Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Celestial Shows (planets, UFOs)

"Celestial Show Set for New Year's Eve
Robert Roy Britt

12/30/08 – A delightful display of planets and the moon will occur on New Year's Eve for anyone wishing to step outside and look up just after sunset.

Venus, brighter than all other planets and stars, will dangle just below the thin crescent moon in the southwestern sky. It'll be visible -- impossible to miss, in fact -- just as the sun goes down, assuming skies are cloud-free.

Soon thereafter, Mercury and Jupiter will show up hugging the south-southwestern horizon (just above where the sun went down) and extremely close to each other. Jupiter is very bright and easy to spot; Mercury is faint and harder to see, but it'll be apparent by its location just to the left of Jupiter. More>>

More>> (MSNBC)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dream It QUIZ + Adventure Travel

We took the 43 Things Quiz; we're:

Spiritual Self-Improving Builders

Green Tortoise (adventure travel)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bangladesh PM, Thai PM

"Bangladesh's Hasina wins 1st election in 7 years"
Julhas Alam (AP)

DHAKA, Bangladesh – Former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's political alliance won a landslide victory in elections aimed at restoring democracy to the troubled South Asian nation, an election official said Tuesday.

But even before the tally was complete, Hasina's opponents launched allegations of irregularities and forgery late Monday night — leading some to wonder if the election would be able to end a cycle of unrest that has made the country virtually ungovernable. The party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia said it would make a formal comment on the result later Tuesday. More>>

A Thai female protester climbs as her colleagues block at the half-opened gate of the parliament to prevent riot police officers to come out to clear way for the government to declare its policy at parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008. Thailand's government, beset by months of virtual paralysis, was again at a standstill Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators loyal to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Parliament (AP/Apichart Weerawong).
"Thai PM says his goal is to heal political divide"
BANGKOK, Thailand – Anti-government protesters abandoned their siege of Thailand's Foreign Ministry building on Tuesday, easing a standoff that threatened to re-ignite a long-running political crisis.

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>>

Heart (of Wisdom) Sutra

Dharmachari Seven

Materiality, "form," is empty, that is, utterly "devoid of self." (Photo:

Gate, gate
Bodhi, svaha!*

All hail the perfection of wisdom!

Avalokiteśvara the bodhisattva was coursing through the wisdom that is gone and is going beyond. Looking down from on high, he beheld but Five Aggregates. And he perceived that in their own nature they were empty, without a being.

Herein, O Sariputra, form is emptiness, and the very emptiness is form. Emptiness does not differ from form; form does not differ from emptiness. Whatever is form, that is emptiness (without self). Whatever is emptiness, that is form. The same is true of sensation, perception, will-formation, and consciousness.

O Sariptura, herein, all phenomena are marked by emptiness. They are neither produced nor stopped, neither defiled nor pure, neither wanting nor satisfying.

Therefore, O Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor sensation, nor perception, nor will-formation, nor consciousness. There is no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body. There are no sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes, tangibles, nor mind-objects. There is no sight-organ mind-consciousness element. There is no ignorance, no extinction of decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is neither suffering, nor origination, no stopping, nor path. There is no cognition, no attainment, and no non-attainment.
O Sariputra, it is because of one's non-struggling that a bodhisattva, having relied on the perfection of wisdom, abides without discursive conceptualizations, in the absence of which one ceases to tremble, having overcome all that can upset, and so attains nirvana.

All those awakening as fully enlightened beings in the past, present, and future come to this ultimate knowledge, perfectly realized, having relied on the perfection of wisdom.

Therefore, the Perfection of Wisdom Mantra should be recognized as the great sacred sound, the mantra of great knowledge, the ultimate mantra, the unparalleled mantra, the allayer of all suffering. By the perfection of wisdom has this mantra been realized:

*Gone-and-going, gone and going
Gone-and-going beyond
Gone-and-going altogether beyond
O what an awakening, so be it!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pro-Thaksin protesters ring Thai Parliament

Denis D. Gray

Supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gather Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008, near the Royal Palace in Bangkok to listen to speeches. Demonstrators are calling for a march on Parliament sparking fears of a replay of the political unrest that paralyzed the government in Thailand for months culminating in an eight-day seizure of the capital's airports (AP Photo/David Longstreath).

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thousands of supporters of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra surrounded Thailand's Parliament on Monday, daring lawmakers to pass through their ranks to deliver a speech outlining the new government's key policies.

