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Monday, July 30, 2007

Atom Syndicated Feed Link Added. UPDATE: RSS Feed Added As Well

UPDATE: I have also added an RSS feed just below the atom feed on the bottom right side of the screen.

I have been pretty clueless as to syndicated feeds but I got an email from a reader wondering if I had one. Well, I have a FeedBlitz subscribe box but that's only for email subscription so I finally added the atom link down on the bottom right side of the blog screen. I hope that this helps those looking for my feed. Let me know if it isn't working and I'll work on it some more. Thanks!!

Enough business but all I have time for today is a quote without my usual commentary after. However, I don't think this quote needs much commentary:

Imagine a child sleeping next to its parents and dreaming it is being beaten or is painfully sick. The parents cannot help the child no matter how much it suffers, for no one can enter the dreaming mind of another. If the child could awaken itself, it could be freed of this suffering automatically. In the same way, one who realizes that his own Mind is Buddha frees himself instantly from the sufferings arising from [ignorance of the law of] ceaseless change of birth-and-death. If a Buddha could prevent it, do you think he would allow even one sentient being to fall into hell? Without Self-Realization one cannot understand such things as these.

--Bassui Tokusho Zenji

PHOTO: Black and white picture of the Buddha tattoo on my left fore arm with my antique bead mala from Destination Om: Custom Malas and Prayer Tools.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Candle of Inspiration

The glowing flickering light cuts through the darkness as the sharp diamond of the Dharma cuts through the blackness of delusion. It stands as a beacon--burning sharp and bright to remind me of the insight that comes from the pure awareness of mindfulness. Each time I look upon it I smile and remember to breath. I bow to the Buddha within the candle. Thank-you for this teaching and reminder. I stand humbled by the awesome yet peaceful nature of Oneness.

May all beings light a candle and feel its inspiring nature to help burn away attachments.

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO: This is my crystal stone candle holder.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cambodia Cracks Down on Evangelicals

Phnom Penh, Cambodia -- The Cambodian government has clamped down on Christian groups and is seeking to limit religious activities by other non-Buddhist organizations, which it says disrupt society.


A directive from the Ministry of Cults and Religions states that "Christians are prohibited from visiting people's houses ... knocking on the door and waiting to say 'the Lord has arrived'." Distribution of religious literature will also be confined to churches, which now must be approved by the ministry before they can be built. Government officials say while the ruling applies to all non-Buddhist groups, it is aimed at curbing Christian evangelical influence in largely Buddhist Cambodia, amid reports of children being tricked into converting with cakes and free clothing.

James: How quickly Cambodia forgot the repression the Buddhist faith suffered under the Communist Khmer Rouge--and now the dominate Buddhist country is doing it's own form of religious repression. This is just so sad. While I have my differences with Evangelical Christianity I do not support intolerance of other religions. I find it highly disappointing that a predominately Buddhist country would express such intolerance for another faith. I firmly believe that all beings should have the right to follow the religion (or no religion) of their choosing and I do not believe that limiting one's religious freedoms is in keeping with the Buddha's teachings.

In particular I think of the great teaching of inter-being. If we have truly internalized this teaching then we understand that limiting freedom of religion causes suffering to others and in turn causes us suffering for such division breeds hatred and bitterness between people. This elitist attitude completely violates the middle path that is key to the Buddhist faith. It is easy for one to fall into this kind of trap when one is focused purely on oneself. It represents a desire to control and own Buddhism and religion in general.

This kind of duality also shows a lack of understanding of impermanence. For if we honestly understand this very important principle then we realize that Buddhism may not always be the dominate religion in some countries--and that is o.k. Such change does not take away or diminish the Dharma's importance or beauty. Take for example India--the birth place of Buddhism. Buddhism began to dwindle there despite being the center of Buddhist beliefs and thought for generations--it was subject to change and as Buddhism diminished in India in moved to other areas of Asia. And now today we are seeing a revival of Buddhism in the long Hindu dominated country. It has been reborn.

I have found it more skillful, peaceful, compassionate and beneficial to rejoice in what we all have in common rather then in our perceived differences.

