Expanded notes on “The Sutra of 42 Chapters” (Part 1)

To read along in the Sutra, right click  here and open it in a new tab.  My notes are in chronological order. Part 1 covers  Chapters 1 through 21.

The most pivotal sentence in this first paragraph is “Abiding in samadhi, one subdues all evil.” Isn’t that an amazing characteristic of Buddhahood? The power that sentence implies is remarkable. In the standard form of most Sutras, the speaker, location, time, place and and hearers in attendance are noted. It’s an all-male gathering of 5 disciples of the Buddha and an unidentified number of bhikshus (monks) who by the end of the talk, the prologue promises, will each be led to attain enlightenment.

Chapter 1. Renounce the Secular Life and Attain the Fruit of Arhatship
There are a number of stages along the Path, and Buddha is going to lay these out for us. First, the shramana: He [no females present] 1) leaves the family, 2) renounces secular life, 3) knows the mind, 4) penetrates to its origin, and 5) understands the unconditioned Dharma. The first two stages are physical actions: they leave, taking the robe and bowl and the ties of attachment to secular life are cut by turning one’s back on previous relationships and on the owning of personal property. The latter three stages are the beginning of understanding; the first fruits of practice, which all take place within the mind. (Open the mind, change the man. Right?) Which leads us to stage two, the arhat. If shramanas stick to the practice, observe the 250 Precepts, live purely & virtuously, and practice The 4 Noble Truths, they eventually eventually have many powers: levitation & transformation, even “moving heaven and earth.” They’ve lived through many lifetimes working up to that point!

The second part of Chapter 1 takes us backward in attainment from the stage of arhat. To make this a little more understandable, I’ll start from the earliest stage & work forward: Stream-enterers are those who have become committed followers of the Buddha and practitioners of the Path. They take refuge in the Buddha, make vows, accept the Precepts & study the Dharma. They have attained the first glimpse of their True Mind. They are only seven rebirths away from arhatship. Once-returners are the fortunate few who have only one more rebirth–from the heavenly dwelling to earth–before arhatship. Non-returners ascend after death on earth to a realm “above the 19th Heaven” and there attain arhatship. How long that takes them we don’t know, but it’s guaranteed: No more rebirths, no more earthly suffering. The arhats are fully enlightened beings, without desire and attachments. As the Sutra says, these hindrances are like amputated limbs. Once they are cut off, you don’t put them back on and use them again–ever. Arhats are truly free beings.

Chapter 2. No-Mind is the Way
The Buddha begins by reviewing the qualities of the shramana. There’s a promise in that first sentence: Stick to the practice and you will become arhats. Imagine being in a mental state where you actually had nothing to lose or gain! The mind is calm and unattached, and things become easier. No thought, no action, no cultivation, and no attainment. Not even any more “stages.” That loftiest state is called the Way.

Chapter 3. Desire Makes People Foolish
In the days of the Buddha, being a shramana demanded quite a lot. Not just shaving the head and changing clothing. Total renunciation of possessions is necessary as well. And when you beg, you accept only what is necessary for that day, not a bite more. One meal a day, sleeping beneath the trees, all the while keeping an eye on your mental and physical state so you don’t backslide and start wanting things.

Ch. 4. The Ten Evils and Ten Virtues
Understanding the10 Evils is easy, but practicing the 10 Virtues is challenging in life. The first 3 evils are physical, and they involve other people in a physical way. Killing deprives a person of life, and stealing deprives them of property. Sexual misconduct disrupts the relationships of others. (As we can see from recent news.) Next come the evils perpetrated by the tongue. You might recognize the four types of evil speech in yourself and others. Malicious speech is speech whose purpose is to deliberately harm another person: for example, spreading unsubstantiated rumors. Abusive speech might encompass swearing at, insulting, berating or shaming our fellow human beings in privacy or before others. False speech is simple lying: You know it’s a lie, but you open your mouth and let it out. Many slander and libel suits have resulted from this irresponsible use of speech. Frivolous speech is just what we would call “talking to hear yourself talk,”to kill time. Or talking about nothing in particular to make a sound in the room. Envy, anger and ignorance are the evils inside, not always visible to others but there lurking in the mind. Envy is almost synonymous with covetousness. You look at someone with fame or acclaim or recognition or a luxurious lifestyle or great looks and intelligence and think semi-consciously or consciously, “I wish I was in that position, with that success, with those personal qualities….instead of him!” Anger is the easiest mental trait to identify and is often the first one we tackle and try to control when we begin practice. Meditation, many say, is the way to learn to control anger before it flares up. Creating a long train of thoughts about the perceived offenses of others  is a sure way to give yourself an ulcer or end up punching someone (physical evil!) Anger, when it is simply observed, just disappears like clouds over a mountain. Ignorance, in the Buddhist context, means not simply an absence of higher education but our basic ignorance as unenlightened beings which keeps us cycling through the Realms. We don’t realize inter-relatedness or Emptiness as true mind or understand the skandhas or recognize hindrances….yet!

