Saturday, January 31, 2009

Milky Way is bigger than thought

WASHINGTON – Take that, Andromeda! For decades, astronomers thought when it came to the major galaxies in Earth's cosmic neighborhood, our Milky Way was a weak sister to the larger Andromeda. But not anymore.

The Milky Way is considerably larger, bulkier, and spinning faster than astronomers once thought, Andromeda's equal.

Scientists mapped the Milky Way in a more detailed, three-dimensional way and found that it's 15 percent larger in breadth. More importantly, it's denser, with 50 percent more mass, which is like weight. The new findings were presented Monday at the American Astronomical Society's convention in Long Beach, Calif.

That difference means a lot, said study author Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The slight 5-foot-5, 140-pound astrophysicist said it's the cosmic equivalent of him suddenly bulking up to the size of a 6-foot-3, 210-pound NFL linebacker. More>>

Yoga Workout (Namaste video)

More free at: URL

Is Buddhism "Stupid and Evil"?

WARNING: Strong opinions and obscenities! Although often funny, they are likely to offend.

In this very funny YouTube video, comedian "Captain Awesome" [Jello Biafra's son by any chance?] does an excellent job of spoofing religion. We thought his ideas nevertheless deserved comment. He brings up some points one might easily be misled on. Therefore, while laughing and enjoying Awesome's wit, we thought we might give serious consideration in answer to his observations:

1. Is Buddhism about peace, love, and harmony?

Yes, but more importantly it's about insight into the true nature of phenomena and liberation from suffering.

2. Is the Buddha fat and bald?

No, the historical Buddha was neither. But Chinese depictions of good luck, particularly at Chinese restaurants, do show a jolly bald bodhisattva or other being loosely referred to as "Buddha." This has led to a great deal of confusion. The Buddha was an ascetic, tall and if anything quite lean (even emaciated while fasting prior to his enlightenment). He cut off his curly hair, but it formed a top-knot (not an unusual style in India particularly for spiritual recluses) not a bald patch.

3. Did the Buddha smoke weed and talk about how in tune with nature [he was]?

This is hilarious material, and we hope no one is offended. No, the Buddha did not smoke marijuana. One of Buddhism's fundamental tenets, as part of the Five Precepts, is to "abstain from intoxicants which might occasion heedlessness." However, some Indian ascetics do smoke hashish (seemingly in excess) as part of their religious rituals -- particularly in Kashmir and Nepal and the Himalayan foothills where it grows freely like a weed that no one bothers much about. While the Buddha does not talk about how "in tune with nature" he or anyone else was, such harmony is consistent with the message. This view may come about from Buddhism's association with Taoism and other indigenous traditions in Asia with which it mixed.

4. Key Tenet I: "All human life is suffering"?

This statement is a literal mistranslation and a philosophical misapprehension of the Buddha's message. The meaning is bettered rendered as either "All conditioned states of existence are unsatisfactory" [because of their impermanent and impersonal nature] or "Suffering [dukkha] is inherent in life." As we live we will find ourselves dissatisfied with the things we strive for and obtain -- particularly material and sensual pursuits. The goal, therefore, is not necessarily to abandon them but to uproot the greed and craving (lobha and tanha) we have that incessantly drives us to chase what does not yield satisfaction. There is a permanent happiness, an unblemished bliss that is attainable here and now that has nothing to do with sensuality. It also, paradoxically, has nothing to do with a hereafter. It is not a heavenly state. It is called Nirvana, literally, "the end of all suffering." The path to Nirvana is increasingly pleasurable states of blissful concentration known as jhanas (meditative absorptions) that lead to purification of the heart and mind. This purification is experienced in the body and prepares one for insight (vipassana). The temporary bliss of concentration is no liberation; however, the permanent bliss of liberating-insight does lead to a permanent end to all further suffering. Just as life is ruined by the suffering and misery associated with it (as well as the imperfection and emptiness we're sometimes left feeling) -- because dukkha means the RANGE of unpleasant sensation between agitation and agony -- so Nirvana is without such association.

5. Does suffering (dukkha or "unsatisfactoriness") come from desire?

This is correct is easy to miscomprehend. At the root of dissatisfaction is craving (tanha, literally "thirst"). When an unpleasant state arises in the mind (or heart, which both go by the same word, citta), it is sure to be rooted in greed, hate, and delusion. These defilements occur together. All lust and anger are rooted in ignorance. Hate is simply the frustration of desire, the resistance to getting what we don't want. Not getting what we want is lust leading to suffering. Whether we are repulsed or attracted is based on ignorance and desire. If there were nothing we wanted, we would not be oppressed by hate. There would be no frustration. If there were nothing we wanted, we would not be oppressed by greed. There would be no suffering. But ignorance impels us to be attracted to things that can never yield satisfaction. Similarly, it repels us from all the things that we find unpleasant, that are not our desire. All of this becomes directly observable through mindful meditation. Otherwise, we just keep going, never understanding why life seems empty and painful and difficult. So score one for Captain Awesome. Anyone who claims the things of the world can satisfy is grievously mistaken. One need only look around for the most contented people. They are never the ones with the most material comforts, with seemingly every reason to be happy. It isn't our comforts that make us unhappy, but rather our greed (desire), hate (aversion), and delusion (ignorance).

