31 March 2010


Most writings on the doctrine of karma emphasize the strict lawfulness governing karmic actions, ensuring a close correspondence between our deeds and their fruits. While this emphasis is perfectly in place, there is another side to the working of karma - a side rarely noted, but so important that it deserves  to be stressed  and discussed as an explicit theme in itself. This is the modifiability of karma, the fact the lawfulness which governs karma does not operate with mechanical rigidity but allows for a considerable wide range of modifications in the ripening of the fruit.

If karmic action were always to bear fruits of invariably the same magnitude, and if the modification or annulment  of karma result were excluded, liberation from the samsaric cycle of suffering would be impossible; the inexhaustible past would ever throw up new obstructive results of unwholesome karma.

-- Nyanaponika Thera, The Heart of Buddhist Meditation

29 March 2010


Shantideva ..... mentions specific instances when it is advisable to remain like a mindless piece of wood. We can do this when our mind is very distracted or when the thought arises to belittle, slander, or abuse others. If pride, haughtiness or the intention to find fault with others, we can also remain impassive until our delude motivation fades.  Feeling pretentious, thinking to deceive others and wishing to praise our own qualities, wealth, or possessions are all occasions when it is wise to pretend that we are made of wood. Whenever we have the desire to blame others, speak harshly or cause disruption we should practice this technique of non-reaction.

-- Geshe  Kelsang Gyastso, Meaningful to Behold

28 March 2010


48. Whenever there is attachment in my mind
And whenever there is the desire to be angry,
I should not do anything nor say anything,
But remain like a piece of wood.

49. Whenever I have distracted thoughts, the wish to verbally belittle others,
Feelings of self-importance or self-satisfaction;
When I have the intention to describe the faults of others,
Pretension and the thought to deceive others;

50. Whenever I am eager for praise
Or have the desire to blame others;
Whenever I have the wish to speak harshly and cause dispute,
At (all) such times I should remain like a piece of wood.

51. Whenever I desires material gain, honor or fame;
Whenever I seek attendants or a circle of friends,
And when in my mind I wish to be served;
At (all) these times I should remain like a piece of wood.

51. Whenever I have the wish to decrease or to stop working for others
And the desire to pursue my welfare alone.....

53. Whenever I have impatience, laziness, cowardice,
Shamelessness or the desire to talk nonsense;
If thoughts of partiality arises,
At these times too I should remain like a piece of wood.

--Shantideva, A guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life,
trans. by Stephan Batchelor

27 March 2010


I ye wonder whether evil kharma can be neutralized or not,
The know that it is a neutralized desire for goodness.
But they who knowingly do evil acts,
Exchange a mouthful of food for infamy.
They who knowingly not whither they themselves are bound,
Yet presume to pose as guides for others.
Do injury to both themselves and others.
If pain and sorrow ye desire sincerely to avoid,
Avoid then. doing harm to others.

--W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa

24 March 2010


Life is like a movie. It is like an unfolding story that we read and interpret, while identifying with the stars (i.e. gods) and immersing ourselves in the drama. When we start to notice this, life becomes lighter. The monotony fades and the magic begins. For when we turn our attention to our bodies, feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness, we find that we are woven of the quixotic threads of ongoing stories. For only such a self can create and be created. A fixed, intractable one is as good as dead.

-Stephan Batchelor, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol 4, #2

23 March 2010


At one of the cafes in Mullumbimby comes a dog which looks like this. It reminds me of Easter but in fact, it is Easter year round in this town.

22 March 2010


All results come from causes that have the ability to create them. If we plant apple seeds, an apple tree will grow, not chili. If chili seeds are planted, chili seeds will grow, not apples. In the same way, if we act constructively, happiness will ensue; if we act destructively, problems will result. Whatever happiness and fortune we experience in our lives comes from our positive actions, while our problems result from our own destructive actions.

According to Buddhism, there is no one in charge of the universe who distributes reward and punishments. We create the causes by our actions, and we experience  their results. We are responsible for our own experience. The Buddha didn't create  the system of actions and their effects, in the same way that Newton didn't invent gravity. Newton simply described what exists.  Likewise, the Buddha described what he saw with his omniscient mindto be the natural process  of cause and effect. occurring within the mainstream of each being. By doing this, he showed us how best to work  within the functioning  of cause and effect in order to experience happiness and avoid pain.   

--Thubten Chodron, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, vol. 6, #3

21 March 2010


If you are poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without the cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. if the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. "Interbeing" is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix "Inter" with the verb "to be," we have a new verb, inter-be...

Looking even more deeply, we can see ourselves in this sheet of paper too. (or  this computer screen) This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, it is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. We cannot point out one thing that is not here -- time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper.

--Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

19 March 2010


The foundation and initial goal of (our) transformation is avoiding doing harm to others. Whether alone or with others, we must strive to avoid doing harm either directly with our words or deeds  or indirectly with our thoughts and intentions. We may injure others with abuse, slander, sarcasm, and deceit, or by acts of omission due to insensitivity and thoughtlessness. The most subtle way of harming others is indirectly by means dominated by hostility, we may viciously attacking others with our thoughts. although no apparent injury may be inflicted, these thoughts affect us internally and influence our way of interacting with others, and the long-term affect is invariably harmful. So the initial theme of Dharma practice is a non-violent approach to our own lives, to other lives, and to our environment. This is a foundation for spiritual practice, and can provide well-being for both ourselves and others.

--B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism form the Ground Up

17 March 2010


The other night I was at Cheryl's in the suburban neighborhood of Ocean Shores. The houses seem quite close to one another compared to where I live in the bush. After midnight I heard a tremendous snoring from the house next door where a cop lives with his wife and three children. Cheryl explained that it was really the neighbor's large bulldog which sleeps outside. It was rather loud. We agreed that it would be very annoying if it was the oversized policeman, but because its the dog, its acceptable.

16 March 2010


Awful, but my camera is at the repair shop, otherwise, I would have a better picture of this page from Matisse's biography which I meander through at a snail's pace (mais quel plaisir!).

Matisse painted this exquisite picture of his daughter while she rested after a rather large surgery to her throat. She had been plagued with a constriction of the air passage since her infant days enduring endless procedures over her life to repeatedly open it. A remarkably stoic young woman, she was her father's greatest critic, and a painter herself.

'Margueritte's recovery was the family priority that summer. As soon as her doctors let her leave Paris, Matisse took his wife and daughter to recuperate in sea air at Etretat in Normandy on the channel coast. They booked into a beach hotel for a month. Matisse produced rapid oil sketches of exultant vitality, painting the boats, the sea front and the bay with its curious cliff formation that had appealed to so many of his predecessors. "I've been at Etretat for two weeks now amid green-topped white cliffs beside a tender blue and turquoise green sea." he wrote on the 20th of July to his Nice companion, Jules Romains, "from which I can see emerging superb creamy white turbots, iron-grey dogfish, lesser spotted dogfish and skate, skate all over the harbour." He bought the pick of the daily catch, paying a boy to water the fish from a bucket while they poised for him, and tipping them back into the sea afterwards. The sleek, lithe, powerful creatures in his canvases, thrashing their gleaming tails on beds of seaweed, are as energetic and alert as the painter himself. "They are amazing," wrote Roger Fry who saw a batch of these fish pictures on show in October at Bernheim-Jeune. "His certainty and invention are almost uncanny. They're almost intoxicating to look at."

'But the canvas that reveals most about Matisse's feelings at Etretat is a little painting of Margueritte, whose exhaustion was frightening. After living under the threat for so long, she allowed herself to collapse at last and be put to bed, where her father painted her for the first time without the black band she had worn since childhood to conceal the opening in her throat. She lies asleep. looking like an illustration from a child's fairy tale-- rounded swan-like neck, long lashes outlined on a pale cheek, dark hair spread on the pillow-- in a canvas whose surface sweetness is undercut by the troubling mauve pallor and the dark patches curling the eyes of this real-life sleeping beauty. Portrait of Margueritte Asleep contains the same fierce emotion as the first picture Matisse ever made of his daughter, the 1901 Portrait showing her as a vulnerable six-year-old with staring black eyes in a white face. When they got back to Paris in August, Henri and Amelie hung the new painting over their bed".

From Matisse, The Master by Hilary Spurling

Meanwhile, here in Australia on the North Coast, the weather is capriciously silly.
It rains perhaps 30 times each day and night in between great bouts of blue sky and black skies filled with stars.

I keep busy painting. I leave in 6 weeks back to France.

15 March 2010




From the Queensland museum lobby where people of all ages are encouraged to create flying creatures from a huge pile of materials on a kind of large Lazy Susan which occupies the middle of the large space. Some really wonderful things as you can see from these examples. I am reminded of so many pieces by Richard Tuttle which I like.

13 March 2010


Never before seen! First photographs taken of quadropod leaving its natural habitat. Scientists have always believed that the four-legged creature had originally come from the sea but they lacked proof, until today. The genus belvederus dieulefitis/cristophalus has long been considered an elusive animal to pin down as it is know for its quick flight despite its curious nature. Nothing is yet known of its breeding habits but it is suspected that it mates only to flee immediately afterward. It is also surmised that it lives on plants and fauna and seems to like warm climates  disappearing  to the south each winter.

12 March 2010


Sundays have a special kind of feel. For one, most people don't work and some still go to church while others search their hearts between bottles of beer. I admit that being of the latter disposition, when I was much younger and living in France as a kind of orphaned bachelor, I would roam the streets feeling heavy at heart. I found myself succombing to a theological loneliness which only got worse as the day wore on. But I rarely feel that anymore, perhaps I don't have the time nor the endless hours in front of me to indulge. But it does re-appear from time to time.

11 March 2010


                                                                                        150 X 80 cm

A new image which I have decided to leave as is although the temptation is to go further. I have called it 'Piano, March 2010"

10 March 2010


Observing respiration is also the means for practicing right awareness. Our suffering stems from ignorance. We react because we do not know what we are doing, because we do not know the reality of ourselves. The mind spend most of the time lost in fantasies and illusions, reliving pleasant or unpleasant experiences and anticipating the future with eagerness or fear. While lost in such cravings or aversions, we are unaware of what is happening now, what we are doing now. Yet surely this past; it is gone. Nor can we live in the future; it is forever beyond our grasp. We can live only in the present.

If we are unaware of our present actions, we are condemned to repeating the mistakes of the past and can never succeed in attaining our dreams for the future. But if we can develop the ability to be aware of the present moment, we can use the past as a guide for ordering our actions in the future, so that we may attain our goal.

09 March 2010


Some people practice throughout their entire lives just by paying attention to breathing. Everything that is true about anything is true about breath: its impermanent; it arises and it passes away. Yet if you didn't breath, you would become uncomfortable, so then you would take in a big inhalation and feel comfortable again. But if you hold onto the breath, its no longer comfortable, so you have to breathe out again. All the time shifting, shifting. Uncomfortableness is continually arising. We see everything keeps changing.

-Sylvia Boorstein, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. 2, #1

08 March 2010


This morning; overcast but luminous, the sky, a white uniform surface as if painted by Ad Reinhart. But yesterday, a great blue sky opened up and the sun beamed like a benevolent king. Painted in the early part of the day then to the beach where I found a spot nestled by the dunes to read Matisse. Almost felt guilty for sending the above photo around to friends still enduring the winter snow storms. The i-phone: What a mischievous tool!

07 March 2010


When the Buddha said: "Do not pursue the past," he was telling us not to be overwhelmed by the past. He did not mean that we should stop looking at the past in order to observe it deeply. When we review the past and observe it deeply, if we are standing firmly in the present, we  are not overwhelmed by it. The materials of the past which make up the present become clear when they express themselves in the present. We can learn from them. If we observe these materials deeply, we can arrive at a new understanding of them. That is called "Looking again at something old in order to learn something new."

If we know that the past also lies in the present, we understand that we are able to change the past by transforming the present. The ghosts of the past, which follow us into the present, also belong to the present moment. To observe them deeply, recognize their nature, and transform them, is to transform the past.

- Thich Nhat Hanh, Our Appointment with Life

06 March 2010


                                      20 cm X 15 cm  1998

From Matisse, a biography vol.2:

'All her life Marguerite (his daughter) had heard her father insisting that it was better to risk ruining a painting than to be satisfied with quick results, however harmonious and easy on the eye.'

and Matisse declared:

"Its always necessary to force your whole being beyond this level because it's only then that you start to make discoveries, and tear yourself apart in the process."


"Renoir's work saves us from the drying-up effect of pure abstraction" he said explaining to an interviewer in 1919 that once you have explored as far as you can go in a particular direction, you must change course, if only as a matter of hygiene.


05 March 2010


We need to understand the concept of practice and what makes it spiritual. Practice is an activity that is regularly performed and is an open-ended process, never reaching a point of perfection. We can develop skills or even mastery with practice, but there always remain a quality of something new to learn.

If approached with a dull mind, even the most exotic practice becomes a rote expression. A person could spend a lifetime in practice this way and accomplish no more than a perfunctory exterior form without any spiritual substance. Unfortunately, many people find themselves following a traditional practice for the wrong reasons. They make all the right moves, but there is no heart in it.

We should approach the most mundane practice with a bright, open beginner's mind and regularly discover new insights, whether brushing our teeth, washing the dishes, or making the bed.

-David A. Cooper, Simplicity and Solitude

04 March 2010

poodle foodle

Not much can be said about this crazy dog. It just is, and does what we all want to do.

03 March 2010

Fosscati Reigns!

This a small film for my dear friend John Foss, aka Giacomo Fosscati who designs and builds motorized bicycles here in the Northern Rivers. To say he is passionate would be the proverbial understatement. (il est passioné quoi)

02 March 2010


From the safety of an idyllic space here in the southern hemisphere it feels almost out of place to speak of the recent geological disasters in Haiti and Chile, and yet, my thoughts gravitate to these places. All the more reason to love the life which we have, I reason to myself. I am reminded of something I heard a few years ago: 

"Better to want what we have than to always have what we want".

01 March 2010


Rather than dividing thoughts into classes like "good" and "bad," Buddhist thinkers prefer to regard them as "skillful" versus "unskillful." An unskilled thought is one connected with greed, hatred, or delusion. These are the thoughts that the mind easily builds into obsessions. They are unskillful in the sense that they lead you away from Liberation. Skillful thoughts, on the other hand, are those connected  with generosity, compassion and wisdom. They are skillful in that they may be used as specific remedies for unskillful thoughts, and thus can assist you toward Liberation.

-Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfullness in Plain English