Bodhi Day 2018!

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From Left to Right: Maitreya Buddha, The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, The Eternal Fishnu, and the “birthday” boy himself, Shakyamuni Buddha, aka Siddhartha Gautama.

Happy Bodhi Day, everyone!!

First off, if you’ve only heard about Bodhi Day now – because today is Bodhi Day (December 8, 2018) – please see this blog that explains what is Bodhi Day. If Bodhi Day sounds interesting after reading that post, skip towards the end of this post to the Bodhi Day Mulligan section.

Now, for those who have been following my daily Bodhi Season posts the past eight days, this is a short, quick and dirty recap of my Bodhi Day ceremony. I’m taking the day off from writing anything of substance so I may continue to ponder what I meditated upon this morning. That was a lot of writing these past eight days!

Before I get to my Bodhi Day, I look forward to seeing you on the path, and some advice about keeping it. This is where the 3rd Zen Story comes into play. Picking Up the Bag. Here are a couple of my older posts regarding the day after Bodhi Day:

Now to my Bodhi Day. I awoke at about 3am to mostly cloudy skies. But at about 4:20 I noticed Venus popped out for a bit. So I quickly dressed and left around 4:30am for my short walk (due to my sore foot).

I was greeted by our Airbnb hosts’ huge pyrenees who roams freely on what has to be a property of at least a hundred acres. We think his name is Gus, but we call him Cujo. He guarded me through my entire ceremony.

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I was guarded during my meditation by the Airbnb hosts’ huge Pyrenees. The mountain lions probably would have found Reverend Hanamoku tastey, highly marbled, not so gamey due to my vegetarian diet the past week.

I usually start with three reps of the Hannya Shingyo, but since Venus was out for what looked to be a short time, I started with the 112 reps of the Morning Star Mantra. She was visible for about half the mala before disappearing for good behind clouds.

I then went straight into the Hannya Shingyo, three times, as traditionally chanted. My Kindle did shut down halfway through since the battery was a little low and I hadn’t touched the screen for a few minutes. Before going into meditation, I read the Hannya Shingyo in English so that my brain could wrap around its succinct description of Buddhism.

I went into deep meditation for what was probably about half an hour. I must admit I was distracted a few times by my guard dog chasing off real or imaginary enemies. But I hit the song bowl to refocus. I did have a few flashes that I will ponder for the rest of the day, and write about over the coming months, mostly on fishnu.org.

I was brought out of my meditation by rustling behind me. It was time to head back for my breakfast of rice and milk.

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The Eternal Fishnu and Rubber Ducky blessing my meal of rice and milk. I told Fishnu walking on water is more impressive.
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Sunrise on Bodhi Day 2018 morning.

Bodhi Day “Mulligan” On January 13, 2019

If you’re only learning of Bodhi Day today, or you just mucked this one up … hahaha … you have another chance in a few weeks to try what I’ve been posting about the past eight days starting with Tomorrow Begins the Secular Bodhi Season of 2018. It’s the lunar Bodhi Season starting on January 6, 2019 with the lunar Bodhi day on January 13!

Today is the Secular Bodhi Day, standardized in many countries to be on December 8 every year. The lunar Bodhi Day is the 8th Day of the 12th month of the lunar year. I call December 8 the secular because Bodhi Day is supposed to be the 8th Day of the 12th Lunar Month which is always changing. Standardizing to a set date every year helps all the busy people plan around a consistent date.

There are two sets of daily Bodhi Day posts for you to follow, something like an Advent calendar, should you want to do the Lunar Bodhi Day in a few weeks:

  1. Lunar Bodhi Day 2017 starting on December 18, 2017 with Bodhi Day on December 25. Last year’s lunar Bodhi Day.
  2. Secular Bodhi Day 2018 starting on December 1, 2018 with Bodhi Day on December 8. This is the one we just went through.

Merry Christmas!!!!

Other than that, use your new Bodhi skills to be the best Christmas guest ever!!!

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Nativity scene Mrs. Hanamoku photographed at the local grocery store near our Bodhi Day Airbnb.

Update on the Day After Bodhi Day – December 9, 2018

This morning was a wonderfully clear morning. So I did a mulligan on the Morning Star Mantra part of the ceremony. It was mostly cloudy yesterday morning, so Venus was only visible for a time.

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Venus on the morning after Bodhi Day 2018.

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

Day 7: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Bodhi Day Eve

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This morning on Bodhi Day Eve. But I still got to watch Venus rise before the clouds came in. So much for the Sunny forecast.

The living room of the cabin we’re staying at for Bodhi Day faces right into where Venus rose this morning. It was a clear morning, and there She was. I sat on the couch at about 5am with my mala, reciting the Morning Star Mantra, once for each of the 112 beads:

Nobo akyasha kyarabaya Om arikya mari bori sowaka

I mentioned on Day 1 that Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism became enlightened after reciting the Morning Star Mantra a million times in one sitting.

