Archive | October 2020

The Dark Side of the Boon

Garden Spiders: Weavers of Delicate Webs | Live Science
A lovely banded orb weaver (argiope)!

I walked outside a few days ago to do some watering. Gran’s place doesn’t have sprinklers. It’s all hand watering. I don’t mind. It gives me time to look and listen. I may see a Wilson’s warbler, foraging a few feet away in a cherry tree. Or a brilliant argiope spinning her web in the lavender. The happy squirrels bouncing across the branches. And then of course there are the great majestic trees and their clapping leaves in the evening breeze.

The trees provide wonderful, needful shade. But there’s a dark side too. The widowmakers. I’ve tried to get Gran to trim these enormous trees, at all, let alone properly, but she refuses. She doesn’t see what I see. Dead branches that have broken free, fallen and remain caught (for the time being) high up in the tree. Or branches that have suffered damage in storms, leaving a large but half-torn limb that’s now supporting heavy crowns of smaller branches and leaves.

She can’t see it. She doesn’t go out in the backyard and look for one thing. So understandable blind spot. But I tell her, and still she refuses to act. Not understandable. I can see the trees have pushed through the telephone pole wires. It looks dangerous. I worry about fires starting. I’ve trimmed things myself, in the past, but that’s beyond what I can do alone. And that’s a whole thing because of where the property line fall.

A Photo Guide to Widow- Makers
See the problem? No longer attached to the tree!

There’s a small, fully dead, plum tree in the yard too. Such trees are called snags. It could burn easily, and it’s full of termites which might opt for the house. But, compared to everything else, I’m okay with a beautiful snag. It is beautiful. And it’s bugs make good food for woodpeckers who after so many fires are running very short of naturally dead bug infested trees to pick over for a meal.

I listen for branch cracking when I work out there. Last fall I was almost hit by a widowmaker in the local park during a late evening walk. Luckily I heard the snapping sound and knew to run for my life away from all trees. So, yeah, I never stand under the known weak spots in Gran’s yard. I put up markers on the ground to remind me where the threats reside above. And I never go under the trees in high winds.

As I was watering this particular evening, I looked up into the trees and saw a crow. Dead, awkwardly splayed, caught on two small branches. I have no idea how it got there. It might have been attacked by the Cooper’s hawk, died, and fallen into the tree. It’s grim, but it’s so high up I can’t get it down. I expect it will desiccate and fall if the winds get high enough. Or perhaps, after a few soaking winter rains, a pile of bone and feather will spill down.

You might think this would creep me out. Not really. Every time I go out and glance up at the weirdly contorted black mass, it speaks to me of impermanence, and death hanging over your head. But more than anything, it speaks to me about humankind’s unwillingness to deal with the removal of what is dead or so damaged as to be dangerous in our lives (our politics, our religions, etc).

Garanoir Wine Grapevine- 1 gl size | Cloud Mountain Farm Center & Nursery
Fruitful branches!

Jesus spoke about this (John chp. 15). “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” I think it’s an important lesson from our vintner friends. Even among those within the body of Christ, claiming Christianity is no proof of being one. Producing fruit consistent with the vine you are attached to is proof. And even so, what is diseased or dead must constantly be pruned away and burned to preserve the health of the living branch.

I think there is another lesson there as well, one arborists and vine dressers already know. That pruning doesn’t kill, it saves. It shapes and balances, it guides, increases fruitfulness. And done right, a plant will always heal well. You will see the scars left from the pruning, they’ll grow over and disappear most of the time. Traumas can be transformed. The poison cannot kill the peacock (Buddhist metaphor). For the immortal peacock it’s just more food. (Christian metaphor).

So why am I talking about this? I said one day I’d tell you why I was doing the White Tara re-creation as an offering, and why I couldn’t get an “official” photo of this WT, and about a big bust up that was involved. This is that day. It’s rather a long post, and a bit scary. Perfect reading for Halloween. Maybe climb up into your favorite tree, deep among the blazing beauty of the fall leaves, perhaps with a bottle of cider, and settle into your safe spot.

A young Sogyal Rinpoche with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Rinpoche with JK Chokyi Lodro

This guy above is/was my lama. He both is and was. It’s confusing, just go with it. No, not the older man. Though you might recognize him from a previous post. That older man is Sakay lama, Rime proponent, the 2nd Jamyang Khyentse, Chokyi Lodro, and in his time Dzongsar Monastery’s head. I am, however, talking about the little boy next to him. That was my teacher, Rinpoche (it means teacher) when he was 6 or 8.

You might recall I told you JK Chokyi Lodro (link to is a great bio book) became very ill late in life, and was told that in order to extend his life he should renounce his monastic vows and marry, ie, do a 180? He did so with a beautiful soul, inside and out, named Khandro Tsering Chodron. I use the word marry loosely. She called herself JK’s student. Never JK’s wife. Always JK’s student.

Khandro is a title all it’s own in Tibetan Buddhism. She was a supremely realised practitioner. She wasn’t his wife as Western people would understand the word. She’s was JK’s spiritual consort – and that’s a can of worms I’ll not open now. But nevertheless, it means they might (or might not) have engaged in intimate relations, for a number of spiritual reasons. They had no children of their own.

Khandro Tsering Chödron — DAKINI POWER
Age 21 when she became JK’s consort. I think he was 50 something.

Khandro had a young nephew however, Rinpoche. When Rinpoche met JK, JK apparently recognized him as the reincarnation of Tertön Sogyal Lerab Lingpa. And from that time, Rinpoche became as son to the great lama, his uncle by marriage, learning from him and other great lamas. Hence the smiling picture above of the two of them. They all fled Tibet together in 1956. JK died in 1959. Khandro, who never remarried, died in 2011, age around 85.

But back to Rinpoche.

After growing up in this sort of unusual, for Westerners, domestic-religious atmosphere, he was sent to a boarding school in India, a Christian school in fact. He used to talk about that a lot. This was his first real look into the Western Christian mind, so to speak. He respected what they taught, they tried to convert him, but stayed a true Buddhist. This formative experience made him young man with a unique understanding of (and a foot in) very different worlds.

In 1971, Rinpoche went to England, where he studied Comparative Religion at Cambridge University. He bravely stepped into another very different, rich and rarified world, once again. For those of you that don’t know much about the 70s, sex drugs and rock and roll. A far cry from a monastery on a Tibetan hilltop or a Christian boarding school in India. After university he became an English translator and aide to various revered masters (HH Dilgo Khyentse, Dudjom Rinpoche, etc) who’d begun teaching in the west.

Finally, after many years of study and translating, he began teaching in the west his own right. He saw the reality of western people’s lives, and sought to make Tibetan Buddhism relevant to modern people of all faiths by drawing out the traditional teachings’ universal messages while respecting their authenticity, purity and power. For me at least, he did a great job on that front. I think a lot of people would say that.

Galadriel screenshots, images and pictures - Comic Vine
Sometimes we see the terrible things great power can do to us, before it’s too late, and turn away from its temptation.

Rinpoche traveled all over the world for the next 40 years. He wrote a book on death and dying that sold 3 million copies in 34 languages, in 80 countries. Total honestly, I never read the book. Apparently 86% of Amazon readers gave it 5 stars. People sometimes comment on why such a young guy would write a book about death and dying. The truth was, he saw the need for it and responded with compassion.

It was the late 80s when he wrote it, the height of the AIDS epidemic. Many students in the sangha were gay folk who arrived at his door looking for community and acceptance and a religion that wouldn’t blame them for catching AIDS, or say they deserved their horrible fates. Christianity and the Republican administration of the time had simply turned their backs these Americans and didn’t care if they died. Sound familiar?

Rinpoche later founded a network of retreat centers, spiritual centers, and groups around the globe to offer the Buddha’s teachings through courses and seminars in meditation and compassion. They also offered a complete path of study and practice. Considering he started from having nothing as an immigrant refugee without a country, what he accomplished was truly spectacular.

I’m going to stop here and tell you Rinpoche chose the Nyingma path, even though JK had been Sakya. JK was long dead, but in life he’d said the Nyingma were lazy. He bagged on them quite a bit. So, a little rebellion there? Maybe. I’m sure JK would forgive him. Also Rinpoche was quite close to Dudjom Rinpoche (d. 1987), a renowned Nyingma scholar who was later appointed head of the Nyingma lineage by the current Dalai Lama. Rinpoche often said he regarded him “as a second father.”

Breif musical interlude.

People attracted to Nyingma are generally actually not lazy (ok, maybe a little). But the sort of people who live more “real” lives. They aren’t big on renunciation or going into monasteries or becoming monks and nuns. They’re having relationships, getting married and having kids, like Dudjom Rinpoche did. They want to be enlightened in the thick of things. They want to get to the heart of the matter, stripped of all the excess.

When I knew him, Rinpoche was kind, funny, humble, warm, and a really great teacher. I never saw him cross with anyone except once, with the people who had volunteered to clean his retreat guest rooms. They left behind a lot of dust. He had a severe dust allergy. My Gran has allergy induced asthma. I’m constantly dusting and vacuuming, because asthma can kill you. So I understood him being mildly peeved.

The people doing the cleaning didn’t seem to get that dust could be a big deal to someone. They laughed about his complaint in front of me, away from his hearing. They were considered his inner circle, his heart students. And they laughed at him, because he privileged them to see his humanity and this somehow diminished him in their eyes instead of provoked their compassion and greater respect.

Shameful.

Isildur | The One Wiki to Rule Them All | Fandom
Sometimes, because we are flawed people and struggle with our own mental and physical challenges, we do not pass the test.

