Monday, June 28, 2010

Senator Robert Carlyle Byrd, 1917 - 2010

A long time servant of the American people and good friend of the Tibetan people has passed away.

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Somebody Had A Birthday

The Seventeeth Karmapa had a birthday just recently -- Saturday, the 19th on the lunar calendar or Saturday, the 26th on the Western calendar -- and naturally, there were numerous celebrations in his honor. 

Here are photos from one such event that a friend just sent to us -- don't know who took these, but they certainly capture a moment.

We all need a good laugh, and the more frequently we can do this, the better off we will be in the long run. You know, many people have commented that the Seventeenth Karmapa has a playful, humorous nature at times.

These qualities are not unique, you know? As human beings, we all need to get a little bit goofy every now and then. Of course, to the matter of "getting goofy," the lineage does have precedents.

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Weekly Tibetan Astrology: June 28 - July 4, 2010

NOTE: The environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is bringing the cranks and doomsayers out of the woodwork, and I do not want to be another one of them. However, I do wish to point out that well before this and other undersea disasters even occurred, the astrology was telling us -- and we were reporting here -- that there is an extreme danger associated with earthquakes and undersea geological disasters on the most terrible possible scale. Now it seems that science is catching up with astrology. The scientists are telling us that the situation in the Gulf is particularly volatile because that well is several miles down, and the oil is sitting on top of molten magma. If steam is created down there, it is going to lead to something nobody wishes to see or experience. In effect, we are talking about an "oil volcano" with its associated risks of toxic gases and tsunamis. I am not by nature an alarmist, but I would be less than candid if I told you I was not alarmed. I bring this up to explain why we need to pay special attention to fire/earth, water/earth, and water/fire situations coupled with movement of the earth spirits, nagas, and so forth. This is a very dangerous time. [We first published this on Thursday June 24th and have now re-dated it into our feed.]

June 28, 2010 - Chinese 17th, M-T-K 17th. Horse, Li, Black 2. Duplicated day in Chinese practice. Water Earth. Problematic day with unfavorable elements. Effects can be mitigated by joyous practice. Remember the nagas. Don't go out at night.

June 29, 2010 - Chinese 18th, M-T-K 18th. Sheep, Khon, Blue 3. Today is zin phung. Fire Earth moving to Fire Fire. While progress is possible, and while plans may come to fruition, there is obstruction from the elements. Today and twenty-four hours on either side are worth watching. Remember the nagas. Don't harm trees today.

June 30, 2010 - Chinese 19th, M-T-K 19th. Monkey, Dwa, Green 4. An excellent day to spend with friends. If you feel that you do not or cannot have any friends, then I will be your friend. Remember the nagas. Travel east today. Not bad for medical treatment.

July 1, 2010 - Chinese 20th, M-T-K 20th. Bird, Khen, Yellow 5. You can make a jewel offering today, if you can manage to get past the pettiness. I would encourage you to do both. Remember the nagas. Don't disturb the earth element. Usually, today would be good for important requests.

July 2, 2010 - Chinese 21st, M-T-K  21st. Dog, Kham, White 6. A positive day in most every respect, but surrounded, as it were. Not good for travel.

July 3, 2010 -  Chinese 22nd, M-T-K 22nd. Pig, Gin, Red 7. Earth Fire. Today is baden, so no flags. Highly obstructing energies. No offerings to nagas are possible today. Not good for travel. Avoid arguments. Good day for Vajrakilaya.

July 4, 2010 - Chinese 23rd, M-T-K 23rd. Mouse, Zin, White 8.  Highly obstructing energies. Failure of command resulting in disaster. Water Fire transiting into Water Fire tomorrow with zin phung. Indeed, the fifth and sixth do not look good. Make offerings to dharmapalas. Today is Independence Day in the United States, and is known as Tarthang Rinpoche's favorite holiday.

Naga observations for the fifth  month: Only one really good day this month --  lunar 15, but offerings also possible on 9, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27.  Nine bad days -- 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oração pelo Golfo do México

Porque separamos tudo que nos parece
que experimentamos
em opostos extremados fundados em noções
erradas de "eles" e "nós"

trocamos cada satisfação imediata
por sonhos temporários
acreditando na ilusão da felicidade e do lucro.

devido ao desejo ávido de independência
neste mundo inter_dependente,

egoístas cortamos as veias exteriores da terra

eu rezo para que nos lembremos
das águas feridas do planeta
e da forma ignorante como,
ferimos todos os seus seres
interiores e exteriores

os pilares que organizam o nosso
objectivo por água e terra
não limitam a perfeição primordial
ampla e profunda_

fundada num só local
onde bênçãos radiantes chegam
para além da ideia de limites fronteiriços.

rezamos pelas águas habitadas
e pelos locais selvagens
de que nem sempre nos lembramos de ver
neste grande oceano de miséria que parece

ir e vir

quando fechamos os nossos olhos,
quando abrimos os nossos olhos
desaparecem instantaneamente
quando abrimos os nossos corações

possam os erros ser controlados,
possa sempre a perfeição pratica ser alcançada
possa a paz nascida no nosso interior

curar o prejuizo que provocamos
possa a vida ser confortável

para todos os seres que sofrem
pelo mérito do nosso puro despertar

pelo poder da verdade,

possa espontaneamente chegar ao fim

a desar_monia dos elementos

no Golfo do México.

Prayer for the Gulf of Mexico 
Because we have divided all that we seem to experience
into polar opposites founded on mistaken notions of "them" and "us"
We trade ever-present satisfaction
For temporary dreams
believing in the illusion of happiness and gain.

