for you who rarely visit…

for you who

rarely visit,

though you have already arrived,

may the early evening storm

not blow so hard!

                                ~Ryokan*

DSC_6858bckofford 2015

*cited:

Sky Above, Great Wind

K Tanahashi

initially posted on September 1, 2015

peace lily

merging lines with light and shadow

peace lily

the eye that is penetrating sees clearly,

the ear that is penetrating hears clearly,

the nose that is penetrating distinguishes odors,

the mouth that is penetrating distinguishes flavors,

the mind that is penetrating has understanding,

and the understanding that is penetrating has virtue. ~ CHUANG-TZU

initially posted in August, 2012

contemplating sunset with…40 religious leaders, part 1

Alon Goshen-Gottstein, (Coronaspection: Introspection I Tablet Magazine) is undertaking a project in which forty religious leaders are individually responding to seven questions during this time of global crisis.

Part 1 of this project includes: Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russia; Patriarch Sahag II Mashalian, Turkey; Swami Chidanand Saraswati, India

1. What have been your greatest challenges in dealing with the present Corona crisis?

2. Corona is bringing out a lot of fear in people. How does one deal with fear? What spiritual advice could you offer to people struggling with fear?

3. Corona has forced people into solitude. How should time be spent in solitude? Many people do not have experience and habits that would allow them to make the most of this opportunity. What advice could they be given?

4. Corona brings about deprivation. We are deprived of our freedom, of our habits. We lose things, and even more so- people we love. How does one deal with all forms of deprivation?

5. What does Corona teach us about our interconnectivity? What are spiritual applications that people can practice consciously?

6. Corona forces us into our own protective space, but it also calls us to solidarity. How to practice solidarity? What are teachings that support solidarity? What actions express solidarity? What can one do to express solidarity, even from within the confines of one’s home and protection?

7. Many people say the world will be different after this Corona crisis. What blessings do you see Corona bringing to the world? How can the world be different, for the better, following this crisis?

One of the most important conceptual threads that runs through the project is the recognition that for all its hardships, the coronavirus is in some way also a blessing. To uncover that blessing we may need the eyes of the other and the experience of another spiritual tradition and how it is able to find blessing even in hardship.

Skyscape photograph: Nikon D750 f/5.6 1/400s 300 mm 400 ISO edited in Capture One 20

our heroes within – 57th day

Our heroes must be summoned from within. It’s up to us to put them to work and to learn how to save ourselves. 

sunset

“People …like the idea of someone with special powers watching over us, ready to intervene in a crisis and keep us safe from dark forces. The Buddha…spoke of ‘the two bright qualities [that] protect the world’ (dve sukka dhamma lokam palenti—Anguttara Nikaya 2.9). These are Hiri, or conscience, and Ottappa, our respect for others. …

“Today, …the greatest dangers we face now erupt from within our own hearts: human greed, hatred, and delusion, the arch villains that cause so many real-world problems. Greed, the powerful impulse to snatch whatever it can, will take even life itself from the defenseless. Hatred drives us to do unspeakable things to those we view as other. And delusion, so willingly embraced, smothers any insight that might arise about the danger we’re in or the harm we may do. The twin guardians are the crucial allies we have to foil their plots.

“The first hero, Hiri, can be thought of as conscience or self-respect. She… flies into our mental world at the moment when we are considering doing something that we know deep down to be wrong. Hiri is our personal sense of ethical integrity, our moral compass, our intuitive understanding of what is right and wrong, what’s appropriate and what isn’t. She is not a severe critic but a soft, caring voice whispering in our ear and guiding us through our lives with courage and compassion. She saves us from the demons lurking within and stands beside us when we say, ‘No, that is just not right. I will not do it (or say it or think it).’

“Her intrepid ally Ottappa is the elemental force of caring for others and respecting their concerns. It appears on the scene when we’re tempted to do something that is against the laws of propriety, is outside the social norm, or would be condemned by the people we respect. Ottappa draws its strength from the fact that we are social creatures who belong to a family or community, and that our actions are rooted in and accountable to a larger collective order.

