Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Days Off - Day One


Seattle.  Delta flight in the afternoon got me to the Pacific Northwest in time to take in some sights along the waterfront, including Pike's Place Market.







Thursday, August 28, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 2009
And pow!, just like that, in an instant, everything changes.

In other words, college football starts tonight and I'm off work for the next 10 days.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Marbutt Supply Company, Adairsville, Georgia
Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are coral made. Those are pearls that were his eyes. Nothing of him that doth fade but that suffers a sea change into something rich and strange, and I alone am left to tell the tale.
Call me Ishmael.
(William Shakespeare, from The Tempest)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Sheri Brown, Seattle, 2011

If faith is to be based on empirical evidence and not blind belief, should not The Four Noble Truths better be called The Four Theorems or The Four Propositions, or even The Four Practices (accepting the existence of suffering, abandoning the cause of suffering, realizing the cessation of suffering, and cultivating the eightfold path)?

And while we're at it, should the various aspects of the eightfold path really be called "right" understanding, "right" thought, "right" speech, etc.?  Doesn't "right" imply an acceptance of dogma, and isn't it more than just a little dualistic?  If we're to whole-heartedly and completely practice the eightfold path, wouldn't "whole" or "complete" understanding, thought, speech and so on be a better label for the holistic engagement in the eightfold path?

Or, since the buddha-way existed before our knowing it or naming it, wouldn't it be best to not call it anything at all, but to just do it?  

Monday, August 25, 2014

That Which Has Not Been Named

Chodo Cross tells us that all of us belong to something which, prior to our naming it or thinking about it, is already there.  And it already belongs to us.  Dharma is one name for what is already there.

One day, the Chinese Patriarch Hui-Neng said to the assembled monks, "I have something that has no head, no tail, and no name.  There is no calligraphic character to write for it.  It has no back and no front.  Do you monks know what it is?"  Jinne came forward and said, "I will tell you.  It is the origin of all the buddhas.  It is my buddha-nature."  Hui-Neng said, "I told you it has no name or defining character, and yet you call it 'the origin of buddha-nature'.  You may afterwards become the master of a little temple, but you will never be anything more than a lecturer on Zen."

If I told you I had the last thing you expected in the other room, whatever you guessed it to be, it wouldn't, because that wasn't the last thing you expected.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Leap Into Faith

The leap of faith of Immanuel Kant, and later Søren Kierkegaard, is the act of believing in or accepting something intangible or unprovable, something without empirical evidence. It is an act commonly associated with religious belief, as many religions consider faith to be an essential element of piety.

The leap into faith described by Nagasema to King Milinda is based on empirical evidence.  The frightened crowd of people see a man conscious of his own strength and courage, as fine a description of an awakened person as I can think of, leap over the raging torrent, and they then do not blindly believe, but know, that this can be done, and that they too can do the same.

The Buddha insisted that after his death, his followers not rely on his teachings as a matter of faith or dogma, but that they test for themselves to determine if these things are true.  He considered his teachings as propositions or theorems that followers should solve for themselves, and act according to their own understanding and experience.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sapere Aude!

In his 1784 essay, Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant wrote "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity."  He argues that such self-inflicted immaturity is not from a lack of understanding, but from the lack of courage to use one's reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another. Kant claims that the motto of enlightenment should be Sapere aude! ("Dare to be wise!").

Kant considered dogmas and formulaic thinking to be the fetters of an everlasting immaturity, or nonage. Perhaps considering Nagasena's answer to King Milinda's question regarding faith, Kant notes that the man who casts off these fetters makes an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch because he is not used to such free movement. 
"That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds. It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself; indeed, if it is only given freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. There will always be a few independent thinkers, even among the self-appointed guardians of the multitude. Once such men have thrown off the yoke of nonage, they will spread about them the spirit of a reasonable appreciation of man's value and of his duty to think for himself."