When, from the lust for independence
in this world of interdependence,
we selfishly cut open the earth's veins
I pray we remember the planet's wounded waters
and how, from ignorance, we injured all beings in and around them

The shores that map our aspiration for water and earth
do not delimit primordial perfection
which is spacious and profound:
by resting in one place
radiant blessings reach beyond the idea of boundaries

It is not for the inhabited waters alone we pray
but for the wild places we do not always remember to see
this great ocean of misery that seems to come and go
when we close our eyes, when we open our eyes
Instantly evaporated when we open our hearts
May mistaken notions be tamed,
May always possible perfection be realized
May peace born within us heal the damage we have done
May life be comfortably sustained for all sentient beings who suffer
By the merit of our clear awakening
By the power of truth, 
May there spontaneously come an end to the disharmony of the elements
in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Buddha's Skull Relic at Nanjing

In an event carried live on Chinese television earlier this month, confirmed relics of Sakyamuni Buddha, including a fragment of his skull, were revealed for the first time in 1,000 years.
Excavation of the Changgan Temple, built in the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279), in Nanjing, began in July 2008. Archeologists unearthed a stupa-shaped casket, which is believed to be one of the 84-thousand stupas of King Asoka that contain Sakyamuni’s sarira, that is, part of his remains. The miniature stupa is 1.8 meters in height, embedded with more than four-hundred-and-fifty diamonds. It is the largest of its kind unearthed in China so far.

They also unearthed a miniature gold coffin nested inside a silver one. The gold casket holds Sakyamuni’s sarira. Archaeologists were excited to find the record on the stele they found conforms with historical records of an Asoka pagoda with multiple eaves buried under the Changgan Temple, the second temple in China that received and housed Sakyamuni’s sarira.

However, their most exciting moment came last August, when they excavated from the temple a wooden Asoka pagoda covered with gilded silver and inlaid with "seven treasures," including gold, silver, colored glaze, and amber.

The pagoda contained the nested coffins with the Sakyamuni relic inside. It took the team  almost another year to excavate and verify the artifacts.

Below, are some of the images published in the Chinese media:
Things like this do not happen by accident. Buddha's relics have enormous power to awaken bodhicitta, and to transform the environment where they are located.
We covered this story back in March 2009, and have been following up through Chinese news reports.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Rachab Ogyen Samten Choling

Above, is a greatly reduced, panoramic photograph of Rachab Ogyen Samten Choling, in Tibet, as it appeared in 2002. This very large and historic temple, monastery, and retreat complex -- perched on a "dragon's spine" in Kham --  is under the responsibility of the Ninth Ogyen Tulku -- who is now currently on tour in Taiwan, but scheduled to return to the United States very soon, before resuming travel in Asia.

"The connections have fit together
for this teaching to spread to the far ends of the sky
in accordance with the prophecy of the Venerable Padma"
                          --- Jigme Lingpa

Naturally, the responsibilities that tulkus face when it comes to monasteries can be rather heavy. In the present instance, it should be understood that Rachab Ogyen Samten Choling is just one of several monasteries in Tibet under Rinpoche's spiritual direction. Thus, it is fair to say his responsibilities are heavier then most.

Today, on the occasion of an auspicious lunar eclipse, I would like to take some time to discuss this matter with our many readers.

I know Rinpoche personally, and I think very highly of his qualities. You do not often find such qualities in this world, and it is even more rare to find them in someone of his age. Maybe, we should expect no less. Rinpoche's lineage is most distinguished. He is the reincarnation of Dhanasamskrita, born in the Thogar area of Uddiyana: one of the Eight Vidyadharas of India. He is also counted among the reincarnations of Drokmi Palgyi Yeshe, one of the Twenty-Five Disciples of Padmasambhava. He was formally recognized as such by Kyabje Dudjom Rinpoche, and formally enthroned by Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Kyabje Penor Rinpoche.

Regardless of his credentials, the man himself is his best testament. I liked him instinctively, from the moment I laid eyes on him, and over the years, I have formed the aspiration to help him in any way I can. Regular readers will note that I have referred to him several times in past postings. As a courtesy, I also maintain a small blog for him -- chiefly helping with the English, and so forth. I do not, as some apparently believe, maintain or have access to his Twitter account nor do I maintain or have access to his Facebook account. Rinpoche maintains those himself, with some help from his brother, who is a gifted doctor of Tibetan traditional medicine.

As Westerners, we have been able to pull off some fairly impressive assistance to Tibetan monasteries overseas. We have been able to materially aid quite a number of charismatic teachers, and to help them realize their visions of this world. However, I do not think of that as "us helping them," so much as I recognize this as a symbiotic process where we are the true beneficiaries.

The reason I bring this up is because I have received several letters and comments, all to the effect that "the good old days" are long past, and it is impossible to make a meaningful, individual connection with a teacher of substance who actually gives a damn.

In some ways, that is very true. 

Nevertheless, that is not strictly true. There is an opportunity here to make a connection with Ogyen Tulku that I think is very precious and rare. He is perhaps the best qualified teacher in the world today to transmit certain particular, highly specific teachings that have great significance to our time, and to the issues we are facing in the West. Furthermore, he is honest: he is focused on the Dharma. He is not out to make a name for himself -- not out for the "rockstar lama" circuit.  

