Features

Monastic Ordination and Enlightenment Vigil

· Open Access, Photos, Sangha News

On Sunday, December 10, Shugen Roshi officiated Tokudo, the full Monastic Ordination, for Shea Zuiko Ikusei Settimi. During the morning ceremony at the Monastery she received the kesa, zagu, monastic bowl and lineage chart as well as the monastic name Zuiko, which means “auspicious peace.”

This step along Zuiko Ikusei’s path is the culmination of many years of residential and lay training in the Mountains and Rivers Order. Beginning practicing with the Order in 2004 while living in New York City, she soon joined the Monastery’s residential community and eventually became a postulant monastic at the Monastery in 2012. Zuiko Ikusei currently oversees the Monastery Store and is involved in a range of initiatives at both the Monastery and Fire Lotus Temple.

Shugen Roshi shaves the last of Zuiko Ikusei’s hair.

 

Receiving the zagu, the monastic bowing mat.

Shugen Roshi and Zuiko following the ceremony.

The full roster of monastics posing for a commemorative moment with Zuiko.

Listen to the full morning program here: ordination

Auspiciously, Sunday also saw the conclusion of the Buddha’s Enlightenment Vigil at the Monastery and at the Temple, honoring the awakening of Shakyamuni Buddha upon seeing the morning star. During the morning program Shugen Roshi offered this poem:

for Shakyamuni Buddha—
Your Diamond Seat
opens the gateless gate;
Your Mountain Form
swallows earth and sky;
Your Great Awakening
illuminates time and space;
Your Lion’s Roar
fills the echoless valley.

Here today,
we bring life to your gift of the deathless.
Because it is not yours to give,
we bow in deepest gratitude.
Because it is beyond all knowing,
it is the Great Compassion.

Doshinji, December 10, 2017

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Photo By Bill Kando Johnston, MRO

Ask the One Who Knows

· Dharma Discourses, Open Access · ,

by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Roshi


Gateless Gate Case 47

Doushuai’s Three Barriers

Main Case

Master Doushuai made three barriers to test his students.
To inquire after the truth, groping your way through the underbrush, is
  for the purpose of seeing your nature.  Here, now, where is your nature,
  Venerable Monk?
If you realize your own nature, you are certainly free from life and death.
  When your eyes are closed, how can you be free from life and death?
If you are free from life and death, you know where you will go. When the
  four elements are decomposed, where do you go?

Commentary

If you can rightly give the three turning words here, you will be the master wherever you may be, and live up to the Dharma no matter how varied the circumstances. If, however, you are unable to give them, I warn you, you will get tired of the food you have bolted, and well-chewed food keeps hunger away.

Verse

This one instant, as it is, is an infinite number of kalpas
An infinite number of kalpas are at the same time this one instant.
If you see into this fact,
The True Self which is seeing has been seen into.

If you’re free from life and death you know where you will go. When the four elements are decomposed, where do you go? This is the question that human beings have likely been asking since the beginning of our creation. Having a life force, what happens when we die? In death, where do we go?

This question contains our desire and our understanding. There is ‘someone’ who wants ‘something,’ and the question is where does this ‘someone’ go? Most people want to continue through and beyond life, to not die. Anyone who has been in the presence of someone in the dying process knows how vivid and dynamic that sense of life is—of life energy, life spirit—within a person even as they’re actively dying, even if they’re not conscious or responsive. When the moment we call ‘death’ occurs, there certainly is something that changes to that felt sense of life in the person. Something that was there a moment ago seems unmistakably absent, seems to have departed. Having life, where does it go? The Buddha said it’s like a candle burning: moment-by-moment there is a flame. Is it the same flame in each moment? There’s a koan that asks, “When the flame on the altar is extinguished, where does the candlelight go?”

Shibiyama in his commentary on this koan says,

“What is this experience of seeing into one’s nature? It is to see into one’s original nature and to be awakened to the true self. When this is accomplished the student has transcended life and death.”

 

 Photo By Bill Kando Johnston, MRO

To transcend is to have seen through the nature of life and death. “When your eyes are closed, how can you be free from life and death?” The concern about death is never an abstraction but is about someone’s death: mine, yours, or that of someone we love. Shibayama says,

“Everyone in this world has to face this fundamental question. Most people give themselves up to the pressure of temporal affairs and blindly pass their days and nights. On some occasions, however, we may reflect on the ever-changing nature of human life. We will realize the inevitable limitations and restrictions of our everyday living. Once we realize this actual human situation we can no longer be indifferent but feel an urge to solve this fundamental problem. One has to see into their nature.”

