Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lost Chapter from the book Enlightenment Guaranteed. The Dharma of El Dharmarado Tijuana Interview, Part One

Lost Chapter from the book Enlightenment Guaranteed. The Dharma of El Dharmarado Tijuana Interview, Part One

Enlightenment Guaranteed Only 2.99 on Kindle

A few months ago I had the rare opportunity to interview the great Mexican Zen master, El Dharmarado. I drove down to Tijuana and met El Dharmarado in a small bar, which was located down a remote dusty alleyway. Surprisingly, the place was packed with bikers and scantily clad women. The bar was thick with smoke and reeked of tequila. I spotted El Dharmarado, sitting alone at the corner table. He wore a sombrero and a technicolored poncho. He had a cigar wedged tightly between his lips. He squinted as he surveyed the bar, his thick black mustache twitching upward when he spotted me walking toward him. He stood up and greeted me, then offered me a shot of tequila. I passed on the liquor and ordered an ice tea from a waitress that wore a studded leather bikini. I turned my attention back to El Dhamarado. He knocked down another shot and then blew a puff of smoke that obscured his face, and said, “Alright, then. Let’s get this party started.” I removed my list of questions from my briefcase, placed the voice recorder on the table, and pressed the record button. The following interview is the result.

Me: How are you today

El: Aaarrg, not bad, not good. He slammed the shot glass down on the table.

Me: Thank you for that Zen answer. Why are you teaching Zen in the West?

El: To save all sentient beings in the West.

Me: Do you think people in the West need to do more to help each other?

El: Absolutely, people in the West are completely deluded and self-absorbed. Never in the history of humankind has there been a culture that is built around the idea of “self” and using every external concept, object, and bullshit achievement to justify its existence. You have a society of winners and losers, all fooled into believing there is a “self” and that the “self “can be happy if it has enough money, power, and friends. But also the entire culture has been fooled into living a life of slavery, while believing they are free.

Me: What do you mean when you say, “Fooled into a life of slavery”?

El: What I mean is, you are taught, from the time you are an infant, the harder you work, the more stuff you will have, and the happier you will be. This is a lie perpetuated by the “man” to make you work like a dog for nothing, so you can die with a bunch of useless objects, without wisdom or dignity.

Me: You are telling me westerners are really slaves, believing themselves to be free men and women?

El: Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. You are very wise, young cockroach.

Me: How can three continents, America, Europe, and Australia, be fooled?

El: There are two parts to this answer, young cucaracha. One is there are no people alive who remember what true freedom is. This slavery has been passed down from generation to generation and never questioned. Second is education. Education serves two purposes: one is brainwashing children into believing they are free as long as they obey the laws, and the second is higher education ensures that there will always be debt. They think it is okay to pay wealthy institutions to learn how to be a good slave to make more money than the other slaves do. Hahahahahaha, nobody questions it. The Buddha’s first teaching was to question everything.

Me: How can Buddhism and meditation help free our western culture?

El: Ah, young cockroach, you ask such good questions. Meditation is a good place to start, because westerners never examine their minds, question reality, or seek contentment from anything other than money. Spend a week or so in silent meditation and everything you have been taught from the time you were a child will fall apart. You will see that everything experienced is in the mind. Nothing external can bring happiness or sadness. Only the mind’s false sense of understanding reality causes one to feel happy or sad. (El Dharmarado held up his shot glass.) Are your mind and this glass the same or different?

Me: It is clear and round.

El: Great answer, young cockroach. Most westerners would say they are different because they do not understand the mind's relationship with reality. If they answer the same, then they don’t understand the nature of reality, and the interdependent nature of their own perceptions. Your view, young cockroach, is based upon the groundlessness, which means you are ready to explore the truth that the Buddha taught to his disciples.

Me: Thanks, El Dharmarado. How would you start a new society?

El: Any answer I give would be restricted by the limits of what is conceivable within my own mind. However, it would have to begin on an individual basis; each person first would have to be willing to meditate and find the foundation of reality, which by the way is groundlessness. Once each person has that realization they will be more willing to live in a cooperative society. Me: How would this society function?

El: Arrrg, my vision would be a society built upon the foundation of cooperation and selflessness, without any centralized authority controlling everything. No group or person would be in charge, and there would be no ownership of property. Life is impermanent, so why bother with ownership? You are going to lose everything when you die. Leaving money and land to family only creates dynasties that eventually take control. All resources would be shared, and everyone would partake in the duties to maintain the infrastructure. There would be no more colleges. Everyone would have the opportunity to choose a career and be trained and participate in an internship. Each person can change careers as many times as needed because circumstances are always changing. Flexibility to change careers as individuals age is necessary. As long as a citizen is active in a work guild, they are provided a place to live, healthcare, food, and are taken care of when it is time for them to retire.

Me: Sounds like a monastery without the religious trimmings. El: Excellent observation, young cockroach, very much like a monastery, without a hierarchy structure. If it has worked for monks for over twenty-five hundred years, it will work for everyone.

Me: What is your role in bringing about this change of view toward society?

El: I am a simple Mexican monk. I don’t want to change the world. I want to relieve the suffering of all beings. I ask everyone to examine what is the true nature of reality and their role in it? Do you want to create pain and suffering or do want to end it? Every being has Buddha nature; not everyone realizes it. I know it is there. I know for a fact that even the worst diablo can become enlightened.

Buy it today Only 2.99 on Kindle Enlightenment Guaranteed! by the Rev. Gary P. Cocciolillo

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Enlightenment Pill

Take the red pill, or the blue pill. The red one will wake you up, the blue and you will remain in ignorance. Is there such a thing as an enlightenment pill? If so would you take it? We are surrounded by pills. Money is the pill for wealth. Large TVs with Netflix are the pills ignorance. Friends and family are the pills of self worth. Big houses and fancy cars are the big ego pills. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are pills of bliss. The pill for enlightenment is to stop taking pills altogether.

No magic pills can save us from our suffering. Being alive is an odd state to be in. We seem to exist. Yet, we cannot understand the reason. It is a confusing situation to be in. Most of us feel existence has a purpose, but none of us can figure out what that purpose is. The more we struggle to figure it out. The gloomier and more futile life becomes. As a result, we take pills, and more pills we take the deeper we fall.

So, what are we to do?

A girl once asked me, “What is the meaning of life?”

I answered, “I don’t know, I don’t think it’s important”

She responded, “I think its irony.”

Then I said, “ Irony, and it not being important are the same”

All we can do is laugh at it. Why struggle? Why try to figure it out? Why take the pills? Enjoy the wonder! Relish in the mystery. We know very little about reality and how it manifests. The same is true of our own existence. We don’t have a clue as why we are here and aware of this moment?
The clue is “This moment”

Then it is gone.

I believe that there is a lot that we human don’t know. I estimate that we can only understand Ten Percent of reality. Perhaps, we can experience and perceive Ten Percent of what reality has to offer. That is why I try to stay open to all kinds of possibilities, even far-out shit like ghost, the occult, astrology, big foot, aliens, and maybe even God. Who knows? Hell, if I am here now, then anything is possible and no pills are needed.

Thanks El Dhamarado.

Heads up, my new book Enlightenment Guaranteed will up on Amazon soon!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Moonshine (Distillation of Consciousness and the Dharma of Duck Dynasty)

Distillation is a process that can be used to break down a liquid substance to a base. Distillation is how people make whiskey, and how scientists break down chemicals. This process has been around for thousands of years, ironically the first moonshiner in the United States was George Washington who was also a Freemason. Freemasonry was based upon Western mysticism which included alchemy. Alchemy is the process of using Mercury, salt and water to create gold by breaking down each substance and trying to get them to intermingle with the others. The idea of alchemy can be found throughout many cultures such as Egyptian, Chinese, European and probably a few others that I’m not even aware of. So it is no surprise Freemasons like George Washington would be down with making some moonshine. So what does this have to do with consciousness, and duck Dynasty? Well it has a lot to do with consciousness and very little to do with Duck Dynasty. However, I do have something to say about Phil Robinson’s comments that I’ll mention at the end of this blog post. I could be lying just so you keep reading. Either way you’ll have to read entire post to find out.

