Take a few moments and browse through this lovely collection of vases, being done by the Kagyu in Taiwan. I really wish we could see more of this sort of thing.
UPDATED: Seems you can purchase a catalogue of the collection for NT500? See here.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Take a few moments and browse through this lovely collection of vases, being done by the Kagyu in Taiwan. I really wish we could see more of this sort of thing.
Hmmm.... a nice, regional dinner, maybe? The spécialité de la maison around here is stewed rat head...
Although, many is the seasoned gourmand who will wave away the rodent, and call for some old-fashioned yak penis, instead... just like Mama Khandro used to make when we were kids, and she was in a specially wrathful mood.
Sure, the pandas are cute and cuddly, but who cares? Your friends have heard it all before. Now yak penis, by very definition, gives a whole other layer of meaning to the phrase "organs of propaganda."
Nevertheless, for their efforts and all-around good humor, I hereby award Dan, Tashi, and Andrew the Prize Cup... digitally, of course...
...and our next holiday's contest will be: who gave the cup, who received the cup, and what does it say on the cup?
Can't wait for next year.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
and watch a Mahasiddha work with precisely what is in front of him --
June 12th is the 50th anniversary of his parinirvana, and a group of interested parties have put together a rather nice series of observances. They have a site called Remembering the Masters, and it is most definitely worth the visit.
All of us in the West have felt his influence in our lives, and to understand how this is so, one has but to examine the list of his students.
If you do not know who Hannah Montana is, let me explain that she is the activity deity of girls younger than 16.
You know, this one is not as easy as it first seems... maybe we need to start looking in this direction...?
UPDATED: The ever-accurate Andrew West sends in notice of a useful enlargement from another source (scroll to the bottom, and enjoy what you see on the way there). Yet, this mystery is still not decisively solved...
UPDATED X2: I will date myself terribly when I do this.... O.K..... Tha shabkyu "u" is Thu... Ma gigu "i" is Mi and sa is mis... silent ba, Ta naro "o" is to and da is bTod...
Are you sure this is how Evans-Wentz did it?
Friday, May 29, 2009
One more catch... you have to (3) identify the hand that wrote the above, and the answer may surprise you.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
If you click here, you will be able to listen to HR3831. No, that is not a House Resolution, but a star with a singular magnetic field. The audio is the product of a remote sensing technique called asteroseismology.
And, hard on the heels of asteroseismological audio, we find audio tuned to the resonant frequencies of DNA, then translated into music.
It is fun to beat drums and listen to insects.
Chinese 5th (of 5th - Dragon Boat!) M-T-K 4th, Horse, Kham, White 8. A good day for sang. Likewise, not a bad day for getting out and about. Not unfavorable for nagas, but not exactly optimal. See tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Well, there isn't anywhere to get.
Do yourself a favor:
just once, stop meditating,
stop "practicing dharma,"
stop thinking in terms of something
called "Tibetan," or "Buddhism,"
or "Tibetan Buddhism," or the
issue of "works," or "doesn't work."
Stop looking for the miracle,
as if it were something to be found.
The only "miracle" is now.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The thought comes to me: it seems technically possible to construct aeolian harps that play mantras when resonated by the wind.
Just a thought, from a rLung guy on a windy day.
There are also traditions associated with visiting these places -- Chinese market theatre. You wander from shop to shop, or stall to stall, and the owners invite you in for a sample. The tea is fresh-brewed in front of you, and served with a flourish, often preceded by splashing the tea over a stone, three-legged frog on the serving platform. I asked a fellow why, and he replied he really didn't know -- his father did it, his grandfather did it, and so on.
Everyone has their favorite markets -- I like the one in Shenzhen, and when I am able, I like the markets down in Yunnan province. I have a special connection with Yunnan (it would seem I was conceived there), and I have always favored Yunnan's justly famous Pu-Erh tea. It is, in fact, the only tea I ever drink, because the presence of caffeine is negligible.