It’s important to remember that the Morning Star Mantra isn’t a magic incantation. Simply reciting it one million times will not get you to Nirvana as did reciting “There’s no place like home” got Dorothy Gale back to Kansas. It’s a matter of wrapping your brain around freedom from dukkha that such an extended period of meditation can bring.

At least Dorothy knew what she was saying. What does this Morning Star Mantra mean? Why did Kobo Daishi become enlightened reciting it one million times in one sitting?

At a very high level, it pays homage to the Bodhisattva, Akasagarbha. So who is Akasagarbha? According to the Eternal Fishnu, in Western terms, let’s just call him “the God of Space”, more formally, “the God of the Infinity of Space”.

The sentiment, not the literal translation (for which there is no one answer), of the Morning Star Mantra is, “How wonderful is the boundlessness of space.” This is important because freedom from Dukkha, suffering, equates to freedom from the constraints of what our brain clings to.

The Universe is boundless, not limited to the piddly “knowledge” in our brains. Our brain clings to the very minuscule experiences of our human life. Boundaries are man-made things. All of space is our backyard.

When We Become Nothing, We Become Everything

What does “nothing” mean? In the context of Buddhism, “nothing” means our mind doesn’t cling to anything – and because it doesn’t cling to anything it is free to be everything.

It’s All or Nothing

We usually think of “all or nothing situations” as undesirable since we civilized folks can use our intellectual sophistication to reach some sort of compromise. And it’s true. Our intellect is a gift that allows us to at least sometimes engineer Win-Wins or to cleverly have our cake and eat it too. But most of the time, as smart as we are, we just can’t seem to make everyone happy.

But in the case of enlightenment, freedom from dukkha, we strive for both! We strive for the elimination of all clinging, which makes us nothing. Here there isn’t a compromise – but instead a path. Just get on that path.

Tomorrow morning, on Bodhi Day, perhaps you will have an epiphany. You will cut all the strings tethering you to this and that and back to this. But it takes only one string to keep you tethered in the tangled web of dukkha. It only takes one line to reel in a fish.

There probably is something sacred that you will not cut off. Is it your children or others you love? Is it the God of your religion? Is it pissing off someone you’re afraid of? Eventually that sacred string will reel you back into the fragmented, house of cards we call “reality”.

Don’t worry about that.  You’re not a fish trying to break free from those things. You’re a soul trying to find peace in a world that wasn’t designed from the ground up for we self-aware beings. As it was for the fish that the Eternal Fishnu lead onto land during the Devonian, in God’s time, fish out of water can transform into something really cool.

I’ve written a 4-part series hoping to shed light on why we cling to things. The theme is  looking at the classic “Seven Deadly Sins” from what I call a quasi-evolutionary-psychology point of view. I say “quasi” because I’m not an anthropologist. But a software developer who spent forty years needing to understand how and why people think in order to build productive tools that fit into existing processes. I think the series helps to understand why we hold grudges, why we become addicted, and why we have hopes and dreams.

Here I outline four levels of clinging, each exponentially harder to do than the one before. But as it is if you hit the biggest guy in jail and the rest will leave you alone, conquer that last one and the first three will magically fade away.

Regrets, and Wrongs Done to You

These clingings are the easiest to let go of. It’s easy to get that we cannot change the past. “The past is the past”, we say. But that sentence isn’t really a delete button. Saying that just masks the memory like deodorant – it’s still there encoded in your neurons.

We’ve all done things we regret, and they haunt us for years if not the rest of our lives. Some things were just embarrassing, some mean, some greedy. As long as we’ve learned from the mistake, that’s all we can do about the past.

Forgiving someone for a terrible act against you can be very tough or impossible, depending on the act. They hurt our pride. Sometimes it takes people decades to forgive, if ever. But as hard as forgiveness towards others or another towards you can be, these clingings are nothing compared to what comes next.

Hint: This wouldn’t be a problem if you had no pride.

Bedazzlement – The Big Payoff

These are our addictions – whether instinctive such as love or  learned vices such as drugs and alcohol. All addictions commandeer our brains, like some alien took over our body. Our logic and values are re-wired.

All addictions end in a big payoff, Bedazzlement – such as a hitting someone, getting drunk, a cheap thrill, popping a pill, a McDonalds binge. This is the payoff high that our brains give us when we solve a problem – the “drug high” of dopamine. Bedazzlement, the shiny prize we seek, keeps us going when we just want to give up. When we get what we’re seeking, we feel great, and we need to do it again.

We mistake this bedazzling high for happiness. But here’s the kicker –  we’re sad even when we have what we want because we know it’s temporary.

It’s hard to cut these sort of clingings because we’ll wonder what life is about without these highs (or just getting what we want, which usually won’t be the case). It’s important to know that we can have things, but we just need to be able to answer that we would be happy without it.

Expectations, Hopes, Wishes

This is setting up a future for ourselves that we believe is for our good. This is different from Bedazzlement in that a “high” can be cheap – such as a few bucks for a hit of drugs. Hopes and Dreams are things we invest much time and energy into over a long period of time. These expectations, hopes, and dreams are clinging to one outcome where we won’t be happy until we get it.

