Sunday, July 31, 2011

A dozen Buddhists to follow on Twitter



Buddhists and those curious about the tradition and the issues facing it today might be interested in the Twitter streams a dozen prominent tweeters have going. Social media is a great starting point to get in on the conversation. The Huffington Post has compiled a list of several prominent teachers, writers, and organizations it follows to help it stay clued in on the wide world of Buddhism. Suggestions?

The Shakyans (Scythians) of Central Asia

Wisdom Quarterly
The birth of Siddhartha, the future Buddha, from Peshawar, Gandhara (now Pakistan)

The Buddha who is called the Sage of the Sakyas (Sakyamuni) grew up in Central Asia, on the northwestern frontier of India, in modern Afghanistan. He was a member of the noble, royal, or warrior caste (kshtriya) in the ancient Indian system.

The Sakyan territory (maha-janapada) had its capital in Kapilavastu, Siddhartha's hometown, near modern Bamiyan. While he was born away from home in a garden park named Lumbini on the way to his mother's parent's home, possibly in or near modern Iran (a word deriving from Aryan, which the Buddha called himself).

Dr. Ranajit Pal speculates that the real Lumbini garden, the Buddha's birthplace, was in Sistan-Baluchistan, in modern disputed territory where Iran, Pakistan (called ancient Gandhara), and Afghanistan meet. Who were the Sakyans? Might they be the Sakas of Western and Middle Eastern history?

The Sakas or Sakyas? (Sakas)
The Saka (Old Iranian Sakā, Latinized Sacae; Greek Σάκαι; Sanskrit शक [śaka]; Chinese 塞; Old Chinese *sək) were a Scythian tribe or group of tribes.

Greek and Latin texts suggest that the term Scythians referred to a much more widespread grouping of Central Asian peoples.[1][2]

Kings (kshtriyas) with dragons (nagas) associated with royalty in India -- gold artifacts of the Sakas of Indo-Greek/Persian Bactria, at the site of Tillia tepe.

Classical accounts

Accounts of the Indo-Scythian wars often assume that the Scythian protagonists were a single tribe called the Saka (Sakai or Sakas). But in earlier Greek and Latin texts the term Scythians referred to a much more widespread grouping of Central Asian peoples.

"Scythia" was a generic term loosely applied to a vast area of Central Asia spanning numerous groups and diverse ethnicities. Ptolemy writes that Skuthia was not only "within the Imaos" (the Himalayas) and "beyond the Imaos" (north of the Himalayas). He also speaks of a separate "land of the Sakais" within Scythia.[3] He notes that the Komedes inhabited "the entire mountainous land of the Sakas."

The Romans recognized both Saceans (Sacae) and Scyths (Scythae).

Indo-Scythians is a term used to refer to Sakas who migrated into Bactria, Sogdiana, Arachosia, Gandhara, Kashmir, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 4th century CE.
  • "Golden prince," a buried skeleton of uncertain sex found wearing 4,000 gold artifacts, dressed in the cataphract-style Eurasian parade armor of a Saka royal from the Issyk kurgan, now emblematic of Kazakhstan (the country just north of Afghanistan)
Indian historians see the actual beginning of the Saka Era from 79 AD, after the Kushans conquered the Indo-Parthians and spilled over to the east. The Sakas were once again ousted by the Kushan and forced to wander further into central India.

In Rajasthan they came into the Hindu warrior caste of the Kshatriyas and were assimilated and were now feared nomadic warriors and rulers, for which Rajasthan was long famous.

Under the so-called Kshatriya kings the Shaka Ujjayini ruled from parts of northwest India and presented, for example, under Rudradaman I (r. about 130-150), a competition to the Satavahana dynasty. They were initially dependent on the Kushan. The Kshatriya kingdom was apparently after 397 conquered by king Chandragupta II (reigned 375-413/15).

Some South-Asian Sakas includes the Abhira, Nagbanshi, Andhra, Bala, Gurjjara.[1][2] More

Western Sex Crimes ("The Whistleblower")

(NPR, July 30, 2011) In 1999, Kathryn Bolkovac had run into hard times. A police officer in Lincoln, Nebraska, who had recently lost custody of her daughters in a divorce settlement, she was looking for a new job that would give her the means to live near them.

When Bolkovac heard she could earn good money in a short period of time by becoming part of the U.N. International Police Force in Bosnia -- run by a private British agency called DynCorp -- she decided to sign on.

She found herself in the middle of an alarming human trafficking web. Mobsters were transporting teenage girls to bars and brothels for sex, and beyond turning a blind eye, the security firm and U.N. personnel seemed to be caught up in the trafficking themselves. She tried to sound the alarm, and she was fired.

Bolkovac, whose story has been adapted into a new movie called The Whistleblower (opening in some theaters on August 5) tells NPR's Scott Simon that her suspicion was first raised during a training session in Ft. Worth, Texas, before she ever left for Bosnia. "One of the men who had done previous missions in Bosnia came bounding into the pool with a beer stating where he could find really nice 12- to 15-year-olds once we got to Bosnia," Bolkovac says. More

Amy Winehouse at world's biggest rock festival

Saturday, July 30, 2011

LA Rising: Rage Against the Muse (video)

Wisdom Quarterly
() On July 24, 2010, thousands of people around the world uploaded videos of their lives to YouTube to take part in "Life in a Day," a historic cinematic experiment to create a documentary film about a single day on Earth. Now, it's time to watch their story unfold on the big screen. It wowed audiences at the Sundance, Berlin, and SXSW film festivals, a. And during its YouTube world premiere.
Superstars Muse battle hometown heroes Rage Against the Machine and Lauryn Hill enchants as Buddhist freaks meet at the Coliseum while Buddhist geeks calmly discuss the Dharma at the nearby University of the West.

Best of the X-Games: The 17th annual alternative sports junket flies through town with spectacular spills, chills, and prodigious thrills. (One kid challenges his idol for supremacy as another competitor breaks his foot during practice and someone pulls off a triple flip while spraying himself with Axe).

It's easy to stay informed about what may really be going on in a world of compelling distractions and mainstream media disinformation campaigns.

Forget "Cowboys & Aliens," the better movie on alien invasions is the British "Attack the Block" from the producers of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. This fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie pits a teen UK gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters -- and turns a London housing estate into a sci-fi playground, a tower block into a fortress under siege, and teenage street kids into heroes. It's inner city versus outer space.

Everything but thinking will be going on at the continuing OC Fair in neighboring Orange County, in spite of last year's ice sculpture "The Thinker."

God's Approval Ratings Are Down (video)

WARNING: Potentially offensive or humorous depiction of how the Great Creator (Maha Brahma) in theistic faiths might have produced the universe, subsequent evolution, and the Church's alternative theory ("Family Guy").

God's Approval Rating Barely Breaks 50 percent
Jack Jenkins (Religion News Service)
WASHINGTON (RNS) - More than half of U.S. voters approve of God’s job performance, according to a new poll, making God more popular than all members of Congress.The poll -- which was conducted by the Democratic research firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) -- surveyed 928 people and found that 52 percent of Americans approved of God’s overall dealings [they particularly liked "its" creation of the universe], while only 9 percent disapproved.

Questions about God were asked as part of a larger survey assessing American opinions of congressional leaders in the midst of the ongoing debt ceiling debate in Washington.

God’s approval rating exceeded that of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, with each party receiving only a 33 percent approval rating.

God also polled significantly higher than the scandal-ridden media baron Rupert Murdoch: only 12 percent of those polled viewed him favorably, compared to 49 percent who viewed him unfavorably.

“Though not the most popular figure PPP has polled, if God exists, voters are prepared to give it (sic) good marks,” PPP said in a July 21 press release.

The poll also gauged God’s handling of specific “issues.” When asked to rate God on the creation of the universe, 71 percent of voters approved and only 5 percent disapproved. Respondents were also generally appreciative of God’s governance of the “animal kingdom,” with 56 percent approving and 11 percent disapproving.

Younger respondents were more critical of God’s handling of natural disasters, with those ages 18-29 expressing a 26 percent disapproval rating, compared to 12 percent disapproval among those 65 and older.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Boy Who Played on the Buddhas of Bamiyan

Wisdom Quarterly (ANALYSIS)
The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan (Phil Grabsky, Großbritannien, 2004)

The real Kapilavastu, where the buddha-to-be grew up, was likely not Nepal but Bamiyan, Afghanistan at the foothills of the Himalayan range -- or some such location in Baluchistan (Iran/Afghanistan/Pakistan), Central Asia, the ancient frontier of India.

This may seem odd, but Siddhartha was fair (golden), blue eyed, tall, and came from the west to India proper, where he became the Buddha in Bihar state and began teaching near Varanasi. The oldest Buddhist monastery discovered to date is 2,600-year-old Mes Aynak, Afghanistan, where so many of his family members (the Shakyans) might have gone to practice after ordaining.

The Buddha's father, King Suddhodana, gained faith when the Buddha visited seven years after leaving and, close to his death, became enlightened with the Buddha's help. His mother, Maha Prajapati Gotami, became the first Buddhist nun in history and also became enlightened. Many Shakyans such as Yasodhara (his wife), Rahula (his son), Ananda, Nanda, Sundari Nanda, Devadatta (his half-siblings often called cousins), Anuruddha, Kimbila... followed the Buddha and the Dharma and became part of the Sangha.

In this German film, a family struggles for survival amid the rubble of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan -- after their destruction by the CIA-backed Mujahadeen. Who were the Mujahadeen? Afghan tribal warlords? No, there were no such thing. Afghan and Pashtun culture have no history of such things -- even though that is the propaganda we are fed daily to justify America's most expensive, longest running, and most opaque war.

The Mujahadeen -- as well as Al Qaeda and the CIA's own Osama bin Laden -- were outsiders, criminals, released convicts (brought in from neighboring Islamic countries such as Pakistan) who were being encouraged to fight Russia in defense of Afghanistan with the secret help and military backing of the United States. See for the sordid details by American scholars Fitzgerald & Gould.

The reasons we are given in defense of endless war are psy-ops and propaganda. Unfortunately, the disinformation campaigns infect Hollywood, which goes on to produce modern propaganda films like "Charlie Wilson's War" featuring Tom Hanks. Blame the mess on a Texas Congressman. Blame it on a 6' 6" tall asuran billionaire cave-dwelling warlord and 9/11 mastermind. Blame anyone but our CIA or Pentagon.

But it all ties together the inscrutable range of topics regularly covered by Wisdom Quarterly, which must strike some readers as odd:

Afghanistan, Buddhism, extraterrestrials (and UFOs), giants or "titans," CIA abuses, 1984, US propaganda, war, Islam, Zoroastrianism, our military-industrial complex, Osama bin Laden, the 9/11 false flag operation, forbidden archeology, and endless government deception. It matters why our government (both elected and secret) actually fights wars as one of the most violent empires trying to rule the planet. Peace is hardly sustainable in the midst of deception. But when truth is found then peace comes quite naturally.

Post-Jihad Buddha rises again - in China
Jihad really means "struggle" with oneself to overcome harm. But the idea has been perverted and promoted by the CIA and a tiny extremist segment of Islam.

The destruction of its most famous archaeological monuments -- the giant stone figures known as the Bamiyan Buddhas [in formerly Buddhist Afghanistan] -- led to global condemnation of the Taliban regime.

But now one of the Buddhas is rising again, except this time in western China, where a team of workmen are carving a replica figure into a cliff-face in Sichuan.

As more than 300 stonemasons chip away at the rock, the giant figure is gradually emerging into view. The sandstone cliff near Leshan, in the lush green hills of Western China, is redder than the more golden sandstone near Bamiyan.

Nonetheless, the Chinese project aims to recreate the Afghan Buddha the way it used to be, before erosion and intolerance destroyed its face and dynamite reduced it to a heap of rubble.

The figure will be 121 feet (37 meters) high -- the same as the smaller of the two Bamiyan statues. It is being carved by hand with mallets and chisels, just like the original figures.

The Afghan statue is the brainchild of a Chinese businessman, Liang Simian. He runs a Buddha theme park near Leshan, which has its own ancient giant Buddha figure. The 3,000 Buddhas in his theme park are all modern replicas, but that does not worry the tourists who come to see them.

Although many of China's Buddhas were destroyed during its so-called [Communist] Cultural Revolution, [he] said China now liked to protect religion. And while it would be better to be able to see the originals, visiting copies was almost as good.

Improving or ruining the Buddha with a face lift for unnatural "perfection"?

The creators of the Sichuan statue claim that, in at least one way, their statue will be better than the original, which had [its] face disfigured in the 8th century by the first Muslim invaders before the Taliban could arrive [centuries later] to destroy the entire monolith. In China the Buddha will have a perfect face as the Chinese are recreating what they believe to be its original face, modeled on the heads of surviving Afghan Buddhas.

Jihads against China
Unlike its Muslim neighbors to the west -- Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan -- China is (unofficially) Buddhist today. This is due to the largely forgotten struggle waged by the Chinese kings against the Muslim Jihadis who began forays into western China from the 7th century onwards.

After the defeat of the Zoroastrian Sassanid empire of Iran, the Arab Muslim armies reached the borders of Chinese T’ang empire in the year 651. The westernmost province of the T’ang empire, which bordered the Sassanid empire, was inhabited and governed by the Turko-Sino-Mongoloid clans like the Qarluqs and Seljuqs.

The Forgotten First Chinese-Muslim clash
Little is known of the bloody struggle that border clans of the Chinese T’ang empire waged against Islam for 100 years beginning in 651 AD. The first clash of the Turko-Sino-Mongoloid clans (within the T’ang empire) with the advancing Islamic Jihad took place when the Muslims surged through Persia.

They reached the borders of the T’ang and Persian Sassanid empires in Khorasan, near Central Asia. In those days the Turks ruled Central Asia as subjects of the T’ang emperors of China. The Turks were referred to as Turanians by the ancient Persians of Zoroaster’s time. More

[Zoroaster or Zarathustra was an asura or "titan" (a literal giant descended from space violently opposed to devas, the name meaning "undiluted star being") who introduced what is now a largely defunct (pre-Islamic) religion opposed to Buddhism. While it only survives in Bombay, India where Zoroastrians are called Parsis, "Persians" who came from Iran, some of its teachings were appropriated by Christianity.]

Punk Rock made me a Buddhist (video)

P. MacPherson, D. Seven, A. Wells, CC Liu (Wisdom Quarterly)
A Japanese punk scene across the sea later created cyberpunk masterpieces that focused on punks and freaks of all kinds (

LOS ANGELES - Punk rock made me a Buddhist. A few hot spots in America (Boston, NYC, SF) gave rise to the American version of "punk," now devolved into pop-punk and bubblegum rock.

But it was once a rebellious act -- something that would get you arrested, beaten in Hollywood by riot police (LAPD/OCPD Gone Wild with a license to assault, jail, beat, and even shoot).

OC police now engage in brutality as bad as that of their brothers in blue next door -- killing for sport. RIP Kelly Thomas of Fullerton (

I always thought police hated punk rock. But it seems what they hate are kids, freedom, rebellion, youthful exuberance.

Police/paramilitary troops (many back from active duty in the military killing freely in Afghanistan and Iraq) stand stiffly wielding sticks, covering their badges, deploying all sorts of "toys" -- Tasers, concussion grenades, choke holds, mace, tear gas, non-metal projectiles (that cause serious injury and death while claiming to be nonlethal, but lethality completely depends on how they are used), horses, military assault rifles, shotguns, revolvers, mace, and secret stuff (using microwaves and infiltrating provocateurs).

What's it to do with Buddhism? Like the liberating Dharma itself, punk goes against the stream. I didn't join Noah Levine in his movement. I didn't wait for Keanu Reeves to make a movie about it. And I was no Brad Warner fan, nor even a student of "Zen," except as articulated by Alan Watts on KPFK, the city's only free speech radio outlet. Their were genius front men like Jello Biafra, the person with the most integrity, to be inspired by. There were the Buddha's own words to go by, particularly the Kalama Sutra.

Steven Blush has documented what the music was really like at the time:

American Hardcore: Steven Blush Interview
"Hardcore is a Complete, Legitimate California-born Music Form"
In his 2001 compendium, American Hardcore: A Tribal History, New York writer and former promoter Steven Blush all but dispensed with your dad's glamorized spit-scabs-and-safety-pin punk, instead focusing on hundreds of DIY, anarchic hardcore bands from the scene's peak between 1980 and 1986, proving that this was one genre of rock that wasn't fun and games, especially when the crowd is trying to light the singer on fire.

While Blush interviewed the music's usual suspects, including the Dead Kennedys, Misfits and Bad Brains, a substantial amount the book is not surprisingly dedicated to SoCal, from Hollywood to Orange County to the South Bay of Black Flag and SST.

Or, as Blush rightly identified, where "American hardcore was born..." (Bad Brains singer H.R.'s interview in the accompanying 2006 Sony Pictures Classics documentary took place at Griffith Park with a quinceanera in the background).

For the book's second edition, which includes more interviews, flyers, and a new chapter, Blush hosts a readings/discussion at Book Soup today, with Keith Morris (Black Flag, Circle Jerks), Tony Cadena (Adolescents), Lisa Fancher (Frontier Records), and photographer Edward Colver. Before he left the frigid cold for sunshine, we caught up with the author and talked local pride:

  • How did the book come about?

I started in the mid-'90s when the punk revival had happened with Green Day, Offspring, and Rancid. Everybody was talking about hardcore, but it had never really been documented. There was never any written lore other than fanzines, and some great ones, like Flipside in the L.A. area and Maximumrocknroll in San Francisco, notably. More

Buddhist Geeks Conference begins

Buddhist Geeks Conference

Keynote Presenters

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

Jane Mcgonigal
Reality is Broken

Shinzen Young
The Five Ways
Other Conference Presenters

Diane “Musho” Hamilton
Dragon Heart Sangha

Ken McLeod
Unfettered Mind

Trudy Goodman

Ethan Nichtern
The ID Project

Vincent Horn
Buddhist Geeks

Hokai Sobol
Mandala Society

Danny Fisher
University of the West

Diana Winston

Rohan Gunatillake

Kenneth Folk
Kenneth Folk Dharma

Afra Moenter
Ordinary Awakenings

Emily Horn
Ordinary Awakenings

Kelly McGonigal
Stanford University

Michael Trigilio

Benjamin Beirs
Classical Guitarist

Click to enlarge:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rebuilding the Buddhas of Afghanistan (NPR)

Morning Edition (National Public Radio)

Bit By Bit, Afghanistan Rebuilds Buddhist Statues
(July 27, 2011) The larger of the two Buddha statues that towered over the Bamiyan Valley [thought by some archeologists and historians to be near the original Kapilavastu, where the buddha-to-be grew up], in central Afghanistan.
Foreign Troops Hand Over Province To Afghan Police
(July 17, 2011) Bamiyan province is one of seven areas going to Afghan security control this month in a first round of the transition.

Afghan Government Gathers In Bamiyan Province
(May 25, 2010) About half of the Cabinet ministers traveled to the remote capital of Bamiyan province to spend three days planning for this summer's donor...

The Buddha, once the largest in the world, overlooking the Bamiyan Valley

Notes from Afghanistan: Bamiyan
(October 28, 2006) She tells Scott Simon what has become of Bamiyan, home to the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban. ... Notes from Afghanistan: Bamiyan. ...R.

Afghans Frustrated by Slow Pace of Development
(May 19, 2008) Of all the roads in Afghanistan's mountainous Bamiyan province, only one mile is paved. ...

Preserving Memory of Afghanistan's Giant Buddhas
(December 13, 2006) ...An undated photo shows one of two huge Buddha statues in Bamiyan before they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Rebuilding the Buddhas of Bamiyan
(August 15, 2004) Miranda Kennedy visits Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, where two giant Buddha statues once stood.

NPR: The Buddhas of Bamiyan
(February 23, 2002) Weekend Edition Saturday's Scott Simon visits Bamiyan, the Afghanistan town where the Taliban destroyed two giant Buddha statues.

Demand Increases for Women to Join Afghan Police
(May 03, 2007) Detective Nahid Rezaie pages through a magazine before an interrogation at Bamiyan police headquarters.

Buddhas of Bamiyan
(February 23, 2002) Giant Buddhas stood vigil over the Afghan town of Bamiyan until the Taliban destroyed the statues, causing worldwide outrage.

Hollywood Stars are Happier than Us (video)

Wisdom Quarterly
() Hollywood starlet and multi-millionairess Kirsten Dunst admits battling depression. Amy Winehouse lyrics prove testing. Brad and Angelina's new nest?

There may be only two states -- winning and learning. So all the time we are not winning is a time of learning, which does not happen so much -- at least in terms of personal growth -- when we are winning.

The winning will come: success, happiness, relief... it is all assured. There may be much to overcome before then. But there is no such thing as being doomed forever in Buddhism. And so long as there is a NOW, there is an opportunity to stave off, mitigate, and oftentimes remedy whatever may be coming.

There are heinous crimes (matricide, patricide, causing a schism in the Sangha, killing an enlightened person, injuring a Buddha). But even these do not result in a relentless future of misery. Much can be done NOW. In fact, NOW is the only time anything can be done.

Why wish, as we do, to be Hollywood stars? Why pine for millions when, at the root, what we really want is safety and security? Those are available without the millions. Those are available in spite of the millions. They may even be available with the millions. The thing is, the millions will not bring them. Nor would billions.

The fact is, good karma (merit) made at this moment puts us in a mental state where positive things flow. There is no suffering, no fear, no sense of loss except that we make it so. Therefore, we can make it un-so.

Pain (physical hurt) is inevitable; suffering (mental distress) is optional. Letting go is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Mindfulness is a choice.

What causes all distress? The three root poisons of the heart/mind: greed (craving), hatred (fear), and delusion (confusion). Letting go, being kind, and staying mindful of this moment for what it is -- immediately displace the three negative roots. Happiness is instant. Now, if someone would only tell Kirsten Dunst.

Ethan Nichtern comes to Los Angeles (video)

(Mark Molaro) Inspiring interview with Ethan Nichtern, founder and director of the Interdependence Project (The ID Project) in New York City and author of the new book One City: A Declaration of Interdependence. This is a fascinating and personal discussion of Nichtern's idea of interdependence, as well as an enlightening conversation about Eastern philosophies in general, such as Buddhism and meditation. Nichtern talks about a strong worldwide desire for a new social consciousness that properly balances inner peace with informed civic and social engagement and responsibility.