Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Zoom’s No Self View

Using Zoom's Hide Self View feature provides a real-time experience of one of Buddhism's central aims: to decenter the ego-identified self.

One of the peculiarities of Zoom or any online conferencing system is that you can see yourself. This is completely unlike the real world in which, during an in-person meeting, the most you could see is the tip of your nose, your hands, and the front of your body from the clavicle down. Back in March 2020, when my workplace moved online, I found the sudden switch to seeing my Continuous Selfie incredibly beguiling, distracting, and at times irritating. I did my best to not look at myself, keeping my box in the corner of my eye to ensure that my image was still within the boundaries of the camera. Still, I was always there.

Then I discovered, in the upper right corner of my box, three dots that led to a small menu, at the bottom of which was an inscrutable option titled “Hide Self View.” Clicking on that, I miraculously disappeared from my screen. I was still visible on the screens of my colleagues: they could see me, but I no longer could see myself. I’ve been experimenting with this feature and found that it provides an amazing, real-time experience of one of Buddhism’s central aims: to decenter the ego-identified self

Here’s how to practice this. On your next conference call of two or more in which meeting members are visible and can interact (that is, not a webinar), locate the Hide Self View option in the upper right corner menu of your personal image. Turn it on. As the conversation progresses, notice:

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The Lightness of Breathing

Photo by George Hiles | http://tricy.cl/37I17OI

It’s an unusually mild and sunny day in the middle of a very gray, bitter-cold, and snowy February, the day after Parinirvana, which marks the Buddha’s departure from his body. This is a day to recall words attributed to the Buddha, handed down generation after generation as instructions for the living: Make of yourself a light. 

A well-lit life often comes about through the honest vulnerability of strife and sorrow, through monster pain and heartache, through scary encounters when you feel like crap because too much has happened too fast and for too long. I’m thinking about the last twelve months or so: my marriage coming to an end; my brother dying, then his wife; then the global pandemic; the street protests in the United States and around the world for racial and social justice; political polarization, leading to insurrection at the US Capitol; and then just when I’d mustered enough nerve to begin dating, getting dumped twice by the same guy.  

But it’s still early in the new year, and I have the Buddha’s instructions. Make of yourself a light.

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Meditation Month 2021: Relax & Connect

Week 1 of Guo Gu’s guided meditation videos

With Guo GuMar 01, 2021

It’s Day 1 of Tricycle Meditation Month, our annual challenge to commit to a daily practice throughout the month of March, and we’re getting started with the first of four free guided meditation videos led by our Meditation Month teacher, Guo Gu.

Guo Gu is the founder of the Tallahassee Chan Center and a professor of Chinese Buddhism at Florida State University. For Meditation Month, he is leading this four-part series that explores the Chan (Jp., Zen) teaching of silent illumination. A new video will be released each week introducing an approach to meditation and building on the previous weeks’ teachings. These instructions and tips from Guo Gu are designed to help you develop a regular practice and connect to your experience at each moment. 

In this first video, Guo Gu gives instructions for relaxing the body and connecting with the breath. This foundational teaching will create a sense of stability in our practice that will last throughout this month-long commitment to meditation. While we tend to spend a lot of our time living inside our heads, Guo Gu asks us to shift our awareness into the tactile sensations of the body, inviting in awareness of the “undercurrent tones” that shape our experiences. 

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Buddha Buzz Weekly: Supreme Faces Potential Legal Battle with Thai Buddhists

Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism says that it wants to pursue a legal battle against the streetwear brand for using an image of the late monk Luang Phor Koon, activist monks oppose hydropower projects in India, and 2000-year-old Buddhist manuscripts spark debate about studying relics bought on the black market. Tricycle looks back at the events of this week in the Buddhist world.

By Emily DeMaioNewton and Karen JensenFeb 27, 2021

Supreme's “Blessings Ripstop Shirt." The New York-based streetwear brand used an image of Thai monk Luang Phor Koon on its apparel without authorization, says Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism. | Supreme

Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.

Fashion Brand Supreme Faces Potential Legal Battle Over Monk Image

A new copyright battle involving the fashion brand Supreme has the potential to create an unlikely alliance between Thai Buddhists and artist Barbara Kruger. The New York-based streetwear brand used an image of Thai monk Luang Phor Koon on apparel without authorization, so Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism says that it is weighing its options in terms of legal action against Supreme, according to The Fashion Law. The National Office released a statement last week indicating that it planned to draft a letter to the brand over “Blessings Ripstop Shirt,” part of its Spring/Summer 2021 collection, and which bears an image of Luang Phor Koon surrounded with yant script, a sacred form of tattoo reserved for Buddhist monks and Brahmin holy men. 

A representative for the National Office of Buddhism said that the image of Luang Phor Koon, which depicts him sitting and smoking, is one of the “most popular” photos of the late monk. Initially printed on products to raise funds for Luang Phor Koon’s temple Wat Ban Rai, the National Office said that Supreme did not obtain permission to use the image, thereby giving rise to potential issues of misappropriation and copyright infringement. Tawatchai Sanprasit, manager of Wat Ban Rai, said in a statement, “We will discuss the issue [with Supreme], and find out what the brand’s purpose is,” noting that the temple will then decide what action can be taken against the brand. Thailand’s Department of Intellectual Property has suggested that Wat Ban Rai will need to present proof that it created the image and design, since the department does not currently maintain a copyright registration for the specific image or the yant design. 

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The Buddha Didn’t Teach Consent

Buddhism has a sexual ethics problem. In 2018, the Dalai Lama admitted as much when he said on Dutch public TV that he had been told of sexual violations occurring in Tibetan Buddhist communities as long ago as the early 1990s. His admission was the result of a petition by a group of abuse survivors in the Netherlands. Their efforts are part of a larger trend of students speaking out publicly about their experiences. While international Buddhist groups are beginning to respond seriously to the problem of sexual abuse, the norm for many in positions of power remains closer to the Dalai Lama’s original response 25 years ago, which was to do very little. Indeed, some Buddhist teachers, including Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Lama Zopa, have defended colleagues accused of multiple counts of sexual abuse, drawing on Buddhist doctrine to do so.

The mixed record of Buddhist teachers responding to abuse raises some questions. Where should our sexual ethics be coming from as Buddhists, if not from Buddhism and Buddhist teachers? Do the Buddha’s teachings include adequate ethics to answer cases of sexual abuse? Practitioners and groups hoping to address the issue of sexual violation are looking at how other Buddhist and non-Buddhist communities are responding. They are also exploring what classical Buddhist ethics have to say about sex and consent. This, however, is not as straightforward as it sounds.

The Buddha did not, for instance, teach about sexual consent, at least not as we understand the concept. While sex without affirmative consent is the definition of assault on college campuses today, the early Buddhist suttas (discourses) of the Pali canon did not define ethical sex between adults in those terms. Of course, such concepts would be anachronistic, but the issue runs deeper than that. The ordinary expression of sexual desire is not considered compatible with the higher goals of the Buddhist path. Lust and sensual enjoyment lead to craving, disrupt concentration, and result in many unwholesome actions. According to the Buddhism found in the earliest scriptures and developed in the commentaries and philosophic texts of the early tradition, the most realistic path to awakening or freedom from suffering is the celibate life of a monk or nun. (Certain threads of thought in Mahayana Buddhism allow for spiritually advanced beings to combine sex with the pursuit of enlightenment, or even use sex as a tool to achieve enlightenment, but few are thought to be capable of such feats.) The high value placed on celibacy in the early tradition means that discussions about adults incorporating sexuality into their lives in a responsible, loving, and positive manner is relatively undeveloped.

While a modern understanding of consent is largely absent from the suttas, one can find in canonical texts—in particular, the Vinaya or monastic discipline—another notion of consent, one based more on inner affective states than verbal permission. As a clear standard for ethical sex, this Buddhist consent falls short of the affirmative consent upheld by many institutions today, but it also challenges our contemporary approach to sexual ethics in healthy ways. Indeed, each idea of consent reveals the other’s strengths and shortcomings.

One can find in canonical texts a notion of consent based more on inner affective states than verbal permission.

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