Monthly Archives: April 2013

a reflection within a water drop

in this world

i have found

no perfect drop of dew-

not even on the lotus ~Issa*


As I sort through the various threads of thought, imaginings, memories and beliefs I have woven into a tapestry that illustrates my companionship with a silent sense of saudade, I come to see a life colored by attempts to evade or expunge an underlying current of dissatisfaction. This discontent is generally felt as a yearning for something undefined, or a vague sense that things are not quite right.  It comes in the wake of the realization that dreams are unreachable, and expectations only create more turmoil. Sometimes it erupts as sorrow, grief, anguish, or despair.  As a result, I question where is the wellspring of this homesickness for a place, a person, a time that that I continue to search for despite a knowing that it simply cannot be?

Buddhist psychology seeks to uncover the truth of human suffering and to find a path that leads to the cessation of suffering.  The first two truths speak of suffering and its nature, while the third and fourth truths outline a life path that will bring about the cessation of suffering.

The First Noble Truth nudges me out of my own immersion within the misery of suffering through its validation that suffering is a universal occurrence despite one’s race, culture, or affiliations.  Even those who say, “all’s right with the world,” are impacted by the constant state of flux within their life and thus experience anxiety.

To be born is to struggle with physical changes that occur in conjunction with developmental milestones, to feel the pain that accompanies physical and medical frailties, and to wrestle with the process of dying and with death itself.  To be human is to be dissatisfied with the wanting and obtaining of that which is pleasant, to know the fading of initial pleasure, as well as to experience the discomfort of unpleasant sounds, sights, scents, tastes, physical sensations, and thoughts.  To be open to life is to experience the range of human feelings, be it fear, anger, sadness, and joy.  To be with others is to know the distress of – real or imagined and spoken or unspoken – inclusion and exclusion.

The first truth also extends these truths of suffering to the unsatisfactory nature and general insecurity inherent in the law of impermanency.  That is, all the phenomena of existence whatsoever, even the awe-inspiring and the horrifying, are subject to change and dissolution. Those who know the pleasures found within substances also are acquainted with the unease that accompanies excess. We all intimately know the truth of this impermanency in our longings to feel emotionally close to others, which soon changes into a yearning for separation. Consequently, without exception discontent does arise.

Suffering is clinging to the illusion of an unchanging self; that is, to a belief there is a permanent self within the ongoing process of physical and mental occurrences which constantly arise, disintegrate, and dissolve. Hume wrote that self is a “bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with inconceivable rapidity, and in a perpetual flux and movement.”  He further suggested that we create an idea of self as we processes our perception of events and things.  Thus, there is not a tangible sense of self that remains consistent from one moment to the next. To desire, crave, or cling to a solid consistent self where there is only a changing psycho-physical complex is to create conditions that generate sorrow, grief, and dejection.[1]

The feeling of an “I” emerges from a reflection of the stream of experiential consciousness that awakens when one becomes aware of being observed by an internalized watcher or seer who is felt but never known.   Therefore, there is no denying that there is a wavering consciousness, an “I”, that knits together streams of memories, thoughts, feelings, and interactions in such a manner that we are able to formulate an awareness of identity, continuity, striving, as well as an sense of ourselves and others.

Memory bridges our past with the present

and brings us to an awareness that life is a cyclic process

that demonstrates the dynamic forces of togetherness and separation;

therefore, this moment is but a reflection within fragments of a past

and of a self revisited while in this process.


* The Year of my Life

trans: Nobuyuki Yuasa

[1] B. Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York, 1945).

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through darkness to darkness

The way I must enter

leads through darkness to darkness.

O’ moon above the mountain’s rim,

please shine a little further 

on my path.

                   ~Izumi Shikibu*


…”through darkness to darkness” refers to a passage from the Lotus Sutra: ‘The long night further curses our fate: we pass into darkness from darkness.’  Michi, ‘way’ is the word commonly chosen for a literal path, but it has the dual meaning of Buddhist practice, the Way; mountain,…can be a symbol for death…The mountain, the path, the moon all work to present image entirely true to the physical world…the poem becomes a deeply moving call: as she moves from the darkness and confusion of human life and suffering towards the darkness of the unknowable future, Shikibu asks for the clarifying moon of enlightenment to remain with her for a few moments longer before disappearing. (page 208)*


The Ink Dark Moon

trans: Jane Hirshfield


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photo challenge: up

sounding in the trees

rising toward the sky-

a bubbling spring

                              ~Sogi (1421-15020)*


A WordPress new post specifically created for this week’s photo challenge, a picture which means UP!


