Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Schools Before Buddhism

LESSON 1: "Pre-Buddhist Indian Background," Mar. 30, 2010, Ven. Chandananda, LABV)

With Aryan invasions or indigenous development (see video below) came the rise of brahmins in India. The Rig Veda and other religious texts outlined a social order framed by castes. The educated elite or brahmanas manipulated the nobles (administrators), farmers (merchants), and servants (outcastes). This Brahminical social order was upset by a new movement of which Buddhism was a part.

Shramanas (those who work with vigor towards spiritual success) brought the rise of mystical, non-Vedic, wandering ascetic orders. Buddhist records summarize six general shramana schools, views, or doctrines with Buddhism as the seventh. (See Wikipedia chart under teacher Makkhali Gosala). While most of these schools went extinct, the views behind them are alive and well in America:
  1. Amoralism taught by Pūraṇa Kassapa, which denies the result of intentions and actions (karma)
  2. Fatalism taught by Makkhali Gosāla (Mahavira's former student), which asserts that everything is pre-destined, due to fate, and unchangeable -- that is, that deeds (karma) have no effect
  3. Materialism taught by Ajita Kesakambalī, which states that only the material is real and that therefore at death, everything is annihilated
  4. Eternalism taught by Pakudha Kaccāyana, which maintains that an eternal and unchanging soul or self survives death
  5. Restraint taught by Jainism's Mahavira (whom Buddhist texts call Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta), which teaches karma, self-purifcation through extreme asceticism, and the avoidance of all harming
  6. Agnosticism taught by Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, which is an evasive position of either not knowing or refusing to commit to (and declare) any fixed view

These shramanic philosophies had many things in common:

  • They rejected the notion of omnipotent gods and a creator.
  • They rejected the Vedas as revealed texts.
  • They taught karma (deeds) and rebirth (the consequence of deeds) as the "wandering on" in Samsara of a self or soul (atman), views that were later accepted in Brahminic Hinduism.
  • They denied the efficacy of animal sacrifices and rituals for cleanliness and purification.
  • They reject the caste system.

The British fed India's post-Moghul invasion inferiority complex with Aryan invasion theories to convert Indians to Western culture and religion. Their statements and data can be debunked with modern findings that reveal a highly developed Indus (and Saraswati) River Valley civilization and indigenous literature. Marine archaeology (at sites such as Dvaraka) as well as carbon and thermoluminiscent dating of archaeological artifacts, linguistic analysis of scripts, and studies of the cultural continuity and evolution establish that India's culture did not come from invaders. More>>

"The Buddha" (on PBS)

(WVPT) Coming April 7, 2010 -- the story of the life of the Buddha, the Indian sage whose life and teachings influenced religion, philosophy, and culture for centuries. Richard Gere narrates.

"The Buddha": Richard Gere tells on his teacher
(Zap2It, Mar. 31, 2010)
Few television projects draw Richard Gere's involvement. Then again, few television projects are about the founder of Buddhism. Well known for his dedication to teachings that date back 2,500 years, the actor turns narrator as the PBS documentary "The Buddha," which debuts Wednesday, April 7... More>>

"Introduction to Buddhism" (Los Angeles class)

Pasadena's Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara ( serves everyone who desires a basic understanding of the Buddha's Teachings with educational and training programs. In addition to regular walking and sitting meditation (FREE, Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm), a new short-term course is offered to show how practice applies to theory.

Course Description
Discourses (sutras) of the Buddha contained in the Pali canon serve as the primary source of study. They represent the original Teachings of the historical Buddha. The significance of Buddhism as a system of thought that revolutionized first India then the world will be studied.

The innovative features of Buddhism in comparison with existing systems will be considered with a focus on concepts of truth and knowledge, the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, psychology, mind, meditation and spiritual potential, ethical values, the nature of the political and social order, and finally the place of rituals and forms of reverence in Buddhism.

