Kintsugi – 10 Days Until the Lunar Bodhi Day

This rhyolite is nature's kintsugi.
This chunk of rhyolite cracked and patched with green jasper. How many would have picked up this chunk of rhyolite if not for that contrasting green band?

Life cracks us in many ways, but when we heal, the scar leaves us more interesting than before. When we inconveniently discover a gap in our skillset, the wise soul fills the gap. Is our skillset then merely patched? It’s much more than patched. The pieces now form a different whole.

That patching can result in something much more interesting. Something like those hilarious, bi-pedal, creative creatures that emerged from the aftermath of a big meteor strike that killed off the big dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The shattering of Life on Earth wasn’t destroyed by that meteor. It merely shifted Life’s direction.

It may not feel good at the time of the shift and the direction we face may look scary. But what we see when facing that new direction isn’t necessarily where we’ll end up. There is a universe of possibilities between now and then. It’s all headed somewhere with us kicking and screaming or with eager fascination.

That patching and the resulting whole reminds me of the art form called Kintsugi. Kintsugi is a rather unusual Japanese art form. Say your favorite coffee mug (for example, “World’s Best Cat Dad”) falls and breaks into pieces. We would normally just throw it away after a little bit of cursing. But what if instead, the mug is glued together. Perhaps the repaired item is still usable as a coffee mug. Perhaps we were able to do such a good job that it would be hard to notice the patched cracks.

What if, however, we couldn’t hide the cracks well enough to not notice? Would it offend the sensibilities of our guests to be served coffee in a broken mug? Would we think less of something that is no longer in the shape it was born with?

Instead, what if we embraced the cracks and highlighted them in gold leaf? We celebrate the uniqueness of the cracks. We celebrate that our minds wouldn’t have broken the mug in the way reality broke it.

Life is constant creation and destruction. The Earth wouldn’t have formed. None of those species of plants and animals we so treasure, including us, would have otherwise evolved. Kintsugi makes something good as new, but not like it was before.

Kintsugi is a fundamental Zen lesson that incorporates all three of The Eternal Fishnu’s Zen Stories that teach:

  1. An open mind is needed to reflect the relentless change of reality.
  2. We’re relieved from suffering when we are 100% accepting of what is here and now, not clinging to where we were or where our brain demands us to be.
  3. Without change, there is no life, just a static picture. Find your innate wonder for what is beyond the top of the hill you’re climbing.

A Kintsugi art piece, such as the rhyolite rock in the photo above, is a focal point of pondering mediation. What if the cracks were not filled with jasper? Will the rock now last forever or will it someday be subducted? Does it matter to our human form?

I mentioned Kintsugi in my previous post of my Raku Christmas cookies.

The lunar/real Bodhi Day is in 10 days, January 20, 2021 – the 8th day of the 12th moon of the lunar year. I’ve written a series of blogs posted before the “secular” Bodhi Day, which was on December 8, 2020. This Bodhi Season is about the Heart Sutra – the Heart of Buddhism. It’s the subject of all of the recent posts on this site from OctoberNovember, and December 2020.

Lastly, be sure to get your ingredients for Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day rice pudding.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Raku Cookies – Merry Christmas 2020

Raku cookie of the Buddha for Christmas 2020.
The Buddha raku cookie for Christmas 2020, flanked by the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet and The Eternal Fishnu. Buddha wanted a green/red Christmas theme, so he let out his breath until he turned green.

Merry Christmas!! Here are this year’s Christmas raku cookies!!

Raku Christmas Cookies

Raku Cookies are a tradition of the Order of the Common Area Ponds Zen Sect. That is the sect in which I’m ordained as a Zen priest. I was ordained by the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet back on Bodhi Day 2017. Mrs. Hanamoku taught me how to make these raku cookies and we’ve kept up the tradition for four years now.

Raku cookie.
The Eternal Fishnu took this form as a shout-out to the Birthday Boy! The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet wasn’t left out, taking the shape of a sunflish.

Raku cookies are hand-formed and painted with powdered sugar frosting using a single chopstick. The imperfection of the cookies is life itself. Life Is because of imperfection, wabisabi. Perfection is featureless. Science folks would say pure entropy is featureless. We notice what isn’t right and are oblivious to what is as we expect it to be. The neurons of all creatures are triggered by change.

Raku cookie of The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet.
The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet and The Eternal Fishnu with their raku cookie Buddharupas.

Unlike raku ware pottery, which probably shouldn’t be used to for drinking or eating, Raku Cookies are meant to be eaten. This represents the impermanence of every thing.

When eating a raku cookie, first break it up into a few pieces, three to five, depending on the size. Observe each piece. Notice how we know how the pieces fit together. Are the pieces part of what was once one cookie? Or are those pieces part of One Universe and always will be?

Reassemble the pieces back into the cookie. The pieces could be glued together; carefully so it looks as good as new. But we see the cracks and “glue”. We see the fakery of wholeness. We’re not fooling anyone.

