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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Situation in Burma Day 12. Hope Fading, Monks Tortured and Killed.

AP, Sept 29, 2007

YANGON, Myanmar -- Soldiers and police took control of the streets Friday, firing warning shots and tear gas to scatter the few pro-democracy protesters who ventured out as Myanmar's military junta sealed off Buddhist monasteries and cut public Internet access.


On the third day of a harsh government crackdown, the streets were empty of the mass gatherings that had peacefully challenged the regime daily for nearly two weeks, leaving only small groups of activists to be chased around by security forces.

Thousands of monks had provided the backbone of the protests, but they were besieged in their monasteries, penned in by locked gates and barbed wire surrounding the compounds in the two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay. Troops stood guard outside and blocked nearby roads to keep the clergymen isolated.

Many Yangon residents seemed pessimistic over the crackdown, fearing it fatally weakened a movement that began nearly six weeks ago as small protests over fuel price hikes and grew into demonstrations by tens of thousands demanding an end to 45 years of military rule.

The corralling of monks was a serious blow. They carry high moral authority in this predominantly Buddhist nation of 54 million people and the protests had mushroomed when the clergymen joined in.

"The monks are the ones who give us courage. I don't think that we have any more hope to win," said a young woman who had taken part in a huge demonstration Thursday that broke up when troops shot protesters. She said she had not seen her boyfriend and feared he was arrested.

James: Despite this news of fading hope we know that things will change one day for the Burmese people. We take refuge in the Dharma which involves realization and a deep understanding of impermanence. The impermanence of the situation in Burma is evident on so many levels and the crackdowns remind those of us who live in better situations to not take that reality for granted, for it will indeed disappear one day. All is impermanent so now is the time to find peace within, so that just like these monks, nothing will keep us down or terrorize us with fear.

MONKS BEATEN, TORTURED AND KILLED:

Eye witnesses said that numerous monasteries were raided on Friday with reports that many monks were beaten and arrested. Whole monasteries were reported to have been trashed with blood and broken glass seen everywhere.

An unconfirmed account had it that a monastery at an obscure neighborhood of Yangon, called Ngwe Kyar Yan (on Wei-za-yan-tar Road, Yangon) was raided early in the morning of Sept 28, 2007.

A troop of "lone-tein" - the local name for the riot police which comprises mainly of paid thugs and protected by the military, attacked the monastery with 200 monks studying there.

They systematically rounded up all the monks and ordered them to line up. Then, one after another, brute force was used to push their heads against the brick wall of the monastery, in many cases crushing the monks' skulls.

One by one, the non-resisting monks fell to the ground, screaming in pain. The "lone-teins" then tore off the red robes from the monks, threw the bodies into the military trucks (like rice bags) and taken away to an unknown location.

The head monk of the monastery, who was tied up in the middle of the monastery was tortured and bludgeoned. He was said to have died later in the same day.

James: Despite this awful news I would imagine that those monks (and citizens) who gave their lives are well on their way to Buddhahood.

LETTER OF APPEAL FROM VENERABLE AJHAN SUMEDO:

I am making a statement of support and sympathy for the heroic efforts of the Buddhist Monks, Nuns, Students, and all the Burmese Laypeople who are peacefully protesting against the injustice and oppression of the present government of Myanmar.
It is very confusing and distressing to witness a government which claims to respect the Buddhist religion react to a peaceful protest in such a violent and brutal way.

I have always held the Sangha in Burma with great respect. I ask the present government to listen to the Sangha and to seek a way of reconciliation in accord with the Dhamma which will be for the welfare and happiness of all.

I send all my blessings to the peaceful protesters and my compassion to the Government of Myanmar which has strayed so far from the wisdom and compassion of the Lord Buddha.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Saffron Revolution in Burma Day 11

Yangon, Myanmar -- Speculations have it that the country's top two in the junta is divided over the handling of the riots in the country. "Maung Aye and his loyalists are opposed to shooting into the crowd," a source close to the military hierarchy told Mizzima referring to the major differences that the head of junta Senior General Than Shwe and his second-in-command, Vice-Senior General Maung Aye have over the brutal crack down on protesters in Burma.

