Tuesday, June 29

About Papañca

Majjhima Nikaya 18, Madhupindika Sutta, The Ball of Honey. Translated by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

This is probably *the* sutta on the subject of papañca, mental proliferation, the subject and modus operandi of this blog. In his introduction to the sutta, Ven. Thanissaro writes:

Translating papañca: As one writer has noted, the word papañca has had a wide variety of meanings in Indian thought, with only one constant: in Buddhist philosophical discourse it carries negative connotations, usually of falsification and distortion. The word itself is derived from a root that means diffuseness, spreading, proliferating. The Pali Commentaries define papañca as covering three types of thought: craving, conceit, and views. They also note that it functions to slow the mind down in its escape from samsara. And, as our analysis has shown, it functions to create baneful distinctions and unnecessary issues. For these reasons, I have chosen to render the word as "complication," although some of the following alternatives might be acceptable as well: self-reflexive thinking, reification, proliferation, exaggeration, elaboration, distortion.

And from the sutta itself, Ven. Mahakaccana explained:

"Dependent on eye & forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one complicates. Based on what a person complicates, the perceptions & categories of complication assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future forms cognizable via the eye.

"Dependent on ear & sounds, ear-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on nose & aromas, nose-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on tongue & flavors, tongue-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on body & tactile sensations, body-consciousness arises...

"Dependent on intellect & ideas, intellect-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a requisite condition, there is feeling. What one feels, one perceives (labels in the mind). What one perceives, one thinks about. What one thinks about, one complicates. Based on what a person complicates, the perceptions & categories of complication assail him/her with regard to past, present, & future ideas cognizable via the intellect.

Jane Jacobs

Here's an article in the NYT about Jane Jacobs. Registration required.


Ms. Jacobs also sees dark clouds looming over some staples of contemporary life. She predicts that the current explosion in housing prices will prove to be a bubble, though she cannot say whether it will pop before or during "the coming demographic bulge in retirements."

Good thing we got here to Prestwick Chase when we did...

This coming demographic bulge in retirements -- the Baby Boomers -- should prove very interesting indeed.

Monday, June 28

The Comings and Goings of the Black Dog

Winston Churchill called [clinical] depression "the black dog," and in Sheryl Crow's song "Weather Channel" she also uses that name, as in:

Just like before
There’s a black dog
That scratches my door
He’s been growling my name saying
You better get to running

After a period of absence, the black dog came to sniff around again over this weekend, Friday night... Saturday... Saturday night was escpecially bad. It got better yesterday, and today that old dog is gone again. It comes and it goes, like anything else. Anicca. Inconstant.

I will not crow too loudly about its absence, lest that be taken as an invitation, but I will breathe a quiet sigh of relief. Saturday night was as close to the Pit as I ever want to get.

My meditations were particularly bad over the weekend: terrible inability to concentrate. But here we have the chicken/egg conundrum: did the depression cause the inability to concentrate? Or did the inability to meditate effectively help to bring on the depression? My intuition tells me it's the former. Yes. As I consider it further, it's very clear that the depression came first. And one of the well known symptoms/side effects of depression is difficulty concentrating. OK. Makes sense.

Also, there is the ongoing effect of mold exposure to consider... The mood swings, the inability to concentrate... OK, makes sense.

Sunday, June 27

The Problem Is...

While a drawing was emerging, the thought arose that my failure as an artist (and earlier as novelist, as poet, etc.) is essentially a failing of character. This failing lies not in laziness but rather in a lack of will, a lack of persistence, a lack of stick-to-it-iveness. A failure to stay on task. A willingness to settle, the readiness to say, "ah, that's good enough." A failure to care more about results than process. When the process stops being fun, I hurry to finish.

Oh well. It turns out to be a pretty neat drawing anyway...

Friday, June 25

"Lost In Space"

Yesterday I tried to buy the special edition CD of Aimee Mann's "Lost In Space" via the store linked to her website. Today I received an email from them saying that the item was back-ordered and maybe I'd get it in one to four weeks.

Nuh uh.

So I called them up and cancelled the order, went to the iTunes music store, bought the non-special edition of the original cd, downloaded the tracks, put them on my iPod and listened to "Lost In Space" during my daily walk through the woods.

Yuh huh.

That's the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, uh huh uh huh. Give me digital, please, and spare me the shipping costs, the waiting, and yet another little plastic disc to clutter up the apartment. Give me digital, please; it tastes like the future.


"Lost In Space" (2002) is another brilliant Aimee Mann record. Very sour and beautiful, literate and sad. The song "Invisible Ink" really hooked me; as soon as it had finished I listened to it again.

Grass, Wind, Standing Stone

Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Oh, That's Why!

I just realized that the seed which inspired the little ROT-13 app was planted by the superlative talk on DRM that Cory Doctorow delivered to Microsoft Research. Nice to be able to trace back to where that seemingly random idea came from.

For Mom's Birthday

Sin Killer by Larry McMurtry

Thursday, June 24

The Caesar Cipher

I made the little Rot-13 conversion app in SuperCard, adapting an algorithm I found on the Web. Part of being a smart developer means not reinventing the wheel. I could have developed my own method, using "switch...case" statements, but this way was much more elegant -- using the ASCII numbers of letters. The actual mathematical formula was what I culled, but I still had to retrofit this to work in SuperCard, and I'm unreasonably pleased with this little toy. Here's the text of this post rotated 13 letters through the alphabet.

