Wednesday, September 14, 2011


The role of wanting to know the purpose of things could be a means of evolutionary success. To find the purpose of something is to find how I am connected to it, how it can affect me (friend or foe). But seeking purpose is an empty question (full of 'mu'). Things are, simply because they are. I am here because conditions were such that I arose. This is true for both I's. The physical me, and the psychological me. I am driven to feel or do according to my physical (including genetic) and environmental (including sociological) make up. But 'driven to' is not doing. In the infinite open space of now, I can put my foot where I want it to fall.

I have no purpose, but I guide my feet.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Evolutionary Psychology

I finally found a term that best express my view of what the philosophy of Buddhism (i.e., vs. the religion of Buddhism) has to teach --- Evolutionary Psychology.

As I struggled with in my post on "Subconscious Karmic Oxen", I believe what has been expressed by ancient Buddhists as "karma" is essentially the same as the Evolutionary Psychologists ideas about biologically definable brain module that mostly drive behavior and that the experience we have consciously is largely *not* the ox on which we are tied and which guides our real experience.

"Nirvana" is often expressed as the end of Karma, or breaking free of it. I think this means ancient (and perhaps a few modern) Buddhists describe with the word "enlightenment." They have come to understand that the mind works in a typical way in most people. A typical way that is mostly influenced by their karma, which is manly hard-wired biological circuits, and some new training from sociological influences in their lives. However, with practice (i.e, essentially working to train your neurological circuits to have new connections) in the form of Zazen and other Buddhist practices, one can come to first "see" the mind, and then develop the skill to experience neurological inputs (i.e., live) more directly (here & now). There must be, I think, a neurological tipping point, when the new pathways become consciously accessible, or a habit, and the even of the tipping is what's known as "enlightenment."

Here are the core ideas from EP as expressed in Wikipedia;

1.) The brain is an information processing device, and it produces behavior in response to external and internal inputs.
2. The brain's adaptive mechanisms were shaped by natural and sexual selection.
3.) Different neural mechanisms are specialized for solving adaptive problems in humanity's evolutionary past.
4.) The brain has evolved specialized neural mechanisms that were designed for solving problems that recurred over deep evolutionary time, giving modern humans Stone age minds.
5.) Most contents and processes of the brain are unconscious; and most mental problems that seem easy to solve are actually extremely difficult problems that are solved unconsciously by complicated neural mechanisms.
6.) Human psychology consists of many specialized mechanisms, each sensitive to different classes of information or inputs. These mechanisms combine to produce manifest behavior.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ox tale soup

The ox keeps getting pulled back by it's tail every time in crawls through the window. What is the deal?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chodai Kesa no Ge in detail... Part 2 of 3

At a post in January I laid out the first part of my detailed examination of Cho Dai Kesa no Ge. Here is part two. I have re-iterated the pronunciation guide and the reference legend.

Note in the following, the pronunciation guide is based on the chanting style of Nishijima Roshi as heard in this YouTube video (

大 哉 解 脱 服
 無 相 福 田 衣
 披 奉 如 來 教
 廣 度 諸 衆 生

Key to some notations.
N = Nelson’s Japanese English Character Dictionary - On reading (Chinese) is in all caps - Kun reading (Japanese sound assigned to character) is in lowercase italics.
Breen =
Breen:B = Buddhist Dictionary
Breen:G: = General Dictionary
M =
Bc = (the CKJV branch)
Bd = (the DDB branch – Digital Dicitonary of Buddhism).
T =
➸ comments in red, following arrows,  are my observations

N 2116 → HI. Open ❧
Breen:B → Spread open ➸ also from Breen:B "披剃 (ひてい)" - donning the robe and shaving the head 

Bd → Basic Meaning- spread open; Senses- ·To unroll, thrown on (as a cloak). 披 is to wear the garment over both
shoulders; 袒 is to throw it over one shoulder. ❧

Bc → To open up, disclose, reveal, unroll [開, 解, 發]. ·To spread out, scatter.  ·To wrap; to throw on--as a garment. ·To divide up [分].  ·A rope for pulling a coffin. ❧

From compounds given in T, 披 can understood and a sort of public declaration or coming out. An opening or declaration that is not a secret, but rather displayed perhaps not so much from pride but for accountability and support as is the case of a wedding ceremony. For example: hireki 【披歴 ・ 披瀝】express one's opinion;  making known;  revealing; stating - hirō 【披露】announcement;  show;  display;  introduction - hikō 【披講】introduction of poems at a poetry party.

