Buddha Mind

This afternoon is self’s Vinyasa Flow class.

It is soooo relaxing.

Self has been pondering taking a course on Buddhism.

For, as Japanese sage Hakuin Ekaku (1685 – 1768) once said:

To study Buddhism is to study yourself.  To study yourself is to forget yourself in each moment.  Then everything will come and help you.  Everything will ensure your enlightenment.

—  Nakahara Nantenbo (1839 – 1925)

She did actually ponder learning more about Buddhism, but there are so many things going on in her life at the moment.

Dear Departed Sister-in-Law Ying was a Buddhist, and a gentler soul never lived.  When she died in Tel Aviv, in 2008, self was heartbroken.  Her ashes are in the family crypt in Manila, but some are in a temple in Bangkok, per her instructions.

Ying!  She was so proud of self that she would carry around a copy of self’s books, and when people would ask what she was reading, she would show them.

Now that self is contemplating the Buddhism thing, she also remembers hearing about Shari Epstein, a former classmate at Stanford, who was said to have founded a city on the northern California coast.  A Buddhist, peaceful city.  What was its name?  Drat self and her horrible memory.  The City of 10,000 Buddhas?  Something like that?  In Ukiah?

She recalls, too, a teacher named David Nivison (whose books are all available on Amazon) who taught a class called Zen and Nothingness.  Can you believe actually taking a class like that?  Self recalls the first day:  there we were, Chinese Studies and Asian Languages students, scattered around the small classroom.  The professor enters:  a very very tall and a very very skinny man.  Without preamble, he opens his mouth and begins the lecture.

We students look at each other in dismay.  The teacher’s mouth is moving, but no one can hear anything.  Slowly — and as surreptitiously as possible — a few students begin moving closer to the front of the classroom.  By the end of that quarter, this is how the chairs were arranged:  Prof. Nivison seated at his desk facing the class, and all our chairs circled around his desk, some even touching the desk, and everyone straining their darndest to make sense out of this Zen and Nothingness which — don’t ask self to explain the concept, it’s something like the sound of one hand clapping.  She knows there was a midterm and a final, and she passed both. But she has no idea what she wrote, what she filled her Blue Book with. Her grade, she recalls, was a B.  Which was extremely kind of Prof. Nivison.

Back to the Buddha Mind!

When we are trying to be active and special and to accomplish something, we cannot express ourselves.  Small self will be expressed, but big self will not appear from the emptiness.  From the emptiness only great self appears.

Now synapses are firing like crazy in self’s brain, for she remembers the Abnegation faction in Divergent, which she made yet another attempt to read last night, before giving up and going back to re-reading Mockingjay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Attacking the Pile of Stuff: The New Yorker of Dec. 2, 2013

From the Talk of the Town, p. 24:

In Warsaw, the other week, a Filipino diplomat sobbed while addressing the U.N. climate summit; he had family in the typhoon-ravaged country.  “We may have ratified our own doom,” he said, alluding to the slow pace of negotiations for curbing international emissions.  He announced that he was starting a hunger strike, for the duration of the summit, and was given a standing ovation.

From Ian Johnson’s “In the Air,” an account of “China’s most polluted cities”:

Handan is a city “two hundred and fifty miles southwest of Beijing” with “an urban core of 1.4 million inhabitants . . .  It abuts the Tailing mountains” which, “thanks to rich deposits of coal and iron ore,” have made the region “one of the world’s great centers of steel production . . .  One of the provinces that border the Taihang range . . .  accounts for ten per cent of the world’s output.” The locals grow vegetables under the smoke billowing from factories.  It’s one of the dirtiest environments in the world.

There’s a poem by Mary Jo Bang that self really likes:

All Through the Night

The rotational earth, the resting for seconds:

hemisphere one meets hemisphere two,
thoughts twist apart at the center seam.
Everything inside is,
Cyndi Lauper and I both fall into pure emptiness.
That’s one way to think: I think I am right now.
We have no past we won’t reach back —
The clock ticks like the nails of a foiled dog
chasing a faster rabbit across a glass expanse.

The Annals of Law essay, by Rachel Aviv, concerns the way Social Service agencies have made a deliberate choice “to err on the side of overreaction, because the alternative could be devastating.  Social workers recognize that if they recommend returning a child to a deadly home “it will be a career ender.”  Thus, they “choose a knowable tragedy, the separation of a parent and child, in order to prevent an unknowable one.”

Heartbreak, right there.  The article focuses on a mother, a Kuwaiti immigrant named Niveen, who’s been accused of child neglect.  Her three-year-old son, Adam, who was in Montessori pre-school, fell and “his tooth came loose, making it painful to chew.”  Naveen took several days off from work to feed him herself.  After missing several days, her boss says, “With you it’s always something.”  Here’s the rest of that paragraph:

Then she imagined the way her boss would look at her the next time she came, and felt suddenly ashamed.  She got up, brushed her teeth, put some snacks in a ziploc bag, gave them to Adam, and left the house.  “It was mechanical —  I wasn’t thinking anymore,” she said.  “Things were upside down, but I kept everything to myself.  I was just trying to survive.”

Her son “had been alone for ninety minutes when police officers arrived . . . ” It’s a gripping article (as almost all The New Yorker Annals of Law articles have been), one that really tries to see things from the mother’s point of view.

Stay tuned.

Re-Reading MOCKINGJAY: Commander Paylor

With the Divergent movie about to open, and a new female action star poised to take the crown from J-Law (which self doesn’t think will happen, even though Lionsgate produces both series and has said of Divergent:  “This one will be special.”)

Self swears, she will never ever be caught using the word “dystopian” when she writes about The Hunger Games.  Nope.  Don’t even go there.

She finally caved and bought a large print edition of Mockingjay, while waiting to board a flight to go south and visit son.  And she’s been doling out excruciatingly small dribs and drabs ever since.  Here’s a passage where Katniss meets Commander Paylor for the first time:

Her dark brown eyes are puffy with fatigue and she smells of metal and sweat.  A bandage around her throat needed changing about three days ago.

Katniss finds her intimidating.  The reader can tell after this passage:

She looks young to be a commander.  Early thirties.  But there’s an authoritative tone to her voice that makes you feel her appointment wasn’t arbitrary.  Beside her, in my spanking-new outfit, scrubbed and shiny, I feel like a recently hatched chick, untested and only just learning how to navigate the world.

Only eight more months till the movie.  Self wonders who’s playing Paylor.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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