V znqr gur yvggyr Ebg-13 pbairefvba ncc va FhcrePneq, nqncgvat na nytbevguz V sbhaq ba gur Jro. Cneg bs orvat n fzneg qrirybcre zrnaf abg ervairagvat gur jurry. V pbhyq unir qrirybcrq zl bja zrgubq, hfvat "fjvgpu...pnfr" fgngrzragf, ohg guvf jnl jnf zhpu zber ryrtnag -- hfvat gur NFPVV ahzoref bs yrggref. Gur npghny zngurzngvpny sbezhyn jnf jung V phyyrq, ohg V fgvyy unq gb ergebsvg guvf gb jbex va FhcrePneq, naq V'z haernfbanoyl cyrnfrq jvgu guvf yvggyr gbl. Urer'f gur grkg bs guvf cbfg ebgngrq 13 yrggref guebhtu gur nycunorg.

Gini's Chair

Gini got her power wheelchair yesterday.

That's like saying, "Gini got her freedom yesterday."

Tuesday, June 22

Just For Fun...

Make a rot-13 encoder/decoder in SuperCard.

Monday, June 21

"Sometimes I Doubt Your Commitment To Sparkle Motion"

Here's a whopping great passel of links about the film "Donnie Darko," courtesy of a poster named "shoepal" onMetaFilter. A Director's Cut is being re-released theatrically, summer 2004!

Richard Kelly, Writer & Director of Donnie Darko, at futuremovies.com

Donnie Darko to be Re-Released with 20 minutes of new footage!

Ricard-Kelly.net unofficial fan site

The book?

Interview: Richard Kelly Breaks In With Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko: Flash movie site

Cellar Door: Getting to know Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko FAQ

A fan's transcript of the film

Back Into the darkness

Trailer for the new Director's Cut

Ain't It Cool News

Love! Fear!

List of 10 Things

A list of 10 things compiled from DN 2, Samannaphala Sutta, from the intermediate section on virtue.

It is significant that the standard formulation for all of these includes the phrase, "contemplatives, living off food given in faith." That is very important, I thnk. Householders who are not living off food given in faith can enjoy their wealth blamelessly (and practice generosity & the other duties of a householder, such as to one's family & community, etc.)

However, it seems likely that a householder who is serious about practice would probably want to gently let go of these sorts of things, to whatever degree possible. Accordingly one should let go of one's addictions to these things:

1. Damaging seed & plant life
2. Consuming/using stored-up goods (clearly that would be much harder for householders, but perhaps not impossible...)
3. Watching shows for entertainment
4. Playing heedless and idle games
5. Luxurious furnishings
6. Scents, cosmetics & adornments (the list in DN 2 includes being massaged with oils)
7. Lowly talk about lowly topics (standard list: kings, robbers, ministers of state; armies, alarms, and battles; etc.)
8. Debating
9. Running messages & errands for other people
10. scheming and persuading [improper ways of trying to gain material support from donors]

So: plant life, stored-up goods, entertainments, games, furnishings, adornments, lowly talk, debating, errands, and scheming.

Interesting: much of this is covered for a lay person when they keep the 8 precepts... On retreat, especially, one has extra support in this regard.

Nakula's Parents

The sutta about Nakula's Parents, found at AN VI.16 provides some wonderful, deeply inspiring passages. I will not quote it in its entirety here, but 2 passages stand out:

Now it may be that you are thinking, 'Nakula's mother will take another husband after I'm gone,' but you shouldn't see things in that way. You know as well as I how my fidelity (lit., "householder-celibacy") has been constant for the past sixteen years. So don't be worried as you die, householder. Death is painful for one who is worried. The Blessed One has criticized death when one is worried."

That the word for mariltal fidelity literally means "householder-celibacy" may be significant. It may be the case that married householders can continue to enjoy their marriage bed, and that such fidelity is a sufficient component of a householder's sila; complete abstinence is not required for a layperson's progress on the path. For, as we see from the following passage, Nakula's mother did quite well.

"Now it may be that you are thinking, 'Nakula's mother will not reach firm ground in this Doctrine & Discipline, will not attain a firm foothold, will not attain consolation, overcome her doubts, dispel her perplexity, reach fearlessness or gain independence from others with regard to the Teacher's message [a standard description of a stream-winner],' but you shouldn't see things in that way. To the extent that the Blessed One has white-clad householder female disciples who reach firm ground in this Doctrine & Discipline, attain a firm foothold, attain consolation, overcome their doubts, dispel their perplexity, reach fearlessness, & gain independence from others with regard to the Teacher's message, I am one of them. If anyone doubts or denies this, let him go ask the Blessed One, the worthy one, the rightly self-awakened one who is staying among the Bhaggas in the Deer Park at Bhesakala Grove, near Crocodile Haunt. So don't be worried as you die, householder. Death is painful for one who is worried. The Blessed One has criticized being worried at the time of death."

After being exhorted by his wife, Nakula's father's disease subsided. He went at a later time to the Buddha, and the Buddha confirmed what Nakula's mother had said, and stated that Nakula's father was very fortunate to have such a wife -- "sympathetic & wishing for your welfare" -- as his counselor & instructor.

Five Subjects for Frequent Reflection

In Pali and in English, from "A Chanting Guide."

Handa maya"m abhi.nha-paccavekkha.na-paatha"m bha.naama se:
Let us now recite the passage for frequent recollection:

Jaraa-dhammomhi jara"m anatiito.
I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.

Byaadhi-dhammomhi byaadhi"m anatiito.
I am subject to illness. Illness is unavoidable.

Mara.na-dhammomhi mara.na"m anatiito.
I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.

Sabbehi me piyehi manaapehi naanaa-bhaavo vinaa-bhaavo.
I will grow different, separate from all that is dear & appealing to me.

Kammassakomhi kamma-daayaado kamma-yoni kamma-bandhu kamma-pa.tisara.no.
I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and live dependent on my actions.