Ch. 5. Reducing the Severity of Offenses
As in many chapters, Buddha presents us with a warning and a promise. If we have many offenses and fail to repent, we may be consumed by the bad karma and fall into the undesirable Realms yet again. True mind goes on: deep and wide as the ocean waters, but now you are drowning in it. But, if you realize your errors (become conscious) correct your actions (reparation and reform) and cultivate virtue (practice good acts & thoughts) the offenses will naturally dissolve and you will be healthy again.

Ch 6. Tolerance without Resentment
The two sentences of Ch. 6 only contain prohibition for us and–again–a warning for evildoers. Malice, as we discussed in Ch. 4, is the deliberate intention to inflict harm with either words or deeds. In this case it is directed toward sabotaging the efforts of people involved in doing good deeds. Now if you are like me, it would be very hard not to be angry if you were on the receiving end of this kind of speech or behavior. But the Buddha forbids both getting angry and reprimanding the perpetrator. The Buddha sees & understands all, right? And he sees that bad deeds fall back on the evildoer. Bad karma is not something any of us should want or allow ourselves to accumulate.

Ch. 7. Evil Deeds Return to the Doer
To reiterate and reinforce the lesson, the Buddha uses an incident from his own life, and a rather Socratic way of teaching. When a critic arrives and insults him, the Buddha remains silent until the angry man runs out of steam and words, so no argument takes place. Then, emerging from his silent listening, the Buddha asks a simple question: If you offer a gift and it’s not accepted, who does it belong to? The man has to admit that a gift unaccepted still belongs to, and remain with the giver. The Buddha adds that the “gift” of insults which were thrust at him were not accepted, and so they return to the giver. Then he cautions the giver not to bring harm upon himself. “Just as echo follows sound and shadow trails form, there is no escape. Be vigilant to do no evil.” (Of course, in the present age, he could have said “I’m rubber & you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off me & sticks to you!”) Again, the message is “Watch out for karma!”

Ch.8. To Fling Dust into the Wind
In the Buddhist way of thinking, a sage cannot be harmed, so speaking of harming a sage….just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But if you attempt to harm a sage, it’s like spitting straight up at the sky or throwing dust into the wind. (Or if you do both, you get a face full of mud!) Now by this time, you really understand the penalty for doing evil deeds. Right?

Ch. 9. Knowledge and Practice
For good reason, this chapter is titled “Knowledge and Practice.” The type of knowledge the Buddha is talking about here was, in his time, reading and memorizing and quoting and meditating on the Sutras, going from teacher to teacher and asking a million questions. Nothing wrong with that, right? The only problem is that it doesn’t get you to the goal of non-regressing self-realization. When you “fall in love” with a religion, you are falling in love with the external trappings, not keeping your “eyes on the prize” toward which all the trappings, ceremonies and devotions point. That’s why people can practice meditation year after year, study under the best teachers and read the best books on non-duality yet not attain anything but better physical health and more self-control. Those are admittedly good outcomes, but the goal of Buddhism is awakening, pure and simple, which benefits oneself and others…and the whole world. As the Buddha said, “For those with unwavering resolve in following the Way, the Way is great indeed.” This has to do with direction and persistence in whatever practice and situation you find yourself, not gritting your teeth and expecting torture.

Ch. 10. Joyfully Aid Others in Giving
This chapter is about the long-reaching effects of help given to those whom you see practicing dana. This virtue, which comes first in the Buddhist list, means charity, good works or generosity. And again, when we do this, we gain blessings for ourselves and for uncountable others, just as many stoves and candles and warming fires can be ignited with a single flame. And yet “the original flame is undiminished.”