I have been extremely fortunate in this lifetime to meet and have a personal connection with several great lamas. In a few cases, because of the time and the place, I was able to meet some of them when they were around the age Ogyen Tulku is now. In so many ways, he reminds me of those lamas in the past. You know, over a period of 45 years or so, you get a feeling for things. You get a feeling for what is genuine and what is not.

So, although because of my own shortcomings, I was not able to do very much with the remarkable opportunities I had, there is still a developed sense of being able to appreciate and value the true qualities of those who it is useful to appreciate and value. Many of you no doubt have the same experience, and can relate to what I am saying. If you spend much time around your teacher, after a while, you begin to realize certain qualities when you see them -- even if you are as dull witted as I seem to be.

Although the primary economies that support Tibetan Buddhism are now under great stress -- as is the world economy - and although there is, admittedly, a certain "greying" of interest in Tibetan Buddhism, the information I receive through DTBA leads me to believe -- or, at least hope -- that there are many who are seeking a meaningful connection with a legitimate teacher, and many more who would benefit by cultivating such a connection with Ogyen Tulku. 

I wish I were younger. I wish I had not thrown away a fortune. Yet, there are those of you who are currently young and energetic enough to make a difference. There are those of you who managed your finances better than I managed mine. It is my suggestion that you should get together and try to help Ogyen Tulku. It is my prayer you will get together and try to help Rachab Ogyen Samten Choling. 

Ogyen Tulku bestows an empowerment in Tibet, 2002

DTBA has an amazing readership, and in the past, we have been able to accomplish things that might otherwise seem improbable, or difficult. I am in fact frequently amazed at the resources available to our readership. We have people from all walks of life -- some quite humble, some quite prominent and powerful -- yet, all of our readers are uniformly dedicated to supporting Tibetan Buddhism in any way possible. Really, we have an absolutely outstanding on-line community of the best people I have ever met.

Rinpoche's worldwide organization is called the Buddha of Compassion Society. He has a presence in Canada, Taiwan, India, and Massachusetts, in the U.S.A. He also tours to various other states in America. The organization is in its embryonic stages, and they can use all the help they can get. 

Won't you please, after reading this, consider offering your assistance? If you feel as if you would like an introduction, then please write to me, and I will introduce you.

In order to inculcate some clear confidence among those who have the seed of connection with a precious master of the sublime Dzongchen, I have set down this word-map to the Land of Liberation. To those who have aspirations, please remember these words:
"Bend the bow of practice without slack.
Attach the bowstring of commitment that's not feigned.
Draw together the thumb and notch of connections and aspiration.
To shoot the arrow is to shoot at every kingdom.
To hit is to hit those with whom there's a karmic link.
To satisfy is to satisfy their every wish,
So that your accomplishment is to accomplish buddhahood in a lifetime."
                                                                      --Jigme Lingpa
The number one question we receive here at DTBA, year in and year out, is "How do I make a connection with a real teacher?" I have always refrained from answering that question, but now I have answered from my heart.

May it be auspicious.

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We Do Not Take Moonlight for Granted

"We do not take moonlight for granted. It is like snow, or like the dew on a July morning. It does not reveal but changes what it covers. And its low intensity---so much lower than that of daylight---makes us conscious that it is something added to the down, to give it, for only a little time, a singular and marvelous quality that we should admire while we can, for soon it will be gone again." 
--Richard Adams,
Watership Down

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Sakya Near Miss?

It would be interesting to know what really happened.

Ordinarily, I do not run a story until I am finished fact-checking, but this one is a classic of its type. I am running with it because it illustrates, and underscores, everything that is wrong with Tibetan reporting these days.

So, then...

I am looking at a near-miss story involving the Sakyas. Several thousand pilgrims collected in Lhagang (confirmed) expecting Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche (rumor), causing the Chinese to hold the two rinpoches back at Chengdu, effectively canceling the event (rumor).  The  Lhagang crowd, which included many firebrands from Litang (confirmed), and estimated at around 4,000 (reliable observer), was upset after waiting up all night, katas in hand (confirmed) and began blocking roads (confirmed).  The police responded (confirmed), and reportedly told the senior lama at the scene that the monastery in Lhagang would be closed if the crowd did not disperse (rumor). The crowd dispersed (confirmed). Meanwhile, the two rinpoches were allowed to travel to Dege (rumor).

Actually, the story as it is now developing, looks like it may not have anything to do with Sakya at all:

Regardless of what really happened, this story demonstrates how intrigue swirls in Kham these days. This is the kind of thing that could be spun any which way, depending on your politics or fund-raising needs, or just plain old bored mischief-making.

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Dalai Lama is being pounded by critics -- none of them actual, grown-up Buddhists, by the way -- who believe his recent remarks are contradictory in nature. The remarks in question are a statement regarding Armed Forces Day, and comments regarding environmental intervention. 

First, Armed Forces Day:
"I have always admired those who are prepared to act in the defense of others for their courage and determination. In fact, it may surprise you to know that I think that monks and soldiers, sailors and airmen have more in common than at first meets the eye. Strict discipline is important to us all, we all wear a uniform and we rely on the companionship and support of our comrades.

Although the public may think that physical strength is what is most important, I believe that what makes a good soldier, sailor or airman, just as what makes a good monk, is inner strength. And inner strength depends on having a firm positive motivation. The difference lies in whether ultimately you want to ensure others’ well being or whether you want only wish to do them harm.

Naturally, there are some times when we need to take what on the surface appears to be harsh or tough action, but if our motivation is good our action is actually non-violent in nature. On the other hand if we use sweet words and gestures to deceive, exploit and take advantage of others, our conduct may appear agreeable, while we are actually engaged in quite unacceptable violence.

