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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Teachers, the Leaves

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me and my wife. Things have been very stressful with a lot of problems swirling around our minds from financial problems due to my schizo-affective illness, Medicare dropping my insurance plan and trouble with my medications. I have found myself having bad reactions to my new medicine, Wellbutrin. It has been making me too stimulated and left me bordering on full blown mania. I have been quick to anger while taking it, to the point of being enraged over the littlest things. I wanted to give the Wellbutrin (or Hellbutrin as I call it) some extra time to work itself out because it has less side effects than other anti-depressants

That uncontrolled rage scared me since I haven't experienced that for years as I've been relatively stable with my long-time drug regiment. It was a major red flag that signaled the end of my patience toward the newly introduced drug. My psychiatrist wasn't convinced at first that I should go off the medicine but my therapist/councilor persuaded him to change his mind. So today is the fourth day off Wellbutrin and I feel much better. I feel much more stable emotionally and better prepared to deal with the stressful matters in my life mentioned above.

The other issue is that I got out of my meditation routine and haven't sat on the cushion in weeks. So right after I post this I am going to get back on track and meditate. I am going to do a metta meditation for others and myself to help heal and recover from the devastating events of the last few weeks. As well as help me win some breathing room to better deal with the continuing problems. That being said, sometimes meditation can make things worse if you're engaging in it out of a feeling of obligation, guilt or force. Sometimes it is better when you are feeling really angry to try and calm down through taking a walk/other exercise, read a peaceful book or other activities then meditate with the wrong intention. You don't want to come to resent the practice.

I have let the weight of the weeks events crush my happiness and it has left me in a place where I have been vulnerable and given in to self-pity. So today I began to dig myself out of the pit of defeatism by doing something for someone else. This time of year in Colorado, USA we experience a season called fall/autumn which sees a drop in temperature and crisp, dead, golden and auburn colored leaves falling off the trees, piling up to create drifts. So I tied on my shoes, went outside and began to rake up the leaves scattered across our lawn and my two neighbors lawns. We live in small houses that are all connected with a shared tract of land in the back but three separate, little front yards. Our neighbors are all elderly and the one man is very sick and needs oxygen.

It felt really good to forget myself and just clear up the lawns of the leaves. The minute I stepped outside, the fresh air invigorated my body and mind and brought the present moment sharp into focus. There was a slight breeze blowing around, making the vividly colored leaves dance in front of me. I smiled watching the performance and began to mindfully rake the fallen foliage. As I pulled the rake back and forth across the ground my self-pity began to fade away to be replaced by love of the beautiful nature just meters outside my front door. Then I felt gratitude fill my heart that I have decent health to help my neighbors with the yard work. I delighted in the soothing sound of the light, fluffy, rustling leaves being constructed into orderly piles. I breathed deeply and mindfully as I picked up clusters of leaves and placed them into the waste container.
How funny I thought that we call dead leaves, "waste" when they are still very useful. When piled up they are great fun for children, dogs (and fun loving adults) to jump into. It is like jumping into a large heap of feathers or what I imagine jumping into a large heap of feathers would be like.
Leaves also make great fertilizer in the spring, so no, they are not "waste." The wasteful activity in regards to dead leaves would be not to recycle them for plant fuel. Luckily our city picks up the "yard waste" and deposits it into a large compost pile at a recycling center where the finished fertilizer can be bought in the spring.

I gave of myself freely today and yet I feel like I gained much more. I am always pleasantly surprised at how many teachers there are waiting to help us if we just open our eyes through mindfulness and see with honest awareness. So many times over the last few weeks I was so self-absorbed that I didn't realize I was walking right over the top of my patiently waiting helpers and teachers, the leaves. It is like going on a great trek to the top of a mountain to visit a great teacher for wisdom, advice and peace while in the mean time we become annoyed by the rocks, tree branches, streams and leaves that seem to block our path on the way to the top.

