buddhas, dead beats & renovations

I hate change.  I hate change but I love renovation.  Renovation is not change – any more than enlightenment is elevation from the murk of being human.

Those of you who visit regularly (Thank you!) can see from the new blog format I was in a renovating mood yesterday.  It was a good day for changing the way the brain perceives things.  After all, it was Bodhi Day – the day we honor the Buddha’s enlightenment.  This time of year, with deeper darkness encroaching, it’s a good time to celebrate anything that requires lots of candles and cookies.  That’s what we did in sangha.  Everyone brought cookies and candles.  We sat three rounds of meditation, limped walking meditation in between, and closed a circle for cookies and tea.  An earlier call for a Dharma cookie swap resulted in ginger cookies, green tea shortbread, regular shortbread, oatmeal chocolate chip, and a bottle of mixed nuts.  Good nourishment for this collection of enquiring minds.

The question of the night was whether the Buddha was a dead beat dad.  From today’s perspective, I suspect one might call him that.  Leaving wife and kid in the middle of the night, throwing over his responsibilities, wandering around homeless.  How else to view it?  It’s an eternal question: how to respect the teachings if the teacher isn’t living up to our standards.  I might have gone on a bit in the Buddha’s defense, that we have to see the story of the Buddha as allegory and, if taken literally, see it in the context of the sociocultural structure and mores of the times.  There are volumes written on this and I am no scholar on the topic.  What I struggle with when I consider the roots and then the branches and fruit of this practice is how to reconcile enlightenment as relational and a history that says differently.

No answers there.  I just struggle with it.  Maybe the renovations will happen next year.  For now I’m enjoying Grace Schireson’s Zen Women.  She’s much better at working through the details of how practice is relational.

I see today my dharma brother Barry at Ox Herding has captured the essence of Buddha-hood in this day and age.

Why are people called Buddhas

After they die?

Because they don’t grumble any more.

Because they don’t make a nuisance of themselves any more.


It makes me feel better now, when I grouse at our sangha.  It would be terrible if they thought I was a Buddha and missed the opportunity to practice loving kindness at my every grumble and nuisance.

I hope you enjoy the new digs.

Thank you for practising,


intimate sound


Another characteristic of sumi painting is that with sumi painting you have to listen to the rhythm of the universe, the rhythm of the world….  (M)ind is like the sound of the pine breeze in the sumi painting.  There, on the paper, is the pine tree… And you can feel the breeze, and the sound of the breeze, from the painting. (from Breeze in the sumi painting in Returning to Silence by Dainin Katagiri)

Not knowing the pine tree as root, branch and bark opens me to a deeper, more intimate knowing.  Intimacy is a deep otobwunderstanding of the pine tree – so deep that the feel of the breeze, the sound of the wind through its branches is evoked through the most subtle of forms.  A line, a space, a curve, a gaze, a touch, glint of golden sunlight there in black ink on white space.

And then gone.

From our friend Ikkyu again:

without beginning,
utterly without end,
the mind is born
to struggle and distresses,
and dies – and that is emptiness.

Thank you for practising,


Images from top: Ikkyu poem in grass script; kanji character oto /sound