N 1149 → BU. follow, believe in, serve ❧
Breen:B → receive with both hands ❧
T→ observance;  offer;  present; dedicate ❧

N 1178 → NYO. like, such as ❧
T→ tathata (the ultimate nature of all things) —Buddhist terminology.

N 173→2565 → RAI. come, arrive, be due to ❧
The alternate  does not appear in T except as "kai"

N 2345 → KYOU. Faith ➸ the kun reading means ‘teach’, ‘lesson’ per Nelson
T→ teach; faith;  doctrine ❧
appears to be used in Japanese traditions (i.e. by Nishijima, Suzuki, Kobun)


➸ 戒 is alternate character often seen in Chinese renditions. N 2027 → commandment, admonition

➸ 行 is alternate character often seen in Taiwanese renditions. N 5419 → KOU. Journey. 
Bd → 行 Basic Meaning- to practice.  Senses: To undertake; conduct, practice; accomplishing, practicing; a path. Religious acts, deeds, or exercises aimed at taking one closer to the final goal of enlightenment. ❧
如來 - nyo rai
  • ➸ is a common kanji pair that means Tathagata in Chinese.
  • Breen:B→ Thus come ❧ harkens to the "thus come one".
如來-nyo rai kyou
  • Breen:B→ teaching of the tathagata.
  • ➸ I wonder if this should be taken as faith in the Tathagata or faith of the Tathagata. I prefer the latter, as the whole line then becomes "opening to the faith of the Tathagata." I think "opening to faith in the Tathagata" would certainly be a poorer understanding, as the Tathagata clearly was not interested in promoting himself, but rather his ideas. The Christian religion makes much of the power of faith in Christ. The tathagata did not promote himself, only his ideas, and I rather suspect that Christian interpreters have warped the original message of Christ from a similar position. 

1640 > 1604 → KOU. Spread out, reach to, extend ❧

Bc → ·Width, breadth, range. ·Wide width. ·Wide, broad, extensive, vast, magnificent. ·Full, detailed, accurate. ·Explained in full, explained in detail. In the PRC, this is also simplified as 广. ❧

N 1616 → DO. extent, measure, limit ❧

Bc → ·Rule, law, pattern, decision.[法] ·A limit.[程] ·Time(s)-to do three times, four times, etc.[回 次] ·To cross over a body of water. [渡] ·[Buddhism] To cross over (to the shore of liberation).  ·To measure, calculate.[量] ·A unit of measurement; ruler, yardstick. ·To be, stay, live (at). [宅 居] ·A burial ground. ❧

N 5648 → SHO. many, several ❧

Bc → ·Many, all, various, the various, the whole group of; myriad. A plural indicator. ·This; with this, using this, concerning this. ·Locative: in, at, on, etc. ·A question marker. ❧

N 5417 → SHU / SHUU. great numbers, multitude ❧

Bc → ·Many, a great number, a myriad; numerous, abundant. ·A crowd, many people. All. ❧

T → masses;  people;  multitude; crowd ❧
➸ T indicates that the radical of (血) means 'blood' while that of (罒) means 'eye'.  

N 2991→ SHOU. life existence ❧

Bc → ·To produce, to bring forth, to beget; to give birth to; to bear; to cause to have life.  ·To be born; to come to life; to arise. ·To be alive; to live. Life, living. ·Alive, raw, fresh, unfamiliar. ·A living person. ·A student. ❧

➸ It must be a weird twist of phonetics that renders this as 'jou' when combined with 'sho' and 'shu' I can find no instance where Japanese pronunciation guidance of the stand-alone character is 'jou'. But, I can appreciate what an annoying consonance 'sho shu shou' could be. 
- kou do

  • ➸ extend to the limit
- sho shu jou

  • Breen:B→ all sentient beings  ➸ I see nothing in the characters that suggests 'sentient.' It is part of the verbal tradition of Zen to qualify this with 'sentient' but it seems just as warranted, based on the characters alone, to say this is 'the many great numbers of living things'


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thank You For Killing? Thank You For Enduring The Killing You've Had To Do?