Remember what the quote I mentioned yesterday by the Zen master, Mike Tyson: “Everybody has a plan until he gets punched in the mouth.” Plans never work and we cannot cling to a plan in a dynamic world. When people say, “All we have is hope.”, it’s a delusion that gives us comfort.

This class of clinging is tough to give up because hopes and dreams gives us direction and purpose. Living a life with no direction is innately counter-intuitive to how we’re brought up to succeed – or worship the successful.

Beliefs

This is the toughest. Success with the levels above are hindered by this one. We believe in what is good or evil, beautiful or ugly, fun or tedious, yucky  or delicious.

Beliefs are the toughest to dump because from our human perspective, they define us, they are what we are. Everything we do, and incur from what we do, is guided by these beliefs.

Now, in Buddhism, it’s not a matter of which beliefs are right or wrong, good or bad. That doesn’t mean Buddhists think good and bad don’t matter, that evil is as OK as good.

Rather, for Buddhists, we train ourselves to understand that the Universe is One, and not live under the delusion that anything is separate from the whole.  We undo all the training that is pounded into our heads from birth – Mama, Dada, rattle, food, teacher – we recognize symbols, things.

This ability to recognize things is the foundation of our human symbolic thinking. Our brains can recognize things so we can perform virtual experiments in our head before actually trying something out. Buddhists use our symbolic thinking as a tool, not as the foundation for reality.

Beliefs are boxes we draw around things naively thinking the things inside will be impervious to what is outside of that box. Maybe for a little while. But those things outside finds its way in, and you fix that breach, and it finds another. Soon, your box is like a web of lies where one lie covers another. But each new lie isn’t just one more lie. It creates holes in that model of the world we call our brains at every intersection.

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Just a nice representative picture of my Bodhi Day 2018 celebration.

To be clear, though …

If you leave your Bodhi Day ceremony tomorrow morning and do something stupid like  send your boss your resignation, leave your family, take up the hobo life, give away your possessions, or buy a Porsche, you’re just using poor Reverend Hanamoku as an excuse to run away. If you run away from a life that you’re dissatisfied with, that’s clinging to your insistence on your grudges, addictions, hopes, and dreams. You’ve missed the whole point.

Your epiphany tomorrow morning, in fact what you should be meditating on from now until then, is that every thing is dependent on everything, your sense of self, this and that, is just an illusion of your brain. It doesn’t follow that you run away from your problems right after that epiphany. What follows is you are in 100% acceptance of what Is and understand that everything is in constant change.

There will always be what you now perceive as problems whether you’re later enlightened or not. In an enlightened state, there are no problems – just the Yin and Yangs of One vibrant Universe. The choice is between no suffering and a fully present life … versus moments of fist-pumping bedazzlement clouded by and followed by dissatisfaction.

It’s not your life that’s bad. You make it bad by clinging to something here and way over there and other places all at the same time. Running away is just going from one frying pan into another frying pan. For God’s sake, Prince Siddhartha ran away from his life!

Empty your head of all you know, accept what is right here with you, and merrily walk the path!

Tomorrow morning I will be praying for your Enlightenment, even though it does no good because it’s All up to you. But don’t fret if nothing happens. If you’ve read this much, you have a desire to find the path, and that itself means you are on the path!

Faith and Patience to You!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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

Day 6: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Trip to Our Bodhi Day Place

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Outside our Bodhi Day 2018 place.

We arrived at our Bodhi Day place mid-afternoon today. It’s very wintry, cold, and there’s much snow. But sunny weather is forecast for Friday and partly cloudy for Bodhi Day on Saturday. Our place has a wonderfully wide open Eastern view, so if it’s not cloudy, we should have a great view of Venus in the morning.

However, between my foot that started to swell last night for some reason and all the snow, I probably will not be able to hike to my Bodhi spot this year. So, things will not work out as I had planned.

“Planned” is the key word. The Zen master, Mike Tyson once said of plans, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

With all of the brilliant writers, philosophers, scientists, etc, throughout all of history, I’m hard-pressed to think of a more profound observation or a more poetic phrasing. It’s something I often say to my project manager – no disrespect intended … hahaha!

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His Holiness, The Eternal Fishnu, His Holiness, The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, Mrs. Hanamoku, and I stopped today at Minidoka on our way to our Bodhi Day place. We performed a short Bodhi Day ceremony for this place that undoubtedly “hosted” at least a few Buddhists at one time.

On the way to the Bodhi Place, we made a couple of stops to perform Bodhi Day services.

One place was the Minidoka Internment camp. I questioned whether to write about this since it could bring up things that should stay in the past – which is a pretty inappropriate thing to do on Bodhi Day. We only stopped by to conduct a service blessing all of the souls who stayed there – not just Buddhists, but all of the prisoners as well as the guards, and those who ordered it. I’m sure it was terrible for everyone.