6. You want sex and cars, and that will just cause more "suffering" according to Buddhism?

It won't just cause dukkha ("unsatisfactoriness"). It will feel good. There is no denying that there is pleasure to be had in sensual existence, particularly the pleasant world of humans. What also comes along, however, is a danger (the liability to become attached and lose the impermanent object of desire, which in our foolishness leads to all manner of suffering) and a risk. But there is an escape from this suffering and seeing the true nature of things: seeing them as impersonal and not belonging to us, as foreign and a potential burden, the longing and desire for them shrinks. The heart pulls away like plastic thrown in fire. And there is peace, and in this peace there is clarity and the possibility for insight to arise. The cause of all happiness is non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion, or stated positively: unselfishness, loving-kindness, and wisdom. Have sex (that doesn't hurt anyone or destroy anyone's relationships), but fulfillment is not to be found there. So long as one thinks it is, one becomes obsessed, invites all manner of troubles, and ultimately ends up unfulfilled, confused, and with nothing to show for this precious human life. Have cars (that are obtained honestly and without harming others). Have all that you. Taste the world. The risk is attachment to things that will not last and will never satisfy. It is futile to argue with one who neither knows nor sees this truth: "One was too many, and yet a thousand wasn't enough." It's true of alcohol, sex, cars, money. It is fruitful to argue with one who both knows and sees this truth. The dawning of insight usually comes in the wake of enough suffering to jolt one out of slumber and indifference. Otherwise, we just keep banging our head wondering why life doesn't work out.

7. To end desire you must follow the tenets Buddhism?

No. Concentration (to the point of absorption) suppresses defilements (greed, hatred, delusion, and fear, which is a kind of hatred/aversion so is not usually mentioned separately), which are the proximate cause of all the suffering we experience. Insight (into ultimate materiality and mentality) eradicates defilements, leaving us instead as unselfish, compassionate, wise, and fearless. Many traditions (if not most) teach the suppression of defilements. Few teach the path to their permanent eradication. Buddhism in that sense is not really a "religion" and is not limited to Buddhists. The path is open to everyone, just as the problems exist for everyone. Greed (rooted in the other defilements) will not lead to non-greed. Greed leads to greed and ultimately to unsatisfactoriness. But non-greed (temporarily freed of defilements, as well as liberating-insight) leads to non-greed and an end to unsatisfactoriness. This is not a truth to be accepted on faith, not a philosophy to adopt. It's visible here and now, in life just as in meditation (looking at the mind and its circular habits). The Dharma is inviting saying, "Hey, there's a way out of the trap; we're the ones causing ourselves harm, and therefore we can do ourselves a great deal of good.

8. Happiness isn't going to come by you thinking out your problems and such?

That's right. Thinking doesn't do it. Insight (knowing and seeing) does.

9. You've got the Path, you've got the eight paths to get to happiness?

Almost. There is a "Noble Eightfold Path" to Nirvana ("the end of all suffering"). Its eight factors are discussed in the WQ archives. But as it is said in Eastern Philosophical circles, There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way!

10. Rich people, rich countries have higher quality of life; the desire, the desire for goods just increases the happiness?

Does it? Scandinavian countries with their Happiness Index and the only Buddhist kingdom in the world (Bhutan)'s Gross Domestic Happiness are not related to materiality and desire. Desire is the opposite of contentment and happiness. Obtaining desires is a form of happiness (temporary satiation), but it doesn't satisfy. Satisfaction is characterized by an alleviation of desires. America and the Western industrialized nations are some of the unhappiest because we chase material happiness that doesn't work. People then go on a spiritual search to fill the void. Voluntary renunciation and contentment leads from subtle happiness to more subtle happiness, and with the appeasement of the defilements, it is possible to rapidly advance in insight and wisdom. And the way to the final end of suffering is happy as it goes culminating in the ultimate bliss that transcends intellectual understanding, Nirvana.

  • NOTE: The captain then veers away from talking directly about Buddhism in favor of geopolitical matters. We'll let those countries' citizens and regimes defend themselves if they wish. Travel -- missing in most of our American lives -- might radically alter and expand Awesome's view of the larger world. Nevertheless, together with Captain Awesome we fervently wish: "May all living beings be well and happy!" And in the interest of a healthy debate, here is Buddha Gem with a compassionate video response:

Original Buddhism in Bangladesh

Who Are the Bengali Buddhists?
Ven. Karunananda, Abbot

California Bodhi Vihara, Long Beach, CA

While the mystic poet Rabindranath Tagore, the modern saint Dipa Ma (Nani Bala Barua), and her guru Anagarika Munindra may get all the attention, Bangladesh actually has a long and storied history of Buddhism. From its first contact with the Buddha, according to Canonical records, delivering a discourse to its oppression by the Mughal Empire of Akbar and his descendants, Banga (as it was once known) and the Chittagong Baruas have preserved the original message of the Buddha Gautama’s dispensation.

