Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bhutan: The Dragon Kingdom (video)


The country and its people promote non-materialistic values and live in harmony. However, by opening their borders, it is opening a Pandora's box. It is now just a matter of time before the flood of Western information and Chinese expansionism corrupts this Buddhist gem. Humans may not be suitable for ruling as Naga ("Dragon") Kings. We make "modern" material and scientific advances, but perhaps at the price of our spirituality and sanity. We envy and are constantly trying to get back to Shangri-la, as the Bhutanese will soon be trying. The American Ron Teaguarden (Dragon Herbs) has already made inroads establishing a company to extract Bhutan's herbal wealth and native medicinal lore. But soon the extraction of its natural resources as large-scale capital commodities begins.

CLICK TO ENLARGE (bhutanecoventure.com)

WikiLeaks: US Lies to the World (cartoon)

We may finally have an administration that's not so bad, in contrast to the high crimes of the Nazi-like Bush Reich (WikiLeaks cartoon coverage: mxrk.net)

(NY Times) The business of "diplomacy" [deception, public relations, and espionage] is often messy. And when private communications become public, it can also be highly embarrassing.

But what struck us [at the New York Times], and reassured us, about the latest trove of classified documents released by WikiLeaks was the absence of any real skullduggery.

After years of revelations about the Bush administration’s abuses -- including the use of [illegal] torture and kidnappings -- much of the Obama administration’s diplomatic wheeling and dealing is appropriate and, at times, downright skillful.

The best example of that is its handling of Iran. As the cables show, the administration has been under pressure from both Israel and Arab states to attack Tehran’s nuclear program pre-emptively. It has wisely resisted, while pressing for increasingly tough sanctions on Iran. More>>

Bhutan: Buddhist Winter Retreat Program

(Bhutanretreat) Hotel ZhiwaLing

Winter under perpetually clear blue skies and snow capped peaks, in the peaceful atmosphere of Himalayan Bhutan, ensconced in its ancient Buddhist culture, the Hotel Zhiwa Ling introduces week-long Buddhist retreats. There is a growing quest for spiritual fulfillment and interest in Buddhism as an answer to this search, this program has been created to impart Buddhist knowledge as well as lifestyle in the luxurious surroundings of the Zhiwa Ling Hotel. (The staff of Wisdom Quarterly will gladly visit with you).

Bhutan's Evil Secret (brainwashing video)

Buddhist nations, like northern Bhutan and southern Sri Lanka, have painful histories: American know-how teaches governments how to brainwash entire populations.
(Journeyman Pictures, May 1994) Since 1990, tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese have been driven out of the tiny and secretive Himalayan (Naga) kingdom of Bhutan.

Bernays: the American "Assassin of Democracy"

Bhutan is ruled by a minority of Tibetan descent. Many have fled to refugee camps in Nepal where they tell a harrowing tale of Bhutan's attempts to clear the country of Nepalese-speaking people.

Young men are imprisoned and tortured and are freed only if they sign a "voluntarily leaving [the country]" certificate. The ethnic Nepalese make up 50 percent of Bhutan's population and some have lived there for many generations.

The Nepalese Prime Minister hopes that the people will one day be allowed to return.

We go as tourists to Bhutan, to glean further evidence of the way ethnic Nepalese are treated, and find a country trapped in time where even TV sets are illegal.

Sri Lanka's Ethnic Cleansing (Mahinda’s Xanadu)
"It is unbelievable that Sri Lanka -- which practices Buddhism mainly, the preaching of which is not to even cause hurt to an ant -- was united in its cry to annihilate a good proportion of its [Indian Tamil Hindu] population. And this is what we are celebrating today." How about this for a bon mot from the Daily News? “Simple, solemn ceremony marks President’s swearing-in: President Mahinda Rajapaksa took oaths yesterday for a second term as president before Chief Justice Asoka..."

WikiLeaks: US ashamed of cable leak (video)

(AJEnglish) The whistleblower website WikiLeaks has released scores of electronic cables sent between headquarters in Washington and embassies and consulates around the world. The leaked documents include confidential views about major allies and partners, including worries about security at a Pakistan nuclear facility and concerns about alleged links between the Russian government and the mafia. The White House has condemned media's publication of the cables, saying it puts diplomats and intelligence professionals at risk. John Terrett reports from Washington.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The 5 Kinds of Buddhists

Dharmachari, Seven (Wisdom Quarterly)

What keeps us from enlightenment and nirvana? The flood of taints (asavas, outflows).*

Thus haven't I heard. There are five kinds of Buddhists. What five? There is the Buddhist, the good Buddhist, the great Buddhist, the nominal Buddhist, and the Buddhist who doesn't know it.
  1. The Buddhist. To be a "Buddhist" one need only do two things.

