Thursday, January 22, 2015

Relative/Universal : Dharma Talks on Five Ranks

Opening Remarks 1/14/15
Five Ranks - 1, Relative in Universal/Absolute 1/15/15
Five Ranks - 2, Universal in Relative 1/16/15
Five Ranks - 3, Universal Alone 1/17/15
Five Ranks - 4, Summation 1/18/15

There Are No Bodhisattvas by Elihu Genmyo Smith

There are no Bodhisattvas.

And there is no one who is “not-a-Bodhisattva.”

There is Bodhisattvic functioning, Bodhisattvic manifesting. And there is greed, anger, deluded activity, harmful actions and self-centered functioning.

There is cause-effect inter-being, ongoing changing circumstances and conditions. In the midst of this, there is no self-centeredness, there is no Bodhisattva - this is life-death practice.

Of course, all of you are Bodhisattvas. This means all have the capacity of wisely responding and compassionate manifesting this moment.

When we see ourself or others in a solid fixed way this creates delusion and difficulties. There are many ways to describe the attachment “self-centering” which manifests as greed, anger, the confusion of dualism about “I am” and “am not.”Do these occur for you? What is the result?

When we are not trapped by stories of self and other, are not caught by habits of self-clinging and attachment, we all can compassionately respond, being this moment. Everyone you meet is capable of freely compassionately responding, being this ongoing cause-effect change, this ongoing interdependent inter-being. Everyone you meet – everyone! – is this Bodhisattvic functioning. Nevertheless, we and they can be blinded and caught, do harm and suffer. Holding to beliefs is what keeps us “caught.” Do you experience being “caught?” What is the resulting suffering?

Each moment we are the capacity of Bodhisattvic functioning and manifesting. When we sit, even though entangling thoughts and fears arise, our capacity to not hold to these is right here - as is the capacity to not entangle further in judging. It is up to you, to me, to see what is so and to do what is needed – and support this in our practice effort. Please nurture practice, please use the supports which are available, please be this life practice. Doing so, we are this moment ongoing change, the universe which is our life, which is breathing, listening. Being this, we are joyous.

Joy is not doing something extra – the only “thing” to “do” for joy is to not believe the stories we tell about “I am,” “he is,” “she did,” “they are going to.” When we solidify others with beliefs and stories, we solidify self. We may even solidify others as regards to whether “they are” or “are not” Bodhisattvas. When believing and solidifying occur, our Bodhisattvic practice is noticing this, experiencing and making appropriate and skillful effort. What is so? What is the practice effort needed here?

Is it not strange, the very “same” person who is compassionate one minute can be angry the next moment, caught in anger, causing harm to self and to others? But is this the “same” person?

All of us can be entangled in harmful reactions, causing harm and anguish to self and others. Being caught up in conditions, we may believe “this person is…” “that circumstance is…” Likewise, each of us can freely respond compassionately, manifest the wisdom of this universe true nature that we are - because we are the capacity of freely functioning ongoing change. This ongoing change is who we are - except if we believe that we are not this, if we believe we (or others) are solid, fixed, separate. Can we appreciate “our” or “their” Bodhisattvic functioning?

When we usually speak of Bodhisattvas, we use names such as Manju (or Manjusri), the manifestation of wisdom, or Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin in Chinese or Kanzeon in Japanese), the Bodhisattva compassionately responding to the cries of suffering. Avalokiteshvara takes many forms in responding and relieving suffering. There are sutras discussing the ways Avalokiteshvara appears as needed in responding to cries of those in circumstances which result in difficulties, harm and anguish.

Bodhisattvic means not-holding-to what I want or do not want; it is seeing what is called for and enabling beings, all beings, to be liberated from stress, anguish and suffering. This not-holding-to may manifest in receiving change for a purchase and saying “thank you” with a smile, acknowledging and appreciating. Bodhisattvic functioning takes many forms -washing this carrot, listening to another speaking, putting out a house fire, arresting a drunk driver, doing dishes or listening to the sound of traffic. This is our life, except when we disregard it and add self-clinging; then we miss this Bodhisattva “myriad things advancing and confirming self.”

Every being you encounter is capable of this, because every being you encounter (including you) is this Bodhisattva capacity. Noticing attachment, noticing when we are blinded and caught up in clinging and self-centeredness, is our opportunity to liberate all beings, all moments, to support and nurture Bodhisattvic manifesting. As Joko Beck says, “We must be determined that our lives develop a universal context and that the lives of others also develop that context.”