  • Course: "Introduction to Buddhism"
  • Fee: Donations welcome for maintenance and expansion of Temple programs for the well being of many.
  • Dates: 8 Tuesdays starting March 30, 2010, 8:00-9:00 pm
  • Location: 920 N. Summit Ave. (at Mountain, east of Fair Oaks), Pasadena, (626) 797-6144
  • Instructor: Ven. K. Chandananda
    former lecturer in Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka, BA (with Honors) in Buddhist Philosophy and Pali
  • Topics: (Week 1) pre-Buddhist Indian social and religious background, (2) Buddha and the emergence of Buddhism, (3) Buddhist literature, (4-5) Fundamentals of Buddhism as the Four Noble Truths, (6) Basics of Buddhist Psychology, (7) Theory of Karma and Rebirth, (8) Introduction to Meditation
  • Recommended Readings: What the Buddha Taught (Walpola Rahula), An Introduction to Buddhism (Peter Harvey),

New Hope to Fight Poverty

I am Maza Heineman from Ethiopia. I volunteer for the A Glimmer of Hope Foundation in Austin Texas. Its mission is to help the rural poor of Ethiopia by providing water, education, health care, income generation, and micro financing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Republicans Committee prefers bondage sex

RNC spent $2K at sex themed nightclub with topless dancers
BONDAGEGATE: Finance documents show that the Republican National Committee spent nearly $2,000 last month at "a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex." That is one of the many incredible expenditures reported by The Daily Caller, a conservative Web site. The Daily Caller's piece outlines the high-spending ways of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. More>>

Calling Burma's Bluff

Wall Street Journal

Aung San Suu Kyi throws down the gauntlet before elections. Burma's generals are embracing democracy this year — "discipline-flourishing democracy," as they like to put it — and some of the junta's friends are buying in to the program. "There is a new beginning after the elections," said ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretary General Surin Pitsawan last month, calling them "a step forward." But not Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition party that won Burma's last elections in 1990. At her bidding, Ms. Suu Kyi's party announced...

Buddhist leaders attend congress opening

(Jakarta Post) The opening ceremony of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) congress Tuesday represents the largest Islamic organization’s commitment to religious harmony. Wearing orange monk’s robes, two Buddhist leaders stole the spotlight.

They were among the thousands of NU members participating in the congress. One of the Buddhist leaders, Ven. Dhammasubho Mahathera, said his presence was a show of support for the NU. "Harmony can only happen in this country through communication among various religious groups," he said before entering the Celebes Convention Center for the opening ceremony.

The other Buddhist leader, Ven. Siriratanu, said Buddhists in the nation respected the NU as the biggest Muslim group in the country." We are here particularly to honor Gus Dur," he said, referring to the late former president and former NU chairman Abdurrahman Wahid, who was known as pluralism advocate. Source

Buddhist tradition thrives in Austin, Texas

Text Julia Robinson (AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Austin's variety of religious expression has exploded. The giant gold Buddha seen along Cap. of Texas Highway North (360) always surprises and delights. It is the Int'l Buddhist Progress Society of Austin at Fo Guang Shan Hsiang Yun Temple (austintexasdailyphoto).

Austin's diverse Buddhist scene is home to dozens of temples, medita-tion groups, and centers. One of the most popular ambassadors of Buddhism in the West, the Dalai Lama, met with President Barack Obama in February. The meeting, which riled Chinese leaders, happened right after Tiger Woods mentioned a return to his Buddhist roots in a public apology for his extramarital affairs.... The national attention on Buddhism has been echoed in the establishment of new Buddhist groups and temples in the Austin area over the past decade. The tradition emerged in the sixth century when the wealthy Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who [thought to have] lived in what is now Nepal, renounced his social status to lead a life pursuing the comprehension of human suffering. More>>

Holy man resigns over sex scandal

Pārājika (defeat): Rules entailing expulsion from the Sangha
Should any Buddhist ascetic — participating in the training and livelihood of monks, without having renounced the training, without having declared his weakness — engage in sexual intercourse, even with an animal, he is defeated and no longer affiliated.