Bangladeshi Buddhists maintain the original form of Buddhism, the "Teaching of the Elder" [enlightened arhats, the immediate disciples of the Buddha]. And California now has the distinction of housing the first Indian subcontinental monastery outside of Asia.

In the 8th century, when Buddhism yet thrived in its birthplace India -- when Southern Nepal, Assam in the north, the state of West Bengal, and Eastern Pakistan were all a part of Bharat (“India” proper) -- King Shashanko came into power and laid waste to Buddhism in India. He was the forbear of the famous "Hindu" systematizer Sri Shankara Acarya, who amalgamated divergent traditions prevalent in the subcontinent into one organized religion.

King Shashanko converted to Brahmanism, slaughtering monks and razing famous Buddhist universities. He then converted people by force, displacing Buddhism as the dominant religion of Bihar. The king even went so far as to order the destruction of the original Bodhi tree, under which Siddhartha Gautama gained enlightenment to become the Buddha. He died of leprosy within seven days as a result.

Tibetan historical accounts, namely the Rajata Ramgini, record the litany of atrocities. This sent waves of fleeing monks and lay Buddhists east to what is now Bangladesh. Monks, to preserve their lives and their ordinations, disrobed except for saffron shreds around their fingers. They trekked over the perilous mountains of Assam and the wilds of Nagaland to the Buddhist stronghold of the Arkanese kings (Arkanese kings which ruled in Burma)....

Search Wikipedia “Bangladeshi Buddhists”

Buddhism in America (Dalai Lama at CYM)


Locations of visitors to this page

Indian UFO Plans (Vymaanika Shaastra)


Multiple corroborating sources have been pieced together to unlock the secret of true anti-gravity. This expose of supporting evidence provides a never before seen look at how real anti-gravity could work. Of course the only way to debunk it is to do the experiment and see.

Maharshi Bharadwaaja's Vimaanika Shastra (

Bell Experiment - Jakob SporrenbergEugene Podkletnov - "Impulse Gravity Generator Based on Charged Superconducting Crystal"Edgar Fouche - TR3-b :

Jonathan Weygandt's testimony begins at 05:40 (Disclosure Project - 62 min)

Additional references:

Common ferrofluid surfactants: The surfactants used to coat the nanoparticles include, but are not limited to: oleic acid, tetramethylammonium hydroxide, citric acid, soy lecithin. These surfactants prevent the nanoparticles from clumping together, ensuring that the particles do not form aggregates that become too heavy to be held in suspension by Brownian motion. The magnetic particles in an ideal ferrofluid do not settle out, even when exposed to a strong magnetic, or gravitational field. A surfactant has a polar head and non-polar tail (or vice versa), one of which adsorbs to a nanoparticle, while the non-polar tail (or polar head) sticks out into the carrier medium, forming an inverse or regular micelle, respectively, around the particle. Steric repulsion then prevents agglomeration of the particles.

Quantum Ferrofluids:

Please note that the drawing I portray of the Anti-Gravity Engine shows superfluid Helium 3 nuclei engaging in cooper pairs. The Black and White sided coin is drawn to illustrate what I call "dual axis rotation" or conical rotation (spin a coin on a table and observe the motion). One idea is to use two different superfluids of different density which will cause each other to rotate through displacement. This can also be used to "jump start" the engine (by spinning the craft like a coin and letting it rotate on an edge to get that dual axis rotation going).

Friday, January 30, 2009

Jon Kabat-Zinn: Mindfulness at Google

Akasa Devas: UFO's

(YouTube: URL) (Google Video: URL)

Akasa (or akasha in Sanskrit) means "space." It literally refers to the sky or open space rather than the modern conception of "outer space." However, the sky keeps going into the celestial worlds (deva-lokas).

It is tempting to imagine that devas (literally, "shining ones") simply refers to ephemeral spirits or highly evolved, fine-material entities, to deities. However, in a concrete sense they are beings who live above earth, in vimanas (space vehicles, sometimes called "platforms" or "mansions").

The lower ones could easily make contact, and they have for tens of thousands of years, as recorded in Indian classics like the Vedas and Ramayana.
The following is a modern exploration regarding the topic of "reverse engineering." This suggests that governments of the earth, past and present, have held alien (or extraterrestrial) technology. By taking it apart it is possible to discern how it was put together and to mimic it. Reputedly, just as one example, this is how we got fiber optic technology.

All technological revolutions giving an advantage to one culture over another seems to be based on some sudden revelation. This being the case, governments have learned not to question the source of new technology preferring to judge it instead on its scientific feasibility.

With that, if viewers will temporarily suspend disbelief, it is possible to enjoy this History Channel special with an open mind that does not presume to understand the mysterious world of which we only comprise a small part.

