My gosh friends. I’ve been busy… but also not busy.
I started a new job a month ago where pretty much all I do is read, read, read and write, write, write. This is making a limited amount of energy or overall desire for writing here on this stinky old blog. Add to that the book editing process and really quite honestly, I’m thinking about doing a podcast for the next few months until this book is birthed.
So yeah. Busy but not busy. I had a great exchange with my Practice Instructor and she was such a big help. I’m studying the Four Immeasurables right now and while she is a remote instructor, her advice really hit me. Like hit me hard. It was the advice from a spiritual friend that you just absolutely needed to hear at the moment you needed to hear it.
If anyone knocks the validity of a remote teacher or spiritual friend, I say to them – bah my good friend. Bah. I adore my practice instructor (in Seattle) and treasure her as much as if she was right down the street.
Other than that, the trend on this blog has been lately to be posting a wonk-load of book reviews and while I really enjoy it, I’ve realized I’ve overextended myself in trying to read ALL THE DHARMA BOOKS. So less reviews, more personal practice and study and more personal blogging. I want to go back to the kind of posts that likely brought y’all over here in the first place. There are enough book review sites. There aren’t enough struggling to get on the cushion, whiney girl, Gen X-er Buddhist blogs out there. In advertising, we call this the USP- Unique Selling Proposition. It could also be my elevator pitch if you are of the start-up variety.
Other than a new job, great help from my practice instructor, turning down the book reviews and turning up the personal posts… not really much else going on around here.
How about you? What have you been up to?
I’ve missed you.
I have to admit to not being familiar with Lama Marut before coming across his recent book ‘Be Nobody.’ Much like the book ‘The Novice’ by the Naked Monk aka Stephen Schettini, which I reviewed a little while back, it is the story of a ‘religious seeker, finder and then leaver of the cloth’ (monk robes to be specific).
It’s the ideal book for those who define themselves as ‘spiritual, but not religious’ but beware, Lama Marut tackles that very principle of self-definition that we humans are apt to put upon ourselves. The overreaching theme of the book is to ‘undo’ the isms and break free from religious labels as these can only further our feelings of ego identification or separateness from one another.
He takes the wisdom from many different traditions be it Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity and distills it into a book that recommends a new way of being nobody. A way to dismantle the self and be awake. As a ‘religious hybrid’ who studied many traditions both personally as well as academically, Marut is well-versed in both the practices as well as the study which goes with these religions. He uses many stories to help illustrate his message.
‘Be Nobody’ covers a lot of (mainly Buddhist) ground. From the self, no self, interconnectedness, the skandhas (I absolutely adore his mention of the mental afflictions and the metaphor of having a ‘rage in the cage’ style wrestling battle with them), a healthy dose of Shantideva, empathy and guru yoga amongst so many other topics. Believe me, the book gets into it all!
One area of ‘Be Nobody’ where I kind of tuned out was the section on flow states and play and how these work to help us lose our sense of self. I’m not sure why I checked out during this area, but I think it’s just because it’s less of an interest to me than the more ‘dharmic’ materials in the book. I can fully see how it relates to losing one’s sense of self, it just stuck out for me as a section that was tacked on as having some spiritual significance rather than the meaty (and in my opinion more relevant) bits that the rest of the book offered up.
One of the best parts about ‘Be Nobody’ is the pop culture references. I’m a big fan of his use of personal and real-world examples to help support the main principles of the book so any mention of Captain Kirk, song lyrics or movies certainly captures my attention.
Another positive aspect of this book is the ‘Action Plan’ found at the end of each chapter which offers suggestions for how to apply the elements into one’s life. These concrete instructs allow people to put the teachings into practice as a means for transformation. At the end of the book is a set of meditations from the Vijnana Bharvanva Tantra aka ‘Methods for Attaining the Consciousness of the Divine.’ I didn’t go beyond reading these but do plan to revisit them at a later date.
