Obutsudan

Mrs. Hanamoku, His Holiness The Eternal Fishnu, His Holiness The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, and I attended a very nice Obon Festival last night. We had a (actually more than “a”) bento with musubi, nasubi, inari, tomagoyaki, shoyu chicken! Wonderful!

The Eternal Fishnu blessed the event with the largest turnout ever in the event’s 70+ year history. The line of cars was reminiscent of “Field of Dreams”.

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Fishnu and Rubber Ducky bless our bento.

There were many obutsudan on display for “adoption”. They were donated to the Church after owners passed away and no one was there to carry on the Buddhist tradition. Mrs. Hanamoku and I are hoping to adopt “#2”. Here is the The Eternal Fishnu and The Rubber Ducky communing with Amida Buddha – Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu:

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Obutsudan #2 blessed by Fishnu and Rubber Ducky.

The obutsudan is a personal or family “Buddha house”. Both of my grandmother’s had them in their house. Some are more or less elaborate than the one Mrs. Hanamoku and I put in for:

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Obutsudan #5.

The one pictured below is made from a kamaboko box!

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Such a sincere kamaboko box obutsudan.

Most sincere one:

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Fishnu and Rubber Ducky blessing the maker of this obutsudan.

Of course, we’d be proud and thrilled to adopt any of them. Many of the people in the area where the Obon Festival took place are Japanese-Americans whose ancestors found themselves there through railroad work during the 1800s and/or after release from the internment camps of World War II. So these have much spirit and history to them.

Mrs. Hanamoku and I have an obutsudan inspired by Zion National Park. My home office has two walls lined by tall bookshelves, with rocks from our extensive rock collection displayed in front of the books. All of our Buddhist “things” occupy the top of the shelves, as if they are sitting on top of Angel’s Landing.

Here is Fishnu and Rubber Ducky communing with Bodhidharma:

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The Eternal Fishnu says I kind of remind him of Bodhidharma … which I mostly take as a compliment … hahaha.

 

What are Enemies?

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Predator and Prey. Not shown are the predators of this very popular prey.

I once asked the Etnernal Fishnu, “Do you have any enemies?”

EF: By your definition, yes, I do. But ‘enemy’ is a concept with meaning only in your fragmented view of the Universe.

Me: Oooo, Oooo, Is he Lucifer, Satan … Beezlebub?! No! Mara!

EF: I know him as Master Pi Lau.

Me: ‘Pie-Lau’? Is he here, on Earth now?

EF: No, ‘Pee-Lau”, and yes, he’s right here.

Me: Right where?

EF: Everywhere. He is everything I am not. Look, he’s right there.

The Eternal Fishnu pointed his fin in some abritrary direction. I looked there and saw a being that looked mostly like Fishnu, but green. I looked back towards Fishnu. “I see him! I see Master Pi Lau! I see him!” But Fishnu wasn’t there. “Fishnu! Where are you?!”

EF: I’m right here.

I turned towards Fishnu’s voice while pointing towards Master Pi Lau. But now Master Pi Lau wasn’t there.

EF: You can’t see us at the same time … we are One. When you see me, he is everything else, and when you see him, I am everything else. Without Master Pi Lau, I have no form for your human eyes to see. All that is not me, shapes me … at least here on this fragmented realm.

EF: Now, let me ask you the same question. Do you have enemies?

I thought about it for a minute.

Me: There are those who I have beefs with, but it’s always been temporary, and ‘enemy’ is much too strong a word for any of those people now.

EF: Are these people, from the present or past, evil? Perhaps they believe you to be the evil one? Did they not forge your spirit, and did you not forge theirs? No matter what our human mind may think of these ‘enemies’ the force of everything forms you.

EF: For the Enlightened, there is no concern for good or evil, better or worse. There is only evolving with the constant change driven by the Eternal Process of creation and destruction. Without which, there is nothing. If everything stopped, the Yin and Yang, the Tori and Uke … yes, conflict between ‘enemies’ … nothing is alive, there is nothing to observe and no observer. A photo has no sound, no dynamic, a Universe without churn is nothing.

EF: Friends, enemies, love, hate … if these notions are within you, you haven’t fully accepted ‘What Is’, ‘Now’. You’re still protesting to the Universe about what is before you. When you stop seeking your Paradise you will be in the Universe’s Paradise.

Predictive Models

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The Miner’s Lettuce is going to seed and will soon be gone. I told Fishnu about how the miner’s of the California Gold Rush would suffer from Vitamin C deficiency over the Sierra winters, until this very edible plant, high in Vitamin C, sprouts up in the very early Spring, curing their scurvy. The funny thing is they didn’t know pine needles, edible, but yucky, and more than readily available during the winter, are rich in Vitamin C.

Fishnu clapped his fins slowly in mocked amazement at my great wisdom.

He then asked, “If you build a predictive model that is correct 99% of the time, is that a good model?”

Me: Yes, but I think any model as good as that is pretty obvious to people already.

Fishnu: That’s true, obvious to people, but not to a computer. So how many models are out there in the world making guesses about you? Your Airbnb ratings, your Uber ratings, LinkedIn, Facebook, credit scores, health risks, security threat …

Me: Oh … thousands … millions …

Fishnu: Are they mostly 99% correct?