So what is the distillation of consciousness, and why do it? The answer is simple because the awareness that everybody experiences is a great mystery. Even with all the tools that science has created we still don’t know anything about awareness. Is awareness energy? Is awareness a soul? Does it die with our body? Does it continue on after the body dies? Does it return to an infinite sea of consciousness, like a drop of water returning to the ocean? The truth is we don’t know, so why not approach this question the same way science would? That would be to distill consciousness all the way down to its basic purist element. The most popular methodology of distilling one’s consciousness that is commonly used is meditation.

We sit still for a long period of time without any distractions; until all we are left with is our awareness. Most of the time the mind is busy with discriminating thoughts, such as I like this I don’t like that, or oh fuck I forgot to pay the rent. Mind is always thinking and the harder we tried to stop it, the more active it becomes. So therefore, one of the most important steps to meditation is just learning sit with whatever’s present in the moment rather than fight the mind, just watch it without engaging with the thoughts that arise or judging them. At some point we will catch ourselves thinking about this or that, the trick here is not to beat ourselves up but simply just come back to home base which is usually our breath. What happens over a period of time is the mind slows down, and we find gaps between thoughts. It is in these gaps really see a glimpse of what our true awareness is like. It is only through this direct experience, that we were able to explore consciousness. Meditation gives us the opportunity to see what awareness looks like without the impurities of our own thoughts. Another form of meditation is simply being fully engaged in the present moment. For example while playing guitar there is no separation between me and the music I am playing, a lot of the time I am only playing for what seems like five minutes but when I look at the clock I discovered an hour has passed because so I am so fully engaged in what I was doing. This is something that we all experience without even trying. And if we are trying to experience it, the effort itself becomes a roadblock.

When we distill consciousness by letting the impurities filter themselves out we are left with is pure awareness. What I find most profound about this is my pure awareness is no different than somebody else’s pure awareness. The only thing that separates us is the thinking mind. The Dalai Lama and Hitler both share the same pure awareness. It is almost impossible for us to conceive this because we cannot grasp the mind with the mind. However, if my awareness is the same as someone else’s and whatever I do to them, I am also doing to myself. This is a great foundation for the golden rule to do onto others as you would want them to do unto you. When we are aware that there is no separation the golden rule becomes almost natural. It is like the old Buddhist analogy there is one moon in the sky in one thousand bowls of water reflecting the moon. Now that is what I call moonshine. It all the same moon.

The only reason I included Duck Dynasty in the title of my post is because rednecks and moonshine go together and so I get ranked higher in Google. As for Phil Robinson’s comments in GQ magazine about homosexuality, that his quote from the Bible. All I can say is that he’s never slapped a hand full of Crisco in a man’s ass and slid into the home base so doesn’t know is talking about, if you know what mean.

Thanks for reading
El Dhamarado

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't Piss in the Net

I have just finished a course in Huayan Buddhism. Huayan is Chinese Chaan School of philosophy founded by Fazang a chaan patriarch. The book for the course was Hua-yen Buddhism by Frances Cook. This book covers the philosophy aspect of Huayan in great detail and from many angles. However it is very dry, and does not offer much insight into the application of Huayan philosophy in everyday life. When I write a blog post I like to use everyday situations as my topic. I am going to attempt take some what I learned from Cooks book and give some real everyday examples and possible uses for this ancient Chinese philosophy.

The heart of Huayan is interconnectedness which simply implies that one thing cannot exist without the all the causes on conditions of everything else. What we consider today as string theory in quantum physics or movie goers know it as the butterfly effect. Huayan uses the analogy of a net where each connecting point has a jewel and each jewel reflects all the other jewels on the net. For example if I were to through a cigarette butt into the net each jewel would add to its reflection a cigarette butt. Therefore the butt becomes a part of every jewel on the net, or if I toss a flower in the net, obviously the flower would be better than a cigarette butt especially when we take into consideration that it becomes a part of everything in whole net. The meaning of this is everything we do and say in our daily life becomes a part of the whole net eco-system. Therefore if I treat everyone, like crap it will cause suffering to others in ways that I will not be aware of. Furthermore the same goes for how we treat the environment everything we do has an effect in the eco-system. Everything is connect and there is no escape from that fact.

For example my neighbor takes my parking spot on the street; I get mad and piss in his bushes.. A seemingly harmless act, however my neighbor has a dog and I soiled his domain. The dog gets upset and disrupts my neighbor’s family. Let’s say my neighbor Harry can’t sleep because of the commotion caused by the dog, harry happens to be a brain surgeon. Harry goes to work the next day tired and messes up a surgery. The effects go on forever because I pissed in his yard.

