Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Self-immolation, suicide bombing and Dharma

Here is an interesting article which begins to explore and compare these different forms of political actions, and also shows significant Dharma practice connections. Please note that this is only a start in exploring these forms, but it is a good start in showing some of the roots, the differences and similarities.

For an excellent and extensive study of self-immolation as Buddhist practice, which will challenge, shake-up and broaden many of your conceptions about Buddhism, see:

Burning for the Buddha:  self-immolation in Chinese Buddhism

Front Cover

"Burning for the Buddha: Self-Immolation in Chinese Buddhism is the first book-length study of the theory and practice of "abandoning the body" (self-immolation) in Chinese Buddhism. Although largely ignored by conventional scholarship, the acts of self-immolators (which included not only burning the body but also being devoured by wild animals, drowning oneself, and self-mummification, among others) form an enduring part of the religious tradition and provide a new perspective on the multifarious dimensions of Buddhist practice in China from the early medieval period to the present time. This book examines the hagiographical accounts of all those who made offerings of their own bodies and places them in historical, social, cultural, and doctrinal context."


Monday, November 26, 2012

Lincoln (2012) by Steven Spielberg

Seeing and doing what is called for right now - right now in the midst of this moment
circumstances and conditions - is the life task of being who we are.

To do this, we have to see what is so AND to see what beliefs and habits we are
holding that are inaccurate and inappropriate;
to see what considerations and attachments are clouding our vision and understanding,
to see what hinders our ability to respond skillfully to these circumstances.
Seeing what hinders allows releasing this clinging. Right here is being who we are.

When we do not see and release attachments and held beliefs,
are not present in the midst of not-knowing, then clouded vision results in actions
which perpetuate harm and suffering. This in turn perpetuates cause and
effect reactions which continue to blind us and others,
continues the cycles of attachment, harming and delusions.

These clouding considerations, attachments and habits might be psychological,
political and ideological positions; they can be beliefs, hopes and theories, or might be
any number of other body-mind habits. They might be our understanding of the
past and a need to maintain this perspective as the only valid one.

To the extent we can treat these beliefs, feeling and positions as they are in the midst of
this moment and not be blinded or taken over by them, to that extent we can see what is
skillful and appropriate right now. Doing so, we can act in ways that support the
manifestation of the wisdom and compassion that we are right now - in personal relations,
in familial, social and group functioning and in broader political and economic actions,
to list just a few areas.

A recent film, Lincoln (2012) by Steven Spielberg, is a wonderful example of
how some of these issues play out in American history. I do not want to say too much
about the film so as not to detract for those who have not seen the it. The film is an
intersection of  the political, the ethical and the life of practice -
even though no one in the film is formally involved in Zen practice - though all
humans are involved in the daily functioning and manifesting of life which is
exactly Zen practice, whether we and they know it or not.

A number of the historical characters (the film is based on solid
historical research and "facts"), including Abraham Lincoln, his wife
Mary Todd Lincoln, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, and other
Republican and Democratic leaders, have to face major issues
involving their moral, ethical and political predilictions and past positions
in the face of the ongoing Civil War, the killing and injuries involved, and
the opportunity to pass the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution,
which would end slavery in the US.

In the film we see how even in the midst of good intentions and efforts to
relieve suffering and end war, the seeds of ongoing conflicts, harm and suffering,
are evident and perpetuated if and when there is clinging to positions and beliefs.

We also see aspects of cause-and-effect of various forces - including slavery in
the south and the abolitionist actions which led up to the Civil War,
the ways the war was fought, the negotiations and attempts to end the war,
and other factors leading to the assassination of Lincoln, Reconstruction
and the Jim Crow period which follows the war (and continues to the present).

There are similar circumstances in ongoing conflicts between and within
states throughout the world - whether in Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Russia,
in the issues between China, Japan and Korea, as well as between the Chinese
and Tibet, in the various Sunni - Shiite conflicts among Muslims, as well as the
many conflicts in the Middle East, to name just a few.

If you are going to see a film, I recommend Lincoln (2012)!

Below is a short Dharma discussion that just begins exploring some practice issues
related to this :

Our life practice is in the midst of circumstances, and especially when
upset, angry, or judging others. Do we notice holding to conceptions and
attachments to beliefs, and habitual reactions, that might cloud
our ability to see what is so and to do what is called for? These are our ongoing
practice life opportunities - being just this moment.