The ultimate purpose of Buddhism is to serve and benefit humanity, therefore I believe that what is important for Buddhists is the contribution we can make to human society according to our own ideas and values. The key to overcoming suffering and ensuring happiness is inner peace. If we have that we can face difficulties with calmness and reason, while our inner happiness remains undisturbed. The teachings of love, kindness and tolerance, the conduct of non-violence as I have explained above, and especially the Buddhist theory that all things are relative are a source of that inner peace.

It is my prayer that all of you may be able to do your duty and fulfill your mission and in due course when that is done to return to your homes and families.”
To me, that is as beautifully stated as it gets. I do not see how anyone could take exception with this. If you are speaking to soldiers, what else are you going to say?

The seeming contradiction arises in widely reported remarks, made during his recent trip to Japan, wherein he criticized the U.S. environmental action group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for using violence to prevent the slaughter of whales. For their part, the Society responded as follows:
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama said at a media conference in Japan that he continues to support the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. He did rebuke us and said to his Japanese hosts that our activities should be non-violent. He issued this criticism in response to accusations by some in Japan who have accused Sea Shepherd of violence during our interventions against the annual bloody slaughter of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.”
Well, it seems to be that the whole issue is contextual. On the one hand, he is talking to professional soldiers, and on the other he is talking to environmentalists. I do not see the problem in holding soldiers and environmentalists to different standards.

I find the whole topic of interest, and this is something we have discussed here at DTBA many times in the past. Recently, we chewed on it in "Does Samsara Really Need Janitors?", and in "Free, Free, Set Them Free" and this past January, we noticed violence done to the Sea Shepherd Society in "On The Line."

The Dalai Lama has always been interested in environmental issues, and you can trace the evolution of his thinking on the matter back to the 1960s, if you care to look. Going forward from his first statements on the matter, all the way up to the current time, I believe you will find remarkable consistency, and a very level-headed approach.

In 2007, I wrote:
"I believe we have to be flexible. We cannot go around telling people what to do. We cannot be didactic. We cannot coerce people. Throwing red paint on a woman wearing a mink coat, or ramming a whaling boat on the high seas seems terribly romantic. However, the long-term results are questionable. We need to find a middle ground, between extremes, and then lead by example."
I wrote that not because of any quality or insight I possess, but because I have been profoundly influenced by Dalai Lama's teachings on environmentalism. This was written well in advance of his recent statement regarding the Sea Shepherd Society. Based on what I have personally heard him say -- as this is as recently as his visit to Long Beach last year -- I do not believe he was "misled by the Japanese" as some are claiming. Can the living, human manifestation of primordial compassion be misled? I believe he understands the issues very well, and he is responding from his infinite wisdom as he does in all matters.

I think part of the problem is that "Buddhist activism," and this is with particular reference to the West, has become invested in the business aspect of altruism, as distinct from pure altruism. So, now you have all these ridiculous organizations and magazines and so forth, that have attached profit motives. Such motives seem to demand holding fast to particular viewpoints. 

Dalai Lama, on the other hand, is operating from pure compassion, and he can call 'em as he sees 'em. An umpire is precisely what we need, so rather than criticize him, why not shut up and listen to what he has to say?

Who is going to teach us skillful means?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Horse With No Name

"The difficulty of Dzogchen meditation is that it is too easy."
                                                                   --Dudjom Rinpoche

A little while ago, a horse passed by but he was not walking or trotting or cantering or galloping. He was being hauled on a flat-bed trailer,  out in the open, behind a white sport utility vehicle with a weighed-down rear axle. There was a human, standing on the trailer with him,  apparently feeding him out of a bucket.

The picture above does not do the scene justice. It was taken hurriedly, at long distance, after they had passed by. The road is about twenty acres away. It is sunken, because it is unpaved, and frequently re-graded.

When I walk out the door to throw away garbage, and first encounter the scene, it looks like the horse is just floating along the road. He is standing, motionless, on the trailer. The SUV is towing a motionless horse. 

Being this close to the dream factory, you have to ask yourself if this is a lifelike statue of a horse, and a man, and a bucket. After a while, the horse flicks his tail. Is it a mechanized, lifelike statue of a horse, and a man, and a bucket? Any other moves programmed besides the tail flick? In the Bardo, you are going to see things a good deal more incongruous than a mechanized tail flick. You are going to hear sounds a good deal more startling than a whinny or a neigh.

What were we saying just the other day? Given the right causes and conditions, anything is possible? Maybe they are training the horse to be a parade horse: to maintain discipline behind a motorized vehicle. Maybe they are applying redneck logic, engaging in foolhardy behavior because they don't have a horse trailer.

So, then... before I drag out the Flashy Thing --

If you get caught up in appearances, then I can predict you will never become one of the Men In Black. If you let yourself be thrown by a floating horse, how do you expect to survive the gullet of an interstellar cockroach?

A little while ago, a horse passed by but he was not walking or trotting or cantering or galloping. He was being hauled on a flat-bed trailer,  out in the open, behind a white sport utility vehicle with a weighed-down rear axle. There was a human, standing on the trailer with him,  apparently feeding him out of a bucket.

Now, a horse weighs what? A lot, right? You can say that a horse is heavy, right? 

You would think it might be difficult to drag that horse, man, bucket, trailer, and sport utility vehicle across twenty acres, and then toss them up on this blog.

Actually, it was really easy.

