Tag Archive for dependant co-origination

The Divide


The focus of this film is the vast ‘wealth divide’ where the top 0.1% of the population of the UK and USA have wealth equal to that of the bottom 90% – illustrated through a look at the lives of seven people.

It was very poignant to see footage of the lived situation of the people at the bottom of the economic divide, and their faces, as they spoke about trying to make ends meet and survive… but also the faces at the top – there is not much joy or freedom in their bunkered situations… manicured and deadened…

Heidegger said ethics is ‘first philosophy’…what is for the benefit of all? This is not operational here. One delightful female banker who had had qualms about the sub-prime market said that ‘when you remove ethics you become very efficient’. Perhaps in some ways it seems so… but the Walmart employee in the film had, prior to the changes within the company, loved her job, felt valued for her contribution both in ideas and behaviour. Through the changes which removed that culture of appreciation and included shifting to unknown flexible hours – the company itself was devalued. She was about to become homeless and did not look likely to survive for long.

The cinema was almost full but, as the man sitting next to me said, ‘unfortunately the people who needed to see this wouldn’t be watching’. But i thought, even if you could get them to watch many, because of their conditioning, would just see people who are a ‘hopeless’, a ‘waste of space’, a ‘drain on the economy’, ‘losers’.

Yet in the USA the ‘KIP’ schools, which operate in in hugely deprived areas and whose overriding focus is to get their students into college, succeed with 33% of their kids…compared with, i think it was, 8% for other schools in these areas of deprivation and a 32% national average …also their students tend not to drop out…

There are many stories of prisoners who turned their lives around with the help of the genuine love and support of others, and people whose lives have changed as a result of being seen to have value – having this different way of seeing themselves reflected back through someone else’s eyes.

You might enjoy this episode of desert island discs with John Timpson and the enlightened attitude to ex-offenders shown by his son, himself, and the firm.

Behaviour patterns tend to insist but have the potential for transformation if they are recognised as such and given space to resolve under a light and kindly attention. There is a beautiful quote which i paraphrase(having lost the original) as……..

” Birds that live on golden mountain take on the colour of the sun”.

So many many factors, causes and conditions, bring about the circumstances in which people find themselves…from a dharma perspective, in ‘relative reality’ karma is operational. So whilst hoping to equalise the ability to utilise the opportunities available is unrealistic… the attitude that genetics or social circumstances are definitional and that it is acceptable to ” fiddle away that which has come to you while Rome burns” does a violence to the potential for people to grow and to show themselves in many different ways… and ignores our interconnectedness. Everybody has ‘buddha–nature’ and to be indifferent to the state of others is to diminish ourselves.

A 70-year-old venture capitalist raised a laugh in the cinema as he explained very determinedly (after a long list of his activities, assets, and achievements…ending with having three children under 13) that he was a ‘Creator’…he was far from thinking that ‘all this will end’, that this ‘self’ is insubstantial and ‘disintegration’ is also on the list.
The possibility of awakening was never part of his game plan…a plan conditioned by his family, mental aptitude, the culture of the time…influenced by so many factors.
Prior to the crash the words ‘greed is good’ were heard without much if any irony; being ‘something in the city’ was admired, and when times were ‘good’ some of these people felt that they could walk on water…and some still do…but it’s ‘for a while’…and was it only the bankers who were greedy or is there some projection going on here?
Life is short how shall we be? We are lucky to know we have choices…and whether or not to judge others may be instinctive, a choice influenced by virtuous intention or, in awareness, no-choice.

A while ago I spent some time with people living in poverty… they had mostly flour and water to eat and drink. The flour was mixed with water to make the major part of their meals and the water was not running water but they had to fetch it in big plastic containers from a tap some distance away. They lived in little caves, just one room, no ensuite!

So these people are near the bottom economic heap and need our help to raise their standard of living…I wonder, shall we create a charity?

I am joking… these were some of the happiest people that I’ve met in my life… no amount of money would make them happier, they were practising the dharma…life had meaning well beyond self-concern.

To be able to practise for the welfare of all beings continuously one doesn’t need a cave…just a heart that’s open to suffering and a desire to practice according to our capacity ….decreasing the divisions created in the mind.

Heaven or hell ? – it’s all in the mind as it moves with our thoughts

Version 2Some years ago I was doing a strict Goenka vipassana retreat in a monastery in Thailand… the sitting for ten hours a day was hard for someone used to sitting for short periods.
Each day I looked around me  and everyone else seemed to be coping just fine – ‘a bunch of crack meditation ninjas’ – and I thought it was just me, so unused to this kind of practice, who was really struggling with discomfort.
There was no communication allowed during the retreat between the participants  so we could not compare our experiences or encourage each other verbally…yet somehow or other a little nun from Korea and I mostly got up to leave the meditation hall at the same time  every evening…

Two days of the retreat had been billed as being particularly difficult – the first turned out to be easy for me and the second was very very difficult, the pain in my legs was becoming intolerable. At one point, fearing becoming crippled due to the impact on an earlier injury,  I was granted permission to use a chair but that seemed to make matters worse as the blood pooled in my legs, so I went back to the floor and gritted my teeth. I have a reasonable amount of willpower and used that to get through  that day… but that wasn’t the end…. there was the next day and more! The next morning, for the very first time, I skived off to the toilet in the early hours of the meditation and after that it was downhill all the way and it became so hard to stick with it…

Then I remembered a teacher saying ‘well – if you can’t do it, you just can’t do it’.
This may not seem very profound but being able to accept that I might not be able to do it brought about enough relaxation for me to hang in there while my legs shook and shook until they settled and I found that I was still practising after the teacher had left.  On this occasion he had walked out quietly without giving notice of his departure… usually there was a bit of a countdown… and I had been counting the seconds believe me!

So it got easier… in fact it got to be pleasurable – extraordinary! – and that was when a big ‘downfall’ occurred. We had been warned not to indulge in any pleasurable experiences if they arose…the  thought of this happening seemed so remote that the instruction barely registered. But then I remembered ( having indulged!) and the world changed – this is the interesting bit.

Prior to indulging in these feelings I had been in a kind of  heaven… albeit a somewhat painful one. The  setting was beautiful with a river nearby. There were flowers and sunshine and a golden dome and starlight and birds and food which was – edible, and  I was doing something I felt to be meaningful.

Then suddenly, with this enormous sense of shame at having not followed the instructions, everything changed. I could no longer look at people, I could barely eat, all the colour had drained out of the environment, it had become  monochrome, grey…there was nothing to wonder at… just my dismal thoughts that there was no point in my continuing, that I wasn’t worthy enough to be there or to do the pilgrimage which was to follow.

Then I thought my way through the inevitable conversation when I returned – ‘so why didn’t you do what you to set out to do?’ ‘Well you see I was in a monastery and I hadn’t done what I’d been told to do so obviously i am not good enough to be following in the Buddhas footsteps… so I came home.’
I imagined the somewhat  disappointed acceptance of my returning thousands of miles to say that…. and thankfully, I started to sound foolish to myself and to realise that this was all part of the ‘growing up’ process… and the world started to lighten up again for me.
In truth I started to lighten up the world, just as before my thoughts had darkened the world. The food, the monastery, nothing much changed while I went on this mental journey and so the truth of – “Everything has mind in the lead, has mind in the forefront, is made by mind” (Thomas Cleary’s translation of the first few lines of the Dhammapada)  became very vivid for me.

I had been swept away by thoughts with which my egoic sense of self (another thought) had fused. Believing in the truth of them any awareness, or sense of presence had been completely lost. Then, lacking spaciousness, i had collapsed into being a ‘no good’ object for my judgmental ego-self. Luckily that little hell didn’t last for too long; thanks to impermanence and karma some more useful thoughts arose which i could use as a rope ladder to climb out…not the method of choice but all i was capable of at the time.
Any dzogchen practitioners reading this will know that any kind of  thoughts can arise and pass in  awareness as an aspect of the arising field …but fusing with them and taking them to be definitional is as wise as jumping out of a high window in the belief that you can fly…
…ah well, it takes practice and growing confidence which was part of the reason for the pilgrimage!

As for not doing things exactly as instructed… well under my particular circumstances  that was quite understandable. Really, as always, it was just a matter of learning from  that slip, letting go of it, and carrying on…and when i did just that i was finally practising properly –not  hooking into any sensation.

Making the mistake meant that I also had a glimpse of the truth that forcing myself in order to succeed might get me to a ‘goal’ but not much past it… it was the relaxation coming from looking ‘failure’ in the face which allowed me to continue.
Dzogchen in particular is not a practice of  anxious striving but of a profound relaxation from which manifestation arises precisely in relation to the emergent field …and as James has said more than once “it’s a marathon, not a sprint”

At the end of the retreat also it became clear that my assumption that I was the only one suffering was completely unfounded – we all were; some of the exuberance and joy expressed  was related to the retreat experience… but quite a lot to do with the ending of it and the release from silence and tension!

