Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What is Reality (and Why)?

David Icke describes the nature of the global situation we are facing and how we can collectively change things for the better. This is no-holds-barred television interview with Ross Hemsworth. Edge Media TV sponsored the provocative broadcast, which was aired over the Internet on the 23rd of October, 2008. Icke predicted the current state of affairs and the debt-centric bank bailout solutions being offered by Obama and other world leaders.

David Icke (Radio Interview)

"Yes We Can" -- Bankers

Nirvana: nibbana.com

Nibbana (nirvana) an excellent Buddhist resource (English-Burmese) since 1998

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  • MAP of Majjhimadesa ("Middle India") in the Buddha's time:

    Cosmic Enlightenment for All?

    The GoldRing is the rotating circle of light sealing spiritual bodies in fields of pure harmonic vibration. Enlightenment continuously combines and connects spiritual beings into absolute oneness.

    Higher non-physical ethereal energies given through the power of the galactic central suns manifest the electromagnetic waves and charged bodies of sentient life into physical points of existence. Beings of all levels of manifestation that have polarity, spin and power interweave in relationships to create universal expression.

    Channeled Explanation of "Karma"

    The Hindus learned about karma from two primary sources. The first was the handed down knowledge of the Vedas. This was given to them by sky beings (Brahmas, Nagas, Yakkhas, Asura, and Akasa Devas or "space deities" who keep what Edgar Cayce in a New Age Christian context called the "Akashic Records"). The second was by direct seeing of rishis (seers). These psychics had the ability to see. But they were subject to bias.

    The Buddha warned that without perfect development of one dibbu-cakkhu (divine eye), a seer was likely to misunderstand what had been seen. For instance, if one perceived a very bad person passing away and going to a fortunate rebirth destination, the seer was likely to say that either

    • There is no result of karma or
    • Bad actions yield good results or
    • One's destiny after death is haphazard.

    It is the fault and failure of the seer. The error is to extrapolate too broadly from too few cases. The first view is particularly harmful. As a fixed wrong view (miccha-ditthi), it results in a great deal of suffering. The other views have the tendency to mislead beings but are slightly less harmful.

    The present seer should therefore be understood on the terms of what is said as it is perceived and understood. What is directly seen is nevertheless focused through the prism of one's understanding. And that is where distortions and interpretations come in. Information can still be useful. It takes a sammasambuddha (a fully-awakened one) to make sense of karma.

    The views of this seer are presented only to arouse discussion. Many Westerners may hold the first wrong-view -- that of not believing that there is any result of karma whatsoever. It would be better to mistakenly think that this will lead to that instead of believing that there is no result at all.

    The topic of karma is very complex. However, it is explained in modern English in accord with the Buddha's teaching by Pa Auk Sayadaw in The Workings of Kamma. Available for free download at:

    Face of Buddhist "Killing Fields" on Trial

    Graphic fact file on Tuol Sleng prison run by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. The prison chief is facing charges that he oversaw the execution of 15,000 people at a court in Cambodia. This is the first trial into the atrocities of the "Killing Fields" (AFP/Graphic/Martin Megino/Gal/JS).

    Cambodian Buddhist monk looks on as he and others wait in line outside the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the second day of a UN-backed tribunal, 3/31/09, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. On the first day of the trial prosecutors alleged the former Khmer Rouge commander oversaw grisly atrocities at the prison (AP/David Longstreath).

    Genocidal torturer, born-again Christian Kaing Guek Eav ("Duch" pronounced D'oik), has confessed and asked victims for forgiveness (AFP).

    Sex: Who Enjoys It?

    "The real reason dinosaurs became extinct" (Farside by Gary Larson)

    03.24.09 in Animals by Robin Lloyd
    Gang of Juvenile Dinosaurs Discovered
    A new fossil find suggests that young Triceratops dinosaurs were gregarious gangsters, not solitary types.