Imagine we instead embraced the change and wrap the cracks in gold leaf? Instead of attempting to hide the imperfection, we highlight it. The break indicates that life of going on. Life isn’t an immutable snapshot. That’s the art of cookie kintsugi. Within the Heart Sutra is the heart of Buddhism, and so it is within each piece of kintsugi art.

Now eat one piece. Where is it now? Your mind sees it, but it’s no longer there in that form. Is it possible to make a replacement for that piece? Sure, because that piece is still in your mind. Therefore, your hands can create the replacement. Could the new piece be exactly the same? No. We never step in the same river twice. Could it be “better” than the original? Maybe. We can only find out by trying.

Raku cookie of the Buddha for Christmas 2020.
Raku Siddhartha Gautama says, Happy Birthday, Jesus, my Brother!

The Spirit of Christmas

Is Jesus the One and only God? Yes. Of course. There is only One. The thing is, we must remember that the human form we call Jesus, Who we celebrate on Christmas, is just a Word. We can understand the concept of “King of Kings”, but the Spirit of Christmas is beyond the description of words.

However, It is always felt. It is felt when Words walk past our awareness like clouds while we’re in meditation, at church, or at Zion National Park (once you get past the bulk of tourists a few miles into a trail). It is standing in the river, not the water, banks, and sand.

The Eternal Fishnu raku cookie, as he appeared during the Devonian.
This raku cookie of The Eternal Fishnu. This is closer to the form he took during his hey-day, the Devonian. where he lead fish onto land. Those fish eventually became us. Yes, the Eternal Fishnu was a mahimahi – the perfection of a fish and all that is delicious. And all mahimahis are manifestations of him. So, do what you will with that information.

The Eternal Fishnu is a Mahimahi

The Eternal Fishnu is the Buddha of the period we call the Devonian. It is an era about 400 million years ago that brought about great transition. He watched over the Earth for over 100 million years while brave fish migrated onto land.

That migration opened great possibilities that eventually lead to us. The Eternal Fishnu balanced protecting the Earth from extreme calamities, but letting just enough flow through to keep those brave fish moving along the evolutionary process. The Eternal Fishnu was and is the guidance from a higher perspective than what we use in our daily lives. The One truth at the same time takes countless forms.

The Lunar Bodhi Day

Remember that the lunar Bodhi Day is coming up in a few weeks on January 20, 2021. It’s your Bodhi Day mulligan, in case you missed the secular Bodhi Day a couple of weeks ago.

Faith and Patience, and Merry Christmas!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Bodhi Day 2020 – Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Wai Wai

Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day 2020 rice pudding.

Happy Bodhi Day 2020!!!

Today is Tuesday, December 8, 2020. It’s Bodhi Day! Did you make Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day rice pudding?

This Bodhi Season is about the Heart Sutra – the Heart of Buddhism. It’s the subject of all of the recent posts on this site from October, November through today. So today, Bodhi Day, here is this year’s final Heart Sutra lesson.

Contrary to popular belief among those not from Hawaii, the most beloved Christmas song in Hawaii is not Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka”. At least in my opinion, it’s a song with a haunting melody titled, “Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Wai Wai”, translated, “Jesus and the Rich Man”. I assume it’s based on the Biblical verse:

And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – (NASB) Matthew 19:24-16

No, this is not Iesu. Kind of looks like him, though. He’s a very good friend of Mrs. Hanamoku’s family, nothing but Heart.

However, this post isn’t about “rich guy bad, poor guy good”. Like any other skill, such as programming or practicing law or medicine, the ability to concentrate wealth and efficiently convert it into value for society is a very sophisticated skill. Yes, there is usually a lot of luck involved with becoming rich in the first place, but being a worthy custodian of it takes genuine talent.

The problem is that along with lots of money comes a lot of power that seems bigger than it really is. It’s still just mortal, human, flesh and blood power. It’s easy to lose sight of how miniscule that sort of power is compared to the Source of our Sentience. No, it’s not that rich people are bad. Riches is just an example of other relatively petty things we either take too much pride in or are addicted to.

Broadly, if our mind is tightly packed with some illusion, such as “money is my power”, anything else out there we could possibly believe is shut out, no vacancy in your mind.

In many ways, rock bottom has its peculiar charms. With nothing to protect, nothing to cling to, the mind of someone at rock bottom is empty. But it’s more than just a matter of “things can only get better from here”. Now, there is room for something different, something that could be unimaginably better.

That is where Siddhartha Gautama was the day he collapsed under the Bodhi Tree. Years before he ended up sitting under the Bodhi Tree, he had given up all of his wealth as a prince to seek out the truth of life – whatever that can mean. He followed all sorts of gurus for years, dead end after dead end.