Quite often in ‘Be Nobody,’ Marut speaks to society’s obsession with social media and the correlation it has with the increased levels of depression in our world. He feels that the narcissism that is being demonstrated by living in the ‘iEra’ is something that is quite worrisome.
Overall, ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut was a great read and one I’d recommend to Buddhists, non-Buddhists and those looking to become less Buddhist and more of a nobody. I highlighted a good part of the book and plan to later go back and do some of the meditation practices when I have some time as well as to read the end notes and citations which are chock full of great articles and books.
Time for a long overdue bit of random linkage. It’s been a while folks. Busy with work and head down with practice and study. I’m also amping myself up for some Montreal Dharma Punx action which I’ve let slip.
- Engaged Buddhism Magazine shared an awesome punk show review slash meditation session.
- I am loving your artwork Chris Piascik.
- Glimpses of Yarne is a great short documentary from Kent Martin showing the full on awesomeness of Gampo Abbey.
- I’m currently reading ‘Be Nobody’ by Lama Marut and it’s pretty good. It reminds me quite a bit of the writing of The Naked Monk (aka Stephen Schettini). I’m also dipping a toe into the new Mark Epstein book ‘The Trauma of Everyday Life’ and I really have to say that I’m enjoying it fully.
- I need a human version hat like this for wearing at the meditation center.
- Lastly, I’ve been doing a bit of reading and practice on the topic of impermanence based on some feedback from my supersmart and uber incisive Practice Instructor. I was watching a Tiny Desk concert with Wilco last night and reminded of the chorus of ‘War on War’. This needs to become my ringtone. (The singalong starts at 14:28)
You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive, okay?
You have to lose
You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive
You have to die
You have to die
You have to learn how to die
if you want to want to be alive, okay?
If you’re like me and love the work of Against the Steam and the affiliated Dharma Punx and their various teachers such as: Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro, Matthew Brensilver, Megan Cowan and ALL of the great folks that have come out of their organization, then how about kicking in a bit of coin to help them build their new center and finally have a home of their own?
They are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to build and open a space of their very own in San Francisco. Check out this video for all of the details:
You may be sitting around wondering how you can help a fellow human out. Look no further as I have a suggestion if you are feeling a bit of generosity in your warm little heart.
Here in Montreal, the hustle is on the help find a match for Mai Duong. A 34 year old who was diagnosed with acute leukemia, Mai is in serious need of a stem cell donation from someone in the Vietnamese community. Time is truly of the essence.
I was struck by Mai’s compassion for others as demonstrated in an interview with her where she stated that,
“We could be saving lives. If it’s not my life, it’s going to be somebody else’s.”
“I believe in humanity, so I believe that we’re going to find a match. I’m hopeful.”
Given that visible minorities make up such a small percentage of those who sign up for the bone marrow registry, it’s imperative that the words gets out and that people take action. On a positive note, there’s been 1000 new registrants for the province’s registry in just a few days.
Here’s how you can help:
- Spread the word. Share the website, mention it on Twitter or Facebook. Mobilize your sangha to register.
- Join the registry: Quebec, Canada, USA
- Read up on the story of Emru Townsend who was in a similar situation with regards to the search for a donor. His sister, Tamu and his community worked tirelessly to help educate and spread the word and it was his case that educated me on the subject of requiring ethnic donors due to a lack of diversity in the various registries.
Please act now however you are able to. You could help save a life.
Buddha’s Daughters: Teachings from Women Who Are Shaping Buddhism in the West offers a wide range of teachings from numerous notable female Western Buddhist teachers such as Pema Chodron, Khandro Rinpoche, Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Joanna Macy, Tsultrim Allione, Charlotte Joko Beck among many, many more. This anthology, edited by Andrea Miller and the editors of the Shambhala Sun is an important and comprehensive collection of stories, instructions and practices on diverse topics such as: birth, old age, sickness, death, anger, love, divorce, health, children, attachment, fear, sex, the environment, psychology, poetry, beginnings, ends and middles – and more. Yes. It’s all in here.