Finally when we reach the top we tell the great teacher how hard our journey was and how difficult it was to reach him. Telling him how annoying the branches and rocks were on the way up making our trip more difficult. And maybe we would even get angry at him for not maintaining the path to make visiting easier. How silly we would look to the great teacher that we became annoyed with the leaves that we saw as blocking our path and slowing us down on our route to the top of the mountain to see the "real teacher!!" Surely that wise teacher would smile, perhaps laugh and tell us that we passed many great teachers that we could learn just as much, if not more from on the way up to see him!! And maybe we'd look confused and say, "I did not pass anyone old man!! You must be senile!! Do you take me for a fool?!! I see now that my journey up here as been a waste." To which he'd mostly likely respond, "Did you not pass many tree branches, rocks, streams and leaves?" "Well yes, of course and I already told you they were quite annoying!!" we'd respond. "Well then, you did indeed pass many great teachers!! I can not offer you anything up here. Go back and talk to the trees and the streams and you will find your answers and peace.

I bow to the leaves that helped me return to myself while assisting others at the same time. And while the leaves will clutter up the lawns again in a few days, I won't whine but rather smile, knowing their return is their commitment to teach me Oneness yet again. I am so grateful for my patient teachers who return again and again as many times as needed to help me understand.

What a beautiful world we are blessed to live in!!

A second post for today is below this one (gassho) _/I\_

~peace to all beings~

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Meditation and Distractions

The purpose of meditation is not to concentrate on the breath without intetrruption, forever. That by itself would be a useless goal. The purpose of meditation is not to achieve a perfectly still and serene mind. Although a lovely state, it doesn't lead to liberation by itself. The purpose of meditation is to achieve uninterrupted mindfulness. Mindfulness, and only mindfulness, produces Enlightenment. Distractions come in all sizes, shapes, and flavors. Buddhist philosophy has organized them into categories. One of them is the category of hindrances. They are called hindrances because they block your development of both components of meditation, mindfulness and concentration. A bit of caution on this term: The word "hindrances" carries a negative connotation and indeed these are states of mind we want to eradicate. . . That does not mean, however, that they are to be repressed, avoided or condemned. Let's use greed as an example. We wish to avoid prolonging any state of greed that arises, because a continuation of that state leads to bondage and sorrow. That does not mean to toss the thought out of the mind when it appears. We simply refuse to encourage it to stay. We let it come, and we let go.

- Henepola Gunaratana, Mindfulness in Plain English

James: I have found that the stronger I try to force hindering thoughts out of my head while I am meditating the more powerful I make them. They seem to just return even louder and more intrusive then If I just acknowledge them, mindfully watch them and contemplate why they might be appearing. Through this mindful investigation I usually find that the emotions appear to try and help me or protect me in some way. Once I let them make their presence known, tell their story, realize that I understand their root and acknowledge that I understand the perceived problem they seem to fade away of their own energy.

And when they return, as often intrusive thoughts do while meditating, I thank them again for their interest and concern in my life and gently remind them that the perceived or sometimes real problem will be looked into soon enough. However, right now we are enjoying this present moment without worry, stress or concern for what might happen or not happen in the future.

Nor are we concerned with the memories of the past because no amount of concentration can change those memories and their outcome now solidified within our karmic stream of consciousness. This is something I often tell myself when worries about the past arise during my meditation and then I return to my breathing and present moment by saying, "Breathing in, I am present. Breathing out, I am aware." That little gatha is really helpful in returning back to real time awareness. It is almost like a pressure valve that releases the stressful energy of hindering thoughts as my meditation unfolds. It seems too simplistic perhaps but try it, it might just be as powerful a tool to you as it is for me.

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT: Bhante Henepola Gunaratana near Beatenburg, Switzerland. Photo by Fred Von Allmen. I love the athletic shoes he is wearing with his humble monk robes.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Christians Protest Buddhist Display at City Hall meant to Promote Dalai Lama Visit

In Bloomington, Indiana in the United States of America the city hall has a display featuring Buddhist culture and art to promote an upcoming visit by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In response, some Christians from the area are protesting the display claiming that it promotes one religion over another. They protested by placing a display of the Christian ten commandments at the city hall.

"I read a brief statement on the importance of the Ten Commandments being the bedrock on which our city and nation's cultural and legal foundations stand," he wrote. (James: An issue that is debatable) We then proceeded to take two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments (each about 2 ft. tall and 1 ft. wide) and a table inside city hall and placed them right in front of the city's religious display of Buddhism."

The city responded by taking down the ten commandment display saying that the Christian group didn't follow city regulations and process for such an action. The city also said that the display was religious because it listed the main tenets of the Christian faith, whereas the Buddhist display merely depicts the art and culture of Tibet.

Either way, it is my opinion that neither display should be allowed. I feel that government buildings and agencies shouldn't flirt with religion in any way. The government is funded and run by the public and therefore should remain neutral in regards to anything connected to religion.

The Christian group released the following statement regarding the two displays:

"These commandments are our symbol of peace, and we want to include them with the city's display to promote religious enlightenment. We want to be clear that we do not agree with the ideology of the Dalai Lama or Buddhist beliefs – we are Christians and believe in one God, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," he said.

This is the most disappointing part of the whole affair for me because in saying that they do not agree with Buddhist beliefs in general they are saying they don't agree with compassion, peace, loving kindness and the easing of suffering. Both religions work to promote those ideals and it seems that the Christians could have asserted their right to the separation between government and religion without trashing Buddhism. I can only hope that the Christian group is simply ignorant of those core beliefs that the two faiths have in common.

May we all continue to strive for increased religious tolerance, respect and understanding.

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Reasons Why Buddhist Monks Wear Robes and ShaveTheir Heads

I received a comment asking what the symbolism is of the robes that Buddhist monks wear and I put together a response from some research. I decided to make a post out of it for others who might be interested in the query. If anyone else has something to add, feel free to post it in the comments.

For the most part the robes of the monks depended on the dye that was available in the region. And then tradition just kept those different colors. And it also helps distinguish which sect/tradition/school of Buddhism the monastic follows.

The simplicity of wearing a basic robe partly symbolizes the vow they have taken to live a simple life. It is like their "uniform" in a way. A symbol of their non-status that they are no longer partake in the material aspects of society.

The material and dyes for their robes are usually donated by the laity.

The robe also symbolizes the monks connection to the Buddha and his willingness to follow in his footsteps.

Within some Tibetan Buddhist schools, If their sleeveless tunic is trimmed with yellow brocade or they are wearing yellow silk and satin as normal attire, they are probably eminent monks or considered living Buddhas. This link will help describe how the robes have changed over time.

Some, however, consider robes to be elitist and encourage pride as one "advances" within ones sect.

As for monks shaving their heads, it often symbolizes the renunciation of worldly things. It helps monks over-come vanity to embrace the simple life of a monk.

I hope this little research has helped a bit.

P.S.~Just wanted to let everyone know that the blog has just passed over 100,000 hits. The number doesn't mean as much to me, whereas, the readers that number represents is what is notable and humbling for this imperfect manifestation called James. Thank-you to everyone for your support, readership and comments.

I bow to the Buddha within you all. _/I\_

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dalai Lama to Receive Honor in America Today

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will receive the Congressional Gold Medal--America's highest civilian honor--in a ceremony today. It is to be awarded to him in recognition of his contributions to peace, non-violence, human rights and religious understanding. Predictably China is angry over the award to which the Tibetan Buddhist monk replied with a laugh, "That always happens."

His playful attitude continued when a reporter asked him if he had a message for Chinese President Hu Jintao, he patted the reporter on the cheek and said, "You are not a representative of Hu Jintao."

The award has a picture of the Dalai Lama on one side and says on the other, "World peace must be developed from inner peace. Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is the manifestation of human compassion." Click here for the link to this picture.
Some might say that in accepting a piece of gold that the Dalai Lama is falling prey to materialism but such a claim couldn't be further from the truth. By accepting this award, His Holiness is accepting it to advance his cause for Tibetan autonomy, the welfare of the Tibetan people, maintain Tibetan Buddhism and to raise awareness of that campaign. In addition, gaining awards and having financial success isn't always, unskillful as long as they are gained through Right Intention and Right Livelihood. As well as realizing that such material gains are not the path to long term happiness.

If nothing else his acceptance of the award is a compassionate, loving action to respect the love and honor people wish to give him.

The Dalai Lama's American envoy, Lodi Gyari added, "The medal is important because it gives Tibetans hope and encouragement."