Me: No! Some customers have said to me that all they want is for it to be better than a coin toss. In fact, if it’s too good, they say it’s “overfit”, it doesn’t “generalize”.

Fishnu: What does this “generalize” means?

Me: It means because we don’t know everything about everything, we need to make some assumptions about people or things to make decisions about a lot of people or things. So if you’re a rectangle and there isn’t a hole for rectangles, you’re shoved through the square hole.

Fishnu: How many predictions would it take before they are wrong? Once in a billion years?

Me: Hahaha! Billion years!? Probably every other minute some model somewhere is making a wrong prediction about you, even if all were correct 99% of the time!

Fishnu: What happens when they are wrong, when you don’t fit the model?

Me: Nothing really. Most of the time, the worst is that you’re targeted for a sale, they call you during dinner, you tell them not to call anymore, and you’re the asshole. Sometimes it is worse than that – they tell you you’re morbidly obese at 220 pounds, you diet to 180 and feel weak.

Fishnu: Can people ever make these predictive models perfect?

Me: No because we’ll never know everything about everything. So … what do we do?

Fishnu: Erase the illusions of the boxes you’ve been taught to draw around things. You will see the process and not those things. Your brain will resist because those beliefs are wired there. It takes years of training to rewire them, so just ignore them now and feel what is right here right now.

Me: That’s it!? The “Now” thing? Is that all there is?

Fishnu: Geez! What do you think I’ve been saying?

The Empty Cup Trail

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I had not seen either Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet or Fishnu since after Bodhi Day in December 2017. On that Bodhi Day I was ordained a Zen priest by Rubber Ducky and given the name, Dukkha Hanamoku. It was my understanding that I would never see them again in this life.

So I was incredibly surprised to run into them about a half mile into the 4-mile Old Wagon Trail hike at Capitol Reef this past Spring (April 2018).  I could see these blue and yellow dots a little ahead. It was them! Sitting there admiring the view. “Rubber Ducky! Fishnu! I thought I’d never see you two again! What are you doing here?!”

Fishnu: “As Ringo would say, ‘Where else would I be but where I am?”

As we hiked, I told them about the past few months, the successes and the failures, of which there were many – it wasn’t an ordinary three months. I delivered an insanely ambitious project within three months, requiring my full concentration and discipline. But for the most part, there was hardly anything calm and enlightened about it all. It was grueling!

Fishnu and Rubber Ducky listened to me talk for the next couple of hours without saying anything, until it seemed I exhausted all I wanted to say. Rubber Ducky said, “I tried to help you, the day your laptop crashed and you had to rebuild it.”

“Help?!” My laptop crashed a couple of days before our first checkpoint with the customer. Although the project was three months, there was a checkpoint every two weeks. If we failed, that was “game over”. Yep, one morning my laptop would boot but went blank! I wrestled with it for a few hours before deciding to reset it all, which took most of the day, and I still needed to get my work done.

Rubber Ducky said that was him telling me to “empty my cup”, free my mind of all clinging, and shut the fuck up and listen – wipe out your mind! He emphasized the “Shut the FUCK UP”.

Towards what I thought was the home stretch of the hike, we came upon an intersection. A sign pointed to the left, “View Point” and I didn’t even read what pointed right. I headed towards the view point and it looked familiar – a little climb up a red sandstone outcropping to a beige sandstone where I first saw Rubber Ducky and Fishnu.

We looked at the incredible view for a few minutes. I had some Gatorade and pulled out a Cliff bar for the home stretch. We walked along the length of the outcropping, all the way seeing that incredible view, for about 200 yards until we reached the end of the outcropping with a bigger climb down, but no trail. Huh? What happened to the trail? I climbed down anyway and figured I’d find the trail moving left or right.

I couldn’t find the trail but reached a point where I could see the parking lot about two miles away, with a few small canyons in between, not the quarter mile or so that I thought. Is that so?

We weren’t exactly lost since I could actually see where we needed to go and the last known location of the trail was shining like a big beacon about a half mile away, the “View Point”. I was mostly worried about adding another half mile of uphill climbing to my already weary ankles (on this 5th day of hiking). We trudged upwards through the chaparral towards the top end of the outcropping.

When we got to that top end of the outcropping, I read what the sign pointed to towards the right: “Trailhead” Duh. “We’re back on the path.”

Fishnu made some cracks about my bedazzlement (addictions, even bedazzlement, makes you temporarily insane to various degrees) of the lovely view point, continuing to believe my flawed belief about where we were, and how that took me off the path. I said in good humor, “Yes, yes. You’re being like what Mrs. Hanamoku says about the last panel of a Dilbert strip – not necessary.”

At the end of the hike, I was surprised to see they weren’t planning on getting in the car. “Aren’t you guys coming?”

Rubber Ducky: “The Eternal Wind is blowing that way for you, Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku. Feel that Wind, it is the Wind that pushes you on the Path, and towards the path if you can’t see the beacon. An empty mind, free of clinging, free of legions of flawed beliefs, readily feels the Eternal Wind, as one would feel the wind stepping outside of the shell of your car.”

It had been exceptionally windy during my week at Capitol Reef. I didn’t use my Buddha Mind to get that. I got in the car, waved good-bye. “Don’t let the ravens get you!”

Fishnu: “They will. Our deaths here are like a little scratch on the skin of all that we are. When that ‘scratch’ heals, you’ll see us then.”