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Friday, October 27, 2006

The Cup Analogy on Diverse Religions

James: The following Q and A is from, "A Basic Buddhism Guide" on Buddhanet. This is a great analogy to help explain the Buddhist attitude toward other religions.

Question
You certainly think highly of Buddhism. I suppose you think your religion is right and all the others are wrong.

Answer
No Buddhist who understands the Buddha's teaching thinks that other religions are wrong. No one who, has made a genuine effort to examine other religions with an open mind could think like that either. The first thing you notice when you study the different religions is just how much they have in common. All religions acknowledge that mankind's present state is unsatisfactory. All believe that a change of attitude and behavior is needed if the human situation is to improve. All teach an ethics that includes love, kindness, patience, generosity and social responsibility and all accept the existence of some form of Absolute. They use different languages, different names and different symbols to describe and explain these things; and it is only when they narrow-mindedly cling to their one way of seeing things that religious intolerance, pride and self-righteousness arise. Imagine an Englishman, a Frenchman, a Chinese and an Indonesian all looking at a cup. The Englishman says, "That's a cup." The Frenchman answers, "No it's not. It's a tasse." The Chinese comments, "You're both wrong. It's a pet." And the Indonesian laughs at the others and says "What fools you are. It's a cawan." The Englishman gets a dictionary and shows it to the others saying, "I can prove that it is a cup. My dictionary says so." "Then your dictionary is wrong," says the French- man "Because my dictionary clearly says it is a tasse." The Chinese scoffs at them. "My dictionary is thousands of years older than yours, so my dictionary must be right. And besides, more people speak Chinese than any other language, so it must be a pet." While they are squabbling and arguing with each other, a Buddhist comes up and drinks from the cup. After he has drunk, he says to the others, "Whether you call it a cup, a tasse, a pet or a cawan, a cup is meant to be used. Stop arguing and drink, stop squabbling and refresh your thirst." This is the Buddhist attitude to other religions.

~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

There is No Name



No "I,"
No "mine."
He knows there is nothing.
All his inner desires have melted away.
Whatever he does,
He does nothing.
His mind has stopped working!
It has simply melted away...
And with it,
Dreams and delusions and dullness.
And for what he has become,
There is no name.

-Ashtavakra Gita 17:19-20
~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Buddhism and Mental Health. Vote!!

I have a great opportunity to ask a question of a Buddhist psychologist/author in an online interview with Tricycle Buddhist Review and Zooleo. The subject is the link between Buddhism and psychology. The deal is that people post a question and others can "boost" it (basically vote for it) and the most popular questions will get answered in the online interview.

Here is my question:

"What does Buddhism say about "mental illness" and why does it occur in people? Is it considered a biological condition as it is in the West or not?

And is it seen as an issue of burning off negative karma?"

So this is where you come in. :)
I need people to go to this forum and "boost" (vote) my post (you'll see a number to the right of my question with the words "boost it" under the number. Just click on the "boost it wording" after you register and it should count the vote!). I've really been searching for the Buddhist perspective to "mental illness" and this is a great opportunity to get some of those answers. You don't have to do much but register with this online Buddhist forum. It's not a difficult registration.

All you have to do is enter in a username a password and an email address
and then you vote! My question is #21. I would really, really appreciate this help.

If you don't feel that you can do it
or don't want to then NO WORRIES.

However, if you CAN and DO have a few minutes then that'd be AWWWWWEEEESSSSOOOOMMMMMEEEE!!!!

CLICK HERE FOR THE LINK.

It looks like right now my question is at the top of the question list so that should help you find it. :O)

Thanks again for your help. Let me know if you have any questions or if my directions seem confusing. :) And if you have any insight to this question I'd love to hear it!

~Namaste~

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Great Tao


The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born from it,

yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into its work,

yet it makes no claim.

It nourishes infinite worlds,
yet it doesn't hold onto them.

Since it is merged with all things
and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.

Since all things vanish into it
and it alone endures, it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness;

thus it is truly great.

