Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Heart Sutra

Sit, find the rhythm and breath with this. Let all thinking go and just be aware.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hsing Hsing Ming -- Verses on the Faith Mind


Verses on the Faith Mind

Hsing Hsing Ming

by Chien-chih Seng-ts'an (Kanchi Sosan) Third Zen Patriarch

The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood
the mind's essential peace is disturbed to no avail.

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.
Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves.
When you try to stop activity to achieve passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things
is to miss their reality;
to assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.
The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.
To return to the root is to find the meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.
Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.

Do not remain in the dualistic state
avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace
of this and that, of right and wrong,
the Mind-essence will be lost in confusion.
Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend,
and when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes,
as when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.
Things are objects because of the subject (mind);
the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

To live in the Great Way
is neither easy nor difficult,
but those with limited views
and fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go,
and clinging (attachment) cannot be limited;
even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray.
Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.
Obey the nature of things (your own nature),
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.
When thought is in bondage the truth is hidden,
for everything is murky and unclear,
and the burdensome practice of judging
brings annoyance and weariness.
What benefit can be derived
from distinctions and separations?

If you wish to move in the One Way
do not dislike even the world of senses and ideas.
Indeed, to accept them fully
is identical with true Enlightenment.
The wise man strives to no goals
but the foolish man fetters himself.
This is one Dharma, not many:
distinctions arise
from the clinging needs of the ignorant.
To seek Mind with the (discriminating) mind
is the greatest of all mistakes.

Rest and unrest derive from illusion;
with enlightenment there is no liking and disliking.
All dualities come from ignorant inference.
The are like dreams of flowers in the air:
foolish to try to grasp them.
Gain and loss, right and wrong:
such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

If the eye never sleeps,
all dreams will naturally cease.
If the mind makes no discriminations,
the ten thousand things
are as they are, of single essence.
To understand the mystery of this One-essence
is to be release from all entanglements.
When all things are seen equally
the timeless Self-essence is reached.
No comparisons or analogies are possible
in this causeless, relationless state.
Consider movement stationary
and the stationary in motion,
both movement and rest disappear.
When such dualities cease to exist
Oneness itself cannot exist.
To this ultimate finality
no law or description applies.

For the unified mind in accord with the Way
all self-centered straining ceases.
Doubles and irresolution's vanish
and life in true faith is possible.
With a single stroke we are freed from bondage;
nothing clings to us and we hold to nothing.
All is empty , clear, self-illuminating,
with no exertion of the mind's power.
Here thought, feeling, knowledge, and imagination
are of no value.
In this world of Suchness
there is neither self nor other-than-self.

To come directly into harmony with this reality
just simply say when doubt arises, `Not two.'
In this `no two' nothing is separate,
nothing excluded.
No matter when or where,
enlightenment means entering this truth.
And this truth is beyond extension or
diminution in time or space;
in it a single thought is ten thousand years.

Emptiness here, Emptiness there,
but the infinite universe stands
always before your eyes.
Infinitely large and infinitely small;
no difference, for definitions have vanished
and no boundaries are seen.
So too with Being and non-Being.
Don't waste time in doubts and arguments
that have nothing to do with this.

One thing, all things:
move among and intermingle,
without distinction.
To live in this realization
is to be without anxiety about non-perfection.
To live in this faith is the road to non-duality,
Because the non-dual is one with the trusting mind.

The Way is beyond language,
for in it there is
no yesterday
no tomorrow
no today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It ain't dark yet but it's gettin' there

I think of America (this is my county)
And it breaks my heart.
We had so much hope in our youth
Yet our dreams fell apart.

They kept right on killing in our name
And telling us lies about freedom
While they plundered the world
And parceled out fiefdoms.

I know it's an old man's lament,
But they too are hearing the call.
Yes, we'll all go down together,
As the leaves begin to fall.

Today, a young man said to me,
"I think of America and it breaks my heart.
How can we be feeling this hopeful
Yet so threatened from the start?"

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Dangers of "Fracking" and Wastewater Recycling

By IAN URBINA of the New York Times
Published: March 1, 2011
"As drilling for natural gas started to climb sharply about 10 years ago, energy companies faced mounting criticism over an extraction process that involves pumping millions of gallons of water into the ground for each well and can leave significant amounts of hazardous contaminants in the water that comes back to the surface." [...]

"More than 90 percent of well operators in Pennsylvania use this process, known as hydrofracking, to get wells to produce. It involves injecting water mixed with sand and chemicals at high pressures to break up rock formations and release the gas. Between 10 percent and 40 percent of the water injected into each well resurfaces in the first few weeks of the process.