The Buddhist monastic code is very clear. Other traditions -- say, for example, Catholicism -- are less decisive. There is no excommunication even for homosexually raping multiple children, although advocating for women to become priests is an offense entailing excommunication.

Hinduism is a diffuse amalgamation of schools with no central power structure, which leaves a lot of room for abuse or "independence" when it's most convenient. So it comes as some surprise that outed guru Nithyananda has taken the drastic step of "resigning" from public life. We don't, of course, believe for a minute that he'll be able to stay out of the limelight now that he's been bitten by the twin bugs of fame and money.

India "holy man" resigns over sex scandal
Habib Beary; Edited by Bappa Majumdar (Reuters, Oddly Enough)
BANGALORE, India - Swami Nithyananda, a Hindu holy man with thousands of followers across India [and the US and Europe], resigned as head of a religious organization on Tuesday after police began investigating his role in a sex scandal, officials said.

Video footage allegedly showing the head of Dhyanapeetam, or the knowledge center, frolicking with two women angered hundreds of devotees who tried to ransack his center outside the southern city of Bangalore this month.

The 32-year-old Swami has denied any links to the women and said the tapes were doctored. But the police are investigating and have asked people to come forward with evidence. This month has been particularly bad for India's self-styled holy men with Indian police arresting one for running a brothel involving air stewardesses and college students, while charging another with kidnapping a minor.

Nithyananda, who has big politicians and movie stars as devotees, announced his resignation in a statement. "I have decided to live a life of spiritual seclusion, for some indefinite time...," he said on his website. [Keyword "indefinite," as in "until things die down"].

Nithyananda has spiritual centers in Europe and the United States and Dhyanapeetam runs free medical centers and supplies food to the poor. Source

Ladakh Buddhist monastery values discipline

An 11th century Indian Buddhist monastery values its traditional discipline in Ladakh. Lukhil Monastery has maintained its ancient practices of Buddhist culture to the present day. The ancient rituals of the three basic Pratimoksha (Patimokkha) or, personal liberation disciplines, which are the basic Buddhist teachings, are observed at the Lukhil Monastery in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Founded in the latter half of the 11th century, it belongs to the Yellow Hat Sect, founded by Tsongkhapa, a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelukpa School. The monastery consists of a number of shrines inside its complex. Presently, it serves not just as the residence of approximately 120 Buddhist monks but also as a school, where there are almost 30 students.

"King Lhachen Gyalpo, the 5th King of Ladakh, converted his palace into monastery in the 11th century. In the 15th century, Lama Nawang Chosje a famous pupil of Tsongkhapa (founder of Gelugpa order) converted the lamas to reformed doctrines of the Gelugpa order, and thus founded the monastery afresh as a Gelugpa establishment"... More>>
  • Okay for Dalai Lama to shake hands with women
    The Dalai Lama is a man wearing two hats. As a religious figure he is the head of the Gelupa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and as a politician he is the head of the Tibetan government-in- exile, which has its headquarters in Dharamsala, India. The Gelupa tradition belongs to the Mahayana school of Buddhism. It commonly describes itself as the "Great Vehicle" or the second teachings by the Lord Buddha.

Mahavira's 2609th Birth Anniversary

Himalayan News Service & Wisdom Quarterly
KATHMANDU - Jains in Nepal celebrated the 2609th birth anniversary (Jayanti) of Mahavira, a contemporary of the Buddha who founded a rival dharma now known as Jainism. Like Buddhism, Jainism was a radical independence movement from established Vedic Brahmanism, a sedentary religion of temple priests involved in elaborate rituals. There were other Indian dharmas. But Jainism is exemplary and was the only other protest to survive down to the present day.

