Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Open Letter to Nepal

Dear Nepal:

The world is terribly sorry for your suffering. Already, the world responds to your prayers, as you begin a recovery process to be measured in decades.

You will receive more than $1 billion in direct foreign assistance. In addition to the disaster management funds, it is likely you will receive at least $1 billion more indirectly, for the purposes of disaster recovery.

You will receive millions of dollars more from people you have never met. Ordinary people, with good hearts, and charitable instincts.

That is just money. Who knows how much food, medicine, surgical equipment, earth-moving equipment ... the list goes on and on... who knows how much more you will receive in hard aid? Aid that will keep your nation together, at a time when it is torn apart.

Nepal, stop killing the animals in ritual sacrifice. You have brought the anger of the earth itself upon yourselves by barbaric blood-letting. Now, nature itself has answered you. Now, your blood has been taken in payment for the blood you have shed.

If you wish your own prayers answered, answer the prayers of the many beings you have slaughtered.

Nepal, just stop ritual killing. 

In the land blessed by the holiest of relics; in the land that gave birth to Buddha himself; in the land where there is great instability of all sorts -- in this land, where princes have gone mad, where the walls around palaces have now fallen, where foul corruption keeps the poor oppressed -- it is 2015 in this land that Tara herself graced beyond all measure, and still you believe it spiritually necessary to spill the blood of sentient beings?

Are you in the thrall of black magicians?

Nepal, you have forgotten Tara. Now, you scream and pray to what you have forgotten: do you even remember Tara's name? How you have treated the most humble sentient beings in your nation is an absolute spiritual disgrace. It is blind, and it bears the most terrible possible consequences.

You have already experienced some of those consequences. Can you learn from them? Can you allow this tragedy to give rise to compassion?

To stop the killing is a small act of compassion, as compared to the large acts of compassion from which you now benefit.

I beg you, please stop the ritual slaughter of innocent beings in the name of mankind. I am of mankind too, and you bring a stain upon all of us.


One Buddhist

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Immediately, and in the days to come, the need for food, medicine, and supplies will continue to grow. 

We need to act now.

Please, place your faith in the Three Jewels and your trust in Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche's mandala of organizations. They have a fifty year record of success in the region, and did not come into being overnight.

There are no administration, middleman, or graft costs. 100% of your money hits the ground running.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Your Ordinary Mind

So, then -- a few words.

Nothing you can do, in the context of implementing spiritual instruction, is more important than ordinary relaxation.

Seems like a surprising, or incomplete statement, but this is something I want you to think about.

What I call "ordinary" comes after dissolving the tension of expectation that seems to trouble so many practitioners. Often, one is practicing "for" or "about" something. All sorts of back and forth reflection. Way, too much busy business. Nothing natural about this at all.

What is ordinary, is uncontrived. 


One day you are staring out a window. You are not thinking about anything at all. It is an effortless, unplanned pause in your life. There is silence, and stillness. Maybe, you could even get up and walk outside, no purpose in mind. The interlude would stay with you.

Then, suddenly, on an errant sun ray, all of the books, the lectures, the pujas blend with ear-whispered instruction, and a lotus blooms in unmolested silence, according to its nature.

Things come to a complete stop.

Maybe, it was a line you read. Maybe, it was something somebody said. Maybe, it was something your teacher told you. Maybe, it was all of these, disposed of at last.

That instant has nothing to do with Buddhism. You might even laugh. You are no longer doing something in order to do something.

There is considerable clarity.

So, that is what I mean by ordinary relaxation.

Any relaxation short of that is artificial.

So, that is one thing I want to say. The other thing I want to say is about beginning where you are right this minute.

Let's go back to you staring out a window.

This has to be accompanied by an immense, truly all-encompassing comfort with where you happen to be at the moment. Even this is a concrete jail cell, you can still have this. Or, maybe a hotel room somewhere, in a different kind of custody.

Being wholesomely in tune with where you find yourself therefore becomes a vital step toward the natural arising of ordinary relaxation.

The message in both cases is, "Stop." Stop striving, stop arguing with your own space, and give yourself enough time to let things naturally unfold.

Neither ordinary relaxation nor being adept with immediacy are "acquired" states of being in that once achieved, one suddenly occupies a continuous status. Normally, they are experienced in samples. In spontaneously arising slices.

In moments, and you know, every moment holds every possibility. 

Consider well, then, the very last moment of breath, and remember Padmasambhava.

May it be auspicious

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nepal Earthquake: How to Help Right Now

The first question people ask is, "Where do I send money, and how do I make sure it will reach people in need?" The answer to this is simple. You rely on an organization with a track record in the region, operated with total transparency, under the direction of Kyabje Tarthang Rinpoche.

