn’t ‘juices’ really, but blood. I still ate it. But the thought never left me. (I have learned a few years ago that it isn’t actually blood, but rather liquid that is part of blood remains with other stuff or something, but that doesn’t really matter to be honest).

I grew up, and I loved eating meat, though I always shied away from any meat on-the-bone. I liked my meat ground up and no longer resembling an animal. I hated chicken wings! I could see them flapping around in my mind’s eye!
Through my education, I learned that one of the easiest things I could do to help the environment was to stop eating meat. I will not go into statistics, but it is vastly more environmentally damaging to eat meat (all the land used, water used, energy used, crops grown to feed the animals, etc) than to not eat meat. It is much easier on the Earth to grow a potato than it is a cow. It is the single most effective and powerful thing a person can do to help the planet.
As an adult, I also learned the manner in which animals are grown/raised to supply the meat industry. I won’t go into details, but the way animals are treated is beyond torture. It is horrific.
It is not explicit in Buddhism that you must not eat meat. In fact, the 6th patriarch of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism in China, ate meat at least once. That is a story for another time perhaps.
In the past, and sometimes today, the karmic connection between the animal eaten and the people eating them was straight forward. A hunter would track and kill an animal and feed their family, for example. Today, a typical hamburger contains the meat of about 1,000 cows. 1,000! This is not straightforward!
Part of my heritage is Native American. My ancestors would talk with the animal and ask it to feed them. If a deer was tracked and finally exhausted or cornered, the Indian would pray for the animal, thank the animal and give it a respectful death.
Humans have evolved to eat a varied diet, including meat, and our teeth and intestines yield the evidence that this is the case. So, is it against our human nature to not eat meat?
Cows eat grass that will have insects hidden in the leaves. Cats eat grass. What is human nature? Are we statically defined? Evolution does not stop, but it can be awfully slow. We still have teeth for cutting flesh.
When did I become a vegetarian?
Well, about 15 years ago or so I started to really crystallize the desire to become a vegetarian, but frankly, I was too selfish and lazy. At the time, I lived on tv dinners and take outs from restaurants. There are not all too many vegetarian options, so it would have taken some effort on my part. But my desire was there and I felt worse and worse in my heart as I continued to eat meat. I would sometimes be craving one of my all time favorites… a chicken cutlet parmesan hero (sandwich), and sometimes I would opt out and get some pizza instead. This would make me feel better, though my taste buds disagreed! When I meet my wife soon afterwards, I asked her to encourage me to stop eating meat. She has been a vegetarian since she was 5 years old (she simply refused to eat meat much to the dismay of her parents!). My wife actually stood back for the most part from my request. She knew I was the only person who could do the transition. As I started to eat home cooked meals more and more often, the less meat I was eating. One day, I had realized it was well over a month since I had eaten any meat at all, so I decided then, well, I have been vegetarian for the past month without realizing it, so I might as well continue!
So, for the last 6 months of living in the States, I didn’t eat meat. Then when I moved to England, I found I lacked my default veggie-option when out and about the town- a slice of pizza! England doesn’t do pizza parlors, and the pizza shops do not sell pizza by the slice! So I started eating tunafish sandwiches. This was the only form of meat I ate for a few years, and it was very occasional, so I was almost a vegetarian! Lol. Then I finally had enough. In early March 2009 I ate my last tunafish sandwich and I have not ate meat since then. It feels longer than that, but I suppose that’s because since early 2005 I have been ‘mostly’ vegetarian with some tunafish sandwiches stuffed into the middle years.
I miss meat sometimes. Sometimes I crave a nice juicy (bloody?!) cheese burger! Or a chicken parm hero! Yum!!
Maybe if you read this post, you can switch just one meal that has meat to one that does not. Get a pizza instead of a burger. Have an experiment. Who doesn’t love pizza?! If you like, leave a comment and let people know you opted out of a steak tonight and had stuffed shells instead! (Stuffed shells is an Italian (American-Italian?)dish with pasta ‘shells’ filled with cheeses and covered in tomato sauce…oh man, I haven’t had that in years! I miss American-Italian restaurants!!!)

