Tag Archives: Buddhism

Encounter with Te-Shan

cold winter winds
carry the voice of Te-Shan
intruding on my solitude
free yourself, he says ~
while working, work
while resting, rest

the birch outside my window
waves her leaves in the wind
celebrating her emptiness,
free of all anxiety

*buji ~ free of anxiety (no mind in work, no work in mind; that is, not self-conscious)


Te-Shan was an eighth century Chinese Chen (Zen) Buddhist teacher and scholar of the Diamond Cutter Sutra (aphorism), known as Case #4 of the Pi-yen-lu koans (riddles). Case #4 is “Te-Shan carrying his bundle.”  As the story goes, the Master Te-Shan left his monastery in the north of China and headed south to challenge some teaching that he deemed incorrect. He was dedicated in both his scholarship and his tradition. On his journey, he carried with him his treasured bundle, the Commentaries on the Diamond Cutter Sutra.

Along the way he met a merchant selling rice cakes by the side of the road. She was an old woman and we all know how dangerous old women can be. The old woman asked him what scriptures he carried that were so precious to him. When he told her the Diamond Cutter Sutra, she asked, “Doesn’t the sutra say ‘past mind cannot be held, present mind cannot be held, future mind cannot be held? Which mind is it that the Master would wish to revive?” The old woman’s pointed questioning left Te-Shan speechless.

Shamed  and defeated by this uneducated old woman with her street wisdom, Te-Shan returned to his monastery. It is said that he was unable to resume his teaching and spent the next days immersed in meditation. He soon achieved enlightenment and, as a result, burned all his writing and books saying:

“To plumb the greatest depth of knowledge would be no more than a piece of hair lost in the vastness of the great Void.  However important your experience of worldly things, it is nothing – it is even less than a single drop of water cast into the Void.”

The Diamond Sutra or the Vajra Cutter Perfection Wisdom Sutra emphasizes the Mahāyāna Buddhist practices of non-attachment and non-abiding

© 2012, poem and story adaption, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Illustration ~ the frontispiece piece of the Diamond Sutra “the oldest known printed book in the world” via Wikipedia and in the public domain

Photo on 2014-03-31 at 17.16 #3unnamed-18JAMIE DEDES (The Poet by Day)~I am a medically retired (disabled) elder and the mother of married son who is very dear. I started blogging shortly after I retired as a way to maintain my sanity and to stay connected to the arts and the artful despite being mostly homebound. My Facebook pages are: Jamie Dedes (Arts and Humanities) and Simply Living, Living Simply.

With the help and support of talented bloggers and readers, I founded The Bardo Group because I feel that blogging offers a means to see one another in our simple humanity, as brothers and sisters and not as “other.” I am the poetry liaison and a member of the Core Team. Terri Stewart (Beguine Again) is in the lead position and the Beguine Again collabrative and The Bardo Group are coordinating a consolidation of the two groups.

“Good work, like good talk or any other form of worthwhile human relationship, depends upon being able to assume an extended shared world.” Stefan Collini (b. 1947), English Literary Critic and Professor of English Literature at Cambridge

The Packrat Gene and the Clutter Queen

((With the new year upon us, many will be thinking about “de-cluttering” their lives for a fresh, new start. Buddhism and Taoism teach us that all that “stuff” we acquire and become attached to is actually detrimental to our lives and our spiritual well-being. With that in mind, this is a piece I wrote a while ago regarding clutter and “stuff”. I find myself looking around my house and having the itch to ‘purge’ some more material belongings. I imagine others do, too…))
image borrowed from http://yerf.metafur.org/vernursu/packrat.jpg
Packrat by Ursula Vernon

I’ve often wondered in life if there really is such a thing as a “Pack-Rat Gene”? Is a tendency toward hoarding or clutter an inherited trait? I have to wonder, because there are so many members of my family who seem to exhibit this tendency. Some are worse than others, and I am determined NOT to fall victim to it in my lifetime. I think part of it stemmed from the generation who survived the Great Depression, where consumer goods like aluminum foil were re-used and re-cycled because it saved money. I can still remember my grandmother washing out plastic sandwich bags (yes, and reusing foil, too, we’ve all heard about that) and hanging them on the faucet upside down to dry. In that sense, it could be considered “frugal” or “thrifty” and so if I do it, too, it’s partially because of that, but also a small attempt at being environmentally conscious regarding plastic, etc.

I know that another part of it has to do with “creativity”. I think it was Einstein who said “Clutter is a sign of genius.” (*pauses to look that up*) Yup. It was him. I’ve also heard that it’s a sign of creativity, and I have close family members who take this to heart. But there’s a difference between the “clutter” of someone who is actively working on something, and “clutter” of someone who is storing anything and everything which might be useful “at some nebulous, unknown point in the future, for some just as unclear and unknown project in the future”. There’s a difference, and therein lies the secret, I think.

There is a point, and I think it’s different for everyone, where it becomes “hoarding” behavior. Like going to the store and stocking up on something you like because it’s on sale…but then going back again for the limit when it’s on sale again, even though you may already have enough to last you and your future generations through WWIII. I think there is a fear of “running out” or not having enough. I don’t do this, but I’m related to people who have and do. And I don’t WANT all that “stuff”. Perishable or not, I don’t want to clutter my living environment with “stuff”.

And it’s really ALL just “stuff”, you know. We can’t take ANY of it with us when we check out. Empty space has a tendency to fill. It’s like a Natural Law or something, and if it’s not, then it should be, because you know it’s true! The question is, is it “stuff” you’ll be using now or soon? We may not even BE here to use it tomorrow, so why keep it if you’re not using it? My dad always taught me it’s “better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it,” and to some extent, that’s a wise philosophy. It speaks of being prepared and anticipating future problems and solutions ahead of time.

BUT…there IS something very true about Feng Shui and the “less is more”, minimalist viewpoint. Clutter and hoarding speak volumes about what’s going on inside of a person – a person’s living environment can be very telling about their inner emotional and mental states. The two are tied together, and I think that cleaning up one can affect and help clean up the other (inside vs. outside or vice versa). Balance and order in one area can guide a person to both in the other area.

In an attempt to keep from becoming a “Clutter Queen”, I try to keep in mind a few things:

1) Can I or will I (realistically and actually) use something today or tomorrow? If so, how and for what? Unfortunately, my ‘skinny clothes’ probably fall into this category – I MAY end up at that smaller size again, but I sure can’t fit into them now, and they are taking up a lot of space in the closet and chest. Hmmm….

2) How does having something enhance who I am or benefit my life NOW, TODAY? Do I need it? <—Important note: there are sometimes when just having the peace of mind knowing I have something in case of an emergency (like extra oil for the car, for example) is worth having to store it.

3) Do I have the space for it? Keeping in mind that empty space will fill, do I really want to fill that empty space with this particular thing?

4) How does it affect my environment? Does it clutter or add to my ‘living space’ in a positive way?

5) If I bring in something ‘new’, I have to get rid of something ‘old’ to make room for it – it’s about keeping the balance/flow of what I want around me. If I REALLY WANT or NEED that ‘new’ thing, then there should be something ‘old’ that I can move out to make room for it.

So what about you? How do you handle the clutter in your life? Is it true that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”? Do you think there’s a Pack Rat gene? Or is it more nurture instead of nature (i.e. environmental upbringing instead of inherited traits)?

Thanks for reading. :) Comments are welcome and appreciated!

