Category Archives: Monday Blues

Monday Morning Blues; Get Behind the Mule


I was really tempted to go with Vera Hall’s Wild Ox Moan but this Tom Waits song is the one I’ve had in my head all week.

Despite the titles, the content of this one is more inline with working with the ox.

If Tom Waits is too rough for you, John Hammond Jr. does an excellent cover, here

Monday Morning Blues; Ballad of the Absent Mare



This isn’t my favorite Leonard Cohen song, but if the ratio of Leonard Cohen fans who read this blog happens to overlap the ratio of Zennies, some of you may know why I’m choosing it today.


If not, I’ll just say that this is the beginning of a two-week journey in search of an ox…

Monday Morning Blues; Andante


 Vivaldi • Andante (from concerto for two mandolins)

I know I’ve stretched the use of the terms “Blues” already, including Jazz, Folk, and Country, but thought I’d push it even further this time. (And being just a few hours west of the International Date Line, I realize the term “Monday” is a stretch, too!)

Sitting in meditation each night, I notice that my mind starts reliving the days events, things said, and things typed.

Of course, by the next night the previous day is mostly all forgotten and that day’s experience takes over, which made me think, “Even this will be forgotten tomorrow, there’s not much reason to be so concerned with it now. It’s already finished.”

I started meditating thinking/hoping it would have a positive effect on my life. Not long after, I realized if I lived a more peaceful life, my meditation would benefit, and perhaps let me go deeper. Words usually have the biggest influence on the condition of both.

Like this song, I’m going to try to go wordlessly this week, and maybe the next. There’s something I’ve had in mind for a while, but I have to dig a bit deeper to get it out.

I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I do!

Monday Morning Blues; Happy to Be Free


Champion Jack Dupree • Happy to Be Free

Is it possible to be free without being happy?

Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.

Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted men we dwell free from affliction.

Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious. Amidst the avaricious men we dwell free from avarice.

Happy indeed we live, we who possess nothing. Feeders on joy we shall be, like the Radiant Gods.

-Sukhavagga: Happiness

Monday Morning Blues; Buddha’s got the Blues


Original Sloth Band • Buddha’s Got the Blues

Buddha’s go the blues, way down in his shoes
‘Cause nobody travels anymore.

You must wash your toes, where the Ganges flows…

If I had it to do over, I’d have kept last week’s quote for this week’s song, but this one does quite nicely!

They go to many a refuge,
to mountains and forests,
to park and tree shrines:
people threatened with danger.
That’s not the secure refuge,
not the supreme refuge,
that’s not the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering & stress.

But when, having gone
to the Buddha, Dhamma,
& Sangha for refuge,
you see with right discernment
the four noble truths —
the cause of stress,
the transcending of stress,
& the noble eightfold path,
the way to the stilling of stress:
that’s the secure refuge,
that, the supreme refuge,
that is the refuge,
having gone to which,
you gain release
from all suffering & stress.

from the Buddhavagga Sutta (Awakened)

Monday Morning Blues; Trouble of the World


 Mahalia Jackson • Trouble of the World

Soon it will be done,
…….Troubles of the world

“I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by traveling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering & stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception & intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos.”

Rohitassa Sutta

It seems to me that in any moment we are all capable of putting an end to our suffering for good. Sooner would be better than later but realistically, if that ever were to happen, it won’t be for a long, long time.

Monday Morning Blues; the Irish Balad


Got back a bit late for a ‘Monday Morning’ post but I think it’s still Monday morning somewhere in the world!

The Buddha said that lying is the greatest detriment to awakening. At first I was a bit surprised it would be considered even a greater obstacle than taking life, but considering that Dhamma is truth, I start to understand why.

Monday Morning Blues; precept #2.1 – Stealin’, Stealin’/Gandhatthena Sutta: Stealing the Scent


Memphis Jug Band – Stealin’, Stealin’

Taking that which is not given

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.

It seems pretty obvious, don’t steal, to the point where I couldn’t think about much to add to it, but the last bit of wording is in such a way that it can point to a more subtle depth than I’m clever enough to perceive in most moments.

This morning, I came across the Gandhatthena Sutta: Stealing the Scent, a beautiful exchange between a monk and a nature spirit on the subtle ways we may take what is not given. there is also an excellent commentary by the translator. Personally, I’d like to believe that the flower offers its scent to us, but I recognize that the desire of taking is what’s at the muddied root of this lotus.

Gandhatthena Sutta: Stealing the Scent

I have heard that on one occasion a certain monk was dwelling among the Kosalans in a forest thicket. Now at that time, after his meal, returning from his almsround, he went down to a lotus pond and sniffed a red lotus.

Then the devata inhabiting the forest thicket, feeling sympathy for the monk, desiring his benefit, desiring to bring him to his senses, approached him and addressed him with this verse:

 A Devata:

This lotus blossom which you sniff,
Though it’s not been offered to you,
Is thus something that’s been stolen.
You, sir, are a stealer of scents!



