Sunday, October 20, 2019

Heart of My Heart

Heart of my heart
Going up in flames
You are a lamp
Even in death

May your lovingkindness
and compassion—
like the
you taught—
throughout the
10 directions
and 3 times

as this profound
gives way to

of gratitude and

-Karma Norjin Lhamo, on the occasion of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s (her refuge lama's) cremation
in the season of Halloween
October 20, 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Gathering of Ghosts and Demons: Generosity and Realization in Tibetan Buddhism


Show me a culture without ghosts and spirits, and I’ll show you an alien culture—something not of this Earth—because stories of things spooky and strange, seen and unseen, are found everywhere, in all belief systems. And the explanations of such haunting phenomena are as varied as the cultures that give birth to these magical stories.

The banshees of Ireland and the Scottish highlands, who warn families of impending death with otherworldly cries and laments, are thought to be the ghosts of women who died in childbirth. The Japanese yurei, also female ghosts, are trapped by powerfully gripping emotions in an intermediate state between life and death. In the Voudon tradition of Haiti, zombies are acknowledged to be reanimated corpses brought back to a kind of life by skilled magicians. And of course, there are the countless stories of vampires who suck the life force from their victims—perhaps a reflection of the universal experience of being around people who drain us of our energy?

So it comes as no surprise that the world of Tibetan Buddhism is populated with its share—if not more than its share!—of ghosts, demons, ghouls, and otherworldly beings. What is different in the Buddhist tradition, however, is the explanation of these phenomena.

One of the best windows into the sometimes-spooky world of Tibetan Buddhism was opened to us by the Tibetan woman, Machik Labdron (or Machig Lapdron), who lived in the 11th century.  Machik, whose name means “One Mother,” fused the Indian Buddhist tradition of chod with her own visionary experiences to create a special practice, the Chod of Mahamudra.

Machik Labdron

The most spectacular part of the practice, lu jin or “charity of the body,” is an eerie visualization that involves offering one’s own body as food for worldly and otherworldly beings—an extreme, supreme act of generosity. The aims of the practice, however, are eminently practical:  to benefit other beings and to overcome the self-fixation that Buddhists hold to be the source of so many of our problems.

Machik herself is a magical being, a wisdom dakini—a human embodiment of the essence of enlightened mind. And her popularity in modern times begins with a ghostly story. Here is how Tsultrim Allione, the author of Women of Wisdom who has recently been recognized as an emanation of Machik Labdron, describes one of her first experiences with this dakini.

…I was in California at a group retreat given by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. One night we were doing the Chod practice, and at a certain point, when we were invoking the presence of Machig, visualizing her as a youthful white dakini, a wild-looking old woman suddenly appeared very close to me. She had grey hair streaming up from her head, and she was naked, with dark golden-brown skin. Her breasts hung pendulously and she was dancing. She was coming out of a dark cemetery. The most impressive thing about her was the look in her eyes. They were very bright, and the expression was one of challenging invitation mixed with mischievous joy, uncompromising strength and compassion. She was inviting me to join her dance.  Afterwards I realized that this was a form of Machig Labdron.1

Machik advises us that the best places to practice chod—also known as severance, as in severance of self-fixation—are the wild and haunted places that create an atmosphere of isolation and fear. Among the guests we invite to the practice are more than a few terrifying apparitions.

Who among us would not be frightened by the antagonizing enemies, those “unembodied gods and demons who manifest sights and various weird apparitions to the eyes and cause fear and terror and then alarm and horror, with trembling and hairs standing on end”?2

Who wouldn’t feel intimidated by the body demon, an entity that connects with us in the womb and remains with us until our skin and bones separate after death? “It is the lord or owner of this outcaste body made of flesh and blood, a vicious inhuman spirit that says, ‘This is I,” Machik explains. “That bad spirit leads us around by the nose and makes us engage in bad karma.”3

Which of us would not be chilled by contact with nagas, snake-like animals who inhabit waterways and springs, or the eight classes of gyalsen, male king spirits and female demonesses who together symbolize attraction and aversion, two of the Buddhist poisons?

