CNN: 75% say GOP should be voted out!—Don’t count on it!

CNN released a poll yesterday purporting to show that three-quarters of Americans say that most GOP members of Congress don’t deserve to be re-elected. CNN cautioned that the results are “generic” and that “there’s plenty of time for these numbers to change.” (see link below) The poll results should not be interpreted to show that Democrats will regain the House.

In order to be useful, polling must account for congressional districts like Idaho’s 2nd Dist., where it was reported last week that sentiment was running 2 to 1 for continuing the shutdown until Obamacare is defeated. That district and many others will remain Republican no matter what.

“Moderate” Republican Mike Simpson, who voted for HJR 59 to begin the shutdown as well as HR 2775 to end it, could lose his seat to his tea-party-friendly opponent Bryan Smith. However, the seat will remain Republican.

Thus, the 30 percent or more of Idaho Dist. 2 voters won’t count who show up in the three-quarters of Americans wanting Republicans ousted. That means the percentage of voters opposed to Republicans will be lower than 75 percent in districts that are actually in play.

The tea-party strategy is as much about outing people like Simpson and pushing safe Republican districts further right as it is about stopping Obamacare. We need polling that looks at districts that actually could be won by Democrats if we want to accurately gauge how this apparent dissatisfaction with Republicans will play out in next year’s congressional elections.

Photo (metaphor?) of the day

Jonathan, who removed Sravasti Abbey’s wasp nests, amuses the abbess.

Yesterday morning, I received my monthly eNews from Sravasti Abbey, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month. Among the many colorful photos illustrating the monastery’s remarkable decade of progress, the one above caught my eye.

Ven. Thubten Chodron and her two cats, shared our Boise home for several months during her search for an abbey site. She had been encouraged to establish a US abbey for training nuns in the lineage of the Dalai Lama, who ordained her 30 years ago. Because of her close association with Treasure Valley Dharma Friends, she first hoped to locate the abbey in southwestern Idaho. As it turned out, a beautiful site became available north of Spokane, near Newport, WA, just over the state line from Old Town, Idaho.

While most of my Buddhist practice has been in the Vietnamese Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, we’ve had the pleasure over the years to host several Tibetan monks in addition to Chodron. Several years ago, we hosted Khensur Rinpoche and his translator, in Boise to give Dharma talks on his way to bless the Washington land Chodron had found for the abbey. Tulku Damsho Rinpoche and his attendant, Lama Sonam, stayed with us this past week while in Boise to give a commentary on Gampopa’s “Jewel Ornament of Liberation.”

TVDF-Damcho (2)

Tulku Damcho Rinpoche and Dharma Friends

For a couple evenings, I listened with about 30 Treasure Valley Dharma Friends as the Tulku recited his commentary in Tibetan, referring occasionally to his notes on the iPad in front of him. He would speak for a minute or two, then pause for translation and commentary by Jules Levenson, a professor from Naropa, the Buddhist university in Boulder, Colorado.

Gampopa was a student of Milarepa, the 12th-century CE Tibetan yogi and Buddhist lama. Tulku Damcho is said to be the reincarnation of Lama Tsokni, who led thousands of austere, fasting retreats in Tibet  dedicated to the Thousand-Armed Bodhisattva of Great Compassion, before the Chinese invasion. Reincarnation has not been an important tenet in my personal understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. Those teaching were not written down until several hundred years after Buddha’s death, but they are passed on in practice and orally from teacher to student in an unbroken line from students of the Buddha down to the present. Listening to Prof. Levenson translate Damcho’s commentary on the 12th-century “Jewel Ornament,” itself elucidating the then-1600-year-old teachings of the Buddha, I was witnessing the reincarnation of ancient thought.

John Rember’s persistent warnings to his writing students of the dangers of metaphor came to mind: “Metaphors damage your ability just to witness the world.” I think that’s what the 8th-century Zen monk Lin Chi (AKA Linji, Lam Te, Rinzai) was getting at when he wrote:

Followers of the Way,
Buddha is not to be attained.
There is no real Dharma;
it is all but surface manifestations,
like printed letters on a sign board to indicate the Way.

I slipped a copy of this iconoclastic Zen metaphor to the Tulku as he left for Shambhala meditation center in Colorado.

 

more Wisdom:

In response to my posting of Peter Cutlure’s Zen meditation, my friend Tom Hamilton sent me a link to “The Egg”:

The Egg

By: Andy Weir

 You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. And in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

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Words of Wisdom…

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above Deer Park

…from a Zen brother:

There is this deep understanding that everything is always perfect simply because it is. It is not an understanding of the mind or logic, it is rooted completely in the heart. Although, like all of us, much spiritual practice, reading, meditation and retreats have occurred, this lesson comes directly from life:

Enough times seeing that what I thought was horrible and totally unacceptable turned out to strangely be exactly what was needed for the very best results.

Enough times learning that devastating pain seemed to be the most brilliant spiritual teacher of all.

Enough times seeing that those who I most feared or resisted were all actually just me in different clothes and coming to this seemingly other me with the exact perfect lesson.

Enough times to turn all my thoughts and beliefs and ideas completely upside down, until I finally saw that they were all, all of them, total illusion, blindness and ignorance.

It doesn’t mean I don’t live my life in service to others and work for the benefit of all. But I also know that I don’t know what that means.

It doesn’t mean deep grief and sadness and even occasionally a little anger don’t arise when I forget how perfect this seemingly crazy world is and always has been.

There are no others. There never has been a hair’s breadth of separation anywhere, ever. And yet … and yet this illusion appears so very real. It’s not surprising that it fools us so completely. The best solution may be to rest in this silence that has no answers, no questions, no ideas or beliefs. To help others knowing full well there is no other we are helping. We are only helping our self in the amazingly varied costumes we appear in, just as we are being helped in return. It’s not something the mind can really comprehend, but it is the best help we can offer. This is helping in truth.

Much Love and Many Bows to you, as myself in all its amazing variety and diversity, from warlords, corporate chiefs, politicians, trees, mountains and insects to the many gentle spiritual Bodhisattvas (including my wonderful cat Zen) who through their love help to shatter the illusion that is solely responsible for all human suffering.

—Peter Cutler