Meditation does NOT equal Psychotherapy

An important, if a bit strident article about the importance of understanding that the Buddhist path is a whole one, not intended to be chopped up and distributed along with other tidbits of spiritual practice. And, the importance of faith in the entire enterprise.

This passage below may be the crux of it all for it declares clearly, and accurately in my opinion, that awakening, the fundamental goal of Buddhism, is not a static experience the process of living an awakened life, seeing things as-they-are (yatham bhutam) which is ever-changing and therefore, without inherent identity (nothing to hold onto) and always available to change (and thus inherently “optimistic” about human nature):

In the Mahâtanhâsankhaya-sutta, the Buddha examined his students on their meditation experience:

Bhikkhus, do you see: “This has come to be?” … Do you see: “Its origination occurs with that as support?” … Do you see: “With the cessation of that support, what has come to be is subject to cessation?” (M 1.260)

Notice the focus of the Buddha’s questions. He is not just asking his students, “Do you see change?” He is asking, “Do you see the patterns of change? Do you see what supports what? Do you see what specific experience gives rise to what specific experience? And when that experience ceases, do you see what changes to make it cease?”

This perceived order in the flow of experience, the fact we can see that precisely this gives rise to precisely that, is specific conditionality. This is what makes our situation workable. The wisdom of the Buddha exposes the underlying structures of our experience, the underlying laws that govern change, and therefore shows us how we can develop our experience in a direction we want. This is what makes possible the path. The goal of practice, and the means of practice, is awakening (bodhi). What we awaken to is our experience, now. This experience, now, is the content of awakening. Note that awakening does not refer to any specific type of experience, be it painful or pleasurable, happy or sad, Eastern or Western. Awakening is simply the penetrating knowing of the structure of any experiences that are arising and ceasing, now.



This brings to an end my experiment in devotional poetry, The Flame in the Lotus. I hope you have all enjoyed it!

Rest assured, the bridge is dangerous and very narrow.
If I fall one way, I am swallowed by fire,
The other side, I drown in water.
Behind me the past relays its gossip
In the mouths of regret and stupid sins. They never stop,
And are threatening to swallow me whole should I go back.
Among them, one says “Go! You can do it.”
And way out in front, between the flames
And the sprays of white drops clouding my sight,
I can make out open arms
Calling me to hurry across, and,
With a little bit of bracing courage
I balance my way forward, inch by inch.
It won´t be easy.
But what maternal arms will greet me!
Oh! Oh!
Namo amida butsu!



I trudge in darkness, chocolate thick & Black,
liquefy sadness in blood,
settling deep among the
dead leaves for the sudden stabbing chest
whose pain brings a bigger night, &
suddenly, all joy turns
to shabby restless rest.

What of it? Just nightmares.
Nightmares pass.

Laurels are lain before the
shattered legs and twisted
fragments of men whose value
reflected other worlds, not this one,
not, at least, this one I believe must live
and yet, doesn´t. Tomorrow,
tomorrow it must come.

Today has got to die.

Meanwhile the crabby refuse of rusted beaches,
Fukushima red, stream, borne east,
swarm over the waves, sweeping
bathers and bathing to new
storefronts, miles beyond,
miles behind the lines set to live on
but living is relative.

We are all falling back into the primal, sylvan darkness,
among the gnarls and brambles and bushes
whose names are forgotten, whose
richness we don´t understand.

There are paintings lying on the street,
pictures of moments born in fear,
drawn in blood and seen without warning, without
commentary. They sear into the soul,
rattling tales of indignity and terror
and the loss of dreams.

Today has got to die.

In shadowlands around
the country, whispers are said
lines are crossed and simple measures taken:
A Black man doesn´t need a reason to be.

A swelling furnace
is what this has come to, filled with
burnt pages stiffened into memory
then retrieved when limp bodies are lifted
to be boxed and buried.

The wails are common, too common.
Shields up, colors blue (always blue), batons
bloodied. I see faces, terrible faces-
“Go ahead, bring it on!” they taunt, “Bring it on!”
delighting in kicks to the head,
shoulder punches, snarling rage,
the bangs and beatings, the blood
and the bruises, all the same and always justified,
against their enemy.
Always justified.
They fear the dark:

The dark within them- of the oppressors they barely beat back, and
afraid of the dark people carrying 500 year old memories in their blood,
their DNA soaked with screams and brutalizations
too bewildering to bear.

Still, they are patient, but then another dies
the dark rage rises
and the blue fear now knows… it knows…
that somewhere out there, an old resentment rises
and they fear.
Yes, they fear the dark.
So they kill first.

Today has got die.

Before tomorrow can ever come,
Before the arterial bursts, the cherry bombs
in the head,
the expectations that all are
dying or dead,
let´s hand out a blanket for the eyes,
some milk and honey for the dreamers and
write out a new flag, braided and starred
rising to the maroon sky with awful yearning:

“Today has got to die!
“Today has got to die.”


Faith is a diamond moment
When Birth is guaranteed and the weaknesses
Neither forgiven nor forgotten,
But they are cut from tying me down and
I am taken, as I am, that very instant, to the Pure Land where,
When I die I will be gathered into
Immeasurable Light and Infinite Life
And work to liberate all beings from their suffering.
I need to find that beach where,
Walking on bright days,
You can pick diamonds from the beach like shells.


Tracing the lines to this day, from Queens
To Miami, from college to Nagoya,
To LA, or Colorado, rock and jazz
Sturdy companions along the way,
Friends met and faded, dreams had and dispersed,
Kids and the North Atlantic, poems and politics,
It´s all been a wonder, a show of colors and visions,
Mixed up with the dead and lost, too many, oh, too many
To count,
And yet, when I stop and think, I guess
It was all good.
I guess, this is all.
The sun is out enough to walk under
And the Name, a passing breath I give back
Along the way.