We also can look at major issues which need political action. Are the Democratic and Republican leaders attempting to find skillful and appropriate joint actions and policies to address the national problems, whether in terms of the current "fiscal cliff" and national debt, or in terms of immigration and those in the US illegally, to name just two areas - or are they holding on to and blinded by their own party positions, posturing and narrow self interest as opposed to the public interest? Certainly this is a good question to ask over and over on all levels of governmental functioning; I know it is relevant to Illinois, which faces major debt and potential bankruptcy unless something is done soon.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"A day without working is a day without eating."

"A day without working is a day without eating" is attributed to Chan Master Baizhang Huaihai (Hyakujo), 720 - 814 CE.

In a simplified form, this is often taken as a guideline for personal effort and responsibility in this interconnected life.

Some of the issues that have been raised in various political debates, as well as utilized to attack opponents in the recent election campaigns, and which continue to be explored and debated in the various discussions of economic and tax policies, are themes which also touch on personal responsibility in this interconnected life:

1. What are appropriate rates of taxation, who should be taxed and how much, and what is the meaning of sharing burdens for public needs?

2. How do we distinguish between policies which serve the public, especially those that compassionately serve those in need, and entitlements which result in increased dependence and self-centeredness, with the resulting harm? 

3.What are our attitudes about entitlements to benefits and services, as well as towards distribution of benefits to those to whom we apply categories and judgments such as "deserving" and "undeserving" - and the various abuses of the benefits and entitlement systems? 

4. What encourages economic and national growth and what hinders this while enriching unfairly certain individuals, identifiable groups or sectors of society?

Clarifying  "a day without working is a day without eating"  on an ongoing basis is a nice practice support and useful in our public discussions and responses.

In exploring and clarifying  these matters, what do you find? 

How do these concerns come up in your life, in the life of those with whom you are connected? 

What is helpful and supportive - and what leads to conflict, stress and harm, even fear, anger and worse? 

What is manifesting this awakened life in the midst of this? 

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an Election Year - Case Eleven

Post - Election

Someone told me that they particularly enjoyed reading smart columnists
and pundits with zingy and even at times nasty statements in support of
causes and candidates that they had supported, especially if they had won.

For them, and the rest of us who at times feel similarly, I offer the following:

Elihu Genmyo Smith

Intimacy is our life, being intimacy is our functioning, is ongoing practice. Being this life is ordinary, nothing special. We can naturally respond skillfully to this arising passing moment circumstances. Intolerance is dualistic delusion in the midst of this awakened life, is self-centeredness manifesting. Intolerance is holding to self-centeredness, refusing to forget self, rejecting this moment as is. Therefore, when intolerance arises and is believed, facing intolerance, facing what hinders our life, is our practice; working with intolerance when this arises is a core focus of Buddha Dharma. We have a tendency, a habit of body-mind, of evaluating how “things” are moment-to-moment, how things are alike or different - whether alike with a remembered past or similar to how it “should be,” how I expect things to be, physically, mentally, emotionally, how I should feel – and then reacting based on this, sometimes with anger, greed, fear or confusion. Intolerance is the unwillingness to be this intimacy right here as is, not appreciating this moment, not responding to this moment as is – which results is stress, dissatisfaction and suffering. Intolerance is negating who and what we are.

One aspect of efforts to foster inter-communal relations, of interfaith efforts and practice, is a focus on how we, in the midst our particular tradition, background and in the midst of many differences, are similar and alike with others in different traditions and backgrounds. And this focus is intended to lead to empathy, fraternity/sorority and sharing among individuals and communities, lead to connectedness and interrelations. We may hope that it will reduce and even eliminate frictions, hostilities and conflicts between people that might otherwise arise with differences. We focus on similarities with the intention and hope that this will foster connectedness and compassion. And it may; compassion and wisdom may manifest as a result of sensing similarity, unity. When we sense how things are similar, then we may more easily tolerate differences and failed expectations. Nevertheless, these do not take care of intolerance when that arises, whether it is intolerance of others or our self. Therefore, facing intolerance is also a core of interfaith work.

