The Ghosts of Zen

Zen training is an organic process where each deconstructed portion of our lives is an integral element of the whole practice.  Each aspect of our training, whether it is intellectual or creative, pragmatic or mystical, ritualized or informal, will form seemlessly into the elegant whole of our experience.  “Light and darkness are a pair, like the foot before and the foot behind, in walking.” To say that one or the other aspect does not exist or even attempting to form delineations cause the wheels of prajna to slip and the carriage of bodhichitta to shudder.  There is a systematic coordination of elements in our practice that transcends the appearant rutts in the road.  Our life is our practice.  Our mistakes and triumphs share the core.

Whether in shikantaza; intellectually pouring over sutras or pounding on the door of a koan, we are engaged in an active, evolving and powerful practice.  As students of “the Way” we sit unaware of this and our teachers may be equally blind to the reality (although we generally presuppose that they aren’t).  What begins to limit us is that the mind desires a point of reference.  A stable, immutable fact. 

This is the way.  That is not true.  God.  No God.  The Absolute.  Pragmatism.  

A sutra.  A posture.  A quote.  A method. 

Each are lines drawn in the sand, washed away with each morning’s tide only to be ernestly scribbled back in again.  Better to walk where the ocean meets the sand – in equanimity.  No footsteps before and none trailing after.  Neither coming nor going, we then move in the direction that it is in front of us…

But the discussion continues.  While the fire subsides, embers smolder, providing an impetus to continue practice.  From those coals we can expect a wonderful bloom but falter again when the summer’s wildfires rage across the horizon of our practice.  It can happen this year, the next or 20 years from now.  It isn’t spring forever…the fire in the legs spreads to the heart.

We are each the stumbling beginner, the poor novice and clueless initiate.  Walking into that sacred practice space we shoulder a heavy load, more pack-mule than human.  Settling into practice we loosen that load and straighten our posture.  The fire of practice burns through us but provides opportunity to grow.  We sit with the ghosts of yesterday’s practice.  Insubstantial as the mist but clinging to our ankles and riding our shoulders. 

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The six reflections presented to persnickety crows and untamed foxes.

This moment is the fruit of the labour of many; accept it with gratitude.
This moment is given freely, don’t grasp at mist; deserve what it offers.
This moment is presented to help us practice despite the cawing of birds; pay attention.
This moment is sustaining but rich and high in calories; be moderate.
This moment is taken to help all beings, even bristling wolves and mischievous foxes; practice wholeheartedly.
This moment is finished, never to return.

Goodbye.

Caw!

Svaha.

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Image is painting from David Ladmore

The runaway train of samsara

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Before compassion can be expressed for others, it must be expressed for yourself.  You must be able to forgive and engage your own shortcomings else they will manifest in every interaction you have.  That is karma.  Not obvious during the pleasant moments of this life but as soon as things become tangled and samsara tightens its grasp; you will fall back into those bad patterns like an addiction.  Hungrily puffing away at delusions and filling ourselves with the smoke of ignorance,  we desperately try to change samsara rather than ourselves.  Meanwhile every hurried, fearful and hacking breath just brings the coils around tighter.  Like waving away clouds of cigarette smoke; fanning away at samsara only brings about momentary aleviation of suffering.

Similarly, zazen doesn’t break the coils of samsara.  There is no actionable goal in Zen practice;  just one giant exhale followed by relief but it can quickly tighten up again.  But with each breath we expereince wisdom and clarity.  The wisdom that comes from zazen is an encompassing compassion for our own faults followed by forgiveness.  It isn’t the realization of some divine, universal conductor that is driving this runaway train and it isn’t a nihilistic laying of ourselves upon the tracks.  It is just us taking control of the train by releasing just a little bit of that control and letting it run at its own speed and pace.  There is no need to feed the engine anymore.  We allow ourselves and samsara to just be.  No train to drive and no tracks to lay.  Just along for the ride.

We manifest some divine conductor to placate our own ego in a faulty attempt to quell our own fear.  Ego masquerading as a god.  When we grovel at the feet of our god; when we beg for forgiveness or plead for hope; we are begging our own ego to release us and for our own fears to comfort us.  Ego will never release us and fear provides no comfort.  It serves no purpose but to tighten the coils around our own neck.  Each breath in zazen loosens a coil.  Slowly each breath releases the grasp of samsara not by changing it but by accepting that it has always been there.  It never had a grasp.  We choke ourselves until we pass out and then awaken and call it enightenment.