-Tao Te Ching

James: This is my favorite passage from the Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching (and Taoist thought in general) greatly influences my spiritual path. I read it on a regular basis and always find new things in this great book.

PHOTO: Lou Zi statue from a Taoist temple at Wu Yi mountain in Fu Jian province, China. Photo credit

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

India's "Untouchables" Turn to Buddhism.


By Justin Huggler, The Independent, October 13, 2006


New Delhi, India -- Across India this month, thousands of Hindus from the former Untouchable castes are converting to Buddhism in protest at the continuing discrimination they face. Mass conversion ceremonies are being held throughout the month, from Delhi in the north, to Hyderabad in the south. Organisers are claiming that more than 100,000 people have already converted.

Conversion is a highly charged political issue. Several states have passed laws this year making it harder to convert, and the mass ceremonies will infuriate Hindu nationalist parties that have been campaigning to stop lower caste Hindus changing their religion.


"These people are converting as a protest," says Sakya Ponnu Durai, one of the organisers of the mass conversion ceremonies. But Mr Durai, a Dalit who himself converted two years ago, says he has wholeheartedly become a practising Buddhist. "After converting, I have much more satisfaction," he says. This year several states, including Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, have introduced laws that anyone wishing to convert will have to obtain official permission first. Gujarat, home to some of the most hardline Hindu groups, has introduced a more controversial law under which Buddhism is considered part of Hinduism.

In a separate rally this weekend, not connected to the conversion ceremonies, thousands of Dalits plan to burn the new laws.

Hindu nationalist parties are unhappy with the large numbers of lower-caste Hindus converting, not only to Buddhism but also Christianity.

James: Let us rejoice for these new friends who have newly entered the stream and fully embrace them with open, loving arms. There is no one untouchable or unreachable by the Dharma. All are welcome. May clarity, softening of the mind and right action come to the minds of the hardline Hindus that they will allow all Indians to choose the religion of their choice (or no religion if they choose).

In news from the homefront we are receiving our first snow of the season. The beautiful soft flakes melt on impact as I smile. A snow storm is such a magical, wonderful sight. I really enjoy the quiet spell that snow casts down upon us. Snowfall is such a wonderful gift and seems to be nature's way of saying "Slow down and watch the show friend." Nature's television programs and movies.

I stepped out into the cold air to snatch up the mail from the box and watched my hot breath escape and quickly blend into the cold air. "What a lovely expression of interconnectivity and impermanence" I remember thinking.

I refilled the bird feeder, left some peanuts out for Mr or Mrs Squirrel and I am now comfortably inside the warm heart of my home about to drink a lovely cup o' tea. How grateful I am that I have a warm roof over my head, tea to drink and food to eat. I am humbled by these blessings. May I use the positive energy of these blessings to pass blessings on to everyone I touch.

~Peace to all beings-

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

What Does it Mean to be Mindful?

What does it mean to be mindful? It means to be fully aware right here, concentrating on what is going on inside. . . . Mindfulness is not necessarily concentrating on an object. Being aware of confusion is also being mindful. If we have all kind of things coming at our senses--noises, people demanding this and that--we cannot concentrate on any one of them for very long. But we can be aware of the confusion, or the excitement, or the impingement; we can be aware of the reactions in our own minds. That is what we call being mindful.

--Ajahn Sumedho, in Teachings of a Buddhist Monk
from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book.

James: This is one of the best descriptions of mindfulness that I have read. It shows me that I shouldn't feel inadequate for feeling confusion. That I shouldn't feel that I'm not being mindful because I'm experiencing confusing emotions. That mindfulness isn't only for when we are experiencing "good" emotions and experiences. How wonderful this teaching!!

Experiencing confusion can be a constructive occurence when we embrace it with mindfulness. This is such a beautifully simple teaching and yet I have been seeing past it's simplicity for some time now. As usual I've been making it too hard. Seeing past the obvious not believing that it would be that simple to understand. There is a part of me that wants to make Buddhist teachings more esoteric then true wisdom, mindfulness and right view reveal. It's interesting how one can read all kinds of talks and teachings about a subject but not grasp its core until it is worded a certain way where it breaks through the snares of one's ego. One explanation may hit home for someone but not for someone else.

