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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Intentions of Karma


Often we get too caught up in trying to figure out our karma. This can be like "chasing the wind" as the Native Americans say and draw us up into the realms of the "hungry ghosts" rather then the realm of peace and tranquility.

I found a book online about the basics tenets and ethics of Buddhism that I found interesting. Especially the brief introduction to karma. Isn't it intriguing that the seemingly simplest books are the one's that often teach us the most?

It is titled, "Buddhist Ethics: A Very Short Introduction" by Damien Keown.

Here is the section right out of the book I found most enlightening:

Karmic actions are moral actions, and the Buddha defined karma by reference to moral choices and the acts consequent upon them. He stated, "It is intention (cetana), O monks, that I call karma; having willed one's actions through body, speech, or mind."

This makes more sense to me then the ignorant western view of karma being that of good and bad, black and white actions. Karma (to me) is more of a concept of shades of grey and varying degrees.

Let's say you have to lie to keep someone alive. Would that be good, negative or even neutral karma (thus no real effect)?? It seems to me that it would be neutral at the very least but maybe even good. Here again it is the intention behind your actions that seems to be most important. Would not the good intention of wanting to save a life be more important then the intention to mislead?

What do you think?

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Dalai Lama on Animals


The creatures that inhabit this earth-be they human beings or animals-are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

~His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

James's comment: Again a beautiful comment on the way to view animals as apart of ourselves. In this regard I see animals as if they are like our arm or our leg. They are apart of us in a very real way but they serve a different purpose being our arm. Whereas maybe a human friend or loved one is apart of us serving as a part of our heart or brain. Everything in existence is apart of ourselves and therefore serves different but very important roles in our lives.

I found this picture of HH to be very cute and fun. It's also nice to see the Dalai Lama not taking himself too seriously and having some fun with modern technology by leaning out a car window with a big, happy grin.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, October 28, 2005

Buddhism is Fluid in Nature


When ever Buddhism has taken root in a new land, there has been a certain variation in the style in which it is observed. The Buddha himself taught differently according to the place, the occasion and the situation of those who were listening to him.

~His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

James's coment: I think that this is a great quote and teaching to keep in mind as Buddhism adapts and takes hold in the west. There are some Buddhists who believe that American Buddhism is not real Buddhism but the Dalai Lama rejects this idea. Stating that the very nature of Buddhism and its success is it's ability to be rather flexible to new cultures and traditions.

This is also one of the main reasons to me that Buddhism is so soft, compassionate and beautiful.

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Helping Animals in Buddhism



James: I have read some information on being able to help animals have a good rebirth. Such as whispering mantras in their ears and capturing insects and releasing them outside.

Other things we can do is to live a vegetarian lifestyle and not pursue harmful vocations such being a butcher. Or engaging in harmful activities such as hunting animals. As Buddhists we realize that animals have been our mothers, fathers, children, lovers, friend, etc. to us in past lives so hurting them is really like hurting ourselves.

Another thing we can do is to adopt an animal as a pet from the animals shelters and care for them with great compassion and love.

The following is a beautiful example of Buddhists protecting wildlife:

Wat Phai Lom is a Buddhist temple not far from Bangkok which welcomes thousands of visitors from afar every year. The visitors are birds, open-billed storks. When residing at Wat Phai Lom during autumn and winter months, their droppings white-wash trees and temple buildings.

The monks do not mind, and bird-lovers celebrate the sight. Open-billed storks would be extinct in Thailand but for the fact their last remaining breeding ground is within the sanctuary of this temple.

James: One of the things that we do here at our house as well is that we have Tibetan prayer flags hanging above our front window. They face the bird feeder and it is our hope that the birds (and squirrels) will see the waving flags and absorb the good karma to help them suffer less and maybe have a good rebirth.

What do you think of doing things like this for animals? Does it help them? Perhaps is helps us more then the animals but I think it has some positive effects on them.

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Nirvana Will Come Later



I myself feel, and also tell other Buddhists that the question of Nirvana will come later. There is not much hurry. If in day to day life you lead a good life, honesty, with love, with compassion, with less selfishness, then automatically it will lead to Nirvana.

~His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

James's comment:
I remember when I first started to follow Buddhism I got too caught up in the concepts of "Nirvana" and "Enlightenment" instead of just sitting, breathing and watching. I am now more aware that these day to day activities open our eyes to the already existent state of Nirvana or Enlightenment. Stick to the basics and you can not go wrong in my opinion.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Attentiveness not Nihilism


Attentiveness is the path to true life;
Indifference is the path to death.
The attentive do not die;
The indifferent are as if they are dead already.

-Dhammapada

James's comment: Often Buddhism is seen as nihilism. However, I think that this quote from the Dhammapada helps show that it is not. It is rather non-attachment then nihilism. The middle way of neither attaching to or rejecting anything.

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Buddhism and Sitting with Depression


As some of you may know I have been diagnosed for awhile now with schizoaffective disorder. It is a brain disorder which combines symptoms of schizophrenia with symptoms of bipolar disorder. Often I can go from feeling on top of the world to the darkest, coldest hole of depression. I take 6 different medications that help a great deal but often I still have episodes despite them.

Well, yesterday was one of those days of being in that scary hole of depression and so I have been doing some research into how Buddhism helps us deal with depression. Here's some of what I have found.

The prevailing way to deal with depression in Buddhism seems to be meditating on compassion and and loving-kindness towards our depression. It is very easy for me to have compassion and loving-kindness toward others but often I forget to have compassion and love toward myself. This is probably one of the reasons that my physiological depression becomes worse with a lack of self-love and compassion.

So this morning I sat with my depression and just showed it love and compassion. I talked to it and told it that I understood it was warning me to "stop and listen." I told it that I loved it and thanked it for being so concerned about me and my life but that it could now go. I understood the lesson it was trying to teach me. I no longer needed it to fertilize the seeds of happiness that would soon grown and blossom out of the depression.

This worked very well as I could literally feel the heavy sorrow leave my shoulders and slowly drift and lift away like a dense fog. This is does not always work but it does indeed help us relax for a time and be at peace. Now, I do not for one minute want to convey that I am an expert on mood disorders or that meditation alone will "cure" depression. However, it is a powerful tool to add to our arsenal in dealing with such emotions.

I think some depression is very much brought upon ourselves for being somewhat selfish and egocentric. That is hard for me to swallow sometimes but I feel it to often to be true. Although most of my depression seems to come from my chemical imbalance I know that I make it worse by feeling selfish pitty for myself. As if somehow I am the only one who struggles with depression or that no one could really understand how much pain I was suffering. The truth is, however, that we have all been there at one time or another. Maybe not in the extremes of a chemical imbalance but enough to relate to it. In moments like these I often remind myself that others have it much worse then I do and I am then able to turn the depression into compassion for others who are suffering worse.

If you are going through depression right now in reading this post know that I have often been right where you are right now and that through meditation and sometimes medical treatment it can be very transformative.

You are not alone in your depression even though you feel like it. I am there with you in the dark sitting beside you with my arms around you. Lean on me and others until you can sit with it and see meditation as a light in the darkness, an island in a rough ocean.

-Peace to all beings-

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Violence Solves Nothing


Through violence, you may 'solve' one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.

~His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama

James's comment: This reminds me of the saying that, "In war no one wins."

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, October 17, 2005

We Must Work On Ourselves


If we divide into two camps--even into violent and the nonviolent--and stand in one camp while attacking the other, the world will never have peace. We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence within ourselves. We must work on ourselves and also with those we condemn if we want to have a real impact.

-Ayya Khema, "Be An Island"

James's comment: I am a passionate person and sometimes I allow those passions to push me off center. Especially when it comes to national and geo-political issues.

I often become so passionate about it that I become angry toward others without realizing the anger that it causes in myself and others around me. It only seems to upset my peace and cause me to suffer.

No progress can be made while allowing ourselves to become blinded by anger toward others because it usually only makes the other person suffer and become defensive.

I think a better way is to find peace within ourselves and lead by example while looking for common ground with our so called "enemies." Only then can we hope for coming together as a people to reduce the world's suffering.

I do feel, however, that some issues we must take a strong stance of opposition against or we will fall for anything as they say. However, we can find a common ground on most issues if we listen compassionately enough to the other side. Often times we would rather not even understand why a person is thinking differently then we do.

