Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Fool's Grin On My Face

The Japanese Peace Pagoda
Buddhist Temple found in the Darjeeling hill district.

Darjeeling is one of the most magnificent hill resorts in the world. Part of West Bengal, this district is bordered by Nepal to the west, Tibet to the north, Bhutan to the east and Bangladesh (East Bengal) to the south, with a narrow corridor connecting the district to the rest of West Bengal. This heavenly retreat is bathed in hues of every shade. The flaming red rhododendrons, the sparkling white magnolias, the miles of undulating hillsides covered with emerald green tea bushes, the exotic forests of silver fir - all under the blanket of a brilliant azure sky dappled with specks of clouds, compellingly gives Darjeeling the appellation of Queen of the Hill Stations. Darjeeling is internationally famous for its tea industry and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Advice on Living Well
and Dying Consciously
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
translated and edited by
Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.
"Everyone tries to remove superficial pain, but there is another class of techniques concerned with removing suffering on a deeper level--aiming at a minimum to diminish suffering in future lives and, beyond that, even to remove all forms of suffering for oneself as well as for all beings. Spiritual practice is of this deeper type.

These techniques involve an adjustment of attitude; thus, spiritual practice basically means to adjust [and refine] your thinking. In Sanskrit [spiritual practice] is called dharma, which means "that which holds." This means that by adjusting counterproductive attitudes, you are freed from a level of suffering and thus held back from that particular suffering. Spiritual practice protects, or holds back, yourself and others from misery.

From first understanding your own situation in cyclic existence and seeking to hold yourself back from suffering, you extend your realization to other beings and develop compassion, which means to dedicate yourself to holding others back from suffering. It makes practical concentrating on the welfare of others, you yourself will be happier."

Is it just me? I think the Dalai Lama's statements concerning the heart of Buddhist practice are beautiful and compelling. My first impulse was to use this space to explain various aspects of the way they stir my soul. I spent some time crafting several paragraphs and I did a pretty good job. After I finished, I took a nap, then I mercifully dumped that entire work. I know better than to try to explain it. No matter how precise and clear I make those explanations, they cannot do what I really want of them. I have to tell you I love you other ways.

A Fool's Grin On My Face

I'm mad, I tell you
as if I could convince me
in time, in telling
you over, over
again with a strange giggle
too small for my size,
choosing to wear hats
sideways with arrows through them,
stumbling as I go.

I'm mad, I tell you!

October 13, 2009 1:09 PM


  1. And so instead of trying to practice my mind, you have given me the gift of seeing you ridiculous, and I smile.

    This makes me think of how it is with my children. I can work and work and do a thousand different things, real WORK with sweat and everything, but it is when I let go and I am foolish that they see my love.

    Often I wonder at the earlier part that you wrote, at why I am always trying to do better. I wonder at myself lately and think, aren't you going to tire and just throw it in like you used do? Think meanly, be crude, judge, sit back and be lazy? And I realize that my laziness doesn't serve me. Only my trying to be better, serve others better, serves me. In servicing others better, in being compasionate or empathetic, I serve myself better. I don't know where this newness came from but I am good with it. I don't do it for the next life, or even for this life, but because it is who I am supposed to be, or that is how I feel.

    I laugh, word verification: cycle.

    love you, Christopher.

    trying, trying, failing, trying.


  2. I thought briefly of keeping my earlier writing, but I think I took the power out of it by the abandonment. Because I spent a few hours only, there was not much lost. If it is worthy, I can write it again in another way.

    Basically I said that Buddhism is a real practice and there are others, that Buddhism has a specially egalitarian quality that permits anyone to enter and begin the journey to enlightenment, while other paths may be less egalitarian and require a calling to begin. A calling helps in Buddhism too. I said that all paths traverse the same spiritual terrain but may describe it differently and that anyone who enters the terrain will be deeply changed by it as well as walk it.

    I started by pointing out that the Buddhist starting point on all this is as expressed so clearly by the Dalai Lama in the quote I posted, that all Buddhist schools would agree that the quote is written as a variant on the list of the Four Noble Truths and so is basic to all the schools.

    That is the outline.

  3. Christopher, these days i do not have much interest in reading blogs, but i do like to read your poems.
    And this one, in my own madness, suits me well.
    It's okay to be crazy, i only need to convince myself :) thanks

  4. I think the Dalia Lama rocks and Buddhism suits me.

  5. Jozien, my very good friend. I hope you continue to walk a path with depth and weight and it gives you great happiness along the way. If you leave the blogs behind that will be fine, though I would miss you terribly.

    Lilith, I am more Hindu than Buddhist in my personal taste, and I spent a few decades engaged in a practice closer to Taoism. I tried to be Unitarian for ten years (1995-2005) but it didn't take, though I like the Universalist strain in the latest iteration of Unitarian-Universalism. I find it deeply commpatible with the Bodhisattva ideal and that part of Buddhism I keep in my heart if it makes any sense to lift it out of Buddhism. I think it does.

    I am more Hindu because I am compatible with divinities. Buddhism says they are not necessary but my heart says that for me they are necessary. This is a matter of destiny.

    I say it this way...I enlist God's help and with His help and at His call then I do my part to assist in the Bodhisattva ideal (which is also Universalism) - we either ALL go to heaven or we don't. Some of us become gatekeepers and offer spiritual aid that the rest go on. I will not actually achieve Bodhisattva by practice in this life. There is no way for me to do this without the Grace of God or Goddess. So I pray. I pray. I pray.

  6. What I like about Buddhism is that it acknowledges that we are all connected and encourages us to be compassionate and to look within ourselves. To me it is a fusion of psychology and religion.

  7. Lilith, you are not alone in valuing Buddhism for the qualities you identify. I share with you your admiration for Buddhist psychology. However, my place in the spirit calls me to a self that does not disappear as is asserted in the Buddhist (and for that matter in most of the east). Whether this is a phase in an eons long journey or is a settled truth in my eternal spirit, I cannot hold my place in the journey without at least this much of the Judaeo-Christian view of personal souls, not in this lifetime I can't.

    In fact I hold a view that magnifies ensoulment as a manifestation of spiritual power and a view of God as lonely for companionship with co-creators who share with Him the burdens and the joys of the largest cosmos, whatever it is, whether or not we yet sense its scope at all. That to me is the long journey we are on whether it is a myth useful for my development for now or the actual truth of the eternal spiritual walk.

    I have written here before of my vision of an "argument with God" in my personal presence on the planet. I am here to "prove" something, to witness it and report from within creation about it. I am here by permission to this purpose, though not necessarily to God's purpose for me over the long haul. My life could easily be an interregnum in the long journey. I hold a sense that I am currently in a kind of rebellion. I am convinced that is my lot in some spiritual sense.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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