Buddhism is by no means immune to corruption and perversion of it's beautiful Dharma. May the Cambodian government realize the suffering this will cause and reverse their course.

PHOTO CREDIT: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Two Buddha Movies in the Pipeline

As many of you know, a major motion picture is in the works portraying the life of Siddhartha Gotama the Buddha. However, now there is a second one in the works.

The first film titled simply, Buddha is said to be in pre-production as of now, however, regular production is said to begin sometime this year. This is the movie whose script is based on Thich Nhat Hanh's book, Old Path White Clouds--which is fabulous book by the way. In addition, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has given his blessing to the project.

There is much discussion as to who should play the role of the awakened one. Names have been floated from Brad Pitt, Richard Gere to Naveen Andrews (Sayid from the hit American TV series, Lost). Personally I feel that the Great Buddha should be played by someone from the Indian subcontinent (my vote is for Naveen Andrews. UPDATE: (Andrews is of Indian descent but was born in England) which definitely leaves out Pitt and Gere. Andrews is pictured below--He has such kind eyes:
As for the Buddha's wife or mother I'd like to see Indian actress Aishwarya Rai cast in one of those roles:
Thankfully the director is taking the casting of the Tathagata (a name the Buddha used when talking of himself that ambiguously means, "one who has gone beyond) very seriously and is apparently working with Google to find the right person according to a 2006 article from The Buddhist Channel. I don't know how I missed this article until now--I check The Buddhist Channel news all the time:

He said a lot of people across the globe had shown interest in playing the role of the Buddha, but not one matched the image of the Buddha.

“A leading actor of the Japanese film industry has approached us for the role. But it was not an ideal match. We want to do the film in a way that it becomes a reference point for Buddhists and for mankind,” he said.

He made it clear that the hunt would be based on images of the Buddha generated by software engineers in Silicon Valley.

“The software engineers have come up with wonderful images based on history and other information available from various Buddhist societies. We need a face that fits those images. The character of the man who will play the Buddha is also important,” he added.

James
: I am pleased that he mentions the character of the actor to be just as important as the face. I think it shows on screen if an actor or actress's character fits the role.

Contemporary texts described the Buddha as one who radiated the eternal peace and “nirvana” that he had attained in his life, and one with perfect eyes, elongated ear-lobes and exquisite limbs.

James:
I sure hope that this films makes it to the theatres and isn't shelved. It seems that it will fly since it has the backing of both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh and is well financed including (reportedly) by Richard Gere. The other movie that is slated to come out on the life of the Buddha is titled, The Great Quest. Here is one of the tag lines from the website:

Today, in these disquieting times, people the world over are in a quest for peace and tranquility. Millions are turning to the Buddha's spiritual teachings and guidance.

CLICK HERE to access the website for The Great Quest to read more.

If and when these two films hit the big screen I hope that you all will support it and go see it at least once. I know I'll probably see it several times in the theatre and most definitely buy the DVD.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mantras and Meditation

Buddhists recite mantras for various reasons--though some eschew mantras altogether.

For myself, I mostly recite mantras and gathas before and during meditating. They are great tools that aid me in relaxing my body and preparing my mind and lungs to allow for the deep breathing that is so important in most forms of meditation. They unite the body, speech and mind to aid in maintaining mindfulness. As we know, It is quite difficult to maintain mindfulness during meditation if our body, speech and mind are off doing their own things.

If I find myself wandering around in my mind during meditation I usually recite the gatha:

(Breathing in) I am present, (breathing out) I am mindful. This statement of intention brings my mind back to the current moment. It is a slight "nudge" that helps remind myself why I'm sitting here with my eyes closed and my legs crossed.

The Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om Mani Padme Hung in Tibetan) of compassion related to the Bodhisattva of Compassion Avalokiteshvara, for example, is a fantastic mantra that I use. It is like a key that aids my mind in opening the locks of duality, fear, anger and other unskillful emotions that tend to block my realization of compassion and its expression. It allows me to refocus my attention and concentration upon the importance of all beings and how their peace is my peace. It empowers me by realizing that Avalokiteshvara is within me and thus I have his/her potential.