Pu-Erh tea at its best is aged. It is not uncommon to hear of 300-year-old Pu-Erh tea coming up on the market, trading for high price. As one dealer wryly notes, "It is difficult to say how old the tea really is, but if you buy it and keep it, then you will know for certain."
Why all this on-and-on about tea, you ask? When you delve into the lore of Yunnan's Pu-Erh tea -- when you get past the ethnocentric origin legends and really delve in -- you may come upon a body of lore that suggests Pu-Erh tea was a gift to the world by the Medicine Buddha: a sort of agricultural terma, if you will. The argument is that tea actually began on the slopes of the Tibetan-Chinese border, and there are still unusual tea trees of remarkable age and size in this region. Pu-Erh tea is like a natural antistatin -- a natural Lipitor, with scientifically proven abilities to lower one's naughty cholesterol levels by around 13% in a month's time. There are also other beneficial properties, but I leave discovery of these to your own researches. Click the links above.
Chinese 3rd M-T-K 2nd, Dragon, Dwa, White 6. A very good day for practice.
Monday, May 25, 2009
In the 1970s, Maryknoll at Los Altos became a retirement home for missionaries, and it is here they while away their anecdotage, in proud possession of a Buddhist bell, cast in 1750, in China. The spoils of spiritual war, no doubt.
How they came by this bell isn't immediately revealed, but why they see fit to remain in possession is quite another matter.
If you're within a day's drive of Los Altos, do some sleuthing, and report your findings here. Any chance they want to do the right thing? Maybe they'll sell the whole place. The architecture is super, and I heard they need the money.
Dan the Man, author of the very venerable Tibeto-logic weblog, gently sends the following pointing-out instruction:
I think it's only fair, since the Tibetan Buddhists have kept in their custody for the last 300 years a priceless Catholic bell. I guess it's in storage these days, but it used to hang in the entranceway of the Jokhang in Lhasa. With the Te Deum... inscribed on it. For proof, see here:
Armenians have a Tibetan bell that is at least as old at Etchmiadzin Cathedral, the Jokhang of Armenia.
Catholics & Buddhists seem to have a bell exchange system. Maybe kind of like the Assamese who used Dorje Drilbus with the Dorjes removed for currency? Things get around, and not always for what we think are the right reasons.
Interesting world? I think so!
Well, during the Cold War, we used to arrange prisoner exchanges, so maybe...
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Although small, none is more beautiful than the Cang Lang Ting, or Azure Wave Pavilion. The site was an Imperial flower garden during the Five Dynasties. In 1044, it was purchased for 40,000 strings of cash by the poet Su Shunqin, who ordered that a pavilion be constructed near the water. He named it "Azure Wave," after a line in the poem Fishermen, by Qu Yuan (c. 340-278BC).
Although a celebrated poet, Su Shunqin was actually a high court judge, who turned to poetry because he felt the law's hypocrisy. Perhaps he felt a kindred spirit in Qu Yuan, a former minister of state who turned to poetry before committing one of history's most commemorated suicides. He ended his life by grasping a rock and throwing himself in the river. Asia's fifth month - fifth day Dragon Boat Festival is held to commemorate his death: the boats are said to be rushing to retrieve his body before the fish can consume him.
The story is that Qu Yuan was wandering along the river bank, when he was recognized by a fisherman, who asked, "Aren't you the great minister? What has brought you down so low?" Qu Yuan answered, "All the world is muddy, and I alone am clean." The fisherman replied, "Then why not beat the muddy water and raise up azure waves?"
Maybe I have the history wrong. Probably, I have failed to grasp the subtle points. Certainly, there is more to the story.
Today, dreaming in Suzhou, stirring my own Azure Wave, I am thinking of a line from the book, Treasures from Juniper Ridge:
"To expect to attain buddhahood through the laborious striving in cultivation of a deity and recitation of mantra is to bind the Buddha by craving."
Friday, May 22, 2009
If China pulls back on its purchases of US bonds, it will drive up interest rates, making it more expensive for the government to finance its growing debt. It will also raise borrowing rates for a host of consumer and business loans, including home mortgages.
