31 August 2008

Pondering the Cows at Point Reyes

On Saturday Tong and I walked 9 miles (round trip) to Drake's Head in Point Reyes to look over the cliff at the leopard sharks and bat rays - but the water was too choppy and we didn't see any. We did see a lot of cows on the trail, some of which, like #220 on the right, I photographed. It suddenly seemed odd to me that there are what must be privately owned cattle grazing on public land. I remembered backpacking in the Sierras years ago. You had to filter the water to drink it because of giardia, because of cattle. I never wondered before why cattle are grazing on and polluting public land - seems really strange now!

Anyway, I started thinking about cows and came across some alarming statistics to do with climate change and livestock. Like that almost 20% of extant greenhouse gases come from livestock. I also came across an NPR report that many polar bears have been seen swimming in the open ocean - their habitat is literally melting from underneath them.

I find the image of the polar bear swimming in open water with no ice to be found deeply disturbing. Livestock consume more food than they produce, contaminate groundwater, and send staggering amounts of noxious greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And demand for beef and milk is on the increase. In 2001, humans on earth consumed 230 million tons of meat and 580 million tons of milk from cows. This volume is expected to double by 2050.

I do not eat beef but am going to cut down more on dairy products, the eating of which - from the point of view of the endlessly swimming polar bear - has the same effect as eating beef. One alternative I enjoy is goat's milk in my coffee. I like the taste of it and I think it causes less harm than food derived from cows.

Some References
Melting Arctic Ice Imperils Polar Bears (NPR, August 2008)

Facts about Pollution from Livestock Farms (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Conscious Eating, Okay, But Where (On Earth) Do You Get Your Protein?
(Huffington Post, May 2008)

Some notes about Goat's Milk (Revolutionhealth.com October 2007)

Meat and the Planet (New York Times, December 2006)

Livestock a Major Threat to Environment (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, November 2006)

27 August 2008

Buddhism vs. the Visceral Response

The minute you read about mindfulness, or some other super practical aspect of Buddhist practice, you know in your gut that it just makes sense. It may even seem that it explains your life. Buddhism is just sensible and accessible, especially modern expositions on it. You don’t have to “suspend disbelief” or perform mental contortions to be able to relate to it. It’s as if someone had dug down into the dark recesses of human experience - including all the things we kind of know but don’t fully want to know - and wrote it down, or spoke about it. It’s like turning a light on.

But in actual experience, in the business we all have of being alive - or wanting to be – in each moment of every day, the teachings of Buddhism are relentlessly, even viscerally, counter-intuitive. So that in the course of years of practice we may discover many of the same things over and over again. We may learn something, we may think we’re ‘done’ with it, but then we carry on with the task of incorporating it at successively deeper and deeper levels.

Spiritual practice is about the Herculean but somehow satisfying task of translating the realities of thought and word into deed. In attempting it we are confronting the ongoingly challenging task of expressing what we already know through our way of living in each moment. Our practice functions not to teach us new things ‘from the outside,’ but simply to remind us what we want to be doing. It reminds us to apply what we know to countless knee-jerk responses. It also somehow helps us do it.

The teachings, among other things, tell us to open up to the momentary and the abiding trials of everyday life, of every-moment life. But our gut doesn’t want us to do this, or at least our gut often doesn’t act enthused. We have to learn the thing over and over again. We have to have a thousand of the same Ah-ha moments. Maybe not a thousand. Maybe only 10. But I enjoy having them.

(Image of Manjusri from LA County Museum of Art.)

inquiries into being female

Recently I mentioned to some friends the response I had written to Sangharakshita's writing on the subject of the spiritual capacity of women. The kinds of views he expressed seemed to be accepted by many members of his Order until the last few years, though support tended to be more public, while dissent was private (for example within the private journal of the Order.) Anyway one friend told me that she had found the article very useful and suggested that it might be helpful to other people becoming involved with the FWBO.

It's about 16 pages. I have updated it to correspond to my current thinking, which comes 10 or so years after the original writing. By the way Sangharakshita read an earlier version of it some years ago and said he enjoyed it! May it be of use...

(Word document)
Tearing Open the Dark
inquiries into being female
in the friends of the western buddhist order

Some References
Sangharakshita is the founder of the Western Buddhist Order, into which I was ordained in 2001. His website is sangharakshita.org.

FWBO Discussion site (focus on gender)

(Image "Meditation" by William Bartlett.)

25 August 2008

Seitan recipe

On the lookout for a different kind of protein I came across this super simple recipe for making seitan, which I hadn't realized a mere mortal could do. It was posted on postpunkkitchen.com. It takes about 5 minutes to mix the ingredients, then it is baked. It's really tasty.

The only special ingredient it needs is called 'vital wheat gluten' flour; also needs 1/4 cup nutritional yeast. I already had the rest of the ingredients. I like spicy food but this was a bit too spicy for me so next time I will put in less cayenne.

Here is the recipe: Baked seitan log
The entire log has: 1134 calories, 32g fat, 63g carbs, 158g protein.

(Image by yours truly in kitchen of yours truly.)
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