Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zen Mind - an introduction

(EmptyMind films) "The Zen Mind" documentary, filmed in Japan, serves as an overview of Zen, a topic very few fully understand. The Shaolin Temple scene is an exihibition of warrior monks in training.

The Buddhist concept of Happiness

Bhante G (author of Mindfulness in Plain English,, West Virginia)

Happiness in Pali is called sukha, which is used both as a noun meaning “happiness,” “ease,” “bliss,” and “pleasure,” and as an adjective meaning “blissful” and “pleasant.”

To understand the nature of happiness, a brief discussion of the Buddhist analysis of feeling is necessary. Feeling (vedana or sensation) is a mental factor present in all types of consciousness, a universal concomitant of experience. It has the characteristic of being felt, the function of experiencing, and as manifestation the gratification of the mental factors. It is invariably said to be born of contact (phassa), which is the coming together of a sense object, a sense faculty, and the appropriate type of consciousness.

When these three coalesce, consciousness makes "contact" with the object. It experiences the affective quality of the object. And from this experience a feeling or sensation arises keyed to the object’s affective quality.

Since contact is of six kinds (by way of the six sense faculties), feeling is also of six kinds: It corresponds to the six kinds of contact from which it is born. There is feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, and so on. Feeling is also divided by way of its affective tone either into three or five classes. On the threefold division there is pleasant feeling (sukha-vedana), painful feeling (dukkha-vedana), and neither pleasant nor painful (i.e., neutral) feeling.

The pleasant feeling may be subdivided into bodily pleasant feeling called “pleasure” (sukha) and mental pleasant feeling (cetasika-sukha) called “joy” (somanassa)....

The five types of feeling: pleasure, joy, pain, displeasure, and equanimity

The Buddha enumerates contrasting types of mental happiness:
  • the happiness of the household life and that of monastic life
  • the happiness of sense pleasures and that of renunciation
  • happiness with attachments and taints and happiness without attachments and taints
  • worldly happiness and spiritual happiness
  • the happiness of concentration and happiness without concentration
  • Aryan happiness
  • mental happiness
  • happiness without joy
  • happiness of equanimity
  • happiness not aimed at joy
  • happiness aimed at formless object[s]

Happiness associated with the wholesome roots produced by the renunciation of sensual enjoyments is spiritual happiness or the happiness of renunciation. The happiness of meditative absorption (jhana) is a spiritual happiness born of seclusion or withdrawal from sense pleasures and the Five Hindrances. It is also a happiness of concentration (samadhi-sukha).

There are numerous ways of bringing about happiness. “Friends bring happiness when a need has arisen; pleasant is contentment with whatever there might be; [to have accrued] merit is pleasant at life’s ending; and pleasant is the destruction of all suffering. Happy it is, in the world, to be a mother, and happy it is to be a father; happy, in the world, is the life of a recluse and happy is the state of Brahman. Happy is age-long virtue, and happy is confidence well-established; happy is the gaining of wisdom, and happy it is not to do evil [defined as deeds, words, and thoughts rooted in greed, hatred, delusion, and/or fear]. “Happy is the arising of the Awakened Ones; happy is the teaching of the Dharma; happy is the unity of the group, and happy is the ascetic life of the united” [Dh. 194, 331-333].

In pursuit of happiness many people are engaged in sense pleasures or self-indulgence in the extreme (hedonism). Because of the availability of ample opportunity for people to indulge in sensual pleasure, the human realm is called a plane of sensual pleasure.

As enjoying sensual pleasure is called happiness, to be born as a human being with all the senses complete is a happy occurrence. For one can experience a very high degree of sense pleasure through sensory stimuli. One can be happy thinking that one has plenty of wealth. For even the thought “I have enormous wealth” gives one a secure feeling. This feeling of possessiveness is one's happiness.

One can be happy consuming one's wealth in any manner one deems secure, entertaining one's senses in any manner one wishes, or sharing with relatives, friends, or giving charitably to whomever one pleases, or saving as much as one pleases, using wealth whenever one needs. One can be happy thinking that wealth was earned honestly. One can be happy thinking that one is free from debts [A.ii.p.69].

For these reasons, "happiness" has been defined by some as a "satisfaction of the will." If we obtain what we have been dreaming, we are said to be happy. Pursuing this definition of happiness, we may do countless things to fulfill our wishes so as to be happy. We may spend all our time, money, energy, skill, and opportunities to do our best to make our lives happy, or to bring happiness to the lives of others.