    Animal sex is at least as strange and varied as human sex. A male might copulate with many females, but female animals of many species can be choosy, too. Homosexuality is common. Monogamy is rare. And the animal kingdom is full of swingers.
    Do Animals Enjoy Sex?
    LiveScience.com (3/25/09)

    Animals obviously hook up, at least during mating season. But do they like it? According to experts, there are two answers: "yes" and "it is impossible to know."
    "Mosquitoes, I don’t know," hedged Mark Bekoff, a University of Colorado biologist and author of The Emotional Lives of Animals (New World Library), "but across mammals, they enjoy sex." In fact the enjoyment of sex among humans and among animals may be similar in that it's all experienced in very primitive parts of the brain.
    Really wild orgasms
    Not only do animals enjoy the deed, they also likely have orgasms... More>>

    03.27.09 in Animals by Robert Roy Britt
    Boiling Mad: Crabs Feel Pain
    Not only do crabs suffer pain, but they retain a memory of it, study finds.

    03.30.09 in Animals by LiveScience Staff
    Why Chimps Are Stronger Than Humans
    We pay a price for our fine motor skills.

    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Tibetan Meditation Music

    Buddhist Genocide: Khmer Rouge

    Western tourist visits Toul Sleng Genocide Museum 3/30/09, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The former commander of the torture prison, Kaing Guek Eav, a.k.a. "Duch," is the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders being tried for crimes against humanity. With no death penalty in Cambodia, the maximum sentence will be life imprisonment (AP/David Longstreath).

    PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – Khmer Rouge executioners threw victims to their deaths, bludgeoned them and then slit their bellies, or had medics draw so much blood that their lives drained away, prosecutors alleged Monday at the opening trial of Cambodia's genocide tribunal.

    Tourists visit the Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre built on the site of Cambodia's infamous "Killing Fields." The Khmer Rouge regime's prison chief has finally stood trial for atrocities. The newly born again Christian is accused of overseeing the torture and execution of 15,000 Buddhists three decades ago (AFP/file/Voishmel).

    The grisly accounts were part of the indictment read into the record for the regime's chief torturer and prison warden, Kaing Guek Eav, or Duch, the first suspect to face justice a full three decades after the Khmer Rouge 1975-79 reign of terror.

    Disabled survivors of the regime joined earnest young law students and other spectators in a modern custom-built courtroom on the outskirts of the Phnom Penh to watch the long-delayed proceedings get under way. More>>

    Buddha's 32 Marks of a Great Man

    These "marks" (lakkhana) are not a Buddhist invention. Rather, they have a long history in Vedic Brahmanism.
    The amalgam of Eastern philosophy from India is now called "Hinduism," although there was never any such term in India, nor was there the idea of a "religion" separate from life. There were various dharmas (schools of thought). But almost all were centered around traditions handed down in the great epics, Aryan writings, and great commentaries.

    The Buddha inadvertently contributed that by revolutionizing thought on stagnant traditions, reviving a great deal of "Hindu" scholarship. Buddhists went on to found a remarkable new Dharma rooted in Indian fundamentals but radically breaking from many traditions with a universal message.

    Part of the old tradition were these "marks of a great man." The Buddha was remarkably facile with incorporating widespread beliefs and re-purposing them towards enlightened ends. Therefore, his use of an old tradition, imbuing it with new significance, does not necessarily mean he was condoning the belief.

    Instead, he was often utilizing skillful means to teach. These marks were a convention well known among leading philosophers and nobles. The Buddha explained them to reinforce the teaching of karma, which contrary to modern opinion was neither well known, thoroughly understood, nor universally accepted among his contemporaries and their followers.