But Mrs. Hanamoku mentioned that they all moved on with their lives and prospered, proud to have done what it seemed the U.S. Government thought needed to be done at the time and place. Hakuin, the Zen master, would have been very pleased with this testament to “Is that so?”

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Their Holinesses performing a Bodhi Day ceremony of three reps of the Hannya Shingyo and fifty reps of the Morning Star Mantra at Minidoka.

I’ve written an updated version of Hakuin’s “Is that So?” story for software developers, it’s the second of the Three Zen Stories forming the foundation for the teachings of the Eternal Fishnu. But I love to tell it so I’ll write down a more traditional version here (not link or copy/paste) as a meditation for me:

Once there was a nobleman’s daughter who became pregnant out of marriage to a man in the village. When she told her boyfriend of this, he denied it could be possible and sent her away.

When the woman’s pregnancy became too hard to conceal, to protect her boyfriend, she blamed it on the mysterious monk who lived in the mountains, Hakuin (pronounced ha-koo-een).

Once the child was born, the woman and her father hiked into the mountain to force Hakuin to take his responsibility. “This is yours!! You take it!”, her father demanded, handing over the child.

All Hakuin said was , “Is that so?”, and gently took the child.

A few years passed. Hakuin cared very well for the child as well as he would his own. But the child’s real father had a change of heart. He proposed to the woman and they went to get the child from Hakuin. 

“Give us that baby! It’s ours!”, they demanded.

All Hakuin said was , “Is that so?”, and gently handed over the child.

Most of you are probably thinking, “WTF!?” What a stupid story! Shouldn’t Hakuin demand compensation for the child’s care? Or maybe he’s grown very attached to the child? Or better yet, shouldn’t he have slammed the door on the woman and her father in the first place?

In the mindset of most of us in the “Western” world, the answer is most likely “yes”. And perhaps that is the right answer. But this isn’t a matter of right or wrong. This is a matter of a very fully-focused life without suffering. A fully-focused life where we’re always present, not detached, from the Universe.

Hakuin is 100% accepting of what is right in front of him – blending with the flow of everything – very much like David in Psalm 23. However, as Judo or Jujitsu is neither a matter of total domination of your opponent nor being completely limp, there is a middle ground.

Total domination doesn’t work. There is always someone better than you. If not directly better (such as better than you at programming C#), maybe pretty good at C#, but also R, Python, and SQL, and will outflank you rather than go head to head at your game.

Being totally limp, giving up completely, doesn’t work either. You’ll never learn anything, never advance. But the “middle-ground” doesn’t mean “kind of aggressive but not too aggressive” – as in Goldilocks’ porridge.

In Buddhism, the “middle ground” is a very different concept from that. Rather, it means to let go of everything you cling to, empty your mind of all you think you know and what you think you want. Be fully, 100% accepting of what is. Embrace it and dance with it.

Remember, all things pass. If you accept what is, even if it seems crappy to your normal mind, in the long run, you won’t know suffering.

Faith and Patience to You!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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

Day 5: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Traditions

Let’s take a little breather from the depth of Bodhi Season Mindfulness with a little fluff piece. We’ll take a little bit of time to prepare for the Bodhi Day Celebration in three days. Before continuing, if you have no idea what Bodhi Day is, please read this blog, Bodhi Day.

Much of what I’m mentioning here I’ve already written about on the eve of my Bodhi Season last year, Thursday, December 7, 2017. But I can make this very easy: You don’t need to do any of this. You can become enlightened at any time. The value of the Bodhi Day Celebration is to give your brain the gift of an experience similar to that of Siddhartha Gautama when he became The Buddha.

General Bodhi Season Guidelines

This post is focused on what happens on Bodhi Day itself. Many practitioners of various Zen sects meditate during the entire Bodhi Season, from December 1 through 8. However, for the Bodhi Day Season, I’ve mentioned in earlier Bodhi Day posts, particularly Day 2, that my activities are fairly normal. I go to work, do chores, play with my cats.

However, I do somewhat disengage a bit from the overly-dramatic demands of life in a modern society. That doesn’t mean I resist anything. Rather, it’s more like “I’ll do what I can now and I promise I’ll get the rest next week, and if that’s not OK, peace be with you.” It’s sort of my version of meditating for the entire Bodhi Season. This is how you should always be. It’s not that you are aloof, resisting, or “passive-aggressive”. If you’re always dutiful and mindful, in an enlightened way, you will excel and everyone around you will benefit from the compound interest of enlightenment.

I do switch to a vegan diet, no alcohol, and whatever TV I watch is generally related to either Christmas or Buddhism – Christmas movies, Christmas or Buddhist/Zen Youtube videos, etc. If I took “recreational drugs” or indulged in other sorts of activities typically called “vices”, I’d abstain from those things too. And not for “moral”, health, or even “legal” reasons, but to promote an even-keeled demeanor – let in storm clouds, let it do its thing, eventually it poops out, and things settles into some kind of equilibrium.

