Monthly Archives: October 2008

If you didn’t taste all the chilies, you should not vote

If you didn’t taste all the chilies, you should not vote. Otherwise, it is not fair.

Today there was a chili cook off at my workplace. So we went to taste all different chilies and vote for the best one. My coworker’s stomach was too full, so he couldn’t try all the chillies. When I asked him to vote for the best chili, he refused. He said he didn’t taste all the chili, he should not vote. Otherwise it is not fair.

I applaud him for having this common sense. However, people voting for the president of US have no such common sense. People don’t even know the name of the Green Party candidate. They cannot even pronounce Mike Gravel’s last name. I think it should be mandatory that voters be handed an instruction of the election with the list of all the candidates and their policies (do they do that?), and the voters have to check off that they have read the instruction before they can vote. Without that, the election is a joke. No wonder America went to war with Iraq.


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No self, no problem

When I talk about no-self, I don’t mean selflessness. Your selflessness still has a self. No self. All Buddhism practice is for cutting off yourself. When you practice Buddhism, practice putting everything down, including that selfless self. Don’t practice in a way that keeps affirming yourself.

Knowledge is for people who have problems. If you have no self, there are no problems. Then you don’t need to know.

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Two great things of human civilization

It was said that the two great things of human civilization are the scientific method of the west and the meditation practice of the east.

It is interesting that I finished most of my scientific training in China, and I didn’t get a chance to practice Buddhism intensively until I came to US (intensively might not be the right word since I always take a light-hearted attitude towards studying of Buddhism. I always spend most of my energy focusing on my arts of life. For things I deem important to learn, like computer programming, liberal arts, I aggressively use brutal forces to bombard them. 🙂 ).

For China, for the past two centuries, it has been a history of learning from the west, especially the western tradition of science. But up to my time, I could say that China still didn’t have the spirit of science and China hasn’t developed a system of science, although the great minds in China have tried generation after generation to instill the spirit and system of science in the Chinese culture.

I started meditation practice in China but I couldn’t find a good teacher in China. I guess all the best teachers come to US. 🙂  It is very interesting to me to see the transformation that the western culture is going through.

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The subject and object part 2

The subject and object part 2:

Part 1 is here:

Below is a follow-up of IDP Saturday class this week.

There are billions of moments in one snap of fingers. There are moments you hear. There are moments you don’t hear. Your ears hear, but you don’t hear. The moment you hear, subject and object are unified. The moment you don’t hear, the subject and object are separate. When the subject and object are separated, what is created in between is the limited space that we human beings tend to identify as the (illusionary) self. Because of that (illusionary) self, at that moment, you don’t hear. If you stay in that state for too long, you get hit by a car.

When you are sleeping, your ears still hear. But you don’t hear because your being is sleeping. But if you don’t have dreams, it is easy for your being to wake up to the sounds. So dream is the thing that stands in between your body and your being. When your being wakes up, you can hear again. So indeed, thinking is dream like. Dream is things that come up randomly. So if you are trapped in thinking, it is like day dreaming. Your thoughts are scattered.

Breathing is one fundamental activity we human beings do. If you are thinking, you cannot breath naturally. The activity of breathing is the same as the activity of the mind.  You inhale, and you expand. You expand to the maximum, and you cannot expand anymore. Then you start contracting. You exhale, and reach the minimum. But you cannot stay there long either. You start inhaling and expanding again. In class, during the discussion of Right Effort, we talked about making efforts and relaxing and letting go. This is the same kind of activity that the mind does. We see here two activities are functioning. One is the living activity. The other is the dying activity. What is the living activity? The moment you realize that life is precious and you need to work hard to make yourself, your parents, your friends, your loved ones, and everyone else to be happy, that is the living activity. So you start expanding. You expand to the maximum until there is no need to expand anymore. Then you realize that such an active pushing forward is (very subtly) a distortion or mistaking of reality. You don’t need to tell your ears to listen. Your ears already heard the sound before you have a chance to tell them to listen. To hear the sound, you have to give yourself up. Then you can hear. Otherwise, you cannot hear. So you have to do the dying activity. You realize that you need to just receive, just follow the flow. So you start contraction. Then you can rest your tiring body and become spacious. When you reach the minimum, you don’t need to contract anymore. Then you realize that you have taken so much love in this world, thus you need to work hard. So you start expanding again.

So mind activity is the same as the breathing activity. When there is no thinking, mind follows the activity of expanding and contracting naturally. We can see here why breathing activity is fundamentally difficult. The other fundamentally difficult activity is sex, which we also covered recently. We can see the same expansion and contraction activities between a couple.

If I understand correctly, when you are just doing things and not thinking, you are in a state that subject and object are not separated. Being mindful, I guess, doesn’t have to be in a state that subject and object are separate. But it seems that the way people interpret mindfulness tends to lead to a state that subject and object are separated, e.g. the person stands on the side of the subject and are mindful of the object. I am just speculating here since I don’t do mindful practice particularly myself.

