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Sunday, May 29, 2005

There's no one unfaulted in the world.
There never was,
will be,
nor at present is found
anyone entirely faulted
or entirely praised.

-Dhammapada, 17, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Present Tense

Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn't more complicated that that. It is opening to or recieving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.

-Author Unknown

This quote couldn't have come a better time. Lately I have been having a difficult time being a "formal Buddhist." I haven't "officially" been meditating everyday but I have been living in mindful awareness of the present tense. I am riding the crest of the wave to stay in the present moment, "pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it." I think that often we cling to the structures of Buddhism including: formal meditation, koans and other forms of spiritual materialism instead of just living, breathing and observing. I think that it is more important to live life for each moment then to be the "best Buddhist." Because in the end "Buddhist" is just another hollow attachment.

-Peace to us all-

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Buddha Takes Refuge in Me

When we say, "I take refuge in the Buddha," we should also understand that "The Buddha takes refuge in me," because without the second part the first part is not complete. The Buddha needs us for awakening, understanding, and love to be real things and not just concepts. They must be real things that have real effects on life. Whenever I say, "I take refuge in the Buddha," I hear "the Buddha takes refuge in me.

-Thich Nhat Hanh, "Being Peace"

From "365 Buddha: Daily Meditations," edited by Jeff Schmidt. Reprinted by arrangement with Tarcher/Putnam, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

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Monday, May 23, 2005


Rainbow Buddha Posted by Hello

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Happiness

Went to Sangha yesterday and it was nice as usual but it was very H O T!! (It's been close to 90 degrees here the last few days). Anyway, I thought since we meet in the basement that it would be cool so I wore my pants. Well, it was sweltering but I used it during meditation as a reminder of the impermanence of the body.

Anyway, during walking meditation I noticed these framed sayings of Thich Nhat Hanh around the room. There is one that really struck me more then the others and I want to share it with you today:

There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.

This thought penetrated my heart as I meditated on it and realized just how true this statement is for us. We will never achieve true happiness so long as we fight for it. When we let go, however, and allow happiness to come into our lives then we are truely on the right path. At least that has been my interpretation of it.

-Peace to us all-

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Einstein on Buddhism

Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spritual; and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. -Albert Einstein

If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. -Albert Einstein

A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compasion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
-Albert Einstein

Here's another quote from Einstein that I love. It is my signature at the bottom of my emails:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. -Albert Einstein

-Peace to us all-

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May Avalokiteshvara inspire us to be agents of peace and serenity on this sunday morning. Posted by Hello

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Friday, May 20, 2005

The Lessons of Life

With unfailing kindness, your life always presents what you need to learn. Whether you stay home or work in an office or whatever, the next teacher is going to pop right up.

~Charlotte Joko Beck

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Buddhism and Violence

I promised a controversial post and well, here it is. It is kind of long only because I really want to try and present both sides for this discussion.

I can not think of anything more controversial in Buddhist circles then the issue of violence. The Buddha and our teachers preach against violence and to promote peace. This stance of non-violence was one of the things that attracted me to the path of the middle way.

However.

Is there EVER a place for violence?
Such as defending yourself or are you to just let people kill you? The other example I have is in defending your country and defeating evil such as in defeating Hitler in World War II. Do you not have a right and obligation to stand up to forces that would threaten to destroy the world and the balance of the middle way that is found in the various forms of democracy in the world?

The current Dalai Lama said in a recent interview with Canadian Broadcast News for example that some violence may be necessary in the short term but that it should be a last resort:

Yes, in particular circumstances, under particular circumstances, yes, it could be justified. However, this is not the full answer for long run.

Hana Gartner: But this is extraordinary. The Dalai Lama said violence under certain circumstances you could see as justified?