Ya"m kamma"m karissaami kalyaa.na"m vaa paapaka"m vaa tassa daayaado bhavissaami.
Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.

Eva"m amhehi abhi.nha"m paccavekkhitabba"m.
We should often reflect on this.

Regarding Pali words: I notice that the word here for illness, "byaadhi" seems to be related to the word for fear, "bhaya."

Sunday, June 20

Manna From Heaven

While reading Walden, the word "manna" came up. Dictionary.com provided this treasure: that it is the miraculous food provided to the Israelites during the Exodus (which I knew). It comes from the Hebrew, "Man-hu" which literally means "What is that?"


From Walden

"But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before."
--H.D. Thoreau

The Language Thing

It occurred to me as I was watching the movie "Volunteers" (1985), that if I want to learn a language to keep my brain limber & stave off the effects of aging (see the post on Objective-C), it might be more beneficial to focus on something that might actually be useful in my life, like Learning Thai Language The Easy Way.

"That's Just What You Are"

Lyrics by Aimee Mann

Source: www.lyricsdownload.com

In our endeavor we are never seeing eye to eye
No guts to serve us so forever may we wave goodbye
And you're always telling me that it's my turn to move
When I wonder what could make the needle jump the groove

I won't fall for the oldest trick in the book
So don't sit there and think you're off of the hook
By saying there is no use changing 'cause

That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Acting steady always ready to defend your fears
What's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears
By suggesting that a change might be a thing to try
Like it would kill you just to try and be a nicer guy

It's not like you would lose some critical piece
If somehow you moved point A to point B
Maintaining there is no point changing 'cause

That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Now I could talk to you till I'm blue in the face
But we still would arrive at the very same place
With you running around and me out of the race

So maybe you're right, nobody can take
Something older than time and hope you could make
It better, that would be a mistake

So take it just so far

'Cause that's just what you are
That's just what you are
That's just what you are

Acting steady always ready to defend your fears
What's the matter with the truth, did I offend your ears
You're like a sleepwalking man, it's a danger to wake you
Even when it is apparent where your actions will take you

That's just what you are
And that's just what you are
That's just what you are
That's just what you are

I'm With Stupid

"Trail Mix"
"Walking the 'Pod"

During the noontime hour I walked the trails through the woods behind Prestwick Chase. Awesome trails. For accompaniment, I brought my iPod along, playing in its entirety Aimee Mann's exquisitely crafted collection of poison-pen letters to her former record company, "I'm With Stupid." Much of that record would not be out of place on my mix, "Bri's Favorite Achingly Bitter Songs." [See previous entry.] Of particular note, though, is a song called, "That's Just What You Are," which chastizes someone who is afraid of changing. [See separate lyrics post.]

Walking through the woods took me back to the summers of my teenage years, especially the summer of '83 when I was 16, those July days in which I roamed the wooded and swampy areas near my parents' house, ostensibly looking for blackberries to pick. A roam and a ramble through the blackberry bramble. [/doggerel] Though I had not yet read "Walden," I was like an adolescent Thoreau, leaving the world of village thoughts behind upon entering the woods. That was truly my initial, entirely private discovery of mindfulness practice, long before I knew what meditation was.

Today, there were moments on those trails when it was impossible not to see this hike as a metaphor. Although I didn't know where I was in relation to anything else, and didn't know where the trail would ultimately lead, I knew that I was on the path, and I needed no more than that knowledge to feel safe and happy.

I wish to walk these trails again, and to bring the camera next time. Walking in the woods is good for me, I think, for reasons far beyond (but not excluding) physical exercise.

Saturday, June 19

Quoting Sumedho

This is from a chapter called "It's Not Fair" in the book "Teachings of a Buddhist Monk" by Ajahn Sumedho. On p.95:

'I shouldn't think bad thoughts, I should only think good ones.' And then we would have bad thoughts and think: 'I shouldn't be thinking like this. I wish I didn't have these kinds of thoughts; I wish I were someone who had beautiful thoughts; I wish I were a loving person with a generous heart; I wish I could be just full of love and joy, but instead I'm frightened and jealous, get angry, upset, have bad thoughts, and it's terrible . . . !' And this goes around and around. 'What's wrong with me that I should be like this?' This is a case of being caught in the whirlpool of 'self' again, isn't it?

This is very, very familiar. I said much the same things to Chris just a few weeks ago. How funny it now seems in retrospect. All these "selves," all these "I am"s are just thoughts that arise and cease in the mind. That's all.

And continuing on p.96:

When we look at thought itself, the finest as well as the meanest, it just arises and ceases. We can notice the space, the empty mind, rather than the thought. And we do not have to make anything out of thought. It can be seen as a condition that begins and ends. This is one way of really getting to know the emptiness of mind, the mind that is clear and bright and not personal, not 'me', not 'mine', not a man or a woman, not clean or dirty, not high or low, not good or bad. To realise this is to abide more and more in emptiness, less and less in thought.

Friday, June 18


The following is a brief talk by Ajahn Lee on sankharas, collected in the book "Inner Strength."

February 6, 1956
(Delivered at a funeral service for Somdet Phra Mahaviravamsa (Tissa Uan), Wat Boromnivas.)
anicca vata sankhara uppada-vaya-dhammino
uppajjitva nirujjhanti...

The Dhamma, in one sense, is a means of nourishing the heart to make it pure. In another sense, the Dhamma is ourself. Every part of our body is a piece of the world, and the world is an affair of the Dhamma. But it's not the essence of the Dhamma. The essence of the Dhamma lies with the heart.
* * *
The development of all that is good and worthwhile comes from our own thoughts, words, and deeds. The good that comes from our words and deeds, such as the development of charity and virtue, is goodness on the crude and intermediate levels. The refined level, goodness developed by means of the heart, is meditation. For this reason, the issues of the heart are the most important things we must learn to understand.

There are two issues to the heart: the aspect of the heart that takes birth and dies, and the aspect of the heart that doesn't take birth and doesn't die. If the heart falls for fashionings (sankhara), it's bound to take birth and die repeatedly. But the heart that truly sees and clearly knows all fashionings can then let go of them, and thus won't take birth and won't die. If we want to go beyond suffering and stress -- not to take birth and not to die -- then we first have to learn the true nature of fashionings so that we can understand them.

Fashionings, as they appear in actuality, are of two sorts: fashionings on the level of the world and fashionings on the level of the Dhamma. Both sorts have their reality, but they're things that arise and then decay. This is why the Buddha said, 'anicca vata sankhara...' -- which means, 'All fashionings are inconstant...' -- because both sorts of these fashionings begin by arising, then change, and finally disband. Whoever can focus in to know clearly and truly see this condition, curb the mind, and become wise to all fashionings, is sure to gain release from all suffering and stress.

Fashionings on the level of the world are things that people create and conjure into being, such as wealth, status, pleasure, and praise. As for fashionings on the level of the Dhamma, whether or not we dress them up, we all have them in equal measure -- in other words, properties (dhatu), khandhas, and sense media.

Fashionings on the level of the world and of the Dhamma are like the changing colors on a movie screen. They flicker and flash: Green. Red. Yellow. White. Changing back and forth. When we watch, our eyes have to change along with them to follow them -- and this is what gives rise to misunderstandings. When the mind fastens on tight to these fashionings, it gives rise to feelings of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. When they change for good or bad, our mind changes along with them -- and so it falls into the characteristics of inconstancy, stress, and not-self.

From another point of view, fashionings can be divided into two sorts: those with a mind in possession, such as people or animals; and those without a mind in possession, such as trees. But though this may be the standard interpretation of fashionings without a mind in possession, I don't agree with it. Take the stairway to this hall: If you say that it doesn't have a mind in possession of it, try smashing it and see whether or not there'll be an uproar. The same holds true with fields -- try planting rice in someone else's field -- or with banana and other fruit trees planted in an orchard: Try hacking them with a knife to see whether or not their owner will have you thrown in jail. Everything in the world to which attachment extends has to have a mind in possession. Only the planet Mars, to which the sphere of attachment doesn't yet extend, doesn't have a mind in possession. Every sort of fashioning has a mind in possession -- except for arahants, who don't have a mind in possession because they aren't attached to any fashionings at all.

Attachment to fashionings is the source of stress, because fashionings are inconstant, as we've already explained. So only if we can let go and not be attached to fashionings will we meet with happiness and ease -- ease in the sense of the Dhamma, ease that is cool, quiet, solid, and unchanging. Ease in the worldly sense isn't any different from sitting in a chair: Only if the chair doesn't wobble will we have any ease. The wobbling of the mind is of two sorts: wobbling naturally and wobbling under the influence of intention and its fruit. How many times does the mind wobble in a day? Sometimes it wobbles from intentions in the present, sometimes from intentions in the past, but how it's wobbling, we don't know. This is avijja, the unawareness that causes fashionings -- thoughts -- to arise.

The other side to all this is non-fashioning (visankhara). What is non-fashioning? No wobbling, no changing, no disbanding: That's non-fashioning. Fashionings change, but our mind doesn't change. Fashionings are stress, but our mind isn't stressed. Fashionings are not-self, but our mind isn't not-self. Fashionings without a mind in possession: That's non-fashioning.

Most of us, by and large, are aware only of the knowledge offered by the Six Teachers -- the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and ideation -- which are sources of change, uncertainty, stress, unawareness, and fashionings. So we should close off these senses, because fashionings can't see other fashionings. Only if we get on the other side will we be able to see.

Wednesday, June 16

Ulysses For Dummies

Here is a concise summary of all 18 chapters, complete with animated stick-figure illustrations.

One should also note that the final section of my novel "Acting Crazy to Stay Sane" was an extended 18-part parody of Ulysses. Ah, the energy of youth. Talk about ineluctable modalities of the visible... [I don't know what that means, either, but it sounds impressive.]

Ulysses Online

Ulysses by James Joyce, available to anyone with a web browser.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him on the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned:

--Introibo ad altare Dei.

Happy Bloomsday!

In addition to being Uposatha, today is also the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday.

O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

On the Drawbacks of Bodies

Here are a few suttas from "Access to Insight" on the subject of the drawbacks of bodies.

All translations by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Anguttara Nikaya IX.15 Ganda Sutta --A Boil

"Monks, it's just as if there were a boil that had been building for many years with nine openings, nine un-lanced heads. Whatever would ooze out from it would be an uncleanliness oozing out, a stench oozing out, a disgust oozing out. Whatever would be discharged from it would be an uncleanliness discharging, a stench discharging, a disgust discharging.

"'A boil,' monks, is another word for this body composed of the four properties, born of mother & father, fed on rice & porridge, subject to inconstancy, rubbing & massaging, breaking-up & disintegrating. It has nine openings, nine un-lanced heads. Whatever would ooze out from it would be an uncleanliness oozing out, a stench oozing out, a disgust oozing out. Whatever would be discharged from it would be an uncleanliness discharging, a stench discharging, a disgust discharging. For that reason, you should become disenchanted with this body."

