Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What to do about actions at a distance ? The following story sent to me brings this question up again.

A Buddhist nun with a prayer wheel in Larung Gar, a monastic camp where thousands of nuns and monks live and study, in Sichuan Province, China. Credit Gilles SabriƩ for The New York Times
LARUNG GAR, China — Atop a hill, a growling chain saw drowned out loudspeakers broadcasting a lama’s chants from a nearby temple.

The chain saw, wielded by workers demolishing a row of homes, signaled the imminent end of thousands of hand-built monastic dwellings here at Larung Gar, the world’s largest Buddhist institute.
Since its founding in 1980, Larung Gar has grown into an extraordinary and surreal sprawl — countless red-painted dwellings surrounding temples, stupas and large prayer wheels. The homes are spread over the walls of this remote Tibetan valley like strawberry jam slathered on a scone.

Larung Gar has become one of the most influential institutions in the Tibetan world, the teachings of its senior monks praised, debated and proselytized from here to the Himalayas. In recent years, disciples have popularized a “10 new virtues” movement based on Buddhist beliefs, spreading its message across the region.
Now Chinese officials are tightening control over the settlement, in what many Tibetans and their advocates call a severe blow to Tibetan religious practice.

For the rest of the story, pictures and a video see:


Mushrooms and Alaya Vijnana 11/27/16


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Won, Lost by Elihu Genmyo Smith

"During war in pacific, a haiku by Soen Nakagawa Roshi:

Spring 1943 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari

News of victorious battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.

Spring 1944 Senka tada tera no shundei fumu bakari

News of disastrous battle,
I just shuffle along in the mud,
At this spring temple.”

(from Endless Vow, pp.79-80)

One word, a kanji which is a “homonym”, ( i.e. that sounds the same) is changed between the two haiku, between the two years, between the two sets of events. With this one so-called changed “fact” between the two haiku, victorious to disastrous, the two haiku helps us clarify actualizing practice, actualizing life.

Life events, this ongoing change Buddha nature that we live, can be the occasion for all sorts of reactions and attachments – and therefore may result in arising of satisfactions, dissatisfactions and suffering, and arising of all sorts of entanglements of anger, greed and confusion. Our practice enables and supports experiencing this arising passing, noticing entanglement, noticing self-centeredness in various forms, and supports our Bodhisattva effort with these entanglements self-centeredness.

In the recent elections, your candidates or issues may have “won”, may have “lost.”

How have you lived winning?
How have you lived losing?

In the midst of winning, in the midst of being defeated, so-called gaining or losing, victory or disaster, what has been the truth of life - the truth of your Bodhisattva vows, your Bodhisattva response? How do you nurture this?

We encounter and have relations with many people, some close or far, some friends and family, some strangers. We hear of changing circumstances, of events and actions in national politics or the world, even hear of sports results -all sorts of circumstances where we believe that I, we, they, won or were defeated. We are certain that we gained or lost, they gained or lost. Please reflect on where this might have been so for you. And what are the consequences of your winning, of your losing?

When you gain, what is gained?
When you lose, what is lost?

In daily life, people say or do things, and we believe that this - this speaking, this intention, this in-attention - means that I, we, won or were defeated, gained or lost.

Believing this seems natural to us, seems the natural responses of this human biological social psychological being we are.

In the coming weeks or in the past weeks, some of your “teams” “won” or “lost”, some of your “causes” won or lost; what do you discover with this? How do respond?

Family, friends, causes and circumstances, what we want from others, want of our self – all may result in judgments and evaluations of gaining and losing, winning and being defeated. Believing and entangling in these, not seeing clearly what this is, manifests in unsatisfactoriness, suffering and harming.

Do you notice when and what reactive habits are occurring? Do you notice what you believe and do as a result of these beliefs and attachments? What assists your noticing, experiencing, responding?

When do you believe you do not have? What is this? When do you believe you have? What is this?

Loss or defeat can seem emotionally physically painful, and winning or gaining have other physical emotional aspects. Being this, experiencing this, right here is this practice life.

When you are feeling strong, energetic, is this gaining?
When you are feeling tired, worn out or even ill, is this losing? 

The Buddha states, “Gain arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be.

Loss arises for an uninstructed run-of-the-mill person. He does not reflect, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He does not discern it as it has come to be….

His mind remains consumed with the gain. His mind remains consumed with the loss…He welcomes the arisen gain and rebels against the arisen loss…As he is thus engaged in welcoming and rebelling…He is not released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.

…Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Gain has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is. 

Loss arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. He reflects, ‘Loss has arisen for me. It is inconstant, stressful, and subject to change.’ He discerns it as it actually is….

