Skip to main content

Posts

Lessons from a Spider Buddha

There's a large spider living outside my window.  I don't know how he got there; whether he climbed up or was carried by the wind, but he's been there all summer.  
I stand and watch him sometimes as he goes about his day; spinning webs and catching insects.  The world is in a state of turmoil, but he's completely unbothered.  I respect that.
Sadly, my window doesn't provide adequate protection for him.  When it rains, the droplets batter the spider's web like canon balls; tearing it to pieces.  I was distraught the first time this happened.  
But my spider friend remained calm.  Instead of panicking, he retreated to a corner of the window.  Once the world had dried out a bit, he emerged from his hiding place and built a new web.  He was back to catching flies an hour later
This cycle has repeated itself several times.  And it will continue until my neighbor is washed away in a downpour.  But I admire his steadfastness; his determination to keep going in the face o…
Recent posts

The Dharma of Wearing a Facemask

In many ways, Buddhist practice allows us to see the hidden parts of ourselves.  Like a bodybuilder who flexes his muscles in the mirror, we view our spiritual body from every angle and take note of what's there.  Sometimes we like what we see.  And sometimes we don't.  However, it's in those moments when our reflection makes us cringe that we find opportunities for growth.
For example, when I was living on an organic farm in Indiana a tension emerged between my desire for spiritual practice and the needs of my farming community.  Farming isn't a job with set hours.  It's a lifestyle, and it was common for me to plan excursions into the forest for meditative practice only to have them interrupted by some unexpected event.
Perhaps we needed to find a chicken that escaped from the pen, or a tool broke during a construction project; putting us behind schedule.  In any event, "It's my day off," was never an acceptable answer when work needed to be done.
This…

I Don't Want an Eternal Life

Today, I realized that I'm no longer a "young" man.  My favorite music from the '90s is starting to show up on classic rock stations. Despite my best efforts, I'm losing track of new technology.  And I may or may not have told a group of kids to, "get off my lawn," over the weekend.
There were a number of questions that arose with this realization.  I considered the direction of my life and where it's heading.  I thought about my career and if I'm saving enough for retirement.  And I thought about dying.
I considered the fact that while I've technically been dying every day of my life, there will come a point when that fact is more apparent.  My vision will blur, my muscles will grow weak, and I'll start attending the funerals of friends and family.
In short, I'm approaching an age where life will stop giving me things, and it will start taking them away.
 These are sobering facts, but they're inescapable.  So much so that Buddha lis…

The Dharma of Online Trolls

The greatest troll of all time was a man named Andy Kaufman.  Kaufman was born on January 17, 1949, and he made his living as a performance artist, professional wrestler, and self-proclaimed "song and dance" man.  
Kaufman had a show in vegas for a while, and he appeared on both Saturday Night Live and the popular sitcom, Taxi.  He died of lung cancer at the age of  35.
As part of his act, Kaufman would go on stage and act in a strange, anti-social manner in order to get a response from the audience.  He'd wear mismatch clothes, hurl insults, and occasionally ask for money while he was on stage to make the audience laugh, jeer, and boo.  In this way, he made them an unwitting part of the performance.
Of course, this didn't always go well for him.  Once, he was slapped in the face by Jerry Lawler, a professional wrestler, after calling him "poor white trash" on The Letterman Show and he lost his job on Saturday Night Live when audience members called a 1-800 nu…

Accepting the Unconditional Love of Buddha

Growing up, it was important to my mom that all of her kids learn how to swim.  So, I spent four weeks out of every summer taking swimming lessons at the local pool.

The pool was broken into five sections with level 1 being the shallow end and level 5 being the deep end.  Naturally, the deep end was where all the action was; it had a diving board and a waterslide!

Everyone was required to start at level 1 and work their way up to level 5 by showing proficiency in various skills ranging from holding your breath underwater to doing the backstroke across the pool.  But it wasn't just about learning new skills.

Children who successfully climbed through the ranks were rewarded with prestige and additional privileges.  For example, the waterslide dumped kids out on the deep end of the pool, so only level 5 swimmers were allowed to use it with one exception.

If a kid could swim to the middle of the pool, tread water without assistance for two minutes, and swim back to safety, they could …

The Buddhist Pureland and Living Under Curfew

In Pureland Buddhism, we're taught that the world is both a land of suffering and a wish-fulfilling jewel.  Through the grace of Amida Buddha, and teachings like those found in the Meditation Sutra we're able to see beauty in the midst of our pain.

Of course, this doesn't mean that we no longer experience suffering.  Rather, it means that our relationship to suffering changes.  We see every hardship as a teaching, and we learn to appreciate the many gifts (healthy food, clean water, indoor plumbing, etc.) that we experience every day.

For example, until recently I didn't realize what a blessing it is to go outside; to leave my apartment and just stand in the sun for a while.  But that changed when my city was placed under curfew.  We had a large protest for George Floyd recently, and the entire area is on lockdown.

Checkpoints are set up on all of the streets leading out, and no one can come in unless they can prove residency.  Police officers on horseback and motorcyc…

How to Be a Buddhist Protester

On Monday, May 25th, George Floyd died after a police officer held his knee on the back of his neck for more than 8 minutes.  Floyd was handcuffed at the time, and he was simultaneously being restrained by several other officers.

In the days after his death, protests have erupted in 17 states; resulting in mass arrests, property damage, and calls for peace from local officials.  In the wake of these events, many Buddhists are struggling with how to respond. 

The truth of the matter is protests are not pretty.  There is a lot of hurt and emotion at these events that spill out in strange, sometimes violent ways.  People get tear-gassed or shoved by police and counterprotesters.  Slogans are shouted that aren't in keeping with Right Speech.  And there is a real risk of bodily harm that comes with participation.

However, the more I practice, the more I realize that protest is as much a part of Buddhist training as meditation.  After all, how can I chant in praise of Kannon if I don&…