In his introduction to Thoreau: Walden and Other Writings (Bantam Books, 1962-1981), Joseph Wood Krutch described Henry David Thoreau’s writings as having four “distinct subjects”, which I paraphrase somewhat as: The life of quiet desperation most men live; The economic fallacy that is responsible for their condition The delights yielded from a simple life close to Nature, and The higher laws which people intuitively realize from a gentle life in Nature. These appear similar in form to the ‘Four Noble … click below for more!
A series of ten Buddhist drawings make up what are known collectively as the Ten Oxherding Pictures or sometimes just as the Ten Bulls. Each one graphically illustrates a stage along the path to enlightenment or self-realization, but they can also be seen as a metaphor for a wider range of human development and growth. (they are not, as Lifecoach screams ungrammatically but histrionically in its headline, “The 10 Secret ZEN Steps Straight To ENLIGHTENMENT!” There is no secret about … click below for more!
I first started reading Jack Kerouac in 1968, a battered paperback copy of On the Road, reprinted a decade after its original publication and kept in a pocket of a pack sack for easy reference as I hitchhiked around the country one summer. The book enjoyed a small resurgence of interest as the early hippies imagined themselves as the spiritual descendants of the beats and enjoyed a similar flowering of art, music and literature. For a brief while, many of the beat writers … click below for more!
There’s a famous Zen tale that I was reminded of as I was reading the media release about the Collingwood Airport this week. It somehow seemed remarkably fitting. It’s about the folly of selfishness, of thinking yours is the only way forward, of possessiveness, of narrow views. I first came across this tale in the late 1960s, in a copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, by Paul Reps. I still have that book; a battered paperback I have carried with … click below for more!
If 15 minutes of stillness change the 23 hours and 45 minutes left in your day, including your sleep and your human relations, it seems to be worthwhile. So said Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who has spent the last 45 years in the Himalayas pursuing the goal of mindfulness. Ricard was interviewed in January, following along the lines of a TED talk he gave in 2007. You can watch that video here. Slowing down is gaining more attention as … click below for more!
The Greeks had but four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and courage (or fortitude). To this, many centuries later, the Catholic church (notably Aquinas) added three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity (or love). These are the seven basic virtues of Western culture. But they’re not the only ones. In 410 CE, Aurelius Clemens Prudentius listed seven ‘heavenly’ virtues in his religious poem, Psychomachia: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility. Writing in the New York Times recently, David … click below for more!
Buddha’s death considered as we approach Vesak Shakyamuni died from eating tainted pork accidentally offered to him by a well-meaning lay devotee…. that story permeates Buddhist history and mythology, and has spawned many debates both about both his death and the morality of eating animal flesh. Okay, it wasn’t necessarily bacon… This story is mentioned in the book, Faces of Compassion: Classic Bodhisattva Archetypes and Their Modern Expression, as well as on many online sites. Generally, the Western Buddhist sources I read accept … click below for more!
I see a lot of silly folks who claim their own small spine’s Sumeru, the sacred mountain that supports the universe. Piss ants, gnawing away at a noble tree, with never a doubt about their strength. They chew up a couple of Sutras, and pass themselves off as Masters. Let them hurry and repent. From now on no more foolishness. This is poem XI* from Master Shih Te, a hermit on Cold Mountain; contemporary of and close friend to the Tang … click below for more!
While it was intended as a general ‘charter of free inquiry,’ the Buddhist Kalama Sutra (or sutta) contains wise words that all voters – especially local voters – should heed during the municipal election campaign. The Kalamas were a people in ancient India. Gotama visited them and stopped in a town called Kesaputta, where he gave a sermon, now referred to as the Kalama Sutra. At first the citizens came to him with a deep problem: how to trust what people were telling them. They … click below for more!
There are ten methods for meditating on the world, begins one scroll in the 1,300-year-old collection of Tang-dynasty sutras from Xian, China, that can lead us to happiness and fulfillment. I realize that sounds like the opening of a New Age piffle book, but the sutras were actually discovered in a cave near a Buddhist monastery, in the far western region of China, in 1900. The scrolls were looted and sold to collectors and academia, and until 1998 were pretty … click below for more!
There’s a story in Valerie Roebuck’s translation of the Dhammapada (Penguin Classics, 2010, commentary on verse 6, p 115-116) that caught my eye recently, and it made me wonder what the moral or ethical precept was buried in it. And it makes me question what it says about the supposed compassion of the Buddha and his attitude towards animals.* I have not found online the story exactly as Ms. Roebuck tells it**, but I have found many variations on it. … click below for more!
One of the most inspirational, moving books in my library is the Dhammapada, a collection of sayings of the Buddha, originally from the Pali canon. I’ve had a version of the Dhammapada in my library since the late 1960s, and read it through many times. It’s good to reread it often. My first copy I recall was Irving Babbit’s edition, published by New Directions press in 1965. It may still be hiding on a bookshelf upstairs for all I know. … click below for more!