- Corina Ravenscraft

© 2014, essay, Corina Ravenscraft, illustration, Ursula Vernon All rights reserved

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

One Man’s View of Karma and Rebirth

STEPHEN BATCHELOR (b. 1953), Buddhist teacher, author, scholar

Author of Buddhism Without Beliefs

In this video, Stephen Batchelor presents his view of Karma and Rebirth and the reasoning that supports his perspective. In the video he mentions “dukkha,” which is an important concept in Buddhism:

Dukkha is commonly explained according to three different categories: The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying. The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.” Wikipedia

“Stephen Batchelor is a contemporary Buddhist teacher and writer, best known for his secular or agnostic approach to Buddhism. Stephen considers Buddhism to be a constantly evolving culture of awakening rather than a religious system based on immutable dogmas and beliefs. In particular, he regards the doctrines of karma and rebirth to be features of ancient Indian civilisation and not intrinsic to what the Buddha taught. Buddhism has survived for the past 2,500 years because of its capacity to reinvent itself in accord with the needs of the different Asian societies with which it has creatively interacted throughout its history. As Buddhism encounters modernity, it enters a vital new phase of its development. Through his writings, translations and teaching, Stephen engages in a critical exploration of Buddhism’s role in the modern world, which has earned him both condemnation as a heretic and praise as a reformer.” MORE [About Stephen Batchelor from his website]

Photo credit ~ Stephen Batchelor at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico by ottmarliebert via Wikipedia under CCA-SA 2.0 Generic license.

- compiled by Jamie Dedes

A DHARMA TALK: Being Present

Gil_FronsdalGil Fronsdale is a Buddhist who has practiced Soto Zen and Vipassana since 1975, and is currently a Buddhist teacher who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gil was trained as a Vipassana teacher by Jack Kornfield and is part of the Vipassana teachers’ collective at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was ordained as a Soto Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982 and was a Theravada monk in Burma in 1985. In 1995 he received Dharma transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center.

He is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) of Redwood City, California. He has a PhD inBuddhist Studies from Stanford University. His many dharma talks available online contain basic information on meditation and Buddhism, as well as subtle concepts of Buddhism explained at the level of the lay person.” Wikipedia

Video uploaded to YouTube by insightmed.
Photo credit ~ Insight Meditation Center, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Deriv 3.0 Unported

Expanding Our Circle of Compassion

tamayoCharter for Compassion is signed by people from all over the world and endorsed by organizations representing the diversity of religions and cultures:
“The charter has been translated into more than 30 languages: The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.
“It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.
“We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.” Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong
From the Charter for Compassion signature page: “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

THE CHARTER FOR COMPASSION AND COMPASSIONATE CITIES ARE ONGOING PROJECTS:  To date some 99,596 people from around the world have signed the Charter, which was started when Karen Armstrong won the TED Prize and made a wish: for help creating, launching and propagating a Charter for Compassion. On November 12, 2009, the Charter was unveiled.

Among those who have given the charter their backing are Richard Branson, Musician Peter Gabriel, Sir Ken Robinson and the Dalai Lama. As of this month, some 99,500 other people from around the world have affirmed it. On April 26, 2010, Seattle became the first city in the world to affirm the charter.


Photo/illustration credits ~ Robert Thurman, Ph.D. (below) by Tktru via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike 3.0 unported license.Illustration ~ Charter for Compassion copyrighted logo and The Dalai Lama on Compassionate Cities meme are used under Creative Commons Attribution non-Commercial license.

Bob Thurman
Bob Thurman

“Tenzin Robert Thurman became a Tibetan monk at age 24. He’s a professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist studies at Columbia University, and co-founder of Tibet House US, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Tibetan civilization.

“Thurman’s focus is on the balance between inner insight and cultural harmony. In interpreting the teachings of Buddha, he argues that happiness can be reliable and satisfying in an enduring way without depriving others.

“He has translated many Buddhist Sutras, or teachings, and written many books, recently taking on the topic of Anger for the recent Oxford series on the seven deadly sins. He maintains a podcast on Buddhist topics. And yes, he is Uma’s dad..” TED.com


BARDO NEWS: Walk to Feed the Hungry

Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder of Buddhist Global Relief
Ven. Bhikku Bodhi, Founder and Chairperson  of Buddhist Global Relief

This just came in from Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Buddist Global Relief. Walks are happening in: San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, and Los Angles, California; Willington, Connecticut; Tampa Bay, Florida; Ann Arbor, Michigan; St. Louis, Missouri; New York, New York; Houston, Texas; Seattle, Washington; Beanteay Meanchey, Cambodia; Nagpur, India.

Dear Friends,

Today close to a billion people worldwide face hunger as a fact of daily life. Hunger and hunger-related illnesses claim ten million lives each year, half of them children. Hunger of such magnitude is not the result of a shortage of funds or a lack of food, but of a lack of care, a lack of will. In a world where trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and wars, the extent of hunger is a blemish on the soul of humanity. To redeem ourselves, we must learn to see ourselves in others, to recognize our obligation to ensure that all humankind can flourish together.

This fall, in different cities around the U.S. and abroad, Buddhist Global Relief will be holding its 4th “Walk to Feed the Hungry.” The walk is a gesture of care and compassion by which we express our commitment to helping our brothers and sisters in need. The purpose of the walk is to raise funds for our many projects that address hunger and malnutrition. Funds raised will support such BGR projects as right livelihood training for girls in Sri Lanka; meals and scholarships for poor kids in Haiti; food scholarships for girls and their families in Cambodia; education and vocational training for kids in Bangladesh; nutritional guidance and micronutrient supplements in Côte d’Ivoire; a tuition center for women and girls in India; urban gardens here in the U.S.; and sustainable agriculture programs in Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Haiti, India, and Malawi.

The BGR “Walk to Feed the Hungry” has become an American Buddhist tradition that is growing from year to year. Our first walk took place in New Jersey in October 2010. In 2011 we held three walks and last year a dozen walks, including solidarity walks in India and Cambodia. We expect a similar number this year. A walk like this offers us a channel to express our collective compassion in solidarity with the world’s poor. It’s also a great form of exercise and an opportunity to make new friends

I cordially invite you to join us on this walk. A “Walk to Feed the Hungry” will be held at various locations around the U.S. See our website for information about walks already planned. Please join us, register early, and mobilize members of your congregation, Dharma group, or community to participate as well. By creating a First Giving Fundraising page, you can enable your friends and relatives to share in the merits of the walk by supporting you in this worthy endeavor.

If you live too far from any of these places, you can organize a walk of your own or some other event with your friends or community members, such as a day of mindfulness, to raise funds to feed the hungry. Together, let’s show that we cherish the poor and needy of the earth like our own parents, children, brothers, and sisters.

Thank you so much.

With metta and a downpour of blessings,

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson

Photo credit ~ Ken and Visakha Kawasaki under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

A Biased Mind Cannot Grasp Reality: A Message from the Dalai Lama

Dalai_Lama_at_WhiteHouse_(cropped)Excerpts from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s address to the inter-faith seminar organised by the International Association for Religious Freedom, Ladakh Group, in Leh on 25 August.

We are now in the twenty ­first century. The quality of research on both the inner and physical world has reached quite high levels, thanks to the tremendous stride in technological advancement and human intelligence. However, as some of the speakers said before, the world is also facing a lot of new problems, most of which are man­-made. The root cause of these man­-made problems is the inability of human beings to control their agitated minds. How to control such a state of mind is taught by the various religions of this world.” MORE 

Photograph taken by an employee of the Executive Office of the President of the United States and as a work of the U.S. federal government it is in the public domain.

A Force of Nature

Winooski RiverThe waters are rising. We have had many days of rain the past couple of months and the rivers are running high, many in flood. Here on the western flank of Vermont rain falls in the mountains and tumbles through rocky streams to the rivers, then into the lake. We are told the water is too cold, high, and fast for swimming, yet people, refusing to honor the Nature of the torrent, go swimming, often creating unhappy outcomes.