~Peace to all beings~

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Reincarnationist

I was recently contacted by critically acclaimed author M. J. Rose regarding her newest novel, The Reincarnationist. Rose has been interested in Eastern philosophy and especially reincarnation since her early years and has now written a book of fiction surrounding many of those ideas.

The Reincarnationist has received star reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, was chosen as a Booksense pick and has received rave reviews from People Magazine, The Chicago Sun Times and more. And so, without further ado, M. J. Rose introduces us to the back story of her latest book in a Saturday guest post:

The Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang said: “To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions.”

When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.

He was not a Buddhist but a Kabbalist – and reincarnation is as much a part of mystic Judaism tradition as it part of Buddhism. As he continued to talk to me about these memories, my great grandfather became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone from his past.

My mother – a logical and skeptical woman – argued with him about what she called his “old fashioned” ideas but over time and more incidents, she became curious enough to start reading up on the subject.

And so reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. A concept that my mom and I talked about and researched together. We studied what Buddhists and Kabbalists and Hindus wrote. We read scientific articles and skeptical arguments. We debated and postulated.

If you had asked me at twenty if I believed, I would have said “I don’t not believe.” But I was fascinated. And remained fascinated.

In my early thirties I studied Zen Buddhism and learned to mediate. It was about the same time I started writing fiction and found myself very much wanting to write a novel about reincarnation.

But it wasn’t until my mother died ten years ago that I finally began to make notes for that novel… a story about someone like her who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. At the time I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to work on the project. The grief was too close and too raw.

Then four years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was almost three years old told me about experiences I’d had with my mother… experiences my niece couldn’t have known – moments I had never shared with anyone.

There was no turning away anymore. That experience convinced me it was time for me to finally explore my ideas and questions about reincarnation through my novel.

Josh Ryder, the main character in The Reincarnationist has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end.

When Josh starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels -- a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories.

In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.

Thich Nguyen Tang said: “So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth.”

I think writing is a rebirth like that. Thoughts reborn as words that in a way die for the author once they are put to paper but are then reborn again for the reader who picks up the book and experiences the ideas and thoughts of the writer in his or her own personal way.

M.J. Rose is the author of nine novels. Read an excerpt of The Reincarnationist, watch an interview with the author and read the reviews at www.mjrose.com. Also please visit Rose’s blog devoted to the subject of reincarnation at www.reincarnationist.org

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Boycott the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Plus an Update on Burma.

WARNING: This video contains images that might be disturbing to some viewers.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO

I was greatly disappointed in the International Olympic Committee when it announced that it was selecting Beijing, China to host the 2008 summer Olympic games. I enjoy watching the world come together in seeing the best of the best compete, however, I do not like the idea that this will come at the expense of oppression, torture and other human rights violations.

My first solution would be to move the games elsewhere and I think that could still be accomplished despite this late date. For example, the IOC would select a city that has already hosted the games and thus already has the infrastructure/venues built to accommodate such a gathering.

The less desirable and more drastic solution would be to cancel the games and wait for the next year and city to emerge.

In other words, something MUST BE DONE. We can not let this injustice go forward any longer.

I do not believe that boycotting the Olympics is radical, absurd or over-zealous. It is a question of our humanity. That is to say, what is more important, sports/entertainment/money or human rights, morality and standing up against repression and helping to reduce suffering in the world? Is it really too much to ask us to forgo a sporting event to to satisfy our senses in order to send the message that the world does not support human rights violations? If so, then I would submit that we must really reassess our values as a people.

And here in America we are buying Chinese products that often contain the toxic element of lead. I am ashamed that my country is buying products from China at all since it is most likely that they are all made in factories where the workers have no rights and are basically slave laborers. As well as made in environments/industries that aren't regulated for safety.

In granting China the right to host the Olympics the world is basically rewarding them for using violence, repression, religious intolerance, censorship, the death penalty, lack of legal representation and the invasion of a sovereign country, Tibet.

And as the video states, China is selling guns to the repressive and brutal government in Sudan that is killing masses of people in Darfur. As well as buying oil from Sudan which is putting money in the coffers of the killers. Are you o.k. with supporting a country that basically supports genocide?

