Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Lotus Sutra

            Amazon: The Lotus Sutra

The new year is a period well suited for contemplating change. I have decided to change the way I think of "myself." With certainty that the "self" with a small "s" is construction of thought artifacts and having no tangible substance, it is possible change that construct, in the same way that a computer user interface can be adapted to the needs of the user. I no longer need to interface with the world using the construct of PTSD, its just not useful anymore. 

Today, I start reading my Christmas present, The Lotus Sutra. I'm not too familiar with this text, having concentrated on the Diamond and Heart Sutras, and the teachings Bodhidharma.  This text arrived at my hands through my best friend and wife, completely unbidden as wisdom usually does. The story that I recall from this sutra involves a girl who leaves her family's estate to see the world. The short version is that she loses her money, her pride, her ego and has basically hit rock bottom. She winds up at a rich land owner's house and asks for work in the stables. The land owner (who happens to be her father) agrees, and she works there for years until she finally wakes up realizes he is her father and that this was the home she left. In tears, she confesses to her father who is grateful to have her back and gives her her inheritance. I've been in the stables for years, and now feel like its time to wake up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

    I found the below article "Get Busy Dying" from Joseph Rogers, Buddhist Chaplain posting on The Tattooed Buddha. I found this compelling since he refrains from bull shit, and puts it very bluntly that you will die as you have lived. There is no death bead enlightenment, salvation etc. There is only what you do with your life now.

The Tattoed Buddha

Friday, December 11, 2015

It's been a while

Well, I have to admit that it took a long time getting back to this blog. I went through a long dark night of the soul with PTSD and now I'm on the other side of it.  I think my focus for the time being will be on PTSD and how Buddhist practice helped me through it. I'm not totally out of the dark, but how I can I say that I will ever be? Dark and the light arise together, and I am still somewhat subject to the 10,000 things. Thank you Zen Mountain Monestary for your dharma talks. When I was curled up in a fetal position under my covers, you grounded me and brought me back to myself.

Chaplain Dyer, First Military Buddhist Chaplain.

Friday, June 3, 2011

For Memorial Day... a little late yeah yeah

So I was in my car listening to the radio and heard the interview posted below.  Its a thing that a lot of us can relate to... that feeling of naked vulnerability apart from 5.56, 7.62 or 40mm security blanket.  I think this vulnerability is less about protecting oneself, than understanding that if I am a trained warrior, and I do not keep these tools close, then I have also made my wife, my children, my neighbors and random strangers vulnerable to violence.  My greatest fear is deciding to leave my gun at home for the short ride to school to pick up the little guys, only to be confronted with an active shooter, and there I am without my weapon... a failure.  I have literally canceled family outings because blankety-blank park demanded I leave my duty weapon locked in the security office. 

Some folks reading this may not understand how a Buddhist can say these things, carry a gun and yet meditate for the benefit of all sentient beings.  Some buddhists may actually be repelled by this thought.  To you, I say that I do not need you to understand.  Your opinion is irrelevant.  The only thing that is matters is right action, in the moment, right now.  What would you do?  Do you really know?


is the link to the following article on NPR.

Like many U.S. veterans, commentator Benjamin Tupper has read Tim O'Brien's famous book about the Vietnam War, The Things They Carried. Tupper's war was in Afghanistan, but he says O'Brien's observations hold true, decades later.

Most of the physical items we soldiers carry are owned by the government, like body armor and weapons and helmets. These are unceremoniously returned to Uncle Sam as we out-process from military service.

But the emotional baggage is ours to keep. The memories are packed deep inside our own private war museums. Sometimes the outside world gets a peek at these painful artifacts when they rise to the surface, manifested by bouts of depression, rage or guilt.
Like most combat veterans, I keep many of my postwar idiosyncrasies private, for fear they might alienate my friends and family. If I aired them, I fear I'd receive an impromptu intervention, and be dragged off to a mental hospital for further evaluation.
A good case in point is the anxiety I still feel at being outside arm's reach of a weapon. I know it's absurd to fear that a squad of Taliban may be laying an ambush in my suburban neighborhood. But when an event or sound or smell recalls a moment at war, my anxiety trumps logic.

