Saturday, September 09, 2006


Aggressive little critters, they are. I'm out on the deck, enjoying the sunlight filtering through the corner maple tree, and a hummer buzzes me. He is after the dried up remains of the feeder that hangs on a branch just above my left shoulder. Nothing in it, hasn't had anything in it in quite some time (we've neglected our duties as hummer parents this season; not sure why). Still, he hangs in the air within reach, his wings buzzing powerfully and a baleful eye cast down on his deadbeat provider. Sorry, Mr. Hummer, but sometimes life ain't easy. Sometimes the easy meals don't exist and you have to hunt them down in a different place and in a different way. Just stay true to who you are while you are doing it. Food tastes much better when eaten with a contented mind.

College Football Begins

First day of UVA football at home. Beautiful day, sunny in the low 80s. The pageantry begins. Bob and Betty next to us, Betty sitting primly next to the concrete abutment, her bottle of water next to her, and Bob stolidly observing with earpiece tuned in to the local radio station. We start with Wyoming, an out of conference game that is usually meant as a cream puff to warm up the Cavs. We'll see. They were crushed at Pittsburgh last week. Could be a long season. Nevertheless, it's about the colors and the roars and the good old song (if we ever get to sing it). Go Hoos!

Why Buddhism?

Because it has everything that appeals to me. First, I don't have to call myself a "Buddhist." As Stephen Batchelor said to us during a talk while he was traveling with us in India, Buddhism isn't "who you are, it's what you do." And that speaks to my American iconoclastic mind.

Second, it relies on the meditation techniques exploring the "mind"  accumulated by Hindu scholars over a period of 1500 years BEFORE the Buddha found the "middle way." Their studies and his conclusions presaged quantum physics in their exploration of the interior workings of physical space and mental processes. They peel back the layers of reality as though it were a metaphysical onion, revealing the "self,"in my case "Thunderstick," as nothing more than the accumulated experience rendered by my five senses that I mistake as an entity in and of itself. Once we understand that, particularly that there is no "there" there, we are free to roam within that "nothingness" unencumbered by all those delusions and pains and temporal pleasures that only distract us from the essential truth, or the "nothingness." Not a void or a vacuum, barren and cold, but instead a vast space free of obstacles that could divert you from the true path, or nirvana as it is commonly understood.

Finally, Buddhism fully accepts, in fact demands, that reason and logic have a seat at the table. As the Dalai Lama has said repeatedly (he's devoted to science and its rigorous analytical approach), if there is anything in Buddhism that doesn't make sense, that strains credibility as you know it, then discard it. Accept and apply only those theories and practices that make sense to your rational mind. Trying to do otherwise only adds internal conflict where none need be. Once you have applied all the reason necessary and are comfortable with where you are intellectually, let the rest reside on faith, by definition outside the area where logic prevails. In Buddhism, faith and reason make a happy marriage.

By happy coincidence to this little missive, I'll be traveling to Dharamsala next April to attend a private conference of the Mind Life Institute with about 20 western scientists, 20 Tibetan Buddhist scholars, and the Dalai Lama at his residence. He will be there for five days with us, each day a presentation of some scientific evidence commented upon by the Dalai Lama in an active give and take discussion. Don't ask how lowly me ended up with this opportunity....