It is like a "travel size" meditation that can be easily repeated in my mind during any situation where compassion might be difficult to realize. It isn't the words that matter so much for me but the intention and energy it summons. It is the intention and energy of remembering.

I see mantras as little "tricks" that can be used to access the peace, understanding and mindfulness that one experiences during meditation--at any place and at time. They act as symbols that help us reconnect with the timeless, formlessness of Sunyata (emptiness).

I wear prayer beads (mala) to count out the mantras as something to concentrate upon when I'm out somewhere. For example when we are on vacation and are waiting our turn in line to see a particular attraction I'll count the beads. Or when we go camping or backpacking and I do not have access to my cushion and altar. Just simply wearing the beads reminds me of the great teachings of the Buddha and his energy itself.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thich Nhat Hanh to Give Public Talk in Denver and Retreat in Estes Park, CO

The Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh will be returning here to Colorado USA to lead a retreat and give a public talk in Denver. For those who are in the area--you really should take advantage of this occasion to see one of the most enlightened people alive today. Here is the information:

SUBJECT: "Our Environment: Touching the Gift of Life."

WHEN: Wednesday August 29th, 2007

WHERE: The Temple Buell Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts complex in downtown Denver.

TICKETS: Adults ($35), Students w/ID and Seniors ($25), Kids 11-13 ($10). Click here to get tickets through TicketWest.

CLICK HERE If you'd like information on the retreat led by Hanh.

PHOTO CREDIT: Thay at the Bordeaux airport upon arrival from his trip to Vietnam.

~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hindu Chaplain Shouted Down in U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three protesters disrupted a prayer by a Hindu chaplain on Thursday at the opening of a U.S. Senate hearing, calling it an abomination and shouting slogans about Jesus Christ. It was the first time the daily prayer that opens Senate proceedings was said by a Hindu chaplain. They shouted "No Lord but Jesus Christ" and "There's only one true God," and used the term "abomination."

James: One man was heard saying, "Lord Jesus forgive us for allowing the prayer of the wicked."

Barry Lynn, executive director of religious watchdog group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the protest showed the intolerance of the "religious right."

"I don't think the Senate should open with prayers, but if it's going to happen, the invocations ought to reflect the diversity of the American people," Lynn said in a statement.

James: I agree with Mr. Lynn. This is just sad. It is my prayer that someday those people who interrupted this man's prayer will awaken to the Oneness of all beings--and religions. It is my belief that the core of most religions reflect the same Universal Truths such as love, peace and compassion for the poor and homeless.

However, we should also have love and compassion for the rich and intolerant as well. They deserve our love too, as hard as that might be for us--and it is hard for me quite often. So tonight I am trying my best to let my ego subside and douse the flames of the intolerance from these protesters with love and compassion. Easier said then done but it is possible because that is the reality--we are all one.

P.S.~I just love Ganesh. He is my favorite Hindu deity. I collect all sorts of images of him. I have a really nice Ganesh statue as well.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, July 09, 2007

CSI and Other Violent TV and Film

Over the last 5 years or so I have seen a disturbing rise in interest of violent movies and television shows. Take for example the CSI franchise--yes, I say franchise because this show about fictional cases regarding Crime Scene Investigative units have three different versions of the show.

They consist of the regular CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI: New York. These shows are violent and often gory. The fact that there are three versions of this show tells me that there are a lot of people interested in watching this stuff. Then, on the same channel there is a show called Criminal Minds and Cold Case which is another show that looks into the criminal mind and their twisted actions. One another channel you can find the Law and Order franchise which includes Law and Order: Special Victims Unit which emphasizes cases regarding sexual crimes that are particularly heinous. Just the thought of such television makes my stomach churn. This is all just on TV. The movies are an even worse problem.

Whenever we go to the video store to rent a DVD we walk past video after video about some violent, serial killer style film. It seems that they are starting to crowd out the other movies on the shelf!! It is pretty rare now to find a good, funny comedy.

Have there always been so many violent, twisted and gory movies on TV and film or is our society becoming more and more violent, angry and disturbed? Why are we so obsessed with violence as a people??