So, Obama nominates Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R), to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China. He speaks Mandarin, his family owns a factory in Shanghai, and one of his daughters was adopted from China.
You do the math.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
UPDATED: Ah, yes... the whole mish-mosh I read started here, with commentary on an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
I don't know if I agree or disagree with this item's characterization of OENAB as strictly a white, Anglo-Saxon, baby-boomer phenomena, nor do I have the wisdom to know whether or not anybody has any money left, after all the temples we didn't build and all the monastics we didn't support. I do know that I have a fundamental disagreement with the characterization of Buddhism in the United States as OENAB-dominated (the OENABs are just noisy is all). Nevertheless, the whole premise started me thinking.
Financing Buddhism in the United States has always been a challenge.
In the early days, a bunch of kids got together and started earning. They supported the lama, and the lama's family. When the lama got on his feet, publishing deals were cut and the money started rolling. Trungpa Rinpoche made what was, at the time, a reasonably advantageous percentage deal with Sam Bercholz, and proceeded to make Shambhala Publications a very profitable business enterprise. Tarthang Rinpoche was a little smarter. He kept control of his own properties, and bought his own presses, and proceeded to make his own fortune. Those who came later struggled somewhat in the shadow of these two giants, relying on the generosity of individual sponsors who, more often than not, were buying a warm spot close to throne.
The situation changed. By the 1980s, Taiwan was the 500 pound gorilla, and to their credit, Taiwanese people really know how to support Buddhism with only thin strings attached. I should also mention the Singapore people, and Hong Kong people in the same breath, and yes, even the Mainland Chinese people. I have nothing but respect for the honest generosity of the Asian people, and nothing but disappointment in OENAB's failure to match up.
I guess everybody was still trying to figure out how to get their back-end cut. Do you know? There are well-documented cases where American "sangha members" gave themselves a salary to build stupas? Maybe I am wrong, but the notion gives me an icky feeling. Do you know, there are actually American "ordained," (or the "play" ordained) who drop their robes to go 9 to 5?
Now, the situation has come full circle -- as situations often do. The Asian economy has cooled, and since the lamas wised up to the game and started delivering services straight to the source, there isn't a whole lot of incentive to help out the struggling Yankees. The American economy is in the toilet, and in consequence, we are starting to see a bunch of kids get together in order to start earning.
"Dharma Center" Economics 101...
There is actually a parasitic character to what evolved. You have gringo authors and commentators knocking down percentages, and you have centers charging other centers for core services. Dave Dorje is out flogging prayer wheels. Kathy Kandro is sewing prayer flags. Somebody else is putting the mark-up on bells and whistles, Patty Pema is being inscrutable on Oprah, and so it goes, doing what we do best. In America, the Buddhists are eating the Buddhists, like fish eat fish in the ocean. If I wake up tomorrow, and somebody tells me there's a Dalai Lama Action Figure on the market, I will not bat an eye. Hell... I'll probably go buy one.
What is the solution? Do we stalk Richard Gere? Do we apply for foundation grants? Do we start tithing like Mormons? Do we stop the "Dharma Center" madness altogether, consolidate our efforts, and start building real institutions? After all these years, what is the future of Brick and Mortar Buddhism here in Gold Mountain?
And more to the point... who is going to pick up the check?
*OENAB = Obnoxiously Ethnocentric North American Buddhism, so-called because it ignores those of Asian descent who actually comprise the majority of Buddhists in North America.
This set makes a really excellent gift for your friends, your enemies, your kids, their kids, or yourself.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I say we stand up for Gesar (seen at left, as a toddler, in the arms of his father, Trungpa Rinpoche) and sell out the house. You down with that?
Herewith, from 'Phag pa 'od zer dri ma med pa rnam par dag pa'i 'od ces bya ba'i gzungs:
"...if any bhiksu, bhiksuni, upasaka, upasika, noble man or noble woman who has a short life, or many illnesses, repairs an old stupa, or even builds a new one, and puts written mantras inside and cleans the mandala and makes offerings [to it] the result will be that even if their life-span is at an end, it will be extended and they will have a long life; even if they are afflicted with illness and suffering, their illness will be overcome and they will be freed from it; they will never go to the lower existences, to become a hell-being, to be reborn as an animal, reborn in the land of Yama; they will not even hear the names of these [existences] let alone be reborn there.”