Dalai Lama: Possible. Look, First World War, Second World War. I think Second World War, at least, although millions of people killed, suffer, immense, but really I was against war because war is some kind of legalized maximum violence. I'm always against. However, and like Second World War and Korean War, at least to protect the rest of the democratic civilization, and Korea, South Korea protected. As a result, more prosperity and democracy, freedom, these things. So sometimes... But then I think the difficult thing is when violence is started, eventually there's always a danger the situation become out of control, chain reaction, chain violence like Vietnam. All those same motivations, same strategy, same goal, but fail. Therefore, I always believe right from the beginning, must avoid violence.

Hana Gartner: But while you can concede that sometimes it's necessary, there are those in Tibet who believe there is justification that if you do not stand up, if you just are a pacifist, you empower the person who is oppressing you.

Dalai Lama: Individual case? For example, if mad dog coming, almost certain now bite you. Then if you say, non-violence, non-violence and compassion…

Hana Gartner: You get bitten!

Dalai Lama: That's kind of foolish! You have to take use of self-defence. But without harming, without serious harming another, I think that's the way I feel. If someone try to shoot on you, then there is no possibility to run away, then you have to hit back. Then possibly not on head, but leg or something like that. So that's not serious hit back, but more lenient way, more gentle way.

I found an excellent article on this issue by Roger Corless in which he said:

At the moment that the being is our enemy we may have no choice but to kill our former friend, but we will kill with regret and compassion for someone who has, as it were, become temporarily insane and does not recognize us.

However one of the Buddha's sermons says flat out that violence is wrong:

Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching.
Kamcupamasutta, Majjhima-Nikkaya I ~ 28-29

The Buddha was quite clear in his renunciation of violence: "Victory creates hatred. Defeat creates suffering. The wise ones desire neither victory nor defeat... Anger creates anger... He who kills will be killed. He who wins will be defeated... Revenge can only be overcome by abandoning revenge... The wise seek neither victory nor defeat."

After waging many wars, Emperor Asoka was so moved by sayings such as these that he converted to Buddhism and became the model for later Buddhist kings. Buddhism retreated from India, China, Vietnam, and other countries rather than involve its believers in armed struggles to preserve itself. Again, this illustrates the strengths and the weaknesses of Buddhism.

**James's Comment:
So, I think that some violence is o.k. when self-defense is in danger but even then you should only go for the kill as the VERY last resort. Instead, shoot or go for the head. Rather, incapacitate the attacker by going for the legs or arms. I also gather from the Dalai Lama's comments that he suggests that violence is necessary when world democracy (or the very roots of Buddhism) is threatened such as during WWI, WWII. I think that "Right Action" sometimes means doing the difficult thing such as defending democracy in WWI and WWII via war. I believe though that war should be the very, VERY last resort and that this war in Iraq is an unjustified war in that regard. However, at the same time I recognize that advocating any violence is a like walking a thin, razor line. Also, hate, retaliation, revenge only continues the cycle of violence. The emphasis on non-violence in Buddhism seems to be at once a great strength and a great weakness at the same time. From the Buddhist point of view, the end result is less important than the way we work with it.

However.

Let me leave you with these words from Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

Before the end of the Vietnam War, I asked Venerable Thich Nhah Hanh whether he would rather have peace under a communist regime that would mean the end of Buddhism or the victory of democratic Vietnam with the possibility of Buddhist revival, and he said that it was better to have peace at any price. He told me that preserving Buddhism does not mean that we should sacrifice people's lives in order to safeguard the Buddhist hierarchy, monasteries, or rituals. Even if Buddhism as such were extinguished, when human lives are preserved and when human dignity and freedom are cultivated toward peace and loving kindness, Buddhism can be reborn in the hearts of human beings.

**James: So my question to you is what do we do when faced with the choice of violence or death? Violence or the destruction of this world? Violence of the destruction of Buddhism?

-Peace to us all-

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Firefox Error

Thanks Tom for helping me with the firefox issue. Let me know if I fixed it.

-Peace to us all-

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Beautiful Sunday Prayer for All

May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.