    The Major Marks (lakkhana) and their significance

    1. Well-supported feet. Firm undertaking
    2. Wheels beneath the soles of the feet. Great retinues
    3. Projecting heels. Long life
    4. Long fingers and toes. Long life
    5. Soft and tender hands and feet. Well-united with people
    6. Net-like hands and feet. Well-united with people
    7. Ankles raised like conch shells. Becomes the best
    8. Lower part of the leg is like an antelope's. Gets the best things quickly
    9. Can touch and rub around his knees with both palms, while standing without bending.
      Great wealth
    10. The part concealed by garments is covered by a hood. Many sons
    11. Skin shines like gold. Get finest furnishings and garments
    12. Subtle skin such that dirt and sweat do not adhere to body. Great wisdom
    13. Single hairs, one to each pore. Well-respected
    14. Hair pointing upwards, black, ungraying, turning in rings to the right. Becomes the best
    15. Body frame is straight like Brahma ("supreme one"). Long life
    16. Seven outflows on his hands, feet, at the tips of the shoulders, and at the top of the back.
      Obtains excellent foods
    17. Upper part of the body is lion-like. No loss
    18. The hollow between his shoulders is filled. No loss
    19. Proportional with a body as long as the span of the arms. Great wealth
    20. Shoulders evenly rounded. No loss
    21. Releases the highest of tastes. Very healthy
    22. Jaw is lion-like. He cannot be overthrown.
    23. Forty teeth. His assemblies cannot be divided.
    24. Teeth are even. Pure retinues
    25. Teeth are undivided. His assemblies cannot be divided.
    26. Visible teeth are very white. Pure retinues
    27. A long and mighty tongue. His words are heeded.
    28. The voice of Brahma, mellifluous, resembling the song of a karavika bird. His words are heeded.
    29. Very blue eyes. Attractive look
    30. Eyelashes like those of a cow. Attractive look
    31. The filament between the eyebrows is white like soft cotton. Well-respected
    32. Head is turban-crowned. Many followers

    Conficker Computer Virus: 60 Minutes Video

    Watch CBS Videos Online

    Conficker: Vast Computer Spy Network

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Canadian researchers have uncovered a vast electronic spying operation that infiltrated computers and stole documents from government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

    In a report provided to the newspaper, a team from the Munk Center for International Studies in Toronto said at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries had been breached in less than two years by the spy system, which it dubbed GhostNet.

    Embassies, foreign ministries, government offices and the Dalai Lama's Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London, and New York were among those infiltrated, said the researchers, who have detected computer espionage in the past. More>>
    • Free patch (and removal tool) at www.Symantec.com
    • If you can't log on to Symantec.com, you're infected.
    • Contact your ISP or Internet security provider.

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Some visit Pol Pot's grave looking for luck

    ANLONG VENG, Cambodia – He was one of the greatest mass killers of the 20th century, but that doesn't stop the hopeful from praying at Pol Pot's hillside grave for lucky lottery numbers, job promotions, and beautiful brides.

    Nor does it stop tourists from picking clean the bones and ashes from the Khmer Rouge leader's burial ground in this remote town in northwestern Cambodia.

    The grave is among a slew of Khmer Rouge landmarks in Anlong Veng, where the movement's guerrillas made their last stand in 1998 just as Pol Pot lay dying. A $1 million tourism master plan is being finalized to preserve and protect 15 of the sites, and charge admission. More>>

    Earth Hour: Results

    Lights went out at landmarks, homes across the globe for Earth Hour 2009.

    Court considers trying former US officials

    MADRID, Spain – A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday.

    Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press.

    The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. More>>

    Earth Hour

    Madonna to Adopt 2nd African Baby

    MALAWI, Africa – Madonna is expected to arrive in Malawi Sunday, airport officials said, as the star's plans to adopt a girl as her second child from the poor African country began to draw criticism.
    Officials at the airport in the capital spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.

    The luxury lodge where Madonna has stayed in the past has been fully booked and casual visitors have been turned away. International media have begun arriving in the capital in anticipation of her visit. More>>
    PHOTO: US pop star Madonna (R) with son David from Malawi in 2007. Madonna is to file papers with a Malawi court for a second adoption in that country, her lawyer said Thursday (AFP/File).

    Buddhist Dream Interpretation

    A Buddhist Approach to Dreams
    Jung and Junti: Dreams West and East
    Rev. Heng Sure (paramita.typepad.com)

    Part 1: Dealing with Dreams

    A. European Approach to Dreams

    It is said that the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in his lifetime analyzed over 80,000 dreams. Dreams for Jung played an important complementary role in the psyche....

    B. An Indian Approach to Dreams

    When Buddhists in India dreamed they dealt with their dreams in a variety of ways. Certain types of dreams occurred frequently enough to the ancients to merit listing as separate categories for dream-analysis. The categories show the following different kinds of dreams. The most distinctive use, for Buddhists, was
    1. seeing dreams as a simile for emptiness, sunyata, the ultimate nature of all things.
    2. seeing dreams as portents of things to come, which overlapped with another type of dream:
    3. as messages or teaching by the gods, spirits, or bodhisattva.
    4. Buddhists in India and in China thought, like Freud and Jung, that it was possible to diagnose aspects of the dreamer’s mental and physical health from the symbols of dreams.
    5. The theoretical psychology school of Buddhism, the Vijnanavada (“Consciousness-only”) School, called dreams “monkey-sleep,” a function of the “isolated mind-consciousness”.
    6. Buddhist psychologists saw dreams as the return at night of things thought on during the day.
    7. Finally, Nagarjuna explained dreams as a standard for testing the quality of a bodhisattva’s vows.
    Dreams appear in the earliest Buddhist writings, and played no less an important role in Buddhism than in our lives today. Being human, Buddhists have always slept; and when asleep, they dream. While dreaming they perceived the same disembodied shadows and disconnected images as we do. After waking they sought the meaning of their dreams.

    The diviners and prognosticators of India and China, being culture-bound individuals, interpreted the dreams according to the modes and methods available to them. Those methods were in some respects suggestive of methods used today, in some respects they were quite different. Dreams are very democratic; both rich and poor alike dream at night. But when trying to analyze what dreams meant, it is important to know who the dreamer was.

    The educated, literate, elite certainly had more options in their systems of dream analysis. Dreams could be messages from ancestors and Sages more often for a prince or a scholar because they had a concept of history. Uneducated individuals seemed to turn to formula-books of ready-made dream interpretations to explain the symbols of dreams.

    Generic do-it-yourself recipes, such as Aunt Sally’s Dream Book and Horoscope Love Advisor that we find at the supermarket check-out counter had its counterpart in most cultures. Dream interpretation formulas answer some superficial questions, to be sure. But they tend to center on love, money, and bad luck. Nagarjuna’s Ta Chih Tu Lun gives us the following important patterns that occur regularly in dreams.

    1. Dreams as a simile for emptiness.

    The most common use of dreams in the literature of the Mahayana -- or “Northern School” of Buddhism in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam -- is to see dreams as a simile for sunyata, (emptiness) the hollow core at the heart of all component dharmas (things). For example, in the well-known Vajra Sutra (Diamond Discourse), the Buddha taught that:

    “All conditioned dharmas, are like a dream, like an illusion, like a bubble, like a shadow, like a dewdrop, like a lightening flash; you should contemplate them thus.”

    Dreams symbolize the changing and impermanent nature of all things known to the senses. Sights, sounds, smells, flavors, sensations of touch and thoughts are all dream-like, fleeting, and ultimately unobtainable. By pursuing and grasping material things or ephemeral states, we create the causes for misery and suffering. Those desire-objects are not real and permanent.

    When they break up and move on, we will experience grief, if we can’t let go. The hallmark of living beings is that we are “sleeping, “ unawakened to the truth of the emptiness and impermanence at the nature of conditioned things. This covering of sleep and lack of awareness is called “ignorance,” and it makes us in our waking state, from the Buddha’s viewpoint, look as if we are dreaming.

    Bubbles burst, shadows run from light, dewdrops vanish by noon without a trace, lightning roars and vanishes, and dreams leave us at dawn. To continually perceive such things as real locks us into the endless cycle of birth and death. The Buddha was not simply giving us an evocative metaphor, a literary device or a philosophical point. He felt related to all beings, and in his compassion he was pointing out to his family a way to escape the prolonged misery of affliction and death. The dream simile occurs over and over in the sutras to teach about emptiness.

    In the Ta Chih Tu Lun, dreams occur as a didactic teaching device. Sariputra, the foremost Arhat [enlightened disciple] in wisdom, learns the true application of the emptiness theory through the simile of dreams. Dreams are like ordinary waking reality in that both are empty and false. There is nothing gained by seeking out or clinging to any thought or mark that distinguishes the two states.

    With the exception of message-dreams and portent dreams, two categories that we will look at below, for the Buddha’s monastic disciples who were intent on cultivating the mind full-time, dreams were considered as illusory and false, no different from the illusions of waking-time reality.

    2. Message-dreams or teaching by the gods, spirits, or bodhisattvas

    Dreams can be a message from a bodhisattva, an ancestor, a god, or a spirit [brahma or deva]. The intent of the dream may be to test the dreamer’s resolve: Is one non-retreating (avaivartika) from Bodhi (enlightenment) even when sleeping? The purpose of the dream visit may be to communicate information vital to the dreamer’s well-being.

    The Buddha himself had five dreams of catastrophes, falling stars, and worlds in collision just before his enlightenment. The dreams were sent to him not by a benevolent Dharma-protector, but by a malevolent sorcerer, intent on disrupting the Buddha’s samadhi (concentration) and preventing his awakening.

    3. Prescient or Portent Dreams

    Prescient or portent dreams that predict the future are the only category of dreams that the ancients considered real or valuable in itself. Based on the records we have, it seems that dreamers in the past wanted to know more or less what dreamers want to know now: whether their dream augured good luck or misfortune. The office of dream diviner was esteemed, and nobility and commoner alike, waking after a dreamy sleep, sought to know the meaning of their dreams. More>>

    UK Protests Economy Today

    Thousands protest world economic summit in London

    Tens of thousands of people marched across central London today (3/28/09) to demand jobs, economic justice, and environmental accountability, kicking off six days of protest and action planned in the run-up to the G20 summit next week.


    Summer Bowen (wholelifetimes.com)

    SURFING for Buddha pictures? Clicking on slideshows? Googling for an ego boost? Caught red handed, fingerprints on the keyboard! Do good via the Internet. Here's a mission for a curious mouse.

    SWITCH HOMEPAGES there's a reason Google employees get fabulous free lunches -- the company makes a mint off search ads. Divert some of the milk from that cash cow to charity by using GoodSearch (goodsearch.org), which donates about a penny to the organization of one's choosing every time one searches the web. Also check out Ripple (ripple.org, now in beta), which sends 100 percent of advertising proceeds to one of four different causes.

    FACEBOOK fanatics can help spread the word about worthy causes by posting a widget through the Facebook Causes application (apps.facebook.com/causes). There are philanthropic passions a plenty! Create one or choose from efforts like "Stop Global Warming" and "No Mc-Donald's in Cusco."

    VOLUNTEER by checking out the 62,000 non-profits seeking help at Volunteer Match (volunteermatch.org), and even use handy new features to find opportunities close to home.

    TREE PEOPLE has a mission is to teach and inspire people to help care for the urban greenscape. Our sensitive climate makes it important to be smart about rainwater. Visit TreePeople (treepeople.org) and visit La Kretz Urban Watershed Demonstration Garden to see beautiful examples of natural water-friendly landscaping solutions, from rain barrels to bioswales. With alternatives this lovely and low-maintenance, we can all be waving buh-bye to labor-intensive lawns by summer (Julia Levitt).

    Antarctica to Pyramids — lights dim for Earth

    Turn off your surge protectors and lights at 8:30-9:30 p.m. PST. Earth Hour has gone international this year. It's Earth vs. Global Warming. We all vote by turning the lights off or leaving them on. Off = the Earth rests. On = Global Warming continue. More at:
    People watch a free open air concert in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, March 28, 2009, during Earth Hour 2009. Organizers boasted the concert was people-powered. An activity named Future Spark saw 20 push bikes fitted with custom made electric generators being ridden from the 23rd to 28th of March and generating enough power to run the free open air concert (AP/Rob Griffith).

    Sexy People Sound Better

    The Buddha was remarkably beautiful. His voice is similarly praised as mellifluous. His reputation spread far and wide. It proceeded him. Not only was his ethical conduct remarkable, people who merely saw him at a distance became interested in what he had to say. He was tall and unlike most Indian holy men.

    His own explanation of this (the 32 major and 80 minor physical marks of greatness) was karmic. Sutras explain how he came to have each feature, from his bright golden complexion to his blue eyes, from jet black curly hair to his sonorous voice. His voice in particular inspired confidence. It could be heard at a distance in a time when there were no microphones or PA systems.

    Greg Soltis (LiveScience.com)

    People with voices deemed sexy and attractive tend to have greater body symmetry upon close inspection, suggesting that what we hear in a person can greatly affect what we see in them.

    "The sound of a person's voice reveals a considerable amount of biological information," said Susan Hughes, an evolutionary psychologist from Albright College in Reading, Pa. "It can reflect the mate value of a person."

    Hughes, whose new study is detailed in the June 2008 edition of the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, cautions that an attractive voice does not necessarily indicate that this person has an attractive face.

    A symmetric body is genetically sound, scientists say, and in evolutionary terms, in the wild, it can be an important factor when selecting a mate. But sometimes changes during prenatal development can slightly skew this balance. For instance, the length ratio between index and ring fingers, known as the digit ratio, is fixed by the first trimester, a time that corresponds with vocal cord and larynx development. If the hormone surge that affects vocal development also affects finger growth, there should be a connection between an individual's voice and digit ratio.

    Hughes could not demonstrate a connection between voice attractiveness and digit ratio in her previous work, possibly due to vocal changes that occur during puberty. So in the new study, about 100 individuals listened to previously recorded voices and independently rated them on nine traits important during mate selection: approachability, dominance, healthiness, honesty, intelligence, likelihood to get dates, maturity, sexiness, and warmth.

    Study participants generally agreed on what made a voice attractive. But when Hughes used a spectrogram to analyze these voice ratings according to different acoustic properties such as pitch, intensity, jitter and shimmer, she could not find a common feature that made these voices seem attractive.

    This indicates our perceptual system may be more advanced than expected.

    "We can agree on what's an attractive voice yet I can't capture it with a computer," Hughes told LiveScience.

    Investigating if a combination of these properties can define an attractive voice may shed light on a connection, she said.

    PHOTOS: Modern beauty in youth and reaching maturity (radio star Pat Morrison, KPCC); the Buddha photographed in Bodhgaya, India (Wisdom Quarterly).

    Celebrating "Earth Hour"; Mourning Tibet

    A celebration that culminates in Los Angeles has begun today. Sydney is already celebrating. Participation is easy -- lights out all over the city. The deva Gaia must certainly notice the recognition of global warming and the willingness to do something about it.

    Meanwhile, with an enormous propaganda campaign celebrat-ing "Serf's Emancipation Day," the totalitarian state of the People's Republic of China is marking a minor holocaust.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Jailed Burmese Monk on Hunger Strike

    "Sister Says Jailed Burmese Monk on Hunger Strike"
    VOA News (1/23/09)

    The sister of a Buddhist monk imprisoned by Burma's military rulers for pro-democracy activities says her brother is on a hunger strike.

    Khin Thu Htay tells VOA Burmese service that monk Ashin Gambira began the hunger strike 10 days ago after prison authorities blocked him from seeing her and other family members. She says the family tried to visit him at a prison in the central region of Mandalay.

    The sister says Burmese authorities told her that several days later, Gambira was transferred to another prison Hkamti in a remote part of the northwestern Sagaing region.

    Courts in military-run Burma sentenced the monk last year to 68 years in prison for leading pro-democracy protests in 2007. More>>

    "Crush the Dalai Lama" -- China

    China Orders Security Forces to "Crush" Support for Dalai Lama
    VOA News (2/19/09)

    Chinese authorities in Tibet are calling on officials, security forces, and the general public to "crush" any signs of support for the Dalai Lama.

    In a report Thursday in China's state-run Tibet Daily newspaper, the local government vowed to fight what it calls the "savage attacks" of supporters of the exiled spiritual leader.

    China accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking independence for Tibet and provoking mass protests against Chinese rule last year. Authorities have tightened security in Tibetan regions of China ahead of the March 10 anniversary of the start of the protests. More>>

    Fighting Back: Traffic Cameras

    Traffic cameras spark rage
    Angry motorists are fighting back over the increasing number of intersection cams.

    Hallucinogen for Churchgoers

    "Don't try this at home, kids" -- Johnny Knoxville

    "How to Prepare Ayahuasca" is a film by NeuroSoup.com (music by Loop Guru). The makers of this film are not recommending that people take controlled substances. However, they are suggesting that we all empower ourselves with knowledge.

    Drugs to Enlightenment?


    The fifth Precept in Buddhism runs, "I undertake to abstain from intoxicants that occasion heedlessness."
    Generally this is taken to mean alcoholic beverages, which cause one to engage in behavior that violates the first four Precepts: to refrain from taking life, taking what is not given, taking liberties with regard to sexual conduct, and taking liberties with the truth.

    It is not clear if entheogens would be barred. Do they occasion heedlessness with regard to the Five Precepts? That is, when one is utilizing a "mind expanding" substance, is one engaging in unskilful behavior one would regret and not otherwise engage in?

    If the answer is yes, then in no way can entheogen use be justified. However, with the right intention (with a motivation to expand consciousness, tap intuition, open up and become more receptive and skillful in meditation) some may undertake this dangerous path without compromising virtue. Ultimately, like the choice of upholding the Five Precepts, one has to weigh the benefits and choose.

    WQ has reported that in the past there may have been Buddhist "cults" or splinter groups who engaged in sacramental use of Soma and Amrita/Ambrosia. What were they? These were legendary substances, presumably derived from mushrooms or herbs, known as the "nectar of the gods" (when "god" is understood in the ancient Greek and Indian sense of deva).

    There is no doubt that such groups existed in Hindu, Christian, and indigenous or Native European circles. The most popular entheogen in this regard, as has been reported in WQ, seems to have been Amanita muscaria (Fly agaric mushroom).

    Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the sacramental use of Ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi, yage, natema) tea. This was done in accord with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    Is it safe? Will it be useful in one's spiritual quest and personal growth? Will it lead to a deterioration or an enhancement of virtue, concentration, and wisdom (sila, samadhi, and prajna) -- the three cornerstones of Buddhism?

    Can "drugs" (herbs, vines, mushrooms, entheogens, sacraments) lead to enlightenment? Not directly. Can they lead to better concentration? Possibly. Can they be any worse than liver-damaging synthetic chemicals and pharmaceuticals? Probably not. They may help but must be respected, just as shamans have respected them for countless centuries. Take the case of Iboga as a powerful example.

    There is no doubt psychedelics and hallucinogens can yield "wonderful" experiences. An entire generation of Americans discovered that in the 1960s. However, does it lead to Buddhist "enlightenment"? No. Can it? Maybe.

    Most people have very little idea what "enlightenment" (the Buddhist term bodhi) literally means. So they frequently fail to tie it to final liberation. What is final liberation? It is freedom from:
    • ignorance (avijja, avidya)
    • wrong-views (miccha-ditthi)
    • delusion (moha)
    • selfishness (lobha, the most common and harmful wrong-view)
    • anger (dosa)
    • suffering (dukkha), and
    • continued rebirth (Samsara).

    Does a drug/entheogen/plant lead to liberation from these?

    Enlightenment comes in definite stages. And one may have many insights without being the least bit closer to enlightenment.

    The most important insight to "enter the stream" (and directly see the Noble Eightfold Path that opens to the ocean of nirvana) is anicca, dukkha, anatta (the Three Marks of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, egolessness). This presumes a great degree of sila (or at least past good karma that gives its result as calm-concentration when it's needed). To become a Sotapanna ("Stream-enterer"), the first stage of enlightenment, it is essential to understand these Three Marks. Will drugs (even entheogens) lead to that understanding? For example, one is likely to feel "at one with everything." But that sense of oneness is not no-self; oftentimes it is an expanded sense of self. Previously one felt limited and apart, whereas now one feels (as long as the high lasts) unlimited and deeply connected.