I use to be able to watch such movies and shows but since I found the Dharma I no longer have a taste for such heavy energy. I'm certainly not the best moral example around though. Perhaps I'm making too much of all of this and being a bit of a hypocrite as I do still watch movies where sexuality is involved. Never the less, I find violence to be the one of the most critical issues (if not THE most critical issue) that we as humanity must face.

I hope everyone is in a safe place right now and if not--hold my hand and we will get through this sometimes difficult state of existence together in Oneness of mind, body and spirit.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Birthday H.H. Dalai Lama!!!

Happy continuation (birthday) day Dalai Lama!!! He was born July 6th 1935 which makes him 72 years old. Despite his age he seems to be going strong as he travels the world as much (if not more) then a rock star. His lips form a relaxed but sincere smile that reflects his strong aura of serenity and innocence.

This is one of my favorite photos of the venerable monk. There is so much compassion, kindness and wisdom in that face. His eyes appear to be doorways to enlightenment and sparkle with happiness and peace.

I do not follow in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, however, I have great respect for it and their spiritual leader--the Dalai Lama. His Holiness has had a major impact in bringing Buddhism to the west, building it up in the west and maintaining it around the world.

He is indeed one of the most enlightened beings in this space and time where we find ourselves yet he often refers to himself as, "a simple monk." He is a precious jewel not only to Buddhists but to the entire world as he strives for peace in the world.

May we all learn from his great experience and wisdom.

Also: For what it is worth, tomorrow is 7-7-07 which according to numerologists is a lucky day and a good day to meditate.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Interdependence Day America

I recently received a kind email from a Linda Anderson Krech who works with the fascinating ToDo Institue. The institute addresses the mental health issue from a Buddhist, alternative view which is something I'm very interested in as I live with a brain disorder myself. That being said Linda sent me a link to a wonderful article on the American Independence day and INTERdependence. It is a fairly long article so I will just copy and paste a section of it here to wet your curiosity to read it it in full--it really is an excellent piece:

But freedom is different from independence. Independence implies that we are not dependent on others -- that we are autonomous, able to act on our own. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. We are completely dependent on others and we can do nothing on our own. The recognition of this truth could be more accurately represented in the celebration of INTERdependence Day.

Think about how dependent we are on each other. In order to drive to the store I am dependent on

My car
The mechanics who keep my car running
My eyeglasses
Gasoline and oil
The people who build and keep the roads repaired
Electricity (provided by a battery for ignition)
The people who operate the store and keep the shelves stocked with food
The people who truck and deliver the items to the store
The bank who issued my credit/debit card or the US Govt Printing Center that printed the currency I would use
My employer who pays me so I have money for buying what I need.

[...] The freedom I have to bake my own bread is the end result of a complex network of people, machines, energy and planetary resources. So the eye doctor who examines my eyes and the machine that grinds the lenses in my glasses are part of this "bread-baking freedom" that I so much enjoy, though I mostly take it for granted.

Click here to read the entire article.

Thank-you again Linda for sharing this article with us.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Are the Six Realms of Buddhism Real?

I personally do not believe that the six realms are actual "places" that exist outside of ourselves. That being said, I do not know for sure that they do not exist outside ourselves but I'd rather focus on the here and now then what "might" happen. I see these "realms" as states of consciousness being in our present awareness created by the power of our deluded minds. After all we are not just reborn upon our physical death--we are reborn a new each moment of our lives in the here and now. It seems to me that the concept of these realms being "out there" somewhere is a bit unskillful. That is because this idea appears to fortify the unskillful view that there are "places" that are separate from our existence in the here and now. There is no "out there." It seems to simply create worry and trepidation of ending up in a "Hell" which spurs people to follow the Dharma for the wrong reasons--out of fear and desire.

That being said I'd like to move on to the actual "realms" and show how they are working right here and right now.