A new life arrives!

A baby boy is born today! When it has birthdays in the future, it will refer back to this day. Its day of birth, its birth-day!
When did this baby’s life begin? Was it today? Where was it yesterday? Surely, it can be seen that it was alive yesterday, just not yet born.
The baby was a part of its mother yesterday, not separate. The baby will still feel this way for it’s first couple of years, until it discovers it is independent and, when asked if it wants a bath, it can say ‘No!’.
Where was the baby a year ago?
Can we find it?
Today, in the sky, it is full of wind and clouds. Clouds seem to form out of nowhere in the sky, growing, shrinking, changing shape, then sometimes fade away. All of what a cloud is was already existing before the cloud formed.
Are not all things this way?
It took billions of years of the Universe unfolding to lead up to this birth, so it is very special, as all births are, but for me personally, it touches me closer to home. I say, with my heart-mind, a love-filled welcome into this world for my little nephew. May his life be full of wonder, truth and deep love!

The Planet of Buddhas

I had a dream a few years ago that still sticks with me. I was observing deep into outer space. I am not sure if I had some super-duper telescope, or in a spaceship or if I was actually there in the dream, but that’s how dreams go sometimes. But that doesn’t matter so much as what I observed. In the depths of space, there is a planet. On the planet were Buddhas. Covering the planet. All sitting in the lotus position, all meditating. Hundreds, thousands, millions perhaps even!, of Buddhas. Not just Buddhist monks, but all were fully Enlightened Buddhas. They encircled that world, and they had a great purpose. It felt as though this Buddha world was enlightening the entire Universe, radiating out Love and compassion. It felt like I had opened my Buddha-receiver to the correct frequency of sorts and, like a radio, I tuned into their channel.

It was quiet, subtle, yet incredibly full of energy and power. I was in awe. I was witnessing a magical world, and felt fully blessed.

In the wakeful world, Buddha-nature is like this, yet more so… It is all pervading, and all things radiate this Love, whether or not a Buddha-world exists or not.

But still, sometimes at night, when I look at the stars, I wonder if that world is out there. I know it doesn’t make much sense in terms of biology (they can not be the only living beings on that planet, etc) or normal concepts of reality, but I still wonder, and then I know in my heart that I honestly just don’t know.

And this is good. My not knowing embraces my heart, keeps all things possible and keeps me honest.

Universe Perceiving Itself


The Universe really likes itself. I mean, really, really likes itself.. so much so that it loves itself!

The Universe, by definition, is everything, contains everything, nothing is not part of the Universe. The Universe is thought to have emerged from a singular point, a singularity. Infinite density and mass within a space so small, that space itself did not even exist. It kinda blows my mind and it kinda doesn’t make sense to me!

I am a very sceptical person. I have this natural part of my personality that attacks my own beliefs and views. In terms of the creation of all that is, i.e. the Universe, there are 2 main views in the cultures I have lived in. One is the Big Bang theory in which Science has its back and the other is the God ‘theory’, whereby God simply created everything. Most people, if they have a view on the subject, are strongly aligned with one side or the other.

A modern Zen master was once asked: “Do you believe in God?”. Now, in Buddhism, there is the belief of many gods and goddesses and various consciousness-es outside the normal realm of animals and plants we normally experience, but there is no belief in ‘God’. It is not a monotheistic faith. It is not really a multi-theistic faith either as the faith resides within one’s own self, not the various gods, etc. The creation of the Universe is thought of as beginning-less… and its origin was the unfolding of inter-dependent forces. So, in Buddhism, there is no creation ‘event’ and no single being who created everything either. No room for God!

However, the Zen master replied ‘Of Course!’

The questioner asked again: ‘YOU believe in God?’ unable to comprehend the answer he heard.

Zen master: ‘Yes, of course I believe in God!’.

The questioner got a little bit of a ‘mind-slap’!

