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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday evenings in Clearlake

The Dharma gatherings have now begun at the Fellowship House of
THE CLEARLAKE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
14521 Pearl Ave near Mullen Rd
November 10 & 17
December 1, 8 & 22
7-8:30 PM

2009: Every Monday (unless snowed in) we will meet.
The 5 meetings in 2008 worked out well,with attendance of 2,4,3,9, and 12 people.
The Church was also happy with the arrangement, so we will continue.

Friday, October 17, 2008

"PINK LADY" FLOWERS


The bulb was transplanted from Eileen Downy's
garden in San Francisco to 3600ft elevation on
Cobb Mtn. The plant grows wild in the coastal
region, but here it snows every winter. Now it
has bloomed for the first time, following 5 years
of acclimation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Event in Sebastopol

OCTOBER 30th, A THURSDAY EVENING, STARTING AT 7:30PM
AT DHARMAJIM WILSON'S BOOKSTORE CALLED
MANY RIVERS BOOKS AND TEA STORE
130 S. MAIN ST. (707) 829 8871
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"BODHISATTVA MONKS IN JAPANESE TRADITION"
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The hour will include a short participatory liturgy, followed by an explanation of Tendai's all-encompasing vision dating from 800AD. Within this broad umbrella, California Tendai Monastery operates a more specialized temple where bodhisattva monks train on Cobb Mountain (Lake/Sonoma County) in the fire ritual called goma, the mountain-encircling asceticism called kaihogyo, and extensive recitation of sutras and mantras. Questions at the end.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tiny Thinker's blog is well worth reading!
http://peacefulturmoil.blogspot.com

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

16th & 23rd Sept Events

In Berkeley on these 2 Tuesday evenings, I will host free events at the new Jodo Shinshu Center on 2140 Durant Ave, one block from the UC campus. The hour and a half from 7PM to 8:30PM will be portioned about 20 min for tea and welcome, 20 min for a Japanese chanting service with voluntary participation, 30 min for a Dharma talk, and 20 min for questions and discussion.
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SEPTEMBER 16
SAICHO AND ENNIN ~ UNIQUE AND ENDURING CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE TENDAI FOUNDERS
The religious environment they established allowed for spiritual growth in all directions and fostered a wide range of experiences based individual priests' studies and inclinations. Tendai was able to include Vajrayana practices, the teachings of various Mahayana sutras, Zen meditation (shamatha and vipasyana), Chinese traditions, Pureland beliefs, bodhisattva precepts, and a unique mountain-circling ascetic practice called Kaihogyo.
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SEPTEMBER 23
TENDAI TODAI ~ RELEVANT AND USEFUL
During 1200 years of twists and turns of Japanese history, Tendai has carefully preserved its variety of teachings and arts, so that today both laymen and monks find the benefits in this world as well as the other world. In these times of rapid change and an uncertain future, Buddhism including Tendai can provide a solid and reliable guide for those who study and practice the Dharma.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The True Artist of Life

One of the teachings I've received is "Die before you die." In the writings of D. T. Suzuki, there is a good explanation of this message, beginning with a poem of Bunan, a Zen master of the 17th century.

WHILE ALIVE
BE A DEAD MAN,
THOROUGHLY DEAD;
AND ACT AS YOU WILL,
AND ALL IS GOOD.
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TO LOVE GOD IS TO HAVE NO SELF, TO BE OF NO-MIND, TO BECOME "A DEAD MAN," TO BE FREE FROM THE CONSTRICTIVE MOTIVATIONS OF CONSCIOUSNESS. THIS MAN'S "GOOD MORNING" HAS NO HUMAN ELEMENT OF ANY KIND OF VESTED INTEREST. HE IS ADDRESSED AND HE RESPONDS. HE FEELS HUNGRY AND HE EATS. SUPERFICIALLY, HE IS A NATURAL MAN, COMING RIGHT OUT OF NATURE WITH NO COMPLICATED IDEOLOGIES OF MODERN CIVILIZED MAN. BUT HOW RICH HIS INWARD LIFE IS! BECAUSE IT IS IN DIRECT COMMUNION WITH THE GREAT UNCONSCIOUS.
ONE OF THE GREAT MASTERS OF THE T'ANG SAYS: "WITH A MAN WHO IS MASTER OF HIMSELF WHEREVER HE MAY BE FOUND HE BEHAVES TRULY TO HIMSELF." THIS MAN I CALL A TRUE ARTIST OF LIFE.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Duke Ellington Quote

"THESE UNFINISHED ENDINGS ARE REALITY"
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This is the end of the blog posts for at least two months, as other areas of the Dharma are demanding attention. Gassho!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Last Chapter of the Lotus Sutra

They say this 22nd chapter was the final chapter of the Lotus Sutra at one time in its development. But at least since 400AD (Kumarajiva's version) there have been 6 chapters beyond this one, including the celebrated and efficacious Avalokiteshvara chapter. Still, Chapter 22 retains the feeling and contents of a final sum-up, and for Lotus Sutra adherents, the attitude expressed in the following excerpt is an extremely important one.
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THE FINAL COMMISSION
THE TATHAGATA IS THE GREAT LORD OF GIVING TO ALL LIVING BEINGS. DO YOU ALSO FOLLOW THE TATHAGATA'S EXAMPLE, NOT BEING MEAN AND STINGY. IF GOOD-SONS AND GOOD-DAUGHTERS IN AGES TO COME BELIEVE IN THE TATHAGATA-WISDOM, DO YOU PROCLAIM THIS LOTUS SUTRA TO THEM. IF THERE BE BEINGS WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN IT, DO YOU SHOW, TEACH, BENEFIT, AND REJOICE THEM WITH THE OTHER TACTFUL PROFOUND LAWS OF THE TATHAGATA.

