Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Jainism and Buddhism

VARANASI, India - Is the ancient city on the verge of witnessing a confluence of Jainism and Buddhism that spreads the philosophy of the two religions to other parts of the world?

Nearby Sarnath (where the Buddha delivered his first sutra, setting in motion the Wheel of the Dharma) has emerged as an international center for Buddhist studies.

Now Parshwanath Vidyapeeth (PV), an external research center of Jain studies recognized by Banaras Hindu University in association with the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS), is set to promote research on various aspects of Jainism. It will expose students, research scholars, and teachers to a real life experience of the peaceful co-existence of various religions in the city. "We have established ISJS-PV global center for ahimsa (non-violence) and Indic research, and special summer schools are also being hosted for foreign scholars... More>>

A nun's tale
William Dalrymple, Washington Post (Adapted by the author-historian from his book Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India)
Two hills of blackly gleaming granite, smooth as glass, rise from a thickly wooded landscape of banana plantations and jagged Palmyra palms. It is dawn. Below lies the ancient pilgrimage town of Sravanabelagola, where the crumbling walls of monasteries and temples cluster around a grid of dusty, red-earth roads. The roads converge on a great rectangular tank. The tank is dotted with the spreading leaves and still-closed buds of floating lotus flowers. Already, despite the early hour, the first pilgrims are gathering.

For more than two thousand years, this Karnatakan town has been sacred to the Jains. It was here, in the third century BC, that the first Emperor of India, Chandragupta Maurya, embraced the Jain religion and died through a self-imposed fast to the death, the emperor's chosen atonement for the killings he had been responsible for in his life of conquest. Twelve hundred years later, in 981 AD, a Jain general commissioned the largest monolithic statue in India, sixty feet high, on the top of the larger of the two hills, Vindhyagiri.

This was an image of another royal Jain hero, Prince Bahubali. The prince had fought a duel with his brother for control of their father's kingdom. But in the very hour of his victory, Bahubali realised the transience of worldly glory. He renounced his kingdom, and embraced, instead, the path of the ascetic. Retreating to the jungle, he stood in meditation for a year, so that the vines of the forest curled around his legs and tied him to the spot. In this state he conquered what he believed to be the real enemies -- his ambitions, pride and desires -- and so became, according to the Jains, the first human being to achieve spiritual liberation. More>>

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Holiest Buddhist Site

(Photos: Asiacamera/Flickr)

There is no single Buddhist mecca, an indisputable holiest shrine. Many might argue for Bodhgaya, India reputed to be the exact site of the Buddha's great enlightenment. But British archeology of yore leaves much to be desired. There is doubt the exact spot and tree are known. (The original Bodhi tree was chopped down by Muslim zealots at the thought that people were "worshipping" a tree instead of Allah). Shwedagon Pagoda, however, is an impressive site. Situated in the capital of Burma (Myanmar), it was built to house sacred relics but has grown in size and significance over its supposed 2,500 year old lifespan. It has been rebuilt several times.

Over 16 tons of 24 kt gold plating covers the main pagoda. At the very top is a single 76 kt diamond, surrounded by 1,100 smaller rubies and diamonds, and a collection of personal gold and jewelry donated to the pagoda by wealthy Burmese citizens before their deaths. During a recent typhoon, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and gold rained down after becoming detached. Also present in the pagoda are relics of the historical Buddha, including 8 hairs thought to have been given to the first laypersons to come in contact with the Buddha after his enlightenment:

He was on his way to Sarnath, near Varanasi, to find the five ascetics, who abandoned him as he pursued enlightenment by neither struggling nor stopping. (To them not struggling was stopping). Two Burmese merchants were traveling through India when they came upon the Buddha and were so impressed with him that they asked for a keepsake to remember him by. He is said to have pull a few hairs from his head, which were subsequently enshrined at the massive shrine complex that has become modern Shwedagon Pagoda.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Karma" in less than 10 minutes

OpenSourceBuddhism -- Karma explained by Hoang through Professor Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II. This explanation of the complex subject of karma is comprehensible and serves as the scaffolding for Buddhist ethics. It may aid the beginner to quickly enter an understanding of Buddhism in a general way. See more at

"Enraptured with lust, enraged with anger, blinded by delusion, overwhelmed with mind (heart) ensnared, one aims at one's own ruin, at the ruin of 0thers, at the ruin of both, and one experiences mental pain and grief.

