Less than Two Months Until Bodhi Day 2019

fall2019
The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet enjoying a crisp Fall afternoon on a Cinderella pumpkin.

For 2019, Bodhi Day, December 8, falls on a Sunday. That’s good because I really don’t need to take vacation days off.

As for watching Venus rise in the morning sky, not this year. Venus will rise on Bodhi Day at about 9am. That’s too late to be visible, and it seems to be about that time anywhere in the world on December 8, 2019. Instead, it looks like Mercury and Mars will be visible in the pre-dawn hours of meditation.

venus_rise_2019-1
Rise times for December 8, 2019. This is from the site, timeanddate.com.

The Bodhi Season begins on December 1, 2019. Siddhartha Guatama meditated for seven days under the Bodhi Tree, before his full awakening on the morning of the eight day.

As I’ve done for the past two Bodhi Seasons, I will post a daily message from December 1 through December 8 to guide you along the Bodhi Season. These links point to those past series of messages, which should give you a good idea of what Bodhi Day is about and how to celebrate it:

Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of those two pages. That leads to the eight daily messages.

We still haven’t made our Bodhi Day arrangements yet. I happen to be very short of vacation days due to our visit with my step father and the 40th Anniversary of my first programming job.

We’ll probably just do a weekend getaway around the Minidoka area – such as Sun Valley. Last Bodhi Day, the Eternal Fishnu, Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, and I performed a Buddhist service at Minidoka on our way to City of Rocks. We thought it would be nice to do that every year.

Sun Valley is also close to Craters of the Moon. We probably can’t get into the park during those hours, but there are many places near the park that would provide a great view of the early morning sky, solitude, no ranchers angry about hippy trespassers.

I apologize for this clip show blog. It’s a good way to fill in the simple reminder of Bodhi Day 2019 with lots of information from one place.

Survival of the Versatile

img_6202
“Versatile cousins of the sunflower family made a long journey to Hawaii millions of years ago. It’s adaptivity gave it a destiny.” – The Eternal Fishnu

I always thought that the majestic silverswords endemic to Haleakala were related to yuccas or some sort of agave. The photo below is a blooming silversword I took on a trip to Maui back on 2003. Doesn’t it look like a yucca or agave? Especially with that towering stalk of flowers reminiscent of “century plants”. What else could it be?

silver-sword-full-1

So a couple of years ago while hiking in Utah, I photographed this blooming yucca below.

img_4391-1
A yucca I photographed along a great hike in Southern Utah.

I planned to make a farcical Facebook post featuring the above photo going something like this:

Voice: Brah! You from Hawaii!

Me: (Look to my left and see this yucca talking to me.) Yeah, Brah! Wahiawa, my maddah’s side, Kaneohe, on my faddah’s side. What island you from?

Yucca: I not from deah, baht I get cuzins dat leeve on Haleakala! Nevah seen dem fo mee-lee-enz years!

But before I hit Post, I wondered if my assumption about silverswords being a yucca was correct. I’m not sure why I wondered about it. To me it was so obviously related to yuccas that I didn’t think to question it.

Silversword Alliance

It took a bit of trial and error to stumble across the key words: silversword alliance. Most of what I learned about the history of the silver swords are from a few Web pages:

To summarize, the majestic silversword appears to be a descendant of a very humble little plant off the West coast of the U.S. colloquially called a “tar weed”.  These tar weeds are in the asteraceae family, along with sunflowers and daises. I’ve read estimates of the first asteraceae immigrant landing in Hawaii as between ten and one million years ago.

But there’s more to the interesting notion of a humble desert plant making a very long journey over an ocean to end up a grand tourist attraction. The silver sword is only one of about thirty descendants of this tar weed immigrant to Hawaii. That is, about thirty very different-looking plants from Kauai all the way to the Big Island.

It’s something that the articles above call adaptive radiation. A single species can relatively quickly evolve to a diverse set of species occupying unique niches. I’m not sure what Hawaii was like a few million years ago, but today climates in the Islands range from tropical beaches, to rain forests, to deserts, to snow-capped mountains, to the high desert climate of Haleakala. That’s a lot of niches to fill.

Coincidentally, on our Oregon Coast trip a few weeks back, we stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds in central Oregon. If you visit the Visitor Center, you’ll see an exhibit on adaptive radiation related to horses. Unless you’re a paleontologist or something, how many times in one day will you think of adaptive radiation?

img_1712
A panel from the John Day Fossil Beds on the Adaptive Radiation of horses.

