Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Moth Fragment (Ostracon IIIb)

[...] evening [...] why
asked [...] making
[...] the world [...]

remember [...] said
[to?] the moth itself
[...] not [a metaphor?]

her finger [...] the lantern

(Translated from a badly damaged ostracon
from a deposit dated to Period Q, presumed
to be associated with a school or scriptorium.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Blinde Schildpad presenteert: so|ui, stadse oneffenheden, ca. 160000 pixels per dag. Blinde Schildpad presents: so|ui, urban ineffabilities at c. 160,000 pixels per day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

At the start of the rainy season

   At the appointed time of year the shaman goes to an ancient clearing in the forest and makes the rainy season start. He lights the a fire, draws raindrops on his face, and sings the song of how the Mother of the People cried when her eldest son died of thirst.
   Within days, clouds start to gather.

   In the same way, a story tells about a monk who is furiously practicing meditation when his master walks by.
   Say, what are you doing?, the master asks.
   I am practicing meditation in order to become a Buddha!
   Is that so?, the master says and walks on.
   Later, the monk sees his old teacher polishing a roof tile. The monk asks: What are you doing, master?
   I am polishing this tile to make a jewel!

   And again in the same way, when I sit down to practice, it is the right time. To cross my legs is the right action. I am here because, soon, the rainy season starts. All effort that’s required of me is what it takes to be there to get wet.

   Superstitiously polishing roof tiles will only tire me out. So will making rain. At best. In the worst case scenario I while away my session, thinking about my polishing rag, about my tile, arranging the tucan bones just so to get my chants to the ears of the ancestors. What kind of jewel will I make? How fat will the clouds be? How precious will it be, how special, how very, very special?

   So many problems.
   So much to think about.

   Confusing cause and effect, I might even miss the first, fresh drops of rain.

Note: This is part of something larger I may be writing. Let's see what it becomes.

People who make the world

I believe the people who make the world are the ones who do not believe in reality, for example, for centuries, the Christians.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Polar bears

The oldest polar bears die of starvation.

They will survive the dark months of ice and the bright months of thaw. They will fight, over sex, over food, to protect their helpless cubs and win to survive. They will lie in wait next to a seal’s breathing hole in a cutting blizzard, sometimes for days. And they will survive.

And then, maybe while the summer sun bathes the world in the sharpest light, they will first feel their claws failing. They will find they can’t run as fast anymore. Their hunts are increasingly unsuccessful. Mercury quick seals slip away under the ice floes.

Increasingly reliant on sparse grass and sour berries, the polar bear will try to scavenge. A new mother with a fresh kill proves too powerful. If he lives close to human settlement he will try to knock over dumpsters and be shot at and run away.

Finally, he will lie beaten and ragged on the lee side of a rock. Maybe he will hear the surf and listen to the seagulls, wearily eying a fox that finds it’s always worth its while to check out polar bears. Then, the fox leaves. The bear is not even hungry now. He only wants to sleep.

A truly unimaginable variety of suffering suffuses the world.

Note: This is part of something larger I may be writing. Let's see what it becomes.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?

It's one thing to explain about buddhist practice. It's quite another to show it*. Yet showing (and seeing) is what the practice finally comes down to.

The 1989 movie Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East? (달마가 동쪽으로 간 까닭은?) by Korean director Bae Yong-kyun is maybe the best expression of the Buddha way in a modern medium yet. Its depiction of monastic life in the Korean Seon (or Ch'an, or Zen) tradition could have been twee and comfortably oriental. Three generations of monks cooped up in a tattered mountain hermitage, the oldest being an evidently enlightened master who is dying from the chill blains he inflicted on himself by meditating against a wall of ice to keep himself awake. And indeed, this picture does have that subtle pervading sense of prettiness the Far East is so good at.

But it is also ruthless.

Together with the youngest monk we are confronted with the inevitable consequences of our own distracted mistakes and death and the great potential of our own bodies have for death. Together with the middle monk we are confronted with the flimsiness of our concern for ourselves, and death. Together with the master we we are confronted with the great emptiness where we want our souls to be and the great freedom selflessness entails and, finally, death. Also, that romantic, tattered hermitage is kinda ugly.

I really respect the Korean tradition of Ch'an. Their main approach to practice is to just question (verb): who is this? Who is dragging this corpse around? What is your original face before your parents were born? Not that I'm not grateful for the fact that my own Tibetan tradition has all kinds of crutches along the way but, as Shantideva says: whatever the Buddha taught, he taught for the sake of wisdom. And apart from knowing the dreamlike nature of the self, there is no wisdom to be had.

So: who is watching this?
on youtube:
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part 10
part 11
part 12
part 13

*) No 'about' about it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011