"But if lust, anger, and delusion are given up, one aims neither at one's own ruin, nor at the ruin of others, nor at the ruin of both. And one experiences no mental pain or grief. Thus is nirvana immediate, visible in this life, inviting, attractive, and comprehensible to the wise" (AN III.55).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Porn sites closer to .xxx; Vatican outraged

America's mother and president-picker wants you to stop watching porn

BRUSSELS – It may soon be easier to block Internet porn: The agency that controls domain names said Friday it will consider adding .xxx to the list of suffixes people and companies can pick when establishing their identities online.

The California-based nonprofit agency, ICANN, effectively paved the way for a digital red light district to take its place alongside suffixes such as .com and .org, finally ending a decade-long battle over what some consider formal acknowledgment of pornography's prominent place on the Internet.

While the move may help parents stop their children from seeing some seedy sites, it wouldn't force porn peddlers to use the new .xxx address — and skeptics argue that few adult-only sites will give up their existing .com addresses.

Still, it's seen as a symbolic step in the opening up of Internet domain names and suffixes, coming on the same day the agency said it would start accepting Chinese script for domain names. More>>

Vatican "astonished" at Belgian police raid
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican said Friday it was astonished and outraged that Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse had conducted raids that also targeted the graves of two archbishops. The Vatican summoned the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See to convey its anger over the raids, which also included the home and offices of the retired archbishop of Belgium. More>>

Let's kill the whales

FILE - This undated file photo provided by  by Michael Moore of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts shows a sperm whale. Levels

You kill them by throwing plastic bags away (so they get into the sewer and out to the ocean). I'll dump disposable batteries into the trash. When we're done with the whales, maybe we can turn our attention to doing ourselves in. But, of course, killing one species is killing the others, so we don't need to put in much more effort than we're already putting in.

A report released Thursday noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury, and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years. From polar areas to equatorial waters, the whales ingested pollutants that may have been produced by humans thousands of miles away, the researchers said.

"These contaminants, I think, are threatening the human food supply. They certainly are threatening the whales and the other animals that live in the ocean," said biologist Roger Payne... More>>

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dalai Lama on violence: He's for it

The Dalai Lama on violence
The Dalai Lama's message for Armed Forces Day may surprise those who assume him to be a pacifist. The Dalai Lama has sent a message of support for Armed Forces Day, which is next Saturday. In it, he writes of his admiration for the military. That is perhaps not so surprising. As he explains, there are many parallels between being a monk and being a soldier -- the need for discipline, companionship, and inner strength. But his support will take some of his Western admirers by surprise, not least when it comes to his thoughts on non-violence. Is he in the CIA?

Gen. David Petraeus. (AP) Similar reactions to new war commander

America's Afghan and international allies sound off on the choice of Gen. David Petraeus to run the Afghan war. Gen. McChrystal out

In this Jan. 20, 2010 file photo, Gen. Stanley McChrystal is shown in Kabul, Afghanistan (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq) What might be McChrystal's next job

9/11: A purposeful pretext for war

Theravada Buddhism: Preserving the Buddha

Movingyh - There are different Buddhist schools. What is the difference? Answered by the abbott at Birken Forest Buddhist Monastery, Canada

Do I really need more Money/Love?

TheWorkofBK - ( Byron Katie examines misconceptions about money.

"I need your love" -- is that true?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Death of American Romance

Happy sailor kissing nurse in Times Square during impromptu VJ Day celebration.  (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)Woman from iconic WWII photo dies

Edith Shain was etched into America's psyche after a chance meeting with a sailor in Times Square. Remembering Korean War - Search: iconic war images

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha

The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya (Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Ancient Giving in Modern Asia

The longstanding custom in India that spawned Buddhism is called dana (generosity, giving, charity). It is on account of alms giving that a revolutionary spiritual movement was able to arise in ancient northern India. This movement of wandering ascetics (shramanas) countered the established temple priests who promoted a staid, superstitious religion of rites and rituals founded on the unquestioned authority of the Vedas.