Again, another issue that is easier said then done but it is very much worth striving for. I am far from my goal on this issue but I think that being aware of the obstacle and having the desire to change is a huge step.

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Look For a Pathway to Reality


That people are unknowing does not mean that they are unknowing like cows or goats. Even ignorant people look for a pathway to reality. But, searching for it, they often misunderstand what they encounter. They pursue names and categories instead of going beyond that name to that which is real.

-Digha Nikaya

James's comment: Even "ignorant people" look for happiness and peace. No one wants to suffer but we make it so much harder on ourselves. Too often we get caught up in the concepts of Buddhism and the never ending philosophies of life instead of just flowing with mindfulness and the changes of life. I know that often I let my mind just chew away on questions and concepts that will never be answered as they are just "hungry, insatiable ghosts."

-Peace to all beings-

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Saturday, October 15, 2005


Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. What you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing.

~Ajhan Chah

James's comment: This is really a great teaching. Too often I try to become something via Buddhism. Whether that is a meditator or an enlightened being. This teaching reminds me of Thich Nhat Hanh's teachings on just being. "When you sit, let it be. What you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing." There is nothing to become because everthing we hope to become we already are. The trick I believe is to use tools such as meditation, walking, eating, breathing to remind ourselves of this truth and reality.

Just be.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, October 14, 2005

Your Mind Will Be Your Greatest Friend

If your mind becomes firm like a rock
And no longer shakes
In a world where everything is shaking,
Your mind will be your greatest friend
And suffering will not come your way.

-Theragatha

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Happiness Never Decreases by Being Shared


Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.

~Buddha

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Buddhism and Euthanasia


Euthanasia is a subject that many avoid but in today's modern world it is more relevant and something that needs to be discussed. I found a great article that discussed the pro's and con's of euthanasia in the Buddhist traditions:

Voluntary or Involuntary?

In discussing euthanasia, it is useful to distinguish between voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary euthanasia is when death is hastened with the consent of the dying person. Involuntary euthanasia - usually in situations such as brain-death, long-term coma - is when others (the family and/or the medical profession) decide to withdraw life-sustaining medical support. Euthanasia can be further divided between active and passive modes. Active is when something is done to actually hasten death - a lethal injection for example; passive is when life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn and nature therefore takes its course.

So how does Buddhism stand in relation to each of these?

Compassion

Buddhism places great emphasis on the significance of human life. Of the six realms of traditional Buddhist cosmology, the human realm offers the best opportunity for enlightenment. To take life - one's own or someone else's - is seen to be wrong, something outlined in the first precept which guides us to abstain from killing living beings. On both counts, euthanasia could be seen to be wrong. On the other hand, Buddhism places great emphasis on compassion (karuna). If someone is dying in terrible agony, would it be so wrong to hasten their death - especially with their consent? Would it not be, in fact, an act of compassion?

James: Ever since I began studying Buddhism I always agreed that "to take life - one's own or someone else's - is seen to be wrong." I have always agreed, hoever, with Involuntary euthanasia. However, in recents weeks and days I have really been debating this issue in my mind and I think that now I am much more open to the idea of voluntary euthanasia. For starters, what is so different between voluntary and involuntary means? Either way one's life is being taken via medicine. Anyway, my arguement FOR voluntary euthanasia can be summed up in the following quote from above:

On the other hand, Buddhism places great emphasis on compassion (karuna). If someone is dying in terrible agony, would it be so wrong to hasten their death - especially with their consent? Would it not be, in fact, an act of compassion?

James: It seems to me that the compassionate thing to do would be to allow individuals the choice of voluntary euthanasia so that they may make the decision, not doctors or family members. Now I think that a person should only have this option in the case of being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I do not advocate in using it just to "escape" at any age.

However, I digress.

How much suffering must one go through before our compassion allows them to pass on peacefully? What lessons can be learned in slowly watching yourself (or a loved one) die from cancer as you bleed from every orifice on your body or in spending months wracked in pain throughout your core? You might say that the terrible suffering teaches that suffering is inevitable but what if you have already learned this great teaching? Or, you might answer that modern drugs allow the patient to be quite comfortable during the dying process but I would argue then, "Isn't that already a form of voluntary euthanasia?"

If doctors are going to decide to drug a person up so that they are basically unconscious most of the time then what is the point of that?? What can the family learn from such a situation besides the unnecessary suffering of their loved one? I would think that the loved one's and family and friends would learn more by knowing ahead of time when the person was going to die and that way everyone could spend precious time with their loved one and exchange love and sincere feelings knowing that these would be their last days/hours/minutes with them. It would also allow everyone to arrange to be present upon the passing of the terminally ill person so that no one would have to go through unneccesary suffering by knowing that they missed the last minutes of their loved one's life.

In this regard, does not the terminally ill loved one fully rippen as a Bodhisattva in compassionately allowing their loved ones a chance to reduce their suffering by giving plenty of notice of their passing?

Then their is the issue of our beloved pets (who are often seen as members of the family). We allow pets to be put to sleep so that they might die with dignity and less suffering. It is done as well for us so that we might reduce our suffering in not seeing them needlessly suffer. What then is so different about humans? Yeah, I have heard the arguement that the human life is more precious then the animal life but is it really? Who do we think that we are to hold ourselves above any other creature? Sure we have a greater chance for enlightenment in a human form but that does not necessarily mean voluntary euthanasia flies against that concept. I think the too can go hand in hand. In following the middle path do we not avoid extremes and is not needless suffering going to an extreme??

Some might say that it creates negative karma to kill oneself but do we know that to be true? How many people have died and come back to say that voluntary euthanasia caused them great amounts of negative karma? Sure some things have to be accepted on faith but I think that the differences between postive or negative karma regarding euthanasia are razor thin. If done for the right reasons for eliminating unnecessay suffering then I think that perhaps the karma would in fact be very positive.

I see the point that human life offers great opportunity even in suffering through one's last days but is that really true? Can we say with 100% certainty that voluntary euthanasia is absolutely wrong in every case?? I think that if we are honest with ourselves then we can not say that is true.

And what about in the Jataka stories (stories of the Buddha's previous lives) where, as a Bodhisattva, the Buddha slits his own throat so that starving tiger cubs may feed off his blood? (The Hungry Tigress).

There was also the case of Vietnamese Buddhist monks in the 1960s who set themselves alight in protest against anti-Buddhist policies.

In the end I think we have to follow the Buddha's teachings to think for ourselves and not just blindly follow a teacher who says that "this" is good and "that" is bad. We all have to find our own path and in the end no one can walk it for us. And who knows? Maybe someone's karma IS to pass on via voluntary euthanasia to help family and loved ones understand certain concepts that could not be understood via a long, drawn out death? Or perhaps that person has suffered enough during their life from a crippling brain disorder or physical ailments and has already learned the lessons of suffering? We just don't know and can not say what each person should or should not do with their bodies in regards to a terminal illness.


Now I do not expect many of you to agree with me on this but I wanted to put it out there for you to at least think about and really challenge yourself on what do you actually believe in your heart. Do we follow the "letter of the law" or the "spirit of the law?"

You decide.

A Possible Perspective (James: I thought this sentence from the article was a great rap up of the issue).

Individual Buddhists will no doubt have different views on euthanasia.

James: I would also recommend reading a great post by my friend Nacho that touches on some of these issues. I especially appreicate the following point:

Besides, Buddhism prides itself in non-dogmatic attachment, even to so called Buddhist doctrine. Zen even more. Buddhists are not all equally bound to "scriptures," and Buddhists tend to heed practice more than rigid adherence to particular "sacred" texts or teachings. So, it would be wrong for me to declare the Buddhist response.

-Peace to all beings-

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Send Waves of Love

Let your love flow outward through the universe, To its height, its depth, its broad extent, A limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, Sit or lie down, As long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; Your life will bring heaven to earth.

~Sutta Nipata

(PICTURE: Japanese image of Avalokiteshvara. The Bodhisattva of Great Compassion).

-Peace to all beings-

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Freedom of Religion a Myth?


GINA HOLLAND
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court rejected an appeal on Tuesday from a Wiccan priestess angry that local leaders would not let her open their sessions with a prayer.

Instead, clergy from more traditional religions were invited to pray at governmental meetings in Chesterfield County, Va., a suburb of Richmond.

