Saturday, August 30, 2003

Updated information on the Open Retreat with The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche Dzogchen and Egolessness: Gaining Confidence in Liberation.

December 1-7, 2003
Santa Sabina Retreat Center, San Rafael, CA

Please join The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche for a week of engaging talks, powerful meditation instruction, and songs of enlightenment from the Kagyu and Dzogchen traditions.

This year, Rinpoche will present Dzogchen teachings based on "The Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra" as presented in his book, PENETRATING WISDOM. Part of the Dzogchen tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, is a prayer of the path to complete awakening and a prayer of instruction for a more genuine and correct path. It expresses the different manifestations of rigpa, our basic awareness, in ordinary life, expressing aspiration for realization of rigpa, realization of the genuine path, and realization of the genuine teacher. (see Nalandabodhi)

The Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is the founder and president of Nalandabodhi, a non-profit religious organization dedicated to bringing genuine Buddhist teachings to the western world. Ponlop Rinpoche is a prominent lineage holder in both the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Considered one of the great scholars of his generation of Tibetan teachers, Ponlop Rinpoche combines scholarly acumen, a deep mastery of Buddhist meditative traditions. Known for his humor, vitality, and mastery of the English language, Ponlop Rinpoche is able to reach western minds with uncommon ease and clarity.

Guest teachers include Acharya Tashi Wangchuck from Rumtek Monastery, Lama Lodro of the Mahasukha Center in San Francisco, and Patrick Sweeney teaching yoga and lujong.

For detailed information on the retreat program, costs, recommended readings, and registration, please visit, e-mail us at, or call 303.440.0716.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

"The koan arises naturally, in daily life."

I have apparently been alone in wanting my daily life to have the quality of life that one finds in a monastic setting. At least, alone recently, since this notion comes to me not from speculation but, rather, from experience: once through Roman Catholicism (in a "formation house", where individuals considering the priesthood lived together in anticipation of their vocation) and once in a Soto Zen Priory.
I have never wanted any other form of life, and know this again from experience: in the 70s, enjoying the fruits not only of having had a high paying communications job in the arctic but also the profit from some rewarding investments ... all this on top of the good salary from a responsible position with this country's national broadcaster (CBC Radio); no joy ... lovely home, vehicle, clothes, diet, entertainment, travel ... no joy.
Having raised 5 kids in the hills of glorious Cape Breton, I know the splendour of the lord in his manor house ... but no joy.

Without suggesting that a practice environment is for everyone, I can help but wonder aloud why and how it is that this situation seems to be available /to nobody/! I have, for these decades muttered (under my breath, most times) that a world without communal living would be the death of me. Well, things have come to pass where this may be the case. After 11 years on disability, I am not so empoverished as to be in continuous suffering (though the short rations do damage quite on their own), but I'm vulnerable to situation ... and without a communal instinct, the world is one of "devil take the hindmost".
Is nuclear family and rugged invidualism the only expression of dharmic life? Is the only alternative traditional monasticism? Have we not learned that /beyond independence is _interdependence_/? Can we pretend that this small planet will support billions of splendid individuals? /Who/, I ask, can dissolve the chimera of individualism if not engaged buddhist?!

At 49, with bad feet, after a pretty hard path, I'm looking at the prospect of homelessness. Let there be no talk of sane society or compassion here: what I see is self-serving cant and hypocricy, just the sort of thing that one would expect from a souless cult. Is that what we really have? Isn't seeing things as they really are a key principle? Is the Buddhist project motivated only by personality politics?

Perhaps I am alone in seeing the great good of living communally according to a set of fine principles such as those offered as abhidharma ... but I can't believe that to be so. And those others who feel as I do, shall they as well be drowned in an ocean of egoistic consummerism?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Why is 30 years more potent than 25?

A couple of weeks ago I had a profound insight into my PTSD, but didn't get it quite right: it turns out that I taint moments of success /not/ because I have come to believe myself unworthy, but rather (and, friends, incredible as it might seem, this next detail explains away my writer's block!), because that "success" was actually negative ... retrograde ... pathological ... carcinogenic, in a spiritual/psychological sense.