The Third Chinese Zen Ancestor Sengcan (Sosan), in the verses of Xinxin Ming, (On Faith in Mind) writes “Those who possess insight are always without doings/without characteristics”, (this is not holding on to characteristics), “only fools tie themselves into knots over conditions.” It is not that conditions and characteristics don’t arise. When they arise, we are present-arising - seeing them as they are; embracing, appreciating and doing what is called for now as best we can. Otherwise, as Sengcan writes, we go astray and then “stillness becomes confused and we lose insight.”Insight is seeing this life-death as is –and seeing how/where we become caught by likes and dislikes. What is crucial in our practice life is not the arising likes and dislikes, but the getting caught, the holding and acting out of this blinded one-sidedness.

Please know and appreciate our capacity and ability for Bodhisattvic functioning. Zazen, sitting and the myriad forms of Bodhisattvic functioning are experiencing this moment, opening to what arises and not solidifying it. This is not holding to stories about so-called past and so-called future. Each of us is this capacity; every person that you have ever and will ever encounter is this capacity. Even the most “terrible person” in your life also has the capacity of Bodhisattvic functioning - not because they do something special, but because when the blinders and hindrances of self-centeredness dissipate, even for a moment – and they do because just as everything else, self-centeredness arises and passes – all are capable of smiling and saying “thank you.” Right here is Bodhisattvic functioning. Our job, our practice effort, is to nurture Bodhisattvic responses in our encounters throughout life – at home, at work and in all daily activities, as opposed to nurturing or feeding the fear and anger of self-centeredness.

Because we are ongoing change cause-effect which is interdependent, our efforts directly and indirectly, immediately or not so immediately, are what nurtures and supports the functioning of compassion and wisdom. Our effort supports our practice and that of others.

Below is the poem Life and Death is by Kosho Uchiyama, translated his successor, Shohaku Okumura.

“Water isn’t formed by being ladled into a bucket;
Simply the water of the whole universe has been ladled into a bucket.
The water does not disappear because it has been scattered over the ground;
It is only that the water of the universe has been emptied into the universe.
Life is not born because a person is born;
Life of the whole universe has been ladled into the hardened idea called “I”.
Life does not disappear because a person dies;
Simply the life of the whole universe has been poured out of this hardened idea of “I” back into the universe.”

This hardened idea of “I” is created of holding to self-centeredness or other-self; it is a cause-effect reactive habit such as worrying about conditions or being fearful because of attachment to ideas about life. When habits of self or other arise our opportunity is “not-holding-to” in experiencing the life of the universe and allowing and supporting Bodhisattvic functioning manifesting. This is our practice, the right-here-now endless dimension universal life.

Even awakening isn’t some sort of hardened idea – just arising this moment awakening of the universal endless dimension that we are. Trying to hold on to it is more clinging. Awakening, compassion, wisdom, Bodhisattva - we don’t need such words, but since we already use all sorts of words, these words are good antidotes to what might otherwise lead to anguish, fear and harm in believing and clinging to characteristics.

© 2015 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Anti-Semitism Case Study: Jews, Muslims and France

An aspect of the terrorism by self-identified radical Islamists in France this week is the virulent anti-Semitism  in the attack on the kosher store, evidenced by the statement by the terrorist Amedy Coulibaly  "when the broadcaster asked him why he had decided to attack that particular supermarket, he replied he wanted to target “some Jews.”

This anti-Semitism has been significant recently among Muslims, in Islamic teachings and especially among French Muslims.

Below are several articles extensively discussing this and the failure of French and Islamic authorities to take action, especially in light of the incitement by some Islamic leaders, even their use of religious justification for anti-Semitism.

These articles raise serious questions about the hatred that is anti-Semitism, Islamic teachings and how we can appropriately and skillfully respond to various events and reactions. What insures and supports safety and non-harming? What reduces hatred? What supports and nurtures true peace?

Here are the articles:

Even BBC seems to be confused about anti-Semitism and uses its own political agenda to question and even justify these attacks.