And now, there is the horrific situation in Burma and China isn't lifting a finger to put pressure on the junta in any significant actions. Why should they? They are getting away with crimes against humanity themselves so why should they feel the pressure to force the military dictatorship in Burma to stop it's violent suppression of any expression of freedom?

The Olympics own charter states: "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles" and its goal of promoting "a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity." The profoundly sad irony is that the above two points listed in the Olympic charter are located on the Official website for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

It is for all these reasons and more that I am adding my voice to the boycott Beijing movement, will you join me?

BURMA:

First Lady of the United States of America (wife of the President) speaks out on Burma. CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE. If you agree with her statements then I urge you to send her office an email to thank her for her support. Here is the general email address to the White House where she lives/works:
comments@whitehouse.gov.

CLICK HERE to read a letter to China signed by 20 former Presidents and Prime Ministers. It's a PDF file.

If you'd like to send a message to the Beijing organizers, here is an email address that you can use: ticketsupport@beijing2008.cn

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Faith in America: Buddhism in the Heartland

In America we have the NBC Nightly News organization with journalist Brian Williams. This past week they've been running a series titled, "Faith in America" and this past Friday the segment was on Buddhism in the heartland of America. There isn't a lot of discussion in America by the media or elsewhere regarding Buddhism. The religious discussion usually focuses on Christianity and/or the other monotheistic religions, Islam and Judaism. Click on the link below to see the video. There is a brief advertisement before the video begins:

Faith in America: Buddhists in the heartland

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT: The Empyrean Buddha by Geoffrey Chandler.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Taking Refuge in the Buddha

NOTE: I am not a Dharma teacher, a "guru" or Buddhist master but am a simple lay person and the following thoughts are mine and mine alone. I firmly believe that we must work out what we believe for ourselves. That being said, it can be helpful to hear other peoples' opinions and it is my hope that this post will do that to some degree. Please, do not take it as some kind of dogma or doctrine, it is simply my understanding of one aspect of Buddhism.

We constantly hear about taking refuge in the Buddha but what exactly does that mean? Well, the word Buddha literally means "awakened" in sanskrit. Therefore when we take refuge in the Buddha, perhaps we aren't necessarily taking refuge in the historical Siddhartha Gautama. I'm not saying that if you do take this refuge literally that you are somehow "wrong" but I'm simply putting forth the conclusion that I have reached.

For me, taking refuge in the Buddha doesn't mean that in doing so the Buddha will protect us from harm, the Buddha was not a "God." It seems to me, rather that when we take refuge in the Buddha we are actually taking refuge in the present moment. As Buddha means "awakened" we are taking refuge that being awake and aware in the present moment will aid us in realizing peace with our surroundings and the world around us. This greatly reduces suffering.

The other aspect of this for me is that I see taking refuge in the Buddha to mean that we take refuge in the Buddha within us. It is reminding my duality loving ego/mind that I am interconnected with all beings throughout space and time and that includes the historical Buddha. It brings me peace that my True Nature is a beautiful, peaceful Buddha. For me, such a realization brings me great comfort and motivation to cultivate and maintain the pure awakened state of awareness that defines Buddhahood.

Just a few Friday insights from the mind of the one that they call James

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT: CLICK HERE

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

International Bloggers Day for Burma 2007


If you are thinking about buying rubies, may I suggest you refrain. Ninety percent of the world's rubies come from the junta led government in Burma.

$750 million dollars a year worth and it all goes to the generals. However that statistic is probably low. The red color of the rubies is a horrible symbol of the blood shed to obtain them. They are quite literally, "Blood Rubies."

~Peace to Burma~

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Burma's Silent Protests and Smuggled Video Appears

Burmese Launch Silent Protest:

YANGON, Myanmar - A growing number of citizens in Myanmar's largest city are shutting off the government-run nightly newscast, trying to send the subtle message to authorities that they are tired of listening to their propaganda, residents said Tuesday.

Most are switching off the news for the first 15 minutes of the hour-long broadcast, while some also are shutting off all the lights in their homes.

It was unclear how many people participated in the protest, which spread by word of mouth.

"This is the least dangerous anti-government activity that I can take," said a resident of Yangon taking part in the protest that began Monday. "By doing this, I am showing that I am not listening to what the government is saying," the woman said, refusing to give her name for fear of government reprisal.

