Showing posts from 2018

Psychedelics and Healing

I wasn't going to write anything about Buddhism and psychedelics because I agree with what Brad Warner and James Ford wrote. I don't believe psychedelics are, or aid in, Buddhist practice.

Then I read the Lion's Roar article. At the end, someone is quoted as saying, "Its purpose is finite. The goal is to let go of that and be able to rely entirely on your own resources." When I read that I felt a wave of anger. It reminded me of being back in the monastery in Japan, when my community convinced me to go off of anti-depressants. They believed anti-depressants were harmful, and that Buddhist practice was about complete self-reliance. I believed them, and went off the medicine. And for a long time, I believed that I shouldn't need anyone or anything. Buddhism was about relying entirely on my own resources. I wrote a chapter in my book championing me own radical, self-reliance.

I regret that now.

Buddhism may or may not be about relying entirely on ones one resou…

So you want to practice in Japan? Part one million


Because of Emptiness, Midterms are Possible

Today as I was walking to the paint store through my Los Angeles neighborhood, I saw a car with a sticker on the window that read: "With God, all things are possible." I am not a Christian and I am not a theist, but those words made sense to me.

"With God, all things are possible" is the exact same meaning as "because of emptiness, all things are possible."

The Digital Dictionary of Buddhism defines emptiness, or śūnyatā (空) as "Vacuity, insubstantiality. In its most common usage, it is the distinctive Mahāyāna Buddhist view of the character of all existence, wherein all phenomena are understood to arise in dependence upon each other, and thus there is no phenomenon that has independent, determinable, or permanent existence; nor do any phenomena possess any sort of unchanging inner nature."

Different schools of Buddhism have articulated emptiness differently. As the DDB explains, "In mind-only doctrinal systems such as Yogacara and Tathaga…


There is a lot of talk these days about "inclusion."

How can Buddhism include people of color? How can Buddhism include queer and working class people?

I agree with the spirit of this but question the phrasing.

A while ago I read an article on the blog called Black Girl Dangerous. It was one of the best articles I ever read about feminism. Black Girl Dangerous was written by a radical queer black feminist. She wrote an article about how often white women ask her how to include women of color in feminism. She responded that this is the wrong question, because "women of color have been doing feminism since forever." A better question is, "What can white women do to be deserving of feminism?"

I think the same is true of Buddhism.

Instead of asking how we can include others in Buddhism, maybe a better question is "How can white people be deserving of Buddhism?"

I think about this a lot. When can I be deserving of Buddhism? It is a beautiful gift. It…

Book Reviews

There are two excellent reviews of my new book online. James Ford reviews it on his blog, here:

And Lion's Roar has reviewed it as well. I'm pretty sure it's only available in a real, paper version.

You can pre-order now, either on Amazon or from Wisdom Publications itself.

In the Lokavipatta Sutta, the Buddha warned against praise and fame:

Monks, these eight worldly conditions spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions. Which eight? Gain, loss, status, disgrace, censure, praise, pleasure, & pain. These are the eight worldly conditions that spin after the world, and the world spins after these eight worldly conditions.
But also.... wooooooooooo reviews! I'm famous!

Evil (?) Women

It's always easier to blame a woman. File this under: Eve, Pandora, Helen of Troy, and, of course, Hillary Clinton. While Hillary was running for president a number of articles and studies like this one circulated about how powerful women are viewed as less likable than their male counterparts. As this article indicates, it is not that women are disliked more than men when they are successful, but that "they are often penalized when they behave in ways that violate gender stereotypes." So, powerful women are labeled "aggressive," and "bitchy" because assertiveness is not a stereotypical feminine trait. Black women are labeled "difficult."

It is so obvious (to me) how criticisms of powerful women are gendered and racialized, and it is important to understand this
when we discuss powerful women.

And also, some women are fucking scary.

Straight up terrifying.

Like most other Americans, I have spent the last week binging Wild Wild Country, the …

On Women's Anger

This week I have been very angry. In my last post I called several men "shit," and I said that the lineage was "shit." I said this because I have watched so many Buddhist men abuse women, and in particular, last week Noah Levine denied accusations of sexual misconduct. I know that the accusations are true, and so I was filled with rage and grief. Part of me regrets publishing this. Now and forever, the internet will know I called someone "shit." But part of me wants to leave the post, because my anger was valid, and it is so rare that women are allowed to express anger. In fact, after I posted that, several people thanked me for my anger.