So when I came home three years ago, I bought the exact same model of combat shotgun we carried in Afghanistan.Then I bought the same M4 carbine rifle, complete with a combat reflex site. And an M9 pistol, identical to the one that never left my side over there. Now I keep it in my truck. I stuffed the shotgun under my mattress in case the Taliban attack at night. And the rifle is positioned at the ready in my office.
No one — not even my wife — knew I had woven this security blanket of weapons to cover me from home to work and all points in between. No one knew, that is, until a couple months ago, when I spoke to a group of student veterans and their faculty advisers.
One Iraq war veteran in the classroom confessed he felt alienated and vulnerable back home, unarmed and defenseless. In an attempt to show he wasn't alone, I revealed the secret of my personal arsenal.Right after I said it, I knew I'd gone too far. I expected the students and professors to lean back in their chairs and nervously eyeball the shortest path to the exit.Instead, one student stood up and pulled out a large hunting knife he'd concealed on his waist. He said when he turned in his M16, he began carrying this knife. Not a day had gone by since he returned from Iraq that he didn't carry it.
Then a professor reached into his pocket and pulled out a tube of ChapStick.
He said the day he left his job as a police officer, he had to turn in his pistol. He also moved to carrying a concealed knife. After a couple of years, he mustered up the courage to transition from the knife to his lethal tube of ChapStick.
He trained himself to accept the ChapStick as a protective talisman. It provided the peace of mind he'd previously achieved with the knife and gun.
For five cathartic minutes, this conversation among veterans of the military and law enforcement sounded like a chapter from O'Brien's book: the stories warriors never tell, for fear civilians will never understand.
In the end, for better or for worse, we know the things that we carried are now carrying us.
Ben Tupper is a major in the Army National Guard. His latest book is Dudes of War.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Still Meatless... Sans Fish Occasionally

On a previous post I said that I was going meatless for a variety of reasons. I wavered back and forth for about a week, but, being the knuckledragging old-habit bone head that I am, the thing that finally sealed the deal for me was the video I will link at the bottom of this post. See, I believe that in order to be mindful in anything, you should really take a hard look at things you do habitually, and take responsibility for your actions. After viewing "The Meat Video," there were no more excuses. I am not fundamentally opposed to meat eating, I am opposed to the conditions under which the majority of animals which make it to the supermarket live. They live, just barely, and horribly.

As for my fitness, I am leaner, meaner, faster and more energetic than I have been in a long time. What about protein? A great benefit to living in a market economy is that where there is sufficient want, there will be sufficient supply. There is no shortage of meat alternatives in any super market. Heck, I use fake chicken cutlets made from a fungus (really) by Qorn, the same way I used to prepare chicken cutlets. Cube some up, sautee them in some Annies Worcestershire sauce, add some Total Insanity hot sauce and plop them into a salad. I also make fake chicken parmesan, faux chicken merango and faux coc'au vin. There is always enough vino left over for the chef. Woohoo!

Now the video. Fair warning: I've seen my fare share of atrocities, but I have to admit, I couldn't make it all the way through this. This is not a Michael Moore satire.

The Meat Video

Friday, April 1, 2011

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

This is a reprint from Online Literature. I think its important to remember not to get too egotistical about practicing Buddhism, remembering that the Buddha's teachings are universal. It should be no surprise that a 19th century Russian could touch the core of the four noble truths and the eightfold path.

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right
time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to
listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what
was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything
he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed
throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one
who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and
who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was
the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his
questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right
time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days,
months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only
thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time.
Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the
right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be
absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was
going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said
that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it
was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for
every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who
would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not
wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to
decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide
that, one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only
magicians who know that; and, therefore, in order to know the right
time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said,
the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the
priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the
most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation:
some replied that the most important thing in the world was science.
Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was
religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them,
and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right
answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely
renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted, and he received
none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before
reaching the hermit's cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving
his body-guard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front
of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging.
The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into
the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: "I have come to you, wise hermit,
to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the
right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and
to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest?
And, what affairs are the most important, and need my first attention?"

The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat
on his hand and recommenced digging.

"You are tired," said the King, "let me take the spade and work
awhile for you."

"Thanks!" said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he
sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his
questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out
his hand for the spade, and said:

"Now rest awhile-and let me work a bit."

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One
hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees,
and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

"I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can
give me none, tell me so, and I will return home."

"Here comes some one running," said the hermit, "let us see who it is."

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the
wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood
was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell
fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit
unfastened the man's clothing. There was a large wound in his
stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with
his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood
would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the
bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound.
When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for
something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to
him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the
King, with the hermit's help, carried the wounded man into the hut
and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes
and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the
work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also
fell asleep--so soundly that he slept all through the short summer
night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could
remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on
the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

"Forgive me!" said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw
that the King was awake and was looking at him.

"I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for," said the King.

"You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who
swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother
and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the
hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day
passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find
you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and
wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had
you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved
my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your
most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!"

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily,
and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him,
but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend
him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the
porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished
once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit
was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been
dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

"For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man."

"You have already been answered!" said the hermit, still crouching
on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

"How answered? What do you mean?" asked the King.

"Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my
weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone
your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have
repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time
was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important
man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards
when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were
attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would
have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most
important man, and what you did for him was your most important
business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important--
Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when
we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are,
for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one
else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for
that purpose alone was man sent into this life!"