Considering all the possible variables available for the will to desire, this definition is inadequate. If we will to procure something perishable, changeable, impermanent, and subject to slipping from your grasp, procuring that particular object makes us more unhappy than not procuring it. Or if we obtain something and we have to spend our time, energy, peace, skill, even our health to protect it, safeguard it, and secure it, then we will experience more unhappiness than happiness.

Sariputra, echoing the Buddha’s explanation of sense desire, says to his fellow monastics: “There are these five strands of sense desire. What five? There are forms cognized by the eye, longed for, alluring, pleasurable, lovely, bound up with passion and desire. There are sounds cognized by the ear… smells by the nose… tastes by the tongue… contacts cognized by the body, longed for, alluring, pleasurable, lovely, bound up with passion and desire. These are the five strands of sense desire. And the happiness, the well-being arising therefrom is called sensuous happiness.”

Generally, people misconstrue the source of happiness. They think that by pleasing their insatiable desire they can be happy. They do not realize that the means available to them to please their desires are limited by time and space. When we try to obtain happiness by pleasing unlimited and insatiable desires by means limited by time and space, we end up frustrated, losing whatever relative happiness we have.

Does wealth really bring happiness? Obviously not. For there are many wealthy people who live miserable, unhealthy lives. Does education bring happiness? Apparently not. For there are many well educated people who are more unhappy than those who are uneducated. Does this mean that the poor and uneducated are happier than the wealthy and educated? No, not at all. [Happiness is not in those things].

Does marrying someone whom we are passionately attached to bring happiness? No. Does divorce make us happy? Apparently not. Does being single bring happiness? No, not at all.

Some people believe that revenge makes them happy. But tit-for-tat actions never bring any happiness to anyone. In reality, an "eye for an eye" makes everybody miserable, not happy. It is not by cultivating, but by destroying hate, that happiness grows in our minds.

“One who with the rod harms the rodless and harmless soon will come to one of these states: One will be subject to acute pain, disaster, bodily injury, or even grievous sickness, or loss of mind, or oppression by the kind, or heavy accusation, or loss of relatives, or destruction of wealth, or ravaging fire that will burn one's house” [Dh. vs. 138 - 140].

“One who, seeking one's own happiness, does not torment with the rod beings that are desirous of happiness obtains happiness in the hereafter” [Dh. v. 132]. All of us without exception have within us the roots of happiness.

However, they are buried under our hatred, jealousy, tension, anxiety, worry, and other negative states of mind. In order to find the roots of happiness, we have to remove the roots of unhappiness and cultivate and nourish the roots of happiness.

Suppose one thinks of making oneself happy by killing, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, lying, or taking intoxicating drinks and drugs that cause infatuation and heedlessness, would that person really be happy?

Certainly one is not happy. Why? One's mind is confused by what one is doing. How can a person who is full of greed, hatred, and delusion be happy? How can a person who kills be happy? The Buddha said:

“To live without anger among the angry is, indeed, happy. To live unafflicted among the afflicted is happy. To live without ambition among the ambitious is happy. To live without possessions is a happy life like that of the radiant gods [devas]. To live without competition among those who compete is happy. For one “who wins creates an enemy, and unhappy does the defeated sleep. The one who is neither victor nor defeated sleeps happily” [Dh. v. 201]. “There is no happiness greater than the perfect calm” [Dh. 203].

“Good is the sight of Noble Ones; happy always is it to live with them; away from the sight of fools, one would always be happy” [Dh. 206]. Living with the wise is very comfortable and happy. “A wise person is pleasant. Living with the wise is very comfortable and happy. “A wise person is pleasant to live with as is the company of kin” [Dh. v. 207].

No matter how long our list of happiness is, we continue to be unhappy, frustrated, suffering without ever being successful in experiencing happiness -- unless we add the essential, absolutely necessary item to our list and execute it with diligence:

That item, number one on our list of priorities, is the purification of mind through the practice of virtue, concentration, and wisdom.

Whatever else we do without these essential and absolutely necessary components, we are not going to experience happiness, but the opposite of it. Happiness is the result of the purification of mind.