    The Three Marks (instability, distress, and impersonality) are tricky concepts even for the most sober individual. Failing to understand these fundamental principles, drugs of any kind are likely to worsen one's understanding. They are then likely to lead one on a downward spiral, particularly as one becomes attached to feelings and experiences in spite of one's deteriorating condition. Look at all the addicts around us (coffee, heroin, nicotine, worry, alcohol, synthetic medications). Insight into impermanence, misery and no-self is accomplished systematically:

    First of all, one builds a skillful, moral base (sila, i.e., the Five, Eight, or 227 Precepts). This base leads to collectedness, non-distraction, tranquility, focus (a meditative calm-and-concentration known as samadhi). Both lead to "insight" (Pali, panna or Sanskrit, prajna). Insight in turn reinforces virtue and serenity. Once one is able to enter concentrated meditative states at will, one emerges purified and turns attention to insight-meditation objects. This is the gradual path of training.

    Webs of spiders exposed to four common drugs

    One person's entheogen (or sacrament) is another person's substance of abuse.

    Will entheogens lead to more love (empathy) and the fundamental ethical principle of ahimsa (doing no harm to oneself or others)? Or do drugs weaken body, intellect, and sympathy?

    Will entheogens lead to better focus, undistractedness, attention (free of thoughts and judgments), and concentration?
    The Buddha defined samadhi ("concentration") as the Four Jhanas (or meditative absorptions). The first English translators (Pali Text Society, etc.) rendered the jhanas as "trances." This is because they look from the outside like unconscious states. They, however, are the opposite. They are one-pointed (ekagata) states of concentration, wherein the mind (full awareness and attention) is absorbed into a single object. (This is often spoken of without clarification as "non-duality," a state where there is no distinction between the observer and that which is being observed).

    Finally, will entheogens lead to "wisdom"? Wisdom arises intuitively from direct observation of phenomena (as outlined in the Maha Satipatthana Sutra, the "Longer Discourse on the Fourfold Setting Up of Mindfulness"). No amount of direct observation in the absence of sila and samadhi (undistracted concentration built on a firm base) yields liberating insight. (That's why Vipassana practice, as helpful as it is in relieving stress and directing one, doesn't pack an enlightening punch; the fuel, the catalysts, the intensifiers are missing). It is wisdom because it leads to more virtue and more concentration.

    There is a famous saying. "Knowledge always leads to pride, whereas wisdom always leads to humility." That's the difference to look for in terms of whether one is progressing on a fruitful path of practice (drugged or otherwise).

    A guide, at the very least a companion, is crucial. "The supreme life leading to enlightenment is not partly based on noble friendship (kalyana-mitta); it is completely rooted in good companionship and wise association." Also crucial is some purification (dietary, emotional, moral), a ritual (a set of behaviors to be engaged in when one is no longer in one's proper state of mind), and conducive surroundings.

    You don't fly to the moon on a whim. If you do, you certainly don't expect to come back safely. Or as it is more commonly said, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

    Thai ex-PM adds to calls for gov't to resign

    Supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and riot police outside Government House in Bangkok. Thailand's prime minister refused Friday to bow to thousands of anti-government protesters surrounding his offices for a second day running to demand his resignation (AFP/Nicolas Asfouri).

    BANGKOK, Thailand – Deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra demanded Friday that Thailand's government resign, echoing the calls of his supporters who have surrounded the prime minister's office compound for two days.

    Thaksin spoke via video link from self-imposed exile, his image broadcast on a giant screen outside Government House, which he occupied for six years until he was ousted in a 2006 coup.An estimated 30,000 ringed the compound Thursday evening, but police said their numbers had dwindled to just several thousand on Friday. More>>

    Pimp This Bum

    Web Site Offers Homeless Man Hope
    (AP/Esteban Felix/file)

    HOUSTON (AP) ― The Web site is a venue for visitors to donate money, services, and goods to help Edwards yank himself out of homelessness.

    Until a few weeks ago, Tim Edwards was just another one of the men begging for change at a busy Houston underpass, ignored by most drivers who sped on past without a glance.

    But thanks to an Internet marketing campaign and unlikely allies, Edwards has become the human face of homelessness to online viewers drawn to the site by a deliberately controversial name: Pimp This Bum.
    During regular Webcasts, dozens of visitors to pimpthisbum.com ask questions about Edwards' life and his slow fall from office manager with a home, a car, and a future to an outcast short of hope and with little prospect of help. More>>