In other words, it is my fundamental question to see into my nature; your fundamental question is to see into your nature. Master Doushuai’s question—Here, now, where is your nature?—is thus addressed to each one of us. Yet, we can make an effort to achieve a kind of indifference to the question, or we can seek peace by avoiding the question, ignoring this inevitable truth of all creatures.

Where do you go when the body dissolves? Is this even the correct question? The question certainly matches our ordinary way of thinking of things: “I am. I have life. I am a person. I have a self. It holds together from moment to moment, day by day. It seems to have a sense of coherence and continuity and permanence: where will it go?” From our ordinary perspective, the question makes a lot of sense even if we don’t know the answer. But is this question itself actually in accord with the real nature of things?

To be free of suffering we might think we simply need to avoid having suffering—that’s how we liberate ourselves. We avoid, or don’t create, or better manage the things in our life that create suffering; just be more in control. Human beings’ search for everlasting life, our reverence for youthfulness in our culture, the desire to stay young and not grow old or become frail or ill, our complaints as we get older, our disdain for old age; what is all of this expressing about our understanding of and peace with life and death?

The Buddha said there are five things that we should remember:

“I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old.
I am of the nature to become sick; there is no escape from having ill health.
I am of the nature to die; there is no escape from my death.
All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature of change; there is no way to escape being separated from them.

My deeds are my closest companions; my actions and the result of my actions, my karma. I am the beneficiary of my deeds. My deeds are the ground upon which I stand.”

I am of the nature of these things. You are of the same nature, as was the Buddha. That means it’s built into our nature: it comes with life, it cannot be escaped, and should be remembered. Remembering doesn’t just mean to obsessively worry or be anxious about, but rather to contemplate, to reflect on, to motivate us to practice, and to see in the world around us.

When we trace our suffering back to the root, what do we find? This is the importance in our practice of simply sitting in a freely given state of vast wakefulness and stillness. As the Chinese master Chih-i taught, “to stop and see.” See what comes before you, one moment after the next and not to try and escape, realizing that you cannot escape. Try something new: try not escaping but turning in. Look closely, examine without moving your mind. When it becomes uncomfortable, stop and see, come closer. What is the discomfort? What is its nature? When you examine it closely? What do you find? Is there anything? Is there?

See what comes before you, one moment after the next and not to try and escape. Try something new: try not escaping but turning in. Look closely, examine without moving your mind. When it becomes uncomfortable, stop and see, come closer.

 

The Buddha way is the middle path. It is free of eternalism, the idea that there is something we call the self that lives forever; we might call it a soul. But it is also free of any annihilationist perspective, that death is just an extinguishing. When you blow out the candle where does the light go? The Buddha said both of those are not true, both are false understandings and cannot bring ultimate peace and joy. No old age and death, and no end to old age and death we chant in the Heart Sutra. There is no abiding self, separate and independent from the universe. And in the same moment, something is present that we call a person. What is the real truth?

An old master in his death poem said, “In coming, I have no abode; in leaving, I have no fixed direction. How is it ultimately? Here I am all the time.”

In “Here I am all the time,” who or what is this “I”? When the four elements are decomposed where do you go? Is this life all there is? Master Bankei taught, “When the time comes for you to die, just die” does that mean there is utter nonexistence? This moment arrives as it departs, complete, all encompassing. Our mind creates continuity, seamlessly stitching together each moment into an exquisite fabric. Our mind creates a sense of continuity so we can move gracefully, but we impute that there is someone that coheres and is holding it all together, someone that sits at the center of our universe, “the” universe. And when death occurs, this someone must go somewhere. Many Westerners just assume that rebirth in Buddhism means your essential self is reborn into another life. But the self is empty, so what is reborn? Moment to moment, what lives and dies? It’s not you, but it’s not not you. When the candle burns, is the flame the same or different?