I’m going to pause here to tell you about Rinpoche’s JK Chokyi Lodro. When he took over Dzongsar, the local people described his take over with a word that meant violent invasion. They used the same word for the arrival of the Chinese communists years later. Think about that. He was also know to have monks that committed offences whipped 300-400 times, instead of the standard monastic 100 lashes. He could be a total hard ass. And a total sweetie. And Rinpoche grew up with that as a child.

I used to listen to Rinpoche teach and then take recordings of his teachings home and transcribe them, because I wanted to learn. He used to say, “the more you listen the more you hear.” And it was true. I wasn’t a lazy Nyingma by any stretch of the imagination. I had a strong practice. I devoted myself to doing the ngondro. I didn’t cut corners. I respected my teacher, but I never forgot he was only human.

For me, Buddhism was never about Rinpoche, and honestly he never made Buddhism about him. Not that I ever heard, in 3 years of listening to him. Rinpoche was always quoting other masters. In fact, he would say, “don’t think of me as your guru, think of Padmasambhava (founder of Tibetan Buddhism) and all the great masters of the lineage” down to JK Chokyi Lodro his uncle, Dilgo Khyentse, Dudjom Rinpoche, and other living masters he’d known.

I think because he asked us to do that, focus more on the dead guys, I did. It seemed a rational request to me because as a Christian I was used to thinking about a “dead” guy as my rabbi, teacher, Lord. When I recited the guru mantra, I thought of Padmasabhava and JK Choki Lodro. I felt close to his uncle — who was decades dead, and just a face on a picture card.

Who Will Teach Our Children's Children? June Communique: Education
300 lashes with a whip. Same guy.

I always felt like JK was there teaching through his nephew. I felt like I knew JK because of all the funny, endearing stories Rinpoche told about him. But of course I didn’t. Still, as “gurus” go, I felt this dead guy probably understood me and what I was trying to do. This snow leopard among the true snow lions. Like a Catholic’s attachment to certain saints, I knew JK Choki Lodro understood the power of a 180. I just knew. They way I knew WT was the yidam for me.

Anyway, that was my experience. All positive. Honestly, I wasn’t with the group a long time, just a few years. I never never went into Buddhism to become a Buddhist. I was always still a Christian, and that was always ok with Rinpoche. Even HH the Dalai Lama will tell you, today, you can think of Jesus as your guru, or Mohammed, or Moses, or anyone you want. Being actually Christian doesn’t offend anyone in Tibetan Buddhist circles.

I think because of I wasn’t looking for something from Buddhism other people were, because I had a religious faith, my approach to vajrayana Buddhism, what I wanted out of it, what it meant to me, was different than other people’s. My view of Rinpoche was different as well. I had a “guru” and it was Jesus. He remained my guide for living, my moral compass. I just had other hopes for and expectations about engaging with Buddhism from the jump.

Why water drops splash: a non-trivial mystery explained
There is no such thing as “crazy wisdom.” There are wise people who go slowly or quickly crazy, and crazy people who are mistakenly slowly or quickly lifted up and called wise.

I knew there were bad experiences in other Buddhist groups, sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse — because people treated the teacher as an all powerful, always to be obeyed as if your life or soul or civilization depended on it, leader. An authoritarian not to be questioned. But I never had that experience. I never fell into that way of thinking. I think being super committed to doing the ngondro helped with that. I wasn’t looking to Rinpoche for answers, I knew the only answers were in me. I just needed a means, a teacher to teach me some means, to discover those answers.

Anyway….in Western Buddhist groups, it was always talked about and well-known that abuses could happen. People were on their guard. Chogyam Trungpa and Shambhala were bywords. Trungpa died in 1987. Public outing of his misdeeds is still ongoing today, 40 years later. My feeling about this is: people often become unmoored from their own rational reality in an attempt to get deep needs met, and criminal craziness has window of opportunity.

I don’t blame the victims. When you have one culture with set views and expectations of religion and gender, and a second culture with totally different views and expectations of religion and gender….. I’ll never be Dutch. My SO will never be American. Neither of us will be Canadian. Some things Dutch people think is normal, I think is really out there. Even though we’re both from white, western, Christian cultures.

In my particular sangha with my particular teacher, I never experienced any of the craziness. I never saw abuse happen, never heard about happening, was never told by anyone it happening. In fact, I knew people who’d suffered abuse in life who had come to the sangha to try and deal with that. If that I’d witnessed or experienced abuse happening, I’d like to think I’d have got the hell out, told the authorities, and got Rinpoche arrested.

But I am only human too. Factually speaking, I was already committed to another group, Catholic Christianity, which had its own abuse problems. Which I also never witnessed or experienced or heard about till the dams broke. The victims of which, I also believe 100%.

The Top Red Flags You Need To Look Out For When Deciding To Outsource Your  Business | by Wilson | GrowthOK Blog | Medium
Red flag – accepting bad behavior from a leader means you’re in a cult.

About 5 years ago, I started hearing rumors about Rinpoche. Nothing I could put a finger on. Nothing anyone would confirm. Then someone told me he’d punched a woman, a Buddhist nun!, on stage, while teaching at a retreat in Europe, in front of a whole host of students. All of whom apparently did nothing and just accepted this leader’s bizarre behavior.

In the summer of 2017 it all blew up, publically. A flare went up on the internet. An open letter to the world. Rinpoche stepped down as spiritual director of the international organization he’d built over teh decades. There was an investigation by independent, by UK lawyers, that definitively concluded: yes, it was all true. At which point, even HH the Dalai Lama slagged Rinpoche off.

By this time it was widely known Rinpoche had colon cancer. I’m not sure how long he’d been ill or what kind of treatments he’d had. I know he’d been handing out the WT image for many years previous, making it available for free. It’s often a practice lamas give to students to have them pray for life extension for their lama, so probably some connection there.

He suddenly packed up went to Thailand, he said for cancer treatment. Thailand is country that doesn’t have very easy extradition laws. He continued to deny everything. He said he was clear in his own conscience about everything. The worldwide organization imploded. The sanghas blew up because, even after the independent report was published, there were those who accepted reality and others who refused to accept reality. And though the report included recommendations on how to fix things, nothing happened. None of the recommendations were implemented.

It was all a dog’s breakfast.

Truth & Lies Exposed – Watch the Full Documentary “Pet Food: A Dog's  Breakfast” - Dr. Basko - Holistic Veterinarian
Seriously, you can’t expect me to just eat this crap you’re serving, can you?

In all this mess of course, there were and are real victims, members of the organization, of the sangha, not being believed by their coreligionists, not being shown compassion. People in charge who are not stepping down, not acting with wisdom. There is real pain, real suffering, real rending apart. There probably would have been real charges brought, but in August of 2019, Rinpoche died of his cancer.

The organization was put under HH the Dalai Lama, but it’s all still a train wreck. Three years down the road. No one is clearing out and burning the widowmakers left up in the tree. No one is binding up the half-broken branches. The dead snags are still there, waiting to catch fire or spread infestations. One person went so far as to say the lineage should died out. And I understand why she might say that.

But to me it’s cutting down the living tree, to remove a dead crow. The Buddha isn’t dead. The Dharma isn’t dead. The Sangha isn’t dead. There was a criminally flawed teacher. But the root lineage, that goes back over 1,000 years, isn’t dead. Ok, sure it too might have widowmakers, dead teachings or forms or beliefs, that need to go. But what it needs is to be trimmed and shaped and guided into a healthy form that can grow to perfection for the West. It needs tree surgery.

Tree Trimming in New Berlin, WI | Dan's Tree Service, Inc.
The tree can recover, really.

Isn’t it more in line with the teachings of Buddhism to do the hard work of pruning back the branches, cleaning the branches, and saving the tree? Where’s the bodhisattva spirit? What about all those vows you made as a group to help the suffering? Shouldn’t the focus be on recognition of harm done, repentance and change so it can’t happen again, and reconciliation among the members and with the tradition?

I think new leadership, probably by a Western Nyingma woman is what they need to get up off the floor. Take a pruning knife to all the teachings that created the situation — ie a focus on unquestioning devotion to living flawed guru/lama/teachers. Build a new culture of transparency, so members feel free to reject bad leaders and have methods to call out and address bad behavior. And, news flash, friends: broken people look for help in religion. You have to continually screen for brokenness in teachers AND students, before a broken teacher ends up putting a broken person on a broken path that will destroy them both completely.

Also, I think people have to accept that there are cross-cultural widowmakers inherent in trying to keep Tibetan Buddhism, 100% Tibetan in culture, in the West. If you’re Tibetan, for sure, keep it Tibetan. But maybe it’s time to tease out what vajrayana Buddhism is apart from Tibetan. Just as Christianity had to strip back adapt itself as it moved West. To endure in the West, a religion needs to adapt to the West’s culture. Be stripped back to heart essences, teachings, practices. (Have a look at this video to understand why, from 25:25 to 29:30 https://www.pbs.org/video/us-vs-them-2t0c0s/)

Tibetan Buddhism becoming Western Vajrayana Buddhism shouldn’t be thought of as scary change. It’s normal change. I value the Rime movement, His Holiness and the scholarly Gelug, the Jamyang Khyentses and the wise, compassionate Sakya, the brilliant Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye and the Kaguy’s powerful skillful sadhanas, and yes, my lovely, lazy Nyingmapas, and the wonderful “tire-hits-the-road” teachings and practices I received through Rinpoche.