It is characterized by non-violence, extreme asceticism, and pacifism. It is also thought to be the first tradition to include women, preceding Buddhism (which is considered the first world religion to do so). Jainism is small and limited almost exclusively to India. Buddhist texts refer to Mahavira (a title that means "Great Hero") as the Nigantha (those without possessions) Nataputta (son of Nata).

Yoga Guru Swami Ram Dev, the chief guest, said that the teachings of Mahavira were guides for life, peace, and non-violence. Vice President Paramanand Jha, special guest in the program, said that Nepal-born Buddha and India-born Mahavira were the towers of undefeatable principles of peace and non-violence. More>>

Door to afterlife from Egyptian tomb found

CAIRO – Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,500-year-old door to the afterlife from the tomb of a high-ranking Egyptian official near Karnak temple in Luxor, the Egyptian antiquities authority said [Mar. 29, 2010]. These recessed niches found in nearly all ancient Egyptian tombs were meant to take the spirits of the dead to and from the afterworld. The nearly six-foot-tall (1.75 meters) slab of pink granite was covered with religious texts. More>>

Slideshow: Anthropology & Archaeology

Karl Rove branded "war criminal"

Dave Bryan (CBS/KCAL, Mar. 29, 2010)

BEVERLY HILLS (CBS) ― About 100 fans came out to hear Karl Rove at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills Monday night to discuss his book Courage and Consequences: My Life As a Conservative In The Fight, -- but the fight wasn't contained to his book. Anti-war protesters came out, some rushing the stage, to call Rove a "war criminal" and worse. The fans came to get their books signed, but they never got that chance. One woman, the co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, approached him with handcuffs and said she was there to make a citizen's arrest. Jodie Evans charged him with "outing a CIA lied to take us to war..." and "totally ruining the country." KCAL 9's Dave Bryan was there and said Rove "was shouted down and forced to leave the stage." More>>

Monday, March 29, 2010

"The Buddha" (film on PBS)

The Buddha, a film by David Grubin
Premiering April 7, 2010 at 8 p.m. (Check local listings)
(The Buddha on PBS) This documentary for PBS by award-winning filmmaker David Grubin, narrated by Richard Gere, tells the story of the historical Buddha’s life. This journey is especially relevant to our own bewildering times of violent change and spiritual confusion. It features the work of some of the world’s greatest artists and sculptors, who across two millennia have depicted the Buddha’s life in art rich in beauty and complexity. Hear insights into the ancient narrative by contemporary Buddhists, including Pulitzer Prize winning poet W.S. Merwin and Tibet's political and spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Join the conversation and learn more about meditation, the history of Buddhism, and how to incorporate the Buddha’s teachings on compassion and mindfulness into daily life. Details>>

More video

Teen girl trying to sail around the world

Teen sailor Abby Sunderland in danger
Pete Thomas (
Abby Sunderland, 16, who cannot legally drive a car but is two months into a quest to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone, on Tuesday will face by far her most daunting challenge yet: the rounding of Cape Horn. While her friends back home in Southern California are savoring the pleasures of spring, Sunderland is pondering the treacherous passage between South America and Antarctica. More>>

The CIA's secret prisons

WASHINGTON – More than seven years ago, a suspected Afghan militant was brought to a dimly lit CIA compound northeast of the airport in Kabul. The CIA called it the Salt Pit. Inmates knew it as the dark prison. Inside a chilly cell, the man was shackled and left half-naked. He was found dead, exposed to the cold, in the early hours of Nov. 20, 2002. More>>

CIA Sets Example for China
Interestingly, there was a parallel story out of China at the beginning of 2008: "Escapee reveals illegal appellant prison in Beijing." A Chinese man was arrested and tortured after appealing for an investigation into his 15-year-old son's death in China. Xu Zhimin, from Chong-en County, Jiangxi Province, told The Epoch Times that he was taken to a special prison set up for the many appellants who go to Beijing to protest against injustices. According to Xu, this prison was specially set up by local provincial offices in Beijing... When they are found, they are kidnapped and locked in illegal prisons, which are not a formal part of China's judicial and peanl system. Appellants call them "dark prisons." More>>

Google: An Inside Job?

