Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Duke Ellington Quote

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.

Monday, April 21, 2008


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!
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.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Universe
I am very SORRY Take Off from all of you for TWO YEARS. I will be unable answar all of you. SORRY VERRY SORRY.
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.
Wish all of you very good health and all the best by Divine Sunlight and Divine Love.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


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.
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


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


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:
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:

Sunday, April 13, 2008


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


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.'"

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


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



Sunday, April 6, 2008


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

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


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