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CHAPTER IV: FLOWERS

(44)

Only a skillful flower arranger knows how to select from all the beautiful flowers the very best for their arrangements. But who can rightfully discern the choice flower of the Dharma from all the other tantalizing flowers that the world has to offer?

(45)

The learner who has dedicated themselves to this training will rightfully discern, as the flower arranger. The learner on this path will spot the correct Dharma teachings, it stands out among the others as plain as day to them, but to the rest it remains obscured and hidden.

(46)

Having learned that this body is as temporary as the foam produced by the waters, that it offers no more substance than a mirage, the learner has moved beyond the reach of the temptations and traps which ensnare.

(47)

The pleasures of the world are like beautiful flowers in the forest, one could become so absorbed in collecting them that they forget to stay alert of the dangers that are present, being easily swept into their downfall as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

(48)

The person immersed in gathering pleasures drowns in their own insatiable thirst, never satisfied, always reaching for the next and greater sensation.

(49)

As a bee travels from one type of flower to another, bringing out the honey but leaving each flowers own unique fragrance and color intact, so should a sage bring out the good in each village or person they meet without altering their uniqueness.

(50)

While working to bring out the good pay no attention the faults of others, or what they have haven’t done; instead, pay attention to your own faults and your own inactions.

(51)

For even a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent is worthless, as worthless as your eloquent words if only spoken but never lived out personally.

(52)

But a beautiful flower, full of color, and full of scent is a joy to others, like one whose good words matches their own good deeds.

(53)

One may look at a heap of flowers, cut down and consider them futile, knowing they will soon wither and die, but a skillful flower arranger knows they can use the time they have left to make beautiful garlands. Just so, your own life is mortal and fleeting but you can still do many skillful things.

(54)

The scent of a flower cannot travel against the wind, not even the strongest incense or perfume can. But the fragrance of a person of virtue will spread to the ends of the earth, regardless of how the wind blows.

(55)

The aroma of flowers, incense or perfumes can be excellent, but the aroma of virtue surpasses them all.

(56)

Compared to virtue, whose scent reaches up to the heavens, even the strongest incense becomes nothing.

(57)

Living life as a fragrance, the virtuous have no body or home to be found in by their enemies, like a vapor they cannot be grasped by their snares, for they dwell in mindfulness and are freed by right understanding.

(58-59)

Every once in a while a beautiful flower sprouts forth out the piles of trash heaped on the sides of the road, and when it does it dazzles us all. Just so, you, the disciple of the Buddha have risen out of the heap, distinguishing yourself as a light to those still blind and bound to the limitations of this world.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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Preface

This lovingly made, non-literal, contemporary translation of the Dhammapada is provided for you as a free service. For those of you who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha on meditation, concentration, discipline and even the morals and ethics of Buddhism but who are turned off by “Religious Buddhism”, it is my hope that this more proverbial, even somewhat humanist translation will be of use to you. For others, who were leery of it such an old writing could be pertinent to them today, I hope this more modern translation will show you that it still is. For those who already know this text well, and even live by it, it is my hope that this may either challenge you to think of it anew, or at the very least may it refresh your spirits.

THE DHAMMAPADA

CHAPTER ONE: TWIN VERSES

(1)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with impure thoughts and suffering follows, as the wheel of a wagon follows the ox which pulls it.

(2)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with a pure thought and happiness follows, as a shadow follows a traveler on a sunny day.

(3)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Holding onto these thoughts only keeps the pain alive.

(4)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Letting go of these thoughts releases you from suffering further.

(5)

For hating those who wronged you will not release you from hate, it will only create further suffering. The cycle of hatred will only be broken by non-hatred. This is an ancient truth.

(6)

Most do not live in the realization that life is short. For those who fully realize this, quarrels become unimportant.

(7)

One who lives for self gratification, is over-indulgent, uncontrolled, unrestrained, full of laziness and apathy, is easily broken by hard-times and temptations, just as a small storm can easily break a weak tree.

(8)

One who lives for a higher purpose, is moderate, controlled, restrained, not afraid of hard work and devout, cannot be easily broken by hard-times and temptations, as even a great storm still cannot move a mountain.

(9)

The robe does not make the monk. If the one wearing the robe lacks self-control and honesty, they have defiled it.

(10)

One who is free from inner defilements, having self-control, and honesty, standing strong in the precepts, only such a person is worthy of a monk’s robe.