Regarding the vegan diet, my diet is fairly vegetarian when I’m choosing the food. The Buddha was, to put it bluntly, a beggar, and ate whatever people offered to him. That’s basically the rule of thumb for Mrs. Hanamoku and I. We eat and enjoy anything our hosts graciously serve to us, or conversely, whatever omnivorous delights we feed to our non-vegetarian guests, but are 90% vegetarian at home.

Bodhi Day Morning Ceremony

The toughest part of the Bodhi Day Celebration is to find a suitable place to conduct this early morning event – this Saturday, December 8, 2018. The primary qualities are solitude and a view of Venus rising during the wee hours of Bodhi Day morning. That pretty much means somewhere high on a hill with a distant view, away from neighborhoods.

The solitude aspect is mostly as a courtesy to your neighbors who may not appreciate the recitation of the Heart Sutra and chiming bells at 4am. If you’re anywhere near enlightenment, you should be able to do this in the middle of Times Square without being distracted or self consciousness. In fact, a lot of people there will probably join you!

Which brings up an important clarification of “solitude”. It’s more than OK to have others with you. But you should keep to yourselves and all should be full participants. Meaning, it should be as though each of you are indeed by yourselves, and that there should be no one on the bench simply observing.

That may sound contrary to the “we’re all One” thing. This is about fixing your mind, your brain, that model of the Universe that isn’t nearly as good as the real thing. Think about a cluster of Web servers serving pages for a blog site. Those servers are One in that they are all needed to serve up blog pages in a timely manner.

If that blog site starts selling products, becomes an e-commerce site, things are different. Now they are doing something they weren’t designed to do – even though they can still do it to some degree. They chug along, but CPUs are pegged at 100%, RAM paging to disk. This is the computer version of Dukkha. Each must be taken offline, reconfigured, then is replaced back into the cluster … not wobbly, enlightened.

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Venus and the Moon over my work place yesterday morning around 6:15am.

I do offer more advice on a finding a place in a blog I posted a couple of months ago: Two Months to the Secular Bodhi Day I was trying to give Bodhi Day enthusiasts ample time, but I don’t believe anyone has read that blog as of the time of this writing … hahaha!

Your Crazy Gear

First off, you don’t need any of the stuff shown in the picture below. Solitude is 90% of the gear.

The only thing you may need is a flashlight and a script of the sutras you plan to recite. For that purpose, I brought my Kindle with me – flashlight and script all in one. Which brings up the point – leave your cell phone and other devices such as cameras at home. No interruptions, no compulsive needs to capture the moment rather than be in the moment. I really didn’t even want to bring my Kindle.

But what if you break your ankle, get into a fight with a pack of wolves , or get hypothermia? As with all hiking, be sure someone at home knows exactly where you’re going and to expect you home by some time. Another reason for having others participate with you. Leave any weapons beyond your hiking stick at home as well.

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Clockwise from top-left. Song bowl hammer, two wrist malas, three jewels, bell, dorje, song bowl “mallet”, song bowl. A long mala is encircles the song bowl to the bell.

Here is a brief description of the items in the above photo:

  • Song Bowl, lower-left corner – The song bowl is used in two ways. The first way is using the mallet, the wooden piece just to the right of the song bowl, rubbed around the edge of the opening, as you’ve seen done with wine glasses. It takes some practice. I found a pretty good video on how to do make the bowl sing. This is how I start my ceremony. It’s very good at setting the mood. The second way is to strike it as a bell, especially during the recitation of the Hannya Shingyo. I use the wooden piece towards the upper-left for that. I strike the singing bowl similar to how symbols are utilized by drummers, struck at the end of a “phrase”.
  • Mala – There are the wrist two malas around Rubber Ducky that I generally wear through the Bodhi Season, and there is the long mala, which I use to count repetitions of the Morning Star Mantra. This mala has 114 beads, so I recite the Morning Star Manta that many times.
  • Three Jewels, top-right – The Three Jewels are the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddha’s teachings), and the Sangha (simply put, the congregation). I use them in place of Venus if I’m unable to see her in the sky for whatever reason. They are just three semi-precious stones I chose. The star garnet is the Buddha, the topaz is the Dharma because of its clarity, and the fire opal is the Sangha, for all the little lights.
  • Dorje and Bell, lower-right – The Dorje is the brass piece to the left of the bell. It is not the hammer for the bell. The bell has a hammer in it. The Dorje is held in the left hand and the bell with the right. I generally hold them while in meditation, ringing the bell periodically – mostly to refocus if I begin to drift off to sleep or my mind wanders too much.

I am in the Northwest U.S., so it will be very cold, forecast at about 15 F Saturday morning. So be sure you are adequately dressed for an extended period in the elements, at least a couple of hours. Please be sensible about what you do.

What if you can’t find a good spot, the weather is prohibitively terrible, you can’t get off work, or don’t have the funds? It’s OK. Punt until later, just go for a long walk if you can. Sitting in your car isn’t that bad an option. But do something out of the ordinary – not just take a minute to meditate before you eat your breakfast. I like to celebrate Bodhi Day this way, out on a mountain top, because it is very out of my ordinary life. But none of it is necessary. Please read You Don’t Need to Wait for Bodhi Day.

