Thrifty Zen

Well, the hermitage has been quiet for some time now!

Actually, I’ve been quite busy posting on my main site, In My MInd’s Zen Garden, that I haven’t had the chance to update my other blogs.

Which incidentally, brings up the question… What other blogs do I have on the Web?

. . . .

Here’s the list of sites:

In My Mind’s Zen Garden
My oldest and most active blog… this is where I post most of my articles online. And focuses on a lot of different topics, but mainly about personal development and self-improvement.
This blog hasn’t been very active lately, because I’m currently NOT a 100% raw foodist and it would be misleading of me to promote something I am currently not, BUT… I’m planning to do a 100% raw food challenge beginning in March. So this blog should become active soon as I have some important things to write about.

Randomguru’s Hermitage
Unfortunately, I’ve not been very busy here, too! But I hope to continue to post here and write more about living a simple and spiritually focused lifestyle.

The Modern Ancients
This is a new site devoted to a Jazz Trio that I’m performing in, The Modern Ancients. So, updates would mainly be focused on any club and touring dates the musical group has, and sharing music and such.

San Diego Jazz Quartet
I just felt the need to secure this domain name, but the intended goal is to showcase my Jazz Quartet, which is a collective of some of the best Jazz musicians in San Diego, and make ourselves available to private and corporate events.

Thrifty Zen
This is my newest site, which will specifically be devoted to frugal and simple living. I plan to write a lot here, as I write about living a more simple, less complicately lifestyle… to achieve balance and harmony, save money, invest money, and just being able to get by on less, yet living an enriching lifestyle.

. . . .

And these are pretty much all of my projects and websites online. If you get the chance, please visit them and leave a few comments and feedback.

Peace and Love


Being Compassionate

I see too many so-called Christians out there who aren’t so compassionate. I mean, they seem devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ but they don’t really follow many of his true teachings.

Perhaps it’s the way Americans are competitive and into sports. That sports mentality of winning carries over into daily life.

I just see too many people calling themselves Christians turn around and put down others, calling them losers, or stupid.

We must all be compassionate to other sentient beings, and to our fellow human beings.

Spread the love.

It doesn’t really matter what religion it is… acts of kindness, compassion, understanding and tolerance needed to be practiced on a daily basis.

For Christians, Jesus Christ teaches us that we must be more caring and to help others… to help those in need and to not be judgemental…

Christians believe that God will be the final judge. And who are we all to judge? Except perhaps the creator…

I just ask all to be more compassionate in your daily lives… that is all.

Harsh Criticism vs Compassion

I’m not really into tough love…

Here’s why. Sometimes my Mom and Dad are really hard on me. They criticize me for every little thing. They will tell you right away when you’ve gained weight. And when you finally lose some weight they criticize you for looking too thin.

Then, what really hurts is the fact that they always compare me to other friends’ children who are (in their minds) doing extremely well, like they are doctors and making tons of money and buying their parents Mercedes Benz’s and Houses.

Now why would they do this? Do they realize that they could be hurting their children by continually criticizing them, them praising other peoples children for being more successful?

I’m thinking that I must’ve done something really bad in my past life to deserve such torture.

And it is a form of torture, because they never seem to praise my strengths and talents, only point out my weaknesses.

But maybe it has to do with religion… for if they were Buddhist I think they would have more compassion, then again, maybe not. But they are devout Catholics and being initially raised a Catholic myself, I think there is a lot of guilt surrounding Catholics in general. We’re taught that we are all sinners and that we need to do this and that to be blessed by the Lord and to get past our “original sin”.

The Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness”. And I wish more people were a lot kinder and more compassionate.

Also, the Dalai Lama says that when you run into people who are not kind to you, who rub you the wrong way or are negative toward you, it’s best to stay away from them. I agree.

As sad as it may seem, I try to avoid any interraction with my parents as much as possible. Whenever I go to their house I can already see their eyes as if searching for flaws or something in which to critique.

It’s tough. I’m already critical of myself and I have a low self-esteem of myself. Sometimes, I don’t understand, especially when parents have that kind of power to hurt their children that way.

We need more compassion in this world. Not just with strangers but especially with people we know and love.

But, as the saying goes, “You only hurt the ones you love”.

I guess you can’t really hurt an enemy. It’s already acknowledged that they are the enemy. The people you can hurt are the ones you love, because they have put their trust in you and leave themselves vulnerable to attack….

More compassion, please….

is finding $17,000 and keeping it considered stealing?

I had been debating this quandry in my mind lately… and I wrote about it over here already, but I wanted to write more about this issue here in relation to Buddhist teachings.

Here’s the thread on Rice Bowl Journals: Honesty is Stupid?

And here’s the news article:

Philipppine Driver Returns Lost Money

MANILA, Philippines—He needed the money for his sick wife and overdue rent, but honesty prevented a motorcycle taxi driver from keeping $17,000 left behind by a passenger.

Iluminado Boc returned the money to police in Tagbilaran city on central Bohol island last week, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Monday. The woman who lost the bag of cash had just reported it to police when Boc showed up at the precinct.

“It was not mine,” Boc was quoted as saying.

Boc, 45, said he was struggling financially because his wife was taken to a hospital the same day he found the money, and they had unpaid rent.

The owner rewarded him with $32—about seven times what a motorcycle taxi driver makes a day.

Basically, my first inclination would be to return the money to the authorities, if I couldn’t easily find the owner who lost the money. I just feel it’s not wise to use the money for one’s own needs, however important it might be, because one doesn’t know the consequences that can result from taking the money and using it for one’s self.

And I wouldn’t want to risk any trouble to me and my family if I ended up taking the money, and by taking the money it ended up causing more harm than good.

But, my quandry was in the situation of the cab driver, whose sick/ailing wife was in the hospital and he really could’ve used the money for medical expenses and paying back rent from what he’d mentioned.

I feel he did the honest and noble thing, and that was to return the money, despite his need for the money because of his family’s hardships and his sick wife. That act itself has been done and I commend him for his actions.

But also… could one reason that maybe he had the right to take the money if it were to keep his wife from dying in the hospital, if that were actually the case? Then, could he be justified in using the money?

I did a search about the Buddhist teachings on google to see if I could find something that would help me explain my quandry with this situation.

And I came up with one of the Buddhist precepts:

the second Major Precept, “A disciple of Buddha does not steal,” or as we often say it, “does not take what is not given.” Traditionally this precept referred to appropriating anything belonging to someone else without first getting their permission, and it includes acquiring things through fraud or deception.

Okay, for me, here’s the piece of information I’d been looking for….

appropriating anything belonging to someone else without first getting their permission

So, this would include finding money that belongs to someone else, and using it for one’s own means without first asking permission from the owner.

And this was pretty much how I had felt all along. The if I did find a lot of money that someone else had lost, then the correct thing to do would be to return it to its owner. I had felt that deep down, that it wasn’t right to keep that much money especially, and to use it would pretty much be the same as stealing… mainly because of the fact that the money belongs to someone else. And karmically, that money has to be returned and that would be the true resolution for that money.

But what if the man’s wife was really dying?

That would definitely make the matter more complex….

I don’t really know what I would do. My inclination is always to return such a large sum of money to its rightful owner, rather than risk some karmic resolution in the future that is negative, had I kept the money for myself.

What do you think?

the journey is within…

My personal dream has always been to travel… to India, to Nepal, to the Himalayas… to all those holy lands and temples. My reasoning is to journey to these special places to gain from the inspiration and experience of having visited these places in person.

What if… there is no possible way that you are going to be “able” to travel to these places?

As with me, I am a simple person. I have a modest salary as a musician, and I try to live my life very modestly, many times without choice.

So, how can I travel to these places without having to visit them?

This brings up the point that the real journey lies within…

No one is going to appreciate anything unless the journey within is “real”…

All my dreams to visit these special places are just dreams, really. The purpose is to improve body, mind and spirit through inner means. Exterior means might help one, but the change is always an inner one.

So, I might never get the chance to visit the Himalayas, or Nepal, or India. But, I feel I will always keep a special place for these distant lands within my “heart”. And, that is where they truly belong.

imperfection and the world…

I often ponder why there is so much suffering in the world.

But when you think about it, without us humans, the world could be considered a perfect place.

It is us humans who criticize each other for our imperfections. It is us humans who are unhappy with how we perceive the world and must change it, the people, and things to suit our needs.

But, I think without us, the world would be perfectly happy without us. The world would be just what it is.

I don’t mean to put down us humans overall, because in general I do believe that we generally have a positive disposition, and we basically want the world to be a wonderful place in which to live.

Realistically, however, people suffer and aren’t happy. They tend to blame others and forces outside of themselves.

From situations where the boss is yelling at you, or a driver is honking at you for making a lane change… to arguments between friends or family… to losing your job. The world could be considered imperfect through our eyes.

At the same time, our world could be considered perfect as is. That there are always opposite forces pull and contracting and repelling one another. There does seem to be a natural law of opposites either attracting or same things repelling.

Either way, we humans tend to experience suffering at the hands of such natural forces of nature.

I think, that, my attitude is changing over the years. I can take things nowadays for what it is, at face value. I am less affected by what others think of me or how they treat me.

It’s important to have an inner guide that helps you walk through the muck and rise above the quicksands of life. An internal and eternal compass that keeps one steady throughout the inevitable changes of one’s life….

Keep a path with a heart. And be true to yourself.

there never really was a spoon…

Neo: Have you ever had that feeling where you’re not sure you’re awake or still dreaming?

Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.

This… this isn’t real?

What is real? How do you define real?

. . . .

the matrixThe Matrix
is one of my favorite all-time movies, simply because 1) it’s about computers, hacking, software and code, and 2) there are a lot of ideas that connect to the spiritual and philosophical.

The first time I saw the movie in the theaters I was pretty much blown away by the special effects and the story and plot. Then upon repeated viewings (once I got the DVD) I really started to pick up on all the philosophical stuff within the movie, and its connections to religion and spirituality.

The whole concept of just hacking into The Matrix is pretty mindblowing in itself. And the technology involved in making the film (bullet time, cgi) plus the dedication by the main actors to learn martial arts, it all makes for a thoroughly amazing movie. At the time of its release, The Matrix was pretty groundbreaking stuff, and it has influenced a lot of later movies in regards to the martial arts, special effects and conceptual ideas.

But, I mainly wanted to write about the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the movie, which I think abounds in this movie.

You could look at the connections to Christianity, for instance. Like the character “Trinity”, named after the Holy Trinity in Christianity (the father, son and holy spirit). Even the hacker alias Neo, him being “The One” as if he were the Savior. Neo meaning new, like the second coming of Jesus Christ, Neo had been a previous savior who was coming back to once again save the human world from the tyranny of the machines and the matrix program that had enslaved the humans.

Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

There are also many analogies to Buddhism. Like the idea of the matrix being unreal, an illusion, a computer program that makes humans live their lives digitally within the matrix, when in reality they are slaves.

Morpheus: You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.

And like the humans not knowing they are slaves to the matrix, Buddhist thought believes that we are living in ignorance of the truth, and that we must awaken or become enlightened from our ignorance. Like in the matrix, humans would need to be awakened or freed from the confines of their capsule.

Also, there seem to be little hints of teacher and student, mentor and protege. Similar to Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, that of a spiritual teacher or guru who must teach the ways of the matrix in order to realize the ultimate reality and conquer the evils of the illusory, unreal world.

But the one thought that stands out the most is the idea that “there is no spoon”. As the young bald disciple explains as the spoon bends….

Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.

The concept of “no spoon” can be rather difficult to grasp. But, that is because in our world we have learned to separate things when in reality all things are one, and interconnected. Duality arises in which there is the subject (you) the object (things around us) and the individualness of each. And in Buddhism everything is one, that we are not one individual but simply a part of a greater whole.

The best analogy in nature would be the drop of water in an ocean.

Now what’s really so cool about The Matrix is how it ties in this philosophy, the battle between the machines against the humans, and that whole concept of hacking via computers into the matrix. Sort of a combination of technology and philosophy or spirituality, another duality.

The Matrix is just filled with little gems of dialogue that can relate to Buddhism and Christianity….


Neo: I thought it wasn’t real
Morpheus: Your mind makes it real


Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The concept of “emptiness” in Buddhism…

Agent Smith: You’re empty.
Neo: So are you.

The need to know the truth, or to reach enlightenment, nirvana…

Morpheus: Free your mind.

Basically, the story and screenplay were cleverly written to seemingly contain little nuggets of wisdom that really makes the movie more than just a movie… a movie to make one think… that perhaps we are actually living in our own Matrix, and somehow it is up to us to become freed from whatever bonds of slavery we aren’t award of…..

“Wake up, Neo…”

. . . .

Trinity: I know why you’re here, Neo. I know what you’ve been doing… why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You’re looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn’t really looking for him. I was looking for an answer. It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.

Neo: What is the Matrix?

Trinity: The answer is out there, Neo, and it’s looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to.