Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म kárma , kárman- "act, action, performance"[1]; Pali: kamma) is the concept of "action" or "deed" in Indian religions understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called samsara) described in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Do you believe in time?

Time is not real, we make time up. That's why 3 hours can seem like 5 minutes, and 5 minutes can seem like 3 hours.

Time is a measurement. What then, does time measure?

Time measures the ever changing flux and flow within the unchanging present moment.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Power of Dharma

Ever since I moved back to my apartment, there has been an ant pile out next to the sidewalk right where my parking space is. I found it REALLY irritating. I'd notice it every time I was out there, and I'd kick it over sometimes, or drop water on it if I was adding water to my car, and I didn't bother watching where I walked unless there were a LOT of ants out, and only then to avoid getting bit myself.

Some days, it would set my mood for the drive, or for the next several hours.

Then I accepted the first precept: I will avoid taking life.

It was actually a few weeks ago that I started trying to practice the precepts. At first, the ants left my awareness all together - I was focusing on the bigger animals to start with. About a week went by, and insects and lizards and other small animals started to register more with me - usually right after I'd squashed a mosquito or fly. With the smaller animals, I'd find myself going out of my way to try not to scare them anymore than I had to - if you've ever seen one of our little anole lizards take a header off the second floor balcony, you know why. It looks like it hurts when they land!

The past few days, I've become aware again of the ants. It's a different awareness. I try to avoid killing any of them if possible (sometimes there are a lot, and they're moving fast, so when I start to put my foot down, the ground is clear, but when my foot gets there, an ant or 2 have run under it), and when that happens, I think a little thought wishing them well on their next rebirth. Rather than an annoyance, they are simply kindred living things, doing their best to make it through their day, as I am trying to make it through mine.

It is a very different way to live and look at the world than the way I've been living and looking. I find that I am happier, more peaceful, and have a better understanding of myself and my world.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Introduction to Buddhism

I have been both fortunate and challenged as I've started trying to learn about Buddhism. Challenged, because it seems the only meditation center in my area is associated with the New Kadampa Tradition. I went once, and I knew enough about Buddhism to know that what they were teaching there wasn't quite what I'd learned so far. After doing a bit of research, it turned out that it just wasn't something I wanted to get involved with. It seems they've gone to great lengths to ensure no mention was made of their origins, which seems to violate the precept about false speech. I wish them well, but what they do there is not what I am seeking.

Fortunate, because about a week into it, I came across the Urban Dharma website, and found these wonderful podcasts from Ven. Kusala Bhikshu.

Kusala does a great job of putting the concepts of Buddhism into a language I can easily understand. I'm intelligent enough to be able to understand what I read in other places, but there is a certain joy that comes with the almost effortless way understanding flows when I'm listening to one of his presentations, or reading an article he's written or recommended. If you want to know more about Buddhism, I'd recommend you start with him and his Dharma Talks Podcast. I downloaded them all into iTunes, and started with the "A Guide to Basic Buddhism" talks from back in 2005.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Video Games.

Buddhism is a path that focuses on suffering - and reducing suffering.

Obviously non-violence isn't required - the Shaolin monks have, perhaps, the most legendary kung-fu in the world. But the manner in which it is used (or not used) by the monks is important.

Many of the video games I play are very violent. Yes, they are games, but they do effect your mind.

The other side of that coin is this: chess is a violent game. Yet I doubt that a monk would refuse the intellectual exercise.

Do I need to give up my games? Or would it be less of a "need" and more of a statement?

I have a feeling this is something that will be meditated on at some point.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The "Stuff" project

Over the past 2 weekends, I've been working on reducing the amount of stuff that owns me. Yes, you read that right. The further along in this project I get, the more I feel like I was the one that was owned.

The first part of this journey came to be when I decided I wanted to know if I could live in a one bedroom apartment, or if I need a 2 bedroom. You see, I've been living in a one bedroom only because I have a garage I pay extra for. Lots of my stuff lives in that garage so that I can have room to live here, in the apartment.

I needed to know if I could squeeze uncomfortably into a one bedroom apartment, or if I needed a 2 bedroom, so that my stuff could have it's own room. Oh, at first, I was rather unskillfully calling that second bedroom an "office" or "computer room". But the more I began to unclutter my life, the more honest I became. A second bedroom wouldn't be the "computer room" or "office" - my computer was already quite happily sharing a room with me here, in the apartment. I came to the realization that the second room would just be for my stuff. Wow. Scary. My stuff is going to have me paying rent for it now?

