The Kindly Justifying Buddha Mind

a vignette by Fred Leeds

The lotus is an Asian symbol for finding order in chaos, as it grows up pure and strong from the mud below. Making sense of the seeming nonsensical, seeing the beauty in each homely reality, is the key. Can you discern the familiar meaning in the wail of an infant, or the intent behind the awkwardness in the beggar’s muted cry? According to Buddhism, all living beings participate in the Buddha nature just as they are. Our sometimes dreary, everyday world, they say, is the same as nirvana when glimpsed through the kindly justifying mind of purity. It arises above the world while still containing it, like a lotus sprung whole right from the earth below.

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Forgot My Parka and Fell in a Poodle – by Fred Leeds

Snoopy of Peanuts fame used to sit in front of a rickety old typewriter and begin his stories with the hackneyed words “It was a dark and stormy night.” I think I know how he must have felt; I have trouble coming up with new ideas myself these days. Nursing a fetish for originality is of course no wiser. As every punster knows, words are at bottom just a batch of funny noises. Nevertheless, i must make a pretense of stately oration in the public’s sacred name. I just can’t deliver a pronouncement right now because it’s been raining outside and my coat’s sopping mud-wet and dripping on the rug. I’m afraid the weather is in hands other than mine, and while I’m an author, I’m no author or master of the universe. Let me clean up the mud spot on the carpet and I’ll get back to you. (Curse you, Red Baron!)

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Counting on the Off Beat – by Fred Leeds

Counting on the off beat means trusting in our peculiarities, not being preoccupied with surface impressions. Something inside us knows what to do even when we seem baffled. I seek that certain something because I feel baffled more often than most. When I make a mistake I make it completely and try to tap its whole meaning.

For example, a lady seemed to be winking at me the other day. Before she rubbed her eye and revealed she had something in it, I winked back. Undaunted by my mistake, I said I wished I could keep the cinder company. She laughed where she had seemed sour before, so for a guy as timid as me, this was a triumph.

Chalk up another victory to Idiosyncrasy Incorporated.

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When Words Collide

a vignette by Fred Leeds

It’s the eternal question of putting pen to paper. What should I write about, and why? Shall I address something earth-shattering or just ordinary events? To paraphrase James Thurber, it’s better to write largely about small events and but a little about great events. Then there’s the question of what a reader might prefer to read, as opposed to one’s lofty authorial inclinations. It can all get pretty complicated, but the one thing I know for sure is that I love writing, writing about anything. Pushing a subject against a verb is all I need to be content. No earth-shattering collision need be imminent.

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Ever the Twain Shall Meet

A Proverb Revisited
a vignette by Fred Leeds

East is East and West is West, but ever the twain shall meet. This reversal of the old proverb is meant to describe my search for an Orient within. I seek a land, just beyond the rising sun, the dawning of a self at once Eastern and Western. I seek a soul of place that is one with the whole human spirit. I would treat East and West as complements in order to challenge the black and white thinking presented in the proverb. I wish to return a shared brightness to the supposed darkness of the stranger, to see in the “Far East” of the other a living mirror quite equal to myself.

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Blessings from Home

a vignette by Fred Leeds

Talking to oneself is not always plain crazy; it can sometimes prepare one to greet others as selves. It is simply a matter of greeting the whole human from within. It takes no candle or prayer book, just an ear that’s in tune. Greeting calls out to greeting in the core of the human; the one who will hear is, in essence, the one who speaks. Some may refer to the one who speaks here and hears there, the being represented at once in you and in me, as God. I would rather refer to him as home. So greetings alike to you and to me; blessings, dear reader, all blessings from home.

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Studied Blindness and Art

a vignette by Fred Leeds

To retrieve one’s more natural intention, one must contrive to study blindness. Take the pianist, for example, who creates whole worlds by training his hands to overtake him. Or consider the singer, whose long practice carries her off to nnw expression beyond the fixed sense of speech. Or consider the poet, who dives unaided into the evolving word, confronting meanings beyond the printed certainty of the everyday. Each is taken by a sort of willing surprise; each abandons old eyes to see past mere finish and welcome the new.

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Writing: Quite a Trip

a vignette by Fred Leeds

Pen and hand and head, get ready. Work together now, but don’t get too serious … You can’t fall out of the universe, but writing’s quite a trip. You never know what will happen when you write. First intentions won’t do, and you might, all at once, find the writing writing you. Writing can be a proud thing, a heavy symbolic act, but it can also be a simple snapshot of the human planet, its own naked yearnings and their constant disguise. Like the rising and setting of the sun, it can be a free and easy ritual, a joy and a surprise. You can find yourself by losing yourself in writing, and find that the writing is and has been writing you. I know because it happened to me.

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The Cycle of Equality

a vignette by Fred Leeds

Let’s revisit the proverbial chicken and egg. Each is the once and future source of the other, yet each remains itself. This I call the cycle of equality, a trick of nature which extends to you and me. While we share at once in the original Adam, we represent him separately. Rather than be shackled in conformity to each other, we may reflect the first light of our humanity each in his own true light. And so, dear reader, let’s you and I shine on!

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Tom’s Next Trip

a short short story by Fred Leeds

When we last saw Tom, he had summed up the ancient wisdom of the mutual I in the tender phrase “a heart that moves.” While Tom has turned Buddhist priest in the decade since, he has kept to the simple-hearted ways of that earlier time. In his heart’s timeless core, there still beats the wonder of his trips through time and space, mind and worlds. We catch up with Tom now by a temple in Japan, where he sorts out his visions in more ordinary style. The temple stands tall in the near distance, in elegant white stone.

Tom sits on the bank of a stream beneath a bridge. The bridge is crafted in that stunning yet simple way the Japanese have. Beside Tom lies a scrolled painting of Huineng, the historical Zen master whose teachings were transmitted to Tom mentally by Ju Gun. Ju Gun was a medieval Zen hermit with whom Tom had established telepathic contact, across the centuries and beyond Ju Guns death. The painting was Tom’s own rendering. It revealed the figure of a wise and gentle looking Chinese sage. In the margin of the painting Tom had written these words with the same paintbrush: “Mind essence is the source of all at once. This very mind takes flight in any and all things.”

That was Tom’s summary of the lessons of Huineng. As the stream seems to flow ever more swiftly by, Tom begins to dream. The stream glimmers like something unearthly seeming to lead to a city far away, and he is not sure if it is happening inside or outside his mind. He glimpses in the stream, as in a living mirror, all the persons and faces he has known: faces old and young, male and female, dark and light. They are all somehow his own face, and the face of God.

The horses of the Red Chinese tramp still closer, awakening Tom from his dream. Again there flashes across his minds eye the picture of his own death as he defends the sacred temple. There is a shout and the glint of many weapons. Tom breathes and gets ready to plunge into that other stream, the stream of death and new birth.

“Here I come, Huineng,” says Tom.

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