Bob Schwartz

Month: August, 2016

Laughing at Swallowing a Flaming Iron Ball

Dhammapada - Juan Mascaro

This morning I laughed at a few translated lines from a great and serious spiritual classic. The Dhammapada is a brief (423 verses in 26 chapters) collection of the sayings of the Buddha. For over two thousand years, there may have been no more succinct summary of the heart of Buddhism.

As with the Bible, there are many translations of the Dhammapada from Pali into English, each with its own character. I keep a number of different translations handy, and given that chapters are short, it is possible to easily compare.

I was reading Chapter 25, called variously The Monk, The Practitioner, The Seeker, The Bhikku. In the very loose and poetic translation by Thomas Byrom, the chapter begins:

Master your senses,
What you taste and smell,
What you see, what you hear.

In all things be a master
Of what you do and say and think.
Be free.

You are a seeker.
Delight in the mastery
Of your hands and your feet,
Of your words and your thoughts.

It is at verse 371 that I got my laugh. There the worthy translation by Ven. Balangoda Ananda Maitreya reads:

Do not allow your heart to whirl in the pleasures of senses.
Do not swallow a flaming iron ball and then,
As you burn, cry out, “Oh, that hurts!”

I can’t explain, exactly, what is funny about that last line. It just is. Compared to the other translations of what you might say swallowing this hot iron ball (“This is woe!”, “This is pain!”, “This is suffering!”, “No more!”), “Oh, that hurts!” just tickled me.

Note: Some other translations of the Dhammapada worth looking at:

Juan Mascaro (The first I ever read, excellent, and an awesome bargain as an ebook: $.95 v. $6.38 for the paperback.)

Gil Fronsdal

Glenn Wallis

John Ross Carter



This beautiful truth
Lifts me up
Weightless in the sky.
This ugly truth
Drags me down
Into the abyss.
I try knowing no difference
To make peace with gravity.

Trump Won’t Deport Dudettes & The Trump Magic 8 Ball

Magic 8 Ball

CNN reports on the latest version of Trump’s ever-changing immigration policy:

Trump said that on his first day in office, he would authorize law enforcement to actively deport “bad dudes,” such as those who have committed crimes, which he said numbered “probably millions.” But he declined to flatly say whether he would round up other undocumented immigrants, stressing that once the initial deportations occur, “then we can talk.”

There is a very good chance the answer could be yes,” Trump said when asked if he would deport those who have lived here peacefully but without papers. “We’re going to see what happens.”

What about “bad dudettes”? Will he deport them?

Trump’s statement, “There is a very good chance the answer could be yes” sounds exactly like something from a Magic 8 Ball.

For comparison, here are the five neutral/equivocal answers you would get from a Magic 8 Ball (or Trump):

Reply hazy try again

Ask again later

Better not tell you now

Cannot predict now

Concentrate and ask again

Abbeville, Louisiana and the Flood

City of Abbeville

Abbeville, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana is something more than special.

Here’s the bridge across the Vermilion River. That’s St. Mary Magdalen Church on the right.


Here’s Magdalen Square.

Magdalen Square

Here’s what Abbevile looked like on Saturday, August 13, during the flood.

Vermillion River 081316

This is a link to Vermilion Today, online home of the Abbeville Meridional newspaper, if you want to learn what’s going on after the flood.

This is a link to the Red Cross, if you’d like to donate something for the special people of Louisiana, who are suffering through perhaps the worst U.S. natural disaster in the past four years.

Finally, here’s a picture taken last December at the church. To lift your spirits. And open your hearts.

Abbeville Church 7 Select

My First Orchid

First Orchid

This is my first orchid, a small but exquisite one I got as a gift. It offers beauty for very little care. I water it once a week and it decorates the room and my life.

But I just learned there is more to it than that. It has been gently dropping petals. When it stops flowering, I am told, it should go to a dark place to hibernate. After a while, it will be taken out to wake up and start its beauty regimen again. If it doesn’t sleep, it will grow as a plant but will not flower.

It hasn’t been here long, but I will miss it.

Dawn Moon

Dawn Moon

Full moon in the West at dawn.
What rare magic.
What picture could tell
The time and direction
The sounds and sun
Reflecting off
Its distant pale
Pockmarked face
Now fading?
When it happens again
What record will there be?
This and memory.

Trump: In the Future Voters May Look to Military People for President

Highlighting what Donald Trump doesn’t know about public affairs, or history, or geopolitics, or lots of other significant matters, is fishing in a barrel. So nothing is surprising.

And yet this nugget from his book The America We Deserve (2000) is special. In it he writes:

“Voters are going to look to the worlds of business, entertainment, professional sports, and maybe the military—not to career politicians—for our next generation of political leadership.”

There’s an old comedy bit that starts out with “Any five-year-old can do that.” “Okay” is the reply “get me a five-year-old.”

Any school kid (I hope) knows that military people have always been active as public leaders in America, at the highest levels. In fact, twelve generals have become Presidents of the United States, from the first one, to most recently Dwight Eisenhower, who served during Trump’s lifetime. Of course, Trump may not have been paying attention then. Or in 2000. Or now.

One Pen Two Caps

One Pen Two Caps

I inadvertently put caps on both ends of one pen.

I think this may mean something. But I don’t know what.

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching


“The world is a spiritual thing.”

Taoteching, Chapter 29

Trying to govern the world with force
I see this not succeeding
the world is a spiritual thing
it can’t be forced
to force it is to harm it
to control it is to lose it
sometimes things lead
sometimes they follow
sometimes they blow hot
sometimes they blow cold
sometimes they expand
sometimes they collapse
sages therefore avoid extremes
avoid extravagance
avoid excess

Reading and studying the little (81 tiny chapters) and infinite pool of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching is as valuable as knowing any text from any tradition. Of the dozens of translations into English, all different and many worthy, the one by Red Pine—the translator and scholar Bill Porter—is the place to visit and rest awake. Along with his translation, he includes excerpts from 2,000 years of commentaries.

Seasons Meeting

Seasons Meeting

Seasons meet
In August.
This morning
Green trees
Hiding houses.
Heat and sun break
For gray clouds and
Cool breeze.
Not now, soon
Trees will explode
Color to bare,
Houses revealed.
Breeze to harsh wind.
These flimsy clothes
Will grow thick.
But not today.