James: It appears that the military might be splitting in two and that might be the best news possible during the week long Saffron Revolution in Burma. If the protests can divide the regime then they have a real chance to bring about change within their government. More information on the possible trouble within the regime can be read below.

I just saw on CNN that there are many in Burma who are prepared and ready to keep this revolution going despite the dangers. They say that they are ready to lay down their lives and/or be jailed for the good of their countrymen. This greatly moves me for they are engaging in the ultimate acts of letting go. It is heart-breaking yet inspiring.

Also, other reports are saying that the monks are locked inside their monasteries and that is awful in and of itself but it seems to be the best case scenario during these turbulent times in Burma.

This information was sent out by Jason from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 28, 2007.

Yangon, Myanmar -- Kindly forgive the brevity and the lack of formatting of the following email. I am now sending this information out as we are now receiving it. As many of you are now aware phone lines have been cut, mobile networks have been disabled, and Internet access has also been disabled.

Information, therefore, is now very difficult to obtain and confirm. I therefore am unable to confirm any of that which follows, but my sources are adamant that this is the truth:

Soldiers from LID #66 have turned their weapons against other SPDC soldiers and possibly police in North Okkalappa township in Rangoon and are defending the protesters. At present unsure how many soldiers involved. Some reports cite "heavy shooting" in the area.

Other unconfirmed reports have stated that soldiers from LID #33 in Mandalay have refused orders to act against protesters. Some reports claim that many soldiers remained in their barracks. More recent reports now maintain that soldiers from LID #99 now being sent there to confront them.

Reports of approx. 10,000+ protesters gathering around the Traders Hotel in Rangoon. Other reports of 10,000+ protesters gathering at San Pya Market in Rangoon. Further reports of approx. 50,000 protestors gathering at the Thein Gyi Market in Rangoon.

According to Mizzima, an unknown number of soldiers from Central Command and South East Command are presently on their way to Rangoon to reinforce SPDC army troops.

Also according to Mizzima, an unknown number of aircraft have been scrambled from "Matehtilar" airbase - probably a reference to Meiktila in Mandalay Division.

According to one journalist, SPDC have turned water cannons against crowds at Sule Pagoda. The report maintains that the water contained some type of chemical. awaiting further information. Please circulate this information as widely as quickly as possible.

James: The following is a statement form ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations:

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers had a full and frank discussion on the situation in Myanmar at their Informal Meeting this morning in the UN and agreed for the Chair to issue this Statement. They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators. They expressed their revulsion to Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win over reports that the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities. They strongly urged Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and seek a political solution. They called upon Myanmar to resume its efforts at national reconciliation with all parties concerned, and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy. The Ministers called for the release of all political detainees including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their concern to Minister Nyan Win that the developments in Myanmar had a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN. They noted that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has spoken to his ASEAN counterparts over the past day, and will be writing to Senior General Than Shwe.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers gave their full support to the decision of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar. They welcomed FM Nyan Win’s assurance that a visa would be issued to Mr Gambari in Singapore. They asked the Myanmar government to cooperate fully and work with him. Mr Gambari’s role as a neutral interlocutor among all the parties can help defuse the dangerous situation. The Ministers urged the Myanmar government to grant him full access to all parties in Myanmar, as they had done in the past.

EMAIL ASEAN to show support of their efforts and to urge them to do more: CLICK HERE.

James: Here something else that we can do, short of linking arms with our Burmese brothers and sisters and marching with them. I join Wade's desire to do more then sign signatures and blog about the revolution but still, at least we can do something. I feel so powerless yet motivated to do my utmost for the proud, noble and amazingly courageous Burmese people. CLICK HERE to sign a petition from the U.S. Campaign for Burma and join the nearly 90,000 signatures.

And don't forget to recite or read the metta sutra today and/or pray for the Burmese people.

~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Situation in Burma Worsens on Day 10.

PHOTO: Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai for AFP lying wounded from a gunshot on a street in Yangon, Burma while a soldier stands over him. Kenji later died at a local hospital. This picture should be spread far and wide.

Source: Mizzima news (www.mizzima.com), September 27, 2007

Latest reports indicate that the military junta have stepped up the crackdown. Hundreds of monks have been arrested, many forcibly taken from their monasteries. Sounds of beating and cries of pain are heard from within the walls of the monasteries. Near the Sule Pagoda, Rangoon tear gas were fired to disperse protestors gathered around that place.

Thousands of protestors have emptied the streets of Yangon after 200 soldiers and police ordered them to go home or risk being shot. Pockets of people remained on balconies and bridges, as soldiers and police worked systematically through the city centre to ensure that no protesters remained. At least 100 people were arrested and thrown into military trucks after the ultimatum. Security forces had earlier fired warning shots, but the crowd only broke up after soldiers issued their warning.

James: I hope the movement stays strong despite the horrific actions by the dictatorship. If they crack down in Yangon then I say move the protests to another town and on and on. The military can not be everywhere. Some reports have stated that people can be heard yelling, "Give us freedom, give us freedom!!"

In other news, it appears that a Japanese journalist was murdered in the latest round of violence.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tokyo held Myanmar "strictly" accountable for Nagai's death. The 50-year-old journalist had been covering the protests in Yangon since Tuesday, APF representative Toru Yamaji said in Japan.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Japan will lodge a protest with Myanmar, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. "We strongly protest the Myanmar government and demand an investigation" into the death, Machimura was quoted as saying by the official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, as saying. "We demand (Myanmar) take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the Japanese citizens in that country."

Japan will send Deputy Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka to Myanmar to protest Nagai's death, said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a deputy press secretary traveling with Komura in Washington.

He told AP that the "situation is intolerable," and Japan "cannot accept the brutality" of what happened to Nagai.

I urge my Japanese readers to write/phone your political and religious leaders to speak out on this tragedy.

It also appears that despite its public stance of non-intervention in Burma's politics, China (the "Myanmar" junta's closest ally) is quietly working behind the scenes to calm tensions:

BEIJING, China (AP) -- China has gently urged Myanmar's military rulers to ease the strife that has seen tens of thousands take to the streets in protest, diplomats said Tuesday, even as Beijing said publicly it would stick to a hands-off approach toward its neighbor. China's political and economic interests in Myanmar are spurring it to act, diplomats and experts said. With an Olympics in Beijing next year already bringing China heightened scrutiny, Chinese leaders are likely loath to be associated with another repressive, unpopular regime. Criticism from foreign governments and international activist groups already have caused Beijing to pare back lending to Zimbabwe and put pressure on Sudan to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Democracy campaigners in Myanmar took note of the success of the Darfur activists, who warned the games would be tarnished as the "Genocide Olympics" if Beijing did not act, said David Mathieson, Burma consultant for Human Rights Watch.

"China has made some significant concessions recently on its links to Sudan, but it hasn't gone that far on its links with Burma," said Mathieson. "If things heat up on the border, that's not going to look good for China in the lead-up to the Olympics at all."

James: That being said, China could do a lot more but it's a start. On a related topic, I found the following impassioned plea by American actor Jim Carey regarding Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi inspiring:

James: Reader of this blog, Ladona (thanks for pointing this out) mentioned in the comments of my last post about a petition we can sign titled, Stand with the People of Burma. It will be sent to Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Other Hollywood stars are also speaking out. They urge the U.N. Secretary General to personal intervene.

In closing, In this dark hour I have decided to recite (or read) the metta sutra at least once a day to unite with the people of Burma. It is the sutra that the monks have been chanting during their peaceful protests. I have a version of the sutra on my profile, on the right hand side of the screen but I'm going to post it here as well:

"He or she who wants to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech. He or she will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed, without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the majority. Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones.

"(And this is what he or she contemplates): May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy.

"May all living beings live in Security and in Peace beings who are frail or strong, tall or short, big or small, visible or not visible, near or far away, already born or yet to be born. May all of them dwell in perfect tranquility.

"Let no one do harm to anyone. Let no one put the life of anyone in danger. Let no one, out of anger or ill will, wish anyone any harm.

"Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, we should cultivate Boundless Love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos. We should let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below and across. Our love will know no obstacles, our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart. This is the noblest way of living.

Free from wrong views, greed and sensual desires, living in beauty and realizing Perfect Understanding, those who practice Boundless Love will certainly transcend Birth and Death."

---- Metta Sutta (Suttanipata 1) from the Plum Village Chanting Book

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Burma's Saffron Revolution Faces Violence from the Government.

YANGON, Myanmar -- At least four people were killed and 100 injured Wednesday as Myanmar's security forces clamped down on anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks, according to officials and witnesses. About 200 people were also arrested, as many as half of them Buddhist monks, as soldiers and police cracked down on tens of thousands of protesters who swept across Myanmar's commercial hub Yangon, according to witnesses and diplomats.

Myanmar officials said at least three monks were killed, including one who was shot as he tried to wrestle a gun away from a soldier. Two other monks were beaten to death, they told reporters.

Police used batons and teargas, sometimes firing warning shots over the crowd to disperse the protesters.

But throughout the day, the protesters regrouped.
James: We knew that it would come to this and we morn the death of those who sacrificed their lives for the liberty of the masses. We grieve with this tense, down-trodden, oppressed country. I am so proud of these fearless monks, nuns and citizens. It takes amazing strength to march for your rights in the face of violent backlashes. Yet I urge the demonstrators to continue their steady wearing down of the walls of oppression if they feel the call. Stay safe as best you can as you face down the paper dragon. Don't let them intimidate you, they can not stop the masses no matter how many bullets and clubs they wield.

May the injured heal quickly and may the imprisoned monks and civilians be freed immediately.

May the government realize it's mistakes and turn to talk rather then violence. To engage in violence is cowardly, very unskillful. To sit down, talk and more importantly listen is the hard part but the only way to unite people to have pride for their beautiful, noble country, solidify reconciliation and hope for a better future. Do not respond to violence with more violence. Let us all heed the voice of the great Guru and master of non-violence, peaceful opposition, Mahatma GandhiMahatma Gandhi:

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life. I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

James: May those in the military who are Buddhist cease and desist their abuse of the sangha and fellow citizens. May they realize the error of their ways and leave the military to allow Democracy to wash over the country and clean off the grime of oppression and brighten the faces of all Burmese. A new day is dawning.

May we continue to write our leaders to keep the pressure on the Burma junta leadership to stop this madness. They must know that the world is watching and will hold them responsible for tese crimes against humanity. Let us also urge our leaders to lobby China (the junta's closest ally) and India to help intervene and broker a peace accord. Here are a few email addresses that you might want to use:

American President George W. Bush: comments@whitehouse.gov

The United Nations: inquiries@un.org

Speaking of the U.N., I hear from CNN International that the U.N. Security Council will soon convene to address the Burmese Golden Revolution. Let us urge the U.N. to work with the junta to send a peace keeping for to "the golden land."

In closing, I'd like to end my post today with one more inspirational quotes from Gandhi:

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always.

CLICK HERE to reach the page where I found the Gandhi quotes.

AND, CLICK HERE to see many pictures regarding the on-going protests.

By the way, I have started to use the old name Burma to protest the Myanmar government.

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO 1: Burmese military blocking a street in Yangon, Burma during a 9th day of protests by monks and civilians. Photographer unknown.

PHOTO 2: Burmese monks march in protest of the junta government. Photographer known but I will not post the name here for fear of reprisals. I'm not sure if the photographer is in Burma but I won't take that chance and risk this person's safety.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Myanmar Monk Revolution Continues Despite Government Threats



Rangoon, Burma -- Burma’s junta threatened unspecified action against protesting Buddhist monks yesterday as up to 100,000 people marched in the biggest protest seen in a week of ever-expanding demonstrations in the city of Rangoon.

The protests have gone on for 8 days now despite the government threats of violence. Democracy advocate, Aung San Su Kyi has now been moved from her house arrest to a notorious prison in the country. It seems, unlike the protests of 1988, this movement is mostly led by unarmed, non-voilent monks and if the junta opens fire on them the world will come down very hard on them. It could very easily backfire on the government.