Radio: Burmese Hip Hop (rap music)

The World* (Public Radio International)
Global Hit
Burmese Hip Hop

Finally today -- a story of music and politics. In many countries, musicians are free to voice their political views through song. Not so in Burma (Myanmar). There political repression and censorship are severe. That's something that young Burmese hip hop artists have discovered firsthand. The World's Andrea Smardon prepared this report (

She found that in spite of the totalitarian government's censorship in Myanmar, Hip Hop has become popular among young Burmese. It's also given some of them a political voice. More »

*PRI's The World is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. Hosted by anchor Lisa Mullins. Ways to listen: Your public radio station, iTunes, or RSS. Support The World at Amazon.

Jack Kornfield: You Too Can Meditate

Dipa Ma with Mahasi Sayadaw

Buddhist Meditation Masters (18:07)
Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, Mahasi Sayadaw

VIDEO: Dipa Ma (Buddhist Saint)

"Sainthood" (enlightenment) in Buddhism simply means someone who has attained one of the paths and fruits (magga-phala) as a stream-enterer, once returner, non-returner, or Arhat. These are the progressive stages of enlightenment. One may, or may not, in addition possess magical powers or any ability to teach whatsoever; these are separate attainments.

Magical powers do not indicate enlightenment as it is quite possible to develop them with samadhi (concentration defined in terms of the jhanas) devoid of liberating insight (as exemplified by many Hindu sages). Dipa Ma was liberated, developed the powers through the scholarship and guidance of Anagarika Munindra, and was able to teach meditation as well. The following video shows her in 19800 in San Francisco, California.

Dipa Ma, a Buddhist meditation teacher from Bangladesh and Calcutta, India visits the American vipassana teacher Sujata in his San Francisco apartment. Joseph Goldstein (Insight Meditation Society and the Forest Refuge retreat center in Barre, MA where she also visited) accompanied her. In this short video she tours the kitchen, has lunch, and conducts an interview with a small group of students.

This is rare footage. Anagarika Munindra was her main teacher in India and Burma. And the entire DVD with additional footage may be found at Download or watch the full length (40 minutes) of this video on Google Video. Footage of Dipa Ma as well as films by Jack Kornfield have now been posted.

Dipa Ma: Buddhist Saint

WQ (This updates and replaces the article Knee Deep in Grace)

Dipa Ma literally means "Dipa's mother" (Dipa was her eldest daugther and also a prolific Buddhist meditator). But figuratively it means "Mother of Light." Dipa Ma was born Nani Bala Barua (1911-1989) in East Bengal (Bangladesh). From a young age she displayed an interest in Buddhist rituals, preferring study to play.

Unlike other local girls, she insisted on attending school. However, by the age of 12 she was married off to a man in Rangoon, Burma. After her husband's death in 1957, she took up vipassana meditation under her guru Anagarika Munindra and made swift progress. In 1963, under this same guide in Bodhgaya, India, Dipa Ma began to study and successfully attained the siddhis or "magical powers."

In 1967, she moved to Calcutta where she began teaching meditation to a wide range of Indian housewives and foreign students including the Americans Joseph Goldstein (photographed circa 1970 in India with Dipa Ma), Jack Kornfield, and Sharon Salzberg, who later became prominent teachers. In the early 1980s she was invited to America to teach at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts.

Her story was originally brought to light by author Amy Schmidt ( in the book Knee Deep in Grace. The book has subsequently been updated and republished as Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master.

Dipa Ma's teacher Anagarika Munindra: Begin to See (teachings on DVD/CDs)

Sri Lanka: Rebels, Release Civilian Victims

Ravi Nessman (AP)

Canadian Tamils demonstrate on a downtown street in Toronto, January 30, 2009. Pressure rose on Friday for Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels to free thousands of people trapped in the war zone, after the president pledged safe passage and urged the rebels to let people move over the next two days (Reuters/Peter Jones, Canada).

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa appealed Friday to the Tamil Tiger rebels to allow the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in the northern war zone to flee to safety in the next 48 hours.

Rajapaksa's appeal, published Friday on a government Web site, came after human rights groups and a top U.N. official expressed serious concern for the fate of the noncombatants in the area amid reports of heavy civilian casualties.

Human rights groups have accused the rebels of holding the civilians hostage and accused the military of launching heavy attacks in areas filled with noncombatants, including a government-declared "safe zone" in the north. The rebels and the military deny the charges. More>>

Wandering On: the Planes of Existence

WQ derivative work based on Accesstoinsight*

Samsara literally means the "continued wandering on" through cyclic death/rebirth.

The inescapable natural-law of karma holds that each of our actions — whether of body, speech, or mind — has consequences in line with the skillfulness or unskillfulness of that action. We can often witness this process firsthand in our own lives, even if the effects may not be immediately apparent.