And here two short reports with embedded video about the responses of the French Jewish community to these attacks:

And here is a facebook website of attempts at Jewish Muslim reconciliation, with positive and negative comments:

As a part of almost contradictory aspects of Islam, anti-Semitism has a long history in Islam.  Serendipitously, we have two articles that focus on the Prophet Muhammad who "might justly be described as the Jekyll and Hyde of historical biography." The first is a review of  The Lives of Muhammad by Kecia Ali, Harvard,which opens with the following description of Muhammad, "devout Muslims see him as the model for human behavior, non-Muslims have seen him as lustful, barbarous or worse." 

The second is an essay by a scholar concerning the history of Muhmmad which likewise raises questions about the traditional account of the origins of Islam: 

As I said earlier, some these articles raise serious questions about the hatred that is anti-Semitism, Islamic teachings and how we can skillfully and appropriately respond to various events and reactions. 

Do you have any clarity regarding what insures and supports safety and non-harming? 

Since in this ever-changing world there are many sources of incitement and hatred, as these articles demonstrate, we are left with the ongoing question, what reduces hatred? 

And for our life practice, in all the many forms it takes, what can we do which supports and nurtures true peace? 


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Responding To Violent Political Islamism

How do we respond to violent terrorism by political Islamist?

At this time the details and actions are still unfolding. Nevertheless, there are already a number of very different media responses to the Islamist violence in Paris which killed 12 and injured many more in the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

As a way to assist us to explore options and differences while broadening our perspectives, below are several very different articles.

Here is a Financial Times columnist's response which looks at the violence and the "blame of the victim" - and a very quick media response to it:

Here is the "official" Financial Times editorial:

Another media response is in New Yorker magazine by George Packer which also explores the issue of "who is to blame" but turns that question in an interesting way:

Here are two very different takes on the violence focusing on underlying principles and differences, how conflicts arise and possible solutions :

Since cartoons seem to have been the major offense which gave rise to this violence, here is a collection of cartoon responses as well as internal links to the originals and more:

Here is an interesting conclusion by Charles Hill about violent Islamism in an article published prior to the attack:

"John Kerry’s statement about ISIS having “no place in the modern world” was oblivious to the possibility that the modern world itself may be coming to an end. History is not predetermined to proceed always in a progressive, ever-better direction. If the current course of events and ideas is not reversed, the coming age will have abandoned its assumptions of open trade, open expression and the ideal of government by consent of the governed. Political Islam will be comfortable with itself at last."

Here is a collection of emails from the Doha Qatar based Al-Jazeera staff and editors which seems to reflect some of the conflicts between Islam and freedom of speech/freedom of press:

And here are the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists:


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Unfortunately, fraud is becoming more common by governmental agencies on all levels. The subtitle of this editorial speaks for itself: "How fire investigators distorted evidence to loot a company."

The (federal) courts may dismantle a California settlement that was a product of fraud by prosecutors."

The full article is here:

Brandeis University Administration Acting Above Law In Prosecuting and Judging Students - Until Legally Challanged.

In another example which raises questions about "Who guards against abuses by the supposed guardians?", Brandeis University Dean Adams, almost a year since the original incident, "summoned (a student) to the dean’s office without (the student) knowing the Oct. 8 meeting’s purpose. “I’m told that there are charges against me under bullying, harassment and religious discrimination,” Mr. Mael recalls. “And I’m told that I have to give a response—guilty or not guilty—ideally within 48 hours.” A guilty determination could have led to his suspension or expulsion from school. Since this was around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Mr. Mael was given about a week to reply.

Crucially, Mr. Mael wasn’t allowed to keep a copy of the complaint. Dean Adams told him that this was routine “procedure,” Mr. Mael says. “How am I supposed to tell my parents that I’m being brought to court and by the way I don’t know what the charges are?” Mr. Mael recalls thinking. “This is antithetical to the values of our Constitution.”

University  Vice President Flagel "(stated) that it is university practice not to provide the accused with a copy of a complaint but added that this is “one of the things we’ve been evolving.” Regarding the right to counsel, Mr. Flagel said: “This is not a legal proceeding, so your assumption that there is a right is not in evidence.”

Nevertheless, Mr Mael did retain counsel. Only after extensive legal responses did the University suddenly change it's approach. "Dean Adams informed Mr. Mael via email that the “allegations against you will not be adjudicated through our Student Conduct Board. The accuser has withdrawn from the option to do so and therefore this case should be considered closed and without determination of fault or sanction. . . . Thank you for your cooperation.”

For the full article and comments see: