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Sunday, March 30, 2008

List of World Leaders Who Will Not Attend the Beijing Olympics Grows.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, yesterday became the first world leader to decide not to attend the Olympics in Beijing.

As pressure built for concerted western protests to China over the crackdown in Tibet, EU leaders prepared to discuss the crisis for the first time today, amid a rift over whether to boycott the Olympics.

The disclosure that Germany is to stay away from the games' opening ceremonies in August could encourage President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to join in a gesture of defiance and complicate Gordon Brown's determination to attend the Olympics.

Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, became the first EU head of government to announce a boycott on Thursday and he was promptly joined by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic, who had previously promised to travel to Beijing.

James: I'm pleased that major players on the world stage are voicing their displeasure with China's image before the Olympic games in Beijing. I opposed the decision to award China the Olympics in the first place, however, it is not possible to put that genie back in the bottle. That being said, It is important to remind the world that the Chinese government does not totally live up to the Olympic spirit of peace in how it rules its people nor the repressive governments that it supports (Burma, Sudan and Vietnam to name but a few).

As Buddhists we have a responsibility to be loving and compassionate but sometimes that requires speaking about uncomfortable things, sometimes it means disagreeing with people such as is the case with the Chinese governments' abuses of power.

Guess what two major corporations are sponsoring the Beijing Olympics? Two companies that are about as American as you get--McDonalds and Coca-Cola. Yet the message that they are sending by making money off the brutal Chinese regime is very much against the American ideals of freedom and human rights. It's a perfect example of how greed can lead us to rationalize anything--even our very principles.

I just sent an email to McDonalds and Coca-Cola asking them politely to think about their actions in supporting the dictatorial Chinese government through corporate sponsorship. If you would like to email them as well, just click on their company names listed above and the link will take you right to the email forms.UPDATE: I woke up this morning to sadly see the Olympic torch in a staged event at Tienanmen Square in Beijing China. Of course Tienanmen Square was the sight in 1989 of horrible violence meant to end a peaceful protest where some claims put the number of dead at 2-3,000. In sad irony the translation of the name Tienanmen means, Gate of Heavenly Peace.

So it was disheartening to see the Olympic torch which represents the goodwill amongst all people of the world displayed on that plaza of bloodshed. Goodwill is often defined as the disposition of kindness and compassion. Tienanmen Square does not represent compassion nor kindness to the people killed, beaten and illegally arrested for simply marching for basic freedom.

There are many people in China today who live in constant fear of their dictatorial government and I doubt that they experience much kindness and compassion coming from such a brutal leadership.

And as mentioned above the Chinese government that is running the over-sight of the Olympic games in Beijing supports the brutal Burmese government who beat, killed and illegally arrested hundreds of its own people in last years peaceful demonstrations for freedom.

~Peace to all beings~

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Praying Dog and How Animals Teach Us.

The Associated Press

NAHA, Japan — At a Zen Buddhist temple in southern Japan, even the dog prays.

Mimicking his master, priest Joei Yoshikuni, a 1 1/2-year-old black-and-white Chihuahua named Conan joins in the daily prayers at Naha's Shuri Kannondo temple, sitting up on his hind legs and putting his front paws together before the altar.

It took him only a few days to learn the motions, and now he is the talk of the town.

"Word has spread, and we are getting a lot more tourists," Yoshikuni said Monday.

Yoshikuni said Conan generally goes through his prayer routine at the temple in the capital of Japan's southern Okinawa prefecture (state) without prompting before his morning and evening meals.

"I think he saw me doing it all the time and got the idea to do it too," Yoshikuni said.

The priest is now trying to teach him how to meditate. Well, sort of.

"Basically, I am just trying to get him to sit still while I meditate," he explained. "It's not like we can make him cross his legs."

James: I adore dogs. They are so innocent, full of unconditional love and joyful to be around. This one seems to be preparing for rebirth as a human and perhaps a monk. :)I'm sure that this little doggie doesn't understand what he is doing but I'm sure that he feels the peaceful energy surrounding him that helps him feel content, peaceful and calm. He has Buddha nature as any other living entity and is our relative in the large and beautiful family of sentient beings.

It seems less skillful to me to regard animals as less than us and therefore somehow not worthy of our protection and kindness. We must look upon animals with compassion and help them live the best life possible to help reduce their suffering as no sentient beings wants to suffer. And even though we see ourselves as their teachers and guides, they too have much to offer and teach us.

They remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, they teach us how to have unconditional love for others, they remind us of the freedom found in the present moment and to not let anger rule our hearts but to forgive and move on. Animals are the ultimate optimists who teach us a positive attitude brings great happiness and that is o.k. to be submissive at times.

I'd love to hear what you learn from animals in the comment section. :)

Special thanks to my reader Perri for sending this story my way.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, March 24, 2008

"My Stroke of Insight," by Jill Bolte Taylor.

This is an excellent video speech from a scientist of the brain, Jill Bolte Taylor who describes what it was like to suffer a stroke. Yet she beautifully spoke of the peace that was involved at the same time she was experiencing a health crisis that so many of us fear. It is a brave, courageous story in accepting and being aware of what is going on in our present situation. You might notice some Buddhist themes/ideas within it. I must thank my fellow traveler in samsara who wishes to remain anonymous for sending me this great video. I bow to the Buddha within him and you all. Enjoy!!:


~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring is Reborn.

Sometimes the concept of rebirth is hard to envision because it seems like a mystical, supernatural idea that is hard for our limited minds to understand. And to be honest, I don't know for a fact that we will be reborn. I have faith that rebirth is a reality but I don't dwell much on the concept and constantly worry how I will be reborn and what do I need to do to be reborn into a "good situation," whatever that means. I do not think that this kind of attention is helpful to us because it only brings us anxiety because we are attached to something that is impossible to figure out in this moment.

I have personally found it more skillful to focus on the present moment at hand where we have the best chance to liberate ourselves from the suffering that we bring upon ourselves by wasting that moment obsessing about what happens upon the death of the body. Each moment is a chance to be reborn anew giving us another precious moment to live mindfully which enables us to transform habit energy into something more positive and more helpful in our ultimate goal of achieving full liberation from samsara. It is ironic that we refer to it as liberation when it is more like remembering, remembering our essence which is nothing short of Buddhahood.

Being fully present in being aware of our surroundings we see the beauty of rebirth in a direct way all around us. We know and see the change of seasons in many areas of the world and with mindfulness we see that this process is a reflection of the reality of human life. In the spring we are born, we grow up in the summer into adulthood, in the winter we begin to age and in the winter we die but the process continues. On the coldest days of winter it seems that life is gone and so is the beauty of existence but there is joy to be found even in that season of death. The coldness is not unlike the cold feelings that we experience when a loved has died and is a reminder to us to make the most of each moment.

The snow in the world shuts down the known and conditioned brain's "preferred" beauty of blooming trees, plants, flowers and active animal life. To our blinding sensory desires we miss the artistic way that snow sculpts itself into delicate and stunning formations. We miss the creative way that icicles form and accent the sky. We often miss the beautiful contrast of green pine trees dusted with fine layers of white snow.

If winter in your part of the world means rain, we miss the beauty of the cleansing nature of water and how without water the rebirth of life sustaining plants would never be possible. The winter monsoons drive people indoors for days at a time and it is easy to resent the rain because it prevents us from doing the things that we love outside. However, seen in a more mindful way it should be seen as a blessing because it gives us time to be mindful, reflect on our lives and allows us ample time to meditate.

All is being reborn here in my part of the world, flowers are growing, trees and budding and birds are looking to usher in new life. This is another chance to enjoy the beauty of change. So often we only see suffering in change but like with all experiences there is beauty and joy to be found.

So do not worry over enlightenment, Nirvana and the Pure Land for they are all present in the here and now. The total liberation in the scriptural state will happen when we are ready and our karma has ripened. In the mean time, the bliss of Nirvana can be seen in the beauty of delicate flowers re-emerging right before our eyes and even in the dark cold days of winter. All is present to us if we but relax our minds and allow ourselves to just be. We are apart of Buddha's enlightenment and therefore Buddha's to be, what a wonderful thought!! What a wonderful heritage we are apart of!!

There is nothing that is not divine for all is as it can only be. We can not do anything else but go with the flow of the vast river of pure being. Resistance is the path of suffering.

May we all realize joy in the rebirth of each breath. Present moment, wonderful moment, only moment. I leave you with the words of my precious teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh:


~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years of War in Iraq.

It has been five years since the start of the Iraq war and it is a sad anniversary to say the least.

The length of this war shows us that war only causes more violence, hatred and mistrust. There are very few wars that have done much good, the only one that I can think of would be World War II. However, even that war caused much unnecessary suffering and death such as the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the bombing of Dresden.

I firmly believe that it would have been enough to tell the Japanese that America had such a bomb of mass destruction to get them to surrender. I think another option would have been to simply set the bomb off way out in the ocean where no one would have been killed but the large explosion could be seen and be convincing enough to bring about a Japanese surrender.

Even in the midst of the war in Iraq there are those who would start another one with Iran. I believe firmly that we can settle disputes with the Persian country if we engage in meaningful and in-depth dialog with them. In not talking with them America is increasing the tension and distrust between the two countries.

The Iranians do not want to suffer just as everyone does not want to suffer. It is vital that the world understands that we are interconnected and that we cannot over-come our suffering and fears by creating suffering and fear for others.

The culture of war may never cease while humans live on this planet but if there must be war may there be as little death, injury and suffering as possible.

May Iraq know lasting peace by this time next year.

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, March 14, 2008

China Off America's List of Worst Human Rights Abusers.

In an almost unnoticed and sad development, the United States of America has removed China from its list of the world's worst human rights abusers. This is particularly troubling given that China just recently broke up a second day of peaceful protest marching by 500-600 monks in Tibet with tear gas and arrests. Today saw a third day of growing protests and in response the Chinese military has sealed off monasteries, reports say that these have been the largest protests in nearly two decades. These protests marked the 49th anniversary of an uprising of against Chinese rule. Some reports say that gunfire could be heard.The heart beat of Tibet is the heart beat of all peace loving people. I have such admiration and respect for these monks and lay people who have mastered their fears and risen peacefully to stand up to the powerful waves of suffering battering them day after day. One molecule of water is no watch in breaking and wearing down a wall but hundreds, thousands and millions of molecules linked together in Oneness of concentration have the power to bit by bit erode away the strongest barriers to freedom. May we be apart of that wave. This is what Gandhi understood as talked about in my previous post.

Let us stand tall and show Tibetans everywhere that we stand firm together with them to peacefully affect change in their beautiful and sacred land. Let us take a few moments in our meditations to contemplate how we can not only free the Tibetans but also free the Chinese military and government from their anger as well as resistance toward change. We must stand up in solidarity with our Tibetan brothers and sisters in order to show the Chinese dictatorship that the practices of violence and force are not effective in realizing true unity and oneness.

They must understand that you can not force people to agree with your opinions and policies because you believe that you know what is best for them--such actions only create more suffering for the very people that you sought to free. That being said, may we also have love toward the Chinese government officials because they are caught up in the shackles of suffering from fear, frustration and anger. Speaking of anger, may we not allow anger toward the Chinese government overtake our minds to prevent resorting to violence ourselves.
The removing of China from the worst human rights abusers list is also disturbing given China's support of the Burmese dictatorship which killed and illegally jailed citizens (many of them monks) for peacefully protesting their brutal regime last year. As well as China's support of the Sudanese government in Africa which has been linked to the genocide in Darfur.China should not be removed from this list of the worst human rights abusers until (at the very least) they grant Tibet independence and grant full freedom to the Chinese people. As well as the political freedom of the Chinese people themselves. They must be constantly reminded that oppressing the Tibetan people and violating human rights within China proper is not acceptable. Maintaining this position as well as not rewarding them with the Olympics are forms of peaceful protests that convey opposition and disagreement without anger and using violence. The Great Bodhisattva Gandhi showed that this kind of campaign is indeed effective in over-coming even the most powerful and oppressive systems of government.The Dalai Lama has urged peaceful protests during the Beijing Olympics. Many Tibetans feel that the decision to award the games to China is at odds with the goal of the Olympic movement, which is to build a peaceful and better world. Campaigners fear Beijing will use the Olympics to inaccurately present China as a free and open society to the outside world.I fear that many Buddhists take pacifism too far. I hear from some folks who say that being involved in political protests just upset ones peacefulness. Yet how can we enjoy our peacefulness and freedom to worship as we desire when not all in this world have that same chance? Is not the Engaged Buddhism that Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of part of practicing the Bodhisattva vows to not rest until all people achieve freedom and liberation from suffering? This is not simply some mystical, other worldly ability limited to the somewhat mythical being Avalokiteshvara. It is my belief that the essence of the Avalokiteshvara story is a tool to teach us that our peace is everyones' peace and that our suffering is everyones' suffering.

I agree that it is not wise to worry night and day about politics, violence, hatred and fear but neither is isolating ourselves. Isolation and inaction is ignoring to a degree the suffering of others and is in my opinion less skillful action. If we earnestly believe in inter-being then we must not remain silent on political issues such as these. This is partly the symbolism of the Tibetan endless knot picture above and to the left--The mutual dependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs.

It is not less skillful to be involved in Democratic politics, it is an imperfect tool at times but the best that we have to do our best to bring the greatest peace and freedom possible to as many sentient beings as possible.

UPDATE: Philip Ryan over at the excellent Tricycle Editor's Blog is reporting that Chinese media has confirmed 10 dead during new protests in Tibet. However, supporters of the protests and of the Dalai Lama put the number at 80.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gandhi the Bodhisattva.

Whenever I see an erring man, I say to myself, I have also erred; when I see a lustful man I say to myself, so was I once; and in this way I feel kinship with everyone in the world and feel that I cannot be happy without the humblest of us being happy.

-Mahatma Gandhi, 1920

James: He was one of the most amazing people to grace this planet and his legacy, example and beauty live on year after year like ripples across a pond. He was not the first person to teach and live non-violence (ahimsa) but he showed that despite it's position of humility that it was a powerful tool in affecting political change on a massive scale.
My thoughts then turn to the good people and monks of Burma who have practiced non-violence to resist the oppression of the totalitarian government but were pushed back. I hope that they remember what this frail, humble man from India was able to accomplish with time. I can hear Gandhi speaking to the Burmese resistance and to us all:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always."

~Peace to all beings~

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Friday, March 07, 2008

The Big Crunch, The Big Bang and Buddha.

Nothing lasts forever, we know this thanks to the grand awakening (enlightenment) of Buddha and the more we learn about science the more science backs up Tathagata's insights.

We understand now that the universe was most likely created by, "The Big Bang" but what happened before, "The Big Bang?" What caused it? Well as it turns out many scientists believe it was the result of something called, "The Big Bounce" or "The Big Crunch." If cutting edge scientists' equations, known physics and observations are correct then our universe was the result of a previous universe collapsing in on itself into a gigantic gravitational implosion--"The Big Crunch." This mass then exploded via some bizarre physics that is only now being understood to inflate into a different but somewhat similar universe--our own.

We also know that this explosion, "The Big Bang" was so powerful that our universe is still expanding and faster with time that (some theorize) will result in another, "Big Crunch" or "Big Rip." Once this stretching of the universe gets going fast enough, (which many scientists purpose will happen) it will push galaxies, stars and solar systems apart until eventually even atoms will rip into pieces.

If gravity becomes too great it would collapse under its own weight and cause all matter to collapse again until it coalesces into black holes which would eventually coalesce into one super massive black hole that would concentrate all the energy of the dying universe. At that point, the theory goes that this mass of super dense energy would become so great that it would explode into another big bang creating another universe.

This is no surprise to Buddhists as we have been taught by Buddha that all things are interconnected and impermanent and thus the very universe that we call home must in fact "die" itself only to reborn anew as is the nature of all things.

It turns out that Buddha was not only the Supreme Buddha of this age but it now seems he was one of the first scientists if not the first scientist. Is it not interesting that science at its very foundation is about observations and awareness as is the crux of Buddhism?

This beautiful process reminds me of my favorite verses of poetry from the larger poem, "Auguries of Innocence" by William Blake:

To see the World in a Grain of Sand And Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm or your hand And Eternity in an hour.

~Peace with all beings~

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Media and Suffering.

Have you heard about this terrible shooting in a Wendy's fast food restaurant here in the USA a few days ago? My heart always breaks and mourns when I hear about these things as there is so much suffering involved.

Obviously their is the suffering of the victims who did nothing but be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That being said, it is clear that the shooter must have been severely suffering mentally to feel pushed to do something so terrible as this.

Once again the media just focuses on the horror of the event rather than putting the spotlight on mental illness and what we can do to increase help and support for the mentally ill so that we can reduce this kind of thing that has become all to common. We never seem to use these nightmares to increase research into new and improved medicines and double our efforts to raise more awareness and educate the public on the truths and the misconceptions behind mental health problems. We need to find the positive in these events. We need to look at them as learning opportunities rather than just a salacious news story.

Today the media got their hands upon the 911 tapes of this terrible event and as usual are playing them over and over. I am always baffled why they do this because what good does this do but rub salt in the wounds of the families suffering? It isn't good to dwell on the panic and fear of those moments. It does nothing but amplify the disturbing nature of this shooting and broadens the suffering to the general public. Why would anyone want to listen to those traumatic moments?

I remember the people after 9/11 who wanted the tapes of the disaster released to the public and was greatly saddened when they did so. I think those are private materials that should be only accessible to the families of the victims. There is something really bothersome about listening to someone's last terrifying moments of their life. It seems intrusive and just waters the seeds of fear, delusion and anger. It only serves to fuel the suffering in this world. The other reason that we shouldn't air these tapes is because there are people who are on the edge of violence themselves and playing these tapes stirs up their urges to do something similar.

The other event that I remember is the Columbine massacre that occurred in my state of Colorado, USA when they released the video tapes of the killers roaming the hallways with their guns and you could see the crazy look in their eyes. It was a disturbing event in an of itself and airing those tapes was irresponsible in the least.

There is enough suffering in this world, we don't need to fuel that strong habit energy further.

I just firmly believe that somethings shouldn't be splayed out in front of the general public.

~Peace to all beings~

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Help Wanted.

I have recently switched to the new blogger format and it looks great thanks to my good friend Tom.

However, my "Featured Posts" section didn't make it intact through the transfer as the links don't seem to work. I have spent a lot of time trying to fix it but to no avail and I am exasperated.

So this post is a plea to anyone who could help me with this problem. I am even willing to pay a small fee (say $10-15) because the "Featured Posts" drop down menus are an important part of archiving my favorite entries throughout the history of this blog.

If you'd rather I can pay in the form of sending you a print of my Buddha painting, value $30 seen here below:

So please email me if you can help: jaymur-at-gmail.com

UPDATE: Here is the version of the above painting without the copyright:
~Peace to all beings~

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