Thursday, September 29, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

De kleine ijstijd

Hé, moet je ook een loempiaatje? Andries?


Moet je ook nog een loempiaatje?

Neuh. Laat maar. We zijn er nu ook al voorbij.

Maar je had toch zo’n zin in een loempiaatje?


Je had toch zo’n zin in een loempia? Andries?

Ach. Kan een andere keer ook nog wel. We gaan nu gewoon naar huis.

Maar je vindt loempiaatjes anders altijd zo lekker, toch?


Fiets dan ook wat dichterbij.


Ik zeg net: je houdt toch zo van loempia’s?

Jahoor. Ik hou best van loempia’s. Hoezo?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Tzaddik is surprised

First the Tzaddik was surprised to meet someone else. But then he meets another. And another.

There are innumerable members of the scattered tribes wandering the plains and highlands, meeting and parting at ramshackle roadside camps, each one swearing in the broken Hebrew they pick up from the wireless they hadn’t got nothing to do with it. No sirree. One of these days he might just give up trying to talk to them all together.

Quietly he unpacks the wine and jerky he bartered for with a toothless man in a dog skin coat and sighs. Yeah. He knows he won't. Tonight he eats and drinks on a rocky ledge from which he has full view of the tower on the horizon. The ruins are still smoking after all these centuries. There is still the occasional rumble of collapsing masonry.

It wasn’t a fair fight, no. But there are those who say a rock to the back of the skull is kindness nowadays, when the winds won’t stop. The bastard had only six coppers on him anyway.

Apart from the wine and jerky, that is.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just 'Help!'

It’s a difficult point. 

For being a notoriously non-theistic religion[1] Buddhism involves a surprising amount of prayer. True, some schools/sects/traditions call it ‘chanting’ or 'mantras' or ‘reciting the sutras’ or even ‘making wishes’ but, hey, if it quacks like a duck… 

It’s too easy to write all that off as mere cultural luggage or be jokey about it[2]. But in the end Buddhism tends to be practical first, theoretical later. There must be some real point to it, right?

Dosho Port at Wild Fox Zen recounts an illuminating discussion between himself and his teacher, Dainin Katagiri[3]:
“Before you think who you are, you are you,’ means you are exactly the universe, exactly, harmoniously intimate, no gap between. You must jump the gap between you and universe.”

“How can I jump the gap?”

“With prayer.”

“I am to use prayer to go beyond self-consciousness?” I asked.

I had left Catholicism and the reliance for salvation on any power outside of “me” years before and thought that the essence of Zen practice was not to rely on God or anybody.

“Yes, of course,” Roshi continued, “always you are thinking, observing, calculating. This is ego. Your ego is calculating how to go beyond ego. But ego cannot go beyond ego, always holding tightly to something.”

“So I should pray?”

"Yes,” Roshi began to smile. “You know the story of the octopus. Japanese fishermen in old days would catch the octopus by throwing a chicken neck tied to a line into the sea. Then octopus would come and grab the chicken neck and fishermen would pull a little bit. The octopus holds on tighter. The fishermen pull more and the octopus holds on tighter.Finally, the octopus is hauled onto the fishing boat. But fishermen don’t use any hooks. From the beginning the octopus is free. Let go any time, anyway.”

"Okay. So I am like the octopus and I should pray. But Roshi, if there is nothing outside, no gap between me and the universe, to whom should I pray?”

"‘Pray’ means just pray. No object there. Just ‘Help!’”

So, maybe I should just come out and own up to being the praying kind. 

There’s not a session of practice I don’t start with the nigh incomprehensible 7 Line Invocation of Guru Rinpoche. There’s not a session I don’t end with profuse dedication prayers[4]. But really, if there was just one prayer I could say, one prayer I could share with everyone I met, one prayer I could print on business cards and hand out to random strangers[5], it would be this:

May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be separated from true happiness that is free from suffering.
May they have equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.[6]

Just say that. My mind not occupied with anything else. Not wandering off to the past or the future. Just letting attention quietly rest on the words and their meaning. Just pray. 

There’s an interesting inversion going on here, I feel. Growing up in an atheist household, I thought of prayer as basically like asking Santa[7] for a pony, minus the tinsel and plus the incense. I ask, Thou listent. But in prayer like this it’s me, such as it is, listening and everything asking. Listen closely and not a thing does not cry out for either pain or joy.

I can't teach myself the truth of selflessness. But, if I listen, all things can. 

"Just ‘Help!’", Katagiri Roshi says.

Who does the helping?

image: beach in Harlingen, last weekend, when we went 
to scatter my grandmother's ashes in the Wadden Sea.

[1] Whatever that may mean.
[2] However instructive this may be. I heard one anecdote where a teacher in a Tibetan tradition instructed his students to pray as loudly as they liked. “There’s no one listening!” Nice one, Lama.
[3] Which apparently also appears in the book Keep Me In Your Heart Awhile.
[4] For example:
Through this merit, may all beings attain the omniscient state of enlightenment,
And conquer the enemy of faults and delusion.
May they all be liberated from this ocean of samsara
And from its pounding waves of birth, old age, sickness and death!
[5] Which I just might do, come to think of it.
[6] It’s called “The Four Immeasurables” because the four lines arouse immeasurable, unbounded feelings: love, compassion, sympathetic joy and impartiality respectively. Read Words of My Perfect Teacher to really learn about them.
[7] Or rather Sinterklaas, in my case.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9/11 Was An Inside Job

"9/11, that was the thing with that chill dude Che Guevara, right? No?"

-A kid, interviewed in 2024, wearing an aniprinted
bio-fiber kilt showing original [!] Maru videos.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


After days of rain finally the clouds broke and endless angels came pouring out of the blue sky.

They filled the world, yea, even the smallest corner. They filled it with interlocking wings. They filled it with transparent swords. They filled it with their pungent, ethereal bodies. They pressed everything to death and oil and dust.

The sky is completely clear now but the angels keep on coming. They come, until finally the Earth breaks like eggshell, spilling oceans of rapidly cooling magma into the cherub-belching void.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche

Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, 1923-2011

You shattered the play of delusion, 
Pointing out the deathless unborn. 
Now you show impermanence, 
The nail at the heart of the path. 
Return to us soon, kind Rinpoche! 
May our minds become one with yours!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The great wind

I'd like to sing a song saying everything. A song that answers every question. A song that holds all pain and fear in the cup of its hands.

Blowing on it softly.

Dispersing it like dandelion fluff.

A song that will say with the Ojibwe that even when I walk around pitying myself, a great wind carries me across the sky.* About how I know this great wind but would like to know it much, much better. About why can I sit in stunned silence, trying to listen to the wind just going everywhere.


*) Traditional Ojibwe saying, apparently.