Who wouldn’t be scared silly by the sight of various male and female devils, planetary spirits, death lords, harm-bringers, belly-crawlers, personifications of types of disease, lords of epidemics, and black magic spirits?

And perhaps many of us have felt the unease that comes from bad spirits of haunted places, those spirits who dwell in unsettled places where we may visit or live.

But if we could help them, who among us would fail to offer sustenance to all sentient beings, from beings in hell where they experience unimaginable torture, through the realm of the hungry ghosts—with their huge bodies and tiny throats that deny them the sustenance they crave—up through the animal and human realms to the realms of the gods?

All these frightful and awe-ful beings, and more, are the guests Machik Labdron urges us to invite to the feast of severance.

This emphasis on demons and ghouls in Machik’s practice is no accident—it’s quite deliberate, because directly facing what terrifies us is one way we can awaken from our ignorance, one way we can realize the unbounded wisdom and compassion that are our birthrights as beings who possess, hidden deep in our hearts, the very same nature as the buddhas.

There is a famous story about Milarepa, another Tibetan Buddhist saint who was, coincidentally (or not!), a contemporary of Machik Labdron’s.

Tseringma and her four sisters were female deities. When they first met Milarepa they tried to scare him and they did all kinds of magic tricks to try to frighten Milarepa, but Milarepa was never frightened. He knew that these demons were like demons in a dream when you know you are dreaming. He did not take them to be truly existent and so then they were so impressed with Milarepa that they developed faith in him. They became his students; they became his Dharma Protectors, the protectors of his teachings and they also offered Milarepa siddhis, special powers…

But that is the difference between demons when you don’t know their true nature and demons when you do know their true nature. They go from being malicious to being protectors.

In the end, in fact, there is no such thing as a demon. That is what you recognize in a dream when you dream of a demon and you know you are dreaming. You recognize that there really is no demon there. That is the ultimate nature. There is neither any deity that helps you nor any demon that harms you. Sometimes these supernatural beings are called god demons because if they like you they are like a god and if they do not like you they are like a demon. They can decide. But when you recognize you are dreaming it does not matter what they appear to be. You know their true nature.4

So in the Vajrayana—the form of Buddhism taught in Tibet—we learn that the appearance of demons and ghouls, when not seen through, is a mara or obstacle to enlightenment. Seen through—when we experience our minds directly—these same demons and ghouls become protectors (dharmapalas) and sources of spiritual powers (siddhis) and realization.

Apparitions of male and female demons and ghouls
For as long as your guise has not been seen through are maras.
Obstacle-makers who nothing but trouble spell
If their guise is seen through obstructors are dharmapalas
A hot bed of siddhis of such a variety
In the end, in fact, there are neither gods nor goblins.
Let concepts go as far as they go and no more.
This is as far as they go and no more, he said.5

The appearance of demons and ghouls is, finally, revealed as nothing other than the self-projection of our own minds.

How precious now the idea of seeing a ghost.
It reveals the unborn source, how strange and amazing!6

So this Halloween—when numerous ghouls and devils and demons and ghosts appear at your door—recognize these frightful sights as reminders of your own mind’s clarity and spaciousness. And then—in the generous spirit of Machik Labdron and Milarepa—offer them some candy.

1Women of Wisdom, Tsultrim Allione, Snow Lion Publications, 2000, pp. 28-29.
2Machik’s Complete Explanation: Clarifying the Meaning of Chod, translated by Sarah Harding, Snow Lion Publications, 2003, p. 141.
3Ibid., p. 141.
4Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Tampa, Florida, Halloween 2005 (private transcript).
5“Distinguishing the Provisional from the Definitive in the Context of Mahamudra,” a realization song that was taught by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche in Tampa, Florida, Halloween 2005 (private transcript).

