Category Archives: Essays

Once upon a time, a letter…

I will date myself now by telling you that once I used to write letters, and receive them. These were always special occasions, and something to be cherished. Since the advent of the computer though, hardly anyone writes letters by hand anymore, and so of course, almost no one receives them. Now that this is so, I’m thinking, people really don’t know what they’re missing.

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Where Two Worlds Meet

Terma, The Word Made Flesh, and Divine Manifestation

I had an unusual occurrence last night, that followed my thinking about the magical side of Dharma, and writing about terma, or the tradition they speak of in Tibetan Buddhism of teachings coming into this world as a precise result of the needs of the time.

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The Heart and Mind of a Person on a Spiritual Path

From Mundane View to Pure Perception

As soon as we begin to practice a spiritual path, we become aware that we are seeing things differently than the average person. To the ordinary mind, there is not much to celebrate here, and certainly not anything worthy of reverence; the common view is jaded, corrupt, and impoverished, and it offers very little to depend on in difficult times.

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A Through-line for Zen Study and Practice

One way of thinking of the Buddha is that he was a reformer of Indian spirituality. He saw the limitations of how people of his time were practicing, and he introduced new language and insights to guide them to freedom. His gifts continue to be received, and new ways of talking about practicing his teachings have evolved, and they will continue to do so…

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Why so many words?

A story goes that once there was a Zen master and his apprentice. It was their custom every morning, after meditation and before breakfast, to go for a long walk through the woods, along mountain trails, and back through fields on the way back to their simple monastery…

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Third Ear Music

We usually listen to music in an active way, reaching out, linear. Certain types of music, however, require a different kind of listening for their appreciation. On Saturday night I went to see Ustad Habib Khan, playing the sitar, and Swapan Chaudhuri on the tablas, at the Vedic Cultural Center in Berkeley, in a performance of ragas, traditional music of India…

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Hearing Beethoven

When we talk about the major figures in Western Classical music, Mozart is seen as representing the unique genius of Classicism. His music is the easiest to approach.  J.S. Bach is on another level, such that it is almost difficult to think of him only as a composer. His art is filled with mystery, passion, profundity, and exaltation. He is thought of as the apex of the Baroque.

The influence of Beethoven, in comparison to other composers, in my thinking, eclipses the boundaries of music. When his music is known in context, we can begin to understand just how much it changed, not only music, but all of Western consciousness and Western Culture…

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