The fact that many very similar flowers are so profuse in the Southwest Deserts of the U.S. lends to the versatility of this plant. If any plant can be the founder of the species of the Silversword Alliance, it would be the tar weed. All the way from John Day Fossil Beds to the Pacific Shore at Lincoln City, we found many sorts of asteraceae, happy as can be.

img_0909-2
The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet one of the many members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae) near the John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon.

I’m not positive if the yellow flower from Southern Utah I photographed below is a “tar weed”. It has the sticky stuff on the green parts, the sunflower-like blossoms, petals that split at the end. Throughout my vacationing around the U.S. Southwest, I’ve noticed dozens of varieties of these plants. I’m at least fairly sure it’s at least related to what I see as “tar weeds” by Googling: tar weed california

img_4492

Whichever tar weed is the founding ancestor of the Silversword Alliance, it was hardy enough to somehow make a 2000 mile journey and adapt in multiple ways to a place of  highly varied in climates.

silver-sword-close-1
Upon a closer look at the flowers of the silversword, they really do look like miniature sunflowers.

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

img_0850
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Mrs. Hanamoku and I are half-way through a two-day road trip from our home to Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast. We’re meeting up with my step-father, mother, and a few of my step-father’s friends. We’re spending three days with them there, followed by the two-day trip back home.

My step-father has advanced cancer and his prognosis is bad. But it seems to be under control for the moment. So he’s taking a break from chemo to spend some quality time with his family and friends who are in the Pacific Northwest.

img_0862
To the Eternal Fishnu, the tens of millions of years of processes that yielded these wonderful patterns is no time at all. These formations are practically brand new compared to his Devonian period. How distorted is the reality painted by our little human brains confined to a little spot of space and time.

Yesterday we stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds for a little bit of hiking. Places such as these where minimal vegetation exposes patterns and shapes forged over a very long time over huge areas, paints vivid reminders that our Earthly brain of two to three pounds probably doesn’t know much.

The scale of reality is so immense we can’t begin to imagine it. Even many of my highly skilled software developer colleagues forget that systems are very different when we’re talking about handling a few million elements of data versus even a few billion, much less trillions. And a trillion really is a small number!! You have that many cells in just your own body!

Say the words, “Ten to ten to the tenth.” Wasn’t at easy to say? Well, maybe not with all those words starting with “t”. The “ten to the tenth” is ten billion, sort of close to the number of humans currently inhabiting Earth. If we “wrote” that number out with people, starting with me as the “1”, and all the other seven billion people in the world lined up next to me acting as “0s”, that would form a number still three billion zeros short, give or take, of ten to the ten to the tenth – virtually zero!

How valid is that point? Does anything have numbers that big? Yes. Perhaps not in the conventional “counting” sense, such as counting the number of copies of a book sold or the number of atoms in the Universe. It does, however, arise daily in the very real combinatorics issues I deal with that plays a big part in my job. That is, exploring as many possibilities for business decisions as possible.

You’ve probably heard it said that there are something like 10 to the 120 possible games of chess. That’s a really big number – so big that hardly anyone will deal with anything remotely close to such a number.

But chess is a very simple game – a board of 64 squares, 32 total pieces moving 6 unique ways. It’s also sequential, meaning pieces move one at a time as opposed to all at the same time. Remember, we’ve already made a computer program that can play this game better than any human. That means it is a simple game.

The world of business is an incredibly more complicated game. It’s not hard to come up with ten to the ten to the tenth possible ways business evolve. It doesn’t seem hard because we can predict particular things fairly well within the next day, week, or month.

But add up all a lot of predictions, all the things that go on in commerce – all those possible actions of seven billion people, thousands of governments at various levels, countless natural phenomenon – even over a short period of time. We end up with even more than ten to the ten to the tenth possible scenarios. All the planning by the Dream Team of planners will do a shitty job of predicting the state of business even a few years from now.

The Universe is vast beyond what we can actually imagine.

What does this have to do with my step-father? Dealing with mortality. There’s a good chance your brain is wrong about what it thinks is going to happen after the trillion or so cells in your body ceases to operate as a team. Heaven or Hell? Reincarnated? Or do you just end right there? Whether or not we believe in an afterlife, our human brains are centered around our instinct to survive.

Personally, I have to conclude that in the unimaginable vastness of the Universe, there’s a pretty good chance there’s some outcome my human brain with a powerful instinct to survive would be happy with. All the matter that have been a part of you and all the matter you’ve affected throughout your life are an intricate part of all that is yet to come. Remember, Hollywood really screwed up our idea of what really happens if even little old you had not existed.

Our Last Sunset at Lincoln City.
“All beings are temporal phenomena, intricately woven into Everything, all intricately of great value to the One.” – The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet

The verse, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, is often attributed as the basis of our phrase, “This too shall pass.” That phrase is usually meant to comfort us in bad times. However, what if you are near the end and there is no good time to follow? Everything passes from our lowly human point of view. But in the scheme of the Universe, which is much beyond that, everything that has been and will be is there.

Fishnu Getting Acquainted with Old Friends
“You live somewhere in time. Maybe not tomorrow or next year or next century, but somewhere in time.” – The Eternal Fishnu

In the context of this blog, the word, “unseen”, in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, means that because our brains are puny, just because we can’t fathom something doesn’t mean it’s not there. Have faith that “the numbers” are overwhelmingly on your side – that in the Universe there exists more than your brain can conjure up. As Mrs. Hanamoku very facetiously says to me, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.”

In a few hours, Mrs. Hanamoku and I will head out from Prineville over to Lincoln City. During that six hour drive, people at my place of employment will be getting on without me, busy with more planning than doing. That is, worried more about a future projected from past experiences, and not focused on what they should be doing now.

 

Obon at the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple

img_0613
The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet and the Eternal Fishnu enjoying the 2019 Obon Festivities hosted by the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I attended the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple’s Obon Celebration for 2019 yesterday afternoon. It’s one of the highlights of the year for us because we can eat a wonderful bento – as good was what we’re used having grown up in Hawaii.

bento_idaho_oregon_buddhist_temple
This is the best bento East of Hawaii!!! onigiri, inari, shoyu chicken, tamagoyaki, namasu!

OK, OK … I confess. I had two of these in one sitting! Gluttony. That’s forgivable, though. It’s natural to gorge ourselves on seasonal items while it’s there because it won’t be there for another year … as opposed to gorging on Big Macs which we can get at any time. Yes, I will keep telling myself that … hahaha.

We had these perfectly made “mochi-balls” for desert. Although this person sharing our table thought that rice, beans, and sesame seeds “sounds disgusting”.

img_0620
Perfect mochi-balls.

However, we’re not otherwise very into the obon festivities itself. Neither of us get down with the odori, but do enjoy the taiko drums and on some years a martial arts exhibition. But I can do a good impersonation of my grandfather belting out “Tanko Bushi” – I never appreciated that he was quite a good singer in that style.

img_0616
This obutsudan is being donated to the local museum.

We did sign up to “adopt” an obutsudan in need of a home. We signed up for one last year, but they were all quickly taken by congregation members. Obutsudan really are treasures. They were the spiritual center, mini temples, at Buddhist family homes. For the modern tastes and sensibilities, though, these old obutsudans don’t quite fit in. If we were chosen to adopt the obutsudan, it will be considered the spiritual center of our home as well.

An interesting although trivial point though, is that the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple belongs to what is known as the “Pure Land” sect of Buddhism. I’ve written that I grew up as a Shingon Buddhist, known as Esoteric Buddhism. But it dawned on me yesterday that that isn’t exactly true.

My mother’s side of the family were Shingon Buddhists. In fact, during my youth, the extended family of my mother’s side dominated the congregation of the Haleiwa Shingon Mission. My father’s side of the family attended the Honpa Hongwanji, a beautiful temple off Pali Hwy in Honolulu. But I ended up regularly attending “Sunday School” with my mother’s side of the family at the Shingon mission.

I believe the only times I’d been to the Honpa Hongwanji was for weddings and funerals on my father’s side of the family. However, when we stayed over at my paternal grandmother’s house, at each of those many stay-overs, we prayed at her obutsudan before going to bed. She taught us to repeat a few times what phonetically sounded like “Namman dao-tsu”, but I recently learned is probably “Namu Amida Butsu”.