That seems pretty straightforward to me. If you are afflicted, don't sit around hating my guts... just get up off your well-upholstered posterior and go do something constructive... and here is an easy one.
Read our original post, and take it from there. If we have any readers from New Mexico, please go take pictures of that stupa and send them here (use comments, below, to send me your address: it will not be published). Show the world how the United States Government takes care of Buddhist stupas.
And finally -- today is an astrologically perfect day to make requests to persons in authority, so don't be shy about writing senators, congresspeople, or the ever-lovin' White House.
UPDATED: A dear friend points out that this site is being jointly managed by the National Park Service and the City of Albuquerque, so maybe a good place to start is by lighting up the Mayor of Albuquerque, Martin J. Chavez. Ask him why the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division has allowed a sacred Buddhist stupa to fall into disrepair and neglect. Ask him what he intends to do about it. Send copies of your correspondence with the mayor to the Albuquerque Journal newspaper.
UPDATED (X2): Not long after we posted the above link to the National Park Service page, they blanked it out. Looks like everybody is trying to evade responsibility. How sleazy is that?
Since regional initiatives seem weak, it is time for the West to find the political will to destabilize Burma's ruling junta, which is itself heavily involved in the worldwide traffic in opium and its derivatives, and put a definitive end to this long-running insult to humanity.
As the trial proceeds, Buddhist web sites, blogs, groups, and leaders the world over are showing solidarity with The Lady.
Educate yourself on this issue, and then do what you can to Free Aung San Suu Kyi.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
If we don't have much going on, we put up seven (7) days on the front page, and if we have something useful going on, we put up three (3) days.
We have recently begun using the "LinkWithin" feature, which generates unpredictable results (like in "Daily Astrology" where it routes you to days gone past), but is nonetheless interesting and amusing.
Really, the best way to use this site is to employ the search function, in the upper left-hand corner. With over 800 posts during the past three years, there seems to be a lot of stuff herein.
Thank you very much for your interest and continued readership. May you always be well and happy.
It came to me that we have all sorts of beautiful books of commentary. Yet, the real treasures are typically consigned to dog-eared, xeroxed pages. Look around your house. Look at your practice texts: stapled in the corners, or cheaply wire-bound -- in many cases the Tibetan is handwritten -- yet, these are the texts you use every day. These are the texts that actually give you something. When OENAB finally grows up ("OENAB" = Obnoxiously Ethnocentric North American Buddhism), the practice texts should be the golden nuggets that have actually endured (well, one can only hope).
With few exceptions, most of our sadhanas and liturgical texts are ephemeral, whereas the supporting commentaries (and commentaries on the commentaries) evince generous production values.
Seems like it should be the other way around.
Through the years, there have been a few attempts to produce Buddhist "prayer books," and so forth, but not to the degree that one might expect. I think this is a useful area to develop, and I hope that the publishers who visit here (frequently -- although they're too chicken to admit it) will take the cue.
Speaking personally, I'd like to see a whole series. Start with Mipham's Shower of Blessings, pocket-sized, sewn to lay flat, with a stain-resistant cover. Visit here (and here) for inspiration, and then do it proud.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
By the way... do you smoke cigarettes? Do you want to stop smoking cigarettes? If you do -- and why wouldn't you? -- then today is one of the best days all year to stop smoking. Just throw your cigarettes away, right now. Figure out how much you spent on cigarettes last year, and then take that same sum to your favorite lama. Throw away your lighters, cases, and ashtrays, and then go buy some chewing gum. Tell the nagas that you are sorry for polluting the environment, and ask them to help you quit for good.
Remember: if you promise the nagas that you've stopped, and later go back on your word, you will sadly come to learn why nagas are not to be trifled with under any circumstances.
I am 100% not joking.