We are each a force of Nature, although we tend to forget this, individually and collectively. We seem to easily lose connection with the great powers that lie embodied within us, ignoring the joys and dangers they offer. It is so very easy to identify with mind or brawn, money and might, missing the deep connection implicit in recognizing one’s own Nature. Or perhaps we lose any connection to the force of our Nature, imagining we are powerless or fearful of the energies we intuit within us.

Power is a loaded word, drenched in the abuses ingrained in our various forms of governance, education, and sadly, even family and community. Too often power is power over rather than power with or through. Yet the shamans have always taught that we are each, like the raging river, a force to be honored and reckoned with. Shamanism, like zen, opens doorways to the realization of one’s true Nature. Dare we walk through?

© 2013, essay and photographs (includes portrait below), Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Spring, Ritual, and the Great Mystery

P1050397When I first began learning the ways of shamanism, more than thirty years ago, my Cherokee teacher used to speak to me about the similarities between Buddhism and Native American thinking. She was particularly fascinated by Tibetan Buddhism, and had traveled to Asia to meet with Tibetan teachers. I was intrigued, but not particularly interested in learning more. I was still trying to sort out my relationship to Native America. Adding Buddhism to the mix was quite simply beyond me.

Recently, I’ve been reading Bringing Zen Home, by Paula Kane Robinson Arai. The book is a marvelous piece of ethnographic writing examining the ways a group of Japanese women use domestic zen practices as healing tools. If one only read the early sections on ritual, the book would be a worthy purchase. Reading Arai’s words reminded me of my first teacher. I imagine she would love the book, especially the author’s focus on gratitude,  joy, kindness, and ritual as sources of connection to All That Is. She would also, I believe, deeply appreciate the discussion of Dogen, and his weaving together of form and formlessness.

This week Nature gave expression to the form/formlessness paradox. A few days ago there were buds on the trees, then in a single day, as if arising from nothing, innumerable umbrels of furled leaf and flower replaced them. The umbrels, in turn, transformed into flowers in full bloom, then immature seeds. Now the trees have largely leafed out; the entire process seemed to occur overnight, a green, fiery, big bang. Engaging Nature’s seasonal changes, we are reminded that the progression of the year is a ritual, encompassing and illuminating the patterns of Self as we unfurl, transform, and perhaps, seek rebirth. Our very lives enact, and reenact, the great patterns of the natural world.

I’ve also been reading Patrisia Gonzales’ Red Medicine: Traditional Indigenous Rites of Birthing and Healing. In this volume Gonzales reminds us that human birth is another expression of the paradox. We know how pregnancy happens, yet the miracle of personhood challenges any simple reductionism. In quite a few Native traditions reincarnation is a given. One just expects those who pass on to be reborn to the family line, often announcing their intent by appearing to their prospective mother in a dream. Life and death are doors through which we pass, nothing more than state changes. Yet we do not know, ultimately, where we come from or whither we go; that remains a Great Mystery, of which we are all, innately, a part.

In their respective books Arai and Gonzales discuss ritual as serving to connect women to the Great Mystery, and in so doing, offering the possibility of an expanded perspective and healing. Their ideas echo those offered me by teachers in Native traditions from both North and South America, although rather than the term, “ritual”, my teachers often utilized “ceremony”.  As a mature practitioner, I encourage those who come to me for healing to create meaningful rituals in their daily lives, to “practice.” I also strongly advocate for ceremony. Like ritual, ceremony seeks to make evident the sacred nature of our lives, to encourage gratitude, and to embody participants in the experience of self as cosmos. When rituals and cerem0ny work, we are transported into an awareness of being part of, and supported by, All That Is. Of the two, perhaps ceremony is more social, often engaging communities in support of those seeking healing.

Reading the work of these thoughtful authors has reminded me of  my first teacher’s wisdom, insight, and clarity. Looking back those many years, I now see her efforts to broaden my perception in a new, more favorable light. I am grateful for her kindness and teachings.

- Michael Watson

© 2013, essay and all photographs include the portrait below, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Contemplative Photography: Listen with the Eye of the Heart

Contemplative photography is a practice I try to observe. So often, I end up reserving it for vacation times. However, with the advent of phone cameras and the increased capabilities they have, contemplative photography is at my fingertips every day! I am reading a book on contemplative photography and would like to share some of the thoughts it is stirring in me and the information it has. The book is Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Paintner. You can find her at Abbey of the Arts.

Contemplative seeing is described by Carmelite William McNamara as a “long loving look at the real.” Let’s think about what each one of these words means.

  • Long – to see, we need to slow down and notice our surroundings, immerse ourselves into the moment
  • Loving – to see clearly, we need to have a compassion filter that sees beauty in all things, the horrible and the joyful
  • Look at the real – to see things as they are, not how we want them to be

Contemplative seeing also requires a journey from the head down into the heart.

In Buddhism, there is a practice of contemplative photography called Miksang. This is Tibetan for “good eye.” Miksang has the goal of looking at the real without judgement or distinctions like “beautiful” or “ugly.” The goal is to see things as they are without attaching value judgments and to appreciate it. This opens up a third space, seeing things in a creative new way. I am reminded of a visit I made to the women’s prison. It was a spectacular Pacific Northwest day. Brilliant blue skies. Inside the prison, walking across the grounds, I looked up and saw the razor wire. At the same time it was incredibly beautiful and incredibly repulsive. That is the tension that the “good eye” brings.

freedom in the penitentiary

robin sitting still
between barbs of sharpened steel
her spirit will soar

In Christianity, this “good eye” is termed the “third eye” by Richard Rohr. He describes it as the moment when “our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and non-resistant. I like to call it presence. It is experienced as a moment of deep inner connection, and it always pulls you, intensely satisfied, into the naked and undefended now, which can involve both profound joy and profound sadness. At that point, you either want to write poetry, pray, or be utterly silent.”

The monk, Thomas Merton, started practicing contemplative photography and he said, “How the blank side of a frame house can be so completely beautiful I cannot imagine. A completely miraculous achievement of forms.” Perhaps the good eye or the third eye is simply seeing the miracle.

All this is quite a lead up to the offering I have today of a contemplative photograph. I am going to offer an image and then I encourage you to visit one from Thomas Merton he titled “Sky Hook” and described as the “Only known photograph of God.”

After entering the photograph(s), please consider sitting with the feeling that is created when you shift from head seeing to heart seeing. Gaze lightly into the distance without focusing on any one thing. Be present to the real. After you have considered these photographic offerings, perhaps you would consider gazing around you, holding compassion in your heart and seeing something beautiful. If you have your camera, great! If not, consider the magical moment of holding the image in your heart and then releasing it.


Reflection: What, if anything, has changed? How was the journey from head to heart?

Shalom and Amen.

Chaplain Terri

© 2013, post and photographs, Terri Stewart, All rights reserved

Terri Stewart
Terri Stewart

TERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s  Sunday evening chaplain. You can expect a special post from her each week. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.

Her online presence is “Cloaked Monk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.

Gil Fronsdale on Empathy

This Sunday we bring you a dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal. Sunday Chaplain, Terri Stewart (ClockedMonk) is on vacation.

Gil_FronsdalGil Fronsdale is a Buddhist who has practiced Soto Zen and Vipassana since 1975, and is currently a Buddhist teacher who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gil was trained as a Vipassana teacher by Jack Kornfield and is part of the Vipassana teachers’ collective at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. He was ordained as a Soto Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982 and was a Theravada monk in Burma in 1985. In 1995 he received Dharma transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center.

He is the guiding teacher of the Insight Meditation Center (IMC) of Redwood City, California. He has a PhD inBuddhist Studies from Stanford University. His many dharma talks available online contain basic information on meditation and Buddhism, as well as subtle concepts of Buddhism explained at the level of the lay person.” Wikipedia

Video uploaded to YouTube by insightmed.
Photo credit ~ Insight Meditation Center, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Deriv 3.0 Unported

Kindly Kitchens …

Female Bullfinchcolored pencils c Paul Kuitenbrouwer
Female Bullfinch
colored pencils
c Paula Kuitenbrouwer

International Women’s Day 2013


Paula Kuitenbrouwer (Mindful Drawing)

Editor’s Note: Life happens and I apologize for bringing this post of Paula’s to you so late after the day it honors. Nonetheless, the message of kindness must always be delivered; and, I think her message is valid and beautifully delivered. I thought it important that we share it with you here. Jamie Dedes

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women‘. I suggest we stretch that promise and for one day we end the violence against female animals too.

See, it is known that mostly female animals suffer because of our meat industry. Cows, hens, goats, and sheep have to produce a crazy amount of meat (off spring), milk, and eggs. Dairy cows have a natural lifespan of 20 years, however their factory farmed lifespan is only 5-6 years. Sheep have a natural lifespan of 12 years, but the factory farmed lifespan for lambs is only 3 months. Apart from that, we use drugs to squeeze in 3 lambkins every two years. Hens have a natural lifespan of 7 years, but live much, much shorter due to the poultry-industry.

So, if you want to participate low profile, in International Women’s day, this day could be your (first) vegan day. If we all do that, it will help to reduce suffering, even if it is only for one day.

As a vegan myself, I can assure you that eating vegan is wonderful. Just leave out all animal products and there you are. Your food is animal – especially female-animal – friendly and as a bonus it is good for your health, weight, and karma.

Here are my inspirational vegan connections and female friends, slowly changing the world in to a better place for female animals:
Lee Aiken’s great recipes are at Plenty Sweet Enough;
Susan Voisin’s wonderful recipes are at Fat Free Vegan Kitchen;
Janie shares great ideas at Gluten Free Vegan Me;
Angela show us her vegan wonders at The Great Vegan Caper
Veronica Grace’s delicious recipes are at Low Fat Vegan Chef.
Rhonda Dunlap inspires us with her Vegan Pinterest broads.
Do sink your teeth in Marilyn Peterson’s 
Vegan Bite by Bite book
… and if you are in need of a lovely teen book on a vegan dog, here is Marian Hailey-Moss’s A Dog named Randall


© 2013, art and essay, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, All rights reserved

PAULA KUITENBROUWER is a Dutch nature artist living The Netherlands and sharing her work with us on her blog, Mindful Drawing, and on her website. You can purchase her art HERE. In addition to art, Paula’s main interest is philosophy. She studied at the University of Utrecht and Amsterdam. She has lived in Eastern Europe and in Asia. Paula says that in Korea, “my family lived next to a Buddhist temple. In the early morning we would hear the monks chanting. During my hours of sauntering with my daughter through the beautiful temple gardens, I felt a blissful happiness that I try to capture in my drawings.” Paula sometimes teaches children’s art classes. She lives with her husband and daughter and close to her father. We are frequently honored with and most grateful for guest posts from Paula.

The Bardo Group:

A lovely thought for the journey today from Terri Stewart (aka Cloaked Monk). Her blog is worth your visit. Brief and lovely meditative moments. Thank you, Terri!

Originally posted on Beguine Again:

What are you planning that will bring you rest?

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”  ― Gautama Buddha

At the lake
by T. Stewart

View original




Gil Fronsdal

While the Western contact and study of the Theravāda tradition goes back to the earliest Christian missionaries in Sri Lanka in the sixteenth century and to European scholars in the early nineteenth century, the beginning of popular Western interest in and inspiration from Southeast Asian Buddhism began around 1870. Since that time there has been two peaks in this interest: the first, from 1870 to 1912 and the second, a century later from 1970 to the present. The former was characterized primarily by an intellectual orientation as Europeans and Americans found in the early Buddhist texts preserved by the contemporary Theravāda tradition an attractive alternative to Western religious beliefs. In contrast, the current upsurge in interest centers predominantly around religious praxis, with specific practices attaining great popularity sometimes completely divorced from the doctrinal and religious context of the Southeast Asian Theravāda tradition(s). At the same time however, an influx of immigrants from Theravāda countries, especially to the United States, has resulted in the presence of numerous Thai, Burmese and Sri Lankan temples that replicate the cultural forms of Theravāda Buddhism of their respective home countries. Most of these ethnic temples created since 1970 have had little impact outside of their respective ethnic constituencies.

With the exception of the partially westernized Sri Lankan missionary Anagārika Dharmapāla (1864 – 1933; discussed below), Theravāda Buddhism has mostly been introduced to the West by westerners. As can be expected, the importation of Theravāda Buddhism to the West has involved a selection, translation and adaptation process as westerners defined the tradition for themselves. What has been most fascinating about this process is that the twentieth century Theravāda Buddhism that many westerners are encountering in Southeast Asia has been profoundly changed by the nineteenth century Asian contact with the West and with Western interpretations of Buddhism. MORE [Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, California, USA]

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


Gil Fronsdal is the primary teacher for the Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City, California; he has been teaching since 1990. He has practiced Zen and Vipassana in the U.S. and Asia since 1975. He was a Theravada monk in Burma in 1985, and in 1989 began training with Jack Kornfield to be a Vipassana teacher. Gil teaches at Spirit Rock Meditation Center where he is part of its Teachers Council.

Gil was ordained as a Soto Zen priest at the San Francisco Zen Center in 1982, and in 1995 received Dharma Transmission from Mel Weitsman, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center. He is currently serving on the SF Zen Center Elders’ Council.

Gil has an undergraduate degree in agriculture from U.C. Davis where he was active in promoting the field of sustainable farming. In 1998 he received a PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University studying the earliest developments of the bodhisattva ideal. He is the author of The Issue at Hand, essays on mindfulness practice, and the translator of The Dhammapada, published by Shambhala Publications.

You may listen to Gil’s talks on Audio Dharma.

The Buddha illustration is courtesy of The Buddha Gallery. If you click on the photograph, you will link to a detailed description.

Bells - Click image to download.


Reblogged from July 2012. J.D.

OUR INTENTIONS — noticed or unnoticed, gross or subtle – contribute either to our suffering or to our happiness. Intentions are sometimes called seeds. The garden you grow depends on the seeds you plant and water. Long after a deed is done, the trace or momentum of the intention behind it remains as a seed, condition our future happiness or unhappiness.” Gil Frondsdal, Teacher, Insight Meditation Center, Redwood City, CA


Photo credit ~ Hana Muchová, Public Domain Pictures.net


“Professor Robert Thurman of Columbia University draws attention to the treasonous behavior of congress persons who have made pledges to Grover Norquist that contradict their pledges made to the United States as congress persons.”  who uploaded this video to YouTube.

Robert Thurman holds the first endowed chair in Buddhist Studies in the West, the Jey Tsong Khapa Chair in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies. After education at Philips Exeter and Harvard, he studied Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism for almost thirty years as a personal student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He has written both scholarly and popular books, and has lectured widely all over the world. His special interest is the exploration of the Indo-Tibetan philosophical and psychological traditions with a view to their relevance to parallel currents of contemporary thought and science. Columbia University, Department of Religion

More from Professor Thurman: OUR HYPERLINKED WORLD.

This is posted as information and is not meant as a representation of the views of the many contributors to Into the Bardo who may or may not agree with Professor Thurman. Jamie Dedes

VEN. BHIKKHU BODHI, on the Buddha’s birthday an update on Buddhist Global Relief

BGR logo

VESAK 2012
Remembering the Buddha and his teachings
with joy, gratitude, and generosity
[I'm sorry that I could not share this letter with you in a more timely fashion. The Buddha's birthday was on May 6 this year. Nonetheless, the message is an important one. We are committed to supporting this effort and hope to engage your support as well. Thank you for reading .... J.D.]
Dear Friend,
Buddha statue
The most important holiday in the Buddhist calendar, Vesak, is just around the corner. Starting on the full moon day of May, the month of Vesak celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and passing away of the Buddha. It is a day – and a month – not only for joy and gratitude but also for recollection: for remembering the Buddha’s teachings and making a more earnest effort to practice them.
The first step of Buddhist practice is giving, and the most basic gift is the gift of food. The importance of food can be gauged from the Buddha’s own life story. In the Middle Length Discourses, he tells us that before his enlightenment, he undertook long fasts that reduced his body to a tent of bones. When he saw that the true path to awakening requires deep meditation, he also realized: “It isn’t easy to meditate with an emaciated body.
Boy and girl in Haiti
Let me eat sustaining food such as rice and porridge.” It was only after he regained his strength that he could reach his goal.
Not only is it hard to meditate with an emaciated body, but when one is malnourished it’s hard to do anything – except wait intently for the next meal. Yet close to a billion people around the world endure this fate. It’s to give such people a fresh chance at life that BGR came into being, and this purpose has inspired our work through the years.
We don’t just give handouts. Rather, we seek to make people productive and self-sufficient. We do so in diverse ways: by supporting the education of poor children, especially girls; by creating right livelihood opportunities for women; and by supporting ecologically sustainable small-scale agriculture. In just four years, we’ve already sponsored fifty projects around the world, in Asia, Africa, Haiti, and the U.S. Some of our recent projects include:
  • introducing sustainable agriculture techniques to farmers in Cambodia and Vietnam, thus increasing the productivity and profitability of their rice yield
  • providing seeds and agricultural tools to 150 impoverished families in Cambodia so they can grow cash crops and establish home vegetable gardens
Intensive Rice Cultivation
  • supplying hot, nutritious meals to hungry children in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, through a community-based food program called Lamanjay
  • supporting the education of 200 children in India, mostly girls of the Dalit community, formerly known as “untouchables”
  • training farmers in Kenya and Malawi in ecologically sustainable agriculture
  • teaching breastfeeding practices in the Diffa region of Niger, which profoundly improve survival rates of infants
  • funding the construction of a community garden and orchard in South Africa, in a region stricken by HIV and AIDS
  • providing funds for a greenhouse to grow produce for the poor in the Maryland-Pennsylvania region of the U.S.
White House meeting of Dharmic Religions
Today BGR plays a major role in representing Buddhism on the stage of global giving. In fact, in late April we participated in a historical conference at the White House that brought representatives of the “Dharmic religions” into contact with government agencies in a common commitment to humanitarian service.
We hope to continue our mission long into the future, both in the U.S. and abroad. However, we can’t fulfill our goals without help from friends like you who share our ideals and resonate with our values. Your donations are the key to everything we do: to combating malnutrition, educating poor children, and helping those who cannot help themselves. And because we’re an all-volunteer organization, we use the funds we receive prudently, with care and discretion, to ensure that 85-90% of every dollar goes directly to finance projects.
So, remembering the great compassion the Buddha extended to us, let us extend compassion to others. This Vesak season please bring forth a heart of generosity and support the work of BGR. When you give, you become part of our mission, our partner in giving a helping hand to those who need help. And you experience the joy of knowing that you are truly making a positive difference in this world, a difference that’s transforming lives.
Childen in India
May all blessings be with you and your family, on Vesak and beyond.
Bhikkhu Bodhi's signature
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Founder and Chairperson
Buddhist Global Relief is a 501(c)(3) organization. Gifts are deductible to the full extent allowable under IRS regulations. You can either donate online via PayPal on the BGR web site or send a check to:
Buddhist Global Relief
PO Box 1611
Sparta, New Jersey 07871 USA
If your company has a Matching Gift Program, please enclose the necessary forms as well.


1st Row: Christian CrossJewish Star of DavidHindu Aumkar

2nd Row: Islamic Star and crescentBuddhist Wheel of DharmaShinto Torii

3rd Row: Sikh KhandaBahá’í starJain Ahimsa Symbol



Jamie Dedes

“Compassion is the pillar of world peace.” H.H. 14th Dalai Lama, A Human Approach to World Peace

The peaceful path of compassion is at the core of all the wisdom traditions, the conduits by which grace flows into our lives. If our species is to overcome current conflicts and truly be at peace with ourselves, we must tread the compassionate path and we must do it with bone and muscle as well as heart and mind. It must be a path where service and meditation converge.

In the Summa Theologiae, the great work of St. Thomas Aquinas, he suggests just that. He defines mercy (a virtue) as “the compassion in our hearts for another person’s misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him.” He describes mercy as having two aspects “affective” – or emotional – and “effective,” which is positive action.

We all have something to teach. We all have something to learn ~

People from varied traditions come to Buddhism – not to convert – but to learn the meditative skills that Buddhism teaches. Buddhists also have lessons to learn from other religions:

“…many Buddhists are interested in learning social service from Christianity. Many Christian traditions emphasize that their monks and nuns be involved in teaching, in hospital work, caring for the elderly, for orphans, and so on . . .  Buddhists can learn social service from the Christians.” H.H. 14th Dalai Lama, The Buddhist View toward Other Religions

Meditative practice is central to Buddhism. Along with devotions (prayers and religious observance), action (good works) is central to Christianity and the other Abrahamic traditions, which is not to imply that there are no meditative practices or that inward practice is more important than outward action. Rather, each has its place and they are complementary. Our meditative practices enhance tranquility, ensuring that our good works are appropriate and done in the right spirit.

A compassionate heart is moved to embrace and not to judge. A compassionate hand is moved to work and to sacrifice for the greater good. Selflessness, well-seated in compassion, implies action that both materially and spiritually benefits others. The Dalai Lama and Thích Nhất Hạnh, social activists as well as spiritual leaders, are the very breath of compassion and they and the people in the organizations they lead endlessly provide selfless service and share spiritual solace with all.

Buddhism in the West is a relatively new practice. To my knowledge it is only recently that American Buddhists have organized for relief efforts with Buddhist Global Relief (BGR), which in its short life has implemented quite a number of effective projects. The main mission of BGR is hunger, not simply addressing it in its immediacy but also advocating for changes within our global food systems that will ensure social justice and ecological sustainability. BGR was started by American Buddhist monk and scholar, the Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, calling attention to the “narrowly inward focus of American Buddhism” and its neglect of social engagement. Moslems, Jews, and Christians have long-standing organizations for global relief and social activism.

It is healing grace when social services are delivered on a nonsectarian basis and without the expectation of conversion. The Koran admonishes (2:257): “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

We’re each born into a path or choose (or forego) one. Our devotion to one religion shouldn’t prevent respect for the others. Abū al-Muġīṭ Husayn Manṣūr al-Ḥallāğ (Mansur Al-Hallaj, 858-922), the Persian Sufi teacher and poet wrote from his own perspective:

“My heart has opened into every form. It is a pasture for gazelles, a cloister for Christian monks, a temple for idols, the Ka’ba of the pilgrim, the tables of the Torah and the book for Koran. I practice the religion of Love. In whatever directions its caravans advance, the religion of Love shall be my religion and my faith.”

Maybe we humans will come as close to peace and perfection as we can when we combine the “specialties” of Buddhism and the Abrahamic traditions ~

Compassion without meditation can result in cruelty and confusion. Compassion without action is insufficient to address concerns of the human condition.