Monday, April 21, 2008

RAISING A WALL






One person can build and raise a wall by himself, as shown here. First, the framing is done flat on the deck, and plywood sheathing added. Then using an auto bumper jack, the wall is lifted about 2 ft as shown in the top photo, enough to set two wall jacks under the edge. (The wall jacks are the two red colored pieces of hardware, and they ride on 2x4s.) Next, using a piece of pipe for a handle (not shown) you would jack up one side about a foot, then move to the other side and raise that about 2 ft, and continuing to alternate side to side until fully vertical. Voila!
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However, DANGER! In the case in these photos, I was exceeding the design specs for the jacks, both height-wise (the jacks are made for 8-9-10ft walls and this was 12ft high) and weight-wise (the wall was 26ft long and the framing was 2x6 and 4x6, quite a bit heavier than 2x4 framing). All the weight is riding on 18ft long 2x4s! And they were bending like pole vault poles. And when the wall is half way up (45deg.), you are working on ladders directly underneath the wall. If one of the 2x4s has a knot or unseen flaw, and if it suddenly snaps, you would be one flattened body. Thank Heaven, Lucky Stars, God, Coyote, and Buddha that I'm alive (knock on wood). Made me think of other "lucky" occasions, like falling asleep at the wheel going 65MPH into an oak tree, statistically a 90% fatality rate.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Goodbey Goodbey Goodbey!

This is an email to the world from the Sun Yogi Umashankar dated 26 June 2007. My connection is that a follower of his did a retreat here, which led me to this email. However, the reason for posting this is more that I am a fan of the Indian dialect of English. The following is verbatim.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters of Universe
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I am very SORRY Take Off from all of you for TWO YEARS. I will be unable answar all of you. SORRY VERRY SORRY.
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I strong bealive all of your LOVE is with me and protecting me. Please all of you blease me. I would like to offer my last point of blood for Socity. I born from this Socity, Learn from this Socity So I have tyo surve for this Socity as Survents of Socity.
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Wish all of you very good health and all the best by Divine Sunlight and Divine Love.
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SEE YOU AFTER TWO YEARS.
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GOODBEY GOODBEY GOODBEY.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

KURI IN SNOW


This is the KURI, or priests' living quarters. As a 650sq ft cabin, it is overly small for a monastery, therefore the photo is meant to serve as a not-so-subtle appeal for non-monetary support (for instance, design and site work) in getting a simple but modern building constructed that can accomodate about five monks.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Shrines




These are two of the five shrines embedded in Cobb Mtn in the late eighties and nineties (with a tiny Shugendo goma in one photo). The purpose was to make an offering in order that the area would open up and accommodate peoples' various bodhisattva practices, so that they could they could have secluded places in which to concentrate their minds, peer into the vast Dharma treasury, and bring happiness to all beings.
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Most recently, Goenka's meditation group is in escrow on the former Sunrise Lodge Resort, and Lama Kunga's Sakya-pa organization is in escrow on a beautiful secluded spot near Upper Lake. Also, in June at Cobb Zen-ji, 101-year old Sasaki Roshi will lead a 2-week sesshin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

ULTIMATE GIVING


Though many thousands of us worked toward and contributed to the ending of the war in Vietnam, probably the single most influential action was this self-immolation by Mahayana monks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

One Last Jaime De Angulo Tale

Jaime was doing anthropological field work among the Pit River tribe of Modoc County CA around 1920. This is another exchange with his same friend and informant described in the story posted on February 21.

"The Pit Rivers (except the younger ones who have gone to the government school at Fort Bidwell) don't ever seem to get a very clear conception of what you mean by the term God. This is true even of those who speak American fluently, like Wild Bill. He said to me, 'What is this thing that the white people call God? They are always talking about it. It's goddam this and goddam that, and in the name of the god, and the god made the world. Who is that god, Doc? They say that Coyote is the Indian God, but if I say to them that God is Coyote, they get mad at me. Why?'"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BREAKFAST IS READY







The photographer Paul Seaton has the proud chef pose with his masterpiece, cheese scrambled eggs on sourdough toast. The land when purchased had a log cabin but no power, so here we were cooking breakfast over a campfire before working on the trench for an underground power cable.
Paul is the founder of Quiet Mountain Foundation, and is now on the staff of the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sakyamuni's Mantra

This mantra from India is not one of the secret mantras, it is completely open and exoteric. "Muni" means "prince", so the Buddha was known as Prince of the Sakyas, among other names. Here is the mantra:
OM MUNI MUNI
MAHA MUNI
SAKYAMUNI
SVAHA
But when some Americans first heard this mantra, directly from a native of India, they didn't quite catch the pronunciation correctly, and the mantra they subsequently transmitted, still widely heard in America today, though having lost its relation to the Dharma, is:
OM MONEY MONEY
MAHA MONEY
SOCKIT TO ME
SVAHA

Sunday, April 13, 2008

HINDU HOMA IN CRESTONE


After the fire offering, everybody dances around and sings the chant. Photo by Jack Goldberg, his wife and daughter in the center and Rin-san on the left.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Soldier and the Chanters

This is a story Dennis Banks recently told at a stop in Arizona during the currently happening "Longest Walk" from SF to Washington DC. The walkers came to a place where Indians were protesting an unwanted coal-fired power plant which is due to be constructed on their land. Here is the story:

"When I was a young man, and in the military, I was in Tokyo holding a rifle and standing on one side of a fence, very much like the one we are standing in front of today -- but I was on the other side. The army had a military installation that we were guarding. We were on one side -- and on the other side were protesters. Japanese people who did not want us there, because our runways and roads were destroying their farmland.

"This is when I first heard the words NAMU MYOHO RENGE KYO from the chanting of the monks. We were standing with guns and I didn't know how these people were going to win without fighting. At the time, I had wanted a military career, I had gone to military boarding school and had taken that path. But I was beginning to change as I was watching what was unfolding. And in the end . . . they did win without weapons, without fighting."