Ceasing harming is necessary before and while we do good and do good for others – otherwise good is built on a foundation that contains and perpetuates harming. If we treat intolerance as an aberration or outlier – whether in regards to our self, our faith community and tradition, our political group or any human grouping (whether “ours” or that of “others”) – then we miss a cause that feeds greed, anger, fear and harmful behavior (or worse). We relegate intolerance to only “extremists” and extreme situations, and fail to see where and how it arises in everyday activities - not intolerance by others, but our intolerance, in attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and traditions. And we miss how this intolerance, and the pernicious effects it has, needs to be noticed and clarified in the light of ongoing practice, in order to go beyond it, go beyond the self-centeredness - so as to not be trapped by self-centeredness and react from it......

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

For the rest of this article see:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bodhisattvas in an Election Year - Case Ten

In the midst of debates, and very vocal charges of outright lying by candidates for President, Vice - President and other positions, how do we hear this?

Some have spoken to me about reactions, the reactive habits which arise, when a candidate, especially "their" candidate, is besmirched or worse by an opponent, and when the media people seem to be part of this abuse, when media seem to be lying for one side or the other. How do we to respond to this?

Can we maintain the Bodhisattva Precepts, especially the Grave Precepts of not speaking of the faults of others, not elevating self and putting down others and refraining from self-centered anger? Or are these not relevant in election times? Are campaigns and elections a time to indulge in these behaviors? Some have talked about wanting their candidate to "beat-up" on the other, wanting their candidate to besmirch the other, and being joyful when that happens. Do elections become a time to feed agitation, self-centered anger and delusion? If so, what are the consequences of this?

When we say "emptiness of the five conditions" does this include emptiness of the candidates who distort, emptiness of lies? In the midst of our reactive anger, hurt and righteousness, what is spaciousness, emptiness? What is "without loss, without gain"? What is skillful and appropriate responding?

Of course, these questions and this practice are also important in our personal life with family, partners, friends and so forth.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Robot Buddha-Nature ? Robot Human-Nature ?

A robot sits before Buddhist monks, as they pray during a mass alms-offering ceremony at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Bangkok, on June 19, 2012. The ceremony was held to mark the 2,600th anniversary of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha.(Reuters/Sukree Sukplang) #

The robot "Obelix" runs through Freiburg city center, on August 21, 2012. The machine, starting 9:45 in the morning at the University of Freiburg, found its way independently to a plaza in the center of Freiburg, about four kilometers away. Obelix made the journey, avoiding people and obstacles, in about 100 minutes. (AP Photo/Daniel Kopatsch) #

For other robots and robotics see:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I was asked, "are there healing practices in Zen?"

There is much to say about this; one place to begin a discussion of what I hope will be a number of blogs and other comments which is easily accessible for all is citing Zen Master Hakuin's comments on the Ten Clause Kannon Sutra (Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo) and what he calls healing practices in the midst of cause and effect.

Below is the Ten Clause Sutra in Sino-Japanese:


Hakuin has a whole book devoted to this verse, though the book is only available in Japanese (Enmei Jukku Kannon-gyo Reigen-ki).

However, Hakuin also speaks at length in many places in his writings about healing that can occur with the chanting of this verse. There are excellent translations in English by Norman Waddell of selections from Hakuin on this subject. On the web, the following Waddell translation about the Enmei Jukku (which I reprint below) is a good start:

"Toward the end of his life, Zen master Hakuin [1689 -1769] took an interest in aspects of life outside the monastery walls, including social and governmental concerns. In the passage that follows, excerpted from a letter addressed in 1754 to Lord Nabeshima on the subject of the virtuous leader, he discusses the merit of reciting Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo [The Ten-Phrase Life-Prolonging Kannon Sutra].

When we met the other day I had meant to encourage you to take up the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo [Ten Phrase Life Prolonging Kannon Sutra], but our meeting was so brief that I did not have the opportunity. I therefore send it for your inspection along with this letter.
This work has been associated with wondrous miracles that have taken place in both China and Japan. Because it is so brief, I sincerely hope that you, not to speak of your close retainers and the common people as well, will recite it two or three hundred times each day. The reason lies in the testing. Give this work to those who are seriously ill or who have met with some unexpected disaster, and have them examine it for their consolation. If it is recited with sincerity, awe-inspiring miracles will without fail be accomplished. Its first advantage is that the person who recites it will be completely free from disease and will attain to long life. This applies to anyone at all. . . ."
For more details on Enmei Jukku,  see Waddell's translations  Beating the Cloth Drum (Shambhala), Wild Ivy (Shambhala) and Hakuin's Precious Mirror Cave (Counterpoint) and elsewhere.