(11)

Those who consider the unimportant things in life to be important and the truly important as unimportant will never find that which is important, for they were looking in the wrong place all along.

(12)

However, those who correctly see the important as important and the unimportant as unimportant will find the important, rightfully discerning where to begin their search.

(13)

As rain will always find the crack in a poorly-made roof, so Want will find its way into an undisciplined mind.

(14)

As rain cannot find a way through a well-made roof, so Want cannot find its way into a well-disciplined mind.

(15)

For those who do wrong to others it will only end in grief, grief in the present, grief in the future. In both states the wrongdoer grieves; from the initial seed, to seeing the seed come to bear fruit.

(16)

For the doer of good there is much rejoicing, rejoicing in the present, rejoicing in the future. In both states there is joy; seeing one’s own pure acts bear good fruit brings joy and delight to everyone.

(17)

Those who do wrong suffer in the present, suffer in the future. In both states there is suffering. Tormented today by the thought, “I have done wrong”, tormented tomorrow, having fallen into the cycle of suffering.

(18)

Those who do well to others delight in the present, delight in the future. In both states there is delight. Here they are delighted knowing, “I have treated others well”, and tomorrow for they have entered into the cycle of bliss.

(19)

One, who studies the teachings, memorizes them, quotes them often, but doesn’t do what they say, is like a banker, surrounded by other people’s wealth, counting it as their own, deluding themselves into thinking that they are now rich. Such a person does not gain any real benefit from their studies.

(20)

One, who knows little of the teachings, but still lives according to them, free of grasping, hate, and delusions; revering and discerning what truth they find, not clinging to this life or the next, such a person, will gain the benefits of the contemplative life.

CHAPTER II: DILIGENCE

(21)

Diligence is the path of liberation; negligence the path to bondage. The vigilant can never be truly bound; the negligent can never be truly free.

(22)

The wise, knowing this to be true, develop their diligence; consider it a joy to do so, having found their happiness in the wisdom of the noble ones.

(23)

Now awakened, dedicating themselves to meditation, striving forward with firm minds, they find the ultimate liberation.

(24)

The glory of a virtuous person is their reputation, and for one who is active in pursuing that which is good, diligent, pure and considerate to others, it is ever increasing.

(25)

The wise, by much effort, discipline, restraint and self-control, make for themselves an island which no flood can submerge.

(26)

The foolish surrender themselves over to negligence; while the one who is wise carefully guards their discipline as their most valuable possession.

(27)

Don’t give in to negligence; don’t look for pleasure in temporal desires — for it is the disciplined, who having absorbed themselves in meditation find true happiness.

(28)

The wise, drives out negligence with discipline, like a climb up a tall mountain; now free from sorrow, they see the sorrow of the masses in the valley from which they came.

(29)

The disciplined among the negligent, the awake among the sleeping — so the wise advance, like a well-trained racehorse surpasses the weak and untrained.

(30)

Even in the fable of Indra, it was through diligence that he became king of the gods, for even these gods praised diligence, and looked down on negligence with contempt.

(31)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees the danger in negligence advances like a fire, burning the ropes which bound them both great and small.

(32)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees danger in negligence is bound to never fall astray and is close to liberation.

CHAPTER III: THE MIND

(33)

As a skilled arrow maker knows to shape the arrow straight so that it will not waver, so does a skilled meditator know they must shape their wavering mind.

(34)

Like a fish when lured of its watery home thrashes about on dry land, so a mind thrashes about from thing to thing when lured into the land of pleasing the senses.

(35)

It is difficult to wrestle with the mind; it is hard to pin down, nimble and quick — wishing to wander wherever it pleases. Difficult but worth it, for a well disciplined mind brings much happiness.

(36)

The wise should pay close attention to what tries to slip into their minds, for its enemies are subtle and can be difficult to perceive. A mind well guarded brings much happiness.

(37)

The mind like a ghost is bodiless, strays far and wide, and can hide itself alone in secret chambers; however those who learn to restrain it will be freed from their bonds.

(38)

For a person with an unsteady mind, not knowing the true Dharma will be incapable of recognizing it until their mind and wavering faith has settled.

(39)

For the one who is awake, whose mind is calm and steady, having abandoned the dualities of good and evil, there is no more fear or danger to perplex their hearts.

(40)

Aware that this body is fragile like a clay jar, and that it is the mind which we must make strong like a fortress; fortify your mind, and then battle the enemy with the sword of truth, protecting the spoils you have won, knowing never to let your guard down, even in victory.

