Thursday, August 31, 2017


I do pray for things. Not very often. And only when my resources are depleted. So I'm waiting for the results of a test. I pray. I guess Kevin, with his doctorate in the philosophy of probability, would say that I'm intuitively calculating the odds that I have some incurable disease, and I have figured that there is a chance, if only remote. I'm not sure if my kids or my wife knows that I do this. (I just asked my wife and my son, and they both said I didn’t pray.) They must just think that I'm blessed and that's why things generally turn out so well. Or maybe, Janelle, our class minister, might say, that I'm blessed because I do pray. I never told my parents, either. And now it is a little late, unless I'm mistaken about the power of their remains.

I guess I could pray for the people in Houston. Or at least I could feel guilty for not doing so. I knew a woman who was recovering from an illness. She went to a weekly prayer group, and they all prayed for one another. Against all odds, she is still around 25 years later.

Once in college I was really worried about something and I went to a church that was open 24/7. I put $5 in the box on the wall. Lo and behold, an intervention occurred and things turned out well. So I went back to the church and retrieved my money.

This would be more understandable if things had turned out the way I didn't want them to turn out. Then I could rationalize that I had wasted my money so it was ok to retrieve it. And maybe it did do good.

So I've heard a couple of things this week about karma that were new to me. One is that karma is not action, but rather intention. So my intention was good, perhaps, to put the money in the box at the church. But maybe not so good to take it out.

The second idea about karma is one that I read just an hour ago. And it slipped my mind when I wrote the last paragraph. It said that the rational mind shouldn't try to understand the relationship of karma and action. The effects of karma are not comprehensible. In the article I was reading, it said that karma is mystery. We don't know the effect of our intentions.

Prayer? I'll continue to pray. Will I believe it will make a difference? Some part of me probably will because otherwise I wouldn't do it. But another part thinks it is silly. So let's keep my praying as a secret between us. OK?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Diehard Hidden Lamp

A friend commented that I was a die-hard Hidden Lamp (Sunday group on the Zen matriarchs at Appamada in Austin), referring to the fact that I risked torrential downpours to go Sunday. Though I’ve always been attracted to Zen stories, I’m discovering more and more that they are a wonderfully accessible dharma gate.

I remember a teacher in college telling the class that Sartre’s philosophy was better expressed in his fiction than in his philosophical writing. And I remember, at approximately the same time in the 60s, reading Zen in the Way of Archery, and learning that the way to learn about Zen was through a Zen art. Experience can best express ideas.

It seems that the stories embody the teachings in us. What can’t be expressed by definitions is expressed so well through interactions between people. The problems with definitions are two: 1) they clarify to the point of creating a false sense of understanding. I might say that “karma is intention” or “karma is volitional action.” But It is the karmic experiences we have where we see both our actions and the results of those actions that helps us understand the effects of what we do. I yell at a kid because he broke something and then I see tears running down his face (luckily our grandkids don’t break things) and 2) it is hard to see our actions for what they are by reading a definition. But as we read a story, we can see how people react to their environment that in turn helps us respond to our environment in a more compassionate, less harming, and more meaningful manner.

Compare this story to someone telling you that it is enough just to do an offering and that you don’t need to be given credit. The story touches our entire being. It actually changes our body chemistry. We might identify with the priest, or with Laywoman Pang. Or we might be a fly on the wall, observing the interaction. Or we might be the “ether” in and surrounding the interaction. The experience is different than the idea. Tomorrow we might decide to put our no-longer-needed clothes in the container provided by Goodwill. We might even do that when no one is looking. We might even not congratulate ourselves for not taking credit. We might simply say to ourselves, “Dedication of merit is complete.”

That’s why I'm a diehard Hidden Lamper.

Joshua, 1980