Finally, emaciated and near death from crazy ascetic practices and nowhere else left to explore that was imaginable by his mind, his mind was flushed. Purely empty, he now had the clarity to see the relentlessly constant change of the Universe. It’s much bigger than anything in human experience and imagination. All our human brains can know is the present and all we can do is be here.

It’s OK to have possessions, even embarrassing wealth. But if the thought of somehow losing it causes you suffering, you don’t get Bodhi Day. You don’t get that the Universe is “thee” complex system, beautifully and intricately composed of layer upon layer of existence. Each layer is greater than the sum of the lower layer’s parts. Each of those parts is varied enough to supply the inexhaustible wealth of possibilities, the fountain of all we experience.

The best part is that we are all an intractable part of it. All creatures, in fact every thing, are ethereal phenomenon, empty of the form we take right now that we think is us. Our body is but a snapshot of the One big process spanning all of space and time.

Mind you, there’s no need to give up all your worldly possessions and seek salvation by following some guru around. You don’t need to drive yourself purposefully to rock bottom so you can be empty.

Instead, be genuinely kind and purely respectful to all sentient beings playing their parts. That can be hard, but it will hone both of your spirits. Believe it or not, the assholes of the world make you stronger, better. Why do pronghorns run so fast? Because the cougars run so fast. Conversely, depending on how you react to assholes, you make them better as well. Thank each other for the lessons (without sarcasm, of course) from the web of Yin and Yang interactions.

Empty your mind. With a full heart, blissfully and mindfully follow your path laid out by your personal relationship with those smart folks who figured it out centuries ago.

Happy Bodhi Day 2020 from all of us,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku, Mrs. Hanamoku, The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, The Eternal Fishnu, and Ringo

PS. My favorite version of Iesu Me Ke Kanaka Waiwai is by one of my three favorite guitarists, Pekelo. I like this one too by Kalaniaukai, Kaenaonālani, Kamanukea and Kuulei Kekoa. And this one by Mark Yamanaka.

Day 6 – Bodhi Season 2020 – Poincare Recurrence

This portrait of the Buddha self-organized from clay at the bottom of the Koolau Range. Can you see Buddha in this? The volcanoes, the magma, the feldspar crystals, the millions of years of weathering, the changing landscape. Will atoms arrange themselves exactly like this ever again?

Bodhi Day 2020 is two days away on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Today is December 6, 2020, Day 6 of the Bodhi Season.

My introduction to complex systems years ago (around the late 1990s) was one of those world-flipping moments for me. Through many years of software development before that, I’d been thoroughly trained to think exclusively in terms of procedural, compartmentalized, deterministic computability. That is a fine way of thinking when the software requirements are for automating well-defined processes. But events in the real world aren’t well-defined at all.

Very roughly, a complex system involves many moving parts, all with “minds” of their own, moving to rules of their own, interacting with everything at the same time. Economies, natural ecosystems, and teams of programmers are examples of complex systems familiar to most. The interesting characteristic of them is that predicting how the system changes over time ranges from really hard to impossible.

Around that time of my introduction to complex systems, my typical customers (business-oriented) were beginning to look towards software for more “intelligent” use cases. They wanted software to help them figure out what to do. That is, be a good crystal ball and predict the future.

It didn’t take long to see that the value of results from predicting what will happen in complex systems ranged from limited to useless. No matter how much data you have, the future eludes reliable and consistent predictability. This has recently been brought to center stage by our efforts to handle Covid-19.

Yes, we can and do make some pretty good guesses with the machine-learning analytics systems of today. But those pretty good guesses are based on much narrower scopes. We’re still wildly wrong much of the time and even when we’re “right”, those guesses still require real-time adjustments.

Businesses certainly do operate in a complex system. Decision makers have little control over governments, customers, the environment, and even the employees to some extent. Therefore, it’s best to let go of the idea of reliance on predicting the future. That goes for Zen practice as well as my job as a business intelligence architect. What’s good for an analytics platform is good for a student of Zen: widely-scoped awareness, adaptability, and resilience.

Fast forward to a few years ago, around 2014/2015ish. I was telling Ringo about my work. He’s in a completely different line of business. I explained how predictive models have a short shelf life because things are always changing; customer preferences, laws, new competitors, disruptive products, etc.

Then Ringo asked, “Wut hahpins if things change, but that change lead to exactly like some time befoh?”

Me: Well, we never step in the same river twice. Right? To our brains, it mostly looks the same, but it’s not, if you look at everything, the wider picture.

Ringo: But what if? What if everythin‘ wuz the same as a time befoh?

Me: I suppose that could happen. But “unimaginably improbable” doesn’t begin to convey how unlikely that is.

Ringo: But it could hahpun, couldn’t it?

Me: I guess …

After that conversation I stumbled on something called “Poincare Recurrence”. It’s the thought that some day the Universe may find itself in the exact state as some time before. So it should repeat exactly the way it did before.

How could that ever happen? Compare the vastness of the Universe to a puny deck of 52 cards. If we shuffle the deck, chances are no human has ever seen that order before.