The teachings are good, the people teaching them aren’t always. One of the things the Rime lamas did was embrace old practices but go on to “discover” or write new ones, better fit for their times. They weren’t afraid of a diversity of views or making changes to traditional practices. Buddhists today can’t be either. This spirit, this tradition, is partly why I’m not afraid trying to re-create the White Tara now.

You can leave. The illusion in your mind is that you can’t.

One of the most interesting aspects of this slowly unfolding disaster happened 15 years back. Rinpoche fell into a coma for five days in 2005.  His physicians concluded with a virus was most likely the culprit. But they didn’t really know. He eventually left the hospital — with cognitive, visual, and speech difficulties.  People found his temper worse than ever.

Supposedly it took him months to recover.  But did he actually ever fully recover?  What if he had long-term mental and physical problems, including personality and behavioral changes, from a brain infection or stroke, or whatever?  Some people noticed an increasing spiral of violent, erratic, and aberrant behavior after the hospitalization that never diminished over time.

But no one said anything. If your friend, father, brother was going off the rails, and you noticed, you’d try to pull him back. Wouldn’t you? Shouldn’t you? As person of compassion? And that’s the difference between cult and family. If you loved someone, you’d get them help. If you fear someone, you’d say nothing. Sound familiar?

Another 12 years of this went on, because no one could get past an ancient idea that the authority of the guru was supreme, and devotion to the guru meant looking past obvious facts. He was unfit to lead. Any of this ringing a bell? If only someone had stopped him, for his own benefit, maybe no abuse would have happened. Maybe he’d have got help and recovered.

Nobody Rings a Bell – NorthmanTrader
If you hear the bell, your duty in love is to answer the call.

All this heavy backstory is why, when I began looking for a WT thangka and I stumbled across the WT that JK Chokyi Lodro treasured, and my old teacher was known to pass around, I paused and decided, “This one. And maybe I can re-create it.”

It’s why I tried and failed to get a free hi-res copy from my old sangha, even the organization’s store is dead at this point. It’s why I had to find a photo someone took back in 2012, when Rinpoche was still alive, the organization was still functioning, and everyone was – or pretending — everything was ok.

I keep the old WT as is, a reminder of all the past. Gritty, dirty, lovely, filled with hope and horror. Re-creating this WT isn’t about white-washing the past. It’s being done as an offering. In Buddhism (and Catholicism) there’s this idea you can collect merit for doing practices, sadhanas (chaplets, novenas, etc), or acts of benevolence, compassion, fasting, etc. And you can donate that “good” to others.

As I re-create the WT of my lamas, of the tradition that means much to me, and helped me so much, I mentally give the merit to all those in the sangha I left behind in hopes that they can heal, they can purge the dead attitudes and practices that got them so far from true dharma, and that they can all be “reborn” together.

Learn from the past, live in the present, work for a loving future.
This entry was posted on October 30, 2020.

In the Great Dream of Things

Artwork by Tibetan School, 18th Century, A THANGKA OF RATNASAMBHAVA
An 18th C Thangka that’s a great wild dream.

Okay, I know you’re dying to know did my Global Big Day, go? Well, I filled all my feeders, cleaned all my bird baths, got out my binos and settled in. I was expecting a great day, because it was the day was supposed to be hot (90F) and clear and that always makes for good early morning backyard birding. The previous day, I’d spotted a number of regulars — Nuttall’s woodpecker, oak titmouse, white faced nuthatch, even the ruby kinglet (whose arrival always signals fall has arrived).

Yes, I had a dream it would be wild. But 15 min, Harriet arrived. She’s the resident Cooper’s Hawk. Not your typical backyard bird but here, yep. She comes on hot days and sits in the birdbath to cool off. And too, grab a snack, typically an Asian collared dove. I don’t mind, but she stays in the bath for 30 min to an hour. Typical female. And today, post-ablutions, she hung out on the shady tree limb right above the bath.

Needless to say, my day of birding died there. Once Harriet ensconces herself in the bath, all the other birds stay away 24-48 hrs. However, I spent some time pulling out my cold press illustration board, brush pens, and gansai (that’s Japanese paint used in nihonga). (I figure I’d rough out my WT to try and make some basic color decisions.) And seeing when the Vuelta a Espana started. Froome is back in the saddle, so I want to see it.

By Kobayashi Kokei, d. 1957 – Scanned from a book, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25032868

In Significant Other news, his parents arrive from Europe. The EU has been having large Covid case upticks (but still miniscule compared to the US). His father’s ostensibly come to tour the business. His mother’s come along because she wanted to see her son. The SO has moved into the basement digs for a couple weeks so his parents have the whole house proper to quarantine in.

I love his folks, but, as expected, La Mere has rearranged everything in our kitchen cabinets and drawers. I’m ok with this because his folks will be there cooking, so why not? And, too, because the SO took pictures of all the insides of the drawers and cabinets in advance, knowing that this might happen. We can choose to put everything back just as was when they leave in 5 or 6 weeks, if we want.

I was okay too with him having my car detailed and tuned up, because it’s our only car and his parents will be sitting or driving in it while they’re in town. But, somewhere along the way, the SO decided my car needed painting. And, I agreed it did. The paint was chipping and peeling. I was onboard, in principle. And it was better to get it done before a wet winter. I agreed that was true.

17th c White Tara, within the rings on a Nyingma style lotus. Note Buddha above her has 2nd halo.

But my car was white. I have always driven white cars (nothing to do with Tara – I don’t think). White reflects the sun. In Southern California that’s a big advantage. I’m not sure why it wasn’t automatically repainted white. Or why we didn’t have a conversation about a color change before it was repainted if change was what he was thinking. I just got a selfie of him smiling, in front of my car, which was now “a dignified metallic charcoal grey.”

I kind of understand what happened. He drives it for business, it should look good. In Europe black is the most popular color car. In Canada it’s silver/grey. He split the difference. He wants to fit in, look Canadian, and too, he wants his European parents to think he’s doing okay. Fresh paint was all he could do with a car that is well maintained with a good interior but still 14 yrs old. And the interior is charcoal so… the new color works.

Yet, when I saw the pic, I felt a spark of outrage. However, it quickly fizzled. I realised I’d been living in a past life, a California life. I didn’t need a white car anymore. I hadn’t for a long while. It probably was time to make the car more Canadian. To move forward into the next life, the actual life I’m living. On the other hand, this seemed a past life regression for the SO.

2017 Porsche 991.2 Carrera Paint-to-sample British Racing Green/Black 293  miles | Sloan Motor Cars
He could have gone there, but he didn’t.

He likes green. I mean really likes it. But he didn’t paint the car any shade of green. It reminded me of when he used to get mistaken for a Canadian, till he’d open his mouth. Canadians didn’t mind at all, but he did. He got over it in time (and he worked on accent reduction) but maybe choosing charcoal is really a shade from his past? I’ll have to ask at Christmas.

More of interest to me, La Mere apparently opened the door to my studio in her exploratory tour of our house. She liked the positive energy of my studio and finds it a wonderful place for doing her daily Pilates on her Mirror. I don’t mind his mother being there, getting use out of it. Or Zooming me from my studio to talk, which is how I found out. But it’s personal space. There’s a lot of personal, private stuff there.

I had a momentary cinder burn bright, but then I remembered I’m in Covid country. I might not even live to get home. Why bother being upset? Go, be blessed, use the room, hang with the pets, hang from the rafters on aerial silks, if you like. Someone, somewhere in the world should be happy. If you can find happiness in my studio, and radiate to the world your happiness from there? It’s all good.

Beautiful aerial silks dancer - YouTube
Not my thing, but you do you, Le Mere, and we’ll up the house insurance policy.

Meanwhile, Le Pape being in the same time zone as my Da, well….cyber poker, cocktail hour calls, and other such shenanigans ensue. Because Der’s father is watching his health, he had a Peleton bike (along with Le Mere’s Mirror) delivered to our house before they arrived. I’m informed the monstrosity is in my tiny downstairs library/office room. Uh…. compassionate thoughts, compassionate thoughts.

Om. Ah…. Dang it.

Because my mother bought a used Peleton at a knock down price a couple years back to keep her sanity– seems to work, she’s sane — my parents have one at their house. I’m not sure how she likes my Da and Le Pape virtually cycling together every day. I think on the whole, it’s good for both fathers’ health, and probably both mothers’ sanity.

The SO suspects these wonders of modern fitness will be left behind for us as gifts. Um….ok. Not sure we can afford the ongoing subscriptions. But maybe it’ll work out, for working out, during the rest of the pandem-ick. However long that is. I’m willing to give it a go. We can always donate, re-gift, or sell them on later.

Renshaw's lead-out takes a hit with Vermeltfoort DNF | Cyclingnews
Thankfully, an unlikely occurrence on a Peleton in a class. But in a classic peleton? Oh yeah. You’ll get schooled.

Ok, I’m going to delve a bit into the White Tara thangka’s art history today. I’ll only talk about the stuff that helps us narrow down a date for today. We’ll talk about other art history stuff another time. But first off , I’m not an art historian. I’m certainly not a Tibetan thangka expert. The best art history site on Tibetan thangka is probably HimalayanArt.org. So, take what I say with a grain of tsampa barley.

I left off with an earliest date of about 1860-1850. But I can tell you from the image, it’s definitely no earlier than 1650. See the tiny pile of offerings below the lotus? Artists didn’t start making piles like that till 1650. This gives us a window of 1650 to 1850. Granted 200 years is a big window, but I think maybe we can actually close it down a little further.