“…The Buddha said [Hiri and Ottappa] guard the world, protecting it from getting broken by the onslaught of the worst parts of ourselves. Without them people could act like beasts, ravaging even their own mothers. We all know what atrocities human beings are capable of. For so many victims, Hiri and Ottappa do not always show up in time, held at bay by their nemeses, Ahiri (lack of conscience) and Anottappa (lack of respect). These two anti-heroes are present every time a harmful, cruel, or ignorant deed is done, blocking out the benevolent effects of conscience and respect.

“Fortunately Hiri and Ottappa have other friends, including Sati, or mindfulness, who goes first into every fray and summons the team into action. Sati is conscious awareness of what is happening right now, and Ahiri and Anottappa can only function when such awareness is absent. When people do harm to themselves and others, they are often not aware of what they are doing. They are conscious enough to act, but not conscious enough to be aware of the quality of their actions or of their consequences. Whenever a person musters even a degree of mindfulness, conscience and respect arrive there too, helping them do, say, and think what is helpful rather than what is harmful…”

cited: Andrew Olendzik, Guardians of the World Tricycle, Fall 2017

Nikon D750 f/8 1/50s 145mm 400 ISO

edited in Capture One 20 and Photoshop

lens-artists photo challenge: at home

Solitary … day 46

Within our home, the setting sun…a time of gratitude and metta meditation

setting sun
wind chime

My people went to live elsewhere and I remained alone in my solitary home. I was tired of meditation and sent a poem to one who had not called on me for a long time.

Weeds grow before my gate 
And my sleeves are wet with dew, 
No one calls on me, 
My tears are solitary–alas!

She was a nun and she sent an answer:

The weeds before a dwelling house 
 May remind you of me! 
Bushes bury the hut 
Where lives the world-deserted one.

The Sarashina Diary, Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan
silhouette
may all sentient beings slumber in peace

Amy (The World is a Book…) writes that because of “the lockdown, we are spending more time at home. But, hopefully this isn’t limiting our interest in photographing. This week, we invite you to share photos taken at home.”

above images created with a Nikon D750

setting sun: f/7.1 1/1250s 65mm 400 ISO

wind chime: f/5.6 1/15s 125mm 400 ISO

silhouette: f/5.6 1/3200 230mm 400 ISO

may all sentient beings slumber in peace: f/8 1/20s 25mm 400 ISO

this is because that is

Stay at Home Order … day 30 plus 14 seclusion retreat days

shadow

everything is connected by causality … and if nothing else, Covid-19 is waking us up to the fact that we are all connected

Brian Boucher, CNN These ancient images of the Buddha are more timely than you think

if one comes across a person who has been shot by an arrow, one does not spend time wondering about where the arrow came from, or the caste of the individual who shot it, or analyzing what type of wood the shaft is made of, or the manner in which the arrowhead was fashioned.  Rather, one should focus on immediately pulling out the arrow.

~ The Buddha

spring

Life is short; it must not be spend in endless metaphysical speculations which will not be able to bring us the Truth.

Andres Hedman, Consciousness from a Broad Perspective
sunset april 23, 2020

“The Buddha’s teachings can be read on many levels … at a fundamental level, all the storytelling was a way of conveying ethical values. One of them is the peaceful coexistence of all life forms, which is very germane today. We’ve wandered dangerously far from that principle in the era of climate change. Referring to the seated Buddha sculpture in San Francisco, which is inscribed with the message that all things are connected by causality (in contrast with the deterministic belief that our fate is out of our hands)… What [the Awakened One] saw when he woke up is that things don’t happen by chance, that everything is connected by causality … and if nothing else, Covid-19 is waking us up to the fact that we are all connected.”

Brian Boucher, CNN These ancient images of the Buddha are more timely than you think

All images created with a Nikon D750

sunset april 23, 2020: f/5.6 1/500 42mm 400 ISO

basketball court: f/5.8 1/800 100mm 400 ISO

spring blossoms: f/5.6 1/160s 300mm 400 ISO

to simply believe

Stay at Home Order … day 9 plus 14 seclusion retreat days

So remote the mountains

the only callers to break

the tedium of my window

are top branches of sumac

just starting to change color

~Saigyō (cited: B Watson, Poems of a Mountain Home)

Nikon D750 f/1.8 1/4000s 35mm 200 ISO

What is faith: a wholesome mental formation

belief, credence, credit, trust, hope, confidence, sureness, certainty, reliance, dependence, acceptation, reception, credulity, suspension of disbelief

The absence of faith is suffering. This time of uncertainty “…has brought me to a place and time in which to unweave and sort through the pseudo-beliefs I have simply, without question, absorbed through the lens of childhood fantasy and comprehension.  To begin this process is to reformulate beliefs through a process of mindfulness and analysis and then to know for myself, “These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill… These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise… These things lead to benefit and happiness.”

“It is not an easy undertaking to not simply believe what has been learned within family, school and church as well as conclusions reached through readings. The invitation to not simply follow tradition brings to the surface conflicts with compliance and opposition that come from an avalanche of values and guiding principles that outlines how I understand the roles and expectations of women.

“To not adhere to that which was surmised within family stories about an ancestor, who upon seeing a swarm of locust “knelt in his patch of grain and pleaded with his Maker to spare his wheat” and then saw them divide and not damage his remaining crops. Or within the story about the ancestor, who during a trip from New York to England, calmed the seas with a prayer, and while in England, after much fasting and prayer administered to a deaf and dumb boy who was subsequently healed. To not simply believe opens a door of pondering about generations of family members who intimately knew powerlessness and insecurity, who eased their feelings of incompetence through prayer, and whose conceptions blinded them to their neighbors’ plight.

“To not simply believe that I must endure suffering is to reject the axiom that there is an absence of fundamental faith and goodness. To not adhere to the assumed abilities of ancestors frees me from the belief that a sincere act of making amends for my sins will open the doors to Shangri-La.  To not simply draw upon scripture unbinds me to the shame that I don’t have the faith – even of the size of a mustard seed – to be deeded as “good and without sin” so what I wish for, even that which goes counter to nature’s laws, will be granted.  To ease the suffering within discontent is to not simply hold to be true that I am to acquiesce to pain until the final judgment of death, and only then will I be forever at peace, or forever condemned to an existence of even greater suffering.

“To not simply believe opens my ears to the incongruence within a belief in an all-knowing presence who, if not validated, punishes, absent of the grace within loving-kindness.  To not simply believe brings a compassionate acknowledgment to the painful efforts to sway God into granting me my desires through bargaining, sacrifice, negation, and suffering, and to finally surrender with acceptance to “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  To not simply believe sheds light upon the greed, aversion, and delusions that are intertwined into my conception of and relationship with life.

“I do hold that my beliefs and the subsequent desire for their illusive promises of validation, forgiveness, or reunification have set me upon an unending path of suffering.  These beliefs lead to harm and ill as they are like thorns that tear into my heart.  This searing pain releases resentment intertwined with envy, awakens alienation, and denies me the essence of Christ’s wisdom and loving compassion.

“Christ stood before self-righteous anger and commanded that only the one without sin was to cast the first stone of punishment and, at another time and in the midst of his own suffering, sought forgiveness for those who “know not what they do.”   Within these written words, I hear compassion speaking for the suffering intertwined within anger ungoverned by moral shame and moral dread.  Compassion is telling us how suffering, entangled into knots of mental, emotional, and social turmoil, deafens us to our guiding principles and blinds us to the horrors our moral shame will witness as it awakens from darkened ignorance.”*

The practice of the presence of God as being

comparable to that of consciousness

finally makes possible “full awareness” applied

to every thought, world, and deed.

~ Unknown

*cited: BC Koeford, A Meditative Journey with Saldage