I looked up how likely Poincare Recurrence could be. It seems like what Ringo suggested can happen within 10^128 years. That is 10 followed by 128 zeros. The number of possible shuffled decks is 10^68 (“rounded up”).

When talking about numbers in the mind-boggling range of 10^123 or 10^128, it’s easy for even computer people like me to subconsciously lose sight of the fact that the latter is more than a little bigger than the former. It’s not 123 versus 128, but 100,000 times bigger.

In my normal home life, I rarely think of numbers outside the magnitude of a thousand. My largest monthly bill, my mortgage is in the thousand dollars magnitude – 10 followed by 2 zeros. My caloric intake is in the thousands as well. At work, the software I work on rarely deals with numbers outside the magnitude of trillions – 10 followed by 11 zeros. I read that a stack of one trillion one dollar bills is 67,866 miles. That’s already hard to comprehend.

Poincare Recurrence did more than simply put into perspective what a big number really is. The relevance of that perspective for Bodhi Day is that it cracked my brain open to scales that “aren’t of this world”. A big wakey-wakey slap in the face. It’s easy to say the words, “ten followed by one hundred twenty-eighth zeros”, but it’s another thing to explore what that really means and what is therefore possible.

Maybe Heraclitus wasn’t quite right. Maybe we can step into the same river twice. It just may take a really, really, really long time.

Lastly, be sure to get your ingredients for your Bodhi Day rice and milk breakfast for this Tuesday (December 8)!

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Day 4 – Bodhi Season 2020 – Buoyancy

The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet says: “Be light of mind. Cut what you no longer need to believe and your mind will float.”

Bodhi Day 2020 is on Tuesday, December 8, 2020. Today December 4, 2020, Day 4 of the Bodhi Season.

One of the “Top Five” defining moments of my life happened 50 years ago in the 3rd grade. On one of those days, the teacher talked to us about buoyancy and provided a demonstration of this big word for the class.

She placed an egg in a tall glass beaker and filled it with water. The egg sat at the bottom of the glass. She dumped all the contents, refilled the beaker, added a lot of salt, mixing it thoroughly. Finally, she dropped the egg in the heavily salted water … and tah-dah … it floated!

She pointed to me and asked, “Why does the egg float now?” Easy! Paraphrasing my response, heavily laced in a Hawaii pidgin accent and 3rd grade vocabulary, I said, “The salt water is heavier than the egg, so it floats.”

“Wrong!! Class, why does the egg float?”

The rest of the class in joyful unison: “Buoyancy!”

I don’t recall exactly what I thought at the moment, beyond the embarrassment of giving the “wrong” answer to what was apparently a very simple question. But I can still feel that shock of realizing for the first time that I thought differently than the other students. Not better, just different.

Different is good. Variety is the basis for the resilience of species, in fact, of Life on Earth. Lots of things can kill off individual creatures. But far fewer things can drive an entire species to extinction when there are unique sets of variation among all the members.

Your differences is a precious phenomenon of Life on Earth. I emphasize the plural, differences. Every creature of a species is built on the same frame, but interact with other creatures through unique and evolving combinations of attributes. Everyone else in that 3rd grade class had their similar day, even if it was just being the only one who likes pineapple on pizza.

Those unique combinations of attributes are relatively small compared to the underlying frame. And change is constant, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, but perpetual. That balance of variety and perpetual change as it is gives rise and continuity to Life on Earth.

Seeing this is Bodhi. Go outside and experience it all with all your senses, not through an Internet connection.

As I scan over the 50 years following that day in the 3rd grade, I recall very many more moments like that. In fact, there probably will be a few today soon after I click the Publish button and join a string of Zoom meetings. Today a few people will ask me for “just one number” and I’ll need to tell them “it depends”. Thank God for both of us! Neither of us the hero nor the villain, both of us the Yin and Yang that makes all that neat stuff.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Bodhi Season 2020 Begins – Imperfect Information

Most information is imperfect to some degree. This is a slide depicting the broadcast of events from various entities of an enterprise ecosystem. The main point is that the quality of all those events is questionable to some degree. It’s important to note that this image is just a naively idealized estimate of the quality of trustworthiness attributed to the various entities. As they say, your mileage will vary.

Welcome to the Bodhi Season of 2020! Today is December 1, 2020. Bodhi Day itself is next week Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

Ringo once said to me, “I think because things change.” I know Ringo well enough to not question his choice of words. We think, we are creative, and we are rewarded with the ability to admire and appreciate the beauty of our creations. We are driven by curiosity, hunger, and even those pesky frustrations.

A Universe of constant change is the engine of the wonderous world in which our consciousness lives. A prime part of that engine of change is imperfect information. Meaning, practically all information upon which we make decisions is flawed.