Please, if you want to make an immediate difference, click this link now.

These are the people who have already concluded legendary restoration projects. This is a registered NGO, with deep links in the region, and a scrupulous record for honesty.

Help now. Please.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Earthquake in Nepal Brings Buddhist World Together

Whatever was broken, we will fix. Whatever was destroyed, we will rebuild. We will care for the living and attend to the dead. As Buddhists, we will rise to this occasion, and give good account.

Buddhist organizations the world over are being asked to mobilize immediately. This is a catastrophic event touching the lives of millions.

Key steps to take are as follows:

(1) Establish and maintain reliable lines of communication.
(2) Coordinate what you are told by government agencies with what you are learning from local informants.
(3) Determine status of airport closure. Is there damage to runway? Will airport remain closed to all but military traffic? Will military assist NGO in region to place personnel? When are press flights allowed?
(4) Establish financial links so that hard money can reach the hands of your trusted person on the ground.
(5) Then, and only then, set about to insert your organization's troubleshooter from overseas.
(6) Learn who the lead press people are on the ground, and coordinate with them. You want something. They want something.
(7) Learn who else is doing what you are trying to do and help each other.
(8) Work according to a definite plan, with definite goals. Don't be sidetracked into "mission drift."
(9) Operate for the benefit of all beings.

Om Mani Padme Hum

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Nepal's Bhimsen Tower Collapsed, "100s" Feared Trapped

Kathmandu's famed Bhimsen Tower is completely down, and "hundreds" of people, perhaps as many as 400, are believed trapped beneath the rubble.

The earthquake struck at 11:11 a.m. on Saturday.

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Patan Durbar Square "Completely Destroyed"

Unprecedented destruction and loss of life follow a 7.9 earthquake near Kathmandu. Many sacred structures are down, many lives are touched. Buddhist organizations the world over are being asked to mobilize assistance immediately.

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BREAKING: Nepal Earthquake Destroys Region

A 7.9 earthquake centered 15 km from Kathmandu struck around noon Saturday, major news organizations are reporting. There has been considerable loss of life throughout the region, and many sacred structures have been utterly destroyed.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tree Practice

While Padmasambhava was engaged in high deserts enroute to Samye, another traveling magician was engraving his own solutions into a rock in the West Mojave.

An ancient American, who stopped at a rock not far from here. "American," as in north, central, and south: the Americas. 

When we fully explore the Americas, we will re-write world history. Those coca leaves in the mummified Pharoah's mouth didn't get there by accident. They were delivered there to deliberate purpose, on account of known effect. To ancient Egypt, from the ancient Americas. Clearly, the ancient American medicine men were exporters.

So, then --

We write today of Tree Practice. 

It came to me when I was looking at the picture carved in the rock.

From a wish to benefit others, whilst understanding that everything is fundamentally an illusion, we set forth our intention to engage in symbolic, ritual activity centered on Jambudvipa's trees.

What does that mean? For me, it means conducting interdependency analysis of the act of planting trees in the desert.

Contemplating the desert in what promises to be a long drought, the notion of new trees seems somehow counterintuitive. If trees are dying because of the drought, why are we planting new trees? Won't they die off like the other trees? Won't they unnecessarily consume dwindling water supplies? Most all of these questions are already answered when one shakes off the familiar desert stereotypes.

Deserts are not uniform. Rather, they consist of microclimates created from the earth element by wind and the element water. The microclimates can even display abrupt boundaries, such as rain falling on one side of a road but not the other. 

What these microclimates do have in common is the so-called empty jar effect. If you put a ceramic jar out on the ground, it will never fill up with water. The sum of evaporation and transpiration will always exceed surface water gain. Within the compass of that definition, you can include high deserts, low deserts, hot deserts, and cold deserts. 

Thus, as a desert dweller, I speak not of deserts but of "arid regions."

Certain trees are appropriate to the various microclimates of the world's arid regions. The microclimates have specific soils, temperatures, altitudes, and so forth. The trees appropriate to each place will intimately relate to all surrounding life. They will become the habitat for insects, birds, small mammals, and reptiles. 

Quite a challenge, when I look around. Needs to be examined in a sacred manner.

The pictured rock picture, above, is a few minutes away from here. In fact, it isn't far from the oldest living plant on the face of the planet earth! 

And what of "here?" Here is where wild, scorching winds are born. The Santa Ana winds. Southern California's murder wind, fire wind, passion wind. Here is the highest recorded temperature, the lowest recorded point; where you can ride from 85m below sea level to 1500m above sea level in an afternoon, where you can drown in a flash flood, or freeze to death in spring. A complex of arid valleys in the rain shadow of California's Pacific-facing mountains.