Some may say that these writings by Hakuin are superstitious myths, that the stories are made-up or that there is no scientific basis for this. Or you may say that this practice is another form of mindfulness meditation and concentration, and the benefits are explained by recent research in those areas and more easily (and more skillfully?) attained by modern mindfulness training. It may be so. Even if I cite cases (or Hakuin cites cases) of the efficacy, it is just that, anecdotal cases. So I will not pursue this line of discussion further now.
Here is a Dharma talk that I gave on the Enmei Jukku which includes a word by word translation; in this talk I discuss the Enmei Jukku primarily in terms of Zen practice, and do not focus on healing:
This practice of Enmei Jukku chanting continues to the present.
Below is a calligraphy by my teacher Soen Nakagawa Roshi which reads,
 "10,000 Times A Day (All Day) Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo"

Hakuin's emphasis on Enmei Jukku draws on much older Buddhist traditions. The Buddha is known as the Medicine King; there are many and varied iconic images of the Buddha Medicine King.

Chapter 25 (24 in some translations) of the Lotus Sutra is devoted to the healing and saving power of Kanzeon Bodhisattva in many forms for those who call on the Bodhisattva in their time of need. Enmei Jukku is thus a short-hand version of larger Kannon sutra. In fact, the name Kanzeon (and variations thereof) means the one who regards/hears/sees and responds to the cries of suffering. Below are links to three online versions of this chapter of the Lotus Sutra:

Hakuin also praises a special meditation practices he calls naikan meditation for its healing properties. Though there is material available on naikan on the web and in the above cited books, and in other works by Hakuin, and one can begin the practice through the use of this written material, I highly recommend that if at all possible one consult experienced guides when undertaking this naikan practice since there are some potentially dangerous side effects and hazards in naikan practice. 

I will write further about these matters in future blogs.

(c) 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Monday, September 24, 2012

An interesting tax proposal

Below is an interesting tax proposal; would it improve our national circumstances? 

We would have to try it to see. Certainly, it would simplify many things and eliminate much lobbying and political jockeying. If you are interested, please read the whole article.

"Want to rebuild America? Start with the tax code

...Replace the current mess with a national sales tax. Tax consumption and only consumption. Don't tax investment, education or income. Eliminate the income tax, the employment tax and the corporate income tax. Just tax consumption.
'It's very progressive, but on a discretionary basis,' he said. 'If you buy a Bentley and I buy a Ford, you'll have to pay about 20 times the taxes I pay. People that spend more money will pay more taxes.'"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Paradoxical effects in the environment

Paradoxical effects - or how even controversial actions and technologies, including fracking, can lead to positive environmental outcomes, and how they need improvement rather than banning to continue to help, while implementing well-intended forms such as carbon tax can be counterproductive and lead to more difficulties and suffering.

There are many forms and opportunities of Bodhisattva functioning - we need not be narrow or limited in our vision and action. Functioning at ease in the midst of circumstances, there is room for clarification and improvement, the opportunity of straightforward action.

"The End of Global Warming: How to Save the Earth in 2 Easy Steps"

Noah Smith

"You may not believe me, but I have news about global warming: Good news, and better news.
Here is the good news. US carbon emissions are decreasing rapidly. We're down over 10% from our emissions peak in 2007. Furthermore, the drop isn't just a function of the Great Recession. Since 2010 our economy has been growing, but emissions have kept on falling. The reason? Natural gas. With the advent of "fracking" technology, the price of gas has plummeted far below that of coal, and as a result, essentially no new coal plants are being built. ..."

"Conservatives, meanwhile, need to recognize that solar is for real. .."

"Economists are confronting an unpleasant truth with the rise of natural gas: Often, technology trumps our clever policy prescriptions...."

