Thursday, April 19, 2018

Praise, Blame, and Worse in the World (sutra)

Ven. Thanissaro (trans.), Lokavipatti Sutra (AN 8.6), Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.); "Success and Failure" (Saccharine Trust); "Meditation" (Yongey Mingyur Rimpoche)
How do we keep from drowning in the world and cross over to the further shore?


"Meditators, these Eight Worldly Conditions chase after the world, and the world chases after these eight worldly conditions. What are the eight? They are gain, loss, honor, disgrace, praise, blame, pleasure, and pain....
 
"For an uninstructed worldly person there arise gain, loss, honor, disgrace, praise, blame, pleasure, and pain. And for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones there also arise gain, loss, honor, disgrace, praise, blame, pleasure, and pain. So what distinction, what difference, what distinguishing factor is there between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed worldly person?"
 
"For us, venerable sir, the teachings have the Blessed One as their root, their guide, and their arbitrator. It would be good if the Blessed One himself would explain the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from the Blessed One, the meditators will remember it."
 
"In that case, meditators, listen and pay close attention, and I will speak."
 
"As you say, venerable sir," they responded.
 
The Blessed One said, "Gain arises for an uninstructed worldly person. And that person does not reflect, 'Gain has arisen for me. It is impermanent, disappointing, painful, and subject to change.' One does not discern the situation (reality) as it actually is.
 
"Loss arises... honor...disgrace...praise...blame, pleasure...
 
"Pain arises. One does not reflect, 'Pain has arisen for me. It is impermanent, disappointing, painful, and subject to change.' One does not discern reality as it actually is.
 
"One's mind/heart remains consumed with the gain. One's mind remains consumed with the loss... with the honor... the disgrace... the praise... the blame... the pleasure. One's mind remains consumed with the pain.
 
"One welcomes (grasps at) the gain that arises and rebels (pushes) against the loss that arises. One welcomes the arisen honor and rebels against the arisen disgrace. One welcomes the praise that arises and rebels against the blame that arises.

"One welcomes the arisen pleasure and rebels against the arisen pain. As one is engaged in welcoming and pushing away, one is not released from birth, aging, death, from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, or despairs. One is not released, I say, from dukkha (suffering) and disappointment.

"Now, gain arises for a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones. And that person reflects, 'Gain has arisen for me. But it is impermanent, disappointing, and subject to change.' One discerns the circumstance (reality) as it actually is.

(Mingey Yonger Rimpoche) How can we possibly meditate in this corrupt and confusing world?
 
"Loss arises... honor arises... disgrace arises... praise arises... blame arises... pleasure arises...
 
"Pain arises. One reflects, 'Pain has arisen for me. But it is impermanent, disappointing, and subject to change.' One discerns reality as it actually is.
 
"One's mind/heart does not remain consumed with the gain that has arisen. One's mind does not remain consumed with loss... honor... disgrace... praise... blame... pleasure. One's mind does not remain consumed with pain.
 
"One does not welcome the gain that has arisen nor rebel (push) against the loss that arises. One does not welcome the arisen honor nor rebel against the arisen disgrace. One does not welcome the arisen praise nor rebel against the arisen blame.

"One does not welcome the arisen pleasure nor rebel against the arisen pain. As by abandoning welcoming and pushing, one is released from birth, aging, death, from sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, and despairs. One is released, I say, from dukkha and disappointment.
 
"This is the distinction, this the difference, this the distinguishing factor between the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones and the uninstructed worldly person."
 
Gain/loss, honor/disgrace, praise/blame, pleasure/pain, these conditions among human beings are impermanent, inconstant (in flux, radically impermanent), and subject to change.
"Knowing this the wise person, mindful, ponders (reflects on) these changing conditions. Desirable things no longer charm the mind/heart, and undesirable ones no longer bring about resistance.
"One's welcoming and pushing away are scattered, gone to their end, and no longer exist. Knowing the stainless, sorrowless state, one discerns rightly, has gone, gone beyond becoming, to the further shore (nirvana).

Snorkeling for Mushrooms (video)

When it rains the northern watershed gathers it in the foothills to feed the LA River.
There are entheogens, edibles, and even underwater mushrooms like Psatyrella aquatica.

(Time River Productions) Why is Hahamongna Watershed, Pasadena, California so special?

Our mycology expert (Arboretum)
HAHAMONGNA, California - In Pasadena, in the foothills of the Angeles National Forest, northern Los Angeles County, above the Rose Bowl, we gathered.

We trekked through stinging nettle as Christopher Nyerges warned us, over fields of chickweed and lambsquarters in search of the elusive "snark."

We came to the bridge by the distant City of JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab, a world unto itself in collaboration with nearby Caltech University and NASA) along the Gabrielino Trail behind the world-famous facility.

Clusters of mushrooms fluorescing
It was after a sudden spring rain that turned the whole area green and flowery.

Water rushed down the Flintridge Wash of the Upper Arroyo into Devil's Gate Dam to the delight of ducks paddling like  pargeons in a pool.
 
California Foraging: Los Angeles

 
Real "Street Food": Urban Foraging in the City of Los Angeles
(Great Big Story, July 11, 2017) Christopher Nyerges (The School of Self-Reliance) has always loved plants and the outdoors. When he was a kid, he would forage and store plants in his parents’ refrigerator. Now Nyerges is teaching others to do the same. But this isn’t some nature hike foraging. Nyerges uses his encyclopedic botanical knowledge and a keen eye for urban-dwelling edible wild plants to teach other residents of Los Angeles where to find them. At his School of Self-Reliance, he shows city folks how to scour alleyways, parking lots, city parks, and the sides of highways to find unexpected wild treats. From mushrooms to mustard flowers, radish pods to mallow fruits, Nyerges can help anyone forage the best veg street food ever.
 
California Foraging: Hahamongna
(KCETOnline) Mia, Eli, and Pascal show how fun it is to forage wild plants and live off the land.
 
Everywhere we turn in wild California, there's something to eat -- if one knows what to look for. Foragers Mia Wasilevich and Pascal Baudar of Transitional Gastronomy shop at the grocery store, but they also head into the woods regularly, carrying daypacks, little knives, and compasses, finding edible plants scattered across public lands.

Old ones, bold ones but no old-bold shroomers
They like it so much they've turned it into a business, with Pascal leading interested food nerds out into the woods to collect cat tails, purslane, wild radishes, and more, with which Mia cooks up a feast using these wild ingredients (SoCal Food). Eli Newell came along for one such VEGGIE HUNT with Pascal and learned about native versus invasive plants in Southern California's woodland parks. Which do you suppose peaches are?). We ate flowers and asked Pascal just why, exactly, he makes a habit of rubbing poison oak on his face.

California Foraging: The Gabrielino Trail

PART II: Beware the common poison oak, which didn't bother the Natives.
 
Underwater Mushrooms?
Oregon Mycologist Darlene Southworth reveals her new discovery: Psathyrella aquatica

Learn: Wild Mushroom Fair, L.A.
A few days before we wandered through our hunt, finding ourselves under the big wooden bridge next to the dam. Looking below us we could see tree oysters in clusters.

We scrambled down in search of mycological samples blooming high in the trees, too high to reach.

Soon the water came and we needed to dive for them, not fancy scuba diving in the pollution, but messy snorkeling in the muck. Who tosses this plastic junk and automotive residue into the river way?

Boating the LA River by canoe (folar.org)
There they were, tree oysters! This was not the first time we had spotted them in these woods. They love willows. Nor was this the first time we fished for them. Monica and I came out in the mist of a swollen creek by the magic tree.

Not only did we collect the fruiting bodies from the tree, there was a big "fishy mushroom" floating in the water, pink as salmon, slick as rainbow trout.

Oysters grow on trees not on the ground!
We grabbed a branch and reeled it in in disbelief. It was such a large sample that, soaked, it had broken from the tree and plunged into the temporarily swollen creek, where the water can rise 12 feet or more in a day.
What's so special it? Tim Brick (Arroyo Seco Foundation) explains
Founation preserving Los Angeles Foothill communities (arroyoseco.org)

 

The Great 2018 LA River CleanUp
April 21, 2018

Middle River
Los Feliz Blvd at Bond Park Register
Fletcher Drive/Bowtie Parcel Register
Marsh Park Register
The Frog Spot Register
April 28, 2018

Lower River
Compton Creek at Del Amo Metro Station
Register

Willow Street Estuary Register
Golden Shore Marine Reserve Register

The Great LA River CleanUp (La Gran Limpieza) three weekends in April (folar.org)

Foraging for Free Wild Edible Plants (video)

The Outsider; Pure Living for Life; K. Dice; Crystal Quintero, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
Wild Spring Delicacies: Ramps, Morels, Fiddleheads, Birch Sap
In the world of wild edibles, springtime offers a buffet of delicacies that can't be found at any other time of the year. Let's find morel mushrooms, ramps/leeks, fiddlehead ferns, and birch sap. The season for these wild edibles is short, and they can be tricky to find. In this episode we'll learn how to look for, identify, and prepare them from field to plate.
.  

 
Forage for Wild Edible Plants, Barter Free Forest Food
This is the life!
Support Pure Living for Life on Patreon. Being self-reliant goes beyond trying to run a self-sufficient home and homestead. We want to be self-sufficient outside, too, so one of the things we’ve been focusing on is learning what edible plants are in our area. That way we might be able to capitalize on free natural food! More specifically, it’s Huckleberry Season, and we’re gathering as many berries as possible to stock the pantry! This short video is to share more information about how we are foraging in the forest and then turning our finds into delicious goods to barter or give as gifts! Here are some posts you may enjoy.
Video by Werner Elmker (elmker.com) Jefferson County Park, Fairfield, Iowa, September 2015.

Wild Edible Plants Class by Kathy Dice
Kathy Dice introduces participants to nature’s wild edible plants. She co-owns Red Fern Farms in Wapello, Iowa and has been a wild edibles enthusiast for over 35 years. Sponsored by jeffersoncountyconservation.com, Red Fern Farm is a family-owned nursery and farm run and owned by Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice. It is the site of ongoing research on a variety of tree crops and forest farming systems. We raise and sell container grown tree seedlings and medicinal planting roots well suited for the Midwest.
  • redfernfarm.com
  • info@redfernfarm.com
  • (319) 729-5905
  • 13882 I Ave., Wapello, Iowa 52653

    Science discovers the afterlife: 5D (video)

    Afterlife; Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Ananda; CC Liu (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly


    (Patty Walker) Documentary: Science Discovers Afterlife Unlocking the Fifth Dimension 2017

    There are countless worlds in three spheres.
    PART II: ...That is to say, everything will not stop. What will stop is this identity, this arrangement (personality), we cling to now. No one gets out alive in that sense, except that a part of that can be clung to (who we were) into future lives. That's samsara. Get out.

    Or if staying in, it is crucial to know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, positive and negative. What results in suffering, that is wrong, bad, and negative. What does not, that is good, right, and positive. (Into good has been lumped neutral because it does not result in suffering).

    But that's not much of an answer! Here is the key: If an action (karma) is motivated, consciously OR unconsciously, by greed, hatred/fear, or delusion, that will result in suffering.
    • "Greed" does not mean what we mean in English. It is merely a translation of lobha, which means the entire range of attraction, desire, lust, craving, grasping, clinging, attachment. The same is true of "hatred/fear" (dosa), which means the range of aversion and includes fear, revulsion, and disliking. "Delusion" (moha) means the range of not-knowing, bias, confusion, wrong view, ignorance.
    • The flipside are the categories "nongreed, nonhatred/nonfear, nondelusion," which are GOOD as they result in what not-suffering (sukha), the pleasant, pleasurable, desirable, happy, wanted, wished for, cherished, and welcome.
    We will not "die" at death, the great transition, because the very next moment, we are still alive -- just as we are from moment to moment. The break in between the moment is a kind of small death, but because what re-arises in the following moment is so similar (but not identical), we don't notice.

    At death, the change will be significant enough to notice. And the previous citta conditions the following citta, so what was happening in that thought-moment will result in the next rebirth.

    Many of us will find ourselves in a "ghostly" in between state (bardo), transitioning between this birth and a future one. There's not a time when we're not anywhere, so we will be somewhere, a kind of subtle "spirit world."

    There are a near infinite number of worlds (lokas) we might end up in, with some being much more likely than others, all categorized by the Buddha into 31 general "planes" of existence, which are subdivided into three general spheres (also called lokas):
    1. List of the 31 Planes of Existence
      Sensual Sphere (Kama Loka: hells, ghosts, animal, human plane, sensual heavens)
    2. Fine-Material Sphere (Rupa Loka: worlds of brahmas or "divinities" and devas or "shining ones," subtle material heavens)
    3. Immaterial Sphere (Arupa Loka: worlds of formless, nonphysical, super-subtle devas, ethereal heavens)
    Taken all together, these are all known as samsara (literally, "the continued wandering on" through rebirth, cycling and recycling life after life, figuratively "The Wheel of Life and Death"). It would be far better to attain enlightenment and nirvana instead.
     
    Confused? Questions?
    Questions about life, death, rebirth? That's what we're here for: DMI

    Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal (video)

    Bell Lasseter (video); NAT GEO LIVE!; Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

    Follow along on this 15-day trek in the month of May to Mount Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar in 21 minutes. But EBC or Everest Base Camp is a long way from the top.

    But I want to climb to the top!
    Sherpas: The Unsung Heroes of Everest


    With a death rate statistically higher than soldiers in the U.S. War on Iraq, why would anyone risk his or her life to climb Mount Everest? Photographer Aaron Huey points his camera at the unsung heroes of mountaineering -- the Sherpas. More 

    ABOUT NAT GEO LIVE: Thought-provoking presentations by today's leading explorers, scientists, and photographers. NatGeoOfficialSite, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. National Geographic is the world's premium destination for science, exploration, and adventure. Through its world-class scientists, photographers, journalists, and filmmakers, Nat Geo gets us closer to the stories that matter and past the edge of what's possible. Upcoming Events

    GREAT L.A. RIVER CLEAN UP (April 2018)

    River Friends (FoLAR.org); Xochitl, Crystal Quintero, Dhr. Seven (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly
    In 2018 we'll clean the LA River in Balboa Narrows (San Fernando Valley), Glendale (Foothills), and a third lower location along our prized "River of Angels" before it meets the ocean.
      
    JOIN THE 2018 CLEANUP
    The Great LA River Clean Up is back! This is the largest urban river clean up in America, and it starts in April 2018.

    For 29 years Friends of the LA River (FoLAR.org) and fellow Angelenos have cleaned up the Los Angeles River to protect our beaches and oceans from trash and garbage. In 2017 10,000 volunteers were mobilized to remove 100 tons of trash. Help make 2018 even bigger. JOIN US:
     
    Locations for The 2018 Great LA River Clean Up
    Upper River
    : April 14, 2018
    Middle River: April 21, 2018
    Los Feliz Blvd at Bond Park Register
    Fletcher Drive/Bowtie Parcel Register
    Marsh Park Register
    The Frog Spot Register
    Lower River: April 28, 2018
    Compton Creek at Del Amo Metro Station Register
    Willow Street Estuary Register
    Golden Shore Marine Reserve Register
    La Gran Limpieza está de vuelta! La limpieza urbana mas grande en América comienza en abril de 2018. Durante 29 años, Amigos del río de Los Ángeles (FoLAR) y compañeros angelinos han limpiado el río Los Ángeles y protegido nuestras playas y mares de basura y desechos. En 2017 reunimos 10,000 voluntarios para eliminar 100 toneladas de basura. Ayúdanos a hacer 2018 aún más grande. ÚNETE A NOSOTROS

    Resources: 2018 Clean Up, Frog Spot, LA River VR Experience, LA River Map & Guide
    .
    IMPACT Any discussion about what the Los Angeles River is must begin with a talk about what it was. Imagine a 51-mile-long waterway meandering from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, providing fresh water to 14 cities in the greater LA metropolitan area. SEE OUR IMPACT
     
    Crack the Concrete: Reclaim water from LA River to drought stricken land (petition)
    .
    ADVOCACY The LA River is our river. Let's create purpose for every inch of its 51 miles, which is why we fight for policies that will benefit residents and wildlife first. Learn more, and can get involved. ADVOCATE NOW

    ACTION Every day is a source of memorable experiences for Angelenos in the river. Partnerships and initiatives bring recreation, innovation, and entertainment to its shores and create community value. TAKE ACTION

    SUPPORT With help we can ensure a publicly-accessible, ecologically-vibrant LA River through community engagement, education, advocacy, and leadership. We rely on grassroots support to make this possible. DONATE

    Mediums: We See DEAD People (documentary)

    DocSpot (video); Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ashley Wells; CC Liu (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly


    Where do the dead go? It's very easy, actually: They (we) are reborn according to their karma, their just desserts, which are not necessarily immediate. The results (vipaka) of their actions (karma) will be experienced, but when that is depends on a matter of chance rather than strict order and necessity. And this has led to a lot of confusion and doubt about what sages and mystics tell us.

    A mystic can develop the third or divine eye (dibba cakkhu) and see "bad" people going to a good place or vice versa, and if they teach this from their own experience, many will be misled to assume that there is no result of actions when there is.

    The random element that determines the next rebirth is the final moment of consciousness. That is not what it sounds like. That moment is very, very short. So we are not talking about what the deceased was thinking about in general but rather what in specific was passing through the mind. What is "mind," what is "consciousness"?

    "Mind" is four of the Five Aggregates Clung to as Self minus form (body). Consciousness is the fifth aggregate, vinanna, composed of a stream of very quickly moving cittas or "moments." (Similarly, form or materiality is composed of quickly rising and falling "particles" called kalapas in Buddhism).

    There is no self "here," but we cling to awareness and experience as if it were personal, as if it were us, as if it were our "soul," "ego," "personality," or "I." Pulled by that wrong view, we experience again and again the mental resultants (vipaka) and fruits (phala) of our actions. When we "die" we will not die. CONTINUED IN PART 2

    Trekking in the Himalayas of Nepal (video)

    Dina Nath Regmi Bharat (video); Ashley Wells, CC Liu, Seth Auberon (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

    Trekking in the Himalayas: experiencing the country with Alpine Explore Nepal Trek and Tours

    Travel far to Distant Horizons (video)

    Distant-Horizons.com; Crystal Quintero, Ashley Wells (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

    ABOUT: Since 1985 Distant Horizons has organized cultural programs to Cuba, Iran , and other destinations in [Buddhist] Asia, Africa, and the Middle East [Northern Africa].

    The focus of each trip is to allow the traveler the chance to breathe the culture and traditions of the country.

    Small group size, best hotels, superb local guides, and incredible first-hand knowledge of trips all allow Distant Horizons to offer comfortable and intimate tours to the world's best destinations. More


    CUSTOMIZED TRAVEL: In addition to offering listed tours, Distant Horizons is very experienced at organizing customized itineraries for individuals, small groups, and special-interest groups.

    By designing a unique program, one can create an itinerary and travel at a personal pace.

    This allows flexibility for including vegetarian meals wanted and staying at preferred hotels. Decide when to be with a local guide and when to use a personal driver. More
    • Phone: (800) 333-1240 or (562) 983-8828
    • Fax: (562) 983-8833 
    • Email: info@distant-horizons.com
    • Distant Horizons (info@distant-horizons.com)
    • 350 Elm Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90802
    Inspect Egypt's pyramids up close

    Hubcap "Everything we've been taught about ancient history is a lie"

     
    As  in the Days of Noah, there was a global high-tech society and the presence of the  "Fallen Ones." Magnificent structures were built in the antediluvian (pre-flood) period.  The idea that they were built by the Ancient Egyptians is a lie, a joke. They already existed when the pharaohs decided to use them as tombs. Many attempts to recreate them by  the Ancient Egyptians resulted in tiny, crumbling mud piles. See Part 2. More

      What is "The Heart Sutra" actually about?

      Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Ananda M. (D.M.I.), Ashley Wells (ed.), Wisdom Quarterly
       
      Often people say the Heart Sutra (Hṛdaya Sutra of the Prajnaparamita literature) is an experience of enlightenment. But it can't really be that.

      Instead, it is about the ultimate teaching that leads to enlightenment, the key direct-realization that would free us.

      What frees one? The Truth, the Truth sets one free. Which truth? The whole truth and nothing but the truth? No, it's not that. The Enlightened One focused on Four Ennobling Truths (truths that lead to the noble state of enlightenment or awakening).

      The Buddha said, pursue these for the welfare of everyone. We all know the four:
      1. Things are unfulfilling (they suck).
      2. There's a reason they are.
      3. There's an end to all suffering.
      4. There's a way to that ultimate bliss.
      So what keeps us from realizing the Truth and touching liberation right here and now?

      How did we get a "heart" sutra?
      The "Perfection of Wisdom" or Prajna-paramita is a body of literature explaining all of the relevant truths. At the heart of this, as the perfection of wisdom, is this teaching.

      For until there is the direct, personal, unmediated realization of this one thing, there will be no deliverance, no freedom, no salvation from the Wheel of Life and Death, endless rebirth in the spiraling round of continued wandering through samsara.

      The Heart Sutra is about that, that one thing, that doorway, that gateless gate to freedom. What is it? What is it! First, consider what the Buddha taught. There are Three Marks or Characteristics of all states of existence. Wherever we are reborn, those worlds (including this human and deva one) are marred by these three verifiable facts:
      1. All states are radically impermanent (not lasting unchanged for two consecutive moments).
      2. All states are disappointing/unsatisfactory, incapable of finally satisfying our endless thirst).
      3. All states are impersonal, not-self, egoless, not me, not mine (the impossible possibility).
      The deva Avalokitesvara
      It is this third characteristic that we are quite incapable of fathoming by means ordinary consciousness.

      "Of course things are mine!" we say. "I am I. And like God, I am that I am. I'm me, and this body and mind are mine, and all of this mess is myself."

      The Buddha would smile. Who could ever guess that this assumption (listen up, Descartes) is verifiably, certifiably wrong? It's a dangerous assumption made, wrought with pain and misery unutterable. This, then, is what the Heart Sutra is really about.

      At the HEART (center, core, essence) of the Perfection of Wisdom literature is this one impossible fact: It's all impersonal. I am not this, not that, not other. This is arisen (through dependent origination) as an illusion. Illusion begets misery. Truth begets freedom.

      Avalokita, Shakyamuni, Maitreya
      Don't believe it? Of course you don't believe it! We see everything through the prism of SELF. We cling to self, soul, ego, personality, I, me, and mine. When we agree with religion, we say, "Well, yeah, this is not myself, but that invisible part, the Casper the Ghost part, that's me," and then we cling to that.

      It's good that we understand that there's a Higher Self, in a sense, but that too is impersonal. We don't see that coming. All of Buddhism, then, is aimed at either taking one to heaven as a self clinging to (the five aggregates clung to as) self OR, if one is smart, as a means of liberation from all ignorance, aversion, and clinging.

      The real meaning
      Heart chakra = two interpenetrating arrows
      For those who have read the Heart Sutra a million times and chanted it a million more, never thinking there was a decipherable meaning, there is. Look at it again, but this time not from the perspective of Mahayana-Hinduism. Look at it instead from the eyes of the historical Buddha as preserved in the old schools before the Brahmins co-opted Buddhism into a part of Brahmanism/Hinduism as a continuation of their august Vedic tradition:

      Avalokitesvara (now become KWAN YIN, Goddess of Compassion) is saying something to the Buddha's chief male disciple, SHARIPUTRA, who has been declared "foremost in wisdom" among the male disciples (just as Khema is declared among the female disciples). She is explicating the Five Aggregates Clung to as Self:
      1. form
      2. feelings
      3. perceptions
      4. formations
      5. consciousness.
      There are three universal marks of existence
      What is she saying about them? They are "empty" -- this is, devoid of "self." The "soul" (atman, atta) we cling to as our real self -- our higher self, our self above selfish ego and transitory personality -- is devoid of owner. It is mere transitory phenomena. But we knew that. We know we are not this body. We continue as it perishes even now, burning away.

