30 March 2009

Outline of Commentary on Training the Mind in Eight Verses

The commentary to Eight Verses of Training the Mind has five parts.
1. The preeminent qualities of the author, Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa.
2. The preeminent qualities of these instructions.
3. The preliminary practices.
4. The main practice: training in the two bodhichittas.
5. How to integrate the practice of these instructions.

The preliminary practices has six parts.
1. Cleaning the meditation room and setting up a shrine.
2. Arranging beautiful offerings
3. Sitting in the correct meditation posture, going for refuge, and generating bodhichitta.
4. Visualizing the field for accumulating merit.
5. Offering the seven limbs and the mandala
6. Requesting the holy beings to bestow their blessings.

Cleaning the meditation room and setting up a shrine has two parts.
1. Cleaning practice
2. Setting up a shrine

Sitting in the correct meditation posture, going for refuge, and generating bodhichitta has three parts
1. Sitting in the correct meditation posture
2. Going for refuge
3. Generating bodhichitta.

Offering the seven limbs and the mandala has eight parts
1. Prostration
2. Offering
3. Confession
4. Rejoicing
5. Beseeching the holy beings to remain
6. Requesting the turning of the wheel of dharma
7. Dedication
8. Offering the mandala

Requesting the holy beings to bestow their blessings has two parts
1. Requesting blessings
2. Receiving blessings

The main practice: training in the two bodhichittas has two parts
1. Training in Conventional Bodhichitta
2. Training in Ultimate Bodhichitta

Training in Conventional Bodhichitta has Eight parts
1. Learning to Cherish others
2. Enhancing cherishing love
3. Exchanging Self with others
4. Great Compassion
5. Wishing Love
6. Accepting Defeat and Offering the Victory
7. Taking and Giving
8. The precious mind of Bodhichitta

Learning to Cherish others has two parts
1. The kindness of others
2. The benefits of cherishing others

Enhancing cherishing love has four parts
1. Recognizing our faults in the mirror of Dharma
2. Viewing all living beings as supreme
3. Living Beings have no faults
4. Developing humility

Exchanging Self with others has five parts
1. What is self-cherishing?
2. The faults of self-cherishing
3. How to destroy self-cherishing
4. How is it possible to exchange self with others?
5. The actual practice of exchanging self with others.

Great Compassion has three parts
1. What is compassion?
2. How to develop compassion
3. The inner wealth of compassion.

Wishing Love has two parts
1. How to develop wishing love
2. Transforming adverse conditions

Taking and giving has three parts
1. Taking by means of compassion
2. Giving by means of love
3. Mounting taking and giving upon the breath

Taking by means of compassion has three parts
1. Taking on our own future suffering
2. The benefits of taking on the suffering of others
3. The actual meditation on taking

The precious mind of Bodhichitta has two parts
1. Developing Bodhichitta
2. Enhancing Bodhichitta

[omits ultimate bodhichitta, the teaching on emptiness]

28 March 2009

Training the Mind in Eight Verses

To celebrate having finally managed to memorize Eight Verses for Training the Mind, a beautiful summary of the Buddhist path by Bodhisattva Langri Tangpa (see upper left corner), here it is:

With the intention to attain the ultimate supreme goal that surpasses even the wishgranting jewel, may I constantly cherish all living beings.

Whenever I associate with others, may I view myself as the lowest of all, and with a perfect intention, may I cherish others as supreme.

Examining my mental continuum throughout all my actions, whenever a delusion develops whereby I or others would act inappropriately, may I firmly face it and avert it.

Whenever I see unfortunate beings, oppressed by evil and violent suffering, May I cherish them as if I had found a rare and precious treasure.

Even if someone I have helped, and of whom I had great hopes, nevertheless harms me without any reason, may I see him as my holy spiritual guide.

When others out of jealousy harm me or insult me, may I take defeat upon myself and offer them the victory.

In short, may I directly and indirectly offer help and happiness to all my mothers, and secretly take upon myself all their harm and suffering.

Furthermore, through all these method practices, together with a mind undefiled by stains of conceptions of th eight extremes, and that sees all phenomena as illusory, may I be released from the bondage of mistaken appearance and conception.

My e-mail to Senator Feinstein

Dear Senator Feinstein:

I am writing as a Democrat and supporter of the President's agenda to STRONGLY URGE you to support the Employee Free Choice Act. As you know, this bill does little more than restore the rights of workers to organize work locations that was guaranteed under the 1935 Wagner Act, and which has gradually been eroded by changes in legislation and regulation over the years. A similar bill failed by only one vote during the Carter administration. It is HIGH time to pass EFCA and finally restore the most basic equilibrium to America's Labor Laws.

Thank you.

California Constituent

25 March 2009

Condoleeza Rice also deserves some credit

And now Condoleeza Rice, appearing on Leno, also said, "We owe them [the Obama administration] our loyalty and our silence.... I'll give them my advice privately, and keep it to myself." Compared to Darth Cheney, you have to admit, that's classy.

What 'the exception proves the rule' really means


Freeman Dyson, World Class Physicist and Cussed old Coot, Global Warming Heretic

This (from NYT) is pretty interesting, but I'd venture that, not for the first time, Dyson's contrarian nature has gotten away from him. Sometimes consensus arises because the conclusion is true.

Urge Feinstein, Specter, Nelson, Salazar to suport Employee Free Choice

If you care about the preservation of the Middle Class in this country and valuing work over speculative financial activity, PLEASE e-mail or write to Senator Dianne Feinstein and strongly urge her to support the Employee Free Choice Act. She has so far stayed on the fence, further discrediting her shaky claim to even be a Democrat. This bill essentially does no more than restore the Wagner Act of 1935, to permit orderly organization of workers who decide to unionize. Over the decades one regulatory and statutory change after another has eviscerated further and further this once simply stated right. This isn't ultimately an ideological question... it's a question of valuing work, which in the end benefits everyone by making our economy stronger.

Especially if you know any like-minded folks in Pennsylvania, but even if you don't, please also urge Arlen Specter to reverse position and vote for the bill, which he supported in 2007.

Likewise Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.)

Visit Warehouse Workers United website. In the badly depressed Inland Empire of California, 14% of the workforce is warehouse workers, and most of these people are forced into phony "temporary agency" employment, with depressed wages and no benefits at all. This isn't the way our country developed the most productive economy in the world in the wake of WWII... it's the harbinger of a third world future none of us want, if we would only look beyond the short term. It's time to wake up, because this negative transformation is already well underway.

24 March 2009

Core Tenets of the Mahayana Paraphrased

I think it's fair to say that the core tenets of Mahayana Buddhist View are something like this:

1. The real meaning of human life is twofold: (1) to develop and apply method, principally love and compassion, for overcoming harmful delusions, motivated by a desire to help others to do the same. (2) To develop wisdom, which sees clearly the way things really are.

All harmful delusions are forms of anger, attachment and ignorance, and are derived from the core delusion of belief in the inherent existence of self. Living with these delusions is samsara, whose essential nature is suffering.

3. The way things really are is that the things we ordinarily see do not actually exist, and the true nature of all phenomena is empty of inherent existence.

4. Anyone completely realizing
these tenets, through method and wisdom practices taught by Buddha, and with the whole being, including having the essential altruistic motivation to do so for the sake of others and out of love and compassion for them, can realize his or her true nature, enlightenment. Enlightenment is ultimate happiness, beyond conceptual fabrication, free from all suffering, possessed of total universal love and compassion, with the actual ability to help others directly.

19 March 2009

Causality and Locality

There's an article in the current issue of Scientific American (unfortunately not free online) by David Z. Albert which discusses how Einstein's objections to spooky action at a distance were indeed wrong, but not for the reasons Niels Bohr thought at the time. Turns out, from research by John Bell, who's a modern day Einstein in smarts, that nonlocality is actually real. (As opposed to a mere appearance with an underlying explanation that doesn't require nonlocality, comparable to the fact that it's always night in Sydney when it's day in London. That doesn't involve a connection between them; the underlying phenomenon is their location on a spinning globe and day and night being secondary phenomena resulting from the light of the same sun).