Friday, April 11, 2008

GURU PADMASAMBHAVA


How weird is it, that my original spiritual search was for a SUFI MASTER but the teacher I found was RUSSIAN ORTHODOX who had switched religions and was leading a group practicing JAPANESE SHUGENDO and under whose direction my first million mantras were of the founder of TIBETAN BUDDHISM, Guru Padmasambhava. Well, there you have the sixties, my friends.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shakyamuni Buddha Was Sick in Bed

Raoul Birnbaum, in his book The Healing Buddha, relates a story from the Agama Sutras where hearing the recitation of the "seven factors of enlightenment" along with the explanation brought healing to Shakyamuni, and similarly in two other cases when Mahakasyapa or Maudgalyana were sick. Here is Birnbaum's text:

"To emphasize the potent healing power of this fundamental meditation exercise: once when the Buddha lay ill, Cunda the younger brother of Shariputra visited him. The Buddha asked Cunda to recite the seven factors of enlightenment to him. Upon hearing and approving both Cunda's recitation and the teaching itself, '. . . the Exalted One rose up from that sickness. There and then that sickness of the Exalted One was abandoned.'"

THE SEVEN FACTORS OF ENLIGHTENMENT
1. One recollects the Dharma and thinks it over
2. One discriminates the Dharma, examining and investigating it
3. His energy is aroused without slackening
4. Spiritual rapture arises in him
5. His body becomes tranquil, his mind becomes tranquil
6. His mind becomes concentrated
7. He looks closely at the mind with equanimity

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

EN-NO-GYOJA


This is an icon of the 8th Century mountain wizard En-no-gyoja ("the ascetic from the district of En"), who was a contemporary of Guru Padmasambhava even though there was no communication between Japan and Tibet at that time. He tamed these devils and got them to serve the Dharma. When a friend looked at the faces surrounding En-no-gyoja, he said, "Look! There's Jimmy! And over here, here's Mark! And Matt!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Dream Interpretation

On the second day of leaving home and wandering, all day walking along an almost deserted country road, I was feeling very free with the realization that I had left home for good. My thoughts were filled with the memory of the lucid dream of the previous year, it was probably one year ago exactly. Yes, today is Buddha's birthday April 8, 1969, and that must have been almost exactly the same time in 1968. Recalling the dream, its meaning began to unfold.

Various astrologers had predicted that a great earthquake would strike California in Spring 1969 but it didn't happen, at least not on the Richter scale. On the other hand, a great quake had certainly just occurred in my life, and earthquakes being the cause of tidal waves, now the symbolism of my dream became obvious.

"Walking along the beach," I was at that time in my life in a sleepwalk-like state, and unconscious of the effects of my actions.

"Realizing that this was a tidal wave in progress" was symbolic of waking up to the dangers of samsaric existence.

"Trying to warn others of the danger, but they didn't seem able to hear," meant That I had no power within me to wake others up, and in any case they were all fascinated by samsara.

"Walking in the opposite direction to the flow of the crowd." In early 1969, spurred on by depression, I had quit my job, left my girlfriend, travelled away from society, and had set out in search of a guru or Sufi master for guidance.

"The pea jacket that I had taken off and then left behind" was symbolic of the accoutrements of society, job, and friends, as well as various ideas and goals and entertainments. But a little further on in the dream, I'd had a momentary urge to go back and retrieve the jacket, that is, return to society.

"Climbing to the top of the hill" meant making a determined effort at spiritual practice, and reaching the top indicated being rewarded with some minor realizations or happiness. But this was accompanied by seeing at the foot of the hill ahead of me a valley to cross, and a higher hill on the far side, representing more suffering necessary to endure due to past karma. Each completion of a stage of spiritual practice only revealed more work to be done.

A few months later in 1969, I became a part of a Buddhist yamabushi commune led by a strange Russian-American guru who called himself Dr Ajari Pemchekov-Warwick. Practicing the religious life with my fellow communards, I struggled to overcome the causes of my unhappiness, to abandon sexual addictions, deceitfulness, laziness, lack of compassion, and a fondness for recreational drugs. I would struggle for awhile and improve, and then fail and fall back. But by and by, just like in the dream, the tops of the ridges got higher, and the valleys weren't so low. I learned how to replace the former dependencies by developing a life of prayer (samatha-vipasyana meditation), walking in the mountains while continuously reciting mantra (this was Dr Ajari's version of Japanese Shugendo practice), and burning the Shugendo-style goma. Cultivating these practices brought understanding of some of the Buddha's teachings, though this is still quite far from living the life that the Buddha was advocating.

Now 40 years after experiencing the lucid dream, I am still climbing the little hills and crossing the wide valleys of life, with no assurance that I will ever see that final beautiful scene of the dream. But on the other hand, this is of no concern now, because somehow that dream has instilled a peaceful faith and belief that it will in fact turn out that way in the end; that in this lifetime I should just keep walking the Buddha's path, without anxiety, encouraging others to walk the Path also so that they too can discover the invisible worlds. In Buddhist terms, the final scene of the dream indicates that at the end of one's life the Buddha of Infinite Light (Amitabha) will without doubt appear before one, welcoming into his Pure Land all those people who have sincerely expressed that wish and who have called on him by name.

Monday, April 7, 2008

DOGWOODS


THE DOGWOOD TREES ARE NOW BLOOMING

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gratitude

Finishing at Cornell and returning to San Francisco in the summer of 1968, I had great hopes that everything would be wonderful, perfect, and happy, but after several years of hippie weather ("high in the mid-sixties") it was turning out just the opposite, one unhappiness after another, without letup. Work was a pain (first as a cab driver, then as a mailman, delivering in the ghetto with kids taunting and throwing rocks because I was white), my relationships were growing cold, no energy, friends going crazy and getting arrested, financial woes, landlord harassment, etc. I had never been depressed before, but now it began to take hold.

Come the spring of 1969, I was ready to leave everything, wander and seek help by searching for a Sufi Master, an enlightened being who could guide me. Anything I had tried on my own had failed miserably. One morning I threw the I-Ching, walked out the door with a backpack and $70, and started thumbing rides right in the center of San Francisco, 22nd & Dolores in the Mission district. Across the Golden Gate Bridge and 14 rides later, I was in Cloverdale 90 miles north up Hwy 101. The sun setting and no luck getting a 15th ride, I found a place to bed down near the bridge that used to cross the Russian River just beyond Cloverdale.