The Myanmarese have suffered for a brutal 45 years under the military dictatorship and it appears that they have finally had enough. They are following the courageous, fearless monks who know all about the inevitability of change. The monks are not afraid to put their lives on the line for the good of all Myanmarese. They are not attached to their bodies and that gives one great courage to suffer brutality for a higher cause, liberation. These monks meditate and practice the Dharma to help others and themselves achieve liberation from suffering, and political suffering is a big one.

They can break your arms and legs, they can break up houses but they can never break up the spirit of liberation. They can not break our spirit unless we let them. I wish that I could walk hand in hand with my brothers and sisters in Myanmar. I urge them to stay peaceful and not to engage in violence as that would only give the government an excuse to shoot into the crowds to stop the movement.

The monks know that they have a gentle strength in their devoutly Buddhist country and that they serve as a fearless, united core of peaceful civil disobedience for the average citizens to rally behind. It is like water molecules banding together to form a massive, unstoppable tidal wave that over-whelms anything that gets in it's way. The government might be able to arrest a few of them but not hundreds of thousands of them. They can control the media and some of the protesters but even the most powerful, brutal dictatorship can not stop the inevitability of impermanence. And the impermanence of the military junta in Myanmar has become very clear during this past week. Never underestimate the power of the people when they are united and resolute.

The message is getting out to the world of these brave and inspirational protests, despite the tightly controlled media. We here at the Buddhist blog want to lend our support to all Myanmarese in resisting the massive suffering that has been imposed upon them for generations. We thank-you for your bravery in getting this information out to the rest of the world. Be strong, your hour of liberation is at hand. I urge all people of all religious affiliations and ethnic groups within Myanmar to join the cause. We stand with you and you are in my thoughts ever day. I meditate in unity with you. I hope to one day visit Myanmar and rejoice in your freedom. Let us not forget that we are all interconnected in this world and the suffering in Myanmar is our suffering.

I was heartened to hear on CNN International this morning, that President George W. Bush called for more sanctions on the junta government today at the United Nations. Including sanctions upon the financial backers of the military state. He is also calling for an expanded travel ban on those behind human rights violations. In addition, the American president is calling for increased support for humanitarian groups and pressure on the U.N. to help the Myanmarese reclaim their freedom.

I am going to send off an email to many leaders in the American government to support the growing opposition in Myanmar and I urge you to do the same where ever you are living in this country (America) or elsewhere in the world.

We will over-come suffering in all it's forms.

The Dalai Lama speaks out and offers his support for the Burmese protests:

I extent my support and solidarity with the recent peaceful movement for
democracy in Burma.

I fully support their call for freedom and democracy and take this opportunity to appeal to freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements.

Moreover, I wish to convey my sincere appreciation and admiration to the large number of fellow Buddhists monks for advocating democracy and freedom in Burma.

As a Buddhist monk, I am appealing to the members of the military regime who believe in Buddhism to act in accordance with the sacred dharma in the spirit of compassion and non-violence.

I pray for the success of this peaceful movement and the early release of fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

UPDATE: The junta government has proclaimed a curfew in two cities effective immediately. People of Burma, do not lose hope. The world is with you.

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Myanmar Monks Moblize for Peace

There is a velvet revolution quietly picking up steam in the military dictatorship of Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Some 1,500 Buddhist monks marched 10 miles in the rain through knee deep water in some places to passively protest the actions of the military junta there. They're destination was the famous golden hilltop Shwedagon Pagoda. It has long been a symbol for social and political justice, as well as independence.
(Above: Shwedagon golden pagoda. Source: www.asiatours.net, make sure to credit that website if you use this image).

Their mindful walk gained nearly the same amount of followers along the route and so, just as Gandhi before them these monks are showing the power of peace in creating change. Much like rain the they marched in, water can wear down and eventually break apart the hardest rock, so too will they wear and break down the unjust totalitarian regime.

The military dare not repress and clamp down violently on the monks for they are greatly revered in Myanmar and such a crack down would case a massive revolt from the people. To put it simply, the repressive government is in a tight spot.

The good people of Myanmar are so grateful for the engaged Buddhism of the venerable monks:

"I feel so sorry to see the monks walking in heavy rain and taking such trouble on behalf of the people. I feel so grateful as well," a 50-year-old woman said, tears rolling down her face. Like most onlookers, she asked not to be named for fear of drawing the unwelcome attention of the authorities.

