Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
Julhas Alam (AP)
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his Cabinet then left the building, where he had earlier given a key policy address in which he vowed to jump-start Thailand's economy, heal its political divisions and repair its tattered image. More>>
- Video: Thai PM starts despite protest (Reuters)
Materiality, "form," is empty, that is, utterly "devoid of self." (Photo: vox.com)
Sunday, December 28, 2008
With only a handful of opposition lawmakers entering the building, the morning opening of the legislature was postponed.
"If they (lawmakers) want to go in, they have to walk through us, including the prime minister," one of the protest leaders, Chatuporn Prompan, told reporters outside the Parliament compound where demonstrators spent the night.
The demonstration sparked fears of renewed political turbulence, which paralyzed the previous government for months and climaxed with an eight-day seizure of Bangkok's airports. But the earlier protesters had been part of an anti-Thaksin alliance.
The current protest group — which calls itself the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship — is trying to pressure the government to dissolve the legislature and call snap general elections. More>>
Friday, December 26, 2008
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Prison Dharma class (sazpp.org)
[Indian and American] Prison authorities have adopted a holistic approach
Pramod Morjaria (BBC reporter in Delhi)
The massive Tihar jail complex just outside the Indian capital Delhi was until a few years ago a place to be feared.
"I found a new kind of mental freedom in jail"
Comprising six separate prisons sprawling over 400 acres, Tihar -- the biggest prison in Asia -- was notorious for drugs, corruption, and violence.
Overcrowding is still a chronic problem, with 12,000 inmates filling the institution to almost three times its capacity.
But Tihar is now regarded as a model prison, welcoming delegations from far and wide who come to study how prison authorities turned the place around. [The first female officer in South Asia apparently introduced the idea.]
The key to their success, they say, is an holistic approach to reform and rehabilitation.
Buddhist meditation and yoga are now widely practiced by inmates, and more than 1,000 prisoners are enrolled in education programs or degree courses.
Agarwal: rehabilitation must be mental
He said Vipassana ["insight"], which involves ten-day silent meditations, had helped him "eradicate the vicious complexes you have inside." [Free Goenka meditation programs are available worldwide and involve a ten-day intensive Buddhist practice].
"And it helps a lot to eliminate the agony which you have created," he said.
Critics of Tihar call it a "golden cage" full of amenities for prisoners to enjoy for free, instead of a place where they go to be punished for their crimes.
But Ajay Agarwal, the Director General of Tihar, defends his prison's alternative approach.
"In the western world, what happens is that a person is incarcerated physically, but mentally there is no effect on him," he said.
"As a result, when he comes inside, or when he goes outside, there is practically no difference whatsoever."
One inmate who has noticed a difference is Leo Sandigasnier, a Norwegian national sentenced to 10 years in 1997 for trying to smuggle two kilos of cannabis from Nepal.
Delegations visit from far and wide.
"Before I came here, my impression of jail was like some black hole in my mind," said Mr. Sandigasnier, who was just 19 when he was sentenced.
"Coming here, I see that there is a lot of positive initiative, a lot of people who want to help us evolve, and somehow, I found a new kind of mental freedom in jail," he said.
New circular cells have been built for prisoners who want to do the 10-day Vipassana meditation course, which authorities say gives them the time and space to come to terms with their actions.
"After three days, [the prisoner's] mind starts bursting, he starts laughing and shouting, but by the fourth day onwards, peace starts descending on the man," Mr. Agarwal said.
"After 10 days, he starts realizing the futility of having committed a crime."
Non-governmental organizations come in from outside to oversee some of the initiatives, but in many cases then hand over the running of the projects to the prisoners themselves.
Tihar helps prisoners help themselves.
About 800 inmates are enrolled on various education programs.
And more than 300 are taking degrees with the help of the Indira Gandhi National Open University and the National Open School.
The typing and secretarial class is popular, and the female section of Tihar jail, which houses 532 women, even has its own beauty parlor.
Ruby, a female prisoner who has trained as a beautician in Tihar, summed up the view of many of the inmates.
"When I entered the prison, I was scared and apprehensive about how jail would be," she said.