In this crazy year of 2020, the year of Covid-19 and the election controversies, haven’t you been surprised at least a few times about what you were certain to be true ending up being wrong? Our physical brains have only so much capacity and it’s easy to overload with noise. Noise at a firehose rate undermines our Zen.

Even if we’re somehow able to cull out the noise, assume positive intent from everyone, and turn off all biases, we still don’t know the measure of the trustworthiness of information we take in. The Universe is a complex system where nothing is certain.

The image at the top of this blog is a slide from a presentation on the “Internet of Things” I gave years ago. It depicts the quality of information conveyed from entity to entity throughout the ecosystem of an enterprise. Events are broadcast from entities (those black, gray, and white boxes) and consumed by others. Rules such as, “toilet paper is delivered” or “travel to Europe is restricted”, is broadcast to entities interested in that event.

Each entity consists of three classes of information:

  • Black part of the box – A chunk of data is purposefully closed to us or beyond our comprehension. It’s the unknowable, incalculable.
  • Gray part of the box – Another chunk isn’t necessarily hidden, but it’s still hard to consume – the gray area of imperfect information. We know the question but can’t get an answer. It’s the unknown, but calculable enough that we can take a guess.
  • White part of the box – A usually smaller part of information is freely open to us – illuminated, fully reflective information. However, although that white part is open to us, it could still be unintentionally obscured, unknowingly incomplete (what we don’t know we don’t know), or outdated. So it’s still imperfect information.

For example, take the Partners box in the image. The proportions of black, gray, and white are intended to represent that an enterprise’s Partners have some level of privacy (black), are relatively open about some things (gray), and are transparent about a fair part of its information (white). Contrast that to the Vendors box just below Partners. Vendors would be less open about information.

The point of the image above is to illustrate the source of the complexity that underlies impermanence, the emptiness of innate form, which is core to Buddhism. It arises not just from many moving parts. but from the inherent imperfection of information. There’s only good about this. Complexity is the very quality that keeps all that we observe in motion, presenting new opportunities, unraveling to reveal new insights.

The Zen practice of keeping an empty mind and focusing on the present is precisely about handling the complexity of the world. Our empty mind allows us to fully take in the Now. The instant of Now is when information is at it’s maximum reliability.

Meditate on this lesson of imperfect information over the next seven days of meditation. I probably won’t post anything until the weekend (December 5, 6) since I’m pretty busy at work this week. I’ve also posted a few other blogs over the past few weeks to meditate on for this Bodhi Season:

Faith and Patience and Wabi Sabi,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Bodhi Season 2020 is a Week Away

The other day Mrs. Hanamoku found this heart-shaped potato in a bag of potatoes. It’s a Bodhi Day gift symbolic of the Heart Sutra.

Bodhi Season 2020 starts in a little over a week, on December 1, 2020. It’s seven days of meditation culminating on Bodhi Day, December 8, 2020. Bodhi Season is a total of eight days, just like Hanukkah. Please do read my blog, Two Months to the Secular Bodhi Day, where I’ve written about how to prepare for Bodhi Season.

In the photo above, the Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet pose with a heart-shaped potato Mrs. Hanamoku found in a bag of potatoes the other day. It feels like a gesture from the Universe symbolizing the Heart Sutra, as in “the heart of Buddhism”. It is the subject of many posts on this site and the sister site, fishnu.org. The Other Shore is my post that I feel best describes it.

The heart-shaped potato is especially fitting for this year’s Bodhi Day since it is the primary subject of a series of posts I began a few weeks ago for Bodhi Day 2020. They are meant for you to ponder during the seven days of mediation (December 1-7):

It’s been three years since my first Bodhi Day, which was December 8, 2017. For that Bodhi Season, I was guided by the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet and the Eternal Fishnu. If this is your first Bodhi Day, I think this set of blogs from my first Bodhi Season may be useful:

Additionally, there are links for several other series of Bodhi Season posts towards the bottom of the home page. Each of those series consists of a post for each day of those past Bodhi Seasons.

The Universe is Eternal. Have Faith that the reality of the Universe is much more than your human brain can imagine.

Here in 2020, the world as a whole is enduring what is probably the most challenging time almost anyone currently alive can remember. The near future may bring even more challenges. But we know that there have been much more challenging times in the past and there are countless challenging times still yet to come over the course of eternity.

The Eternal Fishnu reminds us to keep at the forefront of our minds that what our brains perceive is just a slice of the real Universe. This is a great year to sincerely meditate upon the teachings of Bodhi Day. Train your skills to see through all the noise, the biases of your mind, and the great illusion resulting from experiencing just a fragment of the whole. The Universe is One Big Process where clinging to ethereal fragments leads to suffering, dukkha.

Open your mind and 100% accept cycles that enable our lives to exist. Ponder the words of Chauncey Gardner:

“In the garden, growth has its seasons. First comes Spring and Summer, but then we have Fall and Winter. And then we get Spring and Summer again.”