      We must not be FORM (earth, wind, fire, air which our picturesque ways of saying that materiality, composed of kalapas, has four characteristics). We must be the other four things in the list, which together are called "mind," "psyche," "soul," or "I."

      I'm not that stinky body, for I am my MIND: my feelings (agreeable, disagreeable, and neutral), my perceptions, my mental formations (such as my volitions that color my karma). Or, better yet, I'm not any of those formations. I AM CONSCIOUSNESS itself. But the Buddha taught that consciousness (vinnana) is not a "thing." It is a process. These are not nouns but verbs. Moreover, it is an impersonal process. Behold!

      Setting: top of Vultures Peak, Rajgir, India
      Close your eyes and look (as happens when one emerges temporarily purified from dhyana/jhana and practices satipatthana for liberating insight).

      See how the feelings, perceptions, formations (of which there are 50 but just consider the volitions to not get lost in the weeds) arise and pass away at a tremendous rate in awareness. I am not awareness itself, but I would have to be because everything here is empty (selfless). So I must be the one experiencing it? But that's just it! No one is! This construct, this fabrication, this impersonal formation, this collection of heaps is just EMPTY. By ignorance it is taken as a SELF. By wisdom is one released.

      With the realization of selflessness, the first stage of enlightenment (stream winning) is reached or realized. One is assured of victory. There will be a lingering sense of self. All that we've said has been tainted by this wrong view. Now there will be residual "conceit."

      One knows there is no self, but the very conventions of speech force us to speak of "us," "we," "me," "myself," and "I." Yet, now like the Buddha, we are not trapped or tripped up by these conventions. We can use them and not come under their spell.

      For by the spell (mantra) of great wisdom are we released, and this is said in awe of that release: Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha. ("Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, oh what an awakening, so it is!")

      And that, friends, is what the Heart Sutra is about. Read 'em and weep. Reread it. Look closely. None of it was an accident. It could have been shorter, less paradoxical, more to the point, but it's a gatha, a devotional song exalting Kwan Yin and denigrating Shariputra. It is building up Brahminical-Mahayana syncretism.

      (Note that the protagonist is a Brahmanical deity or deva, Avalokiteshvara, while putting down a "Hinayana" figure, one of the historical Buddha's most prized disciples).

      In one sutra the Buddha points out how everyone loves Ananda (the Buddha's attendant monk and very likely his son, from one of his harem wives from before his enlightenment when he was the Prince Siddhartha living in luxury, in accordance with the sacred scriptures of some Buddhist schools).
      • Common tradition says that he was the first cousin of the historical Buddha by their fathers. The Mahavastu states that Ananda's mother's name was Mrigi ("Little Deer"), who is named in the Kanjur and Sanghabedavastu as one of Siddhartha Gautama's harem wives (prior to his great renunciation), pointing to the possibility that Ananda is in fact the Buddha's son by a mother different than Rahula's mother [Rahulamata, Yasodhara, Bimba Devi, Ven. Bhaddakaccana. Rāhula was known to his friends as Rāhula-bhadda (Rāhula, the Lucky)]. (Wendy Garling, Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha's Life, 2016, Shambhala Publications, pp. 94-106).
      The Buddha points out there how Shariputra is much wiser, much more worthy of their praise. But they like Ananda because he is kind and a regular fellow, humble and unassuming.

      We'll be reading the Heart Sutra on April 26, 2018 at 6:30 PM at the Dharma Meditation Initiative meeting and answering any and all questions for the naysayers and doubters.