With the first sign that dawn was on the way, I sat up in meditation, still before sunup but with enough light to make out the branches in the surrounding clump of bushes. Different kinds of small birds started chirping and singing, flitting into view as they hopped among the branches. And now something completely unexpected, it wasn't a dream because I was wide awake, but the vision of a smiling face appeared before me, as if someone were sitting across the table. It was somebody I knew, and the vision triggered a memory of something he had said. The details of who it was and what he said have been forgotten, but it was clear at that time that his words had assisted me in getting here, that is, in "leaving home." And I spoke to the envisioned face, saying "Thank you! Thank you!" After 20 seconds or so, the vision moved toward me, passed over my shoulder, and another face appeared about 5 ft away, smiling. It was somebody else who had helped me, help I wasn't aware of at the time we met in the flesh.

And like this, one after another in a parade of faces appeared, smiling before me for 10-20 seconds, then moving off. As I recognized and said a deep "thank you" to each one, the emotion of gratitude and joy welled up inside me, and though I'm not a particularly emotional person, now tears of joy were streaming down my face, and I was crying "Thank you! Thank you!" with the realization that it wasn't possible for me as an individual to do anything, were it not for the kind help of so many people. Some were friends, some were not friends, some were one-time encounters with strangers, some were people who I thought at the time had said something malicious but now as their faces appeared I understood that they were being most kind, and the feeling of gratitude overwhelmed me.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Dream Narration

This dream brought me an enduring peace. I am now 65 years old, and early one Spring morning in 1968 when I was 25, I watched as a fairly lengthy lucid dream unfolded. I can still recall it in detail though this is the first time I've written it down. At the time I was finishing a masters degree at Cornell and living in Prof Frank Rosenblatt's farmhouse commune near Brooktondale, 5 miles out in the countryside.

At the point where the dream became lucid, that is, when I became aware I was dreaming and watched it unfold, I was walking leisurely and emptymindedly along a beach similar to Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Ahead of me, maybe a quarter mile ahead, crossing the beach was a 60" sewer pipe carried on pilings, sloping out into the ocean, and disappearing below the surface about 200 yards out. Continuing to walk along the beach at the edge of the surf, I noticed that the water was gradually receding, and when I reached the sewer pipe I turned right and followed the receding ocean. I was wearing a navy pea jacket in the cold fog, but now with the increased exertion I began to sweat, and so I took the jacket off and hung it on one of the piers, to pick it up on the way back.

Continuing to follow the receding ocean, I saw up ahead aways that there was a sudden drop off, a very small cliff in the sand, about a 4ft drop. It was crumbling up toward me, and when it passed under my feet I dropped down with the collapsing sand, and at that moment suddenly "woke up" from my emptymindedness (though still in the dream) and realized that this was a TIDAL WAVE in progress, that after the water drew out a certain distance, it was going to come crashing back in as a massive wall of water, and that I had better head for high ground, fast! So I turned around and scrambled back up the crumbling 4ft embankment, striding up the wet sand to reach the dry beach, then up the beach to the base of a 30ft bluff, and finally up a foot path to the top of the bluff. But even this height would be inundated by the tidal wave, I thought, so needing to get further inland I continued my brisk walk and soon encountered groups of people coming this way, toward me and the beach, chattering among themselves.

Evidently they had heard radio reports of the immanent tidal wave, and out of curiosity were coming to the beach to witness it. I tried to warn them that it was dangerous, that they would be swept away by the wave, to turn around, to go back. But they were murmuring among themselves as if in sleepwalk, and didn't seem to be able to hear my voice, and they continued en masse in the direction of the beach. Just then I remembered that I had left my pea jacket on the pier, and for an instant thought about going back to get it, but the urgency of the situation made that impossible, so I continued my resolute walk against the flow of the sleepwalking and murmuring crowd.

Now the crowd began to get thinner, and also I was far enough away from the beach and the danger, nevertheless I went on walking in the same direction and on up into the low hills. At this point the dream ended and I woke up. The room was starting to get light in the dawn, but I was thinking, "Hey, that's not the end of the dream! What happened after that? I want to see more," and I dropped back into sleep and the dream continued.

Now I reached the top of the hill, and below me was a small valley and then a somewhat higher hill on the far side. This pattern repeated itself over and over, maybe six times: climbing the hill, reaching the ridge top, only to see below me a valley and on the far side another higher hill. The valleys were getting higher and more rugged too, and each time I needed to descend from the ridge top and cross the valley before starting to climb once more. I was getting tired from all this walking, and so felt a big letdown when upon reaching the latest ridge top, I saw in front of me an especially wide and flat valley, and way way off in the distance a tall range of snow-capped mountains. But what could I do? I sighed and began the descent, then crossed the long flat valley, then climbed, climbing, climbing, coming at last to a high rocky icy pass, and a view beyond, a vista opening before me, a warm sunny pastoral valley, incredibly beautiful and colorful, at the sight of which my heart filled with happiness. And at that point I woke up the second time, and this ending was satisfying, very much so. The feeling of joy lasted for days, the peace and contentment. I attended classes and worked on the masters thesis in the library, accompanied by memories of the dream.

As to the meaning of the dream, I felt that somehow it was showing me the future of my life and that the end of the dream coincided with the end of my life. Beyond that, and as to the earlier parts and details, the meaning wasn't apparent to me and so I just let it be, put it in the back of my mind, didn't try to analyze it. But somewhere I had read, or maybe had heard from somebody, that for this type of lucid dream to manifest its meaning usually takes about one year. While not knowing if this were true or not, it seemed plausible enough, and so I put it out of my consciousness and went on with life.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Suzuki Roshi


Suzuki Roshi once said, "A person who is not a Buddhist will say there are Buddhists and non-Buddhists, but for a Buddhist, everyone is a Buddhist."
This teacher arguably did more to spread the Dharma in America than anyone else in the 20th century. Not only are there a great number of his students and fellow teachers who now have their own Dharma Centers or students, and who have published many many books and articles on Buddhism, but the variety of thought among his descendants is truly amazing. Rather than parroting the words of Suzuki Roshi, it seems as if each one has developed his personal experience of Dharma through meditation and other kinds of practices.
Most of his followers are shown in the links provided by David Chadwick, the author of one of the Suzuki Roshi biographies. See http://www.cuke.com

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

THE ROCKY SIDE


Whereas the Kwan-yin side of the mountain is characterized by deep green forests, the Fudo-sama side is rocky and forbidding.