Please read the whole article for insight and understanding:

"So to sum up: The way to save our planet is clear. Step 1 is to embrace natural gas as a "bridge" fuel, limiting the risks from fracking and helping China and other developing countries to switch from coal to gas. Step 2 is to fund research to ensure that the jaw-dropping three-decade plunge in solar power costs continues for two decades more. Natural gas is the temporary ally. Cheap solar is the cavalry that will ride in to finally save the day. 

Preventing catastrophic global warming might still be a long shot. But if we do the right things now, we just might make it."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Self-centeredness and greed create suffering for millions

This editorial from a local paper needs no added comment:

Illinois is No. 1 in a dubious category

Don't get your hopes up for decreasing the number of local government units in Illinois.

Illinois is last or near the bottom in a number of different metrics — public pension funding
 and quality of its bond ratings, to name just two.
But it's No. 1 in another important category, and that ranking helps to explain why the 
Land of Lincoln is a bottom dweller.

A finding by the U.S. Census indicates — and all taxpayers should prepare to cringe —
that our state has the most units of local government in the nation. Pennsylvania ranks
No. 2, but it's miles behind.

Illinois has 6,968 units of local government — counties, municipalities, townships,
special districts and school districts — compared with 4,905 for Pennsylvania.
We're not the only state with too much government that is way too expensive. Texas
has 4,856 units of government and California, 4,350.

This isn't the way it has to be. There are 10 states with 542 or fewer units of local
government. A limited number of local units of government does not automatically mean
efficient and honest government. The District of Columbia has just two units, and it's
historically been an absolute mess of corruption, incompetence and waste. But the fewer
the units of governments citizens have to keep track of, the easier it is for voters to hold
them accountable.

Why so much local government in Illinois? Voters continue to create new units, like library
or tax-increment-finance districts, but many are holdovers from a bygone day. They are testimonials to the eternal truth that once government creates something, no matter how useless it becomes, it will live forever.

Exhibit A for the concept is township government, which most people know nothing about. Illinois has 102 counties and within those 102 counties are 1,400 units of township
government, including 30 in Champaign County alone.

DuPage County Chairman Daniel Cronin has drawn considerable attention for trying to consolidate his county's 400-plus units of government, 45 of which provide
mosquito-abatement services.

It would appear to be plain common sense to see how to do as much or more by 
spending less on fewer units of government. But the elected officials and employees 
whose livelihoods depend on their continuation vehemently resist change.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat, last year tried without success to pass
legislation establishing an eight-member commission with the authority to abolish local
units of government.

Stirring up a hornet's nest of opposition, it never had a chance.

The Legislature subsequently created an advisory commission, headed by state Rep.
Jack Franks, to explore the consolidation of local units of government and merge

"People can't follow them, no matter how hard they try, and as a result there is very
little oversight," said Franks, who appears to be serious about bringing about a change.
But the lack of enthusiasm among state legislators for this issue is undeniable. The law establishing the Franks commission was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in August 2011
and the panel was required to submit its report by Dec. 31.

But somehow legislative leaders never got around to appointing commission members
for months, and the commission didn't hold its first meeting until February 2012. Because
of that delay, Franks said he's been forced to ask that the report deadline be moved back
until September 2013.

Why is there such reluctance to pursue reorganization that could produce tremendous
savings at a time when local governments are strapped for cash?

It's partly inertia. But it's largely because politicians run many of these local units of
government, and they apply pressure on legislators to protect the status quo.

Legislators of both parties, always concerned about keeping friends and getting re-elected,
find it easier to let sleeping dogs lie and do nothing.
It would be nice to think that's going to change, that Illinois is so broke sensible people in positions of power recognize the practices of 1912 need to be brought up to the speed of
2012. But change comes hard in Illinois, a state where politics almost always trumps 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Politicians (and the rest of us)

Asked about my preference regarding the behavior of politicians, I wrote that my hope is that political candidates and politicians would hew close to the Bodhisattva precepts. 

Is it possible? I hope so. 

Is it possible for me, for all of us, to hew close to the Bodhisattva precepts in our behavior? I hope so - and do my best. 

Are my hopes an impossible dream? 

Then this is a good dream to have.

Below is a version of the Bodhisattva precepts (from "Everything is the Way").