May we not be seperated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.

May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.

What you think upon grows...

Have a Smooth Day!

~Ryan Burda BigHappyBuddha.com

P.S.~I would highly recommend the Korean movie, "Way Home." We watched it last night and it was a great film that spoke about patience and interdependence. Also, over at my other blog Genius Of Insanity I talk about a new environmental organization that I have found, The Rainforest Action Network.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Incense

I find the smell of incense to be so relaxing and cleansing. Whenever I feel as though I have a block in my mind to mindfulness or when I am feeling judgemental I light a stick of incense and allow the smell to marinate in my mind. I picture it cleansing my negative thoughts and then cleansing my home to stimulate a better environment. There are times too when I feel too edgy to sit and meditate in the formal fashion. In those times I light a stick of incense and think upon mindfulness every time I catch a whiff of the sweet smell. I also see incense as an offering of peace and serenity to the world and imagine the wonderful smell reaching many people.

I often think that incense is over looked amongst Western Buddhists especially. We just light it when we meditate because that is the ritual but I think it is very important to meditate upon why we light it. I really enjoy the process of lighting the incense and welcoming it's sweet smell to fill the space of our home.

-Peace to us all-

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Collecting Pieces of Information

We should not merely expend all our energy collecting pieces of information, but make an effort to experience their validity through insight in our daily life.

-Geshe Rabten, in Advice From a Spiritual Friend

Copyright Wisdom Publications 2001. Reprinted from "Daily Wisdom: 365 Buddhist Inspirations," edited by Josh Bartok. Reprinted with permission by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm St., Somerville MA 02144 U.S.A, www.wisdompubs.org.

James's Comment: In other words, avoid spiritual materialism. This is an obstacle that I often come across.

I LOVE to learn but often times I find myself reading books instead of actually sitting on the cushion to meditate. It is sometimes easy for me to get "caught up" with ideas in my "mind" instead of just breathing or going for a mindful walk to take in the fluid aspect of nature.

At times my "mind" attempts to make the teachings of the Buddha a lot more complicated then they really are. Concentrating on knowing a bunch of information gleened from the suttras and books written by noble teachers. I catch myself memorizing "teachings" in hopes of being more "Buddhist."

As if I am trying to prove to myself and others that I am indeed a valid "Buddhist" (Whatever a "Buddhist" is anyway). In the beginning I was fascinated with Buddhism and saw it as an "exotic" religion. I quickly, however, had to realize that Buddhism is much more then just wearing a mala, chanting some mantras and burning incense. At the same time, however, I had to realize that is was nothing special and quite simple.

This was finding the middle way. I crashed through the forests of "spiritual materialism" for awhile and then crossed the stream to crash through the forests of nihilism before I finally just sat down in the middle of the stream, relaxed and let the current take me along.

I still struggle with falling into extremes but I am trying to spend more time now just breathing and being at one with change. Riding the waves of existence and clinging to nothing.

P.S.~I am slowly wading through a "book" ironically about "spiritual materialism" but it is excellent. It is Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

-Peace to us all-

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Have Few Possessions

Knowing how to feel satisfied with few possessions destroys desire and greed. This means being content with material conditions that allow us to be healthy and strong enough to practice the way.

Knowing how to feel satisfied with few possessions helps us to avoid buying unecessarily and becoming part of an economic system that exploits others, and it enables us to decrease our involvement in the pollution of the environment.

-Thich Nhat Hanh Commentary
The Sutra of the Eight Realizations of the Great Beings

**James's Comment: This is a good teaching for "pack rats" like myself and my wife. We save the little's things that we NEVER end up using. We clutter up the house and I totally see how it how it unecessarily clutters up our spiritual paths. However, we do not throw a lot of it away (if we can). Rather we like to donate it to the local thrift stores in hopes that someone can benefit from the clothes/stuff.

As for being part of an economic system that avoids exploiting others, well, that is difficult but not impossible. I wear Nike shoes and want to get rid of them after watching the brilliant documentary, The Corporation. However, what shoe isn't made over seas in sweat shops? It seems like all the stores that Westerners have to shop from are owned by giant, exploitive corporations. Where do we all go to shop? Are there stores out there that are not expensive, exploitative shops? We want to shop from stores that avoid exploitation but the costs are so high and we are so poor. I guess it really comes back to saying, "Do I really need this? And if so, where can I go to buy products that are sensible yet affordable?

I'm just kind of sounding off for myself but I am also asking how all of you avoid buying "Nike" and "Wal-Mart," etc.

Where do you shop?

-Peace to us all-

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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Insight on Liberation

By meditating on no-self, we can break through the barrier between self and other. When we are no longer seperate from the universe, a completely harmonious existence with the universe is created. We see that all other human beings exist in us and that we exist in all other beings. We can see that the past and the future are contained in the present moment, and we can penetrate and be completely liberated from the cycle of birth and death

-Thich Nhat Hanh
The Sutra on the Eight Great Realization of Great Beings

James's Comment: When I have moments like this there truly is no thought of birth and death. No thought of anything. Existence and non-existence are as equally beautiful. Balance in all things. Those are some of my humble thoughts on it anyway.

-Peace to us all-

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Democrats Voted Out of Church

This from USA Today:

Members of the small East Waynesville Baptist Church say Chandler led an effort to kick out congregants who didn't support President Bush. Nine members were voted out at a Monday church meeting in this mountain town, about 120 miles west of Charlotte.

"He's the kind of pastor who says do it my way or get out," said Selma Morris, the former church treasurer. "He's real negative all the time."

The station also reported that 40 others in the 400-member congregation resigned in protest after Monday's vote.

**B.B. Comment: It's nice to know that some people saw the danger in the pastor's comments and actions and left this so called "church."

During the presidential election last year, Chandler told the congregation that anyone who planned to vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry should either leave the church or repent, said former member Lorene Sutton.

Some church members left after Chandler made his ultimatum in October, Morris said.

The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party sharply criticized the pastor Friday, saying Chandler jeopardized his church's tax-free status by openly supporting a candidate for president.

"If these reports are true, this minister is not only acting extremely inappropriately by injecting partisan politics into a house of worship, but he is also potentially breaking the law," Chairman Jerry Meek said.

**B.B. Comment: So much for seperation of church and state I guess.


-Peace to us all-

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Friday, May 06, 2005

Rain Buddha.


I just LOVE the smell of upcoming rain. A small storm passed through town this afternoon. I was driving around in my lil' beetle with the windows open enjoying the cool breeze and the smell of rain. It was such a peaceful moment and as I breathed in the rain I breathed in fresh, clean air and it nourished the Buddha within. Breathing out it touched the Buddha in everyone else.

By the way, I did not take that picture but in it I see all existence.

*SIGH*

-Peace to us all- Posted by Hello

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Hammering and Lawnmower Meditation

I just finished an afternoon meditation and some of the most unsuspecting and seemingly uninspiring noises taught me to listen more deeply and touch peace in any moment.

I was meditating and concentrating on my breath when I heard someone in my triplex hammering methodically. At first I was annoyed and it distracted me from my meditation but then I concentrated on the sound and meditated upon it. Soon I realized that this hammering was not hammering at all but the beating of my very precious heart. With that deeper, more mindful realization I was able to relax with the sound and realize that it was a comforting sound and not the negative sound I first thought.

What changed?

My perception changed to one more mindful and I was able to put the teaching of interconnectivity into motion and realize a deeper mindfulness.

Soon the hammering stopped and I was unaware when from the moment it was sounding like my beating heart to the moment that it went silent. The hammering sounded just as sweet and relaxing as the silence.