The first is go for guidance (sarana) to the Three Jewels, namely, the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The Buddha is one's own enlightened nature or capacity for enlightenment. The Dharma is the teaching of an enlightened one; it really represents an existing reality, the way things truly are beyond our biases and conceptions. The Doctrine is merely a reflection of it. So whereas the Doctrine (Buddha-Dharma) will become corrupted and fade away, the Truth it represents is completely imperishable. It will be there to be rediscovered by those who in the future manage to cultivate the perfections (paramis). The Sangha is not the monastics in saffron robes. Like the Doctrine, they represent the Sangha. But the Sangha really means the enlightened or accomplished or Noble (arya) Sangha, whether ordained or not. So the Three Jewels (also called the Triple Gem) are the Teacher, the Teaching, and the Taught. The three represent the Enlightened One, the Enlightening Doctrine, and the well-instructed Enlightened Disciples. The second thing is wanting to be a Buddhist, and one need not leave one's faith or cultural traditions to go for guidance or to follow that guidance.

2. The good Buddhist. To be a good Buddhist one need only do three things, the first two just mentioned and uphold the Five Precepts.

What guidance does the Three-faceted Gem give? It teaches the Four Noble Truths, the fourth truth being the Noble Eightfold Path. That is the teaching that leads to enlightenment. But to read it, it all sounds very general. It is not obvious. It needs unpacking. All eight arms open up to very well defined factors. For example, "right effort" does not mean putting in what you call effort then calling it a day. No, right effort has an exact meaning: the effort to abandon unwholesome states, to cultivate wholesome ones, to maintain them, and to bring them to fullness. What are the Five Precepts? They are the minimum of decency and humanity and are not limited to Buddhism -- abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxication occasioning to heedlessness. (All of these factors are also precisely defined leaving no need to interpret and invent biased definitions).

3. The great Buddhist. To be a great Buddhist one need only do four things, the three just mentioned and meditate successfully.

How is one to learn the definitions of all the factors just mentioned? One studies the Dharma and goes for guidance to the Sangha. In this case those in saffron robes become very handy. They preserve and teach the Dharma. Like the Kalama Sutra advises, don't simply take their word for it. Look into it, investigate, read and reason and reflect. But don't merely reason. The path was not arrived at by mere reasoning. It took a supremely enlightened buddha to rediscover exactly because it is not obvious, not attainable by reasoning, not -- like Einstein said -- solvable from the level of the problem. The problem is suffering (dukkha, unhappiness of all kinds) and the cause of suffering. The solution is nirvana and the Noble Eightfold Path. How does one meditate successfully? Read MN 39 (The Middle Length Discourses, Sutra 39), or Bhikkhu Bodhi's summary of it, which recently appeared in the pages of Wisdom Quarterly.

4. The nominal Buddhist. To be a nominal -- that is, by name only -- Buddhist, there's only one thing you need to do. Call yourself one.

It would also help not to do the other things mentioned. Just get the tee shirt, drink tea, buy a yoga mat, maybe get a yin-yang tattoo, tie a red string around your wrist, date a celebrity -- none of which actually have anything to do with the Dharma. Hey, but neither does the nominal Buddhist.

5. The Buddhist who doesn't know it. To be a Buddhist, just be good. You don't need to call yourself a "Buddhist" at all.

What is the advice of all buddhas past, present, and future? "To cease from all unwholesome actions (karma you'll regret when you eventually meet with its consequences), to undertake all wholesome actions (karma you may not like now but will love when you meet with its results), this is the advice of all Enlightened Ones" (Dhammapada). Did you know that for most of his lives the Bodhisat (Buddha-to-be) was not a Buddhist? He didn't know he was on the path to becoming a buddha. He was not without religion (dharma) or spirituality. He was frequently a yogi, an ascetic recluse meditating in the Himalayas, or a king with brahmin advisors, or a laborer married with children, and so an adherent of Vedic Brahmanism, or a god (brahma) living in fine heavenly worlds. He was an outcaste and all kinds of things from his life as Sumedha the Seer (rishi) with wonderful powers able to attain enlightenment in that very life but instead foregoing the end of suffering for himself to win supreme or perfect enlightenment in the future in order to teach everyone in the distant, distant future aeons later. Did he succeed? One of the Four Imponderables is the influence or range of a buddha.