If you saw the 19th c WT at the end of last week’s post, that’s Sakya. If you look at the 18th c WT image just below this paragraph, that’s Kagyu. What you’ll notice is that many Sakya and Kagyu images from the 18th and 19th centuries tend to have the moon disk fully behind and around the deity and no second smaller halo around the deity’s head.

18th C White Tara, within the rings. Note Buddha above her, does have a 2nd halo.

We also know that from the 19th century, artists began to give male and female images different head shapes. Our image of WT doesn’t have that kind of “female” head shape. So it probably isn’t 19th century. Could be, but…

Something else we know, is early Kagyu WT images also sometimes have WT sitting absolutely erect, like the male deities. Other traditions don’t really do this. There is actual sutra text that says, Tara sits upright, spine erect. She’s in the padma asana, the lotus pose. But many artists have Tara with a distinct hunch, bent right and down, with demure head tilt.

All this lends weight to the idea this WT is probably a late c 18th century or early 19th c thangka, and it’s was probably by or produced for someone with a Kagyu bent or familiarity. We know Jamyang Khyentse Wango, though head of a Sakya monastery was Rime, and a master of many traditions, including Kagyu master. To quote one biographer

For your reference purposes.

Whenever a student from the Kagyü School came to request teachings, he would put on the hat of Gampopa and teach Mahāmudrā from the preliminaries, such as the Four Dharmas of Gampopa, onwards, and people would feel as if no Kagyüpa meditator even came close to his level of realization. Many Kagyü masters actually wrote in their histories that they felt as if he was Milarepa in monks’ robes. Other Kagyü disciples saw him as Gampopa in person. 

The Life of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
by Orgyen Tobgyal Rinpoche

So we’ve got very solid connections from the Kagyu lineage to the first Jamyang Khyentse (1820-1892). Among which, there is also Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, (1813-1899), to consider. He was one of the four Regents of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, a disciple of and contemporary of Jamyang Khyentse and a fellow Rime collector connected to Dzongsar.

Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899) actually wrote a WT sadhana based on (and quotes in some places) an earlier, somewhat longer sadhana by the eighth Tai Situ Rinpoche (1700-1774), which mentions a few clues. The white utpala flower. In most WT pictures you will see a blue or a pink flower. Kagyu specify white. This WT thangka has a white uptala flower. This sadhana also states there are 5 color emanation rings, and we’ve got definite 5 color emanation rings.

Events — Lama Jampa Thaye
Chenrezig, aka Avalokiteshavara, WT is said to be born of a tear from his eye. Note that WT is basically Chenrezig with slightly different arms.

These are all small things, but they add up. What I see is an artwork with a Nyingma lotus, a Sakya moon with that ring of flowers and foliage, and a Kaguy WT within 5 color rings holding a white utpala. It’s the visual definition of Rime. My gut feeling is Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo had this created for himself, when he was younger, maybe 1835-ish. Though it is possible it’s earlier, and it’s possible someone had it and gave it to him.

I doubt the thangka is older than 1750 or newer than 1840. It very much has the patina of an 18th c thangka, but it did hit that rough patch in the 1960s which aged it I’m sure. Without being able to get this WT to an art conservation scientist to look at and sample in a lab, I doubt we’d be able to fix a better date. (Secret hope: someone gets her to an art conservation lab and figures it all out.)

We’ll never be able to name the artist. There are known artists, but this WT doesn’t fit any of their styles that I can see. There are three main schools of thangka painting, but I’m not sure this WT fits any of them well enough to be classed in a specific school. Obviously it’s a Sakya treasure. But a Rime Sakya treasure. My Nyingma lama gave away thousands of copies. Talk about muddied waters….but the lotus born don’t mind that.

Great vid by the Smithsonian.

Down the road, I’ll try tell you more about this artist (him/her) by looking at the artistic choices that individual made. Although it may not even have been an individual. Just as in the West, where Da Vinci had a studio and many people worked in it completing his designs and compassion, so too in the East. Thankgas workshops still exist today. A master artists does the fine details, student trainee painters do the bulk. In some cases, a thangka is jet printed with acrylic paint and an artist adds only final touches!

It’s important to remember however, that even religious thangka (those specifically created for religious purposes) are created things, that images have power, for the people who created them as well as those who look on them. They have religious meaning to the professional artist. We might come to associate a great art work with a great lama, but I always think about the devout person that did the art. The unsung hero/heroine/sangha of artists.

Everything starts as a dream. As someone’s dream. This Rime White Tara started as someone’s dream. But who was the dreamer? What was the dream? We may never know, short of enlightenment.

This entry was posted on October 23, 2020.

The Fly in the Orpiment

Flaming June includes a toxic oleander branch, which can symbolise the link between sleep and death (Credit: Museo de Arte de Ponce. The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.)
Vapidly beautiful soft porn, utterly forgettable. Heavy on the orpiment.

I look for beauty in things, all things. Sunday, there was a beautiful bike race, the Paris-Tours. Not as exciting a finish as Liege-Bastogne-Liege (with its “counting chickens” ending), but great scenery. Wednesday, a beautiful, free, flame orange mask arrived for Gran. US Rx drug plans need their customers alive and not using said plans to achieve that profitable status. Thus, business has to step in where the US government balks.

This week also I’ve been enjoying a nightly walk admiring the planet Mars in opposition. It too is a lovely flaming orpiment. Tomorrow, I’ll be busy birding for science, the 2020 October Big Day, to try to help ensure avian survival against an ignorant government that see them as worthless and expendable. That would be the US government. Hoping to see some flame-breasted robins.

American Redstart | Audubon Field Guide
Glorious! But not in my neck of the woods.

Maybe looking for beauty in things in today’s world, now, seems nuts to you. Maybe. Maybe I am slightly mad. It’s kind of a well known fact that artists are crazy. This comes historically, in the west, from dealing with substances no one knew were toxic over a course of time. For instance, lead white paint, or copper sulfide green paint, or beautiful gold, arsenic laced orpiment paint. All popular colors, all deadly if mishandled.

I keep a few such paints in my studio. Thanks to modern science, we know how to work with these materials safely. I can benefit from their dangerous beauty without suffering madness, or inflicting madness on those around me. It gives me hope someday science will find a cure for all the other kinds of madness out there and only the beauty will remain.

The Real Story Behind the 'Migrant Mother' Great Depression-Era Photo -  HISTORY
Florence Owens Thompson, extraordinarily memorable, fully clothed, and centuries from now her genuine beauty will not be forgotten.

I said sometime I’d tell you why the beautiful old White Tara I’m recreating ended up looking so rough she needed conservation and why the image was so important lamas felt it should be conserved. Today’s that day. Lash yourself to a mast, Argonauts – one of whom was a remarkable woman, historical sirens and possible Tibetan name overload madness lie ahead.

Here is the start point we know to be true: the White Tara wish-fulfilling wheel thangka once hung in a silk brocade frame at a famous monastery in Tibet called Dzongsar Gonpa (gonpa means monastery). But who created her? Where did she come from? When did she arrive? Why is she there?Those origin story questions are a bit sticky.

Because we have a bit of a “where,” I’ll start there. Dzongsar Gonpa was founded in 746 AD by a Bönpo Lama (Bon is the traditional Tibetan religion, it’s shamanism). There was just a very small temple on this site, but it was considered a holy place so as Buddhism grew in Tibet, it moved into existing holy places. It didn’t destroy what was before, the way Christianity destroyed ancient Roman or Gaulish or Celtic traditional religions (aka paganism). It co-existed.

Dzongsar Monastery - Rigpa Wiki
Dzongsar Gonpa

The original Bönpo gonpa was later transformed into a Nyingma and a Kadampa temple at some stage. In 1275 it was founded as a Sakya monastery by Drogön Chögyal Phagpa on his return from China. Pausing here to state the obvious, Tibet-China relations were quite good for well over six centuries at this point if you consider WT, as Princess Wencheng Li, lived 628 to 680s CE.

It fair to say that Dzongsar was a unique place from the get-go, a point of confluence for many different ideas. You’ve got Bonpo, Nyingma, Kadam and Sakya traditions building on and successfully sharing a site. Imagine if Jerusalem were a peaceful place where Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the pagan Canaanite traditions were all intersecting and interacting in a positive, mutually supportive, way.

Before 1958, Dzongsar had between 300 and 500 permanent resident monks, but it often had a lot of other people camped around the monastery. The monastery had 23 different temples, at the time, and many important sacred rooms, hermitages, and retreat centers. People would visit the temples and talk/listen to the lamas. Rich, poor, educated, ignorant, lamas, laypersons, students, all sorts of people. They stayed in tents.

My tracing so far. It needs work. I shoulda used 0.3 lead, not 0.7.

Although Dzongsar was a Sakya monastery, it contained a unique collection of Rimé (ecumenical Buddhist) scriptures and teachings, gathered by the proponents of the Rime movement, Jamgon Kongtrul, Chogyur Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Because of this, Dzongsar was known to be flexible in its teachings and it was possible to study any of the eight lineages (see, Major Lineages section) of Buddhism. Anything you want, they had it.

The Rime movement began in the 19th century (and still continues to this day) with Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé (who was Kagyu). Having seen how the Gelug branch of Buddhism had pushed the other Buddhist traditions into the back corners of Tibetan cultural life, they began to compile together all the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma, including many near-extinct teaching, to try and save them.

Because you never know what you’ll need in the future, and each person is unique and connects with a different teaching. Having a storehouse full of rich diverse treasures? Total plus!  