At one point, a young man in white T-shirt and shorts flung himself to the ground, touching his forehead to the feet of a monk in a traditional Buddhist gesture of reverence.

The protests express long pent-up opposition to the repressive regime and have become the most sustained challenge to the junta since a wave of student demonstrations that were forcibly suppressed in December 1996.

The junta's crackdown on the protesters has drawn increasing criticism from world leaders, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President Bush. They have called for the government to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has been under house arrest for more than 11 of the past 18 years.

James: The day before saw another protest march that swelled with 5,000 people. So far, Fridays march was the 4th in as many days.

The Myanmar monks are an inspiration not only to their downtrodden people but to all people everywhere. They remind us what is possible through peaceful action. They remind us here in America to not be complaisant with our government and our freedoms. If we do not accept that we are interconnected with our government then we risk detaching from the process of maintaining a healthy society. Things can change in a heartbeat and a Democracy is, in a way, a living, breathing organism that needs constant supervision to make sure the leaders don't become too corrupt and backslide on the individual freedoms that help prevent suffering.

This all reminds me of one of my favorite gathas from Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace in Oneself, Peace in the World.

UPDATE: Saturday saw another protest march in Myanmar (Burma). The military junta government has up till now has mostly remained on the side lines of these protests/marches. However, there are reports that the government is looking to infiltrate the monks and stir up unrest so that the military will have "cause" to crackdown on the demonstrators:

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the official name of the military regime of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been accused of formenting violence to break up the countrywide protests led by the country's Sangha.

It has been reported that an Emergency Committee, chaired a senior general has been established to "forment trouble" in protest marches led by monks in various parts of the country.

The plan includes ordering soldiers and policemen to take off their uniforms, shave their heads and dress like monks, infiltrate the peace marches and forment trouble to break them up. The move is to pre-empt condemnation by the international community, which would be the case if the army moves in to forcibly attack the monks.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Great Description of Dzogchen

From Lama Surya Das:

Dzogchen
means the innate great completeness. It points to our own innate wholeness, our own true Buddha nature, our untramelled spirit, perfect and pure from the beginningless beginning. It is what we call the Buddha within -- not an oriental Buddha, not an historical Buddha, not one of stone, not male or female, but the Buddha nature within each of us, true and wise, loving and compassionate. We want to come back to that, awaken it, cultivate it -- that is what the path is about. We don't get it from outside, from someone or somewhere else, or even from our own ideas of what we are. The Havajra tantra says we are all Buddhas by nature but must, through our own spiritual work, awaken to ourselves.

Sometimes the spiritual or religious path seems like a jungle, a thicket of theories and practices and opinions. But there is at the center a sunlit clearing where all the teachings converge. The mystical teachings meet at this awakening to what is within us. It is also in everything around us, so our awakening isn't narcissistic. We see Buddha nature in the eyes and hearts of fellow humans and creatures in the natural world. It is there too. That is what we discover through these practices of meditation, self-inquiry, chanting, inner investigation, prayer, yoga, and so on.

I think our Dharma (spiritual) practice is an opportunity we should really treasure. It was a secret teaching in the East, almost unknown even to Tibetans. Many teachers have required ten or twenty years of preliminary study and monastic training before giving access to this teaching, but my teachers say this is the moment of Dzogchen. People have little time and the Dharma is fading in the East, but Dzogchen is something we can actually do here and now. With or without the Buddhist religious overlay, we can simply awaken with inquiry, awareness practice, and a loving heart. It is not obscure but simple. We can take great joy in that. This is the time of Dzogchen.

Emaho! (EE-MA-HO -- a Tibetan exclamation of cosmic delight)

Lama Surya Das

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO: Dzogchen teacher Lama Surya Das picture from Snow Lion Publications

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hotmail vs. Gmail and a Profound D.T. Suzuki Quote

Well, I've finally had it with hotmail. My wife has been trying to get me to switch to gmail for sometime now and I'm been meaning to fully switch over for some time. I already have a gmail account but have, up until now, rarely used it. There are just so many features that gmail has that hotmail falls miserably short in comparison and now I'm having trouble logging into my hotmail account so it's time to jump ship on it.

So, from now on if you want to contact me via email you can find me at jaymur-at-gmail.com

I'll still check my hotmail address for awhile but the gmail address will be my long term account.

Now, onto the good stuff:

What one thinks or reads is always qualified by the proposition "of" or "about," and does not give us the thing itself. Not mere talk about water, nor the mere sight of a spring, but an actual mouthful of it gives the thirsty complete satisfaction.

- D. T. Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism

~
Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT:
Nam June Paik, late Korean artist

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Enlightenment is in the Present Moment

The hallmark of the enlightenment process is in being "here" and not "there." Indeed, the focal point of continuity is in being here at all times. The famous message of Ram Dass to "Be here now" is what results when one is adept in this practice. It is laborious in that it requires great perseverance -- we are up against lifelong patterns -- but it is a major enlightenment practice because it can break through our basic conditioning. The secret of success in continuity practice is to eliminate any sense of failure. From the moment we begin, we are successful. The only measure of success is this moment, right now. Are we here? If we are here, our practice is perfect. The fact that we have just returned from out yonder, or that we might take off again in a few seconds, is not relevant. Without this practice, we would always be spaced out. We would rarely experience being here. Thus, each moment we are able to break the pattern, we have succeeded.

- David A. Cooper, Silence, Simplicity and Solitude from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

James: Humans worry, it's what we do as partakers of the unsatisfying feast of samsara. We worry about our health, our families, our friends, our jobs, our country, our world and our environment. And we even worry whether we are worrying too much!! We also worry about our spirituality. A common spiritual worry I hear in Buddhism goes something like this, "Am I progressing adequately towards Enlightenment?" We are setting ourselves up for discouragement the minute we ask ourselves questions like this.

Why? Well, first off the idea of a progression means that there is something permanent to build and add to and that is our first unskillful thought. When in reality there is nothing to build and nothing to add to, just essence, just the present moment for what it may or may not be. It is perfect despite what limited perceptions or judgments we might place upon it. By the way, we want to avoid words such as "wrong" or "bad" or "mistake" because it merely adds more stress, worry, discouragement to the situation. It focuses on the delusion of duality instead of the flow of co-arising. Instead we use words like skillful and unskillful to emphasize that we can hone our thoughts, words and deeds just like any other skill. This is another reason that we use the word "practice" in Buddhism because there is no "pass/fail" dogma. We practice much like one would practice golfing or archery or any other skill.

In my opinion, it is not about building anything but being, just being here as Mr. Cooper mentions above, which brings us to the adequacy question. We are adequate just as we are, now whether we accept that or not is a different dilemma but our basic essence is perfect, beautiful and more then adequate. This brings us to going "towards" "Enlightenment." Enlightenment or awakening occurs in the present moment, not out there somewhere. There is no top of the mountain where a guru resides to grant us our Enlightenment diploma.

Everything that Buddhism teaches about awakening to Enlightenment resides right here, right now in the present moment. It isn't anywhere "out there." It reminds me of the old adage, why go to the store to buy milk when you have a cow at home?

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO: Rabbi and author, David A. Cooper

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Pleasure and Joy in Buddhism

All the delightful things of the world--sweet sounds, lovely forms, all the pleasant tastes and touches and thoughts--these are all agreed to bring happiness if they are not grasped and possessed.

But if you regard them merely as pleasures for your own use and satisfaction and do not see them as passing wonders, they will bring suffering.

-Sutta Nipata

James: Pleasure doesn't always mean that we suffer. It seems that some of us believe that one must live an austere and bland life in order to avoid suffering and delusion. Yet, even if we rid ourselves of all pleasure we ironically still suffer. That is because separating ourselves from all the joys of life is an extreme that the Buddha taught us to avoid. The Buddha tried this path and yet some of us seem to not believe him that it doesn't realize Buddhanature.

Desire and pleasure are not bad but rather the clinging to such things is where the problem arises.