Ch.11. Fields of Blessing
I admit that I don’t really understand this chapter about “fields of blessing.” If you give food to an evil person, wouldn’t that person have a higher likelihood of becoming good than remaining as he is?  Never mind. Let’s stick to the text. Ch. 11 tells the results of who we need to offer food to, beginning with a virtuous person vs. and evil person (giving to one virtuous person is equal in blessings to 100 evil people) and concluding with offering to a Buddha (1 Buddha vs. 10 billion pratyekabuddhas). But at the end of the list there is a kind of riddle: We ask ourselves, is there some being more exalted that the Buddhas? Yes, offering food to “one of ‘no thought’, ‘no abidance’, ‘no cultivation’ and ‘no attainment’ is superior to offering food to a hundred billion Buddhas of the three periods of time.” So Ch. 11 is a kind of koan for us to consider.

Ch 12. Twenty Difficulties in Cultivation
What? Only twenty? Consider…
The first two difficulties are easy to understand: The poor–in Buddha’s time they would be hand-to-mouth poor–have difficulty with dana, since they are merely trying to survive. At the other skew of the distribution, the rich and eminent have such comfortable, enjoyable lives that they see no need for the Way. They often feel that they are just fine as they are.
Renouncing life when facing death a universal problem, especially when the person is conscious and clear-headed. Attachments to life on earth, humanity, consciousness and everything else can arise when we approach our inevitable end.
Next, encountering the Buddhist sutras is easier now than it ever has been. But in Buddha’s time, as in ours, competing religions were at war with one another, and then, if a scroll was burnt or eaten by ants, you might not ever be able to encounter that sutra again.
Being born in the age of a Buddha is something that karma determines, but some people were fortunate enough to meet the Buddha and his disciples during his 40 years as an itinerant teacher.
The next several difficulties are human tendencies: The reluctance to leave off lust and desire, to not covet, to not get angry when humiliated, to not abuse power and to learn to face all situations with equanimity.
The next three difficulties are all related, because they are about knowledge and the psychological effects of knowledge. Some people, for one reason or another, learn texts quickly, and some slowly, and for everyone, what we need to know is so vast that it takes many lifetimes to learn it all. If you or I know a lot, it’s easy to become egotistical about it. We may look down on or even ignore those who we perceive as “slower” and unlearned. This is not being impartial, because those persons are the ones who especially need our help.
Gossiping and spreading quick judgments about matters we don’t fully understand is a bad habit to avoid, and it severely limits the effectiveness of practice.
The last block of difficulties has to do with the perpetuation of the Dharma. Finding the right teacher, and under his teaching seeing one’s original nature, and practicing the Way, and using that wisdom to guide other beings to liberation without becoming perturbed by circumstances: all these things are essential! And to do that, we need to master the expedient means of the Way.
What I find encouraging about this daunting list is that the reference is  to “difficulties,” not “impossibilities.” It’s been done before, and can–and will!– be done again.

Ch. 13. Questions About the Way and Past Lives
What a breath of fresh air this chapter is after Ch. 12! A disciple asks the Buddha how to achieve two things:  to know his past lives and to attain the supreme Way. To attain the supreme Way, the Buddha replies, you purify your mind with unwavering resolve. The resolve is Windex! The mind is a pure mirror! There’s nothing wrong with that mind-mirror but a layer of dust. Polish and see the brightness that was always there to be revealed. And when you eradicate desires and seek nothing…then you gain knowledge of past lives.

Ch. 14. Virtue and Greatness
A shramana asked the Buddha “What is virtue? What is greatness?” Those two words are bandied about and defined and re-defined now, just as they were in Buddha’s time. Buddha gives the simplest definitions, ones attainable by anyone of any station in life. Ones having nothing to do with fame or rank or public acclaim or accomplishments. “To practice the Way and abide by truth is virtue. When your will is one with the Way, that is greatness.”

Ch.15. Tolerance and Purification
This chapter begins–again–with questions. “What is great power? What is the brightest light?” Read carefully, because you will see that the Buddha is telling the shramana what it is like to be Buddha, and why those who attain enlightenment often cry with joy and value it beyond any earthly pleasure.

Ch. 16. Renounce Desire to Attain the Way
“The Buddha said, “All those who harbor desire and lust cannot see the Way.” Desire and lust flow from sensing a lack within and the belief that the source of satisfaction is “out there.” This is the Big Lie. And it’s also a waste of energy that could be centered and directed inward, to the path. The main characteristic of shramana life, as I see it, is the renunciation of desire. The Buddha represents the mind as clear water made muddy when stirred, preventing one from seeing a clear reflection. This simile is similar to mind-as-mirror, but the mirror, if ignored, accumulates dust. It requires care. But when water is allowed to calm, it becomes clear. Our own mental clarity and its relation to what we perceive as necessary or desirable is something to examine. There is a difference between the experience of desire and harboring desire, just as there is a difference between renouncing desire and purging desire. The shramana first renounces and later purges desire and the result of that is “the Way will manifest itself.”

Ch. 17. Light Dispels Darkness
This is a description of seeing the Way. What remains after the darkness of ignorance is dispelled? Was that darkness real to begin with if only light dissipates it? What remains after the worlds of illusion are shattered? Only what is.

Ch. 18. The No-Mind Doctrine
Probably the doctrine of no-mind is the hardest for students to understand and the most obscure for non-Buddhists. It may involve recognizing and identifying the personal ego for what it is and is not. At a certain point in cultivation, the ego deconstructs. Someone is still apparently there talking to you in your head, but you recognize that the voice is not you, but a repetitive process. Non-action results when circumstances are approached and dealt with appropriately and spontaneously.  Speaking the inexpressible and cultivating non-cultivation may sound contradictory. But not allowing any interpretive thought to come between us and situations makes this possible. Then the Way is recognized as not separate from the practitioner.

Ch. 19. Meditate on the illusive and the Real
The key sentence in this chapter is “Seeing one’s awareness is bodhi.” Often enlightened persons will say “I can now look at the world and distinguish what is impermanent from what is permanent.” What is undying after illusion is dissipated? Only awareness.

Ch. 20. The Self is Empty
The self is empty, but what does this mean? The Buddhist understanding of he body is that it is composed of Four Elements: earth, wind, fire and water. Meditating on the nature of these elements reveals their emptiness. But…prior to the body, who am I? And after the death of the body, who am I?

Ch. 21. Seeking Fame Consumes the Person
Whenever I read this chapter I think of the actor Heath Ledger, dying of an accidental prescription overdose in his hotel room several years ago. Fame had become toxic for him, and he was just trying to get some sleep after many nights of trying. The singers eliminated on American Idol often cry hysterically or react in fury, because they have “missed their chance” at fame. But Jim Carrey, speaking from experience, once said ““I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” What do famous people end up with? A nice room to die in.


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How to Write Good Clean Prose! by Good Clean Zen (Here’s what not to do.)

Use “the poster child for [whatever]” Yes! Let’s put that on a poster & get people contributing!

Use  “…a Perfect Storm of [whatever]” Maybe that book & the movie based on it should have been called “The Worse Luck Storm.” Then we might have been spared this phrase that just hangs on and on…

And…”a place at the table” Isn’t that special! Kinda reminds you of Norman Rockwell, doesn’t it?

And…”send a message,” which may refer to anything from throwing a chair through a window to “taking a knee”. Maybe you should try those things called….words?

And…”navigating a minefield.” This should be used only if you are in actual physical danger of getting blown up.

And this:  “every tool in my toolbox” Again: This is an inheritance from “Mad Men”. This time, from an actual episode. Of course, we are talking about brain tools here, not actual physical tools!

And “skill set.” Wow. Those geniuses discovered a way to say “skills” with one extra word!

But wait! There’s more! Another way of saying “It’s an area of my expertise”! You can say “It’s in my wheelhouse.” Who the hell started using this phrase?? Let’s find him & twist his nose really, really hard. Maybe that would get his brain in gear. Or change the channel. Celebrities picked the phrase up, pressed it to their bosoms & bolted out of the room with it.” Oooo-kay. Baseball. Boats. Hollywood celebs. It’s all good. Not.

Let’s not forget “It is what it is!” That’s the slacker’s motto. You really want to join that tribe?

And “on steroids.” We know you just mean “really fast.” So why not say it?

Last but not least,,,”boots on the ground.” What? They only need boots? Not the soldiers with feet in them?

“iconic” Following in the wake of “special,” “super,” “awesome” and “so cool”* even brands of peanut butter and hot dogs get to be iconic. How democratic! Turn on the radio and see if you can hold your breath long enough for “iconic” to be said. Bet you can!