Karma Norjin Lhamo is a student of teachers affiliated with the Tibetan Karma Kagyu lineage. She has recently had the good fortune to attend a series of teachings about Machik Labdron given by her refuge lama, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York. Halloween has always been her favorite holiday. She urges people who are interested in learning about Buddhism to seek out a qualified teacher.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Florida’s Springs and Rivers Need Their Own Legal Rights (Part Two of Two)

The source of laws that currently constrain our ability to save Mother Earth is the U.S. Constitution. But our country has another primary founding document, the Declaration of Independence, from which CELDF has drawn inspiration and ideas to build a new democratic movement that empowers citizens to fight for granting rights to living natural systems such as springs and rivers.
This Rights of Nature movement is now gaining traction not only here in the USA, where over 220 communities have embraced it, but also throughout the world in places such as New Zealand, India, Ecuador and Bolivia. Click here to find a timeline of this movement on CELDF’s website.

CELDF’s strategy is modeled on the rights-based struggles to abolish slavery and grant full citizenship rights to people of color, to grant voting rights to women, to grant marriage equality rights to gays and lesbians and, more recently, to grant legal rights to animals.
All of these social movements, including even the American Revolution, began with courageous people who were willing to challenge or even break existing laws in order to change those laws. All these movements started small, grew over time as more people became aware of them, and eventually resulted in widespread social change and changes to our laws.
CELDF believes that same strategy can work to grant legal rights to natural systems. Their staff is actively working to help citizens push their local governments to enact bills of rights for iconic natural features. The strategy recognizes that once the word is out about this movement—which has now accelerated to the point that citizens of Toledo, Ohio, have voted to grant legal rights to Lake Erie, following an incident of severe and widespread drinking water contamination—citizens of more and more communities will decide to get involved. And the more people who get involved, the more people will learn about how our current legal system is failing to protect the living systems that we need to sustain us and many other forms of life.
Is this approach a “magic bullet”? No. CELDF acknowledges that there will be pushback at the beginning of such an effort not only from city and county commissions and their lawyers (because new ideas always meet resistance!) but also from corporations and business organizations in the form of threats of lawsuits and actual lawsuits.
Even when local municipalities are courageous enough to enact Rights of Nature laws, the final legal outcomes of the sure-to-follow lawsuits are far from certain. That’s because this movement is so new and so few cases have made it to court yet. It will be up to the courts to make decisions about how Rights of Nature laws affect current laws, and this will be a long process. The alternative, however, is to keep doing what we’re already doing, and to keep getting the same ineffective results.
I’m thrilled to report that the Rights of Nature movement now seems to be taking off here in Florida. Following the weekend in Apopka with Thomas Linzey, activists in Central Florida have created a project they’re calling WEBOR. That acronym is stands for Wekiva Econlockhatchee Bill of Rights for those two rivers that straddle the Orange and Seminole county line. Early plans call for this to be a citizens’ initiative that will gather petitions to put the Wekiva-Econ Bill of Rights onto the ballot in an upcoming election, so the citizens of Orange and Seminole counties can vote on it.
Other citizens are considering attempts to have the county commissions in home-rule counties (with charters) act directly to put Rights of Nature laws into county charters when those documents are revised.
Is the Rights of Nature movement an effort whose time has finally come in Florida? I’ve been spreading the word about this approach for the last six years, so I certainly hope so!
“We’ll know more later,” as my mom always said.

Florida’s Springs and Rivers Need Their Own Legal Rights (Part One of Two)

Over the weekend of April 13-14, 2019, I attended a gathering of about 20 people in Apopka to hear Thomas Linzey, the executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), talk about the work of his organization and explain why so many of us who work so hard on behalf of our springs and rivers have so little to show for that work in regard to actual restoration, preservation and protection of these living systems.
Linzey’s talk was a refresher for me since I had attended one of CELDF’s Democracy School sessions in 2013, when Linzey and Mari Margil were hosted by the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University’s Law School in Orlando. That event was an “Aha!” moment for me, as Linzey and Margil explained how the USA’s laws were structured for the benefit of business and corporations at the expense of Mother Earth.
The primary culprit that stands behind these laws is the fact that in the USA, “the environment” = “property.” If you own a piece of land, you have the legal right to destroy it, in part or in total. The land/environment itself has no legal rights apart from your ownership of it.
CELDF uses a couple of effective graphics to explain how this legal system works. The first graphic is what they call the “Regulatory Triangle.” Say a group of community citizens identifies a problem:  Some landowners want to start a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) in land along a pristine river somewhere in Florida. Citizens in the surrounding communities hear about this idea and are aghast because they know the “big picture” problems that accompany CAFOs: water pollution, noxious odors, increased heavy truck traffic, decreased land values in surrounding areas, private profits for a few people or a corporation taking precedence over the well-being of the community as a whole.
As citizens mobilize to fight the CAFO, they learn that different units of government and agencies within Florida need to issue “permits” in order for the CAFO to operate. So citizens decide to make calls to get people to respond to their concerns.
The county commission staff replies, “We’re so glad you called! Here is what you are allowed to comment about and here is how you can make comments to the commission.”
The state’s environmental protection agency staff replies, “We’re so glad you called! Here is what you are allowed to comment about and how you can make comments to our agency.”
When citizens learn what they are and are not allowed to comment about—which is always just one or two small parts of the “big picture” they’ve identified—they decide to ask for help from one of the larger environmental organizations in their area.
The organization’s staff replies, “We’re so glad you called! Here is what we are allowed to comment about and here is how we can make those comments.”
The Regulatory Triangle operates to funnel citizen concerns down a chute that leads to citizens’ being able to contest only one or two small parts of the “big picture” problems that they have identified.
Source:  Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)

But what happens if, for example, the county commission decides to do the right thing and deny the necessary permit(s) for the CAFO? The landowners will get their permits anyway, thanks to what CELDF describes as the “Box of Allowable Remedies” (they called this the “Box of Allowable Activism” back when I attended Democracy School and I actually like that title better).
The commission is constrained by four legal principles:  (1) state pre-emption, which means state law trumps local law; (2) Dillon’s Rule, which specifies that the state is the parent and municipalities the children, so municipalities can only do what the state gives them permission to do; (3) corporate commerce rights, embedded in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution; and (4) corporate personhood constitutional rights, which allow corporations to sue municipalities for damages caused by laws and decisions that affect corporate profits (including estimated future profits), coupled with the idea that “nature” is “property” and interference with the use of that property may constitute a 5th Amendment “taking” of the “property.”

Source:  Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)
 Note that these four constraints are now firmly embedded in our legal system and trace their origins back to one of our two primary founding documents, the U.S. Constitution.
And keep in mind that when municipalities and state agencies issue “permits” for things like CAFOs, natural gas pipelines, phosphate mines, and huge withdrawals of water from the Floridan aquifer, what is actually being “permitted” is damage to those natural systems that sustain us and other sentient beings. A permit grants permission to cause damage. And under current law, we are not “permitted” to stop that damage.
But we keep plodding along, attending meetings, making comments, being good, polite stakeholders. There's a popular saying that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."
Are we crazy? Isn't there something else we could be doing?
Why, yes. Yes, there is. See Part Two of this essay, coming soon.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Indra's Wet Net

One night in a dream, near Rum Island Spring where I make offerings to the naga, I am given the gift of a vision.
I am lifted high up into blackest space where I am allowed to hover with no visible support. When I look down, I can see the whole upper part of the Florida peninsula from Orlando to the Georgia line. Like the Technicolor animation in an old Disney movie, exquisitely hand-drawn in the finest detail, I can see beneath the topsoil and into the holey limestone of the Floridan aquifer, that huge storage tank for one of the world’s largest supplies of freshwater.
I watch in awe as groundwater bubbles through porous bedrock, rising here in springs and rivers as rain falls, falling there as water is pumped out for people and farms—a dynamic, percolating system with limestone rendered in grey, beige, and brown, water in every color of blue from ultramarine to turquoise to aquamarine.
As I watch, I don’t just observe but understand how rainfall and withdrawals at one place on the peninsula can change groundwater levels even hundreds of miles away as that water alternately seeps, flows and rushes through limestone conduits that range in size from pinholes to underground rivers.
This net of bubbling springs connected by strands of flowing water reminds me of another vision I had years ago, a vision of Indra's Net.
According to Wikipedia, Indra's Net "is a metaphor used to illustrate the concepts of Sunyata (emptiness), pratityasamutpada (dependent origination) and interpenetration in Buddhist philosophy." Alan Watts wrote, "Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image."
Watts so perfectly describes what I was shown so many years ago that I wonder if this image of Indra’s Net is something that is hard-wired, somehow, into human consciousness.
I think of my vision of Florida's springs as Indra's wet net, where each spring is a reflection of the causes and conditions that have formed it and all the other springs—and I believe that we humans are reflected in that wet net, too, because of the harm we cause or the help we offer to this beautiful, complicated, life-giving water system.
Many years ago now, I wrote that the way we treat each other is reflected in the way we treat the environment that is our home, and vice versa. The vision of Indra's wet net is yet another example of that idea.
I woke from my dream of the living aquifer with the vision firmly and vividly implanted in my mind. I would love to find someone who could animate what I saw, so others could see it too.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