This is where it hit me like a brick. I pay rent for that garage. I'm already paying rent for my stuff. $600 this year just so my stuff has a place to live. I'm a slave to my stuff.

I scouted my apartment. I counted how many boxes I could stack up, and where. 25 total. Oh boy - is that going to be enough? We're talking the little boxes paper comes in - the "case" size.

In the end, I needed one big box (about the size of 3 of the paper case boxes) and 2 of the paper case boxes. I'm still not convinced I even need all of that.

Once I got started, it has become easier to let go of things - I hope to make that a habit. Also unusual for me is that I've insisted I make use of what I already have - I may reduce, but I may not add new things. So I did not buy the microwave stand that in the past would have been *required* for this project. Somehow it wasn't needed after all. Same thing with the table and new book case. The result is that I'm content with my space, and with my mind. More content with both, I think, than I would have been if I'd gone and spent the money on the "new" things I "needed" to "make the place work".

I was getting ready to observe that I can now take that extra money I saved and put it all in the bank. That is an unskillful thought. It arises from greed. Since this is money that I'm surprised to have, I believe the correct thing to do is to put some in the bank, and donate some to a cause I can support. Generosity is more skillful.

During this time I've been listening to the podcasts from Urban Dharma. If you're reading this blog, you should probably go have a look and a listen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Transcending Duality

The world is eternal,
It can't go on forever.
So let it go,
And hold on tight.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jesus asks for forgivness.

I heard a story today about a monk and a master. The monk had been studying under a master, but went to a new master. The new master asked, "So what did your last master teach you?"

The monk replied "He taught me that the true meaning of Buddhism is Agin asks for fire."

To which the master said "And what does that mean?"

The monk said "Well, Agin is the god of fire, and fire itself, so he asking for fire is like me seeking to be a Buddha, since he is fire and I am already a Buddha."

"Ah, it is as I feared" said the master, "You've missed the point completely!"

"Then master, what is the true meaning of Buddism?" asked the monk.

"Agin asks for fire." replied the master.

The monk understood.

My dialog is that Jesus asks for forgiveness.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The tyranny of "stuff"

Stuff. In America, we have a LOT of it. In fact, we have so much, we often pay people extra to store it for us. "Self Storage" places are everywhere.

We're so attached to our "stuff" that we understand and validate stories like this:

"I know of one couple who couldn't retire to the town they preferred because they couldn't afford a place there big enough for all their stuff..."

How horrifying. To NOT retire to your dream area because you're so attached to your "things" that you need to be sure that they have a nice place to live.

Being in a place where I'm remodeling my world view and psychology, I see both sides of this. The American consumer in me understands on an emotional level this attachment to stuff. Intellectually, I can acknowledge that it makes no sense at all, and is, in fact, outdated.

I read an interesting article a week or so ago about our attitude towards "stuff" and how it's outdated. The author made a good point - go back and look at old pictures. From the 40's, 50's, 60's and even into the 70's - don't look at the people, look at the backgrounds. Notice how empty the houses are. There is a distinct *lack* of "stuff". If you look at old houses, from around the turn of the century, you'll find they didn't have closets in the bedroom. There was no need for them - stuff was rare and valuable and often everything a person owned would fit nicely into a trunk or chest of drawers.

But then something happened. Record players became common. Followed by the 8 track. Now you could own music and other things that had previously been radio only for most folks. This was followed quickly by cassettes, CDs, VHS, DVD, Computers and computer software and cheap crap from sweatshops in far away places. "Stuff" was no longer rare and valuable, it was all over, easy to find, cheap to acquire and always (in the back of our minds, anyway) useful!

Except...our attitudes about "stuff" didn't change. In our heads, we still think of stuff as "rare and valuable", even though it isn't.

I'm guilty of this - big time. In the past, I've paid $80 a month, for a year, to store things that I had been in boxes for the 2 years prior. Round numbers, adding tax, we're talking $1000 to store things I hadn't used for years, and as it turns out, didn't use for years after that. If I want to be totally honest about the cost, I paid an extra $50 a month in rent to have a garage to store my extra "stuff" after that. So total is $1600.

My lease ends on 4/30 - and you can bet I'm dropping that extra $50 a month from my rent.

That's a side benefit to my real purpose. My real purpose is to "detach" from my stuff. Somewhere along the line, I, like most Americans, stopped owning "stuff" and started to be owned by my "stuff". This is not an acceptable state of affairs. At this point in my journey, I'm vaguely aware that there's a balance between having things and not having things, and appropriate and inappropriate relationships to things. I'm not sure where the line is, but I know I'm way over it. Better, then, to have not enough attachment than too much. That is my thinking, so it was time to act.

I spent this weekend going through my things in boxes in the garage. I'm not done, but it's a start. The idea is to get rid of everything that won't fit into my apartment. I'm also going through my apartment and getting rid of anything that doesn't fit some simple criteria:

1) Do I use it at least once a month?
2) Is it irreplaceable?
3) Does it have a specific purpose that makes it useful?

Honestly, I had to "create" category 3 when I realized that my plunger wasn't irreplaceable, and that I hadn't used it in over a year. It's one of those things that you just have to have, even if you aren't using it. Many of my tools also fit into that category, but I've had to tread lightly to be sure that I don't use it to "protect" things that should go.

I've scratched the surface, I'm really not sure how far into the process I've gotten. I know that there was one full car load and then about a quarter car load that's gone to Goodwill already. Yes, I got a receipt - on one hand, the spiritual journey requires I detach from my stuff and stop seeing it as valuable. On the other hand, I'm trying to learn fiscal responsibility, and living in the real world it's silly not to take the $700 or so in tax deductions (and recoup some of the $1600 I've wasted storing this crap!).

The other thing I struggled a little with is what to do with the "stuff" that has value to other people. Yes, I'm perfectly OK with looking at my collection of Magic: The Gathering cards as ink on paper to be thrown away, but I also know that I can trade them for Government Issued Ink on Paper. In the end, I see no reason not to sell what I can. I'm not going to any great lengths - some stuff (trading cards and "collectible" hobby items) will go to local shops, some stuff (a few small furniture items) will go to Craig's list, and the rest (Software, games, DVDs, watches) will go on Ebay. Again, I may as well recoup some of the expense of carting this stuff around.

At the end of the weekend, I feel lighter than I did at the beginning. I still have a ways to go to get to where I want to be with my "stuff". Another issue that's come up while I've been working on this is my relationship with my "space". There's a whole 'nother post coming about the re-arranging of my apartment....

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Space is form is emptiness.

Between voidness and form, between existence and nonexistence, between being and non-being. These states are not in contest, but in one-ness, with each other.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


I've been looking at Eastern philosophies for the past few days, trying to decide which one fits me the best. My initial thought was "Zen", which seemed to be driven by the popularity of it in what amounts to marketing. Since I'm seeking enlightenment and happiness, I decided to begin that journey by seeking to learn about the paths available.

On some points, Buddhism makes sense to me, and on other a more Taoist view is appealing. Then I looked at the history of Zen:

"Around 475 A.D. one of these teachers, Bodhidharma, traveled from India to China and introduced the teachings of the Buddha there. In China Buddhism mingled with Taoism. The result of this mingling was the Ch'an School of Buddhism."

Sometimes what you have found first turns out to be what is best for you to find.

My thought for meditation today, and perhaps for more days than just this one:

"If you understand, things are just as they are. If you do not understand, things are just as they are."

In essence, "it is what it is". The only difference is in the observer.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

It's all connected.

"The light that shines on me, is the light that shines on my neighbor. The light that shines on my enemy, is the light that shines on my friend. In this way, all things are connected."

In my early twenties, I had a brief flirtation with Buddhism, and things Zen. At least, I think the two are connected. Over the years, I keep coming back to it. I don't think I think of it as a religion, I think I think of it as a philosophy, a life path, a journey. I may not know enough about it to know if that's the case or not.

In the meantime, I continue to find myself moving towards lessening my attachments. I find myself wanting to live more in the moment, and less in the world. Here, I am going to blog about that journey, that learning, and how it affects me.

Monday, February 11, 2008


So here's a funny I thought I'd throw up to hold the place while I decide what to do with this whole blog thing...