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Monday, June 23, 2008

Spontaneous Acquiescence.

The right attitude for studying the way is just complete spontaneous acquiescence. Who cares whether it takes twenty or thirty years; you'll be naturally at peace, without the slightest bit of doubt or confusion. How can there be any obstruction again after spontaneous acquiescence? How can anyone arrive by way of externals?


-Ming-pen

James: We make things so difficult for ourselves don't we? We can't seem to accept that liberation is easier than we think.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"In God's Name." A Book Review.

I was recently invited by the National Geographic Society publishing department to read the book, "In God's Name" and do a review of the work. I found the title intreaging and agreed. I was provided a copy of the book and just finished it. It is by Jules Naudet and Gedeon Naudet. The photos are taken by Stephan Crasneanscki and the interviews by Virginie Luc.

The design of the cover was obviously the first thing that I noticed. It has a nice gold colored cover with a complimenting black binding and lovely white script. The mixture of these three colors lends itself well to the noble topic within as gold, black and white are all colors associated with spirituality in many religions.

Then I opened the book and was rewarded with a stunning, brilliant and artistic photo of a trio of Buddhist monks wrapped up in their robes with one monk peering out from around his shroud at the camera. The pictures in this book live up to the standard of photography that the world has come to expect from National Geographic. There is also a wonderful picture of Buddhist nun peering over glasses while reading as well as young Tibetan Buddhist monks playing soccer. The wisdom in her face and eyes is endearing and captivating.

And so this book is worth buying for the pictures alone but the wisdom from diverse religions within is just as worthwhile. The various religions include: Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Shinto and Hinduism. I hope I named them all. So the wisdom is simple but like most simple messages of spirituality that are deeply profound. I will touch on a few of the quotes from other religions but being a Buddhist I will focus more on those.

The Dalai Lama was introduced in this book with him describing the balance between being seen by Tibetan Buddhists as Avalokiteshvara (Kwan Yin) and a sentient being like everyone else. He has such disarming honesty when he says, "I am also ridden with a bit of laziness. So, while talking to other people, I do not give airs to myself. I speak the real fact. That is why people love me. For me too, I have no uneasiness. It is troublesome if I think I am smart and higher." This kind of humility is exactly what makes him such an enlightened being. He is truly living and epitomizing the middle way.

Another spiritual leader in the book that I found fascinating is the Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Church of England. His answer to the question, "How do you feel the presence of God?" sounded very similar to Buddhism and reminded me how similar we are all despite our different spiritual beliefs. He says, "I am aware of the presence of God every time I'm aware of my own breathing, my own heartbeat. (James: That's very Buddhist to talk of finding peace in one's breath and heartbeat).

Then when asked, "What is the meaning of death" the Dalai Lama said, "If you think that a natural thing has come, tranquility shall prevail. For example, fruits fall down when ripened. There is no reason to be surprised. That is what it is. But if you think that something catastrophic has happened, then a lot of unhappiness shall follow.

When asked, "Can different religions coexist" the Dali Lama responded, "In early times, in each place, people lived in isolation from the rest. It was right for them to abide within a solitary religious milieu. In their isolated milieus, it was right for them to promote their particular religion. We can't decree that this or that particular religion is the most important. I can not say that Buddhism is the best for each one of us." This kind of acceptance is a big reason that I became a Buddhist.

All in all I was enthralled with this book and pleased to have had the chance to read and review it. I would highly recommend this piece of art and would be a great gift. It would be a great coffee table book.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Zen Mind Documentary.

"The Zen Mind" is a documentary by Empty Mind Films. I definately will be buying this DVD. There is a fuller description of the film below.

Zen has been surrounded by myth, taboo and misconception. The Zen Mind is a journey across Japan to explore the practice of zen and expel some of these myths. It is a documentary full of contrasts as we travel across the width and breadth of Japan to explore Zen today. In Japan, the cloistered lifestyle of the zen monk is declining, but zen is finding a renewal among the baby boomers in the cities. Our journey starts here with a visit to the Dogen Sangha or zen center, tucked among the office buildings of a Tokyo suburb, where commuters and office-workers stop by for meditation.

We join the formal ceremonies of Kyoto’s largest zen temple and witness the rituals that have managed to survive a thousand years. In the depths of the surrounding countryside we visit a zen center that is carrying on the very spar tan and simple zen lifestyle that many temples have abandoned. This contrast heightens as we enter Japan’s largest soto zen monastery and live with the zen monks and disciples.
Our cameras film unrestricted as we join the monks.

Throughout this journey is the underlying practice of zazen or meditation, the act of sitting and concentrating the mind to an emptiness—to reach a self-realization and enlightenment. Intimate interviews with the spiritual heads or Roshi reveal their methods and precepts for zazen and keeping their students on the path to enlightenment.
One of Japan’s leading flute players, Christopher Yohmei Blasdel provides the unique soundtrack of shakuhachi flute fused with digital melodic tones. The combination of beautiful photography, compelling narrative and striking music create a very memorable zen experience.

This video is filmed entirely on location in Japan at the following Zen monasteries and center: Soji-ji Monastery, Tenryuji Temple, Ryoanji Temple, Nanzenji Temple, Ginkakuji Temple, Kyoto Kokusai Zendo, Dogen Sangha-Tokyo, Komazawa University and Eishen-ryu Iaido dojo.

~Peace to all beings~

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The True Battle of Chernobyl Uncensored.

1986 was a difficult year for the world. In January the United States saw the explosion of the space shuttle, Challenger during lift off. Then in April a man made disaster of epic proportions was triggered that rocked the then Soviet Union in Russia which affected the world as a result of the explosion of nuclear reactor #4 at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.

I remember this accident vividly even though I was only 10 years old. The true reality of the extent of the damage wasn't fully known for some time due to the censorship of the Communist Party of the USSR but now 22 years later the true story is finally being told.

And just yesterday I discovered a stellar, brilliant documentary (viewable at the bottom of this post) that compiles all the information known up to the present regarding the Chernobyl nightmare. It is beyond sobering but a must view due to the current push to build more nuclear reactors in the face of global warming and the current oil crisis.

It is true that it emits the least amount of greenhouse gases of any currently known energy options. However the problem is that the energy is highly unstable, dangerous and is difficult to control. It only takes one slight error to cause long lasting, world wide disaster. In addition, there is still the problem of how to safely "store" the highly, dangerous, radioactive waste.

As a Buddhist I can't condone something with such a high risk for death and suffering. The probability of major accidents is small but another Chernobyl will eventually occur given the imperfect nature of human beings. I can not advocate for an energy where an accident can kill as many people if not more than a war. I am very committed to the precept of not killing or causing suffering and nuclear energy is like playing with a loaded gun, sooner or later it will cause an accident, kill someone and/or cause tremendous suffering. The difference, however, is that the nuclear loaded gun has the potential to kill all life on Earth.

Pushing nuclear energy is a short-sighted and a less skillful view being that it places greed and desire for instant gratification over long-term considerations of safety and other consequences. It is extreme selfishness to push for taking such stupid risks rather than live more modestly, conserve and invest in safer, more natural energy. It is gambling with the life and happiness of our children and grand-children.

It runs at an hour and 30 minutes and is one of the best documentaries that I have ever seen. I strongly urge you to watch it. It is truly a powerful and important documentary. The true story of Chernobyl must be known and seen to remind ourselves of the irreversible disasters that can easily occur when using nuclear power:

~Peace to all beings~

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Nature of Things.

In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of oceans and mountains are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.


-Genjo Koan

James: How often do we gaze out at a mountain or hill and see them as immoveable and symbols of unchanging constants that stand the test of time. Such views are reflections of the limited nature of our minds. We often see time within specific parameters and that if something stands outside those parameters than we tend to ascribe those things with labels that make them seem imprevious to time or of a separate nature.

Mountains are subtly different over the generations but seem to not change because the changes are so small and slow that our faced paced stream of thinking tends to easily over-look their evolution. For all the pride that humans build up about the perceived perfection and superior nature of our minds, they are quite suseptable to trickery and delusion.

For centuries water was seen as just water and only supporting animals. So imagine the surprise when the first humans gazed deeper into the nature of the life giving liquid and saw a whole world thriving within the tiniest drop. A microscopic world of microbes explode into our vision with just one adjustment in sight.

There is so much that we take for granted and so much we still don't know and might not ever know. I don't think that we are necessarly meant to "know it all." I don't think that knowing everything automatically brings us happiness and comfort. At times knowing more only brings us more suffering and stress. So I take comfort in just being another cog in the wheel. That being said I think there is value in being intellectually curious as well. It's all about balance as we know.

PHOTO: Koolau mountains on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. My wife grew up on Oahu underneath the Koolaus in Kahaluu.

---End of Transmission---

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