Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

For the sake of ornament and illumination.

Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:54 am

FEAR OF A FEELING PLANET -- A REVIEW OF KURT WIMMER'S "EQUILIBRIUM", by Charles Carreon

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Kurt Wimmer, who wrote the screenplay and directed Equilibrium, explained in a December 2003 interview that he underwent a psychic renaissance some years back, after years of emotional shutdown. Wimmer explains that he shut down emotionally after he suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous art-school assholes, and decided all art was shit. Eventually, he went back into some European museums and realized he'd made a mistake. Art is great, and he wanted to feel again. So Equilibrium, for him, is about fighting back against emotional repression.

In an interview before the movie's release, Wimmer noted that in Libria, the fictional world of the movie, sense materials are banned with the "EC10" rating, that "EC" stands for "Emotional Content," and that he explicitly relates this to the Motion Picture Association of America's content rating system, with its PG13 and NC17 ratings. As a screenwriter, I presume he's felt plenty of pressure to write within these demarcations, which is undoubtedly difficult and frustrating. But for me, the movie was good for a great deal more than voicing a complaint about modern censorship. I heard and saw the movie from the perspective of one who sees Americans daily gobbling up Eastern philosophies that urge the annihilation of feelings. Some critics decried the movie's premise as absurd, but I do not find it so. Buddhism, especially as understood by many Americans, takes it as an article of faith that feelings cause problems and people are better off without them. Most people imagine this as a favorable condition, in which they are not bothered by intrusive or unpleasant feelings, but that's not how it works in actual practice, which often becomes a war against all emotion arising in the meditator's mind.

For example, the four "noble truths" of Buddhism are:

1. Life is suffering
2. Desire is the cause of suffering
3. Desire can be ended
4. Desire can be ended by following the Buddhist path

Whether the Buddha really laid out his philosophy in this fashion, we'll never know, and different people believe different things. For example, Tibetan Buddhists give lip service to the four noble truths, but in practice, find desire too attractive to abandon.

Suffice it to say that the Buddhist four noble truths somewhat resemble the precepts that guide the Librians:

1. Humans engaged in wars for centuries
2. Wars were caused by an inner defect
3. That defect is the capacity for feelings
4. Feelings can be overcome by taking Prozium
5. Everyone must take Prozium

Wimmer didn't mention Buddhism at all in the interview, which surprised me at first. He had plenty to say about the mechanics of casting the film (it wasn't easy), finding the monolithic architecture (Albert Speer's Germany), and working with Christian Bale (splendid). He seemed almost to disclaim the idea that there was an overarching social theme binding his work to 1984 and the other dystopian epics. He distanced himself from the idea that the work was a form of social commentary. He relished discussing filming the Gun Kata sequences, which he himself designed as the apotheosis of the gunslinger's art. He just never seems to have much to say about the authoritarian ethos as an objective phenomenon, suggesting it merely provides a social frame for the mental atmosphere of emotional suppression.

If Wimmer is being candid about his perception of the film, he has produced more than he realizes. Equilibrium shows us how Western technocratic efficiency could be blended with Eastern didactic methods to mold society into a pliable whole whose citizens accept complete domination as the price of peace. In Libria, the citizens are under the vigilant eyes of heavily armed men at all times. Each person is relegated to their space. Solitude and uniformity are the two attributes of the Librians. At every turn, the Librians are reminded of their good fortune to be in this condition. Each one keeps watch on every other, helping them to guard against the evils of sense offense.

Ironically, the defenders of the system, the Grammaton Clerics, are finely developed sensors, who mask their ability to feel under the title of Intuition. This Intuition they place at the service of ferreting out sense offenders. The GCs are thus able to enjoy exercising their feelings as emotional dowsers, while keeping the blame pointed at the sense offenders for having feelings in the first place. GCs are the government point-men and designated hitters in the frequent shootouts with armed sense offenders, who are loath to surrender themselves for Processing, and persist in hopelessly defending their hoarded copies of old paintings, brickabrack, and cool junk stashed in little hidden rooms. Hopelessly because Preston and other GCs, when pressed, perform the Gun Kata with great accuracy, killing the hell out of every damn sense offender in sight and out of sight, in a whirling blaze of bullets that is highly Asian in its derivation.

A Grammaton Cleric channels sensing into Intuition, and aggression into lawful killing, which is a moral imperative, because of the great risk that feelings pose to society at large. Librians compete to demonstrate loyalty to Father, by rejecting their impulse to feel with eager certainty. Libria rewards those citizens who pursue their practice of self-repression zealously. In Libria, all public gatherings are supervised by men dressed in body armor and motorcycle helmets, patrolling with assault rifles at the ready. All public gatherings appear to be for the purpose of imbibing Father's wisdom, which flows freely from giant telescreens, all day, every day.

The Clerics are just footsoldiers, of course. When they get old and start to show signs of feeling, they are pushed aside and ground underfoot. Only ignorant youth can abide the claustrophobic restraint. The Clerics, true believers, are the front line in the battle against common sense. The Clerics are subject to pressure from above, however, and when Preston gets called on the carpet, it's a very nice carpet, in a room with beautiful marble pillars, and sumptuous Renaissance paintings adorning the walls. The members of Father's inner circle are apparently free to acquire and enjoy sense objects.

Hypocrisy is the true tent pole of authoritarian doctrines that prescribe the right course of conduct for every individual. In Tibetan Buddhism, it has been routinely revealed, the authorities are completely unable to walk their talk. Celibacy has apparently been honored only in the breach by many teachers, both the prominent and the obscure. Similarly, while preaching patience and serenity, many lamas use anger and blackmail to influence the behavior of their students. On this one-way street, the lamas are always free to manifest emotions, and students never are. Loyalty is the first and last rule in Libria, and in Tibetan Buddhism. As Preston discovers that the Librian system is fundamentally anti-life, he argues to Father's top man that, if sense offenders are simply to be killed upon discovery, without any process whatsoever, it is simply mayhem. In response, he is told that process does not matter. What matters is our obedience to the will of Father. For anyone who has been involved in a cult, this exchange is familiar. That is when we know that the cult is telling us to kiss our conscience goodbye, and learn to follow orders. The increasing popularity of a philosophy that leads in that direction is a cause for concern. Equilibrium, intentionally or unintentionally, shines a bright light on the problem.

Many critics have derided the movie, chanting Orwell, as if they were not the very purveyors of dishonest speech that Orwell exposed in "Politics and The English Language." Ty Burr of the Boston Globe committed a primary Orwell sin against the English language when he spouted this criticism of Equilibrium: "what once was conviction is now affectation." This statement is very bad English, not grammatically, or stylistically, but rather in the way Orwell primarily identified -- it says nothing. Consider these questions: (1) Who was it that once had this "conviction?" (2) What "conviction" was it that they held? (3) What relation did this "conviction" have to the "real Orwell"? (4) When did this presumably meritorious "conviction" attain the status of a hoary social dogma, so that nowadays, dystopian visions are mere "affectations?" and (5) Since when did it become the vogue to pay homage to Orwell with Orwellian proclamations?

Indeed, the critics seem to have been dispatched on their own clerical missions as enforcers for the media chieftains. Adopting the favored Big Lie strategy of painting themselves as precisely what they are not, these critics venerate the name of Orwell to attack the living spirit of dissent that Orwell championed. I would wager real money that most of these critics last read Orwell in high school or college, and are comparing Equilibrium with their vague recollection of that work. Somehow they have missed the fact that Christian Bale delivers a tremendous depiction of emotional repression as Preston, the exemplary Cleric, and that the character of Preston's son is masterfully presented by a young actor whose taut reserve and well-contained spite surprisingly transform in a scene that is as tender as a dystopian movie can possibly manage without breaking the illusion. Particularly slavish in their knee-jerk condemnation of this movie were Sean Axmaker of the Seattle Post, and Manohla Dargis of the LA Times. Dargis appears actually not to have seen the movie, but had to make deadline and dinner, too, so it was just as easy to trash a movie all the other critics were trashing. The review leaves you with nothing but an aftertaste of fussy impatience.

Josh Bell, writing for the literary powerhouse, Las Vegas Weekly, committed ludicrous offense to the English language with what Orwell called a "dead metaphor": "Wimmer delivers the already labored story with the subtlety of a sledgehammer." This phrase was born to be delivered directly to the "huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves." Please note how vividly Orwell's "dump" appears before your eyes, unlike Bell's sledgehammer, which collapses of its own weight, and fails to injure the target. After reading all the serious critical assessments of Equilibrium, it would be fun to read what these same critics said about "Millionaire," "Survivor," or are saying about the latest TV "reality" epic, which I think is called "Trump Jerks Off!" Undoubtedly we will find the serious brows of these lofty critics creased with worry about these cheesy distractions. Not! These critics, in the interest of "giving good copy" to their media overlords, try to make everyone feel good about how ordinary folks love the current reality-fare, which is truly Orwellian. The concerted effort to massacre a film that warns of media consolidation and mind control was planned and executed by people who are desperately afraid of its message.

A culture of emotional suppression may seem like the farthest thing from those of us suffering from sensory overload, advertising poisoning, and information glut. However, in precisely this environment, lots of people are beginning to think that feelings really are our problem. There is widespread acceptance of meditation jargon that declares the "ego" or "self" to be an enemy, an illusory enemy that steals happiness. It seems like I meet someone everyday who blandly declares that our selves are illusory. I almost feel too polite to object to my own disappearance.

Perhaps people aren't ready to start shooting Prozium into their neck like chickens getting a hormone injection, but they sure gulp all the Prozac they can get their hands on. Chemical regulation of human behavior is on the agenda of both government and the international drug companies. We are always on the search for painkillers and stimulants that do not have the "drawback" of causing euphoria like morphine and amphetamines. Taking Viagra, a dangerous drug that is killing large numbers of young men, is seen as the equivalent of buying a nice truck that will make you look like a stud. Blowfish toxin is being explored as a non-addictive painkiller. Modafinil is supposed to keep you awake for two or three days, without making you feel excessively glad to be alive.

There's tremendous lost productivity due to emotionality. People take sick days, stress leave, and murder their coworkers when they get too emotional. They talk back to management, ask questions about their job benefits, and get their hackles up about work conditions. Wouldn't it be great if we had a drug that made people not want to ever join a union? Of course, people wouldn't take it if you called it Disperse! But if you called it something else, like Attune, then people would be more interested.

American citizens are uncertain whether our government really is "of the people, for the people, and by the people." Awed by our government's restless exercise of military power, bowled over by the government's intrusion into our privacy, hamstrung by the new fetish for "security," people increasingly feel irrelevant. We have our own Father, a white dominator who is never too busy to punish the evildoer, never straying far from the rules of a hundred years ago. Our Father took power without permission, and has kept the populace cowed for three years. We may not be herded into stadiums to listen to harangues yet, but personally, I don't want to live anywhere near one.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:57 am

PART 1 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, by Charles Carreon

© 2000

Q: What is American Buddhism?

A. Some people are afraid of the "A"-word. America is a country named after an Italian mapmaker by a Spanish freebooter who enslaved natives, and worse yet, mistreated them without generating profit, and thus was harshly chastised by the Spanish nobility who funded his expeditions. The country grew in a rough and ready fashion, becoming a hothouse for cultish innovations like Quakerism and Puritanism, which found out how pleasant religious intolerance can be when the whip is in your hand. The most successful businesspeople were smugglers, who were put out with the British Crown for extracting taxes on pricey wares like tea, fabric and other basic luxuries. They were also handy with their firearms, which emboldened them to the point of rebellion.

Seeking to dress up their "revolution," these so-called "Founding Fathers" engaged in vandalism (the Boston Tea Party and other outrages involving destruction of property including the homes of British-appointed tax-collectors). Not above planting evidence, these "freedom fighters" dressed up like "Indians" before looting the British tea-packets.

In a further effort to put a moralistic spin on their outrageous refusal to tender taxes due for the defense of the colonies, the smugglers got together, called themselves a Congress, and put together a fine little piece of excuse-making that they had the audacity to call a Declaration of Independence. For sheer arrogance and presumptuousness, this document has not been exceeded in history. It begins:

"When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitled them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to Separation."

In short, these smugglers said, "We're outta here, we're on our own trip now, and here's why ..."

What reasons would motivate smugglers to revolt? Oh, the usual -- unwillingness to pay debts lawfully owed to the government. Preference to risk prison rather than loss of profit. But what justification did they assert? All manner of moralistic tripe, I assure you, against a government that the citizens of the British mainland had found more than adequate for their needs. Not good enough for these belly-aching smugglers, though, who cast stones at the monarchy like this:

"[W]hen a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

While we can only look back at the intemperance, the hyperbole, characterizing this document, and shake our heads at the folly of our ancestors, we are still their descendants. We cannot avoid the shame of realizing now that, had we remained British subjects, we would have such an illustrious monarch as Elizabeth, so fine a PM as Tony Blair, so noble a royal as Charles, so marvelous a knighted minstrel as Sir Paul McCartney. Instead, we have Hollywood. Just punch yourself in the face.

But we must face the fact that we are Americans, and that throwing off imagined oppression is our path to glory. Would we be worse off if we were Canadians? Of course not. We would still speak the same language, although I daresay we would've sorted that thing with the Frenchies rather differently. You know, one Union, one Language, no Mason-Dixon line, "Fourscore and seven years ago ..." And of course, Rhett, the quintessential northern guy's final goodbye to the Southern Belle: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

As they say in New Age empowerment seminars, we've got to "Go with our strengths!" And when it comes to blowing through new fads, trying on another culture for size, and giving it back to them with the butt all stretched out, no one can do it like Americans.

It's only been a few years since rice crackers were introduced to this country, and now soccer moms are thinking of new ways to combine them with tofu. Yoga used to be something that swamis did to read minds, but now you do it to get your health premiums down, just like you reduce your auto premiums by buying a car alarm for your car. Acupuncture used to be that scary thing that Chinese people did with needles, likely unsanitary and useless, and now some health plans actually pay for it! But remember, this is also the country where smoking tobacco was once considered a healthful habit that even women could safely indulge in, the same country where marijuana is still illegal. We are exceptionally adaptable, not necessarily extraordinarily smart.

When it comes to beliefs, you might say we're promiscuous. A drive down the full length of a major metropolitan avenue in many an American city will take you past ashrams, dojos, mosques, Buddhist centers of many types, not to mention as many new age babas as a dog has fleas. Thanks to those old smugglers who wrote that crazy Constitution, they all live in relative peace in the same city.

Meanwhile, back in the bosom of "spiritual enlightenment," India, interfaith warfare is a given, and if a mushroom cloud appears over Karachi, it will undoubtedly bear Lord Shiva's face. In many Asian countries, Buddhism is the state religion, as in Burma, with attendant social benefits, such as large temples and a thriving mining economy in which you can conveniently collect your wages in heroin.

Arrogantly put, American Buddhism might be just that basic spirit of good humor and toleration that lets all the coreligionists engage in their doctrinal competitions, neither backing nor inhibiting any of them in their debates.

But we can also look at what an Asian Buddhist said about American Buddhism. Trungpa Rinpoche said that it's the only Buddhism Americans will ever practice. And now, the floor is his:

TRUNGPA RINPOCHE: The conventional moral law purely has to do with relating with your conscience rather than dealing with situations. If you relate with a situation in terms of your conscience or your perceptions, it means you don't actually relate with the situation at all. For example, if you had to investigate a murder case, you might want to dissociate yourself from the case altogether, thinking, "I don't want to be involved with murder at all." Then you have no way at all of understanding how and why one person murdered the other. You could let yourself become involved with that murder case and try to understand the rightness and wrongness of what was done as scientifically as possible. You could look into the situation in terms of cause and effect and gain some understanding of it. But on the other hand, if you think, "Becoming involved with murder will just get me in contact with bad vibrations, so I'll have nothing to do with that," then you seal yourself off completely.

This is exactly the same thing that seems to be happening in present day society. Particularly the young generation doesn't want to have anything to do with society--let alone understand it--because it's something ugly, something terrible. This creates tremendous confusion and conflict. Whereas if people were to get into society and try to understand what is wrong, there might be some intelligence coming out of that. Complete rejection without discrimination seems to be the problem.

STUDENT: Don't you think there have been some things we've all learned from that rejection you were just talking about?

TRUNGPA RINPOCHE: Yes and no--both. A lot of people have rejected Christianity and gone to Hinduism or Buddhism. They feel that they no longer have any associations with Christianity at all. Then later--from the point of view of aliens--they begin to realize that Christianity speaks some kind of profound truth. They only see that from the point of view of aliens, having gone away. They begin to appreciate the culture they were brought up in. Finally they become the best Christians, people with much more understanding of Christianity than ordinary Christians.

You can't reject your history. You can't say that your hair is black if it is blond. You have to accept your history. Those wanting to imitate Oriental culture might go so far as to become 100% Hindu or 100% Japanese, even to the point of undergoing plastic surgery. But somehow denying your existence--your body, your makeup, your psychological approach--does not help. In fact, it brings more problems. You have to be what you are. You have to relate with your country, the state of your country, its politics, its culture. That is extremely important, since you cannot become someone else. And it is such a blessing.

If we could become someone else, or halfway someone else, that would provide us with a tremendous number of sidetracks and possibilities for escape. We should be thankful that we have a body, a culture, a race, and a country that is honestly ours, and we should relate with those. We can't reject all that. That represents our relationship to the earth as a whole, our national karma, and all the rest of it. That seems to be the starting point for attaining enlightenment, becoming a buddha, an American buddha.

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Q. In Buddhism, one is supposed to look to see if there is a real "Self" only to discover that it's unfindable as a solid object, and therefore non-existent. But actually, the Self does exist as a "Concept." And it is because we have this concept of Self, that we are able to manifest and project the experience of that Self as a being and a personality in the world. So even tho' the experience is not a real, solid object, it's the only reality that we can ever know.

A. The Sutra of the Cup

Polonius: What think you, Verbonious, is a cup a cup?

Verbonius: Like that one you hold, made of clay?

P: Yes, like this one.

V: No, it is not.

P: Why is that, Verbonious.

V: Lend it me.

P: You have it.

V: (Placing cup inside a cloth, he breaks it, then opens the cloth to show his friend.) Where is your cup?

P: You've broken it.

V: So it's not a cup.

P: Yes, it is, it's just that you've broken it.

V: (Shaking the cloth holding the shards.) There now, it's merely shards of clay.

P: Shards of the cup. (Turning to a friend, Neutronious) What think you, N?

N: I think Polonious makes the shards real to prove the cup unreal.

V: There, well spoken, you make one thing real to make another unreal.

N: Further, he makes the shards equal to the cup, but the cup and the shards have never been in the same place together. How then can they be equal?

V: Well, I'm vexed.

P: Makes two of us.

V: Things can only be themselves, for once they become something else, they cannot be equal to another thing. These seeming "transformations" of things are apropos of nothing, for a thing can only be equal to itself, and what it becomes when broken tells us only the nature of new thing, which has always been broken, never otherwise.

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Q. In the saying, "form is emptiness; emptiness is form," doesn't appearance depend upon emptiness, rather than emptiness depending upon appearance.?

Answer 1:

From Suzuki Roshi (more or less)

When we sit
We have something
(right hand rests in left palm)
We have our body
And we have our mind.

Sometimes when we sit,
We forget we are there.

Then we resume our ordinary life
and everything appears .

This is the first creation.

Building on this first creation,
we can create things,
like pots or poems or political machines,
But all of them depend on this first creation.

Answer 2:

From Lao Tze (more or less)

When we say do the practice
Wave Hands Like Clouds,
we do not really mean that "you"
"wave" your "hands."

The description is to remind you
to look into the sky
where the vast circulation of the clouds
provides the pattern for your own
natural pattern of breath

Let your hands float like clouds
on the gentle wind of continuous awareness -- a unity

Answer 3:

From Trungpa Rinpoche (more or less)

Trungpa Rinpoche used the term "touch and go" to describe how to use awareness meditatively.

A questioner asked him how to know when to "touch" and when to "go."

Trungpa Rinpoche answered: You've missed the point completely -- the point is touch and go happen at the same time."

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Q. It is necessary to receive dharma from a pure source that is unmixed with other traditions.

A. The stinginess of the Indians in trying to "prevent the dharma from leaving India" was as inane as people thinking that being photographed would result in the theft of their souls. The obsession with "keeping Dharma pure" in Tibet became a cover for de-legitimizing various valid schools of practice. It is preferable to listen with an open mind especially toward your own thoughts.

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Q. Teachers, lamas, gurus and authority figures are necessary to teach you the path of dharma.

Many people hope to find someone who embodies their ideals of spiritual attainment. It's not easy trying to find a person who can do that, and you're always likely to suffer disappointment, because our hopes are rather high. If you need a godlike guru, your demands are going to be hard to meet. If you want to be sure your teacher has experienced "higher levels of spiritual awareness," you may well have been born during that particular moment allotted for the birth of a sucker. If you're satisfied with someone who has achieved less than something substantial, then why bother finding a teacher at all?

Increasingly, I look at my fellows, thirsting for spiritual realization, and conclude that they are actually distracting themselves from less exciting concerns that, however, genuinely affect their happiness.

Many people seem very concerned simply to be on a spiritual path -- I can understand feeling that need. I felt it most acutely for years. Why? The answer generally does not become evident until one has been on the path for a while, the hidden, less spiritual reasons begin to appear.

When the less spiritual reasons for being a practitioner appear, it is something like getting a hay fever attack when you go out to see the pretty blossoms. You don't welcome the discovery. You consider the arising conflicts to be "obstacles to practice." You identify with the "good practitioner" and dis-identify with the distractions and obstacles. However, the obstacles are really the truer you. The "practitioner" is a total johnny-come-lately from a psychological point of view. You may tell yourself that your spiritual yearnings are actually the deepest aspect of your nature, but that's not likely true.

Get to know your bad boy or naughty girl. They have so much to tell you about why you're on the spiritual path. They're into it -- you just don't know why ....

As soon as anyone wants to be Chief, the relationship becomes questionable. People can get into that if they want, but the risks are so high, I can't imagine why they would. The source of the tradition may be scriptural, but its current condition is so uninspiring as to justify its total abandonment. What is it that cannot be taught in a simple, dignified, eye-to-eye relationship? Special things, of course, magical things, Koresh things, Jim Jones things, Osel Tenzin things. I can do without these things.

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Q. How can you choose a spiritual path?

A. The problem with trying "methods" and evaluating their effectiveness is that all you can do to see if they are working is to look in the mirror. Then you don't know if you've tried hard enough, or long enough. And you can't tell if the benefits you feel today are lasting, transient, or even the precursors of new problems.

But almost certainly, miracle cures will elude you. You will probably never feel a huge root of guilt suddenly pulled out of your heart whereafter guilt, shame and embarrassment will never bother you again. The loneliness that ties you to the earth will probably never dissipate, allowing you to float into the zero gravity of limitless space. Probably nothing really permanent or amazing will ever happen.

What will happen? You will get older, your skin will sag, your hair will turn gray, and your memory will get poorer. You will discover the transiency of relationships, the evanescence of situations. You will see days turn into months and years, and you will see your term on the earth growing shorter and shorter.

In the midst of this, you will have the opportunity to live. It's like that story about the fellow who got chased off the cliff and hung onto a strawberry vine. While the tiger roared above, another appeared below. A black mouse and a white mouse began to chew on the vine. He spots a strawberry and pops it into his mouth. It was delicious.

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Q. Should I renounce worldly existence?

A. Ramana Maharshi said, if you remain as you are, you will think you are a layperson. If you renounce the world, you will think you are a renunciate. Better than changing your label is knowing yourself.

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Q. How can we develop goals for the future while at the same time living in the present moment?

A. If you take that approach, you will treat "spiritual life" and "worldly life" as fundamentally antagonistic. Worldly life requires planning. Spiritual life "requires " spontaneity. An interesting alternative to this approach is proposed in the works by Takuan Soho, in which he shows how the meditative state of awareness is the most effective survival/competitive condition. In a series of letters to a feudal Japanese lord, he used a didactic technique of established effectiveness, linking something the lord knew about (swordsmanship), with what he wanted to instruct him about (meditation). Thus, he explained that to be a faultless swordsman, one must utilize the mind that abides no place, the same mind of nonattachment that one practices in zazen. The lesson of the book? Samadhi is to the mind what edge is to a sword. And best of all, a sword wielded with the power of samadhi will not betray either the holder of the sword, or even the foes s/he faces.

The elegance of this solution is obvious. We solve all of our problems one way -- through right action (which incorporates right view). We develop our natural endowments because it feels right. Trusting your inherent sense of what feels right suggests that we might want to try this road, which is neither offensive nor defensive with relation to "samsara" and leads right to the target -- happy living.

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Q. All worldly appearances arise from conditioning, so there is nothing special about our experience. Why make a big deal about the "wonders of "nature" and such? Isn't that just glorifying the sensual world?

A. A Sufi once said "miracles are not to impress the credulous or encourage the faithful -- they are a means of transmitting understanding."

We behold a miracle that transmits understanding when we look up through our protective blanket of air, at the sun's blazing disk, from a vantage point on a rock spinning about a thousand miles an hour, using an optical device about the same as that used by an octopus, processing photon stimuli into neural impulses that are organized by a bio-supercomputer into a display of color, depth and form that appears as a relatively accurate 3-D holographic representation of the physical world to an awareness that is still uncertain of its own origins or identity.

If you can get this type of transmission just from contemplating a basic sensory activity -- seeing light -- how can you call it "glorifying the sensual world?" It is a question of how you approach the experience, isn't it? We can put on analytical, sensual, aesthetic, or possessory "lenses" and then we'll see the world and ourselves in that light. Those are all choices, human choices. If we think that Buddhists must decline to see the world because it will trap them into sensuality, that seems cowardly. The brave choice would be to keep seeing, and to learn more about how to successively use all of these "lenses" and also how to take the glasses off altogether. That "lense-free" seeing might be an analogy for a meditative view. But we never stop seeing.

JOKE:

Q: Why don't Buddhists ever make any progress in their practice?
A: They're always in retreat.

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Q. Aren't gurus "life experts" who provide the most important life guidance?

It is probably a mistake to assume that spiritual teachers know more about what is important for human life than all of our other advisors. Most gurus are useless to advise us about how to find a job, fix the bugs in our computer, or locate a good, cheap rent-controlled apartment. And yet, getting each one of those taken care of is a building block of modern happiness. In fact, gurus are forever asking for assistance to get just these elements of their life in place. Many Buddhist meditation centers end up being primarily focused on satisfying the housing needs of the teacher and his entourage.

What precisely is so precious that we have to process one entire guru in order to extract it? Simply this: a dose of self-confidence. That's it. It's what almost everyone gets from their guru that keeps them coming back.

It's like "before and after" advertising: Before I had a guru, I was totally lost. I had headaches, and drank too much, never got a date and felt bad about it. After getting a guru, I still have the headaches, I drink only when I fall off the wagon, and I don't feel bad about not getting a date, because I can always go meditate. What's the big difference? I'm willing to give myself a good pull out of bed in the morning and face the grind again. I have hope.

Why do I have hope? Because without it, I would be lost. Is this guru anything other than a placebo? Is there any milk coming out of that nipple? I don't know, but there's a sucker born every minute. Just don't pay for the milk until you see it.

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Q. Is it reasonable to try to hold teachers accountable for their actions?

Answer 1:

It depends on how we view the teacher. If we deify the teacher, believing that he must be infallible or we wouldn't bother receiving his teachings, then to judge his actions seems absurd, like Adam talking back to God about the apple dispute.

My view is that infallibility and omniscience are themselves absolutely untenable notions. God-kings and godling-nobles are nonsense.

Up here in Oregon we say, "Keep 'em honest." Guess that means, "Don't trust 'em."

Lying is very human. Lying is what we do rather than comply with social constraints. We fabricate a little image that blocks people's view of a part of our life. An embezzler creates an image of honesty, behind which she mines out the accounts. A cheating spouse creates an image of faithfulness behind which to engage in extramarital liaisons.

Therefore, whenever we see that someone has an appearance that is quite perfect, quite in conformity with our expectations, we should give it the 360 walk-around.

It is easiest to deceive people who don't ask questions. Deception is made easier for the deceiver who is free to define their own version of good conduct.

One of the bummer things about being deceived is that somehow the message of the truth still keeps leaking through the deception. The dissonance is disturbing. The deceiver keeps denying what the deceived person is feeling, claiming it's groundless, but conflicting messages keep coming through. If it's not about anything too important, it's tolerable, but if it's about the pristine honesty of the teacher, it can be very disturbing.

Students who suspect they're being deceived, but can't cope with the realization, will go even farther to help maintain the deception. Then the deceiver has achieved the ultimate triumph -- the victim's aid in maintaining deception.

Answer 2:

By withdrawing support from those who abuse trust. By sharing the bad news as well as the good news. The good news is that life is a doable situation, with room for failure, discovery, learning and development. The bad news is the institution of religion has often been the vehicle for many a scoundrel to dupe their prey. We're familiar with Jimmy Swaggart, but vulnerable to Sogyal Rinpoche, because it's a new style. We just have to out the stinkers, and those who remain might just have some worth.

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Q. Isn't keeping one's mind in the present a necessary exercise in concentration, for taming the wayward mind?

A. Before we decide, let's consider what's been said.

Keeping -- Stopping
mind -- me
the present -- where I don't want to be
necessary -- but have to ...
exercise -- it's not the real thing
concentration -- but have to stay focused
taming -- back, beast!
the wayward -- never could teach her anything!
mind -- "Bad, bad brain!"

Yes, with sufficient moral resources we can tame the wayward minds, get them off the streets of our awareness, and return this consciousness to the control of decent people everywhere!

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Q. Can Alan Watts be considered a Buddhist authority? Remember, Alan Watts had a fraction of the resources we have now. He had D.T. Suzuki, Rhys Davids, and relatively few others writing in English who had any direct contact with Buddhism. Watts did quite brilliantly with what he had access to, but since Alan's death (1973), we've had dozens of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's books to read, we've had Naropa Institute, we've had all of Nyanaponika Thera's writings published by Western publishers, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Stephen Batchelor (who was taught in the traditional Tibetan, Korean and Theravedan systems), Lama Surya Das (who was the disciple of "Hindu" Holy man Neem Karoli Baba --Baba Ram Das' guru-- and studied under at least five of the giants of 20th century Tibetan Buddhism: HHDudjom Rinpoche, HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, HH the XVI Karmapa, HE Kalu Rinpoche and Dzogchen master Nyoshul Khenpo Rinpoche), the irrepressible Pema Chodron, Richard P. Hayes (schooled in Korean Zen and Theravadin systems and a true Pali scholar), Tsultrim Allione, Thich Naht Hanh's amazing books and lectures and retreats, Sogyal Rinpoche, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Robert Thurman, Susan Salzberg, Shinzen Young and many, many other Westerners and non-Westerners who have earnestly studied and practiced buddhadharma and have shared their experiences with us in the English language.

A. I remember reading Alan Watts in many places on the road throughout the US and Europe and the East all the way to India, wandering around looking for the crazy shit these people all talk about.

In Goa I once made a find on the beach: Michener's "The Source," his magnum opus, stuffed with a now-debunked version of Hebrew history. Somebody left it out on the beach to weather. It had about 1,200 pages, so it became an Asian traveler's luxury item -- toilet paper.

Now if that had been "The Way of Zen," I would not have wiped my ass with it. In fact, I had my copy of TWOZ in my little hut, where I enjoyed reading about Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Han Shan , Ta Fan, Ryokan, Basho, and many other Japanese and Chinese Zen authors. Isn't it true that Watts could actually read some of the Chinese and Japanese stuff? Didn't he like go guesting around in monasteries all over the world? Didn't he sit, and talk, and do tai chi and get laid by models, and everything else that gurus are s'pozed to do? But he's a white boy, and everybody knows white boys can't get guru status unless they cut their hair, shave their scrota, wrap themselves up in a monk's robe so they look like a bald tamale, and go hole up in a cave for an extended period of time. Then they got credibility. But they still fulla shit.

Alan Watts, that guy had style you should envy. When he talked, people listened, and that wasn't because they was stupid. It's because he had writing ability, speaking ability, a love of humanity, and was enough of an Englishman to take everything with a grain of salt.

Alan Watts was one of the Pied Pipers of that time period. Leary, Alpert, Shunryu Suzuki, Kesey, those guys lit fire to history, backed up by throngs of Dylans, Donovans, Country Joes, Grace Slicks, etcetera. Yeah, they all got old and their hair went gray and their guts got flabby and their teeth fell out and their wives died and they got cancer, whatever. That's a given. Happens to everyone. But they were alive in the life of the day, and gave us all reasons to look a little deeper, even if it was just the LSD 25 making the sky look bluer, and maybe the Grateful Dead weren't even a very good band, whatever!

So the question really isn't whether Alan Watts was an authority of Buddhism. He wasn't. He didn't want to be. He wanted to share the beauty of humanity's treasures of philosophy, art, aesthetics, and expression. Probably all of the Westerners since then are better at playing the authority game.

But even if you buy into their authority games, it's still good to read and listen to Alan Watts and his type. It's the territory. It's the fertilizer. It's the graveyard, the archives, the records. Take it and build with it as ye will. Maybe you care not about it, but I hear the voices of Ginsburg and Kerouac and Morrison and all o' them secret voices in the graveyard. They were bad. And they wish the same for you.

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A. What do you think about making wishes such as "May all beings be happy" and all of that other well-wishing on a cosmic scale?

Q. May-be I missed the point of all this May-saying, but this seems a lot like praying, except that instead of assuming that God can grant the prayers, Buddhists assume that God is out of the picture, so we address our prayers to ourselves. But the basic psychology of prayer, which is to express our wishes and try to hope them into existence, seems to still be operative in the Buddhist version.

Let's take a classic Buddhist prayer -- "May all beings be happy ..." How likely is it that 's going to come true, either now or in the future? Well, the possibility is nil, as noted by the Buddha when he said "All life is suffering."

So, unless you somehow eliminate this nagging doubt about the viability of what you're wishing for, this is going to be a sort of rickety prayer.

The first, and possibly correct way, to eliminate the doubt, is to discover that you don't really expect the wish to come true -- you just want to be able to wish it. Indeed, when you think about it, the fact that something is unattainable doesn't negate the value of wishing for it. Indeed it is how we push the envelope of the possible. By hoping for universal happiness, justice or peace, or for ecological preservation of the planet as a vital living habitat, for that matter, we align our wills with positive forces.

You might ask, then, why do we have to wish for such big things? Why not wish for something arguably achievable: "May the global population of humpback whales increase by 20% each year for the next ten years."

Well, one of the famous big wish-mongers, the Siddha Busuku, laka Shantideva, in his classic Bodhisattvacharyavatara, advises us to wish for the greatest good for the greatest number of beings because the karmic effect on one's own mind is thus the greatest. He claims that if you wish for total enlightenment for all beings, that the benefit of this wish is incalculable. Smaller wishes, such as to gain enlightenment for oneself only, have accordingly much smaller benefits.

Do you believe in Shantideva's calculus? Well, whether you do or not, if you attempt to put it into action by encouraging yourself to really make his "biggest, bestest wish," you will discover a substantial resistance to the idea. I personally discovered a nagging doubt about the practicality of the whole idea. How, I kept thinking, could we even get hunger, homicide, and disease under control, much less provide religious instruction to lead all beings to enlightenment? And suddenly I realized that the same degree of effort that is required to make our world a hell would be sufficient to turn it into heaven, if only we all applied ourselves correctly. That last "if" is huge, of course. Like a gigantic key bigger than any hand that could ever lift it. And yet, if we could just change our minds.

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Q. Don't you think rules are necessary for all realms of human conduct?

A. Allow me to simply refine this question. What do you think does more for the common person -- rules or understanding the reasons for the rules?

Do you think people obey rules because they are rules or because they make sense?

Does the persistence of a rule eventually reduce appreciation of the reason for the rule?

Does anything foster understanding of the reasons for rules better than open discussion?

Can people usually devise their own codes of conduct when presented with circumstances requiring controlled behavior?

If people fail to regulate their conduct in accordance with the wishes of others, at what point is it appropriate to regulate it for them?

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Q. We have a right to be happy.

A. Let's concede this. Nevertheless, people are unable to assert this right very effectively. Our efforts to pursue happiness and overcome suffering are at best qualified success. We need to be more strategic in our pursuit of happiness. The Way is taught to help us take note of the factors that increase happiness and diminish suffering. The steps to take are commonsense, but they still run counter to impulse. Trying to escape from the net with too much fervor causes it to grow tighter. Thus, skill in applying ourselves to the work is required. As Suzuki Roshi said, "we make effort to get rid of effort."

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Q. How much autonomy should we expect to give up when learning and practicing Buddhism?

I was never into religion. I was into mysticism. When I first started getting teachings from my lama, it was Buddhist mysticism. Fifteen years went by, and it began to be more and more about Buddhist religion. In the early days, there was no authority except for the lama's mental clarity, serenity, and joy. Twenty years later, we've got Steven Segal sitting in the temple with Catherine Burroughs. We went from inherent authority, that inspired immediate respect, to purported authority that earned automatic contempt.

When structures, rites and personages become more important than what is being heard and practiced, then the sacred company seems a bit less sacred. When money, corporate structure and mandates from on high become part of the routine, it's time for an early exit. Loss of autonomy is only part of it -- loss of dignity as you become a pawn in a numbers game is also part of the package. Ya gotta pick your sangha carefully -- which, depending where you live, might land you without any sangha at all, given nothing but undesirable choices.

There shouldn't be any need to surrender spiritual freedom to realize Buddhist mystical insights, at least if the Diamond Sutra is any authority.

Here's a couple of quotes:

Chapter 14 -- Perfect Peace Lies In Freedom from Characteristic Distinctions

Therefore, Subhuti, bodhisattvas should leave behind all phenomenal distinctions and awaken the thought of incomparable enlightenment by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by the sensible world -- by not allowing the mind to depend upon notions evoked by sounds, odors, flavors, touch contacts or any qualities. The mind should be kept independent of any thoughts that arise within it. If the mind depends upon anything, it has no sure haven.

Chapter 10 -- Setting Forth Pure Lands

Therefore, Subhuti, all bodhisattvas, lesser and great, should develop a pure, lucid mind, not depending upon sound, flavor, touch, odor, or any quality. A bodhisattva should develop a mind that alights upon nothing whatsoever; and so should he establish it.

As far as the interdependence of everything, try:

Chapter 20 -- The Unreality of Phenomenal Distinctions

Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Buddha be perceived by his perfectly formed body?

No, World-Honored One, the Tathagata cannot be perceived by his perfectly formed body, because the Tathagata teaches that a perfectly formed body is not really such; it is merely called a perfectly formed body.

Subhuti, what do you think? Can the Tathagata be perceived by any phenomenal characteristic?

No, World-honored One, the Tathagata may not be perceived by any phenomenal characteristic, because the Tathagata teaches that phenomenal characteristics are not really such; they are merely called phenomenal characteristics.

For a good closer, let's try an excerpt from this chapter, the apex of humility without pretense:

Real Designation Is Undesignate

Subhuti, what do you think? Does a holy one say within himself, "I have obtained perfective enlightenment?"

Subhuti said, "No, World-Honored One. Wherefore? Because there is no such condition as that called "perfective enlightenment." World-Honored One, if a holy one of perfective enlightenment said to himself, "Such am I," he would necessarily partake of the idea of an ego entity, a personality, a being, or a separated individuality. World-Honored One, when the Buddha declares that I excel among holy men in the yoga of perfect quiescence, I do not say within myself, "I am a holy one of perfective enlightenment, free from passions." World-Honored One, if I said within myself, "Such am I," you would not declare, "Subhuti finds happiness abiding in peace, in seclusion in the midst of the forest." This is because Subhuti abides nowhere: therefore he is called "Subhuti, Joyful Abider in Peace, Dweller in Seclusion in the Forest."

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Q. Where can we learn about compassion?

A. When I was fourteen I was taken out to a ranch by Pete Noli, my Nanny's son. She had lots of kids, but mostly girls. Navajo/Mexican stock, and plenty big Pete was. A real cowboy, quiet, good natured, playful. Sometimes a little too playful, like when he'd shoot out a lariat from his hand and it would snag my little four-year-old foot and yank me to the ground like a calf. Pete would laugh. His sister Patsy was beautiful. A beautician, actually. She chewed gum and saved her dimes in large thin decanters and eventually married a German jet pilot.

Pete didn't exactly lift up a flower, but he did show me a lesson of total everyday compassion once, when we were out at his uncle Elias' ranch riding the range in four-wheel drive pickup. He'd heard there was a cow stuck in the mud and was going to go get it out. He grabbed a shovel and we took off.

Driving through the savage waita-minute bushes and the baking sun out to the big sandy river, I believe he called it. I don't know exactly -- it was sure big and sandy.

He found the cow and man was it stuck. It had been there a couple of days maybe, and it was stuck up to its armpits sittin' in a lake of shit. So Pete just pulls on some waders and grabs the shovel and steps in next to the cow and starts shoveling shit. I sort of commented that that was a lot of gross shit, and he just said like it was nothin', "It's just a little hay." Kept right on digging, and I noticed it really did look like hay, a bit stinky, but still hay.

Well Pete's labor there was not short. He dug like a half-acre of shit, and then hooked up a harness under the cow, hooked that to a block and tackle, hooked that to the winch on the truck, and pulled that cow out of the river and over onto dry land where it could get its legs back, which was several hours. I couldn't believe how much work it was.

Never in all that time did Pete blame the cow. Cows will do that sort of thing. It's a cowboy's job to get them out of it. Apparently without making a big whiny fuss. I wish I had learned that lesson, but now that I remembered it, I think I'll give it a try.

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Q. Which works better in practice: positive or negative reinforcement?

A. Put crudely:
Encouragement works on pride.
Correction works on shame.
Both pride and shame balance on the single fulcrum of self-love.
Like every other teeter-totter, it works from both ends.

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Q. Would it be helpful for Buddhists of various sects to look for areas of commonality in their practice?

A. A fair number of people seem to looking for practice encouragement. Given what we all face each day -- weird political news in a retrograde era, job stress, relationship stress and all that -- we could sure use some encouragement to build our individual practice.

There is a lot for dharma practitioners of all types to agree on, like:

That it is beneficial to sit with yourself and remember the sources of your positive motivation.

That we possess a calm center of our being that wordlessly expresses something meaningful, and which we all experience continuously and moment-to-moment.

That while the plight of sentient being seems hopeless, the miracle of existence is a challenge we cherish and an opportunity that we should develop to the fullest.

That every day and every moment provide a new opportunity to plant the seeds of what we wish to harvest for ourselves, and for others.

That whatever we are presented with, we wish to meet it with nobility of spirit, even unto our last instant and beyond.

That we can always express what Trungpa Rinpoche called "basic warmth" -- fundamental human kindness.

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Q. What makes "American Buddhism" distinctively Buddhist in nature?

A. To think of the source of positive motivation is refuge.

Continuous awareness of wordless meaningfulness is meditation.

To never abandon sentient beings or faith in our ultimate enlightenment is the bodhicitta.

To assert one's power to create reality is discipline.

To aspire to nobility is to be a child of the Noble One.

To be just plain decent is the most basic Buddhist virtue.

Is this too generic? Possibly not restrictive enough? You wish to find that which is "uniquely" Buddhist? This might be like trying to find a good, thirst-quenching drink that is unique. None are unique. All contain water. So many spiritual disciplines have a similar character ... because they all arose from efforts to satisfy the same basic human need.

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Q. What is the relationship between physics and dharma? Shouldn't the saying "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" actually be rendered "matter is empty, emptiness is matter?"

Answer 1:

I don't think that Avalokiteshvara was talking physics but rather psychology, when he said:

"Here, O Sariputra, bodily-form is voidness; verily, voidness is bodily-form. Apart from bodily-form there is no voidness; so apart from voidness there is no bodily-form. That which is voidness is bodily-form; that which is bodily-form is voidness. Likewise (the four aggregates) feeling, perception, mental imaging, and consciousness (are devoid of substance)."

This seems clear, since the sutra leads off with "bodily form" as the first of the "aggregates," i.e., one of the skhandas, the five psychological constituents of fictitious identity.

Thus, the empty "form" is our experience of concrete selfhood. This form experience is very concrete, but purely psychological. I think meditation helps us both to emphasize our experience of the skandha of form and simultaneously perceive its transparency (emptiness). When we practice simple awareness of physical sensations, while taking a walk, or engaged in sitting practice, or in the practice of mindful sexual experience, to name my three favorites, we experience the ephemerality of our concreteness.

Thus, we feel that form is concrete, particularly if someone parks a truck on our foot, but the actual experience of pain is transparent, empty, transitory awareness. Only a fool would hesitate to say "Get that truck off my foot!" Only a Bodhisattva will simultaneously experience no attachment to the injury or anger toward its cause. That is because the Bodhisattva, like the Buddha (in a prior incarnation) when the Raja of Kalinga cut off his limbs, was free from attachment to the skandha of form.

It is understandable that Gary Zukhov and other people whose first love is science may misunderstand the Heart Sutra's teaching that "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" as a statement of scientific fact.

It is for people like ourselves, whose first love is dharma, to gently emphasize that the Buddha was the Great Physician, not the Great Physicist.

Buddha's insights were into the human mind, not into the arcana of physics -- which has the marvelous task of describing a world where the speed of light is finite, but space is limitless, and curved as well!

You will recall that, when Jesus was asked whether Jews should pay taxes to Caesar, he asked to see a coin, and indicating that the coin itself was impressed with Caesar's image, he responded, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Looking within our soul, we see that it is the very image of the divine. We give our coins to the economy, and dedicate our spirit to its pure source.

Similarly, the Buddha had his sphere of activity -- the realm of the human mind. Einstein, Fermi, Bohr, etcetera, have their own realm. As fair-minded Buddhists, we should have no trouble allowing scientists to explain what matter is, while leaving it to Buddha to clarify what our perception of matter is.

Buddha is Lord of the Mind, which is the only realm he explored or endeavored to explain. To make him the Lord of Form will lead to an unfair loss of credibility for the Lord of Mind.

Answer 2:

Physics should not be confused with Dharma. I object to the misuse of the concept of emptiness to discuss the nature of purported "objective phenomena."

Dharma is applied psychology for uncovering the dynamics of the mind, which siddhas surf with unerring exactitude and complete abandon.

The emptiness we are lacking is emptiness of preconceptions, which leaves us posing rigid like chesspieces on eternity's gameboard, or attempting to take leave of ourselves, but always leaving our hat behind. Eventually the hats disappear, but still they leave a ghostly afterimage.

To expound the emptiness of things is to presume their existence. How can such refutation succeed?

Once you posit the existence of anything beyond yourself, the "hair's breadth difference" of which the Third Patriarch spoke has been established, and "Heaven and Earth are set immeasurably apart."

If you accept yourself and do not attempt to refute your own existence out of fear of yourself, and accept all appearances and do not attempt to refute their existence out of fear of them, you are an ordinary man. How fortunate.

Answer 3:

Certainly "both ends" of the sensory experience -- "perceptive organ" and "perceived object" are part of the skhanda of form. But as Professor Guenther noted, when you see red, there is no patch of red stuck to your eye. The Buddha's effort was to show us the transparency of the whole process of perception by making the image and the image-perception part of a single flow. Realizing the unitive nature of the mental process of perception, from which neither subject nor object can be abstracted, we move towards dissolving the imputed separateness of perceiver and perceived.

Buddha's effort was not to explain how the eye functions with a lens made of water, focusing light on a retina infused with rods and cones, connected to an optic nerve that feeds impulses to the visual cortex.

That's for the neurobiologists.

Without particle accelerators, microscopes, gas chromatographs, and radio telescopes, Buddha could only be the Great Hypothesizer of physical reality.

Without deep meditative insight, Einstein could not teach the Heart Sutra.

Render unto Einstein what is Einstein's; render unto Darwin what is Darwin's; render unto Leary what is Leary's, and unto Buckminster Fuller what is his; also and always render unto Budhha what is Buddha's. This does not reduce the Enlightener of all Humanity to a lesser status, if indeed you see Shakyamuni that way. But you do not want to make the same error the Pope made when he forced Galileo to retract his description of a heliocentric universe.

Absolutism, omnisciency-mongering, arrogation of all-knowledge to the exalted ones -- these are the products of dogma.

Humble acceptance of the limits of inquiry, and acknowledgment that one cannot know what one has not inquired into -- these are the marks of honest intellectual labor.

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Q. The Buddha's teaching is not rocket science.

A. But every bit as ambitious. If Buddha was correct, and Nirvana exists, with perhaps additional Mahayana and Siddhayana plugins, then it's big news in my little patch of dirt, where death still reigns supreme. If indeed there is a path beyond sorrow, let's find out what it is, and implement it.

But it is possible that what Buddha discovered has been lost. We really don't know . Maybe we are consuming substitutes developed over the years. They are all so interesting that it doesn't really matter.

Perhaps Buddha discovered something personal, and all of his followers also discovered something personal, as Buddhism has continued to be understood by everyone in their own way. Perhaps Sangha is good for supporting each other in their personal quest, as distinct from trying to conform to a shared external vision.

Perhaps removing impediments to thinking altogether is a good first step toward allowing all the elements in our minds to circulate to that new arrangement that is more satisfying and less anxious. I think it helps if we intuit and affirm the existence of a better way to be, and then go there, right away.

Maybe there is a mental corollary of physical gravity that gives your mind inherent stability.

As Chuang Tzu said, "If a drunk man falls out of a cart, he will not be hurt, or if he is hurt he will not be killed. This is because his spirit is in a state of security. If such security can be gotten from wine, how much more so from the Tao?"

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Q. What is gravity in a spiritual sense?

A. "To him that hath, more shall be given, and to him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath."

This sounds like "an hard saying," a lot like the "eat my flesh, drink my blood" speech, "after which, many more walked not with them." One of Jesus' more punk days.

Yet true in the case of gravity's effect upon small objects, which "lose themselves" to the larger gravity of the planet. The planets themselves are in bondage, unable for all their velocity to escape the grip of the sun. The sun is unable to alter its place in an outer arm of the galaxy. The galaxy is unable to change its place in the meta-galaxy. Thus all is in order, and all are subjects of the larger order.

"Just remember that you're standing
on a planet that is spinning
approximately 1,000 miles an hour,
which is orbiting a star..."

Yet gravity is called "the weak force."
This is to distinguish it from "the strong force."
The strong force is that existing in electron bonds.
Boom! Gunpowder -- nitrates. Sodium explodes on contact with water.
Gravity is weak by comparison.
But it has a characteristic that the strong force does not.
It aggregates.

Because gravity aggregates, it is actually the first stage of the process of stoking the solar furnaces, the cradles of all creation.

The hydrogen of space gets pulled together. The big clumps have more gravity. They overpower comparatively smaller clumps. Aggregation proceeds at faster rates. Gravity continues to aggregate, and overwhelms the atomic structure of the hydrogen atoms, causing them to release their internal fire. The subatomic volcano inside the star will ultimately be the laboratory in which all of the atoms in the Periodic Table are constructed.

Gravity is just the "in door" for cosmic sex.

Gravity and space are inseparable.

Anything that exists within space is subject to gravity.

All things that are subject to gravity will aggregate.

As the aggregation process proceeds, the structure of those things, atoms, subject to aggregation, is destroyed.

In the cosmic smelters of the stars, atoms are melted and the resulting stew radiates energy.

Energy, as we know, is not subject to gravity.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

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PART 2 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. Indians are superior to Whites.

A. Racial superiority
Defined by
Cranial size
Or
Penis size
Take your prick!

Not to leave the women out
What's the value of a pout?
Or the meaning of a smile?
Big hips or small tits
Frizzy hair
or silky locks
You couldn't choose
or you would lose.

Genetic adulation
primordial undulation

As Iggy sez
"We're mixin' the colors"

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Q. There's no question that the Buddhist scriptures accurately relate the Buddha's teachings.

A. History is a farce,
the weaving of generations
of con-men,
deluding their fellows.

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Q. The Dalai Lama is Buddhism's living symbol of non-violence. Yet even he has indicated that if it had been practical for the Tibetan army to stop the Chinese, he would have ordered it to do so to prevent the resulting suffering.

A. I think if we examine this statement, it says, "If I thought I could have won, I would have ordered my soldiers to fight."

Pretty simple philosophy, and one most people would agree with.

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Q. Does Buddhism have soul?

A. The soul rap is that the Buddha's somewhere, hummin' not bummin', crusin' not bluesin', diggin' not dissin', and so he's still got a heart. The soul rap is that you still gotta be good 'cause UR Somebody. Well maybe I ain't done the math good, but every time I look in the mirror I see one face gettin' older everyday. No more, no less. Not two, not zero, just me, the unsung hero.

So I'm stuck with one, that's 1 for those who count, and it's an infinite amount. Loosen up, I say, and I can play 2-for-1, 4-for-1, or 32 or 64-for-1 (beats per bar, I mean). My mind can split time like a cesium clock, land on the moment like a seagull on a floating raft, when I let go and say yes.

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Q. How should we relate to our "special" experiences?

A. The door through which I've most often passed to reach an end of striving is humongous striving. Taking all-day law exams or trying lawsuits. When you're done, you're done, and you know you did your all, and you just let go. Everything's okay then.

As far as great epiphanies go, I've utterly ceased to look for them. Chasing insights gives me a pain. Be straight, be simple, be surprised.

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Q. How did lefties became Buddha-bots before righties?

Answer 1:

Poets read haiku.
Poets smoked pot.
Poets wore berets.
Poets played bongos.
Once they did all of these things, they became beatniks.

Beatniks listened to jazz.
Jazz was cool.
Musicians smoked pot.
Beatniks smoked pot.
Musicians and beatniks sat around in a stoned reverie listening to cool jazz.

While they were sitting around stoned, they began to discuss some heavy shit.
They had already lost their moral allegiance to anything associated with White Anglo Saxon Protestantism by practicing (or aspiring to practice) interracial sex.
Thus, they didn't consult Gerard Manley Hopkins when trying to unravel the mysteries of life.

There had recently been a war with Japan, which facilitated cultural interfusion.
Also, many servicemen brought home mementos of Japanese culture, bought at fire sale prices from war-ravaged civilians.
DT Suzuki wrote a book about Zen that was very popular with pot smoking beatnik jazz hipsters, but barely made a dent in the farm-belt reading market.

Then there were the Beatles, and their Maharishi and their Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds code.
Then there were the Leary and Alpert duo, who were so far left they got run out of Harvard in disgrace, and that's way fuck'n left, I'm sure you'll agree.
That's where we got Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out. In that order.

Next there was the Summer of Love, 1967, when LSD dropped like a bomb on the brains of thousands of young people, and suddenly a guy who set his guitar on fire was front page news. Not in Peoria, however.
Then there was nudity, free sex, Students for a Democratic Society, and airline stewardesses on holiday with Mick Jagger at the Playboy mansion with Gloria Steinem. All roundly frowned on by the moral majority.

Now we have all the post-acid heads fanning out across the land, thinking they can grow shit, like they are Amish or something. That sort of impracticality doesn't afflict your average redneck.

Confused, poor groups of drug-addled, sex-crazed, hot-tub-hopping, peyote-munching question-asking, dome-inhabiting, spiritual questing fools! Gathering together like clumps of moss on fallen trees in the damp areas of the Pacific Northwest, these communities of people, often indistinguishable from Dead Heads, played host to the foreign spores of bald-headed, robe-wearing, Nibbana-talking groovy guys. Plenty more stupid hippies where they came from, like an infinite supply of mulch. Meanwhile, the decent people in the trailer parks kept their distance from all of this.

Then after some time, the foreign spores multiplied, completely overwhelming the peace and love Ph level in the original nutrient mass. The hippies were required to turn in the keys to their heads by their gurus, senseis, sifus, etceteratum. Bathing in the new flow of "nothing matters" consciousness, they lost all meaningful attributes of leftiness, becoming some of the most tight-assed neo-Calvinists on the planet, focused on ruling their own little flocks with the whip of Doctrinal Correctness.

Still, in matters political, due to long Pavlovian conditioning, these psychological geldings still make their way to the trough of common liberalism and whiney good will. Buy a Volvo and all will be well.

Thus, you need fear nothing from these Buddhists except social rejection, for that is the entirety of their range of influence. They snub like pros.

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Q. Why does it matter if self is "empty" or not?

A. To say that it doesn't matter whether self is empty or not is like saying, "I don't care whether an airplane has wings or has wheels, because I'm going in the airplane, whatever it is!"

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Q. If compassion, wisdom and clarity were inherent to emptiness, everything empty would already be enlightened, even rocks.

A. Gyatrul Rinpoche once told me, around 20 years ago, as we were standing together in the place where he later built the Tashi Choling temple: "The Chinese are really good at understanding emptiness, but they go too far. They think that emptiness is just empty, without any qualities. No compassion, no luminosity!" He seemed to think that such a notion was preposterous. He advised me further not to make that same mistake. This explanation helped me a lot, because until then, I had been confused about the subject of emptiness "versus" compassion. Fortunately, the emptiness that I had thought was "absolute" really is not, as his explanation made clear.

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Q. Isn't compassion really just renunciation of our own selfish perspective?

A. Would that it always were.

Joke:

A kid discovers his kitten lying on the floor stiff and cold. He begins to cry. His dad tries to comfort the boy. "Look," says the father, "we'll give your kitten a big funeral. I've got a fancy wooden cigar box, and we'll put him in there on some velvet scraps from your mother's sewing box. Then we'll dig a hole in the backyard and we'll write a special burial service and say it over the casket. And then we'll make a cross down in my workshop and put the kitten's name on it in gold paint."

Just then, the kitten begins to stir and wiggle and come back to life. The kid sees this, and says, "Dad, can we kill it?"

From PJ O'Rourke's Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut 1995. (Coincidentally, I bought this copy in a used bookstore in Ocean Beach, San Diego while Bush was stealing the 2000 election. It comes complete with the following inscription: "Dad -- As long as you continue to be on this conservative kick you may as well read someone with a sense of humor. Happy birthday, Love, Tony."

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Q. What's the best way to get enlightened as soon as possible?

A. When I got into this quest for enlightenment thing I was about fourteen years old. It got worse all through my late teens, early twenties, and finally cooled off when I had my third child and went to law school to pay the bills.

Man, when I was nineteen I was sure I would be enlightened soon. Went to India that year, and went to Bodhgaya, and thought I would get there for sure.

In my early twenties I started getting antsy.

By my mid twenties the anxiety got extreme, with very disturbing physical sensations -- anxiety about not meditating at least two hours a day, compulsive ideation about spiritual topics, obsession with reading spiritual books, physical tension surrounding breath and posture.

I'm not here to give a life story, so I'll spare you the rest of it. I still suffer from the hope that I'll get enlightened, or at least that I won't suffer endless torment. But I'm not driven by it very much.

Believe me, there's no front of the line in this enlightenment thing. No point in pushing to the front of anything. Might as well be nice and tell newbies a nice, self-deprecating joke, for all the good your tight-assed piety will do 'em.

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Q. Isn't the essence of Buddhism to let go of everything, to cease clinging desperately to transient, woeful, empty phenomena?

A. My own experience with the exhilarating feeling of jettisoning every attachment has turned out to be something like that of a little boy who puts on a towel, calls it a cape, and jumps over his bed, proclaiming it is a tall building that he is leaping at a single bound. "I'm SUPERMAN!"

If you love this little boy, it's beautiful, and you don't say, "No you're not, there is no Superman." In fact, you don't even worry about it, since you know he knows he's not Superman, and there's no risk he'll try the same trick with a ten-story drop.

Except in the case of the Buddhist who wants to abandon everything, the big test is to try the leap off the Empire State Building. I just got a call last night from a nun who can't deal with her needs for a place to live. The kind people of our old Buddhist Center in Southern Oregon decided to evict her from her trailer where she'd lived for years (just not cool enough, I guess), and now she's just trying to make it on the outside. She wanted some legal advice about tenants rights. I referred her to the right people, but let's face it, this is not dignified for her. She's in her fifties, and she's cut every string that binds her to the survival and support systems of the 21st century.

Don't let it happen to you.

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Q. Buddhism is about letting go of all of the misconceptions, ideologies, and egotistical attachments that Americans hold so dear.

A. True also of Tibetans, Italians, Nova Scotians, etcetera. No use setting sail for far lands if what you really need to do is go someplace entirely other. No sense adopting foreign customs if customs altogether are the problem.

But actually, I disagree completely. I don't think Buddhism is "about letting go." It's about letting go of letting go.

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Q. What about the four sublime states: love, compassion, joy and equanimity?

A. Once, walking on Venice Beach and back up toward Santa Monica, I thought perhaps maybe the four minds are ways of seeing the four types of people we see: the ones we like, the ones we don't like, the ones we don't care about, and the ones we care about extremely much.

And by mixing up the mind-states you have for these different types of people, you can loosen your fixed ways of relating to people.

So for example, you don't care about someone, so try feeling love for them ... or you hate someone, try not caring about them ... or you love someone intensely -- try not caring about them.

Maybe this is just applied insanity of course.

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Q. What is engaged Buddhism?

A. If engagement implies dualistic effort, then engaged Buddhism is not Buddhism at all. If engaged Buddhism is a preparatory form of Buddhism that leads to higher Buddhism, then the higher Buddhism is making a distinction that makes it not the highest Buddhism.

Dana prajna paramita per Suzuki Roshi is just having no self-concerned attitude. Then all is given without thought of giving.

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Q. Traditional Buddhist scriptures are meant to be repetitive in order to facilitate meditation.

A. The issue is one of rhetoric. The argument can well be made that the instructions for a practice should be as brief as possible so you will have the most time left for practice. "Just sit."

The ponderous style of repetitively presenting one new concept every fourteen lines, sandwiched between rotating drums of repetitive terms, has always annoyed the holy excreta right out of me.

After years of reading and writing law, I've come to appreciate it deeply when someone can just spit it out. Then we can get on to testing and practicing.

On the other hand, just because I don't like a rhetorical style doesn't mean it has to change. If other people like it, I can find something else to read, eh?

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Q. Is it typical for a newbie visiting a Tibetan-style dharma center to be advised to take refuge in the three jewels before they will be allowed to practice certain sadhanas? I attended a refuge ceremony, which took place in a foreign language, and after the ceremony was over I found that in addition to having taken refuge in the 3 jewels, I also took refuge in the lamas, yidams and protectors. I didn't receive any further instructions, but was told to simply show up for practice, and that is when my feelings of disorientation and abandonment began. The other students emphasized devotion to the guru, and practice, but there was no graduated or beginning level teachings, just mainly tantric. I begin to hear about the dangers of breaking my vows, including insanity and vajra hell, but I didn't know who to turn to with my questions, because the lama was away, and the students weren't capable of answering them.

Answer 1:

Advice to Newbie: Surely you merely imagine that something is amiss at this center where you took refuge in the Three Jewels and it turned out you were taking refuge also in the Lama and the Protectors.

Surely you have incurred no samaya with the Protectors, as we know they are very forgiving about their relations with newbies.

Surely any suspicions you feel about your fellow-students' inability to answer your questions are the result of your own confused mind.

The answer, and the problem, is always with the student. Wherever this Dharma center is, whoever the teacher is, whatever the approach, the organization need never be questioned.

There are those who speak with authority concerning vows. As everyone knows, the Buddha's pre-enlightenment Sangha (the ascetics) said he had broken his vows by eating food, and refused to associate with him. In response to this, the authorities will argue that the Buddha's vow to not eat food was not a very important vow, and that whatever vows you took were much more important. Also, the authorities will note that you can always break a vow to save your health, and Buddha was starving to death. Unfortunately, many Tibetan prayers say "even at the cost of my life, I will keep this commitment," and the protector prayers specifically wish bloody death on "vow breakers."

Short answer to your question, Newbie -- take vows SERIOUSLY. Don't ever let anyone say "You took a vow" if you didn't know you were taking it, or you "took it" in a foreign language.

Common sense here. A vow is a promise to yourself. If you don't know what you've promised to do or not do, then you haven't made a promise. Don't let anyone tell you "your commitments." You wouldn't marry someone if they said you promised to marry them, but couldn't remember it, even if they showed you a videotape of you making the promise. You'd say, "That's not voluntary. You drugged me or something. I'm not marrying you."

So Just Say No to Promiscuous Vow-Making!

Answer 2:

Many Buddhists push their minds and bodies too hard. To hang on to commitments beyond the point of utility, particularly out of the fear of supernatural consequences, is foolish, the same kind of foolishness the Buddha abandoned when he broke his ascetic vows and had some lunch.

Q. As far as Vajrayana goes, unless you receive empowerment from someone, that person is not your guru, so you are under no obligation to hold them in any kind of regard; however, once you've received the empowerment, you are constrained by the first vow from criticizing that person if in fact that person has given you a valid transmission; but if that person is not authorized to give empowerments, or does not have the blessings, one has simply made a mistake and is under no obligation to regard that person as a valid Guru.

A. Problem is when a person doesn't know whether all of the ifs and buts add up to yes or no then they just wanna jump offa cliff.

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Q. Is it possible to excommunicate someone out of compassion, or will it always be due to prejudice and hatred?

A. Probably 90% of all lynchings, etcetera were committed with the best of intentions. Some of the perpetrators may have even experienced sincere regret about the necessity of burning a neighbor to save her soul. But what faith demands, believers will provide, even making ordinary decent people into monsters. The power to "excommunicate" is repellent in its very conception. It is a gross arrogation of power that should never be conscioned by anyone who thinks to practice Bodhicitta.

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Q. I think a student needs the teacher, but at what point does the teacher say adios to the student?

A. If you feel you need to meet a carnal representation of pure wisdom, you might be disappointed. You might meet some people worth spending time with, but, since you'll be working through one of these sticky-wicket sangha political setups, it'll be hard to really get "face time" with your guru, which most of the Tilopa/Naropa type relationships are grounded on. You'll read their books and venerate their insights and photographs.

More important, you'll adopt a religious routine because it gives you a sense of psychological "traction." By knowing what road to walk on, you can direct yourself in that way. Your teacher will inspire you because he/she is following the path, too. When you see that they still put their pants on one leg at a time, eventually you realize that being inspired by a teacher and overtly venerating them are perhaps contradictory. A teacher's ability to inspire is valuable. Whether they teach geometry or meditation, they're good if they communicate enthusiasm for the subject and equip their students with the tools to explore on their own and develop a personal wealth of experience. While there may be more exalted levels of teaching, I haven't experienced them.

Given that viewpoint, I no longer place much stock in the idea that I will be protected and borne along to enlightenment by my association with a particular individual. I operated under that belief for a long time, because that is what I was taught, and as a theoretical matter it might be possible; however, my experience has been like one awaking from a delusion that was in part self-imposed. I was adapted to it for twenty years, of course, so there must have been some compensations, but not enough to warrant continuing the charade.

But the good news is, your mind works just fine without a large statue of the Buddha posted in the middle of it. And you have a clearer view.

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Q. Some teachers say it takes millenniums for a person to reach enlightenment.

A. Yes, but they also thought the universe was flat, with a large mountain at the center. If their spatial speculations were so erroneous, why should their temporal ones be better? The karmic cranking out of enlightened beings always seems a little horrific to me, as an image. And really, on a practical level, if something doesn't happen in my present lifetime, it's apparently going to be someone else's job to experience it.

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Q. Does enlightenment resonate?

A. Trungpa Rinpoche said the Buddhist gives up God by giving up oneself -- the existence of God, being based on the existence of self, disappears along with the self.

More important than God or Enlightenment is the self, and closer, too.

In another, more poetic vein, I might wish to tune my spirit to the harmonics of perfection along with the mad Sufis. And often attempt it.

Chuang Tzu and other tao masters reminded us to look at the maps of energy and patterns of matter appearing in the swirls of clouds and water, the cracks in ice and stone, the curves of wood and fingerprints. Is there resonance? What is it we hear?

Somehow I think the sun is singing. And without the sun's song, no voices anywhere else on this big planet. The sun, winding up the chemical motors of insects and allosaurs and moving the ages of time along as if turning the earth with the gentle wind of passing days. Certainly it is singing our song.

Bring the sky right down to me so we can kiss and ...

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Q. Dzogchen and Mahamudra could not exist without receiving the pointing out instructions, so I guess you let a guru slip in the back door.

A. Yes, through the back door.

Dudjom Lingpa got his teachings from visions he had of Avalokiteshvara, Orgyan Tsokyey Dorje, Rigdzin Duddul Dorje, Longchenpa Drimed Odzer, Saraha, Vajrapani, Dorje Drolod, Vajradhara, Hungcchenkarma, Manjushri Vadisimha, Orgyan Tsokyey Dorje, Ekazati, Srhr Simha, and Zurchhung Sheyrab Dragpa.

None of them were alive.

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Q. Why are Vajrayana Buddhists so angry?

A. Perhaps because they believe more nonsense, try harder to conform to the doctrine, and give away more cash to buy empowerments and teachings than do other Buddhists, and it annoys them that they're not getting free of suffering any faster than the average Hinayanist.

Then again, maybe it's just all the reciting prayers in a foreign language that makes them wonder if they're perhaps looking silly.

Of course, it could be a lot of other things, too.

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Q. Shouldn't you be meditating or something?

A. We thought we'd start with something easy, and as soon as we're done, we'll get to that. But one problem is, people aren't really sure how to do it. The description of what the pre-enlightenment Buddha did under the Bodhi tree in order to greet the dawn in a different condition is very vague. Studying Zen koans doesn't make it any easier. Rajneesh, Dudjom Rinpoche and Iggy Pop all endorse staring into space, however, and that sounds like a ringing endorsement to me. What say we all take a break and look at the sky?

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Q. What about marketing the dharma and all the glitzy bullshit that is designed to make Buddhism fashionable?

A. You don't have to worry about this too much, unless you deliberately begrudge others the right to purchase the Dharma that suits their taste. There will always be lamas offering "true Dharma in the original wrapper," "country style Khampa Dharma," and the other brands you find most palatable. The soccer moms have just as much right to appropriate Vajrayana chic as anyone else. If you feel that simply preserving the particular format of old-school Vajrayana guarantees the efficacy of the tradition, you are putting more faith in the wrapper than the contents. Forms will change, and some changes are necessary, even though traditionalists fight all change as a matter of policy.

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Q. If dharma is free, people will treat it like junk mail.

A. This is exactly what motivates people to fund raise, charge money at the door, and interfere with simple efforts to make tapes and copy transcripts. The story says that Buddha almost didn't bother to teach, the likelihood of real interest seemed so remote. Since he chose to teach, he assumed the risk that when repeated, his teachings might be treated like junk mail. If you try to fix that by putting price tags on it, you will only make Dharma for people who want to spend money on it. That will be even less valuable than junk mail, because the rich have everything already, and once they acquire the attention of the lamas, the poor little folks lose heart. And heart is all poor folks have.

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Q. Traditionalists are mainly concerned with those who change the inside of Dharma not those who change the outside of dharma.

A. That assumes that traditionalists can see inside the place where no one sees, the home of Dharma, the practitioner's heart. They can't see there, so they judge clothes, names, prayers, posts, websites, etcetera.

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Q. What is important is whether the teachings and teachers are efficacious. This is best judged by observing whether the sanghas practicing these teachings become kinder, saner, happier, deeper people.

A. Of course, kindness, sanity, happiness, and depth are quite desirable. I like to be around such people; however, I've found it has little to do with their doctrinal views, and a great deal more to do with temperament and inclination.

Unhappy people tend to stay that way. Happy people the same.

Religion sometimes makes unhappy people claim to be happy, but that makes them even stiffer, and they lose the charm of being a genuine grump. Some happy people get religion and try to appear dour and serious; unfortunately, this effort sometimes results in the practitioner becoming genuinely depressed.

Some people act "sane" and "calm" when they have solid beliefs. Solid beliefs give these people a point of reference. While their thoughts orbit chaotically, they feel discontent; when they return to their solid beliefs, they feel comforted.

Then there are some who experience calmness when considering that they do not know anything for certain. It is a matter of going backwards.

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Q. What are Prayer Flags good for?

A. Prayer flags are pretty, and if you get enough of them up in a windy area, they make a lot of noise. I am unaware of any specific miracles attributable to their use, but generally they seem to be used for a sort of feng-shui purpose to ward off obstacles, etc. I noticed them used extensively in the movie, "The Tao of Steve."

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Q. Is HHDL a legitimate front man for the entire Tibetan organization?

A. Yes, it appears to be so. HHDL brokers agreements among the lamas so they can present a consistent story for Americans, who really get confused if you tell them that the whole setup is a free-for-all of titles, lineages, and competing family retainers that goes back to old arguments over lost yaks and missing barrels of chang. When the top Nyingma spot was left in doubt, HHDL blessed the appointment of Pednor Rinpoche to that position, which had previously been held by HH Dudjom Rinpoche. He did this by ratifying an election of other top Nyingma lamas, even though he is not a Nyingma lama himself. It seems unlikely that the question of who has the supreme level of spiritual insight is even addressed in these elections -- most Nyingma lamas will privately expatiate on which lama is the most enlightened, and their picks are never the big names, unless they're in front of the big crowds.

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Q. Why is it that Tibetan Eminences are always dying under mysterious circumstances and squabbling over lineage and financial inheritance? Is this enlightened activity, or petty squabbling?

A. Reminds me of an old Sufi story. There was a blind man who had a kind companion, a child, who had described the whole world for him in a beautiful way. Suddenly, he regained his sight, and saw it all for the tawdry thing it was. The child felt like a betrayer, but he consoled her, saying it was all right, because now they could work to make the world as beautiful as she had imagined it for him.

Perhaps our hopes exceed the world's ability to fulfill them, but in the words of Robert Browning, "If a man's reach does not exceed his grasp, then what's a heaven for?"

Let's keep aspiring, notwithstanding the defects of our idols.

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Q. What is Dream Yoga?

A. The first stage of the practice is to "catch a dream," i.e., notice that you are dreaming. The lamas emphasize that the techniques are secondary -- the point is to think "Duh, I'm dreaming right now." The book "Lucid Dreaming," by Stephen LaBerge, has excellent, simple techniques that stimulated some of the only lucid dreams I ever had within a week or two of using those simple methods. I never achieved the same success on nights when I tried the more traditional methods.

The goal as taught to me is incremental: 1. catch a dream, 2. remain in the dream, 3. explore the dream awareness, 4. utilize the dream to explode the dream.

The first part is accomplished by noting the difference between dreams and waking life. You will often catch a dream right about when you realize that something you are dreaming is "impossible." Eg., you notice something totally anomalous that would not occur in physical reality. At that point you go, "Wow, a dream!"

And what's even better is that one of the best ways to stimulate that reaction during dreaming is to go around all day asking yourself: "Am I dreaming right now?" Then look around at your world, and scrutinize it for weird details. Like check to make sure the table legs reach the floor. See if there are images behind the glass, look at clouds closely to make sure they aren't turning into cotton candy, etcetera. That habit of scrutinizing appearances will transfer somewhat into the dream state. Then, when the habit of asking "Am I dreaming now?" pops up, you will say, "Duh, I sure am!" And there you have it.

The second part is much subtler. As soon as you think, "Wow, this is a dream!" you are also apt to awaken or drift back into non-lucid dreaming.

The third and fourth parts I understand as being a journey, during which one is free to experiment with the radiant, pliable mind that experiences spontaneously-arising, non-physical appearances. It is liberating to experience, for even one brief moment in a lucid dream, the knowledge that what you are seeing is not "real."

I hypothesize, without any actual experience, that when the lamas instruct one who has maintained stability in lucid dreaming, to explore their circumstances and locate a river of light, big enough to jump into, then to contemplate the river and jump in, that this is going to be some dissolution into light, formless awareness. That's what I call "exploding the dream." Entirely hypothetical, of course, based upon some wonderful teachings from Gyatrul Rinpoche.

The techniques of Western lucid dreaming do work. In my opinion, they open the door that you have to walk through to practice dream yoga. Once in the door, you might want to utilize the traditional practices.

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Q. The orthodoxy behaves according to the rules, whereas the upstart opponents break the rules. The fact is, new methods must be shown to be valid, and that takes time.

A. John Stuart Mill observed that the orthodoxy will always use their superior position to berate the beliefs of their upstart opponents. The orthodox will accuse the upstarts of intemperance, while using dirty tricks of fallacious logic and accusations of heresy to score low blows.

It does take time for methods to be shown to be valid, and even after the time passes, the devotees of one sect will not acknowledge the siddhis of the guru of another sect. All the mutual back-scratching that goes on among the "Four Lineages" of Vajrayana is pretty skin deep, and has more to do with presenting a united front while dealing with the Westerners than of real mutual respect. Teachers compete for students, and while doctrines may mix, terma traditions and specific sadhanas integrate poorly.

There will never be any solid basis for agreement as to who has siddhi until someone comes up and stabs a phurba into a rock, or flies away on a fiery cloud while engaged in karma-mudra with a low-cast consort.

Let's take this back to first principles, and then we can all admit we're just wankers in the first degree!

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Q. The battles we see between various Buddhist sects are the same kind of religious fanaticism that start and maintain wars in northern Ireland, Israel, etc. Could we simply seek the truth using our hearts? The muck of attachment to lamas gets in the way of awareness and compassion.

A. Different strokes for different folks. Churchgoers are not generally mystics. Generally they can agree to burn the mystics, and will take a break from killing each other to accomplish that mutually agreeable goal. Just check the unified response from the left and right whenever AmBu pops up!

Additionally, one student's muck is another's happy nook! To feel revulsion is natural, with respect to others' follies; with respect to our own, it is atypical. Even so, looking eye to eye, seeing humans everywhere, we can still feel good about ourselves and our nutty family of heretics and true believers.

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Q. We should believe in past lives based on the asserted testimony of the Buddha.

A. Evidence is that which makes an assertion more likely to be true. A person comes to a conclusion about what is true by considering evidence. Evidence must have "convincing force."

If the jury is not convinced by the evidence presented to support a position, then the evidence has not been sufficient to compel a conclusion. That is life. It won't help to beat on the jury to accept the conclusiveness of your evidence by urging that the testimony was provided by a really great person like the Buddha.

Some people have a lower standard of proof, that is all. People who have lower standards of proof often think they know things that other people are uncertain about. Everyone in medieval 14th Century Europe and 20th Century Tibet, for example, "knew" the universe to be flat. That was good enough for them. But for people who really cared what shape the earth was, it wasn't good enough. Why? Because for Columbus it was more important to be right than to be sure. His contemporaries were sure -- so sure they thought they could sail off the edge of the world.

But Columbus had a good reason for wanting to know the true shape of things. He wanted to do things that would be impossible if the world was in fact flat. In fact, he apparently preferred to be dead than to live in a flat world.

But at least the flat-earthists had some evidence for their belief. Everybody can see that the earth is flat. Reincarnationists have a tougher row to hoe. The only evidence of reincarnation is testimonial, and that evidence cannot be corroborated.

Also, reincarnationists suffer from an image problem, in that many unsavory charlatans and spiritual trivializers have espoused the doctrine of rebirth. The Ascended Master jokers provide an excellent example.

Additionally, some people seem to have no need to believe in reincarnation in order to have a healthy interest in meditation. Some worthies, like Trungpa and basically the entire Ch'an lineage, simply appear to not address the issue.

The now is the focus of all higher level, i.e., Ati-level practices. The gaining achievement that is spawned by attention to successive lifetimes is not the achievement of Ati.

To those who fear that abandonment of the doctrine of rebirth will dispose people to lawless, inconsidered hedonism, I would again ask, "where's the evidence?"

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Q. Deity practice is more psychologically complex and deep than it appears. Some people take to it right away, others gradually start to relate, and others never do.

A. Deity practice is performed for the purpose of cleansing misperceptions about reality and eliminating grasping to appearances.

Deities can also be part of the folk-religion that provides comfort to the illiterate and gives them a moral grounding.

Deity contemplation can give the mind a rest from endless discursive thoughts by providing an aesthetic and experiential focus.

The most important parts of deity practice are the practices of de-concretizing by: 1) Reflecting upon the emptiness of all appearance before the deity arises, 2) Remembering the emptiness of all appearance while maintaining the visualization, and 3) Dissolving all attachment to the visualization when concluding. In other words, always strip your idols naked after use.

As a practical matter, can you gain enough experience with these methods to get where you want to go? I would hesitate to answer with certainty, because you could be luckier than I, and even I have been in some degree lucky.

One thing I can say, however. If you feel that your projections about the deities are constricting your awareness, causing you anxiety or fear, or otherwise working you into a lather, then it is entirely okay to say, "Not for me, at least not now." Like many other activities that may be beneficial, like river rafting, rock climbing, or reading poetry, these teachings are options, not requirements.

What are the requirements for basic Buddhism? Even this question is probably too constricting, since the question we really want answered is: "What are the requirements for basic humanity?" And, "What is truly best for me?"

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Q. The search for what is best for Me is the primary tenet of the dualistic delusion.

A. If you are assuming that this Me whose welfare I am seeking is the self-concept, of course you are correct. This is not the Me I'm referring to, however. The Me is more like what Trungpa Rinpoche calls the "soft spot" in us that is indefinite and vulnerable. Just very pragmatic, direct, honest presenting of the question to oneself: "What is best for me?" Probably good food, good work, good friends, a mental challenge, and hope for the future. First things first, and let's be honest about our vulnerabilities and our needs.

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Q. Isn't the practice of "vajra pride" where you integrate the experience of yidam practice into the rest of your life ?

A. This description of "post-meditation practice" should be applied very gently. Vajra Pride does not result from self-inflation. Rather think as Trungpa Rinpoche suggested: "You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand."

Whenever you engage in visualization, simultaneously train in emptiness. Otherwise, say the teachings, you fall into eternalism, i.e., the mistaken belief that something really exists, like a deity or a mandala.

Vajra Pride does not grow from spinning self-impressed fantasies based on self-visualization, e.g., "Wow, I really kick butt with six arms while engaging in mystic embrace with my leopard-skin wearing, sky-blue colored consort. I am seriously hot with these snakes draped all over me, and my skull crown is the envy of the entire Dharmadhatu. Samsara is handily crushed under my four world-flattening feet, and I think I will have time for a break shortly after I liberate the last sentient being slightly ahead of schedule. The other deities will know who's boss!"

Now how could I tell you how that feels like? Candid admission or what. Avoid that type of "vajra pride" and you will truly save yourself some effort. Like the cloud dissolves in the sky, like the grain of sugar dissolves in tea, allow that sense of self to melt away at the close of your visualization. Then, when you regenerate yourself before the dedication of merit, experience that as a spotless appearance for that initial instant. Then just back off. Don't expect too much from yourself, and don't try and be too chummy with God. Just disappear and reappear and disappear and reappear, not stuck existing or not existing ... Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ...

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Q. Whatever the buddha teaches is always for the benefit of sentient beings; otherwise the buddha would not have taught it.

A. The power of a good tautalogical statement cannot be refuted; however, it does not derive its force from logic, but rather from appeal to authority.

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Q. "American Buddha" is a complete reversal of the Buddha's teachings.

A. Perhaps the Buddha's teaching is palindromic, i.e., it works in both directions. They say time runs in both directions.

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Q. The First Noble Truth is that Life is Suffering.

A. Surely we agree that it is merely our view of life that causes suffering. The Buddha continued to live on earth. Was he then not free of suffering until death? Of course not. His freedom from suffering began at enlightenment, so mere existence on earth is not the same as existence "in samsara." Nor does "leaving samsara" require rejection of appearances.

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Q. The Third Noble Truth is that there is a transcendental state beyond suffering.

A. Do we not agree that this "state beyond suffering" is here in nowness? Does anyone contend that something "really changes" besides our attachment to selfhood?

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Q. The Buddha's original message was about finding the way out, not learning to live with samsara.

A. Do we not agree that this "way out" is also a "way in" to non-attached, ego-purified existence? Surely you don't think some actual change in outer appearances is required to realize freedom from samsara.

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Q. To the Buddha, your "endless opportunities in abundance" are all hollow, marked by the characteristics of impermanence, suffering and emptiness.

A. Surely we agree that the Buddha used his own mind to gain realization -- and access to our own mind is of course one of the opportunities I refer to. Clearly the Buddha did not reject his own intelligence, but rather used it to his benefit.

So you must think it is "mere sense pleasures" that need to be discarded. Perhaps you think the Buddha held roses in contempt because they fade? Consider however, the limiting and ungracious character of the thought, "These stupid flowers are of no use to me because they wilt and die." Or, "this food is useless, because even after I eat it, I will be hungry again."

One who thinks in this fashion is just having a snit. This is amateur inspiration for people who are attached to what they can't have. As soon as the Buddhist excitement calms down, they'll be back picking flowers and eating beans.

No, what really needs fixing are not the flowers and the food, it is the goddamned customers, who have unrealistic expectations. Of course food has to be eaten repeatedly to continue living, just as breath must be drawn incessantly. Do you resent your breath because it is impermanent? You just want to take one breath and that's it?

To take these things just as they are, and yet to apply oneself to finding the mind that depends not upon these things, but merely upon its own nature, that is the Middle Way.

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Q. If you insist on seeing humans as "bio-computers," the idea of transcendence makes no sense and the goal is reduced to one of consolation and reconciliation with the mundane.

A. As to biocomputers -- I said we use biocomputers, not that we are biocomputers. These biocomputers give us access to the universal mind-medium, which we all use according to our dispositions. (Lao Tzu called it Tao -- the mother of duality and all things.) Of course, our biocomputer limits how we can use mind. If you doubt it, go have three shots of vodka and tell me how you're feeling. Or give a tulku or a zen master brain damage, and see how enlightened he is.

Nevertheless, when the biocomputer is in proper order, I believe that we biocomputer-users can understand the truth of our existence with complete clarity and accuracy. That means knowing one's identity with mind, and being free from all imputations such as "selfhood" and "otherness."

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Q. There is a project underway to install a statue of Maitreya Buddha in Bodhgaya. When it is complete, it will be the largest statue in the world. The wonderful thing about holy objects is that venerating them creates positive karma in proportion to the size of the holy object.

Answer 1:

Well, this will help replace the hole in the Dharmakaya left by the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. What is it with Big Buddhas? Consciousness scaling?

Hmmmm. Does "Easter Island" ring a bell? Obsession with creating large statues resulted in the complete demise of the culture and probably a reversion to cannibalism, because as they exhausted the supply of large trees, they became unable to create sturdy rafts, and their island became a prison.

The deforestation and air pollution that have made the Kathmandu Valley were caused by people congregating in what they believe is an oasis of spirituality.

So it seems the search for heaven can turn earth into hell.

In making decisions about how to use the earth, we should apply earthly standards, the same type of standards we apply when choosing whether to board a plane. We want to fly on a safe, well-maintained airplane piloted by a trained person in good health. Magic will not keep the plane in the sky, nor will it cause a large pile of concrete and steel heaped into the shape of a Buddha to emanate vibrations that will cure poverty.

In order to be able to think about the world in a reasoned way, we make one, very reasonable assumption: That the world now works according to the same rules that applied in the past, that those rules will apply in the future, and that they apply everywhere, wherever we may go.

If we begin to think that somewhere, in some time or place, or under certain special circumstances, the world operates according to different rules, then any true reliance upon reasoning is impossible. Once true reliance upon reasoning is impossible, we have lost, almost, our true common language.

But there are good reasons to jettison reasoning if one wishes to pursue the religious path. Reason does in fact constrict the universe of possible answers to certain obvious questions. People who agree to rely upon reason lose the freedom to re-declare the rules of life whenever it serves their purposes. They cannot claim that Bigger Buddhas are better than smaller buddhas. Which would make it harder to raise money to build The Biggest Buddha. So, "Where 'tis folly to be wise ...."

Answer 2:

This statue business seems to be all about making money selling Dharma. Gyatrul Rinpoche used to tell a story about how he explained to the Dalai Lama that the Americans had taught him to sell the Dharma using marketing methods that priced higher lamas at higher prices. The Dalai Lama laughed, but it wasn't really a joke -- it was a conundrum that Gyatrul Rinpoche never transcended. The lesson seemed to be that, whatever it takes to get the Dharma out there, that's what we'll have to do. But there was this other aspect to it -- this concern that maybe selling the Dharma wouldn't work out so well.

My experience seeing America gobble up dreams and crap out bubble gum causes me to fear that Buddhism may lose going and coming. It may lose itself in a headlong rush toward acceptance and commercial survival. It may also lose the opportunity to adapt developmentally to this new environment.

What Buddhism should take from America is precisely what it avoids: a collision with hard-headed empiricism. Buddhism should reject from America precisely what it accepts: gullible acceptance of a new fix for anxiety.

The world is always in need of physical upkeep and spiritual replenishment. The construction of schools for human development and monuments to spiritual leaders is a reasonable way to provide both. But notions about magical effects deriving from religious monuments deserve to meet the empirical locomotive head on. Kaboom! Then we'll be left with an ordinary world and the Bodhisattva railway.

"Even if the sun were to rise in the West, the Bodhisattva still has only one way." Shunryu Suzuki.

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Q. Only Mantra has the special method for achieving the form body by cultivating paths that are similar in aspect to a Buddha's Form Body.

A. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.

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Q. Since Tantra is not based on sutra, it has nothing to do with Buddhism proper.

A. Yah, so yer all heretics with yer mantras and yer tantras. Meet ya' at the canteen. We'll plan a breakout.

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Q. I've heard that some Teachers steal other Teachers' students.

A. Funny story about headhunters. When I was in LA, as a young associate lawyer in the late-eighties, I had lots of invitations to change jobs. I retained a couple of headhunters. My kids said years later that sometimes they heard that "the headhunter called for Dad." This actually caused them to think that there was somebody looking to cut my head off. Now if you can imagine how they were able to reconcile this with day-to-day reality in downtown Santa Monica, you will understand something about the flexibility of a child's mind.

But on the chosen topic -- teachers poaching for students -- it's a breath of fresh air to have it discussed openly. I saw Gyatrul Rinpoche lose his influence over one young Swiss woman with $$$ who had made a few extravagant promises. She went off to see Chakdud Tulku, seduced by Chakdud's magical way with clay and paint, etcetera. Whoa, you coulda ironed your pants on Rinpoche's forehead, he was so steamed! Never introduce her to your best friend until after things are snug!

Truth is, Gyatrul Rinpoche had whole centers whisked out from under him time and again, and his graciousness in every one of those circumstances endeared him to us more and more. He lost a center in Berkeley to a student-led coup, and in LA we repulsed two takeover attempts. Finally, the craziness of the mid 1990's eviscerated even the Tashi Choling sangha, leaving a skeleton crew to practice chod together.

As my dear old dad said, "It's dog eat dog, and hell if you're a puppy."

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Q. Instead of focusing on conflicts, it would be better if we put our best foot forward so the newbies won't be turned off.

A. Good point! Put your best foot forward, make a good first impression, etc. Makes sense, but not for the Siddhas who hung out in the equivalent of junkyards lit by trash can fires prowled by crazy, mangy dogs. Anti-marketing. But what do we do when our neurosis appears? Straight to the closet with it. Lest it be seen by the newcomers.

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Q. It is written that one should not drink from the same well as a vow breaker.

A. In the movie Labyrinth, there are some large talking stones with ponderous voices that try to discourage the heroine on her way through the maze to (compassionately) rescue her little brother from the Castle of the Goblin King (David Bowie), who has been snatched away because she selfishly wished that the goblins would take him.

These large talking stones say things like, "Go Back!" and "This is Not the Way!!!" As well as my favorite "The path you follow will lead to Certain Destruction!!!"

They really are quite scary until one of the denizens of the Labyrinth silences them with a simple "Oh, shut up!"

Whereupon one of the stones looks sheepish and responds, "Oh please, it's been such a long time since we said it."

And the denizen replies, "All right, but don't expect a big reaction."

I loved this scene, because it shows how words, uttered with convincing force, can undermine our confidence and will when we most need it. To see frightful appearances turn into harmless illusions is so skillful. Didn't the Buddha teach something about that?

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Q. What is the point behind the divisions we see in Buddhism? Why the rift between Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana? Is this a real internal distinction, or simply an artificial division to roughly group Buddhists?

A. Darwin might have something to tell us about the origin of sects, in his theory of "adaptive radiation." Adaptive-radiation explained the diversity of finch-species in the Galapagos islands.

Here's an apposite quote:

"Adaptive radiation is a biological term that describes the way organisms evolve to
take advantage of new environments. The most famous example is Darwin's finches. A
single species of finch blew off of the west coast of South America and landed on the
Galapagos Islands, and as these birds took advantage of the new ecological niches
offered by the islands, they evolved into several separate but closely related species.

Adaptive radiation requires new environments not already crowded with competitors and
organisms adaptable enough to take advantage of those environments."

Interestingly, the author who wrote the above is explaining how Linux, a software language, will conquer the software universe through adaptive radiation: " So it is with Linux–after a decade of computers acting as either clients or servers, new classes of devices are now being invented almost weekly–phones, consoles, PDAs–and only Linux is adaptable enough to work on most of them."

Similarly, Dharma is a form of software for the human mind. It too radially adapts to different cultural environments. It cannot adapt by keeping doctrinal elements which, however useful in the former environment, are now dysfunctional for the new software users. On the other hand, it has to keep its core features, or it can't be said to have adapted successfully.

So what are the core features of Buddhism? And to what extent can we be sure that the core features were designed by Buddha Software-Muni himself, and not actually engineered by generations of hackers? The obvious fact is that this Buddha-ware project is an open source project. Only code that is opened up and exposed to use and improvement will survive and replicate. The system administrators can opt for priestcraft, and try to keep secrets, or they can open up their systems to analysis.

Meanwhile, anyone with a nervous system is free to begin working with the vast corpus of published code on the operation of the human mind. What they will be amazed by is how many words there are, and how few answers. A thousand sales pitches, and so few refrigerators delivered to the Eskimos.

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Q. The three-fold presentation of hinayana, mahayana, vajrayana is just a way of saying that the Vajrayana is superior to other forms of Dharma.

A. My response, back in 1978, was that it was the most blatant, ridiculous, self-serving and unlikely-to-be-true piece of own-horn-blowing that I had ever heard. At least fundamentalist Christians had the good grace to look dorky while they claimed their capital-G God was the only way to everlasting happiness. The lamas did it with a straight face.

Eventually, I fit it all into my Mexican-Catholic-Tibetan-Buddhist conception of the universe with Tara of Guadalupe as my central deity, her brown feet nestled in an abundant heap of mescalito buttons, surrounded by a halo of night-blooming, lemon-scented datura flowers with the white pallor of the moon itself. Truly Vajrayana is the best of all religions.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 6:59 am

PART 3 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. You seem to view things from a decidedly material angle. In my view, the material world doesn't provide its own basic foundation. It's seems derivative of a spirit world in which reside both physical, natural law as well as what we call moral law. The latter can be known when we delve into our inner soul-being, just as we access the former through our relation with the world without.

A. Our perceptions, thoughts and feelings create the substance of our experience. We don't have to add any mystery, just look at the equation. Which may be more than the sum of its parts -- after all, the equation may not be an addition problem.

But still an equation. Nothing coming out that didn't go in.

When we feel short of understanding, that's natural. Still, if we supply the lack from imagination, that's questionable.

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Q. Isn't it true that all we need is love?

A. Well, if the tantric icon for enlightenment is sexual union, then sex is the tantric microcosm of enlightenment.

If Darwin is consulted, it seems like the pleasure generated by sex is a mechanism that enforces desired behavior.

In society, favorable mating is a status marker.

Growing children is the ultimate self-fulfillment project.

By giving birth to successive generations, we create a field of potential rebirth for ourselves (if we think we're coming back).

Continuity of the species is a good in itself, because it perpetuates the existence of beings like ourselves.

The perpetuation of ourselves is a self-evident good, since few willingly commit suicide.

Life sustains life.

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Q. I trust that the future of Buddhism will transcend intellectuals arguing about how many dakinis can dance on the tip of a vajra.

A. I sometimes think it takes a while to realize that spoken doctrine is like a lagoon, and truth is like the sea beyond. It is easy to speak of the attributes of water in the lagoon, while omitting much that is true of the sea, with its huge waves and unfathomable depths.

Since some believe human minds cannot fathom "the truth," they design conditional doctrines to protect their believers. These conditional doctrines are like lagoons.

Still, the sea is out there, and can be traversed, studied and known. It does not even take great bravery to go there, since the waves of that unknown realm are just the waves of our mind, and cannot destroy us.

And yet, people are afraid to leave the lagoon.

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Q. People are always going to be fascinated by the mysteries of Tibet.

A. Once there was an author named Lobsang Rampa who became infamous among Tibetan Buddhists as a rank pretender. He wrote books that seem, in retrospect, to be obviously fictional, but at the time, Rampa claimed they recorded historical facts about a brotherhood of which he had once been an initiate.

Similarly, Madame Blavatsky safely dreamed up tales about Koot Hoomi and the Ascended Masters, complete with iconographic images of these imagined saints from the Himalayas (cloaked in violet haze). Her pal Leadbetter kidnapped poor Krishnamurti and tried to turn him into a Messiah with a Tibetanoid lineage. Yogananda posited Babaji, the timeless sage of the Himalayas, as the founder of his lineage.

Yes, off in those mountains, mysteries abide. People can dream about those mountains, huge fastnesses where the mind is free to roam the frozen wastes.

Some say Traktung Rinpoche walked out of this mythical realm, cloaked in the mysteries of an oral tradition, hitched to dreams and visions.

Tibet will always be a tremendous resource for spiritual teachers.

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Q. Aren't you suffering from privation due to having no guru, no sangha, and no practice?

Early Psychedelic Practice

I've been "practicing" since I was around twelve years old, if self-consciously attempting to delve into the depths of my own mind is practice. In 1968 I ran away from home and started doing blotter and windowpane with my pals. By sixteen my mind was hammered thin as gold foil, and I began trying to reassemble my understanding of the world. After about six months in the Children of God fundamentalist Christian cult that I hooked up with in Denmark and Sweden, I actually believed that the world was created in six days! But after my parents pulled me out of the COG, I turned to 3HO Yoga and a wholesome peyote lifestyle back in Arizona. AmBu met me shortly after I returned to my denim and cactus roots.

Neo-Hindu

Eventually we ran into Ram Dass and I decided to lotus-ize my life. I studied chakras and asanas very earnestly, doing yoga about half the day and reading sacred books the rest of the time, and feeling terribly earnest all the time.

Emptying the Cup

After about five years of this, living in the hippie mecca of Ashland, Oregon, AmBu and I met Gyatrul Rinpoche. At that point, I began to stop practicing. Slowly I realized that, like the man in the famous zen story, I too needed to empty my cup. I learned that I was getting zero credit for all of my past meditative achievements. I didn't know Tibetan, I didn't know Kye Rim, I didn't know anything.

After that, my quest for spiritual states of mind sort of tailed off. If my ego wasn't going to get anything out of it, I wasn't really that interested. I was more interested in organizing my family and economic life, and creating domestic harmony, which Rinpoche always encouraged as my first priority.

Conversion II

Starting law school, I experienced a meltdown. I experienced true nihilism after a couple of years, and by the time I got done with law school, I didn't think about Dharma at all. Then Arya Tara (yeah, the female Buddha, not my wife) came into my life. I began the Mexican-Catholic phase of my Vajrayana journey. I realized that I had a huge obstacle to venerating male deities. Vajrasattva and Guru Rinpoche gave me the willies. One day I remembered a peyote vision I had once had, of a chrome-helmeted face with eyes like the sun, called the Censor, and I realized that I was just too afraid of my father, and male authority figures, to expect any kindness to come from them.

I was raised Mexican Catholic, and found that I actually could, and needed, to set up a devotional focus in my life. Each day I faced challenges that scared me shitless. I was terrified by the enormity of being a lawyer, manipulating lives, truth and money, but I had to do it. Lawyers will get right in your face, they’ll tell you what you don’t want to hear, and leave you to finish the job. So I found myself, 17 floors above the smoggy basin, behind a desk piled high with the scrum of paper warfare, surrounded by Barbie-like secretaries, looking for the unity of Samsara and Nirvana.

But the “woe is me, I’m stuck in samsara and need to renounce” doctrine was useless. Start whining that stuff to yourself and you’ll cultivate a psychology of “retreat,” i.e., surrender, that will not hold you in good stead as the father of three trying to pay off $70K in educational debt. And “confession” as a practice was just a roller-coaster of good intentions and quick reversions.

One day it hit me, as I was driving down the 10 Freeway to work, reciting a Tara mantra, that She, and all Bodhisattvas, are truly like a huge tree that gives shelter and nourishment to all beings. However unfortunate sentient beings were, I realized, they were fortunate to have this source of refuge and benefit. I inhaled a fresh lungful of devotion, and began to actually have a practice.

Relying on Arya Tara was not so difficult, and helped tremendously in staying away from the deep ravines of ruinous desire, and avoiding being consumed by the blazing gas-jets of anger that fuel the legal profession. When I tried cases, I recited Tara mantra while the jury was out (a time period that is an excruciating agony for client and lawyer alike), and in reliance on her kind features, I was able to accomplish many things I would have feared to try.

The wonderful thing about practicing Tara, is that you know that she is not judging you (you are not judging yourself). If you make a mistake today, no need to agonize for long. My motto became “Do something right!” Day after day I recited the 21 Taras from memory. When I took the California bar exam, her power came to me in a dream. When I told Rinpoche about it, he laughed, telling stories of miracles done by Tara that were more incredible than passing a paper test.

Like my mother before me, I credited the Deity with every power. My mother never said, “We will do such and so tomorrow,” but rather “If God wills it.” So too, I prefaced every statement, at least mentally, with the reminder that, “If Tara will be so kind.”

Eventually, though, I must say, my conversion became so entrenched that my devotions were rather perfunctory. I began to take my spiritual sincerity for granted, I suppose. And while this was happening, our daughter Ana was developing by leaps and bounds, while AmBu became more and more disenchanted. In the fall of 1998 all of this came to a head.

Out of the Frying Pan

After about six years in Colestine Valley, I had no desire to get out of the frying pan. It happened because AmBu’s faith cratered. She had never stopped trying, and had always maintained the hardline: “Renounce Samsara, Remember Death, All Glory to the Lamas and the Lineage!” style of practice. When I dumped the patriarchal imagery, I think it made it a lot easier for me. But AmBu’s a bit of a literalist. She tried to claw her way through, and when she failed, she was psychologically bereft.

Into The Fire

When we blew out of Colestine Valley with our reputation on fire, I was put to the test. I had to find my red shoes, remember the trick, and click my heels together pretty quick to make sure the family landed on its feet. Having made few friends in “the world,” and now having no friends in the Dharma, I felt like Saraha’s bird, flying between sea and sky until, having nowhere to alight, it inevitably returns to its place on the ship’s mast.

Amazingly, by working ceaselessly for many months, and following my own best intuitions, I managed to put together a new economic life, built around the Sex.com lawsuit. I focused on taking care of the business. Meanwhile, AmBu and Ana took off for Nepal, to try and see how it really gets done at ground zero.

While they were gone, I read a book called Heaven’s Harlots, by Miriam Williams. Subtitled, “My Fifteen Years as A Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult,” the book captivated me for three days. I realized that I’d been in the COG, and barely got out before the sex cult stuff began. I knew the language, the places, and the people in the book. I realized that my parents had pulled me out of one cult, but my own inclinations had drawn me into another, where I had remained for over 20 years. What a shock!

I was both exhilarated and devastated. For the first time, I realized that I had become self-indoctrinated into a system that severely limited my view of myself. I grew very tired of the numerous wrathful thangkas that decorated my bedroom, but I was afraid to take them down, for fear of the consequences. To the extent I still prayed, I realized, I did so from a sense of obligation and paranoia. I wasn’t really healthy, I realized. Thanks to Miriam Williams, who had the courage and talent to put her story into a book, I was able to look at my mixed-up, self-restricted condition.

When AmBu returned from Nepal, she had for the first time begun to authorize herself to interpret Dharma for herself. She was thoroughly disappointed with the Lamaism she’d seen in Kathmandu, but still wanted to make Buddhism her focus. But her emotions betrayed the serenity she hoped to adopt, as we discovered that, due to some legal machinations by our former Sangha friends, we could not sell our land in the Valley. (I believe these legal problems are in the process of resolution, but are far from over and still cause us great detriment.)

One day I got up early in the morning and hacked out a website for Tara using some cheap online program. (I’m still trying to learn real web-authoring.) That became American-Buddha.com. Tara began to articulate her ideas. They were outrageous. From her rage and sense of (self-)betrayal emerged a weapon of clear sight that targeted and destroyed idiotic doctrines with deadly accuracy. I trimmed the extreme ferocity out of her arguments and gave them a lawyer’s sense of logical cohesion. We ended up with the “Another View” article – a comprehensive critique of our former cultic obsession.

We made all these new friends on the Trike Boards. Meanwhile, our former Sangha-mates reeled in astonishment. Great Samaya-breakage! (Delicious gossip shared among the faithful to flavor the dry bread of their renunciation, and a mythic-sounding cautionary tale for newcomers: “Charles and Tara” becoming the very epitome of the depths to which pride will cause one to fall.)

The Trike Boards were such a boon because, and hats off to the webmaster there – they have allowed the marketplace of ideas to open up shop in the Buddhist world. By trading logical salvoes with the neo-traditionalists, exchanging careful replies with the tentatively approving, and even receiving the occasional compliment from those who “never went there,” or are “over it,” AmBu and I have come to realize that all belief systems are mired in relativism. That all constructed doctrines that lay claim to divine origin are equally suspect.

The fire has been more cleansing than the frying pan ever was ripening.

Not Nihilism

Now my mala gathers dust and I rarely recite. Why? I think, and excuse if it sounds like pride, that this old horse doesn't need a bridle any more. Rulebooks aren't relevant now.

It isn't that I see Mahamudra everywhere, or that every moment is marked with the nature of the unconditioned. I can still say these things, but the diction seems tired and doesn't compare with the fresh impact of each day's experiences.

I have no desire to enter a temple. I really never even liked Rinpoche's temple. I often sat on the porch and looked at the hills and clouds that had brought me to the Valley in the first place, while listening to his words over the loudspeakers.

I have no desire to bow to anyone.

I do not desire the company of people whose idea of discourse is to commiserate about how dreadful "samsara" is, alternating with ecstatic references to the sainted lamas.

Post-Buddhist

As to what I really want to do? My friend Michael Weir, a true Colestine Valley hermit, once was waxing eloquent about the power of being totally disciplined, like a faultless horse under the control of a skilled rider. I responded to him, "I do not want to be under any control at all. I want to be the wild horse for whom the endless horizon is the limit of his world, running free, without any restraint whatsoever."

Oh people will say that our world could never be populated by free people. The rule makers of Dharma will laugh at my notion, and the chorus of laughter will swell, as the rule makers from every religion and political creed join in to jeer at my stupid idea. Freedom. How asinine.

But recently I read a story that relates. Apparently there was an English lord who had quite an army, and he went about in the name of the king, demanding of other lords that they show the written title, the "warrant" by which they held their lands. When they couldn't produce the warrant, he'd claim their lands for "the King." One lord, thus summoned and presented with the demand to show his warrant, produced an old sword from the family armory by which his father had held his land, and announced that it was still as good a warrant as ever, should anyone wish to challenge its authority. He kept his land.

The first territory to keep free is the domain of our own mind. I believe it comes to us free, and it is our right and duty to keep it that way. While I love Gyatrul Rinpoche and will respect him the length of my entire life, I place no trust in gods, demons, rituals or prayers. It is action that matters. The action of seeking clarity, honesty, goodness, deep inside the mind. With that sword of action held firm in our hands, we hold ourselves free, and need ask leave of no man.

Shall I argue against the suffering that is the fate of humans and all species? Of course not. I argue that the existence of suffering is not a sufficient reason to lose all faith in life, and that we are not compelled to raise up effigies on thrones to mitigate the fear of death. I argue that the good old sword of reason and self-reliance still will serve to help us make order out of life, to divine right from wrong, and to make our peace with the Universe.

Do you still fear that in the dark places in your mind your psychic teeth will still chatter, that your moral pee will run down your leg, that you will be crushed between mountains and sawed in half by demons? Exactly why you need that sword. Check the ancestral armory. You’ll find it there.

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Q. Rajneesh is my favorite teacher.

A. I now view Rajneesh's ouevre as the largest assortment of meditative bubblegum in the known universe, rivaling Sri Chinmoy's output and blowing his doors off with regard to real pseudo-depth.

My favorite Rajneesh story is the one about the zen nun, who had an old bucket for carrying water. It was a really old bucket, but she had just kept mending it over the years. One night, while carrying water and watching the reflection of the moon in the full bucket, the bottom fell out of the bucket. Water and moon disappeared at once, and she achieved an enlightenment that she summarized:

"For years now,
trying to keep the old bucket together,
Tonight, the bottom fell out ...
No water, no moon,
Emptiness in my hand."

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Q. Where is the way?

A. I once asked a dharma friend, "what is the best vehicle?" He answered, "The one that is easiest to discard."

It's terribly important to know that the way is around here somewhere. In saying that, I think I should be safe from the charge of nihilism.

But we cannot believe in too much. As Suzuki Roshi said, "we must believe in nothing," by which he meant, something that has no form, no shape, no color. We must have "strong faith in our original nature."

In saying "must," do I refer to a categorical, external imperative? No. I refer to what Suzuki Roshi calls our inmost desire. That is an obscure inner calling to experience life as meaningful of itself.

If our deepest inmost desire can only be satisfied by practice, we must practice. Like raindrops, we cannot resist falling. But in practice, we accept our raindrop-nature, and fall without flailing.

There is no joy in locking oneself into a fortress of serenity. Allow yourself to fall, and look about and see us all falling together. The display is uplifting, even for ones who have no idea where the fall will end, or even if it will. The dynamics of falling are our present moment, ever and ever.

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Q. What can a beginner expect to experience?

A. Takuan Soho likens the beginning meditator to a tied-up cat. The cat's four paws have been tied together to keep it from attacking birds, but when it is trained, the string is removed and the cat no longer attempts to attack the birds.

Jumping at the birds is analogous to attaching to concepts. Tying up the cat is analogous to exercising some restraint to interrupt the mental habit of attaching to concepts. When the cat is trained and the string is removed, this is analogous to when we trust our mind to do what it wills, because it happily releases its attachment to concepts as they arise. The training has been effective when one no longer proceeds automatically from stimulus (seeing the bird) to response (jumping), and experiences a space between the two.

Obviously, meditators are going to vary in their ability to see that space, and so being a tied up cat may seem like the safe thing to do. But Takuan Soho points out that this is a very beginner beginner thing. Just as in fencing, you absolutely have to release the mind, or, as Takuan notes, you can parry the first strike, but not the second, or you can fight one opponent, but not two. What is fatal in fencing is deadening in meditation. To become a flexible, happy practitioner, it's essential to let go and trust yourself. I bet a lot of people are ready for an unhobbled trot around the track.

So all you tied-up cats, here's what I suggest,
just take a pair of scissors and snip!

Don't know how to do it? Just try this. Imagine you're at attention, in uniform, and you can't move. Then your sergeant calls out, "At Ease!" and you are totally free to do any damn thing you feel like.

Whew! What a blast to take that first loping stride. And there's a bird! Now here's the hard part...

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Q. My understanding is that there is nothing but a set of causes that continues from moment to moment, in other words no self. I remember a toy that consisted of a line of suspended metal balls and when you pulled one back and let it swing it would hit the line and the ball on the other end would fly out. The energy flowed between the balls. In the same way, a bundle of energies and causes inhabit different bodies and that is rebirth, with no entity passing between the two. Isn't this the standard buddhist view?

A. Okay, so we've got bodies being more real than the energy, is that correct? The energy, on the other hand, has "nowhere to live" and just gets "passed along" helplessly from one ball to the next, fighting a losing war with gravity and inertia and finally expiring with one final click and a final settling into stillness.

No, this doesn't sound at all like a human being. In your model, the energy is gradually diffused through all the balls. Each succeeding ball receives and releases less energy. At the end, a finite number of movements will have occurred, and the energy will be all diffused. Selfhood would proceed by fragmentation, through diminution, to expiration. Some people would have very big souls (close to the "first click"), and others very small ones (far-removed from the prime clicker). Too literalistic for you? Well, you asked.

In Buddhist reincarnation, each karmic vector (that's you, partner) generates a sequence of lives in different bodies, strung together like the bands on a coral snake. It's kinda like, "Gotta die now, time to be a grasshopper!" Or, "time to go to hell," more like it. Big public secret -- many Buddhists are more fire and brimstone than Jerry Falwell.

According to the doctrine, you earn your way to nirvana, sometimes with actual donations to large construction projects. (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) But not to worry, or hurry, because according to the Mahayana doctrine, you are about to let everyone cut in line in front of you! And I mean everyone, including Dee Dee Ramone, and he's not hurryin!

Fortunately, there is a short cut through all of this. Push the large button right in front of your face. Your ball will fall through the hole and you will realize the most profound secret of all, the "secret unformulated principle of all the sages." All of the past, present and future will disappear. All of the sentient beings will turn into Buddhas, and you will realize that they have been so all along. You will have to move neither left nor right, up or down, to see everything you desire to see. Your view will be completely unobstructed. And that's what they call direct understanding of the nature of mind. Then you don't have to worry about swinging balls.

Thanks for asking. I always hated those goddamn executive toys.

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Q. According to the theory of the Kali Yuga, this is the darkest hour of the dark ages, in which disease, famine, and warfare are raging like the fierce north wind. A large section of the human population is going to be wiped out. Mother Earth is not going to take it anymore.

Answer 1:

Does the fossil record support the assertion that there was ever a golden age, a silver age, a brass age, or now, an iron age?

What were the signal scientific, literary, architectural, philosophical, or other achievements of the golden age?

When was the human life span longer than today?

If lifespans are reduced during the Kali Yuga, how is it that people in western society now live longer than at any past time?

If no physical evidence exists on earth for the existence of a prior, golden age, then did this golden age take place: (a) so long ago that the record disappeared, (b) on another plane where evidentiary traces cannot be discovered, or (c) in a realm of pure analogy and metaphor, similar to that occupied by the Tibetans' Sambhogakaya Buddhas.

The whole theory of degenerating ages is the equivalent of archeology for people who accepted the geography that places Mt. Meru at the center of a flat universe with square, semicircular, trapezoidal and triangular continents. Very ordered and logical in its own way, but wholly without evidentiary basis.

Our planet's ability to survive, and the tenacity of life will astound everyone, not that we cannot extinguish life; however, the Apocalypse is NOT coming to save you. Life is already over for all those who died today. For those of us who remain, the question is how to not turn into chickenshit.

If cuddling up to silly notions is your idea of how to comfort yourself psychologically, load up on this stuff!!!

Answer 2:

Yep, it seems we have managed to roil the waves of the ocean at last. Humanity has gotten its own boat to rockin' at last. We have the potential to turn the planet into a cinder long before the sun would do it by going supernova before turning into a white dwarf on its way to becoming a neutron star. We can probably also colonize space, breed mutants on corporate archipelagoes, and use the Internet to race dune buggies on Mars.

Arguably none of these things will help us in the least to get enlightened, but it is now very difficult to find a good space under a fig tree where you can engage in a staring match with the Universe until the Universe blinks. As presumably Shakyamuni did.

Maybe we will just have to float weightless in outer space, peering out the quartz windows into the infinite night filled with far brighter stars than we see here. Maybe we will need meditation teachers when we are out there. And I'm sure the spaceships will have libraries.

Answer 3:

My own romance with an Apocalyptic world-view began when I was a member of the Children of God fundamentalist sect. I studied the Book of Revelations (still have a copy that's all marked up) very carefully, learning the symbolism of the Whore of Babylon, and the Four Beasts, the Seven Trumpets (heavy), and the Seven Seals (badass stuff). An impending apocalypse takes the pressure off. It is a big relief when you're sixteen years old and don't want to have to get a job working for some jerk for nothing instead of hanging out having fun with pretty girls. Which there were plenty of such among the Christians. So where's the problem? Jesus is coming back to blow up all the bad people. Cool. And we'll be princes and princesses in heaven, because Jesus said "I go to prepare a place for you. In my father's house there are many mansions." Better than sleeping in the pool cabana.

Then I got over that apocalyptic view because I came back to my former drug-addled senses, realizing the whole Christian myth was just stupid and it was silly to believe it.

But the economic problems remained. Hard times in the early seventies. High inflation and no jobs. I was a young parent now, and looking for a place to build a house in the woods. Apocalypse would suit me just fine, probably. Raise some goats and such.

After living in Ashland around a year, a town in Oregon that was such a hippie mecca that grocery shopping took two hours and was mostly spent moving slowly through the aisles hugging, playing with kids, and eating from the bins, I noticed everyone was in this apocalyptic state. We were sure the "big cities were going to seize up," and industrial collapse would follow. Audiotapes circulated through our circle, predicting the end with various twists and turns, many involving rescue of the elect with the aid of Space Brothers, usually Venusian in origin. Of course, wanting to pick up as many spiritual people in one spot as they could, we figured the Space Brothers would come straight to Ashland, and probably land on the roof of the Coop food store. Everybody saw spaceships, and people would act like you were an idiot if you claimed they didn't exist. Sheesh!

I had one friend named Steven who went on the ultimate Apoco-bender. A brilliant guy who could squeeze all of the goodness out of hit of acid, he developed strange mannerisms. He started stealing people's "ritual implements," the peyote rattles and such paraphernalia of hippie life, the aids in "making it up as we go along." Crystals, little pieces of fur, porcupine needles, brightly dyed with boiled lemon peel.

Then the truth came out. The space bros were coming out to the Colestine Valley to pick Steven up at the house where he was crashing -- a pyramid-shaped house, as it happened. He developed the conviction that the space bros would take him to the Great Pyramid at Cheops, where he was going to wire up the galaxy for the new millenium. After he installed the new wiring, it was going to be all systems go for a new age of transcendent bliss for all mankind. Because he was, get this, the Great White Brother. (He was Jewish.)

Everyone wondered what would happen when the Space Bros failed to show up. It was like a ticking time bomb. Well, the day came and went, and the next time I saw Steven he looked bad. He was wearing a purple blanket, his fingers were shaking, he looked like he had been given forty lashes. I asked him what was up.

He told me: "I screwed it up. I messed up the wiring of the entire galaxy, and now we're all going to have to go through another entire aeon before we can try it again." Not a twist I'd expected, but then again I've never really been crazy. He was really depressed.

Two months later we met again. He looked much better. His arms were covered with intricate drawings done in ballpoint pen. I asked what was up. He gestured toward his new girlfriend, saying she had healed the whole problem by reversing his polarity, and eyeing his washable tatoos with real fondness. They didn't stay together long, and after that Steven always had a nervous tic and seemed to smoke his cigarettes in a very aware, focused fashion.

Q. Just as everything is about to go down the toilet, Rigden Rundra Chakrin of Shambhala is going to jump out with his armies, and save all good Buddhist boys & girls. When I see people fret about the future of this planet, I can't help but wonder if they really believe these things.

A. Nobody really believes in miracles, because no one would take this bet: If magical things do not in fact occur, then all of your earthly wealth will disappear and you will be sitting naked in Africa.

Nobody will take that bet if the consequence could actually be effectuated. (Of course this is in itself a magical scenario I have conjured up to make a point.) And the point is that people should put their mouth where their money is.

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Q. You are simply engaged in samsaric politics, regardless of whether you think you are trying to do something good for Dharma or not. My advice to you is to "leave it and go." Real practitioners don't waste time on politics.

A. You are trying to sift the political sand out of the religious sand. Tibetan Buddhism is a political religion -- a theocracy just like the Vatican. The doctrines vitalize and inform the politics. Religion is the best instrument of social control -- and all religions exist to control human minds.

Religious beliefs satisfy powerful needs. The needs of Tibetan medievals are vastly different from the needs of modern apartment dwellers and cubicle slaves. Vast chunks of irrelevance dilute the spiritual essence of the teachings.

Whether I believe in those teachings or not is irrelevant. The question is whether, looking from the viewpoint of an objective person unblinded by the hope of salvation, it even looks likely that a modern American could hope to achieve much at all on the Vajrayana path. To hear the lamas, nobody is getting anywhere. We're all a joke. The siddhas don't even look in our direction. I suggest you accept this negative prognosis. This is not going to work. You are going to become very well informed about something that is slightly more useful than Etruscan grammar.

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Q. To attack and blame everything on others is the way some people hide their problems.

A. However, when people complain about the smell of garbage, only fools say "oh, that's just your karma." It really does stink.

Dharma is not intended to help you remake the stink of garbage into the smell of lotus flowers, but that is how most people seem to use it.

Then, people who complain of the stink are called samaya breakers. Actually, they are just like the little boy who cried, "The emperor has no clothes!"

Someday people will understand this. (Superior sigh...)

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Q. Perhaps Buddhism in America will be able to help guarantee the viability of the democratic government our forefathers created.

A. Perhaps just as Zen brought aesthetics into play, American Buddhists can introduce the radical concept of equality between teacher and student into Buddhism. Just introducing the ability for a student to talk back and question the teacher's assertions would be a big step in some circles.

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Q. The desire to be equal with one's Guru stems from egotism or a misplaced sense of egalitarianism, nothing more.

A. So what spiritual defect feeds the desire to appear superior to other students? An innate talent for toadying up to the authorities? Or a misplaced love of aristocracy?

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Q. In the movie "Himalaya," the monk made a profound statement when he said: "when the path becomes divided, always choose the harder path."

A. Actually, when I see two paths, I wonder which one is going to be harder. Then, I try and pick the easier one. But it always seems to turn out to be harder, actually. But then I meet people who took the other road, and they tell me I made the easy choice. Of course, then I figure maybe "the grass is always greener on the other side." So maybe each road is just as easy, or difficult, but you will always perceive the road you chose as the most difficult. And maybe, just maybe, they are actually the same road, which because I don't have a map, they may very well be. So then it doesn't matter what you choose.

Which reminds me of the song by Procol Harum, "Shine on Brightly," in which the lead singer actually asks the Dalai Lama what is the "meaning of life." To which HHDL replies, "Well, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"

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Q. From a western nihilistic perspective . . .

A. If the west were all nihilistic, then people would worship at the First Church of Christ Nihilist, but they don't. Westerners are usually eternalistic if they're "spiritual" at all.

If you're a nurse, you rely on concrete things -- so many cc's, so many degrees fahrenheit, so many sutures, etc. That's empirical knowledge. When you want to rely on information, you want it to be empirical, verifiable by resort to commonly-understood experiences.

I suggest everyone put their faith where their professional reliance is -- on the verifiable.

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Q. All of our experiences as practitioners are just ordinary psychological states.

A. Of course they are. The Buddha was also an ordinary person, who achieved his original potential of clear understanding. Because he achieved it, we can, too. This is why we can benefit from emulating him, correct? Enlightenment is ordinary, but rare. Why? Because the right conditions are not present. Thus, snow is ordinary, but rare in San Francisco. In Alaska, it is also ordinary, but common. Thus, among meditators, enlightenment may occur more commonly than among non-meditators. But who knows? We need to test and verify.

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Q. Are you going to save me?

A. Not in the salvation business, just giving away alarm clocks as a hobby, to provide a warning cry that the implements of mind manipulation are being deployed by sanghas and lamas. This seems beyond dispute. See the case of Catharine Burroughs and Sogyal "Rinpoche."

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Q. Does that mean I have to go back to being the anxious and depressed person I was before I took refuge in the Triple Gems?

A. Hey, whatever floats yer boat! What's different now? Would you lose it if you lost your Dhammapada or your Kunzang Lamay Shalung, or your Jewel Ornament of Liberation?

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Q. Do I have to give up all the boundless joy I find in my practice and my vajra community?

A. Hey, if it's boundless you better get a big container to fit it in! And if you've got boundless joy in your vajra community, you must be part of the inner circle already. You're one of the winners in this game! Up your stake!

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Q. Do I have to go to some motel and be deprogrammed?

A. You can deprogram right at home with simple items found in your own kitchen or bathroom.

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Q. Am I forbidden from loving my lamas who are as close to my heart as my own mother and father?

A. I suggest you give your loving lamas a little test before you get them that close. Remember, they've got relatives in India and Tibet who are far more important to them than you will ever be. Your parents will pay your rent, give you food, and tend you till you breathe your last breath. Get a lama to hang around a sick person for more than 30 minutes and I'll send you a secret decoder ring.

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Q. Why are you Lama-bashing? Are you a racist?

A. No, not racist. Just realistic. It's OK to realize that blood ties make a difference. Back to the dictionary for a second:

Main Entry: kind

Etymology: Middle English kinde, from Old English cynd; akin to Old English cynn kin
Date: before 12th century

1 NATURE : FAMILY, LINEAGE

4 a : a group united by common traits or interests

The word kind thus stems from the word for family. Mahayana teaches that we should try to feel towards strangers as we naturally do towards our own family members. Marpa totally fell apart when his son's head was busted open like a melon, but had shown no pity to Milarepa's great suffering. That's just life. Everyone loves their mother.

It is not blasphemy to suggest that modern day representatives of Buddhism in the West have familial impulses to be more kind to their own people than to rich Americans who are also johnny-come-lately's to the faith. Just as it is not blasphemy to suggest that Roman cardinals have sexual impulses, which they might (oh shudder) even give in to on occasion. Even by molesting people.

Well, maybe that is blasphemy, but if so, quite necessary blasphemy. Shoot me.

(Written before big scandal came out.)

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Q. Your attempts to "reform" Buddhism are deluded. Buddhism doesn't need reformation.

A. Yes, after 2,500 years and god knows how many permutations that have split the original family tree into thousands of dogmas, doctrines and disciplines, Buddhism is now in full flower, like a cherry tree on fire with spring. But the American Buddha heresy must never flower!!! A strategic blow against the incipient bud, guided by a traditionalist's all-seeing eye, will prevent the blossoming of what would otherwise deface the elegant uniformity of Buddhist belief. Bravo! Apocalypse avoided.

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Q. Those who understand Buddhism understand the unity of all Buddhist schools. Those who do not understand Buddhism see differences.

A. Nutritious dog food, but not a sophisticated meal. A rule this absolute and simplistic is guaranteed to be wrong. But it sounded so good when you said it. That's what's important about getting your opposite number into play. You were talking nonsense, and you didn't even know it. Now it's much clearer.

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Q. When I first joined the Pentecostal church, I started slow but was finally baptized thinking I was on to something. But those teachings didn't hold a candle to Buddha's wisdom (although there were plenty of candles at times). In the end, when it was time to leave, we just left. Culture is functional. When it doesn't function for you anymore, then you drop it.

A. When it grows into you, then you have to extract yourself. Sometimes you need help to do that. And watching the stiff, rigid minds of people doing the conceptual mummy-walk, or watching the frenzied epicycle-weaving of a person trying to keep the earth flat and the stars in their places, is a real tonic.

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Q. Why should Tibetan Buddhists have to defend Buddhism from failed ex-Buddhist wannabe reformers? Is it any wonder why some Lamas in India don't want to come here to teach? America - ain't it great?

A. No, most lamas want to come to learn English, get a wife, get a car, a house, and meet Steven Segal. There's plenty of Dharma teachers already.

America - ain't it great? Not as great as it's gonna be. George W and John Ashcroft will soon get Christianity so unified with the State and the media and commerce, and freedom of religion will become a thing of the past. As our country cozies up to China, our newly empowered secret police will put the finger on all the Tibetan terrorists, freeze the monastery assets, and chuck your clerical behind in jail. The INS will revoke all those "teacher" visas -- gotta keep peace with our "trading partners!"

Yeah, you'll love it. Or leave it! But there's always dear old mother India to go back to. If you need work, you can do tech support there for several dollars a day if you speak English. Or you can just check into one of the monasteries and do mantras for cash when the American students need help magically removing obstacles. Either way, you'll do great! Post something to us when you get there.

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Q. Why are some mantras ok for anyone to use, while others need an empowerment from a lama?

A. Regular, rhythmic reply of the heart to its own song. Call it mantra, call it song of the blood, call it breath, as you will, we cannot do without this precious sustenance.

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Q. Talking about god is futile.

A. Tell that to Jimmy Swaggart. Talking about god can be very satisfying. I've seen lots of people enjoy it tremendously. Talking to god is said to be better; however, the silence talking back to you has turned some people into agnostics.

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Q. Some mantras have been chanted since before Vedic (light or knowledge) times.

A. How does the accumulation of force over the course of the ages comport with the statement that "One lamp dispels the darkness of a hundred years?" Answer #1: the light derives from the stored energy in the lamp oil. Answer #2: You still have to light the lamp.

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Q. Some mantras have been used by sages to attain divine union (yoga) and receive a personal experience with the source of Supreme Consciousness (God). Other mantras get people enlightened.

A. How does this comport with the idea that all sounds are merely arbitrary and have meanings assigned to them by the language-shaping capacity of the mind? Do sounds have "inherent" meanings?

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Q. When you chant mantras you do not stand alone, but on the shoulders of all those who have gone before you. In the chanting you realize how every moment since the beginning of time has led up to your being where you are and chanting that chant. You realize intense gratitude, compassion and wonder.

A. This sense of solidarity with past spiritual practitioners is interesting. A little bit of team spirit? Go, Gurus? 2B1Ask1?

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Q. Traditionally, the posture is very important when you chant. The chant comes through your navel and rises upwards.

A. The quest for samadhi, for cessation of thought, for a total mirroring of the mind's own activity in stillness, can be a form of narcissism. I speak of my own experience. Perhaps to lose oneself utterly is the hardest practice.

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Q. Ngawang Chotok, ex-monk , and student of Lama Yeshe , now sober and a counselor, writes : Addiction in general is a perfect metaphor for samsara.

A. Yes, and old mechanics probably think samsara is just like a broke down old machine that just needs some attention. Using analogies and metaphors can make everything familiar and graspable. Addiction is something different for everyone, but once we metaphorize it to samsara, then we can conclude: I should just "twelve-step" my way out of samsara; alternatively, I could just sit my way out of addiction. The only thing this accomplishes is a broader field of employment for counselors and monks. But since some monks still like to drink, and not all counselors can stop drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, it might get kinda smoky in the gonpa, kinda uptight in the encounter session. But what the heck, let's go there!

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Q. The reason Trungpa disrobed it because it was the best way to reach the people during the 60's. His son (who now runs the show) chooses to remain in his robes for the same reason.

A. What do you really know about the Sawang, his son? Is it not possible that he does things, like do something different from his father because he is a different person and might have different thoughts, plans and intentions than his father. Or have you found the Book of Tulku Motivations and there discerned that they are all motivated by the exact same impulses even when they're doing totally different things? Or perhaps you're just very sure of your very facile concepts and they're really not very well thought out at all.

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Q. How ought those who are mocked behave towards those that mock at them?

A. Well, the first thing is, never yield an inch.*** Let them sneer. If they can sneer you out of your religion, you have not got any worth having. *** Why be ashamed? "They called me a saint." I remember once a person calling me a saint in the street. All I thought was, "I wish he could prove it."

*** "Oh! but they will point at you." Cannot you bear to be pointed at? "But they will chaff you." Chaff—let them chaff you. Can that hurt a man that is a man? If you are a molluscous creature that has no backbone, you may be afraid of jokes, and jeers, and jests; but if God has made you upright, stand upright and be a man.

Moreover, there is one thing you should always do when you are ashamed—pray. *** The best refuge for a believer in times of persecution is his secret resort to God. Let him fall on his knee and say, "My Lord, I have been counted worthy to be spoken ill of for thy name's sake. Help me to bear it. Now is my time of trial. Strengthen me to bear this reproach. Grant that it may be no heavy burden to me, but may I rather rejoice in it for thy name's sake." God will help you, beloved.

Then next to that, pray always, most for those who treat you worst. Make them the constant subjects of your prayer."

From an old Christian sermon, "Are You Mocked?" about how to deal with difficult people, I mean, the people we pray for unceasingly.

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Q. You are asking for lessons to come to you with this kind of disrespect. No joking. I hope you're ready. Kali Ma also laughs as she's destroying and creating. Ha ha ha haaaa. I don't wish Kali to show up for anyone when they are not prepared.

A. Go sell this crap to someone who thinks you know something. And yeah, go identify with some homicidal goddess whose name justified more than a million murders. Drink blood, smile like an intoxicated sadhu. Imagine yourself meaningful.

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Q. You should try doing a real prostration before you really need to do one.

A. Bow, slave, or feel the lash! Get a XXX-ing life!

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Q. Don't you find negativity boring and annoying? It's like putting your hand into boiling water and not pulling it out.

A. Mental pain's different. Your hand will be scarred if you burn it, but mind is much more resilient.

We're much more tolerant of conflict than we like to admit. Under the pathology theory of awareness, unpleasantness might damage your mind. I don't think unpleasantness damages the mind. That's one of the things I like about it, the way it comes up bright and clean after the unpleasantness.

So, no, nothing boring about conflict and cross-talk. Indeed, if people aren't fighting about something, they probably don't care about it. Ever fight over someone you were in love with?

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Q. If hierarchy did not exist, I could never get my car repaired, because I know nothing about automechanics and my repariman does. If hierarchy did not exist, I would never be able to have the pleasure of a gourmet meal, because I can barely make toast. If hierarchy did not exist, I would never have the opportunity to view a beautiful garden, because I do not have a green thumb. If hierarchy did not exist, there would be no music, no math, no architecture, no Dharma. Three cheers for hierarchy.

A. Make that Four Cheers! According to the Tibetan system, you will need a Fourth Cheer to be the synthesis of the other three cheers. Of course we clarify this by emphasizing that the three cheers are all really One Cheer, and that One Cheer is what is meant by the Fourth Cheer. Notice how the three cheers get slighted here?

No, but seriously friend, why do you see heirarchy where I see only diversity of species and specialization of effort?

There doesn't have to be a heirarchy to be good food. I cook it all the time, and my kids help me, and they learn how to cook it to, and there's no boss. We're just cooking.

Specialization of labor sounds dull, but it produces miracles. And it might sound heirarchical to some egalitarians. For example, ask a knee-jerk egalitarian this question:

Agree or disagree: If there are two jobs to do, making cheese and making bricks, and making cheese is more difficult than making bricks, all members of the labor pool should split their time 50/50 doing bricks and cheese.

Most knee jerk egalitarians agree.

Adam Smith disagrees. He says the people who are best at making cheese should make cheese, and those who make bricks best should stick to that. Then we'll have more cheese and bricks. More houses, and more grilled cheese sandwiches.

Will the brick makers economically dominate the cheesemakers, or vice versa? No one knows, but it doesn't have anything to do with heirarchy. Nor will the production process improve if we try to make relations "equal." The biggest boon simply comes from letting people do what they do best. It's called the exploitation of relative advantage.

Okay, apply it to the religious situation. Old man sits on a hill, gazes into space, has great insights into the nature of mind. He has no tea. Students come visit, bring him tea. We can see where the relative advantages are shaking out here. The students can learn great insights. The old man can have tea. No need for any special veneration. Just good tea, eh?

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Q. People in Tibet offer everything they own to the Lama and are so thankful they cry when they meet him.

A. We are totally blocked up inside with material possessions here in America. As if it were tatooed on the inside of our eyelids, dollars and cents march up and down inside our brains.

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Q. What does it take to accept the dharma when it's being delivered to your doorstep? This never happened in Tibet!!!!!!

A. Nor did they have Pizza Delivery! Or public libraries! Or newspapers! Same reason -- NO INFRASTRUCTURE!

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Q. You seem utterly lost, full of bitterness and resentment, and blaming it all on dhamma and sangha. Even if you continue for another 100 or 1000 years it won't do you any good. It's good that you realize that dhamma is not for you. There are many cases where the buddha encouraged monks and nuns to give back their robes and stay home.

A. Thank you very much for your respectful consideration of our cry for help. Truly we have been disappointed by what passes for Dhamma in this dark aeon. You must be fortunate to have genuine spiritual masters to teach you in your enlightened country. Here we are buried in dollars and consumer items, unable to perceive the light of Dhamma in our benighted state. Please pray for us and regard us with your kindest demeanor. Thanks to receive your communication.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:02 am

PART 4 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. If you'd like some help in doing the "american buddha" thing with anti-lama stuff, well then I'd recommend contacting the Chinese communists. They have quite a program going to discredit traditional Tibetan Buddhism, and you'd be a great asset to them. They'd love to have their water carried by some intelligent, articulate disenchanted Americans who finally see through the "theocratic spin" of those "refugee aristocrats." You might even network with the Chicom's official Tibetan Buddhist outfit, etc., maybe they'd like to tour the U.S. and you could help put it together. Heck, they may even put together a tour of Tibet, where you could lecture to the locals. The Chinese Dept of Tibetan culture could even arrange a recognition of reincarnation for ya (somebody impressive), if you just play your cards right.

A. As for your insult disguised as an argument, let us analyze it briefly.

1. I criticize Tibetan theocracy.
2. The Chinese communists criticize Tibetan theocracy.
3. Therefore, I am a Chinese communist.

This was the argument leveled against us when we protested the war in Vietnam. Remember the "Hanoi Jane" epithet hurled at Jane Fonda? This is simply unfair ad hominem argument, attacking the originator of the argument, rather than the argument. While turnabout may be fair play, I don't think my original post contained any ad hominem attacks on the Tibetans.

I actively condemn Chinese abuse of any person, including the victims of Tiananmen square. To suggest that I would lend aid to vicious murderers is a slander, which is one of the ten non-virtues. I guess you'll do Vajrasattva to wash that out now. I hope so.

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Interview with Shugden:

Q: Why do you have such a bad rap?
A: I have no idea.
Q: Did you intend to get in the middle of a doctrinal dispute?
A: My handlers take care of these things.
Q: Do you provide any benefits to your devotees?
A: Ask them.
Q: Do you have hostility to the Nyingma?
A: Don't ask me to do your dirty work.

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Q. HH Kusum Lingpa

A. Kusum Lingpa had a most engaging way of demanding money for the Dharma, aka, himself. His teachings were repetitious, wandered, and did not keep a coherent logical thread. Of the hundreds of hours of Tibetan Dharma teachings I have listened to, his were some of the least able to keep me awake. After his visit to Ashland in 1994, he came through again a year or so later, and his request to teach at Tashi Choling was denied by official decision approved at top levels. He has never taught again in Ashland or at Tashi Choling, despite several trips to centers north and south of this prime Dharma country. Something happened here.

Kusum Lingpa was ushered into the arms of the waiting West, indeed into the very living rooms of Hollywood, there to provide Oliver Stone with a marker to match Richard Gere's relationship with HHDL. His way was made easy by a simpering horde of pre-tenderized idiots fumbling with their malas and khataks eagerly seeking divinations, blessings, and that most valuable gift: Recognition as a tulku!

If people experienced spiritual illumination in the midst of this engineered frenzy, it was probably similar to what you get if you shine a large flashlight into a mirror. It's not the mirror, man, it's the flashlight! It's you! So why pay somebody else to get you high?

KL doesn't have a red phone, but he'd suggest he can call Yama anytime, and has all the protectors on speed-dial. He heard they liked cowboys in America, and he said, "Shit, I can do that!" I'm not saying he's not a lovable rascal. Or that he didn't belong in Hollywood. Or that those donors would've given their money to charity if they hadn't given it to him -- selfish people as they are, they thought they'd get the best return by giving it to a con man -- nothing new about that. I'm just saying that if, perchance you were seeking spiritual enlightenment, this is sort of the Vegas version and you might want to do a little more seeking. That's probably worth knowing before you start a bake sale to buy him a plane ticket to fly to your Dharma center to give teachings. For a great magician he certainly needed cash more than most.

Let's face it, the medieval elements are ones we respond to positively due to conditioning. Camelot, King Arthur, etc. We're not French, we never decapitated monarchs, we have nostalgia for rejected royalism. I loved the idea of being a patron of the Dharma. And that's okay ! Spiritual life is one of those things you do after the money's in the bank. Just ask the Buddha.

The pursuits of the rich are often at risk of being trivial escapades. Millions frittered away on hors d'ouevres, thousands on a dress worn once. The presence of celebrities gilded with sacredness seems to be the final ornament that the rich begin to desire, the one itch that still needs scratching after the ennui sets in.

The only thing that would be surprising would be if a genuinely sacred event occurred in the presence of the worldly greats. Celebrations, coronations, enthronements, and empowerments. Having many of them is not a sign of wealth. Tell me the price of sugar, eggs, and flour, and I'll tell you how we're doing.

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Q. Who cares about the case of the charlatan and the imbecile?

A. I note the fallacy implied here, that charlatans only take advantage of imbeciles. Imbeciles take advantage of imbeciles. Charlatans take advantage of smart people.

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Q. The interesting case is that of the qualified teacher and the qualified student.

A. And I think we can agree that these two people are as rare as the proverbial star in the daytime sky. (And what the hell is that stupid metaphor about anyway -- the Crab Nebula?)

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Q. It's important for the student to surrender the judgment that they aren't comfortable with the guru/disciple hierarchy.

A. Surrender is a seductive concept. Now, in any other area of life, if you surrender you get squat.

Example 1: You are hungry and alone. You surrender. You starve.

Example 2: You are broke and unemployed. You surrender. You become homeless.

Obviously now, the surrender-advocates start crying foul, reductio ad absurdum, that's not what we mean by surrender, etcetera.

So what do you mean by surrender? You really mean continue to strive in a meditative and worldly fashion, but you do it for the Dharma. Real life examples:

1. I surrender my world view. If my teacher says the world is all a funnel of light, or sound, or wind, or whatever, that's what it is. I'll try and see it that way. If it's all a luminous, empty, display, I'll try and cognize that. I think Trungpa Rinpoche was referring to this when he talked about mental gymnastics. It's a contortionist routine -- I try to see the world through "empty-colored glasses."

2. I surrender my control over my time. If my teacher says come roll mantras, or raise funds, or prepare for the next lama visit, I do it. This is no big deal, as I was probably just going to waste the time reading sci fi or drinking beer, anyway.

3. I surrender control over my money. I invest in Dharma-related objects, property, and events. This is actually very constructive, because now my possessions begin to reflect my overarching spiritual goals, which makes ownership a subset of discipleship.

4. I surrender control over my body. Sounds icky, but I never tried it. Women seem to fall into this trap more than men, but that may just be that most gurus are hetero men. I won't comment on this. Outta my league.

As the examples above show, the contemporary version of religious surrender, whether to some old has-been Hindu, or to the most modern incarnation straight outta Golog, is probably not the all-out bondage-pain-humiliation trip that put Kagyu gurus on the map. Rather it is a mundane servitude in which your end will be as tame as that of an old butler who got old along with the master.

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Q. If we were "comfortable" with non-duality we would already be enlightened, right?

A. Why does this seem tautological? Is it because you presume that we are not "already enlightened"? But I thought we were, and the big question is just why don't we know it? Or is that a meaningless hair-splitting distinction?

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Q. The guru-disciple relationship can and often does lead to physical and domestic abuse. However, this is an argument for taking care of your vows and knowing the quality of the relationship before entering into it. It's not really an argument that the guru-disciple relationship can't be a very valuable thing.

A. This seems a poor comparison. Entering into Tantra is for rare individuals, correct, who are supposed to be pre-qualified by virtue of prior practice? That practice, Trungpa Rinpoche would say, has made them sane people. Now what need would such disciples have to enter into a potentially abusive relationship? Indeed, how could naive surrender be an evolutionary step for one who has attained the Bodhisattva stability and dignity that Trungpa Rinpoche describes as "old dog," or "sitting bull" attitude? Such a risky gambit would strike such a person as a foolish and unnecessary wager. Samsara may be tough, but we don't have to panic!

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Q. One of the wonderful things about Tibetan Buddhism is that there are texts which explain in precise detail exactly what experiences one has at what bhumi, based on types of visions as well as internal characteristics connected with nadii, vaayu and bindu.

A. Well, break us off a chunk, bro'. Whatcha waitin' for? What level is Steven Segal on? And Jetsunma has been very open about her inner life in song and fable -- can we diagnose her level of seerhood?

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Q. Enlightenment is real freedom, but not the freedom to do whatever you want.

A. My dad always told me that, and how annoying! As usual, he was right. Doing just what you want is an adolescent notion having more to do with sex and sugar than anything else. So now that we know what we're not talking about, what is this precious enlightened freedom? The freedom to sit and watch your breath? To think nothing? To be safe sitting on the fence between good and bad? Surely our expectations can be a little more concrete.

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Q. When a person achieves enlightenment, they have an obligation to the lineage that brought them to that point.

A. Yes, I have often thought that if I could just get the Bodhisattvas to front me the wisdom I need to get out of samsara, I could easily pay them back by saving lots of beings in a relatively short time. I'm willing to mortgage my soul to a beneficent karmic institution!

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Q. From that perspective, you wouldn't see such obligations as hindering your "independence."

A. Of course not. I always respect my banker.

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Q. If one is hankering for independence from the Lama, one is probably running away from facing something unpleasant about oneself.

A. Yeah, he's a money tree, in a karmic sense! Trying to get away from him is just your way of rejecting the generosity of the universe. So don't blame me when you're sleeping in a cardboard box.

I lampoon these idealistic notions because I have personally adopted them in some way or another and at one time or another. I now skewer them for the benefit of all. If a stupid looking shoe fits, don't wear it.

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Q. It was HH Pednor Rinpoche who recognized both Segal and Burroughs.

1. Probably never watched Segal's movies.
2. May have judged Burroughs on the size of her flock and their vaunted connections to the seat of political power in D.C.
3. May have seen both of them on really good days.

Gyatrul Rinpoche presided at a feast in his own honor at which these two rapscallions occupied comfy throne-ish chairs inside the temple and received obeisance. Rinpoche stated that we had to presume that Pednor Rinpoche knew what he was doing when he recognized Segal, and therefore Segal must be a tulku whose qualities had not yet begun to appear. He likened Segal's presumed condition as that of a seed that hadn't yet sprouted above the ground. In other words, using his great gift for irony, Rinpoche simultaneously honored HHPR, said that Segal had no qualities, and encouraged Segal to develop some. Still, the aura of the absurd, and Segal's ridiculous affectation of Shangri-La demeanor, tainted the affair. Of course Burroughs simply sat smiling like a cat stuffed with canaries.

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Q. No one is compelled to practice Vajrayana, and those who wish to need to be aware of what they are getting into.

A. Which has, sadly, not been done during hundreds of initiations in which commitments are only addressed at the very moment when students are asked to repeat them in Tibetan.

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Q. Even if you do not choose to skydive or bungee jump, it's not necessary to categorize those who choose to do so as naïve, macho, or stupid.

A. It is not risky activities I oppose, but rather, the notion that one MUST undertake the risk of having your will supplanted by another in order to grow spiritually.

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Q. You cannot use Trungpa Rinpoche's teachings as an argument against Trungpa Rinpoche's teachings. If you want to contradict Trungpa Rinpoche's explanation of the vajra master's role (as requiring total commitment on the student's part), you should probably choose some other authority to cite as evidence.

A. I quote Trungpa Rinpoche because he's my favorite published teacher, and I've read his stuff enough times to recite some of it from memory. He describes the role of the vajra master in a number of talks; however, always with the preface that really nobody in the audience is even approaching the level of experience that qualifies them to take teachings that are "200 %" powerful.

The "inconsistencies" you cite must be reconciled as part of our study. They are there in his body of teaching. But as we know, they all reconcile in the one empty Dharma.

I don't intend to suggest that anyone, personally, should do anything differently in their practice life, and have full respect for whatever is voluntarily undertaken. Like Thomas Paine in his critique of Burke, I find it somewhat humorous when people vigorously contend for the right not to have rights. Paine calls this a "novel" proposition," contrary to experience that shows that people fight to get, not to be deprived of, their freedoms.

Leaving aside whether it makes sense to fight for the right to be subjugated, and presuming such self-subjugation to be legitimate, this still doesn't let the gurus off the hook on a moral level. The student's voluntary self-surrender cannot absolve a teacher from responsibility for the student's welfare. The greater the devotee's "surrender," the more total should be the guru's care of the student. In reality, we see the opposite. The teachers who demand the most in the way of surrender leave behind the largest swath of damaged, exploited souls. And please don't justify that with reference to Naropa's story or Milarepa's. These mythical stories, while deeply instructive, are not hornbook models of current guru-disciple behavior. You show me a guru who can manifest as a dog and turn into a rainbow, and I will lie down in a pool of leeches, throw myself into a fire, and otherwise show extreme devotion. Why am I not worried that someone will take this bet?

I suspect anyone who asks me to surrender before we can deal. All life is a negotiation, and all negotiation is communication. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. But a fool and his money are soon parted.

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Q. According to Mahayana doctrine of Bodhisattva stages, until one has reached the seventh bhumi, every time one is reborn one falls back to the level of an ordinary sentient being. When one achieves the seventh bhumi, one becomes a Mahayana never returner, meaning one no longer takes rebirth in the desire realm, but only in the form realm, in Abhashvara heaven, etc. It does not follow that one is necessarily required to regard the tulkus as enlightened until they manifest signs of realizations. Unless of course one's Root Guru insists that such a tulku is enlightened.

A. The question is not what we are required to believe, but rather what we may reasonably conclude from the evidence that HH Pednor Rinpoche lent his name to add lustre to the reputations of Segal and Burroughs.

Most importantly, having decided by implication that you are free to disagree with Pednor Rinpoche with respect to the tulkuhood of people who don't display tulku-like qualities, can you go further? Can you conclude that the evidence is so clear that Pednor Rinpoche was wrong about these tulkus that the endorsements should be retracted? Or is that the sort of thing that just can't happen? Lamas can never admit a mistake. (I'll agree they rarely do, but is there a rule against it?)

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Q. It is not possible to say that HH Pednor Rinpoche made a error with regard to any tulku he selected because unless you know that person's mind yourself, as presumably Pednor Rinpoche has the ability to do, you can't contradict what he says based on sound knowledge.

A. Your analysis at this point amounts to that, per Pednor Rinpoche's assessment, these two people were hot shit in a past lifetime, but aren't apparently performing up to past potential, for all that we can see. They may in fact have blown it totally, which is why they're reincarnating as a medium and an action hero has-been and fail to inspire any faith in the rest of us.

This means that the implications of Pednor Rinpoche's insight into their past lives has only retrospective meaning. There is no reason why, based on the recognition, we should show these folks any special deference.

When all these additional facts are added to clarify the meaning of HHPR's recognition of Burroughs and Segal as tulkus, it takes all the zing out of the recognition. Why bother?

If these recognitions are arbitrary political maneuvers, then that should be printed on page one of every silly book deifying the Tibetan clergy as a hereditary chain of wisdom minds passing deep wisdom from one to the next in an orderly and functional fashion. That notion is, based on the evidence we have reviewed here, absolutely exploded. The tulku tradition is at best a threadbare garment to cover the naked human ordinariness of a teaching tradition that should be evaluated after disregarding the hyperbolic self-adulation that Tibetans load into their doctrine like Turks add sugar to their tea (excessively). There will be much in the naked ordinariness to appreciate, admire, and adapt, and much in the old garment to commend it permanently to the scrap heap of feudal history.

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Q. Something went wrong in your experience.

A. No, not really. Some people retire from the Marines. Others remain lifers. I decided to see a little of the world out of uniform before I got too old.

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Q. Maybe the dharma is not democratic. So what? If someone doesn't like it, they can go elsewhere, can't they?

A. Yeah, and Garcia Lorca was killed by fascists. What of it? It's a little late for Lorca, but the rest of us can very well shift our asses, no?

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Q. Can you speak about Courage and Fear?

A. It is important to develop courage, a characteristic that comes naturally to a few, but must be mastered by anyone who would be more than a servant in this world of men. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the acceptance of it. Courage is not the sort of confidence one feels when certain of success, but rather the conviction that one will proceed despite the risk of failure. Courage makes it possible to do what others deem impossible, and thus expands the horizon of opportunity for those who possess it. When courage is joined with caution, such that one fears not failure, yet fervently desires success, then strategy, skill and planning all join together like the fingers of a hand that close 'round our objectives, putting great things in our grasp. So, with courage as your foundation, and ambition for greatness your goal, learn how to avoid pitfalls and dangers, and you will achieve your goals and lead others to achieve. Always strive to put your power at the service of goodness, and you will bring honor to your family name and your own memory.

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Q The qualifications necessary to be a vajra master are like any skill: they have requirements that must be fulfilled. In the Tibetan monastic system, there are grades and exams one must take to prove one's competency to be a Vajra master. Even tulkus have to pass these exams.

A. That always sounds so mundane. How can that be true? It seems unlikely that Buddha Shakyamuni would be able to pass these exams without a prep course. Now that I realize the tulku system incorporates such foolproof safeguards against manipulation, I withdraw all my former criticisms.

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Q. You are laughing at us, all the way to the ego bank.

A. The rates are really low right now, so it is an excellent time to refinance your karma. You can collect all of those high-interest rate samaya breakages under a single self-equity loan that is effectively a write-off.

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Q. Do you really think there shouldn't be qualifications to be a teacher? Or is it that you want to set the standard by which individuals are determined to be masters?

A. No one has the rule book for the true qualifications of a teacher. The authorities cannot agree on who is a legitimate teacher. Most everyone concedes that they cannot say who is enlightened and who is not. What is so extreme about my argument? And no, I want those who claim to set the standard to admit that they are biased toward their own traditions.

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Q. Buddhists are supposed to drive everything into the eternal present moment.

Answer 1:

Definitely drive everything, forcefully, pushing it all into this moment. Anything tries to stay outside of this moment, club it into submission and drag it into the moment. Anything doesn't fit, grind it to dust and sift in around the rest of the stuff. Once it's all in this moment, it should generate a sufficient gravitational field to pull you in. If not, you're stuck!

Answer 2:

From Tennyson's Ulysses

"Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move."

Of course, there is a present, because that is where we are. But when we look into the present, nothing is ever there. We see only the past -- and we see it in the present!

When we hear a song, we do not hear one note at a time. Somehow, to hear the melody, we hear the musical phrases as a whole; however, the first notes of the melody have ceased to sound already. How do we "hear" the portion of the melody that is no longer playing?

The answer must be that we conceive of "wholes" of "things" in our minds, which assembles these "wholes" so we can grasp what is going on in our world. All of this happens on the basis of, and in, the present, but what is observed is necessarily the past.

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Q. Are you practicing for so-called payoff?

A. All beings are motivated by desire for their own benefit. Fortunately, people can work together for their mutual benefit. And just because something is good for me doesn't mean it's bad for someone else.

A friend is someone who gets satisfaction from seeing you enjoy your happiness. Parents feel this kindness towards their children as a biological imperative. A mother sleeps better knowing her children are fed.

A friend suffers when their friend suffers. Those of us who have raised children know the torment of having a sick child.

This basic love for others is more than possessiveness -- it is the cohesive force of society, and of the individual.

"Altruism" may be too big a word, and by advertising the unattainable quality of Bodhisattva compassion, we may place our own goodness in too low a position.

To build on what strengths we have, in the confidence that they provide the foundation for future growth, this is a simple, human way.

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Q. The teaching of the Buddha has been validated countless times by thousands of enlightened Buddhists in every generation and Buddhist country, who can attest to and bear direct personal witness to the truth of the Buddha's enlightenment.

A. Yeah, I was trampled by a horde of them just the other day. They're a hazard, running around like that, all juiced up on moksha. And in Burma, should they fail to cooperate with providing this truthful testimony, they will be harshly censured.

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Q. The actions any of us are responsible for in any one incarnation are the ones taken in that incarnation. Not the one before, nor the one before that, nor the one x to the nth power previous. Of course actions undertaken in one lifetime affect one's capacities, assets, and circumstances in a next lifetime, but I think it would be more useful to find out how and why, than just to itemize specific earth-life outcomes of specific deeds and intentions.

A. Speculations about the operations of karma in creating "future conditions" seem rather, well, speculative. The karma I am interested in is the karma of mind. If my mind goes off the rails and causes injury to another, due to me falling asleep at the wheel or yelling at someone, I will experience mental waves of unpleasantness. I can take other actions of mind that have the effects of ordering and strengthening my life. This karma seems directly within my grasp, and is inescapable. So when I affect this karma of mind, I harvest the result immediately. Delayed effects are not an issue. Perhaps one can "presentize" everything.

I guess my point is that I have seen no evidence that "past" or "future" lives exist. I asked Zigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (who inspired a lot of confidence that I have never lost) about this. Specifically, I asked him, "I have looked carefully and can remember no time when my mind existed that my living body did not also exist. Can you direct me to anything that I have overlooked that would show me that the mind exists apart from the body?" He conceded he knew of no evidence, but intuited the existence of a "continuity" based upon his meditative experience.

That's the best I've got -- a lama's intuition. And if there are past or future lives, many questions arise.

For example, assume a "soul" begins its "journey of reincarnation." Where was it before it began? When there were no humans on the planet, were "souls" also pre-human? When there were few humans, were there many souls in the waiting room? As more humans appear, does that mean less beings are required to "incarnate" as animals? Do souls split? If I cut an earthworm in half, and both turn into separate earthworms, did I "create" a new soul? If so, did it arise with "new" karma, or did an "old" bag of karma just get slipped into a "new" body?

Perhaps earthworms aren't relevant to our analysis. They're just squirmy things. Whatever.

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Q. Clarifying the Buddhist teachings is hardly sectarian. Padmasambhava himself defeated five hundred non-Buddhist panditas in India, Virupa converted many non-Buddhists to Buddhism, Yeshe Tsogyal defeated many Bon practitioners in debate at Samyas, etc. Vasubandhu, Nagarjuna, Bhavviveka, Buddhapalita, Shantarakshita, Shantideva, etc., all went through great pains to distinguish non-Buddhist teachings from Buddhist teachings by the criteria of whether or not they are conducive to liberation.

A. History is written by the victors. Have you ever read the flip side of the history written by Buddhists? "Saraswati's Revenge," or something like that? Didn't I hear that the Chinese claim to have won the Samye debates, and also that Longchenpa argued that they should have?

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Q. The Nyingmapas have long held that Hashang's view was probably superior to that of Kamalshila, and that Hashang was misrepresented.

A. Well, just drop the bomb very quietly, how about it? Without presuming to appropriate your time, can you please provide a little more information on the important Samye debate.

When did it take place?

Who represented the "two sides?"

How was the Hashang view mispresented?

Prior to the debate, did both sides have equal rights of free speech?

Were the losers effectively exiled?

Were there ever suppression campaigns to stamp out the Hashang "heresy"?

Have the modern Gelugpas and Nyingmas papered over this split?

In your opinion, has the doctrinal conflict ever been genuinely resolved, or were the Gelugpas just wrong, and the Nyingmas the victims of unfair oppression?

Could the "rightness" of the Kalamashila position properly justify the suppression of other views by kingly fiat?

Did royal sponsorship invigorate the favored teaching?

Should we hold the debates again, in a neutral place, perhaps, like Saskatchewan?

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Q. The debate took place over a two-year period (792-794) between Kamalashila, the Indian pandit, and Hoshang, a renowned Chinese Buddhist monk. The debate was held at Samye and was presided over by Trisong Detsen. The Chinese Hoshang school maintained that enlightenment was an instantaneous realization that could be attained only through complete mental and physical inactivity. The Indian school maintained that enlightenment was a slow process, requiring an individual's gradual mental and moral development. At the end of the debate the Tibetan king declared Kamalashila the winner and issued a proclamation establishing Buddhism as the state religion of Tibet. http://www.tibet.com/Status/3kings.html

A. Thanks for the link. What you cited above relates to what I found farther down the page, indicating that this "debate" coincided with a period of military aggression from Tibet toward China. Trisong Detsen's suppression of Chinese Buddhism was apparently part of a general war against Chinese influence. How strange this would be considered an intellectual and spiritual victory by later generations of practitioners. Here's the quote:

During Trisong Detsen's reign ... Tibetan and Siamese troops fought side by side against the Chinese in Sichuan. The Tibetan troops remained with the Siamese for eight years and then returned to Tibet when amicable relations were restored between Siam and China.

In the west, Tibetan military forces were making considerable headway. In 790 the Tibetans were able to recapture the four garrison towns in Turkestan from which they bad been driven by the Chinese imperial forces in 694. The Tibetan army advanced westward to the Pamirs and even reached the Oxus River and a lake to the north of the Oxus River, Al-Tubbat, which means the 'little Tibetan lake'. A few years later, the Arabian Caliph, Harun al-Rashid, aware that the Tibetans were becoming too powerful, allied himself with the Chinese in order to keep the Tibetans in check. Attacked by the allied forces of the Chinese and Arabs, the Tibetans succeeded in holding their own without substantial loss of territory, in spite of considerable defeats. The expansionistic dreams of the Tibetans were checked, but as Petech has written, "the very fact that nothing less than the coalition of the two most powerful empires of the early Middle Ages was necessary for checking the expansion of the Tibetan state, is a magnificent witness of the political capacities and military valour of these sturdy mountaineers".

Between the years 785 and 805 the Tibetans were continually launching attacks to the west. Consequently their military attention was diverted from China, whose frontier province suffered less than previously.

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Q. Could the "rightness" of the Kalamashila position properly justify the suppression of other views by kingly fiat? Not in America.

A. "Rightness" does not vary from country to country. It is something people from every time and place decide for themselves based on their best moral insights. It was wrong for the Pope to silence Galileo. Wrong from the viewpoint that new views should be encouraged to come to light, not forced to fight coercive government forces to receive a fair hearing. So from that viewpoint, it was wrong, and in no place or time would it be right, to suppress a viewpoint. Even when the suppressor is a Bodhisattva king with expansionist motives. That's okay to say, right? At least from my view, in this day and age, I can be forgiven my effrontery.

We see the outcome of the Samye "debate" for what it was -- a king's decision, for a political purpose.

The question is whether we're going to make up our own minds, or let King Trisong Detsen's decision at Samye rule our decision.

As a practical matter, this may be slicing it way too fine. It is easier, and not likely to lead to error, to simply discard any notion that the decision at Samye has any relevance to current understanding of what constitutes Vajrayana doctrine

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Q. Did it not ever occur to you that even if King Trisong Detsen banished Chan, he was an adherent of an even more radical doctrine, Dzogchen.

A. Yes, and I like Dzogchen. But I like Iggy Pop, too, but I don't think we should prevent people from listening to Neil Diamond.

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Q. What about the story of the 100th monkey. There was this monkey that started washing his sweet potato in salt H20 on a remote island. Suddenly monkeys on other islands began doing it as well.

Answer 1:

I received this from David Major who got it from from gek@netro.com.au.

The Theory of the Hundredth Monkey Debunked

I was amused to see a reference to the myth of the Hundredth Monkey on your home page in the Cosmologies section. The story about the miraculous transfer of new ideas amongst a colony of monkeys has been doing the rounds since 1979, but unfortunately is pure myth.

The origin of the tale is the 1979 Lyall Watson book, Lifetide. Watson has since confirmed he made the story up. In 1989, Watson said "It is a metaphor of my own making, based on very slim evidence and a great deal of hearsay. I have never pretended otherwise."

True, a study of monkeys on Koshima island was undertaken in the 1950's by a group of Japanese anthropologists, and potato washing was one of the behaviours observed. However, there is no evidence that the potato-washing was passed on to other monkeys by anything other than simple observation of other monkeys. No monkeys on other islands learned the trick "spontaneously" or "miraculously" Put simply, it never happened.

In essence, the whole report is folklore, encouraged by both Lyall Watson's book, and Ken Kesey's later 1982 book.

This story is repeated at websites all over the Internet.

But here's a spin I'd forgotten about:

The "Maharishi effect"

Watson may simply have been fictionalizing the "Maharishi effect". TM is a simple meditation and deep relaxation technique refined by Maharishi for Western cultures. I t is one of the most successful new age ventures in history, and I've described TM in other published works as the McDonalds of the new age movement. *** The "Maharishi effect" ... is often used interchangeably with the principle of the hundredth monkey. I n essence it postulates than an elevation in the consciousness of a "critical mass" of individuals in a group or community (approximately the square root of one percent of the population) will have a measurable effect on increasing the health and wellbeing of the entire community, not just those specific individuals who have had their consciousnesses "elevated". An early claim by TM salesmen in the 1970s was that six million regular TM practitioners worldwide could improve the quality of life for the entire planet.

I guess the inverse square law was applied to the principle of the Hundredth Monkey during Lot's ill-fated effort to find ten good people in his hometown of Gomorrah, which would have won the town a reprieve from god's cleansing wrath, if only Lot could have found them. Maybe he should just have started washing sweet potatoes.

Answer 2:

Y'know, I liked the 100th Monkey story. It spoke to me, and I was so disappointed to hear about it being debunked. I can still hear the irritating voice of the guy who told me.

What's interesting to me is, if we take that story away, it's almost like a major structural pillar of New Age thinking disappears, and the whole structure begins to sag. The idea that there is a tip-over point where minds catch fire and "suddenly everyone's doing it" seems more like fertilizer for growing a crop of mass hysteria.

Unity of thought often seems like a good thing when you're young and naive. Then you realize that unity leads to blindness, leads to damage. The USA is a much less dangerous nation when it is fragmented. The nation is indulging in mass homicide right now with a perfectly clear conscience, because the people are united in their belief that vengeance is necessary. If half the people thought that idea was crap, and told the other half, the result would not be civil war, but a meaningful debate.

So the last thing I want is a bunch of fanatics anywhere trying to convert their Hundredth Flunkie. On the other hand, let a hundred such movements bloom -- they'll balance each other out.

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Q. Fascism

A. You know back when people were wanting to blow up terrorists, did they think that soon they'd be worrying about fascism at home? In order to prevent the causes of fascism from taking root in our society, I would strongly suggest people adopt a rule of trying to do something outrageous every day. That could be anything from wearing a goofy hat to handing out free cookies on your lunch hour.

Help break the spell of authoritarian hypnosis in your free time and work time. Make pointed jokes about concentration camps and then ask innocently what happened to that Middle Eastern guy in photocopying?

Forward emails that make fun of all authorities, and take all of your nieces and nephews out to see John Waters movies. Start a Joan of Arc club in your neighborhood. Plan a Little Theatre production of Man of La Mancha.

If, like Iggy, you just have to have life, then you can take his advice:

"You gotta rock, rock, rock
Rock and roll,
Rock on down 'till it cures your soul,
You gotta rock your way
Right outta the hole,
You gotta rockin' rockin' roll."

Making trouble, making noise, not pushing it too far, but always pushing the envelope, and loving people while you do it, drives fascists crazy. Then they fuss and fume. And everybody laughs at them. Try it.

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Q. The discovery of truth is not reached by consensus, which is the rule of the lowest common denominator, aka democracy.

A. It's not the discovery of truth, but rather its testing and verification that requires public scrutiny, or better yet, peer review.

You can discover the truth all by yourself, as Einstein unraveled the theory of general relativity while visualizing himself riding on a light beam. Other scientists were not as good at visualizing, I guess, and thus they insisted on testing his theory by measuring the bending of light rays due to the gravitational force of the sun, a measurement that can only be taken during an eclipse.

So he discovered the truth, but others verified it for themselves. They wouldn't have been good scientists if they had just taken Einstein's word for it. They would've been good serfs, though. And presumably, good Vajrayanists.

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Q. The reason why all religious institutions are autocratic is not because they are old and don't know anything about the wonders of American democracy, but because the truth is transmitted only from those who know to those who don't.

A. Is this the case? All religions are autocratic? This is also true of my college computer science class. I really knew nothing. The teacher knew everything. I learned a little. But there was nothing autocratic about it. I just studied the lessons. He demanded no belief, no allegiance that simple mathematics would not command. If he was a tyrant, he was a most gentle one, and a most effective teacher. I think he supported my right to vote, as well.

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Q. In the spiritual teachings, the cup has to place itself lower than the teacup, if it is to receive any tea.

A. Reasoning one teacup at a time, you will get a big bladder.

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Q. The attitude of a devotional relationship to the teacher (kissing ass, some have called it) goes against the "don't tread on my sacred individuality " attitude of those who worship the democratic ways, but is very important in more advanced Vajrayana teachings.

A. No, actually, kissing ass is what people do to anyone who has power over them, be that boss, girlfriend, police officer, maitre d', or whoever. We create these relationships everywhere. To meditate, it important to keep your spine straight. The humility of the conquered has no beauty. I would rather risk bearing a weapon for no reason than being subdued because I indulged a mistaken sense of security. One who accords all others equal dignity has earned the right to simply be proud.

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Q. The reason for the devotional relation between teacher and student is not to feed the teacher's ego, or to degrade oneself, but because there are subtle centers that the rational mind is too dense to reach that can only be awakened through strong emotional feelings, which a loving personal relationship with the teacher can provide.

A. This sounds like the type of psychological theorizing that, under other circumstances, you might deride as "western buddhism." I hear the hiss of an air pump, fluffing up the doctrine with little bubbles and carrageenan.

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Q. The first requirement in order to receive teachings is to humble oneself, which is the opposite of the demand for "rights" and equality.

A. There have been plenty of proud people who paid court to gurus, got teachings, practiced dedicatedly, and remained very proud, very accomplished meditators. Have you actually hung out with any of the older lamas? They are not humble, and probably never were. Sure, they're nice, they may not make a fuss, but they want their tea hot.

And I'm not saying they're bad meditators or fakes. I bet they really know their samadhi, but even Naropa liked his radish curry.

These rules about who's gonna get the blessings because they think just right and pray just so -- give yourself a serious break -- what bunk!

Be sincere, fall on your face. Repeat. Meditate. Smile. Repeat.

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Q. Rights are not about everyone being the same, or everyone having their say. Historically they were a means for arguing that government power should be limited. In other words, rights were not an argument for entitlements, but for mechanisms of restraint on governmental authority.

A. Oh that sounds rather like saying that water was invented to create a medium in which to dissolve KoolAid. The belief in rights exists whenever someone says, "that's bullshit, I'm not going to be treated that way!" Why they didn't exist in Tibet and don't exist in Burma. Maybe the theocrats were nice dictators, but the problem is that the muscle that protects freedom atrophied.

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Q. The idea that spiritual teachings should be democratically based does not make sense to me.

A. It shouldn't make sense to anyone. Democracy is a way of making decisions. It presumes the existence of a group of people facing common goals with limited resources and differing assumptions.

Religion is a system for adopting explanations that eliminate the need to make decisions. It presumes the existence of a group of people willing to hammer themselves into the same headspace in order to man their expedition to cosmic Valhalla.

Q. Skill is passed on from generation to generation by those knowledgeable to those eager to comprehend the realm of mathematics. The same is true of musicianship, and many other areas of human activity. I think the Dharma also fits this model.
A. And thus we can assume that like mathematics, it can be transmitted without mumbo jumbo, and like music, some people are blessed with an ear for it. And as in all of the arts, pomposity counts for nothing. Virtuosity and feeling are everything.

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Q. We cannot do it "our way". Our way is the problem.

A. The Problem = Our Way

Rather monolithic, don't you think?

Possibly simplistic?

A little self-flagellative?

Why can't you do it your way?

Do you think Someone is going to shove psychic fingers inside your head and make you think the right thing?

Or will wisdom be forced on you in a sort of cosmic rape, where you finally submit, ecstatically, to what you have so long rejected?

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Q. I don't understand this hostility towards teachers.

A. The hostility isn't toward teachers, it's toward the institution that entombs teachers and students in a heirarchical, theocratic structure. In time you will see that however valuable the knowledge you seek, there should be no need to bow and scrape to get it, or to pledge eternal fealty to anyone as thanks for the transmission. Buddha didn't do that. He sat under a tree and answered his own questions. He didn't kiss ass to his father, the guru system, or his cronies, the ascetics. He bailed on his kingship, decided the gurus didn't know the essence, and blew off his ascetic vows for a bowl of rice milk before he parked his butt under a fig tree, vowing it was enlightenment or bust. Where's the ass-kissing piety to emulate?

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Q. Buddhism started when Indra asked Buddha Shakyamuni to teach for the first time. It was continued by the sangha in unbroken chains of lineage. These are definitely not the kind of chains one wants to break. Look down, and you'll see that. It's quite a drop.

A. So then it comes down to whether you want to emulate the followers or the leader. What's up with the chains? At first it sort of gave a gothic feel to the question, but now I'm wondering about the use of images of bondage as part of an authoritarian argument.

I have great respect for the mind of loyalty, and oaths of fealty. I think that stuff builds social fiber, and makes traditions stable. It builds educational institutions, like monasteries and Buddhist colleges, like the one where Naropa lived.

But when Naropa saw the ugly old hag, he had to split. That old hag was just scary shit, and he hit the road, out lookin' for Tilopa. Left the institution behind, just like Shakyamuni. The way is outta here, not to the back of the line.

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Q. The real leaders are followers.

A. Yes, and WAR IS PEACE.

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Q. You are digging yourself a deep hole of bad karma trying to disturb other peoples' practice.

A. Time was, the study of J.S. Mill was considered very edifying. Now that the dorjes have sprouted among us, he is a bad influence.

Time was, fearless Dharma practitioners debated openly with all comers, and won students with the lucidity of their arguments. Now that all is known and written down, questioners have their tongues cut out by the faithful.

"No short-haired, yellow-bellied son of Tricky Dicky gonna mother-hubbard soft soap me with just a pocket full of hope. Money for dope. Money for hope. All I want is the truth. Just gimme some truth." John Lennon

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Q. J.S. Mill said, "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." If an individual is secure in that sovereignty, then he or she will have no problem with Mokchokpa's statement: "To deal with your own mind, and not that of others, is the measure of your decreasing vanity."

A. You mean, will not say one damned thing.

You don't need to agree with Mill to keep your mouth shut. You can agree with GWBush or Goebbels and be a silent spectator of injustice and oppression. And you know what, after the dust clears, you can claim you had nothing to do with it. Or, you can go entertain the Nazis (Red Chinese) in the whorehouse. Cover your bases. Silence is golden, no? See Burma. Quiet there in the monasteries.

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Q. The first delusion that needs to be pacified is the mistaken notion that simply relying on our own ideas about reality will solve the existential difficulties we all face.

A. If you can find somebody else's ideas to rely on, LMK.

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Q. The Kalamas sutra, which contains the saying --'Do not be guided by hearsay or by tradition, legendary lore or what has come down in holy scriptures; nor on grounds of reason or logical inference; nor because of preconceived opinions or simple likelihood, nor because of a teacher's authority. Only when you know for yourselves: these things are good and beneficial, are praised by the wise, and taken up and carried out lead to welfare and happiness, then you should make them your own and live in accordance with them' -- contains not a single word of teaching which will lead anyone to liberation.

A. This is like saying that Lincoln's Gettysburg Address has to be viewed in context, that the ringing words "Fourscore and Seven Years Ago," merely prefaced a graveyard dedication speech, at which feelings were conflicted, the nation having suffered such losses of blood over mere political differences. Seen in that light, Lincoln's efforts to overshadow the grim occasion with rousing rhetoric seem to be the pathetic performance of a mere ministerial obligation. Similarly, the Buddha, faced with a village full of stupid people, located too close to too many monasteries, simply tried to still the tumult in their minds with a general cautionary admonition to eschew gullibility.

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Q. All Buddhists should cultivate the four immeasureables; however, they are not sufficient in and of themselves as relative bodhicitta, even though they are a preliminary.

A. And wherefore are they called "immeasurable?" What kind of criticism is left in the mind that is steeped in the "four" immeasurables? And if they are genuinely immeasurable, how could there be more than one?

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Q. Real communication is possible.

A. Yes, perception is not totally free and unfettered. For example, in a vacuum, light, which is electromagnetic radiation, travels at a fixed speed in every direction, according to every observer. That's heartening news, isn't it? Perception is not totally optional. There appears to be some kind of reality going on here. So we can't get too crazy with our projections. Thank God.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

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PART 5 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. What does the mantra Om Mani Padme Hung mean?

Answer 1:

In Amitabha's pure realm all of these perfected and perfecting beings are present. To see the pure land in our present world through imaginative efforts is inspiring. Inspiration leads to exhalation, and all worlds appear empty again. From which appearances again "arise."

Do we ever really take mantra-translation seriously? Aside from the inherent phonetic characteristics of the sounds, the effect of visualizing the appearance of the syllables, and the belief in the efficacy of the mantra grounded upon the vow of the patron deity, what is there to a mantra? Is it not supposed to become nothing, or to mediate nothing to us, so we can pass over to the unstructured state of intrinsic awareness?

Hail the Lotus in Me!

Answer 2:

My experience hasn't been so much with "this mantra," as I've always been drawn away from male deities like Chenrezig (even though in Zen, this same deity is said to be Kanzeon, aka Kwan Yin -- indeed in Bodhisattva of Compassion, John Blofeld claims that Kwan Yin is Chenrezig/Tara.)

But the point of mantra can't be that this one works this way and that one works another way. They're not like drill bits or other power tool attachments that you use for different purposes, even though Tibetans always act like they are. They're like, "Here's DorjePhurba, the hand grenade, and here's Tara, the medical kit, and here's Amitabha, the fixin'-to-die preparation, and here's Manjushri, for the paper-shufflers, and here's Maitreya, for the new agers, etc." Sheer bunk, I say.

The power of mantra is that it protects the mind from being scattered into many objects. The power thus obtained is simply that of the coherent awareness. Analogies for this effect abound: It is like dipping a brush in ink, and bringing all the bristles to a point. It is like focusing a magnifying glass to a burning focal point. It is like cleansing a jewel of its obscuring dirt. Etc.

Mantras purify ordinary speech into vajra speech. Ordinary speech is like what you're reading here. If you agree with it, it makes you feel comfortable. If you want to sustain that comfortable feeling, you have to keep "reciting" the argument to yourself. Same as if you are trying to decide if someone likes you. You examine all the facts in your head, and think it through, and come to your conclusion: "She likes me!" Then, the doubtful feeling comes again, and you have to review the facts and the argument all over again.

Vajra speech does not operate this way, leading you from one concept to the next. Rather, the understanding is present without moving one step. With each repetition, you abandon error by returning back to the source, back to the beginning, where you know nothing, and need nothing more. This is the rhythm of the mantra, returning you home with each beat.

Then letting go of the comfortable feeling, letting it expand, hearing the rhythm in the silence like a ripple expanding on the lake's surface after the stone disappears.

Answer 3:

Sheer bunk! is, upon reflection, an overstatement.

The fact is, I have found some mantras far more conducive to contemplation, and some downright inimical. This is probably due to both tonal structures and the associated visualization and deity. Tara recitation has always worked best for me because male deities kind of make me paranoid (I had a very overbearing, but wonderful, father). The Tara mantra I like best is the 6-syllable Om Tare Tam So Ha. Very similar rhythm to Om Mani Padme Hum, which also works for me.

Remembering the personal origins of my experience, I confess to having been a Mexican-Catholic-Tibetan-Buddhist. As such, I was very comfortable with the idea that, when you need to overcome a scary obstacle, you could recite a wrathful mantra, and when you could afford to retreat to a bower of bliss, you could do a peaceful mantra. This "one for the battlefield, another for the garden" approach seems a little busy-minded, and inclines us towards priest-craft. It also produced inspiring iconography and stirring practices.

Nevertheless, I think it's worth remembering that the attitude to cultivate is gentle and responsive, dynamic and still, energetic and considerate. We work toward this universally useful attitude through our passionate anger, our fearful frustration, our impatient demands. We transform these mind states slowly, with the aid of the pure infusion of new awareness that comes: with each released breath, every mindful recitation, and each positive intention that we give form through action. This pure infusion of new awareness cures stagnation and enables us to address our challenging lives with strength and optimism.

Answer 4:

There's a neat book called The Rainbow Annals by Grania Davis http://www.sfsite.com/isfdb-bin/pwork.cgi?77c3dc that tells the myth of how this mantra originates in a lovely romantic fashion. In order to use mantras, it seems very helpful to activate a key myth: that recitation of the mantra will lead to liberation because some particular bodhisattva vowed to attain enlightenment only if the mantra would provide such a blessing. Thus, the subsequent enlightenment of Amitabha after promising not to accept enlightenment unless it were shared with all beings proves that recitation of his mantra will liberate.

These kinds of myths are essential, the lamas say, because they kindle faith in the mind of the mantra reciter.

Certainly if doubts persistently arise in the form of "why am I doing this recitation?" it will likely create anxiety. So it's good to have an answer.

The other thing that makes mantra recitation efficacious is to have the intention to benefit beings by reciting. You can approach this in a narrow-vehicle way, by thinking "I will improve my mind by recitation," or in a big-vehicle way, by thinking "This recitation reminds me that all beings are Amitabha."

The mantra in question, which has six syllables, is often used in conjunction with a visualization to redeem the spirits of all beings wandering in the "six realms of Samsara." Allen Ginsberg's poem on this topic is very beautiful, and illuminates how "liberating beings through compassionate practice" can look a lot like "communicating with the shadow side of your personality."

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Q. I would be very hestitant to chant a mantra without first knowing its effect.

A. Accordingly, would someone post a spreadsheet setting forth the mantra, deity, effect, and number of repetitions required to accomplish that effect. Add in fields for "recommended for xpersonality type" and "counterindications," and pretty soon we could prescribe mantras reliably. Oh, gee, the TM people already did it!

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Q. Many chants will impact a different chakra (wheel of the mind or forest of desire).

A. Good point. For those who have studied linguistics, and the formation of phonemes, and voice and music, it is clear that different sounds physically resonate different parts of the body. Humming is one of my old favorites. Just try steady humming with your jaws together for fifteen minutes. Try saying "ZZZZZSSSSSHHHHHH" for the whole time. If you aren't stoned as can be after fifteen minutes, you don't have a cranium! Or try sitting by the sea and chanting "AAAAAAHHHHHH" for five minutes with your bare feet dug in the sand. It's all good

If you want to get more prescriptive than that, then you go for a different type of medicine than I do. I like herbs, when possible. Some people like pills, which are precisely targeted.

I think the simple mind medicines are the best, because nobody has a patent on them. And the strangest people dispense them. I honestly feel that one of the most profound people I ever met was a career drunkard with whom I shared a couple of pitchers in a taco joint in Westwood in LA back in '93. He didn't give me a mantra, but he pointed out my next life-transition with unerring clarity after talking to me for just a couple of hours. Never spurn wisdom because it comes in a strange package.

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Q. Chanting "aum" repeatedly is noted for an uncanny ability to turn a householder into a beggar (the homeless life was considered a blessing in Buddha's time) and rapidly relieve one of one's possessions.

A. Explains my dismal financial condition during my Hindu period.

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Q. If focus alone was the agenda why not just chant "cellar door" or "hurdy gurdy"?

A. Sounds good to me as it did when Donovan sang:

"Here comes the Hurdy Gurdy Man,
singing the songs of love,
Hurdy Gurdy, hurdy gurdy,
Hurdy gurdy he sang,
Here comes the roly-poly man
Singing the songs of love ..."

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Q. It's quite a stretch to compare the Buddhist teaching of karma to the Christian Genesis version. (NOTE: THIS QUESTION NEEDS HELP)

A. The Genesis story is about passing blame. The Buddha's story is about finding the root of the problem. Same difference, really. The Four Noble Truths contain a core assertion about causality.

The Second Truth is: The cause of suffering is desire.

The Twelvefold Wheel of Dependent Origination also describes twelve causal links.

Tibetan teachers approve the translation of karma as "the law of cause and result."

It seems clear the Buddhist answer to individual suffering is to identify and eliminate the causes of suffering.

But rules about how to eliminate "the cause of suffering" in my mind could be formulated without coming up with a a comprehensive, bulletproof theory of causality. Further, such a "scientifically valid" theory is not essential to motivate humans to uphold norms of ethical conduct.

Thus, the Buddha need not be "omniscient with regard to cause and result" in order to be the articulator of a viable practice for extinguishing human suffering.

Fanaticism undercuts its own credibility by insisting on the extremes. Buddha does not have to be omniscient to be right about how we can end our personal suffering.

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Q. Isn't everything interconnected on so many levels that really one cannot tell how and why karma is at work?

A. Certainly seems too complex to track. Even take a simple auto accident, where the law requires a jury to determine who was at fault, or what act or omission caused a particular injury. In many cases, juries divide heatedly on these issues. There seems no way to take the guesswork out of the process.

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Q. The Buddha taught us not to ponder karma too much.

A. But the teachings on karma are pushed very hard in the Tibetan tradition, including direct correlation between the type of conduct and the resulting rebirth. We are all familiar with the three-part division that holds that: Acts committed in anger result in hell-rebirth; acts committed from desire result in hungry ghost rebirth; and acts committed from ignorance result in animal rebirths. The traditional teaching on karma is quite definite, breaking down the effects of karma into yet a further tri-partite analysis.

In any event, the traditional Tibetan description of karma is a masterpiece of definiteness that ignores all subtlety

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Q. I believe that people like to believe we all ultimately get what we deserve.

Answer 1:

Yes, from hearing it poured in their ear since childhood, we are conditioned to believe we live in a "just universe," or a "lawful universe" as old Ram Dass put it. But if you ask an illiterate Siberian peasant, a New York corporate magnate, and George W. Bush what is "just" or "lawful" in any given situation, I think you will often get very different answers. Yet the peasant has a whole village to back him up, the New Yorker has all of Wall Street on his side, and Dubya commands the votes of a fluctuating constituency driven by the latest blizzard of sound bites. None of them, if impelled to act on their notions of "justice" or "the rule of law" would provide the same reasons for their conduct, and which of them could safely believe that the result would be as they project?

Answer 2:

Causality describes too many relationships without having any core logic.

As a practical matter, the karma I'm concerned about is "how will I feel if I do this?" Also, "how will he/she/they react if I do this?" These questions must be answered to satisfy our own ethical sense, regardless of the availability of an all-inclusive explanation for "why" these results will occur. Accurate prediction is far more important than impeccable explanations. And we can never check the accuracy of our predictions about future lifetimes. Thus, the person who considers prediction of future consequences to be the most valuable consideration when thinking about how to act will discard the attempt to prognosticate consequences outside the scope of the publicly perceivable world.

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Q. Any difference between GWBush, Osama bin laden, and anybody else who is not an arhat or bodhisattva is just a matter of degree.

A. Well, give ya' enough rope and damned if ya' don't hang yerself. C'mon, with one fell swoop you're gonna shitcan the ethical strivings of every ordinary fool who every chose not to rob a bank or steal a baby or murder his rival, and went home the poorer and less dominant for that decision. Fer' shame! Do that and you'll knock the props out from under Relative Truth and the whole clockwork of karma will crash down on yer unsuspecting head. The gain of all beings is built on the aggregate losses to our little selfish impulses, be they so small as not getting to swat a fly when you're feeling really nasty. Absolutism is baloney. Small kindnesses are worth a shit.

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Q. Karma is no excuse to just leave people in suffering, but for all practical purposes, the opposite is true. Karma is an excellent excuse for the suffering of others, as well as a firm foundation for a "hands off" attitude re same. Karma even provides a handy justification for the creation of misery for others. After all, if they didn't have it coming karmically, how else could it happen? Thus, karma readily lends itself as a justification for evil, an invisible combination of edict and force, and thereby reduces the culpable to the status of a mere agent. Don't blame me," says the mugger, "I'm just delivering your karma."

A. And when you've gotta move a lotta karma, then you look for anyone who can carry the load. A guy like Hitler, he's never outta work. The universal karma delivery service can't be picky when it comes to the nitty gritty of keepin' life shitty. So Dubya also can help in this vast task of meting out imperial justice. One, two, three, SMOKE 'EM!!!

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Q. Traktung had conferred upon himself the title of "Rinpoche" even before having ever met a Lama. The only lineage he has a connection with is aro (for what it is worth). Recently he went to India on pilgrimage and a Lama later came to the US. On the website Traktung said the Lama had taken him (Traktung) as his root guru. Now that Lama has left and all signs of him are gone from the website. He has been trying to get some kind of connection with Trinley Norbu Rinpoche, but to no avail.

A. This is all about one Western guy trying to get himself declared a Rinpoche, and people trying to out him as an impostor. This man is as free to claim to be a tulku as any Tibetan, and no less credible in his claim. He is attacked because another lama gave, and now withdraws, an endorsement? What kind of endorsements are lamas giving, and then withdrawing?

Why have faith in the tulku system at all? Like many other aspects of the Tibetan Buddhist orthodoxy, the tulku system has become every bit as absurd as the Hollywood parodies of lamas in films from the fifties. Just try out the "Steven Segal is a reincarnated Tibetan lama" line at any cocktail party to stimulate an orgy of rolling eyes. That's bad press, for a good reason. Lamas have squandered their credibility in a series of absurd endorsements that make you wonder who's scammin' who!

The system no longer works, and on occasion, it fails spectacularly. Please remember that the Crown Prince of Nepal was a tulku, and that didn't keep him from methodically machine-gunning his entire family. The fights over the dual-Panchen Lamas, the famous competing-Karmapas, the double-Dudjom phenomenon, and the spate of recognized Western tulkus have stretched everyone's faith to the breaking point and beyond. At this point, "recognition" of tulku-hood by a superior lama is most likely evidence that the superior lama is trying to strengthen his bond with the lesser lama by giving him a grant of authority in the eyes of the faithful.

However, if you are considering seeking or obtaining a grant of tulkuship, think again. How do you think Traktung and other erstwhile Rinpoches feel when they get "unendorsed." That's not just a bounced email, you know. You can lose adherents, contributions, and a seat close to the Dorje Lopon at the empowerment when that stuff gets around. You should consider the advantages of coming up through the ranks, earning your stripes, and waiting until the little people shove you up on the throne. Eventually, you'll get your share of appreciation, and it may even be deserved.

Did the tulku system ever work? Depends on what you mean by "work." The tulku system seems to have evolved to provide an alternative, more stable system of wealth-succession than hereditary feudalism. This is no small matter, since having noble brothers fighting to control or consolidate shrinking fiefdoms makes life hard for the serfs (who get pressed into military service), and their families (who must get on without them). So maybe it started out as a great idea from some compassionate lamas who wanted to provide a religious check against feudal excesses. We might credit even higher motives to it. We might even presume that in some places, at some times, the system really worked, and enlightened beings chose their next birthplace with foresight to continue their loving care of the faithful.

But human tendencies cannot be eliminated, and the concentration of economic and intellectual power in the monasteries made them places to control. Eventually the noble families and tulku-pickers merged into a single homogeneous family of shared-interest-holders. In many lineages, all pretense was abandoned, and virtually all members of the guru's family are recognized as tulkus. At least it will be the case that no tulkus are ever discovered outside the family line.

From what I can tell, the Dalai Lama wants to junk the tradition, at least with respect to his own reincarnation as the theocratic head of the Tibetans, and he knows more about it than most people.

Other lamas may also wish to consider abandoning their endorsement of the tulku system for more of a "spiritual meritocracy." If we want to recognize true spiritual merit and bow down to those who possess it, we could try various methods to identify them. Those wedded to traditional methods would probably like to follow the old-time Buddhist tradition, which adopted the shamanic traditions of magical combat, often combined with elements of debate and downright trickery. Following Tibetan traditions, lamas would compete in traditional sorcery categories, like "weather control," "rock-stabbing," "levitation," and my particular favorite, "demoness subjugation." This sort of testing would provide a practical answer to Virupa's cry "are there any Mahasiddhas out there?" The candidates could just step right up.

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Q. Whether you recognise them or not, tulkus will always occur.

A. Yes, what is suspicious is when they keep showing up in rich families, looking suspiciously like spoiled rich kids. Or are appointed because they have large followings that they can deliver to an orthodox, established lama. (Called "buying a book of business" in the vernacular.) Or are ham pseudo-karate-expert actors. With "occurrences" like this, a tradition doesn't have to end to die out!

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Q. The "system" of naming tulkus is corrupted only in a few circumstances.

A. Not just the system of naming tulkus, but the whole institution that feeds off their existence -- the entourages, the exclusivity, the special treatment for the wealthy, the smug distance from the students. That corruption is virtually total, and is not confined to times or places, but rather is pervasive.

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Q. If you haven't caught on yet, Vajrayana is not democratic, it is conferred.

A. The dharmakaya is absolutely egalitarian. It recognizes everyone who recognizes it. Regardless of how many "others" recognize one as a buddha, that buddhahood lacks real meaning if you do not recognize yourself as a buddha.

Whether autocratically conferred by the anointed few, or raised aloft by the adoring multitude, both come to the same thing: relying on others to confirm that which must be known without confirmation by others.

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Q. I have found that if one has indeed seen their buddha nature, the whole angst of the autocracy of the spiritual guide is a laughable prospect.

A. Notwithstanding Christ's great insight into the truth, he still threw the moneychangers out of the temple.

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Q. Why the insistence that spiritual realization be wholly self discovered? If our self natures, the unimpeded clear light mind, were so readily apprehendable, we'd have stumbled upon it long ago, given the fact that it is that very thing which makes every experience, every thought, every moment alive. But we haven't. Wonder what that says.

A. No, don't wonder!!! Don't think about it at all! Go find somebody who says THEY KNOW, and take their word for it. There's not even any point in trying to evaluate your teacher's teachings, because you'd have to rely on "your own mind," that untrustworthy instrument. The only path is pure faith! Close your eyes and leap. Give your wallet to the attendant!

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Q. I know many people who could not afford the costs of empowerments and retreats, but that was just their unfortunate "karma" now, wasn't it? Must have done something in a previous life to deserve it. Damn poor people.

A. The effect of money in Dharma groups goes beyond poorer people not hearing the teachings. Dharma centers develop upper and lower classes very quickly, usually based on money and social status. The problem for me is that if a religious teacher appears too comfortable with rich people (or is rich people), and treats the poorer students like the queen visiting an orphanage, then the religious teacher loses some credibility. (The queen doesn't have any.) It is a sign of ordinariness that is hard to see as transparent, particularly since it stimulates our own sense of envy and competitiveness with other students. Inevitably a sangha that gets too divided along class lines develops unpleasant similarities to some Chinese "secret palace" fantasy, with the fortunate being ushered in and out of the silken precincts.

I liked the story about what happened when Ramana Maharshi saw that only special people were getting coffee at his ashram. He stopped drinking coffee.

Another time they say a visitor with bad legs was being forced to sit in an uncomfortable posture. Maharshi also had bad legs, and insisted on tucking them under, which everyone knew caused him pain. He insisted, however, that if anyone was showing him disrespect with their legs, he equally was disrespecting them by sitting with his own legs extended.

And you know, I've noticed that different students are particular about their teachers having certain characteristics, so some go for miraculous saints, like Sai Baba, and others go for sophisticated talkers like Osho, and others go for homespun wisdom, which is what I got from my lama, along with lucid teachings on how to be somewhat saner. Nor did he ever seemed moved by wealth at all. But I could not say the same for some of his friends.

Most people presume that having faith in your Tibetan guru means assuming that he is immune to the influence of wealth and power, regardless of the evidence. Since there is scriptural authority to support this as a "must have" for a reputable guru, few people seem to dispute the requirement. Of course there must be exceptions to the rule -- the incarnation of enlightened avarice must exist in this best of all possible universes. One thousand arms grabbing everything in sight! Does that bring anyone to mind?

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Q. Magic -- ordinary siddhis --is not a goal of Vajrayana practice. We just let whatever arise happen without conceptualizing it or dwelling on it.

It's good to remember this. But this doesn't mean that your mind becomes a blah. My teacher would oftentimes make this face where he would roll his eyes up into his head, open his mouth really wide, and stick out his tongue, then freeze that expression for a second. It was the ultimate put-down. Don't go there was the clear message.

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Q. Who is Arya Tara?

A. Arya Tara preceded anyone's imagination of her, and transcends our belief or disbelief in her. Like a mother who is merely amused if her child says, "I don't love you, you're not my mommy," Arya Tara has patience for the refusal of beings to recognize our true nature as the children of her compassionate awareness. Like children, we come home to her when we are hungry, tired and sleepy.

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Q. Many say that Taoism had no meditation until it took it from Buddhism.

A. Interesting proposal. Certainly the Taoists had no hostility for the Buddha. See this quote concerning "confirmatory experiences" for Taoist meditation:

"6. Confirmatory Experiences During the Circulation of the Light
Master Lu Tzu said: There are many kinds of confirmatory experiences. One must not content oneself with small demands but must rise to the thought that all living creatures have to be freed.*** The great world is like ice, a glassy world of jewels. The brilliancy of the Light is gradually crystallized. That is why a great terrace arises and upon it, in the course of time, Buddha appears. When the Golden Being appears who should it be but Buddha? For Buddha is the Golden Saint of the Great Enlightenment. This is a great confirmatory experience."

For a link to the site where this quote was found: http://home.earthlink.net/~wisetiger/secret.html

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Q. White Tara is a longevity practice which culminates in the realization of deathlessness. In Mahayana, deathlessness is a synonym for the non-arising nature of reality free from extremes of existence and non-existence. What never arose is also free from death, hence deathless.

A. White Tara is the Wish Fulfilling Wheel. Her mission is to fulfill all prayers earnestly put before her. This activity is the result of her Bodhisattva vow, which is now a source of exhaustless benefit due to her achievement of liberation. The spirit of White Tara is that which does not judge the worthiness of a recipient, but simply provides that which is desired without judging.

Living beings value their life more than anything else, because it is the foundation of all other experience. Thus, Arya Tara's fundamental gift is the very essence of life energy, what brightens the infant's eye, and the mother's gaze. To possess life energy in abundance, and pass it to other generously, is her blessing.

Arya Tara generously provides all that is needful for the beings who seek her protection, eliminating the fear of death and loss by kind encouragement, and gradually bringing all beings to possess her own fearless Bodhisattva view.

That fearless view is the deathless. Fortunately, from that distant shore of fearless gnosis to this place of doubt and uncertainty, Arya Tara has extended her bridge of lovingkindness and motherly concern, that none should perish on this benighted shore who will trouble themselves to invoke her name. Tara!

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Q. In order to practice the six yogas of Naropa, you need oral transmission and guidance of a master who has experienced these yogas. Otherwise, it is a complete waste of time.

A. This may be too severe. Is there no room for a passionate amateur, an informed dilettante? What about a brilliant scholar with a command of the language and less desire to develop callouses on the buttocks? Surely such a one is entitled to muck about in the general field of tantra. How could it hurt? Evans Wentz, Jung, and all that.

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Q. What is the root of politics? My answer, to cite the Dalai Lama, is "...the clearer it becomes that no matter what our situation, whether we be rich or poor, educated or not, of one race, gender, religion or another, we all desire to be happy and avoid suffering". The root of our present ecological woe is the selfishness that desires to be happy and avoid suffering naturally generates. And the antidote to it would be a kind of ecologically informed economic discipline enforced at all levels and in all markets in our world. As Lester Brown puts it "Economists see booming economic indicators, ecologists see an economy that is altering the climate with consequences that no one can foresee".

I feel this division stems from a fundamental split in thinking, a schizophrenic or delusional, mode of perceiving our world and economy, or as Deluez and Guattari put it "Everything seems objectively to be produced by capital as quasi cause. As Marx observes, in the beginning capitalists are necessarily conscious of the opposition between capital and labor, and of the use of capital as a means of extorting surplus labor. But a perverted bewitched world quickly comes into being, as capital increasingly plays the role of a recording surface that falls back on (se rabat sur) all of production (furnishing or realizing surplus value is what established recording rights)." In other words, the point is that Capitalism presents itself as a great producer, but in truth it merely subverts labor and exhausts so called "natural capital"; that is, Capitalism is basically a massive arbitrage making its profits off the differences between the cost of labor used to consume so called "valueless" pre-processed raw materials in order to transform these raw materials in commodity goods for market, keeping the difference which it in turn funnels into ever increasing profits margins at the expense of resources. As Oystein Dahle points out (cf. Brown) "Socialism collapsed because it did not allow prices to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow prices to tell the ecological truth"

A. Well, Prof, can't say I did the readin', as I was too busy makin' hay while the sun shone. So I just did some doodles before class. Or so I thought.

Come to think of it, I did a heap o' workin', and ain't seen much come of it. Right about the time I thought my ship was gonna come in, the grim reaper had to make his dastardly appearance.

But be that as it may, I figure I'm better off than my old friend the Ancient Mariner, and this here story I tell is that of the workin' man, who never had a day of rest.

"There's no good revolution, only power changin' hands," seems like as true a statement as the common man ever heard. Capitalist vodka, socialist vodka, nazi vodka, it all gets you drunk.

And fortunately sex also is independent of politics. Communists screw just like evangelical Christians.

Religion also shifts with the tides. Liberation theology is suicide, thinks the old priest. Suicide.

Greenpeace came too late. We needed an earth-century, not an earth-day. Logging the Amazon went on too long. Index species dropping off the chart. Salmon tries to cross the freeway in a flood. We won't make it. Humanity built a dam across its own spawning stream.

Ghost dance engineering. Imagine a highway in the sky. Anyone can cross it. Just believe, close your eyes. Take my hand for the big jump. Take a step. Drop two feet and open your eyes. You're still here. It's all an illusion.

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Q. Reincarnation and Ecology.

A. Let's say that we do reincarnate.

Don't we need someplace to do it?

The most likely place for us to be able to get an equal or better situation is in the human gene pool -- of the future.

Preservation of a species is thus also a vehicle for ensuring an opportunity for further spiritual evolution. This is something within our hands.

We can resolve as a species-goal to preserve our planet as a habitat for our species and all species. It's logical so we should be able to agree on it. We should be able to demand of our leaders that they work to accomplish that worthy goal.

To generate public pressure for positive social activity, we must advocate our views to those who will listen, and those who will not. The hardest to convert may be the staunchest supporters.

It grows slowly. When I was a kid, ecology wasn't even a word. Now everybody knows what it means. It's a slow progression, the adoption of humanitarian ideals by the mass. We need to invest in the young. Teach them to believe they can make a better world. It'll be up to them to figure out how.

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Q. I think the most devastating effect to the earth's eco system is the human population. HHDL (jokingly) said we need more monks and nuns. Is celibacy the right answer?

Maybe. Might fuel the expansion of Internet pornography, however.

Seriously, though, the problem appears to be HUMAN GREED. Check out this report from the World Bank, summarized in their press release as follows:

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2000 — New World Bank research suggests that civil wars are more often fuelled by rebel groups competing with national governments for control of diamonds, coffee, and other valuable primary commodities, rather than by political, ethnic, or religious differences.

The new report, Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy, looked at 47 civil wars from 1960-1999 and shows that countries which earn around a quarter of their yearly GDP from the export of unprocessed commodities, face a far higher likelihood of civil war than countries with more diversified economies. Without exports of primary commodities such as gemstones or coffee, "ordinary countries are pretty safe from internal conflict, while when such exports are substantial, the society is highly dangerous," the report argues. "Primary commodities are thus a major part of the conflict story."

Personally, I found this information to be the most practical observation about how to save people from suffering and murder on this planet. Diversify your economy.

My own experience in business bears this out. In the Sex.com case, Sexdotcomchronicles.com, hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended in costs and attorney fees by both sides to obtain control over the world's most valuable Internet domain name. Why? Because it is a mono-crop-economy in the Internet business. If you can own that one name, you can make an awful lot of money. Therefore, it makes sense to fight a hell of war to get control of it. Indeed, the Sex.com name has been the subject of dispute practically since it was minted in 1994, and I can promise it will continue to be a focus of conflict for the indefinite future.

Similarly, if you can control one port, like Karachi, Pakistan, you can control the largest trans-shipment point for the international heroin trade. Other examples will leap to mind.

It is tragic that child armies are conscripted in the world's poorest nations to fight wars over luxuries that will adorn the bodies, homes, and automobiles of the richest citizens of the planet.

Ultimately, all wars are economic. It is only the cannon fodder themselves who are indoctrinated to think otherwise.

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Q. No matter what form of government you might conceive, it's the people in power who make it compassionate, moral, just, and free. The problem with morals is they can't be imposed by legislation. We need to get society over the false notion that morals are a mere contrivance of religion, or only religious people can be truly moral. Morality/ethics is simply the best means to a harmonious, and civil society.

A. Religion is the means of hornswoggling people into believing that conformity equals absolute goodness. Because I part my hair on the left and wax my car, I will go to heaven.

To ascertain what are valid ethical norms, and to articulate convincing reasons for following them, would be a worthy philosophical achievement.

The common expedient, in the absence of a good argument for why to be good, is to posit the existence of an afterlife. In the afterlife, we can take care of all the loose ends. My personal must-have item for the afterlife is Hitler in hell for the remainder of the kalpa. We can all go congratulate him when it's time to get out.

The problem with the afterlife of course is that everyone has a different design. Which undermines the likelihood of anyone having an accurate description, just from an inductive viewpoint.

So if we reject the afterlife scenario, we're back to the problem. How do you get these reprobates to behave? I don't know. I've spent lots of time in court rooms and talking with probation officers and judges. We all applaud when a drunk finds religion, since it's got the best prognosis, poor as the stats are. But why? Because everyone will support you if you try and be religious and dry out. Not because suddenly you're thinking with great clarity and incisiveness. Because finally you're conforming.

But I don't need to use the techniques that are used to herd cattle to manage my own mind. Sure I can shock myself with a cattle prod, but why bother if I can just think: "Go there." I'm under control.

And being under control, I've earned the right to think what makes sense. I don't need to pray to anyone to help me dry out, and I don't have to think stuff that will make me be a better person if it's all just made up.

I feel better thinking things that make sense, even if they're not fluffy. And it's actually not very comfy to realize, in the back of your mind, that just as you are confident in your precisely-described dogmatic view of life and the afterlife, some yahoo thinks he's going to drive there in a brand new car with Jesus ridin' shotgun.

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Q. If we stop making the environment our enemy, can we also stop reaping a sick sexual psychology?

A. I used to prosecute domestic violence here in the redneck provinces of Southern Oregon, and after one year was thoroughly weary of the painful drama. I prosecuted with a lot of zeal, eagerly trying to make one point: the court must express social disapproval of violent behavior in a manner that leaves no doubt that this does not go here, and you cannot think of yourself as a good person if you hit those who love and depend on you. I often told abusive men candidly, "The rules have changed. It's not okay to hit your wife. We'll put you in jail if you don't understand." You know, it was amazing how often they did, in fact, understand.

How much did the victimization of poor women have to do with disrespect for the environment and the lack of female empowerment? Maybe a lot, but I found an interesting phenomenon. A lot of the redneck gals didn't vibe to the atmosphere in the liberal-operated shelter home. Some did, but many seemed to be alienated from fem-speak. False consciousness? Maybe, but I looked at it differently. These women needed protection and advice that they could use. If the politics got in the way, that didn't help them.

So, the question is always how to help the people who need the help. By giving them what we think they need? See Chuang Tzu's "Symphony for a Seabird." (A king offered a seabird a symphony in honor of his appearing in his kingdom, so far from the sea. The seabird starved.)

Our politics may enliven our own imaginations, but if we want to benefit the world outside our eyeballs, we have to accept some very unromantic tasks. Stepping into very ordinary roles, doing bad jobs well, and really helping all who come within our sphere of activity.

On a daily basis, we have to restructure the norms of our world to become more humane and accommodating of all that is gentle and needs protection.

Likewise, we need to ask our leaders to adopt some imperatives: No killing to benefit ourselves. Preserve the wild ecologies that remain. Place a high value on peace, a lesser value on exploitation of resources. Eschew violence altogether as an instrument of policy. Govern wisely, honestly, and with ethical guidelines. Brainstorm a better world, and put the plan into action.

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Q. Regulation which protects consumer interests, as Adam Smith notes, tends to be good. Regulation which favors business interests, tends to disenfranchise consumers.

A. I think "regulation" is too broad a word. Just the decision to spend one government dollar on one thing rather than another can be seen as a policy decision. One has to question whether creating more regulatory agencies with "inspectors" drawn from the ranks of the regulated, is really just putting regulated industries right where they want to be.

Federal regulatory agencies love to create uniform policies that impede local action and citizen's rights to sue through the process of "preemption." Among other locally-empowering activities that the Feds have preempted by regulation are:

Hundreds of lawsuits against cigarette makers were dismissed as preempted by the FDA warning labels.
EPA regulations of air quality preempt local nuisance lawsuits against polluters.
Federal law may preempt suits against airbag makers because their installation was required.
Suits against prescription drug makers, like the killer sex drug Viagra, may be preempted by FDA labeling provisions.
So it's not all rosy out there in consumer-regulation land.

And while I think trading pollution credits is smoke and mirrors, I think it is always worth looking where we put the incentives in policy-making.

Eco-paradise may already be out of reach forever, but solving the planet's problems is a vital issue.

It is important for people to unite around this basic principle, and never to let our beliefs about how this can be done overshadow this basic positive impulse.

Because we need a planet so we can keep arguing.

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Q. What did Trungpa Rinpoche mean when he said freedom was a myth?

A. What Trungpa Rinpoche meant is written on the back of the book, in my edition:

"Freedom is generally conceived as the ability to achieve goals and satisfy desires. But what of the source of these goals and desires? If they arise from ignorance, habitual patterns, and negative emotions--in other words from psychologically destructive elements that actually enslave us--is the freedom to pursue them true freedom or just a myth?" Shambhala, 1976 edition.

I always have found it's helpful to find how Trungpa Rinpoche defines terms. When I read that our thoughts are "neurotic" because they "keep changing directions," that helped me understand his use of "neurosis" a lot better.

I like his description of how we practice mindfulness: "We see what is happening there rather than developing concentration, which is goal-oriented. Anything connected with goals involves a journey toward somewhere from somewhere. In mindfulness practice there is no goal, no journey; you are just mindful of what is happening there."

That's a relief.

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Q. Thinley Norbu

Answer 1:

TNR's rhetorical style is very clever,
for a while.
It seems so much of Tibetan Buddhism
is literary guile.
Monastic argumentators
Like insects that bind their prey with sticky spittle glue
Then sting them to death
With venom of spiteful nonexistence
And siddha rhapsodisers
who club their disciples
smart with numbing blows
of incomprehensible oracular
exposition
Stilleto-wielding grinning
bantering tulkus
waiting for you
at the bottom of the stairs.
Later,
dudes.

Answer 2:

Bores the crap out of me. The rhetorical cant is annoying: "If this virtuous thing is done, it becomes fucked up; if this other virtuous thing is done, it becomes fucked up; these fuckers will fuck up everything if you give them a fucking chance."

TN has made a religion out of failure.

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Q. My contact with Dharma leads me to the conclusion that the only really serious route is to become a monk or nun. This leaves a problem for married people who do not necessarily want to be any less devoted to practicing or studying the Dharma. Are there any serious avenues for non-monastic people to take?

A. Well, if you want to believe what people say about me, you must accept that one can obtain no benefit from 20 years of being part of a Tibetan Buddhist sangha, while raising three kids and teaching them some Dharma, such that the youngest can read Tibetan and finished her ngondro when she was eleven, and helping to build a big old temple, and hosting all manner of lama visits, and bowing and receiving endless streams of empowerments, and even trying to reduce the endless accretions of pride that result from these activities.

Shoulda cut my nuts off before I met AmBu. Then I'd have done better. But we'd be short that one kid who finished her ngondro and was hailed as a little micro-Siddha. She's going to Stanford next year. Probably no benefit to the world, though.

Both my daughters and my son possess clear intelligence that frees them from the tyranny of blind following. That kind of intelligence hammers out a blade of unsuppressable pride.

Both my daughters and my son have kind impulses toward others, and act on them. That kind of compassion forges and tempers pride like steel, making it unbreakable.

Both my daughters and my son have good humor and look to make the world a brighter and happier place. That kind of lightness shines pride to the brightness of a ceremonial blade, making it worthy to be displayed.

Always free from false authority,
Always kind to friends,
Always fierce toward foes,
Always willing to reconcile
When war is not required,
Always loyal to the One Mother,
These soldiers born of my flesh
Have earned my pride
And I will never deny it them.

When asked whether one should renounce to seek liberation, Ramana Maharshi said something like, "If you remain as you are, you will think you are a layman. If you renounce, you will think you are a renunciate. What is the benefit of change from one mistaken understanding to another?"

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Q. You want to talk about Sogyal Rinpoche's sins?

A. I thought that was your obsession. Sogyal Rinpoche can copulate with any one he wants. What he shouldn't do is lie to people about why they might want to engage in sex with a short fat guy with a randy grin and a pocket full of cliches by claiming to be a Buddha with a lucky stick. Sin, schmin. The man's a hypocrite and a coward too chicken to write a personals ad.

He should've been busted down to private and stripped of his status. A real siddha wouldn't miss your crass adulation, or that of the rest of the parrot flock.

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Q. What is the story of Aku Tompa and the shit from heaven?

A. Aku Tompa was a wily rascal who at one time served a lord in the capacity of jester, procurer, gambling adviser, etc. One day, the lord was crossed with him for chasing one of the maids that the lord had already put his eye on. The lord had banished Aku Tompa to spend the night out on the roof, where the temperature dropped precipitously in the thin Tibetan air. As the night wore on and the chill bit into Aku Tompa's bones, the glow of a brazier through the skylight in the shrine room was like a ray of hope. Eventually butter lamps were kindled and the lord arrived for his morning devotions. His mind racing, Aku Tompa scraped a pile of lime white-wash from the wall and spreading it in a fine powder on the flat rooftop, he relieved himself liberally.

Aku Tompa stuck a stick into the steaming mass, and in the sub-arctic temperatures, the steaming mass was soon solid, the arrangement soon assumed the shape of a demonic popsicle. Once the confection had congealed, Aku Tompa flipped it over and, using a bit of charcoal he found on the roof, scribbled some characters on the flat bottom. This he heaved through the skylight into the lap of the pious lord.

When his devotions received this sign of divine approval, the lord was, to put it mildly, elated. Even the local Rinpoche had not been so favored! When he looked at the characters on the base of this unusual torma, of course, being illiterate, he was vexed. Particularly vexed because Aku Tompa was the only person in the house who could read. And he was still very put out with him.

After struggling with his conscience in this fashion, the lord concluded that poor Tompa must be suffering terribly in the cold dark, with the stars piercing his bones like needles, and resolved immediately to display Chenresig-like compassion and summon Tompa to his pure land. Tompa appeared, teeth chattering, lips blue, his attention not to be commanded until after several restorative cups of tea. When he was looking quite chipper, and the lord was about to become annoyed, Tompa finally asked what the lord was holding. "Oh this," replied the lord, "It's nothing." Tompa teased it out of him presently as he was wont to do, since the lord was always shy about his learning disability.

Finally, Tompa looked at the words on the bottom of the now slightly softer torma, and unctuously read, "This is the shit that falls from heaven, blessed is the ruler into whose lap it falls." The ruler was well-pleased, and Aku Tompa drank much tea that day, chang later that night, and chased the maid after the lord passed out.

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Q. I have to question if you really know what Buddhism is, and what it means to reach an enlightened state. Joey, I wanna sniff some glue, Ramone is a fun rock and roller, but to say he's a buddha is to belittle the discipline, the hardships that many nameless people have been though to reach their goal. Einstein was brilliant, Martin Luther King was a man to aspire to, but not a single one of these people went through the rigorous mind training that is necessary to become a buddha. If you fused Einstein and King together then you might come close to understanding Siddhartha's importance. It isn't right not to be respectful.

A. You have a very elevated notion of what Buddhas are. Actually, there are several billion of them on the sole of your shoe right now. That's doctrinal. If Joey never broke your heart and remade it from much more than airplane glue, then pick up an album and know God. He came to earth for you.

Talk about showing some respect. J oey's body is barely cold in the grave. He lived a life of extraordinary sacrifice, touring relentlessly until his life was gone, carrying a message that may be one of the only beacons of true compassion in a depraved entertainment universe. He did so at the cost of everything most people prize, including wealth, conventional fame, a wife or a family. If you are dead sure that Joey was not a Buddha, then you might be a little more sure than you should be.

If you are an American, you should get on your knees and thank Thomas Paine every day for writing those words, "these are the times that try men's souls ..." because it was those words that induced George Washington's men to stay the course at a moment when tyranny would have snuffed out the hope of liberty, and the noble experiment of democracy would never have been launched. Thomas Paine also sacrificed everything that a man can. In fact, the exact same list as I put forth with respect to Joey Ramone. But add one more insult for Tom Paine. He didn't even receive a proper burial, and his bones were stored in warehouses for scores of years after his death.

It is not that I am necessarily right about who is a Buddha or not. The point is, all of the dharma role models we are given by the Buddhist clerics come from an Asian mold. Buddha was an emperor's son, who dumped his wife and practiced asceticism for six years, took a break for some milk rice, and decided he had something to teach. That's a great image. But it is quintessentially Eastern in flavor. While this myth certainly is inspiring, it also communicates by implication that we must adopt Asian ways, including the cultural predilection for self-subjugation, in order to attain Buddhahood. This model of enlightenment deserves a counterpoint, which I am providing. If I'd named John Wayne, I can see why you'd be giving me flak. But I'll tell you this right now, if you think you are going to be more compassionate than Joey Ramone, more courageous than Martin Luther King, more visionary than Einstein, from sitting in a Zendo, a Dojo, an Ashram or a Gompa, knock yourself out. I'm going to listen to rock and roll, march in the streets, and use my rational mind, and we'll see who gets there. However, I'll have a big advantage, because I don't know where I'm going. You'll always be trying to end up where you're planning to go, and as every Zen idiot knows, that's nowhere.

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Q. How can we practice Right Speech if we are expressing ourselves with anger?

Trungpa Rinpoche defined the Buddha's use of the word "right" as follows: "[The Buddha] did not mean to say right as opposed to wrong at all. He said 'right' meaning 'what is,' being right without a concept of what is right. 'Right' translates the Sanskrit samyak, which means 'complete.' Completeness needs no relative help, no support through comparison; it is self-sufficient."

Trungpa Rinpoche then defined "right speech" as "perfect communication, communication which says, 'It is so,' rather than 'I think it is so.' 'Fire is hot,' rather than, 'I think fire is hot.' *** It is just the simple minimum of words we could use. It is true."

I think you are suggesting that if people get angry and passionate in their exchanges that is not right speech. Certainly it makes the exchange less pleasant, and often what is unpleasant is not right.

But if Trungpa Rinpoche is saying what it seems, the deviation from "right speech" doesn't occur when speech becomes emotional, but rather when it is made conditional, forcing meaning to make a "detour through the ego" in order to express understanding. Trungpa's examples take issue with the mere addition of the words "I think" to an otherwise simpler statement. He says we should not be afraid just to say what we see, to assert it as true.

This kind of blunt expression: "This is such and so," is certainly less tactful than "I think this is such and so." Indeed, I'm sure that motivational psychologists would favor the second usage as less likely to provoke resistance in the hearer. However, Trungpa Rinpoche seems to be counseling us to be blunt with each other. That would of course be consistent with his character.

So shall we craft our words carefully, making all palatable before we express ourselves? Consider this from Trungpa again, explaining the meaning of "Samyak," the Sanskrit term for "Right" in colorful terms:

"Samyak means seeing life as it is without crutches, straightfowardly. In a bar one says, 'I would like a straight drink.' Not diluted with club soda or water; you just have it straight. That is samyak. No dilutions, no concoctions -- just a straight drink. Buddha realized that life could be potent and delicious, positive and creative, and he realized that you do not need any concoctions with which to mix it. Life is a straight drink -- hot pleasure, hot pain, straightforward, one hundred percent."

With that kind of a suggestion, let's have one together -- Straight, no chaser.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

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PART 6 OF 6 (Frequently Asked Questions About Tibetan Buddhism)

Q. Since you abandoned your gurus, and don't bother to hide your hatred and poisonous thoughts towards them, you're in no a position to tell anyone about vows.

A. Buddha left every one of his teachers and then broke his vows of asceticism by chowing down on a bowl of milk-rice provided by an unsuspecting village woman who didn't realize what a vow-breaker he was. Nevertheless, he had the audacity, based on his own "experience," to teach others. As it happened, other people bought it, and he ended by founding a major religion. Amazing how such a screwup made good, eh?

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Q. It might be more useful if you would tell us everything good you learned from Vajrayana, and share your gratitude.

A. Responding to the request for positives about my interaction with Buddhism:

1. My lama taught me to love my parents and appreciate how much they'd done for me.
2. My lama taught me to care for my children.
3. My lama taught me to work hard for my pay.
4. My lama taught me to be honest with myself.
5. My lama taught me that, whatever I thought, he didn't really care about me enough to lift a finger against those he truly cared about.

Any more teachings someone wants to offer?

Q. It is amazing how distorted your understanding of the Buddha's life is. He made a pledge not to eat more than a millet grain a day. This is a vow of asceticism and is not at all the same as the five precepts. To this day, one can, in addition to the regular monastic vows, take on an extra set of austerity vows. But they are not a requirement, and certainly there is no idea of a penalty if one's health does not measure up to following such a vow, as is the case when Buddha was provided a bit of nourishment. The Buddha was practically dead when she found him.

A. What you say about two classes of vows is nonsense. Once there are two classes of vows, the other guy will always be committing the real breaches while your friends will be committing mere "forgivable" vow breakage.

The fact is, Buddha's former ascetic pals, who later became his disciples, were initially outraged that Buddha was eating three squares a day, and snubbed him for it. They announced he was a lapsed practitioner and refused to have anything to do with him.

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Q. American Buddhism! Wow, Buddhism without the Buddha.

A. What Buddha did the Buddha have when he became Buddha?

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Q. You are criticizing Dharma; therefore we should criticize you in turn.

A. "Dharma is like gold -- it must be beaten and hammered to purify it before it can be made into a beautiful ornament."

If we know what Dharma is, then we can say when it is being criticized, but even when words are perfectly clear, like the instruction for assembling a tricycle, people argue over the meaning. If the husband tells the wife that he knows how to put together the tricycle, and refuses to listen to her interpretation of the instructions, he silences a source of information that could clarify his understanding. Buddhists who find ideas disagreeable simply lack the courage to expose their views to criticism. Like a castle made of sugar, such Buddhists fear their doctrine will melt in the rain. The Dharma is not fragile, and in seeking to protect it, you merely strengthen your own projections. But what else can you do?

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Q. A very learned monk once told me that compassion towards self taken to it's penultimate expression results in a state where the self disappears and only compassion remains. If you look at a tree you will not see any difference between yourself and the tree. There is feeling of oneness. This may be wrongly interpreted as being one with God. These are great states of bliss because the samatha produces great states of concentration which can subdue suffering for months (ceto vimukhthi). But these states are temporary. Desire and suffering will slowly begin to creep in once meditation is stopped. The wisdom release (panna vimukhthi) of buddhism is a different thing all together. It is not possible to fall away from nibbana because it is based on wisdom. There is growth of wisdom regarding the different components of the mind -nothing is held on to as me or mine. Even consciousness itself is not seen as 'me'. Ten fetters binding a person to samsara are abandoned.

Answer 1:

If you know what enlightenment is, you can go there directly.

Everything else, you can get at the store.

When you don't go shopping, your cupboard is bare.

There's no enlightenment there, even though it's empty.

Answer 2:

It's been a long time since I heard one of these disclosures. Most people don't have the guts to expose their delusion this way. I would add to the distinction between meditation and nirvana this observation -- that in this business of evaluating ourselves for spiritual attainment there are numerous risks:

1. We can consider ourselves to be the final judge of our realization, and risk being wrong and ridiculous.
2. We can consider a superior to be the judge of our realization, and be subject to manipulation and humiliation.
3. We can consider our equals to be the judges of our realization, and risk mistaking popularity for attainment.

In each of these cases, the judge, whether oneself, superior, or the plebeian norm, is subjective.

Objective proofs are difficult to find. Hence the siddha-lineage reliance on manifesting magical powers. It's hard to argue with magical displays. But do you believe in them? Can you seriously think you're going to fly, or be able to penetrate granite with a knife? No, you don't, and what you can't believe, you can't achieve.

You must try to achieve what you can believe. Then you can devise an objective test for whether you are achieving it. Or can you?

Litmus test for enlightenment, anyone?

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Q. Was Jesus a Buddha?

A. Jesus was a Jew, murdered by the Romans at the insistence of his own people, and turned into a martyr-god by the Romans when Constantine adopted "Christianity" as a state religion.

Buddha got much better treatment in life because the Indian people respected "philosopher" as a lifestyle and didn't feel that Buddha's message posed a political threat.

Some of what Buddha is reported to have said can be interpreted to equate with some of what Jesus said.

It is impossible to determine where either of them "went." Therefore, it is impossible to determine where their respective paths lead.

What is clear is that, both "Buddhists" and "Christians" currently espouse different doctrines and preach that their adherents will go to "different places." A Buddhist will tell you that Christians will inevitably continue to revolve in "samsara" because they do not follow the Eightfold Path. A Christian will tell you that Buddhists cannot "go to Heaven" because they have not "accepted Jesus as their personal savior" (Protestant version) or because they have not "been baptized" and "confessed" (Catholic version).

If you want to purchase your spiritual wares in these established marketplaces, you will have to buy them with these descriptions. Otherwise, consider yourself "outside the mainstream" and join us at American-Buddha.com.

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Q. Buddha or Jesus has meaning only within the Absolute, beyond bodily manifestation of a particular "person". Even if the Absolute = Relative, they are not the same.

A. If all you need is the Absolute, what do you gain by affirming that Buddha and Christ were in agreement about the existence and or nature of the Absolute? Historically, knowledge of precisely what they taught has been difficult to determine, but much of it sounds quite appealing. ("Not a sparrow falls but my father knows it; ye are worth more than many sparrows" is something from the Gospels I like.) So the words are there, we can debate their meaning, and we should, to clarify our understanding. But fundamentally the ideas should stand on their own, and we should never forego questioning because we are afraid to question someone's authority, even if that authority is the Buddha or Vajradhara. All the testimony of past seers is nothing in comparison to your direct perception, and while it may be possible to build a psychic connection with some supernatural beings like Buddha or Christ in order to get leverage to get out of samsara or into heaven, I'm uncertain. You place your bet, and I'll place mine. Meanwhile, we can discuss our options.

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Q. It is fortunate that you are not monk, because otherwise you really would be in danger of causing a schism in the sangha where one states "This doctrine of Shakyamuni's is not good and instead I will start a new doctrine, better than the old one." It is clearly your intention to cause a schism in the sangha, and that is just plain wrong.

A. Let's walk through this together. You say that I am declaring error in the Buddha's doctrine and asserting my doctrine to be superior.

Well what do I affirmatively believe?
I affirm that the emptiness doctrine expressed in the Prajnaparamita can purify the mind into its original essence.
I affirm that kindness toward all beings is the highest attitude, that everyone should strive to adopt and put into action.

I don't think those beliefs contradict the Buddha's doctrine.

Let's move into riskier territory.

I have said that it is impossible to prove certain doctrines that many people attribute to the Buddha, such as the operation of karma, the mechanism of rebirth, or the supernatural powers of deities and protectors. I have also said that no one should feel obligated to believe that which cannot be proven to their satisfaction.

So if someone says that Buddha-doctrine requires "belief in" rebirth, karma, and supernatural beings, then it is probably true that I do not follow that doctrine of Buddha.

If, however, someone notes that doctrines concerning karma, rebirth, and supernatural beings have only instrumental reality, and not ultimate reality, then it can be argued that such beliefs are irrelevant to the essential Buddha-doctrine. Thus to have "no belief" or let us say an "open belief" about karma, etcetera, would be an acceptable position for a Buddhist.

Obviously, I adhere to the latter belief -- that the essential teachings of Buddhism are encompassed in the doctrine of emptiness, and attainment is direct understanding thereof. By taking up arms against the assertion that more doctrines, faith in robed persons, etcetera, are essential to the practice of Dharma, I think I can lay fair claim to being a well-intentioned heretic. While I certainly am not Hui Neng, I have always loved that brush painting showing him vigorously tearing up a sutra. My kind of Buddha.

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Q. There is a problem with this 'rational mind' program that's running on each one of us. Its process of objectifying existence for survival purposes/species continuation, has also objectified our biological self. Ooops. We've just become 'self' aware.

A. The dualism here comes from defining rational mental functioning as an actor in an internal drama with motives, goals, and purposes that are uniquely its own.

When we practice with upright mind, we don't "add reality" to our preconceptions by dramatizing their character and imputing motives to mere mental activity. They're just as they are, appearing and disappearing, as real as they appear to be, and as unreal.

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Q. Someone in there is lying and getting away with it (most of the time). The lie is that there is a permanent self existing. It's so sneaky though. It doesn't come right and say 'Hi, I'm permanent." That would be easy to defeat. It objectifies our biological self when we are very little (2 yrs old?), and defenseless! Our parents and relatives reinforce this conceptualizing, so does everyone we come in contact with as we grow up. We become conditioned to it , addicted to it. We take it for reality.

A. This is the same story line. "Bad, bad brain," said St. Joey Ramone. Practicing straightforward seeing, we don't add faces or names to what arises before us.

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Q. Something in the act of conceptualizing (maybe that 'craving' thing Buddha was talking about) implies a permanence.

A. More projection. Let craving sit right on your tongue as your mind races like red flame toward its intended objects. Its impermanence will drive you wild.

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Q. IMO it is the physical nature of conceptualizing that makes us unconsciously think an idea is permanent. It's like a default setting. But that's ok from the 'species continuation' program's point of view, because a permanent self might be very good for species continuation. A permanent self is a great carrot.

A. Self doesn't need an incentive program to arise. It is more motivated than any insurance salesman. Things, "the world," arise so the off-balance fictitious self will have something to lean against. Fictitious self-existence provides the raison d'etre for everything else, and is not the tool of other things.

When fictitious self subsides and upright awareness expresses itself, appearances are gone as well, along with fictitious selfhood.

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Q. American Buddha and Arch Stanton are just opposite extremes. Buddhists should avoid extremes.

A. Arch and Ambu are not opposite ends of the concept of authority. I know you think Arch means, "kiss the floor," and Ambu means "not on your life," but that is the very real difference between someone who has deified an unworthy principle and someone who has found a principle worthy of protection above all others.

Just as the mathematician must defend the "extreme view" that zero equals nothing, absolutely nothing, and would never compromise by saying that sometimes zero might just contain the tiniest fraction of something, otherwise all of mathematics would collapse, so Ambu maintains that all ideas must be judged solely on their merits and never on their origins. This is not an extreme view -- it is rational hygiene. Abandon it, and you lose the level against which to judge. Grasp at an idea because you love the speaker, and you blind yourself to its faults. Reject an idea because you hate the speaker and you blind yourself to its virtues.

The question isn't whether one has a "balanced" attitude, but whether one is seeing what is right in front of our face. Balanced "views" arise only when one is consuming reality in filtered versions. When you see it directly, you don't necessarily agree with anyone's view. You agree with reality, about which it may be impossible to say anything much.

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Q. What do you mean when you say the mind is "tautological." Tautology means a needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence; redundancy.

A. That's the grammatical definition of tautology. The logician's definition is the one Ambu is using. In formal logic, a tautology is a statement that "is always true." Another aspect of tautologies is this: "the truth value of the statement is independent of the value of the input variable." This is to say, regardless of what you input, the statement is structured so that it remains true.

In this sense, the mind is tautological, because regardless of what "variables" (appearances) are "input" (arise in) the mind, there is no alteration of their original nature. If there is perfect reflection of the original principle then there is no deviation.

Here's a thought. If you look in a mirror, you see only one image of yourself. This is "true" functioning of the mirror, because there is only one of you. The mirror always reflects one image. But if you look in two mirrors, one in front of you, one in back, then you see an infinite sequence of you. Actually, of course, the sequence is not infinite, because if you could catch up with the light rays bouncing off your face at light speed, you would eventually get to a mirror in which there was no image showing. The first mirror always has one more face in it than the second one, right?. You would have eclipsed the endless replication, which is actually an ongoing process taking place in time. The ongoing replication of images would cease if you removed one of the mirrors. Likewise, if you turned off the light, all the images would disappear. It is also interesting to note that, while one mirror shows one face (the truth), two mirrors show a rapidly-proliferating number of faces (not the truth), but they also let you see the back of your head (which is not normal). If you want to see the back of your head, using two mirrors (calculative thought that continues from now into the future) is helpful, but if you want to count how many of you there are today, one mirror is best.

It was said by Mahasiddha Saraha (long may his name be heard among mortals) that "to the fool who squints, one thing is seen as two."

Since the mind is tautological, it generates a reflex of whatever it has been presented. Since the mind is not flat, but multidimensional, it can generate its own "second mirror" effect, which gives rise to the endless echoes of thought that we perceive as "mental perturbation." By abandoning attachment to the reflexive images that arise in profusion, we gradually resolve all the fragmented mirrors of mind into the single mirror of the now moment. This would be like inhaling all of the light rays back into your face, or dissolving all the mirrors into a single sheet of quicksilver. In the now moment all appears in its true form, with the mind reflecting its inherent perfection and noplace for multiple images to replicate.

Allowing the mind to recoalesce around its single tautological nature reminds me of a favorite analogy -- watching the reflection of the moon in water, when the water's surface becomes smooth, the many fragments of light coalesce into a single sphere. I like the analogy because the water reminds me of our body, made of water, and the image of the moon reminds me of thought, clear and bright. When our liquid body breathes at peace, the tides of our inner seas become regular and level. Then, as the surface becomes smooth with the regular rhythm of the deeper waters, there is great clarity, and the moon shines complete on the surface of the depths. Then a fish leaps up, shattering the moon, and we watch it all come together again.

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Q. What is missing in America is the Buddhist tradition of wandering yogins, monks, forest begging monks, and hermits. It seems there just aren't enough Buddhists to support these practices. If there were a few towns with large numbers of Buddhists, they could mark their properties in some way, and it would be possible for the monks, nuns and yogis who follow the forest tradition to come beg for their meals. They could also support some settled hermits. But at present, I don't think non-Buddhist America is ready for this. The Mt. Shasta, California, and Ashland, Oregon location is quite rural, much of the land is hilly or mountainous and in national forest, and there are many remote pieces of inexpensive property that Buddhists could purchase for hermits, which are already attracting a number of Buddhist centers, so that might be a good place to establish those traditional practices.

There would also have to be something else available. In India, monks often used to move into shelter during the rains. In the Mt. Shasta area, it would be important to provide shelter to wandering Buddhists during the winter months - winter replacing the rains in the tradition. But spring, summer and fall would be a good time for monks, nuns and yogis to wander from center to center, or live in special campgrounds in the forest established by groups of Buddhists. With enough Buddhists in the area, there would be enough houses to go to on begging rounds.

With enough Buddhist population, an informal New Nalanda might also be possible. By that I mean a loose association of Buddhist scholarly and scientific programs of various centers in the area. The centers could probably share some library facilities, and there could be bus service linking them.

A. I think the idea of being able to check out from society and get totally into the environment sounds great. Have you ever tried it? I've spent a few years out in the woods, and there's nothing like getting used to the outdoors, just being able to work all day in the drizzle and fog, drinking hot coffee and running a chain saw, gathering wood and loading a truck. Fixing machines in the rain. It's all good.

When I was young and had lots of energy, I was lucky. I blew it living out in the country. I didn't blow it in all in a skyscraper or an office. I even traveled in the East, went to Afghanistan, India, etc.

Being able to wander and get lost in a distant world is a good thing. Meet crazy Indian people and wander around barefoot in multi-thousand year old cities with so-called ascetics everywhere, bodies bobbing in the river, piles of **** everywhere. It's all good.

I'd like to be tough enough in my old age after the old gal's gone, to wander off into the woods finally one snowy evening when it doesn't matter anymore and just park my failing ass and get one last blanket of snow. Can't beat mother nature for doing the old systems shutdown. Better than Kevorkian or any of the other needle-operators.

Then again, I might just find myself freezing my ass off, hightailing it back to my cabin, pouring out shots of whiskey and throwing kerosene in the wood stove to get the fire going faster. Teach myself a damn good lesson. Find out if you're ready to die -- give it a try!

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Q. Can one be a good cop and a Buddhist? A policeman's job is to make people uphold the laws. If the law says a beggar can't stand someplace, he has to make them move. It is not up to him to decide whether the law is just or not. There are other places to question that. There are many ways to do things. You can apply compassion in whatever you do. For instance, you don't have to beat someone when you arrest them, but you arrest them. You can have a confrontational and antagonistic attitude or you can be helpful and cooperative.

A. I think that the view expressed above is a bit wooden. My brother's a prosecutor, and I was one for a little over a year. We've talked a lot about the ethical issues faced by prosecutors. He's against the death penalty (Roman Catholic), so he became exclusively a misdemeanor prosecutor -- he's turned his focus on DUII, domestic violence, and lately, putting slumlords out of business. Not all crime involves the underclass.

I avoided doing drug prosecution, but I've known lots of people who do that work. Mostly, my criminal work has been defense work, and I'm sure Ariel would back me up in saying that when I moved to suppress the admission of heroin as evidence, knowing it belonged to my client and that he was guilty of trying to sell it to people, simply on a "technicality," that was the job I was supposed to do. As a practical matter, when I got drug dealers lower sentences through skillful litigation and negotiation, I felt I was saving us all money, because more time in jail costs us all a lot more cash.

We have too many police and not enough teachers. We have a mental health establishment that seems to thrive on projecting pathology on what is often just a case of growing up too fast in bad company. Judges with little knowledge of therapy force people to attend therapy for every type of antisocial behavior. The criminal justice system is primarily for the oppression of the underclass through fine, fees, and jail time. We would be safer if the number of prisons were cut to a quarter of what they are, and the funds were redirected to job programs to rebuild the infrastructure and employ small time drug dealers who, statistics show, usually are poor men who hold regular jobs and work their off hours making a few extra dollars to buy necessities for their families.

So before we get off saying that these jobs need to be done, I suggest we ask if that is correct. I needed to do my work, and most lawyers, judges, court clerks, jail guards, etcetera need to do their work for one simple reason -- to pay our own bills. That doesn't mean it's good work, or important, or ethical, or "Buddhist." If it's a dirty job, first question whether anyone has to do it.

The question is where we draw the line. And how we can obtain power to change the existing social order, which perpetuates injustice and oppression at home and around the world.

Remember that old slogan, "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" How about "What if the offered great jobs oppressing humanity and nobody wanted them?"

Whether to carry a gun, use a gun, threaten to use a gun, etcetera. These are important questions for the man in the field who already has the dirty job. By all means, train and advise that person to be peaceful, wise, and do their job with compassion. There's way too many citizens murdered by police. But again, maybe we need to look a little more widely at the problem. Is Hollywood to blame in part for the bloodshed that fills the cities? I dare you to say no. Are arms makers responsible for the profligate murder of civilians in Afghanistan? Double dare ya'. Rising obesity even in poor nations is a world problem. Do we blame McDonalds and their suppliers? I think we have to, in order to reshape the world into a human-friendly habitat, which it currently is not.

My goal is to convince people that goodness is practical. I often find that if we immediately start talking abstractions, like whether a Buddhist can pull the trigger in a crunch, we fail to address issues that present themselves much more routinely, like whether a Buddhist should work a job that they personally, directly, feel is not good for other people.

I have faced this in strange contexts that in fact are so strange I will not discuss them. But suffice it to say that the enormity of the karmic effects that could result from one's solitary actions can literally chill your bones. And yet, we say we are powerless.

In truth, we are not powerless, but we become frightened of suffering consequences such as loss of social stature, money, and companionship. We barter a great deal to keep these. How can we barter the value of having an extra $20,000 a year against the satisfaction of doing a job that you really think is making the world a better place? Well, we have to, and we do.

I think our world improves incrementally every time someone encourages another to do something beneficial at material cost to themselves. By saying, "Hey, I'll still love you without a sports car," a lover may make it possible for someone to take a job in a free clinic, distributing medicines and treating people who are really suffering, instead of doing face lifts for celebrities. When it becomes sexy to help an old lady across the street, and a turn-on to be with a guy who gives cash to street people, then the world is coming along. We'll be on our way to widespread reform when a governor like Davis can say, "I'm granting clemency because the electorate believes that the State of California can show mercy," instead of keeping the unjustly imprisoned behind bars in order to garner the cruel and stupid vote. The wildfire of good government will be well on its way when people in the positions of Ariel Sharon and Yassir Arafat collapse weeping into each other's arms and swear to end the bloodshed, whatever the cost to their careers. And everyday acts of heroism will become commonplace, as people speak up to expose the wrongs they have committed, so that they can be remedied. Courage in facing up to consequences will become commonplace as we replace retribution with healing, and the bitter satisfaction of vengeance is replaced by dedication to create better times for all.

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Q. I have a friend who has taken Buddhist refuge vows and now wants to be initiated in the Yoruba tradition which participates in animal sacrifice. I believe she is misguided in the notion that one can be both "Buddhist" and "Yorubic." Any thoughts on this? pro or con both welcome.

Reminds me of that story Ram Dass put in his Be Here Now book:

A guru gives his disciple a chicken and says, "Go kill it where nobody sees."

Two days later, the guy comes back. He's still got the chicken, alive.

The guru says, "What's up with that? I told you to take the chicken and kill it where nobody sees."

The student leans forward and whispers, frowning at the chicken cradled in his arms, "But everywhere I go, the chicken sees!"

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Q. What is this authoritarianism in Buddhism of which you speak?

A. I went through and extracted various nuggets of wisdom from all of my brethren and sistren, which they have so skillfully deployed to rebut my sharpest barbs against authoritarianism. Initially starting out with a list of 83 deadly rebuttals, I ended up categorizing them into a flaming fistful of reactionary wisdom. Never again be left undefended when unexpectedly assailed by a sharp-witted anti-authoritarian. You too can stand tall, knowing that you are packing a Doctrinal Defender argument, neatly classed for swift deployment.

I have listed the different categories of rebuttals below under general group headings. Obviously, some would fit under more than one category, so ingenious are they.

"It's Bigger Than All That"

This seems to be the biggest category. It's a general purpose put down, coming right out of the gate, a long look down the snoot at a miserable insect that just has no idea how blooming wonderful this whole damn spiritual circus is. Can equally be deployed as a brutal rebuff to a newbie or a deft snub against seasoned adversaries. If you're ever at a loss for words when caught consorting with authoritarian henchmen, fall into this self protective crouch -- perhaps affecting surprise that your adversary just doesn't understand how blooming wonderful this whole damn spiritual circus is.

• Enslavement to Buddhist authority, or any other authority, is the least of my concerns because for the most part I am a total slave of my mind. Just when I think perhaps I have made some progress and liberation is close at hand I only discover that I only built a bigger and more beautiful jail.
• You are mixing political ways of organizing society, in which we are obviously all equal and have rights, with the process of transmiting fundamental understandings of truth, which is a totally different matter.
• Abusive authority is part of the tradition: Naropa//Tilopa. Zen practitioners getting hit with a stick, or slapped with a shoe over the head.
• If we have faith in the Buddha, all of our experiences will be purified.
• All of our experiences are equally illusory.
• We voluntarily choose to lose our freedom in order to gain a higher freedom.
• This is the ignorant thinking of the five skandhas.
• The teacher is not here to facilitate a consensus.
• Freedom is impotent to address our important spiritual issues.
• Humiliating yourself is part of getting rid of your ego.
• We have to suspend our judgment when it comes to having faith in the doctrine.
• Maybe you're not ready for the "radical" path of enlightenment.
• We can't apply rational criteria to the choice of a guru.
• Empowerment is necessary to confer the divine state and give permission to practice.
• Temper tantrums and whims of guru are manifestations of divine play.
• Vain gossip causes harm to others.
• Bliss will only prevail when you develop peace and love.
• Buddhism is about an invisible reality, not a materialistic reality.
• Let's "move beyond" the simple black-white issues presented here on to something more positive.

"It Works, That's Why"

This is a pretty huge category, also perhaps, overused because Americans are so practical. We just want to get the job done, okay, get enlightened, get home in time for supper. It's a button-down, business-like category that will make you look like a schoolmarm if you use it too often. So be careful, at the risk of becoming terminally uncool.

• It is not an option to rebel against authority.
• Control is necessary; otherwise we won't grow.
• People need "more rules," not less.
• Some people benefit from being regimented. It is skilful means.
• Humiliating yourself is part of getting rid of your ego.
• It is beneficial to apply various forms of friendly persuasion, peer pressure, righteous indignation, and shunning, for the benefit of your dharma brethren.
• The guru-disciple relationship is essential.
• Use various analogies: the student is a sick patient; the guru the doctor. The student is clay; the guru is the potter.
• Erratic or abusive practices are sometimes used by Eastern masters to stop the rational mind and allow enlightenment to enter.
• Worship is not for the guru's sake but for the student's.
• Devotional practices rely upon community standards and a sense of self that we need to develop in the United States.
• Perhaps we can regulate ourselves with standards of ethical conduct, and still derive the greatest benefit from the religious group while minimizing the risk of exploitation.
• We need to develop a genuine understanding of the dharma to address and alleviate our fears.
• The scriptures and the teachers are the prime sources of religious authority.
• It is a waste of time to carry tales about others.
• Don't give scope for ill feelings and worthless talk.
• Many important persons are Buddhists.
• Buddhist organizations sponsor a lot of charity activities.
• It does some people a lot of good.

"Shutup!"

This is a very popular category, probably because you don't have to be very smart to deploy these zingers. Take you right back to gradeschool.

• Just get over it!
• That's the way the system works! Complaining about it is just a waste of time.
• If you doubt the traditional system, it's because you are of poor character and life experience.
• Don't sow discord.
• You're going to vajra hell with that kind of attitude.
• You just don't understand how it all works.
• Don't harbor any undesirable thoughts.
• Vain gossip causes harm to others.
• Your information is false propaganda, gossip and misleading information.
• These ideas are advanced by negative-minded individuals.
• Your arguments have no foundation. They are hearsay.
• It's traditional.
• Only those who observe silence are good people. Silence fosters purity. We should observe silence at all times.
• Your information isn't impartial, because it is subject to your own biases.
• You're mean!

"This is Much Better Than Anything We Have in the West "

This category capitalizes on the inherent sense of inferiority that Americans feel when faced with saintly looking Easterners in colored robes. They didn't grow up with it, they don't know how it works, and you can tell them anything and they'll buy it. This is basically your Texas oil scheme in the spiritual patch. Grab a piece and hang on, because this stuff will sell!

• It is the level of co-dependence and dysfunction in our society that creates the possibility for abuse in the Buddhist system.
• The exclusively rational, intellectual approach to life has made Westerners feel alienated.
• Western thought is a dangerous obstacle to spiritual knowledge, so we must reject scientific inquiry to be rid of duality and domination.
• A guru goes beyond the boundary of control which many Americans adhere to.
• Americans are not comfortable with spiritual explorations into unknown and irrational realms.
• The anti-cult movements have presented a distorted view of Eastern spiritual religions which brings to the fore Americans' deepest fears and imaginings: mind control, total negation of reality, and allegiance to a human being rather than God.
• We are ethnocentric and have a fear of weakening our cultural foundations.
• Working with a guru can be one of the most sublime experiences of one's life.
• Ignorance is on the rise with the progress of science.
• All the trials and tribulations faced in this world are due to the so-called developments in science and technology.
• The Internet is poisoning the village environment, which is the epitome of peace and love. Don't spoil the village atmosphere by imitating the city culture.
• Bliss will only prevail when you develop peace and love.
• Buddhism is beyond democracy.

"One Bad Apple"

Everybody remembers this song by Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five, "One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl." You may recall that our grandparents had a different take, believing that indeed one bad apple would ruin the entire lot, and I dare say they had more experience with barrels of apples than our glad-handed friend. Be that as it may, the argument has numerous adherents, as the following quotes will show.

• While scandals do come from some Buddhist groups, many others provide a necessary, wonderful service.
• People make mistakes.
• Not everyone had your [bad] experience.
• Your experience is unique.

This is a legal term for "you had it coming." As in, "you had it coming breaking your neck flying down that hill on that snowboard like that." As in, "well, when you dress like that, what did you expect, he may be a priest but he's only a man!" The assumption of risk theory makes your average church yard look more dangerous than a toxic dumpsite, since you went there with your faith in your hands, you idiot, just asking to be taken for a ride. The problem with the assumption of risk defense is its excessive candor, but aside from that drawback, is a very useful first strike strategy.

• You were offered the chance to investigate and inquire. You had a chance to stay or leave.
• The teacher provides the necessary philosophical and practical guidance, but the student is still responsible for his or her own practice and development.
• Let the buyer beware.
• We have to take personal responsibility for whatever happens to us.
• If you had a real problem you'd take it to court.

"Gurus are Special People"

This category is very large, and seems to comprise quite a bit of the heavy timber in this structure. These are tautologies at their best, solid to the core, because of their unitized construction. You can rely on these phrases, because they depend upon nothing.

• The Buddhist leaders are representatives of the Buddha.
• The student must have faith in the guru no matter what action the guru takes.
• It's our fault, not the guru's.
• The greater the devotion, the more blessings one receives.
• The guru is a form of Buddha's presence, presenting the divine in a manner people can relate to.
• The guru-disciple relationship offers the possibility of tremendous spiritual growth, healing, and a powerful change in outlook.
• We can't apply rational criteria to the choice of a guru.
• Veneration is necessary, because a guru embodies divine power, and is capable of bestowing grace.
• A guru is the only person who can dispel darkness with his vast knowledge.
• The guru is a source of revelation, interpreting and influencing the tradition's development.
• True knowledge can only be obtained through a teacher.
• The guru is a spiritual guide leading the disciple to Absolute Reality, the nature of Being.
• The relationship between a guru and his students is heart to heart and is prompted by selfless love.
• Gurus are above the ethical laws that apply to everyone else.

"We'll Side With the Majority After All"

There's only one quote in this category, but it's so important, it needs it's own. I wanted to call this "consensus redux," to encapsulate the notion that, however much a movement rejects consensus decision-making, when it lacks the power of the majority, once it can invoke the authority of widespread acceptance, it will immediately do so.

• If the system was bad, why has it survived all of these years? A lot of people couldn't be wrong

"Jar Jar Speaks"

Sometimes things are put forward in a manner so beeble-bumbled that they have to be dedicated to the God of inarticulateness, which for me is Jar Jar Binks. Here you go.

• Authoritarianism/Anti-Authoritarianism is part of the "first tier thinking" which occurs before the revolutionary shift in consciousness where "being levels" emerge.

That pretty much wraps it up. If you're still here with me, thank you. I will try to think up some rebuttals to these rebuttals, but just right now I'm feeling a powerful urge to regret my apostasy and engage in some full-scale repentance and ice-cream eating.

Answer 2:

AmBu's flaming fistful of reactionary slogans were these:

"It's Bigger Than All That"(So why are you so small-minded?)
"It Works, That's Why " (But don't ask me to prove it!)
"Shutup!"(It's for your own good.)
"This is Much Better Than Anything We Have in The West" (You lose out on so much when you don't bow to the superior ones.)
"One Bad Apple" (don't spoil the whole bunch, girl!)"
"Assumption of Risk" (You were the one who got on her knees, so why are you whining about being oppressed?)
"Gurus are Special People " (And if you don't know why, just shutup!)

To these classic defensive slogans, used by uptight Buddhists to silence dissent outwardly (and their own fears inwardly), we need to add one more:

"A Person of Known Origins Can Never Be an Authority"

Originally pointed out by Jesus of Nazareth, who responded to local criticisms by observing that "a prophet hath no honor in his own country," this wry observation has been hammered into a rule of universal application. As a result, spiritual adulation can be lavished upon any ham-brained, be-robed individual of Mongolian extraction with enough moxie to sit on a throne while acting (pick one or more: profound, benign, whimsical, attentive, subtly threatening, or humorously avaricious). While they eventually may lose stature when they lurch drunkenly at a pair of mammaries attached to some hapless devotee (Sogyal), or engage in too many tall tales and blatant solicitations for cash (Kusum Lingpa), still they will be treated as authorities, because of the corollary rule, which is:

"Regardless of Other Characteristics, You Continue To Be An Authority So Long as You Are So Recognized by an Authority"

This rule means that, until the Pope says to kick the guy out, the pervert priest can still say Mass and continue to defile the bodies and spirits of the young. Until actually ousted and defrocked, any authority can continue to exploit their position.

This rule is so powerful that we can even make gold out of clay -- witness the tulkufication of Catherine Burroughs and Steven Segal, and the trail of self-stuck idiots that Kusum Lingpa has left in his train by haphazardly recognizing anyone who gives him the right ass-kissy vibe as the reincarnation of some heretofore unknown Tibetan saint. And despite all of Burrows' Leona-Helmsley-style antics and the very absurdity of Segal's posturing as a spiritual guide, until their "recognition" is withdrawn by Pednor Rinpoche, they will continue to collect accolades from the faithfools.

Examining the implications of these two rules, we see a third:

"Western People Who Don't Buy Authoritarian Hierarchy Can Never Say Anything Valid"

First, since they are western, they can't self-authorize,
So they need to be recognized by an authority,
But since they reject authorities, they will never obtain such a recognition,
Therefore, nothing they say will ever have any validity to the true faithfool,
Because faithfools only evaluate ideas based on the identity of the speaker, and never on their merits.

Having gone through this analysis with respect to any speaker, a true faithfool can safely stop his ears once it is clear the speaker has no authority.

However, there is one last rule every good faithfool should keep in mind, to avoid dissing your own kind:

"Any Statement By a Personl Who Professes Faith in Authority is Presumptively Valid"

Aha, you were waiting for this one, weren't you? This is why it is worth having a "Free Tibet" bumpersticker, or otherwise announcing your alliance with the authorities. To gain the benefit of the rule, simply append to any damn thing you say, the following: "I speak not from my own knowledge, but simply in repetition of what the gurus have declared -- it's all in the teachings -- I have nothing to add that hasn't been said before." Then you will sound as smart as Namdrol, and that ain't bad for a simple faithfool.

WARNING: This line of argument has been provided as a service to those persons dedicated to living inside a safe, authorized belief system, so that they will not be tempted to open their minds and inhale a new thought that could be poisonous to their entire world view and result in the waste of many hours of devotion, meditation, and self=abasement. By running through the analysis in advance, you will not be caught unprepared. The workings of the machinery have been revealed only because I know that the faithful will not be shaken by any of the hokey sarcasm that fills the interstices of the argument, and so that the devoted faithfool can be ready for the sorry-ass attacks that will come from those stupid anti-authoritarians.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q. What's your opinion of September 11?

A. This event will change our lives. Our nation has exported violence, and the new administration has put the world on notice of our new callousness. I n recent years the sorrows we have visited upon others have begun to appear at home.

Now something shocking and inconceivable has occurred: our technical mastery of men and machines has been turned against us with hugely malevolent intent. The earth has swallowed up compatriots in a hole full of flames. Our president is bundled about by his handlers and speaks pablum. The polls scream for vengeance.

In the days to come it will take courage to speak words of peace. No one will want to think calmly.

We must remember what remains to be preserved: our lives, and those of others. Let them not be consumed in anger or lost in confusion. Let us create the causes for future happiness.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q. I don't know why it would bother anyone to say the words "one nation under god" in the pledge of allegiance. The meaning really is that we individually subject ourselves to a higher understanding than our passing desires or opinions. It is like taking refuge: we promise to follow the wisdom of the Buddha by taking refuge in his understanding, because we consider it superior to our own. That's more or less what they meant by "God" in those days.

A. Short lesson on politics.

Some people don't believe in God or Buddha or eternal anything, but they still vote, pay taxes, fight in wars, put out fires and otherwise are great citizens. And the fact that "you don't know why it would bother anyone" is like the local rednecks 'round here not understanding why it was a little hurtful to the few remaining Native Americans to have a major highway named "Dead Indian Road."

You don't know why it would be a problem, but Tom Paine, John Adams, Tom Jefferson and a few other hard cases knew how ignorant you would be, and so we have a Bill of Rights to protect us from your ignorance. That's why we have laws about separation of church and state, because your ideological ancestors, who came here to find religious freedom, set immediately to work repressing other co-religionists, as if all of America had been provided for the control of one religious sect.

Forcing non-religious people to say religious words is every bit as injurious as forcing religious people to say non-religious things. Just think of what the Chinese have done with "re-education" to drive sectarianism deep into the soul. It's sick, but not sicker than the religious version of indoctrination.

And if you say the average kid who watches The Simpsons knows it's all a load of crap and meaningless, I will argue that is the worst damage of all -- for the nation's youth to accept that solemn pledges are just political pablum. Once they get that message, they won't even bother to vote.

But I believe in self-protection. To anyone who doesn't like to recite the pledge, but hates to be seen with their lips not moving, just print this out and recite it the next time you're attending a nationalistic event.

I pledge allegiance
to the flag,
a terrifying symbol of global oppression,
And to the republic for which it stands,
a sham governmental structure that usurps the people's power and makes war on our brothers,
One nation, under the secret oligarchy,
the unbreakable, corporate mafia
using religion as a scam.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Q. I wonder if you are capable of the "close and respectful" dialog that is necessary between Tibetan and Westerner, especially the respectful part. I think that you have so much anger about your experiences in Ashland that it colors every interaction. I'm sure much of it is justified, but not if it means painting every teacher with the same brush.

A. My dear friend Odzer once said, in the midst of an eager discussion, with a dash of intellectual relish, "Analysis is an angry thing!"

Certainly it is, with its probing irreverence, its rude dashing aside of sham arguments and pious roadblocks. Analysis is the fearsome sword of Manjushri or the flame-enhaloed Fudo. Analysis is Tara, "breaking the seven underworlds with the stamping of her foot." Analysis brings all the skyscrapers of proud corporate theocracy tumbling down. As Iggy said, "A tall building fell on Daddy!"

Mark Twain said, "Thunder is fine, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does the work." In the case of Tara, you complain about the noise of the thunder, neglecting to note that the lightning has also done its work. She evokes negative responses not because of her "disrespectful" noise, but because her lighting bolts have split a few trees and fried some sacred bovines.

People are naturally averse to disrespectful criticism; indeed, criticism is often attacked as worthy of disregard because it is "intemperate," as JS Mill said. Mill argued effectively in "On Liberty" that those who argue that speech should be "free so long as it is not intemperate," provide a loophole for repression, because whatever idea is not in fashion seems intemperate. Thus we remember (or I do) when the supporters of segregation had "no problem with good Negroes" but opposed "troublemakers" like Dr. King.

If speech can be suppressed for being intemperate, then the accusation of intemperance will be but the overture to repression. Intemperance will be charged as disrespect, disrespect elevated to heresy, and hence arises the justification for witchcraft and terrorism prosecutions, in which impious or disloyal speech is charged as the wrongful conduct, and the heretical attitude as criminal intent.

While you may not be setting torches to any pyres for burning witches, once you make respect a precursor to consideration of an argument, you foment a repression of ideas within your own psyche. In the dividedness of your own mind, your questioning psyche entertains thoughts of heresy while your officious superego supports the ruling doctrine. Hints of uncertainty wobble through the body-politic of your conflicting opinions, strange psigns populate the back alleys of dreams. Sometimes you have fantasies of revolution.

In a meritocracy, respect is generally paid only to those who have earned it. In a theocracy, respect is paid to those upon whom titles have been bestowed. This is true of the Tibetan theocracy, which has no merit-based system for recognizing wise beings. History shows that wise beings who don't get official recognition are like great Western artists -- recognized posthumously. For example, many Milarepa stories are about how he shamed clerics who attacked him for being unorthodox; indeed, I recently ran across a Chinese Buddhist text that is still beating up on him as the very demon of impiety. In a vital, virile theocracy like Tibetan Buddhism, showing respect to the robes of the lama (even if you know him personally for a knavish fellow) is a religious act, a pious observance, having nothing to do with the merits of who are wearing the robes.

Returning to the topic of analysis, respect is not an analytic feature. There is no need to respect that which you analyze. Quite the contrary. If by "respect" we mean that we shall presume the rightness of the lama's position, and refrain from exposing it to scrutiny, we are a poor analyst. Just like a cop who's executing a search warrant is a poor investigator if he, "out of respect" fails to search the entire house where little Jon Benet was murdered.

Since the rightness or wrongness of spiritual doctrines is a matter of the greatest moment, literally implicating the state of mind of a lonely soul wandering in all eternity without guidance, analysis of spiritual doctrines cannot proceed on the basis of "respect." When true gold has been found, it will command respect. To presume that ore contains gold without first extracting it runs the risk of grave error.

Furthermore, the unextracted ore cannot be put to the uses of gold. It is basically dirt. So unanalyzed and therefore uncomprehended teachings are simply dirt, or at best, a source of potential benefit. Thus, being most generous to the concept of "respect," we can say that by respecting this special dirt, we may have the chance to extract the gold later, if indeed it is special dirt.

I am sure that this is all sufficiently metaphorical and confounding, based upon which I request you show it some respect, as these features are true of most religious utterances.

-THE END-
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:31 am

HOME SWEET HOME, by Charles Carreon

March 31, 2004

Being in Arizona for the last couple of weeks has provoked a lot of recollection and reflection. Monday night Tara and I went out for dinner on Mill Avenue in Tempe, where we long ago began the romantic relationship that sparked thirty years of lawless conduct. We are quite different now, as is Mill Avenue. Where once waterbed shops competed with headshops to sell more India print bedspreads, and a biker bar featured bands that played for beer and abuse, commercial interests have spread their tent of mid-rises and bright lights, creating a thronging spot complete with familiar trademarked bookstores, restaurants, banks and ice cream shops.

We chat with a flautist playing for spare change, reminiscing how I once did the same. He's actually a little older than I am, with a head of neatly-clipped grey hair, and a high-speed delivery of complex good-humored jive that sort of all fits together. Said he toured with Aretha, and did a Herbie Mann-style rendering of "Summertime" that was a little too breathy for my tastes, but had plenty of verve and exhibited fingerings far more skilled than I would venture. Think of what I could have mastered if I hadn't gone to law school.

We reminisced about the days when we ate at a restaurant called Earthen Joy, where the food was all named after characters from Lord of the Rings. There was a Gandalf burger (swiss cheese melted over a little steamed spinach). The warm carob cake with hot carob sauce was addictive, made from a secret recipe that was never successfully extracted from the owner's wife. Tara and I ate there regularly, we remembered, always with her money. She had money; I didn't, but we never discussed whose money was getting spent. We agreed, last Monday, that it had all sorted out fairly well for her, thirty years later.

In those days, we rode our bicycles everywhere in Tempe, a couple of three-speeds that were perfect for the long, flat walkways that paved the Arizona State University campus where we met. At the south end of the campus, the carob trees filled the air with the scent of fresh nitrogen, which smells like male generative fluid, and always made us laugh. The come trees, we called them, so comfortable with our grownup knowledge of the ways of life. Three minutes farther south, by bicycle, was the house my folks loaned us for a couple of years, while we tried to get our life together started.

But like little cuttings that never seem to get rooted, we never did much but take classes, hang out with hippies, and imagine a perfect world.

Eventually, we went to India to fulfill our longing for a real guru, real spiritual teachings, and a way to avoid work forever. Not that Tara was afraid of hard work. She just didn't want it to separate me from her. I, on the other hand, was deathly afraid of work. I wasn't afraid of effort or exertion, but I was afraid of bosses. Dictatorial men who towered over you and disapproved of your attitude. Angry men who thought I wasn't a good worker. Not their fault, either. I wasn't much of a worker. Kinda like if someone had tried to get George W. Bush to wash dishes. It'd be a mess. But our great Fuhrer had the sense to learn useful stuff like flying private planes, and was able to pick up degrees at Yale and Harvard without too much effort. I didn't want to pick up a degree, because for starters, I'd have had to pick a major, and the Education department had explained, politely, I wasn't really teacher material. So what's an altruistic, aesthetically minded guy to do? Get enlightened, I figured.

So at the ripe old ages of twenty and nineteen, respectively, Tara and I made a beeline for the Wisdom of the East. Assuming, of course, that the bees hitchhiked from Tempe to New York, hopped a flight to Luxembourg, hitched to Munich, trained to Istanbul, and bussed through Trabzon, Herat, Kandahar, Kabul, Rawalpindi, Swat, and Amritsar, eventually buzzing into Benares, the City of Shiva, and built a little hive on a houseboat moored on the banks of the Ganges.

That was a long ways from Tempe, and the rhythms of tabla drums, the whistle of bonsuri flutes, and the drone of sitars and vinas were magical and exciting. The bazaars were full of carvings, brassworks, and sweetmeats. The cobblestone ways were narrow capillaries feeding the city's stone flesh, conveying streams of pilgrims and holy men on sacred errands that all seemed to lead down to the burning ghats, where bodies burned night and day. We weren't welcome in the Hindu temples, we discovered, and fell in with western Buddhists, mostly Aussies and Brits, who were getting into the mindfulness path of Burmese Buddhism. But it was the romance of India, of the transformative vision of Shiva, that held my fascination.

Sitting in our houseboat, with Tara pounding out the tabla rhythms that she learned with remarkable ease from her amazed teacher, watching the boats float down the Ganges, we felt more at home than we ever had in our own country. The pace of life was infinitely slow. The poverty, astonishing in its gravity, nevertheless settled like shit to the bottom of the river, leaving the surface strangely serene. While the Indians could drive you crazy with their begging and irrationality, it was comforting to be in a place where a million gods and goddesses jostled for recognition from generations of devotees, where beliefs as ancient and grimy as the banyan trees with their innumerable roots and branches nevertheless maintained unquestionable vitality. There was beauty in ignorance, I realized, a beauty that the learned, well-informed westerner would never glimpse. Ignorance could indeed be bliss, if it was ignorance of the particular, annoying specifics of concrete reality that obstructed the fine inner vision of the interior heaven of the heart.

I have concluded, over the years, that all the real changes in life come from seeing other people accomplishing the goals to which we ourselves aspire. For example, in 1988 I decided to become a trial lawyer after I watched a couple of lawyers for about a half-hour trying a simple auto accident case in LA Superior Court. I realized, watching the judge, the lawyers, the expert witness on the stand, that they all put their pants on one leg at a time. The very phrase appeared in my mind -- "one leg at a time." I too put my pants on that way. I could do this. And sixteen years later, although I like to think I try cases better than the average lawyer, the essential insight that enabled me to move from "litigation" to "trials" was simply realizing that the job of "trial lawyer" was one that many perfectly ordinary people had already mastered.

Similarly, in 1976, back in Benares, I had realized that I could be a "spiritual householder." Richard Alpert and a whole slew of Swamis -- Satchidananda, Shivananda, Vivekananda, Yogananda, Etceterananda -- they all had told me about this "householder" path that led to "liberation." Ahhh, what a fine idea. But until we left Tempe and landed in Benares, it wasn't real. I had never seen people like the saffron-robed sadhus, with long hair, greying beards, carrying ceremonial spears, pursuing a career of renunciation. Somewhat like Siddhartha, who had heretofore seen only the artificial loveliness of the palace where his father had imprisoned him, Tara and I also traveled beyond the castle walls of our homeland. And while many would have seen in India merely the horrifying triple curse of poverty, ignorance, and corruption, my eyes found inspiration in the renunciates who managed to screen out all of the horror, fixing their eyes instead upon the inner horizon of Liberation, seeking union with Brahman, Shiva, Lakshmi, etecetera, etcetera, etcetera.

While these renunciates had no pants to put on one leg at a time, I learned that I too could wear a skirt. I bought a few waist-wraps and soon became accustomed to wearing the native garment. I bathed in the filthy Ganges, certain that the slime of human offal would not infect me. I ate the native food, and learned to show respect to whatever deity showed itself in my path. All this in just a few months. I am a fast learner.

Wordsworth said of children that "their entire vocation is endless imitation," and we can only imitate what we have seen. Originality is a rare quantity, the equivalent of mutation in biological terms, which manifests in novel forms, unseen before. Original things present a risk of failure, and mutations often are lethal. Stick with the tried and true, our parents teach us, and with good reason. The dumping grounds are full of failed innovations, and the pauper's graveyards are rich with the rotting brains of inventors and self-announced geniuses. So also, the Tibetan lamas teach that the second level of faith, after mere enthusiasm, is "the faith of emulation," and Thomas a Kempis wrote a spiritual classic called The Imitation of Christ. Not being a student of Islam, I can't point you to an appropriate text on imitating the saints of that tradition, but I am sure they abound. These are the "safe" spiritual paths, those trodden by the Wise Ones of the Past, who, we are assured, have reached the bosom of spiritual comfort in Amitabha's Pure Land, Jehovah's Heaven, or Allah's Perfumed Garden.

Of course, none of these Wise Ones have brought back even one pebble from the heavenly realms they so accurately describe. The only token of their achievement has been their "supernal calm," their "dispassionate clarity," their "selfless compassion." Their tales of the great beyond tell of a home beyond time in a realm where death is a forgotten memory. A few years back, I thought these personal qualities of transcendental wisdom were a sufficient warrant of saintly authenticity, at least sufficient to justify my reliance upon the Buddhist doctrine in an uncertain and frustrating world. But now, I want to see them really walk the talk.

If a person is supposed to have supernal calm, derived from knowledge of deathlessness, then that calm had better be imperturbable, without valium, demerol, alcohol or other stimulants to prop it up. If that dispassionate clarity is real, it should never lead to gross errors of judgment like those displayed by every guru currently walking this earth. If selfless compassion has been attained, then it will have to manifest as a real contempt for wealth, and a love of the poor and destitute. The gurus of this time meet none of these requirements.

While it may well be safe to imitate Christ, or Buddha, none of the celebrated Buddhist and Christian teachers of today are worthy of imitation. They pander to the crowds like politicians, collect money like stock brokers, and feather their nests like hardcore materialist accumulators. They measure each other's status with the size of their temples and the number of their adherents. Far from being a safe path, following these individuals leads only to the temple of self-delusion.

So where to worship? Who to imitate? How to find the role model, the example for our highest spiritual strivings? Perhaps, as one holy man who never made a dime advised, right here at home, in the human heart. While it is a humble abode, it is where we began, and the Source of all our resources. Seeking no support outside yourself, no guide but the compass in your own center, may be the only safe path. Your own baby-struggles to achieve integrity, honesty, and dignity may not seem as safe as imitating an established guru, but there is no point in becoming a copy of a counterfeit, and we can all put our pants on one leg at a time.

With warmest wishes that each of us may find our way back to our own personal Ithaca,

Odysseus the Wanderer
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:33 am

IGGY POP BIOGRAPHY, by Charles Carreon

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Ink and Pencil, 8" x 10", by Joshua Carreon

Iggy Pop began as a bad joke that couldn’t last and ended up being the lasting truth-teller that couldn’t be silenced. There aren’t too many ways of accurately describing Iggy’s music that don’t require the use of industrial adjectives like – corrosive, grating, insistent, driving, unabated, and of course, uncompromising. Iggy looks like a guy who would bang a can on his head to hear the sound it made. Far from it. He is a musical genius who can create a symphony out of the noises you normally silence with a pillow over the head. The sounds of the machine age resound in his song, “Cold Metal,” where he nails the brave new world of industrial strength in driving chords that alarm with the same force as a submarine loudspeaker blaring “dive!”

Iggy has an ability to get musicians to bring sounds out of their instruments that they normally do not produce. Take Slash, for example, of Guns & Roses former fame. The cuts he played on Iggy’s “Brick by Brick” album are better than anything he did with G&R.

Iggy’s albums were probably released in small pressings over the years, but as time has gone by, they have continued to be available. It’s a good policy to buy all the Iggy CDs you come across, because then you can share. Some of my favorite songs are on “Tell Me A Story” and “Zombie Birdhouse,” two completely different albums. Tell Me A Story is easy listening by comparison to Zombie, which has long monotonal interludes, with Iggy chanting poetry in a flat tone. But ultimately, you discover all of the gemlike elements of both albums, and love them equally. Because they all carry that essential Iggy spirit.

The essential Iggy spirit is perhaps laid out most plainly in the very commercial and high-toned, but also very deep and genuine “Brick By Brick” album. The album has a powerful populist theme expressed in lines like “people oughta get respect in front, people oughta live where they want, people oughta get along pretty much o-kay.” (Brick-By-Brick, title track.) In “Main Street Eyes,” Iggy urges us to “keep your Main Street eyes, trying to do what’s decent with our lives.” He unpacks our modern pain in a brief soliloquy: “Sometimes, I’m goin’ around, I feel a tension under the surface, like people are just about ready to explode. My head keeps trying to sell me ambition, but in my heart, I want self-respect. There’s a conflict.” He makes us feel all right about being who we are.

But just so you won’t think that’s a boring mission, Iggy will play the clown and reach into his bag of tricks to make you laugh. He won’t let you take it seriously, because that would take all the fun out of it. Listen to Iggy and train to be spontaneous.
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Re: Charles Carreon, The Arizona Kid

Postby admin » Fri Oct 18, 2013 7:35 am

IS KRISHNA A CON?, by Charles Carreon

I've wanted to post this for a long time, the Texas RICO lawsuit filed by Windle Turley, Texas lawyer, on behalf of The Children of ISKCON. I never could remember how to spell that name, but now my recollection is solid, since I realize it's an acronym for "Is Krishna a Con?"

Ya know, I'm not sure how toxic religion has to be before people stop treating it like a harmless thing. Meth is the plague du jour; however, religion is the root of all our problems. Check this complaint out.

The core allegations are in these first two files, which are each just three typewritten pages long. You'll get the gist of the filth from that.

If you want the whole thing, it's 42 pages, so have broadband or be prepared to wait. But it's well-written, and probably 98% true. As my momma would say, "It'll curl your teeth."

http://www.rapeutation.com/iskoncomplaintturleykrishna.pdf

What amazes me about ISKCON is the brazenness with which these people operated, according to the complaint, from 1972 through 1990, creating a system in which chidren were subject to routine sexual abuse in an environment created for, and managed by, a gang of dedicated pedophiles. This is the quotation of the acts of abuse, taken directly from the complaint.

B. ABUSE INFLICTED

3. Sexual abuse including rape, oral sex, intercourse with children, sexual fondling of children, and masturbation with children

4. Physical beatings of children with boards, branches, clubs, and poles.

5. Physical beatings by adult teachers and school leaders with fists to the head and stomach.

6. Kicking the children into submission.

7. Children were in some instances made to walk great distances in bitter cold, including snow and rain, without jackets, coats, or shoes.

8. Children were often forced to sleep on cold floors and in unheated rooms.

9. Children were frequently deprived entirely of medical care or provided such inadequate medical care as to suffer long-term and, in some instances, permanent injury. The medical conditions for which children were not treated included malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever, teeth being knocked out, broken facial bones, and broken bones in their hands, often inflicted as they attempted to shield themselves from beatings.

10. Children were sometimes kept in filthy conditions. In at least one instance, a local group utilized what had recently been a cattle or horse barn for a nursery.

11. In almost every school the children were kept in severely overcrowded conditions, often forced to sleep shoulder to shoulder on the floor or in small rooms in three-high bunks with 10 or 12 children to each tiny room.

12. The children were physically abused by being awakened every day in the early morning hours (generally at 4:00 a.m.) and subjected to a cold shower, after which they were taken, without any breakfast, to a daily religious service. At some schools, the children were forced to walk great distances in the dark to attend the service, and often in cold or rainy conditions, clothed only in their thin gown-like "dohti."

13. The children were not provided bathroom tissue, but instead were expected to wipe themselves with their fingers, after which they would dip their fingers into a bowl of water.

14. As punishment for not cleaning themselves thoroughly, children were scrubbed with steel wool until their skin was raw and sometimes bleeding.

15. Children were abused when they were forced to sleep on their wet blankets or in tubs as punishment if they wet their bedding.

16. Some children were forced to wear their soiled underclothes on their heads for long periods of time because they had wet themselves.

17. Children were often forced to go without food entirely, either because there was none, or as punishment when food was provided, it was always inadequate for a growing child's diet.

18. The inadequate food that was provided was often prepared in unsanitary conditions, was of very poor quality and so unpleasant that even hungry children frequently could not eat it In at least one school the children learned as a matter of routine to remove insects from their food before eating it.

19. Each child was expected to eat what they were provided. If they did not do so, their saved portion was kept on their plates until the next meal when it was served again. This process often continued until the cold food -- even moldy and insect-infested - was swallowed.

20. In some schools, children were forced to lick up their vomit from any foul food they may have thrown up.

21. At New Vrindavan, three young boys, about six or seven years of age, who worked in the kitchen, took some food to their hungry friends. They were caught and punished by being gagged, having bags placed over their heads, and being put in a small room for several days with only a bucket for their waste and no food or water. One of the same boys was later slammed by a teacher into a marble wall, resulting in a loss of some teeth and fractured facial bones.

22. Children were controlled by various threats to hurt or kill them and by punishments. Young children, strictly limited to a vegetarian diet, were continually terrorized when told that non-Krishnas were meat-eaters, that they ate each other, and that the children, if given to or taken by the meat-eaters, would themselves be eaten.

23. Children often saw rats in their rooms and schools. Some children (such as those at the school in Dallas) were told the rats lived in a particular old closet, and the child would be, and often was, placed in the closet if they didn't do as told.

24. One form of punishment included forcing little children to stand on a crate for long periods of time in a darkened closet "so the rats would not eat them."

25. Very young children were in fact placed in those dark and locked closets and left afraid and crying for hours at a time. They were locked overnight in dark cellars with dirt floors. One young child was made to sleep alone in the loft of a cold barn for many nights.

26. sometimes the children were sent by their superiors to massage and bathe the religious gurus and then drink their now ''blessed bath water."

27. In some cases, children were stuffed into trash barrels for periods of two to three days, with the lid on, as punishment for relatively trivial "sins."

28. Children were almost universally told that if they disclosed their condition or complained to their parents or others, they would be severely punished when complaints were made, the children were publicly and often severely beaten or subjected to other forms of punishment.

29. Girls, as young as 12 or 13 years, were frequently "given" or "promised" to an older male in the movement. Although their marriages were generally not sexually consummated until the child was at least 16 or 17 years old, the little girls were terrorized by the threats, and often reality, of being given away by their leaders to become engaged to many "strange old men."

30. Children were often forced to lie awake in their beds or sleeping bags and listen as their little friends were sexually molested by teachers and other leaders.

31. The children were emotionally abused by subjecting them to near-total parental and societal isolation. In an effort to totally control their minds, the children were, in most cases, separated and isolated from their parents and were not allowed to have regular contact with their parents. Personal visits, correspondence, and telephone calls were either forbidden or discouraged. Gifts, particularly of food, were intercepted. For example, one young boy felt abandoned by his parents, and had no contact with his family for more than a year. He later learned the one small package of cookies sent by his mother was intercepted and kept from him.

32. Children were frequently moved to different schools in different states without the consent (or, sometimes, knowledge) of parents. Some children were hidden from parents. Some boys were shipped out of the country to ISKCON schools in India. In at least some cases, after the parents discovered their child's whereabouts and made arrangements for them to come home, their plane tickets were intercepted, and torn up in front of the children. Then, these children were punished for their parents' attempt to bring them home.

33. Even though the children were given by their parents to ISKCON to educate, except for the reading of their "Vedic scriptures," the children received little or no education.

34. Because of near-total isolation from the outside world and lack of education, the children who remained within the ISKCON schools for extended periods of time were totally unequipped to enter outside society. They have experienced extreme difficulty in earning a living, entering and maintaining relationships, including marriage, and in adapting to the laws and regulations of society. Many are in need of extended psychological and/or vocational training,rehabilitation, and medical care.

35. Plaintiffs, like almost all of the children who remained within ISKCON schools for any period of time, were forced to work many hours a day, at ages below the applicable minimum age requirements of the state child labor laws in which the schools were located. Compounding this illegal work program put in place by the Defendants in the gurukulas is the fact that none of the Plaintiffs was ever paid for their many hours of labor. Thus, not only were Plaintiffs forced to work by Defendants in violation of applicable child labor laws, but were forced to do so without any compensation whatsoever, robbing them of the value of their work.

36. The widespread use of child labor was a necessary part of the Defendants' scheme. Because Defendants fail to provide adequate staffing to prepare meals, cook, wash dishes and clothes, and clean the facilities and, in some instances, operate the farms, Defendants utilized the children to perform a large portion of these services. This practice fired the children's parents to continue to raise money for ISKCON and to provide other services to the ISKCON enterprise.

37. The founder of the institution, Prabhupada, was informed in 1972, at a time when he totally controlled the institution, that extensive physical and sexual abuse of minor ISKCON children was occurring, but he concealed the wrongdoing from the public, parents and all but a handful of close advisors.

38. Despite having been alerted to the physical, emotional, mental and sexual abuse of children in its gurukula boarding schools and other schools as early as the 1970s, ISKCON and the other Defendants conspired to suppress any public disclosure, or disclosure to gurukula children's parents, of the pattern and practice of rampant abuse and theft at its gurukulas. ISKCON fraudulently concealed this information for decades, allowing the offending gurukula teachers and supervisors continued access to children for their sexual gratification and to subject them to physical, emotional and mental abuse. Defendants also endeavored to dissuade and discourage parents of gurukula children from visiting the schools. This was done at least in part to preserve the secrecy surrounding the abuse of and theft from the Krishna children.

38. ISKCON, by and through its GBC, knew that if it did not conceal and keep secret the theft, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse it had learned was taking place in many of its schools, the very viability of the movement would be jeopardized. ISKCON would face a large loss of students and their parents from the movement and with that a large loss of funds and fundraisers. The individual income of many members of the GBC would have been adversely impacted. Its leaders would also have been subject to criminal and civil sanctions. The GBC made conscious decisions to conceal the fact that injury had been, and was continuing to be, inflicted on minor boys and girls.


The operators of ISKCON used classic techniques of child manipulation to control their victims, once they separated them from their stupid parents, the low-IQ dregs of the psychedelic revolution:

Children were almost universally told that if they disclosed their condition or complained to their parents or others, they would be severely punished when complaints were made, the children were publicly and often severely beaten or subjected to other forms of punishment.


Of course, I'm too harsh on those poor Krishnoids, especially since I was one of the "Children of God," who ultimately created a very similar, sexually-driven hell for their children.

There's a terrible similarity in the stories told by the COG kids at http://www.movingon.org, and as recorded by Miriam Williams in her brilliant book, "Heaven's Harlots," which Altruistic World Online Library has kindly archived at this link: "Heaven's Harlots: My Fifteen Years as a Sacred Prostitute in the Children of God Cult."

How could people be such jerks to kids? How could they use them as the repositories for their cowardly sexual appetites? Why didn't they all have sex with each other, and leave the kids alone? Why were they drawn to use a Blue Man as their cover?

Because of near-total isolation from the outside world and lack of education, the children who remained within the ISKCON schools for extended periods of time were totally unequipped to enter outside society. They have experienced extreme difficulty in earning a living, entering and maintaining relationships, including marriage, and in adapting to the laws and regulations of society. Many are in need of extended psychological and/or vocational training,rehabilitation, and medical care.

***

The founder of the institution, Prabhupada, was informed in 1972, at a time when he totally controlled the institution, that extensive physical and sexual abuse of minor ISKCON children was occurring, but he concealed the wrongdoing from the public, parents and all but a handful of close advisors.

***

ISKCON, by and through its GBC, knew that if it did not conceal and keep secret the theft, sexual, physical, and emotional abuse it had learned was taking place in many of its schools, the very viability of the movement would be jeopardized. ISKCON would face a large loss of students and their parents from the movement and with that a large loss of funds and fundraisers. The individual income of many members of the GBC would have been adversely impacted. Its leaders would also have been subject to criminal and civil sanctions. The GBC made conscious decisions to conceal the fact that injury had been, and was continuing to be, inflicted on minor boys and girls.


So it will be clear what kind of hideous correspondence between ISKCON and the Children of God I am talking about, I quote from the 2nd Generation COG website:

You, who call yourselves “the children of God” and “The Family of love”, have sacrificed, deprived and endangered your children all in the name of “saving lost souls”. Did you ever consider the safety, well being and happiness of your own children when you decided to live communally and knowingly allow your children to be in the same household as child molesters and rapists? Sure, the molesters and rapists can be forgiven and perhaps change their names several times to demonstrate that they have “changed” and “repented”. However, these molesters and rapists have never changed and are still the sick people they were 10 names ago. As much as you pray for them and have them “confess their sins,” they continue to roam your homes and prey on your children and your young teens.

I would like to ask you, how are you able to place more value in the life of the “lost souls” then in the life of your own children? What gives you the right to place more value over one life than over another?

I know you believe that you are the “chosen ones” or “the children of god” however, it is one thing to join a cult when you are an adult but it is quite another to force your children to conform to your life style and beliefs. We have observed, over the years, that when we didn’t conform to your standard of living you prayed against us and against our happiness. You have condemned the outsiders or “systemites” as you call them for trying to force you into their mold and their lifestyles (over 30 years ago) and yet you turn around and do the same thing to your own children except you have deprived your children of a descent education and you have allowed for their lives to be jeopardy and the worst part about this is that you justify your actions by professing that you are doing this all in “the name of God”.

Many of your own children are now scared emotionally, psychologically and physically because of what you call “the family of love”, we cannot get back those years of innocence because of your decision to join “the family”. You have also tried to make your children so dependant on you by keeping them in seclusion from the outside world, it was your hope that we would never survive the “real world” if you kept us in seclusion for long enough and brainwashed us with your propaganda. But we survived and we have succeeded in living a positive and productive life in the “real world” or “the system” (as you call it) despite the disadvantages many of us were faced with when we first left.

Some of us may not have made the best decisions but they are our own and we are proud to now have the freedom of expression without restraint or reproach.

--Prisma

http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=31&ID=968

***

Statement of Mr. John LaMattery (Sr) former first-generation member of The Family International (aka. The Children of God) in support of the second-generations’ fight to expose the abuses of the quasi-Christian church of The Family International.

To all past and current first-generation members of The Family International; to ALL our second-generation young people; to the media and; most of all to my own dear children.

My name is John LaMattery. I first joined the Children of God in 1973 and was a full-time member until 1978. I then re-joined in 1985 under its new-name: The Family. I left full-time membership in 1994.

My first son, John LaMattery(Jr), is now standing up to expose the abuses that occurred to many of the children of this group. I would like to say, first of all, how proud I am of my son. It is costing him dearly to make this stand: in finances and health. He is a fine young man who loves his fellowman and has always dealt honestly and truthfully with others. It is true that he suffered sexual abuse as a 9 year old. I would like to say that I was aware of this and failed to intervene on his behalf. I am ashamed that I failed my son and that I did not take steps to protect him from this. In fact, I sanctioned the incident that he refers to in news accounts. I was terribly mistaken in my judgment. I failed to guard him and to keep him out of harms way. For this I am truly sorry. I will not make any excuses for this failure. It was wrong and it is something that I will have to carry to my grave as a terrible mistake made in my life. As King David wrote: “my sin is ever before me.”

Two of my 6 daughters also suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Family members. I was not aware of these until years later but it still remains that because I kept my children in this organization I, whether knowingly or unknowingly, exposed them to an environment which allowed such things to occur. I regret that this happened to them. By placing my children into harms way I must take full responsibility for the results of this in their lives today.

All my children suffered some form of abuse. Not all necessarily sexual. There were other abuses such as psychological which were degrading to their character or frightening to their young minds and spirits. They were deprived of a proper education, asked to go out on the streets and door-to-door nearly daily to raise funds for our living. They were separated from each other and made to live in locations away from their natural family. In essence their family unit was virtually destroyed while at the same time they were made to feel guilty for missing their brothers and sisters, father and mother. This is such a sad and regretful set of circumstances.

These events in my children’s lives are a sad blot on their childhood memories. I regret that as a parent I failed to provide them with the love and care, the oversight and proper attention that are expected of any loving and concerned parent. I hope that in some way they will find complete healing and that the hurt and pain which I allowed into their lives will some day fully heal.

I would also like to say I am very sorry to all the children in The Family whether you ever suffered sexual abuse or not. I am sorry that I didn’t fight for your rights and fight against the terrible insidious doctrine of ‘the law of love’, a doctrine which was twisted by many of my generation to give license to abuse you in one form or another. It is a doctrine which, through my recent conversations with some current members, is still strongly adhered to and professed to be a true and pure doctrine of The Family International. I do believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth to bring His pure and sacred new law: to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But The Family has, in my opinion and judging by their fruits, grossly misinterpreted it and misused it. This is a sad testimony to the many honest and good people who originally joined this Christian movement. Some got out when they saw things were going wrong. I, regretfully, did not.

Through much prodding by my children and family I am now standing up to voice my condemnation of The Family International. Not the poor and blind souls of the average member, for they are but sheep, but I stand to condemn specifically Karen Zerby (aka Maria) and her hubris of continuing to promote, oh so subtlety, her long held doctrine of the ‘law of love’ which continues to this very day to cause widespread justification for the abuses of the past. It is this doctrine in particular that I believe has created a fundamental mindset which prevents first-generation adults to admit to any wrong doing concerning inappropriate behavior between adults and children in the past. It is, I believe, the mindset which caused Angela Smith (Sue) to continue to question what she had done wrong to Ricky as he was slitting her throat. It is the mindset that is causing Ricky’s own mother and leader of The Family to place the blame for the tragic fruit of her own body on so-called apostates instead of squarely on her own shoulders and the shoulders of her idol namely David Berg, founder of The Children of God.

There is no excuse for what I have caused my children to suffer. I take no refuge in the fact that I was a member of this group and believed in this doctrine of the ‘law of love’ as they put it. I voluntarily gave my mind, heart and soul to follow what was a lie and a deceptive doctrine of love. It was not the true love of God and I believe that we as parents must look honestly in the face of the children that we have produced and are still producing and say to ourselves “where did I go wrong?”

I call on all FIRST-GENERATION current and former members of The Family International to now follow me in supporting our children as they raise their voices to cry out against the lies and the falsehoods that they suffered under. I call on my generation to step forward and come out of the shadows and be counted. Perhaps you never personally witnessed the sexual abuse that many have suffered. But, I pled with you now to look deep into your heart and deep into God’s Holy Word and honestly admit that what David Berg preached and what Maria has continued to preach namely, that “whatever is done in love is right in the sight of God” was twisted and wrestled by them and thus has borne the terrible fruit of suicide and murder in their own home. Do not allow them to pass this blame any longer on to others. Do not, I beg you, allow them to run from the light of the truth of their actions. Do not allow them to continue to twist the truth to support their interpretation of God’s Word.

Our children need our full support now. They need to know that we love them even if it means a total destruction of our own livelihoods, the loss of friends and reputation. Fail not to remember that “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” If Christ asked us to do that for our friends then, I ask you, what would He expect us to give to save our children?

My son has said “it’s a war now between ourselves and our parents”. Let us unite with our children and turn this war towards those who share in our guilt but who continue to hide in the shadows and refuse to take account for their participation in following this false doctrine of love which reaped sorrow and pain in the lives of so many of our children. Stand up and make your voice clear that the “love” so preached was tainted by the lascivious ranting of a false prophet and was and still is supported by pride and arrogance, lies and deceptions in the person of Maria. We are all truly guilty of allowing this into our lives for whatever reason. We all share in this to some degree. Some more than others but as all Nazis’ shared in some part the blame for allowing Hitler to rise so we all share in our sin of not resisting the evil, not fighting the injustices and in not standing by the side of our children in their desperate hour of need. And let us remember what the Psalmist wrote in the 15th Psalm: “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.”

To the first generation I finally say, "May God help each of us, may He have mercy on our souls and may we pray that our children will in time forgive us."

And to you of the second generation I sadly say, "I'm sorry for failing you and for letting you down. I hope that many will now stand up to support you in your fight."

Posted: Thu Mar 24, 2005 5:50 pm Post subject: Statement of Mr. John LaMattery (Sr)
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