The Agenda

I mentioned above that I wrote of what I planned to do on Bodhi Day morning on the eve of my Bodhi Season last year, Thursday, December 7, 2017. I plan to follow that same script. I also recently wrote in more detail what I actually happened in The Other Shore. Please do read those blogs as it contains more last minute advice for Bodhi Day.

My most important piece of advice is: Don’t set any high expectations! The Universe is a magical place where everything is possible. However, at least in the realm of our human-level existence, everything is still a process, the Universe is One big process. Enlightenment is not becoming a magical creature that can walk on water, or less grandiose, perform Jedi mind tricks. Enlightenment is switching on the light so you can see the path, see what is really there, so you can move freely on your journey. You can do that! Remember, Buddhism is a skill.

One more thing, the rice and milk dish. Please see Mrs. Hanamoku’s recipe and what it’s all about.

If any of you wish to join me in spirit, I’m leaving for my Bodhi Day spot at 5am U.S. Mountain Time, this coming Saturday morning. My spot is fortunately right behind my Airbnb, with perhaps a 15 minute hike. If you go join me in spirit and you see Venus, say hello!

Faith and Patience to You!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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

Day 4: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Our Unique Paths

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The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet wishes you an Enlightening Bodhi Day 2018!

With only four days before Bodhi Day on, Saturday, December 8, 2018, I advise you to spend at least some time wrapping your brain around enlightenment with some reading. Four days isn’t much time, but fortunately, there are three profound, short, easy-reading books that convey very Buddhist sentiments and are feasible reading within a few days period:

Illusions is the easiest to read. The author, Richard Bach, cast himself as the star of the book. He is best known for “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. The story is about his time with a “reluctant messiah” he meets in a field in Indiana named Don Shimoda. There is a punchline, a spoiler, which I won’t divulge here. I’ll just say Don realizes there is one more important lesson for an enlightened being to learn on Earth.

“The Little Prince” is by no means a child’s book, and it is one of the books I’ve read in youth, middle age, and now in “upper-middle-age”, that I’ve appreciated at different levels each time. What are “matters of consequence”? We humans have created our own game apart from Nature. Imagine playing the game Monopoly so much that you start to think that it is “real life”. It’s Mrs. Hanamoku’s absolutely favorite book.

“Siddhartha” is particularly interesting and clever. It is essentially the tale of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, but spiced with a bit of Western Philosophy, particularly, what is easily recognized as that of Heraclitus.

I’ll give you a couple of pointers, that are spoilers, but maybe will help smooth out your journey. One is that the main character, a Prince named Siddhartha, is himself not “The Buddha”, who too is named Siddhartha, Siddhartha Gautama from Shakyamuni. The Siddhartha in the book, does indeed cross paths with the Buddha, and lives a similar story. But this isn’t just a “plot twist”. This is where the complementary sprinkling of classic Western Philosophy comes into play.

The meeting between the two men named Siddhartha holds a critical point. Siddhartha could have chosen to follow the Buddha when their paths crossed, but he decided to continue on his own. Very roughly speaking, Siddhartha expresses to the Buddha that something is still missing from his teaching. The Buddha essentially advises him that everyone must follow their own path to enlightenment. That is a common theme in most of the posts on fishnu.org.

In fact, there is a Zen saying: If you see the Buddha, kill him.

Ridiculous isn’t it? How ludicrous it would be if we replaced “Buddha” in that saying with “Jesus”? What could be more blasphemous?! There are several interpretations of this saying. My interpretation is along the lines of everyone having their own path towards enlightenment, or any other skill.

The Buddha’s primary teaching, captured within the Four Noble Truths (the 4th being the Eight-Fold Path), are high-level guidelines, like “Go West, young man!” Each of us can learn the same skill, but there is more than one way for our complex brains of 80 billion neurons and a quadrillion connections to wire any skill.

Paraphrasing Herman Hesse, The Buddha further advises the book’s Siddhartha that he only ever promised that he could relieve his suffering, so that he can see Reality clearly on his journey. But it’s still up to Siddhartha himself to keep on going.

We may have coaches that teach us chess, but no coach can actually get into your head and wire things up. Complex systems like the brain don’t “program” that way. So the Buddha, with his own brain had its own wiring he had to do for himself. No one could wire the Buddha’s enlightenment for him.

Towards the end of the book, after the Siddhartha of the book and the Buddha cross paths, have an amiable discussion, and go their separate ways, Siddhartha settles for a time at a river, making a living ferrying people across the river. After years at the river he has his enlightening insight that the river is constantly changing, you never step in the same river twice.

That phrase is sometimes incorrectly attributed to the Buddha, but it really comes from Heraclitus, who was actually a contemporary of the Buddha. It’s very unlikely the two men met or that they even knew of each other’s work – much like Newton and Leibniz, or Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

None the less, that phrase captures what underlies our suffering – everything is in constant turmoil and our poor brains are unable to keep up with it. We’re always to some extent a fish out of water as we’re always at least a little “behind the times”.