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Differences, Equality and Pernicious Equality

Differences, Equality and Pernicious Equality 
Elihu Genmyo Smith

We live a wonderful life, many forms manifesting the joy that we are; mother playing with child, a weak elder hobbling along, flowers blooming, wind-blown rain storm, falling leaves, hot and dusty drought, full-moon bright, dark and foggy night. The various forms are exactly this manifesting life - and are the opportunity to joyfully appreciate the variety of this life. This is our opportunity to respond, manifesting this life we are - simple, straightforward.

Unfortunately, sometimes we get caught up in what we like or dislike, in greed and anger, and create stress and dissatisfaction, doing what results in harm and suffering in the midst of this joyous life. What behavior do you find intolerable? Whose manners offend you? Do you react when you see…? Do you believe judgments? Do you notice reactions? Please reflect on this.

Discovering for our self that believing differences and attachment to them results in much of the harm and suffering which humans inflect on them self, on others and on the world, we feel a need to do something. When we do not appreciate the interpenetration of differences and emptiness, equality and differences, we may think that the antidote to problems is to do something about differences. Sometimes doing something about the differences is attempting to wipe out differences, to get away from differences by going to some form of oneness or equality. This can be on a personal level or on a social level, it can be politically imposed or culturally and religiously imposed, and may even include attempts to suppress and do away with differences. And, in doing this, we may even experience peace and serenity in a sense of oneness. But we are in trouble if we think that the problem is the differences, if we fail to see that problems arise out of our misperceptions of differences, what they “mean” and imply; to say it succinctly, stress and suffering arise out of our dualistic delusions and attachments, even attachment to oneness.

If we look for a solution in a conceptual oneness, an artificial equality, we sometimes end up with an oneness that really is a disguised way to impose our self-centered ideas, even ideas of what oneness would be like, on our self or others.

Experiencing oneness, experiencing unity, can be an antidote for self-centeredness, enabling and supporting forgetting self; but the very experience of oneness, and holding to that, may merely substitute “oneness” for “self-centeredness.” We may even think that experiencing oneness is true, full “awakening.” Though it might be a glimmer, the glimmer lacks non-abiding, lacks seeing/being the emptiness of conditions and forms, and may lead to attachment to oneness, and, paradoxically, attachment to characteristics. A glimmer of oneness, even temporarily “wiping out” differences, is not the open boundlessness of ongoing change, is not non-attachment, is not dropping away body-mind.  Please do not believe any of these words I wrote or get caught up in them! Please do not hold onto them!

If oneness is only conceptualized, a self-centered idea, a substitute for emptiness, boundlessness, then as a result of this conceptualizing we may become attached to our ideas of oneness, attached to ideas of equality. Mixing oneness and emptiness, we make emptiness into a thing. Even though this attachment is out of kind-heartedness, this is misplaced and possibly dangerous. A surface equality, a conceptually-believed emptiness, a pollyanish oneness which does not face the realities of the cause and effect world we are - but instead covers up differences, not dealing appropriately and skillfully with differences - this can lead to oppression and persecution, intolerance and worse. We may reject and react to others who believe and speak in certain ways, react to various feelings. Being deluded by differences, by the realms of life, and “fighting against them,” we fail to appreciate “all beings are the wisdom and perfection of the Tathagata” (Avatamsaka Sutra), this absolute equality in the midst of differences. Thus, Shakyamuni Buddha says, “I and all beings of the great earth have together attained the way;” no-I and no being that is not-I, no thing that is not-I.

If, instead of working in the midst of differences without being deluded by them, our approach is an approach of artificial oneness, or attachment to a past experience of oneness, this will not enable skillfully responding to troublesome behavior or violence of those (including our self) stuck in self-centeredness. In not appreciating differences, not inhabiting differences, we fail to see “all beings are the wisdom and perfection of the Tathagatha.” Instead we exclude or suppress differences. This exclusion, this suppression, whether of “self” or “others,” is an artificial oneness and equality, a pernicious oneness, pernicious equality - lacking the interpenetration of differences, lacking the “backside” of differences; this is a non-harmonious equality. This pernicious equality can be as problematic as differences which lack the “backside” of equality or oneness. A practice antidote to this problematic is clarifying “form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form” (Heart Sutra). (Form is the many forms of differences, many forms of being.)