But I don’t take, nor do I break;
I sniff the lotus from afar.
So really what reason have you
To call me a stealer of scents?
He who uproots them by the stalk,
And consumes the pale lotuses;
The one engaged in such cruel work,
Why do you not say this of him?



A person who’s ruthless and cruel,
Defiled like a workman’s garment,
To him my words would mean nothing.
But it’s fitting I speak to you.
For an unblemished person, who’s
Always pursuing purity,
Even a hair-tip of evil
Seems to him as large as a cloud.



Truly, O yakkha, you know me,
And have concern for my welfare.
Do please, O yakkha, speak again,
Whenever you see such a thing.



I don’t live to serve upon you;
Nor will I do your work for you.
You should know for yourself, O monk,
How to go along the good path.

Translator’s note: This lively exchange between a forest-dwelling monk and a benevolent deity is filled with poetic movement and gives us a glimpse of the care with which some people practiced in the time of the Buddha. Since the working definition of stealing was “taking what has not been given,” the Devata is correct — in a very strict sense. Notice that the monk at first reacts defensively, denying that he is doing anything wrong, and then tries to shift the blame to others who do even worse. After recognizing a veiled compliment, he finally realizes that the Devata is trying to help him, at which point he encourages further help. The Devata ends the exchange sharply, revealing an intriguing and capricious character who is willing to help, but only on his own terms. This is a role often played by nature spirits and other minor deities in the Pali texts.

Five Precepts Blues; #4.4 – It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie/Rahulovada Sutta


Fats Waller ~ It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie

A lot of attention is given to Siddhartha, the father, questioning his leaving his wife and son to pursue his enlightenment, but less focus is given to Buddha, the father. After all, he did return and ordain his son, Rahula, as the first Sāmanera, and eventually helped him awaken as an arhants, in my opinion, the greatest gift a parent could give.

After Rahula’s ordination, the Buddha’s teaching to him was on the importance of telling the truth, telling him that truth was the highest of all virtues. To realize Nibbana, one should not break the precept of Truth.

Here is a section from the beginning of the Rahulovada Sutta;

Then the Blessed One, having left a little bit of water in the water dipper, said to Ven. Rahula, “Rahula, do you see this little bit of left-over water remaining in the water dipper?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s how little of a contemplative there is in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie.”

Having tossed away the little bit of left-over water, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, “Rahula, do you see how this little bit of left-over water is tossed away?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that.”

Having turned the water dipper upside down, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, “Rahula, do you see how this water dipper is turned upside down?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is turned upside down just like that.”

Having turned the water dipper right-side up, the Blessed One said to Ven. Rahula, “Rahula, do you see how empty & hollow this water dipper is?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is empty & hollow just like that.

Further along in the Sutta, the Buddha ads;

When anyone feels no shame in telling a deliberate lie, there is no evil, I tell you, he will not do. Thus, Rahula, you should train yourself, ‘I will not tell a deliberate lie even in jest.’

“What do you think, Rahula: What is a mirror for?”

“For reflection, sir.”

“In the same way, Rahula, bodily actions, verbal actions, & mental actions are to be done with repeated reflection.

The Sutta can be read in here at Access to Insight

Monday Morning Blues; precept #4.1 – Winning Boy


Jelly Roll Morton – Whinin’ Boy

Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami
I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech.

Though I’ve only ever seen one Buddha statue depicted with its mouth open, he actually had a lot, A LOT to say, and a fair part of that was on right speech.

“And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, and from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”


One of the parallels between Vipassanna and Zen practice is to see things as they truly are, starting from within. To see yourself as you truly are requires absolute self honesty. It requires whatever’s behind that inner voice to suck it up and admit reality. Once we admit to ourselves who we are, with some more effort, we may begin to actually change. We might even open ourselves up to the rest of the world!

Monday Morning Blues; Buddah


Today’s song is by Al Tuck & No Action, a friend of mine from my Halifax days.

I don’t know him very well, he was the best man at a friend’s wedding, who had played me his music a few times, so I was drawn to chat with him after the ceremony and let him know how much I appreciated his songs.

Later, when I left for art school, we had similar social circles. We’d usually chat about old blues recordings and how things were generally going, but if I’d know anything about Buddhism at the time, I might have asked him about this song (and if he knew he didn’t get the spelling quite right…).

At the time, I just thought it was a strange way to depict the Buddha, but know I see it more as a depiction of the Buddha nature within us all (maybe that’s why the spelling is altered), trying to dig itself out of the daily B.S. of worldly affairs.

What Buddah’s struggles really come down to, here, are forgetting his basic five precepts. I know because nearly all my troubles come down to forgetting them, as well!