Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Everyday Zen

The current ongoing class is a study     and discussion     of Joko Beck's book, "Everyday Zen". 

Check back in the future for later class postings.

Skillful Activity - A Dharma discussion  

Skillful Activity  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What is skillful for a nation in face of hostility? What results in reduced harm and delusion in both short-term and long-term?

"Iranians pretend not to cheat; we (USA) pretend not to notice. All that’s left to do is stand back and wait for something to happen."

Here are two interesting pieces which may give us pause about how to further  US - Iranian diplomacy.

The first opens with a paragraph which sets forth the problem clearly:

"Does it matter what sort of deal—or further extension, or non-deal—ultimately emerges from the endless parleys over Iran’s nuclear program? Probably not. Iran came to the table cheating on its nuclear commitments. It continued to cheat on them throughout the interim agreement it agreed to last year. And it will cheat on any undertakings it signs."

The second article in some ways is more ominous because it explores threats and conflicts that are less severe than a nuclear threat. The subtitle says much:" The West underestimates the growing threat from radical Islam in the Americas."

"Iran has opened embassies and established commercial agreements that allow operatives to create businesses, which can be used as fronts for covert operations. In Venezuela and Bolivia, Iran has moved to the next level, developing a military presence through joint ventures in defense industries."

The conclusions of the first article is appropriate for both articles and daunting to all:

"Eventually, something will happen. Perhaps Iran will simply walk away from the talks, daring this feckless administration to act. Perhaps we will discover another undeclared Iranian nuclear facility, possibly not in Iran itself. Perhaps the Israelis really will act. Perhaps the Saudis will."

The articles are linked below.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dharma Talks from sesshin

No Bodhisatvas   11/14/14
Being at Ease   11/15/14
Closing Remarks   11/16/14

All Pervasive Dharma

by Elihu Genmyo Smith

Zen Master Linji says, “Followers of the way, mind Dharma is without form and pervades the ten
directions  . In the eye, it is called seeing; in the ear, called hearing; in the nose, it smells odors. In the mouth, it holds conversation. In the hands, it grasps and seizes. In the feet, it runs and carries. Fundamentally, it is one pure radiance that unfolds as the six spheres of being world. Since this mind Dharma is not of the order of existence, there is not a single place that is not liberated. All dharmas   (phenomena) are Buddha Dharma. What is my purpose in speaking this way? I do so only because you followers of the way cannot stop your mind from running around everywhere seeking, and because you go clambering after the worthless contrivances of the men of old.”

What is this all-pervading mind Dharma? Notice that Linji does not say, in the eye it is called seeing what we want, what we like or not seeing what we do not like....

(c) 2014 Elihu Genmyo Smith

For the rest of this article see:  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Isn't Free Speech Wonderful? Or can we truly speak of free speech without facing attempts to limit speech?

This is an interesting and in some ways frightening article exploring attempts to limit speech, and the many justifications for these limitations on college campus.

Without freedom of speech, Buddha Dharma probably would have had more difficulties in spreading to the US.  Likewise, threats to freedom of speech are potentially threats to Dharma teaching and practice, to the Bodhisattvic liberation of beings in all the realms of our daily encounter.

As Master Kukai (Kobo Daishi) wrote, "the Dharma is beyond speech but without speech it cannot be revealed."

Here are the opening and closing paragraphs with a link to the whole article following:

"On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive."

"On campuses across the country, hostility toward unpopular ideas has become so irrational that many students, and some faculty members, now openly oppose freedom of speech. The hypersensitive consider the mere discussion of the topic of censorship to be potentially traumatic. Those who try to protect academic freedom and the ability of the academy to discuss the world as it is are swimming against the current. In such an atmosphere, liberal-arts education can’t survive."    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

More Proposals for Regulating Internet Speech

Another itteration of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians?

The following article continues an exploration of  proposed limits to free speech   -     and my sense that when free speech is limited for some all are at risk; all speech on the internet is at risk if objected to.

Here are excerpts from an article forwarded to me:

""The FEC (Federal Election Commissioon) already regulates paid Internet advertising, but free Internet posts are exempt from campaign-finance regulations. On Oct. 24 Ms. Ravel (vice-chair of FEC) stated that in doing so “the Commission turned a blind eye to the Internet’s growing force in the political arena.” She said that a “re-examination of the Commission’s approach to the Internet and other emerging technologies is long overdue,” and vowed to hold hearings next year on the matter—a clear hint that the goal is to remove the regulatory exemption for free online political speech...."