"Many states send their drilling waste to injection wells, for storage deep underground. But because of the geological formations in Pennsylvania, there are few injection wells, and other alternatives are expensive. So natural-gas well operators in the state have turned to recycling."

There is a very useful interactive that accompanies the New York Times article that explains really quickly what the process of injection into "fracked" wells involves as well as the environmental risks, risks that are not being discussed with the people likely to be effected the most:  Chemicals and Toxic Materials That Come With Hydrofracking
 Read the complete article at the New York Times.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Earthquakes Reported This Morning Northeast of Big Spring; Is Fracking the Cause of Recent Shaking in the Area?

BALMORHEA: In the early morning hours in West Texas, we experienced two minor earthquakes, one at 3.1 and the other at 2.5. They were centered at 32.897N, 100.833W, east-northeast of Snyder. Given that earthquakes are relatively rare in this area, some environmental activists have assumed that they might have been caused by "fracking."

The link to Snyder above and the graphic below opens to Google Maps where one can readily see on the satellite shots below scores of lite-colored drilling sites on the West Texas plains.  The maps are centered on the coordinates given for the quakes.

View Larger Map

Here is the report:

On Sunday, 2/27/11, the Balmorhea Progressive published our initial report on "fracking" in the area, "Increased Drilling for Oil & Gas, "Fracking" and Condensate Compression Stations; Are We Safe?"

In Pecos, on 2/23/11, there were widespread reports of shaking.  After complaints began to pour in, the answer that citizens were eventually given, was that the blasts and shaking were being caused at a research facility southeast of Pecos where automotive testing was being conducted.  Unreported was the fact that the company reported as responsible for the shakes, Applied Research Associates, also does defense research and research in the "physical sciences".
Pecos Residents Concerned About Blasts Around City
Meron Berkson
CBS 7 News
February 23, 2011
Pecos, Texas - People around Pecos are complaining about loud noises that cause buildings to shake all over town.
The noise comes from a research facility nearby and while it’s been quiet for about a month, those blasts are set to start up again soon.
"I thought it was an earthquake or something," said a local gas station attendant.
"Kind of like an airplane breaking the sound barrier," said Peggy Walker, a Pecos Resident.
Another resident, Arcadio Baeza told us, “It's a weird feeling,"
They are among many still feeling the after effects of the blasts coming from explosive operations testing being done by the Applied Research Associates at the Pecos Research and Testing center.
"I just heard a loud noise and the mirror on my wall moved a little bit."
"Our building shook not knowing what it was, really thought it was an earthquake," Walker said.
 Apparently, with no intended irony, the report continued:
And as Pecos Mayor Venetta Seals explains, these blasts came as a shock to the city.
The mayor was later quoted as saying:
"They had said that this was all taken care of. That there shouldn't be any problems and it was a few days after that when the windows here in Pecos were rattling," said Seals.
After a few more anecdotes from concerned citizens, the report moved on to reveal an even deeper level of concern expressed by the Pecos mayor.  If the news report accurately reflected the meaning and context of her statement, Mayor Seals was apparently neither aware of the implications of her comments nor the nonchalance with which she spoke them:
Mayor Seals says that these operations could continue for years, but if the city still feels the effects of the blasts, she expects more complaints to keep coming in.
In fact, the Applied Research Associates at the Pecos Research and Testing center, located near the farming community of Coyanosa on Farm-to-Market-Road 1450,  is surrounded by fracking sites, some even closer to Pecos than the facility itself.  

This leads one to wonder if the answers given to Mayor Seals by administrators of the testing site were completely forthcoming. Is the testing site connected in any way to the oil and gas drilling in the area?  Is the concurrence of fracking, the earthquakes to the northeast near Big Spring, and the ongoing testing at the ARA facility coincidental? 

Below is a satellite closeup of a possible fracking injection site. Zooming out, one can see scores of drilling sites east of that location along with several associated fracking injection ponds.

More will be revealed as we trudge the road to happy destiny....

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Increased Drilling for Oil & Gas, "Fracking" and Condensate Compression Stations; Are We Safe?

Drilling rig south of Pecos, Texas
BALMORHEA: Recently, I've noticed a significant increase in oil and gas well drilling platforms along highway-17 between Balmorhea and Pecos.  I began to wonder if the increase was the result of hydraulic fracturing technology ("fracking") that allows for the release of oil and gas in strata that was formerly difficult to access, such as shale.  Then I spoke with an oil field worker who informed me that, indeed, the oil and gas companies have begun "fracking" in West Texas.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process with environmental risks.  It is known to contaminate ground water through the kind of leakage that led to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster as well as to produce toxic condensates from chemicals used in the process that accumulate within the well bore itself.  

Of these toxins -- and there are hundreds -- perhaps the one that poses the gravest concern to the public is radioactive pollution of the ground water.  In recent months, radioactive contaminants in the City of Houston's tap water caused by "fracking" led to the shutting down of at least two of the city's major water wells

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has provided a data base that reports the level of radiation in the water supplies of most of the cities and municipalities in the state.  The data base for the Town of Pecos can be accessed here.  Balmorhea gets its water from a different source than Pecos -- The Madera Valley Water Company (pdf). The figures for water supply radiation for Balmorhea are here.  Currently, both the Pecos and Balmorhea numbers are within legally prescribed ranges; nevertheless, with the increase of "fracking" in the area, it is wise to monitor the levels on an ongoing basis.  

It should be noted that while the testing data for this area in West Texas is within legal limits prescribed by law, the safest radiation levels have been determined by environmental monitoring groups, not subject to corporate and lobby-driven compromises with the federal government, to be ZERO pCi/L (picocuries per liter)

The sudden increase in drilling in West Texas may in fact be due to contingency planning by the Pentagon, as reported by investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, a retired naval intelligence and National Security Administration analyst.

February 24, 2011 -- Renewed "chatter" about a possible U.S. military attack on Iran

WMR's sources in the national security establishment are reporting on "chatter" that they are hearing about a possible U.S. military attack on Iran in the autumn, with October or November the likely months.

Although such chatter about U.S. military action against Iran has been heard before, the current talk comes amid two significant developments.

First, U.S.-backed regimes in the Middle East and North Africa have either already been ousted or are in danger of being overthrown. With U.S. clients Bahrain and Saudi Arabia under domestic pressure, talk of a U.S. attack on Iran, which would be popular with the Bahraini and Saudi regimes, tends to bolster those regimes.

Second, WMR has been informed that U.S. oil companies are drilling 1200 new oil wells in west Texas to raise U.S. domestic oil production. The companies have been told by the government that they have a 12 to 18-month window to drill new wells and a 24-month window to achieve maximum oil production. In the event of a U.S .military attack on Iran, oil exports from the Persian Gulf would be severely impacted.

WMR has been told that oil storage containers are currently being built in west Texas to hold the oil extracted from the new wells. Within the last three months, a number of oil exploration and support services personnel have arrived in towns all over west Texas. More significantly, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) personnel have also arrived in west Texas in support of the oil drilling operations.  --Wayne Madsen
If the above report by Wayne Madsen is confirmed, then we can expect the same safety exemptions applied in order to expedite oil and gas production which led to last summer's British Petroleum Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. 

More to the point: following the increase in drilling over the last several months, I noticed the installation of at least two condensate compression stations that can be seen from state highway-17 just north of Saragosa.  Increased levels of toxic condensate is produced by the "fracking" process, which is probably why we are seeing an increase in the number of condensate compression stations in the area like the one pictured below.

Condensate compression station north of Saragosa on state highway-17

I did some research on the toxic emissions produced by these stations and I’ve become very concerned. Benzene, an extremely toxic hydrocarbon that causes cancer, is just one of the emissions associated with condensate tanks. When I read that I was taken aback, in fact, I was near shock.

The usual means of disposing of the condensate that is collected in the drilling process is by tanker truck. I don’t know were the toxins are taken; I haven’t gotten that far in my local investigation. But the thing that has me really concerned more than anything else is the use of flares to simply burn off emissions separated from the condensate with post-burn-off hydrocarbons deposited directly into the atmosphere. 

This flare is not burning cleanly
Today, I emailed my concerns to UT Law Professor Tom McGarity, of the Center for Progressive Reform, a friend who specializes in environmental law.  This is a clip of what he wrote back:
"If the flares are burning pure methane and are burning it cleanly, the emissions will not be photochemical oxidants (ozone), but it appears from the photos that they are not burning cleanly. Most natural gas has some sulphur in it in the form of mercaptans. The mercaptans themselves are highly toxic. The flares, if they are burning cleanly, should destroy the mercaptans, but will convert them to sulfur dioxide, which is a pollutant that can pose hazards at concentrations above the national ambient air quality standards." 

The efficiency of flares in this process is questionable, but the general process of condensate compression is by no means efficient either.  Infrared thermography cameras have been used to document escaping emissions that can't be seen with the naked eye.  In addition to benzine and other toxic gasses, high levels of ozone are also a byproduct of the condensate compression process.

December 6, 2010; BBC World News

 From today's New York Times:

A summary of the above article, published on today's front page of the New York Times, was provided by Rocky Kistner for the Huffington Post.  A clipping of his analysis follows.
"Today The New York Times published an important story about the environmental and health impacts of natural gas production in states across our country. Everyone should read it for themselves, as well as watch the excellent video companion, and review the leaked documents that The Times has posted on line. Among the report's findings:

"Hydraulic fracturing waste contains radioactivity at levels higher than previously known and is sometimes hauled to sewage plants that cannot safely handle it and then discharged into rivers that supply drinking water. Because natural gas drilling waste is so toxic, NRDC last year asked the EPA to update the current rules governing oil and gas waste, which were written in the 1980s and leave oil and gas waste completely exempt from rules that oversee hazardous waste.

"Scientists from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are alarmed and warn that the drilling waste is a threat to drinking water in Pennsylvania. The Times reviewed thousands of documents, including never-reported studies by the EPA, and has posted many on its website.

"Air quality in rural western areas in Wyoming has failed to meet federal standards for air quality and have experienced levels of ozone higher than those recorded in Houston and Los Angeles. This has since also occurred in Utah. I have also blogged previously about toxic levels of benzene and other dangerous poisons found in other communities near natural gas operations.

Chidren and adults are experiencing severe illness from living near natural gas production facilities (the NYT interviewed families in Texas and Colorado), including asthma attacks, dizzy spells, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, and nosebleeds. There are families reporting these and additional symptoms, including serious neurological and other illnesses, in other states as well. I've blogged about children waking up covered in blood and families whose doctors have ordered them to evacuate their homes. There are also families across the country reporting drinking water contamination they suspect is linked to hydraulic fracturing and leaks or blow-outs in natural gas wells.

"Sickening birth defects, deaths, and other serious illnesses are occurring in livestock that are kept near natural gas operations. Government scientists are investigating birth defects in the tragic deaths of baby dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico--as they should, but not one is investigating the birth defects and other abominable sicknesses in animals that are suspected to be linked to natural gas operations and may be entering the human food chain across the country. Can someone explain that?

"More than 1.3 billion gallons of waste-water was produced by Pennsylvania natural gas wells over the past three years, far more than has been previously disclosed, and most of this water -- enough to cover Manhattan in three inches -- was sent to treatment plants not equipped to remove toxic substances in drilling waste, even though some of the waste contained radioactivity levels more than 2,000 times the drinking-water standard.

"State regulation is insufficient to protect citizens. The NYT found that, from October 2008 through October 2010, Pennsylvania officials usually gave companies only written warning for violating the law -- not a fine. And when there are fines, they are practically meaningless. Companies paid an average of about $44,000 each year--a tiny fraction of the several million dollars it costs them to drill one well. It seems that it is easier for companies to pay a fine than to do things right."

Stay tuned; I will be posting follow-up reports as more information becomes available. --Cliff Hammond

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Untimely Death of Haskalah; Lamentations for Palestine

Minerva by Vedder-Highsmith

 Far of'n the steeps of Galatia
There lived fair maiden Haskalah
Her torches kissed Eurasia
Seen dancing in the Light

Suitors 'cross the Rhineland
As far the south to Marrah
'Mong whom Mose' ben-Maimon
Appeared the shinning knight

Far 'way the darkened Templars
Guil'd in capes of Mallah
Like stealthy Edmund Kemper
Set off to bring the night

Yet glowing fore the Pale
They found the beauteous Haskalah
And covering Her with veil
Left the land in blight

They sailed to far off Palestine
The Lotus of Dharamshal­a
Across the strait of Byzantine
They blasphemed Her sacrifice

They came in ships to Haifa
And cursing fair Ramallah
Dragged out the ghost of Kaifa
Pretentiou­s of their rights

In the rubble of Al Aqaba
They buried sweet Haskalah
And calling on El Abba
They put away Her Light

Through dreams She strikes as lightning
Our Lady of Carmela
Lamenting Love so frightenin­g
Yon Zion sleeps the night

Cry out from domes of sapphire
Oh criers of Haskalah
Proclaim Her open shire
Turn Zion to the Light

"Your Bride is only sleeping,
Ben-Maimon­," cries Haskalah
Zion is but weeping
Ashkenazim brought us blight

How beautiful on the mountain
Are the feet of fair Haskalah
Let Glory from your fountain
Your Kingdom is of Light

Moses Mendelssohn