This is why we practice, because the dualistic mind cannot resolve this. But we can know it directly, beyond knowing and understanding. That is seeing into our true nature; there is no essential self. Understanding this conceptually, some might think, “Well that means life doesn’t matter; it’s all meaningless.” Yet when we realize impermanence and see self-nature clearly, everything becomes deeply important. The sense of a solid and separate self is what gives rise to a perspective that can logically desecrate what is sacred, turn people into objects to throw away, defile what should not be defiled, and turn against oneself. From the illusion of the self comes that preoccupation with having and not having, winning and failing. When we’re freed from this, compassion naturally arises because the preoccupation and the fear dissolve; our self-clinging and self-attachment dissolve and compassion arises. Compassion arises because it’s always there, and it is naturally expansive and includes everyone.

Photo By Tim Ellis

Tibetan master Longchen Rabjam spoke of self-nature in this way:

“Uncontrived self-nature, utterly
unimaginable. It’s like the precious gem that comes from all spiritual mentors without any frame of reference and without depending on any changeable state. It is effortlessly fulfilling, since by its very nature it is excellent. If one examines it, it proves to be nonexistent. You cannot find it but if you let it be, it is supreme and its occurrence is sublime. There is no vacillation inwardly, no object to seek within. Sense objects form outwardly but there is no framework for elaborating on those objects. Names cannot contain it. Compassion not arising from or engaging in such objects and without identity, without self is not derived from anything else nor will it ever be. It abides timelessly.”

When the body dissolves, where will you go? We can certainly think of this as our mortal life, but we can also see it in terms of the life and death of aspects of our lives—a job, relationships, an identity, our possessions—that we’ve infused with a sense of self. The self that we imputed into this physical being we impute into everything, and then experience the world as a place of independent objects. From that way of seeing things there will always be conflict; it’s inherent in the view. We find many ways to address the conflict from within that view of separate autonomous bodies. We find ways to be patient and tolerant with each other and to make peace rather than conflict, and this is incredibly important because it can cross all religious, cultural and ethnic boundaries. But the Buddha said that any peace that is created is always precarious; it’s always subject to coming apart.

Think about this in terms of the conflicts and violence we’re witnessing. We see it in different countries, different causes, different groups of people. We see it formed around ideas of hatred, of bigotry, of violence, conflict and division. What is the self in hatred? What is the self in bigotry? The self exists for the purpose of fulfilling desires and trying to protect us; it’s a buffer. What does the self seek in hatred? What is the desire in that? What is it protecting us from? What sense of purpose does it give us? To examine this closely, we need to stop and see.

Photo by Michael Chizen Brown, MRO

I was reading an article recently about a town in Germany that had a tomb of one of Hitler’s deputies in its cemetery. Every year, to the great displeasure of the community, hundreds of neo-Nazis would come to hold a march to commemorate the Nazi officer. For years the community gathered to protest, and then they decided to try something new. They turned the protest into what they called “The Most Involuntary Walkathon.” The townspeople contributed money for every step that each neo-Nazi took in the march. The money was then collected and given to an organization that helped people who wanted to leave a neo-Nazi community, to defect. So rather than going out to protest, they went out to cheer them on. They had signs along the way letting them know how much money they were raising to fight Nazism. At the end of the march a large sign which read, “Congratulations on helping to defeat yourself, and thank you for your contribution to the anti-Nazi cause!”

Studies have been done on nonviolent responses to conflicts like this one. They found that when nonviolence was used as a principal measure to try to affect change in a conflict, it was twice as effective and worked much more quickly. Nonviolence also attracts more allies then violence. Think of all the heroes of the civil rights movement who actually trained in nonviolence as a discipline. It’s not easy to not be violent in the presence of violence, to not hate in the presence of hatred. It’s hard not to do that.

Don’t we see that within our own mind? What nonviolence does in the presence of hatred and violence and bigotry is to expose it. Whereas when violence meets violence, it gets all confused between antagonist and victim; violent retaliation becomes the next violence to retaliate against. When we resolve things violently, the karma of that continues on and on. There have been times in our history when it seemed violence was needed to stop a greater harm. These are difficult choices. To not respond to anger with anger, but rather skillful compassion, takes tremendous discipline. So we practice to strengthen wisdom, compassion, and our skillfulness.

To create peace together requires tremendous discipline, individually and as a community. That’s a Sangha. It’s what we vow to do every day here as a monastic, practicing community. The Bodhisattva Vows compel us to do this in the world together as a Mahasangha: to bring that measure of discipline, wakefulness, commitment, patience, and courage into the lives we share with all beings. It is the most difficult thing we can do in our lives. It is the most important thing we can do in our lives. It is our basic nature.