Simpson sued and initially won before a federal judge who said the county's policy was unconstitutional because it stated a preference for a set of religious beliefs.

Simpson lost at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the county had changed its policy and directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus.

Lawyers for Cynthia Simpson had told justices in a filing that most of the invocations are led by Christians. Simpson said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe."

The county (GOI: Government) "issues invitations to deliver prayers to all Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders in the country. It refuses to issue invitations to Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Wiccans, or members of any other religion," justices were told in her appeal by American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Rebecca Glenberg.

GOI: I don't get this decision on several points. First, This Simpson lady said she wanted to offer a generalized prayer to the "creator of the universe." She was clearly in keeping with the counties policy that "directed clerics to avoid invoking the name of Jesus."

Second, It seems obvious to me that the county should either allow a different religion to pray every time or not offer a prayer at all but then again maybe that makes too much sense. I just happen to be a Buddhist and I guess my religion is not a "traditional religion" despite the tradition of Buddhism being older then Christianity (scratches head).

---End of Transmission---

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Monday, October 10, 2005

People Are Just As They Are


Everything is as it is. It has no name other than the name we give it. It is we who call it something; we give it a value. We say this thing is good or it's bad, but in itself, the thing is only as it is. It's not absolute; it's just as it is. People are just as they are.

-Ajahn Sumedho, "The Mind and the Way"

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

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mindfulness and the Present Moment


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.

~Sylvia Boorstein

James's comment: Mindfulness is really the key to one's liberation in my mind. Receiving the present moment and not clinging or rejecting it sounds easy doesn't it? However, it really is quite difficult for us at times. We love to make things much harder for ourselves and cling and/or reject to the present moment because we get a pay off being a "victim." It feeds the ego and it only makes us less peaceful in the end.

-Peace to all beings-

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Friday, October 07, 2005

The Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing


“I am breathing in and liberating my mind. I am breathing out and liberating my mind.” One practices like this.

-The Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing, translated by Thich Nhat Hanh

From "Teachings of the Buddha," edited by Jack Kornfield, 1993. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, http://www.shambhala.com/.

James's comment: With every mindful breath we maintain peace and liberation. I like to even breath mindfully while I'm driving. I use to have A LOT of road rage but since embracing Buddhism and mindful breathing I have REALLY relaxed.

-Peace to all beings-

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Go From Place to Place in Peace


Hearing the above, another questioner, Jatukkani, asked: "Like the sun which controls the world with its heat and light, you, Master, seem to control desire and pleasure. I have only a little understanding. How can I find and know the way to give up this world of birth and aging?"

The Buddha answered: "Lose your greed for pleasure. See how letting go of the world brings deep tranquility. There is nothing you need hold on to and nothing you need push away. Live in the present but do not cling to it and then you can go from place to place in peace. There is a state of greed that enters and dominates the individual. But when that greed has gone, it is like poison leaving a body and death will have no more terror for you."

-Sutta Nipata

From "The Pocket Buddha Reader," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2001. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Be Able to Laugh at Oneself


This last weekend we were over at a friend's house and the topic of vegetarianism came up and we explained that we have been veggies for two and a half months now.

The guy of the couple smirked and said, "What's that joke about vegetarians? Vegetarians are the village idiots who were too dumb to figure out the hunting fish thing."

HA!!

I had to laugh.

Hope you can have a laugh with it too.

-Peace to all beings-

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Monday, October 03, 2005

Renunciation


Renunciation is not getting rid of the things of this world, but accepting that they pass away.

~Aitken Roshi

James's comment: This is a very true teaching to me that rings in my heart. Whenever I have been able to accept change in all things I have felt the infinite peace of liberation.

Have a great start to the week everyone!!

-Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Door Is Open


For those who are ready, the door
To the deathless state is open.
You that have ears, give up
The conditions that bind you, and enter in.

-Majjhima Nikaya

From "The Pocket Buddha Reader," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2001. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston, www.shambhala.com.

James's comment: Indeed. The door is always open to all of us for liberation from suffering and therefore death but often I allow my mind to get in the way and close the door for fear of what i "might" see. My mind creates images of demons and aweful suffering when in reality there is no "real" suffering. There is only peace, liberation and continuation.

-Peace to all beings-

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