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

Unexplained Mysteries

"Cryptid" cat sightings are a worldwide phenomena. For decades, there have been accounts of large black cats roaming the countryside of Great Britain. As well, recent mutilations of horses and livestock in Australia have prompted fear that undocumented large cats also dwell on the continent.

Over the past few years, there has been an increased number of large cat sightings recorded throughout the United States, especially in the mountainous regions. Most descriptions have been similar to those of cougars or panther-like creatures, large muscular felines with long tails. Though, many of the reports proved to be that of a large feral cat or an oversized pet. More>>
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Jailhouse Meditation & Yoga

Prison Dharma class (

[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"
-- Tihar inmate

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.

Golden cage
Buddhist meditation and yoga are now widely practiced by inmates, and more than 1,000 prisoners are enrolled in education programs or degree courses.
"For the past 18 months, I've been into meditation, both yoga and Vipassana meditation, and it's helped me a lot," said Ravi Chandran, who is awaiting trial for murder.

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."

Mental freedom
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."

Further education
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

Girl on Girl Fight

The teenagers seen in a video assaulting a 16-year-old could face life in prison.

The principle message of the East is ahimsa (nonviolence, nonharming). Nevertheless, the message has not reached these cheerleaders, who mercilessly beat a friend. StudentNews (CNN) reports.

Story Highlights
  • 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
(CNN) -- Eight Florida teenagers -- six of them girls -- will be tried as adults and could be sentenced to life in prison for their alleged roles in the videotaped beating of another teen, the state attorney's office said Thursday.

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 victim, a 16-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, was hospitalized, and still has blurred vision, hearing loss, and a swollen face, her mother told CNN on Wednesday.

The video shows only girls doing the beating; Judd said the boys acted as lookouts.

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.
A search for "girl fight" on YouTube gets thousands of results, and a suggestion to also try "girl fight at school, boy girl fight" and other search terms. There's at least one Web site devoted exclusively to videos of girls fighting.

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."
The suspects didn't have a chance to post the video online before police moved in and seized it, Judd said. The Sheriff's Department made it public, and it wound up on YouTube anyway. Judd recognizes the irony.

"In a perverted sense, we were feeding into exactly what the kids wanted," he said. "But according to Florida law, [the video] is public record, and it's going to be in the public domain whether we agree with that or not."

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


Dharmachari Seven

There are a number of ways to cultivate and "bring into being" (bhavana) wholesome states of mind/heart (citta) to counteract normal human anger. While it is "normal" to get angry, it is not normal to cause harm on account of that anger or to let anger remain. A charioteer steers the horses pulling her or him along; others are merely holding the reins, the Buddha explained.

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

Yoga in prison -- solution to violent habits (BBC video)

Power of Prayer (literally)

Mike Esterel (The Wall Street Journal)
Fuggerei is a Roman Catholic housing settlement in Augsburg, Germany, established in 1520 by Jakob Fugger "The Rich" to help the poor. The main gate, left, is locked each night, and stragglers are fined for coming in late.
AUGSBURG, Germany -- Every day, retired florist Rita Wunderle prays for the souls of bankers. Despite daily headlines about banker-fueled economic crisis and an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, her 145 neighbors pray, too.
Mrs. Wunderle lives in the Fuggerei, a Roman Catholic housing settlement for the poor that Jakob Fugger "The Rich" built in this southern German city nearly 500 years ago. Praying for Mr. Fugger and his descendants to enter the Pearly Gates is a condition for living here, at an annual rent of 1 Rhein guilder, the same as in 1520. In today's money, that's 88 euro cents, or about $1.23.
Jakob the Rich was Wall Street long before it existed. He minted coins for the Vatican, bankrolled the Holy Roman Empire and helped steer Europe's spice trade in the early 16th century to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful financiers in history. He left more than seven tons of gold to his successors -- and a good deed. More>>

S.E. Asia Tsunami Anniversary

Michael Casey (AP Environmental Writer)

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:

Japan: Happy New Year!


VIDEO: • Out with the rat: Japan prepares for Year of the Ox

India Adventure

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.

Bounded by the majestic Himalayan ranges in the north and a spectacular coastline on three seas, India is a vivid kaleidoscope of landscapes, magnificent historical sites, and royal cities. There are golden beaches, misty mountain retreats, colorful people, a rich tapestry of commingling cultures and constant festivities.
Throughout the year India offers a dazzling array of destinations and festivals. In the summer as the subcontinent is sizzling, there are spectacular retreats amidst the heady beauty of the Himalayas and the lush heights of the Western Ghats with cool trekking trails, magnificent peaks to conquer, and stretches of white water for thrill seekers.
In the cool Indian winter, cities come alive with cultural fests full of music and dance. The balmy weather is an ideal time for era-hopping in romantic cities studded with medieval forts and palaces. The sun drenched beaches are inviting and wildlife sanctuaries with their abundance of flora and fauna are abuzz.
Taste the delights of the Indian monsoon season anywhere in the country -- on a camel safari in the Rajasthan desert when nature comes alive and the peacocks dance, along the west coast where the relentless slanting rain colors the countryside in brilliant greens or hiking into the stark grandeur of mountain valleys lying in the rain shadow of the Himalayas.
Experience exotic India: live like a maharaja in the rich ambiance of opulent royal forts and palaces that have now been converted into heritage hotels. Lounge in the serene beauty of a coral island alongside a turquoise lagoon. Participate in the exuberance of a village fair or a colorful festival. Daydream on a houseboat drifting down palm-fringed backwaters or gliding over Lake Dal in war torn Kashmir (never mind the soldiers). Delight in the graceful movements of a dancer or shop on the cheap for exquisite fabrics, carved figurines, brass and silverware, marble inlaid with semi-precious stones, finely handcrafted jewelry, miniature paintings, and carpets.
India, always warm and inviting, is a place of infinite variety -- one that favors travelers with a different facet of its ever changing customs and fascinating customs. Steer clear of Bombay (Mumbai), its Jewish and business capital, with its Zoroastrians (Parsis) and "sky burials," its rat catchers and Laughing Yoga. Or if all this sounds like too much, break out the hand sanitizer and rent a film like The Fall or Out of India.

Paranormal Searches

The paranormal is a frequent topic on Wisdom Quarterly. While staffers have generally now become believers, we are well aware of an open to uncovering hoaxes. The truth is far stranger than the fiction reported by the media.
Ghost in the Machine: Top Paranormal Searches of 2008
Jay Schwartz

The Internet is great for: 1. checking mail, 2. getting stock quotes, 3. finding proof that ghosts exist. At least that's how it seems given all the people that click on stories, videos, and more claiming to be evidence of encounters with spirits.

Ghosts may be dead, but they aren't going away. In fact, they emerged as the most sought-after supernatural phenomenon of 2008. Possibly the ghost-with-the-most this year was the weird blue mist at the gas station. Spirit from beyond, or trick of light? No one knows, but it was fun to search about.

Speaking of fun, in a year of serious global troubles and political milestones, the Web has to thank people like Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer. These two Georgia residents announced to the world that they had a frozen Sasquatch corpse. This claim melted like the ice around the rubber gorilla costume they presented to the public. Their elaborate Bigfoot hoax kept the Internet buzzing for days.

The annual "discovery" of an alleged Chupacabra in Texas also provided the online world with a doozy of a diversion. The mythical goat-sucking creature of the American Southwest is often subject to supposed sightings, but the existence of an apparent specimen generated hype worthy of a horror film. Sadly, to the horror of many transfixed Web users, the body turned out to be a mangy pit bull.

These two hoaxes were cherries on the proverbial sundae of paranormal enthusiasm. People gravitating to old classics like aliens, the Loch Ness Monster, and vampires kept cryptozoologists busy updating their websites.

One last popular search term may prove that, ultimately, the real monsters of the world are as impressive as those we can imagine. Megalodon was a prehistoric shark approximately 40 to 60 feet long. Yes, a shark as big as a truck. Some people believe this terrifying creature still exists in the deep waters of the world, sparking fear and fascination across the collective cyber-unconscious. Who wouldn't want to see what one would look like?

As the remote corners of the earth vanish, and the few remaining natural secrets of the world are unveiled, imaginations will probably continue to run wild with new mystery beasts (we didn't forget about you, Montauk Monster!) Even president-elect Obama has a fondness for terrifying fictional creatures.

Top 2008 Paranormal Online Sightings

  1. Ghosts
  2. Bigfoot
  3. Dragons
  4. Chupacabra
  5. Aliens
  6. Mermaids
  7. Fairies
  8. Vampires
  9. Loch Ness Monster
  10. Shape Shifter

Pakistan moves troops toward Indian border

Indian activist shouts anti-Pakistan slogans during recent protest (AFP).

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Neighbor against neigbor: Pakistan began moving thousands of troops to the Indian border Friday, intelligence officials said, sharply raising tensions triggered by the Mumbai terror attacks.
Pakistani protesters burn an Indian flag during a rally in Karachi, Pakistan on 12/26/08. Pakistan began moving thousands of troops away from the Afghan border toward India on Friday amid tensions following the Mumbai attacks, intelligence officials said (AP/Fareed Khan).

India has blamed Pakistani-based militants for last month's siege on its financial capital, which killed 164 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

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>>

Pro-India protester waves Indian flag in front of Taj Mahal hotel 12/26/08 (AFP).

Meanwhile at home, terror is also used as pretext for increasing powers of a police state. Although "anyone who would trade freedom for safety deserves neither," that has not stopped the new ministry [1984-speak] of Homeland Security from intimating how it plans to justify its existence and make itself a permanent (and welcome) fixture in the American psyche over the next few years.

US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff delivers a lecture entitled "Managing Risk: A Global Imperative" to an audience of students at the London School of Economics (LSE) in London, 12/12/08 (AP/Matt Dunham).

WASHINGTON – The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security, and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by the AP.
Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are...the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

[Rather, ] the al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political "turmoil," the assessment said. More>>
President-elect Barack Obama leaves a news conference with Secretary of State-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., in Chicago, 12/01/08., with other cabinet designees (AP/Charles Dharapak).

Father Dollar gives money away


A praiseworthy act of dana (generosity)! Behold how something soon to be worthless can mean so much when given away. It is an excellent example of authentic Christian charity and kindheartedness. Reverend Maurice Chase, best known as Father Dollar Bill, can often be seen throughout the year handing out dollar bills to those in need. And Christmas and Thanksgiving are no different, except that more money is given away.
Today Rev. Chase handed out $15,000, mostly in dollar bills in amounts up to $20. But the first ten people he saw in wheelchairs received $100 bills. Chase has been criticized for giving money to people who might spend it on intoxicants, but he says that's not the point. The point is to show them that they are not forgotten, not invisible.
"The annual tradition is supported by the widows of Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, along with comedian Bob Newhart and philanthropist Eli Broad," reported ABC7 who sent cameras to the scene on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles's Skid Row.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Buddha of Indo-Iran

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

Is Time Real?

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?

(Pink Floyd)
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.

"Scientists prolong 2008 with 'leap second'"

AT THE GREENWICH PRIME MERIDIAN, England – Eager to say goodbye to the worst economic year since the Great Depression? You'll have to wait a second.

That's because the custodians of time are preparing to tack a "leap second" onto the clock on Wednesday to account for the minute slowing of the Earth's rotation — meaning champagne toasts and Auld Lang Synes will have to come a second late.

The leap second has been used sporadically at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich since 1972, an adjustment that has kept Greenwich Mean Time the internationally agreed time standard. More>>

VIDEO: 2008 will be an extra-long year (AP)

Tiger Dance (Wutu in China)

Chinese Wutu "Tiger Dance" (Reuters/National Geographic)

Qinghai, China, December 17, 2008 -- Aptly patterned men perform the Wutu, or "Tiger," dance, meant to dispel disease and exorcise evil, in the Chinese village of Nianduhu. This ancient ritual is performed every winter and is based on a local legend. A princess fell ill, the story goes, and neither medicine nor magic could cure her, according to The king had his soldiers take off their clothes, paint their bodies, and dance to exorcise the princess's demons. She recovered.

Temple of Mice

Sharon Guynup and Nicolas Ruggia (Nat'l Geographic Channel)

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.

Temple featured in Tori Amos's iconoclastic song "God"

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>>

"Photograph" of the Buddha?

In Search Of (Part I) Spirit Photography?

There exists a curious image of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. It was reputedly taken or at least discovered in Bodhgaya, India, in 1980. A devotee, it is said, was photographing the site of Shakyamuni's ("Sage of the Shakyas") great enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The image, not seen at the time of photographing, subsequently appeared on the film.

It is an image of a very comely young meditator with a top knot, robe, and almost cosmetic details. The photograph has not been widely circulated. It may inspire the faithful or arouse doubt. One copy hangs at the Bhavana Society, a Theravadan monastery/nunnery in West Virginia, for all to see.

Photos taken in Bodh Gaya showed this image when developed.

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

Jesus (Saint Issa) in India

A short film about the lost years of Jesus (Issa) not explained in the Bible

Loving-kindness "Prayer"

Metta Bhavana, wording by Dharmachari Seven

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

  • Forbearance
  • 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!

Compassion "Medicine"

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?