If all this sounds strikingly familiar to the story of Jesus and the Old Testament Philistines, substituting the Buddha and the Vedic brahmins, it is. Much of the lore of Christianity is lifted from the best other religions had to offer, be they Mithras, Pagans, Egyptians, or mystics of India and the Far East. For Jesus and the apostles as well, dana was the foundation for their movement.

In India the custom of giving support to spiritual seekers, whatever their inclination, is key to the arising of the most spiritual society in the world. But what is the significance of giving a handful of rice? When it is given not to the individual but to the Sangha (as represented by the saffron robe being worn by an ordained member of the Sangha or Order), the benefits are hard to fathom. The Buddha called the Arya Sangha (the Order of Noble or Accomplished disciples) the "unsurpassed field of merit for the world."

That Noble Order is not limited to ordained members but rather includes all accomplished members -- saints who have achieved any of the four stages of enlightenment. For with enlightenment comes purification of character by degrees. The lowest of the enlightened individuals is the stream-enterer who has seen nirvana and experienced a radical transformation of view: that person is sure to win freedom from rebirth in no more than seven lives. That is because the foundations for repeated becoming have been weakened. The grip of the mental defilements has been partially destroyed.

To give with the intention of giving to the Sangha, as represented by someone on alms round, is to give to all such individuals collectively.

When that karma ripens, one is reborn again and again in fine material worlds, celestial (akasha-devas) and mundane (bhumi-devas). One forms the basis for material wealth. That is to say, not only is one born wealthy but has the merit to remain wealthy. Others may come by hard won money only to lose it in the absence of merit that sustains wealth.

In fact, all of the wished for and welcome things ordinary, uninstructed worldings long for are possible to gain by giving -- long life, beauty, pleasure, status, rebirth in the heavens. These five are desirable, agreeable, pleasant, yet hard to obtain in the world. But they can be obtained by skillful karma, a fundamental form of which is giving.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Death (Metal) Music and Real Death

Full uninterrupted news clip (9:11 mins)

Does Buddhism have anything to say about music? People resonate with their dominant emotional states as expressed in musical choices. Most of the world is dominated by sensual desire (lobha, greed, lust) rather than hate (dosa), delusion (moha), or fear (bhava). All are present in our mental makeup. But since lust dominates for most of us, our musical choices reflect that.

Pop music around the world is therefore all about love, ego, possessions, and loss. Slipknot is an example of music that veers in the other direction -- to extremes of anger, self-loathing, rejection, and alienation. These topics are the dark side of our society, the shadow selves we dare not face or come to terms with.

Death metal explores these and even darker, more explicit subject matter. Yet for most of us the causes of suffering (our own lust, hatred, ignorance, fear) remain unexplored. A threefold craving -- for sensual desires, eternal existence, and for annihilation -- was pointed out as the primary cause. Whereas rock 'n roll's clarion call was to "party on" (think Wayne's World), death metal stars encourage fans to "stay brutal," which is not exactly what Gray's bandmates have done:

Slipknot unmasked mourning death

Slipknot bassist died of drug overdose
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Autopsy results show the bassist for heavy metal band Slipknot died of an accidental overdose of the [painkiller] morphine and fentanyl, a synthetic morphine substitute, police said Monday. Paul Gray, 38, was found dead in a suburban Des Moines hotel room on May 25. A hotel worker told a 911 dispatcher that a hypodermic needle was found near Gray's body and that pills also were found in the room. The autopsy shows he died of an overdose, Urbandale police said in a news release. [Given that the heart is literally corrupted by hatred and other negative emotions, it is no surprise that] they also said the autopsy revealed signs of significant heart disease. More>>

Monday, June 21, 2010

Why we love the Sun (video)

Dharmachari, Macpherson, Wells, Liu

The summer solstice brings the longest day of the year and some unusual ways to celebrate. Summer solstice rituals - Lunar eclipse coming - Lightning on Saturn

(Wisdom Quarterly) -- Today is the Summer Solstice. Why do we humans worship the Sun? It's an ancient Indian custom, codified in a yoga series called Salutation to the Sun (Surya Namaskar). But it's a fundamental basis of most modern religions, particularly Christianity, the dominant "son" cult. Christianity is not an original religion. Instead, like America, it is an amalgamation of traditions from around the world (Mithraism, Scandinavian Paganism, Zoroastrianism, Egyptian rites, etc.).