(41)

For soon this body will simply lie on the ground, lifeless, deprived of this consciousness, to be cast aside like a useless scrap of wood.

(42)

Think of two people who hate each other, or two mortal enemies locked in combat, then realize that your mind if not under your control can cause you more difficulties than either of these.

(43)

Think or a loving mother, father, or any friend or relative who cares for you, then realize that your mind if well-centered can do you more good than any of these.

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PGRDSeveral months ago a friend of mine who is a devout Buddhist got into a good discussion with me about why I felt such a need to study Buddhist scriptures so throughly, literally, and why I searched so much for a very pure practice. You see, I would be practicing Soto and would start reading Dogen and wonder why our current practice was so far off from his teachings. Or I would study the Pali Canon and wonder why so much of it is ignored. I also was looking for a practice that was “pure” from the standpoint of it being very established, traditional, and with a long lineage and history behind it.

He, on the other hand, was very eclectic and had little concern otherwise. He was into really anything that appealed to him at that moment, gathering things from here and there along his path, and forming his own kind of practice that suited him best. There was certainly a kind of freedom there that he was enjoying that I was not, but I questioned if this was right way, or at least if this was the way for me.

I was more of the mindset of researching and finding a tradition/Master that I felt in my heart to be true and sticking to it… even the parts that I didn’t like or that “cramped my style”. Also, as a scholar, I was and still am into the notion that scripture and history must be revered and considered seriously. Now I am not saying that it ALWAYS has to be followed — just that it always has to be considered seriously and if not followed for good and defensible reason.

He proposed two arguments to me which I had no real answer for that I would like to finally answer today. They were as follows:

1. If whatever it is they are doing/believing, is helping them they who really cares if it’s false or true?
2. Even the oldest of scriptures still is most likely impure, so who cares if we adjust them even more?

The first of the two arguments lead into a long discussion on Upaya, and it did open my mind up to a lot of things. There is some truth to this argument, and I must concur that there is time and place for expedient means. However, we must also agree that the purpose of Upaya is to get someone to move from one state to another, so that they may receive a new truth and be freed from the old one. Once this is accomplished the individual now should be able to walk in this new truth and no longer feel the need to cling to the past delusion or the delusion that was presented to them through Upaya to motivate them in the first place. If this is not done, then was progress really made?

Also, what is the definition of something helping? What is the definition of something not harming? Does something help someone if it does not really lead them to liberation? Doesn’t it harm someone if they pick up some teaching or mindset along the way that hinders their long-term progress even though it provides some kind of temporary solution to a problem? This technique of expedient means must be used by a Master out of loving-kindness and tempered with wisdom, for the good of their student to move them along the path. It is not license for us to simply do as we wish and see fit without skill and purpose.

For the second argument, I was already familiar with this topic from my days in Bible Seminary. Not only do we have to take into account when reading ancient text that it may have been, and was most likely altered by people with alteriar motives or agendas, but we also have to take into account the fact that even the most pure, divine revelation is still going to have to be filtered through the eyes and mind of a mortal and even their most direct and accurate account will still be tainted in some way, shape or form. As the Apostle Paul wrote himself, “we see in a mirrordimly“.

Yet, does this give taint us license to further filter scripture as we see fit to adjust it to our own social, political, personal or other preferences?

I think it is a lot like peeing in a pool.

If you were in a large pool of water with a group of people and word got out that someone may have peed in it, does that mean that we all then will just figure it’s ok for the rest of us to take a dump in it?

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3rdjesusBook Review on Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore

I have seen many reviews of this book online, so I guess the question is: “Why one more?” However, if you look at them carefully you will probably notice that they are either by institutions trying to sell you the book, fans of Deepak Chopra; or, in the opposite vein, person’s of a fundamentalist Christian background who automatically already knew they would disagree with this writing. So in all fairness, none of these commentaries would be fair.

However; I actually read the book (most reviewers only skim). I neither like nor dislike the author or his views. I am a Bible Scholar, Buddhist scholar, and practice daily meditation. Finally, I am currently working on my Masters on the very subject of comparative religion (Eastern and Western).

Let’s start off with what the book is and isn’t. Deepak presents us with his thesis that the Christ of the bible, and of Christian lore, could have possibly been instead another enlightened or awaken being, akin with Gautama Buddha and various other noteworthy religious figures. So what it “is” is a thesis, then followed up with some practical, although sadly not unique, instruction as to how one could meditate and have a very “Eastern” faith experience while still holding onto their familiar Jesus figure, prayers, and bible passages.

What the book “isn’t” is apologetics. The author offers little historical, biblical, or intellectual argument to support his thesis. He simply puts it out there, and moves along swiftly into application. His arguments for why he believes his thesis to be true is that it makes sense to him, he likes it, Jesus had similar teachings and experiences to the Buddha, and his main argument is that not only would Jesus’ teachings be impossible for a person to live out without awakening, but they make little sense unless reinterpreted that way. He does a very good job going through various teachings or sayings of Jesus and then showing how it could very well be him referring to an awakening experience that was later misinterpreted; or more likely, deliberately.

The major claim that may ruffle some people’s feathers is that he believes that the Christ did exist, but that through many years of religion, and the passing along of information, and in the hopes to establish a dominant religion, this original Christ has been altered, added to and deleted about so that his real message has become muddled; although still hidden in the text if we look at it through a new perspective. There is more than enough viable, undeniable, and confirmed information out there by noteworthy scholars to back up a claim that certain text in the bible has been purposefully changed by the church, especially during its formative years and it’s rise to power as the State lead religion of the Roman Empire; however, the author takes little-to-no time to delve into the facts, and even if he did it would still not back up his theory that Jesus was a “Buddha”; its reference only serves to cast a shadow of doubt.

This then breaks down then into their three different Christs. The first being the actual, historical person who walked the earth; but, whom we can not say with any clarity that we actually know since all we know of him is from religious, non-historical, text. The second Christ is the Jesus of myth and religion. The one who comes to our minds when we hear the word Jesus; based off the influence of the bible, our society, televisions and homes–the one that was “invented” to fit into a certain religion, culture, and philosophy. Then, Chopra presents us with the third option: Chopra’s own made up, non-historical and mythical Christ — one that fits well into his own philosophy and suites his own philosophy. The hard part to swallow about this train of thought though is that after the author establishes his pretense that nobody can actually say that they really know who the historical Christ was, and that the Christ of the Bible is myth, then how in the world can one offer up a third option with any certainty or conviction? It is not based of the historical, for it was stated that nothing is known of the historical, and it is not based off the mythical; so what source is really left over for this deduction?

From a bible scholar’s perspective the defense of his thesis does not stand up well, and if you are looking for an intellectual argument you will not find one here. From a Buddhist perspective, if you are looking for a book to teach you about Buddhism, meditation or any such thing… then I suggest that there are much better books out there to instruct or inspire you. This books closes out with average instruction to begin a quest for awakening, that is really sub-par, although it may seem appealing to those from a Christian background since he revamped it to use Christian prayers and bible verses.

Was the book worth the read? Yes. Yes it was. But I see it more as a primer education piece for someone who wants to hold onto their title of Christian but is slowly finding themselves to be swayed into and enticed by New Age or Buddhist philosophies. So, if that is you and you want to read something that tells you something that you already know you want to hear… great. If you are looking for something “deep” about the practice of Buddhism… then not so great. Finally, if you are looking for a real thesis that digs into factual information to confront your current perception of Christ… this is not going to cut it. You would be better off reading Pagan Christ or The Jesus Mysteries. I personally was just fascinated to see what Chopra’s own personal “take” on Jesus would be, and I was not disappointed by it.

In closing, it was a good read and I am going to keep the book on my shelf instead of trading it in at the used book store, but it was nothing too surprising, new, and it was full of information that I had already heard before but that was presented to be better the first time.

Personal Note:

In the East many are against how the States had taken meditation and stripped it down into some kind of relaxation or self-help guided therapy. In India most yogis are dismayed at how we are teaching yoga as some fitness package for middle-age ladies and did away with all spiritual aspects and benefits of the practice. So I find it of little surprise that Westerners would prefer that their Jesus be left alone. I don’t want to go to a Christian church to meditate, no more than I want to show up to a Buddhist temple to hear about Christ. Some may call that closed-minded, but as someone who studies and loves religion I disagree. It is because I love it that I think it’s integrity should remain untouched.

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e1242913021“Christian” is a social phenomena that has permeated every aspect of our Western culture, and I hold little doubt that as adamant as we Westerners tend to be about keeping the term tied to our identities, as best we can, there are similar modes of thought going on in other cultures clinging to their common, comfortable, and socially accepted titles of Buddhist, Islamic, or Jewish; while, in all truth they are walking in clearly different religious, social, or philosophical path.

I have even seen the opposite to be true, intellectuals who have been born and bred in the homes or classrooms of professors and great minds to be atheist, humanist, or at the very least practical agnostics; who, despite their social peer pressure to keep this intellectual title deep-down are very spiritual and have a secret faith in God, gods, or some kind of Universal Mind or consciousness.

I know a professor of computer science who is an adamant atheist, and practices a humanist Zen Buddhism that focuses on ethics, discipline and being at peace mentally in this life, but with no promise of nirvana nor enlightenment. That doesn’t surprise me that much and that holds no great contradiction.  However, what surprised me with him occurred one day while we were talking about our differing practices over some tea after meditation. I casually stated that I wasn’t Christian and I watched as his jaw dropped and an look of shock fell over his face. “What do you mean you are not Christian? I’m a Christian” he said.

Confused I got him to break down certain aspects of his belief system. He is atheist, Buddhist, does not believe in any kind of an afterlife, nor God the Father, and he believes that there was a Jesus but that he was just a man, not the Son of God, and that when he (Jesus) died he simply decayed and decomposed like the rest of us. And where exactly does the title “Christian” come into play?

His defense was that he agreed with the basic principles, ideals, morality, social constructs, and felt akin to the myths and inspirational stories that appeal to the better nature of us all that come from the Bible. And that as a Westerner he identifies with the label of Christian since this is a Christian nation and culture.

As a Bible scholar, though an non-believing one, I tried to explain the biblical criteria for calling yourself Christian, but that didn’t get me too far. Eventually I just dropped the subject, and went on to enjoying his great company and our friendship. I filed the conversation in the back of my brain to ponder upon a later date and went on with life. It wasn’t until the other week, where I was having a conversation with a sociology professor about gay rights that this past conversation was triggered back into play with some kind of clarity.

While discussing the gay rights movement we happened along the tangent of how difficult it is to “come out of the closet” as they say. The professor asserted that it is so counter culture to do so that one risks alienating themselves from everything they consider comforting. They risk losing identity as a straight “normal” person. They risk losing family, friends, their church, their social status… all kinds of things that we, as pack animals, tend to hold dear. It was then that the whole Christian thing made sense to me.

We hold onto the label for the same reasons. We do not want to risk the alienation or the discomfort or being different from the norm and the acceptable. Even mentally we can not escape the guilt and the oppression of feeling bad about ourselves for rejecting a Christ that we do not even really believe in. So instead we practice our New Age, Buddhism, Atheism, or other philosophy or religion and tag onto it the hyphenated “Christian” to form some kind of ease in our minds about the whole ordeal.

Please understand that this is not an attack against Christianity. To the contrary, it is out of a great respect and understanding of the religion that I defend its integrity in stating that I, and many who still cling to the term, are not Christian. Let those who are pure in their faith be free to practice without us others confusing people as to what the religion truly is, and let those who in their hearts want nothing to do with their God be free from the social shackles of thinking that they have to keep identifying with the religion.

Through my own personal studies I came to a very logical conclusion that there was never at any time a historical Christ figure that lived and died and rose again. However, even if you believe there was some kind of a man who was a great leader, sage, reincarnation of the Buddha, or prophet, but was not the Son of God, you still can’t fit your square peg into the clearly defined round hole of the Christian faith. Once I depersonalized my concept of “God” from the old, grey haired king sitting on his throne in heaven surrounded by his worshipping angles; into a broader, more universal concept of “energy” or an interconnectedness of all things… I left the fold. As soon as I opened up to the idea of their being many paths to experiencing and communing with this life force I immediately validated all religions and alienated myself from all of them at the same time – since just about all of them hold true the statement that they are the only path.

So I am nothing and I am everything, and I have to learn to be comfortable with and accept the fact that I just do not fit in quite well with my current society. It is unfamiliar, it is unsettling, disturbing at first… but it is also liberating!

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cockroach-3I had an interesting day today, and in it, I got to practice some loving-kindness… although it was towards something I never tried it on before – cockroaches.

I guess I had better explain this some; you see, I volunteered today to do some charity work for the United Way, and they asked me and a group of others (that I did not know) to show up to this house and paint the inside of it. It seems that the place is home to a nice group of 3 older ladies, one of whom is bed-ridden, and it was in a bit of disrepair. Although, it seems the place was also home to many more beings than we were told.

The walls of the house were not really in need of painting, they were just caked with layer upon layer of roach droppings, and they were everywhere. I am talking broad daylight, and hundreds upon hundreds of the little buggers just hanging out I plain sight like they owned the place. It was very interesting to observe.

I noticed a few things though, and here are some of my observations…

Firstly, I had taken a vow to cause no harm to any sentient being, and for me that also includes insects. When I was younger a sight light what I saw today would have given me the willies, but today there was no apprehension or disgust to be found in me. I just saw all these roaches and knew that I was looking at another living thing, and it did not bother me at all. Not anymore. And, unlike the rest of the people in the room working with me, I had compassion on them. Yes, I felt sorry for the ladies living there, that they were in such a circumstance, but I also had compassion for the insects there.

Secondly, instead of swatting at and smashing and scurrying about the roaches so I could paint, I simply talked to them (yes I talked to them) or at other times just waited and thought kind words towards them, and asked them to move so I could paint… and they moved out of the way.

Thirdly, these ladies were not messy and their home was quite orderly and neat… other than the roaches and their droppings, and so I inquired into the matter a bit with them. You see, although they themselves are very clean and tidy people, the neighborhood that they live in has gone down-hill, turning from a once lovely little place and into the ghetto, and their neighbors do not share their particular views on hygiene and upkeep. So, if all the homes around them are inviting roaches… they get them too.

Finally, I could not help but wonder the whole time what good we were actually doing there. These ladies approached the charity looking for help and the solution they were given was that we would paint over all the roach droppings… but the roaches are still there. Nothing was done to actually solve the problem at hand. I immediately thought of tons of little proverbs and ways that this could be used as a life lesson, or a sermon about taking care of the real problem and not just ‘white washing the tombs” if you will. I considered many of my own areas in life that I need to deal where a lesson or analogy could also apply… and I found a few.

One of the volunteers was a pastor of a local church and asked the ladies when we were done if he could pray for them and they said yes. As he prayed for them and their health, in my head I offered up my own thoughts of loving kindness towards the roaches and wished them and the ladies happiness and that the roaches would leave and find a new home in which there was not this conflict between them and others; so that they may all be happy, healthy and at ease.

Nobody should have to live like that though, I know that these ladies deserve a clean, healthy environment and I wish them well. I am also grateful that I myself and in a safe and warm home today that I can enjoy.

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street-fighter-4-01With this week being my birthday week, and after receiving an overwhelming amount of feedback telling me that I my affinity for sitting meditation will get me nowhere, and that I can “meditate” while doing all kinds of things; like, watching TV, or playing games… I decided to subject myself to a harsh, brutal even, highly advanced (don’t try this at home kids), Three Day Street Fighter IV Meditation Retreat!

The goal: To unlock my mind’s eye, or all 8 (9 including the end-boss Seth) hidden characters, whichever comes first… or die trying!

So, that is why I haven’t written anything for the past few days, and, now that it is over, I would like to share with you some of my personal notes on some of the amazing breakthroughs I made on this intensive, personal journey of mine.

Monday I awoke, mentally resolved and prepared to submit myself to three days of seclusion; trapped in my basement, doing nothing by playing Street Fighter IV… for enlightenment. Myself and my room, a.k.a. sacred space, must be prepared as well. I go over the checklist:

Big Buddha Statue – Check
Sandalwood Incense – Check
Candles – Check
PS3 – Check
Street Fighter IV Game – Check
Custom Arcade-Style Fighting Stick – Check
Zafu – Check
Comfy Pants – Check
Phone Off – Check
Coffee – Oops, I forgot to get a coffee!

What’s dorking it out in your basement, playing video games, without coffee? What is that you say, “Gamers drink Mountain Dew?” Pfft! That’s for kids. Besides, I hear that stuff makes your sperm count die. Not that I want to make a baby right now, but I would like to keep my options open you know.

I walk, slowly, mindfully to my car and take a deep breath in and then out, as I begin to ready myself for some mindful driving, or driving meditation. Driving meditation is a lot like walking meditation, in that you drive really, really, slow. You should not play any music, but instead listen to and be aware of the sounds that the car is making, and the world around you. Feel your hands on the wheel, your foot as it gently touched the pedals… keep your back straight… and don’t go over 10 MPH.

It took a very long time to get to Starbucks to get my coffee, but it was worth it. I never felt so alive and meditative while driving before. I did not know how people would react, with my driving down the roads at 10 MPH, holding up traffic, but everyone was so kind about it. Everyone was honking at me (to support me in my retreat I assume), and waving like crazy at me. It was wonderful. The best part was that I had to drive by an old-age home, and there were some elderly folks outside riding around on their little scooters; I think I really made their day because it was the first time they ever had to pass a car on their scooters because the car was too slow.

Now that my coffee is in hand, I drink it mindfully; I am mindful of the black coffee goodness dripping down my throat; I am mindful of the caffeine that it is putting, thankfully, into my system; I am mindful of the child labor and piss-poor working conditions of the people who picked these beans for me to enjoy; I am mindful of the tree that had to die so I can take home this paper cup, and the other tree that died so I can have this little “jacket”, sleeve thingy over the cup so it does not burn my hands; I am mindful that it has taken me so long to drink this coffee that it has now gone cold and I don’t even want to finish the rest of it. Mmmmm, coffee meditation!

Sufficiently caffeinated, I sit on the floor, on my zafu, and prepare myself for the unlocking. There are various guides and posts online about the proper way to unlock all the characters, but most of them are inaccurate, and overly complex. Here is the right way to do it:

Beat the game in arcade mode as C. Viper to unlock Cammy; as Ryu to unlock Sakura; as Sakura to unlock Dan; as Abel to unlock Fei Long; as M. Bison to unlock Rose; as Chun-Li to unlock Gen; now, beat the game with all the characters you unlocked already to unlock Akuma; then, beat it as Akuma to unlock the Gouken cut scene… after that, beat the game as someone you already beat the game with before but you can’t lose any rounds, have to get 2 perfects, and 3 ultra combo finishes; then, finally, beat the game with all 16 default characters to unlock Seth.

That’s about it. Oh, and the above works on any difficulty setting, so you could do it all on the easiest setting if you need to. However, I did not want to cheapen my meditation experience, so I opted to keep the game on the default setting of Medium. I mean, who ever gets enlightenment on the “Easy” level?

After a few hours of playing, or meditating, I manage to unlock a few characters, but my neck is getting sore from looking up at the TV and my legs are starting to cramp up… because I am sitting in the lotus position. I opt to sit on the couch instead so my neck can be in a more comfortable position, but I keep my back straight and my legs crossed. It takes me all day to unlock the first half of the characters, and my body is starting to really feel it. My legs are really sore, and my eyes feel like they are about to burn out from my skull. Video game meditation is rough, but the thought of how much merit I will gain by all this vigor and effort keeps me going!

I crawl to bed and decided to get some rest, it is time to call day one over. As I lay there in bed I come to realize that the theme song from the game that plays in the background of all the fights is stuck in my head – playing in an eternal loop that just won’t stop. Also, I seem to have a hard time shutting my eyes; for, when I do, all I see is flashes of colors, pulses of light, and fuzzy images from the game burned into my retina. Maybe this is one of those Jahna’s people were talking about? Is this what seeing auras is like?

Day two starts with my looking into the mirror and realizing that both my eyes are bloodshot, and it looks like I need a shave. No time for that now! I will take care of that after the retreat is over. I decided to stay on the couch today as well, in hopes that it may help my neck out some, but I still keep the lotus position as I play. By the end of day 2, I have unlocked all the hidden characters… except for Seth. I am saving that one for my final day of Street Fighter Meditation. I need to call it another day though; my legs are killing me, I have taken like 6 Excedrin because my head is killing me, and I feel exhausted.

That night, I found it impossible to get any sleep. I felt so high-strung from all the video game meditation that I could not seem to unwind. I thought that maybe I could do some sitting meditation to try to calm myself down so I could sleep, but whenever I closed my eyes all I could see was flashing colors and bits from the game playing in my head… oh, and that freaking theme song is still going and going and going… ringing in my ears. I swear, I don’t know how the Buddha and his monks did it.

Day three, I look in the mirror and think I look like some kind of hermit; or, some kind of speed-freak, meth-head, on crack… and that song is still in my head. Screw lotus position, today I am going to sit on the couch like a normal human being and unlock Seth as quick as I can. I am mentally and physically done with this thing.

In fact, screw Seth! I’m done. I am going to go take a shower, shave, clean my room, see what life is like outside (I hear the weather is beautiful out there), and start sitting meditation again.

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