Sunday, November 28


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Metta means "Loving-kindness". The wish is for all beings to be safe, happy, healthy, and to be at peace.


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Well, if I were a blue penguin, I bet this is what I'd be dreaming.


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Of mice and men, and mousy men.


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Since my original paintings of Burroughs and Crow were deleted without my knowledge (I guess they were assumed to be photographs?), I'll not reveal the model for this anonymous face. Doesn't look much like him, anyway.


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Calling this an "elbow" would make more sense if the image were reversed and the arm were in the shape of an "L".


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

Eagle flew out of the night.


Originally uploaded by upasakabrian.

'Tis but a silly thing. Holiday snap from a vacation in Surrealia.

Choice Quotes from Who Is My Self?

Again, from "Who Is My Self?" by Ven. Ayya Khema, Ch. 13, "Path and Fruition" -- emphasis added.

From p. 158,
We know how quick a mind-moment is. The knowing and the relief take two, at the most three, moments. The relief, the release, the tears can last and perhaps turn into bliss later on, if it does not happen straightaway. The knowing arises immeditately and when it does, we realize what we have practiced for. There may even be a feeling of having actually lost weight, as if the body had become much lighter. In fact it is the mind which has lightened, but the mind greatly influences the body.

From p. 162, how to take the next step:
To take the next step, there are two things we should bring to mind over and over again; right view of "self" and, particularly, the remembrance of the moment of fruition. This will not have such an impact as when if first occurred but will certainly bring back the feeling of relief and joy. Both are needed and must be brought up as often as possible.

Also from pp.162-163, on review-knowledge [what S. would call investigating whatever's coming up]:
These [honestly looking at the hindrances & fetters?] are examples of what is called "review-knowledge," especially useful after any of the jhanas. At that time, when the mind is pure and translucent, we bring up the feeling of the moment of fruition and then review our whole understanding of the fallacy of selfhood. We neeed to internalize this fallacy many times with the recognition that there is no longer any wish to cherish it.

And from p.164, what is the still point?:

A once-returner can expect to have a path moment that is similar to, but not identical with, the previous one, and that in any case defies description, followed by a similar, but not identical fruit-moment. The jittery feeling is, in most instances, no longer apparent. Utter relief arises, but usually no tears. It can be extremely blissful, though this need not happen immediately. Again the mind has touched upon a moment of nothingness, which is an actual experience. It is not that bodies, trees, houses, cars, roads, bushes, and mountains do not exist. On the relative level they do. But on an absolute level they are particles of energy that come together and fall apart. They come together in certain forms and creat phenomena. The moment of nothing is the experience fo that one moment when everything has fallen apart and has not yet arisen again.

From pp. 166-167, on why the aspiration should be to arahantship, not to non-return:
The non-returner has to review the remaining fetters and find out whether there is any wish for rebirth in hte higher realms. This could manifest as a wish for everything to be pleasant and agreeable; a wish not to be confronted by anything containing dukkha. Of course this is also a very human attitude, but for the non-returner it is more. It becomes a kind of inner drive, for the fine-material and formless realms are said to consist of nothing but sukha, happiness. The feeling can be quite strong, and has to be recognized. The subtle remainder of self has to be seen for what it is. The Buddha warned against the desire to be born in higher realms because, once there, we stay for countless eons. This is why gods imagine themselves to be eternal. In the human realm, we have the constant incentive of dukkha to spur us on, but for the non-returner, once in those Brahma realms, experiencing no dukkha, it would be very hard to take the last step. This is why the Buddha said such a desire is detrimental to our practice.


From "Who Is My Self?" by Ven. Ayya Khema, chapter 13, "Path and Fruition," p.157

...When we are completely convinced and are totally willing to give up our self-illusion, there comes a moment when we can make the attempt to do so. Giving it up is not so easily done as said, but at least it can be explained.

After any of the jhanas is the right moment to try. The first jhana is not particularly suitable, although the Buddha says it can be done after any one of them. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh are all most useful because the mind is particularly at ease and clear of the hindrances. When these are present, it is impossible for us to see the truth because we are obstructed by the hindrances. But when we come out of a jhana, during which they have been laid aside, the mind is tranquil and translucent, and it becomes possible at that time to recognize other dimensions.

We can, in fact, make the attempt after any concentrated meditation, but unless the concentration has been long and steady enough, the hindrances will still be present. It is essential to have an unperturbed mind.

Everyone I See

After doing another metta sitting before bedtime, an idea arose: to make more of a conscious effort to direct metta toward whoever is in front of me at any given moment. Often times there's a herky-jerky, start-and-stop; keeping it going all the time, toward everyone I see, would be worth doing.


Since the Cloud Mountain retreat focuses on DN 9 Potthapada Sutta (States of Consciousness), it might well behoove me to re-read Ayya Khema's commentary on that sutta, the book "Who Is My Self?"

Saturday, November 27

One Month on Cloud Mountain

Info from

Teacher: Ven. Ayya Khema via video taped dhamma talks

Assistant: Leigh Brasington

Topic: States of Consciousness (Potthapada Sutta) Digha Nikaya #9

Dates: 25 Feb - 24 Mar '05

Place: Cloud Mountain Retreat Center (1 hour North of Portland, OR)

Contact: Cloud Mountain at (360) 274-4859 or 1-888-465-9118 or e-mail Friends of Cloud Mountain

More info can be found here.

Cost: $1250?

Happy Xmas and Happy Birthday to me. [Delighted giggle.]

Thursday, November 25

This Has Been Bugging Me For DAYS

I remembered there was this one line from a Dylan song about "your useless and pointless knowledge," but I couldn't quite pin it down. I had a feeling it was from "Tombstone Blues"... which, in fact, it turned out to be. I thought, "Oh boy: right again." Thank you, Google.

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

The Stoic In Me

A cool site called hosts a nice selection of reference material, including the Harvard Classics. Gini's dad has a set in his study that I've been coveting for years. Anyway, here's the start page for The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Tuesday, November 23

"The Hidden Fortress"

Yesterday I watched Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" (1958).

When I grow up, I wanna be as cool as Toshiro Mifune.

Monday, November 22

JFK Assassination Game Called "Despicable"

CNN reports that a spokesman for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D - MA) calls a forthcoming videogame about the assasination of President Kennedy "despicable."

What the CNN report doesn't say is that the gamemakers stole the idea from the first chapter of Richard Kadrey's 1988 novel "Metrophage."

Reality has again lapped cyberpunk fiction.

Sunday, November 21

Metta by Ven. Ayya Khema

Metta: a talk by Ven. Ayya Khema. Santa Fe, New Mexico. April, 1992.

On Thursday, Chris asked me to email her something. After doing a metta and karuna meditation, with her as the focal point, I opened myself up to the question of what to send her. This is what arose.

The next day, she replied that she was blown away by how apt this was for her situation (of which I know few details). She said she got chills.

I continue to send her metta and karuna...

Wednesday, November 17

from Notes from the Underground

Thank you, Project Gutenberg, for facilitating this latest entry in my ongoing project, "Literature I Should Have Read A Long Time Ago, But Better Late Than Never."

Here's a choice bit from the diatribe in Dostoyevsky's "Notes from the Underground."

Oh, gentlemen, do you know, perhaps I consider myself an intelligent man, only because all my life I have been able neither to begin nor to finish anything. Granted I am a babbler, a harmless vexatious babbler, like all of us. But what is to be done if the direct and sole vocation of every intelligent man is babble, that is, the intentional pouring of water through a sieve?

The Underground Man would have made a great blogger.

Insight into illness and injury

While Mary was massaging my legs and feet, the following insight arose.

I saw a lifelong pattern: being sick or injured is the way to get more loving attention. Illness and injury caused the parents to be concerned and treat me better -- and it kept Beth at bay, too. I saw how far back this goes: late adolescence, back to school days, even back into infancy. Being sick means getting love, nurturing, attention.

Injuries, illnesses... feigned or exaggerated illnesses... self-harming...

If you're sick, you get to stay home (where it's safe and nice.)

If you're ill, no one can ask anything of you.

If you're hurt, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You can just curl up on the couch and relax and watch TV and read. The mommy will wait on you and bring you whatever you ask for...

Meditation and Neuroplasticity

Interesting, they used metta/karuna.

Tuesday, November 16


I mention in passing that I finally got around to reading (and actually finishing!!!) Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis." yet another of those "classics" that I've been meaning to read for years. It was, well, let's just say it was very Kafkaesque, and leave it at that.

Borges is still rockin' my world, though. And messin' with my head. In a good way. ;-)

2 Points Shy of Genius

According to this website I found:
An average intelligence quotient is considered to be one hundred. However, the range actually extends from ninety to one hundred and nine... Just one point higher and the person is catapulted into the one hundred and ten to one hundred and nineteen intelligence quotient range. This person is considered to be mentally superior to his or her average counterparts. Add one more point, and the person who has an intelligence level from the one hundred and twenty to one hundred and forty range is considered to be even more superior in intelligence. And, finally, if a person's intelligence quotient is found to be above one hundred and forty, that person is considered to be a genius in mental intelligence. This level is not reached very often, though.

Story of my life. Almost, but not quite.

And yes, I'm fully aware of how silly this is.

Q&A With Ajahn Chah

Antony Woods posted a link to Questions & Answers with Ajahn Chah on UpasikaTalk. V. good.

"Simply watch and don't cling," that venerable one said.

Saturday, November 13

Apt Weekend Forecast

From Jonathan Cainer's Zodiac Forecast:
You know how, sometimes, you wake up with a silly song going round your head? When this happens, it can stay for days. Over and over it goes. Ideas can do the same thing. We take a fancy to something or someone or we suddenly develop an interest in some unlikely notion. It drives us bananas; the more so because we know it's a passing thing. Yet it becomes an itch that we just yearn to scratch. Look out, this weekend. You've got a head full of thoughts which don't need to be acted on. Don't fight them. But don't follow them either.

Yup, that sounds like me, all right.

Thursday, November 11

Perverse Pleasure Is The Best Revenge[?]

A humorous piece at Salon suggests the best way to deal with our collective despair over the election and the nation's precipitous tilt to right-wing Xtian fundie values is to get out there and have some fun.

Sounds like a plan.

[Except for the part about the quickie divorce; I'm happily married, thank you very much.]

Blame "Infinite Jest"

[adapted from an email to my friend Sophie, revised and expanded for blogging]

Yesterday afternoon, we had to make an excursion to our lawyer's office for Gini to sign her will (as in last will and testament, & living will, & durable power of attorney, etc). I should set the stage here by noting how big a deal this is: the lawyer's office is an hour's drive from here, in difficult traffic. And we've been procrastinating about the will for months and months. So it was a big day for us, a big outing. Clearly, we don't get out much. ;-)

After the signing, we ate dinner at a Chinese buffet. Mmmmmmm.

As we were coming home, I asked Gini if there were any bookstores along our route, because the other day -- in the online version of the NY Times Sunday Book Review -- I had read David Foster Wallace's review of a new biography of Jorge Luis Borges. I didn't want to buy the biography, but the review reminded me how much I adored Borges' "Ficciones" when I was about 17 or so... So I wanted to recapture that bit of my youthful enthusiasm.

Anyway, Gini drove us to the Border's bookstore in Saratoga. While G waited in the car, I went in and bought a new translation of JLB's collected fiction (lots of stories I've never read!), as well as the movie tie-in of "Bridget Jones - The Edge of Reason" for Gini. A group of young people crowded the sidewalk, coming in the other direction, and it probably triggered my fight-or-flight response, just a little. I quickened my pace to get back to the (illusionary) safety of the car and then...

Something *very bad* happened inside my right foot.

It had been hurting for a couple of days, but suddenly the pain intensified so that I couldn't put any weight on it at all. Fortunately, the car was only a few more yards away.

It must be a stress fracture, that's all I can think. I've been keeping it up and icing it, and using my old cane to hobble around. The weirdest thing is how hard it is to adapt to using my cane with my left hand. In the wake of the car accident, I had become so accustomed to holding the cane in my right hand; the opposite feels so very wrong. The mind is a funny thing.

I blame David Foster Wallace for this... No, no, not really, I don't. I blame Borges... No, no. Not him either. Let's see. My own stupidity and fear? Closer, but that's still not it. No. It's craving -- for a book, for the illusion of safety -- that leads to suffering... Once again:

It's craving's fault!!! Blame craving!!!


Tuesday, November 9

Apparently, I'm Getting Smarter

The last time I took an IQ test, my score was 136. This morning, it's 138.

Congratulations, Brian!
Your IQ score is 138

This number is based on a scientific formula that compares how many questions you answered correctly on the Classic IQ Test relative to others.

Your Intellectual Type is Visionary Philosopher. This means you are highly intelligent and have a powerful mix of skills and insight that can be applied in a variety of different ways. Like Plato, your exceptional math and verbal skills make you very adept at explaining things to others — and at anticipating and predicting patterns. And that's just some of what we know about you from your IQ results.

Sunday, November 7

Unsent Rebuttal

I wrote a long email (including links to source material) to Contender Ministries pointing out the errors and biased language in their page about Buddhism...

On further reflection, I decided not to send it to them. The researching and writing was a useful process for me to go through, though, so I've decided to post it here.

To: Contender Ministries

Dear Sir or Madam,

The section of your website which discusses Buddhism contains factual errors and biased language. Specifically, I refer to this page in the sections on "The Dharma" and "The Sangha."

In pointing out these corrections, reference is made (mostly) to the website Access to Insight, an authoritative online source of discourses from the Pali Canon.

Quotes from the Contender Ministries website are labeled CM. My responses and corrections are prefaced by BK.

CM: "Following Buddha's death his followers convened to create a system of doctrines that they could all agree on."

BK: No. It is said that, following the Buddha's death, the Buddha's attendant, Ven. Ananda, recited the Buddha's teachings that he had memorized. The Ven. Upali recited the rules of the monastic order (Vinaya, or code of discipline) which he had memorized. Thus the system of doctrine was not created, as you say, but rather formalized and ratified by those present at the First Council.

[couldn't find good reference online to Ven. Ananda's part in the First Council]

CM: "According to Buddha, nirvana, or deliverance from suffering, is extended to everyone who strictly obeys the laws of a monastic life."

BK: Nirvana (nibbana in Pali) is not limited to monastics; the Buddha had many lay followers who reached one of the four stages of awakening. Also, obeying the rules of discipline did not automatically guarantee that monastics would realize nibbana.

CM: "You've reached Nirvana, you're done, you cease to exist.  It's hard to see where the hope lies in this, but rebirth after rebirth could, I suppose, make your complete elimination from existence sound appealing."

BK: This is a commonly held misconception (even among some Buddhists). In fact, the Buddha explicitly rejected this notion.

CM: "1. The universality of suffering - People discover through rebirth, aging, and death that life is full of sorrow.  We suffer this sorrow until deliverance is achieved.
2. The origin of suffering - Suffering is caused by the false desires of the senses that have been deceived into clinging to the impermanent world.  The quest for immortality further aggravates human suffering.
3. The overcoming of suffering - If false desires cause suffering, then the desires need to be suppressed, abandoned, or rejected in order to nullify their effects.  Ignorance of the way of deliverance and the delusion that there is a permanent self are the primary cause of suffering.
4. The way leading to the suppression of suffering - The noble eightfold path is a sacred path with eight branches called right views of understanding, right aspirations, right speech, right conduct or action, right livelihood, right effort or endeavor, right mind control or concentration, and right mindfulness.  These eight branches are not stages that can be lived out in succession or isolation from one another.  They are different dimensions of a total way of life."

BK: Your re-wording of the 4 Noble Truths has changed their meaning. For comparison, see:

BK: It's not "suppression of suffering," it's cessation of suffering.

BK: You have the Noble Eightfold Path out of order. Right Mindfulness should come before Right Concentration.

BK: Referring to concentration as "mind control" is misleading.

CM: "And how long will it take to follow these truths to deliverance and reach this state of spiritual suicide?"

BK: Again, the Buddha specifically rejected this notion, so characterizing deliverance as "spiritual suicide" is incorrect.
Again, see

CM: "After the Buddha's first sermon he continued to preach only to his followers, a group of wandering beggars, rather than to the masses.  These followers became the first monastic order.  This order of Buddhist believers is known as the Sangha.  In order to learn the Dharma and become part of the Sangha, people were required to become one of these beggar-monks."

BK: In a very short time, the Buddha gained a large following of lay people, and he taught the Dharma (Dhamma in Pali) to a wide variety of people, not just monks.

CM: "Followers who chose not to become members of the order were still permitted to follow the Buddha's teachings while living in the world, however they would not be able to achieve nirvana or receive any of the higher fruits of the Dharma, such as inner tranquility."

BK: Firstly, this contradicts what was said above, about only ordained monastics being taught the Dhamma. Secondly, the Buddha stated clearly that among his lay followers were those who had reached the higher fruits of the Dhamma.

Brian Kelley

One Christian Ministry's (Wrong) View of Buddhism

I found this site via a post on Monkeyfilter talking about the whole Apocalyptic Xtian belief system thingy. The page about Buddhism teems with incorrect information, and is located under the section labeled "False Religions."


Friday, November 5

Purple America

You know, all this stuff about red states and blue states: none of them are all red or all blue. They're all about half red and half blue (with some variation, of course). (But it *is* interesting to note how, if you look at a county-by-county map, the blue is more prevalent in the high population density -- urban -- areas...) So color America in shades and hues of purple.

ADDENDUM: Oops! Unconscious plagiarism. Must give credit where credit is due: this idea comes via boingboing's post called "Purple Haze," leading to a blogger named Jeff Culver who made a lovely purple electoral map. Huzzah and kudos to Mr. Culver.

Wednesday, November 3

I Voted...

...for Mr. Kerry.

Funny story about going to the polls, too, but I'm too tired to write about it tonight. It's 1:46 a.m.

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