Haiku Before Haiku

Trans:  Steven D Carter


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a quote…”The Captive Mind”


Man tends to regard the order he lives in as natural. The houses he passes on his way to work seem more like rocks rising out of the earth than like products of human hands. He considers the work he does in his office or factory as essential to the harmonious functioning of the world. The clothes he wears are exactly what they should be, and he laughs at the idea that he might equally well be wearing a Roman toga or medieval armor.  He respects and envies a minister of state or a bank director, and regards the possession of a considerable amount of money as the main guarantee of peace and security. He cannot believe that one day a rider may appear on a street he knows well, where cats sleep and children play, and start catching passers-by with his lasso.  He is accustomed to satisfying those of his physiological needs which are considered private as discreetly as possible, without realizing that such a pattern of behavior is not common to all human societies.

In a word, he behaves a little like Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, bustling about in a shack poised precariously on the edge of a cliff.


The Captive Mind

Czeslaw Milosz

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weekly photo challenge: change

In a new WordPress post created for this week’s challenge, share a picture that says CHANGE

the scarlet leaves of autumn

pale before the sight

of waving green rice fields ~ Kikusha-Ni


frost on grass

a fleeting form

that is, and is not ~Zaishiki


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fallen blossoms

within each person is a flower

within each flower

there is a seed,

a word

Ah, the deep woods -

so quiet one can hear

blossoms fall. ~Shinkei

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light of right understanding

May I find the Courage and Strength

to withstand the crumbling of my delusions

so that the light of right understanding

guides me on a life path absent of

greed, anger, and ignorance. 



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mental hindrances III

don’t swat the fly

who begs your pardon

wringing his hands and legs ~Issa*

gold fish

The arising of ill will hinders one’s interactions with self and others. Ill will is a synonym for aversion.  It is felt as hatred, envy, anger, self-pity, and resentment.  It is seen in the repulsion we have towards others, objects, situations, and ourselves.  An introspective mind that is overcome with ill will can be equated to a person looking for her reflection in a pot of boiling water.

The goal of metta meditation (a meditation of loving-kindness) is to wish happiness for all beings.  This practice begins with first extending love to one’s self by saying, “I will rid my mind of anger, hatred, ignorance, fear, greed, and craving.  I will make my mind clear, fresh and pure.  Like a transparent window is my mind and I pour out thoughts of love and kindness to myself.”

The practice moves you to another as you recall a mental image of someone dear to you.  Imagine yourself within their being, feel his or her personality, enter your own being and direct loving-kindness into the mind and heart of that person.  Repeat this with other people with whom you feel emotionally close.  In time extend this warmth and kindness to others in your life; for example, people who live in your neighborhood, the grocery clerk, your co-workers, and eventually all beings on earth and beyond.

If you find during this practice that disturbing thoughts and feelings arise in conjunction with an image of a person, take this as a message that it is not the right time to extend loving-kindness to this particular person. With soothing self acceptance, return to extending warmth and loving-kindness to your self.

I find it amazing to acknowledge the strength by which our ego holds onto our feelings and beliefs as if they were objects to possess or tangible entitlements to protect despite their potential to consume or destroy.  It is as if feelings have the creative ability to create story lines and to take our mind hostage while formulating validation, rationalization, and justification for their continued presence.  For example, anger once awakened by other feelings—such as, pride, jealousy, fear, or grief—seems to have an uncanny ability to recall historical events to justify its continued presence as well as to drawn upon an unlimited supply of resources to insure its survival.

To become mindful of ill will one must first discern it arising without acceptance of its justifications with, “ill will is rising within me.”  As it is abandoned, “ill will within me is abandoned.” While it is fading, “ill will is ceasing within me.”  When it is gone, “there is no ill will present within me.”  To ease anger and ill will, one is directed to meditate on loving-kindness.

 cited in:

Inch by Inch

trans: Nanao Sakaki


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