Monday, March 31, 2008

A Heng Sure Story



The ZAFU is the round cushion used in Japan as an aid in helping one to ease into sitting cross-legged on the ground. When one is accustomed to that posture, then he can progress to the half-lotus position, then to the full-lotus. As the zafu is an aid, so sitting in itself is just another aid to a relaxed posture, a balanced body, relatively unmoving, with the backbone straight, and thus sitting is an aid to meditation. Likewise, meditation aids one to concentrate and focus the mind inside so that the Dharma can be understood and practiced.


The abbot of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, the Venerable Heng Sure, tells a story (if I remember it correctly) of how he was accustomed to meditating on a zafu for many years, when one day he was suddenly surprised by Master Hua who yanked the zafu out from under him. Now without the support of the zafu, Heng Sure plopped flat on the ground. Master Hua explained that one is much better off not relying on a prop, because, though it was useful in learning to meditate, if Heng Sure could learn to sit without it, he would gain benefit in two ways. First, he would be free of the need for this prop, and second, he would be able to meditate anywhere.


This same lesson applies to those who use beads to count mantras. The beads are just an aid, likewise mantras are just an aid. So though beads are very useful in learning to count mantras, and in unifying body-speech-and-mind, there are times when the use of beads is not practical, or not possible, or an obstruction; or there are times when one is not in possession of a set of beads. In these cases, assuming one has already completed millions of repetitions, one should learn other techniques for counting mantras, such as with the fingers (using the opposable thumb and the joints of the fingers), or by placing each repetition at a different point in the body, or outside the body, etc.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

MOUNTAIN RESCUE STATION


We built this building for Dr Ajari in 1975. It is at the 6000ft level on Mt Shasta. Driving 8 hours each way in the commune's caravan left only 4-5 hours on weekends for work, so that construction took 6 months to complete. Then once the building was finished, we never returned because the group was struggling with its business of manufacturing and selling Japanese bedding, there was never any mountain rescue, and no spiritual practices were ever done here (other than a partial retreat by Bishop Green of St Sophia's Church). The only merit went to Ladybear of Mt Shasta who kept an eye on the building for about 15 years before Dr Ajari defaulted on payments and was forced to sell it.
However, we did get some experience in construction work. You do know the definition of "experience," don't you?
EXPERIENCE, noun -- what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.
On the other hand, according to a Japanese kotowaza, or proverb:
SEIKOU NO MOTO WA, SHIPPAI DESU
The origin of success is failure.
So the experience wasn't entirely wasted; it came in handy when constructing the goma-do at Cobb in 2006.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Power of Love


In early 1966 I went down to the Jazz Workshop on Broadway in SF to hear John Coltrane's group. The club was jammed full so about 15 of us were out on the sidewalk and pressed up against the open door. The club was one long narrow room with the band at the far end, so the full sound carried out the door, and also, being tall and standing on my toes I could watch as well.
At that time the band had TWO drummers (Elvin Jones and Rashid Ali), had Pharoah Sanders (screeching as loud as possible, achingly beautiful to my ears) on tenor sax, and John Coltrane's wife Alice on piano playing full, round chords with both hands on the lower register. It was a raucous cacophony of sound and Coltrane's tenor was barely audible in the mix. I strained to hear Coltrane, and when that sound connected (not the melody, but his pure vibrato-less sound) it became a conduit of warm energy directly into my heart, filling it like a balloon with a feeling of love for the whole world, a feeling that expanded to the point of leaving me with only one option: stop everything I was doing in everyday mundane existence; turn my life around; and go SAVE THE WORLD.
About 10 years later when with Dr Ajari on a visit to the Coltrane Church, I listened as Bishop Franzo King described an experience almost identical to mine. He had gone to the Jazz Workshop to hear Coltrane's group, and the sound so filled him with love that on the spot he made a vow to restructure his life, start a church, and preach the Gospel. The John Coltrane Church is going as strong as ever today, Bishop (now Archbishop) King's family and friends and church members playing inspired derivations of Coltrane's music every Sunday:
That night in 1966 returning from the Jazz Workshop with a heart full of love to save the world, I was completely oblivious of all practical aspects, such as how to go about it, even the first step. I didn't account for my own complete lack of ability or knowledge or experience, or my own obstructive bad karma, continuing to accumulate day-by-day, not to mention the ineluctable modality of the bonds of society which prevent one from "leaving home." It would be another three years, including grad school at Cornell and employment as a civil engineer, taxi driver, and mail carrier before the actual "leaving home" could take place.
But the seed was sown in the power of love emanating from John Coltrane's heart to all who listened. Before that time I had been thinking about enlightenment, but the experience at the Jazz Workshop caused the Thought of Enlightenment to step up one level of intensity and become the Determination for Enlightenment.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Janey Trinkle And Master Lee



This is from 2007, my second visit to Kim Son Monastery as driver for Janey. It is now a 1 1/2 hr drive to pick her up in Healdsburg and another 3 hrs to Watsonville, and back the same day, 10 hours total. We arrive at about 10 minutes to noon, have a few sips of tea with Master Tu, and then his people ask him to come to the dining room and ring the bell so lunch can begin. So all that driving for just a 10 minute visit, but their lunches are worth the drive. They have a delicious vegetarian buffet, all you can eat, with a donation box inconspicuously off to the side, and four lines of tables, one each for the monks, the nuns, the laymen, and the laywomen. After the leisurely and silent meal, conversation slowly starts up, and after a while Master Tu rings the bell again and departs. Janey is now over with the nuns, and they are having a great time, laughing and talking, and she snaps some photos. The rest of us, after finishing the meal and conversations, all wash our dishes and depart, and I sit back down at the table, alone, waiting while Janey and the nuns finish their visit, which is another half hour or so. This elderly monk, Master Lee, seeing me sitting there, comes over and introduces himself and asks me some Dharma questions, which led to his very helpful teachings to me on how to overcome anger. Aside from the lunch, this advice was also worth the long drive. And then Janey, having finished her visit, came over to Master Lee and myself and asked one of the nuns to snap more photos.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Janey Trinkle And Master Tu



This is from 2003 the first time I visited the Vietnamese Master Tu at Kim Son Monastery in Watsonville. Janey Trinkle had known him for years, so I just served as her driver since the long drive was more than she could manage at her age.