I am leary of Buddhists and especially Buddhist teachers who take themselves too seriously and lack a sense of humor. I find laughter to be an integral part of the Dharma because life can become taxing and overwhelming at times and laughter is a great way to relieve tension, stress and worry. It is a very physical form of letting go. So take your path seriously but don't forget to smile, have a feast now and then, make funny faces and laugh. In fact, laugh a lot.

Speaking of laughter, Why can't a Buddha vaccuum under a sofa? Because they have no attachments.

One more:

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's just horrible!"

"It will pass," the teacher said matter-of-factly. A week later, the student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!"

"It will pass," the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

James: Have some fun and enjoy life as it passes by and realize that joys and pleasures are like beautiful sunsets. There are meant to be enjoyed but not possessed.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Merging with Autumn and Preparing for Winter

There is a noticeable bite in the air these last few days around here. The vibrant energy of summer is slowing down and the season of harvest and contemplation is upon us. Autumn is a beautiful time of year and gives us the precious opportunity to pause and reflect upon the changes that we have gone through in the waning year. It is a time to give thanks for all the bounteous things that grace our lives. For instance, just the other day I was marveling over having warm, clean, fresh water at my fingertips. There is so much hard work and knowledge that has gone into granting me the convenience of indoor plumbing and I am very grateful. I am very aware that many in this world do not have that luxury and I pray that they will one day be able to enjoy such a blessing.

Autumn is a beautiful time of year when everything is vibrantly changing to make way for the long winter sleep. The trees begin to turn color to put on a glorious art show before shedding them to conserve energy for the cold days to come. Animals grow thicker fur and hair to adapt to the chill. It is a wonderful season to contemplate upon impermanence and how joyful change can be. I find the change in seasons to be one of the most potent pieces of evidence of impermanence and the existence of the cycle of birth, death and rebirth that one can experience. It reminds us that while we continue to base our state of being around desire, we will encounter the suffering of being cold and feeling aches in our aging bodies. What better reminder to work toward one's liberation then a cold, aching body!!

Soon winter will set in and slow us down and bring us to a state of rest. Winter is a time of quiet and peace if we allow ourselves to move beyond the physical suffering of the cold and snow. The more we can reside in a state of Buddha-nature or Onenes we better realize that winter isn't all about suffering. It is a time to regroup, study and contemplate where we wish to go in the next year. It is a period of setting goals and re-evaluating our state of being. Of course this is needed at all times during the year but there is something about winter that makes such action more accessible.

If you do not live in a climate that experiences severe cold and snow then the same can be experienced during the cold rains that force one to be indoors more and spend more time with oneself.

Yes, Autumn and winter will soon settle in around us and we will once more experience the awesomeness of change. As with all things we tend to only look at one side of an idea such as with change. I think that I often look at only the pain side of change and not the beauty and wonderful lessons that can lie within such adjustments.

PHOTO: What a beautiful face on this Buddha statue. Here is Buddha reminding us to enjoy the changing seasons.

~Peace to all beings~

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

China Bans Reincarnation

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

At 72, the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since 1959, is beginning to plan his succession,
saying that he refuses to be reborn in Tibet so long as it's under Chinese control. Assuming he's able to master the feat of controlling his rebirth, as Dalai Lamas supposedly have for the last 600 years, the situation is shaping up in which there could be two Dalai Lamas: one picked by the Chinese government, the other by Buddhist monks.


James: Well, for a communist state, China sure is interested in religion!! That of course is because they fear the Dalai Lama as he represents peace and freedom of not only religion but of thought as well. This law is just plain silly. Seeing how it is believed by many that the Dalai Lama can control his own rebirth he will simply be reborn in Dharamsala, India (where the current Dalai Lama lives) or elsewhere in the Tibetan diaspora. The Chinese government simply does not understand Buddhism and the fact that change is inevitable. The idea of banning reincarnation by a human law is as absurd as passing a law making winter illegal.


The Tibetan people will never recognize an impostor Dalai Lama chosen by a non-Tibetan Buddhist body. It would be like the Tibetan Buddhist leader saying that he would choose the next Pope of the Catholic church and only that "Pope" would be the "real" one. Of course no one would take that seriously and this law of the Chinese government is just as laughable.


PHOTO CREDIT: The Buddhist Channel News


~Peace to all beings~

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