Regardless of who or where the Universe came from, it truly does love itself, and this love is truly boundless. God’s love is infinite as is the Universe’s love. We are not removed from this equation, we are a variable, an x2 somewhere, a negative number or perhaps an imaginary number, but we are there, somewhere, and sometimes we are positive, sometimes negative… but we are part of the equation, and hence, we are critical for the ‘solution’.

The Universe desires to perceive itself. It has been unfolding from beginning-less time, working on this equation towards this end. What is the meaning of life? The meaning of the Universe? Why do we exist?

When we realize what we truly are (i.e. x2) then we effortlessly fit into the equation (i.e. the workings) of the Universe and, like magic, we can finally see the answer on the other side of the equals sign (=).

Both sides are equal, by definition.

The boundless love and wisdom of the entire cosmos, of all that is and is not, has a direct connection to your heart. Your heart pumps, and pulses and pounds the fire of this love. This Love.

Let us all find our x2, plug it in where it belongs, feel the deep love of yourself perceiving yourself, feel the love of seeing in the mirror the entire Universe, seeing, feeling and realizing who you truly are… and with this Love, help all beings to find their own x2 and turn the wheel of the Dharma.

Buddha nature and ‘Mu!’

It is taught in Buddhism that all people have Buddha-nature. This crudely boils down to saying that all people have the ability to become a Buddha. We already are a Buddha, because we all possess buddha-nature. Buddhism is about understanding, and more so, realizing, this inherent aspect of being human. In Buddhism, being born a human being is very very special. Only through a human form can a being realize their inherent buddha-nature and become Enlightened. Humans, however, in traditional Buddhist cosmology, are not the ‘supreme’ beings… we stack up in the middle, above animals and hungry ghosts but below various gods and goddesses. So, why is being human so special?

This sort of thinking relates to a story of a Zen master and a disciple. The question was asked: “Does a dog have buddha-nature?” In Zen, words are used carefully and are understood that often they can be very dangerous mental traps we set for ourselves. The Zen master replied to the question with “Mu!” This translates roughly as ‘no!’.

This was a strange repsonse! Even though it is thought that only humans can realize their own buddha-nature, it was also thought that all beings, dogs, cats and otters, all too, have buddha-nature. They just do not have the ability to realize it. So how could an Enlightened Zen master claim that a dog does not have buddha-nautre?

This is part of Zen training. Zen likes to slap you in the brain. It likes to be brutally honest, to be cunningly accurate in attacking your barriers to realizing your inherent enlightened nature. This monk who asked about a dog, his mind was slapped HARD by “Mu!”. Why why why… why Mu he kept asking himself, he carried Mu with him everywhere… to the point that was all he had.. Mu ,mu, mu, Mu! !! (And no, he didnt turn into a cow with all his moo-ing!).

The Mu helped the monk overcome the conceptions in his mind that existed that was a barrier to understanding what buddha-nature means. When all the monk had was ‘Mu’ in his mind, ‘buddha-nautre’ had no space left to reside, so it faded away….. there was no more buddha-nature! Cascades of realizations soon followed… ‘ah, this is why he said Mu’! there is no buddha-nautre!… but then ‘AH, now THIS is why he said ‘Mu!’.. by dropping the concept of buddha-nature, I can realize it now…. but then again ‘ Mu is Mu and Mu is buddha-nature, buddha-nature is Mu’! and then even more so.. ‘ oh my! ..words fail this merging’ .. then ‘no merging’… Then the sting of the mind slap comes into focus, ringing like a giant bell inside his mind, and it shatters his shackles.

Serendipitous?

Sometimes in life, we get those moments when we get stopped dead in our tracks. It is like we get slapped in the face, but instead of our cheek burning, it is our mind. BAM!

I was walking around the streets of Brighton with my son yesterday, strolling around without any particular place to go… My wife was in a meeting at the time so my boy and I had some lunch, then the stroll. We were ‘passing the time’ so they say.

We came to the end of a road and I looked up and I got slapped! Buddhist centers are not all too common (in the UK), but here was one staring at me! BAM!
I stood and looked and smiled. This was good.