James: What a great example of the power of knowing we are all united, interconnected. The Burmese know that they are One in intention as well as One with people outside their country. It is an example of the saying, "United we stand, divided we fall." Anything can be accomplished when we awake from the sleepy, numbing delusion of separateness.

Video Smuggled out of Burma. CNN obtained this video taken at least two days ago in Burma:
James:
The ironic thing is this video was likely taken before the Foreign Minister claimed that they have been using the "utmost restraint" in dealing with the pro-Democracy movement. In other news:

Many of the imprisoned monks are refusing to touch food from their military captors, symbolically maintaining their boycott of the Myanmar regime, according to reports emerging yesterday from unofficial sources in the isolated country.

The guards are trying to force them to eat, which is a form of torture," said Bo Kyi, head of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a group based in Thailand. "I'm very worried about them. Some of them could die in detention. It's really heartbreaking for the people of Burma."

Burmese Major Flees Country After Refuses Orders to Kill Buddhist Monks:

by Nick Meo, The Times, October 3, 2007

Rangoon, Burma -- As demonstrations mounted in Rangoon and the military prepared for a crackdown, an agonising decision loomed for Major Htay Win. The soldier, who has fought ethnic rebels for 21 years, knew that he would be executed if he refused to shoot demonstrators. But as a devout Buddhist he was convinced he would burn in Hell if he killed the monks. “There were secret codes to start shooting monks. But for a Buddhist this is a terrible crime. Monks are the sons of Buddha. The account Major Htay gave The Times was of an angry and divided army, horrified at being forced to crush protesters they broadly sympathised with, but also fearful of the hard-core of officers loyal to Than Shwe, Burma’s military leader. “I am just the first who will come to Thailand,” he said. “There are many officers like me who are deeply unhappy. They didn’t want to kill the monks. Many officers are also angry because the Burmese people are hungry.” He claimed that many sympathise with Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s jailed pro-democracy leader. “The problem is that they are afraid of Than Shwe. He is so cruel,” he said.

“I am sure officers must have refused their orders to shoot monks. They will themselves be shot — it will happen in a prison and we will never hear about it. If I went back to Burma, I would be executed by them without a moment’s thought.”

"Than Shwe will try to hang on to power, but I believe this time next year he will be gone. There are other soldiers who want his power.”

None of his colleagues believed the regime’s claim that protesters were in league with foreign powers. “They know that is bulls**t. The generals just want to cling on to power,” he said.

James: The top cadre of leaders within the junta has gone too far this time in killing the most revered people in Burma, the Buddhist monks. Yet the irony is that the top leadership will most likely be toppled by a revolt from their own soldiers. And finally, I'd like to add this quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

Lack of understanding of the true nature of happiness, it seems to me, is the principal reason why people inflict sufferings on others. They think either that the other's pain may somehow be a cause of happiness for themselves or that their own happiness is more important, regardless of what pain it may cause. But this is shortsighted: no one truly benefits from causing harm to another sentient being. Whatever immediate advantage is gained at the expense of someone else is shortlived. In the long run, causing others misery and infringing their rights to peace and happiness result in anxiety, fear, and suspicion within oneself. Such feelings undermine the peace of mind and contentment which are the marks of happiness. True happiness comes not from a limited concern for one's own well-being, or that of those one feels close to, but from developing love and compassion for all sentient beings. Here, love means wishing that all sentient beings should find happiness, and compassion means wishing that they should all be free of suffering. The development of this attitude gives rise to a sense of openness and trust that provides the basis for peace.

--The Dalai Lama, from The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness, edited by Sidney Piburn From Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Meditation and Nausea with an Update on the Situation in Burma

I've been feeling nauseous lately and today I'm feeling it again. I didn't feel up to meditating this morning because of my stomach but I thought that it might help despite feeling like it was the last activity I wanted to engage in. I tend to heat up when I meditate which doesn't help calm my stomach in the least so I took off my socks to release some energy and began to breath deeply from my stomach.