So when we are doing sitting meditation, we inhale. We are hearing all the time.  We exhale. We are hearing all the time. You are not separated. (Here we can see why sitting still and not to be bothered by the pain are important in sitting meditation.) By practicing this, after we stand up from the cushion and start engaging in daily activity, our minds inhale and exhale, but we are always connected and not separate.

These are just some words to help the practice. So it is better you discard them immediately. Knowledge is only for people who acknowledge thinking unconditionally. So I fill you with more knowledge. As you get more and more knowledge, you will reach the limit of knowledge and realize that knowledge is very limited. If you can just put it down now, you will experience the limitlessness immediately. All the knowledge is for people who have problems. If you don’t have self, you will have no problems. You then don’t need all the knowledge here.

Here is the link for the gmail drunk emailing prevention (which came up during the discussion of Right Effort). What is funnier than I told in class is that gmail will ask you several math question to test if you are drunk or not. So if you cannot solve the questions, google will say: “Dude, you are too drunk. Stop sending email and go back to your bed.”  🙂 It was said that the western culture relies more on external things. I think this is a wisdom too. For a Buddhist, it doesn’t matter what social circumstance is, you should always be able to go beyond it. But for a society in general, it is better to have a better social structure so a higher percentage of the population can live in a way more akin to the natural way of human beings, e.g. the peaceful way, and thus have a chance to discover their own nature.

Note: the content here will always be continously revised. So please don’t take my words for it.

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Software programming for everybody

When software programming is made so easy, it is a revolution. I am referring to python and its web frameworks. Programming with python is like writing articles. Instead of writing things down, I just write them into software directly. In a sense, this is the true writing. The writing is not static, but dynamic, and it more fully represents the thoughts/knowledge, which are dynamic and running, and can be interacted with in a totally different level from static writing in words.

With the emergence of all the social software on the web, we see that more and more people need to program themselves to better utilize all the data that is on the web and meet their own specific needs. With this happening, the human world is going to be ushered into a totally new area of knowledge sharing. The significance at least can be compared to that of the invention of paper and printing technology.

Here is Computer Programming for Everybody by Python author Guido.

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About Insight Meditation

I went to listen to the talk given by Sharon Salzberg at IDP. From the talk, I can see how the insight meditation can work. Here I want to talk a little of my personal take of it. For any practice, different people can have their personal interpretation of it, and the interpretation evolves as the practice matures. So please don’t be bound by my interpretation.

As Sharon said (forgive me if my quotation is not accurate), everyone has this original capacity for compassion. That capacity is always there, and we all have experience of it. But very often we block ourselves away from that capacity. So Insight Meditation, to me, is to practice being familiar with that capacity, and being able to manifest it or access it in daily life.

We all have the moments in our lives that we genuinely  wish our parents or loved ones to be happy. And we swore to ourselves to work hard to make them happy. So  these are things that we recognize as precious things in life. This, of course, is Buddhism’s teaching that life is precious. So with Insight Meditation, it is good to remind ourselves of these precious things.

Insight Meditation starts from wishing for yourself to be happy. Surely we need to wish for ourselves to be happy. If everyone can truly wish for his/her happiness, we won’t have so many problems. On the other hand, it is bizarre that people don’t want their own happiness. So there must be some conditioning. Then how should we resolve the conditioning?

By working with different people (friends, difficult people, strangers, community, all sentient being), we practice evoking that capacity in various situations and being familiar with various emotions associated with each. Then it will be easier to us to access them in daily life. There are many forces in life that tend to break us away from our source and cause the illusionary self to be generated. By being intimate with our source (e.g. that capacity for compassion), we are more able to withstand those forces in life and stick to what we consider as precious in life.

Metta is used to help focus the mind and not let the mind be scattered. This is similar to other techniques used in other lineages of Buddhism.

So I can see how Insight Meditation can be helpful for practice. Buddha taught many different paths for different people. Some people might be akin to a certain path. I can see how many people can be drawn to Insight Meditation.

Note: I only listed compassion here for convenience. All together Sharon listed four qualities of that original capacity.

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What to focus on in sitting meditation

People like to ask what they should focus on when in sitting meditation. As I said in a previous post about the subject and object, there are billions of moments in a snap of fingers. So there are billions of moments the subject and object are unified. There are billions of moments during which subject and object are separate. For normal people, their minds are often in a scattered state. Very often the state that subject and object are separated are scattered around. Buddhism practice is to extend the time that subject and object are not separate. As I gave two examples in that post, there are two ways to practice that. One way is sitting meditation. The other is just doing the thing you are doing.

When you are just doing the thing you are doing, you are focusing your attention on that thing. So by doing the activity and meet the flow, you are in the state that subject and object are not separated. Then you won’t get caught up with thinking, and you will always have the space to pay attention to other things that come up. Depending on the intensity of the activity you are doing, you will be able to pay attention to a bigger or smaller scope of space.

When you are doing sitting meditation, since you are not doing anything, you have more space that allow you to be harmonic with a bigger outer space.

So these two are the two very basic practice of Buddhism. By doing them, you will be able to focus your mind and be in the state of subject and object not separate for a long time.

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