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    After the Flood Paid Member

    As usual, a cigarette is dangling from our friend Smokey's lips as she pulls up in front of our house with a load of spare plywood. “Be Nice or Leave,” it says on the rear window of her weathered old pickup truck, and “New Orleans, proud to crawl home.” It's early Sunday morning, August 28, and clouds are moving quickly across the sky. Overnight, Hurricane Katrina powered up to a Category 5, and our neighborhood is alive with last-minute preparations. Smokey helps unload the plywood, gives me an evacuation map and a kiss, then hurries home to pick up her hip boots; she knows there's going to be water. Lots and lots of water. Then she drives to Tulane Hospital, where she will spend the next four days preparing meals around the clock for dozens of doctors, nurses, patients, policemen, and firemen. More »
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    Only the Practice of Dharma Can Help Us at the Time of Death Paid Member

    Throughout our lives, our body has been our closest companion. At times it has seemed to be who we are. We have spent hours washing and cleaning and clipping and oiling and combing and brushing, taking care of our body in all kinds of ways. We have fed it and rested it. We might have had differing attitudes toward it, sometimes loving it and sometimes hating it. But now this closest companion, which has gone through everything with us, will no longer be here. It will no longer take oxygen. It will not circulate blood. This body that for so many years was so full of vitality will be lifeless. It will be a corpse. The first Panchen Lama says it well: “This body that we have cherished for so long cheats us at the time when we need it most.” More »
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    In the Land of the First Noble Truth Paid Member

    We had just opened our building in lower Manhattan when we saw smoke sliding out from under Rooster Vargas's door. My then supervisor, a sultry woman in her mid-twenties who did not know what she was getting into (and who soon became conveniently pregnant and left), pounded on Rooster's door. She got no response. She barged into his room with a fire extinguisher so shiny and immaculate it resembled a religious object. We found a chicken defrosting under a scalding shower. Rooster had gone shopping. More »
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    The Dignity of Restraint Paid Member

    It’s always interesting to notice how words disappear from common usage. We have them in our passive vocabulary, we know their meaning, but they tend to disappear from day-to-day conversation—which usually means that they’ve disappeared from the way we shape our lives. Several years back I gave a dhamma talk in which I happened to mention the word dignity. After the talk, a woman in the audience who had emigrated from Russia came up to me and said that she had never heard Americans use the word dignity before. She had learned it when she studied English in Russia, but she had never heard people use it here. And it’s good to think about why. Where and why did it disappear? More »
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    Self as Verb Paid Member

    The core insight of the Buddhist tradition—the relentless emptiness of phenomena—has profound implications for all of us who are trying to understand the nature of life. It points to the disturbing fact that all nouns are arbitrary constructions. A person, place or thing is just an idea invented to freeze the fluid flow of the world into objects that can be labeled and manipulated by adroit but shallow modes of mind. Beyond and behind these snapshots we take for ourselves is a vast and unnamable process. More »