These leaves called out to Mrs. Hanamoku from our street while she raked leaves.

Be sure to stop and listen every day, especially when it’s hardest to do so. The two leaves in the photo above called out to Mrs. Hanamoku from our street as she raked leaves in our front yard a few days ago. The seasonality of raking leaves reminds us of Chauncy Gardner’s words. All things will pass.

Have a great Thanksgiving this week!

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Life Out of Complexity – Bodhi Day 2020

Cellular Automata at 538 iterations of 1500. This automata starts from almost pure randomness and evolves into a crystalline pattern based on a simple rule. The nature of the automata’s rule clearly emerged.

Embrace Change

The core of Buddhism is to accept that change is relentlessly constant, therefore we will be free from suffering if we readily evolve along with the change. That is, as opposed to desperately clinging to whatever addictions we have. For example, such goodies as unquestioned habits and fears of the future based on the past.

But wouldn’t it be nice to do better than merely accept that change is constant? Is it possible to whole-heartedly treasure relentlessly constant change?

Our Gift of Sentience observes processes that occur during our normal human lives and we note “things” perceived by our logic. That includes everything we experience, whether we think of them as good, bad, or we’re seemingly indifferent to it. All of that emerges out of incalculable, uncontrollable complexity. The Universe in which our human selves live is such a complex system.

Complexity lies somewhere between random noise and deterministic machinery. It’s a sweet spot. Complexity ensures there will be a continuous flow of possibilities all through time. Without such possibilities, there is no life. But yet we seek to control.

The need for humans to control is like hunger. It has to be an instinctive drive because controlling complexity is not only very hard, but our ability to dictate outcomes is exponentially tougher farther out in time, just like distance and gravity. We love and seek deterministic, “highly repeatable” solutions, which is why so many hate the response of “It Depends”.

Order Out of Randomness

The image at the top of this blog shows a middle-run stage of a cellular automata. A cellular automata is a matrix of pixels, in this case two dimensional, that evolves through some simple rule. The number of these rule is limited only by our imagination. The chosen rule is applied pixel by pixel for many iterations starting with a completely random state.

A clear pattern, base on a simple rule, emerges from this pure randomness.

For the images in this blog, this cellular automata, I wrote a simple program that consists of a sequence of colors, a randomly populated grid, and a simple rule applied to each pixel for many iterations. For each pixel, it applies this simple rule: If any of its neighbors – above, below, left, and right – are of the color that is adjacent the pixel’s color (next in the sequence of colors), that pixel takes on that color.

There are other details to how the program works, but I don’t want to get into those weeds of this cellular automata for this blog. The important thing to know is that the result of the program is not directly determined by the programmer. Rather, the results, the patterns, emerge from the randomness.

Below, we see the result after 132 iterations of that process. Islands of order are emerging.

At iteration 132, seedlings of order clearly emerge.

By iteration 458, an interesting pattern emerges in the lower-center part of the image just below. It’s a crystalline pattern that emerges from the simple rule I described above that is as unique to this cellular automata as wetness is to the H2O molecule.

At iteration 458, the nature of the Cellular Automata’s rule peeks out towards the lower-center of the image.

By iteration 1,100, the cellular automata settles into a pattern, looking like one of my business casual shirts.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is automata_crystalline_pattern_946.jpg
By iteration 1100, the cellular automata settled into this image for good. It mostly consists of a crystalline pattern. Like quartz crystal, there are interesting inclusions that remain.

These 1,100 iterations is hardly an eternal, on-going change that ensures continuous flow of possibilities. However, the Universe is closer to an eternal on-going process because it is a system made up of literally (almost literally) countless interacting systems analogous to this cellular automata – cellular automata made of cellular automata.

It’s very important to realize that the final image of the automata is not the point. The process, the 1,100 iterations, the journey from randomness to the crystalline pattern is the most interesting part. Remember, the Universe is one Big Process, as is our Consciousness. Whatever is there at the end of time is not us. We are the journey made up of time and change.

Same Rule, Different Initial Conditions

If I never saw the image of the “finished” cellular automata shown just above, and someone gave me that image asking me to write a program to recreate it, I have at least two choices. Since I see the drawing, I can notice a clear pattern, write code to duplicate it (patterns means it’s readily codable), and fill in the “inclusions” (those messy parts) in less elegant ways.

The code I end up with would be much faster at rendering the image, in maybe a dozen iterations instead of 1,100. My deterministic program will result in the exact same image every time.

Conversely, if I were given the simple rule I described earlier instead of the final image, I’d have no way to predict what it would do. That is, unless I ran through a simulation of the process – which is what my program does. As Ringo said, “The only way ta see what hahpuns is ta see what hahpuns.”

My cellular automata program is indeed the “DNA” of that crystalline pattern. Like all members of a species, under slightly different initial conditions, the result will be primarily the same, but not exactly the same.

