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Denis Wallez
Works at koan.mu
Attended International Buddhist College
Lives in Rhône-Alpes
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Denis Wallez

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Luxury?

   One of the ethos for dharma.house is tied to an observation. In the West, Buddhism is too easily tainted by an Abrahamic belief that "one has to pay for one's sins"  when it comes to spiritual work, a belief that suffering in and of itself has (cleansing) 'merit'. Admittedly, even in the East, some fallaciously consider karma  as a "just world" doctrine, a "retribution" law, which it isn't.
   While Buddhism certainly promotes effort ("right effort" is a spoke of the eightfold path… "perseverance" is a Perfect Quality…), it doesn't associate such an effort with "suffering": effort doesn't have to be seen as punishment or as a drag, a necessity one might wish to avoid… it might be a manifestation of enthusiasm!
   The "right effort" in Buddhism is joyful, similar to the pleasant, peaceful exertion of performing a nurturing activity (e.g. sport, art… or cooking a tasty healthy dinner to share with friends).

   It's interesting that many people can understand so intellectually,  but as soon as it gets to practicalities, old prejudices come back up in force! Intellectualisation is (relatively) easy, but embodiment is the heart of the practice ;-)


   A common reflex, of those who can guess the market value of dharma.house, is to think of it as 'luxury'. What's most luxurious is the view though, the building itself has neither golden leaf, nor marble floor… it's mostly concrete, metal and glass, i.e. "normal" building materials.
   It's a "green" building; this is not cheap at first, but it's cheaper in the long run, and more supportive of the environment. Protecting the environment is a form of restraint from harming  all embodied sentient beings, far and wide. There's little "luxury" in doing what's wholesome! Clinging  to environmental views might be unhelpful (e.g. they might easily cause distress and overwhelm) but leveraging  available environmental opportunities  is wise.

   Another reflex for many is to assert that a place to learn about, or to practice, the Dharma doesn't "need" this-or-that… instead of appreciating  the opportunity offered by a great environment!
   The reflex is to revert to 'painful' asceticism, as the basis for spiritual practice. Healthy, supportive, good quality beds  might then be labeled "luxurious"… Healthy, supportive, good quality food  might be labeled "luxurious"… Relying on medicine to compensate a poor lifestyle is more costly ("luxurious") though than a healthy lifestyle in the first place!
   Any "good stuff" is seen as "extra"… then as "unnecessary" and even "bad": "unnecessary" is often biased by erroneous expectations though, and "bad" is a judgement totally spoiling appreciation, abandoning gratitude. It's like being unable to accept the generosity of others (by being paranoid about supposed "hidden intentions", and/or by being envious): critical thoughts arising from deluded views are not to be listened to as being 'right', they're in fact an opportunity to reflect —and maybe to be inspired into creating a more supportive environment for oneself and others.


   dharma.house is aimed to be inspiring,  in order to illustrate the right view that "effort" might be a manifestation of enthusiasm and of the joy of sharing what's wholesome and supportive.
   It's also made to illustrate a life of abundance,  of responsible sharing, of wise generosity… a generosity out of dropping the views limiting one's life to craving, clinging and hoarding…
   Few people live a life they're inspired by; "ordinary life is unsatisfactory" states the first "noble truth"! If inspiration may be transmitted, then this may be seen as a generous 'gift'… and although it is a gift, for whoever wants to explore letting go of the stress and suffering of ordinary life, an inspirational experiment in alternative ways of living is a necessity  rather than a luxury.

   This might unsettle some expectations? Good!

#dharmahouse  
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Denis Wallez's profile photoMark EightVerseTwentyNine's profile photo
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Hi Denis, thanks for your response! 

I suspect I have more in common with some Buddhists and they with me than I or they have with our respective “fellow believers”. I  think a lot of what I myself and others “believe” depends largely on what scriptures or teachings we take literally and what other scriptures or teachings we take metaphorically (and of course in the Buddhist context how we interpret the direct experiences we have). I communicate and think using abstract language and metaphor so I seem to have little in common with “fundamentalist” Christians who seem to take their scripture very literally (literal heavenly abode, literal supernatural devil and satan, literal fire hell, literal person called Holy Spirit, literal killing of Gods enemies , literal immortal soul etc). I use Occam’s Razor to minimize the supernatural. I wonder if there are Buddhists who similarly communicate and think using abstract language and metaphor and have little in common with ‘fundamentalist’ Buddhists and minimize the supernatural?

Time and chance happens to all, for sure I think God likes to intervene, but for me I see it as the same reason a Father will sometimes (not always) intervene in the life of the child. The child has done nothing to please the Father other than be a child of the Father. For me the Father, the God, acts from a state of no-Ego.

I’m mot comfortable with the sustainability of merit. I happen to believe that God is teaching mankind to love its enemy. For this to be true I accept that God will love his enemies. Hence I have no problem with “why do good people suffer and bad people not suffer”. It is exactly what I expect. I relinquish my demand on God that there be a causal link between “doing” and “reward”. I want God to break the causal Law of religious Law, and that is what I think the real world shows me has always happened.  For me God is relevant because he teaches me what love of my enemy is. This is liberation in my eyes. I am no longer a slave to the law “love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. This is I believe why Jesus is recorded as having done physical and “moral” miracles that break the laws of nature and the laws of the religious world. It simply demonstrates to me that “breaking the law” is ultimately what my life is about and what ultimately what God will do.

Yes the law is a school-master but I see it as an elementary teacher. The artist who creates a masterpiece, the scientist who creates a new theory usually does so by breaking the laws of what they were taught - deliberately or accidentally. The change is from being “obeyers of law” to “creators”. I think my destiny is to “create” but I cannot create-by-numbers. I must take the small but massive step into the “unknown by Law”. Law keeps me “safe” until I am ready for that moment what I begin to emulate Jesus of Nazareth and love my enemy.