The only image we have of Khyentse Wangpo. He was never photographed.

Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (Kunga Tenpé Gyaltsen Pal Zangpo) (1820-1892), lived at Dzongsar. His residence there was known as “The Garden of Immortality.” So it’s fitting that this image of WT, who’s focus is granting a long life, though not immortality, should have taken up residence there in his empowerment (teaching) room. We don’t know when or how she arrived at his home in Dzongsar.

Khyentse Wangpo travelled all over Tibet in his youth. This WT thangka may have been given to him during his travels as part of receiving an empowerment or teaching from another lama of another tradition who wanted him to pass his lineage’s knowledge into Dzongsar’s vast Rime collection. The exact same style of lotus WT sits on in this image, shows up in Nyingma thangkas from the 17th century well into the 19th century.

We do know in 1855, Khyentse Wangpo wrote a WT sadhana (practice), which means he was already so well versed in the practice he was writing forms of it himself by 1855. So I think it would be safe to assume he had a WT thangka as a practice support (a picture to look at to help you with your mediation visualizations) long before 1855.

It is said in his biography that Khyentse Wangpo never left his residence (also called: the Joyful Grove of Immortal Accomplishment) at Dzongsar from the ages of 40 to 73. That would be 1860 to 1892. And we know WT was there with him. This makes the WT at least around 160 years old. Possibly much older. I’d say probably much older.

Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö - Wikipedia
Jamyang Khyentse, Chökyi Lodrö, (c. 1893 – 1959). Buddhist vitarka mudra, not right wing symbol.

We know Khyentse Wangpo reported having many visions of White Tārā, during which the wisdom deity actually dissolved into this particular image. From time to time, she would also deliver prophecies, grant teachings and advice, bestow empowerments by sending out miraculous rays of light, and inspire countless pure visions. Heady stuff in vajrayana Buddhist circles.

There is also mention in the secret biography of the second Jamyang Khyentse, Chökyi Lodrö, (c. 1893 – 1959, who eventually took over at Dzongsar, which is why he’s the 2nd JK) of how this image of White Tārā granted him empowerments, delivered prophecies and bestowed the blessings of longevity, which he really needed because he led a challenging life. He got very sick, but recovered after heeding wise advice, ie, letting go of his monastic vows and getting married. He did a 180.

It was also said that other devoted students were able to receive advice from this WT directly. So she didn’t just talk to high lamas. Lowly students were hearing from her too. It’s pretty impressive and needless to say, because this image, has many well-known stories attached, and is tied to much supernatural phenomena, it’s considered immensely sacred and powerful. If you were going to go to conserve a thangka, you’d definitely conserve one with a history like this.

The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room | Rubin Museum of Art
The kind of thing you might see inside a temple. A lot of beautiful work by great artists and artisans.

Coming back to Dzongsar, in 1958 all 23 temples were destroyed. If you’re unfamiliar with the history of Tibet from 1950 to the present, you might want to pause here and read up. The 1950s were turbulent times for Tibet. Even though the temples took a hit, the gonpa and its Rime collection and printing of rare works all survived. So, the church got burned, to try to kill off the religion, but the monks and books survived.

About a decade later, in 1967, as the monastery itself was on the brink of destruction by the communist Chinese, we know a devoted and quick-witted disciple tore the image of WT from it’s silk frame, concealed it carefully in a cloth, and placed it in a secure location. We don’t know his name or where he put it, but rolling up a 100+ year old image, and hiding it somewhere (damp from the look of the un-conserved image), is all that saved it. So thanks to you, unknown monk!

I want to pause here a moment. I’m not pro-Tibet and anti-China. I’m pro Tibet and pro China. I think they should be separate countries that trade and work together, as they were historically for over 1000 years, because I think that’s better for both countries, but that’s just my opinion. I have friends of both ethnicities. They may not like each other, or pretend not to, but I like them both.

Here’s a modern monastery. It’s Sakya. It’s also in Seattle, WA.

Also, I kind of get that communism is hostile to organized religion in general, but not because of what true religion teaches. They’re upset because organized religion often ends up creating powerful political elites (the lamas and their extended families) who become large wealthy landowners (via the monasteries) and the poor get a pat on the head and told to pray. Sound familiar?

You could apply what happened in Tibet to Roundheads and Cavaliers in 17th c England. Revolutionaries and the Church in 18th c France. Etc, etc, etc. Anywhere you have people in poverty and the powerful co-opting religion for personal gain. It’s why the Founders wanted people to be free to have personal religion (or none at all) but never have a state imposed a religion. They’d seen nations go down this road and knew it ended badly, both for individuals and the state.

Anyway, I digress. Back to 1967 and Dzongsar…. the library collection once again survived, even though the monastery got ruined. Without that library, the suppression of Buddhism by the early Communists, would have been much more of a nail in the coffin. That we have so much teaching preserved from so many schools of thought is down to the Rime movement and the lamas who’d spent the previous century gathering them up.

SLU to Attend Diversity, Civility and the Liberal Arts Institute | St.  Lawrence University
Note to self: It doesn’t pay to have just one view. It pays to have a diversity of views, working in unity for a common good. Sound familiar?

What started as as reaction to one sect trying to push out all the others, ended up saving all sects from one political view point trying to push out all other political views out. Eventually the communists realised religion is a choice and it has a role to play in making people’s lives better not by controlling them but uplifting and empowering them. Those Rime seeds of knowledge, then regrew a magnificent diverse forest Buddhist practice, not just in Tibet but around the entire world. Yipee!

Decades later, when the current incarnation of the “wish-fulfilling jewel,” Dzongsar Khyentse Thubten Chökyi Gyatso (the 3rd in the line, after JK Wangpo, and JK Chokyi Lodro) was a teenager, he travelled to the reconstructed Dzongsar monastery. He was born in 1961, so maybe in the late 1970s? At this time China was opening to the west and part of that rebuilding things was lightening up a bit on diversity and religion. By 1983, they were rebuilding the monastery.

Dzongsar Khyentse’s appearance at the monastery led to this cherished WT image being taken out of hiding and offered to him. After this auspicious event, it was brought to India. And Dzongsar Khyentse currently has the image at his home in Bir (Northern India) in his shrine room. Of course, many of Dzongsar Khyentse’s things, like the WT, were first in the care of previous two Khyentse lamas. And not every lama has the same relationship with the same items.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche - The Middle Way School
I’m sure WT will speak to you, Dzongsar Khyentse, if you need speaking to.

When it was mentioned to Dzongsar Khyentse: “She [this image of WT] is said to have spoken to Khyentse Wangpo.” Dzongsar Khyentse remarked, somewhat indignantly, “Well, she’s never spoken to me!” But my take on that is: when you have a difficult life calling, you can only accomplish that with extra helpings of divine assistance.

The early Rime movement lamas had a herculean task to do – saving all of Tibetan Buddhism from destruction. No surprise to me that WT stepped in to help them. By comparison, Dzongsar Khyentse’s life calling, so far, has been something he has the gifts and tools he’s need to knock out of the park, without the extraordinary aide of a heavy hitter like WT.

But that’s just my opinion. When I hear Gran say “God help me,” because she is trying to walk 30′, I know God is there, and he cares, and he’s helping. But I’d only expect him to appear in a pillar of flame before me if he needed me doing something involving a genuine crisis, present or future. Read your Bible. Moses wasn’t looking to return to Egypt, ever. Mary wasn’t looking to be an unwed mother. And no one wanted the prophet Jeremiah’s job.

Prophet Jeremiah Painting by Rembrandt van Rijn at FramedArt.com
Great, here we are again. In a cave, hiding. I think I’ll have another cry.

So anyway, that’s a brief modern history of this image of White Tara. I know I haven’t answered a lot of the sticky questions. Like what about before 1860? Well, more flies in the orpiment. It’s hard to say. In the next post, I’ll try to push back into her more ancient history by studying the image from an art history point of view. But this post is already a bit long.

I’ll stop today with this thought:

This White Tara wish-fulfilling wheel owned by Khyentse Wangpo is a unique work of art with a unique history. She’s extraordinarily memorable, and though she’s seen tough times, her genuine beauty will stick with you for a lifetime (maybe several?). She’s definitely worthy of deep pondering and meditation. But not so much so that it drives you mad.

This WT is Sakya, from the 19th c. himalayanart.org. Note the flower and foliage ring around her and lack of halo. Similar, no?
This entry was posted on October 16, 2020.

The Wheel of Torsion

Torture Wheel High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy
Exercising your right to vote shouldn’t feel like this.

I’m one of many ex-pats, but ex-pats don’t vote very much. I wish they did. There’s millions out there who could. I’ve no idea if campaigns are reaching out to them. But I’m doing my part. Not by watching the debates, or cable “news” shows. I’m doing the weighty work of slogging through legalize.

I spent all my free time this week reading the 100+ page voter guide on California’s 12 different ballot propositions. It’s work that is tortuous, but needful if you want to make an informed decision and keep your democracy thriving. I also listened to Augustin Dumay while doing so to make it easier.

I have to review my sample ballot next, but that’s a simple affair. Not many races, all clear cut choices. The most hotly contested race here? It’s for school board. Yes, really. The only truly interesting on the sample ballot is the in-person voter locations. Since the whole state is VBM, there are limited in-person locations. Our county has 47, the majority in public-owned spaces.

File:The Nonpartisan Leader cover 1918-01-14.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Yep, this was 1918, during a pandemic. Fox “News” (Entertainment) cozying up to republicans, is nothing new. Neither is a plutocratic party trying to manipulate the working classes for its own benefit.