One has to experience the Dharma teachings for themselves to gain a testimony of right wisdom.

Then again I'm no expert on the Dharma nor Buddhism.

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Make Mine Red.

Bono and others are launching a campaign to help HIV/AIDS victims in Africa called (Red). (Click the link of go to www.joinred.com). There is also a blog: (Blog) Red

Here's the gist of the campaign:
A number of companies have teamed together to donate a portion of the sales of their "red products" to The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. There are red credit cards, red shoes (I am going to buy a pair of the Converse Red shoes), red fashion brands, red phones, etc. And as the website says:

No, this does not mean they are all red in color. Although some are.


Go to the website join red to read more about the campaign and products.

As some of you know I lived in Cote D'Ivoire, West Africa (Cote D'Ivoire is the official name. It's French or Ivory Coast in English) for 2 plus years and have a deep connection and bond to the African people. They are a proud and beautiful people who need our help. I saw first hand the terrible effects of HIV/AIDS there.

6,500 Africans die EACH DAY from AIDS!!!!!!!

Please consider buying one (or more) of these (RED) products to help fight the HIV/AIDS scourge.

Thanks for reading this and if you feel you can not afford to buy any of these products please pass this information on to someone you feel might be interested.

Respect.

(PHOTO): Beautiful kids in Ghana, West Africa.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hearing the Ocean in my Dish Washer.


I sat down to meditate
this afternoon and
was immediately distracted
by the dish washer
roaring in the background.

I breathed deeply,
however, and soon I was letting myself
be in the moment.

Settling into mindfulness
I was able to think about
the dish washer and what it was doing
and not just the noise it was making.

Then I focused on the interconnectivity
of all things and my concentration floated
back to the dish washer--
this time with new ears and awareness.

I had the realization that without the noise
I would not have clean dishes!!
I smiled and thanked the dish washer
(and the noise) in helping me live an easier life.

My mental formation was, "What a great invention" rather then, "That machine is so noisey. I hate the dish washer."

What a difference mindfulness brings to ones state of mind.

A few deep breaths later I began to hear something beautiful
in the noise. It sounded just like the waves of an ocean
crashing onto a rocky beach!! I settled into that image
and soon my breath was in sink with the in's and out's of the waves.

It was so nice to meditate along a beach this afternoon.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Happy Continuation Day Thay!!

James: Thanks to Natasha for reminding us of Thich Nhat Hanh's birthday (or continuation day as he reminds us). He is 80 years old today!! He is quite the patriarch but then again he is also a lovely, innocent child. He is all beings yet none at the same time as are we all.

He is as a lotus in full bloom. Shining with the radiance of pure, peaceful, mindful Oneness. His Buddha-nature has brought so much to so many people.

I thank him deeply for bringing the Dharma torch to a new generation and for passing a part of that fire to me so that it lit a fire in my heart. He set me on my path and continues to hold my hand as I move along it. Offering words of comfort and guidance as I stumble. May he feel all of our gratitude on this great day that we celebrate his presence.

In closing I would like to quote Thay (pronounced tie) on celebrating one's "continuation day:"

On your birthday, it is advisable that you don't sing, 'Happy Birthday,' but instead you sing, "Happy Continuation Day." You have been here, you don't know since when. You have never been born and you are not going to die, because to die means from someone you suddenly became no one. From something, you suddenly became nothing. Nothing is like that. Even when you burn a piece of cloth, it will not become nothing. It will become the heat that penetrates into the cosmos. It will become smoke that rises into the sky to become part of a cloud. it will become some ash that falls to the ground that may manifest tomorrow as a leaf, a blade of grass, or a flower. So there is only continuation. (From his book, "Going Home")

James: As Thay says, we are the continuation of the Buddha.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Autumn Observations.