The trees dying in the drought are not the trees that are supposed to be here. 

Still, the life that trees support needs to be supported. If that be the case, it seems appropriate, a sane thing to do, to rearrange the set. Make it more authentic. Find out what sort of trees occur here, and support them.

Seems the right way to go about a drought in the desert is to plant native trees.

From a wish to benefit others, whilst understanding that everything is fundamentally an illusion, we set forth our intention to engage in virtuous conduct centered on Jambudvipa's trees.

When we take refuge in the Three Jewels, I and others are able to understand trees as a living instruction in the three bodies. 

In the midst of space:

From what is already perfect, nothing can be taken or given -- by planting trees, I neither add to nor take away from that perfection, nor is the activity itself anything other than sacred activity in accord with time and place.

Calling upon the elements: calling to all tree spirits of all directions, those free, those oath-bound, and all those other beings interested in the welfare of this mandala: see, here, this offering!  The earth, the nutrient, the water, the sky.

Joy, amidst the leaves, the flowers, the branches, the fruit, the shelter, the shade, the resting place, the home: the lessons we learn are limitless.

Let it please you. to the extent thoughts of enough or not enough are dispensed as enough.

Come here!  See this offering where the earth touches the sky.

See this! 

To the teachers before us in the form of trees, I offer all that supports your life. I beg you remain here in peace and harmony, and continue to sustain life on earth. May you be nourished by love and unaffected by mistaken views.

May understanding your sacred reality lead to recognition that all things are indistinguishable from the Guru's mind.

In space, where everything is possible, the aspiration accompanying this conduct will come to fruition in time, so let the time be now, and let the benefit be experienced by those beings in need of beneficial experience.

Those with the ability to travel between worlds have returned to this one from their travels.

Long ago, they brought back the news that among all worlds only ours has trees.

So, that is what we've been up to these days, out here in the long pause we've been given before heat rises. Trying our best to plant a few trees with all of you in mind.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Charles "Chuck" Belyea, 1947 - 2015: The Great Ming Liu

A personal friend and Vajra Brother, Chuck Belyea, known to a legion of followers as Ming Liu, died of cancer last night at Berkeley, California. Known as a master practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, divination, and astrology, upon his death let it be recorded he was also one of the world's finest magicians.

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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Light On the Panel

The old, analog, panel switches had lights like Cadillac tail lights, so you would know the switch was on.

The light's lens is faceted on the inside. They look like big, bullet-nosed jewels. The panels are anodized black, sans-serif letters and numbers are engraved, filled with white enamel, and the jewels stand in contrast like the polarized paralysis of stoplights at the end of a very long road.

They look like dials on combination locks, because this opera is by Sargent & Greenleaf: secret keys on a tiny piano mounted on a wall, and the curtain rises. Secrecy is the overture to deepest desire. Surveillance is its oracle. Music seems wild when nobody knows the score.

All kinds of meaninglessly urgent noise.

Behind the lights and switches lie complications as numberless as stars. Let the moon shine forever upon the enchanted lakes and rivers; may it give forth endless, flowing moons in every chop of the water brought about for the wind's own reasons. No number of moons will measure those complications.

Those complications are measured in emotions. Though numberless, they are finite. They are without essence. They cannot hurt us in the end.

Once, a long time ago, I watched, mesmerized at a blinking jewel as the panels slid away. Like Icarus did shed his wings, so did those dark panels jettison themselves into space. God damn but it hurts to hit that switch. It hurts in ways you need not bring yourself to fear, because the fear is already deep inside. Better learn to be hopeless. Better jump on death's lap.

Otherwise, why be a soldier? If you are a soldier, you have a soldier's duty to die.

So, wild soldier, jump out by moonlight, from high in sky,  and land alone somewhere you are bound to suffer.

Leave your uniform at home, and go as samsara's own saboteur.

Jump there not as a soldier, but as a spy.

Do it in the face of never, ever being comforted by so much as the silent peace of justice, gone to grave.

There are no monuments to bodhisattvas worth as much as the monument to bodhisattva's activity in which we are immersed every perfect moment of every perfect day.

Look down at everything, then look here. If you are afraid to jump, you come to me, and I will hold your hand in the air. While we fly, we will be laughing in triumph. 

There is no more confusion once we reach the sky.

If I have to let you go before we reach the ground, it is only because I wish to be there waiting for you, when you finally stop flying long enough to collapse the boundary of heaven and earth.

Clear wind in a high sky. What else is left a patient one to see?

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Feather In the Wind

One day I was called to Kensington, California, where Sixteenth Karmapa was giving audience at the home of Lama Kunga Rinpoche. Those of you who were there that day may recall I arrived in haste, casually dressed. 

The grand dakini named Shirabin was also there that day, waiting for me with another Rinpoche's golden robe. "Wear it!" she commanded. "Rinpoche said so!" So, I stood there like a perspiring penguin in a too-big robe, bantering with acquaintances. "Don't get a spot on that robe," scolded Shirabin. "He says he needs it right back to wear himself." 

I wrote about this years ago, in a work originally titled Licensed to Laugh: Licensed to Cry, later excerpted, and re-titled "In California, They Sue:"

Many years ago, I went to visit the XVIth Karmapa. My friends all argued that I should show proper respect, and dress up for the occasion in a gold brocade robe. Therefore, I dressed up for the occasion although I felt a little silly. My reasoning was, it should not be necessary to visit the Karmapa as this or that, because the Karmapa is a come-as-you-are proposition. 
Anyway, once I got there, somebody else said I should give him something. I did not have anything to give him because I thought he did not need anything. People insisted, so I scrambled around and I found a feather. I knew he liked birds, so when I came to see him, I gave him a feather. 
The Karmapa accepted the feather, and lightly traced a line on my forehead with the tip. He did not say anything to me on this occasion and I did not say anything to him. That was the whole of the exchange. 
We all left this venue and traveled to another venue where he was to give a lecture. On the way there, I was involved in an automobile accident, and I received a hairline fracture of the forehead that duplicated the line the Karmapa had traced. 
So, should I tell people that the Karmapa once beat me up with a feather and fractured my head?

Such are the ways of this magical world. What mists, dreams, and illusions. What a gear-hopping motion picture. 

Don't worry. It is all good. 

I was young then, and in a daze. It could be that years passed. It could have been a flash. Suddenly, I was old.

I had a dream one night when I was old. So very special, I awoke and immediately memorialized it as "Dream of the Golden Feather," originally published for my birthday:

In the wee, small hours of today -- which is already my birthday in some parts of the world -- I had a lucid dream. The details are numerous, but the essential point was two magnificent dakinis of old came and made offering gestures with their hands. They wished me to touch their hands, as is done in empowerments, so I did so. They thereupon presented me with a magnificent golden feather. This feather seemed to come from the forehead of one of them.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would never mention such a thing, but since it would seem these are not ordinary circumstances, I wanted to make this record. 
"When a single feather and a thousand worlds
Are equally this Space,
Who can say which contains which?
Who can find limits
To life's richness? "
Tarthang Rinpoche wrote that.

I yawned, went outside, and put up a prayer flag to the Medicine Buddha. Not an hour passed before I experienced a blow to the forehead that called for emergency evacuation.

Seemingly, I have a connection with the Karmapas that is powerfully and immediately beneficial, and has on numerous occasions contributed to my escape from serious injury. Above are not the only occasions I could speak of; there are others of a deeply personal nature. I do not know whether I should speak of them or not, so I let the doubt imply its own answer. Let others speak of these things what they will.

Leave it to say, he has come into my dreams, and into my visions: always when I need him the most. Does it surprise you to see the word, "need?" Please, study your own devotion. Make up your own definitions of "need." Every time I have ever called upon him, he has come in force. This occurs over a period of decades. There are numerous contemporary instances.

Time flies faster than eagles who drop the feathers we have found. Mistakes are made and tears do fall. The time flew away, high into the sky, and it stalled there in joy like a raven on the strong April winds.

Sunlight streamed through the mountains as I went to meet, for the first time in this life, the Seventeenth Karmapa. Down into the valley of flowers and fruit trees, I did swirl to see the one I have been addressing in my mind for centuries.

My robe this time showed no care, it was worn, and dirty: as undeserved as the golden robe wore by a self-conscious boy not yet twenty years of age, those years past in Kensington. This time, I had small gifts for him, but my hands shook so much from the unaccustomed exertion, I asked him to help me.

So, that is when we looked into one another's eyes again. I forgot how to do prostrations. I fell to the ground, dead stunned, because it was the unmistaken reincarnation of the Sixteenth Karmapa looking back at me.

So, then --

 If you held someone, even a long time ago... if you really held them with your heart, even it was only a moment, you could hold them after a thousand years in the dark and still know who you were holding. 

May all of you come to know what it means to be picked up by eternal eyes.

Feathers fall around you, and show you the way.

--with great faith, for the benefit of others--

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