Recently, while browsing through the Internet, I learned that the Honpa Hongwanji is indeed Pure Land Buddhism – like the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. Not once had I heard that term growing up. All I knew of Buddhism back then, from either sect ,were non-English prayers and chants – completely meaningless to my monolingual brain (pidgin doesn’t count … hahaha).

So I do have a heritage in Pure Land Buddhism. This doesn’t matter at all really. But somehow this genuine heritage helps me to feel we can offer the obutsudan a genuine “home”.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I refer to ourselves just as Buddhists. In Buddhism, there is a recognition that the world is so rich and complex that we really need lifetimes to see everything from every angle. No matter how much we know, it’s like how a huge number like a billion is virtually zero compared to the number of atoms in the Universe. The reality is that we don’t even have to try to have a beginner’s mind – what we know in our human brain is virtually nothing already.

Each sect of Buddhism, and we believe that includes ALL spiritual teachings out there, is well expressed by a saying I learned from a dear Bahai friend: “The same light, but a different lamp”. For this moment in space and time, we happen to explore the insights from the Zen point of view; for me, particularly as taught to me first-hand by the Eternal Fishnu.

 

Magic Plant Season 2019

magicplant20190525_first_one_rd
The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet posing with the first Magic Plant bloom of 2019!

This morning Mrs. Hanamoku discovered that the first Magic Plant Flower of 2019 bloomed!

We’ve had Magic Plant since March 2005. It has provided us with these incredible blooms every Spring.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I found Magic Plant back in 2005 when we lived in Redwood City, CA. We found Magic Plant on a walk, tossed on the side like trash, no pot, eaten up by snails. Mrs. Hanamoku took it home with us and I lovingly planted it in a pot.

A few months later, a little red dot appeared. We watched it for a few weeks grow into some big bud. You can see what the buds look like in the photo above.

Then one night, Mrs. Hanamoku had a thought that this is some sort of night-blooming cereus, similar to the ones we know well growing on lava rocks in Hawaii. Sure enough, there it was, at least six inches across, as showy a shade of red/purple/orange as can be imagined. We were so thrilled. We never saw such a flower.

The next year, Magic Plant has 23 blossoms! I suppose since we enjoyed just that one so much.

Even though the individual blooms last only about two days, Magic Plant does continue blooming for almost two weeks. The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet says that this period is a blessed time. A time to meditate on the gratitude of an abandoned, snail-eaten, pot-less plant that found a home.

When is the Lunar Bodhi Day for 2019?

cresent-moon
Last week Thursday (Jan 31, 2019), Venus was very close to the waning crescent moon. Mrs. Hanamoku got a nice shot of it.

Today is Chinese New Year! The Lunar New Year. So I thought I’d mention the date of the next Lunar Bodhi Day.

The Lunar Bodhi day for 2019 is January 2, 2020. That is, the 8th day of the 12th New Moon of the lunar year that comprises most of 2019, which begins today, February 5, 2019.

As it will be every year, the standardized “secular” Bodhi Day 2019, 2020, 2021 … is December, 8. That is, the 8th Day of the 12th calendar month – close enough to the 8th day of the 12th moon of the lunar year.

Here are a couple other blogs explaining the secular and lunar Bodhi Days:

Simple

simple_crab
A very simple painting.

Buddhism is simply about simplicity.

Even though much of what is written about Buddhism can be frustratingly hard to digest, it’s shear simplicity. It’s hard only because our mind lives in the realm of competing things.

The fewer things you seek, the freer you are – fewer gotchas, roadblocks, and engineering of convoluted compromises no one is happy with. Simplicity increases with decreasing constraints. A beginner’s mind, free from “sacred” beliefs. A 100% acceptance of what is right in front of you, free of desires. That’s it!

Certainly, other people and things have their “desires” and there isn’t much if anything you can do about it. They are what they are. However, we can ultimately eliminate all complexity and the resultant suffering from our lives through simplicity.

With that said, simplicity does not equate to deprivation. The Buddha went through a long phase of ascetic deprivation before plopping under the Bodhi Tree, emaciated and near death. His ascetic days at least showed him something that didn’t work.

Simplicity also is not something you seek. “Seeking” something, even simplicity or enlightenment, is still a desire for something. Rather, simplicity means choosing not to exacerbate complexity. Turn away from unforced engagement (picking fights),  procrastination (resisting what is), or running away (you can’t run away from yourself).

Happy Day 3 of the Lunar Bodhi Season!!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku