Skip to main content

Posts

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…
Recent posts

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&…

Stripping Buddhism of Cultural Baggage

Cultural Baggage is a term that comes up a lot in Western Buddhism.  Generally, it's used in reference to any part of the practice that can be traced to a specific geographic region in the world.

The implication is that there is a pure Buddhism lying underneath all of the traditions and philosophies that flavor Buddhism as it's practiced in different areas.

Some things that are commonly referred to as cultural baggage include bowing, chanting, wearing robes, making offerings, and building an altar.  
Of course, if we go far enough down this rabbit hole, all of Buddhism falls under the cultural baggage umbrella as the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path have their roots in the Vedic traditions of India.  Be that as it may, the term is usually used in a pejorative way, suggesting that there is a true Buddhism that westerners can access if we remove all of that other stuff.  
We have purebred dogs, purebred horses, and now we want purebred Buddhism.  
Of course, purebre…

Breaking the Cycle of Codependency

Codependency describes a relationship where one party depends entirely on another for feelings of self-worth or validation.

     The relationship is generally one-sided with one party either exerting an unhealthy amount of control over the other (e.g. you don't leave the house unless I tell you) or enabling unhealthy behaviors in exchange for affection (e.g. I know he'll use the money for drugs, but he'll leave me if I don't let him have it).

     People can also engage in codependent relationships with objects and organizations.  For example, if someone is codependent with money, basing their self-worth on how much or little they have, their mood will vary wildly depending on the contents of their bank account.

     Similarly, if someone is codependent with their job, depending on it for their sense of identity, they may stay in an abusive or unfulfilling work environment because the thought of leaving is scarier than the thought of being mistreated.

Some of the…