Damn... here we go again --

A little while ago, a horse passed by but he was not walking or trotting or cantering or galloping. He was being hauled on a flat-bed trailer,  out in the open, behind a white sport utility vehicle with a weighed-down rear axle. There was a human, standing on the trailer with him,  apparently feeding him out of a bucket.

Oh, for goodness sake --

A little while ago, I threw away garbage...

A man once said that everything is a great, lying projection...

Like a movie.

Doesn't have a damn thing to do with Dzogchen.

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The Blogisattva Awards

My technical assistant just nominated me for something called the Blogisattva Awards. That is like kissing your sister, isn't it?

Anyway, these awards mean something to a guy who helped out around here the other day, so I thought we would give it a mention. If you like participating in these sorts of things, then by all means give the matter a click.

Personally, just as Groucho Rinpoche said, I would not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Drive-By Dharma, or Learning to Embrace the Antinomian Willies

[T]here is nothing that a yogin
is not allowed to do. 
I think I have told this story before, but I will tell it again anyway.

I was in New York, and it must have been the summer of 1970. In the summer of 1970, I was cultivating hard rice, and one of the places I stopped to take telephone calls was New York. People in New York were talking about cell phones that summer, wondering if they would prematurely set off the explosives rigged to demolish buildings, or if they would be used to deceive taxi dispatchers. But, nobody really had a cell phone yet.  Cell phones were still in the process of being invented. In those days, you actually had to be somewhere to take a call, so I took mine in New York, and one day my teacher called.

He said, "I hear your actions don't always agree with your view."

I freely admitted the obvious truth, more or less expecting the worst, but he was very gentle. "Don't think too much about it," he said. "The important thing is the understanding. Let the actions come naturally from the understanding."

That is the story I have told before, but this time I want to add a few details that I left out, being chickenshit.
If you perform perverted deeds
you will not only elicit scorn from the public,
but your delusion is sure to be cured
by the punishment of the king and others.
It is fruitless to beat yourself over the head for everything you think you have done "wrong," just as it is fruitless to pat yourself on the back for everything you think you have done "right." We've all heard this, correct? Or read it somewhere? Sounds nifty -- very Vajrayana -- very exotic, and convenient. So, we  believe we are big and ugly enough to fundamentally realize "wrong" and "right" are just mental imputations that keep us roiling around in samsara.

Well, we like to believe that way.

The truth is, if you want to operate as if there is no wrong or right,  chances are good you will go up in lights. This can become a courageously beautiful expression of the continuously sublime abiding of spontaneous compassion. It can also become a felony. If you do not mind going up in lights, and if you can do the time, then there is no problem.

Things that seem right at the time do not always seem right in hindsight. For example, we can be morally convinced that what we are doing is wholesome, noble, and good. We can be following all the rules. Later, it turns out that all we have done is construct a colossal rationalization for doing exactly as we please; being the biggest stinkers we know how to be. It is satanic in a way: we gorge ourselves with both hands, and with our mouths full, we say, "Oh, this is fine! I'm on a special diet you see?"

Some teachers teach that you come to know the character of an act only when you experience its result. That is a variation Oxford history professors employ to teach the craft of history. They tell you that while it is useful to examine what was intended, it is more useful to examine what actually happened. This is a very similar approach, you see? You can just fire away, and some distance down the road, you can see how it all turns out.

So, what some teachers propose is a karmic litmus test. If your action was purely motivated and flawlessly executed, then you will escape the experience of suffering. However, if your motivation was impure, you will go up in lights and get slapped down by the king. This is an almost Christian notion, so it appeals to people who were raised in Christian societies, and who now cleave to Buddhism because it "isn't Christian." Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels, or so the saying goes.

Innocent men are hung all the time, but nobody blames the hangman. 

If you subscribe to this notion of a karmic litmus test -- and mind you, I am not saying it is correct nor am I saying it is incorrect; rather, we are just ventilating ideas here -- the day will inevitably come when you look back and think, "Oh, wow... I am going straight to Hell." Because, things always look different in hindsight. You always have a good deal more information available to you: more than was available when the deeds in question were authored. So, this can lead one to quite an anxious state of mind, and all sorts of absolutely useless emotions that drag one to the depths of despair. Things that were in fact right at the time can be made to seem wrong in hindsight. This becomes a neurotic preoccupation -- a micro-management -- and it happens all the time.

Things do not work quite in this fashion. You can author some pretty horrible mischief, and never feel the result in this lifetime. Occasionally, the more horrible the mischief, the greater the delay. Time does not disconnect cause and effect -- time only compounds matters. To the point: you can blindly author incredibly horrible mischief, get away with it your entire life, and come to feel yourself wholly empowered in the process. You can become so automatic that you shoot people right between the eyes and feel vindicated when they die. It doesn't matter if you use a pistol or a helicopter. Maybe somebody will even give you a medal.

Here is a video for you to watch. This was taken through the gun camera of an Apache helicopter, in East Baghdad, back in 2007. The sound track is the radio traffic associated with the engagement being recorded. 

Watch the entire video. 

Try not to have an opinion about what you see.

Think of it as a meditation.

You will see and hear people no different from yourself, morally convinced they are doing the right thing. They are following the rules.

This rule-keeping can become a dangerous obstacle, you know? There is a difference between intellectual and experiential understanding. If your understanding is merely intellectual -- as for example, when you read a book or hear a lecture -- this becomes an obstacle. Sure, you can comprehend what you read or hear, but you cannot say that you understand. If you are keeping rules for the sake of keeping rules, or out of fear of the consequences,  or fear of making mistakes, then you are completely contrived. I once heard a person proclaim, "I am a karma-fearing Buddhist." That is avoidance, and just plain wrong.
Once, when I was around seventeen or so, I asked my teacher, "What is the point of all this activity?" I was referring to the whole Buddhist she-bang.