Janey lived for 35 years in Japan, and when the Japanese Empress Michiko was in college (I think at Keio U. in Tokyo), Janey was her English teacher, and the two have remained friends to this day.

Master Tu is a venerable and virtuous abbot who has the support of large Vietnamese communities in San Jose and San Francisco.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A GHOST


This snow ghost may very well be Woody Woodpecker, not seen in these parts since the late 1950s.
(I put this miraculous natural phenomenon up for sale on eBay, but it melted before I could sell it)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Looks Like A Buddha"

In 2002 with Rin-san and her friend Fuji-san, we stopped by to see the Buddhist sculptor Tachibana. During conversation, Rin-san told him she had set up a 5PM appointment with a nearby Buddhist master, and did Tachibana want to go with us. No, he didn't, he said, "And watch out for him. He is evil." "Why do you say that? He has an old established temple and appears to be a good priest." "Yes, he LOOKS LIKE A BUDDHA, but . . . "

According to Tachibana, professors from the University would recommend that students interested in Buddhism go to this temple as it was the closest. Tachibana was living at the temple at the time, and some of the students would subsequently become monks and live there also. But within one or two years, every single one of them had fled after getting to know the priest better. Presently, the only disciple was a woman who would cook and wash clothes. But the temple still had enough lay believers to support it financially.

We got there at 5 o'clock. Rin-san knew the master, but Fuji-san and myself had yet to meet him. He took us up into the dimly lit temple and he and Rin-san engaged in conversation. While they talked, Fuji-san and I, with the tales of Tachibana fresh in mind, heard the door creaking behind us, wind would occasionally whistle through the cracks, we watched his eyes narrow down and glance sideways, and he would furrow or raise his brow. While Rin-san blithely carried on, we were as if frozen, expecting that at any moment he would reach around for an axe, lunge at us, and bury the bodies under the floorboards with the skeletons.

After leaving the temple, it turned out Fuji-san and I had seen and heard and thought all the same things. But of course, these were just projections after listening to Tachibana's dramatic warnings of horror. The truth in the story was that there ARE people who look like Buddhas, who have round bodies and shaved heads, wear immaculate robes, sit perfectly straight, and serve tea in old temples, but when students live there awhile and get to know the master, they run away screaming. In common, less extreme cases, the Japanese have a phrase:
KATACHI DAKE
which means "form only," as in "That priest doesn't have the religious mind, but has the form only." I heard this phrase quite often in different places in Japan, but it always seemed that the group I was with were "real Buddhists" while the group over there was katachi dake. You'd think it would be more beneficial not to be so concerned with the group over there, and to devote more time to examining our own actions and studying the Dharma so that our own Buddhist life doesn't become katachi dake.

Monday, March 24, 2008

TENDAI BEADS

A Tendai set of beads is characterized by the flat shape of the beads, which makes the strand of 108 easier to count with while at the same time being more wieldy.

You'll see people wearing sets of large round beads around their necks in order to give themselves the appearance of a Holy Man, but the style pictured here is for counting repetitions of mantras, going deep within the heart, rooting out greed, anger, and ignorance, and serving the cause of all living beings.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Lotus Sutra Was Written About Me

When Prof Carl Bielefeldt of Stanford met me for the first time in 2003, he asked, "You're not one of those guys who thinks the Lotus Sutra was written about them, are you?" Well, . . . actually, Carl . . . here it is, right here in the 25th Chapter. It nails me exactly.
NYAKU U SHU JOU
TA O IN NYOKU
JOU NEN KU GYOU
KAN ZE ON BO SATSU
BEN TOKU RI YOKU
***
NYAKU TA SHIN NI
JOU NEN KU GYOU
KAN ZE ON BO SATSU
BEN TOKU RI SHIN
***
NYAKU GA GU CHI
JOU NEN KU GYOU
KAN ZE ON BO SATSU
BEN TOKU RI CHI
***
"If there are any living beings with much lust and craving, and if they constantly keep in mind and respect Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, they will be set free from these desires.
If they have much anger, and if they constantly keep in mind and respect Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, they will be set free from their anger.
If they have much ignorance, and if they constantly keep in mind and respect Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, they will be set free from their ignorance."
"Much craving, much anger, much ignorance," that's me to a tee, Carl!
Painfully aware of this early on, for 40 years now I've been calling on all 33 forms of Avalokiteshvara for relief. And it HAS helped, lots, but even now we still see remaining greed-anger-and-ignorance. "You have really heavy karma," as Master Lee explained.
*
When Carl asked his question, I just laughed, and so it seemed I slipped past the interview and was set to give a single guest lecture in his class on T'ien T'ai Buddhism. However, Carl had one final concern: "I hope you're not going to talk about the Aquarian Age."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A TEACHING OF THE DALAI LAMA

MAY THE LIGHT OF THIS GREAT BODHISATTVA BE WITH US FOR YEARS TO COME.





"Religion does not mean just precepts, a temple, monastery, or other external signs, for these as well as hearing and thinking are subsidiary factors in taming the mind. When the mind becomes the practices, one is a practitioner of religion, and when the mind does not become the practices one is not."
*
There are three sources for getting to know one's mind: study the latest scientific research; inquire about the conclusions of the Buddhist sages of the past; and during concentrated meditation, examine the woundrous workings of our own minds from a subjective viewpoint and compare this with the findings of scientists and sages.

Friday, March 21, 2008

For One Who Walks On The Earth

The story of the Buddha's Last Days covers six months, starting in Rajgriha, spending the rains retreat outside of Vaishali, and ending his life in Kushinara. An incredible amount of teaching was transmitted during that time, the Buddha having informed the accompanying monks that his end was not far off. At twelve towns where he stopped along the way, he gave a unique profound teaching at each one, while at the same time he included a teaching common to all stops: the Buddha "gave a comprehensive discourse, this is morality, this is concentration, this is wisdom . . ."

