Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving Interfaith Gathering

Below is a text I read tonight at the Thanksgiving Interfaith Gathering held at St Columba Catholic Church in Dothan. It is inspired by a Theravada tradition Scripture.

Countless are those born with poor physical or mental health. 
I have been born with all limbs and faculties complete. 

Many are those who live in lands of strife and conflict, and who are deprived of security and safety. 
I am living in a place where there is peace. 

Incalculable are those forced to toil without end, and who are driven by hunger and want. 
I have enough to sustain my body and time to give it rest. 

Numerous are those who live as slaves, unable to go where they wish and think as they like. 
I enjoy great freedom. 

Numberless are those who live in regions where the light of the truth does not shine and its message is not heard above the racket of doctrines that cause great suffering. 
I have heard the good teachings. 

Truly precious and great are the blessings I enjoy. Here I contemplate on my good fortune and the good of others. 

To repay all these gifts, I will use my efforts to overcome the 3 poisons of greed, hate and delusion.

We practice Zen meditation every Monday evening at 8:00 pm.
You are welcome to join us in Headland.

You can reach me by email at
or by phone at
334 798 1639

Friday, November 20, 2015

3 Dhukkas

When the First Noble Truth is told as “Life is Suffering” most people are unhappy because it sounds very negative to them.  

This is a translation problem.

 The Buddha did not speak English, French or Chinese. He did not use the word “Suffering” but “Dukkha”. Unfortunately, we do not have an accurate word to translate “Dukkha”.

Beside “Suffering” it is sometimes translated as “Stress” or “Dissatisfaction”. Actually, these 3 words- concepts - are part of Dukkha, but they do not fully represent it. So we might as well dump them and use “Dukkha”.


The Buddha spoke of 3 aspects of Dukkha :
  • Dukkha dukkha – Dukkha of regular Suffering or Pain
  • Viparinama dukkha - the Dukkha caused by Impermanence
  • Samkhara dukkha - the Dukkha of Conditioned Existence

Dukkha dukkha is easy to understand by most everyone, and it is properly translated in English by “Pain”, or “Suffering. “ It is the physical pain of a tooth ache, or the mental pain of losing a loved one.

There are different interpretations of the next 2 Dukkhas, and I will stick to one only of them. 

Viparinama dukkha is the dukkha due to Impermanence - the fact that things change. 
Example : You are working in your yard. The outside temperature is in the 80's but you do not feel hot. You walk inside your home to drink a glass of water. The AC is running and you stay inside a little to enjoy the coolness. You get back outside, and immediately feel uncomfortable because of the heat you experience. 

This is Viparinama Dukkha. The temperature has not changed outside, and you were not feeling uncomfortable before, but you enjoyed the coolness of the house, so when you went back outside, it felt too hot to you. So Viparinama dukkha describes the suffering or dissatisfaction arising in us when we lose something we were enjoying. 


Sankhara Dukkha is said to be deeper and more subtle, but actually I do not think it very complicated if you look at it from a certain perspective, Sankhara Dukkha deals with OUR impermance and the fact that we have to struggle to stay alive. 
What are we really ? We are an assemblage of living cells trying to stick together. At the moment of our conception, a sperm and an egg produce a first living cell which later splits and develops into a fetus by incorporating atoms brought to it by its mother. At the time of birth we begin to absorb food and oxygen from the outside world, and grow a bigger body. This growing of an individual being is one of 2 great trends of the universe. 
One trend organizes, structures and bring order. The opposite and complimentary trend disorganizes, dissolves and brings chaos. 
A powerful description of this is the Taoist Yin-Yang theory. Practically it describes everything is subject to 2 competing and complimentary trends, one promotes the organization of usually inanimate matter into a well defined entity separate from the rest of the universe, one trend tends to the opposite. Matter gets organized into a fawn, the fawn tries to stay alive, but eventually will die, the molecules that composed him separate, and will one day become part of an other creature. Or he could be eaten by a wolf, and part of him will become part of the wolf. There is a constant flow, it is almost a dance. Matter gets organized and disorganized constantly.

In the case of human beings, our evolution as a specie has given us one extremely potent tool to help us staying alive as individuals : our ego, or sense of self. Without this very potent tool, it is unlikely that we would have survived surrounded by the predators that were after us 100,000 years ago. One characteristic of human is their extraordinary will to live and fight to survive amazingly difficult physical or mental situations. This is the job of the ego. (And our problem comes from believing that we ARE this ego - but this is a different story).

So Sankhara Dukkha is the stress due to our constant trying to keep us alive as an entity, trying to keep together all molecules that are composing us while the rest of the universe wants them scattered... We are an assemblage of a great number of elements, we try – against the rest of the universe - to keep them together, and it is a constant effort. This is life itself, this is Sankhara Dukkha.

When you really look at them, the 3 Dukkha are not that different, They all comes back to impermanence and dependent origination. But teaching the 3 kinds will help better understand the 1st noble Truth.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Monk and the Samurai

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Kalama Sutta

In the Kalama Sutta the Buddha taught us to not accept any teaching, including His, without testing and examining it for ourselves. While rejecting blind faith and dogmatism and encourages free and systematic personal inquiry, it does not dismiss the value of doctrines and of Master–Disciple teaching.

The sutta goes like that :

The Kalamas of the town of Kesaputta had been visited by teachers of divergent views. Each of them had exposed their own doctrines and had torn down the doctrines of their predecessors. So the Kalamas were confused. And when the Buddha arrived in their town, they asked his advice on this matter.

The Buddha first assured them that under such circumstances it was proper for them to doubt, encouraging them into doubt and free inquiry. He next advised them to abandon those things they knew for themselves - by experience - to be bad and to adopt those things they knew to be good. 

"Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing, nor upon tradition, nor upon rumor, nor upon scripture, nor upon surmise, nor upon axiom, nor upon specious reasoning, nor upon bias towards a notion pondered over, nor upon another's seeming ability, nor upon the consideration 'This monk is our teacher.' When you yourselves know: 'These things are bad, blamable, censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them. When you yourselves know: 'These things are good, blameless, praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them."

This advice not to rely upon established tradition, abstract reasoning, and charismatic gurus, can be dangerous if taken out of context by complete morons. So the Buddha further helped the Kalamas by questioning them, leading them to see for themselves that greed, hate and delusion, being detrimental to all, are to be abandoned, and their opposites, being beneficial to all, are to be sought.

Unfortunately, this Buddha's advise is sometimes interpreted by ego-inflated individuals as an encouragement to reject all doctrines and teachings and to do whatever they like.

This is as stupid as believing one could become a fighter without learning from a valid Master. The beauty of Martial Arts is that the delusion does not last very long. On their first incursion in a ring, a battlefield or any place loaded with alcohol and adrenaline, self taught fighters brutally get their asses back into reality.  (This also happens to people who trained under deluded self appointed Masters,  I have seen it...)

In spiritual matters, it can take much longer before one realizes one's own or one's teacher's arrogance and vanity.

Before He started his own quest, the Buddha himself spent years practising and perfecting his spiritual technique under 2 great Yoga Masters... He acquired with them those abilities and expertise that would allow him to reach awakening and teach.

So what the Buddha said was NOT to follow whatever we like as the path to liberation, but to carefully consider, examine, doubt and ponder all teachings of all Masters including His - for only us can see for ourselves and realize the Dharma - keeping faith in our ability to one day figure it out through diligent practice. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hataya Mitsuo Sensei

Hataya Mitsuo Sensei demonstrates Tameshigiri at the East Coast Takai on August 30, 2015 (video by Gary Price)

 That's the way you do it...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pali Canon Structure and indexation

As a Zen practitioner I am not really supposed to be interested in the Pali Canon -  some think I am not even supposed to be interested in any scriptures. But, whatever they say is not really going to help me... So as I was investigating dependent origination, I came to realize that you cannot really be serious about it without delving into it.

The Pali canon is huge. The Pali Text Society's edition of the Tipitaka (English translation) fills over 12,000 pages in approximately fifty hardbound volumes, taking up about five linear feet of shelf space. Moreover, a few of the more obscure books in the Tipitaka are simply still unavailable in English translation, so that if you really must read the entire Tipitaka, you'll just have to learn Pali.

The PTS has for over a century been the leading publisher of the Tipitaka, both in romanized Pali and in English translation, but many of their translations are now badly out of date. Much better translations of several portions of the Canon are now available from other publishers.

These new translations are also often commented in very interesting ways.

Most of the texts are available online. One of the difficulty for a novice is to navigate between various texts. The way these texts are referenced in articles may differ depending upon the translators

The Pali Canon is composed of 3 main branches.

... to be continued...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hello everyone, 

Here is the update on the Miura Hanshi Mosaic. As per this Monday morning, April 24, 2015, the project has collected a total of $1,436.00 of a total goal of $5,500.00. Pledges have been coming mostly from United States and France.

For those of you who did not read my last post, here is what it is all about : 

I launched last week a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to realize a mosaic portrait of Sword Master Takeyuki Hidefusa Miura, Hanshi. Miura Hanshi left this world in 2012. He was the 20th Grand Master of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, the style of Sword I practice, and I would like to realize this mosaic as a tribute to his life of dedication to the transmission of this Art. 

The mosaic model.

The portrait I want to make of Miura Hanshi will be of him practicing "Tameshigiri": the actual cutting of targets with a real katana. Miura Hanshi was well know for his almost supernatural ability to cut rolls of papers with his sword.
Without men like Miura Hanshi, invaluable arts would be lost to humanity, and I want to realize this mosaic as a tribute to his life and dedication to transmit to us the Art and Spirit of generations of Samurais before him.  When this mosaic is complete, I will donate it to the Headquarters of the KNBK – the organization that carries on Miura Hanshi's teachings.

Here is the link to the project : The Miura Hanshi Mosaic Portrait.

Miura Hanshi cutting rolled paper

If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, this is how it works : 

There is a period of 30 days to raise the money (5,500.00). If you think the project is worthy and want to back it, please pledge some money. This is very easily done on the front page of project's Kickstarter website. You get rewards depending on the amount you pledge. This is also well described on the project's Kickstarter website.
When you pledge, the money is kept by Kickstarter in a special account. 

At the end of the 30 days (September 15, 2015) if the total amount has been pledged Kickstarter sends me the money and I get to work. If the total amount is not raised, you get fully reimbursed. 

I hope you find this project a valuable one and that you will participate to the cause. 

An other way to help would be to share this post to your facebook page and/or Twitter account, or any other social network you use. 

If you have any questions, please ask them, preferably through the Kickstarter site, so everybody can read them, and my answers.

Thank you

When I do not practice Karate, Iaijutsu or other Martial Arts, I am also a modern mosaic artist with a deep admiration for ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine Arts. You can see my own mosaics on my site at mosaicblues

If you are interested by my mosaic work or would like to drop me a line 
please contact me by email at frederic.lecut@gmail.com  
or by phone at (334) 798 1639. 
   You can also
(and I recommend it !)