I was struck by Andrea Miller’s introduction which, on the topic of gender and Buddhism deftly points out the following:
… Buddhism like all world religions, has largely been shaped and defined by men. Century after century – right up to the present day – women have been denied teachings and ordinations and have found themselves relegated to monastery kitchens. They’ve been deemed to be of “lower birth,” and in some lineages even the most experienced, aged nun must bow before any monk, even the youngest, least experienced among them. Blocked by such discrimination, women have had limited opportunities to develop into advanced practitioners and teachers. Yet despite the challenges, women have been diligently practiced from the beginning- since the days of the Buddha. I hope this anthology serves as an inspiration for contemporary women practitioners.
One of the best aspects of compilations such as this one is that they pull from various traditions and allow readers to discover teachings and wisdom from spiritual paths outside of one’s own. With teachings from a multitude of flavours of Buddhism comes the ability to open up one’s perspective and to see wisdom in places one may not initially look for them in. Through this book, I was able to discover many practices, teachings, pieces of poetry and philosophies that I wasn’t previously aware of. I love it when a book allows me to go down the rabbit hole of discovering new things to read and helps me to create list of things to check out. One example of this is my discovery of Buddhist nun and poet Rengetsu who I am now absolutely fascinated with and will be adding to my ‘must find out more about her’ list.
One of my favourite chapters was that of Tenzin Palmo who writes clearly and powerfully on the topic of Vajrayana. She delivers a glimpse into this yana without ‘giving away too many secrets’ and does so in a way that is both magical and real-world. It is truly a rewarding read and should be required for practitioners regardless of their time or location on the path.
But in Vajrayana, there are so many practices. Ther is vipassana, there is Zen-like meditation, there is study, there is the whole panoply of Technicolor Vajrayana visualizations with buddhas and bodhisattvas in every possible color combination. There is something for everybody- peaceful, angry, sort of peaceful, and sort of angry, standing up, sitting down, lying down, any way you want.
Buddha’s Daughters offers the best of spiritual guidance as well as just ‘plain old’ life advice. It is an important contribution to the collection of books featuring female voices and is a highly worthy addition to any bookshelf. These stories of powerful women from the past and present will hopefully inspire future great female teachers.
Sakyadhita, the International Association of Buddhist Women is currently seeking contributions for The Awakening Buddhist Women Blog.
They are looking for stories, articles, interviews, or photo essays related to women and Buddhism and if you are interested in submitting a guest post relating to women and Buddhism please visit their website for more details.
While you’re there, do check out their impressive blogroll of Buddhaladyblogs. What a great collection!
It’s time for some Random Linkage. Here are some of the things that have crossed my radar as being noteworthy, interesting and worth sharing with you, dear readers.
- Both Danny Fisher and Justin Whitaker posted the link to this petition created for the United Nations Day of Vesak (UNDV) to allow Ajahn Brahm’s gender equality paper in 2015. Please sign it if you are so inclined to do so. Also watch this video for more details as Ajahn Brahm recounts the story behind this event.
- Cryptik Movement have posted a link to some incredible photos by Tomasz Gudzowaty of the Shaolin Temple. Breathtaking…
- NellaLou over at Smiling Buddha Cabaret has published two blog posts which you really do need to read. The first is a review of ‘The Promise of Happiness’ by Sara Ahmed and the second is a follow up to this titled ‘Further Comments on Happiness’.
On the [Western, convert] Buddhist happiness industry front we then get smarmy books about how to be a happy worker by adjusting ourselves to our oppressive conditions rather than overthrowing the bosses or making a stand for better working conditions or something else that would disrupt the status quo. The happiness industry is all about preserving that status quo. It’s not about “liberation” or anything else of that sort. It’s about being a better drone.
- Buddhism Secrets of Cats. Nothing more to add although I should really write a “Rebuttal from a Pug Butt” post given that I live with two furry Buddhas.
- And a little photo humour for the geeks…