He was rummaging around in a Bhutanese basket he kept under his desk. He stored little packets of powdered herbal medicine in the basket. Without looking up, he answered, "There is no point."

"Well, if there is no point, then what am I supposed to be cultivating?"

He still didn't look up.

"Spontaneous correct action," he answered, and his voice sounded weary.

"That's all?"

"That's all."

"That's the ultimate?"

"If you want to put a name on it."

"So, how do I cultivate spontaneous correct action?"

He looked up sharply at that point. 

"You could recognize that you have sense enough not to aggravate me with questions when you already know the answer!"

"Rinpoche! If I already knew the answer, I wouldn't ask the question!"

"Boy! Every question supplies it own answer when it comes into being!"
I could be wrong, but I do not believe that bodhisattvas have to contrive what they do or don't do based on hopes or fears. Doing the compassionate thing in any given situation seems to be effortless. Small children are effortless. They do not walk up to you and say, "Hello, I am an innocent little child." They just are as they are. Similarly, eight great cemeteries, crammed chock-full of hair-trigger dakinis, are not necessarily confined to one particular geographical locale.

You can spend your whole life learning what you already know.

Coming to effortlessly exhibit some signs of authentic realization for the benefit of all sentient beings, in one lifetime, in one body, is not for the faint of heart. Access to the supporting corpus of instruction has, in my opinion, become too easy. Most Westerners are ill-suited to Vajrayana. Maybe we are better off chanting the sutras,  and staying out of trouble. Still, if you have the cash, you can buy damn near anything these days, and that includes direct access to the immediate side of Tibetan Buddhism. In consequence, we have a bunch of nuts running around thinking they are yogis, or yoginis, just because somebody sold off an empowerment and mumbled something in a foreign language.

And not just Tibetan Buddhism, either.  You see this with Zen Buddhism, whatever that is. People running around lecturing each other, giving each other titles, and digging up the backyard to make sand and rock gardens. Some spend all day and night arguing about what is and isn't, making up poems and things. You know, if you like that sort of stuff, you should just move out to the desert. Out in the desert, we don't have to make sand and rock gardens because they're already here. There isn't anybody here to argue with, and that leaves a lot of free time to make up poetry. Hell, I made up a poem myself just the other day:
Empty road. Blame Jack Kerouac.
Bulging box office. Blame Leonard Cohen.
You, too. Where the streets have no blame.
I do have a black robe that I keep for culturally non-specific first response, in case of philosophical emergencies. Sometimes I wear it when I visit museums. Wear it with a white shirt and the sky is the limit.

A drive-by is when people who don't really know how to properly use firearms all pile in a vehicle, go somewhere they feel they need to make some sort of record, and then start shooting as they drive through said locale -- usually killing innocent bystanders.

If you look closely at the photograph, above, you will see that some son of a bitch nailed it with a Nine.

Oh, well... like the man said... let the actions come naturally, from the understanding.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche Passes

To compassionately demonstrate the nature of impermanence, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche (10 May 1942 - 19 June 2010) has withdrawn his vision of this world.

Here is the text of the official announcement:

Palden Padma Samye Ling
618 Buddha Highway
Sidney Center, NY 13839

June 20, 2010

  On the auspicious day of Medicine Buddha, June 19, 2010 at 8:07pm, our most beloved teacher and one of the great scholars and masters in Nyingmapa Buddhism, Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche passed into parinirvana peacefully and beautifully. All stages of meditation were perfectly demonstrated according to the teachings of the Buddha and Guru Padmasambhava, and as Khenchen Rinpoche himself taught for so many years. He entered fearlessly without any emotion or attachment, joyfully and with confidence at his home, Arya Palo Ling, in the presence of his beloved brother, Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche, and Jomo Lorraine, and during the sangha’s practice of Vajrasattva in the glorious Copper-colored Temple at Palden Padma Samye Ling monastery. Surrounded by every lush spring quality of gentle breezes, birds singing, flowers blooming, and deer playing in the meadows, he remains in thugdam meditation.

   Offering ceremonies began in India, Nepal, and Tibet immediately following Khenchen Rinpoche’s parinirvana, and beginning today we will hold 49 days of offering ceremonies at Palden Padma Samye Ling. We warmly invite the PBC sangha to gather together for these ceremonies. Soon we will be sending a schedule of all of the practices and services that will be held on behalf of Khenchen Rinpoche. Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche requests everyone to please recite the 100-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva.

  For those wishing to make offerings, please consider supporting the “108 Reliquary Stupa Garden” that will be installed at Padma Samye Ling in honor of Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche. You can mail your offering payable to “PBC” to Palden Padma Samye Ling to the attention of: 108 Reliquary Stupa Garden.

  In order to remember the sublime qualities of our most kind and humble teacher, here are a few excerpts from A Praise of the Venerable Lama Called the Melodious Words of the Ocean of Devotion, that Khenpo Pema Gyaltsen composed in the late 1990’s:

    "Although dwelling primordially in the expanse of Samantabhadra,
     You possess the magical display of most glorious Vajrakumara.
     Maturing and liberating whomever, incomprehensible protector,
    All-victorious embodiment of wisdom, to the lama I bow down.

