Category Archives: buddhism

Buddhists seek to let go of attachment to the myth of the private, solid, unchanging self, and to promote universal compassion and end universal suffering.

But capitalist culture enforces the myth of the privatized, self-centered self. So unless mindfulness is employed in the service of making the world a better place — then practicing can and does end up serving to maintain the very self-centered, greedy, individualistic institutions and relationships that contribute to the lack of connected presence, kindness, and compassion that contribute to our unhappiness.

Mindfulness meditation in America has a capitalism problem

My Jukai

This morning I undertook Buddhist lay ordination in a ceremony called jukai, which means “receiving precepts” in Japanese. “Precepts” are a series of vows for living one’s life. This ceremony was conducted entirely online through Treeleaf Zendo, an all-online Soto Zen sangha that I’m a part of. The others taking part came from all around the world – Ukraine, Thailand, Vietnam, and elsewhere. Here’s a recording of the ceremony.

Treeleaf Zendo’s Han

The han (wooden block) hanging outside the door of Treeleaf Zendo in Tsukuba, Japan.

This is the han hanging outside Treeleaf Zendo in Tsukuba, Japan. I just participated in a 2-day online retreat with the Treeleaf sangha around the world. The han functions as a sort of wooden “bell”, struck to start the retreat. It reads:

“Life and death are the great matter.
To waste time is a pity.
All is impermanent and passes swiftly away.
Time waits for no one.”

The Fifth Precept in the Age of Facebook and Trump

Often there’s just a small movement of heart that indicates that, oops, now I’m just wasting time. Or that I’m looking for something to amuse myself. It’s ironic, really: social media both plugs us into bad news and offers candy-like distractions from it. It creates the problem and then pretends to solve it—all because we’d rather have some interesting formations [any physical or mental concepts]  to amuse ourselves. I’ve found it really interesting to observe these subtle movements of mind.

Dr. Jay Michaelson, “The Fifth Precept in the Age of Facebook and Trump

Even though we are used to seeing everything in terms of the historical dimension, we can touch the ultimate dimension. So our practice is to become like a wave—while living the life of a wave in the historical dimension, we realize that we are also water and live the life of water. That is the essence of the practice. Because if you know your true nature of no coming, no going, no being, no nonbeing, no birth, no death, then you will have no fear and can dwell in the ultimate dimension, nirvana, right here and now. You don’t have to die in order to reach nirvana. When you dwell in your true nature, you are already dwelling in nirvana.

Thich Nhat Hanh

‘Kalpa’ is an interesting expression. It is a unit of time, something like a light-year, which is defined in an unusual way. Imagine that a storehouse with a capacity of ten cubic miles is filled with poppy seeds. Once every century someone removes a single poppy seed. A kalpa is defined as the time it would take to empty the storehouse.

Shohaku Okumura, Living By Vow

The other day, someone visited me and asked, ‘I wish to practice zazen under your guidance. But because I live far away, I can’t come to [temple] very often. I’d like to practice zazen at home. What should I keep in mind to avoid doing zazen in a mistaken way.’ I responded, ‘If your wife and children say, “Daddy has become nicer since he began doing zazen”, then your practice is on the right track.’

Kōshō Uchiyama, Zen Teaching of Homeless Kodo

Some weeks after I read this, I was walking my daughter to her school bus stop. Out of nowhere, she looked at me and said “You’re less angry since you became a Buddhist.”