Monday, March 31, 2008

Joshua Tree forest

I borrowed Bro. Clarence's digital camera so that I could take a picture of the forest in bloom. And being a bit tired after the long hike, I will reprint a previous post about a most interesting relationship.

God, Joshua, and Tegeticula yuccasella

Here in the desert a most interesting relationship exists between Joshua tree and moth, so striking that science calls it coevolution, for Joshua tree (a type of yucca) is dependent on moth, likewise moth is dependent on Joshua tree. Bro. Clarence, with his ever ready field guides, sought to explain this relationship, or more properly 'mutualism,' as we ate our noontime meal. Of course many insects pollinate flowers, yet most are sort of accidental pollinators, a bee seeks nectar and in the process, and with no intent on the bee's part, the bee comes into contact with pollen and the pollen sticks to the bee and the bee moves to another blossom and pollen is transferred. This as Bro. Clarence says is a sort of accidental, yet beneficial, happenstance to both the bee and the plant. But with the Joshua tree, neither accident nor happenstance takes place. In the still of the desert night the white female yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella) seeks the Joshua tree and enters a white flower and gathers the sticky pollen (a pollen that cannot be broadcast by wind or bee). To gather the sticky pollen, the moth has a pair of long, curved, prehensile appendages near the mouth, specialized tools to collect and form the sticky pollen into a ball, of which is held 'under the chin' so to speak. And off the moth goes to another Joshua tree, where she enters a flower and uses her specialized egg-laying device (called an ovipositor), inserting it through the ovary wall and depositing an egg into the ovule chamber. Next comes pollination, the moth moves to the top of the ovary and still carrying the sticky pollen ball from the previous Joshua tree, she presses the pollen into the ovary, thus completing the fertilization of the flower. Now, as the seeds develop inside this particular ovary, they will provide future food for the hungry moth larva. And so it goes, without the Joshua tree flower, yucca moths would die off in one generation; without the moth, the Joshua tree would never be pollinated, for no other moth, bee, insect, or even wind, seek out the sticky Joshua tree pollen.

This provoked Bro. Simon to question if God has a blueprint for all these minute details of creation, a kind of grand master blueprint of all creation, a blueprint so grand that included would be details of the yucca moth's 'prehensile appendages' and programming for the yucca moth's tiny brain with not only instructions for identifying Joshua trees, but where exactly to insert 'ovipositor' and on and on and on. Bro. Clarence thinks otherwise, he imagines that God has blueprints for all the 'laws of nature' yet God delights in setting things in motion, and within some sort of unknown to us boundaries, allows life to blossom within these boundaries -- perhaps even boundaries withing boundaries within boundaries. Bro. Sedwick thinks not, for God is timeless, exists (if that word can be used in this instance) outside of time, so God views our universe as past and present and future, all at once. Of course this brought protest from Bro. Juniper, he thinking that even though God be outside of time, but when interacting with His Creation, God chooses to enter our time/space, for this would be the only way a relationship with humans could be possible. Bro. Sedwick thinks all this speculation far too simplistic, for a Creator of the Universe has far more tools in His toolbox than our tiny minds can ever imagine.

With that I excused myself in order to gather my rucksack, I want to pay a visit to a certain Joshua tree tonight, and perhaps, I too may witness a miracle.

Joshua 23:14
“And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Musings written by pencil onto paper

Musing 1: Pencil onto paper when I rested seated yesterday afternoon atop a boulder surround by countless purple lupines

Perhaps the prelapsarian Eden was that state of the Earth sometime between 5.4 and 6.3 million years ago, that time when our ancestors parted way with those who followed the Chimpanzee tribe, those who remained in that world of innocence, a world where thorns are thorns and thistles are thistles and pain is pain and sweat is sweat and life is life and death is death. For that Eden was lost to those with a brain that became a mind that could conceive of a lapse -- a fall from grace -- that moment when suddenly guilt and blame sprang to life as the next universe-transforming event took place -- the birth of self-awareness.

Musing 2: A goose that called Konrad his mother

Interesting how the developing brain of a child has a myriad of short windows of opportunity for imprinting, and once the imprint takes place, then that is what the mature brain is left with, or has to deal with, as in the case of the young geese that Konrad Lorenz raised as their "mother." The infant geese knew no one other than Konrad, the one that fed them and protected them and taught them, and so they followed him as mother goose, and forever more Konrad was mother goose to them.

So here we are, all of us with our own imprints seared many years ago into our developing brains -- some "natural" and others "unnatural" -- perhaps early imprints of an infant religiosity that has since been modified by the learning gleaned from systematic knowledge? Could it be that when we try to reason away that infant religiosity with a mature religiosity, the seared part of our brain rebells, clinging to the imprints of infancy, unwilling, or unable, to let go?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Arrows in flight

With a computer that is flaky, I've returned to pencil and paper, spending more time on walks and hikes, and less time at the keyboard, now tapping away on Bro. Clarence's iMac, which I must admit, is a flashy bit of machinery, but of course doesn't have the feel of pencil to paper. So seated on a boulder just before sunset, I was thinking how orderly the universe appears to me, the structure, or I should say, what we know of the structure of the material world, seems to exhibit a direction from lower to higher orderliness, and when we include life into the mix, then from lower to higher forms of life and intelligence. And why is that? Does it have to be like this? If we consider "life" for example, then the forever time from the Big Bang until the first spark of life appeared on Earth makes me think that this forever timespan was the necessary preparation, the necessary incubation, if you will, for life to get started. And once life got "started" (again, the universe is anything by static, everything seems to start or end, but mostly is in process, or all the between of starting and ending), we see a continual growth in complexity of life structures, and as far as we think we know, the human brain is by and far the most complex of life structures. Of course the mind/brain is a bit boastful in these matters, even thinking that it (brain/mind) is the tip of the arrow that was launched with the Big Bang. A moving arrow. Moving in time. Moving in space. Moving in complexity. Moving in self realization. And moving to? Going where? Or is the arrow forever in flight? And to think the entire evolutionary process has this human brain/mind with the power of reflective thought at the very tip of the longest branch on the tree of life. And here I am, the sun now setting, but enough light to continue my writing, and yes, I must admit that I cannot get outside of my own experiences. My brain/mind use my eyes to watch the outside world, yet is this boulder that I sit upon really just that, a big solid rock? Of course I know from science that the big rock is not so solid as my eyes tell me, so if I could shrink down into the micro world I would see that the atoms that compose this big rock are really not very solid at all, in fact when we get down into the world of atoms and protons and electrons we really leave the world of matter, the matter that we ordinarily think of, like solid rock or the wood of a table top, and find ourselves in a world of energy. And too the mind, a bundle of energy, and to think that the human mind is a product of the very nature that produced everything after the Big Bang, that by being a product of nature, the mind is part of this nature, and so shouldn't the same principles of rational order that we see in the outside world, exist also in the inside world. Inside the brain. Inside the mind? So I sit here and think rationally because I am a product of a rational universe, composed by the same energy that constructs stars. And now I watch another star, setting in the West, coloring the sky with streaks of reds and oranges and grays and purples, and here we both are, the sun and me, two arrows sent on their flights at the moment of the Big Bang, one landed just over the horizon, the other landed atop this big boulder that I sit upon. And it's hard. And it's getting cold. Time for this arrow to move on, to continue the flight, the flight that I think will take me all the way around and back to the archer. And when I arrive and meet the archer? I have a funny feeling that the string on the archer's bow will still be vibrating.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Parallel Sayings

This was send to me and I'd like to share it, the so-called parallel sayings of Buddha (B) and Jesus (J):

(B): "Consider others as yourself." (Dhammapada 10:1)
(J): "Do to others as you would have them do to you." (Gospel of Luke 6:31)

(B): "If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words." (Majjhima Nikaya 21:6)
(J): "If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also." (Luke 6:29)

(B): "Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love: this is an eternal truth. Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good ... Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth." (Dhammapada 1.5 & 17.3)
(J): "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them back." (Luke 6:27-30)

(B): "If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend to you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick." (Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26:3)
(J): "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me." (Gospel of Matthew 25:45)

(B): "Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword." (Digha Nikaya 1:1:8)
(J): "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matt. 26:52)

(B): ... all these do not equal a sixteenth part of the liberation of mind by loving kindness. The liberation of mind by loving kindness surpasses them all and shines forth, bright and brilliant. (Itivuttaka 27;19-2)
(B): Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world." (Metta Sutta)
(J): "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friend." (John 15:12-13)

(B): Just as rain penetrates a badly-covered house, so passion enters a dispersed mind. Just as rain does not penetrate a well-covered house, so too does passion not enter a well-developed mind (Dh 1:13-14).
(B): Everyone who hears my words and does them is like a man who built a house on rock. The rain fell, a torrent broke against the house, and it did not fall, for it had a rock foundation.
(B): But everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a man who built a house on sand. The rain came, the torrent broke against it, and it collapsed. The ruin of that house was great (QS 14).
(B): It's easy to see the errors of others, but hard to see your own. You winnow like chaff the errors of others, but conceal your own — like a cheat, an unlucky throw. If you focus on the errors of others,
constantly finding fault, your effluents flourish. You're far from their ending. (Dhammapada Mahavagga 252-253)
(J): "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, "Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye," when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye." (Luke 6:41-42)

(B): "Do not look at the faults of others, or what others have done or not done; observe what you yourself have done and have not done." (Dhammapada 4:7)
(J): He said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:4-7)

(B): But these three things, monks, shine openly, not in secret. What three? The moon, the sun, and the Dhamma and Discipline... (Anguttara Nikaya 3:129)
(B): "That great cloud rains down on all whether their nature is superior or inferior. The light of the sun and the moon illuminates the whole world, both him who does well and him who does ill, both him who stands high and him who stands low." (Sadharmapundarika Sutra 5)
(J): "Your father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." (Matt. 5:45)

(B): "Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant gods." (Dhammapada 15:4))
(J): "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20)

(B): "The avaricious do not go to heaven, the foolish do not extol charity. The wise one, however, rejoicing in charity, becomes thereby happy in the beyond." (Dhammapada 13:11)
(J): "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." (Matt.19:21)

(B): ...when a tathagatha arises in the world,.. then there is the manifestation of great light and radiance: then no blinding darkness prevails. (Samyutta Nikaya 56:38; V442)
(J): Jesus is the light of the world - John 8:12
(J): Those who do the truth come to the light - John 3:17-21

(B): Plucking out her lovely eye, with mind unattached she felt no regret.
'Here, take this eye. It's yours.'
Straightaway she gave it to him. Straightaway his passion faded right there, and he begged her forgiveness. (Therigata 14.1 Subha and the Libertine)
(J): "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:29–30).

One beautiful strawberry

In Buddhism the word "illusion" is mentioned often, illusion not in the sense that the material world is unreal, but in the sense that the appearance of ourselves and the world, that which we humans perceive, is illusionary. You could understand this to mean that person-hood is the near infinite composite of everything from molecules to thoughts, the entire perceived unity that Locke would call self-awareness, that is the "illusion" or that which the mind creates in order to make sense of itself. The "real" is the infinite matter (and non matter) of the universe, we but part of the ALL. In Buddhism it is ego that causes the illusion, therefore if one "overcomes" the ego, the self dissolves into the ALL.

A man is running from a tiger, he comes to the edge of a cliff and the only escape is to grab some vines and climb down, but while climbing down the man sees another tiger at the bottom awaiting him. Looking up at the vine above, which he is hanging from, he sees two mice eating away at the vine, one mouse is white and the other black (yin and yang), now he sees no escape, a tiger above, a tiger below, the vine about to unravel. Then suddenly appearing in front of him, growing from the cliff side is a strawberry plant, and one beautiful strawberry. With great delight he plucks the strawberry and eats it, and it is the sweetest strawberry that he had ever tasted.

End of story.

Ah, don't you just love Zen tales. And an answer to our puzzle? The puzzle? Of course, how could the man delight in the taste of a strawberry when in a moment he is going to die? ... (long pause) ... Because at that moment he was suddenly transformed from the unenlightened being to an enlightened being. He realizes that the sweetness of the strawberry is the same as the sweetness of himself to the waiting tigers. Yes, the strawberry, himself, the tigers, they are all part of the ALL. And at that moment the illusion of "self" disappears. And with that, no fear of death, for nothing really dies.


From my experience, Buddhism is a retreat from the outside world, Christianity is a confrontation with the outside world. Buddhism attempts to alleviate suffering with the mind, Christianity faces suffering with eyes wide open, and then asks, what can I do? Of course this is a generalization, for Buddhists do have soup kitchens and Christians do pray for the homeless.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

In studying ourselves

In studying ourselves
We find the harmony
That is our total existence

We do not make harmony
We do not achieve it
Or gain it

It is there - all the time

Here we are - in the midst
Of this perfect way
And our practice is...

Simply to realize it
And then
To actualize it
In our everyday life...

--Taizan Maezumi

Monday, March 03, 2008

A journey without names

Just returning from an extended hike, with much pausing to observe the all that forever surrounds me, even stopping for close inspection of surfaces, the texture of rocks, and with a mindfulness on this trek to not ponder the invisible, the known structures and compositions of all that I run my fingers over, but to just be mindful of the tangible and to limit myself to just that, and not to identify and label this or that just because I know from a book that my fingers are caressing an igneous or a metamorphic or a sedimentary rock, no, I just wanted to feel the "rockiness" and let it be at that. And I must admit that the mind rebels at such limitations, restrictions, the mind wants to search the near infinite pathways inside the brain to find and dust off some forgotten "fact" about that which my finger touches. And more than that, in waves, the mind harvests these forgotten facts and even when my will turns against my self, the mind stitches together strings of facts in an attempt to impress me more, to make me cry out "eureka!" or to slap my forehead with thoughts of epiphany, but no, again I resist grasping the offered discoveries. I must plea that it isn't easy. As the first day slowed to an evening of setting up camp, I almost had to will myself to not be thoughtful in preparing a proper campsite, no, just my sleeping bag upon a sandy bed cleared of rocks and pebbles and other discomforts. And the gathered firewood, really mostly a few branches of mesquite and other unidentified brush, but the onrush of identify, the voice in my head naming this and naming that, as though I could not simply gather brush and stack it and make a circle of stones for a fire pit, without analyzing all that I was doing. And fire in the desert night. I mediated upon patterns, on very moving, changing patterns. And the night sky, stars were a patterned canopy, and with much effort, without names, but almost impossible to dismiss familiar patterns that were the delight of my childhood learning. Big Dipper remained as it was then. I couldn't erase that. And later as glowing embers drifted high and mingled among the stars, I let them mingle, and thought not then of light years apart and sizes and time that made little sense when one is but looking upward. Looking upward as a new born child. But one thought invaded my mind before I drifted off to sleep, it was that it was here, and I cradled my head in my two hands as I peered skyward, as far as I could figure out, I was cradling the most complex structure in the entire universe, and it fits into my two hands! Then I fell asleep. Now I cannot remember if I dreamed, but I have no doubt that I did. For the human mind is restless, and even when we try slowing it down, and we think we have, it goes on and dreams dreams that are forever hidden to ourself, for we awake in the morning with but a hollow ghost of remembrance, of something that is beyond even the universe -- thoughts -- thoughts that have never been touched.