–> But wait! Good news everyone!** “Iconic” is rapidly being replaced by “eponymous!!” The spiky twig of a word is being rolled over by a nice round snowball of a word. And we get one extra lovely syllable, too!

“creating a space”, “safe space” “homage” Listening to NPR as I work on this list, all three of these words & phrases were just gushed by someone promoting a Museum of Ice Cream. Ice cream will bring us together! We can meet diverse (but probably rather fat) people and talk about ice cream with them! That’s the way the world should work! Or, how about this plan? Let’s not, and say we did!

The word “louche”: I contend that no one actually knows what this word means. But it may be super cool (see above) because it rhymes with…that other word. And if you use it with a straight face you are that other word. It popped into life in a review of a “Mad Men” episode & took off running…

The double “is”. Apparently this originated years ago with radio call screeners, who asked people to say “My question is…” Of course the callers bumbled & two “is’s” showed up! And then, within a year or two, it jumped the pond! Tony Blair used it. Now the Brits–and who knows who else?– are infected with Is-is-itis.

Any mention of “flying cars” (the desire or hope for, and the disappointing lack thereof), “Reefer Madness”, the anti-pot film, and “duck and cover” drills. And no, housewives in the 50’s didn’t cook in white high heels, or serve jello molds with every meal. (Haw Haw! We’re so much smarter now.)

“ground zero” This phrase means where the explosion takes or took or may take place. It’s used by the illiterate as a synonym for “square one” which is the place where you start your plan of action.

“Take a listen” and “he/she is looking to…” The former is common and the latter is lazy. “Listen” is not a noun. A “look” is a noun, as well as a command verb. “Looking to” is a cheap substitute for some word more exact in meaning: “planning to,” or “intending to” or “hoping to.”

“from the get-go” This just sounds childish. (Go Speed Racer! Please go. Just. Go. Home.)

Ending a sentence with “at,” as in “Where do you work at?” I’ve heard school teachers, college profs and scientists use this form. Friends, the ’60’s are over. Why preserve the worst aspects of them?

Using “amazing” and “incredible” incorrectly. “Amazing” does not mean “prettier” or “beautiful.” No, really. It doesn’t. The person who uses “amazing” as a compliment may be covering up something he thinks is appalling or disappointing. The ubiquitous use of this word as a compliment started with a T.V. show called “Extreme Makeover,” where somehow, in spite of the dramatic changes in the winning lady, the hosts weren’t allowed to say that she was “actually a lot better looking now”, “bigger-busted” or “thinner.”) “Incredible” means “unbelievable.” Neither of these terms is necessarily positive or complimentary.

“Like”: This word is used by people under 35 to start sentences and used constantly within sentences as punctuation. This is just….so….WRONG. And it’s another dried up, flaky remnant of 1960’s speech. (See above.) Where did this usage start? My guess is with Maynard G. Krebbs in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” a long, long time ago.

“It looks like a war zone here!” Common phrase used by meteorologists to describe areas of destruction after a hurricane. Now let’s think. Could it go the other way? Ever heard someone say that a war zone looked like a hurricane hit it? No? Why not?

“Is this the calm before the storm?” Again, a common phrase of meteorologists. Uh…yes. When there’s no storm, it’s calm.

I’m just going to mention the use of “the white stuff” and “the wet stuff” as synonyms for snow and rain. When they say that, does it make meteorologists feel…what? Cool? Or experiencing “the low temp stuff”?

Years ago I had a bumper strip on my car that said “Nuke Gay Whales For Jesus”. The writer mischievously intended to offend as many people as possible, but only made everyone laugh. Today we’d probably get the word “Vegan” in there somewhere. Yes, it was stupid–but clever!

…but how about “Books not Bombs“? Exactly what that means is a mystery. If you’re reading a lot you can’t be dropping bombs? And aren’t there a number of books on bomb building? Best not to even try to analyze that.

If you can’t trust me with a choice, why would you trust me with a child?” You can almost hear the “Nya, nya, nya!” on the end of that slogan. You had your choice, to go into the drugstore & buy contraception. You kinda blew that one. Right, honey?

The doggie paw print with “Who Rescued Who?” and for even bigger idiots who wish to put a fine point on it: “My Rescue Dog Rescued Me!” Pulled you out of a snowbank, did it? Or did it–pathetic as this sounds!–give you one miserable Reason For Living?