First I wish to address the "God realm." This is the state of a false sense of "getting it." It is a false reality because there is nothing "to get." We experience this "realm" when everything is going our way. We have everything we could ever want or need--we lack for nothing. We avoid anything that doesn't being us happiness and affirm our feeling of permanent greatness that is manufactured by our ego-mind. This breeds arrogance and pride. We cease to follow and practice the Dharma because we feel that we have "arrived" and thus no longer need to meditate, etc. However, eventually that "happiness" fades and we are left with nothing to show for our "wealth" because we are preoccupied with nothing but our personal satisfaction. We have done nothing to help others with our great blessings and that leaves us feeling empty, hallow and lonely inside. When this realization occurs we struggle to maintain our God-like state by grasping. Thus, inevitably the more we do this the more we suffer which of course leads to falling into the "lower states of being" and the cycle of samsara continues.

Next, there is the "Demi-God realm." This is the state of jealousy and paranoia. We experience this unfulfilling state of consciousness whenever we covet "things." We are jealous of our Dharma teachers. How many times have we said to ourselves that, "I'll be happy when I have this or that??" "I'll be happy in 5, 10 or 20 years" or "I'd surely be happier if I was that person." In this state of mind we compete to outdo others and be "number one." Therefore, before we know it our precious human birth comes to and end and we have wasted our opportunities to practice the Dharma. This leaves us physically and spiritually exhausted for we forget the Dharma's wonderful teachings of being happy with the present moment no matter our material state or position in the world.

Now we arrive at the "Human realm." This is the present moment. This is whenever we are aware of the Oneness of all things. When we are in this state of being we have the best chance to be aware of the Dharma and how skillful and important it is to our liberation. This is why being in this current moment is so important. It is in this state where we have the best chance of liberating ourselves for we have the most potential to study and practice with enough concentration to not only slow our karma but more importantly free ourselves from the cycle of samsara. In the other states of mind we are too preoccupied with less skillful actions to be bothered with practicing the Dharma.

This brings us to the "Animal realm." This is the state of pure ignorance. Wallowing in ignorance we stumble haphazardly through this precious moment of our humanity. We cease to be aware of our mind and give in to the cycle of suffering. We begin to believe that there is no point to anything. We end up following the crowd which can easily and does lead us off the proverbial cliff and into nothing but constant suffering. This is also a state of pure fear. We fear everything and everyone as potential enemies or live in scorn toward others as stupid and worthless--much like the predator/prey cycle of the animal kingdom.

The fifith realm is that of the "hungry ghost realm." We find ourselves in this state by constant craving--nothing satiates our out of control desire. This state of mind occurs whenever we long for the past and try to relive it or change things that can not be changed. Nothing brings us peace. It is also here where we find ourselves gorging on the sensual pleasures. Pleasure in and of itself isn't necessarily "bad." However, the attachment and pursuit of pleasure to the exclusion of everything else--especially the Dharma is what causes so much suffering. The more we indulge the more we suffer and therefore we indulge even more thinking that we can fill the hole of our dissatisfaction in our life through empty spiritual calories. :)

Finally we arrive at the "Hell realm." It is said that anger and hatred typify this state of consciousness and my experience has bore that out. When I am blinded by anger and hatred I live in state of pure suffering. Anger partially arises out of wanting to control things and people and when we can't do this we begin to hate them. These are also the moments when we hate ourselves thus if we hate ourselves how can we have any time for others let alone the Dharma?!! An additional emotion of this state of consciousness is excessive guilt. We attack ourselves for not being perfect--which of course is impossible because perfection is a delusion. If we were "perfect" then we would not be in this present human state. We'd have already reached liberation. It is also in this state where we find ourselves hating our lot in life. We somehow think that we shouldn't have to suffer and then in turn hate suffering itself--which of course creates even more suffering!!! It's total madness. Not only are we not following the middle path--we're not even on the path at all!!! Instead, we are out wandering around in the wilderness of spiritual insanity and risk being lost in moment after precious moment.

Well, that is my humble attempt at interpreting the six realms of existence. One interesting observation I have made upon meditating over these concepts is that I often experience all six of these states through one 24 hour period--sometimes I cycle through them more then once in that same time frame!!!

May this post help us all better understand what dangers to be aware of as we walk along the path of the middle way.

~Peace to all beings~

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