I may be in the silent minority, fundamentalist christianity and fundamentalist religion seems to be increasingly popular. But I think the minority is sufficient to call into question what religion actually is. I don’t think its just what one hears the vocal majority describe.

Thanks for your posts. Always interesting! :-)
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Intention as cause?

   Yes, intentions do affect behaviours, which do affect physical manifestation, which do affect what arises in the world the next moment… Intentions might play a role in some causal chains…
   but we have to be careful of one logical fallacy most humans easily fall into: if you wish something and it turns up true later, it is ignorant ("spurious correlation") to assume that your intention 'caused' its manifestation. Certainly not automatically, or the way you imagine it. The cartoon attached says it all! Sorry for the believers in "the Secret" and other "Law of attraction" theories.

   One of the key teachings of Buddhism relates to causality, and the Buddha indeed denounced the logical fallacy that "wishful thinking" might be the actual  cause of something. His rejection was notably explained in relation to the myth of creation of the world:
«
   after the lapse of a long period, there comes a time when this world begins to expand once again. While the world is expanding, an empty palace of Brahmā appears. Then a certain being, due to the exhaustion of his life-span or the exhaustion of his merit, passes away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arises in the empty palace of Brahmā. There he dwells, mind made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And he continues thus for a long, long period of time.
   Then, as a result of dwelling there all alone for so long a time, there arises in him dissatisfaction and agitation, (and he yearns): "Oh, that other beings might come to this place!"  Just at that moment, due to the exhaustion of their life-span or the exhaustion of their merit, certain other beings pass away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arise in the palace of Brahmā, in companionship with him. There they dwell, mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And they continue thus for a long, long period of time.
   Thereupon the being who re-arose there first thinks to himself: "I am Brahmā, the Great Brahmā, the Vanquisher, the Unvanquished, the Universal Seer, the Wielder of Power, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ordainer, the Almighty, the Father of all that are and are to be. And these beings have been created by me. What is the reason? Because first I made the wish: 'Oh, that other beings might come to this place!' And after I made this resolution, now these beings have come."
   And the beings who re-arose there after him also think: "This must be Brahmā, the Great Brahmā, the Vanquisher, the Unvanquished, the Universal Seer, the Wielder of Power, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ordainer, the Almighty, the Father of all that are and are to be. And we have been created by him. What is the reason? Because we see that he was here first, and we appeared here after him."
»
— Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1)
   The Buddha clearly states that the causes for the beings to arise in the world were not the mere wish of the first being who arose… and warns us against the naïve appropriation of narratives.

   Whether it's by Tim Minchin (gplus.wallez.name/VQUsw7ZiJLc), cartoonists, the Buddha or scientists, we are repeatedly warned against the fallacy that "the occurrence of a phenomenon after we wished for it suggests the wish was a cause."

   Spurious correlation (and most notably "one-off"s, aka "statistics with 1 data point") doesn't even indicate actual correlation (which wouldn't necessarily indicate causation anyway! Unless we have other supporting manipulations or assumptions, gplus.wallez.name/jRwNgkYr1Rw).


#causality  
h/t +Allyson Whipple highlighting the feminist angle of the cartoon, as women are often told to smile (for what? just because they're expected to?).
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Arla Corbin's profile photoit oher's profile photonidia jimenez's profile photoEric Gallagher's profile photo
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now, now....? Be good. xoxo Sylvia
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Secrecy through obscurity

   dharma.house will offer many secret teachings. It's not that the teachings are weird and special, really; it's just that few people will ever find the house!

#dharmahouse  
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giggle its like an easter egg hunt. ^_^ super creative. 
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Anniversary and review
(a more 'personal' post)

   On November 3rd, 2011 was my first post on g+ and it related to Buddhism (gplus.wallez.name/VfTHLyUG6t5). At first I was quite hesitant about sharing the Dharma and my first posts were short and rare, but it quickly became clear that there was some appetite: several people were regularly asking questions, reacting, or even contrasting with other traditions (notably Christianity). Having had an 'interest' (to say the least) in Buddhism for 25 years, I was enthusiastic about sharing what I saw as a valuable tradition, on a platform that didn't flood and surround the 'stream' with adverts. I multiplied my posts, started developing arguments in more detail, introduced more specific references.
   It seemed to me there were a lot of teachings freely accessible for beginners online, but not so many for intermediate or advanced practitioners (there are teachings available, but membership usually is required). I also could offer the benefit of being a lot more available and easily contactable to respond to questions than most senior teachers! There was a thirst for information to respond to, a niche of free intermediate teachings to fill.
   End of February 2012, I resigned from the corporate world to dedicate my time to wholeheartedly broaden my knowledge of Buddhism to schools I had not come across yet (I had committed to two curricula in parallel, in France and in Thailand, a few months earlier), but also to share what I already knew and what I would now learn. This was wild enough for my brother to wonder if I had lost my mind, and for my previous colleagues to deny that I resigned with no other job in the waiting: surely I was just being secretive about my next job ;-)
   As g+ matured, 'communities' were introduced in December 2012. Quite predictably, a lot of "land grabbing" occurred within the first few days! Taking the buddhist teachings on 'craving' and 'clinging' to heart, rather than launch my 'own' community, I decided instead to work behind the scene to try and minimise the fragmentation of the sangha on g+. As I had long been in contact or discussion with many new 'community owners', I could discreetly help make the various communities complement, rather than compete with, each other. I suspect I was credible in discussions primarily because I did not 'own' a community myself: little self-interest could be projected. Most notably, one community thus became "Buddhism Q&A" and stopped competing with "Buddhism and Meditation": the communities became complementary, for the benefit of all. This constructive, no-grabbing attitude was noticed though, and I ended up inheriting the leadership of "Buddhism and Meditation", the largest g+ community around Buddhism, in June 2013 (gplus.wallez.name/fkPL7FD3iAF). Later "Buddhism Q&A" was brutally destroyed, but I recreated it (gplus.wallez.name/K9GcVg8mcPu), convinced that complementarity doesn't imply a monolithic approach: merging isn't required, working in good intelligence is.
   As g+ grew, the number of relatively inquisitive followers reached 2,000 in February 2013 (plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/Jwhgde7Xowo) then 3,000 by July 2013 (plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/V3fa8egJtYw). By then, replying to questions (publicly or not), moderating  several communities and  preparing frequent, long, well-documented posts together took my whole day, most days… The activity had gone from simple hobby to hugely demanding.
   Someone at google noticed that I was using the platform the way google hoped (regular posts but no flooding; long posts on g+ directly, rather than links to somewhere else; engagement in comments; happy to promote other people…) and I was included in the infamous and controversial Suggested User List (or SUL), leading to the explosion of the number of followers, but also to a form of dilution: suddenly only a fraction of my followers were actually  interested in what I wrote, others might just like the pictures or might simply have been forced to create an account for youtube (more or less automatically following a few suggested accounts, but never really checking in here).

   The demand for teachings was strong and persistent, nearly constant; while only a fraction of the new followers were actually interested in Buddhism, this still ended up in a growing number of questions and messages to reply to. From waking up to going back to bed, I was online all day (according to Circlecount, the only hour slot I never posted during is around 4am local time, though it’s probable there exist comments…).
   Some might think, based on writing just a few short comments each day on what interests them personally,  that it's possible to respond to such a demand as a hobby, but this is blindness to the time it takes to do so at the scale of a whole sangha.  Getting beyond the self and its self-interests required not  focusing on the posts and comments I  was interested in, but working around the interests and questions of others!  The magnitude of energy and time required to answer the interests of others, compared to merely browsing and following one's own interests, is multiplied by how many 'others' are served.
   There certainly was much work to do; so it was time to involve the Sangha in perpetuating the transmission of the Dharma and to see if the targeted "intermediate or advanced practitioners" were ready to actually  combine resources towards "the benefit of all sentient beings". 
   So, in a mix of anxiety and exhilaration, on August 20th, 2013 (two years ago exactly), in accordance with the long established buddhist tradition, I begged in order to maintain my production to the highest standards I could aim for. But I begged online… plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/6AYF3WQe7qL

   Fast forward two years.

   It seems safe to assume at least  4,000 people (out of 367,000) are interested in what I write (plus.google.com/+DenisWallez/posts/FLjkRUccnFB).
   Some people who I had nominated to google for the SUL also saw their number of followers explode, with similarly mixed consequences. Other ways to support other teachers, like sharing some of their posts and videos, might have helped them gather a wider audience but didn't necessarily create enough 'value' for them to remain active on g+. The majority of 'hobbyist' teachers are virtually inactive now.
   "Buddhism and Meditation" has grown from 34,000 to 54,000 members, with a strong focus on information-rich content (feel-good images are deleted) and a clear rejection of any "my school is the sole ‘true' school"  narrative. By now, B&M is by far the community of choice about Buddhism on g+. Attention was explicitly given to gender equality in the moderation team when I took the leadership (and for a while the team was quite balanced, but more needs to be done right now —due to the complete disappearance of two female moderators, from g+, not just from B&M).
   The morphology of g+ as a whole community has evolved, really. Social media as a whole  has evolved! Many early adopters have left (either to other pastures like Tsu or ello, or to their 'own' websites, or even back to Facebook and linkedin); some have lost interest; some realised they spent too much time here and went cold turkey; some grew tired of g+ issues (many under the heading "war on words", others under privacy issues — e.g. comments arbitrarily copied to youtube, without any more permission from the users than e.g. Facebook would have had). The level of "conversation" has noticeably decreased. Although still better for conversations than any other social media platform, g+ is gradually becoming more TV-like, a passive stream to watch, engagements being limited to short comments, plusses and shares but very few two-ways, long, well-documented conversations.

   Contrarily to the expectations of the nay-sayers when I started begging, I didn't disappear and my number of followers didn't go down (but the SUL phenomenon might have hidden some losses). I didn't turn monetary contributions ‘compulsory’ either: I still respond to everyone without pre-condition, and I strived to maintain quality and  quantity.
   By now, I've written more than 900 public posts on g+ (approx. 550 in the last 2 years) as well as answered hundreds of questions (on the posts of others and in private messages). The number of followers explicitly requesting  notification when I post original content has grown to 290, roughly the number of households usually needed to support a local community temple and keep it running!
   It may sound like it's a great success of sorts, and I guess my begging was one of the most successful crowd-fundings that occurred on g+ (even though g+, at the end of the day, is definitely not geared toward, or supporting, crowd-funding).


Time to review?

   But, in spite of a healthy rise in number of followers explicitly asking for notification when I post original content, up to 290, the number of monthly financial supporters has recently fallen to as low as 12.
   By comparison, 'headspace' doesn't seem to struggle to find many  to commit to £4.15 per month for one year… Fashionable  content matters, I guess surfing the wave of “mindulness” was smart for them, or is it the very idea of exclusive content  that attracts? "Secret teachings", etc. (gplus.wallez.name/Z2FG9RK1F3G)? £4 was the minimum monthly donation proposed on koan.mu, and subscription could be stopped at any time (no minimum of 12 months).
   Even with one-off irregular contributions added, there has been a strong disconnect between valuing/requesting  content and supporting  content creation [cf. graph attached]. Overall, I guess that the audience still mostly counts on hypothetical 'others'  (sponsors? adverts?) to magically fund teachings for them.

   So after three and half years of teaching and two years of begging (24 monthly calls for donation, either directly or with the monthly "table of contents" post), I'm now reviewing my teachings. As recently explained, perseverance is not stubbornness (gplus.wallez.name/En4QdbdLZoo).
   Moreover, buddhist 'wanderers' looked for food, and the Dharma  was indeed 'freely' given but… it was given where food was available… or the wanderers simply kept walking to a more supportive context!  If someone wanted to hear the Dharma,  one could either  join the Samgha  in its wandering… or  invite senior practitioners for lunch (gplus.wallez.name/aZTfGWJQDWu)! This is to say, effort (commensurate to one’s means) was needed, and it is unclear —to say the least— that supporting minimal engagement or passivity about the Dharma, as I’ve unconsciously done, is wholesome!

   As I'm reviewing how I work, I recently suspended the 12 regular donations left (this seemed more ‘honest' than assuming  that people who supported one format 'should' a priori  support any evolution). When the most dedicated supporter subsequently asked me « how are you living? Hope you are not starving! », it struck me (again) that most people have a very erroneous view of how much I ever raised: I never could 'live’ on donations alone!
   I regularly explain that one should lead by example; well, most online teachings were offered by myself to the online community (thanks to engaging in very mindful management of resources other than the donations).
   When 30,000 people followed me, someone mentioned that if all followers gave only $1 just once, many months of content and support would be funded, but it's not as if she was heard. Some probably thought that, with so many followers, donations had been rolling in… but the number of donators (regulars and  one-offs combined) never exceeded 22 on a given month, and the average amount stayed well below (60% below…) the "poverty threshold" (or "poverty line") where I lived [cf. graph attached].
   Of course, though, I escaped neither accusations of greed, nor jokes about driving a luxury car from the supposed donations from "so many” (though I didn't actually have a car), nor lectures about living in London when I 'should' relocate to cheaper locations… Some claimed they were generally happy to "give back", but apparently 900 posts wasn't enough to consider doing so just yet… Some suggested I just shouldn't beg, as my reward would supposedly be in the next life!

   As I'm reviewing, there's therefore clearly one theme I didn't transmit well (or at all): the importance for practitioners of taking personal responsibility in supporting wholesome phenomena, of active participation in the perpetuation of the sangha… and of cultivating generosity.
   Counting on 'others’ (sponsors? adverts? other teachers?) isn't the practice; +111 on the donation page of koan.mu isn’t the practice.
   I have written several posts about this in the past, but I suppose it was easy to discard them as "self-serving". Even now that I’ve suspended the possibility of donations on koan.mu, it'll remain easy to throw accusations, to project ill intentions, to fabricate conspiracies… Nonetheless, if there was a common theme in the recent posts, it was to try and amend a failure in transmitting the importance for each serious practitioner of taking responsibility, of active participation and of cultivating generosity (gplus.wallez.name/9zkePNUCSZ5, gplus.wallez.name/36nVX4ygsWN, gplus.wallez.name/4pauGPXRG1c).
   When another teacher recently wrote « sustaining income seems to be a widespread problem for people 'working' in the Dharma in the West », it seemed clear to me that any difficulty is primarily cultural, not an economic one. Most people waste $1 often, without even thinking about it: dana  could act as a gate into mindfulness. And one can easily imagine a scenario in which, if all members of B&M gave $1 per year, the resulting $54,000 per year would certainly allow to fund more content by experienced practitioners and teachers, to support the moderators, to fund some disaster relief and poverty alleviation, etc. Similarly, if a majority  of people asking for notifications when I post original content had elected to give £9 per month (or if all  gave £4/m.), this too would have allowed to fund more content and even some social programs (based on needs arising).

   When there isn't active participation, the 'stream' reverts to passive TV.  « The web was not envisioned as a form of television when it was invented. But, like it or not, it is rapidly resembling TV: linear, passive, programmed and inward-looking » (gplus.wallez.name/GRJ3bDVNr1H).
   I still believe transmission might  happen online, but it requires the 'student' to mull over things, to reflect, to take away pieces of advice and actually, practically  experiment with them, etc. This includes experimenting / embodying the teachings around generosity too! Actually doing  exercises, reading extra 'suggested' material, using the framework in various contexts, are required for a skill to be acquired instead of merely theorised… and there are 'skills' in Buddhism. One could say the eight spokes of the eightfold path primarily are 'skills', neither theories nor truths: the (4th) 'truth' is about the usefulness of such a skill set to cease clinging (and notably to cease clinging to ignorance).
   Like with TV, many find reassurance in 'zapping', and most assume a permanent  availability of teachings from the shimmering multiplicity of teachers. It seems the buddhist lessons around appropriate engagement and participation, individual responsibility, walking the path, and impermanence, might too easily be forgotten.
   Unlike TV though, on social media people basically refuse to pay for a stream of content (even content they like and share): when people are happy to pay (on top of being subjected to manipulative adverts!) to watch TV, but not to support the creation of online content they like and share, the status quo seems due for review.

   The people truly interested in the practice (enough to consider embracing some discomfort when needed) are rare enough that direct guidance (by opposition to broadcasting) seems a focus to consider going forward.
   Whatever I do, those interested will still have the opportunity to come, see and engage with me. My door will be open (including distance-doors like email, skype, hangouts… even questions here on g+).
   If there's any lesson from the music industry, it seems the decline in recorded ­music has been accompanied by an increase in live music… which again argues for direct transmission over broadcasting. Focusing on live  teachings might seem like artificial scarcity… however, ‘liking' snippets of wisdom, Zen quotes and nice images reassure people that they're 'spiritual' even when they're not; it's not dissimilar to people who think they fight global warming or worldwide hunger by 'signing' (clicking) petitions online. One could argue that clicks are better than nothing, sure, but they're so low in engagement that they don't actually qualify as "right action" let alone as "right effort", "right concentration", or "right livelihood"… Even "right intention" is debatable since it seems tainted by parallel intentions not to commit, not to see things through, not to follow up, a parallel intention to in fact preserve one's personal status quo, even one's personal comfort.

   Wisdom requires maximising the benefits created for all in relation to the resources available. There's no Wisdom in 'generously' wasting resources. Two years after setting out to maintain intermediate and advanced teachings available for free, I’m now reviewing how to wisely use the resources at my disposal: maybe there’s a better way!
   In the near future, my energy is directed toward opening a #dharmahouse ,  a face-to-face setup hopefully better suited for an active participation by those attending than the passive, TV-like, social media 'streams'.
   My online presence may also evolve towards more Q&A and less 'broadcasting' (a rebalancing, not a disappearance… Black and white caricatures aren't helpful).

   Happy anniversary!

#Buddhism   #fundraising  
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+Denis Wallez I have to admit that I hadn't looked at these prices... :-o
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Why might Generosity be the first  Perfected Quality?

   Like other wholesome qualities, generosity, or dāna,  may only become a pāramī / pāramitā  (Perfected Quality) when associated with Wisdom, or paññā.
   There's for example little 'perfection' (or constructive / wholesome appropriateness) in giving beyond one's means, falling into debt, being unable to repay, and creating stress and conflicts out of this causal chain.


   Most people can  give a small percentage of their resources. Most routinely do so, in fact, for the benefit of their "loved ones" or family… and they could do so for extended family, community or even a philanthropic cause, without noticeably changing their lifestyle!
   The ordinary experience though is that, the further 'away' from the self the beneficiary seems, the harder it seems to muster the small contribution…  but this clearly is based on mental fabrications (arbitrary distinctions and appropriations — mine vs. not mine): regardless of whoever benefits from it, the 'sacrifice' or 'restraint' is the same, isn't it? Unless it's not a generous act at all, but merely a manipulative scheme toward a future reward (e.g. via a 'moral debt' or a 'guilt' tripping)!

   While Wisdom naturally seems included in the eightfold path (as the paññā  subgroup: right view, right intention), many practitioners struggle to see where Generosity stands. As a result, they don't particularly make its cultivation a priority.
   Being confused doesn't imply though that Generosity is a 'lesser' Perfected Quality when compared to Wisdom. It is noticeable that Generosity is consistently  listed as the first Perfected Quality, be it among the 10 Theravāda pāramī  (Wisdom is 4th), the 6 Mahāyāna pāramitā  (Wisdom is 6th) or the 10 Mahāyāna bhūmi  (Wisdom is 6th).

   In relation to the eightfold path, Generosity could of course be a 'positive' counterpart of the "do not take what is not given / do not steal"  declination of "right action."
   It could also be the 'positive' counterpart of the "do not harm"  perspective on the whole sīla  subgroup (right speech, right action, right livelihood).
   But one could argue that Generosity is the first pāramī / pāramitā  because of its relation to "right mindfulness" (itself the main key to insight, and thus to Liberation).

   As we've seen, giving is an opportunity to be mindful of one's mental fabrications and appropriations as well as of one's intentions. Such application of mindfulness certainly helps cultivating "right view" and "right intention", but repeated application of mindfulness is itself a cultivation of "right mindfulness". It's like going to the gym to strengthen a muscle and to embody constructive habits.
   By supporting the cultivation of mindfulness, generosity constitutes a Dharma gate.


   Most people (notably in rich countries, but elsewhere too) waste several percents of their consumption (food, electricity, car petrol, etc.) by not  being mindful (e.g. of twisted priorities). If one takes 'consumption' in a larger sense, most people waste time too.
   Part of the value in cultivating dāna  is from the mindfulness it supports, a mindfulness transforming waste into wholesome resources: by paying closer attention to what one does and to how one allocates available resources, the minimisation of waste not only helps the environment (for the benefit of all sentient beings) but it also frees resources at no cost other than attention  (resources which can then be given, rather than hoarded).
   By relying on mindfulness, wise generosity based on the minimisation of waste therefore constitutes a Dharma gate.

   [Sometimes giving the attention (and some time) directly to someone suffering from loneliness is all it takes!]


   Being mindful about how the resources made available will be used (i.e. "mindful giving") constitutes another Dharma gate.
   Ideally, the energy is spent in evidence-backed, cost-effective ways capable of effectively  using more resources (be it funding, time or skills…). Sometimes, it may make sense however to take advantage of one's specific knowledge of a rarer opportunity, to "fund what others won't" (note: specific 'knowledge', not mere 'preference').
   By asking the giver to enquire into its biases, preferences and prejudices (e.g. when reviewing the evidence) and by asking the giver not to limit oneself to what is 'habitual' or the social norm (e.g. when reviewing opportunities others might not fund), "mindful giving" supports mindfulness, which supports insight, so it constitutes a Dharma gate.


   It was said the true Dharma is « good in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. »
   Then, is it really a surprise that the cultivation of Generosity —which supports mindfulness in the beginning (enquiring into one's mental fabrications and intentions), in the middle (freeing resources) and in the end (deciding on the allocation)— might indeed deserve the first mention among Perfected Qualities?


#Buddhism   #Dharma  
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+Denis Wallez Hi Denis, of course the actual giving has to be commensurate with the symbolic giving. You have to share with your family, you can't just give in a token way, i.e. as a symbol only. I think your underlying point is correct, and important and timely; we need to seriously look at the distribution of wealth. It's becoming a pressing issue in the global market, and we could well be a tipping point. I was just trying to draw the connection between giving and family in clear way. 
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   Re 3. on B&M "reject[ing] posts that only come with quotes and Image", it's never been the case if the quote is "substantial and meaningful" (that's how the rule phrases it). The community rule aims to reject one-liner quotes (usually embedded in the image, and sometimes repeated in the post without any extra information or explanation). Long quotes from sutras are of course accepted, they're the foundation of our traditions… and they may obviously be 'illustrated' (just like any other post).
   You might note that I added a long quote related to the image before reposting to B&M (usually I would just repost without any modification…), so I took the community rule into consideration.

———

   Mantras if used 'mechanically'  are indeed a hindrance, and a delusion of merit making. But that's not  how they're meant to be used!
   They're best used as 'anchor' in the here and now. Your mind naturally drifts (thoughts arise conditioned by stimuli) but, by the mantra recitation, you're brought back (anchored back) to the present: what syllable am I to say now?  It's a way to bring back the mind, similar to using breathing or sounds as 'anchor'.
   Anything that may be 'automatic' (breathing, hearing, repeating) but may also be 'wilfully controlled' (by attention) is a useful cultivation of the Middle Way: "being present" (attention) but without a need to 'control' (thanks to the automatism, you can avoid the extremes of tension, you can 'relax' into the practice: even if your mind drifts, you won't stop breathing, it's okay… come back to the breathing, sure! but there's no need for anxiety).
   The Buddha said one's awareness should be neither too loose nor too tense (neither in automatic nor over-controlling).
   Mantra recitation is the same. Living a moral life based on precepts is the same (gplus.wallez.name/j3NCnYkQVPW): neither in automatic (blind to exceptions and to appropriateness to context) nor over-controlling (righteous and disappointed if things don't work out…).
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Denis Wallez

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4'28''
better logic than in most social media conversations / comment threads

#causality  
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Intention to treat

   When you prescribe some medication to a patient, (s)he doesn't automatically comply.
   For example, due to adverse side-effects, a patient might reduce the prescribed dosage. For example, due to impatience, a patient seeing no effect might simply drop the treatment altogether. Others might sometimes forget to take the medication: among them, some might simply continue the next day as if nothing happened (maybe they didn't even realise that they forgot), others might try to 'compensate' by doubling the dose the next day. Et caetera.
   So to assess if the medication is effective, you might be in trouble. You can hardly estimate whether taking the medication helps with healing if you don't know for sure whether the medication was taken or not as prescribed!

   A possibility is to move back up the causal chain: estimate whether prescribing  the medication seems to support healing. Rely on the "intention to treat", rather than the absorption of the treatment.
   You might need to assume that a reasonable proportion of patients do  comply with the prescription, but that's not necessarily too difficult an assumption to make if there are good reasons to suspect the patients would be happy to heal.
   There's noise in the data, sure, but at least you can now be reliable in measuring the end points (the prescription and the healing) a lot more easily than checking on all patients, every day,  to see whether they did  comply on that day or not (assuming they don't lie to you…).
   Would the increase in reliability more than compensate the 'noise' taken in?

   One difficulty is that, now that you don't measure compliance, all  the patients that heal after prescription will count as positive evidence that the prescription works.
   So what if the prescription is actually causing horrible side-effects and those who survive are those "smart enough" to stop  taking it in time? You're now counting as "positive evidence that the prescription works" the very people who didn't comply, the very people who prove that the medication doesn't work! You're now counting "spontaneous healing in spite of  the medication" as evidence in favour of the medication!

   The only way to go is to add assumptions and/or measures.
   For example, even if "reported compliance" might include lies, it might be still reasonably correlated to actual compliance… giving you some useful information, if not 100% reliable. Can you estimate this correlation?
   For example, you might need to assume that the effects on one patient don't affect the effects on another patient. Placebo and nocebo effects are real! If a patient 'sees' another patient improve, (s)he might get convinced that the medication is effective and strengthen the placebo effect [even if the improvement of the other had nothing to do with the medication!]. Vice-versa, seeing others not  improve might convince a patient that the medication is ineffective, leading to e.g. lower compliance… even though the observer is the one patient who would benefit the most from following the prescription to the letter.

   Assessing causality is trickier than it seems. Correlation is not causation, but sometimes it nonetheless indicates causation if some other assumptions stand! "Correlation is not causation" is not always true, because it's context-independent and some contexts are in fact favourable to causal identification.

#causality  
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"Selflessness" (無我) by Ponte Ryuurui: Japanese calligraphy in a mixture of semi-cursive and clerical script elements

(www.emillionsart.com/buy-art/519/selflessness-by-ponte-ryuurui.html)
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Not giving  is harming
— "do not harm", not even by negligence

   A particular theme in Japanese folklore is around objects we have wasted coming back to haunt us: objects ignorantly discarded may turn into ghosts [Non-japanese might simply replace 'ghost' by 'lingering guilt']… We have an ethical obligation —not just to people, but to things themselves— to avoid waste: all phenomena have buddha-nature.

   One way not  to waste is to repair  things, rather than embracing the "just throw away and get a new one" diktat from programmed obsolescence, thus leading to the Japanese tradition of mended ceramics (kintsugi  金継ぎ or kintsukuroi  金繕い).

   Another way obviously is to give,  to whoever could make good use of the given.


   As noted recently (gplus.wallez.name/9zkePNUCSZ5 and thread), the appreciation of any (residual) potential in things, of any energy which might be harvested by the gift of mindfulness rather than wasted by the ineptitude of absentmindedness, is wholesome.

   Few meditators would consider "mindfulness" to be an easy skill to cultivate though: as experienced "on the cushion", the ordinary mind has strong tendencies to drift toward obsessions and narratives (of past and future), "being present" takes "chipping away" skills. But this is no reason to take for granted that we'll forever remain selfish and biased by ordinary blind spots: on the contrary, it's a reason to persevere in our efforts to carve ignorance out.

   Like any training, perseverance in cultivation is what makes things easier, what makes subtler the sensibility to errors, what makes more profound the understanding of how to respond constructively to any difficulty that arises, and ultimately what allows one to reach one's full potential!

   Generosity is a Perfected  Quality, it takes patience and effort. And, by contrast with the mere impostor, a practitioner has to walk the talk, has to be generous and give (in practical terms)… as part of the learning, as part of the very idea of 'practice'! "It takes patience and effort," it also takes doing  or embodying.


   Any view pretending that karma is intention and therefore amending one's intentions is enough (without embodiment) might be dangerously misleading: an intention is 'karma' only if  it has causal  efficacy!

   Of course, an intention doesn't always  have consequences: not all  specific contexts will be supportive for its actualisation. But given (time and) a multiplicity of contexts, an enduring intention will  meet some  circumstances in which it makes a difference in the unfolding of phenomena! Or it's not an intention: it's just a delusional view, a story or narrative which distorts reality.

   However, given the various needs we're all surrounded by, not giving  is harming… It's not 'just'  a question of specific context which isn't supportive of a manifestation of a wholesome intention!
   Not only not giving  is harming others by negligence or selfishness, but also it is harming ourselves (in various ways: from guilt to missing opportunities for peace, from cultivating bad habits to setting up an example that could harm us when our circumstances will evolve) and overall harming the world we belong to (to which we provide a poor example, which might be appropriated as socially acceptable once enough similar precedents occurred, pushing all toward the "law of the jungle", more characteristic of the animal realm than of the human realm!).


   Regularly, some people take the perspective that not doing  incurs no blame, but in fact negligence and laziness are unwholesome (a case of 'ignorance' of the consequences).

   In a buddhist context, this erroneous "no blame" belief often stems from an erroneous view of karma: if people face difficulties, they 'must' deserve so, it's "their" karma…
   But even if one considers such a view to be partly true, it is grossly incomplete  (due to a self-serving narrative biasing the view!): if people deserve the difficulties they face, they also  deserve any help that might arise on the way: « it's their difficulty, but it's my help » would be strikingly dualistic and based of the erroneous belief of independent existences. Instead, "right view" is "complete view" (gplus.wallez.name/i74AzY5wEQL).

   If you adhere to a rather 'deterministic' interpretation of karma, then it might be 'their' karma when they experience their difficulties, but it also is 'your'  karma when you meet people you might help! Meeting such people in need is an opportunity  you created for yourself to practice and embody Perfected Qualities (including Generosity), to realise inter-dependence, to participate in "saving all beings"… Or maybe it's an opportunity to finally 'fix' an unwholesome causal chain you were involved in!!!
   You're facing an opportunity, you're facing a choice: what tendency do you want to embody today? (gplus.wallez.name/iGM4mDqrPNC)
   Whatever the causes for this opportunity to arise are, wasting the opportunity would be wasting any good deeds you previously performed to create this opportunity, and this would mean falling back into ignorance after building stairs to progress! How wise would this be?

   Withholding the help we might provide is not  "merely letting the karma of others unfold", it is not  "refraining from interfering" (pretending we are "not yet" involved even though we're inter-dependent enough to know of the need!).
   Withholding the help we might provide is  actively creating bad karma for ourselves, by voluntarily letting the situations of others worsen (others who could have counted on us if only we had been wiser, less clinging to "me vs. them", more awakened, less selfish…).


   Buddhas are selfless: they don't play games of "my karma vs. their karma".  They equanimously help all  sentient beings… not by craving and seeking to be 'saviours', not by righteousness, but by appropriately  responding to the situation at hand: when help is needed, the help which may wisely  be provided is  provided.

   There's a Christian pedagogical joke, based on the same Wisdom, which goes thus: « Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it… but I’m afraid He would ask me the same question. »


#Buddhism   #Dharma  
Photo: example of kintsugi  金継ぎ. For the practitioner prone to feeling low due to self-criticism of one's practice, it may be noted that mending doesn't apply only to objects: misunderstandings and erroneous views may be mended, broken or forgotten intentions may be mended… and not only they might turn wholesome and functional, but also they might somehow convey a new sense of beauty.
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Profound wisdom indeed.  And I have been absent from G+ for quite a while.  I have missed DW wisdom!  'Bless the cup that is about to overflow ...'
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Light-hearted 4'44''… at times in the "too true" category though ;-)
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"Being spiritual" = "Life giving" ?
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   One may appropriate some experiences as "failures"… or see them as "learning what simply doesn't belong here."
   It is known that science is wasting a lot of negative results by not reporting them. This is "waste" because others might try again something that doesn't work (thus wasting time and other resources), simply because the knowledge has not been shared.
   When you reframe a "failure" as a "learning", you save yourself from wasting a past investment. You also can look forward other attempts, with significantly less anguish vis-à-vis "failures": less anguish, more exploratory fun!

   Of course, after enough carving away, you might realise that there never was a solid self to be found: only the qualities you decide to embody now, the selfless "True Self" (gplus.wallez.name/3pnjLP3xrTN).
 
This weekend, I am celebrating my sixth wedding anniversary. Less than a decade ago, I'd almost given up on the idea of being in a loving, intimate relationship. I'd already had twenty years of 'failed' relationships behind me and was simply fed up with the whole dating game. In this day and age, it had to be okay to be on my own, I thought. And it was actually when I let go and released the pressure valve of expectation (both for myself and the ideal man I had to meet), that I invited Denis into my life.

I've been reflecting this month on how we approach problems and challenges as a society. In my management development career, I came across many theoretical models of the 'how to' variety; how to be an inspiring leader, an effective manager, an inclusive team player, and so on. Motivation is big business, and it pushes us to take control of every aspect of our lives: People with goals succeed because they know where they're going! Grab opportunity with both hands! Success doesn't come and find you, you have to go out and get it! Victory belongs to the most persevering! Be committed, persistent, and disciplined and you can achieve anything! 

Increasingly however, I'm realising that 'control' is an illusion. Because, thankfully, we do not live in an isolated bubble of individualism (though some sections of society would like to) where striving for an heroic 'ideal' of who we want to be, or should be, always leads to success. It does not. Control can become a bad habit, as can any of the laudable quotes cited above. When we move towards over-controlling, somehow the universe has a way of redressing the balance and bringing us 'back down to earth'.

Solving any problem or challenge, we are never in isolation, including in our aspirations to develop and grow as individuals. I recall how grounded I felt when I first got married. With Denis's support, I felt courageous enough to take on any challenge my future held. Six years on, the ground is shaking and I am as unclear about who I am now, as I was when I was a nervous teenager. The delusion was in assuming that being married gave me a sense of 'control' over my life that I never had before, or that my husband would provide a constant and solid environment for me to grow. Yet how could I imagine that I would keep growing as a person, while expecting Denis to remain as he was when we met? The real adventure of marriage is to accept that we are both changing continually, and learning to release my grip from the delusion of what seems 'solid' creates the ground for both of us to evolve and have fun together.

If you have any comments about my newsletters and blogs, I would love to hear from you.

Have a wonderful August and stay in touch.

The attached blog is titled Carving Away the Parts That Are Not Me

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+Fariyal Wallez 
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When I doubt my "decision" to leave academia after completing my PhD, I just consider what academia has become over the last 3 decades. I too would have been frustrated that a "failed experiment" or "null result" was not considered publishable and I was discussing this with a young academic only a few weeks ago. Each such "failure" chips away what is not "truth". I guess I would be frustrated because when arriving at a solution I do sometimes need to start big and chip away what is not part of the solution, and my life is a process of chipping away what I learn not to be of value to me. A long time ago (after completing my PhD) I chipped away ambition, power, status, material wealth, orthodoxy.  I am currently working on chipping away the need for a partner, and I hope before I die to have chipped away the need for money in the bank.
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Education
  • International Buddhist College
    M.A. in Buddhist Studies, 2012 - 2015
    Theravāda Buddhism, History of Indian Buddhism, Mahāyāna Buddhism, Buddhism and Society, Lamrim Chenmo, Buddhism In Japan, Theravāda Abhidhamma, Chinese Buddhist Thought, Bodhisattva Ideal, Buddhist Psychotherapy, Survey of the Doctrines of the Abhidharma Schools — independent research on "Japanese Buddhism in the Tale of Genji"
  • Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments
    Certificates in Securities & in Derivatives + annual CPD certificates, 2007 - 2012
    FSA-approved Financial Advisor + individual charter (2009–2012)
  • French Air Force
    Certificat d'Aptitude Militaire, 2000
    Sergent (R)
  • École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne
    M.Sc. in Telecommunications (ingénieur), 1993 - 1996
    Computer science (major in «Parallel and Distributed Computing»), maths, physics, economics, foreign languages (fluent: English, Spanish) — options (Japanese & art history).
  • Lycée du Parc, Lyon
    Math'Sup' & Math'spé' M, 1991 - 1993
    major in mathematics; minor in physics — ∫ x.dx = 3/2
  • Lycée Lumière, Lyon
    Baccalauréat C, 1991
    majors in mathematics & physics; minor in biology
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«Intentions do matter.»
Introduction
For the time being, my g+ posts are voluntarily limited to Buddhism (as an Eastern mix of philosophy and psychology, not so much as a religion). However, in relation to Buddhism, nothing is considered off-limits!
My primary take on Buddhism is «Might as well be happy, since we're here!» The secondary take addresses how we can cease dissatisfaction in practical terms (considering that mundane life is not an obstacle to the dharma).

Given my other interests and experiences, I might however comment —sometimes at length— on others' posts regarding investment banking, economics, economic policies, politics; computer science, networks; philosophy, psychology;  typography, photography, sculpture; aikido, iaido; music; argentinian tango dancing…


Some popular original posts included:

The most commented-upon post is: Vegetarianism and lay buddhists
The second most commented-upon post is: Porn

The popular «meditation» series is now accessible via koan.mu/meditation.htm

The «karmic continuation» series is: 1. Capitalism, 2. Dualistic views, 3. "The end justifies the means", 4. Arms race, 5. News (Newtown, MA)

The «Christianity and Zen Buddhism» series: part 1 with annexpart 2part 3, …


I am not a big fan of clinging, and so I quite naturally reject "clinging to traditional translations because they're classical." This includes the usual translation of the four noble truths (classic presentation): cf. the four tasks of the noble one, cf. life is pleasurable and ordinary minds can't get enough of it, cf. "on clinging to a particular translation of the 'four noble truths'."


My energy currently is directed toward opening a dharma house, a face-to-face setup hopefully better suited for an active participation by those attending than the passive, TV-like, social media 'streams'. My online presence might accordingly evolve towards more Q&A and less 'broadcasting'.
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Buddhist teacher
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Listening & responding with compassion, loving-kindness, sympathetic joy and equanimity… Cutting through veils of ignorance (notably ignorance of logic and of causality)
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  • koan.mu
    teacher, 2012 - present
    Many different labels (teacher, ajahn, 師傅, गुरु, 先生, sir…), only one function: transmission of knowledge and tools, to support further enquiry! Learning never stops.
  • various banks
    investment banker, 1996 - 2012
    Quant'; Head of "R&D"; Head of "model risk"; Trader; Product development lead… but also mentor, coach, trainer, teacher, volunteer, first aider…
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Rhône-Alpes
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Amiens - Lyon - Plouzané (France) - Budapest (Hungary) - Paris (France) - Bruxelles (Belgium) - London (United Kingdom) - Chennai (India)
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