Modern Sun worshippers in So. California

Buddhist principles (particularly of the Mahayana variety) figure into Christianity as well. And it's no wonder, given Jesus' travels in Ladakh, India and the frontiers of Tibet. (See research first published by Nicolas Notovitch and many other since). The Zeitgeist movie brought astro-theology in religious myths to nearly everyone's attention.

In Buddhism the Sun (Surya) is considered an akasha-deva (sky-god, space-being, radiant light spirit in the heavens), or in any case is spoken of as one in Buddhist rebirth stories (Jatakas). The Moon (Chandra) is spoken of in the same way, perhaps from legends told by visitors from space recorded in Vedic Indian history (a.k.a., mythology).

But the Sun is famous in Buddhism as the basis of the most important sutra for lay Buddhists -- the Advice to Sigala (Sigalovada Sutra). The Buddha uses the ancient Indian custom of "saluting" the sky to instruct a householder's son on how this should be done in the dispensation of the nobles. Rather than worshipping the cardinal directions, the Buddha says that honoring and upholding our social relations and obligations is the original meaning behind the ancient practice.
  • Which relations? Our parents, teachers, nuclear family, friends and associates, employees and servants, wandering ascetics and brahmins.
  • Which obligations? To make wholesome karma, avoid harm, make and keep friends, avoid fools, earn and save money, avoid the dissipation of wealth, and so on.

Are "Nature Lovers" going too far?

So long as violence is not fought with violence, anger with anger, or hate with hate, no, they are not going too far. The Earth needs saving. The forests need preserving. The animals need shelter and freedom from cruelty.

In a world where humans are the principal tormentors of humans, one would not expect to see anyone standing up for Nature. But there are many groups, some well known (Earth First, Greenpeace, Peta) others hardly in the public consciousness (Socially Engaged Buddhists, Unitarians, FMLY, vegans, Food not Bombs, Bread not Bombs, Food not Lawns). Tens of thousands of people are doing something.

In a country of 300 million, 99 monkeys are not enough to tip the scale. Every voice counts. The media lulls us, BP defeats us, Obama lies to us with the sweetest tongue of any president before him. And we laugh with Beavis & Butthead that anyone would care about trees or life on Earth that is not exclusively human. We are a small part of the ecosystem capable of doing great damage to it or saving it for all creatures.

But it's an individual choice. Unless individuals choose to do something, nothing will ever get done. It is said that one person or a small group can't do anything to change things. But in fact they're the only ones who ever have -- for good or ill, it's always only been a handful of individuals.

Burma floods, landslides, death toll hits 63

Flood damage in as shown in this file photo. Rescue workers were scrambling to provide aid to tens of thousands left homeless in western Burma and neighboring Bangladesh after flash floods and landslides killed more than 100 people (AFP).

RANGOON, Burma – The military and humanitarian groups are aiding people in northwestern Burma, a Buddhist nation where days of flooding and landslides killed more than 60 people and affected 15,000 families, state media and the United Nations reported Monday. In Rakhine state, the torrential rains triggered floods and mudslides that washed away homes, damaged schools and bridges and caused 63 deaths, according to Monday's official count.

The death toll could rise because villagers were returning to homes on steep hills that still are vulnerable to landslides, said a U.N. official, who declined to be named since he was not authorized to speak with the media. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said local military commanders in the junta-ruled nation and authorities aided victims and inspected repair and recovery efforts in the state's seriously hit Buthidaung and Maungdaw regions.

The government, United Nations and other humanitarian organizations have provided clothing, medicine, household utensils, food, and cash for the victims, state media and a U.N. press release said. Many of the flood victims were housed at schools and temporary shelters since the rains began June 13 and did not end until midweek.

The U.N. said up to 15,000 families were affected, while state media said only more than 2,000 people suffered from the flooding. Flooding is common in Asia during the monsoon season that typically starts in late May. Cyclone Nargis struck Burma in May 2008, leaving more than 140,000 people dead or missing. Source

Summer Solstice in Southern California

Enacting the Myth, a portion of the Pagan ceremony featuring The Sun (WQ)

TEMPLE OF THE GODDESS, Los Angeles -- This Solstice celebration is a free annual rite welcoming the Sun on the longest day of the year (light wise). Pagans, New Age seekers, Earthlings (seen and unseen), Wiccans, and Buddhists all gathered in the foothill community of La Crescenta. College student Kathryn exuded, "My mom's in the Goddess choir!" Mallisa, a member of the Forest Service, wondered about the deer in the area. Lee, an Apple employee who didn't know there were Pagans in the City of Angels, explained that he hadn't seen a ritual gathering like this since Tennessee. Here in the woodsy northern reaches of Los Angeles County all walks of life gathered to recite these poignant lines:

Closing the circle, Wiccan song sealing the ceremony followed by food and fun (WQ)

Guiding Principles
We believe every person is the living embodiment of the Divine.

We respect that every person is their own spiritual authority and no one can define the Sacred and Divine for any one else.

We recognize that there are many paths to the Divine, symbolized by the many "goddesses" and "gods" of all cultures and all lands.

We support an ideology and spirituality of partnership of relations based on equality, reciprocity, and caring.

Though we recognize the Divine in many forms, the focus of that which we call the Divine is manifested in the feminine as "Goddess."

We respect and love Mother Earth, Gaia, as a sacred entity who is part of nature, life, and the cycles of life.

TOG choir singing Gaelic hymns, and traditional European and modern songs (WQ)

We believe the loss of the feminine consciousness and ideologies have caused near irreparable damage to humanity and the planet; we believe that emergence of the feminine consciousness, in balance with the masculine, is the greatest hope for humanity and the planet.

The feminine consciousness is the ability to create, nurture, and enhance life.

We accept the abundant goodness of creation which purports that all beings are meant to live in joy, love, and harmony.

We believe in a morality and ethics in which the primary imperative is to harm none.

"The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female.
So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly."
(Abdul Baha)

Another version of The Sun struts during recitation as stories weave into stories (WQ)

Group: We rejoice in all life.
We live in all things.
All things live in us.
We rejoice in all life.
We live by the Sun.
We move with the stars.

We rejoice in all life.
We eat from the Earth.
We drink from the rain.
We breathe from the air.

Group: We are full of the grace of creation.
We are graceful.
We are grateful.
We rejoice in all life.

Group: We join with the Earth and with each other
To bring new life to the land
To restore the waters
To refresh the air

We join with the Earth and with each other
To renew the forests
To care for the plants
To protect the creatures

We join with the earth and with each other
To celebrate the seas
To rejoice [in] the sunlight
To sing the song of the stars

We join with the Earth and with each other
To recall our destiny
To renew our spirits
To reinvigorate our bodies
To remember our children

ALL: We join together as many and diverse expressions of one loving mystery: for the healing of the Earth and the renewal of all life. The next Temple of the Goddess public ritual is scheduled for what the non-Pagan world calls Halloween.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Beatle's Traveling Buddha

Beatles legend Paul McCartney carries a portable Buddha statue with him while touring, as it gives him a semblance of peace amid his hectic schedule. The veteran rocker, who is part way through a series of British concerts, has a Buddha statue that he takes with him from venue to venue, reported the Daily Mail online.

Declaring it his own personal Kasbah, McCartney said, "I think candles started it and then somebody brought in a little Buddha. So then we suddenly got this." renowned for being particular regarding his backstage demands.

At last weekend's Isle Of Wight festival, his 170-strong production team virtually took over the backstage area. He then made sure, as is his habit, that all food served was vegetarian. More>>

"Blessings" - the life of Tibetan nuns (film) — "Blessings" tells the story of 3,000 nuns, living in the remote nomadic region of Nangchen in Eastern Tibet, who practice an ancient yogic tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Despite near extinction during the destruction wrought by China's Cultural Revolution, these remarkable practitioners have emerged to rebuild their nunneries by hand, stone by stone. Now their wisdom tradition is once again vital and growing.

In 2005, Tsoknyi Rinpoche III led a small group of Western students to meet these amazing women. Narrated by Richard Gere, with music by Ani Choying Drolma and Steve Tibbetts. "Blessings" is the story of this extraordinary journey.

