Joshu’s Dog in East Texas

empty_circle_&_dog copy         Photograph copyright Roy Hamric

     Does a dog have Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you say yes or no,
You lose your mind and body!

  – Mumon

Peter Matthiessen’s New Novel






In Paradise, the name of Peter Matthiessen’s new novel, will be released soon, and it could be the last book in his one-of-a-kind outpouring of fiction and nonfiction. A beautiful tribute to him in The New York Times magazine can be found here.

Photograph copyright Damon Winter/The New York Times

Red Pine Has Two New Books Coming Out






Red Pine has two new books coming out in the next couple of years, in addition to Yellow River Odyssey which will be released sometime this summer. The first is based on the poems of Stonehouse, and the second, Finding Them Gone, is the story of his pilgrimage to the graves of Chinese poets. Both will be published by Copper Canyon Press.

Jack Kerouac, Happy Birthay!

a painting of Buddha by Jack kerouac

a painting of Buddha by Jack kerouac

Another Yellow River Odyssey Photograph by Red Pine




Here’s one more picture from Bill Porter’s new book, Yellow River Odyssey, which should be released soon by Chin Music Press, a small publisher of elegant books based in Washington state. The caption reads: “After another hour among the dunes, we headed back to Shapotou, where I cooled my heels in the Yellow River mud and talked with several men who were inflating goat skins and lashing them to wooden frames to use as rafts. Sheepskins, they said, were useless. Goatskins were the only the skins that held air long enough, and they had to be coated on their insides with sesame oil to keep them from cracking and to maintain their flexibility.”


Sight Seeing

Monday, 5:55 p.m., February 24, 2014

Monday, 5:55 p.m., February 24, 2014; IPhone photograph

Ash-sprinkled head,

soil-smeared face.

– From A Zen Forest, Sayings of the Masters

Why Bodhidharma Came to China

The Setting Sun, copyright Robert Crosby

The Setting Sun, copyright Robert Crosby

I’ll explain in detail

 why Bodhidharma

came to China:

Listen to the evening

bell’s sound. Watch

the setting sun.

– From A Zen Forest: Zen


Yellow River Odyssey Photograph by Red Pine

Photography copyright by Bill Porter, aka Red Pine

Photography copyright by Bill Porter, aka Red Pine

A photo and caption from Bill Porter’s “Yellow River Odyssey,” now scheduled to be released in May 2014:

“I was on my way from Hong Kong to follow the Yellow River from its mouth to its source and couldn’t resist the temptation to stop in Shanghai for the China Coast Ball. This annual bacchanal was organized by and for the Hong Kong expatriate community, and it was normally held in March at the Belle Vista in Macao. But in 1991 the Belle Vista was being renovated, and the organizers turned to the Peace Hotel in Shanghai as a suitable replacement. The Peace had been boarded up during the Cultural Revolution, and the splendor of its art-deco interior had survived intact.”

Red Pine’s Canny Commentaries on Buddhist Sutras

Red Pine hitching a ride in China. Photograph by Ted Burger.

Red Pine hitching a ride in China. Photograph by Ted Burger

Red Pine’s probing and understanding of the major Buddhist sutras: The Heart Sutra, The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, The Diamond Sutra and, the latest, The Lankavatara Sutra, in addition to his earlier translation and commentary on The Tao Te Ching continue to deepen. With each translation his commentaries have grown more profound, especially on how all the sutras, taken together, form a whole, offering an approach to the difficult metaphysics that bewitch people looking for the answer to life’s riddles.

Red Pine’s latest commentary on the Lankavatara Sutra is a good example of how he draws all the sutras together. For instance:

“Buddhism is concerned with suffering, which is the inevitable result of desire. But the real issue is the self, which is the cause of the desire, which is the cause of the suffering. In the centuries following the Buddha’s Nirvana, instructions centered around a trio of concepts designed to focus attention in such a way that the nonexistence of the self would become evident and the liberation from suffering would follow. These included the five skandas (form, sensation, perception, memory and consciousness), the twelve ayatanas (six powers and six domains of  sensations), and the eighteen dhatus (the ayatanas  with the addition of six forms of consciousness). These were three views of the same thing: our mind.

The were simply different ways of dividing any given moment of awareness into a manageable matrix to demonstrate to anyone willing to wander around these matrices that they contained the universe of our awareness, its inside and its outside, and yet they contained no self. This was their function: to show practitioners that there was no self.

While these three schemes dealt with the problem of the self, they didn’t help explain how we become attached to a self in the first place, and how we go from attachment to detachment to liberation. Hence, to these were added three more schemes, all of which play a much larger role in the Lankavatara Sutra than the previous trio. The three new schemes are the five dharmas, the three modes of reality, and the eight forms of consciousness.

The five dharmas divide our world into name, appearance, projection, correction knowledge and suchness. The three modes of reality do the same thing with imagined reality, dependent reality, and perfected reality; and the eight forms of consciousness include the five forms of sensory consciousness, conceptual consciousness, the will or self-consciousness, and an eighth form known as repository consciousness, where the seeds from our previous thoughts, words and deeds are stored and from which they sprout and grow.

As with earlier trios of concepts, these were designed to account for our awareness without introducing the self. But they had the advantage of also providing a look at how our worlds of self-delusion and self-liberation come about, how enlightenment works, how we go from projection of name and appearance to correct knowledge of suchness, how we go from an imagined reality to a perfected reality, how we transform our eightfold consciousness into Buddhahood.

….But then the Lankavatara Sutra sets all these schemes aside in the interest of urging us to taste the tea for ourselves….Cup of tea or not, no one said it was going to be easy…”

He goes on to explain how the Lankavatara confounded his understanding for 35 years. Everyone’s approach may differ, but a good step would be to try the sutras in a sequence such as this: the Tao Te Ching, The Heart Sutra, The Platform Sutra, The Diamond Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra.

Good advice from someone whose life has been devoted to translating these sutras to deepen his own understanding and wisdom.

Also, as his wisdom – and his humor – ripen, he becomes more humble. The mark of a good teacher…

Red Pine’s Yellow River Odyssey












Bill Porter, aka Red Pine, has a new book scheduled to be released in February 2014, titled Yellow River Odyssey. It’s a collection of photographs and recollections of a trip along the river when China was just beginning to open up in small ways. The book is published by a great, small publisher called Chin Music Press based in Seattle. It is a bestseller in China, where it was first published.

I’ve also just come across a fan Facebook page for Porter, which you can see here.

Here’s the Amazon blurb on the book: “Bill Porter follows the Yellow River, the world’s sixth longest river, from its mouth to its source high in the Tibetan Plateau, a journey of more than three thousand miles through nine Chinese provinces. The trip takes the master translator into what was once the cradle of Chinese civilization and to the hometowns and graves of key historical figures such as Confucius, Mencius, Lao-tzu, and Chuang-tzu. Porter’s depth of knowledge of Chinese history and culture is unparalleled. Yellow River Odyssey, already a bestseller in China, reveals a complex, fascinating, contradictory country. Porter masterfully digs beneath China’s present-day materialism and the deep wounds of the Cultural Revolution to get at the roots of Chinese culture.”


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