Some of those spaces are unique private spaces though 2 hotels, 3 American Legion/Moose lodges, 2 theaters (not cinemas), 1 art museum, 1 golf club. Seven are in churches (no mosques or temples) that have large halls. Then there’s the one at the Army National Guard Armory, uh…. ok, I can see that. But then, there’s…. wait for iiiiiiiiiiiit….. The Reagan Presidential library?

Not putting too fine a point on this but, law forbids electioneering within 100 ft of a polling place. You can’t go into a polling station if you have a partisan button, shirt, cap, etc on. I’ve been a poll worker. I’ve had to escort people out beyond the 100′ mark and ask them to remove their buttons before coming into the polling area.

A polling place at a presidential library is partisan. Having a literal, dead body on site included, makes this a partisan shrine. It’s big-time electioneering. I find this plan a level of nuts right up there with the only roundabout in town. It used to be a straight road, then they made it a flat roundabout — so the large fire trucks have to drive dead through the center of it to go into town. There are single family homes off to the one entrance. The opposite side was open fields. Was.

Going the rounds: New traffic circle gets mixed reviews | Thousand Oaks  Acorn
Yeah, this a bad traffic circle.

The geniuses in city planning decided to permit a large, large senior complex on the field. Not only are older drivers not trained to grasp the usage of the roundabout — which is “planned” as their only entry/exit — even the construction workers are having problems The roundabout is already covered in orange “Traffic conditions changed” signs. And those orange signs? They have orange flags attached to them as well! I dread the complex opening and next year’s senior citizen v. roundabout fatality count.

And speaking of roundabout…this week in “election propaganda” mailer history…we received two mailers from “the November 3rd Project”, one cloaked in Faith and Freedom guise, for white evangelical Christians, and one cloaked in Catholic Vote guise, for Catholics. This is a coordinated RNC influence campaign dressed in sheep’s clothing designed to spread disinformation and manipulating Christian voters. It’s pretty awful.

Example? Q 1 on the WEC version? The Dem-controlled US House of Reps recently voted to allow illegal aliens to vote in US elections (lie, Facebook misinformation). What’s your reaction to this Dem position(lie, not a Dem position)? The scale of responses for WECs is not totally disagree at all to totally agree. It’s : Evil/Insane/Alarming, I agree with Democrats/the Left, I oppose, or No Opinion.

Washington Post online now available to Stanford | Stanford Libraries
Real news, real information. Accept no substitute.

For Catholics, questions are no less rabid. Scale of their available responses? Outrage, Dismay/frightening, disappointment/concern, I support the Left, or Not sure/no opinion. None of this is legitimate survey work. It’s misinformation designed to influence voters. I think this sort of things should be banned. 501(c)(4) groups should be 100% banned from engaging in politics.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10. This is a verse about leadership. If you’re leader steals, lie, kills and destroys….they’re a false leader. You shouldn’t vote for that person. Pretty straight forward for Christians. I’ll go you one better.

Matthew 4: Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Sandro Botticelli, The Temptation of Christ (detail 5).jpg
Would you do it?

If you have someone asking you to fly in the face of common sense, God-revealed science (you know, like gravity to prove you’re God, or, not wear a mask or social distance, to prove they’re God over you) then that someone is not of God. He’s asking you to tempt God. And that ends badly….with you destroyed from the face of the land (Deut 6).

Jesus didn’t take the bait. If you’re a follower of Jesus, learn from his example. Vote so that your days may be long upon the earth.

Okay, moving on to the wish-fullfiling wheel….. When I started my White Tara project, I was fortunate to find a great photo of the image, post conservation, taken by a person who had been to see the original in situ in 2012.

This is the post-conservation version.

I cleaned it up a little digitally to see if the idea of re-creating it was really worth doing. When I saw what the image could be, I got excited.

Here’s my digital clean up.

Before I went further, I stopped to do research on thankga paintings and thankga painting. There are lots of great English sites out there, which was surprising to me given less than 1% of the US espouses any form of Buddhism. I read an old book on thangka painting that was helpful to me, but it’s probably way more than you want to know. I read a lot of articles online and watched a lot of videos.

I wasn’t if I should attempt a recreation, from a “respect the tradition” aspect. But I realised I was doing it with good intention from a place of respect. And too I thought I could make a reasonable job of it. A real thangka artist would do better, but…I’m all she’s got right now.

This video below is a good overview of the modern tradition. You might struggle a bit with understanding this master painter, but I think you’ll get the gist. I like this guy’s style, he does beautiful line work, which you can see even in the still below. Also, if you want to know what it’s like to listen to the Dalai Lama give a lecture, it’s a lot like this.

There are some subtitles, but he is speaking English.

I had Office Depot put the digital WT image I had on a 18 x 24 poster paper. It did pixelate a tiny bit, but it still looks great on the wall and it was definitely good enough from which to do a re-creation. I did a rough sketch on paper from that, and then made a study of every part of the image, to understand what was there. If you saw that study mock up, it’s covered in scribbled notes and lots of arrows.

In my experience, people look, but they don’t see. They listen, but they don’t hear. There are long time practitioners with thangkas that have no idea what’s right in front of them. They can’t name the things in the picture or tell you why they are there or what they mean. And, that’s okay. I started like that. But I didn’t stay like that.

It’s okay to be a child, when you’re a child. You can have someone teach you from a book when a child, but you should read the book and think things through yourself as an adult. To be an adult though is to make independent decisions, based on your knowledge and experience, and take responsibility for the outcomes of your decisions.

Tara on my light box, with tracing overlay. Hint: you need the room to be dark for the light box to work!

Eventually, I threw a piece of tracing paper over the poster and made what seemed a quite good tracing. I’m still gathering information about the image as well, it’s an ongoing process. But I started. After the rough tracing was finished, I knew I had get the poster and tracing on my light table to see all the stuff I’d missed.

The SO sent down my good light. My Amico architect’s light. Via UPS. It’s easy to take that light, flip it upside down under the plexi and light up the art. It has 4 temperatures of light, from daylight cool to incandescent warm. Within each of those colors, there are 4 power settings, 100%, 75%, 50%, and 25%.

Being able to shift the light temp and strength quickly and easily, let’s me see the most detail possible. I wasn’t really surprised when masses of detail I never saw before suddenly appeared. Still, it’s always awesome when you discover these things because it tells you so much about the artist. And as these old works are typically by artists unknown, it’s a way of meeting them “personally” through the quirky details you discover.

Homemade lightbox!

My light table here is homemade and basic. It’s 4 6×4 wood blocks, topped by a wood frame for a canvas painting (sans canvas), and a sheet of clear plexiglas. I have to sit on the floor to use it, but I sit on the floor a lot. As a kid I had a really small room, to make the most of it, I slept on a Japanese futon and worked on a kotatsu.

Kotatsu Hot Tables – Too Hot to Handle
ahhh, kotatsu time.

At this point I want to refine my tracing. It’s not what traditional artists would do. They use iconometry and a more basic outline form. They fill in various details as they go along. Because I’m copying a known work, I have to get the details right…. I’ll probably post my tracing at some point, in case anyone feels like a meditative break / coloring project.

I haven’t really decided what I’ll do next. I could use Saral paper to transfer the drawing onto watercolor paper and do a mock up, to figure out what colors I need to use on the final work. Or, I could take picture of the drawing and have Office Depot print it onto canvas and just go for it. So, while I waffle over some waffles this morning, I’m going to tell you a little about the history of White Tara, who is associated with a quite real person.

Kind of like Catholics have saints with backstories, ditto some Tibetan yidams (meditational deities). Yidams aren’t real people, like Catholic saints. In Tibetan Buddhism, though, real people are sometimes thought to be expressions of a yidam. A manifestation of that energy in human form. It can get confusing. Just remember, there are real saints, who were real people, who appear in thangkas, like Padmasambhava, and then there are yidams, who aren’t real, like White Tara, but early on real people became associated with them.

Sketching - The power of Tibetan paintings – Mandalas Life
Iconometry, not just a pretty face but a very precise art form. This is Bhrikuti Devi, aka Green Tara.

Once upon a time there was a real man named Songtsen Gampo, 33rd king of Tibet (c. 605 CE). The king had two real wives. Bhrikuti Devi, a Nepali princess and Wencheng Li, a Chinese princess. Politically a good move since they were his neighbor countries. All three of them believed in Buddhism, so they worked together to establish Buddhism in what was primarily a culture that practiced shamanism (called Bon).

Bhrikuti became thought of as an embodiment of Green Tara. Wencheng was thought an embodiment of White Tara. Both wives worked together to in harmony. Co-equals. Yet, if you ask around today, though Tara comes in many iterations –much like the Virgin Mary — Green Tara is the universal favorite among the people. Green Tara is who people call on for practically anything.

White Tara is considered a specialized go to. White Tara is who you’d call if you wanted a long life (as well as more wisdom and compassion). WT naturally therefore gets more attention among lamas and serious Buddhist students. They want to have a long life to study/teach the dharma and become a better people, have better karma, aspire to become bodhisattvas.

Green Tara
Finished Green Tara. Lots of powerful women practitioners in Buddhism. And highly respected too, like Samding Dorje Phagmo.

I didn’t know White Tara had a specialty when I bought my first, one and only, thangka and it was of WT. It was just a weird coincidence that I didn’t want to die, wanted a longer life, and I felt drawn to WT. It was just a weird coincidence that WT meditation was exactly the thing a lama would have told me to do — had I asked.