When the four elements are decomposed, where do you go?

Master Ikyu offers us this:

I won’t die,

I won’t go anywhere,

I’ll be here.

But don’t ask me for anything,

I won’t answer.


Geoffrey Shugen Arnold Roshi is the Head of the Mountains and River Order and the Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and the Zen Center of New York City.

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Look Again, and Again

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

Looking around at the people and things which come into our orbit, we can be easily misled. The seeing mind is dynamic, complex, and can be affected by a gnawing hunger for lunch, a yearning for praise or even a craving for peace and justice, filling our minds with opinions and judgements. A wide range of feelings rise up when right and wrong becomes solidified. From within this familiar ground, we can find refuge in the Dharma teachings of “View,” the theme of this issue of Mountain Record.

Starting with the Buddha’s teachings on Right View, the first aspect of the Noble Eight-fold Path, we explore the Mahayana teachings of the ultimate view—the emptiness of all forms and phenomena—from several teacher’s perspectives. As Shugen Roshi offers in his discourse, our view is shaped by our constant positioning of self, which limits our experience of what is real. When we take into account the components of Right View—the karma we struggle with, the impermanence we’d rather avoid seeing—we can begin releasing ourselves from fear and aversion, seeing through the cherished opinions we usually take for real. As Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche says, all duality gives fodder for deluded views, and yet these waves of confusion “are the expressive power of the view. They are not separate from the view.”

How does a practice of direct experience help us navigate the minefield of right and wrong? Dharma teacher Pema Chodron explores creative ways of breaking down the walls of ‘otherness.’ Writings by ancient Ch’an Masters point directly to the qualities of an awakened mind, qualities we are reminded are innate—our true nature—and always available to us even in our delusion. Several authors investigate aspects of life where our view can change radically—be it through love as writes James Baldwin, through exploration of the tensions of embedded racism and bigotry that Beth Loffreda writes about, or in dismantling old habitual ways of being as told in Sangha Reflections stories.

Each of us, in our wholehearted practice, can experience this opening up as we look at our minds and then look still again. Myotai Sensei writes that this is the life-changing exploration which is never really finished; like turning on a light in a dark room, it’s still the same physical space but something has radically changed.

With willingness, we look carefully and look again, strengthening and clarifying with wisdom and compassion, seeing how our lives can be of benefit to all in this aching world.

 

Suzanne Taikyo Gilman
Mountain Record Editor

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Right View Comes First

· Open Access, Uncategorized · ,

by The Buddha


 

Monks, right view comes first. And how does right view come first? One understands wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view: this is one’s right view.

And what is wrong view? There is nothing given, nothing sacrificed, nothing offered; there is no fruit or result of good and bad actions; there is no this world, no other world; there is no mother, no father; there are no beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others. This is wrong view.

And what is right view? Right view, I say, is twofold: there is right view that is affected by influxes, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions; and there is right view that is noble, free of influxes, supramundane, a factor of the path.

And what is right view that is subject to the influxes, partaking merit, ripening in the acquisitions? There is what is given, sacrificed, and offered; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings spontaneously reborn; there are in the world ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others. This is right view that is subject to the influxes, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions.

 Photo By IIP Photo Archive

Photo By IIP Photo Archive

And what is right view that is noble, free of influxes, supramundane, a factor of the path? The wisdom, the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, the path factor of right view in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is without influxes, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is the right view that is noble, free of influxes, supramundane, a factor of the path.

One makes an effort to abandon wrong view and to enter upon right view: this is one’s right effort. Mindfully one abandons wrong view, mindfully one enters upon and abides in right view: this is one’s right mindfulness. Thus these three states run and circle around right view, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness.


Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi was born in New York City and, after finishing a BA and a PhD in philosophy, received full ordination in Sri Lanka in 1973. In 1988, he was appointed editor of the Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka and has written, edited, and translated a number of Buddhist texts.

From The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony, edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Copyright ©2016 by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Used by permission of Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA.

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Photo By Bill Kando Johnston, MRO

Why Do Beings Live in Hate?

· Articles & Essays · ,

by The Buddha


 

Sakka, ruler of the devas, asked the Blessed One: “Beings wish to live without hate, hostility, or enmity; they wish to live in peace. Yet they live in hate, harming one another, hostile, and as enemies. By what fetters are they bound, sir, that they live in such a way?”