"But seeing that there are many opportunities here, it calms one's mind." Source
- More on yoga in prison (BBC)
- Eight Florida teens to be tried as adults in videotaped beating case
- Video shows 16-year-old girl punched by other girls
- 21% of girls age 17 say they've assaulted someone, the Justice Dept. reports
- The teens have "disconnect" between thoughts and actions, psychologist says
- Practical Buddhist solutions to resolving anger
- Yoga in prisons
The teenagers seen in a video assaulting a 16-year-old could face life in prison.
The suspects, who range in age from 14 to 18, all face charges of kidnapping, which is a first-degree felony, and battery, said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for the Polk County state attorney. Three of them are also charged with tampering with a witness.
Everyone involved in the case was under a gag order imposed by a judge. The only attorney for the teens who has been publicly identified did not return calls from CNN, and his assistant cited the gag order as the reason. The teens are scheduled for their first appearance in court Friday.
The video shows a brutal scene: The 16-year-old victim is punched, kneed and slapped by other girls. She huddles in the fetal position, or stands and screams at her attackers, but the assault continues. Authorities say the eight teens said they were retaliating for insults posted on the Internet by the attack victim.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called the March 30 attack "animalistic."
"I've been involved in law enforcement for 35 years, and I've seen a lot of extremely violent events, but I've never seen children, 14 to 18 years of age, engage in this conduct for a 30-minute period of time and then make these video clips," he said. Police say the teens planned to post the video on YouTube.
The idea of girls administering a vicious beating so they can post the video online may seem shocking, but it's becoming an increasingly common scenario, according to experts and news reports.
In 2003, 25 percent of high school girls said they had been in a physical fight in the past year, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The figure for boys was 40.5 percent.)
A Justice Department report released in 2006 showed that by age 17, 21 percent of girls said they had assaulted someone with the intent to cause serious harm.
Frank Green is executive director of Keys to Safer Schools, a group that studies and tries to prevent school violence. He said he's not sure whether girls have actually become more violent, or whether there's just more awareness of their fights.
"In one respect, girls have always been more vicious than boys," Green said. "Their violence is of a personal nature." He said boys usually have some focus and a concrete goal when they fight. "But girls want to cause pain and make the other girl feel bad," he said.
Judd, the Polk County sheriff, said an important part of the plan in the Lakeland attack was to post the video of the beating on YouTube to humiliate and embarrass the victim.
"It's the next stage of cyberbullying," psychologist Susan Lipkins said. "They want to show what they're doing."
"Our kids are being peer pressured, in another sense of a trend, to put these shock videos out there at other peoples' expense," said Talisa Lindsay, the victim's mother. "And I hope that it doesn't come to the point where there's more people's lives that are being affected by having to take a beating for entertainment, or possibly being killed."
Judd said the suspects showed no remorse when they were arrested and booked.
"They were laughing and joking about, 'I guess we won't get to go to the beach during spring break.' And one ... asked whether she could go to cheerleading practice," he said.
Lipkins, the psychologist, says there's a "disconnect between their actions and their thoughts."
"They think the entire society is doing it, and they think it's funny. So they put it on YouTube. And I don't think they expect kids to get really hurt, and they also don't expect to get really caught." Source
HOW TO DEVELOP LOVING-KINDNESS: Counteracting Anger
The Dharma has a number of helpful ways to deal with annoyance and irritability that has become full blown anger, hate, or wrath.
- Substitution: cultivate thoughts of loving-kindness to replace the anger that has arisen.
- Contemplate the results of remaining angry (the harm, the consequences, the regression in the slow evolution to a superior, more profitable character).
- Leave, run away, avoid the situation that is inspiring anger.
- Stop giving unwise attention to thoughts that give rise to anger.
- Compliment rather than criticize; simply searching the mind for something to compliment results in finding it -- we'll find what we look for because we look for it.