To illustrate that point, I ran the cellular automata again starting with a differently populated random grid of noise. Just below is iteration 132 of the new run. Compare the image just below to the image of the first run at iteration 132. The seedlings of order are not the same.

A different run from the images above at iteration 132. The different initial randomness results in different seedlings of order from the earlier image of iteration 132.\\

Consider this. At this early stage, iteration 132, of the cellular automata, if I were to manually change some chunk of pixels, I would alter its “destiny”. The run would end up looking different than it would without my interference. But it would still end up dominated with the same crystalline pattern. What does that say about any of our individual actions?

The image just below shows iteration 455 of this new run, without interference from my Gift of Sentience.

Iteration 455 of the new run looks very different from iteration 455 of the first run. The crystalline pattern doesn’t show yet.

At iteration 1100, this new run ends up looking a lot like the first run at the same iteration, but with different messy parts.

Iteration 1100 of the new run. It looks roughly like the first run at this same stage.

At the latter stages of the 1100 iteration process, say around 900, I might notice that those inclusions aren’t going way. I could use my Gift of Sentience to give that area a nudge. For example, by “smearing” the area and letting the process continue on. That’s what this Gift of Sentience is for.

Time is Change

When I showed this to Ringo, he asked me, “When nuthin’ chanjuz anymoh, did time stop?” For the cellular automata, the image stopped changing at around 1100 iterations until I killed the program at 1500 iterations. Even though my laptop’s CPUs were churning away, the evolution of the cellular automata stopped. In reality, time did stop when change stopped.

This cellular automata is a simple one, simple rules on a simple grid. This automata brought order from randomness and dead-ended. But the Universe is unspeakably more than that. It’s made up of countless such phenomena, processing different rules, interacting in rather unpredictable ways. But in a balance where order is always apparent and possibilities are always present.

Buddhism teaches us to embrace our Gift of Sentience in the midst of overwhelming change. We may wish that the Universe would just stay as it is once we clean it up to our liking. But if it did, the merry-go-round stops and that is the antonym of Life.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

P.S. Another thing Ringo said is in regard to the image at the top of this blog. He said, “I kawnt tell whethah the messy pots is eatin’ the nice pots oh the nice pots is eatin’ the messy pots.”

Resilience – Bodhi Day 2020

Life on Earth is the quintessence of resilience.

Resilience

If you’re reading this here in November 2020, you’re seeking the freedom from suffering that Siddhartha Gautama found on Bodhi Day about 2500 years ago. This Enlightenment isn’t really that hard to find, especially around the Holiday Season we’re just entering. Most have experienced this, at least for a minute or two. You may even find Enlightenment this Bodhi Day, but it usually vaporizes as you resume your normal life.

For our Enlightenment to be resilient beyond Bodhi Day, we must have the space in our minds to see all paths available to us, 100% acceptance of the present, the willingness to let go of things, and the courage to fearlessly flow into the future.

Resilience is the fundamental quality of a process. A non-resilient process is just a fleeting spark. Our minds are a process which lives within the process of Life on Earth. Life on Earth lives within the Process that is the Universe. Our brains, muscles, and immune system are resilient processes.

Flexibility

Long ago, I naively asked my judo sensei, “What is the single most important skill for a judoka?” It’s a question I would not ask today. I now know that arts are a multi-faceted assemblage and balance of qualities where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nonetheless, out of kindness, he humored me with a quick reply: “Flexibility.” Not strength, not tenacity, not even skill.

Flexibility is a critical quality built into resilient processes. Flexibility is what keeps us from breaking so we may fight another day. But to fight another day, we need to do more than just not break under pressure. We need to spring back. And better than before, which would otherwise be foolish.

Adaptivity

Is it right to say resilience means coming back better than before? What does “better” mean in a Universe of constant change? Life on Earth is resilient. Humanity can assault Life on Earth all we want, but Nature will come back. It may not “come back” within our lifetimes nor in a way still suitable for human life, but it will come back.

When we break a bone, it heals stronger at the break than it was before. When we engage in a sport new to us, those proverbial “muscles we didn’t know we had” will ache the next day, but they will be stronger the next week.

Although as a software developer, I see software systems of today as brittle, to an end-user, software is resilient because when it breaks, you call Support and people fix it. The software should be more fit than it was before it broke. Resilience is built into the process of incorporating software into our lives.

So far, we’re talking about reactive adaptations. We don’t know there is a problem until something breaks. We humans have a Gift of Sentience, whereby there’s more.

Courage and Curiosity

“Hey Seagulls! Come get your Fishnumaki!” This isn’t what I mean by courage and curiosity. This sort of stunt is something only for Eternal beings with sentience spanning eleven dimensions.

Our resilience is exercised when we are courageous enough to leave the comfort of what we know. Curiosity nudges us if we’re reluctant to turn the page.

In a Universe of relentless change, we could use our Gift of Sentience to make a stand in the present, building walls our little world, all while it crumbles as the river of change flows relentlessly by. Or we can use our Gift of Sentience to proactively adapt.