There is no-one to release us.  No-one that binds us. 

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Renunciation is for suckers

Enlightenment is a process that requires, not the complete dropping of everything that surrounds us, but an understanding that everything in our normal life is exactly where we need it to be.  Practice is in the moment.  Otherwise it is always a game of “if.”  If I only had the right zafu or cushion; if I only had the right teacher or the right temple; if only the people around me were more spiritual; if only I had more time/space/understanding. If only I had countless moments…

to relive,

rework,

remember,

recycle…and retire.

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The Great Matter is not a game where we choose our weapons.  Guns or knives, Butch.  Beginner’s Mind or Vajra Sword, Butch.  Nothing that makes practice daring and revolutionary occurs outside of our own mundane lives.  There is nothing that we have in our possession that requires renunciation.  No family to desert, no vocation to leave and no outward journey to make.  Bouncing along the backroads of India, scaling a mountain in China or sitting in a small roadside zendo in the Midwest is all cut from the same fabric.  Nothing seperates us from the austere silence of the Chinese hermits, the devotionals of the Tibetan Lamas and the shouts of the Zen Masters.  Each melds with the soapy-song of washed dishes, the staccato rythmn of fingers on a keyboard and the gasp of surprise.  From when the Buddha inhaled as he first settled under the bodhi tree to his final breath; a subtle wisdom was released into the atmosphere. 

Each an echo in time. 

Arising and passing. 

The breath-to-breath transmission of itinerant, tireless lovers.

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The subtle wisdom was meant to be experienced.  We place labels on it and we erect taxonomies and elaborate rituals but a simple miracle occurs at each breath that needs no significance added upon it.  No words to confound it and no thoughts to obscure it.  A simple, deep and all-abiding breath that leads to a compassionate mind.  A moment of contemplation.  There are no levels to master and no teachings to memorize.  Just allow each breath to manifest a spark of wisdom that illuminates.  This is manifested at work in a meeting; dealing with conflict at home; waiting in traffic.  It is alive while reading a sutra or writing a poem.  You can hear the heart of wisdom while sitting in the early morning mist or lying breathless…wondering

where

the

breath

went… 

Enlightenment is not a place or a destination.  It expands with each breath.  When you release your last will it be a source of wisdom and compassion?  Or will it drift into the morning mist?  Awake but sleepwalking through this life.

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Everyday Bodhisattvas

What makes a good teacher?  With the delicate web of different America Dharma Centers it seems to be hinged upon placement in a temple and the practice of others.  A temple provides a building and a sangha but it does not necessarily provide a practice?  If you wish to meet a teacher you have every opportunity to find one within or without a temple.  The temple places some measure of authenticity and situational expectation but that is all it can provide.  You will find students at a temple or practitioners but will you find support?  You will find administrators and salesmen at a Dharma Center but will you find a teacher?  You will find meditators and a curriculum at at zendo but will you find a practice?

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I am not sure of the answer to any of those questions and even having the expectation of finding guidance will flavor your experience.  Practice works in a very organic manner; it is nurtured and then grows according to our daily experiences.  While guidance can be found in any center, the practical application is something that occurs through the constant and sometimes devastating interaction with life.  Those that surround us throughout the day at work or at home are the true bodhisattvas – our true teachers.  They are the ones that challenge and affirm our practice.  This isn’t a title that they earned but one that we place upon them.  We open ourselves up to the lessons that they can impart on us.  The challenge is for us to have the wisdom to see it and the compassion and courage to engage it.

Buddha didn’t place his teachers on a pedastal.  They were respected and he was an attentive student but it was his interactions with the world that roused his great doubt and brought him to practice.  His practice was a personal venture and a manifestation of great striving and courage.  Taking the gamble and striking the moment without hesitation was a product of his great faith.  The result was a piercing wisdom and an encompassing compassion but all hinged upon interaction and not escape.  He realized that his family and home was not challenging so he sought life out.  For many of us, the opposite is true:  We have challenges at home and seek escape through our practice.  Instead of looking within we gaze towards illusions and children’s stories.

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I can’t imagine that realization is possible while hanging on coat-tails of charismatic teachers, thumping sutras with zeal or blithering like a love-struck adolescent when the powerful impetus to practice is all around us.  Pain, stress, frustration, clinging to illusions and yearning for release are all a part of the same basket of dead flowers…the scent is alluring but they are still, in the end, lifeless stems.  We place the glamour upon them to give them life.  We manufacture the memory that trots behind, simple and trusting, like a lost puppy.