Lest we think this is just an inquiry without any history or hidden agenda, we need to remember that "in April 2012, when Ms. Ravel was chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a state agency comparable to the FEC) and I (the article author Mr. Rotunda) was a commissioner, she announced that the commission would issue regulations governing political speech on the Internet. The rules, she said, would even govern bloggers outside the state. Californians raised a fuss and her efforts got nowhere"

The articles conclusions are:

"The intellectual godfather of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, published his famous pamphlet, “Common Sense,” anonymously. Political speech regulation of the kind proposed by Ms. Ravel would have required Paine to disclose his identity and who helped finance the publication. The authors of the Federalist Papers also wrote anonymously. They would be surprised to learn that the government they helped create would make their efforts on its behalf illegal.

The theory behind limiting political campaign contributions is the fear that a contributor might secure special access to an officeholder or secure his, or his successor’s, secret promise to vote for or against a piece of legislation. This fear does not apply when someone is arguing publicly for or against a law, regardless of who may or may not have paid him to do so.

The Federal Election Commission exists solely to protect the public against potential corruption of public officials. It has no authority to regulate pure political speech, which is what the Web does: It disseminates pure political speech."

The full article is here:    

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Beginningless killing, beginningless non-killing - a biological karma from primate ancestors

Below is a fascinating exploration of reviews of biological data about "killing of their own kind" by our primate cousins - chimps and bonobos.

Our life practice is being human, with all that entails - all the inheritances of karma that we call biology, psychology, environment and so forth - and yet not being trapped by that. In the midst of the arising circumstances, the karmic tendencies - whether we call them the traditional poisons of greed, anger and delusion or something else - we manifest this True Nature, Buddha Nature, that we are. Inheritances are this moment life opportunity, this moment practice opportunity - it is up to us to manifest this as Three Poisons or as Three Treasures.

Here are some highlights:

"A recent paper in Nature addressed this debate. The authors, an all-star team of primatologists, had a collective 492 years of experience observing chimps. Pooling their data, they examined whether rates of “lethal aggression” across populations were best predicted by intrinsic features of the social lives of the chimps or by extrinsic factors reflecting human impact (for example, proximity to humans, or whether the chimps lived in a protected game park)..

Remarkably, the 152 killings worked out to about 3.5 murders for every decade of observation. Males made up 92% of the killers and 73% of the victims. Killing occurred in 83% of these populations across the African continent. In most killings, groups of males ambushed someone from a neighboring troop, with an average of eight males ganging up on the victim. And about 90% of males participated in a killing at some point in their lives...

Critiques and rebuttals are flying online and in the media, because this is a big deal. If this sort of violence is fundamental to chimps, if it’s “in their genes,” then it’s overwhelmingly likely to be in ours as well.

But that wouldn’t be the right conclusion to reach. Because the chimp research was only half the paper. The authors also examined bonobos, the “other” species of chimp, famed for their social affiliation and female dominance. What is the bonobo rap sheet after 92 years of behavioral observation? One suspected killing, a mere 3% of the rate in chimps.

Critically, we share as much as 99% of our DNA with bonobos as well (and chimps and bonobos share about the same percentage of genes with each other).

We’re not chimps. Sadly, we’re not bonobos either. We’re their cousins, the species that invented both Quaker pacifism and the atrocities of Islamic State. What a cross-species analysis like this teaches us, in short, is the evolutionary roots of our potential, not the inevitabilities of our behavior."

For the full article and comments see:    

Another itteration of Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - Who guards the guardians? A continuation of the exploration of free speech - and my sense that when free speech is limited for some all are at risk.

Last month I posted an article on free speech issues. And here is another interesting exploration of the topic. As I see it, free speech is closely related to the freedom of religion; without them Buddha Dharma may not have spread to the US and the West, and the many forms of Dharmic practice would probably not flourish here.

"Today, content is increasingly the explicit justification for restricting speech. The argument used, especially in colleges, is that “words hurt.” Thus, universities, parliaments, courts and various international bodies intervene promiscuously to restrict hurtful or offensive speech—with the results described above. In the new climate, hurtful speech is much more likely to be political speech than obscene speech.

The definition of political speech has changed too. The U.S. Supreme Court has expanded it to include nonspeech actions, such as nude dancing."

Here are the article's conclusions:

"Today, both sorts of protection for speech—legal and social—are weaker than before in both countries. This year, official regulation of the press was passed into U.K. law for the first time since 18th-century juries nullified press prosecutions. These new restraints enjoyed the backing not just of all the parties but apparently of the public as well.

In the U.S., the case of Mann v. Steyn, let alone a hypothetical case involving Quran-burning, has yet to be decided. But Democrats in the Senate are seeking to restrict political speech by restricting the money spent to promote it. And in the private sector, American corporations have blacklisted employees for expressing or financing certain unfashionable opinions. In short, a public culture that used to be liberal is now “progressive”—which is something like liberalism minus its commitment to freedom.

The U.S. and Britain have long thought of themselves as, above all, free countries. If that identity continues to atrophy, free speech will be the first victim. But it will not be the last."

For the full article see: