Enlightenment is Switching on the Light


For me and many other perpetual dieters I’ve spoken to, a trick that seems to work is as simple as first giving up sugar. It’s tough for up to a week, but then you magically don’t care anymore and the rest of the diet seems to fall into place. That is, until the Holiday season rolls around again or you’re traveling and a hotel muffin then another makes a convenient fast meal.

Physical addictions like drugs and food are easier to deal with because it is possible to just lock us up in a room at a rehab center with no access to the stuff. But we can’t isolate ourselves from mental addictions, the source of Dukkha, such as fears, jealousy, anger, and even our very basic beliefs about the fragmented “symbolic world” we’re indoctrinated with from birth.

It’s critical to remember before you all become enlightened on the upcoming Lunar Bodhi Day (Christmas Day 2017) that enlightenment is just switching on the light – no different than the sun illuminating the world so you no longer just feel your way around in the dark in a highly serial, fragmented manner.

But you probably will be the only one in the room noticing the light is on and you will need to continue life like everyone else for which the light is still off. The newly enlightened must have faith and patience, that by bravely continuing to ignore the delusions of the mind, the enlightened state will become your new nature. Like with sugar, you just won’t care about it any more. Your job is now to help others see with the light on – just like putting on your air mask before you can help others with theirs.

Siddhartha Gautama himself continued to be tormented by worldly desires after his Bodhi Day. Enlightenment is being at the top of the little hill of our Earthly lives, seeing the much higher hill across the valley, and realizing we can only get to that higher hill by first climbing down the one we’re on, then starting the arduous journey up to that higher peak. For the Enlightened, the journey to that peak is the focus on just the Now, what Is, submitting freely into whatever is your daily life. We start at a big base of past, present, and future at the bottom and climb focused to the singularity of the peak – the single Now. That is the Refuge of the newly Enlightened.

Enlightenment is not a perpetual meth high.

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku
Ordained Zen Priest of the Order of the Common Area Ponds

The Beginner’s Mind – Listen

These natural sand sculptures on the Oregon Coast listened carefully to the wind.

There are three modes for using our brain:

1. Learning – The ability to assimilate knowledge and obtain skills.
2. Thinking – The ability to use learned knowledge to design strategies or optimize a skill.
3. Doing – Executing a strategy or skill.

All of us excel at those three brain modes to different degrees. I tend to think I’m best at (or at least favor) thinking, then doing, and least at learning. I don’t think I’m bad at any of those three modes, but perhaps unbalanced, tending to favor thinking. And balance of the three is the key. Imagine someone good at only one:

1. Only Learning – The perpetual academic who never comes up with profound original work. Knows a lot of facts, but can’t put it to good use.
2. Only thinking – The over analyzer with original thought but doesn’t leverage the knowledge of others through learning, and therefore always misses the wave. Very often too much thinking makes you talk yourself out of doing something.
3. Only doing – The video game player or factory worker who is eventually replaced by a robot. Or the software developer who leans to doing and doesn’t think through better, newer ways, doing things the way it’s always been done, the familiar, comfortable way. Eventually, the doer spends more time protecting the familiar, comfortable way as the world relentlessly changes.

For knowledge workers, that is, anyone who heavily relies on information during the normal course of the day (analysts, executives, detectives, plumbers, doctors, wait staff, etc – that is, just about every hard working person) execute all three modes in many iterations. For example, a doctor learns of the symptoms, thinks of a diagnosis and treatment plan, then executes and monitors the treatment plan.

It’s also important to note that these modes are not mutually exclusive to a given activity. For example, as I study a book on say R, I’m not just learning. I’m also thinking in the background ensuring I do comprehend the gist of what I’m reading, and I may even have an instance of R Studio open to try out what I just learned.

Just my opinion, I think that I’m typical of many adult Westerners, not as good at listening as thinking and doing. Listening is less like thinking and doing in that listening is passive as opposed to thinking and doing which is about imposing our will, our opinions. Thinking is really Doing, but in the safety of the virtual world in your brain, not the irreversible real world.

Improving listening, balancing it with thinking and doing, requires emptying your cup and listening to your customer, boss, neighbor, or spouse, with no judgement, no dogma to protect, no resentments, no fear. Otherwise, encounters are a Dukkha breeding ground. Instead you will be a Dukkha parachute bringing the situation safely to the ground. Until you empty your cup, you cannot fill it with anything new. This is the first step towards enlightenment.

Remember that “no Dukkha” does not equate to passivity. This Universe is not passive and exists because of that “ono kine” stuff that happens where opposing forces meet – Yin and Yang. But like a beautiful dance versus a barroom brawl, conflict doesn’t need to be ugly and full of angst, Dukkha.

Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku
Ordained Zen Priest of the Order of the Common Area Ponds

Koan: How to Prepare for an Unknown Event

Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet
First time I saw the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet. He was left behind on this stack of towels in my room at the Fairfield Inn. I never would have thought that this is how I would meet my teacher.

Mrs. Hanamoku points out that shit is a beautiful thing. Caring for our beloved pets, being around babies, caring for elderly loved ones, it’s a sign of things still working well inside. So we cannot even judge shit negatively.

With the secular Bodhi Day (Dec 8) past, we now await the “real” Bodhi Day, the 8th Day of the 12th Moon (not Month – as is the Secular Bodhi Day), which falls on Christmas this year; the 12th New Moon of 2017 is December 18:


Of course Christmas and the Lunar Bodhi Day coincides regularly, like at least once in every 28 or so years I suppose. But at least for me, there were many other calendar events this year as well as huge changes in my career, interests, and new friends. I’ll just say, in aggregate there are so many of these coincidences that it surpasses statistical significance, biases, wishful thinking, brain-washing … insanity too because “numbers don’t lie” … or maybe not.

I have no idea what it could mean and I know to not have expectations. Perhaps nothing, just another Christmas. But my birthday two days ago wasn’t just another birthday.

What I do know is that the life of a Zen practitioner is to continuously polish your full awareness such that when a “moment of fate” arrives, anywhere between the next instant and never, you are ready. The difference here is that I know the time but not the event.

Here is a koan: How does one prepare for an unknown event?

When the full focus of your attention is on now, 100% awareness of the One becomes 2nd Nature to you, you are in eternal meditation. That is, you are free of Dukkha and One with the Universe. In terms of your daily life, you meet each moment with no expectations and with a “purely sensitive brush stroke”.

The answer to the koan is that all events are unknown. Therefore, we prepare for everything by honing our non-sensitivity to the things conjured up by our brains – to no single thing – the reality of the unfragmented One. We practice supreme non-resistance to our thoughts and beliefs – supreme flexibility equals being One with the Universe.

I can hear my Project Manager friends saying, “Bull Shit! I’ve been part of many projects that have gone as planned!!” Really? Empty your cup and think deeply about it. As the Zen Master, Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the face.” Achieving your goal and achieving it as planned are two different things. We can achieve our goal with tenacity, but in the light of success, we forget the tons of Dukkha, the stress, the anger, the fear. More importantly, we usually don’t fully succeed.

In daily life terms, this means we first stop judging as something fun/tedious, important/unimportant, yummy/yucky, right/wrong. We are 100% accepting of now. Everything is of equal consequence – every single butterfly flap in the past is integral to what we see now. Remove even one of them and this Reality disintegrates. And not in the “Back to the Future” way where Marty McFly’s life is just different. The “past” and the “future” are the One.

By the way, notice that I just mentioned the Past and the Future? Well, there is no Now. So insert your rant here, then I will continue:

“WTF!??!?!? That’s the exact opposite of the shit you’ve been spewing! What about all that shit about there is only now?!?! You said the past are artifacts of our calculating brains and the future are delusions based on that past that no longer exists. So WTF!?”

“Now” is something conjured up by our brains. It is the wave turning into a particle when we look at it. It is the picture of General Sherman, the giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park, stripped of its 4D magnificence to a lame 2D snapshot. “Now” is just a snapshot of the electricity in your brain, what to us is a computation. That works great if you’re not sentient, but when you are sentient, aware of that computation … ugh! You now live under a delusion of permanence in supreme impermanence. The past and future are just another duality of judgement that are products of our computing brains – there is only a One.

For our brains, most things move slowly enough where our brains slowly adjust to the change. But our memories and “knowledge” stay the same, whoops, there is a growing disconnect between our brain and Reality. We have Acute Boiling Frog Syndrome, where we usually forget that change is constant, we never stand in the same river twice. And curing that disease is where you start preparing for an unknown event.

For this special Bodhi Day that falls on Christmas, you can make it a new world, even one where nothing has changed but everything changed. Empty your cup, all of your resentment, regrets, addictions, even hopes, wishes, expectations, and most difficult of all, all of your beliefs. Just throw yourself into 100% acceptance of what Is, from now, and on Christmas/Bodhi Day, touch the Earth to say you see Reality and not the delusions of your brain.

Day 7 – Secular Bodhi Day Eve

Bodhi Day gear.
Bodhi Day gear. From bottom left, clock-wise: Singing bowl, bell hammer, Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, the Three Jewels, Bell, Dorje, singing bowl mallet.

Here we are at Day 7, the last day before Bodhi Day. Notice there isn’t an exclamation mark – that’s because it just Is, no good, no bad. There is just what Is: “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” – Matthew 7:1

Our brains are judging machines. From each neuron firing or not firing, the Boolean duality of webs of neurons emerges as a judging machine spewing out verdicts of yes/no, good/bad, better/worse, bigger/smaller, guilty/not guilty, wrong/right. We are a slave to that judging machine, a judging machine that hardly knows anything.

Before our sentience, as single-celled eukaryotes, we cared only about hot/cold, light/dark, closer/farther. As multi-celled eukaryotes we cared about more complicated things, like recognizing other creatures as food, friend, or foe. As humans, we have sentience, and it is the bite of the apple that drove us out of the Garden of Eden. We now know too much for our own good. We think we’re smart in carving out objects, including ourselves as objects, and build a model of the world in our brains with that we’ve “discovered”. We’re caught in the ugly stage between animal and enlightened designers.

We long for and are haunted by the past, and we fear futures, most of which will never come – this is Dukkha, the angst of our brains that makes us like a wobbly wheel on the car – which is actually the origin of the word. All that the Sakyamuni Buddha promised is to remove the angst, suffering, which is just illusions of our deluded brains – that judging machine making its judgements based on pitifully inadequate models of the world – so that we can comfortably continue on our journey.

Know that above and you are already enlightened – the light switch is on and you can see the once dark room in its entirely – not in the serial, fragmented manner in which you used see it by feeling around in the dark. For you, tomorrow morning, Bodhi Day, will just be a vow to this conviction. You will drop the heavy bag you carry that is the thinking of the brain, look around at the wonder of One, and pick the bag back up to continue on your path unimpeded by Dukkha – the wobbly wheel is fixed.

Me: But Rubber Ducky, the World is full of assholes!!!!
RD: That is their Dukkha, not yours. They have a brain of judgement as you do, a model of the world much the same as yours, but different, based on their unique experiences. Are you offended by the yapping dog assaulting you with barks of threats? They do what they do and know not what they do. We’ve taught each other how to be judging machines, we share the delusion of the fragmented world, so don’t look those others as confirmation of the validity of your pain. Be their Uke (the person in Judo on which someone may practice), and in return, you get to be the tori (the person practicing the throw) sometimes, usually with someone else. Being the uke is a small price to may for getting to be the tori sometimes. You’ll never learn without the uke, and for the enlightened, the uke actually learns more.
Me: I’ve been enlightened before, but I just get dragged back into the shit of the world.
RD: Those old enlightenments were after horrendously stressful times, when there was nothing else to do but say WTF, go to that nice place beyond mad. With that kind of enlightenment, that temporary enlightenment, the judging is still there, all that your brain knows is still there. You have not emptied your cup to refill it with seeing the One, the Now, not the computations of your brain. Those ties in your brain will just drag back in the crap of the world. You are cutting all of those ties! Empty your cup of every drop so it can be filled with living the One.
Me: But I need to pay my bills!!
RD: Then pay your bills. I never told you not to work, never told you life is “peaceful” – I told you how to remove your angst by being in the now. For your human body, the One appears as constant change, for which you constantly polish yourself (Kata) so you may flow along with whatever comes your way (Randori) with no Dukkha. This doesn’t mean you will have Super Powers, no dominion over others – you will be enabled to explore this World without pain. Your attention to your normal work is your kata – it will help you learn to focus your attention to now more than any zazen (sitting meditation). But unlike the river rafter who tries to practice every contingency, you will practice your focus on Now. You just need to turn off that judging machine and have 100% acceptance of what Is – everything that you currently see as bad … and good … will pass … eventually you will see one cannot exist without the other.

Bodhi Day Script

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go. Mara turned out not to be a demon preventing me from leaving “Hell”, the tyranny of Dukkha, but an Angel challenging me, the Yin to the Yang of Rubber Ducky. Tomorrow morning at 5:45am I will leave for my “Bodhi Tree”, recite the Hannya Shingyo three times, 112 repetitions of the Morning Star Mantra (one for each bead on my mala), go into sammadhi for an hour. We then answer Mara’s question, “Do you believe your brain or the One?”. To that we touch our right hand to the Earth and recite Psalm 23, with “The One” in place of “His” – with all due apologies to Christians who may take offense to that – which it should not as The Lord is the one and only One:

1 The One is my Sheppard, I shall not want.
2 The One makes me lie in green pastures, The One leads me beside quiet waters,
3 The One refreshes my soul, The One guides me along the right paths for Its name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 The One prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. The One anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of The One forever.

I’ll close the ceremony by reciting the Heart Sutra in English, and a few minutes of meditation.

I will see you aspiring Buddhas at the “Cut in the Reef” at 6:00am tomorrow morning (December 8, 2017). Please do not talk to anyone until after the recital of Psalm 23. Just show up, get comfortable, sit quietly, no phones, no video or audio recording devices, and wait for Rubber Ducky to ask me to start.

This is the last public message from the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet. His work is almost done. The work of Fishnu, Rubber Ducky’s Sensei was done a few weeks back with Rubber Ducky’s enlightenment, but he stayed around longer to see us, his spiritual grandchildren, to Freedom as well.

Rubber Ducky’s last advice, which goes on even after your enlightenment, paraphrases what Ringo famously said, “What you have is what you have.” – yes, the tired, old, “Count your blessings”. But if you can do that, realize that all there is is what’s right here, right now, you are One with Now, you have 100% acceptance of what is and will live without angst.

Rubber Ducky and Fishnu are moving on to other “assignments”, but I’ve recorded volumes of notes from their teachings, and will transcribe them over time – both in English and in SQL/C#/Python/Cypher … hahaha!

Day 6 – Pitifully Inadequate Model of the Universe


Day 6 of the Secular Bodhi Day. Tomorrow, Day 7 the last day before the enlightenment of many new Buddhas on the morning of December 8, Bodhi Day.

If you understand what Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet has been saying the past few weeks, meaning you understand that your brain is a pitifully inadequate model of the Universe and therefore deluded, you are already enlightened. You already see the path. You are at the gate!!

I used to teach a highly technical class on this very advanced software. There are countless questions one may have on how to do this or that, tips and tricks.

I would tell them to imagine if I wrote one tip/trick on a PostIt note and stuck them to a blown up balloon just full of air. That empty air represents the core of ignorance, the ignorance of the true nature of that software – it’s just a black box. Every time a new problem shows up, we add another PostIt note until the balloon implodes from the weight of the countless tips and tricks.

But what if they were to study those inner workings first and see the Reality of that software? It isn’t just the sum of its parts. They would then not need to stress themselves with countless tips and tricks because they will know the inner workings. That is enlightenment – as far as that software is concerned. It still takes time to learn deeper aspects of those inner workings of Reality, but it becomes a master skill and not a million seemingly disparate facts.

Our brains have fragmented reality into countless facts without seeing the Reality of the One. Reality isn’t you and me, a collection of sub-atomic particles or the past and future. It is a complete One, everything interrelated.

Or at least that’s what this obnoxious rubber duck tells me …

Here is the Heart Sutra letting me know I’m on the right track:

Heart Sutra confirming we're on the right path.

Day 5 – Secular Bodhi Day – Levels of Reality


Today is Day 5 of the Secular Bodhi Period. For all of you aspiring to attain enlightenment on December 8, Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet asked me to ensure your expectations are properly set.

For one, “attain”, and “expectations” are clinging. It’s important to understand that we will not attain enlightenment, but rather shift our perception of reality by stepping outside of the cave of shadow-play of Plato’s Allegory. The housecat who manages to escape outside for the first time, smell the smells, feel the grass, the sun, will never be the same. When we do that, we will never be the same.

From afar, the veins of calcite webbed through the brown mudstone look like vines wrapped around the butte. It defied anything I could think of until I got right up to it and saw the nature of the mudstone and calcite. And now I can never un-see it, it will be hard for me to imagine these as vines again. In the case of these veins of calcite, I was enlightened.

Enlightenment for a would-be Buddha is to see that every single thought in your head, both good and bad, is a product of the computations in your brain based on its pitifully inadequate model of the world. Enlightenment isn’t a transcendence of sorts to some magical place, but an impeccable shift in perspective to seeing Reality as an unfragmented One and not the jumble of objects our brains compute.

Compared to the actual world, the model of the world in our head hardly knows anything. Its mere 80 billion neurons and quadrillion synapses cannot possibly keep up with the complex system of the Universe. The only accurate model of the Universe is the Universe – and it’s right there, right now.

But we depend solely on the limited model of the world in our brains, just like in the story of the blind people who can only feel one part of an elephant. “Faith” in the case of Buddhists is to know that no matter what your brain says, there’s a good chance it’s bullshit.

Day 4 – Secular Bodhi Day 2017 – Illusion of Fragmentation


Today is Day 4 of this “secular” Bodhi Period. When last night’s full moon “disappears”, the real (lunar) Bodhi Period starts. These Bodhi Periods aren’t tranquil, peaceful, Om-humming times. As we ignore our thoughts and focus on the present, the desperation of our thoughts for our attention increases – that’s what thoughts do. Finally, exasperated, our thoughts will ask us, “Then who do you follow?” We then touch the Earth to say we follow the One, not the fragmented delusion of our symbolic, dualistic (good/bad, fun/chore) thinking.

So Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet explained this petroglyph we saw yesterday. The concentric circles represents the layers of our fragmented thinking – at the outer-most level is our insanely complex macro world (many dots, our view of the world as lots of fragments – things), the simpler and elegant cellular world, the simple atomic world, and finally the center, the single One.

Notice that the lines radiating from the outermost circle are generally in pairs and the lines of each pair are parallel – except for one pair around “10 o’clock” that is not parallel and that there is one line standing alone. This threesome represents complexity, as opposed to the rigid duality (good/bad, fat/skinny, hotdog/not hotdog) of our minds – our minds are a Boolean duality machine. It only takes three to make a complex system. Three is the Universe – and you can see the two figures (with three lines on top) by the three lines radiating from the circle who are freed from the dualistic, boxed, fragmented thinking of our deluded minds. For them, the light is on and they see the Universe as it really is, not as simply our animal minds.