    From the rich, fertile soil of your positive merit and generosity,
    The sweet smell of saffron arisen from your ethical discipline pervades.
    Sovereign of realization arisen from meditation, full bloom of spring,
    Endowed with the three grounds of positive merit, to the lama I bow down.

    Steadfast, constant root of the wish-granting tree of the four immeasurables,
    Luxuriant, full blossom of the activities of the six perfections,
    Tending after others, the fruit of the four bodhisattva activities,
    Beneficial action, glorious protector, to the lama I bow down.

    Having abandoned long ago the obstacles to all objects of knowledge,
    Teaching all the ways of Dharma to disciples of good fortune,
    Just like a second Lord of Conquerors in the teachings of the Conqueror,
   Bliss-gone one with perfect skill in the ten powers, to the lama I bow down.

    The most beautiful moon, Manjushri, the wisdom of exalted knowledge,
    Coming from the awakened mind of Chenrezig, the great compassion,
    Just like Vajrapani, the power and might both unchallenged and unrivaled,
    Living countenance that gathers the three families, savior, to the lama I bow down.

    Listening, contemplation, and meditation, the three, vast as the rich Earth,
    Teaching, debate, and composition, the three, resounding music everywhere,
    Knowledge, virtue, and goodness, the three, dramatic play of Samantabhadra,
   Perfect monarch of these nine excellent manners, to the lama I bow down.

    Possessor of firm skill, virtue, and glory, great holder of the Vinaya,
    With marvelous bodhichitta guiding wanderers, hero bodhisattva,
    Completely, clearly realized in the four empowerments, great vidydhara,
    Crown ornament of all teachers, to the venerable lama I bow down."

Yours in the Dharma,
Venerable Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche

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Weekly Tibetan Astrology: June 21 - June 27, 2010

NOTE: A generally positive and successful week, but watch out for sudden, surprising, and not altogether welcome news or events. This is the best week all year for Senge Dradok practice.

June 21, 2010 - Chinese 11th, M-T-K 10th. Mouse, Dwa, Yellow 5. Guru Rinpoche Day. Today is also the Summer Solstice. Today is baden, so no prayer flags. Also celebrated as Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi's birthday. Despite the auspicious character of today's events, the underlying energies are less than optimal. A good day for thieves, so beware.

June 22, 2010 - Chinese 12th, M-T-K 11th. Ox, Khen, White 6. Today is zin phung. Excellent energies today. Progress is possible. Important meetings favored. Good day for a wedding.

June 23, 2010 - Chinese 13th, M-T-K 12th. Tiger, Kham, Red 7. A good day for mothers, children, and that special someone. If every summer has a summer romance, today is the summer's day (or eve) to begin that particular enjoyment with a declaration to the object of your affections -- but don't make any promises. Not a good day for marriage.

June 24, 2010 - Chinese 14th, M-T-K 13th. Rabbit, Gin, White 8. Mixed signals. Gain is possible, but there may be some negativity attached. Good day for Vajrakilaya practice.

June 25, 2010 - Chinese 15th, M-T-K 14th. Dragon, Zin, Red 9. Extremely positive energies, favoring rapid accomplishment. Good for construction. Good day to plant trees.

June 26, 2010 -  Chinese 16th, M-T-K 15th. Snake, Zon, White 1. Lunar Eclipse. Another very positive day, favoring accomplishment. Effects of actions multiplied 1,000 times today.

June 27, 2010 - Chinese 17th, M-T-K 16th. Horse, Li, Black 2. Beware of illness that suddenly overcomes vitality. Do not try to do too much today.

Naga observations for the fifth  month: Only one really good day this month --  lunar 15, but offerings also possible on 9, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27.  Nine bad days -- 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where the Streets Have No Name


In one view, we can consider everything as unborn, uncreated, and therefore not subject to destruction or decay. 

In another view, we can and do wreak a great deal of mischief and misery with all the best intentions. 

Depending on causes and conditions, anything can happen.  No matter how hard we try, we cannot completely manage all the possible causes and conditions. We can, in theory if not in fact, completely screw up everything.

When people were deciding to drill holes in the Gulf of Mexico in order to pump up oil, it seemed like a good idea at the time. I am certain there are tens of thousands of pages of environmental impact reports, engineering studies, and the like, all of which rubber stamp the notion that there is no problem. 

Turns out there is a problem.
In most whorehouses, if you pay a little extra, you can get the girls to say, "I love you," and this they do quite convincingly. Even though you know it is not true, and even though you have paid for the service, they have the ability to make you believe that which is inherently unbelievable. They are able to do this because you have already suspended rational expectation; you have asked and agreed to be deceived, and in this vacuum, they tell you what you so earnestly want to hear.
Human beings are like that, you know?

As a people, some time ago, we made the decision to protect our lands and the cohabitant creatures we seem to endanger by our very being. We set aside whole regions to these ends, and we designated numbers of creatures as being of "special interest." We wrote laws to accomplish this, and funded huge agencies to enforce those laws.

Except now, in our frantic belief that we must embrace what we call alternative energies -- so-called because they are an alternative to oil -- we are going around breaking the faith with our lands and our creatures. We are deliberately circumventing the laws we made, and the environmental protection policies we established, in pursuit of what we believe is a greater good.