In fact, Buddhism has been instrumental in saving the world. One may think that Christianity opposes it, but Christianity is rooted in it. One may think that Aesop's Fables are better literature, but they're rooted in the Jatakas (birth stories) and the Buddha's influence on the philosophy and spirituality of the expansive Indian empire, which included Greece, the root of Western civilization. One may think lots of things, but Buddhism is a world religion followed by a third of the planet and esteemed in space and other (deva) worlds without having to resort to the Gods and gods but resorted to by Gods (brahmas), gods, godlings, demigods (there are lots of kinds of terrestrial and extraterrestrial devas), and good Buddhists now as in the time of the Buddha.

  • IMAGES: The flood of samsara and suffering, golfer Tiger Woods, actress Uma Karuna Thurman daughter of Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman the first Westerner to be ordained as a Tibetan monk, partially-enlightened Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm, Wisdom Quarterly writers born into and married into Buddhism, the Bodhisat (who became the historical Buddha) and Biblical protagonist St. Issa (Jesus of Nazareth and Kashmir), the light of wisdom.

*Caught in a "flood" (Sanskrit, ogha) are all unenlightened beings -- be they humans, devas, divinities (brahmas), devils (maras), spirits, animals, hellions, or monastics. What flood? We are overcome by delusions and vain desires impeding the path to full enlightenment and nirvana (freedom from all suffering). The four floods are identical with the four outflows: sense-desire, the craving for renewed existence, wrong views, and ignorance of the liberating Four Noble Truths.

Stages of Enlightenment (Ajahn Brahm)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Amazing Animal Realms: Non-violent Milk

A happy cow produces happy organic food for its young and good karma (lifegoddess.com).

Farm Produces Non-Violent Milk
(NewsCore) - An Australian farm is laying claim to producing the country's only non-violent milk, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported Tuesday. Workers on New Govardhana farm in Queensland do not use dogs to round up cattle, machines for milking or send cows to slaughter. One of the 80 Hare Krishna devotees who live on the farm, Vrindavana Sevika Devi Dasi said milk from the cows, known as ahimsa milk, was much creamier and sweeter than normal milk because of the treatment of the herd. She said the cows were hand milked and the faith's followers wanted to show the dairy industry a positive alternative. More>>

Buddhist monk saves animals from slaughterhouse
Dharamshala, Inida - True to his practice of Buddhist faith, Ven. Thupten Phelgye, a MP of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile bought over 100 of goats and sheep from going to slaughterhouses in Leh, the capital of Ladakh, J&K. Later, he donated the animals to poor families in remote areas of Nubra Valley, 150 Kms from Ladakh. The campaign happened after Ven Phelgye, who recently went to the Himalayan Region of India. According to recently issued statement said the animals were rescued on November 17 to coincide with the day of Wednesday which is considered to be an auspicious day for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist leader and to contribute in part to his call for global responsibility of compassionate attitude to all beings.

One scientist's hobby: recreating the ice age
CHERSKY, Russia – Wild horses have returned to northern Siberia. So have musk oxen, hairy beasts that once shared this icy land with woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Moose and reindeer are here, and may one day be joined by Canadian bison and deer. Later, the predators will come — Siberian tigers, wolves, and maybe leopards. Russian scientist Sergey Zimov is reintroducing these animals to the land where they once roamed in millions to demonstrate his theory that filling the vast emptiness of Siberia with grass-eating animals can slow global warming. "Some people have a small garden. I have an ice age park. It's my hobby," says Zimov, smiling through his graying beard. His true profession is quantum physics.

Bhikkhu Bodhi (Google Talks)

It Takes Two to Tango: The Human Future and the Future of Buddhism

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What was "family" in ancient India?

Mythologist decodes the [ethical dilemmas] of family business
Devdutt Pattanaik (India Times, The Economic Times)
The oldest Greek stories, the Iliad and Odyssey, deal with the triumph of the heroic leader who breaks all the rules. The oldest Biblical narratives, Genesis and Exodus, deal with the value of compliance to the rules of the institution. In contrast, the oldest Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, revolve around family dramas.

The Ramayana tells the story of Ram of Ayodhya and his antagonist, Ravana, king of [Sri] Lanka. The Mahabharata tells the story of Krishna and his warring cousins, the Pandavas and the Kauravas of Hastinapur. Another epic, the Bhagavata, often considered a prequel to the Mahabharata, tells the story of Krishna's early life in Gokul.

Together these three epics deal with every possible family-related issue from inter-generational conflict to succession planning to talent management to sibling rivalry.

It is filled with thoughts and ideas that are considered timeless, hence of value even to modern family businesses as they go through dharma-sankat, or "ethical dilemmas" in the new world order where the demands of institutional business tower over traditional family assumptions.

What is Family?
What is a family? Families in Ramayana and Mahabharata, significantly, are not defined by blood. Ram and Laxman are half-brothers, with a common father but different mothers. Of the five Pandava brothers, three have a common mother, and none have a common father. Krishna is raised by foster parents, and even his brother Balabhadra is actually his half-brother.

What defines a family then is not blood or law or custom, but trust. In a family governed by trust, there are no rules; only love defines actions, as in the Bhagavata. In a family with no trust, rules have no role; only power defines actions, as in the Mahabharata.

In between, stands the Ramayana, where there is love but also rules. How critical are rules to bind a family together? More>>

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Precognition and Porn

New evidence for PSI?
David Sutton (Fortean Times, November 2010)
(Three Lions/Getty Images)

It’s rare for academic parapsychological research to garner coverage in the mainstream press. But a paper by Professor Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University has managed to cause something of a stir outside the usual circles.

Perhaps that’s because its author, unlike his mostly cautious and often actively sceptical academic peers, claims to have produced results suggesting that humans are capable of such PSI feats as precognition and premonition.

A curtain covered a pornographic image randomly selected by the computer. This should have given subjects a 50 percent chance of finding it. Statistically speaking, their hit-rate was impressive, significantly above chance. Their hit-rate on the neutral, non-erotic pictures was not. Similar above-chance results were found in eight of the nine experiments.

Prof. Bem carried out a series of nine different experiments involving over 1,000 volunteer students. He has published the results in a paper entitled “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect,” which will appear in the peer-reviewed Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [the gold-standard in social psychological research].

Bem, a self-described maverick, started out as a physicist but switched fields in the 1960s, becoming a social psychologist. He has held senior posts at Cornell, Stanford, and Harvard. He has published widely on self-perception, personality theory, and sexual orientation. He also has a long-standing interest in PSI. This paper is the culmination of eight years of research.

Bem defines PSI as “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms.” He chose to study “precognition (conscious cognitive awareness) and premonition (affective apprehension) of a future event that could not otherwise be anticipated through any known inferential process.”

His methodology was simple, testing for “anomalous retroactive influence of some future event on an individual’s current responses” by “time reversing” well-established psychological effects “so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur.”

One experiment involved the students being shown a long list of words and being asked to remember as many as possible. They were then asked to type a selection of words randomly selected by computer from the original list. In an apparently striking example of causality seemingly working in reverse, the students proved significantly better at recalling words they would later type.

In another experiment, devised to test precognition, Bem provided his volunteers with the following instructions: More>>

Buddhist (cruelty-free) Thanksgiving

(VIDEOS) "Vegetarian" (Latin, vegetus, "lively, lusty") means eating life-giving foods. Avoiding animal products (like cheese with calf-stomach lining, white sugar with bone char, or Jello with boiled pig's feet) gives life to the eater, the environment, and the eaten. Or follow AOL's advice and eat roadkill.

As we Americans stuff ourselves on neo-traditional Tofurky and braised asparagus tips, mounds of mashed potatoes drizzled with Earth Balance or real olive oil (if any can be found), with a side of sweet potato pie and -- what Thanksgiving table would be complete without gelatinous canned and sliced cranberry dressing -- let us give thanks that [pick something, anything]. There's plenty to be thankful for!

Black Friday means it's back to a case of the ungrateful seduction of greed we like to call "Me first and the gimme gimmes"! Mindfully enjoy that, too. It's by knowing-and-seeing how the mind works so subtly that we slowly free ourselves by wisdom. (Oh, and buy me something as you end up buying so many things for yourself). Enjoy!

Do we have to?!
There's no rule saying Buddhists have to be vegetarian. It's the compassionate and environmentally-conscious thing to do (benefiting oneself, others, and everyone else). But it's a choice. If we were more mindful of what came out of our mouths (verbal karma) than what went in, we might also do well for ourselves. So whatever you eat, enjoy it! For joy is the way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dalai Lama to give up ceremonial duties

NEW DELHI (AP) – The Dalai Lama wants to give up his lesser known role as the ceremonial leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile, an aide said Tuesday, in what appeared to be another step in the aging leader's efforts to prepare his people for life after he dies.

However, he will remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism [Vajrayana] and the focal point of Tibetan national aspirations, said spokesman Tenzin Taklha.

Dalai Lama reacts to Aung San Suu Kyi

As head of the dominate Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the top religious leader for Tibet. Many of his predecessors also served as Tibet's political ruler, and the Dalai Lama himself served as head of government there after Chinese troops marched into his Himalayan homeland in 1950.

Beijing claims Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries.

Amid increasing tensions with the Chinese, he fled into exile in India in 1959 and set up a government-in-exile.

In recent years, the 75-year-old has sought to reduce his active role in that administration. More>>

Burma leader Suu Kyi reunited with son

Burma's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi welcomes her son Kim Aris, at Rangoon International Airport (AP/Khin Maung Win). MORE PHOTOS

RANGOON, Burma – Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi saw her younger son Tuesday for the first time in a decade, in an emotional reunion at the Rangoon airport 10 days after she was released from detention and 10 years after they were last together.

Kim Aris, 33, was finally granted a visa by the military regime after waiting for several weeks in neighboring Thailand. Just before walking into the airport terminal, the 65-year old Suu Kyi, who was released Nov. 13 after more than seven years under house arrest, told reporters, "I am very happy."

Tears welled in her eyes when she first saw her son. A smiling Suu Kyi slipped her arm around his waist as the two posed briefly for photographers and they walked out of the airport holding hands.

Clearly showing support for his mother's cause, Aris bared his left arm before airport security and the public to reveal a tattoo of the flag and symbol of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi looked at it closely and smiled. The flag and symbol feature a fighting peacock and a star.

Through her lawyer Nyan Win, Suu Kyi thanked the authorities for issuing the visa to her son, who resides in Britain and last saw his mother in December 2000. He has repeatedly been denied visas ever since by the ruling junta. More>>

Nagas in the News: Flying Serpents (video)

Serpent Science: DARPA wants to know flying secrets
Clay Dillow (popsci.com)

From ancient dragon mythology to the lesser offerings from Samuel L. Jackson’s body of work, mankind has long shown an apprehension toward -- one might even say a phobia of -- airborne snakes. Perhaps it’s the ability of these flying reptiles to strike fear into even the steeliest of human hearts that has the Pentagon interested in just exactly how these snakes perform their aerial acrobatics.

The snakes -- which hail from Southeast Asia and India mostly and are of the Chrysopelea genus -- are the subject of intense study by Virginia Tech researcher John Socha, but for a biologist he has an interesting backer in DARPA, the DoD’s blue-sky research arm. DARPA naturally is tight-lipped about its interest in flying snakes, but its dollars are helping Socha create 3-D reconstructions of the biology and physics involved, research that is being published in the journal Bioinspiration and Biometrics.

How do the snakes do it? The don’t really fly per se, but rather fall with purpose. The snakes climb to the tops of the tallest trees, some 200 feet in the air, and then take a leap. But their method for turning their elongated forms into aerodynamic vehicles is pretty amazing, allowing them to travel nearly 800 feet laterally as they descend. They do this by first falling to pick up speed, then by initiating a strange aerial dance that essentially turns their bodies into one long wing. Some of them can actually pull off a turn in the air. More>>

What are Nagas/Serpent Spirits? (video)

(Wisdom Quarterly) Nagas (Reptilians, serpent spirits, shape-shifters, transformation beings, extraterrestrial rulers on Earth) are part of the history and mythology of India and Buddhism.

They refer not only to human groups (such as those in Nagaland, India) but more pointedly to the non-human entities worshipped by various groups around the world.

The feathered serpents of Mesoamerica, strikingly similar to the Khmer culture of Angkor Wat, Cambodia are two excellent examples of such worship. The art and stone megaliths are almost identical, as are their histories of conquests, human sacrifice, and self-destruction. They grow to greatness but at a terrible price.

The Chinese fascination with dragons is likely indicative of Naga influence as is the snake motif of American corporations and political leaders, where they are more commonly referred to as Reptilians.

Dragons, after all, were a central part of Christian lore until relatively recently. But there was a time when it would have been unthinkable not to believe in "dragons" and literal "serpents," be they demons, maniacal tyrants, or entities of great power as described in Buddhism. (Alex Collier and others describe their current activities in the pages of Wisdom Quarterly).

Nagas in Asia

(DeschKaschperle) Champa was an Indic civilization that flourished along the coast of Vietnam for almost 1,000 years -- until the capture and destruction by the Vietnamese of the Cham capital of Vijaya (located in what is now Binh Dinh Province) in 1471. Nagas were part of the art and mythology of Champa.

As Hindus and speakers of Sanskrit, the medieval Cham were heirs to the civilization and mythology of India, in which Nagas played an important role. Nagas are beings that have the capacities of both humans and serpents. They can live underwater, fly, or reside underground. Some have the power to transform and assume either human or serpent form. Numerous stories about Nagas are to be found in the Mahabharata, the great epic of Indian civilization.

Nagas had an additional significance in Cambodian civilization. Legend has it that the Khmer are descended from the union (miscegenation) a brahmin from India named Kaundinya and a local Naga princess named Soma. The legend implies that Cambodia originally was the land of the Nagas and that its civilization is the result of the Indianization of its native peoples.