But the Buddha also taught that our intentions and actions (again whether mental, verbal, or physical) have effects that extend far beyond our present life, determining the quality of rebirth we can expect after death: Actions which are wholesome and skillful destine one for a favorable rebirth. Deeds which are unwholesome and unskillful lead to an unpleasant rebirth. Thus, we coast for aeons through Samsara, the Wheel of Existence, propelled from one birth to another by the quality of our choices and our actions.

The discourse describe thirty-one distinct "planes" or "realms" (it might be better to say categories or types) of existence into which beings can be reborn during this long wandering on through Samsara. These range from the extraordinarily dark, grim, and painful infernal realms all the way up to the most sublime, refined, and exquisitely blissful celestial worlds, with much in between.

Existence in every realm is impermanent. In Buddhist cosmology there is no eternal heaven or unending hell, though it may seem that way given the immense lifespans in each. Beings are born into a particular realm according to both their past karma and their karma at the moment of death (often only mental). When the karmic force that propelled them to that realm is finally exhausted, they pass away, taking rebirth once again elsewhere according to previous karma. And so the wearisome cycle wears on without an end in sight.

The realms of existence are customarily divided into three distinct "worlds" (lokas), listed here in descending order of refinement:

The Immaterial World (arupa-loka). Consists of four realms that are accessible to those who pass away while meditating in the formless jhanas.

The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka). Consists of sixteen realms whose inhabitants (the devas, or "shining ones") experience extremely refined degrees of mental pleasure. These realms are accessible to those who have attained at least some level of jhana and who have thereby managed to (temporarily) suppress hatred and ill-will. They are said to possess extremely refined bodies of pure light. The highest of these realms, the "Pure Abodes," are accessible only to those who have attained to the partially-awakened stage known as "non-returning" (anagami), which is the third stage of enlightenment. The Fine-Material World and the Immaterial World together constitute Buddhist "heavens" (sagga).

The Sensuous World (kama-loka). Consists of eleven realms in which experience — both pleasurable and painful — is dominated by the five senses. Seven of these realms are fortunate destinations and include our own human realm as well as several realms occupied by bhumma-devas (earth-deities, elementals, fairies). The lowest realms are the four unfortunate destinations, which include the animal, ghost, and hellish realms.

It is futile to debate whether these realms are literal or merely metaphorical descriptions of the various mind-states we might experience in a single lifetime. Mere reasoning could never determine that. The tradition holds that, as hard as it is to believe in what we have ourselves not yet seen or personally experienced, these worlds are literally existing states.

Instead, the overarching message of this cosmology is this. Unless we take steps to break free of the steel grip of karma, we are doomed to wander aimlessly from one state of being to another, with true peace and satisfaction constantly out of reach.

The Buddha's revolutionary discovery was finding that there is a way to break free of this miserable wandering. It is the Noble Eightfold Path, which equips us with precisely the tools needed to escape from this wearisome trek once and for all, to a true and unshakable freedom.

The information in this article was assembled from a variety of sources. In the interest of economizing space not all facts have been attributed to their respective sources.

Factors of Dependent Origination (Paticca Samupada) which give rise to Samsaric wandering

I. The Immaterial World (arupa-loka)

REALM: (31st) Neither-perception-nor-non-perception (nevasaññanasaññayatanupaga deva)

COMMENT: The inhabitants of these worlds are possessed entirely of mind. Having no physical basis, they are unable to hear Dharma teachings and thereby advance.

CAUSE OF REBIRTH HERE: 8th Jhana (Fourth Formless jhana)

(30) Nothingness (akiñcaññayatanupaga deva)

CAUSE: 7th Jhana (Third Formless jhana)

(29) Base of Infinite Consciousness (viññanañcayatanupaga deva)

CAUSE: 6th Jhana (Second Formless jhana)

(28) Infinite Space (akasanañcayatanupaga deva)

CAUSE: 5th Jhana (First Formless jhana)

Tibetan Wheel of Rebirth, a popular pictorial representation of Samsara

II. The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka)

REALM: (27) Peerless devas (akanittha deva)

COMMENTS: These are the five Pure Abodes (suddhavasa), which are accessible only to non-returners (anagami) and the enlightened (arahant). Beings who become non-returners in other planes are reborn here, where they attain arahantship. Among its inhabitants is the Brahma Sahampati, who pleaded with the Buddha to teach Dharma to the world (SN 6.1).

CAUSE: Fourth [Form] jhana. See, for example, AN 4.123.

(26) Clear-sighted devas (sudassi deva)

(25) Beautiful devas (sudassa deva)

(24) Untroubled devas (atappa deva)

(23) Devas not Falling Away (aviha deva)

(22) Unconscious beings (asaññasatta)

COMMENTS: Only unconscious body is present, no mentality.

(21) Very Fruitful devas (vehapphala deva)

COMMENTS: Beings in these planes enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss.

(20) Devas of Refulgent Glory (subhakinna deva)

CAUSE: Third jhana (highest degree when divided into three phases: mastery, middling, and sufficient). See, for example, AN 4.123.

(19) Devas of Unbounded Glory (appamanasubha deva)

CAUSE: Third jhana (middling or medium degree of proficiency)

(18) Devas of Limited Glory (parittasubha deva)

CAUSE: Third jhana (minor degree)

(17) Devas of Streaming Radiance (abhassara deva)

CAUSE: Second jhana (highest degree). See, for example, AN 4.123.

(16) Devas of Unbounded Radiance (appamanabha deva)

CAUSE: Second jhana (medium degree)

(15) Devas of Limited Radiance (parittabha deva)

CAUSE: Second jhana (minor degree)

(14) Great Brahmas (Maha Brahma)

COMMENT: One of this realm's most famous inhabitants is the Great God, a divinity (brahma) whose delusion leads Him to regard Himself as the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe (DN 11).

CAUSE: First jhana (highest degree)

(13) Ministers of Brahma (brahma-purohita deva)

COMMENT: Beings in these planes enjoy varying degrees of jhanic bliss.

CAUSE: First jhana (medium degree)

(12) Retinue of Brahma (brahma-parisajja deva)

CAUSE: First jhana (minor degree). See, for example, AN 4.123.

The planes of existence in Samsara depicted in Japanese iconography

III. The Sensuous World (kama-loka)
The "Happy Destinations" (sugati)

REALM: (11) Devas Wielding Power over the Creation of Others (paranimmita-vasavatti deva)

COMMENT: These devas enjoy sense pleasures created by others for them. Mara -- a kind of Buddhist "Lucifer" (Mara Devaputra, lit. "the Killer, Son-of-God") a figurative personification of delusion and desire -- lives here.

(10) Devas Delighting in Creation (nimmanarati deva)

COMMENT: These devas delight in the sense objects of their own creation.

(9) Contented devas (tusita deva)

COMMENT: A realm of pure delight and gaiety. Bodhisattas ("beings destined for full enlightenment") abide here prior to their final human birth. This is where the Bodhisatta Metteya (Sanskrit, Maitreya), the next buddha, is said to dwell.

(8) Yama devas (yama deva)

COMMENT: These devas live in the air, free of all difficulties.

(7) The Thirty-three Deities (tavatimsa deva)

Sakka, a stream-enterer (sotapanna) and devotee of the Buddha, presides over this realm. Many devas dwelling here live in mansions in the air. He is king of this realm, often referred to as the "Gods of the Thirty-Three," as well as King of Kings lording over the Four Great Kings of the next realm down. He achieved this station due to wholesome karma he developed as a human.

(6) Devas of the Four Great Kings (catumaharajika deva)

COMMENT: These four kings or better "regents" preside over the four cardinal directions in the sky above the human world. This is the home of gandhabbas, which are celestial musicians, yakkhas, ogres, and bhumma-devas, tree spirits of varying degrees of ethical purity. These are analogous to the sylphs, trolls, and fairies that populate Western fairytales.

(5) Human beings (manussa loka)

COMMENT: You are here (for now). Rebirth as a human being is extraordinarily rare (SN 56.48). It is the lowest of the fortunate rebirth destinations. Thus, it is extraordinarily precious, perfect for stirring one to strive for enlightenment with its unique balance of pleasure and pain (SN 35.135). The mix of circumstances, being visibly impermanent but not excessively chaotic, facilitates the development of virtue and wisdom to the degree necessary to set one free from the entire cycle of rebirths. It may not be a real and literal world, maybe just metaphorical, but the tradition holds that it is an actually-existing place.

Death (Marana) consuming all the planes of Samsaric existence

"States of Deprivation" (apaya)

(4) Asuras (asura loka)

COMMENT: World of titans — a kind of "demons" if you will — engaged in relentless conflict with each other, Sakka, and devas.

CAUSE: Ten courses of unwholesome action (MN 10)

(3) Hungry Ghosts (peta loka)

COMMENT: "Unclean spirits," poltergeists, unhappy ghosts that wander hopelessly about this realm, searching in vain for sensual fulfillment. The Buddhist writer Egerton C. Baptist has written extensively and in detail on this subject, and an entire book of the Pali Canon, the Petavatthu (PTS), tells of their suffering. Read also Ajahn Lee's colorful description of this realm.

  • Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views (AN 10.177)

(2) Animals (tiracchana yoni)

This realm includes all the non-human forms of life that are visible to us under ordinary circumstances: animals, insects, fish, birds, worms, and so on. May also not exist literally, but the tradition holds that it is an actual world, a real place of rebirth.


  • Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views. If one is generous to monks and nuns, however, one may be reborn as an "ornamented" animal (i.e., a bird with bright plumage, a horse with attractive markings, etc. See AN 10.177).
  • Behaving like an animal (MN 57)

(1) Hell (niraya)

COMMENT: These are realms of unimaginable suffering and anguish (described in graphic detail in MN 129 and 130). They should not, however, be confused with the "eternal hell" suggested by other religions since lifespans here, though unimaginably long and seemingly insufferable, are -- as with every realm — impermanent.

  • Ten unwholesome actions (MN 10)
  • Lack of virtue, holding to wrong views (AN 10.177)
  • The Four Karmas with Fixed Results: murdering your parents, murdering an arahant, injuring a buddha, or creating a schism in the Sangha (AN 5.129)
  • Being quarrelsome and annoying to others (Snp II.6)
Buddhist Dictionary, Nyanatiloka Mahathera (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1980).
The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction (4th ed.), by R.H. Robinson & W.L. Johnson (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1997).
The Long Discourses of the Buddha (introduction), translation by Maurice Walshe (Boston:
Wisdom Publications, 1987).
A Manual of Abhidhamma, Ven. Narada Thera (Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society, 1979).
The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (introduction), translation by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi (Boston:
Wisdom Publications, 1995).
Teacher of the Devas (Wheel Publication 414/416), Susan Elbaum Jootla (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1997).
The Three Worlds (wall chart), compiled by Ven. Acaro Suvanno (printed for free distribution by devotees and Mr. & Mrs. Lim Say Hoe and family).

*For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.

Dolphins prepare their meals


"So long and thanks for all the fish!"
(Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

One of the 31 Planes of Existence in Buddhist cosmology is the Ani-mal Realm. This world is expansive and mindboggling, though often taken for granted as merely the mundane and visible world of cats, dogs, and maybe "edible cows."

It is, in fact, extremely diverse and difficult to fathom as this story about the smartest creature on the planet illustrates. (According to the Hitchhiker's Guide, humans are only the third smartest, based on independent observations, just behind lab mice). Even what is possible in our Human Plane is scarcely known to us (e.g., Uzbekistan discovers 128 year old woman).

CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) – Dolphins are the chefs of the seas, having been seen going through precise and elaborate preparations to rid cuttlefish of ink and bone to produce a soft meal of calamari, Australian scientists say.

A wild female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin was observed going through the same series of complicated steps to prepare cuttlefish prey for eating in the Spencer Gulf, in South Australia state.

"It's a sign of how well their brains are developed. It's a pretty clever way to get pure calamari without all the horrible bits," Mark Norman, the curator of mollusks at Museum Victoria and a research team member, told the Canberra Times newspaper.

The research team, writing in the science journal PLoS One, said they repeatedly observed a female dolphin herding cuttlefish out of algal weed and onto a clear, sandy patch of seafloor.

The dolphin, identified using circular body scars, then pinned the cuttlefish with its snout while standing on its head, before killing it instantly with a rapid downward thrust and "loud click" audible to divers as the hard cuttlebone broke. More>>

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Arhatship ("sainthood")

Wikipedia WQ edit

In the sramanic (recluse, ascetic) traditions of ancient India (most notably those of Jainism and Buddhism) arhat (Sanskrit) or arahant (Pali) signified a spiritual practitioner who had — to use an expression common in the Tipitaka — "laid down the burden" and realized the goal of nirvana. This was the culmination of the spiritual life (brahmacarya). Such a person, having removed all causes for future suffering, is not reborn into any Samsaric realm.

The term occurs as arhattaa in the Rig Veda (Hopkins, The Great Epic of India) and as the first offer of salutation in the main Jain prayer Navakar Mantra.

Later the word occurs mostly in Buddhist and Jain texts, but also in some Vaishnava texts such as the Srimad Bhagavatam [4]. It also occurs in the Vaishnava Srî Narada Pancharatnam (Vijnanananda, Srî Narada Pancharatnam).

The word arahan literally means "worthy one"[1] (an alternative folk etymology is "foe-destroyer" or "vanquisher of enemies" [2]) and constitutes the highest grade of noble person—or ariya-puggala—described by the Buddha as recorded in the Pali Canon. The word was used (as it is today in Theravada Buddhism) as an epithet of the Buddha himself as well as of his enlightened followers. The most widely recited liturgical reference is perhaps the homage:

Namo tassa Bhagavato, Arahato, Samma-sambuddhassa.

"Homage to the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the perfectly enlightened Buddha."

In Theravada Buddhism the Buddha himself is first called an arahant, as were his enlightened followers, since he is free from all defilements, without greed, hatred, and delusion, rid of ignorance and craving, having no possessions that will lead to a future birth, knowing and seeing the real here and now. His virtues reveal stainless purity, true worth, and the accomplishment of the end of suffering, nirvana [3].

In the Pali Canon, Ānanda states that he has known monastics to achieve nirvana in one of four ways:

  1. one develops insight preceded by serenity (Pali: samatha-pubbaṇgamaṃ vipassanaṃ);
  2. one develops serenity preceded by insight (vipassanā-pubbaṇgamaṃ samathaṃ);
  3. one develops serenity and insight in a stepwise fashion (samatha-vipassanaṃ yuganaddhaṃ);
  4. one's mind becomes seized by excitation about the Dharma and, as a consequence, develops serenity and abandons the fetters (dhamma-uddhacca-viggahitaṃ mānasaṃ hoti) [4][5].
In Theravada, although arahants have achieved the same goal as the Buddha, there are differences among them due to other talents and practices.

Mahayana Buddhists see the Buddha himself as the ideal towards which one should aim in one's spiritual aspirations. Hence the arhat, as an enlightened disciple of the Buddha, is not regarded as a goal as much as the bodhisattva.

In the Mahayana tradition, bodhisattva carries a meaning different from that in Theravada Buddhism (where a buddha prior to his enlightenment is called a bodhisattva, or a "being bent on enlightenment" with the ability to teach). In the Pali Canon the Tathagata, when relating his own past life experiences, often uses the phrase "when I was an unenlightened bodhisattva." Bodhisattva denotes as yet unenlightened but striving towards the goal.

In Mahayana Buddhism, on the other hand, a bodhisattva is someone who seeks to put the welfare of others before one's own, forfeiting enlightenment until an infinite number of beings are first saved. Such a person is sometimes said to have achieved a proto-enlightenment called bodhicitta ("enlightened mind").

The School of the Elders

Following the Buddha’s parinirvana, the Buddhist community continued to orally pass down the Teachings from one generation to another. The first written versions of the Buddha’s message of liberation did not appear until two hundred years after his departure from the world. Some of the oldest Buddhist texts to survive into modern times were written in an ancient Indian dialect called Pali.

These works came to be called the “Pali Canon.” The living oral tradition (used in one-to-one meditation instruction) and these documents form the heart of the Theravada (“School of the Elders”) tradition. It is the dominant form of Buddhism practiced today in the Southeast Asian countries of Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia. This tradition is also sometimes simply referred to as the "Southern school" of Buddhism.

The Pali Canon consists of three distinct collections called the Tripitika (“Three Baskets”). It consists of the Buddha's discourses (Suttanta), the rules of conduct governing monastic life (Vinaya), and various studies governing the development of spiritual insight (Abhidhamma). The Pali word sutta--like the Sanskrit word sutra--literally means “thread” or “string.” It is often compared to the plumb line of masons and carpenters, used to ensure the accuracy of the work.

The disciplinary texts, which set forth the rules of conduct for monks and nuns, describe Buddhist monastic life in great detail. Boys and girls had to be at least seven years old before they could become novices. In addition, a male had to be at least 20 years old before he could receive full ordination as a monk.

Prior to the ordination ceremony, the candidate’s hair and beard were shaved off and the initiate was garbed in saffron-colored monastic robes. During the ceremony itself, the candidate saluted the monks present and thrice chanted the following:

Buddham saranam gacchami,
Dhamman saranam gacchami,
Sangham saranam gacchami.

("I go for guidance to the Buddha, I go for guidance to the Dharma, I go for guidance to the Sangha.")

This is the Buddhist "trinity" known as the Three Gems, which some say represents the body (Buddha), speech (Dharma), and mind (Sangha) of Sakyamuni (a title for the Buddha meaning the "Sage of the Sakyas.")

Precepts calculated to, as much as possible, remove desire from the human equation governed all aspects of monastic life. For example, monks and nuns were required to remain chaste at all times. Members of the Sangha also had to refrain from dancing, singing, or otherwise participating in frivolous entertainments. In addition, the monastic precepts set forth rules concerning the clothing and personal items monks and nuns were allowed to use.

The survival of each monastic community was completely in the hands of local laypeople, who obtained spiritual merit by bestowing food, clothing, and other offerings upon the monks and nuns. Monks and nuns were barred from participating in any business activity and could not accept money. All food had to be obtained on alms round, door to door, as freely offered by people wishing to give. In addition, ascetic dietary codes were established that restricted the intake of solid food to a single meal which had to be consumed prior to the “horse-hour” of local noon.

Each monastic community held regular meetings on the 8th and 14th of the lunar half-month, at which time the members confessed any infraction of the monastic rules in front of the monastic community. In addition, monks and nuns were not allowed to travel during the rainy season. These are just a few examples of the rules that ensured the survival of a monastic community, the Teachings, and the possibility of successful meditation leading to the attainment of the highest bliss, nirvana, in this very life.

Chi Power "Exposed"

National Geographic TV

Nirvana (definition)

Nirvana. nir-va, to blow out. According to ancient lore, complete freedom; according to Buddhist lore, liberation.

The goal of Buddhism is the condition of the Arhat or one who has achieved nirvana: a condition where there is neither earth nor water nor fire nor air; neither infinite space nor infinite consciousness; nor the sphere of void, nor the sphere of perception or non-perception.

It is the end of woe. When the Buddha achieved it, he is reputed to have said: "I who wept with all my brothers' tears, laugh and am glad, for there is liberty!" (Yoga Illustrated Dictionary, Kaye & Ward).

The Path begins at the tip of the nose where the breath makes contact, courses through Nimitta Lane, onto Jhanas Ave. with a sharp right at Vipassana Blvd., onto Magga Hwy., ending on the Phala Fwy. Remember in case you're lost in Samsara.