His mind does not remain consumed with the gain. His mind does not remain consumed with the loss. He does not welcome the arisen gain, or rebel against the arisen loss...As he thus abandons welcoming and rebelling…He is released, I tell you, from suffering and stress.” (Angutarra Nikaya, 8-6)

Please reflect – in winning, in being defeated, in so-called gaining or losing, - how have your recent responses been the truth of life? What is your Bodhisattva vow efforts?

Clarifying “forgetting self”, clarifying “emptiness”, what is this moment gain? Right here, what is emptiness of five conditions? What is this moment loss?

It is important to notice our ways of thinking, speaking, attaching or believing. Being present, being practice efforts - what do you notice - what is experiencing, responding?

Each of you have your own life practice, particularly when noticing habits, attachments, entanglement. It may be experiencing, being just here. It may be breathing; may be bowing; may be something else – but it is your effort, your being, your doing - and this ongoing practice enables and supports clarification, supports skillful and appropriate effort. This ongoing practice is yours to cultivate.

We have many names for potentially entangling reactive habits; “I have”, “I do not have”, “I won” “we lost”, “we gained”, “I lost”.

One way we can practice with this is:

When you “win”, look - “who” won?

When you “lost”, look - “who” lost?

When you “have”, look - “who” has?

When you “do not have”, look – “who” does not have?

Before gain or loss, who?

We are living arising passing. Please clarify this moment moment ongoing practice of your win, your defeat, your gain, your loss, your having, your not having. Are we consumed by gain, consumed by loss?

To encourage our practice, here is Case 26 of Mumonkan (Chinese –Wumen-kuan).


Hogen of Seiryo (Ch - Fayan of Qingliang) came to the hall before the midday meal. A monk asked for instruction. Hogen pointed to the bamboo blinds. At this moment two monks rose and rolled the blinds up. Hogen observed, "One gain, one loss." (alternate translation, “One has it, one missed.”)

Mumon’s Comment

Now tell me, which one gained and which one lost? If any of you has one eye, he will see through the failure of Hogen of Seiryo. However, do not inquire in connection to gain or loss.


When the blinds are rolled up, the great sky is bright and clear.
The great sky is not yet in accord with our teaching.
It is better to throw sky and everything away.
Then it is so lucid and perfect that not even a wind blows through.”

Here I add, “Nevertheless, flowers fall amid our longing, and weeds spring up amid our loathing – and that is all.”(Dogen, GenjoKoan)

© 2016 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The following came to me in response to my often asked question of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the people from the power abuses of the "guardian" governmental officials? I find the article so clear and to the point that I will quote the most salient portion and link to the full article,"Forget the FBI cache; the Podesta emails show how America is run"; from the Guardian, a left-leaning British newspaper. After reading the article, it seems to me that we are left with the question, who serves and protects the people?

"The emails currently roiling the US presidential campaign are part of some unknown digital collection amassed by the troublesome Anthony Weiner, but if your purpose is to understand the clique of people who dominate Washington today, the emails that really matter are the ones being slowly released by WikiLeaks from the hacked account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. They are last week’s scandal in a year running over with scandals, but in truth their significance goes far beyond mere scandal: they are a window into the soul of the Democratic party and into the dreams and thoughts of the class to whom the party answers....

...Then there is the apparent nepotism, the dozens if not hundreds of mundane emails in which petitioners for this or that plum Washington job or high-profile academic appointment politely appeal to Podesta – the ward-heeler of the meritocratic elite – for a solicitous word whispered in the ear of a powerful crony.

This genre of Podesta email, in which people try to arrange jobs for themselves or their kids, points us toward the most fundamental thing we know about the people at the top of this class: their loyalty to one another and the way it overrides everything else. Of course Hillary Clinton staffed her state department with investment bankers and then did speaking engagements for investment banks as soon as she was done at the state department. Of course she appears to think that any kind of bank reform should “come from the industry itself”. And of course no elite bankers were ever prosecuted by the Obama administration. Read these emails and you understand, with a start, that the people at the top tier of American life all know each other. They are all engaged in promoting one another’s careers, constantly.

Everything blurs into everything else in this world. The state department, the banks, Silicon Valley, the nonprofits, the “Global CEO Advisory Firm” that appears to have solicited donations for the Clinton Foundation. Executives here go from foundation to government to thinktank to startup. There are honors. Venture capital. Foundation grants. Endowed chairs. Advanced degrees. For them the door revolves. The friends all succeed. They break every boundary.

But the One Big Boundary remains. Yes, it’s all supposed to be a meritocracy. But if you aren’t part of this happy, prosperous in-group – if you don’t have John Podesta’s email address – you’re out."