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The Kali Machine and the Stem of the Lotus

The Seven Points –  Each day my wife visits the Kali machine at UCLA. The techs lay her down on a metal pallet and bolt to her head a hard white plastic mesh that’s been molded to fit her face. The linear accelerators of the IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) device, big as a small car, start up. Seven beams of X-ray radiation target the zone beneath her right ear where the parotid gland used to be. This gland, the largest of the salivary glands, was surgically removed in January, along with the malignancy that had grown within it. Any cancer cells that lingered in the wound would eventually sprout into new tumors, so they need to be destroyed. Each day the X-rays of the Kali machine tear into the exposed DNA of cells in the … [Read more...]

A Very Impressive Gentleman

Confession of a Buddhist Atheist Reading Stephen Batchelor’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist is likely to have an irreversible impact on your image of the historical Buddha. Far from a demi-god who woke up one day beneath the Bodhi tree and lived out his life in an alternate universe defined by bliss and ease, Batchelor’s earthy and forceful Siddhattha Gotama exists within a Shakespearean landscape defined by passionate treachery and high political intrigue. While Batchelor takes pains to present this figure as one of many legitimate pictures of the Buddha, the picture he paints couldn’t be more bracing. Toward the end of Confession, for example, Batchelor tells of an old king who, when visiting Gotama, hands his sword and turban to … [Read more...]

Look Again

Photography and the Dream of Form, Part 1: Batchelor – Contrary to popular belief, machines, technology, do not exist to enslave us, or to limit or retard our spiritual growth. Rather, technology exists to liberate us from Cartesian habits of mind so that we can embody hitherto undernourished aspects of our potential for awareness. To see what I mean, examine the photograph to the right on your screen. The meat in the image is red but probably it's flowers instead of meat and just a little out of focus such that it appears meat-like. What's in focus must be water, but since water is transparent you can't actually see it. The shadow of three fingers and a thumb that interrupt the cool stripe of reflected light is in focus so, yes, … [Read more...]

A Leap of Faith

"Unmistaken Child", a film by Nati Baratz – "…May I clearly perceive all experiences to be as insubstantial as the dream fabric of the night…" From a Tibetan Buddhist prayer "Unmistaken Child" is about a mythic search for a Tulku: the reincarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog, a venerated teacher who is viewed by his contemporaries as a meditator on par with Milarepa, and who, like Milarepa, had practiced and lived in retreat in several caves in the Tsum Valley, a very remote region of Nepal bordering Tibet. The man who is invested with carrying out the search is the Lama's heart disciple of 21 years, Tenzin Zopa. Tenzin is a fresh-faced,  youthful man, with an easy smile and intelligent eyes. His search makes for a fascinating story, full … [Read more...]

The Fire Sermon

I became first drawn to the the Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya-sutta) when reading Aldous Huxley's Perrenial Philosophy's chapter on Good and Evil. I went looking to penetrate and quantify the nature of these moral opposites and found instead a rousing poetic call to action. The sensuality of the dialectic, the simple audacity of the conclusive "Birth is exhausted..." make this a powerful and seductive read. The Fire Sermon Adittapariyaya-sutta Thus I have heard. The blessed One was once living at Gayasia in Gaya with a thousand bhikkhus. There he addressed the bhikkhus: ‘Bhikkhus, all is burning. And what is the all that is burning? ‘Bhikkhus, the eye is burning, visible forms are burning, visual conciousness is … [Read more...]

Mind

These are the Dharma Family cats. Zen to the core. Who is watching the store, after all? … [Read more...]

Good Luck, Bad Luck

An Introduction to the Dharma Family Ed Wortz was my friend and mentor. He ushered me through some bad times and was there to toast me when the sun was shinning bright. Thich Thien An was Ed's mentor and initiator in Buddhist philosophy. Ed and Thien-An first met the Ven. Dr. Thich Thien-An when Thien-An came to Southern California in the summer of 1966 as an exchange professor at UCLA. Thien-An's father had been one of the monks who self immolated to bring attention to the world of the horrors being perpetrated in Vietnam by the Diem regime. When Saigon fell in 1975, Ven. Thien-An saw his responsibility and helped the boat people and other refugees from his homeland. Thus, the International Buddhist … [Read more...]

Desire

Desire is the first datum of our conciousness; we are born into sympathy and antipathy, wishing and willing. Unconciously at first, then conciously we evaluate: “This is good, that is bad.” And a little later we discover obligation. “This being good, ought to be done; that being bad, ought not to be done.” – Aldous Huxley I return repeatedly to Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosophy. It is a comprehensive compendium of metaphysical thought. It investigates topics ranging from, "Personality, Sanctity, Divne Incarnation" to "Good and Evil" to "Time and Eternity" to "Faith" and "Suffering". Excerpts from authors include Eckhart, William Law, Chuang Tzu, The Bhagavad Gita, Maitrayana Upanishad, Kabir, Rumi and St. John of the Cross. All of us, … [Read more...]