Our Gift of Sentience is the ability to design, to manipulate the actual Universe towards what is in our minds. This Gift is a double-edged sword. Our Gift of Sentience is God-like to your dog or cat. However, when we are too enamored with our own vision and the ability to manipulate the world around us, we suffer when we don’t get exactly what we want.

Resilience is balancing our courage and curiosity so we can freely dive into the future, artfully and mindfully, applying our Gift of Sentience. Courageously diving into the future means to not cling to our addictions. Artfully and responsibly applying our Gift of Sentience also requires letting go of our addictions so we can adapt to the ever-changing Now.

Bodhi Day 2020

Today, November 8, means Bodhi Day, December 8, 2020, is one month away! Did you think about your Bodhi Day plans?

And Happy Diwali to my Indian friends next week, on November 14, 2020. I will turn on the colorful lights surrounding my home office window that day.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Space – Bodhi Day 2020

What are leaves without the spaces in between?

Bodhi Season 2020

The Bodhi Season of 2020 starts in a month, December 1, 2020. The Bodhi Season consists of seven days of spiritual contemplation, ending with Bodhi Day, December 8. After seven days of contemplation, on Bodhi Day we may awaken to seeing the true nature of the Universe. Or at least we can set our minds on accepting that maybe there is such a thing as perfect contentment in this Earthly Life.

My past few blogs, starting with Two Months Until Bodhi Day 2020, presents topics for contemplation leading up to Bodhi Season 2020. This blog offers more such contemplation to stew on before the Bodhi Season.

You’re reading this, so you’re still here after all that has happened in 2020. That means you’re primed for a successful Bodhi Day!

Space

Our brains need the space between words, the space between sentences, the space between paragraphs. Our bodies need rest between workouts. And, our minds need space to cogitate and assimilate between lessons.

Some things I write about are blatantly obvious. But these things must be stated periodically because we become mindless to them over the course of our daily lives. For the case of space, its purpose is lost in the constant push to be the value-adding fiends we’re trained to be at work.

During the very early years of my software development career (during the 1980s), I worked on software for managing dental practices. The software I worked on was a scheduler to ensure everyone was busy every minute so more patients could be squeezed in. There was no waiting around while someone else took the patient’s vitals, anesthesia to take hold, or for assistants to wait around for the doctor humanely chit-chat with the nervous patient.

The end result is a calendar schedule, a mosaic of 10 minutes blocks, color coded for various tasks by assistants and dentists. What did this calendar look like? It looked like Tetris. The goal of that scheduling is the same as Tetris – minimize blank space.

One of the primary directives of my job as a business intelligence architect is to figure out how to outsmart the current processes. How do you make processes, often already good, faster, cheaper, and better? Squeeze out the waste of space through relentless compression.

There’s nothing wrong with that in itself. With our gift of sentience, efficient and diligent work produces value for our fellow creatures. And that work is our individual way of honing our Zen mindfulness.

However, the collateral damage of insatiable zeal for optimization is squeezing out the space our mind needs to assimilate lessons we’ve pick up along the way. Like the waste of nutrients from poorly digested food, we are starved of the wisdom we need to grow.

It’s true that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but that’s with the condition that you’re provided the space to “digest” the lessons presented to you by that “attempted murder”. Without the space to heal and assimilate the lessons, it instead knocks you down a peg until there are no more pegs.

How do we regain the space for our spiritual, emotional, and intellectual processes to flow freely? That’s easy. How else would you make space? Throw out the unnecessary trash without mercy … distorted social media guilty pleasure rubbish, manipulative news propaganda, hate, cringe from your past, addictions, fear of failure. That’s a lot of trash!

But making space is just the start. With the healing power of space your mind can now build power for yourself. You can be more than just an impeccably optimized machine where power is drained as fast as it’s made. With that space, build up your mastery in an awakened manner of open-mindedness, diligence, and patience.

There is no choice but to take the time for your mind and spirit to heal, just as you take the time for a cut on your skin to heal. Your mind often begs you to sit there are veg out. Maybe that “depression” thing is something by Nature’s design and not just some malfunction. At least sometimes?

If I’ve been struggling on some critical problem at work all day long and my brain is shot, I can heroically work through the night attempting to finish it off. Or I could go home to sleep. Much more often than not, by taking the latter choice, overnight my mind somehow coalesces everything. I awaken knowing how to finish it up in half an hour. Not always, but in the long run, I’m way ahead in terms of balancing my productivity and kindness to my human body and mind.

It costs you nothing to step off the merry-go-round for a bit because the price is paid by that trash you just threw out. Start with sitting outside enjoying nothing more than what’s left of the Fall colors. Go for a walk several times a day with nothing but your legs. At least working remotely during this Covid-19 period of time, your co-workers won’t see you leave … ha.

Faith and Patience,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku