In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Long Overdue Update

Let’s see … where was I?

Last you heard, I was still on Gemzar chemo. Since then I have moved to another one, called Topotecan, because when the previous chemo had stopped doing its job, I had to fire it. (My tumor marker shot up this Fall, and kept shooting up.)

I’ve had 3 infusions of the Topo nectar now and will get a tumor-marker test this week to see whether it’s working.

Thankfully I know my body is *not* "me," so I am still happy … and hope you are too.
Know that there can be various difficulties with you body that with training won't damage your state of mind. It's true!

At the end of December I was in limbo, waiting to see if I could get on a promising clinical trial (which didn’t open more slots) and then another one (which seemed to dissolve, leaving no trace). Until I can find a good trial, I am back on chemo.

On this new Topo regime, I’ve had more side effects, which took me several days to adjust to and figure out.
Acceptance is a big part of my practice. There’s a lot I’d like to write about that, but for now I will simply say it creates a space to understand where I am, and then the room to move forward.
Now I feel like I am back on my board, surfing those swells, rather than being pounded by them.

Here's a slice of my life about medications:
In ordinary terms it’s a lot easier because I now have routines for them. Yet they still take up a surprising amount of time, on top of my existing routines: For example, I have many pills, which have different dosages, to take at different times of day, with and without meals or whenever. I have 7 different-colored pill containers (holding pills of different colors, with white being especially popular), some pill boxes by the bed, some by the kitchen; the newer ones with notes attached about what they are and how to take them. It helps me to see when the box (a day of the week) within the (pill)box is empty, to confirm I've already taken that dose. That’s not including the “take as needed” prescriptions.
I think I could teach a medicine-management workshop.

Does that all make me a juggler? Not that anyone would want to watch. Hopefully another ball won't be thrown in for a little while, while I finish mastering the current routine.

I think that's everything for now. I will do my best to provide more frequent health updates, because people keep asking for them


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Imputation & Online IDs

I tend to think of self-generation as a Buddhist Deity as being a foreign experience, as something brand new that I need to learn from scratch. But if you're online, especially if you're playing a game such as a MMOPRG (Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) or you're in some kind of virtual reality, you're creating (generating) yourself. You're a different person (an avatar). You have a special name, with special characteristics (think of a superpower like flying), in a different body or shape, with different clothes (maybe even armor), with special implements, with special friends, all in a special world. That sounds just like generating yourself as Vajrayogini in her Pure Land, doesn't it? In other words, we already know how to do this.

Unlike when we're new to Tantra, in an online game we're not thinking, "I am pretending to be this character," because we're so immersed in that world. We don't tell ourselves, "I who am watching this character on my screen, am not really that character." We don't step back and analyze. We don't bother with questioning its existence, because we're fully into it. We've chosen to be there. We want to be there. When we're immersed, we're fully inside that life - we've left our ordinary world completely behind. If we could, we'd stay there for a very long time. There's a reason it's sometimes called an "escape."

Unlike our varying imputations as daughter, aunt, student, editor, and so on, we deliberately, consciously choose our various online identities. Sometimes even our user names have a special and/or secret quality to us, reflecting a particular aspect of ourselves.

I won't even mention the anonymity that allows us to show our worst qualities, to vent anger and hate.

There's also the underlying almost-emptiness of it all. Anything "virtual," meaning  computer-generated, is made of  1's and 0's - a pretty flimsy basis for so much of our current experience. If you think about it, obviously computer software comes from someone's mind. The program wasn't there until someone dreamed it up. When we're working on a computer device (smartphone, tablet, etc.), we're not investigating where those appearances on-screen are coming from, what they're made of, how they came into being. We just go with it all because it functions.

Even if you consider yourself a technophobe (which of course is a kind of identity / imputation), and you don't spend much time online or even avoid it entirely, if you've ever been absorbed in a book or a movie, you know this experience. For example, when we're reading, we're not conscious of "I am holding a book, a collection of pages with markings" - or what a Microsoft researcher used to call "sooty marks on dead trees." You're most likely identifying with the hero/heroine or anti-hero at the center of the story.

So let's stop pretending we don't get it, and get on with it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Possibly Easier Way to Download the Index

Happy 2016!

The master index of all Geshe-la's books is now on Google drive.
I'd really like to know if this works better for you.

Wishing you all the best this year and beyond,

P.S. The master index has been removed from DropBox.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Updated Master Index of Geshe-la's Books

The Master Index of Geshe-la's Books has been updated to include all the index entries for The Oral Instructions of Mahamudra.
You can download it from DropBox
As I continue to edit it and add to it, the latest version will always be there on DropBox.

That index is a compilation of the indexes of every book by Geshe-la, with additional entries and See Alsos as hyperlinks.
There is a key at the top with the full book titles spelled out. For example, the shorthand for the American edition of Modern Buddhism is [ModBu_Am].

At that same DropBox location is a separate file that includes sections of index entries for analogies, stories and quotes.
For example, here's a sample of some of the analogy entries:

Tharpa is considering distributing it, so if you think that would be helpful to others, email

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My dog has cancer

Dear Sangha Friends,
Our dear dog Sara has advanced cancer, but she is still acting like herself: eating with gusto, resting with less gusto, staring at us to tell us she wants to go for a walk.
Surgery isn't a possibility, and chemo probably wouldn't help, so she is on palliative care at home with us.
There was no prognosis, but it seems like it may be a matter of weeks.
Please make prayers.
Thank you.
R & M

P.S. Today is Tara Day. I am planning to attend the puja, in part to make requests for Sara to Mother Tara.

Friday, November 6, 2015

ModBu & You

I was wondering how others combined their daily lives with Kadampa Buddhism.
If you want to reply to me, I could post the compilation here.
It also seems like a good subject for Sangha conversations.

OK, I'll start.
* Washing dishes, mentally reciting Vajrasattva's mantra and thinking that I am also purifying my mind. It's a form of cherishing others too, because R appreciates it when I take care of them.
* Weeding the yard, imagining I'm pulling up my delusions, and I try to get at the root of both; pruning, I try to think about cutting back the thorn bush of my delusions so that I can get at the root.
Occasionally when doing yardwork, listening to teachings on my iPod, and I plan to do that more often.
Also listening teachings when walking around the neighborhood.
* Driving I recite Dorje Shugden mantras to protect especially pedestrians and bicyclists as well as motor vehicles.
Also giving food bars to those asking for help at a highway on- or off-ramp). If I'm out of those bars, I dig for change or at least smile and wave, trying to remember to wish them real freedom and happiness. I like to combine those actions with something I heard that James G did when making a small donation or such: "Just as I am giving this [item] to you now, to create a connection, in the future may I can give you Dharma teachings."
* Resting on the couch practicing either taking (such as the sufferings of a particular homeless person or family I've seen recently, often one of the Real Change vendors I know) or, when I'm even more tired, rejoicing (which I like to spell reJOYcing) in things like a kindness I've read about in the news that day.
* At the chemo center or hospital, feeling compassion for all the suffering there, especially for those without a spiritual practice, and strengthening my resolve to release them. Then I try to expand the scope of beings, not forgetting the hungry ghosts or the gods. It's stronger when I can think of specific types, such as famous but envious movie stars.

I really like the idea of finding more and more ways to practice Dharma in all parts of my life, with the aim of making every moment meaningful.

One of the many features of our tradition I love is how practical it is, in so many ways. (If I had more time and energy, I'd list some, but you'll need to do that for yourself until I get around to it.) That practicality is the main thing I emphasize when someone asks me how Kadampa Buddhism is different from other schools. Gen-la Dekyong wisely advised the Seattle Sangha not to compare ours to other versions, but simply to talk about its distinctive good qualities.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vajrasattva in My Life

I had the great good fortune to attend Fall Festival in France. It was so good I don’t think even French has a word for it – it was beyond magnifique, suprême, extraordinaire …
The empowerment felt deeply powerful (again words fall short), the teachings so very profound. We learned to purify not just negativities, obstructions and downfalls, but also ordinary appearances and conceptions! For the memory-impaired like me, those last two get grouped under obstructions.

But one of the key points that keeps returning is, “I need to purify.” That means me, myself, the person known as “Mimi,” (the name itself reminding me who we’re talking about).

In the last teaching at Fall Fest, we were given specific examples of how we can integrate purification into our daily life, one of the hallmarks of Kadampa Buddhism’s practicality.

You probably know that the options for dealing with negative karma are either to clear them out with purification practice, or to face their results, suffering in one of its multitude of forms. If you don’t get angry when there’s some adversity, mild or major, those ripened potentials will be purified. However,  habitually we get disturbed, irritated, annoyed, rageful … which just repeats the process. 

Sunday at the Temple I had a mild but dramatic experience of an eruption of my negative karma.
* To imagine what happened, pretend that you’re a female human, who of course comes with a female plumbing system (which my mom always cited as proof that God was a man).
Fill up a gallon jug at least halfway with water, although to really get the effect it should be a more impure substance. Thankfully I’m not talking about the other end of the plumbing system.
Head to a bathroom with the jug and start to get into position to release the liquid in your system, represented by the jug.
Before you’ve completely lowered your lower garment, start pouring the jug into your garment and around the toilet. A few moments later, more of the water will go where you intend, but a lot of it will have soaked those clothes. Continue pouring until the jug is empty.

My mind was calm, undoubtedly boosted by the weekend’s teachings, but also disappointed that I couldn’t attend Offering to the Spiritual Guide at the Temple, on Je Tsongkhapa Day, as planned, instead heading home to take a shower (which I think can be transformed into a purification practice if you use the four powers).

For perspective, it’s not that I haven’t experienced some mild, ongoing urinary incontinence, as apparently isn’t unusual for a woman my age (now 52, going on 82), probably exacerbated by cancer/chemo. But this was definitely “over the top.”

Update: As planned, I re-started chemo on Friday (delayed by the trip to France that my oncologist kindly supported). I’m back to the same drug I was on when my doctor stopped treatment in mid-June so that my body, especially my brain, could recover a bit from all the surgery, radiation and chemo I’ve had over 6+ years – on and off treatment but mostly on. That drug, “Gemzar,” mainly had fatigue as a side effect and was effective at reducing my tumors, so I am hopeful that will continue.

Yesterday I got the results of my cancer marker, which has leaped to the triple digits – not as bad as the quadruple digits at diagnosis, but far above the middle double digits I’ve had for years. Prayers appreciated.

* Pee S. Don’t try this at home.