Due to the cultural connection between Champa and Cambodia, Nagas became significant to the Cham as well. In 657 A.D., the Cham king Prakasadharma claimed to be descended from Kaundinya and Soma through his mother, a Khmer princess.

The works of art presented in this video are housed in the museums of Vietnam. They include:

  • Statue of Vishnu sitting on a coiled Naga: Vishnu is recognizable from what he is carrying. The motif is probably borrowed from the Buddhist legend of the serpent king Mucalinda, who used his hood to shield the meditating Buddha from the rain. The statue also recalls the motif of Vishnu lying asleep at the bottom of the ocean on the body of the serpent Shesha.
  • Statue of a Dharmapala with Nagas as jewelry: This Buddhist statue of a temple guardian draws on a Hindu theme that connects Shiva with serpents and has Shiva using serpents as personal ornaments.
  • Architectural ornament of a makara disgorging a Naga: The makara is a mythical sea monster with the head of a crocodile and the trunk of an elephant. It is commonly invoked as a motif in Cham and Cambodian architecture. It is generally shown disgorging some other being, a person, deer, or Naga.

Dalai Lama to "retire" from gov't-in-exile

The Dalai Lama intends to retire as head of the Tibetan government in exile next year as he looks to scale back his workload and reduce his ceremonial role (AFP/File/Attila Kisbenedek). Pope Benedict will be staying on.

NEW DELHI (AFP) – The Dalai Lama intends to retire as head of the Tibetan government in exile next year as he looks to reduce his ceremonial role and scale back his workload, his spokesman told AFP Tuesday.

The Tibetan movement in exile, based in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamshala since 1960, directly elected a political leader in 2001 for the first time.

"Since then, His Holiness has always said he has been in a semi-retired state," spokesman Tenzin Taklha said.

"In recent months, His Holiness has been considering approaching the Tibetan parliament in exile to discuss his eventual retirement."

Taklha stressed that his "retirement" would be from his ceremonial responsibilities as head of the government, such as signing resolutions, not his role as spiritual leader and figurehead for Tibetans.

"This does not mean that he will withdraw from leading the political struggle. He is the Dalai Lama, so he will always lead the Tibetan people," he said.

The 75-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner is the global face for the Tibetan struggle against Chinese rule in Tibet, as well as a leading promoter of human rights, dialogue between religions and Buddhist values. More>>

World News

Nissan "Leaf" gets 99 miles a gallon

Nissan Leaf runs equivalent of 99 MPG -- which could have been done long ago.

WASHINGTON – The Nissan Leaf, an electric car aimed at attracting environmentally conscious motorists, will get the equivalent of 99 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, based on government testing.

Nissan Motor Corp. said Monday the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel efficiency window sticker, which provides information about the car's energy use, would estimate the electric car will achieve the equivalent of 106 mpg in city driving and 92 mpg on the highway.

EPA's tests estimate the Leaf can travel 73 miles on a fully charged battery and will cost $561 a year in electricity. Nissan has said the Leaf can travel 100 miles on a full charge, based on tests used by California regulators.

Nissan and General Motors Co. are both releasing electric cars within weeks in the auto industry's most prominent attempt at mass-producing vehicles that shift away from petroleum. The Leaf does not have a gas engine and must be recharged once its battery is depleted. More>>

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blue Moon Lunar Observance (Uposatha)

Strange story behind Sunday's "blue" moon
November's full moon may look ordinary, but a bizarre old rule makes it extremely rare. And it explains why 13 is unlucky. Blue moon myths - Dazzling space views - 2nd-fastest spinning rock

What does one observe on lunar days?
These are the observances of lay Buddhist practitioners during periods of intensive meditation training and during Uposatha (lunar observance) days. The Eight Precepts are based on the Five Precepts, with the third precept extended to sublimate sexual activity and an additional three precepts that help support meditation practice.

The Eight Precepts

  1. I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living beings.
  2. I undertake the precept to refrain from taking what is not given.
  3. I undertake the precept to refrain from all sexual activity.
  4. I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.
  5. I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants that lead to carelessness.
  6. I undertake the precept to refrain from eating at improper times.
  7. I undertake the precept to refrain from dancing, singing, music, unsuitable entertainment, wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics.
  8. I undertake the precept to refrain from using high or luxurious seats and beds.


ABORTION: Buddhism

Seven Dharmachari [with Buzz Killington] (Wisdom Quarterly)

Life begins at conception. The Buddha once explained that three things were necessary for conception:
  1. the coming together of mother and father
  2. the woman being in "season" (fertile phase), and equally important
  3. the presence of the gandhabba (conventionally-speaking, the being to be reborn, ultimately-speaking, the "causal continuum of consciousness" or karmic potential of the life-force appearing as a functionally-integrated set of Five Aggregates of Clinging).*

Life does not begin at birth (partition). The lifestream was flowing long before that. This round has no conceivalble beginning. Coming to birth in the womb one is, in a normal sense of speaking, reborn at conception, not post-partum with the first breath (one was "breathing" amniotic fluid long before that) or at the time of naming (personhood) as some cultures used to describe.

One is already experiencing the (potential) results of one's karma and is, in a spiritual sense independent and fully generating karma one will be personally responsible for by age 7. That is therefore when one becomes capable of full enlightenment (arahantship), although it is of course extraordinarily rare that anyone attains at that young of an age. But it has been known to happen based, it would seem, on past life karma coming to fruition.

All this having been said, it is quite inadvisable to visit and leave something important at a Bangkok temple if one wishes long life, health, and happiness for oneself. But sadly the social reality does not always accommodate our healthy and happy aspirations.

You can tell yourself what you want, whatever makes you feel better (any defensiveness or rationalization offered by atheists, materialists, scientists, or cynics is understandable to justify a desperate act) -- nothing good comes of guilt or shame after the fact -- but there is no substitue for prevention. Have sex but don't have it without protecting everyone involved, particularly yourself.

Although Thailand is home to a huge and active sex industry, many Thais are conservative on sexual matters, and Buddhist activists especially oppose weakening abortion laws.

2,000 Fetuses Found at Buddhist Temple
Huffington Post (continuing coverage)
BANGKOK — On the grounds of a Buddhist temple, dozens of white plastic bags lay in carefully arranged rows. Each sack was knotted at the top and contained the remains of a fetus. Thai authorities found about 2,000 remains in the temple's mortuary, where they had been hidden for a year -- apparently to conceal illegal abortions.

A strong stench had drawn police to the temple in Bangkok's old city Tuesday, and authorities searching the mortuary -- where bodies awaiting cremation are normally kept -- initially found more than 300 fetuses. They returned Friday to find more than five times that number, according to police Lt. Col. Kanathud Musiganont.

Health officials, police and charity workers counted the fetuses, placing each one in a white plastic bag bearing the charity's name in red Thai script and Chinese characters. The group is often involved in the handling of remains, including recovering bodies from accident scenes and organizing burials.

As the remains were laid out, Buddhist worshippers left offerings for the fetuses: milk and bananas to nourish their spirits in the afterlife.

Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under three conditions -- if a woman is raped, if the pregnancy affects her health or if the fetus is abnormal. More>>

Buddhism, more than meditation?
Katherine Marshall conversation with Thai Buddhist activist Sulak Sivaraksha
In 1953, I went to London to study. In our family background, which was middle-class and upper-class, being educated in Britain meant that you were educated properly, and that could help you get ahead. England was the place to be. While I was in England, I joined the Buddhist Society. Mr. Christmas Humphreys, founder of the Society, was a very great man.

But I did not agree with his approach. His view was that a Buddhist must concentrate on meditation, even when they are part of the society. He said that Christian men are wrong because they got involved in society and politics and lost their spirituality.

To be Buddhist, he argued, you must concentrate on meditation. I felt that he was fundamentally wrong. Meditation is a good thing, but it does not mean only looking inwards. I realized that many Buddhists were from middle-class backgrounds. They didn't realize the suffering of the majority of our people. They didn't even question their own lifestyles. I think that is escapism, not Buddhism. More>>

*Really, There is No Soul (Self) and Yet...

*This is, quite understandably, where people get the idea of a soul, spirit, or ghost. It is that in a mundane sense, that is, in a conventional way of speaking. But it is not at all that in an ultimate sense with penetrative understanding. Still, people will argue.

The argumentative types who go around saying, "There is no self, Buddhism does not believe in a soul, cool, so I could do what I want" have no understanding of the meaning of these profound statements.

To say that there is no self, no identity from life to life, nothing that is I, me, or mine, no personality, no ego, no "soul" is like saying of a solid table that is, from a physics perspective, mostly empty space.

That is certainly true but very misleading if one does not understand and clearly distinguish that one means (ultimately) at a subatomic level.

"I" have no "self," yet I am not liberated by that information -- and that's what it is right now, just information. I still suffer, and I take my illusion quite seriously and personally even though -- at a theoretical level -- I know better.

For I have not penetrated that ultimate truth with knowledge-and-vision born of insight meditation with a mind first purified by profound states of concentration.

And even when I do, the conceit "I am" will still linger until full enlightenment. A stream-enterer (first stage of enlightenment) has overcome self-view or personality-belief but, oddly, has not yet overcome the conceit "I am."

What then of ordinary, uninstructed worldlings like ourselves going about being born, eating, and getting hopelessly entangled in good and bad karma over and again? We're lucky to ever so much as hear the teaching of egolessness or "no self" (anatta).

And when we do? We cling to the Five Aggregates even more rather than engage in the practice of the Path that leads to the realization, knowledge, and vision of the complete end of suffering (nirvana). I think most of us prefer our petty suffering and our even pettier sense of ego.

Harry Potter's Sex Ed. (sex video)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christian leaders, originally and now (video)

It's controversial for neither Buddhists nor Christians will like it. But the conclusion here is incorrect. Jesus could well be sitting at the right hand of a god (a brahma or even Maha Brahma) as a deva (a devaputra, "son of god"). He was "resurrected," in the sense we all are at death, by rebirth. He was likely reborn in that realm. He may have even "ascended" into that heaven (extraterrestrial world) by means of a craft or through psychic power. There is no reason to disregard Jesus. There is a need, however, to see St. Issa in real historical terms -- not in Church fantasies, fairy tales, and fictions created for a figurehead whose teachings are utterly disregarded while his name is worshipped. I'm a Buddhist, and I don't care if people are Christian. But I do care if they're hypocritical, like Church, Inc.'s "holy father" (and former member of the Hitler Youth) tacitly condoning gay prostitution but hardly condemning gay child molestation by priests. I wonder if priests can use condoms by the logic in the Pope's reasoning.

Pope: condoms can be justified in some cases
VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI says in a new book that the use of condoms can be justified in some cases, such as for male prostitutes seeking to prevent the spread of HIV.

The pontiff makes the comments in a book-length interview with a German journalist, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times." The Vatican newspaper ran excerpts of the book Saturday.

Church teaching has long opposed condoms since they're a form of artificial contraception. The Vatican has been harshly criticized for its position given the AIDS crisis.

Benedict said that for male prostitutes — for whom contraception isn't a central issue — condoms are not a moral solution. But he said they could be justified "in the intention of reducing the risk of infection."

Benedict drew unprecedented criticism from European governments, international organizations and scientists in March 2009 when he told reporters while flying to Africa that condoms would not resolve the AIDS problem there but, on the contrary, increase it. The statement was condemned by France, Germany and the U.N. agency charged with fighting AIDS as irresponsible and dangerous. More>>

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sex versus Meditation?

Sex vs. meditation, is it even a tie? Date the editors of Wisdom Quarterly (see below).

Sex feels great, we agree. "I try to have it seven times a week. I don't succeed, but it's worth a try." "Personally, I like to give it a rest on Sunday." "I'm not dating right now, so I have it all the time."

That's the kind of conversation overheard in the editing meeting at Wisdom Quarterly, especially since Margo arrived and Ashley became single. But we all agree, gavones notwithstanding, MEDITATION IS BETTER!

Before you scoff, before you laugh, it's true. Not all meditation. Wrong-meditation can be a drudge, a pain in the cushion, an hour of waterboarding. But when it starts going "right," when the bliss (piti) starts arising, nothing can compare.

It's like the difference between love and sex. If everyone were asked to vote -- and the teenage males' votes were deleted as outliers -- statistics would prove that people enjoyed meditation more. It lasts longer, it feels better (sensually), one feels better afterward, and one is better off for having done it (spiritually).

It's no contest. It's not a tie. Sex is tied with pizza, tied with getting rich, tied with laughter. But meditation is tied with freedom, accomplishment, and blissful fulfillment.

Who needs pornography when ordinary magazines affected by it reach the same effect nowadays? It's like when you want to get warm. Sex is like a work out. Meditation is like laying in the sun.

How many iPhone app users even know how to meditate? One is born knowing how to crunk out the Watusi. But meditation takes some doing. To live in the moment, to be here now, to actually get to what Eckhart Tolle is endlessly talking about -- nothing beats it.

Then if one attains something, that knocks it right out of the ballpark. Sex is a weak reflection of full body rapture, suffusing every pore like sudsy soap powder. Because it isn't easy to get it just right, people developed Tantra and other peripheral meditative practices. Great. But those, too, are only an approximation of happiness unknown by most human beings.

We hope to have a fundraiser -- "Date Wisdom Quarterly." Winners with the best pictures and highest donations to our noble cause of bringing the Dharma to the world -- we've already unofficially exceeded a million hits, but we're stuck going by the green counter -- will date the editor of his or her choice. Who knows, the date could end with some meditation. We still have to put the idea through committee (advisors and Sangha). But it's either that or a PayPal donation button, and I don't think anyone is excited about that.