While walking in a natural setting, this essential teaching is easily brought to mind. Looking downward we see the earth, solid and visually impenetrable, supporting all on its surface. Likewise, MORALITY is our support in walking the path of Dharma.

Looking ahead we see animals and people and think about their need for concentration. The animals need to concentrate their senses to locate food and also to recognize and escape when other animals want to eat them. People need to concentrate to get to work on time, pick up their paycheck at the end of the month, and negotiate traffic to get safely home. Likewise, CONCENTRATION is necessary to enter into and understand the Buddha's teachings.

Looking above we see the sky which not only touches, surrounds and interconnects all living things, but extends beyond into infinity. Likewise, we are surrounded by the Buddha's WISDOM which obliterates the "I" in the universe of shunyata.

To attain enlightenment, the Buddha taught us to rely not on our personalities, our talents, or our position in society, but rather to rely on morality, concentration and wisdom.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2 ft.


(see March 18 post)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dengyo Daishi and Jikaku Daishi

The priest So-0 inaugurated the practice of kaihogyo based on stories of related practices which his teacher Ennin brought back from the holy mountain of WuTai in China. Subsequently, So-o developed spiritual powers and was able to heal the ailments of 3 generations of Emperors and their families. The third then gave postumous titles of "Great Teacher" to Saicho (Dengyo Great Teacher) and Ennin (Jikaku Great Teacher), the first time this honor was bestowed in Japan. It would be another 55 years before Saicho's contemporary Kukai would be similarly recognized as Kobo Great Teacher.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

1000-DAY MARATHON

Of Gozen-sama's approximately 1500 disciples, both lay believers and clergy, Gyosho Ajari is the fourth of the "four great disciples." Here he has completed 700 days of the marathon, after which he immediately entered into a 9-day seclusion of no sleep, no water, and no food. This photo is taken after the fast, in 1992.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ennin, Tendai Patriarch (794-864AD)

This is from a manga version of Ennin's life, based mostly on the diary of his ten years in China in Search of the Dharma, which was translated into English and published in 1955 by Edwin O. Reischauer.
Saicho welcomes the 15 year-old novice to Hieizan and explains the meaning of the characters for the name "Ennin" which he has granted:

"with harmony and amiability, to give comfort, sympathy and compassion to all creature, not just to humans"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Choraku-In

Gozen-sama built a magnificent new temple on an isolated peninsula 3 miles from the Pacific Coast town of Owase. Construction wasn't far enough along to open it to the public yet, so Shodo-san and I were there caretaking, making the garden, and helping the construction crew when they would come. Viewing from the temple grounds, there was not a single building visible, just fishing boats far out in the bay, and steep cascading hills in back, reminiscent of the Chinese landscape painting style called "san sui," mountains and water. We had our own private beach, but also the highest annual rainfall in Japan, because this was the point where typhoons would make landfall, which also explains why this beautiful location was so isolated in super-crowded Japan.

Gozen-sama would visit about once every two months, a 3-hour drive from Sekizan. To avoid the interminable jamups on the highways around Kyoto, they would leave at 3AM, with Sakajiri-san driving and exceeding all speed limits at Gozen-sama's urging. On one visit they expressed the idea that Choraku-In should offer some benefit to the community, even though it wasn't open yet, and so they asked me to give an English class in town. Thus this photo of my English class.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2001

Gozen-sama had built a new temple called Choraku-in 3 miles outside of the fishing village of Owase ("Big Eagle"), but as it was not yet completed he sent Shodo-san and myself there as caretakers and to work on the gardens.

The Owase police chief, along with his wife, thinking we were overworked and stressed out, took us on a 3-day vacation to the Kumano area, including temples, shrines, restaurants, hotsprings resorts, and waterfalls (this photo).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Real Father and Adopted Father


This is my real father and my real daughter.


This is my adopted father and my adopted niece (both informally). Everybody calls him "The Boss" (shacho), but he has me call him Honorable Father (o-tou-san). He is The Boss in the sense that nobody messes with him, and though he is not yakuza himself, he has tatooed yakuza working for him.


At Sekizan he has been designing (along with Gozen-sama) and constructing the temple gardens for over 25 years, to the point where the moss hillocks and autumn maples have become a major tourist attraction. This photo was taken just a week before I returned to the US after 5+ years in Japan, and I said to Shacho, "You're almost finished with the gardens, right?" to which he replied, "No, only half done." 25 years! He would supervise a crew of 4 or 5 of us temple priests along with 2 or 3 of his own men in whatever heavy work needed to be done at Sekizan. Then he would buy lunch for everybody at this nearby cafe, where I was known as "A.B.C.O.G" which makes perfect sense in Japanese: Uncle ABC (oji=uncle) because during the time the girl's grandmother was preparing the food, I would teach her English, starting with the ABC song.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

JENNY AT SEKIZAN


While on a home-stay program in Japan in 1998, Jenny visits me at Sekizan.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mom and Pop

Today, March 10, is the 100th anniversary of my father's birth. Both he (1908-1992) and mom (1907-1991) lived 84 years and they died within a year of each other. They were both water signs, Pisces and Scorpio, so there was lots of emotion: they fought like hell, loved like heaven.
I hear other men talk about their childhood, saying like, "I knew if I did such-and-such, I was in for a whuppin from my dad," as if this were the same with every boy's father. And it dawned on me that possibly dad was unusual, lots of hugs, but never once did he strike me.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

ARHAT

This ancient stone statue is from the set of sixteen arhats at Sekizan Zen-in, Kyoto

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Across the Wide Pacific


1962 was my third trip to sea, the first for Eric Levin. In that era we had 3 months of summer vacation while going to college. So 7 years before becoming a Buddhist, I had a chance to visit most of the Buddhist countries of the Far East, and that subjective experience colored my view of the various types of Buddhism. Bangkok seemed decadent and its Buddha statues were gaudy and poorly maintained. Saigon was in an eerie calm under the Diem dictatorship, and the war had not yet reached the Capitol. Taiwan was in a state of fear, the military ready for an immanent invasion from Red China, but the people seemed to be more afraid of Chiang Kai Shek's government. Korea was still in poverty in the aftermath of its war, and the seaport of Pusan's people were struggling to make money any way possible, including thievery, robbery, and piracy. But Japan at that time was at the beginning of its "economic miracle," and the cleanliness of the streets, the kindness of the people, and the beauty of the Buddhist artwork all left an impression which made me predisposed to favor the Japanese style of Buddhism.

