On the birth anniversary of the politician mythologized for saying: "I cannot tell a lie", an investigative book on how the food processing industry has so insidiously and laboriously addicted people to lethal junk food was released. So simultaneously was a major study touting once again the long life benefits of a Mediterranean diet. You know: grains, lentils, beans, fruits and fish, vegetables and yogurt. Nothing packaged. Sounds yummy to me, but because it also advocates eggs and a little cheese, it gave indigestion to media magnets like Dean Ornish who are heavily vested, i.e. financially invested, in pushing a vegan diet and rushed to assault the study. Oh my, more heartburn.
As I wrote in my book, Veggiyana: the Dharma of Cooking, except in postwar America, food has always been treated as medicine, fuel for the body. As I said, the word hospital comes from the word hospitality. You are what you eat. That's actually a Dharma tenet. Now thanks to the latest food fighters, I know the word diet comes from the Latin “diaeta,” which means a daily way of living. Well, since Buddhism is not a religion but... um... a daily way of living, Dharma is actually a diet. So, hasta la pasta Atkins, Ornish, Oz, Jenny Craig and South Beach. I am pigging out on February's just dessert: His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa (Vast Ocean of Virtuous Activity) teaching at my teacher's monastery in Sarnath, India. I was not able to get there, but by the miracle of the Internet I can stay home, avoiding all the annoyances of India, and be there now, even with one eye. Some things are still right with the world.
His Holiness' purported subject is a text from his 8th incarnation, a lama known for many complex treatises, and also known to some of us as the Irish Karmapa since his name was Mikyo Dorje. So far, I can't find where he says anything abstruse. The text may be several hundred years old, but the 17th Karmapa seems to be using it to hammer a single, simple and seemingly relevant point: what phonies many Dharma practitioners are, what pretenders of the faith we be. Oh the deplorable ways we cheat.
And as he nails them in Tibetan, I hear every so often the distinct words "spiritual materialism", then blah blah Tibetan again. It's startling. Evidently Karmapa resorts to these English words because Tibetans never acknowledged or perhaps experienced such hypocrisy and thus have no expression to describe the way those of us in the consumer kaya buy into Dharma practice. We buy statues, incense burners, bells, drums, malas and thangkhas to set up showy altars. We sign up for fancy retreats with big name lamas and subscribe to "Buddhist" magazines. We acquire Dharma like jewelry or sports equipment, impressing everyone with our paraphernalia, while we blithely detour around its true meaning, having no time for authentic practice. Wow, this chastisement really shows how omniscient Karmapa is: he knows I bought a Chod drum I've never used.
Karmapa said our two physical eyes are so blinded by the bling of modern life, we don't see with that third eye of intelligence, the one that peers inside us, sees our mind and how it thinks. That's why we can't see the difference between need and want. We just think we need everything we want. So we end up drowning in an ocean of junk and never see what we truly need is genuine Dharma.
Stuff makes us look good, and we do like to look good, especially to others. Dharma, Karmapa keeps saying, is about tending the virtue of body, speech and mind, all three, yet most of us are so busy tending to our bodies to keep them looking good or being overly mindful of where our foot is now, or we make such a big deal effort to sound so sweet all the time that we never pay attention to our mind.
"Body and speech are easy," he said. "You like them because that's what everybody sees in you. Everybody will see what a good Buddhist you are. But nobody sees your mind but you. Working on your mind is lonely. Working on your mind, work that nobody will see, is very hard. And if there is one thing for sure I've learned in my limited experience and life it is this: human beings like to do what's easy and avoid what's hard."
Well, truth told, I've already done hard things this morning: trying to hang on to my saliva and toothbrush while getting the cellophane and fitted top off a new mouthwash bottle, swallowing an egregiously gratuitous terrorism fee added to the new annual home insurance premium because insurance companies can do what they want, and seeing even without eyeglasses that the hair on my legs is almost as long as the hair on my head because, due to my eye surgery, I can't yet lie in the correct position to have it waxed. I could make a salon appointment to have it styled.
So I'm too pooped for the hard work of commenting on this past week's balderdash and bashing the 50th anniversary of "the women's movement." It's easier to say that despite all the sabotage and sanctimoniousness and sniping going on around us here at the shortened end of February, the moon has been courageously plump and bright, beaming its faithful fullness, unmarred in any way by our Samsaric ado.
I am a lunatic, I admit. I am drawn to and enchanted by the moon. I love knowing it is up there and where it is. I love seeing it travel across the sky because I know it's traveling around the world. The whole world. Nobody doesn't get the moon. Probably the most romantic thing I ever did was to email my love two continents away, I was sending him a message on the moon, like a message floating in a bottle, so look for it when it was over his house. I felt so poetic.
We get our word loony from the Latin moon, luna. Apparently, someone observed the moon is the great Oz that controls not only the oceans' tidal flow, but the fluids sloshing inside our body. That's why people in the loony bin and those of us outside get crazier on the full moon, why feral animals howl, and why frequently bodies ravaged by disease will likely die or roll over toward recovery.
Farming lore says it's best to plant on the new moon, for its increasing strength toward fullness will pull seeds upward into plants. And when the moon is at its hugest brightest peak, a great pumpkin glowing in the October black, you harvest. Things diminish after that.
The beaming opal that lights the dark, that beacon comes to me as the white light of Tara and Chenrezig who see all the suffering in this ocean of Samsara and reach out to assuage it. There is a special full moon Dharma chant, Calling Lama from Afar, 20-30 minutes of confessing your sins and beseeching the gurus and deities to rescue you from yourself. It leaves you calm and blissful in the cool white light of a smiling moon.
Dharma teachers love the metaphor of water moon, the perfect reflection of a full moon down here on Earth, for it brings up the crucial question: is it really there or not? You see the moon on the water for sure and know it's there, but can you prove it's real, really there? Because all of life appears to us that way. Everything out there shows up in here reflected on the vast space that is mind. Is it really there, really happening, just because we see something? Is it possible the Tea Party terrorists, food fighters, Dharma phonies are all just really loony?
~Sandy Garson "Wordsmithing to attest how the Dharma saved me from myself!"
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