They say anger is a poison. When I was in India, I watched exiled monks in a monastery perform a "lama dance" in which dancers ceremoniously "kill" the three poisons-- greed, anger, and delusion.

In the Zen tradition, we take a precept to refrain from anger, or not give rise to anger. People interpre…

Burn It All Down

I have a mysterious illness that strikes every few months. One day I will be fine and the next I will be too tired to get out of bed. I will lie in bed in the dark crying from how exhausted I feel until I finally, hours later, I have the energy to get up. I will go into the living room and within ten minutes I am too tired to even sit with my head up. This lasts for a few days before I can return to "normal."

I have been to the hospital. They have done blood tests, checked for anemia, thyroid disease. Depression is an obvious and simple diagnosis.

But sometimes I wonder if I am just exhausted from all the secrets I carry. This illness is new. I did not have it when I was a teenager, although I have had psychological problems for as long as I have been fully aware of what the world is like. But the exhaustion is new. The older I get the more severe the exhaustion, because the older the get the more secrets I have to keep, the more grief and rage.

This afternoon my mother for…

5 Ways to Win the Internet

The internet is a scary place these days. Actually, it's always been a scary place. Remember when your kids getting abducted by a pedophile they met in a chatroom was the most pressing danger of the internet? Now your kids are the ones programing the chatrooms.

And yet, since the revelations that Cambridge Analytica harvested our Facebook data to psychologically manipulate millions of American voters, it's even harder to see the internet as just clean fun. We've suspected that increased social media use leads to depression and low self-esteem for years, and yet when push comes to shove, it's hard to bite the bullet and delete Facebook. So how to walk the middle way through this treacherous forest of low self-esteem, internet addiction, and global surveillance? I don't really have an answer to this last one (maybe watch "Minority Report" and play a drinking game where you take a shot every time the movie accurately predicted the future?), but here are jus…

Buddhism and Clarity

Six months ago I got married. This involved having a conversation with my partner about the definition of our relationship, and then signing a contract (then a big party!). When we wrote our vows, there were certain things we needed to discuss; for example, what does "forever" mean? Are we promising to love each other "forever?" If not, what exactly are we promising? The original vows we worked off of initially had us promising, "I vow to give you everything I have." We both felt that was an overstep, and reworded it to "I vow to give you what I have that you need." Working together in this way, we clarified what our expectations were. And in the end, straight out of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," I vowed to love him for one lifetime, which seemed more realistic than "forever."

Pledging to be with someone for the rest of your life is very romantic, but there is also something very unsexy about marriage. There are contracts. Clauses.…


Yesterday was Friday. I don't have class on Friday, and I have already turned in a rough draft of my master's thesis, so I was looking forward to a day of reading and relaxation. Down time. These things are good for you, I hear. At about 2pm I managed to put on clothes and started walking to the nearest coffee shop, carrying my sketchbook and some pencils. Walking through Pico Union towards Koreatown, I passed rundown liquor stores and bright, colorful murals. It was hot and sunny, and I listened to headphones. Nothing was wrong, but I felt a familiar feeling-- a kind of dull, persistent ache, although ache is too strong of a word. More like "gnawing." A feeling that something is just not quite right. But what? Nothing tangible. Just existence as a whole.

Buddhists have a word for this feeling. It is the first noble truth, the understanding that existence is inevitably unsatisfactory. Of course, this feeling is not a uniquely Buddhist concept. The French called it en…

Dogen Walked Into a Bar

There's a joke I love that makes the men around me uncomfortable. It goes, "A feminist man walked into a bar it was so low." This is because we expect so little of men, and so when one says anything approximating respecting basic human rights, we fall all over ourselves.

I am currently finishing up my master's degree in East Asian studies, and writing my thesis on women in early Sōtō Zen communities. When I started out to write this paper, I thought I would focus on Dōgen and women. Some of my research I've already posted online, like the last post about Ryōnen.

As we all know, Dōgen had several female disciples and wrote favorably about them. In particular, he praises Ryōnen in the Eihei Koroku (Extended Record). He also argued that women have equal capacity for spiritual development and awakening in the Raihaitokuzui (Bowing at the Attainment of the Marrow) chapter in the Shobogenzo, as well as in Bendōwa (Points to Watch on Practicing the Way). As I wrote abo…