Perhaps this book, “Siddhartha”, is Herman Hesse’s personal path to enlightenment where he spiced the Buddha’s Eastern teachings with the Western Greek philosophy of Heraclitus, which would have been more familiar to him as a Westerner.

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The Eternal Fishnu wishes you a safe journey to the other shore.

If you are a Christian, you may be reading this blog because you’re dissatisfied with what you were taught in Sunday School. Don’t give up on Jesus. Following the path of the Buddha itself doesn’t make you Buddhist nor does it make you any less Christian.

Just for kicks, read the Gospels again, but this time from a different point of view. Not the point of view of John 3:16, but the point of view of Psalm 23. And again just for kicks, consider that maybe a few things were lost in translation through the ages from God to the papyrus scrolls, to Martin Luther’s printing press, to the neighborhood pastor.

Study the Heart Sutra. It really does capture the essence of Buddhism in two phrases: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form” and “… the other shore …”.

As I mentioned, it’s imperative that you to recite the Heart Sutra in English (or your native language if there is a translation) so the words have meaning to you – even if it may seem nonsensical at first. However, I do find much value in chanting the Heart Sutra in the traditional manner that I grew up with.

It’s tough because it’s in Sanskrit and the cadence is fairly quick. It will take some practice. Wait until next year to chant the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit with all the nice song bowls and drums, and practice by watching some videos, googling Shingon Hannya Shingyo.

For your first Bodhi Day, just recite the heart Sutra in English. I recite it in English as I would any piece of Western poetry, not in the same manner as it is traditionally chanted in Sanskrit, except in English. I think that my blog, The Other Shore, is a good primer for beginning to not just understand the Heart Sutra but to eventually Be It.

Lastly, a few miscellaneous pointers:

  • All posts by Barbara O’brien on thoughtco.com are easy to read, bite-sized, and profound – a great introduction to Buddhism.
  • Don’t watch the any movie versions of The Little Prince and Siddhartha. All fall very short of the book.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of the Heart Sutra is my favorite.
  • Because the book, Siddhartha, is a “classic”, there are tons of very useful discussions and Cliff Notes on the Internet about this book.
  • Your next shot at Bodhi Day is the upcoming “real” Bodhi Day, the lunar Bodhi Day. Remember, this Bodhi Season we’re talking about right now, in this post, is the secular Bodhi Season, a standardized date for modern society, always December 8. That lunar Bodhi Season starts on January 6, 2019 with Bodhi Day on January 13, 2019.
  • Just a little musing. I’ve wondered if the Donald Shimoda in “Illusions” is Richard Bach’s nod to Carlos Castaneda’s don Juan.

Faith and Patience to You,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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

Day 3: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – A Bodhi Day Carol

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The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet enjoying the first real snow yesterday. Freshly fallen snow, a clean canvas.

Bodhi Season is a lot like the first week or two of a diet to lose weight – as opposed to other health concerns or philosophical reasons, religious and/or ethical. Generally, a diet involves the removal of foods we’ve been eating, and we’re left with all the things that we would have been eating anyway if we liked it. Those first couple of weeks can be tough, but then something magical happens. You actually start to like those foods and even get used to the smaller amounts.

Your body optimizes for whatever you’re eating. When you first change your diet, your body, or gut ecosystem, is craving what it got used to processing, what you have been eating. At first tugs on the string to ring the bell on your brain, “Doesn’t a burger sound great.” But over a few weeks the composition of your gut bacteria and other things transforms, adjusting and optimizing to your new composition and quantity of food.

Your brain is like that too. It will adjust to whatever you’re feeding it. If you dwell on angry thoughts, you do become an angry person. If you’re fed enough propaganda of whatever brand, your brain does wrap around it and you start to believe it.

Bodhi Season is about starting a brain diet towards the goal of relieving your suffering, your dukkha. The Bodhi Day 2018 posts from Day 1Day 2 , and pretty much everything on fishnu.org describes this “diet”. You could think of it like Christmas Eve night for Ebeneezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol, when he spent the night forced to meditate on his past, present, and future, awakening a really likable guy for Christmas. That was Scrooge’s Bodhi Day.

Now, I’ve always been curious about what happened the day after Christmas when Scrooge and Cratchit got back to work, back to life without the warm blanket of Christmas to keep their hearts warm. Maybe life for Ebeneezer, Bob, Tiny Tim, and the rest of the good folks of Camden Town did live happily ever after. But we know that’s not the case for the rest of the world. Even after the Buddha taught his insights for over forty years after Bodhi Day, over 2500 years ago, life is still a great struggle for virtually everyone.

Yes, today is a work day for me, as well as for most people. As soon as I hit the “Publish” button I’m off to deal with deadlines, misunderstandings, people in more of a rush than me, getting five days of work done in three because Mrs. Hanamoku and I are heading out to the mountains on Thursday for a mini-vacation. The Life of Earth is founded on the rather simple rules of “survival of the fittest”, and it manifests everywhere in human society, even if we may “know better”.