Then I heard a lawnmower and initially thought the same annoyance as with the hammering. Then I concentrated upon the noise and heard the sound of a purring kitten and could not help but relax and smile. The lawnmower was teaching me that every sound is a good sound. Not only that but the sound kept changing depending on how far away the lawnmower was in relation to the range of my hearing. This was a reminder to me that everything changes and yet stays the same. It is our placing a value on the change which often makes us the most fearful of it.

If we can see change as a gift then we can live more mindfully and liberated.


-Peace to us all-

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Be Full of Love

Putting down all barriers, let your mind be full of love. Let it pervade all the quarters of the world so that the whole wide world, above, below, and around, is pervaded with love. Let it be sublime and beyond measure so that it abounds everywhere.

-Digha Nikaya

From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Monday's picture a Day Late


The Master Posted by Hello

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Change

The Daily Om:

May 3, 2005
Gains In Losses
Making Space For Change:

We want certain things to change in our lives, but we fear changes that we don't want. Sometimes we fear changes that we do want, because the familiar is more comfortable than the visionary, and because life is a three-dimensional, interconnected puzzle; if you change one thing, everything else shifts, too, often in unpredictable ways.


This is a great quote for me to remember right now in my life because we are going to try to have kids and a lot about that makes me nervous. I wonder and fear too much that I will be an adequate father, etc. I have to remember though that change is inevitable and change might seem difficult at first but the more we let go the more we can see the good in change. At least that is how I see it.

P.S.-I'm taking any advice on how to be a good father.

-Peace to us all-

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Mindful Politics

There is a section of articles in my new Mindfulness Bell magazine titled, "Mindful Politics." All of the articles were wonderful and insightful but one in particular caught my attention.

It is titled, "Now is The Time for Engaged Buddhist Practice" by Larry Ward and I wanted to share some of this article with you. When he refers to America just substitute your country (or just humanity in general since country borders are really an illusion) if you're not American:

I invite all of us as individuals and Sanghas to meditate on America's karma.

To look into America's actions at this moment of history is to encounter many emotions, pleasant, unpleasant, and mixed. I have found it important to enjoy a mindful walk or cup of tea in noble silence, and not to try to take in too much at once. I have learned that if I make such an inquiry without practicing concentration and awareness of emptiness, signlessness, and aimlessness, it is very easy to get trapped by wrong views. (B.B. Comment: This is great advice for me as sometimes I get too emotional about politics and allow myself to become over-whelmed with anger.)

We have come through another Presidential election season. I find that seeds of fear, confusion, power, and divisiveness have been profoundly watered in us all. Engaged Buddhism is not zendo-only Buddhism. It is the continuous act of coming home to ourselves and come home to America.

In and effort to participate in American society, many of us simply substitute the most familiar or latest politically correct ideology. Sometimes we protest the warlike behavior of America with a sense of our own rightness while we remain at war with ourselves, our families, our Sanghas, our communities, and our country.

While America has negative qualities, she also have positive ones. It is my responsibility to manifest her hope and promise in my own life and the life around me. It is my opportunity to look into her suffering and the causes of her suffering in order to find relief.

The trees outside my window are turning brilliant colors as they let go of their summer's diguise. We too must let go of outdated disguises of opinions, positions, judgements, and habits in order to free ourselves to give America true understanding, true peace, and true love.

-Peace to us all-

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Buddha Within, Buddha Without

My feet softly follow the footsteps of the Buddha and I realize that my feet are not different then those of the Great Buddha.

I breath in the sweet oxygen in the air and realize that it is the same oxygen which filled the lungs of the Buddha.

I bow to the trees that I pass knowing that they are Buddhas too.

I smile as the birds sing knowing that they are singing the song of the Buddhas.

This body contains the Great Buddhas of impermance as well as the entire Universe.

Everything is united into one body as consciousness ebbs and flows like the tides of the great oceans.

Everything is empty and therefore more precious then the largest diamond.

Awake and realize your True Nature of freedom.

-James


-Peace to us all-

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