- Reflect: Three things give rise to anger. Someone's actions, speech, or intentions (physical, verbal, or mental karma). If it is one's deeds that annoy, focus on that person's speech or intentions. If it is that person's speech, focus on that person's deeds or intentions, and so on. If, however, all three are annoying (because you are able to see, hear, and read minds or deduce intentions) then reflect in the following way. If this worthy person continues in this way, s/he will certainly land in an unfortunate destination. Done sincerely, this will give rise to compassion and pity (altruistic sympathy).
- Destroy your enemy. It may sound trite, but Eastern wisdom suggests that the best way to utterly annihilate your foe is to make that person a friend (even if that person doesn't know her/his new status).
- Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, and even the martial arts (which emphasize mutual respect, confidence, stress management, and avoiding fights) can be very helpful in converting or dispelling angry emotions parked in the body:
- BBC VIDEO: Yoga in prison
Western tourist and others gather to light candles during remembrance services at Dolphin Park on Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand, Friday, 12/26/08, on the fourth anniversary of the Asian Tsunami. More than 230,000 people were killed when the tsunami struck 12/26/04 (AP/David Longstreath).
BANGKOK, Thailand – Southeast Asia's tsunami-ravaged coral reefs have bounced back with surprising speed, according to a study released Friday, four years after the deadly waves hit.
The findings came as communities across the Indian Ocean remembered the disaster that struck Dec. 26, 2004 with prayers, songs, and tears. About 230,000 people were killed in a dozen countries when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered the tsunami.
Surveys of coral reefs after the tsunami showed that up to one-third were damaged, and experts predicted it would take a decade for them to fully recover.
Scientists from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, working with the Indonesian government and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said their examination of 60 sites on 497 miles (800 kilometers) of coastline along Indonesia's Aceh province showed the reefs were bouncing back.
"On the 4th anniversary of the tsunami, this is a great story of ecosystem resilience and recovery," said Stuart Campbell, coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Indonesia Marine Program.
"Our scientific monitoring is showing rapid growth of young corals in areas where the tsunami caused damage, and also the return of new generations of corals in areas previously damaged by destructive fishing," Campbell said in a statement. "These findings provide new insights into coral recovery processes that can help us manage coral reefs in the face of climate change."
Healthy coral reefs are economic engines for Acehnese communities, Campbell added, supplying fish to eat and sell as well as tourism dollars from recreational diving.
The tsunami decimated coastlines across the Indian Ocean, wiping out villages, killing entire families, and crippling the economies in parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
The United Nations estimated that Aceh alone lost $332.4 million from the loss of its reefs to the destructive waves.
But four years on, the multibillion dollar rebuilding process is almost complete with more than 120,000 homes built in Aceh alone and the reconstruction of tourist hotels and restaurants along Thailand's Andaman coast.
Thousands gathered Friday to celebrate the progress but to also remember the dead and reflect on a tragedy that turned their lives upside down.
"I don't think people will ever forget the tsunami. It changed a lot of people's lives," said Alisara Na-Takuatung, a local Phuket radio disc jockey who took part in a ceremony on Thailand's Patong beach attended by 200 people.
About 50 Buddhist monks prayed while school children played traditional Thai instruments.
"I know people who lost their husbands, their kids. Those people won't forget about the tsunami," she said. "They will see it as a lesson. You think about what you can do for others."
Ibrahim Musa, a 42-year-old civil servant who joined thousands in a prayer service in the hard-hit Aceh province of Indonesia, said it feels like yesterday that his family was taken by the sea.
"Even after four years, I cannot forget how I lost hold of my wife and baby," he said. "I have tried in vain to look for them for three years. Now I have no choice but to accept their departure as destiny."
Siti Hasnaini, 40, who still lives with her two sons and husband in a temporary shelter in Aceh, prayed "for my daughter who was washed away with my house."
In India, where thousands also perished, interfaith prayers, and a moment of silence were held. The Sri Lankan government declared two minutes of silence for the 35,000 people killed there as well as other victims of natural disasters.
The healing trend embraced by those devastated by the tsunami has extended to the reefs with communities responding to calls to protect them from illegal fishing, pollution, and coastal development.
Campbell said citizens have been particularly responsive in Aceh where fishermen have stopped using illegal techniques like dynamite, and villagers have transplanted corals into areas that were hardest hit.
"The recovery, which is in part due to improved management and the direct assistance of local people, gives enormous hope that coral reefs in this remote region can return to their previous condition and provide local communities with the resources they need to prosper," Campbell said.
Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a reef expert from the University of Queensland in Australia who did not take part in the study, said the findings were not surprising since corals typically will recover if not affected by fishing and coastal development.
"The mechanical damage from the tsunami left a whole bunch of shattered corals on the bottom of the sea," Hoegh-Guldberg said.
"Left alone, these things can quickly grow back into what looks like a coral reef in a short time," he said. "We are seeing similar things around the southern Great Barrier Reef where reefs that experience major catastrophe can bounce back quite quickly."
John Bruno, a reef expert from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, agreed saying it shows coral reefs are able to recover after severe disturbances.
"There has been so much bad news about coral decline lately, and the threats to corals seem to increase every year. It is important to recognize that these invaluable ecosystems are not lost," he said in an e-mail interview. "We just have to implement some common sense policies locally and substantially reduce emissions of greenhouse gases at a global scale."
Associated Press Writer Fachrurradize Gade contributed to this report from Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
On the Web:
- Wildlife Conservation Society: http://www.wcs.org/
Home of Buddhism, India's amazing diversity offers a spectacular adventure to intrepid travelers. From the moment one sets foot in the holy land to be greeted by a gentle Namaste, a gesture denoting both welcome and respect, one is in for an extremely rewarding life experience.
Top 2008 Paranormal Online Sightings
The troops headed to the Indian border were being diverted away from tribal areas near Afghanistan, officials said, and the move was expected to frustrate the United States... More>>
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Zoroastrianism supplanted Buddhism in ancient India, which extended into Persia. Eventually Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam and Iran (Aryan) invasions spread throughout the middle country (northern India). The waves of military conquests and successions of kings melts into repetitive history in the Mahabharata and other Indian classics. The Bodhisatta ("Buddha-to-be") arose out of this milieu and went in search of enlightenment as a stranger in a strange land in what today is Bihar State.
He consummated his six year odyssey in Bodhgaya and spent most of the remainder of his life teaching in ancient India's two largest cities, Savatthi and Rajagaha. His message, however, has reverberated throughout the world. It influenced the Greeks and therefore Western civilization, adopting the guise of each culture it blended with.
He is often called the Light of the East. But his range of influence is one of the Four Imponderables. Rare is a human life; rarer still is meeting with the Buddha-Dharma. The opportunity to practice is precious, encouraging every good thing until we realize the "end of suffering" (nirvana).
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Yes. Therefore, there is no time to delay. Enlightenment (the realization of the Truth that sets one free) is easy. It can be accomplished in three steps:
- Freedom from remorse (blamelessness, ahimsa, sila)
- Concentration (samadhi in terms of jhana) based on a clear conscience
- Insight (examining rupa-nama: ultimate materiality and mentality)
This path to freedom from suffering -- nirvana, liberation, emancipation, salvation -- is possible because the Dharma still exists in the world. It is extremely rare that the Dharma is present here at all. How much time does anyone have?
RATS RULE AT INDIAN TEMPLE -- The floors are a living tangle of undulating fur. Small, brown blurs scurry across marble floors. Thousands of rats dine with people and scamper over their feet.
It may sound like a nightmare from the New York City subway to some, but in India's small northwestern city of Deshnoke, this is a place of worship: Rajastan's famous Karni Mata Temple.
This ornate, isolated Hindu temple was constructed by Maharaja Ganga Singh in the early 1900s as a tribute to the rat goddess, Karni Mata. Intricate marble panels line the entrance and the floors, and silver and gold decorations are found throughout.
But by far the most intriguing aspect of the interior is the 20,000-odd rats that call this temple home. These holy animals are called kabbas, and many people travel great distances to pay their respects.
The legend goes that Karni Mata, a mystic matriarch from the 14th century, was an incarnation of Durga, the goddess of power and victory. At some point during her life, the child of one of her clansmen died. She attempted to bring the child back to life, only to be told by Yama, the god of death, that he had already been reincarnated.
Karni Mata cut a deal with Yama: From that point forward, all of her tribespeople would be reborn as rats until they could be born back into the clan.
In Hinduism, death marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one on the path to a soul's eventual oneness with the universe. This cycle of transmigration is known as Samsara and is precisely why Karni Mata's rats are treated like royalty.
Gautam Ghosh, professor of anthropology and Asian studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, noted how rare this rat-worshipping temple is. "In India, as in the West, rats aren't treated with particular veneration."
In Hinduism, many deities take animals forms. "The main theological point is that there's no dividing line between what forms gods or goddesses can use," said Rachel Fell McDermott, professor of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures at Barnard College in New York City. "There's nothing to say they can't take form as a fish, a bird, or even a rat." More>>
In Search Of (Part I) Spirit Photography?
How would a recent "photograph" of an ancient figure be possible? Leonard Nimoy offers a fascinating explanation of the phenomenon.
In Search Of (Part II) Deva Hoax in England?
In Search Of (Part III) Man makes photographs with his mind in controlled experiments
May all living beings be well
May all living beings be happy
May all living beings be well and happy
Happiness is coming to them
Happiness is being brought on by them
They are making others happy
They are enjoying a healthy, happy, and prosperous present
Moreover, they are joyfully developing
- Virtue (sila)
- Samadhi and
- Noble wisdom
as they meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, hardships, and setbacks in life.
May all living beings long continue to be well
May all living beings long continue to be happy
May all living beings long continue to be well and happy!
Dharmachari Seven (Buddhist advice to a very fearful young woman)
There are only four reasons why you have ever and will ever feel hurt, grief, psychological discomfort, or emotional distress. Only four. Whatever you feel in terms of unhappiness or suffering, it is only because it is rooted in one or some combination of these four. What four?
- Greed (grabbiness, yearning, craving, hankering, and pining)
- Hate (anger, unfriendliness, compassionlessness, resentment)
- Delusion (wrong views, mental distortions, thought aberrations)
- Fear (a kind of Hate, which is both the root of anger and cowardice)
The good thing is that each of these roots has an antidote, a "medicine." Interestingly -- and to get straight to the point of delivering this medicine right where it's needed at this moment -- both anger and Fear are in a way the same thing, because they have the same root.
Now, you see no Hate/anger in you, none that you're aware of anyway, none that you dare let express itself? You're like a fluttering fairy, a waif, a deva, a wispy...well you get the idea. That's not to say there is no Hate, no root of "anger," present. It's there all right! But its manifestation is the more socially acceptable, the more culturally feminine Fear. (Think about it, why are Fear and Hate said to be the same, what's their commonality? Revulsion).
For example, men are taught not to have Fear or certainly never to show it if they do. It's not masculine. So when they see a mouse, filled with revulsion, they attack it. Their revulsion is expressed as Hate (anger, fighting with, and attacking that "disgusting" mouse).
Women, however, are taught not to have Hate or certainly never to show it if they do. So when they see a mouse, filled with revulsion, they jump on a chair (and scream for someone to come help them, or just wait till the mouse goes away, alarmed by the screaming and shrieking). Women may even faint or enter a "fugue state," which is an odd response in the presence of a Fearful thing.
But it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint (the instinctive and genetically-coded way humans have adapted and survived from the time of cavemen and cavewomen). We have three automatic reactions to Fear: fight, flight, or freeze. Guess which one your body is in the habit of exhibiting?
And wouldn't it be better, more beneficial, not to "react" automatically but to respond purposefully? That way we can be in control of our lives rather than Fear or circumstances being in control.
Seeing a mouse, knowing it only to be a mouse, a cute little critter with precious little whiskers and a dew drop of a nose, cousin-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks of the adorable hamster -- we can choose to tolerate it, shoo it away, give it some food to go outside, buy one of those silent high frequency repellers, spray cat urine scented mist near its cubbyhole, catch and release it in the woods with a mercy trap, or... Did you know there were so many other things you could do instead of fight, flight, or freeze?