My Florida Water Lineage

Photos:  Wikimedia Commons

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m thinking about my water lineage.

Lineage is an important concept in the Vajrayana, the form of Buddhism that’s practiced in Tibet and, increasingly, worldwide since many of the Tibetan Buddhist teachers were driven from their homeland by the Chinese Communist invasion in the 1950s.

Lineage in Tibetan Buddhism is like a highway, but it’s a highway of people instead of asphalt. Depending upon which particular teaching you’re referring to, there was a starting point—a Buddha, bodhisattva or person—from whom the teaching originated. Then there were successive lineage holders who were authorized (by virtue of empowerment, learning, practice and realization) to pass that teaching on to others. The transmission goes from the teacher’s mouth to students’ ears. The individual student is the end point of that person’s particular lineage highway, although of course the same teaching can be transmitted to many more people.

My water lineage is similar except it doesn’t flow in a straight line like a highway; it meanders like a river according to people I’ve met who have influenced my love for, and increased my knowledge about, Florida’s waters.

I can trace my water lineage back through various people I’ve known, but I cannot trace it forward. Here’s how it looks to me right now.

My parents

From the writers Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and from her own lived experience, my mother developed a strong love for Florida and the state’s history. She also loved swimming and she passed all those loves on to me.

From his love of fishing Florida’s waters, my father developed a similar love for Florida that he passed on to me. “They won’t be happy ’til they’ve paved over the whole state,” I remember him grumbling about developers.

My parents made sure I had swimming lessons and when we visited Florida before we actually moved here, they took me to Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs.

When we lived in Miami Springs, my parents took me to the beach at Crandon Park and to Miami Beach.

When we lived in Orlando, my parents took me to New Smyrna Beach and Rock Springs at Kelly Park in Apopka. Later, they made sure we had a membership in a neighborhood pool so I could swim whenever I wanted.

My parents also took me on my first visits to Cross Creek and St. Augustine.

My peers

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, I learned the locations of springs from people who had already been there. These secrets were passed from mouth to ear, much like the Vajrayana teachings.

On a school picnic at age 13, I visited Sanlando Springs.

With my peers when I was in high school and college, I discovered Wekiwa Springs in Apopka, Poe Springs on the Santa Fe River, Ichetucknee Springs, Manatee Springs and Cross Creek/Lake Lochloosa.

My teachers

It was my community college creative writing teacher, Cissy Arena Wood, who told me how to get to Ginnie Springs on the Santa Fe River.

It was my community college geology teacher, Jean Klein, who stood with me on the banks of Ginnie Springs on a class field trip and said, “If these springs ever get polluted, it will take hundreds of years to clean them up.”

I believe that it was through the blessings of my Buddhist teachers that I came to be involved in my current water work, trying to save Florida’s freshwater springs. Homage to His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa; to Ven. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche and Ven. Bardor Tulku Rinpoche; to Lama Yeshe Gyamtso and the other interpreters who so skillfully rendered Tibetan into English; and to Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal and Machik Labdron, who all continue to inspire me.

Homage, too, to the following people:

  • Gil Kushner, my major professor in anthropology at the University of South Florida in Tampa, who helped me to understand—even many years after my classes—that saving Florida’s springs is actually an exercise in culture change.
  • Cynthia Barnett, the Gainesville writer whose work with developing guidelines for a Florida water ethic “is how we win,” according to a flash of insight I had when I first heard about her ideas.
  • Sister Patricia Siemen and Jane Durocher of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at Barry University Law School in Orlando, whose thinking about the rights of nature inspired another “how we win” insight.
  • Maya van Rossum, whose book “The Green Amendment” expands the rights of nature dialogue to include the rights of human beings to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment.
  • Annie Pais and Stewart Thomas of Florida’s Eden, who gave me my start in water work when they hired me to coordinate their Blue Path programs.
  • The Gainesville water writers Margaret Tolbert, Jack E. Davis and Lola Haskins, who with Cynthia Barnett enthusiastically participated in the reading event I organized for Florida’s Eden at Santa Fe College, “Of Thirst and Beauty.”
  • The scientists, lawyers, citizen activists and water managers who continually deepen my understanding of Florida’s hydrologic system and water history through detailed yet wide-ranging conversations, in particular:  Jim Stevenson; Bob Knight; Jim Gross; Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson; Heather Obara; Traci Deen; Margaret Stewart; Bob Palmer; Bob Ulanowicz; Loye Barnard; Charles Maxwell; Wendy Graham; David Kaplan; the folks at the Suwannee River Water Management District and others too numerous to mention!
  • The past and present members of the board of directors of the Ichetucknee Alliance.
  • The explorers and photographers who have revealed a whole new world under our feet through documenting their ventures into the depths of the Floridan aquifer and into our springs: Jill Heinerth; Wes Skiles; Mark and Annette Long; Tom Morris; Travis Marques and Joe Cruz and all the members of the Spring Hunters Facebook page.
  • And finally, to all the artists, musicians, writers and graphic designers who have paid their own homage to water through their magnificent and inspiring works, some of which grace my home:  Will McLean; Dale Crider; Whitey Markle; Margaret Tolbert (again); Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (again); Rick Kilby; John Moran; Lesley Gamble; Johnny Dame; Steven Earl; Richard Eberhart; Harriet Huss; Nancy Vogler. And—full circle completed!—Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

Who are the members of an environmental lineage that you honor on Earth Day?

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Report: "Butterflies on a Sea Wind" by Anne Rudloe

I just finished reading "Butterflies on a Sea Wind" by Anne Rudloe, who with her husband, Jack, ran the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea, Florida (she died in 2012). What I did not know is that Anne was also a dharma master, Ji Do Poep Sa Nim, in the Kwan Um School of Zen!...and Abbot of the Cypress Tree Zen Center in Tallahassee.

"Butterflies" carries a "Beginning Zen" banner on the cover, which--along with the fact that I recognized her name--caused me to pick up the book at Book Gallery West in Gainesville. Anne Rudloe also has another book, "Zen in a Wild Country," that I will now search out. I don't know why it surprised me to find a Florida woman environmentalist with a Zen background, but it did.

I was particularly struck by this passage from "Butterflies," in which Rudloe is describing her experiences at a Zen retreat:

"Then a mental image arose of an underwater sand fountain in a spring back in Florida. The water jetting out of a crack in the limestone kept the sand above it in a constant cascade. Endlessly cycling in its silvery plumes, the sand fountain had no beginning, no end, no going anywhere. There was just a perpetual moving round and round in a balanced, harmonious, and beautiful way. It was a model of the universe, and it was also a model of human existence. Each journey of a grain of sand up and down equaled a lifetime. Each grain's trajectory was determined by all the forces that were, or had been, or would be, present and acting on it. My life was one cycle of one of those sand grains....There is only what is happening at any given point in time. We continue the process of being aware of the cycling and remain in harmony with it day by day and moment by moment. When I first saw it, I had known immediately that the sand fountain in the spring was sacred, and now I understood why." (pp. 163-164)

Rudloe also includes this wonderful quote from Zen Master Dogen:

"From ancient times wise people and sages have often lived near water. When they live near water they catch fish, catch human beings, and catch the Way. For long these have been genuine activities in water. Furthermore there is catching the self, catching catching, being caught by catching, and being caught by the way."

I thought that the last chapters of Rudloe's book, in particular, did a great job of revealing the whole "point" of Zen and Buddhism, which as I understand it is to let go of the fixation on a permanent "self" as something that is separate from reality as we usually perceive it.