This simple shortcut: Avoid saying or writing anything on this list! Resolve not to listen to any of them either! Good luck with that.

* Oprah’s favorite phrase
** Professor Farnsworth’s favorite phrase

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Think about it.

“Things are seen through the lenses of our desires, prejudices and resentments. and are transformed accordingly.”

~ Rune Johansen

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I find that I’m constantly asking myself and others questions. I was eating some candy the other day and realized I was admiring the pastel colors. I asked myself, would I eat Jordan almonds if they were all white? Other people eat M&Ms, and would they be as attractive as a snack if they were all tan or brown? The varied colors gives the impression of variety, where there is none. And variety and color is exactly what we need. A guy on TV pointed out that the stuff that super-obese people eat, when it is piled on a table, seems to be all drab colored. The colorful (and nutritious) foods are what we evolved to be attracted to. So junk food and “light” tobacco products are put in colorful wrappers: Red, green, purple…

I looked closely at my father and asked him “Are you smiling all the time or is it just the shape of your mustache?” He just looked at me with the same benevolent gaze he always seems to have. And of course I had to answer my own question! “Perhaps it’s a bit of both…” I remember reading in Salman Rushdie’s book “Joseph Anton: A Memoir” about the difficulty he had getting some needed eyelid surgery during the time he was being protected in England while he was under fatwa. Afterwards, his friends said, “We thought you were angry all the time!” The eyelids gave him a downright diabolical expression and interfered with his reading–about the only thing he had to do all day long while in solitary. In fact, he has a sharp, very English, funny , philosophical style that belies his appearance! (Well, you know what it says in the Diamond Sutra…”Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his perfect physical body?…32 attributes? No…a perfect body is not a perfect body, therefore we call it a perfect body” But Rushdie the skeptic would just laugh at this–in my mind I can hear him now!)

Recently I returned to a game site I left 5 years ago–there is now a free player option. Few benefits, and not much to do, but I looked over my old page with delight. How detailed I was! What a lot of ironic humor I put into the gaming advice I recorded there! I had researched and written the history of the game from beginnings to the time I left. Now I can read the page as if it was written by someone else–someone who writes with as much pleasure as I do now. A man, as the sage once said, can’t jump into the same river twice. And…different river, and a different man (or woman!) I remember finishing out on the site: getting that page, those pets, those pictures, those decorations just right. And then I gave, gave, gave away all the rest that I had accumulated. Turned the virtual money into items, took a look at people’s pages and gifted them 10 or 20 things at a time. I did that with two pages. I had  two distinct identities at the site: one nice in every way, which “bred” pets, and one that was a more peppery personality. Both “people” bought and sold…all the time.

After 3 1/2 years, the Universe said “ENOUGH”. I had a small hernia, the result of crossing my legs in the same position unconsciously, was 6 or 7 lbs. overweight, and was ticked off with the managers of the site. When I missed seeing a dying friend for the last time because of the game (long story) that finished it for me. It killed my enjoyment of a game that just kept getting modified worse and worse the longer I stayed in it. Anyway, at the present time I decided to figure out exactly what the attraction was that the game exerted over me all those hours & years.

When you look at some psychological phenomenon, some action, some emotion, some…anything that happens to or within you (since it all comes from the mind, after all) you first see the surface and then you can look a bit below, and then proceed downward. It’s funny to say that, because in fact, downward to base motivation is where we all end up in that process, in meaningless ego-activity, isn’t it? I decided to try the analysis on my attraction to that game, and here’s where it went.

1. Opportunity to write.
2. Participation in meaningless controversy.
3. Helping other players in the game.
4. Constructing alternative identities.
5. Accumulation, buying & decorating with ready-made units.
6. Pretending, in general.
7. Constructing little story identities for cats.
8. Tuning out the world.
9. Being able to do something effectively, but without a lot of
effort or challenge.
10. Opportunity to write…to others.
11. Opportunity to procrastinate, do something childish.
12. Activity that is at home & solitary & sedentary.
13. Creating a little god-like kingdom I can control.