You see, on an afternoon in September of 1973, astonished to realize that the industrialized democracies of the north and west to which I had pledge my life, vowing to put myself in harm's way to defend their principles, were so far off track that they would orchestrate the bloody and horribly brutal overthrow of an entirely legitimate elected government in a sovereign country (Chile, headed by President Allende, by General Pinochet, with the direct aid and assistance of the CIA). Later that afternoon I lost my mind; after spending a while bashing my head against the locker in my barracks room, things got /really/ bad. The next day (vowing to show no sign of my new understanding), I got into a little discipline trouble that brought me to command's attention, and that began the process by which I extricated myself from the red-carpet carreer that lay ahead of me. But, and here's the point, before I started bashing my head to make the record skip, I had thought through the super-structures of military projection of power through to how our conventional lives are instrinsically fascistoid. Bottom line: we begin our lives dependent, and grow into independence. But unless we mature into inter-dependence (enter Buddhist psychology, complexity theory, and the actualization of authentically affectionate community) we are prone to the most sophistic of egoic compulsions, and these leave us vulnerable to manipulation.

The writer's block? easy: with great difficulty, I have managed (only just barely) to maintain the social context that I needed to check things out ... first, wealth and material success (70s), then more public success (family and politics; 80s), then a near-yogic poverty (90s). But the fact is, whenever I start to speak frankly, people draw away ... however much they may compliment me later ("damned by faint praise" I called it in conversation with a therapist friend, at which point she flew into a rage and refused to see me again!!), even those who would most rightly be my friends chose to withdraw. And so, much like a novel writer, I couldn't release the work before it was complete, could I?!
If this were a work of theory, I could have proceeded incrementally. But it isn't ... the only true resource I had was my own experience, since what happened in 1973 showed me that corporatist institutions were cunningly deceiptful (and yes, paranoia is a constant danger!), and individuals self-reports are almost impossible to de-construct (we're all of us subject to an amazing array of pressures and stresses, much like post-hypnotic suggestion in the way they operate; just think of Matrix ... it works because we truly deeply believe it works); seeing how good people slip into mind-phuckingly effective apologist bullshit has easily been the hardest thing for me to bear.
"Individualism", especially the more materialistic sort, is like drinking salt water ... it drives us mad even as it makes us thirst for more. The consummerism that is killing the planet (and making us slaves to the corporations) is a symptom of that individualism.
We must, while safe-guarding the autonomy that energizes and in-spires democracy, develope mundane interdependence beyond the market place. This will take place when we remind ourselves of the deep pleasures that arise from life in community. (Betcha your anti-social reaction kicked in just now ... am I right?!)

Now, you tell me ... should I be homeless on the street in October? or do I deserve the help I need to kick this off. (I've organized speaking events, workshops, teach-ins, protests, demonstrations ... all I'm aiming at is a network of ummmmmm Autonomous Social Centers.)

I need 1) decent footware 2) CDN$450 so I can find a room for October 3) some evidence that I'm being heard.

Watch for my re-launching of the "Green Future Foundation".

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

As I've done for the past four Wednesdays, tonight I went to the Shambhala Center for openhouse. Nice to site in group, and nice too to rub my present situation up against whatever the talked happened to be. This evening it was by a member who is active with art therapy and she gave us a very simple excercise; she passed each person a single raisin (and a paper napkin) and then, after talking about simplicity in the moment, had us eat each our raisin verly slowly and mindfully.
I won't go into the whole experience but rather will rush to the nut of it: recalling my clown training, and some experiences camping and treking where food came to be in short supply, I realized that (though I'm plenty capable of excercising appreciation in the moment; the meal I'd had before going to the center tonight was plenty hurried, but not rushed) I've lost some aspect of playfulness.
Everywhere I see the compulsive sloth and busy-ness of habitual evasion and wilful delusion, the excercise of will writ large ... and it gags me. Everywhere those who declare their subscription to quality are servile in the face of contempt, and everywhere those who profess mindfulness and compassion are engaged in the high game of ego and complacence. What has gone wrong?
I am reminded that I have lost my edge ... that I need to return to square one, the hinayana.

This came my way just now: Protector Principle; Averting the Negativity of the Old Year by Dorje Loppön Lodrö Dorje

"[T]hink of our four factors: First, keeping our own conduct and awareness straightforward and kind. Second, keeping openness to the fundamental nature of our awareness, which is inseparable from the awakened Masters of our tradition. Third, keeping familiarity with taming, riding, and transmuting our own personal energies, through our lungta and our vajrayana practice. Fourth, paying attention properly to the details of our lives. These factors tune us into the energetic background of our life in a sane way."

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Between the Unsustainable and the Unknown (Part 2)
July 31, 2003

Pondering my decade (11 years, actually) in Halifax leaves me with the following supplication: for refuge and retreat at Gampo Abbey. In the crudest terms, my life has been (if not a catastrophe, though I could argue for that) a total failure, and very nearly a total waste ... given that I derive no satisfaction from ego-gratification and that accumulation of goods actually repulses me, it is with a deep sense of revulsion that I turn towards the Hinayana and Vinaya.

I came to Halifax from Gampo Abbey with a renewed sense of vigour and project, after having lost my wealth and my family in an undertaking that took me away from everything I loved and valued (i.e. moving to Cape Breton from Alberta). Anticipating group activities explicitly aimed at implementing principles which I've visited in the past (either in informal group situations, artistic or political projects, or directed community such as the Soto Zen Priory), I connected as best I could with both the entities associated with sangha (i.e. the Shambhala Center, once was Karma Dzong) and with those embeded in the social and artistic fabric of the community. After more than a decade, I am alone, physically broken, without prospects, and disheartened. From the fruits of my labours I must judge that I am fundamentally in error, and judge that persistance at this point is no more than prideful folly.

It has been with great disappointment that I've discovered within this community only the very slightest interest in crafting lives that do not take their in-formation from protestant consummer capitalism, that is, that are not aimed first and foremost at creature comfort, the acquisition of property, and the accumulation of wealth. It appears that to question these in the slightest (I mean in actuality, rather than the safely abstracted remove of formal discussion) is tantamount to a childishly simplistic rebellion and repudiation of good sense. KyeHo, I chose the perky outrageousness of the radicals rather than the staid complacence (I am here talking of actualities and deeds, not of theoretical orientations and manifestos) and spoke always and everywhere of the four truths and the three obscurations. Unfortunately neither my skill nor my stability were sufficient to the task and so I find myself alienated from all.

My first year in this city saw me connect on a daily basis with the material aspects of sangha ... and ended with me suicidally depressed and lonely; I have experienced the coldness of respectable generosity, and times when even that was absent. Ten years down the road, I'm at a point where I feel I must abandon all talk of solidarity, of community, of caring, of authenticity and affection ... I must press on so as to stand clear and simple without hope of even the slightest human dignity, but cannot do so as I am. So, it's time to practice. (Despite every teaching to the contrary, I am always councilled to "just drop it", to "think positive thoughts", to "just get over it" ... there is precious little valuation of experience here, except for those who conform deeply and consistently.)

I have attempted to establish a wholesome householders life in community, and I have failed to do so. It is time for me to drop the pretence of quality and ability, and to strive for a simpler and humbler place, so as to be of even the slightest benefit to the honorable sangha, in observance of the vows which have been always close to me.
Between the Unsustainable and the Unknown (Part 1)
July 27, 2003

The meditation session during the Wednesday night Shambhala openhouse brought to mind a number of things that I'd like to share with you, things having to do with my possible residency at Gampo.

First off, just before the session I had been online at home, reading the Abbey's daily schedule in detail, remembering the vaiours aspects as best as I could. I have also paid attention to the notice that monastics were not to smoke. So it was with a sense of something like claustrophobia that I set about to contemplate the character of uniformity and structure that is so elemental to the monastic path. My meditation session, along with the talk afterwards left me thinking that it would be very timely for me to return to Gampo.

I have for many years had a feeling that, at some point, I would in effect revisit the Hinayana, with a somewhat rigorous focus on domestic and daily discipline. It's not a product of planning that I had just this spring cut my very long hair (which had been put up into dreadlocks), and very recently shaved my very full beard, but both of these, I think, reflect the direction I'm moving in just now.

The speaker talked about something I had never heard before: for decades I have been using the metaphor of "expquisitely responsive lover" to describe relationship with phenomenal world, and I was surprised to hear him relate the Vidyadhara's words on this subject, which happened to correspond to my view very closely ... I've attended a lot of talks, and had lots of discussions, and read a lot of transcripts, but had never encountered this before. The attention to the mundane that was developed in my Zen training has always been a treasure to me, and it has been a source of real pain that this attitude is religated to shrine-room behavious (more than one seniour practitioner has told me this, even at the abbey); I found myself in some sense confirmed and encouraged.

Though the regular characters became as frosty and stiff and partial as they ever were once they crossed the doorway, I noticed that the new people who had attended the talk were moving in a manner that was more graceful and "perky" than one would expect from a random selection from society at large ... in short, "beginner's mind" seems to remain ever open to the teachings, a realization that gives me great heart. Thinking through the fabric of daily life, and how daily practice would fit into this, I find myself yearning less for a customized daily schedule and more for a simple place in the monastic sangha (with the necessary consideration for my foot problems, of course).

Monday, August 11, 2003

A uniform convergence ... with a fair amount of personal interaction bouying me up (a couple of acquaintances have really opened up, showing the sort of humane warmth that I've always posited as potential ), nothing concrete arises. Indeed, over the entire weekend I managed to raise only just barely more than CDN$10 busking ... a new low [nota: I've been busking since 1978, in Halifax since 1984, so I have some context to judge by.] ... $8 Friday night, and $2.60 Saturday.

A couple of short "war stories" from the weekend: (I won't be writing much like this here ... most of this anecdotal material will go to my LiveJournal:
At the end of the evening on Friday, after having made precious little, I had a long break. A friend reminded me that one of the favorite bars for open-stage musicians was re-opening, and he kindly offered to buy me a beer. It just so happens that I knew the new owner, and was quite sure that he would also buy me one, if the situation required, so there was the real chance that I could spend an evening with friends and acquaintances without hovering like a vulture. But it happened to be a good hour for busking, so I resolved to go out there, and just do it! and raise my own funds. ... after half an hour (by the clock) I had made literally not ... one ... coin. Pushing the drum aside, I drew out one of my recorders and started with aires and ballads ... at some point a woman stopped to listen, and stayed for a bit; I played another tune, and she reached into her purse, digging deeply, stooping and *the ring of coins*. I thanked her and smiled. She turned and walked away. I turned and looked down. 5 pennies. Okay, what's with this? I had played well enough to suck the last coins out of a woman's purse (to put it crudely), but had made less than $10 in ?what? 3 hours or so ... 5c in half an hour ... at a peak time. (In one 1.5 hour stretch, when I made the bulk of my $8, the pan-hanlder across the street made $25 ... no, I'm not joking.)
On saturday, I played and played and played and played. A couple stops to listen; I was playing some latin beat and I just kept it going, not wanting to suck them in my swinging it (that, I say, is to disrespect the music) ... they give me a toonie. Nice. Proper thing. Thanks and smiles. Ok, fine stuff, but what the heyy?! In all those hours I made their toonie, two quarters, and a nickel.

If, in bad times, we turn away from one another, things will go badly. "I get by with a little help from my friends." "What goes around comes around" and I think what is going around, most of the time, is greed and usury, exploitation and manipulation, false charm, emotional blackmail ... it's truly hard times!

Saturday, August 09, 2003

[N.B.: The original version of this, as first published here, will remain in my LiveJournal posting here. The version below will be revised and edited to develop the dharmic aspects of what I'll be calling "the bodhisattva project" (which roughly corresponds to the Age of Enlightement notion "emancipation project".]

Syndrome Insight!

(I can't believe that this major breakthrough coincides with my having started this journal merely by accident. HeyHo!)

Major breakthrough:
The single most destructive aspect of my PTSD, what I have called "spiking my own guns", came clear to me this evening: an actual situation of productivity or creativity requires that I self-sabotage ... else, you see, I might enter into a period of productive creativity, and that would contradict my Prime Directive: don't support, aid, or abet the fascism of bourgeois convention.
It came clear rather unremarkably: I thought I'd try my hand at busking (I might be able to get by without buying a cup of coffee, even though that means not going out for any social activity at all for three weeks, but not being able to buy margarine ... or any other food ... that's way too rough) and, at one point, found myself playing a rather difficult roll (improvisational) rather well. I recognized that zone by the peculiarly poignant pleasure that came when I had a moment of enjoyment, i.e. the moment immediately after I lost the flow. A very jazz moment, it was. (Have you heard Keith Jarrett groan? That's what I heard come out of me ... extremely pleasant.) Within minutes I had packed up to leave. Why? Well, "why" is beside the point, actually, though chasing the "why" is what's kept me in this blind alley for three decades. You see, the reasons for leaving were operative five minutes before, and ten minutes before, and even fifteen, twenty, or thirty minutes before. (A sample: the kid pan-handling made CDN$25 [US$18 or so] in the time it took me to make CDN$7.50 [US$5] ... pretty depressing, but typical for how things have changed over the past 5 or so years, a fact I've confirmed with this city's buskers. But this is beside the point.)
The operative fact is this: frustrations and obstacles that I am capable of overcoming, and have overcome, and do overcome ... the sort of thing that others probably know from their own lives ... those weights break my break /precisely/ when things start going well. So long as things are just stumbling along, and there's no immediate consequence of my doing well, then I just keep stumbling along. But as soon as there's any real benefit to be had (for myself and others), then I shut it down!
I don't imagine that this will matter or mean much if anything to anyone ... and that's part of the syndrome: you see, I have a deep seated resentment against people who are "good" and "nice" ... they're the ones who blithely profit and benefit from a system of exploitation and oppression that's both local and global, to the extent that it should make them gag. But they don't gag, either because they're hypocritical, or cowardly, or delusional, or in the grips of self-deception and denial ... or just massively ignorant and mistaken. I'm not saying that I /should/ withdraw my solidarity ... I'm saying that the effect of my trauma has been a self-destructive compulsion to do just that.
In the end the only thing I can authentically engage in are those processes that lead to legitimate insight; firstly because they actually lead to actual good, and secondly (more interesting, in this context) because they involve the other's real pain ... it doesn't come without torment. Sadistic? perhaps, as a surgeon is sadistic ... for the other's ultimate good.
So: if you enjoy what I do, then I'll take the little snags of daily life and cobble them together as a pretext to stop. If what I'm doing is of no benefit, then I'll stop. If it's destructive, likely I won't start (I'm not a psycho! *Yippee!!*) But if it involves the rather arduous course of self-development, you can count on me to be there the whole distance. Ain't that a sweet conundrum?

In short: I conspire against myself to strongly couple productive, profitable, and beneficial activity with painful, embarassing, humiliating associations of exploitation and decadence ... not only conceptually, but by incurring real loss, real pain, and real damage.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Since I've started this journal a bitter late (I should have started about 3 weeks ago, when the notion of returning to Gampo started to take root), I'm going to try to pressing rewind from NOW:

As a glimpse of who I am just now, here's the sort of thing I post into the LiveJournal commmunities I subscribe to:
theleftunited: If /we/ can support our troops, why can't Bush?
I'll post pointers to other salient items as appropriate.
What utter rubbish: I change the template, republish, reload ... and the old page is there.

So here's the trick: edit template, republish, edit this post *yet again*, and reload the page.
What utter garbage people have collected decades of paycheques to produce!

*Yes, yes, I know, this is due to local cache issues ... something users have been fighting since Mosaic 0.72a, so give over!!*

Handy: it occurred to me to use the colours from MozDawg as a starting point.

Enough for now ... it isn't really so bad, just the wrong scheme *grin* ... I have to get some maroon in there somewhere, soon.
"The following Blog*Spot page was not found:

So, tell me ... how is it that I can't afford a cuppa while you guys are financing new cars?