In order to accomplish this, we are paying a little more to hear what we want to hear. Yes, this wind project will impact several protected species, but here is a mitigation plan. Yes, this solar project will impact a protected area, but we will re-quantify its beauty along lines of accommodation.
Bright lipstick. Dark eye-shadow. Long lashes. Languid eyes.
"Baby, you know I love you?" 
We have companies of convenience that come together for a project and then disappear. They are supposedly staffed by "applied biological consultants," "visual resource specialists," and a host of other, instant experts in expediency. They inhabit a shadow world, and speak a shadow language. They count endangered species, or examine endangered views, and then tell us how the damage we intend to do can be "mitigated."

I want to tell you this -- with all of the attention currently being given to the company responsible for the oil spill in the gulf, I believe we are missing the real guilty parties -- we are missing the environmental shadow speakers who made the travesty of offshore drilling possible in the first place.


It may not matter very much to you in the great scheme of things, but here in my little corner of the world the scenario is playing itself out again, in a largely ignored plan to generate 84 megawatts of electric power by means of the wind. Because this is happening in the desert, nobody pays it any mind. After all... deserts are, well... deserts, aren't they?

"Desertification" is an ugly word we use to describe the negative effects of man's abuse of the environment. The very concept reflects our subliminal feeling about deserts as wastelands. However, "desertification" has nothing whatsoever to do with the actuality of deserts, which are pristine eco-systems, teeming with beauty and life. Well, at least they are until we desertify the deserts. Properly speaking, desertification is the deterioration of arid biomes brought about by human activity. 

In America, today, we are preparing to deliberately deteriorate our deserts because we believe -- or we have been led to believe -- that by so doing, we serve a greater good. We are willing to believe that solar power and wind power will somehow lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. We are willing to believe that destroying our deserts is an acceptable trade.

Here, in my desert, the proposed wind project will negatively impact no fewer than fourteen species of special interest -- to include Golden Eagles: the very symbol of America. It will result in the loss of over 2,500 acres of "federally protected" tortoise habitat. It will negatively impact precious groundwater supplies in ways we cannot foresee, placing enormous strain on already fragile and overburdened aquifers. It will not produce any local employment, it will not result in lower energy bills for local residents. The 84 megawatts this project produces will be sold to Nevada, where it will power the colored lights of Las Vegas casinos.

Is this just? Is this what we want? Is this what we need?

Years from now, when all is said and done, there will be no sudden, dramatic episode -- like oil billowing from the ocean floor -- to demonstrate our wrongs. There will be no oil-soaked wildlife, or destroyed beaches. There will be few left to mourn the passing of America's unique, arid lands, because there will be few who remember -- fewer still who care.

There will only be forests of spinning white towers with blinking, red aeronautical lights, and the flickering and flashing that comes at sunrise and sunset. There will only be plains of mirrored silicon, pointed at the blinding sun.

The faded presence of the beings we destroy -- of the raw beauty we defile -- will reduce us as a nation, and as individuals, and we will be demons of our planet. In such event, whether we are to be pitied or feared is a question nobody wants to answer.

It is time to think about less... not more.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekly Tibetan Astrology: June 14 - June 20, 2010

HH Dudjom Rinpoche's place in France. 
He would sit in his chair here.

NOTE: This is a great week for yoga, exercise, religious practice (I know, I know), and generally gathering energy for good things to come. Don't wear yourself out this week: just let things rise and fall as they may. Even if things seem to be going wrong, they are actually going right. If you are able to transcend notions of "wrong" or "right" or "how things are going" it is even better. A super week for meditation.

June 14, 2010 - Chinese 3rd, M-T-K 2nd. Dragon, Dwa, White 6. Today is yan kwong. Any vague unease you might feel should be overcome by today's positive qualities, which are significant. Just avoid being an opera star, and you'll do fine.

June 15, 2010 - Chinese 4th, M-T-K 3rd. Snake, Khen, Red 7. Stay in one place and gather your strength. Do not accept new responsibilities today. Great day for yoga.

June 16, 2010 - Chinese 5th, M-T-K 4th. Horse, Kham, White 8. Mixed messages. Travel with caution today.

June 17, 2010 - Chinese 6th, M-T-K 5th. Sheep, Gin, Red 9. Today is zin phung. Much like Monday. Turn worry or doubt into understanding, and this day will shine. Another good day for yoga.

June 18, 2010 - Chinese 7th, M-T-K 7th. Monkey, Zin, White 1. Note omitted day in Tibetan practice. Today is the anniversary of the second Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, and the birthday of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. This can be a successful day if you set aside petty annoyances or bickering.

June 19, 2010 -  Chinese 8th, M-T-K 8th. Bird, Zon, Black 2. The astrological energies are not particularly favorable. Don't spend money, time, or energy on anything today. Just let it flow, and pass.

June 20, 2010 - Chinese 9th, M-T-K 9th. Dog, Li, Blue 3. Father's Day in the U.S., Canada, and Oz. You don't have to get me anything. Just be happy. Today is Nyi Nak (according to Rigpa). Very smooth energies otherwise.

Naga observations for the fifth  month: Only one really good day this month --  lunar 15, but offerings also possible on 9, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27.  Nine bad days -- 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 22.

Consult our extended discussion of 2010 astrology by clicking here.

Published every Monday at 00:01 香港時間 but written in advance and auto-posted. See our Introduction to Daily Tibetan Astrology for background information. If you know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can get information about your positive and negative days by clicking here. If you don't know the symbolic animal of your birth year, you can obtain that information by clicking here. For specific information about the astrology of 2010, inclusive of elements, earth spirits, and so forth, please consult our extended discussion by clicking here.  Click here for Hong Kong Observatory conversion tables. Weekly Tibetan Astrology copyright (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

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