Third Human Species Found

Science Friday (NPR, March 26, 2010)

This is the entrance of the Siberian cave where the finger was found (Bence Viola).

A new human relative, from a DNA sample?
Genetic analysis of DNA taken from a single 40,000 year-old prehistoric finger bone may point to a new branch of the human family tree.
Writing in the journal Nature this week, a team of researchers describe their studies of mitochondrial DNA extracted from a child's finger bone that was unearthed in 2008. Unearthed in Denisova cave, in southern Siberia's Altai mountains, the finger bone was found to contain DNA significantly different from either Neanderthals or modern humans. More>>

View from cave overlooking Siberia (Johannes Krause)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Full Moon Observance: Beginning Meditation

Charlotte Joko Beck (Everyday Zen)

Practicing This Very Moment
I'd like to talk about the basic problem of sitting [in meditation]. Whether you've been sitting a short time or for ten years, the "problem" is always the same.

When I went to my first sesshin (intensive Zen meditation retreat) many years ago, I couldn't decide who was crazier -- me or the people sitting around me. It was terrible! The temperature was almost 105 degrees every day of the week. I was covered with flies. And it was a noisy, bellowing sesshin. I was completely upset and baffled by the whole thing. But once in a while I'd go in to see Yasutani Roshi, and there I saw something that kept me sitting.

Unfortunately, the first six months or year of sitting are the hard ones. You have to face confusion, doubts, problems. And you haven't been sitting long enough to feel the real rewards. But the difficulty is natural, even good.

As your mind slowly goes through all of these things, as you sit here, confusing and ridiculous as it may seem, you're learning a tremendous amount about yourself. And this can only be of value to you. Please continue to sit with a group as often as you can, and see a good teacher as often as you can. If you do that, in time, this practice will be the best thing in your life.

It doesn't matter what our practice is called: following the breath, shikantaza, koan study. Basically, we're all working on the same issues:
  • Who are we?
  • What is our life?
  • Where did we come from?
  • Where do we go?
It's essential to living a whole human life that we have some insight. So first I'd like to talk about the basic task of sitting. And in talking about it, realize that TALKING IS NOT IT. Talking is just the finger pointing at the moon.

In sitting we are uncovering Reality, Buddha-nature, "God," True Nature. Some call it "Big Mind." Words for it that are particularly apt for the way I want to approach it right now are "this very moment."

The Diamond Sutra says, "The past is ungraspable, the present is ungraspable, and the future is ungraspable." So all of us in this room, where are we? Are we in the past? No. Are we in the future? No. Are we in the present? No, we can't even say we're in the present.

There's nothing we can point to and say, "This is the present." There are no boundary lines that define the present. Maybe all we can say is, "We are this very moment." And because there's no way of measuring it, defining it, pinning it down, even seeing what it is, it's immeasurable, boundless, infinite. It's what we are.

Now, if it's as simple as that, what are we all doing here? I can say, "This very moment." That sounds easy, doesn't it? Actually it's not. To really see it is not so easy. Or we wouldn't all be doing this.

Why isn't it easy? Why can't we see it? And what is necessary so that we can see it? Let me tell you a little story.

Many years ago I was a piano major at Oberlin Conservatory. I was a very good student, not outstanding, but very good. And I very much wanted to study with one teacher who was undoubtedly the best. He'd take ordinary students and turn them into fabulous pianists. Finally, I got my chance to study with the teacher.

When I went in for my lesson, I found that he taught with two pianos. He didn't even say hello. He just sat down at his piano and played five notes. And then he said, "You do it." I was supposed to play it just the way he played it. I played it. And he said, "No." He played it again, and I played it again. Again he said, "No." Well, we had an hour of that. And each time he said, "No."

In the next three months I played about three measures, perhaps half a minute of music. Now I had thought I was pretty good. I'd played soloist with little symphony orchestras. Yet, we did this for three months. And I cried most of those three months.

He had all the marks of a real teacher, that tremendous drive and determination to make the student see. That's why he was so good. And at the end of three months, one day, he said, "Good." What had happened?

Finally, I had learned to listen. And as he said, if you can hear it, you can play it. What had happened in those three months? I had the same set of ears I started with. Nothing had happened to my ears. What I was playing was not technically difficult. What had happened was that I had learned to listen for the first time...and I'd been playing the piano for many years. I learned to pay attention.

That was why he was such a great teacher. He taught his students to pay attention. After working with him they really heard, they really listened. When you can hear it, you can play it. And finished, beautiful pianists would finally come out of his studio.

It's that kind of attention which is necessary for our Zen practice. We call it samadhi [calm, collectedness, intense focus, concentratedness, absorption], this total oneness with the object. But in my story that attention was relatively easy. It was with an object I liked.

This is the oneness of any great art, the great athlete, the person who passes well on the football field, the person who does well on the basketball court, anybody like that who has to learn to pay attention.

It's that kind of samadhi (single-pointed awareness, where mind and body fall away, and one is in "the zone").

Pope starts "Holy Week" amid sex abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI opened Holy Week on Sunday amid one of the most serious crises facing the Church in decades, with protesters in London demanding he resign and calls in Switzerland for a central registry for pedophile priests. Pope Joe (aka, Benedict) made no direct mention of the scandal in his "Palm" Sunday homily. But one of the prayers, recited in Portuguese during Mass, was "for the young and for those charged with educating them and protecting them [and not homosexually raping them]." More>>

Live on TV: Thai PM vs. anti-gov't protesters

BANGKOK – Thailand's prime minister met his political opponents on live television Sunday to try to defuse a crisis that has produced huge demonstrations and sent him fleeing to live at an army base, but the protest leaders said new elections are the only answer. More>>

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Earth Hour images from all over the world

Images of world's iconic sites going dark
The rolling wave of darkness is intended to boost the environmental movement against climate change. Before, after - Read Earth Hour story - More on Earth Hour - Where Earth Hour starts

Earth Hour! (today, 8:30 pm)

On Mar. 27, 2010, people around the world are expected to join in a one-hour rally against climate change -- Earth Hour. For an hour starting at 8:30 pm, they will refrain from using electricity.

Participating organizations will shut their power to remind the world to conserve electricity. Before that, participants can join a free one-hour yoga session in the park... Earth Hour is organized by the Swiss-based non-profit environmental organization, World Wide Fund For Nature.

Scientology slave "monastery" discovered

Ex-Scientology lawsuits reveal elite Sea Org group
Text by Gillian Flaccus (AP)
SAN JACINTO, California – At the edge of arid foothills far outside Los Angeles, hundreds of Scientology followers live on a gated, 500-acre campus and work long hours for almost no pay reproducing the works of founder L. Ron Hubbard and creating the church's teaching and promotional materials.

The church says its 5,000 so-called Sea Organization members are religious devotees akin to monks who are exempt from wage requirements and overtime.

But two lawsuits filed by two former "Sea Org" members, as they are known, allege the workers are little more than slave laborers, forced to work 100-hour weeks for pennies and threatened with manual labor if they cause trouble. More>>

Thailand protesters oust army from the streets

Supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra gather on a road during a Bangkok rally, Mar. 27, 2010. "Red Shirt" protesters raised tensions on Sat. with threats to expel thousands of troops guarding PM Abhisit Vejjajiva (Reuters/Kerek Wongsa).

BANGKOK (AP) – Protesters in Thailand claimed a symbolic victory Saturday after forcing soldiers to retreat from parts of Bangkok's historic district, raising tensions in what so far has been a nonviolent bid to bring down the government.
Riding motorcycles and piled into pickup trucks, more than 60,000 red-shirted protesters clogged traffic and traveled in a noisy parade to the Bangkok Zoo, Buddhist temples, and a half dozen other locations being used by soldiers as temporary camps.

"We will storm the places where soldiers camp out. We'll shake the fence. We'll cut the barbed wire. We'll march through the barricades. We'll march for democracy!" a leader of the "Red Shirt" protesters, Nattawut Saikua, shouted to the crowd. "This is where we'll end military suppression. This is where we'll create democracy." More>>

Friday, March 26, 2010

THE BUDDHA (coming to PBS)

This brand new PBS documentary explores the life of Prince Siddhartha of India, who became "the Buddha." His spiritual quest for enlightenment gave birth to Buddhism. The film, narrated by Richard Gere, includes interviews with the Dalai Lama. It airs on PBS stations on April 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm. (Check local listings).

iPhone app lets callers sidestep AT&T

iPhone app lets callers sidestep AT&T
Owners of Apple's popular phone can use a new app to make calls without using their minutes. A "game changer" - Newspaper's iPad cost - Hacker gets 20 years - Hacker stole millions of credit card numbers

Wisdom Network News: Dalai Lama's Sister

Ashley Wells (Wisdom Quarterly)

Thailand denies visa to Dalai Lama's sister
BANGKOK — Thailand has denied a visa to the sister of Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fearing it could upset relations with China. A top Thai Foreign Ministry official said that the Jetsun Pema [who some regard as the "Mother of Tibet," see video] and her husband had applied for visas to attend a cultural festival in Bangkok at Thailand's Embassy in New Delhi, India, but were rejected.

About 30 other Tibetan exiles in India were granted visas to attend a "Festival of Tibetan Spirituality, Arts and Cultures." "We welcome cultural diversity and have no problem with people coming in and participating in the activities," said Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, but he added: "In this case, we fear giving permission will be linked to politics. We don't want to be in the middle of international conflicts."
RANGOON, Burma — The dance music thundered through a crowd of thousands of drunken fans, past the pavilions where skinny women in impossibly high heels gyrated around metal poles and into the streets filled with taxis that ferried partygoers to this free, whiskey-soaked concert in the park: See VIDEO. “Our parents don’t allow it, but we do it anyway,” said Zun Pwint Phyu, one of the dancers who endured hours of lascivious stares.

Nepal's deposed king raises hope of return
KATHMANDU (AFP) — The former king of Nepal has hinted he hopes the country's centuries-old Hindu monarchy may one day be restored, nearly two years after he was dethroned. Ex-king Gyanendra lost his royal title in 2008 after Nepal's [communist] Maoists, who had fought a decade-long civil war with the state, won landmark polls and scrapped the world's last Hindu monarchy. "I don't think the monarchy is over," he said in a rare interview...

Sanskrit mantras to open both Alaska Senate and House
Both the Alaska State Senate and House of Representatives in Juneau (USA) will open with Hindu prayers reportedly for the first time on April 9, 2010. Rajan Zed, Hindu statesman and leader, will read the opening prayers from the ancient Sanskrit scriptures before senators and representatives. After the Sanskrit delivery, he will read the English translation. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of all Indo-European languages.

