2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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“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.

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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 300 million 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. 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.

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

The verse, 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, is often associated with 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.

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

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

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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

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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?

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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 always, the standarized “secular” Bodhi Day 2019 is December, 8, 2019.

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

Simple

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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

Lunar Bodhi Season 2018!

Happy Bodhi 4715!!!

Today begins the Lunar Bodhi Season for 2018! That is, it begins seven days of meditation that ends the morning of  the eighth day, Sunday, January 13, 2019, Bodhi Day.

But Isn’t it 2019? It’s the 12th New Moon starting from the Chinese New Year – a lunar calendar –  back on February 16, 2018. Really, this is Bodhi Season 4715 in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I discuss this in more detail, in this blog, When is Bodhi Day 2018?. Mrs. Hanamoku and I celebrate both the Secular and Lunar Bodhi Days. However, we do place more emphasis on the former since it does come first.

A few weeks ago, during the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018, I posted a series of blogs for each of the seven days, starting with Tomorrow Begins the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018. Please do read that set, one for each of the upcoming days – as you would an Advent Calendar. I intended the series for both the Secular and Lunar Bodhi Seasons of 2018.

Links to the other posts belonging to this set of Secular Bodhi Day 2018 posts:

Although Siddhartha Gautama did literally meditate under the Bodhi Tree for these seven days, I can’t do that. There’s this earning a living thing that gets in the way. But we do “meditate” in a few other ways. My primary meditation during that Secular Bodhi Season last month took the form of spending two or three hours early in the morning before heading to work (3am to 6am) writing each of those blogs.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I also stick to a simpler diet, pretty much vegetarian; certainly no sugar, alcohol, or other stuff that’s “not good for you”. Since the Secular Bodhi Season is in December, we’re even more mindful of keeping “the Christmas Spirit”.

However, I’ll leave with a new little lesson to help with your meditation during this next week.

Kiai!!

In most martial arts (although here I’m referring mostly to the Japanese styles), there is a notion of kiai (pronounced like key-eye). This is that “hi-yah” sound you often here during fight scenes in martial arts movies.

I was taught it as a very sharp “long A” sound (like the A in bake). Most important than the actual sound, it comes from deep in the belly. Think of like doing crunches and saying A at the contraction of your ab muscles.

What is the purpose of that noise? At the time of this writing, the Wikipedia article for Kiai doesn’t mention anything about the really important aspect it, just a very superficial, although valid, interpretation:

“Students of Japanese martial arts such as aikido, karate, kobudo, kendo, or judo (or related arts such as taiko drumming) use kiai to startle an opponent, intimidate, express confidence, or express victory.”

However, the kiai is more to affect you than to affect your opponent. Its real value is in reigning in your focus when it starts to wander. It brings our minds back to the present, away from fears based on the past or what hasn’t happened, or things that don’t matter. The more we’re in the present, the more we fit into the flow.

It’s for that purpose that I keep a bell with me during meditation, a gentle kiai to bring me back if (when) my mind wanders.

Faith and Patience to you!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Buddha Christmas Cookie 2018

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Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku’s Buddha Christmas Cookie for 2018.

Hello Everyone,

Here are my Buddha Christmas cookie for 2018.

The triangular design towards the bottom of the Buddha above is my not so good attempt at a Fano Plane. Just above the 2018 is Venus. I think I at least got the saffron color of the robe pretty close.

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Seven Bodhisattvas. Mrs. Hanamoku and I split one for each of the seven days prior to Christmas.

The yellow one at about “3:30” could be a bunny faced upwards. But I like to think of it more as a duckling – see the beak on the upper-right and with at the upper-left.

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This is a huge dorje cookie. Notice the enso with Venus inside. The pi symbolizes relationships hidden in the enso.

 

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Group photo of all the Buddha Christmas cookies for 2018.

 

Merry Christmas,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku