Lunar Bodhi Day 2019 Eve – Time

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The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet pointing out this log disintegrating to be integrated into everything around it.

Tomorrow, January 2, 2020, is the “real” Bodhi Day. Tomorrow will be the 8th Day of the 12th Lunar month of the Chinese year 4717.

Since for most of the world today (Jan 1, 2020) is New Year 2020 (new decade too), the subject of time is an appropriate topic for this short “pre lunar Bodhi Day” message.

Perceived Time

Time seems to go by faster and faster as I age. It was harder to notice that when before I turned thirty. But when I turned thirty, I noticed that getting to twenty seemed to take forever. Then, before I knew it, I was forty then almost sixty. I know it’s not just me. Mrs. Hanamoku notices it, as well as most of our friends over forty or fifty.

The perception of time is a function of how much things are changing. If things are changing quickly, more snapshots are taken to capture what is going on. Fewer snapshots are needed to capture the essence of watching paint dry.

Most of us have experienced the second before a split-second, life-threatening event, such as a car just a few yards away coming right at us. Life becomes like a video at 10% speed. We’re able to notice everything. By noticing everything we can take wise actions. With that rapid rate of snapshots during that second, what seems like 10 seconds was really just a second.

As I recall my 3rd grade year of school, my impression of it is like that year lasted ten years. It was a time dense with learning, not just the school learning. The core of who I was becoming, my understanding of the world and my interaction with it, noticeably evolved every day.

When you pour cream into coffee and stir, the changes are noticeable, the swirls of cream and coffee. After a second of two, those swirls matures into the light brown drink where further change isn’t very noticeable. That initial time of noticeable change is very short.

As you age, the world changes whether you notice it or not, you continue to change, but not like when you were a kid. However, even at my age, I can still taste the phenomenon of time seeming to pass slower than others.

I’ve been at my current employment for about six months as I write this. I can remember the first two months going by slowly. Then suddenly I’m at six months! As it is with all new jobs, those first two months were a tumultuous time of learning about the processes of my new job, the nature of the work, laying the foundation of my relationships with my co-workers. Then I got the hang of it and despite project milestones and learning a new thing or two each day, it’s not like the learning of those first couple of months. Now the days pass by in a blur.

But even though I changed jobs this year and experienced that slowdown of time after those couple of months, I still have this uncomfortable sense of time flying when I think of Christmas 2018 a year ago. That’s because although I changed places of employment, my place of employment is only a tiny part of who I am.

In terms of Normal Daily Life, the vast majority of who I am, even the generalized nature of the kind of work I do, is roughly similar since last year. So my brain records relatively few snapshots of the year.

It’s not a matter of how many seconds or years go by, but how much is crammed into it. As the level of our Zen skill rises, our attention is focused tightly on the present and so more of the Universe is noticed. In a Zen sense, time slows down as our ability to stay in the present improves. Ultimately, if we were supremely in the Now, would that mean time pretty much stands still?

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The 2019 Buddha cookie aged over the past week and a half since it was made. The water in the frosting moves around.

Time and Impermanence

The Zen master, Takuan Soho, wrote about something like this:

“… when you first notice the sword that is moving to strike you, if you think of meeting that sword just as it is, your mind will stop at the sword in just that position, your own movements will be undone, and you will be cut down by your opponent.” – from The Unfettered Mind.

We can update Takuan’s statement to something more contemporary: “If a quarterback throws the football to where the moving receiver is when he throws it, the receiver will no longer be there.”

Football fans know that. But Takuan’s statement goes deeper, applying to the impermanence of every thing in our lives, not just the changing position of a wide receiver over a short time of a few seconds.

Change is constant. All of our thoughts are based on records of the past we store in our brains. None of those things filed into our memories actually exists in the next instant. So rather than the pursuit of learning more, we pursue how to blend in with this changing Now, so that our information is always up to date.

Change happens even if we don’t notice it. In the middle of the night life is in full gear somewhere else on Earth. At the microscopic levels, huge populations of tiny creatures are playing out predator and prey dramas every bit as wild as those of the savanna and jungles. Every cell of our bodies are buzzing along even as our mind detects nothing from our senses.

If you now understand Takuan’s statement from “Unfettered Mind”, I’m giving myself a pridefully un-Buddhist pat on the back. I read that passage many times over my life, but as hard as I tried, I didn’t really get it until a few years ago. If you still don’t, then please do chastise me for my pridefullness … haha!

Bodhi Day Mulligan

If you missed the “secular” Bodhi Day of December 8, as it is each year, you have another shot at Bodhi Day. Even though many of us are going back to work tomorrow after this New Year holiday, take the time to observe the lunar Bodhi Day. Wake up a little early to peruse my series of posts on the Eightfold Path from the “secular” Bodhi Day a few weeks ago.

Faith and Patience to you,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Happy Bodhi Day 2019!!

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Their Holinesses, The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet. We’re breaking our Bodhi fast with Mrs. Hanamoku’s Rice and Milk.

Happy Bodhi Day 2019!!

I hope you enjoyed the journey through the Noble Eightfold Path as we hiked from the base of Zion Canyon to the high perspective of Observation Point.

The Noble Eightfold Path is the prescription for removing the roadblock we all face on this human segment of the larger Journey to Perfection. That roadblock is our tendency to cling to things into which we place value, while it slips through our fingers beyond our control. The Eightfold Path teaches us how to see the fallacy of our clinging, drop it from our lives, and carry on with the Journey Towards Perfection.

This roadblock is just a little kink we bumped into somewhere between the lesser sentience of a monkey and the greater sentience of a human. The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, on his Bodhi Day, figured out how to dislodge himself from this roadblock, this cause of his human suffering. He then spent the rest of his human life teaching this to others.

Likewise, the Eternal Fishnu addressed that life in the water hindered the progress towards sentience, and has a better chance of evolving on land. So around 400 million years ago, what we call the Devonian, the Buddha, Fishnu, lead fish to the land. And they became us.

What will we become in a few million years now that we have the key to unshackle us from suffering?

Faith and Patience

We learned during the journey through the Eightfold Path about how our monkey brain is in conflict with our Gift of Sentience, and that makes us miserable. It is also the “workout plan” towards shutting out our monkey brain. It’s a process that will take time and effort, just like any other improvement plan.

It’s very important to understand that the Bodhi Day Awakening of Siddhartha Gautama wasn’t simply an overnight transformation. Technically, it was, but that was after years of heart-breaking and even life-threatening struggle. If you think about it, that’s how most dramatic, seemingly overnight transformations are – they pop onto the scene after a long period of incubation.

I sign off most of my posts with “Faith and Patience to you!” It’s a shortened version that I wrote about a while back: Faith and Patience keep me calm so I can focus on the moment. So we must have faith in the meantime, which will give us the patience to go on even without the results we wish we could have immediately.

The Bigger Sentience We Cannot See

Another thing we must have faith in is that our brain is much more than we think or can imagine. Brain imaging is neat. There are many impressive “A.I.” (that’s in huge air quotes) applications. The aggregate computing capacity in the world in some ways surpasses the capacity of human brains.

But that’s nothing compared to what hasn’t yet been seen.

Is there something our human brains can access that’s of immense, unimaginable power? Something our brains can at least touch through meditation?

We can’t figure out if butter is good or bad for us. How can we arrive at any conclusion about the power of our brains?

Our brains are nothing like even the most sophisticated Artificial Neural Networks (ANN). A single neuron is an individual animal in its own right – with organelles, the need for nourishment. More sophisticated than a perceptron, I’d say.

It’s easy to dismiss our brains as just some normal organic thing. But life has been going on for billions of years. It’s easy to say that the marvels of just a single cell can be explained away as interactions of proteins, which is just a really big molecule, and it reacts with other proteins. But it all self-assembles and self-adapts – no hands required. Our brains are more than just a really sophisticated organ.

The brain’s parts at the molecular level and buzzing with the most intricate electrical wiring there is, the brain’s computing mechanisms live next door to the quantum level. It may or may not incorporate quantum phenomena, but the quantum phenomena is a visible part of “normal life” for proteins. The ANNs we build today don’t touch anything quantum, perhaps quadratic (nerdy!), but not quantum. If so, what unimaginable possibilities does that open up for what our brains actually can do?

There are what we collectively called glial cells, which outnumber neurons. What roles do these play? Some roles are known, some not yet. But I do believe there is at least one role that allows signals to be broadcast instead of carried through networks of synapses.

There is fascinating work by Stuart Hameroff on the role of microtubules within neurons possibly having computational power itself – perhaps even some characteristics similar to Finite State Automata. If it’s true, the computational capacity of a brain could be magnitudes greater than and much different from how it appears considering just neurons. I don’t know if he’s correct, but I would be surprised if he’s not at least partially correct. Even a hint of plausibility would still be huge.

Even if the Eternal Fishnu didn’t tell me outright that the human brain has much more potential than we currently think, I’d still have to believe it’s like we’re only at the abacus.

Have faith in this wondrous Universe! Go out there tomorrow knowing you’re a a full-fledged part of it!

The Lunar Bodhi Day

If you missed this Bodhi Day on December 8, 2019, there is the “real” one still to come! This one we just celebrated today, December 8 is the standardized date. The “real” one is the Lunar Bodhi Day on January 2, 2020, the 8th day of the 12th lunar month.

I celebrate both, so I hope to see you in a few weeks!

Faith and Patience to you!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

Further Reading

Past Bodhi Seasons:

Here are links to a couple of the more popular Bodhi Day references:

Are you enlightened?

Bodhi Season/Day 2019:

 

Bodhi Day Eve 2019 – Awakened Mindfulness and Concentration

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It’s a long way down. Don’t trip over your sentience!

Today December 7, 2019 – Bodhi Day Eve!

We now end our journey through the Eightfold Path with the last two items, Awakened Mindfulness and Awakened Concentration.

I’m lumping these two items into one post for two reasons. The first is that this knowledge is helpful if you plan on meditating early in the morning tomorrow to celebrate Bodhi Day.

The other is that they are two sides of the same coin. That “same coin” is being in the Now. Being in the Now is the key to ending our suffering. Freed from suffering, dukkha, our Sentience is able to continue its Journey Towards Perfection on a smooth ride.

The Journey Towards Perfection

Mindfulness is the state of awareness of a Buddha – a fuller sensitivity to what is around you, but at the same time focusing your awareness onto the present. This means our awareness is focused on a small area of space and time around us. As opposed to our awareness diffused all over the place (worrying about the past we cannot change and futures that probably won’t come). Or, conversely, narrowly focused on something, unaware of the other things around you. Concentration is about how to practice towards mindful awareness.

This isn’t a binary thing, Enlightened or not Unenlightened. Rather, a Sentience starts as pure entropy, just random energy, and begins a journey towards progressively greater understanding of the Universe. Perfect understanding of the Universe means it’s a perfect model of the Universe.

The sentience of we humans is somewhere along that Journey Towards Perfect understanding. This phase of human sentience is just one segment. However, within that one segment is a roadblock we need to tame in order to move on. That is, our Monkey Brain – which is a really crappy model of the Universe.

The removal of that roadblock, which is what the Eightfold Path is about – well, that’s Bodhi. And Bodhi Day is the day that Siddhartha Gautama awoke from a long meditation to this realization.

Shutting Out the Monkey Brain

“Mindfulness” is a misnomer, but it sounds better than mindlessness. The best descriptive name should be “Monkey Mindlessness”, or “Mind of No Monkey”.

As mentioned way back in Awakened View, we are primates with the Gift of Sentience … a terrible combination if there ever was one. While our monkey brain keeps our body running and has the street smarts to deal with normal Life on Earth, it’s more than an annoyance to our Gift of Sentience.

The work of the monkey brain, originally designed for life in the jungle, is interpreted by our Gift of Sentience not merely as a lot of noise, but as the source of your fears and addictions. To release the full potential of our Gift of Sentience, as well as relieve our suffering, we must shut out the rantings of the monkey brain – not eradicate it, just shut it out.

Your monkey brain thinks it knows everything. So it’s constantly arguing with you about things it really doesn’t know about. All it knows is what it has ever experienced – and it thinks that’s all there is to know. Yes, it can derive new knowledge from what it knows, but that’s still a really limited set of all things one could know about the Universe.

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Gunchen Schneivah Flend can’t see clearly with a monkey in the way.

Mindfulness the a state of peace we achieve through the exercise of meditation. That state of peace arrives when meditation shuts out the monkey brain. Meditation is not about pondering lofty things or tough problems. It’s not about calming down to lower your blood pressure. It’s about shutting out your monkey/primate brain.

Without the narrow-minded monkey brain limiting us, our sensitivity to our surroundings improves. The blinders are removed – those blinders set in place by the monkey brain’s limited knowledge, hard-wired habits and biases, and knee-jerk reactions. We see the Universe as it really is, a wondrous, complex system – not just life in the trees for monkeys, essentially glorified squirrels. More things become possible.

There are two forms of meditation I’ll discuss here: Zazen and Awakened Effort. Each serves a different purpose and both should be practiced each day.

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After meditating, losing his mind, Gunchen Schneivah Flend can see clearly through the empty cup with the monkey out of the way.

Zazen – Shutting Out the Monkey Brain

Zazen is the form of meditation that is most associated with Mindfulness. That’s what monks sitting on the ground with their backs straight, eyes closed, and palms on the lap facing up are doing.

The value of zazen is in the ability to shut out the rantings of the monkey brain by focusing our attention away from it. Because of the recent popularity of Mindfulness, there are tons of books on the subject of meditation. So, I won’t get into the details, but offer a TLDR checklist.

Zazen TLDR Checklist

  1. Mindfulness is your mind free from the jabber of your monkey mind. It’s not for thinking through problems.
  2. Meditation is an exercise for shutting out the monkey mind. It’s like running. You run until you can’t. Hopefully the next time you can run over a longer distance. It takes work.
  3. You shut out the monkey mind by focusing your attention on your breathing. Breathing is the only thing any of us must do every second of our life. After a while, the monkey mind shuts up.
  4. If your monkey mind succeeds in interrupting your focus on your breath, refocus. Don’t try to stop the thought, refocus on our breath.
  5. The irony with meditation is that it’s not about calming yourself down. It’s actually an effortful activity of forcing focus on your breath.

Awakened Effort

Once we have some control over shutting out the monkey brain, Awakened Effort applies that clear mind to a Zen Art in order to train our minds and bodies with skills conducive to blending in with the Universe. Unlike Zazen, the Zen Art opens meditation to a limited set of the Universe, not just breathing. But it shouldn’t be too tough, just tough enough that there is much room to improve with the Zen Art.

The Zone

The Zone is Awakened Effort, but with a domain much larger than that of a typical traditional Zen Art such as flower arrangement (ikebana), the tea ceremony, archery, or even a sport. This larger domain could be your work, navigating your way through Laguardia, or working on a tough series of blogs within a short time span. It’s the ultimate a challenging meditation, the no-holds-barred real world.

I get into the zone virtually every day at work programming. I’ve mentioned in other posts that software development as my Zen Art. Software development is on the tough side of a Zen Art. It’s magnitudes more complicated than an art like ikebana. A typical application involves tons of moving parts across many systems, meaning software development is indeed complex. It takes a while to get into the zone programming, getting all those balls in the air. But it all comes crashing down by a visit from a colleague with a, “Hey, quick question …”

Your zazen skill will strengthen your ability to get back into the zone after such interruptions.

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View from Observation Point. Sure is a different view from the bottom of the canyon where we started. Whoa! Look how far below Angel’s Landing is!

It’s Bodhi Day Eve

Yes, today, December 7, 2019, is Bodhi Day Eve. We’re at the end of our journey through the Noble Eightfold Path.

Please do check out Bodhi Season 2018 for more of feeling of Bodhi Day itself. At the very least, get up early tomorrow morning, enjoy the solitude for a few minutes, and whip up a batch of Mrs. Hanamoku’s Bodhi Day Rice Pudding.

Faith and Patience to you!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Further Reading

Posts on minimizing wasted energy, fears, and addictions:

Bodhi Season/Day 2019:

 

Day 6 – Bodhi Season 2019 – Awakened Effort

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We’re more than halfway to Observation Point. There’s a lot of climbing left to do, but that’s what it takes to get there.

Today is December 6, 2019 – the 6th Day of Bodhi Season 2019. Today we’ll very briefly discuss the 6th item of the Eightfold Path – Right Effort.

Since our sentience gets around this Universe in our physical bodies, as it is for any vehicle, it needs fuel and maintenance. There are physical constraints within which our bodies operate. We can’t do much about the amount of energy available to our bodies, but we can drastically improve our fuel efficiency.

Awakened Effort is about minimizing wasted energy to improve our fuel efficiency. This means whatever we may do, our efforts shouldn’t be diffused through worries about a past we cannot change, futures that haven’t happened, addictions and random thoughts screaming from our monkey brain for our attention, fear, or dancing around constraints that aren’t there.

Is energy wasted being stuck in traffic an hour each way to work? Sure, if we’re complaining about it all along the way. Traffic is what it is. For me, it takes 30 minutes and a half gallon of gas each way. Barring magic, 26th Century technology, or allowing me to work remotely, that’s what it takes to get to the office. Anything above that is wasted energy of my own doing.

We could be clever, listening to books online, carpool, or figure out how to work remotely. But there are usually trade-offs. Even if we found a perfect solution to the commute problem, other problems will come along. Eventually, there will be big problems, some with no worldly solution. Commute traffic is really a petty problem. We need something more powerful.

We could be on a path that removes the word “problems” from our vocabulary. From the Awakened View there are no problems to solve because there is only what is right there, on the path, where you stand. Awakened Effort is achieved by doing what needs doing with 100% acceptance of where you are. If you were hiking the Peekaboo Trail at Bryce Canyon, you wouldn’t think of a hill as a pain in the ass problem, but simply what it takes to get to the next view.

The traditional Zen Arts mentioned in the post on Awakened Action are intended to hone efficiency, minimize wasted action. The limitations imposed by a traditional Zen Art (for example, ikebana is a subset of all that could happen in the Universe) enables the practitioner to focus on building the skills related to the aspects of minimizing wasted energy, without worrying about the countless things that can pop up in the open world.

In the post on Awakened Action, I wrote, “All of these Zen Arts train your ability to blend into the Universe.” The Zen Art trains in us the sensitivity to execute graceful actions that blend in so well with what is going on that it looks effortless. Both Awakened Action and Awakened Effort end up minimizing wasted energy – but from two different sides of the same coin.

In the post on Awakened Livelihood, our chosen line of work is the practice that hones our ability to execute graceful Awakened Actions. As we go about our Awakened Livelihood, we’re also mindful of the efficient use of energy through Awakened Effort.

The question now: How do we shut up our primate/monkey brain, that source of much wasted energy? That is the 7th item of the Eightfold Path, Awakened Mindfulness.

Faith and Patience to You!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

Further Reading

Posts on minimizing wasted energy, fears, and addictions:

Bodhi Season/Day 2019:

Day 3 – Bodhi Season 2019 – Awakened Speech

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The view is already starting to look much different from the canyon!

Today is Tuesday, December 3, 2019. Welcome to Day 3 of the 2019 Bodhi Season. Today we discuss the 3rd item of the Eightfold Path – Awakened Speech.

Awakened Speech kicks us into 2nd gear on this Bodhi Season 2019 journey through the Eightfold Path. It’s part of a sub-group that includes Awakened Speech, Awakened Action, and Awakened Livelihood (3rd, 4th, and 5th items of the Eightfold Path, respectively). This sub-group of the Eightfold Path begins the exploration of thoughts that originated from inside our heads and now out into the swirls of world.

The items of this sub-group are less “exotic”, easier to swallow, and easier to digest than the two “1st gear” subjects of Awakened View and Awakened Intent.  However, without the prerequisite of seeing through the perspective of Awakened View, Awakened Speech devolves into just another way to say what the proverbial mothers always told us: ” If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” So please visit or re-visit the posts on Awakened View and Awakened Intent before continuing.

Compassion Versus Passivity

A seeming take-away from this post, which may seem odd to many, is that Buddhism can’t be defined simply as selflessness and compassion. For many not familiar with Buddhism, I’d say the most famous Buddhist, even more so than Siddhartha Gautama himself, is His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and his image of pure compassion. And that’s absolutely great. He is pure compassion, and a Buddha.

The problem is, at least in my observation, “compassion” sometimes seems to be confused with “passivity”. Compassion is fully understanding that other creatures share this Earth with us, all creatures must play their parts in the system of Life on Earth, we all learn from each encounter, and to be grateful those others for the lessons. Passivity is to turn the other cheek, which isn’t very rich with opportunity to learn.

Life on Earth emerges from countless, balanced interactions between all creatures, the geologic processes of Earth, the Sun, and even a few meteors shaking things up every now and then. Buddhists don’t think in terms of good and evil, but balancing systems of paradox and fixing the wobbliness of a wobbly Sentience.

So when discussing Awakened Speech, it would be easy to assume this means simply to say only nice things, never lie, never berate. But it’s not quite that simple. Blending into this wondrous system of Life on Earth is definitely about participation.

Decoupled Thought and Expression

The trade-offs for cheap, short-term wins through lying or angry expression (words and body language) aren’t worth the long-term costs. As Ringo says: Don’t engage. Take the small loss over an ugly win … or ugly loss.

We can forever destroy a relationship with others in a second with a single impulsive outburst of poorly chosen words and a poorly chosen delivery. The Gift of Sentience acts as a buffer between thoughts in the privacy of our brains and what we express out into the real world.

For most higher animals, there is a decoupling between our recognition of a situation requiring some sort of action and the action we actually take. We aren’t push-button machines – a button is pushed, information is processed, a decision is reached, and actions are carried out. A concrete analogy is someone commits a crime, a trial is held, a decision and sentence are determined, and the sentence is carried out. We don’t just throw someone in jail without first exploring the case.

Monkeys have less of the ability to ponder possible actions than humans. That’s a really good thing for monkeys since in their world, they often only have an instant to react. In fact, the less of a gap between recognition and action, the better … for them. Monkeys are impulsive, and impulsive decisions add up to a waste of Sentience.

For humans, it seems the evolutionary trade-off of the ability to think through a response before carrying it out versus the ability to react quickly worked out – we are the apex predator. But it wasn’t a complete trade-off. We still have this amygdala thing that still provides some level of knee-jerk reaction. Cougars and bears still live where we hike and aggressive drivers now place the cost of a few seconds over the safety of their fellow travelers.

Nice is Usually Right

In the system of Life on Earth, practically all creatures, plants and animals, are essentially lying and exaggerating to each other through camouflage in the game of the eternal struggle between predator and prey. Animals all hiss, roar, bark and aggressively posture at each other with the sole purpose of intimidating the other. Such expressions from animals such are deep, natural phenomenon that is suggests Awakened Speech is not as simple as following rules to not lie or exaggerate, yell at or threaten, or gossip about others.

From the point of view of one of these creatures caught in that game of Predator and Prey, it’s horrible. But it’s horrible because we happen to be sentient, thus cognizant of being part of that game since we are still animals. But from the point of view of Life on Earth, that game is fundamental to how Life on Earth survived for over three billion years. For all practical purposes, immortal.

Lying

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave … when first we practice to deceive.” – Walter Scott

“Deceive” could involve physical qualities as well as just words. Think of the camouflage of any animal. They are physical lies. Most plants and animals do it, both predator and prey.

Although telling lies about people or berating people is simply not nice, Walter Scott’s quote captures that Awakened Speech (from the Awakened View) is more than just being nice.

One of my favorite books is How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, by Harry Browne. One of the primary lessons in his book mirrors Walter Scott’s quote. Lying is cheap, and it’s always for short-term gain. When we habitually lie, some lies will be exposed and we need to cover those lies with other lies. It may not be a single new lie covering one old lie. It may take multiple new lies to cover one old lie.

You become indentured to the lies. You’ve incurred a growing tax on your activities since you risk being exposed. Eventually, there will be no escape and your credibility is shot. Of course, there is a network of others involved who may have suffered damage through the web of lies.

Exaggeration

Exaggeration is lying, but what’s different is that the goal is simply to be respected – to show off, like peacocks. For example, if you exaggerate about some work experience to get a job, that’s the kind of lying I’m talking about. In that situation, you definitely will step into a web of lies to cover it up or need to churn like hell to meet those expectations. For some, that latter may not be too much of a problem.

If we exaggerate our accomplishments for just increased popularity, that may be relatively harmless. However, wouldn’t it be incredible to actually become what you’re exaggerating about? Even if it’s just half of what you exaggerate about being.

The thing is, you must first free yourself from the tyranny of seeing through the lens of your primate brain and see through Awakened View. Otherwise, any effort towards becoming what you exaggerate about will be met with frustration.

Angry Speech

This is a tough one. Sometimes violently yelling at a bear actually works. Sometimes you are unfairly the scapegoat or punching bag. Some people only respond to a scolding. Sometimes “the airing of grievances” (thanks, Seinfeld) is what’s needed.

However, those statements are through the lens of the primate brain. As the Enlightened Soul in this complex world that you wish to be, de-escalate. You may not be able to actually resolve the problem, but perhaps you can untangle everyone, freeing all of you to go off on your separate ways.

Considering Ringo’s advice earlier (“Don’t engage. Take the small lose over the ugly win.”), the highest level of understanding comes from fully digesting the 2nd Zen Story underlying the Teachings of the Eternal Fishnu, Is That So? This isn’t simply about turning the other cheek.

The story teaches to the seeker of enlightenment that we can fight whatever comes our way depleting energy and suffering through our short time on Earth. Or we can shut up our monkey brain, listen carefully to all that is going on, blend into it, and learn all we can from the unique situation – all the wiser, a further polished mind of the Buddha.

Summary

The first two items of the Eightfold Path, Awakened View and Awakened Intent, takes place in our heads – respectively, how our brains perceive the world around us and that things we cling to are leashes that exist only in our heads. Today’s item, Awakened Speech, gets out of our heads into the world.

We’re taught to turn the other cheek, not say anything if we can’t say something nice, don’t lie, don’t speak harshly. Those are excellent heuristics – general rules to go by as a default without enough information. However, life isn’t as easy as that. Capacities for aggression evolved in us for a reason. We must see clearly from an Awakened View to better know when such hopefully rare expressions are appropriate, and to measure them carefully.

Speech is soft-action. Your intentions are disclosed, nothing physical actually needs to happen. Tomorrow’s item, Awakened Action, is about ensuring your actions, which are physically irreversible, are as free from unforced errors as possible.

Faith and Patience to you!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

Further Reading

Bodhi Season/Day 2019:

Pre-Bodhi Season 2019 – The Eightfold Path

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A deer is still One with the Universe. Neither passive nor aggressive. On the other hand, we crazy, symbolic-thinking humans … well, “tangled web” is putting it mildly.

Bodhi Season begins in four days, December 1, 2019! For the days from December 1 through Bodhi Day on December 8, I will post guidance for you towards your great awakening.

For this Bodhi Season, the theme is the Noble Eightfold Path. It is arguably the fundamental principle of Buddhism. In fact, it’s a big part of the great “Aha!” of Siddhartha Gautama’s awakening from the slumber of his mind on Bodhi Day.

Contrary to the word “path” in “Eightfold Path”, it isn’t itself a path. It’s really a checklist of skills you’ll need for the world of the awakened. It’s no different from the basic reading, writing, math, civil, social, etc skills you need to make your way through normal life.

Without the skills of the Eightfold path, you probably won’t even see the door. Even if or when you get to it, you’ll look inside, feel the warmth for a minute, and the door will fade away, leaving you back in the normal world. Without the proper preparation, you’d wither like a coconut trying to sprout and survive in Minnesota – it can sprout in the Spring, but will quickly die win Winter.

So what is on the other side of that door for which these Eightfold Path skills are needed? Well, it’s the same old place everyone else has been, enlightened or not. That is simply to explore this same old Universe all we can for the short time we’re here – but with “different eyes”. Those eyes are opened when you lose your suffering, and you will see the wonders of this Universe and Life on Earth as a wondrous thing.

The Buddha only promises to relieve our suffering so we can be free to learn. Freed from suffering, go into the world and live fully!

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Enso medallions. Custom made for us by our friend, Bonnie Liles.

The Eightfold Path

First, let’s take one step back from the EightFold Path to its source, the Four Noble Four Truths, which is the great “AHA!” of Siddhartha Gautama I mentioned earlier. The Eightfold Path is the fourth of those four truths. I’ve written about the Four Noble Truths which lays out the argument that:

  1. We are in turmoil.
  2. We’re in turmoil because we cling to things as the world relentlessly changes.
  3. If we were to release all clinging, we will be at ease in the World.
  4. To learn how to release all clinging, live according to the Eightfold Path.

This “turmoil” is called Dukkha. It’s usually translated as “suffering”, but I like “turmoil” a little better – it’s not perfect, but better. The original meaning of dukkha was a cart wheel with an off-center axle, resulting in a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. We could fix the situation by either fixing the wheel or build complicated mechanisms accommodating the off-center wheel.

I’ve written very much on Dukkha, particularly What is Dukkha? and a four-part series tying Dukkha to the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins”.

Of course, the easier solution by far would be to fix the off-center wheel, as opposed to trying to fit everything else in the world to better handle this off-center wheel. This is analogous to each of us relieving our own suffering first instead of trying to relieve the suffering of others while we still suffer ourselves. Yet, we often think of working on ourselves as selfish.

But not everyone is after the same thing. Therefore, not everything that worked for some will work for other. What works towards happiness? Different things work for different people. For some, it’s raising a family. For others it’s leaving some sort of legacy or maybe it’s to be left alone.

The genius of Buddhism is that by nature it recognizes that the Universe is a complex system. There is not a single path to a particular place. There is always more than one answer to the same question at a different place and time. The Universe is One and all things are connected. As Ringo said, “Pick any path and you’ll eventually get there.”

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My hidden-in-plain-site butsudan at work. The blue glass fishing net ball floating on water represents the Eternal Fishnu. The emptiness of the glass ball, the empty mind. It sits on a wonderful piece of woodwork that was a special gift.

Buddha in a Corporate World

This year, I’m addressing the problem of your hard-won enlightenment vaporizing soon after you get back to the daily grind. During the Holiday Season, we feel merrier, generous of thought and material goods, even resolved to tackle great accomplishments that have so far alluded us. It’s much easier to experience enlightenment within the slowed down, warm blanket of the Holiday Season. But such spirit and resolutions begins dissolving as soon as the fireworks end on New Years Day.

Enlightened souls are like the proverbial snowballs in Hell. Hanging on to glimmers of Enlightenment while succeeding in today’s corporate culture is extremely difficult … but not impossible.

I work in a corporate environment. There, I don’t choose my projects, the role I play, timelines, or people I work with. Everything I do and don’t do is tracked in whatever project management tool – it is indeed Big Brother. Because in the corporate world we make few of our choices, for anyone at any given time, some things aren’t as you would have chosen for yourself.

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Why don’t I get another job if it’s so unpleasant? The answer to that question is actually at the heart of all I’m about to post over the coming week.

Firstly, it’s not that unpleasant. Secondly, there aren’t really many options that will make much of a difference. Everywhere in the Land of Corporations is for the most part the same. The ecology of corporations is pretty much a monoculture of best practices, spread throughout the population of corporations like biological viruses.

Positions at different companies may be a little better or worse for different people at different places and times. Jobs are like people in that we’re all fundamentally the same with what are rather minor, superficial differences. The best one can do is find a package of those minor trade-offs that best suit your needs.

So leaving one job for another in the hopes that it’s better, or leaving a family to start a new one simply punts the underlying problem, only to face again very soon. That underlying problem is the same suffering Siddhartha couldn’t escape hopping from one spiritual master to another, at different times rich, poor, emaciated – but always unsatisfied.

That is, until he faced it all, awakening on Bodhi Day. Bodhi Season is to stand your ground, where you are, with what you have. There’s no escape!

So having a corporate job is great not just for earning a living, but to expose your dukkha and learn to fix them. How could one learn to swim without swimming, cook without cooking, or program without programming? If I didn’t actually work in a corporate environment right now, as I write this, my words shouldn’t carry much weight. I would question the advice of a monk in the mountains counseling me on working in this screw-tightening world of “agile project management”. Like all of you reading this, I’m one of you – a guy making a living in this world – learning to blend back into all the chaos offering the benefits of my gift of sentience.

I admit that I contribute to this dukkha resulting from screw-tightening. As a Business Intelligence consultant, my job is about somehow organizing information towards the goal of improved output – whatever “output” may be. However, if I think of my job from the “50,000 foot” level of the corporation as the entity, I remove the wobbly wheels of the corporation – the dukkha of an organism that happens to be a corporation.

You, Wake Up!

Some of my colleagues have pretty much put themselves to sleep, going with the flow, collecting their paycheck. As much as the phrase, “going with the flow”, is associated with Buddhism, that’s not the idea. Leaves that are asleep go with the flow of the river. Leaves that are alive leaves buzz with energy.

Some colleagues somehow prosper in one way or another in the corporate environment. Some enjoy the chaos, the challenge. Some are masters at flying under the radar like Milton from Office Space. For some fortunate folks, corporate life happens to fit right in line with their needs and desires. Good for you!

Some colleagues have become smoldering volcanoes. Their careers are an endless string of two-week sprints. They endure a life of looking to Friday afternoon for relief and very soon dreading Monday, even though weekends aren’t safe from crunch times anymore. Everything they say is snide, sullen; everything they do is the least needed to not get fired.

It’s this last group that I’m talking to, you smoldering volcanoes. And there are a lot of you. The good news is that all those stewing frustrations means you are still alive, still looking for the Path.

Guess what?! You’re at the gate!

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This is the End of the Trail for the fearful you. The Entire Universe awaits you on the other side. Kind of looks the same on that side. Let’s be brave and go to where we were always told we couldn’t go.

End of the Trail – For the Fearful You

Fear is just a reminder of something that didn’t turn out well from the past that looks like something we’re facing right now, or may face in the future. However, fear is actually our friend. It so helpfully reminded us over hundreds of millions of years that something smells poisonous, something can easily cut us, some creature is looking at us as a tasty meal or a threat to them.

Fear warns us that we’re at risk of losing something. But before agriculture, money and property, the only thing we really could lose was our lives.

Our monkey brain knows how to keep our physical bodies out of danger from other creatures that are part of Life on Earth. In today’s world, that function is just one vital function among many other vital functions. Now our monkey brain are overloaded with so many other things we’re at risk of losing: our jobs, our material property, our intellectual property, our hopes and dreams, our freedoms – and worst of all, things someone else told us we need.

All such things are things we cling to. They shackle us. There are so many of them that they present us with mind-boggling tar pits of dilemmas for which there aren’t good solutions.

These things we cling to only matter in the past and future. Our clinging doesn’t matter in the present. All that matters is what is right here, right now.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the United States. Immerse yourself in the moment of reprieve from the daily grind – with all your loved ones, all the wonderful food. Then return to the daily grind the next day, with the spirit of a warrior – focused in the moment, which is all there really is.

See you back at this site on December 1 for the first item of the Eightfold Path – Awakened View.

Faith and Patience to you,

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku

 

Bodhi Season/Day 2019:

One Week Until Bodhi Season 2019

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The canyon, our home, where we make a living.

Bodhi Season 2019, December 1 through December 8, is only a week away. So it’s time to start contemplating our week-long hike to the Grand View of the Universe to see it as it really is. On Bodhi Day, December 8, we will awaken from all that we were always told to be the truth to find it’s just the naive conclusions of the imperfect information of our brains. And we’re all enablers of each other, validating the same delusions.

The Truth is that our brains can’t begin to compute all that the Universe is, across all dimensions. And Life on Earth where we find ourselves is a pretty remarkable thing. She is marvelous and can take care of Herself – she has for billions of years.

To Life on Earth, each creature is special – just not in the way we normally think – not in the same way that we’re special to our parents or our spouse and children are special to us. To Life on Earth each creature is special in that we all play an intricate part in a huge, adaptable, cascading web of cause and effect. Emerging from the kaleidoscope is a three-billion year old macro life bigger on many dimensions than each individual tree, fish, dog, or human.

We think we’re all-knowing sentient individuals, but that’s only because we only sense a small fraction of what is going on at any instant. From this limited sensory, we aren’t normally conscious of the air and food we take in, all the neat stuff that happens to it, how it leaves us. It’s not aware of the unseen kingdoms of the trillions of bacteria working hand in hand with our trillions of cells. And that the only cells of our bodies that we normally see with our eyes are really among the least interesting.

Consequently, when we think only with our brains, a “device” optimized for simply surviving long enough to reproduce, our understanding of reality is pitifully flawed.

Bodhi Day is about the Awakening of Souls from the zero-sum limitations of our human brains. An automobile to a monkey is just a place of shelter.

Our Home, The Canyon

It’s from the low, fragmented perspective of our daily lives that life can seem a constant pain in the ass, mundane, sometimes terrible. It’s hard to see the unimaginable wonders of the Universe while we toil daily on the canyon floors of our individual minds.

On the canyon floor, there is a lot to learn! That’s why we’re there. But that’s not all there is, and most of us only know life based solely on the knowledge of the canyon floor.

On the canyon floor, we can’t see more than around the next turn. We look above for answers. Answers come, but our minds can’t receive them.

On the canyon floor, we’re frustrated because things don’t make sense, but we feel the security of the solid ground and procrastinate about venturing on up.

On the canyon floor we wonder. We have questions we never would ask had we not been there. But from down there, the answers are nearly impossible to fathom.

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Just a small part of the strenuous hike to Observation Point. The Bodhi Season too is a strenuous but beautiful hike.

The Hike, Our Pilgrimage to a High Perspective

The eight days of Bodhi Season are about a strenuous yet gentle hike from the canyon floor of our daily lives to the high perspective where we will see how the pieces fit together.

Had we not started on the canyon floor, but were born directly to the high perspective, we would have answers to no questions.

Keep in mind that along the hike, there are different questions and answers at every step of the way.

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Observation Point at Zion National Park. What’s interesting is that it seems like you’re on top of the world. But really, you’re at ground level.

As I have done over the past couple of Bodhi Days, I will post a message on each day of Bodhi Season, from December 1 through Bodhi Day on December 8.

I’m talking a lot about paths in this post. That’s because the theme this year will be the Noble Eightfold Path, one for each day of Bodhi Season, as only the Eternal Fishnu can convey.

In the meantime, before we get onto the Eightfold Path next week, the Eternal Fishnu offers three zen stories which are the foundation of his teaching.

If you’re new to Bodhi Day, looking through my past two series of Bodhi Season posts will give you a good idea of what Bodhi Day is about.

Here are links to a few of my more popular Bodhi Day references:

One last thing …

Many people are lead to this site searching out for Bodhi Day traditions, including games and activities. There are no group activities like secret Santa or Christmas caroling.

Unlike most holidays, especially those around the December timeframe involving lots of socializing, Bodhi Day itself is a personal experience. The seven days leading up to Bodhi Day will probably be filled with interactions as the holidays are celebrated and people rush to close out the year.

Bodhi Day is about the training of your mind – training your mind to flow with the dynamics of the world. As opposed to clunking along on wheels out of alignment – sort of the original meaning of dukkha.

Should a drop in cabin pressure occur, put your own mask on first.” – Millions of flight attendants.

Isn’t the Holiday Season a time to be with friends and family? Yes, but there is a lot of time for that with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and other traditions such as Hanukkah.

And those seven days of meditation for most of us are not going to be spent at a quiet monastery or National Park. You should really dig into your normal life for those seven days leading to Bodhi Day. Because enlightened or not on Bodhi Day, December 8, your daily life will be there just as you left it when you return to work on December 9.

Nothing has changed on the outside, but everything has changed on the inside.

Does this sound selfish? Is it selfish to work on your own awakening? It is selfish if your heart is not pure. By a pure heart, I mean that your desire is to train your mind – relieve your suffering – so you’re able to be of more value to others. The more efficient you are with the use of your energy, the clearer your mind, the more value you can provide for others.

Your mind and the Universe will know if your heart is pure. You can’t fool yourself into having an ulterior purpose of using enlightenment for personal gain. As with all creatures, Enlightenment will only grow in the appropriate environment.

In fact, that proper environment is really the theme for this year’s series of Bodhi Day posts starting on December 1.

As with physical exercise, only you can train your Buddha mind. No one can do it for you. On the flip side, you can’t change the minds of other to relieve their suffering. If you’re reading this, it’s because you brought yourself here. Something about awakening, Bodhi, is of interest to you. You are ready. You’re ready to take the time you need on yourself now and forever, to be of greater value to others.

A Wonderful Thanksgiving this week to you all!

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku