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 My telephone conversation with RM Meian

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Laura

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PostSubject: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sat Feb 26, 2011 8:14 pm

First topic message reminder :

I promised all of you that I would let you know when I spoke with RM Meian and what came out of our conversation. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to do this, but frankly I was avoiding the conversation. RM Meian did contact me in late December and invite me to speak with her. I found one reason after another to put that off, and can only thank Mokuan for encouraging me to finally proceed with that phone call.

I avoided the conversation for a pretty simple reason. I didn’t see the point. I did not believe that anything positive would be accomplished, because I had spent years at the Abbey trying to speak with RM Meian about some of the more critical and obvious difficulties, all to no avail. I didn’t see why things would be any different now. I am very happy to tell you that I was completely wrong about that.

I spoke with RM Meian this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to find that RM Meian does appear to me to truly recognize the serious nature of the problems with the former abbot. She also recognizes that her support of him on those issues was a big mistake. She both acknowledged that and apologized to me for it, quite sincerely, several times during our conversation. She explained that her support of him was not an effort to deceive anyone, but was based simply on her own faith and trust in him, a trust that has been shattered by his subsequent behavior. I believe her completely, and always felt that her behavior was based on a rather blind and naïve faith, rather than on any effort to deceive or manipulate anyone.

We discussed some specific issues in detail, and I can honestly say that it was a very frank and candid conversation on both of our parts. I told her the extent to which I felt devalued and dismissed by everyone in the community to whom I turned to refuge when confounded by Eko’s controlling and non-preceptual behavior. She was able to really hear me this time. She and I agreed that much of the problem stems the absolute power that is placed in the hands of the abbot under the current system at Shasta Abbey. She is struggling with how to change that in a way that preserves the spiritual viability of the master/disciple relationship while at the same time safeguarding the monastery from potential abuses of power, such as the abuses they have recently experienced. She said that, in all honesty, even if she had recognized the problems and tried to stop the former abbot previously, given the system of power at the Abbey, she does not believe she could have done anything about it, even as vice-abbess. She is working with the Shasta community and with the OBC to find viable ways to make those changes. We talked about the importance of an ethics committee or board that would be empowered to both investigate allegations and constrain those who violated the ethics policy of the OBC. I told her how much I would have appreciated having some vehicle of that nature in place while I was there, for I would most certainly have gone to it for help in resolving my own issues.

She agreed that being willing to actually listen to people and take their difficulties and complaints seriously is an essential first step in this process of reform in which they are engaged. I explained to her how divided my heart had become because I was being asked to distrust my own senses and perceptions in order to believe that the abbot was trustworthy, when his actions and behavior continually proved that he was not. Again, she really heard me this time, and apologized quite sincerely. In the end, we agreed that you cannot change the past, but I feel quite confident from what RM Meian said and the way in which she said it that she and Shasta Abbey are working very hard to shape the future to be something quite different.

I don’t think you can ask much more of people who have harmed you than for them to acknowledge what the problems actually were, to recognize their participation in the problem, to apologize for it, and then work to change their behavior in the future. RM Meian did all of these things in our conversation and I am completely satisfied with her response and with her sincerity. Only the future will tell how successful those efforts will be. And this will all take a significant amount of hard work and time to accomplish. I hope that our patience will allow them the time they need to work through this.

On another note, RM Meian reassured me that I was welcome to visit at the Abbey if I so choose and that I would be received there, not as an enemy, but as a friend. I found this rather shocking and almost unbelievable given the Abbey’s extended history of shunning but, again, her sincerity was obvious to me. I asked if I might write to some of my former monastic friends there, and she gave me carte blanche to do so. I have not done so in the past for fear that their even receiving a letter from me would get them in trouble, but now that I have the Abbess’s permission, I feel a letter-writing spate coming on. yes

She and I talked for about 45 minutes and I’ve tried to cover most of what we discussed here. I’m sure I have left out many things that are important to some of you and that I never asked her some of the questions you would have liked to have answered. Please feel free to grill me about this on the forums or via private message. And I would encourage you to contact RM Meian if you have any personal issues you would like to address. She is far more open to this sort of inquiry than I imagined or expected.


Last edited by Laura on Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Maya



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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:31 pm

Laura wrote:


It was a bit like that when I talked to Rev. Meian and she acknowledged that she had been mistaken and apologized to me. I never felt that I needed an apology; I certainly never expected one. In all honesty, I called her in the hope that my doing so might be of some help to others. I was quite surprised to discover that once her apology was made, I noticed that I had built an invisible wall within my heart to protect me from the pain of my experience at Shasta Abbey. Her apologies dissolved that barrier. I hadn't even realized that the barrier was there, it was only through it's crumbling that I learned of its existence. And it was a huge relief to experience that unfettering of my heart.


Laura,

Thank you for this teaching.

with bows,
maya
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Ilo



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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:49 pm

Laura wrote:

I hadn't even realized that the barrier was there, it was only through it's crumbling that I learned of its existence. And it was a huge relief to experience that unfettering of my heart.

Bill wrote:

All this, this moment, which was so filled with clarity, and was so luminous to me, was, in a strange and mysterious way, an entire movement of grace where things came full circle, and roles were turned upside down, as though a mighty stream had burst its barrier and was flowing freely.

If I don't read anything else for six months, those words above have the power to sustain me.

We walk around thinking we carry the weight of the world, when really it is the world all along that has been carrying us.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:38 pm

Isan
One thing I've come to feel certain about is the universe will provide whatever opportunities I need to learn going forward. If there was something missed in a previous relationship then it will appear again in another form and I will pick up where I left off. That's what time is for.



What a beautiful rendering of fluidity
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chisanmichaelhughes



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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sun Mar 06, 2011 3:15 am

Good comments Kozan,but I have been smiling about you these last few days as I knocked down a part of a wall at my mums place , by driving into the end of it! The wall is about 60cm high so I shuttered it up and poured some fast setting concrete into it,as I did not have any metal rods,but as I do have a furniture factory I used chrome hanging rail offcuts instead !

Now why was I smiling? I kept remembering our conversation about ferral cement,I had never heard of it before,but you were designing a zendo with a ferral cement roof,I thought at the time if any one could change the universe it would be you,,,wall is fine , no one has noticed
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sun Mar 06, 2011 4:39 pm

Ferral cement: I get the image of a (iron-rich?) cinder block lurking in the underbrush, in the moonlight, trying to be stealthy...

Perhaps, if you build a zendo out of such blocks, one of them will pounce!
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Kozan
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sun Mar 06, 2011 7:47 pm

Dan, I love your image!

Chisan, your memory continues to amaze me. And yes, iron or steel in just about any form works for reinforcing concrete!

Ferrocement is a building technique that involves first creating an armature of rebar, welded wire mesh, chicken wire; and then plastering both sides (simultaneously) with a mixture of portland cement and sand (i.e. 'stucco'). Since it requires no forms, it is great for building curvilinear shapes--like boats, water tanks, sculpture, and round, domed-roof zendos.

Unfortunately, during my years of residency at the Abbey, I was young and very inexperienced as a designer and builder. This was compounded by the fact that I was also very interested in experimentation and pushing the envelope (like Bino). So, when RMJK asked if I could design a round, domed, zendo, I of course said, yes!

Fortunately, we did not go ahead with the ferrocement zendo. It would actually not have been possible given the monastic schedule, our collective inexperience with the process, and the size of the building. (And would not have been a good choice anyway, for a host of other reasons.)

All in all, it was a humbling experience for me, and a perfect example of the fact that all things teach.
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 07, 2011 2:39 am

Now you say humbling experience,but I see it a completely different way.

What inspired me about the early days was that I had never met so many people who thought out side the box. Sometimes, there is a big misconception, over people especially monks that sit zazen. The misconception is that monks have no thoughts, and have empty lives. Wheras the practice of zazen,liberates and frees,and as such allows one to see beyond onself,and the restricted view that one's limited self imposes on us.

Rather than seeing life in concepts and images one can actually really experience life by living it free of such paraphenalia.So Shasta always showed me that my own thinking process was extreemly limited ,and restricted by my self imposed views.

For example Keitetsu ,always surprised me. When I first met him,he was wearing a viet nam uniform,I was amazed he had been there even as a medic,as I had spent a lot of time protesting against the war. He also for a while did a volunary stint as a police volunteer,whilst at Shasta. When I last saw him,he told me he had won a prize across the whole of America,for best use of a scientific calculater. All of these parts of his life were outside of my own experience. Then there is your ferrocement zendo,. Also a guy I met in the Uk who sailed on the first Green peace ship.There were many many people who like Bino,were pioneers and had the ability to think outside the boxes,people like this did and do inspire me.
It was little surprise that loyal monks from the past at Shasta did voice their views that they did not feel things were right.Rather than being restricted in view and opinion, or feeling that they must just take the orders and simply go along with things. The true practice of zazen,liberates,allows one to see direct to the heart of the matter therefore enabling freedom of thought and not being trapped by heresy.
Taking this appraisel into the current topic of communication with Rev Mein, why not. Why should issues that have been written in stone, not be seen as impermanent transparencies of time. This gateway to greater vision, greater understanding, liberated thinking, that allows a life of greater understanding and thereby compassion,starts with abondoning everything that we should abandoned. And as Buddhists the key to this this gateless gateway, is always through greater understanding created by sange of our own situation and the limited life we have created.
So humbling maybe for you, but more importantly showing unlimited direction it certainly was for me and others.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:05 pm

"Taking this appraisel into the current topic of communication with Rev Mein, why not. Why should issues that have been written in stone, not be seen as impermanent transparencies of time. This gateway to greater vision, greater understanding, liberated thinking, that allows a life of greater understanding and thereby compassion,starts with abondoning everything that we should abandoned. And as Buddhists the key to this this gateless gateway, is always through greater understanding created by sange of our own situation and the limited life we have created."

Beautifully expressed Chisan!
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:03 pm

I roomed a few days with Keitetsu in '71 in the main house at the Abbey. Little did I imagine that he would design, manufacture, and sell the computer security software systems that most of the world's PCs use, and become a multi-billionaire in the process.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:25 pm

Hi Bill,

The last time I saw Keitetsu, AKA Peter Norton, he was worth just under 1 billion - one of the smaller Titans. Almost all of it went into a trust which supports the arts. He said he was still getting a small royalty check from Symantec each year for the use of his name and image, of several million dollars. Chump change from where he sat, I guess. These days they don't use his image, but the name is all over their software. Who knows what the fortune is worth now, after the market crash and all. Interesting guy.

Kyogen
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:30 pm

T-shirt prayer:

"Lord, let me prove to you that winning the lottery won't ruin me"


Last edited by Isan on Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:25 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : refinements)
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:48 pm

@ Kyogen and Isan "Interesting guy."

Indeed! Well, that is a great story! His image used to be plastered all over everything. When I was told was the enigmatic Keitetsu, I had to chuckle. Sounds like he's got just enough cash to freely choose the next phase, whatever that might be. I'm glad he used a big chunk to support the arts. God knows, with the barbarians afoot, civilized life needs it.
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Kyogen

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:49 pm

@Bill: don't get the wrong impression! The trust is for the arts, but the family lives off the income as well. But Keitetsu, at least at that time, was modest in his expenses. He told me he didn't see the point in owning his own jet. He simply leased one when he needed to fly anywhere. Ah, the simple life!

K
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:22 pm

@ kyogen

Ah, indeed, the simple life. In retirement I have great freedom to live the kind of hermit life I have. Just enough.. I can't imagine having to worry about whether to own or lease the corporate jet. I appreciate your fleshing out the story here.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:26 am

@Kyogen, Bill
A number of years ago when I saw Peter he simply said 'I've been very lucky. I've got a lifetimes supply of money'! I've always found him very modest about his wealth, saying that the best thing he did was to put his name and portrait on the product, so that now he is a brand.

To see what you can do on a lifetimes supply of money:
Corbin-Norton House
The cyrillic inscription over the door reads , Dacha Peterhof, Peter's summer house!

I think that he now devotes most of his efforts to the modern art world - where he is a name to be reckoned with; supposedly one of the worlds greatest collectors of modern art, and amongst other things on the board of MoMA, NY.

His 'Christmas' cards are a wonder, each year he commissions a new work of art which is sent out. If I get the time I'll photograph a few and put links to them in the Lounge.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:32 am

@ Mark, Kyogen

My goodness! A bit more than a hobbit-hole. A couple of steps above sharing a very cold room in the main house at Shasta. This is what zazen and an early career as a monk can lead to. Smile

Bill
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:26 pm

"This is what zazen and an early career as a monk can lead to."

Bill, it sounds like you're actually recommending Shasta Abbey, given that's where "Keitetsu" had his training. Very Happy

On the other hand, if a young person is entranced by the idea of having a big ol' mansion, then maybe some serious training is exactly what they need!
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:29 pm

@ dolmar

It's all tongue in cheek of course. Undoubtedly Peter (Keitetsu) Norton was, and is a very bright entrepeneurial fellow. Zen training is the via negativa, ordinarily thought of as " losing" things, stripping down to the bare minimum, and not about gaining things. And no criticism of Keitetsu, but despite Dogen's entreaties to the contrary, he did accomplish "fame and gain" big time, whether he wanted it or not. Having a bit of discipline in one's life, especially as a young person, is big help, whether you are on on the road to spiritual or financial attainment.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:39 pm

Well said, Bill.

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:37 pm

Bill--

Thanks very much for your thoughtful responses to my comments.

--Dan
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:13 pm

@ Dan

Just to respond further to your question about "recommending" Shasta Abbey, in the 16 years I had retreats and practice experiences at the Abbey and at an affiliated priory, I did learn slowly, slowly, the disciplines of meditation practice, in sitting, in activity, in the interior work of every moment and relationships. I learned patterns that I could integrate into my daily life. At this juncture those patterns of formal sitting, of devotional chanting, of work practice, of contemplative rest and relaxation, and reading. Learning to create my own sacred spaces of practice with a home altar, and with the postures of reverence for the space, all these patterns I did first learn through Shasta Abbey. And now 40 years later they have stuck with me in the hermit life I lead. Deliberately placing oneself in intensive structured practice experiences, where one is held accountable, and where there is a need and group support to continually stretch a little more, is a good thing, especially when a person is young and has the energy and the openness to give oneself wholeheartedly to a path with heart. I do all these things in my own home now, and the disciplines of attention and intention have firmly shaped my consciousness and the way I live. I don't need that support and structure now at this stage of development. When you're young, you definitely need it, in some form or other.

That's a little more answer than you might have bargained for. But yes, I'm darn glad I went to Shasta, as undisciplined as I was, and such a mess in so many ways. But it got me kick-started on the path when I needed it. Later on in the 80s, I was ready to part company, and I had matured to the point I could no longer stomach the extraneous and alien elements that were being thrown into the Abbey culture, and grace was taking me in a different direction. I don't know enough about Shasta today, but I could definitely recommend something like what I had at age 21, and say, "Yes, go for it, if you have the longing."
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:14 am

Once again, Bill, I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to write. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Thu Mar 10, 2011 3:21 pm

@ Dan

Thanks for the kind affirmation. It's a good exercise to review the journey and integrate life long learnings. (Writing can be helpful in that sense, as can conversation, even in this forum.) That is what the developmental psychologist, Erick Erickson, says is the developmental task of aging.

What comes to mind in this life review is Dogen's statement about his own personal koan in the text of the Fukanazazenji: "Why are practice and enlightenment necessary since the supreme teaching is free?" His resolution of the koan is a profound one, that practice and enlightenment are the same. We start out as young people hankering to solve the problem of our suffering, spurred on by our longing(the mind that seeks the Way).

Our young thinking egoic mind creates a fantasy that there is going to be a realization that will put us on a kind of power-glide in life where everything goes nice and smoothly, and we dwell in a haze of peaceful bliss. Well, that doesn't pan out. I discovered in my own way the truth of Dogen's teaching. As Jiyu Kennett used to say, "What gets in the way, is the Way." We learn to practice with everything that arises in the life path. I've had my share of "breakthrough" insights, but what is sustaining and gives one a sense of rootedness and groundedness in Reality is this continual offering, ceaseless offering, another way of saying the "going, going, going on.." Enlightenment and human life are process, not attainment. It is a stream that we awaken to and consciously participate in, as the Quaker mystic, Thomas Kelly said (The Light Within), 'in the beginning we are flowing in the river of Love,and after a while we find we are swimming.'(paraphrase) And so it is that nothing is outside this River. The birth and untimely death of my young son, the journey of love and intimacy with my wife, the rearing of my daughter to adult life, the companioning of the mental and emotional suffering of countless human beings in a 30 year history of mental health counseling. There's nothing that esoteric about it all. As M. Scott Peck has said, "life is a school of Love." We learn to open and bring forth what we are in the depths. We actualize the inner Truth of true nature. That's why practice and enlightenment are one. As the Christian mystics say, we "incarnate" Divine Essence. (Theosis) And it is all process, it is all practice. And I'm very glad I got help and support along the way.

Thanks for indulging the meanderings and reminiscences of an aging mind.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Thu Mar 10, 2011 10:21 pm

"Thanks for indulging the meanderings and reminiscences of an aging mind."

Not at all, Bill. I have to say that the greatest fruit of my ~7 year old zazen practice has been to see the comedy in difficulty. When things seem to get really hard is when I give up trying to find the blissed-out kind of peace, which I think are perhaps just echoes of the womb experience that we all began with.

Often that switching of mind from (exclusively) pleasure-seeking and pain avoidance to the non-self, purity, void (etc.) is shocking, or really cracks me up. What was I doing wasting so much time thinking in that other mode?

A crude analogy: it was the unhappy job of some scientists to wire up some rats so that they could reward themselves with a dopamine hit (a neurochemical orgasm, roughly). The rats could stimulate their own dopamine response as frequently as they wanted, which turned out to be thousands of times an hour. They ignored all else in favor of that happy molecule: food, mates, nothing else mattered.

The architect of my impermanent self is just exactly like that, a little rodent furiously searching for its next little hit of pleasure. And then I remember to let it take a break, come back to now and the flow of being, and ahhhh why did forget that THAT was there again? The place to rest is precisely in doing your best and in practicing kindness and gratitude. Then the dharmakaya just shows up, or so that is my perception.

You have to wonder why we are wired to find the pleasure/pain mind so much easier to inhabit than the mind that actually makes life better.

...Just trying to uphold my end of the conversation. --Dan

P.S. a discussion of the rat study, and the similarities between their brains and ours, is here: http://www.reuniting.info/science/sex_in_the_brain .
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:02 pm

@ Dan -"When things seem to get really hard is when I give up trying to find the
blissed-out kind of peace, which I think are perhaps just echoes of the
womb experience that we all began with.
Often that switching of
mind from (exclusively) pleasure-seeking and pain avoidance to the
non-self, purity, void (etc.) is shocking, or really cracks me up. What
was I doing wasting so much time thinking in that other mode?
You have to wonder why we are wired to find the pleasure/pain mind so
much easier to inhabit than the mind that actually makes life better."
**********************************

Yup, yup, yup..the most compelling of "opposites" is that pleasure/pain principle. "When the opposites arise, the Buddha Mind is lost." -(Dogen, Fukanazazengi) It likely emanates from our primitive reptilian brain, and probably has had serious survival value at some point, before we had a chance to develop a more discerning mind. But transcending the pleasure principle as the compelling principle in life is pretty darn essential to any kind of spiritual or psychological maturity, and to establishing any degree of discipline in our life.

Being able to just "see" it, be "with" it, as phenomena, without having it lead us around by the nose is a degree of freedom that the culture we live in doesn't quite get, and is pretty good stuff in the long run. An attitude of humor you also note, helps us detach in that "seeing." Moving past the "pleasure principle" seems to be an essential ingredient across all contemplative/mystic traditions. The 3rd century mystic and teacher of the desert tradition of the Middle East, Evagrius Ponticus, talked about this freedom from the pleasure principle, or what he called more broadly, the freedom from the passions (translates as compulsions). This state of freedom they called "apatheia". (without passions, not to be confused with apathy. or listlessness). He said:
"Now this apatheia has a child called
agape." "Agape is the progeny of apatheia. Apatheia
is the very flower of ascesis." (Pratikos) Translation -"Meditation brings forth freedom from compulsion, and this state of freedom brings forth selfless love."

Thanks for the contribution to the discussion.


Last edited by cmpnwtr on Thu Mar 10, 2011 11:04 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spacing error)
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:39 pm

I find pain-avoidance to be a much greater threat to my equanimity than pleasure-seeking. Maybe it's my ascetic background, but I'm fairly comfortable with at least a certain level of self-denial but not with pain that is visited upon me or others from what feels like an arbitrary source.

Suffering may be the great universal experience, but then why do I take it so personally? Indeed my Buddha mind is lost when I look at the earthquake/tsunami photos in Japan, and also when I head to the cupboard for another hit of pain-killer for my wretched back.

I once asked an Episcopalian priest if there was any point to suffering and they answered"No". Really? I would like some value from it, other than seeing it as simply a whip to chase us home with. There is something wrong with that picture.

In the meantime, I pray for Japan.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:33 pm

Hi, Polly,
We frequently interchange the words "suffering" and "pain." Although I often do that myself, when I am intentional in my nomenclature, "pain" is the sensation and "suffering" is the condition that may result due to our reactions to pain. If I understand your question correctly, it has to do with any higher purpose to the pain of psycho-physical existence. I have never tried to answer that one, maybe it's above my pay grade. My approach is, that it just is, it goes with living in this incarnate world, inescapable. When my young son lay dying of acute myelocytic leukemia in terrible pain, it didn't help me or him to ask, "why?" The important question for me I learned, was how to walk with him, and love him the best I could, through his last journey in life.

On the psycho-biological level it certainly has value for the organism and our survival to sense pain, physical, and psychological. But in the philosophical vein that you pose the question. I don't have an answer.

My exchange with Dan was mainly about the condition of spiritual suffering that comes from not having an equanimity and freedom about the seeking of pleasure or the avoidance of pain.The hypothesis in meditative practice is that our deepest motivations that bring peace and happiness in life are derived, not from totally indulging and being captive of the reflexive and instinctual inclinations of the organism, but through devoting our life energies, and spiritual faculties of attention and will to the purposes of the Heart, or Buddha nature. I believe that was the focus of my discussion with Dan, and I probably can't help you much with your question. Maybe someone can come along who can better answer your question.

Blessings,
Bill
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:35 pm

Good for you Polly praying for Japan.

Sometimes we judge ourselves on achievment and compare ourselves with others, even in spiritual practice ,we compare and try to be empty and void or pompous and vain.But real compassion and love can't be forced or developed by our normal means,because it turns to patronisation.

Compassion and love which I believe are the cornerstones of our practice, grow strong from dire, and sad circumstances.

Good for you Polly
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 5:34 pm

Isan wrote:
polly wrote:

Because I never felt as though I got genuine interchange, I do not know, and may not know, where I may have been at fault. Because I do not want to repeat that mistake, and I do not want to say that from a position of "I will never trust again." But who knows, stuff unfolds all the time. And I still love that teacher. Always will.

One thing I've come to feel certain about is the universe will provide whatever opportunities I need to learn going forward. If there was something missed in a previous relationship then it will appear again in another form and I will pick up where I left off. That's what time is for.

Despite hardship and suffering, I keep seeing the generosity of life.

And as I am well past my twenties and can clearly see the mortality of my life, I have no time for old battles and old wounds ... time is too precious. Victory lies beyond my attachment to winning, just as my enemies are a sacred trust.

Who can move forward and cannot move forward, I see as pointless speculations.

Today the rain melted much of the snow but not all of it. Tomorrow also threatens to be warm; but winter is not yet over. This is all more than enough for me: to stand for this or that would only be an unnecessary burden.

I have found that I have practiced the precepts in good times and watched them disappear in the face of great difficulties.

How do I pursue my practice more dilegently is all that occupies me: and I worry about creating suffering frivilously...
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polly

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:04 pm

Dear Bill,
Thanks for addressing my post. I wasn't mentally organized at all, had just spent about an hour watching the videos on Japan and Libya and just got overwhelmed.

"It is what it is" is probably the best we can do. 35 years of nursing taught me, among other things, that life in a body is fraught with peril and normally I don't fret about it but this morning it got to me. Kind of you to take me seriously. And yes, dire circumstances can teach us the deep things, Chisan, though we have to be willing to learn, and perhaps that is enough reason.
Polly
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chisanmichaelhughes

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:18 pm

Polly I feel I want to say
'unwilling if we don't learn'
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:48 pm

Dear Polly--The evolutionary purpose of physical pain is to let us know that something is wrong and needs to be attended to. Our nervous system and pain receptors are calibrated to direct our attention to small problems before they become big, because this increased our ancestors' reproductive fitness. Unfortunately, this very sensitivity also means that our nerves can create agony when something goes very wrong. The blind watchmaker (that is, evolution itself) has not provided a cut-off switch for pain, and so we are condemned to be physically tortured beyond all proportion for broken bones and kidney stones, and also pains which no amount of attention on our part can fix. I'm guessing this is stuff you know very well from your nursing career and education.

Of course you are right for people generally, including me: we are all (or nearly all) more pain avoidant than we are pleasure seeking. Our pastoral ancestors on the veldt had to FIRST attend to the lion that was stalking them, before seeking food or mates for themselves. The pleasures can wait, running away or finding a weapon cannot. (As an aside, evolutionary psychology is so malleable that it isn't really much of a science, in my opinion, but that's another story and anyway I find this assertion--the reason that we find pain more urgent than pleasure--to be fairly convincing.)

Scientific answers to the great questions of life are frequently accused of being dry, unaffirming, even nihilistic. However, I would offer in this case that the evolutionary theory of pain gives us a nearly incredible freedom: your physical pain isn't personal, the universe isn't doing this to "you", it's just a part of the blind watchmaker's design. In my view, this provides at least an intellectual basis for not creating suffering (why me?, This sucks!, etc.) out of physical pain. When I get my mind deeply into this knowledge, it is nearly as profound to me as the Buddha mind itself. The pain isn't really about ME, and even when I do suffer this is a comfort.

I should mention that, if anyone has perfected the art of not taking pain personally, I would gladly pay for lessons. Exclamation
--Dan


Last edited by ddolmar on Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:01 pm; edited 4 times in total (Reason for editing : Engrish, spellling, poorly thought out assertions)
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 7:52 pm

@ Polly

This exchange makes me think about my initial step into the world of Zen. As a young man I was pretty freaked out about the world, what with Vietnam going on, and a whole host of things, including my personal history of pain. I think I seized on the warrior archetype in my approach to Zen, believing that it would make me not have to experience the pain of the world, of other beings, human and otherwise. I was one of those little boys who thought it would be great to have a BB gun, and when I finally killed a bird, I felt like puking, and utterly wretched about what I had done. So, my thought was, if I just meditate, I will have this kind of invulnerability, of being able to sit still, rooted within, and not be such a pansy, not let things affect me. Well, just the opposite happened, to my dismay. The more I meditated, the more of a "pansy" I became, open, receptive, and exposed to all the pain around me. And being a therapist, it was both helpful and overwhelming, because i had my face pushed into the pain of the world, day after day. Eventually I decided that there was no other way, except to be "with" it. And I discovered that the same "thing" that brought that excruciating sensitivity to the pain of all beings, starting with myself, was also that same "thing" that gave me such exquisite joy. It is the paradox and the nature of unitive love. So I threw that invulnerable warrior archetype out the window and just accepted the fact that "it is what it is" and I wasn't going to shovel dirt on all that joy I had found. No doubt as a nurse you may have experienced similar developments and choices.
Blessings,
Bill
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:07 pm

Dan,

I think you are right. I have spent too many years training in a path that taught that everything came down to your karma, so that you had "asked for it", whatever it was, to some degree, and it is not always easy to shake that off.
And Bill, thanks for reminding me about the joy. I forget that part too often. You put those two habits of thought together and the world becomes bleak sometimes.

This is a good sangha, and what I think sangha is all about.

Polly
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 9:34 pm

Hi Polly--Evolution tends to run roughshod over "strict" forms of the doctrine of karma, by its very nature as an alternative explanation of history and our origins. Given that these versions of karmic doctrine legitimate being cold toward others' suffering (oh that's just their karma, they screwed up in a previous life, that's why their current life is so rough), I can't see any good coming from it in the first place.

I think a number of Buddhist teachers, and even some of the supposed greats--Bodhidharma, for one--seem to be proponents of this view of karma.

So here's an accusation that I feel somewhat comfortable laying at Buddhism's feet: how dare you claim that ALL pain is self-created? Do you not see that this is pernicious, for it causes me to suffer all the more from my own pain (because I deserve it), and it deadens my compassion (they deserve it, too)?

Bill earlier alluded to trusting our own understanding and emotions, and I talked about how religious beliefs can lead us to do awful things that we would not otherwise do.

But there are plenty of Buddhists, I'm told Rev. Master Daizui was one, who don't buy into this "strict" form of karma (or I should say "silly" because there are many ways to see it doesn't describe the world in which we live), and can explain in detail why it is wrong. So this isn't a reason to reject Buddhism for me, it's just an issue that's worth keeping an eye on, and one criterion by which I personally assess a teacher's understanding.

*************

I too am grateful for this electronic Sangha. You (collectively) are a fascinating and thoughtful bunch of people, and I get a lot of support and food for thought returning here. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:38 pm

Hello Dan,

While people can interpret Bodhidharma in many different ways, I think his teaching on karma is exceptional. His four practices of suffering injustice, according with conditions, seeking nothing, and practicing the Dharma are a restatement of the Four Noble Truths. Red Pine's translation says:
Quote :
First, suffering injustice. When those who search for a path encounter adversity, they should think to themselves 'In countless ages gone by I've turned from the essential to the trivial and wandered through all manner of existences, often angry without cause and guilty of numberless transgressions. Now, though I do no wrong, I'm punished by my past. Neither gods nor men can foresee when an evil deed will bear its fruit. I accept it with an open heart and without complaint of injustice'. The sutra says 'When you meet with adversity don't be upset, because it makes sense.'
Shodo Harada Roshi explains "suffering injustice" this way. All of the history of the world, all the evolution with its killing and eating, all of social history and social injustice is our karma. I see middle aged white males finding themselves at a disadvantage now, although they have done no wrong. Yet history has a way of balancing things out. First "suffer injustice, because it makes sense." Next, accord with conditions and be in harmony with them. This is how we relieve suffering. The teaching goes on from there.

Needless to say, I don't agree with the foolish view of blaming someone for the injustice they suffer. That's stupid and adds insult to injury. Plus, there are times when someone has been victimized and this teaching is not the one that applies. Foolish to get it mixed up. Bad medicine, malpractice. The Buddha said he had many teachings and practices that are like medicine and should be prescribed carefully. Correctly prescribed they heal. Incorrectly prescribe, they can kill. A monk should not be turned loose on the world without learning that lesson.

With palms joined,

Kyogen
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Fri Mar 11, 2011 11:57 pm

I just happened to read this last post and had to think of this one Hymn we used to sing, forget which one, but one of the lines was "don't think that thou can'st eer escape, the Karma that is thine".
My belief in Karma has always been very strong, so strong in fact, that before I ever became a Buddhist, took the precepts, I prayed to God, to let me pay for all the evil I had ever done in this life and any others,so that I would not have to come back again in some other form, time, place to expiate the rest of it. Just get it over with right here, right now, I thought. To me Karma explained a lot, if not everything. Then I came to see, that this is also not quite right, that there was something "off" perhaps, andmy "teacher" tried to show me this. I once asked my teacher, whether a person can try to assume someone else's Karma and bear it for them, at the time I was thinking of a particular person who was very innocently suffering greatly, someone gentle and sweet with a good heart who did not deserve what they were experiencing. My "teacher" replied, "why would you want to do that"?, something like that. When really analyzing my question I came to understand that if this were really possible, it would be like assuming that there was a "power" that could be bartered with, so that would not be right either. Now, I have come to believe that Karma is the natural succession of actions that follow other actions, these are not retributions but the natural consequenses of how the universe works, and we are not immune to it, that's all there's to it. Take the current Earthquake in Japan, people have built up over an area that is known to such disasters, even putting up Nuclear Power Plants, and when the Earth shudders it takes a lot down with it, so when you're in the middle of it, why think, why me?
All we can do now, for this is to send help, that would be best.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sat Mar 12, 2011 1:16 am

So sorry, Kyogen, I guess we were posting this at the same time, so my post referred to the one above yours


Brigitte
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Sun Mar 13, 2011 11:53 pm

Kyogen and Brigitte--Thanks for your thoughtful replies. I've been thinking about this matter for the last couple of days, and it may be a core reason that I have not taken the precepts formally. Even though none of the precepts specifically mention Karma, I would feel a bit hypocritical to call myself a Buddhist while having serious reservations about such a key doctrine. But maybe I still misunderstand it.

As I pointed out in a different thread several months ago, when an airplane crashes, we can choose to view it as the karma of everyone on board to die in exactly the same way. For me, this in effect is to say approximately that they were all going meet a violent end on the same day regardless of whether they had been travelling or not. Or we can view it as a mechanical failure, and try to learn from the specifics of the accident. Was it a fault of the design? Maintenance? Pilot error? It seems to me that this practical investigation is the path that teaches us what the world is actually about. Maybe these frames of reference can be reconciled, but as far as I'm concerned the physical investigation is truly the way of "just getting on with it," and the way that minimizes suffering by (hopefully) preventing another plane from crashing.

It is identically the same with Japan's earthquake and tsunami. The problem with the nuclear plants isn't that they are NUCLEAR (this word seems to have far more "affect" on people than I believe it deserves), it is specifically that the Japanese plants were apparently tested only to withstand earthquakes of a lower order of magnitude than this recent one. (As an aside,this quake was an exceptionally rare event.)

Also, these particular plants were designed (I'm told) in the 1960's, and unlike modern power plants the old ones have cooling systems that rely on pumps. If the pumps fail completely, the reactor core will go critical. Modern nuclear plants have "passive" cooling systems, which don't rely on such pumps. So we have improved the design, though nothing is ever completely disaster-proof.

So with due respect--I admit that I am not being as "generous" to the Dharma as I could be--while the doctrine of karma might help individuals past trying to find someone or something to blame, I think that ultimately it's really beside the point compared to the (so-called) dry facts and how we respond to them. Developing a conceptual model of how the physical universe works that is accurate enough to suggest what to do is more important, so far as I'm concerned, than whether one believes that a misfortune has occurred because of their prior actions, or generally prior "causes and conditions."

Earthquakes and tsunamis will occur, regardless of whether everyone on earth is from now on pure as the driven snow. They are much more deeply understandable as consequences of plate techtonics than as consequences of peoples' unenlightenment. So let's prepare and plan, and get everyone who is capable an adequate science education so that they can truly be of help, or at least understand the experts and be able to ask well-posed questions, so that the world does not seem to be such an arbitrary magic show of competing fortunes.

Does the nuclear plant near you have a modern passive cooling system? Is your area prone to earthquakes?...

I hope this is not all completely beside the points that you were trying to make.
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:07 am

Hi ddolmar,

I feel similarly about the way karma is sometimes articulated. As I understand it though (which is incompletely), not all events can be attributed to karma, which I personally find helpful in terms of being able to relate to it as a guiding principle but one which I don't get too hung up on (particularly as the Buddha described the actions of karma as one of the Four Imponderables). Disease, for example, may have another, separate cause, not attributable to karma.

Stu
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:57 am

Hi folks ,
Regarding the business about karma, RM Daizui did a really good talk on the subject called "Karma: The Debates of the Council of Patna". It's well worth listening to several times. I'm still trying to get my head around the subtleties of it. It can be downloaded from the Shasta Abbey website at http://www.shastaabey.org/teachings-RMDaizui.html.

Best wishes,
George
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:00 am

Apologies for my spelling -the url for Rev Master Daizui's talk is http://www.shastaabbey.org/teachings-RMdaizui.html.

Best wishes,
George
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ddolmar

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 14, 2011 4:20 pm

Ha ha, George, your second link won't work either because you care about grammar enough to have put a period at the end of the sentence. Our host Forumotion apparently isn't coded to exclude such a period when deciding what is hypertext.

The correct link should be:
http://www.shastaabbey.org/teachings-RMdaizui.html

Very Happy

--Dan

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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Mon Mar 14, 2011 8:50 pm

The Buddhist concept of karma is very complex partly because there is in fact no standard view it changes from Buddhist school to Buddhist school and was often one of the determinants of the difference between one school and another. However the one thing that most schools agreed on was that karma did not imply determinism and that there were other causal mechanisms at work in the world not just karma. They then often got themselves into tight corners about what in western philosophy is the problem of freewill and put themselves through the same kind of mental gymnastics to extricate themselves that western philosophers have got into over freewill. All to my mind ending unsatisfactorily both east and west. A very good and easy to listen to discussion by experts of the various mainly western theories of freewill, or lack of it, and their consequences can be found in a recent BBC radio program ( http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/iot/iot_20110310-1023a.mp3 ). Some more recent Buddhist thinkers have tried to modernise the traditional views on karma without, to my mind, too much success. My personal understanding of karma is that your actions leave marks on you that you carry with you into the future. You carry your past with you and whilst that does not determine your future is does influence both the choices available to you and the choices you are likely to make. But if you start to try to unpack that in any detail it all falls apart in you hands and slides off between your figers!
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PostSubject: Re: My telephone conversation with RM Meian   Tue Mar 15, 2011 1:49 am

Hey Mark

Maybe Karma's complexity arose from masters feeling obligated to answer the unanswerable because they just couldn't bring themselves to say "who knows?" to their student's questions.

I think I'd actually trust a meditative religion with a "who Knows" mantra.

Not to be a magic killer but doesn't everything leave some type of wake. Enlightened action aside, my zafu never illuminated Karma as anything more than a word for the Ego's wake. A wake whose momentum continues on even after the the boat has stopped.

Cheers
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