I did a relaxation meditation for the first ten minutes focusing my breath and mind upon each section of my body and when I reached my intestines and stomach I spent a little extra time taking in full but not forced breaths. It wasn't long before my stomach felt stable and relaxed.
By the end of my session my stomach had relaxed so much that it was able to belch out some trapped air that was causing some pressure and thus adding to the stomach sickness. Gone was the tightness of my stomach muscles.

The other aspect of this is that I saw my chiropractor early today before meditating and I was super tight from recent neck problems. However, once my spine adjusted during this current session I noticed that my stomach relaxed ever so slightly.

Yes, meditation is a great medicine for so many conditions and states of mind.


It is remarkable how when one part of your body is stressed and unbalanced the rest of your body becomes misaligned as well. It's the mind, body, consciousness interconnection. I am a firm believer that our state of mind can greatly affect how our body feels. It is a excellent reminder of the interdependency between the parts that make up "the body." In reality we know that there is no such thing as a "body" rather only parts that make up what we label a "body" that we often (unskillfully) address as a separate manifestation from anything else.

However, what good is a body if oxygen isn't available and what good is a body if food isn't available? The body can not live without the warmth of the sun, just like it can not survive without water. So, we see that we are actually made up of "things" or manifestations that are non-body parts. In reality, there is nothing that exists that isn't apart of our bodies.

BURMA UPDATE:

Yangon, Myanmar
-- Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: 'Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand.'

There were reports that many were savagely beaten at a sports ground on the outskirts of Rangoon, where they were heard crying for help.

Others who had failed to escape disguised as civilians were locked in their bloodstained temples.

There, troops abandoned religious beliefs, propped their rifles against statues of Buddha and began cooking meals on stoves set up in shrines.

'People are scared and the general assessment is that the fight is over. We were informed from one of the largest embassies in Burma that 40 monks in the Insein prison were beaten to death today and subsequently burned.'

The 42-year-old chief of military intelligence in Rangoon's northern region, added: 'I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks.

'They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this.'

James: The following poem (not sure where it is from but I believe it is in the Anguttara Nikaya) contains some words that comfort me in the face of all the death and misery going on these days in Burma (and in the rest of the world, such as in Iraq). Perhaps it will touch and comfort someone who has lost family and friends in Burma (or elsewhere).

This body is not me.

I am not limited by this body.

I am life without boundaries.

I have never been born,

and I have never died.

Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind.

Since before time, I have been free.

Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey.

Birth and death are a game of hide- and seek.

So laugh with me,

hold my hand,

let us say good-bye,

say good-bye, to meet again soon.

We meet today.

We will meet again tomorrow.

We will meet at the source every moment.

We meet each other in all forms of life.

James: Then of course there are the Five Remembrances. Below are the remembrances offered by Thich Nhat Hanh with a snippet of analysis of them by Frank Jude Boccio in an article titled, "Embrace Reality" published in the Yoga Journal:

I like this version of the Buddha's Five Remembrances, offered by Thich Nhat Hanh in The Plum Village Chanting Book (Parallax Press, 1991).

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change.

There is no way to escape being separated from them.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

Boccio: At a recent lecture, I led a group of interfaith seminarians in the contemplation of the Five Remembrances, Buddha's teaching on impermanence, aging, health, change, and death. Afterward, one of the students asked, "Isn't this just negative thinking?" On the contrary, the Five Remembrances is what the Buddha offers to awaken you from denial, to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for the life you've been given, and to teach you about nonattachment and equanimity.

If you think of it this way, the meditation is not a bleak, depressing list of things you'll lose, but a reminder of the wonder and miracle of life as it is -perfect and whole, lacking nothing. When you accept impermanence as more than a philosophical concept, you can see the truth of it as it manifests itself in your mind, your body, your environment, and your relationships, and you no longer take anything for granted.

Once you accept the reality of impermanence, you begin to realize that grasping and clinging are suffering, as well as the causes of suffering, and with that realization you can let go and celebrate life. The problem is not that things change, but that you try to live as if they don't.

When you can extend beyond the limits you've created you see that your life is not really "yours" but all of life itself manifesting through you.

As the Buddha tells us: "When one perceives impermanence, the perception of no-self is established. With the perception of no-self, the conceit of 'I' is eliminated, and this is nirvana here and now."

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO CREDIT: CLICK HERE

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