There are similar statements in many traditions: our life is seeing G-d in all the many forms and conditions, responding to Jesus in everyone we meet, serving Allah in everyone we greet, responding to the Buddha in this moment of encounter. And when we respond as the Bodhisattva - and to the Bodhisattva - in this moment encounter, we manifest our Bodhisattva functioning in this moment encounter, we enable the “other” to be the Bodhisattva that they are.

The Bodhisattva precepts support us in seeing and responding to things as is, rather than clinging to beliefs about them. If we are trying to do away with differences, attempting to temporarily “wipe out” differences, that much we believe and hold to differences, that much we fail to see differences as they truly are, that much we miss non-attachment to differences. We are blinded by one-sided vision and delusions about differences.

Manifesting equality as differences is appreciating and manifesting differences. Though equality wipes out attachment to and abiding in differences, this equality, this emptiness, does not deny differences. Emptiness is empty of emptiness. So, differences manifest equality, differences manifest emptiness – not one thing.

We fool our self and others when we fail to manifest equality as differences, fail to live this interpenetration of form and emptiness that we are, when we attempt to do away with or cover over differences in a “one-sided” oneness. A pernicious oneness can be a justification for self-criticisms, as well as criticism of those who celebrate their particularity, their traditions; forms of pernicious oneness have even been a justification for all sorts of violence.

Superimposing an ideological equality can be a way to impose conformity, persecuting differences. It can justify persecution and biased treatment against particular political and social beliefs and groups, justifying violence and worse from governmental authorities, encouraging mobs such as in cultural revolutions, or terrorism by those who act against others whose differences offend their ideas of “correct” oneness, offend their vision of the “true” equality. These have been forms of political correctness, of political and religious oppression, in many societies.

Appreciating the interpenetration of emptiness and differences is appreciating the differences as they are, is appreciating the differences we meet from morning to night, whether “our own” or “others.” We know for our self that our encounters are indeed the wisdom and perfection of the Tathagatha, our life manifesting - and naturally respond accordingly. Ongoing practice enables us to see and experience differences as exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly differences; then we are not blinded by self-centered attachments to conditions, attachment to differences, attachment to equality, attachment to beliefs; being not-knowing, we see this life as is in the midst of ongoing arising/passing impermanence.

In noticing/practicing with attachments as they arise in life, we are not bound by them; body-mind experiencing - right here is non-attachment, right here is non-abiding. Right here - not a single thing; and we have to take care of this! We can choose skillfully and appropriately among the many forms of emptiness, many different forms of equality. We can support all we encounter to release clinging and be free of stress and suffering, be awake now.

© 2012 Elihu Genmyo Smith

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Here are 3 wonderful links, first to an article and second to more photos, and then a video:

How Nazi persecution of a Jewish doctor led to Paralympics — and a revolution in treating spinal injury


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Excerpt

Do Your Best

Elihu Genmyo Smith

Just do your best. This is the whole of practice, the whole of our life.....

Book Review excerpts

....This astonishing collection of essays succeeds in his mission to show us 
how everything is the Way. Here you will find cogent insights into practice, 
impermanence, non-self, being transparency, and receiving the precepts.

Again and again, while reading Smith's book, we found ourselves, in the 
author's phrase "stopping and popping" into the present moment, immersing 
ourselves in the words and commentaries. We hope you will do the same.

Smith (Prairie Zen Center) has written a fine and well-controlled book on his own 
experience and the fundamental truths of the Zen approach to Buddhist 
understanding and life. Before the rise of Tibetan Buddhism’s popularity began to 
overwhelm it, Zen Buddhism was perhaps the most acclaimed form of Buddhism 
in this country; Smith’s intelligent book specializes in Zen’s startling and poetic 
insights. VERDICT Revelatory for the Buddhist practitioner; fluent and fascinating 
for the general reader.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Way of Peace

Way of peace, one conversation at a time --

Hours after millions of Iranians had taken to the streets chanting anti-Israel slogans and burning Israeli flags to mark Quds (Jerusalem) Day, an Israeli TV station on Friday evening interviewed an Iranian woman, in Tehran — a fascinating, sometimes surreal conversation, probably unprecedented since the Islamic Revolution in 1979....