Sunday, March 31, 2013


"It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled."

~ Mark Twain

Especially when they have fooled themselves.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Bugs in A Bowl

by David Budbill

Han-shan, that great and crazy, wonder-filled
Chinese poet of a thousand years ago, said:
We’re just like bugs in a bowl. All day
going around never leaving their bowl
I say: That’s right! Every day climbing up
the steep sides, sliding back.
Over and over again. Around and around.
Up and back down.
Sit in the bottom of the bowl, head in your hands,
cry, moan, feel sorry for your self.
Or. Look around. See your fellow bugs.
Walk around.
Say, Hey, how you doin’?
Say, Nice bowl!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Things Keep Happening

Many come to Buddhism because they’re suffering. Aversion to what we don't like is natural. But when we hear that “everything is empty” we shouldn’t imagine we can somehow look at things or think about things or experience things in a way that will make what we don't like disappear.

In the Theravada tradition, it’s said that every thing is empty of permanence and separateness; and if we don’t recognize that, we suffer. That means every thing arises temporarily and interdependently, and if we work with that impermanence and interdependence, we don’t struggle.

In the Tibetan traditions of mahamudra (great seal) and dzogchen (great completion) it’s taught that while everything is empty (of permanence and independence), things do arise -- clearly, vividly, unceasingly. And that’s true, right? Internal experience and external phenomena do continue to arise vividly, whether or not we recognize that what arises is empty of permanence and independence. When we don’t recognize the nature of what arises, we struggle and suffer. When we do recognize the nature of what arises, we work within impermanence (change!) and interdependence (influence!), and we get along with a minimum of confusion and struggle.

When we recognize that everything is impermanent and interdependent, we come to appreciate the power of confusion (it makes us struggle and suffer) and of clarity (it releases us from struggle and suffering). We begin to unravel and let go of our habits of confusion and reaction, and we can give others a little more space to unravel their habits too.

Even our sense(s) of self are impermanent and dependent. We walk into the office and become an employee or a colleague. We walk into the mall and become a customer buying stuff. We walk into the house and become a spouse or parent or child. We run into a relative or old school mate and childhood patterns immediately arise. When we recognize that selves always arise in relation to others, we are freed of at least some of the confusion and clinging that lead to conflict and suffering.

So there’s no such a thing as Emptiness. There is an experience when we see that things actually lack the apparent characteristics  (permanence, independence, ultimate satisfaction) that we had projected upon them. That experience can at first be shocking, dismaying, disillusioning -- but in world of change and interdependence, there is a previously unimagined freedom and flexibility. Like all experiences, this freedom is also dependent on conditions, at least in the beginning. The experience of freedom depends on paying attention and being willing to drop the self-defining and self-defending that lead to struggle and suffering.

Recognizing that things are empty of permanence and independence is a good thing. Just don’t pretend that experience and things don’t arise and don’t matter! And don’t go looking for a thing called Emptiness. Nagarjuna said those who believe in the apparent solid, separate existence of things are stupid, like cows, but those who believe in Emptiness are even stupider. Don't get tangled up trying to find Emptiness, or trying to get rid of anything. Just keep testing your everyday experience: Is there any experience or object that is permanent? Or independent of causes and conditions? Be sure... because confusion about that is the cause of all sorts of trouble.

Things are empty of permanence and solidity; we are free.
Things are interdependent; we are not in control.
Suffering arises; we are responsible.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Three Marks Again

Things are empty of permanence and solidity; we are free.

Things are interdependent; we are not in control.

Suffering arises; we are responsible.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Perhaps by Shu Ting

Perhaps our cares
    will never have readers
Perhaps the journey that was wrong from the start
    will be wrong at the end
Perhaps every single lamp we have lit
    will be blown out by the gale
Perhaps when we have burned out our lives to lighten the darkness
    there will be no warming fire at our sides.

Perhaps where all the tears have flowed
    the soil will be richer
Perhaps when we sing of the sun
    the sun will sing of us
Perhaps as the weight on our shoulders grows heavier
    our faith will be more lofty
Perhaps we should shout about suffering as a whole
    but keep silent over personal grief.

Because of an irresistible call
We have no other choice.

Translated by WJF Jenner.

From Wikipedia:
Shu Ting (Chinese: 舒婷, pinyin: Shū Tíng, born 1952 Jinjiang, Fujian) is the pseudonym of Gong Peiyu (Chinese: 龔佩瑜, pinyin: Gǒng Pèiyú), a Chinese poet. During the Cultural Revolution, she was sent to the countryside, (because her father was accused of ideological nonconformity), until 1973. Back in Fujian, she had to work at a cement factory, a textile mill, and a lightbulb factory. She began to write poetry in 1969 and her work was published in several literary magazines. Her poetry began to appear in the underground literary magazine Jīntiān (Today). In the early 1980s, she achieved prominence as the leading female representative of the Misty Poets. Her first collection, Shuangwei chuan appeared in 1982, as did a joint-collection with Gu Cheng. She was asked to join the official Chinese Writers' Association, and won the National Outstanding Poetry Award in 1981 and 1983. During the "anti-spiritual pollution" movement that was launched in 1983, she, like other writers that were thought to be subversive by the state, was heavily criticised. Following this she published two collections with poetry: Hui changge de yiweihua and Shizuniao.