The little nun and I hugged each other…

… and then we were told off for breaking ‘Sila’…’good grief’ i thought ‘what have i done now?!’

That hug was in fact ‘right action’ – entirely appropriate – but back then I felt terrible and got someone to translate my abject apologies…

…. however the nun was vey happy about the hug… and we did something lovely with any merit gained in our practice then

…and i hope she is very happy now and that her practice is going well.


Oh Man!

Yes we can…Moon

Put a man on the moon

make an outside womb,

change DNA

……..? blow hatred away?

There’s a muffled response ( ‘cos the heads up the arse)

‘Oh, leave peace to the doves!  Let’s find life….

up on Mars!’

wendy, april 2016


In 2006 foreign correspondent Christina Lamb and the soldiers of the British parachute regiment she was accompanying on a ‘hearts and mind mission’ in Afghanistan was  pinned down in a series of irrigation trenches by fire from a Taliban ambush. The British soldiers were very skilled but, after two and a half hours under fire, excitement was turning to desperation….the air power required for them to make their escape was not available, being fully deployed elsewhere. Eventually they were liberated by an attack from the air which killed the dozen Taliban who had them pinned down. The soldier responsible said ‘we blew them into red mist’

I’m not going to play around with words… for me, time stood still at the impact of those words.


Man, it seems, is pretty good at desire, including the desire for knowledge, and also at hatred…but how about being human?

The dharma speaks of the resolution of desire in the satisfaction arising from experiencing the emptiness or openness of all manifestations whilst fully appreciating the differences in which they display, or manifest.

From the Dhammapada comes…’We are what we think, all that we are arises with out thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world….

….In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law ancient and inexhaustible. Knowing this, how can you quarrel?

Give up the old ways – passion, enmity,folly. Know the truth and find peace.’




Extracted from Wikipedia: In 2013 Christina Lamb co-authored the autobiography of Malala Yousafzai “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By The Taliban”[2] In the same year, Lamb joined the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as a Wilson Center Global Fellow.[3] Her latest book entitled “Farewell Kabul” exhaustively details her many years in Afghanistan and Pakistan offering a close up account of the long war and its many missed opportunities on the part of the US on account of its tortured relationship with Pakistan. Her book essentially lays the problems of terrorism in the region, if not in the world, on that country’s door.[4]

Plenty of dependant co-origination here!

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/who-is-responsible-for-the-taliban gives a view of that complex situation from another angle.

The ordinary is special…the special is ordinary

1.Stephen-Jenkinson-Care-of-the-Dying-280x143Dorothy Bohm – women’s hour July 14 35.56 mins beautifully contradicts the interviewer who says ‘you have a knack of making the ordinary seem precious’. She has experienced so much horror in her early life that every moment is appreciated and for her the ‘ordinary’ is precious, it’s not made to seem so by any kind of knack. Our own situation changes so quickly that it seems madness to spend today’s time looking at its imagined imperfections.

The bodhisattva attitude in Mahayana buddhism evokes a sense of gratitude and indebtedness as foundational in relating to other sentient beings on the basis of our relationships of connection through infinite time. Dependant co-origination also evokes gratitude for all that is…how could this mug come to be in my hand without an infinite number of factors – the earth, for the clay, the miners, designers, potters and shoppers, and so many others and other events taking place – my mum my dad, their parents and so on…all the caring events that mean i’m still here…all the people i’ve met who have shown me different ways of being and acting so that i can enjoy this communication…  As my hands curl in a certain way around the handle, a way conforming to its shape, i can take in this shape and colour… here we are – the mug and i and you everything arising together – then, with an imperceptible shift, the next unique moment arrives,and vanishes.

Here is also a link to the trailer  and also the film Greifwalker (open link in a new window) which I came across it thanks to a happy encounter with someone last week and I found it profoundly poignant. Stephen Jenkinson suggests that is it is a deep knowledge that throughout life we have taken and taken– in a self-serving fashion, with an attittude of entitlement rather than respect and gratitude – which brings fear to the death process. Although his tradition is different, this ties in with the understanding of the operation of karma in relative reality… where all actions (karmic activity) have consequences (virupa) both at the time and later as that seed bears fruit – whether sweet or sour – when the appropriate conditions are in place. Also i’ve included it because ‘death and impermanence’ is one of the thoughts which turn the mind towards dharma practice and, although they are linked, the ‘death’ part can feel harder to engage with…  so maybe this format invites a beautiful and gentle engagement with the inevitable!

When i first started to practice I had difficulties with the notion of rebirth but decided to park them and carry on as i could see that, whether this was true or not, the dharma showed a way of living in the kindest way with the world (‘though my ideas about kindness very much needed to be held up to the light!) and would lead to living life in such a way that one could leave it with maximal mental ease…                                                              A history of ideas 24 July 12.00am links with this in its suggestion that, rather than shrugging off a death as a non-event, or  pretending that we can keep the dead alive by refusing to let go completely, ritual  can be very helpful in facilitating the healthy transitions and adjustments of life.

Gratitude  is softening… and receptivity increases with that softening. Like the earth, water runs off the hard baked soil, but can permeate deeply where the ground is soft… opening to everything starts with a softening…..

Simple solutions…

 UnknownIf you listen to this radio programThe world this weekend (from 18m:30s  onwards) you will see the  initial statement ‘we will kill all the terrorists’, given as the simple solution to the ISIS issue, being followed by a more thoughtful response to this very complex situation. Everyone who is killed has friends and relations who will be impacted, they  have  memories which are passed down through generations, and many people look to revenge as the appropriate response. So this is like cutting off the hydra’s head with many more spring up in the place of the one cut off. At the end of the program the suggestion is that politicians are taking as simple what is an immensely complex situation.

Just as it is for Aung San Suu Kyi with the treatment of the Rohingay muslims. The guardian says ‘this is something about which “mother Suu” remains virtually silent, no doubt in part because the recognition of this people’s plight would amount to political suicide in a country where racial prejudices run deep.’ So should she speak up for them and loose any opportunity she might have to benefit Myanmar in other ways? Being in opposition to the governing party and with the army holding the veto in Parliament her freedom to act  is constrained… so it also is complicated, as she has said.

Ann Applebaum in ‘The world tonight’  (from 7m:55s) asserts that President Putin is deliberately engineering a crisis. The contrary view of Sir Tony Brenton, former British ambassador to Russia, suggesting that her view is incoherent and that Putins actions are a response to what he sees as western subversion and aggression, unsurprisingly cuts no ice with her; it was clear that she had no interest in his viewpoint.

If you see a simple cause to a problem you’ll offer a simple solution but if the problem is complex then this simple solution will  bring no resolution.

With a dharma perspective, the truth of dependant co-origination is plain to see… with the links of cause and effect reverberating through time, each event being both the result of and the basis for an infinite number of others. There is a ceaseless movement which is driven by assumptions, beliefs, fixed views and dogmatic assertions arising from a sense  being truly individuated, being disconnected from each other. So we see from a particular standpoint, ignoring some events and over-privileging others, disconnecting the links between them.

Not seeing clearly we feel able to stand apart and judge without the understanding that everything arises due to causes and conditions.  Yesterday a friend who was asking my opinion said ‘never mind about the past what do we do now?’ Lucky for me that i do not have to decide, but i do know that the present is predicated on the past and that as a country we are implicated historically in may of the current troubling events, they are not a bolt out of the blue. What i can do is not add to global warming by wasting my time with pointless opinions and speculation. I know that i cannot remove the assumptions, pride, greed, anger, jealousy and grasping from the “external” world but regarding the “internal” world there is work i can do which will benefit me and others with whom i am connected.  I and each of us, who may feel disempowered, can make some moves towards greater tolerance, to offer a greater curiosity and hospitality to the world as it presents itself…looking at our own prejudices and seeing through their origin.

In adding the definition ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to situations we seal them, fix them, and make them less easy to work with. A situation is as it is … so what will be best for all concerned both now and through time? This is a level, unbiased approach. And when we define people as inherently ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we have become foolish. They are not inherently anything but they are complicated…. behaving differently with different people at different times, under different circumstances, their behaviour arising due to a complex matrix of conditions for which they are not directly responsible but within which they are embedded.  As a practice… developing generosity, patience, humility and other virtues is beneficial; if we can understand that we are always affecting ourselves as well as others by our thoughts and actions then it may  be easier to practice… but understanding the truth of the open nature takes the heat out of “things” and then, with lessened attachment to fixed views and outcomes, reactivity decreases…. and precise and attuned responses become more of a possibility…