Clutching malas like frightened children or singing praises to reveal some glorious light is as baseless as banging a drum to chase away a bear when we already fell off the fucking cliff.

If you think your practice is a chant or a cushion; a syllable of power or a piece of jewelry; a statue or a divine deliverance then you are mistaken.  Those aren’t your practice, those are toys played with by your practice.  Practice is experienced through a stern look from a supervisor, a cry of a child, a moment of silence in the arms of a loved one.  Your reactions to these teachings is simple compassion grounded by an earthy wisdom.  With each of these things an opportunity arises to manifest your great quest.

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We don’t walk in the foot steps of the buddha, we blaze the trail.  The moment you spit out that pacifer of religion and walk towards a direct engagement with your life is the moment you feel and experience the first electric tinged sparkle of enlightenment.  The only realization that exists for us is that which we experience when we embrace samsara for what it is, empty of any real substance or significance but completely surrounding and permeating us.  We blow little spit bubbles of inspiration and then ruin it with labels.  Enamoured like Narcissus staring into a pond, we create more layers of illusion to buffer us from this experience.  Mala bead click and prayer wheels spin to confort us with the mesmorizing mantra “Forget Samsara.  Leave it behind” but by leaving samsara behind we fall off the path of active practice and begin to lilt away into the clouds in a saccharin-laden bliss.  Sucking on a slurpee of Nirvana that leaves nothing to nourish.  The empty calories of practice.

Holding implements like children too frightened to leave their bed, hoping to eventually be delivered from this moment, this life, this opportunity.  Ready to hang up their boots before even walking.

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all images from the amazing Micheal Forsberg, a Bodhisattva of the Plains.

The Return of the Great Plains Buddha

The website’s URL is now www.greatplainsbuddha.com.  What began as a diversion from my primary blog Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt.  A younger, and less impetuous sibling has grow into its own and I hope that you enjoy it.  It seems that I open a bit more of my practice here and avoid discussing politics or current events.  But we both know, you and I, that the two really can not be removed from the Dharma.  Without those things, the Dharma becomes a dusty statue, a stagnant pond.  Just as a teacher needs a student; the Dharma needs an evolving environment and a stumbling fool to be of any use. 

So, it seems that you have been enjoying this blog for the past few months and thanks to the inspiration of The KamikaZEN’s t-shirt design we have the great plains buddha.  I wrote a brief caption about the t-shirt and thought I would expand it some for this blog.  I hope you enjoy, comment and engage.  Why waste this precious human birth alone by the fire?

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The great plains buddha is at home surrounded by tall prairie grasses and rolling sage.  In a region largely without coverage, great plains buddhas shade themselves with bodhichitta and weather the hardships of every dry, brown summer; devastating winter and ocassional beer shortages. The horizon is flat but not without small areas of relief where you may find us under a tree…asleep.  I rarely get to see the mountains or rivers but with a horizon that encompasses both, our hearts soar with our feet firmly planted on dry soil or flowing field.  We await the storm of bodhi to fall from the west and soak us in karuna, leaving this land fertile and blooming.  Here, though, even the bodhi storm receeds in the evening leaving us alone to light our fires with damp wood and soggy cigarrettes.  But from the Black Hills to the footsteps of the Great Rockies; from the dune fields of Nebraska to the hill country of Texas; our fires dot the horizon ~ a horizon where sweeping lands meet the sky and opens doors to the Pure Land.   

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With a strike of lightning and howling winds our bodhi burns like tequila.

The Great Plains stretch 2500 miles from southern Canada to the Texas panhandle.  The grasses and rolling prairie of the Great Plains lie on top an ancient inland sea thriving with sea serpents.  Since then the area has bore witness to the roar of dinosaurs, the steady crawl of continental glaciers, epic volcanic eruptions and demonic keggers; all of which fell victim to the constant howl of a lonely, bitter wind.  But even as the rumble of the great bison herds echo in the distance and the land becomes slightly less wild, the spirit of the Plains continues to thrive through its heartache and triumph.  Through its love and loss.  The land as well as the buddhas that wander it learn to take great pride in the small moments because as swiftly as they arise, the vast landscape swallows them whole. 

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Images are from Micheal Forsberg’s book “The Great Plains

Zen Flesh, Vajra Heart, Buddha’s Bones

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Image from Japan Dave (his pictures kick ass)

Is Zen similar to the higher teaching of the Vajrayana such as mahamudra?  While many practitioners of both schools may see more of the differences, I have found that the similarities become more and more apparent.  Both are devoted to a practice tradition rather than a scholarly one.  The practice tradition focuses more on the actual experience of daily practice rather than on a more scholastic or philosophical pursuits.  This does not discard a scholarly path but it tends to be more supplimental.  Practice just exists on a visceral level rather than a logical, philosophical one.  On a Dharma ladder, every rung is important and integral to the whole.

Advanced practitioners of both Zen and the Vajrayana are focused on the path spiritual introspection and meditation, where each aims to attain Enlightenment in this life, this year, this moment.  Gradual through steps or sudden through explosive realization, by reason alone we are not capable of this feat.  No one can talk or reason their way to the subtle truths.  But we can practice to it, through it and after it.

I used to picture the Zen practice of zazen similar to samatha; the ‘calm abiding’ form of mediation that is often seen as a predecasor to more complex forms.  While it seems very similar to zazen, samatha is only similar to the zazen practice of many beginners to the practice or those looking for pure physical and mental benefits from sitting.  This is often reguarded as “Bompu Zen” and while it should not be seen as a lesser practice, it does take quite a distinction from other more advanced or experience Zen practices.

Bompu zen, or “usual zen,” means engaging in a meditation practice in order to procure the same kinds of things that one has always been looking for; that is to say health and happiness, some sense of well-being. There is nothing wrong with wanting to develop a sense of health and well being. We are not saying that any of these approaches to practice are “wrong”; it is just that some of them are more limiting than others. To limit oneself when it is not necessary is like tying your own hands.

We can obtain health and well being through our practice. The sitting posture itself allows the body to be as it is. It allows the body to sit in such a way that the spinal cord is erect, but not stiff. The shoulders allow tension to fall away from them and the weight is evenly balanced. There is no pressure being placed upon any of the internal organs by scrunching them as we fall into some slouching posture, or as we try to draw ourselves in and hold our chest tight.

Since we practice with the body and with the mind, both body and mind gain great benefit from practice, simply because they can function freely. Our mind will become calmer. We become able to face whatever is arising for us without panicking, and without trying to hide from it. We begin to realize a sense of strength and confidence which is not based upon puffing ourselves up in any particular way, but is grounded in simply being as we are. ~ By Ven. Anzan Hoshin roshi

Bompu Zen does not stand in stark contrast to the “higher” Zen practices.  But as one progresses through a lifetime of practice they find that practice is not based on trying to realize Enlightenment. It is based on a simple, wooden platform of practising without preconceptions. It is based in the moment. This is not something that is realized without effort.  To not need to look for the Buddha and simply realizing one’s own Nature as Buddha is easy to state through words and philosophy but more difficult to realize truly through experience.  I am not there yet.  I understand but do not realize.

 
When you look into space, seeing stops.
Likewise, when mind looks at mind,
The flow of thinking stops and you come to the deepest awakening.

Mists rise from the earth and vanish into space.
They go nowhere, nor do they stay.
Likewise, though thoughts arise,
Whenever you see your mind, the clouds of thinking clear.

Although you say space is empty,
You can’t say that space is “like this”.
Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity,
There is nothing there: you can’t say “it’s like this”.

Thus, the nature of mind is inherently like space:
It includes everything you experience.

Stop all physical activity: sit naturally at ease.
Do not talk or speak: let sound be empty, like an echo.
Do not think about anything: look at experience beyond thought.

Your body has no core, hollow like bamboo.
Your mind goes beyond thought, open like space.
Let go of control and rest right there.

Mind without projection is mahamudra.
Train and develop this and you will come to the deepest awakening. ~ Tilopa’s “Pith Instructions on Mahamudra”

These instructions strike a similar beat in my Vajra heart as following verses cause my Zen flesh to quiver…

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.  ~ Seng T’san’s “Inscription of Faith in Mind”
All us filthy crows still pick the same scraps of Dharma from the Buddha’s bones.  We just like to pretend that our rotton feast is better than our neighbor’s.

Banned Book Week! Celebrate your banned books!

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The best way to celebrate your freedom to read and engage in a fruitful search for information is to use your public library.  The public library system is the great social equalizer of information.  It provides information services, internet access and print material to every segment of the population.  Every creed, culture, race and socio-economic stratum is allowed to and encouraged to use these services.  They are open to all.  But many people and groups want to make a judgment call on what is or is not appropriate.

Each day, all across the country, one of our most basic freedoms — the right to read — is in danger. In communities large and small, censorship attempts every year threaten to undermine our freedom to read. Without our constant support, the First Amendment freedoms that we so often take for granted — the right to read, explore ideas, and express ourselves freely — are at risk.

The First Amendment guarantees that each of us has the right to express our views, including opinions about particular books. At the same time, the First Amendment also ensures that none of us has the right to control or limit another person’s ability to read or access information. Yet, when individuals or groups fi le formal written requests demanding that libraries and schools remove specifi c books from the shelves, they are doing just that — attempting to restrict the rights of other individuals to access those books.

I am a firm believer in open access to printed and digital material, whether or not I consider it offensive is besides the point.  I make the conscious choice to not read things as well as to read them and I respect people enough to want to give everyone that same choice.  I can think of one title that I cringe whenever I walk by it (pssst…It’s “You can lead an atheist to evidence but you can’t make him think” by Ray Comfort and Mr. Comfort’s “abridged” edition of “The Origin of Species” … *shudder* … and you can read more about it here) but I would never want it “challenged” and then removed.

So to celebrate please choose a banned book from the attached pdf (or any book for that matter) from the American Library Association and request it at your local public library.

My choice was League of Extraodinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier but then again, I am a comics fan.

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Download this file

 Judy Bloom interviews about Banned Books and Censorship

Banned Books and pictures from HuffPo.

Bitch Magazine on Banned Books

Keep your influence small and your compassion wide open.

Sometimes while sitting zazen, I focus on my hands and my hara.  My hands, in meditation mudra, capture a small amount of air ~ my sphere of influence and my daily interactions ~small, limited and contrained by my geographic and physical presence.  But my compassion, everything eminating from my hara, is vast and full of potential.  This is the aspect of practice that is not limited by my physical presence.  This is the broad horizon of 10,000 things spreading out in 10,000 directions.  Both of these aspects of practice are present in every moment but only one is really measurable, quantifiable and observable.

So a balance is struck between my influence and my potential for boundless compassion.  Of course, my compassion is not boundless.  I am limited by illusions and hamped by delusions.  But the potential is there, it is not realized.  I can have compassion for many but manifesting that compassion is, by neccessity, limited to only a few.

My physical presence.  My small sphere of influence.  That is what takes priority but it is so limited.  Influence only goes so far and once that rope hits its length..it will fray and weaken.  I call that “compassion burn-out”.  When I tutored at an afterschool program, it was largely just me and 60-100 kids aged 5-16 that needed help in everything from basic literacy skills to grammar to calculus.  Everyday I only had four hours to ensure everyone recieved the help they needed.  Is that possible?  No.  It isn’t. 

Running from person to person to person just frays the rope and made me tense, stressed and frustrated.  Then everyone walks out dissappointed.  Instead I looked at those that needed the help the most and focused on them.  The 5th grader from the abusive household, the sisters from a broken household, the two girls whose foster mother just married someone from the sex offenders list, the 3rd grader whose mother is in prison.  These are the people that needed the help and the attention because they were not going to receive it elsewhere.  They only had one moment.

My circle of influence was limited to them although my compassion went to everyone in that room.  But those that didn’t get the help they needed that day had to understand that while they may have to ask mom or dad to help on homework later that night, they at least had that option.

While some walked away seeing me as an ineffectual and occassionally unfair tutor, the ones that really needed help and attention walked out knowing someone was concerned for them.  Compassion is not easy sometimes.  We only have so much to give within our sphere of influence. 

Don’t try to help everyone, focus on those that really need it, be a bodhisattva.

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Banned Books of 2009? Mouth Punch!

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The Office for Intellectual Freedom (of the American Library Association) gets reports of challenges (of books) in public libraries, schools, and school libraries from a variety of sources, and a shocking majority of challenges go unreported. Estimates from the ALA is that its statistics reflect only 20-25% of the challenges that actually occur.  While working in a public library I don’t get to hear too many of these (as I am not really a librarian) but while working as a tutor with a small (5000 title) non-circulating, private library, I did get a bunch of these.  A few of my favorites (paraphrased from adults) were

  • “This book has a picture of a monkey and a human on the cover and I don’t believe in evolution.” ~ The book was about kung-fu.
  • “These books are about religion and should not be here” ~ This was directed at a children’s book about the Hindu celebration of Diwali.  The parent amazingly chose to ingore the hundreds of books on Easter and Christmas.
  • “The Koran is unamerican” ~ Right.  I had an children’s book of Rumi’s poetry in my poetry section.  It was nice. I kept it there.  It was not unamerican (if it were, I would have purchased two).
  • “This is about witchcraft” ~ This was my largest comment coming from numerous parents about any popular children’s book. I mean ANY!  Too many to list.  Just assume from now on that if it is popular and has teens in it then it is also about witchcraft or the occult.
  • “Catholics don’t believe in God” ~ I am still confused by this one.  It seemed to be about the Berenstein Bears book series but I still can’t figure what they were talking about.  But they were quite adamant about it and when I explained my family was Catholic and definately believed in God, they were notrelieved.  Then explaining that I was Buddhist and didn’t believe in God was the capstone to that conversation.
  • “Where is the Bible?” ~ Unless I could find a children’s version of every major world religion, I would not include a Bible in my collection (in this case, it was my private library and I made that caveat).  It took me two years but I found a children’s version of Buddhist Sutras, the Koran, General Taoism, General Hinduism, General Buddhism, Wicca for Kids, Native American faith and the Jewish faith among many others.  Once the collection (54 books strong at the end of my term) was complete they all went out with the children’s bible stories.  The fact that next to no major children’s publishers had a decent world religions selection was disturbing.  Equally disturbing were the complaints I recieved about every cultural or historical book talking about world religions except the bible-stories.
  • “This is atheist propagnada” ~ His Dark Materials Triology by Pullman.  This was not surprising from some parents.  What was mind-blowing was that an agency-wide email went out warning teachers/tutors/staff/parents to warn our students/family/friends that this movie was “Anti-Christian” and “Pro-Atheist.”  This was one of the few times I went to my supervisor frothing at the mouth and really voiced my complaint that as a “secular” agency we should not be pushing religious views over an agency-wide email. 

So on to the “ALA’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2009.” This list reflects a wide range of themes so have fun:

 

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    ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle 
     Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs  [awesome book.  I did “high-shelf” this one for grades 6 and up.  I gave it many props for fooling me into thinking it was tame…it wasn’t]

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    “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
     Reasons: Homosexuality [Holy Crap! I did not have this one in my collection but I should have! It is about time someone took a stand against books portraying the animal kingdom as anything but heterosexual (I’m looking at you Bonobos…filthly penis-sparring bonobos).  I smell a sequel.]

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    “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
     Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide [Anti-family?  Thank goodness I live in a world that so embraces respect and understanding enough to throw blinders over anything but a proper, happy, 2.34 kids, suburban family.  Because if we talk or read about anything otherwise the structure of the world will dissolve, Jesus will come, believers raptured away and that would only leave…wait.Ok. Ban this book.]

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    “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee 
     Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [Still with this one?  The south is racist.  Get over it.  This is perhaps the most widely read book ever.]

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    Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
     Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group [The only one that I agree with.  Nothing to do with “religious viewpoint” but everything to do with anything that causes so much projectile vomit cannot be good for us.  That and thank you for making vampires complete whoosies.]

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    “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
     Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [Still?]

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    “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
     Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence [Anything with a list that long can’t be all that bad…here is an description “Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now.” … holy shit, I need to read this book.]

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    “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
     Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [The title is pure gold.  I’m sold.]

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    “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker 
     Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [This one is unfamiliar to me. But any movie that paints Danny Glover in such a negative light about things that never, ever, ever, happen in society needs to be banned…forever]

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    “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
     Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group [NUDITY?!  NUDITY?!  Is it a picture book?  Because if it isn’t, I find it hard to believe a book without pictures could have nudity in it.  Perhaps that can be covered under “Sexually Explicit?”]

Seven titles were dropped from the list, including: His Dark Materials Trilogy (Series) by Philip Pullman (Political Viewpoint, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz (Occult/Satanism, Religious Viewpoint, Violence); “Bless Me, Ultima” by Rudolfo Anaya (Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Violence); Gossip Girl (Series) by Cecily von Ziegesar (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding” by Sarah S. Brannen (Homosexuality, Unsuited to Age Group); “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini (Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group); and “Flashcards of My Life” by Charise Mericle Harper (Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group).

I noticed a drop in “Occult/Satanism” so either lambasting satanists is out of season or maybe it worked and the dark lord is rising…who knows?

So go out and buy, or better yet, borrow a banned or challenged book at your local library and encourage an educator to do a “Banned Book List.”  I started one for the kids I tutored and they loved it.  I have never seen more children and young adults, that ordinarily didn’t read, start tossing down books like mentos.

Also check out this list of CLASSICS that have been on the banned book list…let me know your favorite!  Check out this for a list of challenged books by year…

Cheers.