There is good news here part of this eco-system is impermanence. Nothing stays the same all it takes is for one thing to change and whole cycle is interrupted and a new one begins. So rather than pissing in somebody’s yard, if we plant flowers infinite flowers will bloom throughout the entire net of existence.

Though this philosophy is over a thousand years old it is more important now than ever to be aware of how we affect each other and the environment. None of us will ever be perfect but awareness of how we affect each other and the world around us can make a huge difference. In today’s world of technology and social networking we are more connected now that ever. As result our influence goes way beyond family and co-workers. The revolutions in Syria and Egypt are great examples of how a few people had an influence over many, causing regime changes. Sometimes words don’t even have to be spoken, or action taken. Just being can change the way things are. Doing nothing may have more profound result than any other action the domino effect stops when either there are no more dominos to fall, or at the one domino that simply won’t budge and refuse to fall with rest and sits still among the surrounding chaos. We can sit still like the Buddha to attain enlightenment so that light of Buddhahood can shine and become a part of every jewel in the net.

Thank for stopping by
El Dharmarado

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lost my Cushion, Lost my Mind

Lost my Cushion, lost my Mind

Last week we started a new meditation group at the Unitarian Church in Princeton, I brought my cushion from home not knowing we had them already. As you can already guess by the title of this post I left my cushion. I didn’t realize it until I was home. Out of nowhere I became incredibly angry the kind of anger that made me want to break stuff. Then there was this feeling of my heart cracking open with feelings of intense sadness and loss. I thought I had finally lost my shit feeling so upset over a damn cushion that is easily replaceable. However what I was feeling had nothing to do with the cushion, I had found out my Mother has cancer a couple of weeks before. I had been so busy with work and making sure things where being taken care of that I hadn’t processed any feelings, and losing my cushion was the trigger.

As I was having these feeling come up there was also a struggle one side of me thought “Huh, this is not very Zen of me to be feeling this way everything is empty and I should not be so attached” the other thought was “This is real and I should allow my feelings to flow naturally have the experience then let it go”. Which thought is truly Zen? Both questions come from a thinking mind. The don’t know mind only experiences without judgment. I am sure I am not the only person who has questioned how I am supposed to feel or react as a Buddhist. The Buddha taught the four noble truths.

1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness)
2. The truth of the origin of dukkha
3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha
4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha

The confusion for me comes from what this cessation of dukkha? Is it bliss and we never have to feel dukkha ever again? Or is it simply acceptance and not clinging to experience? This is an easy place to get stuck and say screw this Buddhism shit it doesn’t make sense. I don’t know the answer. Don’t know is the best answer I have heard so far. That is what I like about Zen is that don’t know can be the correct answer. Rather than endless debates and intellectual fodder there is the simple “don’t know” It has been about two weeks since I lost my cushion and my mind. Thankfully I got my cushion back, but not my mind. I don’t want to worry about if what I am feeling is the correct Zen way to feel, because it just causes more suffering. When I stay open and feel whatever it is not judge it and let it go that seems to work better for me. I don’t know is this is cessation of dukkha, but it is surly less dukkha than I would experience if I try to rationalize everything.

Another side of this is attachment to spiritual practice, philosophy, theology ect.. Because as long as I am a Buddhist then there is something other than Buddhist which contradicts what the Buddha was teaching to begin with. Recently I took a class about Huang Po, and he said “There is no Buddha save all beings, and no beings to save” He cuts the chord ends all the thought about being a Buddhist if there is no Buddha then there is no Buddhist there is only mind and mind is Buddha. So by asking “is this the way a Buddhist should feel?” Created a “me” and other when in reality everything is interdependent and not separate. It is funny how the mind will twist things around so there is always a greater than, and less than. Then my next thought is “well at least I notice this thinking so I am more aware” Which is funny because I said there is no more or less. I all that really need to be done is to lose the thinking mind and keep the cushion.

Thanks for reading
El Dharmarodo

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep, he waits!

Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep, he waits!

A few years ago a friend of mine was telling about a problem he was having with a co-worker that was annoying him. I couldn’t think of anything to say to him at the time except to wait. Then I told him the old Chuck Norris joke “Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep, he waits.” About a year later well after I had forgotten about his problem he thanked me and said that the Chuck Norris joke worked, every time his co-worker pissed him off, he would tell himself the Chuck joke and then he would laugh and let it go. Then after some time passed this co-worker started being nice to him and they became friends.

One of my favorite quotes from the Tao Te Ching is “The Tao never "acts" Yet nothing is left undone.” So much is happening all the time, billions of people are doing different things at any given moment, thousands of cars are passing my house, the sun comes up, the moon goes down, the earth is spinning, planets are rolling around the sun, an inconceivable number of galaxy’s are floating around in the universe etc.. All that is happening right now as you are reading this blog. Fish are being fish, dogs are being dogs, lions are being lions, and people are being people. All of this is happening on its own without any struggle it is all a naturally emanating.

Emanating from where and from what? Buddhism makes us seek this answer out for ourselves. This usually begins with sitting still and calming the mind. In the beginning it is like waiting at least for me. It was like being stuck in traffic on the NJ turnpike all there is to do is sit and wait turning up the radio doesn’t help, blowing the horn doesn’t help, smoking a pack of cigarettes doesn’t help just wait and things move on their own in their own time.

The same is true with meditation, trying to become enlightened is like blowing your horn while stuck in traffic at exit 8A on the NJ TP. It only makes more of out a situation that just is what it is. When we let go of all the horn blowing, turn off the radio, give up completely, even give up on the idea ever getting home, then… well that’s is it. No struggle necessary, and there was never a reason to struggle to begin with. Everything is perfect in this moment as it is.

“Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep”, stay aware of what is happening in this moment “wait” there is no need to struggle to just wait. Sometimes the best meditation advice I can give, and the best living life advice I can give is “Chuck Norris doesn’t sleep, he waits”

Here is quote from my favorite poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann that says it way better than I ever can.

“ And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Thanks For reading
El Dharmarado

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dancing with Death

Dancing with Death I had to go to a funeral the other day. I didn’t know the guy very well but I had to go. He was 59 and died in a bad car wreck. I was an open coffin event, his body looked flat like it was run over by a steam roller, and his face looked like they pieced it together with clay. As I approached the coffin the two guys kneeling got and shook the coffin hard, so hard that the corpses head went back and forth like a bobble head. I am guessing his head was not connected to rest of him, when I saw this I turned around and B-lined for the back to room.

Next was the service with a catholic priest whose whole shtick was “only through Christ can we enter the kingdom of heaven”. My reaction was like WTF, that is a mean thing to say especially to non-Christians. Then the real kicker was when his daughters spoke they were completely devastated their pain was powerful that the whole room shook with their anguish. It was really heart breaking to see people in so much pain I had to hold back crying myself because their feelings had so much power.

There are two reasons I am telling this story one, I don’t like dogma and two I thought about the story of Siddhartha and how he saw suffering and wanted to alleviate it. That story of Siddhartha doesn’t capture the feeling of pain that was being felt at this funeral. It is more cerebral or logical, like Spocks version of shallow emotion. I am not saying he didn’t feel what I felt, I think what I was feeling is exactly the same that the Buddha felt and that drove him seek the dharma. I have to say reading about it and actually feeling are not the same, and can become intellectualized rather than a heartfelt experience.

His answer to suffering is the eightfold path. I have a funny feeling that if had I walked up to his daughters and gave them a sermon on the eightfold path and impermanence wouldn’t have been helpful at all. Just like the priest saying that Christ is the way probably was not helpful either. I think the only thing can that help someone in that kind of pain is to have an open heart, share the pain, and to be genuine, empathetic, open and present. I am not saying that Buddhism or Christianity is bad, but using the dogma can be a way to shelter ourselves from having a genuine experience and expressing kindness. It can be a way of separating ourselves from the interconnectivity of life, and those we share it with.

At the end of the funeral they played Monty Pythons Always look on the bright side of life. Life is nothing to lose your head about that is for sure.

For life is quite absurd
And death's the final word
You must always face the curtain with a bow
Forget about your sin
Give the audience a grin
Enjoy it, it's your last chance anyhow

Thanks for reading
El Dharmarado