Then my mind starting thinking, thinking, thinking! Oh my poor brain! Lol. I was thinking ‘Oh, this is very serendipitous!’ at the same time thinking ‘Oh, what a random quirk of my walk’.

They say chance favors the prepared mind. I think I believe this. We all create our own ‘luck’ to an extent. Just as the 49 reeds create us, we too, create those 49 reeds!  http://wp.me/p2BjT4-1z

So, my single reed has been focused more on Buddhism lately, and the 49 reeds have felt this, felt the honesty of it, and so, they felt the dance, my dancing, and they have been joining in.

My heart-mind feels this way, the Universe is joining my dance and ‘drew’ me towards the Buddhist center. My brain-mind, however, is not so sure, very very sceptical!… It was just chance, a coincidence and not an all too improbable one at that! In the end, my Buddha-mind lets it go, it doesn’t matter what it ‘is’ and it just smiles, not knowing what is happening other than honesty.

49 Reeds

I have always been fascinated with where things come from.. what is their origin? I have thought this about many things, from rocks to birds, and to more subtle things like my fondness for ice cream…

Some things can be traced back in a very straight forward kind of way…. Rocks come in 3 main types, igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. Each type has a different origin. Igneous rocks come from the cooling of liquid magma or lava into a solid form. They are, solid lava! And then I think of the next stage… what is lava’s origin? Lava is magma that is above ground.. it originates underground as magma. (It is always important to keep aware that the lava and the magma do not distinguish themselves in this way, this distinction is only a human brain creation!). So, continuing on.. where does magma come from? I suppose the internal heat from the Earth supplies the heat to keep certain minerals/atoms in a liquid state… Where do the minerals come from? Where does the heat come from? The minerals come from the time when the Earth itself formed, some 4+ billion years ago… Where did the Earth come from? From the coalescing  of gas and debris from the eruption of a star. Where did that star come from…etc, etc…

All things have an origin. All things did not originate on their own, independent of external forces. This is the principal in Buddhism called co-dependent origination. All things originate dependent on all other things and circumstances.

My science mind thinks all things, when you trace their origins, all come back to the Big Bang… all things are dependant for their existence due to the interplays of all things in the Universe since the Big Bang.  My Buddhist mind  thinks that a stack of reeds can only stand upright with the help of all the other reeds. One reed cannot stand alone, but 50 reeds can lean on each other, depend on each other and can stand. At the Big Bang, there was no time. In Buddhism, there is the principal of a ‘timeless beginning’.

Buddhism and science are both truth seekers. Both do not attach to things that cannot be figured out. Buddhism uses thought experiments to cut through ignorance. Einstein did the same…. His breakthrough theories started as an experiment done in his brain, thought experiments.

Buddhism seeks one specific origin above all else. Where did you come from? In science, we say we came from a sperm from our father and an egg from our mother. In Zen, it is asked ‘What was your face before you were born?’. Although rebirth is a common accepted view among many Buddhists, the question about your face isn’t about this. It is not asking who you were in a ‘past life’.

Where did we come from? A great Zen Master said it vital to keep a ‘don’t know’ mind. This is a truth mind. This is an honest mind. When you are honest to yourself, brutally honest, you realize you have ‘don’t know’ mind. Then truth is open to you. What do you know? how do you know you know that?!  I know water freezes at 32 degrees F. Do I?! How? Have I tested it with a thermometer or have I been taught it throughout my life, or both? How do I know what the thermometer is doing? Have I built it? Calibrated it? How many times have I tested the water? How many different waters have I tested? How many different thermometers have I used? Etc, etc, etc…

What do I KNOW? I don’t know! lol.

Where do we come from?

As a fetus, our thinking brain came after our heart.. our heart-mind came first… It is older… Where did that come from? Is it important?

In Buddhism, the idea of past lives is fairly commonly accepted. However, our ‘don’t know’ mind isn’t so sure! lol. When I recently saw H.H. Dali Lama, he talked about this. He said all the previous Lama’s all had grand visions of their past lives, complete with names and places and events. He said he never has had these. He said’ Past lives? I don’t know. don’t know’.

So I ask again, where do we come from?