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Photo By Bill Kando Johnston, MRO

Taking the Leap

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Pema Chodron


 

Nothing is static and permanent. And that includes you and me. We know this about cars and carpets, new shirts and DVD players, but are less willing to face it when it comes to ourselves or to other people. We have a very solid view of ourselves, and also very fixed views about others. Yet if we look closely, we can see that we aren’t even slightly fixed. In fact, we are as unfixed and changing as a river. For convenience, we label a constant flow of water the Mississippi or the Nile, very much the way we call ourselves Jack or Helen. But that river isn’t the same for even a fraction of a second. People are equally in flux—I am like that, and so are you. Our thoughts, emotions, molecules are continually changing.

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Photo By Tomošius

Open Letter

· Open Access · ,

by Beth Loffreda


 

Many years ago, in the late 1980s, I attended a university in the south, very white, highly segregated. I had a friend, a young white man, more aware and more well-educated than me in things that mattered, who took a class in African American history taught by a well-known black civil rights leader. My friend acknowledged—with astonished, lacerating shame—that there was a moment in class when the pressure of his own racial identity became so unbearable to him that he found himself imagining shouting nigger at the professor. This was a whiteness inside him he had not before come in contact with—had been cushioned from. Cushioned, in that paradoxical fashion of whiteness, by the very fact that he was white and thus did not need to know it

My friend also told me that one day during class, the professor looked out the window—it was a first-floor classroom and the large windows were only a few feet above the ground—and saw an African American woman he knew, another professor, of literature. He leaped out the window to greet her, left the class behind. Riding the wave of the white students, racial hostility and shame, right out the window.

At least, that’s how my friend described that moment. But what did he, or I, know really, beyond our own projections? That classroom was for my friend a theater of endless self-contradictory projection—anger at the teacher and then an envious, mournful resentment that he had left—the peculiar, roiling emotional machinations of whiteness, of the particular kind of whiteness I wish to think about here: well-meaning whiteness, whiteness that means no harm, that thinks it has it mostly figured out. I’ve reconstructed that classroom as my own theater too here, for my own purposes, a curiosity about what happens when the projections turn back inward. Which is another way of saying that when the cushioning is removed, you realize it’s a mess in there, in the white mind. Which is a start.

I didn’t know how to think about these things in college; at that time, I only knew that I wanted to. I went to graduate school. In graduate school, in the 1990s, it turned out that “race” was something you needed to know about. I do not mean to imply that this was an unsalutary development. It was a hugely powerful development in my own education. I feel that most of my education has come from books and the small but remarkable group of teachers who have been their interlocutors. In graduate school, the books stripped off that cushioning and in its place gave me a chastening, freeing distance. The usefulness of temporarily exiting my own confused and cushioned mind. I could offer a long list here of the books that did this; a list that I try still to convert on a regular basis into syllabi for the classes I teach. Maybe most powerful for me was the experience of reading the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for they taught me in a sustained way that white liberals like myself were a problem. The ones who think they mean no harm. And are a problem still, for many reasons, including their feeling that their good intentions inoculate themselves against racial self-awareness.

Photo By The Big Lunch

Photo By The Big Lunch

It was good then, that in the ‘90s “race” was something you needed to know about. But it has had its other effects. In the academic world today it is possible to encounter smart white people who feel the presence of people of color is optional, since they already know “race.” Whiteness is resilient that way.

Another effect of this period was that white people began to praise each other for talking about race. It was brave to write about it. But saying it is brave to write about one’s whiteness is not unlike saying it is brave to live inside a house. White people are often so defensive on the subject of race because to be white is to feel a certain—perhaps unsought, perhaps uncultivated, but still palpable if you look for it—sense of unmistakenness. There has been a test you didn’t even have to take and you got the answers right (points subtracted for certain errors—your mistaken desire, perhaps—but still. You did well). White people don’t like to be mistaken. They would prefer not to take any more tests. They passed! And when they write about race, they would like you to give them an A for effort. Because they were brave.

One way, if you are white, to take note of your whiteness is to pay attention if you feel a little p.o.’ed, a little restricted, when asked to think if your race matters to what you write or read or think; or when asked to consider that your writing about race has a content that you have not sufficiently considered. That your effort alone is not enough. It is not that I know for certain that race always matters. I’m honestly not sure how to calibrate this. But it may matter more often than a white writer thinks, and it may matter in ways she doesn’t realize.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that it is important, valuable, for white people to write about race. But not because it is brave. Let us reserve that term for more truly dangerous endeavors. Saying it is brave makes it special, optional, and somehow unchallengable. When it could instead be unremarkable, a matter of course. Not easy, mind you. Hard. But not brave.