We will never find enduring happiness in greedy, hateful, deluded, or fearful states of mind. For these are the very roots of unhappiness, pain, and suffering. More>>

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Women Stay With Cheaters

Text: Norine Dworkin-McDaniel (Lifescript)

Stand by your cheating man or kick him to the curb? It's not a decision any woman wants to make. But many have to after their philandering mates are caught. This Lifescript exclusive digs deep to discover why so many wives choose to stick it out. Plus, will your guy cheat? Rate the risk.

They all do it: celebrities, politicians, even the hubby next door. Sure, the names of the cheaters change: Think Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Kobe Bryant, Mark Sanford, Bill Clinton. But the story’s the same: Husband cheats, gets caught. Wife grimaces, then bears it.

In fact, up to 75% of couples rocked by an affair stay together, according to research by Peggy Vaughan, author of Preventing Affairs: You Can Have a Monogamous Marriage, But Not by Just Assuming You're Immune (Dialog Press). That so many wronged spouses managed to turn the other cheek is admirable to some. But you can’t help wondering: Why didn’t they push their wandering mates out the door?

Lifescript talked to women and experts to find out why beleaguered wives choose to stand by their men. Here’s what they told us:

  1. She doesn’t want to be alone.

When your husband takes up with a prettier, shapelier – perhaps even younger – woman, it doesn’t inspire confidence that you still got it goin’ on. Insecurity can be enough of a glue to stick with a marriage. “Fear of being alone keeps people in all kinds of horrible situations and relationships,” says life coach Lauren Mackler, author of Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life (Hay House, 2009) and host of “Lauren’s Life Keys” on Hay House Radio. More>>

"The Life of Buddha" (cartoon)

It is said that before the Bodhisatta, who would become the Buddha, was reborn as a human being, he was reborn in a deva-world (heaven) called Tusita. There, out of compassion for living beings suffering without a way to bring about the end of suffering (enlightenment and nirvana), he accepted that it was time to undertake the quest to solve the problem of suffering.

The devas in those superhuman worlds encouraged him to take rebirth. The signs were present, suitable parents were available, circumstances were amenable to the struggle. It took many years to win the final goal, but legend has it that it had already taken many aeons of development.

The story of the final part of the journey, the last life, is so fantastic as to be animated on the big screen. "The Life of Buddha" was produced in celebration of the Thai King Bumibol's 80th birthday. Since Thailand is 95% Buddhist, the movie was shown at all Thai theatres. More about the movie at

Get Happy! (Abraham-Hicks)

The adage, "There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way" seems to be borne out by the group of beings called "Abraham" channeled by Esther Hicks.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Buddhist "Lent" (Rains Retreat) Begins

Buddhist monks on Asanha Puja Day, the eve of Buddhist Lent, in Nakhon Pathom province, outerBangkok, 7-26-10 (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom). PHOTOS

Vassa (the annual Rains Retreat) is observed as it has been from the time of the Buddha. The rainy season in northern India led to the institution of a monastic rule to go into retreat for intensive practice. Buddhist recluses were originally "wandering ascetics" (samanas). But the rainy season meant a burst of new life -- crops, amphibians, insects, and sprouts all covered the land -- all of which would be harmed if wanderers were to tread on them.

So like other ascetic traditions of his day, the Buddha responded to requests to have his disciples take up temporary residence in one location rather than wandering about. This period is utilized for intensive meditation practice, study, and teaching. Lay Buddhists visit temples and abbeys to practice as well, sometimes adopting Eight Precepts for the day.

This tradition is observed throughout Los Angeles and other ethnically diverse cities with Theravada temples. The Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara (a Sri Lankan monastery) in Pasadena has weekly Dharma sermons, free meals (dana), and meditation instruction for visitors. These are all echoes of a much more vibrant living tradition in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and other Buddhist countries that keep the original Indian ideal going.

A wandering samanera (novice recluse) in Burma (Flickr/Dvlazar).

There it is a big deal that monks will be taking up residence. A special ceremony was held in each American Theravada temple this past weekend (in accordance with the lunar calendar) "inviting" monks to observe the Rains Retreat for the next three months. The Dhammakaya Thai Buddhist temple also temporarily ordained men wishing to observe Vassa as monastics.
  • The connections to be drawn with Lent are no coincidence. Customary acts of self-purification, for example almsgiving and fasting, in Christianity were directly borrowed from Eastern practices.

Bangkok named world's best city

Fortunate timing helps a spot rocked by violence collect a travel magazine's top honor. City under emergency rule - Ex-leader's birthday tweet - Dangerous destinations

Genies (djinn) in our Midst

The Djinn & Paranormal Phenomena
(Coast to Coast) Paranormal researcher Rosemary Ellen Guiley and UFO investigator Philip Imbrogno discussed their forthcoming book about the djinn (or jinn ["genies," devas]), secretive entities that may play a role in a variety of paranormal phenomena.

The beings exist in a parallel dimension but seem to have the ability to enter our dimension via portals and interact with us and observe us even when we cannot see them, said Imbrogno. Accounts of them began in the ancient Middle East, where an assortment of beings who were not considered angels, such as fairies and earth spirits, were classified as djinn.

[In Buddhist lore, these earthbound-devas can be beneficial and protective or harmful and mischievous.] Guiley described the djinn as masterful shape-shifters who sometimes masquerade as entities like Shadow People, demons, ETs, and Mothman. They can be thought of as tricksters who have their own self-serving agenda, which for some of them involves domination over humans and the earthly plane, she said.

Guiley further suggests that intense, persistent, or annoying ghostly phenomena like poltergeists may actually be the work of the djinn, rather than spirits of the deceased. The djinn are very territorial and some of the unexplained phenomena people experience may occur near the locations of their portals, she explained.
  • Active Dreaming for Criminal Profiling
    In the first half of the show, criminal profiler Pat Brown discussed profiling techniques, and a variety of serial killer and murder cases. In the latter half of the program, Robert Moss, the pioneer of Active Dreaming, talked about whether we can we really "hack" into dreams like in the new movie Inception, and the concept of "shared dreaming." More / Archive


How US got tangled in island dispute

Hillary Clinton's role in the fight over "200 tiny islands, rocks, and spits of sand" is likely to rile China. Naval expansion - Tension over war games - The disputed islands

14-year-old to set sail solo around the world

Laura Dekker
Laura Dekker poses for the media on her boat Guppy in Den Osse, south-west Netherlands, on Tuesday, July 27, 2010. A Dutch court has cleared the way for the 14-year-old to set sail on a risky solo voyage around the world. Judges at Middelburg's family court have lifted a guardianship order imposed on Dekker last year after she said she wanted to set sail alone around the world (AP/ Evert-Jan Daniels).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Buddha Mania! (in home decoration)

(Los Angeles Times) In almost every room of Susan Cohen's Santa Monica house, there are Buddha statues: sitting, standing, reclining. Some are gray, others purple or pink. A 4-foot-tall copper-colored cast-resin Buddha head is propped up in the backyard pond, and a tiny ceramic figure gazes from the dashboard of her car.

Cohen isn't a Buddhist, and in 10 years of displaying symbols of the ancient religion, no one has asked if she is. She's just drawn to what the statues represent: serenity, wisdom, peace. "Who wouldn't want that in their home?" she asks. Very few, it seems. Buddhas are big. They're everywhere these days, more likely bought at the local mall or garden center than during an overseas vacation. The principal religious figure for an estimated 6% of the world's population now doubles as visual shorthand for soothing interior design to so many others -- an instant tranquilizer set on the console or hung above the mantel.

Buddha in home decor Buddha in home decor

Scott Thomas of Thomas-Somero Design in Hollywood says that whenever he hears the word "Zen" from clients, he automatically draws a Buddha into the design sketch -- much to their approval. Demand has even spread to the art market. In March, Christie's sold a 26-inch-tall wooden Buddha sculpture dating to the 12th century for about $14.4 million, setting a world auction record for traditional Japanese art. More>>

Buddha statues have meaning from head to toe
SIDDHARTHA GAUTAMA was a prince in India around 500 BC who set out to discover meaning in the [dukkha] he witnessed. Once he found enlightenment, he began to spread his philosophy. He became known as Buddha, a title, since given to others, that means "awakened one." Buddha statues have long conveyed the religion's teachings, according to Surya Das, a Buddhist lama trained in Tibet. "Encoded symbols in the statues were used in a preliterate, oral culture to pass on the messages"...