Orthodox Christianity offers us guidelines for corporal (material) works of mercy:

  • feed the hungry
  • give drink to the thirsty
  • clothe the naked
  • house the homeless
  • visit the sick
  • engage in conscientious activism
  • bury the dead

The guidelines for spiritual works of mercy are:

  • share insight with the spiritually curious
  • counsel the fearful
  • provide brotherly support for those who live unwisely
  • bear wrongs patiently
  • forgive offenses willingly
  • comfort those who are suffering
  • pray (unify with the Ineffable) for the welfare of the living and the dead

In the ideal, these guidelines are not simply implemented in the privacy of our own prayers and meditations or with detachment in supporting civic and religious charities, but one-to-one in our everyday lives and in a spirit of unity. Mystical Judaism teaches us that: “Kindness gives to another. Compassion knows no other.”

There are 114 chapters in the Islamic scriptures, the Koran. Each begins with the principled: Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate). This reminds me of the classical Christian ideal expressed in the Koinḗ Greek agápē, the love of Christ or God for humankind. I suspect it is also – like agápē – a call to action: to live in harmony with the Divine and all creation, that is to live with grace and mercy.

Charity, self-control, and compassion are the central virtues of Hinduism. Ahimsa (do no harm) is part of the Hindu ideal of compassion. This implies action, not just abstinence.

Perhaps this wisdom from an unknown saint or bodhisattva provides us the best advice for our own peace of heart and our species’ survival ~

“The true happiness that man has searched for since the dawn of time, that inner gold that awaits any person who holds compassionately the key of generosity: Do something for your fellow-man … and you shall truly have the gold.”

Gratitude is compassion’s fulcrum ~

“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” H.H. 14th Dalai Lama

Gratitude is also the emotion that compels us to give back by caring compassionately for our fellow humans and providing responsible and loving stewardship of the animals who are our companions in nature and this mother earth that sustains us. This does, of course, preclude war which is a danger to all living things.

Expressing gratitude in some way to those who are kind and caring is what nurtures their gift of compassion so that the giver can continue to give and also learn to receive. The natural law of balance is then honored.

May our compassionate paths be fully human and traveled quietly, without pronouncement, conceit, sectarianism, or self-righteousness. May our compassion be a thing of the heart and mind -yes! – but also bolstered with bone and muscle and seasoned with gratitude. May all sentient beings find peace.

© 2012, essay, Jamie Dedes All rights reserved

 Illustration ~ religious symbols by Rusus via Wikipedia and released into the public domain

The Bardo Group:

Ashok Zamon is a spiritual explorer and freelance writer living in Shanghai who, in this detailed post, brings us a view of the ancient practice of Buddhism as it is rekindled in modern China. For those readers who are not entirely familiar with Buddhist concepts, this well-written feature incidentally provides excellent definition of mindfulness. The post includes stunning and evocative photographs by Mr. Zamon’s partner, Anya.

The blog is just three months old and already contains a wealth of information and insight. I’m grateful to have “Into the Bardo” as a means to provide an introduction to “The Beyond Within” and it’s very excellent writer. J.D.

Originally posted on The Beyond Within:

I was going to blog from the temple, but of course it ended up panning out differently. It was a wonderful weekend and it’s great to see how things are progressing there. The last couple of days I’ve been putting together the piece for Vantage Magazine, and here is the draft that I’m turning in. It’s a bit of a rewrite of the Emergent Buddhism piece for a more public audience. We’ll see what the editing process will do to it. I had to take a knife to it myself and cut about 500 words, always a hard thing to do. Hopefully Vantage will just tidy it up a bit and help it flow. It’s obviously for a more mainstream audience, so there were many aspects that I could only really allude to rather than express directly, and plenty of details that I had to leave out all together, but hopefully…

View original 1,673 more words


Zhuangzi Dreaming of a Butterfly by Lu Zhi (1496–1576), Ming dynasty, mid-16th century Ink on silk, 29.4 x 51.4 cm



Jamie Dedes

A Man sleeping … yes!

A Butterfly flitting… yes!

Zhuangzi, dreamer of Butterfly,

ponders what joy there might be

in that tiny Butterfly brain, so small

too small to be perceived by I or eye

Is it dreaming me? he asks

Or, am I dreaming it?

Imagine the Universe engaged,

he thinks to himself, inside that flutter

- thunder, a Cosmic Belly Laugh –  Ho! Ho! -

Then Zhuangzi knows: He is silent

flitting from flower to flower in eternal spring

coming and going, going and coming

This is called the Transformation of Things


© poem, 2012 Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Photograph courtesy of Gemeinfrei, in the U.S. public domain.


Video uploaded to YouTube by  

Extremely high quality Thai Buddha Head  from the Ayuthaya period. More finely cast and more artistically sculpted than most of the pieces created during that time. Loss of the earlobes, but otherwise a truly striking piece. The curator of The Buddha Gallery

One of his students asked Buddha, “Are you the messiah?”

“No,” answered Buddha.

“Then are you a healer?”

“No,” Buddha replied.

“Then are you a teacher?” the student asked.

“No,” Buddha replied.

“Then what are you?” The student was frustrated.

“I am awake,” replied the Buddha



by Jane Hirshfield (b. 1953, American) author and poet

Review by: Jamie Dedes (Musing by Moonlight)


An award-winning author and poet, Jane Hirshfield has published seven collections of poetry in addition to  Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, a collection of essays. Her most recent book of poetry is Come, Thief (August 2011). In collaboration with Mariko Aratoni, Hirshfield edited and translated four volumes of poetry by women of ancient Japan.

Ms. Hirshfield is a Zen Buddhist and her practice informs her work with spiritual insight and delicate nuance.  She has said, “It is my hope that the experience of that practice underlies and informs [my poetry] as a whole. My feeling is that the paths of poetry and of meditation are closely linked – one is an attentiveness and awareness that exists in language, the other an attentiveness and awareness that exists in silence, but each is a way to attempt to penetrate experience thoroughly, to its core.” [The Poetry Foundation]

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (September 1998) is a series of nine essays that were written by Jane Hirshfield over a ten-year period and published or presented at poetry events.


Gates are a means of exit and entrance, providing connection between the inner and the outer.  The premise of Hirshfield’s book is that the art of poetry is the gate by which we are offered  “mysterious informing.” Nine Gates is at once a primer for the reader and a manual for the writer. This is a book that is reverent of art, artist, and life. All is sacred ground.

The book begins at the beginning – the root of poetry – concentration.  “By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open.” As she says, this is Huxley’s “doors to perception” and James Joyce’s “epiphany.”  It is what I would call sacred space, and this focus, this concentration, “however laborious, becomes a labor of love.” In this chapter, I particularly appreciated the short discussion of voice: writers whose ear is turned to both the inner and outer have found their voice and thus are able to put their  ”unique and recognizable stamp” upon their work.

The book closes with “Writing and the Threshold Life” and a discussion of the space into which a writer withdraws, liminal space.  The writer, she tells us, becomes like the monk giving-up identity and assumptions. . “The person [in liminal state] leaves behind his or her identity and dwells in the threshold state of ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy.” This is all rather like the person going through a ritual transitions. Only after transition to this liminal space, neither here nor there, is community wholeheartedly embraced. To see clearly and to embrace the whole without judgment, one has to be free of the standard cannon and the received wisdom.  The idea being that the creative life is one that gives up the ordinary conventions, which is the price of freedom.

Encased between the two portals of concentration and the threshold life are discussions of originality, translation (what we learn from the poetry and linguistic traditions of others), “word leaves” (images), indirection (the mind of the poet circles the poem), inward and outward looking, the shadow side of poetry (between the realms of heaven and hell), and poetry as a “vessel of remembrance.”

The book’s range is broad, using poets and their wisdom from ancient times to modern and from East to West. The essays are at once a delicate lace and a sturdy practical homespun. All is approached with respect, clarity, and intelligence. Each chapter is a gentle nudge toward more authenticity, greater truth, deeper spirituality. In her introduction, Jane Hirshfield says that because the essays were written at different times some themes and quotes are repeated and removing the repetitions proved impossible. I felt the repetitions served to reinforce. I was grateful for them. If I have any difficulty with this book, it was the conflict between not wanting to put it down and wanting to put it down to start writing in the spirit of entering the mind of poetry. A definite thumbs-up on this one.


Essay ~ © 2011, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserved

Cover art ~  © publisher, posted under fair use



Although this book concerns living with chronic illness … which may not be life-threatening but is certainly quality of life-threatening … many of the issues Toni Bernhard discusses are relevent issues for cancer patients. Not the least of these issues is isolation. The book is available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon or through the publisher HERE. Three thumbs up on this one. A recommended read. Jamie Dedes


A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers


Toni Bernhard

“All human beings need the company and support of others. We create our world together. But community can be a tremendous challenge for someone who must spend a lot of time in bed or must suddenly take to bed in spite of plans to be with others. The Dharma places a very high value on community, which is called sangha. The word originally referred to the disciples of the Buddha. It then evolved to include Buddhist monks and nuns. Today sangha refers to the entire spiritual community that supports a practitioner . . . .

“Before I got sick, I was active in several Buddhist sanghas. I co-hosted a weekly meditation group with Tony [Toni's husband]. We used a local meeting hall every Monday night. At least once a month, I would lead the sitting and then give a talk. We also hosted a monthly group at our house in which we discussed Dharma readings that Tony and I chose and distributed each month. The readings were the starting point for a spirited and often humorous two hours of reviewing our lives since we last met. This was sangha at its richest for me. Tony still hosts this group at our house.

“When I got sick, I could no longer participate in these activities, even though the meeting hall is three blocks away and the monthly group is a room away . . . . In addition to losing this precious source of spiritual support, I had to adjust to the social isolation that accompanied the illness like night follows day.

“‘It’s hard to distinguish between the effects of my illness and the effects of isolation,’ wrote a member of an online support group for people with an illness similar to mine. I, too, have days when the isolation feels like the illness itself. People who are house-bound are not just isolated from one-on-one personal contacts. We are often isolated from nature and even from the warm feel or a friendly crowd. Our best bet to see the changing seasons is on the drive to and from a doctor’s appointment, but this is often a stress-filled outing. Similarly, our best bet to be in a crowd is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office—not the most comfortable or uplifting of settings. I recently read a blog entry from a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome in which she said she went to get a blood test a week early just to be around people.”

© text and cover art, Toni Bernhard, 2011 all rights reserved. Blogged here with the permission of the author. No reblogging without Toni Bernhard’s permission.

Video uploaded to YouTube by . I’m the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers” (Wisdom Publications 2010). The theme of the book is that illness and wellness are not mutually exclusive. Our bodies may be sick or otherwise disabled, but our minds can be at peace. For reviews and other information, including where you can order the book, please go to How To Be Sick.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Toni Bernhard fell ill on a trip to Paris in 2001 with what doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection. She has not recovered. In 1982, she’d received a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, and immediately joined the faculty where she stayed until chronic illness forced her to retire. During her twenty-two years on the faculty, she served for six years as Dean of Students.

In 1992, she began to study and practice Buddhism. Before becoming ill, she attended many meditation retreats and led a meditation group in Davis with her husband.

She lives in Davis with her husband, Tony, and their hound dog, Rusty. Toni can be found online at How To Be Sick. [Bio courtesy of Wisdom Publications.]




Jamie Dedes


no buddha, no bodhi tree

no earth upon which to sit

in silent meditation

no suffering, no not suffering


rest assured


© poem, Jamie Dedes, 2011 all right reserved

Photo credit ~ Photo credit ~ A small temple beneath the Bodhi treeBodh Gaya, built in 7th century, after the original built by King Ashoka in 3rd century BCE, ca. 1810, British Library, public domain photograph via Wikipedia

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.


Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

Found of Buddhist Global Relief

The gift of food is the gift of life. ~ The Buddha

Buddhist Global Relief 2nd Annual Walk to Feed the Hungry

3.5 mile walk • Saturday, September 10, 2011
9:30 a.m. Check-in • 10:00 a.m. Walk • Rain or Shine!
Riverside Park, W. 83rd St. & Riverside Dr., New York, NY
(Please register by September 1st)


Today we can send men into space, but here on earth chronic hunger and malnutrition still cast their shadows over the heads of far too many people, claiming ten million lives a year, more than half of them children. Though we may never know or see these folks, we should recognize that they are human beings just like ourselves, worthy of our deepest concern. Together we can make a difference, and it doesn’t take much to help them live in dignity and hope! All proceeds from the walk will go to support BGR’s global hunger relief programs. MORE

Photo credit ~ Bhikku Bodhi, American Buddhist monk, taken in 2003 by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki licensed under the Creative Commons Attritution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikipedia.


Commercial interests with their advertising industry do not want people to develop contentment and less greed.  Military interests in economic, political, ethnic or nationalist guises, do not want people to develop more tolerance, nonviolence and compassion. And ruling groups in general, in whatever sort of hierarchy, do not want the ruled to become too insightful, too independent, too creative on their own, as the danger is a threat that they will be insubordinate, rebellious, and unproductive in their alloted tasks. Robert Thurman

Robert Thurman holds the first endowed chair in Buddhist Studies in the West, the Jey Tsong Khapa Chair in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies. After education at Philips Exeter and Harvard, he studied Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism for almost thirty years as a personal student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He has written both scholarly and popular books, and has lectured widely all over the world. His special interest is the exploration of the Indo-Tibetan philosophical and psychological traditions with a view to their relevance to parallel currents of contemporary thought and science. Columbia University, Department of Religion

Robert Thurman won the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Prize in June of 2007. In addition to that and the accomplishments listed in his Columbia University bio above, he writes for BeliefNet and cofounded Tibet House in New York, which is dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture. One of his more recent books is Why the Dalai Lama Matters, subtitled “His Act of Truth as the Solution for China, Tibet, and the World.”

In the video below, the acceptance presentation for the TED Prize, Dr. Thurman talks about our hyperlinked world. He describes a world in which we can know anything at any time. This means that we are always aware of the suffering of others and cannot ignore our inter-relatedness. We cannot ignore the misery of others. He suggests that this is in effect a mass enlightenment and a step toward Buddhahood. J.D.

Video posted to YouTube by .

Photo credit ~ Robert Thurman courtesy of Tenzin Nyima licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic via Wikipedia. The lotus illustration below is from PD Clipart.org.


Thich Nhat Hanh (b. 1926) Zen Monk, Dharma Teacher, Social Activist, Writer, Poet, Peacemaker

Nhat Hanh is now recognized as a Dharmacharya and as the spiritual head of the Từ Hiếu Temple and associated monasteries. On May 1, 1966 at Từ Hiếu Temple, Thich Nhat Hanh received the “lamp transmission”, making him a Dharmacharya or Dharma Teacher, from Master Chân Thật. MORE [Wikipedia]

Though a Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh combines traditional Zen with techniques from Theravada Buddhism, the wisdom of the Mahayana tradition, and ideas of modern Western psychology to teach meditation and spiritual values and practices in a way that resonates for people from diverse religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. He is a writer, poet, and peacemaker with over 100 books published (many in English). He was suggested for but never received the Nobel Prize for Peace by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Since 1966, Thich Nhat Hanh has lived in exhile in France. Based at Plum Village, a meditation community in the south of France, he is a leading Buddhist teacher, encourages engaged Buddhism (a movement for social activism that he founded), and conducts humanitarian efforts.