For many well-intentioned white people, writing or talking about race is hard, but not in the way I want to mean this word. It is hard for us because there is the feeling, back there in your mind, that there might be a skeleton in the closet you don’t know about, or one you don’t remember. That you said or wrote or did something that someone will use against you. I feel that fear raised up in the back of my mind as I write this. What can I be accused of? It’s there. Many white people react to that question with defensiveness or fear, which are both forms of avoiding the truth. Because there is a skeleton in the closet. There is something to be accused of. Because you are white. And you grew up in a racist country. And there was a moment, or many moments, maybe even whole decades of earlier life, when you didn’t sufficiently transcend those conditions. You have been wrong.

So what? This is the wrapper that must come off, unremarkably, as a matter of course. What I mean by hard is something different. What is difficult is the education you must commit to as a white person, the long and necessary education. A long and necessary education whose primary condition is that it never ends. You are never finished.

In a book I wrote about the murder of a young gay man in the town where I live, I tried to counter the blanketing whiteness of the town by counterposing some voices of color against the comfortably unaware voices of some of my white interview subjects. A white colleague told me that was a predictable move. It was a move, of course, a use. I didn’t worry too much about this, in the sense that I mainly tried to do it well and stay alert for mistakes. This is obvious: it seemed worse to leave some subjects out because to “use” them would be “a move.” This orchestration might not have been “natural” to me as a writer; but unnaturalness, unnatural engagement, was the best I could do at the time. I believed, still do, that whiteness was part of what made so many of the white people in my town react in certain ways to the murder, a reaction that became the dominantly reported reaction, because they were white. I also believed it might be useful to at least somewhat dislodge this dominant reporting. Did I use people of color to do this? Yes I did. I interviewed people of color because I reckoned they knew things I didn’t know, things that weren’t optional to know. I wanted the point of view to not settle in a single body. I wanted people to hear themselves, to hear people other than themselves— I wanted the book to do that for everyone. It was all moves. It was writing.

You try hard not to make mistakes, you accept that you will make them. You try, if you are white, to not use “race” as yet another open field for your endless and praise-hungry self-assertion. You don’t run people out of the room when you don’t get an A. In one way the question is what writing is for. I don’t have an original answer to this. I write and read so that I can finally think; and I write and read to hope that it might be possible for me to construct a vantage point on what I don’t yet know how to know. These two things do not feel like separate endeavors. Is it impossibly idealist for me to believe that when I read, say, Richard Bruce Nugent, I both am and am not myself, as he is both himself and not? Not a transcendence, but a chance to halfway get out of one’s own mess of a mind in order to get back in. You don’t write to get clean. Writing’s not hygiene. But I write in the hope that writing clears some room for something else.


Beth Loffreda teaches creative writing and American Studies at the University of Wyoming.  She is the author of Losing Matt Shepard: Life and Politics in the Aftermath of Anti-Gay Murder.

From The Racial Imaginary: Writers On Race In the Life of the Mind. Copyright © 2016 by Max King Cap, Beth Loffreda, Claudia Rankine.  Used with permission of Fence Books and Beth Loffreda.

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Towards A Science of Consciousness

· Articles & Essays · ,

by His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama


While the Buddhist contemplative tradition has not had access to scientific means of gaining insight into the brain processes, it has an acute understanding of the mind’s capacity for transformation and adaptation. Until recently, I gather, scientists believed that after adolescence the hardware of the human brain becomes relatively unchangeable.

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Photo By William Carpenter

Nothing Personal

· Articles & Essays · ,

by James Baldwin


The light that’s in your eyes,
Reminds me of the skies,
That shine above us every day.

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View

· Articles & Essays · ,

by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche


When practicing meditation, we should become accustomed to the meaning of the view. Where is this view? At the moment our deluded mind probably is not in possession of the view. The unerring ultimate view is not something far away and spectacular that we need to look for outside, like embarking in a boat across the ocean after one has already exhausted all the land on Jambudvipa. That would be the approach of the causal vehicle of characteristics. When recognized within our present state of delusion, the view is naturally in the state of primordially pure great emptiness.

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