India unveils prototype of $35 computer

Slideshow: India and Technology

MUMBAI [Bombay], India – It looks like an iPad, only it's 1/14th the cost: India has unveiled the prototype of a $35 basic touchscreen tablet aimed at students, which it hopes to bring into production by 2011. If the government can find a manufacturer, the Linux operating system-based computer would be the latest in a string of "world's cheapest" innovations to hit the market out of India, which is home to the 100,000 rupee ($2,127) compact Nano car, the 749 rupees ($16) water purifier, and the $2,000 open-heart surgery.

The tablet can be used for functions like word processing, Web browsing, and video-conferencing. It has a solar power option too — important for India's energy-starved hinterlands — though that add-on costs extra. "This is our answer to MIT's $100 computer," human resource development minister Kapil Sibal told the Economic Times when he unveiled the device Thursday [July 22, 2010]. More>>

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ways of the Buddha – The Enlightened One

Serene smile: Buddha statues in Burma's Pindaya Caves (Courtesy of

Today is Esala Poya (definition)
Upali Salgado (Sunday Times, Sri Lanka, July 25)
The personality and the manner is which Shakyamuni Gautama Buddha [The Sage of the Shakya Clan, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha] dispensed the sublime Dharma (teaching), today followed by about a quarter of the world’s population, has been researched and published by scholars.

He was born to a royal family of the Hindu Kshatriya (warrior or administrative) caste and belonged to the Sakya clan of North India. Writers say, “He was a full stature of growth and manhood, which was tall and well proportioned commanding an athletic figure. In his youth, he was a skilled horseman and also excelled in archery.

"His skin had a gradation of gold color pleasing to the eye, and a clear voice, deep and reverberating like a lion’s roar. Non-harming and non-hurting was his mental attitude towards all living beings. His heart was filled with unbounded love, sympathy, and compassion.”

A question often asked is whether the Buddha was ever heard to laugh. It is known that he never laughed making a guffawing noise. But he did have a serene smile, without openly displaying all his pure white teeth.

In the Ajantha Caves in northern India, in just one cave, the sculptor has shown that he did smile. In several paintings the Buddha is represented with a happy and serene and compassionate look. In Burma too, not far from Mandalay, are the Pindaya Caves where there are over 50 Buddha images with a serene smile.

Most other gestures (mudras) of the Buddha in India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand show him to be in a meditative pose. It is a Discplinary Code (Vinaya) rule that monastics should not laugh, but they may have a fleeting smile showing the tip of their teeth, to signify approval. More>>
  • "Slow Enlightenment" in a Quick Fix Culture
    In the old days in Japan a spiritual aspirant would kneel in the snow at the gates of the monastery for several days before either gaining entrance or being turned away. These days in the West, we have weekend enlightenment intensives promising realization by Sunday night or your money back.

American Middle Class is Radically Shrinking

Are we doing it to ourselves, an Art of Allowing, co-creating by our dominant vibration?

Buddhism as it spread throughout history tended to do so among the educated and affluent, those with leisure time to consider life and yearn for a solution to the problem of unsatisfactoriness. The rich are caught up and consumed by consumption. The poor are caught up and consumed by survival. Administrators and paupers are occupied. But princes, the children of the elite who themselves are not yet burdened with ruling, are usually those with the time to seek and a reason to search for spiritual answers. But what will happen to Buddhism in America if our middle class is disappearing?

The Middle Class in America is Radically Shrinking. Here Are the Stats to Prove it
Michael Snyder (editor of from Recession
The Business Insider
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations.

The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

Here are the statistics to prove it:
• 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
• 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
• 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
• 36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.
• A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
• 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
• Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
• Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
• For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
• In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
• As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.
• The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
• Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
• In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
• The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
• In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
• More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
• For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.
• This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
• Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
• Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
• The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

Giant Sucking Sound
The reality is that no matter how smart, how strong, how educated or how hard working American workers are, they just cannot compete with people who are desperate to put in 10 to 12 hour days at less than a dollar an hour on the other side of the world. After all, what corporation in their right mind is going to pay an American worker 10 times more (plus benefits) to do the same job?

The world is fundamentally changing. Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new "global" labor pool.

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are "less attractive" than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

What has developed is a situation where the people at the top are doing quite well, while most Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to make it. There are now about six unemployed Americans for every new job opening in the United States, and the number of "chronically unemployed" is absolutely soaring. There simply are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.

Many of those who are able to get jobs are finding that they are making less money than they used to. In fact, an increasingly large percentage of Americans are working at low wage retail and service jobs.

But you can't raise a family on what you make flipping burgers at McDonald's or on what you bring in from greeting customers down at the local Wal-Mart. The truth is that the middle class in America is dying -- and once it is gone it will be incredibly difficult to rebuild. Source

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pure Imagination: Raves and UFOs

Extra precautions taken for Rave
SAN BERNARDINO, California (CBS) - In the wake of a 15-year-old girl's death after attending a rave [Electric Daisy Carnival] at the Los Angeles Coliseum, extra security has been added and the police presence increased at an event at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino. "Audiotistic," which began at 6 p.m. Saturday and went on until Sunday morning, is expected to draw up to 20,000 people. The rave is being produced by the same company that put on the Electric Daisy Carnival, where 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez collapsed. She later died at a hospital and officials believe she inadvertently drank water from a bottle spiked with Ecstasy. More>>

** CORRECTION TO REMOVE SPECIFIC NUMBER OF PEOPLE ... First aid after a panic at this year's techno-music festival "Loveparade 2010" in Duisburg, Germany, on Saturday, July 24, 2010 (AP).

19 killed in mass panic at the Love Parade
DUISBURG, Germany – Crowds of people streaming into a techno music festival surged through an already jammed entry tunnel, setting off a panic that killed 18 people and injured 80 at an event meant to celebrate love and peace. The circumstances of the stampede Saturday at the famed Love Parade festival in Duisburg in western Germany were still not clear even hours after the chaos, but it appeared that some or most of the 18 had been crushed to death.

Authorities also suggested that some of the people killed or injured might have attempted to flee the crowd by jumping over a barrier and falling several meters (yards). Witnesses described a desperate scene, as people piled up on each other or scrambled over others who had fallen in the crush. "The young people came to celebrate and instead there are dead and injured," said Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I am horrified by the suffering and the pain." More>>

"Contact Between Them and Us is Inevitable"
BRAZIL - I received an email recently from A. J. Gevaerd, editor of the Brazilian UFO magazine, providing information on an interview he conducted with Retired Brazilian Army Lieutenant-Colonel Leo Tércio Sperb. The interview concerns the involvement of the military in a UFO incident in 1977 (the same year Operation Saucer occurred in the Amazon). Apart from some small grammatical changes to the translated version received, the following information has not been altered in any other way. More>>

UFO over Chinese airport
(Christian Science Monitor) The summer heat really must be getting to people. First there were two chupacabra sightings within 10 miles of each other in Texas. Then, China shuts down Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou after a UFO sighting (video below). Apparently someone didn't listen to Stephen Hawking and contacted the aliens.

Authorities in China are expected to discuss the object with a "bright comet-like tail," that was seen by a flight crew preparing for descent. Residents also said they saw the UFO emitting red and white rays of light.

  • Ex-CIA chief: War with Iran seems more likely now
    WASHINGTON – A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program. Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he tells CNN's "State of the Union" that such action now "seems inexorable." He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.
  • Report: NSA, Pentagon officials linked to child porn
    Dozens of National Security Agency, DARPA, and other Pentagon officials purchased and downloaded child pornography over the Internet, according to a report in The Boston Globe on Friday. The newspaper said it obtained more than 50 pages of documents revealing that the government workers identified in an internal probe included NSA contractors with top secret clearances, one of whom has fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Libya. Another involved a person working at the supersecret National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the military's spy satellites, who was transferred to a field office and has not been charged with a crime. In the United States, it is legal to possess obscene materials, which are generally defined as hardcore pornography involving consenting adults. It is also legal to possess non-obscene pornography.
  • NSA lifts veil on Ft. Meade expansion
    Up to $5.23 billion could be spent on spy agency growth. The National Security Agency's (NSA) planned expansion in west county will cost billions of dollars and bring thousands of people to the area, according to a recently released draft environmental impact statement. At minimum, the project will cost $2.07 billion and bring in 6,500 workers to a 1.8 million-square-foot building. At most, it could cost $5.23 billion and use 11,000 people in a 5.8 million-square-foot building.

Harmful habits for aging

Photo by Corbis (Woman Eyeing a Slice of Chocolate Cake) 9 harmful habits that age you

Too little time in bed, at the gym, or with your friends can make you look and feel older. How sweets damage skin - Top 5 skin agers - Sleep like a baby - Sun protection tips

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Buddha's Path to Awakening (Part 3)

Mindfulness Matters: Tools for Living Now
Dr. Arnie Kozak (

Another distraction that might arise is feelings of impatience, restlessness, or boredom. Typically, this happens when the mind projects itself into the future or tries to make this practice into something other than this simple looking at the breath.

You can acknowledge these feelings, without buying into their stories. They are concepts and hold no necessary power other than the power we invest in them.

In response to impatience, restlessness, and boredom, and to take their power away, you can give yourself permission to be with the breath, and return to the present without needing to make this moment anything more than it actually it is. You can investigate whatever arises during practice with interest and gentle curiosity.

BS07004.jpgCome back to this moment as it unfolds. You are learning about your mind and how it works, the sensations, thoughts, feelings, and images that emerge, and how there is a tendency to move away from the present moment.

In response, give yourself permission not to get frustrated or discouraged. Frustration or berating yourself for not being concentrated is just another story to come back from.

Keep coming back to the feelings of the breath. That's the practice! And if you can do this in a matter of fact way, you'll be moving into mindfulness. The goal here is to practice, to sit with yourself rather than produce a certain "outcome."

It's the process that's important and not the destination. There is no destination; it's a journey to become intimate with your lived experience in this moment and then the next.

Remember that awareness of breathing can happen at any time, not just when you sit down to meditate. Throughout the day, many times a day, you can try to remember yourself in this way. You can touch the breath, bringing awareness to a few cycles of the breath as you are hurrying through the day or coping with something stressful.

You can bring yourself into the now by giving your attention to the breath. More>>

The Buddha vowed not to get up until he was fully awakened and became buddho ("awake"). This process is explained in the Satipatthana Sutta or the "Discourse on the Awakening of Mindfulness" A beautiful explanation of this discourse can be found in Larry Rosenberg's Shambhala Classic: Breath By Breath: The Liberating Process of Insight Meditation. For more information and audio sample, visit Exquisite Mind.

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Arnold Kozak, Ph.D., is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist, author, and speaker; clinical instructor Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine, University of Vermont College of Medicine.

"108 sparkling insights into mindfulness" -- Larry Rosenberg, author of Breath by Breath
"Playful, wise, and memorable" -- Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance
"Fresh and straightforward voice"-- Shambhala Sun Magazine

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saying NO to Renunciation!

(WQ) The highest form of dana (generosity) is not sharing; it is giving things up. Cultivating detachment allows us to give things up. Cultivating compassion allows us to share. Those who share shall receive. Those who give things up will be able to enjoy. Greed and attachment make it hard to share; moreover, they make it hard to enjoy what we grasp and hoard. The Buddha said that if living beings knew all the benefits of sharing and giving as he knows them, they might be in danger of not eating because, instead, they would be so interested in giving things away, even their food. Greed is the ultimate impediment to enlightenment, which is born of radical renunciation (not only of our stuff but more importantly of our views, particularly self-views, the greatest hindrance to the first stage of enlightenment). This kind of radical renunciation is not, and probably can not be, done by force. It is done by wisdom and intuitive insight. In a mundane sense, it is done by reflecting on the "true" nature of things (as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and impersonal). What is renunciation?

Renunciation, Part I
Charlotte Joko Beck (Everyday Zen)
Suzuki Roshi said, "Renunciation is not giving up the things of this world, but accepting that they go away."

Everything is impermanent; sooner or later everything goes away. Renunciation is a state of non-attachment, acceptance of this going away. Impermanence is, in fact, just another name for perfection.

Leaves fall; debris and garbage accumulate; out of the debris [the way it's used in permaculture] come flowers, greenery, things that we think are lovely. Destruction is necessary. A good forest fire is necessary. The way we interfere with forest fires may not be a good thing.

Without destruction, there could be no new life; and the wonder of life, the constant change, could not be. We must live and die. And this process is perfection itself.

All this change is not, however, what we had in mind. Our drive is not to appreciate the perfection of the universe. Our personal drive is to find a way to endure in our unchanging glory forever. That may seem ridiculous, yet that's what we're doing. And that resistance to change is not attuned with the perfection of life, which is its impermanence.

If life were not impermanent, it couldn't be the wonder that it is. Still, the last thing we like is our own impermanence. Who hasn't noticed the first gray hair and thought, "Uh-oh!"?

So a battle rages in human existence. We refuse to see the truth that's all around us. We don't really see life at all. Our attention is elsewhere. We are engaged in an unending battle with our fears about ourselves and our existence.

If we "want to see life we must be attentive to it. But we're not interested in doing that; we're only interested in the battle to preserve ourselves forever. And of course it is an anxious and futile battle, a battle that can't be won. The one who always wins is death, the "right-hand man" of impermanence.

What we want out of life as we live it is that others reflect our glory. We want our partners to ensure our security, to make us feel wonderful, to give us what we want, so that our anxiety can be eased for a little while.

We look for friends who will at least take the cutting edge off of our fear, the fear that we're not going to be around one day. We don't want to look at that. The funny thing is that our friends are not fooled by us; they see exactly what we're doing. Why do they see it so clearly? Because they're doing it too. They're not interested in our efforts to be the center of the universe.

Yet we wage the battle ceaselessly. We are frantically busy. When our personal attempts to win the battle fail, we may try to find peace in a false form of religion. And people who offer that carrot get rich.

We are desperate for anyone who will tell us, "It's all right. Everything can be wonderful for you." Even in Zen practice we try to find a way around what practice really is, so that we can gain a personal victory.

V. Suffering
People often say to me, "Joko, why do you make practice so hard? Why don't you hold out any cookies at all?" But from the point of view of the small self, practice can only be hard.

Practice annihilates the small self, and the small self isn't interested in that one bit.

It can't be expected to greet this annihilation with joy. So there's no cookie that can be held out for the small self, unless we want to be dishonest.

There is another side to practice, however: As our small self dies -- our angry, demanding, complaining, maneuvering, manipulative self -- a real cookie appears: joy and genuine self-confidence.

We begin to taste what it feels like to care about someone else without expecting anything in return. And this is true compassion. How much we have it depends on the rate at which the small self dies. As it dies, here and there we have moments when we see what life is.

Sometimes we can spontaneously act and serve others. And with this growth always comes repentance. When we realize that we have almost constantly hurt ourselves and others, we repent -- and this repentance is itself pure joy.

So let us notice that our often misplaced efforts in zazen [sitting meditation] are to perfect ourselves: we want to be enlightened, we want to be clear, we want to be calm, we want to be wise.

As our sitting settles down into the present moment we say, "Isn't this boring -- the cars going by, my knees hurting, my tummy growling!" We have no interest in the infinite perfection of the universe.

In fact, the infinite perfection of the universe might be the person sitting next to us who breathes noisily or is sweaty. The infinite perfection is this being inconvenienced: "I'm not having it my way at all." At any moment there is just what's happening. Yet we're not interested in that. Instead we're bored.

Our attention goes in another direction. "Forget reality! I'm here to be enlightened!"

Hey, Fatso, lay off the animal products!

(Official PETA) - Behind the scenes at actress Jenna Dewan Tatum's bodypaint photo-shoot. Learn about fabulous alternatives to wearing animals.

Meat-eaters gain more weight over time
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Being a little less carnivorous may help you stay slim, according to a European study. Researchers from Imperial College London found that avid meat eaters gained more weight over 5 years than those who ate less meat but the same amount of calories. When the researchers looked at different types of meat, they found the strongest association with weight gain was poultry, followed by processed meats and red meat.

"Our results suggest that a decrease in meat consumption may improve weight management," the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The research involved more than 100,000 men and 270,000 women from 10 European countries who took part in a study of cancer and nutrition and other lifestyle factors. Danes, Germans, Spaniards, and Swedes were the biggest meat-eaters, with men eating around 300 calories worth of meat daily and women consuming 200 calories. More>>

"Eat, Pray, Love" (movie trailer)

"Eat Pray Love -- Unforgettable" will be in theaters on 8/13/10

(Eat Pray Love the Movie) - Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) is a modern woman on a quest to marvel at and travel the world while rediscovering and reconnecting with her true inner-self in Eat Pray Love. At a crossroads after a divorce, Gilbert takes a year-long sabbatical from her job and steps uncharacteristically out of her comfort zone, risking everything to change her life. In her wondrous and exotic travels, she experiences the simple pleasure of nourishment by eating in Italy; the power of prayer in India, and, finally and unexpectedly, the inner peace and balance of love in Bali. Based on an inspiring true story, Eat Pray Love proves that there really is more than one way to let yourself go and see the world.

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