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Monday, November 17, 2014

"Happiness" on Independent Lens.

Independent Lens is an excellent PBS program that has often covered Buddhist topics. I had the opportunity to watch an advanced-screening copy of the documentary, "Happiness." The show depicts the arrival of television to a remote Bhutanese village.

The film unravels the stunning beauty of Bhutan to behold. The jagged, heady, mountains speak of timelessness and spirituality. The arrival of television to this Shangri-La will change it forever--and not necessarily for the good.

Everyone in the village is excited to watch the TV but soon the ugly side of this electronic desire stirs up suffering when a wife yells at her husband for breaking their new television. The man hangs his head in shame while the lady is filled with anger.

The local Buddhist temple tries in vain to warn people to the ills of television. The lama has already seen many young monks abandon the virtuous life of monk-hood to chase the desires of modern technology in the big cities.

Electricity is finally connected to the village, and the television flickers to life to light-up the faces of the villagers. However, the content appearing before their innocent eyes makes me cringe because they are watching American television programming, which consists of a lot of toxic ideas. In particular, the feature presentation for that evening was "professional wrestling" which is known for excessive violence.

As the television flickers at the end of the film, I can't help but feel that what has been introduced is a bit similar to the alcohol introduced to Native Americans upon the arrival of Europeans to the Americas. Only time will tell how much television will be of benefit or detriment for the Kingdom of Bhutan. As a burned-out refugee of American entertainment, I hope they chose to turn the television off more than on.

The film offers a thought-provoking juxtaposition between the the timeless and the modern. I enjoyed this program. The cinematography is amazing!! The camera angles and shots were perfect. I was truly mesmerized by the towering peaks of Bhutan. Watch, "Happy" tonight November 17th on PBS. Check your local listings for times.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

An Atheistic Buddhist.

Hi...my name is James...and I am an atheist. I'm joining thousands of other atheists in America who have been "coming-out" lately. I'm an atheist but I'm also a Buddhist. They are not mutually exclusive since Buddhism does not believe in a "Creator God."

There are some schools of Buddhism that believe in minor deities but others, like secular Buddhists and some Zen schools prefer to view those "deities" as archetypes of human states of being. For example, some Buddhists believe in demons but we don't need to literally accept that mythological beings are real to benefit from the concept. We need only look to serial killers and terrorists to see real-life demons--and to sports players who are worshiped like "gods." 

I loosely follow the Zen practiced by Thich Nhat Hanh which doesn't demand belief in any deities, focusing the most upon the "here and now." The Buddha, himself, didn't really concern himself with metaphysical questions. He refused to say whether "gods" exist and would be horrified by anyone worshiping him as a god! 

Why waste your time in this moment wondering about gods and demons when it doesn't really help you overcome suffering? We have so precious few moments in this lifetime that we shouldn't get hung up on metaphysical questions. It's like chasing your own tail. It's kinda fun for awhile but you never catch it. There is no way to absolutely know, either way. However, that doesn't mean both outcomes are equally probable. The greater our knowledge, the greater our understanding of how the world works. There is always a chance that the metaphysical concepts of gods and demons is accurate but that's like saying there's a chance you'll become a billionaire and live on Mars. It's highly improbable. 

Buddha also didn't say much about what happens after we die. Rebirth as improbable. It's possible...but, again, just about any concept that the mind can imagine is technically, "possible." 

If I rob banks, the probability of going to jail increases until eventually that karma ripens, and I am locked-up. If, however, I do the opposite, I'll suffer less and my life will be better. It might not be a blissful life but living free is infinitely better than living in prison! So, you see, I prefer to believe that rebirth happens during this lifetime. We aren't the same person we were 10 years ago, or even as a child. That is a form of rebirth. However, not believing in literal rebirth doesn't nullify the concept of karma. In scientific terms, karma is essentially the reality of "cause and effect." Perhaps you might ask why lead a good life if there is no punishment or reward in the afterlife? Because we don't need to believe in such concepts to know the benefit of living a good life in this present life! 

I'm not claiming to speak for anyone but myself. It is your right to believe in any metaphysical concept imaginable--and I'll defend your right to believe it. However, I do not think I am less of a Buddhist than anyone else for not believing all the metaphysical beliefs found in some Buddhist traditions. I am not writing this to change anyone's mind. I'm simply explaining the viewpoint of many Buddhists today. My main goal is to let others know you're not a "bad Buddhist" if you don't believe in gods, demons or rebirth. You have more in common with the historical Buddha than you might have imagined. If you liked this post, you might like the book, "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist" by the great, Stephen Batchelor. 

-james-

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

Dalai Lama: Talks Same Sex Marriage, China, & The New Pope | "Larry King Now" on Ora TV and Hulu.

The Dalai Lama made a rare appearance on U.S. television appearing on the "Larry King Now" show. Larry King was able to get to a lot of great topics not usually discussed with the Dalai Lama. I've selected a few highlights to share: 

The entire episode will be available on Ora TV and Hulu, March 10th.

Social:#LarryKingNow @KingsThings. All clips can be found at the "Larry King Now" Ora TV website: http://www.ora.tv/larrykingnow

The Dalai Lama on Same-Sex Marriage:


The Buddhist Spiritual Leader on a Female Dalai Lama:
I encourage you to go online March 10th at Ora.tv/larrykingnow to watch the full "Larry King Now" show to see other great insights with His Holiness. Namaste! 
~i bow to the Buddha in all beings~

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Buddha May Have Existed 200 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought.


Agence France-Presse: Evidence of a previously unknown wooden structure unearthed at the Buddha’s birthplace suggests the sage might have lived in the 6th century BC, two centuries earlier than thought, archaeologists said Monday. 'This sheds light on a very very long debate' over when the Buddha was born and, in turn, when the faith that grew out of his teachings took root, said archaeologist Robin Coningham in a conference call - (click this link to read the full article).

~i bow to the buddha within all beings~

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Dalai Lama Supports Medical Marijuana.


From Agence France-Presse:
The Dalai Lama weighed in on Mexico’s marijuana legalization debate on Tuesday, telling an audience that he backs the drug’s use for medicinal purposes. The Tibetan spiritual leader, speaking at an event hosted by former Mexican president Vicente Fox, said that “the exception” for smoking marijuana would be if it has pharmaceutical virtues. [link]
For eons, marijuana has been used medicinally by humans to treat ailments. Historically, marijuana has been legal for use up till only recently. Ironically, legalizing marijuana will simply return it to its historical status of acceptability. Marijuana truly is a miracle drug as it alleviates so much suffering from a plethora of conditions. It helps relieve my chronic depression to the point of saving me from suicide a few times. In addition, medical marijuana blunts the aches and pains of my bursitis to enable my body to meditate properly. Why wouldn't compassionate-minded Buddhists support the use of a healing, natural, herbal, non-addictive medicine such as marijuana to treat symptoms of medical conditions?

~i bow to the buddha within all beings~

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Worldwide Sangha Responds to Buddhist Violence in Burma Against Muslims.


The worldwide sangha is pleading with Burmese monks and layity alike to end the violence against Muslims, and other ethnic minority groups in their beautiful country. The Dalai Lama recently addressed the troubling situation thusly:

"Buddha always teaches us about forgiveness, tolerance, compassion. If from one corner of your mind, some emotion makes you want to hit, or want to kill, then please remember Buddha's faith. We are followers of Buddha." -ABC News (link).

He went on to say that there is, "Too much emphasis on 'we' and 'they'" in the world." -The Huffington Post (link).

The Dalai Lama's words echo those of other international Buddhist leaders who recently penned a joint-letter condemning the violence and calling for calm. The Buddhist magazine, Tricycle, published their remarks and I will quote some of it, but I urge you to read the entire letter at the Tricycle Blog (link):
Buddhist teaching is based on the precepts of refraining from killing and causing harm. Buddhist teaching is based on compassion and mutual care. Buddhist teaching offers respect to all, regardless of class, caste, race or creed. We are with you for courageously standing up for these Buddhist principles even when others would demonize or harm Muslims or other ethnic groups. It is only through mutual respect, harmony and tolerance that Myanmar can become a modern great nation benefiting all her people and a shining example to the world.
JAMES: One of the reasons that I am so passionate about the trouble in Burma is because I believe the foundation of Buddhism is non-violence. If they can not even refrain from violence and harm toward innocent people then I can't help but wonder, why they are Buddhists at all?

~i bow to the buddha within all beings~





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