Posts Tagged ‘buddhism’


October 5, 2013 7 comments


structure and tension, meaning and motion: we are balanced between absolute truth and pure fluency. poetry.    RT

RT’s Related Posts: 1) Deer Sanctuary (Wang Wei); 2) Bamboo and Morning Glories 

Chinese Character: Qi (or as RT is familiar with it, Chi), meaning “natural energy” or “life force.” Author: Kbarends. WikiCmns; Public Domain.



Bamboos & Morning Glories

July 1, 2013 1 comment

File:Xian'e Changchun Album 09.jpg

something to help clear the mind… RT

RT’s Related Posts: 1) Deer Sanctuary (Wang Wei)


Image: Picture of Bamboos and Ivy Morning Glories (Xian’e Changchun Album; Q’ing Dynasty). WikiCmns; Public Domain.


Kakinomoto no Hitomaro–a Poem


Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (662-710) is one of Japan’s greatest poets. His work was a focus of the Manyoshu (The Ten Thousand Leaves), Japan’s earliest poetry anthology, and his is widely regarded as the only Japanese poet to have mastered longer verse forms.

RT was attracted to this waka by its insistent rhymes and echoing, and the striking juxtaposition that structures the poem–apparently, one of Hitomaro’s most frequent devices.

Enjoy!!      RT




sore at foot–ah! ah!

mountain bird, cock of the rock,

fans his shock of moxy.

in the close, closed hauling box

of night, I, companionless.

Woodblock PrintKakinomoto no hitomaro (1844-1854); Utagawa, Kuniyoshi, (1798-1861); WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Into the Silence: George Mallory and the Story Behind the Story

File:George mallory.jpg

“Because it is there.” With these words, George Mallory, the lead climber of the early British expeditions attempting to scale Mt. Everest, explained why he had to climb the world’s tallest mountain. And he kept at it through three expeditions (in 1921, 1923, and 1924)–until he disappeared with his climbing partner, Sandy Irvine, somewhere on the mountain above 28,000 feet. He was a week shy of his 38th birthday, happily married, and the father of young children; Irvine was 22 and a student at Oxford.

Heroic? Certainly. Reckless? Possibly. But how do we, nearly 90 years after Mallory’s death, begin to understand why Mallory chose this quest?


Enter Wade Davis‘ book, Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest. In these pages, Mallory emerges from nearly a century’s worth of glamour and neglect to take his place as an outstanding climber, a battle-hardened soldier, and a graduate of Oxford and member of his generation’s social elite. But what makes this book exceptional is its portrayal of Mallory’s entire generation (or at least the European fraction thereof), focusing on the experience and aftermath of World War I.

And as if that were not enough, along the way we learn about the British Raj, Anglo-Indian-Tibetan relations, and the history of Tibet and its adherence to Buddhism. Until finally, at the end of the large (but not overlong) book, we learn the fate of the three British expeditions to Everest.

Of this complex web of topics and events, what will probably remain longest in RT’s mind is Into the Silence’s portrayal of WWI. The war is famous for its violence, stupidity, and psyche- and culture-shattering effects on the combatant nations. But RT had no idea of the degree to which fighters in the trenches suffered. Casualty rates were not only unprecedented, but even uncontemplated until the war: on the Allied side alone, 5.5 million soldiers were killed and 12.8 million wounded, with an additional 4.1  million missing. This amounts to 22.4 million casualties out of a total Allied fighting force of 42.9 million. And casualty rates were far higher during certain battles, for instance, and perhaps most notoriously, in the Battle of the Somme. During the battle’s first day, the British sustained 57,470 casualties–20% of its entire fighting force–and the Newfoundland Regiment was essential destroyed. For many soldiers, the carnage could scarcely be imagined, let alone endured.

But if RT had to single out one memory that is particularly heart-breaking, it is a young lady recalling that all the boys she had ever danced with were dead by the end of 1916.

After enduring such hell as young men, from RT’s perspective, climbing even the tallest mountain in the world might seem entirely possible to WWI veterans–and even a moral duty.


Enough about the Great War. What stands as testament to Into The Silence‘s power is the fact that all the other threads of its epic–the lives of Mallory and the other expedition members, the history of the Raj and its relations with Tibet, and the story of the heroic attempts to climb Everest–do not get lost in the telling. The book is beautifully written and pulls the reader forward.

And, for the record, RT thinks that while Mallory and Irvine probably did not reach the summit of Everest in 1924,  there is still a significant chance that they did. Only more evidence from the mountain will settle the matter.   RT


Related RT Posts: 1) The Golden Spruce–A Book Review.


Photo: George Mallory; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

An Instant of Midnight

Simon H. Lilly strikes again with a meditation on midnight…RT

(reposted from Simon H. Lilly)

An Instant of Midnight.

A yoga practice changes everything

March 13, 2013 2 comments



a beautiful story… RT

(reposted from One yoga mommy’s journey)


A yoga practice changes everything.

Hokusai, the Great Japanese Woodblock Master

File:A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces-Shimotsuke Kurokamiyama Kirihurino Taki.jpg

Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) may well be the greatest visual artist Japan, a nation known for its extraordinary visual sense, has ever produced. By way of proof, RT offers this woodblock print from a series entitled A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces. Wow!  RT

Image: A Tour of the Waterfalls of the Provinces. Hokusai. WikiCmns; Public Domain.


What would Buddha do? Views from the Center

March 2, 2013 2 comments

File:Stephen Batchelor.jpg


RT has not been much attracted to Buddhist philosophy in the past, though he has experimented with meditation, in one form or another, for some years. But Stephen Batchelor’s translation of Nagarjuna’s Views from the Center may be the book that persuades him that there is more than a remote connection between western and eastern thinking.

This, in a nutshell, is how RT sees the matter. The understanding of Buddha has largely centered on his struggle for enlightenment or awakening, which RT takes to mean the moment when the Buddha achieved a true experience and understanding of the world and humanity’s place within it. It is a dramatic story; but after his enlightenment, what did Buddha do with his hard-won wisdom?

The question seems to have been of secondary importance; early Buddhism emphasized the achievement of enlightenment, leading to the foundation of many monasteries and the branch of Buddhism known as the Lesser Vehicle. A premium was placed on meditation and the study of the received holy texts.

Three hundred years or so after Buddha’s life, the other principal division of Buddhism developed: the Greater Vehicle. The hero of this school of Buddhist thinking was the Bodhisattva, the enlightened person who remained in the world to help others achieve enlightenment. Nagarjuna is associated with the development of Greater Vehicle (or Mahayana) Buddhism.

Now this is what RT finds so important about Batchelor’s translation of Views (and RT has only finished the introduction): the idea that emptiness, Narajuna’s primary goal as a Buddhist, is an act. It is not the destruction of the self, as might be assumed from the English word, but the transformation of the self, when the self both is and is not. And when does this happen? When we are making a choice–that is when we have the freedom to do or not do something. Emptiness is choice.

In fact, we could follow this thinking further and say that choice is what makes us human. This ability to affect the world, to rise up from being and participate in transformation, is humanity’s particular gift.

But before we jump to the conclusion that Nagarjuna (or Buddha) believed in free will, we should also remember that, according to Batchelor’s understanding, Buddhism is not a religion in the western sense. It is a condition of openness, an awareness of the possibility and spontaneity in life. In contrast, belief is a means of surrendering the possibility of choice by adherence to a dogma, be it western or eastern or specifically Buddhist. We must take into account the teachings we have learned when we choose, but we must refer to own self when we actually decide. We must reveal ourselves (or non-selves) in choice.

Or, at least, that is as far as RT has got with thinking this through. Doubtless, there is more to learn about the Buddhist (or even Buddha’s) perspective on choice…   RT


Photo: Stephen Batchelor at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico. WikiCmns. CC 2.0 Generic.

Chiyo Ni special #21

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment



gates of spring poetry…enjoy!!!

(reposted from High Five and Raspberries)


Chiyo Ni special #21.

Calla Lily Abstract

February 8, 2013 Leave a comment



something beautiful for a Friday afternoon…   RT

(reposted from Flowers, Trees, and Other…)


Calla Lily Abstract.