Mindfulness on the menu
“When we eat, all our senses are in touch with the food in front of us,’’ says Harvard School of Public Health’s Lilian Cheung. Eating is as much about mind as matter. That’s one of the main points of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung. Ven. Hanh is a Buddhist monk who lives in France, whereas Cheung, 57, is a lecturer and director of health promotion and communication at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Yoga saves Jennifer Love Hewitt

Jennifer Love Hewitt has found some key ways to cope from her recent split with Jamie Kennedy. "Yoga, 72 hours of ice's all good!" the Ghost Whisperer star told Us Magazine at a book signing event for her new dating book, The Day I Shot Cupid, in New York City on Wednesday. How else is she dealing with the breakup? "I'm reading my own book!" the star, 31, says, laughing. "I wrote it just in time." More>>

The universe in yoga pants
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- To look at the earnings release, you might think Lululemon Athletica Inc.'s shareholders are feeling quite a bit of inner peace right now. The retailer, which sells its own brand of yoga, running, and dance apparel, posted a sharp increase in fourth-quarter profit, a nearly 55% gain in sales, improved gross margins, and said same-store sales rose 29%, on a constant-dollar basis. Shares were up nearly 13% in afternoon trading.

"What the Buddha Never Taught"

Author Tim Ward (reviewed by Linda Morgan, Whole Earth Review)

WAT PAH NANACHAT, Thailand - "A while back I divested myself of all furniture and 90 percent of everything else I owned to move to a new life. It was one of my most intense therapeutic acts and amazingly easy to accomplish, once I discovered that detachment is the happy companion of spiritual freedom."

The act of letting go is a central theme in this combination travelogue and spiritual odyssey -- that of cutting loose the physical world and the ego to get to the essence of human existence. The author, a Canadian journalist and accomplished student of Eastern meditation, had already experienced this on a certain level when he ventured through the gates of a Thai Buddhist monastery, largely populated by Western Caucasians. In this jungle community he lived a season in poverty and service, and when he left he took with him a different and somewhat unexpected vision of enlightenment -- hence the title.

Through the texture of a beautiful essay enriched with dialogue, we eavesdrop on the inner sanctum of the monks' environment and vicariously experience their world, bound by (or, depending on one's perspective, liberated by) stringent rules of behavior, long hours of meditation, and the nourishment of only one [substantial] meal a day. Consequently, we see the monks as human beings grappling with their own emotional baggage, just like us.

"The first morning Jim and I go on bindabhat [Pali, pindapat, the monastic custom of going on alms round for food] is the first time I notice that monks don't wear sandals on the ninety-minute walk over gravel roads and paddy dykes. Each morning they travel in groups of three or four to the clusters of nearby villages....

"Leather-looted Sun Tin and Nimalo wait for me again at the entrance to our first village. Following their example, I slip the bowl strap from my left shoulder and neck onto my right, Nimalo reminds me to keep my left hand on the lid, supporting the rim of the bowl with my right, arms still as I walk, head reverently bent. Throughout the walk we are to say nothing and never look into the eyes of the villagers....

"Devotees give to the [symbol of the Sangha, the saffron] robe, not to the wearer. They believe it is a ritual for the making of merit, for a better rebirth. If a monk thanks the giver, then by treating it as a personal favour, [great] merit is not gained....

"The ritual is a humbling one, repeated fifty or sixty times that morning until my bowl is heavy with rice, mangos, bananas, dried meat, fishes, and sticky sweets wrapped in leaves. Do these villagers know where we have come from, our lands of swimming pool suburbs, aeroplanes, and revolving restaurants, to walk through their rice paddies and pathways strewn with scraps of lumber, cardboard, and buffalo dung?

"On Wai Phra evening the Ajahn [teacher] gave permission for laymen and pahkows [non-monk residents of the monastery who obey certain precepts] to come to his kuti [meditation hut] for a Dhamma talk [Buddhist sermon]..." More>>

First (legal) male prostitute in Nevada quits

First Legal Giggolo in Nevada Quits
(NewsCore) The Bordello Beefcake has called it quits. "Markus," the first stud-for-hire at a Nevada bordello, has left the business after bringing in fewer than 10 clients since his debut in January, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported today [March 26, 2010]. But Ms. Bobbi Davis, owner of the Shady Lady Ranch, said she would press on without him. In fact, she told the paper, his workload has already been taken on by a Las Vegas man whose nom de bordello is -- wait for it -- "Y. Not." More>>