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Celebrating A Buddhist Thanksgiving (Dharma Talk)

In this Dharma talk, I read a passage from the Ornament of Realization Sutra and discuss how it relates to Thanksgiving. In the end, I show how traditional Thanksgiving practices like sharing food and spending time with family help us cultivate the wholesome Dharmas of generosity and gratitude. If you enjoyed this Dharma talk, you'll love my books!
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Life is Suffering (Dharma Talk)

In this Dharma talk, I discuss Buddhism's first noble truth, "Life is Suffering." At first, this teaching may seem morbid and nihilistic.  However, when we look deeper, we find that the first noble truth serves to change our perspective; giving us an "enlightened pessimism" that protects us from suffering. If you enjoyed this Dharma talk, you'll love my books!

Buddhism is Being a Good Neighbor

  My community is sitting under three feet of snow, at the moment, and we get a few more inches every day. So, I've been doing many of the jobs that one associates with winter snowstorms; insulating the chicken coop, putting salt down on the porch steps, and shoveling the driveway. Today, I happened to see my neighbor shoveling her own driveway, so I grabbed my shovel and walked over to help. With the two of us working it didn't take long to get the snow cleared, and we had a pleasant conversation. It was good times all around. When we finished, she offered me money for my time, and I politely refused; explaining that helping in this way was part of my spiritual practice. She looked confused for a moment, and then she said, "Oh, I thought you were just being a good neighbor." It was at this moment that I realized my neighbor is a Zen master. Because she's right. As Buddhists, we create convoluted stories and liturgies around compassionate actions. We do them to ma

Flying Through the Window

A few days ago I was sitting in the kitchen, eating breakfast when I heard panicked chirping along with an occasional thud coming from the upstairs bedroom in my home. Confused, I went to see what was happening and there was a brown blur flying through the air.  Eventually, the blur landed in a corner of the room, and I saw that it was a sparrow.   I'd left the window open earlier in the day to let in some fresh air, and the poor fellow much have flown inside.  We stared at each other for a moment, and then I took a step toward him; big mistake. My movement sent the bird into a panic.  He immediately took to the air; chirping and flying into walls until he finally landed in another corner of the room.   I didn't want to hurt him, but I also didn't want him in the house.  We have several cats, and I didn't want them to eat the sparrow for dinner.   My initial thought was that I could catch him, and set him down on the windowsill.  But it didn't matter how slowly I mo

Learning to Take Refuge

We have three cats that live on the homestead.  There's Sam, a black and white tuxedo.  There is Finn, a white albino.  And there is Enso, a gray tabby.   The first two, Sam and Finn, are house cats to their core.  They'll sit and look out the window on nice days, but they have zero interest in trying to venture outside. Enso, however, is another story.  During the spring and summer, he comes inside just long enough to eat, then he runs back outside to explore the woods that surround our property.   He likes to roll around in our garden mulch and he'd rather sleep in a pile of straw than a cat bed. However, his love of adventure cools a bit as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder.  During the Fall and Winter months Enso goes outside just long enough to ensure the grass is still where he left it, and then he retreats to the warm comfort of our home. I get a bit of a chuckle from his antics, but I'm glad we can offer Enso a place of refuge on the days when the

Dealing with Life's Manure

As a homesteader, I spend a lot of time dealing with manure.  I clean it out of the cat's litter boxes.  I step in it each time I feed the chickens.  And I collect it from our two rabbits, Belladonna and Oleander.   That last part might be surprising to some people.   It's not often that people talk about growing their poop collection, but it makes sense in the context of gardening. Simply put, soil is a living thing.  And the wise gardener feeds it lots of yummy foods.  Because nothing grows in hungry soil. Rabbit manure is a special treat for garden soil.  The manure is nutritious, high in nitrogen and phosphorus.  Also, it breaks down slowly, providing nutrients throughout the growing season. That said, rabbit manure might be good for my garden, but dealing with it is unpleasant.  It has a slight smell, attracts flies, and occasionally winds up on my clothes when I'm not careful.  On those days, I wonder if it wouldn't be easier to just buy fertilizer at the store. B

Moving Beyond Life and Death

It’s harvest season here on the homestead. And the earth has been generous with its bounty. We’re approaching 200 pounds of vegetables; harvesting potatoes, beans, carrots, corn, and a variety of other foods. It’s a wonderful life, but it’s also a strange one. Because the harvest requires me to kill the plants I’ve spent the last few months cultivating. Corn cobs are snatched from their stalks with a violent, twisting motion. Bean plants break apart as beans are pulled from their vines. And potato leaves are left to rot in the soil as I pull their roots (the potato spuds) from the earth. But the violence doesn’t stop there. The rabbits and chickens who live on the homestead are feral beasts, and their appetites are unending. I keep them satisfied by feeding them food from the garden. I strip the corns plants of their leaves, in the same way, I stripped them of their cobs. The leaves are fed to the rabbits, and the tall, spindly stalks go into the compost pile.   Bean plants are