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The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet says to tie on your white belt and throw away your green, brown, and black belts.

Being at peace in the world is even tougher than dieting while watching some show on some media blasting food ads crafted by psychological geniuses. And that’s our real skill – being at peace in an unpeaceful world. But, keep in mind, “unpeaceful” does not mean “evil”. The Universe is this wonderful interaction of everything, every thing dependent on everything!

When I start a diet, the first thing I do is cut out sugar. It’s feasible because that still leaves me a lot of reasonably fun things to eat – but it’s a powerful step. Bodhi Day is the same. Go to work. Live your life. Nothing changes. The equivalent of cutting out sugar is to keep a beginner’s mind and be 100% accepting what is right there in front of you. I’ve written much on that as that is the skill of a Buddhist as clearly as the skill of a boxer is to box.

A very straight-forward way to put that into practice is to go out into the world and “Shut the f*** up and listen!”

Faith and Patience to You!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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

Day 2: Secular Bodhi Season 2018 – Have a Holly Jolly Bodhi

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Tar Weed. A distant relative of the Silver Swords on Haleakala in the Utah desert . What? Google silver sword tar weed. Very interesting things happen when you go with the flow.

I just want to say that if on this 2nd day of Bodhi Season things are hectic and far from om-humming and tranquil … that’s OK!!

Bodhi Day may be near Christmas so there could be a misconception that it’s just the Buddhist version of the Holiday Season. Instead of Merry Christmas, it’s namaste. Instead of a Christmas ham or turkey, it’s rice and milk. Of course, instead of a Christmas Tree, a Bodhi Tree!

But Bodhi Day is not Christmas nor a “holiday”. Things very likely will be very tough as you face your suffering head-on. A better analogy for Bodhi Day is Easter, with the pain of the crucifixion followed by Jesus’ subsequent resurrection which fully established Him as the Son of God.

In fact, if things don’t get tough, you may be doing it all wrong. Doing something like retreating to the tranquility of Tassajara or Esalen for Bodhi Day isn’t the right idea. Who couldn’t be at peace and oh-so-Buddha-like in the woods and coast around Big Sur. There, life is all choreographed kata. Bodhi Season is about Randori! As we say in software development, “ya gotta run it in ‘prod’ to make sure it works” – not “dev” or “test” or “Q and A”. Tassajara is like “dev”.

It was that way for Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, as he sat in meditation under the Bodhi Tree. He was tempted and tormented mercilessly by the Demon Mara. He was tempted to hold onto his worldly delusions with all sorts of bedazzlements, and terrified by horrible visions.

The only thing that seemed to work was letting go of his clinging – strings to bind,  buttons to push, levers to pull – drop it, all of it. He was looking for relief from his suffering. The Demon Mara’s efforts showed him the cause of his suffering, his clinging to his own beliefs, desires, and will. He awoke on Bodhi Day seeing the Universe as It is, not as his mind sees it.

Once I was play-wrestling with my five year old nephew. I pretended he was winning, feigning suffering from his superior strength and skill. He said, “You can make this stop any time by just letting go!” He’ll make a good Buddhist … or police officer … hahaha!

Bodhi Season is also a very personal experience. Family will not endure weather-delayed, over-crowded airports to join you for a meal of rice and milk at 4am in 30 F weather watching Venus rise. If it’s at all like Christmas, it’ll end up more like Griswold “Christmas Vacation” with the “jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse”.

But doesn’t that “personal experience” aspect contradict not going to a tranquil retreat where you can get away to be alone? By personal, I mean that you’re focusing on re-training your mind. Unlike Christmas where we all share the joy with friends and loved ones, Bodhi Day is about changing how your brain sees what is right in front of you. It may sound selfish, but you really aren’t sustainably good to anyone if you’re chronically suffering.

Now let me be clear. Don’t go looking for trouble – like finally telling off your co-workers or that noisy neighbor … hahaha. But don’t avoid anything either. Looking for trouble and avoiding it is both clinging to your desires, addictions, and will and not blending in with the Universe.

Bodhi Season is about facing reality as you would any other day, but with a Beginner’s Mind and 100% acceptance of what Is. Be like the Zen Master, Hakuin, who greets every situation, no matter the nature, with a 100% unconditional (and un-sarcastic!), “Is that So?”

Let’s practice:

Boss: We’re starting a big project this Thanksgiving week that will save our company from collapse, and launching on New Year’s Day!

You: Is that so?

Your neighbor: Yeah, I’m putting in a mother-in-law house and a swimming pool this summer. Gotta do the construction while the sun is out late. We’re getting a couple of beagles too. And rehab-ing a parrot.

You: Is that so?

The IRS: We’ve decided that you’ve paid enough taxes. You are now 100% exempt for life! In fact, you are the first recipient of our reverse-tax program, where we pay you interest on the taxes you’ve paid!

You: Is that so?

Faith and Patience to You,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

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