S.n I.11: Vijaya Sutta -- Victory

Whether walking, standing,
sitting, or lying down,
it flexes & stretches:
    this is the body's movement.
Joined together with tendons & bones,
plastered over with muscle & skin,
hidden by complexion,
    the body isn't seen
    for what it is:
filled with intestines, filled with stomach,
with the lump of the liver,
bladder, lungs, heart,
kidneys, spleen,
mucus, sweat, saliva, fat,
blood, synovial fluid, bile, & oil.
On top of that,
in nine streams,
filth is always flowing from it:
from the eyes : eye secretions,
from the ears : ear secretions,
from the nose : mucus,
from the mouth : now vomit,
    now phlegm,
    now bile.
from the body : beads of sweat.
And on top of that,
its hollow head is filled with brains.

The fool, beset by ignorance,
thinks it beautiful.
But when it lies dead,
    swollen, livid,
    cast away in a charnel ground,
even relatives don't care for it.
Dogs feed on it,
jackals, wolves, & worms.
Crows & vultures feed on it,
along with any other animals there.

Having heard the Awakened One's words,
the discerning monk
comprehends, for he sees it
    for what it is:
"As this is, so is that.
As that, so this."
Within & without,
he should let desire for the body
    fade away.
With desire & passion faded away,
the discerning monk arrives here:
    at the deathless,
    the calm,
    the undying state
    of Unbinding.

This two-footed, filthy, evil-smelling,
oozing-out-here-&-there body:
Whoever would think,
on the basis of a body like this,
to exalt himself or disparage another:

    What is that
    if not blindness?

Theragatha X.5 vv.567-576 -- Kappa

Full of the many clans of impurities,
the great manufacturer of excrement,
like a stagnant pool,
    a great tumor,
    great wound,
full of blood & lymph,
immersed in a cesspool,
trickling liquids,         the body
is oozing foulness -- always.
Bound together with sixty sinews,
plastered with a stucco of muscle,
wrapped in a jacket of skin,
this foul body is of no worth at all.
Linked together with a chain of bones,
stitched together with tendon-threads,
it produces its various postures,
from being hitched up together.
Headed surely to death,
in the presence of the King of Mortality,
the man who learns to discard it right here,
    goes wherever he wants.

Covered with ignorance,
the body's tied down with a four-fold tie,[1]
    sunk in the floods,[2]
    caught in the net of latencies,[3]
    conjoined with five hindrances,[4]
    given over to thought,
    accompanied with the root of craving,
    roofed with delusion's roofing.
That's how the body functions,
compelled by the compulsion of kamma,
    but its attainment ends
        in ruin.
    Its many becomings go
        to ruin.

These who hold to this body as mine
-- blind fools, people run-of-the-mill --
fill the horrific cemetery,
taking on further becoming.
Those who stay uninvolved with this body
-- as they would with a serpent
    smeared with dung --
disgorging the root of becoming,[5]
from lack of effluent,
    will be totally Unbound.

Tuesday, June 15

Toxic Mold Allergy

Well, my bunny the diagnostician has figured it out again. Just as she figured out my hypoglycemia, and more generalized "sensitivities", she has now discerned why I keep getting sicker and sicker whenever I go up to the house: mold allergy. Toxic. In retrospect, it seems so obvious. The symptoms are like a checklist of how I've been feeling since Rusty and I started going to the house to clean it out. And the thing about mold: if you're allergic, the more you're exposed to the mold spores, the worse your reactions become. Yesterday's was particularly violent.

Here's the information packet Gini put together [with repetitions left as they are for the sake of emphasis]...


Health Effects of Toxic Molds

Although mold affects individuals differently and to different degrees, the following are some of the most common adverse health effects.

  • Respiratory problems---wheezing, difficulty in breathing
  • Nasal and sinus congestion
  • Eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity
  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nose and throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath and lung disease
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Skin irritation
  • Central nervous system problems (constant headaches, loss of memory, and mood changes)
  • Aches and pains
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Immune suppression


[from Minn. & Cal. Health Depts.]

How am I exposed to indoor molds?

Mold is found everywhere, indoors and outdoors. It is common to find mold spores in the air of homes and growing on damp surfaces. Much of the mold found indoors comes from outdoor sources. Therefore, everyone is exposed to some mold on a daily basis without evident harm. Mold spores primarily cause health problems when they enter the air and are inhaled in large number. People can also be exposed to mold through skin contact and eating.

How much mold can make me sick?

It depends. For some people, a relatively small number of mold spores can cause health problems. For other people, it may take many more. The basic rule is, if you can see or smell it, take steps to eliminate the excess moisture, and to cleanup and remove the mold.

Who is at greater risk when exposed to mold?

Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone inside buildings. It is important to quickly identify and correct any moisture sources before health problems develop. The following individuals appear to be at higher risk for adverse health effects of molds:

  • Infants and children
  • elderly
  • immune compromised patients (people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy, liver disease, etc.)
  • pregnant women
  • individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity, and asthma.

People with these special concerns should consult a physician if they are having health problems.

What symptoms are common?

Allergic reactions may be the most common health problem of mold exposure. Typical symptoms reported (alone or in combination) include:

  • respiratory problems, such as wheezing, and difficulty in breathing
  • nasal and sinus congestion
  • eyes-burning, watery, reddened, blurry vision, light sensitivity
  • dry, hacking cough
  • sore throat
  • nose and throat irritation
  • shortness of breath
  • skin irritation
  • central nervous system problems (constant headaches, memory problems, and mood changes)
  • aches and pains
  • possible fever


Relief from symptoms . . .

If you have a severe allergy to mold you should see a qualified medical doctor that specializes in allergies. You can get allergy shots that can "desensitize" you to mold and several other allergies like dust, pollen, grass, etc. Many people have recovered from mold allergy completely or at least have greatly reduced their allergy to mold.

You can get relief by reducing the amount of mold that you are exposed to, and/or limit the amount of time you are exposed to mold. See article Eliminating Mold.

Try using an antihistimine or a cold remedy that includes this and a nasal decongestant. For children, be careful that the remedy does not contain aspirin [danger of RYE syndrome if children are given aspirin].

Avoid cumulative mold allergen exposures:

Mold allergy symptoms may grow more severe with each successive allergen exposure. Like stacking blocks, one too many blocks causes the whole stack to topple triggering an allergy flare-up. It is important to reduce your exposure to airborne allergens, food allergens and animal allergens. 

Allergies can lead to asthma, especially in children, causing permanent lung damage. Fortunately, information about allergies and allergy control products can help people with mold allergies live normal lives.

The symptoms are like a checklist: got it, got it, got it, got it.....

Monday, June 14

Have You Seen Me Lately?

Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

An "intuitive painting," begun while listening to Counting Crows' "Recovering the Satellites," starting with track 7, "Have You Seen Me Lately?"

Following the eponymous track, "Miller's Angels" contributed the angel and "they come out of a blue sky," as well as the piano keys the singer pounds while sobbing "leave me, leave me, leave me, leave me alone." And "Another Horsedreamer's Blues" gives us the childish rendering of the little horsey in the corner...

Looks like heavy weather...

I'm feeling much better now, thank you. :-)

Sunday, June 13

Yet Another Counting Crows Lyric Post

If anyone asks, tell them that this is one of Adam Duritz's best lyrics:

If I could give all my love to you
I could justify myself,
but I'm just not coming through.
You're a pill to ease the pain
of all the stupid things I do.
I'm an anchor on the line,
of a clock that tells the time,
that is running out on you.

Those last 3 lines just devastate me. So good, so true, so right. Sad and beautiful.

Dukkha Explained

It only hurts when I exist
(Via the Ben Kliban Picture Gallery)

New Playlist

Early this afternoon, I adopted a "what I resist persists" approach to my mood and assembled an iTunes playlist called "Bri's Favorite Achingly Bitter Songs," which goes as follows [ahem]:

Why try to feel better when you can wallow in self-pity with your very own soundtrack? ;-)

Now, looking backward from this evening's vantage point, it's easier to see that the mood was conditioned by dehydration and hypoglycemia, and not by anything more substantive or worrisome than those 2 transitory imposters. Anicca, dukkha, and anatta.

Afterthought: and actually, Suzanne Vega's "World Before Columbus" doesn't really belong on the list because it's not really bitter at all, it merely imagines the pain of losing one's lover. So put an asterisk next to it, but let it stand, because it's a brilliant song.

Or Not

Well, that idea for what what I thought would be a trivial AppleScript turned out to be a huge pain and I still can't find out how to do it. Ok. Fine. Be that way.

Saturday, June 12

AppleScript Reference

AppleScript Studio Reference

Friday, June 11

Idea for AppleScript

An idea for an AppleScript: something to quit all apps -- put it in the dock and quit everything with one click.

Thursday, June 10

A World Of Difference

It should be noted that on Tuesday, when I felt really imbalanced, was a day when I wasn't able to do my morning meditation at all. Yesterday was only a little better, and yesterday it was a half hour sit due to time constraints, and it was not too satisfying because of the impingement of thoughts about practical, logistical matters.

Today, on the other hand, I just sat for an hour, doing all metta, coming back to the phrase from the Metta Sutta: "May all beings be happy at heart."

And that has made a world of difference.

Wednesday, June 9

Geeking Out (Not In A Bad Way)

There is a certain geeky pleasure I'm deriving from messing about with Xcode, looking at the books "Learning Cocoa With Objective-C" and "The C Programming Language". I'm not really trying to produce anything. If I wanted to actually make something, I'd use SuperCard, and I'd have something usable with much less time and effort. No. I'm doing this for the fun of learning new things. One definition of "nerd" is someone who studies excessively... ;-) See also: grind, swot, and wonk.

Good news, courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Objective-C:
Objective-C is a very "thin" layer on top of C. In fact it includes only one syntax change and about a dozen new key words. Objective-C is a strict superset of C. That is, you can compile any C program with an Objective-C compiler and obtain a meaningful executable, which can't be said of C++.

So also getting "The C Programming Language" really was a good idea after all. Nice to have that reassurance.

Learning Cocoa

Long Time, No Blog!

Wow, nearly a week without an update, that's far too long. To recap:

Friday: sick. Very Sick.

Saturday: went down to Castle Computers to retrieve Gini's freshly repaired PowerBook. Yay. It only cost $40 for labor; the new HD was gratis under warranty. The rest of the afternoon, evening and into the night was spent restoring her data & software from backups and from the old PB she'd been using in the interim. Actually went about 6 hours straight, without a break. Had "Bruce Almighty" on HBO in the background, followed by a really HBO original movie starring Alan Rickman, about a black man who became a pioneer of open heart surgery...

Sunday: More fixing of Gini's computer: finding fonts like Calligrapher, getting the screensavers she wanted, etc.

Monday: signed up to the Price Chopper shopping trip. After returning, spent the rest of the afternoon putting away the big pile of stuff from the house that had been sitting for far too long in the living room. With a little ingenuity, I was able to find places to put everything, and man oh man, does the living room look better! Amazing what a difference that makes.

Tuesday: Rusty suggested an impromptu trip up to the house in the morning. Before we went to the house, I requested a stop-off, and brought along that bag of old CDs (something I've procrastinated about doing for well over a year). Took them to Last Vestige, and the kid behind the counter gave me a check for $70... :-) Then we went to the house and mostly worked in the garage. That was Rusty's idea. Personally, I think our efforts are more profitably directed at the main house, but hey, who am I to argue? Upon returning I had to quickly shower, decontaminate, change clothes, fix Gini's lunch, go to the information meeting in the library with the new Shiatsu therapist, then back here for some bill-paying, then a difficult session with Chris... Aaaaiiieeee. For visual, refer to Munch's "The Scream."

Today: Lunch with my mom. We'd been talking about getting together for -- what? weeks? But we kept postponing, for one reason after another. Lovely lunch at Applebee's, preceded by a little trip to Barnes & Noble, where I bought myself a present, the O'Reilly book, "Learning Cocoa with Objective-C." I realized this morning that if I really want to pursue fooling around with Xcode, it makes more sense to deploy my efforts to learning Objective C than it does to learn Java...

For the future:Another procrastination item finally resolved: I made the call to Just Service to arrange for a plumber to come up to the house on Friday afternoon, a window of 1pm to 4pm...

No wonder I'm so tired...

Friday, June 4

Sick Again

Once again, Rusty and I went up to the house to work on cleaning it out yesterday, and once again, I'm feeling sick the next day. I've had 2 bouts of liquid diarrhea this morning. What is more, I succumbed to sickness of another sort last night -- instead of my usual desire to go to sleep ASAP, I felt afraid to go to sleep. More accurately, I think I was afraid to lie there not sleeping. This fear turned out to be well-founded. Present thoughout the body were those icky awful sensations that Shinzen Young talks about, and there was a strong desire to hit myself. Eventually suicide fantasies arose. The sense was, I would do anything to avoid having to go to the house again. Eventually I got up out of bed to email Chris, but when I saw what I had written, I was afraid to send it, so I deleted the email.

Today, the worst of that mental state has passed, and I'm just left with the physical yuck that will eventually pass through my system. Gini has very kindly encouraged me to refrain from going on the grocery shopping trip today.

For encouragement, I looked up "illness" in the Subject Index at Access to Insight, and found AN X.60, the Girimananda Sutta, in which Ven. Ananda goes to the Buddha and tells him that Ven. Girimananda is seriously ill. The Buddha replies:

Ananda, if you go to the monk Girimananda and tell him ten perceptions, it's possible that when he hears the ten perceptions his disease may be allayed. Which ten? The perception of inconstancy, the perception of not-self, the perception of unattractiveness, the perception of drawbacks, the perception of abandoning, the perception of dispassion, the perception of cessation, the perception of distaste for every world, the perception of the undesirability of all fabrications, mindfulness of in-&-out breathing.

The 10 perceptions are then explained in detail,

Oh man, I feel yet another bout of diarrhea on the way. Yet another one of the drawbacks of a body.

Thursday, June 3

Sitting Report

Sat from approximately 10:30 to 12:00, about 1h30m. Metta, via phrases, then mindfulness of breathing. Pretty sloppy transition; pretty sloppy all around, actually. Kinda spacy, not very clear. I kept trying to pay particular attention to the end of the outbreath and the gap, but mindfulness was weak and the attention went slip-slidin' away.

On Dependent Origination

As a result of last night's chat in UpasikaTalk, Antony Woods sent me the following extract.

Ven Mahasi Sayadaw taught in "Paticcasamuppada":

"The impact of a sense-object depends largely on the nature of the impression conveyed by the object. If the impression is vague and dim, it produces only mild feeling and craving, but much vedana, tanha, etc., follow in the wake of clear and vivid impressions."

Here is the full quote:

"Having dealt with the first links in the chain of causal sequence, we will now proceed to phassa that is conditioned by salayatana. Salayatana means the six sense-organs and the six sense-objects, viz., visual form, sound, smell, taste, tactile object and mind-object. The contact between a sense organ and the corresponding sense-object is called phassa. It is an intangible phenomenon of mental life but it shows itself clearly when the object has an unmistakable impact on the mind. For example, we are shocked when we see someone being ill-treated. It makes us tremble when we see a man whose life is hanging by a thread on the top of a tree. Seeing a ghost will send the shivers, down the spine. Hearing or reading an interesting story often leaves some impressions that may remain indelible for a long time. All these show what it means when there is phassa or the impact of a sense-object on the mind of a person.

The impact is occasionally very violent and gives rise to violent emotions and outbursts of passion, anger, etc. According to the commentary on Anguttara Nikaya, in the time of the ancient Sinhalese King Dutthagamani, a young monk happened to see a girl. The girl looked at him too and both of them were so much consumed with a burning desire that they died. Again an elderly monk became insane after looking unmindfully at the queen of King Mahanaga.

In Mudulakkhana jataka, the bodhisatta was a rishi (recluse) who went to the king's palace to have his meal. He went there by air as he had psychic powers. When the rishi appeared suddenly, the queen rose to her feet in a hurry and her garment slipped. The queen's seductive pose instantly aroused the long-dormant sexual desire of the rishi. He could not eat any food. His psychic powers having vanished, he walked back to his abode and there he lay, afflicted with the fires of lust and passion.

On learning what had happened, the king offered the queen to the rishi as he was confident of the holy man's ability to recover his higher self eventually. He secretly instructed the queen to do her best for the welfare of the rishi.

Taking the queen, the rishi left the king's palace. Once outside the gate the queen told him to go back and ask the king for a house. He was offered an old house but there he had to fetch a hatchet and a basket for the disposal of excreta and filth. Again and again, he had to go and ask the king for other things that he needed. Going to and fro and doing all household chores at the bidding of the queen, the rishi was dead tired but he did not come to his senses as he was still dominated by lust and passion.

After having done everything that he was told to do, he sat down near the queen to take a rest. Then she pulled his moustache with a jerk and said, "Are you not aware of your being a samana (ascetic) whose object is to do away with passions and desires? Are you so much out of your senses?" This awakened the rishi to a sense of his blind folly and ignorance. After handing back the queen to the king, he went to the Himalayan forest, practised vipassana and recovered his psychic power. On his death he attained the Brahma world.

The moral is that even a person of spiritual calibre like a bodhisatta could not escape the fires of defilements. The rishi might have casually seen the queen before but the impact was not violent enough to jolt his emotional life. It was the clear, vivid impressions of the queen's physical appearance that harassed and engulfed him with the fires of lust and passion for many days.

In Ummadanti jataka, King Sivi became almost crazy after seeing Ummadanti, the wife of his commander-in-chief. The woman was so famous for her beauty that the king sent his brahmin advisers to see whether she had the qualities of a noble lady. But at the sight of the woman they were so much bewitched by her beauty that they lost self-control and made a mess of the feast given by their host. Disgusted by their disorderly behaviour, Ummadanti had them hustled out of the house. Thereupon, the disgruntled brahmins reported to the king that she was not qualified to be a queen. The king lost interest in her and she became the wife of the supreme commander. She was, however, determined to make things even with the king and so when he went round the city during a festival she showed her beauty and charms to the best of her ability.

The king was half beside himself with infatuation for the woman. Unable to sleep, he raved about her and gave vent to his blind passion in a gatha which says that if he were granted a boon by the king of devas, he would ask for an opportunity to sleep one or two nights with Ummadanti. The impact of a sense-object depends largely on the nature of the impression conveyed by the object. If the impression is vague and dim, it produces only mild feeling and craving, but much vedana, tanha, etc., follow in the wake of clear and vivid impressions.

The impact may also lead to outburst of temper. We show anger at the sight of an offensive object, and we fear a frightful object. Unpleasant words are irritating to us. Pride wells up in us when we think of something that boosts our ego. We hold wrong views when we toy with the idea of soul or with a teaching that makes a farce of kamma and its fruit. Objects of envy make us envious, and objects which we wish to possess exclusively make us miserly. These are instances of phassa that fuel unwholesome kammas.

Wholesome kammas too arise from phassa. Objects of devotion arouse faith, those whom we should forgive or tolerate help to foster forbearance, and contemplation of the Buddha and the Arahats make us mindful, kindly and so forth. So Patisambhidamagga says: "Conditioned by phassa, there arise fifty cetasikas (mental factors)." It attributes feeling, perception and kamma-formations to phassa.

We see because of phassa and this phassa occurs because of the eye, the visual object and the visual consciousness. The Buddha's teaching makes a distinction between the visual consciousness and the visual object. Ordinary people tend to confuse the former with the latter, but the Buddha stated clearly that visual consciousness arises from the eye and the visual object, and that phassa means the conjunction of the eye, the visual object and the visual consciousness.

This is the impact of seeing for which the three ayatanas, viz., the eye, etc., form the three necessary and sufficient conditions. The nature of impact is realized empirically by the yogi who practises mindfulness. The yogi notes, "seeing, seeing" at every moment of seeing and as concentration develops, he comes to realize that seeing is not uncaused, that it is not made or created by a person; that it is a psycho-physical phenomenon, having the eye and the visual object as its cause and the visual consciousness as its effect.

The impact on the sense-organ leads to feelings that may be pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent according to the nature of the sense-object. If the object is beautiful, there arises pleasant feeling; if it is ugly, we have unpleasant feeling. If the object is neither ugly nor lovely, the feeling is indifferent. This feeling (upekkha vedana) does not give rise to any comment, whether favourable or unfavourable; indeed it is not even recognized as a feeling but it is accepted by the ego. In fact, these three kinds of feelings have nothing to do with the ego or self but are aspects of the mental process stemming from sense-contact."

Wednesday, June 2

The Company You Keep

"Suppose, for instance, that two of your children are quarreling right in front of you. That's enough to put you in a bad mood yourself. Even though you didn't get involved in the quarrel along with them, there's a connection, and so you end up with a lot of hurt feelings, too. This is why we're taught, Yam ve sevati tadiso: You end up being like the people you hang around with.
--Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo, in "Consciousnesses"


"Today, Visakha Puja, is an extremely important day in the Buddhist tradition, for it was on this day that the Buddha was born, and 35 years later awoke to the unexcelled right self-awakening, and another 45 years later passed away into total nibbana. In each case, these events took place on the full-moon day in May, when the moon is in the Visakha asterism, which is why the day is called Visakha Puja.

Every year when this important day comes around again, we Buddhists take the opportunity to pay homage to the Buddha as a way of expressing our gratitude for his goodness. We sacrifice our daily affairs to make merit in a skillful way by doing such things as practicing generosity, observing the precepts, and listening to the Dhamma. This is called paying homage to the virtues of the Triple Gem: the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha."
--Ajahn Lee Dhammdharo, in "Visakha Puja"

Happy Vesak

Reading Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo's talk about Visakha Puja from 1956 has been very beneficial. I'm now imagining how lovely it would be start each day reading suttas or Dhamma talks instead of the usual morning news & information roundup... Reading suttas and Dhamma talks would be like starting the day (and preparing for the work of meditative practice) with a more nutritious breakfast, feeding the mind on much more wholesome things...

Tuesday, June 1

Addendum, About John Shirley

John Shirley recently published a non-fiction book about Gurdjieff, called Gurdjieff: An Introduction to his Life and Ideas.

From John Shirley, On Suffering

From John Shirley's blog entry called "Splinters from going against the grain: a certain mystery":

"It's the vastness of our capacity for suffering that I think is one of the great mysteries of human existence. (Our capacity for joy is, it seems to me, more limited than our capacity for suffering, though we can experience a great deal of joy--it's limited because if you feel too much, the brain has to compensate, and people tend to feel a corresponding 'down' afterwards, to some extent.)"

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