Mirror of Zen Blog

Never Interested

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I was never attracted to or interested in Russian culture, in the slightest. I read things like Dostoyevsky, Gogol, and was even touched for a while by a period of reading Tolstoy in my youth, but nothing of the soul there really ever gripped me. (And I even made a strong effort to read through much of War and Peace, but gave it up when I grew tired of all of the emotional and psychological complication and predictability, of a sort.) I never connected with any aspect of the music of Tchaikovsky, despite several people trying to open him to me. Nothing about Russian dance, design, or their art ever impresses me with anything — there is really no valance between my consciousness and Russian consciousness. It has always been so. Something brutal and belonging to the woods there, in the Russian soul, the dark deep dark woods there, just the feeling of this. Lurking shadows with murderous intent, the rule of the jungle.

On many, many occasions over the years, while giving a public Dharma talk, when trying to explain possible hell-states that we can be reborn into as human beings, I hold up such things as being reborn in Russia, or being reborn in Communist China, or in North Korea, or in a fundamentalist Islamic country, absolutely for sure. Any of these places, and you are fucked. If you were born in Russia, you are fucked. From the get-go. And I have always sensed that, that there was something damned about it, and fucked. And I have had close Russian friends and have noticed the sympathy welding in my heart that they remained tethered to such stewing shadows and malignant shape-shifting demon-forces.

A NY State of Mind

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I made a visit several days ago to a big new Korean temple under construction way outside New York City. Won Kak Sah is one of the first Korean temples in the US, but it was just a ramshackle little building before this massive injection of capital from a prominent monk in Korea, has manifested this huge and deeply impressive set of structures nestled in the mountain.

They are making a huge new set of traditional temple buildings, workmen flown in from Korea, massive tree trunks shipped in from the Pacific Northwest, deep in Canada. But I wonder if all of this grand construction will lead to any consequential benefit for sentient beings. The good monks who run the temple, who I know, are notoriously unable to connect with local American people. They focus only on educating – – or, temple-staying – – guests from the Korean diaspora who wander in or get gathered in groups for a “well-being training 웰비잉 체험”.

We bowed to this Buddha three times on the visit and left.

Visiting Bro

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Out for an errand somewhere with a brother, Greg. Just having some downtime and moving with his daily flow. I haven’t seen him since before the beginning of the pandemic.

Appearances can be deceptive: even in the laid-back semi-rural exurbs, the constant grinding stress of life can have a prominent role in the family unit, in the community. You drive around these wooded roads with such well-managed properties, and it looks like everything is pastoral and bucolic and just a nice place to relax. Which it most certainly is. But you soon learn that there’s a lot of hustle that’s got to go on under the surface to maintain even the simplicity of this sort of beautiful, yet managed life.