In other words, entangled quantum phenomena remain entangled until quantum states change (for example an electron and a positron emitted from the same quantum event, with opposite spins). The distance between them (in conventional space) is irrelevant. As are considerations like the speed of light. It's not information that passes between them, it's just that, despite distance, they are part of the same thing, and its state is co-determined-- if one part changes, so does the other, instantaneously. This is so even if they are separated by millions or billions of light years, which is quite possible.

Unfortunately, the logic that dictates the impossibility of science fiction author Ursula LeGuin's ansible (subspace FTL radio) is undisturbed by these findings. There is an ironclad chain of logical reasoning as to why it is impossible to use this phenomenon to convey information. It boils down to the fact that information can act as a cause of physical events, and if it were possible to communicate FTL, it would be possible to undo causes of events that had already occurred. Causation would be violable; and in physics if it can happen, it does (sometimes); so if it doesn't happen, it can't.

Locality, as an inviolable universal principle, is defunct, but causality remains. Causality, in fact, appears to be really quite fundamental. Everything in the universe bends to its preservation.

This touches on a topic for another physics post: why any conveyance of matter or information faster than light violates causality, and whether there might be exceptions. For now, I will merely comment that, at least for ordinary distances like the distances between stars or galaxies visible from Earth, (or anything smaller than that), conveyance, including of information, faster than light, is the logical equivalent of time travel or communication backwards in time. These conjectural phenomena, which do not exist in nature, would, if they did, create causal paradoxes that are not logically resolvable. An example of how the universe bends to enforce causality: conveyance of any mass faster than light, of even so much as an electron, requires not just vast, but rather infinite, energy, according to the reliable and proven principles of general relativity, and is therefore not possible. Communication (as opposed to conveyance of matter), which can be accomplished using light or other photons themselves, can be accomplished at, but not faster than, the speed of light, without violating causality.

If none of this means anything to you, I apologize. It assumes a bit of familiarity with these ideas, which many people tend to conclude have nothing to do with them, so they take no interest. A reasonable point of view, I suppose, but not one I share.

18 March 2009

My last word on AIG

I feel sorry for people who work for AIG, not the hedge fund in London, but the real company... they've been left holding the bag of a failed company ruined by gambling gangsters. These guys played a game where they had incentives to gamble someone else's money with the rules being heads I win, tails you lose. I.e., prices up, I get a lot of money, no one loses. Prices down, all hell breaks loose, but I've taken no risk... YOU have as a taxpayer after the government has to step in to prevent global meltdown... and I make a lot of money anyway.

Investment banks used to be partnerships, where if serious risk taking went wrong, the partners had to bear the costs. But since they all went public and the regulatory environment was changed to not only allow but incentivize the most destructive kind of double-dealing and leveraging, there has been total irresponsibility and havoc. Bear Stearns and Lehmann did the same thing, and the real pisser is that people like Phil Gramm deliberately changed the law precisely to make this possible. Heads must roll. Maybe RICO can be used to prosecute some people, as Josh Marshall suggests. And Congress just HAS to change these rules so that this kind of thing never, ever happens again.

AIG CEO: give back ½? Incompetent fool, or sick joke?

First, he sends Geithner a polite screw-you letter, and pays the bonuses even knowing a shitstorm is brewing, then has the gall to go before Congress and plead he's gonna wheedle with the recipients to give half the money back. Either this Liddy guy is a complete incompetent and fool, or this is some kind of very, very sick joke. Remember, this guy was put in there supposedly to clean up the mess, not carry on with what caused it in the first place.

Barney, you listnin'? This guy needs to get his posterior fired by us taxpayer owners of AIG, and pronto. Let's say it all together: "No Confidence."

Bush: no critique of Obama

Credit where credit is due. George W. Bush yesterday on President Obama:

"I'm not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena," Bush said. "He deserves my silence."

Bush said he wants Obama to succeed and said it's important that he has that support. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has said he hoped Obama would fail.

"I love my country a lot more than I love politics," Bush said. "I think it is essential that he be helped in office."

17 March 2009

My comment to TPM: AIGFP Fallout

I wrote this to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com:

One thing I don't understand... if AIG's Liddy, who's supposed to be a sort of bank examiner director, gave Pasciucco, the new head of AIGFP he brought in from Morgan Stanley, instructions to 'wind down' the unit, what the hell is that about? "Wind down!!" How about, "fire all their asses and shut the door!" I just don't get how people who basically committed what would have been gross fraud but for the fact that special interests had persuaded Congress to legalize their criminal conduct (if it wasn't fraud anyway, which remains to be seen)... and whose fraud was a key element of the worst financial meltdown in more than a generation, should have jobs the next morning, much less be receiving bonuses nearly a year later. Please explain, someone! Like in front of a Congressional committee.

Also, if most of these people were employed in London, how can Congress pass legislation to specially tax them (as may be in the works)? Isn't their income subject only to UK law? It sure looks to me like the US taxpayers have been snookered but good, AGAIN.

Stuff like this keeps happening, people are going to wonder why the Obama administration isn't succeeding in putting a stop to it.

16 March 2009

AIG Bonus Debacle

Josh Marshall's comments on the AIG Bonus debacle are pithy, pointed, and dead-on right.

13 March 2009

Comment on Conservative Democrats' objections to Climate Change legislation/Obama role

I wrote this comment to TPM, after seeing reporting that 8 Conservative Democrats in the Senate have signed a letter objecting to using the budget process to circumvent filibuster on climate change legislation:

OK, I get it that there are limits to the power of a president to impose his will on Legislators, especially if the latter are Democrats. (Bush never seemed to have too much trouble in this department, outside of his attempts to repeal Social Security). But I think Obama needs to lean heavily on conservative Democrats in the Senate on climate change. He needs to meet with the Gang of 8 personally, and emphasize to them how critical for our nation's future it is for us to get serious about climate factor management NOW. And how whatever legislative strategy that can be made to WORK needs to be the one pursued.

11 March 2009

Preposterous Meme: Obama taking on too much

I think this new G[reat]O[bstructionist]P[arty] meme that President Obama is taking on too much, has too much on his plate, isn't concentrating enough on the economic crisis, etc. is just preposterous. Were it not for these very obstructionists, I feel quite sure that the Obama administration could do a great deal more, and if anything I'm concerned that their efforts to date to cope with the myriad crises facing us are not enough, rather than too little.

09 March 2009

The Stars, So Far Away

Interesting facts about astronomical scales.
  • If the moon were a ping pong ball, the Earth would be a softball, and the ping pong ball moon would be a shade under ten feet away.
  • If the Earth were a pea, the Sun would be a sphere about a yard in diameter, about 3/4 length of a football field distant (75 yards).
  • Skipping the next scale up (best for last): If the model Sun is an infinitesimal mote one inch from the next nearest star (the distance to which is very roughly the typical distance between stars in the disk of the Galaxy), then the model Galaxy will be about four tenths of a mile in diameter.
  • If the model Galaxy is a 12 inch dinner plate, the next comparable big spriral galaxy (M31 in Andromeda) is another plate, at a tilted angle, floating about 18 feet away.

All of these are within an easily grasped proportion of the size of the celestial object in relation to its distance from the next similar such object. But take the one I skipped: the average distance between stars. Let's take the Sun and the nearest comparable star, Alpha Centauri A, which is roughly similar in size to the Sun (it has companion stars, as do roughly half of all star systems, but we'll ignore that). This distance is about 4.3 light years, or 26 trillion miles.

If a model Sun (actually about 1 million miles in diameter), is a 1 foot sphere, a little bigger than a basketball, Alpha Centauri A will be a just slightly smaller sphere, but its distance would be about 4800 miles, roughly the distance from Denver to Paris.

All of which shows that in the various scales of the universe, the real 'hole,' where a (proportionally) huge void separates one thing from its like, is the distance between the stars.

This has all kinds of interesting implications for the origin of life, the formation and stability of planets and their orbits, the prospects for direct exploration of other star systems, etc. But for now, I leave it as an interesting factoid.

Nancy Reagan praises Obama on stem cells

Newser reports that Nancy Reagan issued a statement praising President Obama for lifting the Bush stem-cell research ban.

Controversy over Dorje Shugden: a prayer

I don't want to go into a controversy that is tearing up Buddhist communities that follow Tibetan traditions, particularly followers of the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa. If you're interested, look up Dorje Shugden in wikipedia; at least for the moment that article is relatively unbiased.

I only want to offer a prayer:

May the conflicting views of sincere Dharma practitioners be resolved amicably; may tolerance and respect prevail; may the tradition of Je Tsongkhapa flourish forevermore.

Seeing the Kindness of Others

I try to remember that others' kindness is everywhere, and to look with wisdom eyes to see it. If we could really do that, all the time, we'd live in a Pure Land of Bliss.

07 March 2009

3 good quotes today

I subscribe to a daily quote service. Here are 3 from today.

Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.
- Iris Murdoch
I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.
- Franklin P. Adams

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
- Leo Tolstoy

The second one strikes me as a pretty good description of the curious mind engaging in this new activity we've invented: web browsing.

06 March 2009

If Specter's gonna flip, he needs to be encouraged to flip now

There's a good deal of speculation around that Arlen Specter, who is only popular among PA Republicans to the tune of about 26%, has an incentive to switch parties in order to avoid defeat in the Republican primary in 2010.

From the point of view of Democrats nationally, I think pressure should be applied to induce him to switch now, and to vote with Democrats on fiscal issues in particular, if he wants to gain support to keep his seat as a Democrat in 2010. We need his vote, but he needs Democratic support, including campaign and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee support, if he is to keep his seat. There's a good chance, and he knows it, that if he remains a Republican, he will be defeated in a primary challenge from Pat Toomey.

But if he just bides his time and waits to see what way the wind blows, meanwhile voting with the Obstructionist Republicans most of the time, I say, we should let him know he will not get help from Democrats in 2010. Let Toomey beat him, put up someone else, and win in the general election in 2010. And if he tries to switch right before the primary season, put up a well qualified Democrat and beat him in our primary. The nitty gritty message from Democrats to Specter right now needs to be: You need to get on board if you expect cooperation to help you out in 2010.

03 March 2009

Dodged the Constitutional Bullet, for real

If you still don't believe that the policies the Bush administration put in place after 9/11 amounted to abrogation of significant elements of the Constitution, consider this, as reported in Newsweek. It seems that Bush neoNazi lawyers actually wrote memos to justify a considered supension of the First Amendment by Presidential fiat. Could El Presidente Bush por Vida have been far behind? We dodged a bullet in 2001-2006, when our government was actively considering instituting fascism.

If you think that's too strong a term, then ask yourself, what has to happen before you'd call it that? Isn't the seizure of constitutional power without legal authority, rule by decree, and enforcement of political power by implicit military threat, a pretty good definition? We didn't go all the way there, but it's now a historical fact that the Bush legal folks, pushed by the political operatives, were figuring out how to create intentenionally sham legal justifications, very reminiscent of the kinds dictators have used to topple constitutional governments in Third World countries time and time again. It's a testament to the robustness of our political institutions that, even though the will and the willingness to ignore checks and balances was there, they couldn't quite pull it off; or, to give the benefit of the doubt, ultimately stopped short of destroying our system of government out of some last shred of human decency.

Even with a Democrat in the White House, we have a long way to go to fully restore America's constitutional system and, even moreso, to restore its reputation in the world for fairness and rule of law.

Idiot Rich and Income Taxes

This ABC news piece, as reported on by The New Republic, just goes to show that just because you're well off doesn't mean you're not an idiot.

Sure, lots of folks don't really pay attention to the tax codes, but you don't go doing stuff to reduce your income without checking on the facts. Unless you're an idiot, that is.