Yes, a hornet's nest of a topic.

** How soldiers deal with the job of killing **
When a soldier kills someone at close quarters, how does it affect them? This most challenging and traumatic part of a soldier's job is often wholly overlooked.
< >

I am certain that I enjoy many freedoms because other people have killed someone else in the line of duty. This consideration is not limited to national fact. Any string of history leads back to leathal combat of some sort and I have been enriched by the outcome.

I would like to be mindful of how oppresive and damaging a knee-jerk, absolute, "do not kill" mindset - or at least public messaging - could be, particularly, I would like to contribute to the possibility of open and "shameless" discussion of this real and immediate truth for soldiers and other armed service personnel.

Perhaps to mourn the fact that a killing has happened is appropriate. To strive to prevent situations where it may occur for "petty" reasons is a good focus. But to contribute to a pariah attitude towards service personnel concerning the killing they have done is, I think, nothing short of cruel.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Subconscious Karmic Oxen

I guess I think this is pretty important as I have muted the American Idol finale to try and capture it.

I have been wondering a lot lately about free will. Driven mainly by observing my own desire to behave differently, and failing to do so with great consistency. In a book I have recently read about the brain and emotions and feelings and fairly recent findings about conscious vs. subconscious (or unconscious) activity, there was a reference to how much we humans love to have a good story. Perhaps I should say this more precisely as we tend to produce stories, since "love" leans too far towards a conscious, selectable behavior or preference. Our drive for story is probably an evolutionary advantage. But let me give the example and then continue the commentary.

Due to various biological or physical events, some people can end up with brains where the right half no longer communications with the left half. If I am remembering this correctly, one of the interesting consequences is that one eye can feed information into the "logical" side of the brain, and cause the body to take action, while the linguistic side does not know what that eye has seen, yet strives to explain what's happening. I'm sure I've mis-remembered the fine points but the gross picture is the important part (I'll try and correct this when I get back to my bookshelf and can site the study that explored this).

So the basic scenario is a group of people that can be queued to take action, but the "explainer" part of their brain is unaware of the command. They can be queued, for example, to wave their hand by means of an request written on a card that only the correct (action-side linked) eye can see. Up goes their hand and they wave. The interesting bit happens when they are asked to explain why they just waved their hand. All kinds of completely sincere rationale come out... they were stretching, or they thought they recognized a certain doctor walking down the hall. Nothing even coming close to the truth that an index card was presented to them asking them to wave their hand.

We have to have a story. We have to explain. And this drive to explain in some plausible manner does not have to be "true" to be true.

Part of this may be a drive to satisfy the group. To give a reason that will not get us kicked out, requiring us to fend entirely for ourselves. And part of this may be the simpler drive to always try and create a theory, a story, of how A is connected to B so that we can predict outcomes. There is significant difference between these two motivations but I suspect they are both at play. Explaining our actions in a way that meets social norms keeps us in the group, and the drive to knit events together with rationale keeps us alive (provided our story is a good approximation of reality).

The next part of my thesis requires one to accept that there are conscious and unconscious brain processes. Unconscious, as I intend it, only means brain activities that are outside our awareness. The examples for purely "mechanical" things are fairly easy to accept. After we learn to ride a bike or catch a ball, we are not aware of the myriad of decisions and observations and muscle commands that must be done to accomplish these now simple tasks. It becomes a little more difficult to accept that we have emotions that are driven by unconscious/subconscious processing, or that we make decisions based on them. However, if we can accept the brain as an evolved organ, it becomes easier to see the relationship between the two.

For me, the evolution of the brain is like a research and development laboratory on a college campus that has been around since the start of the industrial revolution, or perhaps rather like the international space station. It originally had some basic functions that it executed well. Then new functionality was needed (read: provided better survival) and more sophisticated systems were installed, but they had to go on top of the original work, not replace it, so a patchwork developed. The original, old functionality is there, but is over-layed with the new high tech stuff. And perhaps in the human brain there are several such layers of functionality.

In our brains there are very good sub-conscious systems that do the basics, keep us alive, get impressed by traumatic events so we are extra cautious (or angry, or scared) when similar conditions arise. And these are overlaid by higher functions such as intellect and general conscious thought.

So, let me try and link these two. We are driven to a story and there is "decision" making going out outside of our awareness, but still withn "us" (i.e. in our subconscious). This is what makes "free will" a difficult concept. It is possible that we have lots of free will, and just don't have the focus required to execute to the plan, or it may be that free choice is not as common as we think, but we develop explanatory excuses because we must have the story.

In other words, our subconscious drives us to an "inevitable" decision (or at least a highly pre-conditioned one), but we explain it as free will acting.

I may resolve in the morning that I will sit zazen at night. It's what I want to do. It's important to me. I will do it. There is a tremendous feeling of free will in this. I have made the decision to sit zazen tonight and I will. Then, when bedtime rolls around, I find I have not indeed sat zazen. I'm disappointed with myself and I'm struggling to know why I can't just sit. I think to myself "I have free will to do this, why isn't it getting done?"

I think rather than having  ubudant free will, we are actually more trapped by decisions in the sub-conscious that we cannot observe directly happening (nor influence immediately), followed by excuses that may make us feel like our decision was free will. Just like the brain-split people that wave and have a good reason why, that totally misses the truth. when I take an action or do not take an action, it may feel like I know exactly why, but that has nothing to do with the true motivating decider, the sub-conscious.

Unfortunately, poor presentations of psychology, and perhaps poor understanding of brain function has lent a sinister tint to the sub-conscious. Like it is some sort of demon that controls us outside of our will. A more relaxed holistic view could be helpful. Our selves have an action/feeling controlling component that we can access (the conscious) and a component that we cannot access (the subconscious), but both together, along with the non-decisional automatic reflexes (like heart beating), make up our "us", our "I". I am driven by what I can experience as thinking, and I am driven by what I can't experience as thinking, but is, nonetheless, me.

So what loads up this subconscious decision maker? I think this is linked to the concept of Karma.

For me, Karma is just a passive law of cause and effect. It is not a guided retribution. It is only the fact that if you do something, it has results. If it is a dis-harmonious sort of something, it can ripple like falling dominos and circle back and bite you. Yelling a your spouse typically gets you yelled at. Kindness tends to beget kindness. But truthfully the way thoughts, and actions and physical things interact is far beyond predictable, except in the grossest, most static though experiments, so karma cannot be used as a tool for specific decisions, but rather a general guiding observation.

Brains are all about decisions, in the neural network sense. Its not always a "decision" like should I have caf or decaf today, but various stimuli from our senses both conscious (sight, hearing, skin-feeling) and unconscious (thinking, but also some nervous system input, like our respiration rate, or the state of our intenstines) (and counting conscious thinking as a sense), these stimuli are weighted in our neural connections and produce an action outcome. We may experience it as free will, but much of it is predetermined by the stimuli and neural weighting.

The subconscious part of the decision process is where karma comes in. All the history of what we have experienced physically as an organism, and absorbed through our feeling-experience in life, along with our genetic makeup which also reflects past actions, ...all of this past cause and effect is at work in our subconscious and has a huge influence on what we actually do (despite what our story telling may say about it).

Thus, I currently see my subconscious life as the current sum of my karma. Its not "retribution" or "just deserts", its just the unaccessible weighting on my decision processes that is informed by past events, and genetics. Karma is also the sum total of the exact physical situation I find myself in. To put it rather crudely, everything up till now has resulted in now, and despite what I think is going on, most of it has been outside my conscious awareness.

So what does this have to do with oxen? Well, I was thinking over this situation of the conscious me that thinks it is in control and knows what's going on, and this unconscious part of me that is plodding along in its own karmic direction, largely uninfluenced by what my thinking goes through, and the ox herding pictures came to mind. A big "aha", at least for now.

The ox can represent our karma, our unseen self that reacts in ways not entirely available to our conscious mind. The ox-herder is our thinking self. The "I" we are most familiar and cozy with. Thus the path of learning becomes clearer.

1. Seeking the ox is wondering "what the heck is going on". What am "I". What is "this."
2. Finding the tracks, is the first glimmer that "this", that "suffering", is related to my perceptions, thought patterns, karma, it is not a static fact of the world as it is.
3. Catching sight of the ox may be the first clear perception during zazen that the "I" mind is much more active than reality requires. The fire just keeps burning.
4. Seizing the ox is struggling with this newly shattered concept of "I". This broken "I". The coming to realize that we are indeed picking and choosing and there is no real need for it. It is identifying the attachments that defy logic.
5. Taming the ox, is learning to accept the plodding subconscious direction of our karmic selves. Coming to terms with the things we cannot change. Realizing the difference between what we feel and what we can chose to do.

I will go no further, as this is the limit of my experience, and what seems like understanding. It is a model that works for me now, but I may abandon it tomorrow. It is a way of describing my experience with my self, and what I have seen as my subconscious activity. It is how I frame the disconnect I experience between what seems like my "will" and what I find myself doing as action.

I should add that seeing part of me, my subconscious, as an ox is very important in developing compassion for myself and others. Susan Edmiston and Leonard Scheff wrote a wonderful book on  anger called "The Cow in the Parking Lot." Which in part noted how we would feel much different over losing a parking place to a befuddled stray cow vs. another driver. Likewise we must accept there are large aspects of our decision processes, and the decision processes of others, that are sub-conscious karmic oxen. If we approach herding ourselves or herding them with this compassion and insight, life has less suffering.

I hope this made some sense.

[note - many revisions to improve clarity after original post]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hot Iron Ball

with apologies to jiro...

Facing the dharma is like trying to swallow a red hot iron ball.
In my deluded imperfection, I cannot stomach the whole thing.
But appreciating its perfection, I cannot spit it out.
So you see me gagging in my practice of the way.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Moot Aspects of the 1st law.

Newton's first law is often stated "A body in motion tends to stay in motion and a body at rest tends to stay a rest, unless acted upon by an external force."

In consideration of the small scale cosmological considerations this seems a rather pointless observation in that everything is always in motion (there is no rest, ever, period) and everything is always being acted upon by external forces (there is nowhere to go in the real universe to avoid forces).

Perhaps it could be said as "Force changes the motion of a body" to remove the moot elements. I wonder why it is not said this way?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Breaking the 2nd Law

The second law of thermodynamics, very roughly stated, is that the order of an isolated system will tend to decrease. Put another way, things fall apart, rot, decay. Gases dissipate. Suns explode and, eventually, disappear. The cinder blocks under the car in my front lawn will eventually crumble and the car itself will rust away in a few hundred years and the polymers it contains in a few thousand.

But I'm not sure I buy that. It seems to ignore the rather startling fact that there is a consciousness in the universe positing all of this. It seems to ignore the fact that out of the chaos of a gas cloud, a solar system coalesced, formed a planet, and on that planet through some chain of events, atoms linked into molecules of the right type, and those molecules of a certain sort tended to amass into "active" complex proteins and enzymes and whatnot, and all that mess finally organized into me typing this idea out on a laptop.

I know nothing about the proper way to measure entropy. I probably can't afford an entropometer. But it seems rather sensible that the amount of order in a single paramecium or simple bacteria  is rather large. The complex interaction of dna, proteins, lipids, etc... that provide for material intake, metabolism, and pro-creation of those little buggers is astounding. The "order" in a single bacteria cell must counteract the disorder in an exploded sun, in the entropy balance.

When considering the massively astounding amounts of order and on-going pro-creative activity on this planet, it seems quite possible it outweighs all the disorder in the balance of the universe.

This makes me wonder about time.

I have read that entropy is a demonstration of the "arrow of time". What has happened to that arrow since this big bag that gave rise to all this freaking order and information of elements arranged just so on our modest little marble in space?

How can anyone say with a straight face that "entropy tends to increase" when the very sentence comes from the one of the still most astoundingly organized information filled object know to us... the human brain cum consciousness.

I sure have a lot to learn about proper discussions of entropy, but I think scientists who insist entropy tends to increase need to look in the mirror and explain what they see, or even that they see, or even that there is a mirror.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Chain to Schrödinger's Cat

I read Tallis Grayson's latest blog and enjoyed it. It provoked an image in my mind that I continue to enjoy of "nirvana" implying the space/state between a frantic flame of thought being blown out and smoke cloud of opaque thinking rising in its place.

I also started musing on why I liked his style of blogging. Others that I read often have it from time to time (Harry, Jordan, Uku). For lack of a better term it's an immediate declarative (my! how awkward). A declaration of how the author sees a point with out an "apology" for the possibility of being wrong, or having a different opinion at some time in the future, and no particular attempt to balance the various arguments that might be found on the topic. An effective "I asked myself a question, and this is my answer."

I started comparing this to ideas of picking and choosing versus immediate experience and reaction. I think its "better" to respond to the specific instance in front of me given the data I have *now* about this *specific thing* than to create abstract rules to force on real situations as they come along. Respond to here/now not there/then.

This brought to mind how false anticipation is. Absolutely and completely unreal. Thus anticipatory rules are no good for me to conduct my life. This feels so odd to state, but what possible value does a sentence have like "I will never xyz in situation abc" when I know darn well if I have to xyz because it's the skillful response, I darn well will xyz? Or perhaps I should say I've noticed this is how I have really behaved.

This brought to mind Schrodinger's cat, which for me is a summary that the observer influences the outcome, which I believe has been proven true in quantum level experiments. The basic line of analogous reasoning is that there is a cat in box in which a vial of poison is broken by some random trigger. The cat is either dead or alive. The crux is that the cat is neither dead or alive until the lid is lifted and the cat is observed, until that time it occupies both states. The fun bit is this has been shown as true at the quantum level. A system behaves as if Particle X is both here and there until I try to observe exactly where it is.

Applied back to rules of real conduct, it is appropriate both to xyz and to not-xyz until the real situation abc occurs and in that particular and unique instant it will be clear which to do.

Perhaps more important to me is that a dead cat is a dead cat, it is not a could-have-been-alive-cat-if-only.

All the "information" is here now. Be open to it. Find the space between the blowing out of the flame and the rising of the smoke and declare what you know.

Too much?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Chodai Kesa no Ge in detail... Part 1 of X

I have been intending for several years to have a webpage with some Zen info that has been of importance or interest to me. It has not happened. Feeling more like doing rather than intending to do, I am posting part of the study I have been doing on Chodai Kesa no Ge.

Note in the following, the pronunciation guide is based on the chanting style of Nishijima Roshi as heard in this YouTube video (

大 哉 解 脱 服
 無 相 福 田 衣
 披 奉 如 來 教
 廣 度 諸 衆 生

Key to some notations.
N = Nelson’s Japanese English Character Dictionary - On reading (Chinese) is in all caps - Kun reading (Japanese sound assigned to character) is in lowercase italics.
Breen =
Breen:B = Buddhist Dictionary
Breen:G: = General Dictionary
M =
Bc = (the CKJV branch)
Bd = (the DDB branch – Digital Dicitonary of Buddhism).
T =
➸ comments in red, following arrows,  are my observations

N 1133 → DAI. large, huge, grand ❧
N 779 → ➀ SAI. kana. How!, What!, Alas! ➁ ya. question mark  ➸ a japanese particle

➸ Though the kun reading ‘kana’ is used often in haiku and seems rather introspective, "sai" is a joyous, outgoing
N 5548 → GE. explanation, key, understanding ❧

T → unravel; notes; key;
explanation; understanding; untie; undo; solve; answer; cancel ❧
N 4822 → DATSU. removing ❧

T → undress; removing; escape from; get rid of; be left out; take off ❧
N 4775 → FUKU. Clothes ❧

T → 私【しふく】civilian clothes; plain clothes ❧
- sai
  • ➸ The many compounds that include "sai" indicate it is a very energetic and outgoing concept. Here are some examples from T
    • kaisai 【快哉】joy; exultation
    • zenzai 【善哉】Well done!;  Bravo!
    • kaisaiwosakebu 【快哉を叫ぶ】to shout with exultation;  to shout for joy
解脱 - gedatsu
  • Gedatsu - deliverance from earthly bondage - moksha (
  • Moksha is seen as a final release from one's worldly conception of self, the loosening of the shackle of experiential duality and a realization of one's own fundamental nature which is true being, pure consciousness and bliss (satcitananda) an experience which is ineffable and beyond sensation. (
  • T → A common noun (fustuumeishi) or participle which takes the aux. verb する: being liberated from earthly desires and
    the woes of man; (reaching) nirvana; moksha;  mukti
  • literally ‘release from concept’ the implication is release from woes or attaining nirvana. When we operate beyond concepts we are woe-free….or at least I think that’s part of Buddha’s thesis.

N 3439 → MU / BU. Nothing, nil, negation

N 3920 → SOU. aspect, phase, physiognomy

Breen:G → ➀ appearance; look; countenance ➁ a 'seeming' that fortune-tellers relate to one's fortune ➂ -lingustics-
aspect ➃ -physics- phase (e.g. solid, liquid and gaseous)

➸ Watch out for this other character which is almost exactly the same - (N 2606). Note the longer stroke under the "eye" radical. It has the On reading "so". I chased this confusion for a long time.

N 4105 → FUKU. fortune, blessing, luck ❧

T→ common noun: good fortune ❧

N 3727 → DEN. t/da. Rice field ❧

N 5420 → E. Garment ❧

➸ ‘e’ appears to be a specific singular, fuku is the group. Fuku is like clothing or costume. A kimono is one ‘e’ of Japanese ‘fuku’.
無 相 – musou
  • Breen:B→ deviod of marks But Breen:B also shows "有相無相 'usou musou' having form and no form", so 相 can also be translated as "form". But, this is not the kanji used in the heart sutra for "form" (色)
福田 – fukuden
  • Breen:B→ field of merit ➸ The rakusu and kesa are in a rice field pattern.
  • ➸ There are many compound terms in Japanese starting with "fuku." All implying good fortune, prosperity, positive  happenings. Some examples from T are:
    • fukuin 【福音】good news
    • fukutoku 【福徳】fortune;  happiness and prosperity
    • fukubukuro 【福袋】lucky-dip bag;  grab bag;  mystery package (with a variety of articles possibly worth more than the purchase price)
    • fukumimi 【福耳】plump ears, said to bring good fortune
  • ➸ There are also many Japanese names that are, or begin with, the characters for "fukuden" with a variety of pronounciations resulting from the various ways of pronouncing the kanji which represents a rice field, "" : fukuta, fukuda, fukude. 
  • A fortunate rice field would be one that always bring forth crops, never has a bad season. There is a clear implication of growing, coming into being. And, rice is the staple crop of Asia, so it is the essence of life. It is what sustains us. But rice does not grow on its own. It requires care, knowledge and discapline. And it is not the work of a single person. It takes a village (a sangha) for the field to be fruitful - all must work together at planting season. But there are also times when the field must be left alone. And where does the rice grow from? The mud. The earth. In fact, because of the severe importance of water for rice, it is very clearly an all-four-elements plant - Fire (sun), Earth, Water and air.
  • The physical form of the kesa, modeled after the rice field, pulls in the essential and fundamental ideas of and implications of the rice field. The kesa is our practice. Our practice is a rice field. This link cannot be ignored. 
無相 福 田– musou fukuden e
  • ➸ Unlike a tangible fertile rice field, our practice is formless. There is no spot to cling to. The dharma is beyond naming, there is no place to grab and hold. It is this formless field that sustains us. This is where our practice can grow. And the kesa is the garment that reminds of this formless fertile truth. 
  • ➸ Perhaps "Robe of living formless truth." "Living" is not in the characters, but is certainly implied by the rice field allusions. "Verdant" may be even better. "Truth" is also absent as a character, but it is perhaps the closest Western idea that
    has the same iconic weight as a rice field. As a combination "Verdant Truth" is very much what a fortunate ricefield represents. The truth, the law, that is actualized in real practice.

More to come in the next post....