Tibetan monks: Meditation and Science

History Channel — This clip is from a documentary about a Tibetan Buddhist monk who thought to have somehow mummified himself through meditation. It is all speculation, of course, since tumo is barely capable of drying sheets. But the body has been miraculously preserved without any external help. Scientists set out to discover what happened. The documentary shows Buddhist monks preforming meditation under clinical test conditions and discusses the results.

5 best Android phones on the market

Sprint EVO 4G 5 best Android phones on the market

One reviewer calls the top pick "an absolutely amazing piece of handheld technology." What "4G" means - Android vs. iPhone - More hackers target Apple

"Medical" Cannabis?

Last week’s Topic asked users to weigh in on medical marijuana. So far, 14 states have legalized medical marijuana, with California going so far as adding a measure to the November ballot to "legalize marijuana and allow it to be sold and taxed."

Commenters were overwhelmingly in support of legalizing marijuana, with many of them sharing personal stories of how medical marijuana was the only way to ease their own or their loved ones’ physical suffering. Taxes were another popular argument for legalization: MrNiceGuy advocates saving “taxpayers’ money from pursuing victimless crimes,” while Oldcoldwarrior points out the windfall from “substantial tax revenue” and says the nation would save billions of dollars spent on the drug war.

Of those against legalization, several focused on the long-term effects of marijuana use. More>>

CIA failure in China spy mission (Dalai Lama)

The CIA rarely admits much. And by then it's been turned to advantage to justify other crimes and operations. But any revelation begins to open our eyes about the secret affairs that motivate world politics, fuel anti-US anger, and reveal that Tibet is just a sad pawn between superpowers.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Detail by painful detail, the CIA is coming to grips with one of the most devastating episodes in its history, a botched cloak-and-dagger flight into China that stole two decades of freedom from a pair of fresh-faced American operatives and cost the lives of their two pilots.

Richard J. FacteauUS spy in China, weighed and measured like an alien after a crash landing (AP/file).

In opening up about the 1952 debacle, the CIA is finding ways to use it as a teaching tool. Mistakes of the past can serve as cautionary tales for today's spies and paramilitary officers taking on al-Qaida and other terrorist targets.

At the center of the story are two eager CIA paramilitary officers on their first overseas assignment, John T. Downey of New Britain, Conn., and Richard G. Fecteau, of Lynn, Mass., whose plane was shot from the night sky in a Chinese ambush. More>>

  • Dalai Lama and memories of the CIA
    Feb 20, 2010... Later the CIA worked with the diaspora. There have been reports that the Dalai Lama's administration admitted receiving annual payments of [CIA money.]
  • How CIA helped Dalai Lama to end up in exile
    Mar 19, 2009... For the US State Department, the Dalai Lama was of more use in active opposition to Beijing. That is why the CIA actively encouraged the...
  • Dalai Lama and CIA
    Mar 28, 2008... In 1959, when the Dalai Lama packed up his riches and escaped into neighboring India, the CIA set up and trained an army of Tibetan contras [greatly angering China and perhaps leading to the torture and destruction of Tibet].
  • Dalai Lama group says it got Money from C.I.A.
    Oct 2, 1998... The Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged today that it received... of the C.I.A.'s worldwide effort to undermine Communist governments (
  • The Dalai Lama's hidden past
    The right-wing nature of the Dalai Lama and the government-in-exile was further exposed by its relationship with the US [spy agency, the] CIA. The Dalai Lama concealed the...

Music and US spy commentary by the Dead Kennedys; report on the CIA by AP; report on the Dalai Lama by RT (Russian Television News in America).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi birthday in jail

Birthday candles are lit  in front of an image of Myanmar's detained opposition  leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a small party of her 65th birthday at Birthday candles are lit in front of image of Burma's detained opposition leader, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (AP).

RANGOON, Burma – Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi marked her 65th birthday Saturday locked in her dilapidated lakeside compound as calls for her freedom erupted around the world.
President Barack Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded Suu Kyi's release in statements echoed at rallies and prayer vigils across the globe. Supporters at home threw a birthday party at the suburban Rangoon home of a fellow opposition member. It was attended by more than 300 people but not the guest of honor.

Holding candles and yellow roses, they lit a birthday cake with 65 candles and released 65 doves into the sky while chanting, "Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi." Plainclothes security watched and videotaped the event.

Suu Kyi has now spent 15 birthdays in detention over the past 20 years, mostly under house arrest. She is the world's only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner. More>>

Record number of Indian candidates seeking office
Ethnic Uzbeks in squalid camps fear returning home
Cancun police find 12 decomposing inside caverns
Choose your own salary by choice of jobs

The Problem of "Thinking" (audio)

Part III: The Egoic Mind

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dalai Lama slams China

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, speaks to students and guests at Hunter College as part of The Bridge Conference, a Tibetan and Chinese Youth Dialogue Project.
The 14th Dalai Lama speaks to students and guests at Hunter College as part of The Bridge Conference, a Tibetan and Chinese Youth Dialogue Project.

The Dalai Lama scolded the Chinese government for its censorship and propaganda in a speech at Hunter College Sunday morning. "Openness and freedom of speech are essential," the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of about 20 million Tibetan [Vajrayana] Buddhists, told a conference of 230 Chinese and Tibetan students.

"Under fear, with police watching, how can harmony develop? Harmony by gun -- impossible." The world-renowned monk [and politician] has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising of Tibetans against Chinese rule. He said he believes in self-governing "autonomy" for Tibet within China instead of total separation from the super-power -- but that apparently hasn't won him any friends in high places. More>>

"Hugging Saint" Hugs Los Angeles

Indian spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi, "Amma," is referred to as a saint by followers and is a widely respected humanitarian (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty).

( The self-proclaimed "Hugging Saint" known as Amma is in town to spread love to Angelenos. Amma hugs people for 30 seconds and whispers chants in their ears, often moving them to tears. She has given nearly 30 million hugs all over the world. Thousands of people are flocking to the Hilton Los Angeles Airport to see her. For more information, visit Amma. Source

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Pity about "Piti" (bliss)

Seven Dharmachari (Wisdom Quarterly)

As serenity meditation progresses towards absorption (moving from samatha to jhana or "Zen"), five factors intensify. My own meditation followed this path, which the Bodhisattva discovered under the Bodhi tree. This was prior to focusing on the Fourfold Setting-up of Mindfulness, which leads to liberating insight, and becoming the Buddha. Before the figurative light of wisdom dawns, another (literal) inner-light arises.
  1. Applied-attention (to the breath)
  2. Sustained-attention
  3. Bliss (piti)
  4. Happiness
  5. Equanimity

Its arising is dependent on these Five Factors of Absorption. The inner-light (nimitta) is a counterpart to the breath. The interface between external and internal is just outside the nose, above the upper lip. Focusing there, waiting for the breath there, abandoning discursive thinking in favor of direct knowing (without the intermediary of judgments, evaluations, and concepts).

By bringing the mind back to the breath again and again, letting everything else go, a strange thing happens. It doesn't happen all at once. Like warm water in a tub, it fills and engulfs you. It's so pleasant, you don't want to move. It's so light and easy that to DO anything takes away from it. What to "do"? Simply allow it. Stop doing. Abandon thoughts of it. Just experience it. Just be.

When the bliss or joy, rapture or ecstasy (all attempts to translate the word the Buddha used, piti, pronounced pee-tee) wraps itself around you, settle back into it. Rapt attention leads to piti's pleasant, welcome, agreeable sensations. It feels like clean pleasure, pure, not associated with sensual desire. It is, however, a refined pleasure in the body. In that sense it is what Bjork called "big time sensuality." Like the comfort of friends, rather than lovers, this sensuality leads onward.

But with it -- if one becomes attached -- comes a great let down. The pity is that it is not permanently purifying. This is not enlightenment (bodhi). It's not even happiness-in-the-mind (sukha), which comes next IF one takes this momentum and calmly perseveres. Alas, one eventually emerges.

The pity with piti is that it's not refined enough. The body may quiver. And all one wants is perfect silence because "small time sensuality" feels gross and disturbing. Immersed in piti the mind stays still all on its own. But piti has only temporarily weakened the mental defilements. The Five Hindrances (countered by the Five Factors of Absorption) reassert themselves. What can be done? Expect this, and sweetly, softly, gently persevere.