It wasn’t drug or alcohol addiction or violence, but it sure as hell looked like an addiction at the time. It had drawing power–unbelievable drawing power. So when people talk about the difficulty they  have resisting cell phone calls during any and every activity, or getting free of “EverCrack”, I, with my innocent little-kids & teens webtoy  which is not even classed as a game, can understand exactly what they mean! And there might be other layers to this attachment, which may occur to me later, possibly to do with having pets that simply don’t die. (I have had so many real pets, and eventually–of course–they all die.) Anyway, enough for today.

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For some reason…

…maybe because of the poetry, I’ve began to generate interest and followers. But let me remind anyone who stops by here: at this point I haven’t even publicized this blog. Quite simply, this is a Zen Buddhism resource site. The blog just expresses some personal thoughts or crises I’m going through. Of course that’s “Zen” too (as is all else). Honestly I’m just hoping that my fellow poets stopping by will look at the rest of the site and find something they can enjoy/use.

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“The Smile”

He smiles…
He has been taught.
I smile…
I have taught myself.
You smile…
It is your nature.
The other smiles…
Within and without at peace.


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Grief and anger sleep alone
In the same small bed
Together they make their mark
On my pillow and under my tread–
Dimming my eye, my taste and tone.
How long life is, how short time seems
Lived in disguise and dreams.
Mythos dissolves at dawn.
Come dark of the moon,
Come soon.

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“This Day’s News”

Today the sun of our temple departs
And the small-eared one returns.
It is strange that I remembered that tall monk
As the shorter and younger of the two!
After four years he comes to us, aged and thin,
But older and wiser? Oh yes.
Let us become competent in quoting Dharma.
Let us embark on self-improvement
And the endless round of volunteerism
Until we are too tired to make distinctions.
Then we will bow before whoever comes before us
And put away those thoughts of true mind.
Rain did not arrive this morning,
But rain will come this evening or tonight
And dandelions bloom over the drought’s bald patches
Of the monastery lawns.

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Something New for the Links

A Complete Buddhist Sutra Collection
Well, this site begins with the jolly thought about the end of the kalpa and the return of Chaos. (We do know that this happens with just about everything, not just kalpas, don’t we?) Anyway, for the benefit of the completist, here are all the sutras…even the super long Avatamsaka Sutra, downloadable for your enjoyment.

Barbara O’Brian, About.Com, on Buddhism
I really want to recommend this highly accessible author. She has a whole series of articles here and taken all together they constitute a real Buddhist education for the Western layman. Like in the old Lay’s Potato Chip ad, betcha can’t read just one!

Shortly I’ll begin a retrospective on the 2015 Zen 7. (Of course, there’s the Scenarios essay, but maybe I have something a bit more realistic.)

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How could my friends be so, so wrong..?

The new ‘semester’ of Sutra A started yesterday, and due to an influx of new students from last year’s uncharacteristically huge and enthusiastic Level 3 class the rest of us* had to sit through the introductory lecture on sutra study, once again. Let’s see if I can sum it up for you without referring to the lecture recording: What is a sutra? How the Diamond Sutra was discovered. How important it is. That it is a Mahayana sutra, not a Theravada sutra. Who translated it into Chinese. Components of a sutra. Why each of these is important. How each of these relates to the Diamond Sutra. Finally, Q. & A.

Sound’s pretty okay…right? But not if you have to sit through it for the tenth time. Or probably even more times. And you have a head cold. And you are falling asleep at the table. And you’re dreaming every time you close your eyes by mistake.

So after class a friend says, ‘Susan, you look so much happier!’ And I, puzzled, think ‘Happier than what?’ Another chimes in ‘Yes, you do.’ And I just look at them–puzzled–and say ‘Sorry, you’re wrong. I have a cold and I’m dead tired and want to get home. And I just had to sit through that boring lecture yet again.’ So later, when rested up, I’m thinking, ‘What the hell was going on there? Why would they think I’m “happy” if all I wanted was for the hour to end and for me to get out of there as fast as possible?’ I looked in the mirror… Hair style? (I was rinsing it a slightly lighter color.) Clothing color? Retin-A application kicking in? (Yes, I did have that tight, smooth, almost pore-less appearance I get after about 2 weeks in.) I looked healthy! But I was sick! Didn’t they notice the nose blowing and repressed coughing?

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’ve been sick long enough. I’m going to do some outdoor work over at the monastery today. No more class for me until Saturday, and I don’t think I will attend the first lecture of Sutra B. Because…you figure it out.

*Shifu calls us the ‘old students’ (!!)

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