I think another reason WT gets less play among people today is, in addition to being seen as having a narrower field of interest, after China invaded Tibet, many Tibetans fled to Nepal. So, Green Tara, the Nepalese princess, being the favorite iteration these days? No surprise there. It might just be more of a political solidarity thing.

I once heard of a lama telling an Buddhist practitioner artist, a European Western white girl, that she should make White Tara look like herself. He saw it as making Tara more accessible to Western practitioners, I guess. To me, that was striping a real person inextricably bound to WT of her Chinese ethnicity, a key facet of her identity. It seemed racist and dehumanizing to me. I would never do it.

Colorful, no?

If you buy a WT thangka today, it’ll look like a lot like the one above. This is a very modern style. I like it a lot of things about this style. My original WT thangka, which I lost about a decade ago, was in this style. I love the over the top color. I love lots of things about it. I thought about buying another one like this past June, but then… I did a 180 to the past.

In my thinking of buying a new thangka, I looked at a lot of thangkas. Eventually I came upon this picture of the WT thangka. It’s nothing like the new WT thangka I had. But, for a lot of reasons, it struck a chord. After I thought about it a while, I realised, much as I liked my garish lost WT thangka, it was probably lost for a reason. I needed to move on.

The old one is very different, but the more I looked at it and studied it, the more beautiful and special I saw it was. And the more I wanted to use this one as a mediational support, and attempt to recreate it in its former glory. I didn’t want the WT of my childhood back. I wasn’t a child anymore. I wanted to go forward, into deeper, wider understanding. And this ancient WT had appeared to help.

experiment gone wrong jumping
How high is too high? I think she now knows.

Admittedly it is all an experiment. I might fail in my re-creation, but I’ve already learned a lot. I think I have a lot more to learn by going through the process of trying and failing and trying again. No one is born an Old Master. You get old, trying to master something.

Sometimes you don’t live to achieve mastery, but that’s ok too. You can pass on your torch of knowledge and someone else uses it to light their way to mastery. Still a big win.

It’s a bit like how our Founders’ set up our democracy knowing it was imperfect. They lit up that torch of liberty, trusting it would help all future generations to find good paths forward even though they knew those future generation would have to deal with those parts of the flaws of their legacy. They dared to make a start, in faith.

Fire Torch Burning at Night Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 7696999  | Shutterstock
You use a torch to see your way. When someone uses a torch for torching things instead, you end up in the dark. Be careful to whom you give a torch.
This entry was posted on October 9, 2020.

The Calm before the Form

My head is too full of ideas for a book. Must  lay it down and zzzzzzzzz
Just give me 15 mins of downtime and I’ll be good to go. Or not.

I have “downtime” project, it’s where I close the door on the world and just focus on something I care about it. If you don’t have a project like that, I suggest you get one. It’s going to be a turbulent couple months, and frankly 12 months. You want to come out alive and better or at least alive and sane on the other side.

I think about the 1920s, post the last pandemic, a lot. Mostly because that’s when a lot of housing developments happened here in Gran’s county. You can see lots of small homes, 750sq feet, on small lots, in the county seat from that period. I never understood why anyone would want such a postage stamp home on a postage stamp lot, till now. People wanted their own safe space to isolate in. However tiny.

I also never understood the “big eye” craze in make up then. I thought at first it was the Tut tomb discovery. Or the short hair bob. But now I realise, it was a legacy of masks. When only eyes were visible and long hair caught in mask strings. And too, I now understand why badminton, tennis, croquet, riding, hunting, fishing hiking, sailing, canoeing, and golf were so popular then too. All sports you could do outdoors, alone or socially distant.

Stunning Photo Of Zelda Fitzgerald the First American image 0
Hell yeah, I’m gone live full throttle now, baby. Zelda Fitzgerald. Etsy.com

I also understand now why people were so rampantly party going. And there was so much drinking and dancing and sex. Post-lockdown steam letting off. And I understand why there was such an uptick in travelling the country by auto and seeing national parks then. Outdoors, socially distant hangover. We see it now, people buying RVs.

I understand too how the government came to hand it’s role as protector of it’s people to capitalists, to gin up the economy, but ended up turning it over to people who would instead destroy it for personal gain. We see the head of this right now. Deregulation and anti-labor rulings in the name of “helping” the economy.

Leave It to Psmith | IndieBound.org
The quintessential post-pandemic book now makes much more sense to me.

But that’s all in the future. Right now? I’m working on my pandemic project. I decided to re-create a very old Tibetan Buddhist thangka. A thangka is a religious, devotional painting typically used as a meditation aid.

Like most religious paraphernalia, including Catholic paraphernalia, what it means it depends on the person looking at it. Some people with limited knowledge (or “Dog’s Tooth” faith) would treat it like a god and pray to it. Nothing wrong with that. But to the versed practitioner, that’s not what they’re doing with it. And to an artist, it’s a thing of beauty.

There’s a lot of crossover between Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism. In a way they’re yin and yang (sorry, a Daoism mention seemed appropriate here). Christians see life from God as primarily happiness with temporary periods of suffering, with a concrete reality and definite ending. Buddhists see the world as primarily suffering with temporary periods of happiness, an unending cycle of illusion (delusion?).

This is a typical thangka, from dharmashop.com

Most people think of mandalas when they think of Tibetan Buddhism, aka vajrayana Buddhism (the way you might call people Protestants, Catholics, or Orthodox to distinguish them from other types of Christians.) Mandalas are typically round and appear in a square. Thangkas are typically rectangular.

You may have seen some monks make a sand mandala and then brush it away, destroy it. That’s a typical type of offering. As well as a teaching on impermanence. But there are mandala thangka paintings as well, used for meditational practices. They tend to be quite elaborate. This is a kalachakra mandala.

Kalachakra teachings are about space and time, think physics. dharmashop.com

I’m not sure how long my project will take. I think if it were professionally done, it’d take a professional 2 months of 8-10 hr days. You can read about a professional thangka painter here. Because I’m doing it, and I don’t have days to devote to it, or the typical 6 years of training! to be professional thangka painter, I’ve really no idea how long this will take. I may have to leave it with Gran and coming back to it on my third tour of duty.

I’ll start with your first noble question: What is it you’re trying to re-create?

White Tara, the Wish-Fulfilling Wheel. Prior to conservation. Yipes!

This is it above. This is why it’s a project. You can’t really restore a thangka. I mean you can, you could, but a major component idea of Buddhism is impermanence. So when a things fades away, it fades away. And there’s a lesson in that. It’s different than other religious art in that respect.

But sometimes lamas will consider an image so important, they do conserve it. This image is in that category. It’s super important, and I’ll tell you why another time. And it had a rough life, and I’ll tell you about that another time. But for now, yes, this image is very important and so it was conserved (see below). And that’s a great help to me!

White Tara – Oiling a Rusty Mind
Great job!

You can reproduce a thangka, by any means. That’s okay too. Lamas do this with photographs all the times these days. This image/thangka was photographed and reproduced voluminously a while ago. But now, well, because of a giant bust up, you can’t get a copy. I know I tried. The bust up is another story I’ll tell you another time.

There’s an idea that the image itself has merit. By that I mean that this image has been hanging around in the halls of great monasteries and teaching assembly rooms of high lamas a long time. It’s “lived,” it’s “experienced,” it’s “been there”, it’s “heard”, “seen”, “absorbed”. Which sounds weird to some people but…..

If you know your Bible, you know it’s full of stories of objects imbued with power because of who owned them. And that power can be transferred to others, and do them good. The Old Testament story of laying a dead body on a prophet’s tomb and having the dead person wake up. The New Testament handkerchief healing story. Christianity is shot through with this sort of thing.

Scientists are trying to uncover what makes Stradivarius violins special –  but are they wasting their time?
You can try to copy it, but it will never sound the same.

If you’re not a person of faith, that’s ok. Think of it like a Stradivarius. It was born in a certain time. It’s been played by many masters. It’s lived through good times and bad. It’s experienced the great halls, the great pieces of music. When you pick up a Strad, you pick up all that’s been before even as you experience it for yourself when you play it. It’s a bit like that.

Anyway, in the case of this thangka. The reproductions of it are good, but they’re of a beautiful thing that’s been obscured by the crud of time and events. (And that too would be a lesson, if you were a Buddhist). I value the poster image version I have of the original. But the artist in me? Yearns for more.

I can’t see the fullness of the original artist’s original intent. I can’t see it the way he or she saw it when it was first created. And so I know I’m missing out on something wonderful. (FOMO – so unBuddhist) There are hidden secrets in the painting. That’s how I feel. So I want to roll back time and see the original artwork, and the secrets.

I want to clean the mirror off (Buddhist metaphor alert). And the only way to do that at this point, is if I re-create it myself. And .doing that becomes a mediation in itself. And recreating it might generate some good “karma” that I can dedicated to some people that really need it, and I’ll tell you that story sometime too.

Little Buddha Jizo Sculpture Cinza | Etsy
Jizo, not Jesus.

All this, I’m sure leads to your second noble question: But you’re a Christian, right? Yes, I am.

And your third noble question: So, isn’t this, recreating an “idol”…spiritually awkward? No, it’s not.

And your fourth noble question: And why is that? I’ll explain.

Up until I was 16, life was good. I was good student, I was on my way to getting into UC Davis and becoming a veterinarian. I wanted to work for US Dept of Fish and Wildlife, a wildlife center, or maybe a zoo. But I then I became sick. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong, or how to fix me. I started to lose time at school.

When I did get to school, my friends were living typical teenage lives, while I was using every ounce of strength just to keep my grades up. One night I had a dream. In the dream, I was in a large car driving down a wide road, but as I went, the vehicle got smaller and the road narrower, till at last I was on a tiny narrow bike and sliver of road. And I stopped, because I could see I was going to run out of road.

After a moment, I did a 180 and started back up the road. The road got wider and the vehicle I was in got bigger. I woke up and pondered the dream. I took that as a sign from my subconscious. If I didn’t turn back on road I was on, I’d run out of road. I’d die. But how did I do a 180 in my life?

The 180 | Being a Beautiful Mess
Easier than you think.

At this point, I was 17 and a junior. I had plenty of good relations with and respect from my teachers and the school. They knew I was a serious student. I went to my school counselor and I explained the situation. Thankfully, she understood. She said I needed a plan. So we made a plan.

Because I’d missed so many days of school, I could get a medical leave. I could take the GED, leave school, and move down south with my Gran, if she’d have me. We called her, she said she would. I’d get a part-time job, thanks McDonald’s!, study for the SATs on my own, which I’d take the next year, then go to a community college.

She called my parents in for an “emergency” meeting. They were surprised, but to their credit, open to the idea and actually kind of relieved. They didn’t know how to make me well either. If this worked, great. So, I did a 180. I changed everything, hoping it’s be enough to get well. Sounds silly, but it was my only option. So I pulled a ripcord.

The Incredible Moving Forest | JSTOR Daily
In the journey of life, it’s not always clear where the path lies.

I got better, but I didn’t get well. It was disappointing. I had changed everything. New clothes, new friends, new hair, new diet, new place, new hobbies, new everything. I thought. Then one Sunday, sitting in church, I said to my Gran, “I think I need to leave the Church.” Because it was the last old thing I could change.

She said, “Do you still believe in Jesus?” I said, “Yes. I just think I have to go.” She said, “Then go, Jesus will go with you, and someday help you find your way back.” Then she whipped out her Sacred Heart scapular keychain began praying for my soul as I got up and walked home wondering what to do next. I was still a Christian person, so…..

I read up on Quakers, but they didn’t really live up to their 17th c dedicated Christian roots when I visited. I went to hang with Presbyterians, who were great people but not really my kind. Very wealthy, white, committee driven. The non-denominational white evangelicals, whose propose seemed to drive dollars into their wallets via endless books and tapes and nag you into proselytize to bring in other sheep to fleece were not my sort.

Moral Dilemma Stories: A Great Way to Educate, Entertain and Inspire, all  at the Same Time | by Yitzi Weiner | Thrive Global | Medium
Dilemma adventures.

The trendy Pentecostal church? That was just ok, till the old white male pastor realised his beloved young white male youth pastor engaged in “unlawful acts” with young boys. I’d already seen that crap fest play out in the Catholic church, thanks. I heard the church collapsed inside 3 yrs, then the pastor, who was a great guy, was ousted and died. Literally died.

I went to a Four Square gospel church. Founded by a woman, who believed in divine healing. But it was all men, and give tithes. I checked out a super noisy, rock n roll mega church – way too loud. I read the gospels – as translated from various languages. I read some Gnostic stuff. And Celtic Christian stuff.

Nothing took. I branched out. I read the works of Joseph Campbell. I talked to rabbis and took classes at the Chabad. I read the Koran and the Vedas. I read the Tao Te Ching, Confucius, and Marcus Aurelius. My wiccan friends were welcoming, but none of it really clicked. What to do, what to do?

Stacked Stones In Pond Photograph by Aleksey Tugolukov
I left no stones unturned.

Then finally, I read some haiku and koans. I thought, I’ve never read any Zen stuff. I’d never read any sutras. I went to the library and read the Heart sutra and the Pure Land sutra. I’m very geeky. Physics, the nature of matter, time, neuroscience, nature of the mind, it’s all duck to water. So I found Zen philosophy interesting. But true Zen was way too Cistercian for me.

Still, I felt like a door had cracked open. And frankly, my knuckles were pretty bloody and my feet sore at that point. One day I saw a community center offering a class in ink painting with a Japanese teacher. Turned out, she was a Buddhist, and her teacher had been a Christian, who became a Buddhist. And I really liked ink painting, and her, so I kept taking classes.

Her kind of Buddhism, Nichiren, wasn’t for me. But I thought more about Buddhism, and began exploring all the different kinds. Someone told me “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” It’s true. One day, I saw an advert for the Dalai Lama, who was giving a public speech. So I went to hear the Dalai Lama.

That’s how I felt.

He was there with will all his retinue, talking to true hardcore Buddhists. But when I walked into the great hall, I felt relief. I felt, “I’m home.” By that I mean, lots of chanting monks and nuns, a colorful altar and costumes, icons (thangka), bells and smells, they even had rosaries. There was major overlap with my Catholic experience. It was relatable in a way all the other places weren’t. And I really enjoyed his intellectual talk.

Before you freak out, and judge me, … no, go ahead. I don’t care. From then on, I began to explore vajrayana Buddhism. I subscribed to the Snow Lion, a paper for Tibetan Buddhists. Even as I was studying traditional Chinese painting with Chinese people who excoriated the Dalia Lama at the drop of his name. My Gran thought it was all weird, but….

I bought a thangka, of White Tara the wish-fulfilling wheel, because I felt like she was the me, the energy, I was trying to tap into to get well. And finally, I felt like I began to get better. Which was good because the neighbors began to ask Gran if I had cancer, as I had looked to them to be steadily declining since my move. Looks can be decieving!

New cardinals? They'll be more of the same | National Catholic Reporter
Seriously, not that different. Look at it.

One day in the Snow Lion I saw a small blurb about a nyingma teacher giving a lecture not far away. If you want to think about Buddhism like Christianity, think of nyingmapa as Catholics. It’s the oldest form of Buddhism in Tibet. In fact it’s so old, that just like Catholicism, it gets accused of being too close to its pagan roots (which in Tibet means Bon, the shamanism practiced in Tibet long before Buddhism and still is today).

I thought of Buddhism like a form of science, a way of understanding the mind. Like psychology mixed with physics and a dash of esoteric pizazz? It was maybe Aspirin? At least it was willow bark. And I found I could relate to the Dzogchen cycle of teachings, which are the core of the Nyingma view of things, or non-things, or…whatever. So there I was, a sincere Christian among the sincere Buddhists.

The snow leopard's questionable comeback | Science
Snow leopard among the snow lions, beware!

I did some applied science. I tried the lama’s meditational practices, to see if they would help. I did ngondro. I did well on my SATS. I went to college. I met a doctor who knew what was wrong with me! After a couple years, I understood the 180 had worked. I listened to the still small voice. I would never be the person I’d planed to be, but that was ok. I liked who I was and where I was and where I was headed.

Then one day, at the airport, as I was boarding a plane for Europe and 1-month Buddhist retreat, I had an epiphany. My separating from the church, was never letting go of Christ. It was letting go of a male institution, with core book written by men, for men, to keep men, under a purportedly male god, in power. Well intentioned I’m sure, but … it was an institution trapped in a soul-crushing amber if you’re not a man.

I realised the Bible was a book of wisdom, not a rule book. And that Jesus was the core, my core, my savior and I was a follower of Jesus. Culturally I was a Catholic, and I liked the Church. But not the Church as an authoritative institution, just as as a group of goofy fellow believers traveling together trying to realise the meaning of Jesus’s teaching in their lives. Followers of the Way.

I realised all this, all at once, in a split second, as I looked at the ticket in my hand, my luggage already on the plane, standing in line to shuffle onto the gangway. And I realised something else. My lama, a person I greatly respected, was going to give an important empowerment. Think of it like getting a drivers license. You get written/oral instruction. Then you get road lessons with your instructor. Then you get your license and you’re free to drive.

And I thought, damn, this is a very special thing for Buddhists, for my friends in the sangha. These are people who will treasure and continue this practice. They should go and have this experience, get this empowerment. It would be wrong for me to do this, because I’m not looking at it like that at all. So that was that. I walked away. I had my luggage taken off the flight. I refunded my ticked and took a bus home.

Maybe it's time to Walk Away – SnobNot
Destination, not always known.

I still have Buddhist friends. I still love” talking shop.” I still hold and value the few basic empowerments I possess, but they’re all I need. I’m not embarrassed to say Buddhism was (and still is) a ripcord for me. It works, like the willow bark, so when I need it, you bet I use it. But I am not a Buddhist, though my bookshelf might suggest to you otherwise. It’s just a way of working with the mind and subtle energy. It’s not my religion.

The path of life is twisty. I’m a better Christian because I had the opportunity to spend time with and learn from Buddhists. If Buddhism hadn’t been there for me, I might have left Christianity all together, forever. To this day, I tell people Buddhism saved my life. Because it did. I think God used Buddhism to save my life and my relationship with Jesus, and to put me on a new path.

When I hear people bash on other people’s religions, I think, tragic. These old ways, these other ways, you’re so scared of them, of them perverting your beliefs or turning you from God. But the truth is, they might be the only thing that can keep you alive or from loosing your religion.

Frankly, I think a lot of people these days are hearing a still small voice saying “You need to do a 180.” I get that may seem scary. And you may not understand how it can possibly be the right thing to do. But, read your Bible. Very often, the Lord himself will tell a person he cares about: turn around. In one case he even used an ass to do it.

donkey.jpg | Blackpool Zoo
Stop beating on the donkey and listen. He’s trying to save you.

This entry was posted on October 2, 2020.