Thich Nhat Hahn coined the term “interbeing,” a pointer to the Buddhist principles of impermanence and nonself, which bring light to the idea and ideal of the inter-connectedness of all things. He founded The Order of Interbeing, the members of which include lay people. Link HERE to brief summaries of each of the fourtheen mindfulness trainings of the Order of Interbeing. J.D.

“If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.”

~ from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Here is  a meditative interlude. The title of this post is a quote from the meditation, which is an excerpt from an album called Graceful Passages: A Companion for Living and Dying. It features spiritual teachers from many traditions offering advice to the dying  –  in other words, advice to all of us.  Today and everyday : in metta, A.E., R.R., J.D.

Video posted to YouTube by .



Chinese-American Author, Poet, Peacemaker, and Professor Emeritus of University of California at Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

Photograph courtesy of the CitySon Philosopher. Taken at Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park, California, U.S.A.

Keep this day. Save this moment;

Save each scrap of moment; write it down.

Save this moment. And this one. And this.

I Love a Broad Margin to My LifeMaxine Hong Kingston



Jamie Dedes

I suspect that when many of us think of Buddhist influences on American literature, the first writers we think of are the Beats, but there are also very fine contemporary writers: Maxine Hong Kingston, Lan Cao, Anne Waldman, and Charles Johnson among others. Hence, I was delighted when, as part of the two-week-long celebrations of my sixty-first birthday, the CitySon Philosopher took me to dinner at Cafe Barrone and afterward next door to Kepler’s Books – a favorite among family and friends, the local independent – to hear Maxine Hong Kingston talk about her new book, I Love a Broad Margin to My Life.

Story gives form and pleasure to the chaos that’s life. By the end of the story, we have found understanding, meaning, revelation, resolution, reconciliations. Maxine Hong Kingston

This newest book is a memoir in long poem, in effect like the old-country tradition of writing a poem on a scroll. Flowing. Organic. Seemingly endless. It was occasioned about six years ago by Ms. Kingston’s sixty-fifth birthday. When I dipped a ready toe into its rippling waters of free-verse, my own preference, I was not disappointed.

Going to author presentations is one of our nicer family traditions. Having both already read The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, my son and I looked forward to hearing what Ms. Kingston had to say. There’s also a certain amount of local pride. Ms. Kingston was born and raised in Stanford, a university town and the next one over.  She derives from a family of Chinese immigrants with strong culturally inspired story-telling and poetry traditions. This family experience combined with some years in Hawaii and traveling to China and elsewhere enriches Ms. Kingston’s writing and lends vitality, color, and perspective to both her prose and poetry.

Am I pretty at 65?

What does old look like?

Ms. Kingston immediately addresses the  issues of aging and fears of dying, both in her book-presentation and in the book itself. She talks about being superstitious and thinking that as long as she has things to write “I keep living…” She tells the origins of the title: Thoreau. It’s a line from Walden that, she says, also hangs framed over her desk. She explains the Chinese custom of “writing poems back” and tells of her dad who would write poems to her in the margins of her books. Charming! She is now translating these for publication, though that was never her dad’s intention. Or so I would infer. She encourages us to write our own poems in the margins of her book, which certainly are wide.

Ms. Kingston stands in front of us, like a fragile little bird, reading excerpts from the book, which I delight to hear. She is ten years older than me and remembers the same key events: civil rights, women’s rights, Vietnam, Iraq … and so on. She’s lived the immigrant experience. She does indeed sound like a Buddhist. Has the Buddhist sensibility: respect for life, for silence, for present moment.

When Ms. Kingston has finished her presentation and Q & A, my son excuses himself and kindly goes to buy two copies of the book. We stand in line with others, waiting for her to sign our books. Every moment spent attending to writers, talking about books and writing, is precious…even more this one, because I am with my son and the writer happens to be one with whom I share values, gender, and the context of time. She also is a mother with one son.

Finally it is our turn: Ms. Kingston sits tiny and cheerful with pen in hand. She greets us, as cordial as she has been with each reader. She writes my name in big, bold sprawling black letters and “Joy and beauty and delight” and signs her full name,  with “Hong” in Chinese characters. In the privacy of my mind, I think: teachers do indeed come in many guises and Ms. Kingston provides an engaging example of Buddhist values in action and at work.

Finally, my son and I head for his car, for home, and for good reading, just as we so often have over the past forty years. I feel sated. As long as we have dear children, fine friends, authentic authors, and good books to read and our own stories to write, we have everything. Life is indeed full of joy, beauty, and delight. Thank you, Son! Thank you, Ms. Kingston! 


Om or Aum the mystical or sacred syllable in the Indian religions, which symbolizes the all-encompassing basic substance: God, Allah, Being, Source, Light, whatever is your preferred pointer.

Rise, awaken, seek the wise and realize. The path is difficult to cross like the sharpened edge of the razor, so say the wise.Katha Upanishads, verse 1.3.14



Jamie Dedes

In gratitude today, I celebrate sixty-one years of living on this gloriously beautiful planet of ours, four decades with my world-class son, and nine-and-a-half years of survival beyond my medically predicted expiration date.

In 1999, I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and given two years to live. No, I have never smoked in my life. Thanks to the boundless patience and kindness of my son and the good offices of some fine physicians, I’m still here, sometimes home-bound and always bound to toting an oxygen tank. The complications don’t keep me from enjoying my treasures:  the CitySon Philosopher, my smart, fab and funny daughter-in-law, and the friendship of many including my Group for people with life-threatening illnesses

Celebrating living and dying grounded in wisdom, friendship, and heroism with my friends in Group is salve for a soul that might otherwise be ravaged and is the ruby jewel in my spiritual treasure chest. Thank you, my much treasured friends. Thank you to Mick for his tireless commitment to us and bottomless compassion for the endless complications of our lives.

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about what I’ve learned thus far from sixty-one years of living on the razors edge:

  • We are not meant to compare ourselves with others. Our beauty is absolute, not relative.
  • Freedom is a state of mind. It requires a recognition of cultural programming and a disconnect from it.
  • Committing art is spiritual practice.
  • We are meant to immerse ourselves in beauty: family, friends, flowers, music, poetry …
  • As long as we live on this earth, we have to earn a living, but we were not meant to be worker-drones. We must balance earning a living with creating a life.
  • Health is a relative thing: We will always be more-or-less healthy. We may have to modify our lives because our health is less or we are growing older, but we don’t die in advance of our death. We stay engaged.
  • If we receive a terminal diagnosis, we give ourselves time to get over the shock. Once done, we continue life with joy and gratitude, albeit within the limits of our disabilities. “Terminal”  – as you can see from my experience – may be along way off. We don’t throw good time after bad by worrying about what is inevitable anyway, though we do seek to understand the meaning of death and the meaning of life in the light of death.
  • Self-absorption is the path to misery. As long as we are self-involved, we will be depressed and disillusioned. As soon as we embrace the world and the people in it, we find joy and peace.
  • As long as we insist on identifying with the painful experiences of our lives, with the insults received at the hands of others, we find ourselves desolate. When we are willing to let go and reinvent ourselves, we center and find peace. If our stories are unfortunate, we need to rewrite them in the light of compassion.
  • People who are at peace with themselves are never cruel. If someone hurts or has hurt us, it’s because of their own pain. We let go and get on with life.
  • Consciousness is not the mind attached to the brain. It is a light independent of the physical. We may not always have form, but we have always been and we always will be. The challenge is to be a worthy spark of Being.
  • Love – true love – is not romantic love, found by seeing our reflection in the eyes of a lover. Love is found by seeing the reflection of Being in ourselves and all life. It is the ability to recognize the sacred everywhere and in everyone, even in our frail and fallible selves, in the most unfortunate conditions, and in the most unfortunate people.