Friday, March 7, 2008

MORE CREATURES

Plus mole tunnels all over the hills

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Two More Rubaiyats

COME, FILL THE CUP, AND IN THE FIRE OF SPRING
YOUR WINTER-GARMENT OF REPENTANCE FLING:
THE BIRD OF TIME HAS BUT A LITTLE WAY
TO FLUTTER -- AND THE BIRD IS ON THE WING.
Is one of your dreams to LEAVE HOME and set out on the Great Adventure, the quest for enlightenment? If for too long you delay your departure, if you daydream and don't DO, then in the blink of an elephant's eye old age and death will be facing you in the mirror, another lifetime down the drain.
THE MOVING FINGER WRITES; AND, HAVING WRIT
MOVES ON: NOR ALL YOUR PIETY NOR WIT
SHALL LURE IT BACK TO CANCEL HALF A LINE,
NOR ALL YOUR TEARS WASH OUT A WORD OF IT.
Most of Fitzgerald's ~200 quattrains (I don't know about the Persian originals) have a fatalistic ending not shared by Buddhism. Yes, time moves in only one direction. Ideas of going back in time and revising the outcome are truly fiction. But unlike the implication of the poem, the future is not fixed or predestined. YOU AND I CAN CHANGE! This is the most important message of Buddhism. The actions of the past can be remembered, recorded, studied. And by understanding cause and effect by studying the past, we can change our actions, change our course, and change our future for the better.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Scholars say the Farsi-to-English translation of Edward Fitzgerald is more Fitzgerald than Omar Khayyam. I don't know about the Persian, but the English version is great stuff. Here's one of my favorites:
I SENT MY SOUL THROUGH THE INVISIBLE,
SOME LETTER OF THAT AFTER-LIFE TO SPELL
AND BY-AND-BY MY SOUL RETURNED TO ME
AND ANSWERED, "I MYSELF AM HEAVEN AND HELL."

Monday, March 3, 2008

THREE LOVEABLE CRAZIES

This photo dates before my entry into Dr Ajari's commune, so probably 1966-1968.
Alan Ginsberg is well-known. "Sufi Sam," Samuel Lewis, the Jewish leader of the Muslim Sufi's, has a recent biography by a disciple at:
http://www.mansurjohnson.com/
Less well-known is Ajari, also known as Bishop Lopon Dr Ajari (four titles but no name), in addition to: "The Bear" (Is the Bear Catholic?? Does the Pope poop in the woods??); Vajrabodhi; Neville Warwick; Evil Warlock; The Admiral of the Tibetan Navy; and One Of The Two Great Spiritual Geniuses Of The Western World (I believe he said the other was my friend Jack Goldberg, now in Crestone Colorado). But Gozen-sama recognized him as an emanation of Fudo-sama. After I became Gozen-sama's disciple in 1991, I showed him the photo of Dr Ajari with Lama Govinda in Almora India circa 1968, to ask if Gozen-sama knew Dr Ajari from Japan. He Said, "No, but in this photo your two teachers are En-No-Gyoja (indicating Lama Govinda) and Fudo-sama (pointing to Dr Ajari)." In the photo, Dr Ajari looks positively angelic, but somehow Gozen-sama knew.
A young journalist in Boulder Colo. is currently collecting stories for a book on Dr Ajari. You can observe or contribute at:
http://www.jennfields.com/dr-ajari/
The photo here was sent to me by an old friend of Dr Ajari's, Ladybear of Mt Shasta. Her blog, carrying the torch of the Woodstock generation is at:
http://ladybear.gaia.com/

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Sudden Slip on an Icy Rock

And a quick face-plant in the snow. The cause wasn't treacherous terrain. Although terrain was a factor, the cause was in my thought at that moment as I was dwelling on somebody else's slanderous words, making them my own. Wonderful instant karma!
In almost all cases there is a time gap between one's actions and the karmic result, which hides the connection between cause and effect. It takes deep meditation to get at the root cause of karmic retribution. So when something unpleasant happens, it is much easier to blame the immediate cause rather than to ask, "What in my past karma led to this situation?"
That is why it is always an amazing experience to see instantaneous karmic retribution: I said or did or thought something regrettable and immediately received the result. The workings of karma were clearly revealed.
In today's example the cause was minor and the effect was minor, but for one who invokes Fudo Myo-o as his tutelary deity, heavier cases of instantaneous karmic purification are not uncommon. If you take Fudo as your protector, you will be humbled in ways you never would have guessed. The rope and sword which Fudo wields are not to bind your enemy and cut off his head as a kind of jihad for Buddhism. Rather the rope represents concentration of one's own mind while the sword cuts the very roots of greed, anger and ignorance. If I make a serious karmic blunder, I can expect Fudo right in my face with his angry expression.
The slip on the ice brought to mind a Dharma saying based on the "four foundations of mindfulness:"
THE BODY IS UNRELIABLE
NEGATIVE EMOTIONS ARE THE ENEMY
THE MIND IS EVER CHANGING
AND ALL DHARMAS ARE EMPTY

Saturday, March 1, 2008

DAGCHEN RIMPOCHE AND DR AJARI

The Sakya Center in Seattle in 1977. The Pacioretti (biological) sisters are in front. Otherwise, from the right: Khadiravani, Nairatma, Marici (my wife at the time, in the first of our 13 years of wedlock), Variya, a friend of Variya's, Dr Ajari, and Mandarava. Mandarava and Nairatma are the remaining Sisters of the Order, now residing in L.A. Dagchen Rinpoche is in the center of the photo, and directly behind is Jayananda in goatee and glasses. The remaining folks are disciples and relatives of Dagchen.