It has been a lovely, deary, over-cast, rainy past two days. There is a chill of change in the body and I welcome it with open arms. Change always brings new opportunities, new vistas and lessons to grow. A beautiful gift of new beginnings.

Dew shines all over the front juniper hedge as if diamonds where attached to every little, green, node of every branch. The birds fluff their feathers out to battle the chilly air and huddle around the bird feeder. They are so determined to keep their energy and body heat up that they barely spook or notice when walking in front of the window. Their chirping is reduced to little peeps and I smile with how cute that is to my ears. They are such delicate, precious creatures that are no more or no less important then the largest whale or elephant. It is my honor and responsibility to offer them food as I have taken vows of compassion and kindness towards all creatures.

Golden colored leaves have decended to rest in the grasp of the pine green hedge creating a relaxing yin and yang color contrast. The leaves are falling in a gentle dying process where they will become compost for gardens in the spring. New life will spring from their demise and the well known cycle of this life will continue. Pumpkins are born when most fruits and vegetables have long shriveled up and died. A beautiful, orange, plump reminder that events will unfold in their own time and there is no use clutching them and trying to control their karmic DNA. Such prideful action only leaves us tired, frustrated and unbalanced.

Isn't autumn wonderful?!!

Breathing in, I take in the peace of the moment. Breathing out I realize the impermanence of the peaceful moment.

PHOTO CREDIT: Autumn in Denali National Park.

~Peace to all beings

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Enlightenment is found in the garbage can too.

Know the good and the bad in travelling or in living in one place. You don't find peace on a hill or in a cave; you can travel to the place of the Buddha's enlightenment, without coming any closer to enlightenment. The important thing is to be aware of yourself, wherever you are, whatever you're doing. Viriya, effort, is not a question of what you do outwardly, but just the constant inner awareness and restraint.

-The Venerable Ajahn Chah

James: It's easy for us to see enlightenment in the silent monasteries, serene monks, rainbows, the smile of a baby and the days when everything is going our way. That is the easy part. Our practice and the hard work is necessary so that we can see enlightenment in heavy traffic, a dirty sink or a grumpy co-worker. That balance of enlightenment comes with deep awareness of the present moment and a radical acceptance that life is what it is regardless of what we think is life.

We think we know what life is but really it is what we think life should be. Often we think that enlightenment is reached by concentrating during meditation on eliminating all the noise, depression, anxiety and bad feelings because those don't fit our definition of enlightenment, peace or meditation either. Well the jokes on us so we might as well smile and laugh. This is it. Right now. That annoying sound the fridge makes as well as the lovely chanting of venerable monks. The trick is that when the squeaky fridge kicks in that we recognize the sound, let it go by recognizing it to be impermanent and be grateful that we even have a fridge and ears to hear the sweaking. The moment is now for this moment is all that we have and it's a great gift--regardless of where it finds us.

~Namaste~

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Introducing Flickr Photo Badge.


I set up a Flickr photo badge on my side bar (it's the photo shifting box just above the Babal fish box). Anyway, you can click on it and look at all my Buddhist related pictures on my Flickr account.

Namaste. _/I\_

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT: Found on rk9555's Flickr page. It is such a beautiful picture. One of my favorites.

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Friday, October 06, 2006

The Internet or Meditation? Meditation.

Got up this morning and once again gave into my habit energy to check my email before meditating but ran into a problem. My connection was down and I couldn't fix it. I tried all the usual fixes but still nothing. I was getting frustrated. Then it dawned on me. MEDITATE YOU FOOL!!! It was an "ah hah" moment. So instead of getting more and more rapped up in foolishly trying to change the impermance of computer connections and getting more and more upset and thus loosing my peacefulness--I plopped down on the cushion.

It was as if Avalokiteshvara was gently reminding me that the only answer to this (or any) "problem" was to sit, meditate and relax. Give yourself some time to calm down and settle back into the moment. True awareness of the world realizes a life that is always peaceful whether I am having connection problems or whatever. Peace is available always if we relax enough to let go of our miopic vision and see that peace through the shifting clouds. Easier said then done but well worth it.

OH!! And I had my own bird moment while meditating!! I rather enjoyed as it reminded me of the silly nature of life. I laughed as the bird called out his unique call. He/she was talking to me and telling me jokes. How could I not laugh?!! ;)

And the internet connection? It was up and strong after I was done with my meditation. I am learning a greater patience with each moment. I am so very grateful for the path of the Dharma that the Buddha laid out and the endless compassion of Avalokiteshvara.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Laughter is Great Medicine for Eroding Away our Self-Obsession.

From a talk by Ajahn Sumedho titled, "Who We Really Are:"

Now one of the big problems in meditation is that we can take ourselves too seriously. We can see ourselves as religious people dedicated towards serious things, such as realising truth. We feel important; we are not just frivolous or ordinary people, going about our lives, just going shopping in the supermarket and watching television. Of course this seriousness has advantages; it might encourage us to give up foolish activities for more serious ones. But the process can lead to arrogance and conceit: a sense of being someone who has special moral precepts or some altruistic goal, or of being exceptional in some way, having come onto the planet as some kind of messiah.

It's a kind of pride that can make human beings lose all perspective; so we need humour to point to the absurdity of our self-obsession.

James: I laugh a lot when I meditate. Especially when that sneeky ego creeps in with the spiritual materialism of smugness, arrogance and pride of feeling like I'm something special because I am meditating, beause i'm a "Buddhist" or feeling like I "get it." As if there is something to "get" (shakes head and chuckles). More like there is something to lose. Namely that very ego that wants us to acquire.

So I agree that laughter is a great way to "point out the absurdity of our self-obsession" as Ajahn says. A good belly laugh is a very powerful tool to blow out the cobwebs of the ensnaring ego. I firmly believe that without laughter one can not make much progress along any spiritual path.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Noise and Meditation.

I closed the laptop and decided to meditate. Not more then a few seconds after making this decision I heard a loud humming noise break the silence across the street. Upon further investigation I discovered that a carpet cleaning truck was operating at the appartment complex there. The next thing I knew I was saying to myself, "Oh no. Now I can't meditate with that annoying humming going on!!" However, on the heels of that statement came a thought to remind me of what I had just been taught a day earlier via an online dharma talk I heard by Ajahn Amero of the Abhayagiri monastery.

The talk was titled, "Abiding in the Refuges." At the beginning of the talk Ajahn spoke of one of his fellow monks who was on retreat in a lovely, secluded location with a beautiful, humble cabin to reside within. It was dusk as this monk settled into meditation when he heard this bird. The bird put up quite a racket for the rest of the night and interrupted his perfectly serene moment.

Isn't that like life said the monk to Ajahn Amero. Just when we think that we have everthing the way that we want it, something comes along and "messes everything up."

Remembering this story I set out to meditate realizing that there is never a perfect moment to meditate or a perfect anything. I started my session with a reflection of impermanence. Breathing in I recognize the hair on my head. Breathing out I realize the impermanence of of the hair on my head--and so on.

Then I focused on the humming noise and said to myself, "breathing in I realize the humming noise, breathing out I realize the impermanence of the humming noise." I was accepting the noise and allowing it to just sound--not judging it or fighting its presence. I was realizing the interconnectivity of sounds as I heard the birds at our feeder chirping away their beautiful song at the same time as the truck was humming away. Neither is any better or worse then the other. All sounds have the same value as any other. It is us who judge them as annoying or bothersome or good or soothing. Soon I was hearing the humming noise without any of my usual judgements and it began to sound as soothing as a kitten purring. And then just like that the humming stopped. Impermanence indeed. :)

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Guest House


Having some depression today so I am taking refuge in this poem by Rumi which was brought to my attention by irving in the comment section at Graceful Presence:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

- Rumi

~Peace to all beings~

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